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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

What a Woman Needs part 3

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

This 3-part discussion, “What a Woman Needs”, is intended to provide you insights into the woman you have taken to become your suitable helper, the one you’ve empowered to speak into your life, and who you’ve promised to love, honor, and cherish till death do you part. Those words, * love * honor * cherish, generally are taken as feelings and perspectives – where you look upon your wife through loving eyes; you honor her with a gentle touch; you cherish every word brought to your ears, or some such thing. Yes, it’s wise to do those things.

But if that’s all you do, you could have difficulty. Those actions on your part to love her, honor, her and cherish her are vital, but they’re not enough if taken as passive. You must take careful steps to lead her in bringing forth the spiritual qualities listed as the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – and you can’t do that without fully engaging in them yourself.

Whoever said “Women are the weaker sex” lived in a cave. Women are strong. And even the strongest of them would prefer to be with a man who leads. Yes, a nod to the smallest portion of the populace who think men are a waste of space, but for the most part, women want men to lead. A strong woman would rather be a strong wing man than on point.

Ok, you’ve heard that before. So what’s new with this post that isn’t obvious?. As I said you must take careful steps, particularly with a strong-willed woman, to lead in bringing forth qualities in her. Careful steps because you’re not going to be just handed over leadership in the areas that need leading. Each of you must grow and therefore you must solve the question “Why can’t you accept me for who I am?”. Speaking of careful, I need to be delicate in my words here, directional but not condescending. So these examples are caricatures in answering that question.

Here’s one hypothetical: Let’s assume she engages in gossip, or saying negative things about other people; for example when she tells a story, the way she represents her side is all sunshine and light and the way she characterizes the other side is snide and bitchy. Does that trait serve you and your family to have a wife who does that? No, because it does not build up people or friendships. It forms cliques and is competitive. Her storytelling is an actual representation of the way she thinks. So you decide to “lead” her out of that catty trait. How should you do that?

Or she worries. She agonizes over the kids, money, health, relatives, friends. It’s not like there isn’t reason to have concern over the factors of life, but that’s life. The issue though here is she fixates beyond reason and is not fully able to release. Her nature is to nurture and that somehow justifies all worry. If she worries, she’s not at peace and her anxiety energy replaces her love energy. How do you lead her out of that trait?

These are spiritual qualities. Life is a spiritual endeavor. To lead is to create a vision of a better world and then work to bring that world about – A better environment, a better marriage, a better you, and a better her. And because you may not have a clear idea of what that might look like or how you do that, you should go somewhere where that is discussed and on display, maybe not perfectly, but available. The statistics are overwhelmingly one-sided on this. The divorce rate on average is about 51%. For those who go to church it drops to 31%. And for those who pray regularly it drops to the low teens.

Those stats are incredible!! My proposition is that the qualities of a good marriage are discussed at church and in the Bible. At church spiritual fruits are watered and nourished regularly. Divorce is lower among church attendees not because of societal pressure, that’s absurd; no, those who attend church regularly are given the opportunity to be self aware where the fruits of the spirit are traits of maturity. What is the answer to not accepting her the way she is? Her potential is so much greater to bring her love and nurturing to the world. Don’t get me wrong, church is not de facto spirituality, heavens no. But it’s directionally a clear way to create the environment and relationship for meaningful spiritual growth.

A woman wants to be wingman to a man who will pick a direction and go there and not get caught in his own bound up struggles. A woman can be trapped in character traits that diminish her capability to nurture and love and needs a partner who will lead in spiritual development and accept wingman feedback. This mutuality is at the heart of being a suitable helper. Loving, honoring, and cherishing the woman who she is capable of becoming is where you should be leading.

To an abundant harvest,

Dave Marr

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By | May 5th, 2017|Personal, Relational, Spiritual|0 Comments

What a Woman Needs part 2

Today I tackle the easy discussion of psychological security as the main driver of a woman’s needs because there is no better word to describe a woman’s psyche than “Easy”. Am I right?

Man is not meant to be alone. Nor is woman. In the discussion on the security needs of a woman, psychological security is all encompassing. What I mean by that is a woman’s sense of well-being, when she is the most able to pour out and feel good about her life, is when she feels connected – connected her family, her friends, her work, and connected to her marriage in partnership in creating a life. When you think about security, what are the implications of feeling secure if not the deep seated comfort of expressing yourself in various situations, feeling competent, feeling accepted, and being a team? Isn’t that what you want for your mate? For yourself?

A woman is designed to be more sensitive to the environment than a man. It is a blessing to be so, but that blessing comes with the corresponding challenges inherent with a nurturing composition. A woman’s nature is geared toward care. Obviously caring for children is at the top of the priority list, but the list is likely long. Pouring out in care isn’t a hobby but rather a function of her nature. And so pouring out, expending energy for the welfare of others, is expensive. She must be rejuvenated. In order to provide nurturing energy to others, she is restored by connecting with others. Primary in that restoration is the connection she has with her mate.

The optimal scenario is when a relationship pours and restores mutually at the same time. Young love does that. The acts of selfless love are immediately restored with appreciation and an array of love languages set the standard for a person’s life – this is the way it’s supposed to be. But when children arrive, they require an endless physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual pouring out, so other relationships that are less demanding, move down. The demands can be so great that women can by and by empty out. Men, whose ability to compartmentalize and who do not spend their emotional energy in the same way, do not pour out to the same degree. It is this reason that men can be more strategic and global in their perspectives. Men are not to just share the load, but to importantly lead the family out of the low points in family development. A man must look at the entire mix of factors to guide the family – physical, psychological, social, relational, economic – and be engaged in the effort. It’s this engagement that is a restorative connection, where a woman doesn’t feel alone when she is most vulnerable, that a man earns the trust in a woman’s psyche.

Maybe this sounds like psychobabble from some paternalistic, traditionalist, know-nothing. Ok, granted. But the number of times Lis was at her wits end calling me to talk her off the ledge because the kids had drained her last ounce of reserves; or the number of times I’d come home to a wife needing to tag out; or the times our evening plans were immediately changed because the kids were sick; or the number of times I was looking for some lovin’, but there was no more asymmetric energy in the cup – clearly established the hierarchy for Lis’ energy. Regardless of her overall desires, the demands on her caring, the energy she poured out, left me strategically needing to figure out how to restore her for her sake as well as my own.

This next comment requires a bit of delicacy. It’s beyond obvious that when a young man and young woman connect and become a couple, the journey together will require personal growth. Growth isn’t just learning facts, it’s about change, letting go of less mature perspectives and developing more mature ones. Change, for the most part, is a reluctant endeavor. Sometimes change comes as a result of hot coffee and a warm muffin discussion, but not usually. It’s usually on the back end of conflict. As described above, men have different perspectives than women. It’s not easy for men to articulate global perspectives that win over a woman’s psychological energy if there’s ongoing conflict or pressing needs.

And so it’s not uncommon that men abdicate their position in order to placate the situation. If a woman’s concern is easily articulated because of pressing needs and a man is not able to articulate a vision that may be less pressing but overall a better direction, then a man is providing a disservice to the woman and family by just giving in. A man must grow up in order to figure out how to navigate a woman’s insistence and become the trusted leader of the family. Leadership doesn’t come just because you’re male. Leadership figures out the timing and method to jointly take the family in the best direction, overcoming smaller versions of family well-being in favor of a grander vision. You’ve seen dysfunctional extremes where either the man or woman is totally cowed and little balance between the two exists. Leadership is about engagement, not domineering.

And so, what is the point of all this? Regardless of which stage of a relationship you are in, you have more to grow, both personally and as a couple. A woman’s psychological needs don’t end when children stop being 24/7 energy consumers because a woman’s nature remains the same. Her need to pour out in care and her need to restore in connection with others doesn’t change. You honoring her nature and welcoming the blessings that come from that as long as it’s channeled to the family’s overall well-being is a form of leadership and will create a marital environment of security for you both. In this way, at the deepest psychological level, neither of you will be alone.

Next week, Spiritual Security.

To your psychological abundance,

Dave Marr

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By | April 29th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

What a Woman Needs part 1

I can think of nothing more dangerous to my health than addressing this topic. I feel like a conservative speaking at Berkeley. The hubris of the idea that I can summarize a woman’s needs in a page and a half is laughable. But here I go. Wish me luck.

With no data to support my thoughts other than my observations in life, I say that most women fall within a couple standard deviations of this idea (I say “standard deviation” with tongue in cheek) – Women need security. There are different kinds and varying levels of security which is what this Letter is about because you are the one who will be asked to supply said security. So you better know what the game is about.

Physical security is obviously paramount. One Christmas a long time ago, Lis said something to me in front of the kids that I interpreted as dishonoring and I went ballistic. I was irrationally angry. Lis reacted to my anger with some confrontation and I pushed her. Adrenaline-filled physicality is a dangerous thing. My push resulted in no physical damage to her whatsoever, but the strength of it caused her deep concern for her own security. I left for a while and when I returned, we fully discussed what happened, reconciled the misunderstanding, and came back together. But, and a big but, I was capable of being THAT guy. Since that time, I’ve grown up to the point where nothing relationally gets me upset. Nothing. Maturity, in general, is such that you respond to stimuli relative to who you are inside instead of react to circumstances that don’t suit your ego. The locus of control is internal instead of external. I matured that day and Lis has ever since felt physically secure in our relationship.

Emotional security in a relationship at its core is about power sharing and trust. Each person has a role to play to develop a life together and gain efficiencies. In that role you are expected to take ownership and therefore initiate action, i.e. lead, and are entrusted to consider what is best for the relationship versus just the individual. Once roles are established, often along traditional and gender lines, power is gained through specialization. My role was to go out into the marketplace and figure out how to make money and bring it home. Lis’ role was to manage the household and take the tactical lead with the kids. Each of us trusted one another to subordinate our individual urges to our relational health. So I didn’t go to the movies at lunch or take Saturdays to play golf. Lis didn’t squander family finances on shoes and kids’ events nor did she try to gain prominence in the kid’s love. She never talked poorly of me to the kids. With power comes ability to use or misuse. Therefore to misuse power in order to gain the upper hand is to manipulate, deflect, lie, and act selfishly. Any sustained action that highlights the self over the relationship violates the implicit agreement, loosens the bonds of trust, and creates a state of emotional insecurity. Clearly, it’s not simple. A man that excessively spends time at work can rationalize that he does so for the family. A woman that does not bring her whole being to the sexual relationship can easily point to a dozen reasons for not doing so. These two examples are grey examples in the dynamic of relational ill health where emotional security is weak.

Relational security answers the question: “How are we doing?” or “I”m happy with us. How about you?”. The answer that says: “I told you I loved you when we got married. If it changes, I’ll let you know!” somehow just doesn’t quite satisfy relational security. Silence is deadly to relationships because it violates security needs. Words, actions, touches, gifts, and time together are all forms of relational engagement. There has to be a good mix of all the love languages for a woman to feel relationally secure. A man too. It wasn’t until Lis and I got this part right that our relationship went from a 7 to a 10. It was good, but not great. I didn’t need sex every day. I needed Lis to touch me as she walked by me. I didn’t need her to say “I love you” constantly, I needed her to say “I am proud to be your wife.” Those were my relational needs. As for Lis, she needed me to notice what was important to her and engage her there. Yes, she liked it when I said she was pretty and that I loved her, but what affected her feeling of security was when I helped around the house, played with the kids, spent time one on one with her, and led the family strategically. The difference between a 7 marriage and a 10 marriage is the difference between a glass half full and a cup that runneth over.

A woman that feels secure physically, emotionally, and relationally is a woman that can risk pouring herself out fully. But there’s more, of course there’s more. Next week: Psychological and Spiritual Security.

To your abundant life with a woman.

Dave Marr

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By | April 21st, 2017|Relational|0 Comments

It’s Getting Real

Not every conversation is roundly accepted at every cocktail party. Some topics are bodily in nature or so intimate that people just would rather not. This is one of those. The people who would find the most interest in wading through the discomfort of real talk are the dads and moms of boys on the cusp of becoming men. The issues Lis and I faced with our boys and how we handled them might give parents some small comfort that they’re not alone.

Moodiness is a combination of hormones, social isolation, the newness of the latest mental leap, and a child’s particular temperament. A sulking child needs comfort and understanding, encouragement, talking with them given the confusion of feelings versus talking at them on their unacceptable behavior, and the occasional kick in the butt to ‘fake it till you make it’. It’s important to remember and advise them that you, the parent, are helping them develop their mental model of the world which includes character development. So moodiness requires them to resist the temptation to feel sorry for themselves. So at about 9 years of age, dads should begin to prepare boys to become men. Particularly if the child leans toward a melancholy disposition, but in general, dads should visit their son at bedtime and begin the long conversation about manhood. The discussion should cover unexplained feelings, new sensations, hormones, girls, technology, and how communication between son and dad needs to get stronger. The line to use – “No one on the planet loves you more than your mom and I do, No one.” So therefore, don’t think your friends can tell you more about life’s issues than we can.

Bodily changes, hair, smell, morning blood flow, begin to emerge from boyhood around 9-11 years old. Fast starters and later bloomers notwithstanding, puberty is around 11ish. Your conversations around secret subjects called “The Talk” should begin in advance of that age. Open, wide ranging questions investigating his knowledge, offering insights, not pushing an agenda, should create a confidential atmosphere. Any question, any question at all, should be answered with the feeling of openness. Occasionally, you might start at 30,000 feet and come back to the question again another time. Questions should be met with questions – “What do you mean?” – so that you don’t answer a question they’re not asking.

“Daddy, where did I come from?”
“Well buddy, when I put my penis in mommy’s vigina, my sperm fertilized your mommy’s egg and she became pregnant. You grew inside her womb for 9 months and then were born.”
“Oh. Because Stevie says he came from Cleveland.”

Hygiene is a requirement. Starting at 9 years, an increase in parental attention to hygiene should be in advance of when hormone smells become an issue. Using deodorant, airing out tennis shoes at night, brushing teeth, showering regularly, washing excess oil off face and scalp all need to be reviewed and strengthened. Taking laundry seriously, making sure that clothes are put in the proper spot post sports and post laundry day. Every stage of maturity requires more balancing of new efforts with old lessons. Get ahead of it.

Technology is a convenience, not a requirement. Allowing your son access to his own personal link to the world is dangerous to say the least. Insofar as porn can start as a small accidental leak into your son’s life and become a raging flood sweeping away the wonderful person you once knew, technology is Pandora’s box. Even if porn weren’t an issue, having his friends text your son all hours of the night is a distraction to concentration and sleep. You can’t control the world, but you do pay the bills. Phones are for you to communicate with your child – period. Smartphones are misnamed. Early in life, you want to have blockers thereby creating a safe zone. No sense in the real world breaking in too early. But later, blockers on your technology will create a false sense of security. Instead, you want to put a blocker on their character, on their heart, where they develop the strength to withstand the temptation. Difficult, but critically important for when they are away from home. All internet use, laptop, smartphone, iPad should all be used in the main part of the house.

Masturbation. Gonna happen. This touchy subject has larger ramifications in writing about it. So if your religious beliefs are different than mine, I respect that. If you’re wiser than me, which is likely, then I would yield to a better idea. But as a father, I don’t want to condemn the act or fact that my child is a sexual being. I don’t want to burden him with guilt or shame beyond what society is going to provide him. What I am interested in is getting him to self control and time management. My advice to my boys was “Don’t waste 2 hours thinking about it. Git ‘er done and get back to life.” The problem isn’t the act itself, it’s the mental activity and wasted time surrounding the activity. Young men can masturbate 2-3 times per day. If each time took an hour with all that mental imagery, that’s not a positive or Godly use of that energy. “Git ‘er done and move on” is my advice. It worked out for our family. It’s a delicate discussion, for sure, but one in which dad is understanding and is a ‘go-to’ for advice.

Some periods of life are just what they are, periods of life. There’s a beginning and there’s an end. Your child does not know that, whereas you do. So when guilt arises because of the all too common aftermath of masturbation, dad’s should address the feelings as much as the activity. Normalize the transition into manhood. I don’t buy into the idea that this is a sin. There’s no upside to that idea and only downside. Instead, as human beings, we are what we are and must deal with that. Going from boy to man is fraught with turbulence. Cementing self concept in guilt is not my idea of being a good dad. Loving transition into self control is better I think.

Attitude. What does “Bad Attitude” mean anyway? When my dad used it on me, it meant I had a tone in my voice or a look on my face that conveyed disrespect or maybe an attitude of entitlement. I’m not sure because I didn’t know what it meant at the time. Kids shouldn’t ever use hurtful words, disrespectful tones, and other actions that express exasperation with an adult, particularly their mom. Instead of immediate reaction that condemns their seeming disrespect, there should be a question: “Your tone came out as disrespectful. Did you intend to disrespect your mom?” Or, “In your frustration with this situation, you sounded like you’re blaming your mom for this when you’re the one that has caused it. It’s not appropriate to project your frustrations on other people. Did you intend to do that?” In other words, as the adult you are able to respond rather than react. Responding as an adult has you disengage your authoritative emotions and engage your wiser intellect.

Lying becomes more sophisticated. The foundation of the family is built on trust. Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the cement within that foundation. Everyone within the family perceives reality based on their ability to trust the data they are collecting. So dad’s modeling of truth sets the tone. An extreme example, infidelity rises to the top of lying. A child’s definitions of love, trust, security are upended when it turns out that dad was crossing his fingers. The billions of data points a child has collected so far manifests in their own relationship to the truth when confronting a reality they don’t desire. Let me unpack that statement – When a young teenager messes up, which they will, and must come clean with what happened, their relationship with the truth will be a matter of character. That child will draw forth from the essence of their childhood experiences on how you play the truth game. I used infidelity as an extreme example of falsity, but it’s a spectrum. Manipulating words to manage the consequences is a character relationship to the truth. Character comes from mom and dad. So your teenager will express his character as a new intellectual exercise. You must provide consequences (Never punish. Punishment is punitive. Correction provides consequences) for violating family conduct and then explain and declare what your family identity is on speaking truth.

Engagement is key. I mischaracterized my role in life during the period my kids were transitioning into young adults. I was doing well at work and thought I was a big deal. My dad had his work persona that I dredged up from childhood and re-created at home. “Dad’s a big deal” was the image I was going for.  I messed up, not massively, but enough to have some regret. Instead, my “job” was primarily to be all-in with my family. It wouldn’t have robbed much of anything from work, but my engagement at home would have looked differently. I was in my head and should have been in the game instead. Initiating time with each child to talk it out, explore issues, play, encourage, explain, question would have been the ‘great dad’ image I would have preferred.

Young men are subtly and flagrantly attacked by society for being male. Masculinity certainly needed to be modernized from the John Wayne 50’s and 60’s. But today’s “Girl Power” has gone too far by not just encouraging strong women, which is great, but also by characterizing men as doofuses (doofae?) seems to be standard fare. This should be resisted and modeled otherwise. Men as men are critical to a harmonized society. Women need men to be men. It is now up to today’s father to re-generate the idea of masculinity for the next generation.

To molding tomorrow’s men,

Dave Marr

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By | March 25th, 2017|Parenting, Relational|0 Comments

The Gordian Knot – Whom Should I Wed?

This Letter is to all you reluctant warriors whose current mindset is biased towards marriage… but just not yet. There are good reasons to postpone nuptial bliss, the two interrelated ones topping the list are:1) I haven’t found the right one yet; and, 2) I’m not ready. I’m sure you don’t have to be sold on the idea of lifelong companionship with a best friend. You don’t need more stats telling you that happily married men live longer and have more disposable income than their less happy or single counterparts. You undoubtedly believe that you can’t grow into the man you see for yourself without a woman there to inspire you, coax you, compliment you, satisfy you, support you, balance you, demand of you, love you, and in turn receive all those elements from you. I’m sure you see that. But for some reason the tipping point hasn’t arrived for you. Gentlemen, I propose you cut through the mental knot that binds you to the unmarried post (click here for Gordian knot reference) and move forward with conquering the uncharted territory beyond (Alexander reference).

What about criteria for a woman? I’ve talked with a bunch of guys that have described a somewhat long list of criteria that a woman must meet in order to qualify as their lifelong partner. There’s an obvious problem with that – it is unlikely one can check all those boxes – which may be the point of the list thereby allowing comfortable delay in proceeding. Here’s my criteria that I related to a young Ironman recently:

“Of the two women you’re dating – You can pick either and be happy. There is hardly the ability to discern between happy, happier, and happiest, because a jar doesn’t fill full, fuller, fullest if the dang thing is topped off in each scenario. I’d look at the family life with the parents and siblings and pick the one with the best home life. That’s what she’s going to recreate, her home life. The question is: What will you discover down the road that ends the marriage that you could have seen if you knew what to look for? 1) Crazy (does the weird stuff she does excite you because she’s attractive but with 20 more pounds will just be weird?). 2) Subconscious man-hater (father issues). 3) Victim (excessive amounts of drama). 4) Psycho/eco (she buys shoes and purses to fill her need for security). 5) Religion (too much, too little, wrong kind). You’ll be better able to discern this stuff by visiting with her family and seeing how they interact with one another and the whole context of her life.”

The above was my response to his question on who to choose among the beautiful women he was currently dating. He went on to describe that in each case, he had a nagging doubt that he was the better catch and maybe he should keep the search going. I think this Uncle Rico thought is common but also a bit delusional. It is difficult to pick a partner that will be equally yoked when you don’t know who you are nor have keen enough insight as to who she is or will become. So the mistaken thought is to keep looking for someone who knocks your socks off while you figure yourself out. Some of that searching makes sense, but not too much. It is the nature of things with no way around the dilemma, therefore too much searching is just a delay tactic.

A young man has not been helped over the last 20 years by society’s characterizing him as being a man/child. Millennials are viewed as wimps. I’m not sure if it’s true or what, but I do see a bit of selfish confusion in the young men I see. Standards for a woman are unrealistically high and self evaluation too low. Reality is today as it’s always been: By the time a man is mature enough to make the “right” decision, the window for that decision has long been closed. Then how do you know who to marry, when to marry? You don’t. You risk. Life is an uncertain adventure where you must hazard your happiness in order to gain it.

Legend was that he who could untie the knot was destined to rule the world. Decisively UnMillennial, Alexander sliced through its complexity with bold resolve. Should you not do the same?

To your slicing through the knot to tie it.

Dave Marr

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By | March 3rd, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments

Deciding Confidence

There is no bigger turn off for girls than a guy that can’t make a decision.

I should just stop there and let that statement stand alone, but who are we kidding? Me leaving all that white space is like the government leaving a bunch of money untaxed. To be sure: a guy’s ability or inability to decide sends all kinds of meaning to the world, and girls are particularly attuned to that message.

Decisions are forks in the road. Small ones (Steak or chicken? Have friends over or go out? Go to a movie – Which one?) are irrelevant. They won’t affect anything but the moment of pleasure. Standing there evaluating the tiny fork like it’s some complete diagnostics screening to determine which sensation will absolutely capture the maximum amount of pleasure—puhlease! If you’re on a date and can’t look at a menu and decide what you want to eat in under a minute, the girl is going to pass.  Make decisions on irrelevant things quickly and don’t look back. My daughter dated a nice young guy for a while, but eventually broke up. Why? He wouldn’t make any decision whatsoever.  For example, she gave him 3 choices of movies that she’d like to watch and he refused to decide, actually getting upset with her and insisting that she choose. That was the last straw. Who knows what he wanted, but it wasn’t a co-equal relationship. Sorry, bub. No spine; no chance.

So what’s the deal? Why is it so hard to decide on trivial things? Or, and here’s one of the questions that a couple guys have asked, ‘Why is it so hard to talk to a (pretty) girl?’

Those points are highly correlated.  It’s because the guy isn’t comfortable with his own value. “Why would an attractive girl want to talk with me? She’s hot, I’m not.  She looks put together.  Have you seen me?!  I’ve got a zit, or, halfway through a conversation with her, I’d get one. No, better to go home and rub one out than risk her thinking I’m a loser.” You lose the game without even getting in. Self esteem can be a “fake it till you make it” endeavor. And decision making is a component of that. Being assertive doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk about decisions or that your ego inflated. No, girls are very ok with men that are comfortable in their own skin. It takes the pressure off them.

So here’s the thing: If you want to talk with girls, practice being decisive. Get good at deciding what you want. Don’t vacillate on small things; dinner, movie, anything. Challenge your day to find how you can evaluate your likes and dislikes quickly and practice deciding to avoid sending the world the message that you’re a walking question mark. Then, work on being interesting. Have activities. Make sure you work out, read, and pursue a life worth living. All these things will build on themselves and build up your value, your confidence, and your ability to take action and live with the consequences.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a huuuge shortage of substantive guys. There are so many mama’s boys and jerks out there that quality women are opting out of relationships altogether. So don’t worry about finding Ms. Right. You build quality within and you’ll have plenty to choose from. There’s a surplus of quality, good looking, fun women out there waiting for you to become a man. Personal traits you want to develop are: Purposeful, Decisive, Open-Minded, Action-Oriented, and Fun. You do that, a good woman and good life await you. A very good life.

To your continued substantive life with a fun, good looking woman success,

Dave Marr

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By | February 24th, 2017|Relational|0 Comments

One of the most impactful things said to me

It was in the early to mid 90’s, so I must have been in my early 30’s, maybe 33. I was at a family event when my uncle came up to me and asked how my parents were doing. I must have grumbled something about how my dad and I weren’t speaking much. My uncle, who’s opinion I value greatly, offered an insight in his direct way, “You’ll have to make that work.” That’s all he said. No long exhortation on “Father Wounds” or Honoring Your Father, just a pithy insight into the nature of fathers and sons. Thus ending the years-long struggle I had with my dad.

I really don’t know now that I look back on whatever it was between my dad and me. I suppose it was a combination of things: I wanted to be my own man; I wanted my dad’s respect; I wanted acknowledgement from my dad that my value and opinions were adult and therefore worthy of equality; I wanted my dad to change.

But my dad wasn’t going to change. He wasn’t going to open up. His “way” of doing things didn’t meet my next generation standards, so comments of mine must have built up a residue of sand in our relational gears. My dad had a very strong-headed style that sometimes, oftentimes, was off-putting. When he decided things, it wasn’t up for review or discussion. So for me, a husband, a father, a worker, and supposedly an adult, I didn’t feel like he considered me an equal.

What a joke. I wasn’t his equal. My dad had graduated from the Naval Academy, flew F-100 Super Saber fighter bombers stationed out of Japan, raised a family, started several businesses, suffered through business decline, and was in his 60’s. His experience in life was so much more hard scrabble than I could image. For me to immaturely think I could bend him to my desires was really inflated and naïve. The only tools I had for the fight was angst and silence. From my mom’s communication, despite the pain in the relationship, my dad’s response was “So be it”. This from a man who physically fought with his dad when his dad got drunk and hit his mom. He was inured to relational unpleasantness.

That’s what made my uncle’s incisive comment so accurate, he spoke to the father and son dynamic in context. If there was a conflict, if a distance existed between me and my dad, then it would be up to me to reconcile it. My dad wasn’t going to change, so, the insight was, I would have to be the one to close the gap. What a powerful thought. It was as if he said, “Time to grow up.”

Father and son relationships, at their best, evolve over time; at their worst, don’t. People grow up in the era of their lifetime. The inputs, the economics, the culture, the temporal memes, the family context are all the soil from which we grow up. My dad’s early life was dedicated to raising a post-war post-farm modern family and had to navigate the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s with all those complexities. I had none of that. My soil was so much free of rocks no wonder I was naïve.

So here I am now a handful of years short of where my dad was at the time. He’s been gone now for 10 years. I am very glad that I walked the relationship back to functioning. It gave us almost a dozen years together where we slowly got to an enjoyable footing. I swallowed my positions, whatever they were, and prioritized the relationship ahead of my ego. I ate crow or humble pie or whatever I needed to in order to reconcile. And for a time, it was an effort. But eventually my dad acknowledged the effort with effort of his own. I, he, and our relationship evolved. My uncle’s insight said, “You have the flexibility and should take the lead to ensure that the relationship remains active; you should honor your father because that’s the right thing to do; because you will live to regret not doing what is necessary to make it work.”

 As Robert Frost’s poem so eloquently lays down this sentiment:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 So as it pertains to my ego, I took the road less traveled.

 Gentlemen, to your evolved relationships with your fathers,

 Dave Marr

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By | February 10th, 2017|Personal, Relational|0 Comments