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Home » Economy, Family Life, Va'etchanan

Vaetchanan: The Love Deficit

Submitted by on August 10, 2011 – 5:17 pmNo Comment | 3,109 views

Managing Debt

Unless you’ve been hibernating, you have certainly heard that the United States Congress voted to raise its national debt ceiling by 2.4 trillion while pledging to cut spending by nearly the same amount.

Margaret Thatcher famously said that any housewife could manage Britain’s economy. The fundamentals are the same. The average homeowner knows its bad policy to borrow from Master Card to pay off Visa. If we ignore our debt and continue to borrow we will eventually face an even greater problem.

The same thinking should apply on the macro level. Raising the debt ceiling is the equivalent of borrowing more money. But borrowing more to resolve a debt crisis only pushes off the inevitable payment date when the government will be forced to default. So why don’t the same rules apply?

It is because the government can get away with what the average family cannot. If the US government votes to raise its debt ceiling creditors will extend it more money. The average family doesn’t have that luxury.

Creditors are willing to lend to the government for two reasons. One, the United States has never yet defaulted and two, the United States cannot be permitted to collapse. If this house of cards collapses the world wide economy will be devastated. Yet, as pundits keep reminding us, if the economic crises in Portugal and Greece have taught us anything, it is that we can postpone, but not prevent the inevitable day of reckoning. At some point even a government must pay its debt or default.

That the Government has vowed to curtail spending in a bid to save at least the same amount of money that will be borrowed is helpful. The county’s credit rating has been somewhat downgraded (a fancy way of saying that lenders might refuse to extend further loans on similar terms)and will be further downgraded if reduction efforts prove unsuccessful, but at least an effort has been made to improve the country’s credit worthiness.

These adjustments will entail a combined approach of cutting spending and raising taxes. Politicians are currently debating how much to tax and how much to cut, but all realize that the final plan will include a fair measure of both. That is how it is done on the home front. We convince our lenders that we are credit worthy by curtailing our spending habits and raising our income.

Confronting this reality is a painful process. The markets have tumbled, triggering drastic financial loss. But, not to make light of painful losses, this short term pain will spare us greater agony in the future. If the problem is fixed today, the American economy can recover and our losses can largely be restored.

The Love Loan

We are all familiar with bank procedures. We deposit funds with the bank and withdraw what we have deposited. The problems begin when we want to withdraw more than we have deposited and seek a loan. Initial credit is relatively easy to obtain, but when we seek multiple loans, we run into difficulty.

Relationships work on a similar model. We deposit good will with our spouse through the loving gestures that we offer. The more we give, the more we deposit in the bank of our relationship. So long as we have a reserve of love on deposit our spouse is content to allow withdrawals.

We make a withdrawal when we receive a loving gesture in return. For example, when we are ill and in need of care, our spouse is more than happy to tend to us, but we must remember that this is the equivalent of a withdrawal. We cannot take this withdrawal for granted and fail to recognize that the store of love we once had on deposit has been somewhat depleted.

Unless we top off the love account, our spouse will soon have given more than received. At first this won’t matter. Loving relationships have ebb and flow. Sometimes one spouse gives more, sometimes the other gives more. Each is willing to extend love on credit believing deep in their hearts that it will eventually be returned. The problem begins when one makes so many love withdrawals as to max out the credit limit. When we take out too many loans and fail to make payments, our spouse begins to feel abused. The accounts are empty and there is nothing left to give.

At first the spouse doesn’t understand why giving has become so complicated. Soon, the nagging sense of emptiness turns into annoyance followed by frustration, anger and, finally, full blown resentment.

Balanced Solution

If we were the US Government there would be a simple solution. We would raise the debt ceiling and go on making withdrawals. But real life is not that simple. We can raise all we like, but our spouse can’t give. The only way forward is to acknowledge the problem and overhaul our spending practices.

This requires a balanced effort of depositing more and withdrawing less. Making deposits won’t help if we continue to demand the same rate of withdrawal. Our spouse needs nurture and love, not demands. It also won’t help to just stop withdrawing. If we ask for nothing and appear to require nothing our spouse might feel unneeded and terminate the relationship

The proper approach is a blend of giving more and taking less, demonstrating a genuine love and a continued commitment to the relationship. Fixing this problem is a painful experience, but, not to make light of the short term pain, this process gives the relationship a chance to recover.

Be Proactive

Detecting love deficits early can be a challenge. Loving spouses hate to confront the reality of a burgeoning problem and prefer to believe that all is fine. It is painful to allow the house of cards to tumble so abused spouses often prop it up by extending love loans long after it is wise to do so. This only postpones the inevitable day of reckoning. At some point it will be too burdensome to prop it up and the problem will have to be confronted. By then it will be late and the marriage might default.

The solution is to be ever vigilant and cognizant of the little things. Every time you make a major withdrawal be sure to return with a major deposit. You don’t need a reason to offer a smile or a hug. Flowers and gifts don’t have to wait for special occasions. Give it now while the giving is good. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Between Jew and G-d

At Sinai G-d struck a covenant with the Jews, we would represent G-d on earth by obeying His commandments and He would shepherd us through history. When we experience G-d’s goodwill in the form of a miracle, a raise or a narrowly avoided disaster it is a withdrawal of sorts. Doing something for G-d is a deposit of sorts.

A proper relationship should have give and take. We can withdraw at any time, but we should also reciprocate with fresh deposits. In fact, don’t need to wait for a withdrawal before making a deposit. Give a dollar to charity, help out a neighbor or attend an online Torah class today. This will top off your account, make G-d’s presence more manifest on earth and, what’s more, it will enhance your relationship with G-d.  (1)

Footnotes

  1. G-d might have an infinite reserve of patience, but
    to raid it is an abuse of the relationship.

With gratitude to the Star Tribune and bonlemon.blogspot.com for use of the cartoon.

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