The Frugal vs. Spender Mindset in Your Marriage

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Q: My husband is a dreamer and I'm a realist. We don't have a lot of money. It's really hard now because whenever he wants to do something fun, I'm the one holding back because of the money. It's affecting our marriage because we don't get to go on dates and things like that. I'm the one who's sitting here counting pennies and he wants to go splurge on a nice dinner or something.

A: This is a very common problem. Before you were married, it felt good to have your date spend money on you; it's altogether different once you're married and you're trying to live within a budget and set financial goals. Which suggests that if you're one of those frugal people and your spouse says, "OK, let's go out and do something fun,” you should confess that it creates insecurity and it's scary for you. Confess that when you hear about spending money while you're counting every penny, you fear that you're going to spiral downward with your finances. At this point, your spouse needs to be willing to exercise caution with those decisions so that you can feel secure. At the same time, however, you need to think about your marriage. Figure out a way that you can set aside a few dollars a week to do something fun. Maybe you can't go out for an expensive dinner, but can the two of you head to a fast-food restaurant or get dessert somewhere? How about going to a movie during matinee hours? Do whatever it takes. Your spouse needs that fun time and wants to spend it with you. Count yourself blessed! And then look for creative ways to make it happen.

Our book 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate gives ideas about ways to connect with your spouse on a date and gives practical steps for arranging the date. Each date has an expense range, from very expensive to free! Each date is designed for husbands to meet wives’ love needs and for wives to meet husbands’ love needs. You can tailor the date to match your spouse’s particular preferences. The questions at the end of each chapter provide you with discussion prompts to use while on the date. The communication can be a very practical and inexpensive way for you and your spouse to connect.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.

I Don't Like My Spouse's Friends

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Q: We don't like each other's friends. What should we do?

A: You both need to handle this with a tremendous amount of honor and respect and grace. You don't want to be overly critical or judgmental about another person. What is the reason you don't like certain of your spouse’s friends? Perhaps it's just a personality clash. If so, then back off and let your spouse enjoy them. You don't need to be involved. Let your spouse know about your feelings, and then he or she can leave you out of the picture when they are together.

However, perhaps you don't like a certain friend because you feel that your spouse’s relationship with that person is flirtatious and they ultimately hurt your marriage. You need to delicately express your concerns to your spouse, and your spouse needs to hear and validate those concerns. Then trust each other. Work it out.

The bottom line is that you need to validate your spouse’s friendships – you both need to spend time with your same-sex friends. Communicate, set good boundaries, and be willing to be flexible.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.

The 5 Sex Needs Challenge Keeps Going!

For women: Nonsexual Touch

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Most women need and desire physical touch that does not lead to sex. They need to feel secure that every physical expression their husbands make isn’t with the expectation of moving toward intercourse. In our survey for our book The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women, more than 59% of the women ranked nonsexual touch as a top sex need.

Guys, you may be thinking, Wait a minute. I thought we were talking about sex needs. What does nonsexual touch have to do with that? Isn’t most touch between a husband and wife supposed to lead to sex? Simply put, nonsexual touch, or affection, is intimacy in and of itself. It’s not the means to an end. In many situations it is the end.

“Touch me. Don’t touch me.” Have you ever had that experience with your wife? One minute she wants to be touched; the next minute she doesn’t. No wonder men are confused! But men need to understand what kind of touch works well for a woman. More than 80% of a woman’s need for meaningful touch is nonsexual. Most psychologists will tell you a vast majority of women appreciate and love a hug, a touch, a kiss, holding hands—any physical sign that they are special.

First, let’s differentiate between nonsexual touch and foreplay touch. Nonsexual touch is loving affection. It may have the tone of sexual arousal “around” it, but the goal of nonsexual touch is not intercourse. Foreplay touch, on the other hand, leads to sexual intimacy for a couple. The problem is, to a man, touch is touch is touch. It all feels the same. But that’s not the case for his wife.

We know it may be difficult to understand how an intimate touch can stay platonic. You start rubbing her shoulders, and think you’ve entered the sexual intimacy zone. She thinks she’s getting an affectionate shoulder rub. And when you start to make your move, she resists and pulls back.

What happened? Many men have felt “out on the sofa” relationally, when they long to be “in bed” with their wives. When men go from nonsexual touch to trying to score—they won’t. It’s that simple. Some men keep trying this pursuit, keep failing, and keep shaking their heads in bewilderment.

The reality is when you meet your wife’s needs for affection, you refresh her weary spirit and help her relax. You give to her, which begins to replenish her energy. When you touch her without any expectation that you will end up between the sheets, she will feel much more secure with you and much more open to sexual activity later on.

But when you offer her touch that you think will move into the sexual intimacy zone, you could drain her spirit and push her over the edge. Why? Because if your wife is like most women, she spends her day meeting other people’s needs—giving, giving, giving. She gets tired and drained. When her husband comes home and moves right into “take” mode, she doesn’t have anything to give. She’s empty. And that means sex isn’t going to happen for a long time. Your wife needs you to be a safe and nonthreatening place for her. Nonsexual touch refuels her energy and creates that place of safety. Yes, she really does want to meet your sexual needs, but she needs time to refuel. You can help her do that through tender affection with no strings attached.

For a woman, great sex happens in the context of being held, laughing together, feeling accepted, and sharing feelings. Emotional intimacy is intensely fulfilling for a woman. Although it does not replace her need for sex, her emotional need is as intense as her husband’s physical need. When her husband fulfills her emotional need and sustains it though affirming her, hanging out together, and being affectionate, she feels replenished and safe, making it much easier for her to be open to sharing herself physically with her husband.

For men: Responsiveness

When a wife rejects her husband’s advances, he often interprets her lack of sexual response as “I don’t care about you” or “Your needs are not important.” Responsiveness is so important to husbands that nearly 63% of the men surveyed ranked it as a top sexual need.

When wives hear this, they usually ask us, “You mean I can never say ‘Not tonight’? Not at all. There are undoubtedly times when having sex just isn’t going to work out. But it’s important to understand what a lack of response will communicate. When a wife turns down a sexual advance, her husband feels emotionally rejected. And deep down, men are extremely sensitive. Many people think women are the sensitive ones. Although that’s true, men are often even more sensitive, especially in the area of sex.

When a wife responds to her husband’s sexual need, he feels loved. But when she ignores or overtly rejects this need, he feels unwanted and unloved. He is hurt by her frustrated looks, half-hearted attempts, and complaints.

Sex is a man’s way of feeling close. When a wife rebuffs or ignores his sexual advances, she sends the message that she doesn’t want to be close to him. Some of you wives may be shaking your heads, thinking, That’s not what I mean when I don’t jump at every sexual touch or wink. You’re right. Even though your husband may know in his head that you don’t mean to communicate that message, in his heart he finds it difficult not to believe that.

One of the greatest threats to a husband’s sense of worth is his sexuality. After a wife says “Not tonight,” his mind may fill with irrational thoughts: She cares more about the kids than about me. I’m a waste of time to her. Her to-do list is more important to her than I am. Maybe I’m just a poor lover.

Most of you wives know the power of this kind of irrational thinking. You battle with it as well. When your husband makes a sexual advance and watches for your answer, he wants you to want him.

No one explains the benefits of a wife’s sexual responsiveness better than Kevin Leman. In his excellent book Sheet Music, he writes:

A sexually fulfilled husband will do anything for you. Sex is such a basic need for men that when this area is well taken care of, they feel immense appreciation and act accordingly. A sexually fulfilled man drives to work thinking, I’m so glad I married that woman. I must be the happiest man alive! And then heads home thinking, What special thing can I do for my wife this evening? . . . Instead of resenting requests to stop by the store or take a look at a leaky faucet, a sexually fulfilled man will jump with eagerness. Instead of being cold and distant when you talk to him, he’s going to want to hear what you have to say.

Some wives reading this may be thinking, I tried that, and it didn’t work. You can’t just “try” this; it has to become a way of life. One good time of sex will make a man thankful—for a while. But if he’s turned down the next five times, he’ll think about the five rejections, not that one special night . . .

A sexually fulfilled husband will feel good about himself. So much of who we are as men is tied into how our wives respond to us sexually . . . [E]very healthy man wants to be his wife’s hero . . . He many not be the top dog at work, he may not have the fastest car, . . . his hair may be falling out while his gut is getting bigger, but if his honey loves him enough to occasionally put a few scratches on his back in the heat of passion, he will still feel like the king of the world. Why? Because he can please his woman.

Responding to your husband’s sexual advances will build his sexual confidence and make him more tender and attentive. He will become a confident lover who pleases you in mature, appropriate ways. Although a wife typically needs tenderness before sex, a husband often needs a sexual release to experience tenderness.

“And remember,” writes Shaunti Feldhahn in her book For Women Only, “if you do respond physically but do it just to meet his needs without getting engaged, you’re not actually meeting his needs. In fact, you might as well send him out to clip the hedges. So enjoy God’s intimate gift, and make the most of it!”

Challenge Extended

Men, our challenge for you this month is to practice nonsexual touch with your wife. While you’re watching TV, offer a backrub—a good one! Try to help soothe the effects of stress from her busy day and let her feel completely relaxed. If back rubs aren’t your wife’s cup of tea, do more of whatever she likes—hold her hand, put your arm around her, play with her hair. And of course, part of this challenge is to do these things without strings attached. Simply do them because they relax your wife and make her feel safe and let her enjoy being with you. We hope nonsexual touch will lead to more frequent and better intimacy with your wife by replenishing her energy and her spirit…but don’t make sex the end goal.

Women, our challenge for you this month is to just say yes! When your husband asks for sex, try to respond yes as much as you possibly can. If you have a checklist to get done by the end of the day and sex just doesn’t seem to fit in, ask for help and let your husband know that if you get it done, you can relax and enjoy intimacy together. Most likely he’ll be happy to help! Remember that your responsiveness builds confidence and makes your husband feel more secure...which in turn will give you both more confidence and security in your relationship. Your “yes” plays an important role in your marriage!

I Feel Like I'm My Spouse's Lowest Priority

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Q: I feel as if I'm the lowest priority on my spouse’s "to do" list. What can I do to change this?

A: Do you relate to this story?

"I've come to realize that Satan doesn't have to make us sin, all he's got to do is keep us busy. When our lives are so busy that we're going from early morning to late at night, there is so much noise and so many activities that we are not able to discern or hear the voice of God. We drift apart from our spouse, and yet we try to say that we're doing it all for her or for our families. But when we are gone all the time, what good is it? That's why we've got to reprioritize some things in our lives. We all sense it down deep. But it's a constant struggle."

We often hear from people who feel as if they just aren't a priority in their spouse’s life. Often it's the wife who feels that way, battling for priority against her husband's job, board memberships, organizations, church activities, and so forth. However, more and more we find men feeling that their wife just doesn't have time for them either. Clearly this is a problem that needs to be dealt with in today's marriages. When we hear these kind of stories, we recognize that the spouse’s busyness often goes much deeper.

So, think about your spouse for a moment. List all the activities he or she is involved in and how much time their activities take. Then ask yourself if you think your spouse is trying to fulfill a need to feel significant in the workplace, significant in those organizations, significant in the community. If it's not significance, maybe its performance. Does he or she feel the need to achieve?

Ask those questions, because excessive busyness can be a sign of a deeper problem. Your spouse may have grown up in a family where, in order to be significant and accepted, he or she had to perform well. Whether it was sports or grades or something else, your spouse may have felt from early in life that he or she needed to always be doing something, and doing it with everything he or she had. Only then would there be love and acceptance.

When we researched our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we talk to people all around the country. We ask the questions, "What do you need from your spouse in order to feel loved? What do you need in order to have a great marriage?"

The number one thing we learned – from men and women alike – was that they desired unconditional love and acceptance above all else. Some people never received unconditional love and acceptance as they grew up. So they entered marriage with that emptiness.

The next question is tougher: Does your spouse experience unconditional love from you? Does he or she receive love no matter what?

Begin there. Begin by lavishing your love on your spouse – regardless of his or her overcommitments – even through all the board meetings and other activities. As you build trust, you can begin to discuss your desire for more time with your spouse. Be honest. Be sincere. Be loving.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.

I Really Blew It. How Can I Regain My Spouse's Trust?

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Once trust is broken, it's very difficult to rebuild – not impossible, just difficult. Read a story we received when we had our radio program:

I was calling to see if you guys could help me figure out a way to get my wife to forgive me for some things that I have done. I had a problem with pornography over a two-year period, and a lot of people were hurt during my time of addiction. It was all brought to a head about six or seven months ago, and my wife just can't forgive me for it.

If you have really hurt your spouse and you've broken trust, you have to realize that you can't "get" your spouse to forgive you. What you must do first is pray. You need to admit your guilt and your need to be cleansed and confess your sin. And then you need to change. That's repentance. You need to turn away from whatever behavior caused the problem and go the opposite direction so that your spouse can begin to trust you again.

If you lied, now you tell the truth. Everything that comes out of your mouth should be truthful. Your spouse longs for you to be all that God made you to be. Your spouse needs you to be a person of integrity. But you can't just put that on. It begins to happen from the inside out. Your desires need to change. It's going to take some time; it's going to show itself in the minor decisions. Stick to your word and the smallest of things. Avoid places you know are going to tempt you. Get some people in your life – including your spouse – who will hold you accountable. You fight the lies by telling the truth. Let that beautiful refreshment of the Spirit of God wash through your spirit and clean out the old behaviors that pulled you down. If you have trouble with your mind, then confess that to God and start memorizing Bible verses so that whatever temptation comes, you can call upon the Word for help.

It's a process, and it's going to take time. If you have hurt your spouse deeply or repeatedly, he or she may be willing to forgive you, but that doesn't mean that the relationship is healed and that you can go on as if nothing happened. For true restoration to occur, you must be willing to work at rebuilding your spouse's trust over a period of time. You need to prove to your spouse over the long-haul that your confession, contrition, and repentance are genuine. Read another story we received:

I want to encourage everybody out there who's going through a break up, separation, or divorce. My wife and I went through a separation for eight months. I cheated on her. She forgave me, but she didn't trust me. It's taken a long time for her to finally get a little bit of trust back. We went to counseling.

I would like to encourage people in this situation to just hold steady and trust God during this time. It's very important. I knew that my wife and I were meant for each other, even though I had messed up. I knew that what I had done was grounds for divorce – and divorce was mentioned several times. But now we're back together. We're still going to counseling, and we are trying every day. It's not easy. But you know what? Christ can redeem a broken relationship and turn it around.

Trust isn't rebuilt overnight. If you have been unfaithful to your spouse, it may take long months of single-minded devotion before a foundation of trust is reestablished. Your relationship may be in ruins, but through the power of Christ's redeeming love your marriage can be rebuilt from the rubble. Begin that healing process today. Allow your desperation to lead you back to Jesus. Begin to rebuild trust today. Be faithful and patient, and you may experience the restoration you seek.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.