Things I Hope My Kids Learn: You are not the sum of your mistakes. #66

This is the first in an ongoing series entitled, Things I hope my kids learn. This is number 66. The numbers have little significance but they do provide me a decent way to track each one.

One of the most common things I see in life is people enslaved by their mistakes. image from

The young father with a criminal record, fears to ever take a chance because of a mistake when he was 18. The young mother who fears loving again because he baby daddy left her.

The middle aged person who over reached and now lives in fear of trying again.

The stories go on, wandering a long and meandering path.

Too often I see people who simply can't past their own mistakes. There's a guy at the gym where I work out who told me that he has been in a violent and bad relationship for 25 years because he cheated on his wife with the woman he was in relationship with now.

That's the definition of being enslaved.

I pray my children learn that their mistakes do not have to define them.

But what about you? What can you and I (and for that matter our children) do with the mistakes that have happened?

  1. Admit and own the mistake. One of the biggest things that I see people do that actually gets them trapped is that they refuse to admit that they made a mistake. Worse, they often try to deflect ownership for their mistake to someone else.
  2. Evaluate for what you can do differently. Simply because you made a mistake, that doesn't mean you have to repeat it.
  3. Gather resources. Sometimes this will require you to look for others to help. Sometimes, you'll need to wait and be patient while you gather your resources or the next semester or job opening comes along. People are often tempted to skimp on this step. Don't be one of them.
  4. Try again. I'm not sure step 4 needs explained.
  5. Repeat. Often, overcoming mistakes needs multiple attempts. You have to be willing to go back into the fray. Go back again and again.

Mistakes can rob us of hope. Instead of looking at them as something bad, I'd love for my kids to come to the place where they celebrate failure as a means to gain knowledge and wisdom. Of course, that means that I too would have to come to a place used to failure and mistakes.

That may be the greatest trick of all.


Let's End the War on Technology

The other day I was reading a pretty good article. It was about parents being better parents. Good stuff.
This is a topic that interests me. Partly, because I’m a parent and partly because I need to know about it to be good at my job.  
He talked about parents doing parenting things. It was really pretty good for about 2/3’s of the way.

And the comments underneath it!

What went wrong? He blamed technology for the parenting problems we’re seeing today.
It was too much screen time.
Blame the iPad!
Blame the gadget!
Blame the fact that we have milk in the fridge and water in faucet!
Wait? What?

Well, I mean if we’re going to blame things externally of us, why not the milk in the fridge or the water in the faucet?
Technology makes a nice new target...because it's new. I had someone tell me that there problem with it was the fact that people "don't talk to each other anymore."
I asked him to find some pictures from the earlier generations of people gathering. Turns out they were reading newspapers.
They weren't all that more engaged.

Technology isn't the reason our kids are disrespectful or disobedient today.
They are whatever they are because we have allowed them to be that way.
We have abdicated our responsibility as parents to schools, TV and devices.
And we blame technology.

Let's end the war on technology.

Let's take control of our own lives and realize that technology is just a tool.
A tool is neither good nor bad, it is simply used.
Let's not use it as a tool to jettison our own responsibility to parent.
Let's accept that our children are sentient beings with their own level of free will.
Let's stop blaming and start owning our personal responsibility.

We will never see true growth if we blame something outside of us for our problems, rather we need to examine our own motives and heart and how we use the tools that we have.

Three things that healthy couples do.

There is only one Hopes and Dreams marriage conference this year. People often ask me what they will learn at a conference. I am excited to tell them and you that we always cover some basic topics such as:

  • What is an emotionally connected couple?
  • What is the most important thing for a marriage to make it and thrive? Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.50.49 AM
  • How do you improve communication?
  • How to have fights that actually improve your connectedness
  • How to have red hot sex.
  • We also cover a host of other topics.

I'm also excited to announce that we are covering new material never before covered at one of our conferences.

Three Things that Every Healthy Couple Does:

1. De-escalate stress points.
In every fight there comes a "jump off" point where the fight begins in earnest. Usually, there are stress factors that precede the fight and each person escalates. These escalation points usually come from both the other person (inside the relationship) and other forces (outside the relationship). Successful couples know how to de-escalate this process so that they can tolerate the stress of the situation.

2. Tolerate the stress.

The good news is that you can't de-escalate for the other person. The bad news is that you can't de-escalate for the other person. You can only de-escalate yourself. The trick is to do this to the point that you can talk to the other person. You want to be able to calm yourself in order that you can hear and help the other person hear you.  This allows you to problem solve as a team.

3. Problem solve.

Problem solving as a team helps to build emotional security. It also helps to avoid emotional scars that often last long after the original point of contention is forgotten.

So how are you doing at these three skills? Do you want to do better? Then register today for this years marriage conference and I'll teach you ways to develop these skills. Even if you think, "Hey, we're OK at this stuff," I'll help you get better.


Points to Ponder: 100 words or not

Being hurt by someone is not an excuse to hurt someone else. We have very little control over the hurt that is inflicted upon us but we have 100% control over what we do with that hurt. Do we turn it into motivation for something good and redemptive or do we revel in it, making it our identity? The choice is ours. We don't get to not choose. Not choosing is choosing. We can and must find a way to overcome.

Is is better to stay together for the kids?

If you've not read the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, by Judith Wallerstein, I would highly encourage you to do so. Not every marriage can be saved. I get that.
But there are many that can. People stop because it seems easier to get divorced. Those consequences seem more palatable--severe and difficult for sure--but still more palatable.

Change is hard.
Saving a marriage is hard.

Getting a divorce is hard.

But we tell ourselves lies. We tell ourselves that staying together for the kids does as much damage as getting divorced. There is very little reliable to data to suggest this is true. Index

This doesn't mean you should stay with someone who is abusing you or your children.
This doesn't mean that every marriage could be saved. I know that some people are put into a position by their spouse that they have to seek a divorce.

I'm not blaming you.

But we need to accept the truth marriage is not disposable. Marriage is not something we can just toss away.

Divorce has a negative impact on our children.

That doesn't mean I'm saying it's your fault. And feeling guilt doesn't mean you're being put on a guilt trip.

Until we accurately diagnose a situation,  we cannot treat whatever the negative consequences are from that situation.  If you have had to get a divorce, seek some time with a therapist. Find someone for your children. Join a support group.

Like an injury to your body, many emotional injuries can be healed. Wholeness can be found.  The world is full of hurtful truths. Ignoring them doesn't change them. 
Healing comes from accepting them.

The following is a great quote from early in the book.

   One of the many myths of our divorce culture is that divorce automatically rescues children from an unhappy marriage. Indeed, many parents cling to this belief as a way of making themselves feel less guilty. No one wants to hurt his or her child, and thinking that divorce is a solution to everyone’s pain genuinely helps. Moreover, it’s true that divorce delivers a child from a violent or cruel marriage (which we will soon see in Chapter 7). However, when one looks at the thousands of children that my colleagues and I have interviewed at our center since 1980, most of whom were from moderately unhappy marriages that ended in divorce, one message is clear: the children do not say they are happier. Rather, they say flatly, “The day my parents divorced is the day my childhood ended.” What do they mean? Typically parent and child relationships change radically after divorce—temporarily or, as in Karen’s family, permanently. Ten years after the breakup only one-half of the mothers and one-quarter of the fathers in our study were able to provide the kind of nurturant care that had distinguished their parenting before the divorce. To go back to what Gary said about his parents being “offstage” while he grew up, after a divorce one or both parents often move onto center stage and refuse to budge. The child becomes the backstage prop manager making sure the show goes on.

Wallerstein, Judith S. (2001-10-01). The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (Kindle Locations 995-1006). Hyperion. Kindle Edition.

Your Marriage is Mortal, It can die. You Can Keep It Alive

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. I told him that all marriages are mortal. He immediately became offended and said, "No way! My marriage is not mortal!"

I laughed at him and said not only was his marriage mortal but that if he didn't recognize that fact and act accordingly it would increase the chances that his marriage could become sick or die. Of course, this was met with more angst. We ended up having a great conversation. He may or may not comment on this post, I don't know. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, our marriages are mortal. Everyone's marriage is mortal. It does not matter how much you want to say that you will never get divorced or that your marriage will never die. It could and we have less control over than we'd like to admit.

I commented to my wife the other day that it seems every time I turn around I’m learning about someone new getting divorced. Some have been married for just a few years and some have been married for many years. 

There is a hard reality about marriages. For every 100 couples that gets married this weekend better than 50 of them will end up in divorce. Every one of them thinks that it will be someone else.

I think that many people think that as long as they refuse to acknowledge the D word everything will work out. I admit I used to think this way. There is at least two problems with this type of thinking.

First of all, a marriage requires two people to work on it. A person I know once said that marriage is something you possess and do. The trick is you don't possess it or do it alone. You do it with someone else. Sadly, that person can decide to walk away and there may be nothing you can do about it.

A second problem with this line of thinking is that it does not allow you to look realistically at your marriage. To say that our marriages cannot die is a lot like saying that our bodies cannot break down. It just isn't based in reality.

When we say our marriages are not mortal, we can delude ourselves into thinking everything is OK when it is not. Worse, we can become too scared to admit that we have problems in our marriage. This fear may prohibit us from seeking professional help in counseling for our marriage.

The truth is your marriage, my friend's marriage and my marriage is mortal. They can all die, which is why we must be vigilant in protecting ouimage from scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.netr marriages. We must cultivate them.

When things are going ravishingly well, we must work at it. When dry and difficult times come we must work at it.

Admitting that our bodies are mortal does not mean that we want to die prematurely. The same is true for marriages. When I was married I made a promise to stay that way until death separated us and I meant it.

Denying that my marriage is mortal doesn't make that promise any stronger. It does not make my marriage stronger, in fact I think it makes it more vulnerable.

By admitting that it is fragile, and extremely valuable I am admitting that it is something I have to work on every day.