(Written by Rita with Bob adding his touch as needed)
Recently I came across an article in Glamour magazine. The article was “The Big Questions All Newlyweds Face–and How to Deal. As I read the article I thought about how this might not just be for newlyweds but a check-up for all couples.
How to deal with money:
We all need to look at how we handle money, no matter what stage of marriage we are in. The issues are often the same, no matter how much or how little we have. If you are not in the habit of doing so, get your individual credit reports and scores. Review how you use credit cards. While we now use our credit cards a lot because they are convenient and we can pay them off each month, there was a time when we put them all away because we saw the amount we owed inching up. What can you do to correct any problems? How much do you owe in general on such things as credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.? Does your situation make you uncomfortable or do you have a sense of control over the situation? In recent years we have been blessed and can be somewhat relaxed about money, but that wasn’t always the case. If you are uncomfortable have some discussion about how to get control of the situation. Through the years we have tried various ways of managing our money. As we have been adjusting to retirement Bob has been tracking what we spend. It will help us if we might have to reduce expenses. It also helps us plan for regular expenses. The method you use isn’t as important as viewing the situation together and recognizing how you can work together. It is also good to constantly view where retirement fits into your financial picture. Living in this stage comes faster than you might think. Lastly, revisit who is responsible for how you spend money, that is, who pays which bills and who is expected to buy certain things such as groceries or clothes. If you can, set aside an amount that each of you can spend in any way you wish. It is most important to keep the conversation going. In our experience of working with married couples money is often their most difficult issue.
Arguing about little things:
In the first years of marriage much in our lives is in transition and changes can lead to tension and difficulties. However, we see couples arguing about little things in every stage of marriage. As years pass many big issues get settled but little things seem to creep into our lives. Petty things seem to get under our skin resulting in stress, tension and verbal arguments. It can be as simple as who most often puts shoes away to what city you visited on a vacation that may have been 30 years ago or even the color of the dress she wore to your sister’s wedding. It happens on occasion in our lives and we have learned to each take a deep breath and rethink what we are going to say or do. Sometimes we realize how silly the bickering is and allow ourselves to have a good laugh about it. When you begin to see the little things piling up, it can help to take some time to be alone together and have a discussion about it. Sometimes the first question about an issue should be, “How important is this?” If you have small children figure out a way to have some “fun” time together. Check out the way you physically relate to each other. A kiss goodbye, snuggling a bit as you watch TV, holding hands as you walk through the parking lot. It is good to remember how much you care about that most special person and the wonderful things that have happened in your life because of them. Then the little things become less important. If you continue to have arguments over little things you might need someone to talk to. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married 2 years or 42 years.
Dealing with extended family:
When we were married we moved away from both of our families. We worked on making opportunities to see them. For many couples the issue is how to have more time for themselves and a little less time with extended family. As I worked with students this topic came up frequently. Some things may have been worked out during the dating or engagement period but it is a constant issued that needs to be handled. During much of our marriages we are “sandwich” people, stuck between our own children and our parents and trying to take care of both. I had a brief discussion with our children about this before they were married. Think about how often you’d like to see your extended families. You may need to have a discussion with each of them. It gets more complicated because you are now dealing with two families. It is important to maintain a balance between the two families and work to give your children a sense of extended families as well. When you have married children, think about the expectations and freedoms you give them to allow balance in their lives as well as yours. We’ve dealt with couples where both mothers expected then to be there every Sunday evening for dinner. Unless you are able to bi-locate this will be difficult. In every stage of marriage spending time with your parents and children is important but it is also good to remember that you have life independently of them.
Learning new things about each other:
Through the years it never ceases to amaze me that I continue to find out new things about Bob. We are constantly changing as individuals. We constantly find out new things about ourselves. This discovery can become a source of irritation or a source of mystery and wonder. Living together 24/7 since we are retired has many times been a source of discovery. Discovering that Bob likes to blast music when he is alone was interesting. I’ve also discovered through the years that he has an amazing ability to concentrate. It is a result of growing up in a house with 11 siblings. I have found that if I want to get his attention I start by saying, “Bob”, if he doesn’t respond, I say it again, the third time I say, “Robert Mark” and he immediately responds. The funny thing is the grandchildren have picked up on that as well and use it when they want Grandpa’s attention. Finding new things as the years pass is often amusing and source of good-natured teasing as well as a major source of joy in marriage.
Keeping passion in your relationship:
All couples face the time in their relationship when they recognize that they are not “doing it” as often as they once did or imagined they would. All the responsibilities of our lives make demands on our time and can take a toll on intimate time together. Our bodies change as we age and sometimes sexual activity must change with them. In our society we often confuse passion with sex. While passion is hopefully part of your sexual relationship, it can be expressed in ways that are not necessarily tied to sexual intercourse. Keeping a physical passion alive is very important in every stage of marriage. In the early years, it is easier. As children enter our lives it becomes more difficult. That’s why hello and goodbye kisses are important, as well as hugs and squeezes. If you’re in your middle years, keep the touching alive. It might lead to more physical intimacy. We often see couples our age and older crabbing and bickering. We wonder whether it is related to reduced physical intimacy. We think a great solution for them would be more hugging and kissing rather than crabbing. Why not give it a try?
Think about your relationship – what are the questions you are facing and how are you dealing with them? Share your ideas with us about how you keep your marriage alive when the daily routine gets in the way.
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