When a Jewish marriage is threatened with the possibility of a break up, there is a good chance that it is due to one of the most common relationship problems — money. Even the Jewish wedding ceremony includes a reference to money in the form of the ring that a Jewish man gives to his Jewish bride. It indicates a mutual sharing of possessions for the common good of the couple (which includes money). However, from that point on, money can cause strife in the relationship.
For many people, money not only represents the ability to buy things, it is a symbol of their value to their partner. Common relationship problems such as disagreeing about how to spend money can be avoided by being aware of what type of person your partner is in regard to finances before you get married. Although being generous to others in the community is one of the tenets of the Jewish faith, if one partner is a spendthrift while the other squirrels away every spare dollar “just in case,” then the relationship is not likely to last very long.
Although it is best to have a joint account through which common bills get paid (such as for mortgage, food, transportation, etc.), having other separate accounts is important also. By each person having their own discretionary money that they can spend as they please, it prevents other common relationship problems such as anger and resentment from building up. The amount each partner is able to put into their own account should be agreed to beforehand; perhaps 20% of each person’s salary, for example. Both of you should sit down and work out your monthly finances to ensure that bills can be met on a regular basis without sinking further into debt each month.
Oftentimes, spending money is a way of trying to fill an unmet emotional need. Rebekah’s husband Chaim was working sometimes 12 or more hours a day in order to bring home more money. Rebekah’s collection of shoes was growing quickly, and was not an inexpensive habit. However, after consulting with their rabbi about their marriage problems, it was revealed that Rebekah was shopping because it made her feel good. She felt lonely with Chaim working so long and was using shopping as a comfort. All the while, Chaim was working long hours so he could provide money for the shopping that made his wife happy. Chaim subsequently reduced his working hours and spent more time with his wife. This made her feel loved enough not to need to shop, and the stress over money vanished.
To keep money from becoming one of your common relationship problems, keep in mind an old Hebrew proverb, which states, “To have money is good; to have control of money is still better.”