Jess has been married for 13 years and has a beautiful seven-year-old daughter. Jess is currently frustrated with her husband. Three years ago, he lost his job. Jess is as an accountant so she started to take care of the finances on top of the household responsibilities.
Her husband, Bill, has found his feet and started working again. However, the responsibilities for running the home have stayed the same. She is responsible for paying the bills, making sure he pitches in to cook dinner one night a week and reminding him to watch his spending. His credit cards are constantly maxed out and he is oblivious to how much he spends.
Bill is a loving father and a good husband, but he takes no responsibility for anything other than working. According to Jess, he feels this is enough.
When she pays the bills each month, she feels resentful, especially when they are over-budget. Bill bought himself a new set of golf clubs and had to get his car serviced. The car was important, but the golf clubs seem less so.
Jess wanted to take her daughter to visit her mother in Florida. However, she may have to postpone that trip since their cards are almost maxed out again. She will have to wait months to see her family. Jess feels guilty that although her mother has made good progress recovering from cancer, she has not seen her only grandchild in a long time.
Jess is frustrated because she wants Bill to be more involved at home. Why does she have to be the police officer enforcing all the rules? She wants to be debt free and save some money so that they can enjoy some vacations together and have money for any emergencies that may arise. She has been telling Bill about this for months. He spends money without thinking. His chores are never done until she reminds him.
Jess is beginning to question whether her marriage will survive in the long term. She knows that Bill will want to help pay off the debt, and take care of things in the short term. But what about the long term? Will they have enough money for their daughter’s college tuition? Will they ever have some financial security? She isn’t sure that Bill can help with these goals.
This kind of situation is not uncommon in a marriage. One partner is very goal oriented and outcome based. They want to move towards dreams and outcomes in order to feel safe. This feeling makes them happy. What they want from their partner is usually very specific and tangible.
Bill on the other hand is happy to give up responsibility. It makes sense, since he is not outcome based. He can live with things the way they are. He lives in the moment on a day to day basis and he functions well this way. If there are no responsibilities other than work , he is free to have more mental space to be relaxed. Bill strongly feels that he contributes a significant amount to the relationship as he works hard and does his best.
They are so close to getting what they both need in the relationship but they are one degree off. This one degree of difference is where all the problems are in the relationship. This one degree of difference is causing resentment and they do not feel connected and supported by each other.
Jess, instead of focusing on the outcome (i.e. having a specific amount in the bank or paying off her debt), needs to focus on the process. Each week she plans to sit with Bill and talk about what both of them need to do so they both feel good in the marriage. Jess talks about what support she needs from Bill in order to feel like their finances and future are in order. Bill talks about the alone time that he needs to recharge and unwind from responsibilities. They both find ways to support one another.
They have been doing this new one degree course correction for 30 days. Nothing much has changed with respect to paying of the credit cards but Jess feels happy. Jim talks about what he is doing to understand their finances. She knows that he cares and she feels if they continue down this path they will be able to take care of each others needs.
Obviously their 15 minute conversation will change every week. They will continue to make small one degree of separation choices. Their ultimate destination is happiness and they are on course to feeling happy without the need for a floatation device.