Do you and your husband fight about money? Is it a constant source of stress and tension in your life? This used to be the case with my husband and I, but thanks to some strategies we’ve learned, not only are we unified in how we manage our money, our marriage in general has improved. If you have these same goals for your marriage, there’s a good chance that as the wife, change has to start with you. Why? I heard a woman say one time that “The husband is the head of the household, but the wife is the neck, and we all know that the neck is what turns the head.”
This saying was meant to be a joke, but there is some truth to it. We as Christian wives are called by God to let our husbands lead our families (Eph. 5:22-33). But this can be a hard command to follow when a wife feels like her husband is not acting in the best interest of the family, but only out of his own best interests. It’s tempting in these cases to feel as if we, as the wives, have to take over that leadership role so that the family will be protected from the selfish ways of our husbands.
But I’ve learned a couple of secrets after nearly 17 years of marriage:
1. A husband who truly knows in his heart that his wife loves him unconditionally and is choosing to be second in command (i.e., “Honey, what do you think we should do about this?”) will eventually gravitate toward that leadership role as his confidence increases. This won’t happen overnight, but as he sees, continuously, that he can trust his wife with his heart and his love, he will open up to her and gain the confidence he needs to learn to lead his family. The more he feels that encouragement, love and complete support from you, his wife (and from the children as you encourage them to honor and obey their dad), the more he will have the courage to love his family in return and lead them in a Godly way.
2. A couple that chooses to work together on their finances, each compromising to reach an agreeable way of managing money, will learn to make money (and other) decisions that will benefit the family instead of tear it down.
Consider the results of this study conducted by Utah State University, entitled “When Fights Over Money Ruin Marriages”:
Utah State University professor Jeffrey Dew authored a widely cited study that concluded that couples who argue about finances at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than those who only vent occasionally about money issues. Couples with no assets were 70% more likely to divorce compared to couples with assets of $10,000.
It can be said, then, that if you and your husband choose to sit down together, make a plan that pleases both of you (yes, you will have to compromise) and stick to that plan, you’ve just cut your chances of divorce by 30%.
How to make that plan? By gently encouraging your husband to work together toward a better financial life. By being the neck that encourages, suggests, and supports the husband as he works toward leading your family and your finances. Here are some tips:
1. Sit down together and assess your current situation. Warning: this may not be fun. According to CNN Money the average American household with at least one credit card has $15,950 in credit card debt. But you must both agree and choose not to fight as you sit down and look at the numbers on paper. There’s no sense fighting about something that’s already happened. If you’re in a situation where hubby doesn’t know how bad your money situation is, be prepared for him to be angry when he hears the numbers, then work on a solution.
2. Make a list of each of your money goals and dreams. I’m not talking about pipe dreams here, I’m talking about the dreams and goals you have that will allow both of you to sleep at night. Pipe dreams will come later. But talk with your husband about what you would like your money situation to be like, based on the reality of your current income, and listen to his dreams as well. Then, decide which goals are more important for the survival of your family. For instance, if your debt load is sucking the life out of your husband, then you should have a common goal to get rid of that debt as soon as possible, even if it means a great amount of sacrifice for a few years. Hubby’s peace of mind trumps your dream of a trip to Paris. Get out of debt, then plan for that trip to Paris.
3. List those goals in order of importance and make a plan for how to get there. Yes, this plan, if it’s a solid one, will include tracking all spending and budgeting how much you spend in each area, every month. These two steps are crucial to a solid financial life. But this also means that instead of spending willy-nilly on entertainment each month, that you’ll need to agree on a set amount for the family, plan how you’ll spend that amount, and, most importantly, stick to the plan.
Be prepared: if you’ve never lived on a budget before, this will be hard. But as you watch your debt diminish, your savings increase, and your marriage thrive, it will indeed become easier as each month rolls along.
4. Monitor your plan. Possibly the most important part of success here is meeting weekly, or monthly, to go over the previous period’s income and spending, in order to have accountability to each other and to make sure you’re still both on track. An allowance of discretionary spending for both husband and wife is also crucial in marriages where there is money issues. Each spouse has to have a small amount of money each month that they can spend as they will. Put this as part of your budget, then monitor that budget by meeting together to discuss it. When you sit down together to monitor your progress and uncover mistakes, you learn to work together and lift each other up, improving both your marriage and your money.
Money does not have to be a problem in your marriage. Work together with your husband to focus on goals that do much more than satisfy your need for immediate gratification. Instead, choose goals that will increase your happiness, reduce your stress and strengthen your marriage and family for many years to come.