Are you and your spouse involved in spending disagreements? If you are, you’re in the same boat as multiple millions of couples. Everyone who is married will find areas of their lives where they disagree, and money is a common area. 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. You alone are accountable to God for being a good steward in how you personally handle 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.
Several years ago, Dr Gary Oliver wrote a Question and Answer column for Marriage Partnership Magazine (no longer in publication). In one of their issues the following question was posed:
“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:
Answer on Spending Disagreements:
“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. Additionally, 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 you aren’t communicating on this critical relational issue.
… When was the last time you looked at your income, and made a list of your debts? Have you 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? What core needs do you agree on, such as house payments and health care? Savings? Vacations? Tithing?
(To read the rest of the answer Dr Oliver gave, you can now view it on the web site for the National Institute of Marriage by going to: Nationalmarriage.com/2007/06/we-dont-have-fun-anymore/ and scroll down to the second set of Q & A.)
Spending Disagreements to Agreements
The above advice 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 many 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. Marriage is about mutually working 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, it 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. Work together to better understand each other’s perspectives. And then work to see how you can honor each other’s needs and wants.
The following are some additional thoughts on this subject of spending disagreements and disagreements about money. They are written by Joe Gatuslao from the Philippines, and were sent to us by a subscriber. We pray they minister to your marriage. Joe writes:
Spending Disagreements and Commitment
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.
Blending of Lives
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.
Are you Arguing About Money?
“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 hope 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.“
Cindy and Steve Wright
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