What I Learned on Spring Vacation – Marriage 101

Mending a Broken Heart

In some of my podcasts I spoke about visiting this page to hear about my trip to Texas (where we attended a Smalley Marriage Intensive). I had hoped to record that episode last night with my wife, but we ran out of time. I hope to record it this evening. Here are some bullet points that I've spoken on before.

Mending a Broken HeartMen are Typically:

More “logical”  Like to talk about facts.
Like to “fix” things when they are broken.
Are “simpler” in makeup, or generally work on one thing at a time.

Women are Typically:

More emotional. They want to talk about feelings.
Need to talk.
Can have multiple conversations going.

What I Learned in Texas

Feelings are not wrong. You think I'm selfish with my time? You are right to think that. This does NOT mean I'm selfish. It means that it's true that based on your feelings, I'm selfish with my time. Your spouse does NOT want to think bad things about you. They don't. However circumstances, actions, and words can lead people to feel and think certain ways.  So here is what usually happens.

Woman: I never see you
Man: What? We just went grocery shopping last night!
Let's peel this back a bit and look underneath

Woman: I never see you (what she really means is I miss those times when we connect. I feel lonely)
So you can see that the answer of “What? We just went grocery shopping last night!” does not address her feelings of loneliness. Instead it basically sends the message that her feelings are wrong. Remember Feelings aren't wrong.

The other thing that could cause a problem for men is the word Never. Again we deal in facts, and when you save Never, Always, etc (any kind of absolute) you will distract your man from listening. He will be waiting to point out how your acts are wrong. He did empty the dish washer, so the statement “You never help with the dishes” is wrong. So we should avoid absolute references.

We should also avoid the word divorce at all cost. Don't try to mask it with phrases like, “I'm done with this,” or “I'm out of here.” We  know what that means and it undercuts your commitment to each other.

Let's get back to our discussion.

What We Really Mean

When the woman says, “I never see you,” as men we need to get out our woman to man translation book out and see that “I never see you” is translated to “I'm lonely.” This is a fact. This is true. As a husband you don't want your wife to feel lonely.  However, as a man we want to “fix” our wife so we give her facts (our native tongue) which requires her to translate it from man speak to woman speak. We have things lost in translation.

For me this is very, very, hard. I live in factville. My wife lives in feelingsburgh. When I don't acknwledge her feelings, it makes her feel like her feelings are worth anything, and consequently she will get defensive. She may feel you're not listening (as she hasn't been acknowledged) and raise her voice. Her raised voice causes her husband to become defensive as he feels attacked. We get on the crazy cycle and go for a ride.

Key Points When Responding

Guys: Step one – validate her feelings. This means you're going to have to leave factville, and travel to feelingsburgh. This is not going to be a natural step. You will need to ignore the reflex like reaction to FIX her. She's not broken. You need to listen. This requires focus. To validate her feelings you're going to have to step out of your shoes, and into hers. This doesn't mean that you are agreeing with what she said (she never sees you). Your goal is to understand how she feels, and then respond to her feelings (I am lonely). Instead of saying “What?” (invalidation – you're wrong), “I just saw you yesterday” (more invalidation, and now it appears you don't care). The better response would be: “I'm sorry. I miss you too.” This validates her feelings, and shows you care. If you feel you MUST do something (being a guy who wants to fix things) it would be good to add, “Let's plan somehthing for the two of us..”

Good Heart – Bad Execution

Ladies when a man bombards you with facts, we understand that this is not addressing your feelings. Instead of thinking of him as an insensitive jerk, realize he is trying to “fix” you. He doesn't want you to feel this way. Yes, we know it's not working and this doesn't get him “off the hook,” but I want you to to acknowledge your man is trying. He doesn't want you to hurt. Keep in mind, that men are not mind readers. You are not married to the amazing Kreskin (I”m dating myself), and he can't acknowledge what he doesn't know. This is where woman appear “Complex” and men appear “Simple.” In other words, tell us what you want. It's not fair to assume your man can read your mind. To say, “He should after all these years.” NOPE. Remembering is not our strong suit. It's a man – not an elephant. Phrases like, “If he loved me he would ___” may be setting up expectations that arean't realistic (especially if your man has no idea you want this). Also when you put pressure on him, he is more than likely to retreat to his “man cave” and not come out until he feels its safe (a place where he won't be judged, or scolded).

Put Your Name On It

One of the keys to marriage is accepting responsibility for your actions (those who have been here a while know I have no problem with this – to a fault). This means you need to realize you could be a better spouse. If you want to see a change in your spouse the easiest way to do this is to change YOU. When you work on being more patient. When you work on those little things that annoy your partner. When you work on you, you will see (eventually) a reaction in your spouse.  Mirror the reaction you want to see in your spouse in you. You want them to remain calm? Then you need to model that behaviour. You want them to admit when they're wrong? Then it starts with you. If you are going to counseling to “fix” your spouse (cause nothing is wrong with you), then you're going to be wasting your time (unless in extreme cases of abuse). You need to start with you.

Courage & Stupidity

Note: I originally released this episode, and (and this is why I hate talking about the present) I was asked to edit out a portion that didn't agree with some people's “truth.” If you for whatever reason you get this episode again (I don't think you should if you've already downloaded it in iTunes – it was only available for about an hour in its unedited version). With this in mind, I present this episode again where I still ask what the difference is between courage and stupidity.

I had looked forward to spending Christmas with my family as I had missed it last year. Things had deteriated, and after three days of trying eveything I knew I was asked to leave – and this time I didn't argue. While my family went to Christmas Eve service at our church, I made mutliple trips moving all of my possessions back to my sisters. It's not that we don't knowwhat to do, I'm starting to think that we are just not wired to bend that much. My wife has said everything I wanted to hear. The unfortunate fact is she did it after I left. She is stating that she won't hurt me, that she is deeply remorseful, and is a new person. She feels spirit filled, and she now knows God is the person that should make her feel whole – not her husband.

I started thinking about Courage and Stupidity. Both cases involve people not having (or overlooking) fear. Staying married during tough times takes courage, but on the other hand is it stupid? I know what God says. I know God hates divorce. and I also know that Paul states that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Should I stay or should I go as the clash sing. Do I run back into the burning building? Part of me thinks it would be cool to be able to turn around my marriage when everyone thinks I should throw in the towel. When everyone is telling us to pack it in. I know I love to help people. I know I love to break stereotypes. However, at this point I see those qualities as a BAD thing that can lead me into the burning building (courageous) covered in gasoline (stupid). I don't know.

For now I read the bible on a daily basis, and I pray to God for wisdom. I haven't really felt and answer. In the past I would just flip a coin. Not this time.

The Ripple Effect

????????The last thing I want to do is go into 2012 talk about 2010, so I want to kind of jump to then end of the story. This story has been somewhat depressing, and I could spend HOURS going into details, but I'd rather get back to the sarcasm and yuk yuks.

On November 28th, 2010 my wife and I had a stupid contest and I won. There are those who think I have not “Paid enough,” for my stupidity. One of them being my step daughter who at times would prefer to not be in a room with me (or its a coincidence that family plans that involve me often don't involve her). In fact when she got accepted into college I asked my wife to hand me the phone so I could tell her how proud I was and she hung up before I could say a word. That was a new kind of pain. Its those kind of “Never saw that coming” moments that make this incident into my top 10 most painful experiences. As I adore all of my step-kids this is something that bothers me DEEPLY every day. In addition it makes my wife's life harder as well. At one point my wife was put into a position of choosing between her child and her husband. It was hard for me as one minute I was falling on my sword so she wouldn't have to choose, and then next I was hurt as I was cut off from my wife. I understand her feelings. She does not feel comfortable having a person who she does not trust live with her mother. She listened to us argue for years, so I understand what feeds her fears. For that I apologize.  I had some fantasy that my step kids missed me as much as I missed them. Wow. I ‘m not sure what I was smoking. After pleading guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor one step above a traffic ticket), I thought I would be coming home. Instead I stayed with my sister until my step daughter went away to college.

While my step-daughter will tolerate my existence enough to eat a meal with me, my brother refuses to be in the same room with my wife. I am not exaggerating. I'm trying to follow the bible, and follow its advice on marriage (admittedly, I need LOTS of help), but it does say the two shall be one. When it came time to go to my niece's high school graduation I had to decline (which KILLED me), as my brother could not tolerate her long enough for us to make an appearance. This topic is a whole other podcast, but for now one might say I have lost my relationship with my brother who I love dearly.

When my wife told the church that where I was a minister in training what had happened, to make a long story short, they asked me to resign. I got upset, but in the end I did. At first I didn't understand why I didn't get a “Jimmy Swaggert” moment to apologize, but I now understand that one of the priorities of a shepherd is to guard the flock. If my little church would've had to vote, and we had 7 people leave over the results, that would've been 10% of the congregation. I understand their decision, and in talking with other pastors who now pastor the church they grew up in, ALL of them had to leave and come back. Jesus wasn't respected in his home town either.

Jesus forgave a woman who was caught fornicating. He told a crowd “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” He said that you will be judged the same way you judge others. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I got 1 year probation, and ordered to get evaluated and take anger management classes (which I'll discuss in a future episode).  The fun thing is in July I lost my job when I couldn't physically look at 17 screens in 10 seconds and remember what I saw with a 96% accuracy. I was fired. I was denied unemployment. When I looked for a job, I found some. I have now had five jobs that were very excited to have me come in for an interview until they asked, “Oh by the way have you ever been convicted of a felony (no) or misdemeanor (yes)?” When I answer honestly, I was told point-blank that this disqualified me for the job. This is a cruel joke. I had 5 head hunters on a Saturday morning call me with the same job offer, only to rescind it. Again, stay out of the legal system kiddies.

When my wife packed up her daughter and drove her to college, I volunteered to come and watch the dogs. As things went “OK” when she got back, I decided to stay. However, things are no “OK” at this point and we still struggle to keep our marriage together. We moved in December into an apartment. It will be my wife, myself, and the boy. However, it turned out that my wife had told my step son that I was not going to move into the new place. She told me two days before we moved, and in the end I got to move into the new place. However, my step son voiced his EXTREME displeasure about me sticking around. OUCH

In December of 2011, I was moved to “inactive” for good behavior and can now start the process of getting this thing off my record.ikoni???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ??????