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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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The Most Important Compatibility Category (aka Don’t Be Afraid to Abort the Mission)

I have so many dear friends who have either divorced or who have gone through intense struggle in their relationship because of differences in one of the most important categories in life – Religious Preferences. These friends of mine are having a tough time because they tried to fool themselves during the very beginning of the relationship.

“She’s a Mormon and I’m a Catholic. We can both go to both churches.”

“She’s an atheist and I’m a Baptist. I think I can win him over in time…”

“I’m a Christian and she doesn’t go to church. But she is a very spiritual person. We’ll get along just fine.”

Unless you prepare The List beforehand, you will be susceptible to a loud heart and a quieted brain. It will be much easier for you to make excuses. It will be easy for you to justify the pursuit of this woman who seems like a great catch but with religious differences. You must have a list of negotiables and non-negotiables before you jump back into the dating scene, AND you must not compromise.

FREQUENCY OF RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY

When you are getting to know a gal and are considering moving forward in a more serious relationship, consider the Religious Preference issue THE MOST IMPORTANT compatibility category. For you, you may land in once of these:

*I honestly have no religious preference

*I have a background in ______________ church or religious affiliation, but I no longer have ties to that group.

*I sometimes attend _______________ church or religious organization. Just depends on what else is going on.

*I attend religious services at _______________ on a regular basis and I like it, but it’s not the most important thing to me.

*I am extremely active in the life of ______________ church or religious organization. This is the most important thing to me, or at least I want it to be.

The woman you are considering pursuing will fall in one of these  religious descriptors, as well. I urge you to move forward ONLY IF she has the same descriptor as you. Otherwise, it will be like puling teeth. You will butt heads. AND, I assure you, most likely your relationship will be characterized by the lower of the two descriptors within a short amount of time. If you have a differing level of priority for religion, ABORT THE MISSION RIGHT NOW. Both of you will be happier for it in five, ten years. Don’t be fooled by her amazing looks or her charming personality. Your religious preferences will make or break your relationship.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION

Not only does the level of priority you put on your religious activity matter, the actual religion you are affiliated with matters. I assure you, there are deep, essential, foundational differences between all of these major camps of religious thought – Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Wiccan, Universalist, new-age, etc. etc. etc. If you take the tenets of your religion and compared them side-by-side to those of the woman you want to pursue, I assure you there are going to be unavoidable differences, i.e. how one must live, what does the afterlife consist of and how do I get there, the origins of evil, what religious activities should I partake in, whom should I worship and how should I worship?, etc etc…  Catholics and Hindus are not spiritually compatible. Mormons and Christians are definitely not compatible spiritually. Again, if the woman you want to go after is in a different camp of religious thought, I implore you, ABORT THE MISSION! Hang out with women of like mind, and have them make up your pool of possibilities. Otherwise, you’ll be drowning in further heartache.

A NOTE TO CHRISTIANS

Now, a note to Christians of different denominations. Some denominations are more compatible than others. Lutherans and say, Pentecostals, not so much. But perhaps Baptists and Presbyterians are more. Here’s my point – before you pursue the really cool Christian chick that has caught your attention, do a side-by-side comparison of your statement of beliefs and hers. Doctrine is important. Probably the most important question you should start with is, “What do you both believe about the Bible?” If one of you believes the Bible is the infallible Word of God and depicts historical men and women in history and is literal, and the other believes that the Bible is simply hyperbole or analogy and is just an inspirational book for living, I would have to say, ABORT THE MISSION. This is an impasse and you should not try to force a relationship to work that has this fundamental of a difference.

Another important question, then, is how much of an authority does the Bible hold in your life? Do you find yourself easily obeying whatever it is you read in the Bible, or do you prefer to adhere to what you personally agree with and disregard what seems out of date or just too hard to do? You both need to have the same general response to Scripture to be compatible.

This might be coming across as too narrow-minded. This might fly in the face of the culture of tolerance that has been emerging in our country. But I assure you, just a few weeks or months into a marriage with a difference of Religious Preference or Practice, you will begin to feel the tension. You will begin to notice in yourself either frustration or a growing sense of compromise. The divorce rate is higher for second marriages. I have a hunch that your differences spiritually could have the potential to escalate the odds for a second (or third, etc) divorce. You can’t afford that level of heartache.

If you do find someone, though, that is thoroughly compatible with you on a spiritual/religious level, there is almost no greater joy. My second marriage is centered on our core, religious beliefs in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Yes, marriage is hard, but we have a firm foundation that won’t erode. In our very imperfect way, we are navigating life and marriage and parenthood through faith, one step at a time.800px-Broken_bridge,_Madagascar

Finding the Bruises (aka healing comes in spurts)

A new coworker of mine reminds me of my ex-wife. Her personality, her mannerisms, her inflections. While this woman is actually pretty cool to work with and I have NOTHING against her at all, I can’t help but battle these reminders of anger and hurt that have sideswiped me. 

I’ve been divorced for several year and have gone to God in prayer many times to give me the strength to forgive my ex-wife. Up until now, I’ve had no ill will toward her. I’ve prayed for her healing, for her well being, for her post-divorce (PD) life. But this new territory of having daily reminders of a broken relationship, and of annoyances that I was too chicken to ever say anything about, has me staggering a bit.

I guess if there’s any kind of moral to this story, it’s that forgiveness is an ongoing thing. My ex-wife doesn’t NEED my forgiveness, but I NEED to forgive her. As often as necessary. Beyond just saying once to myself, “I forgive this person for this or that offense,” I need to be in a continual MINDSET of forgiveness, one that is characterized by an attitude that acts as if the offense never happened. Yeah. That’s the real picture of forgiveness. 

Another lesson learned here is that healing comes in spurts. While I’ve come a long, long way since my divorce, I am seeing that there are still nooks and crannies of my soul that need some work. There are apparently still some bruises that are a tad sensitive to the touch. 

A Few Thoughts to Pass On:

**Don’t be overly surprised if you encounter something that reminds you of your ex years down the road. 

**Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself occasionally hurt by a painful memory. 

**Don’t be surprised by the need to continually forgive.

**Don’t mistake your need for continued healing for weakness. It takes a real man to probe the corners of his soul to see where the bruises are. 

**Don’t withhold forgiveness, lest you become a bitter, scared old man, incapable of ever loving again.

**Don’t be afraid to forgive.

**Don’t be afraid to unpack these surprise feelings with a trusted friend or two.

**Don’t be afraid comment and let the rest of us know about your journey of forgiveness.

BKM

 

Easy as Pie! (aka, make some new Christmas traditions for yourself!)

android-key-lime-pie-qualcommAfter my 11-year marriage ended, I found myself facing a few very painful Christmases. The first one post-divorce (PD) was an absolute blur. The second one, not so bad. I had begun building a new social circle, and had started my incredible journey of healing. So, the third Christmas PD, I came to a realization.

I had no Christmas traditions of my own! During our 11 years of marriage, we had several awesome holiday rituals that I just loved. BUT I didn’t quite feel like continuing them by myself. I wanted to develop my own PD identity. So, I had a great conversation with myself…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

I discussed the things that I enjoyed. One thing that definitely came to the surface was my love of pie.

Well, what kind of pie do you like?

I like ALL kinds of pie, but I absolutely love key lime pie!

So, I made an agreement with myself. No strings attached. For Christmas Eve, I would make from scratch a key lime pie. I had never made one before, so there was significant risk. But what did I have to lose? I agreed with myself that if it was a bust, I would seek a new tradition for myself next year. However, if this key lime pie experiment was a success, then I’d make one each Christmas Eve.

So, how did it go, you might ask.

Several years later, and I’m still making key lime pies each year! (This reminds me, I need to go buy some key limes soon!)

Here’s my suggestion to you. You may be recently divorced, or you may have divorced several years ago. Either way, I think you’ll agree with me in your heart of hearts that the holidays are important. You might be in a fog still or in shock because of your divorce. But trust me, holidays have several layers of importance.

For starters, they allow you an opportunity to reflect on relationships, on life, on the future.

They also allow you to plant some milestones on your journey. They help you to see where you’ve come from and gauge where you’re going.

For me, this pie experiment was a prime opportunity to continue building my own identity.

What’s this mean for you?

Ask yourself what YOU like.

*Do you like live music? Go see a concert each Christmas.

*Do you like to cook? Learn how to make your favorite meal and invite your friends over to share it.

*Do you like to write? Write a poem or short story each Christmas, and keep a notebook of them to serve as a sort of time capsule.

*Do you like receiving letters? Write yourself a letter each New Years. Stick it in your stocking, and then open up that letter the following year. Another time capsule, in a way. Keep yourself informed on how your favorite football team is doing in the playoffs, or what your hopes are for the next year.

*Do you like movies? Watch your favorite movie sometime in the month of December. (For me, to keep things in perspective for Christmas, I like to watch the Passion of the Christ each year to remind myself why Jesus came to earth).

*Are you automotively knowledgeable? Give of yourself each December by offering to all your friends an oil change or a tune-up as an early Christmas gift.

*Do you collect anything? Whether its coffee mugs, coats, cigars, or shot glasses, search for the best possible addition to your menagerie each year!

*Do you have a favorite out-of-town restaurant? Make a pilgrimage there each year, just before Christmas.

*Do you like sports? Each year take a friend to see a football, hockey, or basketball game. (Let me recommend to you the Broncos, Avalanche, or the Nuggets).

*Is there a ministry or charity in town that tugs at your heart? Give of yourself and volunteer there each year around this time.

Let me know what you come up with! And, I mean this with all sincerity, I hope you have an awesome Christmas this year. Here’s to discovering who you are at your core, and to a great year ahead!

Cheers!

BKM

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.

Guard Rails

I liked this dark house, this dreary building in which relief resided. I was on the doorstep of self-destruction. 

I can pinpoint one life-changing decision that I made mid-separation (MS) that prevented me from entering the front door of self-destruction. This was the darkest time of my life (even more so than when i lost my mom at 18). I was helpless, hopeless, hurting, and and living as a hermit. I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, but I was sure in the deepest, darkest pit I had ever been in.

On both sides of my family we have history of alcoholism. Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and their deaths were related to their disease. For the non-depressed me, I like an occasional drink. However, the darkest-pit me was another story. Like a rapidly spinning whirlpool, the allure of strong drink was pulling me in very quickly. My ex-wife and I had a cabinet full of some strong stuff. I found myself being irresistibly drawn to that cabinet throughout the day. I needed some sort of help, or else it would have been curtains for me. It wasn’t a night or two of drunkenness I was afraid of. A person can easily recover from that. I knew that had I given in to my desire, my singular alcoholic focus, all bets would have been off long-term. I would have given myself completely to the bottle. I think that would have easily ushered in the possibility -no, probability- of suicide. I was so depressed, I think the complete trajectory of my life would have been altered forever.

During this impossible season of my life, my sister made it a point to call me every week to see how I was doing, to let me vent, to let me cry. For this, I am eternally grateful. During one of these weekly phone calls, without premeditation, I suddenly thought to ask my sister for help. I requested that the next time she called me that she would ask me if I had dumped out all of my alcohol. Every drop. She agreed.

Immediately after hanging up the phone with her, I walked to my favorite cabinet of the house. One by one, my bottles were emptied down the drain.  Vodka, Southern Comfort, gin, and others quickly disappeared.”Why is all the rum gone?” you might ask. Because Captain Jack Sparrow needed it to be completely gone. And, so it was. Every drop. When my sister called the next week, I was able to honestly report to her that all the alcohol was out of my house. 

While the funk and depression that I was in still was there, loud and clear, I was able to function and make some important decisions (moving out of state) without the impeding of alcohol. Had I not made the decision to get rid of the alcohol in my house, I would not have found my way to my life-giving support network in Colorado Springs. I am convinced I would have stayed in my hermit state, alone, and with the lights quickly dimming.

That guard rail that I set up, then, of getting rid of alcohol for a time, made a HUGE difference in my recovery. I needed to set some boundaries in order to protect myself. I also needed the help of my sister to make sure I set up that guard rail. 

So, for you, you might not have the same issue with alcohol that I had. But what does the doorstep to destruction look like for you? Feeling tempted to spend every penny you have to try to make yourself feel better? Do you feel the need to sleep with every woman you encounter to somehow make yourself feel better? What pitfalls can you see before you now, thinking objectively? 

I urge you to talk with someone trusted (heck, if you don’t have a friend in the world to help you, send ME a message!), and brainstorm together things that could potentially wreck your life while your not at your best and brightest. Brainstorm together some ways to eliminate those pitfalls so that you don’t make decisions you’ll regret later. Lay down some strict guard rails, and make sure to have some help, some accountability. 

This whole exercise isn’t a matter of turning you into a prude. It’s not to turn you into a teetotaler. It’s not to make you become a tightwad with your money. It’s to help you protect yourself from yourself during a time when you are your own worst enemy. You’ll thank yourself later. I promise.

For me, now that I’m a few years beyond my divorce, and am now happily married and with a 9-month old son, I’d like to report that I enjoy an occasional drink. Have I changed my guard rails? Oh, you better believe it. But have I gotten rid of them? Heck no. Since I’ve recovered from my divorce and was on the path to becoming a healthy human being, I set a new guard rail up. Again, not to be a killjoy for myself, but to protect myself. I have set for myself a strict drinking limit, whether I’m home or elsewhere. I will not have more than two drinks. Period. Could I handle more? Yeah, for sure. But I don’t even want to go anywhere near that old house called destruction, the place of which I liked to hang out at the doorstep. Am I okay with these guard rails? Yes. I remain in control at all times.

YOUR TURN

***What are some pitfalls you see before you? Do you currently have any guard rails set up for yourself? Do you sense the need for some?*****