Her eyes well up with tears. With a quivering voice, she opens her mouth to speak, obviously finding it difficult to ask her question in front of the entire moms' group.
"But how do you get your husband to pay off debt and be more frugal?"
A couple weeks later, a husband and wife approach me at church. The wife seems indignant; she's obviously less than thrilled to meet me.
"Tell her," her husband emphatically and overzealously pleads with me. "Tell her why we should pay off our debt!"
Each time I share the story of how my husband, Brian, and I paid off $127,482.30 in debt, I encounter wives and husbands who catch a glimmer of hope that maybe they, too, can pay off their debts. But they soon find that working with their spouse to pursue this dream can be a challenge.
Many marriages are blessed with a spouse who is a live-life-to-its-fullest spender, while the other spouse saves each penny. This divide can bring about a relationship that explodes with beauty as the couple relies on each other's God-given gifts. However, the balance of these two opposites can also be pushed to its limit and cause a marriage to explode — minus the beauty — as the couple nitpicks each other until they've diminished the other person's character. Too often, husbands and wives end up feeling like they're on opposing teams.
Only through regular and intentional communication did Brian and I begin to see eye to eye about our financial dreams and goals. For us, that meant we had to talk about our debt even when it wasn't convenient or comfortable — so we scheduled weekly budget meetings. Those initial anxious conversations eventually flowed into a known comfort and trust, spurring momentum toward reaching mutual financial goals and shared dreams.
While Brian and I never had a screaming match over money, we certainly struggled with tension in our marriage prior to paying off our debt. If that's where you find yourself today, may I suggest a few tools that I frequently return to?
Focus on the enemy: debt
When Brian and I decided to fight debt together, we found that if we compared our experience to a battle and underscored it with a fairy-tale theme, we were inspired to attack our debt together. We dubbed our debt the "dragon," employing any and every strategy to defeat this foe that intended to destroy our marriage, finances, future and our very souls. Our decision to personify the debt helped us to fight against our money monster — not each other.
The first prayers I whispered during our journey were along the lines of "Please God, take all of this away." I'm so glad that His wisdom is higher than mine, because it was the process of paying off debt that truly loosened debt's chains in our marriage. Had God answered my prayers for easy relief, we probably would have borrowed again and never dealt with our heart issues. Instead, He provided for us through extra jobs, sacrifice and perseverance. I cannot underscore enough the power that prayer had in our financial experience.
Dream big dreams
What could we do if we weren't putting so much money toward payments every month? How would our family look different? How could we impact our community and the world with the Gospel? Brian's questions tugged on my heart. It was his idea to begin our debt-slaying journey and, while I never opposed the concept, his questions awakened within me a desire to make big changes.
Rather than pointing out the many areas where I needed to legitimately make changes, Brian captured my heart with a dream.
Dreams often motivate us toward change. They provide a spark of hope in the future when the present seems scary and uncertain.
To pay off all your debt, you must dream big dreams with your husband. Drop the nagging. Don't force change. Don't shut down and go radio silent.
Instead, share how the dream of being without debt inspires you. Ask your husband how it encourages him. Cast the vision and make plans for your goals — together.
Cherie Lowe is a public speaker and the author of Slaying the Debt Dragon.