Amber Fuller on the Topic of Marriage and Money

money and marriage

If you’re expecting to read an article regarding the connection between money fights and divorce, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Although this is a reason for divorce, it’s not the motivation for this material.

“We should really be doing this together” I said to my husband, while working on our financial program that I had been focusing on since college. “It just works better when we go at it together”. And in that moment, my husband saw the announcement for the upcoming class and jumped on the opportunity to take it at our local church.  From there, our lives started changing drastically. The coordinator of the class saw a spark in our financial journey and our story and offered us a life changing opportunity to lead the whole program at our multi-site church.  You may think I’m here to brag about our success, but I’m not (although, we’ve had great success working together as a team).  I’m here to talk about how the way you handle your money correlates with every aspect of your life including your marriage and when handled properly, you will see tremendous marital gains.

The Fights, the Fights, Oh, the Fights

‘ but never really about money, and they probably should have been.  When you create a goal of paying off debt and being able to live and give in unthinkable ways, there’s this transformation that happens where both start to join on the same page.  You turn inward instead of outward.  You start fighting more effectively instead of running around in circles never reaching your goal of being heard.  See the correlation?  Having a focus on where your money is going, telling your inner child no, and making small baby steps pays off big time in the long run. So I say to you, the next time you sit down to hash something out, think about your goal, and GET IT!  The moment you start with your negative talk, quickly tell your inner child no (and you’ll be good at it if you’ve been practicing with money) and reshift your focus back to what you really want, that being connection.  Following the financial program of paying off debt, budgeting well, and being able to live and give like nobody else has changed our fights. You learn how to goal set in your conversations and make careful and responsible moves with the words and actions you take.

Yours, Mine, and Ours

Its a phrase that comes up a lot if you’ve ever been to couples counseling (or at least it does if you’re in my office).  Money has this mysterious way of showing us where we are still acting like we are single or acting like we are a team.  When money is managed properly, we allow each other the room in our budget to delegate certain funds to be “just mine”.  Don’t have to answer for the money spent, don’t have to ask mama for permission, just me and Washington on the open road on our way to Target to wave each other goodbye.  Freedom.  There’s no guilt and there’s no fighting about where the money went because you already came together to discuss your allowed personal spending money and you won’t find yourself sneaking in that last piece of carrot cake in order to experience that sense of freedom, because you got to binge in the clothing aisle at Target.

On the topic of “ours”, you may find yourself very quickly in the middle of one of those fights mentioned above if you continue to spend your money like you’re single.  It can often feel disrespectful to the partner and leave them feeling disregarded and invisible.  Come together, develop your budget together, have conversations about wants and needs and find the compromise, and if you can’t, always go back to your financial goal and you will quickly find yourself on the couch spooning and eating ben and jerrys while watching the latest episode of This is Us (from Hulu of course, cuz aint nobody spending money on cable when you’re working your way out of debt).

The Nerd and Free Spirit

I often correlate these two labels with the myers briggs.  It is OBVIOUS from a thousand miles away who the Nerd is in my marriage, and there are three fingers pointing back at me! The strength of the nerd  and the way that they think about money, the budgeting, the intensity with paying off debt, the math, and self-control and discipline, is super sexy, aint nobody going to resist you when you’ve got these strengths.  The boredom though. We need our Free spirits. They liven us up, help us have fun, and help us live life and not live to work.  They are our saving grace.  Fun, full of life, and giving us the permission to say yes to ourselves once in a while is a NEED that we have that goes so unrecognized at times.  Learn to recognize these strengths and watch the way they show up in the way you handle your money. Respect. Plain and simple.  It comes down to conversations about the budget, again bringing needs and wants, and telling yourself no, while truly listening to each other. Both walk away feeling heard, important, and content.

Fight the Good Fight, and Don’t Forget to Kiss

Paying of debt is a journey and some of us get all gazelle intense!  My husband works 70 hours a week and I work around the same some weeks.  If we were piling on stress to each others plates we would probably be falling apart.  Encouraging each other in our every day  life is so important. It keeps us motivated and working towards our goal. Without encouragement, we would be DRAGGING our feet and at some point we would fail and give up (probably!).  Kiss, say nice things, spoon while watching this is us, it’s not hard, and it’ll keep you going.

Who’s in your circle?

With any other goal you have, accountability and support is SO important.  When paying off debt and working towards financial freedom, do you have people fueling the negative fire, making you feel guilty for not going out and spending money on cra–I mean stuff, and justifying and excusing your behavior when you do?  Or do you have people cheering you on, encouraging you to keep focused on your goal, and challenging you when you slip up? I promise you that the more intentional you are about the people who are in your circle, the more success you will see in your financial situation.

…and the same is true with your marriage.

“He said what?!” was my response, after finding out that somebody was fueling my husbands fire of bad habits after a bad argument.  Completely justifying and minimizing my husband’s actions which could have completely steered us away from our relational goals. It could have destroyed us, but thankfully we were working towards financial freedom at the time and knew how to have effective and productive conversations. An ideal response from a friend, mentor, counselor, when you’re in these situations goes something like, “I know you are hurting, and what can you change about your actions.  What is your part in this cycle and how can you take responsibility for your actions? Don’t forget your overall goal”, and the moment you start talking about your partner with this person (cuz that’s gossip BTW), the person would say something like, “I”m not comfortable with hearing this. It’s gossip. I’m hear to talk about you. Lets do that. And then you go home and talk to your wife about what you were just trying to talk to me about”.  How do these people end up in your life?  They’re usually the people that you’re least likely to put there and you see the fruit of them knowing what they are doing and what they are talking about.  Your circle is SO important.  I would say that in all of my years in practice, it’s not money that leads to divorce, it’s the people who are in your circle or who aren’t in your circle and should be, that are the biggest influence in your success or bankruptcy with both your marriage AND your finances.

And That’s the Final Bell

In closing, the correlation between the two go hand in hand. If you’re struggling with your marriage, look at the way you’re handling your money within your marriage and you will likely find a few things to improve on that will have a resulting effect on your marriage.  I’m not a financial advisor (But I am a professional marriage…kind of) but when you know how to goal set and develop a plan and then follow through with that plan to reach your goals, you can really accomplish anything.

Amber Fuller is a licensed marriage and family therapist, owner, and clinic director of Fuller Living & Associates, LLC.  She’s not a financial advisor or a milllionaire, but her and her husband have payed off $233,940.66 in the last three and a half years.