by: Monique Honaman, JD
Your: [yoor, yawr, yohr; unstressed yer] pronoun 1. one’s (used to indicate that one belonging to oneself or to any person): As you go down the hill, the library is on your left.
Ever notice how when a couple is married they tend to refer to each other as “Mom” or “Dad” with their kids? If Joan asks if she can go out on Friday night, her mom might say, “I’m OK with that, but check with Dad.”
Or as John walks out the door to school, Mom says,“John, don’t forget Dad is going to take you to baseball tonight.”
Ever notice how once a couple is divorced, the pronoun “your” suddenly become so important? We hear things like,“Your dad will come get you at 5:00,” or “You need to ask your mom about that.” Why does that change? Why do we change the way we speak?
I don’t like it. Never have. Never will. I think it’s rude. I’m still Mom. He’s still Dad. When talking, we clearly aren’t referring to other moms or dads where the distinction needs to be clear that we are speaking of your mom or dad. It’s not as if we tell little Johnny, “There will be a dad taking you to baseball tonight … not sure who … it could be any dad … no, actually, it will be YOUR dad.” We don’t do that. We just say, “Dad is taking you to baseball tonight.”
I think putting “your” in front of it makes it less personal to the person doing the speaking. It’s not my mom or dad, it’s yours! Yes, but then again it was never your mom or dad to begin with, but rather it was your spouse, who as time went on and you became parents together, you began to lovingly refer to as Mom or Dad as it related to your kids. Adding “your” creates a wall or a barrier.
My latest for Hope After Divorce:
It’s yours, not mine, not ours. It screams, “I have no part in this.” Now that “Mom” or “Dad” is no longer wife or husband, but rather ex-wife or ex-husband, the “your” gets added, in part, I believe to remove the familiarity and the relationship that you once held.
The impact, however unintended, can be hurtful, I believe. It conveys a sense of “I’m having nothing to do with that woman … she’s YOUR mom.” Or, “I don’t know that man, he’s YOUR dad.” I think it can be odd for kids to hear, especially when they aren’t used to hearing parents speak that way. It creates that distance and re-emphasizes a less than familiar arrangement. It brings walls and structure to what should continue to be an informal Mom and Dad relationship. Yes, the titles of “Husband” and “Wife” changed, but the titles “Mom” and “Dad” didn’t.
Pre-divorce, if I called our home, spoke with my husband, then asked to speak with the kids, I would hear, “Sonso, mom’s on the phone. Pick up the phone in the bedroom!”
Now, post-divorce, if I call my ex-husband, and then ask to speak with my kids, I hear, “Sonso, your mom is on the phone.” Subtle, but it conveys a formality that makes it different in both message and interpretation.I try not to fall into that trap and use “your” when it’s not needed. I prefer my kids to know the familiarity still exists, that while we may not be a united husband and wife anymore, we are still a united dad and mom.
Have you thought about how YOUR speech patterns may have changed? Is it just me that this rankles? Have you ever thought about it? What other things change like this? I would love YOUR insight!
My latest for eHarmony:
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” -Albert Schweitzer
If ever I have had my own light go out, it was during my divorce. It was completely snuffed out and I was left in the dark. It was very dark. Lonely. Sad. But certain people entered my life and gave me a spark that served to rekindle my light, and before I knew it, my light was back at full power … and then some.
I love the quote I started with by Albert Schweitzer because it speaks to being grateful to those who have helped to relight our flames. Our own light can go out for so many different reasons. It doesn’t have to be from divorce. It can be through death of a loved one. Dealing with a sick parent or child. Losing a job. Heck, even just getting sucked into the winter doldrums and feeling like we have nothing to look forward to can make our light start to flicker.
Have you ever stopped to think about those people for whom you are grateful because they have helped to rekindle your flame? My list was (and still is) huge! To me, there are three categories of these people!
One, there are the people who were there before, during and after whatever crisis was serving to dim my light. These are the people we typically think of and turn to when life gets tough. My mom. My best friends who I see all the time. My best friends who live across the country and whom I only see every few years. These are the people who have truly “done life” with you! They know all the back-stories; they know all the relationships; they know all the underlying soft spots, pet peeves, and weak points … and they love you unconditionally in spite of it all.
Then there are the people who enter your life at a certain point and intersect with you for a specific period in time and then leave again. Have you ever wondered what purpose they play? Were they only supposed to play a short, but important, role in helping you to rekindle your flame? These people really don’t know much about you. They don’t necessarily know the “real” you or the “whole” you, but they are able to pierce through all that and they seem to know what to say and when to say it! Perhaps they are more bold and honest with us because we don’t have a history, and likely don’t have a future. There is less at risk. We love their honesty and often times they are the ones who are able to get us jump started!
Lastly, there are those people who enter your life at the time of crisis, make such an impact, and rekindle such a huge light for you that you know they will forever remain a fixture in your life. I tend to think that friendships which are forged during times of great change and stress are stronger. I think that’s why I feel like I am able to pick right back up with friends from middle school and high school, often times more quickly than I am with contemporary friends where the friendship was forged as adults. As a teen, you go through so much together. It builds a bond. I think the same goes for contemporary friends who go through a life-changing experience with you. It’s no longer building a friendship over bunco and dinner out with the spouses every other month, but rather building a friendship over an affair which leads to divorce, or over the sudden illness and death of a parent. This is real stuff – this is life done together – not just idle chatter about “The Bachelor” or Justin Bieber’s latest antics.
As I think back over the people who helped me to rekindle my light, I am incredibly grateful. The “old” friend who made sure she was at my side during pivotal points in my separation when she knew the shock of it all would be overwhelming. The “period-in-time” friend who had herself gone through a divorce and who helped me through the process, then left my life. My “new” friend who on the first day we met had me in stitches with her sarcasm and her prediction for what my future would hold, and to this day remains a dear friend. I am grateful for each of them.
It is important to be intentionally grateful for the people in your life who have helped to rekindle your flame.
More important, however, is your intention to be sure that you are lighting other people’s flames yourself. Do you try to be that person who helps to rekindle other’s flames when their brightness and luminosity are starting to fade? Do you lend a listening ear, send the sweet card, offer the joke to make them laugh, buy them a coffee, watch their kids for a few hours, go for a walk with them, or simply find some other way spark their light? Think about it: whose spark have you rekindled lately?
Think of it this way: “When you find yourself in the position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person’s prayer through you. Remember: Our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others, so that they may find way through us.”
My latest for eHarmony:
Phew! It’s over! We enjoyed, survived or merely observed another Valentine’s Day. This isn’t going to be another post about the significance (or the dread!) of the day. We all know that for some people, this day brings chocolate, roses, and sappy cards. For others, this day brings a sense of loss as we watch others celebrate their love when perhaps we don’t currently have our own Valentine with whom to celebrate. For others, it’s just another day with no significant meaning.
I fall into the last category. I’m not a big Valentine’s person. Never have been. When I was married, it was never a big celebration for us. When I divorced, it was certainly never a big deal for me. Now, I’ve remarried, and it still isn’t a big deal. I’ve always said, I would rather feel your love for me every day of the year through your words, your thoughts and your actions, than have you give me chocolate or roses on one particular day of the year because that is what “society” dictates.
LOVE is what I believe Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s about love – not just romantic love, but rather friendship and family love.
Remember when we were kids and we had to make sure that we brought a Valentine’s Day card for every single kid in our class? My kids still had to do that when they were in elementary school. In fact, the teachers would send home a class list so that no one was forgotten. No child was “left behind!” Here’s a thought … if Valentine’s Day is just about romantic love then why would we teach our kids that we are to romantically love more than one person as a time? Why we would labor over those shoeboxes, wrap them in red and pink construction paper, and bring little Valentine’s Day cards and candy to every kid in the class!?! Talk about a mixed message! No, instead, we encourage our kids to show love to everyone in their lives (or at least their classrooms). I love that and wish I had always been that open with my love.
I used to be very protective of my “love.” Telling someone I loved them was reserved for my mom and dad, my nana, my husband, and my kids. I didn’t freely share “I love yous” with others who were important in my life. I’m not sure when that changed … perhaps when I went through my divorce and realized how important love – not just romantic love – but supportive friendship and family love can be. I began sharing “I love yous” more freely, and it feels good. I began telling my friends how much I love them. I began telling my new extended family how much I love them. And, as we learn in the Bible, I do my best to love those who have wronged me.
When was the last time you told a friend that you loved him or her? Try it! You may laugh when you say it! Or you may say it more casually. “Luv ya” says the same thing but conveys a different meaning than “I. Love. You.” It’s like the Bud Light commercial from several years ago … “I love ya man!”
Next time you go to hang up the phone with a friend try this – as you are starting your goodbye, simply say, “love ya, mean it!” See what happens! I’ll be willing to bet you get a “love you” right back! Goodness knows this world needs more love being shared. We shouldn’t be treating love like a precious commodity that needs to be conserved and doled out sparingly. Love feels good! Not just Valentine’s Day love. Not just romantic love. But that all-encompassing feel-good love that comes from people who are important to you in all areas of life.
Did you try it? Did you get the reaction you expected?
My latest for Huffington Post … February 11, 2014
“Without forgiveness life is governed by … an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” ~ Robert Assagioli
In the agony, angst and anger of divorce, we often retaliate against our former spouses to the detriment of our own children. Makes no sense. Shouldn’t the responsibility and honor of parenting come first and trump all else no matter how difficult the situation? Time and time and time again, I speak with people who are a part of this devastation and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.
A few months ago, I had coffee with a woman who told me that her husband’s ex-wife refused to take her child to the doctor for a renewal of a required prescription. This woman, his step-mom, offered to take him, and the mom refused and cancelled the appointment entirely. Who is this hurting most? The child who needs his medication.
I spoke with a man just before the holidays. He and his wife are divorcing. He has been a stay-at-home dad to their three kids for the past seven years, while she has been the full-time wage earner. She doesn’t want to give him any child support or palimony and says he should get a job. Is this kind of shake-up fair to those kids? Why should it be any different simply because the traditional gender roles are reversed?
I met with a woman last week who was furious (understandably!) because her husband has been having an affair at work. The woman he is in a relationship with is a supplier to the company. Clearly this is in violation of all corporate rules and he would quickly and easily be fired for this major conflict of interest. The woman told me she wants to call the Corporate Integrity Hotline and report this to “get his a$$ fired.” Hmm … so now you are going to be a single stay-at-home mom with no source of income because you got your husband fired, and now your two children (one of whom is about to start college) aren’t going to have any financial support? Does that make any sense?
I get the anger and the urge to be ugly and retaliatory in each of these examples, but seriously people, who are you hurting more? Your ex? Or your kids? Are you prepared to deal with the repercussions for something that might have felt good in the moment?
Perhaps this will resonate! Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face!
How about this? Don’t risk losing the war just to win a battle!
I believe one of my greatest obligations as a parent is to take care of my kids! Not to helicopter them. Not to protect them from learning life lessons. Not to make decisions for them, but to teach them to become responsible adults. Part of that obligation is to ensure that they are adequately cared for, and when possible and realistic, that both parents play a role in parenting to the best of their ability. You’ve heard me say before that, extenuating circumstances aside, kids deserve to have both parents.
Before you act, resist the urge to retaliate out of selfishness and your own anger, and instead ask if the path you are taking is in the best interests of your kids. Are you taking the high road? If the answer is no, you might want to rethink your strategy. Divorce is hard enough on everyone – especially our children. Let’s try to do what we can to not rub salt in that wound and make it even more complicated.
What about you, what do you think?
My latest for eHarmony … Feb 12, 2014
If this was ‘right,’ shouldn’t it be easier?”
I was asked that question the other day by a woman who has been dating a guy for several months now. During that time, they have had numerous “issues” and serious “discussions.”
“Shouldn’t this be easier,” she asked? “Yes, and no,” I replied.
Strong, good, productive, and successful relationships aren’t easy. They are hard work. They require constant nurturing and maintenance. They require a focus and a dedication. In that respect, relationships are not easy … at all! Anyone who thinks relationships are easy is in for a big surprise when life’s challenges appear. We all hit bumps in the road, and a strong foundation is necessary to navigate these potholes.
By the same token, when I first met and started dating the man who is now my husband, I do recall saying, “This is so easy! I feel like I have known him forever.” In retrospect, there were a lot of things that needed to be worked through. We affectionately called these the “hurdles.” Would we have children together? Where were we going to live? Where would we go to church? What baggage were we bringing from our prior marriages? We knew we needed to work on some things – some pretty major things – and we did. Was it easy? Not really, so maybe “easy” isn’t the right word, but it was “smooth” and was defined by mutual respect and collaboration and a willingness by both of us to clear those hurdles successfully.
So, what’s the difference? I strongly believe that all new relationships require that “hurdles” be identified, discussed and cleared. New relationships require that some “hard” discussions take place. By hard, I mean open, honest, and inquisitive. So many new relationships focus more on the new romance and love, and less on the practical elements of life, so that when the romance part wears off a bit, and the practical stuff comes into focus, they find they don’t agree on things like spending vs. saving patterns, having kids or not, disciplining kids, going to church, etc.
And, these “hard” discussions, of which I am such an advocate, don’t have to be “difficult.” My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I enjoyed wrestling these points, and the back and forth dialogue, as we shared our viewpoints on so many important areas in our lives. We would regularly ask, “Where are we at with the hurdles?” We discussed what we were willing to change or flex on, and where we weren’t! Certain things were non-negotiable. Others were open for new learning and new experiences.
Any of those could have been deal-breakers, and might constitute a “hard” discussion to some people. Unfortunately, many people also equate “hard” with “let’s try to avoid it at all costs.” “Hard” can also mean difficult. It can mean embarrassing. It can mean having to show your own cracks. It can mean your aura of perfection might get a little fuzzy. It can mean revisiting your past. It can mean being vulnerable. Skipping “hard” discussions and insisting that things are better when “easy” is an error in judgment!
Wouldn’t you rather know how tough some of this was going to be, and have those “hurdle” discussions when you are dating, rather than after you have walked down the aisle and said “I do”? I certainly would!
My latest from eHarmony …
ste·reo·type: transitive verb \?ster-?-?-?t?p, ?stir-\ - a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I have a friend who writes a column for a small local paper in Georgia. As he frequently does, Dr. Stathas absolutely nailed it with a column he wrote last month (here is the link to the full article on his website – Why Men and Women So Often Just Miss Each Other).
In this article, Dr. Stathas outlines what he has seen over the years as a successful family and marriage therapist. He provides “stereotypes” for how couples act and what is going on in their lives during each decade from their 20s through their 60s. I see these same “stereotypes” play out over and over again with couples with whom I speak. It’s uncanny the similarities which exist.
Stereotypes can be both helpful and hurtful. View these through the lens of helpful and see if they can provide some insight and perspective in your relationship. This is how Dt. Stathas describes married men and women in their 40s and 50s (note, I encourage you to click on the link above and read what he says about the other stages of marriage too!):
“Man advances career. He is gone more often for work and socializing with the guys. Woman, with the kids in school or out on their own, goes back to the work place or gets more involved in women endeavors. Further distancing exists of the couple from each other. Sex life diminishes, sometimes drastically. He spends more time with the guys, and maybe the girls, as he seeks a woman connection…”
Oh. My. Gosh. I’m not a marriage therapist, but I, too, see this over and over again. This is such a familiar refrain. And, what happens next is they either divorce or they become roommates.
In the case of divorce, I frequently hear, “We’ve drifted apart … I’m not in love with him/her anymore … Our marriage isn’t big enough for three of us … We have different interests … I’m tired of always giving and getting nothing in return … I would rather be alone than be unappreciated.”
In the case of becoming a roommate marriage I hear, “We like each other just fine (most of the time) … He’s a good guy/dad … She’s a good woman/mom … We haven’t been intimate in months (years?) … We have no interest in getting divorced because of our kids/friends/finances … We’ll just stick to the status quo.”
If you ask me, both scenarios are depressing. Is either “fixable?” Absolutely! Will it take a lot of hard work, honest conversations, mutual vulnerability, and perhaps a good dose of forgiveness? Of course. And, will it be worth it? My guess is that it will.
Where do you start? The first thing is to acknowledge there is an issue, and honestly believe that you can do and want to do something about it. The second thing is to make changes. That’s Change Theory 101. You can’t say you want something to be different, yet continue to do things the same way. Status quo does not equal change. Third, you may want to see a marriage and family therapist to help you understand and deal with the history and the emotions, and can guide you towards a better future.
Look at your relationship. Are you heading for divorce or roommate status? Is that future OK with you? If not, what can you do about it right now?
My latest from Huffington Post!
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
We are a few weeks past the New Year! How are you doing on your resolutions? C’mon, be honest! We typically vow to “change” something, and have all good intentions, but change is hard, and so by now, we’ve all-too-often gone back to our old habits that we started the year wanting to change. Change requires energy, intention, patience, and we don’t often have the desire or the stamina to put in that effort to see the results we want.
The thing about change is that we can’t want things to be different, yet not do anything differently. Status quo does not equal change. Thinking you would like something to be different means nothing if you aren’t prepared to do something to affect that change.
I had coffee with a woman just a few weeks after the first of year as we entered 2013. I knew she had been struggling in her marriage for a few years. She and her husband were roommates. They hadn’t been intimate in years (yes, years). They had separate interests and led separate lives. She stated, “This is it! This has to change. Mark my words: we will either make this marriage healthy or be divorced by the end of the year. I won’t be sitting here having this same conversation next New Year’s.”
I met up with her again two weeks ago. It has been a year. We just ushered in 2014. Guess what? She is still in that marriage, and nothing has changed. Still no intimacy — yes, another 52 weeks have passed without she and her husband making love — not even once. Another 52 weeks have passed where she goes her way, and he goes his way every weekend. Another 52 weeks have passed where they haven’t had any of those really intimate conversations about their lives, their hopes, their goals and their dreams that so frequently bring couples racing right back to knowing why they married each other to begin with!
She was different this year. Less energetic, more complacent. She sighed and said she had resigned herself to the fact that nothing was going to change. Their marriage hadn’t improved, yet she seemed pleased that it hadn’t gotten “worse” either. She said that she was just going to accept it for what it was. Roommate status was fine. She has a great group of friends to go out with and activities to keep her busy. She has kids to raise. She doesn’t want to endure the financial hit and the lifestyle change that a divorce would bring. She doesn’t have the energy to continue marriage counseling when it hasn’t seem to have helped. “It’s fine, I’m fine,” she said. I reminded her that “fine is a 4-letter word that begins with F.” That’s what I think about “fine.”
I was frustrated for her, but it’s her decision. It’s her life. It’s her marriage. It’s her future. There wasn’t one thing I could do. If she wants change, she has to drive that change. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.
It’s human nature. We might want things to change, but until there is a compelling reason to make a change, it’s easier to let things go on the way they are.
It’s the classic case of the middle-aged person whose doctor tells him/her to exercise more and lose a few pounds before they face a health crisis. Sure, we try to change, but it’s hard, and there really isn’t a compelling reason to change… yet! Then, that compelling reason hits and we land in ER with a heart attack. As our life flashes in front of us, and we get the crap scared out of us, we realize what a compelling reason looks like, and suddenly our vow to get healthy takes on a new and realistic meaning. Change happens.
For the woman I had coffee with, “fine” will be all she needs until some sort of compelling reason makes her realize that “fine” isn’t OK anymore. That compelling reason may be she and/or her husband realizing that they want to reconnect emotionally and physically and proactively work on their marriage (after all, it does take two!). On the other hand, that compelling reason may be she or her husband deciding to find their physical and emotional intimacy outside of their marriage. I’m a fan of option 1; not so much of option 2.
Time will tell. Who knows if 2014 will bring a “plot twist” to her marriage and if that compelling reason will surface, or if 2014 will be the year of “fine” and we’ll be having the same conversation in January 2015.
What about you? What is “fine” in your life? Is there a compelling reason to make a change or are you fine with the status quo?
Here’s my latest post for eHarmony – Right Bait?!
I wrote a post for eHarmony back in August 2013 called How Dating’s Like Fishing: Hook, Line and Sinker. That post focused on the fact that if you always fish in the same pond, you are always going to be catching the same fish. It was about switching up your dating routine and finding new ways to meet new people.
I received a lot of great feedback from that article, and now feel compelled to take it one step further based on a conversation I had with a guy last week. This guy was pretty blunt, as he tends to be, in telling me, “There are no good women to date out there. All the good ones are married. All the single ones have issues, bring baggage, and have poor values.” I had to disagree! I started to tell him that he was wrong as I personally know many single women who I think are absolutely terrific. But then, I stopped myself! If I told him I knew all these great single women (women with great values, great personalities, great jobs, great morals, great energy, great looks) then he would want me to set him up with some of them. And, I had no interest in doing that whatsoever.
I had to think about that one. I love the idea of helping great men and women connect and find great friendship and/or true love! The fact that my first reaction to this guy was to keep my mouth shut about all my great single friends was clearly important. Why didn’t I want him to meet my friends? The truth is that I find him to be a bit smarmy and sleazy. He’s a bit too desperate. He’s a bit too arrogant. He’s a bit too rehearsed.
What does it say about a guy who is only looking for girlfriends at bars? Does he honestly expect to find the woman who meets his high standards hanging out at a bar every single Friday and Saturday night? He may find someone who appears interesting, but after a date or two, he said he would realize that she is not really what he is looking for. She didn’t “meet the spec.”
When he does meet someone he is interested in (he gave an example of a “perfect” woman he met at a work function and who was really centered, active in her church, and had a lot of great stuff going on in her life) he said they would go out on a few dates and then she would tend to back off and disappear. He said he would be brushed off and he wasn’t sure why. I had a few thoughts that I gently suggested. One, perhaps in his haste, eagerness, and delight at finding what he thought might be the “perfect” woman, had he come on too strong and scared her off? Two, perhaps while he was requiring a list of “values, morals, energy, looks” of his dates, they too had a list that he wasn’t measuring up to!?
Here’s the thing: looking for love requires you to know what you are looking for in someone else, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to know what you are projecting to other people! Would you want to date you? Are you the complete package? Would you want to bring you home to meet your friends and family?
That’s where my bait analogy comes in. What kind of bait are you using to attract the kind of dates you want? I’m not a fishing expert, but I do know that certain bait and certain kinds of lures are designed to attract certain kinds of fish. Know what kind of fish you are seeking, and use the right bait. Don’t think you are going to catch the perfect fish with a smelly, old worm! Don’t try to catch a bass with bait designed to catch a catfish. I have no idea if my fishing analogy makes sense to you, but it works for me!
At the end of the day, it’s not fair to make a blanket statement that “there are no good single women (or men) out there.” Perhaps instead of focusing on what we can’t control, we can turn the mirror around and take some personal accountability to look at what we are bringing as a potential date to a potential relationship.
What about you? Would you date you? If you met you, would you be impressed and want to learn more, or would you run for the hills as fast as you could? Would you set you up with your single friends?
Are You Having Big Conversations? – My latest from eHarmony! Enjoy!
“I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
‘Tis the season for holiday parties – which makes many people cringe and roll their eyes. “Ugh, another night of having to make small talk with a bunch of strangers.”
I will give you the same challenge that was laid down to me a few weeks ago. I heard a speaker who challenged all of us in the audience to leave and have “big conversations” with the other people who were at the meeting. “Little conversations,” she said, “are what you typically have at a cocktail party.” Little conversations sound like this: “What about this crazy weather?” “Is all of your holiday shopping done?” “What sports are your kids playing these days?” They are safe, relatively boring, and you don’t really learn a whole lot about the person with whom you are speaking. For a lot of people, that works just fine!
Big conversations, on the other hand, connect you to people, and who doesn’t want to feel connected? Big conversations sound like this: “I am so overwhelmed with all of this holiday stuff. Do you ever feel that way? What do you do to get through it all?” Or, “Tell me about one of your favorite family holiday traditions and why is it meaningful?” Or, “What three things do you really want to do in 2014?” Big conversations are as much about learning about other people in a really meaningful way as they are about us being authentic and vulnerable when we speak with others.
Do you ever talk to people where everything is “fine” in their lives? They have no problems. Actually, that’s not true. We all have problems of one sort or another. But, these people certainly aren’t going to show any vulnerability and share these problems with anyone else. These people put a barrier up for others, and it’s hard to penetrate that wall and get in. It makes it hard to get to know these people. I know I’ve had this experience. It leaves me feeling frustrated. I can leave a restaurant having just had lunch with a “friend” and I feel as if it was a bunch of surface conversation. I may not feel as if I know anything more about her than I did when we started. I know I leave times like this feeling very unfulfilled.
There are two strategies for breaking this cycle. One, try asking some “big” questions and see what happens. Don’t let the conversation drift into the mundane quick sand of boring small talk. Be really interested in what you are asking and what the other person is sharing. Big talk is so much more interesting than small talk. Two, share some “big” talk yourself. When you show your own vulnerability and willingness to share, it’s amazing how much of that comes back to you as well.
Big talk breaks down barriers and gets two people connected so much quicker than a series of ongoing small-talk conversations. I see it all the time. I felt it on my first date with my husband. We skipped the small talk and got right to the big talk. I left that date knowing so much more about him than who his favorite football team was and where he worked. I am constantly meeting with people who are going through their own divorce process. When I share my own vulnerability around my own divorce, share my emotions, share my experience, I find we immediately make a connection that forges a quick bond. They are much more open to answering big questions and finding healing through a cathartic conversation that matters.
I recently had lunch with three business colleagues. This was a professional lunch and was supposed to focus on business. After just a couple minutes of small talk as we got our menus and ordered an appetizer, I intentionally launched a couple of big questions. We had the absolute best lunch. We found we all had a lot in common that forged a “been there/done that” bond. Our dads had all passed away in recent years. We had all been through a divorce. We all had kids starting to drive (and could relate to the worries that brings). We eventually got to the business part of our meeting. Because we had built a trust and a connection that comes from “big” talk, we were able to make great progress and plans to more forward professionally.
This holiday season try “big” talk when you are that boring holiday party, when you are hanging out with your brother-in-law who you really don’t know that well, when you are going on that blind date, or when you are sitting next to someone at Starbucks. People respond to “big” talk … and it is so much more interesting and refreshing.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~ Karl Menninger
What has been your experience been asking “big” questions and then really listening to the answers?
My latest from eHarmony … December 2013 … Awkward Questions!
I am not a sex therapist. That’s my disclaimer.
But, I did have a really interesting conversation with a female friend of mine recently. She’s never been married. She’s in her mid-30s. She’s dating a guy who is divorced and in his early 40s. At this point, they both have a lot of life experience under their belts (and you should read that figuratively as well as literally!).
Things are starting to get serious between the two of them. In other words, she knows that they are getting close to sleeping together (in every meaning of that phrase), and she asked me this: “At what point do you discuss if they have any venereal diseases before you have sex with them?” Again, I’m not a sex therapist. I’m not a marriage therapist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a minister. I sometimes shake my head in wonder at the things people ask me!
At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. My immediate response was to jump to what I tell my kids – God intends sexual intercourse to be between a husband and a wife. It’s an intimate part of a spousal relationship. I quickly realized that, with all judgment cast aside, that line wouldn’t necessarily work. One of them has already been married, and the two of them having been in the dating scene for many years.
My second response (almost as immediate as my first) was to say, “You have that conversation WAY WAY WAY before you sleep with him!” Sexual intercourse is incredibly intimate. Having a conversation prior to that about sexual history and disease should not be more uncomfortable in any way shape or form than taking off your clothes and being naked in front of each other. Think about it! Why do we seem to assume that difficult conversations would be, or should be, more awkward, more intimate, more embarrassing, or more raw than actual nudity and sex!?!? It’s crazy — especially when you consider what is at stake! What is at stake could be a matter of life or death, or could certainly alter the course of your life forever.
I encouraged my friend to think about the fact that if she and her “friend” were comfortable enough with each other to consider having sex, then certainly they could handle (and should be able to handle) what might seem to be a difficult (or perhaps better labeled as an “uncomfortable”) conversation about their health and sexual histories.
I also suggested that if having this conversation were too difficult, then perhaps they weren’t ready to even experience the physical intimacy required when embarking on a sexual relationship. If verbal intimacy can’t be achieved, then I don’t think anything can be gained by jumping straight to physical intimacy.
It was an interesting conversation, but one that really made me stop and think about things from a religious, moral, and practical perspective. I’m glad my friend is thinking about this, and I’m glad she asked the question. I hope she is contemplating our discussion, and taking it to her boyfriend to stimulate an even more robust conversation – about their relationship, about whether they are ready to have sex, about their health, and about their future.
She then asked a second question: “What if he lies?” Oh boy. Sadly, I know people who have lied. After marriage. About what diseases they may carry. That gets at trust … trust from day one. I feel badly for anyone in this situation. To find out years into a marriage that you were lied to about something as important as this certainly serves to impact the entire marital relationship and the sanctity upon which it was built. Like I said, I’m not a marriage therapist, so I’m going to leave that one for the professionals.
My bottom line is this: have the conversation! Ask the questions you need to have answered before the point in which you NEED to know the answers!