A couple of weeks ago Michelle at Making Sense of Cents asked a question about our biggest financial mistake in life. And it really made me think about what we HAVEN'T done with our money (and our time!) in the past few years. Last year was extremely hard on my husband and I. It was his last year of school, and he took classes every semester, even in summer. Every extra dollar, including tax returns, went towards tuition. We were struggling financially, so I started babysitting in March of 2011. The boys I babysit were 8 months and 3 years old at a time. Then my husband switched positions at work (not voluntarily) and, unfortunately, medical insurance, to something way worse with a higher deductible. We had some sickness going around and accumulated unexpected medical bills. All of this really hit us hard.
In December of 2011 we started feeling like our family was falling apart. Husband was always tired and mad because of all the pressure at work and at school. He would come home and hide behind textbooks. I, on the other hand, would be stressed from an 11-hour day with 4 children under the age of 5 with 4 different schedules and meal preferences. We started fighting more. A week before Christmas we had our biggest fight ever. And I don't even remember how it started. It got so bad that I grabbed a bag and started packing to leave. While doing this, I half-prayed-half-screamed to heavens, asking why the heck I even married him??? And suddenly, as if somebody said it out loud, I heard in my head ," Answer it yourself. Why did you marry him?" And at that moment everything just clicked. I knew I married him for all the right reasons. I love this man with all my heart. We just got carried away with all the problems in the world. That night we talked till 4am in the morning. And we realized a few things that were missing in our relationships. I want to share them with you. I'm in no way trying to pose myself as any sort of family adviser. It's merely our own ideas based on personal experience.
Men love with their eyes, women love with their ears. Or not.
The scientists claim that it takes a man 8.2 seconds to fall in love. Forgive my language but I think it's a bunch of crap. To me, love is like a tree. You need to water and nourish it to make it grow, you need to get to know a person to actually fall in love with him, and not just develop a sexual attraction. I love when my husband tells me he loves me. But more so, I like it when he actually proves it. And I don't mean, by giving me diamonds. I couldn't care less about all the bling-bling in the world. It's by simple acts, like actually doing what I ask him to do, or play with the kids, so I can exercise, or giving me a massage, that he shows his true feelings. You get the picture. And it's the same with him. Yes, he likes it when I look all cute and pampered but I can name you tons of occasions when I looked far from my best, and I saw his eyes just filled with love. I talk about those very personal moments that we recognize in our own relationships. I believe, our moonlight talks brought us way closer than any new haircut I got.
Do silly little things.
When we first met in 2004 back in Russia, we were just friends for quite a few months. And when he went back home, we kept in touch. We sent letters to each other about once a week, and slowly our relationships turned into more romantic. But there were times when we were so busy with our lives that we couldn't actually write a letter. So we would buy cute silly lovey-dovey postcards and sent them. Those little tokens were the things that really helped our relationships to grow. When he came back and spent a few months with my family, we kept doing those little things. We put little notes under each others pillows, he gave me tiny bouquets of wild flowers, we danced at night without a music, we held hands. Things like that don't just belong to a period of courtship; keep them coming all the time! It's harder to do it when family grows, when your job keeps you busy. But they are extremely vital to any relationships. Be creative! A few weeks ago we sneaked out while kids were sleeping and went for a "walk" around the house looking at the stars. One of my friends made heart-shaped toasts for her husband for Valentine's Day. It really doesn't matter how old you are. We know a couple that have 5 children, 16 grand-children, and every time we see them together, it looks like that just fell in love. Heck, he still even playfully "spanks" her (not written to the eyes of the youngsters)!
Invest actual money in the relationships.
One of the mistakes that we made in the last year, and the actual reason for this post, was that we didn't "invest" money in us. We would always put our relationships last. We had too many bills to pay. We have two growing boys that need clothes and stuff. We had tuition.We had this, and that, and that. We haven't had a vacation in 6 years. Well, it's not exactly true. The past few summers we would go to a lake with our extended family and spent a few days there. But the last time we had a vacation, planned and paid for by us, was when I was pregnant with my older kid. Who is now 5.5. And I believe, it's important to put money aside for a getaway for two!! Or just doing something together. Even just a date night, eating out together, leaving kids home with a babysitter. In 6.5 years of our marriage we did two things that cost a lot of money but I do not regret it for a minute. First, we had a two-day getaway for our 5th anniversary. We ate out at an expensive Indian Restaurant (well, I had a coupon for it:)), and we stayed at the Anniversary Inn, a special and very expensive hotel with themed rooms. This experience was actually not as pleasant (the hotel itself) and we ended up getting our money back but the idea behind it, and just spending time together, was priceless. Second thing we did was a gift for my Hubby for his 30th Birthday. Kind of. We went to the U2 concert (It might've been just a gift for me...). The tickets were $350 for both of us but we never regretted it, even for a minute. It was an amazing experience, we had so much fun. The point is, set aside some "fun" money for the two of you. It will make a huge difference in your life!
Last but not least is Pray Together and hug each other.
It might not work for everyone. But we believe in God and His love for us. When we got married, somebody gave us an advice to never go to bed without praying together. We took it a step further. We try to not go to bed without hugging each other. Honestly, there were nights when we would say one of those prayers that don't go further than the ceiling but actually touching each other with care was a different story... And NEVER is a big word. Lots of people say not to go to bed when you are mad at each other. It works for us most of the time, but I believe that there are times when morning will actually help you clear out your head, and you'll understand that the argument you had was just silly. This said, it only worked for us once. And we feel that we would rather stick to our way-praying and hugging. And sometimes, staying up all night...
I know, this post is unusually long for me. But I believe in the relationships. I believe that we need to nourish them. Kevin Kelly said, " Since a relationship involves two members investing in it, its value increases twice as fast as one's investment." I believe, we can apply it to whatever relationships we are in- with a spouse, with a friend, with anyone else who is close and dear to our heart. Love and be loved, and have a wonderful day, all my dear friends!