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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Someone Like Me {Wedded Wednesday}

Did you really think you were marrying a soulmate..."someone like me"?

Does not quite work out that way. If you're a lady, you married a man. If you're a man, you married a lady.

I hope.

There are differences, right there, that make us as alien from one another as something you might see in a Star Trek outtake.

Here's an example -

"Wow, I'm feeling really sick!"

Male response - "Whoa, dude, sorry to hear that...can I get you something? A beer, maybe?"

Female response - "Oh, I;m really not feeling well either, and everyone in the office has been sick in the past two weeks, they say it's really been hard, and it takes a while to shake off. I know I've been coughing, like, forever."

If a man made the initial statement, the male response would have been welcome...but perhaps the beer might have needed a rain check. The female response, on the other hand, would have sounded like, "Well, you're not so special, everyone's got this thing, and so do I!"

If a woman had said, "I feel awful", the male response would have been an unwelcome "Oh, you're broken, let's fix you!", whereas the female response would have enveloped her in a warm hug of comradeship.

And that is the difference, right there.

Men sympathize, and look for fixes.

Women offer solidarity.

What this means, to you who may be married to a man, or to a woman...I sure hope that ends the list...is that what we offer may not be what our spouse needs.

Because they are different.

How can you learn the differences? I'd say, "Listen to your mate!" but it will seem like he or she is speaking Swahili.

No, this is the place for research. Make a day of it - go to your local bookstore and peruse titles like John Gray's  Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

I'm singling our Gray's book because he was the first person to really categorize the emotional differences in gender in a way lay persons could understand.

Let me be honest. In a way I could understand.

And do this together, because there is nothing like the feeling that your mate really wants to get to understand you better.



If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!



Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Hard Kind Of Love

Love isn't a feeling - it's an action (this was inspired by Lindsey Bell's post at Do Not Depart).

What happens when you hit those dry spots in marriage, when you just don't feel the love?

Love anyway, because that is what you promised to do.

Easier said than done, I know...when your husband walks out the door in the morning, and you realize ten minutes later that he wasn't just starting the car, he's already left for work...and he hasn't said goodbye.

How do you love, and avoid the temptation for an eye for an eye?

There are a couple of steps, that maybe you can use top get there.

  • First, it's not about you. When a mate's behaviour gets distant, and you feel far from loved, it's not something you did, or the way you look, or the fact that you whistle while you work in the garden. It's all about an internal temperature that's changed.
  • Second, withdrawal is often a symptom of depression or illness. When someone doesn't feel good about him-or-herself, that individual starts feeling worthless...nothing to say, really, because "I have nothing worth saying, that anyone would want to hear."
  • Third, there are changes in body chemistry, such as hormonal levels, that can affect the mood more than we know. Women know a lot about this, obviously...but it can happen to men, as well. It's not necessarily "male menopause" (which does have a chemical root, it seems, though it's no excuse for the red Corvette and the 21-year-old blonde); rather, it's a change in testosterone levels, driven by stress.
  • Finally, it may just be a bad habit. Men do this all the time; they get to a rushed part of life, leave the house without a kiss, and just keep doing it. Does this mean that men are pretty clueless in how they live, and how it affects their wives? Yes. It does. Men are clueless. "Wow, I didn't realize I was doing that!" It's not that he doesn't care. It's not that he doesn't value the kiss and hug. His "mind" is just somewhere else. Kind of like a shelf with an open back - push something in the front, something else falls off the back.
Clearly, there are more ominous issues that can cause distance to grow, but not as many as we often assume...and making an assumption that "it's bad" can actually make things worse.

So, what to do?

Don't change in response, to the best of your ability. if your guy is tending to leave without saying goodbye, ambush him, and initiate the goodbye yourself.

If he doesn't talk, talk anyway. Make every effort to engage him. Play up to his ego, even...not being condescending, because that's one place men are often not Philistines...but bring up the things you really admire about his character, and his work.

Encourage him, and refrain from things that could be construed as criticism. men can be sensitive to this stuff, too...what you think is a statement that the house seems kind of small, sometimes, will be taken by a man as a slap against his role as a provider. If he's having trouble, this can make it worse.

Finally, remember that in the end, you are responsible for your own feelings, and that you can only help someone...you can't make him feel better, and you can't change him

Love is action, love is grace, love is support.

You can be love.

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Visiting Hours {Five Minute Friday / The Weekend Brew}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

Today's word is visit.

We're also linked to The Weekend Brew.


GO.

Used to be, folks would set (not 'sit'...why?) on their porches and visit with the neighbors for a spell...

What's a spell?

And when did you last see a modern house with a porch? (When I lived in California Suburbia, I hung out in the garage, with the door open, and the neighborhood kids positively flocked to the place...but not for me. They wanted to cuddle up with my Pit Bull, Kareem.)

Visiting with them was fun, but time snapped the reins and I wound up in laces where visiting wasn't practical. I got out of the habit, and lost the knack.

And I recently realized that I don't know how to visit at all, any more, even with my wife.

Sure, we talk, en passant, in the kitchen or in the living room or in the yard, but I cannot recall the last time we sat down together and just visited.

It's been years. The last time I remember, we went out and looked at the stars, and exchanged the odd word. (The occasional word, I mean...most of the words themselves weren't odd...well, some were...uh, where was I?)

Oh, right. It's a nice memory, but we just don't do that now. Early this morning there was a big glowing cloud in an otherwise clear predawn sky, and I asked Barbara to come look at it as it grew and turned salmon-pink, long before the sun touched anything.

Still don't know what it was...if a cloud, wouldn't it have been there when the sun came up? It was gone by then. Totally.

But we didn't visit. We talked about what it might be, and that was it.

And in a way...this is bad...but in a way I was relieved.

Because visiting is a form of intimacy, and that can be scary.

Even, or especially, with one's wife.

STOP

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fearless? {Tuesdays@Ten / Wedded Wednesday}

A meditation on fear, the keyword for KarenBeth's Tuesdays@Ten challenge.

No Fear...remember the moto t-shirts?

Fear not, for I am with you...in perfect faith, yes, but in the real world...kind of hard to do.

I do know fear. With a really nasty illness, I live with it every day.

And I can create fear. I'm pretty well trained in things like "enhanced interrogation". Everyone breaks.

So how do we deal with it? If fearlessness isn't possible, where do we turn?

Control and compassion.

I think that the goal of faith isn't to overcome fear, but to control it, to be able to operate in spite of being scared out of our minds.

To know, deep down, that even if we hit The End, it's not really the end.

And compassion, for those moments when fear does take control. Compassion for our own scared and wounded hearts.

Circling back to marriage...there are things that are scary.

What if my spouse gets sick? What if he or she dies?

What if he or she stops loving me?

What if...what if...what if...

The whatifs don't go away because we want them to, or because we pray them away.

They  get controlled, fenced in. We live with their presence, yes, but their presence is offset by a Larger Presence.

And that is God.

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Surviving Porn 3 - Evil for Women {Wedded Wednesday}

Are women targeted by the pornography industry?

Yes and no.

Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed squarely at a female audience, but it's quite different in both content and character from what is produced for male consumption (see part 1 and part 2 of this series for more).

For one thing, it has a storyline, and there is the key.

Men are aroused by images; Playboy magazine and its ilk are proof enough of that.

Women are engaged - and arousal requires engagement - by emotional appeal, and this is where FSOG traps its audience, with the story of a pure woman redeeming a Bay Boy.

There's the frisson of living on the edge, as it were, but in the context of a story that has an arc, and has a purpose, however far-fetched.

The danger is greater than that found in men's pornography - men are, essentially, retreating into adolescence, resorting to self-arousal to hide from real relationships.

Women, on the other hand, crave the relational, and turn to their version of pornography when real life is wanting.

The danger is this - Why isn't my life like that?

Women's pornography goes under the name erotica, but I think it's broader than that, and can...and please don't stone me for this...include romance.

OK, I said it. yeah, go ahead and toss the stones...because romance is what I write.

Romance can be wonderful, giving a good feeling for the potential of life. It can make you look up, see the reflection of the Almighty in the person you love, or might one day meet, and love...and I hope that what I write does that.

But it can be dangerous, when it begs the question...Why doesn't my husband make me feel like that?

We're married to ordinary people. A wife typically does not look like a model, and a husband does not look like the Fabio, the archetype for the romance-novel hero.

And as a wife is typically not a "guy with different plumbing:" in her sexual appetites, neither is a husband the sensitive yet passionate romantic leading man.

But the difference is this...men can easily...too easily...disconnect romance and sex. Most women can't, and don't want to.

Most men know, at least subconsciously, that they would not want to be in a relationship with one of the women in their visual pornography. They'd be overmatched, overwhelmed.

But when a woman is given an emotional longing that her husband can't meet, the marriage is in trouble.

And there lies destruction.

And there, in the creation of that itch, that frisson of dissatisfaction, that emotional arousal, purposely created to ensure that there is an itch that will be scratched...there is the definition of pornography.

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Open-Heart Marriage {Five Minute Friday / Inspire me Monday / The Weekend Brew}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

Today's word is open..

We're also linked to Inspire me Monday.

GO.

Can you be open in your marriage? can you open up your heart?

Emotional intimacy is one of the key points of a good marriage...but it's much harder to achieve than it might seems, because as the relationship deepens, we learn more about the person with whom we've chosen to share our life.

Including how to hurt him or her, and we we often - too often - use that information, either deliberately, or in reaction to a perceived hurt...or even a perceived threat of hurt.

It's a vicious cycle, and we learn that marriage is not a terribly safe place, sometimes. We're vulnerable...too vulnerable.

How can we step out of this conundrum? Can we even get out?

I think, yes, we can, but it takes an act of will, and no little courage.

  • First, we have to learn that pain is a part of the deal, and that we can absorb the blows - without hitting back. We can be bigger than the arrows loosed against us. We can let it go
How? By trusting the marriage, rather than the moment. The promise, and the history, are worth far more than a few words said in anger. let it go.
  • Second, we can guard our end of the conversation, and check - every time we speak - that we are not about to say a hurtful thing, or that we're hitting back.
Not easy, but what this really takes is the discipline to think first, then talk. Don't try to implement this in the heat of argument, first off!

Practice on the easy stuff. Like, before you say, "Good morning", think about how you might want to phrase it differently. get into the habit of thinking first. then, when the chips are down, it won't be so tough.

And you'll have taken the first step to being a person with whom your spouse can open his or her heart...and helping your spouse become someone to whom you can open yours.


STOP



If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Surviving Porn 2 - Killing Evil

This is the second part of a series aimed primarily at women who find that their husbands are viewing pornography - one of the most heartbreaking discoveries a woman can make - let there be no mistake about that. (You can find the first part here.)

To recap, there were two takeaways from the first post -

  • It isn't about you
  • It's an addiction,. stemming from chemical changes in the brain that viewing pornography creates
Now we've isolated the problem. Let's kill it.

The first step after recognition is confrontation. Not an easy word, not an easy process, but it's something you can't avoid, to fix a problem you can't ignore.

First, remember...your husband's use of pornography has nothing to do with you, or with your relationship. That's hard to accept, I know, and very, very hard not to feel hurt, slighted, or set aside.

Remember - use of pornography is an addiction coming from chemical changes, and it began long before you met.

And remember this - pornography is not about sex. It's about a reversion to adolescent self-stimulation.

it isn't really about infidelity either...your husband is enthralled with and stimulated by images and imagination; it's an entirely closed circle. Yes, it can lead to infidelity, but the causal link is not firm. Don't make the problem bigger than it is.

So...how to confront?
  • Be direct. If you've found obscene images on the computer, or links to pornographic websites, say, "I found this on the computer." And stop. Wait for a response; you'll get one, and it will be delivered in shame.
  • Be firm, but not cruel. Pornography is unacceptable in your home and your life; say that, in as many words. It's bad for your relationship, and you've been hurt; say that, too, but please don't begin describing how you've been hurt. A man will begin to tune you out, and build defenses. Men are best spoken to in short sentences, with as few syllables as possible...I'm not kidding, here.
  • You will probably get an apology, and a promise to change. Accept the apology, and be appreciative of the desire to change...but...
The next step is to get help. Professional help, either from a counselor, or, if you have a solid church connection, from a clergyman (has to be a man, sorry).

Insist on this. Quitting smoking, or dieting is nothing compared to ditching pornography. Your husband will have a hard road, and he needs bracing-up from someone who knows the challenges...not just personally, but from a professional, academic base of knowledge.
  • Once you've accepted the apology, insist on counseling...and both of you have to go, initially. Not because you're somehow 'involved', but because, if you're not there, your husband might minimize the problem, short-circuit the process, or just skip the appointment. A man caught red-handed is like a child who will do anything to save face.
  • Do allow your husband the choice of counselor. Few things will obstruct the process more than if your husband can somehow feel like you and the counselor and 'ganging up' on him; that kills more marriage counseling programmes than anything. If he's made the choice, it's his responsibility.
  • Follow the counselor's suggestions for an appointment schedule to the letter. Don't modify it to suit your needs; you're too close to the problem.
Different counselors have different methods, but you'll undoubtedly find some of these:
  • Finding an accountability partner - your husband will be encouraged to find a trusted male counterpart with whom he can be open and honest, and who'll hold him responsible for his promises to change. Again, the accountability partner has to be his choice, and you can never ask about their conversations. They're completely privileged, with the exception of private talks with the counselor.
  • Removing the sources of pornography - this means installing blocking software on the computer, loading software that tracks website visits, and keeping the home computer in a common area.
  • Removing the sources can also require ditching the 'easy private avenues', such as smartphones or tablets. Dumbphones are still easily available, and if the job requires a smartphone it can be limited to that use...and the employer can track website visits. Tablets are convenient, but not vital. This is a place where a choice has to be made...killing access to pornography, or convenience of apps.
  • Time management skills - often, a return to pornography comes from having too much time (especially private time) on one's hands. Eliminating pornography will require a change in lifestyle, a change in the way time is spent. You'll have to cooperate in this; and yes, like a child, he'll have to be kept busy to keep him out of trouble. Not by 'honeydos', mind, but by attractive and fun activities.
  • The realization that this will be a lifelong temptation - because it will be. the chemical changes can be minimized, but they can never be fully reversed. Freedom from pornography is wonderful, but remember - discipline is the price you pay for freedom.

And what about sex? That always seems to be the million-dollar question.

If I were preachy...and male, which I am...I'd say, be generous, be forgiving, be understanding.

But that would be, pardon, me, crap.

Ladies, the truth is this...you should do what you feel you can do, and no more, and no one should make you feel guilty about not going further. If you don't feel you can be physically intimate with your husband at this point...don't.

This is an issue that belongs in counseling, but let me offer one bit of advice...if you do choose to continue an intimate relationship, do not accept suggestions for new positions or techniques. They probably came from viewing pornography, and believe me...you don't want that in your bedroom.

For you guys who are still with me...next Monday (February 23, 2015), we'll talk about what to do if you find your wife reading erotica...women's pornography.

Guys, if this is the case, be warned, right now...it is about you.


If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!