Our golden retriever’s name is Ramsey, so it’s probably no big surprise that Eric and I have spent a lot of time listening to Dave Ramsey. One of his many sayings that has stuck with me over the years, roughly translated, is that, on average, people will have at least one major (think around $10,000) financial emergency arise every ten years. “Save for a rainy day. It’s going to rain!” Whether it’s a new roof, medical bills, surprise triplets, or the loss of a job, most of us are not going to get through life without a few disheartening money moments (or seasons). Financial struggles are scary and frustrating, but can they strengthen a relationship?
In the midst of financial struggles, couples may find themselves at each other’s throats. Stress can take a calm, serene person, and turn him or her into a ticking time bomb. We need money to purchase the basics of life (e.g., shelter, water, food, clothing, etc.); so, when we are unsure of how we’re going to pay for those needs, it’s no surprise that our countenance and our relationships are affected. Many marriages have been damaged and even destroyed because of financial issues. So, can financial problems bring a couple closer? Is that even possible?
Strength through Adversity
Call me optimistic, but I think financial struggles can strengthen relationships. However, the couple has to remain faithful to each other, not only sexually and emotionally, but fiscally as well. When the teammate mentality is lost, they will suddenly find themselves fighting against each other instead of working with each other and communication begins to deteriorate. But, if the couple draws a line in the sand and commits wholeheartedly to lift each other up in prayer and positive words (e.g., showing each other sincere appreciation, refusing to take out frustrations on each other, etc.), they can get through financial trials with their relationship intact. In fact, it can get stronger.
Hard times show couples what they are made of. It’s easy to stay happy-go-lucky when the sky is blue and covered in rainbows, but when those storm clouds roll in, that is where the test begins. I cared about Eric long before we got married, but it took time and experience to realize that he was committed to us. It took unpleasant situations for me to see his character firsthand.
After realizing that he was a man’s man and that he wasn’t going to let life circumstances dictate his actions, I gained a lot of respect for, and trust in, him. When couples experience money problems together, they have a chance to communicate their commitment to each other in a powerful way. “I know we have fallen on hard times. I know we won’t be able to have as much fun as we used to. I know some days will be scary and uncertain, but I promise you that I will always be here for you as long as God gives me life.”
Necessity is the mother of invention. When you don’t have the money to do everything you want to do, you begin to flex your creative bone. When you have to, you find ways to cut corners. When you can’t afford a night at the movies, you find an old movie you own and watch it like it’s the first time. Games can be created as means of cheap entertainment and thankfully many frugal cooks have fashioned cheap recipes we can follow when we want to shave some off of our grocery bill!
Last year, I was watching a show about cheapskates and I was amazed at some of the ways people have found to save money. It was disturbing and yet completely inspiring. I won’t, however, use reusable toilet paper. I must draw the line somewhere! ~smile~ Anyway, I digress. One of the ladies featured on the show was the mother of six and she recalled how her family had once been in almost $80,000 worth of debt. She and her husband banded together and decided to pay the debt off as quickly as possible. Pay it off they did – and in about a year. During that year, this mother found ways she could save pennies here and there. Once the debt was paid off she thought, “Why stop now? I’ll continue to save us money!” Their season of financial lockdown trained them to be better stewards of their money. Without that difficult year, they would not have learned so many ways to stretch a dollar. The day may come when they have another financial setback, but chances are they’ll be read for it!
Learning for the Future
You don’t have to be married to experience financial struggles in a relationship. Sometimes dating couples choose to put off getting married because of finances. Dates may be minimal when funds are low or the couple may not have as much time for dating because they’re working extra jobs to pay bills. Married or dating, financial struggles can bring a couple closer together if both people make a conscious choice to make it work. In fact, if dating couples become experts at living on a little, they can save more easily when their financial situation improves than those couples who start out with no financial struggles at all. There is power in learning to pinch a penny! Interview a number of first-generation rich people (meaning, those who built their wealth themselves instead of inheriting it) and you will find a lot of frugal, wise, conservative people who know how to say, “No!” to instant gratification! ~smile~
If you and your honey are struggling through some financial difficulties, remember that you are not alone. Many couples have walked where you’re walking and come out on the other side. If you and your sweetie are determined to make your relationship work, financial struggles don’t have to tear you apart. Make a commitment to remain loving and respectful of each other as you walk through this trial.
Have you and your sweetheart experienced the frustration and fear of financial problems? How has your relationship improved or regressed in the face of such a challenge?