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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

People’s experience and cultural norms merge together and gain a voice, affectionately known as “They Say…” People accept these truisms, live from them and, sometimes, find them to be true. However when it comes to marriage and relationships, we advocate a counter-cultural approach.

What if your dreams about love could come true, and not what “they say”? For example,

1. They say: “Sex, money, kids and religion are the scenes of the most arguments in a relationship. Beware.” What we believe about these subjects is central to who we are as individuals. What we feel about them and how we express those feelings are embedded in the core of our identity. Hence, discussing these topics requires the most vulnerability, trust and understanding. So when we do what it takes to develop that trust, understanding and vulnerability,

Then we say: “Sex, money, kids and religion can be the scenes of the most fulfilling and enriching conversations available. Enjoy!”

2. They say: “Just wait a few years, that kind of affection and tenderness towards each other will wear off.” People’s experience has led them to believe there is a honeymoon phase in a relationship and a subsequent decline as reality sets in. However, what “sets in” is a result of what was sown into the relationship, not the result of an unavoidable relational dynamic. So when we take the time to invest affection and tenderness into our relationship today,

Then we say: “Just wait a few years, and WHATEVER you’re sowing into the relationship now, you will be reaping.”

3. They say: “It takes two to work on a relationship.” Usually said of a relationship in trouble, this is often based on an excuse, “If he/she isn’t willing then what hope do I have in trying?” In reality, what one person does in a relationship has a dramatic effect on the other. It maybe a harder road to hoe, but when promise to do whatever it takes in good times and in bad,

Then we say: “No matter what, lead your marriage. Lead yourself to become the best version of yourself for the sake of the other person, and he/she is bound to follow. And even if not, you’re the better for it.”

Of course, all this “they say / we say” commentary is more or less irrelevant to your experience in love. Really, the only question that matters from here is, “What are you going to say?”

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We all know, too well perhaps, the same words spoken in different ways can say very different things. For example take the question, “Honey, can you come here?!” and put it to different tones of voice. Or place varying emphasis on different words. You can make it sexy, scolding, a plea for help, or anything in between. Anything you want really.

Think of the myriad of things you say to your significant other in the run of a week, and the variety of ways those things are said. What drives the content, quality and therefore effectiveness of these interactions is not only in the words you use but in HOW you say them.

In fact, some experts say that as little as 5% of what we mean is in the actual words we use. This explains the often falling short of text messaging and email. It also explains what we mean when we say, “I got yelled at” when no one was shouting at all.

If the manner in which we say something counts for so much in a single exchange, think of the accumulative effect of all you say to your partner over the years. It is this accumulation that drives how you feel about each other and seeds the atmosphere between you with all things gracious, needy, or greedy or anything in between. Anything you want really.

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Life is full of distractions.

It hasn’t always been due to modern technology, however, I remember my dad coming into my room as I did my homework and asking, out of an honest curiosity, “Son, why do you have those cassette tapes on ALL the time? Don’t you ever just think?!”

Today we have any number of devices to distract us, from pocket ones, to tablets that don’t fit in pockets, to machines on our laps and desks. Not to mention they all try to update themselves incessantly thereby requiring our focus to answer their latest request. Then there’s the TV for when we’re home and the radio for when we’re on the road, if we can hear it all as we chat using our blue-tooth headsets and navigate with our GPS’s.

My father was king of “just thinking,” but what I believe he was getting at is what all the “noise” distracts us from being, thinking, and feeling. It inhibits the processing of our existence on a deeper level.

All the distractions in our lives keep us moving physically, mentally and emotionally too quickly to appreciate and drink in what’s really going on. They prevent a depth that’s only possible when we stop and take in the moment for what it is and the value of who we’re with.

Take a moment to picture you and the love of your life out on a date. Imagine it is Valentine’s Day and you’re out for dinner. There you are in a luxurious restaurant: the ambiance is perfect, the menu delectable, the service par excellence, and your spouse is looking so fine.

But after a few minutes your time together is interrupted by a phone call he/she takes. Then a text you receive and respond to. Next an email you waited for all day finally arrives and demands an immediate answer. Before you know it the whole time you’re together is packed full of those kinds of interruptions. At the end of the dinner, you would have spent an hour or more together, and yet look at what has passed you by! Imagine the depth, the quality, the opportunity lost.

For most of us, this picture of a Valentine’s Dinner date, spoiled by interruptions, is really a snapshot of much of our lives together. Is it time to minimize distractions and enjoy some depth in your relationship?

Find a way to let tools of work, entertainment devices, screens and games be relegated to when you actually choose them, not when they choose you. Create some distraction free zones and pockets of time. Turn your phone(s) off during together times. Move the TV to the other room. Determine not to live distracted.

Let’s do this lest we continue to miss so much. Life is full of depth.

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In this series (see Part 1 and Part 2 here) we are outlining what qualities women are NOT after in a man. The purpose is to shed some light on your quest to be the best version of yourself for your wife’s sake by showing you which qualities you would do best to emphasize in your interactions with her. When a woman marries, she chooses and hopes for certain qualities. The problem is, it’s not always intuitive to a man what particular qualities his woman married him for and which ones he would do better to keep for use at work, with friends, or in the garage.

This post is about a certain quality that men often find themselves in a rut with. Picture the scenario in which you’ve been stressed at work, you have a friend going through a crisis and you’re overdue on some home projects. You need space and time: time to think, time to find some answers, and, hey, time to spend in your “nothing box” (a.k.a. the area of the male brain where literally nothing happens).

Your wife, however, is trying to connect with you and wants to know if you’re ok. You’re not sure you want to open up right now as this is risky. You want to hold back from sharing too much – you’re in an emotional holding pattern and want to stay there.

If you’re a married man reading this, you already heard the rest of the story. If you’re not familiar with this story… well, let’s just say it rarely has a happy ending. What’s with that? No man is really sure. But in falling into this trap something begins to become clear:

One quality she doesn’t want from you is silence.

You might pride yourself in being a rock. An island. Stoicism is maybe a quality that’s admired where you work. But the tendency to clam up and keep everyone and everything out, while you figure it out, is not something that she needs from you.

Connectivity, however, is. She wants you to speak willingly from where you’re at in thought and in heart. She needs you to need her to listen as you expound on the influencing factors of your life. Not in a surface sort of way, but to share your heart deeply with her.

This is why communication that’s honest and open is so important to her world. Connecting with your deep thoughts and dreams gives her perspective on your needs and how to meet them more effectively. And honestly, we want our wives to know us on increasingly deeper levels.

Of course, opening your heart when it’s not your habit to do so is much more difficult than retreating into yourself. Truly communicating your inner musings requires taking the trouble to find the vocabulary to share them. It’s about trust. It’s about shelving your quest for retreating into yourself long enough to consider how to be able to share your needs with your life’s partner. In her world, when she knows she has access to your heart, and she understands you, she’ll be the greatest defender of your need for time alone.

When it comes to your silence, she’s already had to live with enough of that. What she’s still waiting for your willingness and vulnerability to share your deep side. She needs to know you want her to know. Give her that quality.

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In this series (see Part 1 here) we are outlining what qualities women are NOT after in a man. The purpose is to shed some light on your quest to be the best version of yourself for your wife’s sake by showing you which qualities you would do best to emphasize in your interactions with her. When a woman marries, she chooses and hopes for certain qualities. The problem is, it’s not always intuitive to a man what particular qualities his woman married him for and which ones he would do better to keep for use at work, with friends, or in the garage.

There is a certain quality that most men find irresistible to display, but that most women don’t appreciate. Picture the scenario in which you’ve been confronted by her regarding something she believes you should have done differently. You find yourself justifying your behaviour and explaining the factors of the problem all the while realizing that she’s not agreeing with you. You back track and explain again. Still, she doesn’t change her point of view. You pull out a napkin and begin to illustrate. Still, nothing.

We’re sure you’re aware this yields some frustration on her part. If you’re a married man reading this, you know where this story usually goes. If you’re not familiar with this story… well, let’s just say it rarely has a happy ending. What’s with that? No man is really sure. But in falling into this trap something begins to become clear:

One quality she doesn’t want from you is defensiveness.

You might pride yourself in being able to dodge a bullet, deft at spinning an issue so as to highlight your superior reasoning abilities, and expert in your ability to justify your decisions. They might even pay you a lot for that at work. But you having the ability to provide multiple layers of reasons and explanations is not on her wish list.

Receptivity, however, is. She wants you simply to listen – to resist expounding the reasons that explain yourself – and hear things from her perspective. Not a patronizing acknowledgement, but to actually use the scenario to share in what she’s going through or how she sees the issue.

This is why communication that’s honest and open is so important to her world. She lives and breathes on the level of relational understanding, which requires receptivity to thrive. This goes beyond just hearing her out, or paying lip service to her suggestions (the proverbial, “Yes, dear”). It involves valuing her input and perspective – she needs to know you are hearing her and taking her seriously.

Of course, seeing an issue from her point of view is much more difficult than defending yourself. Truly hearing her requires taking care not to interrupt and justify as you preserve and protect your own pride. It’s about “the Golden Rule” in our conversation. In her world, it’s only after she knows you have considered her insight that she can be open to hearing your “superior reasonings.”

When it comes to your defenses, she actually already knows those – it’s her focus in life to make generous explanations about your behavior. What she doesn’t know is that you are ready to hear and empathize with her side, that you appreciate the lens she sees your world through enough to want to do something about it. Give her that quality.

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When a woman marries, she chooses and hopes for certain qualities. The problem is, it’s not always intuitive to a man what particular qualities his woman married him for and which ones he would do better to keep for use at work, with friends, or in the garage. By outlining what qualities women aren’t after in a man, and showing their alternatives, this series will shed some light on your quest to be the best version of yourself for her sake.

Let’s start with a great quality all men exhibit, particularly when it comes to those they love and care for. Picture the scenario in which a man has listened to his better half vent emotionally about an upsetting problem. After hearing her out for a few minutes he sees the root of the issue and offers an obvious but brilliant and practical solution.

If you’re a married man reading this, you know the rest of the story. If you’re not familiar with this story… well, let’s just say it rarely has a happy ending. What’s with that? No man is really sure. But in falling into this trap something begins to become clear:

One quality she doesn’t want from you is the ability to provide rapid-fire solutions and knee-jerk answers.

You might pride yourself in being right, in being a problem solver, and seeing things logically. They might even pay you a lot for that at work. But this quality is just not on her top three list of qualities she married you for.

Understanding, however, is. She wants you to understand her. And not just intellectually, but to be with her where she is at, deeply and emotionally, and share in what she’s going through.

This is why communication that’s honest and open is so important to her world. She needs to know you understand; and even draw out how she feels. This goes beyond understanding a conversation, or being on the same page about something. It involves understanding her as a person – she needs to know you “get” her, and love her: her weaknesses and strengths, her struggles and triumphs.

Interestingly, understanding is a more difficult than providing solutions. Understanding requires coming side by side to observe something in all its messiness, its insignificance or its magnitude through another’s eyes. It’s about care. This means shelving your quest for a solution long enough to feel what she feels, and to feel it strongly enough to say something meaningful in order to prove to her she’s not alone, and worth your full attention.

When it comes to solutions, she actually knows those. What she doesn’t know is that you care enough to understand, for understanding is what empowers her to make her own decisions. Give her that quality.

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Holding Hopes

A successful marriage involves the joining of hopes of two individuals. A large portion of your hope is built around the what the other person does and becomes, and chances are you will need each other’s help and support to accomplish your goals. As a couple, your hope in life overlaps intricately.

Do you know what the hopes are in the heart of your mate? Ask, probe, listen, observe. Begin with a decision to observe and join your partner in the journey of their hopes. Is it time to rediscover your spouse’s hopes? Life causes some hopes to shift and change over time but others will continue to surface, and will solicit more attention.

After discovering their hopes, decide to join your spouse in their pursuit. Do you remember the time when you said “…to have and to hold …’til death do us part”? At the beginning of your marriage you committed to hold each other’s hopes and dreams. You are your spouse’s greatest asset when it comes to fulfilling their hopes for life. You are the one who can most effectively assuage their fears, most excitedly cheerlead their efforts and most exuberantly celebrate their successes.

Take the time to discover what fears are present that prevent their hopes from materializing. Speak, act or empower so as to encourage their expression; and when hopes are realized, be the most ardent celebrator.

Holding their hopes is one of the deepest and most meaningful ways you can serve your spouse in spite of what life may bring. The spin off is that, as with all things of the heart, it inspires reciprocation. So time after time, make your love pave the way for hope.

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