What do you do when you encounter irreconcilable differences in a relationship that's important to you? I like to think or hope that there are no such things, but it's not true. There are.
I have one such circumstance in my own marriage at the moment, and it's uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. It's put us both between a rock and a cliff, and neither alternative is appealing to either of us.
"Irreconcilable differences" is a legal term. It used to be used for no-fault divorce, and herein lies a clue. We don't want a divorce, but our differences in this one area of our life together pull us into a painful place. What to do?
First, let me confide that the differences are in the realm of money, as is the case with so many couples. Second, let me confide that we both know the reasons for our financial ideals: They come out of our family histories, and they run deep. Third, let me say that neither one of us wants to change our financial ideals.
The truth is I know my sweetheart is right about how to handle money for herself; it's just not right for me. And I know I'm right about how to handle money for myself; it's just not right for her.
We've talked about going to counseling to find some sort of agreement on this topic, but it seems silly to me. Neither one of us wants to change our ideals.
Why should we? We're both over 50, and we've found, each of us, what works for us. Do I have to agree with her? Does she have to agree with me?
I don't think so. In fact, I know I can still love her, whether I agree with her, or she with me. The thing is, what to do with the feelings that arise in the meantime?
Within minutes after a small financial conversation (read: skirmish) this afternoon, we were laughing our heads off at our own ridiculousness about money. Let me also confide that the real argument isn't about how to spend money -- it's about how to think about money.
She end-games, and dreams up worst-case scenarios; I always expect the best, and very often get it. It's a philosophical difference, really, not an actual money one.
So here's what I've come to. I have to appreciate my darling for who she is where she is now, no matter my stance on agreement or disagreement. It's not even close to the end of a marriage; it's a chance to appreciate difference in my own household, learn to laugh at myself, and let go a little bit more each time.
Irreconcilable differences? Sure. No fault, no harm, no foul.