Most of us have strong feelings about money. Those feelings are actually based on our unique money personalities—the way we're wired, the influences of our parents, and/or our past experiences with money or employment. And those personalities play a significant role in marriage.
Some people hoard money, while others are carelessly generous. Some are responsible about financial tasks, others avoid them. Some invest conservatively, others take great risks, still others are afraid to deal with money at all. These deeply ingrained feelings and behaviors can make it hard to be rational about money, which can cause a strain on a marriage.
For example, take Bryan and Teri Smith. They're facing a serious marital crisis, in great part because of a clash of different money personalities. Their deepest needs, masked by money issues, continue to collide and paralyze each other from making progress into a healthier, happier marriage.
Bryan likes to feel significant. He excels in his work and wants to show off his success. Bryan and Teri live in a beautiful house in an exclusive part of town and drive a luxury vehicle. What most people don't know is that Bryan rents their home for an exorbitant amount and leases his car. But to Bryan, the costs are worth it. He's able to have the lifestyle he wants and not feel deprived.
Teri, on the other hand, appreciates the luxury, but has a stronger need for security. She'd prefer to own a home, but they'd have to move to a more affordable neighborhood, and she doesn't want to uproot their children from the local school. So they continue to live a flashy lifestyle—with no savings for the future, which creates anxiety and stress for her.
Marital conflicts arise not because of money itself, but because of a couple's differing emotions about money. The Bible supports this: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Behavioral psychologists agree that the two most basic human needs, beyond food and shelter, are for security and significance. These differences, although basically non-economic in nature, tend to work themselves out in economic terms.
One partner's need for significance drives him to "acquire," often by debt, thus threatening the other partner's high need for security. Such is the case with Bryan and Teri.