If You Disagree on Spending… (Part 1)

They say the three hot topics for marriage are sex, money, and communication. We talked about sex in the last post and we’ll put off communication till a later post. (See what I did there?) So, let’s talk about money.

At one time or another, every marriage will have problems over money, and how to spend it. Those problems usually stem from our money deficiencies and/or spousal differences.

MONEY DEFICIENCIES

More than once in our marriage, we’ve gone into a panic and scrounged for change in the sofa as we tried to figure out how we were going to pay something.

This was especially true when we were in grad school. We had so little money in grad school, our idea of eating out was CiCi’s pizza once every 2 weeks because the kids could eat for free. Our idea of date night was going to McD’s where my wife and I would share a small soft drink and refill it a hundred times while the kids played on the indoor playground.

Struggling over money can put an incredible strain on your marriage. I know! But there are things you can do, and we’ll get to those in the next post.

SPOUSAL DIFFERENCES

Another way money issues can put a strain on a marriage is when spouses have different approaches to money and spending. Our different approaches are fueled by things like…

Different upbringings.

Rarely do husbands and wives have similar upbringings when it comes to money.  One spouse may have been raised in a home where mom and dad felt it was more important to have things and experiences than to stay out of debt. Another spouse may have been raised by parents who were militant about building up savings and staying out of debt. Maybe one spouse never saw their parents fight over money, while the other saw that on a regular basis. How you saw your parents handle money and spending will have an effect on your marriage.

Different personalities.

How spouses approach money also has a lot to do with their personality. Optimistic or pessimistic, impulsive or calculating, extraverted or introverted…theses are personality traits that affect how we see and handle money. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, your personality is probably different than your spouse’s.

Different wants and needs.

If left to my own devices, I would spend as much money as I could on computers, iPads, and photography gear. My wife, on the other hand, would spend as much money as she could on furniture and things to make the house homier. So you can see, it’s unlikely that we’re going to agree on how to spend what discretionary income we might have. (Pray for us!)

Different fears.

All of the above differences tend to foster different fears in spouses. One spouse may fear not being able to give their kids the things they never had as a child, so they want to spend money…even if they have to go in debt to do it. The other spouse may fear not having financial security in times of crisis (or in retirement), so they want to scrimp and save, to build up their reserves…even if it means they do without some things. Our differing fears can be a strong motivation for how we approach money and spending.

Here’s the thing. Whether it’s not enough money or too many differences with your spouse…

If you disagree on spending…it’s normal.

But, even though they’re normal, money and spending issues can put a strain on marriage at best and tear it apart at worst. So, for the sake of our marriage, we have to learn how to handle our money and our spending.

How we do that will be the topic of part 2, next week. See you then.

If You’re Struggling with Your Sexual Relationship…

Sex can easily become an issue in marriage. Here are some of the things spouses tell me in my counseling office…

  • “My spouse wants sex all the time!”
  • “My spouse is just not interested in sex. “
  • “I’m not sure about some of the things my spouse wants to do sexually.”
  • “My spouse never wants to try anything new sexually.”
  • “Our sex life was good until the kids came along, but now…”
  • “I thought we would be having more sex after the kids left home.”

I usually save the punch line for these posts until the end of the post, but let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way upfront…

If you’re struggling with your sexual relationship…you’re not alone.

WHY DO WE STRUGGLE?

Despite what media would have you believe, sex does not always come naturally. It’s common to have some issues to work through when it comes to our sexual relationship.

Here are some of the things we have to work through when it comes to our sex life…

Past experiences.

These can include how you were raised, the things you were told (or not told) about sex, and past sexual experiences. These all contribute to how you feel about sex and how you approach sex…especially if these things were negative.

Gender differences.

Despite striving for equality in life and the workplace, men and women are undeniably different. Gender differences include hormonal differences, anatomical differences, and differing societal messages.

Personality.

Sex is extremely personal, so it makes sense that our personality is integral to our views of and our approach to sex. Personality plays a role in whether you’re conservative or adventurous, modest or confident, quiet or vocal…you get the idea.

Stage of Life.

When you’re young newlyweds, you have all kinds of time and energy for sex. But as time goes on, work, kids, and home become more of a drain on your time and energy…and thus your sex life. If spouses have not made their sex life a priority during the hectic stages of life, it will be revealed during the empty-nest stage of life. And later in life, health and medical issues can interfere with your sex life.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

I know…this seems like a rather depressing picture. But there’s hope. Your sex life is like your career, your finances, or anything else in life. If you ignore it, it deteriorates. But if you give it care, attention, and work, your sex life can continue to improve.

Every couple’s sexual relationship is unique and specific. But there are three things every couple can do to improve their sexual relationship…

Be tenacious about meeting your spouse’s needs.

Your spouse has needs, both sexually and non-sexually, and their needs are valid, even if you can’t personally relate to them. Just because you can’t relate to your spouse’s needs, doesn’t mean those needs are unimportant, or that you should ignore them. Unless your spouse’s needs are abusive or immoral, you need to do your best to meet those needs. It will leave them feeling better about themselves and you.

Take responsibility for your own pleasure.

This statement could be easily misunderstood, so let me explain what I mean by “take responsibility for your own pleasure.” I’m not talking about selfishly demanding what you want sexually. Nor am I suggesting that if your spouse is not meeting your sexual needs, you can go and get your sexual needs met apart from your spouse. What I’m talking about is being lovingly honest and openly communicating your sexual needs and desires to your spouse. Yes, I know this can be awkward and uncomfortable, but if you can get completely naked with your spouse and engage in the gymnastics of sex, then surely you can learn to talk openly about it. Besides, your spouse is not a mind reader, and they have no idea what it’s like to be you in your body. So talk to them about what feels good, what you want, and when you want it.

Keep working at playing.

Your sexual relationship is not something you can put on autopilot. You and your spouse are constantly changing. Your needs and desires change, the demands of life change, and your health continues to change. Because of these things, you must continue to work at improving your sexual relationship…for both you and your spouse.

If you struggle in your sexual relationship with your spouse, you’re not alone. But, whether your sexual relationship with your spouse is magical or mechanical, the two of you can always work together to make things better. And that’s your “homework!”

When You’re Not Getting What You Want in Marriage

As a pastoral counselor, I’m expected to draw on Scripture and good clinical practices in order to help couples improve their marriage. But the truth is, you can find great nuggets of marital wisdom in a variety of places. The other day, I found one of those nuggets of marital wisdom on my iTunes playlist.

Read moreWhen You’re Not Getting What You Want in Marriage