reLationship blog

Are you compliant or committed?

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by Christie Browning

Mat and I will celebrate five years together next month, and I can honestly say that in those five years, we haven't had many arguments. For the most part, Mat and I get along just fine. We laugh, we have fun, we give each other space and grace to be ourselves and we genuinely love living life together. 

The one area that defined more differences than possibly any other relationship category was the money topic. We didn't fight about money.... simply because we tend to be on total ends of the spectrum. I don't have a problem when Mat spends money because I don't really care to think about money very much. Mat doesn't have to fight to get me to follow a budget because I really just don't care much about the topic.... at least until recently.

In August of 2016, Mat and I began a journey to becoming debt free. We had sort of wandered through the first couple years together just living life and not really doing a lot of thinking on the money front. One of the things that saved us from getting into to much trouble was that neither of us are the "gotta-have-it" types and we aren't really big spenders. A divorce had made me very careful with my money almost to the point where I wouldn't spend ANY money even when I needed to. Nevertheless, we had the typical laundry list of debts and payments going out the door each month.... student loans, a few credit cards, some personal loans, etc. At the time we were renting a home and we didn't have any car loans...although we both drove really old cars.

When Mat came home one day and declared he had discovered this guy on the radio that preached a "get-out-of-debt" sermon, I knew who he was talking about... Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover program. I had the book on my bookshelf...I even read it... I just never put the principles into place. That weekend, through an audio version of his book, Mat and I listened to the Total Money Makeover three times from start to finish. Mat was sold and I was supportive of the concept. We made a list of our debts as instructed and began making a plan.

In future blogs I'll share more about the specifics from our debt-free journey, but here's the revelation I want to leave with you today.... Compliance is not the same as commitment.

When Mat busted out the pen and paper and started planning a budget, I wasn't really committed to the journey. I didn't cause a scene or demand free-spending... I was compliant, meaning I went along with it because I really didn't care much about the topic. Afterall, I wasn't spending any money so what difference did it make? I didn't see that the budget was really going to change a lot for me so I just let Mat go on with his budget and his number-crunching. While he was super-charged and excited by the numbers and planning and budgeting.... my interest was lost after the first decimal point. 

I was totally capable and had enough sense to do all that Mat was doing - budgeting and financial planning. I am a problem-solver. But... I didn't want to do it. I would go along with whatever Mat put on paper but I didn't want to invest the mental energy or commit the attention or time to create the plan or maintain it.

We hummed along for a few months like this... Mat the ever-devoted number guy who knew exactly every cent we had in every account we owned and knew were every dollar was spent. Christie - forever to be the one who simply organized the bill book and wrote down whatever Mat said we were going to do, but never offering her own thoughts on the subject. Compliant... not committed.

The shift stated to take place one day when Mat started to paint a picture of what life would look like once we were out of debt. He painted a picture of our future using words... not numbers. That got my blood pumping and my heart racing and my brain engaged. All of a sudden we were dreaming and I could visualize the life, the dreams, the goals that we wanted to see come true. 

From compliant... I moved to committed really fast at that point and began learning more about how we manage our money and the plan we create for it. Now, Mat is still the numbers nerd. He calculates our paychecks more accurately than our HR departments at work. But when it comes to doing the debt-free thing... we do it together. Yes, we each bring something different to the table, but we are both sitting at the table now... participating, engaged and committed to the vision and the plan for our financial future.

So are you compliant or committed? Whether it's about your finances, your kids, your vacation plans...whatever it is that's going on in your household right now, there's a big difference between being compliant and being committed. The complaint will eventually wear off and in its place comes resentment, that keeping-score-mentality, and selfish attitudes form. Where as commitment will breed perseverance, and a roll-up-your sleeves, whatever-it-takes attitude. 

Your spouse needs you to be all in. Not just go-with-the flow, compliant yes-man (or woman), but a smart, engaged, committed partner that wants to work together for a joint cause. Yes,  you may come at it from different points of view and may bring different skill sets to get the job done, but when you work side-by-side you are creating a strong partnership that also build intimacy between you and your spouse. Some of the most heart-to-heart conversations Mat and I have had have taken place around the table while balancing our budget. We dream, we plan, we get on the same page, we walk away hand-in-hand ready to face the world together!

Where are you? Compliant or committed? What can you do to show you commitment more to your spouse and how might you come together even more in different aspects of your life together? Pick one major area and start there. You don't have to tackle it all, just take small steps to work together. You'll be surprised how much that overflows into the other areas of life.