On Wednesday I got to go to yet another training…this one was actually an all-day professional development conference for staff at our institution. Two of the presentations (e-mail in the workplace and locavore/plant-based eating) were disappointing, not because I’m not interested in the topics but because the speakers were terrible.
However, the “Recession-Proofing Your Personal Relationships” and the “Women Don’t Negotiate, But They Should” presentations were pretty rockin’. So, here I am, passing all my rockin’ new knowledge on to you! This entry is inspired by the value I got out of the “Recession-Proofing” presentation, and I’ll do one on negotiations next week.
I don’t think that this comes as much of a shocker, but the three things that cause the most fights in relationships are (more or less in order): 1) money, 2) childrearing, and 3) sex. With the Great Recession kicking everyone’s ass, money is becoming ever more of an issue, largely because differences in how people handle money tend to surface even more when people are stressed and/or in financial trouble. Jake and I aren’t going to have children, and our sex life is great (though we are always working on that one, too, just for fun), but we definitely struggle with #1, just like everyone else.
We have a significant amount of debt as a result of grad school, and continue to have trouble with our grocery budget (Jake says that the fact that we consistently overspend in this category means we should allocate more money to it. Sadly, my grocery budget consists of every penny I make beyond paying the bills, with the exception of $40 in spending money every month. That’s right, month.) Although once I’ve paid off my debt I’ll be able to increase this slightly, we’ve yet to come up with an interim resolution.
Then there’s the fact that he absolutely refuses to create or use a budget. I even made one for him so that all he had to do was plug in his actual numbers, and he just won’t. This depsite the fact that he finds himself unable to save. Every time he sets money aside in his savings account, he has to pull it back out before his next paycheck because of some expense – often one he should have been able to anticipate. He knows (because I’ve told him) that this means that when we get married, this means that all the bills and all of the budgeting, everything, is going to have to be under my control. Clarification - anytime he decides that he’ll actually use a budget then he can share responsibilities or even actually be in charge. But as long as his strategy is “don’t track anything and assume you’re making enough money to cover whatever you want,” Honey’s going to be the CFO of our union
I’ve discussed with him my concern that our financial values are extremely unsynchronized, and that I’m very afraid that as soon as he pays off his debt and can spend his money however he likes, that we’ll be totally incompatible. I’m perfectly fine never having a standard of living higher than what we have now, and in fact plan on socking the difference from any raises I get in the future to retirement accounts and/or emergency savings (aside from that bump to our grocery budget ). OTOH, he is constantly frustrated by his financial constraints despite making way more money than me, and has lots and lots of expensive things that he believes his life won’t be complete without. So we’re still in discussions about how that’s going to play out.
In the meantime, he’s once again bored and convinced that all we do is the same thing, week in and week out, despite the fact that is demonstrably not the case. He has said that he’s going to join a social sports league in December, so maybe that’ll help things some, and we’re both trying to come up with plans for some out-of-the-ordinary activities. We’re going to try to work in Fear Farms’ corn maze, the State Fair, an upcoming trip to Illinois, and (we’ll be deciding this weekend) possibly Christmas in Vegas (I got notified of a screaming deal from Vegas.com for a 4-day, 3-night trip that includes a USAir flight, hotel stay at Treasure Island, and 2 tickets to see Mystere for ~$300 per person – only so cheap because we’re so close).
Fortunately for the money side of it all, there are also lots of free or lower-cost things to do, like an impromptu visit to Gordon Biersch for a couple of beers this Tuesday, a potluck this Saturday hosted by our condo association, tossing the football around in the park across the street from our house last weekend, window-shopping and/or Christmas shopping at the next iteration of Tempe Festival of the Arts, and visiting the weekly Market on Mill, which has lots of free samples and live music. At home, it’s nice enough now to sit on our back porch and just hang out (and I just got a tomato plant, which I’m hoping will survive to make some fruit now that it’s cooled off a bit) and although I’ve been cooking for a hobby for some months now, he’s lately been helping me with some of the more complicated recipes – especially desserts.
The woman who gave the recession-proofing seminar is a professional counselor and she recommended each partner coming up with a list (say, 15-20) free or low-cost activities, then meeting as a couple to make sure that each activity is something the other person is physically and mentally capable of doing, and then switching off each week to draw out of a hat and surprise the other partner by planning an entire outing. Like lots of things (budgeting, weight loss) the benefits are obvious, but people tend to drop out of the program after a couple of weeks even if it’s working and both partners are having fun. So you actually have to do it.
What’s your favorite activity or way of busting out of a relationship rut? Leave your suggestion below, and then check out these fine posts: