Defeat vs. Freedom

Another thoughtful post from our favorite guest blogger Anne Slamkowski

Funny how one man’s defeat is another man’s freedom.  Isn’t it amazing how one spouse can feel uplifted and free while the other feels defeated.  What is even more amazing is that we can walk around and not realize these differences for what can be years unless we open up and talk about them with each other.  And how many of us take the time to do that?  I know I just assume that Pete feels the same way as me.  If I am on an emotional high, then Pete is.  If I am floating in God’s arms, then Pete is.  If I am on vacation and feeling free, then Pete is too.  Right? (You all can stop laughing here).

happiness image ChristineThe point of this is, if we don’t communicate our feelings to one another, then our spouses will never comprehend what we are going through emotionally.  Sometimes we NEED to communicate and share those feelings so that our spouse can also see our unique and beautiful view of life.

After selling our Florida condo last week, Pete and I journeyed down to pack up a few personal belongings (pictures, and might I add “stuff”) before closing.  We sat outside one night looking at the ocean, and Pete shared with me that he felt defeated.  Mostly because he felt like we had given up because it was too hard.  I, on the other hand, felt freedom.  Free from all of those rental calls about things that were broken.  Free from all the emotional baggage of worrying about what is going on at the condo when we are 1000 miles away.  Free of debt – that was a big one!  But his feelings were valid, even if they were different from mine.  His feelings were slanted by societal views, and I could relate to that.

Throughout this process of downsizing our lives, Pete and I have felt very differently about it.  I have felt freedom and he has felt defeat.  It is hard for a man to give up “things” in life (and I am not speaking badly of men because women can feel this way too).  “Things” in life are what society tells us we should work toward.  Unfortunately, those “things” can ruin our relationship with God.  Our family had begun to idolize those things above God, and I knew that was wrong.  Pete knew that was wrong too.  Our family was beginning to look like society wanted us to look – and I didn’t like that.  “Things” are not bad, but they are open doors to sinful behavior.  And when we started to look like everyone else – I knew something was wrong.  God made us all unique, and we shouldn’t conform to be something that God did not make us to be.

Pete and I began to realize over the last year, that our life could be significantly different Old married couplewithout all that stuff.  Instead of each of us having our own bathroom (like we did in our old house), we now share two.  Actually four of us share one, and our teenager has her own in the basement (which trust me – is okay with me).  Instead of having 4000 sq ft to run away from each other in, we now have 1200 sq ft to snuggle up together within.  Instead of looking out at our neighbors everyday, we look out at 8 acres of woods and creek.  It is different, and in my viewpoint, it is freeing.

Our perspectives may be different on what we have accomplished over this last year, but all in all, Pete and I both feel a closer relationship with God and our family.

Eventually, I suspect, Pete’s defeat will turn into freedom.  We all have to work through emotions when big changes take place in our life.  Even with the freedom I am feeling, I still am remorseful over losing “stuff”; I still am sad about “things” that are left behind.  So Pete’s words made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my thoughts.

It seems easy to rid my life of stuff, but it seems hard to look at it through society’s eyes.  I am the queen of throwing stuff out!  I dream of a large dumpster being parked outside my house so I can trash all that “stuff” that people leave lying around.  That has not been the hard part of this downsizing kick we are on.  I think the difficult part of this ride has been watching others look at us.  The thoughts go through my mind about what “they” might be saying… Did Pete lose his job?  Have they racked up too much debt?  Why are they selling off everything?  Are they crazy?  How do you think their kids feel?  How can they just uproot their kids lives like that?  It can be good for their family to just eliminate all that excess, I bet they will regret it.

Life has been a roller coast ride for all of us this last year. Those thoughts of doubt usurp me sometimes, and I can see where defeat could set in.  I can see Pete’s side to the story, but I wouldn’t have, if he didn’t share it with me.  By him sharing with me about his feelings of defeat, I could see his roller coaster ride a little more clearly.  I mean this has been a roller coaster ride for us this past year.  God has poignantly made his message clear to us.  He has not nudged us, instead he has pushed us – hard.  Listening to Pete made me realize that even though I thought we were on the same ride – we weren’t.  He was on the roller coaster named Defeat.  I was on the roller coaster named Freedom. He was on one with twists and turns and upside down hills.  I was on the kiddie version.  I thought we boarded the same ride.  I thought we were in line together. I thought we were in the same car, but that was not the case.

In marriage, we can think we are all feeling the same way, yet that is so far from the truth.  Communication can change that in an instant.  We still might not board the same roller coaster, but we can share in the joys and sorrows of it by just communicating.  I don’t like those roller coasters with twists and turns and upside down hills, but Pete does.  I prefer the kiddie ones.  I get to listen and relive Pete’s thrill ride though when he chooses to share it with me.  He gets to hear my side too – which probably seems a little boring to him, but he listens anyway.

Defeat versus Freedom – it really doesn’t matter which ride you board, as long as the two of you end up walking off the ride together -in the arms of God.

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Be Prepared

fighting_couplesMatthew 25:13: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

As married couples playing the back nine of life, it becomes easy to take each other for granted.  She’s been here for thirty-some years, she’ll probably stay. We find ourselves living in what might be called a state of peaceful co-existence, sharing tasks, drama-free.  Connected emotionally and physically in a global sense, but not always on a daily basis.  This is risky business, when you live with someone you love, because, as St. Matthew warns us, you never know…

Think about how you and your spouse said goodbye to one another today, or yesterday.  Would you want that exchange to be the last one the two of you ever had?  One that you could sit and reflect upon for the next few decades.  Those of you who may have lost someone close to you without getting a chance to say goodbye know what I mean.  The rest of you need to pray you don’t find out, and take steps to avoid finding out sooner rather than later.

1 John 2:28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 

How you practice is how you play; this is what sports coaches have been telling kids for centuries.  When it comes to marriage, to executing the finer points of marriage, we are called to engage in daily behaviors that will help us avoid years of regret, and which could possibly cost us a trip to salvation.

We must be prepared.

We must make an effort every day to tell our spouse he or she is loved and safe and appreciated.  We must make it a daily habit to kiss our spouses at least twice.  Like we mean it, none of these air kisses or little annoying pecks.  Real kisses.  As if you might never see one another again.

We must have a clean heart and a clear conscience, with the sacrament of reconciliation still within its use-by date.  We need to take care of business when it comes to finances, in the event we are called unexpectedly.  If your retirement plan falls apart if someone dies, it’s not a retirement plan.  The idea is to let the surviving partner “stay in his or her world.” financially.  If you don’t know how to do this, make an appointment with someone who does.  Today.

We must be prepared. Creation of Adam

1 Corinthians 15:52:  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 

If you believe in the second coming, and if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this, you know it will arrive with no warning.  There will be no do-overs.  For me, one of the frightening aspects of all this is the fear of leaving things unsaid with Nancy and my family.  I, we, must resolve to have those conversations, to write those letters, to leave nothing unsaid.  Men, especially, need to pray about this, in that we generally don’t discuss our feelings as readily as do our wives.

The events of September 11, 2001 played a part in my conversion story.  If you’re having trouble understanding this ‘ be prepared” stuff, just think about the sensations experienced by the husbands, wives, children and parents, and brothers and sisters of the men and women who lost their lives that day.  Out of a clear, crystal blue sky.  On a day like any other.  With little or no warning.  Think of the husbands and wives who failed to kiss each other goodbye that morning, or who went to bed mad the night before and he was gone before she awoke in the morning, and so on.

We must be prepared.  To avoid a life of regret on earth, and an eternity of anguish.

HJohn 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 

We know that what awaits us will be, assuming things work out, infinitely better than the short, generally brutish life most people experience during our time on earth.  With the gift of free will, we can choose to ensure that things do, in fact, work out.  By consciously and conscientiously practicing our faith.  By consciously trying to remain as affectionate as possible with our spouse, in celebration of the fine old wine you’ve become.   By giving to the poor and sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves.  By counting our blessings.  And by leaving nothing unsaid with the people we love.

Because you never know.

The Economics of Marriage

Posted by Christine Burrows 1/9/2013

Christine#1 imageMy kids’ 10th grade economics teacher, Bonnie Kelley, taught that economics isn’t about money. Rather, it’s about choices.

She was referring to setting priorities based upon a person’s, or a business’, or a government’s earnings, and making spending choices that reflect those priorities. Based on the premise that you can’t have it all, economics is about picking between those things or opportunities you CAN have.  Or, as academics say, the artful allocation of scarce resources.

This task of prioritizing how to earn and allocate income is a daunting task for large entitiesChristine#2 image – witness the Federal Government.  It’s daunting for individuals – witness our college daughter during her first semester in college. So, why should it to be any less difficult for two adults in a marriage?

When we were first married, Peter owned a car and a house and had almost finished paying off his student loans. I had a small student loan and no other debt. We both had full-time jobs in our fields.  We were flush.  It feels like we’ve never had as much money as we had back then.

So, what did we do?  Buy a bigger house!  Between the time we qualified for the house on our combined income and moved into it, we took some major hits – Peter took a 20% pay cut, and I quit my teaching job and didn’t find another real position for another year. Suddenly, we were in our big new house, living on about 50% of what we had qualified on.

Macaroni and cheese and Gin Rummy were staples for our Friday nights.  They wereChristine#3 image good times… not really.  It was downright tough.  But in retrospect, it was an important time in our marriage.  We had to figure out our priorities: making the mortgage payment, maintaining cars, meeting basic physical needs were the basics. The extras, like going out? Decorating the home? Saving for a rainy day? These required choices, and took some serious conversations.  At times, I thought a new pair of shoes was the best use of our money. (Or, maybe, I just wanted some new shoes, and, like a child, was unwilling to accept the pain of not getting what I wanted!)

Basic application:  If we are not rich, and most folks aren’t, we must accept that there will be things we just can’t have!

Higher level application: If a married couple accepts that they can’t have it all, they agree to share in both the pleasures and the disappointments that come from not being able to have everything they want.  Even steven.

Herein lies the key to the economics of marriage – you just can’t have it all (or at least most of us can’t).  So, when you’re trimming back from ALL, what gets trimmed?  Doing the trimming together is tough, but ultimately more genuine when you reach those decisions together, if not completely.  Learning how to defer gratification in your youth will shower rewards upon you later in your lives. Christine#4 image

This is hard stuff – no getting around it.  But, isn’t it the right thing?  As compared to, say, running up a bunch of credit cards and crying when the mail comes each day?  When making sacrifices together, they are a little easier. Reaching these agreements peacefully is an art form that develops over years.

Let me say this:  I don’t really like macaroni and cheese.  I laugh when I think about the rummy games from those early days in our marriage.  But I can’t remember a single pair of shoes I bought back then.

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What’s Mine is Mine, What’s Yours is Ours

One of the laugh lines in our marriage has been Nancy’s tongue-in-cheek dictum that marriage-vs-money“What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is ours.”  This has been a reminder over the past 37 years that marrying a woman from New Jersey can be fraught with peril.  And a lot of laughs.

Love’s Sacred Embrace is devoting the month of January to two complementary themes: Money, Budgeting and Finances, and Submission to Each Other.  For many of us, January is the financial hangover that follows the commercial binge of the Christmas season.  Despite our best intentions and promises to “hold the line,” we typically confront January with a pile of bills stacked on top of the usual pile of bills.  It can be a dreadfully stressful situation, one which, at least for me, used to take much of the joy out of the season. Fortunately, my Jersey girl insisted four years ago that we create a  budget, and I, being the good husband I am, submitted to her wishes, albeit only after decades of resisting.

A budget, by itself, is not a solution to a lifestyle in which expenditures routinely exceed incomes.  The process of putting together a budget, however, forces couples to discuss which things are more or less important to them.  A budget, to which each spouse eventually commits (submits), then, is a process, a negotiation, a way of discovering what is important to each other, and what less-important things must be sacrificed in order to have the important stuff.

It’s probably true that a good working budget forces each spouse to acknowledge the truth that you win some, and you lose some.  As in all things related to marriage, if one spouse does all the giving up, and the other spouse does all the winning, there will be storm clouds on the horizon.

Our bloggers will be addressing finances, and submission, in the coming few weeks.  I discovered a site called Money and Marriage God’s Way which offers a host of information and insights into this subject.  Here’s a sample.

As the article points out, in a working sacramental marriage, there is no yours and no mine.  There is only ours.  Someone needs to break this news to Nancy.

MACORF-00027326-001For a great conversation on this topic, please join us on January 12th for Second Saturdays:  Marriage on Tap.  Brett Selear will lead a date night discussion on the topic of recovering from the holidays, financially and spiritually.