Nine years ago, I laid out my debt on my be – in the huge master bedroom suite in the house that I have just had custom built for me. On the outside, I was the epitome of having it all together. I had a Cadillac and an Audi in the driveway of my new luxury home. But no one knew my dirty secret – I had gotten my family into $40,000 of debt.
I had been spending money on credit cards for years, but my spending escalated after my brother committed suicide in 2005. I was now in $40,000 of debt – most of it on credit cards. But because I was “trying” to handle the finances myself, I hid the truth from Mark. I was ashamed of how much of a financial mess I had gotten us into, and I was too full of shame to come clean to him. Then I broke…
What made me break?
The realization that my marriage and future was more important than my “stuff”.
In fact, I believe that the disagreements over money saved our marriage. That day I broke I had hidden a bag of clothing from the mall in the trunk of my car and didn’t bring them inside until my husband went to work the next day. I didn't want to start another money fight, so hid the purchases.
He would never know.
But I was dying inside.
While I was hanging up my purchases, I felt so sad and guilty. I ignored all warning signs that I was a spender and I was hiding this from Mark for the sole purpose of not getting in a fight over my spending. And this wasn't the first time; I was avoiding it over and over again. I had enough, and decided to come clean to him. My marriage was more important than those clothes, my future was worth investing in.
That night I laid the credit card bills on my bed and after our son was in bed, I decided to ask Mark into our bedroom. I blurted out “We have $40,000 in debt.” My stomach sunk and I wanted to cry. His response “I forgive you, let’s get through this together.”
I cried. But they were tears of relief and hope.
A few years later, we were debt free. I talk all about this in my book The Recovering Spender.
So how did we do it? Sure the easy answer would have to do with strategies involving which debts to pay down first, etc; and it was difficult for sure. A spender like myself having to restrain my impulses? Yeah it was painful.
But not as painful as being broke all the time. Once the pain of being broke becomes greater than the pain of sacrificing your stuff, then you are ready for a change. Suddenly the thought of not changing was more terrifying that the thought of not being able to buy anything. And coming clean to Mark made it much easier.
As bestselling author Brené Brown (check out her TED Talk, “Listening to Shame”) explained so perfectly in 2012, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” When secrets fester, shame increases. We are courageous when we speak out regardless of how uncomfortable it feels.
I didn’t realize that night how much courage to come clean to Mark. But I realize in hindsight that had I never done it, I may still be in the same spot I was that night. Broke, stressed, and losing everything I had worked so hard for.
My question for you today is – What do you need courage to do? Being vulnerable is the ultimate sign of courage.
Share below and let this be your first step in your journey of being courageous.