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Addiction and Relationships: The Thing About Handling Finances In Recovery

"If you don't know what's ahead, then why be afraid of it?"

I think no matter what the situation is, financials can be a tricky topic to talk about in relationships. Which doesn’t necessarily stem from a negative point, it’s just the fact that most people have different ideas of how money should be spent, what proper (if any) financial planning looks like, etc, along with the fact that some people are more impulsive while others are more prone to saving every penny.

I recently took an enneagram test, which concluded that I am a 6 on the results scale. I’m not sure entirely how accurate this test is for others, but for me it was pretty spot on. Basically I have the tendency to overthink and stress about certain (okay, most) issues because I have the desire to feel safe and secure. This crosses over of course into finances, and I can freely admit that I am a hyper-saver, and I track every purchase made and every dime spent.

You can image that this quality of mine does not mesh well with an addict.

Even before I met James I was always one to save and not spend on anything fun or for myself. I considered anything recreational to be unnecessary, and therefore not ok. What if I needed that money in the future? What if some random, unforeseen, and expensive emergency happened and I was unprepared?

James on the other hand is quite impulsive, even while sober. He just has a naturally impulsive and carefree mindset (that’s the “7” in him), more along the lines of, “I want it right now so I’ll figure things out if needed when it comes to that.” He has since shifted to a more responsible center, and I hope that I’m slowly doing the same, but it’s a very long and often tumultuous work in progress.

Our differing beliefs about money have caused way too many arguments, and honestly we sometimes have the result of talking in circles with no actual resolutions.

We've spent one too many Saturdays arguing and upsetting each other on the way to our daughter's gymnastics practice, which resulted in one too many silent stand-offs on uncomfortable bleacher seats, each of us thinking how much the other person needs to change their opinion (I sometimes wonder if any other parents questioned our relationship to each other).

Since then we have tried to formulate a plan that works for each of us (with our completely opposite financial viewpoints), and eventually decided on a joint account with some conditions: we will have our joint accounts set for free-spending, bills, and savings, while still having the larger nest-egg under my name only and with sole access. I don't mean to hold this over his head by any means, but I do need some security and assurance that should the worst of the worst occur, Stella and I will be able to weather the storm on our own.

While this solution has helped, it has not dissipated the topic or issues completely. My natural characteristics are hard to overcome, and when coupled with my experiences with his addiction, I fear sometimes that I won’t ever be able to change. There have been so many times I thought things were “safe.” He had gotten a better job, we were getting out of debt, he was reliable with his paychecks and purchases, we were getting a safety net of savings. And it seems like every time, the rug was pulled out from beneath me and I would feel as though I’d either have to start over completely or the nest egg would have to be used to cover new expenses because we had bills to pay and he was now out of a job.

Even now, with him being sober and doing very well, I still find that it is difficult to relax. The anxiety of always being alert and waiting for the other shoe to drop is a difficult one to shake. It’s also one that I know will be a lifelong struggle, just as his is. But it is one that needs my constant focus and determination because if left unchecked, it could turn from a survival trait to a relationship-killer. Just as he has his triggers and the possibility to relapse, so do I. These very beliefs and anxieties that I once needed to keep me going are now what are keeping me sick. I have just as much a responsibility as he does to do the work to heal to get to and stay in a healthier place in life.

And of course just as with anything I will have my down days and my good days. But as long as things are going in a more positive direction, so should I. After all, I’ve bounced back from all the things that have happened thus far.

What’s wrong with putting in a little more trust this time and living a little?

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