My Biggest Mistake Wasn’t One at All

12 Mar

While in a workshop on Money and Success over the weekend, I had to name my biggest financial failure.

For me, it was not being able to change my ex-husband’s attitude about money.  He liked debt and I liked to save.  For 20 years I tried to tell him why I was upset and stressed out about the way he did “money ” and what would work for me.  He’s not stupid, but he just couldn’t seem to understand what I was talking about.   I didn’t know back then that I was waiting for him to change so that I could be happy.  It wasn’t a fun or powerful way to live.

At some point, I realized that he shouldn’t have to change.  And that I didn’t need to stay married to him.

We got divorced about 2.5 years ago.  And I have been able to return my finances to the way I had them when I was single and comfortable financially – saving towards retirement, money in the bank, an emergency fund, and positive cash flow.

But I couldn’t forgive myself for living my husband’s way financially for 20 years.  I felt that I should have “known better” or been able to do something other then be stressed out, always checking for negative balances, and feeling like I was drowning by the increasing debt.

Over the weekend I saw that I have been avoiding relationships for fear of making the same mistake again.  It seems a lot less painful to just be safe and comfortable and alone.  I couldn’t imagine living with that kind of stress and upset again.

“Why would you have to experience that again?”  Christine, the instructor asked.

I thought about it.  “I don’t know.  I guess I just assumed I would.  I seem to have a bad picker.”

She just looked at me.  “And why is it your failure if you couldn’t change someone who was unwilling to change?”  she asked.

A lightbulb went off for me.

“You’re right,”  I said.   “Why did I even think it was my job to change him?  And why did I marry someone who liked debt and thought so differently then I did?”

I knew the answer to that one.  I had just assumed that everyone did money like I did.  Why would anyone have debt?  In my family, you were “an idiot” if you had debt.  It was for stupid people.  And, my husband was an Ivy League graduate and a lawyer.  It never occurred to me that he would have a different set of values about money.  He was an intelligent man.

“We were just playing different games,”  I said.  “He played the spend what you want and accumulate debt and I was trying to play save for the future.”

I had failed to identify the games before I got married.  And then I tried to change him so that he was playing my game instead of his.

Well, wouldn’t it be easier to start with someone who is playing the same game?  Who wants the same kind of relationship and partnership as I do?  What a concept?  That I could enjoy the relationship instead of suffer over it.

I have forgiven myself for my failed attempts to change my ex.  And, realized that leaving him may have been one of my best successes ever!!!!

What a new world I have created!!!  I am very excited for what the future holds.  And that’s a miracle.  Because just a few days ago I was suffering over my stupidity, upset and craziness.  Now I am embracing them and the fact that I am a GENIUS for doing something so smart!!!!!

Who knew?




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