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6 Things To Know Before You Get Married

Knowing some things ahead of time can lead to a happier relationship.

My wife and I often get asked a common question: “What do you wish you’d known before you got married?” 

Our marriage isn’t perfect by any means. We’ve had our ups and downs. But according to recent statistics, the average length of marriage in the U.S. is just over 8 years. So, it makes sense to ask questions of a couple who’s been married longer than that.

Most couples anticipate having a long, happy marriage. And they should! But if you’ve been married any amount of time, you probably recognize it’s not always smooth sailing. Your marriage is going to get rocked by waves. Sure, there will be times when the sun is shining and the seas are calm. Just know before you get married, there will be storms ahead. But you can navigate the storms and make it through.

In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman says, “No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable, yet the highest percentage of divorce occurs within the first seven years of marriage.”

Chapman’s book provides a marriage blueprint. He lays out 12 potential areas of stress for married couples – they’re great to think about before you get married.

Here are six of the areas he addresses:

1. Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.

The “honeymoon phase” of marriage typically lasts for up to two years. This phase usually is idealistic and romantic. Don’t get me wrong, this stage is fantastic; it just needs to be treated realistically. This is a time to learn and adjust to each other. Differences will become apparent, but that’s OK. A healthy marriage requires commitment, trust, and communication. You need more than just that loving feeling.

2. Romantic love has two stages.

Chapman describes the first stage of love as a time when couples expend lots of energy doing things for each other, but they don’t consider it work. The second stage of love is more intentional. It requires work to keep emotional love alive.

3. The saying, “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son” is not a myth.

Chapman doesn’t suggest that your spouse will become their mother or father. But parents do greatly influence who we become. You will see some traits of your spouse’s parents in them. Be aware of this.

4. How to solve disagreements without arguing.

Conflict is a normal part of marriage. When two people spend lots of time together and grow closer, they won’t agree on everything. That’s OK. Not every conflict has to end in an argument. You can handle disagreements through healthy conversation and compromise.

5. Apologizing is a sign of strength.

Apologizing isn’t always easy. Some even see apologizing as a sign of weakness. It takes a strong person to say, “I was wrong; please forgive me.”

6. Mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic.

Many newlywed couples don’t anticipate this being an issue. Dr. Chapman shares that while men focus on sex, women focus on relationship. We’re all built differently and have different sexual drives. Those drives change with varying stages of marriage as well. So, what do you do when you feel like sexual fulfillment is lacking? Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Couples who have been married for a long time talk about these issues and more. Marriage takes open, honest communication and flexibility from both people. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but you can navigate the storms together and enjoy those smooth seas. There is beauty in every phase of a relationship.

Other blogs:

5 Tips For Newly Engaged Couples – First Things First

5 Things You Should Have In Common With Your Spouse

Can A Marriage Survive Without Intimacy? – First Things First

Buying a house is one of the most stressful things that you can go through as human beings. Especially if you’re newlyweds! Yes, it’s even more stressful than planning a wedding.

Not only do you have to decide on a house together, but once you do that, there’s also a *TON* of legal jargon, paperwork, and timely responses you have to work your way through, a 60-page inspection report to worry about, and a never-ending list of improvements you want to make. These things can wear you down to the point that you’re nearly ready to sell it before you even own it. THEN, you have to pack up everything you’ve stuffed into your little bitty apartment, and likely argue about what you should and shouldn’t toss out.

It’s. A. Lot.

Luckily for me and my husband, we had an awesome realtor, lender, and support group throughout the whole process. But we still had a plethora of challenges, especially since we’d only been married 7 months before we made this huge life change! Over the two months that we were deep in the house-buying process, we made a lot of mistakes. But you don’t have to!

Below are 4 things you can do to sail through the process without going crazy (unlike us)!

1. Schedule a date night every other week at minimum. 

When you’re meeting with tons of people, packing up all of your stuff, reading through a 120-page document that puts you to sleep, and somehow managing to be a functioning human being, the weeks fly by. And date night is the last thing on the list of things to do. My husband and I literally made Google calendar invites for date night to make sure we set aside the time!

2. Get a good look at the big picture. 

When we first started looking at houses, I was looking for our dream house while my husband was looking for our starter house. This caused a bit of miscommunication about what the non-negotiables were. Even if you’re able to afford your dream house right now, still do your best to keep your big picture in mind! Flooring can be changed, light fixtures can be updated, and any house can become your home with enough love and work. This is likely the biggest decision you’ve made together, so don’t let tunnel vision creep in.

3. Get a notebook/folder to store allllll of your everything in. 

This is something I wish we did, looking back. There were a few deadlines we missed and fees we had to pay because we were a bit disorganized or never finished that conversation about who was in charge of talking to what utility company. If you keep a central location for all of your information (even if it’s digital), you’ll have a better chance at keeping up with it all!

4. Make sure all your finances are in order. 

Buying a house costs more than just the down payment. There are a billion fees that are tacked onto the purchase, usually totaling anywhere from 2-7% of your total loan amount. And on top of that, you’ve got a bunch of moving expenses, too, from renting a truck to hiring movers. AND I won’t even mention the cost of paint & buying yard equipment & tools… you get the picture. It adds up. Even if you have it all ready and are fully prepared, go over each piece of it together. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. Money is one of the biggest causes of arguments in marriage, and with a large purchase like a home, tension can rise pretty easily. Taking the time to sit down and talk through all the little details of every expense will save you from some arguments down the road!

Having a home to grow in together is a great step for a marriage! Not only can it help you grow closer as a couple, but it can also be a great launching point on which to build the rest of your forever. It’s worth the stress, the many (many) decisions, and the late nights! Because now, you’re on your way to building your home together.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

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A few months ago, I asked my Facebook friends what brought them happiness. Although their answers varied, people said things like family, friends, being in nature, their faith, pets, their spouse and more made them happy. 

Here’s what I found interesting. Nobody listed money as something that brings them happiness. But yet it is the thing many of us devote our lives to in the pursuit of happiness.

Gary Kunath, author of Life…Don’t Miss It. I Almost Did, worked in corporate America. He bought into the idea that the more money you make, the happier you will be. The only problem was, he wasn’t happy and he was working long hours away from his family. Through a series of events, Gary did some tough soul-searching and decided to leave his corporate job and do something different.

He learned that the quest for net worth at the cost of life worth is not a good trade-off.

“A truly rich person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least. The only reason to focus on net worth is to underwrite life worth,” said Kunath. “I promise you that in the end no one will care what kind of car you drove when you were 35 or the square footage of the largest home you ever owned. What will count and what does matter is what people remember about you.”

While heredity and other things affect happiness levels to a certain point, studies indicate that we can do certain things to impact our happiness levels. Kunath shared these keys to happiness: 

Money doesn’t make you rich. 

How you think about money really sets the tone for your priorities in life. Do you value things or experiences with others? Do you spend your money impulsively or are you thoughtful about expenditures?

Help other people with no expectation of anything in return. 

Kunath shared a story about a college intern for a baseball team who noticed a little boy at one of their events sitting on a bench crying his eyes out. The intern went over to see if he could help and showed great kindness to the little boy. Three months after his internship ended, an executive with the baseball team called to request his presence at a meeting. When the young man showed up, he learned that the little boy had lost his mom earlier that year. The kind gesture of the intern was not lost on the father of the little boy who happened to be working on a corporate sponsorship with the team. The father requested that the intern be given 100 percent of the commission from that deal.

Practice the art of savoring. 

Kunath suggests that happiness comes from savoring moments versus being focused on the next thing. He shared that the three greatest gifts you can give your family are time (small things matter), memories and traditions.

Perspective is powerful. 

Don’t major on the minors. Irritating things happen to people all the time. Consider how you will allow these things to impact your happiness quotient. The truth is, these incidents are moments in time that can rob you of your joy and happiness. But only if you allow them to.

Life is fun and fun is good. 

Kunath quoted Dr. Gerold Jampolsky, saying, “We can only be happy now, and there will never be a time when it is not now.” In other words, fun matters. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You don’t have to have a lot of money to have fun. Fun enhances relationships, decreases stress and creates great memories.

Refine your relationships, or as Kunath puts it, thin the herd. 

It matters who you surround yourself with as you go through life. Kunath suggests that we take a look at who we have allowed in our inner circle. If there are people who are sucking the life right out of you or who are constant takers, some pruning might be in order. It isn’t that those people shouldn’t be in our lives at all – we just shouldn’t be spending most of our time with them. 

So, if you’ve been looking for happiness in all the wrong places, incorporate these keys into your life. Remember unconditional love, making a difference for someone else, giving without any expectation of getting anything in return, appreciating the beauty of family and true friends, slowing down and savoring life, and having fun are important components of happy experiences for yourself and the ones you care about. 

For more resources on relationships, click here!

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The average college student will graduate with about $37,000 in student loans, but few students really think about repaying that money after graduating. In fact, many new college students haven’t thought much at all about money management, much less paying off student loans at the end of their four years.

A survey of 455 college students by LendEdu found that:

  • 58% indicated they are not saving anything.
  • 30% indicated their parents taught them nothing about managing money.
  • 51% received no financial education in high school.
  • 43% are not tracking their spending.

Bryan Bulmer, Coordinator for Financial Wellness at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, knows this all too well. He has worked with college students to help them learn financial literacy.

“There are two kinds of students I typically see in my office: students who have been taught about money management and have grasped the concepts and those who really have never been shown the impact of money or lack thereof,” says Bulmer. 

In his student presentations, Bulmer uses a giant Jenga game to show the impact of frivolous spending. For example, buying that cup of coffee each day Monday through Friday is about $100 a month. After four years, the student will have spent $5,000 on coffee alone.

“That usually gets their attention because nobody ever thinks about how much that small amount adds up to over time,” Bulmer says. “Our goal is to help them know how to be wise with their money.”

When Bulmer asks students how many of them want to move back home after college, he says not a single hand goes up. However, 60% of them do move back home. Plus, a whopping 39% of them will still be living at home into their mid to late-20s.

Studies show that annual take-home pay for the average recent college graduate is around $36,000. Bulmer breaks this down for his students this way: If you have a car, college and credit card payments, that will probably take about $1,000. That leaves you $2,000 for everything else including rent, which is usually another $1,000.  So that leaves you only $1,000 for groceries, car insurance, internet and such.

“Pretty quickly the students begin to realize that while it sounds like a lot of money, it really isn’t if you don’t learn how to manage it well,” Bulmer says.

If you want to help your college student with their money, Bulmer suggests that you:

  • Involve the student in the family finances. Let them see what it takes to keep the lights and water on, the cost of Wi-Fi and keeping the refrigerator filled with food.
  • Talk with them about how credit works. Credit card companies are notorious for stalking freshmen and older college students with deals that are too good to be true, and plenty of them fall for it only to find themselves in debt way over their heads. They often have no idea how to get out.
  • Teach them the basics of money management (e.g. banking, paying bills, safe use of debit cards, MobilePay, ID theft and such).
  • Address student loan requirements. If your student is taking out student loans, make sure they know what this means in four years. Some students are not aware that they have student loans. This should not be a surprise to them when they graduate.

Having a college degree gives many people an advantage.

According to the National Financial Educators Council, studies show college graduates will earn almost a half-million dollars more over their lifetime than someone who has not received their college degree. But, if they have no concept of personal finances and how to manage the money they are earning, it will be of no benefit to them. 

“All of our students who come into our office that are financial literate give credit to their parents for helping them be literate,” Bulmer says. “Statistical information says 34 percent of students feel financially literate and that 37 percent of parents share financial literacy skills with their students. I believe those numbers show parents are the number one provider of financial literacy skills in the lives of their children.”

Give your kids the edge they need for future success by teaching them how to manage money wisely now, regardless of their age. 

As a parent, are you preparing your child for the real world? Many college graduates will soon be joining the workforce, some for the first time. The transition can be a real shocker as they face their new reality of 8-hour days, specific start times, no more spring breaks and a limited amount of time for lunch. Plus, some workplaces expect employees to work at a rigorous pace that is foreign to many college students.

In the adjustment phase, young adults may complain to their parents about workplace practices, demanding bosses, irritating co-workers and deadlines, just to name a few issues. This is nothing new for sure. 

Anybody who has held a job can probably relate, but here’s where things get interesting. Many parents jump right in to deal with the issue at hand. In fact, you might be surprised at just how many parents are quick to take the reins and deal with the issue themselves.

In a recent survey of parents of children ages 18-28 conducted by Morning Consult, 11 percent of the parents surveyed said they would contact an employer if their child was having issues at work. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 76% reminded their adult children of deadlines they need to meet, including for schoolwork. 
  • 74% made appointments for them, including doctor’s appointments. 
  • 42% offered them advice on relationships and romantic life. 
  • 16% helped write all or part of a job or internship application. 
  • 15% told them which career to pursue.
  • 14% helped them get jobs or internships through professional network.
  • 14% gave more than $500 per month for rent or daily expenses.

With the possible exception of giving romantic advice, none of these behaviors on the part of the parent are helpful in preparing a young adult for the real world.

Instead of jumping in to rescue them, it would be helpful to assist them in preparing to deal with real world, real-life work situations. Here’s how you can start:

  • When they encounter a difficult professor, process with them potential ways to approach the professor and have a conversation. 
  • Teach them how to make their own doctor’s appointments. 
  • If they have internship possibilities, rehearse with them how to make the initial phone call or introduction and talk with them about potential interview questions. 

If they believe they are being treated unfairly or inappropriately at work, get a good understanding of what is happening. Then:

  • Attempt to walk through the situation with them, but realize the situation is not yours to handle. 
  • Ask them what they think they need to do besides quit, which sometimes ends up being an option if nothing else works, and then help them figure out an action plan they can execute by discussing the pros and cons of all viable options. 
  • If you don’t think you have the knowledge or skill set required to help them decide how to move forward, connect them with someone you believe has the knowledge to do so. Avoid the temptation to make the call yourself. 

It can be painful to watch your young adult deal with difficult and sometimes very complicated circumstances, especially if they are a hard worker and what they are walking through seems unjust. However, it is not healthy or helpful to jump into circumstances they need to learn how to handle themselves. Life is for sure not fair, and this will likely not be the last time they have to navigate dealing with a difficult situation. 

Whether your adult child is still in college or in the workforce, writing papers for them, calling them to make sure they are awake, reminding them of deadlines or interfering at work does not prepare your child for the reality of living an independent, productive life. Doing these things will make them more dependent on you and less prepared for dealing with what life hands them on their own.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 31, 2019.

Want more parenting resources? Click here!

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

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8 Must-Have Conversations for Couples

Connect and fall in love all over again... by talking.

How do you know if love will last? Some say you don’t, that it’s just the luck of the draw. Many believe that the more a couple has in common, the more likely they will be compatible over time. Others say, not so fast. With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will endure is about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. And it all starts with these 8 conversations for couples.

By studying thriving couple relationships, The Gottman Institute found that people connect and fall in love by talking

John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, discovered eight crucial conversations that couples need to have. These must-have conversations can help couples know that love will last or help rekindle a “lukewarm” passion. The authors made the topics into dates for the book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

These conversation-based dates can potentially help couples increase understanding and commitment. It doesn’t matter how long they have been together.

The topics:

Trust and Commitment. 

Trust is cherishing each other and showing your partner you’re reliable. Choosing commitment means accepting your partner as he or she is, despite their flaws. I mean, we’re all flawed in some way, right?

Conflict. 

Like it or not, conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. There is a purpose behind it. And it’s a chance to take your relationship to a deeper level. 

Sex and Intimacy. 

Romantic, intimate rituals of connection keep a relationship happy and passionate. Couples who talk about sex have more sex. (Want to find out more? Read this: How to Have More Sex in Marriage.)

Work and Money. 

Money issues usually aren’t about money at all. Instead, they are about what money means to each person. Who knew? Learning what money means to each person can help take your relationship to a totally different place.

Family. 

It’s common for relationship satisfaction to decrease after you have a baby. And the more kids you have, the more that can happen. But it doesn’t have to! Couples who maintain their sexual relationship and learn how to manage conflict in a way that builds up their relationship can avoid this drop in relationship happiness. So, do what you can to keep sex healthy in your marriage.

Fun and Adventure. 

People are often so busy “adulting” that they underestimate the importance of play and adventure in their relationships. They are vital components of a successful and joyful relationship. While couples may not agree on what constitutes play and adventure, learning more about the one you love can be part of the fun. Couples who play together really do have more fun.

Growth and Spirituality. 

The only constant in a relationship is change. How each person supports the other partner is key. Relationships can be more than just two individuals coming together. They can be stories of transformation and great contribution and meaning to the world.

Dreams. 

Honoring each other’s dreams is the secret ingredient to creating love for a lifetime. When dreams are honored, everything else in the relationship gets easier.

The Gottmans say that every strong relationship results from a never-ending conversation between partners.

This book about must-have conversations will guide you through how to talk and listen to each other well.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on-demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

“Money, money, money. That’s all we seem to argue about.”

“She spends too much money at the grocery store on stuff we don’t need.”

“He always wants to eat out.”

“She’s always buying new clothes.”

“We’re not buying the furniture he wants. It costs too much.”

“He won’t let me loan my sister a few ($500) dollars.”

“She should get a better job.”

“He should get a better job.”

Countless marriage experts have documented that one of the top reasons couples give for divorce is – you guessed it – fighting about money. If that’s the case, why is the world’s richest couple, Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon) and his wife, getting a divorce when they have all that money?

I’ve noticed in my 14 years of marriage that although we have had countless discussions, arguments and conflicts about money, wait for it… the issue isn’t really money.  But if it’s not, then why do we fight about money so much? And why do we think it’s about money?

First, let’s recognize that every couple is different and there is no blanket answer. However, we know that our spending habits often reflect what we value. And if we disagree about what we should spend money on, then we disagree about what we value. And what I value is at the core of who I am and no one has the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t value. Right?

For example, maybe I shop a lot because I value my appearance, because to look good is to feel good. Or maybe I value my independence and freedom and don’t like to feel controlled. Maybe I want to spend as little money as possible because I need to feel secure and if there’s no money in the bank, then I feel insecure. The issue wasn’t money in any of those instances. Instead, it was the symptom of a deeper issue.

If you feel like you’re fighting about money all the time, here are three things that can help:

  • Start with understanding what you value and your attitude toward money. There are tons of resources you can use, but I think Sybil Solomon’s Money Habitudes can really help you gain insight into your own personal habits and attitudes toward money. Check it out, and trust me when I say that your marriage will thank you.
  • Don’t forget to add in a little lightheartedness. Things like this Financial Would You Rather game from Annuity.org can help you get the ball rolling about some important conversations while keeping it fun.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Do ask questions. I’ve learned to ask some simple questions when we discuss money matters in my marriage. When my wife I disagree about a purchase, I may humbly and non-judgmentally ask, “Why is that particular purchase/outing or whatever important to you? Help me understand.” I’ve learned a lot from that question. And it doesn’t mean that we always end up buying it. But now we are communicating and understanding what we value, not just what we want to spend money on.
  • Seek to understand. (Did I mention that being humble really helps?) Perhaps your spouse has already spent money on something you believe was unwise, and you’re really unhappy about it. Before you accuse them and tell them they were irresponsible, inconsiderate or uncaring, check your own attitude first. Take a deep breath and ask why they thought that purchase or expense was so important at the moment. Humility + a non-judgmental attitude = Progress

Being humble and staying out of the judgment zone when it comes to spending can be a major win because the right attitude communicates that we care deeply about our partner, and NOT just about the topic at hand. Plus, moving past the symptom to the deeper issue is a major accomplishment you can both feel good about.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

“I was excited about going away to college,” said Grace Hopkins. “I have basically done everything my entire life with my sister. This will be the first time for both of us to be on our own for an extended period of time.”

As excited and prepared as Grace thought she was, she experienced some rude awakenings as a freshman.

“My parents made it a point to teach us how to do laundry, clean our rooms and manage money. I thought I was totally prepared for being on my own,” Grace said.

“It was kind of a shock when things like time management and budgeting got the best of me. I have always been good about managing my time, BUT I was with friends who were also excited about the newness of college and wanted to have fun first. They encouraged me to have fun and I let some things fall behind.”

Even though Grace budgeted her money before she went to college, she wasn’t used to having to pay for everything herself.

“It was just so tempting when your friends wanted to go grab something to eat,” Grace shared. “I figured out pretty quickly that if I kept spending money like this,I was going to be broke before we made it to midterms.”

Grace is in good company. Many college freshmen have struggled with exactly the same issues. Here are Grace’s thoughts on what she would say to her freshman self:

  • Time management is key. “As a freshman, you will want to do it all and experience as much as you can but you have to consider your responsibilities first. You don’t want to wake up at exam time and realize that you are really behind.”
  • Get involved. “I joined a couple of clubs. That was a good way to meet people outside of the people you meet at orientation. It’s a great way to get to know some upperclassmen.”
  • Be prepared for the “roommate thing.” “I had not shared a room with someone in many years so it took some getting used to,” said Grace. “We put together a roommate contract the first day about things like expectations concerning bedtime, who could be in the room and when. Even with the written agreement, there were still challenges.”
  • Beware of the little expenditures. “Everything adds up real quick.”
  • Getting enough sleep makes a huge difference. “Staying up with friends until 2 a.m. and having to get up for a 9 a.m. class did not work out real well for me.”

Many teens are anxious to transition to this new phase of life. On the outside, they act confident but on the inside they are wondering: Am I really prepared?

Encourage your teen to take Grace’s advice. Help them with strategies for balancing their newfound freedom and responsibility.

Discuss potential risks and the difficult choices they may have to make. Mistakes are inevitable, but you can prepare and empower your teen to enter into their freshman year with confidence. In the end, experience will be their best teacher.

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