Five Minute Sherpa

an espresso shot of thoughtful guidance

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Stop Trying to be Normal

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. ~ Seneca

The more normal you try to be (or the more like others you try to parrot) the less of you we will see. The move away from genius leads to people wanting to be normal, to not have to risk their necks with some dream, idea, or stroke of genius.

Normal is depressing. Normal is just plain vanilla, no toppings. Normal is the path of no resistance. Not least resistance, no resistance. Normal is normal, and more and more people are looking for the supposed feel-good nature of being normal. Let others define what normal is, then jump on the bandwagon to feel accepted, part of the team. But you’re not accepted or connected. You’re a drone that parrots what you think others want to hear, what you think others value as popular or normal.

The problem is, normal doesn’t feel good for long. It’s cheap. Like plastic forks. Good for the occasional use, but rely on it for too long and it’ll break. It’ll let you down. And then you’ll try another version of normal. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Trying to be normal is really about a misguided search for meaning. For purpose. For life.

Normal is death. It’s death to the soul. To the creative part of you that only you know, that only you see, and that only you choose to hide or show. Trying to be normal is self-rejection. It’s death.

It’s crazy to enter into and commit oneself to another person for life… It’s even crazier to become parents. Yet we put aside stats, conventional wisdom, and follow our hearts into some of the scariest, most dangerous, and land-mine-filled area called marriage. Over 50% of marriages fail today. Yet people still get married. Why? Because they’re in love. Because their heart believes that they cannot go on without the other person. That, my friends, is madness. Ignoring logic and going with you’re heart is madness.

And it’s genius. Pure creative genius. Picasso wasn’t a genius because of what he painted, he was a genius for when and how he painted.

The same is true for you. You’re not a genius for what idea you come up with, or what decision you make. You’re a genius for taking the risk to fulfill your dream. In putting your neck on the line and risk being called a fool. And trust me, those who will call you a fool are envious, because they’re normal and you’re not.

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Two Stances in Building Relationships

Sometimes I consider myself a golfer, and regardless of how well I play, I really enjoy the sport. I’ll play 10-15 times a year, and there are occasional holes where I think that I am a decent player. One of my main complaints about this as a hobby is the amount of time that it takes away from my wife and kids. I’m typically limited to vacation golf, 9-holes after work, or the rare tee time early Saturday morning with a friend.

A few weeks ago I asked Stephanie, my wife, to go play golf with me for our weekly date. She is not a golfer, but she got really excited about getting to drive a golf cart, and doing something different on our date night. We had a blast together. I felt loved that she’d want to spend time with me doing something I really enjoy, she felt loved that we’d been adventurous on our date night. It was a win-win.

It later occurred to me how important it is for us to have something we can do together that is beyond our day-to-day lifestyle. We had kids within the first 2 years of marriage, and our normal interactions quickly swayed to become kid-centric. Part of what was so nice about playing golf that evening was that we were able to spend time together in a very different setting. We usually relate and date face-to-face, but playing golf was a shoulder-to-shoulder experience.

Men typically build relationships through doing things alongside another person. In a shoulder-to-shoulder setting, both parties are next to each other facing a common goal, problem, or activity. We usually need a sport, event, or job to make a connection with someone. Not that it always happens this way, but need shared experiences to deepen relationships. One of the reasons for this is our capacity for intimacy. While we have the same need and capacity as women, it usually takes a longer time to develop.

Patricia Love and Steven Stosny in their book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It explain research that proves male babies have a harder time holding the gaze of their mother than do female babies. There’s an intensity to intimacy that men have a difficulty with in large doses. Women, however, typically build relationships face-to-face. This face-to-face setting means that sitting across from one another in a living room is the only context needed for relationships to happen. Experiences bring women together as well, but they don’t need an event or sport in order to connect.

It’s pretty typical, perhaps even a bit cliche’, for a couples’ date night to be dinner and a movie. The reason this works so well is that it addresses both types of relational experiences: Dinner is face-to-face, and the movie is shoulder-to-shoulder. It is really important for couples to tend to the relational needs of both the husband and the wife. This may seem like a fairly simple idea, but the practice can become challenging over time.

This is an important concept for couples to understand. Men and women process relationships and intimacy differently. The quality of time spent together needs to be rationed to both his and her relational needs. I’m a huge advocate of consistent date nights for couples. Creating experiences that allow for both the fact to face and should to shoulder will go a long way in keeping both relational needs addressed.

(Article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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Marriage as the First Child

There is no doubt; having a child is one of the greatest and most terrifying moments in life. It is one of the most electrifying times that produces crazy amounts of anxiety, adrenaline, and joy. And that’s just from the guy’s perspective. Despite this reality with a baby, when the first child arrives it is a couples’ second offspring. Let me explain.

In college, two of my best friends, who were also my roommates, got married within a week of each other. I had the honor of being the best man for both of them, which might help to explain some of my surprise (and hurt) that they essentially disappeared from life after the wedding. It was as if they’d moved to a different state altogether. I’d expected them to be less social after they got married, but nothing to the extent that I experienced.

Fast forward a little over a year later, I’d been married for a few months, and I realized why my good friends disappeared after they got married: They had created something new, fragile, and precious. They weren’t parents, but in tying the knot, together as husband and wife they created a new relationship that was bigger than their individual lives could hold alone. I saw this in my marriage as well. Here was a union that Stephanie, my wife, and I had created that now required our attention and care.

When a marriage is born, much like a baby, it takes a similar level of attention, commitment, and care. If we treat our young marriage as though it is one that’s been around for 20 years, we’re likely going to fail in many ways.

Love is a choice, as is commitment, and both are a process. This process happens over time as we hold tightly to someone or something that we care deeply about. The infancy stage of love is motivated primarily by underdeveloped fear. If I don’t hold on tight enough, something terrible might happen. Now as a dad of four, I can safely say that I have some ideas about what it takes to care for an infant child. It took me struggling through the first two to get to this stage, and only through this struggle did I gain confidence about how to be a dad.

Similarly, I am confident as a husband because I have struggled mightily through the early stages of our marriage relationship. Just as parents understand the frailty of their children, I understand the frailty of a relationship. One look at an infant and it’s easy to see that they would not fare well on their own.

Marriages are no different. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but many marriages do. The trap is to believe that once a commitment is made, the relationship will coast into glory. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much like a baby needs an adult mother and father, so too do marriages need an adult husband and wife. This adulthood, maturity, can take shape in a couple of different ways.

For one, couples are wise to search out mentors to walk through life together. These mentors need to be a couple that has been through a couple of rounds of hardships together and can be far enough down the road so as to provide wisdom and perspective. These are couples who will be available to meet with you late at night when that time comes. These are not friends, they are guides, sherpas. An older couple might be the difference between a successful and failed marriage.

Another way this concept plays out is that the husband and wife take care of the marriage together. Viewing the relationship as it’s own entity creates unity and togetherness that can offer a unique experience. When the relationship is faltering, viewing it as a co-created entity allows for the responsibility of care to be had by both parties. The opposite way of doing this creates a fertile ground for the blame-game: Finding the “bad guy” who is responsible for the screw up.

Marriages are in danger for a variety of reasons. Viewing your marriage as your first child will create opportunities for your relationship to thrive. Furthermore, it will also provide a context for parenting together if and when that day comes.

(Article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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Just One Point

I did good. It was my wife’s 30th birthday, and I had the ultimate celebration for her.

We were in our first year of grad school in Seattle, thousands of miles away from friends and family. She was a bit homesick, and just beginning to understand that any season other than Summer means lots of grey skies and rain.

I arranged for some of her closest friends to send her a teacup that was unique to her, and write a note explaining the selection. On her birthday morning, the kids and I setup a tea party and she unwrapped a dozen teacups to complete the setup. It was glorious, and I was feeling quite proud of myself. She felt celebrated and all was well for that day.

I felt like I’d earned the mother lode of “points.” You know, “points” being the relational banking system (which I’m sure was created by men, for men) that illustrate how much one cares for another person. I was convinced that I’d proven my dad’s theory wrong that men can only earn one point per day with their wife.

If you’re not familiar with the point system, it’s pretty simple. Regardless of how great the act of service, expensive the gift, or sacrificial the behavior: Men earn one single point that says they loved their wife well. This point is non-transferable, expires at midnight, and cannot be redeemed on any other day than the day it was earned. It’s somewhat of a joke in our family that even if a husband buys his wife a diamond ring, he only earns a single point. It’s only funny because it is true.

This illustrates one of the great challenges men face in relationships. We want to fix, which is rooted in our nature that we are made for work. Fixing is a part of the drive that men use to make their mark on this world. Intuitively, men know that there is an infinite amount of work that is required in relationships. Searching for that elusive multiple-point gift or act is an ever present goal.

If there were such a gift or act that could solve the relational demands of a marriage, it would reduce marriage into an objective. This objective is what we men say we want, but it’s not what we are made for. The reality is that men don’t want to spend all day working in their jobs to then come home and do more work in their relationship. As a man, I don’t find fault in this desire but I do understand the challenges it presents in relationships. The mystery of a relationship is what creates the context for marriage.

Marriage is a divine mystery, and is something that we unknowingly admit when we get married. We join in this ceremony of matrimony that is far greater and bigger than the two people gathered at the alter. If the goal is to solve this mystery, it requires a view of marriage that is centered around a need we all, men and women, have for ultimate security. There is little security in a mystery, conversely there is little security in marriage. The security we hope to have is worked for and earned, which gives credence to the truth of the “point system.”

Many studies have shown that lottery winners end up worse off because of the wealth they luckily won. They no longer need to work, thus they no longer have purpose. Similarly, earning a lifetime of points in marriage would create an absence of work, an absence of purpose. Instead of hoping to earn multiple points in marriage, we men need to view the process of “earning points” with our wives as a process of getting to know them better. Not for the sake of arriving, but for the process of the journey.

(article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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Show Me the Money

Sex get’s most of the hype as the big conversation topic prior to getting married. This is probably because, in general, sex is a lot more enjoyable to practice than any of the other issues a couple might face. With that said, the issue of money will usually be a more divisive topic than sex throughout a couples’ marriage.

Money will usually come up more than sex because we deal with it every day. The limitations placed on us in life are generally most evident when we look at our checking register.

So, what needs to be discussed about money prior to getting married? I’m glad you asked, because there’s plenty to cover. Before this conversation is had with your significant other, agree to be curious and graceful with one another. This is not a light-hearted topic. The below list is not an exhaustive list of questions and topics, but is meant to set the table for which to have an ongoing conversation about money.

Family history of money

What were the financial aspects of growing up? Everyone comes from someone, and everyone is shaped by the way that their family of origin handled their money. Some questions to consider here: What was important for your family? What or Where did they spend their money? What was their philosophy on saving, giving, and debt? Did you ever feel pressured to spend or not spend mom/dad’s money? Did money get talked about, and was this appropriate?

Purpose of money

Believe it or not, we all have very different ideas about what money is to be used for. Some view money as a security blanket, shielding them from the harsh realities of life. Some might view it as a fleeting object, to be spent when you have it. Can money buy happiness? What is the purpose and meaning of money?

Personal stories with money

What are the three to five most influential acts you’ve done that have had to do with money.? This could be a poor decision that resulted in a hardship (like the time I bought a pager when I was 16 so that my work, a shoe store, could get a hold of me — I spent hundreds of dollars on that pager and maybe received a total of 10 pages). On the other side, this could be a gift made to someone in need. Regardless, we all have stories about how and what we have done with money that reflect some of who we are.

Financial truths today

What are the financial details of your current situation? What is your salary, bonuses, commissions, etc? How much money do you have in savings, retirement, checking accounts, etc? What about debts, student loans, car notes, etc? What’s your credit story (if I pulled your credit report, what story would it tell)? Is there anything that you would change about the way you deal with money today?

Financial hopes tomorrow

One of the great aspects of getting married is that we get a chance to start fresh with some areas that we might not have handled well in the past. Money is one of those opportunities.

Do you anticipate both husband and wife working outside of the home indefinitely? How do the prospect of kids influence this decision? How do you want to handle saving, spending, retirement, college, etc?

If both husband and wife are working at the beginning of marriage, how do you want to harness the power of two incomes? A lot of times couples increase their standard of living once two incomes are put into the pot. I always suggest keeping the same standard of lifestyle for the first year, and then adjust as you see fit. Having more money in the bank will generally provide a safer place from which to have discussions about money together.

Beyond these topics that help you to address the past, present, and future, I suggest putting some boundaries in place that help couples succeed in their financial marriage. Firstly, once married do not have separate checking accounts. Open a joint account as soon as possible, and begin paying everything together from that account. Secondly, have bi-weekly and monthly budget meetings. Lastly, dream big. Talk about vacations, cars, trips, and home decor. Do some fun things together with money, and make your money work for you.

Money can be an incredible force in marriage. If you begin having these conversations today, you can set the table for your marriage to have healthy views and interactions about money. Be intentional with each other in talking about money, it will pay off.

(Article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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The Importance of Wise Counsel

Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, begin planning their life together, get married, and come home from the honeymoon expecting happy ever after. Then some kind of pain happens, and it’s as if these two people barely know each other.

I recently heard about a couple who is calling it quits after 15 months of marriage. They were young and ignored the counsel of friends and family to wait on marriage. They were encouraged to address some personal and relational issues. They didn’t listen and married anyway. These issues flared up and created too much of a block for reconciliation to occur.

After a little more than a year, it’s over. They didn’t plan on this happening, nor does any other right-minded person who is getting married.

One of my professors in grad school taught a class on domestic violence. She was the unfortunate recipient of years of abuse by her husband, which began on the honeymoon. She told her harrowing story. Upon arriving at their honeymoon beach house (the only house on this Canadian island) he told her that she was his property and that she’d better start doing what he said or she’d feel his wrath. He began physically and emotionally abusing her that day, and it continued for years. It’s a tragic story that repeats itself every day.

What we want to see in others can cloud us from seeing what is true about others. The engagement process gets so consumed with wedding plans that the relationship fails to grow or be seen for what it truly is.

At any point in your intimate or budding relationship wise counsel is your best ally. If the fatality rate of texting while driving a car was 50+%, I think that a majority of us would take heed at the importance of this stat and behave differently.

The sad reality is: This is true for marriage. The death of marriages happens at more than a 50% clip. The divorce rate offers a warning and caution that there is trouble ahead, and the outlook isn’t all that favorable.

Assuming that one is teachable, wise counsel might be the difference between a failed marriage and a successful one. Counsel comes from friends, family, professional counselors, pastors, authors, and proverbs. Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth for the good of your soul. Friends that find no fault or see no areas that need growth in you or in your significant other are either being naive, or they are lying to you. Telling the truth is hard to do, especially when it potentially threatens a significant relationship.

Prior to getting married, my wife and I spent a couple of months with another couple who was 10-12 years ahead of us. They offered encouragement and some warnings about how our fights in marriage might play out. We were too “star struck” and in love to really understand what they were saying. Not until 6 to 8 months into marriage did we understand, and that was only because we fought daily about needs, wants, and expectations (all of which this couple had warned us about).

If you’re considering getting married, now is a great time to seek out a third party that can help you identify potential difficulties. Find a relationship coach, couples counselor, or pastor who is willing to walk through 4-6 sessions with you and your partner. Pre-engagement counseling is usually more effective than pre-married counseling because once a decision to marry has been made, it’s my experience that couples rarely hear the warnings heeded by others.

If your partner won’t go with you to counseling, this might be reason enough to not pursue a marriage relationship. Insecurities that prevent people from asking for help are always going to cause problems in relationships. Refusal to get or accept help is a sign of deep insecurity that will manifest itself in other, likely more harmful, ways. Proverbs 15:22 says, “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

(article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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Marriage & Separation

Oil and water, separate

It may be that the only way to truly identify and understand the depths to which one goes to get their way in marriage is to separate. Marriages are too codependent to allow for the truth of control and manipulation to be seen. Consistently doing life together and the closeness of this life doesn’t lend itself to self-correcting behaviors. It’s not that every marriage requires separation, but those that are separated have a unique ability to view and judge their own efforts in marriage apart from the obvious and usually clearer failures of their spouse.

Separation is the exercise of putting distance between two selfish people so that they can each address the log in their own eye without be able to see the speck in the others’ eye. In short, if allowed, separation is one giant mirror.

Unfortunately, most separations happen as a bridge, rather than a stop-gap, to divorce. Divorce is the easy, and by  no means is it easy, way to step outside of the inevitable and difficult pain that exists in marriage. The biggest issue  is divorce is an exit that rarely solves the problem. Sure, the pain will lessen and cease to be as it was, but it doesn’t circumvent selfishness or the reality that life doesn’t look like fantasy.

 So, if you’re separated or considering separation, get someone to walk through the process with you. Invite someone who will guide and help you to understand your own control issues, how your woundedness is influencing your relationship, or where you need help grieving the loss of your idea of marriage. Divorce may be inevitable, but don’t let it dictate personal growth.

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Fear of Losing Her

I’m afraid I’ll lose him or her can be one of the most powerful motivators in a relationship. There are many stories that shape the foundation of this fear, but regardless of it’s origin, the way you behave out of this fear will either result in bondage or freedom. If we’re honest, we all have fears about doing or not doing something that will bring an end to an important relationship. This fear may not be consciously present for both partners, but it’s in there.

There are two ways we typically react to this fear:

  1. Grab on tightly and not let go (a natural and normal reaction)
  2. Hold with open arms and allow the other the freedom to choose (a more nuanced reaction).

Obviously the latter is more difficult, but it’s a promise we all hope to give and be given upon getting married. This is the reality of accepting that love is a choice.

In the infancy of a relationship, it’s impossible for couples to not behave and interact as though devastation is but a whisper away. Couples will spend countless hours together, spending energy they’d normally reserve for work and other relationships, and will be quite infatuated with each other. It’s the picture of the animals coming out in the spring in the movie, Bambi. Everyone is twitterpated, and nothing else matters. This infancy can last days, weeks or years and is the beginning grounds of every relationship.

If one person tries to break free (mature) from the immaturity of the relationship, it forces the other person to either increase their efforts at containing the relationship or to follow the others’ lead. Thus begins the dance of “I’m afraid I’ll lose the other person.”

When we’re afraid of losing someone close, our natural tendency is to hold on tighter so as to guarantee the person never gets away. Said another way, finding something of immeasurable value is rare and it’s easy to want to horde so as to never experience the loss. God has hardwired us for relationships, and this is the dilemma that faces marriage:

 How do I ensure I’ll never lose him/her?

The unfortunate answer is that we can never ensure our own safety, or closeness to another person. Because of this, our humanness takes charge and we squeeze tight, so we don’t experience loss. One of the quickest ways to erode trust with your spouse is to risk them feeling controlled. If this word pops up in your conversations, wisely heed the warning and address it.

The balloon analogy
What’s not understood in this dilemma is that when we squeeze something, we generally expel the air that resides inside; much like a balloon. Balloons are designed to hold air. When you commit your life to your spouse, you commit to caring for him/her the way you’d care for a balloon. Sometimes they’ll need you to put some air in them, sometimes they’ll need a string so they can fly in the wind but not get lost, and sometimes they’ll need to be left alone to dance on the floor to how the air moves them. If I’m afraid of losing my balloon, I might squeeze it so hard that all the air is expelled from the other person. “She’s safer in my pocket, than out on her own,” might be a phrase associated with this act or belief.

This dynamic plays an important part for the early stages of intimate relationships. This “holding on tightly” is usually given and received as a token of the pure love that couples have for one another. This can be experienced as love early on in a relationship, but as the individuals (and marriage) grows, so too does the need for a more matured expression of love.

Love takes energy and selfless behavior to care, respect, actively listen, attend, and honor our spouse. On the other hand, fear silences, manipulates, controls, and worries. Marriage is the choice to engage in spite of our fear. I liken it to the challenge of being given a rare flower that needs care, but room to breath and grow. Smother it, and it will slowly die; tend to it and it will thrive.

If we let the fear of loss control our actions and interactions with our spouse, it will result in a failure of love. Love is not static. It’s a dynamic process of growth both for the other and for ourselves.

 

(originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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The 15-Minute Date

(Authors note: This article was originally published in September 2012 at StartMarriageRight.com)

Most couples that I see for counseling have not consistently dated in years. It’s an odd phenomenon that usually happens after the wedding; couples stop dating. The most common reasons I hear and see have to do with the physical proximity of living together, having a difficult time transitioning past the “I got what I wanted, so why pursue” mentality, and lastly the change in priorities after marriage. Regardless of the reason, stopping activities that built the relationship will result in a loss of relationship.

In Western culture, couples don’t end up on the marriage alter without having spent some amount of time getting to know each other. There is usually a progression of attraction, pursuit and acceptance that leads to couples spending time together playing, eating, laughing and living life. These are the experiences that lead to connection which develops into trust and intimacy.

It comes as no surprise to hear a couple in distress mention they haven’t been on a date in many months, perhaps even years. It’s not that distress will be avoided by dating after marriage but the likelihood is reduced.

Some of the most fulfilled marriages I know today are where they are because the couple has made spending intentional time together (dating) a top priority.”

These couples spend time together, away from the normalcy of life, to rest, play and connect.

I’ve seen plenty of couples who’ve lived on both sides of the dating-after-marriage fence. In my own story, once we married I felt like every night was a date, as it was just the two of us at home alone. Why go on dates when we’re essentially doing the same thing at home? The other justification, or excuse, I used was that I had no idea how to be her husband. It was a bit of a personal crisis. I knew what the books and experts said about being a husband, but early on living into that role felt impossible. Prior to marriage, our entire relationship had been about spending as much time with each other as possible. Then we planned a wedding. We hadn’t really spent much time engaging and mapping out what we wanted life to look like after we’d married.

So much planning and work goes into the wedding celebration and honeymoon that couples often return home to the surprise of newly formed roles. They’re no longer living in a “me” or “my” world, but rather in a “us” and “our” world. This is a shock to our natural “me first” belief system.

When couples explain to me that they don’t date, part of their marriage therapy (therapy is rehabilitating something strained, broken or misaligned) is re-learning the process of dating. One of the first tools I use to help them re-learn dating is The 15-Minute Date. It’s a simple yet difficult task where each person gets the opportunity to speak and listen, in alternating roles.

There are two things to note here. First, on average, men typically speak about 10,000 words per day whereas women speak around 25,000. That’s a significant difference. Secondly, and this is more behavioral than gender focused, what I’ve found with most couples is a tendency for one person to be more pursuant than the other. This isn’t always the one who talks more, rather it’s the one who pursues connections in the relationship. The 15-minute date helps to eliminate the spoken-word gap that exists in the gender differences. It also brings equality to the pursuer/pursued dynamic.

How does the 15-minute date work?
Each evening of the work-week, I ask couples to set aside 15 minutes for a date. This needs to be done in a setting that is uninterrupted, especially for those couples with kids. The couple is to choose one person who will speak first, and this is rotated the following evening (allowing both equal opportunities to speak first).

The first person is to speak for 7 and a half minutes about whatever it is they would like to speak about. The other person is to remain silent for the entire time, practicing active listening. The speaker must use first person language (I, me, my), to avoid attacking or jabs at the spouse, and they must do their best to use the entire time to speak

Once the 7 and a half minutes are up, the roles reverse to complete the 15 minutes. The second person is allowed to respond to the first person if he/she wishes, but must use first person language. For example, if the first talker says something to the effect of, “I felt hurt this morning after breakfast because I had to do the dishes on my own.” The second speaker could respond to this, but only with “I” statements (try not to use you, your, or 2nd person language). Using second person language will be felt as an attack to the other person, regardless of intent. These 15 minutes are not for stirring up fights, but to give each person equal time to talk and listen to the other person.

The goal of this date is two fold.
Firstly, it promotes initiative for the speaker and active listening for the listener. These are both vital components of relationships that do not normally develop without intention. It’s amazing how difficult it is to be an active participant in a conversation when the conversation isn’t about you and your thoughts. This is why active listening is a learned concept; it doesn’t come naturally to us.

Active listening means that we suspend our judgements, counter-arguments, attacks, defenses and active thought responses so as to hear, to listen to what the other person is saying.”

Listening means that we don’t assume or “hear what we want to hear” but that we listen to the whole of the other.

Secondly, the 15-minute date promotes honesty and forthright communication. This is by far the most disruptive missing ingredient to relationships in distress. When truth is not being spoken (by truth I am referring to beliefs, opinions, thoughts, insights about me, feelings or actions), there is no grounds for connection or vulnerabilities. In taking 7 1/2 minutes, the speaker is having time to illuminate ideas, thoughts, feelings or anything else that has happened during the day or week they want to talk about. It’s an incredibly selfish act to only talk about me if there is no room for the other person to do the same, which is why taking turns and limiting it to equal time prevents this from focusing on one person.

This activity is simple in it’s concept but takes a lot of time and hard work to master. After the wedding day, it becomes an easy pattern to assume things about the other person. These 15 minutes a day could very well be the difference between a love-filled lifetime relationship and one that ends much like the majority of marriages.

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So, You Think You Can Dance?

(article originally published at Start Marriage Right)


I move left, she moves right.
I go forward, she goes backwards.
I dip, she bends.
I swing, she flies.
We move closer and embrace.
Butterflies.

I’m a horrible dancer. The term “two left feet” has new meaning when applied to my dancing machismo. In the kitchen after work, I’m constantly getting in the way of Stephanie. Part of this is my inability to do two things at once, the other part is my lack of physical fluidity.

Interesting though, our relationship took off on a dance floor. It was New Years eve, and a planned group gathering with friends turned into a quadruple-date that ended up at a swing dance party to ring in the new year. I’d always hated to dance but there was this girl that quickly moved me out of my self-consciousness. My desire to be wherever she was made me the supporter of any and all things swing dancing. This ought to come at no surprise but she loved (and still does) to dance. Me being on the dance floor with her that night created some serious mojo between the two of us. Less than 6 months later, we were honeymooning in Nova Scotia learning a whole new kind of dance.

A friend of mine teaches marriage classes with a ballroom dance instructor. For an hour they sit in a room conversing about sex, fighting, communication and other marital pitfalls. Following the hour of marriage work, they begin the real work: Learning to dance. From what he’s said, the ballroom dancing part is more beneficial for the couples than is the workshop. The reason? Until we actually get up and start acting our parts, no amount of reading, listening, analyzing or planning will create connection.

When you stand on the dance floor with your partner, you have to communicate, someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. It’s amazing to watch a couple’s relationship tendencies come out as they struggle to make the moves on the floor. The woman resists the leadership of the man, she stumbles and they end up apart. The man resists leading, the woman leads and he wilts with shame and sadness. The couple holds each other like they are in Jr. High, neither looking at each other or wanting to be near each other and they end up dancing monotone.

… continue reading at Start Marriage Right