Beyond the vows: For richer or poorer

“Beyond the vows” is a new series about what marriage relationships actually look like once the wedding is over and life happens. Learn more about the series and how you can share your own story here!

When my husband and I got married, we were young college students. Promising to love each other for richer or poorer wasn’t all that hard, because we came into the marriage with minimal riches. My husband had a blender. I had a toaster. We ended up with hand-me-downs furnishing our small college apartment and slowly began building a life together.

We’ve come a long way in 19 years. We have more than a toaster and blender now. We have a whole house full of stuff for both us and our two kiddos. Compared to where we started, we are currently in a richer phase of our vows, but it hasn’t always been that way and it may not stay that way. Life changes quickly and unexpectedly.

The first money struggle
Money is one of the things married couples fight about most. And we’ve had some strong discussions about money. Most of our issues happened early on in our marriage. I was in charge of paying bills and dealing with finances. Any time my husband had a question about how our money was being spent, I got defensive. DEFENSIVE! It was a struggle because he was the main source of income, yet I was the one handling the finances. We knew we needed to communicate, but finding a way to do so where my emotions stayed out of the way was tough.

I am quite good at being overly sensitive. Each time he would want to buy something and I’d tell him it wasn’t in the budget, he would ask where our money had gone. I took it as a personal affront that he was saying he didn’t think I was doing a good job with our finances. He wasn’t saying that; he was just legitimately curious of where our cash was flowing.

And then there comes the matter of how I did our finances — like the actual process of tracking income, expenses and paying bills. Neither of us had managed a household before. It was a learning curve we dealt with together, for the most part. Our first household was a small apartment through the university. Utilities and cable were all included in our rent. So we eased our way in.

When we moved off campus to another apartment, we added in having to pay for utilities and cable and such. I had a way that made sense to me to organize our finances. It made no sense to my husband. Any time we talked about it, I got defensive. DEFENSIVE. Again, I took it as a personal affront that he thought I was messing up. In reality, he was just trying to help me streamline the process.

In the years since then, I have learned that my husband’s natural disposition is to be efficient. Things that are over complicated and take more time than they should annoy him. We have had many discussions and continue to even nowadays about the financial process for our family. I’ve learned to let down my defenses and actually listen to his ideas. We’ve worked out a system now that runs so much smoother. And I couldn’t have done it alone.

The lean years
While we worked through all of those things and lived through the college newlywed days, nothing really prepared us for 2007. On June 1, my husband came home from work early. He’d lost his job. We sat together on the floor of my home office in a bit of shock. Then I had to get up and go take photos for an article the local newspaper had assigned me to write about the company my husband had worked for. It was one of the most difficult days I’ve had.

What we didn’t know then is that it would take a year for my husband to find another job. My work as a freelancer did provide us some income, but not very much. It also didn’t provide us health insurance, which was a big concern for us then because I was taking an expensive medication for my bladder condition, interstitial cystitis.

We learned a lot in that year. It was before we had children. We did have a dog. We would laugh about how we’d scrounge $30 to pay for him to be groomed every few months when his fur got crazy long (he was a Lhasa Apso), but we’d trim our own hair at home. We had a budget of $5 to spend on each other over that Christmas. We were in our first home by that point and worried about losing it. We worried about having our cars repossessed.

But you know what else we learned? We weren’t on our own. My husband could only draw unemployment for six months and even that was just under half of what his income had been. Somehow, though, God took care of us. I can’t even tell you how now, because I truly don’t know. But we never missed a mortgage or car payment. Each time it seemed like all of our resources had dried up, something happened to sustain us. We both marveled at God’s goodness and provision through that period.

And, looking back now, I am thankful that we went through that. The lack of funds caused me to stop taking the expensive bladder medicine that was not really helping much (if at all). That same medicine was proven last year to cause major eye issues for patients who took it for a long period. My husband went from a job that was causing him incredible stress to a job that he loved with great co-workers and management. It was a year of famine before feast, even though sometimes it felt like a feast would never come.

Beyond money
While we have learned to love one another in richer and poorer, we’ve also learned that richer or poorer goes way beyond money. I’ve loved my husband completely when I didn’t know whether we’d be able to pay our mortgage and when I paid bills without struggling. Through our time when he was jobless, we told each other, “I’d rather be in hard times with you than good times without you.” That is what marriage is about for richer or poorer. Hard times are going to come. That’s what the poorer is about, whether it’s financially poor or otherwise. But good times are also going to come. That’s what richer is about, whether it’s financially rich or otherwise.

We haven’t always had a load of money. Heck, we are pretty comfortable now but we still don’t have a load of money. We have, however, always been rich in love. Somehow through the struggles of managing finances as a married couple for a household and surviving a devastating financial year, we have stuck together, grown together and come to appreciate each other even more.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. We were blessed to move into a new house last April that is what I call my dream home. I would like for us to live here until our kids are grown, but I don’t know what the future holds. I do know that as long as my husband and I have breath and are together, we will weather any storm that comes our way and bask in the sunshine as well. We will be together for richer or poorer.

Learn more about the “Beyond the vows” series and how you can share your own story here!

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