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Book Jacket

0736916636
Trade Paperback
153 pages
Jul 2005
Harvest House Publishers

The Good Husband's Guide to Balancing Hobbies and Marriage

by Steve Chapman

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview

Excerpt:

1

A Quick Fix

It was a day in late July when I returned home from a trip to our local archery shop. I exited the truck, and on my way into the house I walked by my wife, Annie, who was working in her garden. When she looked up to greet me, the brightly colored feathers on the freshly made dozen arrows I caressed caught her keen eyes. Nodding and looking toward the tight bundle of camopainted aluminum shafts, Annie recognized what they were and spoke with a sweet-yet-concerned tone in her voice.

“Did you need another dozen arrows?”

Suddenly the air was silent. I knew three things in that moment. I knew very well that she was aware of the big bucket in our garage that held the huge number of arrows I had already collected. And I assumed that in her estimation the arrows that were in that bucket probably seemed in perfectly good condition. Second, she was also very much aware that a goodly amount of cash was probably paid for the new dozen. Thus, the understandable motivation behind her question. And third, I knew I had better come up with an answer that made perfect economic sense.

I could have attempted an explanation, for example, that my purchase was a matter of personal safety due to the violent actions generated by the opposing forces inherent in the operational mechanics of the collapsing limbs on a compound bow during a shot. For that reason, the arrow shaft leaving the shelf rest of the bow must be in the best of condition for unfailing performance. The great comfort it would be for her to know that my new, strong, unused, dependable arrows could ultimately contribute to her husband’s safe and unharmed return from the woods would have been a good thing to mention.

Or I could have told her how merciful and humane a well-made shot with a perfectly tuned arrow can be to the deer, and that excellent arrow placement has much to do with the archer’s confidence in his equipment.

I could have said these intelligent things. But no. In a voice that bore a striking resemblance to that of Ernest T. Bass, I blurted out, “Oh yeah, Baby, a feller’s gotta have new straight sticks every year.”

Sadly, my words lacked eloquence and grace, as well as the slightest sign of good sense. Thankfully, Annie didn’t say anything. She just shook her head and went on about her summer-day chore of watering her garden. I went quietly into the house and nursed the sting of what had just happened. The barb of realizing that she harbored a question about my expenditure was painful. However, I did what too many of us guys do when we know our wives are not totally happy about something: I forgot about it. Many weeks later I had to face the fact that Annie had not forgotten.

In mid-October, when we had just finished dining at a local restaurant, the sobering truth about her feelings was revealed. The restaurant was one of those establishments that has a craft shop adjacent to the dining area. I paid the tab and was slipping the receipt into my pocket when I turned around and saw Annie across the room standing at a spinning rack of Christmas ornaments. Hanging off her pretty little hard-working fingers dangled three or four of the sparkling items. I immediately realized that she was planning a purchase. Knowing the extent of the decorations that already filled our attic, I stepped to her side and asked, “What are you doing?”

I’d like to let you believe that my question was delivered with a soft, sweet, understanding tone—the kind that makes a husband sound charming and attractive. However, if words had knives, Annie would have had to have stitches. My voice was elevated, yet subdued enough not to draw a crowd. Translated, I was really saying, “We have enough ornaments already!” However, Annie took my original question at face value and gave an answer that I will never forget. In response to my, “What are you doing?” she said… “I’m buying arrows!”

The blood ran to my feet as the verbal dart I had just thrown bounced off of her answer. Furthermore, there was a chilling air of confidence in her voice that informed me that I would have no problem remembering why she was responding the way she did. I was defenseless.

What did I do? I did what any smart man would do in a moment when he has been stripped of his armor down to his boxers. I went to the truck and waited quietly for her to complete her purchase and join me for the journey home.

“I’m buying arrows” has become my mental reminder through the years that I must show some fairness when it comes to money. Hardly an expenditure goes by that I don’t recall seeing her beautiful-but-piercing green eyes as she turned and spoke to me that day in the restaurant. I honestly admired the bravery that it took for her to let me know she had not forgotten about my arrows. To this day, I continue to appreciate the sense of fairness that her courageous response led me to find.

I can tell you without reservation that of the things I strive to do in order to help Annie not resent my love for my “hobby,” my willingness to be fair when it comes to our money that I spend is probably the most noticeable. It may not be at the very top of the list in terms of importance, as you’ll see later in the book, but it can definitely be an immediately tangible and hopeful sign to a woman that her husband cares about what she thinks. It is from my own personal success that I offer this first helpful tip. Though it could be classified as a “quick fix,” in no way is it temporary. The benefits of it will last a lifetime.

The Equal Cash Method

After our “arrow/ornament” conflict had passed, and I had some time to think about the experience, an idea came to me that has yielded fantastic results. The good news is that it is so simple even the most dense of husbands can do it. (And that includes me!) I relay this idea to you with full confidence that your life as a husband-with-a-hobby will be revolutionized.

The Good Husband’s Principle
Practice “price-tag doubling”

Here’s how the idea works for me: Let’s say that I’m in that big store where hunters and fishermen go to drool over the mountain of goodies on the endless shelves. There I see an item I have to have. For example, the item is a mechanical release for my bow string. I’m now looking at the price tag and it reads “$44.99.” Prior to the arrow/ornament experience, I would have tossed it in the shopping cart, wiped the slurpy juices from my mouth, and headed to the next aisle. Not this time. As I’m deciding if it is the one that will bring me total happiness as an archer, I suddenly hear the echo of, “I’m buying arrows.” At that moment I’m reminded to do what I call Price-Tag Doubling.

Very simply, the numbers on the sticker pasted to the release is no longer $44.99. Now it reads $89.98. Why did the price double? Because I don’t want my wife to hate what I love to do! In order to accomplish this goal, I know that things must be equal between Annie and me when it comes to spending money. Therefore, I quietly say to myself, “If I get this release, I’ll need to go to my wallet or to the bank and take out $45 in cash and give it to Annie when I get home.”

Whenever I have done this, more times than not, she has been so grateful for the fair treatment that she doesn’t even ask what I bought! That is always a nice by-product. The truth is that if I can’t be fair to her in this way for whatever reason (lack of funds, for example), then I know I should not purchase the item.

As I debate with myself in the store, I make a conscious choice either for my marriage or against it. To consider my purchase as any less in importance is to literally weaken my relationship with my wife. If I refuse to consider how she will feel about my investment, as small as it may be, then I will have knowingly put myself first in the matter. And herein lies the greatest danger for any husband who wants to enjoy his hobby free of guilt. When we constantly put our own interests above that of our wives’, we risk sowing the seeds of contempt in her heart for the thing we love to do. If we sow enough of those ill seeds and consistently water them with an unequal usage of money, we will reap the sad harvest of our wives’ resentment.

One important note about the “price-tag doubling” method. Keep in mind that I am not suggesting that it be applied to each and every purchase you make. It works best with items that cost anywhere from a few dollars to perhaps a couple of hundred, depending on your budget capabilities. In no way do I suggest that large items such as fishing boats, motorcycles, airplanes, or any other items of that size and significance be considered as a candidate for this method. Purchasing expensive “toys” such as these should always be talked over and mutually agreed upon.

Since I enacted this method several years ago, it has accomplished two important things in my life as a husband. First, the mental calculations involved with “price-tag doubling” has done wonders in regard to my exercising spend control. I’m a much more careful shopper. Issues such as product quality and finding the best prices have become much more important to me. The second very positive outcome from this method has been that being fair with my wife has won me some real points in the “being the best hubby” contest. And, as any deer hunter knows, “points” are important!

What Women Are Saying

For any husband who may be reading this and thinking you’d like to jack my jaw for even suggesting the idea of “price-tag doubling,” please take a look at the following statements from wives as it pertains to their men, money, and fairness. Their comments are taken from a huge bundle of questionnaires that I collected from outdoorsmen and their wives over a two-year period. The long list of questions they answered included an inquiry about spending. For the wives the question was: If you could say one thing to him about money spent for his hobby/interest, what would you say? I have added some commentary on some of their responses.

I’d like to have money to spend on my desires too, but there are more important needs right now—like our kids. (Wife of a husband who hunts)

Where is the balance? Between our regular monthly expenditures, unexpected things the kids need, and the other usual costs of keeping a family afloat, why does your hobby always have to take the most out of our budget? (Wife of a husband who hunts and fishes)

The stuff you buy is way too expensive. If you’re not competing and winning money while riding, why the need for a [bicycle] frame made of titanium, carbon fiber, etc.? And surely the clothes don’t have to match the frame! (Wife of a bicycling husband)

Obviously this wife considers the expense involved in her mate’s passion for the sport of cycling excessive. There are two opposing dynamics at work in this marriage. If she refuses to appreciate what he loves to do, she runs the risk of pushing him away emotionally. If he fails to appreciate her concern for the funds he outlays for his equipment (his bike cost $3500), he jeopardizes the respect he longs to receive from her. I have to wonder if the bicycle purchase was mutually agreed upon. This couple provides a clear lesson about the value of fairness in the area of money and hobbies.

Think before you spend! (Wife of a deer hunter)

The words in this statement are the type that can come at a man like a set of bear claws. In case you’re asking, “Think about what?” let me give you some help. She wants him to think about: a) Does he need it? b) Can we afford it? c) Can he get through the season without it? On and on the implications of her short sentence go. Admittedly, men are notorious for being unable to read the lines between their wives’ words! A smart husband would hear her statement this way:

Think (She apparently has some feelings about the cost of this item. I wonder what they are?)… before (I must always ask myself this question prior to writing the check and make sure I get an answer.)… you (I have a feeling that the word you means me, and that she thinks me has failed in times past with being smart with money. Have I?)… spend (an action that requires parting with funds that might be needed in another area of family life other than my hobby).
When the price tag is on the higher side, could we talk about it first or at least let me know that you bought something? It’s not so nice to find out later from someone else! (Her husband flies airplanes and operates a ham radio)

Yikes! I detect a crash landing about to happen with this ace if he continues on this course.

I wish you wouldn’t be so impulsive! (Wife of an avid hiker)

Once again, much is said with just a few words. Though I don’t know this couple personally, I know about hiking and the expense involved with obtaining top-notch equipment. It’s amazing how much “lightweight” can cost. You’d think that the heavier the gear, the more dollars it would require to get it. This is not so in the world of the hiker/camper. Amazingly, we can walk into an outfitter’s store and come out with a tent, a stove, a pair of boots, enough freeze-dried meals for a week, and a full set of camping dishes…and the weight of all of it combined might not equal that of the little plastic credit card that was used to buy it. The sad news is that now the debt load is heavy. I have a feeling this wife saw her husband’s propensity for a lack of control over his “wants” and would love to see him “lighten up” on his lust for weightlessness.

You spend more money on hunting than I ever do on shopping! You forget to add up the gas, food, corn, dues, and supplies for every trip! (Wife of a bowhunter)

Let me translate this woman’s sentence for some of you city slickers. First, by “shopping,” she does not mean going to the store for groceries and other household necessities. When she mentions “gas, food, corn, dues, and supplies,” she is referring to… gas for the trips to the hunting ground, food for the entire weekend at the camp, corn for baiting the deer, dues refers to hunting licenses, and the word “every” means he goes hunting more than just a few times each season.

Why does it cost so much to hunt? Why do you have to have more than one gun? (Wife of a deer hunter)

It is very clear that this woman notices how much venison really costs. Annie is aware of it too. I went hunting in Wyoming a few years ago, and my discerning wife counted up the price tag for my 200-pound mule deer that yielded about 80 pounds of meat. Considering the flights, the license, the new rifle I just had to have, and the long list of other little things needed to complete the trip, she came up with around $43.75 per pound. So the answer to why it costs so much to hunt is simple. Women know how to do math! Guys, if we would have just married a gal who failed in school at arithmetic, we’d not have so much trouble! As for the number of guns a fellow needs, the answer to that question is easy as well. Most fellows have two trigger fingers. Good grief…give me a hard question to answer!

Fine! (Her husband loves sport-related competitions in the video game world)

Okay…I’ve heard the word “fine” before. A wife can say it in two distinct ways. One has a connotation that is peaceful and agreeable. When heard in this way, it is usually said softly with a vocal delivery that goes from mid-range to a lower calm, almost sexy in tone. My guess is this is how this lady meant to write her response…I hope.

But be warned, there is another way fine can be said. It is in a high-pitched, somewhat quick manner with a very strong emphasis on the letter “f,” followed by a quick turn on the heels and a huffed departure from the room. When said in this way, fine is basically the sound of the sizzle of fire on a really short fuse. More often than not, when fine! is the last word in an argument about money spent on a hobby, a fellow can safely assume he is the loser. May we husbands treat our wives in a way that whenever we hear her say the word “fine,” it does not resemble the sound that precedes an explosion!

If you can spend money on hot rod magazines, why can’t you spend money on home decorating or parenting magazines for me? (Wife of someone who likes hot rods)

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Really…I couldn’t.

Is there any way you could spread the spending out over the entire year, rather than in the last three months of the year? (Wife of a deer hunter!)

Being an avid hunter who also works full-time, I know this husband’s dilemma. Around early September, when the tree leaves first begin to wilt and that telltale chill in the air sends the thrill of the soon coming opening day of hunting season up his work-weary spine, the husband starts to gather his autumn wits. All year long he has been caught up in making a living (or killing—depending on his level of need or ambition), and now his desire to go hunting becomes nearly overwhelming. Consequently, while he works at his real job with his hands, in his mind he is making a list of all the things he must do to ready himself for the first hunt.

On that list are equipment repairs, replacements, additions, tags, arrows, broadheads, bullets, black powder, camouflage clothing, and a host of other things that require cash to obtain. His wife doesn’t understand that what he is dealing with is, in reality, a chemical imbalance in his brain. It’s a mysterious hormone that is secreted when the stored adrenaline that accompanies the memories of last year’s harvests are mixed with the adrenaline that comes with the thoughts and hopes of this year’s shots. In truth, the man cannot control his reaction to it.

Of course, everyone knows who is to blame for this male medical malady. It’s the government’s fault! Don’t they know that marriages could be saved if the wild game commissions in each state would allow deer season year round? If that were the case, hunters would not fall prey to the damaging effects of such a concentrated chemical imbalance that afflicts us in the latter part of each year!

Fortunately for this guy, his wife is not complaining about his spending; she’s only challenging his timing. What a glorious gift she is giving him. A crisis has never been so easy to fix. May all husbands who hunt, fish, golf, ski, motorcycle, or hike be as fortunate.

The Good News

The comments I’ve just shared represent only a few of the wives who were willing to candidly express their concerns about their men and their money. However, not all of the questionnaire statements were negative.

I was frankly amazed at the number of very positive words about husbands that were included. What follows is a few of them, and I encourage each man who reads these to consider them as rays of hope for your own quest for helping your wife not resent what you love to do. Also, keep in mind that even though the ladies are writing the words, some of these comments can ultimately be credited to the men who are obviously “doing it right.” As a reminder, the questionnaire asked: If you could say one thing to him about money spent for his hobby/interest, what would you say?

Go for it, Babe. You enjoy it, so go do it. If it makes you happy, it’ll make me happy. (Her husband enjoys golf and fishing) What sweeter words could a man hear?

Thank you for not being excessive in spending our money and for telling me what you are going to buy. (He fishes, hunts, and motorcycles)

Note the words “our money.” Her feelings are obvious. While some guys would say that this husband is whipped, I would argue that he’s wise!

I am so thankful that you are frugal and would never play golf or fish if it put your family’s financial needs in a bind. (A wife of yet another gentleman who likes hearing things hit the water)

Can you feel the gratitude flowing from this woman? It makes me want to go buy a set of Ping clubs and a Ranger Bass boat just so I’ll be able to hear Annie say the same thing!

At least he isn’t doing drugs or spending money on other women, and he seems happy. (He’s a hunter and very possibly he is also a hypnotist)

Like a lot of hunters/husbands, I’ve used the familiar line before to defend my habit. The deal is, I’m thinking that this lady has heard the defense so many times that she is under some sort of spell. While I include this positive comment as just that, I have to concede that some of you are whispering the word “Stepford” at this moment! The fact is, this guy is doing something right…and its not drugs and loose women…that’s for sure.

I see your deer hunting as beneficial to the entire family. You are supplying a great food source that lasts all year long. Thank you! (I wonder what outdoor activity this guy likes to do!)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a feeling when this lady says these words to her husband, the needle on his arousal meter slams to the far right and wraps around the stop peg. I can hear him now. “Ooh! Baby! Keep talking dirty to me!” Oh, the sweet verbal rewards of handling the family funds in the right way.

Dear, you need to spend more. You deserve it! (He’s a softball fanatic)

I’m dead serious. This statement was right there on the pink paper! It shows that if you do it right, you too can hit a home run!

I hope you have enough money to spend on your hobby but hopefully, you get enough to get through. (This wife of a hunter also said in response to another question, “He hunts everything”)

Since this husband apparently hunts everything that breathes, crawls, flies, or jumps, he is likely fully satisfied and I feel no sorrow for him. The commendable part about his hobby is that he manages to hunt everything, but at the same time he hasn’t lost his wife’s approval regarding his spending. Some of us should go live under his roof for a while and learn how he does it.

I know your purchases are not often, but when you do get something, you really do deserve it. (He’s an avid fisherman)

The key compliment from this wife to her angler is, “Your purchases are not too often.” When a man can “reel in” his wants, he’s going to land a huge trophy…the respect of his wife.

I wish you’d go play golf more often, but I know you feel guilty about spending the money. (Another hacker husband.)

For this lady to recognize his feelings of guilt about playing golf, he had to have verbalized them. Do you realize what an example this duffer is to the rest of us? If we’d express our reservations about spending money on what we love to do and put our feelings of guilt out on the table for our wives to see, maybe they wouldn’t be so hesitant to write us checks and send us to the “big boy toy store.” This husband has tapped into an idea of genius proportions: Grovel today, shop tomorrow.

I appreciate you watching what you spend. And I’m grateful that you discuss major purchases with me first. (This husband has a sailboat)

Yes, I watch what I spend. I watch it as it leaves my hand and disappears into the money monster’s mouth at the checkout counter. This wise guy (said in best of terms without an ounce of jealousy involved!) is smart enough to collaborate with his honey on the big stuff. I can guess his relationship with her is sound and will likely never sink.

I am always happy to work extra at teaching swimming or something to send you on your annual elk hunt. I know how important it is to you. (This one’s obviously a hunter)

This elk-hunting husband is my new hero! Whatever he does, I want to do. This lady’s statement is beyond exciting…it’s downright erotic. I’m sorry, but I have to go take a cold shower now. I suppose it really is true that when a man wears the sweet cologne of unselfishness, it can drive a woman wild!

I hope these very encouraging remarks by some very happy ladies have inspired you in regard to helping your wife appreciate what you love to do. And I trust that you will give the “equal cash” method an honest try. It can yield some very immediate results! An example of this exciting possibility is found in an e-mail I received a few days after returning home from speaking at a hunter’s event.

Mr. Chapman,

I realized last evening that my husband did get your message about equality in spending that you shared at the wild game dinner. Last night he met me at the store to purchase a new suit. He ended up buying two suits. Now, he knew very well that I wanted to get a new dress so he handed me $200 and told me to pick one out. But we women are so adept at shopping that I was able to buy two dresses, one suit, and two blouses with my $200. He really does get it!

Lorraine

I close this chapter with some more good news. If a husband enacts the “price-tag doubling” and “the equal cash” methods long enough, there will come a day when it will not be necessary to actually give his wife the “green paper” as proof that he is sincerely concerned about fairness. Because his attitude of equality has been reshaped by the exercise, eventually all he’ll need to do is one of two things. He can say something similar to what I say to Annie when I have spent some money or plan to do so on my hobby. I say, “Annie, I just want you to know I got something for myself today. It cost me (put the figure here), and now it’s your turn!” Or, he can simply control his tongue when she buys something first. Both will work wonders for your marriage.


Excerpted from The Good Husband’s Guide to Balancing Hobbies and Marriage by Steve Chapman. Copyright © 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.