A penny saved

Joey Garcia

My parents want to give my wife and I the down payment for a house. My wife is thrilled, but I’m not. My parents have always attached strings to their gifts. I want us to do it ourselves, but my wife isn’t committed to saving and that pisses me off. I don’t say much because when I do, she berates me for being selfish and for not being financially successful. She is pressuring me non-stop to take my parent’s offer. Please help.

I vote that you save the money yourself because of your concern that the funds are rife with expectations. As the philosopher Jacob Needleman notes in his book Money and the Meaning of Life, “We have no choice but to take very seriously the power money has to show us what we can develop in ourselves that can never be bought or sold at any price.” Choosing to bank the cash yourself deepens your personal integrity and proves your self-sufficiency. You may also be reducing stress with your parents.

It may take some work to inspire your wife to adopt a leaner budget. The Internet-based financial coach Shirah Bell promotes this method of discovering beliefs about money: “Listen. Pay attention to your financial worries. Explore your feelings. Don’t try to eliminate or fix them, just notice when they are provoked.

“Go exploring. Uncover your deepest, personal yearnings. What really matters to you? Give yourself time to reflect regularly. Use techniques such as reflective writing, meditation, prayer or talking with a spiritual mentor.

“Take stock. Inventory the full spectrum of your wealth. Use software such as Intuit’s Quicken or Microsoft’s Money to help you assess your financial situation. Next, evaluate your many other forms of wealth: your professional knowledge, earning ability, network of relationships, life experiences, talents, compassionate nature, reputation, and your faith. Brainstorm with people who know you and can see resources in you that you may not see in yourself.

“Experiment. Before you buy something, ask yourself, ‘Does this expenditure satisfy what really matters to me? Does it improve my capacity to take care of my future?’ Try new spending and saving choices that address your deepest yearnings.”

The book Can Love Last? by Stephen A. Mitchell really helped my marriage. We try to solve relationship problems by wondering how to control our partners. People should consider how they react to the words and actions of their partners. People are not in charge of your happiness—you are. If you control how you deal with people in general, you will control your own destiny. People will always try to sidetrack you because that is how people are.

I’ve noticed that self-help books can encourage the unconscious adaptation of a style of speaking that results in a tendency to sound like a smart teacher. It’s a defense against allowing the ego to soften enough to invite a profound understanding of personal frailties and how those weaknesses contributed to relationship problems, i.e. the split between intellectual knowledge and the truly integrated experience of real wisdom. For example, the belief that “people will always sidetrack you” inspires distrust, undermines intimacy and reinforces control issues. It’s the view of a debilitated ego. So the book sounds interesting, but there’s plenty of internal work to do!

Meditation of the week
I attended a recent reading by Jorie Graham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Chatting between poems, she said that the function of the news is to subvert the primal intelligence of our bodies, so that we don’t know when we are being lied to. What do you use to ignore the truth?

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