We knew moving here would involve living on drastically reduced means, but knowing it and living it are two different things. We have expenses we never had before, salaries that aren’t what they used to be. Money challenges aren’t something we’ve constantly had to deal with in our marriage, but we’ve never learned how to deal with them well. Every dollar sign seems connected via flinching raw nerve to some murky place that’s roiling with arguments and resentments and unspoken self-esteem issues. I hate fighting about money because it never feels like it’s about money, it feels like it’s about … oh, you know. A thousand other things. Who works harder, who bears the biggest burden, who’s more responsible. Sometimes things can go to shit so fast — thirty seconds of defensive, angry conversation and look at all the damage that was done. Jesus, everything was fine just a minute ago. Now: smoking ruins as far as the eye can see.

So we pick things up and tread delicately for a while and we say our apologies and slowly things get back to where they’re supposed to be, and oh, thank god. But all of that takes work, and it isn’t easy. Love is easy. It’s humility and forgiveness and self-awareness that isn’t, sometimes.


50 Responses to “The harder we work, the luckier we get”

  1. Ter on October 17th, 2012 2:29 pm

    Amen! I go through similar issues with DH. It’s tough when debt and regular bills eat up what little income I do have and then try to justify a cartload of groceries. We bicker, hiss, fit, claw, then go into our respective corners, lick our wounds, eat a little crow if necessary, and move on. Such is wedded bliss sometimes.

  2. Tammy on October 17th, 2012 2:33 pm

    Ugh. I totally understand what you mean. My husband has been unemployed for 3.5 years now and while he is doing a bit of freelancing, he doesn’t do the 8-5 grind. I get so *pissed* when he complains about being tired and how he just had to take an hour nap in the middle of the afternoon. And, you’re right, it isn’t just about the money, it is about who thinks they are working harder and whether they are being taken for granted. Stupid little things trigger major blow ups that seem so stupid afterward.

  3. anon on October 17th, 2012 2:36 pm

    This is so on-point it almost makes me cry. love this post so much i shared it with my husband. this is exactly how it is but i’ve never been able to articulate it so poignantly as you just did in this beautiful post. we struggle and triumph in our marriages. the beautiful dicotomy that it can be sometimes.

  4. Mariya on October 17th, 2012 2:45 pm

    So so true! The opposite of love is indifference….if you didn’t love each other so much you wouldn’t have these come to Jesus moments because things wouldn’t be discussed and that kind of silence is a lot scarier than a blowout :-)

  5. Randy on October 17th, 2012 2:50 pm

    The reality is, money is always troublesome until you become satisfied with what you have. Hard to do in this “throwaway” society in which we live.

  6. Melanie on October 17th, 2012 3:01 pm

    I heard an idea recently, one that seems like it could be good at reducing the stress of talking about money: Email each other about it. We’ve been trained to email in a sort of professional, detached way. If you keep financial discussions in email, maybe you can keep some of the emotion out of it.

    I haven’t tried it myself, but it seems like a good idea.

  7. Courtney on October 17th, 2012 3:08 pm

    God, yes. It seems like despite having the finances conversation multiple times, it’s always the same argument. We haven’t learned how to communicate with each other about it in a real way. Luckily, right now income exceeds expenses, but it won’t always be this easy and we should learn this particular communication skill early.

  8. Shannon on October 17th, 2012 5:48 pm

    This is such a fantastic (and for me, timely) post. Hang in there and keep writing.

  9. sooboo on October 17th, 2012 6:10 pm

    Ugh, I can relate. Two freelancers with unpredictable salaries in my house. For the longest time we couldn’t even talk about money without dick measuring and one of us (me) ending up crying. Emailing is a great idea. It’s hard to send angry emails without some editing. In our house we are trying harder to thank the other person more throughout the day so the drudgery doesn’t feel so thankless.

  10. Melissa on October 17th, 2012 7:26 pm

    I loved those last sentences. So true! (And quotable!)

  11. Mallory on October 17th, 2012 7:29 pm

    Marriage is work. So nice when people are real about these things.

  12. Michele on October 17th, 2012 7:42 pm

    Thank you.

  13. H on October 17th, 2012 8:02 pm

    We have been through some very hard and stressful times related to employment, unemployment, expenses and the fear associated with all of those things. It is so hard. Also, I work out of the house and my husband travels, so I handle 90% of the household and family responsibilities. He loses perspective and I feel overwhelmed and angry. This has been a constant struggle – for years. It is so hard but you’ll find a way to make it work.

  14. Angella on October 17th, 2012 8:20 pm


    We’re in the same space. You have my number, friend. xo

  15. Faith on October 17th, 2012 8:53 pm

    Those last two sentences should be a part of every marriage vow. My husband and I were on a Canadian reality TV show about debt and although it didn’t dramatically impact our money management, it did force us to face the issues behind our spending habits. Doing that saved our marriage before it had even begun. Money is such a huge source of stress, and stress is hard on even the best relationships. Hope it gets easier soon.

  16. squandra on October 17th, 2012 10:05 pm

    You’re really just such a damn fine writer. My husband and I almost never fight about money, and yet. Yes, yes, yes.

  17. anna on October 17th, 2012 10:14 pm

    I never comment anymore because I mostly read on my phone and it takes forever. But I just had to comment, because YES! This spoke to me so clearly. Especially the last sentence of the first paragraph. Just, yes.

  18. jennifer on October 17th, 2012 10:57 pm

    well said.

  19. Kim on October 18th, 2012 2:03 am

    It’s weird, because we never argued about money for years, when we were young, poor and struggling. Once things finally got a little more stable, the arguments started. I know everyone’s situation is different and I never would have believed this but him getting his own checking and savings accounts all but stopped the fights. I know y’all are solid and things will even out.

  20. Christine on October 18th, 2012 5:07 am

    Yes! Thank you and you are such an awesome writer – so well said!

  21. Mel on October 18th, 2012 6:24 am

    YES! YES! YES! God, YES!! I have the same feelings about $$$ and fighting about it. Honestly, it doesn’t do any good or change the situation. It’s what it is. Your last two sentences are so on point. Thank you.

  22. Cheryl on October 18th, 2012 6:44 am

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I always said that our fights about money were never about money, but about shifts in power, but I think that was too narrow. I think you are exactly right and thank you for expressing it in such a clear manner.

  23. Sarah on October 18th, 2012 7:03 am

    You are such an amazing writer! Thank you for the gut punch of those last sentences.

  24. Krissarissa on October 18th, 2012 7:25 am

    Oh man – those last two sentences are the reason life is so complicated.

    This fighting time, though, won’t last forever – you’re both learning how to live new lives, and that’s hard. Hang in there.

  25. Maggie on October 18th, 2012 8:26 am

    So so true. When we were first married, I was paying off a ton of student loan debt – that my husband knew about, it wasn’t a surprise. The surprise and struggle was realizing our different approaches to money and spending. I realized I am extremely uptight about money. He was too relaxed about it. It made for some really rough, repetitive arguments. 15 years in we seem to have ironed it out for the most part, but I know it’s always there lurking around the corner because money concerns never go away forever. On the other hand, all of these arguments about money and the kids and married life make me SO glad I didn’t marry the other guy I dated for a long time before meeting my husband. It would have been a disaster because I know for certain we could not have weathered the storm.

  26. Laura M. on October 18th, 2012 8:39 am

    Well, I have to admit that I am kind of relieved. I saw the title and thought ya’ll won the lotto or something. Not that I begrudge you guys any wonderfulness, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that it’s not all sunshine and roses for even the people who look like they have an almost perfect life.
    And I hear ya about the devolving into fire and ash in a nanosecond. Like it’s all right there below the skin and could pop up at any moment. I hate that.
    Money troubles for us all, seems to be how it is these days. I always try to think of how good/funny/amazing/insane of a story it will make later on when we look back on it.

  27. dorrie on October 18th, 2012 9:54 am

    Seriously. Money (and the lack of it) is a huge trigger in relationships because it can feel like an instant image attack. Worth is not measured by money, but in this world, it sure feels like that is so.

  28. Em on October 18th, 2012 9:56 am

    Yes. I so hear you.

    Money is the worst. (Unless you have a lot of it, I suppose.)

  29. Kimberly on October 18th, 2012 10:44 am

    Oh, you put it so wonderfully, the emotions and struggle about money even for two people who are “good” with it and have very similar values!! Thank you for writing this – I couldn’t have expressed it like you did but it has come up so much ever since we had our son and our expenses have increased while the amount I work has decreased (to spend more time with him). The financial pinch has been unsettling to us both. And we count ourselves very, very lucky to at least be employed. It’s very nice to know we are not alone.

  30. Rachel on October 18th, 2012 11:13 am

    Oh, honey. Money issues can be hell on a relationship. My wife and I went through it bad, we both worked for some of the first and hardest hit industries after the collapse, so we were both out of work just as we had grown accustomed to the kind of money that let us go to Disneyland twice a year.

    Communication is key (isn’t it always in a relationship?). You will each have your own issues surrounding money, you just have to figure out what they are and have a plan. So much of the stress around money for us was that we we’re too proud or embarrassed or worried about hurting each others feelings to really talk it out.

    You will never bring the exact same things to the table. One of you will be earning more, one will be doing more chores, one will be doing more kid stuff, one of you will do more sitting in traffic. It will never be fair today, but hopefully it will FEEL fair in the long-term.

    Right now my wife is in university (pre-law) and I have a good job, which means in addition to working full-time and then some, the cooking, cleaning and caregiving are largely on me. It gets under my skin sometimes, but I know in 5-10 years when she is making good money, and happier because of her career that it will be her turn to carry more and my turn to focus on my long term goals.

  31. Niki on October 18th, 2012 12:02 pm

    I wondered what your little trip was about. Marriage is work and when you add kids and home and work and family—- holy shit!! Remember who you 2 are and why you got married and the other bullshit is just details.

  32. Autumn on October 18th, 2012 1:33 pm

    I support the email idea for any tough argument. It has worked wonders for my husband and myself. It allows you to furiously type out whatever you feel like saying and then go back and edit it asking yourself, “Do I REALLY want to say that?” Most of the time the answer is “no” and it really helps me say only the things I mean. Something about not confronting each other face to face and not having to respond immediately gives me time to determine how I really feel and put those feelings down. If you take the time to really think about it, you’ll barely sling any mud at all and probably resolve the argument much sooner and with less apologies.

  33. Joanne on October 18th, 2012 6:16 pm

    Oh it sucks balls, especially when someone makes more money than someone else. The only reason that I haven’t lost my mind in the last eight years is that we have always thought about our money as our money, and our jobs as both hard and not necessarily reflective of who we are or what we’re worth. Hang in there, sister.

  34. Suburban Snapshots on October 18th, 2012 6:19 pm

    Always. He brings it up in a very scolding way, I always get defensive. It passes until the next bill cycle. I’ve consistently earned more than he has, but never bring that into conversations though when I’m being reprimanded or asked “Why is the account so low?” in an accustory tone, sometimes it’s hard to not put it out there just to wound. Money makes us stupid. I feel your pain.

  35. Karl on October 18th, 2012 11:22 pm

    Money is just a proxy, so it never is “about money” pretty much by definition, right? even the proxy assignments (ie incomes vs work done) aren’t “fair”.

    The good news is that if you have enough to get by with, and if you’re willing to put in the work to get over the insecurities and jealousies and crap, it does in fact turn out that money doesn’t have to be the problem that it might seem.

    (We’re working on retirement denial at the moment, I’ll let you know how that comes out…)

  36. Jen in Germany on October 19th, 2012 1:08 am

    Yep. My husband and I made similar choices to give up wealth in the form of income for fulfillment and happiness. And while I think we made the right decision, there are still times when the lack of income drives me crazy (I am the spender and cursed with expensive tastes), and mothering and homemaking is not making me happy. So it’s money, stress, and blame.

    And then there is your last paragraph.

    This is life and your beautifully written post demonstrates, when you take a step back and look at it, there is still beauty in our struggles because there is forgiveness and growth.

    I am so thankful to be able to benefit from your gift to observe, divine wisdom, and write. And not only your gift, but that of others who comment here. I wish there were “Like” buttons by the comments as well… or perhaps an “Amen, Sister!”

  37. Emily on October 19th, 2012 7:23 am

    I wish this had a LOVE button. I think every couple regardless of income level has this to some extent. Thank you for saying what we all think!

  38. ememby on October 19th, 2012 7:49 am

    Bookmarked this on my phone so I could click thru and comment because it resonated so much with me and the last line – that is IT…

  39. artemisia on October 19th, 2012 9:40 am

    Andy and I have never been in a place where money wasn’t a constant source of worry. Thankfully, we both have similar ideas of how to handle money, the role of incurring debt or not, etc.

    I am scared of how we would handle it if we DID suddenly have any extra income. I think that will be harder for us. (Don’t get me wrong – it is a problem I am willing to try to work through.)

    Good luck.

  40. maggie on October 19th, 2012 5:28 pm

    My first marriage ended because of this. I’m so glad that you have love and perspective. It’s never easy and it’s hard work. I wish more people talked about this before entering into a marriage! Don’t give up and know that’s it’s only a window of time.

  41. Erin@MommyontheSpot on October 19th, 2012 6:44 pm

    Totally been there! Money is so hard because the emotions tied to it are so deep.

    And self-awareness is a huge, bitter pill to swallow. But having said that , this is all still pretty new, and there are always adjustments when transitioning, just like Maggie said.

  42. Kami on October 20th, 2012 9:21 pm

    I swear money is the biggest mindfuck out there. It will work out. Always does.

  43. Nancy on October 21st, 2012 6:34 am

    Oh, it sucks to be a grownup sometimes. Don’t let money be a source of strife in your life. I can’t recommend Dave Ramsey’s book My Total Money Makeover enough – get it from the library and change your conversations and behavior about money.

  44. Alexis on October 21st, 2012 10:10 am

    It is like you are living my life. We are looking at moving jobs/houses. It is Chris’ dream job, but it comes with a pay cut that is amplified by the fact we will pay for health insurance/care out of pocket for the first time in our married lives. We are having these same fights. I just want to scream “we will still have more than enough money so why do we have to fight,” but we DO have to figure out how to rearrange the money and that discussion becomes a metaphor for every other unvoiced inequity in our marriage. Maintaining a good relationship while also being a responsible adult is too damn hard some days. It really is.

  45. kendra! on October 21st, 2012 8:12 pm

    The thump-womp-POW-bing-bing of the two paragraphs you crafted above have left an imprint that I have carried for the last 24 hours since reading them. In the interim, I’ve managed to load all our finances on Dave Ramsey’s total money makeover, thoroughly depress myself, and then have some honest talk with my loverman about the benjamins.

    We moved last year from our gorgeous city condo in Boston for a more simple life for our little ones here where we rent a couple acres of land in TN. Our condo in Boston which is approaching foreclosure is precluding us from feeling like we are allowed to enjoy anything at all–soo wicked stressful–but this post was a great reminder that we’re all dealing with money blight and what a shame if we let our financial woes steal all of our joy…..

  46. MotherGooseAmy on October 22nd, 2012 8:11 pm

    OY VEY! So, so true. It’s so much easier to love each other when we don’t keep score.

  47. Rhiannon on October 25th, 2012 6:26 am

    you just described my night last night – perfectly.

  48. Amy on November 2nd, 2012 9:27 am

    We fought about money a lot when we were first married, when my husband managed the money. We hardly had any, so it wasn’t such a big job, but we had bills. I quit my job during my last semester of grad school because I was overwhelmed with my final exams and my full-time job and oh, my 2-year old. I took over the finances because I wanted to see exactly how long we could manage with me staying home. (It wasn’t long). He had been so stressed out about it that he was relieved to hand it off.

    And, even though there still wasn’t much to manage, I loved it and still do. Now, instead of having a man tell me we can’t afford for me to buy a pair of new shoes, I can just see for myself with my crack finacial tracking system that we can’t afford for me to buy a pair of shoes. And it might not sound like it, but it makes a difference.

    I have no idea how you guys manage your money, but it helped us for me to take it over and manage everything. I’m not the best with managing our grocery budget or our budget for crap the kids always need that I don’t think of, but we are able to save for the things we really want to save for. We could save more if I could manage to get my husband to do more of the grocery shopping. Sometimes I hate the food he buys, and forget about putting tampons on your grocery list when a man is doing the shopping, but he sticks to the budget.

    In any case, if one of you is more adept at using Excel and tracking costs, that is the one who should be doing it. It’s just like watching little kids when you are at the zoo or a museum. One person has to be “it” or you will lose your kid because you will both think the other is watching them while you are staring at some elephant with your nose plugged wondering why you thought the zoo was a good idea.

  49. Sheelah on November 14th, 2012 5:27 pm

    Ugh! Just last night in this house. Not about money, but yeah. You’re like, “WTF? How did we get here in 90 seconds flat?”

  50. Veronica on November 16th, 2012 10:21 am

    Wow, we seem to be going through the exact same thing. My husband took a job that was supposed to make him happier even though he would make less, then we moved back home to be close to family, even though it would be a big commute for him and I would have to leave my job, and OH MY GOD, the difference between thinking you can live on drastically reduced means and actually doing it is VAST. And yeah, things are pretty tense since he actually hates his new job, makes next to nothing, and I am a stay at home mom to two tiny girls, so I think we are both mad at the other all the time. It really is about “who works harder” or “who does more” and “who should we blame this lack of money on” and “why are you never home and we STILL don’t have any money” and JESUS that thinking is not helpful and effs up a marriage pretty quickly. Thanks for writing this, because this is something I would like to have written myself, but my husband would be embarrassed because our families both read my blog. And thanks for giving me a space to say my piece, in this, the longest comment ever. :)

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