Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

Staying Together Chapter Three: The “One” of Us

Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. Now available to purchase at a 30% discount through House to House Publications.

When we buy a new car, we enjoy the new-car smell. We appreciate the fact that it doesn’t break down from age and worn parts. We love that it’s clean and shiny, without a single stain on the carpet or scratch in the paint. However, unless we provide the proper maintenance in the months and years that follow, our car will eventually break down.

It’s not necessarily bad or wrong for a marriage to run on “new” for a season. Because it’s new, kindness abounds; disputes are short-lived; forgiveness comes easily. But when the new begins to fade, we tend to be less forgiving and extend less grace. Like the new car that begins to exhibit problems, has its dings and dents, and shows signs of wear, we become less concerned about its daily care and its future. In fact, we may even begin to dream about its replacement.

Thankfully, human relationships are different from cars. Old love is deeper and stronger than young love. As we age together, we can appreciate the differences rather than trying to make our spouse like us. The wise couple learns to use that “incompatibility”—those differences—to their advantage. They begin to learn that no team is made up of similar talent, and each member has a different strength to be used in a particular area. Just as in a healthy business, management acknowledges its own weaknesses and then hires those who can make up for those differences by bringing their strengths alongside a discerning leader. As our marriage matures, we learn to not be threatened by those strengths. We begin to realize that God called together this team of two to become one.

For much more on the process of two becoming one along with challenging assessments and questions, please see chapter three in our book, Staying Together.

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Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

Staying Together Chapter Two: The Fear and Insecurity Found in Us

Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. Now available to purchase at a 30% discount through House to House Publications. 

Growing up with an angry and physically abusive father, Greg (a real person in our lives) adopted mechanisms of self-protection. Those mechanisms kept him out of harm’s way with his dad. He learned when to talk and when not to talk; he also learned that silence kept him from revealing his true self and his true emotions. Introversion protected an already fragile esteem and, in his environment, helped to prevent the experience of further pain.

Bringing those personal childhood precautions into marriage did not help Greg, however. His wife thought he became distant and quiet because of something she did or said. She continually second-guessed what he seemed to be thinking or feeling. Growing up, Greg’s insecurities were a direct result of his fear of his father’s abusive treatment. Today, even though he lives as an adult with a woman who loves him, he has been unsuccessful at overcoming this fear and being vulnerable with her. It is slowly killing his marriage. What once served a purpose and worked for him is now harmful and destructive. The inward silence speaks loudly to the very person he should feel most comfortable opening up to, his wife.

Other causes of insecurity can include:

■ A poorly developed concept of oneself, brought on by a low or underdeveloped self-confidence

■ Feelings of inadequacy

■ A negative body image

■ Never having felt accepted or approved of by others, especially those who were perceived as important in our life

■ Unrealistic expectations by authority figures still trying to be met as an adult

When our identity becomes intertwined with our insecurity we can become steeped in self-adoration. Perhaps the most telling definition of long-term insecurity is that of the idol of self. We bring these emotional insecurities and identities into our marriage, tending to look to our spouse to meet our unmet needs and provide all that we lacked in our lives prior to this relationship. This is unfair and unrealistic to our spouse.

For answers to insecurity within your life and your marriage, please see chapter two of Staying Together.

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Marriage, Postmarital

Staying Together Chapter One: The “Me” In Us

Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. Now available to purchase at a 30% discount with House to House Publications. 

We live in a consumer-oriented society. We can obtain almost anything we desire, and we can have it our way, in our color, in our price range. If it doesn’t fit, we can return it. If it breaks, we can replace it. We can call toll-free numbers, complain to our boss, or even hire a lawyer if we are dissatisfied. I (Steve) once had a briefcase on which the handle fell apart. It can be pretty tough to carry a briefcase without a handle, so I contacted the company directly. The customer service person asked for the model number of the briefcase and said she would have a replacement sent to my door, at no cost, no questions asked! Literally the next day there was a box at my door with a brand-new briefcase in it. As a consumer, this company won me over.

Marriage, however, is not for the consumer; marriage is for the committed. Consumerism can spoil us. What happens when we bring consumerism into our marriages? We might expect to have everything our way. We might expect to have our needs met first. We might even expect our spouse to act like a customer service representative, bending over backward to win us over. We might expect a kind, cheery, or calm response to all of our selfish questions and requests. And because the customer is always right, if we act as customers in our marriages we feel perpetually justified.

After years of counseling and speaking all over the world, hearing story after story from many different couples, we have come to realize that most social scientists have missed the mark when it comes to identifying the primary cause of marriage breakup. While finances play a part, as do compatibility and sexual issues, these are all secondary to the primary reason—selfishness. When we become a consumer in our marriage, we become selfish and frequently used to getting what we want.

One time in a marriage counseling session, a husband responded, “I give her whatever she wants. She doesn’t work outside the home. She has a car. All I ask is that she…” That sentence could be finished with any number of things—get up and cook me breakfast, give me a back rub and listen to me when I come home from work, balance the checkbook, run the entire household, cook delicious meals, always be available for sex. You get the picture. The spirit of consumerism says, “I give to my spouse, therefore, I expect a certain return.” If you’re looking for a specific return, then you are looking for an investment and not a committed marriage relationship.

Order the book here.

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Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Parents

Ten Ideas to Help Your Son or Daughter Pay for College

My wife and I helped three children through college and we learned a lot from that experience. There are some things we would do over if given the opportunity, but more so we wanted to pass on to you some ideas about paying for college. It can seem impossible, but we do not believe that your son or daughter has to leave college with huge debt that inhibits them for their future. So here are our recommendations for those children who may be college bound.

  1. Take as many college courses as possible while still in high school. This can start while your student is still a junior in high school and it’s cheap. These courses are typically affiliated with a local college campus and they love starting students in their educational programs early.  Also, high school AP courses are often accepted for college credit.
  2. Start looking for scholarships while still in high school. Have them talk to their high school counselors about local scholarships. Money is out there; you have to make it your job (and your student’s job) to find the resources. We even found interest free loans from agencies in our local area that helped our children. Some schools, in conjunction with local rotary clubs and the like, have loan funds available to students.
  3. Attend a school in your state. Often there are heavy discounts for attending a school in your home state. (Obviously these are state schools only and not private schools.) Sometimes scholarships are available just for staying in state.
  4. Take your general education courses (normally the first two years) at a local community college. Community colleges are so much less expensive than universities offering the same courses. Live at home and go to community college and then attend your last two years on the campus of your choice to complete your education. It doesn’t sound as exotic, but it dramatically lowers the debt load.  As well, take advantage of on-line courses. Nine out of ten colleges now offer on-line courses at a far less expense.
  5. Take a year off to work after high school – a “gap” year. There definitely is a gap year advantage as most students do not know what they desire to study. Enter the work force and learn about labor, serving, hourly wages, taxes and saving for college. Perhaps you can locate a job that will continue even as you enter college. Two of our children were waiters at local restaurants and made good incomes in the field.
  6. Do you have a grandparent that would like to sow into their grandchildren’s education? Ask…perhaps they are waiting to help in any way possible. Start 529 Education Savings accounts into which parents and grandparents can contribute and those contributions may be state income tax-deductible.
  7. Be very aware of which loans you sign up for. When parents co-sign for loans they become responsible for those loans. You cannot predict what might happen in the future. Know that federally “subsidized” loans have deferred interest until six months after graduation. Complete your FAFSA forms as early as possible for possible state grant money.
  8. Keep working to lower your borrowed dollars. Your student should work full-time during the summer and at least part-time during the school year. There are jobs on campus and off. It all adds up and helps tremendously.
  9. Keep a close eye on all your loans, the accrual and the interest rates. A good rule of thumb is that your child would graduate from a four-year college program with no more than one year of tuition debt.  (For example: if tuition is $28K per year, your student would graduate with no more than $28K in debt.)
  10. Finally, consider a career assessment test for your son or daughter that helps them to narrow down and/or identify possible majors to study. When your child knows what they desire to study according to their gifts, wasting money on subjects that will not relate to his or her field of study will decrease.

Bonus: Teach your son or daughter to utilize a budgeting tool so they learn how to budget their money and help control their spending and saving while on campus. It might help them to not visit Starbucks daily, purchasing five-dollar drinks. Train them to use cash or debit cards and not credit cards for common purchases. Finally, check out this blog on 7 Ways To Go To College For Free.