The following guest post was contributed by JoAnneh Nagler who is a debt-free living coach, artist and author. She recently completed her new book The Debt-Free Spending Plan which will be available in preview copies in the fall of 2011.
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Debt will kill your sex life. If you’re in an intimate relationship with another human being with which you have regular or committed contact, debt is going to take a toll, and that toll is going to make you pay exactly where you don’t want to—in the bedroom.
You probably think I’m kidding, right? You think debt has nothing to do with your sex life. You figure finances are finances, and intimacy is intimacy, and nary the twain shall meet. In fact, many of us probably think that sex relieves the stress of debt. But, nope, even though that’s a nice thought—not so much, as it turns out.
God knows we’re all aware by now that the stresses of our lives can affect us between the sheets. But debt has a special purvey in intimate relationships—and it lives in the arenas of power, control, freedom, and our future.
We understand easily that money is connected to power, and for those of us who debt, it’s a short hop to understanding that we use credit to feel more powerful in our financial lives. And we certainly do this as couples. “Keeping up with the Joneses’ ” was a phrase invented for the debting couple. We want to feel the power of earning and buying, so we debt, thinking that buying on credit will give us that boost.
We also debt to manufacture a feeling of control over what we want and how we want to live. The kicker is, of course, that our growing balances make us feel out of control in the extreme, and so we often debt even more, creating a viscous, addictive cycle. When this happens we often turn the micro-managing magnifying glass to our partner’s spending habits, avoiding that self-searching gaze into our own.
Once our balances are pressing on us, we start living in stress—a low-level panic that grows like The Blob, and infects all areas of our thoughts, feelings, and life-views. Our sense of freedom goes out the window. We’re trapped in a job we can’t leave because of our debt, and we’re angry at our partner because of it. We’re boxed into our role in our relationship because we have to pay our minimums. We pass on the choices we should be making for our well-being and our family’s health because we’re torqued and squeezed into a financial vise.
When our sense of freedom and choice is stripped from us, our sense of future gets sucked out of us. We have no hope. We can’t see our way out of the tunnel. We’re stuck in a nightmare of sameness, in a how-can-we-ever-get-out-of-this feeling that only breeds depression, and we turn that energy—you guessed it—on our partner.
So, multiply that energy times two—that’s you in a committed relationship, looking over at your partner. Both of you are debting. Both of you have your heads in the sand about your finances. Both of you are adding to your credit balances, spending without clarity for everything from groceries, to dry cleaning, to shoes, to airline tickets, to the kids’ summer camp fees. And both of you are angry.
Your feel stress about it. Your partner feels stress about it. If you’ve been keeping the balls in the air for a long time, moving credit dollars from one place to pay the next pressing credit bill, then any other surprising event that comes along—like a recession or a job loss—is going to rock the two of you terribly.
Now, with all of that on the table, try to be intimate. Try to come to your partner with the freedom of love and choosing to be with him or her. It’s almost impossible. What’s more likely is that we’ll feel “stuck” and prickly with our partner and our situation, and we will not be drawn openly into our partner’s arms.
Try letting your head go—all of that swirling and worry over debt—to just be present with your partner intimately. Also almost crazily impossible. What will probably happen is that we’ll try to be intimate, but we won’t be able to shut off our spinning, chattering brain long enough to let go, long enough to feel safe, happy or content, or long enough to be really, truly, intimate.
If you’ve been fighting about money—and most couples who are in debt do fight about money, whether overtly or through passive-aggressive avoidance—then it’s even harder to find the approach to the common ground of loving closeness that sex brings.
That’s how debt kills our sex lives. And it doesn’t get better just by talking about it. Talking about it will acknowledge the elephant in the room, and that’s imperative, but it’s changing our behavior that’s going to bring genuine improvement.
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So what’s a debting couple to do? What’s feasible given that finances are tanking and it’s affecting the very bond that keeps the two of you together?
Get a Debt-Free Spending Plan. Learning to live within your means—together—will be the most powerful thing you ever do to keep your marriage or partnership strong, loving, open-hearted and free.
My husband and I lived in debt for years. The laundry list of choices I made to keep the debt-train rolling cost me a decade-and-a-half of grief. My choices were terrible. My ability to choose what I wanted to do in the world—what I could be content with and then bring that contentment home—never even lifted off the ground until we got our Spending Plan under control. I was miserable, he was miserable, and you’d better believe it affected our sex life. Resentment was a regular, dividing force in our bed.
But today, because we live within a Debt-Free Spending Plan, resentment is gone. We have no money drama. We have money choices, but we have no drama about it. We have no pressure cooker that infects our bed and our ability to reach out to each other openly.
Today, with a Debt-Free Spending Plan, we have an open, discovering, fun, accessible intimate life, and a sane, easy-to-manage, thoughtful, generous money life. There’s no unresolved or unspoken angst about our lifestyle stinking up our bedroom. There’s just easy-access to the love we chose each other for.
So if you’ve had enough of the toll that debt has taken on your intimate life, then the Debt-Free Spending Plan is for you. Chapter Six of my upcoming book is entitled, “Your Aphrodisiac Spending Plan: A Loving Approach to Approaching the One You Love About Debt Problems,” and it offers all you’ll need to start living debt-free, right now.
May we all find the intimate joys that living debt-free brings, and may our hearts, minds and beds be filled with the love they were intended for.