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This is a Guest Post from Cherie at Queen of Free
I can still remember the very first fight my husband and I had after we were married. Ironically I don’t remember why we were fighting, but I can remember specific phrases we exchanged and the overwhelming feeling that my life. was. officially. over. *Insert double dramatic sigh.*
We had been married maybe two months and I was a twenty-two year old expert on marital wisdom. I was certain we were headed straight for Divorce Court to have a TV judge help us sort out who would get the towels and who would be so lucky to get the Pfaltzgraff dishes I had labored over choosing when we registered less than a year prior.
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I’m happy to announce that sixteen and a half years later we weathered that storm plus a few more and are still very much married and fulfilled. But conflict is still a regular part of our marriage. In fact, I firmly believe that conflict is necessary for healthy relationships. No two people are exactly alike. And if they are, let’s face it: they’re a little boring as a pair.
No change or growth occurs without conflict. A seed must be buried. Eggs, flour, butter, and sugar must be vigorously mixed and then put through the fire to become a cake. Building muscle requires tearing it first. Achieving a degree, raising a child, setting and obtaining an awesome goal – all require sacrifice and in some degree conflict.
Studies show that the average couple fights about money three times a month. So many of us make the unhealthy assumption that any conflict at all in our marriage is bad and should be avoided at all costs. Avoidance when it came to money and marriage landed our family in over $127K in debt. Yet, as Dr. Greg Smalley says, “In marriage conflict is not the problem. Combat is the problem.” How you disagree about money (or anything else) in your marriage is more important than the conflict itself.
And while some disagreements will always inevitable, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the tension. Here are four strategies to employ when you are trying to figure out how to stop fighting about money.
Put Love First
Don’t misunderstand me. I did not just give you carte blanche to pick a fight with your significant other. This is not your permission slip to dole out a mile long list of grievances and nitpick your spouse to death. Rather, I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong with being different than your spouse or holding different opinions. Even better, it may not necessarily mean you’re headed for a courtroom reality show anytime soon.
When you do disagree about money with your husband or wife (because you will), you need to keep a few guiding principles in mind. First and foremost, no matter how deep the offense or differing the opinion, keep love at the center of your relationship.
Take a stroll down memory lane with me. Remember walking down the aisle together? Remember first dates and love letters and sweet nothings? You chose your partner and he or she chose you. And love is worth more than money or conflict or even being right. I have to remind myself of all of the above on a regular basis every single day.
Don’t elevate winning an argument over the humanity of your husband or wife. At the end of our lives, I think we’d all rather be remembered as being loving than having all the answers or prevailing in every tiff.
Discover How You Disagree
Speaking of fighting, take note of what you do when conflict arises. Do you shout? Do you shut down? Do you murmur or call names? Do you present the facts or talk about emotions?
We all process disagreement in distinct ways. You have to know your own default approach to disputes and observe what behaviors your spouse employs, too. Note: it’s best to explore this at a time when you are not in the middle of a fight and your judgment is clouded.
Much of what we’ve learned about fighting comes from how we observed our own parents engaging in conflict, so recalling their methods of “debate” might also be helpful. When you’re fully aware of your personal habits and those your partner, the way you disagree can become more productive.
Most of us struggle to leave the past behind after an argument concludes. In our household, we call rehashing old squabbles, “Kool-Aid Bickering.” It’s like we go old school on our issues, listing out everything the other person ever did to tick us off. The oft read at weddings passage 1 Corinthians 13 says Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” We begin our marriages knowing we shouldn’t, but the temptation to keep score often overwhelms my soul.
Leave the past in the past and begin to make a new path.
If you glean nothing else from this post, know this. There is no shame in getting outside help when it comes to healthy methods of communication in marriage. Whether you consult the wisdom of a couple further down the path, speak to your pastor, or find a counselor to help you in your relationship, if you need help, get it. Don’t hesitate or hem or haw. While the investment of counseling might be steep, I can promise you in the long run it will cost less both financially and emotionally than a divorce.
To quote a favorite philosopher and all time great thinker of our generation Lecrae, “If it wasn’t hard work, they probably cheatin’.” Never look at someone else’s marriage and automatically assume everyone else has a dream relationship or that they never fight. There’s no magic pill or secret sauce when it comes to managing quarrels over money. There’s only consistent practice of loving one another, evaluating our methods, learning to fight fair, and getting help on a regular basis. You have what it takes to go the distance. There’s no need to begin parsing the kitchen cabinets or gearing up for courtroom drama. Conflict is difficult but necessary for growth.
Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.