Wednesday, February 18, 2009

For Love and Money

The look in her eyes said, “I am frustrated and I am nervous.” The look in his eyes said, “You’re just overreacting.” I love working with married couples as they begin setting goals together for their lives and their money. I also love to show them that their marriages will get stronger in the process of communicating better about their financial condition.

But let’s face it. Men and women are different creatures; some say they come from different planets. A husband might throw his hands up when his wife talks anxiously about money. A wife may harbor resentment over financial decisions that were made by “the head of the house.” If this sounds like you, the good news is that you aren’t alone. Money is the number one thing couples fight about in marriage. It’s also the number one cause of divorce. But who wants to be normal?

I met a young woman today who said she and her husband are about to start saving for a house. I could tell there was a slight bit of hesitation in her voice before she revealed that before they were married, her husband borrowed some money from his parents. She told me that her in-laws probably weren’t expecting it back because the money was more given than loaned. Then why was her body language so tense as we talked about this “gift”?

This is where personal finance gets personal. There is more to it than paying mom and dad back. There is stress and tension on a young wife who feels like every purchase she makes is being scrutinized by her in-laws because how can she afford the new towel set when she hasn’t paid us back? If she and her husband are going to get on the same page about the loan from his parents and saving up for a home, they’re going to have to talk about it. The truth of Proverbs 22:7 – “the borrower is slave to the lender” – has been ringing all too clear.

Remember when you were dating your future spouse? Remember talking about dreams and desires – everything you wanted out of life? Who said you had to stop after you exchanged vows? I told the young wife to sit her husband down and tell him that paying back some or all of the money he borrowed from his parents was extremely important to her, and she would have trouble putting any other financial goals in front of that right now.

I also said that if he has learned anything as a husband, he should know that “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That’s not to say she should always get her way, but it is to say that a subject causing tension, anxiety, and stress must be addressed. In talking about her feelings, the husband has an opportunity to serve and show love to his wife. Imagine that! In their book For Men Only, Shaunti and Jeff Feldham found that women prefer emotional security in their marriage to financial security. They’d rather be broke than think their man is distant and indifferent. So, men, be sure to show love – especially when dealing with finances, because financial security is still very important to your ladies.

This couple can sit down and address the stress point, then talk through a plan to shed the burden. That’s the beginning of setting goals together. When two people love and serve each other they have a lot of fun dreaming together. Getting out of debt. Buying a home. Traveling the world. Starting a business. Share your dreams with your soul mate.

Dreams become goals and goals need plans if they are ever to be accomplished. Each spouse offers a unique skill set and personality that will play a part in making those dreams into realities. Embracing those differences is the first step toward a sound financial plan, better communication, and a stronger marriage. Now go ahead and have some fun together!

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