Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?

That question is right out of the Bible – Amos 3:3 (New Living Translation).  It was my parents’ wedding text when they were married 65 years ago.  It’s a verse in the middle of a punishment text – I’ve always wondered how they came up with that.

It’s a great question, though, for couples who are just starting out together, setting up a common household, potentially combining income and resources or in other words doing money together.  Given most relationships end because of conflicts and stress over finances, figuring out healthy ways to do money together as a couple is incredibly important.

But money is hard to talk about.  Glossy magazines publish all sorts of tests couples can take to improve their sex lives – why not their money lives?

When doing money together, it’s not just the big purchases (car, condo or vacation) that can cause tensions.  All sorts of little things can add up to growing frustration with a partner:  Why does he need that latte every day? Why does she always need a sale to buy anything?  Why does she give such big tips when we go out?  Why does he nag me to pack a lunch instead of grabbing something with friends?

The reality is, each of us has a money personality.  Some of us are impulsive, and some of us ponder and stress over every financial decision.

We come by our personalities honestly.  We’re influenced by parents, life experiences, faith, media, friends, etc.  But unless we have a look at our money personalities, we assume our tendencies are normal – it’s the other person who has a problem.

So, why not take a short money personality test as a couple?  Each person can think about the characteristics that describe their own style of dealing with money.  The list could include words like:  spontaneous, careful, compulsive spender, frugal, thankful, content, honest, stingy, generous, saver, borrows easily, worried about the future, deliberate…

Before sharing lists, each person may want to think about which characteristics they feel good about and those which they might want to change.  Then, couples can share their lists with each other.  It’s best to start conversations like this by agreeing to ground rules like: We will take this conversation seriously.  We will not interrupt each other.  We will listen to each other with compassion.

We may also want to admit that we make assumptions about money because of the households in which we grew up.  Was the atmosphere in the room tense if the topic of money came up?  Who paid the bills? Was there someone who had all the control when it came to money?

It’s hard to agree to go in the same direction as a couple unless there is conversation.  In the end, couples might not always totally agree on every detail when it comes to money, but talking is the first step to understanding.

For more ideas on couples and money personality, check out http://www.mennofoundation.ca/downloads/first-things-first-2010-edition.pdf pp. 13 – 14.

Post written by:

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen, M.Div

Stewardship Consultant, Mennonite Foundation of Canada