A Couple’s Guide to Resolving Financial Conflict
Today, more and more conflict arises in couples as they try to adjust to the numerous financial problems and stresses everyone experiences these days. It’s important to accept: “We can’t control the storms we encounter, but we can adjust our sails to reduce the storm’s destructive power.”
Married couples need to work together to solve the issues they encounter. Biblically, couples are commanded to do so (Romans 12:18 and Philippians 2:1-4). Financial issues can be avoided temporarily, but at some point they need to be addressed. It is best that these financial issues are addressed prior to a catastrophe.
The following is a list of proactive steps couples can take to avoid conflicts that arise during financial difficulties that have the potential to destroy even the strongest of relationships.
Steps to Resolving Financial Conflict
1. Recognize and take seriously anger, frustration and disappointment concerning money and its use and misuse.
2. Identify and establish priorities as to how money should be spent and saved (Matthew 6:21).
3. Note and discuss, without arguing, each one’s differing priorities (Philippians 4:5).
4. Discuss each partner’s family of origin and their impact on current financial attitudes.
5. Discuss future income, savings and spending expectations (Matthew 6:33).
6. Agree to or discuss acceptable compromise methods to resolve financial conflict(s).
7. Put plans, goals and expectations in writing (Galatians 5:16).
8. Address the belief that one partner exercises exclusive control over the couple’s finances.
9. Address the belief that one partner refuses to participate in the financial aspects of the relationship.
10. Discuss if dependency on either one of the partner’s family for supplemental income is a cause for any conflict.
11. Examine areas that either partner’s discretionary spending creates resentment or mistrust (Psalm 139:23).
12. Examine the negative or positive results of spending money on the children if under the parent’s care.
13. Examine if your spending and saving honors God (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Long Term Goals:
1. Reduce arguments over how money is spent and saved (2 Timothy 2:24).
2. Arrive at a long-term, agreed upon plan (Philippians 2:2).
3. Develop open and honest communication about the budgeting of all money.
4. Accept each other’s opinions regarding financial issues provided they do not adversely affect the relationship or family (Proverbs 15:1).
5. Address problems within the relationship that interfere with achieving financial goals—alcohol, drugs, gambling, obsessiveness, lack of trust, occupational difficulties, the need for both partners to work, etc.
6. Commit yourselves to prayer. Praying for one another and with one another is so important (Colossians 4:2).
7. Consider asking for help from a pastor, elder or mature Christian friend who will encourage you both and hold you accountable (Proverbs 19:20).
8. Trust God (Ephesians 3:10).
Practical Guidelines for Discussing Conflict
No name calling. Separate behavior from character.
Stay on topic. Discuss the topic within three days and don’t dredge it up later.
Use “I” messages. I felt____________when you_____________.
Rephrase what the other person said in “I” messages before responding. “What I heard you say was….”
Block the exits. (Unless you need to really calm down, and then give a time limit.)
Both should apologize. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Don’t be each other’s police officer.
Treat each other as nicely as you treat your best friend.
Don’t bring others into the conflict. “My sister agrees you are irresponsible.”
How to Know If a Conflict Has Been Resolved
Do both parties feel as if they were heard?
Do both parties come to some compromise or agree to disagree without being disagreeable?
Did both take responsibility for some part of the conflict?
Did both apologize at the end of the argument?
Was a plan made to circumvent this issue in the future?
Conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. When managed biblically, conflict can serve as a catalyst for change and an opportunity for spiritual and relational growth. God created us for relationship. Do not let unresolved conflict rob you of the joy that healthy relationships can bring. As you work through these issues, invite God’s Spirit to show you how to apply these biblical principles to your relationships. Then, “go and be reconciled” (Matthew 4:24 NIV).