Friday, April 25, 2014

All the Single Guys

It must be something inside guys from birth. I’ve been there many times. You sit with a list of possibilities – Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Honda, BMW, whichever. Or will it be Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Vizio. Then there are the options on each one. So many options, how can one decide? While you are stuck in indecision another year passes and another model becomes available. Now there is a whole new set of possibilites to factor in.

I think guys can be like that with relationships. Analysis paralysis strikes again.

Guys will get stuck kicking tires and slow down the experience being in the drivers seat of their own vehicle. Yes, they may test drive several along the way, but then give them back because of their uncertainty. And unfortunately they often return them empty of gas and covered with dirt. Have you ever washed a rental car? I think guys can treat the women that they date like that too sometimes. They use them and then leave them drained and sullied.

Are you one of those guys? I’m not saying you necessarily have bad intentions. You may seriously want to find a wife, and you are pretty good at treating women respectfully. But are you so stuck on finding “the perfect one” that you let the years and women roll by and never really get started? And then you wonder why women your age seem to be so anxious about getting married?

Or are you one of those guys that allow your relationship to drag on for years without making a decision? If you don’t know if she’s right within the first year then you will probably never know. Finish the job within two years or let her go find someone who will.

There is reality to a woman’s biological clock, and men just don’t feel pressured by it in the same way, (unless of course they are married to a wife who is). I don’t believe it is fair for men to negatively judge women who carry that desire to be married while childbearing is still possible or relatively easy. I think guys need to have more empathy.

Do women also look for the perfect man? Of course they do. But I think they are likely to become more realistic as time goes by and they hear that clock ticking. I think guys need to join them.

Are you holding back because you think you have to have it all together first -- the home, the career, the bank account? You don’t need to be a home owner – but you do need to have a job. And it’s good to have a realistic sense of where you are headed in life. If you are having a hard time getting a woman to say “yes” to a marriage proposal it may be because you lack these basics. Or it could be that you still need maturity in other areas as well. Are you prepared to make compromises for the sake of a relationship? Did you learn how to share as a kid? You will need that skill as a husband. Long term singleness can make both men and women pretty rigid and selfish sometimes.

Is it scary to think about giving up the freedom that comes with singleness? Yes it is. But is marriage good for men? Yes. Is it good for women? Yes. Is it good for children? Yes. And it is good for society as well.

If you like it ………     

Saturday, April 19, 2014

All the Single Ladies

A while ago Nan read an interesting research statistic to me.

Men in leadership usually choose a team that will support them whereas women in leadership tend to choose a team that will challenge them.

As a business owner I have seen this dynamic in action as well. When a team member is seen as too aggressive or contrary, especially if there is an angry edge or a feeling of veiled anger, male leaders will often see them as someone who needs to be “handled”, isolated or eliminated, often to the surprise of the person who assumed that that was their role. Thinking that they are demonstrating competence and initiative, they are surprised when they are demoted rather than promoted.

I believe it is the same in relationships.

When a woman aggressively challenges her partner, he is likely to respond by creating some kind of distance, either by using anger to push her away, or by withdrawing physically or emotionally.

I know this can be confusing to a woman, who may see her behavior as an attempt at shared intimacy or connection or relational mutuality or equality. But most men will not interpret it the same way. He will often see it as threatening or disrespectful.

What can a woman do to feel more like a partner in the relationship? I would suggest an approach that would be labeled “gentle persuasion”. This is not nagging, which carries the tone of disappointment with the person, but rather an attitude of kind support, even though there is a difference of opinion.

I can admit that if it were not for Nan’s gentle persuasion, I would ignore many aspects of self care as well as social connection. Instead of showing irritation with me, she is just persistent. Do I like it? No, not really, but I know I need it. And it feels supportive rather than confrontational.

I have targeted this post for single ladies because there are many women who miss this or think this is unfair, but the result is that they don’t get chosen and they don’t know why. Or they do get chosen and then feel emotionally isolated down the road.

Dr. John Gottman (relationship expert par excellence) describes the divorce profile as:

“A husband unwilling to be influenced by his wife and a wife who starts quarrels harshly and with anger.”

So ladies I am suggesting that you become an expert at gentle influence and hopefully you will be in a relationship with a guy who will appreciate it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

On a Beach Far Far Away

My first experience with a “retreat” was as a child. And for me, it wasn’t so wonderful, and certainly not restful. It was some sort of Christian boy’s camp held at a ranch. It was called Green Acres or Green Oaks or something like that. I was put on a bus with a bunch of kids I didn’t know and told to sit down and be quiet “or else” by the guy in charge. Nice.

The highlights of that long weekend that I can remember were the ability to buy candy at the camp store if your parents had thought to give you some pocket money, and riding a mule that stopped every few feet to relieve itself.

My idea of a retreat today is somewhat different than my early experience. 

There are many kinds of retreats – personal development retreats, educational retreats, spiritual retreats, and just-leave-me-alone-so-I-won’t-go-nuts retreats. Some professions (like raising children) are probably most subject to the last one. I think I’ll call it an emergency retreat. It becomes necessary when the stressors of life overwhelm us. Although I have heard that you can “have a retreat in your own home”, somehow I think the vast majority of us can’t detach enough in our own environments in order to accomplish that. There are simply too many things calling out for attention.

God’s plan for us is to have times of rest. If you are a motivated leader in any capacity, rest may feel like a low priority and an unneeded interruption in a busy life. But those who do not build rest into their lives may find unscheduled “retreats” in the form of doctor or hospital visits. Pastors, counselors, business leaders and medical professionals often fall into this category. But it is not just leaders that need to detach. Employees who work in high stress environments are subject to burnout and overload as well. Taking a couple of mental health days is better than a week of sick days.

Most people will have to have a planned retreat built into their lives. So often a vacation is not a restful retreat, especially if it involves children. A retreat should be free from daily responsibilities, and where kids are involved that is simply not possible. Also, many people make vacations heavy on activities – and that’s not the purpose of a retreat.

On retreats I want to have space to think, to dream, and to recreate without pressure to perform. I also want to be able to spend time with positive sensory input, in other words, just feeling stuff. I like long stretches of uninterrupted “being”, and not doing. I often wrestle with a feeling of anxiety for not accomplishing anything concrete. But then I remind myself that that is precisely the point. I am dealing with the intangibles of life that nourish the soul, like spending time with just me and God. All good retreats offered by churches and other organizations include a heavy dose of this separate time, away from the planned events and connect time.

Recently I posted a question on Facebook asking where you would most like to spend time in retreat: desert, mountain or beach. I would like to ask it here as well. Use the comment box below to describe your favorite formal or informal retreat setting.        

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unequally Yoked in Dating

One of my clients provoked me to consider the admonition in Scripture for Christians to not be unequally yoked. Most believers would agree that it is clear that it applies in marriage – that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. But what about dating someone who is in a very different spiritual place?

To begin with, what is a yoke? It is something that ties two things together, historically a piece of wood joining two working animals. It lets them pull together and share the load. The animals need to be well matched so that one does not work harder than the other. It also helps them to be going in the same direction.

What happens when we try to pull in different directions?

We will probably get stuck or be in conflict. We will struggle to move forward. Oftentimes what are in conflict are our morals and values. How will we spend our time? What will we watch on television or see at the movies? What do we consider fun? How will we spend our money? What are the physical boundaries on our relationship? What do we believe about cohabitation?   

These same questions can largely be applied to friendships as well. I believe that too much rigidity in this area produces harshness, which is not consistent with our goal of loving people. But friendships can turn into dating relationships, so we must be careful to know where to draw the line. We can have very moral friends that agree with our values, but it breaks down when we get to spiritual matters. We would not want to be married to someone who does not share our faith, our passion for God or our commitment to the church.

So where does that leave us?

We must be very careful not to form romantic bonds with someone who is not aligned with our spiritual journey. That does not mean that they must experience God in the same way that we do – some relate best to God through worship music while others are deeply moved by the study of scripture. Still others are very contemplative in their style – but the focus and the goal is the same. We must be in agreement on the essentials of our faith.

I really feel for those who have difficultly finding dates, who are lonely, and welcome any connection with someone of the opposite sex. And I also feel sad for those who have formed unequal relationships that put them in a lot of conflict with their personal values, especially those who are married.  

I would love to hear any comments you might have on this subject. Please use the comment box below.