Denise and I met via Twitter when I lived in Southern Oregon. You know how people say that it is impossible to find best friends as an adult? Denise blew that theory out of the water. Our friendship grew over countless Friday afternoon coffee dates (once we met in real life), and I think it is accurate to say that there is not a topic that we will not talk about. She gets me. Denise blogs over at The Paleo Newbie, where she talks about eating Paleo, running, her dog, and other stuff too. You can also find her on Twitter. She met her husband through blogging, then she moved from Florida to Oregon to marry the guy. How’s that for a modern day love story?

If I could give newlyweds (and not-so-newleyweds. And, anyone who
shares a life with someone else) any piece of advice, it would be four
simple words: talk about the money.

For two years, my husband, Jason, and I did not talk about the money.
The less we had of it, the further we went to avoid talking about it.
Instead of budgeting we put our purchases on credit cards, which added
to the overall stress of the household. Dragging our spending habits
into the wide open space of Acceptable Conversation Topics was not
comfortable or happy, so money was not discussed.

In November of 2009 Jason was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After
x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, blood work, surgery, appointments with
specialists, and chemotherapy, we had a lot of medical bills. Many
were the number of times Jason would come home to find me sobbing on
the floor with medical statements all around me. He would hug me and
we would promise to budget and keep a closer eye on our expenses. Then
we would order a pizza because it was late and we were hungry and
exhausted from all of the promising to spend less money.

This cycle continued every three months or so, because every three
months was when Jason’s doctor wanted to see him again for another CT
scan and a chest x-ray and an expensive visit and blood work. I felt
like I was treading water. Horribly. And maybe the water was shark
infested and I was bleeding. I would get to a point when the bills
were less overwhelming and then it would suddenly be time for him to
go see his doctor again. The crying/comforting/cross-our-hearts we
will spend less/pizza ordering cycle would reprise itself (though
sometimes we ordered Chinese food), and I would feel better until the
next round of bills showed up.

I told Jason none of this. He knew I was stressed, obviously, but I
never shared how terrible I felt because I didn’t want to weigh him
down. His job was to not grow cancer again. Mine was to pay the people
who made sure that wouldn’t happen; it felt like the least I could do.
Looking back I can see how flawed the logic was and how much more
difficult not talking about the money made my life (and Jason’s, by
extension), but at the time it made sense to my stress-addled brain.

When I’m asked about the hardest part of Jason’s cancer treatment, the
medical bills are always what I answer. The uncertainty of the few
days between the surgery and the cancer diagnosis were scary, but
mostly we sat around and watched TV and ate delicious sandwiches. It
is in my nature to nurture, so I think about those days after the
surgery almost fondly. I loved helping my husband recover; it was a
joy to wait on him and to make him as comfortable as possible. It was
the year after the surgery that was so difficult, not only because of
medical bills, but because I was doing a horrible job at managing our
income.

Now we talk about the money. We learned how to budget and we do it on
a weekly basis, using a combination of principles we’ve gleaned from
different resources. Money isn’t a taboo topic anymore, and because we
discuss our finances regularly, there is no stress that’s associated
with them. Talking about the money has given us a deeper level of
intimacy, and it’s a lot nicer to be on the same page of this very
important topic than to be in another book completely.