How can my wife and I stop fighting about money? — Focus on the Family

A fortnightly column in which Graeme Schnell CEO of Focus on the Family Africa answers questions from the public

Q: My wife and I fight about money all the time. We both hate the conflict, but we feel stuck in this pattern – especially since there never seems to be enough cash in the bank. What do you suggest? 

Graeme: Conflict over finances can be hard on a marriage. In fact, research shows couples who argue about money are twice as likely to divorce as those who don’t. So. above all, you’ll want to emphasise the health of your relationship over the details of accounting. Once you’re on the same team, it’s easier to implement a couple of practical solutions.

The first step is deciding to live within your means. More than likely, you’ll have to take a closer look at the cost of your lifestyle. Most couples struggling with debt have no clear idea how much they spend each month on groceries, car payments, and entertainment. Without a willingness to live on what you earn, it’s not a matter of if, but when, your finances will crash.

The second important step is to establish a budget. There are many resources available to walk you through the nuts and bolts of doing that. But, for now, understand that a plan is a crucial tool to help you live within your means and to make saving for a rainy day possible.

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Why? Because budgets force you to prioritise your spending habits. It’ll probably mean less of “this” and no more of “that” – which, admittedly, are tough decisions and key reasons many folks avoid budgets altogether. But remember the goal: getting your money under control together, so you can reduce the conflict threatening your relationship. If you feel like you need more guidance in this matter, you can start with our trained staff counselors by calling (+27 31 716 3300).

Q: Should we be concerned about a child who doesn’t like to take risks? For example, our eight-year-old consistently avoids scary roller coasters. My husband thinks he should be pushed harder and forced to face his fears. I feel we should give him time to develop confidence at his own pace. What’s your perspective?

My first suggestion is that you and your husband try to come to a mutually-agreeable consensus. In general – and as my wife, Alison, and I can attest – dads often tend to be more adventurous, while moms are naturally protective. I think there’s an equitable balance to be found.

In that context, we as parents do well to remember that every child has a unique personality. Some kids are simply biologically wired to be more cautious and careful. This isn’t necessarily a sign of cowardice or timidity. In some cases it may actually be a mark of prudence and maturity beyond a child’s years. (Birth order can affect a child’s temperament as well).

It’s also important to consider a child’s age and level of development. There are a lot of primary school kids who don’t enjoy riding on a gigantic “death-drop” roller coaster. The same thing can probably be said of many adults – to a certain extent this is just a matter of personal taste and preference. Your son is still a child, and therefore he thinks and behaves as a child.

Along those lines, keep in mind that your son still has his entire life ahead of him. The process of growing up may involve all kinds of changes in his temperament. It’s entirely possible for a cautious kid to turn into a thrill-seeking teenager. So my best advice for both of you, as parents, is simply to unconditionally love and support your son as he develops into the person he was created to be.

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