"10 Ways Budgeting Saved My Marriage"

via www.forbes.com

On the heels of my last post about couples making New Year's resolutions together, here is an article about how working together on your spending habits can have a positive impact on your marriage. If you have already made a resolution to work on your finances (as my husband and I have), this article may help give you the incentive to stick with it as the year moves on. The writer mentions that "budgeting is not the slightest bit romantic", however, I would say that it can be very romantic. When my husband and I first met with our financial planner and began to discuss our goals, it was concrete evidence that we were planning for our future together and not just talking about it. 


It's Not Too Late!

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Although the calendar may say it's already January, when it comes to making resolutions I consider the first few weeks of the year a grace period. With the busy holiday season and many people having kids who are out of school, there's no real time before January 1st to sit down and reflect about goals for the upcoming year. You might scoff at the idea of making resolutions, but it can be helpful to start the year with a set of intentions to guide you. This can be particularly true for couples. Whether it's improving the quality of your relationship, the quality of your health, or some other area of your life, as 12 New Year's Resolutions Every Couple Should Make points out "making resolutions with a partner can help you stick to your promises and can also strengthen your relationship." Check out the article for some good suggestions or come up with your own. Just resolve at least one thing...together. Happy New Year!


"Our Perfect Merger (and Acquisition)"

Check out how one couple manages being partners in marriage as well as partners in business. Selena and Khary Cuffe own Heritage Link Brands, the largest importer to the United States of black-produced wine from Africa. In a weekly column for Inc. the couple will share their entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to keep a marriage strong while working together in a challenging business environment. Wine lovers will also enjoy the weekly wine tip.


I Survived The Holidays

I see the light at the end of the holiday tunnel. Before Christmas, the light felt like a train coming toward me. An electric train to be more specific. The train my father bought my son for Christmas and then asked me to set up so my son could come down to find it on Christmas morning. My father went on to tell me that if I set it up, my son would remember seeing the train for the rest of his life. The rest of his life. No pressure there, Dad. Without going into the details of my cursing and near-tear-filled Christmas Eve, let's just say I struggled with the train.

That's what the holidays are mostly about for me - cursing, near-tears and a heavy dose of exhaustion. These feelings are only compounded by society's expectation that I be joyful. Commercials and holiday songs tell me I should be cozied up by the fireplace smiling lovingly at my family while we sip cocoa. One song just blatantly says the holidays are the "most wonderful" time of year. That song bothers me. It always leaves me questioning what I am doing wrong that instead of wonderful, I find it the most physically and emotionally stressful time of year.

This year I decided to search for the answer. Not by turning inward to examine if I take on too much or if I've strayed from the true meaning of Christmas. No, I decided to find out who the hell is responsible for that song. It turns out "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was written in 1963 by two men, George Wyle and Edward Pola. It was first recorded later that year by Andy Williams. Further research (yes, I did research) suggests that all 3 men were married in 1963. Although the 60's was a time of great social change, marriage was still largely stuck in its traditional format of a bread-winning husband and a homemaking wife. In that moment it was all clear to me. It was the most wonderful time of year to the men who wrote and sang the song because they didn't have to do anything to get ready for it! No shopping, cooking, cleaning, holiday cards, house decorating, and no primary care for children who are overexcited, under-rested and out of school. Now I don't feel so bad about my bah humbuggy attitude. If my spouse were a 1963 wife who did all the work, I'd probably think the holidays were wonderful too.


Celebrity Marriages

I really don't like writing about celebrity marriages. We are so inundated with every detail (or speculated detail) of the lives of famous people, what more is there to say? Plus, most of the time I just don't care. I did use the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger to address infidelity, however I didn't discuss the royal wedding and have never written about Jennifers, Anniston or Lopez. Then came Kardashian-Humphries. The posts almost wrote themselves. But, I just didn't want to do it.

Recently I was standing in a store check-out line and I was hit with a 1-2 punch of celebrity relationship mayhem. The first thing I noticed was this:

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's Marriage: How It Turned Toxic | Demi Moore

 

My eyes went right to "FINAL DAYS". For a split second I thought someone died. Yes, a divorce is like the death of a marriage, but it seemed like an overly dramatic ploy to sell magazinesI was struck by the cover, but it didn't tempt me to stick my toe in the celebrity marriage waters. Then right by the People I saw this:

 

Marie Claire Magazine Kim Kardashian - P 2011

Ok, even the most "I'm above the celebrity gossip mill" blogger such as myself can only resist for so long. First of all, can you even call what they did a marriage? Only legally. The cover says Kardashian "reveals what went on in her crazy marriage." Crazy marriage? If you choose to live as a reality TV personality who constantly seeks publicity, doesn't "crazy" precede every aspect of your life? I can only hope that seeing Kardashian file for divorce as her "fairytale" wedding was still being televised dulls our country's interest in celebrity marriage. Less interest means fewer magazine covers to catch your eye while standing in store check-out lines. 


What I Am Thankful For

Thanksgiving is in a few days. I know this because I already had that moment when I freak out and realize it's actually next week instead of two weeks away. It seems to happen to me every year, which is why I prefer holidays that have an actual date. I always know when Christmas and Halloween are, but Thanksgiving and Easter sneak up on me.

Now that panic has given way to preparation, I can focus on what the day is really about (no, not football). I have started to think about what I am thankful for. Of course there is the health and well-being of my family. There is also the financial security that allows us to have a wonderful home where we can all come together to celebrate. I will definitely think about those things over the next few days, but not as much as one might expect. Not that I take our good fortune for granted. In fact, it's just the opposite. I am so aware of all of those good things that I don't wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful. I do it on Christmas, Groundhog Day and even Easter if I actually remember when it is.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches I may not be thinking so much about the health of my family. I will probably be thinking about the dinner that needs to be on the table no later than 5:00 pm. On Wednesday night I won't be thinking about our lovely home where our family will come together, I'll be thinking of just one room: the kitchen. It will be filled with uncooked food, including a turkey with a bag of something inside that I can't bring myself to touch. And in that moment, for the rest of the night, and throughout Thanksgiving day, I will be thankful for my husband. He will pull that bag out of the turkey and throw it away so I don't have to touch it. He will chop onions or boil potatoes or snap green beans. He will make a cake everyone will rave about. Then, when it's all over, together we will wash a lot of dishes.

In the days following Thanksgiving I will talk to at least one married friend who will tell me how exhausting the holiday was because of all the time she spent cooking and cleaning while her husband sat on the couch watching football. My husband likes football too, but he understands that he is not a part of the teams on the screen. He is a part of the team that we are when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving. That is what I will be most thankful for.


"All the Single Ladies" by Kate Bolick

The Atlantic - November 2011

The recent cover story of The Atlantic is a great read. Here is how Bolick describes the subject of her article:

"Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal."


Equality In Every Way

Last weekend marked the official beginning of same-sex marriage in New York. The state will now grant gay couples the legal rights of marriage, and with that comes the validation afforded to straight married couples. Beyond this, gay couples will now have another significant opportunity: the equal right to make the following mistakes straight couples have been making for years.

1. Rushing into marriage

Heterosexual couples often marry prematurely. For some there is the naivete of being young and in love, while others may find themselves drunk and in Vegas. Sometimes practical considerations drive the decision such as financial stability or the desire to have a spouse to have children. These same issues will likely impact many gay couples. Additionally, feeling they have been unfairly denied the right to marry may inspire some gay couples to marry when they might be better served by taking more time.

2. Not preparing for marriage

One of the best ways to guard against rushing into marriage is to pursue some form of marriage preparation. Although straight couples do not take advantage of this opportunity nearly enough, some are required to attend classes or counseling as a prerequisite to marrying in their church. Since many gay couples will not be able to get married in a church (or may not choose to) they can select from a variety of secular options including premarital counseling from a therapist or marriage education classes. (For a list of programs visit the Smart Marriages directory)

3. Focussing too much on the wedding

The first wave of weddings for gay couples in New York seemed to focus on substance over style. Most took place in city clerk and town hall offices. This is a far cry from the double digit bridal attendant, champagne fountain, dove-releasing extravaganzas many straight couples choose. With the average wedding costing more than $27,000, the financial burden of a "fairytale" wedding is sending some couples (and/or their parents) into debt before they even marry. Hopefully the precious nature of a right so newly acquired will cause gay couples to exercise restraint and keep their focus on the marriage instead of the wedding.

 


Arnold Schwarzenegger & the Three Degrees of Infidelity

When I first heard the news of Arnold Schwarzenegger's affair and the long-hidden child, it had an immediate impact on my mood. Of course I felt compassion for Maria Shriver and all of the children involved, but it was more than that. I took it personally. The news chipped away another little piece of my faith in men. I felt like when he burned Maria, he burned all of us who want to believe in truthful, monogamous marriage.

Now that a few days have passed I have emotional distance. It's simply a news story and a matter for those involved to handle privately (not that they will be able to do that). I still see it as a burn though, even more so after thinking about how burns are classified by degrees. I determined that cheating can be classified the same way.

First-Degree Infidelity

Classic cheating. I'm not minimizing it in any way, but unfortunately it's very common. We all know what this kind of cheating looks like.

Second-Degree Infidelity

This is when the cheating takes place in the home and/or with someone the spouse has a relationship with like a friend, family member, housekeeper or nanny. I find this particularly cruel because not only is there betrayal within the marriage, but the cheater has contributed to undermining the trust their spouse has in everyone around them. If the infidelity happens in the home it means the one place, above all others, where a person should feel comfortable is tainted.

Third-Degree Infidelity

Not only is this cheating with someone the spouse knows, it is made all the more painful because the affair has produced a child. Whenever this happens I always wonder if anybody was using protection. There are some pretty effective birth control methods available, and it would seem like if you were cheating, you would want the best. So when a child is conceived, I tend to think that birth control just wasn't used. If that is the case, the spouse has also been exposed to the full spectrum of STDs. Plus, when there is a child involved, there is a living reminder of what happened. The child will usually require that the cheating couple continue to have some level of contact. Even the most forgiving of spouses would have a hard time with that. At least financially the Schwarzenegger/Shriver family won't suffer as is often the case when people with far fewer resources have a child outside of their marriage.

As far as Schwarzenegger is concerned, I'm done. I know some people can separate an artist from their art, but that is not easy for me. Not that I was ever a big fan, but I really enjoyed the movie True Lies. Now all I see are lies.

 


Is All Fair in Love and Sports?

Sports fans are currently experiencing an embarrassment of riches. The NFL draft just concluded against the backdrop of a player lockout. It's a month into baseball season (which means Yankee fans are expecting to win the World Series and Cubs fans are already frustrated). But right now, it's all about the playoffs. With both NBA and NHL teams competing in best of seven series, fans can get a daily dose of competition at its best. For the athletes this is what the whole season is about. Careers are often defined by playoff performance. It doesn't matter if they are sick or hurt, players will do whatever it takes to survive and advance. When it comes to pushing their physical limits this may be admirable, but what is acceptable in the mental gamesmanship that is such an integral part of professional sports?

There is a debate brewing about what is out of bounds when it comes to the verbal jabs players take at one another during games. Known as "trash-talk", this strategy that athletes use to break their opponents' concentration is generally accepted as part of competition. But recently, in both hockey and basketball, some players have questioned if comments about marriage, and more specifically divorce, is talk that should be off limits. Hockey player Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres allegedly taunted two Philadelphia Flyers players about their recent divorces in game 6 of their series. In the NBA it was actually fans who used divorce as the subject of their taunts. In an effort to rattle San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker some fans of the Memphis Grizzlies brought a giant cutout of Parker's ex-wife, actress Eva Longoria.

EVA

Parker and Longoria divorced earlier this year amid rampant rumors of Parker's infidelity. Although Shane Battier plays for Memphis he thought the stunt went too far. Battier tweeted "This is just basketball, leave wives and kids out of it."

In the unofficial rules of sports, should marriage be given protected status? In addition to athletes, sports analysts are raising the question. Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, hosts of the ESPN show Pardon The Interruption, said Kaleta's taunts crossed the line. According to Wilbon, "You cannot go to divorce." However days later after the incident involving Tony Parker, he had a different opinion. Wilbon stated, "I'm sorry, I know Shane Battier doesn't think it's fair. I think it is." Hockey analyst Matthew Barnaby was very clear in his opinion when responding to Kaleta's trash-talk, "The reality is [you] say anything to get them mad or off their game."

Whatever your opinion about the sanctity of marriage on the field, court or ice, for some athletes what they say while trash-talking will be decided by results. In the hockey game, the players Kaleta taunted combined for 3 goals to help their team win, however, Tony Parker missed 7 of his first 8 shots and San Antonio lost. If you're trying to get the best of your opponent and he's just gone through a messy divorce, some players just won't pass that up. After all it's the playoffs, and when it comes to pursuing championships it's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose. 

 


Psychology Today Survey on Marriage, Remarriage & Divorce

How would you have responded to this survey from Psychology Today? The section I found most interesting was how people answered the question regarding what changes they want to see in marriage and divorce.

"...most wanted to see more education and counseling brought in (50.9% and 54.5% respectively). 38.2% wanted to see marriage harder to get into, 21.8% wanted to see marriage harder to get out of. A surpring 14.5 stated that they wanted to see polygamy made legal and close to 10% voted for term limits."


I Can't Believe She Said That

Recently I ran into a woman I first met many years ago before either one of us was married or had children. As we traded stories about our families it came up that my children's last names are a hyphenated combination of mine (which I didn't change when I got married) and my husband's. Her response was "Your husband let you do that?" I was stunned, but she continued on and shortly after we said our goodbyes.

After our encounter I couldn't shake the comment. What she said made every feminist hair on the back of my neck stand up. If this was the 70's I might have burned a bra. Although I must admit during most of the 70's I wasn't old enough for a bra, and I certainly couldn't play with matches. Since it's 2011 I probably should have tweeted something. But I did neither. I did what many wives do when something crazy happens in their day, I called my husband. His take on the comment was that she probably didn't mean it in the literal way I took it. He thought she was really just commenting on what a unique, progressive husband I have. Clearly I was not getting an objective opinion from him.

So, I was left to draw my own conclusion. I don't know what she actually meant so I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But for future reference, no woman should ever say a husband "let" a wife do anything.


TODAY's Missed Opportunity

Since TODAY is my morning show of choice, every year about this time I get to watch as TODAY throws a wedding. Viewers select a couple from 4 finalists and then proceed to vote on everything from the wedding attire to the reception site to the rings. All of the choices are made in a matter of weeks and then the couple gets married live on the show. While I can understand the appeal of having someone else make all the decisions (and foot the bill), it seems the couples who participate in this annual TODAY event miss out on a rite of passage. Planning a wedding is often a couple's first foray into the kind of negotiations and decision making they will have to do as they move forward in married life. This is especially true now that more grooms are participating in wedding planning and many couples are often paying for some or all of their wedding expenses. 

As much as couples may benefit from planning their own wedding, the bigger missed opportunity here is that TODAY gives away this fantasy wedding without requiring the couple to do one thing to prepare for their marriage! The producers could entertain and inform the audience if they asked the couple to attend a marriage preparation class or see a premarital counselor. Why don't they have the viewers vote on that as opposed to something as insignificant as the bride's wedding day hairstyle?


Is Tiger Tanking Good for Marriage?

I am not a person who takes pleasure in other people's misfortunes, but I found myself pleased that Tiger Woods just had the worst tournament of his career. I wasn't thrilled, mind you, I am not a terrible person. But just the fact that I felt any enjoyment caused me to reflect on the source of my feelings.

On the surface, it's just good old fashioned karma. Most of us want to believe that a person who does bad things will have bad things happen to them. It comforts us to believe there is order and justice in the world. But for me it was more than just wanting some karmic retribution for one guy I don't even know. I realized that when Tiger Woods lost I felt something bigger. I felt like infidelity lost. I felt like breaking up a family lost.

As a society (especially one that pays so much attention to those we deem celebrities) maybe we need Tiger to lose now. He is our poster child for actions having consequences. Losing the way he did shows that his behavior was not only detrimental to his family, it has also proven to be incredibly self-destructive. 

When I thought more about my reaction, I was surprised to find something redemptive in Tiger's struggles on the course. They give him a conscience. For the first time I saw him as somebody who might actually care about what he did, and not just a man who cared he got caught.


Elizabeth Edwards

After seeing Elizabeth Edwards on TODAY talking about the affair of her husband, former Senator John Edwards, I was both saddened and angry. Mrs. Edwards called the other woman "pathetic" and suggests that she seduced her husband with lines like "You are so hot." I feel sorry that Elizabeth Edwards has had to go through her private pain in the public eye, all while she is battling breast cancer and taking care of her young children. But I must say, hearing her blame the mistress is infuriating, and by making such comments she is making herself the one who looks pathetic.

The one responsible for this affair is John Edwards. The concept of "seduction" should be left to screenwriters and romance novelists. It has no place in a real life discussion of adult behavior. And do you really want to say he fell for being called "hot". If that's what it took to tempt a married man launching a presidential campaign then he was on the verge of it anyway. If it was not this so-called pathetic woman it would have been the next one. 

If that wasn't enough to get me worked up (and it was), when asked about the speculation that John Edwards fathered a child with the mistress, Elizabeth Edwards said she had "no idea" about the child's paternity. Maybe I need to wait to hear the rest of the interview on Oprah on May 7th, but isn't this a piece of information you would be a little bit more eager to have?

I understand that marriages are very complex, especially those like the Edwards that carry the burdens of losing a child and an illness such as cancer. We do not know what has happened in their relationship to bring them to this point. I just hate to see a woman who has demonstrated courage and grace in the face of so much adversity compromise herself by suggesting that the responsibility lies anywhere other than with her husband.


We Love This Game

I'm sitting here with my computer trying to come up with something thought provoking, but I just can't concentrate. We're at the 3:11 mark in game 2 of the Bulls-Celtics series. It's playoff time and my husband and I are sitting together watching the game. Damn! The Bulls just lost. Okay, before this starts to sound like a sports blog, let me bring it back to marriage. 

I wouldn't say my husband and I are fanatics, but we have always enjoyed watching sports together. I remember talking about sports on our first date and he made a joke that I had just met one of his criteria. Our second date was at a sports bar. I'm pretty sure that was my suggestion. Since then we've logged many hours watching basketball (and football, baseball, tennis, etc.) But we don't just watch the games, we give commentary. Sometimes I'll bring up something I saw on ESPN (I love Pardon the Interruption) or he mentions an article he read in Sports Illustrated. Mostly it's just stuff we think of in the moment, "The refs are calling this one tight." or "He's a streaky shooter." If you watched a game with us it might get a little annoying, but for us it's part of the fun.

 

I think couples need these kinds of experiences. Simple moments that connect you. Maybe these small things are what help keep us together when big things like kids and money can pull us apart. Of course I can't credit basketball for the happiness in my marriage. But, when we're watching a game and saying the Bulls need to start rebounding, I can look over at him and be reminded that we really are good together. And let's face it, sometimes we need that reminder. So, bring on game 3 and I will have a little of my own love and basketball.