By: Dr. Gregory Popcak
About halfway through their first tele-counseling session with me, Mack and Kara brought our conversation around to money. “He is totally controlling about what we spend.” Kara complained. “I really am careful about our budget, but he is constantly on me with his, ‘Do we really need this? Do we need that?’ He drives me crazy.” Mack interrupted, “That’s not it at all! I just think we need to save.” “Well, of course we need to save. But he gets crazy about it. It seems like every penny we don’t absolutely have to spend has to be squirreled away. He never wants to take a vacation; he couldn’t care less what our home looks like. It’s all about sockin’ it away.” Not every couple is as polarized about money as Mack and Kara are, but finances are among the most contentious issues couples face. In fact, 37% of couples report that arguments about money represent a significant source of marital stress. Certainly they are the most common problems couples bring up in counseling, especially when financial times turn tough. So what’s the secret to resolving these maddening money matters? Here are a few tips to get you over the hurdles.
1. Start by Giving Your Money Back to God.
Do you and your mate pray about your money? You should. No matter who brings home the bacon in your home, God is the provider. If He is giving you the money, then he has a purpose in mind for it. It is your job to discern that purpose by regularly asking God for his guidance. Here are a few suggestions for how to do this. First, every time you get a paycheck, sit down with your mate to thank God for it. Literally, pray over it, and to ask Him to help you know how to be a good steward of this gift. Second, when it comes to paying bills, go to the Lord first. Ask him to calm your nerves, give you wisdom, and to make your dollar go further (remember the loaves and the fishes!) and if you are fortunate enough to have anything left after, thank him for it, and keep point #2 in mind.
2. Remember the Purpose of Money.
As Catholics, we recognize that everything that God gives us is intended to work for the good of people. The accumulation of money cannot be an end in itself. Money is only good to the degree that it serves us and those who depend upon us. Couples must learn to be comfortable living in a healthy tension between saving for the future, making the home a hospitable place for the family, and taking care of those less fortunate. Before you allocate any money remaining after bills, consider the needs of everyone in the family, not just your own plans.
3. Everybody Has to Win.
Most money madness results from fights in which husbands and wives disagree over whose spending/saving vision rules the day. This is entirely wrongheaded. God called you and your spouse together because he knew that by responding generously to the needs he has placed on each of your hearts, you will both grow in ways that are essential to God’s plan for your life; ways in which you would never grow if you were on your own. In order to do this, you must both be willing to give the other what he or she requires, but you must both also be willing to be flexible about how and when you get it. Do you want to go on a vacation this year? Great, but be sure to plan a vacation that respects your mate’s need to save. Need to save for retirement or college? Great. Just be flexible enough to develop a plan that enables you to meet reasonable savings goals in a timeframe that is respectful of your family’s need to have a hospitable home-life today. Everybody can get what they need as long as husband and wife are willing to be flexible about the method used to get it and the timeframe in which it is gotten.
4. Get Professional Help.
If you can’t figure out how to bring your different financial visions together into one coherent plan, seek the help of a financial planner who has tools and information that can help you solve the practical aspects of your problem. Remember, though, sometimes money problems aren’t just about money. Often, arguments about money are really just a sign of a serious weakness in a couple’s general problem-solving and communication abilities, or a sign that there is just not as much respect in the relationship as there needs to be. The latter is especially true when one spouse consistently bullies the other to seeing things his or her way. If resentment over money persists even after you have tried financial planning don’t simmer in silence. Seek the help of a marriage-friendly counselor who can help you get to the bottom of what is really bothering you. If you find that there is still tension between you and your spouse over money matters, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the solutions you are searching for. Call us and get the skills you need to succeed!