2010 has been a year of challenges. Challenges, to say the least. Stresses or meltdowns to be realistic. I think many couples walk into relationships or particularly, marriages, underestimating the impacts of financial burdens. I certainly did, even though I had been in similar situations before, which proves to show that the matter is only augmented in marriage.
I hear my father’s advice ringing in my ears. ‘When you enter into marriage, be prepared to come into disagreement (or fight , was what he wanted to say, I bet) about three things:
2. Parenting your children and
3. Finances or how you both agree to spend your money.
If you think that you have every antibody for all of the above attacks, be warned. You have either had divine intervention lifting you into heaven, again literally, or you are being naive. Every couple will face one of the above challenges in the course of their marriage and I have not met one single couple who would disagree.
If you are still skeptical, try picking up any self-help book in Borders and you will soon find your fairytale shattered by reality sharings from the experienced. Those who survive through the challenges become stronger; both as an individual and for the relationship. And those who come out of the marriage will learn a thing or two about the expectations of marriage. There are no two ways around it.
For all the advice of my father has given me, this has to be the most valuable. Indeed, there were no two ways around it and it didn’t take long for all three to attack, sometimes on the same day. More often, it felt like those issues became too overwhelming and it was easier to opt out. For the total 365 days in the past year, it has felt like we have both been through 365 years of cyclical pertaining issues and the burden only got heavier.
If I had to rank them by weight, the heaviest would have to be the financial pressures.
2010 marked the beginning of building a new home and a new family business. You would think it sounds simple enough but the intricacies of managing the mortgage and renovation debts plus capital required for new business setup was beyond manageable. Layer that with differences in risk perspectives between my husband and I, life became a mundane routine of working to make ends meet and torturing savings to pay bills. We were also far from what my mother’s generation would accept as a frugal lifestyle but for Willie, it was beyond imagination to deprive oneself from a nice Friday dinner after a long stressful week. For me, those nice dinners only added more pressure. You can see how different our perspectives were and that is just to say the least.
I would spend days in front of multiple spreadsheets, working through forecasts for the family’s cash flow and Willie’s business expenses. I would also loathe weekends of cash flow reconciling and checking every single bill to ensure we were not over-charged – I picked a few of these and spent hours on customer service calls. Where there were opportunities to pick up some extra cash, like a $5 rebate on buying Clarintyne or the $200 cashback from HP, I would be on to it immediately. Often, these meant hours worth of photocopying receipts, registering online or worse, waiting on the customer service line. Altogether, I would have spent a month’s worth of time on potential savings which was probably worth only a fortnight’s worth of pay as a consultant. But there are no regrets.
Towards the end of 2010, I saw light at the end of the tunnel. We were hit with a big tax bill from Willie’s consulting revenue which did not see taxes being withheld in advance and a $10K HECS payout that my accountant strongly recommended I closed off by the end of this calendar year.
All the hard work paid off (literally, again) in December.
We managed, we rode through the wave of challenges and I am proud to announce that we are finally debt free – all tax bills and HECS debts cleared.
The weight off my shoulders has had such a tremendous impact on my well-being. I no longer feel like I am sick of life. The fatigue I feel every morning has been replaced with energy for life. The strain on our marriage has eased itself. It’s like a tightly knotted elastic that had been stretched had successfully unknotted and the elasticity was restored. Quite dramatically, I was more flexible and tolerant. This applied to both work and play. It was such a noticeable change with my husband being rewarded first, of course; followed by rewarding comments from colleagues and friends.
It is an amazing feeling to be content with life again – a very important essence in life, it proves.
While it has been a rough journey this year, I have learnt so much and appreciate so much more in life. I wouldn’t have it any other way; it teaches us all to embrace life’s challenges and to take out some key learnings. I have no false expectation that life will get easier but I’m glad to be recharged to be armed with the energy for 2011’s challenges.