Sex-pectations: The Difference and Implications of Marital Needs

his need her need 4I am crawling out on a limb as I share this perspective in the hope of helping just one struggling couple who wants to save their marriage in the aftermath of infidelity.  On the other hand, perhaps a husband or wife who is teetering on the edge of infidelity will decide to change course.  As a marriage coach, I have couples sit on my couch who are wrestling with a gap in sexual appetite.  In most cases, the husband desires more sex than his wife, and over time, this unresolved need has culminated in an extra-marital affair.  I fully acknowledge that women also have affairs, but in most cases, the catalyst for theirs starts with unmet non-sexual needs.

For the record, I believe every adult is fully responsible for his/her decisions and behaviors. However, one of my first coaching questions is usually directed to the faithful spouse: “What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” My question is not to suggest that this wronged spouse caused the affair, should feel any guilt, or accept any blame. My intention is to shine a spotlight on the couple dynamics that the husband and wife co-created before the affair occurred.  Husbands and wives share a responsibility in what goes on within their marriage. I would only ask this question if both spouses were committed to work on their marriage and not focus their energies on assigning blame or playing the victim card.

This pointed question expands the conversation around marital needs as discussed in Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs. A healthy and satisfying marriage results when each spouse tries to meet the needs of his/her spouse. As mentioned in His Needs, Her Needs, Harley (2011) discusses 10 emotional needs that husbands and wives seek to have fulfilled within their marriage.  These are (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration.  Men typically rate sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship as their highest needs; whereas, women favor affection and intimate conversation.  Harley (2011) states that when primary needs are not met by a spouse, over time, husbands and wives will usually find ways to get those needs met outside of their relationship.

As an example, it is common for a woman to crave intimate conversation with her husband.  When a wife does not receive it, she may innocently share her frustration with a male coworker or friend.  With no calculated intent, this intimate conversation blooms into a romantic affair.  Most likely, the man is also married and not getting his sexual needs met by his wife.  The same model holds true for husbands.  They may have no plans for an affair but are unable to hold the line at only flirtatious conversation. Unless suffering from sex addiction, neither spouse is likely to stray if their needs are met at home.

Readers may counter that spouses should not feel pressured into having sex with their spouse.  I could not agree more; however, I do suggest that a husband and wife adopt a self-sacrificing attitude to meet their spouse’s top three needs.  Love undoubtedly requires self-sacrifice.  For example, when I want to relax on the couch with a glass of wine and good book after work, my husband is in the kitchen cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards.  Would he rather trade places with me?  Absolutely!  Yet, he knows that I will gladly gift him sex when we crawl into bed when I prefer to pull the covers over my head and drift off to sleep.

“What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” may be the first question on the table; however, the second is asked of the unfaithful spouse: “What did you not do for your wife/husband that led her/him to not care about satisfying your sexual needs?” Husbands and wives both have a responsibility to nurture their marriages.  When the love chemicals subside, the happy and enduring marriages require hard work and self-sacrificing decisions. I encourage couples to prioritize their individual needs and communicate their top three, so their spouse can make a concerted effort to satisfy them.  If successful, couples may be asked a third question after decades of marriage: “What’s the secret?”

Reference

Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

A Father’s Gift to His Children

father-daughter-son2

When TV cameras pan a sports field, how many times have you noticed players mouthing “Love you, Mom.” How often have you noticed dads getting credit when sportscasters are interviewing athletes after a big win? My recollection is that moms are receiving most of the public praise. Why do fathers seem to be forgotten or avoided?

As a child growing up in a single-working-mother family without any father contact, some of the discrepancy can be chalked up to the single-parent family structure.  I believe another portion can be explained by the lack of emotional bonding between fathers and their children.  Although I do not have all the answers, I do know that dads play a vital role in the lives of their children, and what boys need from their fathers differ from what girls need.

Eldredge (2004) proposes that every boy wants to be a hero and continually asks himself the question, “Do I have what it takes?”  Boys want to impress others and are often doing things that allow them to say, “Look at me!”  Since every boy is seeking validation that he has what it takes to be a man, boys often look to their fathers to help them answer that question. Even God said of his Son, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).

On the other hand, Eldredge (2004) suggests that a girl has a different question she is looking to her father to answer.  Girls try to capture their father’s attention to answer the question of whether she is lovely and worth pursuing?  A father answers that question by letting her know that he is thinking of her and delights in her.

When fathers do not validate the core needs of their children, Eldredge (2004) proposes boys feel like a failure and girls feel abandoned.  Boys will forever try to prove they are a man and shy away from anything that might reveal otherwise.  A father’s silence can wound a son.  Since a father cannot give what he does not have, it is not uncommon for generations of fathers/sons to struggle.

Girls, whose worth is not validated by their fathers, may seek male attention outside of the family.  Children who are emotionally starved by their biological fathers, should seek a spiritual father.  Many wonderful fathers can step in to provide that need to non-biological daughters.  I am one of those girls, whose stepfather became my spiritual father. These needs cannot be fulfilled by a mother, only a father.  Mothers, on the other hand, give unconditional love, teach about mercy, and provide comfort (Eldredge, 2004).

If you are a father, consider looking for those authentic opportunities to say the words that convey to your son that you are proud of him and has what it takes to be a man.  For a daughter, make sure she knows that she is delightful and worth fighting for. Fathers are the most powerful men in their children’s lives.

Reference

Eldredge, J. (2004). You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

What is Your Marriage Worth?

His need her needAs a partner to couples who are seriously dating, engaged, and even married for several years, I am honored every time they invite me to coach and mentor them to greater levels of relationship understanding, commitment, and fulfillment.  As a certified coach for both Prepare & Enrich (http://www.prepare-enrich.com) and Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS, http://www.SYMBIS.com), couples typically ask me, “Which program would be best for us?” The simple answer is both.  Ideally, the programs would be integrated to create the best of both worlds, but either program is packed with insightful information tailored to the couple.

Research (Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, SYMBIS) shows that those couples who participate in premarital coaching are 31% less likely to get divorced and have a 30% increase in marital fulfillment over those who do not.  More facts that are worth considering: (1) couples who do not receive pre-marriage education are more likely to see their problems as atypical and unsolvable, and (2) 41% of divorced couples say lack of pre-marriage preparation contributed to their divorce.

Regardless of which program a couple chooses, I applaud each for deciding to invest in the health of their relationship.  Even strong and aligned couples have been surprised in how much they learned about themselves and their marriage.  For those who are seriously considering this investment, I briefly summarize the process and differences between the programs.

  • Both programs require each person to take an online survey which captures pertinent information about the individual, couple, and their relationship.
  • A report is created from the survey results. No report is the same as each relationship is unique.
  • SYMBIS focuses on (1) marriage mindset, (2) individual and couple well-being, (3) relationship context around social support, finances, and expectations, and (4) personality dynamics that play out in love, sex, communication, conflict, and spirituality.
  • Prepare & Enrich focuses on (1) relationship dynamics involving assertiveness, self-confidence, avoidance, and dominance, (2) stress influences, (3) identification of relationship strengths and opportunities for growth, and (4) practical tools for improving communication, conflict resolution, and financial management.

Prepare & Enrich typically unfolds over eight sessions; whereas, SYMBIS can usually be unpacked over 3-4 sessions, because it focuses more on discussion without the tools provided by the other program.  Both programs have their merits, and either would be a worthwhile investment of time and money.

One of the most meaningful and rewarding pieces of feedback I received about the coaching experience was from a 56 year-old man who planned to marry for the second time.  After going through the Prepare & Enrich curriculum, he said he learned so much about himself and relationships that he was recommending this program to his two young adult sons.  He also mentioned that if he and his first wife had pursued premarital coaching, it may have saved his first marriage.

Many couples, who are on a relationship high, falsely believe they do not need relationship coaching and tools.  I guarantee that marriage coaching, regardless of relationship strength, is a worthwhile investment to ward off future relationship struggles, emotional pain, and the cost of marriage counseling.  Every serious relationship and marriage are worth the investment of premarital or marriage coaching.  Regardless of where you live, I encourage you to pursue relationship coaching.  If you live in the Houston area, I would welcome the conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs

his need her need 2Having coached premarital and married couples who sit on my couch every week, I am routinely asked, “What do we need to do to ensure we have a happy marriage?”  The answer is relatively simple:  “It’s all about meeting needs.”

Harley (2011) states that couples have 10 emotional needs that operate within their marriage that have to be satisfied in order for them to feel emotionally connected. The importance of each need varies by individual; therefore, husband and wife should seek to understand which ones are most valued by their spouse and try to satisfy those needs. This concept is similar to the five love languages, where Chapman (2015) proposes that people need some level of love through all five languages but prefer to receive love through only 1 or 2 in order to fill their love tank.

What are the emotional needs that operate within all marriages?  Harley (2011) cites these needs as (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration. By focusing attention on their spouse’s top 5 emotional needs, partners can help to affair-proof their marriage from emotional and physical infidelity. Husbands and wives would benefit from force-ranking the importance of each need and sharing this list with their spouse.  Spouses would then be empowered with the knowledge in how to increase the deposits in their partner’s emotional love bank.

Some of the 10 needs have a gender bias which can make it more difficult for some spouses to understand why certain needs are so important to their partner.  Men typically have a strong need for sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship; whereas, women typically favor affection and intimate conversation.  By rating and sharing the importance of each need and how well their spouse is meeting it, couples can determine the significance of the gap. Knowledge is power, and a needs assessment highlights where to focus attention in building the balance in the love bank.

References

Chapman, G. (2015). The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Relationships: Have You Discussed Your Non-Negotiables?

List 1

What’s on your non-negotiable list?

Have you fallen “in love” and much further into the relationship found a few flaws in your partner’s character or behaviors that you judged to be show-stoppers?  Did the person you thought you would likely spend the rest of your life become the person with whom you could not imagine spending another night?  An answer of “yes” is not uncommon, and for some feels like a regular response as they jump from relationship to relationship hoping to find the right one for them.

Why the common pattern?  In most cases, I would wager that the relationship demise is not attributable to any one person changing, but instead the inevitable collide of non-negotiables.  For those not familiar with the terminology, non-negotiables are those attitudes, personal characteristics, and behaviors that are incompatible with a person’s expectations in how their partner should conduct themselves within and outside the relationship.

Many people do not take the time to define their relationship non-negotiables; therefore, they cannot evaluate their dating partner against them early in the dating process.  Without an understanding of objective non-negotiables, the “love” chemicals will dominate a person’s thinking and rationalization.  As the chemicals fade, the issue of non-negotiables will come to the forefront. I encourage everyone, regardless of age, to have a list of non-negotiables even if it changes over time, which most likely it will based on accumulated learnings and experiences.

You may be sold on the concept but unsure of what qualifies as non-negotiables.  First, there are no right or wrong, better or worse answers.  Second, the list should be rooted in core values and deep-seated preferences.  My husband had only two for the woman he would marry: (1) high self-confidence, and (2) a shared faith and love for the God he served.  He felt he could work with anything else.  On the other hand, my list was much longer and included: (1) never lay a hand on me, (2) be a financial provider for the family, and (3) maintain a family life where no one walks on eggs.  Although the list is short, the conversations are long with regards to unpacking what each of these looks and feels like in daily life.

As you may suspect, many of our non-negotiables were derived from prior experiences that left a prominent mark in how we expected to live our lives in the future. The list encompassed what we determined was intolerable or a “must-have.” If you have not yet written your list, I encourage you to carve out the time to create one on paper. Although there is no minimum number, if you find yourself with a grocery list of non-negotiables, you may be describing wants and not just non-negotiables.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Marriage: Uncomplicated

Mr and MrsToday’s marriages are more complicated than ever before.  A half century ago, the American marriage was simpler in its expectations and roles.  It was a male-female union to which the overwhelming majority of adults committed.  Divorce was not a chosen option, because it was penalized with societal ostracism.  Young adults would routinely marry their high school sweethearts, or those who were university bound would marry their college steady.  Marriage was the assumed relationship institution which led to the saying that girls went to college primarily to get their MRS degree—signified by a marriage proposal from a well-educated gentleman before graduation.

A successful marriage was defined by key behaviors and milestones such as a husband securing a well-paying job, buying a new family car, taking a home mortgage in the burbs, having children and grandchildren.  Both husband and wife had predetermined roles to play.  Husbands strived to work for the big company, measured success by promotions, brought home a paycheck to support his stay-at-home wife who cooked, tended to the children, and volunteered at the PTA.  Women could be teachers and nurses but were expected to give up their careers when their first child was born.

Fast forward to today, where the definition of marriage and its gender composition have challenged the mid-twentieth century design.  Marriage today is more complex and requires increased skills in communication, conflict management, and negotiation (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 2010).  Why?  Because less is automatically assumed and accepted, and more needs to be decided.

Spouses are entering marriage with higher expectations of what marriage should be and what their partner will provide toward their happiness. Many couples expect their spouse to be both best friend and soul mate.  For those couples who can successfully fulfill those roles for each other, they should consider volunteering as marriage mentors to other couples who are struggling to achieve that status.

What can couples do to improve the strength and vitality of their marriage?  My initial answer would be to consider marriage coaching!  Ideally a couple should seek coaching before they say, “I do,” although it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Marriage coaching can help with managing expectations as well as developing strategies for building and maintaining friendship, commitment, fun, and intimacy.  Although coaching can provide tools, success will be mostly influenced by the motivation to apply them.

In my marriage coaching practice, I had several couples who came with an expectation that if they could only learn some tools and skills, their marriage would improve.  What happened?  One couple voluntarily dropped coaching after 3-4 sessions, because as the husband said, “Although the tools are really useful, we just aren’t committed to put them to work in our marriage.”  I applauded his honest answer.  If either spouse is not willing to do the hard work to achieve the vision for the marriage, success will be limited or elude them all together.

Marriage is a partnership, requiring spouses to die to their selfishness in order to uplift their spouse and marriage. As I like to ask,” What are you doing that is contributing to a marriage issue?”  Many spouses are surprised by the question, and as they consider their answer, they usually come to the realization that they try to argue their position with the hope of convincing their spouse to their way of thinking. When my husband and I disagree, if I do not remind myself, we remind each other of a powerful Scripture: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).  When you take the time to think about how you contributed or are contributing to an issue, you may surprise yourself how much more humble you engage in conflict resolution.

In marriage coaching, I work with couples to develop a vision, mission, and goals for their marriage that excited them.  Couples who bring optimism, a willingness to develop a plan, and commitment to take action usually see their marriages thrive.  Marriage coaching holds a couple accountable to develop the goals they want to work on together and move forward.  It is that simple!  Although the definition of marriage has been redefined in this modern age, it does not have to be complicated.  Skills, tools, and coaching can take what appears complicated and make it uncomplicated.

Reference

Markham, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage, and finances.

Live, Love, and Laugh Alot!

Couple-LaughingThey say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  I believe laughter is not only the best medicine for what ails you but is part of the required maintenance for a healthy and satisfying marriage.  This concept was driven home during one of my coaching sessions, where a couple was trying to figure out whether they should take their dating relationship to the next level—engagement.   Based on their survey, they were highly compatible in their emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, spiritual views, financial stewardship, and interests.  What was missing?

Although they had differences in daily lifestyle habits and personality traits, theirs was not any more divergent than most couples.  Frankly, I had seen couples with greater differences that were extremely happy in their relationship.  As we dug deep, trying to understand why Peggy* was hesitating when her mind could justify why they were a good fit, she blurted out that she never belly-laughed with Mark*.   Peggy loved going new places and doing fun activities with Mark, but their conversations never evoked the silliness and laughter that usually comes from experiencing life together.  Peggy was known to see humor in many situations and did frequently laugh with her family and other friends.  She could never figure out why she did not laugh with Mark, and disappointingly, Mark never did get to put a ring on her finger.  Regardless of how compatible this couple appeared on paper, Peggy did not feel connected to her partner, and lack of laughter was a significant contributor.

Why is laughter so important in a relationship?  For an individual laughter helps to release stress.  People who have a sense of humor tend to have less physical ailments and find greater joy in their lives. Humor and laughter shared within a marriage helps a couple cope with daily stresses.  Laughter bonds and makes a couple feel like they are in it together.  When you reflect on the times your marriage was most vibrant, I bet you and your spouse were laughing a lot—seeing humor in the small situations.  I pray you are and continue to be in that stage.  On a personal front, my husband represents the classic duck, where water just rolls off his back.  On the other hand, I am the worrier in the couple.  I convincingly tell myself, someone in the relationship needs to worry.  Many times, I will be verbally expressing my worries to my husband, and when I do, he always makes me laugh.  How?  Because he just gives me his look and says “Hakuna matata!”  I usually smile in response and continue with my rationale, and he says again, “Hakuna matata.”  I then respond, “but…,” and he says again, “Hakuna matata!”  I finally give up and just laugh!  “Hakuna matata” is a joke that keeps us together.  What stories or shared experiences keep you living, loving, and laughing together?

*Names have been changed to protect identities


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage, and finances.

Planning for a Successful Marriage

Husband and wife on bedMost couples plan for their perfect wedding but often overlook planning for a successful marriage.  It is not uncommon for a bride and groom to spend more on their wedding day than purposefully investing in their marriage over its lifetime.  Parrott and Parrott (2015) found that less than 20% of all American couples had any type of formal marriage preparation, and research showed that about half of newlyweds reported serious marital problems and had doubts whether their marriages would last.  Husbands and wives enter marriage with a set of personal needs and expectations in how they will be fulfilled by their spouse.  In many cases, these needs and expectations are unspoken, result from life experiences and family dynamics, and are biologically driven.  Some couples are not in tune with their needs; whereas, others are apprehensive in asking for fear of rejection.  A few husbands and wives have the unrealistic expectation that if their spouse really loved them, they would know what their needs were and act upon them.  Since it is unlikely that most spouses read minds, I would suggest that it is never too late to schedule a quiet date, where a couple can ask powerful questions about needs and expectations.

If you are considering that date, it might be helpful to understand some typical gender differences in marital needs.    These insights may help you better understand your spouse and why sometimes s/he acts in ways that confuse or frustrate you.  With awareness, empathy, and sharing, I pray you can get more of your needs met in marriage.  Love is the willingness to hear and try to meet your partner’s needs.  As my husband says to me, “Let me know what you need. If it’s not illegal or immoral, I’m on it!”

What does a wife need?

Many men confusingly ask, “What do women really want?”  Research conducted by Markman and Kraft (1989) found that a wife’s most basic needs in marriage are to be cherished, be understood, and be respected.  In my coaching experience, I often hear women say they need to feel safe in their marriages.  I would suggest that their concept of “safety” is weaved into their needs of being understood and respected.

A woman typically feels cherished, when she knows a husband puts her first among family, friends, and interests.  She believes when push comes to shove her husband will choose her.  The research also shows that when a wife believes she is cherished, she encourages her husband to pursue the things he enjoys (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men who cherish their wives not only show their wives but tell them they love them, especially when “words of affirmation” is a primary love language.

A woman feels understood when her feelings are validated and accepted (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men are biologically predisposed to speak less words and focus on solving problems.  Husbands validate their wives by just listening to them share their feelings and struggles without solving their problems.

Wives need to feel as if they are equal partners in their marriages.  Husbands can respect their wives by supporting their dreams and goals.  When women do not feel respected by their husbands, they tend to feel insecure, unworthy, and may suffer depression.

Without awareness of female-driven needs, husbands will try to love their wives in the ways that they feel loved.  The same is true of wives’ approach in loving their husbands.  Wives also need to understand their husbands’ basic needs, so they can love their husbands in ways that uplift their marriages.

What does a husband need?

God has a sense of humor.  What was He thinking when he designed Adam and Eve, man and women, or he and she.  Obviously, humans with enough similarities to be attracted to each other and enough differences to keep the relationship interesting.  Men are not only physically and mentally different in their hard-wiring than women, their basic marriage needs are as well.  The research by Parrott and Parrott (2015) suggest that wives should focus their efforts on satisfying their husbands’ needs to be admired, to have autonomy, and of enjoyment in shared activity with their spouses.

Men need words of encouragement from their wives in how they are meeting their needs.  Contrary to women who will try harder to get admiration, men tend to lose motivation to try and choose to focus on something else that brings them that positive reinforcement.  A wife should never resort to false praise but verbalizing specific behaviors to her husband that would please her and intentionally recognizing her pleasure when he acts will help to bridge the gap.

Wives tend to use words to draw closer, but sometimes husbands need autonomy to regroup before they can engage in marital conversation.  I learned this the hard way in my first marriage, when I would immediately start to vent the details of my work day to my husband upon walking into our home.  My husband, wHis vs Her Needsho had an equally stressful day, needed to go to his “man cave” for half an hour, before he could have conversation.

A common compliant I hear men express during marital coaching is their deep desire to have their wives join them or share in a hobby together. Men typically comment, “I wish my wife would (1) join me fishing, (2) travel with me on business, or (3) come to one of my softball games….”   Men connect with their wives by doing things together, even if it is just sitting on the coach together watching a movie.  Men bond to their wives through recreation; whereas, women feel intimacy by talking, sharing vulnerable moments, and cuddling.

What’s next?

Neither set of gender needs is right or wrong.  Instead, understanding the differences will hopefully make you realize that your spouse is not intentionally ignoring your needs. They are just focused on loving you in the way they feel loved.  You may already be aware of these differences.  If not, hopefully you have more insight.  Awareness is measured on a continuum, and wherever you are on that line, consider setting up a date to explore these gender differences.  Review the sets of basic needs and share your answers to the following questions:

  1. For each of the gender needs discussed, how much does this basic need hold true for you?
  2. For each need, on a scale of 1-10 (10=highest), how well is your spouse satisfying that need? Provide examples that support your score?
  3. Give examples of how your spouse could strengthen that need for you?
  4. Pick at least one of your spouse’s needs that you will commit to focus on and describe how you will do it.

References

Markman, H. & Kraft, S. (1989). Men and women in marriage: Dealing with gender differences in marital therapy. The Behavior Therapist, 12, p. 51-56.

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2015). Saving your marriage before it starts. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage/premarital, and finances.

How to Create a Passionate and Purposeful Marriage

Marriage on MissionWhen I ask couples why they are getting married or why they chose their partner, they typically reply with phrases such as “because I love her,” “he’s my best friend,” “she’ll make a great wife and mother,” and “he has a great sense of humor.”  These personal attributes and feelings are all wonderful ingredients for a happy marriage.  When I ask the next question, “What is the purpose of your marriage?” the answer comes in a quizzical look.  Many couples have not answered this second question for themselves, having been captivated by their “in love” feelings for each other.  Helmenstine (2017) claims that oxytocin and endorphins fuel feelings of love for 18 months to 4 years.  When the love chemicals dissipate, what will excite and sustain your marriage?

Keeping the marriage alive!

Those who enter marriage blindly typically do not fare as well as couples who seek premarital coaching.  Parrott and Parrott (2016) share that ~ 40% of divorced couples claim that lack of pre-marriage preparation contributed to their divorce.  The unfortunate statistics are that 20% of first marriages end in divorce within 5 years and 32% by 10 years (Avvo, 2010).  The statistics are even higher for couples who marry more than once.  For the average couple the love chemicals are replaced with feelings of attachment and comfort.  Couples who thrive typically do so by adopting behaviors that love their spouse and reflect their marriage purpose.  Chapman (2015) asserts that love is not a feeling but a verb in which spouses should intentionally love their partners in ways that speak to them.  I propose that intentional love can be taken to a higher level by co-creating a marriage mission statement.

What is a marriage mission statement?

God has designed you for a purpose, and He has also called our marriages into a purpose?  If you are married, are you living out your mission?  Companies, ministries, and even individuals have mission statements, so why should your marriage be any different? The purpose of a marriage mission statement is to get clarity on what is important to you, help set a direction for your marriage, and provide grounding and guiding boundaries by which to live.

Now if you are saying, “It’s too late for us, because we’ve been married over 20 years,” I would respond that it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Why?  Because a marriage mission is not about the past or present but entirely on a future vision.  What do you want your marriage to become?  Creating a marriage mission statement together is fun!  Plan for a series of dates where the two of you spend quality time asking each other questions and sharing your deepest desires.

How do we write a marriage mission statement?

Your mission statement is as uniquely created as you are with the freedom to design its content, length, and style.  The only criteria are it should excite you, align you as a couple, and give you sufficient clarity to know that you are living it.  A recommended approach to build the content is to answer and discuss a series of questions intended to help you define a vision and explore values.  If your marriage mission does not reflect your core values, the statement will likely be empty words on a piece of paper.  Common elements in a mission statement may include a vision, values, dreams, goals, and actions that support its purpose.  When you discuss your marriage vision and values, your mission and goals will tend to fill in the gaps to bring your statement to life.

Below is a sampling of questions to stimulate your thinking and conversation.  Do not let this list inhibit you from exploring other questions.  Your answers should reflect your passions and feelings involving God, family, community, and others.

Vision

  • Describe your ideal marriage. What elements, conditions, activities, and behaviors would describe it?
  • What do you dream of accomplishing? How would a marriage union help achieve that?
  • How has God spoken into the future for your life and marriage?
  • If your children were asked to describe your marriage, how would you want them to be able to answer?

Values

  • What causes are you willing to fight for?
  • What are some of your core values?
  • What are your non-negotiable behaviors?
  • Where do you invest the best of your time, energy, and money?

Mission

  • What Scriptures speak to your heart? How does God fit into your marriage mission?
  • What are you excited and passionate to share alongside your spouse?
  • What activities and accomplishments would describe your ideal marriage?
  • What do you want to teach your children through your marriage relationship?

Living out your marriage mission!

Once you have a mission statement that reflects and excites you as a couple, think of short- and long-term goals that reflect that mission.  What actionable steps can you take to move into your mission?  Take time to pray to God to ask Him what he would like you to do.  Ideally, you may want to select a Scripture that speaks to your marriage!

How will you share your marriage mission?

Dillon Marriage MissionI pray that you have fun creating a marriage mission statement, but I would suggest you do not stop there.  Your statement is a living and breathing manifestation of your future dreams.  Could you use an accountability partner?  I suggest you share your mission statement with other couples.  Find those who are equally passionate about their marriage to join you, or perhaps be a mentor to a couple who wants to take the same journey.  Get together twice a year, review your mission statements, and share how you are or are not realizing your goals.  Make it a double or triple date, share your successes and challenges, and be sure to ask for support.

When should we refresh our marriage mission statement?

Life and marriage are a journey of unexplored roads.  Your marriage mission statement may need to be tweaked when you reach major life milestones such as having a child, changes in career paths, and empty-nesting.  With many couples spending more on their wedding ceremony than they do investing in their marriage, I pray you will take the time to plan for the glorious purpose of your marriage.  What do you want to accomplish with your soulmate?  What do you want your marriage to reflect back into the world?  Your choices will decide!

References

Avvo. (2010). Marriage and divorce statistics. Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/marriage-divorce-statistics

Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL; Northfield Publishing.

Helmenstine, A. (2017). The chemicals of love: Love chemicals and chemistry of love. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-chemistry-of-love-609354

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2016). Saving your marriage before it starts assessment: Facilitator training manual.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, premarital/marriage, and finances.

Will College Debt Affect Who You Decide to Date or Marry?

December 15, 2016

The flip side of that question is “Does your college debt make you less attractive to date or marry?”  Many want to believe the most important ingredient to a happy and fulfilled marriage is love, because true love can overcome the normal struggles endured by marriages over their lifetimes.   These same people would also like to believe that college debt should be immaterial to the decision with whom you spend the rest of your life—after all, the right person is the right person, no matter what the circumstances.  I would propose that love is a choice—a choice to fall in love with someone with whom you can create a successful life.  If this holds true, I would wager that most successful people are not necessarily looking for partners with money but for spouses who make sound financial decisions.  Why?  Because fiscal literacy and responsible financial stewardship are extremely helpful in developing a solid marriage foundation from which to move forward in individual life calling and marriage purpose.

Overwhelming costudent-debt-ball-and-chain-2llege debt can sap energy and joy, as well as interfere with life calling, because significant resources are funneled to pay off those loans—making it feel like one is dragging around a ball and chain for ten years.  Not even personal bankruptcy can dissolve this financial burden—a lifetime sentence until it is repaid.   I am neither advocating for or against pursuing a college degree, and these words come from a chemical engineer with an MBA, who will also receive her second masters in life coaching in 2017.  I believe a college education can open more doors for career and job choices as well as develop new worldviews, critical thinking, discipline, commitment, friendships, and a sense of community.  However, I am recommending that before taking on any debt that everyone understand what they are called to do, how post-secondary education will support that purpose, and then using sound judgment to determine the best path forward.  Approaches can include community college, part-time vs. full-time, scholarships, employer incentives, military benefits, etc.  You may ask how did I pay for my education?   I focused on good grades, worked when not studying, saved, sacrificed, applied for scholarships and loans, and was rewarded with grants and reasonable loans to pair with my savings the first time.  The second time I worked full-time while going for my graduate degree part-time, taking advantage of my employer’s partial tuition reimbursement benefit in conjunction with my savings.   The third time around I worked and saved for my full tuition, hence my return to college at 53 years old.

Mentoring and coaching high schoolers and young adults, I often see them struggle with evaluating and deciding how to afford a college education.  Surprisingly, many of these students are encouraged by their parents to apply and attend universities above their collective financial means.  The parents and students alike are swept up in the hype that a college education is the gateway to a successful life—the more prestigious the school, the better, and whatever debt is required to achieve that dream is worth it.  With this momentum and the euphoria of acceptance letters, it becomes difficult to bring good judgment and reasonable thought in deciding whether to pursue a degree, what degree, its timing, and how to pay for it.

The sad reality—burdensome college debt has stalled many young degreed graduates who cannot turn back time.  They are drowning in debt that cannot be expunged.  Consumer Reports (2016) issued a report on the impact on student debt, and the survey statistics are sobering:

  • 45% of respondents said their student loan debt was not worth the cost of college
  • 47% said if they had the chance to do it all over again they would accept less financial aid and go to a less expensive school
  • 50% are having problems making student loan payments

With half of recent graduates wishing for a do-over or struggling with debt repayment, these statistics should be a wake-up call that the current approach in securing a diploma is broken.   What are the impacts to graduates overburdened with college debt?  Consumer Reports (2016) found:

  • 44% cut back on daily living expenses
  • 37% delayed saving for retirement or other financial goals
  • 28% delayed buying a house
  • 12% delayed marriage
  • 14% changed careers because of student debt

In many cases, these necessary life adjustments resulted from not understanding the impact of long-debt.   Although not specifically addressed in the survey, many young graduates reluctantly return home after college to live with their parents, resulting in a “failure to launch” not by personal choice.  Although subsidized room and board allow these graduates to pay off college debt, they struggle with financial independence and attracting financially independent mates.  Consumer Reports (2016) revealed that 44% of respondents wanted to know how much student debt a dating partner had before beginning a serious relationship with 36% and 20% of respondents saying “no” or “unsure”, respectively.

With these statistics as a wake-up call, the next question most students should ask is “How much college debt can I afford?”  The general rule of thumb is a graduate can afford college debt equivalent to the first year of salary.  For example, if you are pursuing a teaching degree and expect to be paid $50,000 per year as a teacher, you can commit to $50,000 of student debt.  A post-graduation balanced budget should be drafted to confirm you can re-pay this debt while ensuring you can put a roof over your head, food in your mouth, clothing on your back, and the means of getting to your job to earn that income.

When I student-loan-payback-schedule-10-yearscoach students and parents on personal finances, this simple matrix translates the amount of student debt into a monthly payment for 10 years at various interest levels.  Some students are financing teaching degrees at prestigious 4-year universities, taking on over $100,000 of debt for a job which will only pay $50,000 per year.  When asked “How will you put a roof over your head if you have to pay $1,000 a month towards school loans?” their facial expressions reflect confusion, surprise, and worry.  What I find more troublesome are students who are financing college under an “undecided” major.  These students usually take upwards of 5 to 7 years to graduate—incurring more debt than if they would have paused after high school, worked, figured out what degree fit their life plan, andstudent-debt then pursued their education over 4 years.   Powell (2016) reported that the average college graduate debt is $37,000 in 2016.  Many of the entry-level, non-science based jobs for these graduates do not pay that amount per year.  Many graduates have no idea when their loans will be paid off.

If you think colleges are educating you on prudent decision-making and the harsh realities of debt repayment, they are not.  Universities are businesses, trying to make enough money to keep their doors open.  If they sign you up, the colleges will receive income through your financial aid and tuition payments.  They are not incentivized to explain what debt you can and cannot afford.  By default, they are operating on the concept of Caveat Emptor, translated Let the Buyer Beware!

Pursuing a college degree can be one of life’s most significant and costly decisions, because the debt you take on can have a lasting impact on your quality of life.  The debt you carry can also impact your ability to attract a life partner.  Many students never stop to consider all the long-term ramifications of debt choices.   I encourage you to pause, think through this decision, reach out for help, and make wise choices!  Your future depends on it!

References

Consumer Reports National Research Center (2016). College Financing Survey: 2016 Nationally Representative Online Survey. Retrieved from: http://www.consumerreports.org/student-loan-debt-crisis/degrees-of-debt-and-regret/

Powell, F. (2016). Ten Student Loan Facts College Grads Need to Know. U.S. News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/slideshows/10-student-loan-facts-college-grads-need-to-know


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.