Marriage Money Matters

If you and your spouse have different priorities about our money - how can you come to an agreement?

We’ve had people ask us who are concerned about their different priorities. Sometimes the husband feels strongly about giving generously to others while the wife is fearful that there won’t be enough money for the family’s needs. Or maybe priorities about paying off debt are in conflict. Maybe she isn’t worried about trying to pay off the house while it’s a high priority for him.

 Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

If you are in that kind of push and pull with your spouse, you need to seek to understand what is behind your spouse’s opinion. Maybe she never had enough money growing up, so she’s worried about giving too much away. You need to serve each other. You need to work out a compromise, if even for a season or two. Perhaps if the husband wants to be very generous in giving money to the church, he should be careful for the sake of his wife—and focus on giving in other ways. Perhaps instead of giving of his money, he can give of time or talent. By doing that, he’s saying, “I love my wife so much that I’m going to take this issue of the table and I’m not going to tackle it this way. I’m going to pray for her. I’m going to love her.”

One way to move toward agreement on priorities is to talk about your goals. Perhaps you want to save for a home. Or maybe you want to take that dream vacation. If you can agree on a goal, then you can discuss what it will take to get there. At that point, you can then come to more agreement on your priorities with regard to the money that comes into your home.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

 

Can You Have a Sexless Affair?

Q: Do affairs always involve sexual intercourse? Can a person be unfaithful without that?

A: There is such a thing as an emotional affair, as opposed to a physical affair where sex is involved. You can indeed be unfaithful without having a sexual relationship.

We hear about this far too often. There is a concept that we talk about at our conferences—guarding your spouse’s heart by praying together. However, when a person outside of your marriage union is trying to attach to you by praying for you, he or she is trying to connect emotionally. We say that the person is not “praying” but “preying”—and you are the target. That’s how Christians so often get drawn in. They think they’re having this spiritual connection and that it’s pure, but too often the emotional wiring overloads and suddenly they are in a full-fledged affair. Even if sex has not occurred, the violation of the marriage is just as strong.

 Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Years ago, a book titled Temptations Men Face described twelve steps to an adulterous relationship. The first ten merely lead up to step eleven—and none of the first ten involves sex. Instead, those first ten steps erode a man and woman to the point where they step into the sexual relationship at step eleven. It starts with a sense of readiness and alertness of another person, and then surprise meetings, then planned meetings, then non-affectionate touch, then passionate embracing. Step eleven is capitulation; that’s where the intercourse occurs. It’s important to understand that by the time the first ten steps have occurred, it’s not a big leap from ten to eleven. Step twelve then is the acceptance of the affair.

Women need to understand that if they are stepping into an inappropriate relationship with a man, it invariably will move toward sexual involvement. Men need to understand that women who are especially attentive may be seeking that kind of attachment.

Let’s take a look at the steps to an emotional affair:

  1. Emotional affairs don’t necessarily start with an unhappy marriage. That may shock you. It can start with a look that simply says, “I find you interesting.” An emotional affair simply starts with a friend of the opposite sex—somebody at work, somebody at church, a neighbor, or even one of your kids’ teachers or coaches. You may begin to share intimate conversations about the things in your life that you hold dear—your kids, your walk with Christ, your views on the world. And then the biggest red flag is if you begin sharing about problems in your own marriage.
  2. The second step is when honesty, vulnerability, and chemistry develop the friendship into romance. You go out of your way to see each other. You have private lunches together. You make or receive calls when your spouse is away.
  3. As your emotional connection with this person grows, the connection in your marriage begins to crumble. You share more of your frustrations and triumphs with this other person than with your spouse. Arguments and conflicts arise in your marriage. You may pull away from your spouse and consistently turn to this friend for companionship and support. You no longer feel in love with your spouse.
  4. From there it is a short step to the declaration of those feelings and to moving beyond an emotional attachment to a full-blown affair.

We always want to base everything we say in God’s Word. Matthew 5:27 says, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus warned that the first look begins the connection that can eventually lead to emotional unfaithfulness and finally to full-blown adultery.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Loving Your In-Laws like Christ

Q: My in-laws are not believers. They don’t like the fact that Christ is so important in our marriage. What can we do to make visiting bearable?

A: It’s difficult enough to try to build a Christian marriage. It’s very hard when you have to add in-laws who are not supportive or are even attempting to undermine your faith. Listen to Adam:  

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“My wife and I are Christians, married a little over a year. My in-laws are not Christians. It’s very hard for me to speak the truth in love. That’s the struggle I’m having. I’ve just pretty much avoided them since we got married. I keep conversations short. When they come over, I usually go into another part of the house after saying hello. I’m avoiding them because I’m afraid we’re going to end up in a conflict. I’ve seen the way they react before. Once a debate about faith comes up, they start getting loud and angry. I’m a pretty easygoing person, but if they start getting loud and calling me names in my own house, I’m liable to say something that I’ll regret.”

You may not like it, but you should probably realize that you and your spouse may be the very people that God is positioning in your in-laws’ lives in order to love them in spite of themselves.

We would encourage you to get one-on-one time with each of the in-laws (father, mother, sister, brother, etc.). In other words, divide. Not divide and conquer, but divide and serve. And as you divide, love on them. Accentuate the positive things. Let them see the characteristics of Jesus Christ in your life. We’ve discovered that when people have these difficult kinds of family relationships, they can really make some headway if they can get one-on-one with the most difficult people. Before long, you may find your in-laws sneaking some compliments about you to your spouse! Imagine that! And then, when they are back together in a group, you might be stunned how they will align with you and some of those other contentious issues will begin to simmer down.

It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Your in-laws are going to be around for a long, long time!

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Be His Biggest Fan

Most of us men can’t get enough of competition. We love the thrill of victory. But even more than that, we want someone cheering us on to that victory. All of us want— and need —a fan cheering us on; we need to know we are special, that our family is proud of us.

The nature of the game may change from youth to adulthood, but our need for affirmation and encouragement doesn’t. Men still need to know they have a few fans left. It’s the way we’re wired. That’s why the more than seven hundred men surveyed for our book, The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, said that their number four love need in marriage is for encouragement and affirmation.

 Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

While it’s true that as men get older the need for high fives from their male friends subsides a bit, they still need the strong support of other Christian men. But the voice of affirmation they long to hear most is that of their wife.

How to Encourage Your Husband

If you want to grow in your ability to encourage your husband, practice several of these suggestions.

Encourage Him to Hear the Applause

For the Christian man, the applause from heaven—God’s approval—is essential. But like every other guy, I’ve discovered that heavenly applause is sometimes tough to hear. Why? Well, for one thing, some men don’t know it exists. They love the salvation part of the Christian message, but when it comes to actually knowing God, they either don’t get it, or they feel they don’t really need it.

Other men have turned the volume down—way down. They aren’t spending enough time with God, especially enough quiet time apart from this noisy world, to clearly hear his voice. Their ears are so filled with the sounds of this world that they are constantly missing that still small voice.

That’s where you can provide real spiritual encouragement. Remind him of two things: God and you are there for him twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He can go to God—and to you—with anything.

Encourage Him by Reminding Him of God’s Work in His Life

Barb has discovered how to cheer me on as she consistently and appropriately reminds me of what God is doing in our lives. She is able to do this because she has planted “good seed” in her own life, and her root system now runs deep, grounded in the Word of God. Her skill at being an encourager is top-notch because she goes to the Source to obtain her own refreshment—God’s wisdom in the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ.

In case you’re wondering if everything is perfect in our relationship, well, no, of course not. We’re two human beings, just like you. But we do have a great marriage, and a great deal of credit for that goes to Barb, who has mastered the skills necessary to become the consummate cheerleader and encourager.

Encourage Him to Be Accountable

God has given me five solid, strong friends to walk through life with me and to hold me accountable. Rather than resent the time I spend with these men, Barb understands how important this interaction is in my life.

Perhaps your husband has gone to Promise Keepers, and you have seen the work of a holy God in his heart when he came home: He is more tender, more spiritually focused, and more interested in strengthening your family. Or some other working of the Holy Spirit has prompted him to begin to grow spiritually. You, as his wife, must be

his main encourager in making God-focused changes, but godly men can also be a strong support for him in this process.

Encourage Him to Connect with His Children

A father needs his children as much as they need him. When I would get preoccupied, Barb was always there to encourage me to spend time with the girls. She would remind me to make the most of my time (Ps. 90:12) because our girls would not be under our roof forever.

An encouraging wife senses when there is a little too much distance between her husband and the kids—and she gently steers him closer. Barb has always done that for me, and it always pays off. As a result, I have the kind of relationship with our daughters that is truly a love affair of the heart.

Encourage Him to Reach Out and Grow

Barb is also tuned in to my need to continue to develop as a man. She gently encourages me to participate in events that will stretch me or help me grow.

Encouraging your husband may be doing something as simple as suggesting that he play Christian music on the stereo, reminding him of a new devotional book that you think he would enjoy, or pointing out an article in a Christian magazine. It’s true that you can’t force, whine, or nag your husband to be spiritually and relationally thirsty (and you shouldn’t try). But you must make a conscious, daily choice to root for your man. He is thirsty for your encouragement.

The Power of Encouragement

Find out what encourages your husband. It may be that twinkle in your eye, that nod of approval, that gentle smile that sends the message “I am proud of you.” You can say it in a store-bought card or on a sticky note you put on his calendar or his mirror. But say it frequently, positively, and authentically.

Remind him of his worth in God’s eyes, as well as to you and your children. Build him up. Cheer him on. Encourage him to continue to fight the good fight, to finish the race, to remain faithful (2 Tim. 4:7). And help him fight the good fight and finish the race with you.

Who’s Number One?

Over the years, we’ve heard many sad stories from people. A lot of these people were on the brink of separation or divorce, or they had already ended their marriages. When we probed about why their marriages didn’t last, most answers we received sounded something like this:

“He was never there for me.”

“She didn’t care about my needs.”

“I always felt like a second-class citizen.”

 Photo by  hellojardo  on  Unsplash

Photo by hellojardo on Unsplash

Marriages that go the distance and thrive are marriages where husband and wife serve each other by putting each other first— after their allegiance to Christ. Serving love means that you place a higher priority on meeting your spouse’s needs than on meeting your own. We don’t want to sound like prophets of doom, but our research and experience have convinced us that if you don’t put your spouse first, it may eventually cost you your marriage. It’s that important.

The success of a marriage—or any relationship, for that matter—really goes back to Paul’s straightforward words in Philippians 2:3: “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.” This doesn’t mean that we must adopt and nurture an inferiority complex. It doesn’t mean thinking less of ourselves than we should as God’s dearly loved and valued creation. Rather, it means seeing ourselves as we really are in Christ and regarding others as even better.

Paul goes on to explain where this attitude comes from: “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Who is greater, you or Jesus? Who deserves more honor and glory, you or Jesus? Who is stronger, more compassionate, more faithful, more wise? Clearly, it’s not you. Jesus is number one in all of creation. And yet he thought of you as better than himself when he became a man and died to meet your need for a Savior.

This is the attitude you are to adopt toward your spouse. The contrast is not as dramatic, of course, since you are not perfect and neither is your spouse. But when you think of your spouse as more important than yourself, you won’t have any trouble putting him or her first in your life. You will lovingly serve your spouse by doing for him or her what you wish others would do for you if you were in the same circumstance.

Here are some practical guidelines for putting your honey first:

Assist your spouse with his or her more menial tasks, such as making the beds, taking out the trash, cleaning, yard work, or whatever. Wherever the task might go smoother or faster with two people working and you are present and able to help, jump right in.

Communicate how important your spouse is when you talk about him or her instead of grabbing the spotlight for yourself. Always speak positively and constructively about your spouse around your children. When you are with other adults, make a point to bring up complimentary tidbits about your spouse. And you should share your positive comments as generously in private—alone with your spouse—as you do in public.

Never berate, demean, or humiliate your spouse in public or private.  Such words and actions fairly shout, “You are not important to me!” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t confront or correct in appropriate ways. On the contrary, such activities—when they are done lovingly—can also convey your spouse’s great importance to you. In effect, you are saying, “I love you too much to let you continue in a wrong or harmful direction.”

Try to outdo your spouse with courtesy and kindness. One couple we know practices this guideline in restaurants, among other places. Josh knows that his wife, Carrie, likes to sit where she can see the people, not where she is staring at a wall. So when they are escorted to a booth, Josh always directs Carrie to the side of the booth with the best “view,” where she is facing the most people, even if that means he can see only a wall beyond her. Carrie occasionally protests, offering Josh her favorite seat. But Josh enjoys treating Carrie to a view seat, and Carrie loves the fact that her husband is so tuned in to her interests.

Make time alone a priority. Nothing says “You are number one in my life” like putting your spouse first with your time. And nothing communicates second-class status (or third or fourth) more than elevating your schedule and activities above time spent with your spouse. We’re not talking about spending every waking moment together, of course. But you are wise to carve out significant portions of your week for one-on-one conversation, where you are focused on one another instead of work, a hobby, the TV, childcare, or even a church function. This may require some practical scheduling on your part, but don’t overlook the spontaneous, such as, “Let’s get a babysitter to watch the kids for a couple of hours and just go for a drive together.” Check out our book 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate for some great date ideas!

If you want your marriage marked by serving love, you can start by putting your spouse first.