For Richer or Poorer

Finances can be a hot topic in the best of marriages. Most marriage and relationship experts spend a great deal of time answering questions and helping others to navigate financial matters in their marriage.

Couples don’t often possess the same views on managing their finances or spending habits and this can be a chronic source of conflict in the marital relationship if not addressed.

Yours, mine and ours
Couples often choose to manage their finances separately. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. The Bible (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6) clearly explains that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This means that a married couple should approach all issues as a unit and that everything is to be shared. What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. A married couple that adds all of their money into a joint pool and decides together how their money should be spent would be a good example of this
Biblical principle. But what if they cannot agree on the how?

In two minds
We are all raised differently with diverse ideas and examples about saving and spending. Furthermore, we all collect different experiences as we step into the adult world that impact our ideas of finances and how it should be managed. Remember that at the end of the day, you are both on the same team. Nobody wants to be poor and everyone wants to enjoy a prosperous life.

Budget wars
If you are trying to understand your spouse’s spending habits, make sure that there is not an underlying reason for their behaviour. Are they possibly trying to fill an emotional void or trying to prove a certain status through their lifestyle? Or have past experiences perhaps created an overwhelming need for them to be excessively concerned?

Whatever the root cause of the problem may be, the best solution will be to communicate with your spouse. If you find that you and your spouse have hit a dead end and are constantly fighting over the same issues, it might be necessary to get outside help.

Ask a family member, friend, church leader or a counsellor to help in terms of mediating the issue. Do not however, blindside your spouse by springing help from the outside on them unexpectedly. This might cause a rupture in the trust in your relationship. Discuss it with them beforehand and make them aware of your intentions.  

Work together and prepare for the future
The key to avoiding financial strife and hardship lies in a well-planned realistic budget. It is important that you and your spouse agree on what you can afford and be able to keep each other accountable for honouring this agreement. Be honest with each other about your income and realistic about expenses. You should be able to survive on less money than you are earning. This way you will leave room in the budget for hidden costs and unexpected expenses.

You and your spouse should negotiate short-term and long-term goals and how they can be accommodated through the budget. You should also agree on the minimum amount that is acceptable to be spent without the other partner’s knowledge or consent. It is okay for one spouse to be elected as the “bookkeeper” that manages the budget, but both parties should have a say in how the money is spent regardless of the size of their contribution. It is also important that the party that does not manage the budget understands the details thereof, in the event that their spouse should fall ill or pass away and they need to take over the role of “bookkeeper”.

As put so aptly in The Alpha Marriage Preparation Course Manual, “developing a dynamic partnership requires honesty about the present, forgiveness of the past and agreement about the future”.  

JANINE MYBURGH is a Counselling Psychologist and a Lecturer at the ICP. For counselling or enquiries about studies in Christian Psychology see