Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What Causes Arguments About Money?

Money Represents Power and Success
There are a variety of reasons for arguments about money. In our culture money represents power and success. Not having money is viewed as a weakness or as powerlessness. The way we use money tells a great deal about us as individuals. Some of us are impulsive spenders or even extravagant spenders in today’s credit card economy. Some of us are extremely frugal, unwilling to part with our money and always concerned about getting the lowest possible price for every thing we buy. Some of us focus on saving money, never feeling secure unless we have money in the bank.
Money Represents Security
Most of us appreciate money for the security it provides; for the food, shelter, clothing and necessities it enables us to have. We also enjoy the extra things money will buy— nice clothing, fun vacations, dinner out. Some enjoy using money to give generously to others in need or to a favorite church or charity.
Money is an important issue for couples to think about and to talk over between them.  Figure out what your differing styles are, what money means to each of you. Pay attention also to how money was handled in your families of origin as this will affect the way in which you view and use money. This will help you develop a plan for your money that will suit both of you.
Money Represents Control
Couples some times think they’re arguing over money when actually they’re arguing over control. Who makes the decisions about how money is spent? Questions about a partner’s purchases may be an attempt to control or an indication of a double standard if the prying partner is free to spend money without question. Money can also be used to get revenge or to sabotage an agreed upon budget. This happens when there is an unresolved issue between a couple. If an issue seems impossible to solve, one partner may use money to express his or her anger about that issue.
Money can also be used to buy love from a partner. In fact, we often expect nice gifts as evidence that we are loved. This can be over done especially if it is a substitute for showing affection or for being intimate with each other.

Money Represents Autonomy   
It’s essential for couples to share financial information with each other. In today’s world, both men and women need to know all the facts about their finances. This information needs to be shared even if it is a source of conflict. 
Each couple needs to figure out their own unique way of handling money. Some couples pool or merge all their money together. Some couples have his and her separate accounts. Some couples have three accounts, his, hers and ours. There are many variations on the ways we handle money. The important thing is for couples to pay attention to each others needs for control, autonomy and security.

Christians will view money as a gift from God, to be used as he guides, spending and saving carefully and giving generously. 

“See that you also excel in the grace of giving.” 1 Cor. 8:7 NIV

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is the Seven Year Itch Inevitable?

Couples begin marriage in the honeymoon stage; all is lovey-dovey. This is eventually followed by the power struggle phase. Romance fades and couples realize the other person is not perfect and is not going to meet all their needs. Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that most divorces occur within the first seven years of marriage. More marriages break up during this stage in life than at any other time. 

The power struggle phase is difficult for couples to resolve. (For more on power struggles see blog from May 2012.) Although you may not be in an obvious struggle, boredom and restlessness may signal an avoidance of conflict or a passive struggle. Often one partner will give in or avoid expressing dissatisfaction, rather than upset the other person. He or she may say yes to whatever is asked and then never get around to doing it - using passive resistance. 
The “Age Thirty Crisis” often coincides with the “Seven Year Itch”. For older couples, there may be an “Age Forty Crisis.” Many of us reevaluate our lives during each decade year. At age thirty (or forty) we begin to realize that our youth is gone and we won't live forever. Couples at this age are also under great stress trying to balance two careers and the demands of raising children. Divorce too often seems to be the answer to any problems. 
The seven year itch need not end in divorce. How can you prevent divorce? Gently insist that your partner talk with you about his or her feelings—even if what he or she has to say may hurt you. In order for a marriage to work both partners need to be able to be open, honest and be themselves with each other. The “Seven Year Itch” can become an opportunity to grow, to communicate more openly about the marriage and about hopes and dreams for the future.
Counseling and marriage enrichment groups can be very helpful with the seven year itch, helping you grow together rather than apart. These can help you let go of past resentments, overcome power struggles and adopt new ways of relating to each other that meet both your needs.
It’s also important to find ways to liven up a marriage that seems boring. It’s easy to get into ruts and relate to each other in very routine ways. There’s no spontaneity or imagination left in this type of relationship. Relationships take work and this is true especially for marriage. Couples who put as much thought and care into their marriage as they do into their careers reap the benefits of a satisfying and interesting marriage and one that continues to grow.

There are several books which offer many ideas about how to resolve problems and enrich your marriage. I recommend: Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, Married People: Staying Together In The Age of Divorce by Francine Klagsbrun and The Case Against Divorce by Diane Medved. See also www.smartmarriages.com.

So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce.’” Malachi 2:15-16 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What is the "Blame Game"?

Many couples play the "blame game." For example the husband may "blame" his wife for not having the house clean. She retaliates by "blaming" him for not spending time with the children and for not earning enough money. And the "fight" escalates. This is typical of what happens when we blame or criticize others.
We blame others when we are angry or hurt or feel criticized for something ourselves.  The person we blame often becomes defensive or retaliates with a criticism. For many of us blame is our first line of defense against attack. Animals attack when their territory is threatened or invaded. Similarly, we humans attack when we think our "territory" is in danger. The problem is, our territory is much more complicated than the simple geographic territory of animals. 
We may blame others when we're tried or stressed or when they don't live up to our expectations or do things our way.  In the example above the wife did not keep the house as clean as her husband expected.  We also blame others when underneath we are hurting. For example, the criticism of the wife in the example above may have come at the end of the day, just as the husband returned from work. I wonder what he brought home with him. Did someone at work criticize him?

In order to stop the blame game you will need to make a firm decision to do so. This will involve catching yourself whenever you become critical of your partner and checking inwardly to find out what you're feeling, thinking or expecting. It will take practice and determination to change.
Think about the reasons for your reactions. At times you will recognize that your criticism or anger is a childish response that stems from old issues having nothing to do with your partner. Or you will realize that your anger comes from current issues that have nothing to do with your partner. You may also realize that what the other person did was accidental. Occasionally you will need to confront your partner. It's best to postpone this to a time when you both are alone and rested. Some times you will decide to tell your partner right on the spot. 
When you think it is appropriate to confront, use "I" statements and acknowledge your own feelings or thoughts. For example, "I'm very angry that the house isn't clean because I thought you had agreed to have it ready for my meeting here tonight." Listen carefully to your partner’s response. If he or she becomes defensive don't get drawn into blaming. Instead, focus on solving the immediate problem of how to get the house ready for your meeting.

“Stop criticizing others, or it will come back on you.” Luke 6:37 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Important is Separateness?

Fighting or distance in a relationship often occur because of a problem with separateness or boundaries. Just as every country and every state has a boundary and will fight to protect their own territory, so we each have personal boundaries. We need boundaries to protect us from intrusion and abuse. Boundaries prevent us from being controlled by others. We need this separateness.
Healthy boundaries protect us and should be maintained all the time. We need to keep our individual boundaries intact in our relationships. The State of Ohio would never give up its boundary to Kentucky yet both states enjoy inter-state commerce. So, even in very close relationships we need to keep our boundaries unbroken.
Many of us grew up in homes where boundaries were damaged. Some of us grew up with no boundaries. Some of us have boundaries only part of the time or in certain situations. And some of us learned to put up walls instead of a boundary. If we have no boundaries we have no protection. We have trouble saying no. We expect others to be able to read our minds. We intrude on others space—giving advice without being asked, making decisions for others, or demanding they think as we do. We cling to others physically or emotionally.
Walls are a way to keep people out. They give us complete protection but prevent intimate connection with others. When couples have screaming fights they are putting up walls of anger. A wall of fear or a wall of silence is erected by people who are very withdrawn or isolated. They may run away if approached or give off a very cold message of “Leave me alone.”
If we have no boundary we will be hurt by criticism; we will feel defensive or guilty even when we have done no wrong. With a boundary we have time to think. We can stop the anger or the criticism from coming inside and hurting us. Imagining healthy boundaries will help you to develop them. You can imagine a black border around your body, like those around cartoon characters. Or you might think of a “force field” around you. Stop every request at this border and think about what you want. Do the same with criticism, deciding whether the person offering the criticism has a valid point or not.
Learn to keep your boundary intact even when your partner puts up a wall of anger or a wall of distance. Understand that he or she is doing this for protection. Then you won’t need to retaliate or intrude on his or her boundary. This alone may help your partner feel safe enough to let you get closer.

Show respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is A Battle of the Sexes Inevitable?

Couples often engage in a classic battle of the sexes. This is a fight over the ways in which men and women are basically different. Gender differences are usually part of the core conflicts all couples experience. Our society in recent decades has escalated the battle of the sexes. Some confusion and mistrust was inevitable and necessary in order to achieve greater equality for women. However, the anger and mistrust between the sexes now often reaches the point of open warfare in which no one wins.

Women lament “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” Men echo the cry with “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Gender differences are here to stay. They are real and they will not change. Roles or stereotypes may change but true gender differences will not. Some of these differences are physical, including the differences in reproductive organs. Men are also about ten percent taller than women; they have more muscle and therefore more physical strength. Women have joints that are more flexible; more body fat and a longer life span.
There are also developmental differences. Girls sit, crawl, walk and talk earlier than boys. Girl infants are more sensitive to touch, smell and sound. Boys in contrast are ahead of girls in visual/spatial ability.

In men brain development is localized in the left hemisphere where logic and reasoning take place. Women are born with more connection between their right and left brains.  As a result they are more adept at the right brain functions of communication, intuition and expression of feelings.
Studies show that from a very young age boys are attracted to objects and girls are attracted to people. Boys play competitively and girls cooperatively. From early childhood on the male views all interactions as ones in which he is either one-up or one-down. Boys learn to protect themselves from others and to fight to keep their independence. Girls, in contrast view the world in terms of connections. They seek closeness and support in their interactions.
Communication for most men is to give information or to solve a problem. Contrast this with women’s view of communication as a means of connecting and a way to share feelings. Conflicts occur in marriages often because of these different views of the world and different ways of communicating.
To resolve conflicts in a marriage both partners must reach a startling realization: Your partner is not you. We have tunnel vision. We find it hard to accept the fact that our partner sees things differently and that his or her viewpoint is legitimate. To understand and reach each other we must validate each other’s view of the world. We must see our partner’s logic as equal to ours. This is difficult as it involves giving up our self-centered point of view and making room for other perspectives.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect  her husband.” Proverbs 5:33 NIV

Blessings, Dottie