In Sickness and In Health
Marriage. To have and to hold, from this day forward.
I had the privilege of attending my cousin’s wedding recently. She and her husband had a beautiful outdoor wedding. I don’t know about you, but I think of outdoor weddings as destination weddings – with little focus on the sacrament of marriage. My cousin’s wedding was just the opposite: they exchanged meaningful vows in front of a small group of family and friends. They gave witness to the incredible presence of God in their lives, individually and as a couple who pray together daily. I teared up when my cousin lovingly spoke carefully-crafted vows to her husband.
In Sickness and In Health
Their road wasn’t easy. They were parents long before joining together as husband and wife. My husband Bryan and I did things the “traditional” way: we fell in love, tied the knot, and then had kids. Yet, the road for us hasn’t been easy either. Uttering the words “in health” is simple. “In sickness” is far more difficult when you must prove yourself with actions, not words.
Sickness is not confined to physical ailments; it can take many forms. Our twelve-year marriage has been tested many times, often during a period of change. Below are some examples:
1. Welcoming our first child
We both worked outside the home, and I felt the division of labor at home was unequal. It appears that I’m not the only woman who has felt or feels this way.
2. Suffering a miscarriage
Bryan and I wanted so badly to have another baby after our first son’s birth. I share more of my miscarriage story in the pre-order bonus video for Redefining Family Wealth but will supply the cliff-notes version here. The physical and emotional pain from that tragedy continued for months. Having Bryan by my side was not only a relief but also a necessity.
3. Seeking new employment
Anyone who has experienced unemployment can tell you it is challenging for both people in a marriage. Even if you are gainfully employed, you shoulder the financial burden of paying household expenses while maintaining a positive attitude for your unemployed spouse. This article from Focus on the Family offers coping mechanisms when your spouse is unemployed, but it assumes that the male of the household is unemployed. I’m wiser and know women are equally prone to unemployment as men (see this related article for details). Regardless of gender, stress runs high during a period of unemployment.
4. Transitioning to a new career
I gave up a steady paycheck in November 2013 to stay-at-home with kids and then became an entrepreneur in 2014. My husband Bryan transitioned in 2018 from accounting and treasury roles to corporate recruiting. Each of these changes required major planning and discussion on the front-end. Nine months later, we’re still navigating compensation expectations and schedule changes in my husband’s new role.
Additionally, many of my WorthyNest® clients are preparing for their second or third act in life. Some of them are making a seemingly simple transition (i.e. from the Air Force to commercial pilot), while others are opting for a completely different career. Even in the first example, moving from the military to a corporate environment entails careful analysis of benefits and future earnings. Any career move affects both people in a marriage.
You may be wondering why I’m talking about marriage. After all, my last blog post promised estate planning lingo. I don’t break many promises but felt this was the more important message that needed to be heard … now.
Some friends have confided in me that their marriages are falling apart. One of my friends moved out months ago and recently closed on a new house (separate from his wife’s home). They aren’t divorced but might be heading that direction.
Another friend moved out and is legally separated. Legal separation is as close to divorce as you can get, but you and the kids can stay on the same health and dental insurance benefit plan as your spouse.
These two friends live in different states and each have at least two children. I’m not privy to the intimate conversations they had prior to separation or whether they will divorce, but I do know this: they can’t be the only couples with marital struggles.
If your marriage is hurting, please know that you are not alone. The vows we exchange on our wedding day come out effortlessly when we are in love. The longer the marriage, the more apt we are to love our spouse but not be head-over-heels “in love” with him or her. Just as we experience joy in our marriage, we also experience pain and disappointment. That’s life. Tauren Wells’ song “Hills and Valleys” is one of my favorites because it reinforces the notion that successes AND trials are par for the course. God doesn’t promise ease during our time on earth.
We’re Doing It for the Kids
When people have encountered immense marital difficulty and choose to stay together, the reason is often ‘for the kids.’ That’s a very noble reason – at least on the surface. Even Pope Francis explains that the family is the cornerstone of faith.
Staying together and living under the same roof provides a sense of stability that is hard to replicate if kids are being shuffled to two different homes. But, I want to challenge you further.
Instead of focusing on the convenience of having a single home, think about how you can model a healthy marriage to your kids (who may eventually marry). Also remember that you and your spouse had love long before kids entered the picture. Figure out a way to rekindle that fire. You may benefit from more frequent date nights, words of affirmation or encouragement, acts of kindness, marital counseling or all of the above! Any resources you invest in marriage will strengthen your family.
One caveat, and it’s an important one. I’m not saying all marriage struggles are “fixable.” If you’re in an abusive relationship – physical or emotional – I’d encourage you to seek professional help immediately. That is beyond the scope of this article.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been this vulnerable. As a perfectionist, I spend so much time and energy trying to keep all the metaphorical plates spinning – faith life, marriage, parenthood, and professional ambitions.
The only other place where I’ve been publicly vulnerable is in my book, Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living. I didn’t become an author for fame or glory. Rather, God put it on my heart to write the book in fall 2017 to share my perspective as a Christian mom and CPA financial planner. The book contains tangible strategies to not only enhance financial wealth but also explore other forms of wealth (i.e. human and social capital). Pre-order your copy by June 13th, and you’ll receive two special bonuses: an exclusive workbook and a special video from me. If you liked this article, I’m hopeful you’ll like the book as well.
In closing, what’s one thing you can do TODAY to strengthen your marriage? Please go share that finding with your spouse!
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS, CFP®