You don’t need me to tell you this, but money is an essential part of our everyday lives. Because of that significance, it is also a notorious cause of stress. The worst stress on earth is financial stress. Karen and I lived with that kind of stress early in our marriage. Many young couples do.
At the same time, money is part of the core of marriage. This isn’t just my opinion. It’s the opinion of the government. Regardless of which box you check on your tax return, the State views married people as the same financial unity. When you get married, you don’t just merge your history and furniture and live under the same roof. You also merge your finances.
But as central as finances are to a marriage, then can also be a source of extreme stress. When a couple fights, money is almost always part of that disagreement. It’s vital that you and your spouse get on the same page when it comes to money.
Here are five steps to financial intimacy and partnership:
1. Mutual Respect
Understand that you both may view money differently. Most of us have heard of the idea of “love languages.” But a financial psychologist named Kenneth Doyle has stated that people also have “money languages.” From birth, we are wired to view money through a certain lens.
To Karen, money means security. It wards off chaos and problems, so the more money she has available, the more secure she feels. But I see money differently. To me, money has a social component. It means love. I want to take our family’s money and use it for vacations. Money helps me show love to our family.
So I want to spend money. Karen wants to save money. We have to understand and respect each other’s money language or we would be fighting all the time. If you are different from your spouse, don’t judge how they view money. Learn to work with them, because it’s likely that you make a good team.
2. Shared Control
No one spouse should dominate the family’s finances. Many of us grew up in a home where one parent was clearly dominant. That dominance always has a negative effect on marriage. It decreases the goodwill in a relationship.
It’s fine to divide responsibilities according to your strengths. If you’re good at paying the bills on time or managing a bank account, then take on that role! But don’t put the decision-making into one spouse’s hands. Every big financial decision should be made together.
This relates to shared control. For goodwill and financial intimacy, both of you need to be each other’s equals. One spouse may work more than the other, or have a higher income than the other, but Genesis 2:24 says “The two shall become one.” Even if his income paid for the new couch, that couch still belongs to both of you. You both own everything. You’re a team.
Anything you will not give to your spouse—a bank account, a property, a paycheck—will immediately create resentment within your marriage. Whatever you have, you have it together.
This is critically important in blended families, where husband and wife may have entered marriage with children from previous relationships. If you’re making financial decisions related to children, you must be extremely careful that every child is treated the same as another.
4. United Faith
Since most of us enter marriage with different views on money, and since money is so central to the life of a marriage, how do we find intimacy? How do two strong-willed people become partners? The best way for this to happen is for a couple to take their two wills and surrender them both to Jesus Christ.
You probably know the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Do you know what comes right after that? “Give us this day our daily bread.” You can’t talk about God’s provision without first talking about being submitted to His will. When you’re faced with a big financial decision in your marriage, pray about it. Give it to Him. Seek His will.
Rather than let a financial decision divide you, give it to God and He will use it to unite you.
5. Common vision and values
The word division means “two visions.” It means your vision is split. But the word provision means “for the vision.” When God provides, He gives you His vision.
I believe a couple needs to be on the same page regarding their finances, and that means they need to understand God’s vision for their marriage. When they do, they will share that vision. They will share the same values. They will be moving in the same direction.
That’s why a vision retreat is so crucial to a marriage. Once a year, you and your spouse need to get together away from distractions and talk to each other. Slow down. Have deep conversations. Pray together. Seek God’s vision for your marriage, your children, your finances, and your priorities. When you do, you’ll find that God can use your finances to bring you closer instead of it tearing you apart.
There are many types of intimacy in marriage, but financial intimacy is one of the most critical. Are you and your spouse on the same page when it comes to money?
For more about money and marriage, read “When Financial Stress is Hurting Your Marriage,” by Dave Willis.