Dr. Pam Thompson

Dr. Pam Thompson

My Blog

Seven Ways Women Pro-l-o-n-g SIngleness

By Dr. Pam Thompson

www.drpamthompson.com

www.survivingmama.com

In my Women’s Group the other day, I was smack-dab in the middle of my discussion on the unwise choice to hang one’s hat for marriage on a guy who’s 40 or over and has NEVER been married. (This is research-based by the way and not just my opinion).  One person asked, “So Dr. Thompson is your advice applicable to WOMEN over 40 who’ve never been married?”  My knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh no…this only applies to men.”  As soon as this came out of my mouth, I had an uncharacteristic  twitch in my chest which I had never  had when giving this tried-and-true advice.  Upon further soul searching, review of a myriad of clinical and personal experiences, and consultation, I realized I had to adjust my counsel.   I returned to my group with the following:

“Ladies as we discussed in our last session, men in this category are a potentially ‘scary’ group to choose from because men in general have a different NEED for marriage than we do and yet some men have chosen to pass.  There's a huge REASON for that as we’ve already explored.  However, I must say that the women in this category are in fact there for a reason as well, though usually not a ‘scary’ reason--that is, assuming that they desired marriage in the first place.”

For the record, let me just say that I do believe there are men and women who are called to singleness by God, and so the following information is not intended to be absolute, but rather just a summary of what I usually see and experience.  Also, I say this delicately and without ANY judgment or condemnation.  So if you’re in this category, please grant me some grace in airing my experiences, and see if anything applies to you.

I find that women in the over 40 and never-been-married category:

  • Have often made romantic decisions (or lack thereof) without self-awareness, self-love, or self-respect (which you can't obtain or test out in isolation); they simply stayed with the wrong guy too long.
  • Have been 1000% resistant toward marrying outside of their race
  • Have not been intentional  in their pursuit of understanding men/studying their ways
  • Have demonstrated  rebellion against conventional wisdom (e.g., why should a man buy the cow when he can get the milk free for years)
  • Have demonstrated varying degrees of distorted thinking (e.g., "I don't need him; I can do it" "I won't go hang out at a sports bar because men might think I'm there to meet them" "why should I say thank you to him when that's what he's supposed to do")
  • Have not consistently invested in their appearance because "if he really loves me he shouldn't care what I look like."
  • Have lived by the distorted belief that he should magically come to the conclusion that it's time to marry me without me having to make that plain and clear (by my actions) that marriage is my ONLY objective for long term connection. 

With regard to this last point, this means a clear communication from woman to man that "you can keep treating me as a non-priority if you want to or you can keep hanging out in single's places or you can keep ignoring the things important to me, but you won't have ME in your life anymore... I'm outta her,"--graciously and kindly.  

No need to ever be mean, rude, dismissive, or disrespectful when choosing to leave a relationship that's going nowhere fast.  Always leave the door cracked (IF he's worth it), to allow him time to reflect on and adjust to the boundary you've set and stuck to.  Men won't do better until they have a REASON to do better and COMMIT.

If you’re intrigued by this article and want to know more, please join others at a life-changing retreat June 12-13 hosted by Hasani Pettiford, a wonderfully refreshing and knowledgeable relationship expert , and me.  Click the link (www.positionedformarriage.com) to find out how to begin the process of self-awareness and wholeness at an entirely new level.   Get the facts on how to find your mate while also finding yourself.  

Valentine Blues: I’m Tired of Being Alone. Do I “Settle” for a Blue Collar Guy?”

Wow! What a provocative question! Some of you have probably already had a strong reaction already. I can just hear the sisters saying, “I tried that and it didn’t work out; I need someone who is my equal…I can do bad by myself.” OR they may be saying, “I don’t care if he collects trash as long as he’s good to me.” I can hear the brothers saying, “It’s plenty of good men out here, but sisters are turning their noses up at them, thinking they’re too good…they’re just too demanding!” Personally, I think there are 3 things that trip up the relationship between two people unequally yoked in educational and professional status, particularly when the woman is more advanced.

The first is not about educational/professional differences at all, but rather about incompatible interests. It is usually par for the course that people with college degrees and beyond spend more time reading, participating in cultural activities, watching documentaries, traveling to far-reaching places, and eating diverse foods, and playing golf and tennis. Oftentimes these interests are incompatible with someone who is less educated or perhaps less exposed to such. Does this mean one lifestyle is BETTER than the other. Absolutely not! It’s simply different, and those incompatible interests may be the deal breaker rather than the socio-economic levels per se. If the interests are in sync along with the ability to articulate ideas and dreams, and the time spent together with friends, family, and each other is comfortable and enjoyable, the educational differences probably matter very little.

Secondly, a less educated/exposed guy with a woman he perceives is beyond him eventually seems to start feeling inadequate, even if the woman NEVER communicates such. Since men are hard-wired by God to be providers and to walk in headship, when they aren’t able to do that or feel that they can’t for various reasons (namely money or lack of knowledge/experience in certain areas), they may take it out on their women in passive-aggressive ways (e.g., not celebrating or minimizing her accomplishments, falling awfully silent when others are praising her, demonstrating irrational anger that is unprovoked, not showing up to support her moments of glory). Does this mean he shouldn’t be with her? Maybe. It definitely means he’s behaving with immaturity and not loving her as Christ loves her. It also means he needs to grow and challenge himself (not in competition with her but in competition with himself). If not, the game of “hateration” will get really old for her, and he will become really uninteresting to her. It’s very sexy to see a man operating with VISION for his growth—spiritual, occupational, and financial. Unfortunately, a woman often tries to jump in and help develop that vision, and that just makes it worse for him, It becomes evidence of a lack of confidence in him (which may be justified), and his resentment may grow.

Thirdly, women get caught up in the idea of changing a man (i.e.,falling in love with his potential). Ooh, famous last words. Women have to realize that the man you fell for, the one you chose from all the rest, who wasn’t as articulate or polished as you were, is not likely to become someone he wasn’t designed to become or truth be told, doesn’t DESIRE to be. She may have actually fallen for him because he was comfortable in his own skin AS HE WAS. So if a woman wants a man who sits in the board room and has an impressive title (nothing wrong with that by the way if he’s loving, faithful, and kind), make sure that’s who he was when the relationship began. If he wasn’t already WALKING in that lifestyle from the outset or DEMONSTRABLY pursuing it, then what one sees TODAY may be all one gets. Women have to decide if that’s a good thing or not, but by all means they need to understand the need to proceed with caution when falling in love with potential. It usually puts debilitating pressure on the man and woman in the relationship because she attaches herself to his future (which only GOD can predict), while he’s attached to how he’s living and breathing in the present. AND by the way, men usually get very content or complacent, shall we say, AFTER marriage when the chase or need to impress is over.

Just as an aside, for those of you who may be thinking, “Well look at Barak Obama…he was making less than Michelle, and he was only ‘a potential’ when she met him”—just chew on this: He had a LAW DEGREE from HARVARD where he was already known as a trailblazer. That was not potential; that was FACT! 

What are your thoughts?

I Just Don't Get It. Is Your Laptop Your Date?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a fan of ever-advancing, new and improved technology and the myriad of interruptions it brings into our lives in the name of making things quicker and better. I know most of you will think I am from another galaxy when I tell you that I do not even send or receive text messages. I decided long ago that I could not withstand one more technological intrusion and keep my sanity and focus. After e-mail, instant messages, snail-mail, cell phone messages, and land-line messages, I know when I have quite enough on my plate that requires a response from me, and I know when and how to draw the line. I continue to be amazed at how consuming text messages and twittering have become for those who think of it as the primary way to reach out to others by broadcasting a steady stream of thoughts while sitting in a meeting, having a meal, working on the job, or even while socializing on a date. Thought broadcasting, by the way, is a phrase used in psychology to describe a psychotic process. For whatever it's worth, I just thought I'd mention that. Anyway, I digressed?My amazement continues to grow with the explosion of social media as I find myself having been talked into the "necessity" of having My Space (when it was popular), Facebook, and Linkedin pages in addition to the social media outlets created by my college, high school and yes even my dear old elementary school. ENOUGH!

We are more connected than ever before in the history of mankind and yet people appear lonelier than ever, growing further away from understanding what intimate relationship is all about. Young men and women no longer dance with each other; everyone does group dancing it seems (mostly women, that is). Couples don?t linger at the sound of each other's voices; they text instead. The landline that used to let parents monitor who was calling their children is obsolete, and parents have no idea with whom their children are in touch. People go to Starbuck's to have a date with their laptops, too engrossed in their screens to make room for good conversation and laughs shared over a soothing, hot beverage. Oh yes, social media has allowed one to get connected again with the close friend of 20 years ago from second grade while one may not have ever entertained a face-to-face conversation or outing with the person next door or the church sister or brother who routinely shares the same pew. WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING? Can we really best serve the purpose for which God created us, that is, to love Him and love others, by forgoing the opportunity to spend time with each other IN PERSON where emotions don't need to be electronically recorded in order to be expressed. 

Let me encourage each of you to put your technology in check and limit or eliminate the pressure it brings to spend mindless time connecting with people of yesteryear in favor of doing the work and making the connections with people God has in store for you today. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches that there is a "time to embrace and a time to refrain" (Ecclesiastes 3:5, NIV). Therefore, bear in mind that some people are only meant to be embraced for a season. It's impossible to stay in touch, even however surface, with everybody ever befriended in life. So folks, have your technology and use it to put you in touch with real human beings with whom you can build meaningful relationships-- for which this site and others like meetup.com were designed--but by all means don't let your technology HAVE YOU. Face to face, voice to voice communication is timeless and will build the memories you?ll cherish when your life is said and done. Consider it.

Is My Desperation Showing?

Are you finding yourself a bit too eager to find THE ONE that it just shows in your every gesture and facial expression and comment/question posed to a member of the opposite sex. A good male friend recently shared with me that in the 12 or so years that he had been single again following his divorce, he’d had only ONE woman to resist his sexual advances on the first date. He then proceeded to share with me how his “rap” worked. It was so-o-o-o transparent that I thought to myself, “Really? Somebody falls for that?” I mean his smooth operation and all-too-polished charm just reeked of P-L-A-Y-E-R.

Anyway, the point is that a lot of women cave in sexually, thinking this will leave a lasting impression on the guy. However, my male friends tell me often that it renders these females quite forgettable—until the next urge hits. The guys I know are looking for a woman to be set apart, to actually stand on her convictions even if it means he has to leave her alone FOR NOW. As guys have explained to me, he will remember the one who had the potential to make him a better man.

It seems that a lot of women let their desperation show in their sexual compliance while others may show it in expressed anxiety about the distance of time since the last conversation; or others will blow up a guy’s cell phone leaving irritable messages, if not outright demands, for a return response. Others will text a guy to death and hang on his every 5-word response-- as though a texted response really means anything-- when he could really be out with another woman WHILE he’s texting back. Still other women tolerate disrespectful, dishonest, disloyal treatment and think they’re proving their commitment, when in actuality they’re teaching the guy he doesn’t have to observe any standards when interacting with her. 

So as not to leave men out of the discussion, desperate ploys can work both ways. Though it’s been many years since I was in the dating game, I do recall a couple of guys whose desperation slipped through on the first date in ways far different from the women I’ve described of course. One guy, on our first date, mentioned that he wanted me to meet his mother the next week. “Uhhh, can I first learn what your last name is” I thought to myself. Needless to say, I didn’t meet his mother. Another guy, again on the first date, began to make long range plans (like months down the road) for things we could do together. “Umm, let’s just enjoy the appetizers first,” I remember thinking. I was scared off by both of these guys.

Perhaps you have your own stories where you felt the person was looking for too much too soon, and the presumptions were more than you could bear. Share your experiences, so others may learn the warning signs of appearing desperate. In the meantime, be mindful to live YOUR life with a thirst for God’s living water and a hunger for His daily bread as you engage in hobbies, interests, opportunities to learn, serve, travel, fellowship, and to study and pray with steadfast commitment to Him as your first love. Then, you won’t be caught with your desperation showing. You know why? Because your life will reflect purposeful choices rather than attachments you feel compelled to cling to because there was no one else with whom to spend time or anything better to do.

What say you?

Mothers Who Lie in Court for their Daughters

I was recently aghast to hear two famous television personalities boldly admit before a national audience that they would lie for their daughters in court, one of whom is an attorney. I’ve been even more shocked to see a grandmother actually get caught in lies for her daughter in the recent Casey Anthony murder trial. What??!!!! Is there no concern for what kind of message this sends to the daughter about how to solve problems and face hardships? “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” (Sir Walter Scott).

I immediately thought how tragic it is that this kind of indulgence appears to be the norm today, and it easily masquerades as a loving act. In fact, this kind of “love” (manifested as protection of “little Suzy Cue” from ALL consequences) is likely what gets a daughter in the unfortunate position of having to defend herself in a court of law in the first place. For sure, the mindset of any mom who “loves” in this way has been inclined toward harmful indulgence of her daughter long before she makes a decision to lie for her in court. This kind of “love” may also get other people hurt or killed. Bad behavior, left unchallenged, usually ends up evolving toward a general disregard for others’ rights and well-being because there’s no consequence of discomfort or lost freedom to help redirect one’s thoughts and actions toward legal and moral decision-making. 

I can’t tell you how many women I’ve interviewed in prison who are there because Mama never told them “no” or allowed them EVER to feel the sting of life’s hurts and disappointments. So the daughter kept raising the stakes on what she could get away with, knowing that Mama always “had her back.” One day the jig was up, and the daughter was forced to come to her senses from inside a prison cell while Mama cried, “I gave her everything…how could this have happened?” Yes, she would have given everything to her daughter alright, EXCEPT the priceless and loving gift of truth.

Find out more about Mama’s “innocent” acts that strain relations with their daughters by reading my book Surviving Mama available at www.amazon.com or www.survivingmama.com.

Good Old-Fashioned Study Skills

Today’s students have exciting, technological tools to make learning fun, fast, and flexible. Yet, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the bright and exposed minds of capable seniors from “good homes” (whatever that means today) who launch into the world of college. They’re back home before the end of the first or second year, with no intention in the foreseeable future of returning to college. 
A number of factors contribute to this phenomenon. For this article, I’ll focus on study skills that seem so obsolete when stacked against flashy screens and fingers gliding across iPads. However, the lack of study skills prevents many bright, techno-advanced students or adults returning to school from excelling. Here are some basic tips for mastering the dying art of studying: 

1. Break down material into small chunks of information with a plan for how much to focus on per day with realistic goals. If you purpose to study a chapter a day, be consistent in that goal and the time of day set apart to achieve this. Our bodies and minds love routine and order. The more disciplined you become, the more your momentum builds as you realize small victories which enhance confidence and a sense of mastery.

2. Read as much as you can out loud in order to engage your ears and vocal cords in the process of learning. Also include tactile sensations by writing down notes that are important to review with your hand—not the computer. The hand- to-paper contact is a slower and more deliberate process, which reinforces the material more effectively.

3. For serious “life or death” exams, take as many practice tests as possible and time yourself. Record the answers you missed (again by hand) and then tape-record your voice reciting the correct answers. Listen to your recordings as often as possible while in the car or taking a walk until you’ve marinated yourself in these answers such that they’re in the marrow of your bones. This overlearning process boosts confidence and calms test anxiety.

4. Go to bed. If you don’t sleep because of an “all-nighter,” you’ve prevented your brain from consolidating the new information in the same way that Jello doesn’t gel if not put to bed in the refrigerator overnight. Since your brain needs time to “congeal” data, shoot for a minimum of 6 hours of sleep when preparing for an exam.

5. Develop a silly acronym or phrase that triggers memory for a list of facts (called a mnemonic). For instance, if you needed to remember the list of presidents from Kennedy onward, you could use this nonsensical sentence: King Johnson Never Found a Cart in the Raging Bush or Carried a Bush Overhead (i.e., Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama). The more personalized and outrageous you make the mnemonic, the better the chances of recall and the more fun you have in the process.

Going Home Again Is Sometimes Hard to Do

With the return of warm weather, many are visiting home and relatives for spring breaks, Easter and Memorial Day celebrations, and family reunions with the hope of memorable fun, food, and fellowship. Instead, some are greeted by long-standing issues that resurface and pour a box of Morton’s salt on old wounds. When reuniting with those “who knew you when…,” there’s always the possibility of getting sucked in to performing a certain role expected by family even when that role provokes resentment and betrays your true self. Perhaps you’re the opinionated one in your “real” life who becomes as quiet as a sleeping baby when you return home. Maybe you’re normally a strong personality who surrenders, against better judgment, to dominant family members. Could it be that you’re creative and spontaneous apart from your family but are inclined to hide your bright light around kinfolks, fearing they may dismiss or discourage your zest for life?

It’s important to connect with family for obvious reasons, and to cherish yesteryear’s traditions. These sentimental rituals provide a sense of identity, anchoring, and fun as well as a sense of belonging to time, place, and people. It’s equally important, however, to remain connected WITHOUT losing yourself. “Keeping it moving” with fresh acquaintances, new frontiers to conquer, and a determination to nurture your gifts and talents--with or without family support--promotes a purpose-driven life. The world is a better place when each of us lives with a sense of calling that ignites our passions, excites our whole being, and incites others to flourish.

Do I Have Desperation Disorder?

Desperation Disorder is not, by the way, a real psychiatric diagnosis. I use it to explain the puzzling behavior of attractive, smart, capable, friendly and likeable women who enter into and maintain relationship with men who dishonor, demean, discourage, drain, deplete, or destroy them. These men may include the unemployed, the addicted, the abusive, the mean-spirited, the adulterer, or the disinterested in anything beyond himself. He adds NOTHING to her life; in fact, he TAKES away from it. YET she stays. WHHHHHY?

If you’re like most women, you’ve probably had a season in your life when you failed to speak up for yourself, and you routinely surrendered to others’ misbehavior, impositions, ideas, and opinions that significantly and negatively impacted YOUR life. As the song goes, everybody plays the fool sometimes. Take a number and get in line. 

However, when you chronically find yourself in a place of submission to others’ demands, and their thoughts or needs usually replace your own, there’s a problem. It is likely that after yet another powerless encounter with your boyfriend or husband (who just won’t do right), for instance, you later felt anger that oddly was not directed so much at him but at someone much closer—Yourself! You become the target of your own anger when you realize you have succumbed once again to choices that do not align with your heart’s desire or may be outright destructive in terms of prolonging poor quality relationships, derailing a dream, or draining your finances. After a while, the bad choices themselves become addictive, and they snowball in terms of their disastrous outcome as you unwittingly begin to volunteer for the job of “doormat” without a second thought. Even worse, you may attempt to take the edge off of your frustrations with habits of excessive eating, shopping, partying, mindless sex, or drinking among many other indulgences that bring only temporary relief but create a host of additional problems. Self-betrayal always comes at a price, and part of that price is becoming noticeably desperate to attach to any warm body, no matter how unhealthy. “Predator-types” (referred to by my girlfriend as snakes in grass clothing) can “smell” desperation a mile away. They enter your experience on cue to make sure your addiction to bad relationships thrives and that your position as doormat is secure.

Though it may seem hopeless, you actually can say good-bye to passive behavior and reclaim your rightful voice. For starters, minimize the factors in your life that tempt passivity, poor choices, and the resulting loneliness that leads to desperation. One of those factors is limited choices concerning the overall quality of your life—in employment opportunities, compatible companions, financial options, and hobbies that make you laugh and stimulate your mind and passions. The more options you have to exercise, the less trapped you feel in a certain set of circumstances or in certain relationships and the less vulnerable you are to desperation disorder. Creating or increasing options begins with a self-assessment of your talents and skills, strengths, and weaknesses with brutal honesty. Ask trusted friends or co-workers to help you identify your strengths and begin listening carefully to those aspects about yourself that people seem to notice or compliment. Once identifying your most positive qualities, maximize them through educational advancement, training, mentors, and hobbies that encourage routine and purposeful connection to others and a sense of mastery. The more interesting your life appears to others, the more valuable your input will be considered, which in turn enhances confidence in your thoughts and opinions and attracts healthy others. Here’s a helpful tip: Anyone in your circle not willing to participate in respecting, supporting, or celebrating your desire to expand your horizons (including family unfortunately for some) is not a healthy match for you. As former Essence Magazine editor Susan Taylor stated in her book In the Spirit, “Everyone does not deserve to have a front row seat in your life.”

The Best Resources for Renewing Your Mind

My job is to help others jumpstart a journey of mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. In so doing, I often direct my clients to quality resources that feed the mind what it has been craving. The old adage certainly applies regarding state of mind: “You are what you eat.” So I often refer my clients to great books and other learning tools in keeping with my practical approach and my desire to make psychological principles understandable and doable in the most expedient of ways. I love the following books so much that I sometimes make them “required reading” for my clients. Here’s the best of my recommendations for how to begin a process of transformation from the inside out:

For Those Who Feel Awkward or Confused About Where to Draw the Line in Dating, Marriage or in Raising Kids: Boundaries in Dating or Boundaries in Marriage or Boundaries with Kids by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

For Those Wanting to Learn from Others in Getting Answers to Relationship Dilemmas via the Convenience of Talk Radio: New Life Live on 970 AM from 2:00 to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday

For Those Needing a Strategy for Overall Success in Life and Love: 9 Things You Simply MUST Do to Succeed in Life and Love by Dr. Henry Cloud.

For Those Needing a Quick and Dirty Read on What in the Heck Men are Thinking (regarding relationships): For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

For Those Needing a Quick and Dirty Read on What in the Heck Women are Thinking (regarding relationships): For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

For Those Wanting to Figure out Men’s Thoughts about Approaching Marriage: Whey Men Marry Some Women and Not Others by John T. Molloy 

For Intensive Marital Rescue/Enhancement or Premarital Preparation: Google to find a 12-week Radical Love Class near you

For Those Hopelessly in Pursuit of Someone Who’s Emotionally Unavailable (but is very charming and enticing in the process): Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol

For Those Who Finish Last Because They’re Just Too Nice and Need to Grow a Backbone: No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Christian Nice Girl by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. Degler, PhD

For Those Wanting to Figure out Why Happiness Seems Unattainable: Happiness is a Serious Problem by Dennis Prager

For Those Needing to Resolve Mother-Daughter Tension (today!) or Any Close, Complex Family Relationship That’s Just Not Working: Surviving Mama by yours truly Dr. Pamela Thompson (www.amazon.com)

Bon Appetite!

Tips for Overcoming Panic

Deep breathing does wonders to calm anxiety. When inhaling, place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest. To achieve deep breathing, make sure the hand on the abdomen is rising more than the hand on the chest. If shoulders and chest are rising, and the diaphragm is not, this is NOT deep breathing. Picture someone hyperventilating, and you’ll get the picture of how short breaths contribute to increased anxiety. Once you've taught yourself the difference between deep and shallow breathing, sit calmly, close eyes and place hands by your side. It also helps to start with a deep exhalation first, consciously working to exhale all the stale air trapped in the diaphragm. This makes room for a deep inhalation. To establish the desired rhythm, count to 8 on the exhalation, 7 on the inhalation, and hold the breath for 4 counts before exhaling and starting the cycle again.

Ask yourself what's the very worst thing that could happen and then what and then what? Keep going with this game of "and then what" until the core concern or fear is staring you in the face. Chances are pretty good that the worst thing that can happen is not as bad as your imagination would have you to believe. This helps to minimize the power of the imagination and emphasize the reality of the moment. 

Enlist the support of a friend or family member as soon as possible. Talking through concerns with someone you trust distracts from the paralyzing fear and begins to reinstate a feeling of security as someone helps you carry the anxiety. 

For chronic sufferers of panic or anxiety, seek therapy and/or medication. In the meantime, develop a self-talk strategy that may include a favorite quote, prayer, lyric, or scripture that creates a shift from helplessness to empowerment.

To Blind Date or Not To Blind Date

I used to be a “professional” match-maker it seemed. I was always thinking of a good match for someone I thought was a desirable young man or woman. Though I haven’t done it in more than a decade, the thought occasionally runs through my mind when I hear someone’s story about the challenges in finding the ONE. One of the reasons I stopped going on blind dates myself (when I was single) and stopped setting others up is that there is so-o-o-o-o much emphasis placed on looks and split-second impressions. I mean the pressure of meeting a stranger with whom to spend an entire lunch or dinner or outing is pretty intense. Unfortunately when under pressure, we generally tend to narrow our vision down to the most basic of concerns. In this case, that would be looks, clothes, visual presentation—all of which is scanned in 2 seconds TOPS. If there’s some aspect that doesn’t meet this surface criteria, everything could be immediately downhill from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I know people who made a great connection for lasting love on a blind date. That happens, exceptionally, I think. Also, I know that looks matter, despite what some would have you to believe, and they matter more to men. I have no problems with that. People like what they like. However, looks don’t have to be and shouldn’t be the WHOLE story (though I fear that for a lot of men, they are the whole story and that’s a discussion for another day). Anyway, I can’t help but think of how many compatible connections are lost because other opportunities for getting to know someone were not explored. Therefore, my consistent recommendation to those who are trying to position themselves for long-term romance is to live the fullest life imaginable, investing in hobbies and interests for the long haul. This may include a mixed-gender book club (my favorite choice because you get to know someone’s thoughts about characters and consequently, their viewpoint on varied life issues), a bike riding club, a dinner club, an alumni club, a golf class, a tennis team. The point is, get out and do SOMETHING—even if it’s just frequenting the same coffee shop where you go to wind down and people-watch. Eventually, relationships build from the consistency of your presence because the more others see you, the more they will naturally want to know more about you. 

I am accustomed to seeing people who chronically complain of loneliness live in one of two ways: 1) go to work and come home, go to church and come home, and do NOTHING else; or 2) get involved in a 4-week hobby here (e.g., a salsa class) or a 6-week hobby there (e.g., a gym class) and that’s a WRAP. Sadly, neither of these approaches forms a community of “regulars” around you with whom you can build friendships of more depth. I appeal to you therefore, to go the distance in your activities as you select interests to which you can be committed for years to come because the activity itself is just that enjoyable to you and thoughtfully chosen. Over time, you’ll find yourself noticed by others while trust, companionship, and “likeability” grow in ways that may yield genuine friendship, romance, or at least caring acquaintances who miss you when you’re not around. Being missed by somebody, somewhere, is in itself, a blessing.
Engaging yourself in enjoyable, long-term activity does the following: a) provides an opportunity for you to observe others for traits like commitment, punctuality, ease in interacting with others, passion for learning, and sense of humor; b)takes the pressure off of having to get to know a stranger RIGHT NOW (as in a blind date), so there’s a natural pace to the developing curiosity and increasing familiarity; 3) allows for a lot of fun while you wait on other things to materialize in your life; and 4)opens your mind to the possibilities of falling for someone who wasn’t quite your “type.” Now isn’t that a lot better than a quick hook-up? 

What say you on the subject of blind dates?

Are You Headed for Divorce?

 

Recently, I have been bombarded with news of so many long-standing, “solid” Christian marriages amongst my friends and associates that are now headed for divorce. Additionally, I think the whole country was shocked by the announcement that Al and Tipper Gore were divorcing after FORTY years of what appeared to be blissful matrimony. Sadly, I recently heard on one of my favorite Christian radio talk shows (Living on the Edge hosted by Chip Ingram) that the statistics for divorce among Christians have now surpassed that of the secular world. Wow! Really? 


Well, there’s a complicated recipe for divorce as each couple’s issues and concerns are so-o-o-o unique. However, there are a few tried and true ingredients to which I invite you to take heed. I work from a model of couple’s therapy based on the voluminous body of research conducted by the nation’s premier researcher on marriage, Dr. John Gottman. His work has tremendously influenced my work and marriage, and I have tremendous respect for the level of detail and care he has given to RESEARCHING what so many other writers and therapists simply make up ideas about. 

This is a complex topic, but I’ll take a stab at providing a cursory overview of Gottman’s researched predictors of divorce. He calls them the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. They include: 1) Criticism (a growing list of complaints that eventually communicate “you not only dislike some things I do, but you dislike ME”; 2) Contempt (the act of making a complaint(s) personal; it’s not just name-calling and mean-spiritedness, but can be expressed in non-verbal cues as simple as rolling the eyes, sarcasm, mocking facial expressions, or laughing “at” vs. laughing “with”; 3) Defensiveness (push-back that minimizes one’s concerns or communicates that they shouldn’t matter or aren’t any worse than something the complaining person does him- or herself; defensiveness is OTHER-blaming and always deflects personal responsibility/ownership; it keeps hostility and resentment alive; and 4) Stonewalling (emotional shut-down or check-out, which is more common among men, but when a woman stonewalls, you can virtually smell the divorce papers; if a woman stops rowing the boat to keep her marriage afloat, it’s sinking fast). Of the four horsemen, you probably could guess that contempt is the biggest predictor of divorce. By the way, lots of arguing in marriage is not THE deal-breaker, but it is the lack of ability to successfully repair the damage when there has been a hostile exchange that is a killer. 

There’s so much more I could say about this, but do know that these are BIG warnings, especially if they’re occurring as the norm rather than the exception. If you’re nodding your head while reading this and seeing your marriage described here, PLEASE get some help. Just HOPING things will get better or just praying about it is NOT enough because hope is not a strategy (in the words of the famed General Patton), and remember faith without works is dead. Consider calling 1-800-Newlife for a quality marriage counselor near you or if you’re in Atlanta, call me at (404) 644-0710,

Comments?

Why Should I Have to Tell Him?

I’d be oh so rich if I had a dollar for every time someone rhetorically asked in couple’s therapy, “why should I have to tell him/her (with much attitude): what needs to be done around the house; to send me something on Valentine’s Day; to help me with the kids; to give me some cave time; to help me bring in the groceries; to compliment me; to get off the phone; to buy me some flowers; on and on and on…” I used to be one who thought this way many moons ago. I used to think it spoiled the romance or the sincerity of it all if I had to ask my boyfriend for something pretty apparent or state my desires directly. I fancied that if a guy loved me, he would just KNOW what I needed/wanted without me having to make it so explicit. Ha! I get a good chuckle out of that today. “When I was a child I thought like a child…” (1 Cor 13:11). 


Unfortunately, it’s no laughing matter for many couples struggling to survive. This “just-figure-me-out-without-me-having-to-tell-you” mindset is killing these precious unions unnecessarily. I was recently working with a couple who is headed toward divorce after only 3 years of marriage mainly because they’ve made a boatload of assumptions about each other without EVER asking specifically and firmly for what they most needed. They’ve been so “polite” with each other that they never developed intimate knowledge of one another, choosing instead to feel their way along in the dark—hoping to have more hits than misses. For the record, I say again in the famous words of General Patton, “Hope is not a strategy.” This couple is learning this the hard way. 

As the Bible instructs, “You have not because you don’t ask…” (James 4:2). The last time I checked, nobody was in the mind-reading business, and life is way too busy to waste time trying to decipher one’s cryptic codes of communication. Stop hoping and hinting and start asking and telling. Men and women, or people in general for that matter, are wired so uniquely with different gender-based, social/cultural, and family experiences that what appears obvious to one individual because of that person’s unique perspective could be oblivious to the next individual without that same exposure, familiarity, training, understanding, gifting, etc. When you have stated your desires and needs gently, lovingly, and clearly, you have a better chance of receiving. Duh!? You eliminate the need to take someone’s oversight or ignorance PERSONALLY and thereby get your feelings bent out of shape. So before you poke out your lips and get your pout on, ask yourself first, “Did I disclose to this person concretely what I wanted or was I just sitting back waiting on him/her to disappoint me again so I could play the ‘gotcha’ game?” “Did I ask in non-demanding tones?” “Did I give him or her freedom to get it done within a flexible and considerate time frame?”

Here’s one example I had someone tell me long ago of a brilliant way to get what you want and still enjoy some element of surprise when it comes to gift-giving for instance. One young lady told me she gives her husband a list of 10 things she desires for Christmas and tells him to pick one or more of what’s on the list. In this way, he has the freedom to make the choice, and she still gets what she wants though she remains clueless of what item(s) he’ll select. This is very much how our heavenly Father operates with us. He gives us a great deal of freedom WITHIN certain lovingly provided parameters. Could this work for your relationship with housework? Date nights? Romantic gestures? Figure out what makes you feel most loved and be sure your significant other knows and understands it. Compliment him/her when it is provided—even if it’s just changing the oil in your car, cutting the grass, or mopping the floor. Who couldn’t use a little more edification (Ephesians 4:29) where we are “caught” doing something right?

What say you?

Can My Spouse Have Friends of the Opposite Sex?

I happen to have the best friends in the whole wide world who love to provoke thought and debate about a variety of subjects. One such debate erupted some twenty years ago on the subject of appropriate friendships for your spouse to have, namely as it relates to gender. I, who have had close male friendships since elementary school, was quick to say that it was totally cool with me if my husband had friends of the opposite sex SO LONG as I knew these individuals myself, the vibes are good, and all conversations/activities are above board and often/usually include me. Also, my husband and I do not entertain friendships with those who were former romantic interests nor do we talk to friends of the opposite sex with regularity, as in daily, weekly, or even monthly. Additionally, we’d both have a raised eyebrow if either of us popped up with a TOTALLY new friend out of the blue—not because of work or church or some long-term shared recreation. Those are our rules, and every couple has to develop their own to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding. We’ve had no issues regarding friendships of the opposite sex because of our clear understanding on this matter. I happen to enjoy the perspectives of men and find that my friendships with males over the years have not compromised my values regarding fidelity and clear boundaries. As it turns out, at least two of my husband’s female friends (one who was a former co-worker and the other a home-girl) talk to me now far more than they ever talk to him. Likewise, one of my female friends from high school talks to my husband and sees him far more than she and I do because he spends 2 nights a week with her family (including husband and 3 kids) while on an out-of-town assignment. 

Twenty years ago, my two girlfriends felt the exact opposite of me on this matter of cross-gendered friendships. They were both “purists,” a word we began using then to describe their stance of absolute exclusivity when it came to interaction between their husbands and females. In short, this means the only female they believed their husbands should have friendship with was them. Period. We had quite a spirited debate that day, and I made NO headway with them. Fast-forward to today, and one of those girlfriends is now like me in her attitudes in that she routinely has lunches and meetings and business travel with males that she would have deemed inappropriate two decades ago. She laughs at the memory of how she used to think about this issue. The other girlfriend is still dug-in on her position that her husband is not allowed nor will he ever be allowed to have a female friend or companion of any kind, anywhere—not at work, church, or the neighborhood; not a lunch meeting, not a tennis partner, not a..well..nothing! She struggles to understand why there would ever be a need for a married person to kiss a person of the opposite sex on the cheek—just as a greeting of fondness. I’m thinking she’s from another planet on this one. 

By the way, if you’ve had issues of adultery in your marriage, I highly recommend against allowing friends of the opposite sex without EXPLICITLY CLEAR boundaries and rules regarding how you will be accountable to each other in order to re-build trust and protect the sanctity of your marriage. Depending on your circumstances, such cross-gendered contacts may need to be eliminated altogether unless your spouse is present or privy to the communication.

I'm Tired of Being Alone. Do I "Settle" for a Blue Collar Guy?

Wow! What a provocative question! Some of you have probably had a strong reaction already. I can just hear the sisters saying, “I tried that and it didn’t work out; I need someone who is my equal…I can do bad by myself.” OR they may say, “I don’t care if he collects trash as long as he’s good to me.” I can hear the brothers saying, “It’s plenty of good men out here, but sisters are turning their noses up at them, thinking they’re too good…they’re just too demanding!” Personally, I think there are 3 things that trip up the relationship between two people unequally yoked in educational and professional status, particularly when the woman is more advanced. 

The first is not about educational/professional differences at all, but rather about incompatible interests. It is usually par for the course that people with college degrees and beyond spend more time reading, participating in cultural activities, watching documentaries, traveling to far-reaching places, and eating diverse foods, and playing golf and tennis. Oftentimes these interests are incompatible with someone who is less educated or perhaps less exposed to such. Does this mean one lifestyle is BETTER than the other. Absolutely not! It’s simply different, and those incompatible interests may be the deal breaker rather than the socio-economic levels per se. If the interests are in sync along with the ability to articulate ideas and dreams, and the time spent together with friends, family, and each other is comfortable and enjoyable, the educational differences probably matter very little.

Secondly, a less educated/exposed guy with a woman he perceives is beyond him eventually seems to start feeling inadequate, even if the woman NEVER communicates such. Since men are hard-wired by God to be providers and to walk in headship, when they aren’t able to do that or feel that they can’t for various reasons (namely money or lack of knowledge/experience in certain areas), they may take it out on their women in passive-aggressive ways (e.g., not celebrating or minimizing her accomplishments, falling awfully silent when others are praising her, demonstrating irrational anger that is unprovoked, not showing up to support her moments of glory). Does this mean he shouldn’t be with her? Maybe. It definitely means he’s behaving with immaturity. It also means he needs to grow and challenge himself (not in competition with her but in competition with himself). If not, the game of “hateration” will get really old for her, and he will become really uninteresting to her. It’s very sexy to see a man operating with VISION for his growth—spiritual, occupational, and financial. Unfortunately, a woman often tries to jump in and help develop that vision, and that just makes it worse for him, It becomes evidence of a lack of confidence in him (which may be justified), and his resentment may grow. 

Thirdly, women get caught up in the idea of changing a man (i.e., falling in love with his potential). Ooh, famous last words. Women have to realize that the man you fell for, the one you chose from all the rest, who wasn’t as articulate or polished as you were, is not likely to become someone he wasn’t designed to become or doesn’t DESIRE to be. She may have actually fallen for him because he was comfortable in his own skin AS HE WAS. So if a woman wants a man who sits in the board room and has an impressive title (nothing wrong with that by the way if he’s loving, faithful, and kind), make sure that’s who he was when the relationship began. If he wasn’t already WALKING in that lifestyle from the outset or DEMONSTRABLY pursuing it, then what one sees TODAY may be all one gets. Women have to decide if that’s a good thing or not, but by all means they need to understand the need to proceed with caution when falling in love with potential. It usually puts debilitating pressure on the man and woman in the relationship because she attaches herself to his future (which only GOD can predict), while he’s attached to how he’s living and breathing in the present. AND by the way, men usually get very content or complacent, shall we say, AFTER marriage when the chase or need to impress is over.

Just as an aside, for those of you who may be thinking, “Well look at Barak Obama…he was making less than Michelle, and he was only ‘a potential’ when she met him”—just chew on this: He had a LAW DEGREE from HARVARD where he was already known as a trailblazer. That was not potential; that was FACT! 

What are your thoughts?

Blog Stats

  • Total posts(15)
  • Total comments(1)

Forgot your password?