Where has the white picket fence family gone?

You did what you thought you were supposed to do. It’s all part of the script – the formula for life, right? You grow up. You go to school. Get a job. You fall madly in love. You marry. You buy the house with or without the white picket fence, get the dog and have babies. You’re living happily ever after, right?

Hopefully, some of you are.

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

There is nothing more heartwarming than that couple, we all know them, the couple who makes it 50 or 60 years together. The couple that sticks by each other through thick and thin and who remain faithful to one another, always. And they do it despite all of the challenges that a lifetime can bring.

But admit it. Even when our parents parents were young, not everything was rosy. Affairs happened. Folks left each other. Dads, decades ago, were most likely the ones to walk out the door because, well, because mom’s job was to stay at home with the kids.

Times have changed, folks.

Love far too often fades in today’s society. In part, because we’re told, always, that we’re supposed to ‘be happy.’ Few seem to want to put in the work marriages and raising kids together often requires. People grow tired of the same old thing. Couples grow apart. Jobs get in the way. Affairs still happen, on either side. More and more, moms are not only going to work but also becoming the breadwinner. They’re not at home, any more than dad. Depending on the situation then, mom or dad leaves whatever house they’re in because if you’re splitting up, someone has to.

But that means the couple is broken.

The family as a whole, doesn’t have to be, too.

Ask just about any fit (willing, able, wanting, non-abusive, not chemically dependent) parent, and they’ll tell you they love and want to care for their children moving forward whether it be in one or two homes, as much as they have since the day their child was born. Not just the financials of it all. But actually helping raise their child.

And, given it has been shown time and again to be what’s best for kids, we all have some pretty important choices to make in how we handle divorce and custody discussions, decisions and litigation should we (as a family choosing to separate) not be able to reach a workable solution for everyone involved, on our own. North Dakota voters specifically, at this moment in time, have an unbelievable opportunity before them. ND; what you need to know about Measure 6:

  • 110 world experts endorse shared parenting in family law and say current law is based on “flawed science”.
  • Too many children are growing up without one of their parents; usually the dad. There are tremendous, documented physical and emotional consequences to this.  
  • Shared parenting is popular in poll after poll achieving over 70% approval and with equal support of men and women.
  • Lawyers only get paid to draft documents and “argue”, so they have a financial incentive to create conflict.  Who ever wins in this situation? The legal system. Not your family.

I told my ex the entire time we were married and discussing how the marriage wasn’t working, that if we ever separated, I wanted to be that couple. The couple that still gets along, that has holidays together, that invites each other over for whatever. There was no way we were going to be that couple. Not from the get-go. But we still shared everything when it came to our daughter – the responsibility for raising her, time, decisions and when we couldn’t agree, we sought out mediation. While we didn’t always agree on how it looked, we absolutely did our best to do right by her. Not by what one or the other of us wanted. It’s why, when we went through the divorce, we sought out ‘collaborative’ attorneys. What, haven’t heard of it? It’s a common practice in Wisconsin, among other states. But, it’s rarely heard of in states that want to perpetuate the fighting. Like you, North Dakota. Think those attorneys throwing everything they have including 70k of their own money against Measure 6 have your children’s best interest in mind? Think again. Think of all the other good that 70k could do? Or how much of a break they could cut families who do need to litigate? Think of how commonplace Collaborative Divorce would be in your state if they truly wanted what was best for a child? About $3,000 each got us both through the actual divorce process, which was cordial and vetted out one of the most thorough and well defined placement schedules I’ve ever seen, leaving little to question or fight over. How many of you have ever even heard of a collaborative divorce?

For what it’s worth, some thougths – and not just on Measure 6 in North Dakota but for folks in any state or region where #sharedparenting reform is being discussed and on the table:

– Talk with others. Moms and dads. Grandparents. Professionals in the field. If you really want to educate yourself, seek out dads that you specifically you know are good dads – good people, who have gone through divorce and get their first hand account. Be interested in their experience if you truly want to become an educated voter. All sides of this complicated family situation are throwing a lot of statistics around at you and a lot of anecdotes. To know yourself for sure, what is best for families (and every situation will be unique other than this;  when two fit parents are involved and their locations make it physically possible to share custody, shared parenting has been shown to be most effective. Always.) ask questions, do the research and ignore the rhetoric.

– Trust that very few adults are better at raising a child alone, than together. No one’s role as full-time parent should be diminished just because there may now be two homes instead of one.

– Kids do need both parents. Which, when possible, includes equally a mom and a dad. Or in some cases, two moms, or two dads. And grandparents on both sides. And a school that trusts and shares information with all parties. And neighbors wherever they are, helping watch over them. Raising kids well requires a team effort. It does actually take a village. Those who think they can do it alone or that they’re better off shutting out another good parent, your children are simply missing out. You are also putting your child at risk of a whole host of problems proven to arise when good dads, in particular, are absent. Statistics back this up.

– Collaborative divorces are what is best for a child. It requires parents agree to sit down at the table, together, with their attorneys, and work things out. Always, deliberately, with the best interest of the child in mind. Encourage your state bar to promote this kind of law practice.

We now just need the court system and family law to recognize what we, as a society, should already know and value. Kids do need both parents – equally where and when possible – and the best possible alternative otherwise. It shouldn’t be a mandate. It shouldn’t be a ‘no matter what’. It shouldn’t tie judges hands. But it should be a starting point.

Measure 6 lives up to all of this.

Still stuck on that script? Still trying to live that picture perfect life? Those of you with primary placement still feel that less than 82.2% (national average) time with your kids means somehow you’re less of a parent? Or that you’re giving the other parent way more time than they should be given for some unknown reason – or ‘just because’? Let go of that old script. It hasn’t fit the storyline now for decades. You can do it. Figure out a better way for you, your ex and your kids. Appreciate another parent who wants to be a part of your kids lives and work to be inclusive versus the opposite. It may not look or seem easy, but if 110 world experts are right and experience speaks for anything, the rewards can be phenomenal once you let go of the fear, especially that fear of losing control. For your kids. For you. For everyone.

No good parent should be deliberately minimized in the life of their child. Kids love and need both parents. They don’t want to have to pick and choose. Our courts (in any state) shouldn’t be allowed to either.

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Damned if you do ..

The Cowboy is standing at the sink, cleaning up after having just made us both some breakfast. We’ve both got busy days ahead. And we’re both already somewhat exhausted. Neither of us slept much last night, the dogs were out and barking incessantly for some reason until about sun-up this morning.

Further exhausting us, is a situation we both feel passionately about. One that we are confronted with on a daily basis through the eyes of so many others as well as our own situations; the healing of families after divorce and doing what is in the best interest of the children stuck in the middle of what can often be a tough situation.

The Cowboy is heading to a South Dakota Shared Parenting Rally here in just a bit, a group he’s quietly helped lead behind the scenes for a couple of years now. It’s a group he joined and quite honestly, helped to restart out of the pain of his own family’s situation. The mission since, has become far greater. I’m not overstating this – there isn’t a day when at least one person isn’t calling the Cowboy asking for advice, needing someone to understand where they’re at and asking why no one seems to care that their children have been ripped out of their lives other than four days a month for no apparent reason – a standard custody judgement in South Dakota no matter how good or fit both parents may be, no matter how close they may live, no matter that a growing amount of evidence shows it is best for children whenever possible to have as much time with both parents assuming they are both fit, willing, loving and able parents. 

“It’s a no win situation,” the Cowboy says to me, still standing at the sink, looking not at me but thoughtfully out the window. “All I want, all most people want that are in my situation, is more time with their kids. If you don’t fight for it, people say you don’t care. If you do fight for more time, you’re told you’re bitter and angry. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

It’s not always about time, either. The concerns. There are so many other issues that surround children of divorce. And the parents, quite honestly. One parent badmouthing the other in front of the kids, phone calls or even standard visitation denied with no recourse for the offending parent, never any extra time given, important information about child development withheld, medical issues, the list goes on.

I’ve been cautious to post much of anything over the past year around the topic of our families for a number of reasons. These tough discussions permeate our everyday and are often the conversations the Cowboy and I have when we are alone. But I think there is an incredible amount we’ve learned and that we’ve learned through others that is worth sharing ..  discussions worth taking part in.

Information as simple as – does your state offer/promote collaborative divorce? There are so many I know of who look at me like, what are you talking about, when I ask if this is something they’ve considered.

Important questions to ask an attorney before you retain their services.

Important details to work through before you sign off on finalizing your divorce or custody arrangement.

Working out a communication plan in regard to the kids – if you have a tough time communicating in any way with your ex. What is a communication plan and what resources are available? And, do they work?

Divorce impacts over 50% of our society anymore, most often these couples have children. What states do divorce well? What can we learn from them? Where are there helpful resources for these families? How do you work with someone who doesn’t want to work with you but rather hurt you in a divorce/post divorce/through the kids? Is it possible?

What is happening legislatively across the nation when it comes to child custody arrangements, decisions and laws? Shared Parenting conversations and legislation are growing. But what does this mean?

The media, the family court system and our government like to talk about how big a problem fatherlessness is in our society, yet the system often seems stacked against men, especially. Why is this?

The less a non-custodial parent sees their kids, the more they’re required to pay in child support. May seem logical on some fronts and there are parents, countless parents tragically, who want nothing to do with their kids lives and be free of the financial burden. But I’m not sure that’s the norm. SO .. when you have a fit, loving, caring and genuine non-custodial parent asking for more time, not to get out of paying, but to genuinely have more time with their kids because it is what most likely best all around .. what incentive is there for a custodial parent to agree to any change the arrangement?

Deadbeat dads is another topic the media likes to latch on to and promote the heck out of, I know, I’ve worked in newsrooms that have done this. Let’s follow around the cop walking door to door with arrest warrants for those who haven’t paid up. That’s sexy ‘journalism’ to use the term loosely and is easy to promote, I can just hear the male announcer voice now booming 10 seconds of copy over how we have a society of deadbeat dads and how we can’t let them get away with it. While I will never think it is okay to walk away from your kids or the financial responsibility of them – I have now also seen firsthand why it would be easier for some dads, especially, (some moms too for the record) to walk away versus be put in the situation their ex spouses continually put them and their children in. I am amazed to even think I can now understand this. Not as easy a story to tell, but one equally worth sharing. Who’s got the guts (or quite honestly the time in a churn and burn world of media) to do it? Running stories that are deep and meaningful and true to both sides often bring out the Jerry Springer in many families. It’s a risky deal for news outlets and which side do you believe? Why perhaps the flip-side or even the front side often don’t get told. Stick to the facts of who hasn’t paid up and there’s your story.

What happens when two parents, both hurt by a marriage that didn’t work out for some reason, let go of the past and come together sincerely to move forward, work together, get along and operate in all honesty and do what is in the best interest of the child? What happens then? How does the child benefit/react/grow? What does this look like?

Where are there resources to help you learn to let go, get along? What are the warning signs your kids really aren’t handling the mess you’ve created well?

 

The system is broke in so many ways. How do you fix something so intimate as family and interpersonal relations? Can it be fixed? Who can help, if anyone? Who’s doing it well? I am not claiming to have any answers. But there are always others we can learn from.

I’m not saying I’m going to write about this everyday, but in light of some recent issues in our own family (positive and negative) and in a few conversations we’ve had with others in just the past week, I’m done being frustrated over saying nothing and the fear of saying anything. 

These conversations are happening, but they need to be happening on a broader scale than inside our own homes, or in isolated silos to friends who will listen and can empathize because they are in the same situation.

I’ve taken long enough to write this that the Cowboy has since left his perch at the sink where this whole conversation started, and has left for today’s Shared Parenting rally. Unsure if two people or two hundred people will turn out, he plans to be among them…

While others have told the Cowboy he’s an embarrassment for doing what he’s doing, I hope he knows how incredibly proud I am of what a good dad he is, of how much he cares about and for his kids, and that even if he can’t change his own situation, he’s doing what he can to create as positive a situation for other parents and children should they have to go down the same treacherous path.

Mr. Hyman ..

I was walking the other day out of an event, one of my favorite of the year .. with a few dear friends.  We were some of the last to leave, having helped clean everything up and putting the place, a camp for kids with disabilities, back to semi-normal.

One:  A wise friend and mentor to us all and one of the programs biggest supporters .. who has been married to one of the most wonderful women now, for 40 plus years.

The other two:  A sweet young couple I have gotten to know well and who I just love.  And who at some point, I fully expect these two will get married.  Sooner than later if my girlfriend has anything to say about it.  She can’t hint to her rockstar boyfriend enough she is ready for the ring.

…………..

“I hear you’re getting married!” he says to me, seeming genuinely excited and sincere about it all.  “That’s just great .. ” he adds, among a few other wonderful thoughts and observations.  I have known this gentleman a very long time. His company was one of the first I went to work for long ago just out of high school .. we have remained friends ever since, having many mutual close friends, colleagues and causes that are important to us.

“If I can offer you one piece of advice, because I really do want things to work out for you with this one … ” he says .. which had I been drinking coffee or any sort of beverage, I would have spit it out laughing.  For as sweet as I know he was being with that comment, it just struck me as funny.

He continued.  “Something my wife and I have been blessed to have always done.  Don’t ever go to bed upset with one another.”

Agreed.   Not going to bed angry is a goal I have always strived for.  I think we all do.  But, we also all know it’s not always easy .. is it.  Sometimes circumstance and personalities get in the way no matter how much you may try to hit that goal.

This dear friend continued to share a story about one of the most important lessons he learned from one of his High School teachers way back when he was a ‘young buck’, Mr. Hyman.  “Hyman,” I asked?  I had to chuckle.  Hyman, he confirmed.  Know it’s spelled differently but for a teacher that name had to be tough.  Anyway ..

Mr. Hyman had apparently told his class long ago when our friend was a student, ‘Marriage is a lot of work.  And you may think each of you needs to give 50/50 to make it work.  But it’s not.  One person always end up putting in 90% of the effort.  And the other person, also needs to put in 90% of the effort.  And somewhere in there you hope it adds up to 100%.”

Lessons we learn firsthand being in a marriage.

Being out of one as well.  That’s a lesson that can apply to many things in life.

………………….

Going back into another union of hearts, dreams, families and all that goes along with that is a conversation the Cowboy and I have had on countless occasions.  Not wanting to repeat past mistakes.  Taking care to not take for granted what the other does or contributes.  Knowing there is always work the other is doing or energy being put in that shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Communication that needs to happen about life, with each other, to each other that doesn’t involve bills, the kids, the ex’s and problems.  Dreams always need to be shared.  Dates always need to be had.  Respect for each other and who we are as individuals as well as together is the goal.  Acknowledging that’s a lot of hard work, but deciding it’s worth it because the reward of a family that cares about each other, supports each other, is kind to one another, roots their day and actions in their faith, talks happiness, works only for the best and expects only the best of each other and delights in the good in the world around them sure beats the alternative.

Plus it’s no fun going to bed mad each night.

And my eyes always get puffy from crying so it’s just not pretty either.

It was only a few years after sharing his marriage insights in class, Mr. Hyman got divorced.  Successful outcome of the marriage or not, it is still a good reminder that while it may not always look like both parties in a marriage or a job or any relationship are putting in all they can and more, often they are.  And while we can always work harder and give more, we hope that in giving all we’ve got, no matter the ratio, it adds up to a beautiful life.  Even when its not always pretty.

Name them all?

I was going to write tonight about another topic related to marriage/divorce and some of what lies in-between .. because more good spinoff topics seem to keep coming up via (not even the Cowboy anymore but) friends, the more I write on any of this it seems.

But quite honestly, I just want to change the subject.  At least for now.  I need a breather because I’m relatively depressed after hearing from more friends that weren’t at all a part of the crazy mix last weekend .. Friends who are also struggling either personally or in their marriages.  And for some reason, having never read my blog before, they happened to log on this past week, digest the past couple of posts and reach out to let me know it was in some way helpful.  Which should make me feel good.  But I feel awful knowing any of them are hurting.  So .. I’m going to temporarily change the subject.

Come to think of it .. you know what else I might do?  (I’m always dreaming up new ways to further run myself ragged…)

What about creating some sort of ‘buck-up’ boot camp where we run everyone through a ‘things could always be worse’ series of events .. so whenever we might need a boost that our lives really aren’t that bad .. and we should appreciate even the crap we get from whoever it is when we come home each night .. (For me, that’s literal.  I come home to the dog that I have to walk each night and follow her with a baggie so that she can poop and I get to pick it up .. or the cats.  I hate cleaning out litter boxes.  But I hate the smell of litter boxes that haven’t been cleaned out even worse.  That may be obstacle, hmmm.  #3 I’m thinking) it is there to remind you.  Or, perhaps all it will do is prove to you, things are that bad and you’d rather scoop poop and run through a field of electric shock than go home.

People actually do pay good money to do that these days.  It’s called a mud run.  Look for one near you.  Sign up.  Toughen up and let’s get going on some positive changes in your life.

Sorry.  Tangent.

The whole point of what’s above is to say, I’m skipping relationship topics tonight.

In exchange …

I have a quiz for you.

(Insert cheer!  Or, collective groan.  You, of course get to choose.)

This is how I have spent the past couple nights now, with my daughter.  Studying states and their capitols.  There has been hand ringing, tears shed, some elation when she gets them right but mainly frustration that she gets any of them wrong.  If not what the state is or where, it’s how to spell it.

As she was struggling still with Connecticut and seemingly at wits end, I told her, “Try not to stress so much.  Just do your best and picture in your mind what you’ve written down time and again to practice.  Or, just write it down and then go back and sound it out to be sure you’ve spelled it as correctly as possible.”

She looked at me, I believe, still feeling rather defeated.

“Chances are,” I added .. “You’ll do better than most adults if we gave them the same quiz anyway.”

Her eyes flew wide open.

So there.. my challenge to you.  And, her challenge to me tonight.  Well, hers and ‘the boys’ .. that’s what the neighbor affectionally calls his stepson.  Despite the fact the two go to different schools, they have the same quiz tomorrow.  They were testing each other for a few minutes this evening.

Name them.  Can you?

The 50 states and capitols.

Not just name them, though.  Can you also get them in the right place?

Have fun .. good luck .. and in case a little music might help put you in the right frame of mind:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_HeLofy7IE   I had never heard that before this week. You?

Here’s the deal:

No matter how you do on the test, referring back to the assignment a couple days ago .. if you only talked nicely about your significant other today, you get an A+.

The Best Advice You Were (Never) Given?

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

…………….

I have a colleague who’s last day at work was today ..

At least for now.

We will see him again soon, only with one change.  Well maybe more than that.  He could come back with a tattoo somewhere we’ll never see.  Or have suddenly decided to become a vegetarian.  But one change that we’ll at least know for sure.  He will return to work in about a week and a half with a shiny new ring on his left hand.

He’s a great guy and he’s marrying a wonderful young woman this weekend, the two have been together quite some time, they seem like a great couple and they are excited to be getting married.

I of course, truly and sincerely wish them every blessing a lifetime of love can bring and the best in their marriage.  So do many, many other family and friends of theirs .. and of course all of our colleagues ..

Yet I heard someone say to him today, jokingly .. ‘it’s not too late.’

I might have said that as well a year ago.  But I would have meant it.

Quite honestly, I’m not so sure the relative newlywed that did say it today didn’t mean it. Actually, I know she did because she followed it up by saying just above a whisper but I was close enough to hear, “I actually meant it.”  Which makes me sad.  It wasn’t long ago she was that person rushing off, so excited to get married.  The wear and tear I already hear in her voice is heartbreaking.  (Perhaps I should show her yesterday’s blog.)

Anyway, a year ago for me, I was done.  Done dating.  For a very long time anyway.  That was my plan.  I had NO intention of even thinking about trying to connect with another person in regard to dating again .. and marriage?  Marriage was simply never again going to be a discussion.  The destruction I was witnessing in so many directions around me regarding other couples was enough to make me swear any of it off, I was almost certain, forever.

After focusing on my health and fitness, staying close to girlfriends I knew had my back and me theirs, working with a life coach and being faithful to pray and go to church, I put it all in God’s hands.  I told myself a year ago, ‘Focus on your daughter and your career because it is clearly a much better use of time and energy.’

I had had it.

Then along comes this cowboy.

…………..

My faith has honestly and genuinely (I am somewhat sincerely shocked) been restored that good marriages/relationships, heck even incredible ones do still exist.  That it is possible to connect with someone on a level so deep, that it’s okay to trust in it.  That it is safe to again, give another person (besides your child) .. everything you’ve got.

But I also believed that, the first go round.

A dear old friend of mine, one whom I miss terribly and have always looked up to, who I had no idea ever ventured to read any of these posts, left a comment today on yesterday’s post .. and the challenge I had linked to about being conscious to say only uplifting, positive things to your spouse and about your spouse to others, for 30 days.

She wrote:”I believe in love, family, marriage. I believe it. I know so many people of divorce did too at one point. Including my own parents. But if you really were honest….would those people of divorce have noticed flaws early on, red flags, where perhaps they should not have gotten married? My own mother said just that…..she always had a bit of a red flag moment in her, that said perhaps they shouldn’t. But it was the 60s…she was 22…EVERYONE got married.I feel awful hearing of friends’ marriages in trouble. Makes me so sad, yet its inevitable. Statistically, its going to happen. I will work every day to make sure that it is not me.

We don’t always see red flags as red flags.  We see them as challenges perhaps we can work through.  Troubles for one person, not you both as a couple, that might heal/get fixed in time.  Or with counseling.  Or that some red flags are ‘just stress’.  Or what I feel my ex and I believed, which was – that it was so great we were complete opposites – because somehow then we complimented each other.

In hindsight .. my ex says his family told him we would never work.

Maybe they did.  But we thought we knew better.  And, we loved each other so we tried.

But in trying, failing and throughout the years since, I have learned quite a few lessons.  Lessons I hope guide me well (they better or I’m going to be really peeved .. ) into the future.

Back to my colleague.  Knowing he and his beautiful bride were heading off into the great known, or dare I say, the great unknown that is marriage … I was pondering today, what possible advice would or could I ever give a couple just starting out, to help them succeed in love .. and marriage.

Would they care what I have to say anyway.

Probably not.  Most often we learn best by falling and getting back up on our own.

But for my own daughter’s sake…

I wanted to jot down a few thoughts so that she may look at this, someday, when she is contemplating any relationship of her own.

Love each other.  Speak kindly to each other.  More kind than is necessary where you can.  Date.. always.  Establish a good cache of babysitters.  Surround yourself with good friends and lots of family.  Know that sometimes friends are family.  But also know when it’s time for it to be, just the two of you.  Communicate.  And if you don’t do it well, find someone who can help you figure it out because it is perhaps the most important thing you can work on – for each other.  Laugh, a lot.  Listen every now and then to the tone of your voice and make sure it sounds the way you are hoping to be heard.  Hold hands.  Take walks.  Remember, it’s not always 50/50.  Chances are any slacking in one area by your spouse is being more than made up for by your slacking in another area.  Pray, together.  Don’t put a TV in the bedroom.  Ask each other about your day and mean it.  Spend less time worrying who is right and more time worrying about what is right.  Have one standing meeting each week where you can bring your grievances/frustrations to the table, talk about it and work out a solution together when it’s not in the heat of the battle.  (My ex and I learned this through years of counseling and thousands of dollars billing.  Don’t spend the money to hear the same, just do it.  It was one of the best things we did.)  Continue those standing meetings even if everything is going well and use it instead to celebrate all that is right.  (My ex and I failed on this part here.  Which may be among the reasons we are no longer together.)  ‘Let your love be stronger than your hate or your anger.  Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.’  (- Jane Wills)  Remind yourself each morning of why the person next to you is a blessing in your life.  And perhaps do the same again each night, before you go to bed.

I’m sure I’m missing a few big ones here.  But those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.  Thoughts that might someday be helpful to you, my beautiful daughter.  Who knows about anyone else.  Anyway, I never had a conversation like this with my own parents, in terms of what strengthens any relationship/marriage.  It’s one, in hindsight, I wish I had been able to have .. and still hope to with my dad, among others I know carry volumes of relationship wisdom from a life well lived.

Given I know a few people at least are reading this .. I am wondering, what advice would you give to newlyweds?  Or, to those even currently in a marriage but struggling.  What does it take to not only make a marriage work anymore, but work well, thrive and last?

You may now kiss the bride.  Or whoever has helped you learn those lessons.  🙂

Cheers.

Watering the lawn …

What are you doing to keep your own grass green?

(Not, lawn mowed.  Which would give this post an entirely different meaning.  Keep your minds above the waistline.)

Ok, so this is a follow up to yesterdays quote/post and initial thoughts on the fact that in the midst of a lovely weekend for the Cowboy and I, and one where it seems all we continue to do is build on what we have, we stopped to look at all of the relationship chaos around us (because it got to the point it was almost humorous if it weren’t so sad).  To ponder what it truly takes anymore to have a good marriage or lasting committed relationship.  And, who did we know we might look to, to serve as good examples or role models …

……………

I have a feeling today’s post won’t be very popular among some of my friends.  I have many, many strong women in my life and I know bazillions more out there who don’t read my blog necessarily but that would cringe at what I’m going to throw out there.

BUT I found it interesting .. and at the very least, food for thought.

One of the other blogs I follow is called Heavenly Ramblings .. and I haven’t checked it out in awhile. But for some reason I clicked on a post called, “Where Was God in That,” the other night.  http://heavenlyramblings.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/where-was-god-in-that/

This isn’t ultimately what I want to point out .. but why the title caught my eye:

I had just visited earlier that day, with a friend who had lost a child.

How many of us have looked at events in our lives .. Christ followers or not, and felt like were were terribly alone.  That God could not be present or this wouldn’t be happening. Or, there would at the very least, be some sort of a sign showing you the way past the pain and on through to better days.

We are so conditioned anymore to think pain doesn’t serve some valuable lessons, that our goal is to always just be happy.  And that if we’re not, to toss aside whatever it is and move onto whatever might be next.  There are actual wall hangings now for your home, magnets and cards everywhere promoting that belief.

We all know, life, death and the challenges we are presented with in-between, which include any and all relationships (spouse, being a parent, being a child of an aging parent, friendships, any of it) aren’t easy.

Where marriage is concerned, many unions are worth holding onto, fighting through the pain and frustration, watering the grass so to speak and bringing it back to life.  Others sometimes, as sad as it may be, we need to let go of, simply tear the whole thing up and try replanting.

I’m pretty sure at the lowest point in my own marriage and divorce, I was doing that.  Praying for signs that I wasn’t alone and on the right path.

Anyway .. I’m finally getting to the point here.  When I clicked on the blog post above, this happened to catch my eye in the margins of her webpage.  Especially because of the challenges many are facing around us .. and because the Cowboy and I and many others we know that have been through heartache or divorce wonder what we might do better in any current or future relationship.  Ring on the finger or not.

30 DAYS TO A BETTER MARRIAGE

http://seekinghiswill.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/30-days-of-encouragement-for-your-spouse/

……………

“Would you like to come to church with us,” we asked one of the couples we know that is struggling, via text Sunday morning.  We had been with this couple and a few other people Saturday night.  The evening ended with the party hosts/a married couple in a fight screaming ‘eff you’ endless to each other and the whole neighborhood to be quite honest, and one of them then kicking the whole group out in frustration we weren’t taking sides.

“We don’t do church.”  The text we received back.

I’m not trying to push religion on anyone here.  And I don’t know, that wherever you are at in a relationship, or life any of this will help.

What I do believe .. is that in an age where women especially are stronger, more outspoken, are told they shouldn’t bend, show weakness in the workplace or at home, are asked to take on more with family, community, at home and certainly not put up with less than 50/50 effort from a spouse or significant other, it can be tough to appreciate another person’s contributions to anything.  Because it may never seem enough.

In turn, how we speak to each other or about each other …. perhaps even we would cringe to hear at times.  (from the post.)  That’s all I’m saying perhaps we can give more thought to.   

All I know is 1.) I am always looking to do better, and this is probably an area where I could have done better in my own previous marriage.  I did the best I knew at the time, but I am always looking to better.

2.) Following the challenge mentioned in the post above – won’t make major marital problems disappear and it certainly won’t change some things.  This is just simply one area where it might be interesting to see if it helps your overall day to day.

3.) We also, all need some boundaries in terms of what is acceptable in terms of how we will be treated and communicate that to our families in an ongoing manner.  But how that is communicated ….

If you take away nothing else .. and I want this for my own daughter to think about years down the road when she may be in her own relationship as well as for myself because this can be applied forever across the board (job, parenting, friends, etc) .. but if anyone else might benefit from the thought here..

The challenge asks:  ”If all my family and friends knew about my husband/wife came from a filter of what I’ve said about him/her, what would they think?”  

Do you need to change the filter?  Do you talk positively about your husband/wife to others…or do you complain and criticize?  

Words should never “rejoice in iniquity.”  

Refrain (try it perhaps, for 30 days?) from listing your husband’s/wife’s faults to others.  Instead, present them before others today in a strong, positive manner.  Slip in a “good word” for your spouse.  Resist the urge to correct or belittle him/her in front of others.  Some of what you say may come back to them – May your speech always seasoned with grace.

A new text just came into my phone as I write this .. from one of the couples we know and hold dear that are struggling right now .. and that would be my wish for them.  That they find a way to better season, always, their words with grace.  In good times as well as when there is trouble.

It is also my wish and challenge for myself as a partner, as a mother, a daughter .. and a friend.

May we always find new and healthy ways to keep the grass green.