With the economy in its current state, and divorces seeming to be the first option for most couples nowadays, its no wonder the percentage of failed marriages due to finances is 50%. But is it really the money that is causing the trouble or is there something bigger at the crux of it all?
According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, in a study conducted where the respondents between the ages of 14-22 in 1979 were interviewed annually until 1994 and studied until 2010 (once age 46 or older), found that “having high earnings reinforce each other over time.” That’s not to say lower-income couples can’t have a successful marriage; it simply puts into perspective the importance that money plays in this union, as well as shows that if couples aim to grow their wealth together (which takes healthy and constant communication) they are less likely to divorce because of financial differences.
The problem with finances usually arises because there is a disparity in the value placed on money by each party, often rooted in their upbringing. One person normally wants to penny-pinch while the other just wants to live it up and “ball out of control.” If the two cannot meet in the middle where the need for saving becomes important to one, and learning to not be so money-militant appeals to the other, it will never work; regardless of how much money either person is bringing to the table.
No matter the amount of money crossing the threshold, if there is terrible or no communication about financial decisions, there will always be arguments, and unrest; which will eventually lead to a split.
Both people, together, have to decide what they want their financial picture to look like. Both also have to understand how finances work in the life of the other person in order to address the barriers keeping them from compromising .
Let’s stop here for a second, because it’s ideal for marriage therapists to say these things should be figured out before marriage; although true, the reality is, people meet, get together, and wed. We as humans, tend to follow after our hearts on these matters more than our heads. There is no magic formula for the perfect puzzle pieces fitting together, never has been; and most times all the pieces aren’t there. If they were how enjoyable would marriage actually be? Who would get satisfaction out of knowing their life’s destination without ever taking the ride? Everyone’s road is different. That’s what makes life, life and love, love.
As men and women, we forget in this new age of women’s liberation and independence, that the standard of marriage we know today, is based on biblical principle and spiritual understanding. Once we marry we unite, becoming one. The Bible says:
And the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. -Mark 10:8
Essentially if we took the meaning of marriage more seriously, finances wouldn’t be such a taboo pre-marital conversation and ‘irreconcilable differences’ wouldn’t be so easily accepted as grounds for divorce. If we understood God’s creation of marriage, we would also understand the importance of communication in regards to prosperity as well as many other areas. There are plenty of situations that come to test the strength of many couples, from infidelity and addictions, to family disputes and money struggles. But, if God is our stable foundation, on which our marriages are built, when problems arise we should handle them according to how God has instructed us.
We promise to love one another ‘though rich or poor’ yet the moment finances aren’t going the way we envisioned in the fantasies of our youth, we are ready to run for the hills. So, though financial responsibility should be a huge factor in our relationships, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
The purpose of marriage is not to marry the perfect person, with all of our checklist qualities. If it were our choice, I can’t think of one woman or man who wouldn’t want to marry rich and never have money woes. Unfortunately for the ‘run for the hills’ spouses, true marriage is supposed to help each person grow into the best (perfect) person we individually can be for ourselves and one another; as simply complicated as it sounds.
In order to help our spouses grow, we have to comprehend the art of compromise and agreeing to disagree, without being disagreeable. Amos 3:3 rhetorically asks, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”(KJV) The answer, is absolutely, positively NOT. Think about it this way, if your right foot was trying to walk in one direction and your left the opposite, how could you ever get anywhere? Its the same with any relationship; it will never move in any direction unless both or all people agree. If two people are going in separate directions how can they reach the same place, together, and at the same time unless they agree on the route to get there?
Therefore, if we understand that we are one and we have to agree in order to grow together, then we also have to address the fact that money problems will come and how we choose to overcome them determines how much our finances grow, remain stagnant and repetitive or slows down. No husband and wife completely agrees on everything. That is humanly impossible. But on the major issues, we have to be more deliberate in the steps we take.
During my research the disheartening statistics of divorce identified to me the bigger problem in our marriages. Its not the finance itself, nor any one particular stressor that brings about divorce. Instead stress and frustration from the lack of effective and positive communication about our marital issues is the direct problem. A conversation is only productive if there’s a resolution or plan of action that is agreed upon and committed to by both people. Aimless arguing and displaced rants will never bring about change. Working together to understand one another and trying to compromise with an open mind helps open the door for us to walk carefully across these issues without harboring resentment, anger and dissention which quintessentially are the boulders that crush marriages.
If we believed the very vows we emitted from our mouths and presumably our hearts, on those blissful wedding days and held ourselves accountable to the promises we made before God, divorce would be less of an option. Just as if we talked more about finances, our main problem would seemingly dissipate. So if you find yourself arguing, and wondering where all the money has gone, reflect on the manner in which you and your spouse communicated about it. And you will probably find it down the drain of miscommunication. Because money itself is not our problem, we are.