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Focus on the how not the what

What is it that creates the intensity in certain conversations with your spouse?

What moves a conversation between two people from the issue at hand into personal meltdown?

Emotional reactivity.

But this isn’t all bad, emotional reactivity also turns out to be nature’s way of informing us of where we are on the path of emotional maturity (another way of thinking about growing up and differentiation).

One of the measuring tools for getting clear about how much growing up you have to do is time to reactivity – how quickly do you lose it?

How easy is it to push your buttons?

How many buttons do you have that can be pushed?

How often do you stoop to pushing your partner’s buttons – either to have it your way or just to keep them from having it their way?

Usually the issue (call it the what) triggers some difference between you and your spouse that creates tension – more for one spouse and less for the other. The more important the what is to you, the quicker you become emotionally reactive.

Your energy will be intensely focused on the outcome of the what – either by getting what you want, or by getting your spouse to validate your wants.

A major shift can occur when you “get it” – the what is actually an indicator of your emotional maturity.

At this point, you have two choices -[Continue Reading…]

Relationships are easy

DSC_8561Relationships are actually pretty easy.

I didn’t always believe this. In fact, I used to believe relationships are hard work.

I’ve written these very words many times.

You’ve probably even heard this phrase before.

It is often stated as a Truism in our society, and while I understand the sentiment … I’ve reached a point where I no longer buy it.

I do believe that relationships involve work, but hard work?

I’m not so sure.

[Continue Reading…]

The Intentional Married Life

asleepatwheelMany of us are asleep at the wheel.

We follow routine and schedules and patterns we’ve created and refined over the years.

We are going through the motions, doing things in life and relationship with little forethought.

Contrast this with the idea of an intentional life: everything is done with consciousness, fulfilling a core value (compassion, love, serving, to name a few).

It’s true that many things we do have some sort of intent — I wash the dishes because I don’t want a messy house; I drive my kids to school because they need to learn. But after repeating these actions every day, the intent kind of fades into the background so we are barely aware of them. We’ve figured out the intent long ago so there’s little need to think about it anymore.

What if that changed?

What if you became very aware of your intention for your actions?

How would that transform the action, and your life, and your marriage?[Continue Reading…]

Power in Relationships

wimpyI’ve written several times about the Nice Guy (the female version is a pleaser), the struggles he faces in his life and relationships, as well as the impact “niceness” has upon both men and women in marriage.

Nice Guys are often wimps.

In fact, Nice Guys tend to play the wimpy victim role very well. You can hear it in what they say to themselves and others:

“It’s just not fair.”
“How come she always gets her way?”
“If they would just …”

The Nice Guy paradigm begins in childhood as a survival mechanism. In order to get their love and attention needs met they develop this belief: “If I’m good and do what’s right, I’ll be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem free life.”

The problem with childhood survival mechanisms, we carry them forward into adulthood and expect them to work like they did when we were children.

We all do this to some degree, but they seldom work as intended. The Nice Guy however, carries with him the belief that he can create a problem free and smooth life.

The truth is, this is an impossibility.

Life is chaotic. Life is struggle. Life is filled with things beyond our control. But the Nice Guy believes otherwise. He is convinced that if he does everything right, everything will go right in his life.[Continue Reading…]

Confidence Is Key, And You May Already Own It

confidencewordsI recently received this email from a Simple Marriage reader …

Your article on 5 ways to ignite your wife’s passions was good up until point 3 at which you completely lost me.

In it you describe my exact personality: ‘…men who are anxious, passive and eager to please exude anything but confidence.’ Well if that’s the case I’m in deep trouble. I’m struggling to decipher whether this is your own bolshy American swagger or whether it’s the truth.

I come from a long line of genetically enhanced worriers. We’re not timid, but there is a reluctance to exude anything that vaguely resembles American bolshiness (I’m not American or a swarve Italian, haha). That sort of confidence is definitely not present in the men and women in my family: lots of happy, sweet smilers and most definitely we are a family of eager to pleasers!

I’d have to say much of this died in me after I lost my business to a Christian businessman who took full advantage of that particular trait turning me into a bit of a hater and someone who is far less trusting of human beings since. Yet it’s still very much in my blood and I’m reminded of this when I start having anxiety attacks (of the clinical kind) when I find myself in conflict or high stress situations – something that was alien prior and seemingly dormant as an experience up until I had that nightmare experience of almost losing everything.

I now see it in my son too: this genetic lack of confidence playing out before my eyes much to my and my wife’s dismay. He assumes a victim mentality and we’ve seen this in his social interactions with friends who end up rejecting him. A self-perpetuating problem we’re trying to solve.

Luckily I had church to bury myself in growing up and faith became the crutch I used to find confidence – as has my whole family. I say crutch not as a bad thing because I do honestly see this genetic lack of confidence as a good fit for finding church and faith.

So you see the problem here. You’ve branded me as a failure in confidence without hope for those like me and my family who genuinely have a personality trait that has its roots in a genetic lilt.

I get what you’re saying, but believe me, I have done many things to try and figure it out – including spending 4 years at university studying social services, abandoning that, but getting my psychology degree without finding a solution to my problems. Of course I married a woman whose father is even more timid and lacking confidence than me or my dad. Her mom dominates in every way on the one hand as an energetic, delightful person who is the life and soul of every social gathering, BUT on the other hand is a most critical, self-centered lady whose power to destroy with words matches her power to bring life.

So here I sit, madly in love with my gorgeous wife, dying to make to love to her and dealing with her apparent apathy toward touch and sex, lack of ability to want or enjoy intimacy, and dealing with my own lack of confident personality which I will not be able to change at base and according to you this leaves me hopeless haha! Great. Just what I needed to hear. Thanks!

Kind regards
Innate Worrier

Dear Innate Worrier,

There is nothing in my book that says those with a genetic disposition towards anxiety, worry and/or lack of confidence can’t be, and possibly aren’t, actually confident.

The mere fact you can name and own your traits is in itself confidence.

Confidence has many outward traits: standing tall, speaking with a firm tone, looking others in the eyes. But, confidence also comes from knowing who you are and who you aren’t — and then most importantly, not trying to act like you’re something you’re not.

It’s a knowing who you are then a willingness to let that be seen by those you live life with, without them having to accommodate or cater to your insecurities and worry.

As you have termed it, what you describe is more a man who is a “nice guy” than a man lacking confidence.

The trouble with the nice guy isn’t that he’s a pleaser, it’s that he’s often a manipulator – he tries to get his needs met without asking for them. He is also overly attached to the outcomes rather than simply seeking and being driven by his desires.

I hope you can actually begin to see a clearer picture of where you stand, and that you can stand taller than before because you in fact already have more confidence thanks to your willingness to state your struggle.

Well done.

Try out Married Life 911 for $1

growingIt is my personal belief that Valentine’s Day is actually a made-up holiday by Hallmark and ProFlowers.

A positive spin I could put on this belief is everyday should be a day you pursue your spouse and tell them you love them. Or I could say this because this is yet another day where you’re “supposed” to get a gift for your spouse.

Regardless your stance on Valentine’s Day, it is fast approaching.

And, whether or not you agree with me that this whole thing is made up, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are many times in married life when there are problems and struggles.

Rough patches and pain in marriage certainly aren’t made-up.

If you are currently in one of these patches, please know this … you are not alone.[Continue Reading…]