When A and I first started dating, I was FREAKED OUT about his money habits.
I may have put that in all caps, but it’s actually an understatement. I was completely cold-sweat, shrill-voice losing my shit.
The only time I’ve ever felt as much panic involved indian food, a 9 hour flight to Amsterdam, and a flight attendant who kept repeating, “you cannot congregate by the bathrooms! you must return to your seat!”
Lady. Back. The. Truck. Up.
For weeks, I would make my best friend listen to all my worries about A’s financial situation – Could two such different people ever have peace (and a savings account)? Would he be happy living with my frugal lifestyle (think roommates, ramen and a lot of two-buck-chuck)?
If I’m being completely honest, the mix of heart-pounding love and eye-bulging fear created a monster. I may have said things that I’m not proud of. Materialistic, shallow, gold-digger-ish type things.
And my wonderful best friend listened to it all.
Because best friends tell each other everything. Even the very very ugly, unkind, I-just-want-a-rich-spouse kind of things.
Goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: my best friend and I have been best friends for a loooooong time.
I won’t say, “since we were in diapers” because I recently discovered that phrase also gets used by elderly friends who have just become friends.Yeah, mind blown.
I’ll just say that we learned how to shave our legs while sitting in the same bathtub listening to Sublime.
Besides being the most delightful person I know (imagine a unicorn combined with a bowl of cherry garcia ice cream…in human form), she is also extremely patient. And forgiving. And the kind of person who lets me say all sorts of bad-emma kinds of things, and says, “I’m sorry this is happening. What can I do to help?”
But one day, she turned to me and said, “the things you’re saying about A’s money situation are making me really upset. If you judge him that much for not being super good with money like you, you must be judging me too. Because I suck at money.”
I was speechless.
Because she was wrong – she’s my best friend and even though we are financially different, I have no judgement about it. Because it doesn’t affect me. I’m not planning on having kids with her, I don’t pick out furniture with her, or make vacation decisions with her. My retirement doesn’t depend on her.
She doesn’t trigger my fear of being poor.
But she was also right – my fear around money was turning me into a critical, nasty person.
There was a voice in my head that was saying, Love is cheap, but money is forever. Don’t trust him. He’s going to want a life you can’t afford. He’s going to put you both in debt. He’s going to buy expensive fruit, and premium gas, maybe even one of those fancy puppies from a breeder! You’re going to end up living on a poor farm, hounded by debtors, trying to pay off the 700 inch flat screen that he bought for the mcmansion that’s now being foreclosed on. RUN, MY PRECIOUS!
Yep, turns out, the voice was Golum. That slimy little fucker.
Instead of focusing on what I wanted, I was focusing on the worst case scenarios. Instead of thinking of ways I could compromise, I was obsessing over how things weren’t going to go my way.
Instead of accepting that A has a different childhood, family, belief system, and set of experiences than I do, I was making a moral judgement that anyone who wasn’t exactly like me was wrong, less-intelligent, and needed to change ASAP.
Instead of communicating honestly with THE PERSON I WAS ACTUALLY DATING, I was being a coward and venting to my best friend who I knew wouldn’t question my fear or make me own up to my part.
Fear is the enemy of financial peace.
I used to think that fear kept me on track, kept me frugal, made me save extra…I thought fear was a motivator, and I loved the results. My bank accounts grew and grew and grew, and I thought that my fear of being poor was the one thing that would stop me from being poor.
Don’t be fooled like I was.
If fear is a powerful tool, it’s a double-edged sword. Because as soon as things go wrong, you get hit with a curve-ball, or you have to adapt to sudden change – fear will hurt you.
Fear makes you slow, unable to change, scared of making a decision, timid, and delusional.
Money isn’t your problem. Fear is your problem.
When you talk to your partner about money, are you actually talking about money, or are you talking about fear?
Most importantly: are you hearing their fear, and are you hearing your own?