009: Achieving balance in life and marriage

Achieving balance in life and marriageOne of my biggest mental struggles over the last decade was my battle for “balance.”

The world told me that “good lives” were balanced. It became cliché. Every time I heard the term I wanted to puke for three reasons that I’ll get into down below.

For this episode of the Confessions of a Terrible Husband Podcast I invited Aaron Walker, a business man and life coach over at View From the Top to talk with me about balance.

I’ve followed Aaron’s blog and coaching practice for a while and know him to be wise and giving. I also have two friends who hired Aaron as their coach and they sing Aaron’s praises as a coach, mentor, and man.  He’s the real deal. So I wanted to get his advice on achieving balance in life and marriage.

Here’s a little bit more about Aaron.

When you’re done listening to the episode be sure to head over to a special Confessions of a Terrible Husband page on his website, complete Aaron’s FREE personal assessment, which he uses for his coaching and mastermind clients, and you’ll be entered to win one of six copies of the book Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Boundaries is a great book that I highly recommend you pick up even if you don’t win!

Aaron also recommends another book I got tremendous value from called Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs. Another excellent book on behavior and marriage.

Man I get so pumped thinking back to this interview with Aaron!

Here’s the audio to check it out:

Okay, are you still wondering why I wanted to puke every time I heard the term “work/life balance” between 2004 and mid-2013 (and still struggle with the concept today)?

Here are the top 3 reasons:

1. I didn’t have it and couldn’t figure out how to get it.

For the first 10 years of my career I slept and worked. That’s pretty much it.

Everything else came in when it fit in.

I worked out intermittently. I vacationed only when my wife put her foot down and planned one. Weekend trips? Last minute at best.

My life was driven by the demands of my career.

And my career, while going well, was unpredictable. A client would get sued or have an emergency and need someone to run to court Monday morning to ask a judge to protect them from someone or something. My phone would ring. I’d jump.

In other words, work/life balance meant work was my life 100% of the time.

2. “Balance” is “sneaky subjective.”

The term balance sounds simple. The visual of the scales of justice with both sides at an equal level immediately comes to mind. Or two kids on a playground on a see saw, both suspended in mid air with the plank parallel to the ground.

But then “life” comes in. You have 168 hours in the week. Are you supposed to divide them in equal parts between work, sleep, and play (or other things that are important to you)?

If so, does your commute “count” for work or play? What if you listen to great podcasts or read books during your commute? Does that change anything?

Does sleep even “count”?

And what time frame are you talking about? I’ve just talked about weekly balance here? But is that even the right time frame to use to measure? Months? Days?

Finally, what’s the end game? Equilibrium over whatever time frame you choose?

I’m getting annoyed just typing this! All of these questions make a seemingly objective term sneaky subjective and frustrating.

3. My wants and needs changed over time.

Just when I thought I had a good run and might have “figured it out” something new would come up.

A new kid. A new case. A sick family member. Something.

Life isn’t linear. It’s more like a stock chart than a pie chart (although more pie would be nice…).

Our needs would change day-to-day, month to month, and year to year.

So any “balance” would have to change over time. And that doesn’t sound very “balanced” does it?

But then I realized that balance is more mind than math.

I spent so much time counting hours, days, and weeks that my brain hurt.

Then I realized that it didn’t matter what my time records said, I only felt balanced when my mind was at ease with my schedule.

If we were picking vegetables on my birthday but I was taking calls from work and talking about work to be done over that weekend so we can get into court Monday morning I didn’t feel very balanced at that moment, even if that moment technically was pretty “balanced” because I was physically with my family but mentally working…. (True story.).

Balance was where my brain was.

And this is why I have essentially given up on achieving “balance” in the objective sense and instead concentrate on planning for imbalance that I enjoy.

My brain feels better and my family and friends get the best of me.

What about you? What’s your biggest struggle relating to “balance”? What’s worked for you to feel more balanced?

Let’s chat about them in the comments.

Are you celebrating all the wrong things?

What have you been celebrating lately? Have you overlooked simple opportunities to make the people around you feel loved? Feel special? Opportunities to engage with them in a way that can create great family memories and not require elaborate planning or big expenses? Joanne Miller joins us again today to talk about how celebrating meaningful events in her house has helped create a haven of peace.

Are you celebrating all the wrong things-Many years ago when our children were young, I had a Come-to Jesus talk with Dan about the importance of remembering holidays and special occasions. It was Mother’s Day and I waited all day for some recognition, and some appreciation, for all I put into raising our three children. I simply couldn’t believe my family, particularly my husband, would forget to celebrate. I didn’t say anything because I kept thinking there was a huge surprise lurking in the wings ready to be revealed at just the right time.

Didn’t happen.

After tucking the children into bed I asked Dan if he remembered what day it was. He did. He simply didn’t think it was a big deal.

Wrong answer. Wrong attitude.

And, in no uncertain terms I let him know how inconsiderate he had been. But the main point I wanted to make was the message he sent to our children.

Children take their cues from the most important people in their lives, their parents. I felt that by placing so little concern for a day intended to celebrate the importance of motherhood was making a statement to the children that I didn’t want conveyed.

It was hurtful to me that Dan had ignored the opportunity to tell me he appreciated all I did to create our haven of peace. But it especially hurt that he didn’t convey to our children the importance of honoring their mother.

Needless to say, Dan went to bed that night feeling properly chastised and ashamed and this neglect was never repeated. In fact, we decided to celebrate as often as possible any little victory, holiday, birthday, anniversary, etc.

Life can be pretty hectic and crazy and special occasions can get lost in the shuffle if careful attention isn’t observed. I remember early in our marriage I was dumbfounded that everyone in our circle of acquaintance and our families didn’t remember our anniversary.

Coming from a family where divorce was rampant and there was rarely ever a wedding anniversary to celebrate, I was ecstatic that I actually had one. I just figured everyone else would be too. I remember Dan telling me that our special day was very special to us and not to be hurt that others didn’t view it in the same regard.

Here’s a little tip that helps with family harmony and happiness.

Never miss an opportunity to celebrate anything.

Just for the sake of honoring one another. Mark the date on your calendar or in your schedule book or iPhone. Take time to make the date a real celebration, if nothing more than cooking that person’s favorite meal or dessert.

Simply sending a physical card can say, “I love you!” or “I care!” or “Congratulations!” in a way that shows you took time to remember.

Our oldest son, Kevin and his wife, Teri, have seven children. That’s a LOT of birthdays, special occasions, school successes, holidays, etc. So they made an agreement with their children they would do a big birthday celebration every other year.

On the off year, they do a small family dinner and gift giving. On the on year, they get a party with friends and family. The exception is special birth years like 10, 13, 16, 18.

Celebrations of life should be taken seriously in a family because it gives the opportunity to show how much you care.

Our son, Jared, has had many years of sobriety but every year, on the date of his commitment to change his life, I send him a card or note to tell him I am proud of him.

It’s important to him so it is important to me.

My birthday is three days before Christmas and as a child I never experienced birthday parties. So for most of our married life, Dan has made my birthday the highlight of my year by taking me to Chicago…my favorite big city….for several days to celebrate.

His taking the time to treat me to this experience each year speaks volumes to me about how much he cares……and it definitely makes up for forgetting Mother’s Day all those Once I worked for a short time as the manager of a big department store.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out it was not a good fit and after about ten months on the job, I quit.

On my last day at work, my family all celebrated in grand style, showing me how happy they were to have me back home.

I felt their love.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it isn’t important to celebrate even the small successes and events of your life. Those traditions and special remembrance make a huge impression on others and make large deposits in your relational bank account!

No one is ever too poor to give a gift of remembrance. Just a warm embrace and a bouquet of dandelions is sufficient if you give them with love and sincerity.

And regardless of what any woman says, she is always dazzled by a gift from the heart! Never. Forget. That!

What opportunities are you missing that could be turned into fun celebrations?

What “unusual” celebrations do you observe in your family that might spark an idea for others?

Are you overlooking the importance of celebrations that your spouse might wish you put in higher priority?

Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism, proposes a new way to choose what we celebrate. What have you been celebrating lately?

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoing time with the most important people in our lives?” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

007: 5 Steps to Fighting Less about Money

Money issues are are the number one cause of marriage problems in North Amercia.

My wife and I are no different.  For a while we both went on with our days, both working outside the home before we had kids and transitioning to a one-income household when our son was born in 2009.

For years we talked way too little about money. I worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder.  She worked hard(er) at home. All of our bills were paid. We didn’t worry.

But we did worry.

She was confident that our bills were going to be paid and that I would work hard.

I was confident that she was frugal in nature and wouldn’t spend more than we made.

We both knew how much was coming into the house and we had a general sense of the disposable income.

But she was stressed out because we never talked about how much savings we had, how much we could save every month.

So she didn’t really have a clear picture of our financial situation.

And I was stressed because I didn’t have a full grasp of the day-to-day expenses or some other purchases, so in my mind I was nervous about making more to take care of our family’s expenses and still save up for things like college and to eat more than ramen noodles during retirement….

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.52.01 PM Because this is such an important issue I reached out to Derek and Carrie Olsen who blog at Better Conversations on Money & Marriage to see if they could help us work through this important topic.  I’m a loyal listener of their awesome podcast by the same name and knew they would add incredible content with flair if they would agree to be on the show.

Lucky for us, they were game!

Derek and Carrie help people have better conversations on money.  And that helps people have better marriages.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 6.06.45 PMDerek and Carrie offered to talk with me about a five-step process to fighting less about money that they dive deep into in their upcoming book, One Bed, One Bank Account: Better Conversations on Money and Marriage that is up for presale on Amazon as an ebook and also as a great presale deal on their site where you can get the book, workbook, and audio book.

And if you head on over before the end of January 2015 they have a really great preorder special discount price and some special bonus items!

Definitely check it out.  Everything Derek and Carrie produce is super high quality.  And the topic is a really important part of having a successful marriage!

And they even called me out on each of these steps and helped me work through my issues talking better about money with my wife!

OK.  For those of you who prefer the printed word, here are the Five Steps to Fighting Less about Money.

1. Set the date

This is a great one. Set a date to talk about money. Setting a time when you’re not just getting home from work or in the middle of the mall with sparkly object syndrome. Set a date where you can sit and talk about money issues before they become a problem.

We definitely need to work on this one. We’re getting better, but it’s definitely something we need to become more regular about.

2. Be an Amazing Listener

I’m terrible at this. Again, getting better, but it’s so important to listen intently at what your spouse is saying, why they’re saying it, and only then respond. Sometimes – too many times – I’ll get all wrapped up in the emotions of a money issue that I’ll stop listening. Listening to what your spouse is saying helps put you in their shoes and understand them better, which helps you connect better, respond better, and reach a common ground.

3. Let go

Couples, including me, have a hard time letting go even when they’ve made a decision or compromised on a money issue.  When you and your spouse have agreed on something, move on. Let go. Boy could I use help with this.

4. Design your shared vision

This is powerful and involves planning together for a common ground that you both take ownership in. For nearly a decade my wife and I had totally different visions of our future. Mine was all high rises and law firms. Hers was family and single-family homes.

But in May 2013 I spent some time in the suburbs with Dan and Joanne Miller and was just blown away at how I had been wrong for so many years. I immediately shared my wife’s vision. Six months later, we were driving behind a moving van. Out of the city. To Massachusetts. To be with family. It’s powerful.

5. Have a Brain Hurricane for solutions instead of focusing on a “problem.”

Take turns saying creative, silly, or even outride ridiculous ways to solve a money problem. Being silly will help you both smile, unfold your arms, and may even reveal a solution that would actually work. In any event, having a Brain Hurricane of powerful, solution-focused talk gets you out of fight mode.

So there you go. Five steps to fighting less about money.  Thanks so much to Derek and Carrie Olsen for walking me through these.

Be sure to connect with them on their blog or podcast and be sure to check out their book, One Bed, One Bank Account:Better Conversations on Money and Marriage,  which is on presale until the end of January 2015 on their site or, if you’re only looking for the e-book, on Amazon.  It expires at the end of January 2015, so if you’re on the fence it’s time to make a decision…. Fences are pointy.

What’s Your Mission? How to Create Family Harmony This Year.

In the final post of 2014 I’m super excited to bring you another post by Joanne Miller where she brings you behind the scenes for another look into the Miller household and how she and Dan created an environment of peace and raised three awesome kids who are doing the same with their families!  This is another post I’m going to take action on right away in the Pavlidis household!  If you do, too, I’d love for you to share your mission statement in the comments or email it to me along with brief reflections on the creation process for a guest post!

How to Create Famly Harmony This Year.In a few days it will be a New Year.

Much like the season of Spring, the New Year is a time of new beginnings.  Many people set goals, rules and boundaries this time of year.  One of the most important areas to strive for success is in family dynamics.

Whether you have children or not, setting some ground rules for what you want to achieve in relational harmony is a major key to creating a haven of peace in your home.

One way we helped prevent arguments and fighting was to draw up a Family Mission Statement.  Many years ago I found a magazine article that included a mission statement I thought embraced our philosophy. 

We had a family meeting to talk about it and each of us agreed it was what we believed in and wanted for our home. 

Because all family members agreed on this philosophy, when someone did something that violated that mission statement, whether it was one of the parents or a child, instead of being accusatory or angry, all we needed to ask was, “Was what you did (or said) in line with our family mission statement?”

It took everyone out of the hot seat in being the judge and jury, encouraging each of us to be responsible for our actions and behavior.

So how do you come up with a family mission statement?

I suggest you call everyone together for a family meeting. 

We used to have them at least once a month.  It was a time to talk about grievances, frustrations, disappointments, accomplishments, desires, family vacations, schedules, rules, expectations, etc. 

Sometimes these meetings were serious and covered some important issues and sometimes they were just crazy fun.  But it was definitely a time to communicate freely without fear of condemnation or judgement. 

It was our SAFE PLACE  

Ask each child to submit his/her ideas for consideration in adopting a mission statement.  It doesn’t matter how long or involved it is. The important issue here is that you all agree on it wholeheartedly so if it is violated (and it will be), the parent or child will know he/she is wrong and has no one to blame but themselves. 

Let me give you another hint on how to make this work well in your home.  Don’t laugh. 

Write or print out the Statement and tape it next to the toilet in every bathroom of the house. 

Seriously.  It really works.

I meticulously hand-wrote in a crude form of calligraphy our Statement and took it to a printer to have laminated, then thumb-tacked it beside the toilet paper roll in the main bathroom of our house. 

Kids memorize easily and if something is where they see it many times during the day for days on end….they will memorize it.  Stick it on mirrors, the refrigerator….whatever works….but know that it is important it becomes ingrained in their minds so when someone abuses the rules they know immediately they are guilty. 

And don’t be at all surprised if your five-year-old brings it to your attention if you have let something slip that violates what she has memorized!

Here is the Miller Family Mission Statement that greatly influenced the interaction in our home  

Perhaps it will help you formulate your own code of conduct and make this New Year a more peaceful setting in the most important environment of all…..your home. 

A Safe Place

In a safe place, people are kind.

Sarcasm, fighting, back-biting and name-calling are exceptions.

Kindness, consideration and forgiveness are the way of life.

In a safe place there is laughter.

Not just the canned laughter of television,

but real laughter that comes from sharing meaningful work and play.

In a safe place there are rules.

The rules are few and fair

and are made by the people who live and work there,

including the children.

In a safe place people listen to one another.

They care about one another and show that they do.

Please God, make this a safe place.


Excerpt from Turnabout Children by Mary MacCracken

Joanne Miller has been happily married for over four decades to career coach and author Dan Miller (48 Days To the Work You Love).

In her new book, Be Your Finest Art, you will find more ideas about how to be a better communicator and listener and how playing games creates great memories and family time. This book is full of color and art and is a unique and beautiful gift for that special someone as we approach St. Valentine’s Day or just to say “I love you.”

She has also authored four children’s books, which my kids LOVE. She and Dan have three grown children and twelve grandchildren and lots of years living the entrepreneurial roller-coaster life of adventure!