Keeping your marriage positive when your bank account is negative …
by Becky Hunter
I know very few couples that think they have enough money;
but the amount of money a couple has is not the determinative factor of their romance.
Some of the most romantic stories I’ve ever heard were remembrances of courtships during the Depression or ones that start, “Before we could afford going out, we just…” The romances of young couples struggling together against the world, the romantic underdogs determined to love against all odds, are classic. In many ways, especially for young love, being poor necessitates interdependence, elevates appreciation, and minimizes distraction.
Yet, there comes a time when insufficient income can be a heavy burden upon a couple, especially as their family grows. Some couples give way to fear and embarrassment that weigh down their spirits and make concentrating on anything positive or constructive almost impossible. For them, being broke is a drag.
Why does being poor bring a spirit of adventure and determination to one couple but depression and accusation to another couple? Is it just a matter of time until the former’s spirits are crushed into the latter’s symptoms? No. Discouragement and blame are possible traps, but not inevitable results of insufficient income. The difference between defeat and adventure is found in the role we choose – victim or undiscovered contributor.
advance when you
have something to
offer … and you do!
After a consistent pattern of bad times, it is easy to feel victimized by life. There are even some pseudo-advantages to being a victim, but a romantic relationship is not one of them. A spouse who chooses the role of victim thinks, “Why try anymore? I’ll just get rejected again.” Angry victims shake their fists at fate and may even have a perverted sense of victory, “I’ve been dumped on more than anyone else and I’ve survived.” If someone chooses to play a victim role in marriage, enlisting pity or threatening self-righteous outbursts, romance will be squelched.
Not all who experience the pain of insufficient income choose a victim role. Some make a much better choice and act as undiscovered contributors. Instead of making their own lives as comfortable as possible, the undiscovered contributors take the experience of having less as an opportunity to give more creatively. These individuals use the temporary experience of poverty as a challenge to “show what they are made of.”
Undiscovered contributors think to themselves, “There are always others who have it worse than we do, so we’ll give them a hand.” The undiscovered contributors will put one of their last dollars in an offering plate, will visit depressed relatives or friends in between job applications, will mow their own lawns and their neighbors’. The act of giving reminds them that as long as they can help, they are not living life at the bottom. The qualities evident in undiscovered contributors are those of great lovers: risk, hope, kindness, and strength.
Like a wad of paper money in the canteen of life, the undiscovered contributors’ value is not in question; they just have yet to be converted into the most usable form. They have a sense of confidence and do not see rejection as personal. The applications will continue until someone, someday, finds them to be just who is needed for the task. And it will happen partly because their confidence is so attractive.
Every one of us has a choice to make when faced with insufficient income, and that choice will impact our marriage positively or negatively. There are few greater challenges to a romantic marriage than a husband or wife who chooses to play a victim’s role. But a marriage of undiscovered contributors, even after they are discovered, is inherently romantic.
Becky Hunter is the wife of Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Florida. The Hunters were married in 1972 and have three married sons and six grandchildren. Becky, a former biology teacher, served as president of the Global Pastors Wives Network from 2006 through 2008 and led seminars on five continents. She has been featured in TIME magazine for her ministry to pastors’ wives. She is the author of Being Good to Your Husband on Purpose (2001) and Why Her? You, Your Daughter-in-Law and the Big Picture (2011), which she wrote with her daughters-in-law.
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