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Do you find that you and your spouse disagree about how you should spend money? If you find you do, you’re in the same boat as millions (and probably billions) of couples. Everyone who is married will find areas of their lives where they disagree, and money is one the top areas for potential conflict. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t work as a marital team to find ways to agree on these issues as much as it’s possible (unless you have a spouse who refuses to work as a team).The Bible says, “As far as it is within you, be at peace with all men.” What that means in this situation is to make sure YOU’RE doing all you can to find ways to honor your marriage and your spouse with how you spend money. You alone are accountable to God for the steward you are in your marriage and your part in handling the finances in your marriage. But keep in mind that many times we THINK we’re doing fine with how we spend money, but our spouse may have a different way of seeing the matter.
Dr Gary Oliver writes a Question and Answer column for Marriage Partnership Magazine. In the Winter 2007 issue the following question was posed: Q: “My wife is such a hypocrite! She nitpicks every single dollar I spend, saying we can’t afford it, but then she goes out and spends hundreds of dollars on clothes or decorations for the house. When I confront her, she just says, ‘That’s different. I need those things.’ How can I make her see she’s adding to the problem?”
Here’s a portion of the answer that Gary gave: “For the time being you may not be able to make her see she’s adding to the problem. It doesn’t sound like either of you is having much fun, and both seem committed to keep on doing what you’ve been doing. Someone once said that if you keep on doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.
“Your first step is to realize that your problem isn’t really who spends how much on what kinds of items. The root problem is that you don’t have a mutual understanding of the role money has in your marriage and aren’t communicating on this critical relational issue. … When was the last time you looked at your income, made a list of your debts, agreed on a budget, and carefully laid out your financial goals? … Take stock of where you are. List your income and all your debts. Then talk about where you’d like to be in two, five, and ten years. Is saving for retirement a priority? If so, what percentage of your income needs to go there? What financial principles can you agree on? Core needs such as house payments and health care? Savings? Vacations? Tithing?” (For the rest of the answer that Dr Oliver gave, you can read it directly on the Marriage Partnership web site by going to: http://www.christianitytoday.com/mp/2007/004/10.14.html.)
The above advice can be quite helpful if you find that you seem to continually disagree about how money is spent. It also can help you to come to some type of working agreement in the future. Steve and I have had to revisit our differing ways of handling money quite a few times in the 35+ years of our marriage. It’s rarely a “once and for all” situation where you resolve your differences and never have to visit the subject again. But that’s all part of the dynamics of being married.
Keep in mind that marriage is about being partners with each other in every area of life. It’s about taking two very independent individuals and making them into a team that mutually works for the betterment of each other, your marriage, and especially Kingdom work. It’s not that you need to be “joined at the hip” in everything you do and every bit of money that you spend, but whatever you do, shouldn’t be done at the sacrifice of your marital relationship. That’s why it’s important to talk about your views on these types of matters, and work to better understand each other’s perspectives, and then work together to see how you can honor each other’s needs and wants.
The following are some additional thoughts on this subject of agreeing and disagreeing about money that you might find insightful, written by Joe Gatuslao from the Philippines. They were sent to us by a subscriber. We pray they minister to your marriage. Joe writes:
“Gather couples from anywhere in the world and ask them what is the most troubled area of their marriage. Alongside ‘communication,’ you will probably find money mentioned with amazing frequency. The problem isn’t inflation. It isn’t how much or how little you have. It is who does what with what you have. How you spend your money tells a great deal about you and your values — what you consider to be important. Tell me how you spend your money, and I will tell you what you really value in life. Without even thinking about it, you are writing a family history week by week.
“‘No, not me!’ you may be thinking, ‘I’m not writing anything.’ But you are, in the stubs of your checkbook. Money is amoral — it’s neither good nor evil in itself. When money is a problem in a marriage or a family, I’ve discovered that the financial problems are usually just the tip of the iceberg. Hidden beneath the surface usually lies the iceberg of selfishness.
“Marriage demands commitment, and apart from sexual fidelity, nothing is more important than maintaining commitment to each other when it comes to what we do with our money.
“Love is a commitment, a decision to care regardless of the temperature of the heart, and that commitment includes our funds. For a marriage to work, there has to be a blending of two lives where each begins to live for the other. You cease thinking of ‘my money’ and ‘her money,’ it’s ‘our money.’ There may be times when separate bank accounts are necessary, but the separation of what you have into two piles is usually a sign of the separation which has already began in your hearts.
“Long ago Amos asked the question, ‘Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?’ (Amos 3:3). The obvious answer is ‘NO!’ In marriage, money usually implies control. It’s the golden rule, ‘He who has the gold, rules.’ But in marriages that really work, there may be a shortage of money but never the conflict of two battling over who is going to spend it for what. The better way is each for the other and both for the Lord.”
“What is your source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is it not the source of your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
We pray that if money has been a source of conflict in your marriage, that at the beginning of this new year you will look into your heart and motives and work for the financial betterment of your marriage. Don’t allow money to possess your heart and eyesight. It makes a lousy god and dishonors our Lord when you allow it to separate you as a couple. In all you do, keep in mind the following words found in the Bible in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Blessings in Him,
Cindy and Steve Wright
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