Monthly Archives: March 2014

Mar 24

Letting Go of The Jones’: Finding Relief from the “Supposed To’s” of Financial Goals

By E.J. Smith | Finances & Careers

Letting Go of The Jones': Finding Relief from the Supposed To's of Financial GoalsIf you ask me what my least favorite topic to write, talk or counsel others about in the entire world is—I will tell you right now, it’s money.

Which is terribly inconvenient for several reasons, not the least of which being that finances are still touted as being close to, if not #1 on the list of common reasons why couples divorce.

In many ways, it makes perfect sense.

Money is a part of our daily lives.  You either learn how to deal with it, or eventually it railroads you.

Although theoretically for much of the population, money should be a fairly straightforward topic.  The exchange of a valued item (money, shells, a camel or two) for a good or service is practically as old as civilization.  And figuring out whether you have enough money to pay for that item doesn’t change very much whether you’re using Quickbooks or an abacus.

The fact that we still haven’t really come to grips with how to manage it is both impressive (in a morbid sense) and raises the question: 

Have we been trying to keep up with the Jones’ since the dawn of civilization? And more importantly, how do we keep our relationships healthy in the midst of it all?

Before I share more about this effort to keep up with those pesky Jones’, I want to take a minute to highlight some of the resources already available to the Engaged Marriage community: Married Money Management (a multi-step guide to rewriting your financial future as a couple), as well as this fantastic piece on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps that is definitely worth checking out.

And finally, from around the web here’s a quick listing of Do’s and Don’t’s that seem pretty spot-on from an communication/therapy perspective as well.

I’ll encourage you to read all of these pieces, and to do so with 2 things:

1) An open, creative mind – not everything is going to true for you.

(Have you read the comments on the Joint-or-Separate Accounts article?!) so you’re going to have to be prepared to tweak things here and there to get them to work for you.

2) A healthy sense of humility –  let go of the expectation that you need to have all the answers right now.  You can’t learn anything if you’re too busy justifying how perfect your system is right now.  No one’s system is perfect. Everyone can learn something.

So beyond the articles I mentioned, what can I invite you to consider regarding relationships and money?  The most important concept that I’ve found—and to be honest, something that my husband does much better than I—is letting go of the “supposed to’s” that often accompany our struggle to keep pace with Jones. 

Letting Go of “Supposed to…”

Tell me, do any of these ring true?

  • “You’re supposed to take care of the house, you’re my wife.”
  • “I have a college degree, I’m supposed to be able to find a job!”
  • “You’re supposed to take a luxury vacation every year.”
  •  “You’re supposed to get married/have kids/finish school/buy a house by ___ age.”
  • “I’m supposed to have acquired _____________ by now.”

The “supposed to” conversation is a common one in its many and varied forms.  What I would like to know, however, is who is writing these rules? Who said that you had to get married by a certain age?  Who said that you were supposed to have a 2 story 2,000+ sq ft house in the suburbs? Who said those things?

Now don’t mistake my message—getting married, buying a house, taking a vacation are in and of themselves good things. It’s great to have goals, and typically I tend to think that our friends and family give us advice that comes from a place of love and caring.

However, anyone can get married by 25. And as the housing market collapse, and $16,000 in credit card debt carried by the Average American illustrate, the financial powers that be are more than happy to exploit our feelings of “supposed to.”

The invention of credit has allowed folks to fake their way into luxury homes and cars on par with their personal Jones’ expectations.

But again, who is setting this standard?

Of course there’s the somewhat commonplace answers: we can look at friends, families, coworkers and celebrities—even people we genuinely dislike and want to be “better than.”

But what if – and this is a very real possibility – that your spouse is the one who keeps setting the socioeconomic benchmarks higher and higher with little or no concern for your bottom line? What if the worst financial decision you ever made was linking your bank account and your credit score to the person you love?

The truth is being irresponsible with your finances and disregarding your spouse’s financial goals in marriage can be equally as poisonous to the health of that relationship than if you slept with your financial planner.

Trust, security, and safety are foundational to a healthy relationship—ANY relationship.  Wondering whether or not you’re going to be able to pay your mortgage next month while your husband rides around in a new sports car or your wife is doubling her shoe collection is not only unfair—one could make the case that it’s downright abusive!

Now of course I’m not talking about that one month where you accidentally went a teensy overboard.  I’m talking about a month upon month, year upon year, failed promise to “cut back.”

To be honest, I’m really not sure how we start healing this issue as a culture.  I think one place to start is recognizing where our “supposed to” traps are hidden and make conscious efforts to release them.

We need to remove the shame that some how got associated with living within our means and silence the “They” and “Jones’” that would have us think otherwise.  Keeping up with the Jones’ and the endless list of “supposed to’s” is exhausting and expensive.

So what are the “supposed to’s” that you find yourself or your family struggling with?  Is it having the latest technology? A new car? Taking an annual family vacation or paying for extravagant Christmas presents all on a credit card?

Better yet—what are you going to do TODAY to address it?


(photo source)

Mar 17

Why Everything You Thought About Hot Sex May Be Wrong

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

what-makes-sex-hotHave you seen some of those video segments that show the extent that professional photographs are digitally manipulated?

To help people (particularly women and teen girls) grasp a more accurate picture of beauty, these documentaries visually show, step by step, how an original photo is tweaked to look more striking or more beautiful.

What we end up seeing is rarely what a person looks like in real life.

Technology has made the process seamless, allowing virtually anyone with the right software to not only remove all “flaws” from a photographed person, but also to enhance other features.

Bigger breasts. Whiter teeth. Smoother skin.

There are no limits.

A few magazine editors and photographers have willingly admitted that there is not one photograph that appears in advertising or print that has not in some way been altered.

Not. One.

What in the world does this have to do with hot sex?

Quite a bit, actually.  But not only for the obvious reasons.

Sure, our perception of body image has taken quite a hit because of all this digital manipulation.

And poor body image no doubt affects sexual intimacy in marriage — even if we landed at that “poor body image” on the rather shaky facade of fabricated visuals blaring from magazine covers, billboards and internet ads.

But the body image struggle isn’t the only thing tripping us up in bed.

The hottest most passionate sex in a marriage bed likely doesn’t look like we think it looks.

Media and Hollywood  regularly portray lovemaking, and they’ve become so skilled at portraying it that we are made to believe what we are seeing is accurate.  (That’s why they call it make believe).

It’s no wonder that when we think of “hot sex,” we aren’t just thinking of two perfect bodies.  We also are believing that those two people sexually move and engage in perfect rhythm.

Every kiss well-timed.

Every touch graceful.

Every shift in position flawless.

Every climax easily achieved.

Not even a pillow is out of place.  The room is perfectly lit.  Her make-up looks… well… like it was just touched up by an expert.  And his body is just the right shade of tan.

Hot sex.  If what you think it is seems to mirror the fabricated version, then everything you think may be wrong.

Real passion — real sex — is much messier. Much more awkward.

Honestly, this is one reason I’m not a big fan of a husband and wife videotaping themselves having sex.

Obviously, videotaping poses a huge risk that such video could fall into the wrong hands, even mistakenly.  But you also risk changing your perception on something that truly is amazing — even if it doesn’t look amazing.

Do you know what makes sex hot?

Love. Commitment. Vulnerability. Communication. Trust. Emotional transparency. Privacy. Authentic playfulness. A covenant.  Friendship. Agreement with the Lord that marital sexual pleasure and connection is right and holy and worthy of pursuit. Letting go of inhibitions.

Did you notice I did not name anything that is an outward physical attribute of the wife or husband — or even of the act itself?

Anything physically that happens during hot sex in marriage is merely a reflection of what is happening within the hearts, minds and souls of the two people there.

If you think the hottest sex comes from technique or physical beauty, I encourage you to fix your eyes on the Author of sex.

He reveals to us that sexual intimacy rooted in a godly understanding of authentic marital love and oneness will always be more profound — even hotter — than anything the world can offer up in the latest romantic movie.

Are you settling for mediocre sex in your marriage bed because you have convinced yourself you cannot have hot sex?

Mar 10

Infuse Your St. Patrick’s Day With Romantic Flavor

By Debi Walter | Romance

Infuse Your St. Patrick's Day With Romantic Flavor

Do you like to cook? I do, and I love trying new recipes. Have you ever injected an ordinary chicken with something to make it stand out from the usual? Doing so takes what’s expected and gives it a completely unexpected flavor.

In the same way I love to take holidays and infuse them with romance. Taking something ordinary like St. Patrick’s Day and infusing it with your own flavor to create a romantic memory is by far the best kind of date. It’s personal. It’s unique. And it’s all yours!

My Top Four Ideas to infuse your St. Patrick’s Day with romantic flavor-Sláinte

  1. Go Green Dinner Date–Prepare a romantic dinner using all locally grown vegetables. Use real plates instead of paper. Go green with your beverage selections too–organic wines, or locally brewed beers, or try making your own sangria. After dinner go for a bike ride or long walk. For more ideas check out this site.
  2. Clover Love–Go to your local party store and buy a pack of shamrocks. With a black magic marker, write one word on each that your love about your spouse. Hide them all over the house on St. Patrick’s Day. Be creative–put one on the dash of the car, mail one to the office, have a co-worker place it on their chair to find when they get to work, put it inside their bath towel, you get the idea. Place them in unexpected places to bless them. But tell them there’s a pot of gold to be discovered at the end of their clover search. Place a cut out of a pot of gold on your bed for them to find that night. They’ll know they’re really lucky by the end of the day.
  3. Rainbow’s End Date–This post on The Romantic Vineyard has had more hits than any other date night idea. Check it out and see what you think. 🙂
  4. Irish Pub Date–Going to an Irish Pub can be fun, but not so romantic on St. Paddy’s Day. We know because we’ve tried it. It’s way too crowded, but what if you were to bring the Pub home for a cozy date for two? Pubs are known for their dim lighting, great food, and lively entertainment. Light every candle you own in the house. Serve Irish Stew and Soda Bread. Drink green beer, if you like it, and then watch a good Irish movie or concert like Far and Away or Celtic Women.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure your spouse knows how much you love them and how lucky you feel to have them to share your life with.

(Photo Source)

Mar 03

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating Luck

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating LuckEvery day, whether you realize it or not, your life is a job interview.

You might be interviewing for a promotion, a change in responsibilities, or a completely new job, even if you aren’t necessarily looking for something different.

These stealth Q & A’s can happen in these situations, for instance:

  • When you ask a business to fix a mistake
  • When you shop for a new house
  • When you reach out to help others

Honestly, though, they can happen anywhere or anytime.

The common thread, of course, is the quality of interaction you have with others.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate how life is a job interview.

Our oldest daughter had been going to the local library since she was a baby. By the time she was a fourteen, her overwhelming enthusiasm for books, her quiet and polite demeanor, and her general knowledge of the library was well known to all who worked there. Around that time, the head librarian offered Alexis a job. Our daughter was thrilled at the opportunity and remained with them throughout high school.

Some years back, I was helping my husband pick up loaner gas grills for our annual church barbecue. At one stop, we chatted at length with a friend from church. One topic led to another, and the conversation ended with us trading phone numbers. She wanted to schedule me for interview for a position that was due to open up in a few weeks in her office. I was offered and did take the position.

Neither of these positions were ever advertised as available.

They were filled by virtue of people who had “interviewed” us over time.

Each interaction, request, and problem was an opportunity for others to see our abilities and character in the real world.

We were able to show over time what kind of individuals we were rather than just say it in an interview.

Earl Nightingale said that luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.

I would say that is exactly what happened in our case.

Following are 10 tips to help you to create that same “luck” in the job market:

1.  Keep your skills polished, and add new ones, too.

2.  Embrace failure, as it’s part of stretching your comfort zone.

3.  Maintain a positive attitude, especially when the going gets tough.

4.  Treat others with respect.

5.  Be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and learn to fight fair.

6.  Keep your social networks clean and appropriate.

7.  Practice gratitude, particularly by being generous with thank-you’s.

8.  Perform random acts of kindness regularly.

9.  Offer help with no strings attached.

10.  Encourage others.

It’s really about putting your best foot forward daily.

Not only will you be happier, but you will also shine brightly as a potential job candidate!

Question: What step can you take to be better prepared for the next stage of your work life?

(photo source)