If You Disagree on Spending… (Part 1)

They say the three hot topics for marriage are sex, money, and communication. We talked about sex in the last post and we’ll put off communication till a later post. (See what I did there?) So, let’s talk about money.

At one time or another, every marriage will have problems over money, and how to spend it. Those problems usually stem from our money deficiencies and/or spousal differences.

MONEY DEFICIENCIES

More than once in our marriage, we’ve gone into a panic and scrounged for change in the sofa as we tried to figure out how we were going to pay something.

This was especially true when we were in grad school. We had so little money in grad school, our idea of eating out was CiCi’s pizza once every 2 weeks because the kids could eat for free. Our idea of date night was going to McD’s where my wife and I would share a small soft drink and refill it a hundred times while the kids played on the indoor playground.

Struggling over money can put an incredible strain on your marriage. I know! But there are things you can do, and we’ll get to those in the next post.

SPOUSAL DIFFERENCES

Another way money issues can put a strain on a marriage is when spouses have different approaches to money and spending. Our different approaches are fueled by things like…

Different upbringings.

Rarely do husbands and wives have similar upbringings when it comes to money.  One spouse may have been raised in a home where mom and dad felt it was more important to have things and experiences than to stay out of debt. Another spouse may have been raised by parents who were militant about building up savings and staying out of debt. Maybe one spouse never saw their parents fight over money, while the other saw that on a regular basis. How you saw your parents handle money and spending will have an effect on your marriage.

Different personalities.

How spouses approach money also has a lot to do with their personality. Optimistic or pessimistic, impulsive or calculating, extraverted or introverted…theses are personality traits that affect how we see and handle money. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, your personality is probably different than your spouse’s.

Different wants and needs.

If left to my own devices, I would spend as much money as I could on computers, iPads, and photography gear. My wife, on the other hand, would spend as much money as she could on furniture and things to make the house homier. So you can see, it’s unlikely that we’re going to agree on how to spend what discretionary income we might have. (Pray for us!)

Different fears.

All of the above differences tend to foster different fears in spouses. One spouse may fear not being able to give their kids the things they never had as a child, so they want to spend money…even if they have to go in debt to do it. The other spouse may fear not having financial security in times of crisis (or in retirement), so they want to scrimp and save, to build up their reserves…even if it means they do without some things. Our differing fears can be a strong motivation for how we approach money and spending.

Here’s the thing. Whether it’s not enough money or too many differences with your spouse…

If you disagree on spending…it’s normal.

But, even though they’re normal, money and spending issues can put a strain on marriage at best and tear it apart at worst. So, for the sake of our marriage, we have to learn how to handle our money and our spending.

How we do that will be the topic of part 2, next week. See you then.

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

How to Have the Perfect Marriage. Really!

I know they say there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. But what if there is? What if it’s possible to have the perfect marriage?

Some people think that to have the perfect marriage you have to marry the right person. But I don’t think that works. No one’s perfect, and with all the people out there, the odds of finding the right person is pretty slim.

I think to have a perfect marriage you have to do something different. You have to…

Read moreHow to Have the Perfect Marriage. Really!