Q: My wife just got a new job with a substantially better salary, and I received a significant promotion. We're empty-nesters and want to handle our increased income responsibly. (We haven't always been the best financial decision makers in the past.) What should we keep in mind?
Jim: This isn't really a question about the best way to use your money. That's a highly subjective issue that we can't possibly resolve for you. What you really want is a broader set of principles. Financial expert Ron Blue suggests the following criteria-based model for making fiscal decisions:
-- For people of faith -- pray together about how to handle your money.
-- Define your decision. What's the question? Many times your decision statement will include such words as "choose," "select" and "best."
-- Clarify your objectives. What are you trying to achieve? What are the decision criteria?
-- Prioritize your objectives. What are the non-negotiables? What are the trade-offs?
-- Identify your alternatives.
-- Evaluate your alternatives. What are the facts?
-- Make a preliminary decision.
-- Assess the risk. What could go wrong here?
-- Make the final decision.
-- Test the decision.
This multistep matrix has a number of benefits. Perhaps the most important is its capacity for maximizing objectivity, minimizing bias and thus defusing emotion-based disagreements. If you discuss and apply it carefully, you will separate the relevant data from the trivial, provide direction for your thinking and set the stage for consensus as a household.
Q: I'm a woman who has been happily married for six years. I have several close "guy buddies" at work, and I know my husband is in a similar setting with some women at his workplace. My male friends get a little flirty with me sometimes, and I'm sure it's the same for my husband. As long as nothing happens, it's all harmless, right?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Maybe you don't think of infatuation as a mind-altering drug. But counselor Dave Carder has spent the past 30 years studying the causes of infidelity. He believes infatuation is as powerful as any substance out there.
Carder says most people don't wake up and decide, "I think I'll ruin my marriage today." Affairs usually come about slowly, without people realizing they're drifting into dangerous emotional territory. Infatuation is especially hazardous because it evolves from everyday relationships. Associating with co-workers, neighbors and family friends is appropriate in the typical sense. But when two people are together day after day, infatuation is a real possibility. It can develop before anyone realizes it's happening.
People consumed by infatuation do crazy things. They behave as if they're literally under the influence of a mind-altering substance. And to Dave Carder's point, they are. Infatuated people are drunk with emotion. They don't make rational decisions or care how their choices impact everyone else.
To protect your marriage, keep on the lookout for danger signs that your emotions are drifting. It may start by saving topics of conversation for somebody other than your spouse because, in your mind, they understand you better. Or you may share intimate details about your marriage with that person. Your feelings have definitely gone too far when you look forward to seeing the other person more than your spouse.
These indicators are often subtle, but they're important. When your marriage goes through a dry spell -- and all relationships do -- you can easily become infatuated with someone else. You may lose all sense of reason; then almost nothing will prevent you from having an affair. So to avoid making one of the biggest mistakes of your life, keep an eye on your relationships and your emotions in check.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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