National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Financial Unity

Family Matters

BY Phil Lenahan

March 14-27, 2010 Issue | Posted 3/8/10 at 10:00 AM


My spouse and I often disagree on finances. How can we get on the same page regarding money matters?

It’s unfortunate when spouses don’t operate as a team when it comes to finances. This takes many forms, including lack of communication, failure to agree on priorities, and selfish or immature attitudes and behaviors. When these shortcomings are pronounced, marriages fall short of what the sacrament is meant to be.

Statistics tells us that money plays a big part in the failure of marriages. A majority of spouses in divorce situations will point to money issues as a primary cause of the breakup. It’s one thing to overcome these issues when both spouses recognize the problem and are willing to change attitudes and behavior. But what do you do when you want to change and your spouse doesn’t?

Obviously, it’s less than ideal, but you still have a responsibility to fulfill your role as a steward of Providence as best you can, given the circumstances.

First, never give up on achieving the unity the Lord wants in marriage, which the Catechism describes eloquently: The “grace proper to the sacrament of matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children’” (No. 1641). While none of us lives out this unity perfectly, it must remain the ideal we aim for, even when our spouse isn’t on the same page. Continue to pray for your spouse and your marriage, and remember that there is always hope.

At the same time, don’t assume things will be all right when you know you are violating basic money-management principles. Success with money comes as a result of making good decisions over a long period of time.

A key to making progress is to minimize the harm done, while maximizing the possibilities for success. If your spouse won’t cooperate with you in creating a plan, then you’ll need to develop the plan on your own. You will want to do your best to communicate the plan and its benefits to your spouse.

When it comes to spending, consider creative ways that will help you keep track. Use cash for discretionary spending. Or use prepaid cash cards as an alternative. The fees are a drawback, but they may make sense if it leads to better control over spending.

Of course, there are situations when more serious actions are required. Finally, remember that you aren’t alone. Seek out good spiritual direction, and look into how groups like Retrouvaille can help your marriage better reflect the sacrament God calls it to be.

God love you!

Phil Lenahan is president of

Veritas Financial Ministries (

and author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Small Group Study (OSV).