Money and Marriage

Money and marriage are often a powder keg combination.  Whether you ascribe to the “nature” view or the “nurture” view about why men and women are so different, I’ll bet that if you are married, you will agree that they are different!

Many years ago, my wife read a book with a catchy title, “Men are Like Waffles; Women are Like Spaghetti” by Bill and Pam Farrel.  The book’s title frequently makes its way into conversations in our home.  “You’re in a waffle box,” Judy often says to me.  Sometimes I tell her, “I wish you’d untangle all the spaghetti.”

The premise of the book is that men tend to process life in a very linear, very compartmentalized way and that women tend to process life with a lot of overlap and connection between its parts.  This does not mean that some women can’t be very black and white and sequential or, on the other hand, that some men are not very creative and expansive in their thinking.  However, the way that the two sexes deal with problems and decisions is very distinct.  Men tend to process one issue at a time, while women tend to process with an eye on much more than just the issue at hand.

You cannot go very far into marriage without running into a money issue. And, when a “waffle” and “spaghetti” try to sort out the stresses of money together, there is bound to be some messiness.  Sometimes, it looks like a food fight!

I believe that step one for me in my marriage to Judy is to accept the differences that we have.  When I see the differences as part of God’s design and unique creativity in the two of us, I am much more capable of letting go of my need to be “right” about money all the time in our marriage.  I can appreciate the differences without being as threatened by them. It’s not an issue of right and wrong; rather, it’s an issue of difference.

“It’s not an issue of right and wrong; rather, it’s an issue of difference.”

Step two for me is to focus on Judy’s intentions and her contributions to the accomplishment of our long-term objectives as a couple.  She and I agree that we are on a certain “track.”  We know that God has called us to provide for our family, to care for each other, to reflect Christ’s love to the world, and to glorify Him in our actions and motives.  When Judy and I become frustrated in communicating about finances, it helps us both to take a step back, reframe the financial decision as a decision about our long-term LIFE priorities and objectives, and then appreciate all that the other spouse does to contribute to those objectives each day.

So, before you find fault with your spouse’s style of making money decisions (waffle vs. spaghetti), I would encourage you to find grace for them first.  No doubt, many of you are in marriages where the other spouse does his or her very best to live life in a way that honors both you and God.  Begin by focusing on what they ARE doing in their financial practices that you appreciate.  Start there, and then, as a couple, decide how you can better move in the direction of God’s financial objectives for your life.

“begin by recognizing the differences between you as “non-moral” (neither right nor wrong, just different)”

If you begin by recognizing the differences between you as “non-moral” (neither right nor wrong, just different) and if you focus on appreciating the effort and the commitment that the other person has, you may find that you have an easier time resolving your financial conflicts.

Money and marriage are sometimes as messy as waffles and spaghetti.  Find the freedom to embrace the differences, laugh at the mess, and move (clumsily) in tandem toward the objectives that you believe God has for you as a couple.