I’m someone who breaks out into a cold sweat whenever I look at my bank account.
I like numbers to add up. Staying under budget is a love language, right? Few things in life give me peace of mind than a cushy emergency savings account.
My husband…let’s just say he’s got a great conviction about enjoying life.
We had financial management issues during the early years of our marriage. Actually, we still do.
After many conversations with friends over the years, I’ve learned that this dynamic in marriage is quite common: one leaning to the “spender” end of the spectrum and the other leaning to the “saver” side.
So when it comes to things like if/when/where to go on vacation versus invest in the future, horns can lock.
It gets ugly. If I’m to take an honest look at our marriage dynamic, this is the one issue I’ve spilled the most tears over.
If you’re that unicorn couple that is so awesomely disciplined and unified about sticking to a budget and reaching your financial goals, I truly admire you. But if it just doesn’t come that easily to you, don’t despair. Think of this as an opportunity to refine your marriage relationship.
Here are several strategies that have helped us smooth out the tension when my husband and I disagree about finances (and these are also just good conflict-resolution principles for any topic!).
Related post: Four Marriage Communication Skills That Prevent Fights
1. Identify and Communicate Your Core Priorities
Usually when my husband and I disagree about finances, it’s about where a particular chunk of money should go—like whether we should invest for the future or spend on the now. There’s not always a black-and-white decision to be made.
It has helped me to backtrack and think through what is a core priority in these conversations. One of mine is consumer debt; I want to avoid it at all costs.
This priority wasn’t all that clear in my mind or his until we took a class on Christian financial management. Once I saw how damaging and irresponsible debt can be, as is described clearly in the Bible, I knew that this was where I wanted to draw the line.
We came to agreement on this, so now when we’re having financial conversations, we can always base them around this conviction. We work on building emergency savings, retirement and other long-term goals because we don’t want to go into to debt now or later, as much as we can prevent it.
I recommend you try not to have too many “priorities,” and make sure that the ones you have are solidly biblical.
But what if you can’t even come to an understanding about core priorities? Keep reading.
2. Find Compromises
Let’s say you come to a deadlock about a financial decision. For example, one of you thinks it’s more important to invest in your children’s education, even if you have to go into debt, while the other is absolutely firm about not taking on that burden.
In that scenario, there might be two different “core priorities” that are at odds with each other. Or even if core priorities aren’t clearly in play, it can be difficult to discern what’s going to be the wisest solution for the long-term.
It’s tough, you guys.
This is where couples’ communication breaks down, especially when there are unknown variables in play like future income and expenses. We frequently hit a bump whenever we have a windfall of money like a tax return or a work bonus.
My husband likes to building memories with the family in the here and now, and I like to plan for the future. Both are good and noble things. But sometimes there isn’t enough to have it both ways.
Compromise is the language of marriage. How far can you stretch what you want without threatening your core priorities? Or…should your core priority be set in stone? Are there exceptions?
Going back to the hypothetical investing in education versus going into debt: try to find a creative solution. Maybe your kids don’t go to private school, but you get some tutoring or homeschool instead. Maybe you find an interest-free loan (they’re out there) and figure out ways to bring in some more income.
Look at these bumps in the road as opportunities to grow. You might not make the “right” or “best” decision each time, but it doesn’t have to wreck your peace of your mind or your marriage. Learn for next time.
Oh and don’t forget this very important piece of the puzzle: pray through these decisions for clarity. Do it together, if possible, but even if your husband is not a believer, you can still be faithful to God on your end.
3. Trust Each Other
Ugh, this one is the toughest! We booked a vacation recently and I was having major cold feet, fear and guilt about it because it was pretty expensive.
My husband was clearly discouraged by my attitude and asked me nicely to just trust him. We had already agreed on what to do and I was backsliding. He had put a lot of work into planning the trip, and my attitude was robbing him of his joy. So I let it go—the decision had been made!
In most situations you have to make a decision at some point and just run with it.
Hopefully it’s after some thoroughly honest discussions and mutual compromise. I’ve found that usually one person will have a stronger opinion that the other, and so we’ll go that way. And unless it’s a recurring payment situation or something that necessitates reassessment, once a decision is made, it’s done!
When there’s no crystal clear answer to financial decisions, I try my best to trust my husband’s leadership.
I know the whole leader-follower dynamic is complicated and varies between marriages, but ultimately I believe God calls us to show our husbands we love them by trusting them—even when we’re a nervous about the outcome. By doing so, we are ultimately not just trusting in our husbands, but in God (see 1 Peter 3:1–6).
We get into financial disagreements because few things affect our quality of life more than money. No matter what the issue, I always have to go back to my faith in God, his guidance, and his grace when we screw up. Ultimately when I have that attitude, our marriage is all the better.
What issues cause you and your husband to fight about money? How do you work through them?