Touch, You & Your Family

Marriage and money

Maintaining marital harmony in a world of income disparity

THE MODEL OF THE COUPLE where the husband is the sole breadwinner is fast becoming obsolete. For many households, wives would be working for much, if not for a significant, portion of their married life.

With better education and improved employment opportunities, the average salaries of wives are slowly but surely keeping pace with those of their husbands.

This increased earning capacity can prove to be a great benefit to many families. But to some, it can prove to be a sensitive topic or even a bone of contention.

Money is a delicate topic. Some couples are unaware of what their spouses earn, not to mention, how it is spent. Perhaps this is their way of maintaining some personal privacy and even autonomy over their lives.

In a counselling case recently, the wife disclosed to me that she did not know where her husband’s money went to. In their almost 20 years of marriage, she had been the main provider.

Initially, she adopted an understanding posture when her husband stated difficulties with his business as the reason why he could not contribute sufficiently or regularly.

As the years wore on, they quarrelled over money and he would at times angrily ask if she wanted him to quit his business and be a taxi driver.

I believe that she would have agreed to this idea if not for the fact that she knew that he was not serious and that other marital problems might follow.

To be fair, this wife’s complaint was not the amount her husband could contribute, but the fact that she felt that he was being financially irresponsible.

In this case, like others I have seen, the wife tried her best not to highlight the discrepancy over their contribution to the family income. She was aware that this might make him feel less adequate as a provider.

She said, as some women have, that “men have their ego”, with reference to the perceived fragility of men’s pride.

This accommodating stance is made more difficult in today’s context where we measure one’s value and degree of influence in terms of one’s pay cheque.

What does a wife do when she earns significantly more than her husband? How is she to submit to her husband where in the corporate setting, other men and women take their lead from her? How should a couple maintain marital harmony in a world where income disparity is a reality?

Here are some suggestions:

Firstly, let us not use money as the only measure of one’s contribution to the marriage and family.

Do we need to put a dollar-value to all that we do? Let love be the currency used in a relationship. Let the worth of one’s relationship be expressed in one’s sacrifice.

Secondly, we need to remind ourselves that the relationship in a marriage is based upon love as the driving force and not on domination and control.

Our actions should therefore be in the same spirit as trying to outdo one another in love and good works (Romans12:10) . Similarly, our objective is not to assert greater

control over each other but to look for opportunities to express our affection and devotion.

Thirdly, money is often used as a form of security. We save for the rainy day and for when times are lean.

Whilst this is a virtue, we should never forget that money in itself offers us no real security to a marriage and families.

Many families fight over inheritance, tearing their family unity asunder. Our real security should lie with our love for one another and our love and obedience to God.