August 4th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery. Groucho Marx
Let’s come clean: We, as in we people are a fearful lot. Good many of us spend our lives not in living but in managing our fears. That is to say we’re so busy concerning ourselves with the thing that we fear that we have no time or energy to give attention to that which we believe is good. The Great Wall of China is a monument to the human priority: Safety first! And how great is our fear? You can see the damn thing from space!
That’s where money comes in. Money mimics security like nothing else. Think about it. If ten million dollars were to miraculously appear in your bank account, would you not feel as though all your troubles were taken away? It would be difficult to believe otherwise.
I’ve heard that money consistently makes it on the list of the top causes of marital strife. It’s no wonder why. If money is so inextricably tied to security then messing with it means messing with one’s safety. Or to be more direct, messing with one’s fears. And how do people respond when that which we fear is wagged in our face? Yup, we freak out.
The trouble with all this is that it’s based more on our imaginings than on fact. Yeah, we all know money can’t buy happiness. Lesser known but equally true is that money can’t do much in the way of alleviating our fears either. Like Groucho says, it may be a different kind of fear…but make no mistake, it’ll be fear nonetheless.
May 19th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Thank God she’s not like me …
At the time, it was the maddest she’d ever been at me. Two years into marriage, we were moving from our first apartment. Before I get to why she was so mad, let me set the stage. First of all, I’ve always had an exceptional ability to underestimate the time required to accomplish a given task. I’m really good at it. It’s a gift. I think it’s due to a rather generous combination of two distinct traits: procrastination and minimalism. I can procrastinate with the best of ’em. With a deadline rapidly approaching, I have no pulse. Never did. My “timing” antenna is so broke, by the time I realize it’s too late, there’s not even time to panic. I jump over panic and go straight to resignation. Assisting in my procrastination is my natural tendency to whittle things down. I’m always asking, “Do we need that?” If we don’t need all that, well, we don’t have to start so early now, do we?
With an apartment full of stuff, my wife, who is not at all a procrastinator, got us started packing the place early. With the move set for Saturday, she had us packing the kitchen up Monday night. By Tuesday, we had most of the kitchen packed and ready to go. When I surveyed the apartment Tuesday evening after work, I thought, “We’re pretty much done.” My broke antenna told me that we were way ahead of schedule. If anything, we needed to slow this thing down. I kept telling her the procrastinator’s mantra, “Look. There’s the bedroom. Mostly big pieces. And then the bathroom, which we can pretty much throw in a couple boxes. The living room – big pieces. And … (Here’s the key part of the mantra) we have ALL DAY Wednesday, ALL DAY Thursday … and so on.” I supported my argument with minimalistic reasoning, “And we don’t need to pack everything in boxes. Some of that stuff can just get thrown in the car. We don’t want that stuff in the U-Haul anyway.” Did I believe anything I was saying? Yeah, sure, like an alcoholic believes he’s only going to “Wet his beak.”
The day of the move, I decided I had time for a quick, early morning surf. A truck wasn’t available until after 3PM – I probably called too late. By the time, I got around to “Doing some last minute packing” it became apparent that a good deal of the apartment wasn’t ready to be moved into a truck. You know moves, the day of, all kinds of stuff just keeps pouring out of every corner. When a bunch of our friends arrived to help us move, they ended up helping us pack first, which is a definite “No no.” In the midst of the stress of being late – did I mention my wife is not down with being late? – and the embarrassment of imposing on the goodwill of our friends, my wife was pissed. I think I really did see smoke coming out of her ears.
Years ago, I heard someone say, “One of the most important truths: Not everyone is like you.” Sixteen years in, I can attest that this is indeed true of me and my wife. In many ways we are not alike. Sometimes those differences are the source of our conflicts. But more often, although unfortunately not as readily observed, they are what fills out our lives. We have grown to understand and appreciate our differences. She makes allowances for my quirks. She’s learned to laugh at my idiosyncrasies. My wife does not procrastinate. She’s not a minimalist. She’s merciful, humble and kind. Thank God she’s not like me.
March 24th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Every Act of Kindness …
What’s the quote? “Death by a thousand paper cuts.” Most marriages that die do so by a thousand paper cuts. Sure, there are affairs. There are abuses. But that’s more the slug mercifully banged into the back of the head of Inevitability. Long before the BANG! the steady hemorrhaging from a thousand misspoken words, a thousand inconsiderate decisions, a thousand withholdings had already put the ashen gray complexion on it.
Conversely, happy marriages are far less about the surprise trip to Paris, the five carat tennis bracelet on Valentine’s Day, or renewing your vows every ten years. It is built with tangible, appreciable acts of love. Every act of kindness …
The other day, I unexpectedly got the afternoon off. When I got home, my wife was overwhelmed with something that hadn’t gone the way she had hoped. Nothing big, but just enough to put her off. I asked if I could take her out to lunch. She happily accepted. As she was getting ready, it occurred to me that a lunch date may not help her in her state of being overwhelmed.
“Hey, I was thinking lunch would be good, but if going and getting that thing done or crossing something else off the list would help you, we can do that instead. I’m up for whatever.” That was it; it’s what she wanted. She didn’t even take me up on it. What mattered to her was that I offered – that for a moment I really thought about her: Where she stood, what she needed. As small a token as it was, it was a genuine piece of evidence that her husband loved her.
It’s what my wife wants. It’s what she’s wanted all along. An answer to the question: Do you think of me?
October 8th, 2013 § 1 Comment
I never did learn to fight. No one ever taught me. So I watched. Did what came natural. The trouble with this approach is that I was watching people who like me had never learned to fight. They too had watched others; they too did what came natural. And what comes natural? That’s right boys and girls: The will to win. We fight to win. And then I got married.
A couple years into our marriage, I realized we didn’t fight. Oh, we had our conflicts. There were hurts, disappointments. When these arose as they do in every relationship, I didn’t know what to do. I did what came natural. I ran. In retreat, I scorched the earth. It drove my wife nuts. She’s far too kind and well-mannered to put it this way, but if I could speak for her, she’d say, “You chicken shit. Come out and fight like a real man.”
In the past few years, I’ve done just that … come out into the open and fought. I owed her as much. In doing so, I’ve learned a few things. For one, I’ve learned the reason for which I fight. It’s not to win; not to express myself, be justified, get some relief. All these compound the sense of separation that led me into the fight. I fight to get back to her, to close the gap created by the wrong done, the hurt inflicted. For me this has meant that I go to her and start talking. I must resist the temptation to run, to snipe her from the shadows. Funny. Even in a fight, I must not afford myself what I naturally crave.
Learn to fight. We are all different – our spouses, our marriages. A good fight may mean something very different to you. Whatever you do, don’t fight to win. Fight to get back to her, to close the gap and restore the relationship.
August 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
First Things First Part 2
I generally distrust that which comes easy. Doesn’t mean that all that is easy is wrong or bad. Certainly, there are plenty good, meaningful things that come easy. It’s just that most do not. So, when it’s easy, I give whatever it is a thorough “once over.” At the most basic level, the concern of self comes with ease for me. Sadly, I must strain to concern myself with others. Not good. Ironically, not only is this way about me no good, it makes me unhappy. Go figure.
For many parents, the love for child comes with ease. Natural. While the love for spouse in time grows tedious. If left unchecked, the child easily glides over into the center of your family’s collective life. And the marriage devolves into a contractual arrangement between two adults to provide the optimal childhood for the kid.
Is it easy? Can you not help yourself from pouring over your kids? Give it a good “Once over.” It’s likely that your devotion to your child somewhere along the way morphed into that love you’ve always known, that familiar love that has always come with ease – the love for self. Love of self by proxy. Oh, man, what a perfect cover! No one suspects you. You come off looking so selfless.
You love your kid? Then first things first: Love your wife. Love your husband.
July 30th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
First Things First
Look at him over there. Let’s face it, he’s not what you bargained for. The funny, charming guy who thought about you all the time. Yeah, it almost did seem like … Ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough … He was so into you, you could hear his smile over the phone. Those feelings of love, they steamrolled everything. No worries. No troubles. “What troubles? As long as you’re with me.”
Now, look at him. Forget mountains, valleys. Now the couch is too deep, the living room too wide … And he’s got troubles alright. Wears it on his face. The elixir worn off; the dumb grin that you thought so cute has been long replaced by the sober gaze. He’s uglier now. How did one decade do this to him?
And this boy in your arms – this beautiful newborn? Innocent. Pure. True. The love for this one was instant. No, it didn’t grow. It was just there. Divine. Naturally ordained. And he needs you. You’re everything to him. Everything. Your smell, your voice, your touch soothes him. Not only do you love him, you’re filled with compassion for him.
The dude across the room? Big. Frustrating. Sure, he has his moments, but they are getting few and far between. And besides, he can take care of himself.
The baby? Beautiful. Lovely. Doesn’t know any better.
The dude? He should know better.
Right. I know; makes perfect sense. Look at the two: Look at the dude; look at the baby. The dude gets demoted. Feelings tell you, “Yes, obviously.” Practical need? Of course. Even your instincts say, “Everything for the kid.” Everything points to orbiting around your children.
Don’t do it. The practical attention you give to your marriage will suffer with children, but you must never place children at the center of your family. First things first. Your marriage gave birth to your children, not the other way around.
June 11th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Do a little dance,
Make a little love,
Get down tonight …
Who says, “Disco sucks?” For the uninitiated, this is KC and the Sunshine Band. And they’re laying down some dynamite marriage advice. Get down tonight! And tomorrow night. Hell, get down as often as you can. Not married yet? You won’t understand – just go to another post or something. If you are married and have been for more than a couple years, then you see me. And if you’ve been married ten+, couple … three kids, not only do you see me, you are me. The libido, the force that was once an unlimited, “bursting the dam” reservoir of pent up readiness is receding. Without seeing it, I wouldn’t have believed it either.
I don’t think it’s all about the libido though. There’s something more to it that makes getting down to it worth the work. Ever wonder why we wear clothing? I do. Yup, could be the sociological evolution influenced by religious and/or other restrictive societal mores. I however tend more toward the belief that we’re all hiding something. And clothing is the physical manifestation. Covering for the body as we cover something goin’ on below.
Despite the fear of being “found out,” being fully seen, it’s exhilarating getting naked with someone. Why do we fight the shame, resist the urge to cover up? My guess is because being seen, fully known is such a big part of receiving love. Unless someone sees us in all our glorious imperfection, and then chooses to embrace us, how do we know we’re loved? Sex is more than procreation. Not just something to alleviate an urge. It’s a dance of love. An opportunity to say, “I see you, all of you and I want you.” So …
Do a little dance
Make a little love
Get down tonight … Yeah, Get down tonight!
May 14th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Show me; don’t tell me
Another version of “Talk is cheap.” Nowhere is this quote more apropos than in a marriage relationship. Love is an action word. And because of the literal “life giving” weightiness of all that this word encompasses, if it does not line up with your actions, better just not to use it. Without the acts of love, the word itself is beyond empty; it’s insulting.
Your wife, she needs to know that she is loved most of all. When you were dating, she put up with all the other stuff: Your family, your boys, your work, your hobbies, your stupid teams. But when you looked into her eyes and said, “I do” you in effect told her, “To you, I choose to be foremost devoted.” Oh yeah, you did; you did. That’s what you said. Hey, don’t blame me for telling it like it is. Yeah, I know you were punch drunk; weren’t we all.
Now it’s time to put up or shut up – “Show me; don’t tell me.” Your wife has to see a step away from others, and a step toward her – see being the operative word here. She has to be able to point to it, “Yes, that, that right there.” You have to tell your parents to let you two handle it. Tell the boys, “Nah, can’t get that round in.” When you’re home, you need to turn that work phone off. Money can’t be happily spent on others and scrimped with her. Can’t have your tears be reserved only for when your team gets bounced in the first round. Can’t do these things; can’t do them, and tell her, “Honey, I love you.”
Okay, one warning and two words of encouragement:
Warning: Cowing to unrealistic demands is not what I’m talking about. There are acts of love and cowing. Learn the difference. Hint: I find loving takes sacrifice and courage, and increases my feelings love for my wife. Cowing takes selfishness and cowardice, and makes me hate her.
Encouragement: 1. Once she’s assured, once that word is validated, she’ll join you in the others of your life. 2. Failing miserably is not fatal. For those who seek it; there’s always hope.
April 2nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Bite your tongue
“Honey, does this dress make me look …?”
Okay, remain calm. There’s a way out. Nobody has to get hurt. First, listen to that voice in your head, etched in there from those countless Saturday mornings wasted in front of the TV, listen to uncle Elmer, “Be vewy, vewy, quiet.” Now, to get everyone out alive, you’ll have to know what to say. More importantly, what not to say. It’s critical. One word out of place, and Kaboom!
No matter what, do not say the first thing that comes to mind. Start with, “Ah…hmm….” Put your chin in your hand, and give her a good, “Let me see” look. That should buy you a few seconds. With those precious few seconds, don’t make the most common mistake: Do not tell yourself, “I have to tell her the truth.” Not because you ought not tell her the truth. Of course you tell the truth, but because when we think truth, we think, “… the truth, the whole truth …” Instead of keeping your wits about you, you’ll let false guilt and your rights to free speech nudge you into … well, something like this, “Makes you look … uh, a little bit … Kaboom!
We feel like we need to say something. Don’t we? All kinds of reasons, everything from telling the whole truth to having to be right. Bite your tongue. You can overlook some things. Trust me; let it go. You can thank me later.
February 18th, 2013 § 2 Comments
The Heart of the Matter – Forgiveness
I’ve been tryin’ to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about…forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore
Got in a fight with my wife. As it is with most fights, the doorway leading into this one was silly. What happened inside wasn’t. Rarely are fights fought entirely in the present. It starts in the present … between you and her. Before long though, the past jumps in – other people, other wrongs. By the time voices are raised, it’s a gang fight. Our fight was no different. Once escalated, the reason we’d gotten into it didn’t even matter. Things were said. Actions taken. Things that cannot be taken back; actions that cannot be undone.
It took a day to sort out. An apology was made. What we were then left with was a choice. Would the one offended extend forgiveness to the offender? The tricky part about forgiveness is that in most cases wrongs cannot be undone. Restitution cannot be made. Things are usually not set right. In most cases the offended bears the burden of reconciliation. That’s the trick. And man, it is so tempting, so tempting to muddy the waters of forgiveness with some sort of penance. The injustice of a free, refreshing, life-giving drink of pure water feels too much, and so a drop of bitterness to get something back.
We’ve been taught what Henley figured out. The heart of the matter is forgiveness. Restitution will not hold your hand. Pride will not keep you warm. “I will forgive, but never forget” will turn out the lights inside. It’s about forgiveness without the pound of flesh, without the drop of bitterness. It’s about forgiveness – the beauty of the costly drink paid for, paid for and offered pure and free to wash away the things said, the actions taken.