John and Sue are fighting over how much to spend on Christmas gifts this year. When it comes to gift giving, Sue’s family is quite extravagant and John’s is thrifty. The couple is encouraged to work out a solution so that bad feelings don’t develop and derail their relationship.
According to research from Kansas State University, money problems are the top predictor of divorce.
In fact, a 2011 study by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University found that married couples who disagreed about money once a week were twice as likely to divorce as those who differed less than once a month. Money arguments run deep because they usually represent something else related to power, control, self-esteem, etc.
So, if you are having money woes in your relationship, here are a few tips to get back on track:
Tell the truth about your debt and spending habits.
Too many couples hide their debt from each other and then find out they are in trouble. This action erodes trust in a relationship. No matter how much you feel ashamed of the debt you’ve accrued, be honest and transparent. It’s difficult to develop intimacy when hiding the truth.
Discuss purchases BEFORE you make them.
This prevents anger and resentment. Make it a rule–we talk first, agree and then spend.
Establish a budget.
Budgets are factual and take the guesswork out of spending. Be honest about what should be in the budget and how much discretionary spending is possible. You will need to define what discretionary spending is–a cup of coffee, a meal out, a shirt, a new jacket? How much is up to each person to spend? Is it part of the budget?
Stick to the budget, especially if you are trying to dig out of debt.
Debt creates relationship stress. Having a plan to reduce debt will help relieve that stress, but you have to stick with the budget you develop. Even if you struggle with this, having a budget develops the expectation that there are spending limits and rules.
Ask about your partner’s family’s attitude towards money.
This is a must-have conversation for any couple. Learning how your partner was raised in terms of money and then talking about the differences can head off problems.
Do not love money, rather steward your money.
The Bible tells us that it is the love of money that is problematic. Money can become an idol. The right attitude about money is given in Proverbs 23:4-5: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” While it is important to manage money responsibly, it is the love of it that gets us in trouble.
Don’t get caught up in wanting things you don’t need or you purchase to impress others. 1 Timothy 6:6-12 starts with, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
It is easy to become self-centered and stingy in our culture that tells you to constantly need more. But God’s way is to be generous with others in need.