I think that it is the difference in how we were raised. My family was not poor exactly, but we were very limited. I never felt poor, but I knew that I didn't dress like the other kids. I did not have a pass to the local ski slope. We did not take part in activities with other kids. We always had food on the table though. Sometimes my father took a deer out of season to make that happen.
Tim was raised poor. I don't know a lot of the details, but his life was mean. I heard stories from others who were shocked to discover that there was not food despite the fact that his mother canned everything that she could get from her garden and from generous people. His father hunted. They had chickens. But with six kids, that stretches things thin, and some times were more desperate than others.
When we met, Tim was an extremely quiet fellow. He simply didn't talk. He had been divorced for 8 years and had been alone. I think that made him even quieter. He also didn't think much of himself, which was sad, because he really is a competent fellow.
We married, and the first years were pretty tumultuous. I'm a pretty plain spoken woman. When his father mocked him in front of his children, Tim sat quietly eating his meal. I spoke to him afterwards. His only response was that his father had always been like that.
It shocked me a little. In my family, comments like that would have gotten an on the spot response. There would have been raised voices, ultimatums. My family fought a lot, and I hated that. Surely there was a more sensible way to handle things.
The next time that his parents came to dinner, his father started his nonsense again. I set my fork down and said, "We're trying to make a family here. You will not sit down at my table and eat my food, and speak to the head of this house like that in front of his children. You choose your words carefully because every single time you are disrespectful to my husband, I'm going to call you out on it. EVERY time. I don't care who is sitting there to hear it."
I don't think anyone had ever spoken back to the man before, and he left the house and did not come back for a lot of years. This also pissed off Tim's sisters. Their father was a MINISTER! A man of God! It was blasphemy! Everyone had an opinion. I'd like to say it didn't matter, but it did matter. It mattered a lot. A lot of doors shut during those years. Most of them have not re-opened.
It is what it is.
Tim and I have been married for 23 years. It hasn't been all roses, because we are two people who have had hard times and sometimes old ghosts rise up to trouble us.
Something else that has also happened in those 23 years is that Tim has become an empowered soul. He has learned to put himself out there, to trust his judgement, to do hard things. We have a successful side business and he has taught himself to do many things. His latest thing is changing an old house over to forced air heating, creating the duct work himself, cutting the holes. Next step? He's rewiring the whole house. These are things he's taught himself to do, because it is cheaper that way. Plus he knows that he will do the job right.
As he gained confidence, something troubling began to happen. He was not satisfied. One house was not enough. Two houses. Three houses. He began selling renovated houses, and spending that money on more houses. It is a lot of work and we do that work together.
In these last years, we have been debating this issue a lot. Our retirement years are upon us. We have a comfortable nest egg. We have a monthly income. In just one year and 4 months, we'll both be free. We can travel. We can do what we want. Except that what I want and what Tim wants seems poles apart on some days. He sees these retirement years as a chance to really get some work done, really get into the buying and renovating and building a comfortable financial cushion for ourselves. I'm comfortable with what we have.
We argue about it in our quiet way from time to time. He can reasonably expect to live into his nineties. His family is very long lived. I see life as not guaranteed me, something that occurs to you quite naturally when you are sitting in a chemo chair for weeks. I don't want to postpone anything, because I feel as if I've been postponing things for all of my life.
I say to him, very firmly, "Tim, I'm not going to wait. If you are going to keep tying yourself down to projects, I'm going to do the things that I want to do by myself. I'm going to see Cara and Colin. I'm going to Australia to see Sophie and Amanda and their mother, and I'm going to drink wine with them in the wine glasses I bought 8 years ago for that very purpose."
He thinks on it seriously. Some days he seems to believe we have enough. On others days, he seems to think we have to work harder, to take on one more project, to add just a bit more. I understand that extreme poverty marks a person, that he has a determination that never again will life be that hard, but I can't set my life aside until he decides that we're ready.
So I tell him what I am going to do. I make it perfectly clear. I am, after all, a very plain spoken woman. I wait to see what he is going to do, because in the end, that determines what we are going to do.