Wifey Wednesday: What Do I Do with a Workaholic Husband?

When your husband is a workaholic: how to communicate your needs for him in your #marriage!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then give you a chance to link up your own post in the linky below. And today we’re going to deal with this problem: what do you do with a workaholic husband?

A reader recently wrote me this letter:

My husband’s work hours are way out of control. He owns his own business and regularly works 75-90 hours a week. We have been married almost 30 years and our kids are almost out of the nest.

His obsession with work overrides his common sense. The kids and I staged an intervention (literally) where we said that they would not ride in his car with him if he continued to text and check emails while driving (that has improved a bit since then).

He thinks I don’t appreciate his hard work. I do, but it has left me to be virtually a single parent, and in fact, an angry, disconnected wife. I try to open discussions with “I/we want to have you at home more. I miss time with you”, but it immediately goes to accusations that I don’t understand his work, his stress, the economy etc.

I am tired of pat Christian answers about making my home a sanctuary for him and understanding that work is what God created him to do. I am angry when I hear other Godly men ask with a laugh, “Still working those crazy hours?” instead of calling him on his out of balance life. I have considered talking to an elder couple that we are close to in order to have someone else discuss this with him.

My husband is a good man and I know, in my head if not my heart, that he loves me and his kids, but even as I write this, a voice in my head whispers, “but not enough to cut back his work hours”.

My heart breaks for this woman. She IS married to a workaholic husband, and it’s making her feel so unloved. So what does one do in this situation? Here are some general thoughts about workaholism and marriage.

Is He a Workaholic or Does He Just Work Hard?

My husband is a physician, and when he was in training he was often at work for 100-120 hours a week, being 36 hours on and 12 hours off. It was horrible. When he had his own practice he was still on call frequently, and his work weeks were still long. I never considered him a workaholic, though, because he loved being home–and when he had to dictate charts or bring work home he was always really grumpy about it. He wanted to be away from work; the job just didn’t always allow it.

What good would it have been for me to be angry at him for that? He was already upset that he wasn’t home more; me adding to that would not have helped. Working hard and working long hours does not necessarily mean he’s a workaholic.

A workaholic husband, on the other hand, is someone who routinely chooses to engage in work rather than engage in family time even when the job does not necessarily demand it. If he’s a pastor and he’s forever visiting people and counselling people after hours and going to meetings and he’s never with his family, then he’s likely a workaholic. If he’s a business owner (like our letter writer’s husband) and he can never put the job down, then he’s likely a workaholic.

Certain jobs are more prone to workaholism: the “caring” professions, especially ministry ones, where you can always justify working harder because “people need me”, and entrepreneurs, who feel as if everything rests on their shoulders. There are others as well, but those are the two categories that seem to be especially prone to it.

If He Simply Works Hard

Can He Switch Jobs?

Can you make a long-term plan for him to get more training so that he can qualify for something different that pays well? Can you create a 5-year plan together that gets him into something more manageable–so that your family life is better?

Can You Change Your Work?

One reason that my husband’s job was never too much of a burden to us was because I didn’t work outside the home. Because I was there to take care of the day-to-day things, then when he was home we could relax as a family. If I had been working 40 hours a week too I don’t know how we would have done it. When he got home instead of playing a game or talking we’d have to clean something or tend to errands.

Is there a way that you can reduce your hours or change your work so that the family becomes more manageable–even with his hours?

Can You Carve Out Family Time?

I have two dear friends who are both family physicians in a small town. The wife works part-time; the husband has always worked more than full-time because that’s the nature of the job. While he’s around most nights, he honestly is gone a lot of the time. But what they have done is carved out several weeks of vacation a year where they get out of town completely, so no one can page him. And they love their vacation time! They’ve taken their girls on missions trips, on backpacking adventures, and all kinds of places so that they create memories.

If your husband puts in a ton of hours at work, perhaps he can negotiate more vacation time where he’s out of the office and away from his phone.

I have another friend who is a project manager for huge corporate projects. He goes to work in one place for 2-3 years, managing some new huge launch, and then he’ll move to another corporation. So everywhere he goes it’s always at a stressful, busy time. He misses Thanksgiving sometimes. He misses weekends sometimes. But one thing he never misses is his kids’ quiz meets (his kids do Bible quizzing with my daughter). He coaches and he’s made that his priority. So even though he misses some traditional family things, he is always there for one particular thing that has become his priority–his barometer of whether he’s involved enough or not. And that works really well for them. Can your husband find one thing that he is always there for–coaching soccer, working with the youth group, attending a small group with you? And that is always your priority?

For years my husband and I spent Wednesday nights ballroom dancing. He never, ever took call on Wednesday nights, no matter what. That was our time. So, yes, I couldn’t always count on him for birthdays or for weekends, but I knew that he would always be there for me for Wednesday nights.

If Your Husband is a Workaholic

Can You Plan Your Goals Together?

Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesIf the issue is not one of time but honestly one of priority, then it’s a much bigger problem. Like Bill and Pam Farrel say, men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Men live their lives in little boxes: when they’re in one box (like work) it’s hard for them to think about another box. And often that work box gets really big.

One way to force them out of it is to talk to them about goals. Workaholics are often quite good at setting goals because they do it in the work setting all the time. So what about asking him to set goals for your family and your marriage? I’ve got some printable, downloadable worksheets right here that you can use to dream together and vision together.

If you start asking, “what do we want our family to look like?”, and then “what are the action steps we need to take to get them there?” that can help him see that he has action steps that need to be taken at home, too.

Developing a Vision for Your Family

Can You Find the Root of Workaholism?

Is workaholism about money? Or is it about self-worth? Or is it about a lack of trust in God?

I have a friend named Mark who has a construction company. He has always prioritized his family. He works long hours, but he’s home on weekends, and they do vacations together. When the downturn came in 2008, he didn’t lose his business, though many in his town did. And he says he just trusted God. He worked a little harder to drum up business, but he didn’t panic, because he knew God would take care of them.

Sometimes people become workaholics because they’re essentially scared that God won’t take care of them, so they have to do it all themselves. In that case it’s a trust in God issue.

Sometimes he’s grown up to believe that his worth is from his work, and so he puts all of his emphasis there.

And sometimes he just wants more money, thinking that it will buy security.

Figuring out what the spiritual root is can help you tackle the problem. And sometimes you will have to talk about this with a counselor or a third party. In extreme cases, you will have to say, “I can’t live in the marriage like this anymore and we need to get help.”

Other times just using logic can help. How much money is enough for your retirement? If you go at this trajectory, will you manage? Does the business need to expand? Do you need to work that many hours? If they can see it in black and white that their financial goals are already met, that can help them scale back.

If the issue is that he’s in a caring profession, and the demands are never ending, then I’d read this post which addresses specifically that.

Be Honest with Your Own Role

I am not saying this is the case with my reader at all, but I have had many men comment on this blog about how desperately lonely they are in their marriages, and how they have turned to their work instead so that they can cope with the loneliness. The babies came, and their wives threw themselves into the kids, virtually stopped having sex, and were critical and demanding. And the men felt unloved.

So they threw themselves into work, and for a few years everyone was happy. He could cope because his needs were met at work; she could focus on her kids unimpeded. Then the kids started to grow, and she began to miss him, but he wasn’t here anymore.

Ask yourself if you have done anything to contribute to his workaholism (and this is not always the case). Then ask him. And if you have, repent, apologize, ask forgiveness, and try to start fresh. Here’s a good post on asking for forgiveness.

Confront Him About His Workaholism

Like my reader, I have heard the advice, “just make your home a sanctuary he wants to come home to!”, and there is some truth to that. But I think that truth is more relevant if your husband works hard, not if he’s a workaholic. If he simply works hard, he needs that sanctuary. If he’s a workaholic, the problem is usually a spiritual one, and no matter what you do it won’t get better. In fact, you could end up enabling him to grow further away from God and further away from his family if you do nothing.

Boundaries in MarriageInstead, I’d advise my reader to bring in that older couple she was referencing. Perhaps talking to a counselor would help. Read the book Boundaries in Marriage. But do not just let it be. That makes you an enabler, not a spouse.

Our reader and her kids did a good thing confronting him about texting. That was a great first step. But take the next step, too.

Make Your Own Life

My friend Leanne had a workaholic husband. She tried for years to change it and finally realized she couldn’t. So she stopped waiting around for him. She began taking the kids on vacation by herself. She took them to the beach in the summer rather than trying to plan around his schedule–and then being disappointed again. She started taking painting classes herself and hired a baby-sitter for the kids. She stopped putting her life on hold and started living it.

An interesting thing happened. His workaholism stopped bothering her quite as much because she had other areas of joy in her life. And because of that, he started wanting to be home more. He realized he was missing a lot of fun, and he made more of an effort to be there for those beach trips.

Their marriage is still not perfect, but she’s finding it easier to cope with it.

WifeyWednesday175So those are my thoughts on workaholism–and now I’d love to know yours! How do you deal with a husband who works a ton? Let me know in the comments!

And now it’s your turn to leave your own link for Wifey Wednesday! Just put the URL of your marriage post below, and be sure to link back here so other people can read the great marriage advice!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Top 10 Ways to Be a Merry Mom this Christmas

Top 10 Ways to Be a Merry Mom This Christmas
Please welcome our guest author, Lindsey Bell, who is posting with us as part of her December Blog Tour.  Today she is sharing great tips for how to be a merry mom this Christmas–words to live by every day, really .  And be sure and enter her mega- giveaway–details are at the end of this post!

Christmas is my favorite holiday, but it also has the potential to be VERY stressful. With parties to attend, goodies to bake, programs to prepare for, gifts to purchase, and cards to send, Christmas can sometimes be far from joyful.

We might say “Merry Christmas” to the checker at the grocery store, but many of us don’t always feel merry. Here are a few tips that might help!

How to Be a Merry Mom:

1. Simplify.

Most of us are on the go WAY too much. I read a book recently called Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, and she said something in the book that stuck with me.

What she said was this: “My child cannot kiss a moving target” (23).

Our kids can’t kiss us or hug us or cuddle with us if they can’t catch us. If we’re always on the go, when will our kids have the opportunity to just BE with us?

Kids can't kiss a moving target--so slow down this Christmas season and make sure you have time to be a Merry Mom! Lindsey Bell shares how...

As much as we’d love to attend every Christmas event, there are times when it’s wiser to stay at home and be with our families.

Simplifying begins by prioritizing. Decide which events you most want to attend, and then allow the rest of fall off your calendar.

2. Begin your day well.

About six months ago, I attended The Better Together Conference put on by The MOM Initiative. At that conference, one of the speakers challenged each of us to begin our days with our faces on the ground in prayer.

I’ve been doing that since then, and my days have drastically changed.

I think the reason they have changed so much is because God is filling me up early.

Before, when my children challenged me, it was me that spilled over (me, plus a little bit of impatience, frustration, and irritability). Now, when my kids push my buttons, it’s God that spills out of me.

Because I take time each morning to have Him fill me with His presence, it’s His Spirit that seeps out of me throughout the day.

3. Work on your marriage.

When our marriages are strong, we are happier people.

As much as we’d like to believe living in an unhealthy marriage doesn’t affect our moods, that’s not reality. Happy marriages make happy people; unhappy marriages make unhappy people.

Take time this week to work on your marriage. Buy a marriage book to read together. Have a date night. Have sex with your spouse. Pray together.  

4. Count your blessings.

Many of us mistakenly assume we have to feel thankful to voice thanksgiving.

We don’t.

Instead, it’s often the voicing of thanks that creates the feelings of thanksgiving.

In other words, if you take time to count your blessings, you will grow more thankful. You’ll begin noticing more blessings in your life. Your focus will gradually shift off the hard things in your life to the blessings instead.

5. Take care of yourself.

A happy mom is a mom who takes care of herself. Sure, there are seasons in our lives when we can’t get a full night’s sleep. There are seasons we can exercise every day.

But do your best to take care of you. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Rest as much as your little ones will allow.

6. Get away from time to time.

Nothing makes you adore your little ones more than being away from them occasionally, so if you’re able, go on vacation with your spouse, go on regularly dates, take time to yourself, and don’t feel bad about doing it.

7. Stop comparing your life to the lives of others.

Steven Furtick once said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Stop comparing your life to the lives of those around you. Sure, their life might look great on Facebook or Pinterest. But you’re not in their home everyday.

The key to happiness is to stop looking outside your surroundings to find it.

8. Laugh and smile more.

Laughter is good for the body, mind, and soul, so choose to laugh more. Instead of getting angry when everything goes wrong of a morning, choose to laugh instead.

When your holiday plans don’t turn out as you expected, choose to smile and laugh instead of blow up in anger.

9. Do something you love.

Writing has always been something I loved. When my son was first born, though, I thought I needed to put my writing aside until my kids were grown.

I’m so thankful my husband told me to write then instead of waiting until later.

When moms use their gifts, talents, and abilities, they’re happier women…And when we’re happier women, we’re happier moms.

Granted, there are certainly seasons when I can’t write as much. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it at all.

10. Be present.

It’s tempting—especially on the hard days—to escape with my phone…to log into Facebook or Pinterest and only be half-there with my children.

What happens when I do this is that I stop enjoying my kids.

It’s only when I’m fully present that I fully enjoy my life. My guess is, I’m not the only one.

So if you want to be a merry mom this Christmas, choose to be with the ones you’re with.

What other tips would you add to this list?

 

This post is part of Lindsey Bell’s December blog tour. To enter to win Lindsey’s MEGA-GIVEAWAY (the winner will receive 6 books!), leave a comment on any of Lindsey’s guest posts this month (including this one).

Enter to win

For a full list of participating blogs (and ways to enter!) visit this post on Lindsey’s blog.

About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey BellLindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at any of the following locations:

Her blog: www.lindsey-bell.com

Her website: www.lindseymbell.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LindseyMBell

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/LindseyMBell01

 


Searching for SanityAbout Searching for Sanity:

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.

You can pick up a copy today at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Top 10 Reasons for Morning Sex

Top 10 Reasons Morning Sex can be great for your marriage!

It’s top 10 Tuesday, and today a brave Rajdeep Paulus (who is really hoping her mother isn’t going to read this blog) is going to fill us in on her top 10 reasons for morning sex!

Back in pre-children days, hubby and I were younger. Had more time and energy. Making our way into the bedroom early in the evening seemed all too easy–except maybe when the Chicago Bulls were in the playoffs. But really, sex was a priority and seemed like the perfect way to end a day.

Sixteen years, demanding careers, and four daughters between the ages of seven and fourteen later, time and energy seem more limited than ever.

Hubby’s also biking countless miles to prepare for a cross country trek next summer to fight human trafficking. I’m juggling several manuscripts, hoping to turn in drafts to my editor before Christmas. And the girls and their needs and activities require time and attention on a daily basis.

So when does a marriage have time to thrive—especially in the bedroom?

When we were newlyweds, just figuring out each other’s bodies was a challenge. About six years in, we attended a PAIRS class over ten weeks and it changed our marriage. Gave us the tools to communicate about the most delicate of topics, taught me a lot about myself, and challenged us to stop “dirty-fighting” and work through conflict with the perspective that we were on the same team, fighting for our marriage.

One of these conflicts has always been the “WHEN” in the equation of sex. You see, I married a med student–who then went through residency. And now juggles a few roles at the hospital he works as an attending physician. Throw in four babies along the way, and the fact that we’re opposites (he’s a morning person and I love to stay up at night and sleep in,) and the limited privacy in a small house in New York. Making sure we went to bed at the same time hasn’t always been an option. But, more often than not, waking up together happens.

And before I dive into my TOP TEN Reasons for Morning Sex, I want to share one of the best gifts given to us during the Emotionally Healthy Marriages seminar we attended. On the last day, we were asked to share our concerns about our bedroom relationships with our spouses, and I brought up the choice to say no. Was it okay to say no? Especially if I’m just tired. And the answer was a resounding, YES. Sex is a gift to be given to each other out our love and commitment to each other, not out of guilt or manipulation.

BUT, knowing how important it is to invest in each other to keep our marriage thriving, we chose that day, together, to really limit our “no’s” to each other since time and energy only dwindle as we get older.

That was also the day we began the conversation about WHEN was the best time. The nights work for many couples. And if it were up to me only, I would choose nighttime. But marriage is made of two people and compromise and what works best for the both of you.
Top Ten

Here are the Top Ten Reasons For Morning Sex:

1. You can tap into that dream you had last night and make those details come to life in real time.

2. You have more energy in the morning, and I say this even though I do not consider myself a morning person. After a good or decent night of sleep, most people wake up recharged and refreshed.

3. You have the background of singing birds outside your window to drain out any noises that might stir the children. Well, at least till winter comes and they all go south. ;)

4. You have a little light seeping through the shades, meeting the visual needs of a great experience without the floodlights of overhead light bulbs.

5. You can stretch out your kinks and stiffness that you wake up with. Morning calisthenics never felt so good.

6. You can enjoy an undisturbed time of making love with your spouse since teenagers prefer to stay up late at night and sleep in every morning.

7. You’re more in tune to the other person’s needs—what feels good, when to slow down, or when do things differently—simply because you can see each other’s body language.

8. You can put the “good” in Good Morning and give each other something to think about all day.

9. You’re just nicer to each other when the morning starts with kisses.

10. You can go to work with a smile on your face!

And nothing is written in stone. We still break the mold many days. But for the most part, this sleepy-head wife can honestly say, that whether it’s a weekend or a weekday, the best time for us as a couple has become the morning. Because hubby is a morning person, and he patiently wakes me up with his arms circled around my waist, waiting for some sign of life.

This usually includes me turning toward and not away from him.

And with eyes closed, I drift from my dreams to his tender kisses. It’s a nice way to wake up. It really is.

What did I miss? And you and your honey? When is the best time to sneak in some couple time?

Rajdeep Paulus really doesn’t want her picture up with this article. She’s an Award-Winning author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook  TwitterPinterest, or Instagram.

Seeing Through Stones: Young Adult Contemporary FictionSwimming Through Clouds: A Contemporary Young Adult NovelSheila Says: I’ve read Rajdeep’s books–Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones. They’re young adult novels about abuse, friendship, and finding meaning. And I loved them! If you’re looking for some good young adult books, look no further. Swimming Through Clouds is the first in the series, and Seeing Through Stones is the sequel.

Reader Question: My Husband is Too Tired for Sex

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is one that lots of people struggle with: what do we do if we’re just too tired for sex?

What advice do you offer women who are married to men who are a little older and say they have the desire to have sex but just don’t feel up to it? I’m 36, hubby is 56. I have lupus, he has injuries from the war in Iraq. Neither one of us are rock stars. But I married a sex crazed man four years ago and now I’m doing good if we have sex once a month. It’s hard not to take it personally. When I try talking to him about it I see the hurt in his eyes, like he feels he’s letting me down. How do I accept that this is just the way it is? How do I protect my heart and mind?

Okay, ladies, it’s time for a bit of a pep talk today!

Maybe I’m just in an energetic mood because I finally finished all the major revisions for my new book (9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage) and got it off to the publishers, and I feel like I have my life back, but let’s think positively today! I’m going to comment on the general issue of feeling too tired for sex, and not on this particular letter writer’s issue, because I really don’t know what his health condition is. So let’s think of some general principles:

Too Tired for Sex? How to find energy again in your marriage!

Live out your priorities–If you’re too tired for sex, are you too tired for everything else too?

I’m not trying to diminish the reality of being exhausted. I know many people are–especially when we’re getting little sleep because of shift work or because we’re in school studying for exams or because we’re pregnant. And when it’s a short term thing–like exams or pregnancy–grace should abound.

But look long-term for a moment. If sex is a priority (and it should be), then make sure you prioritize it! Don’t make it come last. If you have health issues, then you are only going to have energy for certain things. Make sure sex is one of them. Don’t overcommit yourselves to stuff. Don’t have all kinds of energy to clean the house or work on a hobby, and then collapse into bed. Make sex one of the first things on your list–not just something you do at the end of the day “if” you have energy left.

I’ve written in previous posts about how scheduling sex can work for some people, and in this case it may be a very good idea. If you know, we’re going to make love Tuesday night, then you can make sure that Tuesday you get ready! You don’t play video games until 1 in the morning. You don’t work late if you don’t have to. You get ready for sex!

Read it here: Scheduling Sex

Wasting time makes you more tired

Here’s another truth: when we’re tired, we tend to gravitate towards inactive things, like watching TV or surfing the internet. These activities, however, SAP your energy. They don’t preserve it.

That’s true for several reasons, but here are just a few: we know that these things don’t actually add tremendously to our lives, in the same way that talking to a friend, doing a hobby, journaling, or taking a walk do. And because of that, they tend to sap our souls. There’s nothing wrong with them in moderation (and I knit now when I watch netflix, which turns it into a hobby!), but have you ever spent an entire day watching TV and then at the end of the day thought, “where did today go?” It’s depressing because that’s time you can never get back. And if you have tendencies towards depression already, screens tend to make it worse, while fresh air tends to make it better.

God created us for a purpose, and when we spend too much time on activities with no lasting value, we hurt our own souls (and we contribute to mental  health issues, which is often a reason that we feel too tired for sex).

Also, when we’re tired and in pain, sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time tends to reinforce that. I have a friend who suffers from circulation issues due to severe burns she suffered as a child and rheumatoid arthritis (and she’s relatively young)! She recently got one of those pedometers that counts the number of steps you take a day. Her average is 16,000–and she doesn’t really go for walks. She’s just always on her feet at home. I took her out to dinner last Saturday for her birthday, and we sat at the restaurant and talked for a while. It was much longer than she usually lets herself sit down. When we got ready to go, she was really stiff.

“That’s why I don’t let myself watch TV,” she said. “If I were to sit and watch a movie, I’m done for. I have to keep moving.”

Of course this depends on the severity of the problem, but in the vast majority of medical issues, moving helps, and sitting in one place hinders. Another friend of mine with fibromyalgia qualified as a life guard when she was 50 and now teaches Aquafit. If she doesn’t swim, her body stiffens up too much. Of course it’s hard to get the motivation to move when you’re in pain, but ultimately it can help get that pain under control.

Again, it depends on the condition (certain back issues, for instance, make any movement too difficult). But sitting in one place watching a screen is rarely a good idea.

Do you get enough rest?

The average person needs eight hours of sleep a night. Certain chronic pain conditions, of course, make it difficult to get a full night’s sleep.

However, most people just don’t sleep enough today because of screens. We get watching a show and we stay up later than we intended. Or we stay up until we fall asleep on the couch. That increases our chances of depression and makes our sleep far worse. If you want to sleep well, turn off the screen at least 45 minutes before you intend to hit the pillow.

If you want to make sex a priority, set a bedtime when the screens go off! Head to bed at 10 and just talk with each other. Give each other a massage before bed.

Make it happen

As we get older our bodies fall apart, and some of us will have conditions that will cause that to happen more rapidly. It isn’t fair–but it’s life. The question is: what will you do about it? And likely there is so much more that you can do than you think!

Talk to your spouse and say, “I want us to have as much fun as possible, and to have as much energy as possible!” And sex, of course, increases your energy levels because it releases good hormones, relaxes you, and helps the quality of your sleep.

Many of us have bodies that are falling apart because we just aren’t treating them well. We live far too sedentary lives, we don’t feed them well, and we don’t rest enough.

So schedule sex. Turn off the screens. Move as much as you can. Go to bed at a decent hour. Give LOTS of massages. This won’t work for all health conditions–I’ve written before about what to do if health issues make intercourse impossible. But I think many of us are settling for crumbs in life when we can still have so much more! Sometimes we get into these bad habits because it’s just so easy. We’re tired at the end of the day, so sitting in front of  a screen seems enticing. But it won’t really help in the long run.

Ask yourself: is the way I’m living my life sapping my physical and emotional energy, or giving me more? If it’s sapping it, do a re-examination. Sometimes it just takes a few tweaks for you to find you have your life back!

Let us know: what have you found? Have you had something in your life that sapped your energy that you had to get rid of? Or did you find another way to boost your energy? Leave us a comment and tell us!

What if Balance is Overrated?

Balance is Overrated

Here is an older post that I really love, so I wanted to resurrect it–in case you missed it the first time!

Balance. It’s the buzzword of this generation.

In our hectic lives, everyone is searching for that elusive thing called “balance”, where we feel like we’re living out our priorities, we’re able to get the rest we need, but we’re still being purposeful.

What if the whole idea of finding balance is more like a millstone around your neck than it is a real thing to aim after, though?

Let me explain.

Finding Balance, in and of itself, says that some things must lose.

It says that you have to put less of an emphasis on one thing so that you can put more of an emphasis on something else. To aim for balance is really to aim for a constant series of trade-offs. You decide that this will have to go, that you can’t do this, all so that you can do this.

It’s not exactly an easy psychological process.

What if there’s a better way?

A bunch of very disparate but interesting things have led me to this conclusion. First, I was reading Kathy Peel’s book The Family Manager while staying at a friend’s home recently. Her point is that many housewives are extremely capable when it comes to organizing work or organizing big functions at church, but we can’t seem to organize our homes. The solution? Take what you’re good at and apply those same principles at home. In other words, work to your strengths.

I’ve read something similar in another book recently, which even though I disagreed with much of it, that one part I thought was useful.

Forget finding balance; instead, figure out what you’re good at.

What makes you feel alive? What gets you excited? Now concentrate on maximizing your time for that.

At the same time, I’ve been delivering a number of messages at various speaking engagements about finding your purpose in life. And it occurs to me now that if we apply all three of these principles to our lives, we’d be a lot happier than if we just sought balance. So here’s what such a life would look like:

1. Figure out your purpose.

What is it that God is calling you to right now? Where does He want you investing your time, your money, your energy? Sometimes there may be just one area; some of us have several areas. I feel called to speak, to homeschool, and to lead the Bible quizzing program with our youth at church. One of those areas is simply my specific responsibility (my family). God always calls you first and foremost to your family. The others are more where I am using my gifts and serving in my particular church.

When you figure out where you are most called, then it’s easier to emphasize those areas. Forget everything else. Let it all fall by the wayside. We don’t need to be “balanced”, doing everything in moderation. We need to be sold out to the areas where God has called us!

Figure out where God has called you, and ditch the rest. Yes, the other stuff needs to get done. But God will call someone to do that other stuff. Your responsibility is just to live out the areas where you are called.

I believe that we are always called primarily to our families and to the people who are closest to us. Those are the people that God has trusted us with to show them Jesus. We are also called to our local body of believers, to serve in at least some capacity. I don’t think having children gives you an excuse not to serve. We all can be serving somewhere, because without us the church can’t function. So ask God to show you in what one area you can serve that will make a difference.

2. In those areas where you feel called, work to your strengths.

Maybe you don’t cook. Maybe you never will learn to love cooking or cook very well. That’s okay. Stop beating yourself up about it. Learn to make 7 meals well, and rotate them every week. You’re allowed. Maybe your real gift is in making a fun home where you play lots of games and create an atmosphere where people just plain have a roaring good time, even if the house is never in tip top shape.

That’s who you are. Stop trying to become someone you’re not. What are your strengths in your family? Play to them. Do the things that you do well, and then figure out how to minimize the other tasks which do need to get done so that you have more time for your strengths. Don’t strive for balance, because in your case, balance means spending more time on stuff that frustrates you and makes you miserable, and less on stuff that gives you life.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I went on a craft binge. I bought painting supplies. I bought fabric to sew. I bought all kinds of stuff. And then I started doing it and hated it. I sewed my maternity clothes and they never fit quite right. I tried to stencil something and kept going out of the lines.

And all the while my knitting sat beside me, untouched. I was trying to conquer all these other crafts that I admired, instead of doing the one that I am great at (if I do say so myself) and that relaxes me. So now I proudly announce that I don’t sew, I don’t cross-stitch, I don’t scrapbook, and I don’t crochet. What I do do is knit. Everywhere. Even in line at the grocery store (I always have a pair of socks on the go in my purse).

Sheila Wray Gregoire knitting--work to your strengths!

It may not be balanced, but it’s what I’m good at and it’s what I enjoy. You don’t need to do everything. Work to your strengths.

When you figure out what you’re good at, it’s easier to apply those things to your home. If you’re a spontaneous person, then create a spontaneous home. Work less to lists and more to creativity. That’s okay. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Figure out how to get done what does need to get done, but then create a tone for your home where you’re laid back, and people can drop in anytime and it doesn’t bother you.

If, instead, you’re very organized, then don’t try to be spontaneous! Create a schedule for your day and stick to it. You’ll feel better.

Often instead of working to our strengths we work to our weaknesses. We see the things we’re not good at and we spend all kinds of time trying to make ourselves better at these areas of weakness, rather than spending productive time in the areas where we do excel. If we each worked to our strengths, we’d get things done a lot more quickly and with a lot less grief.

God made you the way you are for a purpose. You do not have to be the typical Christian woman, because God may not have made you that way. He sure didn’t make me that way! I function best when I have a ton of things on the go. I work really hard, and then I crash really hard, and my family loves it. We’re busy, we do interesting things, we talk about interesting things, and no one day is ever exactly like the other.

That’s who I am. Do you know who you are? Or are you still reading all these books that tell you that you should fit into a specific mold? I think often we mistake our identity and calling with the things in life that need to get done. Just because laundry needs to get done does not mean that you are naturally a laundry person. Just because you’re looking after your children at home does not mean that you are naturally a kid person. But you can take what you are naturally good at and you can apply those things to how you manage your home, how you raise your kids, how you serve in church.

3. If you don’t fit the mold, break it!

Just don’t try to have balance, if what you mean by finding balance is that you do a little bit of everything. It seems to me that God calls us to live out our purpose, and to work productively six days a week, and then He calls us for one day a week to rest in Him, to have time to think, to meditate, to enjoy each other. That’s the balance that we need.

So make sure that you’re spending time connecting with God so that you can find your purpose. Spend time on your own everyday rejuvenating yourself so that you can live out that purpose. And then apply your strengths to living out your calling day by day. Don’t be everything to everybody. Be uniquely you. And that is perfectly okay.

10 Ways to Banish the Stay-at-Home Mom Blues

Stay at Home Mom Blues

I have always been a stay at home mom, but if you judge by the comments of many, I have the personality of a pea. If you’re a stay at home parent, you know what I mean. People constantly remark, “I don’t know how you do it. I would go stir crazy if I had to stay home with my kids.” I wonder if people who say that realize how insulting it can sound? The inference is that I am some sort of mutant sub-species that requires far less intellectual stimulation than normal, and can survive for days on end with the praise from Barney—”I love you, you love me”.

It’s time to challenge this notion that staying home with your kids is akin to a prison sentence with an awfully whiny jailer.

Certainly it can be tremendously difficult, draining and exhausting, especially since you usually walk around with banana mash on your jeans and spit up on your sweatshirt. But that’s not the whole story.

Many parents choose to work for a host of different reasons, and only you know what is right for your family. I know that for many, much as you may long to, staying home isn’t financially feasible. I don’t mean to leave you out of today’s post, but I do want to share with my readers who are at home how to make sure it doesn’t get overwhelming.

And so today, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 Ways to Beat the Stay at Home Mom Blues.

Top Ten Tuesday1. Think Outings, not Hibernation

We go about stay at home parenting all wrong. We start by buying tons of equipment (ExerSaucers, swing sets, trampolines) to ensure that we never have to leave the house. But what happens if we’re home alone all the time? Our kids may go stir crazy and whine, cry and vomit. Then we cry. Probably we whine, too. And if we’re pregnant, we definitely vomit. So let’s take a step back and approach this stay at home thing differently.

Instead of spending all day cooped up with the kids, plan for a daily outing, if possible. When my kids were little, we went out every single day. We went to the library. We went to a playgroup. We walked to a nearby park. We went to the museum (it was free on Thursday mornings).

The benefit was that the kids had fun, but they were tired out, and then they would nap better for me later. And if we were out, I could focus completely on them, so when we got home, it was easier to get them to give me time to myself.

2. Enforce Quiet Time

We count the minutes until we can put a child down for a nap. We rejoice when more than one child manages to nap at the same time. Sometimes we even grab a nap, too, wondering how long it will last.

And then an older child stops napping, and it all falls apart.

When a 3-year-old stops napping, enforce quiet time. Have them stay in their room for half an hour with a book or a toy, and let this be “quiet play” time. That gives you some time to yourself, and helps them get some rest (and thus not get so whiny).

3. Get Adult Stimulation

We aren’t meant to do motherhood alone, and you need adult conversation. Take your kids to a playgroup, or organize one yourself. Join the local YMCA or another fitness club that offers baby-sitting. Best of all, join a women’s Bible study or a MOPS group. Just make sure you do something at least once a week that gets you talking with adults.

And talk to your hubby at night, too! Share the burden with him, don’t just retreat to a screen and hand the kids over to him because now it’s his turn. It’s tempting to want to just watch a movie or collapse at the end of the day, but do try to spend some time talking. You need that connection, and he does, too.

4. Start a Hobby

Adult stimulation isn’t all we need; we also need intellectual stimulation–something that gives our brain a creative outlet. Did you love knitting when you were a child? Start knitting again, even if it’s only at night when the kids can’t get to the yarn. Start crocheting. Start painting. You don’t have to do it all the time, but if you have a hobby to research and plan and dream about, it helps.

5. Learn Something

And now it’s time to grow! Learning keeps life fresh. So pick a topic this year that you want to master. Maybe it’s more in-depth Bible knowledge (Kay Arthur or Beth Moore studies are great for that). Maybe it’s nutrition. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s investing. Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s building a blog! Choose something that you’ve always wanted to know more about, and jump in! Research on the computer, start with small projects, and try. You can do it in 20 minute spurts while children play, or take an hour on the weekend that’s “your time”. One new blogger I know goes to Starbucks every Saturday morning while her husband watches the kids.

6. Give Yourself a Sense of Accomplishment

At work we get praise for finishing something. At home we get whines and piles of laundry that never get folded. If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something, volunteer. Meet your neighbours and see if you can lend a hand to some older people or other struggling parents. Invite people over for coffee. They won’t mind the mess nearly as much as you think they will! And the more connection you have with your community, the more you’ll realize the difference you can make in people’s lives.

7. Get Organized

I love schedules, and kids thrive on schedules, but I always found that as soon as I figured out a schedule that worked, the kids would change it again. Their sleep patterns would change, or their eating patterns would change, and it was all up in the air again. I know that this is difficult. But as much as possible, create a schedule for your week. Know when you will go where. Go grocery shopping the same day each week. Go to the library on the same day. Try to keep naptime to the same time. When kids know what to expect, and you know what to expect, there’s far less whining.

8. Clean Everyday

Don’t let the house get out of control, because that’s just depressing. I remember visiting a friend’s home when my kids were 2 and 5 and being amazed at how clean it was. She had kids the same age as mine, but her home was spotless. Then I realized that the kids were in day care from 7-5, and the parents didn’t spend much time at home, either. When you’re all home, all the time, the house has time to get messy.

Take 15 minutes before each meal and do a quick tidy. Set the timer and have “clean up time”. If everyone cleans three times a day, you’ll find that you stay on top of it better.

Top 10 Ways to Banish the Stay at Home Mom Blues

 

9. Have Something Special You Do with the Kids

Nobody likes kids pulling at you or whining at you all day, but often that whining is caused by two things: loneliness and boredom. The boredom can be cured by daily outings. The loneliness needs some focused Mommy time. For me and my kids that meant reading. We spent hours cuddled up in someone’s bed reading books. That helped them feel the physical connection (they were touching me); it helped them rest (it was quieter time); and it helped give them security (I spent time with them). Then they would go and play together and I could have some time to myself. To expect a child to entertain themselves all day, though, is unrealistic. Plus you miss out on the bonus of staying at home–that amazing bonding time!

10. Do Something Wild and Crazy

Every now and then, do something completely out of the ordinary. I’m all for schedules and naptimes and all that, but some days, I’d wake up and say, “who wants to go to the zoo?” Who cares if it’s a one and a half hour drive, and we’d only be able to spend three hours there? It would be memorable! Or we’d head to the beach. You have freedom as a stay at home mom; use it. Create those memories and laugh with your kids, and you’ll find the busier days easier to bear.

I do not have the personality of a pea. I’d say it’s more like a bunch of grapes (the seedless kind), with many different things in my life that are all interconnected. It was, and is, such a privilege to stay at home and watch my children grow. They are my reward. But I could not have survived without acknowledging that though I love being a mommy best, I am more than that. Plan for success when you stay at home. Don’t settle for exhaustion. Your life will be richer for it.

Tell me: what’s your biggest source of stress as a stay at home mom? What do you do to relieve the stay at home mom blues? Let me know in the comments!

To Love, Honor and VacuumIf you’re having trouble finding peace and encouragement staying at home, my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, can help! I wrote it just for moms who feel more like maids than wives and mothers, and it helps you set priorities, find joy in your life, and create relationships where everybody respects each other. Check it out today!

 

My Blind Spot of Shame: Admitting Your Mistakes

Admitting Your Mistakes: why sometimes it's hard--because we don't even notice them!

Do you have a difficult time admitting your mistakes? I do–and it’s not always a pride issue. Sometimes it’s because I have a definite blind spot.

On Fridays I like to run my columns–or my short pieces that sum up what I think about family, love, and society. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2008 about the difficulties I have remembering appointments. Considering the school year is upon us, I thought many of you organization-minded mamas could relate!

Next time I go to the orthodontist’s office I will have to wear a paper bag over my head. I just forgot yet another of my daughter’s appointments.

It was easy to rationalize away the first one we missed. Keith had the girls that day, and we just didn’t share information in an appropriate way. In other words, I forgot to tell him. The second time, though, was entirely my fault, and I didn’t have a fallback excuse.

Feeling very badly, I promptly instituted a new fixture in our house: the calendar on the fridge. All our appointments were dutifully recorded, so that none could escape our notice.

However, the fridge door is not the most ideal place for a calendar that uses wipe off markers. People constantly rub against it as they stare, mouth gaping, into that appliance, in the process obliterating our appointments forever.

The third one I forgot, though, is still easily forgiven, because my mother’s best friend had died and we were rushing out of town for the funeral. How can an orthodontist compete with a funeral? In my moments of honesty, though, I admit that I would have forgotten anyway. It’s become a habit.

The strange thing is that I don’t forget anything else.

My dentist, doctor, and optometrist have nothing to complain about. I’m at every committee meeting, every family meeting, every church meeting. But when it comes to my daughter’s orthodontist, I have a blind spot. I just can’t seem to keep appointments in my head.

After the fiasco with the funeral we told Rebecca it was now her job to remember, since I was obviously not up to the task. She said she would. And she did remember, right after I yelled, in a panic, “Becca, when’s the orthodontist appointment!?!?!”. She checked her little yellow card, which she had helpfully stowed deep in her closet, so that she could find it if she ever had the urge to look for her old winter snowsuits. “Yesterday,” she meekly replied.

My husband once operated a full-time pediatric office, and I remember how we used to feel about those parents who continually missed visits. They’re scatter-brained, irresponsible, and pathetic excuses for mothers and fathers. And now I’ve joined their ranks. I feel like a slug, especially when I stare into my empty wallet and realize how much my lapses of memory are costing us. But we all have blind spots, don’t we?

And often our blind spots are exactly the things that bother us in other people.

I get so annoyed when people fail to show up to meetings I’ve called, but here I am doing the same thing. Similarly, I’m forever thinking critically of parents who feed their offspring junk, but to be honest, if my girls ask, “can we have chocolate before breakfast?”, my response is usually, “Is your father gone yet?”. And if the answer is in the affirmative, we all partake together, if just a little, because it’s common knowledge that the chocolate you eat before your day really begins doesn’t count.

Perhaps you have blind spots. You get mad because your spouse keeps the house in chaos, but every time your anniversary rolls around the significance of the date bypasses that part of your brain which reminds you to buy a card. Or your mother’s overindulgence of your children drives you crazy, but you fail to see how taking them to McDonald’s because you can’t be bothered to cook is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Nobody likes admitting your mistakes.

It’s far more preferable to blame the rest of humanity for being worse than we are. Unfortunately, my orthodontist bills are making it harder and harder for me to do that. I have considered obtaining affidavits from my dentist and my doctor attesting to my exemplary record of attendance. (I did forget the time of a dentist appointment once, but I still had the date right, and that has to count for something.) I don’t think, however, that this will heal the breach. Only groveling is going to do it. I wonder where we keep the paper bags.

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Reader Question: When Your Husband’s Job Stress Wrecks Your Sex Life

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do when your husband’s job stress wrecks your sex life?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. As a doctor’s wife, I could really relate to this question from a woman whose husband’s job stress sucks the romance out of their marriage:

Hi Sheila,

I just had to write and say that hands-down, your book “a good girls guide to great sex “has been the most useful book I’ve read all year. My husband said there has been such a difference that he owes you a box of chocolates. (Sheila says: tell him truffles are my favourite!)

Speaking of my husband I have a question. He’s a youth pastor and my biggest challenge now is how do I change the mood at night for us? It’s common for him to get texts/calls from teens at night who are cutting or dealing with eating disorders or drunk parents. The mood goes from light-hearted and me being excited to having quality time with him in the bedroom to heavy burdened for these kids. Besides praying together any suggestions?

I have to admit that this is something I’ve struggled with and I don’t think I have an easy answer.

On the one hand, people would be quick to say, “you need boundaries! Just turn off the phone at night.” But when there are such horrible things happening that’s hard.

Sometimes Job Stress is Inevitable

My husband is a pediatrician who often has to respond to life and death emergencies at our small town local hospital. When we first moved here fifteen years ago, there weren’t enough pediatricians to cover the call schedule. There were often days that were completely uncovered.

And then, if an emergency happened at the hospital, what would the hospital do? They would phone Keith at our house because they were desperate, and he had a very hard time saying no, because a child could actually die.

I remember my daughter Katie’s second birthday party. We had family over, and it was a day that we had looked forward to for weeks. And just as I was lighting the candles the phone rang. A baby had been shaken and was unresponsive in the Emergency Room. Could Keith come?

He rushed to the hospital and stabilized the little boy for transport. He died a month later, and Keith testified at the trial that put the step-father in jail.

To this day I still remember that little boy’s name: Tyler Barriage. I write it here because I don’t want that poor little boy to be forgotten. He was only a little younger than my own daughter, and we were celebrating her birthday just as he was being killed.

I could have gotten angry at Keith for going into the hospital, and plenty of times I did–when it wasn’t as life and death. But that ultimately wouldn’t help.

So I don’t just want to say “get better boundaries”, because I really do understand the pull of these difficult jobs. But let me still give you some “big picture” strategies that perhaps you can use to reclaim your marriage in the midst of job stress.

Job Stress and Marriage: When job demands intrude on your relationship

Is the Job Stress Life or Death?

Some men (and some women–I can be guilty too) let their work intrude on everything. Often business owners are especially guilty of this. We have started a business and so we want to have control and make sure everything is okay. When people call at night, or when we have some spare time, we immediately respond to these job demands, and often family life falls by the wayside.

Is this life or death though? Certainly there are seasons when a business is in trouble and it needs more attention. But a relationship can’t sustain a workaholic spouse. This isn’t really the issue I’m addressing today, but I know that it is a very common one, and if your husband has a hard time putting his work away at night, perhaps you can leave some comments and I’ll try to write a follow-up post that addresses workaholism.

Does the Job Stress Just SEEM Life or Death?

What I do want to talk about today, though, is what to do with the job that actually IS life and death. But sometimes what looks like life and death may not actually be life and death.

In the letter writer’s case, I wonder if this is what’s happening. Let’s face it: if teens know that if they threaten to cut themselves that the youth pastor will drop everything and talk to you for hours, what’s going to stop them from keeping threatening to cut themselves?

If you are always at everyone’s beck and call for everything they deem a crisis, then crises will multiply.

My husband faced this, and finally the pediatricians sat down with the hospital and emergency doctors and obstetricians and said, “if you call us for everything we will burn out, and then you won’t just have 5 days a month with no one on call; you’ll never have anyone on call. So from now on you can’t call us unless it is truly life and death.”

So perhaps you can set up some systems so that people are still able to get a hold of you in emergencies, but only in emergencies.

Here’s one idea: turn off your cell phone outside of business hours, and let people know that if they have a crisis, they will have to actually phone. People text without giving it much thought. To pick up a phone and have to call someone’s house is different. You realize that you’re calling a family. You realize that it may be dinner hour. There’s more of an inconvenience aspect. And to teens who text all the time, having to phone may slow them down.

With my husband, we also got into the habit of me answering the phone. That way I could screen his calls if necessary. If you set up the expectation that “I am available all the time by text during the day, but in the evenings I’m only available in emergencies”, perhaps some of these calls will lessen.

 Recruit Others to Help

If you are in a job, especially a ministry position, where people are constantly in crisis, then you should not be the only person handling this. It isn’t healthy for the church, for you, or for the people you’re ministering to. What happens if a dozen teens rely on you for everything and then suddenly you’re in an accident or you quit your job from burnout? They have to be connected to the church, not just to you.

So set up a system where several adults become “buddies” for several friends. Or in a churchwide situation set up a system where certain elders in the church (it could be an actual position, or it could be volunteers with great wisdom) divide up the church phone book between them, and everybody knows who their own person to call is. That way the expectation is that you only call the pastor if it’s an actual emergency.

I went to a church like that almost two decades ago now. If I had an issue to talk about, I called a woman, and she was wonderful. But when my son died in the middle of the night, we called the pastor and he came down and sat with us. Now, if we had called him for everything, he would have been so burnt out he couldn’t have come the night we really needed him.

So perhaps having a talk with the leadership team at the church, or the hospital, or the police station, or wherever, and talking about how to divide up the task so that others are also responding to crises can work.

Get Out of Town Regularly

Finally, you can try all of these things and sometimes they just don’t work. With my husband’s job we managed to certainly minimize the intrusions, but they were still there.

What saved us was that we left regularly. We camped a lot in the summer. We took trips. We visited friends for weekends. And when we were away, Keith wasn’t able to help, so they didn’t call him.

Sure, there were still life and death situations, but Keith didn’t feel responsible if he wasn’t actually able to help.

For people who are always being bombarded with requests, physically removing yourself regularly throughout the year may be the only way to get some breathing room. Yes, people will still be in crisis, but you can say, “I can’t help you this weekend, and my cell phone is off, so you’ll have to call Mr. Smith instead.”

How Do You Reclaim the Evening When Job Stress Strikes?

There are some ideas about how to set some limits, but the letter writer also wanted to know: how can we reclaim the romance after a horrible phone call? I don’t have an easy answer. Certainly you can pray and try to leave it at the foot of the cross, but I know it can still ruin the mood. And that’s why I think it’s better to deal with the root of the problem and limit the requests on your time.

But if anyone has a good, practical answer to this part of the question, please leave it in the comments. How do you turn your brain off of your job and back onto your spouse after a crisis? I’d love to know!

 

Finances in Your Twenties: Don’t Waste the In-Between Years

Finances in Your Twenties--Don't waste these years, even if you're single!

Did you ignore finances in your twenties? Or did you meticulously budget?

If you chose the latter, you’re in a very small group, because most twenty-somethings don’t worry much about finances–especially if they’re still single. I remember speaking once at a women’s event, and a representative of a Christian financial company had sent a guy to come give a quick talk and a draw for a prize. He was only 22, but he was married, with a kid, and he had his finances in order. I was super-impressed.

So I wrote this column about him, and I thought I’d rerun it here today.

Let me give you the stories of two men. One we’ll call Jim. He married straight out of high school—rather an anomaly today. He didn’t go to college, but immediately took a job at a financial planning firm in Windsor. He became certified in investments, and worked his little butt off building his own client base. He looks about 12, but he always dresses impeccably in suits.

Jim’s first child was born two years ago, when he was about 20 or 21. Today his family is still doing quite well, despite the economic downturn. They’re saving up for a downpayment on a house, building their little nest egg at a time when most men his age are still living in their parents’ basement. At one point Jim would have been quite typical; today he sounds like a dinosaur.

Now let’s talk about Bob. When Bob was Jim’s age, marriage was the furthest thing from his mind. He concentrated on working as little as possible so that he could play as hard as possible. He took extended vacations to the Caribbean so he could scuba dive, renting apartments with other twenty-somethings. He lived a carefree life until well into his late thirties, working odd jobs, minimizing his income and maximizing his fun.

At 38, though, he met the woman of his dreams and settled down. They’ve since had three kids, and while both he and his wife are working, money is tight. They’re starting almost twenty years after Jim did, and neither of them used those in-between years to shore up any sort of nest egg.

Many people just don’t worry about saving when they’re single.

But in the long run they do themselves a disservice, because when they do marry (if they do), they’ve lost about a decade or so of good earning years and saving years.

Now 44, Bob is juggling saving for a house, putting money aside for his kids’ education, and contributing to a retirement savings plan. He’s in a really difficult bind, because time is no longer on his side. He has to put money into a retirement savings plan if he’s going to have anything at retirement, but he also has incredible family expenses right now, too.

One thing Jim teaches his financial clients is that if they save $2000 a year in a retirement account from ages 19-26, as he is planning to do, they can then afford to stop for a bit and save up for a house. If you wait like Bob did, though, and don’t start contributing until you’re in your late thirties, putting in $2000 a year until you’re 65, guess who has more money in the end? Jim does, even though he actually contributed far less. That money has more time to accumulate and grow! It’s starting early that makes all the difference.

If you’re in your twenties right now, even if you don’t have a family of your own, chances are one day you will.

And if you want the rest of your life to be much less stressful, squirrel away money for a house and retirement now, before you need it, to avoid feeling the crunch later.

I know cash is short when you’re in your twenties, but you don’t need a big-screen TV. You don’t need to eat out every night.

You don’t need all the latest gadgets. It may seem like responsibility is a long way off, but think instead of these years as the breather years. You don’t have any major expenses, so now is the time when saving is actually the easiest. Don’t just coast through life until responsibility hits. Act responsibly now, and you’ll be so much more comfortable in the end.

Top 10 Tips for Transitioning After a Long Absence with Your Spouse

Transitioning Back with Your Husband--when he's gone a lot for workIs your husband a pilot? A trucker? In the military? A business manager? Maybe, like many, your husband travels for work.

Lots of us are married to men who need to be away for long periods of time, and making that transition home can be quite difficult. Today guest poster Liz Millay shares what she’s learned about renewing that bond when your husband arrives home. Here’s Liz:

I have come to learn that spending time away from a spouse is much more common than I would have realized prior to entering marriage. I have a friend whose husband  travels for work for weeks at a time regularly. One of my husband’s best friends spent the first two years of marriage living in a different state than his spouse.

Sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way you had hoped, and you find yourself having to spend a significant portion of time away from your better half. Times like this are so very difficult–but while it may seem that the time apart is the hardest aspect, the tougher transition may be right around the corner, as the transition back to living together can bring a whole new set of challenges.

So what can you do to ease into this transition? Now that my husband has been back with us for the last couple months, I’ve looked back on the experience and have come up with my top ten tips for transitioning back together after a long absence from your spouse.

1. Begin to prepare yourself as soon as you part ways.

Stay involved in each other’s lives as much as possible. Do things for each other whenever you can. Keep each other updated on what’s happening in life and stay on the same page in regards to finances, plans, dreams, etc. For more ideas on surviving your time apart, check out this article I wrote here.

2. Know your triggers.

Before we even reunited I already knew exactly what would be the most difficult aspect for me: my independence. I like doing what I want, when I want. I like being in charge of my own schedule. Transitioning back to bending to someone else’s agenda and desires after a time apart is always difficult for me. I knew it could easily become a trigger for tension and arguments. I had to be prepared to let go of always getting what I wanted. When you’re married both parties have to put each other first day in and day out. Although we weren’t without bumps, recognizing this trigger ahead of time helped greatly.

3. Don’t be like the Israelites.

Do you remember what happened with the Israelites after they left Egypt? It didn’t take long for their excitement to fade into bitterness. They started complaining and in no time they were wishing they were back in Egypt. In slavery! What a 180! So how does this relate to reuniting with your spouse? It is very easy to go from “over the moon excited to be back together” to “oy, life sure was easier when you weren’t here doing xyz.” Excitement fades and real life starts to grind away. He leaves his clothes on the bedroom floor. She never remembers to put away her hair dryer. You can easily get lost in the excitement of reuniting and be blind-sided by those annoying day to day things you’ve forgotten. I’m not saying it’s bad to be excited about your reunion, but if you’re not careful you can go from an emotional high to bitterness and frustration in 6 seconds flat. Keep your expectations in check and stay focused on the positive.

4. Remember where your strength comes from.

Especially towards the end of our time apart, I remember just wanting to be with him again. I wanted someone who would hug me after a bad day and then go get me a bowl of ice cream. I was tired of being lonely. When you’re apart, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything is going to be better when you’re together again. However, even though it’s definitely nice to have someone at your side to go through tough times, your husband is not your Rock. God is. The same God who got you through your time apart is the same God you need to lean on in the day to day once you’re back together.

5. Get on the same page.

Don’t withhold any reservations you’re feeling as you transition back together. Take it from a self-proclaimed, bottling introvert—you need to put everything on the table. Knowing each other’s concerns and struggles helps you encourage and build each other up, and give a little extra grace. My husband was aware that I was going to struggle with losing my independence. Knowing this made it easier for him to extend an extra dose of grace in those bumpy moments.

6. Don’t be afraid to fight.

Yep, you heard me. Fight. I’m not saying be mean and nasty; however, knowing that there are going to be some bumps in the road as you readjust to life together helps you take those arguments in stride. Shortly after being reunited with my hubby, we spend around 30 hours in the car together in the span of less than a week. At times we found it hard to keep a conversation going. At one point during the drive, we had a fight. It wasn’t ugly, but we were both frustrated. We were misunderstanding each other. But, you know what? We worked through it and got on the same page, coming away with a deeper understanding of where the other was coming from. After it was over, I found myself glad that we had gotten into the argument, as it was much more productive than just sitting in silence!

7. Have fun.

Be silly. Do something interesting together. Go on a date if you can. At least sneak in some alone time. Snuggle a lot. Enjoy each other. Spend some time just getting to know each other again. Be proactive in making sure you are having more positive moments than negative ones.

8. Reclaim your intimacy.

After spending an extended period of time away from each other, the intimacy you’ve built as a married couple is bound to suffer to some degree. You might find yourself wondering “who even is this person I’m married to?” Honestly, there is no easy fix for this except to just start doing it again (pun intended). Open up and be vulnerable with your spouse. The best place to start this is in the bedroom. I don’t want to speak for all men, but there’s probably a good chance your husband is feeling deprived in the sex department. Don’t think it’s just for him though, the benefits extend to both of you! See some of Sheila’s posts on intimacy here, here, here, and here.

9. Be understanding of changes that happened while you were apart.

Especially if you spend a very long time apart, there are bound to be some changes that could possibly take you off guard. There were two big ones for us. The first was that while my husband was away our son transitioned from a baby-like toddler to a 2 going on 20 toddler. You parents know what I’m talking about, the change that happens between two and three – the whining, the stubbornness, the “where-did-my-sweet-baby-go”? It totally threw my husband off guard and it was tempting for him to wonder what in the world I did to our kid. He had to take a step back, give me the benefit of the doubt, and realize that the changes were normal. The second thing was that for our last five weeks apart my husband had officers training for the Air Force. Being in such a strict, rigid environment changed him. I had to make sure I was understanding as he adjusted back to family life.

10. Have a truckload of patience.

For me, this was probably the most important thing. Once we were back together it was tempting to feel like everything needed to be perfect RIGHT THEN. I had to realize that we didn’t need to fix every single problem in our marriage overnight. Honestly, that realization alone relieved the pressure and made things so much easier. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. On those days when it feels like your feet are dragging and the finish line is nowhere in sight, remember that it’s okay to slow down, just keep moving forward, loving and giving grace along the way.

We are a military family now, and while my husband’s position isn’t likely to experience frequent or extensive periods of deployment, the job will definitely lead to times where we are apart. So, I would love to know, if your husband travels for work, or if he’s in the military what life lessons have you learned?

LizMillayLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not reading books, cooking, or crafting, this chocolate lover can be found outside. She admits she’s a nerd and maybe a teensy bit stubborn too. Liz blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

 

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