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Ask Dave

A Recovering Marriage

John wants to know how long it took for Sharon to forgive Dave for their financial hardships. Dave discusses how their marriage recovered.

QUESTION: John in Houston wants to know how long it took for Sharon to forgive Dave for their financial hardships. Dave discusses how their marriage recovered.

ANSWER: The bankruptcy we went through was 100% due to me and business borrowing too much on real estate and losing everything. It was my fault. She was a young mom. We were a young family—28 years old with two little babies. She was scared to death. Yes, it did damage our relationship. It did destroy her respect for me. She did not trust my judgment anymore—and with good reason. I didn’t trust my judgment much, either, because I could look in the mirror and see stupid. He was standing there.

It just crushes your self-esteem because I was a pretty cocky, arrogant little dude. I was running around doing stuff that nobody had done at my age. I was a millionaire by the time I was 26 starting from nothing. And then I crashed.

I felt like dirt. Every time that she even sort of acted like she didn’t trust me, it touched my low self-esteem and set me off. What I’m trying to say is it’s hard to gauge how long it took her to get over it because it took me a while to get over it, too. And I was a little bit hypersensitive about people questioning my abilities right then because my abilities weren’t very good. It was like we had gas, and now we’re going to throw a match on it. The gas is she’s wounded and scared, and the match is anybody that questions me because I would just blow up. It was a combustible mix.

The first year, we were just kind of numb. The second year, we started to recover financially and started to talk about this stuff and do some of the things I was learning to do from what the Bible says about money. The third year, we hit the wall, and we ended up in marriage counseling, three years after we crashed. But it took us that long to get up and get past the desperation of just paying light bills and feeding kids to even have a feeling again. That started the turn. Within a year of doing that and some pretty intentional help from a really good friend who’s a counselor, we were able to start going, “Okay. That’s why he’s acting that way. That’s why she’s acting that way. Yes, she’s got a right to be mad, but you can’t be mad forever. You’ve got to get over it.”

Now, 20 years later, I’m the expert in America on money and debt. Does she still not listen to me? Well, yeah, she listens to me. She trusts me now. Does she trust me absolutely and with the same naïveté she had in her 20s? No, she’ll never be that naïve again. And she still questions. But I’m not nearly as threatened when she questions now. I take her input now, which I didn’t then. I don’t have anything to hide, and I’m not threatened. I think that helps her to feel comfortable and to be more secure in my judgment even 20 years later. But there’s a scar there that’s a touchy place still for both of us.

Do you get over it 100%? Probably not. It’s like a massive car wreck or something where you get broken up. You’re always going to have those aches and pains from it every time it rains. Is it better today with a couple million dollars lying around and 20 years of healing versus the old days? Yeah, it’s a lot better now.

I’m not giving you a solid answer. It’s not 5.2 years and it’ll all be over. I can’t tell you that. It doesn’t work that way.

What she wants to know is you learned your lesson. She needs to see the fruit in your life, which she is seeing in those two major areas. You’re cooperating with her, and you’re making progress. That’s fruit. It will heal over time. You’re going to be fine. You’ve got a good woman there.