Money & Finances

Managing Financial Stress in Your Marriage

Selena and I have seen more than our fair share of financial hardship. We got married during college (Top Ramen date nights!), made lots of dumb decisions, and quit our jobs to start a business. I’ve lost count of how many times our checking account has been below $50 while we were buried in debt, savings-less, and had to pay rent the next day.

What’s that snappy phrase people used to say to us? “You’re just living on love and sunshine!”  So…what, we’re flowers now?

Some days I would have happily traded places with a petunia.

Hence, this post. Finances are frustrating in marriage. Either circumstances or decisions will cause your money-train to derail or stall out. It’s just a matter of time. No matter your income level, tension will rise, arguments will happen, and your fortitude will be tested.

Or maybe we’re the only ones who deal with this.

As I write this, Selena and I are sitting in San Francisco Airport waiting for a connecting flight. As I type, I can literally overhear a husband arguing on the phone with his wife. What are they arguing about? Spending.

In classic fashion, the husband intermittently interjects with phrases like “obviously my idea of budgeting is different than yours…wait…wa…I don’t need your emotional outbursts”. Or, “so we’re going to yell now?” And, “what you fail to do, Nancy, is tell me about anything until it’s too late… then we have to pull money out of savings, and you don’t seem to care that our savings is gone!” I could go on but I think you get the point.

Everybody deals with this.

How you deal with financial stress in your marriage depends entirely on your worldview. It depends on how you perceive money – its source, its purpose, and its availability. For this post, I’ll focus on its source.

Where is your source of financial security?

Does your financial security determine your personal security? If you’re like us, you probably want to answer ‘No’, but have to answer ‘Yes’…

Western society trains us to put too much weight in status – what we do, how much we make, and the lifestyle we live. This training culminates as a pile of expectations (a large steaming pile) that we feel pressured to meet. We’re conditioned to view ourselves in the context of everyone else and measure our worth by  up.

This is like looking at your reflection in a funhouse mirror. It’s distorted, ugly, and inaccurate.

Our worth and purpose must be found in Christ – his hope, his salvation. Our marriage depends on it, and everything I write here stems from that perspective. Seeing our worth through Him is essential to properly perceiving our source of provision on all levels.

“Relax, You’re Not Your Provider”

One cool October evening in 2009, I sat on our apartment deck at 10:30pm and wrestled with our financial lack. I was sulking in my inability to provide, and devising where I could get food stamps.

It was a “$50 left and rent is due tomorrow” kind of night. I felt very defeated. After about 30 minutes of agony, God broke me.

He lovingly yet firmly showed me that he alone is our provider, not me. Not my job, not my business. Not my cleverness, not my resourcefulness. As he washed over me with a completely illogical peace, I took a deep breath and resigned us to his care; which is exactly how He wants it (see John 14:27).

It was up to Him to get us through.

God is always faithful – not because of anything we do, but simply because He is our loving Father and we are his kids. As it turned out, everything we needed came in unexpectedly the next day. It probably would have come whether or not I stressed out, but the lesson is the same: God is our security and our provider, not me.

Was this a miracle? I don’t know. I doubt it. I do know that God knows I’m going to stress well before I do, and he could have easily held those checks in the mail so he could watch me break and gently minister to us in a deeper way.

This epiphany changed our marriage in an instant.

It’s not up to us to worry about our finances; it never was.

Having God as your financial source and center will release you of pressure and grow your faith in him. Of course, we are always called to be good stewards with our resources. He gives and he takes away; it’s our job to be worthy stewards over whatever he places in our care (time, energy, money). We just have to live with open hands – giving or receiving in whatever capacity God asks of us.

Selena and I have to constantly remind ourselves of the lesson we learned that night. Whenever stress mounts and we start getting restless, we realize that we’ve placed our security in the wrong place.

At that point all we can do is stop, repent, unclench our fists, and give our burdens to God (sigh of relief)… then we can rest. God is faithful.

What is one particularly stressful area in your finances? How can you place your security and trust in God?


Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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