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.

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…

Live Within Your Means, Part 1

In my next several blogs I will cover topics related to money and marriage. These will be common sense principles related to how we handle our money within our marriage. So let’s get started.

First and foremost is a very simple concept. We should not spend more than we earn. Or live within your means. No matter who you are, you have a finite amount of income. If you spend more than you earn, you go into debt using other people’s money to finance your overspending. That will cost you even more in interest, fees, and late charges.

So are you are living within your means? First, add up your’s and your spouse’s net income after taxes for each month. If you have payroll deductions for a variety of items, add those deductions back in to your net pay to come up with a TRUE net pay for each pay period. Compute your yearly net pay then divide by 12 for your monthly amount. Add any other income you get from part time jobs, child care income, rents, royalties, dividends, interest, or any other income. Add all of these together and come up with a monthly net income for your household.

Next, together, list all recurring monthly expenses for your household. Go to your cash receipts, checkbook statement, credit and debit card bills, automatic pay bills, and payroll deductions for the last 4-6 months. Add everything. Mortgage, utilities, gas, food, clothing, household, all insurance, car payments and maintenance, cable, phones, loan payments, child care, donations, vacations, property taxes, dining out, daily coffee, gifts, pets, entertainment, school expenses, personal care, hobbies, dues for clubs and magazines, and any other expenses. Also track what you put into savings. Put all of these items into a simple spreadsheet with the like expenses listed in separate columns. For example, keep all types of insurance together. Be as specific as possible with each expense. Next, add the columns up and add all the columns together to get a grand total. Get an average for expense categories that vary month to month. For example, food expense will vary, but a four month average will probably give a good idea of what you spend.

That’s part one of looking at your expenses. Part two is a project. Each of you should track EVERYthing you spend for the next three months. Use the same spreadsheet, each DAY writing down what you spent in each category. Keep a spreadsheet each month, totaling them at month’s end. Now you have a clear picture of what you spend each month and you can come up with an accurate monthly average for each category.

Compare your average monthly income to your average monthly expenses. Is it positive income or negative? If it is a negative amount, you are spending more than you earn and will no doubt be going into debt. More on living within your means next time…..

More Common Sense

Remember the Definition of “Common Sense”: sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.

Does that mean that we should not seek out specialized knowledge or training? That we should rely simply on our own good Common Sense to work out issues that surface in our marriage?

Let me ask a simple Common Sense question. If you wanted to go fishing and you really wanted to, as best as possible, catch fish, and you had no prior experience fishing, wouldn’t it make sense to try to acquire some “insider information” on how to fish before actually attempting to fish? Well of course it would. It would be operating in the principle of Common Sense to read up on some basic best practices of fishing before actually going out and trying to fish.

But let’s take a step back. Let’s say that you went fishing without reading or consulting anyone. You reason to yourself that you will need a fishing pole and some bait. So you purchase both, and you head out to the nearest river. You bait the hook and try to cast. After a few practice casts, you land the line in the water. You fish in this manner for several hours. Knowing that fishing takes patience, you repeat this process for several weeks, then months. In all that time, you never catch one fish. Truth be told, you have never even had a nibble. By now you are extremely frustrated. Fishing just doesn’t work.

Just as you’re getting ready to pack it up and go home, you notice someone coming down the bank of the river. He looks up and down the river, selects a spot near some rocks, baits his line and casts in. Good luck, you think to yourself. But within ten minutes, he hooks a beautiful steelhead, carefully works his reel and skillfully nets the fish. He brings it over to show you and then asks if you can take his picture. You click off a few and he leaves. You sit staring at the river and your pole and bait. Disgusted, you throw all of your gear into the river and go home vowing never to fish again. Little did you know that you had the wrong bait, the wrong pole, the wrong weight line and you were repeatedly casting in the wrong spot.

Sometimes we approach marriage the same way. After all, we got along good while dating. We knew each other pretty well and never had a big fight before we got married. And we’ll figure it out as long as we still love each other. How tough can it be? So we begin the journey of married life, figuring it out as we go. We are too embarrassed or proud to ask for help and we keep repeating the same mistakes because we don’t know how to do anything else. Common Sense says be a student of the most important relationship in your life. Read, study, ask questions, attend seminars, and by so doing improve your skills.

Common Sense Marriage??

Common Sense in Marriage?? But, marriage is too complicated. There can’t be a simple way to figure these things out. You need to have a specialist, a trained master with degrees and years of experience to even begin to unravel the complexity of issues that married couples deal with every day. Right??

Well, actually, no… That’s not right. Look at the dictionary definition of Common Sense: sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.

Do we all have the basic skills to deal with the basic problems that plague most marriages? I think we do. Oh sure, we need to exercise those skills and develop them, but the basic skills are already available to us.

I’m reminded of a couple I met with over twenty five years ago. They needed help with their finances. His job only provided a minimal income and they always had problems meeting basic monthly bills. The financial stress was taking a toll on their relationship. They asked if I could help organize their budget because it was getting so bad that they didn’t even have enough money to buy milk for the babies. Wow, that must be pretty bad. There had to be something that could be done. So, with a pad of paper and pencil (yes it was that long ago) I sat down with them for several hours. We started with a detailed list of all their bills. Rent, car payments, food and utilities, insurance, personal items, child care expenses. Sure enough, the budget was tight, really tight. After a few hours, I noticed that I was starting to get a headache. And then I noticed that the room was filled with cigarette smoke. I don’t smoke and will usually get a headache from being in smoke for too long. Ah, I thought to myself. Another budget item not yet mentioned. I asked how much did they smoke and they admitted that they each smoked a pack of cigarettes per day. I asked how much does a pack cost? Well, about $1.50. (Yep, like I said, it was that long ago) Here’s the Common Sense part. At $1.50 per day each, that’s $3.00 per day. That’s $90.00 per month to buy cigarettes. I sat back and said that you do have enough money for milk for the babies, you’re just smoking it.

That’s my point. Sometimes the most basic, simplest solutions are right there in front of us. No specialized knowledge, no advanced degrees, no 30 sessions with a marriage counselor. Just good old basic Common Sense.

I don’t mean to imply that ALL problems can be resolved with simple steps. Some problems are indeed complicated and are quite difficult to resolve. But many of those evolved because basic everyday problems grew and festered until smaller problems added to other problems and then it grew into a mountain of problems. Common Sense: Deal with problems when they are small.

Next time: But what if we have BIG PROBLEMS???