Marriage is a beautiful thing.
Through marriage God provided a way to connect on a deeper level with someone, more so than most all other human relationships.
But being married isn’t a guarantee that life will be easy.
In fact, marriage has a way of amplifying our lives, which includes our financial mistakes.
Sure, you might have a two-income household, but your spending can also be doubled.
A thriving marriage makes both partners stronger. You can withstand the low points, and when things are good, they can exceed our wildest expectations.
Having a strong financial marriage allows us to be the person God has created us to be.
Life and marriage are more important than money, but having a solid financial foundation in your marriage frees you up to focus on what is most important. When we are continually working through our bad financial decisions, it is hard to not focus on money.
I believe God wants the best for us, and we should avoid having our marriage money problems get in the way.
Below are some things I’ve learned in my 15 years of marriage.
Communication And Conflict In Marriage
Have you ever gotten to a point where you realized that your teammate or coworker had a different idea of the plan? Where you thought everyone was on the same page, but it turns out that wasn’t the case? This is a very common problem in a marriage.
Marriage is like being on a two-person team. The only way for the team to be successful is to make sure everyone is on the same page. That doesn’t necessarily mean each team member 100% agrees with each other on everything. Or there are never any arguments. But it means getting to a spot where the plan is formalized and agreed upon.
To have a strong financial foundation in your marriage, you need to be willing to talk about all aspects of money.
Most of us hate conflict. I’ve written about my internal struggle with conflict growing up. Marriage conflict makes me want to run and hide on another planet.
But problems aren’t solved when we try to run from them. If they don’t blow up now, they will eventually wreak havoc on our marriage. The more you can confront conflict in your marriage, the easier it will be in preventing those issues from exploding.
It’s like we want our marriage to be easy. That somehow coasting in life is going to lead us to the promised land, where our marriage will become magically healthy. But that isn’t how life works.
Learning to be 100% honest with each other is vital to having a successful marriage.
Becoming fully transparent with each other can be difficult at times. Sometimes things that enter our minds that we shouldn’t say, or we know if we say them, our partner could get angry.
I’ll cover this in more detail below, but it usually comes down to how we say what we are thinking. Being honest is not an excuse to be rude or insensitive.
Communication is at the core of a successful marriage, and the importance increases when talking about money.
Communicating about money, or anything in your marriage, requires spending time face to face talking about life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the business of life that we don’t slow down and make sure we are on the same page.
As they say, if you don’t plan, you plan to fail. Some people fear the dreaded “budget” word. But managing a budget in your marriage doesn’t have to be painful.
In fact, managing a budget in your marriage can be fun. Together, you get to decide how you are going to spend your money.
There is a myriad of ways in managing your marriage budget. There isn’t a one size fits all budgeting technique that is going to work for everyone. You have to think about what works best for you and your marriage partner.
Finding a simple budgeting system that works, and is easy to manage, will help you prioritize how you want to spend your money.
Whatever budgeting system you land on, both marriage partners need to be involved in some capacity with the process. In our case, that means I handle maintaining our monthly budget, but I bring up most financial decisions to discuss with Andrea.
Together, we decide how our money is allocated to different budget categories. YNAB makes the budgeting process easy, as we both can enter transactions and view how much money we have left in each budget category.
Communication needs to be free-flowing, as unexpected needs come up and need to be handled.
There are many ways to use our money, and it can touch many aspects of our lives. Below are a few questions that lead us to make financial decisions in our marriage:
- Are we going to give our kids an allowance?
- How often will we go on date nights, and how much will we spend?
- Is one of us going to stay home and take care of the kids (or in the future)?
- Do we want to donate money to our church or other organizations, and how much are we going to give?
- Are we going to help our children pay for college?
- How often do we want to go out to eat?
And this is only touching a tip of the iceberg. There are many financial questions that change how you handle money in marriage. These questions will not get answered unless they are actively discussed and prioritized.
Figuring out what matters the most to you in your marriage, requires a high-level of communication.
You might have to work through differences of opinions regarding specific money conversations. This is a great way to build a more secure marriage bond between you and your partner.
I’m a firm believer that our financial habits today, affect our financial future. If we don’t save for an emergency fund, we aren’t going to wake up one day with it filled.
The Bible affirms this idea:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. – Galatians 6:7
How do you want your financial future to look? If you had unlimited time flexibility, what would you do?
God wants us to experience the best out of life. But he usually isn’t going to prevent us from experiencing the negative consequences of our bad financial decisions. If he did, how could we learn from our mistakes? We probably wouldn’t, and we would continue repeating the past.
This isn’t about hoarding money or seeking to become rich at all costs. It’s about being smart with our money and using it in a way where we can bless our family and others. It’s about getting to a spot where we are free to be the person God created us to be and to thrive.
So the question becomes, what does your promised land look like? If you didn’t have to worry about money, and had an excess of free time, what would you do? Who would you serve?
But being married, figuring this out is not just about what you want. It is about figuring out where you want to go together.
Once you figure out where you want to go, it’s time to think about how you are going to get there.
And to be clear, there are no guarantees in life. We could do everything right, including making smart financial decisions, and something major could happen to set us back. But in either case, working towards the financial future we want to reach together will improve our bond and increases the chances of achieving our financial goals.
Kindness, Gentleness, and Grace
A kind word has the power to break down walls. Our spirits are lifted, and we are less likely to become defensive. It not only benefits the person hearing the encouragement but it also makes us feel good.
Financial discussions in marriage can get heated. When our spouse goes against the plan or spends more than what was allocated for a budget category, we can be tempted to become angry and hostile.
But in most cases, raising our voices in frustration is usually not the best way to resolve financial conflicts. That isn’t to say that we should avoid confronting these marriage problems, but the words we use are just as important as what we are trying to say.
There are going to be times when our spouse does something that makes us frustrated. But we need to realize that we probably also do things that annoy our marriage partner. This is an excellent opportunity to become more like Christ through our actions.
The more gracious we can be in our thoughts and actions towards our spouse, the more we become like Jesus.
I feel like there is nothing as useful in making us become a better person than learning to be kind and gracious towards our marriage partner.
Andrea and I had a recent marriage conflict we worked through. She was very gracious towards me during the discussion, and I appreciated how she approached the problem. In the end, this experience brought us closer together, and we figured out a path forward.
My favorite question I like to ask Andrea is asking her if there is anything I can do for her.
Marriage and money can be tremendous blessings. They can be used for good, or end up making our lives difficult.
I want my kids to see how Andrea and I work together in strengthening our marriage bond. We’ve messed up in the past, and there is no doubt I will say or do something that hurts Andrea. But we are in this fight together, and we are working on making each other stronger and becoming more like Christ.
By learning to manage our marriage budget, and by being honest and open with each other, we can avoid many of the financial marriage disasters that are common in marriage.
We only have one life to live, and being married is a treasure we need to nurture. It takes hard work and effort to communicate effectively. But the time we put into our marriage is worth it.