3. The Lay-It-On-the-Table Stage. Couples painfully express their concerns to each other, feeling it’s OK to be honest, to argue about spending priorities and to speak candidly about their feelings, frustrations and fears surrounding finances. A foundation of trust is being laid, albeit roughly.

4. The Getting-It-Together Stage. The couple has arrived at a mutually agreed upon lifestyle and has established an effective method of handling finances and making financial decisions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve commingled funds, just that they have agreed on contributions—both monetary contributions and contributions of time—and that they have a system in place for managing both jointly owned and separately owned property.

5. The Achieving Stability Stage. The couple reels-in control of finances. Despite the ultimate instability of anyone’s financial position, they now feel comfortable adjusting their goals or spending patterns, as circumstances require. Their perspectives are integrated. They can handle change.

In addition to integrating their daily and practical financial patterns, did you notice what else is growing beneath the surface? Trust. Each and every stage requires a choice to risk the unknown as the two come closer in heart and mind, but eventually the choice to risk gives birth to confidence and trust. And every couple needs that.

Endnote: Patricia Schiff Estess, Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage (ASJA Press: Lincoln, NE, 2001).

Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of blended family ministries for FamilyLife®, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s and books for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Remarriage Checkup (with David H. Olson), The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), The Smart Stepdad, and his latest Dating and the Single Parent. Learn more at www.smartstepfamilies.com.

Publication date: August 10, 2012