Monday, December 5, 2011

What Lies Beneath

The New York Times reported that there is a direct correlation between the frequency of disputes over money and divorce rate. A study conducted by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that "couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month."

Fights over the same issue will continue to resurface until the missing clue is discovered. Picture a murder scene enclosed with a hem of yellow crime tape. A husband and wife will continue to chase each other around the perimeter of what they have defined as "safe territory." Crossing the crime scene tape means facing the gory bloodstains of offense and boundaries closely guarded by fears. However, it is necessary to scrutinize the outline of our deadened hearts in order to solve the mystery. Divorce statistics show that about 80 percent of all marriages end because of "irreconcilable differences." In other words, 80 percent of marriages end as an "unsolved mystery." Mark 10:8 says,"'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh." Has our society grown so desensitized that we no longer feel nauseous at the sight of a dead body? A marriage that ends in divorce is nothing short of a tragedy.

One of my favorite quotes is by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Arguments over dollar signs and decimal points are only isolated pixels of a photograph. The photograph will give us clear picture of what we do not want to face. Care to cross the crime tape?

Almost every fight can be traced back to an unmet need, especially reoccurring ones. A woman's number one need is security. A man's number one need is respect. Although a wide variety of fights can stem from the money topic, the needs can almost always be traced back to these basic gender needs. Another variable to look at is what money represents to each spouse. Let's look at a few cases.

Case #1- Rachel goes on secret shopping trips. She hides receipts from her husband, and has been taking out new credit cards to transfer balances of the old ones. Her husband, Tim, ran a credit report and discovered her secret. He screamed at her and said many things he now regrets. They apologized and made promises, but the same thing happened six months down the road. Tim has filed for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #1- Rachel equates material possessions with security. She is feeling neglected and struggles with feelings of insecurity. Too afraid and ashamed to approach her husband, she rides the emotional waves of retail therapy until the euphoric high dies down and the bills pile up. She feels guilty about the bills, but is too afraid to be honest because of Tim's reaction, so shops even more to numb the pain. Tim feels that he can't trust his wife, and feels disrespected. He masks these feelings with anger and verbal abuse.

Case #2 Jeff has lost his job due to a recent downsizing at his construction company. He has put in his application at several companies, but after no response, has began to lose hope. Andrea is a successful dentist and is supporting both of them. She asks Jeff every day if he has found a job yet. When she sees him on the couch at home when she gets off work, she rolls her eyes. Jeff starts drinking more heavily and feels like a failure. After five years of marriage, and countless arguments about finances, Andrea files for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #2- Andrea is the daughter of a single mother who taught her to be fiercely independent. She will not return any of her biological father's phone calls. After all, he was an alcholic who abandoned her mother and her. Jeff, who had unresolved wounds from a father who never accepted him, was attracted like a magnet to Andrea, who had it all together. Andrea found her security through her financial success, and looked down at Jeff, who always seemed to be in between jobs. Behind the walls of Andrea's success was a mush of vulnerability. She longed for Jeff to be the leader, and to reassure her that love was all they needed. Jeff could not seem to find the right fit for his talents and abilities, and felt like he never would every time Andrea belittled him. Jeff saw himself as nothing because he made less money than Andrea, and even if he one day did, he would never have her respect. The judgment that Andrea sowed by never forgiving her father is now being "reaped" by the creation of a similar situation.

Case #3 Doug's parents are multi-millionaires. Doug has inherited the family business when he was twenty-five. He has successfully grown the business, and has bought a large house and drives a luxury car. At thirty-five, He marries Olivia, a gorgeous twenty-two year old. Doug wined and dined Olivia when they dated, but now that they are married, he gives Olivia small allowances each week. He has numerous secret investments and bank accounts. Olivia feels frustrated by the control and has regular emotional outbursts. After two years of marriage, they call it quits.

Behind the crime tape of case #3 Doug equates his identity with the number in his bank account. He does not view marriage as a covenant, but a contract in which the other party cannot be trusted. Olivia has emotional outburst because she does not feel secure enough to confront Doug or to get help. Her sugar-coated expectations of a fairy-tale marriage melted.

Money can take the form of a magnifying glass of what is already in a person's heart. Financial unity is important in a marriage, but oftentimes the prerequisite to dealing with the financial problems is tapping into the basic gender needs. As a husband feels the respect of his wife, he will snip the crime tape and let his wife into the more vulnerable parts of his heart. Likewise, as the husband builds security in his wife through openness and reassurance, the chronic nagging that often sparks arguments will dissipate. Invite the Holy Spirit to search the areas of your heart that are closed off so that your marriage does not become an unsolved mystery.


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