Category Archives: relationships

We Need To Talk

Talk

There is probably no phrase that a woman can utter that strikes terror in the heart of a man more than:

“We need to talk!”

Guys hearing this may start to feel their heart rate climb, their blood pressure escalate, and the anxiety and fear level skyrocket. Calm down guys, I will interpret this for you.

What you hear is: “You’re in trouble, mister!” (And so you brace yourself for the danger ahead.)

What she most likely means is: “I have an unmet expectation that I want to discuss.” (And she is afraid that what is important to her is going to be discounted.)

I want to emphasize that the expectation may or may not be realistic. At this point it is inconsequential. Again, calm yourself down, put on your listening ears and make some time for her. This will de-escalate her emotions, even if it doesn’t seem like it to you at the moment. She may hold an expectation that you can actually meet that will not be as painful as you fear.

Single ladies (in particular): a word of caution. Be very careful when using the phrase (We need to talk about) “The Relationship”. These days those are hot button words. You don’t want a guy to go defensive on you. “The Relationship” is really you and him. It does not exist outside as a separate entity. There seems to be a lot of anxiety around DTR (determining the relationship), but it doesn’t need to be that way. Having a non-anxious conversation might be as easy as choosing a better way to initiate a discussion.

So what might be a better conversation starter?

How about: “I have some thoughts. Would you be willing to listen to them?” or “I’ve been thinking about you (us) lately and would like to process some things.”

He (or she) may still be skeptical, but will be less likely to throw up the deflector shield. A sure way to steer the conversation in a good direction is to lead with an affirmation. It could be anything. “I know you’ve been working hard” or “I know you never intend to hurt my feelings…” Any phrase like that is likely to reduces defenses and pave the way to a better discussion.

I have written this before, and I will state it again. Before you bring up a volatile or touchy subject, be sure to check your anger at the door. If you need to emote, do it where it won’t be heard by the one you are upset with. Process with a trusted same sex friend if need be. Then bring the “sanitized”, less toxic version to the other person.

You’ll thank me later.

The Blame Game – No Winners

Blame

This is one of those tough subjects to deal with in counseling. It is so common to want to point out other people’s faults, especially when we feel hurt and upset. But it rarely leads to any kind of positive outcome, even if we are right. Maybe especially when we are right. When we blame others it will undoubtedly create a defensive posture in the other person(s).

Often I hear someone who is in full blame mode say:

“But I am just expressing my feelings.”

No, not really. You may be feeling wronged, hurt, sad, scared, frustrated or a lot of other feelings, but when you blame someone your intention is to make the other person feel bad or admit that they are wrong and responsible for your feelings. That is not the same thing at all. Blaming is the acting out of your interpreted and processed feelings. It is a response, not a feeling.

When I make a statement like “She made me angry.” I am saying that someone else has power and control over me. Blaming feels like a way of taking back control of myself, but really it’s a verification that I am out of control.

I must admit that I can fail at this pretty easily when I am overwhelmed. It’s so much easier to blame someone than it is to do the work of trying to understand, empathize or forgive. Blaming will shut down a dialog and damage a relationship. If you are like me, the process takes place rapidly in my head. I take offense and I want the other person to know it. Even if I don’t let the words come out of my mouth, my attitude and demeanor transmitted by my body language can say everything that I am itching to announce verbally.

Two anchoring Bible verses for me have been:

James 1:19 “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Matthew 12:36-37 (Jesus speaking)  “And I tell you this, you must give an account on       judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”

I read that last verse and I think “I am sunk! I can’t even defend the words I let loose today, let alone every word ever.”  But then I remember other verses:

Romans 5:9 “And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.”

Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

I am restored. Redeemed.

But the takeaway from those first two verses is two things: 1) The speed at which you do things matters and 2) You must take control over yourself. You are responsible for you and accountable to God.

There was an old commercial tag line that said “The pause that refreshes”. I think that can be applied very nicely in these situations. Taking a break will always give the rush of chemicals that assault our brain during a conflict time to settle down. The crazy leaves and the rational returns.

Make no mistake about it. There are no winners in the blame game – only losers. 

Making Old Things New

old things new

We recently bought a cabin about four hours away from our home in Los Angeles. It was built in 1982, making it 35 years old. For us this is relatively new compared to our primary home which was built in 1930.

One of the fun aspects for me is making small repairs and renewing some of the neglected things around the cabin. I am also crafting or repurposing a few things from cast aside materials and secondhand stores.

This metaphor (or is it simile or analogy?) has been used numerous times to illustrate how God works in us, making us new and doing so with delight. But I think we also have an opportunity to do the same in our relationships with each other.

We live in a culture that tends to throw things away. We replace rather than repair. But I have found that we often trade down rather than up. Our old toaster got much hotter than our new one. So did our iron (you know, the thing that you used before permanent press came along). Unfortunately people do that with relationships as well.

So how do we reverse that in marriage or friendships or at the workplace?

We make old things new:

  • Every time we mend a relationship with forgiveness
  • Every time we treat someone with a more positive attitude
  • Every time we swallow hurtful words
  • Every time we confront with love rather than avoid
  • Every time we listen rather than doing all the talking
  • Every time we make room for the other person’s perspective
  • Every time we power down rather than power up

I can demolish something very quickly. Give me a big hammer and a crowbar and I can reverse someone’s craftsmanship in a mater of minutes (often my own). That doesn’t take skill or maturity. What does take skill is to look at something that has been neglected or damaged and figure out how to lovingly restore it.

When Nan and I were younger that was the choice that was in front of us. We chose the harder path of making old things new by going to counseling. It changed our lives, mine especially. Do you hear a challenge in this? Is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?