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In today’s episode we want to look into this question:  Why is money so contentious in marriage?  We have, as a Stewardology Podcast team, bantered quite a bit on this question, and we believe we have some answers to this that may help those of you who  are married, those who are thinking about marriage, and also those that are single. 

  • Not all conflict with money is badWhen a couple is able to turn their conflict into conversation by talking, crunching numbers, planning and strategizing about their today and tomorrow, that use of initial conflict has a very positive end result! Marriage Money conflict is GOOD when it helps both spouses see their misaligned priorities (toward each other and toward God) and work together towards a resolution.
  • When does a money conflict become bad? It becomes bad when you allow it to polarize the two of you away from each other…and possibly away from the Lord. 


Why is Money so Contentious?


Internal Causes of Contention

PersonalitiesThere are many different “Money” Personalities that could manifest in a marriage.  Last episode we spent much time discussing the “Spender/Saver” situation

The different money “personalities” that we discussed last episode are:

  • Spender
  • Saver
  • Believer (in Christ – they have a Biblical worldview of money)
  • Unbeliever (they have the “world’s” view on money)

Any combination of the above, without good communication, and like-mindedness, along with a healthy view (and even Biblical view) of money and stewardship, well, it could be a potential train-wreck waiting to happen!

Perception The perception of abundance vs the perception of lack

Internally one may be looking out at others and evaluating their personal financial/stewardship position to that of others…both with those with less than you (look down on them) and with those with more than you (wishing you had more like they do). Contentment is what Paul speaks to…

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12, NIV84)

Upbringing The experience or upbringing that one may have had, whether they had a lot or a little can lend to contentiousness within marriage.  Listen to what one person said to us in a social media post…

  • “I grew up having enough, but not much extra. He grew up having abundance…When purchasing a garbage can, I went for cheap and practical. The one he wanted was $80, because it was nice and he could, I saw it as wasteful as it’s a garbage can and would never stay nice. He didn’t understand how it was wasteful. At times when we’ve struggled, I’m willing to eat what we have as that’s what I’m used to. He still wanted steak and cases of Mountain Dew every day. It took a while for him to understand that neither of those were necessities, and sometimes he still doesn’t know how to deal with it…”

What a good, clear description of how one’s upbringing can, and does bring contention, financially, into a marriage. Good pre-marital counseling by a professional or through a solid Pastor could be able to see this before their wedding day and could advise them to talk it through together to put the bride and groom on the same page.

Independence Desired independence with his or her own finances… “My money, your money” (especially when dealing with 2 incomes).

This screams “danger” or the verge of danger for a couple. To have a hidden account, or a non-joint account is potential contention and conflict in marriage. If there is a mindset of “I earned it…it is my money”, answer this question…Where does it say in the Word of God that “the two will become one flesh”, except for their income? There needs to be a mindset in marriage that “my earned income is ours, and my spouse’s earned income is ours, and we are blessed that the Lord has given us two incomes to share TOGETHER in our family!”

Fear Fear of how the other spouse will react to a desired decision, an impulse purchase or a past mistake. 

This happens FAR TOO OFTEN! If there is a history (far and recent history) of poor money management and possibly spending by one spouse, then the other one almost always is in fear waiting for the “next big blow-up” in their financial situation. All past financial successes and mistakes need to be put on the table for both husband and wife to know and understand. A hiding of past decisions while married or pre-marriage will almost always blow up into bigger conflict once it comes to light.

Pride Our own pride gets in the way of making decisions that are beneficial for the whole household.

This spouse processes things in a way that is for “my benefit” rather than for the betterment of their spouse and possibly the family as a whole. This aspect of being “proud” with their finances does not limit it to those that have financial resources, but it also includes those that are very limited but want to give an impression that they are doing very well. They have the “look at me and what I have” mindset, yet behind the curtain, there is financial challenges and possibly rot.


External Causes of Contention

LimitsIf one has [seemingly] infinite amounts of desires with finite amounts of money, it could easily bring about contention in the marriage pertaining to your finances, resources and things.

Your desire to “want more” money and things is well beyond your income, yet that desire is untamed and it is causing contention internally, as well as between you and your spouse. Questions like…

  • Why can’t we have more income?
  • Why can’t we spend what we have on this…or that…?
  • Why can’t we go into debt for a fancy vacation?
    • The desires, if left untamed, and not under the control of the Spirit of God can lead an individual, a couple into financial ruin

Decisions about your finite amount of resources need to be shared and discussed.

Marketing Things like marketing and advertising cause you to think you need things that you don’t really need.

That is what marketing is all about!  Telling you that this item, product or service will make life easier, better, and more enjoyable! This is part of the reason I (Drew) DVR any/all TV shows that I want to watch and when watching them (on my time) I skip through all the commercials!  I don’t need to be told what I “need” or what I am “missing.” If I need or want something, I will seek it out myself.

External Factors – In summary, the external factors around us, either by choice or by invasion, if listened to, will reveal what is already present internally. 

Without a doubt, they do create additional forms of tension, but only if you lean into them. External factors tend to reveal misaligned priorities that are already in existence within you, your spouse or your marriage together. External factors, if left unchecked internally or by the Holy Spirit, can almost certainly cause anger and frustration. What typically happens is a “perceived void” by the external factors happens within and over time it can manifest itself in anger towards your spouse and/or toward God, and in either case, it will cause many more problems.

Stewardship Application

Paul Tripp said it so well with this quote:

“We don’t have a budget problem; we have a treasure problem. We don’t have a financial problem; we have a kingship problem. We don’t have a things problem; we have a heart problem.” – Redeeming Money

Know that your spouse is NOT your enemy. They are there to complement you, not complicate you, and that even includes the arena of money, finances and stewardship!

As said in the beginning, not all conflict with money is badConflicts with money typically expose the heart. When the heart is exposed, you have a choice: Either move toward your spouse, or pull away. When the heart is exposed, you also will have the choice to move towards Christ.  If you choose to do this, ask God to reveal the idols of your heart and/or the errors of your thinking. Be ready to say, “sorry, you are right. I was wrong” (to God…and to your spouse).  Also, be ready to postpone your desires for the greater good of your marriage and family.


Next Steps


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