Top 5 Ways to Perfectly Blend Your Finances

Money – some say it is the key to happiness; others say it is the root of all evil. The truth probably rests somewhere in between. When it comes to couples, money can become one of the biggest sources of tension and is said to be a leading cause of divorce. Why? Because people have different ideals, beliefs, and backgrounds when it comes to money. Some people are spenders while others are savers. Some are debt adverse while others pile it on. Some understand basic financial principles while others could care less.

For blended families, money can be an even bigger source of tension as both spouses likely have a little more experience with finances than someone who is younger and getting married for the first time. That experience could be good or bad. Often, at least one of the spouses will have experienced the bad.

Then there’s the other issue…child support. In the case of my marriage, I pay a very large amount of child support each month for my two kids. To quantify large, it’s enough that my ex-wife barely works and can live off it. My wife on the other hand, made the decision to not ask for child support from her ex-husband. She didn’t want the conflict that comes along with it, and she wanted to provide for her kids herself. Just imagine for a moment how my wife feels about the payments to my ex-wife every month, especially since the money isn’t all going to my kids.

So, what can a blended couple do to reduce tensions when it comes to their finances?

  • Know what you are getting into. Before my wife and I got married, we knew every detail about each other’s finances. We looked at credit reports and scores, bank account balances, investments, income, bills, debts, child support, etc. There were zero financial surprises.
  • Discuss the dirty “B” word. No one enjoys budgeting unless they are a super nerd. At the same time, no one enjoys being constantly broke or constantly fighting over money. Given a choice between the lesser of two evils, I’d choose budgeting. Heather and I have an agreed upon budget – they key words being “agreed upon.” We jointly put a budget into place, a budget that includes an allowance for each of us. Our budget is fun, because it gives us control over our finances and a sense of freedom.
  • Set limits. Referring to the allowance mentioned above, we gave ourselves a certain spending limit each pay period. It’s money we can freely spend without worry. If either of us wants to spend above that amount, we have a conversation first. Again, no surprises.
  • Set goals. We have goals that we set together and agree on. We have an emergency fund that we won’t touch unless there’s a true emergency, we have retirement plans through our employers and we both contribute a good portion of our pay to them so we can retire at the age we would like, we have a plan to pay for Heather’s return to college and our kids’ college. Once again, the key words being “agree on.”
  • Protect each other. Within a week of Heather and I getting married, I had reviewed and updated all my beneficiaries on retirement plans and life insurance. We applied for a life insurance policy on Heather. I voided old estate planning documents, and we have a new plan moving forward. If anything happens to me, my wife, my children, and her children will be taken care of, and vice versa.

The key to handling finances is to always communicate and reach an agreement. Heather and I had differences in our financial backgrounds and situations coming into couple financesour marriage, but together we work as a team and have overcome those differences. While some couples may disagree with blending their finances, we have found it works best for us. As a pastor at our church once said, “If you can share a bed together, you can share a bank account.” We chose to listen to this advice, and as a result, our finances have been a perfectly blended success.

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The Secret to Never Fighting with Your Spouse Again

Couple FightingAll married couples fight sometimes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a traditional family, a blended family, or a couple with no kids, it’s only a matter of time before something happens that you’ll disagree about. My wife and I made it about six months into our marriage before we had our first argument. An argument that likely wouldn’t have ever happened if we weren’t facing the challenges of a newly blended family. We got into an argument about the kids. Yes, traditional families get into arguments over their kids all the time, but the dynamics of a blended family are just so different that you can’t fully understand it unless you experience it.

This list is not all-inclusive by any means, but here are a few of the challenges that cause marital conflict unique to blended families:

  • Jealousy. It’s not uncommon for one parent in a blended family to become jealous of the amount of time and affection given by the other parent to their child. The child was there before you and that relationship has been in tact much longer in some cases. My wife is a wonderful mother, and devotes most of her time and energy to her son when he is with us. This is completely understandable given we only have the kids every other week, but I’ll be the first to admit that I get very jealous. The unintended consequence – my love tank starts draining quickly, and when the love tank gets too low, it can lead to some unintended consequences.
  • Favoritism. Without a doubt, there is a natural tendency to favor your biological children over your step children. Before others are too quick to judge, think about how much you favor your own kids over someone else’s kids. Now imagine that the “someone else’s” kids becomes your step-kids. The switch doesn’t instantly flip. Heather and I both favor our own kids, but we are working diligently to not be this way. It just takes time.
  • Trust. The other day, Heather and I had a big disagreement while texting each other. Mistake number one – having a disagreement via text messaging. The entire argument was over a misunderstanding. We were discussing arrangements for our kids and when they would be picked up by their other parents, due to an upcoming business trip I have that is throwing off our normal schedule. Heather had things worked out with her son’s dad, but I still needed to confirm a time with my daughter’s mom. I misunderstood what she was saying and took it as my daughter being a burden to her. She misunderstood something I was saying and thought I was just being difficult. The result – off we went into the crazy cycle. While the feelings both of us had were incorrect, they sure felt real at the time. The problem is sometimes we don’t trust our partner and assume the worst. The two bullets above contribute to the trust issue. This is different from not trusting your spouse to be faithful, this is not trusting your spouse has your back over their kid’s.

So, what’s the secret to overcoming these challenges and never fighting with your spouse again? I wish I knew the answer. I know what many of the problems are, but figuring out how to fix them is still a bit of a mystery. What I do know, is that how you handle the issues can make the difference in lasting love and becoming another statistic. Constant forgiveness and unwavering love is what makes it all worth it, and it’s what keeps us moving forward as a perfectly blended mess.

What challenges does your family face? How do you handle them? Feel free to comment below and let us know.

4 Ways to Keep Your Spouse First

One of the most difficult things about having kids from a prior marriage, is having to split custody time with the “other parents.” It’s tough on the kids (although my daughter tells me she would rather go back and forth than not have time with both parents) and it’s tough on all the parents involved. I miss the kids severely when they are not with me, and I know my wife feels the same way.

I don’t think there is ever any getting used to your kids not being with you all the time, but over time you learn to adapt to the new reality. A new reality that does afford you and your spouse a little more one-on-one time together. With all the stresses that come with a blended family, it becomes even more important that you and your spouse find IMG_2696time for each other and enjoy life together. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have made time during our first year of marriage to date and just get away for a couple of long weekends. We took advantage of a couple of business trips that happened to fall on non-kid weeks as well.

When my wife and I do have the kids, there is the additional challenge of balancing the time we spend with them without ignoring each other. While we were both single, we made our kids the center of attention. The kids became accustomed to it and so did we. Then we got married, and suddenly there were more people in the same home vying for attention. This is the part that makes keeping your spouse first so tough.

So how can you keep spouse first and make your marriage a priority? Here are a few suggestions that have worked for my wife and me:

  • Keep dating. Just because you’ve tied the knot doesn’t mean you should stop dating your spouse. Heather and I have a set date night every other week when the kids IMG_3117are gone. Sometimes we even have more than one date those weeks (a luxury traditional families often don’t have until the kids are older). No matter how busy life gets or what our work schedules are like, we find time.
  • Communicate. I mentioned the importance of this in a prior blog, but I can’t say it enough. My first marriage had horrible communication and I made sure that wouldn’t ever be the case again. Do Heather and I get on each other’s nerves sometimes and disagree about certain things? Absolutely, but we talk it out instead of letting it drag out.
  • Never undermine. The kids no doubt try to pin us against each other. They are slowly learning that it doesn’t work. If Heather says something, I back it up and vice versa. We can disagree privately, but always spouse first in front of the kids.
  • Pray together. The saying, “a couple that prays together stays together,” couldn’t be truer. There is something very intimate about praying together for each other and the kids. It draws you closer to God and one another. Try it, and watch your love grow stronger for one another.

Keeping your spouse first may seem simple, but when you’ve known your kids longer than your spouse, sometimes a lot longer, it isn’t always easy. A strong marriage is the foundation to raising your children in a loving home – a home that in our case, is a perfectly blended mess.

What additional suggestions do you have for keeping your spouse first?

Top 5 Things I’ve Learned From Having a Blended Family

Almost one year ago today, I married the most amazing woman in the world…and I did so after dating her for only three months. I knew the moment I laid eyes on her that I was going to marry her, even as she tried to run away in the parking lot (another story for another day). Of course, everyone else thought we were crazy and had their doubts, but we knew exactly what we were doing, or so we thought.

Our marriage has been nothing short of amazing over the past year and we’ve already shared many exciting times together, like our trip last fall to New York City. What we didn’t realize, however, is how difficult and challenging it can be to blend four families. Notice I said four families and not just two. Since we were both married previously, and our kids split time with us and the other parents, we often find ourselves trying to juggle activities and important decisions between everyone involved. This can definitely add some additional stress and challenge even the strongest of bonds at times.

So what advice would I give others that are looking to remarry? Here are a few suggestions based on what I’ve learned over the past year:

  • Make sure you and your partner are rock solid. This is the one area where Heather and I haven’t struggled as much. We are each other’s best friend, and always have each other’s back.
  • Expect the unexpected. There will always be disappointments and surprises no matter how well you plan or try. There are just too many people involved for something not to go wrong sometimes.
  • Set boundaries with your ex. This may sound like a no-brainer, but when you share kids together, you still have to deal with your ex to some degree. I failed to set the proper boundaries up front and my wife made her displeasure well-known.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. More than likely, you will come into the marriage with different ideals on parenting and other family matters. The kids’ other parents may do things differently as well. No matter what, always have your spouse’s back, assume positive intent, and try to minimize the differences within your own household and the other households as much as possible. This has been the most difficult issue for us, as we do have some different ideals and one of the other households is a bit chaotic. Kids are the biggest victims in a divorce and the most impacted by new beginnings, so it’s important to try to provide some degree of consistency.
  • Always put God first. I saved the most important bullet for laphotost. Without constant prayer and forgiveness, you will be facing a challenge that you may not be able to conquer on your own. It’s really no wonder why the divorce rate is higher for second marriages than first marriages (which is already high enough). The thing I have enjoyed the most over the past year has been watching my wife grow in her faith and seeing our kids grow, too. We end every day by reading the Bible together as a family and praying for one another.

Blended families can be messy to say the least. They can also be quite beautiful and perfect. There are many other wonderful adventures and challenges to share in future blogs, but for now…welcome to our perfectly blended mess.

Have additional suggestions of your own? Feel free to add a comment to this post.