Why is money such an explosive issue in the intimacy of marriage?
Money problems are the number one indicators of divorce.
According to Sonya Britt, a professor at Kansas State University, arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce.
“It’s not children, sex, in-laws, or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.”
Why the tension? Why such an explosive issue in the intimacy of marriage?
According to Chuck Bentley, money lies at the very root of our emotional well-being, but we often don’t realize it.
A man is wired to need respect. If money is an issue at home a man feels inadequate, shamed and even blamed, he explains.
Women, he says, often derive the innate feeling of emotional and physical security from money.
“She feels vulnerable,” Bentley explains, “Like maybe her spouse isn’t holding up his end of the deal.”
It’s easy to see how money becomes a spark for a fight; it’s not just a battle over saving for home renovation or balmy vacation. “Our identity, and our basic human needs… come under attack. And that’s what Satan uses to divide our relationship so quickly and so easily.”
Money isn’t neutral, Bentley says, adding finances have a powerful way of tangling up our hearts.
Yet, while the issue has such power to divide, he notes it can be a unifying element.
“When there’s unity in the marriage, you can thrive and flourish and prosper financially like never before.”
However, it wasn’t always the case for the Bentleys.
“It quickly went ways we didn’t expect it to go, we found out we were radically different in our personalities and view of life… we loved each other but we had our own beliefs about money and we went into our separate corners on that issue… we stayed fairly frustrated.”
For 21 years, “we were a casualty of our disunity,” he says, plodding along, hoping they would build their finances even though they didn’t communicate. They weren’t on the same page.
While cutting up credit cards when they become a pitfall and eliminating debt is important, it doesn’t indicate a healthy marriage.
“I know a lot of people who are wealthy… but have enormous problems in their marriage over money.”
Instead, “we had to fix us as a couple before we could fix our money problems.”
In his book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions, written together with his wife Ann, the Bentleys provide seven keys to aligning finances and spouses’ hearts.
While they’ve literally written the book on dealing with money in marriage, Bentley says they’re still a work in progress.
“We continue to use the process… Satan doesn’t leave you alone… he wants to distract you,” Bentley says, adding they often return to the seven keys of solving money problems in marriage including; become a peacemaker, know the definition of prosperity, find your life’s purpose, live by God’s philosophy of money, understand your spouse’s personality, have a financial plan, and develop a process to stay on the plan.
Each was a lesson that came out of their marriage; the result of trial by fire.
Becoming a peacemaker emerged as one of the seven keys after the heat of a fight was suddenly dispersed when each spouse would retreat to their separate corners and pray for peace.
“Both of you take the role of peacemaker, and that means going first… I particularly think men are challenged by this.”
Men often would rather wait to be apologized to, but Bentley says the first to apologize is the bravest.
“The tool of Satan is to become offended… you have to stop it immediately.”
Another key for the Bentleys in their quest for a healthy relationship with money inside of marriage is finding your purpose. He notes it’s vital to use the gifts and talents God has given you as a couple to advance God’s Kingdom.
However, Bentley says purpose is often uncovered through pain: “Our ministry was born from our misery.”
Like a soldier with PTSD using that same experience to spur empathy to minister to other sufferers, Bentley encourages spouses to find a common purpose as a couple.
He explains the focus on purpose shifts the role of money from simply creating a comfortable lifestyle to funding and driving their God-given mission.
Another bedrock for building a healthy marriage when it comes to money is to build the basics like an emergency fund, and having the discipline to save.
For those weathering a major financial storm, Bentley says never lose hope.
“We’re a living testimony of doing it wrong for a number of years, and God restoring years that had been wasted and lost.”
He adds, never lose hope in your marriage either. The data proves the greatest financial decision you can ever make is to stay married: “It’s not to split up or get divorced, it’s to work through your problems, stay married and then become united.”
Bentley says they wrote the book so couples would see the genius of God: “When He said two were better than one, He really meant it. All the data shows your long-term happiness is better, your financial well-being is better, your sexual satisfaction is better, your outlook on life is better, all these things improve because of your covenant relationship with your spouse.”
For those hurting, he says simply ask your spouse to try again.
“Don’t let the enemy deceive you, don’t let him destroy you by saying, ‘it’s time to give up, there’s no hope for this relationship.’ ”
“There’s always hope,” Bentley says.
Taken from our Podcast interview with Chuck Bentley.