[Guest Post by Jennifer Kephart] – I have heard it said that the two biggest things that married couples fight about are sex and money.
I believe and know this to be true, and I think it is because so much of our identity and self-worth are wrapped up in these two areas of our lives.
So many times when we meet someone new, we ask them,
“what do you do?”
Money can be such a touchy subject, but how then how are we just supposed to make it work?
In my experience, I find that there are 3 primary areas where money issues can arise:
1) Not budgeting together
2) Not paying the bills together
3) Not seeing past all the hunky dory feelings and failing to plan
Budgets are very personal, and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. It doesn’t have to take all the fun out of money.
Some people like pen and paper.
Others prefer Excel.
The idea is to talk openly and prioritize together so that when you get married you have an idea of the home and marriage you want to build as a team.
How much do you make?
What do you spend your money on?
What’s important to you?
What’s important to you as an individual?
What are you willing to give up in order to reach a joint goal?
Are we going to tithe? If so, net or gross?
Funny enough, sometimes there are things [like money] you just don’t talk about when you’re dating.
You could be together for 2 years and your boyfriend could have no idea that you spend $200 a month on makeup and toiletries. It sounds silly, but these are the little petty things that don’t come up, but can make a big difference after the wedding.
If we don’t talk about it beforehand, we risk having a major blow up over something seemingly small. When you budget, you have an idea of what’s coming in, how you plan to allocate according to your joint needs and priorities and how to compromise where necessary.
Having a budget together is all well and good, but actually executing that plan is another story.
Many couples will budget together, but then they leave it up to only one spouse to pay all the bills and keep track of everything or leave it to no one at all.
This can be for different reasons.
One spouse may not be interested. Another may not be good at math, or another person may leave it to their husband or wife because that’s how their parents did it. Regardless of the reasons why, though, I think it’s important for married couples to sit down together and pay the bills and review their budget on a regular basis.
Marriage should be a partnership, not a dictatorship, and certainly not a parent-child relationship between spouses.
It may seem inefficient to have both spouses sit down and do this, especially when a majority of the bills are paid online, but I think it’s important for two reasons.
One, it emphasizes that you are doing this together as a team. You have a joint budget, a joint plan and together you are putting that plan into practice. Second, it can change the dynamic of the relationship. If only one person is handling the finances, and the other remains clueless, it can begin to feel more like one person is the parent trying to reign in their spendthrift child.
Sometimes, when we’re planning to get married, we fail to see past the hunky dory feelings and fail to plan past the wedding.
In the common marriage vows, we say for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, but somewhere way in the back of our minds, we’re thinking for better, for richer, in health.
We don’t like to think that something bad will happen, but many times an accident or an illness can send us for a loop.
Discussing the potential negatives can help minimize their effects if and when it happens.
This is another reason why it’s important to have both spouses involved in the family finances and bill paying, so if for whatever reason (illness, busy time at work, etc.) one spouse is unable to pay the bills, the other is just as knowledgeable and not completely clueless to all of the online logins or where the checkbook is stored.
Whether it is ATM pin codes, joint accounts, or insurance needs, considering the worst case scenario and planning accordingly can save a lot of additional stress.
So many marriages are strained by periods of unemployment or unexpected changes in circumstances.
Having an idea of how you and your spouse will approach and handles these types of challenges can strengthen your bond and potential for marriage success.
Some couples prefer everything to be joint. I think it can be okay to have “separate” accounts, not to be secretive but to maintain a sense of independence.This can also be especially useful around Christmas time, when you don’t necessarily want your spouse to see where you purchased their present.
In our culture, we tend to view money as power, and whoever has the most is in charge.
Talking about money can also open up the conversation to other aspects of the relationship and marriage expectations–like who is going to have the final say on a decision–and of course, everyone’s favorite word: submission.
We read in the Bible about a wife submitting to her husband and husbands respecting their wives (and of course, submitting to one another). This is lovely and all.
When it comes to money and living this out, it can be a difficult thing to do, especially nowadays, when all more often, the woman in the relationship makes more money.
If you are a reasonably responsible 20-something or 30-something, you more than likely have a job and bring home a paycheck. However big or small, it’s your money, and you determine what you do with it. Suddenly, you’re married and there’s this other person telling you what to do or more so what NOT to do with your money.
Hello? It’s MINE!
It’s like we’re 3 years old all over again learning to share our toys.
Another misconception is that things shouldn’t really change when we get married. We can do all the things we did before we got married, but now we just do it together or with a joint income.
It’s important that a couple who is considering marriage can sit down together and really talk about money and their expectations for when they get married, and how the “his” and “hers” will become “theirs”.
Jennifer Kephart is an accountant by trade, but doesn’t pretend to be an expert with money. In fact, in her brief years, she has had not one–but two failed marriages. Although money did play a big part, it wasn’t the only issue. Now, as she contemplates the idea of another (and final!) attempt at marriage (and one based on godly principles, this time), she is taking time to think through what mistakes were made in the area of money and marriage and how to learn from them.