Money and Marriage
Openness and communication are the keys to a unified financial front.
It can be a slave driver or a home wrecker. Finding the right way to manage money and marriage can make or break your relationship.
As I studied what the Bible says about personal finance, I learned that God wants our money to be a blessing to our families. Unfortunately, though, money often does more harm to a family than good.
Money should be a blessing in your marriage. You just have to figure out how to master money as a team.
Money can destroy your marriage. Or, more accurately, the way you talk, fight and complain about money can destroy your marriage. Study after study lists financial conflicts among the top causes of divorce among American couples today. And even if there are other factors at play, a poor financial relationship can put a strain on a marriage that ultimately leads to its demise.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Money should be a blessing in your marriage. You just have to figure out how to master money as a team, instead of letting your money master you.
Money and Marriage Require Communication
How do you accomplish this? As with most things in marriage, the key is openness and communication.
Mastering your money is hard work. It involves creating a budget, making tough decisions about what you can and can’t afford, and perhaps making deep cuts to your lifestyle to pay off debt. You also need to be saving money for emergencies and big purchases, and do some investing to grow your wealth and provide for your future.
Those things can be tough to do as a single person. When you’re married, there are two people involved. If you and your spouse aren’t on the same page about money, it can make those things twice as hard. If you have a unified front, though, you can be twice as effective.
Too often, “handling the finances” or “paying the bills” gets lost in the household division of labor. That can create a dangerous situation where a couple isn’t really talking about money, and only one spouse really understands what’s going on in the family’s financial life.
So, how do we get on the same financial page as married couples? Here are some keys:
Turn “mine” into “ours.”
Once you’re married, everything you have is common property. But it can be easy to still think of things as “my stuff,” “my income,” or “his debt.” But this is a toxic attitude. Clinging to ideas of independence inhibits us from building real unity in our marriages.
Mastering your money and marriage is going to take a united effort from both of you. So from now on, everything that either of you has belongs to both of you — even your incomes, assets and debts.
Set goals together.
In order to be successful with your money, you need to have a game plan. That plan is something you need to develop together. Talk about your life goals, dreams and hopes, and discuss the role that money plays in each of them.
If you don’t have agreement at the beginning, you’re going to wind up with bitterness or resentment at the end.
Do you want to have kids? Start a business? Travel? Give a lot? Retire early? All of those things have financial implications and will make a big difference in the way you handle your money as a couple. So talk to each other and decide what your goals are, then begin to build a financial strategy.
Once you have a plan in place, you also need to make sure you’re on the same page about how to execute it. One or the other of you may be better with math or more enthusiastic budgeting. That’s fine. But both spouses need to be involved in making decisions about the budget.
How much money will you spend on rent and how much are you going to save for a house? What luxury items are you going to eliminate to get out of debt faster? When are you going to make big purchases and what will those things look like? Both spouses need to agree on financial strategies before buying things and putting a budget plan in place. If you don’t have agreement at the beginning, you’re going to wind up with bitterness or resentment at the end.
Don’t hide anything.
Secrets can be one of the biggest threats to a marriage. It’s tempting to hide things from each other, but secrets build division and mistrust. You need to be as open and honest about financial matters as you would be about sexual issues, family drama or other serious things.
Transparency means owning up to financial mistakes, blown budgets and bad decisions. And don’t even think about opening a bank account or credit card or making an investment without your spouse’s knowledge. Everything you do, you do together.
There’s a lot more that could be said about money and marriage. If this is an area of your marriage where you need help, seek some more in-depth resources and support. And even if you think that you have these things under control as a couple, it’s a good idea to come back to these principles from time to time and make sure that you’re still building in the best way possible.
It’s amazing what you and your spouse can accomplish when you work together.