Is your relationship/marriage in credit card debt? Trying to keep up with your neighbors & friends?
Is keeping up with the Joneses ruining your marriage?
I have three very close friends. I have known these friends for over 20 years. They are supportive of me and I of them. One of the reasons I love them most is because there has never been a need for us to compete over “stuff.” They don’t host Botox parties; boast breast enlargements, and diamonds that cost more than a down payment on a car. They are real, and they help “ground” me when I am with them. I have never heard either of them say anything bad about one of my other friends, nor do I worry about what they will ever say about me. I know if they talk about me, it is in my own best interest.
I work with many types of women and men. Men are less likely influenced by what they “need to have” to fit in than women are. One of the women acquaintances I have is really funny at parties. She is able to laugh at herself describing in detail everything she has done to keep up or save face with her friends. Her life is about acquiring stuff, more and more stuff, and then from what I understand they have huge garage sales and sell all the stuff cheaper than they bought it. Their sense of pride then comes from how well they did at selling their stuff, which they compare to their other friends who sold stuff. If they make a lot of money from the stuff, even though they lost more due to buying it in the first place, they celebrate with the money they made to buy more stuff. It is insane.
Cosmetic surgery can fit into this keeping-up mode also. It is quite common that when one woman gets a face lift or breast augmentation, her other friends seek the same procedures. They don’t necessarily need cosmetic surgery, but in their effort to keep up with their social circle they begin building reasons as to why they need it. This need to keep up isn’t exclusive to beauty, stuff, or home décor; it spreads deeper into our children.
One of my colleagues who run a math program for enriching children’s math scores told me that the best way to get new students is to convince one of the moms that this will help her child achieve great success in life. From this one mom, she can recruit enough other moms to blindly enroll their child in this course. The child may already be an A math student, or a wonderful artist, but if his mom becomes concerned that he may fall behind and they may be viewed as inadequate parents, she will enroll him. This is all part of the keeping up with the Jones’ attitude. Birthday parties are now a Saturday event that extends for hours and costs as much as $5,000. How do you go back to Chucky Cheese and just have pizza, tokens and rides after that? Forget the fact that 75% of all Americans are in credit card debt. Keeping up with the Jones’ is important to ones’ psyche.
I am not sure how our need for perfection started, but keeping up with the Jones’ has been with us for a long time. The only way to not be influenced is to work on yourself and your own ego strength, or to be so poor you have no resources to keep up. My concern is always with the next generation. If we have to keep up, what will they have to do in order to keep up? If they are riding in limos for a 6 year old birthday party, what is there to look forward to when they go to their first special event? Our insecurity of being good enough and keeping up is inadvertently raising calloused, unhappy children. They have little joy because we have robbed them of wanting something, working toward it, and feeling the euphoria after you finally earn it. It is also adding financial stress on our marriages and we are feeling less and less joy when we purchase something new.
There are ways to stop the madness of keeping up with the Jones (or whoever your neighbor or friend is). It begins as most things do; becoming aware of what you are spending money and time on and evaluating why. Most of keeping up has to do with feeling empty or not good enough on the inside.
1. What are you afraid of if you stop trying to keep up with the social circle you are in? Will they abandon you, talk about you, and think less of you?
2. Do you have the support of your partner in cutting back? For example if he wants the big screen TV to fit in with his buddies, is he willing to settle for one not as large to stay within the budget? Or if you want the Louis Vuitton to fit in, are you willing to settle for a lesser name brand name to not go over budget?
3. When your child says they want a petting zoo birthday party at their house can you tell your child, “Wow, that sounds fun, but we don’t have enough money, how about going to the zoo for a picnic with your friends?”
4. Do you really need a caterer at your backyard party? Would a potluck work just as well, or would people think worse of you? Would you feel less than the perfect host? Is that okay, or do you need to be perfect?
5. Will your friends still love and accept you if you make your life about values such as togetherness, family get-togethers, sharing each other’s pain instead of each other’s concerns about the right cosmetic surgery, new home decor or what shoes will match your new dress? Will your kids still love you when they grow up to find most of their sports, parties, cars, enrichment classes were more about you keeping up with the Jones’ than it was about them and their interests and needs?
Keeping up with others is insidious. It builds slowly and soon we look around and say, “What am I doing with all of this junk, and how did I attract all of these negative people in my life?” You did it by not realizing you were good enough, and that you were so much more than anything you could purchase. Stop the insanity of bigger and better stuff; take back your own values, integrity, and family morals. – Mary Jo Rapini
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