Early in our marriage, I caught the “Get out of Debt” bug. And, honestly, I wasn't great at knowing how to handle money arguments. I created spreadsheets, stuffed cash envelopes, and watched every dollar like a hawk. My wife came along as a very willing and gracious partner in this quest.
However, once we crossed the finish line, my intensity didn’t decrease and I failed to let my foot off the gas. For obvious reasons, her patience grew thin and we began to have fights about spending.
Let me show you where I went wrong, and hopefully, the mindset shift that will prove helpful in case you're where I was with money in marriage.
I shared our money problem with a good friend of mine and he offered me some very confusing advice: “Open her a bank account and deposit $500 into it. Tell her to spend it however she wants, no questions asked.”
What?! I had never heard such a stupid idea. This made zero sense based on everything we just talked about. Did he not hear what I just shared with him? Hello! I'm saving money over here, as in, NOT spending—S-A-V-I-N-G!!!
He said, “You’re acting like her manager, not her husband. She doesn’t feel loved as your wife, but instead, she probably feels like an employee of yours.”
Whoa. My first thought was to get a new and improved friend. One who listens and agrees with me on EVERYTHING I say. But, just before I made a phone call for that new friend, I thought about it. And well, dang it, he was right.
You see, my last few months (well, years, really), I had gotten into the great habit at saying no. No to that dinner out. No to that weekend trip. No. No. No. While my friends words pierce my heart. He was right. I had been treating my wife more like an employee—of which I was the manager or the head of the accounting department—rather than the loving and understanding husband I should've been.
After trying not to listen to my friend, I finally took his counsel and opened an account. Now, don't read this post and think the answer is opening an account for your spouse. Hear the moral of the story! For our marriage, this helped. Almost instantly our arguments ended.
Hear me out: I let grace in. Once grace entered the equation for me with my wife, I saw the need for financial generosity and thoughtfulness and, much to my surprise, she became more willing to follow my lead in saving for financial goals.
Why or how did this happen? Well, my guess is because she saw evidence that I knew and cared for her wants and desires. I was becoming more loving and caring. I was becoming less of a manager of employees and more of a lover of my spouse. This changed everything.
So, the answer to how to handle money arguments is getting separate bank accounts. I'm kidding. That is NOT the answer. But, the answer just might mean you infuse more grace into your handling of money. In your marriage, there's typically a spender and a saver. Both need grace.
Remember, you have one job when it comes to money and your marriage. Matthew 6:33 says:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Question: What does grace look like for each of you when it comes to handling money in your marriage?
Rob Pierce is a Deacon at Pleasant Valley Community Church in Kentucky. He just celebrated 20 years of marriage to his wife Karen, they have two children ages 15 and 12. He is also a financial advisor.