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  • Writer's pictureBrett

Marriage and Great Expectations

Did you ever read the book “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens? I know, who reads classics anymore. It’s not a podcast or a YouTube channel so most don’t see this stuff anymore but it applies to your marriage!

(Confession I read it but it was for my High School English class…kind of a mandatory thing.)

Dickens wrote the book as a commentary on life in his day. It has an unhappy ending, since most characters suffer physically, psychologically or die—often violently—while suffering.

Happy resolutions remain elusive, hate thrives.

Somewhat dark it portrays reality for many people. We expect and plan to have a great life but often our expectations get interrupted and derailed.

People resonate with the story because often they consider their job, social standing or marriage and feel like the same thing happened.

Cheery little post so far huh?

No one goes into their marriage without any expectations….at least they shouldn’t! You should want and expect a great marriage and a wonderful life together. Yet even in the best of situations it is easy to get things twisted.

One of the keys to a marriage’s survival is effective communication skills. Communication is not completed until the recipient receives the message intended by the sender.

A woman in India has filed for divorce from her husband because his communication is being received differently than he intends. She says she wants him to communicate by arguing with her. “Whenever I make a mistake, he always forgives me,” the woman complained. “I am feeling suffocated in such an environment.

Huh? You’re complaining about being married to someone who is TOO forgiving? Hmm

Recently we talked about expectations around intimacy. I called it sexpectations…catchy huh. The best marriages have a healthy level of intimacy it is an exclusive and important part of marriage. If you missed it you can catch it HERE, look at the series called After I Do.

There is another easy to miss friction point when it comes to expectations, money. Who makes it, who spends it, what is the priority?

For some couples they make enough (or borrow enough) where each person just does their own thing and so the expectations become. I do what I want with my money.

I don’t think that is the best system; but it is a system. As long as everyone has plenty of money there likely won’t be anyone to blame for unmet expectations except yourself.

This isn’t realistic or sustainable for most. It doesn’t exactly scream two become one either.

What do money expectations look like in your relationship? A popular default is one person handles the bulk of the money stuff and the other just goes along.

I get some people are more gifted at spreadsheets, budgets and investing. It would be silly to ignore an ability. This arrangement works as long as there is communication and one spouse doesn’t “parent” or “control” the other with money.

I suppose every relationship and family is a little different so I won’t pretend to offer up the perfect system. There isn’t one.

I do want to give you a couple of ways to manage expectations about money in a way that

will build a stronger marriage.

1) Ours is better than His and Hers. I know this is controversial. I hinted at it already. The best approach to money in a strong marriage is to stop seeing things as individuals and start seeing things as a couple. If you are all in on this marriage. If you want it to be the best it can be you have to stop trying to build in fail safes and safety measures.

It doesn’t matter how much he makes or she makes. It is all yours together. Living separate lives with separate bank accounts and separate financial goals and separate priorities going on separate vacations and assuming separate responsibilities is. Well, separate. But you aren’t separate, you are two who have become one.

Moving towards ours can be difficult the longer money has been his and hers, but it is also a powerful way to build trust and strength in your marriage. Is it risky? Maybe. Any investment person will tell you there is no reward without risk.

2) Have regular board meetings. Guess what you spend an inordinate amount of your life doing two things, sleeping and dealing with money! If you add up the time you spend making money, spending money, investing money, managing money…you get the idea.

Makes sense you will have to regularly talk about it.

Communication is huge Hint: you want to build a better marriage? Talk about important things, dream together, work out a plan and put in motion together. It is an incredible way to build on your connection.

Money is one of the things you will want to regularly talk about. Daily, weekly, monthly, once or twice a year. I don’t know what is right for you. We do roughly two board meetings a year talking about things more than numbers.

Where are we? Do we still want the same things? Is it working? What if anything do we need to change? The numbers matter eventually but most of the conversation is around what we want to see happen and what the future can be.

Some of think this sounds awful, it can be but it doesn’t have to be. When you approach it as something for the two of you to do together and to make your marriage great it takes both the boring and tension out of it.

3) Stop talking about the lattes. Start talking about what matters. Quit arguing about $3 purchases (or the equivalent in your world). So often people will borrow $30,000 to buy a car because…well we need a new one and not even think about it.

Then they will argue with each other about small purchases at Starbucks or the gas station. The $3 ( or $5 or $10) purchases are not driving most people’s financial health. It is the big decisions. So, stop focusing on the little things until you have a great handle on the big things. What are your plans when it comes to a mortgage, college or higher education expenses and retirement?

4) Develop some simple house rules. What are the basic financial practices we want to live by. When we first married we didn’t have much and so we had a couple of rules. Like no one can spend more than $100 without talking to the other. And if we get unexpected money (gifts, bonuses, rebates) we decide together what to do with it. We don’t borrow money unless we see no other choice and we agree before we sign anything.

These simplify everything. It is easier to make the decision now, when you are not emotional and don’t feel any pressure. Set up some house rules together.

By the way these aren’t forever. Ours have changed. Now one of our rules is we don’t save more than we give. We will put away money for our grandkids. When it is time to update them it is part of the board meeting.

These are simple practices that can help build your marriage. Truth be told you get these suggestions or a version of these suggestions anywhere.

If you want and expect a great marriage it requires building your marriage on Christ. Sex is part of marriage but it isn’t marriage. Money matters but it comes and goes.

You should have great expectations for you marriage but the weight of those expectations are crushing if they are all on you (or your spouse) to be great all the time. You can’t and neither can they.

You will be together forever After I Do. Make it great by basing your marriage on Christ.

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