Brian and Cherie Lowe describe how the handling of finances impacts marital intimacy, and offer helpful insights on achieving success in both areas in a discussion based on their book Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance and Their Intimate Connection. (Part 2 of 2)
Brian Lowe: A budget is a promise, and if you break a promise, even as small as a budget, it can break trust. And if you can’t trust each other with a bank book, how are you gonna trust each other in the bedroom? And that’s a bit of a problem.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Brian Lowe, and you’ll hear more from him and his wife Cherie today on Focus on the Family about strengthening your communication and your finances and your romance in marriage. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, last time we started a great discussion on the link between finances and romance in marriage. Now, some of you are going, “What? Where’s the empirical data for that?” Well, we talked about it last time, so if you missed it, go get that download...
John: Download or CD.
Jim: Uh, you can get it for your smartphone as well, the app. Researchers have determined that 70 percent of couples fight more about money than household chores, togetherness, intimacy, snoring - I can imagine that one - do you guys fight about snoring, John?
John: No. Just every now and then, there’s a gentle, “Boy, you were really snoring over there.”
Jim: You were really sawin’ last night, huh?
Jim: But they go on to say that if you fight about money more than once per week, your odds of getting a divorce go up 30 percent. That’s amazing. So this topic, uh, is right at the core of many divorces and many, uh, conflicts in marriage. That’s why we want to hit it today. And there is a linkage to your romance, um, which is an important part of your marriage. So there is linkage. We did cover that last time. We’re gonna continue that discussion today.
John: And the Lowes write and speak about the topic of finances. And Cherie and Brian have a book called. And we’ll have that, along with all sorts of other great resources, at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Cherie is a blogger and known as the Queen of Free. We’ll link over to her blog. Brian’s an attorney. And, uh, together, they have two daughters and live in Indiana.
Jim: Welcome back.
Cherie Lowe: Thank you so much. We’re glad to be here.
Jim: It was a really good discussion. It was fun. And, uh, we covered a lot of territory. I wanna start today by having you recap something we talked about last time, and it’s that idea of - of financial foreplay. And what does that mean? People are going, “Uh-oh, that word!”
But listen, folks, uh, the world has taken these things over. God intended ‘em for good. So let’s go into this with that kind of attitude.
John: And then recognizing that small children may...
Jim: That’s always good.
John: ...Be best elsewhere.
Jim: Uh, but what is that linkage?
Brian: Well, again, last time - uh, last time we were on the program, I - I did some reader’s theater. And if, uh, I could indulge, and we’ll just start with the definition and the - and the base again, you know, the idea that, um, it simply means husbands and wives investing in smart financial habits and relational capital to clear the way for spicy sex and meaningful togetherness. That’s part of the definition. We went into it. You can listen to the - uh, last time’s program for the full definition. But it’s this idea of anticipation, you know, that when you engage in healthy financial habits, you send a message to your spouse. And the idea is that I’m - I’m keeping to my vows. I’m keeping to my promises, and I’m making sacrifices because you matter to me a lot. And...
Jim: Well, in every way.
Brian: And in every way, even with money. And that builds trust in a relationship. And it also creates margin. It creates space. If you’re not constantly dealing with money fights and money problems, then you have more space and more time for romance. And that really helps.
Cherie: And we chose to pack the book with some practical tools for you to help foster that type of relationship with one another. And, in fact, every chapter concludes with some discussion questions that you could tackle as a married couple or in a small group and some action steps too. And so we have some ideas in there for how you can foster financial foreplay in your relationship.
Jim: And that is great. Um, you draw a distinction between conflict and combat in communication. I like that. What’s the difference? A lot of people wouldn’t think there’s any difference.
Cherie: Right. And actually, that is a - a quote that I got here from listening to Focus on the Family...
Cherie: ...Because I am a listener too. And I actually was listening to the podcast and heard, um, author Dr. Greg Smalley on air. And he said, “In marriage, conflict is not the problem. Combat is the problem.” And we like to think of it in this way, that conflict brings growth, but combat brings casualties.
Jim: That is well said. We’ll have to let Greg know that was good.
John: Yeah, shout out to him.
Cherie: I know.
Jim: Uh, the problem with getting on the same page, which we’ve talked about, is that it means honest communication. And sometimes that - that’s hard for us. What does it sound like to have honest communication between the two of you?
Brian: Well I think one of the steps - I mean, that’s the question that we get the most - right? Uh, is when we speak anywhere, is, “How do I get my spouse on the same page with money?” And as an attorney, I always listen carefully to the words being used. And a lot of times it is, “How do I get my spouse on the same page as me?”
Jim: On my page.
Brian: Uh, on my page. And - and so my - my question - I just kind of slipped it in the book - was, “What makes your page so great?” And so...
Jim: ‘Cause it’s my page.
Brian: Because it’s my page - it’s mine. I love it. Uh, and - and so the first thing to do is to recognize, you know, let’s - let’s scrap everything that - that we think we know and really have a discussion and - and stop what we’re doing and listen to the other spouse, where they’re coming from and why they do things with money the way that they do things about money, and determine what our values, our needs and our dreams are. And I - and I think if you start there, and - and as a - as followers of Christ, you know, we start with that as our primary value. And everything else stems from there. And does it line up? Well, is it a need? You know, do we have food, water, shelter? Uh, is - whatever it is that we’re talking about with money, is this a need-based issue? And then, with the steps that we take with our finances, does it lead us to a dream that we’ve mutually agreed upon? And if not, then - then maybe we need to step back. But first, you really need to establish what those things are. What are our values? What are our needs? Where are our dreams, and how can we get there together?
Jim: So the nitty-gritty of it, though - I mean, let’s get down to the - kind of the brass text. So you two are going through your budget. And you want X for entertainment, and you want a different number, a different page, just on any budget category you can think of. How do you guys negotiate that in a way that you’re explaining it kind of the higher spiritual level, but once you acknowledge God in your life and you know, all the right things, how do you actually come up with a number?
Cherie: It - it’s messy sometimes, right?
Brian: It is messy.
Cherie: And I - again, with the practical resources and the practical ideas that we suggest at the end of the chapter, we actually talk about putting a page together. And sometimes that looks like a budget, or sometimes that looks like writing down what some of your financial dreams are and standing on that together. So you can be on a shared page instead of my page, your page.
Jim: I would also think that when you do invite God into it, you’ll have more nimbleness, a little more subtleness to your rigidity. I would hope.
Cherie: I think...
Jim: I think that’s what God does to our lives.
Cherie: Definitely, and viewing each other as children of God. And I - having kids of my own, I know how I feel when someone treats one of my children poorly. And so viewing Brian as a son of God and looking at him - and if I treat him poorly, maybe that - that might not, you know, be the best thing, that God would not view that behavior in a loving way. And so we’re always looking at each other as being children, you know, sons and daughters of God.
Jim: Yeah. Let me drive you back to your $187,000-worth of debt. Was that the number?
Jim: Okay. 120. Okay.
Brian: Maybe with inflation.
Jim: Maybe with inflation there. But, you know, the - again, the nitty-gritty there, it’s wonderful in four years, you were able to dig out of that. But the - the - perhaps the question of questions is, how was your romance during that time, when you were trying to get out of that, and you were really negotiating, uh, probably pretty hard between some of these budget lines that you had? How did that linkage between the budget and your romantic life happen in your own marriage?
Cherie: I think it was actually so much stronger and more beautiful than we’d ever experienced prior to that. And I think it’s because that we have this very commercial idea about what romance looks like. And so maybe we equate it with this very fancy date night, or we think that romance looks like vacations together or romantic getaways. But really, as we were paying off debt, we learned to enjoy simple things together. And so romance looked like putting our kids to bed every night at the same time so that we could spend a couple hours together with the TV off, talking - sometimes about financial things, but a lot of times just about life.
Jim: But intimacy, emotional intimacy.
Cherie: Yeah. Because we were not distracted by wanting that next, new best thing all the time.
Jim: Now, one of the things that didn’t fit for me - because we really promote date nights, you know, couples once a week finding that time to go out. You kind of threw that under the - under the rug. I mean, you didn’t do a date night. Uh, why was that successful in your case?
Cherie: Well, you know, I think it was one of those things that we heard quite a bit on a regular basis. “You have to have this. To have a healthy marriage, you have to have a date night.” And maybe it’s not that we’re ditching the idea of spending quality time together, but the idea that we have to link that to spending money. And so you can have a date night without leaving your home. And so you can have a date night where maybe you just go to the Dollar Tree, and you spend a dollar apiece on each other, or you go on a walk outside.
Jim: Or hang out in your living room after the kids go to bed. That’s what you’re saying.
Cherie: Right, exactly. So date night doesn’t have to look like what we think traditionally - movies, which - where we don’t really even talk to each other, we just sit in the dark, or pricey food or anything like that.
Jim: Yeah. And that’s good to remember. Even though we promote it, we often, uh, use that definition to include you don’t have to spend money. I mean, just go for a walk. Just spend time together, whatever mechanism you need to create the intimacy, the emotional intimacy that a date night represents. That’s what you’re aiming for.
Jim: Uh, let’s move on to something you called F-O-M-O, FOMO. Uh, which is the feeling of?
Cherie: Missing out.
Jim: Missing out.
Cherie: Yeah. This is a...
Jim: The FOMO effect. So what is it?
Cherie: Well, I think this is a term that’s gotten tossed around in recent years when it comes to social media especially, that we’re afraid, when we see someone online having a better time than we are, that we’re missing out on something.
Jim: So that’s the Pinterest thing. Look at that.
Cherie: It can be, yes.
Jim: That birthday is so nice.
Cherie: Like, it looks perfect. It looks beautiful. That home, you know, maybe it’s home decor, or it’s renovations, or it’s vacations. It always seems like when I open a social media feed, that someone else is on a really awesome vacation. And I’m at home, you know, in my running shorts and a stained T-shirt...
...Feeling like maybe my life is not so exciting. But we wanted to turn that idea on its head. And one of the chapters focuses on moving your marriage, your relationship from the fear of missing out to the love of showing up and the idea that God has called you for a purpose in your relationship with one another and that He has brought you together for that purpose. And so rather than constantly looking out and wondering about what it is that we’re missing in life. Live right where we’re at, right where God has called us to be and to enjoy what Jesus called an abundant life.
Jim: Yeah. In the first part of your marriage, you had an encounter story about going on - I think it was the Atkins diet or something like that.
And this was the missing out part. But what happened?
Brian: Well, I confused my degree in political science for a degree in actual science.
And I thought that - again, when you’re young, you know everything. And I picked up a book about eliminating sugar from your diet or limiting all sugar from your diet. That seemed like a grand idea. And this was right before Atkins caught on and pizza buffets were vexed everywhere. But right before that, we read this book. And we’re going to do this. You know, we’re going to be young. We’re going to be healthy. And so it was right before the beginning of a year. And we set out to go without sugar. And not only did we do this. But we burn the ships, if you will. We gave all of our flour, all of our sugar, every carbohydrate-laden treat to the neighbors downstairs in our apartment complex.
Jim: Let them die.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. You know, because we were - you know, we explained that we were being healthy. And obviously, they were not because we were also humble.
Cherie: And gracious.
Brian: And gracious - we’re gracious and humble.
Jim: Here’s our Twinkies.
Brian: Yeah. Take our Twinkies because we’re better than you. And so that didn’t last long. You know, we had received a George Foreman grill for Christmas. And I don’t know if it was the undercooked chicken on the George Foreman grill or the single blueberry covered in low-carb whipped topping that I ate. But boy, we were sick.
I mean, we didn’t last 24 hours. It was contemplate-the-ER sort of sick. It was - yeah. I don’t even know that we can give a...
Jim: My money’s on the undercooked chicken.
Cherie: I think so.
Brian: You know, maybe, maybe that was probably it. But it didn’t last. And, you know, we had all these high hopes and high expectations that we were gonna do something huge and make a really big difference in our bodies and our lives. And, you know, we didn’t think it through. In some...
John: Not that that’s a bad goal.
Brian: Not that that’s a bad goal - but it was the means that we used to get there. That was the problem. And we ended up sick and upset with each other. And not only that - but you know, we didn’t have much money at the time. So then we had to go buy all new groceries, you know, because we gave them all away.
Jim: Replenish the Twinkies.
Brian: Yeah. We had to...
Cherie: Maybe not Twinkies but at least some bread.
Brian: It was still the bread. And sometimes we - you know, sometimes we do that in our marriages where we just sort of take too hard of a 180-degree turn. And we end up running over our spouses in the process. And we don’t think things through. And I think we can learn a lot from the one-day diet that lasted.
John: That’s a good story. And this is Focus on the Family. Our guests are Cherie and Brian Lowe. And you can find their book, which has lots of great stories and really some excellent tips to get a handle on your finances and, in so doing, to increase your romance in your marriage. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to get a copy of the book and a CD or download of this two-day discussion.
Jim: Okay. So we might not be the Atkins diet people. John, no comment from you, please. But what are some of these practical things we can do to move away from the fear of missing out, the FOMO, as you call it?
Cherie: Yeah. You know, sometimes it means that we need to learn how to use the “hide” button on our social media channels. And so if we are finding ourselves constantly in a state of malcontent. When we’re looking at something, we either need a sign off from the account completely. Or maybe if there are particular brands that we follow or people that we follow, maybe we need to engage in kind of hiding that from our eyes and making wise choices. Your trigger might be television. You may be seeing a lot of commercials.
Jim: Why are you looking at me?
Cherie: I don’t know what your trigger is!
Jim: Not that that’s my trigger.
Cherie: I mean, we have hit a soft spot here.
Brian: Why does this trouble you so?
Jim: We’ll go there another day.
Cherie: But, you know, if you’re constantly finding yourself in a place where you’re not satisfied with what God has given you, you need to kind of turn down that noise and to eliminate that distraction so that you don’t find yourself back there again on a regular basis.
Jim: Well, this actually runs right into the next question I wanted to ask, which is - you assert that busyness kills intimacy. So as we’re talking about this connection between budgeting and finance control and intimacy in the bedroom, there is this other level of intimacy that - you know, busyness just kills it, too. Because I think many wives, if I could speak on their behalf and if Jean has taught me well, it’s looking at their husband saying, “I don’t feel connected to you.”
Jim: “We’re just running.” That’s what that question is getting at. How do you address that in the book?
Cherie: So there are eight key areas that we really identified that most couples struggle with, and being busy was one of those top ideas that we all encounter on a regular basis. And, in fact, we almost wear it like a badge of honor here in our culture. “If you’re not as busy as I am, I kind of wonder what’s wrong with you. Maybe your kids aren’t as brilliant as mine are. Maybe, you know, you don’t have as much going on in your life.” And so we kind of ante up if we encounter someone. And we say, “What are you up to?”
Jim: “I’m doing this, this and this.”
Cherie: And they’ll say, “We’re so busy.” Yes - right. And we counter with, “We’re doing this this and this,” you know? But moving our marriages especially from being busy to being prioritized is key. And one of the very practical ideas that we share in the book is sitting down with your calendar and identifying what is it that you’re doing right now. And does it contribute to what Brian spoke about earlier? Does it contribute to your values, your needs and your dreams? And if it doesn’t hit one of those three key areas, you need to eliminate it from the calendar. And so the less busy we are, the more available we are for each other - when it comes to both money and when it comes to romance, too, because if we’re just running in circles all the time and we’re tired, there’s no space for that.
Jim: Here’s an uneasy one. In the book, you talk about getting a financial mentor, a money mentor, I think you call it. That can be a little uncomfortable for people because you’re really letting a third party look at sensitive, intimate details of how you run the household. How do you go about identifying a person that you can trust in that way and then building the relationship? Are you talking about someone who’s a professional or someone at church who may be good with money? Or how do you do it?
Brian: Maybe both or either - it really depends. I think the money mentor can be somewhat hard to find because they aren’t going to be the folks telling you how great they are with money. Typically, it’s not that person or not that couple. So it may have to come through talking to your pastor or identifying something that way. Someone...
Jim: And there’s usually somebody in the church that’s known for doing that well...
Jim: ...Or maybe a handful of people.
Jim: So that’s a good resource.
Brian: And there could be, so you know, check that network. Talk to your pastor and see who’s the couple that you could really learn from. And I think everybody is in this boat where there’s another couple who’s been down a road that you haven’t been before, maybe succeeded, maybe accomplished things slowly over time. And they don’t have to be brash about it or anything like that. And really, you don’t have to open up your checkbook to them but maybe just open up your lives. And the idea is to learn from that couple, “What do you do when you start to fight about money? How did you resolve this?” You know, hopefully the couple has been married for a long time and can answer those kinds of questions. So what do you do in those situations?
Cherie: And I think that’s important not - you’re not just coming and saying, “Here are all of our problems.” But instead you’re asking key questions of them of, “What resources do you use? What books have you read, you know? What was the funniest fight that you’ve ever had about money?” And we have a list of practical questions that you could ask those individuals so you’re not just burying your, you know, wallet, your pocketbook, your soul to these people. But you’re asking them smart questions about how they got where they are and how you might be able to get there, too.
Jim: Did you find somebody like that in your church or when you started this debt pay-down of a 127,000? Was there somebody in your life that helped you?
Brian: Yeah. We’ve constantly surrounded ourselves with mentors. And yeah, we’ve had couples that we’ve talked about who are debt-free. And so if we want to do something, find a couple that’s done what it is that you want to do. And so we would talk with couples that were debt-free and ask about the struggles. The online community was also huge for us.
Cherie: It was. And you know, as I began to share our story through queenoffree.net, it really was the place where I would say, “Hey, this is something that we’re currently struggling with.” And then I’d be shocked at the number of people that we actually knew in our own network...
Cherie: ...Who said, “Us, too. We’ve been there, too.” Or “Here’s something that we did that helped in that journey as well.” And so you can definitely find that type of voice online as well.
Jim: That’s one of the areas where social media is really a good thing...
Cherie: It can be a gift.
Jim: Yeah - a gift - people can give you feedback because they have been through it. And it’s easily accessible. You can talk about these topics appropriately in that open dialogue.
You know, if we go all the way back to the start of our discussion, you said something which was really profound, that the importance of all of this is to look forward and to dream and to think about your life maybe 10 years from now, 20 years from now and where you could be and what you could be doing I think most importantly for the kingdom of God with your finances, with your marriage, the model it can be, et cetera. Let’s spend the last few minutes here in that dream area to help those that - you know, that’s just become stagnant. It’s here and now. They’ve got $150,000 in debt. They’re not communicating well in their marriage. Let’s give them some oxygen to dream. What does it look like? What are the dreams like? And what was that dialogue for the two of you?
Cherie: I think some of the most fun things that we’ve gotten to do in the last six years is just be wildly generous. And sometimes that looks like tipping more than we pay for a meal. Um, sometimes that looks like we have mentored a couple of young adults who have gotten married and - actually two different couples. And that looks like putting a large amount of cash into an envelope and watching their faces when they open it up and saying, “Begin your marriage with this.”
Jim: Yeah. Wow.
Cherie: And I - for me at least that has been an amazing part of being on the other side of so much debt.
Jim: In the dream category.
Jim: How about for you, Brian?
Brian: Right there along with Cherie. And one of the things that I like to see is when I open up the bank account, we have, uh, nicknames for different accounts. We drive our bankers crazy because we have multiple bank accounts.
Yeah, we’re a bit extreme. But one of the accounts that we have nicknamed is called “Generous”. That’s just the name of it. And we have a line item in our budget where we put money to be generous.
Cherie: That’s above and beyond.
Brian: Above and beyond our normal giving. And that’s just the thrill to be able to do that. And one of the things that we’ve found is the more that we’ve communicated about money - and when you pay off that kind of debt, communication is the biggest tool that got us there. And so we’ve had so many conversations about money that I don’t have to call and check with Cherie if I can buy the veteran’s groceries behind me in line at Aldi. I don’t have to check first. I know what the answer is going to be, uh, you know, without a shadow of a doubt. And so it’s those kinds of things that are a real thrill. And then looking at our kids, too, and just the difference that is made in how they approach money and how they evaluate purchases and how they communicate about money. That’s huge.
Jim: That is a great story. I love these ideas. I think this is really something. It’s been great to spend a couple of days with you talking about this, this connection between financial intimacy, physical intimacy, emotional intimacy. This is all so good and so right on, if I can say it that way. You’ve done a wonderful job in your book,. And, man, it’s the kind of tool we want everybody to get their hands on because I’m sure, like you said, Cherie, we can all improve 10 percent at the very least. Even if you’re doing this well...
Jim: ...You can still improve. And there’s - your book’s chock-full of ideas on how to do that. So well done to both of you. You know, for the listener, maybe you’re struggling to get on that same page financially, and it’s not working romantically in your marriage. We want to help you. Uh, I’m telling you right now when I sit with people who are adversarial to the Christian life, the one thing that they always throw in my face coming from Focus on the Family is, “You Christians don’t do it well. Your divorce rate is high.” And I’m not meaning this as a guilt trip. I’m just saying, folks, we’ve got to do better. So one of the ways you can do better is really what Brian and Cherie are talking about. And that’s ordering your life in such a way that God is honored. And that’s good for all of us. So get a hold of us. Let us be there for you. We’re wired for that. We want to do that. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t hold back. Let’s talk about it. Call our counselling line. They’re there for you.
John: And Jim, as you’ve said time and again, there’s nothing they haven’t heard.
John: They’ve heard pretty much everything.
Jim: Forty years of questions.
Jim: We got it.
John: You are not alone. And we want you to call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459.
Jim: And I’m telling you. If you can help us financially, that’s great. That’s what pays for that counseling team to be there and putting the resource into the hands of people who can’t afford it. Currently, we are wrapping up the end of our fiscal year and the new budget begins right here in October. As we’re preparing for the coming year, we want to continue to be able to provide those resources free of charge. And we need your monthly commitment to do it. So if you can make a contribution one time or monthly, which really helps us, we will send a copy of Brian and Cherie’s book,, as our way of saying thank you.
John: Make that donation, get the book, and a CD or free instant download of this two-part conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio, or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Well next time, you’ll hear about your rights as a parent or student or teacher under the U.S. Constitution. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Brian LoweView Bio
Brian Lowe is a public speaker and blogger who offers practical advice for breaking free of debt and staying debt-free. He and his wife, Cherie, offer encouragement with their inspirational story of how they managed to pay off a debt of over $127,000. Brian and Cherie reside in Indiana with their two daughters. Learn more about Brian and find financial wisdom at his blog, King of Free.