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: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

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.