March 13, 2010

A Dad's Advice, Good or Bad, Part 1

My Children and my Children soon-to-be, this is my gift to you. I pray it blesses you as much as it has me in writing it.

In the past 12 months, all four of you (both couples) have made significant decisions and gotten engaged to wonderful partners. As a dad/dad-inlaw-to-be, I offer you the benefit of some of my experience. Sorta words of wisdom that, if you follow, will enrich your marital lives. Given your independent spirits, however, I figure you probably won't, but that's all right. Everyone must make his/her own mistakes. I'm confident you'll overcome yours.

Passing to you what I've learned serves two purposes for me. It's the chance to examine exactly what I really have learned, if anything, in the 35 years YourMotherMyLove and I have been married. Additionally, it makes me feel I've maybe added to your future happiness. Some of these things, I've practiced; some, I haven't as much as I should have.

YourMotherMyLove may have other views on some of this, and some of it you may already know. But that doesn't make it less valid. I do wish someone had offered me similar advice when I was young. As I counseled you, Son and Daughter, numerous times through the years, take the good parts of this advice and use them, and throw away the rest. Keep in mind, too, that "anything free is worth exactly what you pay for it." That goes for advice. So, here goes. Indulge me.

In no particular order, these are 20 things I want to tell you before you recite your vows:

1. If you have doubts or misgivings re your upcoming nuptials, now is the time to sort 'em out with your soon-to-be-lifelong partners. It's okay to be nervous. But if you're terrified, something may not be right. Remember, until the "I do," the "I'm not sure" is okay.

2. Marriage is forever. If you think, "Well, if it doesn't work, I can always get a divorce," You will be the main reason for your ultimate heartache and misery.

3. Unless you're living in a cardboard box on skid row, money is not a valid reason to put off starting a family. For such a life-altering decision, certainly you need to use the good sense God gave you. Unless you discover a way to make unlimited energy from toejam and bellybutton lint, however, odds are against you ever being rich. So, if you want children, have them. If you wait for the perfect time moneywise, kids never will happen.

4. Speaking of money.... It's true that the buck is the main cause of many, many husband/wife fights. I suggest you and your intended begin talking yesterday about how you handle the family finances. No single approach is the best. YourMotherMyLove and I share a single checkbook; all our accounts are joint; we have no secrets. However, every couple is different. You all must find what works for you.

5. Daughters, no matter how close you and your husbands-to-be are, emotions are usually not one of a man's strengths. Telling him "You should have known" is not really fair. The majority of men lack that talent; we can only guess at what you're thinking. "You should have known" from your lips becomes "You should have read my mind" in his ears. Daughters, be specific with your man -- and be assured that, no matter what, he loves you more than anything.

6. Sons, your wives-to-be are beautiful, intelligent and loving. Cherish them for those virtues. Like most women, they think/act from their hearts first. Detached logic generally is not a consideration. So, be patient when what you think is common-sense reason doesn't take, and you don't understand why. Value your wife for her differences. Give her time, and know that she loves you with her whole being, no matter what.

7. Talk about things. I realize not each of you is comfortable sitting down and discussing problems or concerns. However, good communication is a vital aspect of any relationship. So, all of you, work at it; don't be afraid to talk to your spouses at any time about anything, both positive and negative. The temporary discomfort a discussion may cause you is infinitely better than what no discussion may cause. And, believe me, it'll get easier the more you talk.

8. Do not leave feelings unexpressed and suppressed. They can blow up like a hand grenade and cause just as much pain. If any one of you screws up, neither you nor your spouse can be forgiven, or forgive, when you don't know what you've done.

9. Jealousy, true jealousy, the green-eyed monster kind, is an insidious emotion. It may start out as cute, endearing and a bit charming, maybe even seen as manifestation of your spouse's intense and "true" love. It quickly can go south, though, and become suspicious and destructive. One partner's unjustified insecurity in the other's love can morph into possessiveness, mistrust and hatefulness. Don't fall into this trap.  If either you or your future mates lean toward jealous, you might want to start talking about it.
To be continued...

A Dad's Advice, Good or Bad, Part 2

Here, Kids, as they say, is the rrrest of the story:

10. An admiring glance at the opposite sex is not the same as  having an affair. Now, now if your spouse fawns over a hot member of the opposite sex and ignores you at a party, say, that's different. But don't anticipate it. Just lovingly deal with it if it arises. There are some awfully nice ways to ensure your spouse only has eyes for you. Use your imagination, and find them.

11. I have a card hanging on my office wall that says, "Unless it's fatal, it's no big deal." We could avoid a lot of needless unpleasantness if YourMotherMyLove and I always kept that in mind. Dirty socks on the living room floor or pantyhose on the shower rod are nothing compared to a spouses' health, for example. My advice to you is, don't sweat the small stuff.

12. I'll be blunt. Sex is very important in a marital relationship, both for the husband and the wife, though perhaps from different perspectives. Guys tend to be on the wham-bam-snore side of the ledger, while gals appreciate a more leisurely approach. We all know that. Less generally known is how differently guys and gals tend to view such intimacy. Again, talk to each other about your expectations.

I've read that men believe the physical sex act is evidence of their mates' love for them. On the other hand, I've read women are more likely to see view everyday interactions in their marital relationship as evidence of their husbands' love. I imagine both are at least partly true. So, Sons and Daughters, I urge you to consider your spouse's perspective and make adjustments in your, shall I say, "instinctual" tendencies re your sexual relationship.

13. As a corollary to that, guys often feel they must "perform" in bed. So, they put pressure on themselves. When that happens, sometimes certain things don't happen, if you catch my drift. Performance anxiety is self-centered, Guys. What happens, happens. It isn't the end of the world. Focus on her. You'll both benefit.

14. I believe too many couples today mistake hormone-driven lust for love. After the first rush of desire abates, whether it's six months or 20 years, modern couples often "fall out of love." As that tide of desire ebbs (sounds like a romance novel), I urge you all to make an effort to keep your romance alive. I've not done as good a job on that as I might have, but we've managed to keep our love warm. Maybe it's not as hot and nasty as it once was, but it's as hot and nasty once as it ever was.

15. When the sex runs its course -- it may never, but it might -- your best friend, soulmate, confidant and loving partner in life still will be by your side. Remember that, an, treasure him/her now in the small things.

16. Like love, conflict is a component of marriage. Two of you have seen YourMotherMyLove and I disagree pretty loudly over the years. Early on, we'd decided hiding or suppressing marital conflict was unhealthy. You'll surely experience similar conflicts in your marriages. My advice? Don't let your stubbornness and pride get in the way of your love. Don't be afraid to lose an argument once in a while. Don't think shutting up is defeat. (This, I need to work on!) Respect one another.

17. The preceding said, "For better or for worse" only goes so far when it comes to marital violence. Striking, abusing or afflicting your mate in any way must not be ignored. If it ever occurs, get help! It is unjustifiable and a symptom of deeper, dark problem. None of you must tolerate it -- ever!

18. YourMotherMyLove and I believe marriage is for life. We know love is caring for someone else more than for yourself. Honestly, I don't think anyone can do that 24/7, because we're all selfish creatures. I know I can't, but it's what I strive for. I can say truthfully that I've never once -- not once -- wished that I had not married YourMotherMyLove. No regrets. I wish you the same.

19. I'm sure you know marriage is not all hearts and flowers. Trite but true, marriage is hard work. Your mate is your love, whom you chose. Treasure him/her, and be positive. Spouses are human and make mistakes. But expect their best, and they'll seldom disappoint. After all, they love you!

20. Finally but most importantly, raising a family today is a daunting job. Waiting until children are "old enough" to bring God (or religion, spirituality or whatever you want to call it) into their lives is a dangerous gamble. YourMotherMyLove and I believe all children question their spiritual beliefs, raised in a spiritual home or not. Waiting until they can "decide for themselves" to introduce them to God may deprive them of a strong moral foundation. Please don't lock God in your marriage closet. (That's today's sermon....)

You know we wouldn't trade anything for you kids. You, Son and Daughter, are our dearest treasures. Son- and Daughter-inlaw-to-be, now your are, as well. By the same token, I wouldn't take all the money on earth for one fewer day with YourMotherMyLove. Does that make our marriage successful? I think so. I pray that in yours, the four of you are as blessed.

...Then, maybe we all can dance!