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Last week I wrote some on combining and consolidating finances at marriage and how I believe that in marriage it is best to always talk about our money, rather than mine or yours. I shared some reasons why I believe that this is a great opportunity to practice the habits and principles that strengthen all areas of the marriage relationship. This week, as promised, I want to talk about some strategies and perspectives for situations where couples (may have a) are having a difficult time getting on the same page financially.
I should start by saying that I am not some licensed marriage counselor, nor have I played one on T.V. The other thing is that I will be sharing some general ideas and principles. How these are applied will vary largely on the personalities and histories involved.
In doing financial training and counseling, I often observe or hear about differences that partners have in their money philosophies, practices, values and goals. These differences are often noted with an air of frustration and defeat. The difficult thing in these situations, when left unaddressed, is that sometimes each partner is essentially undoing the progress of the other in the direction of his/her goal. One unit with two opposing goals and outlooks represents a problem.
Sometimes the easiest solution seems to be to just treat the finances like two units. Each partner has their own accounts and does how they see fit. In raising a family, this creates a problem of lack of consistency and unity. I believe that it deprives parents’ ability to teach and model good financial (and relationship) practices to their children. What “works” in avoiding conflict may not be what is truly best and most valuable.
The important thing for us all to realize is that our differences are not something to be feared or avoided. Oftentimes, the areas of differences have the potential to become some of our greatest strengths in our marriage, because they challenge us to truly examine where we are coming from and to seek to view money and life from a different point of view. If both parties are active participants in this process, the understanding and unity (even with the persistence of differences, seasoned with respect and understanding) that begin to emerge represent a true gem that is neither one’s nor the other’s, but theirs. This new understanding can be much more powerful because there has been true examination, intention, and mutual understanding used in its formation.
Here are some important perspectives, characteristics and practices that I believe can help navigate some of our differences and turn them into strength:
- It’s not personal – When your marriage partner doesn’t share all of your values or doesn’t esteem some of them to the same extent, it is not a personal assault against you. As a loving spouse, we should never treat it as such. It is each of our responsibilities to avoid making differences issues of personal injury. That’s not fair and will stunt the potential for growth from the differences. When you feel yourself making it personal, back away and regain perspective before engaging the subject again.
- Rise to the challenge – Both partners should view differences as opportunities rather than impasses. Growth is not near as likely when both partners already believe exactly the same thing. Unity that is fought for is more precious than unity that comes naturally. Don’t give up on each other or the possibility of getting on the same page (which will likely include each of you turning some pages).
- Fight FOR each other – In your pursuit of one accord, it is important to constantly examine your own mindset. Am I fighting for us or against him/her? Again, we are not in this for a personal victory, but a family victory. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t push your spouse. It does mean that you should always be pushing yourself as hard or harder than your spouse. Don’t expect someone else to be open to a different perspective if you yourself are not.
- Regular meetings – Be intentional about taking time to talk together, explore each other, understand each other. Talk as non-defensively as possible about what is important to you and why. Don’t try and solve all of your differences in one meeting. The fact that you are talking together is a wonderful thing. Listen to the passions, pursuits, hopes and fears of your partner’s heart. Share your own. Meeting regularly makes the statement that in conflict you run to each other, rather than away from each other.
- Avoid avid idealism – We all have ideals in our minds. We know how things ought to be. There are certainly things of the type of importance that there can be no compromise. Hopefully you discussed these things with your companion before tying the knot! We do not, however, want to make the mistake of majoring on the minors and making our last stand on ground that isn’t worth fighting for.
- Humility and vulnerability – All of us have some real treasures from our upbringings and experience. We also all have some junk that we’ve pulled along with us. We need to be humbled when some of the junk becomes apparent for what it is. There are things that I do out of habits and patterns of thinking that are not beneficial. Emotionally, I will tend to want to defend these things. The quicker I quit defending my weaknesses, the quicker my marriage relationship will grow in strength and intimacy.
- Model love and service – That whole corny be the change that you want to see in the world has some truth to it, if you can stomach the cheesiness of it. Rather than wishing your spouse would display certain characteristics that you feel you need, adopt these very characteristics and challenge yourself with them constantly. In doing this your spouse will feel your love and support and will be more greatly empowered to exhibit these traits as well.
- Embrace uniqueness – You will hear financial principles and observe financial success stories at times and will be inspired to emulate these. People who attend my classes often leave with a zeal for really taking on their finances. I am careful to remind them to be realistic and patient in the implementation of their financial work and planning. Nothing will turn a spouse off so much as constantly preaching what Chris said we should do with our money or what worked for the Harrisons, who are now retiring at age 40 with a real estate empire. Be inspired by examples of success and the inspiration of others. Seek to emulate some of their principles, but don’t try to be them. Success will look and feel different according to your personalities, strengths, desires, needs, and wants. Resist beating your spouse over the head with what so and so does.
In conflicts or differences of opinion, remember what drew you to your spouse. Let your love and passion for your spouse form the foundation of your growth. Remember too that you can control your own approach and manner. You will instantly start spinning your wheels when you start trying to control your partner.
I really encourage all couples to make unity and intimacy a constant pursuit in all aspects of marriage. The focus of this article is specifically finances, but the fact is that these discussions and their dynamics are never compartmentalized to one area. Everything affects everything. Depending on your background and history as a couple, it may feel daunting to take the steps toward this unity. Start small. There is no need to go for the jugular. Just make sure to take a step or two, however small, each day. The prize is worth the effort for both your marriage and you family.
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This post has been linked to The Welcome Home Linkup at Raising Arrows, Better Mom Mondays at The Better Mom, Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, What Works Wednesday at Upside Down Homeschooling, Women Living Well, Your Green Resource at Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins