Blogger was going to be a better choice for this project, so I just moved everything over there.
Video Games, drinking buddies and reading were my three main activities before getting married.
I played video games by myself, as well as online with friends from high school and college.
Drinking buddies, well that is pretty much self explanatory. After work, usually on a Friday, a handful of us would get together and have a few and recap the events of the week.
Reading has been a passion of mine since I was a small child, and I had recently discovered the joys of an e-reader. My first e-reader was a sony reader, and I was in LOVE. The portability of the e-reader allowed me to read with the frequency and voracity I hadn’t had since middle school.
None of these activities are inherently evil, but of course they all have their pitfalls. I know several people who have allowed video games to dominate their lives, destroying success at work, in school and in relationships. I wasn’t that guy, though I may have been close five or six years ago. Drinking with the guys after work could lead to problems if I were to start driving drunk, but that has never been an issue. The potential problem with reading, is in many ways similar to the problems with video games. It is only a problem when it is the dominant force in your life, and the reality in the game/book becomes more important than the reality of an individual’s life.
While I enjoyed all of these things, when I was single there were no warning bells going off, nothing to indicate that I was going overboard with any of my “vices.” When you get married, it is no longer solely about what one person wants. Of the few fights my wife and I have had, most involve these three issues. I do believe that both partners in a marriage need to be individuals, but the transition from a single identity into two, wedded identities can be a challenge.
The creation of a new individual identity after getting married is the path that I have chosen -and so far it has worked. I still read. I still play video games. I still go to happy hour. The frequency of those things is reduced, but they are still a part of my life.
The cost? Spending time with my wife. Wow, what a punishment! You mean I should want to spend time with this person I chose to marry? Yes. Yes you should. Nurture each other’s differences. Allow each other their own passions (I’m certainly not about to help my wife make dresses for her small business, and I’m absolutely not going to tell her to stop and come pay attention to me).
Be careful not to return from the honeymoon and just go about your life in the exact same manner you did before you were married. Aside from having children, this is going to be the biggest, most profound change you may ever experience. Let your life change! Don’t set out to change someone, and don’t cling to every ounce of that old identity either.
Be individuals together.
Thinking about proposing is scary.
Picking out a ring is terrifying.
But when you propose to the right girl for the right reasons the terror becomes exhilarating. Or it just stays terror.
My wife and I had vaguely talked about being married at some point. So I did not think it would be a big shock to her when I pulled a ring box out of my pocket. I was wrong.
Don’t misunderstand, she was excited. But she was so caught off guard that she didn’t say yes right away. I assumed that her immediate embrace counted as a “yes,” but that little terrified voice I met when picking out a ring returned for 30 seconds until I said, “Well?”
She obviously said yes, and this is only a small part of our proposal story. If you think you want to propose to your girlfriend, here are a few things to consider:
1. Will you love her, no matter what she says or does?
2. Are you be willing to be her partner?
3. Are you on the same page financially?
4. Have you fought? How did you resolve it?
5. Is there anyone else you would even think wanting “one more date” with?
4. Yes. With maturity and wisdom. We set emotions aside and focused on reason, and one or both of us admitted to being wrong - but it is ok because even if you are wrong she still loves you.
5. No. If there is even the tiniest shadow of a doubt on this one, you are not ready to propose.
The short answer? Being married.
The long answer? Don’t get my wrong, I love my job. Sometimes. Sorta. Some days I downright hated my job.
Before I got married, there were plenty of things about my job that I did not enjoy. Some days it was a boss. Some days it was a parent. Some days it was a student. Some days it was the politics of education, so recently put into the spotlight by conservative legislatures across the country.
Friday would arrive, and I was free. I would spend the weekend with my fiance and our dogs, do homework, read, spend time with our parents, all of the fun things a weekend is for.
Then Sunday would arrive. As Jon Acuff might say, I was a sunday jerk. All day I would stew, dreading my fiance’s return to school (two hours away) and my return back to work.
I would begrudgingly return to my “real” life, where my evil alarm clock was waiting. (one of my first tweets ever was something along the lines of, “whatever advertiser decided to use an alarm clock in this ad ought to be shot.” I seriously had a problem with my alarm clock!)
Why does it have to be this way?
I was determined to find out.
What does a master’s student that is engaged to a PhD student do to find information? Research. This past fall I began to pour over research regarding teacher morale. My problem with my job had to be external, all the research said so. In fact, the scholarly research on teacher morale all concluded that teacher morale is influenced by leadership at the building, district and state levels. The effect size of individual teacher actions on teacher morale within the building was near zero.
Zero. Research has found that one teacher cannot have an impact on the morale of other teachers in the building. Not only was there nothing I could do, but I was given an excuse to blame my bosses for what I thought was a poor work environment.
My wife and I had countless conversations about searching for a new job, or pursuing another degree just to avoid going to work. It was crazy. Who on earth does a literature review for permission to hate their job?
Me. And I got worse.
I spoke to colleagues in all levels of education, from all around the country. At conferences, at performances, everywhere. Anytime I could get an educator to bring up my job, I would slowly unload on them. I was stealthy enough that no one ever knew I was secretly hoping for the opportunity to brag about how bad my job was. Not only did I convince myself my job was horrible, I set out to convince other people of the same thing. What was wrong with me?
I had no perspective. Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of why I wanted to teach. The reasons I became a teacher started to blur and became obscured by my own self-destructive behavior.
For some reason, it never occurred to me that my problem with work might have been me. That maybe, just maybe, my actions and outlook could impact the morale of at least one teacher. Me.
The transformation I experienced in the first few months of marriage was not clear to me until after listening to Jon Acuff speak at a Dave Ramsey Live Event. Jon spoke about careers, day jobs and dream jobs. I like what he had to say so much I went out and bought his book, Quitter, at the conference so I could have him sign it. I read the book in a day and a half. Contrary to the title, it is not a how to manual on how to quit your job. If anything, it is a guide to loving your day job. As I was reading, I came to realize that I, in fact, love my day job.
My job has incredible benefits. Every day I wake up and go inspire students to make music. I teach work ethic, personal responsibility, and vocal technique. How cool is that? I was doing all of those same things before, but somehow that got lost.
Being married brought my work life back in to focus. If something I disagree with happens at work, oh well. Even if it is not the best for me or my students, I know that when I go home, I go home to my lovely wife. Knowing that I have someone that loves and supports me and what I do for a career was the first step to falling back in love with teaching music.
The second step to loving my job was being a provider. As I have mentioned before, she does not make a lot of money as a GA. I joked about wife tax in my last post, but I did not share how much fulfillment I got when I handed her that first check. Now my work has purpose, personally and professionally. The great influence I can have on students has always been a positive, but when the money I bring home was given a purpose, I was reinvigorated.
Spending money each month with no purpose brought me no happiness or satisfaction at home or at work. However, when I was able to put my money to work towards reaching our shared financial goals, the picture became completely clear. Not only am I in charge of my perceptions of my job, but the more purposeful the work, the better. The more purposeful the spending, the more meaning and satisfaction can come from earning the money.
The first thing you need to know is that my wife and I are on Dave Ramsey’s program, baby step #2 - the debt snowball. If you are not familiar, hit the source link.
The second thing you need to know is that my wife is a graduate assistant, which means she doesn’t have to pay tuition while working on a PhD. YES! AWESOME! HOORAY! At roughly $1500 per class, this is HUGE!.
What isn’t huge? Her salary. Her take home pay is about $15,000 a year. The poverty line is where? Before we got married, she would have qualified for food stamps! Luckily, I have a job.
In my job as a high school music teacher, I make O.K. money. I am not one of those teachers that thinks I am drastically underpaid. My wages are fair. Fair means that I use a budget and pack a lunch to work and eat leftovers for lunch. The key word is budget. Before my wife came along and we got on the Dave Ramsey plan, this is what my budget looked like-
Monthly income, minus monthly expenses = roughly zero-ish, maybe more maybe less depending on what movies and xbox games I bought that month.
Now my budget is incredibly detailed. My wife and I are both nerds. We each have in-depth spreadsheets outlining every expense and every ounce of income before each month begins. Over the top? Maybe, but it works for us.
Most importantly, it allows us to get a head and succeed with our debt snowball.
This is where the dirty word comes in. Tax.
This is what a wife tax is. At the end of every month, the “leftover” money - my income not spent on bills/groceries/mortgage/etc - is given to my wife. Right now she is the primary payer on the debt item we are focused on in the debt snowball, so she gets the extra money. The first month we were on the plan, we joked around and called it a “wife tax.” So, when I wrote my wife a $600 check (we still don’t have a joint checking account, we’re working on it), I wrote “Wife Tax” on the memo line.
She thought it was hysterical. Her mother thought it was hysterical. Guys - you know what making a mother-in-law laugh means. It is HUGE. Almost worth writing a $600 check every month and NOT reducing your debt! Better yet, the bank teller laughed when she deposited the check.
You know who didn’t laugh about the first wife tax check? Me. The husband. This used to be my money. This was how I blew money in the grocery store on food/drink I didn’t need, how I picked up the tab when my wife and I would go out to eat, how I felt the freedom to be careless with money.
That last one is a big one.
The money I gave to my wife to pay off our debt was the money that gave me an excuse not to manage money. The first five years of my professional life, I did not live on a budget. Some months were good, some months were bad. I did not keep track. A positive balance was freedom to spend on whatever I wanted.
Being married and committed to BLOWING OUR DEBT OUT OF THE FREAKING WATER changed my outlook. I was and am happy to be able to give my wife that money every month, because I know what it is doing for us. Getting out of debt is an insurance policy to NEVER FIGHT ABOUT MONEY.
Have you ever fought with your spouse about money? Why? Leave your comments and let’s start a dialogue.
(In June we will be on to the next debt item, one that I am the primary payer on, which only means one thing - HUSBAND TAX!)