by Lindsey Boycott
The beautiful dream
There is always this pair. You know them; They tell stories in tandem and take turns painting the perfect picture of their shared memories. They go on dates and post social media updates about their fun but meaningful hobbies, activities, and travel. Like the beautiful and mysterious relationship unicorn that they are, this couple seems to resolve differences through a respectful exchange of viewpoints that culminates in a compromise that is empowering. Sensitive issues like family, money, marriage, career and children cannot affect these two because they were proactive and planned.
The ugly reality
So yes, this couple doesn’t exist. These pictures of the beaming, happy family, artfully arranged on a sun-drenched meadow, were actually a grueling six-hour photo shoot. This stunning Instagram feed full of #blessed hashtags belongs to a woman diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – she has to check her oven nine times before bed. The proud husband and wife you visit may be the envy of you in the neighborhood, but he has been unemployed for a year and they may have to sell the house.
Do not get me wrong; It’s not that I want to tear people down. However, I want to talk about the habit of believing what we see in other people’s lives. Looking at two people from the outside is very different from being in the rich, multi-faceted world of their relationship. We make quick judgments based on a short conversation, a Facebook post or an email and decide that this has to be the whole truth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help anyone to turn our friends’ lives into cardboard clippings of their happy, shiny moments.
The blood, the sweat and the tears
In my experience, trying to develop a money management system is like training for a marathon – it takes a lot of work. Depending on where you are in your life or regime, you will need different strategies to achieve your goals. Phase one is building a base – walk at a slow, comfortable pace and run as far as you can. When I first decided to become part of a be-yoo-tiful whole, we talked about how we make decisions about money, life goals and similarities and differences.
From there, consider the strength and speed phases of marathon training. You begin to build your relationship money habits and reinforce them through repeated use. Perhaps you will take the time to talk about money once a week, address sensitive topics, and review progress toward a goal. Frictions develop in relationships – talking is always easier than implementing. This also happens when you run, and if you don’t address the small issues early on, they will become big problems.
In the final stages of training, marathon runners often start tapering – they reduce the intensity of their training while keeping their distance. In a similar process, partners consistently apply their chosen financial strategies and like to hang on for a while. This is a difficult time for me because it is easy to mistake satisfaction for complacency. My test for this is how the emotions sit when I think about something. There is a kind of conscious awareness when I am at peace – I am present in that moment. When I calm down, I feel more irritable and avoidant. It’s different for everyone, but it does give you an idea of how to separate the two.
It really takes two
Two people who are dedicated to a common goal in life are like Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel; a thousand small thoughts and actions over a thousand days tell a story. Nobody knows how many times in those four years the Renaissance painter wished he had never heard of this church, but it was probably more than once. The point of taking 45 seconds to snap a few selfies with the 500 year old frescoes of the Vatican in the background doesn’t make me an expert on art.
Whether we’re comparing money and relationships to marathons or masterpieces, work has to be done. There seems to be a trend for people to use social media to post an overly careless comment and combine it with a carefully crafted photo: “Just stop by Angkor Wat in Cambodia for a quick sunset tour before heading to Thailand rush to save elephants. #So grateful! “Attached is the obligatory picture of the first rays of the sun that set an old Hindu temple on fire in purple and gold. Of course, it is completely unstaged and unfiltered.
I’m a little ironic about this behavior, but the point still stands. Don’t let others dictate how happy you are in your relationship. Be honest with your partner, voice your differences, celebrate your joys, and share your worries. Don’t be afraid to tackle the scary things like money or a career. Most of the time, they can be worked through if your not preoccupied with making things perfect.
Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash