Posted in Relationships, Uncategorized

Is Your Pet an Emotional Surrogate?

This pure breed Sphinx cat is Shabbat. Shabbat...
Image via Wikipedia

I write this post encouraged by my sister-in-law.  This morning we were discussing the role of animals in our lives and how “aware and connected” they can be to humans.  I was reflecting on the recent loss of our dog Katie, and what she meant to me.  I remarked at how animals have helped me cope during times in my life when for whatever reason, human comfort or companionship wasn’t available or desired.  At times, I swear that animals are better listeners, better friends, and more tolerant than our human counterparts.

I think that because animals listen without judgement, are there for us no matter what, and tolerate our eccentric behaviors, we tend to attribute human-like emotional support to their expressions, behaviors, and routines.  They bridge a gap where humanity fails us.  I remember times when I was a teenager, I would go into my chicken house and sit down and start what I called a prayer meeting.  I could make the sound of a chicken and you wouldn’t have known it was coming from a human.  They would scratch the hay on the ground around me, sit on my legs and shoulders,  clucking and talking with/to me as though I was one of them (of course it did help that I hatched many of them.)

If you spend an huge amount of time with your animals, ask yourself…”do I allow myself more freedom of expression, love, compassion, grace, tolerance for my pets than I do my human companions?”  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with lavishing love and attention on our pets.  I have made some personal observations reflecting on my own past and realized that sometimes my pets were used as a crutch or surrogate because the human option was either too difficult or not available.  Do you find it easier to give love and attention to an animal/pet than to risk vulnerability or intimacy with another human being?  If you can honestly answer that question for yourself and find that you do have a preference for dealing with animals over humans, you might want to take some time to journal and explore “why?”

It takes a lot of work to reflect and look inward to understand why we behave the way we do.  There is however, a great reward in examining the differences in our relationships between animals and humans.  You might discover healing, you may gain new friends (both human and animal), and you certainly will benefit with better mental health.  Seeking to understand our own behavior and the reasons/motivations behind our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves.  Purposed avoidance in our relationships only creates great chasms/distance and awkwardness.

All relationships take work!  Healthy relationships require conscious, focused, intentional thought and energy devoted to keep them fun, comforting, and enjoyable.  That is the only way to keep both people interested, excited, and committed.  If you neglect your relationships and let them run on auto-pilot, that’s when the routine/humdrum ruts get carved into your existence.  Boring, predictable, responsible are attributes of a relationship that has been allowed to stagnate.  So, dust off the j0urnal, the bicycle, the tennis rackets….get off your couch and cushy chair, don’t wait until the New Year to turn a new leaf!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I dare everyone who reads this post to take a personal inventory and answer the question… “Are you living your life on purpose…or on cruise control?”

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving….even our four-legged, winged, and finned relations!

Cheers!

Posted in Relationships

A Gender Betrayed

Women may agree with an assessment I’ve come to conclude–men just aren’t ready for marriage or committed relationships until they’re at least 30 years old or so.

The seed of these thoughts emerged while I was showering this afternoon after my treadmill workout.  And please forgive me, there may be exceptions to what I speak, however, I’ve yet to meet one:  A man, who is a true asset, a compliment to his wife, mature enough to journey in lock-step with his bride–without causing grief, sadness or disappointment – regularly.  Maybe its circumstance, maybe a combination of a lack of instruction, poor communication skills, or that we’re really as fragile as the fairer sex are accused of being?

When I reflect on my own relationship with my wife, I can honestly say that I wasn’t fully prepared for the reality of dealing with young children.  I knew that I wanted a family, and was in love with the idea of being a dad, but man is there a lot of work, repetition, and challenge with caring for our young.  NOTHING in life, except experience prepares you for the reality of being one hundred percent responsible for the care and health of another human being!

labrador puppy at age 2 months
Image via Wikipedia

During the child-rearing years of family, both husband and wife, dad and mom need to be a team–on the same page!  Too often because of the tolerated and accepted stereotypes of testosterone carriers, we’re let off the hook, excused from particular parenting chores and responsibilities because we’re ‘not used to it’ or ‘not as good as it.’  The new world of parenting and navigating the emotional landmines of decisions often lands squarely on the woman.  Late nights with sick children, taxi service and household management when the husband is away on business trips; more on her plate.  The laundry service, the menu planning, cooking, baking, doctors appointments, clothes shopping, parent/teacher conferences, enrollment in clubs and athletic teams…it never ends.  Parenting is the boot camp of independence for many women who learn in the school of unfair and hard knocks that they can stand on their own two feet and don’ t need a man to be a success.  Frustration is the bitter wine shared between the lonely stay at home mom and the dad who all too often puts self before the family.

In many respects, we’re like a young Labrador pup!  You know how they are?  Running through the house, playful, cute….and destructive!  Lordy, the trash isn’t even safe in a home with one of these best friends!  One morning, you’ll awaken to find your favorite slippers torn and soggy; or groggily walk down the stairs to get your morning coffee and step into a pile of puke on the last stair step.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, look adorable in pictures, even more serene and attractive when asleep.  The commitment level associated with the care of a young pup is a long-term endeavor.  Notice any parallels ladies?

While finishing up my shower with these thoughts racing through my head I felt great compassion for my wife and this same story that is being played out on life’s stage throughout the world every day.  It DOESN’T have to be this way, but it won’t change until our theories and instruction for future generations are shown that gender is not an excuse for poor communication skills, respecting boundaries, being consistent or holding true to our commitments.  I really think the whole marriage vows practice should be re-examined and revised, that interpersonal relationship skills should be a course taught in school and required for any couple who find out they’re expecting!

I have four older sisters, have been married for almost 19 years, and have two daughters and one son–been surrounded by estrogen my whole life–and think I have the inside scoop!   I believe that civil society would be better off worldwide if both genders were on equal footing.  Guys, we have so much to learn and much work to do within ourselves.  It’s not all about toys, fun, fame, power or control!  There’s a deeper purpose and meaning to our existence, its time we explore together and help each other be better men.  Our wives and women worldwide deserve it.