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As We Attack Debt Do We Attack Each Other? [Video]

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Jason and Tracy, who live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, both felt the pressure to get out of $15,000 credit card debt - a debt that had them in a chokehold. THEY DECIDE TO BUDGET

Learning of Dave Ramsey’s brilliant and simple system to take baby steps to get out of debt, they decided five months ago to budget.

Their goal: pay off the debt from the credit cards and then visit Dave Ramsey’s headquarters in Nashville to cut up all credit cards in a glorious celebration, joining the tens of thousands before them.

Jason and Tracy are in their mid 30’s with three kids under five. She is a stay at home mom and he teaches high school biology.


However, now several months into the budgeting process, the stresses have mounted between them. There has been no eating out - only the rice and beans in-home-delight. They sold one of their cars and took no vacation.

Tracy finally vents. “This is so hard. I feel like I have become a slave to get out of slavery. If only we had more money we could leave this misery sooner.”

He hears in her venting, “You are an inadequate provider. We would not be in this financial mess if you made more money."

That’s what he hears.

Defensively he reacts. “Well, it isn’t all my fault. Most of the credit card debt is due to you buying things that we really didn’t need, like all those top of the line appliances.”

Stunned, she feels accused. She hears him saying,  "You are to blame for our debt problems.”

That’s what she hears.


Out of hurt, she angrily reacts, “That’s what you ALWAYS do. Blame me. But you told me to go ahead and get those appliances and you then went out and bought that riding lawn mower. And, what’s the point of you paying for this Master’s degree in biology if there’s no guarantee it will get you more money in our bank account? Why not get a second job!?”

In disbelief he hears, “You really are a loser. You can’t provide for our family and even if you could, you would be self-serving in advancing your own interests, not the needs of the family.”

That’s what he hears

He explodes, “I don't deserve this disrespect. You can help out. You can get part time work from home. There are data entry opportunities that pay well.”

Astounded, she hears, “Your full time mothering is an excuse for laziness and I do not really value what you are doing with our kids.”

That’s what she hears

She yells back as she starts to cry, “You are so unloving! My dad had questions about me marrying you.”

Feeling daggers through his heart, he hears, “My dad never respected you.”

As he stomps out of the house he harshly shouts, “You’ll never be half the woman my mom is.”


As some seek to kill personal debt as husband and wife, they end up “killing” each other emotionally.

They go from vilifying the debt problem to vilifying the other as the problem.

They go from attacking the debt to attacking each other.

In seeking financial peace they ignite a marital war.


All couples must recognize that money is a symptom of a marital problem, not the disease causing the marital problem.

The Bible teaches in Ephesians 5:33 and research confirms, that LOVE AND RESPECT are the two key ingredients for a successful marriage.

In other words, if Jason habitually appears hostile to Tracy while espousing their problems related to debt, his unloving attitude will destroy the marital friendship.

If Tracy habitually appears contemptuous to Jason while venting her frustration about the debt, her disrespectful expressions will ruin their close companionship.

The debt issue is not the root issue that spoils the marriage. Many people are in debt and have a wonderful relationship while working as a team to get out of debt. Debt is an innocent bystander. The culprits are the unloving and disrespectful attitudes we display toward each other while dealing with the debt.

When couples argue over finances they need to recognize the no fly zone. The no fly zone means the territory of no love and no respect. Said another way, they enter a toxic zone of hostility and contempt that kill their oneness. Once they enter that no fly zone they segue from being allies to being enemies.


When two people fail to notice the real killer of a marriage relationship, they end up assigning blame on the debt. “If we did not have these money problems we’d have a great marriage.”

Fact is they do not have a great marriage because he appears unloving and she appears disrespectful.  The cancer is the hostile and contemptuous reaction, not the lack of money. They need to be exceedingly more concerned about their reactions to each other while dealing with their debt than the debt itself.

The good news is that the debt affords a couple the opportunity to deepen their own maturity by killing their unloving and disrespectful reactions instead of killing each other. They can make a decision to refuse to enter the “no fly zone” with all of those deadly fumes.


Did you notice how Jason and Tracy’s reactions escalated? They began to spin on what I call the Crazy Cycle. Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love.

The chronic crazy cycle undermines the benefits of marriage: connectedness emotionally and sexually, the laughter between them, the sense of mission that they are part of something bigger than themselves, prayer together, a healthy environment for the kids, personal health, their reputation among others, and multiple other benefits.


Though both need love and respect equally, we have asked 7000 people this question, “When you are in a conflict with your spouse do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected?” 83% of the husbands said they feel disrespected and 72% of the wives feel unloved.

This confirms that the Crazy Cycle most often spins because the husband appears unloving and the wife appears disrespectful.


Can they recover? Yes. When Jason apologizes, “Look, I reacted in an unloving way. I was wrong. I felt you were sending me the message that you did not respect me. I felt vulnerable and reacted. I know you. I know that wasn’t the message you were trying to send. Will you forgive me?”

Hopefully Tracy will reply, “I too am feeling horrible. The last thing I want to tell you is that I don’t respect you. But I overreacted and made disrespectful comments that were cruel. I was wrong. I retaliated. I felt unloved, though I know you love me, and I got defensive. Please forgive me."

In moving forward both should feel the freedom to express their frustrations and anger over the indebtedness. This is no fun journey. However, they need to put a sock in their mouths the minute they start talking in a way that sounds very unloving and very disrespectful. They will jump on the Crazy Cycle, and the Crazy Cycle is what ruins marriage - not debt.


Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. When stressed about your debt (or other issues in your marriage) do you go from your efforts to kill the debt to conversations in which you “kill" each other?

    Evaluate why you do this, and make a commitment to the following: express your stress without attacking your spouse as the reason; vow to not blame your spouse for the past, which serves no healthy purpose
  2. Do you relate to the Crazy Cycle, and if so, will you be the first one to stop the cycle?  How will you do this?
  3. Even if there was no debt (or other issues), do you have hostility and contempt that would manifest itself over some other disappointment? What do you need to do to get at the root?