When you think of your marriage, looking back at the best times and the worst times, what do you consider to be prime moments?
When Chelsea and I first started dating, everything was wonderful. So much so that one day, while sitting on the couch (watching some sort of chick flick no doubt), she turned, looked at me with her pretty doe eyes and said, “We're such a great couple. We never fight.”
I'm a pragmatist and a realist. I don't waste time beating around the bush and hate the fact that most “conflicts” in movies could honestly be solved if one of the characters just said, “Wait wait wait…tell me what your problem is and let's figure this out before just running off.”
For this reason, I sometimes don't make the greatest first impression.
“He's so rude” (insert alternate descriptives ‘standoffish,' ‘arrogant,' ‘cocky' or ‘mean‘). This usually happens in situations where people expect some type of English style Lord and Lady interaction and conversations about the weather. Someone inevitably asks a question which I interpret as wanting of an honest or actual response and I then provide it. The problem is, people want fluff. I don't do fluff. It's mentally draining for me. To be clear, I'm never intentionally insulting anyone, just plainly stating my opinions, observations or facts. The definition of rude for me is someone who goes out of the way of constructive conversation to harm another emotionally or personally. Nowadays people equate discomfort with rudeness. My opinion is that this only leads to a weaker society. In the end, given some time, I'd estimate 80-90% of people come around and actually enjoy that the can count on my honesty.
Now, Chelsea comes from a family that isn't exactly known for facing tough times head-on. Historically, many of them have opted for the ostrich technique of head-in-sand or run-like-hell. The fact that she came from a family of divorce was, honestly, concerning to me. So with all that considered, I looked at her and said, “Chelsea, I love you. I love you very much but the truth is, at some point, we are going to fight. Probably many times. But no matter how much or hard we fight, you must remember one thing. I love you.”
Another important point that echoes from my athletic days is the adage “iron sharpens iron.” A marriage is a partnership. A team. And if you want your team to be great and to be strong, you have to work at it and strengthen it. The best growth does not come from times of peace. Look at the United States. Up until the shock of December 7th, 1941, we were drowning. Ten years later, the world had two superpowers.
And so we came to the issues that all of us come to through the course of marriage. One, but not the least of which, is finances. It is considered one of the largest tension points in a relationship. It's also one of the clearest indicators of self sacrifice and indulgence. Stopping yourself from doing what “single you” would have done without thinking is so very difficult.
I am a big culprit of this crime. Oh my God. If it's shiny, made of metal, runs on gasoline or diesel, goes boom or somehow creates or destroys something…I gotta have it. Saying no to myself? I ain't got no Jimminy Cricket sitting on my shoulder all the time.
So what do people like me have to do? I have to literally draw it out on paper. Not on a tablet, not on a computer and not on my mental note pad. Literally 8.5×11″ paper. Somehow, by translating my thoughts into muscle movement and pushing it through a pen, my mind processes it all. For our budget issue, my solution is to print all bank statements with income included. Then, using two different highlighters, highlight income and expense. The add the numbers so I see the balance. Then go back and – while looking through expenses – find all the things that needed to be done like bills, groceries, fuel etc. Only then do I get a real picture of my less than responsible spending.
One important note when doing this with Chelsea is not to take anything personally from the start. We have to start the entire operation with the preface and warning that whatever we may see, may hurt. It may suck. But it needs to be seen and not judged immediately. The last thing you need when trying to find a solution is to throw another problem in the middle of the endeavor. So suck it up. Don't think about the other person being rude or upset. Get through the numbers.
Afterwards, you find that the situation feels much more tangible and moldable. There is a solution to just about every problem (unless you murder someone. Kinda hard to fix that mountain of marbles). If you find that budgetary problems are a result of either you or your partner (or maybe both), you can physically see the red areas and work on it. The best part is, by identifying the problem, you can work together to add strength. You have created another common ground.
As long as you have the mentality that you are a team and you help with each other's weak points, you can go much further than you initially thought.
In the end, it is the fire that makes steel.