Show Me The Money

Money Magazine reports that 70% of couple fight about money. This means that money is the number one source of tension in a marriage ahead of fighting over how to raise children and how often to have sex. Of course, money is not the real issue. Often these fights are more about who makes the decision to spend money, who feels shortchanged when money is spent and feelings surrounding financial security. If you have ever heard Patty and I’s story concerning finances, you know that how we spent, saved, and managed money was a significant issue in our early and middle years.
Take it from us, getting a little perspective surrounding money can have huge dividends when it comes to creating a peaceful home where both of your needs are being met. Here are a few things to think about:

Stay Out of Debt

In our culture this is a challenge, especially for a young couple. We want comfortable homes now without necessarily having the income necessary to afford one. Most couples will go into debt to purchase a home. Before you do, have a long discussion on the home you need versus the home you want and how much debt is “allowable” for a home. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your home is an “investment.” The money you spend on a larger home than you need will be better invested in a long-term investment and will almost always pay larger dividends over time.
Additionally, keep away from insecure debt like credit cards. Have discussions over “ground rules” for debt. One young couple I know have committed to no more than one purchase on credit at a time. When they make a credit purchase, they refuse to use their credit card again until the debt is paid off. Also consider creating a ground rule that credit can only be used in the event there is a critical need. A Play-Station 12 is not a need.

Create an Emergency Fund

Put aside $500 to $1000 for emergencies. This helps calm the financial worrier as they know there is an emergency net to land in if necessary.
Discuss Large Purchases
Another rule that may be helpful is to set a limit on how much either of you can spend during the week. Depending on your income, either of you may be able to spend up to $100 a week without checking with the other. However, if you need to spend over $100 on an item, then a discussion is necessary before hand. Any time a large purchase is needed there should be a discussion and some sort of agreement on how to move forward. Remember to consider the other person’s concerns and desires and respond in love and with grace. This is especially important when the money is being spent on something one person wants that the other is rather indifferent to. I like technology and my wife is fine posting to Facebook with smoke signals and is fiscally conservative. Sometimes she won, sometimes I won, but the important thing was that neither of us felt the other was being insensitive to the other person’s desires.

Think About Retirement

I know it feels like it is a lifetime away but start planning now. What are your dreams for retirement? Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Start dreaming and planning now as the dreams you have for tomorrow will be funded by the investments you make today. Even if it is just a few dollars a month, start investing in your future now.

You Are in This Together

Remember that your finances are a team effort. I am always concerned when couples keep their money separate, have hidden accounts or hide purchases from one another. Any lack of transparency in how we spend, use and save our money should be openly shared and often discussed. American Express found that 33% of men and 40% of women have hidden purchases from their spouse. This lack of transparency can be a killer to intimacy and can have far reaching effects. Instead, have periodic “State of the Union” discussions and make your finances a topic of conversation. Be willing to discuss:
• How much are we saving?
• How are our investment’s doing?
• How much are we investing in kingdom work?
• How much do we have to spend on something fun?
• Is there something we need to save for specifically? (washer, TV, computer, vacation)
Having discussions and making plans together can strengthen a relationship, even when finances are tight. Keep in mind that things may not always be tough in the finance department. Wages increase and kids grow up and leave home. Wisdom in the early years lays the groundwork for less stress over the marathon of a marriage but it is remembering that you are in this together that keeps a marriage strong.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4D – Fighting the Good Fight

So far this week we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  and influence.  Today, let’s take a look at how we can self-soothe and soothe our spouse when anger and fighting get the best of us.

As we have discussed before, fighting often leads to flooding.  As emotions increase we enter the “fight, flight or freeze” response.  Blood flows from our brain to our extremities, blood pressure increases, heart rate increases and our ability to reason decreases.  If not dealt with, flooding can result in lashing out in anger or engaging in defensiveness and stonewalling.  None of these are good for a relationship.

To resolve flooding a couple can engage in two activities, self-soothing and soothing each other.

Use Your Time-Out Effectively – Soothing

Earlier this week we discussed how and when to take a time out.  A time out allows you the time to self-soothe with the goal of calming down and restoring blood flow to the brain where you can reason through an issue.  People do this in many ways.  Reading the bible, praying, meditation, deep breathing exercises or listening to calming music are all ways to calm yourself.  Remember, it takes longer for men to exit flooding than women so additional time may be required for self-soothing.  Once you have calmed down, helping to soothe your partner can have even more benefits.

Dr. Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work explains: ” Soothing your partner is of enormous benefits to a marriage because it is really a form of reverse conditioning. In other words, if you frequently have the experience of being calmed by your spouse, you come to associate him or her with feelings of relaxation rather than stress. This automatically increases the positivity of your relationship.”  Soothing can take many forms but normally the first step is simply discussing why the flooding took place in the first place.  There are many ways to soothe your spouse but what is important is you choose the method and enjoy it.  A husband might give his wife a foot massage or they may take turns guiding each other through meditation activities. Whatever the activity, it is important that, in the end, both of you are calmer and better able to engage in the discussion that started the fight.

Prepare for Battle

One of the things that I heard in the military was that it was better to sweat in peace than bleed in war. In other words, preparing during peace allows you to be more effective in combat. This also applies to soothing. Taking some time before your next fight to think about how you will soothe one another can pay huge dividends.  Simply think about your last fight and what it was that resulted in flooding.  Discuss how you can prevent flooding in the first place, recognize flooding as it is happening, and what it is you need to do when things have spiraled out of control. Finally, discuss how you can serve one another by soothing each other during your next fight.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4A – Fighting the Good Fight

The funny thing is I knew I was in trouble as the words left my mouth. Mentally I was reaching out trying to capture the offending question and return it to the depths from which it came. No luck.

Social Media and Marriage

How does your relationship compare to other couples in your life. Consciously or unconsciously this is the question we often ask as we look at social media. Is social media really a problem for relationships?

The Thick of Thin Things

Thursday Patty and I were headed west, separately.  She was heading west to visit her dad, a monthly visit now that he has recently moved; and I was headed west to my Mom’s house to mow the desert (no rain for weeks).  Somehow we ended up west bound on Interstate 20 in the same location.  She pulled up behind me, flashed her lights, then pulled up beside me trying to get my attention.  She honked, flashed her lights, started singing Mama Mia, all to no avail.  I was talking  to one of my team members after she had experienced a challenging day in the classroom and apparently it negatively effected my situational awareness.

Is it just me or does that happen a lot with the ones we love.  Not necessarily on Interstate 20, but in the day-to-day practice of living and loving.   We get focused on almost anything else and fail to pay attention to the ones we love the most.  We get caught up in what Steven Covey called the “thick of thin things.”  We pay more attention to the lawn mower repair than the little princess wanting to share high tea with dad; the game instead of the bride of our youth; we waste time on the next episode of House Hunters instead of noticing that our spouse has had a really rough day.

Part of the challenge with us guys is that we get focused.  While women may be able to multi-task to some degree, we men are programed to focus on one thing at a time.  When that one thing takes a few days, we may fail to notice the needs of our spouse.  I read an article recently about how a husband had fought with his wife over his insensitivity towards her need for some attention.  She had become irritated that he was simply not paying any attention to her as he was spending the weekend completing a paint job on his car.  As the fight progressed she used the “A” word (always) as in “You always pay more attention to (fill in the blank) than you do to me.” She was not feeling cherished, loved or appreciated.  After some thought he realized that he simply got swept away in his activities and often went days without really expressing appreciation or engaging with her in any meaningful way.  His answer was simple, set two reminders.  The first reminder goes of every morning at 9 am and reminds him to think about how lucky he is to have such a great wife.  Periodically, he follows the thought up with a quick text telling her how lucky he is and why.  He knows that words of encouragement mean something to her and so, being the wise man he is, he uses this time to invest in their relationship.  The second reminder goes off at 8 p.m. and reminds him to kiss and hug his wife.  Sometimes it is  quick kiss, sometimes a chance to catch-up, sometimes a little more; but each time he is reminded that he needs to focus on the most important human relationship in his life, the one with his wife.

I know ladies, not overly romantic.  Richard Gere didn’t have reminders in Pretty Woman.  Maybe so, but  God made men and women different, and one of those differences is the ability to focus intently on one thing at a time.  While focus is extremely helpful when hunting for dinner on the great plains, it may work against us a little when we need to focus on relationships.  Help a brother out and just kiss us when the alarm goes off.

Have a great week all.

Trust

Trust is a delicate thing and is the foundation of all truly intimate relationships.  For many, it is hard to trust others due to past experiences or pains from past abuses.  We almost always approach the discussion on trust from the perspective of “Can I trust (fill in a name)?”  However, it is just as important that we approach the issue of trust from the perspective of “Can I be trusted?”

In a Christian marriage, trust is even more multi-faceted.  I have to learn to trust my spouse in a very intimate way and in every aspect of my life.  I trust my spouse with my finances, children, possessions, time, sexuality, emotions, and my heart.  It is no small thing and when trust is broken in a marriage, it negatively effects every aspect of our life.  The trust we have in our spouse is never static and is always growing stronger or eroding.  Here are some questions to think through:

  • Are you trustworthy?  –  The answer is that in Christ, we are.  As we access and depend upon the heart and mind of Christ we can be counted on to seek the other’s best interested; never engage in activities that hurt or harm our spouse; sacrificially act in ways that encourage, build up, and strengthen our spouse.
  • How can you build trustworthiness?  – How are your actions effecting your spouse’s ability to trust you?  Each of us learns to trust the other by determining whether or not we can depend on them.  Do your actions, thoughts and deeds remind your spouse:
    • I will choose to love you regardless of your actions
    • I will choose your best interests over mine regardless of the cost
    • I will choose to forgive regardless of your behavior

When high levels of trust are present in a relationship, amazing things happen.   Sins against each other are discussed and forgiven quickly and we are able give each other the benefit of the doubt.   Little problems remain little and don’t grow into larger problems.

So what are you doing to improve the level of trust in your relationship?  How are you allowing Jesus to express himself through you in a way that allows others to trust Him, rely on Him and depend on Him?  How are you being the hands, feet and mouth of Jesus thereby being a more trustworthy person in your relationships?