A few years ago, Nicole and I had a larger-than-normal fight about money.
We both had different ideas around what we wanted to do with some extra cash coming into our lives. After paying off the mortgage early, we had around $30,000 per year available to us.
I wanted to continue saving and investing that money so that I could transition myself out of a job I did not enjoy. She too wanted me to transition into work I liked, but she also wanted to experience some more fun and enjoy more of life today. After saving nearly 50% of income for seven years straight, she was ready for a change too.
My frustration with my career had gone on for too long and I lost my mind when we didn’t see eye-to-eye on this topic. Deep down, I really wanted to have more fun and enjoy more experiences with the family but more than that, I wanted to go in a different direction with my career. I thought investing in real estate and a new small business would help with that.
Our difference in opinion led to some intense fights. All the negative emotions came out — name calling, days of silence and sleeping in different rooms. This was our seventh year of marriage and it was starting to feel like the seven-year itch.
After some time passed, Nicole brought up marriage counseling. At first, I was hesitant because I felt like going to a counselor meant our relationship was failing.
Man, was I wrong. Here’s why.
Counseling Gave Us Time to Actually Talk
With two kids under 6 years old, we didn’t get a lot of time for “us.” More often than not, we were busy cleaning messes, making food and being interrupted constantly.
When we met with our marriage counselor, we had one dedicated hour to actually talk. This was an uninterrupted time for us to be really open and honest with each other.
And since we had a lot of feelings to share, this was an ideal forum for it.
Read More: Financial Tips for Couples At Any Stage
Sometimes, it helps to talk things out while looking at your overall financial picture. Personal Capital’s free financial dashboard aggregates all of your accounts for a bird’s eye view of your finances. Nearly 3 million people use the tools to budget, plan for long-term goals, and analyze their investments. While working on your finances together, you and your significant other can share access to the account.
It Helped Us Communicate More Effectively
After our first session, I quickly got over my “failure feelings” around marriage counseling. This was not something to be ashamed of. It was something to be proud of. We were investing in our marriage.
I realized that our counselor was like a third-party coach that helped us communicate more effectively. Just like a physical trainer helps you improve your health, our marriage counselor was helping us improve how we speak to each other.
I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to really empathize with my wife and her feelings. Empathy can be a powerful tool if you take the time to use it.
Our Sessions Unveiled Our Backgrounds with Money
During our sessions, we spent a lot of time discussing how we were raised. This opened both of our eyes to our individual motivations around money and family.
Evidently, Nicole and I are not alone in this. According to a recent Personal Capital survey, over 75% of respondents say their parents influenced their current financial habits. So how we were raised, whether or not one spouse thinks it’s right or wrong, truly dictates our financial beliefs.
I learned more than I ever knew about Nicole’s background during our counseling sessions. This helped me to empathize and grow closer with her.
This Time Revealed That Money Wasn’t Actually the Problem
The two of us were so fixated on money that we didn’t take time to examine the root of the issue. Counseling helped us with this.
I had a high desire to leave my career so I could spend more quality time with my family. Nicole wanted to use more of our money to update our home and create experiences that the family would enjoy.
In short, both of our end goals were the same. We both wanted to put family first, but just in our own way.
After this epiphany, we decided to give each other what we wanted. In the time the followed our sessions, we did the following:
- Vacationed more than we ever have before as a family
- Updated our kitchen, remodeled our laundry room and improved our landscaping
- And, I left my corporate career to become a small business owner
I absolutely love my new business venture, and I also really love our updated home and the experiences we’ve had as a family. Taking my foot off the gas to enjoy more life today has been an incredible experience.
As this past year has demonstrated, life is precious. It’s important to plan for tomorrow, but loving today is a great feeling as well.
We Showed Our Kids That Communication is Powerful
Every time we went to meet with our counselor, we would tell our kids why we were going. We would say something like, “Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, and we want to improve our marriage so we don’t fight as much.”
Although they were young, I think they got it. When you want something to work, you’ve got to work at it. Our marriage was no different.
In addition to talking to our kids about our sessions, we also were very open with them about needing more time alone. This is still something our kids have difficulty with today, but they’ve gotten a lot better with it.
They realize that it’s important for us to have alone time, just like the one-on-one time they get with each of us. When the door is closed, they respect that. If it’s date night, they understand the importance of it. Because when Mommy and Daddy are happy, it helps to create a happier home overall.
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