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For Your Marriage

Finances: Yours, Mine, Ours

The Situation

Tim’s aunt sold her large home and moved to a retirement village. She decided to share some of the proceeds with Tim and Megan and sent them $6,000 to be used any way they pleased. After their initial excitement, the couple began to discuss how to use the unexpected boost to their financial picture.

Megan immediately suggested putting the whole amount into their savings account. The couple had dipped into their savings recently due to the expense of fixing the foundation of their older home. Megan saw the money gift as a way of shoring up their “safety net” of funds for future emergencies. She viewed money as security. Having grown up in a home where money was always tight, she carried the fear of not having enough into her adult life. She wanted her present family to be better prepared.

This approach wasn’t what Tim had in mind. He saw money as a resource to be spent on things or activities that provided fun and satisfaction in life, for oneself and others. He was responsible with money to pay bills and take care of the family, but had been known to overindulge in using money for enjoyment. There were no money concerns in Tim’s growing up years. Whatever he needed or wanted was at his fingertips. And after all, this was his aunt; shouldn’t he have more say in the matter?

This was not the first discussion about finances where Tim and Megan differed in how they viewed money and its uses. What are possible healthy choices for Tim and Megan as they work through this issue together?

The Prescription

Surveys identify money as one of the top issues over which couples have conflicts. Therefore, developing a couple-style of managing money is crucial to the health of a marriage. If a couple can’t work through their money issues together, the relationship will face problems of distrust, resentment and insecurity.

Since money is necessary for our well-being, it is a strong emotional issue in all of us. Tim viewed the use of money through the lens of enjoyment while Megan saw money as a means of security. Others may regard money through the lens of status, success, or a way of maintaining independence or security. None of these orientations is wrong in itself unless taken to extremes, or if one spouse refuses to consider the other’s view.

Tim and Megan can benefit from the following principles and skills as they make decisions about money matters in their marriage:

  • Come to the discussion with respect for your spouse’s perspective and input. Develop an attitude of an “intent to learn.” This requires a commitment to careful listening and prevents protective posturing.
  • Work towards a balance of views and uses of money to achieve a sense of success, security, enjoyment, and well-being. For example, Tim and Megan might elect to put $4,000 in savings and use the rest for a couple trip.
  • Avoid one-sided decisions. Make a budget plan and stick to it.
  • Remember that in marriage what is mine is yours – even gifts from a relative.
  • Avoid debt overload by saving and living within your means. If irresponsible spending has been an issue, set up a budget that reduces expenditures in order to get debt under control.
  • Remember that donations to one’s faith congregation are not meant to be leftovers, but an integral part of your budget.
  • Become an informed money manager couple. Reading a book or article on money issues (i.e. The Marriage Journey: Preparations and Provisions for Life Together by Linda L. Grenz & Delbert C. Glover) or taking a financial planning course together helps couples make more responsible and agreeable financial decisions.
  • Money matters in a marriage. When spouses take time to understand and honor each other’s perspectives on money and make wise and generous financial decisions, money becomes a bonder and not a divider in their relationship.

About the author
Judy Clark is the Co-Director of Adult and Family Ministry at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Plana, Texas. Judy is also a licensed professional counselor.

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