When considering the combination of marriage and money, the image of oil and water comes to mind. The two don’t seem to mix very well! A recent Money Magazine survey found that money causes tension in 84 percent of marriages, and 70 percent of couples argue about money. Half of marriages end in divorce, and money issues are at or near the top of reasons listed for the breakup.
This is unfortunate, because our Lord wants something much better for us. Genesis 2:24 says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” This unity goes beyond the pure physical union within marriage; it also goes to a unity of purpose.
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council describes married love beautifully: “Husband and wife, by the covenant of marriage, are no longer two, but one flesh … True married love is caught up into God’s love; it is guided and enriched by the redeeming power of Christ and the saving action of the Church, in order that the partners may be effectively led to God, and receive help and strength in the sublime responsibility of parenthood” (No. 48).
Guiding principles for managing money come from the Church’s teaching on our role as a steward of Providence (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2404). The most important principle related to that teaching is that God is the creator and ultimate owner of all that exists, and that we are his steward, or manager. I remember one couple sharing with me how they argued a lot about money, the typical “his” versus “hers” argument. Once they realized what they had really belonged to the Lord, their perspective changed. They told me, “How can we argue about something that’s not even ours?” That’s an incredibly important transition with our attitude toward money that we must all make.
It’s also important to understand that how we view money is influenced by who we are and where we’ve been. The “who we are” question with money partly revolves around what I call our “money personality type.” Are you a saver or a spender? Are you an organizer or do you just sort of wing it? Are you a hoarder or a giver? Typically, our money personality type will reflect a few of the virtues and a few of the vices. It’s up to us to grow in the virtues and minimize the vices.
The “where we’ve been” issue also has a significant role with both our attitude toward money and our actions with it. In the classes I teach, one of the first discussion topics is “The Heritage Question,” which includes consideration of what our parents’ attitudes toward money was growing up, how they communicated about it and how they managed it. Answering the heritage question may help you better understand why you do what you do with money — and it will be an eye-opening and important discussion for spouses to have.
While our personality types and heritages will be flawed due to the consequences of original sin, we don’t need to be held back by these weaknesses. With grace, we strive to more closely imitate Christ, putting on the virtues, and casting off the vices. The more we live out the call to holiness, the more our financial decisions will be aligned with Godly principles and our priorities properly ordered. These are keys to building the unity described in Genesis 24 into our marriages and having financial peace in our homes. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries (VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.