A man walked into his counseling appointment right on time, alone but concerned about his marriage. It was his first meeting to discuss a possible problem in his relationship of 30 years, emphasis on a possible problem. That was the question to the counselor. He had a vague, uneasy feeling, and he was asking the counselor for advice on whether there was a problem or not, “I am wondering, do I need to be concerned about my marriage?”
The man began to explain his perceptions of what was going on. He had worked for the same company for the last 25 years or so. Over time he had expanded the couple’s starter house into a mansion, while purchasing adjacent lands. They were blissfully happy, at least so it appeared to him. But despite all his budgetary expertise, there were constant discrepancies in the bank accounts. When, for instance, he would make ready for one of his four fly fishing trips a year (his only real hobby), he would sometimes find less than adequate funds to make the trip, which he either postponed or cancelled.
When he got to the bottom of what was happening, he discovered each time that his beloved wife had made an “emergency” visit to Rodeo Drive to update her exceptional wardrobe. She made exquisite purchases and wore them well, but budgetary matters were not on her radar. She explained to her man her legitimate needs and how he was tempted to be scrupulously cheap, and how his problem-solving, penny-pinching attitude was robbing them of their blissful life together. Nothing he could say would bring her to give a moment’s consideration of restraint. Her common saying was, “You have bottomless pockets, dear. Everybody knows that. Spread some of that good stuff around.”
His wife did seem to be blissfully happy. But deep down he expressed a gnawing insecurity that he was running his household the total opposite of his highly successful business, namely there is a basic rule about not spending more than you take in. His wife insisted that his little business rule did not apply at home, and that to speak of a budget was a means of withholding what belongs to her. What is more, she insisted, and he quoted: “To think there was a spending problem is a real problem. That does not contribute to marital bliss. You men always have to have a problem to solve. There is no problem dear. Sit down and enjoy the game on your 90” flat screen TV.”
The man sat forward in a grimaced sadness, “When I try to plan for our three children and college, it is definitely a challenge. But tell me counselor, Do you think we have a problem?”
If you were the counselor, what would you say to the concerned man who has come to you for advice? Should you simply send him on his way in “happy marital bliss?” Consider well what you would say, for the dynamics of this marriage parallels a common dynamic between the citizens of America today. If you are an American, you are in the “marriage.” Pray for our country. LH