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Marriage And Money: How To Improve Communication And Minimize Money Fights

By Dustin | Communication

My favorite

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Brad Chaffee from Enemy of Debt.

Are you married? Do you have an income? If so, then chances are you have experienced an occasional, or NOT so occasional money fight.

I can tell you from experience that they are never fun, and often end with slamming doors and pots and pans embedded in the dry wall. 😉 Since managing money, or the lack of it, is one of the leading causes for divorce, I want to help you deal with the problem at hand.

Don’t get me wrong, eliminating money fights alone won’t save a broken marriage, but it will help you address some major marital issues. Money fights happen for many reasons, but let me share with you some of the reasons my wife and I used to fight about money.

  • Poor Communication – This is likely the most destructive problem in many marriages. We had very poor communication skills. Have you ever tried dealing with a fight when you cannot even communicate?
  • Overdraft Fees – Not keeping track of our money caused many fights over hundreds of dollars in fees. “It was your fault!” “No it was yours!” (constant bickering—later we realized it was both our fault.)
  • No Emergency Fund – Without one of these you are FORCED to rely on debt to get you through life. That is absolutely no way to live.
  • Lack of Management – We pointed fingers, placed blame, and fought like crazy, but none of that ever solved a thing.
  • Collection Calls/Letters – Talk about stress! When you are living paycheck to paycheck—as we were, this will provoke the meanest of fights.
  • Unpaid Bills – Need I say more? When you are having trouble paying your bills—what do you expect? Evictions, foreclosures, shut-off utilities, and car repossessions are scary things to deal with.
  • Unexpected Emergencies – My wife and I went $2,000 in debt one time for a major plumbing problem. Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall? You would have heard some words back then.
  • Growing Debt – Since you said your wedding vows, ever wonder why “till debt do us part” was not used to replace “till death do us part”? In America, the first one usually comes before the second one. Maxed out credit cards were our biggest problem.
  • Out of Control Spending – We used to go to Super Wal-Mart and spend $200 a weekend on only God knows what. We never really figured out where it all went either. Certainly not to our net worth.

Yep, we used to fight all the time about money. So much in fact, there was a brief period in time when we were out-of-touch and distant from each other. We experienced resentment, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, insecurity, and embarrassment. No wonder one of the biggest reasons given for the cause of divorce is related to financial issues.

What Did We Do?

We gained control of our money before it ruined us completely! That’s right, we changed the way we handled our money. Sounds too easy doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t go that far because it was no picnic, and it took us some time to get to where we are today. Oh we still argue, after all, we’re human, but believe me when I say our marriage has improved dramatically since we changed our money habits.

Here’s a list of things we did to face our problems head on.

  • Started communicating about our goals and desires – What we wanted, where we wanted to be, and how we wanted to get there, became questions of importance. (the start of something truly wonderful!)
  • Started our Total Money Makeover – This is BY FAR, the very best thing we have EVER started. You should go out right now and borrow this book from your local library. Dave Ramsey helped US change our life!
  • Stopped borrowing money…period! – We decided to never borrow another dime for the rest of our lives, so we would be able to enjoy the freedom we deserve. We have no debt right now except for our house and haven’t borrowed a dime since January of 2008. People around us insisted that it was impossible to live without credit cards, car loans, and student loans. No credit cards, two nice paid-for-with-cash cars, and attending college student loan free—so who was wrong? Hard? Yes, but WAY WORTH IT!
  • Realized that we were a team – Instead of putting your financial matters on one person to manage, you should try working together as a team. You cannot argue and place blame about something that was mutually agreed upon.
  • Started a real budget—as a teamA budget is essential to taking real control over your money. Telling every dollar where to go before you even get paid, and sticking to it, gives you a better understanding of where you are headed—making any financial decisions much easier to manage.
  • Eliminated wasteful spending – Doing a budget and having a plan helps you WANT TO cut back on non-essentials, especially when you are saving money and paying my enemy off—debt be gone. Motivation baby!
  • Saved an Emergency Fund – We saved $2,000 in 2 months to start our Total Money Makeover. We have had MANY emergencies since, and not once have we had to borrow money to get us through difficult times.
  • We became Debt Free – It took us 18 months to pay off our debt and we have enjoyed the benefits of doing so very much. Now we have options, and options are great! Our mortgage is paid through January to enable my wife to be able to take 3 months off after the baby, and I get to take off an entire month with no pay to enjoy my beautiful family. Options ROCK!

Did All Of Our Problems Just Vanish Overnight?

Not exactly. Even after all this, we still had our issues concerning money, and it took time and some learning on both our parts to iron them out. Most of the problems were directly related to the budgeting process, which takes extreme amounts of patience to work.

Needless to say, we have really improved in the communication department and the honest truth is—we did so because managing our money was MOST of our problem. We just didn’t know it until we started communicating better.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that if you want to improve your marriage, one of the main things you must address is your money. It forces communication, and if it doesn’t, your problem is much deeper than just money.

Something else you should consider is becoming debt free. When your income can be used as a tool to build wealth and security, instead of being used to pay off mountains of debt—life is a lot less stressful, but I digress. I’ll save that one for a future guest post.

Enjoy your marriage so you can enjoy life.   Do not let the things you CAN control come between you and your spouse. You can do this money thing!
______________________________________

Brad Chaffee is the author of Enemy of Debt, and a regular contributor at the Self Reliance Exchange. Brad has become debt free by paying off $26,076.75 in just 20 months!! Learn more about Brad and his mission to rid the world of debt, one post at a time, by subscribing here.

Attention Ladies: Your Husband Cannot Read Your Mind!

By Dustin | Communication

Communicating with your Husband

When I hear from the Engaged Marriage community, I have noticed two interesting trends that are very consistent.

First, around 75% of those who reach out are female, and almost every one of these great ladies has said they would like more posts related to Communication in Marriage.

Well, be careful what you ask for! 🙂

While I noticed that many women cited Communication as a huge issue, it was not a top response for the men I’ve spoken with.  It occurred to me that I needed to write a post (many actually) to help bridge the disconnect.

To start, I thought I’d deal with an issue that has popped up in our marriage repeatedly over the years.  Honestly, it is still an issue, but we are certainly getting better at dealing with it.

So, what’s the big secret?

Wedding Ring Equals E.S.P.

Doesn’t it seem like your husband or fiance should just know that the laundry needs to be done and your sweater can only be washed on the delicate cycle?  It should be obvious that helping out with the kid’s science fair exhibit is priority number one the night before it’s due, right?

And if you have to tell him that you really like the Russian White paint color for the shelves worlds better than that putrid Eggshell White option, he just doesn’t even know you.  I mean seriously, how can the man you love be so darn thick sometimes?

Ladies, I am hear to tell you that he really doesn’t know!  Men cannot read minds.  And not only can we not read minds, we are oftentimes very inept at picking up on subtle (and not so subtle) hints.

Most of the time, we really do intend to please you and help out with all of the many family duties that we share in our households.  And we are happy to do so if we are made aware, very clearly aware, of what is expected of us.

So, What’s a Gal to Do?

Whether you have your own kids are not, you are probably aware of how direct you have to be when communicating with children.  I am here to tell you that when you really want something to be done correctly and to your exact specifications, your best bet is to take this same approach with your husband.

I am not saying that you treat your husband like a child.  But I am telling you that many times your husband perceives and infers with the effectiveness of a child.  And we very rarely do a good job of reading your thoughts.

So, you now know that men are thick sometimes (news flash, right?).  To get what you want, your best bet is to communicate your desires clearly.

This could mean that you write things down with specific instructions when necessary.  You can make a real honey-do list, which we actually prefer because we can check off all the great things we have accomplished as we get them done.

When you tell your husband something, make sure he really hears you.  If you have something important to discuss, maybe you should bring it up during your 15 minutes as a couple that day to ensure you are fully in tune with one another.

Not So Fast, Gentlemen

Sorry guys, you are not off the hook here.  You really need to listen to your wife when she speaks to you.

That’s listen, not just hear, as there is a huge difference.

And by all means do some things for your wife and family without being asked.  I like to keep a mental checklist (yours could be an actual list) of things that my wife has asked me repeatedly to do over time. I am far from perfect, and my own thickness causes me to forget or overlook opportunities to serve my wife better.

However, I strive very hard to remain plugged into her needs, even if they seem menial to me (Russian White?, I mean seriously).

When you take a proactive approach and get things done before your spouses asks, you look like a real gentleman.  Trust me fellas, an empty kitchen sink can be a very romantic sight to a busy wife.

Okay, so I need to work on that one.

Now That You Know…

For most of you, this post was not necessarily filled with earth-shattering revelations.  However, with something as fundamental as good communication skills, I think we can all use a friendly reminder from time-to-time.  The important thing is that you actually take some action as a result of reading this stuff.

Ladies, the next time you “wish” your husband would do something, just tell him rather than expecting him to read your mind.  It may seem like he should just know, but many times he really does not and getting frustrated about it doesn’t help either of you.  Show him the way and he will learn what you expect of him more clearly.

Gentlemen, just know sometimes.  Give some conscious thought to something that you could do for your wife without being asked.

And do it…tonight.  You don’t have to tell her that you read some dude’s post on the internet.

Just do it and don’t say a word.  When your wife notices and questions you about it, just tell her “I love you, babe, and I know I need to help out more.  Please just let me know when you have something you’d like me to do.”

Photo by CarbonNYC

Fight Fair! 6 Simple Conflict Resolution Skills for Your Marriage

By Dustin | Communication

Fight Fair! 6 Simple Conflict Resolution Skills for Your MarriageIf you are married or in a serious relationship, I bet it’s fair to say that you have had disagreements with your partner.  For most of us, that’s putting it lightly.

It’s only natural that spouses that spend so much time together are going to have conflicts.

Whenever we do fight, it is critical that we use healthy conflict resolution skills and fight fair!

Remember, when an argument arises, your goal is to resolve the issue at-hand and not to hurt your loved one.

A healthy and marriage-oriented style of conflict resolution strives for two winners through compromise and understanding.  If your actions are not conducive to resolving the issue at hand, then you are not fighting fair.

Of course, this is easier said than done in the heat of the moment.

Fortunately, by adopting some simple rules for fair fighting, you really can allow cooler heads to prevail and resolve conflicts without causing long-term damage to your relationship.

My wife and I learned about these easy-to-remember-rules when they were presented by another (older and wiser) couple at a Pre-Cana marriage preparation course where we were instructing on a different subject.  Their topic was communication, and healthy conflict resolution is a vital aspect of good communication.

Like most good advice, these rules for fighting fair are provided in the form of a great acronym: FIGHTS.

Face each other

Look into each others eyes as you discuss problems.

This is particularly difficult for those who are used to guerrilla warfare – shouting some nasty comment, slamming down the phone or slamming a door – leaving no room for discussion because your partner is absent.  However, two people can be in the same room and still be absent.

Put down the paper or turn off the TV, and come out of hiding.  You both need to participate.

Ignore distractions

Focus on resolving only the problem at hand.   Avoid raising side issues.

Guard your tongue

Avoid ridiculing and name-calling.

Name-calling is like swearing, and it attacks your partner’s character.  Once name-calling enters the fight, your partner won’t hear anything you say, no matter how right you might be.

He becomes too busy thinking about how to defend himself instead of listening to you.

Hold the history

“You always”, “why can’t you ever”, and “you never” are examples of history.  And history doesn’t belong in your arguments.

Bringing up history indicates to your partner that nothing will ever change and that the past has not been forgiven or forgotten.

Touch

Hold hands.  This position softens the heart and makes us feel vulnerable to each other.

We are more willing to be reasonable and caring than to win at all costs when we hold hands.

Stay in there

Finish the fight.  Don’t go to bed with unresolved anger.

Finally, you must be open to compromise.  You can walk hand-in-hand without always seeing eye-to-eye.

If you and your spouse take these rules to heart during a calm time,  you can set healthy ground rules for conflict resolution that will serve you well in your marriage.

When my wife and I argue and come to realize that we’re out of bounds and not following the “fighting fair guidelines”, one of us says “we’re not fighting fair” and we look at each other and laugh.

Then we get back to actually working to resolve the real issue.

 

No discussion on communication would be complete without some attention to conflict resolution.

Conflict is unavoidable … However, if you must fight … First adopt some rules for fighting fair.

Remember, your goal is to resolve the issue …

A healthy and marriage oriented style of conflict strives for two winners through compromise and understanding

M       Published guidelines on Conflict Resolution skills also helped us to understand much about ourselves,

and what we were doing “wrong” … “wrong” meaning not conducive to resolving the issue at hand.   Now when

we argue, and come to realize we’re “out of bounds” … not following the “fighting fair” guidelines, one of us

says “we’re not fighting fair” … and we look at each other and laugh.  Then we get back to actually working

to resolve the real issue.

  • Face each other Look into each others eyes as you discuss problems.  This

is particularly difficult for those of us who are used to guerrilla warfare — shouting some nasty comment,

slamming down the phone or slamming a door — leaving no room for discussion because your partner is absent.

However, two people can be in the same room and still be absent … Put down the paper or turn off the TV,

and come out of hiding.  You both need to participate.

  • Ignore distractions Focus on resolving only the problem at hand.   Avoid raising side issues.
  • Guard your tongue Avoid ridiculing & name-calling.   Name-calling is like swearing; and attacks your partner’s  character. Once name-calling enters the fight, your partner won’t hear anything you say, no matter how right you might be. He becomes too busy thinking about how to defend himself instead of listening to you.
  • Hold the history “You always”, “why can’t you ever”, and the “you never”

are examples of history … And history doesn’t belong in your arguments.  Bringing up history indicates to your partner that nothing will ever change and that the past has not been forgiven or forgotten.

  • Touch Hold hands. This position softens the heart and makes us feel       vulnerable to each other … We are more willing to be reasonable and caring than to win at all costs, when we hold hands.
  • Stay in there Finish the fight … Don’t go to bed with unresolved anger.

B        Finally, be open to compromise … you can walk hand-in-hand without always seeing eye-to-eye.

Have You Tried a Marriage Retreat?

By Dustin | Communication

My wife and I experienced our first marriage retreat over the weekend, and  I must say I am pumped!  The particular retreat that we attended was called “Living in Love” and it was presented from a Catholic perspective.  This is appropriate for us because we are practicing Catholics and our faith is very important to us.

That said, I came away from the retreat with the strong feeling that any couple, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, could benefit from participation in one of these weekends away.  I am sure that quality marriage retreats are available in a wide variety of spiritual and even secular settings.

When is the last time that you and your spouse blocked out an entire weekend just for yourselves without the distractions of kids, family, work or social activities?  And beyond that, have you ever taken two solid days to focus exclusively on your marriage and the unique relationship that you share?

This was the first time for us, and I can tell you that it was a very powerful and moving experience!  We shared our deepest desires for our lives, we unearthed deep-seated goals and passions that we hadn’t considered for years, and we shared some moments together that brought us both to tears.

From the perspective of someone who rarely cries for any reason, it was the tears that surprised me the most.  There were healing tears from old wounds, regrets and reconciliation.  But there were many more tears of joy and honest thankfulness for the life that we have shared.  I have truly never appreciated my wife and our marriage more in all of our years together.

So, I am asking you, imploring you really, to consider experiencing a retreat with your spouse.  I am confident that you will come back to your daily lives with a new perspective and a better appreciation of your marriage and your life.

Photo by Nelson D.

Be Consistent with Child Discipline or Be in the Doghouse!

By Dustin | Children , Communication

Good Discipline for Children or Else

Our family enjoyed a (mostly) relaxing Labor Day weekend spent camping, fishing and visiting with lots of family.  However, due to my own shortcomings, the trip ended on a bit of a sour note that reminded me of the importance of good listening (especially to my dear wife…who will likely read this at some point…did I mention she is beautiful?) and consistency when disciplining our children.

It all started innocently enough.  My son was enjoying some morning fishing time with his Grandpa, and he developed an affinity (okay, maybe borderline obsession) with the plastic “fishy” fishing lures in the tackle box he was supposed to be sitting on.  Don’t worry, these were without hooks so they were mostly safe if you discount their apparent addictive properties.

So, we have a four-year-old boy rapidly “collecting” small plastic fish of a truly alluring variety.  Well, at some point a limit was established and the little guy was mostly okay with his three new pets.  A bit later, he decided he needed just one more fish (or so I thought), a small piece of sparkly gold in his eyes.

Listen to your wifeWhile I was enjoying a few moments of semi-peace in a nearby lawn chair, I overheard his (very dear) mother sternly telling the child that no more fish would removed from the tackle box.  No more fish!  I said no more!  If you can’t listen, you’ll just have to be in timeout.  And to timeout he went.  Fair enough, he deserved some discipline and needed to chill out.

Enter Daddy O’ The Doghouse

And here’s where Daddy gets his dog bone.  My son served his time in the penalty box with honor.  Upon discharge, he approached the forbidden box of tackle.  Ah, don’t worry Mama, Daddy’s got this situation under control.  What we need here is a grand solution, a win-win, a use of superior intellect to fool this child into believing he is getting his way while actually advancing the parental motives.  Brilliant!

In my best Daddy-knows-best voice, I tell the young man that he cannot have any additional fishing lures.  However, he may elect, if he so chooses, to trade in his three fish for the single sparkly fish of his heart’s great desire.  At this point, I can see a real role in world politics and peace-building in my future.  And the young, naive boy took the offer with zest!

The Great Negotiator?  Maybe Not.

A few moments later, I get “the look” as Mama has seen the new sparkly fish.  I can tell this is not a good reaction, but I am puzzled.  I have not added a fish to his collection.  No way, I’ve actually reduced the number of outstanding lures by two.  What could be the problem here?

I was sternly informed that the original argument was over the proposition the young boy had made to make a trade for a different fish.  At first, I think, “Wow, this kid is brilliant…a chip off the old block.”  Then I believe the color began to leave my face as I realized what I had done.

Parent skills should be rewardedWith a single act of not listening fully (and not asking later), I had contradicted my wife’s worthy parental discipline.  I had given our son exactly what he wanted after he had been disciplined for not taking no for an answer earlier.  This was clearly a bad move that served as a poor example of consistent parenting.  Ouch.  Bad Dad, Bad.

So, into the Doghouse of shame I was sent for most of the drive home from the campsite that morning.  And rightfully so, as I had made a fairly serious parenting mistake simply by not listening well.  To my wife’s credit, she threw me a bone and let it go pretty quickly.  Did I mention she is a great wife, smart and witty, gorgeous too…

Doghouse photo courtesy of ClicPhoto Studio; Tackle Box photo courtesy of jasonippolito; Dog Bone photo courtesy of ktylerconk