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« Are We Normal? (with our money) | Main | The Free Lunch »
Monday
May052008

The Y. A. M.s

Y. A. M. stands for Young and Married.  That is the name chosen for themselves by the members of a new Sunday School Class at my church.  A friend at church asked me to be involved with this new class and since it is very hard to say "NO" to this friend, I said "Okay;" this in spite of the fact that I had not been involved in teaching for several years.  I have another friend who has always had an amazing rapport with young folks, so I told him that he would be helping me.  I gave him no option, so he said "Okay."  Thus it is that a group of recently married twenty somethings find themselves in a class with a couple of old geezers talking about marriage.  The class is a wonderful group of young folks.  One couple has a baby, and another two couples are expecting. Most of them have been married for five years or less.  We hope to help them grow their marriages in light of Biblical principles, but it already seems that we will get more out of this enterprise than will they. 

 

The group had chosen a book to generate discussion before I got involved.  The book, Love and Respect, is by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, and is based on Ephesians 5:33.  I have read most of the book and can readily recommend it to anyone looking to enhance their marriage.  I have long thought that my marriage was about a good as they normally get, yet I find that I am appreciating my wife and our marriage even more as I read Dr. Eggerichs' book.  The man really does have some new things to offer about a very old subject.

Marriage, or rather what differentiates good marriages from not-so-good marriages, has long been a topic of particular interest for me.  I have always thought that a good marriage is a preview of Heaven on earth, and a bad, toxic marriage is a preview of hell.  Over the years I have taken notes, both mentally and written, of those characteristics that may lead a marriage in one direction or the other.  Recently I found an article on the web called the "Marriage Killers" (not sure who wrote it) with which I whole-heartedly agreed.  I shared and expounded on these items with our class on a recent Sunday.

  1. Over Commitment:  As far back as the time of Moses it was recognized that newly married folks should not be distracted from investing a great deal of time and energy in their new union.  In Deuteronomy 24:5 Moses told the Israelites that for the first year of marriage a man should not be sent to war, or given any other duty, that would distract him from staying home to "bring happiness to the wife he has married."  That is still good advice, and the recently married should still avoid spreading themselves too thin right after their wedding.  The new marriage needs a little time to "get its feet on the ground;"  the newly married need to give this new creation, their marriage, every opportunity to begin with a firm foundation.  Trying to go back to school, start a new job, remodel the house, and start a family all within a year or so of the wedding is placing a tremendous strain on a new marriage.  Only seeing your partner in passing after both of you are already mentally and physically exhausted is asking for marital trouble.  My advice, and that of Moses, is to spend a lot of time during the first year or so growing and strengthening the relationship.  Your marriage deserves the effort; it's worth it. 
  2. In-Laws:  Though they may have only the best of intentions, interfering and meddlesome in-laws can quickly create stress in a new marriage.  An unhealthy relationship with the in-laws is one of the top reasons (right up there with money issues)  for divorce.  This issue more easily rears its head when the newly weds live close to one of their families.  Even if some of their parents' concerns prove  valid, each partner must, MUST, put their marriage and their spouse's concerns first.  If it is determined that in-laws are getting involved in their affairs to the extent that it is creating problems, it must be confronted.  It will fall to that partner to talk lovingly but firmly with his/her family and let them know in no uncertain terms that his/her allegiance is to their partner and their marriage.  They may have to bluntly be told to "butt out!"  There can be no question as to who comes first in the eyes of the marriage partners; each partner must know, and demonstrate if need be, that parents, and other family members, will always come second to their mate.
  3. Excessive Credit/Debt:  Too much debt and conflict regarding money issues can prove deadly to a marriage.  This is not an overstatement as many studies have shown that arguments about money and financial issues are one of the leading causes of divorce.  If they did not do so prior to marriage, the newly wed would do well to sit down and share their thoughts and dreams as they relate to money.  Write these goals down in order to refer to from time to time; then rework and change them as your circumstances change.  I would suggest that you consult with a financial planner early in your married life in order to have some good, non-biased financial direction.  Then, ignore the television adds touting "No Money Down," or "No Payments Until Next Year!"  These folks do not have your best interests, or the good of your marriage, at heart.  Of course a new big screen tv and a new living room suit will look good in your house or apartment.  And everything may go along well for a while, but eventually the bills come due.  Then if one partner loses a job, or the car needs a new transmission, or if life just happens, things can go down hill in a hurry.  Then the bickering and finger pointing begin; then the hurt begins.  Try this: pay cash for all consumable items, or do not get them.  This is simple to say, makes perfect sense, but very hard to live.  Your friends will think that you are crazy if you truly live like this, but I will guarantee that you will have more in the long run if you do.  By properly allocating your finances, not buying things on credit, and living within your means, you will leave yourselves with options.  You will leave yourselves with money to spend on yourselves together.  More importantly, you will avoid those big, nasty fights and arguments about finances that can leave scars in your marriage. 

So, what does all of this have to do with retirement, you ask.  Well, quite a bit actually.  Divorce is a very expensive proposition.  A recently divorced pilot friend once asked me if I knew why divorces were so expensive.  When I replied that I did not, he said it was because they are worth it!  Maybe that was the case for him, but he would have saved a substantial sum of money if he could have made his marriage last.  In almost all cases, a married couple will retire with more assets than if they split up and go it alone.  Likewise, divorce is a poor estate-planning device as it always, always (absent some sort of pre-nuptial agreement) shrinks an estate.  If a young couple will grab each other, and hold on as tight as they can, and make their marriage last, they are going to have a much, much more pleasant retirement than if they take the easy way out at some point with a divorce.  Plus, if they are truly blessed, they may eventually get to see the extra special blessing of grandchildren.  Hang on tight to one another; almost all marriages are worth preserving, and grandchildren are worth it too!

Fly/Drive Safely!

07 May 2008

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