Sunday, March 26, 2017

Owner's Manual (A Girl's Guide For The Man In Her Life)


Whenever something new is brought home, the first thing you see when opening the package is the owner’s manual. The manufacturer has carefully provided instructions on how to take care of, maintain and get the most use and enjoyment out of your new find. Unfortunately, sometimes the instructions we need the most pertain to the upkeep and support of our partner. Wouldn’t it be great if they were supplied on the first date?

I will say up front that I am certainly not an expert. However, I do believe I have learned a few things over the years (some the hard way). I also do not intend to suggest that these apply to all men. And let me be clear, this is not intended to degrade men or reduce them to ‘property’ to be handled. This is just meant to be a light read, hopefully providing some insight and direction. If you have been blessed with a partner who has chosen to go through life with only you, the very least you can do is try to understand how he operates. If you are still waiting, you will be a step ahead of the game when he arrives!

So let’s go.

SAFETY

“For your safety, it is recommended that you do not walk/stand/delay in front of the TV during the game/race/favorite show or while he is trying to kill the enemy.”  Some men really enjoy their sporting events and gaming time. And within reason, this is perfectly ok. Just like we want to spend time chatting with our friends, reading a book or working on a hobby, they like to relax in front of the TV and unwind. And even though it is tempting because they may be quiet and still, this is NOT the time to try and have a serious conversation. Forcing a talk in the middle of his downtime will not result in the type of communication you are looking for. Respect this time-out for him and let him enjoy it. He will then be open and available both mentally and physically for you later.

ASSEMBLY

“Accept his idea of dressing up may be clean underwear.” Now there are some men who love to dress up. But the average guy does not put the same time and effort into his appearance as we do. Their ‘assembly’ time is often a shower, jeans and a T-shirt. But you know what? You are with him because you are attracted to him; even in jeans and a T-shirt. So if they are spending time with you, taking you out and showing you off, cut them some slack in the ensemble department. You absolutely want them to look appropriate for a special function or family dinner, but stop short of laying out his clothes or criticizing his choices.  Your man is not a full-size Ken doll that needs your help dressing.  

INSTALLATION

“Install belief in his abilities as a provider and protector.” The biggest need for a man is to believe his woman is proud of him and can depend on him. It may seem archaic, but it is still true. Men thrive on being the hunter and the gatherer. They spend their lives for the moment to prove they can defend you. Today’s world and society make these simplistic statements more challenging to actuate, but you must do your part. You do not have to be weak to praise his strength. You do not have to be destitute to applaud his contribution. Plant encouragement and invest words of affirmation in your man. You will be amazed at the results.  

As an added note; do not criticize or belittle your man when he is trying to help. If he is cooking dinner or cleaning the bathroom and it is not quite up to your standards…. zip it! Be THANKFUL he is helping. It is ok to discuss preferences and expectations, but do not talk down to or make fun of your man’s efforts. Any bruise to his ego/pride will trickle down to damage his view of your acceptance of him and the relationship.

MAINTENANCE

“A steady regiment of love and support is suggested for smooth operation.” You want to be told ‘I love you’. Or get texts for no reasons. Or surprised with a little thoughtful gift.  Your man does too.  Guys love romantic gestures even if they don’t want to admit it or know how to ask for it. Take his turn for a chore. Let him sleep late occasionally. Slip a love note into his lunch or backpack or car visor. Brag on him in front of your friends or family. Let him know he is the best thing in the world that ever happened to you. Little doses of love every day will keep the relationship running in top shape. And remember to take little getaways for that extra dose of regular ‘affection maintenance’. Whether it is a day date or a weekend trip, create intimacy and make memories to store in your love log.

And speaking of intimacy, it is not a bargaining tool. Physical touch is very high on a guy’s ‘must have’ list. Understand this. Appreciate that he wants it only from you. Meet this need. Trust him. He will never feel the urge to look elsewhere if you rock his world.

PROGRAMMING

I thought about not including this topic. Because I’m against it in theory. But that was all the more reason to talk about it. Programming, by definition, is taking something and making it do what you want; when you want. That’s great for TVs, iPhones and DVRs. But it isn’t so great for people. Sure, you might succeed in programming your guy. Bribes. Threats. Manipulation. They can learn to produce an expected result based on passed punishments. But this is counter-productive to long term happiness. Ladies, a good man will want to make you happy. If you communicate about what makes you happy, he will try. When he gets it right…. you reward. This creates a cycle of positive re-occurrences. Treat him like you want to be treated. It’s usually just quite that simple.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

There are many things that can go wrong over time. No one is perfect. Both people get caught up in life and problems and start to neglect each other and the relationship. Little things (and big) are forgotten and disagreements escalate. The worse mistake you can make is to turn away from the relationship for help. Even well-intentioned friends and family are not the right resource. You need to re-connect with each other. Slow down. Start to really see each other again. Talk again. Meet needs again. When feelings get hurt, this is not easy. But walking away from the relationship defeats all the time and energy put into it.

WARRANTY

“No Refund for Factory Defects“ Unfortunately, we cannot return a bad relationship for a refund. And exchanges are sometimes even worse! There are simply no guarantees. Some people, men and women, are just damaged and unable to give or receive love. I do believe however, they are few in number. I am convinced that most people desire and will work towards a healthy relationship with a loving partner. With love and respect on both sides, there is no reason why a successful partnership cannot grow and run for many years; even a lifetime.

I hope this was helpful to someone. It is true that men and women are quite different. I’ve questioned the reason for this from time to time myself; but I have decided to trust the Designer. In the meantime, the better we understand and accept our partner’s unique needs and traits, the more valuable we become to them. And most people hold onto things (and people) of value.

Next week I will turn the table and explore a User Manual For Women! Until then…


Hope Out!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life Is A Highway (Part 2)

AKA
Love Is A Two Way Street

(This phrase is a flawed analogy.  A two-way street literally means each car is traveling in opposite directions. Which is very much not what love should be. But it sounds catchy and works for my title. Flawed and all. )

If you are keeping score (and someone was); I missed last week. My apologies. I hit a bump in the road. (Get it.. J ) But I have restored order and am now back on track. And speaking of track, today we are going to continue our discussion of road signs.  The kind of road signs one might encounter when traveling down the very winding and often times slippery Freeway of Love.

Fasten your seat belts, here we go.


Merge – So there you are driving along, minding your own business, not texting, not speeding, just 10 and 3 and rolling. When seemingly out of nowhere, another road appears. With another car and a sign. At some point in the very near future the two roads will merge into one and the cars will now be traveling together; possibly side by side. In order for the merge to be fluid, one of the cars (or both) has to adjust its position to allow room for the other.  You cannot force a merge though. It only takes place when the two roads meet at just the right spot. Timing is also an important factor. A move too soon will disrupt the flow of traffic. If you wait too long, the road runs out. If not done correctly, a merge can easily turn into a collision or a missed opportunity.

Sometimes love happens like that too. When you least expect it. Just cruising along enjoying life’s scenery. You notice someone who is traveling in the same direction that you are. Heading towards a similar destination. And it seems like a good idea to blend the two journeys. Share the road. Just remember, you can’t force love either. When someone new joins your journey, it should be seamless and easy. The timing should also line up. Connecting too quickly can slow your life’s forward progress. But if you see a great opening, go for it. Don’t let fear of the merge stop you with nowhere else to go.


Speed Limit – There is a reason why the speed limit is lower within the city limits. There are stop lights in the city with other cars going in many directions. And it is good idea to start slow when the light turns green. Punching the gas can damage your car and put you at risk.  Every new relationship has its own first green light. The speed at take off should be slow and cautious. Starting quickly in a budding relationship is tempting and sounds fun and exciting, but it is often not a good idea.

The two of you need time to figure each other out. Determine your interests and goals and chemistry. There are still other cars around. Are you sure you want to leave all the other cars behind and just travel with this one? That is not a decision to take lightly. Plus it is hard on your engine (heart) to push it too hard after it has been in a stopped position for a while. And just like you can’t force a merge, you can’t rush your heart. Blindly speeding into a committed relationship can show a lack of focus and true companionship and sometimes just appears to be a desire to escape being alone. This is not a good combination. Steer your way slowly through the first couple of green lights and the other traffic and if the two of you are still together when you hit the open road, then hit the throttle and see where it leads!


Yield – Now one might think that Merge and Yield are the same thing. And while they are quite similar, they are not the same. Most of the time merging does not require you to stop. You just move smoothly into the flow of traffic. However, quite often you do find yourself at a stop when yielding. To yield means that someone else has the right of way. They get to go first, and you follow afterward. When traveling, sometimes you have to yield, and sometimes you get to go first! Can you see where I’m heading with this??

No one person in a relationship should always be yielding. While it is great to put the interest of your partner ahead of yours, if only one is doing that, it is unfair and an unstable arrangement.  If you find yourself always yielding, try speaking up. I am not suggesting being cruel or abrasive. However, your opinion counts. Your ideas matter. Your wants are important. Maybe there is a pattern that has developed out of habit over time. If so, this habit needs to be broken so you can go first occasionally. If your partner refuses to let this happen, you should find the next exit and take it; quickly.

Now here is the flip side. If YOU are the one always going first, then you should re-examine your own habits. Some individuals are people pleasers and will try to go along to get along.  They don’t want to suffer the consequences of displeasing you. But just because someone always agrees with you, doesn’t mean they always agree with you. (Read that again.) This is a good recipe for resentment. Be thoughtful and considerate of your partner’s needs and desires. If you are in a relationship with them, surely you know what they are. Let them go first, pick, decide.  I promise the reward will be worth not going first.


Dead End  - So here’s the thing about a dead end road. If there is a sign that says Dead End, you know what’s eventually ahead of you. Some dead end roads have turn around spots before you reach the end, but some just keep going and going until the road just simply runs out.


The term ‘dead end’ seems to have originated in ancient Greece as a military defense terminology. They would create ‘dead end’ pathways and lure the enemy onto them. When there was nowhere else to go, they would be attacked from the rear and destroyed (dead).

Now I’m not saying that people in dead end relationships were lured there with mal intent, but the result can feel just as painful. And while an ambush is unlikely, the warning signs were there and at least one of you knew it was going nowhere. What are those signs? Dating someone who is still involved with another or not completely over their ex. Dating someone with vastly different values or ideals. Dating someone who is abusive or cheats. Dating someone you do not respect or who does not respect you. The list is long and could be a separate blog post, but you get my point. Life is too short and your heart is too precious to waste traveling down a road that only holds ruin and despair. It is far better to continue to travel alone than risk even a short detour down this path.

So there we have it. A collection of road signs. We see them every day. Heed them for safe travels. Ignore them and accept the consequences. Life and love are the same way. The world today is full of information and advice and resources. There is no excuse for traveling blindly on this journey. Learn to read and trust the signs in front of you. Now….

Roll the windows down.

Crank up the music.

Drive down life’s highway and enjoy every minute, twist and turn!


Hope Out!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Life Is A Highway (Part 1)


That, of course, is the title of a Rascal Flatt’s song. My favorite life/highway/song analogy is actually too long for a blog title, but it is my life’s theme song. The Eagle’s “Take It To The Limit”. The chorus reads..

“So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time….”

That just speaks to me about determination and courage and going full speed in the direction of your dreams. That actually is not the theme for today’s blog (but maybe soon). Today, however, I do want to talk about signs; road signs specifically.  Travel down any highway and you will see a variety of signs. Warning Signs. Direction Signs. Instructional Signs.  If we pay attention, they will help us avoid trouble on the road. If we ignore them, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.  We can also learn some lessons from these road signs to navigate down life’s highway. So let’s go!

A U-Turn is made when we no longer wish to proceed forward but believe we should go back to where we were. That’s ok if you took a wrong exit. But SO not ok if fear is driving you. We have to decide to stop dwelling in the past. And if you haven’t come to that conclusion yet, do it right now. It doesn’t matter if your past was great or horrible, you do not live there anymore. It is scary to drive down a road we’ve never been before. It can feel like we are lost. It is tempting to want to return what it is familiar. Even if the familiar wasn’t all that good. But there is no turning back. We can be grateful for the good times and learn from the bad, but we have to keep moving forward and ahead. That is where your future and your dreams are. 


Ignoring this sign will set you up on a collision course. What are some of the thoughts you need to stop today? Negativity that creeps in and whispers in your ear? Nonsense that drags you down and chokes out your happiness? It is time to hit the brakes. Slam down the insecurities. Erect a mental road block to self-hate. Why do we crave to hear we are beautiful, smart, talented and capable and then when we do, we still doubt it? We become skeptical and dubious of the very traits we do in fact embody. I don’t know if it is a learned response or generational. We are much more likely to believe the foolishness we tell ourselves than the truth we hear from others. We truly must heed this sign and just STOP. This one can be difficult. The tape recorder (or maybe nowadays, iPod) in our heads is set on repeat. But even the iPod has a stop button. My wish is for everyone reading this to believe in their worth, their radiance and their undeniable presence in this world.   


Oh you’ve been there. So have I. And most likely that sign was right there and we drove right by it. Whether it was a financial decision or a bad relationship, we knew we were heading straight for disaster and yet continued full speed ahead. Then we have the nerve to ask ‘why me’? I heard a radio advice host give this analogy. A woman was asking why she always attracted the wrong guy; whether it was a cheater, a drinker, an abuser. The radio host very candidly explained the woman wasn’t attracting the wrong guys, she was choosing the wrong guys. The difference is the verb. One is passive/victim. The other is decisive/intentional. Do you get that? That is a powerful concept. Most of the people in our lives are there by our invitation. Be careful who you send an invite to. If you see the Wrong Way sign, and you go anyway, a crash is soon to follow. Heed the warning. Don’t go down that road.

I am about 50/50 on this one. I couldn’t decide if this was a negative or a positive. Depending on the circumstance, it can be both. If we have a set path and are cruising along with a plan, a detour can cause delays. It can even make us miss our intended exit. We should never hijack our progress by chasing a rabbit trail down to a dead end. Unfortunately, sometimes detours come out of nowhere and we have no choice. During those times, we have to remain patient and focused on when we can return to our journey.  However, it is also true that we can get in a rut and speed through life without stopping to enjoy it. That is tragic. So occasionally, a little side trip or break from the fast pace can be refreshing and invigorating. To see or experience a different landscape to get a new perspective.  Getting lost on a back road to unwind and relax. Those types of detours are highly recommended.

Life truly is like a highway. We have a starting point and a destination. We can be reckless and take off without a map or supplies and ignore the signs around us. That might seem like fun at first, and it surely can create some adventures. But it rarely leads to your goal and often times ends in a blowout. At some point along the way, we must all chart our course. We need guidance and tools and mostly we need to trust our instincts, our heart and obey the signs put out along the way.

So the next time you are driving and see one of these signs, take a minute to reflect on where you are in your life’s journey. How can you apply that road sign to make your soul travels smoother?

Next week, we will look at more traffic signs. The ones that can make your relationships easier to navigate. Until then…..


Hope Out