Paying off debt is boring. There’s nothing sexy or exciting about it until you’ve paid off the very last dollar.
As Dennis and I were paying down our debt, I noticed a sad thing happening. He’d be playing offense while I was playing defense. We seemed to be fighting each other more often than we were fighting the creditors. We were wearing different team jerseys. We were both on the field but we had become each other’s opponent, instead of each other’s teammate.
We screamed. We yelled. We spent the balance of one New Year’s Eve in our friend’s driveway with me crying and him brooding. There didn’t seem to be anything to celebrate. The New Year was going to ring in and we’d still be in the same dark dismal hole that we had been in the New Year’s Eve before.
Rarely could we bring up the subject of money (even $12.00) without one of us getting riled.
We were lucky. We both were committed to the marriage…til death do us part. No one was going anywhere. We were going to figure this out. So that helped. Oh, we were both good finger pointers and as always with opposing teams, it was the other one’s fault.
I can’t imagine if we’d threatened divorce everytime we had a fight. When we got married, we eliminated the big D word from our vocabulary. Getting divorced wasn’t giong to help our financial situation get better. It won’t help anyone’s financial situation get better.
In Thomas Stanley’s Book “The Millionaire Next Door” staying married is one of the keys to becoming a millionaire. In simple words, if you want to be rich…don’t get divorced.
But how were we ever going to get on the same team?
It started with a spreadsheet.
I talk alot about “Know What You Owe.” That was a big part of our communication problems. During the heighth of our debt crisis, we didn’t follow this philosophy. We were being sued, barely keeping the lights on and struggling to downsize our home not once but 4 times. We had too many highly emotional stressors going on and we blamed each other.
We were hurting and so it seemed natural to try and hurt each other. We buried our pain deep inside our own souls because we didn’t want the world to see it.
Once we sat down and opened every bill, entered every debt onto the spreadsheet and really started listening to each other’s pain, did things even remotely start to get better.
I quit trying to be brave and let myself cry.
Dennis quit being an island and started opening up.
Because what we were really trying to do was protect ourselves from the sadness. We were trying to pretend that things were going to get better, without doing anything radical to cause them to get better.
We weren’t going to win the lottery and no rich relative was going to show up. We had dug our hole and we were going to have to dig even harder deep inside to get ourselves out.
Our debt took a huge emotional toll. There were days when neither one of us felt like going on. I’m grateful for Dennis’ solid spirit. He’s much more grounded than I. What he clings to in me is my ‘never give up’ attitude and my perpetual optimism. I wear rose-colored glasses on most days.
We weren’t wearing the same team jersey for quite a few years. Only when we noticed, did our life gain some valuable yardage. I’m so lucky Dennis and I are back on the same team again.