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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Moving forward in financial oneness means getting real and valuing each other's perspectives.

In many marriages financial styles and perspectives differ between spouses. One might be a spender and another a saver. One might place a high value on "stuff" while the other might not care about keeping up with the Jones's. One might want to spend on hobbies or a second home, but the other may see travel as a higher priority.

As I said in my last post, 4 Reasons You Need Financial Intimacy, money and sex are actually pretty closely related to each other. Sexually speaking, differences such as drive levels, interest in exploration, best times of day and preference for different activities can all be places for misunderstanding and hurt. The truth is that most spouses are unevenly matched when it comes to sex. For example, in my recent sexual satisfaction survey, only 9% of individuals felt that their sex drive was about evenly matched with their spouse.

Although the factors that cause sexual strife are not the same as those involved in financial discord, such differences tend to be where the strife shows up. Regardless, just like with sex, differences over money are no reason to forgo financial intimacy.

Wherever your marriage is in the financial arena, it may be time to take a fresh look at this area together. And "together" is hugely important if you want to improve intimacy.

1) Come Clean

Intimacy, regardless of whether it is physical, emotional or financial, starts with being fully known. That means both of you getting real with where you are about money.

The starting point for this is to confess any secrets such as spending, hidden accounts or any deceptions. Whatever comes out, find room in your heart to forgive one another. Holding past mistakes over each other's heads will prevent you from moving closer together. As difficult as it might be to believe in the midst of what might feel like betrayal, grace is the best invitation to intimacy. On the other hand shame and guilt will drive you apart.

The next step is to be honest with each other about where you are financially. Share areas of concern and stress. Talk honestly about your different styles in handing money. Check your communication effectiveness where money is concerned. Are you okay with which of you does the bulk of the money management? Are both of you sufficiently involved?

As you talk, do your best to listen and not react defensively to each other's feelings. Acknowledge that many differences over money don't amount to right and wrong (the exception beings any secrets), but to a difference in perspectives.

2) Dream a Little

With all the cards on the table, talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Then consider together what kind of financial framework will be required to reach those goals.

Is early retirement a goal?  One spouse staying home with the kids? College plans for the kids? Travel? A first (or second) home? Vacations? All of these goals require that you have matching financial goals to attain them.

And to go along with the goals you need to...

3) Make a Plan

All financial planning revolves around making (and keeping) a budget. As Dave Ramsey says, "Give each dollar a name." For some people the budgeting process will feel like nails on a chalkboard. For some having a budget will alleviate a lot of stress and uncertainty over money.

The most important thing about the budgeting process is that you both have input and buy-in. Regardless of whether one partner is more involved with managing the money and bills, you need to be in complete agreement on the budget. If you need some help here, Dave Ramsey has some great tools for budgeting.

Here's a little personal story that might help the reluctant spouse with the idea of making and keeping a budget. We have been budgeting since very early in our marriage. But Jenni has not always had a strong conviction about keeping track of expenses. It was just another thing on her list to get done. During a communication workshop we had the opportunity to discuss our feelings over finances.  As I shared my perspective, she came to understand that doing better in this area would actually significantly reduce my overall stress. She realized that it would actually be helping me personally and not just taking care of something on her list. It wasn't just about the budget per se, but about a way to help me out.  It gave her the motivation to be more consistent.

4) Check in Regularly

Effective budgeting is something that requires monitoring. Sit down together at the end of each month, and maybe half way through, to gauge how it's going. Look for areas where spending is off plan (and there are always those areas).  See where you need to modify your budget or spending or make other adjustments.

Track your progress toward saving goals as well. If you have investments, it's a good idea to review those regularly. This is an opportunity for the more involved spouse to bring the less-involved spouse up to speed with your financial situation.

These four steps are simple, but not necessarily easy. It will require diligence, honesty, and most of all, grace. Remember that your relationship and your desire for intimacy come before your bank balance or your ability to stay on-budget.  Honor each other and value your differing perspectives.

Do you have some other ideas that would promote financial Intimacy in marriage?  Leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

When it comes to intimacy, money isn't really all that different from sex.
If you read here much you know that I'm all about couples finding intimacy in every form.

I have heard it said that sex and money are the areas that cause the most marital troubles. I can certainly believe it. Maybe you can testify to this in your own marriage.

While you see a lot attention paid to physical intimacy, you don't see nearly the same kind of focus given to money issues. There are many marriage books, blogs and other resources dedicated to sexual issues in marriage. But if both sex and money are really the top areas where couples struggle, then maybe we need to give financial intimacy a little more attention? Agree?

What is Financial Intimacy?

Intimacy, in whatever form, is about being one. I like to say that intimacy reaches its zenith when we are fully known and still find that we are fully loved.

It's not different when it comes to money.

That means being free to be your true self, without shame or secrets concerning money. And it means being fully loved by your spouse regardless of your financial circumstances. That's not a pass for being financially irresponsible, but it means putting your relationship above money.

Staying intimately connected to your spouse has to matter more than your bank balance.

Next time I'll share some tips on how to improve your financial intimacy, but for today I'd like to give you four reasons why it matters to your marriage.

1) It's Not Really About the Money

As with sexual issues, money troubles in marriage are rarely really about the money. Rather, contention over money tends to be a barometer of other troubles in your relationship.

Discord over money might point to poor communication, lack of trust, control issues or other troubles in your marriage. Money might just be what causes these issues to bubble up to the surface.

Similarly, if you don't have good agreement on how to walk out the biblical notion of headship and submission, that is going to show up in the financial arena as well.

2) Where Control, Fear and Shame Thrive, Love Does Not

As with your sexual relationship, negative feelings about finances tend to be driven by fear or a need for control.

We know that the Bible says that fear and love are antithetical to one another (perfect love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18). If fear is driving your finances, it's likely true that love is not.

Because money is so important to our daily lives, it is easy to slip into control mode. Fear and doubt over money can easily drive us to try to control our spouse in the financial arena. We also might try to control our financial circumstances by working excessively for fear of lack.

Shame over money will drive us to hide things. Hide spending. Hide accounts. Hide desires. Hide fears. Secrets in marriage do damage to your relationship. Money is no exception.

Shame, fear and control all do damage to the intimacy in your marriage. If these things are happening over money, they will more than likely happen over other issues too.

3) Be One In Everything

I believe that when we marry we become one in every way. That includes being one in finances.

If you are living separate financial lives, then there is a cap on the amount of intimacy you can enjoy in the rest of your relationship. When you try to selectively limit your oneness to certain areas of your marriage, you inevitably damage unity and intimacy in other areas. It's all connected.

4) Money is a Biblical Priority

Certainly the Bible talks a lot more about money than about sex. A whole lot more. Jesus himself talked a lot about money.

Money matters to God. More accurately, how you handle money matters to God. And so financial intimacy in your marriage matters too.

So have I convinced you that financial intimacy needs to be a priority in your marriage? 

Be sure to come back next time when I'll explore specific ways to build financial intimacy into your marriage. Click here for 4 Practical Steps to Financial Intimacy.

Until then, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on money and marriage. Do you think financial intimacy is a real thing?

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