ACCOUNTABILITY IN A MARRIAGE

What‘s Accountability?

Accountability is the responsibility of an individual for the thinking and the decision, as well as the action or the inaction, of that individual, regardless of the circumstances. The accountability can be mental, physical, and even spiritual.

A simple illustration

You were one of the last two persons at a bar. You were sitting close to each other. The person finished his drink and left the bar, leaving some cash for the bartender, who, at that moment, was away with your credit card. You grabbed the tip left on the table by the man who’d just left, and then placed it toward you. The bartender returned with your credit card, looked at the money right in front of you, and said: “Thank you.”

Did you do anything wrong?

If you’d intended not to give the bartender any tip anyway, what you did had not changed the scenario-the bartender would have said: “Thank you” with or without your tip, and she’d have received the same amount of tip.

What’s important in that hypothetical illustration is the accountability.

The reality of one minor misbehavior with no accountability will often lead to many more serious ones with no accountability.

Accountability in a Marriage

A marriage is a long journey of two loving individuals, involving many things they do to each other as well as to other people around-these actions and inactions all involve accountability, without which they’ll not be living in reality, but only in fancy and fantasy. Having “no accountability” is the major reason why marriages fail and end in divorce.

Making a Living

A marriage can’t survive without some sort of lifeline: resources for everyday life and living. Living in this material world, you need some sort of income to pay your rent, to put food on the table, and to make both ends meet. That’s the reality.

If you’re a believer, you were created by God with some gifts for a specific life purpose in the world He created. If you’re a non-believer, you were born with some genes from your parents.

If you’re a believer, one of your life instructions is to discover your own gifts and talents no matter how small or insignificant they may be:

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Corinthians 12: 5-6)

So, your gifts and talents are already there, but you just have to find them, and use them to make a living. Without finding your own calling in life, you‘ll never know what your life is all about, not to mention your marriage. As a result, you just drift along every day, and continue to live a purposeless life.

Being and doing

Living in reality is about two things: “being” and “dong.”

“Being” is about who you think you are: your self-beliefs, your life passions, and your money values.

Do you have the self-belief of your own inadequacy and incompetence? If yes, you’ve only two options: changing your pre-conceived mindset; or accepting who you really are and all the consequences of being who you’re meant to be.

The first option means that you must now change yourself, no matter what, Life is all about changes and getting wisdom from those changes. Without changes, nothing can be or will be done.

The second option means that you’re willing to do a low-pay job. Of course, there might be a third option: turning to illegal means to earn a living, such as drug trafficking, burglarizing, or even robbing a bank-but the third option is living with no accountability.

What do you think you can do in the rest of your life? And how are you going to make a living?

“Doing” is about making decisions and taking appropriate actions to earn your living, while manifesting and validating your true “being.”

Do you have an education or professional skills to enable you to earn a living? If you want to become a professional with a high-paying job, then you must learn and acquire those skills and expertise, backed by related training to become an expert of the profession of your choice. Are you prepared to do that?

An illustration

Christopher Paul Gardner was originally a salesman of medical equipment. He didn’t make enough money to make both ends meet. As a result, his marriage failed, and he was left with a young son. For some time in 1980s, they were homeless, and he was sleeping with his son on the floor of a public restroom.

But Gardner, who believed in “being” and “doing,” was resilient. He was brought up with the belief that he could be anything that he wanted to be with his “doing.”

Then, one day Gardner met a stockbroker in a red Ferrari on the street. He told the stockbroker that he desired to join the internship to become an investor. Gardner’s incredible drive and sustained enthusiasm finally got him the internship.

After his internship, Gardner applied for a position in that investment company. On the day before the job interview, Gardner had lost his shirt and clothing. Nevertheless, he was determined to attend the interview even though he was “inappropriately dressed” for the occasion. It was Gardner’s “determined doing” that got him his job.

Gardner became very successful in his career, and he finally opened his own investment firm, Gardner Rich & Co.

Ultimately, Christopher Gardner also became a philanthropist and a remarkable motivation speaker. His inspiring story was made into a Hollywood movie.

So, are you prepared to discover your “being” and pursue your “doing” to make a living in your married life? Not doing anything is sloth, which is one of the Seven Deadly Sins-and you may end up cheating, stealing, robbing, and drug-trafficking, with no accountability whatsoever.

The reality

Irrespective of your abundance or lack, you still need your “doing” to define your “being.” Even though you may have inherited great wealth from your parents to meet all your daily needs, you still need the “doing” to make your marriage life meaningful, other than just “enjoying” your marriage with your marriage partner. Remember, any enjoyment without a purpose won’t last.

Also, don’t let your “doing” become a distraction from your marriage. That is, “over-doing” can be as bad as “under-doing." or even “non-doing.”

The bottom line: You’ve the accountability to be “doing” something every day to define your “being” to bring meaning to your marriage.

Pursuing a Career

If you want to start a business career, you must have your own innovative ideas that make you “think out of the box.” To turn your business into success, you must demonstrate your passion, your motivation, and your perseverance. Starting a business also requires some cash too, as Warren Buffett once said: “Cash is to a business as oxygen is to an individual.”

So, do you have what-it-takes to become successful in your business career?

Pursuing a business or professional career has many setbacks that an individual must be prepared to confront-just like a marriage couple will have to face many challenges along their marriage journey.

Growing up into adolescents and young adults, many may begin to have their own dreams, goals, and passions for what they’re going to do with their own lives. To many, growing up is apparently all about success and failure-that also, paradoxically, defines the meaning of life for them, including the meaning of marriage. In other words, their success in marriage is contingent on their own success in their career pursuits.

The reality is that a very successful career doesn’t guarantee a good marriage; as a matter of fact, the reverse is often true.

The successful

A successful career takes up much of your time. That means you’ll be spending less time with your marriage partner and your family. Are you prepared to do that? Which is more important to you: your career or your marriage? Are you always time-stressed?

Career success is also instrumental in increasing one’s ego-making one more self-centered, more controlling, and more demanding. An inflated ego may adversely affect marital relationship in many ways.

So, always seek balance and harmony between career and marriage, if both are important to you.

The less successful

To pursue a successful career, you must be motivated, persevering, and not comparing with others.

The reality is that many pursue their careers with many setbacks, falling short of their high expectations. That often leads to depression, which may affect their marital relationships. In addition, it‘s not uncommon that many also tend to compare their own accomplishments with those of others-leading to the sin of envy, or their feeling of the need to do much more to enhance their success. The sin of envy is often the source of seeking control, power, or even “illegal” means to guarantee their anticipated future success.

An illustration

Lance Armstrong, the once-celebrate-but-now-disgraced cyclist, had won seven consecutive Tour de France titles and the Olympic bronze medal.

Armstrong’s initial success inflated his ego that led to his comparison with others he deemed to be more successful than he was, as well as his craving for more success in the future. That resulted in his “wrongdoing”-using performance-enhancing drugs to win all his subsequent races. Armstrong’s lack of accountability brought about his own disgrace and downfall: he was stripped of all his previous winning titles.

Another illustration

Paris Hilton
, the granddaughter of the founder of the famous Hilton Hotels, began her early modeling, singing, and acting careers. But she always thought that she was “less successful” than others, and she was forever envious of others “more successful” than she was.

It was Paris Hilton’s sin of pride and envy that made her always demand for celebrity status and media attention. Living with no accountability for her envy messed up her love relationships.

The unsuccessful

Many pursue their careers with little or no success at all, always experiencing intermittent employment or unemployment. But that’s the reality of life.

The unsuccessful may originate from the sin of sloth-not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They may feel low self-esteem, isolation, and separation from others. To them, life has little or no meaning, so they just drift in and out every day without a purpose-that may also adversely affect their marital relationships. Worse, some may even become vulnerable to committing crimes and violence with no accountability.

The good news is that some can still transform themselves, turning their failures into successes.

An illustration

Shon Hopwood was a young man who had his passion for basketball, earning him a university scholarship. But, later on, when he found out that he was only a mediocre talent in basketball, he became disillusioned and dropped out of college. His failure and frustration made him become involved in bank robberies in Nebraska that finally landed him in prison for 12 years.

While in prison, Hopwood became awakened to his own accountability for his crimes. He began to take interest in the law, and he started writing petitions for inmates to the Supreme Court for legal justice.

In 2009, Hopwood was released from prison. He continued his passion and pursuit for law and order. In 2015, he became a licensed attorney. As a criminal justice advocate, he had written much about the need for federal sentencing and prison reform. Now, Hopwood has become a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

The reality is that nothing is set in stone. You can always turn your talent-no matter how insignificant it may seem-into a success. Likewise, you can always change what’s perceived as unchangeable in a marital relationship, if you really put your heart into it. So, what you require is your own accountability to your marriage partner to provide him or her with daily needs.

The reality

Don’t let the success or failure of your career determine the outcome of your marriage. After all, success is often followed by failure or setback; what goes up must also come down-a natural cycle of all human affairs and endeavors.

In pursuing your career, accountability plays a major role. So, you must do all the right things to achieve your success, and not the wrong things, such as stepping over someone, or pushing someone off while climbing your ladder of success.

Remember, if you pursue your career with no accountability, most probability you’ll live your marrital life with no accountability too.

Dealing with Money

Money matters in life. You can’t do without money in whatever that matters to you in your life, including your marriage. That’s the reality.

Yes, your money can do many things in your marriage, but not everything. Your money may provide you with access to the many resources that can help you meet some but not all of your everyday needs and wants. That’s also the reality.

With more money, you can live rich; but with less money, you can still live richly.

But how to live richly, if you cannot live rich?

Thrift is the answer. Thrift is an alternative lifestyle to consumerism, materialism, and over-consumption in this material world you’re living in.

Thrift may help you work less, and not more. Many people are not paying with their money; instead, they’re paying with their time from their lives. Are you one of them? Are you doing two or more jobs just to earn that money so that you can spend more?

Thrift may promote your positive consumption values. Are some or most of your purchases aimed at your instant gratification, or just enhancing your self-esteem, making you feel rich, such as wearing a designer’s dress?

Thrift may encourage your savings. It may also give you more space to save, thereby instrumental in protecting you from negative income shocks, such as unexpected unemployment.

Money fantasies

If, on the other hand, you don’t have the basic skills, and you don’t want to learn and acquire them, and yet you always crave money and wealth, then your cravings are only your money fantasies.

An example of money fantasies

There was the story of a beautiful and sophisticated woman in her mid-twenties who wrote to an investment counseling company looking for a list of eligible bachelors with earnings of at least $600,000 a year. That woman had money fantasies in her mind, thinking that marrying a rich guy will make her happy for the rest of her life.

According to experts, using marriage as an investment is a money fantasy, and no more than a bad investment bargain too-just like investing into a shrinking currency. Just imagine, the beauty of that woman will shrink over the years, while the $600,000 investment may grow and expand over the long haul.

So, marrying into money, buying the lottery, and winning at the casino are all money fantasies.

Unfortunately, for many, having money fantasies is a way to avoiding money misery.

Saving money

Making money may be easy for some, but keeping the money made is difficult for many.

Many Americans earn plenty of money to live a great lifestyle but don’t save enough for their long-term life goals.

With your money wisdom, you always have to save and pay yourself first. If not, you could end up blowing away all your money faster than you earn it.

So, how do you pay yourself first?

Simple: Open both a checking account and a savings account. Deposit a certain but fixed amount of money into your savings account every month.

In addition, set up an emergency fund. Why? It’s because you may become unemployed; your house’s roof may need repair and fixing; you may experience a medical emergency; you may need a college fund, and so on. So, if you’ve extra cash each month, deposit it into your emergency fund.

So, how do you get rid of your debts?

With your money wisdom, you get rid of your debts as much as and as soon as possible. Pay off first all your debts with the highest interest rate, such as your medical bills and your student loans. Pay your credit cards balance-remember, getting another credit card won’t solve the problem of credit card debt or payment.

As for your home mortgage, make bi-weekly instead of monthly payments; refinance your mortgage from 30 years to 15 years.

So, how do you save little to save big?

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak can sink a great ship.”-Benjamin Franklin

Your every daily action has a monetary consequence. Here are some of the little things you can do to save little to save big:

·Avoid buying your coffee on your way to work.

·Bring your own lunch to work, instead of getting your lunch elsewhere.

·Eat more at home than at restaurants.

·Get your DVDs from your local library, rather than going to cinemas to watch your movies.

Spending money

Your money wisdom is to spend what’s left after your saving. If you don’t have anything left, then why do you spend on the things you don’t really need with the money you don’t have?

Basically, your spending habits have much to do with your own money values. So, rethink your own money values: what does money really mean to you?

Also, ask yourself some questions about any “big spending” you may have on your mind, such as the following:

Buying a “big” house

·Do you really need a big house?

·Why do you want to buy a 4-bedroom house, instead of one with 3 bedrooms?

·Can you buy one later instead of right now?

Letting Go

“Letting go” literally means releasing your close or tight fist to abandon or give up something that you’re holding in your hand. If you are close- or tight-fisted, you also cannot receive anything without opening your hand.

“Letting go” is detaching. The opposite of “letting go” is “attaching to” something that you’re stubbornly holding on to.

It’s letting go, and not attaching to, that makes you strong, because it overcomes the fear of the unknown and the unpredictable. Let go of yesterday to live in today as if everything is a miracle; let go of the world to have the universe.

Ego and pride

Wealth and success always inflate the human ego, which is a false identity of the real self, perceived by an individual with pride.

Just look at yourself in a mirror: what you see is only a reflection of yourself, or rather what you think is who you are, that is, your ego-self: it‘s unreal and untouchable. Your ego-self is defined by your own thoughts and thinking, just as Descartes, the great French philosopher, once said: “I think, therefore I am.” Yes, you think, and your own thinking creates your ego-self.

Pride and ego always go hand in hand, supporting and sustaining each other.

Pride is feeling good about who you’re and what you’ve done. With no exception, we all feel proud of ourselves at some points in our lives: being a mother; seeing the grandchild stand up and start walking; graduating from school or college; joining the army and serving the country; finding a profitable profession; getting married; retiring from work after decades of hard work. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of who we’re or what we’ve done. But, according to the Bible, pride is the First of the Seven Deadly Sins, and for a good reason: pride, like ego, can change an individual into someone that he or she isn’t supposed to be.

The reality is that ego and pride easily become human flaws that separate an individual not only from others, but also from God. With no accountability to God, ego and pride further generate rejection and disobedience.

Many people are concerned with their past achievements, keeping their past alive. Do you keep all the awards, medals, and prizes you might have won in the past—and projecting them into the future as your desires and expectations of their continual recognition and future fulfillment?

Inadvertently, you may continue to create many attachments in life, such as success and wealth attachments, to define who you think you’re, and thus continuing to inflate your own ego.

With an inflated ego, thinking that you’re not only different but also special that you’re entitled to doing anything and everything—legal or illegal—to sustain your ego. This mental entitlement is the beginning of your “lack of accountability” in your everyday life and living, including your marriage.

An illustration of ego and pride

On March 12, 2019, United States federal prosecutors disclosed an ongoing conspiracy with the primary purpose of influencing student college admission decisions at several prominent colleges and universities in the United States.

In that college admission cheating scandal, some wealthy parents paid as much as $75,000 per test to help their children get a better score. It was reported that at least 50 people, including some famous Hollywood stars, allegedly had participated in that scandal.

From the perspectives of some of the participants of that scandal, it might just be a “crime with no victim” in that the wealthy parents with “good intention” to help their children’s education by lavishing their money on those who were more than willing to receive and to help; it was quite different from a crime of robbing a bank or a stranger on the street.

Getting a good education is a right-minded goal for any young individual; there’s nothing wrong with that. But if the heart is on satisfying one’s ego-self, instead of focusing on the education itself, the treasure of your heart then turns into an attachment and becomes a flaw of the ego-self.

Worse, it could be a serious crime of greed and control. The wealthy parents were so self-centered without thinking of the impact of their selfish act on their own children, as well as on those who were potentially denied of their own admissions to those colleges and universities.

Worst, these participants might also have subconsciously reinforced their own implicit assumption—another flawed thinking of the ego-self—that a “good education” for their children will guarantee a successful career, leading to a happy marriage, and the vanity of living happily ever after. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Due to their ego and pride, those wealthy parents showed no accountability for what they did.

An inflated ego on marriage

An inflated ego has a negative impact on all human relationships, especially the marital relationship.

Those with an inflated ego are always controlling and demanding. They expect their marriage partners to obey and comply with everything they say and do. Worse, they may think that they’re entitled to doing anything and everything they like without any accountability.

The sin of pride often leads to the sin of lust: lust for sex, lust for wealth, lust for power and control to sustain their ego. Just like the ego, pride has “no accountability.”

Deflating ego and restraining pride

Living in a secular and material world with many material comforts can easily and readily inflate the ego and increase the pride of an individual.

Humility is the only way to deflating the ego and restraining the pride. Humility is the enemy of the ego, while pride is the ego’s best friend. Unfortunately, many people associate humility with low self-esteem. But humility is power, because with humility you can see who you really are and do what you can do, instead of wishing you were someone else doing the impossible with no accountability.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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