Change for the Better?

Not everything in life is easy. Many would say dealing with conflict falls into that category. And many would feel the same way about dealing with change.

I share some thoughts on change and marriage in this week’s post.

 

 

Chapter A2: Change for the Better?
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails.”

—William Arthur Ward

There’s an old expression that a rut is just a grave with openings on each end. True or not, your marriage can easily fall into the form of ruts if you’re not careful to keep that from happening. Most people will admit that change is difficult, but so is trying to resist change. I’ve heard it said that people do not actually resist change nearly as much as they resist being changed. I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. I’ve also heard it said that a woman marries a man hoping he will change and a man marries a woman hoping she never will. I’m not so sure I agree with that one, but it’s likely true in some cases.

The point I hope to make in this chapter is that trying to change your mate is wasted energy at best and highly toxic to the relationship at worst. While dangerous to the overall health of the relationship, attempts to change one’s partner are very common in marriage. Such attempts are often well motivated from a deep sense of love, care, and genuine concern. But when you’re on the receiving end of such attempts, they do not come across as well intended, no matter how much they may actually be.

If you are the requestor of the change, you are likely thinking about all the potential benefits to your spouse and/or to your marriage that will result from your suggested changes. If you are on the receiving end, however, you are likely hearing that your mate is not pleased with you or how you are doing life at the moment and that he/she wants you to change not just what you do but who you are.

As is the case in so much of life, right intentions and motivations do not always gain the desired results. So let me give you a piece of advice which might make change in your spouse more likely to occur. That advice is to change yourself first in ways that he or she is likely to notice and appreciate.

Have you ever noticed that often when you are upset with your mate, it is because you are already upset about something else? How often do children pay the price for how poorly their moms or dads were treated at work that day?

The next time you find yourself perturbed with your mate, you might want to stop and examine whether he or she is the true cause of your agitation. You may realize you are upset because you didn’t sleep well the night before, or because you’re hungry, or because a pressing problem is weighing heavily on you or . . . You’ve likely heard the expression that negative emotions often arise from feeling H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired). I like what Mark Twain said: “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”

Another truth I have picked up along life’s journey is that often the changes you desire for your mate are actually changes you desire in yourself, but somehow seem unable to accomplish. You want to start an exercise program, so you get down on him or her because he or she doesn’t. You want to eat a more healthful diet, so you get upset when your mate brings home junk food. You want to reduce the amount of garbage you put into your mind, so you get upset when he or she watches questionable television programs or movies.

Numerous other illustrations abound, but I think you get my point. You resent it when people try to force changes on you, so please give up the notion that your mate is going to appreciate when you do the same to him or her.

So am I suggesting that when you see your mate engaging in self-destructive behaviors, you simply stand by and do nothing? I hope not. What I am suggesting is that you do what Mahatma Gandhi is alleged to have said: “Be the change you desire to see in the world” or, in this case, your marriage. There is some dispute about whether this is in fact what he actually said, but the sentiment of the thought is still valid nonetheless, especially perhaps as it applies to marriage.

So often, each spouse waits for the other to change before he or she is willing to make improvements in the marriage. Rather than waiting for your spouse, may I suggest you consider taking the initiative to be the change you want to see in your marriage.

I remember watching the TODAY Show several years ago. I was about to turn it off and go back to work when I heard that the next segment would feature an animal trainer who used animal training techniques to train her husband. Needless to say, this piqued my interest enough to stay tuned. While I can’t remember the guest’s name, I will never forget her words.

She told of techniques used in animal training whereby you look for the behavior you want from the animal, and you lavish praise and rewards each time you see that behavior. Rather than look for what you don’t want and criticize, she admonished, it is far better to look for the good and to recognize it appropriately. So she decided to stop criticizing her husband and to make a determined effort to thank and appreciate him for what he did to contribute to the household and the marriage.

As she concluded her segment, she told the interviewer that her husband responded very positively to her new approach. She stated, “He really changed.” Her final words were in the form of a rhetorical question: “Or was it I who really changed?” While I’ve never considered myself to be much of a dancer, I can assure you I did a joyful jig in my office when I heard those words that morning. And how true it is that one person can dramatically turn a marriage around.

Will this be quick? I didn’t say that. Will it be easy? I didn’t say that, either. But will it be worth it for you to make changes in how you treat your spouse in hopes the relationship will improve? Only you can answer that, but in most cases, the answer should be a resounding YES!

Along with being less critical and more encouraging, let me share with you a few other ideas to help make your marriage happier and healthier. My first suggestion comes from the movie, Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron and a whole bunch of folks you’ve never heard of. Mr. Cameron plays the part of a firefighter whose marriage is falling apart. At first, he doesn’t care but then realizes what he is doing to contribute to its impending demise. His father gives him a book titled The Love Dare, which is a 40-daychallenge.

Each day lists a specific exercise to reach out to your mate in a loving fashion. The exercises are designed to help your mate know how you feel and how much you value him or her and your relationship. Trust me when I tell you it’s not all that easy to keep to the schedule, especially as some days’ exercises are more involved than others. I teamed up with a friend to take the Love Dare for our wives and hold each other accountable. I believe it took us some 60 days or so, but we eventually did, as they say, “Get ’er done.”

I would share with you the results of this experience on my marriage, but frankly that’s just none of your business. You can get your own copy of The Love Dare by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick online or at a local bookstore and find out for yourself what might happen. While not easy, I can assure you that taking the time and spending the energy to help your mate feel appreciated by you will be well worth the investment.

A second suggestion comes from Dr. Scott Stanley, esteemed marriage and family researcher, and co-founder of PREP Inc. Dr. Stanley suggests you consider two things your mate would appreciate receiving from you. These can be actual gifts or simple tokens of affection that he or she would enjoy receiving. Your task, obviously, is to make the time to deliver, each week, whatever you’ve chosen as your intentional demonstrations of love.

What do you suppose would be the impact on marriages if both spouses were to form the habit of giving their partner two purposeful love gestures each week? My hunch is that it would be fun to find out.

You may have heard of the immortal words of John F. Kennedy, our 35th president, who said at his inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Again, with only a slight revision, this is wise wisdom to apply to your marriage: “Ask not what your spouse can do for you; ask what you can do for your spouse.”

Will any of these suggestions bring guaranteed results? I can’t make such a declaration. But, if you’ll permit me one last quote, I’ll turn once again to my Jewish grandmother who often said, “it couldn’t hurt.”

Chapter Challenge: Determine to take personal responsibility for the state of your marriage. As you begin to make changes in yourself and pay more attention to your marriage, you are likely to find a reciprocal response from your mate -in time. Please note, I said, “in time.” You must demonstrate your change before your mate is likely to follow suit. And even if he or she doesn’t change, you will be better for your efforts.

Admit When You Are Wrong

John Steinbeck said “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I often feel the same for the best laid plans Price and men. I had hoped to have my second book in the PLAY NICE series out by April 1. I moved that date to July 1 which obviously did not happen. I’m now at a place where PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home will be released when it is released.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of chapters with you – one this week and another next week. I’ve had some writing pros look over the book and they tell me it is worthwhile reading. I hope you agree.

Section Three: Admit When You Are Wrong

“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup,

whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.”

—Ogden Nash

 

I don’t know how much you weigh, but I can give you a great weight-loss recommendation. You could quickly shed needless pounds through this one recommendation: take off the mask you have been wearing for several years.

 

In case I’m getting too personal, let me ask you to think of others you know who spend much of their time and energy trying to get others to believe they have it all together. While this might not actually add to their physical stature, I can promise you it takes a toll on their relationships and their outlook on life.

 

Please don’t take what I’m saying too far. Some degree of self-protection is necessary and helpful to healthy relationships. We all need a healthy ego, an accurate, and positive self-image. But, like so many aspects of life, a good thing taken to an extreme becomes a bad thing. You likely know people for whom admitting they are wrong is difficult, if not impossible. A key component of a healthy ego, however, is the ability to admit when you are wrong and to accept any consequences connected to your wrong actions or behavior. So many problems in marriage could be avoided if one or both parties would suspend their efforts to “save face” and admit they did or said something inappropriate.

 

Dr. Mark Goulston, one of my all-time favorite authors (Just Listen; Get Out of Your Own Way; Talking to Crazy), observes that when people are verbally attacking one another, they are actually defending themselves from perceived attacks from the other. If that is true, and I believe it is, when either party stops the attack, the other can stop his or her defense and the battle can end. This “truce” would give the couple an opportunity to reasonably and rationally discuss whatever got them so upset in the first place. And, as Charles Herguth states,“ Truce is better than friction.”

 

Another book you might want to add to your library is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Ms. Brown makes the bold assertion that while most of us shun vulnerability at all costs, we should rather embrace and enjoy it. I consider that concept to be “R” rated in that it is not suitable for children.

 

Can you remember being around young children and being amused by their assertions that they are the “strongest,” the “fastest,” the “best?” These boasts are comical and harmless when coming from children. They are anything but comical and harmless when coming from someone who is supposed to have outgrown their childhood and become an adult.

 

Face it: we are all fragile and imperfect in some respects. Some people have gotten very good at hiding their vulnerability from others, and perhaps even from themselves. Such efforts make admitting when you have wronged someone difficult if not impossible.

 

It is a certainty in any close relationship that, over time, one party will hurt or disappoint the other. The only unknown is how long the impact of that mistreatment will last. The quickest way I know to lessen the time is to honestly admit your wrong, ask forgiveness, and move on.

 

I caution you, however, that for your admission to be accepted, it must be genuine. Please don’t ever try to sugar coat your misdeeds. To say something like “If I wronged you” or “Maybe I hurt you, but . . .” is not likely to put the matter to rest. As the expression goes: “If you mess up, ‘fess up!”

 

I read of a physics teacher who held out a cup of water and asked her students how heavy it was. The correct answer she received was not very heavy at all. She then asked her students how heavy it might be if she were to hold the cup for an hour or a day. Holding on to pride or ego and refusing to admit when you did wrong can get very heavy over time and take a serious toll on your relationship and happiness.

 

Chapter Challenge: Learn to practice the fine art of humility and see what it does for your household harmony. Please don’t go out of your way to hurt someone just so you can admit you did wrong, but you might want to look back to a time when you wronged your spouse or children and never admitted it. There likely is no better time than the present, so Nike, my friend: “Just do it!”

Marital Happiness Commandments (Part Two)

Last week I cited what I consider to be five of the Ten Commandments for Healthy Marriage. Here, as promised, are the next five. Again I remind you that these are just ten suggestions for marriage among dozens if not hundreds which could be considered. I’m hopeful that this will get you thinking what your top ten commandments for healthy marriage might be and that you’ll share them with me so I can share them with others.

  1. Thou shalt pick your hills to die on. In any marriage, there will be ample times to disagree and get upset with one another. In my humble opinion, some of these disagreements are serious enough that they merit earnest, respectful confrontation.

    There will be many other disputes, however, that are more indicative of one or the other’s present mood than an actual threat to the marriage. These, I suggest, are better off ignored and allowed to pass away – which they will if you don’t make too big a deal out of it. So it’s a good idea to decide what issues are worth fighting for and which are best relegated to the “let it go” pile.

  2. Thou shalt “Think Win-Win” in all marital decisions. Fans of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People will recognize this commandment. A healthy marriage is one in which both parties feel they have a voice and that their concerns matter.
    If you end a dispute or disagreement with your spouse feeling you won, and they lost then trust me, you haven’t won anything. You are on the same team, so unless the matter is resolved to each one’s satisfaction, there is no winner. If you view your marriage as a competition that in itself is a likely warning signal.
  3. Thou shalt “Seek First to Understand Your Mate, Then to be Understood by Him or Her.” This is based on Habit Five of the Seven Habits. While it is good for individual growth, it is also an exceptional practice in the home.

    You have a deep seated desire to be understood by others. That goes double for the person to whom you are married. He or she doesn’t always have to agree with you, but he/she must demonstrate that they care enough about you to be willing to understand your point of view.

    Since you have this strong desire to be understood, do you think there might be a fair chance your partner has the same desire? So take turns. Rather than insisting that your mate understand you first let them explain how they see things before you give him or her your version.

  4. Thou shalt invest regularly in your mate’s “love bank” account. This concept comes from Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs and many other wonderful marriage enriching books. When you and your spouse first met you began to interact in fun ways. These didn’t have to be expensive or grandiose. Just being together and doing things together was enough.

    You enjoyed each other’s company and did nice gestures to each other. These gestures are what Harley would call “deposits in the love bank.” Silly cards, doing errands, leaving notes, baking cookies, etc.

    Over time you also began to make withdrawals which caused a decrease in the love bank balance. That’s a topic for a future article, but for now, let me suggest you concentrate on making deposits which your spouse would consider a deposit and do your best to avoid making withdrawals.

    And lastly,

  5. Thou shalt love your spouse unconditionally. If I were to ask you why do you love your spouse you might list some of his or her attributes or their personality or their character. But what if illness or accident removed some of these qualities? Would your love for them then also disappear? Sadly this is often the case because most love is conditional.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but to love unconditionally makes it much easier to put up with the petty annoyances that your mate will cause you to experience from time to time. Unconditional love is a solid protection against the attacks which will come your way seeking to undermine the security of your marriage.

If you missed the first five commandments and would like to see what they are please send me an e-mail to ronp@fccmf.org, and I’ll gladly send you a copy of the post. Also, I again ask those of you who have successful, notice I didn’t say perfect, marriages to send me your tips and pointers so that others may benefit from your contributions. We all have a vested interest in preserving and strengthening marriage in our area, so I thank you in advance for your help.

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.

Recent weeks have been more hectic than usual and I expect the next couple to be even worse. I mention that only to explain why I reached back into my archives for this week’s post. In May of 2012 I wrote this column for the Farmington Daily Times. So, without further ado – whatever ado means – here you go.

I thought it might be interesting to list what I consider to be the Ten Commandments for healthy marriage. I plan to list my top five this week and the next five next week. I don’t expect that any of you will agree with all ten, but I’m hoping it might challenge you to formulate your own top ten as a couple.

So here goes:

  1. Thou shalt never threaten divorce. When you marry you typically make a vow which cements your decision to be united to your spouse until “death do you part”. There will be times in most every marriage when you’re upset enough with your spouse to think you may have made the wrong decision. It’s ok to feel this way – it is NOT ok to voice it.

    When you threaten or intimate in any way that you are considering going back on your word it sends shock waves through your partner. He or she will likely then begin to consider how much they want to continue investing in the relationship if you are willing to bring it to an end.

  2. Thou shalt always protect the dignity of your spouse and yourself. The best marriages are built on a foundation of mutual respect and admiration. This despite the fact that each of you is seriously flawed and anything but perfect. It’s ok to be upset with your partner’s behavior, it is NOT ok to attack them personally when you see those behaviors in action.

    The golden rule is absolutely applicable here – treat your spouse as you would want them to treat you.

  3. Thou shalt take a time out when either or both are too upset to deal effectively with the issue at hand. Face it, life is hard at times and often frantic and stressful. When you are not at your best you are quite likely to take out your frustrations on your mate.

    Some of you remember the old song: “you always hurt the one’s you love.” That song rings true if for no other reason than that when you are upset it’s your loved ones who are in striking distance and likely to be recipients of your wrath. It is ok to be stressed and hurt and times, it is NOT ok to take it out on your spouse of other loved ones.

    By the way, this idea of hurting those who are nearby is similar to the statistic that most accidents occur within 25 miles of your home. The reason, again, is that that is where you are most of the time. When I heard that statistic I moved.

  4. Thou shalt remember to keep fun in your relationship on a regular basis. Far too often the thrill of the courtship gives way to the mundane monotony of marriage. People get so caught up in making a living and raising the kids that they stop focusing on them and their relationship.

    When they were dating they couldn’t wait to be together and to do things together. You may want to take an assessment of the last time you went out on a date, or away for a weekend, or even took a week off to vacation just as a couple. My fear is that for many the results will be distant memories. It is certainly ok to focus on the necessities of living, it is NOT ok to forsake the joys of marriage in the process.

  5. Thou shalt discover and speak your spouse’s love language. Many of you are familiar with the ground-breaking work of Dr Gary Chapman, author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages. Dr Chapman makes a compelling case that we all give and receive love differently. Since you did not marry your clone the odds are way above fair to middlin that your mate’s preferences are different from yours in this vital area.

You might want to pick up a copy of his book or visit          www.fivelovelanguages.com and take the free on-line inventory to discover        your own and your mate’s love language. It is certainly ok to have your own        love language and to expect your mate to speak it on a regular basis. It is   NOT ok to expect your mate to speak the same language or for you to             ignore his or her’s just because it may be foreign to you.

Now I certainly realize I am not God. I’m not even Charlton Heston (you younger folks may need to ask your parents or grandparents what I mean by that). But I absolutely believe that these commandments, along with the one’s I plan to detail next week will, if converted to regular practices, have a dramatic and positive impact on your 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.

Post 21 Three Great Gifts

Gifts of Love

 Last week I wrote about the benefits of giving your mate the gifts of love and respect. I mentioned that men tend to prefer respect and women tend to prefer love, but it is safe to say that both genders appreciate healthy doses of each. I promised to return this week with other suggested gifts you could give that do not involve spending a lot of money.

Three gifts I remember giving to my wife jumped to my mind that did not cost me a penny but which she greatly appreciated. Before I tell you what they were, I must tell you that there is a danger in writing a column or post on marriage. Readers might get the idea that I am a perfect husband, or that I consider myself to be a perfect husband. I can assure you neither of those statements is true. I am the most perfect husband my wife has ever had, but since I am also the only husband, she has ever had that tarnishes my ranking just a bit.

Early on in our relationship, I was walking by myself when I looked down and saw a heart-shaped rock. I picked up the rock and got some yellow paint and a small brush. On the rock, I painted the letters RP L MP. Since I was away at the time I put the rock in the mail. I received a delighted phone call in a few days in which she told me how thankful she was for the small token of affection I had sent.

Another no-cost gift I gave my wife was to respect and honor her relationship with her family – her mother in particular. We started our lives together in Cortez, but after five years I had a strong desire to move us to Farmington. Since she was born and raised in Cortez – where her mother still lives- she was not thrilled about the idea. After much discussion, she finally consented to the move. In appreciation, I promised her I would never ask her to move any further from her mother than the 70 miles are between Cortez and Farmington.

Over the years I have never begrudged her time with her family nor ever put her in a position of having to choose between them and me. She and they know they are always welcome in our home and that means a lot to her.

The third gift I recall is perhaps the most appreciated of all. Any one who knows me knows that I have a tendency to kid at times. Ok, so that’s an understatement, but it posed a serious problem for my wife and our relationship. There were times when I was being serious about a matter, and she was convinced I was kidding. This proved to be frustrating to both of us until I gave her a fool-proof way to know for certain if I was serious or not.

I promised her that if I ever said “Maridell I love you and I’m not kidding” she could take it to the bank and believe whatever I had just said was the truth – or at least what I believed to be the truth. Over our 36+ years of marriage, I have never violated this promise. I have at times said things like “Maridell I like you, and I’m not kidding,” or “Maridell I love you, and I’m serious,” but she has always been clever enough to know not to believe those attempts at Ron-foolery.

Again, I do not promote myself as the ideal husband and state that every man should do as I do. They likely should do as I say, but that’s a different subject. My point for today is to challenge you to look for creative ways to show your mate that you love and appreciate him or her.

If you read my column, or if you read my upcoming book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home, you will hear me say that I hate the expression “marriage takes work.” I work all day and don’t want to think I have to go home and work all night. Marriage takes paying attention and frequently giving to your mate. So long as both are doing this, you can look forward to a long and happy 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 is the author of PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work, and the soon-to-be-released PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. You can contact Ron at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

In marriage, it really is better to give…

          You’ve heard the expression “where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.” I recently heard a take-off on that which says “where there’s a will, I want to be in it.” Actually, that has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s column – I just thought it was funny. It did, however, come to me from the same source as the following. I read a quote attributed to Bryan White who said: “we never really grow up – we just learn how to behave in public.” I think for one gender that is even truer than for the other. I know in my own case when people ask me where I grew up, I typically reply “I’m trying to do it in Farmington.”

I don’t mind being an adult and I think I usually act like one, but why would anyone want to grow up? What does that leave for you to accomplish and experience?

At any rate, maturity is perhaps a better goal for all of us to pursue and one that might never be completely reached in this lifetime. I believe one sign of maturity is how well you accept the notion that it is better to give than to receive. We all know children, and some less mature adults, who think that is likely the dumbest statement they ever heard.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many marriage partners who agree that statement is farcical at best and ridiculous at worst. But may I suggest that the best marriages are those where each partner subscribes to the truth and reality that bringing pleasure to someone else is even greater than receiving it yourself.

So even though Christmas, the season when our collective thoughts turn to giving is still a few months away let me make some suggestions for appropriate gifts to give to your spouse now and throughout the year.

Wives, you may consider giving your husband respect since it is way high on his most-needed-from-you list. Most if not all, men hunger to be respected – especially by the main woman in their life. Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, co-authors of the For Men Only, For Women Only and For Couples Only books,  quizzed 1,000’s of men and asked if they would rather be loved or respected. By a wide margin, the answer was respected.

This likely comes as a surprise to most women for when they are asked the same question, the vast majority reply they want to be loved. So, guys, you want to guess my suggestion for what you might give your bride this year?

Now I know that men do not always act in a manner worthy of respect and that loving a woman at times can be akin to hugging a cactus. But it’s also true that when a man is treated with respect, he tends to act more respectably, and when a woman feels loved, she responds in a more loving fashion.

Please don’t fall into the trap which Emerson Eggerich calls the “Crazy Cycle.” In his bestselling book “Love and Respect” DR Eggerich makes the case that if a man feels disrespected by his wife, he will withhold love from her, and when a woman feels unloved by her husband, she will not be able to respect him. No love leads to no respect, and no respect leads to no love and on and on and on. Not only is this a “Crazy Cycle,” it is also likely a death knell to the marriage if not corrected.

Some of you may be thinking all this sounds good in theory, but how can I love or respect someone when I don’t feel like it? My simple answer to that dilemma is that you decide to override your feelings and do what you know is right. Far too often we let our feelings make our decisions and we typically then live with the negative consequences therefrom.

Love, you may have heard, is a decision as well as an emotion. I believe the same may be said for respect. You really can choose to love and respect someone. As you then act out your choice, you will typically find your emotions will catch up in time. By deciding to love and/or respect someone you are choosing to look for those qualities which are love and respect worthy. You’re not blinding yourself to the negative. You’re just choosing to give more weight to the positive.

In this way, you are living what Dr. Bill Dougherty, author of Take Back Your Marriage and other excellent books, calls an “Intentional Marriage.”

By the way, I really resonate with Dr Dougherty when he says on his website that “The only thing that rivals parenting for sheer challenge in today’s world is marriage, which holds our fondest hopes and our worst fears about the permanence of relationships in life.” He goes on to state that “a   core part of my mission is to restore a culture of hope about marriage by showing how couples can be intentional about their marriage and by promoting community and cultural support for marriage.” And how true is his next thought that “we have to do marriage better for our sake and for our children.”

Dr. Dougherty well sums up our passion and purpose at the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family where we endeavor to help marriages thrive in our area. If you feel any interest or desire to be a part of this, and to add your talents and resources, I would love to speak more in depth with you. Please give me a call and we can further that discussion.

In the meantime, let me be the first to wish you a very early Merry Christmas and let me encourage you to consider well what you might give your spouse this year as a meaningful and much appreciated present. I’ve got some other suggestions, which do not cost money, to go along with love and respect. Let’s meet here again next week and I’ll share them with you.

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.

Is Time On Your Side?

I am getting closer to publication of PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. I just have a few adjustments to make, but they are major and will take some time to finish. In the meantime, I thought I would share a chapter with you that I find I need to read again and again – just as a reminder. I wonder if you feel the same way?


Chapter P1: Whelmed? Surely You Can do Better—Can’t You?

            “I’ve stopped trying to get ahead. That way, I can concentrate on trying to slow down the rate at which I am falling behind.”

—Source Unknown

I’m thinking of taking my life in a new direction with my ultimate goal to be whelmed. To be honest, I don’t know what whelmed is, but I know I don’t want too much or too little of it. Regarding a healthy marriage, being either overwhelmed or underwhelmed can pose problems.

The term “overwhelmed” probably doesn’t need much elaboration. I believe it is the scourge of our age—or at least one of them. I don’t know many people who are not stretched these days in far too many directions.

I called a friend to ask him to get involved in a project I was working on. After hearing the list of tasks he currently had on his plate, I was exhausted. I, of course, graciously withdrew my request.

This friend’s story is anything but unique. It is important to realize from time to time that your life may be out-of-control busy, and if that is the case, your marriage is bound to suffer. You simply won’t have the time or energy to give it the attention it deserves. I read a book several years ago by Dr. Richard Swenson called Margin. This is an excellent resource for getting a grip on over-commitments and on how to build in periods of respite into your busyness. I think I need to carve out some time to read it again.

Along those lines, may I suggest that you take the time to schedule activities and events which are important to the overall health of your marriage. We’ve all heard the expression “find time” to do something. If you have figured out a way to find time, would you please let me know? I’ve been looking for time for a long time.

To “take time” or “make time” seems far more realistic than to try to “find time.” Among the elements which might be worthy of your time are play times just for fun, the state-of-your-marriage conversations, parenting meetings, and even sex.

What did I just say? That’s right, many couples routinely schedule times for physical intimacy. They consider it important enough to make it a priority and something which should not get pushed to the side by other life demands. I’ve also heard that one gender in particular prefers some advance notice, while one just needs the other to show up. I’ll let you guess which gender might be which.

I can’t promise that proper scheduling and prioritizing will do away with all overwhelm in your life, but as my Jewish grandmother used to say, “That and some chicken soup couldn’t hurt.”

Regarding being underwhelmed in your marriage, you simply must take steps to prevent it from happening. I can’t tell you how many folks have come to me for marriage help telling me they have drifted apart. What I can tell you is that this is the likely result when couples stop focusing on their marriage and making it a priority in their lives.

There is nothing wrong with each partner having their own personal interests and pursuits in life—so long as these are not a threat to the marriage or causing undue hardship on your mate. But a couple who spend the majority of their time with each doing his or her own thing is likely a couple I will someday see for divorce mediation.

Chapter Challenge: Schedule time to discuss where you and your spouse fall on the overwhelmed–underwhelmed continuum. Make a plan to ensure you keep time for fun and other important components of a healthy marriage.

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.

Just for laughs

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.

Actually 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.

It’s said that 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 having sex” 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 having sex. 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- much of which I find humorous. Rita Rudner offers the following: “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.

 

 

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.

What a Difference a Father Makes

Happy Belated Father’s Day y’all. I happen to be from the southern part of Rhode Island which explains my use of southern “y’all” greeting.

I appreciate the fact that we take a day each year to honor mothers and fathers. I know it’s pretty much a commercially motivated day, but the point remains that we should take time now and then to reflect on these incredibly important human roles.

There seems to be well accepted unanimity that mothers are vital to the welfare of their children. What’s been largely ignored in the past, however, is just how important fathers are to their children and to us as a society.

For one thing, fathers are the main factor in determining if we will feel accepted or not by others. We come into this world having known mom intimately for nine months (and already behind nine months room and board).  Mothers are normally well gifted at nurturing and loving us so we typically feel accepted by them.

Fathers, on the other hand, are obviously different from us and from our mother with whom we so closely relate. If father rejects us we begin to believe we are unacceptable as people. Unfortunately this is an all-too-common development in our society.

You’ve likely heard of surveys done in prisons when the inmates are asked to describe their relationship with their father. In one Florida penitentiary there was not a single inmate who reported having a positive relationship with a positive role model father.

I think we can all agree that mothers and fathers parent differently from each other. By the way it’s often the case that each parent does what they do in response to what they see the other doing. In other words, if a mother thinks father is being too strict she might tend to be more lenient. If a father believes a mother is being too assertive with their children, he might take a more passive tone. So if you have concerns about how your mate is parenting you might want to discuss with him or her how you might both change, not just the other one.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the genders parent differently. These differences are pretty much within us from birth. As you may have noticed, little boys are dramatically different from little girls. Back in the 60’s social scientists tried to get us to believe this was not true. They theorized that males and females are virtually identical and it’s simply how they are raised and socialized that explains gender differences. Fortunately, they put this hogwash theory to the test and they found out how ridiculous is was.

They gave little girls guns and soldiers to play with while little boys were to play with dolls. In short order the girls were making frilly clothes to put on the soldiers and painting the guns with dainty designs. The boys were playing with the dolls alright – by drop kicking them, throwing them to each other, etc.

Little girls are often seen playing house and pretending to have a family. They often spend countless hours dreaming of their wedding and their fortunate groom who gets to marry them.

Little boys, however, are often engaged in activities wherein they imagine what their occupation or profession will be. They play at how they will be able to make a living to provide for their family.

This helps to explain, but not excuse, the fact that so many men become workaholics to the neglect and disappointment of their wife and children. Many feel they are doing what a man is supposed to do – “put food on the table and clothes on their backs”. While this certainly important, too many men have gotten their responsibilities way out of balance.

Some years back I came across a blog written by Jon Brancheau, Vice President of Nissan Marketing, found at the web site for the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.fatherhood.org).  Concerning balance Mr Brancheau writes:

“A balanced obligation between the kids and the workplace is a good start. Prioritizing the time for my kids’ sporting events and recitals has proved important. I want to be visible for them at these events and will go out of my way to attend some during inconvenient business hours. Trust me, they get it and appreciate it. In the end, I try not to let my kids come up short on the “balance of work-life” scale.”

He goes on to say: “Staying with the idea of balance… How about the simple balance between trying to teach your kids vs. listening to them? Listening has worked for me so far and the kids continue to teach me something new every single day.”

It is certainly not my intention here to in any way minimize or downplay the importance of mothers. That they are vital to a person’s growth and development should go without saying. My intention is to point out the enormity of the role and importance which men have as dads to the overall health and well-being of their children. This factor, I’m afraid is often not given the significance it deserves.

So happy father’s day dads and please do stay in balance and be what your children really need you to be. I’ll just about guarantee you’ll be 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.

Post 16 Divorce busting and divorce remedy

Two Great Resources to Strengthen Your Marriage

Most of you have seen, or at least heard of the movie the Vow featuring San Juan County’s own Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. While it is certainly entertaining I strongly encourage you to read their book by the same name. The movie is about a fictional couple who meet, marry, endure great tragedy and have to learn how to be a couple all over again. The book is the true story of two people who know the meaning of a vow and who had the courage and fortitude to carry it through amidst tremendous challenges and hardships.

Oh that more of our citizens would realize and appreciate the significance of a vow before they make one. I’ve heard of some couples who marry promising to stay together until “love do we part.” Well I’ve got news for you – marriage requires much more of a commitment than that to be successful and long lasting.

Every marriage will experience tension and times of unrest between the spouses. It’s normal and to be expected. Having made a vow which means something is a good protection to help you ride through those times until you get to a better place in your relationship.

So let me share with you this week two resources which can be of great help when you encounter difficult stretches and threats to your marital bliss. Michelle Wiener-Davis describes herself as a “guerilla Divorce Buster.” She is the author of Divorce Busting, a landmark book with a fairly simple message.

Ms Davis makes the case that most couples fall in love and decide to marry largely because they enjoy each other’s company. While first getting acquainted they do things together and have fun. They seem to click and decide they want to do this for the rest of their lives.

So they marry, get a place to live, have children and somehow in the midst of their busyness, they stop having fun together. Their marriage devolves to paying the bills and raising the kids. Who wants to do just that for a lifetime? So they begin to grow apart and prefer being away from each other rather than with each other as in the early, formative days of their relationship. Divorce is all-too-often the next step.

Published in 1993, Divorce Busting, has helped numerous couples reclaim the joy they once shared and the hope they kindled of a happy life together.  Among the skills couples learn are:

– How to leave the past behind and set attainable goals;
– Strategies for identifying problem-solving behavior that works–and how to make changes last; and
– “Uncommon-sense” methods for breaking unproductive patterns.

Perhaps chief among the skills taught is the importance of having fun again. Ms Davis encourages her readers and clients to go back and do the things they did when they first fell in love and they will likely rediscover their love for, and enjoyment of, each other. That is, I might add, assuming that those activities were legal then and still are now.

I have often recommended this tactic to my clients and am a firm believer that it can have great benefit in turning around a marriage which has grown stale. Obviously some marriages will be in more severe circumstances and will require more intense intervention. But I strongly suggest you try the “have fun together like we used to” approach before you get to that point.

And that leads me to my second resource which is also a book written by Mrs. Davis. It’s called The Divorce Remedy and was published in 2001. The book is subtitled: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage. While giving helpful information on how to strengthen a marriage, this book is also helpful once your spouse has decided he or she wants out of the marriage.

Mrs. Davis provides specific guidance on what to do, and what not to do, for the spouse who hopes to keep the marriage intact. It’s not always easy, but is usually worth the effort. This is especially true if children are involved for they are the ones most severely and negatively impacted by their parents’ divorce.

Do I believe divorce is sin and should never occur? Absolutely not! Do I believe divorce has become a far-too-easy option for couples in distress?  As they say in Minnesota “ya, sure, ya betcha!” and as I’ve written many times over the years, this insanity just has to stop. People need to be better prepared before marriage and have more intestinal fortitude and knowledge to keep their marriage afloat through the turbulent seas they are bound to encounter. And the good news is that help is readily available to any and all who want to succeed in this most challenging human relationship.

Please know there is, or at least should not be, any shame in admitting if your marriage is not what you would like it to be. We have several counselors and coaches in the area who are ready, willing and able to help you get back on the right track.

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.