On the 7th day that I knew my (now) wife, I agreed to run 7 miles with her. Upon finishing, with few words exchanged, I didn’t go to class for two days. My pride, good or bad or really freaking bad, prevented me from telling the truth. I was in no shape to run 7 miles at a 7 minute/mile pace. She was just so damn cute. Since that exercise in stupidity, I’ve committed several other acts of pride. I’m not going to pretend as though this is a gender issue, but pride has certainly gotten many a man into trouble.
Masculinity is a weird thing. Frankly, I carry a man-purse, which is filled with makeup (for TV), and I frequently switch my shoe laces to match my tie. Yet I refused to say no when I should have objectively said no. And the weird thing is that I know that she never actually asked for the things I refused to say ‘no’ to. You see, I’m stubborn. I don’t want to look weak or lame or incompetent in the eyes of my wife. And what’s even weirder is that she never asked for any of my promises of things that I couldn’t deliver on.
Love can be a mamajama. I love my wife so much, that I’ve been willing to make financial decisions that don’t actually serve our relationship’s best interest. The decisions have only served my pride. Oddly, I’m not proud of this.
I remember once when we bought a house. We could afford it in the eyes of the bank, which by the way, doesn’t mean boo. But it was certainly a stretch of our income. “I’ve got this,” I would say. She followed my lead out of love, respect, or fear. I don’t think I’ll ever really know. Follow me down the wormhole, Sarah.
I don’t know about you, but when I think back to my childhood, I often think back to what a crappy feeling it was to disappoint my parents. Well, disappointing your spouse feels worse. I never like disappointing my parents, and I sure as hell grew to not liking disappointing my wife.
Recently I spoke to a prominent doctor who was struggling financially. He, like me, didn’t like the feeling of vulnerability. Yet, the feeling of vulnerability is actually what woke him up to the realities of his financial life. Despite his giant income, he was living a Lilliputian financial life. He was overspending like a sailor on leave. His situation wasn’t good. There’s no sugar-coating it. There is only one solution: he has to tell his wife that things seriously suck. That’s a tough message to deliver when one makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. But it’s the truth. Pride is the ultimate filter. It clouds our judgement, taints our hearts, and sullies our minds.
I don’t run with my shirt off. This is good for everyone within 20 miles. I have enough s.p.f. 70 to cover my carcass, but my pride prevents me from illuminating the neighborhood. But the reality is that my doughy-ass body is the product of my work. My pasty mass is simply my fitness personified. I don’t like it, so I hide it. But do I really hide it? If people looked hard enough, then they would see that my belt pivots south. Our spouses want to believe we are the people we say we are. They are willing to follow our lead, even when the detailed evidence says otherwise. But the contentment that comes with transparency and disclosure will never exist as long as our pride masks our actions.
If you’re struggling with pride issues, in relation to your financial life, just know that the truth will set you free. Owning your behavior and track record can really really suck, in the short-term. But ultimately, your willingness to take off your figurative shirt will be the glue that holds your relationship together. A great relationship can’t be built on pride. It just can’t. Own your crap, deal with the short-term consequences and life will get better.
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.