We were a few years into marriage, but we weren’t living the life we dreamed of. Instead of experiencing the time of our lives in a thriving marriage, our relationship was crumbling. We were both working tirelessly in full-time jobs, living paycheck-to-paycheck, drowning in debt. Worst of all, we were feeling more like roommates than husband and wife.

I struggled with pride and anger, although I didn’t see it so clearly in the midst of it. Pride has a way of hiding in plain sight. I often compared our circumstances and what we didn’t have—like a large home and goods that filled it—to other couples we knew.

Blaming my husband

I believed the lie that we were less than others because we had less than others. And I blamed my husband for it.

I saw the debt in our marriage as his responsibility, since he is the one who went to college and accrued it. With a heart of bitterness and anger brewing, I told him the debt was his problem, and he needed to handle it.

Selfishly, I didn’t want to work hard to only hand my paycheck over to cover his debt. I desired to spend my money my way. This disunity became a source of contention and discontentment in our marriage.

Meanwhile, the burden of debt remained.

Sex and money

In those early years of our marriage, my husband and I could not have sex because it was too painful for me. We did all we could to help fix this issue. But our lack of intimacy affected us greatly, amplifying the tension we faced even in our finances.

After many difficult conversations where we both shared how this debt was affecting us, we did agree on one thing: God’s Word. There was no way to argue with God’s heart and perspective toward money and debt.

I was convicted by scriptures.  Proverbs 22:7, “The borrower is the slave of the lender.” Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I began to recognize that my heart was treasuring the wrong thing. My marriage was more important than anything money could ever buy. I also began to understand that this debt issue could be a unifying experience, if I let it.

I had to shift from a “his problem” perspective to an “our problem” perspective. This was a lesson for me to embrace oneness in marriage, to make choices that benefited both of us and not just myself. This required me to actively walk in humility.

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Three lessons

Through this season of our marriage, I learned three things about money and debt:

1.  We must be on the same page and working together about money to be debt free. In order to operate as one and to tackle this mountain of a problem, we had to be willing to see it as ours.

2.  We had to live with a debt-free mindset. Having a mindset of living without debt becomes a pillar in the marriage foundation. We agreed to avoid debt at all cost. As you can imagine this required us to intentionally communicate about life goals and spending, making a budget and sticking to it. This mindset doesn’t just disappear after getting free from debt. It is a way of living out the rest of our marriage!

3.  We needed to practice generosity. We needed to be generous to each other and to others. Being generous, especially with money, is a way to keep one’s heart far from the love of money. We learned that being open-handed with what we had, and giving to others when the opportunity and need presented itself, made us more grateful for what we had.

Wanting to be debt free

We did not want to be slaves to debt. On the contrary, we wanted to be free for the purpose of being even more available for God to use our marriage and our finances.

As I was encouraged by God’s Word and shifted my heart to assume my husband’s debt as ours, we tackled it together. A marriage after God is no slave to debt! During this time, we rebuilt our financial foundation in our marriage.

For two years, we worked together to relearn how to manage money as a team. Finally, we celebrated being debt-free. The reward of being debt-free and having built a strong foundation in our marriage continues to bless us a decade later.

We are still debt-free! We:

  • have money saved
  • communicate about our money without tension
  • give when the Lord shows us to
  • have a beautiful home.

We also have four young children who are reaping the benefits of the work we put into being debt-free. Part of our legacy is teaching them how to live this way too.

We strongly believe having a healthy, biblical view of finances and being willing to embrace God’s perspective on debt and money is a significant part of pursuing a marriage after God. Our new book, Marriage After God, includes our whole journey of how we built a strong financial foundation.

We wish we learned these important values sooner in our marriage. But when we did learn and apply them, the Lord took this contentious part of our marriage and transformed it. Don’t let money be  a source of division in your marriage. Instead, let it be a reason that unites you too.

Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Smith. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Smith and husband Aaron share personal stories of failure and victory in Christ through their books, blogs, and online ministries. They’ve been married for 12 years and have 4 children. Check out their latest Marriage After God site. Find them on social media @MarriageAfterGod @HusbandRevolution and @Unveiledwife.