Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Expectations

Ok. Here it is. This is the secret weapon for making a great relationship. Works with husbands, wives, kids, family, neighbors, groundhogs, squirrels and rabbits.
No expectations. Hope, but not expectations. Seriously. As men, we notoriously assume everyone will respond certain ways to certain actions. We communicate slightly better than cavemen. Grunt, sniff, grunt. Right? We build up expectations and get stressed out when they don't happen. Try this and see if it works. I will list some scenarios, what logically should happen afterward?
You wash dishes without being asked, your wife should......
You change the oil, brakes, wipers, etc. on her car, she should......
You take her out to a fancy restaurant for her favorite dinner, she should......
You open the car door for her, she should.....
You paint the entire house whatever color she wants, she should.....
You buy her a Ferrari, she should......
Let me make it easy for you. Take the "she should" off every sentence. If you even tried to finish those sentences, you are living with expectations. We do those things for our wives because we love them, not because we want it to cause something to happen.
If you tried to finish them, I can assume your marriage is struggling in a few areas. I would bet money you rate the relationship higher that she would on a scale of 1 to 10. Without being psychic, I could probably describe a lot of things in the way you both communicate.
I am not bashing you. Calm down. Keep reading. This was probably the single most powerful thing I learned during three very hard years. No expectations. Give her the grace to respond whenever and however she wants. If she chooses to avoid a response altogether, accept it and move on.
During the worst part of our crashing marriage, she refused to acknowledge anything I did for her. Washing cars, painting the house, the weekly gifts, the glass of ice water by the bed for her every night, the special dinners. Nothing. She was mad at me and refused to give me any encouragement. I deserved it. I know. I was a jackass. But, it worked. Not on her, on me. It took the pressure off of me. It changed the rules completely. I was not performing and looking for my applause. I wasn't making deposits in an account I couldn't withdraw. I was learning to love my wife by choice. I was learning to love her even if she didn't love be back. I was getting smarted. I was understanding an aspect of Christ that never made sense to me. He died for a pack of backstabbing losers who did nothing to save him. He gave up unlimited power and freedom to love us and do what was best for us.
That's the real goal anyway, to be Christlike. He loved us before we loved him. So, love your wife no matter how she responds. Put on the big boy pants and man up. No pouting.
It will not change you or her overnight. It will change you long before it changes her. But it will.
Now I have to work on applying this to my kids. Especially the teenager.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Serial Killer

Pretty random, yet scary title for a blog like this. Huh? I made an offhand comment today that stuck with me. Kinda like someone intelligent had said it and it stuck. Weird.
I talking with a younger guy about why I am writing these, I needed a comparable analogy. I am like a reformed serial killer helping stop other killers. Cue the dramatic music. He thought that was a little intense. Seemed too much to me after I said it. But after stewing on it all day, I don't think so.
A great pastor once told me that every problem in the world is the result of a man not doing what he should have done. Adam in the garden kicked that one off.
Every one from my generation was driven to blame our parents for our problems. If they had been better, we would have been better. Right? Well? But what about them? Doesn't that mean the same logic works for them? How can we blame them if their parents were messed up? Where does it stop? Who ends up with the blame? I think it has to just turn around and be us. I think I am the problem. My family made mistakes. My parents made some bad decisions. Some of that established certain patterns in me to continue making bad decisions. Ok. But when do I get credit for my choices? Do they get credit for my success and failure? Do we get to pick and choose? What if we just put on our big boy pants and decided to accept our failures, apologize for our mistakes, own our situations and let go of things that hold us back?
Kathy Davisson (BestMarriage.com) looked me in the eye in August of 2010 and told me I could just let go of my past. Really. My wife had been telling me that for 20 years. Never heard her. I always felt obligated to carry all that crap until it was resolved. That day, I just let it go. Freedom. No emotional attachment to all the hurt and stupid junk from the past. Just like that. I will get into that more on another post.
My point? I had become an angry, dark, scary person because of all the crap built up in my head. I had become abusive, neglectful, immoral and mean. I had almost chased away my family. I pushed my amazing wife to exhaustion. Pushed her to the breaking point where divorce became the only rational option. I was killing my family and destroying my own life. The great part was how contagious my attitude was. I was contaminating my friends and family with that garbage. Even though no one ended up in the morgue, I was killing the people I loved.
If anyone comes to their senses and understands that they can become a better husband and father through all this, it's worth it. I feel a moral obligation to pass on some encouragement to the dying families out there. There is hope for your family. Talk to your wife. Start dating her again. Start learning all about her again. Learn to love her the way she needs to be loved. Stop the madness. Stop passing your issues on to your kids. They need to see you in love. They need to heal. Go ahead. Start now.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Consistency

Being the ADD infested scatterbrained meathead I tend to be, consistency in my world usually means making the same mistakes over and over. I have a fear and simultaneous dependency on routine. I hate being able to know what I will be doing every day. Monotony makes me kinda crazy. But, as naturally unorganized as I am, I need some form of routine.
During our counseling sessions, I learned that our wives like routine a little more than we do, usually.  They like stability. They like knowing that their world is somewhat in order and slightly predictable. We are more prone to doing stupid, random things without giving it much thought. I guess that's why women live longer.
My wife needs to know she can depend on me. She needs to know that I will really be there for her. Not just when something traumatic happens, but in the small things. If we can't put down a remote when she wants a lightbulb changed, will we really climb the highest mountain for her? Don't make her ask twice. Just take care of her minute by minute.
One of the most powerful things I learned was about creating positive expectations. What does she think you will do? What does she expect from you? What's your credit like with her? Joel and Kathy at BestMarriage.com suggested a small gift every week. Nothing big or expensive. Just something. After doing it for a few weeks, it became a card, a candle and candy. I spent about $10-$15 every week on this, did it every week. Got my paycheck on Friday, went to the bank after work, picked up her gift. I left them on her dresser by the bed without even mentioning them. We were in the middle of the divorce process at the time, more of a challenge than you should have with this. About six months into it, she thanked me for the candy. A few months later, she mentioned that the candle was nice. Almost a year later, she actually thanked me for her gifts. About this time, I missed a week. Something stupid happened, worked late, had to pick up the kids and dinner... Totally forgot. She was disappointed. Asked where her card and candle were. Not upset, just curious. I apologized and told her I forgot. She said it was ok, no big deal. Then I mentioned it was the first time in a year. She was shocked. "Really?" She honestly had no idea it was going on that long.
What happened? I had created positive expectations. She started looking forward to coming home on Friday and finding those gifts. She had found something positive in my routine. Before, all she knew to expect from me was the same stupid, selfish, oblivious and childish crap I always did. She expected me to find a hundred other distractions instead of being with her and the kids. I was a butthead. As of now, I am a recovering butthead. Still a long way to go.
Money got tight, had a few really bad months, couldn't even cover the $10 gift for a while. She said it didn't really matter. When I can do it, they are still there. But, her attitude towards me changed dramatically over that tiny thing. It's just a small thing to us, but it's huge to them. To them we have found a way to create anticipation again. The kind that we had during the dating days. When we talked for hours on the phone until we could see each other again.
If you have consistently proven that she is not important to you, change the habit. Start proving it to her again. Don't be a butthead.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Questioning our priorities

I know I just posted a few hours ago, can't help it. Feeling the need for a tirade.
Priorities. Yes, plural. Get past that. The most important issues, people, missions, things in my life. My priorities are my family, my faith, my health. ( none of those have a great track record for proof, but this is a journey I am on )
As Christian, married men.... What do we tell everyone is most important? God first, then family, then church or golf or whatever. We tell people that until we believe it, but is it really true? I can guarantee you that every married, Christian man has made two covenants in his life with witnesses. He has given his life to Christ and become a Christian with all that is required and expected. He has also committed to love a certain woman through any situation or condition forever above every other person alive. So. Are we getting either one right?
We spent years trying to put those two covenants in the same life as the traditional submissive wife teachings. They don't fit together. We have gotten off track. I personally know a ridiculous number of men who would rip out a kidney to save a stranger, but wouldn't wash dishes at home to save their life. Their wife has a place to be in, the kitchen or laundry room or the bedroom. We have been conditioned to follow the great commission to save the world, but treat our wives like servants. Our wives know something is wrong with this, but they don't know what. We know something is wrong, but it benefits us, so why mess with it? Right?
Here's the problem. Use all the submission scriptures you want, put them in any context, any order or any language you want. Convince yourself they are absolutes in the order of the universe. Ready?
Then compare them to this one. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. Stop shaking your head. Stop making excuses and arguments. Listen.

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.

He didn't just die. He have up his life, his potential, his desires, maybe even his dreams; just to do what was best for us. He pushed aside the whole world and all he could have had to take care of us. He faced the Roman army, the Jewish leaders, the backstabbing followers, the torture, the cross, the grave, hell itself to to save us. But you can't fold laundry or walk away from a conversations when your wife is waiting. You can't call if you are going to be late. You can't take the time to figure out who she is and what she likes. What flowers does she like? Favorite food, color, season, memory, dress, anything? I am angry at myself over this, too. I didn't get it either. Twenty years. I drug her around, neglected her, ignored her, treated her like meat, objectified her and ultimately abused her. Once I understood what was happening, it shook my world. We have been deceived. That woman who has patiently put up with your crap for all these years deserves much, much better.
Comment, complain, curse, cry.... Whatever. We have to do better for our wives.
Go to this site, register and start reading. Best Marriage forums and calls now, seriously.
These guys saved my family. They opened my eyes to what I had become and why my wife was done with me. We are a success story. Just over three years later, happier than the first year together. It's real and you can have it. Click the link, get involved. Save your family.
Ok. Done with the soapbox for now.

Motivation

Wish I was better at remembering details sometimes. (Blame it on my ADD baby) I don't know who said this, but it was great.
"People say motivation doesn't last. Well. Neither do showers, that's why we do it again."
I have to re-motivate myself constantly. Very short attention span, almost like a goldfish. Easily distracted. As a guy, I also gravitate towards selfish, immature decisions. Classic double minded man, tossed around with every wind and wave. Always pursuing things that seem important at the time, but worthless in hindsight.
I have gotten myself committed to so many events, projects, missions, ministries over the years that selfishly demanded every minute of my life. People will gladly milk the best of your time and leave your family the scraps if you let them. If YOU let them. I have been awful at saying "no" when someone asked me for help. Or convinced me of how important, special, necessary or irreplaceable I was to whatever they were doing. I was bad about giving myself to these people and projects, none of which are a part of my life at all now. I did it. I made those choices. I gave the best of myself away and left my family with someone they never saw. Over a ten year stretch, I got angry. I felt it was their fault. They didn't hold up their end of the deal. They screwed me. I became dark and distant. My sarcastic sense of humor became snide remarks and complaining. My family suffered for it.
So. I became highly motivated to change overnight. Not because an angel spoke to me or because I am some amazing person. My wife had enough and wanted to leave me.
The strongest motivation for men to change, and maybe the only real one, is trauma. I honestly question myself as to whether or not I am wasting my time with this. I wouldn't change because anyone told me. I couldn't even hear my wife telling me to change.
Guys. Really. Listen to your wife. She sees things you can't see. She understands things you don't. She feels, discerns, intuitively understands things that blow right past us.
Motivate yourself. Pick your priority. Put her first. Do it daily.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Miserable

This has nothing to do with my journey towards being a better man. Just thoroughly distressed that my Atlanta Falcons just blew another trip to the Super Bowl. Honestly, never been so upset over a game. That's it for my whining session. Dang it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Humility

When my journey towards becoming a better man really started in May of 2011, I had a lot of work to do. A few months into it, my wife told me she saw humility. I never thought about that before. Apparently, I had become convinced that I knew pretty much everything and was always right. Normal guy stuff. Will not ask for directions, doesn't read instructions, says "I know" a lot, most things thought or spoken begin with "I" and have the ability to make most conversation revolve around us. Men, yeah.
So. Prior to that, I couldn't have told you the definition of humility. Or demonstrated it.
She said that it was the first real change she saw in me. Good start. During our 5 day marriage intensive ( BestMarriage.com ) we figured out that I had trained myself to argue with everyone. My first reaction was to resist anything I was told or accused or if anyone offered advice. The other big issues was specifically my reaction to my wife and other women. Many, many, many many of us men have become hard wired to resist or ignore or challenge anything spoken to us by a female. Serious problem if you are married. I guess just becoming aware of myself and my actions was all it took to start the change. It still isn't easy. Years of developing habits and attitudes like that don't change overnight. I still have to keep myself in check and make an effort to do the right thing. Still don't do it every time. Joel and Kathy teach that true change in people will probably take up to 3 years of consistently making better choices and decisions. Guess that's why Jesus took over 3 years to get the deciples to become great men of faith. We are retraining our brains to automatically do good.
So the challenge in this one is to listen to yourself. Think about how you respond to people. You might be surprised how you sound. Heck, get really bold. Ask your wife if you have become an arrogant, obnoxious, rude jackass. If she hesitates the answer is probably yes. It's not her fault, it's yours. Think about it. Pray about it. Pause before you react or respond to anything. Try it for a day and see what happens. Not gonna be easy. Sorry. But it's worth it. Maybe it really will take three years. So what? Those three years are going to pass either way. Might as well be making your family stronger along the way.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Knuckleheads

I am one. All you guys are too. Just admit it so we can move on. So, what do I mean by calling an entire gender, half the human race knuckleheads? Apparently, as men, we are only willing to consider change after facing trauma. Until something earth shattering threatens everything that matters to us, we will not for a moment consider we might be wrong. Prove it? Ok.
I married the perfect woman. She was everything I ever wanted and so much more than I ever dreamed I could have. Beautiful, witty, fun, always positive, always looking for the best in everyone, resilient to stress and quick to forgive. Gradually, over 20 years, I became an ogre. Not appreciating what I had. Blind to how blessed I was. Never satisfied, always complaining. I drove her away. She had all she could take. I had no idea that it was possible for me to be the bad guy. But I was. I was content to wander on just like I was until she informed me enough was enough. She couldn't live with me, she didn't love me or like me. We were not friends anymore and she didn't want to be. All she wanted was to not be married to me. Yes, she told me all that. Well.... I guess I had to do something.
Why didn't I see it sooner? Why did I let myself become a monster? Why couldn't I see what I was doing to my wife? Why did I wait until it was too late to change? No idea. Men are just knuckleheads.
Joel and Kathy ( BestMarriage.com ) suggested a book for me. Good husband, great marriage by Robert Mark Alter. Great book. Possibly my favorite book on marriage. It opened my eyes to so many things in our marriage that could be better. It showed me the game plan to make me a better man. Joel and Kathy also had me read their books, Man of Her Dreams, Woman of His. Awesome. They fixed the worst of the ugly in me and helped me understand my wife. We are doing good now, still married and making progress. But, the last 3 years were incredibly painful.
So why are we knuckleheads? Well. My closest friends know most of the story. They watched us struggle for 2 years. They knew I was sleeping in my basement for a year. They knew I was in so much pain at the thought of losing my family I couldn't eat. I lost 20 pounds in a month after getting the news. My friends watched me break down and cry in public. Some of them saw me collapse. Some saw me cry to the point of nosebleeds. Yeah. That bad. But when I try to talk to them about what it took to survive, the are kinda interested. When I invest in them and ship these books to them, they don't read them. They are going to wait for the trauma before considering change. I don't want anyone to hurt like we have. I guess it's like the line in the matrix... "No one can be told what the matrix is, you have to see it for yourself."
Humble yourself guys. Consider that, just maybe, you don't know everything. Let someone teach you something. Learn to listen. Everything can be better. Push to make your family awesome. Make them your priority. Love your wife the way she needs to be loved. Quit being a knucklehead.

Friday, January 11, 2013

His needs, her needs

I read the book. At the time, it seemed amazing. In hindsight, not really. If you cut it in half, maybe. Men's need? Seriously. Our needs are pretty similar to a dog. A pat on the head once in a while. Food, poop, a few toys and occasionally something similar to making out with a leg. Pretty simple.
Her needs are a little more involved. That part of the book was great. I didn't understand how important financial stability and my appearance mattered to my wife. Two areas I was not taking serious. Working on it now. Still kinda dumpy and not rich yet. But, I am aware of it and making changes for her. That also creates a stronger connection between us. She also needs respect. Pawing at our wives and making every conversation end with a breast comment or joke doesn't accomplish that.
The bottom line? Meet her needs... After you figure them out. They change over time... So you will always be learning what she needs. But.  Once her needs are being met and she feels loved and respected, her desire will gradually lean towards meeting ours. Really. These wonderful ladies God has given us are designed to respond to what is given to them. I really believe every man lives in the marriage he created. Love her, respect her, pursue her and you will have a strong, passionate marriage. Treat her like a dog and you will get bit. Grow up guys.

I can't take the pressure!

We have jobs and responsibilities. We have stuff we need to do. We have people who depend on us. We have people with expectations. We have stress. Yeah.
What makes it worse is that, as men, we all feel like we have something to prove. We have to be "the man!" We have to be a pillar of strength. We cannot make mistakes. Etc, etc, etc.
There is something hard wired into us that pushes us to achievement, to conquer, to constantly prove our worth to absolutely everyone we deal with. Why? Who knows.
Since meeting Joel and Kathy Davisson (great marriage.com) I have learned some utterly obvious stuff that I missed for over 20 years. Like... Prove yourself to her.
I got this huge break when I figured out I only have to be superman to my family. All those great soul cravings we carry as men are completely satisfied by conquering the needs in your own home.
Your wife and kids need your love, attention, protection, support, etc.  It's a huge relief to figure out that instead of working your butt off to make the whole world happy, you only have to make your wife and kids happy. Give them yourself. Learn them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Giving credit

I have had the privilege of sitting under or working with some great people since becoming a Christian. I have learned a lot from each of them. What I have learned under Joel and Kathy Davisson  has essentially given me a new and stronger foundation that ever before. BestMarriage.com will take you into their world. Not to be taken lightly. I don't think anyone just falls in love with their message, not easy for most guys to hear. But... It is the truth and it is saving families and marriages. Take a minute, go see for yourself.
BestMarriage.com

Saving my family

(Ok, last of recycled posts. This was from January 8th)

So, obviously I am new to the whole blogging concept. Be patient and I think you will find it's worth it. I have been married 23 years to the same amazing woman. We have 4 amazing kids. One was hers from before we met, the other 3 are ours. Ages are 11, 14, 22 and 28. They have probably taught me more than I ever taught them. They have repeatedly pushed me to be a better person. My wife is the same. An amazing lady with a big heart and love of life. Probably the most fun person I ever met. They are all much more than I deserve.
The crazy part is how I started out with every intention of being the perfect husband and father. My wife was the picture of everything I wanted in life. The kids made everything come together and make sense, they gave me purpose. Then, like most guys, lost my mind. Most of us take on careers to support our families, then gradually expect our families to support our career. We begin finding our purpose and meaning and identity in the work we do. I saw my work as me. I saw my accomplishments as my value. I expected my work to solve all our problems and supply all our needs. When it didn't, I got frustrated, my wife got frustrated and my kids got pushed aside. Somehow, my image of me being that great husband and father held on in spite of the obvious failure. I had been comparing myself to all the "losers" in our past. Compared to them, I thought I was a great guy. At least until my repeated failures pushed my attitude over the edge and I became the loser. I became angry and bitter. I blamed everyone for my problems. Anyone who ever hinted that they were going to to anything for me became an enemy if they didn't come through the way I wanted. I was killing myself with ridiculous expectations of how people should treat me and respond to me.
The big problem here is that most of the guys I know have a lot of this in them, too. As married Christian men, we have 2 legitimate covenants in our life... To our God and to our wife. Everyone else is supposed to fall in line behind those. Yep. My family has become my priority again. I am being remade and retrained to be a good guy. Sucks at first. Feel like a dog. Didn't like the process but loving the results. More later. 

So far, so........

(Another one, previously posted January 1, 2013)

Yeah. Almost 2 hours after telling everyone how great I expect 2013 to be, this happens. Hanging out with the kids, having a good evening... Pizza guy knocks on the door and tells me my car is on fire. Great. Most of my income is from reconditioning cars at dealerships. It requires carrying various equipment and chemicals in my car. Most are highly combustible. As you can see.
The car is paid for, nothing fancy but a great car. Really like my car. Insurance will not pay for it, the company I subcontract for won't pay for it. I can't pay for it. So, I get to clean it out, patch up the burned out windows, rip out the burned seats and drive it like this. 3 years ago, I would have lost my mind over this. Not stressed now.
After surviving all that has happened since 2009. I guess this is my starting point. How does someone get to the point where he can face trauma and stress without freaking out? Apparently, this is where the story chooses it's direction. Stay tuned. 

So it begins. Here comes 2013


(Originally posted 12-31-2012 through another site, moving here permanently)
New year, another new start. Plans include creating a blog here. I am notoriously inconsistent, so it may be great.... Might fizzle out. I am still in the process of becoming a good person. A lot of bad habits are fading away. Consistency, dependability, optimism, positive attitutude and generally likeable are part of the new plan. I will attempt to be open, honest and transparent as I work through this. Not expecting anyone to see me as some life coach or expert on doing things right. Just want to offer some encouragement and share some hard earned wisdom. I will also be open to other input and opinions. As of now, I am 42 years old, married 23 years.... Couldn't possibly know everything. But, what I have learned was always the hard way. 
Good start. Thanks for reading this far. Email me any thoughts or questions. Erikmatlock@hotmail.com