3 Money Mistakes to Avoid in Marriage (And What to Do Instead)
I am often asked, “My spouse and I don’t agree about money. What can we do?” Several years ago I asked Scott Steinbarger, licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist of West Metro Christian Counseling to shed some light on this for us. I’m sharing Scott’s perspective again today as it is Women’s Money Week 2016 (#WMW16) and that makes this article so timely. Here’s Scott’s perspective in his own words.
Money. No worries, right? All right, kidding aside, money stress and conflict is real. Learning to manage money in your marriage is, while challenging, very important. “But we don’t agree on money!” That’s okay. Let’s start by acknowledging there are multiple money styles: spender, saver, planner, spontaneous, etc. Whatever the variation, there are a few things that you should not do.
3 Money Mistakes to Avoid in Marriage
Demonize your spouse
One could say their spending/spontaneous spouse is irresponsible or a poor steward. Others could label savers/planners as selfish or faithless. Don’t do that. Your spouse budgeting or having a 401k, does not equal being selfish or faithless. And remember, without the givers, most charities would have no money to give to those in need.
Control your spouse
You will not succeed at controlling your spouse. You’ll only destroy the love and intimacy in your marriage. Or worse, you will succeed and then you’ll really destroy your marriage and probably make God angry with you.
Doing nothing is actively choosing defeat and resentment. That never works.
What to Do Instead
If you’re thinking to yourself, “there go all my strategies!” fear not, there is another way. It starts, like any change, with a fundamental shift in perception.
Appreciate Your Spouse’s Differences
Repeat after me, “My spouse is not wrong, they are just different.” Let me explain: We complement each other in order to serve God. If you are a woman, married to a man, you have no doubt noticed that your husband is different than you. I probably don’t have to tell you to rejoice in the physical differences. Wives and husbands tend to easily see their complementary physical nature as a blessing.
It’s often with the more invisible stuff – like emotions, problem solving, thinking styles – that we stop appreciating our differences as divinely given for our blessing and equipping. When God made Adam, then made him chief gardener, God’s assessment was, “not good.” Adam needed Eve to get the job done. Her being equal and different was the whole point. If God has given you a spouse, you need each other. Receive the blessing.
Develop an Approach Together
Once you reframe your spouse as a partner, an equal to respect, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish. You work together to develop an approach to money that’s likely different than if you were single. You compromise, you respect each other and receive insight from each other.You develop a plan, implement that plan, and routinely follow-up on how it’s working, as often as you need to.
What if My Spouse Won’t Cooperate?
I need to acknowledge that I’m assuming that your spouse respects and loves you. What if your spouse does not respect you, love you or see you as an equal? What if your spouse is intractable? This is a very hard thing, and money has nothing to do with it. Aside from the potential need for a pastor or counselor you have a few good options.
Even when your spouse is not faithful, God is. Ultimately, you trust God, not your spouse. It is God who supplies your needs and gives you gifts. You can also pray that the Holy Spirit would convict your spouse of their unloving ways. God cares about both you and your spouse’s behavior, even more than you.
Share Your Concerns
Share your heart. Not in anger, but in love and vulnerability with respect for yourself and them. Let them know how you are receiving their attitude or disregard for you. Invite them to work together to meet your needs. Don’t command. Lovers share.
Take Care of Yourself
Seek support and take practical steps to support yourself. A measure of independence is not controlling. If you are worried about paying the bills, you can take your income and open your own account. Conversely, if your spouse never gives you any money, look for ways to earn money to do with as you please. For most of us however, we are married to a good hearted person whom we just don’t understand. We get to work it out, learning to be better lovers along the way: that’s marriage.
PocketYourDollars here again: What have you found to work in your marriage? Certainly Scott brings a faith-based perspective and you may have a differing view. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or you can email me if you prefer.