In the marriage relationship, it’s important to understand that men and women perceive money differently. These differences explain in part why money is generally an avenue through which conflict arises.

The Way We’re Wired

God has given husbands and wives unique job descriptions and roles. He created us with certain abilities and characteristics physically and emotionally to equip us to do our jobs. He also created us male and female — equal in value but each uniquely designed. So what’s so unique about our designs?

We need to know the truth about our differences and embrace them as God’s means to give us fulfillment and for us to give Him glory.

As Gary Smalley points out in his book If Only He Knew:

“The differences (emotionally, mentally, and physically) are so extreme that without a concentrated effort to understand them, it is nearly impossible to have a happy marriage.”We live in a world that says if we’re equal, we can’t be different. Some people say the only differences between male and female are socially induced. But as Mike Mason points out in The Mystery of Marriage: “When people forget that the opposite sex is opposite, it can result in men actually resenting women for not being men and vice-versa.”

Not only are we different physically, mentally, and psychologically, but we’re different emotionally. Much of the conflict over money occurs in the emotional realm. These emotional differences must be clearly understood to effectively handle them and maximize marital harmony.

1. Showing love. Men, for the most part, show love by what they do. Women often interpret love by affection. James Dobson wrote:

Love is linked to self-esteem in women. For a man, romantic experiences with his wife are warm and enjoyable and memorable — but not necessary. For a woman they are her lifeblood. Her confidence, her sexual response and her zest for living are often directly related to those tender moments when she feels deeply loved and appreciated by her man. That is why flowers and candy and cards are more meaningful to her than to him. This is why she is continually trying to pull him out of the television set or the newspaper, and not vice-versa.


This difference is important to understand as it relates to work and money. One of the reasons many men are motivated to work — even to the exclusion of their families — is that by providing for their families, they feel they’re showing love for their wife and children. Although the husband is responsible to provide, he needs to realize that his wife interprets love by the affection he shows, by his communication, and by the time he spends with her.

2. Identity placement. The wife often puts her identity in her relationships. She often derives status and worth from her husband, children, and other meaningful relationships. The husband tends to put his identity in his job. He gets his status and sense of self-worth from it because of his drive to provide.

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3. Tolerance for risk. This is a big one. Since the man is responsible to provide, he tends to have a greater tolerance for risk and rejection. He has to be more comfortable taking risks because it’s risky to go out into the marketplace to provide, to subdue and conquer his environment, and to protect his territory.

The woman, on the other hand, has the primary responsibility to nurture. With that responsibility often comes the desire to be secure. It’s difficult to nurture and raise a family without the security of a home and a fixed income.

4. Sensitivity level. Men tend to be more insensitive, and women tend to be more sensitive. This is a result of the man being more thing-centered and idea-centered. He’s more concerned about projects, abstract principles, and getting the job done than he is about how he gets the job done and perhaps even the feelings of the people involved in doing the job. His need to provide may cause him to be this way. He leans toward justice and strictness. The woman, on the other hand, is more people-centered and concerned about the process of getting things done. She is more tuned into the human side of things and tends to be more merciful and lenient.

5. Need for encouragement. Since men have the responsibility to provide, and since they often take risks to do so, they need to be encouraged. Their greatest ego need is to have a continual vote of confidence, to be honored, and to be respected.

One of the reasons husbands sometimes work long hours is because they get their ego needs met at work. The wife can help meet this need by telling her husband that he’s doing a good job, that she’s proud of him. Failure to do so may result in extra-long work hours, or he could react the opposite way and become slothful because he feels unappreciated. A wife who intentionally builds up her spouse will likely have a husband who is enthusiastic and secure about his role as provider.

Likewise, a wife typically needs to be encouraged in her role as helper and partner. Since she tends to be more loving, more emotional, more subjective, and more dependent, she’s more subject to loneliness.

6. Long-term v. short-term thinking. Because of the provision responsibility, it’s not uncommon for men to tend to have a longer time horizon than women. Men tend to see the big picture and look down the road. They are generally more concerned about retirement than women. This is also one of the reasons men tend to handle long-term investments that aren’t easily converted into cash, such as real estate, better than women do.

7. Logical v. intuitive. All couples who have been married know this difference exists, though it is likely many can’t explain it. The husband tends to like facts and will analyze every detail of a financial opportunity. Meanwhile, the wife comes to a conclusion without really understanding how she reached it. She just seems to “sense” the situation.

Adapted from 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple.
Copyright © 2013 Russ Crosson, published by Harvest House, used with permission, all rights reserved.