Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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    Top 10 Potential Marriage Pitfalls

    Here's what some couples say are major issues to deal with in marriage, according to a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. 

    1. Problems sharing leadership
    2. One partner is too stubborn
    3. Stress created by child-rearing differences
    4. One partner is too negative or critical
    5. One partner wishes the other had more time
    6. One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings
    7. Feeling responsible for issues
    8. Avoiding conflict with partner
    9. Difficulty completing tasks
    10. Differences never get resolved

    Building a healthy marriage means that you have learned to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Build on your strengths and find ways to creatively address your differences. Conflict management/resolution skills are crucial.

    In strong marriages, both partners say:

    • their partner understands their positions,

    • they feel free to share their feelings and ideas,

    • they take disagreements seriously, and

    • they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

    The happiest couples said they were satisfied with the way they communicate, find it easy to express their feelings and find their partner to be a good listener. They note that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

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    Keys to a Smokin' Hot Marriage

    You found your “soul mate,” dated and fell madly in love. Before long you were fantasizing about what your wedding and wedding night would be like. The honeymoon was wonderful, and so were the weeks and months that followed.

    As you slowly get down to the business of marriage, tasks, opportunities, decisions and real life can hit you square in the face.

    After a couple of years, your home and roles in married life are down to a routine. Looking to the future, you suddenly realize that your romantic life has become as routine as the household chores.

    Since the routine doesn’t have the magic it once had, you wonder, "Did I really marry my soul mate?"

    “This is an all-too-familiar story for many people,” says Dr. Pat Love, author, speaker and educator. "People find this very disconcerting. They know couples who are talking divorce which makes the lack of passion in their own marriage a bit more concerning. Couples have the baby, the recession, responsibilities, job insecurity, and so many irons in the fire that the fire has gone out of the bedroom. Their commitment is strong, yet there is this gnawing worry that maybe they should be doing something to flame the embers and get the fire going again.”

    During the first two years of marriage, couples get a free dopamine ride. Everything is new and exciting and they have an elevated sex drive. But dopamine levels drop around the two-year mark, and spouses begin to wonder what is wrong. To make matters worse, they rarely talk about what is happening in their relationship.

    “These disconcerting thoughts can lead to arguments about things that don’t have anything to do with the real issue at hand – what has happened to us. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage," Love says. "If you can’t talk about it in a healthy productive way, both spouses are likely to be dissatisfied. This quickly moves to discontentment which can lead to the dissolution of a perfectly good marriage.”

    Perhaps the passion in your marriage has fizzled. If you want to make sure it stays alive, you can still fan the flames.

    Believe it or not, there are classes and events for couples on topics just like this. In a safe and fun environment, you can consider what makes you feel close to each other. You can also learn how to talk about sexuality and sensuality without being overly-sensitive or blaming.

    To learn more about fully understanding your spouse’s needs or how to deal with differences in creating passion and intimacy in your relationship, please contact us or check out our classes for married couples.

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    How to Select a Marriage Counselor

    It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

    “After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was."

    According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

    During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage - simply love gone cold.

    “People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. "Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

    “How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

    This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

    “Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

    Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

    • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.

    • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.

    • During the interview, ask about the following:

    What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).

    What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).

    This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).

    • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

    Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce. Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

    If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family's life.

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    Where Does the Money Go?

    Do you ever wonder at the end of the month where in the world your hard-earned money went? It’s like money is falling out of a hole in your wallet!

    Consider this: if you buy a cup of coffee for $1.96, one chicken biscuit for $1.99, and a $3 magazine, you’ve spent almost $10 at the drop of a hat.

    “Little expenses really add up,” says Laura Coleman, personal financial educator with LFE Institute. “Most people don’t think about where their money is going. They make money and spend it, but they don’t have a system for managing it.”

    Coleman worked with one couple living paycheck to paycheck. With five children and a sixth on the way, the couple’s goal was to live on one paycheck so she could be a stay-at-home mom. When Coleman started working with them, they had basically decided they had to have a second income.

    “Money was causing a lot of conflicts and they had no idea what was happening with their finances,” Coleman shares. “They moved to a smaller home, lowering their monthly payment and got rid of a vehicle, but still needed two incomes. I worked with them to open communication and develop an overall strategy to find extra money and plug leaks. Within a short amount of time, we found $1,600. They were shocked.”

    Coleman contends that two of the biggest issues for couples concerning money are different spending styles and lack of open communication. When people don’t have control over their money and have no idea where it is going, they buy things they can’t afford, use their credit cards as part of their income, and there’s never anything left to save for the future.

    “I have been helping people with their finances for many years, starting out as a mortgage originator,” Coleman says. “Our clients were buried in debt and struggling to pay their bills. What they needed was education and the skills to manage the money they had, not another loan. I wanted to provide solutions, not create more problems.”

    As a financial coach, Coleman helps people develop a plan for managing their money. One of the first steps is to understand that spending is often a choice and as consumers we only have one chance to spend that dollar. LFE’s “$1,000 Card” helps people ask the right questions to make smart choices and save money.

    • Did I plan to buy this?

    • If I have to pay cash do I still want it?

    • What will happen if I don’t buy this?

    • Do I need this or just want it?

    The next step is to discuss financial goals.

    “When people tell me they want to be financially successful I ask them to define success,” Coleman says. “One person might consider success being able to pay down their mortgage while their spouse defines success as having money in the bank. We work together to establish goals the whole family can get excited about.”

    But there's more! Once couples have common goals, Coleman teaches them strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debt, avoid financial traps and ease family conflicts over money. “Financial freedom comes from taking control of your finances,” Coleman asserts.

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    How Can I Save Money?

    The media often talks about the economy, and they usually say it will probably get worse before it gets better.

    “Families are getting hit hard on the basics like gas and food,” says Debbie Brown, vice president of investments with Raymond James & Associates.

    “Studies indicated that close to 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. People have been so focused on buying what they want regardless of the terms. Now, they are forced to rethink how they spend money.”

    An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15, 609 in credit card debt.

    “When people make decisions about spending they often operate out of emotion instead of thinking through the decision,” Brown says. “I know people who purchase items based on what their next paycheck will be versus what they have in the bank. In this economy nothing is certain. I encourage families to take a hard look at their spending, to set priorities and a budget and to live within their means. With energy and food costs going up, this can truly be challenging.”

    Brown says these ideas can help families stretch their dollars as far as possible:

    • Establish a family budget. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the cost of living. Involve them in the process so they understand what it costs for electricity, water, cable, eating out, clothing, insurance, etc. Ask them to contribute ideas for ways family members can help conserve like turning off lights when leaving a room, carpooling or riding the bus.

    • Take your lunch. Instead of buying lunch at school and work, take your lunch. The Browns figured they could save at least $50 a week ($2,600 a year) by not eating out.

    • Be intentional about running errands. Think about where you need to go and whether or not you will be in the area for some other reason during the week.

    • Examine your cable options. You may be able to significantly reduce your fee by agreeing to fewer channels.

    • Buy your specialty coffee at the grocery store. Instead of spending $3.50 on a daily cup of coffee, get specialty coffee from the grocery store and brew it yourself for about 17 cents per cup.

    • Go through the drive through to cash a check. Paying ATM transaction fees can add up to some serious cash.

    • Don’t buy on impulse. Many times we see things we think we need, but the truth is we can live without it.

    “So many people think of budgeting as a negative,” Brown says. “I think this is a great opportunity for parents to challenge their kids to see how far they can help make the family income go each month. Most young people have no idea how much it costs to fill up the gas tank or buy groceries, much less heat or cool a home.”

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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

    Some couples marry and have lots of time to nurture their relationship before children come along. Other couples marry and bring children into the marriage relationship immediately. Either way, when children enter the picture, the marriage relationship often resembles two ships passing in the night.

    There is no question that parenting focuses a lot of energy and love toward the children. And sometimes it becomes a challenge to have anything left for your spouse.

    While research indicates that marital satisfaction decreases when you have children, it doesn’t mean couples should throw in the towel. Many assume that after children come along, the kids should be the main focus. But studies show that child-centered marriages are the ones that are most at risk for distress. Focusing on building a strong marriage is a wonderful thing to give your children... and yourself. But, any parent can tell you that is easier said than done!

    In many instances both spouses are running 90 to nothing trying to juggle the kids, work, take care of household duties and care for their marriage. If couples don’t have their guard up, tyranny of the urgent can push date night to the bottom of the list in a flash.

    “If your marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong - your life will be more peaceful, you’ll be a better parent, and you’ll, quite simply, have more fun in your life,” says Elizabeth Pantley, mother, author and parenting expert.

    Being intentional about taking care of your marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. Pantley offers some helpful (and free) tips that don’t require extra hours in your day.

    • Look for the good and overlook the bad. When you are tired and stressed, it's easy to focus on the negative. Train yourself to look for the good qualities in your spouse.

    • Give two compliments every day. Life often gets so crazy that you might think something like, “She sure looks pretty in that outfit,” or “I really appreciate the ways he engages our children,” without actually saying it. Think about how you feel when you receive a compliment. They aren’t hard to give and they don’t cost a dime.

    • Pick your battles. It is easy to fall into the trap of fighting over silly things that truly will not matter 24 hours from now. Before you gear up for battle, ask yourself if this is really a big deal. In many instances the answer is no.

    • Be intentional about spending time with your spouse. It might be early in the morning or in the evening after you have put the children to bed, or even better – a date night. This is the hardest part because the tyranny of the urgent typically reigns. Some parents have formed a co-op where they take turns taking care of each other’s children in order to allow for couple time.

    While loving your children is important, making time for each other should be at the top of the list. After all, the heart of the family is marriage and it's really important to keep that focus. Even though it probably doesn’t feel like it right now, your children will become adults in the blink of an eye. Then they will start their own families and it will just be the two of you again.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    4 Tips for Becoming a Team in Marriage

    After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

    One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

    “My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

    Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

    “I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife's insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

    “For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

    Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

    “It is truly in a couple's best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble 'cutting the apron strings,' helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

    If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

    • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.

    • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.

    • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.

    • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

    “Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

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    Who Handles the Money?

    Who handles the money in your home? What kind of debt load do you carry? How often do you argue about spending money?

    The 2009 State of Our Unions: Marriage in America research conducted by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, focused on money and marriage, including the influence that debt, assets, spending patterns and materialism have on marriage.

    The findings indicate a strong correlation between consumer debt and marital satisfaction.

    The study found that money matters are some of the most important problems in contemporary married life. Compared to other issues, financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands.

    Contributing researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Dew, professor of family studies at Utah State University, found that credit card debt and financial conflict are corrosive to marriages. Couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who disagree about it a few times a month. Dew also found that couples with no assets were 70 percent more likely to divorce than couples with $10,000 in assets.

    Interestingly, perceptions of how well one’s spouse handles money plays a role in shaping the quality and stability of family life in the United States. And, people who feel that their spouse does not handle money well report lower levels of marital happiness.

    Materialist spouses are also more likely to suffer from marital problems. Materialistic individuals report more financial problems in their marriage and more marital conflict, whether they are rich, poor or middle-class. For these husbands and wives, it would seem that they never have enough money.

    Maybe you’ve never given much thought to how you spend your money. Perhaps it never even occurred to you that what you are or are not doing with your money directly impacts the state of your marriage.

    It’s never too late to make changes. Here are some suggestions from financial experts:

    • Start with a conversation about your financial goals. If this is not something you can do by yourselves, consider attending a class on managing your finances.

    • Put all of your financial documents in a central location and go through them as a couple.

    • Track your spending. In order to make appropriate changes, you need to know where your money is going.

    • Start an emergency fund. Even putting a small amount in each month can be a safety net when you need extra cash.

    • Make a budget and commit to living within your means.

    One of the secrets to marital bliss is making sure that you control the money together instead of letting money control you. There seems to be something powerful, even sexy, about working with your mate to control your finances.

    Check out crown.org, daveramsey.com or MagnifyMoney.com for information on establishing a budget. You'll also find information for reducing debt, eliminating unnecessary fees and saving for the future.

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    What Women Need to Know About Men

    Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-educated analyst who wants to enable men and women to have healthy, long-lasting marriages.

    "I travel a lot," says Feldhahn. "People frequently ask me what I do, and my usual response is: 'I help women understand men.' The men usually laugh and say, 'You know, we really aren't that complicated.'"

    Feldhahn's research found that in most cases, relationship problems happen when a husband and wife care deeply for each other and are trying really hard, but often in the wrong areas.

    "I ended up writing For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men to help open people's eyes so they start trying hard in the areas that will help them avoid hurting each other unnecessarily," Feldhahn says. "We asked men and women ages 15-75 to tell us: 'What are your fears, what are the things that light you up, and what makes you feel really bad?'"

    Women wanted to know: Am I lovable? Am I special? Am I worth loving for who I am on the inside? 

    Guys wanted to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside?

    "These responses were significant," Feldhahn says. " 'Am I adequate?' leads to an entirely different set of primary needs than, 'Am I lovable?' A solid three-quarters of the men surveyed said, if they were forced to choose, they would choose giving up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her."

    Feldhahn realized that women could tell their husbands they love them and be critical at the same time. It happens by questioning his decision-making skills and constantly telling him what to do and how to do it.

    "Trying to gain a greater understanding of this, I was speaking with a friend who made the statement to me, 'I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough,'" Feldhahn says. "I asked what he meant. He told me that they recently had friends over for dinner. When the friends left, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. When she returned home she kissed his cheek and looked over his shoulder into the kitchen and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. I asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, 'Yes, she could have said thanks.'"

    Feldhahn contends that many women make men feel that what they do isn't good enough and that they are idiots. In fact, women often say it is their job to keep their husband humble. In reality, underneath the mask of confidence, most men want to do a good job in whatever role, but they aren't sure they know what they are doing. And they hope nobody finds out.

    "When we as women are thinking about something you know it because we process out loud," Feldhahn says. "When men are thinking, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Our research showed that in most cases, if you see a decision, instead of asking 'Why did you do that?' if you will ask, 'Help me understand,' in most cases you will hear a long explanation."

    For example, a wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

    "I asked the husband to help us understand. He said, 'I went to the fridge to get the milk and realized if I gave them milk for dinner there wouldn't be enough for breakfast. I was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep, and we've been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so I didn't want to wake her up just to go get milk. I decided to give the kids juice, which I diluted by half with water so they wouldn't have as much sugar.' The look on his wife's face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior."

    Feldhahn believes it's important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn't measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

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    Is Date Night Dead?

    Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

    This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

    An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it's not because of something huge. It's because they say they have become disconnected.

    According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

    How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

    Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

    Date nights may also:

    • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.

    • Strengthen a couple's sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of "we-ness" or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.

    • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.

    • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

    The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

    • Are about three times more likely to say they are "very happy" in their marriages;

    • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;

    • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

    If you haven't been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don't have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

    Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don't have to spend a ton of money - just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

    "Couple time" can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

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    Money and Stress in Marriage

    It's the one thing most people never get enough of. Many believe it is the key to happiness. People still argue over it, whether they have a lot of it or not enough of it to make ends meet. What is IT? It's MONEY, of course.

    Less than a month into his marriage, Roger Gibson, author of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money, found himself in a very precarious situation. He bought a truck without telling his wife.

    He thought she would love his brand new green truck. But the moment he saw the look on her face as he pulled in the driveway, he knew “love” was not the word to describe her feelings. As he saw his wife speechless for the very first time, he began to realize exactly what he had done.

    He thought to himself, “She is probably thinking, ‘How can anyone go out and buy a brand new truck without first talking with his wife?’” Gibson managed to create a financial situation in a few short minutes that put terrible stress on their relationship. In hindsight, he describes this as one of the most painful and embarrassing moments of his life.

    Money is the number one reason for stress in many marriages. And according to 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, financial issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces. This makes it the third leading cause of divorce.

    “The money marathon in marriage often takes on the character of a race,” says Gibson. “At times, the pressure can become too intense and many couples want to throw in the towel and quit before the finish line. Many young couples break all the rules ‘to get it all’ in the beginning. Instead of experiencing happiness in their marriage, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills. They overload themselves with debt, which can cause the ‘ties that bind’ to snap and knock you off balance.”

    Just as in a marathon, you can’t start out full blast or you'll never make it. Instead, get a map of the route and learn to pace yourself so you can make it to the finish line.

    Creating a spending plan is key for couples. Spending money is always more fun than saving. A plan’s purpose, however, is to strike a balance between the two.

    Believe it or not, intimacy can be driven by personal finances. Budgeting your money helps you think about your dreams for the future. It's also a reflection of where you want to go. Instead of fighting because you don’t know where you want to go, the plan provides security and brings you together.

    If you want to get a handle on your finances, Gibson suggests that you:

    • Eliminate unnecessary debt.

    • Actively manage your finances.

    • Build an emergency account, a savings fund for short-term needs and a long-term savings plan.

    • Spend less than you make.

    • Stop impulsive spending.

    “Prestige, people, possessions and pleasure: these are the things that drive us because that is how our culture drives us,” Gibson says. “Everything we do is a reflection of these four things. People who are fighting about money don’t have a proper perspective of what money is.

    “Instead of viewing money as a means to accomplish a goal, they see it as a way to satisfy their immediate desires. Usually the result is that finances control us versus us controlling our finances. The way that you gain control is to make a plan and stick to it.”

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    Who Is More Likely to Cheat?

    This past year, in the midst of the #metoo campaign, a number of married men were among those accused of sexual misconduct. News of the inappropriate behavior probably created some extremely awkward moments within these marriages and perhaps made others wonder if their spouse is likely to cheat.

    Dr. Wendy Wang, research director at the Institute for Family Studies, recently released a brief on the subject called Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Cheating in America. Wang found that men, adults who did not grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services, are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse.

    Based on Wang’s analysis of General Social Survey data from 2010-2016:

    • Men are more likely than women to cheat. Twenty percent of men and 13 percent of women reported they've had sex with someone other than their spouse, but the gap varies by age.

    • The infidelity rate also differs among a number of other social and demographic factors, such as race, family of origin and religious service attendance.

    Wang also found that cheating is somewhat more common among black adults. Some 22% of ever-married blacks said that they cheated on their spouse, compared with 16% of whites and 13% of Hispanics. And among black men, the rate is highest. In fact, 28% reported that they had sex with someone other than their spouse, compared with 20% of white men and 16% of Hispanic men.

    The data also revealed that a person’s political identity, family background and religious activity are related to whether or not they cheat. Interestingly, having a college degree is not linked to a higher probability of cheating. Almost equal shares of college-educated and less-educated adults have been unfaithful to their spouse (16% vs. 15%). The share among those with some college education is slightly higher (18%).

    So who is more likely to cheat - men or women? The data indicates men and women share very few traits in that area. For men, race, age, education level and religious service attendance are still significant factors. For women, family background and religious service attendance are significant factors for unfaithfulness, while race, age and educational attainment are not relevant factors. The only factor that shows significant consistency in predicting both men and women’s odds of infidelity is religious service attendance.

    The bottom line is that a lot of people are at risk and may not even know it. When it comes to cheating in marriage, the single most important protective factor is appropriate boundaries. In a culture where men and women work so closely, it’s important to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk to cheat. 

    Many relationship experts agree that one of the most common pathways to infidelity is when a man and woman who are “just friends” begin to discuss their marital problems. In other words, they are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to their marriage.

    If you haven't talked about guarding your marriage as a couple, you might want to talk about these things: 

    • Establish clear boundaries. Discuss expectations and boundaries in your relationship. You probably believe you would never fall prey to a relationship outside of your marriage. Unfortunately, few who found themselves there say they were looking for it. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk about how you will intentionally do your marriage work with your spouse and avoid keeping secrets from each other.  

    • Be aware, and value your mate's opinion. Sometimes other see things you don’t recognize.

    • The danger zones are for real. Being oblivious to tempting situations is risky.

    Intentionally protect and nurture your marriage. Check in with each other frequently and discuss how your choices impact your marital health. Avoiding behaviors that could create suspicion can’t hurt your marriage. On the other hand, it could be a tremendous help.

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