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More Couples Arguing About Money, Sneaking Purchases

Couples are bickering more about household finances than they did a year ago, according to a recent study.

Jason Hetherington | Stone | Getty Images

And it's possible the threat of an argument is prompting some of these couples to sneak purchases, sock money away in a secret bank account, or keep a credit card account hidden from their spouse or significant other, according to the studyof 2,020 consumers, which was conducted by American Express.

Most couples—some 61 percent—admit that discussions about the household budget are turning into arguments. That's significantly higher than what the survey said a year ago, when 45 percent of people admitted this.

It's hard to say whether this a positive or negative sign for the economy. One could speculate either way—either seeing it as a sign of more financial stress or as a sign that consumers have more money to spend, and therefore more choices to make about how to spend it.

Notably, the trend holds up even among the most affluent responders, with 56 percent saying they argue with their sweetie this year, versus 44 percent in 2010.

"I do think that there are certainly signs of stress," said Leah Gerstner, vice president of public affairs at American Express .

She noted that many consumers are in a rebuilding mode, after the impact the financial crisis and recession had on their finances.

"They are rebuilding their nest egg," she said. "They are saving to do the things they want to do."

Another interesting tidbit is one in five women who are in a relationship admit to hiding purchases from their partner. The number rises even further when you ask people if they have ever hidden purchases from their spouse, with three in five people admitting they bought items on the sly.

Here, it's a little easier to speculate on the cause and effect as most people said that what drives them most crazy about their other half is that person making "frivolous" purchases.

Lending further support to this theory is that consumers in the North Central region of the U.S. are most likely to hide the things they buy. In this region the bar, at $281, is the lowest for the price level when one should tell their spouse before making the purchase.

In the Northeast region, consumers think they have to report the purchase when the price goes above an average of $282; in the South, it's $309; and in the West, it is $335.

Consumers in the West are more likely to have a secret account or credit card, with 31 percent of those surveyed saying they do. In the South, the percentage drops to 29 percent, in the Northeast, it's 24 percent, and in the North Central, it's 24 percent.

Oh, and if you suspect your partner is hiding a purchase from you, check in their closet. Thirteen percent of those surveyed said that's where they stashed it.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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