When people enter into a marriage, they bring to it all the assumptions and experiences of their families in the way they use and manage money. Each spouse was raised in a different environment so no two people come into a marriage thinking exactly the same way as their spouse on any issue, most especially money.
Maybe one of you was raised in a family where debt was the norm, or maybe you were raised in a family that always paid cash for everything. Maybe your parents gave you a generous spending allowance, or maybe you had to earn every penny you spent starting at an early age. Maybe your parents gave you a credit card, or maybe they helped you develop a budget.
No matter what your background is, the way each of you handles money needs to be discussed and understood by both of you, or it will become an issue in your marriage. Reportedly, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce and, many times, money is the root cause of the conflict. It is important for you to develop a way to discuss and manage money in your marriage—not just when bills are due, or when the debt is overwhelming, or when a large purchase needs to be made, but everyday. If you develop a foundation for managing money in your marriage, you can prevent many future problems. The ability to communicate well about money will strengthen your communication in other areas as well.
It is equally important that the husband and wife share responsibility for the analysis and decision making related to marital finances. This is true whether one or both spouses work, no matter who has the larger income or who actually functions as the family accountant. Finances are a shared responsibility. All couples will have differences of opinion about money at some point in their marriage. Couples who have successful marriages have figured out how to talk about money, and how to resolve differences of opinion by working through them together.
What follows is the story of two couples who recently married and had to quickly learn how to discuss finances in their marriage.
Couple One each had good jobs that paid well. They were able to save a substantial amount of money before they got married and they bought a nice house before the wedding. After the wedding, they moved into the house, and were able to furnish and decorate it. Since their income was generous, they were also able to spend without restrictions and enjoyed traveling, eating out and taking nice vacations.
Couple Two ran into money problems before the wedding when the wife lost her job. She could no longer afford the rent on her apartment, so she moved back home with her parents. Shortly after the wedding, the husband lost his job so he also moved in with his wife’s parents. Because they had no source of income, they used credit card cash advances for the money they needed on a daily basis.
What happened to these two couples?
Couple One was doing so well that the wife decided to quit her job and open her own business with a friend as her partner. The business thrived for about a year, then quickly folded. Once she started her business, their income was cut by more than half. They never changed their lifestyle and they continued to buy things, go places and enjoy entertainment activities using their credit cards.
Because of the increased debt, the husband took a temporary job assignment halfway across the country. He was only able to travel home once a month. The wife could not find another job in her field, and refused to take a job unless it was in her specific field. Because of their credit card debt, it was not possible for her to travel to her husband’s location. On the weekends when the husband did come home, he found the bills waiting for him to pay, all the maintenance items around the house waiting for him to do and an unhappy wife who was keeping herself busy by buying things and going places. Each time he was home they had discussions about cutting back on spending and her plan to get any job to bring in some extra money, but nothing ever changed. They are now divorced.
Couple Two also had their challenges. They had a hard time finding jobs in their fields and the lack of income was supplemented by credit card spending. They hated being married and living with her parents, but they could not rent an apartment due to the debt they had accumulated. They vowed to change their circumstances and decided to take any jobs they could find in order to save and pay down their debt so they could move into their own place. They prayed for guidance and strength. After several months of hard work, and much prayer, they paid down their credit cards and saved enough money to move into their own apartment. They were finally able to find employment in their fields. Because of all their debt, they both decided to keep their part time jobs to earn extra income. They used the extra income to pay off their debt and they are now saving to buy a house.
What made the difference?
Couple One had such a good financial position in the beginning that they never talked about money, thinking they would always have enough to do what they wanted to do. When the wife started her business, they never sat down to figure out the impact to their finances if the business was unsuccessful. Because of their lack of communication, when trouble hit they played the “blame game” pointing fingers at each other. They each thought their problems would be solved if only the other person would change. Since they had no framework for working out their problems, each subsequent issue put their relationship into a faster downward spiral.
Couple Two also had to learn how to communicate about money, but they made the effort to learn how to work through their issues together. They had open communication, and did not play the “blame game.” Praying together helped them focus on the issues in front of them and brought them closer together. They worked together to develop a plan they both agreed with, and they encouraged each other to stick to the plan.
The question is: Which couple will you be?