This weekend was somewhat of a breakthrough for us in the “talking to friends about our situation” area. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve kept our situation pretty close to the vest, even with our close friends. We’ve since determined that there needs to be a certain level of healthy discussion with those you care about or else you could end up distancing from them in other ways, too.
It goes beyond just turning down invitations to do things that are expensive – it impacts the other parts of your conversation with people, usually unintentionally. The way we experienced it was last fall when we had to move and drastically reduce our lifestyle, but felt strange about disclosing all of the details to our friends as to the “why” of our move. We would say, “it is just too expensive, we need to downsize” but not elaborate. We thought we were doing this so that we wouldn’t burden our friends and become “Debbie Downers,” but we really were doing them a disservice and unintentionally communicated that we couldn’t trust them.
The other facet is that when we did talk to our friends, we were coming from a “survival mode” and they were coming from their own places, usually good things, so I can see how we might have come off as distant or cold or self-involved – all we were thinking about is “how are we possibly going to make this work.”
I think we’ve made some inroads on this matter in the last few months. We have started making being intentional to discuss it with some of our better friends and while we haven’t talked dollar amounts, we have talked about some of the mis-steps we have made and the reality in which we find ourselves. In one instance, the wife of the couple asked what kind of blog I was going to be working on for the next three years, and so I told her. She shared that she and her husband went through a similar process and was able to borrow money from family to reduce their debt and then live frugally to pay it all back. I systematically started setting up times to talk to our friends face-to-face about what we’ve been living through, and we’ve been so thrilled by the response of our friends.
The conversation that I have been struggling with the most is the one with one of my best friends – we’ve been friends for over 5 years, and there have been some things that both of us have held back. This weekend, after spending the day together and having a great dinner, my husband and I started to share about our debt reduction plan on the way back from dinner. I started with the date that we are going to be debt free (July 20, 2012) and said that I knew it would be a tough road, but I knew we could do it if we were just disciplined. Her response floored me. She said “That’s awesome. You know, I’m so mad at myself. I got into trouble years ago, and then finally worked myself to a place of being debt-free, and now, I’ve let it creep back up and I’m in exactly the same place.” This was HUGE for us. Neither of us had volunteered this information and now we know that we are each going through it.
I’m so pleased that we are continuing to fight the fear – at first it was a fear of facing our debt, then taxes (more on that later) and now the fear of sharing. It is much more freeing to face all of this head-on, I think…