I could tell something was up in our marriage. It was a hard week, and we’d been having more arguments than usual.
One night I sat Andrea down and asked her what was going on. She poured out her heart about how she felt, which is when she told me she was feeling lonely.
At first, her comment surprised me. I knew things were a little tense, but I thought we were doing great. How could she be feeling lonely? I felt like we were connecting and making great memories. But it was clear there was something deeper going on.
We then had a conversation about what we were feeling.
In this post, I’m going to be brutally honest. I learned a lot from this experience, and I’m hoping others can take something out of this.
In mid-December 2018, I decided to launch Money Stir. I was ecstatic to share my story with the community.
Up to that point, I was not intentional in how I used my free time, and I watched a ton of TV. Watching TV wasn’t all bad, because Andrea and I loved to watch shows together. It was one way we connected.
After starting this blog, instead of watching TV, I would manage the blog. I was motivated to optimize the site as much as possible and improve my writing. I tried to limit how much time I worked on the blog, but if the family was watching TV, I figured that was a good time for me to write content.
Looking at it now, it was clear that I didn’t communicate my intentions.
There were many times I didn’t need to work on the blog, and it was just something I did because I didn’t want to watch TV. But Andrea interpreted my behavior as me wanting to disconnect from the family.
In addition to all of this, we also run a salon business and have two active girls who participate in extracurricular activities.
Adjusting Priorities in our Marriage
Marriage is interesting as perception is everything. We can interpret actions based on what we think is going on.
From Andrea’s perspective, she felt like I was too focused on the blog and that it was my top priority. But really, it was me trying to reduce how much TV I watched every week. However, it also reduced the time we spent with each other at that point.
The first thing we did was figure out a “general” schedule on when I would spend most of the time working on the blog.
- 5 AM – 7 AM on the weekdays
- Lunch hour during the week
- 4 PM – 5 PM after work
- One evening a week after the girls go to bed.
The next thing that became obvious was that we weren’t being intentional about emotionally connecting.
I still wanted to reduce the amount of TV I watched, but I wanted to increase the quality and quantity of how we were connecting.
We decided that 2-3 times per week after the girls go to bed, we would have a time where we didn’t watch TV and would do one of the following:
- Listen to podcasts
- Listen to audiobooks
- Sit on the couch/bed and chat
The above was in addition to going on a date night every other week.
Once we started doing the above list, I noticed a few things:
- We were laughing and connecting more
- I didn’t feel like we were wasting as much time watching TV
- Listening to podcasts/audiobooks with each other sparked great conversations
- Even compared to before starting this blog, we were connecting on a much deeper emotional level
It is interesting because all of that also improved our time under the sheets.
Connecting on a deeper emotional level with your spouse is like a sex boost!
Learning to Communicate and Be Honest with Your Spouse
Communication in marriage can be challenging. Andrea and I both work, and we have two kids. Our lives are filled with doing homework, reading, managing the house and pushing our careers forward.
Sometimes, we can get done with work and be exhausted. The last thing on our minds is making sure we are communicating. But looking at it now, this is something we need to do a better job prioritizing, especially when we are feeling exhausted and busy.
To help make sure we are on the same page and create an atmosphere where both of us can be 100% honest with each other, we shoot to have a weekly meeting.
In this meeting we do the following:
- See how each of us is doing
- Talk about anything we could do for each other
- Think about the schedule for the week
- Talk about how the business and personal finances are doing
- Ask the question: Do we feel emotionally connected to each other and our kids?
Marriage Goals: Not Sacrificing the Present for the Future
The FIRE movement is fantastic. It has shown me how our future can look, and I’m excited.
But there is a point where focusing on the future can go too far.
Our kids aren’t going to be young forever. Before we know it, they are going to be going to college. We are in our mid-30’s, and our careers are taking off.
I’m becoming more mindful of what is happening in the present.
For me, FIRE is about focusing on the present just as much as it is about focusing on the future.
Dealing with Conflict
The worst thing we can do in marriage, or any relationship for that matter, is avoiding conflict.
Pretending that your marriage is always perfect is a recipe for disaster.
Some people will look at this situation in a negative light. Sure, it wasn’t good for this to get to a spot where Andrea felt lonely, and we are working on preventing that from happening again. But this experience also brought us closer and improved communication.
Andrea and I are different people with different needs. Neither of us can read minds.
Since our lives are continually changing, this requires that each of us take an active role in our marriage.
Avoid Getting Defensive
When I feel attacked, my internal guards go up. Which makes it more likely that I’m going to focus on what my partner is doing wrong, as opposed to looking at my own mistakes.
Sure, there is going to be times when we need to address a problem stemming from our partner. But how we approach the conversation and the words we use can determine the outcome.
I’m learning the more we create an environment where we communicate we are on the same team, the less likely we are to get defensive.
Instead of focusing on what my marriage partner is doing wrong, I look at what is improving or hurting our relationship.
For me, knowing that I am in a relationship where both of us are committed to making things work, feels refreshing.
I don’t feel like I am walking on eggshells, and I can be myself.
In the past, conflict and negative situations would cause the dreaded “D” word to come up. This word is divorce. When this comes up in a conversation, it changes the marriage dynamics.
Sure, there might be situations that come up that warrant talking about divorce. And if you or your partner are having serious thoughts about going this route, it needs to be brought up.
But when every argument centers around calling it quits with your marriage, that is pretty much guaranteeing that will end up happening eventually.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect marriage. Each marriage has unique problems. You might run away from one relationship to pursue another one, only to realize that you are exchanging one set of problems for another.
What I’m not saying here is that divorce is never the best option. But a committed relationship becomes about tackling the issues and working on your marriage together.
Marriage is not about never having arguments or disagreements.
By working through conflicts and miscommunication, our marriage has become stronger.
Two Broken People Making Something Beautiful
Chances are, I’m going to do something to hurt Andrea in the future emotionally. And she is probably going to hurt me as well. And the fact of the matter is, sometimes I can be a complete jerk.
We both have different struggles. Some of them are from our childhood experiences. Other times, I can be overly stressed and take it out on Andera (which is wrong).
But the point is we are on the same team and want the best for our family.
I want to do what I can to support Andrea and her dreams. And she wants the same for me.
By working together, we focus on supporting each other. Over time, the hope is we make each other stronger than we would be by ourselves.
This situation was a hard, but it has made our marriage stronger.
I need to do a better job communicating what I’m pursuing and making sure that I’m providing the emotional support Andrea needs. We need to continue to create an environment where both of us feel like we are on the same team.
Doing this ensures we are pursuing the dreams we have for our future, as well as focusing on the present.
Have you had similar conversations with your partner?
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.