Sunday, April 28, 2013

5 Things to Avoid In Relationships

One of the advantages of being young is that you have recovery time. If you make a dumb mistake you often have the time to make up for it. I’ve made some financial decisions that I regret. I’ve passed by some opportunities that I wish I hadn’t.

However, one of the (fewer) advantages of being older is that hindsight is always much clearer. I once heard that smart people learn from their mistakes, but wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Oh, yeah – and fools never learn.  I suppose I should admit to being more in the smart group than the wise one. But I have learned some things that are valuable along the way.

Hopefully I can help you join one of the first two groups on some issues.

  • Mind reading. Guys, don’t try to read her mind. You will get it wrong. Her girlfriends probably won’t, but you will. Ask for clarification. Women, don’t expect your man to read your mind. He will get it wrong and you will think he doesn’t care. He does care, he’s just clueless. Let him know what you need. And if he does it, let it count. The same thing applies in reverse.
  •  Impatience. One of the ways you can know if you are practicing mind reading is that you try to finish your mates’ sentences for them. Or maybe you are impatient. Be respectful and allow your beloved to move at their pace. If they are unusually slow, offer to assist in whatever way you can without being critical.
  • Telling the other person how they feel. This bad habit is annoying and also related to mind reading, but more toxic. The other person will feel parented, not cared for. Even worse, if they tell you how they feel, don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel that way. Again, they will feel discounted and parented.
  •  Labeling. This is the layman’s (should I say lay person’s?) version of what a professional does, minus the training. It’s a form of diagnosing. From a spiritual standpoint we might call it judging. “You are compulsive.” You are impatient” You are self-centered” It sounds critical, and it is. People often have a hard time breaking free from labels, especially when they correspond to ones given to them by parents or other authority figures.
  •  Profanity. We often use the terms cussing or swearing to describe this destructive habit. (Actually swearing is a form of promising.) Here is a definition of profane: to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt. Is this how we want to treat someone who God has given to us? Do we want to treat anyone like that? Do we want to profane marriage or treat it as sacred? How about your children? Do you want to treat them profanely? Words once spoken are impossible to retract.

Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Love Affair with Books

Frequently I hear people bragging that they haven’t read a book since they left school. I understand that sentiment. They read way too many books that didn’t add one iota to their “real” life. It was all pain and no gain. But for me, books are a source of lifelong learning and pleasure that other media doesn’t seem to satisfy. I love books. I have hundreds of them. I will probably have hundreds more before Jesus calls me home.

When it comes to the issue of relationships, there is a lot of value in reading.

Now, I know that there are other sources of learning besides books – I’m not hard core. But I still think we are more likely to refer back to something tangible if we own it. I lose files on my computer when I change computers, or I misfile it, or forget that I had it in the first place. Kindle works pretty good – and I know that’s where things are headed. But I guess that I still like the way a book feels, and smells and tastes. And book dust jackets draw you in. OK – I was a lot younger when I chewed on books. 

There are many spiritual books that have been life giving to me over the years – I’m not going to list them here. And little has given me as great a pleasure as a good fiction book to help me detach from life when it becomes stressful. I'm starting a new one by my good friend D. J. Williams entitled "The Disillusioned". Look for it in May 2013. (shameless plug)

Here are some great relationship books.

  • Love and Respect – Dr. Emerson Eggerrichs
  •  Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, (or) The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work – Dr. John Gottman
  •  Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts – Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
  •  The Meaning of Marriage – Dr. Tim Keller 
  • Getting Your Sex Life Off To A Great Start – Dr. Cliff & Joyce Penner 
  • 5 Days To A New Marriage – Drs. Terry Hargrave & Shawn Stoever 
  • The Five Love Languages – Dr. Gary Chapman 
  • Boundaries In Marriage, (or) Boundaries In Dating, (or) Hiding From Love –  Drs. Cloud & Townsend 
I am guessing that if you are a reader, you can add many more books to this list. As a matter of fact I welcome any suggestions that have impacted your marriage, dating or relationships. Use the comment box below to share your favorites.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Trying Too Hard To Make It Work

I’m all about perseverance. If you are going to survive in any type of sales career (like I have been in for the last 34 years), you will have to acquire a good dose of it. But I have also had to learn when it was time to quit. There is a fine line between being diligent and being self-defeating.

It can be the same in a pre-married relationship.

Sometimes it’s just too hard to close the sale and go from not married to married. I have seen many couples fight an uphill battle trying to “make” a relationship work. Here are a few indicators that you might be trying too hard.

·         The relationship seems more like work than fun. It is necessary to do a certain amount of investigative and other preparatory work before making such a significant commitment. But is most of the joy and delight missing when you are together?

·         There is a lot of conflict.  We go by the 80/20 rule. Are 80% of your interactions positive or do you find yourselves dealing with significant amounts of conflict?

·         You've been in counseling for too long a time. Have you wisely entered into pre-married counseling but discover there are so many challenges that it drags on and becomes more like “trying to save this marriage” counseling?

·         You are constantly being compelled to change. It may be that you feel you are unacceptable to your partner unless you make a lot of changes. Growth is good, but are you being asked to become someone you are not, especially when you like who you are?

·         You have to defend the relationship to family and friends. Do the people that really know you express their concern for you? Do you find yourself having to distance from them in order to preserve the relationship equilibrium?

·         You breakup and makeup several times. Do you go through this cycle expecting that “this time” it will be better and finally work out? Is it hard to admit that you have chosen poorly?

·         You just can’t quite commit. Maybe there is a good reason and God is protecting you. Do you feel restrained in your spirit?

You are not a “loser” because you decide to move on when a pre-married relationship is too hard. You are actually displaying wisdom and maturity. It may be hard for you to trust that God will not abandon you in your desire for a relationship. But I would encourage you to trust regardless.   

Proverbs 14:12 (NLT)
12 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Brene Brown Video On Vulnerability

It is entirely possible that I am one of the last on the planet to be aware of this TED talk. And if so you can all just laugh (with) me. But I suspect that there will be many that will be challenged and blessed by Brene Brown's short, but powerful video.

For me, I am particularly grateful that I learned about Brene Brown from a couple of my counseling clients.

Two days in a row I was directed to listen to her TED talks -- this one on vulnerability and another on shame. I am grateful because I am committed to not only teach, but to also learn from my younger friends. Over the years I have gained many valuable insights and been referred to excellent books and resources by not giving in to a kind of arrogance of age. Oh, wait, I guess I am talking about vulnerability here -- admitting I don't know everything -- that I don't have the market cornered on wisdom and knowledge, even in my selected field.

The phrase we have always used is "having a teachable spirit". 

For some it may be hard to be vulnerable in this area. It may trigger feelings of inadequacy and shame. Sort of like what the video is addressing. But I see it as an indicator of growth, of maturity.

Are you comfortable and secure in your inadequacies? Can you freely admit them without shame?

I made so many spiritual connections that were implicit, but obvious in this video. Take a listen and tell me what you think.