Can this family be fixed?

Done with work and especially done with that guy or woman in the office that just doesn’t get it. If she really understood this business, she would never ask the things she asks.  Don’t know why you have to put up with her.  Just glad you can go home now, or maybe not. 

You want to pull into the driveway, but the kids’ toys are in the way. You walk into the house and there’s a bag on the table. What did he buy today?  He’s always spending money you don’t have. Maybe this has been going on so long, it’s all playing through your head even before you get home, so you go by the bar just to have one to take the edge off. So you sit in the bar stewing and fretting over your lot in life. This isn’t the way you envisioned it. 

You think about that person you married. If they would just be more understanding, more sensitive to how hard you work, all the things you do. Why don’t they see things the way you see them?  After all, what other way is there?  If they were just more kind, less crabby,  more loving, everything would be so much better.

Have you reached the end of your rope?  Are you done with that spouse?  Is it time to move on?  You’ll never be the person you want to be because of them … or can this family be fixed?  What would it take to make some real changes here?  Is it worth the effort?

The easy and the hard answer is yes, changes can be made. Hard because when you believe things will improve only if the other person changes, that perception is the problem. You have to start with the corner of the world where you have the most influence, and that is yourself.

Pull out that copy of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When the seven habits become ingrained into your life, you will see change.

        1.  Be Proactive. Don’t be reactive.
        2.  Begin with the end in mind. Have a plan.
        3.  Put first things first. Prioritize your actions.
        4.  Seek first to understand … then to be understood.
        5.  Think win / win.
        6.  Synergize.  1 + 1 = more than 2.
        7.  Sharpen the saw. As the Boy Scouts say, keep yourself physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight.

                           I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
                           I’m asking him to change his ways.
                           And no message could have been any clearer,
                           If you wanna make the world a better place,
                           Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

                                      — Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
                                           recorded by Michael Jackson


What Makes Family So Important?

Can you answer the question for me?  What is it that makes family important?  Or perhaps you don’t agree with the premise. If family is not important to you, why not?  Have you been abandoned by family?  Do you avoid family?  How is it that some people steer clearly wide of the family from which they came, but can go on to have successful families of their own? 

For me, family is the warmest, happiest place I go.  I blog on family because my best memories are times with my family and my happiest moments are when I am in their company. It is such a great feeling, I want everyone to have that experience. I believe it is a common experience based on the number of commercials and shows centered around it. It’s just prevalent in our society.

And yet, I see so many families disintegrate. 

I think Seth Adam Smith hit it on the head with his blog, “Marriage Isn’t For You”.

This speaks to the disintegration of a family when the “I” becomes more important than the “we”.  I support this notion cautiously because a very good friend is going through a divorce now after years of suffering mental abuse,  and like so many abuse victims, she keeps asking herself what did she do wrong and is she to blame for this.  When someone hands you a blog like this in the midst of ending a marriage to an abusive narcissist, you tend to wrap yourself in a blanket of guilt. We could not be more supportive of this particular friend’s divorce.

I also am well aware that not every family starts with a marriage.  Another very good friend has a family that is her, her daughter and her mother. She intended it that way. The daughter was born through in vitro fertilization.  The woman is a successful executive. It’s a great family that we love.

Modern Family is more than just a TV sitcom.

We have a son that is 700 miles away. He could not be more in this family if he lived in the same house. Cell phones and internet make it way easier to stay in touch. He and his brother are on their computers together over the internet almost every night. It’s a great family we have.

The center of a family is love, pure and simple. It’s a love so strong that you would die for each other. It is a love that is relentless, unconditional, forgiving.

Love is a verb. How will you love your family today?  How will they know you care?

You can’t love anybody else if you don’t love yourself first. What will you do to make yourself healthy, happy, in touch with God, and a better human being?

At work, are you listening?  What will your customers tell you today?  What are they asking for?  SEEK to understand, not try to understand. Anticipate expectations.

Character/Competence. How will those around you develop this week?  What deposits can you make into the culture?  What is it that this organization can become?

Financial stability. What must go out / be billed this week in order to be here next week?  Who is waiting on what?

The strength to survive …

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”  — Mahatma Gandhi

Have you faced any real difficulties in your marriage?  Something that you never thought you would have to deal with in your lifetime?  Maybe a health crisis, an unexpected event, a financial crisis, something that really challenged you down to your soul?  If you have been married any time at all, I’ll bet you have.

How did the two of you handle it?  Did it tighten the bond or did it nearly finish you?  If nothing else, I’m sure it taught you things about each other that you never knew before, maybe things about the way you were raised. Maybe a parent stepped in to help out, or maybe one stepped in to take control.

When a marriage takes place, a new family is formed, but the family you come from does not end. It continues to play a role in the new family that is formed. The new family has to define its boundaries with the old family even as the couple defines their boundaries with each other.  This is an ongoing process throughout your marriage, and if you have a good marriage, you will teach each other.

If your family is so lucky, there will be children and you will be given the opportunity to make mistakes with them, just like your parents made mistakes with you.  You have to take a test and be licensed to drive a car, but anyone can have a kid. When you take on that role of a mom or dad (or in some cases both), you need to learn all you can about how a child develops and what you can do at every stage to give them the best chance for surviving this life. Isn’t that what you wanted your parents to do for you?  Read on …

A Toast to the Millennials

Not by choice, but I had a chance to interact with some Millennials this week end and I must say that I was quite impressed. Millennials describes that generation born between 1980 and 2000, while my generation is the Baby Boom generation born 1946 – 1964. We were the largest, most studied generation … until the Millennials came along. That generation is actually slightly larger, and with the technology available today, will even be more closely analyzed.

I say “not by choice”, not because I fear any interaction with them, but  rarely do I have an opportunity to interact with them.  However, I woke up early Friday (like 2am early) with a kidney stone on the move.  I’ll spare you the details, just ask anyone who has had one.  Pleasantly, there were Millennials on the nursing staff.  I guess what impressed me almost immediately was their friendly disposition and what seemed like a passion for their work.

While my generation was shaped by Woodstock, JFK, RFK and MLK, the Millennials are connected, diverse collaborators shaped by 9/11, texting and the recession (US Chamber of Commerce Foundation).  The Millennial generation “is technically savvy, almost as if it has a digital sixth sense.  A wired, connected world is all that Millennials have ever known.”

“Millennials are marrying much later, if at all.  In 1970 about 44 percent of eighteen- to twenty-five-year old Boomers were married.  Today only 15 percent of Millennials in that age group are married.  And the average age of first marriages has gone up from 20.8 for women in 1970 to 25.5 today.  For men the average age of first marriages has increased from 23.2 to 27.5 over the same period.”  (The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Rainer & Rainer)

The two studies I have cited have a lot to say about the Millennials. Both of my sons were born to that generation and have shown a work ethic comparable to any Boomers I know.  So have what I’ve seen of most of their peers.  I have confidence in their leadership for the coming world. I just wish we were giving them a world in better condition.

33 Years, but who’s counting …

It’s August, so it’s time to work hard to get the preschool ready for four-year-olds, three-year-olds, and the new two-year-olds, almost two full classes this year.  So many more children this year, we had to build on another classroom.  We were setting up new equipment, emptying lots of boxes, and as I took a load out to the recycling, I noticed some activity in the church. There is a wedding this afternoon. I wanted to tell them that August 9 is a really good date to get married. Kim and I did so 33 years ago in 1980.

I know how you love one person for 33 years, and so does Kim. You start by remembering first of all that love is a verb. I can’t understand when a person tells another, “I don’t love you anymore,” and ends a marriage often destroying the family. Really?  You decided to love that person, and now you’ve decided not to love them?  Then you need to take responsibility for that decision. “I’m not happy.”  Whose responsibility is that?  When you put responsibility on someone else to make you happy, you will never be happy. Can someone do things that you don’t like?  Certainly. But if it upsets you, you choose to be upset.

This is different than if somebody is abusing you. Abuse is not loving you, and you have a responsibility to extricate yourself from that situation even if you love that person.  For your own sake, you must stop loving an abuser and remove yourself from them.  Don’t hesitate to get a therapist to help you walk through this one.  The abuser does not think they are abusing or blames the victim for what the victim made the abuser do. It’s just not healthy in any way.

But today I celebrated the life I share with this woman who has loved and continues to love me so well.  They say that birthdays are good for you because the more you have, the longer you live. The same cannot be said for anniversaries and marriage. I’ve seen too many marriages that had anniversaries long after the couple had decided to stop loving each other.  Instead, an anniversary gives you pause to ask, “Have I loved my mate well or is there more I should do?”  Go ahead; answer the question.

Are you up for writing a family plan?

Love is a beautiful thing. It’s an amazing feeling, but more so, it’s a powerful verb. All families should be based on it. How is it that so many families disintegrate or fail to function with unity?

Often people come to my office believing they want to fulfill a dream of starting their own business. Some have spent a lot of time and effort thinking through exactly what they want to do, but most come in with a momentary passion for an idea. Many families start the same way. How much more stable and better prepared for the twists and turns of life would a marriage be for a couple that went into it with a plan that they can both agree on? Ridiculous, you say? Ridiculous that a couple agrees on how they will spend their income, how many children, if any, they want to have and how those children will be raised, where they want to live, and how they will handle various emergencies that may occur as one thing is certain, emergencies are going to occur.

Peter De Vries said,

The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults

. Have you found that certain someone? Are you dreaming together about a sweet future? Has the question been popped yet? Don’t put more effort into planning the wedding than planning the marriage. The wedding is one day, the marriage should be a lifetime.