How To Make Change Last For Good

How To Make Change Last For Good

Ready to be a better husband; ready to be a better wife; ready to be a better person. You feel great, confident, and hopeful for the future. Nothing is going to get in your way now. Right?

Not likely.

Here’s the problem.

These positive emotions will soon dissipate, the motivation will fade, sluggishness will want to settle in again, and before you know it, you are right back in the darkness you came from. So, what will you do? You will buy another book, find a different blog site, and listen to a different therapist. Perhaps they will have the answer?  And on and on this pattern will go.

Is there any hope? Yes. The hope lies in you slowing down and understanding how personal growth and how a good marriage develops. Your character and your marriage are not going to change overnight, for character and a good marriage is like a good ale, it needs time to brew.

So, here is the first thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth: Expect down times soon and have a plan to combat it.

I’ve seen and experienced this a hundred times.  Why do the majority of people fail in fulfilling their New Year resolutions? They start off so gung ho and within a week or a month they have failed. The answer is many of them did not push past the first down time. They get slothful and make excuses why they can’t fulfill their resolutions: ‘I’ve been good, so I desire this’ is the line often heard or said.  But if you expect down time and have a plan to combat it, then you are more likely to push past it and on your way to a more fulfilling life and marriage.

This notion of ‘having a plan’ is key to winning in your personal and marriage life. Basically, the idea is all change is easy when you’re motivated and energized; it is difficult every other time. Since you will never see lasting changes in your personal life and your marriage until the changes you want to make are good and settled, it is an imperative you push past these downward times.  This is where the plan comes into play, for the plan will give you the way and the incentives to keep moving forward.

Here is an example to explain what the plan is and how it is used:

I really desired to become a more disciplined man. I tired and tried with all my heart to wake up and 6 AM with no avail. I would be able to do it for a few days, but on those mornings I was supper tired, nothing could get me out of bed, or so I thought. Dedicated to change and in a time of desperation, I called a dear friend of mine up and said, ‘If I don’t wake up 4 days of the week at 6 AM, then I owe you $50.’

Guess what, it worked. The days would come when I was supper tired, but the idea of paying $50 for an few more hours of sleep seemed crazy to me, so I got up.

One week went by and then another. Weeks turned in to a months. I was so excited that I started coming up with new challenges for myself. I’ve never been able to workout before, so I called up my friend and said, ‘If I don’t work out 3 days of the week, then I owe you $50.’ Guess what, I’ve worked out more in my life. I don’t always want to, but I have a plan for those days. I’ve even combined the two together, so when I wake up, I go and work out. To birds with one stone kind of thing.

Now you don’t have to do what I did, but you need a plan that has a good incentive built into it. If you find yourself breaking your plan too much, then up the anti a bit.

The second thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth is: in those down times, you need to get even more radical. That’s right. The best way to defeat a lacking motivation is by facing it head on. Don’t sit and wait for the ‘feelings’ to go way (they normally don’t). Change the feelings by doing the opposite of what those feelings are telling you to do. Remember, you want a better life and marriage. This is going to take time and effort. Now is not the time for timidity. Take courage and push yourself.

Here is what I mean. I resolved the other week to be more industrious. This means I did not want to waste any time in useless tasks that neither benefits my family, neighbor, or myself. (Now don’t miss understand me, one of those tasks is to take a day of rest and enjoy a pint with a friend. So I am not trying to become a work alcoholic).  Being a rather slothful man, I knew this was going to be tough.

The day came when I was not motivated at all. Mindlessly suffering the Internet sounded lovely, but I remember my resolution. I jumped out of my chair and ran down into the garage and began to organize my toolbox. This was hard (not physically but psychologically) and not fun at all, but I pushed myself to finish it. Still feeling the laziness inside me, I set myself on a new task, I started organizing and cleaning the whole garage. The next thing I know the whole thing was clean, organized, and my wife is beaming with delight. Feeling confident and now motivated, I immediately went upstairs and started cleaning the kitchen and putting the laundry away. My wife said, ‘Wow, what has gotten into you,’ to which I replied, ‘I don’t want to suck anymore.’ She was quite pleased.

That is how you do it.

The third thing you need to understand about personal and marital growth is: slow and steady wins the race. Remember the story of The Tortoise and the Hare?  The basic moral of the story is keep chugging alone no matter how slow it seems you are going. You might see others improve really fast, but don’t be deceived they might be the hare. In your marriage, allow time for each of you to grow.

My wife has waited many years for me to finally be motivated to be a ‘clean gentlemen.’ I have never liked showers, I grow a beard because I hate shaving, and I have always dressed like a baboon. But slowly, over time, my own moral principles convicted me that I need to be a proper gentleman and care about how I smell, look, and appear to her. I have always known what she likes, but I have always struggled to put that into practice. But slowly over time, the character trait of ‘cleanliness’ brewed in my soul.

I first began to not wear such baggy cloths, and then I left behind my ‘skater shoes’ and started wearing dress shoes. I slowly started replacing old T-shirts with collared shirts and picked up few nice sweaters. Now I am trying to integrate dress pants, ties, and sports jackets into my daily dressing for fun and as money presents itself, which is not often. Furthermore, my wife (not to mention my mother) is happy to see that I am keeping up with daily hygiene.

Slowly I changed, but it took many years. My wife was patient though. Not wanting a hare experience, she would rather me slowly change for good, then change for a month.

In the end, you might not need another book or read another blog. What you need is to keep pushing forward. I could give many more suggestions on how to keep moving forward, but this will suffice for now. Make a plan, push past those down times by getting radical, and always remember slow and steady will win the race.

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

But when Mr. Cain admits that he gave Ginger White money for a long time, and even recently,

“because she was out of work, had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend…. I’m a soft-hearted person when it comes to that stuff. I have helped members of my church. I have helped members of my family.

“And I know a lot of other people who had done the same thing. She was asking me to help her, and sometimes, quite frankly, it was desperation,” Cain said….

And, he acknowledged, “My wife did not know about it, and that was the revelation. My wife found out about it when she went public with it.”

Not only didn’t his wife not know about the financial assistance, he said, but she also “did not know we were friends until she (White) came out with this story.

“My wife now knows,” Cain said. “My wife and I have talked about it and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a soft-hearted giving person.”

He said his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”

then I’ve got to write something.  He’s laid out the nature of an affair for all the world to see.

Since I deal with affairs for a living and one of the big issues is helping the couple get on the same page regarding what is and is NOT an affair so we can deal with it, these statements by Mr. Cain can help us clear the air.

There’s a widespread belief that you only have an affair if you’ve had intercourse with someone.  That’s a bunch of baloney.  Any seventh grader can tell you you can do a lot more things sexually than just intercourse and you can do a lot more things in an affair then just not have sex.

Over the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of trust issues around people outside the marriage from clandestine meetings with coworkers and texting and emails and “chatting”  and calls about issues other than work on the one hand and repeated sexual encounters with people of the opposite sex over a long period of time: emotional involvement on one end and sexual involvement on the other.   The spouses of these folk on both ends of the spectrum sound the same when they describe how they are taking their spouses’ actions.  They use the same words.  They use the same inflection.  They convey the same despair.  How could this possibly be?

The reason?  They were having the same experience.  They were just as upset when their spouses were involved with others emotionally as they were if they were involved sexually.  In fact, most people would tell me it hurts them more if their spouses were involved emotionally than sexually  because the plumbing works.  You can do it with anyone.  But in order to be emotionally involved with someone you have to LIKE them!  You have to give them your HEART.

That’s led to my definition of an affair:

Any time you meet someone else’s needs when you should meeting your spouse’s needs or any time someone else (or in the case of pornography, something else) is meeting your needs, when your spouse should be the only one meeting those needs, that would be an affair.

Obviously this includes sexuality.  The only person meeting your spouse’s sexual needs is you and the only one meeting your sexual needs is your husband or wife.

But this also includes affection.

And emotional needs.

Needs for companionship.

Needs for fun.

Needs for friendship.

Needs for someone to open up to, to talk to, to share.

Needs for recreation, fitness.

Needs for tenderness, compassion, a listening ear, banter, acceptance.

And yes, financial needs.

NO.  We’re not going to go exercise with someone of the opposite sex at work during our lunch hour. Recreation and exercise are major doorways to sexual affairs.  It connects the couple (yes, they are acting like a couple) in their experience, when they should be having those experiences with their spouses.

NO.  We’re not going to be texting co-workers about personal stuff or even texting and asking if they are having a good day.  Texting is doorway to an affair.  It is intensely intimate and private and intimate and private things lead to places that play with our heart stings and the hearts of those on the receiving end.

NO.  We’re not going to call our “friend” and talk about our day and check up and tell each other our concerns and worries.  You should be doing that with your spouse.  A good rule of thumb is to NEVER talk about your personal concerns with others of the opposite sex except your spouse.

NO.  We’re not going to eat lunch alone on a regular basis with an opposite sex coworker.  That’s too intimate and sends the wrong message to your spouse (most important), your co-worker you are having lunch with (if you do this they are probably nurturing a secret crush on you and/or you on them) and your other co-workers (tongues will wag).  Everyone is going to doubt your integrity on that deal and it’ll just bite you in the butt.

NO.  We’re ESPECIALLY NOT going to give a needy person of the opposite sex money!  Crap.  Are you kidding me?  It’s NOT our job to meet someone else’s  financial needs.  As a couple OUR money is OUR money and WE decide who to GIVE to.  This is a subject for discussion and prayer.  This isn’t anything either of us does alone.  Too much is at stake.

NO.  If he is having financial problems and you feel compelled to help him, you need to bring your spouse on board and the two of you discuss how you want to handle the situation.  Maybe give to him anonymously through your church or other non-profit group?  If you give her the money directly, especially if it is more than once, you create a very questionable and dependent relationship.

Finances are particularly dicey.  If Mr. Cain gives money to this gal, it creates an unbalanced relationship.  The key to long-term relationships is keeping them relatively balanced, with a fair give and take.  You borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower.  He borrows your ladder.  If he never borrows your ladder, the relationship is unbalanced and won’t work and every time you want to borrow his mower, he’s going to resent you, unless you give him a nice Christmas present or something to balance it out again.  If Mr. Cain gives Ginger White money, what is she going to give him back?  Over and over he gives her money and she doesn’t give anything back?

That’s just weird.

And frankly unbelievable.

Really, really unbelievable.

And if it’s true it’s a decided lack of good judgment on both their parts.

And he didn’t tell his wife?

I can tell you that I’ve had people in therapy for a lot less than this and I would guess that anyone who found out that their spouse had a “secret” friendship for YEARS and on top of that gave this person money for YEARS and never told his spouse about it, that when the spouse found out about it, she would feel a tremendous amount of violation of trust on that deal and would be screaming mad and if she didn’t I’d be trying to goad her self-respect into gear.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:  As married people we don’t have secrets from each other.  Period.  No secret activities.  No secret friends.  No secret spending of money.  Married people don’t have secrets unless they want to be unhappily or formerly married.

The whole advantage of being married is checking in with each other about whatever and getting some feedback so that you don’t do really stupid stuff, like give money repeatedly and secretly to a needy woman.  If he would have told his wife of this needy woman years ago his wife would have put a stop to it and Mr. Cain might still be a presidential candidate.  Really.  Accountability works, folks.  Secrets and marriage don’t mix.

Here’s how I think of it: If you are single you can do whatever you want.  You probably shouldn’t, but no one cares.

If you are married, somebody cares.  So you touch base.

If you have a secret relationship with somebody and you also give this person money over a long period of time and you DON’T tell your spouse, then what you are telling your spouse whether your spouse finds out or not is that you don’t need your spouse in your life and you can do what you want and you are basically living a single life.  If your spouse doesn’t figure this out and she is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her” then somebody isn’t telling somebody the truth or somebody isn’t dealing with reality and we’re living in fantasy land and we aren’t calling a spade a spade.

I don’t believe for a minute Mr. Cain’s wife is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”  The normal reaction in a situation like that is extreme violation, abandonment, fear, worry, insecurity, and what the crap other things is he not telling me?  Secrets in marriage = a lie, because the idea of marriage is we run things by each other and neither of us just does our own thing.  So if you’ve been doing your own thing with this other woman for 13 years and giving her money and not telling me, how do I know that you what you are telling me now is the truth?  You just got done lying to me for 13 years.   And I believed you.  Now, just like that, I’m to believe you now when just a few days ago I find out you’ve been lying to me this whole time?  And be “comfortable?”

This is just crazy stuff.

If you have secrets from your spouse you need to come clean.  If you can’t come clean come see me and we’ll chat about it and figure out a way.  Or tell your spouse and then bring him or her in and we’ll talk about building trust back.  It takes a long time.  It can be done.  But you don’t just say you are sorry and expect everything to be Okay.  That is decidedly NOT the way back to healing.

That would be insulting.

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

A Brief Explanation of the Thriving Couples Model: Living As Roommates Vs. Husbands and Wives

Check out all of these materials (here) to get a better grasp of the Model.

The Development of the Model:

The Model arose after hearing from clients the stories of thousands of individuals and adults about their relationships.  Most of these were married.  Many were cohabiting or had cohabited before.  Others were single or divorced, some several times.  These people would tell me, often without prompting, the key elements that were missing in their marital or romantic relationships or the types of things they felt were important to making a marital relationship worthwhile.  The six elements of the Model are the six things these people brought up in sessions, over and over again.

While some researchers might question the wisdom of creating a Model of Marriage from people who are hurting, I would counter, that people who are hurting know instinctively what is missing and can articulate very convincingly the things they need.  A person in the desert knows he needs water to survive.  A person who just finished a 32-ounce Coke may be upset because his iPhone doesn’t have reception.  They both need water to survive, but the person in the desert is much more aware.

Priorities in the Model:

As you look at the graphic of the Model, note that it is built from the ground up.  The item lower on the graphic trumps the items above it.  This is a very helpful way to understand, as a couple and a therapist, what priorities are needed to improve the marriage.

For example, Commitment trumps Trust: it won’t matter if you are having an affair, if you are going to leave me.  Trust trumps Communication:  I won’t believe a word you are saying if I think you are lying to me!  Communication trumps Sexuality:  Why would I want to be sexual with you if you never talk to me, or all you do is criticize me?

The Elements of the Model:  

The Model has six layers with two concepts in each layer.  The two concepts at each layer are complementary to each other and necessary to the complete understanding of that area.  For example, we can’t just communicate.  We also need to be able to solve our problems.  In addition, you’ll note that all of the concepts at each level are interactive and dependent on the teamwork of both spouses.  You don’t communicate alone or you aren’t affectionate alone.  This helps couples see the character of their Marriage depends upon both of them working for the common good of the family the two of them started.

Marriage and Commitment:

When I use the word Marriage I’m referring to a husband and wife who have made a public pledge to leave their father and mother and start a new family.  In my view, Marriage is NOT about loving, romantic relationships.  Defining marriage as simply a romantic relationship has reduced marriage to feelings, leading to our horrendous divorce and cohabiting rates and encouraging anyone to be “married.”  This watered-down view has taken away from Marriage its intrinsic worth, and devalued it to the point where 50% of our married people throw theirs away.  Marriage has historically meant the complementary of a man and a woman, who are one in their uniquely, sexually, monogamous relationship, who promise in a public way their mutual commitment to each other in their new family.  Their family has the potential to be intergenerational, forming the safest and most tender place for the next generation to be raised.  Anything less reduces marriage to a loaf of bread: buy a new one if you feel like it.

Commitment is the idea that the vows of Marriage are continually reinforced throughout their lives together, because they’ve formed a new family.  Neither partner does or says things to call their Commitment or their new family into question.

Cohabitation does NOT offer the security of Married for Life and because the couple doesn’t know if either is in or out for sure, insecurity lurks beneath the scene.  Married couples who threaten the Marriage by saying things like “I can’t take this any more” or “I deserve to be happy,” also create insecurity and if either party thinks the other might leave, they start protecting themselves from the other spouse.  Either scenario (cohabitation or threats to leave) causes people to see their partner as their roommate instead of a husband or a wife, leading to marital problems and chaos and, for many, divorce or breaking up.

Trust and Accountability:

Trust is the idea that what spouses say matches what they do and they both keep appropriate boundaries with others.  There is an invisible boundary around their marital relationship and neither does anything to call that into question.  In Accountability both partners willingly tell each other what is going on because they each want the other in his or her life!  They do this because they want to compare notes and pool their wisdom and look out for one another.  They can’t protect each other, unless they both know where the other is.

Couples that don’t practice this end up keeping secrets from each other and not telling each other what they need to, which introduces insecurity into the relationship and makes one or the other feel controlled or totally unimportant.  This also leads to couples living as roommates.  Roommates DON’T tell each other what is going on!  Married people do, or at least should!

Communication and Problem Solving:

Wise couples will BOTH Communicate their concerns with each other and they BOTH will work together to solve both their concerns.  No relationship is perfect and will need to be tweaked now and then.  The relationship will not improve, if one or the other or both cannot or will not share their concerns or every time differences are brought up, anger, fighting, or shutting down are a threat.  Couples who are not able to resolve their differences or at least work them through to a satisfactory level will find their relationship deteriorating over time.  Couples who can’t work through their differences become roommates and either fight or become indifferent.  If the relationship can’t get better it will get worse.  Over time this can lead to Trust and Commitment issues.

Fun and Friendship:

Couples that enjoy their marriages enjoy each other’s company and they enjoy each other’s company because they spend time alone together and have a relationship on their own accord, apart from their children and/or friend or other family members.  This is difficult to do in modern society due to our busy lives, but Thriving Couples understand this and will make special efforts to spend time alone as a couple, enjoying each other’s company and developing their common interests throughout their lives together.  Couples, who end up as roommates, develop their own individual private interests only and invest in their careers and children, putting each other on hold.  Over time they will grow distant and, if they are not careful, will just pass each other in the hall.  This lack of time and effort on both parties’ part will be interpreted as an affront or indifference by each other and will bleed into other areas of the marriage, creating other, more serious problems.  For example, why be married to someone who won’t spend any time with me having fun?

Warmth and Affection:

Couples need Warmth and tenderness and one of the easiest ways to convey that is through Affection.  By Affection I mean non-sexual, non-demand touching.  There is a public and private aspect to this.  The public aspect conveys to the children and society at large and to each other that the two of them are an item.  The children see mom and dad holding hands on the couch and giving each other a hug and a meaningful kiss at the end of the day.  Privately the couple is close in the privacy of their own bed.  Their bedroom is a sanctuary with a lock on the door.  The couple cuddles, again, without sexual overtones, on a regular basis, keeping the relationship Warm.

Couples, who end up as roommates, avoid Affection and use excuses to keep from doing it.  If one is more affectionate, that spouse may give up pursing it because it doesn’t seem reciprocal.  Or one may say, I’m just not the affectionate type, leading to neither touching each other, publically or privately.  Affection that is one-sided feels forced and lacks Warmth for both.  The couple may rarely touch each other in bed (or anywhere else!), have a child or dog in the bed between them in bed or not sleep in the same bed at all!  Without Warmth and Affection the relationship grows cold and it is not long before they are both living as roommates and the couple is dealing with many other problems as well.

Intimacy and Sexuality:

There are four purposes for Sexuality: 1) to bring the next generation; 2) to ensure the spiritual connection between a husband and wife; 3) as a creative force in our lives to be a blessing to our families and the wider community (e.g. work, art, service, giving, volunteering); 4) as spiritual energy directed toward God in worship.  In any other contexts sexuality becomes a force of chaos, abuse, perversion and death.

The wise couple understands this and makes sure that the Sexuality between them has Intimacy, by which I mean it is mutual and meaningful.  Without these two elements Sexuality feels forced or inappropriate or hurtful or selfish.  On the flip side couples that ignore sexuality end up losing their love for each other as the spiritual energy between them leaks away.  Still other roommate scenarios include one or the other or both getting their sexual needs meant elsewhere or the introduction of other people (e.g. swinging) or things (e.g. pornography) into the sacred marriage bed that is just meant for the husband and the wife.  These extremes (coercion, indifference or perversion) cause couples to become roommates, raise marital problems in other areas and may lead to divorce.

Importance of the Model:

All the elements of the Model are necessary for a Marriage to be strong.  Weakness in one area can quickly trickle into other areas.  Just like a house wouldn’t be much of a house if it is missing a roof or a furnace or a kitchen or windows, so, too, marriage without all the elements will suffer.  The Model suggests starting with the most basic foundational area before working on the areas above it (looking at the graphic of the Model: work on Trust before Communication, etc.).  Knowing what the weaknesses are helps couples set their own goals as they seek to improve their marriages and can give them tangible places to start going forward.  Marital therapists can use the Model to assess the couple and create therapy goals.

Other Issues and the Model:

Money and Children:
Most other issues (e.g. money and children) can be subsumed under the Communication and Problem Solving section.  Nevertheless, any issue can become a Marriage and Commitment issue, if the couple can’t work it through, one or the other makes threats to leave or, in frustration, either makes unilateral decisions.  For example, quite often in cohabiting couples and step-family situations, money and children become Commitment issues!  For example, in a step-family situation, if you don’t warm up to my birth-child, I’ll divorce you!  YIKES!  Unilateral decisions and threats to break up or divorce in these kinds of settings are common.  The major concern here is “how” a couple handles their problems.

Protection:
When I was first thinking through the Model I considered having protection as one of the major components: safety first, right?  After some reflection, I decided that protection is one of the assumptions and purposes of the family and it is germane to each level of the Model.  We could speak of protection at each level.  Protection is one of the key reasons the family exists in the first place.  Protection will be a theme at each level as I write about and develop the Model.

Conclusion:  

The Thriving Couples Model can help you as a couple determine areas that need work for you to make the most of your Marriage or your relationship.  If you are a potential marital therapy client or marital therapist the Model will help you focus on priorities.  The Thriving Couples Model provides a philosophy and a structure for improving your Marriage, when both parties realize you exist in the Marriage, not to make each other or yourselves happy, but to sacrifice for the benefit of your new family.   Your family is bigger than either of you, is worth sacrificing for, and both of you are key players in making it all it can be.

This blog Copyright by Dr. Bing Wall, Heart to Heart Communication, LC, 2011

To listen to the one hour podcast explaining the Thriving Couples Model in more detail, click here.

To check out the Graphic of the Model, the Chart Contrasting Living as Roommates vs. Husbands and Wives or to download a PDF of this blog today click here.

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

Part Five on Money and Marriage: Marriage, Wealth And Discipline

Accountability (last blog) and now discipline? Come on, Dr. Wall, lighten up, already.

The last few blogs we’ve been looking at millionaires and building wealth and what works. I’ve enjoyed reading Dr. Stanley (I’ve been looking at his books The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind and for this blog, I’m introducing his latest book, Stop Acting Rich. See also his blog) and sharing his insights on this blog, because he’s looking at the positive. Turns out the characteristics that make for wealth building are the same characteristics that work for successful marriages.

Weren’t you amazed at the quote from out last blog that he found 92% of millionaires were married and only 2% were divorced and only 2% were single and the rest were widowed! I mean, that’s just nuts! Cooler than all get out, but just nuts!

Now lets be clear about this: Not everyone who’s married becomes a millionaire. Only about 3.5% of American households will become millionaires (for a summary of Dr. Stanley’s findings see here.) But you don’t have to have a large salary to get there. The basic principle of Dr. Stanley’s work is this:

If you want to become wealthy someday, spend less than you make.

That’s it.Simple.Or to say it another way: Delay pleasure.Or to say it another way: Grow up.Or to say it another way:Be mature.

Discipline, people.

Self-control.

Marriage is a great place to learn these things.Most of us aren’t there yet when we get married.Putting all our money together for the first time after you marry takes a certain amount of faith and servitude, features that kick growing up into gear.There’s nothing like a few hormones and a child kicking in your stomach to wake you out of youthful fantasies.Seeing little Jr. or Sally for the first time often has the same effect on dad.A kid screaming in the middle of the night with a big project the next day for you will give you a dose of patience.Either that or it will drive you crazy.I guess a lot of us go crazy.

Sorry.

Three and a half percent is not a very high figure. You remember he divided the affluent into two categories: Those with high salaries and not much to show for it (IAs or Income Statement Affluent) and those with modest or higher salaries who became wealthy (Balanced Sheet Affluent). The BAs had something to show for it: Millions of dollars. The IAs had only things to show for it: Lots and lots of stuff. It turns out that not all millionaires have high salaries. In his study sample, at the time when his BAs became millionaires, they were 45 years of age and earned $89K. The way they became millionaires on a salary that low, is that they had to live frugally, living well below their means. Take this typical quote from Dr. Stanley’s blog:

(This couple) achieved millionaire status at age 45 with a combined income (between he and his wife) of $103K per year. Ten years later they were worth 2.3 million.

In 1999, I crossed the million dollar net worth threshhold with an income of “only” $78,000. My wife made about $25K that year…. During all our employed years, we have always contributed the maximum to our 401K plans, IRA’s, and any Roth plans (in the years we were eligible), always saving 20-30% per year. All our wealth was acquired by saving, dollar-cost averaging, and slow and steady investing mainly in mutual funds.

Here’s another example from his blog:

I am not a millionaire. At the age of 38 I am about 1/2 way there on a household income that has never exceeded $85000. I’ve done this via the usual: saving at least 15% each year, modest home (still in my first house), used cars and furniture, shopping wisely, etc. I still drive my first car, a 1976 Monte Carlo and just bought a “new” truck for working around the house. The “new” truck is a 1993 Ford.

These people ended up with fat kitchens. To get there they had to live frugally, reign in their wills, or as Benjamin Franklin wrote above, “lean will.” Don’t tell your will that you can do whatever you want and it’ll be Okay. It won’t be Okay. You have to tell your will to just chill. Stuff won’t make you happy anyway. Consider this next quote by Dr. Stanley:

Happiness in life has little to do with what you wear, drive, eat or drink.  The people with the greatest satisfaction are those who live below their means.

Dr. Stanley writes that in order to reach this kind of financial success people need a good offense AND a good defense.[1] A good offense is our earning power. Many of us have spent years in college preparing for our careers and do a fairly good job with our salaries. The problem, then, in accumulating wealth, is NOT OUR INCOME. For most of us the problem lies is lacking a good defense: Using the income we have wisely.

Most of us are only good on the offensive side: We’re really good at earning money. But we didn’t learn how to USE the money we earned. Where do you learn that? For most of us it’s the school of hard knocks.

If you are like most couples (the 96.5 percenters?), you argue about money and got sick of arguing about it, so you quit talking about it. You end up with two people, supposedly married, who are living as if they are single, each doing their own thing. In extreme examples (too many of us, I’m afraid) you even keep your money separate, totally different accounts and have NO idea what your spouse is doing with his or her money. Then, your spouse buys something you think is over the top. You don’t say anything, but you are madder than a pistol. I’ll show you, you think, and go out and buy something else that is over the top. If you can spend money so can I.

Great. Revenge spending. That’ll work.

NOT.

In marriage, if we’re going to use our income wisely, we’re going to have to talk about it. We’re going to have to work together. We’re going to have to delay pleasure. We’re going to have to be disciplined. We’re going to share the same goals. We’re going to have to keep impulses at bay. We’re going to need to be self-disciplined and not be selfish.

Turns out these are all characteristics that make for a good marriage, too.

Turns out that discipline in one area affects discipline in another. Dr. Stanley foundthat millionaires were rarely overweight and that they exercised regularly! Crap! Discipline begats discipline.

But what about most of us? The other 96.5%? We love our beer and pop. And sitting around. And munching. And gorging. And gaining weight. And getting soft and pudgy. And drinking more beer. And living together without getting married. And having sex whenever we want it on the internet, sans spouse. And buying all the latest toys. Spending all our money. Spending money we haven’t even earned yet, squandering our future. I just wanna be happy, we tell ourselves. And we fill our houses with stuff. And do what we want when we want it. Over and over and over and over.

And then, one day, we wake up broke. Too many of us wake up divorced, too. And very, very sad. And lonely.

Hey, people! It’s time to get some discipline in your life.

Start somewhere. Harness some self-control, already.

Quit eating all that crap. Quit spending every spare cent to buy all that crap. Work together with your spouse to develop discipline in your lives. Accountability. Teamwork. You can do it.

Dr. Stanley writes, if you are married, there are three options:

-Both spouses are spendy.

-One spouse is spendy. And one is frugal.

Both spouses are frugal.[2]

It’s only the third group that end up wealthy in the end.

So, if you are going to make it financially someday, you will both have to work together.

Enough of this living singlely ‘til divorce us do part.

Ask each other. Consult with each other.

That would be good! It’s time to have a little chat. It’s time to put our wasteful living in the past. It’s time to put our selfishness on permanent leave. By-by.

To quote Dr. Stanley, again:

It usually takes a certain degree of discipline, proactive planning, prioritizing, and investing to become a true millionaire.[3]

So we consult with each other. We encourage each other. We motivate each other. We strengthen each other. When one is down the other picks the one down up. We’re in this together.

For the rest of our lives.

[1] Stanley, Thomas J. and Danko, William D. (1996) The Millionaire Next Door. New York: Pocket Books. p. 37-39.

[2] Stanley and Danko. (1996).

[3] Stanley, Thomas J. (2009). Stop Acting Rich. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 9.

Herman Cain and the Definition of An Affair

Part Four on Money and Marriage: Accountability in Marriage – Save Me from My Stupidity…Please!

Consistently, over time. This is a good thing to keep in mind. Life is made up of little 15-second snippets of time, little decisions, and sooner or later you can see the overall direction of your life. If you are a wee bit cynical, you might think that I’m touting these wealthy folk just a tad too much or that I’m preoccupied with money or something. My goal is not to make you rich. Frankly, I’d rather see you in heaven than in a new BMW. No, my goal has always, simply been:

If you are going to be married, you may as well enjoy the journey.

There just happens to be tons of people who don’t enjoy their marriages.

A lot of them get divorced.

Which, is the quickest and fastest and most common cause of poverty in America.

Meth will cause it, too, no doubt, but a sure fire way to be broke is to get a divorce. It’ll take you years, sometimes decades, to recover. Maybe we should even admit, that divorce will effect the monetary status of our children. On his blog, Dr. Stanley wrote, that in his research, 89% of first generation millionaires (they earned it; it wasn’t handed down to them) were raised by parents who never divorced! And you keep telling yourself that if you divorce your kids will be fine. Yeah, right.

So after these people divorce, they panic and marry the first nice person that comes along who’s got a job, because in our society today most single parent families can’t survive on one salary and there’s these kids to feed and…

At least they can pay their bills now. For a couple of years. And then the new person with the job turns out to be a worse jerk than spouse number 1 and soon spouse number 2 becomes former spouse number 2 and so on and so on. Do that a couple of times and your life will be over and you’ll die broke.

The bottom line is that married people do better than single people, divorced people and cohabiting people on every conceivable way that you can measure well being including money.

One of the easiest things to measure is money. You can add it up. It would be difficult to determine if someone was happy about his money or his marriage or anything else for that matter, but you can add up money. It’s quantifiable.

Turns out that married people have more money when they die. Period. Than single people, divorced people or cohabiting people.

Why is that? Because, in those 15 second snippets of time, they make better choices. They have a built in checks and balance system. They have someone to bounce things off of. Hey, whadathink about this? Whatdayathink about that? How come you bought that? We can’t afford that. They have someone there to challenge them when they are totally stupid. There’s a we here, you know. Sometimes that can be totally irritating, but over time it adds up to better choices and better choices add up to a better life and when you die you can add up all your better choices and see. Dang. There it is. In black and white. Right there on the bottom line.

Contrast a single person. If you are single, one of your biggest struggles financially is going to be making right choices about money. Millionaire single people are rare, rare, rare. In Stanley’s study (We’ve been looking at his book, The Millionaire Mind), only 2 percent of the millionaires were single! TWO PERCENT! Here’s the quote. It’ll blow you away:

A large majority (92 percent) of millionaires are married. Only 2 percent have never married, and about 2 percent are divorced or separated. The rest are widowed (p. 23.).

Are you kidding?Now maybe the reason only 2 percent of the millionaires were single is because of sample selection on Stanley’s part.He sent the survey out to people in neighborhoods known to contain millionaires.He was pretty good in his sample selection.In the over 5000 surveys he sent out, and the over 1000 that were returned, over 700 of them were millionaires.All of us should be so lucky to hit 70% in anything.But, you know, maybe, millionaire single people don’t live in millionaire neighborhoods.So, if you were going to sample millionaire single people where would you look?Where do millionaire single people live?Ah, well, ah.

There’s no such thing. Because there’s not enough of them.

So, if you are a single person and would like to have some money someday, it is critical that you have an accountability partner to talk with about your impulses to spend your money here and there so that you make wise decisions over time.Left to yourself, you will more likely piss it all away.This isn’t a judgment on single people.It’s just a reality that all of us, married or not, left to ourselves, will make some unwise decisions, that could, over time, really mess up our lives.

As Solomon said, a wise man seeks advice; a fool rushes headlong to destruction. He ought to know. He was the wisest man who ever lived.  In marriage we have a built in, full-time reality check.

Turns out that most wealthy people are married and they seek advice from their very smart spouses.If you are a wise single person, you’ll find a wise accountability partner to help you keep your money decisions in check.

But, sadly, most single people are too worried about having fun and so they don’t have much to show for all their hard work. This kind of behavior produces impatience. Patience would be good for single people, because if you want to get married someday, the best marriages are going to be made up of patient people, but if you are too busy having fun as a single person and doing what you want when you want, when you get married, you will end up being an impatient spouse because you never learned patience when you were single. Kapish? Patience and marital success and financial success are intertwined.

Consider your chances of being a millionaire if you are cohabiting. Forget about having money. Did you see that quote above about 92% of millionaires being married, 2% never married, 2 percent are divorced or separated and the rest are widows? Cohabitation doesn’t even show up! Unless some of the cohabiting people put on the survey that they were single! Cohabiting couples are MISSING from millionaire neighborhoods. Why would that be?

Millionaires are patient.Millionaires put off pleasure now for a future goal.Cohabiting people want what they want when they want it and they want it NOW.You are not worth waiting for.We’re broke so we’ll share the rent.What a crock of crap.You train each other to be roommates and impatient and they end up having no idea how to be married.

The number one definition of love in the world is:

Love is Patient.

Period.

Cohabiting couples are impatient.

Patience adds up in a lifetime. You reap what you sow.

Impatience adds up over a lifetime, too. To diddly squat. Zilch. Nada.

The longer you cohabit the more money problems you will have and the more likely it will be that you will break up on the one hand or be miserable on the other. You can’t build a marriage and sharing the rent. Marriage is not sharing the rent. Marriage is for a lifetime. WE pay OUR rent with OUR money that WE earned for OUR lifetime TOGETHER that’s in OUR bank account that WE look at and that WE discuss and WE plan and WE dream about TOGETHER.

If your partner isn’t worth waiting for then he or she is not worth marrying.

And neither are you.

Cohabiting people instinctively know this. And so they doubt each others’ integrity. They are each living with the other for nothing. They aren’t married right? So what are they? They don’t know. They play married, but not really. They each protect their own private butt. And they are suspicious of each others’ motives. And they point fingers. And they are easily hurt and offended. And money issues keep cropping up. I’m paying the mortgage. My name’s not even on the mortgage. You don’t pay any of it. I bought the washer and drier. I had to beg for that. But I’m paying the utilities. That ain’t nothing. But I pay for most of the groceries. I don’t even eat half the crap you buy. But you earn more, so need to pay more than me. I’m already paying the same percentage as you. So. You have more money than me left at the end of the month cuz you earn more and you blow it and meanwhile I have nothing. Don’t tell me what to do with my money. It’s my money and I won’t have anyone telling me what to do with it. I’m broke all the time and you never share any of it with me. You’re so selfish. Don’t start with me…

And so on and so on. And then they get married and live the same way because they are used to this roommate deal and they keep their money separate even though they are married because they don’t trust each other because they lived with each other for nothing and they wake up 40 years later completely broke.

Back to marriage: Certainly, there are broke married people. Maybe you’ve been one of those a long time and, frankly, you are sick of it. And so is your spouse. And so, you are doing something about it. And someday you won’t be one of those broke married people any more. But it takes time. And it takes teamwork. And it takes commitment. And it takes fortitude. And it takes self-control. And it takes wisdom. And it takes accountability. And it takes honesty. And it takes hard work.

Turns out, all of that is worth it.

And over time it all adds up.

On the bottom line.

And no, I’m not suggesting we worship money.God is much bigger than money.It just happens to turn out that if you don’t spend all of your money, you will have some someday.

HMMM.