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.

Posted in Relationships

Married and Wondering “Do You Love Me?”

Anillos de Matrimonio, Aros de Matrimonio
Image via Wikipedia

The point of this post is to unravel the mystery of how time and circumstance impact your relationship with that person you agreed to spend the rest of your life with.  There are bound to be variances of this tale (some more positive, some more negative) depending upon the support systems and quality of commitment to the communication aspect of the marriage.

My wife and I have celebrated 19 years of marriage on June 20th.  We’ve had three children and moved across the country five times to find a new home and start again–the military is a great way to broaden your horizons ya know!  Our twin daughters came after 3 years of marriage, four years later, our son was born.  My wife and I are very cerebral people–always thinking, contemplating, strategizing–we enjoyed the spontaneity of our pre-child years.  It hasn’t always been the romantic image of wedded bliss one dreams of during the engagement.

Having children begins the truest test of your marriage relationship.  Its easy to have a discussion or debate about differences between two people when there are no distractions or competing deadlines/priorities.   This discussion/discovery phase is natural and necessary to blend two lives together.  But, all of that gets put on hold once children enter the picture.  The real challenge is continuing that blending process with two people who have at least eighteen years of baggage (different backgrounds) while discovering how to share the parenting responsibilities.

No matter how prepared you think you are, or how many discussions you have with your wife prior to the arrival of your children, you will not explore every possible parenting scenario.  The result is unmet expectations and some Children Change Your Lifedisappointments.  This is true for both husband and wife, but especially true for the male in the equation.  Maternal instincts are very real and hormone changes in a woman post-delivery helps them to be very protective and confident about what needs to and must be done.  As a man, you may feel like you’ve taken the back seat and your once “I have all the time in the world for you” sweetheart has been replaced with M. O. M.  and you may be struggling with feelings of abandonment or maybe a sense of having lost your purpose/mojo.  Now there are exceptions and variations to the dynamics I’m telling you about from couple to couple.  No two marriages are the same.

So….fast forward to the point your eldest children are in middle school or high school.  If you take stock/inventory of your relationship and are honest, you’re probably not as happy as you could be or thought you would be when you said “I do” all those years ago.  Some days, life is like “Ground Hog Day” or “Oatmeal…again?” (those references are related to how you view your emotional status from day to day) Some days its hard to feel like life is about anything other than work!  Other days, you’re surprised with amazement at how great or proud you feel.

My wife explained it best using an analogy.  If you’ve ever visited the deserts of Nevada, you’ll see a lot of interesting shaped rocks and boulders.  They didn’t obtain those shapes and textures overnight.  It took years of sandblasting winds and rushing torrents of water to sculpt these beautiful creations.  So, when she says “I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize the person I am!” she’s right–she isn’t the same person!  Time, situations/environments, events, gains and loses have changed the person she was.  The same has also happened to you.

I was reminded during our conversation about the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and the song Tevye and Golde sang to each other “Do You Love Me?’  Here’s an excerpt…

“(Golde)
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

“Copied from lyricsondmand.com”

In addition to time and circumstance she has truly become someone else.  A code developer who loses his job and gains employment as a cab or delivery driver after a couple of years will notice diminished capacity at developing code for applications.  You know the expression, if you don’t use it, you lose it!  Same transformation holds true for people on a personal/relationship level.   After so many years, she becomes a logistics, navigator and event planner expert.  Her conscious day to day skills are honed around being the person who schedules the babysitter, and juggles the events schedule for figuring out how much time between grocery shopping and getting the oldest child to the soccer field.

Life is often more challenging for women than it is for men because they have to cope with our lack of interpersonal skills.  We generally aren’t taught or encouraged to communicate on all levels well enough to share the workload of house and family in a way that a woman would consider equal.  We’re not taught how to BE a person of encouragement and support–considerate, gentle, thoughtful–enough to slow down and think of someone beyond ourselves.  Another way its challenging for them is there are many families where both parents work…so stop and think a minute about how many hats she’s wearing!  It’s sometimes hard for a woman to “feel” anything other than tired.

Too often we men think in the “ME” context.  Now, being objective about myself, I do a lot more than most husbands today–laundry, cooking, schoolwork grading, cleaning, full-time job outside of the home, dates with the kids.  But I haven’t always been where I am today.  I went through too many years where the job was #1…and my marriage suffered for it.  So, I guess I’m spilling my life story to you all (especially the men!)  to spare you some grief.  Talk to your wife–on second thought, don’t…LISTEN to your wife.  Hear what she has to say (often she just needs to vent) and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.  Most importantly, in whatever way you can be supportive, be CONSISTENT!  Find ways to SHOW you appreciate her. Share the household schedule/chores to allow her a chance for a break without interruptions or demands.

I close this post with something for you to think about:  “LOVE IS A VERB!”  Words mean nothing without action. Do your best to exercise your communication muscles daily–don’t give up and don’t lose hope!  Kahlil Gibran said, “Let there be space in your togetherness”  Don’t forget to allow yourself to be vulnerable to other people outside of your marriage who you feel safe with.  Sometimes you too need to vent.  Another person’s perspective on your situation can sometimes slap you out of your own pity party and put your mind on a better path!

Peace–let me know your thoughts, and if you’re further down the road (years of marriage) than me, and can offer another perspective–please share.  I would love to be prepared for the next 10 years of marriage.

Posted in Relationships

From Passion to Parent – We Men Can do Better

Gentlemen,

I’m writing because there’s something that must be said.  I speak from personal experience, both as an observer from childhood and as a husband/father.  We can do better!  Just ask your mother or your wife!  On the average, regardless of origin, age or class, women bear the brunt in the familial relationship.

I know there are exceptions and some men are great examples of how to be a true teammate in the marriage relationship.  Most women however could, can or have thought the following:

How is it that even though we both work, I still end up doing most of the:

Grocery shopping/menu planning
Cooking/cleaning
Arranging for babysitters
Picking up the kids from school when one gets sick in middle of the day
Staying up with sick kids in the night
Handling the more emotionally sensitive discussions

Now I realize that some of you may bristle at reading this post.  If the truth fits though, perhaps there’s some chance/hope of change.  Most fathers begin their parental journey lacking necessary skills to embrace the responsibility in a fashion that allows women to feel they are “on the same page!”  Many of us are too absorbed in the feelings of loss created by displacement in what seems relationship priority.  You may feel as though this bundle of joy has ousted you in #1 position with your bride because you’re not able to spend the kind of time you used to spend with her.  You may also feel like no matter what you do, it doesn’t seem to be good enough.

This relationship evolution (from the passionate/blissfully spontaneous intimacy of just the two of you, to a now exhausted, frazzled, lets  just stay at home)  will never remain static.  Get used to constant change and many surprises.  If you find yourself in a rough patch, relax–its normal and it won’t always be like this.  The parenting years are some of the most stressful and create a great deal of introspection and comparison between how you remember being parented (what was and wasn’t okay) and how you want to parent.

The real key to harmony once you split yourselves up by creating more mini-miis is to mentally condition yourself to always approach every situation with a questioning mental posture.  If you attack the situation with suggestions and assumptions, you might as well take off your size 10 shoe and begin inserting into mouth!  Seriously, plan your time–print out a blank calendar each month and put the important things to accomplish on it and post it on the fridge.  If you don’t know what she’s planned, your spontaneous after work drinks with the guys just might have hijacked her schedule to have her one and only ladies night out event.  Guys, let me tell you, there’s no greater stress that having to juggle everything on that list above , maintain a house and full-time job!  Take inventory and see where you can help out.

Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, homework help…as much as you can anticipate and take care of  is greatly appreciated.  Where you begin to sense distance and coldness in your relationship is when she feels abandoned and saddled with the responsibility for everything.  She’ll be gritting her teeth, cleaning puke off the floor from one of your sick kids remembering “for better or for worse!” while you’re snoring away.  Its times like those that begin to create the irritable exchanges, the brief looks that once were longing, and the quick peck on the cheek instead of the passionate embrace.  Don’t let the little things in life, forgetfulness, procrastination, and obliviousness our gender is notorious for ruin the adventure of sharing your life with another.

Women, can I hear an amen?