Changing Old Habits

checkbook A reader recently e-mailed me the following question: “Help! I’m a reformed spender trying hard to make the finances work, but in my spouse’s eyes I still haven’t changed enough. It’s ruining our marriage. What do I do?”

First off, I commend this reader for making these important changes. It sounds as though they have made their marriage the top priority and they are focused on improving their relationship as well as their finances.

I’m sorry to say, though, that there is only one thing that is going to solve this dilemma, and that is time. It takes time for a person to change life-long habits. It takes time to live down mistakes from the past. It takes time for new layers of trust to be built. And it also takes time for changes to start manifesting themselves in the checkbook.

I would suggest the following – each day, I would identify something you’ve done that you’re proud of. Maybe you didn’t buy something you really wanted because it wasn’t in the budget, and you know you made a step in the right direction. When you see your spouse at the end of the day, you can say, in an upbeat tone of voice, “Hey, honey! Guess what I didn’t buy today!” Make it a fun moment to share your triumph. Very often, we don’t share how well we’re doing until we’re in the middle of an argument, fighting over finances, and we say, “Well, at least I didn’t buy those shoes.” Then it becomes a part of the argument rather than a celebration.

I’m not saying you need to check in with your spouse and report to him – I’m saying, you did something that you’re proud of, and you deserve to share that triumph. Slowly, he’ll start to see that you are taking it seriously, and that will help him be more patient with the time it will take to set things right.

There is no quick fix, but wise choice will build on wise choice over time.

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