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!