Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fighting Fair

Lately I’ve been coaching a lot of people in how to fight fair. We all have conflict in our lives but there are few people who can have a conflict and protect connection at the same time. It is difficult and it requires discipline, but I’m here to tell you that it can (and should) be done.

Let me start by saying there are dynamics one should be aware of before entering a conflict, argument, or a heated disagreement. We all have lenses through which we see the world and of course, they are all different lenses, no two are the same. We are shaped by personality, birth order, gender, culture, and many more factors. I believe strongly that no one should accuse another of having a wrong lens, it just may be very different from yours. It’s your job to try and understand the other person’s lens, not to change it or criticize it.

There are communication styles that we all have, from blunt and harsh to soft and indirect. Some people have a really easy time setting boundaries, and for some that is the scariest process in the world. Some people know exactly what they need, and others just know how they feel. Some people are internal processors and some are external processors. Learning how to bridge these gaps is essential to healthy communication. Let’s start with some ground rules:
  •  I cannot control other people. On a good day I can control myself, but controlling others isn’t even an option. I can hope to influence others, communicate with others, and at times set boundaries – but I refuse to try and control someone else.
  •  Agreement cannot be the goal of communication; otherwise we create a winner/loser dynamic. In that scenario, people tend to just take turns winning and losing (or in some situations, one person always wins and the other always loses). No need to take turns being powerful! You may have to learn compromise and negotiation, but even in that process you can still both wear the pants in the family (or the relationship)! (By the way I hate that saying, who wears the pants?)
  • We all come to the table with our ideas and mindsets of what is “normal”. Everyone’s normal is different. What was normal to one family may be totally foreign to another. Check your judgment at the door when seeking to communicate. Bring an open mind and flexibility – this is crucial
  •  Assertive communication is the healthiest; it is clear and not clouded, it is strong but not aggressive, it is honest and not manipulating.
  • Own your own message, don’t look for comfort in numbers by saying something like: “The whole office agrees with me on this, you should not leave your dirty dishes in the sink.” It’s very tempting to use this crutch, but all it will do is make the other person feel defensive and ganged up on, it’s not productive. Instead, you could say “I’d prefer that everyone be responsible for their own dishes after lunch, do you agree?” or “I would appreciate it if you could be responsible for your own dishes after lunch.”
  • “You” messages will almost always make the other person feel judged and defensive. “You” messages foster disconnection. “I” messages let the other person know what is going on with you, for example:  I’m _____ can you _____? I feel ______ when ______. I’m      unsure of how I should respond to you when _______. I’m not feeling understood right now, I need to know I’m being heard.    
  • I can tell you all day about me, how I feel, how I see things, how I like or don’t like something. But the moment I start to tell you about you, I’ve become an amateur mind reader and I’m assuming I know exactly what you’re thinking, which is arrogant. 
  • Learn the art of asking questions. Questions can diffuse a situation and they can make the other person feel understood. Example of a good question to ask: “I’m sensing you are angry, did I do something to upset you?” A bad example would be: “Why are you so mad at me?” or “Why are you such a jerk?”
  • People have different needs when it comes to how they receive an apology. Did you know there is a quick test you can take to find out how you need to hear “I’m sorry?” These five minutes will help you tremendously in resolving conflict:
  •  Learn to develop the side of your personality that is weak in order to be a more effective communicator. For example, if you are dominant, learn to be a better listener. If you are passive, learn to be more forthright. If you’re unsure, learn to be more confident, if you’re stubborn, learn to be more flexible (and the list goes on).
  • Learn to express needs and feelings instead of demands and criticisms.  
  • People are continually mistreated for one reason and one reason only: because they allow themselves to be. Unsafe people need boundaries and limits. Boundaries protect your sanity, your heart, and your overall well-being.
Healthy communication is scary because you have to be honest and transparent - in other words, it requires vulnerability. What many people tend to overlook however, is that unhealthy communication is scary and painful too, with no hope of resolution. When we hide who we really are we become imprisoned in a mask of deception. We feel powerless in that place, stuck, and victimized. Healthy communication requires courage, but it also has great rewards. Every time you offer truth, every time you ask a sincere question, every time you communicate a need you are establishing a routine that grows connection and protects connection. As human beings we were at our core created and hard-wired for connection with each other. Without connection we die, emotionally and physically. It’s rough to find out you’ve been sabotaging the thing you desperately need because you didn’t know how to grow it or protect it. But it’s never too late to start learning!

Healthy communication is a foreign language to most people. It takes practice, repetition, and practical application to really sink in. Try not to be frustrated in the beginning if you can’t remember the “rules” or if the words seem to come out fumbled and clumsy. Over time, you will become proficient and comfortable with the more healthy approach, especially when you begin to see the fruit of connection all around you.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"I Don't Have Bad Days"

I was sitting in church one morning about five years ago when my pastor, Bill Johnson, said something that stirred me (and not in a positive way). He said, “I don’t have bad days.” I instantly became irritated with the thought that someone could claim such an unbelievable ability to “not have bad days.” How is that even possible? Who would dare to make such an arrogant statement? When service ended that day I felt miffed and frustrated. I knew my pastor well enough to know that he meant what he said, and he wasn’t being irresponsible. However, at the same time I felt like he was dangling an idea in front of me that gave me false hope, for how could I ever get to a place of such peace and confidence? In 2012, I was able to answer that question for myself.

Last spring Jon’s parents came to visit us and that day in March started like any other. I poured myself some coffee and sat down to check my emails. When I saw I had an email in my inbox from our landlord, I winced wondering what she would have to say. As I opened the message, my heart sank when I read the words “I am sorry to have to say this to you, but due to unforeseen circumstances we are going to need to move back into our house by summer.” Ugh. Jon was at work and I dreaded having to tell him that we just got kicked out of our home. And by summer? Really? How are we going to round up a down payment to buy a home, in the same school district within a few months time? And if buying isn’t an option, how will we find another rental in the same school district? My mind was racing with questions that had no answers. Our last move from California had put so much strain on our family, we were not ready to be stressed like that again, and only a year and a half later. I wrestled with discouragement, hopelessness and a little bit of panic all while surrounded by my parents, kids, and what was supposed to be an enjoyable spring break. Just as I found myself nose-diving into despair, I heard a still small voice, one that was very familiar and comforting say to me, “It’s too early to call this bad news.”

All of a sudden I felt hope arise. I didn’t know what that phrase meant, because to me this was clearly bad news, but I went with it. I decided that I would really listen to it, and ponder what it meant. I then had an idea of how to present the “news” (I dropped the bad part for now) to Jon. I called him when I had a moment alone and said, “Ok, this is going to sound bad, but before you make a decision about whether it’s bad news or not, just know that I felt like God said everything would be alright.” He hesitantly said slowly, “Oooookaaaay….what is it?” I proceeded to tell Jon about the email I got and he didn’t take much time to hold back from categorizing this news as “bad.” He was instantly upset and I could feel him take the same nosedive of despair I had begun to take about an hour previous to our conversation. I just repeated myself and said, “I know this feels bad, and I know this raises a lot of questions for us and I know it feels overwhelming, but let’s just try and meditate on what He said to me, let’s just try…” Jon put forth his best effort for the next few days, but it wasn’t easy.

As I kept turning over in my head the different options we had before us, everything would feel swirly and confusing. What does this mean? Does it mean we made a mistake to move to Kansas? Should we leave? Should we buy? Should we rent? Should we choose a different area to live in? Should we try and get all of this done before our annual summer trip to North Dakota? Should we just put all our stuff in storage and live at the farm for a while? Questions, questions, questions, too many options to know what to do. So I did what I always do in that situation, I sent out my SOS email to several friends that I trust and respect. I asked them to pray, and I didn’t tell them why. I wanted to hear what God might say through them without influencing their thoughts or prayers with all of our worries and questions. What happened next was such a special moment for me, I will never forget it.

While several friends responded with great encouragement, one friend answered with such clarity I instantly teared up. She called me and basically said she felt really unsure about what she was about to say, but was going to say it anyway. She then went on to explain that as she was praying for us that morning, she just kept hearing the words “putting down roots, it’s time to put down roots and make a home…” There was more but that was the basic message. It is my absolute favorite thing in the world when God answers you that clearly. I knew in that moment it was time for us to buy a home and put down permanent roots in Kansas. Knowing it and doing as it turns out, are two very different things.

The first thing we found out in our hunt for a home was that interest rates had dropped to historic low numbers. This meant for us that the homes we could not afford when we first moved to Kansas were well within our budget now. That is something we would have never looked into had we not been kicked out of our rental. The second thing we found out was we were going to need to come up with about 20,000 dollars in order to qualify for a mortgage (even with excellent credit). That is something we did not have just sitting around. After much thought we asked someone we have good relationship with if we could borrow the money and thankfully for us, they said yes. Hurdle number two was down. Now, for number three; finding a home in a very small area that fit our family’s needs, fit our budget, and kept our kids in the same school district. That hurdle was pretty high I found out as the house hunt continued.

Up to this point I had been able to really believe that getting kicked out of our rental at that particular point in time was a “God thing.” But as every day passed and no houses were presenting themselves, I started to waiver. Then I got a cold and hit a low point physically and emotionally. I was in bed most of that day when I sent out another one of my SOS emails. This time the email only went out to my Dad and Jon. I just told them that I had hit a low point, my resolve was weakening and I could feel discouragement and despair threatening my peace once again. I remember thinking, “Are you sure God? Are you sure about all of this? Because right now I am questioning all of it.” Within about five minutes everything changed, once again.

I was on an automatic email list with a realty company in the area, and as I was lying there, sick in bed I saw it! The perfect home for our family! It had just been listed that very hour and I immediately called our realtor to set up a time to see the house. I told her I was sick in bed but I would get up and get ready to see this house, I knew it was our house. The viewing was set for 6pm and I eagerly sent Jon the link. He was sold, and just as excited as I was!

When we pulled up to the house our realtor wasn’t there, and the carpet cleaners were still finishing up. There wasn’t even a lock-box on the door yet so I guess they didn’t expect appointments that early. Our realtor mistakenly thought we were talking about a house down the street so I called her to meet us at the right house. When we walked in I saw there was still food cooking on the stove and felt bad that we had interrupted their meal. It didn’t take long for Jon and I to do a quick walk-thru and both say in unison, “We’ll take it! Let’s put in an offer right now!” Long story short, we were the first offer of several over the next 24 hours – and since we were first ours was accepted. Not only was this house in the school district we wanted, but it was beautiful, the closing dates worked out perfectly for our timeline, it was tailored to our needs, and it was going to be cheaper than our rental! There was so much joy, so much peace and so much relief, I truly understood in that moment why God had said to me months before, “It’s too early to call this bad news.”

He knew it all along. He knew what he had planned for us, He knew what kind of dreams coming true were awaiting for us just around the corner. What if I had lamented all those months and stressed and worried and given myself an ulcer over such “good” news? And then it hit me, that phrase that Pastor Bill said years ago; “I don’t have bad days.” I finally really understood what that meant. So many times we hear news, or information if you will that we categorize immediately as “good” or “bad.” If we categorize it as bad, everything surrounding that information forms negative energy that settles in all around us and sucks the peace and joy from our life. I am not speaking about tragedy, or accidents, or death. I am speaking about the reports we hear on a daily basis about work, about school, about finances, about weather etc. etc. I realized there are many things in life I interpreted as “bad” upon hearing it, but how did I know how it would be turned for good if I would just wait, and see what He could do with it? I decided at that point in time to add a new category called “neutral.”

Whenever I get a report that seems negative (outside of obvious tragedy), I have disciplined myself to put that news into the neutral category and take it to Him in prayer. Then today, as I was reading one of my all time favorite books, The Shack, I read my revelation in beautiful words that explained perfectly what we had been through last year:

“[Speaking of reports or “news” we hear on a daily basis] They are neither bad nor good; they just exist. Here is something that will help you sort this out in your mind. Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perceptions – what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms – what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me. (The Shack, pg. 199)”

This new way of thinking altered how I did life in 2012. As I stand at the precipice of 2013, I’m excited to put into practice my new theology of “I don’t have bad days.” It’s not denial, it’s not a refusal to look at reality. For example, we experienced terrible loss in the month of December not just as a nation, but for us at a personal level as well. Tragedy is in our midst and there are days that grief and sadness engulfs us and the tears don’t stop. But even in the midst of those days, my paradigm remains the same. God is good, He loves me, and there is still beauty and joy and life worth living outside of this tragedy. When I look at the tragedy through that paradigm, my emotions don’t fall into hopelessness or despair. I may feel the sadness at a very deep level, but I still have hope and I find the resolve to heal and keep choosing love.

I’m not going to say that I have mastered this, oh no I have not. I am far from it. But I finally can say that I understand it, I value it, and I am working towards the reality that I no longer have “bad days.” I hope you will join me in 2013 on this journey of hope, resolve and courage. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Some of What I’ve Learned in 35 Years (in no particular order)

1. Beauty is WAY overrated. It’s not something you earned, or fought for, or discovered or created. How I wish our culture did not put so much emphasis on a random biological process that none of us have any control over.

2. (on that same note) The 400 lb woman thinks the 200 lb woman is lucky and has nothing to complain about. The 200 lb woman looks at the 150 lb woman and thinks she is beautiful and wishes she could be her. The 150 lb woman looks at the 120 lb woman and thinks she is perfect. The 120 lb woman sees nothing but flaws when she looks in the mirror. It's madness I tell you!!!!!!!!!!

3. Life is simply too short to exercise more than 40 minutes a day (unless you’re on the show The Biggest Loser).

4. Eating healthy as a lifestyle is the way to go, but I will always make room in my diet for the naughty things! Bacon, candy corn, fried cheese curds, mini donuts, yeah you guys will always have a special place in my heart.

5. Marriage is one of the hardest and one of the most rewarding things in life you will ever experience. When you find someone who will be your greatest advocate in the world, and you are his, that my friends is worth any fight, any drama, any sleepless night and all the work it takes to get there.

6. You can never take back something you said. But, if you don’t take risks and say some things that are on your mind and make some mistakes, you never learn which things are important to say out-loud, and which things you should just keep to yourself.

7. I believe in living with some regret, but only if regret can be the catalyst you need to change, do better, be better, grow and clean up your messes.

8. There are a rare few that will be in your life forever. For all the rest of the people that come and go, hurt you, make you smile, make you laugh, break your heart, its all a part of the process. Embrace it all because without the negative experiences, we really would not be able to truly value the positive ones.

9. Take the time to interview the older people in your life. Ask them; what was a waste of time? what did they wish they would have done more of? what were their victories and what were their failures? Learn from it. I once heard someone say write your ideal obituary, and then work backwards from it. Don’t be a passive human being. Live intentionally! Happen to your life, don’t let life just happen to you.

10. Whether you feel like a creative person or not, we are all born with a form of art that we are to present to the world. Each one of us carries inside the ability to do something unique and special that no one else in the world can do like we can. What is your art that the world is waiting for?

11. Pay attention to the movies, the commercials, the poems, the books, the greeting cards and the quotes that make you tear up, they will lead you in the direction of your destiny.

12. Every morning when you wake up and have your coffee or your tea, think about how the grass is plenty green on your side. A thankful heart cannot be a depressed, discouraged or sad heart.

13. Today, a real woman is powerful. She may have been born with a loud, strong personality, or a quiet, shy personality. Either way she should own that and be true to herself. She may have been born with a lean athletic build and gorgeous eyes, or a short frame with freckles and beautiful teeth. Either way, she should own that too and be proud. A real woman today might be president of a nation, or a stay-at-home mom. The point is that now she has a choice. This woman isn’t yet modeled in media or advertising as much as we would like, but she is all around you. She’s at the grocery store, she’s your neighbor, she’s your sister, she’s your classmate, she’s your boss. It’s our responsibility to make sure this is the model we are teaching our little girls from here on out.

14. People with secrets never have true peace. It’s so much better to get your failures out in the open, talk about them in your words, from your perspective. No secrets = freedom. Freedom = the ability to love openly and live powerfully.

15. Choose your battles wisely. Some things are worth fighting to the death, and some things are not your problem.

16. Never work harder on someone else’s problems than they are willing to work on themselves.

17. Watch more funny movies, you tube videos and read more far side books. Life is too short to not spend at least 50% of it laughing! And if you’re husband is funny, that’s a bonus!

18. When life presents extraordinarily difficult circumstances – fight back with extraordinary gestures of courage and strength!

19. The quickest path to self-deception is when we ignore the still small voice.

20. It will never be about what you did, how much you made, how well you did in a career. It will always be about who you loved, how well you loved, and who loved you. Period.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Building a Solid Inner Circle

I used to believe that certain people just had a "right" to be in my inner circle. Like, the fact that I've known them for 20 years, or the fact that they were my parents, or my siblings, or grandparents (and the list goes on). But over time I realized that family means so much more than just sharing a last name or the same DNA. And just because you've known someone forever doesn't mean they are healthy. It was probably in my late twenties I realized I have a choice on the matter. I decide who I want in my inner circle, and here are my guidelines for that position:

1. Can I share my dreams with you?

2. Can I share my victories and my failures with you?

3. Do you work as hard at being healthy as I do?

4. Do we share similar basic core values?

5. Do you have depth to you or do you live at the surface?

6. Are you trustworthy?

7. Can we run together or is one of us always running ahead of the other one?

8. Do you believe the best about me, even when everyone else doesn't?

9. Do you have permission to change my mind, and do I have permission to change yours?

10. Would you fly across the country tomorrow to help me if I needed it?

Sometimes you may only find one other person that really qualifies for that inner circle position. I can't imagine having more than 10 that would. This is an elite group of special people in your life. This is your core group. You can trust them with your life, and they can trust you with theirs. And every once in a while, your inner circle group may change. For example, the inner circle you build during your college years may need to be updated in your 30's. Sometimes there is a natural separation that happens due to life circumstances. And sometimes people start out safe, and then just drop the ball later on - it's sad, but it happens.

The most important thing to remember in building a solid inner circle is no one has an automatic right to be there, it is a position earned by someone who can carry your heart well. The choice is yours, choose wisely!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

MARRIAGE CHALLENGE: Working to Understand Each Other Instead of Changing Each Other

I had a vivid dream last night about a young married couple I know. Basically, they were struggling with something I would say was a very common problem in relationship. The wife is a go-getter, capable in many ways. She is focused, organized and lives life fully. The husband is fun loving, out-going, always makes you laugh and is the life of the party. He is also responsible, but maybe not as driven as the wife. In the dream, they were beginning to get very disconnected because all his charm was now annoying her. She couldn't laugh with him anymore because her needs of being taken care of were not being met. She was starting to feel like the mom in the relationship, instead of the lover. He was beginning to feel resentful that he couldn't be himself anymore. It was like all of a sudden she wanted him to change personalities. Also, his parents were beginning to feel like the wife was trying to change their son, and they didn't like it one bit. They were feeling protective over him and they were accusing her of being controlling and bossy.

When I woke up I thought "what would I say to them if they were sitting here having coffee with me this morning?" And that's when I decided to write a blog to address this issue as I feel it is something that so many people struggle with.

When the honeymoon stage wears off, we suddenly realize that the thing that attracted us to our spouse to begin with is now scaring us. His fun loving ways now feel childish. You begin to wonder if he can ever take anything seriously? Why can't he keep a budget? Why can't he be on time? Why can't he grow up and drive this ship with me instead of me having to come behind him and constantly clean up his messes?

He's thinking why can't she be spontaneous? Why so serious all the time? All those things that irritate her are not a big deal. Let's save the nit-picking for things that really matter in life. I'm faithful, I'm a good guy, why can't I earn her respect? Why do I always feel like I'm in trouble?

They are both right, and they are both wrong. Bottom line for her is she needs to feel safe. She needs to know her husband is capable of leading. She needs to know that if she disappeared for a week, the house and finances would not crumble to the ground. She needs to feel like she can lean on him. And when those needs are met, she loves nothing more than to kick back and laugh and have fun with him. That is what drew her to him to begin with. She actually doesn't want to change his personality, she just wants her needs met. She needs to learn how to communicate need instead of lashing out in anger or communicating constant frustration. Here is a good tool to keep in mind when communicating a need:

Right way: "I need to feel __________."

Wrong way: "I need you to __________."

When you communicate what you need to feel, you are believing that he is capable of creating a game-plan on his own, which creates a culture of freedom. But when you tell him what you need him to do, it feels like orders, which creates a culture of control.

For a man the best response when you hear what your wife needs to feel, is to embrace her and tell her that you hear her, and you will do your best to meet that need. And then if you really don't know how to go about that, here are some good questions to ask her:

1. When I have not made you feel that way?

2. Can you think of things I've done in the past that have made you feel that way?

If you still need help in figuring out how to form a plan - call in reinforcements! Do you have sisters? Do you have older couples in your life? Do you have a pastor, counselor or buddy who seems to know what he's doing with his wife? Ask more questions until you get it right. Your effort alone will mean worlds to her and you might just get those needs met along the way.

Ladies, the best way to get a man to rescue you is to be a princess in need of rescue. One of my favorite blogs on this topic is "Princes Don't Rescue Dragons." If you want him to move towards you, you can't breathe fire! Often times we skip fear and worry and move straight into anger. Speak up before you become the fire breathing dragon. Learn how to be vulnerable and communicate need instead of demands. And do your best to stay out of the parenting role. You may think you have no choice, but the more weight you carry the less he has to do. Keep putting weight on him, he can handle it. He may not get it done the way you want, but he can get it done. Take a chance and loosen the reigns, this is a partnership not a dictatorship. You can either fight to get it done your way, or you can fight for a marriage, which do you choose?

I hope you gained some insight from reading this, and I'd love to hear your successes if you've tried some of these suggestions and they worked to get you connected again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Passive Women & Pushy Men

My all time most popular blog was Passive Men & Pushy Women. Because there was so much interest in that scenario, I decided to flip it around and address the other side. Here we go...


I'd like to start with the strengths of a pushy/aggressive/ambitious man. He is a true leader, he doesn't take no for an answer. He is strong, he is powerful, and he demands respect. He is a producer, he can get results. You know he will get the job done. These are the CEO's of the world, the presidents, the leaders, the conquerers the pioneers and the winners. But along with that big personality can come some pretty big constraints.

Because a pushy man finds so much identity in achievement and success (and in being right), he will often leave relationships in the dust in order to pursue the next big thing. He most often chooses a nurturing, quiet, solid and steady woman as his helpmate because she is everything he is not. Early in the relationship she will try to set boundaries with him, and he will squash her efforts - which later on down the road will cause a painful amount of disconnection and disrespect. He is often critical of his spouse, children and friends. No one ever feels good enough around him because bottom line is nothing ever is good enough (in his eyes). A pursuit of excellence becomes a perfectionistic rigid way of life. His high standards leave him alienated and isolated. Pushy men will protect ideas instead of people. In many environments they are the predator and they hurt those around them often. They are obsessive about details which makes them good at their job, but a lousy family man. Often times he thinks that everyone in his family is thriving because no one ever confronts him. But what is really going on is people in his family are dying and they are retreating to silence. They have just given up hope that he will ever change and they have accepted the fact that he just can't hear the truth. Also, you simply don't want to argue with a pushy man. He will turn it around on you so fast that you end up apologizing to him for something he did wrong. Living with a pushy man is one big double standard. He can always do it (whatever "it" is), but you can't.


Ladies, I'm not going to let you off the hook even though you're in a tough position. Here's the thing about living with a pushy man. He acts that way, because you let him. Early on in the relationship he communicated to you that his needs were more important, and you believed him. It is in your nature to give and not ask much in return. But in doing so you have created a monster. I can't tell you how many women I know who ended up in a relationship like this only to find out 10 years down the road (when she finally explodes like a volcano) that she really did have a voice all along. And the moment she actually set a real boundary, that pushy man responded in love and respect. See, he is strong, and he will run you over if you let him. But what he really wants is for you to be strong too. He may fight it at first, but he will respect your strength. In fact, it will inspire him, intrigue him, bring him in closer. Because you are such a supportive personality you are a safe person when it comes to confrontation and boundaries. You can do "tough love" better than any other personality. You have an emotional compass inside of you. You know when things aren't fair, when he's pushed it too far, when he is out of line, and when he is out of control. But for so long you have ignored it, and some of you have defended it, even made excuses for it. "He works so hard, he has all these problems, I don't want to add to them." I've heard them all. So do you want to enable him, and lose any hope for real connection in marriage, or do you want to do the healthy thing, and teach him how to treat you well? Dr. Phil always says "you teach people how to treat you." I'm a firm believer in this.

Ladies, don't be the martyr. Don't be the victim. You may not carry the same drive he does in life, but if you don't develop the strong side of your personality you'll never see the results you want. A pushy man wants a safe, nurturing woman but he also wants a powerful helpmate that will run with him, at his pace.

Over the years you may feel like too much damage has been done. Some of the cuts may be too deep. But with the help of a counselor, you can heal. Your marriage can heal. You can develop the strength you need. You may need the help of a strong coach in the beginning who will pull your pushy man aside and say "hey, NOT OKAY!" Don't be afraid to pull in help in the beginning.

And my closing thoughts to a pushy man - you can be "right", or you can find love. Which do you choose? Which one will you find more rewarding in the end? You have the tendency to get out of control real fast. Will you have to lose everything before you learn how to develop your constraints? Or will you learn to value other people, and believe that they are just as important as you are? Your identity needs to be in what you bring to others, not what you can take or conquer. You were born strong, but not so that you could run all over people, it was so you could bring protection to the world. The world needs your strength, but in your strength you're called to serve, not dominate.

And for both men and women, no matter what your personality is, no matter your age or you circumstances please don't ever stay in a dangerous, abusive relationship. Get out, get help, and know that there is hope!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some DOs and DONTs in Marriage

Today I'm just speaking from the heart. Jon and I have been coaching some couples lately and also hearing stories of marriages that seem to be crumbling as we speak. I'm not an expert, I'm just a woman who has been pursuing deep connection with a man for the past 11 years. And here are some things I've learned and observed along the way.

1. A good marriage is possible for anyone who is willing to work for it. I believe it's harder and more painful to not work for connection. People are always looking for an easy button, but the truth is short cuts and complacency often bring torment into one's life. It's easier to move towards each other than away from each other.

2. Stay connected to what made you attractive in the first place. Ladies - don't get frumpy!!!! I understand that life can get overwhelming and we all deserve days without makeup and high heels. A good man will love you through many different stages in life. But it is your responsibility to inspire your man with your beauty. Keep things exciting, reinvent yourself, put effort into being beautiful - inside and out! Guys - don't stop chasing your lady! You're a hunter at heart. If you become a bump on a log you are shooting yourself in the foot. Watch a few Brad Pitt movies to jump start some passion. That guy knows how to get a woman's heart beating! And, if you're already on that side of the spectrum - learn loyalty. Affairs and flirting may seem exciting. But long lasting covenant love is the stuff that truly satisfies.

3. Don't make the kids the center of your world. How many people have done that, and when the last one leaves the house the marriage is null and void? Your kids need you to be connected. They need to know that they have a solid anchor to settle into. They need a model of love that they can take into adulthood. Kids also need to know the world does not revolve around them alone, that is not setting them up for reality. Kids will feel more secure and happy if Mom and Dad are connected.

4. Create a culture of respect in your home. Last time I checked, sarcasm and disrespect were not on the list of aphrodisiacs recommended by sex experts. It should be you and him against the world, not you and him against each other. Fight for that! Don't let resentment and frustration and misunderstanding drive a wedge between you and the one you're meant to do life with.

5. Nostalgia can stir the embers of passion. One thing that always helped Jon and I during the "rocky" years of disconnection was to sit down and talk about what made us fall in love in the beginning. It's important to talk about those things often. It's important to remember what brought you together.

6. Learn each other's love languages. This is a great website and a great book to read:

7. Don't take your spouse for granted. There are broken people out there roaming to and fro, waiting to steal your spouse from you and prey on your marriage. You need a plan to make each other feel safe. Talk about your concerns, set boundaries with people who have the wrong intentions. The number one problem I see in this area is a "nice" husband who thinks he is just trying to help another woman, and then it comes back to bite him in the you-know-what. Husbands listen to your wives warnings. We have a 6th sense about women who are predators. The other problem I see running rampant is when you work too closely with someone of the opposite sex. I've said this before in previous blogs, under no circumstances do I think it's wisdom to spend that much alone time with a member of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. Men - hire male assistants. Women - hire female assistants. Why risk your marriage for something that is so simple to avoid?

8. Find things to do together. Have date nights. What you protect and invest in will flourish.

9. Bring in people who have a good connection, and ask them some dang questions for Pete's sake! A little humility will go a long way when it comes to learning about relationship. I know men who will spend hours studying for fantasy football, or hunting, or fishing, or some other hobby. But how many will pick up a book on relationships? How many will study their wife with the same intent? You find a man who will do that, you find a very happy marriage. Ladies, bring some intrigue to the table. Be an interesting subject to study.

10. And lastly, do something. Move one foot in front of the other, baby steps! There is always something you can do to cultivate an atmosphere of love and trust. Some have a lot more work to do than others but it is so worth it.