In marriage it’s easy to get a bit off course.  We’ve all had times of tension and stress that can range from being rubbed the wrong way to an all-out battle of the sexes.  Often times money can be the surface issue for these since it touches virtually every area of our lives.  Fortunately, early on my wife Amy and I stumbled upon a secret weapon that helped avoid or minimize some of these conflicts, something that is easy to start implementing today.

The Background

Amy and I first met as volunteer Young Life leaders in college.  We served at the same high school as a part of a team of ten or so college volunteers.  There were lots of events and happenings, and a lot of schedules to coordinate, so part of our weekly rhythm was to have a team meeting.  This gave us time to go over upcoming events, plan the week ahead, coordinate our schedules, and also just enjoy each other’s fellowship.  These team meetings were a short but vital time to our ministry (as well as time that I could spend with Amy each week convincing her that I would be quite the catch!).

When we got married, we were still serving with Young Life and leading a team of college kids in Rock Hill, SC.  We were still doing these team meetings for the same reasons, and Amy looked at me one day and said, “You know, it would probably be a good idea for the two of us to have our own ‘team meeting’ for life each week.”  Wishing that it had been my idea, I agreed, and we started setting aside 30 minutes each Sunday afternoon to have our team meetings.

Team Meetings

Most parts of our new “team meetings” were exactly the same as from Young Life: we went over upcoming events, planned the week ahead, coordinated our schedules, and just had some time to connect.

We also added a few other components.  We started talking about our goals for our family, had some time to talk about how we were doing as a couple, and checked in on our finances.  This last one allowed us space if there was a major purchase we wanted to make (don’t laugh, but back then “major” was anything over $20!) and to look at our budget and see if we were overspending.

Amy and I are both savers and detailed people, and I recognize that the budgeting and finance part might feel like pulling teeth to some spouses.  If that’s the case, I recommend that you adapt the meeting to whatever will be lifegiving to both parties.  The key is that you anticipate things that will cause tension and stress if left unchecked and un-talked about, and spend a few minutes talking about them.  It’s also important that the more non-financial spouse has some space to voice his/her opinions and desires and for the more financial-oriented spouse to listen and affirm.

We rarely got to all of the areas every week, and would usually pick a few of the areas that needed some attention.  In the beginning, we just started with our calendars and budget and added and adapted parts over time.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional.

To us, that was the key in reducing much of our money conflicts. Not that we didn’t have any, but it tended to make the full-scale wars turn into just irritations, and it let many irritations dissolve completely.  Not only did it prevent the negative emotions, but it really did allow us to feel like a team who had a common goal and purpose.  I’m not kidding when I say this was the best thing we did as a newly married couple.

This of course has gotten trickier with four small kids.  We can’t just tell them to all be calm and leave Mommy and Daddy alone for 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon.  So our team meetings have gotten less frequent, have to be a bit briefer, or we have to sometimes do them on the fly like when we’re on a car trip as a family.  How you do this isn’t as important as that you do it.

An Action Plan

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated with your spouse, or just need a spark of intentionality or creativity, I recommend that you:

Propose a team meeting.  This can be the hardest part.  It’s got to be something you will both look forward to and not dread.  Don’t think this is something that will fix your spouse, because we both know that’s not going to happen.  Instead propose a time that will be consistent, light and fun.

Find a time that works.  This might be early in the morning, Sunday afternoon, or in the evening over a beverage. You know what will be the easiest to be consistent and not distracted.

Pray.  Invite the Holy Spirit into your marriage and conversation, and ask His help in growing your relationship.

Plan.  If you don’t have any goals as a family, I would start here and think through the things you want to be about in the short- and long-term.  This will give you direction for both your calendar and your finances.

Check-in on your marriage.  Here are some great questions/topics:

  • What can I be doing better as a husband/wife?
  • One thing you did great this past week was ________
  • I’m sorry that I ______________

Whether you’ve been married for 30 days or 30 years, you will find the benefits to be tremendous.  Team meetings aren’t a silver bullet for any conflict, and they can actually cause some conflict to surface.  Often times it’s easier to just sweep things under the rug than dealing with them head on, but that’s when irritations tend to turn into bigger battles.  So expect to have to deal with some things you wouldn’t otherwise.  In doing so, you get a chance to love and to be loved, to press into one another, have your sin exposed, and offer one another the grace that has been given us by the Lord Jesus himself.