Tag Archives: life

5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

The best relationship advice I can give

After more than 10 years in a generally happy union, I recently realised that – like Jon Snow – I knew nothing.

Nothing at all.

I once read that good marriages begin after the first gigantic crisis. When you begin again, in spite of everything, and work to make it through the anger and fear and sadness.

Separately, the wise and inimitable Alain de Botton has said that pessimism offers a solution to a lot of the pressures around relationships. Romanticism is unhelpful, and makes a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling.

Depressing as those two paragraphs may sound, I think they ring with truth.

There are five main things this crisis taught me. Here is what I’ve learned.

Love is a verb

Don’t just tell me you love me; show me through your actions.

So many of our habits and behaviours towards our partners are manipulative

Whether we realise it or not. Awareness is the first step.

Do not tolerate sustained unhappiness in a relationship

Don’t put up with it now, hoping that it will improve eventually, if you have no inkling at all for when that might be. Think about how long you could stick it out if nothing changed – a month? Six months? A year?

Never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm

There is no glory in martyrdom. This isn’t a social movement; this is your life. Your happiness is what’s at stake.

We are flawed

All of us. So very deeply. This is something we must accept if we are to move forward.

There it is – the best relationship advice I have to give. Have you been through a relationship crisis, and has it taught you anything new?

Money is no substitute for love, but love is no substitute for money either

Love vs money - NZ Muse

You can’t buy love. Spend your way to affection. Substitute stuff for time and attention. Paper over the cracks with lavish offerings.

You can’t live on love. All the love in the world won’t keep you out of debt, secure a stable home, put food on the table.

You need both. Love AND money.

I used to think love was the most important thing ever. The real world has taught me otherwise. Love is not all you need. Love does not conquer all. Love alone, unfortunately, is a poor substitute for the basic necessities in life.

The partners we choose for ourselves play such an integral role in our financial situation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am today and the choices that got me here.

Where I am today has been shaped by a lot of things beyond my control. But I made choices that set these things in motion. I may not have thought about it or realised it back then but now I have a much better understanding of why I made them.

Even if it’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, these are the facts. My relationship and circumstances now are a strong reflection of the choices that I’ve made to date.  In trying to escape the shortcomings of my childhood, I gravitated towards certain traits, not realising what the trade-off would be or appreciating the value of what I did have.

I’ve come to terms with my tendencies as an enabler and the impact of this. I’m cognisant of how this has informed my decisions in the past and I know I need to be alert going forward to ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again.

I now know what I need, what I cannot stand for, and have a clear picture of what the balance between love and money should look like in my life.

“The goal of a relationship,” writes John Armstrong, in How To Worry Less About Money, “is that both people flourish together. And because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it is a crucial ingredient in marriage.”

Disease Called Debt

A mantra for 28 (or any birthday, really)

6 life lessons I've learned the hard way

You are (probably) a good person who deserves happiness. Do right by yourself, always.

It greatly helps to master the art of not giving a fuck. We all have a limited number to give, and you don’t want to waste yours unnecessarily.

Know your priorities. Stay true to them. Everything falls into place from there.

When you feel stuck and there is a clear way out, no matter how difficult that path may be, start walking in that direction.

Listen to your body. It will tell you when enough is enough.

Life is messy and grey; people are fallible and complicated. So forgive yourself, for the past and for all the screw ups that lie ahead.

Thinking about … expanding the family

I didn’t grow up around animals. I didn’t even like dogs until I spent time volunteering on an Italian farm and fell in love with the five dogs who lived there (two have since passed away, RIP).

Adopting a dog was literally one of the first things I did as a home owner, and we’ve always envisioned having a couple of dogs around.

The time isn’t right just yet to add a second dog to the mix, though I’m starting to think about it and plan ahead. We’re working on getting Leila better trained right now – mainly around walking on lead, as she can be a bit of a handful sometimes.

She loves human attention but she also loves other dogs and I’m sure she’d love a companion. Obviously she’s been an only child here so far (unless you count the chickens) but she shared her space with another dog at the SPCA for a long time.

My main concerns is around the logistics of walking two dogs (hence wanting to get her more trained) and whether I’ll be able to go running with both at the same time. We have plenty of space so I’m not worried about having enough room for two. Doubling up on some things – bed, bowl, kennel leash etc – will be an initial outlay but then it’ll just be food and maintenance.

Getting the right dog will be important. Probably a male this time, and of similar size or a little larger (she isn’t a fan of small dogs). One that is a little lazier than her, but can still keep up with her for the most part. I’d like to adopt again – I have a bit of a soft spot for boxers, though they’re rare in shelters here and there don’t seem to be any boxer-specific rescues in NZ.

Has anyone gone from one dog to two? What was it like?

I think I have financial PTSD

I think I have financial PTSD

I woke up the other day with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

There’s still this deep seated fear buried inside that things are going to fall apart.

Nothing specific, just the thought that this is too good to last – the house, two incomes, the dog. Somehow, I’m going to lose it all and it’s going to be taken away.

If there is such a thing as financial PTSD, I think I have it.

From money troubles to money worries

As I work to rebuild from the past couple years and improve my  financial wellness, I imagine my emotional well-being will too.

In How To Worry Less About Money, John Armstrong draws a distinction between money troubles (urgent, immediate, pressing) and money worries (emotional, complex).

Going from worrying about the day-to-day and the immediate future to worrying about the distant future is a nice change. I mean, it’s still a worry, but it’s a hell of a lot less stressful.

When you know you’re making ends meet you have the ability to actually be future-oriented – and that’s the only way to really get ahead financially. To figure out where to put your money to work the best for you.

All I can do is wait it out, I imagine. Acknowledge (or ignore) those fears as they rear their heads. Slay them with logic, or contempt. Only time, and money, will heal.

Have you ever felt this way after coming off the back of a financially stressful time?

Disease Called Debt

How To Worry Less About Money: 3 things I took away

The most refreshing thing about How to Worry Less About Money is the author’s unflinching observation of how money affects relationships. In this book, John Armstrong relates this back to his own marriage.

“My own experience is that money worries can cause terrible conflicts in relationships. I fear I have damaged Helen’s life by not making more money. And there are stylistic clashes: I like being lavish; she’s much more restrained. For instance, I like the idea of going to fancy restaurants; she prefers the modest family-run place round the corner, or chicken soup at home. (And this is all the harder to deal with because our earnings point in the opposite directions to these personal tastes).”
Well, I’m the Helen in my life, and I can vouch for the fact that I have felt resentful many a time. I wish that weren’t true, but I am human, and perhaps not always a very good one. This is us, down to a T, especially the incongruence between tastes and earnings.  I would be curious to hear Helen’s viewpoint.

Money and marriage

Armstrong points out that in the world of Jane Austen, having enough money is taken very seriously (and rightly so!) as a necessary condition of happy marriage. Money reduces the fragility of a relationship, and makes people more relaxed. Money buys luxury, privacy and  stimulation. Money is for some people an aphrodisiac.

All of these things resonate so hard (perhaps not exactly the last one, but financial stress is a huge turn off and therefore lack of money is definitely a turn off).

Alas, there are no true solutions offered up, despite the practical promise offered in the title. This is a philosophical read about how we think about money, relate to it, the space it occupies in our minds and lives.

It’s a book about money worries, as opposed to money troubles.

Money troubles vs money worries

Money troubles, Armstrong contends, are urgent. They call for direct action and can only be resolved in one of two ways: either you gain access to more money or you go without something else.

Money worries, conversely, are about imagination and motions, not just what is happening now. Money worries often say more about the worrier than the world. They’re about what’s going on in your head not just in your bank account.

The meaning of money

When you strip money right back to the fundamentals, it is just a resource – a means of exchange.

“In other words money is an instrument … Ultimately the task in life is to translate efforts and activities that are inherently worthwhile into possessions and experiences that are themselves of lasting and true value.

“That is the ideal money cycle. Our relationship with money becomes unhealthy when we remove it from this cycle. That happens when we stop seeing money as potential possessions and experiences – but rather see possessions and experiences as potential money.”

We’re all bombarded these days with the reminder to DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Armstrong acknowledges that we need to make enough money to meet our needs and we also need to do things that help us make sense of who we are and contribute to collective good.

You can escape by not caring about meaning. And you can escape by not caring about having much money.  But a lot of people care about both.”

* * *

If you know roughly what to expect going in, this is a great read. I related to so much of it, I was constantly nodding along and found myself bookmarking what seemed like every other page.

If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Share the Wealth Sunday

Compromise where you can – and where you can’t, don’t

Compromise where you can - and where you can't, don't

Who would’ve thought that the latest Captain America movie could spawn such wisdom?

To live in this world is to compromise. And to be in a relationship is to compromise.

I kept reaching my limit … or so I thought.

And then I would push through. Just a little longer, I would think. Surely things will change. This can’t continue indefinitely.

For better and for worse, right?

But when something or someone is the sole source of your stress and there is no sign of it changing – it’s time to reevaluate. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost.

You may not know where your true limits lie. I know I didn’t. And that epiphany may wind up coming from elsewhere.

In my case, I was physically falling apart – in rather obvious ways. That’s when I knew I had to draw a line. That was something I could not compromise on.

Listen to your body, because it doesn’t lie.

I may have had to learn the hard way, but now I know where I can and cannot compromise.

Financial privileges I have (and haven’t) had

FINANCIAL PRIVILEGES I HAVE HAD

It’s so easy to get caught up in focusing on what we don’t have. (Guilty as charged, on a daily basis!)

For example:

  • I left home young – no cellphone, no computer, no car, just some clothes, books and my guitar – and became financially independent at 17
  • I don’t work in an industry known for being lucrative and my skills skew more creative, less practical
  • I don’t have an equal financial partner; our relationship has spanned multiple bouts of unemployment/underemployment that add up to probably tens of thousands spent supporting us solely on my income

But I’ve also had so many financial privileges in my life. I don’t know where I would be without these things today.

Let’s see:

I grew up in a financially stable home

I never wanted for anything. I have financially savvy parents and money was never a taboo topic. I came away with an understanding of the importance of saving, and I  was encouraged to focus on the future and think about career paths.

I received a full tuition scholarship

My merit scholarship paid for my university fees. Between the student allowance and paid work, I was able to cover my living costs and graduated basically debt-free. Otherwise, 12 cents out of every dollar I earn today would be going toward student loan repayments.

I’ve never been unemployed

Despite entering the workforce during the GFC, I have always been employed. The work I do also aligns well with freelancing/side hustling.

The stockmarket has been kind to me so far

It even helped me with my house deposit. I never intended to use that money for a down payment – it was invested for the long term originally – but it worked out well.

I’ve benefited from family support

This ties back in to my first point, too. My parents looked after me during my separation, offered help with the purchase of my house and were in a position to lend me money towards it so I could buy something decent.

What financial privileges have you had?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Frugal in SA

How getting a dog changed my life

Getting a dog changed my life

It’s safe to say that getting a dog was very high on the agenda after buying a house. (A refresher: NZ is heinously pet unfriendly when it comes to renting – “No pets and no smokers” reads basically every rental listing ever.)

I had no idea how to choose a dog, really. I wanted to adopt pretty much every single dog listed for adoption on TradeMe, and once at the SPCA, it was just as tough. Heartbreaking, really (I may have gotten a bit teary.) Especially the older ones.

This little lass was just over a year old and had been awaiting adoption for many months. Her previous family lived in government housing and couldn’t keep her.

She’s super affectionate, very alert and aware. She has to sniff ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and find out what you’re up to.

She’s also a bit of a chewer, although hopefully that will fade with age.

She settled in quite quickly, I thought, but a coworker said it would probably take time. And indeed, a couple months in she’s suddenly started to REALLY play with her toys properly – in particular the first two I ever got her – and it warms my heart.

Also, turns out that talking out loud to something that doesn’t talk back isn’t as unnatural as I thought it would be.

Owning a dog has forced/taught me to be:

Tidier

I’ve always struggled with neatness. I have some Type A tendencies that I tap into in order to combat my core messiness and keep on top of life, but organised chaos tends to be how I roll. Now I’m learning to shut doors, put things away, and this dovetails nicely with home ownership as I can now finally store stuff away and know that’s how it’s going to be as long as I want it that way. I’m not much for decor, but practical solutions I can get behind … and home storage is my new addiction. Basket, shelves, hooks, racks … I want them all!

More active

It’s always a struggle, especially in winter. We live near some great parks and tracks, luckily, and often run into other friendly dogs along the way.

Patient

I’m not a naturally patient person. But I know I need to lead calmly by example and focus on positive reinforcement. While she’s quite well behaved there’s room to improve (and I have lots to learn too) and we’re just about to start obedience classes!




She brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing her at the end of every day, and it makes me want to rush home. Sometimes she’s a pain in the ass; for a couple of dark days early on I was afraid we’d bitten off more than we could chew, that she’d never calm down and be manageable. But I wouldn’t give her up for the world.

Leaving saved my marriage

How an ultimatum saved my marriage

I have never really believed in ultimatums.

But there were no other options left.

If the price of stability and a home was being alone, I realised I would take that deal in a heartbeat. See also: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

You need to set your own boundaries; decide:

what you want and need

what you can and cannot accept

what you expect and deserve

It isn’t selfish to put your own oxygen mask on first. To stay true to your own goals. To refuse to  allow someone else to derail your dreams and hold you back.

The end of 2015 was a low, low point for us. I think we both found ourselves disappointed in one another, to varying degrees.

It was an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities (or, for me at least, to reinforce mine and validate my decision), and have the space to take a step back and reflect.

Sometimes, you gotta burn things down if there’s going to be any hope of rebuilding them again.