Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it.  No ulterior motives.  No hidden meanings.  An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality.  As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.

– Charles Swindoll

“…there will be no need to manipulate others.”

Is that why we don’t speak honestly? And as I think about that…yes. It’s because I want to influence or control or sway…or manipulate the situation in some way. Hmm. But I have also experienced the beauty of honesty. It makes us vulnerable. But it also deepens and crumbles walls in relationships. In an age where people have hundreds of online connections but very few close or intimate friends, deep and barrier-less relationships are gold. Especially in marriage. Especially. In. Marriage.

So, let’s work on being more honest.
(Side note: Being honest doesn’t mean being brutal either…tact and timing can go a long way.)

Vulnerability: You First

A couple of weeks ago, a girl friend was sharing how different people she knew felt unsupported and uncared for by “friends”. We delved a little into how we long for genuine and open friendships…where we don’t have to fear judgement and can honestly unload whatever was on our heart. I have a feeling, in our increasingly isolated society, that this is a common desire of many.

I posted on being genuine recently…on being ourselves and not what we think others want us to be. On the other side of this friendship coin is being vulnerable. That is a scary word for some…or maybe for many. We’ve been there, shared something deep from our hearts to have it thrown back in our faces or used against us in some cruel way. We vowed we’d never let someone get close enough to do that ever again. We stick to the happy, safe and comfortable topics. And brick by brick, we’ve built that wall.

Now, sure, no one can use a deep fear or struggle (or anything) to hurt us anymore, but we’re also more alone, carrying more fear, struggling by ourselves….and feeling like no one cares. Not even those we call “friends”.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle:
I keep my pain to myself so you can’t hurt me by brushing my pain aside. You think I’m totally fine, so you don’t think to ask further if I’m ok. I feel unsupported and alone. Meanwhile, you think my life is great and don’t want to bring up your pain to burden me with. So I think you’re fine. I don’t ask how you’re doing. You feel unsupported and alone.

I’ve found, it needs to start with myself. I need to stop hiding behind pride, self-preservation, fear, whatever it is…and take the risk of opening my heart up to a close friend. They might not know exactly how to help, but from there….we walk together in the struggle and figure it out together. Two of my besties chided me once that not turning to them when I was struggling was an insult to their friendship. They were there for me and expected me to make use of that. My mind and heart opened to what vulnerability and true friendship was from then on. I had more courage to pull down the brick wall.

Interestingly, this lead to their bricks coming down too. And suddenly, not only was I not alone in my particular struggle, but I found that others struggled with similar things too. There’s actually common understanding and from there I received more prayer and more support than could have imagined.

This is not a guaranteed result every time though. I have opened my heart and have been burned. But it’s a blessing in disguise because I now know who isn’t a true friend, which frees me to build relationships with those who will prove themselves to be such.

Genuine and open friendship has to start somewhere. Someone has to reverse the cycle of becoming more isolated…why not let that person be you? Have courage to be vulnerable first. No risk, no return.

I Wish I Knew…8

…We need a plan for handling our money

Money. Actually this one could be a deal breaker….it certainly has been one of the top causes of many divorces. And for some reason, talking about money is tabboo in our culture. I think partly it has to do with how the way we use our money actually speaks a lot about where our values lay…and that could look different from how we want to be perceived. Which, in relationships and especially marriages, NEEDS to be revealed and aired out early. I’m not saying to go over each other’s salaries and spending habits with a fine tooth comb before you get engaged, but to be in conversation about how you see wealth, poverty, debt and why. What you would splurge on, what you wouldn’t. What you save, what you give away. I also think, in our culture, money is hugely tied to our personal sense of security and control. To let someone else into that makes us vulnerable…but I believe it’s out of being mutually vulnerable that true trust and intimacy grows in the relationship.

In the book, the first foundational stone in financial planning as a married couple is to agree that it’s no longer “my money” and “your money” but “OUR money”. Along with that, your/my income is OUR income. Your/my debt is OUR debt…and OUR joint responsibility to have a plan to pay it down. And your/my savings is OUR savings. Ultimately at the heart of marriage we want unity…so it needs to start here…with something super near and dear to our hearts, our money. The author writes “If you’re not ready for this kind of unity, you’re not ready for marriage.”

From there we’re recommended to adopt the “10-10-80 Plan” which highlights the percentage of what you’ll Save (10%), Share (10%), and Spend (80%). The author stresses that we need to spend within our means…to not go into debt for things that deppreciate in value before it even makes it home. To not try to amass in three years what took our parents 30 years to build. (I totally recommend reading “Freedom of Simplicity” by Richard J Foster for a sense and challenge of what it means to live simply…and to change our perspective of what “financial freedom” really means.)

For us…yes, finances is a tricky thing to navigate but so far so good. By the time we got engaged, we were on the same page with regards to how we want to save and invest, as well as in always giving away at least 10% of our income to support our church and other charities we have hearts for. We’re on similar pages over dealing with mortgage debt but otherwise, are in total agreement about never carrying credit card balances. We talk about everything we purchase. We have the same financial goal to use everything we’ve been given in a manner that is generous for the people and causes God cares about even if that means a smaller nest egg for ourselves. It’s not easy though as we catch ourselves with consumeristic thoughts and values from this culture. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had that as our next car?” “Let’s try to see how much we can sell this for instead of giving it away.” “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bigger house?” So we have to keep our intentions to live simply in the forefronts of our minds.

Being married now, I think I have a slightly harder time, compared to Skywalker, getting all “my” finances into a state where it’s OUR finances. I think it’s partially due to the lifelong mindset I had of being able to take care of myself completely as an independent woman (plus it’s just annoying to have to go into banks to close/move acounts around). And I’ve heard the horror stories of people getting left with all the debt and no savings at the unfortunate break in their relationship. It’s scary how money turns people…but I cannot live in that fear else I’ve already allowed a wall into my marriage. I am determined to merge everything as OURs….and it’s slowly coming together! We also found a difference in our respective comfort levels with what we know our account balances to be. I know within $1000 what’s in our account but Skywalker knows to within $100. This has made for some heated “discussions” but I think we came out more on the same page and with greater understanding of each other. So it’s good!

The take-away lesson on finances this first year? It’s to UNIFY intentions and decisions and to change the mindset from “my” to OUR. It’s conceptually exactly what we want to do…but for me, much harder in practice.