Real Family Talk: Money Matters

How to handle this common marital stress factor

Willie and Elaine Oliver
Real Family Talk: Money Matters

I am a recently married woman in my early 30s who is having great difficulty being on the same page with my otherwise wonderful husband about the kind of car we should buy. I would like us to buy a nice car of good quality, one that looks nice. My husband is more interested in four wheels that can get us from point A to point B. He says I am interested in spending money we don’t have, and he is interested in saving money for a rainy day. I believe that if we are going to buy a car it needs to be something we will enjoy to the fullest. Please help us manage our differences on this point, as well as most issues that deal with spending or not spending money. 

Thank you for bringing this question to our attention. The marriage literature suggests that financial issues are among the greatest causes of stress for couples and families. In their article “A Financial Issue, a Relationship Issue, or Both? Examining the Predictors of Marital Financial Conflict,” Jeffrey P. Dew and Robert Stewart from Utah State University offer that “economic pressure, communication issues, and deeper ‘hidden’ issues within marriage are all associated with financial conflict.”1

The truth is, regardless of how much money a couple or family has, they almost always believe they need more. Family counselors suggest that most of these arguments are not really about the money. Rather, arguments about finances may indicate that a couple has been unable to develop an open and well-organized couple system. These kinds of arguments may point to conflict over power and control in the marriage relationship, because of different approaches to spending and saving, and about ideas of what money can and cannot do. 

We believe you need to seriously consider the following points as you attempt to manage your differences about how to spend money:

  • If you are both committed to your marriage you owe it to each other to have a calm and honest conversation about your finances, habits, goals, and anxieties. If you are unable to have this conversation by yourselves, seek the help of a trusted couples’ therapist. 
  • Concerns about money often involve conversations in which ego, anxieties about control, and opinions about roles in marriage will need to be checked. 
  • If you often have difficulty agreeing on how to spend money, seek the help of a financial advisor or planner for unbiased advice. 
  • And last, but not least, remember the Bible’s advice in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is patient and kind.”2  

Please know you are in our prayers as you trust God to help you navigate these choppy waters. 

1 Jeffrey P. Dew and Robert Stewart, “A Financial Issue, a Relationship Issue, or Both? Examining the Predictors of Marital Financial Conflict,” Journal of Financial Therapy 3.1 (2012): 43-61,

2 Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Willie and Elaine Oliver