12 Ways My Wife Quietly Makes Our Life Work

2007-2008 036Quite often on The Simple Dollar, I’ll discuss some aspect of my personal finance life and I’ll say that “I” did this or that “I” did that.

Well, for every mention of the word “I,” my wife is there in the background, doing something little to make sure it all happens. She’ll cook a great meal, do something amazing for our kids, come up with a plan for some purchase we have to make, or simply be there in the moment with a great smile and a hug.

It’s pretty simple – without Sarah in my life, I would never be able to reach for my dreams. She provides so much of the foundation of our day-to-day life in many subtle ways – and, from my perspective, it is these subtle things that build the foundation of a strong, financially stable marriage.

Here are twelve little things that she does to make it all work. If you want a checklist of little things to do to help your marriage click, this can seriously help.

She listens. When I have something to say that’s actually of any importance, she listens. She stops and considers what I have to say, and she incorporates that into what she’s thinking. She doesn’t simply discard it, but she doesn’t adopt it as gospel, either – she simply listens and actually absorbs my thoughts.

She’s not afraid to say what she thinks. On the other side of that coin, she’s not afraid to say exactly what she thinks. If she thinks I have a good idea, she’ll say so – but if she thinks it’s bad, she’ll say that, too, and support it with reasons. Such open and equal give and take enables us to constantly come to the best decisions for us – in our money, in our work, and in other aspects of our lives.

She’s honest about her mistakes. No one is perfect, and neither is she. However, when she does mess up, she’s willing to admit it. She’ll say things like, “I just didn’t get it done. Sometimes I’m lazier than I’d like to be.” That simple effort in admitting to mistakes makes it much, much easier for us to work together to overcome the problem.

She picks up the slack when I leave it behind. On the other side of that coin, there are often times where some responsibility of mine will interrupt things. I have a phone interview. I have a television interview. I need to get a piece of writing submitted somewhere. Whenever these things occur, Sarah always just steps up. She knows that if I succeed, she succeeds – and I know the reverse is true.

She’ll go over things as many times as I need to. Sometimes I don’t pick up on things. I’ll put things in the wrong place in the pantry. I’ll not get the towels washed, or I’ll forget to use the cold rinse on the cloth diapers. Instead of going ballistic, she just checks to see if I did things the appropriate way and, if I did not, she just reminds me of how to do it. She does it so coolly and calmly that the only upset I feel is at myself for not picking up on the right way to do things.

She has a good sense of humor and a lot of tolerance of my own foibles. Along those same lines, she just rolls with who I am. She laughs at (or at least tolerates) my goofy jokes. She knows the things I’m good at and the things I’m not good at – and worries more about accentuating the positive instead of eliminating the negative.

She understands and is committed to spending less than we earn. We sit down and talk about our financial goals all the time – and she’s similarly committed to putting our financial life on a good path. Thus, our choices are in sync – I’m not worried that she’s out there spending money in ways that are undoing my work – and vice versa.

She’ll make good career suggestions – but isn’t hurt if I don’t take them. My wife reads The Simple Dollar and often has suggestions for improvements on it – ways to market it, post ideas, and so forth. (She also sometimes laughs at the things I do to protect people’s privacy.)

She encourages me to grow – and makes room for it. She gives me breathing room for my hobbies and gives me “alone time” when I need it. That “me” time is the time I use for reading, meditating, and personal growth – which are all key for keeping me sane.

If something is clearly a good deal, she’s enthusiastic about pursuing it. She does almost all of the real nitty-gritty bargain hunting when we make major purchases. She also is the one who will find new and useful ways to expand our search and comes up with good criteria to search on. For example, with our car purchase, she was the one who suggested that we include new cars in the search, which eventually led us to discover that in the current car market new cars have tremendous advantages.

She’s there beside me when things are good and when things are bad. When something good happens, she’s there. When something bad happens, she’s there. She doesn’t back away, regardless of how things are doing. She’s just a steady constant, because she knows that we’re going to be there for each other no matter what happens.

She revels in the simple things in life. It doesn’t require an expensive gift or a fancy dinner to impress her – in fact, she’s happy with a spaghetti dinner and a potted plant for Mother’s Day. She’d far rather lay out on the grass or play with the kids than go out on the town or go shopping.

All together, she makes this crazy ride work. And for that, I’m forever thankful.

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80 thoughts on “12 Ways My Wife Quietly Makes Our Life Work

  1. Gwen says:

    What a nice tribute. I am also married and have found that having someone close that supports you in your financial goals is a real help.

  2. Carrie says:

    How sweet! Looks like I should stop looking for a husband and start looking for a wife instead. :D

  3. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    She sounds great. Congrats. I would echo all those sentiments about my own wife. Everything I would do would be harder if I didn’t have her.

  4. sylrayj says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and often feel that I’m invisible. In a lot of ways I appear to be, so it’s good to read that even these things that don’t directly add to the paycheque add to quality of life and to my husband’s paycheque.

  5. You’re a blessed man for having such a supportive wife, and she’s a blessed woman for having a husband who sees and appreciates her contributions.

  6. NMPatricia says:

    “She knows that if I succeed, she succeeds – and I know the reverse is true.”

    What a great line. What a grand basis for a marriage.

  7. Carrie says:

    How thoughtful of you to recognize all that your wife brings to the table.

  8. Dr. Faith says:

    @Carrie – After talking to a lot of the guys in my office I’m CONVINCED that I need a wife as well!

  9. J.D. says:

    Great post, Trent. Great post.

  10. Marcy says:

    Bravo Trent on a beautiful love letter to your wife. The two of you are blessed to have each other.

  11. Kathi says:

    Nice, and, @Carrie-seems to me these things are what any husband OR wife can do to make a marriage work. Nothing sexist about it.

  12. Daniel says:

    Trent, you are a kind, good hearted man and you love your wife. But your are a chauvinist, and your attitude to your wife is demeaning. You are saying that without her you would never be able to reach for your dreams, this is great. But what about her dreams? What if they go beyond cooking a great meal or doing something amazing with the kids? Look back at the “twelve little things” and see how patronising and belittling they are: “When I have something to say that’s actually of any importance, she listens” are you a Biblical patriarch or something? Or this one: “She knows that if I succeed, she succeeds” – how comforting it must be for your wife to know that her success in life depends on yours, she has no responsibility for her own success, in life, it is enough if she supports you.
    Why do you think that your wife is inferior to you? Did you ever consider what would happen if you gave her the space and the financial support to be creative? How about you picking up a nine to five job to let your wife write her book? Your wife steps in when you have an interview, but did you consider that she has the same right as you to lead a creative life?
    I am writing this as a man who, just like you Trent, is bound by prejudice about the role of the woman in my life. It is a constant struggle and endless battle against conventional wisdom, but if you want to live as two equals, this battle needs to be fought.
    In most relationship, one side slowly suffocates and deadens the other. Do not make your relationship go down this route.

  13. SMG says:

    Nice tribute to your wife!

  14. Deb says:

    HOw lucky she is to have someone who really apreciates her and is willing to tell her that.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Awwww, that’s so touching! I hope that if I get married someday that I will be like your wife. Thanks for sharing!

  16. jo martin says:

    Sarah has one of the most beautiful, loving smiles I’ve seen in a long time. Your whole tribute to her shines in her face!

  17. Karen says:

    Good on your wife for being so awesome, and good on you for noticing. :) Great post – print it out and save it for your kids someday. It’s a keeper.

  18. Amy D of Tightwad Gazette fame also wrote about how powerful 2 people working together can be.

  19. Steven says:

    Awesome post. The thing is you can not know that before marriage. If choosing and managing credit cards and your financial life is 25% important then 99% goes to family (wife and kids). Having a good family will be the most best investment you have ever made.

    If you find my first paragraph true, why don`t you share how to find Ms RIGHT.. :)

  20. Jack says:

    Your a smart man Trent

  21. Holly says:

    This is a great tribute, as the others said. Too often when one spouse wants to get the finances in control, the other just isn’t willing to get on board. The results are disastrous, as I can say from personal experience. Kudos for noticing all she does.

  22. Joseph says:

    you’re so getting laid after this post

  23. Joey says:

    Good entry.

  24. A says:

    You left out the important part, the one about her having the steady paycheck and carrying the benefits so you can afford to do what you do.

  25. faceless says:

    No two marriages are the same.

    Most of the time, it can be summed up as:
    “If you like being criticized, you’ll love being married.”

    If you have something better, you are sure a lucky man.

  26. Alexis says:

    And what about the things that YOU do to make your marriage work?

  27. gic says:

    Wonderful post Trent..My sincere congratulations.
    And perhaps we can have a similar guest post from your wife about the things you do to support her, to make her life work? ;) That way us girls can stop looking for wives ;)

  28. Dan says:

    A good wife is a gift from God, more valuable than rubies or gold. A man needs a strong woman beside him.

  29. Rob says:

    This is called true love.

  30. This was very thoughtful, and I know your wife appreciates it. I think many people don’t realize how important it is to be on the same page as a couple in order for marriage to work. I hope to have this kind of solid foundation, when I get married.

  31. eh438 says:

    Dear Trent, I had been wondering if (when!) I’d see a column by you on this subject. Glad you wrote it and posted it. [Way to go, Sarah. You obviously have patience, tolerance, compassion, a sense of humor, faith, lots more. Reading between the lines, I imagine Trent can be a tad OC or insecure sometimes.] Bless you both.

  32. Brittney says:

    A very nice tribute…and you’re right; a great checklist! My husband certainly wouldn’t complain if I worked on a few more of those things :)

  33. Maestra says:

    I agree w/all the comments! Everything was already said! I just would like to emphasize the fact that you notice your wife’s work is really awesome! It is rare (I think) that guys have that ability to perceive/appreciate wives working at home.Personally, my husband is a great guy; however, I don’t think he appreciates my working full-time; preparing gourmet dinners almost everyday; grocery (always bargain) shopping; AND raising 4 boys… He thinks that since he (attorney) provides financially more than me (teacher), it evens up our responsibilities. Oh well, perhaps one of your future posts could show a mathematical expression of work (of people like us)put into a marriage…Again, congrats on your marriage :)

  34. David says:

    It was said before, but this is a great love letter.

  35. Michael says:

    “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.” -Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

  36. Michelle says:

    I love this post!

  37. Peggy says:

    I’m impressed. Not only do you appreciate your helpmate, you actually put it out there for everyone to see. Sometimes, we all wonder if the little things are noticed. Thank you for noticing.

  38. Beth says:

    @ Michael — That quote only works when you have an ally. Alas, in many cases marriage is a matter of sleeping with the enemy instead!

    I thought this was sweet. I’ve seen Trent take a lot of flack for how he talks about single people, but I think he realizes just how lucky he is. Not all of us are so lucky.

  39. yvonne says:

    If we could all feel this appreciation and as importantly say what we feel our relationships would all be much happier. I believe we can all be much happier and raise happier children.

    GREAT JOB TRENT!!

  40. Lauren says:

    Wow! Sarah is an amazing woman! What a great tribute!

  41. Elizabeth Morano says:

    Great granting of credit where it is due…except for referring to these actions and qualities as “little.” Perhaps it’s one of those qualifiers which can creep into your writing in search of a colloquial tone (e.g. bit, quite, just)–fine for general info, but not here. Your wife sounds AMAZING and it’s to your credit that you recognize it, appreciate it, and can express it publicly. Impressive.

  42. PS says:

    Somehow, I have a feeling that you guys will break up. Believe me, I really really want you guys to be together for the amount of love you guys share, as is evident from this post. But the other person can take things that they really don’t like only to a certain extent. Like the home detergent or cloth diapers. Just remember one thing though..

    Nothing comes for nothing. But how much is enough…

  43. Carole says:

    Besides the reasons you gave for staying married, hopefully happily married or reasonably so, it saves a lot of money. Dividing one’s assets and possibly paying child support is costly in a material sense. Of course, there are sometimes no alternatives, but in borderline situations it might be worth it to stay married.

  44. Srinivas Rao says:

    Definitely an indication of the power of an effective team. Great post.

  45. What a wonderful love letter.

    My husband and I are living thrifty and I am always thankful that we are on the same page. So many of our friends and family are spenders, it can be hard to be a saver.

  46. salsaram says:

    Trent, this is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for putting it up. As a therapist, I see many people that forget to thank their partner for the little things and it can kill a relationship. This is a wonderful tribute!

  47. dugnjes says:

    Thanks for a great post. It’s important to hear specifically what we love about each other, and it builds both parties up. This is how I feel about my wife. A great marriage sure beats whatever’s in second place!

  48. Tawnya says:

    As a counselor, I’ve worked with couples to restore their marriage. One of the first things we work on is getting them to see the positive aspects of the other. When the relationship has been soured for a while and bitterness has set in, this can be quite difficult to do.

    However, in all marriages, it is our own responsibility to turn our hearts TOWARD our spouse. This is an essential ingredient for making marriage work.

    Trent, it looks like you and your wife already have this as part of your relationship. Good for you!

    For others who wish they had this, consider the exercises in John Gottman’s “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” as a starting point for stirring this up in your own relationship.

  49. Paul says:

    I salute you!

  50. Sunshine says:

    Awwwwww

    Great, great post. A good reminder to appreciate what my spouse does for me.

  51. tentaculistic says:

    This is a really wonderful post, I have a big sappy grin on my face. So many men seem to think that tenderness and affection should only go on behind closed doors, and in public they should joke about their wives as a ball and chain, etc. Thanks for having the courage to publish such a wonderful love letter.

    This reminds me of when I first got married, I found that I was being critical of little things, and feeling like a martyr for everything I do (and missing all he did). I signed up for a daily email from http://www.The-Generous-Wife.com, and it’s really helped me remember that our marriage is sweetest when I make consistent little efforts to appreciate and bless my wonderful husband. Kindness and thanks really do go so far to keep a marriage sweet.

  52. Sue says:

    Your wife sounds like a saint! It’s nice to know that all it takes to be a good wife is to always, always listen, don’t say too much, be first to accept blame, play yourself down, brush off his mistakes, always be there to take care of his responsibilities in case he wants to do something else instead, don’t expect too much attention, always be there waiting to support him if he wants it…and most importantly. don’t get any uppity expectations about gifts or other gestures on mother’s day or other special occasions. Sweet!

  53. Mike says:

    Beautiful tribute. You are a lucky man with an even luckier wife!

    -mike

  54. JenniB says:

    And she is gorgeous too!

  55. Charlotte says:

    Trent,

    Great post! So much romance has been attributed to marriage that we forget that it is more than just romance. Marriage is a partnership, a team. Just like when animals pair up for hunting, we humans perform better with a partner.

    -Charlotte

  56. joan says:

    Let’s hear from your wife 12 ways my husband quietly makes our life work. From this post it sounds like she does 75 percent of the work making the relationship work. When does she get her alone time? I think Sue comment #30 really got the message you were trying to make.

  57. Alicia says:

    Sounds like a match made in heaven! It is easier to live simply when two people have the same goals and strive towards them. I do like that she isn’t afraid to tell you what she thinks! Hopefully one day I will have a marriage as happy as yours :-)

  58. Leah says:

    What a fabulous list! That’s how I feel about my boyfriend too (8 months so far, but we’re already on this type of path), and your list reminds me just how lucky I am to have him.

    I am often blown away by how little people talk about their financial goals. Thanks to blogs like yours and JD’s, my boyfriend and I frequently have the “money talk” to make sure we’ve got the same ideas about how to spend money even though we’ve got separate bank accounts and residences.

  59. Tom says:

    Sue and Joan:
    While I do think that this was an sweet post, I can see how you might be inclined to walk away with that view. I’d be willing to bet that the list is actually much lengthier than a mere twelve and probably orders of magnitude larger. A fact that might make the “75% of the work” seem a gross underestimation. However, that isn’t the point of the whole affair. The point is that Trent sees and acknoledges the way his wife makes life for him and for his family better. While you don’t see such a list from Sarah, I’d further be willing to bet that such a list could be made and posted with little effort on her part.

    Good post and keep up the work.

  60. Bonnie says:

    This is a lovely post. I was drawn to the photo and clicked on it to get a larger picture which took me to the flickr site. I think someone has left an inappropriate comment on the photo.

  61. Bob says:

    Dude you are so whipped.

  62. Dana Booth says:

    Beautiful.

  63. Dan says:

    hey..uh…Trent…

    sounds like you did something bad….did this tribute make up for it with her? hehehe

  64. Suzanne says:

    I, and I’d be willing to bet Sarah too, thank you for showing your appreciation here on TSD. I’d be willing to bet you do a pretty good job at showing her appreciation in real life as well. What a beautiful and blessed marriage you have.

    LOL to Carrie on comment #2. How true!

  65. Steve says:

    Trent, thanks for expressing so much appreciation for the wonderful wife you have got. We don’t tell people how much we appreciate them often enough or ever. So, this is great.

    @Sue (comment#30), I don’t believe Trent is saying his wife is a saint, or she is just a pushover, or weak, etc. Instead, I am seeing several things. First, it takes an amazing amount of strength and wonderful temperament, to pick up or cover for other people’s weaknesses without making a fuss about it. It is strength, not weakness. It takes great character, to be the unsung hero… Trent gets all the praise, the wife generally doesn’t, but she is just as great a contributor. I would not characterize her as weak. I happen to have a great girlfriend, and I know we will both be successful at some point, but I owe (or will owe) my success to her presence.

    Second point, Trent is admitting that he is not perfect, that he needs a lot of support to accomplish whatever he does accomplish; that he would not have been anywhere close to where he is without his wife. I see humility in that.

    Sorry, for the long comment, but I thought Trent did a wonderful job thanking his wife, and it should not be construed as great wives are that way because they are weak; they are strong. I think it goes both way,… great husbands can do all those things that Trent listed – I think he does them too ;-)

  66. Erin says:

    It sounds like you are both very lucky to have great spouses. It’s so nice that you acknowledged your wife in this way.

  67. Sue says:

    I have no doubt that Trent’s wife is a very strong and amazing woman. That much is perfectly clear. To Trent’s defense, it takes guts to write about yourself and especially your loved one–and so I meant my counter point partially in jest. But as a reader of this blog and a wife myself, I am compelled to say what I suspect many women are thinking: though she may be “quiet,” there is nothing “little” or “simple” about his wife’s contributions.

  68. Torsten says:

    @Sarah,

    deep regards for being such a pleasant mate for your man. There’s not a whole lot of people who manage to teamplay that well. The fact alone that Trent came to come aware of that and it urged him to express his appreciation shows that what you do really something that earns appreciation. My deep regards again for that!

  69. Rachel says:

    I think that the beauty of this piece is what superficially comes across as one-sidedness – I’m sure that your wife read this and thought “I do all THAT???”, and that if she were to write a complementing piece about you it would look as though you do most of the work.

    Often, when my husband compliments me or thanks me for something I’ve done, it’s been for things that have taken such little effort on my part and made such a big difference to him. That’s what is so wonderful about being in a healthy relationship of this type, each can offer the other things that they would not be able to do as easily (if at all) themselves.

  70. SA says:

    A beautiful post- when you are mindful and grateful for all that you have, you take care of it. It makes me feel great as I too am a stay at home and was wondering how I contribute to my husband’s success. I also have picked up on things we can work on together. I am one of those lucky ones. My husband is a very giving man and is there in ways your wife is…but we do not acknowledge his hard work and commitment. Acknowledgement and appreciation is quite important in any relationship. A very feel good post Trent–thank you!

  71. Sunshine says:

    @ Tom – Great response to the naysayers. Much better (and certainly less incendiary) than anything I could have come up with.

  72. Jasileet says:

    That’s really nice.

    Now what are YOU doing in the background for her to make HER DREAMS come true?

  73. kai says:

    @Daniel (comment #12)
    This was a post about ‘How my wife helps our life go easy and supports me’ not ‘How my wife follows her dreams’. Why would you assume that this list is an exhaustive recounting of their relationship? Doubtless it could be turned around, and Trent’s wife could write a ‘How my husband helps our life go well and supports me’ as well, but that is not what this is.

    As for listening when I have something important to say, why do you automatically assume that this means grand orders and pronouncements on the order of a biblical patriach? I would think it to include things being considered, things an opinion is sought on, any standard relationship discussions, and so on. Isn’t ‘listening when I have something I need to say’ a very basis to all friendships? The fact that it goes one way does not mean that it does not also go the other way.

  74. Sarah says:

    You forgot to praise her low self esteem which seems why this phenomenal woman would stay with a man who thinks this is a compliment.

    It’s sad, behind every “great” man there’s a stifled woman eating her dreams.

  75. tammy says:

    What a lovely lovely testament to your wife. It is indeed refreshing to realize there are such women in the world. You are RICH in many ways to have such a wonderful and wise mate

  76. katie says:

    It sounds like you have a secretary, not a wife.

  77. Heather F says:

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely, loving tribute to your wife. I’m flabbergasted at the not-so-nice comments in response, but I guess there will always be people who look for the negative.

  78. Jill F. says:

    This is simply a great post! I am going to e-mail it to my 21 year old son who is looking for a wife. He is a go-getter and I think he is going to go far in life but I keep exhorting him to find a “good” woman who is not a shop-aholic!

    Thanks!

    Jill

  79. Jessica says:

    It is great that you and your wife share such a mutually giving a loving relationship. It is refreshing to read about marriages that work! My husband and I loved this post!

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