What's No. 1 secret to a financially secure marriage? Love.

With the number of divorces on the rise due to the recovering economy (see News Analysis, Page 4), it’s appropriate to consider the role money plays in marriage. 

Our perception of money changes as we progress through our lives. During childhood, money isn’t given much thought, since parents provide for our needs. Even though there are limited funds during the young adult years (including the courting years), the money that is available can often be used for discretionary “fun” spending. That changes drastically once young adults become responsible for the cost of housing, transportation, food and other basics. All of a sudden, they wonder where all the fun went!

Authentic married love 

Just as it is important we mature in our understanding of money, the same is true with our understanding of love. During our early years, it’s not unusual for our sense of love to be focused inward — on what will make us happy. But true love is really about desiring the good of the other, especially their eternal well-being. It takes time and solid formation to mature in what it means to love in a Christian context. 

Guadium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council, describes married love as follows: “A man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love ‘are no longer two, but one flesh.’ ... Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother” (No. 48). 

It’s easy to see why money issues become a source of conflict for many couples. Our culture promotes shallow sensibilities about love and money. The result is an immaturity that leads to misguided priorities, which, in turn, take a toll on marriages. It need not be this way. 

By looking to Christ and his Church for guidance, we can know what mature love looks like. By learning our responsibility as a steward of Providence, we will understand what it means to manage resources in ways that are pleasing to God and that honor our most important relationships. 

Marriage and money 

I often say that managing money well is 80 percent attitude and behavior and only 20 percent technical knowledge. If money creates distance between you and your spouse, take steps today to get on the same page. Here are some ideas: 

◗ Put together an annual budget if you don’t already have one. Discuss how well the budget balances your important priorities, including educating your children, being generous, saving and avoiding unproductive debt. 

◗ Visit with your pastor or spiritual director and ask for guidance on how to develop unity in this aspect of your marriage. 

◗ For couples who have a solid marriage but need to “freshen up a bit,” attend a Marriage Encounter weekend. 

◗ If your marriage is facing serious difficulties, contact Retrouvaille, an organization that helps couples heal and renew their marriages. 

Our ability to love maturely and handle money as God’s steward is intimately linked to the fullness of our relationship with Christ. With him at the center of marriages, couples will be equipped to “advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God” (No. 48). God love you!

Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries (www.VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide” (OSV, $19.95).