Old Behavior Patterns and Starting Over

One of Sharon’s and my struggles after our separation was that even though we had learned a lot of new communication and conflict resolution skills and adopted more positive attitudes towards each other during our separation – both of which were instrumental in us reconciling – at times we could still fall back into our old dysfunctional patterns of relating.

When that first happened after we reconciled, we got scared that nothing had really changed. However, we realized that even though the old patterns might start, we knew all we had to do was to go back and start doing the new skill we had learned. Whichever one of us recognized the old pattern cropping up first would take the initiative to point it out and suggest that we get back to doing our new healthy behaviors.

So if you have had a major positive change in your relationship – maybe you went to counseling that was effective, maybe you went to a weekend seminar that really helped your marriage, maybe you and your spouse just drew a line in the sand and agreed to treat each other better –  and you see yourself fall back into an old pattern, don’t be discouraged. Welcome to marriage in the real world. It is normal for that to happen. Just go back and start the new healthy pattern again. You can always start over.

I often hear from other marriage bloggers/educators that while they teach better ways to communicate and live together to others, they themselves can fall into their old habits and from time to time have to begin practicing anew what they are “preaching”.

What dramatic change for the positive in your life or marriage have you had? What have you learned about getting back on track if you fall into an old dysfunctional pattern?

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Divorce Care

If you are separated or divorced, I highly suggest checking out Divorce Care. Divorce Care is a 13-week video driven small group. You meet weekly with other people experiencing separation or divorce and watch a video covering the topics listed here. Each week in the video several of these experts  share their professional expertise and sometimes their own personal  journey. Also in the videos people share about their struggles and triumphs surrounding that week’s topic. In the small group after watching the video participants share their own journey and encourage one another.*

I actually went to three different groups during our separation. Being in Divorce Care groups actually helped me pull out of my depressed state and I think laid some groundwork for us to reconcile because I was mentally and emotionally healthier. Even though we did not divorce, our 16-month separation was long enough that I related to a lot of the emotions that people were going through who were divorced or divorcing. One week was dedicated to reconciliation which was very helpful and gave me a lot of hope.

Most Divorce Care groups that I know about allow you to join in any week. If you go to the home page  and put in your Zip code you can find the groups near you.

If you are searching for information on topics related to divorce I would suggest reviewing the list of experts  because many of them have books or blogs on topics related to separation and divorce. Also, there are lots of resources in Divorce Care’s Personal Help Store. 

What questions do you have about Divorce Care?

What topics around separation or divorce are you looking for resources?

 *During Covid-19 quarantine some groups are meeting online.
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Purpose For This Blog and Website

My main goal when I started this blog/website was to have one place on the internet where I could link resources primarily about marriage and relationships that I had found either helpful during our separation or helpful since we have been back together. So often when I was sharing with others about resources, I could not remember the exact URL or the URL would change. So now I can just point people to this website with a name of a resource and it is easy for them to find.

I try to have a broad range of relationship resources including for pre-married couples, married couples who are looking to grow their marriages, married couples who are separated, and couples who are divorced. There are lots of general relationship resources also. My goal in blogging is to give encouragement and helpful information to people at all stages of relationships and to share parts of our own story as an encouragement to others.

I really don’t have a blogging schedule. When I feel like I have something helpful to say and I have time and energy, I write a post. Some seasons over the last several years I have posted fairly often and other seasons I don’t post for quite a while.

What resources have you found most helpful on this website? Are there some resources that you would like to see included? What blogging topics have you found most helpful and what other topics would you like to see me write about?

 

 

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Resource: CMBA

A good place to find resources about marriage and relationships from a Christian perspective is the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. They have a huge list of Christian bloggers on many different topics related to marriage/relationships and I have found this to be an excellent place to search for info and help. Some of the blogs are written by professionals in the marriage counseling world and some are written by laymen. I like having both the professional and the layman perspectives. As always, just be discerning as to which blogs you find most appropriate and in line with your values.

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Life Hack: Finances

One area of marriage that tends to have a lot of conflict is finances, however there are some simple things that can be done to at least prevent some of the conflict.

Years into our marriage we went to a seminar by The Money Couple (https://themoneycouple.com/). Their premise was that we all have a money personality. Some of us are savers, some are risk takers, and so on. If we at least understand our own and our partner’s money personality then we have a foundation to start having conversations and making decisions about money. You can take a free simple test at their website to determine your money personalities.

A huge issue to discuss which is related to money personalities is each partner’s comfort level with debt. Looking at each of your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to tracking money and then making an agreement as to which partner will do what task with finances can save a lot of conflicts.

For us, Sharon is more the detailed person, so she pays 99% of our bills both personal and business. She is very prompt, so our bills are paid a little ahead of time. I am the type of person who procrastinates and would probably come in from farming at midnight and realize that the electric bill was due tomorrow. We both agree that bills should be paid on time, we just go about it in different ways and her way is a lot less stressful than my way. In some marriages it is the husband who is the more detailed person who pays the bills and tracks the finances.

In college I took courses in accounting, tax and law so I do the majority of the communication with the accountant, banks and attorney and then review with Sharon any documents she needs to sign. If I can not explain all of the details of the documents to her satisfaction, she will talk to the professionals herself, because sometimes I just don’t explain well. It is more important to me that she understand documents than whether I am the one to explain them to her.

One thing we did early in our marriage upon the advice of a banker was to get a credit card and checking account in Sharon’s name only. That way if some unfortunate tragedy happened to me, she already had a credit history.

Some couples have an agreement as to how much money each can have from the budget per month for fun money that they spend without discussing it with their spouse. Some couples each have separate bank accounts that their paycheck goes into and they have agreed what expenses come out of each person’s account. Some couples put everything into one joint account and then agree who takes primary responsibility for that account and agree on a budget as to how the money is spent.

Some couples have agreed upon spending limits for each spouse. Each of them can make their own decisions in their area of responsibility such as household, vehicles, etc. up to a certain dollar limit without consulting the other partner, but over a certain dollar limit they need to consult the partner. For instance, maybe they have agreed on a $500 limit. Maybe the wife is in charge of the household and the vacuum is almost worn out, so she does her research and buys a new $300 sweeper and does not tell her husband ahead of time. On the other hand, maybe she dreams of a whole house vacuum and it is $3000 so she talks to him first. Another example – maybe he takes care of the cars and realizes that winter is coming, the car needs tires, so he just buys new tires for $400. On the other hand, he is at the mechanic’s and is told that the car needs a $3000 overhaul, so he goes and talks to his wife about their options.

I had an attorney, who was also a large real estate investor, once tell me that his agreement with his wife was that if he was going to spend $10,000 he did not tell her, if $100,000 he told her, and if $1,000,000 he asked her. I never talked to her to find out if she agreed to his system, but if she did and it worked for them, that was great.

One system that doesn’t seem to work so well is throwing all the money into one account and both partners using ATM cards and no one tracking upcoming bills or balancing the checkbook.

Another system that does not seem to work so well, is just carrying a deck of checks and writing checks on the account and not keeping a register. That is a surefire way to get into financial trouble very quickly.

I knew of a situation where the husband was a wealthy businessman and passed away and I think his wife was in her 60’s and had never written a check. That was a highly stressful situation where others had to come in and manage most things for her.

I knew of a situation that unfortunately looked like it was headed for divorce. The husband was a well-off businessman who gave his wife a substantial household budget each month, but she did not know how much money they made. She told me that just last year he had brought their joint tax returns to their son’s ballgame and she just signed them on the sidelines without reading them. I suggested that before she signed them this year, she either had her husband explain them or that she insisted their accountant explain them to her and show her how much money they were making.

If you have been working as a team to figure out the best way to manage and organize your finances and making joint major financial decisions in normal times, then you have a better foundation to build upon and make tough financial decisions when unexpected events such as Covid-19 come along.

What have you found to be some helpful ways for you and your spouse to manage money? Do you use any budget software to help?

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Life Hack: Sharing a Calendar

We teach quite a few tools about how to resolve conflict, but most of the time it is easier to just minimize conflict. Having a shared calendar is one way to minimize conflict over schedules.

We’ve learned over the years from talking with couples that they can get frustrated with one another because they have forgotten to share appointments or events they have coming up in a week. They swear they have told each other and accuse the other person of not paying attention. And then it goes downhill from there. Having a calendar system that works for you and your spouse is one of those simple things that can help minimize conflict.

Sharon and I use a calendar app called Cozi.com. Because she is more organized than I am she keeps the master calendar and I text her my appointments which she then enters into Cozi. Cozi then syncs across our many phones and devices so at any point in time either of us can look and see what the other has going on. (Or even where they are when you forget!) Just keeping a shared calendar helps keep misunderstandings and frustrations from happening.

Many couples or families use apps from Apple or Google. What apps or systems have you found that work for you to minimize calendar conflicts with your spouse or family?

 

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Life Hack: Wills

I encourage you that no matter what season of life this is for you that you either get a will or update your current will if there have been major life or law changes since you made your last one. You may be young and unmarried or young and married with no kids and think you don’t need a will because you don’t have much financially or physically, but in the unlikely event of your premature passing it will make life easier for your family and less complicated legally if you have a will.

One  of my first days in estate planning class in college our professor said  something like, “If you don’t have a will, the state has one for you, so if you don’t like the one the state has, then  you better get your own prepared.”. If you die without a will it is called dying intestate. If you Google for your state, you can see what your state’s distribution plan is if you have no will.

If you have children, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a will to make your wishes known about the care of your children – even if you see yourself as having very limited financial means.

If you are older and already have a will, it is very wise to review and possibly update it when major life changes happen such as divorce, remarriage, tax law changes, the last child becoming of legal age or any other significant life events.

If you have designated guardians for your children and they move or have a major life change themselves where they might not be your preferred guardians anymore it’s wise to update your will.

Other things to consider are living wills and health care powers of attorney. These can be very complex – and in some ways I found the decisions more emotional and legally complex than my will – because you are designating what you want to happen in your own health care crisis or end of life decisions. Be sure to research your options carefully by reading and having detailed talks with an attorney.

Yes, I know this is not a fun topic and at times in life I have gotten behind the eight ball in reviewing my will because I really did not want to face the possibility of my own mortality. When I know I have things up to date I feel good knowing that things will be smoother for my family if this part of my life is in order.

 

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Encompass Connection Center Online

We participated in an online group presentation about anger sponsored by Encompass Connection Center. Our portion was teaching and modeling the PAIRS Emotional Jug. Lots of good teaching about the physiology of anger by Abby Glaser and other ideas about managing anger from our hosts and co-presenters, Lavern and Ronda Nissley.

Click here to watch.

 

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My Social Media

I want to highlight a few things I do that help me to have a positive experience on several social media platforms.

I follow various ministries and Christian authors who use Scriptures in their posts. That way I am reading Scripture on a regular basis throughout the day, not just during my devotions.

I follow a broad range of our families, both close relatives and some I have never met in person. It’s just interesting to learn more about them through following their social media.

I follow quite a few classmates from high school and a few from college. It keeps me connected to past friends. It’s interesting to see how their lives have changed, knowing that several have become Christians, and some have had very adventurous lives.

I have a broad range of political and religious views represented in my feed so I have a better understanding of how people who may not share my views see the world. It helps me to see them more as people and not just “opinions” as they share about the triumphs and tragedies in their lives.

I often see information about local traffic jams, fires, etc. on social media before I see them on the regular media. There is usually better information about all of these things from friends posting rather than reading only part of the story repetitively from regular media.

We have actually had friends warn us about tornadoes heading our way before we got app alerts because they happened to see the warnings on a different station. Sure appreciate the heads up in those situations!

And every now and then when someone shares way too often for my preference or the tenor of their posts is too out of my comfort zone, I will click on snoozing them for a period of time. So, I am still friends with them, but I don’t see every post. If I hear of a triumph or tragedy in their lives I can quickly reconnect and encourage them.

Just some of my thoughts…

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Weekly Devotions

In this time of uncertainty this is just one thing we do that keeps us focused on God and connected with each other. So, we’re running an older post from 2011 to explain our weekly devotions. Enjoy.

Our Weekly Devotions

Have you struggled as a couple to have consistent devotions during your marriage? Well, you’re not alone! We have had trouble since day one to have anything at all, let alone consistently. We knew it was important to read scripture and pray together as a couple, but it was like agony to do so and became a bone of contention over time. We thought if we weren’t having an hour (or more) of very serious devotions that we were failing as Christians. We couldn’t live up to that expectation of our own making, so what did we do? Nothing. Really. Nothing. Good grief.

Then just a few years ago our friends from Inverse Ministries, Clint and Penny Bragg, were staying with us and shared what they do each Sunday evening to connect with each other and have devotions. It’s simple – and has been life-changing for us!

We set aside an hour each Sunday evening. It’s the time of the week that works for us, too, but yours could be any day or evening during the week. The point is to make it work for you! We even put it on our schedule in Outlook. We highly recommend this. It won’t happen on a consistent basis each week if you don’t schedule it – and I assume since you’ve read this far, it’s something you want to happen. Have you noticed that we only schedule this ONCE per week? That’s the other idea we gave up – having devotions as a couple each day – like it was going to make us more holy Christians. Ha! No wonder we ended up doing nothing! (What we do each day is for another post.)

Now, what do we do to connect and share during this time? Glad you asked.

The first few minutes we go over both of our schedules for the week. We make sure we know what appointments or plans the other one has and the things we are doing together. That doesn’t sound very devotion-y, does it? But it keeps misunderstandings from happening during the week because someone wasn’t aware of an event. And since we are also trying to connect as a couple during this time, this is important. We are both on the same page now.

The next thing we do is share a scripture that spoke to us during our individual times with God during the week. Or we might read a devotional like “Night Lights” by the Dobsons. Penny Bragg wrote a weekly devotional called Dance Lessons”* that we highly recommend. Why? Because it was the one that we started with and God proved to us we could actually do this dance on Sunday evenings by sharing just a short devo and answering some well-thought out questions with each other. There are lots and lots of devotionals available so go to the bookstore or get online and peruse whatever strikes your fancy – but get one you both like. Make it short and easy!

After that, we share what we need prayer for. And then we actually pray for each other, our marriage, whatever is going on with the kids, the couples we work with and whatever God puts on our hearts. Sometimes we “banter” back and forth with the prayers, sometimes one of us prayers a whole bunch and then the other one does. Sometimes it’s longer, and sometimes it’s shorter. We’ve learned to let the Spirit lead us and not get worked up about the length of the list or the length of the prayers or the time spent or not spent.

Then – we’re done! We’ve spent from 20 minutes to an hour or more. Though we schedule an hour, we don’t look at the clock about having to fill that hour! We just let it flow and trust God to connect our hearts with each other and with Him. And it’s been a life-changing thing. We are closer to God, each other and truly look forward to the time each week.

Here’s to a new thing in your lives together!

*[2020 Note: If you are interested in this book, please call Penny.]

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