You Have To Have Both Oars In The Water

mb-oars201308I was recently reminded of something that my grandma and great-aunt used to say when it came to talking about marriages, specifically when you’re having problems.  It went something like:

“You have to have both oars in the water to move forward.  Otherwise you’ll go in around in circles or nowhere at all.”

This is so simple yet so true.

When you’re in a relationship, you have to have both people involved, with their oars in the water so to speak.  If you have just one person putting effort into the relationship as a whole, or a particular problem that’s presented itself, you’ll move but you’ll end up going in circles.  If both people decide to do nothing, then you’re going to go nowhere, or be at the mercy of outside forces like the current or the wind.

It’s better to work together.  Work together to find a rhythm and a pace.  But above all, you have to have both oars in the water.

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How’s That For A Happy Birthday!

Ten years ago today was my 29th birthday (so today I turn 39!  Yikes!).

I’d decided beforehand that it was not going to be a good birthday.

My birthday was on a Saturday that year.  My friends decided to take me out on Friday night to celebrate, so technically we would be celebrating on my birthday once the clock turned to midnight.  Get it?   But, the reason for the day-early celebration was because we all wanted to see Collective Soul, who was playing for free that Friday night at a local festival.

I was not looking forward to my 29th birthday.  There were a few different reasons which I won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that I was not into the idea at all.

I’d hoped that the concert would turn it around.  I’d been looking forward to seeing Collective Soul for a while, as they’d been a pretty big favorite of mine in the mid-to-late 1990’s.  But, while the music was good, the pavilion was being renovated that year, so the band was on a makeshift stage like 20 feet in the air on a surface parking lot.  There wasn’t a closeness to the band, we had to stand the whole time, and it was just…ordinary.  I was sort of meh about the whole thing.  And it didn’t really help my mood like I’d been hoping.

mb-birthday201308Afterward, my friends took me to a bar down the street.  We picked it because it had an outdoor patio and it was a nice night, one of the last we’d probably get to enjoy of the summer season.  My friends could tell that I wasn’t into the club/dance scene so we went low-key.

I appreciated what my friends were doing and how hard they were trying, so I tried to put on a good face.  I didn’t sit there and sulk.  I didn’t snap at anybody.   I tried as hard as I could to participate in the laughs and such, but it was plain to see that my heart just wasn’t there.  They tried their hardest, getting me drinks, telling jokes, having fun, bringing up stories from good times, and even bringing over a couple of girls over to wish me happy birthday.  They pulled out all the stops. Still, I was lost in my thoughts.  And I didn’t want to bring my friends down, so after a bit, I figured I’d take a walk to clear my head.

I wandered over to the end of the bar in hopes of getting a glass of water as I really wasn’t in the mood to drink anymore, and figured alcohol wasn’t going to do anything but bring me further down at that point.  The bar was quite lively that night with the festival crowds, but even so I started to get a bit annoyed when minutes passed by and more minutes passed by without the bartender so much as looking my way.  Still, I was fine being alone for the moment so I figured I’d wait it out.

A girl walked up next to me, and she instantly caught my eye.  Blonde, great smile, beautiful eyes.  Very catching.  Evidently she caught the eye of the bartender, as well, for he finally ambled over where the girl asked for a water.  The bartender paid me no attention whatsoever.  I chuckled as he went off to get the water, and the girl looked over at me, wondering why I was laughing.  I told her that I’d been standing there for probably ten minutes waiting for a water, but that I couldn’t get this guy (pointing to the bartender who was already on his way back with her water) to notice me.  She laughed and, taking the water that the bartender was handing her, said she’d share it with me.  Of course, the bartender took that time to ask what I wanted.  I told him that I was fine.  Which I now was.

We shared the water.  We talked.   My mood started improving.  I found out that she was there with a friend who was over somewhere else on the phone.  I hoped that her conversation would take a long time.  It did.

Eventually her friend came back and they were ready to go.  The girl and exchanged phone numbers. I was happy now.

We talked later that night and the next day.   Things were looking good for Mr. Newly 29 after all.

And they only got better.  Fast forward ahead.  Four years and a handful of days later, that girl I stood in front of our families and friends and committed the rest of our lives to each other at our wedding.  We have since had two amazing kids who we love unconditionally and who teach us every day.  We have been blessed with a great house, good health, and wonderful friends.  We both have amazing parents who support us and love us.  Our extended families gel.  We’ve created so many memories and continue to create new ones that I cherish and learn from.

But one memory that will always stand out is the one where I was resigned to having the worst birthday of my life, and instead, it turned into maybe the greatest.  A better birthday gift I don’t think I’ve ever received than the one where I met the love of my life.

Now how’s that for a happy birthday?

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Relationships and Money: Here Are My Answers

Lance at Money Life And More first brought to my attention a post theme that’s been making its way around the personal finance blog niche.  Originally started by Chase Bank, the idea is to get your thought on eight different questions that link together money and relationships.   Read through my answers and let me know what your answers are in the comments below!

  1. Would you discuss money on a first date?  It’s been quite a few years since I went on any sort of ‘first date’ but I don’t think I ever discussed money in any great detail, nor do I think it’s a great idea.  I think first dates are really meant to get a feel for the other persons personality and to see if you ‘click’ in any way.  Most of the time, just by answering the typical questions that come up on a first date (what do you do?  what kind of things do you enjoy?), you’ll get at least a rough sense of how money falls on their radar.  That’s enough information for a first date, if you ask me.
  2. How long should you wait to talk about money with your spouse?  My answer is that if you wait until you’re married (or even engaged), you’ve already waited too long.  I think when the idea of getting married first comes up, it’s important for both people to have a solid understanding of where things like and also to have a good idea of where things would go if marriage were considered.  So many marriages end in divorce these days, and a big reason is that things are uncovered that were never discussed beforehand, but probably should have been.  Finances are one of those things, and if you get everything out in the open before marriage is brought into the relationship picture, it’ll increase your chance of success (or give you warning signs for those that maybe it’s not such a great idea).
  3. Who always brings up money in your relationship?   I probably bring it up more often, only because I do the day-to-day tracking of our finances, so while my wife knows where we’re at from a high level, she isn’t as close to the finances as I am.
  4. Is it harder to manage your money as a couple than when you were single?  Well, from a purely work driven standpoint, you have more transactions to handle as you increase the number of people involved in money management, so it’s definitely harder.
  5. Would you offer to pay of your spouses debt?  After we got engaged and before we got married, we started combining our finances, merging accounts, budgets, debt, and integrating all tracking into one monthly tracking spreadsheet (which I’d been using beforehand).  Right when that happened, we both started thinking of everything as ‘our money’ including the debt that we both had, they became ‘our debt’.
  6. Is debt a deal breaker? It never was for my wife and I, but I could see how it could be.  As we got more involved in our relationship, we both had a pretty good sense of where each other stood financially.  When we ended up starting the talk about getting married and how our finances would fall, there were no big surprises for either of us.  I can see where you could find something out that would make you question how they got there, whether this put in jeopardy the chances of success, or why it was never revealed beforehand.
  7. Do you think it’s important to have the same money views?  I think you have to have similar money views, but they don’t have to be the same.  My wife and I agree on the bigger principles, both knowing that saving for retirement, not carrying credit card debt, and other big things that we both agree on.  However, we slightly differ when it comes to how to save money.  While we both want to save, I put saving first, allowing what’s ‘left’ to be spent, where my wife wants to spend, and save what’s left over.  In the grand scheme of things, this is fairly minor compared to some of the other wedges that can be much bigger, and also what works is that we generally compromise roughly equal amounts of the time, where she’ll sometimes convince me to spend a little first, and I’ll convince her at other times to save rather than spend.
  8. Can you really change how your spouse spends money?  I think you can influence your spouse, but you can’t change their spending habits directly.  Any big change has to come from within.

There you have it.  The eight questions about money and relationships and my answers.  Again, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Should You Send Thank You Notes For Gifts?

I went to college with a guy that has been a fairly good friend for quite a number of years.  We keep in touch regularly.  He played in the fantasy football league that I ran for eight years.  He lives pretty close by.  We met his girlfriend, who later became his wife, and we felt like we might have the option of developing a good friendship with this couple.  They were fun and friendly, and when they started their family not too long after ours, it seemed even more of a potential match since having the kids play together is always a good catalyst for family friendships.

Unfortunately it hasn’t really worked out as we might have thought.

We still get together with them and see them socially, but that closer friendship hasn’t really developed.  And, it’s all because of the habits coming down to the couple saying thank you.

Or rather, the fact that they don’t.

We’ve given several gifts to their young child, one time when they came over to our house for dinner and we were introduced to the baby for the first time, and another at his first birthday, and neither time did we receive any sort of thank you note.

Habit Forming

As a kid, it was instilled into me at a pretty early age that I should send a thank you note for a gift that I received.  After receiving gifts for Christmas or my birthday, at some point in the following several weeks, I was expected to sit down and write a small note thanking my aunt or grandma or whoever for the nice gift.

I realize now that it wasn’t so much about sending the gift or writing the right words as it was about my parents teaching me proper manners.

My wife must have learned the same habits because she naturally writes out thank you notes any time that the kids get a present.  Little Boy Beagle, who is three and a half, even ‘writes’ his name on them now, and the thought is that when they get old enough, they’ll be expected to write them and send them out themselves.

But, the couple in question has never sent a thank you note.  I would even accept something on Facebook or an e-mail.  In one case, the birthday party, they had it at a facility where the kids could play in bounce houses, and because of the short window, they didn’t even open the gifts in front of their guests.  I don’t have a problem with the fact that they didn’t open the gifts, but you would think that they would provide some sort of acknowledgement of having received the gift.

I’m trying to think of reasons on why they might not send out a gift.

They didn’t know?  My father-in-law suggested that, if neither of them were raised to send out thank you notes, maybe they see it as perfectly normal to collect gifts without writing thank you notes.  In fairness, they did send out thank you notes for the wedding gift that we gave them, but I know wedding thank yous are a little more known.

I don’t know if I necessarily see this as an excuse but I’ll ask readers, is this one that maybe should be given a little more consideration or should they have learned by now to send out thank you notes.

They didn’t like the gift?  For the gift that we gave them when we first met the baby, my wife created something she’s given out multiple times, a personalized frame with the baby’s birth details.  It’s a new thing that everybody else we’ve given it to has gushed over, but maybe it didn’t fit their style or they didn’t think much of it.

Even if they didn’t like the gift, is that an excuse to negate sending a thank you card?  I always thought that you were thanking the person for the thought that they put into the gift as much as you are the gift itself.

Are we expecting something that we shouldn’t? Maybe the issue is on us. Maybe receiving a thank you note is something beyond what we should be expecting.

I just don’t believe this though.  We know a lot of friends, many of whom have had babies that we’ve exchanged gifts with either as newborns, for first birthdays, or the like.  In every other case, we’ve received thank you notes after having given a gift.

It got lost in the mail?  Maybe they did send a thank you and we never received it.  I could see this happening maybe once, but twice?  I think it’s probably a fair assumption that it never got sent.  Now, we do have a friend in common, and I’ve been tempted to ask whether they received a thank you, but I never have simply because I don’t want to even bring the chance of it getting back to the couple.  That’s not our goal.

What’s the big deal?

I don’t want to drop these people as friends, and I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, so I wonder, are we overreacting?  Or does it speak to something about the type of friends that we want to have (and that we want our kids to have) by getting bothered by this?  Our thought is that we will continue to be social with them but as far as trying to develop a friendship where we see each other outside of birthday parties or the like, it’s not as high on our agenda as it might have been a while back.

I don’t know all their is to know about manners and ettiquite, nor do I want to. I’ve never considered myself a person who would describe themselves as ‘proper’ but at the same time, when someone goes out of their way to do something for me or my family, whether it be by offering their time, their money, or a gift, I try to express my gratitude and thanks.  I’m sure that I’ve failed to do so at times, but when it becomes a regular thing, it seems hard to blame it on an oversight.

Readers, what do you think of our thoughts on this matter? Do you notice if you don’t receive a thank you note or some expression of gratitude after a gift is given?

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