Or Were You Looking At The Woman In The Red Dress?

Arthur Dent: “You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

Ford Prefect: “Why, what did she tell you?”

Arthur: “I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

A couple interesting comments on Girl Thinking About Having Coffee With Plate Spinning Ex-Boyfriend. Obviously everyone was rolling their eyes at the Bride having an ex(?) Friend With Benefits as a groomsman. To her credit, Sparrow did try and warn the groom…

Sparrow:   This is the indirect warning.
Boy, “So, can you tell me anything about the guys my girlfriend was going out with?”
Me, “Well, you’re the first one I haven’t tried to warn her about.”
Please note: if you are the one bright moment in a dating history filled with sleazeballs, tread very, very carefully.

More directly?
A little while later, after all hanging out at an activity, girl is off flirting with this guy. (The guy works there). I mention to her boyfriend, “Um, don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but about your girlfriend – ”
Him, “I don’t want to hear it about my girlfriend.”
I gave up.

Anna:  Another example of a direct, last-ditch effort warning:
“Your fiance propositioned my husband last time he saw her, and flashed your best friend on Skype. She claims to be a sex addict on her blog. You’re a strong Christian and I know you don’t want to end up divorced. Hubs and I think she’ll have trouble staying faithful. She needs a lot more counseling if you still intend to marry her.”

Him, “She’s in a good church and has a great mentor. Does Hubs want to be a groomsman?”

Me: *facepalm*

Athol:  So that got me thinking.

(1) Have you ever warned someone not to get married? If so, why?

(2)  Did someone warn you not to get married… and turned out they were right?

Love to hear your answers in the comments.

When You Come From Different Countries

Reader: After reading your post about religious and political differences and raising children, I was wondering what you thought about cultural differences and being from different countries. How did you and Jennifer decide where to live and have children? Would you ever go back to New Zealand?

Athol:  Well we did have a plan at the time we got married. Being structural thinkers even then, we realized that the exchange rate between New Zealand and America was very much in America’s favor. So we figured if we ever had to switch countries it was going to be much easier to move from America to New Zealand, rather than from New Zealand to America. As things have turned out, the exchange rates have stabilized somewhat and housing in New Zealand is more expensive than America and any advantage we imagined is gone. Oh well, it was a best guess anyway.

We also figured Jennifer was going to struggle a great deal without her family around, while I’m fairly resilient in that aspect. If we moved now, she’d be fine though. We’re family now. Overall, it’s worked out very well for us. We moved to a middle sized town in Connecticut and then have moved twice within that town since then. So I’ve lived in New Zealand until I was 24, then in America for 18 years .

The good points are that people are the same where ever you go. New Zealand and America are English speaking, Western, democratic, capitalist countries, and there are more differences inside the countries, than between them. If you have money and a job you’re okay, if you’re broke and uneducated you’re not having a good time. So moving here was fairly easy for me.

There’s always a nice little edge to things between you when you’re from different countries. You’re always just a little bit unknown to each other, though the longer we’re married the less those little moments happen. We don’t hear each others accents anymore. It’s kinda fun to be from different countries.

Both kids love New Zealand… though they’ve only been on vacation, so it’s not a true understanding of the culture. They like that they have a mixed heritage. Also they have both been very healthy kids. Cross breeding for the win. I’m totally serious on that point. I think the separate countries deal plays a role in still being attracted to each other.

It also makes for a great destination for a major family trip. There’s a natural drama and excitement to see the other half of the family and you get an insider’s vacation experience rather than a touristy one. The kids get to play with their cousins and meet aunts and uncles and whatnot. It’s a BIG trip. Very memorable. Photos and albums and whatnot. I think it rounds the kids out more.

The bad things creep up on you slowly. We only have one set of grandparents close by for babysitting and visiting. When something bad happens in New Zealand… I can’t really do anything but know about it. I basically lost contact with everyone I knew there for ages upon ages until finding people on Facebook a couple years back. I didn’t realize how losing my entire social network was going to affect me. Looking back I realized dad could have probably made a few phone calls and seriously helped get me a pretty decent starting position somewhere. For a long time I was behind Jennifer in earnings and that was just weird to me.

The most important thing you can do is make a decision to be in one country or the other and just stick with it. There’s good and bad in every country, you’re just picking your poison. If you try and ping-pong between the two places it’s hugely expensive and unless you’re moving for a juicy promotion, you’re hurting your career advancement. Plus moving really screws with the kids.

The separate country marriage is a double or nothing gambit. If it’s good, it’s really good. If it’s bad, it’s really bad.

In-laws are critical. We both have understanding and good parents. I think if either set was nutty it would be vastly harder.

Being similar to each other is important. Aside from the differences in country, Jennifer and I are quite similar. It’s not good to be exactly the same as each other, but some differences are fun and create a little friction that keeps things fresh. But too much different and you run out of common ground and stop relating to each other.

In terms of going back to New Zealand… maybe. I’ve been back three times now and it’s always a really good, but slightly odd experience for me. Like I stumbled into Narnia by accident or something. We might retire there or something. We’ll see. We’re actually looking at a potential move to Dallas in about 2018 when the girls are in college.

Anyway… as long as we go together… we’ll always be home.  (Jennifer: happy mushy sigh…)

 

Jennifer:  The girls are minor celebrities at school every time they go on a trip to New Zealand.  They have a wider appreciation for the world, and understand that not everyone lives the same way.  It’s the little things that they pick up on too…like loving being somewhere where they could walk to town to go to a restaurant or shopping (the whole cafe culture thing…love it!), and the fact that their cousins could go to school with no shoes on and not get in trouble for it!

 

 

 

You Can’t Fix Their Problem

Somewhat based on a conversation with my youngest daughter.

Some of us are just wired to have more empathy for others than usual. If you’re one of those sensitive types, when someone else is in pain, it’s easy to get sucked into the situation emotionally and want to save the other person from their problem.

The truth is though that most people don’t actually want to solve their problems, they just want to talk about them. So when you get hooked into the emotion of their problem, their problem might not end… even if it makes them unhappy. So if them being unhappy makes you unhappy, you might be unhappy for a long time.

Most times the other person already knows what they need to do to start solving their problem. When I help people with their marriages, about half the time the person asking for help tells me that they had already started doing what I was going to tell them to do. I talk about getting in shape a lot and often people had already started that a few months before finding me online. People don’t always need more information, they just need to get into action and start working with the knowledge they have.

So your friend that moved away to a different state and doesn’t have any new friends where she moved… she already knows how to make friends. She just needs to start doing it. Say hi to someone. Invite someone over. Say she wants to see a movie and ask if anyone else wants to come. It won’t fix overnight, but she could get started. She just chooses not to. There’s nothing you can really do to make her change her mind about that either. One day she’ll just be tired of her choice and change her mind and start making friends again. If you’re going to be unhappy until she makes friends, you might have a long wait until that happens. You won’t be able to have any control over when that happens either.

Just offer your advice and maybe she follows it, and maybe she doesn’t. Either way it’s her choice and her outcome. Her friendships or lack of friendships don’t directly affect you on anything but your emotional level based on your empathy. What you’re really reacting to is being able to feel what it’s like to not have friends yourself. You’re imagining what she’s feeling and it feels real to you. Unfortunately she’s probably only telling you the “complaining and just talking about the problem” aspect of her life. I bet she never tells you about the time school was fun, or she had a good time at the mall with a new friend. I suspect that when she really gets happy with her life, you’ll probably never hear from her again.

There’s always going to be people around you that are unhappy and having a bad time of things. Every day of the week, someone at school is going to be having a terrible day. Feeling hurt, lonely, mad, lost and confused. You can’t save everyone and you can’t make everyone happy. One of the things that you risk by always being the one who will listen to people’s problems… is that people will seek you out to tell you their problems… because people like telling their problems to people who will listen. Mostly because it makes them feel like they are doing something about the problem, when they aren’t.

In my case it’s fine that people tell me their problems because that’s all part of what I do. Even then, most of my advice can be summed down to “Stop putting up with that crap, and do something about it.” Even doing the wrong thing in a response to a problem can often solve it better than just complaining about it. Action beats talk every time. It’s not so much that talk is bad, but that it covers up the lack of action so the negative energy of problem continues. Actions carry a far more positive energy, which is why even the wrong action can somehow work to solve a problem anyway.

Also at school there are people who are paid to look after the kids. There’s teachers, nurses, counselors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, crossing guards and a principal. It’s not your job to ensure that all the kids are fine 100% of the time. If you see a real problem, just report it to one of the people responsible for the kids. Rather than worrying about it yourself, you can do far more good for a kid in real trouble by telling a teacher – that’s your problem solving action. It’s your job to get to school on time, get good grades and complain that there’s too much homework.

The truth is that most people in the world are pretty selfish… which is just fine… because it means that they are pretty motivated to take care of themselves. You need to have a little faith in the selfishness of people. Left to their own devices most people try and make the world a better place… if only their little part of the world.

So. Do what you’re meant to be doing. Report the bad crap you see to the adults. Have a little faith that the universe will unfold as it should. Oh and clean your room.

 

 

 

Phase Four: Short, Sweet and to the Point

From the forum…

DrBeta:  Several posters have advised me in my Phase 4 “State Your Expectations” that I needed to move to a Phase 4.1, wherein these expectations:

1.Healthy sex life

2.Productive wife.

3.Self-care (stay in good shape, dentist, doctors, etc.)

4.No negative talk

Are really all sub-ordinate to this one:

1.Quit drinking.

Those of us that remember the book know that Phase 4 is supposed to be quick compared to other phases, and I’ve been there about two months.

So I rebooted Phase 4 yesterday, and it started with “Quit Drinking”.

To my surprise… no defensiveness and no denial.  Some pleading.  Some, “I wish…” and me foreshadowing Phases 5 and 6, as in

“I am making changes in my life.  I am going to become a much better man.  You are going to have this choice.  ‘Do you want to keep up with me?  Or do you want to lose me just as I’m becoming the best man I can be?’ “

She wants to try and keep up.  So I say:

“You do not drink anymore.  You are no longer a drinker.”

And she agrees.

Now, we didn’t say, “Go to AA.” or anything positive that she could actually do.  We kept this in the realm of the “what not to do”, which ain’t the strongest way to put things.  I have serious doubts about whether she can make this work.  The only times she was completely sober was during pregnancies — but those interludes do provide some hope.

Coincidentally, another sister has quit drinking (for a week), lost two pounds, and Mrs. Beta is thinking, “Maybe it’s time for me to do this, too.”

In the meantime, I’m practicing my this statement-of-fact-as-if-it’s-already-true wife hypnosis technique, and we’ll see where it gets us.

Athol:  I think it’s worth remembering that the MAP works for any “intolerable relationship breaking problem”. It’s just a case of getting to the point where you’re strong enough to walk away from them if they continue to persist in doing what they are doing. It’s not just about getting more sex.

It’s important that the Phase Four demand isn’t frivolous. You can’t pop these demands out willy-nilly and not eventually get a failed relationship as your partner gives up on the endless ultimatums. It needs to be something that an impartial observer would agree was a serious and meaningful problem. Alcoholism meets that requirement.

Also the simpler your Phase Four demand is, the stronger it is. “Quit drinking” is a clear simple directive understood by even a toddler. They may not want it, but they understand what you’re telling them. There’s no wiggle room on getting confused by the demand. Reading a shopping list of points dilutes everything and turns into a debate.

Also with a short simple demand, you can also say it with such greater force of will, that it has a better impact. If you’re a geek, Phase Four always sounds best “in the original Klingon”. Bonus points for the correct reference.

Phase Four means the debate is over. You’re demanding they stop talking and choose.

 

 

The “Stay” Plan and the “Leave” Plan Are The Same Thing

I had a looooooong email with so many identifying marks that I’m not going to post it or edit it, just give you the TL;DR version.

She has a prescription drug issue affecting her employment and is going through the process of keeping her license. He’s gotten depressed, messed up his job and schooling five years back, had an EA he broke off. Sex life is non-existent.  Fifteen year relationship total, no kids. He wants to leave, but can’t afford to… “what do I do?”

Or to be quite blunt. It’s a a quagmire of issues all layering on each other.

So… my reply…

Athol: It sounds like neither one of you are totally stable, self-supporting, functional adults. I don’t mean that as an insult, just as a bland statement of reality. So when you have two people like that trying to have a relationship, it’s not going to go well. You’re both making mistakes here.

My advice would be for both of you to figure out a course of action to self-improve and fix the structural issues in your lives as individuals. So you do/finish school and start working again. She needs to get drug free and find a life balance at work.

For both of you, the “leave the marriage” plan and the “stay in the marriage” plan…. are the same thing.

You need to do school and get working again no matter what. If you stay married, then you have a job and something to do. If you leave the marriage, you’re in a better place to self-support and find someone new.

She needs to get drug free and find a work balance no matter what. If she stays married, it’s good, if she leaves (or you leave) it’s good for her too.

Right now all that divorcing would do is give you both…. one more problem to solve. So you’re better off “ignoring” the marriage issue and focusing on fixing the personal issues. Once you have a better handle on those personal issues, maybe the marriage issues will self-resolve… or maybe they won’t. But either way, you’ll both be better off.

Make sense?

***

Basically I told them to both do the MAP.

The great thing is once you figure out a course of action that is going to have you better off whether or not the marriage survives, it’s like having a coin that has  “heads” on both sides. You can flip the coin and call “heads” and you’ll always be a winner. You can detach from the outcome and just get into action. The “stay” plan and the “leave” plan are the same thing.

They can even support each other in their plan. After all for him, either he’s married to a drug-free professional who will contribute to the marriage… or he’ll be divorced from a drug-free professional who isn’t going to be an alimony risk (maybe even pay him alimony). So that’s win-win. For her, either she’s married to a guy who finished school and has a decent job, or she’ll be divorced from a guy who is self-supporting. Win-win. Given a choice between having a dysfunctional ex-spouse, or a functional ex-spouse… I’d take the functional one every time.

There’s just something about getting into action, getting your energy level up, getting your act together and becoming an attractive in control person…. that makes your spouse want to be with you. And if not… someone else will step in and take their place.

 

The Riddle of Steel

Always liked these two scenes from Conan the Barbarian.

Hell No I Won’t Go, Except This Very Last Time

Oh the drama.

Menstrual pads.

3am.

Get up out of bed and go get some.

WTF?

No.

Waaaaaa….?

NO.

Waaaaaaahhhh!!!!

I said NO. Go get them yourself.

RRRRWWWWAAAARRRKKKK!!!!!

Its will sufferz the displeasurez of mistress rrrrrwaaaarrkkk! Sufferz for its insolence it will rrawrk!

******

Alrighty…. I’ve already covered why you don’t become Menses Boy.  If her tampons or pads are on the grocery list, then sure pick them up, but there’s no emergency needs for menstrual pads that a man ever needs to be associated with. Adult women just need to handle that for themselves, end of discussion on that point. It’s not like a guy can wake his wife up at 3am and ask her to run out and buy new batteries for his mouse because he’s playing World of Warcraft and doesn’t want to get dropped from this amazing group. Adults just come prepared for life’s little problems.

So obviously you don’t want to fail the test and run about and get her menstrual pads, or his mouse batteries, but there’s potential trap in that you try and be too nice about not getting them. You try and give a fair warning that “this is the last time I’m going to do this for you” and then you go out and collect them again… one last time…

Rwarkkkkk!!! Its is threatening disobedience to mistressez rawk! Its musts be taughtz its placez raaaaaaawk!

So yeah…

“One last time” = “Please test the hell out of me until the next time.”

It’s the difference between talk and action. If you say “I won’t do that again” and yet go get them, the actual message is that you’ll go get them. Thus you’ll be asked to go get them again and again, plus whatever else idiotic chump task they can dream up for you, until you actually refuse to comply.

By actually not going and getting it, the message is you won’t comply with the tests. Thus they will diminish in the future.

It’s really no different than if you always buy candy for a crying kid in the grocery store. Saying, “Okay I’m buying you candy for the last time because you’re crying” just means the kid gets what they want and will throw a fit on cue next time they are in the store.

The testing is really all about relationship power plays, based on your personal weakness to the other person, thus there’s not really a way to pass these tests “politely.” When you play the game of Tit for Tat, they aren’t meant to like the Tat. Just respect it.

Jennifer: Rawk! I do not sound like that!

 

 

The Plot of Every Romance Novel in 60 Seconds

Girl meets aloof Alpha who doesn’t have much Beta

Alpha refused to give girl Beta

Girl avoids the Alpha as best she can

Circumstance throw Girl and Alpha together

Alpha shows some shyly sweet Beta traits

Girl starts warming up to Alpha

Alpha warms up to Girl

Alpha shows more Beta

Girl wet like a monsoon for Alpha/Beta

Circumstance creates massive drama spliting Girl and Alpha apart

Girl in serious trouble

Alpha saves the day by being WTFALPHAOMGLASERBEAMPEWPEWPEWPEW!

Girl squirts.

Alpha hangs up Alpha and becomes Beta.

Supporting MMSL

I spend approximately four hours every day answering email and offering free advice.

That free advice has to be free, because the state of Connecticut has made it plain that any kind of 1:1 paid advice I’m giving requires a marriage counseling license. Yeah I could get away with being a “dating coach”, but I don’t really feel very dating coach-like when so obviously I care about marriages.

The other option is to claim everything I say is completely ineffective at helping people and is simply for entertainment, but that’s all a little bit like standing in waders, covered in lures and baiting a hook and claiming I’m not actually there to catch fish, because I have no fishing skill whatsoever and am doing it all for entertainment. Yeah right.

I can still write and speak though. First amendment and all that. Phew. Working on it.

Anyway, the forum is growing faster than my erection when Jennifer bends over, and it’s about to get a bit more expensive. I mean the forum is going to get more expensive… well I guess if you count the kids, Jennifer bending over is pretty expensive too. It’s a sort of no money down scam she runs I think.

Anyway… forum, grow oh so big Mr Kay, needs to be self-supporting…

So I now have a sort of Mega Affiliate program thing happening through Viglink and I have a static “Support” page set up here and in the menu under the header. Clicking on any of the links below gets me a slice of the pie when you buy something. So if you can that would be helpful.  There’s more I can add, if you have someone you regularly buy from not on the list below, message me and see if I can add it.

Thanks!

 

Mass Merchant –  Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk    Sears    Macys.com    JCPenny.com    Target.com    HSN.com    Overstock.com    Kohls.com    Buy.com    Hayneedle.com    Cafepress.com    BJs.com

Clothes – VictoriasSecret.com     LLBean.com     Gap.com     Nordstrom.com     SaksFifthAvenue.com     FootLocker.com     RalphLauren.com    Nike     Shoebuy.com    EddieBauer.com     ColdwaterCreek.com     Aeropostale.com

Computers / Electronics – Dell.com    BestBuy.com    Newegg Sony.com    HP.com    PCConnection.com    PCMall.com    RadioShack.com    Bose.com

Adult – AdamEve.com    Edenfantasys.com

Home Improvement – HomeDepot.com     Build.com     Lowes.com

House Wares –  CrateandBarrel.com     Art.com     Cooking.com    Brookstone.com

Travel – Priceline.com   Expedia.com   Travelocity.com   Orbitz.com   Tripadvisor.com   Hotwire.com    Hotels.com    Cheaptickets.com

Food / Drug – Peapod.com    Walgreen.com    Wine.com    OmahaSteaks.com    CoffeeForLess.com

Office Supplies – Staples.com    OfficeDepot.com    OfficeMax.com

The Friendzone