For the first eight years of my marriage, “finance” was not a popular word in our household. I did the bills and the budgeting and tried to stretch our limited resources to cover three kids and make do. My husband, on the other hand, had little to do with the daily operation and only contributed his opinion if something wasn’t working. Then, he would get upset if I bounced a check and we would argue.
I felt unappreciated, and he felt like all his money was going toward boring stuff and paying the bills. I was a thwarted saver; he was a thwarted spender. Round and round we went until we were in enough debt to get uncomfortable and finally do something about it. A few years ago, at the end of our rope, we enrolled in a money management class and finally got on the same page and made our money work for us not against us. Here’s what we learned.
Different Spending Habits
The truth was that we had vastly different spending habits. Because I handled the bills, I could see our finances as a whole, so I spent differently. My priorities were the kids, security and keeping a roof over our heads.
My husband, on the hand, is more of a free-spirited type, and he is in charge of fun, travel and generosity in the family. Those are his priorities, and if I curtailed him too much, then he simply used the credit card, much to my dismay. As I grasped for more control, my husband naturally became more distant and less aware of where we were financially, so it was easy for him to spend what we didn’t have because he wasn’t in the loop of our financial reality.
Lack Of Communication
One of the things we learned early on in money management as a couple is that communication is key regarding finances. A National Survey of Families and Households research study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University discovered that the more a couple argued about finances, the more likely the couple would head towards divorce. According to Dew, spouses that disagree over finances at least once a week had a 30% greater chance of getting divorced.
Clearly, one person in charge of the cash and one person with their head in the sand with a credit card wasn’t doing us any favors. It was time to create a budget together that we agreed on and discussed on a regular basis for accountability and teamwork.
Dealing With Debt
While our debt was clearly a negative thing, it was also the incentive we needed to make some big changes. Neither one of us wanted to be shackled to large sums of money going out and down the drain in interest. One of our first joint commitments to each other was to stop using credit cards and start paying with cash. We actually locked up the cards and worked hard to pay off outstanding bills. With a budgeting plan in place that we both agreed upon, the fighting lessened.
Blaming One Another
As the spouse who was more controlling with money and the maker of the budget, I had to do some forgiving and letting go when it came to money. My husband had a good point; I wasn’t giving him enough money to get by, and so when he ran out of gas he was forced to use the credit cards. Once I created a more workable amount for him, he was able to stay within his limit and stop overspending. He also had to take more responsibility for his actions and be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Getting On The Same Page
Once we stopped bickering, our communication improved. I was able to acknowledge my husband’s strengths in long-term financial planning and strategy. He was able to thank me for doing the daily grunt work of paying bills and keeping the lights on. We were able to begin to share the burden of money so I didn’t carry all the stress. We worked hard to understand each other’s different and overlapping values and find a compromise that recognized his fun nature and my more conservative tendencies.
Getting on the same page was huge for us. I no longer woke up in the middle of the night terrified of not being able to pay a bill, and now I feel like I have a partner to work by my side. My husband has enough money to pay for his gas and buy his kids the little gifts he loves to bless us with.
If you and your spouse are fighting about money, I encourage you to find a finance class and get in an accountability group like we did. Don’t let money be the reason your marriage doesn’t make it. Fight for your marriage and your family – not about money!
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