Money and marriage can sometimes mix like oil and water. Anytime two distinct personalities with unique backgrounds and differing viewpoints on money combine into one household, there are bound to be hiccups.
If you’re like many couples, you may find that “hiccup” would be an extreme understatement, and “gale force collision course” might be a better descriptor.
Even the most amiable of pairs can discover it’s difficult to focus their financial efforts into a unified endeavor. What do you do when you can’t seem to agree and your spouse is driving you up the wall? Pause. Take a moment. And then think through these principles.
I’m not sure why we think that walking down the aisle and sharing our commitment with the world magically transforms us into a superhero duo that never disagrees on anything. Yes, the promises you make in front of God and your community are important.
However, marriage takes work. Work requires you to show up daily, giving your all to the venture. So if you feel frustrated and like you and your spouse are failing at marriage, breathe deep.
Combining finances does not come instinctively. Reaching consensus on how money is spent, earned, saved or given away will not be second nature to any couple. Thinking you’re beyond hope or don’t have what it takes? Think again. Know that you’re not alone and be encouraged that plenty of other couples are in the same boat as you.
Use a common language
Believe it or not, even though you think you’re communicating effectively with your spouse about money, he or she may have no clue what you’re talking about. Conversations about money often usually accompany heavy emotions and layers of understanding. To begin speaking the same language, be sure to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Don’t try to have an intentional discussion when you’re tired. Don’t bring up matters of money in the middle of a fight. Power down your electronic devices and make sure the kids are well occupied. If you don’t understand what your spouse is talking about, ask questions. If your significant other doesn’t understand, don’t get defensive. Be patient and try to explain your point of view in different terms. The practice of learning to speak the same financial language takes time.
Find a shared dream
If it feels difficult to communicate and manage money together, perhaps it’s because you’re pulling in two different directions. Even if this is not the case and you fall in sync perfectly, every couple needs a shared financial dream. This dream can motivate you to change habits or be deliberate with your money.
You may decide to save for a home or you might plan a dream vacation. Maybe you’re piling up your pennies to buy a new car or together you slay your debt dragons. Nothing can bring your marriage closer like sharing a dream of what might be -– together -– in your financial future.
Remember why you fell in love
Not so long ago, I attended a wedding where the bride and groom nailed shut a box that contained a love letter from each of them and a bottle of wine. The pastor told the congregation that this box would be a lifeline in difficult times.
If the newlyweds found themselves in a place of frustration with one another where they felt as if they could no longer remain faithful to their vows, they were instructed to open the box. Then, the bottle of wine should be shared and the respective letters read. If by chance the couple didn’t need to open the box before their fifth anniversary, they would then open it that night to celebrate, refilling it for another five years.
All married couples need to regularly return to the reasons why they fell in love. Those reasons need celebrated and spoken over one another. Daily life can leave significant wear and tear on our hearts. The practice of remembrance allows us to strengthen the bonds of unity in our marriages.
If it’s difficult to share finances as a couple, if it seems like it will never get any better, if you’re frustrated, worn out, tired, or feeling alone, know that every single married couple has been there. Work through those feelings of isolation and weariness. Begin again with your spouse and set out on a new financial adventure together.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.