Q: Should I share my marital frustrations and problems with my parents and siblings? We're a tight-knit family, and though my marriage isn't in crisis, sometimes I just need to vent.
Jim: Only if the sharing, venting and "support" they garner for you are likely to produce positive results in your marriage. But how do you determine this?
The first step is to gauge the emotional stability and psychological health of your parents and siblings. Are they really the kind of people you can trust with your secret marital frustrations? Do they have the capacity to listen compassionately to what you have to say and would their only motive be to offer you good, solid, objective and disinterested advice?
Every couple needs a strong support system -- a group of people they can turn to in times of trouble. Ideally, we all want family members to be part of that network. When it comes to your marital frustrations, however, family is often too emotionally involved, too biased, and too invested to maintain a helpful and objective point of view. Remember, God has designed your marriage to be an exclusive relationship. If you want to preserve its integrity and promote its health, you have to take measures to protect it from outside meddling.
Generally speaking, I'd encourage you and your spouse to keep your conflicts and disagreements between yourselves. If you find yourself needing a third party to help you work things through, we'd urge you to seek out a same-gender individual who can maintain a purely detached and disinterested perspective -- a pastor, for instance, or a qualified marriage counselor or a trusted friend. This is the best way to preserve safety and trust at the heart of your marriage.
Q: My fiance and I are excited to be planning our wedding, but we're already starting to encounter some tension as we talk about budgeting for the ceremony -- much less how we'll manage our finances once we're married. Do you have any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: One of the greatest areas of conflict in any marriage is money. The reasons are easy to understand. When you put two people together with one checkbook who have different value systems, different personalities, different training, different goals and different priorities, you're bound to have conflict. Determining how you are going to make financial decisions and who pays what bills, who determines the budget, etc., are essential aspects of preparing for marriage.
You should also address your respective beliefs about credit cards (and whether either of you are bringing any credit debt into the marriage), along with topics like student loans, children (when and how many), how soon you expect to buy a house and other lifestyle expectations.
It can actually be a good idea for young couples to prepare a combined budget before they get married. Most of the financial conflict that occurs in marriage can be avoided if couples spend some time talking through these issues prior to the wedding. These questions assume an even larger significance when divorced or widowed individuals come together in a second marriage.
Many of the money problems that arise in marriage are actually communication problems. If a couple can't discuss money, which will affect their lives on a daily basis, they are bound to have serious issues showing up in other areas of their life together. Values, goals, priorities, philosophies, training -- it's important to understand all of these things about yourself and your intended spouse before you get married. For more insights, I would humbly suggest the book "Ready to Wed" from Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, general editors (Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2015).
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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