BY RUSS CROSSON
MONEY. Not a day goes by that most of us don’t think about it, work for it, or spend it. Money is necessary. However, without a proper understanding of it, money can consume us – and create a lot of problems in a marriage.
After 30 years of counseling hundreds of couples about their finances, I’m convinced that there are three underlying reasons money causes marital problems: incorrect thinking; lack of communication; and not having a game plan.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these!
No.1 Incorrect Thinking
Many couples simply don’t think correctly about money – or about marriage. Our culture has influenced our thinking in these two areas (to the point where we believe what the world says about marriage and finances, rather than what God says). I’ll explain.
The world says money is the key to happiness. When we believe this to be truth, we place a high value on making money. Money, however, isn’t the key to happiness. In the most affluent countries, there are individuals who have all the material trappings they could ever desire, and yet they are unhappy. The real truth is that money is a useful tool, but it doesn’t guarantee happiness. The only thing that reliably delivers a joyful life is a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I came to give life – life that is full and good” (John 10:10, Easy to Read Version).
The world says that the accumulation of money will meet our needs and give us worth, acceptance, and significance. The real truth is that our worth is measured by who we are in Christ. It is not measured by the material things we own. Ecclesiastes 5:15 states, “People come into the world with nothing. And when they die, they leave with nothing. They might work hard to get things, but they cannot take anything with them when they die” (Easy to Read Version). Our legacy (what will last after we die) is based on the people we love, serve, and touch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The world says that the ultimate goal in life is to accumulate lots of money – so we can achieve ease, comfort, and pleasure. In this world, people put a premium on being able to “arrive.” They use words and phrases such as “retire,” “make it,” “strike it rich,” and “go for the gold.” But, the real truth is that becoming obsessed with money will only frustrate you. “Those who love money will never be satisfied with the money they have. Those who love wealth will not be satisfied when they get more and more” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, Easy to Read Version). Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be financially successful. It simply means that you shouldn’t turn money into a mini-god, or allow hard times to ruin your marriage (or faith). Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world” (John 16:33, New Century Version).
No.2 Lack of Communication
Many couples have a difficult time communicating, especially in the area of money. In most cases, we don’t have a clue what our spouses are saying – let alone understand why they ’re saying it. Even though some couples are able to talk about money, it’s common for no real communication to take place. Good communication occurs when each spouse has fully comprehended what the other has said. It also involves understanding how the other person feels (and why they feel that particular way).
In his book, Love for a Lifetime, James Dobson says, “Men and women tend to have different value systems, which precipitate arguments about money. My father, for example, was a hunter who thought nothing of using three boxes of shotgun shells in an afternoon of recreational shooting. Yet, if my mother spent an equal amount of money on a ‘useless’ potato peeler, he considered it wasteful. Never mind that she enjoyed shopping as much as he did hunting. They simply saw things differently.”
My wife, Julie, and I found that it was difficult to set aside time to communicate about money. A significant amount of time is needed to discuss a budget, develop a workable cash-control system, and talk about investments, insurance, and wills. Although it took a bit of effort, Julie and I determined that our marriage was important enough to make the time. Hopefully, you will come to the same conclusion.
No.3 Not Having a Game Plan
Having no predetermined financial plans will wreak havoc in your marriage. Not having a plan is akin to going on vacation without a destination, or a plan for getting there. You’re bound to get lost! Yet, many of us start our marriages without a financial plan.
My wife and I periodically have a “planning weekend.” This is simply a time when we get away, and discuss our finances, children, work, goals, and dreams. To minimize marital stress, it’s vital that you develop a financial plan for handling money, dealing with financial conflicts, and making monetary decisions. Having concrete road maps for giving, spending, and saving will foster harmony ... and strengthen your marriage.