The Secret to a Rich Life
Are you feeling the burden of money and financial decision-making in your relationship? Talking about how to deal with money in a relationship can be a divisive and difficult conversation. In this week's blog, Dr. Chris Grace reveals how to avoid arguments and find harmony in your relationship through conversations about money.
There is so much deep, biblical wisdom available to us about money and riches that it is almost incomprehensible that couples should argue about money more than almost any other topic. Deciding what to buy and how to spend or save money can be problematic because decisions about money can reveal deeper, often hidden feelings, values, and emotions. To help you prepare for the roller coaster journey this creates in relationships, here are some important conversations you should have with each other, and some questions to ponder during the times you are dealing with financial issues. Doing this together can help you assess your “in-sync-ness’ as well as keep your relationships on the right path when it comes to the things we treasure most. Start by addressing these questions as a couple:
Can we name each other’s most important values and beliefs?
What do we each treasure the most?
Do we work well together on projects, and what are some ways we can increase our togetherness?
Are we united, on the same page, as we approach financial questions?
We Are in This Together...
Couples that have high levels of relationship quality report strong feelings of togetherness—feelings of being “in sync” with each other. Such couples report that they are often in a “flow,” with matching beliefs, values, ideas, and humor, even body language movements. They can feel as if they are literally harmonized. One national research project found that happy couples more frequently laugh together, confide in each other, work well on projects together, and calmly discuss issues together. In fact, these “togetherness” traits are the characteristics used by researchers to define and measure the quality of one’s relationship.
Couples that share a spiritual togetherness are doubly blessed, sharing similar values about money and riches and “treasures in heaven,” based on passages like these:
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” I Timothy 6:17-19
Most in-sync couples recognize and understand that money means different things to different people. For some money is about security and savings; for others, it is about freedom and enjoyment. As such, decisions about spending or investing, or saving bring out deep and often hidden feelings, values, and issues. These issues are often about what money represents, such as feeling secure and safe or controlled or disrespected.
We Each Have Our Own Views About Money
Couples who thrive during times like these recognize that they share different orientations and values about money that have been shaped by early experiences. They know that money operates metaphorically in our lives, representing values and feelings such as dependence, security, freedom, opportunity, and trust. (No wonder money ranks highest on the list of issues that cause the most conflict!)
The things that shape and influence us—the personal and family dynamics that make us unique—are both intriguing to explore and complex to understand. Fortunately, we do not need a specialized degree to “know thyself,” just a willingness to explore and learn. Some questions to ponder:
Is either of us strongly oriented in either direction—to the security that comes to saving money, or to the enjoyment that comes with spending?
Have we recognized and discussed the potential for stress money creates?
Do we each feel heard and understood?
Are we good at calmly discussing each other’s orientation toward money?
How do we each view passages like Matt. 6:24 and I Tim.6:17-19?
Our views of money are influenced to one degree or another by our pasts, including our families of origin, our unique personalities, and our experiences and backgrounds, and our spiritual values. Being aware of these shaping influences is one key to having a more enjoyable experience in regards to money, as well as being successful and happy in our most intimate relationships.
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.