Money—some people call it the root of all evil, and yet we all rely on it and the world seems to revolve around it. Many people even seem to worship it. It can also cause a great deal of strain in marriages; although the statistics are unclear about the number of divorces that are actually caused by financial issues, I think that it’s fairly obvious that in many marriages, fights over money are not uncommon. So what is to be done about the money problem?
I’ve heard a few times about couples who solve the issue by simply not sharing their money. Each spouse has their own bank account and their own money. And on one hand, I don’t want to be judgmental or say that this is the “wrong” way to go about it, especially if it works for you. But on the other hand, none of the marriages I’ve seen where the couple does not share money have been very happy. To be perfectly honest, I am not the least bit surprised about that.
The problem with this approach, I think, is that it is completely the wrong attitude about what a marriage is. Marriage is not just a contract that two people enter into. On the opposite side of the spectrum, neither is it just what people are supposed to do when they are in love and want to have a buddy for life (or maybe just for a while, if they change their minds). No, marriage is a commitment above all others. It is a promise to stay faithful and devoted to another person for the rest of your life, period. It is not a promise to stay together as long as you feel like you are in love, or until something that’s too hard to deal with happens. Marriage is an unconditional promise. More than that, marriage is an unconditional surrender of your needs and desires to another person’s.
If people approached marriage from this angle, do you think they would want to keep separate finances from their spouse? No way. They are committed 100% to being a team with their spouse. “What’s mine is yours, because I have already promised you everything.” That is what marriage is supposed to be.
So are there any other ways to prevent fighting over money with your spouse? I think so. My husband and I follow the “marriage team” approach in every aspect of our lives, including money. We make our financial decisions together, and we both have a clear idea of what our rules and goals are. Because of that, we are aligned in this area of our lives. In fact, we have never had a fight over money.
Now, each couple is different and struggles with their own specific issues. For my husband and I, money has never been a problem that we’ve fought over. But even if a couple does fight over money sometimes, there are appropriate ways to deal with that so that the marriage is not compromised, but instead strengthened. The key is conflict resolution.
I have a policy of making sure that every conflict I have with my husband is resolved, even the small ones. Though it may sound tiresome and difficult, it’s actually not. When we disagree or have a tense moment about something, we talk about it (either right after it happens or a bit later if we need time to cool down.) It doesn’t have to be a long conversation or a big deal; it can be as simple as saying “I feel like you were being rude to me earlier, when I forgot to wash my dishes” and “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude but I will try to be nicer about it in the future.” As long both people are sincere, open, and others-centered, it isn’t all that difficult to resolve a conflict fairly. The same thing applies to financial conflicts.
Resolving fights over money is extremely important, and goes a long way. If you take the time to talk through your financial disagreements and work out reasonable and fair solutions, then the issue doesn’t have to hurt your relationship; instead, the process of conflict resolution strengthens your partnership.
The real problem comes when money and your spouse do not sit in their proper places in your life. Both of them should be priorities below God, and money should be way below your spouse. If God is your first priority, then the way you treat your spouse will reflect that, and you will the the kind of husband or wife that God desires. If you are the kind of husband or wife that God desires, then your marriage will be strong. A strong, close relationship between husband and wife makes it much easier to work out your issues. And if money comes below both God and your spouse, then I think you will find that arguments over it seem to disappear. It simply is not as big of a deal when you have the right perspective. God will provide, and your spouse is your teammate—so what is there to fight about?
Like it or not, money is essential to survival. But it doesn’t have to go much farther than that if you don’t let it. It certainly doesn’t have to be an issue in your marriage; just put it in its place and you’ll see.