Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Project 30: Getting the husband on board.

Min Gi cares deeply about my health.  Sometimes we fight about it because I feel like he's being too controlling (this is a man who does push-ups for fun; sometimes anything he says about health comes off as critical).  Telling me how beneficial exercise is when I've had a cold and cough for the last three days is not helpful.  Telling me not to drink diet coke when it's the only thing keeping me from eating donuts is not helpful.  He's learned to back off telling me what to do nets better results.

Some of his health habits also bug me:  social smoking (he has about 4-12 cigarettes a month, usually while drinking with my brother) and rejecting the medical industry whole hog being the two that cause the most ire.

We have come to a friendly agreement.  In the new year, I will quit diet coke and he will quit smoking.  See?  Supportive!

Yesterday, I prepared a written budget for January.  Not pretty.  We have an equal amount coming in as going out, which means no wiggle room for paying off debt early or building an emergency fund.  I've been stressed about this for months, and it's turned into my nagging Min Gi to get a job* (any job... so long as it pays) or unilaterally vetoing anything that resembles fun (and then feeling guilty about doing so, and so allowing him to go to NYC to visit his friend, even though we don't really have the money).  This is a bad way to deal with scarcity. I do not recommend it.

After carefully tracking income and outgo for the last three months, I've come to the conclusion that this is NOT a problem of frugality.  Except for the dining out budget (which has been halved then halved again), there's really not much left for us to cut--we don't spend exorbitant amounts of money.  The two main sources for this lack of funds are 1) we are paying too much in rent--one two-week check does not cover it--and 2) we are a one-income family in a typically two-income area (DC suburbs).  I've been needing the pressure valve released on one of these two areas or I'm going to blow!

A strange thing happened, though, when I put it in black and white (which I HAVE done before, but apparently this time it clicked).  Min Gi suddenly was open to the idea of moving in with a friend of mine who has a room in his house coming open soon (and would take our kitties!) because it would save over $500/month in rent/utilities.  He suddenly saw how necessary it was for him to get a job; enough so to overcome his fears about working in a foreign country and feeling less than 100% confident in his language abilities.

I think two things were different this time.

1)  Min Gi has his own goal that requires getting our financial house in order.  He has a timeline of five years and a need for a large amount of investment capital.  He knows we can't do that with my student debt hanging over our heads and no savings.
2)  He's ready to act on it and received the communication differently this time.  Somehow, something I said clicked.  He's all in now.

It's been said before by greater minds than mine, but it bears repeating:  You can't force someone else to change.  After nearly a year of marriage, I can tell you that I've learned a LOT about having a partner, especially one as awesome as Min Gi.  Discussing finances with an equally stubborn, independent-minded spouse was not one lesson that had taken particularly well.  However, our conversation yesterday makes me believe that year two will be the one where we learn how to work as partners in the finance aspect of our marriage.  I can't wait!

*I once received an e-mail at this blog suggesting that by mentioning the fact that my husband has no outside-the-house paid work, I am somehow denigrating him.  Um... not my value system.  I don't assign value to people based on their take home pay (if that weren't obvious to you from my chosen profession being high school teacher).  My husband is amazing.  His contributions to our marriage so far are things I simply could not do--bringing calm and patience into tense situations, keeping the house more clean and orderly than I've ever managed on my own, maintaining friendships with others that I would just let fall aside when I got "busy" and stressed making sure we have fun--something I forget to do a lot, just to name a few.  I wonder if said commenter would think I was "denigrating" my spouse by mentioning their jobless state if the genders were reversed.


  1. Really no offense here. But I've been reading your blog since your first post and I can see a train wreck on the horizon. Leaving Korea because of problems, resettling and facing even more pressing issues... are you heading towards divorce? I hope not, but perhaps through the trees the forest isn't visible? Please take the pressure off hubby and just go with the flow. Jaebal!

  2. Um... I honestly don't know where you're getting "a train wreck on the horizon" from. Perhaps you missed the part where I've spoken about how awesome Min Gi is for being willing to follow me from his home country to one he knows nothing about that will afford him limited opportunities. Most men couldn't take the hit to the ego that comes with that, and he has not only taken it, but has thrived in his new environment. To say that he is having trouble adjusting to talking with me about money and being a team instead of an independent man who has supported his mom on his own since the death of his father is like mentioning that it's hard for a person with a broken leg to get around. It's a fact. But it's temporary and we're both working on it.

    My parents have been happily married for more than 40 years and STILL haven't figured out how to communicate about money effectively. The fact that we're working on it--directly, together--speaks to the strength of our marriage.

  3. a divorce? really? I have also been reading Diana's blog for a long time and know that she's not the type of person to just run away from her husband in a time like this. She has gone through a lot in her first year of marriage: her dad's cancer diagnosis, dealing with personal health problems, successfully moving to a country whose economy is in the bucket (yet still being able to stay afloat), to dealing with reverse culture shock and depression (and the list goes on). It's easy to blog about how 'great life is', but it takes more guts to publicly announce where things are going wrong and to take action and control. She's set herself up with an action plan. She's admitted that she's going to fail and it will be a trial and error process in the beginning. But she's put it out there. She's admitted her defeat and is willing to put in the effort to get her life back.

    She's awesome. And I commend her for her honesty.

    And she's inspired me to do the same.

    Good work my friend ;)

  4. Diana.

    You and Min Gi are kicking ass. Seriously. As a long term lurker I am amazed at all you have accomplished in the face of challenges on so many levels the past year or so. There is no question that your blog contains only a fraction of what you are facing and moving through. As someone staring 50 in the face you have provided mature and profound insights for me to reflect upon how I live and respond to life. Thank you for that. Commenters that focus on short term issues are missing the big picture of who you are and where you are traveling as individuals and as partners. The boulders in the path of your journey simply carve the character of the person and the partnership making it rich and unique. You communicate clearly the strength you and Min Gi have as individuals and the strong commitment to the partnership. This lurker is enjoying your growth and successes over the course of time. Thanks for sharing honestly your trials and tribulations.

  5. Married life isn't perfect. As a non-Korean (Filipina) married to a Korean man for 14 years, I can say that we've been through many ups and downs. We've lived in Daegu, Korea for 4 years, Manila, Philippines for 2 years, FL,
    US for 2 years and now here in CA,US for 6 years. We have a 10 year-old daughter and a one year-old son. The D-word has been tossed around by both of us at certain points in our marriage for many different reasons. But hey, we're still here. And our adventures and misadventures continue.Best wishes to you and your hubby!



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