Four things your wife hates about you ~
Inspired by my recent Gottman Couples therapy training, here are four things your wife loathes about you. You, and these items, become girls’ night fodder as females congregate to lament their choice in their male partner.
You don’t accept her influence ~
You expect her to accept your ideas and influence, but you seldom accept hers.
I know. I do the same thing. My wife will suggest something. I balk or stall, and don’t really give it the merit it deserves because of the source.
Then one of my male friends will suggest essentially the same idea, which I eagerly decide is the best route for me.
Then I tell my wife what my friend suggested and . . . cue the fireworks.
Try listening to her ideas as though she is one of your buddies. Seriously, she is smarter, cares more, and knows you better than your pals.
You don’t turn towards her ~
Couples in a relationship constantly make what John Gottman calls, 'bids for connection'.
She talks excitedly about a recipe, concert, or book that interests her. You say nothing, and play on your phone.
I know. I do the same thing. Master couples, as Gottman calls them, turn toward each other constantly with attention, interest, and eye contact, thus making big deposits to each other’s emotional bank accounts.
If the day comes when a big withdrawal from the emotional bank account happens, you don’t want to ever dip into overdraft. Believe me, that ain’t a pretty place.
Turn toward. Simple, and perhaps the easiest one of these four to change tonight.
You stonewall ~
You have a discussion. You don’t like what she said. So you shut down, withdraw, and go into your pouty little Man Cave.
I know. I do the same thing. I take my ball and go home - I’m not playing with you anymore.
But without dialogue, the problem will only escalate. In her eyes, if the 20-pound cannonball didn’t work, then maybe she will try tossing the 50-pound cannonball. No progress there? Let’s try the 100-pound cannonball. You see where this is going. Pretty soon your relationship house is in shambles, so try not to shut down.
However, if you feel ‘flooded’ (ie, feel like you might ‘Hulk’, explode, and possibly say or do something stupid) then yes, respectfully withdraw to calm down, but remind your partner that you will return to this discussion after this power pause.
You don’t court and cherish her anymore ~
The fun exciting guy that wooed and courted her is dead, replaced by a lazy predictable potbellied lout who cares more about his fantasy sports team than her real life fantasies. Where did Mr. Wonderful go?
Everyone, including you, talks about date nights, but you never do or plan anything.
I know. I do the same thing. I know, and write about how important connection and couple time is, yet I permit life and our kids’ busy schedules to be the major excuse for not planning anything.
If you have kids, you must bring back the fun and adventure that 70% of couples report is gone after babies arrive. Use your roster of great babysitters, and plan something she would love (pottery class, dance lessons, etc.), not what you would love. Make bi-weekly, or even monthly, date nights an absolute must.
Once you establish a routine of date nights, try alternating the planning to appeal to each other’s love languages and interests. You happily attend her yoga class (dig out your bike shorts), then she happily attends laser tag, monster trucks, or your next LARP event.
If your relationship is riding on four bald tires with gunky old oil clogging up your car engine, then what should you do? Your relationship needs perpetual regular maintenance and up keep. Like a garden that needs daily weeding, we all must constantly recharge our relationships.
Anyone who has been married for a long time will tell you it is work, but it isn’t heavy lifting, just non-stop vigilance to ensure that your partner, and her needs, remain your top priority.
By accepting, rectifying, and implementing these four simple ideas, you will improve your relationship, I promise. And what man doesn’t want to be the main topic of envy at every future girls’ night?
Ladies, am I right? Which one of these hits home with you? Did I miss something else you hate? Please add to the discussion at [email protected]
Until next time. . . .
I love older people and the wisdom they give. As I sat with a group of spry seniors, I overheard this gem. “Parent’s don’t say ‘no’ to their kids anymore, that’s why the kids today are spoiled and feel so entitled.”
Just saying ‘no’, is something you and I already know should be done more often.
I'm not talking about teaching them to say no to drugs, premarital intercourse, or following a hippie to a second location. I’m talking about a parent saying no to 90% of their kid’s ridiculous questions and demands.
I know your kids are adorable, and you want to say yes to light up that beautiful smile. But stop it. You aren’t your kids’ BFF, you don’t need your kids to like you, just respect you.
No wonder we have spoiled kids with a massive sense of entitlement. We gave it to them by pampering, placating, and caving to their every whim and fancy. Becoming aware of the pattern your kids are weaving for you is the first step.
As a new parent, I was always told to try and say ‘yes’, and to limit ‘no’. Now, four kids in, I'm singing a new song, (“No No No” by Destiny’s Child - 1997 #1).
We need to say no more often. Sometimes a toddler’s first favourite word is ‘no’, because that's all they hear, and that’s great. Bring it on!
You don’t need to yell or scream it (complete with awesome wagging teacher finger), just a firm, friendly ‘no’ can work magic. Kids are designed to test boundaries. It’s what they do. It’s what you did as a kid too. Kids are craving structure and order.
“No!” creates boundaries and limits.
“No!” creates expectations for behaviour.
“No!” stops more ridiculous questions.
While we always want to treat our children with respect, every daffy outrageous question doesn’t deserve your PhD-thesis-defending/crown-attorney-airtight-evidence response. Don't give every question equal consideration, some questions are just plain dumb.
“Can I bike to school?” (we live a block away)
OPTION A - “No honey, if you wanted to bike to school, you should have gotten yourself ready and left 10 minutes ago, because it takes time to find helmets and your bike lock, and you will be late because you need to lock your bike, and you can't be late today because you have the assembly, so you will need to run as fast as you can to school – did you just ask me to drive you?”
OPTION B - “No. Go!”
“Daddy, can I have ice cream for dessert?”
OPTION A – “No honey. It's too close to bedtime, and you took too long to eat your dinner, so you can’t have sugar before bedtime. Too much sugar makes it harder to fall asleep, and you will have crazy dreams. Next time, you will have to clean your plate faster for you have time for dessert, okay honey?”
OPTION B - “No.”
“Can I stay up late? We have no school tomorrow.”
OPTION A - “Remember what happened the last time you stayed up too late? You were cranky and none of us enjoyed the next day, and that was when you made all those bad decisions that led to loss of playdates and the movie night, so no, sweetheart, you need to go to bed at a regular time so that your body can rest and recharge.” (and the defence rests, your honour)
OPTION B – “No. It’s time for bed.”
Hint: Option B is better in all three cases.
They are kids, pushing boundaries is just what they do, it’s a natural stage. I know my kids are inherently good kids. I would be more worried if they didn't try to push limits or negotiate/manipulate.
Most times when kids ask dumb questions, they already know the answer. It’s a game to them, it’s fun to spin that big wheel of chance. If you are not consistent, they will keep trying their luck until they hit the jackpot.
Every ‘no’ builds a fence of predictability and structure. Maybe a ‘yes’ in the short term solves the issue at hand, or makes life easier, but what is the long term impact?
There are likely hundreds of reasons why parents don’t say no to their kids. Maybe it’s just easier to say yes, and be liked (but not respected)? Maybe ‘no’ was what their parents always said to them, and they want better for their kids? Maybe they are spineless and powerless, having created a child-centric house?
If you start saying no today, you may experience a few tough ‘push-back’ weeks, but in the long run you will be amazed at how much smarter and well-behaved your kids appear, fewer daily battles, and just how infrequently the dumb questions are asked. You will almost missed them, but not really.
TAKEAWAY POINT - Kids need to hear ’no’ 90% of time. Not only will they truly appreciate a ‘yes’ if it comes, but they are craving the order, structure, and predictability that a ‘no’ creates.
What can you say no' to today to make tomorrow better?
What are some of the dumbest questions your kids ask?
Let’s get the conversation going at [email protected] -- what have you said/done that might help other parents?
Out of the blue a friend asked me - on New Years Eve, of all times - is your relationship with your kids more important than your relationship with your spouse?
I immediately answered “YES!” Then a second later, I said, “NO!” Then I said “Maybe?”
Who should you put first?
One of my favourite country artists, Keith Urban, irked lots of folks when he declared that he loved his wife more than his kids.
"We're very, very tight as a family unit, and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids. There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place."
Incredibly bold eh? But I couldn’t agree more. This country twanger is a prophet.
Regular readers of my blog know that I always harp on strengthening your relationship with your children, that relationship is paramount. But I must clarify – you can never put the needs of your children before the needs of your partner.
I don’t want to confuse needs with love. The love you have for your children is different than the love for your spouse. The two cannot be compared. The love you have for your children is based in nurturing, teaching, guiding, protecting, and caring, whereas the relationship with your partner is much more intimate and affirming – you are each other’s confidante, companion, friend, emotional support, and equal.
But which relationship is your top priority?
Everyone benefits from your strong relationship with your spouse. It forms the stability, predictability, and security in the house and is the springboard for self-esteem in your children.
You are both role models - demonstrating what a loving relationship looks like. You are showing your children what they should expect in their future relationships, programming what they will look for and expect from a partner.
In my failed marriage, we both poured everything we had into our children. They became our life. I think we honestly believed we were doing the right thing, devoting all our time and energy to the kids.
But at what cost? For us, there was no time, energy, or heart left for each other. While not the ultimate downfall of our marriage, our child-centred philosophy was definitely a contributing factor. Then, as a single dad, my children were also my sole focus – this self-sacrifice was not the healthiest choice for anyone.
Now I am in a committed, loving relationship, and I am much more aware and vigilant of the big picture. Being child-centred is great, but the most child-centred thing you can do is have a great marriage/relationship. You cannot love your children at the expense of your partner.
What I am saying is, you need to fight for the ‘us’ – make your partner love relationship your top priority. If that relationship is solid, then children will thrive. If Dad (or Mum) feels sidelined, and he has gone from the top of the totem pole to the absolute bottom (just below the dog), then resentment, contempt, and trouble will creep into the house.
When everything revolves around the children and their schedules, without careful and purposeful ‘couple time’, you will lose each other.
Use family, friends, and babysitters to carve out time in your busy lives to nourish your adult relationship. You have to constantly sharpen the saw and relive what made you both fall in love in the first place. Never forget the passion and excitement of the initial courtship and all the romantic gestures.
Not convinced yet? Let’s fast-forward 20 years - what will happen when the children leave the nest? If you have neglected your relationship, it might be like a garden, there may not be much left to work with. Will you and your partner even be friends? Will one of you be moving out with the kids when they leave?
As a society, we have become so child-centred that this ‘putting your spouse first’ notion is a controversial issue, but if you keep your adult relationship as your top priority, your entire family will benefit.
Agree with me? Disagree? Let’s start the conversation.
Until next time!
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Savvy universities annually send their professors cheat sheets to educate and prepare them for their incoming new students. These cheat sheets are chockfull of factoids about the world to which these new students, most born in the late 90s, can relate.
Seinfeld examples are lost on these bright-eyed kids; kids who have never seen a mixed cassette tape (or CD) or ever rung up late fees at a video rental store, opened an encyclopedia, or blown on a game cartridge.
All this nostalgic pining got me thinking about the world my children are growing up in right now; the beliefs they hold, and what is normal for them.
We have open and honest communications that lead to many interesting discussions. From the dinner table last night,
“. . . it’s cool that the USA has the first black president now, and by this time next year they might have the first female president! Is that amazing?”
All four of my children, including our toddler, stared at me with this incredible look of shame, mild fascination, and pity.
It wasn’t ‘amazing’. It was normal. Black or white, male or female, both a NON-ISSUE to them. Of course a president could be black, and of course she could be woman.
My children are growing up, happily missing most of the stereotypes I grew up with.
Men and women work.
Skin colour is nothing to my children.
No one is better than another.
People are people and everyone deserves equal respect and treatment. This is a simple credo that we preach and live by. Men being equal to women in everything is normal to my children.
We both work, parent, do dishes, hang laundry, and vacuum. That is their reality and the lifetime movie they watch every day. There are no male/female defined roles.
“You are right son, there are women drivers in race cars, not sure why men and women don’t compete against each other in curling and darts.”
However, there are daily chinks in the armour of Pleasantville. News items, YouTube clips, and other viral toxins challenge the ideals my children hold.
“Well, what that man is saying is that the state of Texas doesn’t want to let gay people marry each other.”
“That is so stupid, Dad, I hate Texas. People can marry whoever they love, whoever their special person is, right Dad?”
Being gay is normal to my children, as we have gay people close to us. My children have no idea how far the LGBT movement has come in my lifetime. As far as they know, it’s always been perfect to love who you choose to love.
Let’s be brutally honest. My head is not in the clouds or stuck in the ground. I know the ugly world of racism, discrimination, and despicable injustices, are just a few clicks and years away. I do realize that over time, my children will discover the various struggles different groups have endured, and will continue to endure, but for right now, in the pure innocent minds of my children, this wonderful world is an equal playing field for all.
And we will ride that wave as long as we can.
How do your children see the world? Are they tied to old stereotypes, or are they living in this new age?
Until next time. . . .
I’m going to take the morning off and relive the early 80s: After I crank-call my parents, I’ll watch Knight Rider reruns as I wait to tape my favourite song off the radio. I’ll do all of that as soon as I finish reading this shampoo bottle in the bathroom (what else could you read on the toilet back in the 80s?).
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