So, you just finished reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and you are gung-ho to start living simply and getting rid of debt. You’ve already got a budget outlined in your head, and decided to cut out cable and junk food at home, and pick up a few hours at work. Your plan is brilliant- Dave Ramsey would be proud.
And then it all comes to a screeching halt: your spouse just isn’t onboard. What do you do?
I have to admit, Mike and I are pretty much together on this journey and the tough decisions we have made in the finances department to try and get out of debt as quickly as possible. However, I also have to admit that that hasn’t always been the case, and it isn’t always the case decision by decision either. Sometimes there’s conflict about how or what to cut (or keep) in the budget and why.
Yet budgeting, finances, and debt all need to be a part of any marriage equation. These things need to be talked about and agreed (or at least settled) upon. Decisions need to be discussed jointly and made resolutely. We all have heard that financial issues is one of the leading causes of divorce… dealing with money can be scary and difficult at times. However, learning to navigate the financial world successfully as a couple can also be an incredible and irreplaceable bonding experience.
So here are a few of my tips for you who are experiencing a few bumps on your journey to becoming debt free.
Truly, truly this should be your first line of defense as well as offense in your marriage. Pray about your finances (with your spouse, preferably!) and your decisions. Pray for your spouse. Pray for yourself. Finances certainly are a spiritual battleground in marriage- one that you want fully covered.
Keep the Communication Lines Open
When conflict happens- keep communicating! Don’t shut down the first time your spouse nixes the budget idea. Keep talking about it, when it’s appropriate. Communicate how you are feeling, especially when your feelings are: bitterness, anger, hurt, rejection. Learning to handle finances, like any part of a relationship, will take a lifelong commitment to learning and growing together, and the first step is communicating your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions. And that also means being open to hearing your spouse out, even when you don’t agree initially, and being open to changing your mind.
Keep Entreating (Wisely)
Remember Queen Esther in the Bible? That woman knew how to get her man on her side. She wined him and dined him, and then she brought her case before him. Obviously, nobody’s lives are literally at stake (I hope) when it comes to how your family handles budgeting, money, and debt, but it is a wise husband or wife who knows how respectfully present their case to their spouse. Don’t become a nag. Don’t get defensive, hostile, or adopt a “better than you” attitude. You can pretty much guarantee that you won’t get what you are after that way.
Keep the Proper Perspective
All difficult circumstances, including marital conflict about finances, are tools used by the Refiner to melt the dross in our hearts away and produce pure gold. When something is causing friction in your marriage, you can be sure that there is some refining going on. And not just of your spouse: of you. Mike and I believe strongly that it is never about the circumstances.
Let’s say, for instance, that Mike doesn’t want to give up using credit cards and start paying cash only, but I really do. Suddenly we are in a “discussion,” we’re both feeling a little heated, and a small thing is escalating into some serious words. OR after Mike says he doesn’t want to switch, I shut down and start harboring some quiet resentment in my heart against my husband.
Guess what? It’s not about that cash or credit card circumstance. It’s not about the, “My husband/wife just won’t LISTEN to me” circumstance. There are deeper things going on in both peoples’ hearts, and it takes wisdom to recognize that! Maybe I’m dealing with rejection, which has been a lifelong issue, and the fact that Mike doesn’t immediately agree to my idea feels like a stab at the old rejection wound (and I might not even realize it!) I might believe, whether I’m right or not, that by saying no Mike is saying that I am just not good enough. Maybe Mike had a controlling parent growing up and he’s afraid that I am starting to try to control him, and his defense mechanism is to shut down (and he might not even realize it!)
Whatever it is, you can be sure that God is allowing these external circumstances to poke at those old wounds in order that he might come, pull those issues to the light, and bring healing. The feelings and issues that those circumstances brings up are meant to be dealt with, on both sides. They are meant to be prayed through, confessed, and communicated freely. Far from pulling you apart, those difficult circumstances are meant to cause an even deeper bond to form.
And if your spouse isn’t a believer, or isn’t open to discussing these feelings, beliefs, and emotions that are the root to our reactions to situations? That doesn’t change how you react to circumstances and the ugliness that might rear it’s head in your heart at certain times. You can still pray through those things and learn to process and discern the issues in your heart that the Lord wants to deal with. And by your example you become a witness and a light to your spouse.
Keep Living & Loving!
Even if your spouse never changes his or her mind… you can make the choice to continue to love him or her and continue to pursue life, inside and out. You can choose to shut down and nurse bitterness, or you can choose to move on with life and the gifts it is intended to bring.
How About You?
How have you learned to deal with conflict in your marriage around money? Leave a comment!