Monday, September 21, 2009

Marriage and Money

Where marriage exists, so do money problems. People cannot exist on this planet without some kind of commerce. We all have bills. We all pay bills. We all have desires and we all take steps to meet at least some of those desires. So then there will arise some conflict between the wants and desires of the partners and the needs of the partners regarding finances.

There are a number of ways of handling this conflict. Some tried and true ways include being completely open and honest with your spouse regarding where the money is concerned, and building a budget. This means that yes you will have to let them know if you spent money that wasn’t planned. It also means that you will be accountable for your actions. This is a responsibility that should be welcomed.

Not everyone arrives at a marriage with experience or knowledge for making a budget. A budget does not need to be extremely complex, it merely needs to include where the money is coming from and where it is going. But more important than that, the budget needs to be ratified and fully accepted by all included parties.

If one of you doesn’t agree to what is written on the paper (or saved on the computer) then it is completely worthless. There has been no communication. There has been no progress. This hearkens back to the first requirement which is full and open communication about the money. Where is the division of responsibilities? Where is it going?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Your First Date?

Do you recall your first date with your spouse?

I think that most of us do. We had a babeque and then afterwards went out and sang karaoke. It was a lot of fun, and of course it sparked the change of a lifetime.

As we grow together it can be pretty easy to forget some of the happy times that we have had together, and this kind of forgetting can also cause us to beghin to grow apart. Growing apart, to me, is more about choosing to not continue to cause ourselves to fall in love with the one that we love again.

Taking time to spend time together, just the two of us is often very difficult. There are children, jobs, responsibilities with church and volunteer organizations as well as sports and other commitments. But those times that we choose to take the time are all well rewarded. We build a few more happy memories to pile on top of those that we already have. It becomes a bit easier to fall in love again which makes it a bit easier to do all of the little things that make a relationship smoother.

When was the last time you thought about your first date?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kids and Marriage

Sooner or later, for the majority of us kids will enter the picture. Hopefully they will come about as the result of a planned and happy marriage, but sometimes that just isn't the case. Sometimes, even in our modern world, marriage is the result of an unplanned pregnancy and sometimes pregnancy comes when least desired or expected. In any event sooner or later most all of us become parents and as any parent can attest kids can cause a whole lot of stress.

First and foremost remember how special children are. But more than that bear in mind how important each individual in this world is and more especially the great opportunity you have as a parent to help that individual become something truly special. One of the most important things any parent can give a child is a stable and loving home where they feel the nurture and support that they need.

Talk with your spouse about the children both before they come and often after they arrive. What are your expectations? What do you want to be able to give your children? What kinds of rules do you want? What kinds of activities do you feel are important? Be prepared to be surprised by your spouses responses. They very likely have very different ideas and that is a very good thing. There is no one correct way to raise children, there are a lot of different right ways (and quite a few different wrong ways as well). By incorporating ideas from both partners you will be alleviating the one sure thing to harm your children - stress in your own marriage.

No matter what other successes they may experience, your children will remember the way that you feel about your spouse above all else. When they become adults and enter into their own relationships they will carry those feelings with them. You can expec that they will make the same mistakes that you are making today.

So plan activities that involve the whole family where possible. These need not be expensive vacations to them parks or resorts. A day in the park will do wonders for their attitudes, as will a round of Monopoly or a hand of cards. If your family is not accustomed to spending time together this may grate at first and even feel forced, but give it time and the good memories will develop.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Bad Is It?

Has your marriage reached that point where it is just so bad you want out? Do you come home everyday just wishing that he or she wouldn't be there anymore? At the same time are you worried about the kids, the finances, what would it be like if there were a divorce or separation?

That is rough. That is the hardest way to live there is. You have my sympathy.

There are no perfect solutions to these kinds of situations. Honestly there just aren't. But there are some things that you can do to find happiness. There are also some pitfalls to be avoided at all costs.

First the do's

1 - Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. I'm not talking about the selfish kind of put yourself first before everything else I'm talking about the get off your butt and live a healthy life kind of take care of yourself.
2 - Serve others. Do something kind for someone else. If you can't bring yourself to serve your spouse at this point then what about your children? Your friends? Give of yourself and you will find yourself forgetting your problems.
3 - Forget what you want. Understand that you are not in control of the situation. In fact the only thing you can hope to control is your own actions. So go back to step #1 and take care of yourself.
4 - If you can and want to - show kindness to your spouse (not the fake kind but real sincere kindness) and show that same kindness to yourself and others.
5 - Finally, seek professional help both for yourself and for others. Speak to a qualified counselor and if you have access to one a caring spiritual advisor as well.

Now the don'ts
1 - Don't fight. Contention will make you unhappy. This is an article in itself but the bottom line is nobody wins in a fight.
2 - Don't turn to alchohol, drugs, or sex to soothe your hurt. If there is one guarantee in life it is that these will make the situation worse and quite probably lead to very serious life-long problems.
3- Don't ignore yourself.
4 - Don't expect a simple or easy solution.
5 - Don't go spending money you don't have. Toys won't make you happy either but the financial burden will cause additional problems.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Managing Financial Strain in a Marriage

In these tough economic times financial strain can be very hard on a relationship. This can really come to the fore during special occaisions like mother's day, father's day, and birthdays or anniversaries. Sometimes there just isn't enough money to go around or at least it seems that way.

The biggest rule to remember is that your relationship is more important than the "things" in your life. Or at least it should be. Your spouse is more important (and will certainly be with you longer) than the latest video game, the new summer dress, the latest movie or CD. All too often couples find themselves in financial difficulty simply because they spend more on weddings, dating or having fun than they should and very often these spending habits continue for far longer than they really need to. Learning to do fun things together like taking walks, playing cards or other inexpensive activities can really help reduce strain on the budget as well as remind you that you actually do like spending time with each other.

Another huge problem that often comes up is a lack of transparency about money in the relationship. Do you know where all the money is? Does your spouse? Is one of you taking an unfair burden managing the finances? Is it causing him or her stress that they are not comfortable talking about? Or are they worried that things are as good as you keep telling them? Being completely open and honest about money can be difficult at first but it will create a dimension of honesty and fairness that can't be reached any other way. Very often it will help alleviate other problems as well.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Respect in Intimacy

These days there are a lot of options for finding information regarding intimate relationships. Most of them are crude and full of misconceptions. Allowing oneself to indulge in the wrong kinds of information can bring lasting hardship to a relationship.

Intimate relations, like other aspects of a marriage need to be carried out with a solid measure of respect and admiration. There is no room here for selfishness. The danger of causing lasting emotional damage is far too great for that. Rather approaching intimacy with an attitude of seeking only to please rather than to be pleased will help ensure a level of confidence and respect that will bring lasting returns.

The idea that a person is an object, only to be used selfishly can manifest itself very clearly during intimacy. This often is an extension of an attitude that permeates other areas of the relationship, but which here leaves deep and lasting scars. These frustrations can build into very damaging feelings that can ultimately ruin the relationship.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Manage Your Stress

One of the more difficult things that happens to all of us sooner or later is that we will have so much going on in our lives that it begins to overwhelm us.

At these times it becomes particularly easy to take our stresses out on others. This can take the form of harsh words or acts. Snapping, yelling, or lashing out at those we care about. More often though it becomes an excuse for neglecting responsibilities and simply ignoring those we should care about the most.

Video games, television, movies and even books can be a useful outlet, but can also be harmful obsessions. Spending hours upon hours in front of the computer with no useful gain while shirking chores and other responsibilities at home or at work will only lead to increased strife within our relationships. In some cases this need to escape can lead to truly ruinous habits such as drugs, alcohol or gambling.

Learning to manage the stresses that we encounter can lead to more positive results. One of the keys to handling this in a postive way is learning to identify those times in our lives when stresses are increased. It could be specific events at work, school or at home that make us feel like we just need to escape. Identifying these "triggers" will let you know when you should make a change.

Learning to communicate these triggers and your stresses to those around you in ways that do not threaten is also important. If, for example you have had a very bad day then learning to let people know and asking for a short break to deal with it will be better understood than escaping into cyberspace for hours and becoming physically and emotionally unavailable. Be sure not to abuse these little breaks or they can begin to cause resentment as well.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Toning Down The Decibel Level

There are homes out there (from apartments to shacks to mansions) where there is altogether too much of the wrong kinds of noise. I’m not talking about playing the music too loudly. There is a time and place for that. I’m talking about the voices raised in unkind words towards spouse and offspring.

Are there really any words that need an increase in volume in order to make them more effective? Does anyone you know really respond better when they are shouted at?

Most of use really hate being yelled at. It makes us feel belittled and puts us on the defensive. The verbal assault can be more devastating to our self esteem than any other failure we experience in life.

If this is common in your home, then the challenge would be to go through a day or two or three or a month without raising your voice above a normal speaking tone, as if you were addressing your boss or a police man or some other person to whom yelling would bring dire consequences.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gratitude For Your Spouse

Are you grateful for your spouse? After the time you have spent, are you thankful that he or she was there for you? Are you grateful that they work or clean or tend to children? Have you thought about that little task that they did which they didn’t really have to do?

Did you say thank you?

Did you respond in kind?

Do you work just as hard to make things nice at home?

Showing gratitude to any person is a sign of respect and admiration. Over the years it is very easy to get used to a person or to simply come to expect that they will accomplish their tasks without prompting. The grind of the daily routine does not make it any easier or any more commonplace. Each individual still deserves a measure of gratitude.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Leave a Note For Your Spouse

The challenge of the day is to leave a little note for your loved one. It need not be something large or elaborate, but something special and dear to the both of you.

Place it somewhere it will be found as a surprise. There is no need to be obvious about it or to make a big deal (especially if this is something new for you). Just leave it where it will be found and let nature take its course.

Take time to make it as special as you can. If you have only a few minutes, then use them as best you can. If you have an hour, then pour a bit more of your heart into it. Perhaps a touch or scent or color will help.

Whatever you do, make it personal and offer it up with devotion and care.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Forgiveness in Marriage

Perhaps the most necessary ingredient in forming a happy relationship is the ability to forgive. If you haven’t discovered yet, then you will one day, that everyone near us will hurt us sooner or later. There are no exceptions to this rule. Humans lack the ability to constantly act responsibly to each other.

Sooner or later your spouse will do something to hurt you. Now, the question becomes what are you going to do in response.

Now, to be clear I’m not talking about abusive actions, particularly those involving violence, which need to be dealt with professionally and perhaps legally. I am speaking of the little ills that lead to the great catastrophes.

What are you going to do? Will you react harshly? Will you get even? Will you say nothing and hope for the best? Will you actively seek to change your heart and find a way to respond kindly?

There is no situation that cannot be made worse through retaliation. There is no grudge that cannot be hardened if we try. By the same token, the hardest of grudges at one point was nothing more than a common annoyance. At what point will you allow your annoyances to grow into grudges?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kindness in Marriage

Kindness to one’s spouse is, in my opinion paramount to a happy relationship. Parts of marriage involve service and duty, respect and honor. Very often people find themselves in the role of expecting the honor and duty without giving thought to their side of the equation.

As human beings we all long for and need to feel respected and included. For men and women the sources of these feelings can come from very different stimuli, but the need always continues. By showing kindness to our spouse we are seeking out the stimulus that will help them to feel fulfilled in their lives.

The kindness expressed can be small or large and can come in a variety of forms, but it must be present and must come often enough to have meaning. Smiles and a regular helping hand will generally be returned with a measure of warmth and gratitude.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Sanctity of Marriage

Marriage, all too often, is referred to as nothing more than a piece of paper pushed upon us by the state. A good friend of my wife, now on her third marriage – marriage being a stretch – indicated that she had no desire to be married to the state.

Why? Because of the cost associated with divorce and separation. Not the emotional cost, but the financial cost. Rather than solidify this third marriage by getting the state’s permission she has chosen simply to dwell with this individual.

Marriage is much more than an agreement between a man a woman and a government. It is much more than dwelling in the same house. It is much more than an economic bond. It is much more than an outdated social construct permitting sexual intercourse.

Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It is a commitment between individuals that they are willing to enter into a contract to provide a loving home for the spirit children of God the Father during their probation on the Earth.

So many psychological and social problems arise out of homes where people begin their families without giving consideration to the great responsibility which they are undertaking. Too often individuals who started out with the best of intentions buckle under the pressures of life rather than staying the course and in the process their children find themselves without a structured family support system to see them reach their dreams.

Choosing to live with a person rather than marry them is saying in a clear voice that the needs and desires of the children that will come from the relationship are unimportant. That having an economic or emotional escape route planned is preferable to the effort required to nurture the next generation.