When Karen and I first married, we learned quickly that money was going to be our greatest source of tension. We fought and fought about finances because we both view money differently.
To me, money is a source of fun and enjoyment. I love spending money and using it to bless other people. A paycheck meant having a good time.
But for Karen, money meant security. While very generous, she is also sensible and pragmatic. Saving for a rainy day is critical to her sense of safety.
Our completely different approaches to money caused tremendous friction between us. Every couple has subjects like these that always cause conflict, from money to parenting styles to in-laws or career decisions.
Every relationship will have these kinds of disagreements, and sometimes—with certain subjects—they become toxic. That’s why teamwork in a relationship is so important. When an issue arises that causes conflict, a husband and wife must find a way to resolve it.
You often hear people tell each other they’ll have to “agree to disagree.” That sounds like a good solution, but it doesn’t work in marriage. Because what it’s really saying is “Let’s just ignore this problem.” Overlooking areas of conflict is like ignoring a serious wound. It can fester, get worse, and possibly prove fatal.
For our money issue, this meant hashing out a budget we both could live with—one that allowed me freedom to have fun while putting away enough each month to make Karen feel secure. This win-win solution became a nonnegotiable part of our marriage. It put an end to our conflict.
Another source of tension in the early days of our marriage involved my driving habits. I drove fast and aggressively. This caused Karen terrible anxiety—she was pretty sure my driving would kill us both—and every time I got behind the wheel we’d start to argue.
In this example, there was no compromise to be found. I simply had to defer my will to hers. I had to slow down and curb my adrenaline and testosterone. It was the only workable solution, so I made the necessary sacrifice.
On several occasions, I’ve heard Dr. Phil say, “You can either be right or you can be happy.” In this case, I decided I’d rather be happy.
Karen and I are a team, and sometimes one player has to “take one for the team” in order to win. Some issues in a marriage just can’t be solved with compromise. When a husband wants to live in Seattle and the wife wants to live in Dallas, you can’t do both. One spouse must yield to the other.
In those cases, once the decision has been made, the matter needs to be dropped for good. Otherwise it can grow into a constant source of unresolved conflict.
Are you and your spouse working as a team? A team spirit is crucial to success in marriage, and it takes healthy communication for a team to work effectively.