Finances: A Love Story?
By Marybeth Whalen

When my husband and I first got married, discussing finances was something best avoided. Money was a necessary evil, something to be endured when bill paying time rolled around, but not thought of much beyond that. I would have never guessed that 17 years later, discussing finances would become a major part of our love story. I could never have realized the value that would come from learning to talk about money, sharing our goals and dreams for our financial future, and becoming a united front in the never-ending challenge of managing our family’s money.

Does this sound impossible to you?

It did to me too, once upon a time. My husband Curt and I could not talk about money - even in the simplest terms - without a fight ensuing. We were drowning in debt and ill-equipped to approach money from a positive place. Fighting was guaranteed. I dodged financial discussions with all the finesse of a ballroom dancer: pivot, dip, glide. After all, if you can avoid the discussion, you can avoid the problem, right?

Not true. While we continued to avoid talking, our financial problems kept piling up. Finally one night in a dark car in a parking lot, we started talking in a way that wasn’t loaded with accusation, dripping with blame, or hedging on defensiveness. We were $95,000 dollars in debt, including multiple credit cards, two cars, and student loans we had carried our entire marriage. God met us in that car and began breaking down the barriers that existed between us, leading us out of our respective corners and into a middle ground. That night we began to work out a plan that would take us four years and a lot of commitment to see through.

During those four years, there were temptations to fall apart instead of coming together. We had to learn to work toward a common goal, walking the path laid out for us together instead of each going our own way and hoping we ended up in the same place. Learning to communicate about money in an effective way has been huge for our marriage. Here are some tips we learned:

Your spouse is not your enemy. Identify your enemy and focus on that enemy together as a team united by a common goal (Ephesians 6:12). Don’t let your enemy divide you and gain victory. When troubles arise, pray for a united heart, wisdom and clarity to handle the problem together.

Set regular times to plan, plot and assess. For Curt and me, that is usually on a lazy Saturday morning while the kids are playing and we sit in our kitchen over big steaming mugs of coffee. We have found that two heads really are better than one, and having more than one perspective is wise. I never fail to walk away from these times refreshed and hopeful over what God has done, and continues to do, in the life of our family.

Find ways to communicate based on your unique situation. Regular communication is necessary, but with six kids, ministry duties, and my husband’s demanding full-time job, that can be difficult. We have found it best to touch base about finances through emails. My husband pays the bills but sends me updates so I know how much remains in certain budget categories. While this doesn’t substitute for sitting down and talking things out, it is a realistic solution for our busy day-to-day life.

Reward yourselves from time to time with a fun date night out. Set reachable goals and build in some money for a sitter once those goals are met. Make sure you still have fun and talking about other things besides money all the time! This is a time to celebrate your accomplishments, not wring your hands about the future. These times along the way keep things fun and refreshed in your marriage and not “all business.”

When Curt and I go out on dates, it’s not uncommon for us to discuss finances for a portion of the night. We talk about what we have coming in and what we know will be going out. We talk about big expenses we need to budget for. We discuss any giving we plan to do, and how much we feel led to give.

One of the biggest changes in our marriage since we began this journey toward being financially free is that we really do feel free to talk about our money. It’s no longer a loaded subject we try to avoid. Surprisingly, it’s actually fun!

Most of all we love celebrating our successes together, forgetting not the benefits that have come from trusting God and surrendering our finances to Him.

Years ago, I would have told you finances have nothing to do with love. Now I know that money is a big part of our lives, and a big part of our love story. Getting in the ring and fighting for our financial future has united our vision. Learning to talk about money in a productive way has helped us learn to talk about other difficult situations. Knowing we conquered our mountain of debt together has made us stronger as a couple. And that, as they say, is priceless.

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children, ranging in age from teen to toddler. The family lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. She served as general editor of “For the Write Reason” and the upcoming book “The Reason We Speak.” She and her husband Curt co-authored “Learning to Live Financially Free.” Marybeth speaks regularly to women's groups and enjoys sharing stories from her daily adventures as a wife, mom, homeschooler, writer, and, most importantly, a follower of God. You can find her online at


Blogger tess said...

hi mary, thank you for sharing your thoughts. like you, me and my husband were struggling over our finances and debt. hope to hear from you more how to be debt free. god empower you more

Blogger tess said...

hi mary! like you and curt, we are struggling about our finances and debt. it's nice to know that if we will just surrender our finances to God, it will eventually all come to pass. thank you for sharing your thoughts. god bless you more

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