It’s hard to believe this photo was taken 25 years ago.

DH = dear husband

Our “PLOT TWIST” & its remarkable timing

Our debt-freedom SHOULD have happened the first week of September when we paid off our mortgage. But it didn’t. This summer, we stumbled at the finish line and borrowed for the first time since we began our journey out of debt in June of 2012. So we’re left with a small line of credit to pay off. It was $3,800 at the end of August, and is now down to $2,500.  Since we won’t have to put any money aside for next month’s mortgage – because we won’t have one – we should be able eliminate our debt completely at the end of this week.

I have bemoaned our backsliding more than once this month, and last week, I got a kick out of Linda’s response to it. “You had a perfect 74 month journey which is no small feat! Then PLOT TWIST. The equity line stumble just makes your story have a bit of a thrilling ending. All about perspective, right?”

How’s this for perspective? Friday September 28th will almost certainly be our day of debt-freedom. Four days later, on Tuesday October 2, DH and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Isn’t that beautiful timing? Much better than having a whole month separating the two milestones, right?

I’d say the “PLOT TWIST” that Linda pointed out is serving a purpose. It’s emphasizing the link between our financial health and the health of our relationship.

The mess and the test

Listening to the radio in my car last Sunday, I was struck by these words: “Let your mess be your message. Let your test be your testimony.”

There’s a forceful pressure in our society to present well – particularly in this era of social media. But I’m convinced that the best path is the one that lets the light in on what is imperfect. Have DH and I had a fairy tale relationship? NO! Ours is a story of messes and tests, and our journey out of debt is a clear illustration of that truth.

Mess and love

I remember once reading an article about fathers and the different levels of involvement that they have in the nurture of their babies. According to research cited in the piece, there is a positive correlation between the  extent to which a dad takes on the mess of parenting his infant – changing diapers, wiping nose drips, cleaning spit-ups – and the depth of the emotional attachment that he develops with his child. Somehow, the direct handling of poop, snot, and puke leads to love.

I believe there is a similar correlation between mess and love for adults in marriage. Fantasies of romance and a distaste for conflict lead many couples to avoid and even deny the mess of their relationships. Life has a tendency to bring garbage to the surface though – one way or another.  The force of impact from denial  colliding with re-surfacing mess is lethal to marriage. We are left with the choice to get our hands dirty dealing with the poop, snot, and puke of our relationships, or to let the mess defeat us.

Facing our mess together

As our debt-freedom and our 25th wedding anniversary approach, I feel so very grateful that my DH chose not to avoid, but to face the garbage with me. As we have focused on getting our financial act together – tracking expenditures, preparing budgets, distinguishing between wants and needs, deciding upon what to give and what not to give to our children – the issues surrounding our indebtedness – issues that have nothing to do with money – have come up time and time again.

Our day-to-day mission to reduce debt has not been romantic. It has featured a focus on infinitesimal detail as well as  plenty of conflict. But like the dad who faithfully serves his baby in all that is mundane, we have reaped a greater love by facing the refuse of our relationship as a team. Renewed affection, more laughter, increased contentment, the promise of hope and new dreams – these are the fruits of our unromantic, debt-reducing grunt work.

Taking the test

When I consider our journey out of debt against the backdrop of DH’s concurrent career upheaval, I am even more grateful. DH was a casualty of the high tech bust early in the millennium. It was a shock that rattled our foundations and that ultimately forced us to recognize the mortifying truth of our poor financial management – though we remained in denial for many years to come.

At the time, DH attended some workshops for people trying to navigate job loss and a search for new employment. One particular questionnaire that he filled out as part of a workshop tested his suitability for self-employment. DH scored in the 5th percentile. He was not a natural-born entrepreneur.

But he did it. He has now run his own small business for almost 10 years. So much that has been involved in his work has gone against the grain for DH. The risk, the multi-tasking, the indefinite hours and uncertain income have often weighed heavily upon him. It’s not something that anyone else would necessarily know or appreciate. But I do.

DH is no quitter. He has taken the prolonged challenges of a difficult situation in stride, and he has won my admiration and respect for his tenacity. It is that same tenacity that has cleared the path for our trek to debt-freedom.

Thank you, DH!

Happily ever after didn’t happen 25 years ago when we said, “I do.” And I know it won’t happen when we can finally scream, “We’re debt-freeeeeee!” But I know I am blessed to have a partner who will face the mess with me directly and honestly as it continues to surface in the years ahead. And I have every confidence that because of the content of your character, we will pass the tough tests that lie ahead. As we focus on the day-to-day, I will anticipate the fruits of our relationship. Because mess and love are intertwined – just like our lives are – and we’ve got plenty of both. On to the next 25!

Do you find it hard to deal with the mess of relationships – romantic or otherwise? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a marriage without some twist or turns, or children without poop, snot, and puke. It’s a testament to you both, an evolving, growing relationship, a fitting closing chapter to your debt-free journey, as the next chapter begins. Happy Anniversary, to you and DH!

  2. I laughed out loud! I teared up! By the end I wanted to stand up and cheer! Congratulations on your upcoming debt payoff, and 25th anniversary! God bless you ~ Ruth and DH! 😀

  3. Good relationships are much more “plot twist” than “fairy tale”. Life has its ups and downs and weathering them together is part of the deal. It helps cement us as a team. Congrats on your upcoming debt freedom and your 25th anniversary!

  4. Congratulations on 25 years of marriage! I can hear “We’ve only just begun” playing in the background of that picture lol. Little did you know the journey you had set out on back then, eh? Your love has proved the test of time. What a nice tribute to your DH. Here’s to 25+ more years together, whatever comes along.

    1. Oh, I remember singing that song in the school choir when I was 12! No, we certainly didn’t know what lay ahead for us on that day. Thank you, Nancy 🙂

  5. Just a few days away from that great debt-free day and then a wonderful milestone earned with honest work. (Pre) Congratulations to both of you!

    Marriage is, as I’ve always said, hard work. It shouldn’t feel impossible or like a sacrifice all the time, not if you’re both in it together, but we have got to put in the work to make it work out in the long term. With all the work we’ve put in to keep our comparatively short marriage working, I tip my hat to how much you two have worked together to make it last – and happily so far! – these 25 years. May you have many more happy and healthy years together.

    1. I agree that it shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice all of the time. There have certainly been periods with heavier doses of it than others though! Good for you and PiC putting in the work early on. Another kind of dividend to profit from down the line 🙂

  6. Wow! What an epic ending! You both did it! Mission accomplished! Absolutely & completely debt free-no mortgage, no consumer debt-NOTHING all BEFORE your 25th Anniversary!

    So sweet is your loving testimony of who your husband is and what he has meant to you all these years through the “mess,” the joys, “THE plot twist” the “test” and all. Your victory is truly inspiring and the living example of walking together in marriage.

    I, too, had tears in my eyes reading your post. I wish you both only the best these next 25+ years of your journey. CONGRATULATIONS! Happy 25th Anniversary! And the wedding pix is just adorable!

    1. Thank you for inspiring the whole PLOT TWIST thing, Linda 🙂 And I love your enthusiasm here! It’s very tangible. Not everyone has the capacity to take joy in other people’s joy, but you sure do. That says a lot about you. As for our epic ending, we haven’t done it quite yet! Friday is the day – 3 days away now. By this point, I know that nothing is ever guaranteed, but I’m REALLY hoping no reversal happens in the next 72 hours!

      1. Oops! I did have a false start on that epic ending. It WILL happen Friday-you got this! What a day Friday will be! VICTORY will be yours!!!

        You are so very welcomed with the plot twist inspiration. It captures your enthralling journey perfectly. It makes me happy to know I was a helper.

        You touched my heart with your kind and insightful words. Thank you very much.

        1. It would make me very happy to know that I was a helper for you in some way too. I would love to see your burden lightened, even though you carry it with so much grace. Yes – Friday will be VICTORY day 🙂

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