Finances and Divorce
Have you ever had a strain in your marriage relationship over money?
The late financial expert Larry Burkett once said, “Of the couples who end up getting a divorce, every survey shows between 85-90 percent of them say that the number one problem they were having was finances.”
What a powerful statement!
But should we be surprised? We live in a culture that continually tells us to buy more material possessions in order to be happy. Unfortunately, this is a lie and it is destroying many marriages.
I’m happy to say that there is hope. You can put an end to the strife between you and your spouse. Here are some questions you need to ask yourselves to start working toward a more peaceful marriage.
What is behind your arguments about finances?
Begin by identifying how each of you approaches money. Usually, one person in the relationship is the spender and the other is the saver. This is a good thing! In fact, it’s a lot better than having a husband and a wife who spend uncontrollably. That’s a recipe for disaster!
Generally speaking (but not always), women are the savers and men are the spenders. Why? Women see money from a relational standpoint which causes them to view it as security. Men, however, look at money as a status symbol. Like the games they played growing up, many guys still live by the adage, “The person who dies with the most toys wins.”
How your parents handled money has a strong effect on how you do. In our marriage, Cheryl grew up in a family that had a healthy grasp on their finances. In fact, at almost ever family get-together, Cheryl or one of her brothers will make reference to their family vacations and how they always had to share a drink.
My family was much different. We weren’t wild spenders, but we also didn’t save much. This could be because we never had a lot of money to save! Amazingly, in our marriage, Cheryl is the saver and I am the spender. We spend money like our parents did.
A Bigger Problem
Sometimes the argument about money doesn’t have to do with finances at all. Instead, it is an indicator of a larger problem in your relationship. Many times, couples will argue over money because they do not trust each other or one of the spouses has a poor track record with spending too much money.
If this is the case, don’t hesitate to get the help you need. Find a Christian counselor in your area and begin going together. If your spouse will not go, then go by yourself.
What do we believe God’s Word says about money?
Whatever the “real” problem is, both of you must come together on what you believe about your money. This is not as easy as flipping a switch. You may not agree on a lot at first but focus on the things that you do.
First of all, in the eyes of God, you are one. Mark 10:8 says, “…and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
On many occasions, I have met with couples whose finances did not reflect oneness. The set-up that causes me the most frustration is the husband who controlled the money and gave an “allowance” to his wife to buy food and other household necessities.
How degrading to your wife! Marriage is a partnership. It is not his or her money. It is “our” money. It belongs to both of you regardless of who is the primary breadwinner.
Another important principle in Scripture is stewardship. The foundation of stewardship is that our money is given to us by God. Since it comes from Him, we need to spend it in a way that is pleasing to Him. This is first a heart issue.
For Christians, tithing is an import part of our stewardship. Based on the principle of “first fruits”, we give back 10% of our income to God. It’s something we don’t do begrudgingly. Instead, we give it out of a heart of gratitude for all that God has done for us.
This also gets rid of the “your money” and “my money” attitude.
What are the steps we need to take to live this way?
Make a budget together. If neither of you feels like you know how to do this, find someone who does and have them do it with you. Remember, this is not a time to point fingers at each other or claim your rights to live a certain way. Humble yourselves and work together.
Dave Ramsey has a practical article about this called, And Two Become One: How to Combine Bank Accounts. In his post, he outlines 5 things that you can do to combine your accounts.
Take a Class
Dave also has a 9-week class that we highly recommend called Financial Peace University. You and your spouse can take it online or attend a class at a local church in your area. I’ve seen many couples turn around their finances around after taking this class.
Schedule a time to talk
Believe it or not, this really does help. Sometimes the busyness of life has a way of causing us to lose track of our income and expenses. Having a set time to look over your finances is a great antidote for this.
If you are in debt, one of your first goals should be to pay it off. Debt is like a noose around the neck of your family and a weight that is difficult to carry. Set goals about your children’s college, how quickly you want to pay off your mortgage and what kind of cars you can afford to drive.
Take time to celebrate when you have a win. A win for you just might be that you didn’t argue for a whole week about money with your spouse. It could also be something big. For instance, Cheryl and I recently bought a home in Fort Mill, SC. We have had multiple celebrations because of this.
Define your Legacy
Thinking about something besides your own wants is a great way to take the selfishness out of your money management. Talk about what you want to leave for your children and why.
Last but certainly not least, spend time praying together that God would bring peace to your home. When? Try doing it first thing in the morning together or at night before you both doze off. It doesn’t have to be a long eloquent prayer. It could be as simple as a 1-minute prayer thanking God for blessing your family.
You may feel overwhelmed after reading this post. If this is you, I want to encourage you to take one step at a time. Begin moving in the right direction and God will help you every step of the way.
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