Much can be learned from a financial crisis, especially if we make it an opportunity to solidify our marriage.
“If I have you, I can survive on bread and onions,” goes an old Spanish idiom used by engaged couples to express their love and their promise to remain together “for richer or poorer.” In Mexico, they add “… even if on a cactus!” which conveys, among other things, their conviction that no matter what kind of economic setbacks they may face, or where they are or might end up, they will always stick together.
So where do those sweet intentions go when we go through economic crises in marriage? Was that “for better or for worse” wedding vow an empty promise?
A crisis is an excellent time to rebuild. There is no denying that one of the most difficult experiences we can face in marriage is living through an economic crisis. But the worst thing we can do is allow fear to take hold of us and take control of our decisions.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing feelings of sadness, disappointment, fear of the future, frustration, and so on. But what we must avoid is remaining stuck there. This is definitely not the time to panic or throw in the towel. It’s time to contain ourselves, refrain from negative thoughts, attitudes, and actions, and to do what each needs to do to rebuild.
When poverty knocks at our door or walks right into our lives, must our love make an exit through a window or back door? Sometimes, this is exactly what it “feels” like – but it ought not be so. My husband and I have gone through several economic crises in the last 23 years and I can bear witness that these have been wonderful experiences. They are very painful moments, but they are nonetheless great opportunities to test the quality of our love, to name only one key “crisis blessing.”
In fact, during the last crisis we faced we came to a conclusion: we have never been so poor, yet we’ve never been so happy! Because our true wealth resides in our faith and in the love that exists between us and our children. It’s such a gift to be able to see ourselves through the eyes of the other and to have the certainty that we love each other for who we are and not for what we give one another. There is indeed much we can all learn from an economic crisis. We learn how to…
• Grow in virtue, above all, in love and in forgiveness.
• Reassess all areas and opportunities for growth in our relationship, including those related to the management of our family finances, and to make our priorities clear.
• Accept one another instead of rebelling, so as to maintain a good attitude which is very important, and avoid “blaming” the other which is crucial. When there is a major financial crisis, whoever bears the greatest burden of responsibility in providing for the family’s sustenance in a special way needs the other spouse’s restraint, support, and unconditional love.
• Deepen our self-knowledge by looking within. How we react to the crisis, how we respond to it, and the attitude with which we confront the problem all bespeak our interior life. In moments of crisis we reveal our true self without filters.
• Recognize our true value as we realize that an economic setback is not something that should fill us with embarrassment, even less so with shame. We are so immersed in a worldview that suggests that our true worth is linked to our “net worth” that we easily lose sight of the fact that our true value is in who we are and not in what we have.
• Gauge our family’s “temperature,” as an economic crises can serve as a thermometer that reveals how hot, cold, or lukewarm our relationships are with one another and how we are educating our children regarding what really matters in life. At moments like these, the all-important virtues and values of faith, detachment, and generosity are put to the test and can be strengthened, modeled, and taught.
• Embrace and make real the fourth petition we pray in the Our Father; that is, we learn to develop our ability to live happily with our daily bread, with enough for today, living one day at a time, hopeful, and sustained by the foundation that unites us as a family: unconditional love.
It’s important to keep in mind that if we begin to experience marital problems because of our money problems it’s likely because we have misdirected our hearts and our love and placed these on money. If we want to avoid having money cause marital problems we must avoid worshiping money. We must avoid putting “the god of money” in the place that belongs to the God who is love. We must understand that money or lack thereof isn’t the real problem, but rather the attitude we have towards money.
If money becomes the source of our security, status, strength, and of all the false promises that the world has sold us and that “supposedly” money can give, then our world will likely be badly shaken when economic problems strike at home.
It’s worth remembering before a crisis arrives that, indeed, money can’t buy you love! Nurture the love of God and your spousal and family love – and you will survive and even thrive no matter how bad the crisis is and how prickly the cactus you might have to sit on for a season.