5 Reasons Why “Happy Wife, Happy Life” Destroys Your Marriage

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“Happy wife, happy life.”

It’s one of those pieces of marital advice that seems to have been around forever. And many people, having allegedly tested it out in the arena of personal experience, swear by it as the simple secret to a happy marriage.

But is it really? Continue reading

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Burn the Ships

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In 1518, Cortez sailed from Spain with 11 ships carrying 500 soldiers and 100 sailors. The goal was to conquer the Aztecs of Mexico. But when they landed on the Mexican coast in 1519, the indigenous people far outnumbered Cortez and his crew. Fear set in for many and some of the men developed a secret plot to retreat to Cuba. It was safer there and they could wait for reinforcements.

But when Cortez learned of this treachery, he refused to listen to the plan of retreat. Instead, he did the one thing that no one would have expected him to do. He ordered his men to burn the ships. “The only way we will leave this land,” he told his men, “is in death!”

Incredibly, the men rallied behind their commander and conquered the Aztecs’ empire, which had been around for over 600 years.

How did they do it?

Simple. They burned all of their avenues of retreat, leaving themselves only one direction in which to move — forward.

Think about that for a moment.

When you take the time to look at your “have to” list or when you sit down to begin tackling your impossible dreams, what avenues of retreat do you permit yourself? Social media? Alcohol? Hanging out with friends? Netflix? Menial chores? Self-beratement?

OR…Maybe you are more clever than that.

Maybe, as you attempt to move your desire into an actionable plan, you provide yourself with the following avenues of retreat:

  1. Disguise: Don’t tell the truth
  2. Avoid the truth: Tap dance
  3. Answer questions with questions
  4. Keep people off track
  5. Keep the B.S. going
  6. Let someone else do all the work
  7. Don’t take responsibility
  8. Blame someone or something else
  9. Keep the attention off of yourself
  10. Keep everyone else in an uproar!
  11. Scatter birdseed, i.e. lead them on a wild goose chase!
  12. Consider yourself special, get into cliques or sub-groups
  13. Focus on a member of the opposite sex instead of what you should be doing
  14. Don’t do anything extra. Do ONLY what you HAVE to do.
  15. Tell others what they want to hear and look sincere.
  16. Change the subject when your dreams/goals are brought up.
  17. Trust no one! Never let down your guard.
  18. Focus on rescuing someone else from their mistakes, failures, etc.
  19. Convince yourself that you don’t need anyone’s help.
  20. Quit…and take someone with you, if you can manage it. (Misery loves company)
  21. Focus on what’s happening in the world
  22. Isolate yourself. Avoid sharing with others
  23. Gripe and complain about everything
  24. Don’t help others, let them fend for themselves.
  25. Build resentments and hang onto them for a long time.
  26. Stay in your head. Don’t let yourself get in touch with your feelings.
  27. Get angry. It throws others off balance.

Or maybe you use one of the following words to weasel out of actually doing anything at all:

  • I don’t know
  • I don’t remember
  • I’ll try
  • You’re picking on me
  • I don’t see how
  • Anyway…
  • Huh?
  • Sorta
  • But
  • If I can
  • I can’t
  • As I can
  • It’s too hard
  • I guess so
  • More or less
  • Maybe
  • Sometimes.¹

Now, take a moment. Go back over the list and ask yourself which of these avenues of retreat sound like you? What practical steps would it take for you to burn these ships?

Don’t just list these ideas in your head.

Write it down.

Make it real.

What would happen if you destroyed ALL of the avenues of retreat in your life so that only ONE path was open to you: the path forward?

What dreams could you begin to accomplish? What goals would you have stripped of the word “impossible?” What excuses would no longer be available? What dreams would you have forced out of your head to become a reality in the world around you? What impact would you make not only in your life but also on those who came in contact with your realized ambitions? What would you be able to do if you honestly assessed your life and decided, right now, to lay the torch to the deck and burned the ships?

 

 (¹Taken from a handout entitled “How to Slide Through Treatment and Stay Sick.” Author Unknown)

The Star Trek Life

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In 1966 (a full eleven years before George Lucas reinvented the movie industry), Gene Roddenberry pitched an idea to t.v. execs that was so unusual in the day of Andy Griffith and Bonanza that he wound up describing it as the “Wagon Train of space.” In retrospect, that wasn’t a bad description as characters moved from one adventure to the next each week, but never really got anywhere. But that was okay. These people, even the strange one with the pointy ears, were relatable.

They embraced the pioneering spirit that made America great and used technology, ingenuity, and a utopian worldview in a futuristic era “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” But their lives weren’t perfect. They still struggled with the same character defects of all humans, and much like the viewers who tuned in each week, they seemed to always be teetering on the brink of war with their arch-rival, the Klingons. Ironically, after only 79 episodes, they were canceled one month before America’s pioneering spirit and advanced technology helped Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. However, when the show hit syndication in 1970 it quickly developed a rabid fan base and became a cult classic, laying the foundation for movies, animated series, and spin-offs that would so capture the imagination that in 1976 NASA eventually named its first space shuttle Enterprise.

This year Star Trek should be getting its AARP card any day as it hits the half-century mark. As a writer, I cannot overstate how impressive this is to me. To have a television series ingrain itself so firmly into the psyche of a culture and a genre that it persists to 50 years old is not just hitting a home run. It is tantamount to hitting the ball out of the ballpark and across the parking lot. Granted, it doesn’t hold a candle to the longevity of Shakespeare (who recently celebrated his 400th birthday), but come on. We’re talking about television here.

Still, Star Trek has left such an indelible mark on us science fiction fans that filtering our lives through the following phrases is futile to resist (see what I did there?) :

1.

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When I was a child my father always emphasized to me that one choice, even a minor one, can forever change the course of a man’s life. At the time, I thought he was being melodramatic so that I would incorporate wisdom into my daily decisions. But as I have aged and have become a father of two sons myself, I realized that this is not melodrama at all. The true measure of a man lies not only in the wisdom he exercises but also in the boldness that follows that wisdom. Unfortunately, most people opt for comfort, sameness, and the familiar because they are unwilling to let go of what they know so that they can exchange it for the possibility and freedom of the unknown. Unless it is immoral or illegal, do yourself a favor: count the cost that your decision will demand of you, clip the cord of fear that holds the “what” and the “if” together, and boldly go where you have never gone before.

2.

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We like to think of ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. The indefatigable survivors who through luck and ingenuity escape each successive trial and eventually overcome the evil that is facing us.

But that is not always the case.

Sometimes when we boldly go we must be willing to admit that we may never return. We may not be the Kirk, or the McCoy, or the Picard. We may be … a Redshirt. You know who I’m talking about. Like all members of the Enterprise, the Redshirts also boldly went where no man has gone before. But his was always a tragic end. He was that inevitably expendable member of the landing party whose death exposed the present danger and paved the way for success in the lives of his companions.

As we boldly go, we must ask: Am I willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the cause may be accomplished or that others may be protected?

We must realize that not all of us will see the end of the journey. But we are no less a valuable member of the team. Even Spock, one of the most beloved characters of the franchise, once sacrificed himself because “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”

You must ask yourself: Am I willing to do the same? Or am I just boldly going for the glory?

3.

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Leonard Nimoy made no secret of the fact that he tweaked a Hebrew blessing he had learned from his childhood to give us this popular Vulcan saying. But whether one is boldly going in this world or in another, it is important to always remember to bless those who share the journey with you.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we are doing we forget to nurture the relationships around us. To look out for who they are. To have their best interests at heart.  To make their priorities our own. And, if we are in a position in which we cannot do anything physical or material for them, then we ought to pray daily for them, interceding on their behalf.

May we use “Live long and prosper” not only as a blessing but also as a way of reminding those with whom we share our journey that long life and prosperity are often more about quality than quantity. This is not an injunction to extend life or wealth. It is an encouragement to seek wisdom, practice selflessness, and live a life worth emulating. May we provide such a powerful example of all these characteristics and more that others will understand how to pass this blessing on to those who come after us.

4.

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No plan is a good one unless we put it into action. That is why we must all follow the advice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and continually give the command to “Engage!” We cannot be thinkers only. We must be doers as well.

It is too easy to procrastinate because of fear. But the command to “Engage!” or “Make it so!” (another Picard favorite) are not the words of the most clever, best prepared, or least fearful person. Rather, they are the words of someone unafraid to risk maintaining the status quo. They understand that if given time a better plan may develop, but right now is not the time for thinking. Now is the time for doing so that great things can be accomplished.

Make your life full of engagement. Do not hold back, wondering, craving, or hoping that something will change. That is a passive approach to living, an unwillingness to accept responsibility for your own self and a hope that someone will fix your problems for you. Engage life! You may not have the best solution, but that’s okay. An active approach to your problems is always better than waiting for the current to change. Put your plans into action. Set your course. Activate the warp drive, and accelerate towards a future of unimaginable adventures. Make it so!

5 Minute Therapy: Overcoming Procrastination

procrastination-clipart-procrastinationOk, everyone knows that change is rarely easy but it is often necessary. If you find yourself in one of those seasons of life where change is needed but “things keep getting in the way” or you’re “too busy,” then we need to discuss what is holding you back. We need to talk about procrastination. And since I know that your time is precious, we will only use five minutes or less to discuss this demon and how to overcome it. Continue reading

Making Marriage Fun Again

marriage1-620x449“Marriage is work.” Have you ever heard that statement before? You probably have, and if you are like many people, your visceral reaction to that little, three-word sentence is “Ugh.” The reason? The word “work” conjures up images of hard labor, calloused hands, low pay, unappreciation, long nights at the office, deadlines, unreasonable expectations, performance reviews, lazy coworkers who shuffle their load onto your desk, and a boss who just loves to micromanage. Who wants a marriage like that?

Instead, we want a marriage where we are excited to be together. Where it may be tough, but we know we can survive the trials of life because we support and encourage each other. We plan together, solve together, laugh together, and argue together. We take dates, raise children, take vacations, bury loved ones, and discover how to help each other accomplish their dreams. We realize that yes, marriage is difficult. It is not easy to navigate situations with someone raised completely different than you. There are responsibilities, and you must take intentional effort to nurture the relationship, but for the most part, marriage is not about the tasks you do. It’s about the person you are with.

So, let me ask you: Which way do you think about your marriage? Or your partner?

Are you keeping your head down, avoiding each other, just trying to make it through the day without any huge conflicts along the way? Or are you looking up, smiling at each other, taking joy in being with the one person who is both your best friend and your true love?

If you are the former, here are some tips that may help put some fun back in your marriage:

  1. Don’t call it a date. Just do things with each other. Lots of things. Relearn to enjoy each other’s presence. For some people, the word “date” connotes pressure to do something special. That’s an old holdover from adolescence. Adults know that getting away from the kids and going to Barnes and Noble for an hour can be just as fun as tickets to Broadway.
  2. The feeling of love comes in both being loved and giving love. If you only define love as “what’s in it for me,” you will either develop the habit of constantly using others for your personal pleasure/gain, or you will continually be disappointed in your partners.
  3. There is a difference between responsibility and pressure. Responsibility is about helping out a person you have a relationship with. Pressure is about fulfilling an obligation. Or, to put it another way, it is the difference between desire and duty.
  4. Find what is funny to your spouse and reintroduce laughter into your marriage through a humorous context that they enjoy.
  5. Reintroduce flirting in your marriage. There is nothing like a little banter charged with the electricity of wit and attraction to make marriage fun again.
  6. Rebuild your friendship with your spouse. Find those areas of commonality, whether it is similar frustrations, likes/dislikes, types of entertainment, opinions, etc., and connect them like Legos through continual communication. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
  7. Expect nothing in return. Marriage is not a quid pro quo relationship. You give because the other person is valuable to you, and because you want to express the depth of that value to them, not because you will receive a reward in return.
  8. Look for how your spouse likes to demonstrate love to others, then reflect that back to them.
  9. Look for ways you can assist your spouse, whether it is in physical or emotional ways. Tune in to what is going on in their world so that you can either pick up the slack or put an arm around them to get them to the finish line. Romance is in the attention to details in your spouse’s world and attending to them more than ultra-creative moments you design for each other.
  10. Finally, in case you haven’t figured it out yet: Love is a skill, not a feeling. If you are telling yourself “I don’t think I have the ability to do marriage successfully,” it’s okay. No one has that ability in their nature. We are innately selfish creatures. That is why love is the skill of selflessness practiced endlessly with (and for) another person. It is not something that you arrive at through a two-hour seminar or a sermon on Sunday morning. It is a daily practice you engage in.