Tag Archives: Marriage

You’re Too Young!!! When Should We Let Kids Be Adults?

“You simply don’t get to be wise, mature, etc., unless you’ve been a raving cannibal for thirty years or so.” –Doris Lessing

Hello friend,

I used to have a level-headed niece who I trusted to make sound life decisions.

As a 19-year-old college student bursting with potential, she struck me as independent and driven to carve out a unique path that would often–especially in the next decade or so–find her traveling the world alone to explore and share her talents and passions. Though she had had some serious romantic relationships in her past, she swore that it was not in the cards for her to “settle down” with anyone until she had lived out some of her dreams and established who she was as a real adult. I nodded my whole-hearted approval.

Then she turned 20 and got engaged in the space of a month.

What do I have now? And what can I say???

What can we really say to people we love–or anybody, really–when their life choices seem foolish to us?

I suppose part of my personal strategy for this dilemma works its way out in letters to you. I take most every issue that the average person wrestles with–politics, spirituality, family, money, social issues, dreams, relationships, and on and on–and hash them out in my journal, then write out my experiences and conclusions in these letters for anyone to read.

Not that I expect the people in my life to stay up-to-date on Journal of You just so they know how I feel about their life choices. But the actual writing process–both in my own journals and in these letters to you–has helped me to clarify my positions and given me a level of comfort in expressing them. So, when a topic comes up in conversation in the course of the day, I generally feel quite confident sharing my take.

At any rate, the habit of putting my stances out into the public sphere makes any sort of “approval” or “disapproval” I have of anyone’s life choices feel more general, not so personal. Like with marriage, I would hope that if I ever have a conversation with my 20-year-old niece about it, she would not take my position as a personal attack on her. Because let me be perfectly clear: the idea of people–I was tempted to say “kids,” but I caught myself–getting married (to say nothing of having children) in their early twenties seems absolutely foolish to me.

I think of myself at 20–or even 23 or 25 or 28–and I was so far away from knowing who I was and what I valued most. I had morals. I had opinions. I had passions, hopes, and dreams. I might even have been described as level-headed. But evolved enough and prepared to wisely choose my mate for life? Heck no!

My wife tells of the time that she and her college love were on vacation in Las Vegas and momentarily considered getting married before deciding against it. She laughs now at her luck, convinced that she would be miserable (or, more likely, divorced) if they had gone through with it.

But be clear: I am not just basing this on my personal path. I get that just because I wasn’t ready to marry in my early twenties–or late twenties, for that matter–that doesn’t mean no one could be. One of the benefits that comes with living for a while is that you get to witness a much bigger sample size when it comes to testing out your theories. Like most people, I know lots of people who married young. Many are still married. That fact does not sway my opinion at all.

And it is not that I have just come around to this idea in my forties, seeing people two decades younger than me as kids (of course, because I can’t be old!). No, growing up, I could never understand how my parents got married at 20 and 24, or later, how my older brother got married just out of college. I think I felt it most when my buddies started getting married, because I knew just how immature they were (did their spouses?). As with marriages at all ages, some have lasted, others haven’t. Some are probably blissful; others probably miserable, most somewhere in between. And again, just because it has worked out that way, my take on whether it was the right thing to do to marry young does not change.

Why, though? Why shouldn’t the failures of the older, “more mature” crowd dictate my opinion, causing it to skew more favorably to the early twenties cohort? I suppose that, for me, it has more to do with what I see them as missing out on when they “settle down” so young. It is all that personal development/figuring out who you are/building independence/learning by mistakes (and silliness)/understanding what you are getting into kind of stuff.

I think of the twenties as a time for all of that fun, growth, and inner and outer trailblazing. And I know that almost everyone who embraces and passes through that magnificent gauntlet of a decade comes through it quite a different animal. Different interests. Different dreams. Different relationships. I tend to think that that evolution gets stunted in people who marry so young. They evolve, but in a muted way, leaving room for more longing and regret later. It is like how older people with kids tend to think of people without kids: no matter how free and fun the childless people’s lives seem, there is nothing that could convince the parents that their own lives would be richer and better without kids. They almost can’t help but feel a bit (or a lot) bad for the childless. I have that same “You are missing out on something you can’t duplicate with other stuff” sense when it comes to people who marry without getting to experience the bulk of their twenties unmarried and childless.

So what do I do with this strong opinion? Not much, really. As an uncle, I have been known to share my opinions with my nieces and nephews as they mature. I tell the kids to explore themselves and their options in their twenties, and to not marry young. Not that it has had any effect so far: my oldest niece and nephew are 23 and already married or engaged, and my aforementioned 20-year-old niece will wed within the year. (Has any generation ever listened to their elders???) So I settle for a nudge to my own kids–now 8 and 10–when we get the wedding announcements of their cousins. They say in shock, “Cousin X is getting MARRIED???” And I say, “I know–crazy, right? She is very young to make that kind of commitment. Remember that when you are that age.”

It is similar to the way I pass on to them my considered–and journaled-about–opinions about things like how many children people should have and how old they should be when they have them. When they ask why they don’t have more siblings, I say something like, “Americans–including us–use a TON of the world’s energy and natural resources per person. Much more than our fair share. The planet is running out of these things AND being damaged by our overuse. So, for me, it didn’t feel very responsible to have more than two kids. Does that make sense? You can think about that when you are old enough to have kids (probably when you are in your thirties).”

When they ask why their cousins or friends have bigger families, I just say, “Those were the choices their parents made. Everyone sees the world differently, and everyone gets to make their own choices. Your job is to learn as much as you can about the things you have to decide so that you can become wise. Then you have to think about who you are and the kind of person you want to be. Your answer will come to you. Then you let everyone else make their own decisions, and be kind and respectful to them even if they do it differently than you. We are all trying to do our best, even if it doesn’t look that way.”

Because I don’t actually care enough–despite my strong opinions–to “judge” my nieces and nephews, or anyone else. Of all people, given the life I have led, I have no business (or interest) in making people feel bad for their lifestyle choices. I want people to unapologetically make their own decisions and be exactly who their soul calls out for them to be. (I think that highlights a crucial difference between being opinionated and being judgmental. I see the former as good, the latter not so much.)

It is why I have never been an advice-giver. Both personally and professionally, it has always been my habit to try to help the person in front of me to see the situation broadly and clearly and to ask them the type of powerful questions that will lead them to draw their own conclusions and take ownership of their choices. I think that is the best way to engage life’s difficult choices, with children and adults alike. When people–especially the “impressionable” people that we tend to be at until at least our late twenties–feel pressured or judged into making a decision by the opinions of others (such as their parents or their church), they never take full responsibility for the decision. They feel it is out of their hands and thus surrender to that wave of pressure, never fully addressing the most important question: Does this feel right and true FOR ME? If that question is given a full treatment, there is no other opinion worth considering.

In the end, then, I suppose my way with the kids-who-are-nearly-or-new-adults is this: to offer my opinions in advance, to help them to see their situations more clearly in the moment, and to quietly support them once their decisions are made (though, of course, believing my way is the best way!). They’re just kids, right? They need that support. We all do. I will keep doing my thing the best way I know how and hoping they see the light of wisdom and use it to guide them on this fantastic adventure called LIFE.

How about you? How do you handle yourself when other people don’t follow your model of the world? Open up your journal and think about your opinions and judgments. At what age, generally speaking, do you think the average person is mentally, emotionally, and experientially “ready” (a.k.a. mature enough) to get married? What is it about that age that brings you to that conclusion? Do you come to this opinion by your own experience–good or bad–with relationships, by the examples of people you have known, or just your sense of people? What do you think when people who are significantly younger than that age announce their engagement? Do you keep your reaction–shock, dismay, condemnation, whatever–inside, or do you share your thoughts with others? Do you give your opinion directly to the individual offender? What determines your decision to share your opinion or not? Is it a desire to spare their feelings, an obligation to save them from their foolishness, or do you just not care enough about the issue to raise it? How strong is your compulsion to impose your opinion on others? Does it depend on your relationship with the offender? Does it depend on how egregious you deem their error to be? Are there any relationships worth breaking over the person’s willingness to comply with your opinions? Does it make you feel inauthentic to hide your positions? Does this whole thing really come down to a matter of tact? How much older than your ideal marriage age is your suggested age to start parenting? What is the difference in maturity level necessary to parent well? How different are your suggested marriage and parenting ages than the legal ages to drive, drink, vote, or enlist in the military? How does that disparity strike you? No matter your current age, describe how you imagine most people change between 18 and 30. In what ways do they remain the same? Any? How drastically do a person’s standards and preferences change in that time? Drastically enough to hold off on marriage? What aspects of marrying young–and having kids young–are more desirable to you than waiting? Are there any lifestyle choices that others make that truly upset you? What is it about those that somehow get under your skin and push your buttons? What choices cause you to “judge” (i.e. condemn) someone rather than simply have an opinion about their choice? Do you consider yourself opinionated? How about judgmental? What would your family and friends say? If you are more judgmental than you would like, can you change your attitude? Would that lighten your load to let go of all that responsibility of policing people’s lives? How difficult is it to be supportive of someone you believe is making a life mistake? It would be a nice skill, though, right? Leave me a reply and let me know: How well you do let others live the lives of their choosing?

Love without condition,

William

P.S. If this letter helped to draw out some clarity in your own mind about how you operate, please share it on social media. Let’s support each other and celebrate our differences!

P.P.S. If this type of deep dive and questioning appeals to you, check out my book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at your favorite online retailers.

A Golden Life: Reflections on My Parents’ 50 Years of Marriage

DSC_1086“Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is very special.” 

Hello friend,

Over the recent holidays, I got to spend several days in my childhood home. The place still feels like a haven for me. It cradles me. I love its energy, its vibe. Around Christmas, though, that calming influence is mixed with utter pandemonium, as 20+ people, a few dogs, and a cat all share the space every hour of the day. It is a circus. A delightful circus, but still a circus. The tendency is for the days to whirl by in the madness, and suddenly I am in the car again, heading back to the uncertainties of “real” life and away from the place that still fills me with the comfort and security of a child in his parents’ arms.

This time, however, even amidst the chaos, I couldn’t help but pull back a little bit and take stock. I had a few moments—when the decibels were at peak level as all the kids tore into their presents, or as the multiple conversations criss-crossed at the three tables (one for the adults, one for the teens and people like me who don’t want to grow up, and one for the little kids) at Christmas dinner—when I simply sat back and appreciated the overwhelming swirl of Love and community that filled the house. It was truly awesome. I couldn’t help but notice myself mouthing the words “Thank you” as I looked on in wide wonder. I was humbled by the gift of a seat at the table amongst such beautiful souls. What a family!

Of course, when I think about my family and its remarkable run of happy togetherness, the road leads swiftly and certainly to my parents. The part of this trip that made it extra special was that we all got to share in their 50th wedding anniversary. FIFTY YEARS! Even as I write the words, the concept astounds me. Fifty years of marriage. I was patting myself on the back when my wife and I hit twelve years last Summer. I guess we better pack a lunch!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about marriage in the last couple of years. My own, my parents’, and the concept in general. I think about how tough it is to make marriage work, why so many of them fail, and why some people stay in them long after they should probably be gone. I have seriously pondered most of the couples that I know. Gradually, though, as my study has progressed, I have spent more and more time thinking only about my own parents. They have become the example.

For many years in my adulthood, I wondered why in the world they stayed married. I wanted what was best for my Mom, and frankly, I just wasn’t convinced that being married to my Dad was a healthy thing anymore. Alcoholism lays waste to most things in its path. It is clear to me why most relationships with an alcoholic end badly. Some disastrous combination of untruthfulness and hurtfulness wears the other down until there is nothing left but to leave or be lost.

I once asked my Mom if she was thinking about cutting ties and moving on. From her reaction, it was clear that the thought had never even occurred to her. Her only goal was to get my Dad feeling well again. She knew that the magnificent man that she had married when she was only twenty years old was still in there, that he just needed some help to find himself again. And she was darn sure going to be there every step of the way. Encouraging him. Comforting him. Challenging him. Holding his hand. Loving him. And always, always believing in him. In them.

I have to admit that at the time, I just couldn’t see it very clearly. I would have cut and run, not wanting to go down with the ship. I am hypersensitive, so lies and hurtful words and acts turn my heart in a hurry. I was always amazed—but also dismayed–by my mother’s capacity for patience and forgiveness. There were definitely moments that I wanted her to stand up and shout, “ENOUGH!!!” And I thought less of her for not doing so.

I see it differently now.

As I said, I have been thinking pretty hard about this lately. I think about my parents at that time and how miserable it seemed from my view on the outside. And then I think about them now and how happy and in love they seem, so grateful to be growing old together. I realize now that I was wrong and my Mom was right. She took a lot more than I could take, and a lot more than I wanted her to take. But in her seemingly unending love and patience—and more importantly than that, in her unyielding belief in her husband and in her commitment to him—she was able to weather the storm and carry them back onto the road, where they now walk hand-in-hand to their Happily Ever After.

There are a couple of things I take heart in when I think about their long journey, and in particular about the storm. First, even though I am sure she would do a few things differently, I am even more sure that she would carry his burdens again if need be, and that her belief in him and commitment to him would never falter. And second, I know he would do the same for her.

This is how a marriage works.

I am thankful every day that I was born to these two amazing people. I am thankful for the way they raised me, the love and self-confidence that they instilled in me. I am thankful for the way they have supported me and my siblings as we have endeavored to live meaningful lives and build families around their model. I am thankful that my kids get to love them and learn from them. And I am thankful that, amidst all of my ponderings of the difficulties of marriage and the many ways that marriages fail, I have a shining example of how marriage succeeds, of how marriage is meant to be. I only hope that I can follow their lead.

How about you? Who are your greatest relationship role models? Open up your journal and examine what it is about the couples you know who are doing it right. What characteristics do they have that makes their relationships work? Do both parties have that characteristic equally, or one more than the other? Do their personalities and skill-sets complement each other? What makes some relationships last where others fail? Is it the depth of commitment each person makes? It seems that people in my parents’ generation felt more of a moral obligation to marry for life than is expected in the current generation. While you can definitely argue that that doomed many people to remain in unhappy relationships, what do you see as the upside of that moral obligation? Is my mother’s resilience and willingness to weather the storm a byproduct of such a morality? Do you see that as a good thing or a bad thing? If you are married now, how confident are you that you will make it to the end of your lives together? If you aren’t married, does the poor success rate of marriages make you more hesitant to marry, or does that awareness not play a role in your confidence? How happily were/are your parents together? Are they a good role model for you in the marriage department? What about their relationship do you most want to avoid? What do you most want to emulate? Do you expect to live happily ever after with someone? Leave me a reply and let me know: What would people say about your relationship 50 years from now? 

Let Love Rule,

William

P.S. If this made you think about your life, pass it on. Let’s build a community of self-aware people!

What I’ve Learned In 12 Years of Marriage

DSC_0230“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Hello friend,

Today is my anniversary! Twelve years ago, in front of a small group of loved ones on a gorgeous Saturday, I vowed my friendship and love to an amazing woman. Near the end of the vows, I said, “It is my intention to be with you forever….” That’s everyone’s intention, right? So, why does it seem so rare that people actually pull off this trick of staying married forever? Beyond that, why is it even more rare to stay happily married forever, with the friendship and love still flowing? Well, I’ve only been at it for twelve years, so I can’t claim any great expertise or mastery on the topic of a lasting marriage. But, at least at this point, it feels like we are ready to press on to our Forever, walking the Road of Life hand-in-hand. I sure hope so.

Marriage is a challenge. Whoever tells you otherwise is a liar. For almost everyone I meet, I can, within a few minutes, tell you about a dozen reasons why I would not want to be married to them. It is simply a challenge to live cohesively with someone for any extended period. It is why, for most of us, we love it when our friends or relatives come for a visit, but we also secretly love it when they leave.

And I am the worst. There is no way I could be married to me. I am spoiled. I hold everyone to very high standards. I am opinionated. I am stubborn. I am sure that I am always right. And, possibly most challenging in a marriage, I am hypersensitive; I take everything to heart. All of that makes for a combustible mix of “Difficult to Live With”. I would not wish me upon anyone. My wife, needless to say, is a saint.

I never thought I would marry. Before I met my wife, I was too blissful in my singlehood to think of marriage as an option. I just liked being alone and devoting my life to personal improvement: learning and growing spiritually and intellectually. I guess I thought marriage would stifle that learning and development. As it turns out, marriage has taught me a few things that no amount of book-learning or meditation ever could. For a guy who naturally prefers solitude, twelve years in a marriage—and nearly seven as a father—come with lessons that are only understood intellectually but never mastered, that must be re-learned and practiced every single day.

The first lesson that I practice—and fail at—every day is the importance of continuing to act like my partner’s best friend and biggest fan. I think so much of this lesson that when I was asked to officiate at my sister’s wedding a few years ago, I chose it as the main focus of my sermon. It is easy in the euphoric beginning to be the biggest fan and the best friend. The “in love” part is still in full effect, and the personality and behavioral idiosyncrasies—as well as their contrasting viewpoints on what cleanliness looks like, how much time with in-laws is enough, how to spend your money, what to watch on television, how frequently to have date night (and “date night”), where do your shoes go when you come inside, and how to raise children, to name a few—have not been in your face EVERY SINGLE DAY without pause. The challenge is to be able to pull off the “How would the biggest fan act?” and “How would a best friend act?” every day, even while swimming in the pool of all these potential triggers. The lesson I am learning—and trying to remind myself every day—is to ask those questions and be sure that I can answer with my head held high. It is a challenge.

Another daily challenge of a lesson for me in my super-sensitivity is to not take umbrage at every seeming slight or unfairness—“Why do I have to cook so often?” or “Why don’t you acknowledge me for all I do?” or “That comment was passive-aggressive”—because letting all of that stuff stick only makes you bitter and more thin-skinned the next time, as though you are always building a case against your partner. Building a case against them—just like “keeping score” on the dishes or the cleaning or the gifts—is a recipe for disaster. It only makes you more resentful, and only makes them more defensive and distrusting, seeing your love as conditional. I am all for communicating your needs and letting your partner know when they have hurt you—I need to work on that one rather than writing it in my journal—but I have definitely come to see what a terrible waste of energy it is to hold onto every little grievance, or even to take them seriously. Choosing every one makes you a constant victim and makes your partner feel like they can’t do anything right. Neither of those roles is fun to play.

One role that is good to play is Yourself. I am learning—and trying to put into practice—the lesson to let your partner be who they are, even the stuff you would rather change. Challenge them, sure, and help them see if they are being destructive, but sometimes you just have to understand that they aren’t there for you to mold them. Just love them and accept them. Affirm that you love unconditionally. Feed whatever parts work for you while still accepting the rest.

Probably the greater lesson that binds these other lessons together—and actually bonds each of our individual lives together—is the supreme importance of CHOICE in all of this. You have to CHOOSE the right attitude, CHOOSE to be forgiving, CHOOSE to be a fan, CHOOSE to not be petty or snarky. It seems way easier to let a marriage drift into unloving, spiteful oblivion—which I believe it would do if left to its own devices—than it is to CHOOSE to do the daily work of cooperating, forgiving, and supporting. But what do you want? You have to do the things—CHOOSE the things—that get you what you want. If you want marriage to work, CHOOSE to do the things that make it work. Of course, it still requires your partner choosing to do the same, but start with yourself. You have control of that much.

Yes, as a grizzled veteran of twelve years in the marriage game—were those the easy dozen or the difficult dozen???—my takeaways seem to come down to some really simple concepts: appreciation, forgiveness, acceptance, and the absolute necessity of choosing the right attitude. Hey, those sound like my takeaways from LIFE! Oh, what a tangled web we weave. In the end, good principles transcend all institutions and never go out of style. I can only hope that I have the fortitude to keep these lessons front and center for all of my days to come. If I can do that, I can earn my “happily ever after”.

How about you? What lessons do you take from your most intimate relationship? Open up your journal and dive deep into what makes it go and what makes it stall out. How equal is your partnership? If you had to name a percentage, how much of the load do you feel like you are carrying when it comes to keeping the relationship going? How much of the physical load (e.g., keeping up the house, taking care of kids, etc.)? How about the emotional load? Financial? Is one of you clearly the rock, or does that role get passed back and forth depending on the situation? How long have you been in this relationship? If you had to guess, is it going to last until death do you part? How confident are you in that guess, and what dictates that level of confidence? How good of a job do you do at being your partner’s biggest fan? How about their best friend? Are you doing better or worse at it now than you used to? If worse, why do you think it turned? What can you do to better act like the biggest fan and best friend? How sensitive are you to perceived slights by your partner? How much do you feel like you are keeping score against them and building a case? Does that serve you in any positive ways? How well do you do at allowing your partner to be themselves? How consistent are you in the attitude you choose for the day? Do you usually go more positive and forgiving, or do you tend toward the negative and unforgiving side? What principles guide your relationship? How is that working out for you? If you could choose other principles—(hint: you can!)—what would they be? Do you think it’s up to you how long and strong your relationship goes? What’s your prediction? Beyond just lasting, what have you learned about how to make it happy? Leave me a reply and let me know: What have you learned, and how far is that going to take you? 

Go and love,

William

Relationship RESET

IMG_1193“Never restart a journey and use the same road that failed you before.” –Dennis E. Adonis

When I was a little kid, it seemed like I did everything with my older brother. I was just like any of the other kids from the neighborhood. We would all seem to find a rallying spot at some point in the day and figure out if we were going to play football, Capture the Flag (we called it “Flag Game”), Kick the Can, or whatever. At that age, I never paused to wonder if I would have considered my brother to be my “friend” or if we were close. We were only a year apart in school, so we were invariably drawn together in various circumstances.

But then middle school, high school, and college rolled around, and it quickly became clear that no matter what we were before, we were now anything but close. I don’t really remember even any conversations with him from those years. We didn’t fight or have sibling rivalry; it wasn’t like that. We just seemed to live in completely different worlds, even as we sat right next to each other at the table or in the car. My brother drove me to school for a couple of years in high school, and I don’t remember ever talking to him during one of those rides. That seems so weird when I think about it now. I will save the sociological and psychological analyses of how our society socializes boys and the communication patterns of adolescents for another post, but suffice it to say that during those years, I was totally invisible to my brother.

With all of that as background, you might be shocked to learn that by the time I arrived in my mid-20s, the same guy that completely ignored me for more than a decade had become something of a hero to me and one of the people I most enjoyed talking to in this world. That has continued to this day, and even though I don’t talk with him very often—a recurring theme with even my very closest relationships—there is still no one I would rather get a call from. We can instantly dive into a topic, and there is a mutual respect, admiration, and interest in the other person’s thoughts that I never would have dreamed possible when I was 16 and invisible. It is one of the greatest discoveries and gifts of my life, this late-blooming relationship.

My brother and I somehow managed to find the RESET button on our Relationship Remote Control, and we both chose to press it simultaneously. Nobody was holding any grudges from childhood, so we kept what we admired and otherwise gave each other a clean slate. It was as though we stepped off of our separate flights, found each other at the gate, and chose to bypass the baggage claim as we stepped into our new relationship. When I look back at our story from this distance, I can see how hitting RESET and really giving the relationship a fresh start was quite feasible. There is a tremendous divide between childhood and adulthood in terms of how we act in and care for relationships. So many childhood friendships are accidental, a product of whose team you were placed on or who sits next to you in school. As an adult, we bring a little more of an opinion to the game. We are intentional. We choose. And we are also able to see that so much of what happened as kids was so totally unimportant. Think about it: do you remember the specifics of your relationship drama from when you were 15, and do you still hold that against the other person now? More than likely, if that person somehow re-entered your life today, you would take a fresh look and see if they are worthy of your time and friendship, and go from there. Friendships that pass from childhood to adulthood can be restarted and happily go the distance.

But what presses on my mind today is not a mere friendship and it is not a lifelong relationship. I want to know if a marriage or other adult romantic relationship can really hit RESET. When we agree to become life partners, we sign onto a tremendously complex and fluid organism that is our relationship. People grow together or they grow apart, and the commitment to grow together is an admirable but incredibly challenging one. Once we get past that blissful, falling-in-love phase and settle into the reality of an actual life together, things get interesting. Adorable idiosyncrasies shift in the direction of annoyances, and things we once looked past now seem to dominate the scenery. Some of the luster gets scraped off that superhero we built our partner up to be at the beginning, and that disappoints us—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

And life happens. You go through tough stuff together, whether it is the loss of a job, a death in the family, or just a really bad fight between the two of you. These things deepen the relationship, but they also leave scar tissue. Baggage. Our partner becomes inextricably intertwined with these things, though. We come to know them in so many different ways. With that, of course, comes knowing their weaknesses and their insecurities. We know how to hurt them, and—sometimes more importantly—we are keenly aware that they hold the power to hurt us. Everyone silently hopes for a continuous cease-fire, as we have all been witness to at least one divorce that turned evil, a testament to the power we have to either protect or completely shatter our partner’s heart. Most of us are happily in denial of the fact that in a long-term, committed relationship, we are walking on the razor’s edge between being the object of our partner’s loyal love and the object of their unbounded hatred.

For me, life seems to unfold in front of me as a direct reflection of my thoughts about it. I believe we see what we expect to see. If we think of the world as inherently beautiful and people as inherently kind and generous, we find examples of that in our day. If we think of the world as cruel and people as selfish and rude, we will just as surely find examples of both as we go about our business. The world presents itself the way we expect it to, and what we focus on shows up more often in our space. The question, then, is: What do you choose to focus on? What do you expect to see?

You might be asking, “What does any of that have to do with my restarting my relationship?” You see, as I said above, we come to know our life partners from so many different angles. We see all of the charming and admirable stuff that we fell in love with—the person we wanted to show off to friends and family—but we also see that other stuff that we wish they would be, and the annoying parts, too. Their portrait becomes a lot more complex. So, what do you choose to focus on? From what angle do you choose to view them? It is a choice, after all. I am not talking about burying your head in the sand and living in denial of issues that really need to be addressed. I am talking about dumping your baggage, grudges, and competition, and seeing anew the qualities you fell in love with, and MORE. I am talking about going in with eyes wide open—not ignoring the things you wish they would change but accepting them as part of the package that you dearly love—and choosing to focus on the good.

I suppose this is where this question goes from the micro to the macro level. It is as much a Life question as it is a relationship question: Can you take the brighter view? Can you choose to focus on the positive? Can you accept the parts you wish were different because they belong to a whole that is amazing and admirable and worthy of love? It is no small task. It requires discipline and a willingness to start every day with the proper focus, with your heart and mind centered in a generous and loving place. That’s tough. But ask yourself: “Is the great love of my life worth it?” I think you already know the answer. I know I do.

How about you? Do you have a relationship that needs to be restarted? Open up your journal and dig in. Who is it with? While I was stuck on the idea of restarting a romantic relationship, you don’t have to be. I think a parent-child relationship is another wonderful and challenging option, actually, as one party has been an adult the entire time and one may have transitioned from childhood to adulthood and is ready to be viewed as such. What parts of your partner are the most appealing and admirable? Why did you love them so much in the first place? Are those qualities still there? Which of their characteristics do you most wish you could change? Is anything on that list a deal-breaker on its own? How about the collection taken as a whole: too much to handle? Is there something on this negative list that must be addressed with your partner before you can start the relationship over in your mind? Which ones do you just need to get over? Can you focus on the good stuff? Can you give them a break? Can you let go of the grudges? Can you wake up tomorrow looking for their goodness? Can you love the whole, complex package? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you ready for a relationship RESET? 

Live the way you want to be remembered,

William

My Big Gay Wedding

DSC_0237“Marriage should be between a spouse and a spouse, not a gender and a gender.” –Hendrik Hertzberg

Hello friend,

America has been abuzz on the issue of gay marriage recently. In the 2012 election, it seemed like a handful of states had the issue on the ballot, and there was a lot of doubt about its passage into law. In these last few months, however, it feels like a new state legalizes same-sex marriages every week. Politicians are—predictably—changing their stance by the day, suddenly enlightened by the swing in public opinion. The snowball is gathering speed and size. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that marriage equality will soon be a nationwide reality. And so, with a large population that has long been denied the right to marry now free to do so, we all get to experience something new: GAY WEDDINGS!

What a novelty, right? I love new experiences! So, when I heard that my wife and I had been invited to a wedding of two men that she knows, I was actually interested. You see, for me, going to a wedding is about the last thing I want to do on a Saturday (or any day). Weddings—like graduations, confirmations, funerals, etc.—are pure torture for me. I am not talking about just the formal part. No, the reception has no appeal to me, either. Basically, the entire affair is not a bit of me. It has, at its core, two of my least favorite things: ceremony and small talk. These two things always feel so superficial to me and thus a gigantic waste of time. The only two weddings I have ever had an interest in attending are my own and the one that I officiated. The next—and only—two I want to attend are hopefully in about 25 years, when my kids may decide to tie the knot. Otherwise, “No thanks” on the wedding invites. I’ll pass. Not interested!

But a gay wedding, you say? Hmmm…. That’s different. Maybe I could make an exception for that. I have to admit that the novelty factor was a definite draw for me. I went in thinking I may experience and learn something totally unique and that I had never thought of before. I thought that maybe either the wedding or some aspect or guest of the reception would make me say, “Wow! You won’t see THAT at a straight wedding!” But what should I have thought would be so unique and interesting about it? I think it spoke to the most shallow parts of me, parts that I am a little embarrassed to claim right now. I guess that, despite knowing better, I was subconsciously hoping to see something stereotypical happen: a flamboyant character or even some family drama around acceptance of someone’s homosexuality. Basically, I wanted my assigned seat at the reception to be right between Jack from “Will & Grace” and Big Gay Al from “South Park”, and right across from the narrow-minded grandparent.

So, what did happen at my Big Gay Wedding? It was the most run-of-the-mill, every-weekend-of-Summer wedding ever! It was no spectacle, no drama, no Jack or Big Gay Al to entertain me. I came away totally un-Wowed by it. It was ceremony. It was small talk. It was toasts that made me cry. It was two supportive, proud families. It was true love. It was, in the end, simply a wedding.

As I drove home that night, the feeling that stuck with me was something like relief. Yes, after all of my shallow, pre-wedding musings about the potential of being fascinated by the event or the presence of stereotypes, I found myself so glad that I hadn’t been. I was relieved that any objective viewer would have simply described the event as “two people getting married,” no more and no less. There was nothing “gay” about it, nothing to distinguish it from the straight wedding down the street. Happy, in-love, adult citizens were cementing their union before God and their loved ones in both churches. I was so relieved for Americans—gay and straight—by the fact that I could have been just as bored in one church as the other. It never struck me that I should get to cast a vote to determine the sanctity of one wedding over the other.They were just weddings.

What a great teaching experience it would have been for parents introducing difference and inclusion to their children. After all of the heteronormative Disney movies and everything else that kids absorb in our culture, what a cool thing it would have been for a kid—heck, for anyone—to witness this wedding of two men. The kid would have been so bored and unimpressed by it that it would have made same-sex marriage so normal and uninteresting and UNCONTROVERSIAL. I wish I would have brought my own kids. It would have been a few hours of torture, as any wedding is for a kid, but the lesson—or, rather, the non-lesson—would last a lifetime. It certainly will for me.

How about you? How do you feel about same-sex marriage? Open up your journal and write out your Truth. How many gay people are in your life, and how close are you to them? Has getting to know them better “normalized” homosexuality to you? If I ask you about the first image that comes into your mind when I say “gay man” or “lesbian,” is it a stereotype? I confessed to my shallow desire to be entertained by a stereotype at the wedding, but I also used the title “My Big Gay Wedding” to spark your interest in reading this post as well, hoping to touch on the same type of base instinct in you. Did it work? What does it say about us that we are so silently fascinated by homosexuality and the people who practice it? What is your stance on same-sex marriage? Should it be legalized nationwide? How would it affect your position if your best friend, sibling, or child came out to you and told you that they would like to marry their long-time partner? Does it seem a little smug of us to think we should get to vote on the legality of the marriages of other competent adults in our society? Which marginalized groups have you once held a negative stereotypical image of, only to have that image shattered when you got to know some members of that community? I always find it a relief to discover that people are just people, and that there is no one way to describe every member of a group. I like it when those walls come crashing down. How about you? Leave me a reply and let me know: How big is your view of Love? 

Shine your light a little brighter today,

William