In my last post, I made an enormous commitment to something I needed to do if I’m ever to master my personal finances. I committed to confessing my financial infidelity to my husband, and to asking him to join me in building financial fidelity.
At the time I wrote that post, I thought there were five stages of financial fidelity.
Guess what, Dreamers. There was one I didn’t know about. I only found out about it after I actually did the deed.
Yes! You read that right! I didn’t just think about it. I didn’t just talk about it.
I actually did it.
Without further ado, I present to you the stage I didn’t know about until after I spilled the beans.
Stage Six. Relief.
I don’t mean relief as in the Rolaids kind. (You younger kids might not recognize that reference. In the old days, Rolaids had a commercial that asked, “How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”) I mean, I did get some Rolaids-type relief, sans Rolaids, but that’s not the whole of it.
I don’t mean relief as in “Whew, I’m sure glad THAT’s over with,” although there’s definitely some of that.
I don’t even mean relief from the self-administered beatings I’ve been raining down on my own head for months. (It does feel SO GOOD to stop, though.)
I mean the relief of having a partner. Of not hiding. Of not being alone. Of having another chance to begin again from clear ground. Of seeing that my mistakes are not the sum total of who I am in here, inside, as a person.
That kind of relief.
Confessing was like jumping out of a plane 30,000 feet above the ground.
Then I found out the rip cord actually worked.
I didn’t die! What a relief.
And then what happened?
My darling husband reacted to my news with a sharp intake of breath from the shock. There was a pause while I cowered, waiting for him to speak aloud the thoughts I’ve been punishing myself with for months.
And then he said to me, “It was wrong of me to put all that pressure on you. I’ve known for a long time it was too much, and I didn’t do anything about it. I’m sorry.”
Did you get that, Dreamers? My husband apologized to ME for my financial infidelity.
Astonished, disbelieving, I said: “Aren’t you going to get mad at me?” And he replied: “I know you. You’ve already beaten yourself up too much. I’m not going to pile on.”
No, I did not make that up. Nor did I make HIM up, although sometimes I wonder if I did.
Relief? There’s got to be a more powerful word, but I don’t know what it is.
Now begins the hard work. Because after the relief stage, a person has two choices.
One is, go back to regular programming, as though it’s all better and all over.
I admit, letting it all pass is a temptation. Like most temptations (tiramisu, deep-fried chicken, champagne, home equity loans, and I could go on), there is short term pleasure amid the threat of overindulgence. We all know what overindulgence yields, don’t we? A rapidly inflating bubble that is going to someday burst and make a mess all over again.
The other choice is, I could do the work. Keep asking my husband for help and support. Be the honest, straightforward, transparent partner I want to be. Notice when I’m falling off the wagon. Dig for the roots of that behavior. Question. Try to understand. Forgive myself for my flaws. Find a way to like myself in spite of my defects of character. Repeat.
Because this is what I know. Dysfunctional behavior of any sort all comes down to some dark and shadowy core belief about how, what, or who a person is. The dysfunction doesn’t go away until the core belief is shown the clear, bright light of day.
How I am with money is one way I act out what I believe about myself. I can make all the promises and vows in the world, but they won’t hold until I find out what I’m acting on. So that’s my quest now. I started it this week. It feels too raw and personal to say much about it yet, which must mean I’m on to something.
I have this urge to talk about cooking. Much safer!
Reading back over this post, I can’t fail to notice that it is all about me. It’s probably a little hard to hold your attention when I’m just talking all about me. I’m going to publish it anyway. Here’s why.
If you are in the position I was in a week ago, I know just how you feel. I know how much it hurts, and how scary it is. I know that you have pounded yourself into the very dirt with your self-loathing. I know that you are thinking your marriage may not survive. I know that whatever gifts you possess, and whatever goodness is in you, they have paled in your mind beside the evidence of your financial misdeeds.
I know another thing, too. No one except you expects you to be perfect. And no one except you would condemn you for struggling with a flaw.
Jayne Speich is a small business coach/consultant who writes, thinks, and coaches extensively on customer service, business finance, and ways to thrive in the new economy. She is the owner of Onsys21 Dental, a coaching/consulting firm for dental practice owners. You can sometimes find her at theselfreliantentrepreneur.com. Jayne’s post day is Saturday.