Driving home along the Crosstown Expressway in Corpus Christi requires a few lane changes. I use my turn signal a second or two before I look over my shoulder letting others know what I plan to do, check my mirrors, check my blindspot, and if it all looks clear, I make my lane change. However, as I’m making my move, another car merges into the same lane where I’m going. I saw the car the whole time. The driver never used her turn signal. Besides the shock of her car coming at me, how else was I supposed to know she was making a lane change that could have wrecked us?
The near miss does not stop there. As she passes me, I can see her giving dirty looks and waving her arms at me angry about what just happened. She is mad at me! Did she really expect me to know she was making her lane change even though she made no attempt to communicate her intention to me?
It’s courteous and safe to communicate our intentions while driving so that others around us can react, respond, and adjust their own driving paths. Relationships, especially marriages, are no different. What I just described may actually have reminded you of your marriage. Every decision we make is a lane change, and if we are not mindful to communicate our changes we risk clashing with our spouse who is also making lane changes.
“People change, and they often forget to tell their spouses,” Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations.
Here is a list of eight areas in relationships we should regularly use our turn signals and communicate our lane changes
1. Money, retirement, investing
I have never heard of relationships that had money fights over a carefully planned and executed budget. Where I have seen couples go to verbal blows and cheap shots is when one or both of spouses does an unexpected lane change with the finances. Relationships, especially marriages, have ended over disagreements on how money is used.
One friend of mine was notorious for cleaning out the checking account to purchase a new piece of equipment for his business. His noble intentions were about providing for his family. The problem was that he never communicated his intentions to his wife, so imagine her surprise when she would buy groceries for the family that same day when the account was cleared.
Dave Ramsey, host of the Dave Ramsey Show
and author of The Total Money Makeover
, advises couples should have a trigger amount where they must communicate with each other before spending that amount. For Dave and his wife, they never spend more than $300 without first talking with each other. That same discussion happened for Olivia and I at $40 when we were earning an income half of what we earn today. It’s actually time for Olivia and I to have that conversation again and reset our number.
We have other discussions around money, too.
- There is the biweekly check-in on how much we have after our bills on payday
- Where we are after one week from payday, and
- When we have $200 remaining in the checking account (This is my favorite.)
That $200 warning from Olivia has been a life saver for us. It lets us know to stop frivolous spending. At the $200 mark, we buy gas and groceries only until the next payday. Our commitment is sack lunches to work, saying no to unnecessary spending. Our wants wait until the next payday. That communication and decision prevents us from dipping into our savings account. Our finances have a long way to go, however implementing these four turn signals have been a blessing on our marriage giving us peace of mind. If people in relationships fight over disagreements in money, doesn’t it make sense to have regular discussions that avert collisions rather than avoid these discussions?
2. Quitting your job and other career changes
Quitting your job is a spinoff of a money talk. Many men I know have an issue with pride. We have to be the tough guy at work. We cannot appear weak, especially when it comes to complying with an abusive or incompetent leader. When you add a difficult boss into the mix, that pride gets challenged every day. No matter how hard we work, it is never good enough for that bad boss. I’m not saying that you have to work for a bad boss. No one deserves to be abused on any level. There are men I know of, however, who will quit their jobs at the drop of a hat when their pride is challenged, and they do it regularly.
That kind of financial roller coaster puts relationships on a stressful edge of uncertainty. If your current work place is so terrible and your attempts to make your work relationships better have failed, then let your spouse know work sucks, continue to honor your workplace with the work you do, and look for a new place of employment either in the same company or elsewhere.
Other career changes are worth talking about as well. Promotions are easy, “Honey, we got a promotion! We’re getting paid more to do what I was doing already. I may have to work extra hours though.” What lane changes will your spouse need to make now that you have to work extra hours, assuming you would have to work extra hours? What money discussions will you need to cover? Promotions are a double-edged sword for relationships.
What if that promotion or career change requires relocation to another city? A couple years ago, I had an opportunity to work as an instructional designer for Houston Community College. Within weeks, my family would need to pack, relocate, and enroll in new schools. Did I mention this was in December? Christmas!
I passed up on the opportunity. My lane change would have been a decent move for my career. It would have thrown my family into drastic lane changes. Their dreams for the next five years were set in Corpus Christi. Their friends and family were in Corpus Christi. They weren’t given time to think about possibilities in Houston. Relationships need communication that allows enough time for adjustments. It’s the difference between using your turn signal seconds before you make your lane change and turning on your signal as you’re already making the move.
We decided as a family to hold out for the right career opportunity in Corpus, and it turned up a few months later.
Keep your family in mind, and talk it out with your spouse so you are in this together. I’ll forgive you for blind-siding a stranger. You owe a stranger nothing. You should never blind-side your wife with something like this.
3. Raising the children or having children
You and your wife are two different people, and may have two completely different perspectives on how the children should be raised. Meanwhile, if you haven’t noticed by now, your children have agendas of their own. Communicate your plans and strategy with your spouse so your children get some consistency from both of you. One thing we stopped early in our kids’ lives was their ability to get a yes out of the one parent after they had already been told no by the other.
Our son is at that dating age. Olivia and I have two different approaches to how we should guide him through this. The spectrum ranges from hovering over every move at one end, and educate him, equip him, and let him decide what to do at the other end. This area is a work-in-progress. What is important is that Olivia and I are communicating about how to coach healthy relationships for our son. We’re not exactly on the same page, but we are definitely in the same chapter, I believe.
You also need to be on the same page about how to handle bullying whether your child is acting as the bully or being bullied. How will you approach the issue of teen sexting? How will you prepare your children for college? How will you handle any other crisis as it arises? Preferably, you want to have these discussions between you and your spouse first before you ever encounter some of these issues. Be on the same page when these lane changes occur. They will occur.
4. Coming home late or leaving work early
There have been times when I needed to stay a little later at the office. There have been times when my staying at the office late without sharing the news with anyone meant a cold dinner, a missed date opportunity with my wife, or Olivia having to jump through hoops to pick up a child I had agreed to pick up. Communicate this lane change as early as possible so your partner can make the lane changes she needs to make as well. She’ll be bummed you’re coming home later, but will appreciate the courtesy call. Relationships thrive off consistent, positive communication whether the topics seems big or small. It’s all important.
5. Dreams and goals
All your turn signals do not have to be on the dark side of life. Dream together and dream often. Your dreams change and shift as you grow. It’s okay if they change. It’s a sign that you’re learning more about yourself, the world around you, and dreaming is a way of exploring where your place in that world will look like in the future.
Problem arise in relationships when you have been talking about one direction for years, then shift gears and make a lane change to a different route altogether. We’re not driving to San Antonio any more! I want to take us to New York City! The time constraints are different. The money requirements are different. The vehicle will be different. Success, the destination, will look different.
Also, your partner may recognize a gift within you that you are not aware of. Dreaming together helps find out what that is.
Just like talking about your dreams and goals, talk about your vacation plans. What would you like to do together? What is the budget? Does your spouse still want to go to Walt Disney World, or is she feeling something else? Maybe there is a usual vacation stop you do every year and this year she would like to go somewhere different. Maybe you just signed your children up for a new extracurricular activity and it will interfere with your original timeline for vacation. That happens to us all the time.
I just wanted to get a point in here that if Olivia mentions Cancun Mexican Restaurant, and she has already determined in her own mind that we aren’t going there, I need to know ASAP! My mind is already there daydreaming about their carne asada tacos with cilantro, onions, and their green jalapeno sauce as well as their chips and salsa. I’m there right now.
8. Date night
Why do you need to regularly talk about date night? Because you need to regularly go on date night! People in marriage relationships need to proactively think and talk about date night, or they’ll find themselves in a rut about what date night looks like.
If you’re going to the same restaurant followed by walking through Barnes and Noble on every date, then you probably need to talk about doing something different that will provoke learning about your partner. You can get inexpensive, fun ideas from this book, Dates on a Dime
. Buy a copy from Amazon by clicking on that title. We also recently held a drawing for a conversation starter book from the same series, Coffee Dates for Couples
What did you think about my list? What would you add, why? Comment below and share this post with your family and friends.