Lesson 1: When money starts walking, keep talking
Sitting at my desk freshly bronzed from honeymoon, butterflies fluttered in my tummy when I heard ‘your husband is on the phone’. Still reeling with excitement from hearing the words ‘your’ and ‘husband’ next to each other, I picked up the phone to hear my husband’s voice. Something was different, he sounded like he was outside. It was midmorning – that was unusual.
‘Honey, guess what? I’ve been made redundant’.
The earth moved.
Sounds around me silenced...for reasons different from the previous week (wink wink). Our feet had literally just landed from our sunny honey on the moon. We had just distributed our thank you cards and were working down the list of thank you calls and visits. The wedding photographs and video had barely been edited.
We met up to talk for lunch after that miserable midmorning message. I was a new wife with a new husband with new news and not a word of wisdom – this was not the newlywed bliss we had anticipated. I’d like to say that we instantly formed an unstoppable team facing financial struggles together but I’m strong believer in being open and honest so, here’s the truth… that was one of the most silent years of our marriage. The tension in those ‘spoken silences’ were unreal. Budget discussions never ended well, our priorities were different and we were both unwilling to open the letterbox for the next red ‘gentle reminder’.
By silent, I don’t mean we didn’t speak at all. I mean our words fell on stony ground. Neither one of us spoke words to each other that took root. Being the sole bread winner for our family, I made very poor decisions that didn’t edify my husband in any way. It was after one of these fatal financial decisions that we realised that we needed to talk. This would mean that one of us would need to be still and quiet whilst the other was talking. Reactions would need to be processed fully before a response uttered. It’s like that saying goes; we should seek to understand first. Both of us were in our individual cocoons, coping in the ways that suited us both – individually.
When difficult situations arise in marriage such as financial disasters or health concerns, you begin to see the character of the person you married in totality. Prior to marriage, you don the rose tinted glasses that make errs look like charming quirky features. A very laid back and relaxed personality which seemed so wonderfully accommodating before the wedding day, instantly transforms to a lazy nonchalant disposition. A full of life, bubbly people magnet becomes a busy body who has an irrational fear of being on their own. The very thing you loved about your beloved becomes the thorn in your side. You’ll hear cries of ‘you’ve changed’ or ‘you’re not the same person I married’ from many newlyweds across the world. Time has brutally taught me that it is not that your Prince Charming has morphed into Darth Vader; it is that the amorous smoke screen has evaporated.
We were no stranger to this journey of realisation. And after dealing with the initial shock of who my beloved was, I also learnt a great deal about myself. I had an inflated sense of self-importance; my job was the only source of income and I stupidly thought that I was entitled to more control. I was stuck in a job that I absolutely hated and felt that I had no other option but to keep working so as to keep the family afloat. A very heated conversation with my beloved changed my mind.
‘You are not the source of our income. It is not your job that is keeping us alive’.
Those fatal words, shot through my psyche. Though I didn’t want to admit it at the time, he was right. It dawned on me that God had kept us afloat. We were living in the height of a recession; people were going home every day to create coping strategies on one income. I was not good at my job; it was grace that was keeping me. Many who were far better at the role had been fired or made redundant and I was still there. My pride was ground to smithereens.
I gave it some more thought…
I decided that income is always subject to change and that change needn’t be negative. A career change may result in a dip in income due to retraining at university; a short term price for a long term gain. And as a woman my income may be more susceptible to change, as it is more likely to be affected by child rearing. Just because you are earning more money than your beloved now, doesn’t mean that it is a permanent fixture. All parties must understand that any income is for the benefit of the family and not for the increase of pride. Let’s let our hearts and not the money do the talking.