For those of us not in the small percentage of people making millions (or very close to it), the last couple of years have not been very pretty—the every elusive American Dream has become a mirage, fading before our very eyes each time we at last get close enough to grasp.
For those of us who are married and/or with children, the frustration is often compounded. Expendable income to “take a break” or “spend some quality time alone” becomes one of the first things to go. You choose between babysitter and new shoes for a fast growing child; the money you would have spent on those Maze featuring Frankie Beverly tickets has to go to brake shoe replacement. Insurance becomes a privilege that you weigh against buying essential items like tissue and milk. And love (in the face of the mounting stress of bills) feels like a long lost friend who is mad at you for reasons that you do not understand. Sex (if and when it happens) is mostly furtive, unhappy and guilt ridden.
Family life without money sucks for all adults involved.
In my own personal life, I have found that money is the proverbial elephant in the room—it looms like a dark cloud over our household. I serve the God who loves ORDER: lists, assigned cupboards, budgets, a draw for everything and only one “junk” drawer allowed per family member. My husband’s carpe diem style of life brings levity to my particularly rigid way of living—he spends money on trivial things that I would quite frankly never purchase on a limited budget.
Now that we are in financial recovery, this difference shows much, much more. We are a household divided along the lines of finance: He (of the ever negative bank account because there must be some paid for entertainment) and I (of the never spending what I don’t have on stuff I don’t need when there is stuff I need and can’t afford yet) clash constantly on the subject of money—so much so that I determined one day to stop talking about it. I was going to stop worrying about. I was going to never utter another word about it unless asked.
You see, one of the most difficult things about being committed to trusting someone you love is letting go of some things that you feel really strongly about. I know that there are women out there who believe—are probably saying right this second—that they do not have to compromise themselves and their principles and woo woo woo and woompty woompty woomp, and I ABSOLUTELY AGREE: unless you’re married. Because that is the point of marriage. You make a commitment to live your life as one, to compromise every aspect of yourself as you build a new life together. There are no more deal breakers; there are only brokered deals, cease fires, treaties in a lifetime of getting to a place where everyone is satisfied.
I hear you fighting against that concept right now. I am not done though.
The problem can be located in the fact that we never sit down and discuss this stuff beforehand. I am as guilty as anybody. I recognized when we were together that my husband was “loose” with money in a way that I was not. He had no problem plunking down $400 on a hotel stay while I scoured Hotwire and Priceline and Hotels.com for deals. And yet, in that naïve way that most women I know say, I said to myself, “It’s no big deal, we’re just different in that way. It will work itself out.”
It never works itself out—not without conversations about expectations.
I know, I know, we live in a “post” everything society: post racism, post capitalism, post this and post that. We’re over everyone and everything, right?
Well, unfortunately, relationships are not “post-communication”. If you do not have these conversations before you enter into a life changing agreement like MARRIAGE or CHILD REARING, you risk killing your marriage or partnership.
Relationships fail because people fail to have very serious conversations before they get very serious. In fact, many “marriage” counseling sessions conducted by clergy and other professionals fail to get couples to hash out the real details of life. I mean, don’t get it twisted: I LOVE THE LORD, okay? But even God says to not be unequally yoked. To not try walking with someone with whom you don’t agree. And there are lots of people out there connected to people that do not match up.
So, being one of those people who failed to have conversations about money to “keep the peace”, I had to make a choice. I could shuck my entire relationship and start over somewhere as a divorced mother of two young children—or I could continue to keep the peace. I chose the latter.
I wish I could tell you that the path I took has been easy—I’d be lying. Some days I want to tear my hair out as I weep and gnash my teeth. But most days, I have taken a deep breath—and let HIM worry about it. I have, literally for better or for worse, chosen to ride it out.