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Articles from October 2006

October 22, 2006

The Marriage Calculator

What does it take to get married and stay married if you're not earning much or can't find work? More than it does otherwise. The US Government provides a Marriage Calculator to help parents who receive public assistance (and state and federal legislators who determine the rules) determine how much more assistance they and their kids will get if they're divorced and living apart or lying about living together.

I invented a family of four in Pennsylvania with an infant, a toddler and two parents working at Pennsylvania's minimum wage, $7.15 per hour. I gave them $600 in assets and a car worth $1,200. I put them both to work for 40 hours a week, and put the kids in child care for $1,000 per month. Then I ran the marriage calculator.

They do poorly enough that Pennsylvania provides them with WIC (free basic foods and baby formula) and free health insurance for the kids. It will also subsidize their child care costs.

Married, their tax credits and state benefits total $918 plus free health care for the two kids. Divorced and pretending not to live together, they'd get another $472 in benefits.

If Mom worked only 25 hours a week and they shared the child care responsibilities, divorcing and pretending not to live together would gain them $286 per month plus free health care for Mom.

What does it take to walk away from such benefits to stay married during tough times? What does it take to stay together as a family when Dad's hiding in the shadows? How can we help families who face such choices?

October 15, 2006

Oh Say Can You See?

How often do your fears keep you from seeing what's really going on in your marriage? Fear of debt can turn your husband's generosity or normal risk-taking into a sign you're unloved or unsafe. Fear of being alone can force the two of you into activities neither of you has any real enthusiasm for, until you're both married to low-energy, unenthusiastic people. Fear of abandonment can lead you to minimize your spouse's accomplishments, even though your support and encouragement is the real glue that will hold you together. Fear of doing the wrong thing can keep you from selecting any gift for a wife who sees gifts as proof of your feelings for her.

When you feel the fear, assume love immediately. Ask yourself how you'd see the situation if you knew for certain that the wonderful person who committed his or her life to you remains every bit as wonderful, in love, and committed to your wellbeing.

October 8, 2006

Love & Respect

Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs, a book by Emerson Eggerichs, makes an excellent observation. Many a woman feels as if her air has been cut off when she feels unloved by her husband, but a man is more likely to feel this way when he feels he's lost his wife's respect. And to make matters worse, women tend to disrespect husbands who don't love them, and men tend to withhold love from wives when they feel disrespected. Eggerichs calls it the Crazy Cycle.

His book offers advice to couples who want to break out of their Crazy Cycle. Lots of books offer advice on how to show love, but few tell how to show respect to a loved one, and I've heard from a lot of men who confirm there's an important difference.

I think it's unfortunate that Dr. Eggerichs, a Protestant minister, chose to bolster his proposals for improving marriage with fragments of verses from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Many come from passages unrelated to his subject and appear to be wrestled into service of his ideas, which would stand quite nicely on their own. He's also going to lose a few readers by emphasizing what he sees as the husband's proper role as head of the family.

But don't let those deter you if they don't fit your religious beliefs. This book offers some important insights not offered elsewhere. Run them past your spouse and see if they'll make your marriage stronger.

Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs. Emerson Eggerichs. Brentwood, Tennessee: Integrity Publishers, 2004. 240 pages.

October 3, 2006

Scheduling Spontaneity

Many men and women report that they miss the spontaneity of their dating years and even the early years of their marriages. But when they look for an explanation, they often come to the conclusion their spouse has changed or perhaps was faking an interest in spontaneity back then. When they assume love, they can see another possibility.

If your fun-loving, spontaneous spouse hasn't mysteriously changed personalities and still loves you and wants to have fun with you, what's a reasonable explanation for the lack of spontaneity in your marriage?

Spontaneity must always be balanced against responsibility. Responsibility grows as you have kids and move up at work or in volunteering. Finding time for a spontaneous movie, night out, or trip grows more difficult every year. Finding the same time in both of your schedules seldom happens. And then it becomes frustrating even to ask.

How do you get the fun back? Schedule it. Set aside time each week (for the little outings) and each month (for the big ones). Anything that needs doing during those periods will have to be done by someone else. You two are under no requirement to do anything in particular during these times, only to make yourself available at the drop of a hat when one of you proposes something fun.

Have fun!

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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