“Check out this one,” my wife said as she handed me her phone. I turned from what I was doing and glanced at the nearby house for sale, noting its far out-of-reach price.
“Looks great,” I replied, wondering why my wife was doing this to herself and what the point was. She couldn’t possibly be serious about the idea of moving, and even so, I thought, we couldn’t really afford to upgrade. Our current mortgage was quite manageable thanks to purchasing a modest home over a decade ago when prices were lower, plus refinancing when mortgage rates were historically low. Why would we mess with that?
On the other hand, since buying our house our family of three had become a family of six. Over the years we had worked hard to optimize the use of space in our house, and yet, I had to admit, we were bursting at the seams. Most pressing, our college freshman daughter, whose departure provided temporary relief, lacked a bedroom to move back into. Her younger sister had taken hers over the day she moved out. “We’ll figure something out” I assured her…mostly trying to assure myself. Day after day the pattern continued–my wife showing me houses that I didn’t think were realistic, which I communicated through deafening silence. I grew frustrated as my wife slid towards despair. Something had to give.
Meanwhile, I have been blessed to work for organizations whose respective missions are to build strong marriages and help people have healthy relationships with money. Working in these contexts and growing in awareness has both challenged and enabled me to become more intentional. Objectively, I knew that differing attitudes about finances is a prime cause of marriage conflict. I also knew from research that scarcity and abundance are a matter of perspective as much as a function of wealth. Applying these insights to myself, I gradually realized that my wife was telling me she needed our living situation to change, but my sense of scarcity was preventing me from truly hearing her and responding constructively.
It took some time, but through what was for me a mostly spiritual journey, my attitude gradually shifted from fear-based stagnation to a new openness toward stepping out and taking a risk. It was just in time, as the day I suggested looking at some houses, my wife was about to delete her house-hunting app in an act of resignation. Long story short, at my prompting we moved ahead quickly, putting unsuccessful offers on a couple of houses before finding an ideal home that was not yet on the market, securing it at a reasonable price. Thanks to the equity in our current house and changing to a longer term loan, our mortgage payments actually went down slightly. Most precious was the conversation with my wife when I shared the journey that shifted my perspective, motivated by the desire to align with her needs and close the gap that had formed between us. I had developed ears to hear, and in a fresh new way she felt honored and cherished.
Looking back, I see how emotions—especially fear and anxiety—can distort my sense of reality and get in the way of my desire to understand my wife and be responsive to her needs and the needs of our family. Furthermore, it’s not easy to see what’s going on when I’m in the middle of it. I’m grateful for the external inputs that prompted me to pause and consider how my perspective was driving responses that didn’t necessarily correspond to reality. I can see the impact that embracing an abundance mindset, grounded in reality and wise decision-making, is having on our entire family–uniting us around a live-giving sense of hope.