Christmas Money Tension? Strengthen Your Marriage by Pooling

Christmas Money Tension? Strengthen Your Marriage by Pooling December 12, 2023

Not long ago, I got into a conversation with a young couple trying to navigate the journey of their first Christmas as husband and wife. Not surprisingly, they had discovered the road was full of potholes. Given how hard it is to buy an affordable house these days, she was eager to start radically saving for a down payment now. He, however, was eager to spend a sizeable amount of his unexpected December bonus on Christmas presents for family members, since he had never really been able to treat them before.  

After multiple tensions and fights, each of them thought maybe it would just be better if they didn’t talk about money. Instead, they figured, they should just continue their prior pattern: He would do what he wanted with his paycheck, and she would do what she wanted with her paycheck. 

Especially during the holiday season, it is so tempting for all of us to avoid tension by avoiding dicey topics, right? And yet, for the sake of our marriage, is also so crucial to not give into that temptation! 

That is the case for every issue (parenting, in-laws, sex, work-home balance) but has special resonance around money. And especially at Christmas. And especially this Christmas! 

As we wrestle with widespread layoff announcements, high inflation, and insane interest rates, many people are understandably on edge about money. In a Gallup Poll this year, half of Americans say they are worse off than a year ago. And tough finances can be tough on a marriage.  

In the research Jeff and I did with thousands of couples for our book Thriving in Love & Money, we noticed a pattern: those with money worries often pushed back a bit on “togetherness.” There was a temptation for each spouse to want to handle money the way they wanted to handle money – out of fear, convenience, or simply an instinctive desire to make finances easy during a complicated season.  

The good news, is: a single step of faith can solve both these problems!     

A trio of leading universities (Cornell, UCLA, and the University of Colorado) collaborated on a huge research project; six different long-term studies examining couples around the world who completely combined their money, versus couples who kept separate financial accounts (unable to be accessed by the other person). They also studied couples who had a hybrid of the two. What they found parallels what Jeff and I found in our research – and, candidly, what the Bible has said all along. There is a powerful oneness in marriage that comes as married couples combine their finances and share everything, rather than holding back in some way. 

Now, it is important to mention that this finding does not apply to couples dealing with severe compulsive financial behavior (such as a gambling addiction). If you think that applies in your marriage, please seek out specialized care and help from a licensed counselor. 

But otherwise, Christmas and the approach of a new year is an excellent time to honestly examine how we handle our finances. Here are five money-and-marriage truths to consider, from that landmark research study.  

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