Building Financial “Oneness” in Marriage

Many of you probably already know the number one cause for divorce and strife in marriage without us mentioning it, but we will anyway: MONEY!  They fight because one person didn’t balance the checkbook or made a bone-headed investment without consulting the other.  They fight because one partner exerts dictatorial control over the money or because one has secretly amassed thousands of dollars in debt on a credit card, imperiling the couple’s finances.  They fight because there just simply is not enough money left at the end of the month or maybe there’s plenty of money but they fight on how the surplus should be spent.

Whether the issues are big or small, money will prove a powerful force impacting your marriage, sometimes overtly in the form of routine arguments; sometimes quietly as animosities seethe beneath the surface for years, only to explode into a potentially marriage ending supernova.

What couples don’t always grasp is that money is rarely the real culprit.  It’s the lack of communication, often stemming from a lack of knowledge about each other’s personal financial quirks and beliefs.

Sometime between the “Yes, I will marry you,” and the “I do”, is the best time to have the Money Talk but, it’s never too late to go ahead and begin communicating!  Today, we are going to talk about both the questions you should be asking each other if you are not yet married and then some to help you continue to communicate well if you are already married.  These are questions that will provide insight and information on how money will flow through your marriage.

First, for the questions to ask if you aren’t yet married:

What Are Your Assets and Liabilities?

This question is paramount because assets and liabilities are the basic building block of the financial life you’ll live together.  Assets help you strive for the life you want.  While the liabilities will hold you back.  Your goal is to pinpoint where you are financially as a couple so that you can map out where you want to go together.  That could mean determining how much you want to save each month for retirement, or how much you want to put into an account for a new house, a new car or an annual vacation.

It could also mean talking about how you each use debt and the amount of debt you each have and mapping out a plan to pay off as quickly as possible the combined debt you will have as a family.

The best way to approach this:  Present each other with a copy of your net-worth statement, a simple list of all your assets and liabilities.  And voice no judgments.  Mocking a partner’s choices will simply lead to future silence.

What is Your Money History?

What you experienced financially as a child – how your parents managed their bills, how they talked or yelled about money, what they taught you about saving and spending, has shaped who you are today.

Problems arise in marriage because partners don’t always see money from the same perspective.  You might abhor debt for anything other than a mortgage, yet your spouse-to-be thinks nothing of putting lunch, groceries and the afternoon Slurpee on a credit card, and then paying the minimum each month and allowing the balance to roll over.

In talking to one another about how you each see money, you will begin to understand one another’s money habits.  That, in turn, will help you find a common approach for managing money successfully as a couple.

Neither of you will, nor should, get your way completely.  Marriage is about compromise.  A better understanding early on of how you each see and use money will give you the tools to find a middle ground you’re each happy with when financial discord arises.

How Should We Divide Financial Duties?

In many marriages, one partner exerts financial dominance over the other, leaving the silenced partner anxious and angry. Other times, one partner shirks financial duties because of disinterest, leaving the other to shoulder the burden.  Neither is fair.

Couples should determine how to divvy up the various financial obligations that exist.  Maybe one takes charge of investing and the other balances the checkbook.  Play to each other’s strengths.  If you’re good at challenging bureaucracy, maybe you agree to handle the insurance companies and the medical bills.

The point is that you both have an obligation to the family’s well-being, and both spouses need to be aware of the household’s financial situation.

If one partner wants to opt out of the daily financial details, that’s fine, so long as the other spouse is OK with handling the full obligation.  But even then, you need to remain aware of what’s going on with the finances so there are no unsavory surprises.

Do We Combine Accounts or Operate Individually?

This is a divisive issue.  Many financial pros argue that operating from individual accounts helps to maintain marital peace.  Since neither partner knows what happens in the other’s account, there’s no bickering.

Maybe.  But it’s far from perfect.  Resentments can emerge if one partner is better at saving and always has money for larger, more meaningful purchases.  Moreover, individual accounts mask the family’s true financial position, which can hamper the main purpose of marriage:  operating as a team.

If neither of you know how much money is really flowing through the individual accounts, nor how much is being saved and invested, then it’s impossible to plan a future together.

That doesn’t mean individual accounts can’t work.  They can.  But they require a large degree of openness so that you can both work toward common goals.

What Are Each of Your Attitudes Towards Tithes and Offerings?

If you are both Christians, hopefully you are on the same page in this area.  Still though, it is important to see where each of you are coming from in this area.  If you have differences, seek out wisdom from the Bible, a pastor and through prayer.

Ultimately, all of these questions are about one thing:  communication.  Learn to talk about money early and often, and you can mitigate the financial tensions that are normal in all marriages.

So you’re already married….and having problems, or maybe you want to avoid problems….

If you’re like the majority of married couples, you probably did not go into the depth above about finances before you got married.  It’s never too late to start though!  And, many of the subjects and questions already discussed are ones that can be brought up at anytime.  The important thing to remember is that when you discuss finances with your spouse, you do it with an open, humble attitude.  In the proper setting, a discussion about finances can be a wonderful experience that draws the family closer together.  With the wrong attitude, it can easily become an all-out-war.  Emotions can run high when discussing money.  When you have disagreements, realize that we all come from different backgrounds.  We all have had different experiences relating to finances and most of us haven’t been properly trained to handle finances effectively.  If you find yourselves arguing over a certain topic, stop and take some time to pray and think about this situation.  If you still have difficulty resolving the issue, consider seeking counsel from your pastor or a financial advisor who is properly trained in Biblical finance.

I think it’s clear that one of the most important elements in “building financial oneness” in a marriage is COMMUNICATION.  To help aid you in this discussion and to get specific in the questions to ask each other, we have what we call a “Family Financial Connection Kit”.  This is a fairly detailed guide that is designed for each person to fill out individually and then for you to come together to discuss your answers.  We can email this to you at your request.  Just click the link below, which will bring you to our “contact us” page.  Send us an email and request a copy.  It can be enlightening even for those who are not having any financial difficulties in their marriage.

Would you like a Family Financial Connection Kit?

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