However much we may love someone we may sometimes find ourselves in serious conflict with them. One of the most common areas of conflict is over money. Both partners must be willing to make sacrifices in how they spend money to try to make things work. When only one partner makes sacrifices things are heading toward a break up.
Partners in a relationship must sacrifice themselves for the good of their relationship, but too much sacrifice will do more harm than good, particularly when each of us sees ourselves as having sacrificed more than our partner has.
There are many things we may sacrifice. Our time or money or our preferences regarding everything from our friends or how we dress to what we eat or what entertainment we may most enjoy or even more things may need to be sacrificed. If we fail to make some of these sacrifices our partners may feel unloved. If we make too many of these sacrifices we may resent our partners for seeming to require too much of us.
Both partners may feel they sacrifice too much and both may be correct. One partner may feel that they give up too much time or freedom while the other partner may feel they give up too much of their comfort or security.
Both complaints may be valid and need to be considered fairly. Sometimes there is an effort to ‘trade off’ but most of these things are like apples and oranges and it is hard to see the relative value of each in terms of the other or to know what a fair compromise may really be. Too often both partners continue to feel they are getting the short end of the deal no matter how much each feels they sacrifice for the other.
In response to feeling we may be getting less than our partner, one partner or both partners may go out and lavish rewards upon themselves spending a small fortune on what each desires perhaps without rational concern for the consequences. If we allow this sort of behavior to get out of hand we may find ourselves descending into unmanageable debt.
Perhaps the fastest way to resolve conflicts regarding what we feel we sacrifice for one another may be to strip everything down to the bare minimum, the absolute bare minimum.
One thing which should be reduced is our egoistic concerns for the quality or expense of our clothes. Wear what is appropriate to work but no more. Choose generic goods not designer labels. Off the rack, not custom tailored. Enough outfits for a single week and not a month. This does not mean that we must continue to reduce ourselves to this minimum standard indefinitely; it is only one of many things we can do to reach a starting point for a fair and equitable lifestyle that balances our own needs with the needs of our partner.
It will also be appropriate to give up some entertainment. A few books which we resell or trade, or some movie rentals may be OK but ‘collecting’ such things for the pleasure of owning them may need to be put on hold for awhile. Going to concerts or sporting events where there is no mutual interest or time to go together may need to be forsaken for a while as well. Keep in touch with music online or on the radio, keep up with sports teams in news reports from papers or on television. Both partners must reduce the time and money invested in these side interests to a bare minimum to reach a fair bargaining point where some of these activities may later be reintroduced through careful bargaining.
Plan meals together and trade off preparing simple favorite meals. Keep the effort and the expense of meal preparations to a reasonable minimum. We should temporarily give up any snacks or treats that are our selfish pleasures, particularly those which may put us at risk with regard to our health. Putting our health at risk is a sure fire way to say to our partner that we do not care either for ourselves or for them. We should eat basic and nourishing foods for awhile rather than a diet rich in our favorite indulgences. Again, some of these things may be reintroduced later, but not right away.
Another area where we may need to reduce our lifestyles to a minimum standard may be in regard to the time we spend with our personal friends outside of work or our home. Our friends can be wonderful resources for us, but if too much of our lives are consumed by our other relationships we may be bankrupting the one relationship which matters most.
In this manner, wherever there is time or money expended outside of the primary relationship we have with our partner those things should be curtailed. The practical goal of achieving a minimalized lifestyle is two-fold:
One part of the goal is to put ourselves in a situation where we have more time to spend with our partner so that we may talk or play together more often.
The other part of our goal is to develop a lifestyle where our budget is no longer strained and we can actually begin to save money rather than going into debt. Our debt must be resolved or we must develop a lifestyle which makes it possible to resolve our debt within our means.
Once we each have more time to invest with our partners there will be less jealousy about what each partner sacrifices because it is our time together which should mean more than anything else to both partners.
When we can learn to manage our debt successfully we may then slowly begin to reintroduce some special things which we desire if they are within our means to do so without either taking too much of our time away from our partner or seriously hampering our recovery from debt. We must think twice about everything we want, once for ourselves, and once to include what we will be giving our partner in the bargain we need to make to get what we desire.
We need to discuss with our partners any changes we wish to make to reintroduce some of the special things which we have given up and we must agree on which things each of us will be allowed to have in advance. We must seek a fair balance in what we choose for ourselves and in what we agree our partners may have so that both of us are in agreement about the equitability of our choices and the impact our choices will have on our budget and on the amount and quality of the time which we make available to our partner to be spent together.
From a minimalist standard of living many things which we may find both rewarding and fulfilling may be added back into our lifestyles at very little cost in either time or money. But with opulent lifestyles burdened by debt every pleasure we seek has a hidden consequence within our consciences that makes us feel guilty and defensive. Our guilt and defensiveness become hostility; we may then use these negative emotions to justify our self destructive or relationship destructive behavior thereby possibly exacerbating our opulent lifestyles and further undermining the amount and quality of time we may spend with our partners or adding to the burden of our debt.
Where conflict arises we must quell it through mutual and total self sacrifice; from there we may begin to learn anew how best to find those pleasures and rewards in our lives which most enhance not only our own health, joy and happiness but which also enhances the quality of the time and joy which we may share with our partner.
Note: In homes with children or other dependents it is best to include everyone in this process; give fair consideration to each person’s minimal needs and include them in the fair bargaining process to increase each person’s share of the mutual wealth of time and resources that are collectively owned by all of the members of the home.