If you’re fighting about money in your marriage, what do you wish you had known about your spouse before you exchanged vows?
Would you have gotten out of the relationship had you known your partner was an unrepentant spendthrift and that his or her attitude would cause you great stress in your marriage?
Had you discovered your other half was hiding a great amount of debt, would you still have gotten married?
Those of us who give financial advice often urge couples to take a premarital class to address any potential issues prior to tying the knot.
But for many couples, a premarital class is too late. The engagement ring has been given, the wedding dress ordered and the nonrefundable deposit made on the reception hall. Some couples are already living with each other, perhaps in a home they’ve bought together.
It’s often because of these financial entanglements that people aren’t willing to split up even when there’s late-breaking evidence that their partner might not be the right person for them. They needed earlier intervention.
I’ve long been a fan of a 10-week course at my church for couples who are contemplating marriage. The couples must finish this class before they can even take premarital classes.
It’s a smart concept developed by Skip and Beverly Little, the directors of the couples’ ministry at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Md. To complement the course, the Littles have written “So You Think You Want to Get Married?” ($11.99, Xulon Press). The book is my pick for this month’s Color of Money Book Club. You can buy it at Xulonpress.com, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
“So You Think You Want to Get Married?” is a biblically based premarital class prequel. It’s very conservative in its views. And while it might not appeal to you if you aren’t religious, I nonetheless wanted to highlight the work the Littles do because of their unique concept.
When you are considering getting married, you need to rely on facts, not just feelings, the Littles contend.
“Many troubled marriages began with false expectations and a misunderstanding of marital roles,” they write. “Imagine being on a job without clearly defined roles and responsibilities. You would constantly show poor performance, which is what happens in marriage.”
Numerous surveys indicate that fights about money top the list of concerns for couples. But it’s not the money that’s the root of the arguments. It is the fundamental issues that the couples failed to address or even notice before their wedding.
A study released earlier this year found that 88 percent of adults 25 to 34 who are married or living with a partner said that financial decisions are a constant source of tension in their relationship. And yet, many couples in the survey — which was conducted by the American Institute of CPAs and the Ad Council — said they had never discussed their financial goals or habits.
The focus of “So You Think You Want to Get Married?” is broader than finances, but discovering who your potential mate is financially is vital to a successful marriage.
Throughout the book, the Littles share stories about couples who have gone through their program, such as “Jimmy” and “Susie.” They, like other participants, had to share their credit reports and credit scores with each other.
Turns out, Susie was an excessive spender with a poor credit history. Although Jimmy was aware of her spending habits, he didn’t know she had been criminally prosecuted for writing bad checks.
“Jimmy could not believe he had come so close to getting married without taking a closer look at the implications of Susie’s extreme spending habits,” the Littles write.
Through various exercises and questions, the Littles get people to “explore and evaluate their decision to love for a lifetime.” The Littles also advise couples to get parental guidance in their decision to marry. Don’t think your family dynamics won’t impact your marriage, they write.
Spiritual or secular, we should be encouraging serious couples to really delve deep while they are courting. “In relationships, ‘wearing masks’ causes people to marry individuals they do not really know.”
The underlying theme in “So You Think You Want to Get Married?” is: As you gain insight about your partner, when you find serious issues, you can and should walk away from the relationship if the problems are insurmountable or you are unwilling to live with what you discover. It will save you a lot of heartache and money.
I’ll be hosting a chat about this month’s selection at noon Eastern on July 6 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. The Littles will be my guests and will answer any questions about their book. For more information about their program, check out skipandbeverly.com.
Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.