My wife, Tami, enjoys decorating and fixing up the kitchen. Several years ago, our once sparkling-white linoleum started to yellow. Over time, dents and cuts appeared. Then a seam began to crack and curl.

A week or two later, Tami fell in love with a cobblestone tile she found. We got a bid on what it would cost to install the tile, and it was beyond our budget. So Tami approached me with the idea that we could lay the tile ourselves.

"We’ve never laid tile," I replied.

"We could learn," she said with a cute, persuasive smile.

The next thing I knew, Tami and I were on our knees pulling up linoleum, spreading grout and laying down tile. For three days, we worked side by side from 8 a.m. to midnight. It was hard and tiring but incredibly rewarding. By the time we finished the job, we knew we were a good team. And the floor looks fantastic.

Opportunities for togetherness

Now every time I walk into our kitchen, I am reminded of the joy of working alongside Tami. Marriage is full of hundreds of ordinary, tiresome tasks. I don’t think anybody loves them, but they have to be done. These tasks keep life moving forward. It makes a lot of sense to use them as opportunities for togetherness.

As I’ve counselled couples over the past 20 years, I’ve found that they seem to naturally resist this area of togetherness. All too often they divide tasks; I suggest they try working together.

Start with two primary areas, finances and chores, which keep your household running day to day. You might be amazed at how a common focus on tasks can bring you closer as a couple.

Money talk

Smart couples talk about money. They are open about where they are financially and where they want to be. Couples who set goals and plan together have a better chance of being happy.

Here are four financial areas to address together:

  • Pay your bills: If you do this, you’re both up-to-date on your financial status, and you can discuss potential problems before they arise.
  • Plan a budget: Most couples without a budget spend more than they earn. This will put pressure on your relationship. Commit to spending less than you earn each month, downsizing your expenses and lifestyle if necessary.
  • Be in agreement on major expenses: As a team, don’t make decisions that affect the budget without both of you being in agreement. Never make a major purchase without talking about it first.
  • Charity: After tithing and paying for major expenses, consider giving to charities, retirement, security (saving for emergencies or unexpected situations) and dreams (short- and long-term). Some experts say that up to 80 per cent of all divorces are the result of financial difficulties. Therefore, manage your finances together – or they may manage you and drive you apart.

Chores

When I try making our queen-size bed by myself, I have a hard time. On one side, I have the blanket hanging too far over, and on the other side, I either pull it too far or not enough. Then I have to go back. . . . It’s frustrating to say the least. But if Tami and I make our bed together, we can do it in a fraction of the time it takes me to do it alone.

The benefit of teamwork enhances any marriage. So clean the house, work in the yard, paint the family room and wash the car – together.

Many household chores seem small, but they take a lot of time and energy. Though division of tasks is sometimes necessary, take every opportunity to do the practical tasks of life side by side. Do the dishes, discipline your children, fold laundry and run errands – with your spouse.


From the April 2006 Focus on the Family magazine. © 2006 Steve Stephens. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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