She Spoke, He Heard, We Vowed: To Live Life Differently

“You’re about to drive our family off a financial cliff,” I said, mustering my resolve. “You must get a second job–any job–this week, or I will!”

Nearly four years ago I submitted my resignation as an English teacher at the local high school. I loved my role, but I certainly did not sacrifice my career to be a sorta-stay-at-home-mom just to work nights at Taco Bell or the grocery mart.

“You’re tellin’ me that you’re going to go back to work?” my husband questioned, calling my bluff.

“No, not full time,” I shot back, restraining my anger, yet engaging my commitment to persevere, “but I will find some job so that when you come home from work I’ll pack up and head out to my job, and you can watch the kids.”

I waited, then added: “We can’t afford to live like this any longer. And I’m tired of having this same conversation.”

The number one reason I married my husband–aside from love and the warm-fuzzy feelings I get when I am with him–is that he is teachable. He’s far from perfect, but he sees himself, in Christ, as being perfectible. I love this character trait in him.

In my every day world, some people perceive me as being articulate and assertive. That’s far from how I see myself. Especially in the financial realm of our marriage.

My thoughts, feelings, and words tangle in such a way, I often feel like my three-year old who throws fists at his side, screams, and stomps off due to his shortfall in vocabulary and lack of efficacy to vocalize–in the moment–his want or need.

As research for this blog, I read Leslie Vernick‘s Emotionally Damaging Relationships. I didn’t anticipate pinpointing the words I’ve been needing to use with my husband about our finances. I didn’t realize how fearful I was of my husband’s inability to control our finances.

When I was a little girl, there were violent fights over money and bills of all sorts. I remember the look on mom’s face at the grocery checkout when the total was higher than she calculated and how she’d white-knuckle the steering wheel on the ride home. I can still feel the tension of walking through the doorway after a shopping trip to the mall, armed and ready with defense for each purchase: the girls outgrew their shoes…

For the last three years, I thought I was doing the right thing: identify my concern, vocalize it to him, wait for him to act, and then pray for him to make the best choice. I thought I was respecting his leadership in this way.

And maybe I was.

But God was compelling me to speak and stand up about our finances.

Let me be clear, my husband is not abusive.

The little girl within, however, was abused years ago. And she’s been financially cowering ever since she noticed at the grocery counter that money and spending causes fights and heartache. And that little girl grew up a little stronger the other day when she spoke to my husband from her heart to his heart.

How did my loving husband receive her words?

Like a king!

He made no excuses. He claimed what sin was his and owned it. He repented.

I repented of having let fear mute my heart in the area of finances.

And together, we made a solemn promise before the Lord that we would be faithful with His good gifts, that we would learn to be good stewards, and that we would establish a new financial legacy for our children and their children and their children’s children.

This was a sacred moment in our marriage. One that we’ve needed several follow-up conversations to actualize what had been expressed. We’ve cried. We’ve laughed. And we’ve stood in awe at how God orchestrated the words and timing of that conversation.

Only four weeks have passed since that holy moment. Our finances haven’t changed that much, even still, our hearts certainly have.

Making headway through financial behavioral modification is no fairy tale. I have no frills-and-lace expectations that all will go perfectly well from this day forward.

This is real life, after all.

The next day following our conversation, my husband had a previously scheduled interview, and the Lord was merciful. My husband nailed the interview, got the position, and received more than we anticipated because of previous work history.

It doesn’t always work out this way: speaking up, standing up, and getting blessed. But this time, the Lord allowed it. And we’re thankful.

Today, I’m accepting the dare to challenge that abused little girl within me to grow up, one conversation at a time.

O Lord, thank you, that it is you and no one else, who is causing the growth within me. Remove the learned mutism of my heart by giving me words to speak and courage to utter them. Give me wisdom to know when to speak up and when to remain silent.

What’s your next step? In what areas do you find yourself still responding like that little girl or little boy from long ago? Make it a priority in your schedule to do business with the Lord. Ask Him where and why and how you need to grow. He may direct you to a “Paul” or to an “Apollo,” but rest assured that it is He who will bring about the growth in you (1 Cor. 3.6).

Btw, my sweet hubs gave me “the okay” to share this with you. πŸ˜‰

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8 responses to “She Spoke, He Heard, We Vowed: To Live Life Differently

  1. I spent fifteen years in an amazingly abusive relationship, and we had the financial tango down to a deadlock. The discussion would go very differently. My ex husband made over 6 figures, we had relatively moderate bills in alignment with our income but not an ounce of financial accountability to my exes name. You can’t balance a bank account if someone wont be transparent with their spending.

    Not surprisingly, his lack of accountability at home transferred to the workplace, so layoffs were not an unfamiliar experience for us. Wondering where the money went before the end of the month was no stranger. As we went on, repossessions and utility shut offs were a known friend. My children at five and six years old learned to hide and turn off the lights when someone who looked like a ill collector or repo company rang the doorbell.

    The dialogue was much different in our house.

    Him: We’re broke, you need to get a job
    Me: alright, I’ll start putting out applications.

    Within a few weeks of me beginning the waitressing/ checking job of the moment, things around the house would begin to unravel in a different way from the basic chaos.

    “The towels weren’t folded, the boys need their homework checked. I don’t know what kind of superstar you think you are for working, but you’re failing the entire family at home. You are a zero, a drain on this family. If you weren’t so selfish you would see that. You haven’t cooked a thing that didn’t come pre-made in the last three days. Some mother you are.”

    -and this was if he wasn’t drinking yet. For YEARS I followed him into alcohol with the hopes that in a shared state we might have a moment of meaningful communication, but to think that any lasing meaning can be had for getting inebriated together is a lie. there may be a peaceful moment, but it only lasts as long as the buzz and leaves you hungry for real, sincere contact.

    If he were, the kids would be God only knows where, leaving me knocking on doors at 9pm looking for my kids in a dark neighborhood, while he surfed porn and e-mailed high school girlfriends on the internet. While I was trying to do the best I could do for my family, he was sexting drunk till he passed out in a puddle of beer. When I caught him, it was my fault. I was paranoid, I was insane, I was destroying his female “friends” lives by calling them and asking them to respect my marriage.

    If he were drinking when I got home, I could anticipate being screamed at and threatened, shoved up into a corner, have my face smashed into walls, being put in a sleeper hold to passing out or to have things that I drew pleasure from (like my computer) destroyed violently.

    Eventually the cost would be the job that I was trying to hold onto that would go, since getting screamed at all morning to arrive at work and have to put yourself together in the store restroom before setting about the day can make people suspect you’re a tad bit flaky and unstable. An hour of unplanned overtime would be the final straw; knowing I had to get home to try to set to right the storm that was waiting for me. I would end up in a fight with someone and quit before I got fired for it.

    Now the dialogue changes.

    You are a failure at life. You are an anchor, you suck this family dry. You do nothing but take. We would all be better off if you just left. Leave the kids, they don’t need to be with you, all you teach them is to fail.

    I entered this marriage in a similar not to yours, “he is teachable” my dialogue went even deeper. Because he grew up in an abusive home, he doesn’t know any better. All he needs is consistent, unconditional love and…

    Hmmm. Out of the ashes I came to understand that it was pretty egotistical of me to believe that my love and my ability to withstand abuse was going to be what remade a man, or that no one in his entire life had ever loved him well before me. Through learning more about my faith and the dynamics of a healthy Christian marriage I realized, it is not my place to teach him anything. I cannot know what Gods plan is for any of us, I can only learn what I am given to learn and support the efforts of othersin their learning through encouragement and respect.

    Fear of additional abuse leads us to do some pretty self destructive things, all hinging upon the fallacy that “If I am good enough, he find will me worthy and treat me with the love and respect that I am then deserving of” In the context of faith, there is only one Power that dictates our worth and the bestowing of that worth happened long before any of us were a sparkle in the cosmic eyes of God. To be forever locked in a pattern of seeking validation of our worth in a mans eyes is chasing the Devil into Hell. The lies of the Devil direct us to trust in our own ability to change someone, the deceptions are cloaked in logical half truths that validate our pride but never pay out. The devil tells us that we have been cast into the world without a hand to hold, so we’d better set about making the best of it regardless of the casualties. Make the rocks into bread, you could jump from the top of your temples and if God is truly your Father he’ll catch you. When we splatter on the ground in a pile of broken pride, sin and loss of faith because through questioning our own faith, we have defied God and then blamed him for it. lessons be damned.

    We double whammy ourselves when we link another persons treatment of us as being because we are worthy or unworthy of love and respect in their eyes. Guilt steps in. Because I questioned Gods plan, because I said something wrong, I am not deserving or valuable. Through Christ, we have already been found worthy.

    Do not put the Lord God to the test – Mathew 4:7

    “For I know the plans I have for you, Declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

    • Mandisantiago, I’ve thought about you, your words, and your post all week. I’m really humbled by your words and your story. You’re right, so much of how we view ourselves, the relationships that we’re in, and the world around us warps after we’ve been violated. None of us asked for it. To internalize the truth of those verses you cited–for those of us who weathered the abuse–shocks, frees, and empowers us to look our Savior in the face and rest in His arms. I’m so thankful you’ve been able to find safety in our Savior. Thank you, too, for engaging in this conversation.

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  4. I benefited a lot from both the blog and the comment by Mandi. I happened to hear Leslie Vernick on the radio for the first time a week or so ago, and I realized that my behavior and responses to my husband match those of an abuse victim very closely: Not speaking up when I should, being afraid to do or say “the wrong thing,” overreacting to small disagreements, fear, resentment…

    But here’s the thing: My husband is not abusive. Not at all. He’s not perfect, but he is a work in progress — and a giving, affectionate one at that. The “abuser” I live with is in my head, an overactive and anxious conscience, the conglomeration of my father rejecting me (he doesn’t even know me- I was born as the result of an affair, and he choose to never get involved) and other negative experiences from my past — hurts and rejections I internalized as a young child that cause knee-jerk, fear-based responses to even the slightest looks of frustration or disappointment on my husband’s face.

    I can be very controlling.

    I had a “friend” several years back that I really admired (idolized?) because of her role in a ministry I was involved with. She was everything I thought I wanted to be: anointed, a leader, confident, funny. I was a youngster in the Lord with a lot of pent-up hurts, fears, and negative emotions. My true heart was buried deep under many layers of pride and fear. This “friend” helped me through some of that, and I was so grateful. I felt like my black-and-white world had color for the first time in YEARS. Sadly, this young woman preyed on my spiritual immaturity and my huge fear of displeasing the Lord. She knew how indebted I felt toward her. She convinced me that if I were a true friend, I would totally isolate myself from my family and other friends and max out multiple credit cards and take out loans from family members to “help” her through the tough times she was going through. As she backslid from the things of God, I believed it was my duty to stick by her side and hide the bad decisions she was making (drinking, sleeping around, etc.). I thought I was God’s special agent to “bring her back to the Lord.” But I learned the hard way that I am no one’s Holy Spirit and that I have to own responsibility for my own heart instead of being overly responsible for someone else’s. I had to learn that I have value, and that I, in my own right, am precious to the Lord. I matter. The book Boundaries by Drs. Townsend and Cloud has been a Godsend.

    I so frantically want to change my heart that it’s like I try to do spiritual surgery on myself at times, but I am not the Great Physician. It’s when I surrender control and humbly admit my failings and weaknesses that God is able to do the most in my life. I have to let go again and again to realize that God is a loving and faithful father, always there to catch me.

    Thanks for letting me share. It helps me to open up. πŸ™‚ Please keep the blog posts coming. God bless!

    • God’s Girl, πŸ™‚

      Your words are powerful: “It’s when I surrender control and humbly admit my failings and weaknesses that God is able to do the most in my life.” Amen, sista! πŸ™‚ I couldn’t have said it better.

      I love the timeliness of my blog with your hearing Leslie Vernick on the radio! Way to go, God. I find those happenstance moments to be–in truth–God appointments.

      And your words of encouragement to me are timely, too. And maybe for Mandi, too? πŸ™‚ I will keep the blog posts coming, and I rejoice that this is a place where you can practice opening up.

      God bless, God’s Girl. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      • Hi! Thanks for writing back!

        It touched my heart that you were encouraged. I appreciate your letting me know. Your response encourages me to keep revealing my heart to people and allowing others to see the real me (even though it’s anonymous for now πŸ™‚ ). My masks (coping mechanisms, workaholism, busyness, fake smiles, being *nice* all the time — I can be quite the actress really) have truly not benefited me throughout my life.

        We weren’t made to be stuck in our own little world of SELF. I have learned over and over again that living in the light — in RELATIONSHIP with God and man — is SO MUCH BETTER than hiding out in darkness even though it feels really risky and scary at times to be honest with people. I pray that the message sticks with me and I quit the cycle of retreating into the secret place of self but instead make my home in God’s secret place where I am truly safe. I don’t want to be mute anymore like you wrote about. Fear will do that to a person.

        Thanks again. Have a great rest of your week!

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