Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Growing Closer to Your Spouse When Money is Tight

Growing Closer to Your Spouse When Money is Tight

Best-selling authors Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn offer encouragement and guidance for couples feeling financial pressure and uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Original Air Date: April 23, 2020


Jeff Feldhahn: I have to constantly go back in my mind and in my heart and remember all the times that God has been faithful. How He has showed up. How He has done things that I didn’t see any way out of.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn are our guest today on Focus on the Family and they’re going to be offering encouragement for how you can better make it during these tough financial times that so many of us are experiencing during the pandemic. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, the current economic situation has caused a lot of fear for many, many people and rationally for good reason. We’ve seen historic high numbers of Americans filing for unemployment. I think we’re somewhere around 17, 18, maybe 20 million right now. And, uh, business owners are struggling as well. Small businesses that are shut down. We’re in touch with the lot of our donor community and many of them are small business owners and they have had to let people go. We are praying for them every day that the Lord will give them wisdom on how to navigate this. And if you’re in that spot and you’re a faithful Focus supporter, please know that we’re praying for you and lifting you up to the Lord literally each and every day. One thing that’s troubling so many people is simply the uncertainty of what we’re facing. And it’s putting a strain on relationships. I think particularly marriages. Couples are struggling to have hope. To know that there is an end to this and, uh, maybe even, uh, you know, breaking their relationship over these things right now. Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, they know what uncertainty feels like because they’re living it right now and they have some great advice for all of us about communicating regarding money in these difficult times.

John: And Jeff and Shaunti have been on the broadcast a number of times. Shaunti is very popular speaker, a bestselling author. She’s a social researcher as well. Jeff is the president and CEO of a tech company. And together, they’ve written a new book that we’re making available at It’s called Thriving in Love and Money: Five Game Changing Insights about Your Relationship, Your Money and Yourself.

Jim: Jeff and Shaunti, welcome back to Focus.

Jeff: It’s great to be here.

Shaunti Feldhahn: So good to be with you guys.

Jim: A little different circumstances this time. All the distance recording that we’re doing. Where are you right now physically?

Jeff: We’re in my, uh – my home office here in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jim: OK, great. And we’re all the way back here in Colorado. John’s in a different studio. The production team’s scattered all over the ministry.


Jim: So, we are practicing physical distancing and trying to do the best we can do. Jeff and Shaunti, it is an unusual situation that we’ve experiencing with this coronavirus. And I know that the nationwide shutdown has directly impacted both of you which makes it very relevant to have you on. In your work, you have not been able to speak, Shaunti. You’re kind of sidelined right now. And Jeff, you’re struggling with one of your business, correct?

Jeff: That’s – that’s absolutely correct.


Jim: So, what does it look like for you? I mean, some people are saying, “Oh, I’m sure you’ve packed enough away to really make – make it through something like this.” But what’s the environment like for you personally?

Shaunti: Oh, it’s definitely not a having packed enough away to make it. This is definitely a ministry for us. And, you know, of course, it’s every author’s dream to work for three years on a book and have it release one week before a national emergency is declared.

Jim: Uh.

John: Wow.

Shaunti: (Laughter) You know, and – and it is – we are the classic small business where, you know, we – we plow the revenue we get back into the ministry and back into the business. And so, for us, it’s not just about, “OK, how are we going to pay the mortgage, Lord?” It’s also, “Oh, how are we going to pay our team? How are we going to pay our staff?” And some of them really depend on the income. So, it’s all sorts of very practical and very emotional stuff wrapped up together.

Jim: Right. It is – it’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? I mean, I think if you can keep your sense of humor in this moment that God gives you this idea to write this book. It’s just come out – Thriving in Love and Money. And by the way, your love is going to be stretched…


Jim: …And you’re not going to have much money.

Shaunti: Well, it’s interesting that you say that because, you know, as soon as this came out and then we realized nobody’s buying books. All events are canceled. Most of our sources of income are gone. And I realized, yeah, but God knew this was going to happen. And suddenly we’ve written this book and done this research to help people really come together around money in their marriage on a relational standpoint, not just like a – not a technical budget thing.

Jeff: You don’t want us talking about technical budgets.

Jim: (Laughter).

Shaunti: Yes. Right. You really don’t. And there’s plenty of good resources out there already on that. And what we were looking at is how do you have a great relationship around money so that it’s no longer a source of friction, but a source of connection. And suddenly, you’ve got millions of people stuck at home worrying about money in their marriage. And God knew exactly what He was doing and having this come out when it did.

Jim: Well, without a doubt. And, you know, again, you’ve got to kind of smile about it, because here the Lord is had you on this journey to write this and then you guys are right in the middle of it. Having to live the very things that you wrote about – the advice. Let me ask in that regard. What did your research reveal about couples and their attitudes about money? Let’s start there.

Shaunti: Sure.

Jim: Let’s just pretend the coronavirus is just an amplifier of those things that we’re already dealing with. But what was that basic research? What did you see?

Shaunti: Well, the – the key thing that we found is that when you’re having tension around money, it’s really easy to think that more money would solve it. (Laughter) Right? Like all of us think that and especially now. And actually, that’s not necessarily true. It’s truly that the biggest obstacle to financial freedom; the biggest obstacle to getting out of debt; the biggest obstacle to tithing and giving for all the churches today that are worrying about that sort of financial survival right when they have the most needs – the biggest obstacle all of that isn’t that we don’t know how to put together a budget, although that could be the case. Or that we’re spending more than we say, although, yeah, that could be the case. The biggest obstacle, it turns out, is the inability of a husband or wife to sit down at the kitchen table and talk about money.

Jim: You know, in this context, these discussions can get really hard. And you guys are experiencing that. What does that sound like to do it right? You know, when you’re looking at your bank account. You may have been laid off or your small business isn’t generating any revenue. You’ve closed. Whatever it might be. What does that healthy discussion look like? “Honey, here’s reality. This is what we need to do.” And how – how do we negotiate all of that?

Jeff: Well, let me – let me start by, I guess, sharing how it doesn’t look…

Shaunti: (Laughter).

Jeff: …Or how it’s not supposed to look. Because what actually happens is at times like this – what we’ve found is that the individual in the marriage that might be more of the saver type than the spender really feels vindicated about their course of action or what they said that we should do as a couple. And it’s – it’s kind of easy for that to even go beyond vindication and into resentments. And, you know, speaking as someone who is a more of the saver type in our relationship, I had to really deal with that. And go…

Jim: Hey, Jeff. Jeff. Let me give you a warning here.

Jeff: Yeah.

Jim: Be careful what you’re about to say.


Jeff: No, this is true. And – and it is – it is the looking back over the last couple of years and going, “Darn, man, we – we spent on this… If we hadn’t taken that Disney World vacation… If we hadn’t done this or spent on this takeout…” Or on whatever it is to look and say, “Shoot, we’re in a bit of a fix now because we spent more.” And we look at solely the costs of things as opposed to what were some of the benefits that were gained during those experiences that we took as a family. Um, I oftentimes negated what was gained in our Disney World vacation. Even though it costs money, what we got were a whole lot of experiences and memories. And all of those were kind of pushed along by Shaunti wanting to do it.

Jim: Yeah.

Jeff: Me wanting to save, her wanting to gain the experiences while the kids were young, still in the house. And so now when we’re forced together as a family relationally, we talk about these experiences. We laugh about them. We like being around each other.

Shaunti: We’re stuck at home and we enjoy each other. And Jeff was very gracious to sort of say, “You know what? I was struggling with a little bit of resentment. Like we could have had four or five thousand more dollars in the bank if we didn’t do Disney World, if we didn’t go out to eat, if we didn’t do these other things last year. Well, you know what? That strengthen the family. Now we’re forced together, and we like each other. We’ve – we’ve had those shared experiences.” And so, the – the answer to your question about like, how do you start talking about this? Like how do you come together and communicate? What we found in the research and have seen our self is that it really starts with understanding what are those things that are running underneath the surface in yourself and your spouse? Because the bottom line is that – this is the biggest finding. Is that when you’re arguing about money or tense about it, it’s not about the money. It’s about how money makes you feel and how it makes your spouse feel. And all these expectations and insecurities. Listen, if you understand those things in yourself and in your spouse, then suddenly talking about money becomes much more simple and much more natural.

Jim: Yeah. And I like that. I think the concept of acting as a team. You know, you’re on the same team. You’re not fighting each other. You’re not the opposition. It’s good to remember in that moment. Jeff, let me also ask you about this idea of the illusion of control. I think money does hide some of the control problems that people possess, that people have. Um, what’s your definition of this illusion of control when it comes to the comfort money brings?

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, obviously, we – it’s – I think your word is illusion and that’s spot on because not a single one of us could have predicted this situation. And we can do all the right things and we should do the right things. We should be prudent. We should be careful. We should talk about these things with our spouse. But ultimately, our kind, heavenly Father is the One Who is in control of everything and not us. And nothing happens without first flowing through His hands. Um, so, yeah, just recognize that your – your obsession, as in my case…

Shaunti: (Laughter).

Jeff: …With control and with trying to be as self-reliant and not having to depend on anyone in any situation, it is – is that very thing – is an illusion.

Shaunti: Well, and I mean, the other thing about that – and Jim, this is more getting a little more practical, if you don’t mind. From what we found in the research that really helped us and I think we’ll help other folks, we – we found that there were all these factors. Like I said, they’re running underneath the surface that we need to understand about ourselves. And this brings up the fact of one of the big factors we found about money is that we’re often really, truly not valuing what the other person values. Like some – and recognizing something else legitimately matters to them. And this thing you’re talking about with control and like the saver trying to, like, store up everything that they can. That’s a value. That’s something that matters to them. And for people who maybe they’re – maybe they’re not like crazy spenders, but that’s more the direction that they go. For recognizing that actually that that’s a legitimate value as well. And for example, if now that I’m sort of – we’ve done the research and I’m able to articulate it in a way that I couldn’t before, I recognized that when Jeff would be so focused on saving – and yeah, I care about being wise with money, too, of course. But there is something in me that goes, “Well, yeah, but God promises that He’s come here to give us an abundant life. And He’s a – He’s a Father Who wants to give good gifts to His children for us to enjoy now. Not just 30 years from now when we retire because we’ve saved up all this money to enjoy life then. And oh, by the way, what about the guy who stored all his money in barns and then never made it to retirement to enjoy it. Like you can try to control, but it just doesn’t work that way.” So, I – I realize that for me, that’s a value. And suddenly we see in the research something that I hope will help people to have this conversation, which is that the saver’s values aren’t the only ones that matter and that both of us need to honor the other and recognize that, you know, up to a point, both people’s viewpoints are legitimate and – and really, truly recognizing that will help.

Jim: Yeah.

John: Yeah, we’re all struggling to kind of deal with the new normal. And, um, there are marital patterns that kind of pop up and get magnified with the stress of what’s going on. Uh, that’s why we’re doing this program today with Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn. This is Focus on the Family with your host Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And the kind of kind of honesty you’ve heard today is in their new book which as Shanthi mentioned just came out. It’s called Thriving in Love and Money: Five Game Changing Insights about Your Relationship, Your Money and Yourself. Get in touch and we’ll send a copy to you. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Jeff and Shaunti, I so appreciate that openness and that willingness to do that. Um, I think I can identify with where you’re coming from, Jeff. I mean, that’s a – you know, it’s not always around money either. I think husbands, we have this mechanism where we want to shut down when we’re confronted with things that we don’t want to deal with right now. And likewise, Shaunti, I so appreciate that self-awareness that it’s not about winning. It’s not about me winning. It’s about us winning. But a lot of couples struggle in this – in this area. You know, if I don’t win, I feel like I’ve lost. If he wins, I lose. And that’s really not a good place to be. What are some of those practical tips for husbands and wives to honor each other in that kind of context when you talk about love and money?

Jeff: You know, another – another thing that I think all of us are seeking is really to be understood. To be understood by our spouse of how we feel about certain things – right or wrong. I mean, hopefully right. But we want to know that they kind of feel our pain. And we had this great – about four weeks ago we were having lunch with a couple and they were talking about, you know, what the books had meant to – to them. The earlier books that we’d written. And they got a copy of this new book. And they were saying, “This is really important because I’m understanding how I can communicate with my wife now about my need for saving and not spending. And – and for her to kind of understand that.” And he said, “You know, as a kid, you know, when I was in my teen years, my family had a personal bankruptcy. And that was a defining moment in our family…”

Jim: Mm.

Jeff: “…and in my life. And it impacted how I thought of money and planned and all of those things because I wanted to avoid that with everything that was in me. And my wife knew that story. She knew about it. She kind of got it. But it wasn’t until just two weeks ago when the whole coronavirus shut down is happening…”

Shaunti: Started.

Jeff: “…And she said to me, ‘Wow, is this what you feel like every day?’” And he said, “It is.” And so, she finally got it. But for him, that was liberating because all of a sudden, she understood.

Shaunti: Everybody wants to be understood. And really, we were so blown away ourselves to recognize that – Jim, I’m going to confess this to you and all the listeners. This was the one area of our marriage that before we started this research, we were not on the same page. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah.

Shaunti: And this was the one area we could not talk about. It always resulted in tension. We just avoided it. And to recognize that suddenly, “Wait. This is how you feel. Like I – I didn’t realize. Like I just didn’t know.” And suddenly that light bulb going on over your head. Wow. It allows you to come together and to really honor each other and to have those conversations you’ve never been able to have before. And let me tell you, if there’s ever a time that we suddenly need to be able to come together and communicate well about money, it’s now.

Jim: No. That’s why we’re doing this. I mean, I think, again, a lot of couples are under the spotlight, under the pressure cooker. And – and you’re expressing it so well and again, I appreciate your honesty. Let’s speak to the big takeaway for the couples that are listening. If they can learn to communicate about that underlying fear about money, what will that foundation – “OK, we can talk about it.” That foundation. What’s it going to do for them going forward?

Shaunti: Hmm. Well, we found, actually – and just so you know, 77% was the number. 77% of us can’t talk well about money right now. So that’s a – there’s a lot of us that have that. And if we can, what we found is that suddenly money becomes an opportunity for connection and intimacy and closeness rather than an opportunity for conflict and tension and avoidance and martyrdom and all of those other feelings that don’t feel so good. And then once you can connect and come together around it and kind of deconstruct all of these things that you had in your head that you didn’t even know you had in your head, like, you know, “It’s your money and my money, not our money.” Like things you didn’t even know you were feeling. Once you do that and you can connect, then suddenly things like budgeting, things like making a decision about hard choices like we’re having to make right now because we’ve lost most of the sources of our income – suddenly those conversations become a together conversation. A you and me as we conversation rather than a power struggle. And rather than one person maybe feeling steamrolled and the other person feeling, you know – feeling like they have to take over, it suddenly is much more unity, right when unity is needed.

Jim: And you’ve said it so well. And we’re getting right near the end of the program. I want to make sure we hit very squarely, uh, the couples that are struggling. You know, they’re thinking about how we’re going to put food on the table; what next week looks like; what tomorrow may look like in terms of the difficulties they’re facing right now, um, probably as believers in Christ. This to me is a very important question. And that is A: you have had some struggles. There’s a story I want to hear from you about your daughter and some of the decisions you have to make. But you’re also seeing God provide almost miraculously for those needs. And the big question for the couples that I’m thinking about is, what is God teaching you? So that we can translate that into our own lives, our own marriages about what God may be teaching us in this moment of scarcity and crisis.

Jeff: Yeah, that’s – that’s – and I’ll let Shaunti share that story with you. One of the things that as we approach these things, these uncertainties, um, that I always have to keep coming back to – and it’s – it’s based on my favorite verse in the Bible, which is Psalm 103:2, which says, “Praise the Lord, oh my soul and forget not all His benefits.” I have to constantly go back in my mind and in my heart and remember all the times that God has been faithful. How He has showed up. How He has done things that I didn’t see any way out of. But because He’s a good Father, I can trust that He did it then, and I can trust He’ll do it in the future. And Shaunti, why don’t you share that story that just recently happened two days ago? (Laughter)

Shaunti: Two days ago. I know. This is this is such an example to me of we – we talk in our ministry, in our business about God’s faithfulness. And it’s just amazing when you see it show up day after day in a time like this where we have no other option but to trust God. I mean, we have a ministry and salaries we have to pay. And, you know, what do you do when you have a run rate of $20,000 a month and you have $8,000 your bank account. Right? What does that look like? And our daughter during this period, she has asthma. She’s a college student. And she’s, of course, at home doing classes at home. And, um – and she has asthma. And recently we were like, “Her asthma medicine doesn’t seem to be working anymore.” And it – that’s a nervous thing when you’ve got a pulmonary disease going around. Right?

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: And is – for somebody who has asthma, that’s a that’s a big deal. And so, we had scheduled months and months ago to have her do this test at the hospital and to be able to sort of see how we get around this. And we just found out that it was going to be $2,000. Like that might as well be a million.

Jeff: And – and we don’t have typical insurance.

Shaunti: And we don’t have typical insurance. It’s all self-pay. You know, we’re self-employed.

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: And so, what – I mean, when I found out was almost $2,000, I almost started crying. I’m like, “I don’t know what to do about this. But, Lord, I trust You.” And – OK, now I am going to cry. And then two days ago, we heard that suddenly the publisher that publishes our devotionals, they had made a mistake on our royalties last year. And the owner drove by our house and put a check in our mailbox that was more than enough to cover that $2,000.

Jim: Hm.

Shaunti: And we had no idea it was coming. And it just is such an example of, you know what? God will provide for your needs during this scary, scary time. He will in all sorts of ways, not just financial. This is just such an opportunity for us to look up. Not get so focused on the problems that we miss what God is doing.

Jim: Boy, that is so good. And you know, too, what a great faith builder for your daughter to see it in action as well. As a young, you know – as a young person to go, “Wow, God really answered that prayer mom and dad sending up for me.”

Shaunti: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: So, that’s beautiful in itself, too. So, what great encouragement, Jeff and Shanti. That is the place to wrap up. That God is in control. Fear not. All the wonderful Scriptures that remind us that His love for us is greater than that of, you know, the sparrows and the lilies of the field and all those things. That we matter to Him. We’re the crown of His creation and He cares for us. But not to fret. And I just want to remind folks to get in touch with us. If you need some help, let us know. How we can pray with you. How can we send you some resources that can help you, whether that’s a book – Jeff and Shaunti’s great book, Thriving in Love and Money, for example. We only touched the surface of the content in this resource and it’s a great resource to have. And certainly, I’d want to make it available to you if you can make a gift of any amount. If you can’t, I get it right now and I want to be sensitive to that. I’m going to trust that others who can take care of the expense of that will cover it. Get in touch with us. We’ll get the book in your hands. And if you can’t afford it, don’t be embarrassed. We’ll get it out to you because it matters to us. We want you to grow closer to Christ in this situation. And Jeff and Shaunti, I don’t know about you, but man, God teaches us so much in the valleys, but we rarely honor that or recognize that. You’re in it right now. Are you saying “Hallelujah, Jesus”?

Jeff: Um, and – sometimes.


Jeff: And sometimes we’re having to pause and – and work up to that.

Shaunti: Well, the thing that’s been so remarkable about this – and I know that everybody can understand this because we’re all right in it – the thing that’s so amazing is to see the blessings in the middle of this difficulty. The blessings of being around family when you love one another. The blessings of, you know, being able to watch, OK. Wow. My kids are more resilient than I thought…

Jim: Right.

Shaunti: …In being able to transfer to online school. Or what are they going to learn? And seeing, you know, OK. If God is working in these little microcosms, He’s doing something in our world, in our culture, in our hearts, that is going to be priceless once we look back on it. So, it’s a matter of trusting that and holding onto that…

Jim: So true.

Shaunti: When it gets (unintelligible).

Jim: Yeah, especially in this circumstance. Thank you so much for being with this. Take care of yourselves in Atlanta. Be safe, be well and be faithful. God bless you guys.

Shaunti: Thank you so much.

Jeff: Thank, y’all.

John: Yeah, we’re so grateful to Jeff and Shaunti for their transparency. Great story to land on there, Jim, with – with God providing unexpectedly. We ask Him to do that for all of our listeners who are in need. And we want to just remind you, we’re here to serve you. Focus on the Family remains open because of the faithful donations and support of so many over the years and even some special gifts that have come in these days. We want to help you. We’re a phone call away. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. We’ll connect you with a counselor. We’ll send a copy of this book that Jeff and Shaunti have written, Thriving in Love and Money. We’ve a lot of other great resources as well. I do want to point out we have a COVID-19 resource page with devotionals. Activities for you and the kids and an online link to our streaming service which has hours and hours of family friendly entertainment. It’s all there right at Or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us today. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Thriving in Love & Money

Thriving in Love & Money

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