Relational

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Business Conflict

Conflict in business is everyday stuff.  People don’t like conflict, so they don’t get a chance to get good at its resolution. I like conflict, or rather, I enjoy the opportunity to get better at its resolution. As CEO, I deal with conflict all the time. By the time it’s made it to me, it’s festered into a rather significant boil. And if it were easy to resolve, it would have already been taken care of at an earlier stage. Therefore, unless I want to upset all parties and take a defensive stance, I need to get at the core elements of the conflict, soothe emotions, and come up with a solution that keeps the company’s reputation somewhat unharmed and the parties happy enough. I have a formula and style that has worked for me countless times.

First of all, my assumptions:

  1. People don’t like conflict and want to see it go away as soon as possible. Those that have been hurt by someone’s actions, usually don’t want to punish, they just want to see it made right. For those that have caused the conflict, they face a character issue on its resolution.
  2. 98% (made up %) of all conflict is a result of poor communication, miscommunication, an ambiguous communication, unrealistic expectations, or just everyday human error.
  3. Of the 2% that is genuine conflict, a negotiation or lawsuit may ensue. We’ll take this up some other time.
  4. Mistakes often get compounded by people avoiding responsibility and postponing notification of the parties that they made a mistake.
  5. Oftentimes there’s pain for one of the parties to resolve the matter. Postponing the situation won’t alleviate the pain and often makes it worse.

So, for example, this has happened many times: I’d have a loan originator (LO) employee that would take a loan application and set expectations with the borrower and, if a purchase loan, with the real estate agent. The LO would gather all the borrower information, look it over, and address anything that needed work. After working on validating the information in the file through processing, something would come up that would stop the deal from moving forward until resolved. The LO would need to go back to everyone involved to say that there’s a problem. If the LO made a mistake, or didn’t interpret things correctly, set the wrong expectations, or one of a thousand things, the agent and borrower would get upset. Any unwillingness from the LO to face the music and resolve the issue would just make matters worse as the deadlines got closer, and escalate the problem to my desk.

When this happens, my formula is:

  1. Talk to all parties and let them know I am going to get into it. I ask for a little patience and to stay calm of emotions. I will ultimately get to the right answer and, if my company is in the wrong, make it right. This buy-in from everyone gives me enough time to gather facts. Without facts, it won’t get resolved amicably.
  2. Tell everyone exactly what I’m going to do, who I’m going to talk with, the information I’m going to gather, and exactly when I’m going to contact them again. This is the most critical piece of the puzzle. Tell them what you’re going to do and do it. If you don’t, you’ve blown any real chance of restoring your reputation.
  3. Take responsibility for the problem. “I apologize that we’re all in this situation; we’ll get past this and we’ll get this problem off our plate so we can move on to more productive things.” I say this as a way to plant that idea in their minds rather than lawsuits. If there’s a potential for a lawsuit, I’m careful with my words so as to not admit liability, but still take on responsibility.
  4. Get into the situation. Most issues involve a couple of degrees of complexity. A human error that went unnoticed that put us in a corner which would result in the borrower potentially having to pay more money (we usually eat those). Or the plain reality that the borrower’s finances had a problem that went undiscovered for a time. This delay resulted in expectations that needed to be adjusted and now require the borrower to pay extra (we don’t eat those). I don’t own someone else’s problem, I just try and help them.
  5. Determine the salient facts and features of the conflict. I call the aggrieved parties back at the exact time I said I would whether I am ready to proceed or not. This is a big error that I’ve seen. When a borrower is told to expect a call, but the information just isn’t ripe for resolution, and the call isn’t made: Explosion.
  6. If I‘m not ready to proceed to the next step for resolution, I explain why and ask for some more time. I repeat the formula for the new expectation.
  7. In the resolution phase, I lay out the facts. I need to identify clearly what happened and why the train got off the tracks. I do not hide if or where we slipped up.
  8. At this point, I either eat the cost and make good on our error or identify the steps required to get back on track. I also address the cost to the borrower, if any. If there’s some good will gesture I can make by paying for some of the issue, I’ll generally make it.  But if it’s too large and is clearly in the borrower’s camp, I’ll just wait for their reaction.
  9. Silence at this stage is important to let the parties digest matters. Pain doesn’t go down easily, but sometimes it is what it is.
  10. Sometimes deals just don’t get done and sometimes you have to do deals that you don’t want to do because it’s the lesser of two evils. Those are just judgment calls. But at least jumping in to stop solvable problems from spinning out of control is a learnable skill.

As I said most people don’t like conflict. They just want to resolve issues and move on with their lives. And most of the time (Highlight this in your mind because this is a major takeaway): It’s not that a mistake was made, it’s what you do about it that matters.   What makes things dramatically worse is when people run and hide rather than admit and resolve. This is a character issue that is defining.

What I haven’t talked about here is what happens after this. I’ve run out of space, but quickly, punishment doesn’t make sense. Learning is important for all good intention situations.  Learn, fix, and move on. If someone makes the same error over and over, then maybe employment isn’t a good fit.

How comfortable are you with conflict? With customers? Employers? Spouse? Friends? Parents? Siblings? Others?  How can you be cool during conflict?

To your improving your ability to handle conflict,

Dave Marr

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By | December 8th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration

On Saturday March 4, 1865, a humid day with the Battle of Appomattox still more than 30 days away and Lincoln’s assassination 5 days beyond that, Lincoln gave this famous speech. Its structure and depth hold insights that we can apply today. It is instructive to our personal perspectives because from this distance we can discern and weigh without excessive partisan energy that always colors the present. Current partisan energy biases men’s minds, so looking back 152 years allows us the freedom of discernment without that bias.

“Fellow-Countrymen:”, he begins with the democratic ideal of equality. By addressing his listeners with this common salutation, he is asserting he is no higher and we are fellow travelers on this earth. In the speech, Lincoln treats combatants on both sides almost as if he were an impartial observer regarding the justifications and righteousness of their thinking and prayers. But it’s clear some thoughts carry more substantive spiritual weight than others, like the peculiar institution of slavery versus freedom. Lincoln is taken aback that men “both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” Yet, “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces.” In other words, how could someone pray to a God whose very character embodies justice that slavery should exist? How could that be if God is just? But he continues immediately in the same sentence, “but let us judge not, that we be not judged.” 620,000 deaths and the near destruction of the country, 4 long years of life and death struggle, and the leader of the nation speaks of not judging his adversary. Instead of the hardened heart of vengeance that victors quashed the vanquished, Lincoln embodies a higher ideal, a more substantive spiritual quality, of charity. Lincoln offers grace to the defeated in response to their hatred.

Even though there is more to say about the speech, much more, my Letters are designed for easy bites – a quick Friday morning snack for your contemplation and discussion in your Ironmen group. But of the ideas I have promoted over the years, this is a bigger one. The notion that ideas have spiritual weight is largely the point of our existence here on this planet. In our travels from birth to death we grow physically, mature socially, and climb spiritually. Our daily efforts engage the world in a kind of battle for survival or supremacy only to find, as Lincoln did, fellow travelers doing battle and asking God for assistance against you. And you must, as they must, defend convictions. However, Lincoln makes a distinction – some would make war to achieve their ends; whereas others would accept war rather than let their ideals perish.

So where am I going with all this? The world, i.e. work, politics, society, friends, and particularly your wife and children, deserve your grace, your acceptance, your willingness to look at them as fellow travelers. Conflicts will arise in your life that gives you the opportunity to defend and define your convictions. But you must lift your own countenance, your own renewed center towards charity, charity and grace my friends, because you may one day wake up upon reflection and find that you fought for the South.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Isn’t that a sentiment that would serve well in the world today?

To grace in your life,

Dave Marr

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By | November 17th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Adventure Mindedness

I do not want to die having not lived. I don’t want to look back on my life having never mattered to the full extent of my potential. I want to take this life God has seen fit to provide me – my strengths and weaknesses, my insights and ignorances, my loves and my doubts – and do what I can to make the world a better place all the while having fun in the process. Is that too much to ask?

When I think of adventure, I think of travel to locations you’d see in a magazine. A bucket list kind of thing – running with the bulls in Pamplona, learning Spanish in Costa Rica, skydiving in Sydney, scuba diving in Cozumel, dove hunting in Argentina, sailing around Martha’s Vineyard and drinking beers in any number of cool, beautiful, faraway places. Yet none of the above would matter squat to the world if I were to check all those boxes and shuffle off this mortal coil because they’re all just personal pleasures. There’s more to the adventure-minded vision. But those things that I did do and many more besides have been hallmarks of a mindset of adventure.  And that mindset has not existed in a vacuum.

Where can I make the most impact and have the most fun? At home. As a current or future husband and father it is your job to set the tone of how you are going to lead your family. In taking your family on a trip you are the one who frames how everyone should embrace the experience. Wide open expectations and minds should greet each new day. The family culture will largely be defined by you – let it be one of adventure. But I don’t mean just exotic travel. Adventure mindedness is being open to experiences, foods, people, disciplines, and ideas. You must be a salesman at home from the very beginning by encouraging and inspiring your wife and children to look out of amazed eyes at the richness and beauty of God’s creation. You must cheerlead your family that it’s the best thing in the world to be alive RIGHT NOW and be a part of THIS family! When do you start doing that? Long before you have kids.

You start today. You allow yourself to get excited about the possibilities in front of you and the things you’re going to emphasize in life. Decide how YOU are going to live your life because apples don’t grow from a juniper bush. You need to become the thing you intend to harvest from. For me, I always thought I’d have money. I didn’t start with any, but I figured it’d work out that way. I also just assumed I’d have a family. I never really thought about taking kids on trips, but as I matured and my work life started to pay dividends, that’s what we did. We took our kids on trips instead of buying things. We were not ‘thing-oriented’, we were ‘experience-oriented’. Each place we went required an eager expectation and a willingness to suffer the slings and arrows of missing luggage, close quarters, and long waits. Those things create family unity – as long as the mindset sets the correct perspective. Don’t be a passenger in your family life by letting your wife and kids set the tone of how things will go. Drive. Lead. Set expectations. Adjust attitudes. Call time out and provide expectations and then monitor how it’s going.

For example, my family was on this incredible vacation in Italy. We’re staying at this renovated 15th century monastery in the Venice sound where we had to take a water taxi to and from St. Mark’s square. While we’re waiting to be picked up, my 13-year-old gets in a nasty funk. I take his picture and he looks like he couldn’t be more bored. So I call time out, ask for a re-do, get him to laugh at himself, and take a new picture of him smiling. Two almost identical pictures except for his attitude. These pictures are classics in illustrating choosing mindset. It will be your adventure-minded attitude compounded over the next 20+ years that will set the tone for generations to come and will define your family character.

Your current and future family needs you to fulfill your maximum potential in life, starting today, in capturing a passionate mindset of adventure. Tomorrow is fast approaching. Take the next month to write down what you’re going to do, exactly how you’re going to do it, and who you’re going to become as a result.  Get after it.  Life is short.  Rest when you’re dead.

To your adventurous life,

Dave Marr

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By | October 14th, 2017|Personal, Relational, Spiritual|0 Comments

Idiot

Ok, so I’ve grown up a little. I have a long, uncomfortable history of saying or doing something that if I had a little more self-awareness, I’d have been humiliated. But somewhat fortunate for me, I’ve had the self-awareness of a tree stump. It’s only somewhat fortunate for me because I’ve come to conclude that I have hurt my trajectory in life with my immature mindset. I’ll explain that, but first some examples of embarrassment and my thinking that went with them. I’m highlighting my thinking from back then to see if you have similar thoughts. If you do, it might serve you to reevaluate.

In general, older people want to see younger people grow and succeed. It would be prudent to honor that and foolish not to. However, helpful people are only willing to test the waters to gauge whether their helpful effort will result in anything worthwhile. If the water isn’t right, they’ll pull back. In other words, the question before these folks is: Is it worth the effort or be “Pearls before swine”? If the young man is too immature to appreciate their insights, they’ll just hold back maybe till you’re ready…or maybe not.

Mistakes
The time that I made a joke about body parts at a society event; the time that I made an off-color joke when introduced to a US Senator that immediately made me persona non-grata at the table; the time I was asked about selling my company and made a quick reference to something edgy…each of these instances I cringe as I think back on my foolishness. But at the time, long before I learned the discipline of running my commentary through my brain before responding, I thought that being funny was the best way to be accepted. I thought that being edgy was the best way to being funny. I thought that being inappropriate was the best way to be edgy and get other people to loosen up. What resulted instead was I just came across as a fool, as an immature idiot, as a crass boor. Eventually, I came to realize I was not respected among the group who I wanted respect from.

So many times I’ve caused my wife discomfort that she pulled me aside at a time of non-conflict (not when I was being an idiot, but later) and said in effect, “I love you, but when you act like an idiot, you dishonor me and everything you’re trying to do in life”, or something like that. That one got through to me. I came to realize in my late 30’s that trying to run slightly askew of the crowd with the thinking that I was being an individual was just being immature. I didn’t have to be edgy. I was unique enough that I didn’t have to monogram ‘Mr. Individual’ on my sleeve. The plain truth was inescapable, I hadn’t grown up yet. I was holding on to young thoughts that didn’t serve my long-term interests.

Being Appropriate
So what is appropriate? First, it’s situation specific, so you have to recognize past instances in your life where you were immature so you can identify how your mindset skewed your understanding of what was important. One mistake I made was taking my peer group behavior and applying it to situations that were above my maturity level. I told a dirty joke as part of my toast at a family function. Nice.
Second, I got in the bad habit of not being cautious in my remarks. I didn’t care what others thought of me.  I was so caught up in being bold and independent that I undervalued my reputation.  Reputation matters, I just didn’t know how much. Finally, I needed to grab hold of my compulsion to speak when I didn’t have anything to say. My need for attention was just plain immature.

“Better to look like a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”  – Proverbs 17:28

Immaturity is like a thick veil over your mind. It’s tough to overcome. You have to be open minded to see it; you need to invite feedback or you’re blind to it.  So my advice here is specific to those who suffer from the same kind of immaturity as me and not so much to those that suffer from some other kind of immaturity.  If you are too quiet, care too much of what other people think, and need a boost of confidence, then this message would be quite different for you. Here’s where having men who will sharpen your iron with honest feedback is enormously beneficial.

Discuss in your Ironmen group the different personas you present to different groups and how you should emphasize different aspects of yourself in each. These aren’t fake presentations of you, just different versions of what is appropriate.

To your maturity,

Dave Marr

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By | October 6th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

The Baton

Sunday the 10th marks the 11th quick long year since my dad’s death. I wrote this Letter in honor of him and my father-in-law Steig. I love them and miss them both. Life is short gents, so please don’t let small things get in the way. Do you have someone you could honor while they’re still here? And as a father, be honorable.

To my Dad:

The sweat dripped from his brow as he scaled the hill. His muscles were fit but lean from the years of training. No longer carried by the meaty limbs of his youth that bounded with certainty among the rocky terrain, he picked his way with crafty precision with a mind toward efficiency sparing his remaining strength. The hill was a long one and the injuries of past events could be felt with every step. The many scrapes and scars stood out against his sinews as he pumped up the hill.

His breath was strong despite the slope, though his pace slowed a touch as his strength faded, the crest fast approaching. The race continued after his part was done; his job was nearing completion. The baton weighed more now than a short while ago, but he remembered when it weighed nothing at all. When the race started so long ago, the baton seemingly weighed nothing in actuality compared to what he thought it might. How he imagined the weight would cramp him and cause him to stumble. But in the end, he carried it well like so many before.

Looking up he could see the next runner waiting at the milestone, running in place with fresh legs, the sun anointing him with a golden glow around his head. Squinting, he couldn’t see the next runner’s expression backlit against the sun. However, as he neared, an eager smile appeared. He firmed his pace down the stretch so the handoff would be on his terms; where he could look into the next runner’s eyes as an equal, not as one who had spent his last to gain the final yard. He would carry the baton at a solid pace running along side for but a short while. Then with an easy manner pass the baton to the next runner wanting so much to encourage him, to explain the course, to describe what meaning can be derived from the race itself. But in the end, after a few paces where the untested energy of the new contestant begged to be released, he handed off the baton.

He kept pace for a couple of strides and caught the eyes for but a glance.  And what a glance. Optimistic and full of light, the new runner smiled with a wide grin and unknowing but heartfelt appreciation. With a slight wave of his hand that held the baton, the young runner eased his stride respectfully, but certainly. He moved smoothly away. The older runner, without baton, running no longer had meaning. But after such a long race, stopping didn’t seem right either. He carried on for a bit till the baton runner melted into the sun. At that point, when he could see the other runner wasn’t going to fall or drop the baton or need anything whatsoever, he slowed his pace to a walk. The race continued, but not for him. He had run to the best of his ability and now that he had passed the baton, it was time to rest. The baton ran ever towards the sun, but here, evening had already begun to set. It would be nighttime soon. Time to get off the hill and rest.

To grandpa and morfar with love.

To a successful passing of the baton,

Dave Marr

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By | September 8th, 2017|Personal, Relational, Spiritual|0 Comments

Opiate of the Masses

Karl Marx’ famous quote is essentially that religion was a dulling distraction to prevent people who lived in a cruel world from rising up in revolt and taking control of their lives. But in today’s age, even if that were true then, there is another that is true today.  There is a new opiate that insidiously enslaves people to a lesser life.  What is the 21st century opiate of the masses?  Distraction.  Texting, email, Facebook, TV, radio, Instagram, and all other twitter-like instant messages that say “HEY, HEY!!!!! Look at me.  I’m more important than whatever else you are doing.”  The pull is addictive.

THE major obstacle that must be overcome in order to creating a life of wealth and well-being, substance and satisfaction, love and enjoyment is a lack of focus and intent.  This generation of twenty-somethings has grown up with electronic interruptions as a part of their life.  It’s not new to them.  It’s a part of them.  We don’t know to what effect just yet, but the early indications aren’t encouraging.  Though anecdotal, my observation is that relationships are the first casualty in this new era.  There are numerous and complex reasons why marriage is being delayed in today’s emerging generation.  I propose that micro-selfishness is doled out like opium with each text or email and creates an addictive need to be entertained.

Entertainment, a passive enjoyment, is not investment.  Relationships require investment and when things stop being entertaining, it’s time to move on.  Distractions prevent focus.  Added up over a short lifetime, these distractions promote a shallowness that doesn’t allow for the creation of an interesting person.  How many times, for example, have you observed families in restaurants looking at their e-gadgets instead of engaging in family conversation?  Doesn’t that evoke a sadness in you?  It does for me because they may not ever come to know the overwhelming satisfaction that springs from family interaction.

Secondly, the skill of being present, focusing one’s mind on one thing, appears to be underdeveloped in society.  My kids used to say “But we’re developing the ability to multi-task.”  Uh, no.  You’re practicing switching quickly from one thought to another versus the much harder task of focusing on one thing.  Can you listen to music while studying? Sure.  What kind of music, headbanging? Can you respond to an email while talking with another friend? Sure.  But what kind of friend and what kind of conversation?  Of course the answer is you can do all those things.  But there is a cost that isn’t always obvious.

The cost of choosing one course of action is not choosing another.  It’s called opportunity cost.  Therefore, constantly being tied to the net and available to your sphere 24/7 is costing you depth and focus, privacy and independence, substance and purpose.  How do you know whether you’ve paid those costs?  The sad part is you don’t. You simply don’t notice.  How do you know if you’re shallow?  You may say, “Well, that may be true for some, but not me.”  Ok, fair enough.  But how do you know you’re not eroding your ability to be substantive?  You may lack the focus to see for yourself and make a sound judgment.

Focus.

In your Ironmen group, take your phones and put them on the table.  First one to check email or take a call buys beers on Friday.  Or, on Sunday, turn your phone off all day.  No emails or calls unless you initiate them.  Or, read for two hours straight without checking anything electronic.  Practice focus.  Decide to engage fully in the moment without hedging that something else might be more important.

To your increasingly substantive character,

Dave Marr

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By | September 1st, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

What is Divorce?

This 4-part writing riff started with a conversation I had with a guy who had divorced his wife, which, I surmised, was due to his inability to navigate the dynamic between he and his wife so that both of their cups were filled.  In his immaturity, he didn’t see a path forward to get his cup filled, so he ended the marriage. I believe, with no data to support my belief, that this is the underlying dynamic inherent in a large number of divorces. Immaturity, lack of vision, inability to get to a “I pour/you pour” relationship, calcified frustration, seeming insurmountable barrier to happiness, loss of hope, maybe bad behavior, divorce.

What is divorce really? When does divorce occur in the above sequence? Divorce occurs at the point when the flicker of hope for happiness has gone out. In the above guy’s scenario, he concluded in our conversation that it was his immaturity, lack of vision on how to get where he wanted to go, that led to the premature conclusion to pull the plug on his marriage. He lost hope that he could get his cup filled. Doesn’t that seem like it would be a common enough conclusion in a young man’s thinking?

Of course I’m not just talking about sex as the only thing a man needs to fill his cup. It is love he needs in the way he needs it, sex being just one way. I get my cup filled when Lis compliments me on these letters. I completely take notice when she comes alongside me and rubs my shoulders for no other reason than to just touch me. My cup is filled when I can see her respect and admiration of all my efforts and of who I am. Those actions on her part are among the multitude of nuances of our intimate relationship. Having a level 9/10 marriage frees up your energy away from frustration and allows you to grow elsewhere.

“That’s swell Dave on how awesome your marriage is, but you don’t understand. My wife is…” sick, injured, dealing with being abused, a shrew, cold, comes from a dysfunctional family, hormonally frigid, won’t engage with me, or some such thing.

Divorce occurs when hope dies. You can even stay legally married, but only be roommates, economic partners. Marriage is a spiritual endeavor. Each person seeks wholeness through relationship with the central hope that there is growth, progress. There is a reason why people who attend church tend to stay married more than those that don’t. By adding the notion that God exists and that difficulty is a part of life for spiritual reasons (James 1), then perseverance is a part of marriage. The mature quality of perseverance keeps hope aflame because of the imbedded assumption that there’s benefit awaiting on the other side of conflict.

Lis broke her back when we were 34. For 7 years we struggled with that issue. Our marriage wasn’t mutually satisfying, to say the least, because of her constant battle with pain. After dealing with the kids all day, there wasn’t much in her cup to pour out for me. I did contemplate the loss of hope at one point. And yet, and yet!, there was for us a belief that this issue was designed by God for our betterment. And so it was.

If your flame is flickering, it’s likely, so is your wife’s.

Loss of hope leads to spiritual divorce that oftentimes leads to legal divorce. The hope of what? More sex? On the younger side of maturity, it may look like that. But no. What the loss of hope really signifies is the loss of shared intimacy where both people care to balance the needs of the other by pouring out. It’s the complex intertwining of two lives in experiences, loves, energies, capacities, needs, priorities, and relationship.

God is a good marketer. Just like any good Madison Avenue marketing guru, he uses sex to draw you into a more complex transaction. If your marriage is a 7, then I would imagine you’re on your way to a 10. If it’s a 5, take hope, you’re on the front side of opportunity.

To your flame.

Dave Marr

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By | August 4th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Improving Sexual Intimacy Part 2

When a couple is getting ready for bed and it’s been a handful of days since last being together, the guy is in play. Of that, there is no doubt. What is a question, however, is whether it’s going to happen or not because the woman, unquestionably, has the final say. He’s looking for the subtle winks and nods that would indicate that tonight’s the night. When she’s lying there, after the rubbing encouragement has begun, she bestows her verdict on sex, “Sorry, not tonight.” At that point, the guy’s chest goes tight, his anger swells, and the recurring argument ensues.

Maybe I alone in the universe have experienced this scenario. It is easy, and would be unwise and incorrect, to conclude that she is in the wrong here, that she is wielding her choice as some sort of manipulative power play. No, she is being honest. Honesty being a desirable virtue when it works in his favor can’t be deemed verboten when it doesn’t. No, the honesty she is displaying is that the stars are not aligned in her world to come regularly and fully to the marital bed. And if that is a high priority, then it’s up to the man to figure out how to line the stars up.

Yet, there is no reason for there to be a question about whether sex is going to happen or not that night. There’s absolutely no reason for something so foundationally important as sexual intimacy to come down to the last second. To do so only sets up extreme disappointment and frustration if it’s not going to happen. So, 2 things should happen to avoid this kind of confrontation.

Sex should be scheduled regularly. There should be a discussion about sex. This can be uncomfortable, so it can be taken over many encounters. But eventually, among the many potential discoveries in this long conversation, an agreement on frequency should emerge. “Sunday nights – No, because I work out on Monday mornings; so Monday nights – yes. Wednesday nights – yes, unless we have group night, then it would be Thursday night. And then either Friday night or Saturday night depending.” This plan equates to about 10-12 nights per month. This agreement sets up expectations that are reasonable.

The 2nd thing that should happen is that if something changes, then as soon as it’s known that the regularly agreed upon schedule isn’t going to happen, then communication immediately should occur. It takes time for a guy to adjust. Post dinner, she assesses and decides that tonight’s not going to happen for 1 of a dozen reasons given her day. She should let him know asap. Not postponing that key little bit of info will help him adjust over the next few hours. Since a guy’s been thinking about it 2-3 times per hour since breakfast, his energy momentum needs a head’s up. And you know the inevitable “why” is going to come up, so she should provide her reasons and he should accept them as such. Arguing is pointless and overcoming argument is the whole point of this discussion. Then the next reasonable request will arise, “How about the alternative?”

You see, a guy prefers the fulsome embrace of love. However, he will accept accommodation if that’s available. And, barring that too, he’ll take the next best thing with her just providing pleasurable release. As relationships evolve, as communication improves, as each looks to fill the other’s cup, then the above fallback of expectations is reasonable. And if the above sequence does not occur? If the situation unfolds where he thinks they’re going to be together and she informs him that it’s not going to happen, so he suggests an alternative, and she says nuh-uh. Then something’s amiss. Her cup doesn’t have in it what he wants poured out. This little bit of data certainly will be a catalyst for conversation. And if the next opportunity on the agreed upon schedule is fulfilled, then the missed day is a one-off. That’s commonplace. However, if after a couple of months where the agreement was 10-12 days and it’s been more like 5-6, then reality is misaligned to the agreed upon expectations. Then the opportunity to go deeper into one another’s intimate psyche is presented. God has presented this format for you to learn yourself, to learn her, to learn what it takes for a couple to couple, to learn how marriages grow stronger through communication and safety, to learn how to manage your own emotions and seek higher ground, to learn how to pour out for the sheer pleasure of filling her cup and watching over time how she unfolds her well-being to you, and to watching your children thrive living under the roof of intimate happiness. Yes, improving sexual intimacy can do all that.

But there’s more.

To your harmonious path,

Dave Marr

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By | July 28th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Sex and Divorce

I was talking with a guy this week who was trying to capture me as a financial planning client while I was trying to capture him as a referral source for loans. Nice guy, good looking, athletic, about 47 years old. Our conversation went the normal route of set-up niceties before getting down to business – two boys in their teens, divorced for 13 years, career journey through various paths, landed in his current gig half a dozen years ago and is now settled and happy. Not remarried. In the 90 minutes we spent together his married life came up again. He divorced her. She wasn’t equally yoked to him spiritually and as we got down to it, didn’t fill his emotional cup by speaking his love language.

Hmm. Nice guy. Smart. Good looking and I would guess good-looking former wife who by any reasonable guess was normal and enjoyable. Divorced. Back 13 years ago, he had concluded in his 34 year old mind that his frustrations with her were irreconcilable and the path would be better for himself and his boys to call it quits. So I asked him, “In your maturity now with your current understanding of love languages (he took a seminar), your current ability to identify and articulate your feelings, and your knowledge of the last 13 years, do you think you could have navigated your difficulties back then?” He looked taken aback, looked down and said, “Absolutely”.

Every marriage has difficulties. It’s clear that the life God has created for mankind requires mental, emotional, and relational challenges if we are to become the individuals of our potential. The experience of conflict doesn’t feel so good, but the result on the other side of reconciliation is hugely beneficial. “Hey that wasn’t fun. What do we need to do to avoid feeling that way again?” In the above guy’s scenario, he was not able to avoid ‘feeling that way again’ as his marriage revisited their difficulty over and over again until the frustrations calcified into seemingly unbreakable patterns.

Here’s what I think occurred based on my hearing of his story. In effect, “Hey hon, can we be together tonight?” In effect, “No”. What she hears, “Hey, can I use your body for my physical release?” What he hears, “I don’t love you.” The ideal result of conflict resolution is to mature spiritually. What I mean by that is your marriage relationship is not just a series of transactions: I make the money; you clean the house. I cook the dinner; you mow the lawn. I manage the finances; you present your body when I need it. Marriage certainly has trades that are conveniences and efficiencies, sure, but at the core of marriage is the continuous opportunity to reconcile perspective differences and lift “we” over asserting “self”. Just because you get married, doesn’t mean you become a “we”, clearly. It takes lots of time, discussion, conflict, new situations, freedom, responsibility, and conflict. And working through that has benefits in relational cohesion, trust, and intimacy – aka spiritual maturity (even more so when God is intentionally invoked).

My understanding of this guy is superficial. But he agreed that his divorce was due to immaturity on his part. He didn’t say that, but that’s what I took away. Marital conflict is when through the transactions of life one or both people come away unfulfilled. Resolution comes when a reasonable understanding occurs and a path around the difficulty is navigated. That’s why sex, or lack of sex, is so challenging. A woman’s mind/body is a puzzle encased in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. Very often she doesn’t know why she feels the way she feels about sex. Circumstances, hormones (particularly birth control pills), children, the relationship, food, monthly cycle, economics, and stated or unstated unwell-being in her world all play a role in her ability to fill one’s cup. It’s probably not desire at issue; it’s capacity. If he walks away from regular conflict with the ultimate conclusion that since she can’t figure out how to bring herself to the marital bed with an agreeable attitude, then he isn’t being fulfilled nor loved. Yes, I conclude that is immature.

The gift here is to figure this out. It’s not easy, but it’s important. Yes, their boys will acclimate to divorce, as they no doubt have. Divorce is not abnormal these days, so there’s no social stigma, but there is a generational impact. Look, I’m not looking to hammer this guy or any guy on deciding to divorce. It’s “understandable”. As humans, we are deep into life well before we have the maturity to easily navigate our circumstances.

In order to have a strong marriage, in my opinion, you must deal with those issues while they’re small and not calcified frustrations, because by then it may be too late. You should ask, “How are we doing? I’m feeling very good about where we are, how about you?” These are questions to ask one another when times are good. Any weeds in your garden get pulled early when they are small. For Lis and I, we didn’t always do that. Sometimes some bugger grew underground for a while and erupted like Jack’s beanstalk. Yet we persevered and cut that sucker down and got to a deep intimacy.

Today’s Letter may have been a bit preachy. Here’s the takeaway: If your relationship is going well, it won’t always, so build good relational habits now. If your relationship is challenged here or there, that’s good. Take heart. This situation is designed specifically for you to mature in heart, mind, and in God’s ways.

To your marital intimacy,

Dave Marr

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By | July 14th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

What Men Need – Part 2

Money.

Men need to have a positive relationship with money and it’s not sufficient to say that the more money a man has the more positive the relationship. No, the entire history of mankind is replete with stories of the highs and lows of this complex relationship. Obviously the concept of money is soaked in positive and negative overtones and implications. The world is constantly in a money chase with tremendous good and unspeakable evil as result. Insofar as I sell money for a living, I have thought long and hard about money. I’m in the mortgage business and help people buy homes. Except for maybe sex, money is typically the top driver in most people’s lives. While my perspective might not move the needle for you much, I have come to a few insights I think are worth sharing. Men need to understand themselves relative to money.

To Make More, Learn to Be Worth More

Money and value are highly correlated. Not perfectly 1:1, but very closely aligned. The best place to start when trying to gather money to yourself is through value. The more valuable you are, the more money you can make. (Sidebar: We’re talking economic value and not spiritual value or human value. A teacher may be more valuable to the human race than a second baseman, but has to work his/her entire life to generate the kind of income that a professional second baseman earns in one year.That is due to the economic value of rarity, supply and demand, in entertainment. Many people will pay a few dollars to watch a talented player catch a line drive whereas there are many people willing and able to teach in elementary school.)

The takeaway here is that you should align your desires with your value. I just talked with a bank employee this week and he asked my opinion on whether he should become a mortgage lender for a builder. He’ll make a lot more money in commission sales than he’ll earn as a bank manager. But…he’ll work different hours, longer hours, different challenges, and the risk of dry spells. I said that if he were to make the change, he should do it while he’s young rather than after he’s worked himself up the rung and become accustomed to slightly more money and a “more secure” situation where the choice will be harder. (For you young guys, The Defining Decade is a well-written and timely book that illuminates this dilemma.) If economic success is something you want, learn to make the decisions that will increase your value to the marketplace and potentially accrue you more wealth.

Time is Money

Oxygen, blood, electricity, water, and money are all currencies that flow through life to positive effect. You can store each of them to some degree and for limited purposes. They each contain vital elements of power. But only money can store something you can’t capture – time. It takes time to build value and time to exchange that value for money. The more money you can earn and store, the more things you can buy that take time to create. Therefore, in the exchange of your time for money, you only have so much time you can exchange. The more valuable you are, the more your time is worth. When you’re young time seems bountiful, therefore, it’s critical you build value in yourself so that eventually someone will pay you for that value. I used to gauge my income as a multiple of my age. At 24, I made $24,000 = $1000 x age.  At 28, I made $39,000 = $1392. At 35, $6400 x my age. Once I owned my own business, it grew from there (but not always a positive number!).

Your Attitude Attracts Money or Repels It

The third thing I observed about money is that there is a reasonably high correlation between a person’s success quotient and their personal philosophy. A person’s philosophy is the collection of conscious and subconscious beliefs about money, their degree of self love, the influence of their parents and upbringing, their choices about job, marriage, their display of wealth, and thoughts about victimhood vs. ownership.  I think this statement is pretty obvious. What isn’t so obvious is how to identify one’s subconscious beliefs and change them to positive if they’re negative. It’s not readily clear or easy on how to do this. But it’s important that you try because otherwise your marriage, parenting, and happiness could hit a big snag if you decide one day your job sucks because you don’t make enough money, or there’s too much pressure, or your kids’ teeth need straightening and you don’t have that in the budget. In other words, life will happen and you want to be prepared. How do you work on your self-understanding about money? An Ironmen group provides you a forum to hear other’s upbringing and thoughts about success and money and learn from them. It allows you to describe your unique experiences and get feedback. The forum helps you to connect the dots.

Your Understanding is Always Evolving

In summary, money and personal success is a long and complex discussion. No matter your age and maturity, the mountain goes high into the mists of understanding. There’s always more to learn because your needs change. My personal view is that life’s journey had better be valuable to you, that you enjoy becoming ever more valuable and enjoy pouring that value out to others because the pleasure that money brings (and there’s no fooling on this point, it does) doesn’t last.

To your journey towards monetary success,

Dave Marr

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By | June 2nd, 2017|Economic, Financial, Relational|0 Comments