January 7, 2013 - Marriage, Serious Struggles

There’s a difference between a Fiscal Cliff and a Fiscal Mud Hole.

I have counseled many patients over the years. I have also counseled friends from time to time, and young couples struggling through the early years of marriage.

One of the most significant stressors in marriage is financial. Not having enough money to make ends meet is a problem, but so is not being in agreement with how to handle the household finances.

Bob is a guy who grew up with the best of everything. His dad made a good living, and never encouraged Bob to work.

Susan’s family was from the other side of the tracks—so to speak. She knew the value of a dollar, and she also knew that her dad worked as hard as he could to provide for them—but there was never anything left over.

When Bob and Susan were married, they breezed through their pre-marital counseling sessions, and everyone knew that they loved each other very much. But one thing they never discussed in their counseling sessions (but should have) was family finances.

There are a number of questions every young couple planning to marry should ask themselves prior to tying the knot. That is not to say that if they disagree they should call it off. On the contrary, they need to ask the important questions and deal with them prior to setting the date.

Please note that I said prior to setting the date. Once a date is set, the momentum is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to control. If these problems are addressed to both partner’s satisfaction, the date is then set.

Here are three key questions from the counseling sessions Gwen and I performed over the years that should be asked prior to setting that date.

  • Who is the tiebreaker?
    • When an important decision faces a young couple, especially involving financial matters, someone needs to break the tie. According to scripture, the husband is the head of the household, and it should be him. That being said, I have met many young men who—for various reasons, don’t want the responsibility. Several reasons are:
      • They don’t trust themselves, perhaps due to poor choices or decisions they’ve made in the past
      • They have been chided so severely for past mistakes (or perceived mistakes) they’re not willing to put themselves through that again.
    • The problem with this thinking is that these are only excuses. A man is not to shrink from this responsibility. We (men) all make mistakes—sometimes huge mistakes. But that does not absolve us from doing our jobs. I have made such monumental mistakes in the past that we lost everything and plunged into financial ruin. I am not proud of those mistakes, but I didn’t make them on purpose. I thought that I was making the right choice for my family, only to find I was acting on my own instead of following God’s leading. Had I not dusted myself off, swallowed my pride and forged ahead, I would never have enjoyed the incredible victories that followed.
  • Who pays the bills?
    • Does this seem like a no-brainer? Of course men should—right? Wrong. It is easy to point this finger, but consider, if you will, that perhaps it may be better for the wife to manage the finances. There is no right or wrong way to do this, other than choosing the one who is best qualified (and willing) to do it. This is simple, but very important to agree upon ahead of time.
  • Who is going to be the spiritual leader, and what responsibilities does this include?
    • The husband is to be the head of the household, and certainly the spiritual leader in their marriage. Again, this sounds like a clearly defined truth of scripture, but Gwen and I have encountered explosive responses from couples we have counseled. In one case, after a series of professional counseling sessions with a competent and highly qualified Christian counselor, it became a deal breaker and the couple decided they could not be married.
      • The responsibilities of the spiritual leader are significant. He must guard his heart and his mind at all time. Any man who feels he has reached a point in his spiritual life that he is no longer susceptible to falling into sin, is doomed for failure.

Although there are many more questions to ask during pre-marital counseling, these are three of the most important.

It is surprising how long it takes for some soon-to-be-married couples to work through just the first three. Imagine dealing with these as fresh issues in a young marriage.

Comment: Do you struggle with any of these issues in your marriage? They won’t go away. Seek Godly counsel, and deal with it now. Please leave comments below. I would love to hear them.