It’s not always what you say……

I’m feeling nostalgic these days. The song Love and Marriage keeps rolling through my head. Some of you remember it- “goes together like a horse and carriage. Any time or weather you can’t have one without the other.” My they just don’t write songs like they used to. I know I’m dating myself since the song goes back clear into the last century, but it is indicative of a time when marriage held an honorable place in our society. At least much more honorable than appears to be the case today.

It seems we have evolved, or is that devolved, into a society where each individual’s wants and concerns are all that matters. If you please me, I will stay married to you, and if you don’t, I will leave you and find someone else who will.  I’ve heard of couples who vow to each other at their wedding to stay married “as long as love shall last.”

Last week I challenged you to realize that the person you married is no more or less perfect than you are and that there would be times when he or she got on your nerves. Times when you didn’t particularly like each other at the moment. This is normal and in no way an indication that you married the wrong person or that you should consider leaving.

It’s at these times that the XYZ technique can be very helpful. XYZ is a part of the PREP course (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) developed by Drs Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and others. The beauty of this technique is that it enables you to draw attention to behaviors of your spouse without attacking them or their character.

Here’s how it works. The X is the specific behavior that you find objectionable. The Y gives specifics to help the other understand what you’re talking about and the Z is simply an expression of how or why the behavior bothers you. In other words – “when you do X, in situation Y, I feel Z.”

Here are a few examples: “when you leave your coat on the couch when you come home rather than hanging it in the closet I feel unappreciated for my efforts to keep a clean home.” “When you showed up 15 minutes late for our appointment with the realtor I felt you don’t respect my need to be prompt.” “When you invited the neighbors over to watch the game without checking with me first I felt disrespected as if my desires don’t matter to you.”

I realize that on a scale of 1 to 10 of hot button issues these examples are likely way near the bottom. I’m just trying to give you an idea of how it might sound to voice concerns about disturbing behaviors without giving offense or making the situation worse. The XYZ technique is certainly helpful in dealing with your spouse, but it shouldn’t be limited to your marriage relationship. You may want to use it with your children, co-workers, other family, and friends, etc.

Now let’s be honest. There are times when we get so upset with our spouse that we just want to rip into him or her and give them a piece of our mind. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but some of you don’t have enough extra pieces to be giving much away – just kidding. While that may be a strong temptation, let me urge you to do all you can to fight and overcome it.

George Thompson, author of Verbal Judo said you should “never use words that rise readily to your lips, or you’ll give the greatest speech you’ll ever live to regret.” I like how Dr. Kevin Leman, author of 42 books on marriage, parenting, and family puts it: “if you follow your feelings for 30 days, you’ll likely find yourself in jail.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your spouse know that something he or she is doing is disturbing to you. In fact, in the healthiest marriages, this is a common occurrence. It’s all a matter of how and when you voice your displeasure. Say it as an attack, and you can expect a negative reception. Use the XYZ approach to voice it as a respectful suggestion or request, and you’re far more likely to get your desired result.

XYZ can also be used to express gratitude. “When you brought me flowers on Valentine’s Day I felt so loved and appreciated by you.” “When you told my parents how grateful you were for how they raised me I felt so respected and honored by you.” The XYZ technique takes some getting used to, but I think you’ll find it well worth the investment of time and effort.

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

Does Love Mean Look for the Good?

Please stop what you’re doing and get a pen and some paper. OK, now please jot down 2 or 3 criticisms of your mate. Just take a moment (by the way I’ve heard that a moment is 90 seconds) and list 2 or 3 of his or her imperfections. Alright, now that you’ve done that I ask you to take the same pen and paper and write down 2 or 3 of your mate’s positive qualities. Just 2 or 3 aspects of him or her which are noteworthy and commendable.

I’m curious. Which list was easier to compile? Well, I guess that depends on the overall quality of your marriage at the moment. If your marriage is good and you’re happy together, the second list was likely the easier, although the first list is always doable.

The big mistake you made in marriage was that you married a human being who, by definition, is going to have faults and who is going to do things that annoy you at times. Unless he or she married someone other than human I wouldn’t be too quick to pass judgment.

I heard somewhere that some folks find fault like there’s a reward for it. It’s so easy to find fault, and so many of us do. What’s ironic, however, is that at those times when we are most critical are usually the times we’re most upset with ourselves.  You’ve got to live with yourself, so you can only take so much self-abuse and criticism. After a time you’re going to naturally look for another outlet. And all too often that other outlet is going to be your spouse. It may be common and normal, but it’s not right, and it’s certainly not conducive to a healthy marriage.

I have a video clip called repentance which makes a great point in a comical way. A husband tells his wife he wants to discuss the sermon they heard in church that morning. The wife agrees, but then he asks her to go first. The message of the sermon was repentance, and he suggested they should start their conversation with her telling him what she needed to repent of.

Needless to say, the conversation did not get off to a good start. The wife got justifiably upset that he would try to railroad her into admitting her faults and she took great offense. They then go on to point out each other’s need for repentance, and it gets ugly and loud.

Finally, the husband has a change of heart and admits that he really wanted to have the conversation so he could repent, but it was difficult for him to do so. He then goes on to apologize for starting the conversation by putting pressure on her, and he offers a sincere, heartfelt apology for the way things are going in their marriage. He acknowledges his anger and the destructive impact it has had on her and their children.

The reaction of the wife is heartwarming. Rather than continuing to jump his case, she softens and accepts his apology with humility. She then begins to list some of her faults and what she has done to steal the joy from their relationship. The couple is able to stop haranguing each other and instead begin to encourage and lift each other up – which by the way is what married folks are supposed to do.

We live in a rude world, and we’re used to people putting us down or disappointing us in some way. Home is supposed to be the place where each one is rooted for and supported and believed in. When you get criticized and put down at home the pain goes deep and the resentment even deeper.

So what am I saying? That you should never tell your mate when something he or she is doing is upsetting you? Not a chance. But I’m certain you’ve learned by now that there is a right way and a wrong way to express your displeasure. The former is likely to result in voluntary behavior adjustment. The latter in world war 7,235.

I’ll try to remember to write next week about the XYZ technique for voicing criticisms in a manner which will be well received and addressed. In the meantime let me challenge you to throw away your list of faults and add to your list of positive attributes. It wouldn’t hurt to spend a few moments each day looking over that list and remembering why you chose to marry him or her in the first place.

A few years ago the keynote speaker at the Four Corners Conference for Professional Development made a statement that “love in Greek means look for the good.” Well, I’m certainly not a Greek scholar, but I don’t think she’s correct. I love the thought though. To deepen and solidify the love in your home why not spend some time looking for the good and expressing appropriate gratitude to and for your spouse. My hunch is you’ll be well pleased with the results.

 

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. You can reach him at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

Chapter Five: Never Threaten the Longterm View.

I was getting excited that my second book was so close to being done, when a good friend gave me some suggestions for improvement that are just too good to reject. So while it means I still have much work to do I’m confident the final product will be well worth the extra effort.

For now I thought I would share with you what was to be Chapter Five of PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. It will be some chapter in the new edition, but exactly where remains to be seen – or hopefully read J

Chapter 5: Never Threaten the Long-Term View

“A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but there’s less of you.”

—Margaret Atwood

Marriage can be tricky business. Part of the reason, according to marriage and family expert Dr. Kevin Leman, is that “women are weird and men are strange.” While on our good days we can accept and even appreciate the differences between us, on difficult days these differences pose serious threats to the overall health and wellness of the marriage. It’s ironic that the differences that can so easily upset us at times are very likely the exact qualities which attracted us to each other in the first place.

You did not marry your clone—at least I certainly hope you didn’t. When you first met your spouse, you were likely attracted—either knowingly or unknowingly—by attributes they possessed that you knew you didn’t. You reasoned—again, aware or not—that if you could somehow pair your life with his or hers, you would benefit from his or her strengths. It’s not at all a bad concept. While I’m not a big fan of the phrase “you complete me,” there is certainly a plus for the relationship when each contributes their unique gifts and strengths to the overall good of the whole.

Given that there are major differences between you and your spouse, it’s a tad unrealistic to think there will not be blow-ups and disagreements from time to time in the marriage. So I want to encourage you to adopt a basic rule in your marriage. You and your spouse should agree together that no matter how angry you get, you will never use the “D” word. As the folks from PREP Inc. say, “You should never threaten the long-term view” of the relationship.

At your wedding, you said “for richer, for poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do we part”—or words to that effect. You made a vow to each other, and it seems that vows in our modern society no longer mean very much. When in the heat of an argument you threaten to end the marriage, you send shock waves through your partner. He or she begins to question the worth of your initial promise. Talk of divorce or ending the marriage creates an undercurrent of mistrust and each begins to invest less in, but demand more from, the relationship.

Trust me on this—if divorce is a readily available option, it will be chosen far more often than if the parties have decided it is simply not an acceptable choice. Every couple has arguments, and every spouse feels hurt from time to time. You may find this hard to believe, but over our 36+ years together, my wife has gotten upset with me on a few (extremely rare) occasions. Okay, no lightning bolt? I guess I’ll keep writing.

Seriously, there have been times in our marriage when we just didn’t like each other very much and when each one’s negative features seemed to greatly overshadow their positive. If my wife and I considered divorce an option, we might have gone that route rather than doing whatever it took to fix the situation and the relationship.

And fix it we always have. We’ve always found ways to get back into harmonious love for each other and been glad we didn’t cut and run. I know of several other couples who are so glad they made the same decision.

One such couple from my area has become world famous for that very reason. I refer to Kim and Krickitt Carpenter authors of the New York Times bestseller, The Vow. Their story was the inspiration for a movie of the same name that has now been shown on movie screens across the country and around the world.

I have to warn you that while the story is true, the dramatic portrayal, not so much. You might notice that the movie version went from “based on a true story” to “inspired by a true story” to “inspired by true events.” Fortunately, Kim and Krickett released the updated version of their book on the same day the movie was released.

The subtitle of their book is The True Story Behind the Movie, and it is indeed a story worth reading of how newlyweds experienced a severe and near tragic accident which could easily have separated them from each other. Fortunately, the Carpenters understood then, as they understand now, the importance of a vow.

It wasn’t easy, but with dogged determination and a refusal to quit, they were able to fall back in love with each other and to maintain a successful, joyful, and fulfilling marriage.

Oh, how I wish folks who are planning to marry or those who are in the midst of a troubled marriage would be able to see the big picture and realize that difficulties and challenges and disputes don’t need to be the death knell for the marriage. They as individuals, their children, and we as a nation would all benefit if marital vows were given the importance and relevance they were intended to have when they were first made.

While I stand by every word I have written in this book, and in this chapter in particular, I do feel a need to offer a disclaimer. I have at times been accused of believing that people should stay married no matter what. That simply is not accurate I believe divorce is totally justified in cases of abuse or infidelity—especially when the offensive and hurtful behavior is not going to stop. I’m writing to the vast majority of people who fortunately do not live in those circumstances.

Chapter Challenge: Recognize that every marriage will experience distress, disappointment, and resentment from time to time. This is normal and in no way an indication that you married the wrong person. Covenant together with your spouse that no matter how upset you might be at any given moment, you will never threaten to end the marriage or make any suggestion to that effect. Determine in advance that you will call a time-out (see Chapter 21) whenever such words might come out of your mouth. Review your marriage vows from time to time to make sure you stay aware of the commitment you made to each other.

Not always easy, but always the best choice.

The year was 1970. A movie came out with a slogan that swept the country. You saw it or heard it on billboards and magazines and newspapers, TV and radio. It seemed like you just could not escape hearing this endearing slogan. Any guesses? . . . . . .Times up.

The movie was Love Story, and the slogan was (some of you know this one) “love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Oh isn’t that so sweet. There’s just one thing wrong with that idyllic concept. It’s a bunch of nonsense. Love means frequently and regularly having to say you’re sorry. This is especially true when love has led to marriage.

Marriage is a union of two imperfect people who join together to try to form a perfect union.   There will be times when you will step on each other’s proverbial toes. Most of these times will be accidental, and an apology quickly follows. Some of these times are intentional, and that’s usually when an apology is most needed.

So rather than love and/or marriage being the lack of a need to say you’re sorry, I propose that marriage is better portrayed as the union of two good forgivers. And marriage does indeed provide ample opportunities to practice and cultivate the art of forgiveness.

Some years back I read the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. It’s a Christian book with heavy emphasis on Bible teaching so some of you may want to leave it on bookstore shelves. For those of you not averse to such teaching it’s a must read.

I love a line he uses in the book, which is much more practical than the one from Love Story. He writes that “unforgiveness is the poison we drink expecting the other person to die.” That is so right on. When we refuse to forgive another, it is we who suffer far more than they. In fact, the other may be blissfully unaware that they are not forgiven in the first place. Yet we hold on to the attendant bitterness, anxiety, negative thinking that accompanies a willful refusal to forgive.

We still live in a free country, and you are entitled to withhold forgiveness from someone who has wronged you. I invite you to count the cost, however and decide if that’s really what you want to do.

To forgive, by the way, is not the same as to forget. You can likely remember your first-grade teacher, and some of you haven’t thought of him or her in decades. Our minds are such that somewhere within is the memory of everything we have ever seen, done or heard.  It’s not a matter of “forgive and forget” as much as it is “forgive and move on” or “forgive and let it go.”

You might not be able to control the emotional component of your resentment or bitterness, but you can certainly choose to not act on those emotions. Over time it gets easier and easier to truly be past the hurt or offense.

To forgive is also not to say you weren’t really hurt that badly in the first place. The damage and pain can be severe, but you can decide that it is in the past and not let it dominate your thoughts and treatment of the other in the future. I realize this may be easier for some than for others. Some have been hurt so deeply that it will be a real struggle to choose to forgive. Please never forget, however, that we are free moral agents and we really can choose to forgive if we want to.

If you find yourself having difficulty forgiving your spouse, or someone else for that matter, please call me. I have access to some fine resources to help with forgiveness.

It’s a sad reality that withholding forgiveness has led to many divorces which likely could have been prevented. I am not one to judge or to say that anyone who has gotten a divorce is a terrible person. There are certainly times when divorce is right and appropriate. It’s extremely rare, however, that divorce should be the first option

This is even true in cases where cheating has occurred. I’ve heard that 80% of couples who endure affairs do not divorce. What was that? You might be as surprised as I was, but the statistics don’t lie. Most couples are able to overcome infidelity and build a stronger marriage as a result.

Ann Bercht wrote a book written with the strangest title I’ve ever heard. It’s called My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me. Ann and her husband Brian, the cheater, have built an organization called the Beyond Affairs Network in which they help couples overcome this horrific attack on their marriage.

Willard Harley, the author of His Needs, Her Needs, refers to adultery as being the single worst thing one person can do to another. I find myself in agreement, although I, fortunately, have no direct experience to draw upon. Even with that, however, forgiveness is powerful enough to overcome the breach and to begin to repair the damage.

When I sat down to start this article I didn’t know it would go in this direction. I’ve got a hunch, however, that it will touch some nerves as adultery, cheating, infidelity or whatever you call it is rampant in our society and wreaking havoc in families.

In fact, the odds are that you know a couple who is in the midst of dealing with this as we speak – or write. Please don’t be silent.  If you know a couple who is struggling in their marriage be brave and let them know help is available. You and they might be so glad you did.

 

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

In marriage, we need each other

I don’t know you personally, but I do know something about you. Don’t worry — your secret is safe with me. I know that you are a needy person.
Again, don’t worry that I’ll blow your cover, but I do have to tell you that you are in very good company. All of us are needy and have been since the day we were born.
Part of our neediness has dealt with the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, but what I want to address are the relationship and emotional needs that we all have.
I think I saw a list somewhere that detailed more than 300 specific emotional needs of human beings. I prefer the shorter list of 30 that I read recently and, even better, the list of 10 which I will share with you in this post.
My information for this list comes from David and Teresa Ferguson, co-founders of Intimate Life Ministries in Austin, Texas. David and Teresa married at the ripe old age of 16. The morning after the wedding a friend came by the motel and asked David if he’d like to play pool. Since Teresa was sleeping, he figured he would go, leaving Teresa to wake up husband-less on the first day of their wedded lives.
I hope your marriage started later in life and got off to a far less rocky beginning. David and Teresa have now been married more than 50 years and have helped thousands of couples around the world to develop close, intimate marriages.
In one of their workshops, called More than Married, the Fergusons have participants look at ten specific relational needs which were supposed to have been met during childhood. These needs are (in alphabetical order): acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, attention, comfort, encouragement, respect, security and support.
These needs are ingrained into our humanity and, again, are supposed to be met by parents, siblings, extended family, etc. The problem for so many of us is that they weren’t. At least they weren’t met as they should have been.
During one particular exercise in the workshop, couples are asked to review the ten needs and determine if Mom or Dad met them well. If Mom met them, participants draw a semi-circle beside the need. If dad met them, they draw another semi-circle by the need. Thus if both met the need, there is a complete circle. If one or the other met it, there would be one half-circle, and if neither met the need, there would be no marks at all.
It grieves me to tell you that a great percentage of participants have very few whole circles. Many have half circles and far too many have no marks beside the needs.
There is bad news/good news in what I’m saying here. The bad news is that we cannot undo past damage and/or neglect. Though we might always yearn for the comforting embrace of a mother or the encouraging words of a father, that simply may never happen. (Please don’t be too hard on your parents. Chances are pretty high that they didn’t get those needs met by their parents either.)
The good news is that marriage provides an opportunity for a do-over. Needs that were not satisfied in childhood and growing up years can be met within the confines of a marriage. The problem is we don’t often tell our spouse what it is that we really need from them. Often we don’t even know ourselves what it is we desire.
The Fergusons developed a questionnaire to help people determine their top three relational needs. While we all have all 10, it is quite likely that some will be more impactful and needed than others. Armed with this vital information, each spouse then has a far greater chance of hitting the mark and satisfying each other’s deepest needs. Do that well, and you are well on your way to having a close, intimate marriage.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at
ronp@fccmf.org, or (505) 327-7870.

Make time for fun in your marriage

One of my pet peeves (wow when was the last time you heard that term?) is the notion that “marriage takes work.” Since I work all day, the last thing I want to do when I go home is work some more. What kind of life is that?

So may I suggest that rather than work, marriage takes focus, or perhaps attention, or maybe even intentionality? While you should never put your marriage on auto-pilot and hope all will turn out well, I hereby release you from the burden of thinking you have to work at your marriage to help it thrive.

One factor, I’m convinced, you really should focus on is how much fun you are having in your marriage. Life can get so busy at times, and it’s so easy to get caught up in that busyness that we forget to carve out times just for fun. And, that expression “find the time”? As they say in New York  “forget about it!”. Rather than attempting to “find” the time, may I suggest you determine to “make” or “take” the time to focus on each other and your relationship by engaging in fun activities.

Michelle Weiner-Davis is a woman I have admired for a long time as a warrior for the cause of healthy marriage. Her first book Divorce Busting makes the point that if you are struggling in your marriage, you should go back and do the activities you were doing when you first fell in love, and you’ll quite likely find that love return.

When you first met each other, you naturally engaged in fun pursuits that required little or no effort. Ok, so now that life has gotten more complicated it may require some effort to have fun on a regular basis, but I can just about guarantee you the payoff will be well worth the investment.

If you have children it is vital that they are included in some family fun times, but please don’t neglect times for just the two of you. Let your kids complain that it’s not fair that you’re going out and leaving them with a sitter. They’ll thank you for it later. I’m even proposing some getaways be for a weekend or even a week together as you focus on each other and your marriage. Every married couple should have childcare providers they trust who can give them a much-deserved break on a regular and recurring basis.

Just in case you’ve forgotten how to have fun, or have fallen into the rut of dinner and a movie let me suggest some out of the box activities you may not have considered before.

One activity you could choose to engage in is to become site stewards through Salmon Ruins. You will undergo a 3-hour training in how to help us preserve and protect ancient artifacts or important places in our area that need to be preserved for coming generations. You will be assigned such a site, and you assume the responsibility for checking in every so often and reporting on the conditions you find.  To get more information on becoming site stewards you can call Salmon Ruins at 632-2013.

Another fun activity is to go geocaching. For this activity, you will need a handheld GPS unit and a computer with internet access. You connect the GPS to the computer and go to www.geocaching.com. Once there you type in the zip code of wherever you happen to be and up will pop numerous locations where folks have hidden stuff.

I use the word stuff to assure you people are not hiding gold bars, Rolex watches or keys to Mercedes. They are hiding trinkets, but that is not the reason for the activity. It’s where they are hiding them that matters and the thrill of the hunt as you set out to find these “buried treasures.” Typically they are near rock art panels or scenic vistas. Some involve hiking, some jeeping, some a simple walk. You can read a description on the website and choose one that fits your interests and abilities.

Once you decide to make fun a regular feature of your marriage, you should have little trouble finding outlets to meet this important need. You might consider doing volunteer work together such as becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. Did you know there are opportunities to be a Big Couple where you can model for a youngster what a loving, happily married couple looks like? By getting involved in the life of a young person, you will reap even more benefits than they. Thankfully this is not a competition, but truly a win-win experience.

If you have musical ability you could consider joining the Caliente Community Choir under the very capable leadership and direction of the shy and timid Virginia Nickels-Hircock, and Robin Woodard. Those of you who know these enormously talented and fun-loving ladies get my dry wit with that description. I don’t believe there is a shy or timid bone in either of them.

I can assure you that, based on numerous testimonies, and my personal experience, this is a way fun experience to participate in individually or as a couple. I can personally attest that attending their concerts is a wonderfully entertaining and fun evening getaway. You can get more information by going to www.calientechoir.org.

And, lastly, this is my last chance to tell you that Taylor Mason is coming to the Farmington Civic Center next Thursday, April 20. Check him out on YouTube and then go to www.brownpapertickets.com to save your seat. For the cost of dinner and a movie you will have an evening to remember for years to come.

 

If you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ron@ProductiveOutcomes.com. You can also call me at 505 324-6328.

Want a good laugh? Try this:

What’s that expression the family that plays together stays together? I believe there’s some truth in that. I also believe it’s true that the couple that laughs together regularly is more likely to stay together longer and more happily.

Life can get so hectic and stressful at times. OK, I heard that “duh”, but I want to remind you this week of the importance of laughter within a marriage.

Laughter has many health benefits. In fact, there is an entire science called gelotology which is dedicated to the study of the health benefits of laughter.

Laughter can reduce blood pressure by increasing vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood. Now I’m not a medical doctor, but that sure sounds like a benefit to me.

Laughter is a good physical workout as it exercises muscles in the diaphragm, face, leg and back. The respiratory system also gets worked well during hearty laughter, and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are reduced.

Laughter is said to improve one’s immune system and improve alertness, creativity, and memory. Someone remind me please that I may need to laugh more- just in case I forget.

So to do my part in improving your overall health and that of your marriage allow me to share with you some words of wit I have picked up along my life’s journey.

I heard of a nine-year-old boy named Johnny who was spending a few days visiting his grandmother. He came in from playing one day and asked his grandmother what it’s called when two people sleep in the same room and one is on top of the other. Grandmother was a little taken back, but she decided to tell him the truth. She said “it’s called making love” to which the boy replied “ok” and went back out to play.

A short while later Johnny came in rather irritated and told grandma it is not called “making love.” He went on to tell her the correct answer is bunk beds and that his friend’s mother wants to have a chat with her.

 

When it comes to marriage, there seems to be a never-ending supply of advice which folks are more than willing to share. Rita Rudner offers the following humorous advice: “I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.”

Other sage advice for marriage comes from Allan who was 10 when he said: “you got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports and she should keep the chips and dip coming.”

Kirsten, age 10, suggests that: “no person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you got to find out later who you’re stuck with.”

If you’re wondering when you should get married, Cam age 10 says “twenty-three is the best age to marry because you know the person FOREVER by then!”

And, lastly, the true essence of marriage is given to us by Marlon, age 10 who said: “a man and a woman promise to go through sickness, illness, and diseases together.”

Like I said, advice for marriage abounds. Please note I did not say all advice is appropriate or beneficial or wise.

Someone once said “you don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” So if it’s been a while since you and your spouse have done some serious laughing together may I suggest you not waste many more moments before correcting this imbalance in your lives.

And, on that note, I’m pleased to tell you that Taylor Mason is coming back to the Farmington Civic Center on Thursday, April 20 at 7:00 PM. You may have missed him when he was here in 2013. Please don’t make that mistake again.

If you are not familiar with Taylor Mason, you can cut and paste this link into your web browser:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-gTb20NMdc

He is absolutely the single most talented individual I know. There may be better ventriloquists, there may be better pianists, and there may be funnier comedians, but I know of no one who combines the three as well as he does – especially with a performance that is suitable for all ages. Tickets are $24 for the front section and $18 for the upper section. They are available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

 

I’m tempted to offer you a money-back guarantee that you will enjoy the evening. I think I’d rather offer to pay for your therapy if you are not able to laugh at his performance. If that is the case, you likely do need help. OK, I’m just kidding, but please consider making this a date night for you and your spouse. I know you’ll be glad you did.

 

If you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ron@ProductiveOutcomes.com. You can also call me at 505 324-6328.

Commitment – A Matter of Life or Death?

I admit it – I have the author bug. I enjoyed so much writing PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work that I decided to keep going. What you are about to read is Chapter Seven of my soon-to-be-released book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. I hope you find it worthwhile and helpful.

 Chapter 7: Commitment – A Matter of Life or Death?

“Commitment is making a choice to give up all other choices.”

Dr. Scott Stanley

 

A husband and wife were having an argument when the husband blurted out “I was a fool when I married you.” The wife maintained her composure and calmly replied: “I suppose you were, dear, but at the time I was so much in love I didn’t even notice.” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, married couples will experience times in their marriage when they don’t especially like each other. This shouldn’t come as a great surprise as there are times in most our lives that we don’t like ourselves all that much. We let ourselves or others down and beat ourselves up for it. If that is true, that we are not always comfortable with our own behavior, what chance is there that we will always be totally comfortable with someone else? And therein lays the great need for commitment if your marriage is to be all that you hoped when you first said: “I do.”

Commitment appears to be a vanishing quality in our society. When something isn’t working just right, we replace it with a newer, more up-to-date version. This is fine if you’re talking about a mattress or television set. It’s not so good if you’re talking about a marriage partner. My fear is that we have not prepared folks for the reality that any marriage will have challenging moments. Anyone who has been married more than five years and tells you the thought of divorce has never entered their minds will likely lie to you about other things as well. Or if not divorce, they have at least entertained thoughts that maybe they married the wrong person or that getting married was a mistake. That is normal, and those thoughts need to be taken to the recycle bin in your mind and quickly deleted.

Another problem I see is that many folks have a lowered ideal of what marriage can be and therefore settle for less. They also hesitate to fully invest in the marriage for fear the payout will not be worth the investment. Dr. Scott Stanley is a longtime researcher in the area of marriage and family at the University of Denver, and co-founder of PREP, Inc. He has authored or co-authored numerous books and journal articles and has participated in several studies designed to find out why marriages fail and how to help them succeed. In his book, The Heart of Commitment, Dr. Stanley writes that “only in the context of a total commitment are you free to develop greater levels of intimacy and connection – the things that are perhaps the very essence of oneness.”  What a paradox- we want true and lasting commitment, but we’re afraid to give it ourselves for fear it will not be reciprocated.

Dr. Stanley describes two forms of commitment, each of which is vital to a lasting, satisfying marriage. One is dedication commitment which “implies an internal state of devotion to a person or project.” This is the fun part of commitment. It’s the part where you want to be with your spouse because you are being fulfilled and feel like you are adding value to his or her life as well. Every marriage needs a healthy dose of dedication commitment to be successful and highly functioning.

The second form of commitment Dr. Stanley calls constraint commitment which “brings out the sense of obligation.” You may not be very happy with the state of your marriage, but the cost of divorce, the impact on the children, the grief you will cause family and friends serves as a deterrent to ending the marriage. As with dedication commitment, every couple needs constraint commitment from time to time. When things get rough, as they will, you need to buckle down and fix what’s broken. Cutting and running should rarely be an option at all and certainly never the first option. When divorce is a readily available option folks are more likely to choose it than to do what’s necessary to make things better.

I’m reminded of the Biosphere, a failed experiment of controlled living in a glass bubble in Arizona. There were a few reasons why the experiment failed. One was they underestimated the dynamics and tension that could exist between men and women living in such close quarters “24/7/365” as they say.

Another reason the experiment failed is they could not regulate the oxygen properly. The designers had planned on the trees they planted to be a part of the oxygen system. But the trees died. The reason they died was they did not put down deep roots. In nature, trees face challenges from winds and the elements. This causes them to put down roots to solidify their standing. In the Biosphere, no such challenges were present, so the trees had no motivation to root deeply. When your marriage faces storms, it can and should be an incentive to you and your spouse to deepen your commitment to each other and to your marriage. Each weathered storm makes the next one that much easier, or should I say, less difficult to face.

Marriage is and should be, a serious matter. People should neither begin nor end their marriage without careful forethought. Unfortunately, we as a society have made marriage too easy to get into and far too easy to get out of. Though it is also so much more, marriage is a form of contract between two consenting adults. Can you name any other contract which either party can unilaterally end without consequence?

So, let me challenge you to focus on your marriage in the coming weeks, months and years. Determine now that you are going to do your part to make it successful and healthy. Don’t worry about what your mate will or won’t do. Just subtly leave this book in a conspicuous place in the house and hope they come to the same conclusion that you will. Or, be brave and let your spouse know you are committed to him or her and to doing your part to increase the harmony and intimacy in the relationship.

Many of you can do this on your own. Buy the book 10 Great Dates by Dave and Claudia Arp and just do what it says. Others of you will need help in one form or another. There’s no shame in that. If your tooth hurts, you are very willing to go to a dentist. So if your marriage is hurting there should be nothing keeping you from going to a counselor or relationship coach to get things to a better state. The investment will be minuscule in comparison to the payoff.

Chapter Challenge: Look for an opportunity this week to thank your mate for putting up with you and assure him or her that you plan to be with them for the long haul. If you haven’t already done so, find your wedding vows and have someone write them out in calligraphy suitable for framing. Surprise your mate by hanging them in your house and let them serve as a daily reminder of your commitment to each other.

What’s Your Love Bank Balance?

I must be on a spelling kick of some sort. Last week I wrote that for many of us love is spelled TIME. I saw an e-mail that listed some amazing anagrams. Anagrams, as you may know, are the rearranging of letters to spell different words. For example, if you take the word “dormitory” and rearrange the letters you get “dirty room.” Sounds about right to me.  Or how about “slot machines” which can be rearranged to spell “cash lost in ‘em.” Then there is “mother-in-law” which I may or may not explain later.

I find these anagrams interesting and amusing. It’s incredible how meanings can change with slight alterations in spelling. The same can be said for a marriage. It’s incredible how a marriage can be improved with a few targeted and purposeful changes.

I’ve learned to think of a marriage relationship as being a love bank. This concept comes from DR Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs; Love Busters and several other books. When a couple first meets they are attracted to each other and begin the process of getting better acquainted. They soon find themselves looking for ways to please the other. Little cards, silly pranks, surprises of various sorts show the other that you are interested and that you care about him or her. These may be thought of as deposits in the other’s love bank.

When the couple’s love bank balance becomes sufficiently high, they typically decide to make the relationship permanent and they get married.  Over the ensuing months and years, they continue to make deposits into their account. But over time, with the pressures and demands of life, they also begin to make withdrawals. Harley would call these “love busters.” So long as these love busters are not too severe, and they are offset by continuing deposits, their damage need not be too destructive. If the withdrawals routinely outweigh the deposits, however, the bank balance can get dangerously low. Unless this situation is addressed productively divorce is typically right around the corner.

So there are two ways to improve a marriage or increase the value in the love bank. One is to make more deposits, and the other is to avoid making withdrawals. Here’s a hint for you if you choose to make more deposits they must be deposits according to the receiver’s definition -not the givers. If I were to give my wife two season passes to my favorite sports team, I should not be surprised at her less than thrilled reaction. Unless of course, it was also truly something she would value. To better understand this concept you might want to get a copy of DR Gary Chapman’s bestselling book “The Five Love Languages.” This book will give you excellent direction and help to identify what your spouse would consider to be a genuine deposit. You can also take a short online survey at www.fivelovelanguages.com to gain insight into yours, and your mate’s love language.

To help identify withdrawals, you might want to read Love Busters by DR Harley. It will give you some ideas of specific things you are doing, or perhaps not doing that you should, which are draining the love and joy from your marriage. It will also help to open the dialogue with your spouse to get his/her input into what he or she considers to be love busters from you. As in deposits, withdrawals are to be defined by the receiver, not the giver.

Now here’s a trick question for you. If you wanted to improve your marriage and you could either make more deposits of fewer withdrawals which would you do? Congratulations to those of you who answered more deposits. You gave the most popular answer. There’s just one thing wrong with it – it’s not correct. It is far better to identify and reduce/eliminate the withdrawals than it is to increase the deposits. Here’s why. According to DR John Gottman and others, it takes between 5-15 deposits to offset the damage done by one withdrawal. In other words, if you commit a withdrawal you cannot undo the damage you caused with just one deposit. The damage is too great for that kind of one-for-one equalization. It takes multiple deposits just to get back to where you were before you made the withdrawal. That’s why it’s best to minimize the withdrawals and have all your deposits automatically go into positive territory.

So let me suggest you schedule some time this week to discuss with your spouse deposits and withdrawals you are each making that you want to increase or eliminate. Please make sure the timing is right for this conversation. The middle of a heated argument would likely not be the best choice. If you both approach the conversation with an openness and desire to have a great marriage, I think you’ll be happy with the outcome. Also, don’t try to make major changes all at once. Just choose one or two items to focus on and save the others for later.

My hope and prayer for you is that your love bank balance will rise and stay in positive territory through the coming years. Oh, by the way, the anagram for mother-in-law is “woman hitler.” I’m so glad that’s not at all true in my case. And if you’ll permit me one last word of caution: letting your spouse or his or her mother know that anagram could be a serious withdrawal.

If you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ronp@FCCMF.org. FCCMF stands for Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-c-3 organization I co-founded in 2003 and which I presently serve as executive director. You can also call me at 505 327-7870.

Love is spelled TIME?

My friend Doug Thomas told me a story that I want to share with you. It’s about a young child who asks her father how much money he earns per hour. The father is startled and annoyed by the request and refuses to answer. The little girl persists in her questioning, and the father grows increasingly upset. Finally, the exasperated father yells to the girl that he earns $20.00 per hour, and now she better go to her room and get out of his sight. Before leaving, the girl asks her father for $5.00. Bewildered the father asks “why do you want $5.00?” to which the girl replies “I have $15.00 saved up. With $5.00 more I was hoping I could buy an hour of your time.” Ouch!

That reminds me of another story I heard many years ago about a father who asked his son which he wanted more from him – quality time or quantity time. The son thought for a moment and responded “dad, I want quality time – and lots of it!

Time is one of the great equalizers among us. We all have 24 hours each day to spend just about however we please. A good number of those hours I suggest should be spent in sleep. It’s not selfish to spend some of those 24 hours just on yourself. But if you are a spouse and/or parent, the remainder of those hours do not belong to you alone. I heard a statistic that fathers speak to their children, I believe it was an average of just 15-20 minutes per day. Or was that per week? Either way, it was a dismal statistic and a telling one when you look at the many poor decisions our youth are making today.

Please don’t get the idea that I am on a man-bashing tirade here. I am not. I fully realize and appreciate the significant role that a man plays in the overall wellness of his wife and children. I also realize, however, that many men have abandoned that role and are just not fulfilling it as they should. Again, I’m not saying that men are to blame for our depressing divorce rate or the myriad problems facing our youth. Research is pretty clear, however, that when fathers are actively involved in their marriage and parenting, they and their loved ones benefit tremendously.

In fairness, I must point out that men and women are dramatically different in so many ways. These differences become apparent early on in life. Typical little girls spend much of their play time imagining growing up to be wives and mothers. Little boys, on the other hand, see themselves as doctors or truck drivers or however they will one day earn a living to support their family. Notice I said “typical, ” and I certainly am not implying that women can’t or shouldn’t work or that men can’t be nurturers. It is true, however, that most men are programmed to some extent to be breadwinners. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell unless the emphasis on making a living gets out of balance and becomes the end-all and be-all. And, therein, lies much of the problem within marriages and families today.

Brian G. Dyson, then President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, in a 1991 commencement address at Georgia Tech University challenged the students to: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand this and strive for balance in your life.”

Wow, that sounds like sage advice to me.  And I can’t think of a better time than right now to do a realistic appraisal of how you are spending your time. Are you giving of yourself to those who are most deserving? Has work and hobbies, activities, interests taken time away from your loved ones? It really does come down to where your priorities are. And this is not a challenge solely made to men. All of us run the risk of getting so caught up in the hectic pace of life that we can’t see the many time and relationship thieves that have crept into our lives.

So let me close with a poem by Natasha Josefowitz called Priorities. At least for marriage, it says what I’m trying to say far better than I can:

We’re working too hard accomplishing a lot but . . . the time to play is passing us by.

We’re in our separate worlds of creative concentration. It’s wonderful but. . . the time to be us is passing us by.

We meet for meals and speak of work. It’s helpful but . . . the time to know is passing us by.

We meet in bed and go to sleep. It’s restful but. . . the time to love is passing us by.”

 

Should you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ronp@FCCMF.org. FCCMF stands for Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-c-3 organization I co-founded in 2003 and which I presently serve as executive director. You can also call me at 505 327-7870.