Category Archives: counseling

The Road To Relationship

road relationship

I believe the road to relationship is paved with good intentions. All the things we intend to do to find and sustain a wonderful union are usually noble. We will be kind, generous, thoughtful and attentive. And we intend to find someone who is like minded. So how do some relationships go sideways with all these good intentions?

I think some wonky relationships can be traced back to the very beginning. Either our “picker” is broken or our process is flawed. Submitted for your consideration:

Attraction

Sometimes attraction can be almost instantaneous. We have this feeling that “we just know” this is the right person. Translation: My hormones are raging and the reason center of my brain just shut down. I am “crazy” in love. Nobody can talk to me because all I see is a romantic future with this person. I say somebody forgot to install brakes on this bus. Two such impulsive people are likely to be heading off a cliff in the future.

I think attraction is very important. Without it, sustaining a relationship can be quite challenging. Lacking attraction we may choose rationally, based on practical criteria. That’s important, of course, but not the stuff you want to depend on for intimacy. A fat paycheck and a hot meal is great, but it’s not the stuff of deep connectedness.

Character

This is the part of the relationship that takes time to know. Character is discovered over a longer period of time. This is where you watch to see if their words and their actions match up over time and through challenging situations. They “intend” to operate with integrity and virtue, but when things heat up they may melt. When temptation hits, they just can’t quite resist. Nobody can be perfect, but a little bit of infidelity can sour a sweet relationship, and a few little (or big) lies can break trust.

The Sex Factor

This is the fly in the ointment for many relationships. Once this boundary has been crossed, discernment is compromised. We are operating mostly from feelings and not rationality. We “feel” so close to each other. We “know” the other person. They are our “soul mate.” No, they are our sin mate and backing up the relationship becomes difficult. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy and we have just gone from 0-200 mph in 10 seconds flat.

Same Mistake, Different Person

We are generally attracted to the same type of person. This imprint can bite us when our tendency is to make bad choices. I especially caution those that are considering marriage for a second (or third) time to pay attention to this reality. Even if the externals look very different, people often pick the same character and personality repeatedly. This is where listening very carefully to outside counsel is essential.

What is the answer?

Take your time. Have fun the first six months, but don’t get too serious. Once a full year has gone by, it’s time to make a decision. Don’t linger on for years. Most characterological defects can be discovered adequately in one year and the chemical wash to the brain that makes us irrational will subside. Then if you can say “yes” to the person exactly as they are, then move forward. And pray that the good intentions become good follow through.

Whining – The Achilles Heel Of Leaders

Whining

I was thinking about great leaders – you know – the ones that inspire trust and confidence. One quality I readily recognized was their ability to manage their emotions. In times of stress they are able to express feelings like sadness, disappointment or anger with dignity and restraint. You rarely hear a great leader whining, because they know they will lose respect from those they lead.

What is so bad about whining? It is a not-so-subtle way of blaming. It is a form of giving up power and shunning responsibility. Those are not qualities that we seek in a leader. We want our leaders to show strength in the face of adversity. We want them to be able to bear the weight of challenges and crises.

On the receiving end, I have observed that leaders are drained by whiners. Show me a leader with a heart, surrounded by a bunch of complainers, and I will show you a tired and frustrated man or woman. The great leaders are not crushed by them, but are burdened with the extra, and often unnecessary load.

I am sure that all you moms and dads out there would agree. Whining kids (especially teens) can make the day seem longer than it should be. And ask a husband or wife with a perennially whining spouse if they look forward to going home after a long work day.

You don’t have to be the leader of a country or large corporation to qualify as a leader. Any collection of people will have a leader, if only informally. Every family has a leader. For 27 years my partners and I led a small business and it was a challenge to keep our complaints among the three of us and not share them with our employees. I acknowledge that we failed many times, and then had to deal with the fallout. I know we lost respect.

 If you are a leader what can you do?

First and foremost a leader must have a safe place to process their feelings. They must be able to release the negative energy that builds up around responsibility.

Secondly a leader must be intentional about communication. He or she must have a good “filter” and rehearse important messages.

Thirdly, a good leader must develop a tough skin and manage what may feel like personal attacks. Often the opposition is to the situation rather than the leader herself. But that is not always the case. Sometimes it really is a direct hit.

Lastly, a leader must expect that whiners are part of the package. Choosing or accepting a leadership position means that when things get tough or go wrong the leader will become a target. They must demonstrate care for those who are challenging them. In short, they must be the calmest and most mature person in the room.

Are Family Getaways Good For You?

Getaways

As I sit here in our hideaway in the mountains I realize the value of down time for couples and families. Nan says “I feel younger here.” For me I just feel more engaged and connected. Both of us tend to be over-responsible by nature. I guess it’s a family of origin issue long ingrained by years of reinforcing behavior. Whatever the reason, if we’re home, we are never far from our jobs.

When at home the simple tasks of everyday life seem more rushed and intrusive, whereas when we are away they are the leisurely fillers of our day. Cooking is an adventure rather than a necessity. Going marketing is another voyage of exploration. Who knows what we may find? When we are away we talk more to each other. We read more and dream more.

That’s the way we approach time away. You may be very different. For you time away may mean not having to attend to the mundane at all. What might bring you joy is abdicating the routines of daily life and letting someone else attend to them. Your goal is just being together without any responsibilities and going at your own pace. Or perhaps it’s a recreational pursuit or exciting journey that brings you refreshment. No problem.

We have discovered that many families that seem to have elevated levels of conflict at home do very well when they detach from routine. Time away together restores and renews them. Often they return from vacations vowing to spend more time taking breaks from the daily grind. Those that actually follow through seem to grow in their relationships.

There is another group that brings their conflicts with them into their down time. They fight on vacation. They fight on dates. They complain that their partner doesn’t spend time with them – in the midst of  their partner spending time with them. They can turn ice-cream into vinegar. Perhaps what they discover is that they don’t really like each other that much. Or they just bring selfish and negative attitudes with them wherever they go.

I love where Paul the apostle says in Philippians that he has achieved contentment in all circumstances. What a great perspective to have! I must admit that I am not there yet, but I do get a lot closer when I am able to detach for a while.

Kids love time away. It’s often what they remember best after they have grown into adults. Although my family brought conflict with us on vacations, I wouldn’t trade the great camping adventures we had in the California mountains and beaches back in the 1950’s and 60’s.. It was something we took with us into our marriage, minus most of the conflicts.

We highly recommend that couples get away regularly without the kids as well. Even a night or weekend away can do wonders for a stressed relationship. Yes, you adore your kids, but sometimes you need the lover in you to be set free. That suppressed childlike  part of you needs to come out and play. By the way, it’s never going to happen if you don’t intentionally prioritize and plan it. So start a “getaway fund” and contribute to it regularly. If you put it on the credit card you will just create more stress.  Now get out the calendar and circle some dates.