How to Prosper by Celebrating Your Marital Differences

by Joe Plemon on November 18, 2009

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dave or Atox

Married couples: you are acutely aware that you and your spouse are very different. One of you loves to talk; the other is quiet. One is goal oriented; the other embraces the journey. One is punctual; the other tardy. One is introverted while the other is an extrovert. One is more emotionally transparent; the other hides those emotions. This should be no surprise for we all know that opposites attract. Larry Burkett said it thusly, “If you marry someone exactly like yourself, one of you is unnecessary.”

Because it was those very differences that created the original attraction, I find it odd that so many married couples waste time and energy trying to make their spouse more like themselves.

Newsflash: you will never make your spouse over in your own image and you are asking for trouble when you try.

So how do these differences influence your finances? Normally, one is more of a “nerd”, who loves crunching numbers and saving money while the other (we will refer to as the free spirit) simply loves what the money will buy. The nerd naturally wants to control the purse strings, but doing so causes the free spirit spouse to feel controlled. The resulting strained communication and diminished trust levels will cause anger and resentment to build up until a money fight detonates. If this sounds familiar, listen up: you two need to embrace your differences. Nerd: you need your free spirit spouse to help you lighten up and live. Free spirit: you need your nerd spouse to help put some structure into your marriage. If the two of you could learn to take advantage of those differences, you will start to rebuild that trust and rekindle a flame in your marriage.

These tips will help:

1. Apologize and ask forgiveness.

Nerds, have you been trying to control your spouse? Free spirit, have you resented this control and covertly sabotaged your family’s finances? Have either of you kept financial secrets? This is a time for “True Confession”…if you can’t openly admit your wrongs and forgive each other, those issues will be repeated.

2. Share your dreams.

Would you both like to travel more? How about early retirement? Perhaps some day buying your own house? Free Spirit: this is your chance…speak up. Nerd, listen to your free spirit spouse. Once the two of you agree on some dreams, put them in writing. Doing so will “seal the deal” and make them more achievable.

3. Determine short term goals.

You two will need a plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Again, both of you need to be involved, but the nerd might have more practical ideas. That is fine; you are using each other’s strong points. Examples are “getting out of debt”, “saving for a down payment”, “purchasing life insurance”, or “building up our emergency fund.” Whatever goals you agree on, write them down.

4. Do a budget.

Both of you need to clearly understand that a budget is an absolutely essential tool for reaching your dreams. In most marriages, the nerd gladly cranks out the numbers while the free spirit yawns. And in most marriages, budgets don’t work because both of you are not involved. It is OK for the nerd to prepare a draft budget, but it is also essential that both of you agree on the numbers. Free spirit: you need to change some things in the budget in order to give you some ownership of it. Nerd: you need to allow and even encourage your spouse to make some changes. Unless you jointly “own” this budget, it will not work.

5. Monitor your progress.

Plan monthly meetings in order to check your progress. The nerd will look forward to these meetings, but should not dominate them. Remember to not only monitor your budget but also your dreams and short term goals. Dreams sometimes change and therefore need to be openly discussed and agreed to. Keep those written dreams and goals close at hand and re-write all changes as you make them.

6. Celebrate Your Marriage.

Money and money fights are the number one cause of marital stress in America. Why? Instead of cooperating, the couples compete. However, because the two of you have been celebrating your differences, you have cleared this number one hurdle to a great marriage. Congratulations! Your marriage, along with your finances, is going to prosper. And that is a dream come true.


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