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Man to man about marriage:

Siena's Grandpa 2

 

My husband George is an amazing spouse! We celebrate 35  years of happy marriage this week, so I invited him to offer advice to men about marriage. Here’s what he had to say:

Respect:

  • A woman is a gift of great value to be treasured throughout your life. She is easily the most valuable gift you will ever receive on this earth, and must be treated with respect at all times.
  • Be cautious with criticizing her, even in private.
  • Never express disappointment about choosing her to be your partner, or comparing her to previous partners, or current acquaintances.
  • Never speak as though you’ve had enough, or would ever consider leaving her or ending the relationship.
  • When you’ve hurt her (or learned after the fact that you’ve hurt her), apologize. And mean it. Even if you have rationalizations in your head, just go with the apology. Try to understand why she was hurt, even if you don’t think that you would have been in the same situation. Only if you can do it without sounding antagonistic, ask her for advice on what you could have said or done differently to handle the situation.

 

Careers:

  • Don’t ever talk about money as though it were ‘yours’. All money is ‘ours’ in the family, regardless of whose paycheck it comes from.
  • Never treat your job as more important than hers, whether you make more money than she does or not.
  • If she does take a traditional role in your family, such as at-home mom, remember that she’s doing this by choice for your good and the good of the family, not because she’s any less capable.
  • With your children, take care that they realize that her staying home or working away from home are options, and neither is an expected role for women.

 

Gratitude:

  • Thank her for the normal things she does daily for you and the family. Even if you thank her every day for the same things. There should be several times each day when you acknowledge her efforts and thank her:
  • When you get up from a meal: “Thank you for dinner!” (And clear your place.)
  • When clean clothes appear in your drawers or closet: “Thanks for the clean clothes!” Or when there’s clean laundry on the bed to be folded: “Thanks for doing the laundry!” (Help fold them and put them away, at least your own items.)
  • New groceries in the fridge or cabinet: “Thanks for shopping for us!”
  • When you notice that a room looks especially nice, tell her so! (But avoid any comparison with past condition.)

 

Attention:

  • Give her a generous hug, at least three times a day. Hold on to her as long as she wants.
  • A woman needs to be told that her looks please you. And she needs to hear it frequently. Never just count on her ‘knowing’ that you love how she looks all the time (even if you do). When you notice something nice about her clothes, or hair, or face (or figure!) or whatever, tell her she looks great, or pretty, or nice, or whatever you feel. But don’t force it, or make something up. This shouldn’t be hard; of course you love how she looks! And don’t compare to any previous time (you look better today than yesterday). And don’t say that she looks nice ‘today’ (possibly implying that she doesn’t on other days). But OK to say that she looks ‘especially nice today’.

 

Communication:

  • Don’t tease her by saying something that isn’t true, or isn’t what you mean, as a joke. Don’t make her guess if what you say can reliably be taken at face value, or must be tested for believability before accepting it. It may be funny to you, but never is to her. It’s embarrassing to be made to feel stupid by believing something false that was said in jest.
  • Be cautious with other teasing, as well. Preferably don’t tease her about anything! Teasing is never nice, even if she seems to laugh, go along with it, and say that it’s OK. She could fear that there’s a grain of truth in whatever
    you’re teasing her about, whether there is or not (and there often is).
  • Talk with her! She loves talking with you, about anything (as long as you’re not the one doing all the talking).
  • Listen to her! And pay attention while you do. She needs to know that you’re hearing what she has to say. Ask her, every day, how her day went. And listen while looking at her, not while reading, or checking email, or watching TV. Remember that sometimes she just wants to be heard, and doesn’t want to you offer advice or try to ‘fix’ the things she tells you about. (But be sure that when she does ask you to fix something, you take it seriously!)
  • Learn how to disagree (and even express your anger) without raising your voice. A raised voice in a man is a danger signal to a woman. No matter how well she knows you, she may fear being physically or emotionally hurt.
  • If not done as part of your marriage preparation, realize that you likely have different methods of resolving conflicts, and that you now need to have a common method. It’s best to have some rules that you discuss when you’re not emotional.
  • Never try to make her feel stupid.

 

Family & Friends:

  • Women need family and relationships, much more so than you might. Don’t try to keep her from seeing or communicating with friends or family. And be sure to consider this strongly in decisions about where you’ll live or what job you’ll take.
  • Never complain about your wife to friends or family.
  • Never embarrass her in front of the children, or anyone.
  • Make an effort to compliment her in front of others, and say how proud you are of her, for whatever reason that you are. Or what you like about her, or why your treasure her.

 

The Future

  • Realize that you both brought dreams, goals, hopes, and desires to your relationship. Some of those now need to be subjugated to hers, and to the higher dreams and goals of the relationship. When you marry, you agree that your personal priorities will change to support your joint relationship. You don’t need to give up everything, just realize that some things may not be possible right away, and that some may no longer be appropriate.
  • Ask her what her dreams and goals are, and what she’d like to see in the relationship. And then, simply listen, and listen some more.

 

Betty here: Didn’t I tell you he is an amazing guy? Some of these recommendations come naturally to him and some we’ve learned the hard way, over the years.

Ladies, be careful how you show this to your husband so that he doesn’t feel criticized! Maybe instead, thank him for how he currently shows his love for you. Positive reinforcement goes a long way!

Blessings on your week!

What is your idea of romance?

 

I am thrilled with a new writing idea I have and can hardly wait to start, but first I need as much input as possible from you!

Here’s the question: What is the most romantic thing your beloved has ever done for you? I mean romantic to you, which may not be the typical Hollywood idea of romance.

Alternatively, what is the most romantic gesture you’ve ever heard about someone else doing?

Gaining Confidence Through (Or In Spite Of) Family

            I spent last week visiting my family of origin in Montana. My brother and I shared a book signing there for my novel, Hope and a Future, and his photography book, Visions of Montana.

            I left for my hometown expecting that the trip would provide input for me to write about Alan Loy McGinnis’ recommendation, in order to grow in confidence, “Make the best possible peace with your parents.” I’d like to extend his words to include families.

 Make the best possible peace with your family.

            However, it wasn’t my own family that drew my attention. Throughout the week in Montana and the days in Oregon since, other families’ pain pressed upon my heart.

  • On the airplane, I sat next to a 16 year old who was being sent to live with her grandmother because of falling in with the wrong crowd at her school. She fingered a beaded cross her little brother had made and sighed, “I’m going to miss him so much.”
  • At daily Mass I listened as one child requested “Prayers for my mama because she’s been crying a lot and having a hard time.”
  • An acquaintance divulged her heartache over her adult children’s refusal to speak to each other.
  • A dear friend and her siblings grow weary from their efforts to help a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • People I care about contemplate divorce and, though I spent years studying marriage counseling, I cannot heal their relationships.

             Our families cause us pain by the very nature of how important they are to us. We share any hurt they feel. In addition, loving them deeply opens us to vulnerability. Our intimacy creates countless ways that we can be injured. They know about certain of our weaknesses, or past wounds, and sometimes inflict pain with that knowledge.

            They know we were shy/awkward/a bully/mean/selfish/nerdy, etc., and often can’t realize we’ve grown beyond what we used to be. Being around family can wear away any confidence we’ve built. We need to remind ourselves of both our growth and our ability to continue to grow.

            Perhaps our past failings don’t haunt us now. Perhaps it’s the way our parents or siblings or classmates or neighbors treated us. Even Jesus had that problem: “Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.’” Mark 6:4 (NASB)

            Our families are filled with imperfect people who make mistakes. Those mistakes damaged our confidence in our past and may continue to do so in our present. They were flawed people trying to overcome their own obstacles back then. Let’s refuse to allow their mistakes or their treatment of us to continue to affect us now. Let’s make a conscious choice to let go of the wounds, to realize the roles or labels our family gave us do not need to be maintained or accepted as true. Let the sweet satisfaction of liking who we now are replace the embarrassment or frustration or pain of the past.

 Let it go.

             For as difficult as our families can be, they are also some of our dearest blessings and sources of meaning of our lives. Think of our children. What a gift to the world! (Ok, those of you with preschoolers have my permission to use these 4 minutes for a nap. And if you have teenagers, you know deep down they still love you even when they roll their eyes, right?)

            Even if we aren’t blessed with children, we have relationships that we nurture with parents or spouses or the friends we consider family. If those relationships are more positive than negative, congratulate yourself!

 Here’s the answer to the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?”

 It’s to learn to love.

             That’s what God wants from us: that we steadily learn to love him, others, and ourselves more deeply. He wants us to grow in love. And since he is love, he wants us to grow in him.

            Whenever we feel like life lacks meaning, we need to think of the people we love. That love itself gives our lives significance. And if we don’t have anyone to love, then it is time to connect to others who feel unloved. Be the one who shows them love. Reach out. Volunteer. I guarantee life will bloom with meaning.

            We talked before about how finding and following a passion gives our lives new momentum and builds confidence. However, we don’t need grand, extravagant actions to make our lives more consequential. It also can  be done in the few moments we take to send an encouraging email or letter. By humming to the baby while we change the messy diaper. When we smile through an elderly uncle’s repeat of his favorite story. Or maybe when we decide to forgive our spouse for the latest mistake without even mentioning it.

            Our lives become more meaningful every time we show love, and love-filled lives produce confidence.

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