Money Troubles Put Their Once-Happy Marriage at Risk

Could they work through their financial problems and revive their loving relationship?

Posted in , Oct 25, 2019

A married couple holding hands

“Are we going to lose the house?” I asked my husband, Craig, as we stood in our yard one Saturday last July, watching our four children play. I gazed up at the rambling three-dormered Cape Cod we’d scrimped and saved for. The rotting woodwork, the failing roof, the stack of bills on the kitchen table inside—all were reminders of how we were foundering as partners and as parents.

“It isn’t my fault,” Craig said.

“I warned you about taking this new job that pays only in commissions,” I said, “but you didn’t listen.”

“If you hadn’t quit your job two years ago—” he said.

I cut him off. “Who else was going to take care of the kids and keep this family running?” Working full-time on top of that and grieving the loss of my grandparents, who’d raised me, had worn me out. So I’d left my job. It was either that or have a breakdown.

Craig stared hard at me and walked away. A week went by while we avoided each other.

The next Saturday, Craig was flipping burgers on the grill for what was supposed to be a fun family cookout. I’d promised myself to keep everything light in front of the kids, who’d already seen me crying that week.

“Can I borrow a few dollars for coffee tomorrow?” I asked Craig.

“My wallet’s on the dresser,” he said, not looking at me.

In the hallway to our bedroom, I passed a picture of the two of us—at my brother’s wedding, my belly big with our second child. We were so happy back then, so hopeful. How had so much changed?

“Please, God,” I whispered, “help us figure out how to get through this.”

When I pulled a five-dollar bill out of Craig’s wallet, a scrap of paper fell out. My name and old phone number, scrawled in bold black writing on a receipt from a Boston restaurant. I didn’t know Craig still had this token from the time and place we’d met some 16 years ago. He must have carried it with him every day since.

I rubbed the worn paper between my fingers. Memories washed over me. The two of us watching old episodes of Three’s Company. Craig walking miles in the rain just to see me after missing the last train from Boston. Craig taking time off to help me care for my ailing grandparents.

I slid the paper back into his wallet, this reminder of the beginning of our love story. Have we now reached the end? I couldn’t avoid the question any longer.

That night, after we had tucked in the kids, Craig and I came back to our bedroom.

“I have two questions,” I said to him after shutting the door. He nodded for me to go ahead. “Do you still love me?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitation.

“Do you want to stay married?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said again.

“Me too.” It was as if I’d been holding my breath for an eternity and could finally breathe again.

I lay down on the bed. Craig lay down beside me and reached for my hand. Then for the first time in two years, we talked without blaming each other or shutting down. Craig said, “I loved you from the moment I saw you that night at the restaurant.”

“All I remember is staring at your dimples,” I said, “thinking how happy I was that this handsome man wanted to talk to me. And then you made me laugh until I nearly cried!”

When my friends had tugged at my arm to leave, I’d boldly asked Craig to take my number.

“I ran to the bar as fast as I could to grab something to write it down on,” he said.

The sky outside our bedroom windows darkened, and still we talked on. We fell asleep curled in each other’s arms, agreeing to work together to rebuild our marriage.

And we have, with emotional honesty and financial discipline. We’ve come to understand that a strong marriage is a work in progress and that going back to the beginning helps our love story continue to grow.

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