It’s been a battle to allow myself to feel this. On Sunday morning, August 9, 2015, I received the dreaded call from my Aunt Jackie. “Lil Donald, your dad passed this morning.” It was a call I had been expecting for months. One I knew would come from Jackie. It was 5 years ago I received a call from Aunt Jackie, my dad’s baby sister, asking me if I was sitting down. I thought it was the call. The call to confirm that after decades of drinking, my father’s liver had given out. But this was a different kind of call. Shockingly she told me that my father had checked himself into rehab. Admittedly, my first thought was, why now? Why after all of these years did he finally decide to stop? It was later that I realized that one of the reasons why was because of his grandchildren. He wanted to be with them and around for them. The next 5 years gave him an extra lease on life. 5 years that I did not expect. We talked on the phone often, he visited me in Charlotte, I went to see him in Los Angeles. He got to meet all of his grandchildren. His rehabilitation did not extend his life for the many years that we hoped, but it did extend the opportunity for us to reconcile, and connect, and to say I love you.
Ever since that phone call, I could sense a change in my perspective in life. I have to do everything I can to love and protect my wife and kids. As a father of four, I realize I have a lot at stake. Every day, every decision I make, there are high stakes. I have to consider my health, financial freedom, faithfulness to my wife, connectedness to friends. Everything. Furthermore, I realize that the stats are against me.
As I near the age of 40, the number 40 stands out strong.
I am at risk, simply because I am married. My lovely wife and I are holding on strong, by grace alone, but it’s shocking to know that according to the APA, 40% of first time marriages in America end in divorce.
We have been married for 11 years, and according to the CDC, 43% of first marriages in the U.S. end within the first 15 years. We gotta keep holding on.
My parents divorced when I was young, and studies state that children of divorced parents are 40% more likely to get a divorce than those that were not.
Like I said, the stats are against me, but I rely on a few things for success. I rely on my faith, extended family support, my friends, and when the going gets rough, my faith some more. When my father held my hand and prayed with me, I was reminded that I need to do this more often with my family. Only Christ sustains me and my marriage.
This week’s post is written by Josiah Goodrum, an aspiring writer from Asheville that made his way to the Queen City to go to UNCC and strike it rich… in life, if not finances.
Love your wife well. This month at UNCOMMEN the focus has been on how men can have the biggest impact on their families and make a lasting impression on their kids. U Can Love is all about starting at the heart and soul of any family, the love between a man and a woman.
I grew up in an uncommon household. Not only did my dad do things that he was supposed to do like Chris Rock says, but he also took my mom on dates, made her breakfast in bed, planned surprise birthdays and helped out a lot with the four of us kids.
My dad was always heavily involved with things like sports and scouts and being my sister’s hero; he was always there coaching and cheering us on. He taught us to behave and to be the best we could be.
My dad was and is romantic. Not just the over the top stuff that you see on TV–although he did do some of that stuff–but the nitty gritty things like making pancakes on saturday mornings or weed-eating the mountainside or a number of household chores that lesser men would not even considered doing. My dad showed me how to treat a woman and my siblings and I are fortunate enough to be apart of this amazing love story that still continues to this day as both parents prepare for grandparenthood.
One of the more extravagant romantic moments dad pulled off was one of my mom’s birthdays, I don’t remember which one but I do remember the epicness of the occasion. Dad painstakingly planned every detail of a massive treasure hunt around Asheville where my mom found clues that led to friends taking her to her favorite stores, out to lunch until she eventually ended up in a hotel room with scrapbooks and no kids. With his precise and planning nature my father pulled off one of the single greatest birthday surprises ever. It was, as we would put it, UNCOMMEN.
My dad’s kindness and romance towards my mom to this day is the stuff of legend and has led to some over the top proposals from my brother and me. My brother organized a whole event with family and friends and a walk down memory lane. I wrote a song and sang with the rising sun. We learned the importance of romance from dad.
Consistent and creative my dad to this day continues to show me how a man should love his wife. He laughs and jokes around, he opens the car door for her and whisks her out on the dance floor–aka the living room– in front of all us grown up kids who look on with an interesting mix of awkward, awe and ew. I never knew a day when I doubted that my parents loved each other and that is truly UNCOMMEN.
I’m on the cusp of marriage. I’m young and poor and have no idea what I want to do with my life. But I do know that I want to love my bride to be like my dad loves my mom. I don’t need a million dollars in my bank account, and I don’t need to live in a south Charlotte mansion with a pool in the backyard, but I do need to love my wife like there is literally no tomorrow. Thanks to dad I’ve still got a few of his tricks up my sleeve.
My dad isn’t famous, my dad isn’t rich, my dad doesn’t have the most interesting job or the most interesting hobbies, in a lot of ways I’m sure he isn’t that much different from any man reading this blog post. But he loves my mom well in simple everyday things that shows he means those famous three words. I. Love. You. And that is UNCOMMEN.
This week’s contributing author is Nikita Coulombe, a fine artist and writer. Nikita is the co-author along with Dr. Philip Zimbardo of the acclaimed books, Demise of Guys, and Man (Dis)Connected. She’s also passionate about painting, and focuses on surface pattern design and textile design.
Happy Couples, Meaningful Lives: 10 Ways to Become a More Connected Loving Spouse
Build and maintain trust; stay in touch mentally. During “sliding door moments,” where you have the option to either have a conversation and resolve an issue with your partner, or distract yourself with the TV, a book, or running an errand, make the choice to move towards your partner and engage with their concerns, rather than move away from them. Turning this into a habit will build your partner’s trust and faith in you.[i]
Build and maintain intimacy; stay in touch physically. Relationships often become “touchless” (void of meaningful touch, affection, or physical intimacy) long before they become “sexless” (minimal to no sexual activity). Touch is an incredibly important need for humans beings, yet it is quite common in our society today to get so busy with work, school, kids, and all the running around that we overlook our partners and go whole days without having physical contact with them. To bridge the gap in your relationship if this is happening, start by examining your own expectations around touch. Does touch always have to lead to something sexual or can you just touch your partner because it feels good? Can you receive touch from your partner without it feeling like something must happen sexually because they touched you? Often, couples stop touching because they attach an expectation to the touch, there is an established pattern of touch leading to other behaviors that has become too predictable or limiting, or one person does not like the way the other person touches. Slowing down, checking in with your partner, and re-learning their needs will increase your sense of closeness.[ii]
Support each other’s hopes and dreams: stay in touch spiritually. Do you know what your significant other’s goals are? What have they secretly wanted to do or be since they were young – how do their lives differ from that now? Ask them to share with you what they felt their lives would be like. Ask them what’s most important to them. You want to keep each other grounded and realistic, but if there’s a way to move in the direction of their goals you can also be their biggest backer.
Listen. There’s an old story about a man who for many years would give his wife the heel of the bread. One day his wife asked him why he gave her the worst part of the bread, and he replied “I’ve always given it to you because it’s my favorite part.” Recognize that you are two individuals in one relationship. Just because you have gotten along for a long time and agreed on things, doesn’t mean that you know why the other person agrees. Asking them why they believe what they believe is important, especially so you can have more context for instances where you don’t agree.
Be solution-oriented when you don’t see eye-to-eye. During disagreements, instead of arguing, consider the pros and cons of something together. Try to see what’s happening from a third party perspective, as someone who wants the best for everyone. Some couples suppress their honest feelings in order to avoid conflict but it is possible to be honest, open, and express negative feelings without fighting.[iii]
Don’t say anything you can’t take back. It takes 5 compliments to neutralize a negative comment. We tend to readily remember the hurtful things a person has said. It’s better to use restraint when you’re upset and feel like calling your significant other a name. Happy couples report a higher ratio of positive to negative interactions than unhappy couples.[iv]
Think like you’re an 80-year-old couple. What memories do you think the 80-year-old you will remember or cherish looking back on your life, particularly with regards to the moment you are in now? What would you have wanted to do differently – is it possible for you to do those things now? What’s holding you back?
Say “thank you” often. Think about how good it feels when someone notices or appreciates something you’ve done. Let your partner know what you love about being in a relationship with them, and what they bring to it. Thank them for the day-to-day things they do (i.e. “thank you for taking out the trash,” “thank you for getting the oil changed”). Doing so will let your partner know you notice them and acknowledge their efforts.
Understand and appreciate how your partner wants to connect. Men and women must both become experts in their partner’s way of feeling connected to them – whether through hearing certain words, being touched a certain way, or sharing a common hobby – and embrace it even if they don’t fully “get” it.[v]
Always consider their needs. Remember, ALL of your partner’s needs and ways of feeling loved are worth considering, even if you don’t intend to meet them. When you are listening to our partner’s needs, before you decide if you want to or can accommodate them, try to really get what it is they are wanting and why. How will getting this make them feel? Many needs can be validated with more than one approach, so perhaps you can find another way or compromise if initially their need cannot be met. It’s all about helping your partner feel seen, heard, and understood.
[i] Gottman, J (2011, October). How to Build Trust. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from Greater Good Science Center: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/gg_live/science_meaningful_life_videos/speaker/john_gottman/how_to_build_trust/.
[ii] Rankin, K (2014, December 16). Living Like Roommates: How Did We Get Here? Retrieved July 3, 2015, from BetterSexEd: http://bettersexed.org/2014/12/16/living-like-roommates-how-did-we-get-here/.
[iii] Gray, J (2008). Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
[iv] Poulsen, S (2008). A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from Purdue University. Purdue Extension: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-744-W.pdf.
[v] Weiner-Davis, M (2014, April 30). The Sex-Starved Marriage. Retrieved July 6, 2014, from TEDx: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Sex-Starved-Marriage-Michele.
The Declaration of Independence starts out with these words, We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident… In other words, everything that comes next doesn’t have to be proven, it’s just fact. We know these things to be true just from making observations of others and looking within. We know this to be true. To argue is to automatically put yourself at odds with common sense and logic. So it is with the following statement, “The Most Important Thing a Dad Can Do…”
How would you fill in that blank? You can read the various responses of my Facebook post of this very question here, and even offer your own thoughts. The responses were great, and most of them typical- “be present, honest, forgiving, loving, etc.” A few people read my mind though. Here is what I believe is the most adequate, self-evident answer: The Best Thing a Dad Can Do is Love His Wife Well. That’s it. It’s not rocket-science. Men cannot spend time, listen, forgive, model, say, or display anything if they are not there, and the only way to truly “be there” is to do everything in their power to protect the stability of their family. As a result, kids are direct beneficiaries of the love shown between a husband and wife.
To prove this point even further, simply take mental notes as to how your dad either did or did not love your mom. How did that model affect you? I could pull out the sociological facts, we could look at the direct correlation between the stability of the family and the effects on children. The social sciences prove this concept ten times over, but the true test is, do you believe it based on your own life experience growing up? Remember the old adage, “do what I say, not as I do?” Doesn’t really work. Kids do what we do. If my son has any chance of being a humble servant to his future wife, then he has to see it modelled in me. If he rarely sees it in me, then the chances of him being that kind of man are terribly low. If my daughters really want to know what to look for in a man as they get older, they should be able to look to their father as the number one example. They will likely be attracted to a man that reminds them of the characteristics and traits of their father. The hard question I have to ask myself is, what kind of man am I modelling before them?
I want my kids to see a man who adores his wife. I want to constantly serve Stacey out of joy, not out of guilt or begrudgingly. I love to spend time with her and I know my kids are watching. We laugh, we cry, we hug, we kiss, we hold one another often- right in front of them. We tell each other sorry, I love you, and I forgive you. I want my kids to see that our love for them is an extension of the love we have for one another. As it pertains to the goal of protecting my kids, I believe the most protective thing I can do, is to love their mom well, and I am fully aware that I need as much practice as possible in doing that well.
I’ve heard it said before that the only thing guaranteed in life is change. Sounds about right. Do you remember Monday, September 15, 2008? It was on that day, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. The Dow dropped 504.48 points. The rest of that week signaled the beginning of the end of a relatively long run of economic prosperity. When that happened, what changes did you have to make? What other significant events, either socially or personally, have come crashing down on your plans and completely rocked your world?
I can remember several epochs in life that have left me scratching my head wondering, about how we survived certain interruptions in the normal flow of life. Nothing comes close to an event that happened to the Lanier family in 2012. My wife, Stacey had been healing from a fall in which she broke one ankle and severely sprained another. We had been staying at her parent’s house as she recovered, and every day I would wake my daughter up at 6 am, we would leave the house by 6:30 and I would drive the hour-long commute into work. She would sit sleepily in my office and do her homework until about 8:45 when I would then take her 6 minutes down the road to her school. We would repeat this exercise every day of the week, and though it was a little taxing, we learned to adjust.
It was three weeks into this process that Stacey was finally getting well enough to come home. The doctors had fitted her with a boot, so she was able to walk without the use of a walker. Our final test was to see how she did driving. We went riding around her parent’s neighborhood for about 20 minutes, and she did great. This was the success we were hoping for. With the ability to drive without discomfort came the assurance that Stacey could take our oldest daughter to school in the mornings, and most importantly, our family could return home together. We sat in the driveway and talked about the grace we had experienced despite the trying circumstances, and were thankful that it was coming to an end. Little did either of us know what the next 10 minutes would bring.
I was upstairs packing when I heard my father-in-law yelling for his wife, saying, “something’s wrong with Stacey!” I rushed to the couch to see my lovely wife disoriented and stuttering, unable to articulate but repeatedly saying, “I… I jus.. jus.. can’t talk.” She was having a stroke. The paramedics were called, prayers sent up, and while rubbing her head and looking at her eyes, I simply tried to comfort her and tell her it would be okay. After several minutes, she finally came back. By the time the paramedics arrived, she was regaining her ability to talk, but it was clear something was not right. The next year would be littered with multiple hospitalizations and frightening moments in public places as her mild stroke left her with constant migraines that sometimes took on the appearance of another stroke. She was recovering; it just took a lot of time, and we racked up some hefty bills. My daughter and I had to extend our commuting to my in-laws for several more weeks.
So the future planning began. You ever do that exercise where someone tells you to reach your hands up as high as you can, then after a few seconds tell you to raise them higher? The result is always a mild rebuke, “you were asked to raise your hands as high as you could the first time, but you were obviously holding out.” That’s what those several months felt like at work. I was working as hard as I could, so I thought. But it wasn’t until the circumstances got more challenging that I reached up even higher to fulfill my duties. I worked on my efficiency and communication; I got projects done well in advance, I wrote out all of my procedures step by step in the event that I would not be in the building on a given day of the week. I built a communication system with my colleagues for live chat, and I wrote out lesson plans weeks in advance. I was not only adapting to the change that had happened, but I was also planning for change in the future. I was reaching higher because the circumstances demanded it. I was adapting because my wife and family and employer all needed me to.
My lovely wife is fully recovered today, and all is well. The lessons learned from those hard circumstances in 2012 have helped me not only to be more flexible, but future-oriented.
Questions: Can you remember the last time an event shook your world and forced significant changes in your daily routines? How can change, even through a saddening event, serve us best?
Challenge: Take fifteen minutes a day to plan your day, and as a result, design your future. Yet, leave room for God’s purposes to prevail over yours and be prepared for change. Stretch yourself and give your all in your relationships and work.
Proverbs 19:20-21 “20Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. 21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
Romans 15:13 “13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Author: Originally from Southern California, “Sociologist turned Technologist,” Dee Lanier is a passionate and energetic educator and learner with over a decade of instructional experience on the K-12 and collegiate level.
This week’s post is from former nuclear submarine Captain, author, and speaker, David Marquet. Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work—a place where everyone is a leader. See more of his resources at davidmarquet.com.
Good leadership is more like a sports camp than a history course. Our leadership abilities grow when we practice new skills. Like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn.
For example, we encourage you to develop leaders, not followers. One way we suggest you do this is to avoid the temptation to solve problems and tell people what to do. Instead, ask them what they think. Language choice can also being a powerful agent for change. Carol from ProService Hawaii shared this story with us.
“We rolled out something where I asked them to come look at everything we had to accomplish and I wanted to get their feedback on whether or not we could be successful.” Carol’s team was more than willing to provide feedback, but she was using language that focused solely on the negative. “I said OK, what do you think we are going to fail at with this and nobody wanted to answer the question,” she shared. “So I rephrased it and said OK, who feels uneasy about this and who’s a little worried about this?”
Carol’s new language choice opened the floodgates for feedback. Her team was willing to share where they had concerns, and it helped her and her team identify obstacles and overcome challenges. “I got responses like, ‘I don’t think we can do both of those things on the same day,’ so we started to adjust and I got feedback from them and it was a really good lesson for me because I learned that language matters.”
As we pursue excellence in leadership we need to approach it as something we practice – something we do, not just an exercise in gathering knowledge. When we train physically, we observe changes. As a jogger trains for a 5k run, each workout produces positive effects. Longer runs build stamina, speed work builds strength, and weight work builds upper body strength. Leadership is very similar.
Our brains are like muscles and need training. Like physical training, we need to practice leadership principles to learn them. Leadership always involves other people. Keeping a body of knowledge in our own heads without practicing the behaviors isn’t leadership. Remember, like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn, just like Carol showed when she changed the language she used with her team.