I’ve written a number of blogs on the importance of focusing on your spouse, and giving them the love and attention that they deserve. However, 30 years of marriage has taught me that there is an equally important time to NOT focus on them.
There will be times in your relationship where something comes to your attention that needs to be dealt with. Here’s an example from a recent conversation that I had with a recently married couple. He was growing frustrated that she was spending too much. Compounding the issue (at least in his mind) was the fact that she was not working full time, so they didn’t have as much cash to work with as he thought they should. As his frustration grew, he asked me how he could tell her that she needed to cut back on her purchases and spend more time looking for work. While his concerns were valid, I warned him that the result of his direct approach would probably end with him sleeping on the couch!
I encouraged him to take the focus off of her, reminding him that she is not the “enemy” and there was no opportunity for him to “win” this argument. Shift the attention instead to the creation of a family budget, which they could both be equally responsible for. While establishing a budget is never fun, it’s a process that a couple can work together on and ultimately agree to. He agreed to give it a try, but he was skeptical that it would solve anything…
I ran into this guy a couple of weeks later and he was pretty excited. Turns out they did create a budget together. And with the numbers in plain sight for both of them they it became clear that they were outspending their available resources. Without even prompting, she suggested that she pick up more hours (or find a second job) to help on the supply side!
What a happy ending. Imagine how different it would have been had he blind-sided her after she returned from a shopping trip accusing her of spending irresponsibly. In the heat of the ensuing battle, his feelings that she was not working enough hours would inevitably surface causing (at a minimum) hurt feelings and resentment. While this might have brought the spending back in line (for a short time) it would have been a damaging conversation in terms of relationship.
Your goal needs to be to stay on the same team with your spouse. There are times to focus on your teammate and drive the team forward, and there are times for you to collectively focus on a common enemy and work together to overcome them. Shocking Marriage occurs when youlearn when to do which.