This week's subject is more for engaged and newly married couples, but it has information that is good to have at any stage in your marriage. We will be discussing in-law relationships and money matters. Both of these things can be sources of great marital conflict if not addressed early.
In a marriage, husband and wife are to look to one another for comfort and total support. Spencer W. Kimball, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that couples are to confide in and counsel together. Also, "if possible, they should establish their own household, separate from their parents. . . . Any counsel from outside sources should be prayerfully considered by both spouses together" (Harper & Olsen, 2005 p. 328). Of course, this does not mean the abandonment of parents needs to occur, but there are new boundaries that need to be set in order for healthy relationships to be built between the couple and their in-laws.
Here are some suggestions for how a couple can be independent of parents while having good relationships with their in-laws:
- Separate from the families in which you both grew up. You do not have to go far, but try to live independently from parents.
- Create your own marital identity.
- Create a healthy boundary where you share "information and
- If either of you has close relationships with your parents, make it a point that your spouse must now come first and make sure that you share more with your spouse than with your parents. A suggestion I have is to make a rule for yourself that you will not contact your parents more often than you get to contact your spouse unless there is an emergency (i.e. someone is dying). Once or twice a week should be sufficient.
- Make sure your spouse feels secure with you, which will help
- Understand that calling your in-laws "mom" and "dad" can help build a stronger, more secure relationship with them (p. 331). This is not an act of disloyalty to your own parents, nor is it about you giving up your power to your in-laws in any way. It is about building a healthy extended family structure for you and your children.
"[Your spouse] occupies the first place. [He/she] is preeminent, even above the parents who are so dear to all of us. Even the children must take their proper, but significant place." -Spencer W. Kimball
Some suggestions for in-laws to help your child form a healthy attachment to their spouse while keeping your relationship with your child and their spouse healthy:
- Recognize that you must help your child and their spouse to define and protect their marital boundary (p. 328).
- Do not use your child as a mediator between you and their spouse. It can cause feelings of resentment to build in every party involved (p. 328).
- Allow the couple to adjust to one another and become independent from you (p. 328).
- Listen and do not impose your opinions or feelings on matters that concern your child's marriage (p. 329).
- Treat your child with respect and love (p. 329).
- Warning: "Demands, expectations, manipulations, ultimatums, threats, and emotional blackmailing tend to destroy relationships" (p. 330).
- "Encourage [your] children to discuss matters with their spouses" (p. 330).
- Accept the differences of your child's spouse. They were raised
- Do not try to compete with your child's new in-laws for
- Do not give unsolicited advice, criticize, blame son-in-law or daughter-in-law for why your child and his family are missing a family event, take over the disciplining of grandchildren, try to control "everyone and everything including children's beliefs", or make unclear or indirect communications (p.332).
"Wise parents, whose children have left to start their own families, realize their family role still continues, not in a realm of domination, control, regulation, supervision, or imposition, but in love, concern, and encouragement" (Harper & Olsen, 2005, p. 327).
Problems with managing money are one of the leading causes of divorce. The differences in personalities in couples and rules about how money ought to be used can be a perpetual problem that can easily turn into a gridlock issue. If you remember from a previous post, gridlock is a perpetual problem that both individuals in the marriage have strong opinions about due to life dreams and/or ambitions. If gridlock is not overcome, resentments can build to the point where each spouse feels they are being disrespected and will turn away from one another.
When it comes to money, people tend to have a money personality. Some people believe that it might be associated with birth order:
- 1st born/the controller: Loves to save, makes out a budget, and makes sure everyone adheres to it.
- 2nd born/ the saboteur: Experiences stress if unable to satisfy material wants vs. needs. Hates being controlled. Often sabotages the controller's budget plans because they do not like to feel restricted.
- Middle born/the sensitive spender: Tends to go along with whatever budget is established. Sensitive to fairness and is considerate of everyone's needs. Assumes responsibility for management tasks.
- Last born/the impulse buyer: Cannot distinguish between needs and wants. Avoids responsibility for debts.
My experience has shown me that birth order affecting your views of money is certainly not true all of the time. It is more likely that it is a combination of life experience and personality type. For instance, some people are more generous than others simply because it is a part of their personality, not because they were a middle child.
Even with having a money personality trait as presented above, there are things you can do to make sure that these traits do not hurt your family's finances. When you come together to discuss money matters, follow these rules laid out by Dr. Bernard E. Puduska, author of Til Debt Do Us Part:
Be aware that each of us has . . . values, standards, and goals that tend to influence the way we want [to spend money].
Accept that each of us comes to marriage with a unique set of financial rules.
Appreciate the severe stress placed on individuals and families when family financial rules are broken.
Understand that it is possible for families and family members to modify their financial management procedures.
Assess the financial management patterns of your family of origin,and determine which of these you wish to perpetuate or discard.
Develop a family plan designed to alter existing, dysfunctional financial patterns and establish functional financial management techniques.
Learn as a family how to effectively plan, control, and evaluate the management of financial resources.
Something else that will help is to try to adopt these financial health characteristics:
- Self-reliance: try to be your own banker, if possible, and learn how to set aside money for big purchases rather than using credit (which causes you to pay more money in the long-run due to interest rates).
- Accurate perception of reality: appreciate the need to live within your means and to have money set aside for any financial setbacks.
- Flexibility: when you live within your means and do not have debt, you are able to be more flexible with your funds.
- Problem-centeredness: ability to discern between the things they can do something about and the things they can do nothing about.
- Active appreciation: does not feel the need to have "the latest and greatest" of anything out there. Instead, you appreciate and take care of the things you have and also make purchases according to an item's function, its aesthetics (visually appealing), and how long they will last.
- A strong sense of ethics: being honest with yourself about all of your financial dealings.
- A strong sense of self: understanding yourself so you can avoid what might tempt you to waste money such as fads, status symbols, or feeling the need to compete with others.
- Imagination: being creative with your spending or increasing income will allow you to better cope with changing economies.
- Appreciation of emotional costs: "If I buy this, will it hurt or take something important away from my family?"
- Charity: understanding that money does not come out of thin air and that not everyone has equal access to it; you feel the desire to be of service to others in need.
Resources you can use to help you plan your finances better can be found by talking to financial planners (ask around for honest and effective ones), talking to someone you trust about taking care of your financial security, or seeking out information on financial planning. A couple of books I can recommend are Till Debt Do Us Part by Dr. Bernard E. Poduska and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Both of these resources are good to get you started on planning your finances together so they become an asset to you, rather than a burden. Lastly, try to incorporate weekly or monthly meetings to go over money matters together. Good luck!
Harper, J. M. & Olsen, S. F. (2005). "Creating Healthy Ties With In-Laws and Extended Families." In C. H. Hart, L.D. Newell, E. Walton, & D.C. Dollahite (Eds.), Helping and healing our families: Principles and practices inspired by "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (pp. 327-334). Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.
Poduska, B. (2000). Till Debt do us Part, (Chapter 2). Salt Lake City, Utah: Shadow Mountain.