A dear friend of mine called me up today and wanted to talk about her financial distress. This is an issue that has plagued her, her husband and their adorable family for at least a few years, and it is a downward spiral. They are constantly treading water, feeling overwhelmed, arguing and living off of a credit card. Survival mode at its finest. She feels helpless because she isn’t the one in charge of the finances and she wouldn’t even begin to know what kinds of questions to ask a financial advisor, but she is desperate for a change. Her husband is involved in many businesses and their financial picture is very intricate. He is playing the role of the “good man” by trying to work as many jobs as possible, stealing from Peter to pay Paul and hoping that it all works out for the best each month, not knowing when it will all come crashing down (but knowing that someday, it will).
From what I can see, it appears that he isn’t willing to look their financial situation in the face and therefore, he isn’t willing to look a solution in the face either. He is keeping his head down and continuing on his path, scared and helpless rather than hopeful and confident that he and his family are worthy of more in life. I know that it is not his intention to be living like this. He’s a great guy and he’s doing the best he can and so he stays in the place most familiar to him. My friend, on the other hand, wants to stare their situation dead in the eyes and make a bold move, she just doesn’t know what that move is and she sure as hell can’t do it alone.
My friend said she was looking for guidance, but I could hear it in her voice that she just wanted to be heard. She wanted the opportunity to vent, for someone to listen to her without any judgment, to be validated and then a little guidance. It fills me with such gratitude to be able to lend her an ear. To have such wonderful friends who love you enough to be vulnerable with you is a true gift. And although I know my fair share about finances, the kind of guidance I felt compelled to give her was not anything concrete.
It’s an all around tough (and very typical) situation – she and her husband are not on the same page. My friend wants a change – however drastic it may have to be – and her husband wants to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if it is down that spiral of theirs. They have not had a meaningful conversation about what they want their life to look like. They are too busy trying to scrimp by and stay afloat each day. Metaphorically speaking, you could say they have been so busy worrying about their trees that they haven’t even stopped to take a look at their collective forest and its potential.
Changing the Lenses
What I felt compelled to give to my friend were some tools that she and her husband could use to sit down and get at the root of all this mess without having another argument (hopefully), so they could have an open conversation based on hope and love rather than fear and helplessness. I wanted them to be able to come together, really listen to what each other was saying without getting defensive and to start to see their life, its potential and possible options in a different way. I wasn’t looking for them to necessarily solve anything, but just for the wheels to start turning in a different direction that might open their eyes to something they hadn’t seen before.
Something came over me and I quickly came up with a list of 15 questions they could ask themselves together to have a productive and hopefully transformative (even if just the teensiest bit) discussion that could give them a glimmer of hope. I’ve been in challenging situations where I’ve been stuck – there was no hope for any change in the near future – and I have to say that when there is no hope, all feels lost. But even just the slightest bit of hope the size of a speck of sand is something to move towards, to get up for everyday. And so finding this hope within ourselves is vital to our happiness.
A Universal Message
When I finished writing the list and re-read it, I realized that what I had unknowingly come up with was a list of questions that we might all benefit from asking ourselves and our partners! (Hence it being posted here). Most of our days are filled with making meals, taking care of small people, working, more meals, getting said small people to bed and then zoning out (also known as reality tv – and I’m right there with ya). We are most likely not having these kinds of conversations that can bring some clarity, focus, motivation and hope into our seemingly hamster wheel lives. And, what a great way to reconnect with our partner and check in to see where we’re on the same page and where we’re not. I think about a friend of mine who recently filed for divorce and I wonder if she and her ex-husband had answered these questions together a while back if things may have turned out differently.
For those of us with husbands who are stuck in what they think is the “good man” role, whose heads stay low and feet keep moving even though they’re neither fulfilled nor happy in life, let these questions be a starting point for change. I say this only because just off the top of my head, I can already think of three people I know who have a situation similar to this and so I know there are even more out there. For the most part, as women, we are more inclined to be flexible, to recognize where a shift is needed and to make it and and to trust that it will all work out fine. These qualities serve us everyday as mothers and sometimes it can be more difficult to get our men to hop on board with us than it is a 3-year-old! But that doesn’t mean we should stop moving towards the life that we want for ourselves and our families. Perhaps we and/or our partners don’t even know what life that we want because we’re too busy living the daily grind part of it to look up around us and take an assessment.
By asking ourselves these questions below, we are not only opening up a dialogue (most likely a much-needed one), but doing so illuminates the fact that you we are in the driver’s seat of our lives. The daily choices we make shape our lives. Many people dwell in a victim place where they feel like life is happening to them and they can “never catch a break,” but what they fail to realize is that life is happening because of them and their choices. If we want a different picture, then let’s make a different choice – starting today!
The List! The List!
Before I give you the list, a few tips:
These are questions you can either ask yourself or answer together with your partner and just see where the conversation leads. You should each answer each question and be curious where there are overlaps and gaps between the two of you. You will probably feel more satisfied if you don’t have any expectations for any sort of outcome. This is not necessarily to walk away with a solution, but to open the communication and be really thinking about what it is you both want and hopefully start (or continue) moving towards it. Doesn’t that actually sound fun?! And if either of you has a differing opinion or thought, that’s okay. Try to both stay in a place of hearing each other out and not trying to change each others’ beliefs. Really and truly, sometimes just having someone listen to you and really get where you’re coming from can make it so much easier to move on to whatever is needed next.
So, I give you 15 questions! They just may change your lives (and mine too)…
1.) What do we want from life? If we had to describe it, what does that life look like? What “things” are in that picture of that life which we want? (This could be anything – money, time, a different house, living in the city or country or specific place, vacations, kids, better health, good food, laughter, more sleep, etc.) Try to think of what it is you want and not what you don’t want.
2.) What things are we currently doing that bring those things we want into our life?
3.) What are we currently doing that doesn’t bring those things to us?
4.) What are some other things we could do to achieve the life which we want, regardless of if they are logical or a “good” idea? Just brainstorm some things that even seem crazy – the idea here is to get you thinking out of the box and outside of what is comfortable for you. Putting ourselves in an uncomfortable place is the first step towards reaching our goals. Many times, the reason we don’t meet our goals is because we don’t ever take that uncomfortable step over the threshold. There is no progression in life without taking these giant leaps.
5.) If we weren’t scared and we knew that the universe (or God, whatever resonates with you) would ultimately provide for us, what decisions would we make to move towards that life we want?
6.) What are we scared of in life? How and why are those things we are scared of a problem for us? How might we cope with those things if they were to happen?
7.) What might people say about us if they knew about our “situation”? (Insert a situation in here that you view as negative in your life – it could be a financial situation, a relationship situation, a health situation, etc.) And, those things that they might say, are they true? Just because someone might say those things, does that mean we believe them about ourselves? Does our situation mean anything about who we are as people and our worthiness of love and acceptance? Even if someone does have an opinion about our situation, does that make them right about it? If our dear friends were in a similar situation as ours, how would we view them? Would we be understanding and have compassion for them? Are there ways in which we might be being harder on ourselves about our situation than anyone else is? What might we do to be gentler on ourselves?
8.) What is one little thing we could do to move towards the life we want? Think of a baby step – something that you could do now or tomorrow. What are some more steps?
9.) When you think about making those steps, do you feel differently about your situation? Do you feel more hopeful? Do you feel more scared?
10.) How do you want your family to view you? (List some attributes – maybe strong, smart, loving, fun, flexible, a leader, provider, etc. – go with what feels right for you.)
11.) What things are you currently doing that might make your family feel these ways about you?
12.) What other things could you do that might make your family feel these ways about you?
13.) Are there things you’re doing that might make your family feel the opposite of how you want them to feel about you? If so, what might be some things you could do differently to change that?
14.) When you are making decisions in life, what kind of emotion are you coming from? (Hope, fear, love, anger, desperation, embarrassment, etc.)
15.) What kinds of emotions or “energy” do you want to be coming from when making these decisions? What kinds of emotions and energy do you want to fuel your life and your family’s life?
Please Do Share
I would absolutely love, love, love to hear feedback from anyone who goes through this exercise either with themselves or with their partner. I will be having this conversation with my husband within the next few nights and will be posting about what happened or any insights we gained. I am curious as to what will come up for us. We have talks like this quite often, but I know there is always a chance for something new and surprising to come forth.
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