Ask Chuck: Breaking the Cycle of Money Fights

Dear Chuck,

We fight about money every time we get near the end of the month and feel like our bills are mounting. How do we stop this cycle? 

Stuck in Fight Mode 

 

Dear Stuck in Fight Mode, 

Your opening statement contains both the problem and hidden solution to your question! You and your spouse need to stop fighting each other and unite to fight your money problems together; otherwise, the cycle will likely never end.  So to your real question as to “how to stop the cycle,” I have lots of personal experience and advice! 

Money Fights

“Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce,” says Sonya Britt, a researcher at the University of Kansas. She states, “It’s not children, sex, in-laws, or anything else. It’s money – for both men and women.”

I once asked a wise senior business leader for advice with a problem I faced in a company. He said, “It is impossible to prosper when there is war. You must seek peace first; then you will prosper.” His insight immediately opened my eyes to the solution. I went and made peace with my adversary. Once that was accomplished, our energies were refocused on growing the company. The advice worked.

It also works in marriage. Oftentimes, we are passively–or aggressively–in conflict with our spouse. Without peace, a marriage cannot reach its full potential. A lack of unity directly relates to financial struggles and impacts decision-making. 

Step One

Seek to become peacemakers in your home. It requires listening to, honoring and learning from each other. It aids in resolving arguments, division, and discord. Aim to make three tips your habits:

  1. Be the first to apologize. “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” –Author unknown.
  2. Speak with gentle, healing words. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” (Proverbs 15:1-2 ESV)
  3. Cultivate your friendship. It’s a key to a fulfilling marriage.

C.S. Lewis said, “Love in this second sense–love as distinct from ‘being in love’–is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” He understood that, just as choosing to react negatively can become a habit, we can choose to love and make it a habit.

Practical Tips

  • Be honest. Do not keep any financial secrets
  • Learn and respect each other’s financial personality. Givers and Savers are both needed. 
  • Exercise self-discipline. Stop overspending
  • Work together setting realistic goals then make a plan to achieve them.
  • Track your spending to build a budget.
  • Go to a needs-based budget for a time to create some margin.
  • Build an emergency fund. 
  • Pray together before making any large purchases. Wait until you agree and have peace.
  • Pray for delivery of any addictions. They’re costly. 
  • Acknowledge mistakes. Confess and seek forgiveness, and then learn from them. 
  • Acknowledge your spouse’s wisdom. Verbally encourage progress!
  • Negotiate, reduce and stagger your bills.
  • Plan something fun each week. 
  • Find a wise couple to mentor you.
  • Enroll in Crown’s Online Money Dates Course.

Commit, as a couple, to learn what God says about money. If you align your values with His, you can agree with your spouse about money. Many people simply don’t realize that their spending habits conflict with Biblical values. 

Peace is the oil that makes the engine of your marriage run smoothly in spite of your differences. Peacemaking is the foundation for unity, which in my view is the key to lasting satisfaction, joy, and intimacy in marriage.

Recognize that if you are not actively moving toward Jesus, a subtle but powerful riptide is pulling you away. An enemy seeks to diminish and destroy faith and marriage. It is vital that you and your spouse develop a Biblical worldview about money. Everything you have is God’s.  Together, you and your wife can bring Him glory by stewarding well what He provides. 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Starting the New Year Right

For twenty-one years, my wife Ann and I had struggles agreeing about money decisions. We were constantly in the cycle that you described. We never made great progress towards our financial goals because our enemy kept us in conflict with each other. When we realized that we were trapped in a self-defeating loop of fighting each other and not our financial challenges, we were able to rise above it. It was such a significant change in our lives that we wrote an entire book about it called, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions.  You see, marriage is actually an advantage when it comes to your finances. It is not a disadvantage at any level. I really want you to get a copy of the book and read it, apply it and make the changes we recommend.  We also want you to use the Money Dates program; this method as well as our book can be ordered online at crown.org. 

This is a new year; it is time to break this cycle once and for all. Invest in your marriage and your financial problems will consistently diminish as you work together.  Stay in touch. I am excited for you and your family! Happy New Year! 

 

Originally posted on the Christian Post, January 3, 2020.