Monthly Archives: February 2014

Feb 28

“We know how much money you have.”

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

"We know how much money you have."Note from Dustin: Enjoy this great post from my buddy Derek!

All throughout high school and college I suffered from extreme allergies.

My allergies would come out of nowhere, hit me like a train, and leave me in bed for days trying to recover and regain my energy.

After college when I got my first real job my allergies made things difficult. Sleeping until Noon was no longer an option when I was so tired I couldn’t get out of bed. I would take naps at work and even call in “sick” several times a year, not because I was sick, but because I was exhausted.

I was worried my boss would think I was lazy or trying to get away with something. I wasn’t either of these things, I was exhausted.

I didn’t know I had allergies at all until I told a co-worker why I wasn’t at work one day. He told me about his experience with allergies and how he used to feel exhausted all the time too. He (along with another co worker) had been getting allergy injections for years. He told me the injections had changed his life. He no longer felt tired all the time and had plenty of energy.

I looked into it.

Yup, my allergy test came back off the charts!

Three years and hundreds of injections later I was no longer allergic to 95% of the things that used to put me in a coma. It has been five years since I quit receiving the allergy injections and I am still 95% allergy free. It worked!

I didn’t know I had allergies. I thought being exhausted was normal. I was missing out on so much of my own life and didn’t even know there was another way. How could I possibly know when my own personal experience was all I had to go on?

Sometimes it scares me to think of how my life would have gone if I had never told anyone about my exhaustion. To be honest, I was a little embarrassed about sleeping so much and that kept me from telling anyone. Also, I simply thought it was normal, I thought everyone was always as tired as I was. I didn’t even think of myself as being tired at all, I thought it was normal.

Thank God it came out and I learned about this ‘other way.’

I know how much money you have.

I believe that bringing another couple into your financial situation can have many financial and relational benefits.

Financial miscommunication remains at the top of the list for divorce. Financial miscommunication dumps mountains of stress on lots marriages that don’t end in divorce. Our goal isn’t simply to avoid divorce but rather to continuously grow and enjoy our marriages.

BMO Survey Suggests Money Trouble Remains Top Reason For Divorce.

“Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, the survey found that 68% of respondents said fighting over money would be their top reason for divorce, followed by infidelity at 60%…”

(Fights over money are more likely to end a marriage than infidelity!)

Personal finance, not private finance.

Financial stress has more power, authority, and influence over your marriage than it should be allowed to have. Most people keep their financial life private. Does anyone else see a link between these two statements?

Clearly something isn’t working. I wonder what would happen to all that stress if more people were open, honest, and transparent with their personal finances.

Accountability couple

Sharing with another couple creates a safety line that extends beyond just you and your partner. Once you break through the imaginary line surrounding you and your partner, fresh air will blow in. Establishing a link that moves beyond your marriage will bring your situation to another level of reality. “It’s not just us anymore trying to figure this out” can be an incredibly helpful feeling and reality. Don’t wait until it is too late to throw out the safety line.

Sharing your feelings about your financial situation with another couple could inspire the other couple to action as well. Chance are high that the other couple is also trying to improve their relationship in the financial arena.

Thousands of accountability couples!

My wife Carrie and I have thousands of accountability partners. We post our financials on our website.

Derrick and Carrie

Think about it.

Why do you keep your financial info private? What are YOUR reasons?

Have you thought of your own reasons or do you just keep your info private because that is what everyone else does? What are your reasons apart from what appears to be everyone else’s reasons?

(I have news for you, not everyone keeps it a secret)

What do you have to lose?

How many people know how much you earn?

How many people know how you spend, save, give, and invest your money?

How many people know your net worth?

I bet the answer to all three questions adds up to less than five. (Your boss, someone in payroll, the person who does your taxes, and your spouse.)

Is it helpful for so few people to know about your financial life?

What do you have to gain?

Have a conversation with your partner about the benefits of letting another couple in on your situation. We focus on and give too much power to the negative/awkward reasons against being transparent. But what about all the potential upsides and benefits?

True, there are reasons for and against keeping it private. There are also reasons for and against opening up and sharing. Both ways will have positive and negative results.

Keep it private has its own set of negative results that you are experiencing right now whether you know it or not. Sharing your financials with another couple has benefits that you are currently missing out on.

The devil is in the details.

Ok then, leave out the details.

A conversation about money doesn’t have to include all the details in order to be incredibly helpful. A casual conversation about your current financial situation will be infinitely more helpful than no conversation at all. You don’t have to share specific numbers in order for the conversation to be helpful. Simply talking about your experience, your current circumstances, and your financial goals can be enough to make the time well worth it. Take it slow if that is more comfortable for you.

Success

  • Successful people ask for a second, third, and fourth opinion.
  • Successful people have a default attitude that they do not know everything.
  • Successful people have a default attitude that they do not have all the answers.
  • Successful people ask for help, often.
  • Successful people realize there is always more to learn.
  • Successful people know they can learn more, and faster, from others than can be learned from their own personal experiences alone.

Challenge

Talk with your partner and identify another couple you both feel comfortable sharing financial info with. Talk about the benefits of letting another couple into your financial world. Talk about your fears and what resistance you have to sharing financial info. Talk about the downside of not letting someone in on your situation. (Forward this post to the couple you have in mind.)

Go slow

When you approach the couple you have in mind with this idea, ask them to think about it too. Ask them how they feel about the idea. You can bring it up and then revisit the conversation days, weeks, or months later if you like. The other couple doesn’t have to share their numbers with you if they don’t want to.

Carrie and I talked and prayed about posting our numbers for over a year before we started doing it. The positive feedback has been amazing. We both felt liberated, like a huge burden was suddenly being carried by thousands of others, not just us anymore.

Derek and Carrie encourage married couples to strengthen their marriage through having better conversations on money.  Thanks to them for an awesome guest post!

(photo source)

Feb 24

6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System NOW!

By E.J. Smith | Help

In case you missed the memo, it’s flu season. 90d008a8-409c-46ef-bc53-5dc34b29f06c

I’m not sure what it’s like in your little corner of the internet, but I cannot seem to step out of my house without running into a handful of people who are getting sick, currently sick, have a family member who’s sick, or just go over being sick. While I try to live a healthy lifestyle year round, it’s around this time of year that I really focus on basic preventative measures to keep illness at bay.  I do not have time to be sick.  I’m sure you can commiserate.

Everyone seems to have their favorite prevention methods such as:  getting a flu shot, paying extra attention to hand washing, eating tons of fruits and veggies, and drinking warm teas and soups.

I find the same is true for relationships.  Everyone has their special tips and tricks for keeping their relationships healthy.  So when I started preparing to write for this month’s article, I asked my social media networks to share their best marriage/relationship advice.  I am blessed in the fact that it didn’t take long for the comments and emails to start flowing in.

After reading through every single response, and doing some reflection of my own, I am happy to share with you:

EJ’s Top 6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System NOW. 

 

6. Get rid of the “dog house” mindset.  How many of us have heard the phrase, “He’s in the dog house,” or  “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight!” in pop culture, media, or even from the mouths of friends and family? I’m sure you have.

So here’s the deal… as angry as you might be at your spouse, punishing them is always going to be at odds with cultivating a healthy marriage.  Why, you ask?  Because the ability to inflict punishment, implies the relationship is hierarchical.  Superiors can punish their subordinates.  True equals can’t punish each other.

I can almost hear the person reading this and thinking, “Yeah well what they did to me wasn’t exactly in alignment with a healthy relationship either!” Maybe that’s true.  But the only person you can control right now is you.

And an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.  Are you in this for revenge or are you in this because your relationship is worth saving?  (Keep reading… the offending spouse has one directed at them next).

 

5. Stop acting like your spouse has no other choice but to stay with you.  I’m sure we’ve all heard that marriage is supposed to be for life.  And despite the staggering divorce rates, I still believe that a majority of folks enter into the sacrament of marriage with that lifelong intention in their hearts.  In fact, just from reading the comments on EM.com and other faith-based/marriage websites, I know that there are still a decent amount of folks who don’t even believe in divorce.

Nevertheless, your spouse did not cash out his/her free-will when s/he said, “I do.”  So it would be really nice if we could cherish and appreciate them for holding on to such beliefs and commitment, rather than seeing it as an invitation to do whatever we like with no fear of the consequences.  Your spouse has a choice.  It would be nice if they didn’t have to feel like an idiot for holding true to their values.

 

4. Stop listening so much to how other people say things should be in your marriage.  Listen more to each other.  Guess which two people know your marriage best?  Not your mother, not your priest/pastor, and definitely not your best friend, and not even your therapist (we only know what you tell us anyway)!  You and your spouse know your relationship better than anyone else.  Moreover, you know your needs and your spouse knows theirs.

As my friend and fellow therapist, Deanna put it, “Listen to your relationship. If something feels out of whack—speak up!”  Not sure how to speak your truth?  EngagedMarriage.com has tons of articles to help you find your voice in their Communication section.

 

3. Family is family.  And your spouse is your family.

No one has to tell me twice that family is important.  I get it.  The piece that I’m also so surprised that people miss is that when you marry someone, they become your family.

I frequently hear “horror stories” from clients about “monster-in-laws” and the tension such toxic relationships create.  I hear stories of spouses standing silently by while their husband or wife endures verbal and emotional abuse at the hand of in-laws or other family members.

I understand respecting one’s elders, and the importance of extended family.  But to whom did you promise your love, your fidelity, and your devotion?  I would not accept abuse from my husband’s family, and I certainly would never expect him to endure it from mine.  FYI:  This also includes not allowing family to bad-mouth your spouse to you.

 

2. Vacuum Naked.  Well that certainly got your attention, didn’t it?  I cannot even begin to take credit for this one.  I got this fantastic and “original” piece of marriage advice from a Chaplain’s wife, who’s been happily married to her husband for 20+ years.

Essentially, don’t forget to be husband and wife for each other just because you are “Mom” and “Dad” to your kids, “Coach” to the local soccer team, and “CEO” to your company.   More importantly, have fun with your relationship! Marriage can be fun, remember?!  Recapture those newlywed days!

 

1. Watch how you speak to and about your spouse: An anecdote.

Once upon a time, I worked as an administrative assistant.  In addition to filing paperwork and typing memos, I could also rattle off a long laundry list of grievances and missteps my boss’ husband had made in the course of their marriage.  I’m pretty sure everyone in our office had their own tally sheet. Looking back, none of the “sins” were overt deal breakers (i.e. physical abuse, infidelity, etc…), but taken together, very few of us could see her staying.  When she would talk about leaving, I easily recall actively supporting her choice.  It sounded miserable.  (They’re still married).

Everyone needs to vent.  And from time to time everyone is going to be frustrated with his/her spouse.  However, if you want to boost your marriage immunity – blasting your spouses grievances to every 3rd person you meet—especially those who have no reason or context to see the situation in an unbiased light—is the equivalent of letting someone sneeze in your face and then wondering how in the world you got sick!  Vent prudently.  Also recognize that choosing to focus on your spouses’ negative attributes or characteristics more frequently will lead you into a spiral of negativity very quickly.  The more you look for the flaws, and mistakes, the more you will see them.

So there are my 6 Tips for boosting your relationship’s immune system now.  What are some of your own tips?

Share them with me and the EngagedMarriage community by leaving a comment!

Feb 21

4 Wedding Buffet Table Setting Ideas That Work

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

4 Wedding Buffet Table Setting Ideas That WorkEating is a pretty simple event, isn’t it?

You sit at the chair, place the table napkin on your lap, grab the food from the serving plates, place them in yours, take the cutleries (spoon, fork, and knife), use them to make bite-sized portions of the food, and then put the food in your mouth.

It’s that straightforward.

But if you look much deeper, there’s a lot more that meets the eye.

There is a particular order for things to be arranged in. For example, when setting the table, the placemat goes first, then the plate, napkin, cutleries (fork to the left of the plate, and then knife and spoon to the right of the plate), coaster, and then drinking glass on the right of the placemat. Then, the food is set in the middle of the table for easy access for everyone eating. Sometimes, there’s even a Lazy Susan in order to move the food around for even more accessibility.

The setup is very organized.

For huge events like weddings, organization is a must. Wedding catering services need to be mindful about the way they set the buffet and dining tables in order to boost the eating experience of the guests. So how do you that to buffet and dining tables at a wedding?

That’s a lot of physical and mental work. But don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be hard. Here are simple wedding buffet table setting ideas that work.

Idea #1: Place cutleries on the dining tables
Some buffets have spoons, forks, and knives at the end of the buffet line so when guests finish getting their meal portions, they can get their utensils.

But Manilyn Moreno from Better Cater advises to place the utensils on the dining tables instead. “That way, your guests can focus on getting food without the worrying about dropping something along the way.”

Idea #2: Put the expensive viands at the last part of the buffet line
Moreno advises this because based on her observations, guests are used to getting more portions at the start (best for appetizers), while viands (like beef, fish, or pork) only come in smaller amounts.

Having this order allows almost all the guests to get a taste of the costlier food.

Idea #3: Group items in an odd number
Notice that an ordinary dining table setup has 7 main items (spoon, fork, knife, plate, drinking glass, placemat, and a table napkin). This group is paired in an odd number. Even serving plates are grouped into three (rice, viand, and vegetables).

A Decorating For Events article notes that this grouping is visually pleasing, which is why you probably never noticed anything wrong about that set up at home.

Idea #4: Get creative
Instead of the traditional spoon, fork, knife, and napkin placed right next to the plate, why not put them together with a piece of string and put them on top of the plate, with a lovely card with the bride and groom’s name on it?

With these 4 ideas, your wedding buffet experience won’t just be ordinary, but absolutely distinctive and memorable for all your family and friends.

Julieane Hernandez is a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate turned Wedding designer. She’s an advanced tri-athlete during weekends. She’s been in the Wedding industry for about 5 years now and She’s learned so much from all the experiences she’s been through. Follow her on twitter and google+.

(photo source)

Feb 17

Great Sex and Your Marriage: What You Must Know…

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

great sex and your marriageI’m a Christian wife who blogs about sex, so as you can imagine, that makes for interesting conversations at social gatherings.

My husband and I were at a wedding reception once, sitting with a friend of mine and her husband.

With a mischievous laugh, my friend looked at my husband and jokingly said her husband wanted his picture with him.  “You’re his hero!  He thinks you get sex all the time!”

We laughed.  Sure, her exclamation was in jest, but honestly, it reflects a more somber tone that weaves through many comments and emails I receive from readers of my blog.

Many people think that because my husband and I enjoy sex often — and that it is quite good — that our marriage is somehow a walk in the park, free of many of the struggles that they face in their own marriages.

Sex for us, they think, must be a panacea for any strains on our marriage.

Here is what I want you to know about great sex and marriage…

A huge part of what makes sex great in my marriage is that we work hard at the rest of our marriage.

All the time.

And it’s work.  Hard work.

We stumble. We get short with each other.  We’ve said things we regret.  We’ve misunderstood each other’s hearts.

But we also have learned to get back up.  To forgive quickly.  To talk.  To extend grace. To remember our commitment.  To pray for each other.  To laugh and savor all the extraordinary joys that show up in ordinary ways.

Great sex in our marriage — the kind of sex that is profound and indescribable on so many levels — does not exist in a vacuum.

I think if you met me or my husband or were to glimpse into our life on any given day you would be surprised to see how our marriage looks like a lot of marriages.

Messy. Chaotic. Boring at times.

Wrought with tiredness and stress.  Our dirty dishes pile up.  Our dog destroys things she shouldn’t.  Our calendar is often a bully.

So when we make love — when we crawl into that sacred space literally and figuratively — we show up having already poured ourselves out in the other crevices of our relationship.

Truth be told, each phenomenal orgasm is tender reminder of what it took for us to get there.

What I want you to know about great sex and your marriage is that you both have to be willing to give and re-give yourselves, often when you really want to do the exact opposite.

You have to resolve to tackle the hard issues, one baby step at a time.

You have to be able to train your eyes to spot speckles of goodness and love and warmth amidst so much noise.

That’s not easy.

I know.

But that’s where the great sex is found.

And if you were to stop by my house on any given day, that’s exactly what I would tell you.

(After, of course, I tried to keep the dog from jumping on you. And then asked you to look past the laundry baskets, overflowing bookshelves, messy desk and worn-out kitchen floor that should have been replaced in 1991).

Feb 10

Finding Romance In The Most Unusual Places

By Debi Walter | Romance

What do you think of when you hear the word “romance”?

Finding Romance In The Most Unusual Places

This time of year we’re bombarded with images of romance as cute little chubby angels flying around with a bow and arrows, which is hardly appealing to most men. In fact, it seems more for our children than for us. But romance isn’t one day on the calendar each year. It’s a feeling reserved for our spouse alone.

Think about it. There is no one else who is privileged to know you in such an intimate way as your spouse. They know what you consider romantic and are the only ones who can do something to satisfy that need. That being said, there are many places a healthy marriage will practice romance, and it’s not where you’d think.

#1 – In sick times – When your spouse is sick, romance isn’t a lovey, dovey feeling, it’s taking care of your spouse’s need to be cared for in their infirmity. It’s fluffing their pillow. It’s preparing whatever food or beverage they can swallow. It’s giving them medications to ease their pain. It’s making phone calls and taking care of their chores while they are unable to. This is romance in action.

#2 – In poor times – When money is tight and bills are piling up, it’s easy to forget all about romance. But romance looks different in this season. It’s encouraging your spouse that you’ll make it through this hard time together. It’s reminding your spouse of the many ways you are rich in love and family. It’s taking the time to do little things for each other. It’s going for a walk or sitting outside marveling at God’s creation. It’s pausing to pray to God together asking for His provision. It’s continuing to keep your dreams alive even when it seems there will never be enough money to pay for it. This is romance in compassion.

#3 – In worse times – A worse time can be defined as a time that isn’t as good as it once was, and it can be for many different reasons. It could be due to sin–either yours or your spouse’s. It could be due to the actions of extended family members who have caused your own relationship to be strained. It could be due to family crisis with one or more children, or their health issues. Romancing your spouse in times like these can be the most challenging because you most likely won’t feel like doing it. But for those who are willing to go against the flow and do it, they’ll discover a new found freedom in their love for each other. Romance in this season is intentional or it won’t happen. It’s specific or it won’t be noticed. It’s putting the desires of your spouse above your own and choosing to bless them even if you think they don’t deserve it. It’s trusting God to help you express your love the way Christ has demonstrated His love for us. It’s nearly impossible for us to romance our spouse this way, but with God all things are possible. This is romance in sacrifice.

You may recognize by now that these are part of traditional wedding vows. Most couples don’t give much thought to this aspect of what they promised. And if they did at the time, many forget when the marriage faces difficult seasons. It’s good to remember what a privilege it is to care for and love our spouse in this way.

Meaningful romance is active, compassionate and sacrificial.

May there be no regrets when our days together in this life have ended and death parts us. Let’s make the most of each day we’ve been given and celebrate romance daily, not just when Hallmark says we should.

(photo source)

Feb 03

7 Steps to Leaving a Legacy of Love

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

leaving a legacyWhen you think of leaving a legacy of love, what comes to mind?

How about writing a will, choosing a guardian for your children, and generally leaving your affairs in order?

Those suggestions probably are not the ones that came to the forefront.

After all, no one likes to think of themselves as mortal, especially when they are young and vibrant.

I imagine that may be the case with you as well.

Let’s face it: This is a discomforting thought and one we’d rather not dwell upon.

Here is the problem, though.

When you move on without having a plan in place, completely apart from dealing with the grief, life for your loved ones gets really, really, difficult.

This is true whether you are single, married, with or without children, or whether you are 21, 102, or somewhere in between.

When you do lay the groundwork, even though it may sound cold and clinical to do so, you are leaving a legacy of love.

In essence you are saying, “Here is a lifeboat. I know I can’t prevent the storm, but this vessel will help ease the way to calmer waters and sunnier days.”

Chanel Reynolds lost her husband and was left behind as a single mom:

The reality of my financial situation hit me like a ton of bricks: our income immediately went from ‘healthy’ to ‘zero’, we did not have an emergency fund, our life insurance policy hadn’t been updated in 5 years, we had no disability insurance. Without short term help from friends and family and the life insurance that came later, I would have quickly lost everything, including my sanity. I was frighteningly vulnerable, it’s embarrassing, but it’s true. And it is true for many of you.

She shares her hard-won lessons about getting your life together and planning ahead at her website, along with tips, resources, and hope. (Caution-strong language warning.)

Following are seven steps to leaving a legacy of love.

1.  Get yourself and your marriage debt free. Dustin addresses the reasons for this here. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it can’t be said enough. Being debt free means there aren’t lots of bills to track and pay when your mind is elsewhere. It also means you aren’t at risk of losing your car or other property because, in your grief, you forgot to or couldn’t make the payments.

2.  Create a Legacy Drawer. This is the mother lode of all of your critical information. Dave Ramsey describes the what and how here. I will caution you from experience that putting all the information together can be a bit daunting. It is much easier for you to do it now, though, rather than leaving your loved ones to ferret out this information.

3.  Get your passwords into one place. How many passwords do you have for all those sites you belong to? Be sure they are accessible. This will be part of the Legacy Drawer, but deserves its own mention. I like a duel-pronged approach. Keep a paper copy on hand, using a word document or index cards. You can also save passwords digitally and be more secure online using a password manager program. LastPass and 1Password are a couple of reputable sites. Reviews and more choices are here.

4.  List your social media sites and any related information. Have you thought about what happens to your digital life when you pass away? Mashable provides insight here. I had never thought of adding a social media clause to our will as they suggest, but will be doing so.

5.  Purchase term life insurance for you and your spouse. There are other types of coverage, but my husband and I sit firmly in the term camp. We follow Ramsey’s recommendation of at least ten times your yearly income so that you can live off the interest without touching the principal. Remember that whether you work or stay at home, you will need to replace an income, all the work your spouse does, or both.

6.  Make a will. Again, this is part of the Legacy Drawer, but absolutely worthy of a separate note.  If you don’t have a will, the state will decide via the legal process who gets what. Wouldn’t you rather be in charge of those decisions? You can contact a lawyer, or a website like LegalZoom or TotalLegal to make your will. If you have made one already, be sure to update it as your life changes.

7.  Choose a guardian for your children. I believe that of all the steps, this is the most difficult. After all, there is no one who will parent exactly like you. However, if you don’t choose, the courts will choose for you. To get a sense of considerations, check out The Baby Center. I would add a couple of key questions: Who will love my children as I do? In whose home will my child feel deeply loved and cared for? Sometimes it helps to get a fresh point of view on a tough decision like this. I recommend this helpful technique to provide perspective from the future.

Make a plan to tackle each of these areas, and commit to being done by a particular date.

Consider that getting this organized is a very good thing, as it will also make your life run a bit smoother.

Remember that you certainly want to live a story worth telling, but you’ll also want to pave the way so the next chapters can to be written with more comfort and joy.

Question: What steps have you taken so far for leaving a legacy of love and what would you add to this list?

Photo credit: Sudanshu Goyal