It seems that our culture encourages the concept that after you say “I do” at your wedding, you also say “I do” to a house payment, car payments, new furniture, nice honeymoon, and each other’s debt. Here is new thought, the ball and chain in your marriage is not each other, but rather the debt you both carry around. Think about it. The debt becomes like an additional partner in your marriage as you can no longer separate without bringing the debt with you no matter who in the marriage contributed to the debt. The debt controls what you can and cannot do, where you can and cannot go, and how you can and cannot spend. The debt becomes part of your every conversation, the cause of great anxiety and increases your stress as each of you takes a stand against the other in the blame game. That is why there is no quicker way to destroy your marriage than to go into debt.
How did we get here? In the movie, “The Company Men” there is a scene in which Ben Affleck depicts the façade that everything is fine by going to play golf in his expensive car after he has lost his job and is on the verge of losing his house and his marriage. He falsely believed that appearance was everything and all he had to do was do what he always had done and everything would be fine. He was wrong. Debt traps you into the belief that you will never lose your job, that you will always be in perfect health, and that the economy will work in your favor. This is not true, it is a lie. There are no guarantees for the future and tying the hopes of your marriage and future into being able to pay off your debt is dangerous.
Who are you trying to please? Is it your spouse? Is it you? Is it your neighbor? Or are you already trapped into trying to please your lender? Too much emphasis is placed on what you need to do to make and keep your lender happy and loan you some more money. Is this really the emphasis you want in your marriage? Do you really want to spend excessive amounts of time keeping a stranger at a bank or credit card company happy with you so that they will loan you some more money? It is difficult enough to manage your and your spouse’s expectations without having to manage the expectations of your lender. Your lender becomes like a third wheel in your marriage demanding more and more of your time and money. This is not what a marriage should look like.
So now what? Realizing the strain and stress that debt has already placed on your marriage is the first step in your recovery. Identifying your debt as a problem in your marriage and agreeing that it needs to be removed is even harder to digest as it goes against your old expectations. The next step is stop adding more debt right now, today, at this very moment no matter how hard this may be. Change your expectations from having a debt ball and chain in your marriage to freeing you and your spouse. The only way to remove the debt ball and chain is little by little, dollar by dollar, pain by pain, but the benefits to your marriage will be significant.
No one goes into a marriage with the attitude that they are going to destroy it, yet that is precisely what happens with a debt ball and chain. The burden becomes too much and one person wants out no matter what the financial cost. It is never too late to turn around and choose a different path, a path that does not have a ball and chain but rather freedom to live, fail, and succeed.
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