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THE MAGIC OF MARRIAGE is that opposites attract. This means that savers are attracted to spenders. Many of my therapy clients are in conflict over spending. A good way to resolve the conflict is to adopt a policy of marital allowance.

Marital allowance occurs when you and your spouse agree to the maximum amount of money either of you can spend on any particular item without approval by the other. When I was first married not only was I broke, but I was also in debt to my fiancé. She is the saver, I am the spender. Our first argument was over $80 I spent on some snow boots. We decided then that the best way to reign in my financial habit was to settle on the amount I could blow without her approval. We agreed on $20. It is still that way 43-plus years later.

The amount of the allowance is almost irrelevant. Some of my clients set theirs at $100, others at $300. The issue is agreement, rules, and follow through.
If you find that financial arguments are commonplace, you may want to consider adopting the policy  of marital allowance. It has worked for me, my clients, and it will probably work for you.


This is my second installment of three on finances. Many of my therapy clients are incumbered with debt. One of the best ways to get out from under debt is to pay-off the debt early.

One of the best ways to pay-off debts early is to focus on the loan payment. When you make a loan payment, the payment goes towards the principle and includes interest. Principle is the part of the loan payment that is applied to what is left of the original loan that you borrowed.

Interest is the amount you pay to a borrowing institution for the privilege of buying down the principle. You must keep paying interest along with the principle until the principle is zero. It stands to reason that if you must pay ex amount in interest, you might as well put as much into the principle as you can each time you pay for the interest. As an added benefit as the loan continues, you pay less interest per month making it cheaper to pay-down the principle.

Paying-off the debt early occurs when you make more than the minimum loan payment. Any amount more than the minimum loan payment you make is automatically applied to the principle which makes paying-off the load early a possibility. If you have a car loan for $30,000, for example, it may take 5 years to pay off the loan making the minimum loan payment. But you can pay-off the loan in half the time if you add a certain extra to the minimum loan payment.

Try to figure out a way to add additional principle to every debt payment you make can since you are already paying for the right to buy own the principle. This will help you get out from under debt sooner.

5/21/21 reports that bad behaviors, especially those that pertain to spending, are among the ten primary reasons that relationships break up. This is the first installment of three blogs on finances. I chose this subject because it has come up a few times this week in my therapy practice.

The best way to get a handle on your finances is to have a budget and then execute that budget. It doesn’t help to plan the work of fiscal responsibility, if you aren’t going to work the plan.

Typically, a plan should include the total income and the total expenses subtracted from each other to create an overall zero balance. I blew off the dust from this one-month budget from years gone-by.

Savings, investing and charity are 10% each of the total income.

​You can set this up in Excel.

If you can get a handle on your finances, you will have one less reason for your relationship to break-up.


The last installment of my four-part series on anxiety is exposure. We can see anxiety’s insidious effect on people by how it impairs our ability to behave by avoidance. When anxiety has its full grip on us, we end up avoiding things that we associate with anxious reactions. For example, if something happened at Walmart that put you in a panic, a natural inclination is to avoid going to Walmart for fear of reliving the anxiety.

One way to prevent anxiety from making us avoid things is by exposure. Facing our fears by exposing ourselves to it can help desensitize us from the associated fear. This gives us the courage to do something we previously avoided.

Gradual exposure is the ideal method. For starters, using the Walmart example, just imagine the anxiety that you think you will experience when you go to Walmart. Then, manage that anxiety. Next, go to the Walmart parking lot and drive off. Then manage that anxiety. Then, walk into a Walmart and walk out. After you manage that anxiety, you will be able to manage the anxiety associated with shopping in a Walmart.

​Managing anxiety by way of gradual exposure to something we are avoiding is a sure-fire way to eclipse anxiety’s grip on us.


This is my second of a four-part series on how to wage war on the four fronts of anxiety: our thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behavior. This time I will be dealing with engaging anxiety on the battlefield of feelings.

Researchers have determined that the best way to circumvent anxiety’s effect on our feelings is to engage in problem solving. Problem solving takes our minds off excessive worry about unrealistic threats by forcing us to think about the underlying problem in a logical, reasoning and rational process of coming up with solutions.

If you Google problem solving, you will find many patterns of steps. But each one should have four main components. First, identify the problem. Second, brainstorm a list of solutions that will have a positive effect on the problem. Third, pick the solution from the list which is most likely to give you what you want. Last, implement your choice and verify that it solved the problem. If at first you don’t succeed, you can return to the list of solutions and keep going back to it until you have been able to verify the problem is solved.

The energy that problem solving invokes is the sworn enemy of anxiety. Who knows? You may even be able to solve the problem of Rubik’s Cube.


This week in counseling, I am treating half of my clients for adult anxiety. Anxiety is the result of unrealistic worry that upsets our thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behavior. I want to address thoughts here.

Some have said that life is only 10% what happens to us and 90% what we tell ourselves about the other 10%. The 90% is self-talk. It can either be positive or negative. The self-talk that causes anxiety is the negative kind. For example, negative self-talk can take the form of, “I tried that before and I can’t do it.” Positive self-talk would be, “This didn’t work the last time I tried it, but I will give it another try. Who knows?” One of the treatments for negative self-talk is to

(1) realize what that negative self-talk is (done best by speaking those thoughts down on paper),

(2) finding the lie behind it,

(3) determining what the actual truth is, and

​(4) replacing the truth with the lie in the form of positive self-talk.

You will experience at least some relief from anxiety with positive self-talk. After all, we are Americans, not Americant’s.


This week in counseling I brought up what I call “The Avenue to Mature Communication.” The idea is that some emotionally immature couples do not enjoy the intimacy that emotionally mature couples do. The first step down the avenue is accountability. Mature couples use communication to take responsibility for their words and deeds. This most often takes the form of requesting input from their spouses on how to improve as a partner and constructing sincere apologies. Immature communicators have no use for these two activities.

The second step down the avenue is vulnerability. Mature communicators are more concerned about NOT bringing up certain subjects than the fear that the subject will backfire on them. Immature communicators will take no such risk and will have a litany of subjects that are unapproachable with their spouses.

The final step down the avenue is empathy. This occurs when emotionally mature couples use communication to take responsibility for the effect they have on one another, intended or otherwise. Generally, the emotionally immature would rather blame someone else for what they say and do, much less take responsibility for the same.

If you join the ranks of those who traffic down the avenue of mature communication when relating to your spouse, you can be assured that you will be using communication to its fullest and reap the relational benefits.


This week in counseling I was struck with how some husbands do not believe they should have to take responsibility for how they make their wives feel if the husband does not intend to offend. It is as if a husband should not have to apologize if he accidentally offends his wife, after all, he did not really mean to. He reasons that it is his wife’s fault if she feels a way that he had not planned.

Empathy is one of the rules of living relationally which occurs when we take responsibility for the total effect we have on others regardless of whether we aim to have the effect them the we did. I am bothered by the effect I have on my wife if the effect is not positive. I do want her to spend the rest of her life being happy that she picked me. Having a negative effect on her (purposed or not) is just the opposite of that which ultimately works against our relationship.

When you think about marriage, specifically, there is hardly anything a spouse can do that does not affect his or her spouse either positively or negatively. So, the next time you elicit a negative effect upon your spouse (intentional or not), take responsibility for that effect and issue a sincere apology, quickly. You will thank yourself for it!


This week in counseling I had to remind a few clients that the past is not much good for anything except to forgive, forget or maybe learn from. Careless communicators will often be accusatory and defensive when they bring up their spouse’s past. Bringing up someone’s past is a way to punish someone. This is hardly something the fosters safe and calm communication.

Couples with poor communication skills often use the past as a weapon. It is highly effective when it comes to shutting down a conversation, or making someone angry, or worse, making him or her feel guilty. Using the past to weaponize your conversations is a surefire conversation killer.

When trying to foster good communication with your spouse, be intentional to not bring up the past unless it is for good. For example, I really loved it when you would… Leave the past where it lies, and your relationship will be the better for it.



The coronavirus has left many people in need of relaxation. I am seeing an uptick in the number of clients who have anxiety due to COVID-19 restrictions. The magic of anxiety is that can affect our thoughts, our feelings and even our bodily functions. One way to beat the effects of anxiety on the body is to employ the three relaxation skills: progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and slow diaphragmatic breathing.

Progressive muscle relaxation involves focusing on different groups of muscle to make them as relaxed as you can. You can start with your feet and progress all the way to your scalp.

Guided imagery is focusing on an image in your mind that brings you peace of mind.

Slow diaphragmatic breathing is when you focus on breathing by making your stomach go up and down instead of your chest. This is how you breathed when you were newly born.

It is best to be rehearsed in relaxation skills long before you need them. It is helpful to practice at lease one of these each day to form the habit and then when anxiety comes to visit, you already have experience on what to do.