My wife and I don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to our money. The things that get me excited about our finances (investing, giving, experiences) aren’t necessarily her favorite things. And the things that get her jacked up about money (entertainment, home improvement, events) are fun for me, but aren’t always at the top of my list.
That difference is really a positive in my eyes. We balance each other out. Without her fun, light hearted nature, I’d be a pretty dull guy. And without my pragmatism and future planning, her financial outlook may not be so rosy.
Marital balance and harmony aside, conversations can turn sideways sometimes when we’re lacking quality time together and the chaos of parenthood and our jobs take over our lives. That’s when our patience runs thin and our ability to appreciate our money differences turns into irritation, then frustration, then “volcanic arguments”.
For example, earlier this year my wife and I had a major disagreement on how we should allocate our money after paying off our mortgage. What should have been an exciting celebration of family and financial freedom, turned into a disagreements, short tempers and name calling. It was rough.
After we had some time to cool off, my wife brought up the idea of seeing a marriage counselor. I had never met with a therapist or counselor in my entire life so this idea was new to me. I agreed that we should give it a try given the positive things we had heard from friends of ours who were also going.
Nine months and a series of sessions later, I think it was one of the best decisions we could have made as a couple. Here’s 5 reasons why:
Your Mental Health is Just as Important as Your Physical Health
When we’re sick or hurt, we go to the doctor, we rest and take medicine to help us get better. Why should our mental health be any different?
That’s the realization I’ve come to after nearly a year of meeting with our marriage counselor. The conversations we have and the different perspectives that are brought up have done wonders for my personal stress level. When I’m less stressed and more emphatic to my wife’s situation, my physical health improves as well. I feel more energetic and ready to take on the day.
One Hour of Uninterrupted Discussion is Awesome
With two kids under 7 years old, our time for couple’s conversation is pretty limited. It isn’t long after my wife starts to share something with me that my son interrupts her asking for a snack or to complain about a something his big sister did to him.
With our marriage counseling session, we get one whole hour of uninterrupted time to talk. There are no distractions, no kids, no cell phones, no appointments, no chores — just dedicated time for connection. That’s something both of us miss and need as busy young parents.
After our one hour session, I feel more connected to my wife than ever before. We talk about our fun memories, why we got together in the first place and what we can do to continue to grow our love together.
We Realize That Money Isn’t the Problem
One of the best epiphanies from our time in therapy thus far is that money isn’t our problem because both of our motivations around it are pure. My wife wants to use money so she can create a life of fun, joy and happiness for our family. I want to use our money to strengthen our family tree and protect what we have.
Those money motives are both excellent. They’re both family-focused. When you break it down like that, how could one person get mad at the other?
Without the time and the third party coach, we wouldn’t have seen that. Potentially, we would have continued thinking that the other person didn’t want to support the other for some deep seeded reason. When in fact, they just like doing things a different way. And different is beautiful.
A Third Party Can Really Help with Perspective
I like to think of our marriage counselor as a coach or consultant. Someone who comes brings an outsider’s point of view into the situation and gives us a perspective and options we didn’t think of. That’s what our marriage counselor has done for us.
She’s been able to provide us with activities and suggestions that have truly improved our everyday interactions with each other. So now, outside of our coveted one hour block of time, we’re communicating more effectively and learning how to take advantage of those important moments with each other.
Some of the counseling suggestions have been pretty funny too. Since we’re so busy, one of our homework items is to first ask, “Do you have time for my appreciation?” This way, the important moment of appreciation isn’t missed when we’re racing to get the kids to school. We both get the point of the exercise, but we end laughing about the formality of it. And who couldn’t use a good laugh when things get tense?!
We’re Investing in Our Marriage
I’m often worried about how to maximize our finances so we get the best return. This way our family is set up for an incredible future.
If I think about it with the right frame of mind, marriage counseling might just be the best investment our family has made so far. We’re spending time and money (just a small copay if your insurance covers it!) to ensure our family is happy and mentally healthy. This investment is helping our kids see that Mommy and Daddy care about each other and when Mommy and Daddy are a happy couple, they will be better parents.
Now, has our investment created the perfect marriage and perfect relationship? It’s not as clear cut as that, but just like anything that’s important in your life, you need to practice, put in the effort and improve every day. Marriage isn’t something you where you say “I do” and coast. It requires your love, your attention and your unending drive to make it great. “Perfect” is fantasy, but “great” is sure fun to strive for.