I recently did that thing again where I shared a meme on Facebook that I kicked myself for later. The basic idea of the meme was that all of my problems would be solved if some kind soul would just come and pat me on the back, give me some chocolate, and hand me a check for a few million dollars.
Yes, it’s funny. 🙂 But I was feeling sorry for myself that day because of real-life money troubles.
I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty many times of doing some thinly-veiled (or outright) complaining about money outside of intimate conversations with close friends and family. It has taken me cringing at words coming out of the mouths of others to help me see the need to corral my own tongue. Healthy venting, commiserating and figuring hard things out with dear friends is different from conversations with people you’re honestly not very close to.
We are a single-income family, and my husband has had several jobs over the years. Our financial story has been an adventure of twists and turns, with some ups and some extremely difficult downs. Life has schooled me deeply in humility where money is concerned. To provide for our family, my well-educated, capable husband has done everything from flight control at NASA to digging ditches. And let me tell you, when your husband comes home exhausted and sweaty from digging ditches for you all day, it’s a game changer in the talking-about-money department. We have friends whose jobs are very labor intensive, like Michael’s was, and I don’t mean at all to look down on that. I just want to share an important part of my story: that the clear visual evidence of Michael’s work for our family each day helped me to grow up as a wife. Now that Michael has a “desk job” again, I’ve tried hard to retain that deep respect I gained for his work–whatever work he does to provide for us. Whether your husband comes home sweaty and tired, or comes home in a suit, he’s put in a full day at work that deserves your respect.
Communicating that your family’s income is enough
When it comes to money, it’s important to remember that in most cases God is permitting a certain amount of income for your family in this season of your life.
A wise friend of mine sees it as her job to communicate that what her husband brings home is enough. She tries to do this through prudent home management and spending habits. In a one-income family (or even in a two-income family), usually one spouse spends most of the money each month paying bills and making necessary purchases. It took me a long time to understand that having somebody else spend most of the money you earn can be a hard pill to swallow. In that light, things like meal planning and sticking to a budget can communicate respect for your spouse and his or her work.
Sometimes what He’s giving you isn’t enough, though. I’ve been there, too. Those are the times when you discern as a couple what God might be calling you to change or move toward. One of the hardest decisions Michael and I ever made was to sell our landscaping business and start looking for an engineering job for him again. It felt like failure (and little did we know at the time what the fallout financially would be!). But at the same time, God writes straight on crooked lines, whether those lines are crooked because of our own mistakes, or because He designed the path of our life that way, and we have discerned rightly each road we’ve taken. Looking back, I want to shout from the rooftops about all of the blessings He has wrought through all of the twists and turns of our life even just these past three years.
There’s something else, though, that needs to communicate respect for the God-given income of our family: our mouths.
Refine your speech
How you talk about money can reassure your spouse that you’re on the same team–or put them on the defensive. When you’re talking about your budget with your spouse, make it clear that you believe God has provided your family with a certain income for a reason, and that you’re happy to do whatever you need to do to make good decisions together about where each dollar should go. Find little ways to speak more positively about money. For example, instead of saying, “We only have ____ for groceries,” say “We have _____ for groceries.” Look for ways to put a positive spin on any comment or conversation about money. Remember to speak words of thankfulness about your life together.
Another tip (one I learned about the hard way) is not to go on and on to your spouse about how wonderful someone else’s possessions or lifestyle are. Sure, it’s okay to admire someone’s newly-landscaped backyard, lovely (second) home, or nice clothes. But all too often, envy makes us fixate a little bit on those things we admire but can’t afford. We don’t even notice ourselves bringing the blessings of others up again and again. (If you’re not sure if you’ve fallen into this trap recently, just ask your spouse.) Our spouses hear our over-the-top admiration as criticism of their ability to provide, and whether or not we may have had the slightest taint of envy in our admiration of someone else, we have to be sensitive to how our words might be perceived. I have a go-to phrase that helps me work for a right heart and curb my speech in this area. I simply say, “I’m really happy for them!”, and then I change the subject.
The dignity of a queen
Avoiding complaining or even talking about money at all is a social grace that other people pick up on more than you know. I have a particular friend whose financial circumstances are less comfortable than my own. This woman has the dignity of a queen. I have never once heard her speak disparagingly about her husband’s income, or go on and on about anything she wishes she could have. She seems to have a truly pure-hearted gratitude for her home, family and possessions. I don’t mean to put this friend of mine on a pedestal–I’m sure she has her struggles with this issue and would balk at me making an example of her. But she has inspired me to be more thankful for what I have, and to strive for her same endearing grace when it comes to money.
On the flip side, I am blessed to know several more wealthy women in my acquaintance who awe me with their graciousness. They have a way of being generous without being pretentious. They are graceful and real. Queens, each of them.
Whether we live in a one-income household or a household that doesn’t need to worry much about money, it is our responsibility to be wise and generous stewards of our income. Spiritually, it is important to grow in thankfulness and in wise stewardship of the income God has seen it best to provide us with. I think it’s important to note that we’re all in such different, often complicated places when it comes to money. If you can’t seem to leave behind every last bit of envy or discontent where money is concerned, but your heart’s desire is to have a right heart…know that just your very desire for a right heart is pleasing to God.
You’ll get there. We’ll get there.
Money is such a tough topic. And it’s another one where I pray hard that sharing my own heart and struggles (with my husband’s blessing) may help you bypass learning some of these lessons the hard way.
May God bless each of you, sweet readers, and may He grow you by His grace in every virtue to bless your marriages and families!
Copyright 2015 Erin Franco
Erin, this was a beautiful reminder to me. You have a gift of gently sharing how to be a good wife, intentionally. With lots of kids underfoot and the stress of daily life, your words are helpful to me, drawing me back to the days of courting my husband. We must be similar to you (or you’ve edited well), because my take-aways from your article were that I need to watch what I say (always a struggle) and to find ways of thanking my husband for his hard work, even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like “enough.” I haven’t really thought before about how it must feel to him that I spend all the money (on food and necessities) and how that might stress him out to go back again and make more! (He’s working some side jobs to supplement an income that must be stretched to live in a new and more expensive city.) Thank you, so much, for writing this all down!
Erin Franco says
You are so kind–thank you for this comment. I did edit this post quite a bit after some helpful comments early on.:) God bless your sacrament!
Katie @ The Catholic Wife says
Erin this is written so beautifully. I especially admire the royal description of your friend; socially graceful women compel me to follow suit and I find myself hoping and praying for the same virtues that seem to come so naturally from them.
Money is the biggest cause of divorce – or rather, poor communication and stewardship of it – and I’m sure that if couples carefully and deliberately worked with each other, it could turn from being a point of contention to a point of joint-thinking.
Erin Franco says
Thank you for this encouraging comment, Katie! You have been such an inspiration to me. Your episode on The Right Heart about money was fantastic. I really encourage readers to check it out: http://thecatholicwife.net/interview-on-the-right-heart-podcast/
Hugs from BR, sweet friend! 🙂
I really think that meme is funny. Of course we feel that way sometimes when we’re stressed out, but I’m not sure how it’s “thoughtless”. It’s probably only harmful to one who thinks that’s true.
The money talk is tricky. I always feel uncomfortable in conversations that are possession bragging (about oneself and others). But I feel RELIEVED talking to good friends about what real spending and budgeting looks like. I think this really depends on your husband and your relationship with your friends you’re speaking too. My husband is not vain. We both know he works his fanny off in a profession where he will not make a lot of money. Neither one of us covet the things we can’t have, except maybe occasionally the stability to not have to worry about money. We’ve both talked money with friends in intimate conversation, and it’s humbling to say “I’m having trouble buying groceries right now.” And it’s good for certain people to hear that you’re in that place, because maybe they were there too and deeply ashamed about it. There’s no shame in being a hardworking man living out what is clearly his vocation as job, and having to live on a tight budget. We’ve also had to put our foot down and say an expensive outing is not in our budget when family members are pressuring us. Maybe the difference in all this is my husband and I presenting a united front about it? Or maybe all of that is taboo to be open about and people think I’m tacky? I’m not ashamed of our life, it is what it is and I’m proud of my husband.
I also am always really confused when people say that a situation is the way it is because that’s what God wants. I just don’t think it’s theologically sound to think of God as the great puppet master who has a hand of control in every part of our lives. Do we pray to God that we make career decisions that are the best fit for our family? Absolutely. But there are times we’ve realized that we are not making enough money to make ends meet even after trimming the fat. And then we consider going on public assistance (also a good thing to be open about with people to remove the stigma) or increasing our income in a way that doesn’t compromise our family life. Because while I can’t see at all how the amount of money we’re making is the amount God ordains, but I can see that we need to be good stewards of what we have and in turn use the intellect and the praying knees God gave us to possibly jump into action to change our money situation.
Erin Franco says
You have so many good points!
I definitely think the meme I shared is funny, too! You’re right, though, it wasn’t “thoughtless.” (I think I will take out that adjective for future readers). But for me, sharing that meme perpetuated me feeling sorry for myself, and it perpetuated also the idea that we are struggling (which we are, in a very public way to all who know us and know our living situation and the story of the last few years of our marriage.)
One thing I’m thankful that you inadvertently pointed out was that I didn’t distinguish between talking about money in intimate conversations with good friends, or social conversations with acquaintances or family and friends you’re not very close to. If I didn’t have very close friends and family to talk to, commiserate with, vent to, and figure things out with, I don’t know where I’d be! The social situations I talk about in the post were conversation with acquaintances who I wasn’t close to at the time.
I think that my husband and I’s situation and your and your husband’s situation has been different in that, just like you said, you’ve been united in a single career choice. Mike and I have been a little bit all over the place, with many job changes and intense discernments, and even failure. And we haven’t been on the same page for all of it, if you couldn’t tell from the post.
I definitely see what you’re saying about it not being theologically sound to say that what God gives us is enough. It’s too much of a blanket statement. It’s funny that I didn’t think to clarify that in the post, because Michael and I have been in a couple of hard situations where what God gave us was very clearly not enough. And like you said, we had to talk about what we needed to do in those situations. In one instance, we decided to sell our business and move out of state and in with my parents indefinitely. In that case, I spent a long time learning how to trust that a roof over my head and food on the table and health insurance through Mike’s job were God’s “enough” for us at that time. Generalizations are easy to make and hard to clarify. Thank you so much for pointing that out. I’ll see what I can do to make it better in the post. 🙂
Rachel @ Efficient Momma says
So glad you clarified those points 🙂 I was going to comment on how it frustrates me that it’s so taboo to discuss money with other people. I agree that it should be kept mostly between couples you know well. However, it’s very comforting for me and my husband to see that we’re not the only ones struggling. And even if this is God’s will for our situation, it’s still helpful to discuss the frustrations a little bit with other like minded people.
I do try to make sure my husband knows that I appreciate all his hard work and I’m always telling him he’s doing a great job, even if we fall short in the money department right now. But we’re always discussing financial things and wants. I think every relationship is different and for us talking about the things we envy or want helps us to work through those issues and come out with a better perspective. Burying those things and hiding them from my husband just makes the issue worse, at least for me. But I think that might also just be our personalities and how we work as a couple.
(p.s. loving your podcast!)
Erin Franco says
Ah…it’s so easy to hit “publish” and think that people will know what you really mean, you know? I’m really glad I got that I got that first comment to help me go back and do some important clarifying. She was spot on.
And I am the #1 defender of having like-minded CLOSE friends and family to talk about money with, but I personally have a tendency to over-share with almost anybody. (Heck, I’m a blogger and I wrote this post, case in point). I think that when you share too much with just anyone, or with not-actually-close-to-you people, it often points to something you need to work on in yourself. And if that’s just me, somebody tell me.:)
Every marriage is so different, too, just like you said. There are times to bury your frustration with money for that moment or short season, and there are times to be intentional about bringing them up in a safe time and place, when you are both in the right frame of mind (especially you!). The monthly couple dialogue commitment we make with Domestic Church has been super, super helpful for talking about money. We’ve had some tough realities and questions to face together, and I feel like God gave us a great gift in that particular tool in Domestic Church. Any couple can schedule a monthly time to talk things out prayerfully, but we for one would in all likelihood never do it without the gentle accountability of having to tell our circle and a priest that we just didn’t make it a priority.:)
God bless! 🙂