Is money an issue in your marriage? For many couples in the United States, the answer is “yes.” According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA), money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce. Money Magazine reported that around 27% of couples argue about finances at least once a month. They also noted that 29% of couples said they did not reach a resolution when arguing about money, and 30% dropped the argument.
God designed married couples to be one in all areas of their marriage, including their finances. Yet, money seems to be an area where division is frequently found instead of unification. How do you know if money is an issue in your marriage? Here are six signs to consider:
1. Frequent, heated arguments about money.
This one is pretty obvious. Are you and your spouse in regular, heated disagreements about money? For some couples, money is such a volatile topic conversations that hit on any aspect of money can lead to explosive arguments. Budget meeting? Argument. Overspending? Argument. Being frugal? Argument. Consider debt? Argument. Considering putting more toward paying off debt? Argument. The topic doesn’t matter.
For other couples, arguments are centered on one issue, but the issue and the proceeding fighting occur regularly. Whether volatile money topics are few or many, frequent, heated arguments about money is a sign that money is an issue in your marriage.
2. Financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity is lying about financial matters. Financial infidelity could look like one spouse hiding a purchase from the other spouse. It could look like a secret bank account or credit card. It could look like going beyond the spending limit without telling the other spouse.
Unfortunately, financial infidelity is more common than we would like to think. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), 27% of Americans admit to hiding a purchase of $500 or more from their significant other. Bread Financial reported that 30% of men and 19% of women said they hid a credit card balance from their partners. And in a survey from Bankrate, 23% of Americans kept a money secret from their spouse.
This is not a part of God’s design for marriage, and such financial infidelity is a clear marker that money issues in the marriage exist.
3. Money is used as a weapon.
Using money to control or punish a spouse is a behavior that needs to be addressed immediately. Giving an allowance or withholding funds from a spouse indicates significant marital relationship problems. God did not provide couples with money to control one another but to use it for unification and the advancement of His Kingdom.
God did not provide couples with money to control one another but to use it for unification and the advancement of His Kingdom.
4. Separate financial goals.
Whether spoken or unspoken, money goals exist in all marriages because standards of living and generosity hopes are tied to finances. At a minimum, most people have a desired standard of living. This is a financial goal.
For married couples, separate financial goals may look like different preferred standards of living, different retirement expectations, or different generosity desires. When couples have differing goals, they will likely make financial decisions that align more with their desires, pulling resources away from their spouse’s wishes. This financial tug-of-war results frustrates the couple and can lead to significant arguments.
5. Managing money independently.
Managing money separately has become more commonplace in today’s culture. Each spouse has their own bank accounts, debts, and credit cards. While a joint bank account exists, it simply exists for shared bills. In this marriage, “mine” and “yours” are the possessive pronouns of choice. The finances operate less like a married couple and more like a couple of roommates.
Such a financial management system runs against the marital oneness we see in the Bible. Individualism, autonomy, and personal freedom are not in God’s design for marriage. In the Bible, we see married couples lay down their independence and pick up sacrifice. “Mine” and “yours” should be replaced with “ours.”
Individualism, autonomy, and personal freedom are not in God’s design for marriage.
6. Avoidance of financial discussions.
The absence of financial arguments does not necessarily indicate the absence of money issues. Some couples will avoid the topic of money, even though real money issues exist. The silence only ensures the problem they wish to prevent remains. Oftentimes, couples who avoid the subject of money never saw their parents discuss financial matters, or they regularly saw their parents argue about money and desire to avoid such conflict. For a married couple, silence about financial matters is not a sign of relational health but underlying fear.
Money issues in marriage must be acknowledged and dealt with. These issues are often symptoms of even deeper marital struggles. Couples with money issues may benefit from working with a Certified Christian Financial Counselor (CERTCFC®) or marriage counselor.
God has designed married couples to operate as one. Pursue oneness in all areas of marriage, including finances.