Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are You Just Communicating? Or Truly Connecting?

Today I’m asking you to read through the blog with the intention of sharing an experience where you learned something about communication. Interacting with you is a joyful blessing in my life and ministry. So read. Think. Share!

The couple walked in to my office and took a seat on the sofa. The couple looked normal enough, and appeared to be respectful of and courteous to one another. After basic introductions and “house cleaning” necessities, I asked the wife if she would explain to me why they had chosen to come for counseling. Like a microwave on high, she instantly set the stage with a diatribe of criticism that was primarily aimed at her husband, the man sitting only inches from her. But she never got to finish, because as quickly as she began, her husband began loudly defending himself from the arrows she was slinging. The conflict went on for two or three minutes before I held up my hand and asked, “Can we all stop for a minute and bring our conversation down to a helpful level?” Both husband and wife turned their heads back and simultaneously answered, “Sure.”

conflict

After a few more minutes of information gathering on my part, I began talking through somewhat of a treatment plan – a course of action, and recommended that one of the first areas attempt to conquer was communication skills. Both husband and wife turned and looked at one another and the wife retorted, “We thought that’s one of the things we did best!” I smiled, breathed in slowly, and explained, “Neither of you appear to have any trouble speaking your mind. But from the small sample of communication I’ve seen between the two of you, I’m telling you that throwing up on one another in a moment of hurt or anger is not effective communication.”

In the coming weeks we waded through the dynamics of effective communication, focusing frequently on respect and resolution. They did not, in their course of therapy, master communication completely. But they did make really good strides sharing their hearts and minds with one another with a focus on resolving their problems, rather than winning.

It seemed that one of the primary faults in their communication with one another was that they were trading information with each other, but they weren’t really connecting. 

Proverbs 18:13
He who answers before listening- that is his folly and his shame.One of the common downfalls in marriages with any longevity at all is that we lose that connectivity we had when we were “young and in love.” The corporate effort to be an effective team seems to fade away like a sunset sinking below the western horizon. We spill our guts when needed, but otherwise seem to be living separate lives that are on truly different paths. 

In a previous post I noted that the longer a couple is married, the more comfortable they become with one another. And although that comfort is a nice thing to experience and observe, it often has children. Bad children. Children that do their best to cut corners and make everything short and easy. The children of comfort can often be apathy, individuation, and maybe most importantly, the loss of connectivity.

Being connected requires intentional effort. Ongoing effort. Unfading, and selfless effort. If that effort is not put forth by both people in the marriage, the likelihood is that one or both are truly going to be connectedJust not to one another.

Spouses tend to get connected to their work, their hobbies, recreation, friends, and in the worst situations, intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. Remember, affairs are seldom initially about sex. They’re about communication.

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A husband is weary of his wife tuning him out and assaulting him at every turn, so he begins to confide in someone that will listen – sympathize with his plight – tell him he’s right – and offer encouragement that may just be meeting a bigger need in her life at the same time.

There is no possible way to cover the gamut of dynamics needed for truly effective communication in a blog, but there are hundreds and thousands of resources available to us all that can help us begin the journey of communicating with our wives responsibly, lovingly, and intentionally.

Don’t want to put in the work? Then don’t expect it to get better. Willing to make the sacrifices and put forth the effort to make it better? You have no idea how blessed and fulfilling your marriage can be.

Remember, true wisdom comes from experience. We can only learn so much from books or observing others. Having found ourselves in a place we don’t want to be, and putting forth the genuine effort to correct it or make it right, provides the fertile soil for wisdom to both be planted, and to grow.

So agree with your spouse to go through a “check-up from the neck-up.” What are you learning about your own communication style or skills?

I eagerly anticipate hearing from you! Don’t forget to “follow” and share!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Realtime . . . Right on Time . . .

We just never know when someone – literally out of nowhere – will take the risk of speaking something boldly into our lives.

Something that means something.

Something that was needed desperately.

Something spoken with courage.

Something that is real, and just as importantly, is right on time.

The funny thing though, is that when a person takes that risk because God gently tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Go ahead, I got this,” it is always on time!

If you are new to this blog, then welcome to Realtime! If not, then you may have been wondering what happened, and why you have not received any blogs in quite some time. There are those however, who may be relieved that you have not been bothered with it. 🙂

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Regardless of the seasons and/or reasons for the “time out,” it is time for our encouragement and exploration to resume, and I am glad you are along for the ride. I sincerely hope you stay the course as we walk and talk out some of the real struggles, and wonderful blessings we experience along the way. Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s ugly. Then there are those times when it is pretty ugly. But that’s ok, as long as it’s real. If we’re being real, there are some eye-opening discoveries we need to share, whether or not everyone thinks it’s ok to be transparent.

Jesus was transparent – never leaving any doubt about his thoughts or feelings in any situation. If my goal is to mirror the character and the life that Christ lived among us, being real is not negotiable. It is a must! I can’t wait to see and hear how many of you feel the same.

I’ve walked through some new struggles lately – the kind that throw you off course and cause you to wonder things about yourself that you might never utter to another human being. The kind that slam you onto your back and although you imagine that you’re up again, fighting for your life, it’s really just a mirage and you’re really still laying there, bleeding out ever so slowly. But you don’t know it.

I don’t know if it’s a phrase that is overused or not, but one that is often spoken by or about people that have walked through struggles is, “A Crisis of Faith.” I am not completely confident that I know for sure what a crisis of faith really is. But what a friend boldly and courageously spoke into me earlier this week left an impression that now gives me the latitude to think I have a pretty good idea.

The friend said to me, “Our walk of faith is a balancing act of action and trust. The Holy Spirit is our helper and sometime we sit around waiting for Him to “do something”. But, helper implies that we are already doing something that we need help/support with. So I encourage you in your passion. God will work out the circumstances but I can promise you it will look NOTHING like what you thought it would in the beginning.”

There is no doubt that I am not the sharpest cheddar in the fridge, but neither am I the bleu. Like a delivery of flowers or an important package that is supposed to arrive at a specific time, this God-laced statement arrived with some Gorilla Glue already on it, nice and sticky, and ready to adhere to my heart.

We all find ourselves in places where action is easy, but trust is hard. Conversely, I doubt there are many of us who have not also experienced a time or two when trusting has come almost naturally, while the ability or even the willingness to take action seems near impossible – almost like being paralyzed.

Oh wow . . . do I ever have a story to tell you about that! But in the midst of the struggle, and thanks to some early and wise encouragement from a long-time brother, this part of the journey has been spent looking for ways to Glorify God, even though the struggle has been immeasurably tough.

We have to summon the energy to push through the mental, emotional, and spiritual cobwebs of a personal trial to determine whether ours is an absence of trust or a lack of action. Making that determination is the first piece connected in this large, complicated, and constantly changing jigsaw puzzle we call life.

life+puzzle

But once that “absence” (trust or action) can be correctly identified, we still have to stand up on our own feet, learn to walk again, and know that the One we are trusting will hold us up, and dust us off when we fall.

The coolest thing about this encouragement of outrageous words of life? We have neither seen nor heard from one another in at least 35 years. The details and logistics are not important because God directed the whole thing from a curiously hidden place, unbeknownst to anyone other than Him.

And when that friend heard His voice, felt the tap on the shoulder, and said, “It might be bold, and it might be awkward, but Yes, I will,” He sat back in His chair, crossed His arms, and smiled broadly.

As always my friends . . .

FINISH WELL!

K

(Thanks for putting up with my crazy thoughts. I’ll be asking you again to be interactive with the blog on most occasions. That’s how we “Show up,” and it’s what gives God the chance to “Show off!” I crave, and really look forward to interacting with you, and as always – if you have any thoughts, ideas, or experiences that would make good “Blog-Fodder,” send it on! You can send it through this forum, or you can email me at kargrove@gmail.com. Thanks for taking the ride!)

 

What’s In It For . . . ?

Ian sat on the sofa in my office, leaning forward, head in hand. He slowly shook his head, obviously struggling over the current internal war that was raging inside his head and heart. In previous sessions he had been bouncing his thoughts and feelings off me, trying to decide if he would remain married to his wife of eight years, and stay with her along with their two young sons.

Numerous questions had been lofted his way in the past few weeks, challenging him to think through the decision it appeared he had already made in his mind. This wasn’t the typical marital conflict. There was no infidelity; no more arguing or fighting than most couples; she wasn’t out of control with the credit cards. He didn’t have his eye on another woman, nor had he struggled with fidelity, emotionally or actively. He was simply miserable. 

He had wept openly earlier in this session, and had stated, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. My life is just . . . empty.” I had challenged him several times, in different ways, to target the source of his unhappiness, and his answers seldom held any weight. I knew it, and so did he. Finally I told him, “Ian, it appears to me that your thinking is flawed. You are contemplating leaving your family, and cannot even provide a single decent reason – much less one that possesses legitimacy.” He retorted, “But don’t I deserve to be happy? Isn’t there supposed to be more to marriage and life than this?” After a few moments of silence he finally looked up, weeping, and asked, “After all, what’s in this for me?”

Ian was a poster child for a malady that affects many of us as married men. He worked hard, provided well, loved his children, and claimed to still have a strong love for his wife. He just didn’t like his life.

Unchecked, it is highly likely that Ian would have continued down his self-built road of discontentment and misery. He would have left. There is little doubt. And regardless of how much life would have “in it” for him down that road, he would have realized the truth that seems to escape so many of us, Wherever you go – there you are.

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It’s often said that if a person is running, they’re likely to either be running to  something, or running from it. But a perceived fresh start – a change of scenery – or an absence of accountability really changes nothing. At least for the good. After all, if a man runs from his wife and family with what is perceived to be little or no reason, the likelihood is that the real problem – no matter how hard to see – lies within him.

Ian’s participation in the “What’s in it for me?” epidemic pointed to a personal problem of epic proportion. His view of the role he had in the family was skewed. He expected, as the head of the household – the man of the house – the grand poobah of his castle – to be served. Apparently the actions of his wife and children did not meet his expectations where being respected was concerned. About that, he was right.

But how to solve it was still a mystery to him.

Jesus, while calming down the riled up disciples, said,

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Who wants to be great as a husband? If not, why marry at all?

Christian wedding6

Life, and some of the lessons listed above, has taught me (sometimes painfully) that being a great husband requires that I become a great servant to my family. And although I fall far short way more often than I’d like, the idea of being a servant to them – in big ways and small – is sorta right up there on the list of marital priorities. It didn’t come easy, and it didn’t come fast. I am, at my core, a self-absorbed, egocentric person – much like everyone else. To make changes like these requires an immersion in humility and a dispensing of pride.

Where do you find yourself in this dilemma?

And how far are you from imitating Christ and his challenge to serve others?

How life-altering would it be if we abandoned our “what’s in it for me?” ways of thinking, and went through a re-structure?

You know, like . . . “WHAT’S IN ME FOR IT?”

Let’s agree to chew on that one today. We can all benefit from your feedback!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

 

Sex, Golf, And Peanut Butter . . . (Part One)

Everything Matt did, people said, he did slowly. “Matt even hurries slow,” his father stated, characterizing his son’s modus operandi. But on this early Texas evening, Matt was moving slower than usual. Although the autumn temperature was startlingly pleasant, Matt was sweating. Not just sweating a little, but sweating bullets. Although he wondered early on why he couldn’t keep his shirt dry in the air-conditioned comfort of the room – you know, like the rest of the guys there. But that thought was long gone by the time he slowly, painfully stood.

“Hi,” he said. “My name is Matt. And I am addicted to liquid morphine.” There. He had finally said it. Out loud. For the first time. And although Matt had been in treatment since the day before, this was the moment he dreaded most. His first “meeting.” Those from the “anonymous” world know exactly what a meeting is, what it looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like. But he had never characterized himself as an addict – just a pretty normal 20-year old who had dabbled in some extra-curricular activities that happened to be both illegal and deadly. Even so, as he had prepared to go to rehab, he had imagined a dark, dank basement filled with cast-offs. The kind that you wouldn’t invite into your home. The kind that made you uncomfortable when you passed them on the street. The kind that didn’t bathe often; if at all.

But it wasn’t the hot, choking, smoke-filled environs he had imagined. He was surrounded by more than a dozen other guys who looked, felt, acted, and had once sweated, just like him. The simple act of forming the words and almost coughing them out however, provided somewhat a sense of relief for Matt. The mere admission of his addiction, and his new accountability to this group of alcoholics and drug addicts, was going to be the most uncomfortable blessing of his life.

Isn’t everyone addicted to something?

OK, I’ll be the first to stand in this meeting.

“Hi, my name is Kyle. And I’m addicted to sex, golf, and peanut butter.” I know I feel better. 🙂

24PEANUT-articleLarge

Don’t judge me.

No, I don’t have any addictions that are worthy of, or covered by those types of meetings. But yes, I am horribly flawed. As often as possible, I look to my wife for the physical intimacy. Whenever there is time (or I make time) there is always room for at least nine holes. And even when I’m swearing off sugar, the maga-supersized-jumbo virtual barrel of peanut butter in the pantry incessantly calls my name. But like you, there are parts of my life (clearly no longer hidden!) of my life that I just can’t seem to move on past. Can’t get enough. Can’t stop. Don’t really want to.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s just assume that we’re all addicted to Jesus. Put the holier-than-thou self-accolades aside, and focus on what we are on the outside. Because truthfully, isn’t that a reflection of what is on the inside??

So, now that I’ve admitted my self-indulgent behaviors, I absolutely DARE YOU to share your own in the comment box below.

We’ll see who has the wherewithal to sweat through their shirt and put it out there. Because if you want to get down to where the rubber meets the road, many if not most of us are too arrogant and proud to admit the behaviors we have that might have taken the sheen off both our egos and our marriages.

OH NO HE DIDN’T!!!

Oh, yes . . . he did.

And it’s not an arrow-shooting, finger-pointing, nanny-nanny-boo-boo kind of general accusation, but more of a recognition – a shedding of light.

In a recent Realtime poll of married women, they stated that one of the things they feel would benefit their marriages more than anything would be that at a minimum, their husbands would recognize the behaviors they project – that make them (the wives) feel less important than . . . (fill in the blank).

golf-widow

Occasionally I choose to cross-reference specific scripture with Eugene Peterson’s The Message just to see if there is perhaps a different way of seeing, or saying something about the topic written. Oh, and this one is good.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”  — Luke 12:34

Most translations of The Bible provide a similar text – “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

But what I can’t get out of my mind is the first and last parts of Peterson’s translation. It’s obvious,” and end up being.”

We’ll follow up with the conclusion of this blockbuster later in the week. And I’d encourage you to think through those two “phrases” from Peterson’s translation. What do they say to you? About you?

But for now, let’s just begin the process of getting it out there. 

And don’t worry – nobody is going to suggest that any of us give up the things in life we enjoy – at least not all of them.

But in the meantime, if you can’t seem to identify the simple addictions in your life, you might – well – ask your wife?

I double-dog dare ya’. 

Well, what ARE they? Comment box is below 🙂

(CREDITS: To Nina Roesner www.ninaroesner.com for implied permission to issue dares)

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Sex, Golf, And Peanut Butter (Part 2) . . .

I couldn’t believe what I just heard! Could she really mean what she was saying? The statement came out of the clear blue, and based on my recollection, was inconsistent with previous thoughts she had shared with me. After months of both of us bemoaning the horrible condition of our dog-ridden carpet, I had stripped it all away – cleaned up the nails, staples, and scraps of pad, in order to prepare for the installation of a new floor – a real, raw, hardwood floor. Although it was a task I had never attempted before, I was confident that I could do it, and I was motivated.

But after about three weeks of having no furniture in the living room, and living on a rough-hewn plywood floor, she was becoming impatient. But the impatience she then referred to was not what I expected! Standing over me in the living room, arms folded, while I was cutting and installing the red oak planks, she said, “You seem to have become addicted to this project. What about me? It feels like the only thing you care about is getting this stupid floor done.”

I remember blinking up at her, stunned that she could be suggesting that what I was doing wasn’t important. But the expression of hurt and loneliness on her face told it all. She was right.

I had bored headlong into a project that although doable, was bigger than I had ever imagined, and my determination to do it, do it right, and finish it, had blinded me to the other parts of life going on around me. I wanted her to be proud of my effort. I wanted her to love her new, beautiful, glossy redwood floors, and as I pondered it, more than anything else, I wanted her to be proud of me. 

Needless to say, I was a bit stunned, and a little hurt by her accusation that I had been ignoring her and her needs. But as I thought it out a bit more, the images of the past few weeks of preparation and work literally clarified before me, and I realized I had no leg to stand on.

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In a recent Realtime poll of married women, they stated that one of the things they feel would benefit their marriages more than anything would be that at a minimum, their husbands would recognize the behaviors they project – that make them (the wives) feel less important than . . . (fill in the blank).

Last week in Part 1 of this post, I challenged you to identify your own behaviors – the ones your wives may have been referring to when they completed the survey with Realtime. The ones that we as husbands have continued in spite of the hints, suggestions, or semi-ultimatums we may be receiving from our wives.

The related scripture was from Luke 12:34

“It’s obvious isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (MSG)

As I read Eugene Peterson’s translation of the verse, I really got blindsided by the first four words – It’s . . . Obvious . . . Isn’t . . . It?

Ummm . . . well . . . not always I suppose. But having given it some thought, little firecrackers started going off in my brain. I guess the reason for that was . . .

What seems obvious to me is not necessarily the perception of my bride . . .

como-conquistar-a-una-mujer

Because what was obvious to me, was that I was doggedly on my hands and knees with every spare minute I had, working feverishly to get this home improvement project done – and done right. She kept telling  me how great it looked, but at the same time she was longing for some time with her husband – time that had nothing to do with the new floor that was quickly becoming a barrier to our relationship. Although it was a relatively small thing comparatively, it was the kind of thing that could become bigger – if I intentionally ignored her now public plea.

Later in Luke 12, Peterson implies, “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!”

She is the greatest gift – the best! 

That makes my thoughts, my desires, my actions; secondary to her needs . . . IF I am truly a servant to her. My habits, hobbies, and/or behavioral addictions may not necessarily be a bad thing in moderation – but doing those things to the exclusion of her needs, turns the things I am passionate about, into sin.

BAM! It kinda hurts to think that at times, but it is nonetheless the truth.

How can you come to grips with the things you do that might be impeding the relationship with your wife? 

And wives, what are some of the simple things that we as your husbands are ignorant to, that might well be good for us to know?

We eagerly anticipate your responses.

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Sex, Golf, And Peanut Butter . . . (Part One)

Everything Matt did, people said, he did slowly. “Matt even hurries slow,” his father stated, characterizing his son’s modus operandi. But on this early Texas evening, Matt was moving slower than usual. Although the autumn temperature was startlingly pleasant, Matt was sweating. Not just sweating a little, but sweating bullets. Although he wondered early on why he couldn’t keep his shirt dry in the air-conditioned comfort of the room – you know, like the rest of the guys there. But that thought was long gone by the time he slowly, painfully stood.

“Hi,” he said. “My name is Matt. And I am addicted to liquid morphine.” There. He had finally said it. Out loud. For the first time. And although Matt had been in treatment since the day before, this was the moment he dreaded most. His first “meeting.” Those from the “anonymous” world know exactly what a meeting is, what it looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like. But he had never characterized himself as an addict – just a pretty normal 20-year old who had dabbled in some extra-curricular activities that happened to be both illegal and deadly. Even so, as he had prepared to go to rehab, he had imagined a dark, dank basement filled with cast-offs. The kind that you wouldn’t invite into your home. The kind that made you uncomfortable when you passed them on the street. The kind that didn’t bathe often; if at all.

But it wasn’t the hot, choking, smoke-filled environs he had imagined. He was surrounded by more than a dozen other guys who looked, felt, acted, and had once sweated, just like him. The simple act of forming the words and almost coughing them out however, provided somewhat a sense of relief for Matt. The mere admission of his addiction, and his new accountability to this group of alcoholics and drug addicts, was going to be the most uncomfortable blessing of his life.

Isn’t everyone addicted to something?

OK, I’ll be the first to stand in this meeting.

“Hi, my name is Kyle. And I’m addicted to sex, golf, and peanut butter.” I know I feel better. 🙂

24PEANUT-articleLarge

Don’t judge me.

No, I don’t have any addictions that are worthy of, or covered by those types of meetings. But yes, I am horribly flawed. As often as possible, I look to my wife for the physical intimacy. Whenever there is time (or I make time) there is always room for at least nine holes. And even when I’m swearing off sugar, the maga-supersized-jumbo virtual barrel of peanut butter in the pantry incessantly calls my name. But like you, there are parts of my life (clearly no longer hidden!) of my life that I just can’t seem to move on past. Can’t get enough. Can’t stop. Don’t really want to.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s just assume that we’re all addicted to Jesus. Put the holier-than-thou self-accolades aside, and focus on what we are on the outside. Because truthfully, isn’t that a reflection of what is on the inside??

So, now that I’ve admitted my self-indulgent behaviors, I absolutely DARE YOU to share your own in the comment box below.

We’ll see who has the wherewithal to sweat through their shirt and put it out there. Because if you want to get down to where the rubber meets the road, many if not most of us are too arrogant and proud to admit the behaviors we have that might have taken the sheen off both our egos and our marriages.

OH NO HE DIDN’T!!!

Oh, yes . . . he did.

And it’s not an arrow-shooting, finger-pointing, nanny-nanny-boo-boo kind of general accusation, but more of a recognition – a shedding of light.

In a recent Realtime poll of married women, they stated that one of the things they feel would benefit their marriages more than anything would be that at a minimum, their husbands would recognize the behaviors they project – that make them (the wives) feel less important than . . . (fill in the blank).

golf-widow

Occasionally I choose to cross-reference specific scripture with Eugene Peterson’s The Message just to see if there is perhaps a different way of seeing, or saying something about the topic written. Oh, and this one is good.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”  — Luke 12:34

Most translations of The Bible provide a similar text – “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

But what I can’t get out of my mind is the first and last parts of Peterson’s translation. It’s obvious,” and end up being.”

We’ll follow up with the conclusion of this blockbuster later in the week. And I’d encourage you to think through those two “phrases” from Peterson’s translation. What do they say to you? About you?

But for now, let’s just begin the process of getting it out there. 

And don’t worry – nobody is going to suggest that any of us give up the things in life we enjoy – at least not all of them.

But in the meantime, if you can’t seem to identify the simple addictions in your life, you might – well – ask your wife?

I double-dog dare ya’. 

Well, what ARE they? Comment box is below 🙂

(CREDITS: To Nina Roesner www.ninaroesner.com for implied permission to issue dares)

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

Death, Taxes, and Unwanted Conversations . . .

Comedian Bill Engvall tells the story of waiting in an empty house, planning to surprise his wife with an evening of romance and intimacy. Obviously he was anticipating that it would start with sex, because his surprise was that he would greet her in the living room when she arrived home – and he would be totally naked. Problem was, she arrived on que . . . with guests – who came with her to see . . . him! Engvall explains that he launched himself into the coat closet, and was stuck there for some while, until the guests finally left.

Awwwwkwaaaaard!

Doesn’t awkwardness in relationships typically lead to avoidance?

Turtle on its back on white background

I can’t speak for any of you, but I definitely prefer comfort. It doesn’t matter what the situation, whether it pertains to the current weather conditions, my mattress, the clothes I wear, or the relational interactions in which I find myself. I doubt you are much different. So with that in mind, what is it that we do when we know an interaction with our wives is going to be not-so-comfortable?

My default behavior is to deflect. And there have been times when I have behaved indifferently, hoping she would become frustrated and move on. Oh, and there’s always the “I can’t believe you are making such a big deal about something so trivial,” strategy.

If you are going to become your wife’s communicative hero, understand right now that your willingness to participate is far more important than your skills. Skills can be honed. The willingness to walk through something awkward with your wife is either there or it’s not.

Ever ask your son to ride shotgun with you on a short business trip? Or run errands to Home Depot (Can’t you smell those hot dogs now?)? What about telling him on Friday that you’re going to need his help with some yard work or a home improvement project on Saturday? When my sons and I were younger, I actually looked forward to those experiences, hoping they would be chances to further bond our relationships as male persons. And when they were really too small to help out much, and slowed me down with chores, they loved it too!

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But then one day the stars fell out of alignment, global warming started warming, and the desire to even hang out with dad got sucked up through the hole in the ozone layer. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t do it, but they no longer wanted to. And more often than not, I would end up frustrated and disappointed, and eventually tell them to just go on back in the house and do whatever they wanted to. “I’ll just do it myself,” said I. “I can get it done quicker without you out here anyway.” Good thing I don’t know the first thing about being passive aggressive, huh? But the truth is that it hurt. Hurt that the sons I raised and loved didn’t already share my work ethic. Hurt that they didn’t care if the job was done to the best of our abilities. And when it got down to it, hurt that although they sometimes participated out of duty, they were no longer willing. Why would a 14-year old boy not want to hang out with good old dad, share a shovel or a hoe, and talk baseball or golf? I think I’m pretty interesting and also fun to hang out with! I like hanging out with me. Why shouldn’t they?

So you have agreed to have a conversation with your wife, and you know what it is going to be about. You know that in one way or another you are guilty in what she wants to discuss. You agree to communicate with her about this problem, but – you do not engage willingly. Although we all have the need to be heard, especially when we are hurt or frustrated, the degree of this need for women is far greater than it is for men. When she realizes that your willingness didn’t make the trip with you, rest assured she isn’t going to feel heard. What she will recognize immediately however, is that you have reluctantly dragged yourself into the conversation, and you find her concern to be of little value or importance. In other words, in her mind, you were condescending. If you think that’s going to get it done, you would be sorely mistaken. In reality, you not only refused to willingly offer your whole self to her in order to fix this issue, you have successfully added additional layers to whatever the problem was to begin with.

Once the pattern of apathy in communication is established, we get one thing we wanted (avoidance), and a dump truck load of things we didn’t want. The thing we are trying to do when we are unwilling to engage, is avert these types of conversations. But discussions will become fewer and fewer, until there is no value in them for either member of the marital union, and communication will cease between the two of us. The aftershocks of the failed interactions with our wives pack tier after tier of humiliation, disrespect, and disappointment onto the women we claim to love.

Let’s be real. Humiliation, disappointment, ongoing anger, disrespect, and condescending behaviors are not going to do anything toward building a marriage that will last. Not only do our wives not deserve this type of treatment from us . . .

. . . They won’t tolerate it forever.

Unwillingness or avoidance when it comes to making things right with our wives is cowardly. It takes courage to be real, honest, and transparent. And neither you nor I are exempt from having to “take our medicine” from time to time. Unwillingness to communicate with effort, and toward mutual resolution tells our wives that they are unimportant, and stupid.

So be present. Show up. Buck up. Take whatever responsibility and accountability is necessary for your part in any conflictual interactions with your wife. Work side-by-side with her to develop positive solutions rather than trying to beat her up with superior intellect, reason, and manipulation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Rocket scientists not needed.

Wouldn’t adding the fruit of the Spirit to your countenance, attitude, and efforts, encourage progress and results?

Commenters encouraged!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

This One’s For The Girls . . .

Alex and Blake had spent most of the day deer hunting, deep in the woods, and after a long, unfruitful hunt, were conversing in the semi-darkness around the campfire. Alex asked, “Blake, do you ever wonder why women take everything we say so personally?” Blake replied, “Yep, I do.” Alex then said, “Yesterday was her birthday. I have been listening to her for weeks picking out clues for a gift. Got her a set of bathroom scales ’cause she had mentioned that she would like a new one. Shoot, now she won’t even talk to me.” Blake digested Alex’s comment for a few moments, then replied, “Good. Glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for the good word.”

And there you have it.

Effective, efficient, and productive. Just like most conversations held by men. Short, and to the point. Yessirree Bob, we don’t waste time, energy, or gray matter when we engage in a conversation to tackle an important problem like the one portrayed above.

So it’s probably not a news flash to you, the wonderful women that complement and round out the incompleteness that we are, that not only do we not always communicate the way you do, we also do not possess the wisdom to comprehend various dynamics that most of you pose to us. Remember! This is not a forum to criticize anyone, but to be real and transparent, so that we might better deepen our relationships, and become more of the Godly husbands we so desire to be!

To better explain this common conundrum, in a recent Realtime poll of male respondents, the personalization of relatively trivial statements or actions (on our part, of course) 🙂 often leaves us at a loss for further statements . . . or actions. What is even more befuddling to us, is that when it is clear that one of you have taken personal offense to what we think makes perfect sense, the resulting inaction is total silence. You know, the silent treatment. Being frozen out. Nonverbal communication (very chilly and unfuzzy ) rather than the verbal kind that makes a whole lotta sense to us!

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If there are words spoken by you, our brides, they often resemble something like, “If you can’t figure out why I’m upset, then there is no point in discussing it.” Then as our pea-sized brains begin to process what was just told to us, panic and frustration begin to set in, and you might then see us, arms bent upward, palms facing the sky, with an are you kidding me? expression on our faces. Sometimes we truly are at a loss!

See, we really are a different breed than you. Not necessarily a different species, but more like people from a different country. We resemble one another physically (somewhat), but speak totally foreign languages, and lack some of the cultural understanding of the other.

Want to know how we view ourselves? Thought you’d never ask :p

We the men in your lives, are fixers. We are plumbers, hunters, electricians, carpenters, and protectors of the things that go bump, clang, honk-honk, rattle-rattle, or beep-beep in the night. Someone has to go through us to get to you or our families. And if they dare try, they had better be ready for a fight! For we are fighters too. We fight all that is evil in the world in order to make it a better place for you. Yes, we are the ones willing to swim the highest oceans, and climb the deepest seas to ensure that you are not only aware of our total dedication to you, but as well, our undying commitment to those that we love.

 

 

Yes? Maybe? Hopefully? OK, maybe that description is not all that realistic all of the time, but it’s what we want to be to you. And in those moments of utter helplessness, when we know we must have done something really stupid, but can’t connect the dots, we are likely to throw our hands up in frustration, or just simply walk away. Truthfully, that is probably more in an effort to avoid escalating the issue, rather than completely giving up on it. Or you.

So when we find ourselves in situations we can’t fix, and feel completely stalled out in our journey to be The Mqn, – God’s Man, we step out of our box of comfort, and ask you humbly:

Why IS it that you seem to take relatively “impersonal” comments or actions SO personally?

And, how might we go about improving our communication with you when this DOES happen?

We gallantly await your reply!!!

It is OUR hope that we ALL . . .

FINISH WELL!

Worry . . . And The News . . . And Us . . .

A recent post from Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend watches the 24-hour news channels and seems to be obsessed with them. It is hurting our relationship and affecting her happiness. She’s constantly worried about national and international politics, global warming, the economy, health care, crime, etc. She neglects herself and her family. She seems agitated, anxious and depressed by all the news. Is this a disease? How can I help her get off this habit? What should I do? — MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MISERABLE: Your girlfriend appears to have become a news junkie. She’s overstimulated and hooked on the adrenaline rush she gets from channel surfing from one tragedy, outrage and horror to the next. While this may not technically be a disease, it is exhausting and depressing.

When the same thing started happening to me, I fixed it by turning off the news and going “cold turkey.” After a four-day news blackout, I felt like my buoyant self again. Now I ration my exposure. Please share this with your girlfriend because it’s what I’m recommending for her.

Holy Lions and Tigers and Bears . . . !

Oh, my. For those of us that can, try to think back oh, at least a couple of decades – maybe three. The news; it came in the morning rolled up on the driveway, and took 20 minutes of our evenings, minus the weather and sports. And for the most part, that was pretty much it.

But now?

Frazzled

Observing the photo above of Frazzled Fritz, it would be easy to attribute his fatigued, stressed out demeanor to any number of things. And at a point, don’t you agree, that there isn’t enough caffeine available to stem the tide?

From the Psych Central website, below are listed the top 20 stressors among American adults:

Death of a family member

     Terminal illness (one’s own or a family member)

     Physical incapacitation, chronic pain, or chronic illness

     Drug or alcohol abuse (self)

     Drug or alcohol abuse (family member, partner)

     Divorce

     Marriage

     Loss of job or job change

     Moving house

     Change of school (primarily for children or teens, but this can effect adults, too)

     Primary relationship problems (spouse or parent/child/sibling)

     Persistent Relationship Problems, non-primary (difficulties with other family members, conflict and loss of friends, difficulties with coworkers)

     Academic problems (poor grades, inability to retain information, problems with teachers, unable to meet deadlines)

     Occupational problems (lateness, absences, problems with boss or coworkers)

     Victim of abuse

     Victim of crime

     Criminal actions towards others

     Abusive actions towards self or others

     Extreme loneliness/lack of community membership or friendships

     Severe financial problems 

Somebody get me a Valium!

If you take just this list (and you can think of dozens more), doesn’t it stand to reason that there are already enough stressors in our lives than to add the bazillion things we might ingest as we obsess over the local, national, or world news? A compilation of surveys states that on average, American adults watch, read, or listen to more than two hours of news every day! And more on weekends.

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We are blitzed by the news of our world. OK, so dog bites man, or man bites dog (which do you think is likely to generate greater coverage?) and we all watch the story unfold before us. We constantly hear that we are living in the world of “A 24-Hour News Cycle.” 

Really?

At best, it seems that it is a 60-Minute cycle, but I bet you a subscription to Fox News it’s fast-closing-in on a 60-second cycle.

So why report about the news?

Because never in The Human Person Owner’s Manual (aka Holy Bible) have we seen, “Cast your cares upon CNN, and it will sustain you.” 

or . . .

“NBC is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.”

Instead, we are encouraged in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Life is work. Isn’t that enough? And when I picture myself with a “yoke” around my neck and look to the side, I don’t want to see Katie Couric (no offense to Katie), but instead, the image of Jesus Christ, sweating alongside me and making the burden tons easier than it would be on my own.

Just think about the junk of this world with which we are filling our minds. Bombings, suicides, school massacres, murder/suicides in families, tsunamis, and the collapse of the American economy.

But wait . . . there’s more!

But don’t let Realtime be the cause of even greater stress. Can you imagine what goes through a child’s mind when they are watching a never-ending video loop following the latest school shooting? And what remains in that mind? The images? The sounds? Like a smartphone app, they stay open in the background of the mind, draining the emotional and security batteries day in, and day out, until fear . . . just . . . reigns.

Our wives and children deserve our time . . . and attention. Not the endless tragedies that infiltrate our lives 24-7 . . . if we let them.

How do you shield your family and loved ones from the barrage of “bad news” that is so readily available to us?

How might you “better” do that? Would you care to share?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy1:7)

Don’t worry! Be Happy!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

How “Confidence” Can Ruin Your Marriage . . .

Take the time, if you are so inclined, to peruse the Internet, and put to use our newest action verb, “Google It.” The “it” would be a term that most of us probably think we have safely in hand. But to look through the archives of many who have spoken of this particular dynamic over the years, will tell you, if you are honest, that there may be much, much more to the guts behind the concept of our word for today – Confidence. Truthfully, if you’ll actually take a few minutes to do this, the point of this entry will, I think, be proven without much question at all.

Confidence, although direct in its definition, can paint a very inaccurate picture in real life.

Women, they say, love a confident man. But confident in what? Most of us probably, have a healthy level of confidence in at least something. Some are confident in their looks, others in their professional skills. Many are confident that they are financially independent, while others are confident that they will never reach their ultimate monetary goals. Some men are confident in their masculinity, some not so much. And a multitude of men are confident in their relationship with Christ, while a great number of the male population are confident in their belief that there is a God, and think that is quite enough.

Wherever a man’s confidence lies, the true indicator of ultimate confidence comes in how we view ourselves as a person. Because if that confidence is grounded in realness, It is the truth. Not just what we want to believe about ourselves, and moreover what we want others to believe about us.

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Nelson Mandela, in his 1994 inaugural speech, said the following regarding the concept of confidence:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Is that quote a head-turner for you? It was for me. But when our air of confidence is not really rooted, but put on, the rubber really never meets the road. Our money is rarely put where our mouth is, and the person that knows that the best is the one that knows us the best – our wives.

Do you think we can, as men, “pretend” to be confident around others, yet fool them?

If you answered “yes” to that question, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Here’s why. Across humanity, those that exude the greatest amount of confidence, are frequently those that possess the greatest amount of fear. Remember the school-yard bully in the 4th grade? He was probably bigger, stronger, louder, and meaner than anyone else in the yard.

And at the same time, the most fearful . . .

As a matter of fact, the “things” he picked on others about, were the very things he feared the most about himself.

Did he want to make you feel weak? Self-conscious about your body or body image? To feel badly about the Rustlers that you wore instead of name brand jeans? To point out that you lived in an apartment or mobile home instead of a house of bricks?

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Yes, and more.

And the ugly truth about that bully?

He himself feared physical weakness; his own body image; that he would not be the best dressed; and that his family might not always be highly regarded because of where they lived.

Appearing to be confident in areas of our marriages when in fact we are more fearful than anything can result in a lot of “marital game-playing,” that is always destructive, and never productive. Our wives know. That’s it. They just know. When the public persona we “put on” when we walk out the door is not consistent with who we really are, they become keenly aware of the inconsistency, and will often see it as weakness rather than strength.

So while we are strutting our stuff, they are actually pitying us. One of the biggest factors in this “game,” is that eventually, as a simple human dynamic, these weaknesses or perceived weaknesses will be used against us. This is not a criticism of women or wives! In fact, if the tables are turned, men will do the same when they see the need for leverage during almost any type of marital conflict.

A brief example: Mary frequently observes as her husband engages with confidence and concern when couples in their social circles are struggling in their marriages. He makes it a point to go out of his way to meet with the other husband so he can encourage him, pray with him, and give him the opportunity for accountability.

At home however, Mary’s husband seldom, if ever – offers relational encouragement, goes out of his way to right a wrong, or considers prayer with his wife to be something of value or necessity.

It’s that simple. We as men will do our thing with confidence outside the home, while literally shutting down while in it.

Does this ring true for any of you? Have you seen these tendencies or patterns in your own marriage? 

And for the rest of us, how have you gone about making them better?

Are ya’ real enough to share them in a comment?

Don’t forget, we all need each other. And being “REAL” enough to admit our struggles and challenges is a part of our journey.

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!