I’ve had several comments regarding the Marriage/Babies Won’t Fix Relationship Problems post that led me to clarify my thoughts on how children may affect a relationship. My earlier point stated that if you have a rocky relationship, a baby will not magically repair the relationship. It’s important to point out that children do not “cause” relationship problems. Stress coming from many different directions (demanding jobs, frequent travel, conflict with parents) can simply magnify the cracks in your relationship.
But children don’t necessarily cause stress or strife, particularly in strong marriages in which children are desired. On the contrary, it’s my feeling that a strong relationship can be made stronger when children enter the family. The year after the firstborn isn’t always difficult (although research shows it is a challenge for many couples). My own experience after my first child was born was quite the opposite. My husband and I experienced a real “high” for at least a month following his birth, and a closeness following that–based on our new shared role as parents and our intense love for our child. Children are a blessing, not a bother. But they do require a realistic look at your lives to determine how they will be properly cared for and how you will simultaneously manage your other responsibilities.
The first year after my second child was born was very stressful for my husband and for me, because unlike our first, our second child very rarely slept through the night until she was two and a half. She required more energy during the day as well, something we were lacking due to sleepless nights. Essentially, we felt like we were competing to have our basic needs met, and we didn’t have close family members to rely on for backup. We hadn’t really anticipated feeling this way since our first baby was so easy. But after we got through it, it also made us feel like a unified team. We love both of our children equally and feel extremely fortunate to have them in our lives. The love we feel for them and they feel for us is priceless. The laughter and joy they add to our home can’t be measured.
Still, we struggle with making time for the two of us, and as they are now school-aged, with not making our family life all about their activities. More tips on that topic to come! Also read: How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of the Marriage?
One of the keys to getting past a rough period in a marriage is being able to see to the other side of the dip in satisfaction you may be experiencing. Researchers refer to the dip as a U-shaped curve, with the lower portion sometimes passing through career-building and childrearing. If you missed this post, read Author’s Secret to a Long-Lasting Marriage, which explains the common trajectory of marriage and the good news for couples who make it to the other side of the U.
For those of you who are parents, was that first year after your children were born stressful or joyful? Was it worthwhile? For couples who do not yet have children, do you fear what they might do to your relationship? Do you fear not having time for yourself, your hobbies or job? Do you hear parents talking negatively about their parental responsibilities?
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Posted in Family, Love, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships
Tagged babies, balancing parenting and other responsibilities, better marriage, Family, higher marital satisfaction, how babies affect marriage, improve marriage, marital happiness, marital satisfaction changes, marital transitions, marriage and children, new babies, new parents, parents, stress and parenting, surviving marital crisis, U-shaped curve
This morning on the Today Show, financial experts reviewed research on how money is the number-one cause of marital fights, and said the more couples fight about money, the more likely they are to become divorced.
We talked about this research here in February. The gist of it is that the more debt you have, the higher your marital stress level, while increased assets seem to bring security. Couples who used a budget had fewer arguments and higher marital satisfaction.
An interesting concept the Today contributors brought up that I had been thinking about is financial infidelity. That means one or both people are sneaking around about how they spend or save money. Secrets lead to fights, and fights lead to big marriage problems. It’s critical for couples to put all their financial debts, challenges and struggles out in the open so they can be negotiated and managed. Plans for improving finances will be more effective when honesty is displayed.
In the financial stability area, I feel extremely blessed. I can’t recall a single fight about money in our almost-15-year marriage. However, we have unusually similar financial priorities, goals and tendencies. For instance, we both tend to be savers, not spenders. And we like to spend money on the same sorts of things. My hubby tends to be a bit of a spendthrift about some things, which we may occasionally tease him about. But the bottom line is that I know his cautiousness about spending is a way to protect the family for the future.
So, we drive our cars longer than most people I know, and we delay on some unnecessary expenses, but we sleep better at night. We are probably also unusual in that we keep separate checking accounts (although both our names are listed on the accounts, and we both have full access if we needed it). This wouldn’t work for some couples, but it works well for us. Our savings accounts are combined.
Our philosophy has always been to spend less than we earn, substantially less when possible. That may seem obvious to most of you. (I sure hope so.) However, many couples are still thinking they can spend more this year and make it up next year. This generally leads to taking out loans or credit card debt, leading to increased fees and higher debt, more stress, and more arguments.
The experts suggest:
- Weekly meetings about your finances where you each provide updates, concerns and progress on your financial plans. You’ll need to discuss and negotiate your financial goals and plans. If you can’t have these meetings without fighting, you may need professional help (financial counselor, accountant, etc.)
- If you have credit card debt, focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate first. Put all your extra money toward paying that one off, while you pay only the minimums on other cards. Then move to the card with the next highest interest rate.
- Use automatic payment plans to set up the payments you agree upon.
- If you argue about money more than 1-2 times a month, and you feel those arguments are harming your marriage, consider seeing a marriage counselor. Your upbringing and tendencies from your family of origin affect the way you view and use money. Money is viewed as power in a marriage. If you allow these issues to fester, and particularly if financial infidelity creeps in, your marriage is at risk. Divorce is more expensive than a marriage counselor, so get help before it becomes too difficult to repair.
- Consider selling assets or downsizing if your lifestyle has become too stressful to maintain. Even if you can afford a higher lifestyle, no one says you must upgrade. One couple I know chooses to use their excess for charitable giving. This decision has given them much greater peace and satisfaction in their marriage than they receive from spending.
- When possible, each spouse should have some flexibility in spending so they don’t begin to view their spouse as a “parent” who must approve every expenditure.
Also, read Money Help: Becoming a Financial Free Couple.
Has money been the cause of arguments in your relationship? Have you learned how to better manage these issues without fights?
Posted in Communication, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Marriage Research, Relationships
Tagged arguing, budget, debt, Family, fighting about money, finances, getting out of debt, higher marital satisfaction, Marriage, money, saving, spending, spouses