When I was 15 I worked for my family’s plumbing company. My job was to do whatever I was asked to do. This meant that I could be sweeping the warehouse one day, and working in a crawlspace on another day. It was far from glamorous. I worked there for about 6 years or so. I have several memories of the job, but one event is always in the front of my mind.
My uncle had asked me to thoroughly clean the truck docking area. I did. I reported back to him for my next task, and he told me that he wanted to check my work. Uh oh. He examined the area, and then laid into me. “Pete-o (as he called me), this is terrible. Don’t you understand what you have done here? You have shown me that you don’t care about this job, this company, or me. You put forth no effort at all.” He jumped down into the dock area, got on his hands and knees (wearing dress slacks), and started cleaning the way he wanted me to clean. “THIS is effort!” he exclaimed. He was right. I had given a piss-poor effort.
Whether my Uncle Denny meant to teach me a lesson or not, he did. Effort, is sometimes all that matters. Sure, you’ve heard that results are the ultimate measure of success, but when results are nowhere to be found, then effort matters a helluva lot. I can’t think of a better application for this principle than marriage.
I often talk and write about money and marriage. Usually, my comments are limited to the concept of trust. Trusting your spouse is imperative to a successful marriage. But what happens when your spouse takes that trust, and gives you crap in return? Well, your soul suffers. You lose faith in your relationship. Having trust in your partner is one thing, but having faith in them is why a relationship survives.
Before I go much further, you should know that I am an advocate for marriage. I love being married soooo much that I only want to be married once. I’m not judging you if you are divorced, or thinking of a divorce. What you are about to read may stir up some awful feelings for your partner, but I’m not suggesting you throw in the towel and give up on your relationship.
Relationships have stages. And people in relationships have different stages in which certain priorities are more important than others. You may go though a stage that sex is the most important part of your relationship. Or you may go through a stage where emotional support is your measure of a healthy relationship. But ultimately you seek one thing from your partner: effort.
Effort is everything in a relationship. Effort to remember special dates. Effort to express love. And effort to act in accordance with the behavior that will drive you towards accomplishing your financial goals. A lack of effort in any of these examples can lead to a relationship train wreck. When times are tough (financially), your effort towards dragging yourself out of that financial hole is all that matters. Your effort, in this situation, is love. By trying, you are telling your partner that you really do give a damn about them.
You WILL have financial bumps in the road, if you already haven’t. When this time comes, are you going to really try? I mean REALLY TRY. If you are deep into debt, or you lost your job, or you have some other random financial setback, are you actually trying to rectify it? Or are you giving a bullshiz effort like I did when I was 15 years old?
I have met with thousands of couples over the last 12 years, and it never ceases to amaze me how many times I see a person give his/her partner a bullshiz effort. Your partner (and you) must both be giving maximum effort to get through life’s challenging financial situations. This doesn’t mean that one person busts his/her ass to make money and be disciplined so that the person can do whatever the hell she/he wants to do. If you are in this situation right now, then you need to know that this situation never fixes itself. Your relationship is on the line. And in my opinion, you have come WAY too far to give up. If you can overcome (and correct) this lack of effort by a member of your relationship (even if it’s you), then a great surprise awaits for you on the other side of this problem. Faith. You will have restored faith in your partner. Faith builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Without effort, there is no faith. You need to restore faith. Effort, true cry-your-eyes-out-work-your-ass-off-get-your-dress-slacks-dirty effort is what you need.
You aren’t fighting over money. You are fighting over effort. You are fighting to keep faith in the relationship that you have invested so much in. When things are at their worst, remember that faith is waiting for you on the other side of this trouble.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.