Make God-Honoring Financial Decisions as a Couple
- 2006 20 Feb
If you’re married, you’ve probably had at least one disagreement in your marriage -- per week that is. Conflict is such a part of married life, I think it should be part of our vows ("through sickness and health, arguments and disagreements, till death do us part"). For those of us that are married, we must learn how to compromise.
For some, the word compromise is a dirty word. When compromising relates to our values, it is a dirty word. When used in a marriage, it can be the difference between getting a divorce and making it. With divorce rates hovering above 50%, we're obviously not compromising enough.
I have a client named Maralyn who gave me a tremendous piece of advice a couple years ago. Before I tell you what she said, let me tell you about her. Maralyn is a widow who was married for 51 years (to the same guy). She is a woman whose only desire is to love God and to love others. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love others. She lives this. So, when Maralyn speaks, I listen. I teach her a little about finances and she teaches me a ton about life. She gets the short end of the stick in this relationship, but because she loves God and loves others (including me), she deals with it very well.
One day I asked her how she and her husband stayed married for 51 years. They took the vow "till death due us part" literally. She told me that when she was married, she and her husband would never make a decision without consulting each other. They had a basic rule: Every decision required two "yeses" or one "no." This was especially important for financial decisions.
If one of them did not want to do something, they didn't do it, period. If they both agreed to do something (or not to do something), they took action accordingly. When I've share this with people, the question I get asked most frequently is, "How do you know if the person saying 'no' is right?" The answer to that question is simple. You don't know. But, if one spouse doesn't feel comfortable about doing something, the best thing to do is avoid it.
Avoidance, of course, isn't the only thing you should do -- finding a resolution is very important as well. The first step in resolving an issue -- financial or not -- is to pray and ask for God's help and wisdom. Then set aside a time when you can talk through the situation with your spouse. Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 give us a great example of how we ought to treat each other (verses 21 – 33):
And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything.
And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God's word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body.
As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Most husband-wife disagreements about spending money are not so much a financial problem as a spiritual issue. The rule of thumb for Christians should always be: Seek God's guidance in how He intends your family to use your finances.
This discovery will happen best in the context of a healthy marriage:
• Mutual respect
• Good communication
• Spiritual unity
As you map out your financial plan, look at the following statements as examples of the types of things to include:
• We are both committed to God's way of handling our finances and possessions.
• We covenant together to never make a major purchase (negotiate "major") without first discussing, praying and being in agreement.
• We will make a simple and flexible budget that will help us project and monitor expenses.
• We pledge to celebrate each step and to thank God for His help and guidance.
When it comes to making financial decisions (or any decisions for that matter), remember that all decisions must be made together. Keep in mind Maralyn’s rule of "two yeses or one no." It actually makes your decision-making easier and it could even save your marriage.
Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Treasure Coast Financial. He is co-host of God’s Money, which can be heard on the internet at www.oneplace.com. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.