Monthly Archives: July 2010

Jul 31

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

If you’ve been part of our community at Engaged Marriage for very long, you know that my wife and I are big believers in Natural Family Planning (NFP) and its positive impact on marriage.  One of our goals is to spread the word about NFP and simply let people know that its a viable option for planning their family without the need for artificial contraception.

Well, this week is actually Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!  In honor of the occasion, I am providing links to all of the NFP-related posts that have been featured on this site so far.

I am planning to assemble these links on their own page and highlight it as a resource called Natural Family Planning: A Handbook for the Curious.  I’d like to hear from you so I can cover the right information in that resource. 

In the comments below, can you please offer suggestions for other NFP-related topics that you’d like to see covered here at Engaged Marriage?

Previous NFP posts for your enjoyment:

Jul 29

Take More Time to Get Less Stuff Done

By Dustin | Time Management

Time and Marriage

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Kathleen Quiring at Project M.  I really enjoyed reading her perspective on how best to use our time.  It seems that our approaches sort of boil down to being intentional vs. being intuitive with our time, but I’ll let you decide that.

Kathleen previously contributed an awesome post called An Educated, Artsy-Fartsy Protestant’s Thoughts on Natural Family Planning that you should also check out.

Recently, Dustin had a post over at Simple Marriage where he suggested that time is like currency: you only have a limited amount of it (168 hours a week, to be precise), and you ought to spend it wisely, wasting nothing. In fact, time is actually more important than money, because “while money comes and goes, time only goes.” In order to make the most of your time each week, then, Dustin recommends making a time budget.

Time is linear, Dustin suggests with this model. It marches on in one direction, from point A to point B, never turning back, never to be seen again. In order to maximize one’s use of time, then, one ought to chop it up, make lists, make calculations, graph it, chart it, allocate tasks, and plan.

This can be a useful way of engaging with the passing of time. A time budget can be an effective way to reduce feelings of busyness and stress. But I would say that this view of time as currency or a one-way street is also utterly masculine, and it may not be right for all people in all circumstances. Not to mention it incites a fair amount of anxiety in more stress-prone individuals.

But our society runs on a masculine conceptualization of time. We value efficiency and productivity. We feel we need to accomplish as many things in as little time as possible – to maximize output. Quite often, though, as a result, quality is compromised in our attempts to maximize quantity.

As a response to Dustin’s post, I would like to offer an alternative, more feminine understanding of time.* It puts less emphasis on how much we do and more emphasis on how meaningfully we do each thing. It offers a different way to deal with busyness and stress.

Infinite Time Before Us

I am a spiritual person, as many of you probably are. I believe that humans are partly physical, finite beings, but also partly spiritual, infinite beings. As a consequence, I understand that once our earthly lives are over we are released from the bonds of time into eternity.

In this way, then, our time on earth is not all we have, as the time-as-currency model suggests, but an infinitesimally small portion of our total existences. Time spreads out before us in all directions into infinity. Our time here is a very important portion, to be sure, and every moment should be honored as sacred, but we won’t miss the train if we don’t get everything done in a single lifetime.

We literally have forever.

You Don’t Have to Do All That

We are bombarded with messages that we can – and should – do it all. We should strive to build strong careers, get married and have kids, be active in the community (both in the political and religious spheres), join sports teams and committees, makes names for ourselves, reach for our dreams, travel, take up hobbies, save lots of money, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, make time for recreation, and leave a legacy behind us.

And we all feel stressed out about it. We all feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

I say, why do it all?

Who says I need to be super-successful in my career and an accomplished hobbyist? Who cares if only a handful of people know my name when I die? The Almighty knows my name, and that’s all that really matters.

What’s more, the overwhelming majority of the world’s inhabitants – past, present, and future – are completely forgotten after a generation or two; who am I to strive for more or think I’m worthy of more? Accomplishments do not equal personal happiness or meaning.

You Might Not Need a Budget

Some people probably find putting together a time budget relaxing and satisfying. Personally, I can’t think of a less enjoyable, meaningful way to spend my time than budgeting my time. If my time really is as precious as Dustin and I believe it is, I don’t want to spend it noting down every task I perform, dividing hours minutes on a calculator or mulling over a Google spreadsheet trying to maximize my Time Profit Margins.

I want to be out enjoying every moment!

Be Intentional

Like Dustin, however, I believe in being intentional about how I engage with time. I believe that reflecting, and even writing things down, can be extremely helpful. However, intentionality can also be more intuitive and less mathematical.

It can take the form of meditation, free-form writing, or chatting with your spouse about it while sitting on your rooftop watching lightning in the distance. I’m with Dustin here: take some time to seriously reflect on how you want to live your life.

Instead of using a time budget to ensure I use my time in meaningful ways, I intend to rely on the following principles whenever I can:

  • Do only one thing at a time. If I’m going to do something, I ought to do it fully, with my whole mind. This includes even the simplest acts. For example, if I’m tempted to read while eating, I should close the book and focus only on eating – on savoring the flavors and textures of the food in my mouth; on reflecting on the profound mystery of how dead plants and animals are giving me life; on being grateful that I am able to eat and be nourished.
  • When given a choice between spending money or time in order to obtain something, always choose to spend time. Anything obtained through the expenditure of time will feel more satisfying, wholesome, and meaningful. For example: in order to obtain a loaf of bread, I should make it myself – mixing, proofing, kneading, rising, baking, and slicing it myself – rather than grabbing it off the shelf of the grocery story and paying for it. It’ll be so much more gratifying. (And then I don’t have to work as much, because I don’t need as much money!)
  • Aim to own as few material possessions as possible. Acquiring possessions takes precious time. Every additional possession is a burden that will make it harder for me to be mindful of what I already have.
  • Accomplish as little as I can get away with while remaining responsible to the people around me. I will be healthier, happier, and more pleasant to be around.

I can foresee that this way of thinking might strike some people as lazy, backwards, and irresponsible. That’s OK. It’s counter-cultural. I’m not suggesting that it’s the right way, or the only right way, but it’s another way. Feel free to embrace it. Or not. I’m not going to spend time worrying about it.

*Just because I am calling this a “feminine” way of understanding time, I don’t mean it is only or even primarily for women, only that I believe it is inspired by a more feminine way of looking at the universe.

*I also want to be clear that I know Dustin encourages us to use our time meaningfully and not just efficiently. I consider myself on the same page as Dustin, and together we’re presenting two sides of the same page.

How do you feel about the time-as-currency paradigm, and making time budgets?

How do you feel about being more intuitive and less efficient with your time?

Do you think the two approaches can work together and complement each other?

(photo source)

Jul 26

Zombie Parenting: 5 Tips for the Sleep Deprived

By Dustin | Children

Parenting a Newborn No SleepWhat do newborn babies and zombie bites have in common?

They can both make you a creature of the night.

While there’s no cure for a zombie virus, there are ways to deal with the plague of sleep deprivation that accompanies every new baby.

And don’t worry, these tips won’t require any brain-feasting or fantastic choreography.

Swaddling and Sleepwalking

I’ve been through quite a few events in my life that left me really short on sleep.

All-nighters of (ahem) studying in college, overnight hospital visits with seriously ill relatives, long road trips and the occasional need to care for sick children that just can’t make it through the night without you.

However, the birth of a new child offers a unique challenge to parents.  Newborn babies rarely sleep through the night for several weeks, and there’s really nothing that you can do to avoid waking up to feed the little angels every few hours…without exception.

If you have children, then you have surely experienced life in the frazzled, drowsy, confusing state of sleep deprivation.  You know what it’s like to live as a zombie parent!

5 Tips for Dealing With a Lack of Sleep

As you may know, we welcomed our third child (Avery) into our family less than two weeks ago, so I’m right in the middle of life with little sleep.  However, as my experience living as a undead new parent has grown, I’ve found some great ways to cope with a lack of sleep.

Next time you’re faced with sleepless nights, try these tips to keep your head in the game.

1. Team Up

If you want to maintain your sanity and avoid total burn-out, it’s really important that you share the demands of parenting a new baby (and any other children you already have).  This is a time when you can serve your spouse by stepping up and being fully involved in the child-rearing duties, especially those that happen under the cover of night.

In our house, that means that I do all of the overnight diaper-changing and then hand off to my wife to feed our newborn.  This split in responsibilities helps my wife get a little more sleep but, more importantly, it demonstrates that I’m willing to do what I can to help care for our baby and “be there” as a husband and father…even at night.

By the way, single parents simply amaze me, and these experiences make me more aware than ever that Moms in general are incredible.  There’s no way I could handle the demands of parenting a new baby on my own, and I applaud anyone who has been through it.

2. Back Off

If you’re like most of us, you lead a very busy life that keeps you hopping between responsibilities inside and outside of your home.  During the most stressful first few weeks of your new baby’s life, you should step away from optional commitments as much as possible.  Your church groups, civic organizations and your softball buddies will surely understand that this is a time to focus on your family and spend your time and energy at home.

For me, that’s meant a little less time writing here at Engaged Marriage, missing a meeting at the Knights of Columbus council where I am usually quite active, and taking a week off of work to be home and get to know our new daughter.  It can be tough to unplug, but there is simply no way to get these special moments with your new baby back once they’ve passed.

3. Exercise Your Body & Your Brain

It may seem counter-intuitive to use up your precious energy by exercising.  However, there is simply no better way to relieve stress and give your body a boost than by following a regular workout routine before and after the arrival of your new baby.

I know that very new moms are limited in their ability to exercise, but many can take an easy walk depending on their health status.  If physical activity is out of the question, it can really be helpful to simply  “exercise your mind” by taking a little time to read, solve puzzles and just stimulate your brain a bit.

This is been a real lifesaver for me over the past two weeks.  It’s tough to find the time, but the regime I follow only takes 30 minutes to complete, it has a lot of variety to keep it interesting, and I can do it at home.

Most days, I’ll take our two older kids downstairs with me while my wife stays with Avery.  The kids only need to stay clear of an about 6-foot by 6-foot area where I workout, and my son actually likes to join me for some of the moves!

4. Embrace Help

In most cases, new babies invite lots of interest and offers of help from friends and family.  You should gratefully accept the assistance of your loved ones, and take advantage of their help, as it will keep your energy levels up.

Plus, it will make your family and friends feel like part of your newborn’s life, which they’ll love!

Bethany and I have been blessed to have several friends bring over delicious meals for our family since we arrived home from the hospital.  Not only does this save us the time, energy and money of buying groceries and preparing meals for ourselves, but we really enjoy the short visits that come along with the food drop-offs.

It sure helps break up the cabin fever.

5. Smile

Above all else, always keep in mind the reason behind your fatigue and lack of sleep.  Remember that all of this sacrifice is needed to care for a precious gift from God.

The struggles of sleep deprivation are temporary, but the joy of parenting is forever.

Sure, Avery is costing us some sleep and probably adding a few gray hairs in the process, but there is simply no better way to spend our time and energy than caring for such a beautiful child.

We are blessed to be parents, three times over, even if we do sometimes feel like zombies in the process. 🙂

I’d love to hear your favorite ways to deal with a lack of sleep when a new baby arrives, so please share them in the comments.

I’ll read them later…I need to feast on the brains of the living go to bed right now! 🙂

(photo source)

Jul 22

Want a Better Marriage? Learn About Money!

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Marriage and MoneyEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Anthony Kirlew of Life is a Bank.  I am passionate about the need for quality financial education among married couples, and I think this post provides a great overview of the areas that you need to understand.  I’ll be back from my brief “paternity leave” on Monday. Enjoy!

Money is at the top of the list of issues that married couples argue about.  There are a host of money-related items to disagree about from not having enough money to differences in how to use the money that they have.

One way to reduce – and ultimately eliminate – these unwelcome interactions is to be open with each other about your “financial IQ” and set out on a course of learning about money and personal finances together.  That said, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, both spouses may not have a genuine interest in personal finances (such as the case with my wife).  I would recommend that each spouse really makes an effort to learn the basics and more if possible.  We have all heard the story of the widow whose husband handled all of the finances and when he died, she was left not knowing anything about their finances (which included not knowing about his life insurance or his will).

Secondly, you each might have different learning styles, so what works for one may not work for the other. The good news is that financial education comes in many forms including books, videos, personal finance blogs, seminars, and one-on-one sessions with financial professionals.

The Money Basics That You Need to Know

So what should you seek to learn about with regards to money?  Here are my recommendations:

Budgeting

My philosophy on budgeting is to run your family budget like a business budget.  Your salary (income) is your accounts receivables (money coming in) and your bills or expenses are your accounts payables (money going out).  The receivables HAVE to be greater than the payables.

If not, you have three options: increase the receivables, decrease the payables, or do a combination of both.  You can increase receivables by putting in extra hours at work, taking on a second job, or starting a side business. You can decrease payables by looking at what you are spending and finding areas to cut back such as not having a $4 coffee every morning, not having multiple premium cable channels, or canceling gym memberships you don’t use.

(Note from Dustin: In my opinion, all financial success starts with a solid budget and open communication. Personally, I’ve tried a lot of approaches, and I feel that You Need A Budget is the best option out there for budgeting software.)

Credit

Learn the power of having and maintaining good credit. In a perfect world, we would not use credit, but if you need it, you will pay far less for the money you borrow if you have good credit.  The solution to maintain a good credit rating is never taking out a loan you do not have the means to pay back and always paying back your loans on time.

Savings

There are several different forms of savings from the emergency fund to a 3-6 month reserve, to long-term savings for major purchases such as a down payment on a home. It is important to establish your personal savings goals, and learn what financial vehicles exist to help you save.  You might be surprised to find certain financial instruments (such as insurance policies) that can serve more than one purpose such as helping you save while also providing a death benefit.

Debt Management

If you have debts, make sure you know the fastest way to pay them off.  A great way to pay off your debts is to use the debt snowball method where you pay off the lowest balance debt and then add that payment to the payment of the next debt on the list which allows you to continue to make larger and larger payments on your debts which knocks down the balances faster. Using the Infinite Banking Concept, you can possibly take this to the next level by paying off the debt snowball with a loan from yourself (more on that later).

(Note from Dustin: Our family used the good, old-fashioned Debt Snowball to pay off our debts, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made.  We did not leverage our efforts through the use of loans back to ourselves, as suggested here, and I am not endorsing that approach.)

Insurance

Although many people don’t like talking about insurance, you need to make sure you understand what you need and what you don’t need. There are some types of insurance that you cannot live without (by force) such as car insurance and homeowners insurance. But what about life insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, and the like?

I could write a whole blog post on just insurance alone but suffice it to say, you need to have an understanding on what is available and what will benefit you in your current situation and down the road as your needs change.

Investing / Retirement

I put these together because ultimately your investment activity should be building your nest egg or retirement fund.  There are lots of different types of investments out there and I will just say this; if you don’t fully understand what you are putting your money in, why you are doing it, and what the outcome will be, don’t do it.

In general, I would stay away from stocks and mutual funds because they are really a gamble (and this is my personal opinion and experience, not investment advice). One of the best investment vehicles that I have personally found are dividend paying whole life insurance policies.  Many will tell you that they are not a good investment and that you should “buy term life and invest the difference” but I will tell you that most people never invest the difference, and those that do have taken huge losses by listening to the “gurus” that preach this because their mutual funds tanked.  Dividend paying whole life insurance companies have produced positive returns for years – even during the great depression.

(Note from Dustin: I felt the need to interject here to let you know that I am personally in the “buy term and invest the difference” camp on this issue, so that’s the approach our family has taken.  However, like most issues, I like to be open-minded and invite opinions that are different than my own, so here you go. 🙂 )

The Infinite Banking Concept

This is a term that you may not be familiar with, but it is a financial strategy that I am personally passionate about. It is through the Infinite Banking Concept that you are able to leverage certain aspects of insurance policies to create a personal financing system with the additional benefits of retirement funds as well as a death benefit to leave to your family when you graduate from this earthly life. Of all of the arenas of personal finance I mentioned to study, I would put this at the top of the list because it will empower you to accomplish all of the others more efficiently from savings to paying off debts, to building a retirement fund.

(One final note from Dustin: Again, I have not used this Concept, so I cannot personally endorse it.  I tend to prefer to keep things fairly simple with our finances, but I also don’t discount other ideas on the sole basis that I don’t have any experience with them.)

As with any new venture, remember that mastering your personal finances is a process and not something you need to become overwhelmed with.  Take it one step at a time and every step you take will get you closer to achieving your financial goals.

Those that master their personal finances carry less stress and enjoy life more than those who are always broke or just getting by.  In the end, the financially educated have happier and healthier marriages as well – and that is my wish for you!

(photo source)

___________________________________

Anthony Kirlew is the Chief Marketing Officer for Life is a Bank, a financial education firm that specializes in helping people “become their own banker” through the power of the Infinite Banking Concept. Anthony has worked in the financial services arena for several years specializing in real estate, mortgage banking, insurance services, and as a personal finance blogger.  A lifelong entrepreneur, Anthony has also been a professional online marketer since 1999.

Jul 19

Is Marrying Young a Thing of the Past?

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Is Marrying Young a Thing of the Past?Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Alexis Bonari.  I hope you enjoy these insights on young marriage while I spend a few days with my family on a bit of paternity leave.  By the way, when we got married, I was 21 and Bethany was 20…and it worked out pretty well for us. 🙂

From a purely statistical standpoint, marriage before the age of 25 results in an over 50% probability that the marriage will end in divorce court.  Despite the dismal statistics, many young couples still defy the odds and attempt a young marriage.

Speaking as a 25-year-old who met my same-age husband at the age of 19, and married at the age of 20, I can attest to both the joys and pitfalls of early marriage.

Before considering marriage, it would be wise to individually consider the following five questions.  This will help you enter into marriage with your eyes open.

Five Questions to Consider Before Marrying Young

1. Can you really say you’ve dated enough/traveled enough/lived alone enough/experienced enough to want to commit to a single person for the rest of your life?

If you have ANY hesitation in answering this question to the affirmative, STOP NOW!  You’re not a bad person if you’re 19 and still wanting to experience the dating scene.

You will be a bad person if you agree to marry someone you love and then subsequently cheat on them/blame them for the loss of your freedom and youth.   This is a relationship killer, so take note. If, however, you truly feel you have experienced everything you want to experience in the realm of dating or single life, go ahead to the next question.

2.  How do you handle money? Do you know how your fiancé handles money? Do you agree?

Finances cause more divorces than infidelity.

I didn’t understand why this was the case until my husband and I were both out of college, out of work, our student loan bills were coming due, and I was pregnant.  We loved each other through the whole experience, but the stress was unreal.

He and I have very different ways of approaching finances, and those differences were the source of much of our stress. Figure out where you stand on questions such as: how much debt is too much debt? If we have children will one of us stay at home with them?

3. Do you want children?

This is simple. If you don’t/do want to have children and your partner does/doesn’t, figure out a compromise or leave now.

It is completely unfair to expect someone to change their attitudes towards having children.  This is a primal, deeply-seated issue for most people.  For those who want kids, refusing to have them is like cutting out a piece of their soul.  For those who don’t want kids, guilting them into having children is robbing them of their freedom and sense of self-direction.

No good can come from either option, so find some common ground.

4. Do you agree on basic core values involving sex and how to raise children?

Disagreement is healthy in moderation.

There are, however, some issues that sometimes cannot be resolved if both parties fundamentally disagree.  Sex, money and child rearing are the three major categories that cause the most problems. People are highly unlikely to change their attitudes toward any of these, so don’t expect your partner to. If he looks at pornography now, he most likely will in thirty years. You’ve been warned.

5. Do you respect each other’s religious beliefs or lack thereof?

When my husband and I were first married, I was a Christian and he was from a multi-generational family of atheists. His father literally wrote the book on Biblical errancy, and my family went to church three times a week.

Our personal belief systems have changed over the years, but our respect for each other hasn’t. I didn’t try to convert him, and he didn’t treat me like I was a moron who believed in a sky fairy.  We would never have survived if either one of us had crossed these lines.

Share Your Story

How old were you when you got married?  Do you think that young marriage is a thing of the past or still a wise move?

(photo source)

Jul 14

The Greatest Joy

By Dustin | Children

There are a few days that define a person’s life and establish their legacy and mark on the world.  Thus far, I’ve been blessed to experience four such days.

When you experience something as life-altering as the welcoming of new life, it’s impossible to understand those that oppose life or commoditize it in terms of money, time or supposed independence.

When you witness the creation of something completely new and unique, it’s difficult to give credence to those that don’t believe in God or respect the power of Covenant Love.

When you see the superb power of true femininity in action, it’s awe-inspiring and quite humbling.  We are all indebted to our mothers and their unique capacity for unconditional love.

Welcome to the family Avery Josephine Riechmann.  You made me a better man today.

Jul 12

How to Find the Perfect Engagement Ring

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Find the Perfect Engagement RingEditor’s Note: This is a guest post that I wish would have been available about 10 years ago. 🙂  Pammy Rosen offers some great insights into the process of selecting the right engagement ring.

An engagement ring is one of the most important purchases in your lifetime, especially for the bride. Most men could care less if their own ring came from a Crackerjack box, but when buying a ring for their bride-to-be, a little education about the types of rings that are available and how they might effect the cost can be a great help.

Here’s how to pick out a ring that will have your bride-to-be blushing while getting your money’s worth.

The Four C’s

There are four key terms to keep in mind when shopping for the perfect engagement ring. Just think of them as the 4 C’s of wedding ring shopping:

1. Clarity
2. Carat
3. Color
4. Cut

There are ways to save money and still get the ring you desire by simply keeping these terms in mind.

The clarity of the ring has to do with flaws that are present on the ring. It is possible to find a ring that may have some minor flaws that are not noticeable by looking at the ring. This can result in getting a bargain on a ring that would have been too expensive to purchase had the ring not had any flaws.

The carat is used to describe the weight of the ring. When buying a gold or diamond wedding ring, this becomes very important as the more the stone or gold weighs, the more expensive the ring will be. Shopping around can help you find the best deal possible for a ring that has a higher carat level.

Typically, the more colors that are present in a ring, the more expensive the ring will be. For grooms on a tight budget, finding a ring that is uniform in color will likely be the best option.

The cut of the ring refers to the overall look and shape of the ring. Rings that are shaped abnormally will typically cost less.Wedding Ring Set

Shape, Setting and Size

The most popular type of rings of course involve diamonds. Whether they are diamond promise rings or diamond engagement rings, those precious stones are indeed a girl’s best friend.  While keeping the 4 C’s of wedding ring shopping in mind, you will also want to consider the different types of diamonds available.

The most popular shape of a diamond wedding ring is a round diamond. Keep in mind that a ring can include one stone or multiple stones, but the number of stones will have a dramatic effect on the price of the ring. Other popular shapes include ovals, hearts, pearls and emeralds.

Selecting the right setting for the ring will be important as well. Typically, this means choosing between platinum, white gold, and yellow gold. It is important to be sure the setting of the ring and the stones that will be part of the ring look good together.

And guys, don’t forget what may be the most important part of shopping for your future wife’s wedding ring: the size. Whether it means borrowing a ring she is currently wearing or getting help from someone close to her, you don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a ring that doesn’t fit.  Talk about starting off your marriage on the wrong foot.:)

By keeping this and the other tips here in mind, you will be prepared to come up with the perfect wedding ring for your bride-to-be, which can start your long and happy life together.

____________________________________

Pammy Rosen is a freelance writer for My Jewelry Box, a North American online jewelry store. Pammy is a style and fashion addict who can never pass up a beautiful piece of jewelry. For all of your jewelry needs, visit http://www.myjewelrybox.com/

Jul 08

What Role Does Fitness Play in Your Marriage?

By Dustin | Individual Fulfillment

When I wrote a recent post about my (re)discovery that fitness is important to my marriage, I never realized the pivotal role that it would play in my life. I’ll be sharing much more on that front over the next few weeks, but today I’d like to share a bit more about my thoughts on the relationship between physical wellness and a happy married life.

More importantly, I really want to create a dialogue with and between the awesome members of our community in the comments to this post. If you are reading this via an RSS Reader, please do me a favor and come over to the site so you can engage in this conversation.

I want to ask a few questions and then give you my thoughts on each. In the comments, please share your perspective on this super-important topic.

Do You Think Fitness is Important to Your Marriage?

Obviously, my answer here is Yes! based on my last post and posts from the early days of the site where I made the case for Getting Fit and Having a Healthy Marriage.

Recently, I’ve become even more enthusiastic, and I think that’s because my mindset has changed.  Instead of viewing exercise as a self-centered activity to simply look good or feel good about myself, I’ve really started looking at it as a service to Bethany and my children.  Not only is my self-confidence improved, but so are my moods, health, enthusiasm and energy.

I am a better husband and father when I am fit (or working towards a state of better fitness).

Do You Exercise Regularly? If Not, Would You Like To?

For the last few months, I can certainly say that my workouts have been consistent.  My history with exercise has been one of up-and-downs and starts-and-stops.  My weight has fluctuated 40 pounds several times since college along with my overall wellness.

I honestly think I’ve gotten beyond that with the help of a realistic and effective training program as well as some great accountability partners.  I am a regular exerciser now.

Do You Ever Exercise With Your Spouse? Would You Like To?

Sort of.  Lately, this hasn’t been much of an option for us as Bethany is currently 9 1/2 months pregnant.  However, I’d definitely like to exercise with her as much as possible after the new baby gets here and everything settles down.

Some of my best memories of our dating years (and pre-kid years) include tennis matches, shooting baskets and taking long walks and bike rides.  We’ve allowed life to get in the way of this form of physical connectedness, and I do miss it.

The program I’m following now would definitely allow us to workout together at home as long as we could find a time when the kids are asleep (or they could join us).  This could be an issue with a newborn!  If we can’t exercise together, then we’ll be sure to allow each other a little time to workout individually, and hopefully we’ll be able to do so together from time-t0-time.

What Are the Biggest Obstacles Keeping You from Getting in Shape?

This one’s easy: TIME!

One of the main reasons my previous fitness programs have stalled is that they weren’t sustainable for the long haul.  For example, P90X requires an hour to an hour-and-a-half workouts six days per week.  This sounds doable and does get results, but how long would your lifestyle allow you to maintain this before you get derailed or simply rundown?

Also, it is just so easy to get sidetracked during the course of a busy day and miss a workout.  When this happens, one day turns into two, then three and then I say “might as well restart at lunchtime on Monday.”  Except Monday brings a lunch meeting and the whole plan goes down the tubes.  Hey Gym, see in you six months when New Year’s Day rolls around!

My current program allows me to workout at home and it takes less than 30 minutes a day, five days per week (and two of those days let me get outside when the weather permits, which is awesome).  So, in the time it used to take me to drive to the gym and back, I can knock out a great workout in the morning before work.

This works great for me because all of the distractions of the day can’t get in the way!

Let’s Talk!

I am really interested to hear what you have to say about the role of exercise and fitness in your marriage.  I thought about doing a survey on this topic, but I’d much rather have an open dialogue and get your honest perspective.

If you’re going to comment on one post this year, I’d really like it if you chose this one.  Thanks!

Jul 04

Finding Financial Freedom with You Need A Budget

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!  I hope you are enjoying some fun family time over this long weekend and remembering all those who fought and continue to fight to preserve the awesome freedoms that we enjoy each day.

We are opting for more time indoors than usual this holiday weekend while we anxiously await the arrival of our third child sometime in the next week or two.  Thank God for air conditioning! 🙂

When I think of our family’s own freedom, the thought of finances always comes to mind.  As you may be aware, we paid off a LOT of debt and now enjoy much more financial freedom, and that carries through to all aspects of our marriage and family life.

I recently shot another video where I discuss the number one cause of divorce in America and why I think You Need A Budget is such a great tool for addressing this important problem.  And here’s another reason to celebrate: I just purchased a new video camera so this is the last really low-quality video post you’ll see from me! 😉

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, and if you’d like to see all of my Engaged Marriage videos (some of which don’t find their way to the blog) please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-DTQYqS9gk[/youtube]

If you can’t see the video, just click here: You Need A Budget Review: Married Money Management

Thanks for your continued support!

Jul 01

Green With Envy: How to Overcome Jealousy in Your Marriage

By Dustin | Communication

Jealousy in MarriageEditor’s Note: This is a great guest post by Thomas Warren.  Thomas asked if he could share his thoughts on jealousy in marriage, and I thought it was a wonderful topic for our community.

Love and trust are the basis for a sound marriage, so if either of these ingredients is missing, you may begin to wonder why you’re in a relationship at all.  While love is something that is maintained emotionally, trust can shaken by both emotional and psychological forces.

You enter into marriage believing that it will last forever and that the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with feels the same way.  But then, for one reason or another, jealousy rears its ugly head.

It is extremely common for married individuals to experience jealousy, and in small doses, it can actually ensure that you don’t take each other for granted.  But if the problem persists, you’re going to have to find a way to deal with it or risk reneging on your vows.

So How Can You Overcome Jealousy?

Communication is a good place to start.  This is really the key to resolving any conflict in a relationship (and to keeping your marriage healthy).  If you have nagging doubts, this is the best way to clear them up.

Maybe you saw a photo from your husband’s holiday party where he is apparently ogling another woman’s derriere.  But when you ask him about it, it turns out that he was in the process of helping an elderly co-worker to her feet and just happened to be turning towards the other woman when the photo was snapped.

By putting the event in context, you can effectively clear up any misconceptions.  If you never confront your spouse, your jealousy will only grow.

When Communication Doesn’t Help

If you really don’t have the tools to communicate effectively (i.e. conversations turn into confrontations or arguments) then you should consider marriage counseling (and possibly individual therapy).  You may find that your feelings of jealousy are irrational, that your expectations are unrealistic, that you suffer from issues of control, abandonment, or low self-esteem, or worst-case, your fears of infidelity may be confirmed.

Whatever the case, a professional can help you work through your feelings.  Let’s face it, we all come into relationships with some kind of baggage that we haven’t dealt with emotionally, and it can color your interactions with your current mate.  If you don’t want to end up frustrated, depressed, crazed, or divorced, you have to be the one to deal with your fears and insecurities.  If it turns out your spouse is a serial cheater, you will almost certainly require the expertise of a licensed therapist.

What You Should Not Do

What you should NOT do is hide your feelings and spy on your spouse.  If you suspect cheating, do you really want to stoop to the same level of lying and sneaking around that you’re trying to expunge?

And what if you find your jealousy is unfounded, but you get caught in the act?  Then you have effectively broken your partner’s trust, which is just as bad.  If you really can’t control your feelings of jealousy and you find yourself engaged in nefarious behavior, then it’s definitely time to seek outside help, because you clearly can’t handle the situation on your own.

You and your spouse should be able to work through anything together and come out of the experience stronger and more committed to each other.  And while cheating is a deal-breaker for many individuals, don’t be too quick to throw in the towel.

A strong relationship can weather even the worst of storms if you agree to work together towards a livable solution.

Have you experienced jealousy in your relationship?  How have you overcome it?

(photo source)

______________________________________

Thomas Warren is a content writer for GoCollege, one of the oldest and most trusted resources to guide students on how to finance and succeed in college.