A year ago I had a conversation with a good friend from church. This guy is a huge Dave Ramsey fan and as such follows a strict family budget for all of their family’s expenditures. He was talking to me about how he and his wife budget their Christmas present shopping… “First, we figure out how much we plan to spend, then we figure out how much we should allocate to each (level of) family member. Once we’re done, we see how much is left over and agree to divide that on the presents that we buy for each other.” While I cannot find fault with his discipline, I did question him on his priorities. I asked him directly how he thought his wife felt about getting the “leftovers” in terms of Christmas gifts. He gave me one of those classic deer in the headlights look then asked what I would do differently. I suggested they set the same budget and agree to take the money off the top to spend on each other, then allocate the remaining funds across the family. That sends such a different message.
From a Christian standpoint, we’re taught that we are to put God first in our lives, then our spouse, then our kids, then others. Why would this instance be an exception? As a couple, you may agree to spend more on the kids than you do on each other. That’s not a problem. But putting your spouse first in this simple way can go a long way toward establishing healthy priorities. It’s the little, ongoing messages that we send our spouse (intentionally or not) that really drive the nature of our relationships. Increasing our awareness of these messages is a huge step toward achieving a “shocking marriage”.
I talked to this same friend the other day. He told me that he followed my advice and suggested to his wife that this year they put each other first. “The reality was”, he said “we didn’t end up planning to spend any more on each other than we traditionally had… But it sure did make her smile!”