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Something Her, Something You, Something New (aka ingredients for maintaining a solid relationship)

I am not an expert in dating nor do I pretend to be one. But I would like to offer a way to breathe life (or new life) into a growing relationship. Whether you are just getting to know the woman from work, church, neighborhood, etc, or if you’ve been married (or remarried) for 15 years, it helps to have shared interests and experiences. I’m calling this approach to connecting “Something her, Something You, Something New.”

Something Her
Be the gentleman. Ladies first, right? Take the initiative here. Ask questions and find out hobbies, interests, and activities that this gal has. You pick one that she mentions. And offer to join her in that endeavor. Does she absolutely love going to movies? Even if you haven’t been to a movie in years, ask her which movie she wants to see and treat her to a movie of her choosing. Does she love to cook? If she likes to ham things up, invite her to cook her specialty while you film her, Food Network Style, complete with color commentary and interview. Does she like scrapbooking? Pay for her to go to a workshop with a friend, then when she’s done, sit down with her and ask her to show you all that she has made. Better yet, go to the scrapbooking workshop WITH her with a joyful (not begrudging) spirit. You get the idea. Join her on HER turf. Genuinely showing interest in what she enjoys doing.

Do this on a regular basis – not a one-time exercise.

Something You
Now that you’ve been able to get a glimpse into some of the things she enjoys, kindly invite her to join you on YOUR turf (but never force her. Just invite). Do you like to go hiking? Find your favorite mountain or nature trail to explore together. Do you enjoy archery? Go rent a compound bow and some arrows at your local archery range and show her how to shoot. Do some target practice together. Do you like to play disc golf? Invite her to come play with you for a round of 18. Be patient with her. Show her why you enjoy this stuff so much.

Do this on a regular basis – but always give preference to the things she likes if you have to choose between the two

Something New
Now there is something really cool about discovering something new with someone you’re dating. Let’s say neither of you have been to a professional hockey game. Save up a little bit and go watch the Blackhawks play the Avalanche. Where’s the closest museum that neither of you have been to? (The top two museums I’ve been to are the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.) Regardless, go explore one together. Make a day of it. Take in the IMax experience. Pick out together the exhibits you both want to be sure to catch. When you’re all done, talk about what you liked over dinner. You get the idea here.

Make a habit of this one, especially. You will learn a ton about each other as you discover and explore the world around you together!

It’s so important to find ways to keep things fresh in your relationship, whether you’re dating or married (you should still be dating after saying “I Do,” anyway!). This is just an idea to help move you in that direction.

For me, here’s where I’m at:

Something Her – My wife loves crime shows and I can go without tv for months on end. However, over the course of our 2+ years of marriage, we have watched numerous series together. Bones. Crossing Jordan. NCIS. Poirot. Murdock Mysteries. Murder, She Wrote. The list goes on and on. Not only have these shows grown on me, they have given me a conversation point with my wife. We often will talk about the issues uncovered in the shows or character qualities or flaws in characters. Pretty priceless, if you ask me. Any opportunity to engage my wife in meaningful conversation is awesome.

Something Me – I have always been a huge fan of football. I love it. I have my favorite team, but I just thoroughly enjoy the game of football. My wife is a big fan of her home team, and she knows some about football. But my love of football has been a relational entry point for us. Not only has my wife played fantasy football with me and others, this season we’re doing a pick ’em contest to see who can predict more winners at the season’s end. Hilarious but awesome! (Not to mention, at this point in the season, she’s beating me!)

Something New – Right now my wife is pregnant, due in December, so this is not an option really YET. Years ago my wife took some dance lessons and thoroughly enjoyed them. She’d go dancing with friends on a regular basis. Over the last few years, these opportunities have dwindled. While this is something more new to me than her, once she has recovered from giving birth to our second son, I would like to take some swing dance lessons (maybe ballroom, too) with her. I’d like to tap into something that I don’t have a lot of experience with. I think the new experience of learning some dance together would be beneficial in many ways! Looking forward to it! (If I break a leg, I’ll be sure to post a pic!)

Anyway, your turn. What might you do in terms of Something Her, Something You, Something New? Inspired? Let me know in the comments!

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Make a List (and Check it Twice!)

The three and a half years following my divorce were some of the most stark, life-changing, life-giving moments of my life. As I mentioned before, I followed the advice of a friend and I refrained from dating for about a year. Smart, smart move. Those three and a half years were filled with self-discovery, healing, and a reawakening for me.

I actually came to a place where I knew that, although one day I WANTED to have another relationship, I finally knew that I didn’t NEED one to be okay. I had become spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and financially okay enough where I could stand on my own two feet (only with God’s help, for sure). I remember telling a good friend of mine that if I didn’t find a gal who was just right, I’d be okay with being single the rest of my life.

MY LIST

Part of my healing process including coming up with a list, split into two columns-  “NEGOTIABLE” and “NON-NEGOTIABLE.” I thought of the traits of a possible spouse / girlfriend that were either important to me to be present or noticeably absent in this woman. The categories I covered followed my priorities – spirituality, personality, habits, hobbies, interests, goals, gifts, talents, etc. I knew that it would be pretty tough to find a gal who fit this description. But I decided in my heart of hearts that I was not going to settle on EVEN ONE of my categories.

One of the absolute best things I’ve ever, ever done. Drawing that line in the sand that said, “I will be a man of conviction here. I will not compromise what I feel is important in a relationship.” If I were to compromise again, then I’d be a fool. I’d only have myself to blame.

THE ONE

I’ll tell my “story” in more detail later. Long story short, though. I found a woman who was a perfect match according to this list. Not one area was overlooked to make an exception. Fast forwarding – we’ve been married now for over a year and a half, and we have a 10-month old son. Do we have the perfect relationship. No. Did I find the perfect wife? No. But I found the perfect wife FOR ME. Our compatibility was through the roof, and we have a great marriage based on faith, forgiveness, and communication.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Your turn… if you are going through a divorce, go back to square one. As I suggested before, take my ONE-YEAR CHALLENGE. Figure yourself out first. THEN, and only then, make a list and check it twice. Don’t just make your list in fifteen minutes while watching tv. Take a week or so to carefully craft this list. And don’t just look at the physical characteristics of a woman. That’s gonna change as time goes by. Focus on the deep, meaningful stuff, matters of character. Share it with a trusted friend (Again, if you don’t have anyone, send it to me!).

And, my friends, DON’T COMPROMISE. DON’T GIVE IN. DON’T SETTLE. KEEP TO THE LIST. AND RESOLVE TO BE OKAY IF YOU REMAIN SINGLE FOR A SEASON. Focus on becoming healthy, happy, focused, and growing.

If You Must… (Make a Change)

You’ve probably heard of or maybe even experienced the “Divorce car,” where one or both of the divorcees feel the need to make some major vehicle purchase to prove to themselves and/or the world that they are independent. Or, what about the Divorce/breakup haircut? Or, maybe even the Divorce house? Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ve at least felt first-hand the urge to break free from your past and plow ahead to create your own personal future.

When I got divorced, I made two major decisions which impacted me significantly. Yes, I caved in and bought a Divorce Car (an awesome red and black Jeep Wrangler, to be exact). While I LOVED that vehicle, the monthly payment was much higher than I was previously paying. Yeah, I felt like this four-wheeling, outdoors, cruising machine fit my personality like a glove, it was not a wise or prudent choice to make. Over the course of the following year, I struggled to make my payment and eventually found a way to get out from underneath my fat loan.

Another major choice I made post-divorce (PD), was to move from Illinois to Colorado. I had lost a great job and got divorced within the same week, and I had nobody I could really lean on in the small town I was living in. Although I was in quite a fog, I jotted down in my journal a chart of possible places for me to move. I brainstormed all the pros and cons of each location, but in the end, I made a move to Colorado Springs. Why? What attracted me to the Springs?

Relationships. I had family there, as well as some super close friends who were like an extra set of parents to me. I knew in my mind that I needed a safety net. I was one broken guy who could have gone down some exceptionally destructive paths had I remained alone in Illinois.  I rented a moving van, loaded up my ton o’ crap and my Divorce Car, and moved me and all my broken pieces to the mountain west.

In my three and a half years in Colorado Springs, not only was I blessed to have frequent time with my family and friends, I quickly built the most life-giving relationships I had ever experienced with new friends. Life-giving and life-changing.

Here’s my suggestion. If you are on the back end of a divorce and are feeling the urge to make some sort of major change to your life, weigh your choices as carefully as possible. If you must, IF YOU REALLY, REALLY HAVE TO make some sort of change, I urge you to forget about buying that shiny new vehicle. Don’t dump your money in a mortgage at this time. If you must do something, move. Change locations. Get a fresh start. BUT move to where you will have people you can surround yourself with. Friends. Family. People you can trust.

If you end up NOT moving, still avoid the major cash-sucking choices like getting a car or house. If you do stay put, though, still find a way to connect with some old friends OR make some new ones. Connect with people in your community (the “activities” tab on Craigslist is a great place to start). Join a health club and connect with people there. Walk through the door of that church down the street from you. Find some human beings you can connect with. Don’t give up on these relationships, though, if you don’t find someone or several people to connect with at first. Not everyone will be accepted or understanding of your newly established divorced life. That’s okay. Just find someone who will be willing to listen, willing to accept you, willing to help you move forward. Bottom line – don’t go through your divorce alone, NO MATTER HOW TEMPTING IT MAY BE.

You are a loose cannon, a bomb waiting to go off when you are at such a heightened state of depression post-divorce (PD). Make it a priority of emotional survival to forge meaningful relationships.

YOUR TURN

*****So, have you experienced the Divorce Car? The Divorce House? etc. etc. What was that experience like for you? Did you regret making that decision?

*****How have relationships (aka, a “safety net”) helped you get through your divorce?