Compromise – How important is it? Part One

Have you heard that “Compromise” is a dirty word? We are told we should be people of conviction. Never give in and hold fast to our position. We should be grounded in our own beliefs, not yielding to pressure to change or give in. After all, we don’t want to be someone’s doormat. We want to be respected for what we believe, be heard, and not be bullied. We have a right to that, don’t we?

Photo by
Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Let’s begin by distinguishing between core values and everyday choices. We should never compromise on our core values: our faith, our commitment to marriage, or commitment to love, nurture and protect our spouse and family. Some would add our core values should extend to our commitment to country and pledge to our nation. Our central core values should never be compromised. We should be a people of steadfast loyalty to our core beliefs.

But beyond that, how should we negotiate the day to day give and take needed to maintain a healthy, strong, and growing relationship.

Marriage is a union of two unique and at times dramatically different personalities. We come from unique backgrounds with a variety of circumstances that have molded us into the persons we are today. We have strengths and liabilities that we each bring to our marriage. Our very temperaments may be diametrically opposed.

We are different. And our differences in needs, preferences, and desires can bring about conflict that is difficult to solve.

There’s a new mattress now that solves the firm verses soft argument. The Sleep Comfort Mattress has a numbered system that changes the firmness of each side of your mattress. Amazing. Push the button to the desired number and her side is soft and your side is firm. Problem solved.

Photo by
albertomor

But the rest of the issues in our marriage don’t have a “Resolution Button” to help us find a middle ground. There’s no button for he likes camping and she likes condos for vacation. There’s no button for deciding how much you should spend on your vacation. There’s no simple easy button to decide how often you set aside time to be intimate together. He’s been lobbying for multiple times a week for years and she’s happy with the occasional “when the mood strikes me.” Oh, if only we had a magic button to fix this one!

Well, there’s bad news and there’s good news…

The bad news is there is NO magic button. The good news is there is a way to solve almost all our differences issues. We’ll look at that further in our next blog.

Lions and Bees and Otters and Bears, Oh My!

We all remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz repeating over and over “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” So it was sure funny when I ran across a book by Dr. Sandra R. Scantling titled Extraordinary Sex Now: A Couple’s Guide to Intimacy in which she cleverly refers to our marital relationship in terms of Lions and Bees and Otters and Bears.

Oh, my!

Since my last blog covered being “in the mood,” I thought I’d stay in the mood with a few comments about Dr. Scantling’s book. While the title may suggest a racy exposition on the subject of sex, I found her book was quite insightful in detailing relational styles and how they affect our intimate interactions. It is more a primer on how to understand one another than on how to do one another.

Now about Lions, Bees, Otters, and Bears…  Here’s a very brief summary:

  • Lions –  Energizers – communicative, controlling, critical, assertive, energetic, demanding, risk takers
  • Bees – Workers – practical, analytical, organized, perfectionist, precise, orderly, hardworking, planners
  • Otters – Players – playful, dreamers, artistic, impulsive, disorganized, fun-loving, rebellious
  • Bears – Stabilizers – cooperative, agreeable, conflict avoiders, thoughtful, stubborn, generous, nurturing

Do you see yourself and your spouse in the list? Many of us are a combination, such as a Bee/Bear or a Lion/Otter.

You can see that certain temperaments will have a challenge functioning on a day to day basis with a non-complementary temperament. Sure, a Bee can get along with a Bee because they are so well organized. And two Bears will have a wonderful time because they’ll never disagree; they’ll just go along and be happy Bears.

But what about two Lions? Who gets to make the decisions? Who gets to lead? And consider two Otters. They want to have fun, no matter what. But what happens when one wants to hike and the other wants to visit with friends all day? Who decides? Yes, the Bees already have an answer: Take the friends on the hike!!  Those clever Bees!

You get the idea. Maybe we can get along with a spouse that is similar to us. But generally speaking, we tend to marry the opposite of who we are. A Lion will marry a Bee or an Otter and the sparks will fly.

Dr. Scantling’s book breaks down these complicated interactions and gives detailed suggestions on how to cope with divergent personalities. If we can learn how to get along better outside the bedroom, it will be easier inside the bedroom.

This speaks to the primary themes of Common Sense Marriage:

Personal Growth and Selfless Serving.

When we work at growing by seeking to better understand ourselves and our spouse, we can apply that understanding and become a more empathetic partner. We actually serve each other when we increase understanding. And we grow closer and desire to share that closeness in an open and intimate way.

So, who are you? Lion, Bee, Otter or Bear? Would you love to find out? Stay tuned and we’ll go exploring together.

I’m Just Not in the Mood!

Have you ever heard your spouse say, “I’m just not in the mood?” Have you have ever said that to your spouse? No, I don’t want to have sex tonight because…. And we fill in the blank with a busy day, kids drove me crazy, washing machine broke and water was everywhere, too many things going on at work, or I’m mad at you. The list is endless. There will always be “things” that get in the way of us sharing an intimate time.

So let me confess; it’s easier to blog about how to handle your money than how to have a better sex life. But since our blog is Common Sense Marriage, I guess it’s only common sense to talk about sex occasionally.

The question is should we let our mood determine our actions?

There are legitimate times when we are affected by circumstances that prohibit us from being intimate with our spouse. There may have been a death in the family, a physical condition or sickness, or a truly stressful job circumstance.

Apart from exceptional circumstances, we need to be in a position that we don’t use the MOOD card. We should be selfless lovers, willing to put aside our lack of interest, and think in terms of serving our spouse. You may ask “But can I get interested in sex when I just don’t feel like it?”

Photo by Unknown

If we had to wait until we “felt like it,” just think how many things in life would not get done. So what do you do when you don’t’ “feel” like you want to do the dishes, or the wash, or go to work in the morning? I bet you do it most of the time out of a sense of duty or some other practical motivation.

In relation to being open to having sex with our spouse, it may be as simple as acting first and the desire and feelings will follow. I’m simply saying that doing intimate things will likely get you in the mood. Clear your schedule and make time for being together. Clear your mind of all the “to do” lists and tasks and reset your mind on the joy of sharing time with your spouse. Prepare your heart to be open to give and receive love. Be proactive. Act on those things that will set the stage for a wonderful time together.

And if God intended sex to be a joyful experience to be shared frequently between husbands and wives then we should not let our mood get in the way of us experiencing more of that joy together.

Think about it! You might even get in the mood!

Get Out of Debt

What’s the best method for paying down your debt? My leaning is to pay off the highest interest rate debt first.

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You will need your list of all outstanding debt, monthly payments, and interest rates. Rank this list by interest rate with the highest rate loan first, then in descending order. You will probably find that you have several credit cards with interest rates of 18% to 21% or more. To me it makes the most sense to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first because it is costing you the most every month.

For example – You may have cards with 18% monthly interest and a car loan that you negotiated a low rate of 4% or even 0% interest. One credit card with a balance of $5000 and 18% interest will cost you about $900 the next year in interest alone. By paying off the car loan, you save nothing in interest expense next year. But by paying down the credit card, you will save 18% on the extra amount used to pay down that debt.

So, step number one, is to rank your debt. Then find money in your budget by earning more or decreasing expenses such as dining out or lattes or whatever you are willing to forego. Use these funds to pay down the highest interest rate debt first. Continue to pay on all your other debts as usual.

Let’s say that you have come up with $200 per month that you can use to pay down your debt. The first loan that you will  pay down is a credit card with a $1400 balance. If you have been paying $35 per month towards this bill, add $200 per month (total of $235) and you will have the bill paid in full in about 6 months!

After the first card is paid off, add $235 to the payment for the card with the next highest interest rate. If you were paying $75 per month to this next debt, add $235 to $75 and begin making payments of $310.

Continue this process. Over time you will increase the amount used to pay off debt by adding the amount from each paid off loan to come up with a new amount to be used to pay off the next.

But remember: NO NEW DEBT! The objective is to PAY OFF all debt. Yes, you CAN keep up this process until you  pay off even your home mortgage, if you have one.

Objective: Get out of DEBT! Why? Out of control debt can strain your relationship by adding unnecessary stress to your marriage. You won’t be fighting over the bills because you don’t have any bills for debt.

No debt. Try it. You’ll like it. And so will your spouse!

Living Within Your Means, Part 4

Last time we looked at cutting back expenses, staying away from new debt, limiting FUN money to a set amount each month, and beginning the process of paying down debt.

So how do you go about paying down your debt? What debt should be the first to go?

Begin with a list. Yes, here we go again with another list. That’s right. You need to have a complete list of all of your debt. Do it this way.

Your list should have the following across the top:

  • Name of the lender or loan
  • Interest rate
  • Minimum monthly payment
  • Current balance due from your last statement

If you don’t get a regular statement because you pay online, get the balance due and interest rate from the current account information in your online account page.

Next, list all of your debt going down the page. Start with your mortgage if you have a home loan. Next add a second mortgage if you have one, home improvement loans, all lines of credit, all car loans with each car listed separately, boat loans, and RV loans. Then add department store cards, VISA, Master Cards, American Express, and Discover outstanding balances. Finally, add other loans such as student loans, medical debt, family loans, and any other loans.

If you do this list on a spreadsheet in your computer, it will automatically add the monthly payment column and the total balance due column.

Now you have a complete list of what you owe monthly and the total balance due. For some of you, this will be the first time that you actually see all of your outstanding debt on one list. That may be frightening. But look at it!! You actually owe that much. And it will get worse if you don’t take steps to get out of debt.

Here are two simple reasons why you want to get out of debt:

First, it’s expensive. Let’s say you’re out looking at a new Curved 65” HD TVs. And you work a really good deal and “get them down to $2000” and after all, what’s the big deal, on your credit card it will only be about $51 per month.

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What’s the big deal? That new TV will cost you over $1000 in interest. It will really cost over $3000. So is it still a “really good deal”? Paying for something over time with interest can be very costly. That TV will cost you 50% more because you used their money instead of saving and using your money.

Secondly, you need to get out of debt because, no matter how you cut it, it causes stress in your relationship. When all you think about or fight about is money, it hurts your relationship.

More next time on the best way to get the debt paid off….

Live Within Your Means, Part 3

How do you resolve financial problems and fighting when you don’t have enough money to pay all of your expenses every month?

First and foremost, you need to resolve as a couple to live within your means. It is purely a matter of your will and discipline. In some ways it is similar to being overweight. How do you get healthy and get your weight under control? Most people who are overweight readily admit they know they eat too much of the wrong foods. They know the answer is really quite simple: eat healthy and move.

And so it is with overspending. You need to get control over your income and what you spend.

On the income side, if you have the ability to work some overtime hours or get a part-time job until your debt if paid down, then do it.

On the spending side, you will need to cut any unnecessary expenses. And DO NOT add any new debt. No new car loans, no new vacation expenses, no new buying time-shares (even it if is a good deal), and no frivolous expenses of any kind. It is time to get your finances under control.

Simple Common Sense Marriage principle: You can’t get yourselves out of debt and live within your means by continuing to spend money the way you have been. Or put another way, you can’t lose weight and still have your cake and ice cream while you sit on the couch. Face it! You are going to have to make tough choices. Evaluate together all those categories of spending and eliminate what is unnecessary or figure out a way to accomplish the same objective with less or no money spent.

Make as much money as reasonably possible and cut all expenses except those that are absolutely necessary.

Michael R

Michael R

For example, a large frothy double shot extra cream caramel machiato in the morning and an extra-large very berry whipped cream smoothie on the way home from work are really NOT necessary. You WILL survive without them. And if my math is right, at about $4.00 per visit, that will save you about $40 per week, or $2080 per year.

And that’s just cutting ONE “I can’t live without it” expense!

Now you need to get to work. Only spend money on what is absolutely necessary. When you disagree on what is necessary, discuss this openly and work towards a reasonable compromise. Remember: You need to work at this together.

Caveat: Have “some” funds built in to your budget  for FUN money. Even those on a strict diet can have a small piece of pie or a brownie now and then. But set a limit to the fun money each week or month, whatever you work out, and stay within that limit.

The next Common Sense Principle is to take your savings from cutting back on expenses and begin to pay down debt. That’s right… Get out of debt. The sooner the better. More on this next time….

Living Within Your Means, Part 2

Last time we looked at practical things you can do to check if you are spending more than you are earning. If you are, then you’re going into debt. Your credit card balances are probably going up and you’re not making any progress in paying down debt. Your checking account balance simply goes up and down as you deposit your pay checks and pay your bills; but nothing additional goes into reducing your debt or building savings.

Why does this happen? I feel that the constant drumbeat of easy money makes it

Lotus Head

Lotus Head

convenient for us to get into debt. We don’t have to “buy” the new car; we just get a loan. After all, they make it so easy. The monthly payment will be low enough to fit into what we spend each month. We don’t need to “buy” the new computer; we can just add it to our Best Buy account. How easy is that? We don’t have to save for vacation with family this summer; we can just charge it. It will only make the monthly payment go up by a few dollars. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is we never get to a place where we focus on paying off all of the debt. We simply live with the ever growing balance due until it hits a breaking point. The big deal is increasing debt and increasing payments add enormous stress to our marriage.

– Does all of the stress of money cause fights and arguments?
– Do you fight about adding another bill?
– Do you fight about whether or not to buy something?
– Do you decide to not spend for the kids because you don’t have enough money?
– How often do you fight about money issues in your home?

Or have you reached a point where you just stop fighting because you have given up. It’s hopeless now. You are getting further into debt and no matter what you say, it isn’t going to stop.

It’s interesting to note here that fighting over money is a problem for those who don’t have enough income to support their expenses and for those who have enough for all their expenses but fight over how to spend their excess income. Fighting and arguing over money can happen on both sides of the balance sheet. It is a problem that can exist for those who have little and those who have much.

In either case, honest and open communication about needs and expectations is necessary. We must discuss finances and what we need to do to solve our impasse.

More next time on how to resolve problems when we don’t have enough and how to handle problems when we have enough but we fight anyway…