Marcus and I are about as opposite as two people can be. In 21 years of marriage we've rarely shared the same opinion on, well, just about anything. Most of our differences are minor and just a matter of taste, or the lack thereof, depending on which one of us you're talking to. But one of the biggest stressors is our differing opinions of what constitutes frugality.
Marcus's general belief is that money was made to be saved and not spent. Mine is that if it's on sale we should buy several. I love a good deal so I clip coupons and shop the outlets.
Years of squabbling about money finally culminated one day when I came home from the grocery store. Marcus, who was helping me unload the car, spied a box of name-brand cereal in one of the bags and commented that it must have cost a small fortune. I snapped.
"I had a manufacturer's coupon, plus an in-store double-off coupon," I shrieked. "That cereal only cost $1.50! Why can't you understand that I'm not like you? I enjoy buying a treat every once in awhile! In fact, this cereal was cheaper than a stupid box of oatmeal!"
Then out of utter frustration I threw the offending box at him. I'd never done anything like that before and we were both taken by surprise. But it felt so good that I grabbed the next thing my hand touched and threw that too. Thank goodness it was toilet paper and not a jar of Ragu!
As the box of cereal bounced off my chest I realized I'd probably gone over the line. When the toilet paper flew in my direction I nervously eyed the full bag of groceries in Janet's arms and did what any sensible man would have done; I got the heck out of there.
The words "control freak" have come up in one or two conversations, but I don't see myself as being overbearing or unreasonable. I just have a certain way I like to do things.
I've always wanted what's best for our family. But providing for a family of seven on a single income is a big responsibility. We need to spend every penny wisely. So it frustrates me when Janet makes what I consider to be impulsive purchases. I just think the money could have gone toward something important—like our savings account.
While I know Janet wants what's best for our family as well, I don't always agree with her approach. When she finds out about a sale, for instance, she'll buy things she normally wouldn't purchase because she says it's just too good a bargain to pass up. We still have 3.75 of the 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide she bought at least five years ago because they were only 25 cents each.
But our mounting frustration over finances came to a head when Janet hit me with the box of corn flakes. Finally there was something we agreed on—we needed help.
What Marcus and Janet Did:
While Janet's tantrum didn't make much of a physical impact, it certainly made an emotional one. Not long afterward they went to a marriage counselor. He suggested that they set aside a budget specifically for Janet. It would be generous enough to cover not only food, but extras as well. Marcus agreed that he wouldn't question any of Janet's purchases. She in turn agreed to stay within the budget. It worked.
One major source of their disagreements was now gone. The relief it brought to their relationship gave them the courage to begin tackling other areas of their marriage where their opposing viewpoints were causing contention.
To this day Marcus and Janet still have opposite personalities, but they've changed the way they deal with their differing viewpoints. Their simple compromise led to big changes in their family dynamics. Says Janet, "Once we saw that meeting halfway wasn't going to kill either of us, we became eager to put our newfound strategy to use in other situations."
A new, refreshing pattern emerged. Compliments began to flow more freely as they grew to appreciate each other's unique perspectives. They considered the idea that many of the differences in their personalities weren't actually flaws, but gifts the Holy Spirit gave to them that could serve to both balance and enrich their marriage.
One day while reading her Bible, Janet came across a familiar passage that struck her in a new light: "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly" (Romans 12:4-6, NASB). Maybe she and Marcus were on the same team after all. Despite their differences of opinion on spending, they shared the same objective: providing well for their family.
While Marcus and Janet report that they handle their finances better, they still don't agree on everything. For instance, they can't agree on what color to paint the house.
"But," says Janet, "we did politely agree that we each hate the other's choice. I guess some things will never change!"
If you have a creative solution to a common marriage problem—or know a couple who does—let us know. We pay for each story that's featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to:
Work It Out
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
Read These Next
- Turn Off & Tune InYour TV habits affect your marriage … for better or for worse.
- Waiting for Marriage Is HardTrusting God when I struggle with singleness
Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter