Happy Independence Day week!
Independence works well for nations in many ways, but can cause issues in marriage. And we’ve sadly seen in our own nation how easy it is for the United States of America to splinter when the parties within it become their own independent factions instead of fighting for that unity.
So as you celebrate our country’s independence, wouldn’t it be great to celebrate and work for your unity as a couple? As husbands and wives, we long for connection and closeness. Yet in our recently completed research for Thriving in Love and Money found some ways that couples unknowingly sabotage their closeness in one of the big areas of life and marriage: money.
This is Part 2 of the Unity Series where we look at ways to become more united. In Part 1, we looked at two unity busters of “I want control and to do what I want to do.” Let’s look now at additional ways that we move to independence when what we really want is unity in marriage.
Unity Buster #3: Lack of trust
Most of us would probably say, “of course I trust my spouse!” After all, almost everyone is pretty confident their spouse will not embezzle the marital assets and leave town. But there are sneakier, subtler ways that, when it comes to money, we may not actually trust our partner, even if we “feel” like we trust him or her.
For example, one woman we interviewed didn’t trust her husband’s financial willpower: “I still get nervous. Justin isn’t a crazy spender, but he isn’t nearly as strict about sticking to our budget like I am.” Others may not trust that their spouse will understand their need to purchase something, restricting their freedom to enjoy life. And some people go into marriage not even trusting that the marriage itself will survive, necessitating (in their minds) a separate bank account “just in case.”
All these fears are understandable—and yet the answer is not hiding in our separate corners, but actually talking through all those worries and putting a plan in place that works for both of you. (For how to talk it through, here’s a shameless plug to read the book!)
Unity Buster #4: “I want to take care of myself and not owe anyone anything so no one can hurt me”
Many of us tend to hold onto independence either to prevent getting hurt or to maintain our self-sufficiency. And truly, this is an understandable reaction to the broken world we live in. When it comes to marriage, though, a self-sufficient mindset can set us at odds with what we really want – which is much more closeness., as one woman expressed: “I’ve always had this wall. Like, if a husband comes along, he’s a bonus, but I‘ve got myself together and I’m good and I don’t need anyone to help me. . .which is crazy, because when I have kids I have this secret dream to be a stay-at-home mom for a while.”
The problem with the “taking care of myself” position is that marriage is designed for us to take care of each other. There is no way to become fully one without that step.
Thankfully, coming together and being one where money is concerned is not impossible. It just requires recognizing the tendencies that could pull us apart and trying to come together instead. For a list of unity-building money habits that will promote intimacy in your marriage, read part III of this blog series.
Want to know how you score in thriving in love and money? Take the free assessment now, at thriveinloveandmoney.com/assessment.
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Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained social researcher and best-selling author who is sheltering-in-place in Atlanta with her husband and co-author Jeff, two teenagers who are figuring out how to do college and high school online, and two cats who are thrilled to have even more video meetings to walk in front of each day.
Shameless plug: The Feldhahns’ newest book, Thriving in Love & Money, about how to have a great relationship around money (even in a time of trial), was published right before the National Emergency was declared, and is even more essential now. You can support Shaunti’s research and team during this time by purchasing a copy for someone who needs it.
This article was first published at Patheos.