Nurturing Your Marriage in a Season of Financial Difficulty
No matter how careful you are with your money, sometimes life throws finances into a tailspin. Medical or legal expenses, unemployment or underemployment, and household or vehicle repairs can devastate a budget.
In 2009, my husband and I began a five-year season of unemployment, temporary jobs, and finances that spiraled out of control. With bleak job prospects for my husband, no hope for promotion at my job, and three teens, we experienced a great deal of stress.
Despite the difficulty of this season, though, it was a time of tremendous growth and joy in our marriage.
A couple in financial crisis may face quite a few unknowns. Despite the instructions in Matthew 10:31 to not fear because we are worth more than many sparrows, many couples find that financial difficulty brings a time of great fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and strain to their marriages.
What can you do to help your marriage thrive in the face of financial difficulty?
Nurture your husband.
Many men feel a deep need to provide for their families; a financial crisis can be unsettling. This is a time to build your husband up.
- Respect goes a long way. (See this post from a previous 31 Days to a Better Marriage series.) Although I’d always handled our finances in the past, during my husband’s extended unemployment, I sought his input even more than before. I thanked him for his insight and pointed out ways that his suggestions were good for our family.
- Acknowledge his efforts. I expressed my appreciation for my sweetie’s willingness to make sacrifices for the good of the family, whether it was big sacrifice (such as selling a collection) or a small one (forgoing a favorite brand of ketchup). When he applied for jobs or had an interview, I celebrated the effort even if we didn’t get the desired outcome.
- Look for ways for him to spend time with other men. My husband needed to maintain his friendships. He benefited from the company of other men, and it was good for him to have a break from concern about finances. We invited our best friends over for inexpensive meals as often as possible. When my husband had a tough week with a lot of job rejections, I sometimes asked his best friend to take him out for coffee.
It’s important for us to take care of ourselves, too. I worked hard to support my husband through our crisis, but the fact is that I needed support, too.
- My own friendships helped me maintain some sanity. I couldn’t do things that cost money, but meeting for a walk in the park or a shared picnic lunch helped a great deal. I had good friends who I could talk to about my fears if I needed to but who could always redirect the conversation when I needed a distraction, too.
- Replenish yourself. If walks in nature help you calm down, then head to a nearby park and wander around. If you appreciate the comfort of soaking in a bubble bath, then make a point to do this at least once a week.
- Express yourself. I needed to be able to talk through my fears and anxieties. It was hard, though, because I didn’t want to add to my husband’s stress. I shared with a couple friends. I wrote in a journal. I cried out to God in prayer. I did sometimes talk with my husband, too. It was important that I be able to rely on him for emotional support. I was careful to do this at times when we weren’t trying to make a decision or when he wasn’t expressing his own concerns.
Nurture your relationship.
Be intentional about maintaining your relationship with your husband.
- Make sure you have times when you aren’t talking about finances or decisions. Reminisce about wonderful memories. Do crossword puzzles or play board games together.
- Without money, it can be difficult to have date nights—especially if you have young kids and can’t leave the house without hiring a sitter. It’s time to be creative. Have a picnic. Go out for ice cream cones instead of a full meal. After the kids are asleep, pop some popcorn and watch a movie you already own.
- Tend to sexual intimacy. Even if neither one of you is in the mood, sexual intimacy helps to maintain the connection and unity in your marriage.
Nurture your spiritual life.
One of the best ways to weather a stormy season is to keep your eyes on the horizon of eternity rather than on what is immediately in front of you.
- Seek comfort in the Bible. In addition to verses that remind us of the role of money in our lives and God’s care for us, the Psalms help us remember that our difficult feelings are part of being human and that God is always there for us.
- Pray and attend church together. Holding my husband’s hand during our worship service’s prayer time helped me remember that he and I were in our problems together and that God was with us.
- Let your church family be a source of help. Put your family on a prayer list. Ask for referrals to Christian social service agencies or assistance if money is extremely tight. If others offer help, allow yourself to accept it as one of the ways God reaches out to care for you. Recognize the blessing of letting other minister to you.
Fortunately, it is possible to weather financial storms and come through with a marriage that is stronger than before.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Chris Taylor has been married to her husband Doug for 24 years. They live in southeastern Wisconsin and have three adult kids who are in various stages of leaving the nest. After a fulfilling career in higher education, Chris now writes at The Forgiven Wife, where she encourages women to tend to the sexual intimacy in their marriages. She draws on her own journey of healing to walk alongside other women trying to embrace full intimacy in their marriages. Chris thrives on coffee, knitting, and chocolate; the order of importance varies depending on the day. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.