The thought of coming into unimaginable riches was on many minds this week, as we waited to hear the outcome of the enormous Lotto prize draw.

It's easy to assume that tens of millions would catapult us into heaven on earth; not just make the world go round, as the saying goes, but make it spin.

So why does this type of enormous luck often go so horribly wrong, raising the divorce stakes for so many of its recipients? Take Adam and Gillian Bayford in the UK: they won £45.5 million a couple of years ago but eventually split, blaming the stress of their sudden status as multi-millionaires.

A comprehensive study conducted in the Netherlands found that although (unsurprisingly) happiness spikes at the time of a lottery win, only a few months later winners' happiness levels returned to where they were before hitting the jackpot.


So if you were cheerful and fairly contented before the win, there is the highest likelihood you will be like that afterwards. But if you were grumpy and pessimistic, it seems not even a Lotto win can permanently transform your overall default setting.

Winning Lotto, or receiving a large inheritance, is termed an "income shock". It can operate like a magnifying glass, making our weaknesses weaker and our strengths stronger. It all depends on how our basic personalities process change.

Seeing as personality clashes and communication styles are the drivers of divorce, the link between break ups and a shift in finances - even if that shift is a "win" - becomes clear.

In other words, no amount of money will fundamentally alter our formative relationships in early life, which go on to influence our relationship style. And no great lump of cash can suddenly make us patient if we are impatient, or relaxed if we are anxious, and so on.

The spoils of a Lotto win - shiny new cars and lavish holidays, say - will therefore highlight, rather than improve, our fundamental pattern of relating to our partner, especially when it comes to money. How we deal with financial issues in relationships is driven by communication; how much or how little money we have does not essentially alter that dynamic.

Conflict around money is recognised by experts as the bump-in-the-road most likely to lead to divorce. Study after study shows it. According to these social researchers, arguments about finances take longer to recover from than any other type of fight.

However we feel about money, it seems the stuff is completely embedded in our personal value systems, our view of fairness, our fears, our hopes and our self-esteem. Its tentacles are tightly wound around our everyday life.

Those at higher risk of divorce thanks to a major injection of cash are couples with poor financial conflict resolution skills. Once cloudy euphoria has cleared, there are serious decisions to be made, as well as their same-old personalities to deal with.

What's more, it is very likely in the aftermath of such a win that savings habits are cheerfully and quite dramatically relaxed, which leads us to the sobering statistic that inheritances and windfalls are typically gone in an average of five years.

As J.K Rowling famously said, the major benefit of being rich was not having to worry about the gas bill. So whether your budget spells out beans and rice or champagne and lobster, the core message is this: improving the way you and your spouse resolve money conflicts can only mean good things for your relationship.

Tips for managing money conflict

According to Dew and Stewart in The Journal of Financial Therapy:

• Use a common account for shared expenses but keep a separate account for smaller individual decisions.
• Find a common ground in attitudes and values, e.g. a commitment to joint decisions in any purchase above a certain dollar value.
• Any financial or budgeting advisors you consult need to understand the relationship between your joint wellbeing and your financial behaviour.
• Be alert to the fact that issues about money may well be about something else in the relationship.
• Stay very vigilant to signs of resentment; resentment unchecked can swiftly lead to a relationship breakdown.