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Dealing with Financial Stress in Marriage

I know that MANY of you are experiencing financial strain in your families with all of the issues the economy has had the past few years.  My husband and I are no exception – my hours were cut drastically a few years ago when I was a pharmacist at Walgreens.  And recently, my hours have been cut even more drastically.  When the first cut happened a few years ago, I inadvertently said one comment that deeply wounded my husband.  And I didn’t know it for 9 months.  UGH.  That was about 2 years into me learning about respect and biblical submission  – and I STILL didn’t understand or get what I had done.  I wrongly assumed why he had shut down because I didn’t have a clue what I had done that had actually hurt him.  I pray that God might help me to do a much better job showing support and cooperation to my husband this time around!  And I hope he will be able to tell me if I do hurt him, so that I can make things right a whole lot faster.
I asked a Christian husband who has been down this road if he might share some ideas that wives could use to make the financially stressful times more bearable for their husbands.  THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your ideas with us!

THE most important thing is for the wives to get it settled in their hearts and minds that God is in control of their circumstances and He will take care of them.

This is true whether their financial difficulties are due to bad decisions by their husbands or are no one’s fault and due entirely to outside circumstances.  God may not take care of them the way they want or with the timing they want, but He will take care of them and He will use their circumstances to make them more Christ-like.  Having their own independent confidence in God will make a night and day difference in how they interact with their husbands about finances, because then they aren’t looking to their husbands for their security.
I have a friend my age (52) who has never had a consistent career since college.  He has worked numerous jobs in numerous industries.  For all but a few of the years I’ve known him, he has not had a big income.  He has never owned a house (though God has provided a way for them to live in the same house for decades now).  He told me one time how much it meant to him that in all their financial ups and downs, with not very many ups, his wife had never complained; instead, she let him know that the most important thing was that they were together.  His life and his marriage were much more peaceful as a result.  Sounds like a Hollywood cliche, but for a Christian marriage, that’s really the way it should be.
Having the foundation of trusting in God and not making the husbands responsible for the wives’ financial security, other suggestions are:
  • Don’t freak out.  If you freak out, whether you blames him or not, he is going to feel responsible.  Freaking out just adds to his stress.
  • Ask what you can do to help, if anything.  He might like you to help preparing/adjusting the budget, or tracking expenses, or paying bills, or to find areas to cut expenses, etc.  Or does he prefer the approach that he’ll handle it on his own and if he needs your help with something, he’ll ask?  Go with whichever approach he is most comfortable with.
  • Agree on what you wants to know and how often you want to know it.
  • Be willing — and tell him you’re willing — to downsize/down-scale.
  • Along the same lines, don’t complain about what you’re doing without.  Don’t even dream out loud about what you’d like to have someday (or at least be very careful about that).  Any dissatisfaction you express, even if you’re not blaming him, he will take personally.  It may just increase his stress and guilt, or it may make him mad because he thinks you’re not being fair.
  • Support him to the kids.  If they have to do without something that they used to have or that their friends have, if they have to skip some activities (sports leagues, etc.), if you wanted to pay for college and now you can’t — present a united front to the kids.  Teach them to trust the goodness, provision, and wisdom of God rather than being disappointed that mom and dad can’t deliver what other kids have.  (You’ve talked about doing this with your kids on a number of occasions, financial and otherwise.)
  • Be reasonable.  If the financial setbacks are part of the economy or the industry or his company, recognize that.  Don’t blame him for what isn’t his fault.  And let him know that you know that it’s not his fault and that you’re not blaming him.
  • Beyond being reasonable, give him grace.  Maybe he made decisions about spending or job choice or housing or whatever that turned out after the fact to have been ill-advised (or maybe they were bad ideas from the get go).  This is where you need to trust God to provide for you through your husband, and to understand that if he makes a poor decision, that’s one way for God to say “no” or “not yet” to your hopes or expectations.
  • Let him know that you’re willing to go with him to a financial counselor (a Dave Ramsey follower, etc.) or to consumer credit counseling if he thinks you need to.  (Not the same thing as telling him that you need to go, just expressing a willingness to go.)
I saw this quote from John Piper that applies to financial uncertainty:

“God’s closings are His plannings. You may be puzzled; He is planning. You may feel delayed; God is designing. Trust Him.”  


If your husband makes comments himself about “We can’t afford that!” realize that arguing with him about whether or not you can afford an item or whether it is essential or not may not be his real issue.  There may be times that he truly believes you can’t afford something.  But if you are seeing a lot of anger/sarcasm – look past that to see his heart message.
Most likely, his heart message is something like:
  •  Am I a good enough provider?
  • Can you really be content with me even in this financial situation?
  • Do you have faith in me as a man and as a financial provider?
  • Are you still on my team?
  • Am I a successful husband?  (successful meaning – my wife is happy)

Validate, encourage, inspire and build your man up with your words of genuine respect, admiration, faith and confidence in him and in God.  (If he is far from God, don’t talk about God, but live out your joy and faith and respect so he can see it – I Peter 3:1-6).  Then, be willing to cut anything you can (especially things he asks you to cut) and be joyful and cheerful as you trust in Christ to provide.  If your husband is far from God – don’t talk about God providing – just live the joy and peace in front of him every day.  This is a huge test of faith in God and in your husband.  It will show your true priorities and motives.  I pray God might use these situations to refine our faith in Him and to make us more like Christ and to draw many people to Himself!


21 thoughts on “Dealing with Financial Stress in Marriage

  1. I would like to relate a personal story pertaining to this subject.When my wife and I first came together after a separation that lasted for five years,I had destroyed my value as an employee. As a result, I took whatever work I could get. My wife could not work,as we had just been blessed with twin sons.There was a period over the course of the summer,when we didn’t have enough money to pay any of the utilities.As a result,the gas and electric was shut off. My wife never complained,as she believed I was doing the best that I could.Looking back, I believe that God was testing our resolve to stay together, no matter what.Eventually they came to shut off the water.The crew of men that came, when they saw the situation simply couldn’t do it.They took up a collection from their own pockets to not only keep the water on, but got the gas and lights turned back on as well.They put us in touch with different agencies to help us with our bills, and eventually became able to get back on track financially. I write this as a testament to my wife’s faith ,that God had joined us together, and that He would provide for us. Because I was a complete incompetent at the time in dealing with finances.I have gotten better over the years,but we try to always be mindful that whatever we have is God’s gift to us. and it could be gone tomorrow.

    1. Ted,

      What a great story. I really admire your willingness to make yourself vulnerable in sharing this. Great job by your wife. You are both blessed to have one another.


  2. Thanks for this post. My wife and I sat up in bed this morning after being alerted on her phone, we read it, confronted each other, fought, cried and made up. She apologised to me about some unsuspecting comments she made about our financial situation. These posts are just changing our lives. They are challenging my wife and giving me grounds to debate my corner without compromise. Thanks everyone. I can’t say too much because I don’t want my wife to identify me from my comments. Great job April…oh, we are praying for your finances too.

  3. Great post. This has been a challenge in my marriage and I have found that it is most helpful to be guarded about who you listen to. I try not to discuss our finances with anyone at all, but no matter how private or public things are, I don’t take certain people’s opinions to heart.

    It just seems like the people who are most interested in private issues like finances are also the most insensitive and judgmental.

  4. Speaking of which; has anyone considered living off-grid? Investigating it appears to reveal a sizeable representation of Christians and the phenomenon is growing by 15% every year. The attraction to me is that our calling requires a materially un-encumbered life so that we may not be set free to fall into slavery again(Galatians). Many off-grid communities are rather grungy and left wing, which I have to say, is off putting, but the financial freedoms are calculable. With economies going boom and bust, off-grid is the next big thing towards financial freedom

    1. Truehusband,

      I don’t know if it’s off the grid per se, but we are getting ready to move to the country. (to a one-stop light kind of town). Our family is just starting to feel too cramped in the suburbs/city. I personally feel unsafe too. We will grow a garden and someday get some chickens, things like that. I think people in rural areas are much more friendly and God-fearing. And even the “left wing” type of people are very welcoming and clean living in comparison to the majority of people in more congested areas. (that’s my impression so far) I’m really looking forward to it.

      As the move was getting closer, we started wondering if we were making a huge mistake and this verse was pretty comforting–I heard it on the radio one day.

      “Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country.”
      ~Deuteronomy 28:3

      It made me realize that we’ve always been very blessed and this move won’t really change that. But it also gave me courage to try something new. I’m confident that it is the best thing for our family.

      From the more sustainable living and the beautiful views to the incredible stillness and silence, I can’t imagine a quiet place “off the grid” wouldn’t bring a person much closer to God.

  5. Stephanie, thanks for your comments on off-grid. Im watching this bus on eBay that I think I’m gonna buy and convert to a luxury home. I will post pictures from start to finish on this website if April doesn’t mind. I might even include YouTube videos of my adventures(my wife would have truly identified me then) I think Christians need practical solutions and courage to aquire financial freedom. It might sound trivial but, globall, people are now realising that the way to financial freedom is not chasing the Hollywood dream instead, a movement towards doing away with the crippling need for money is emerging. I wouldn’t go to some extremes as others but I would love to cut my monthly outgoings to 300

    1. Truehusband,

      That is a really interesting idea! I can see where it could prove to be extremely wise considering how precarious the economy is today. Thank you for sharing!

  6. My husband has recently made me aware of a financial hardship our household is currently going through. I was heartbroken at first because I thought God let me down and frustrated at the thought that my husband wasn’t following God or that he wasn’t doing something right. Then I realized, I wasn’t believing and trusting in God like I thought I was; my trust had shifted solely to my husband. I immediately felt a sense of guilt because I know I handled the news terribly and that I did not show him grace, patience, and love. I apologized to my husband for my behavior and my part in this hardship and we are now working as one to pick up the pieces. I am now trusting in God to give us the wisdom and the strength to overcome this together. Thank you for this article, it was very encouraging and it gave me confirmation that I’m on the right path.

    1. Monica George,

      I’m so excited to hear what God is showing you and that you are working together as a team now against this hardship instead of allowing it to divide and destroy your relationship. That is awesome! Praying for God’s continued wisdom and healing for you both!

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