One of my biggest fears

I think it’s strange how I can sense God urging me to notice something. It may take days or months or years, but he always ends up showing me what I need to see. (Like how I needed to come back to Ohio.) In this case I am talking about one of my fears over an issue that I will face as a husband. I know I will face it, not only because so many others do, but also because I know who I am and how much I struggle with it now. So let me take a step back and explain what I saw Him urging me to see.

There have been a rash of posts on Facebook, either sent to me or just on my news feed, that seem to linger for days on end. Not the normal memes or videos, but the heartfelt writings by some guy that was on the way to or did screw up his marriage. I read all of them. Some more than once… He stopped holding her hand. He took her for granted. He was selfish. He stopped cooking her dinner. The list goes on and on.

Somewhere buried in their anecdotes is one of my greatest fears for any relationship I have or anything I do. I am afraid that I will lose interest and stop being motivated and I know that is one of Jess’ fears too. Just take this blog for example. I started it months ago and my posts only number in the teens. If I were truly motivated I wouldn’t have taken the near two month hiatus from writing and I would be networking with other bloggers all over the place.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t recognize when it is happening until I am already in the thick of it. I get comfortable and stop striving to do better or to even keep doing what I was doing. This is why I haven’t completed that marathon yet. It’s the reason why I’m studying for the GMAT for the third time and still haven’t taken it. It’s why I bail on commitments I have made. I am afraid of what will happen to my marriage if I lose that motivation to be a great husband. Even now i’m anxious over the thought of how I could screw it up.

I don’t have proof that this will happen after we say our vows and I sincerely hope it does not. I have no interest in writing a post about how I could have had a better marriage or how I could have salvaged mine. I would rather keep it to the posts that show how I avoided that all together. How I kept the romance. How I made her the only thing that mattered. How my motivation to be a better husband and man made her want to be a better wife and woman. I want to give every guy out there the inside scoop on how to be happy by leading and loving his wife and I am basing those skills in my pursuit of Christ as my leader.

I’m going to leave you with a piece of advice that I received from a very intelligent man at a point in my life where things were coming apart. He and I would speak about everything going on in my life including my relationships and one day I expressed fears to him that were similar to this and his reply has stuck with me since. He told me to find everything, no matter how mundane, insignificant, or inconsequential, that my girlfriend/fiance/wife did or said to be the most fascinating thing that I had heard all day. Being an active listener makes me more involved in her day and her life. (I suppose this could be used on nearly any relationship. Who doesn’t like to be listened to?) I may not live it every moment, but I come back to it frequently and it does nothing but make my relationships better.

I hope you can take this with you and live better because of it too. Stay motivated.

Oh. And spiders. Spiders are one of my other biggest fears.

Financing a wedding

D’Oh! The Dough!

I’ve had this post sitting on the side for a while now and I got a big kick in the pants last night that is directly related to my thoughts here. Hope you enjoy it.

One of the things that I read on all sorts of relationship and finance blogs is that if nothing else, establishing financial goals is paramount to success, especially in marriage. I don’t have the figures in front of me, but a vast number of marriages are plagued with financial woes and that is something I never want to deal with.

How we’ve done it so far:

Since we are not married we have everything separate still. She does control the purse strings when it comes to the wedding spending, but we are planning it together so I do have a significant say in where that goes. For the most part isn’t my money anyhow. (Thank you Eric and Joy, and Mom and Dad! We are truly blessed to have you supporting us!) The costs of weddings are absurd to me. I regularly claim to know we would save money by not inviting anyone and heading down to the courthouse, but then I get a face full of “This has been my dream since I was little,” or “Why don’t you love me,” or, my personal least favorite, “No you can’t get the family sized bag of chips.”

So looking beyond the wedding, but backtracking to several months ago, I insisted that Jess attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class with me. If you are unfamiliar with it I cannot recommend it enough! He teaches a Biblically focused, common sense approach to money management through a “Baby Steps” program. While we are not following it to a ‘T’ now, we will when she is making money instead of hemorrhaging it.

The precipice is relentlessness attack on debt and slowly building wealth. He suggests making a zero-based budget and sticking to it. Easier said than done! Since this is not a finance blog I am just going to say a quick blurb on this: Take all the money you earn and assign it to some aspect of your life: bills, savings, spending, etc. My final word about budgets comes as an anecdote told by Mr. Ramsey, abridged by me: You cannot save for retirement if you eat your life’s savings at restaurants every month.

The short story on the baby steps is to have an emergency fund of 6 months of spending, paying down debt, saving for retirement, paying off your home (or saving for one), and building wealth and giving to charity. So here is my attestation to the power of the baby steps.

I have a meager emergency fund saved up; I am terrible about sticking to my budget so it isn’t as high as it should be. It would also be higher if I wouldn’t have spent so much on a certain piece of jewelry… Anyhow, yesterday evening Jess and I were at the local organic grocery store when, with no warning at all, the battery in my car died. My first step was to call AAA and get a tow truck sent to me. I called and talked to them while Jess went looking for someone that could jump me. Unfortunately, the good Samaritan and I were not able to get my car to start. I think I might have not grounded the black cable correctly, so inexplicably I could not get my car started. Once she left and the tow truck hooked up his jumping kit, my car started immediately.

I dropped Jess off at home and made a beeline for the auto parts store. The clerk tested my battery and it didn’t even have enough power to make the horn honk or lock my doors. Trying to get it to honk was the only fun part of this whole adventure. I ended up spending $154 on a new battery and didn’t bat an eye. Not only because it was something that I really needed for my day to day life, but because I have that money in the bank for a situation like this. I got home and wasn’t even in a bad mood over the whole thing. It’s a blessing to be able to not worry about “little” things like that.

On very happy news, I am writing this post on the heels of recently receiving a raise at work and getting a notification of my first payment from this blog. ($10!! Guess who’s going thrift shopping!) So I graciously thank everyone who has read this and continues to come back! Maybe some day I won’t need those raises and can just live off of this!

I am also working on a little section for the site of things that I am reading now. More updates on that to come.

Tri Bike Ride Together

The Couple that Runs Together

Over our two year relationship, Jess and I have had a lot of firsts. The first time Jess went to Med School, the first time I moved back to Ohio, the first time I wasn’t allowed to eat as many chips as I wanted, and, this past Saturday was another first, our first triathlon!

If you don’t know, a triathlon is a race with a swim, a bike, then a run. They come in a variety of distances from sprint (500-750 yard swim, 10-15 mile bike, 5k) to Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) and beyond. The one we did yesterday was on the shorter side of sprint distances, but it was a blast. The bike and run were a little hillier than expected, but I suppose with a name like “Hocking Hills” it could be worse than anticipated.

Getting close to the finish

Brittany ran along with us cheering as we neared the finish

I started doing triathlons 2 years ago and loved them ever since. And to reinforce just how addicting the sport is, as I was writing this, from behind her computer, breaking out of her studying hermitage for barely a moment, Jess asked, “Can we do another triathlon?” After which we spent half an hour looking for a couple more to do before the weather gets too cold.

To get back to the title of this post takes me to another first that we had a year and a half ago. When Jess and I first met she had never done any sort of organized race. So after a small amount of cajoling I talked her into running a 5k at school. I’m not going to say she was hooked then, but I was able to, again, cajole her into running a trail 10k with me when she came out to Kansas City for the first time. There is an embarrassing story that goes along with this, but I will save that for some other time, possibly when I need to get revenge or when she isn’t sitting close enough to hit me…

So Jess may never run a trail race again, but the advice given to us by several other racers has stuck with me. The couple that runs together stays together.

It’s a simple thought but has enormous implications to me. Being able to work out together, I think, has a much greater propensity for relationship growth than many, if not all, couple-type hobbies. My reasoning behind this is because of the level of fatigue associated with it compared to other things that couples do. Two of our favorite things to do together are cook and paint. Neither of which require stamina or skill. Sure, Jess is a fantastic cook and has a keen eye for painting, but there is no driving factor behind it. It’s a single meal. A lone canvas. An item submitted for my and her approval. The only way to judge something like this is to wait until the end and offer a critique.

When I paint I am in my own space, I know a color goes here and a color goes there and there is not much I can be told on how I see the picture coming together, but when I run with Jess, I do not have that luxury. I may help dictate the pace, but I cannot quit out or determine when I will stop. I am accountable for my finish time as well as hers.

I think it is a wonderful dynamic. I love working out in any way together and I think the key is to know each other limitations or if you do not know them you get to learn them. Jess is not as good as I am at riding a bike, so I have to slow down. I am not as good at swimming or running, so she has to deal with a little more walking than she wants. No matter what, by the end of a race I feel closer to Jess than before and we both have a huge sense of accomplishment that we get to share.

This might be most evident in, and forgive me for jumping back a bit, the evening after the 10k. You see, just two nights before this, Jess finally agreed to be my girlfriend. After months of trying and growing closer to her over phone calls and long nights on skype she was at least “that” in to me. What she did not know was that I had been harboring far deeper feelings than wanting to be a boyfriend. What finally brought out that first, gasp-inducing, feeble “I love you” was not just the couple of beers liquid courage beforehand, but the closeness I felt doing something that we both felt great about and finished together.

Congratulations on your first triathlon finish, Jess!

End of the race

Hopefully I can update you on another race soon!

Never Long Enough

With Labor Day having past yesterday, it seemed to usher in, with little room for doubt, the Autumn of 2013. Thankfully, it also ushered in a holiday from work! But as the title of this post suggests, even long weekends are never long enough.

While Jess and I didn’t take much time for “just us” we did get to spend the weekend doing several wedding related things. We spoke with my parents about a couple things or as Jess put one particularly candid conversation with my mother, “I want to talk about alcohol.” We met with our caterer again and I believe we have most of our menu figured out. The biggest problem before was the price point was far to high, now the only problem is going to be guests not having enough room to enjoy it all!

I am also happy to say we have a cake picked out and ordered. I would love to tell you all what it is going to look like, maybe post a few drawings, possibly tell you what each of the layers will have on it or in it, but I doubt that would be approved for this post. Guess you will just have to wait for the wedding! My least favorite part of the cake tasting was that we only went to taste at one place. I might keep going to the other ones I booked and tell them Jess couldn’t make it… I might not be a huge cake fan, but I am a huge fan free cake and enough free cake makes me a huge… uh… fan…

The other big thing that happened this weekend was it was the first that Jess came to see me. It may not sound like a big deal, but after driving down for 7 straight weeks, it made a huge difference to me. I know that part of my frustration from before was that I felt like I was the only one exerting effort into our relationship. I know that we did stuff together while I was in Athens, but there was nothing that I easily saw as something that was an inconvenience or sacrifice for her. Sure she did do things for me, such as make me meals, but she would be doing that anyhow, or I helped, or I bought the ingredients, or something else that, to me, diminished the value of the act.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that there needs to be some cosmic scale in a relationship checking to see who did what with one person being better than the other. For me, it is not about being equal, but it is about knowing what each other is doing for the other. I know that I only experience half of the emotions in this relationship, however, empathy goes a very long way.

As Jess was driving home she called and said, “I better understand what you do every week driving down here and it means alot to me.” I didn’t ask for her to understand but the moment she said that there was a sense of relief and realization that hit me. I wanted her to know what I had done and acknowledge it and I should be working on the same. Maybe I am just now discovering some innate sense of need to feel valued but I hope that I can reciprocate it instead of being turned off to her when she is busy. I hope that I can look at all the time she does give me and say, “I am thankful and blessed to be a part of your life when there are so many other things that could be taking up your time.”

That is all for now but if you want to come enjoy this gorgeous start to fall with me I have an extra chair on my porch and would be happy to share a beer.