Sex #5

In these Letters about sex, I have been attempting to bring into open discussion insights gathered over 30+ years of being an adult. In Sex 1, I highlighted different scenarios where sex sent distinct messages and labeled them accordingly. In Sex 2, I pointed out some pitfalls in today’s sexulized world. In the last two Letters, Sex 3 and Sex 4, I looked at sex from the man’s perspective and somewhat from the woman’s. Those were to set the stage for today’s message by drawing out what is foundational in a great sex life. Today’s Letter attempts to point the way with suggestions on what to do to improve your sex life.

It’s very, very important here to understand what I’m talking about and what I’m not talking about. You have a driving desire to have a fulfilling sex life that is a component, only one component, of your overall desire to have a fulfilling life. To that end your thoughts, attitudes and actions with your mate creates a self fulfilling prophecy on how that goes. However, if you think doing the dishes a couple of times will get you wild sex at the end of the week, you’re in for some rude disappointment. That’s called manipulation. What I’m talking about is engagement where you are present and forward moving in relational growth.

So, for guys it’s easy to think of sex as an event, a transactional exchange – veni, vidi, veni. For women, they tend to think of it as the culmination of a series of relational events. Though each person has a veto card, I have never played mine. I can’t think of an instance where I would. And since women are more delicate and thereby more easily knocked off track, the veto card can be used, is used, and is available for use at any time. I would imagine this is true in all normal relationships. So the first step in improving your sex life is to realize whatever turbulence you have, it’s part of God’s plan for marriage. No, that’s not a “suck it up” statement. It’s an intro into the true path to a happy life.

Leadership. This is not rocket science here. If you are looking for a more satisfying sex life where you engage in more quantity, more passion, and where more variety isn’t you pointing at your crotch with your left hand and whimpering. No, the answer to your desires is by engaging in an exploration of where each of you are going in life and sharing a vision of how you can help each other get there. I may have already talked about this but: One night my wife and I were in bed arguing for the umpteenth time about something or other. The issue was then as it most always was – a power struggle for the other person to love first. Of course the specifics always varied, but the theme was the same. Who was right and who was wrong – “me always, you never”. Then that night, I remember it like it was last night, I was hit by an epiphany – “I need to stop this. It’s not about me vs. her. It’s about us getting on the same page and figuring it out together.” Maybe this is simple to you, but at that time it opened my eyes. I did stop arguing. I stopped immediately then and I’ve stopped ever since. Our marriage went from a 6 to a 10 in no time. Why? I changed. I grew up. I changed me first and stopped trying to change her, but instead tried to grow us. The quality of our sex life followed.

As a consequence, we had discussions about problems in our relationship that weren’t accusational, inflammatory, button-pushing events. We were now mature enough to look at life with fresh eyes. We were able to ask the important questions:

What are your wants and needs?

What are your expectations about frequency?

What about fantasy and passion?

What can I do to make it so you feel my love for you?

What are the things I do that diminish your love for me?

In other words, I had been whining. I had been acting like she owed me sexual favors because I earned the money or worse, I performed a few chores around the house. Wow. That was not going to have our marriage go down the right road.

Of course, she had to be willing to participate in such a conversation. My epiphany didn’t automatically result in her realization. I had to sell my new attitude with action and consistency. Otherwise, this “new me” would have looked like manipulation. If you think about it, sulking, anger, short term efforts to get more poured into your own cup doesn’t have the same effect as a shared vision on how to win/win one another’s love language. It became so obvious that this path of talking and agreement was so much more effective than the high school drama silent treatment that conveys the message “Well, you should just know what I want”.

We agreed to make serious effort at fulfilling what the other person wanted that said “I love you.” She wanted me more present in my claim of love – play with the kids, help with the dishes with a happy attitude, appreciate her efforts to fix up the house, help make the bed, clean the toilet up after myself, get my clothes actually in the hamper, demonstrate in a non-sexual way that I wanted to be with her, show involvement in all things Marr, make her feel special. For me, I wanted her to be more intentional in being together physically, touching me as she passed by me in the kitchen, compliment me in my leadership, take note of my efforts at work, acknowledge that I was trying to engage and lead, make me feel special.

It seems so simple, almost simplistic. If it’s so simple, what’s the problem? The problem is it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to think “She’s having a bad day.” “She’s on her period.” “She upset that I didn’t help with the dishes, but doesn’t realize what a tough day I had.” “She, she, she…” In other words, difficulty starts when you want your cup to be filled first or believe that you’ve already done the filling. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” isn’t about your neighbor feeling your love. This universal truth that Jesus says is the 2nd most important spiritual directive because its about where your focus should be. It’s directed at your perspectives and your actions.

If you want your wife to surprise you with a night of passion, when was the last time you surprised her with a baby sitter lined up and a dinner out?

This Letter is to Ironmen on what you can do to improve your sex life. It’s not a letter to your wife on how she can improve your sex life. Therefore, the best road to take is where you own your life, develop a plan on how you’re going to have a fantastic life that includes abundant sex, act on that plan daily, engage your wife in the fun and adventure that you’ve embarked on together, and be the man that God had intended you to be. It may not be the easiest road because it may require you to grow up some, but it’s the best road. Not the easiest, but the best. If you want a life of abundance, what are you doing to create that life?

To your continued success,


P.S. Please let me know if this 3 part series was valuable to you. Thanks.

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By | November 7th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Sex #4

Last week in Sex 3, I talked about the psychological nature of sex as it pertains to a guy’s needs which, if satisfied, can lead to intimacy. Because a guy’s biology for the most part works evenly and continuously; we are simple creatures. Not so for women. Women are neither even nor continuous, and so are therefore complex. I do believe this is a blessing to man because it appeals to two very important aspects of a man’s nature – desire for sex and propensity to problem solving. Pursuit of sex matures us mentally and matures our character as we unravel the mysteries of a woman’s being. I will foolishly attempt to provide some insights into my decades of observation.

Before I forge ahead into a foolishness of this magnitude, I do want to throw out some caveats: 1) My 35 year old self would have read this Letter looking for insights into how to increase the quantity and quality of my sex life. Therefore, that is my goal for you here. 2) I believe that sex is God’s gift to mankind, not only designed for our pleasure, but provided as a destination/journey thing. If sexual pleasure were all we had, our relationship might eventually become empty. Therefore, God toys with us on quantity and quality in order that we seek a greater destination – intimacy. 3) Not all women would fit into my little perspectives gladly. These are my male perspectives and, as such, wrong. I provide them to you for perspective as you navigate your own sex life towards increasing intimacy.

Female biology.

As you know, the clock ticks much faster for a woman than a man. A woman must find a man by roughly age 30 in order to fulfill what she considers a prime driver in her life, having a baby. (Yes I know. I am not going to capture a large swath of exceptions, but I’ll need you to forget all the stuff I’m missing if we are to get anywhere.) I think this factor leads some women to weigh more heavily the practicality of the timing in a relationship than otherwise as time passes, so powerful is the need to procreate. Watching the movie The Help, she can relate to the mom’s warning “Eugenia, your eggs are dying.” Women have gradations of concern similar to military defense readiness. If Mr. Right shows up on time, dates appropriately, courts appropriately, weds appropriately, beds appropriately, then she’s at Defcon 5 (least alarm). But if dating languishes and courting seems remote, then the clock ticks louder and she goes from Defcon 5 to Defcon 4. You see where this is going. By the time she gets to Defcon 2 because her boyfriend wasn’t ready to get married and have kids, she’s outta there and actively on the hunt. There are a zillion movies about this. Insofar as men are waiting later in life to get married these days, women are getting more aggressive and may lower their standards as to what their morals are and with whom they’ll have sex. Their eggs are dying. Overly simplistic? Hmmm. I believe it’s a major factor.

In addition, short term biology plays a significant role in a woman’s attitudes about sex – the monthly cycle. Some women have a 3-day menstruation, some a 10-day. Some have debilitating cramps, others none. Some have hormone swings that range from vixen to bitch where only an off comment separates the two. So it’s dangerous to try and group all women into one category. But it is reasonable to say that most women are impacted by their cycle and that it is likely considered a hassle instead of a blessing. I say that because of the hurried pace of today’s couples. Even though monthly bleeding is a blessed part of motherhood, society is uncomfortable about it. It’s pushed aside. In relationships, I suspect it gets in the way of regular sex, vacation time, date night, and is cause for many a frustration. So when Aunt Flo comes for a visit, she’s often not a welcome guest.

Biology leads directly into psychology. It doesn’t take long in a sexual relationship to figure out the menstrual/hormonal timing for women. But what does take a little bit of insight and sensitivity is catching on to the attitude that borders a woman’s cycle, her body, and her femininity. It appears to me that a degree of shame and low self esteem affect women regarding menstruation. Women, on average, are uncomfortable with their own bodies, particularly around their cycle. The hassle, the pain, the emotional roller coaster, the smell, the mess, the inconvenience, the message that society sends them that menstruation is something to be hidden – all compounds to a potential feeling of shame. It’s been called a curse and women consider it so to some degree. Furthermore, and this is a very subtle thing, a doubt emerges with this idea of shame: “Am I loveable as a person or am I just a sex receptacle?” In other words, does the man only need a soft jar for his seed or is he in a relationship with a whole person? Unravel that one. (Keep in mind that this is a very objectionable line of thought, but should be kept in the back of your mind when it comes time to discuss your attitudes and relational inputs.)

For a woman whose cup is half empty, or worse, a cup that runneth empty, sex can be perceived as debasing and objectifying. (How porn is depicted certainly supports that thought.) If she is dealing with low esteem or is fiercely avoiding self pity, a woman will send messages that sex is not fulfilling or sustaining; or conversely, she may regard it as nothing and provide it wantonly. A woman may not know specifically what she’s looking for, but it occurs to me that she is looking for validation as a woman when in a relationship with a man. Someone who will figure her out using her languages of love. Until maturity evolves in a relationship, she may not know how to articulate what she wants and may instead engage in bickering or power struggles (just like a guy does). My wife, who is a mentor to other moms at Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers says that her MOPS moms complain the most about lack of family leadership––which I interpret to mean power-struggles and finger pointing. The puzzle to solve is for me to pour into her cup in such a way that allows her to pour out in turn. That takes vision, sometimes therapy, love in action, and patience.

For a woman whose waterline isn’t below the halfway mark, sex certainly is more an element of a well-functioning relationship. Though she may not suffer from chronic self esteem issues, she still needs her cup filled in a relationship in order to pour out. Young love finds it easy to participate in the pouring into one another’s cup. Doing little things, buying gifts, touching, complementing, and just hanging out. But over time as life’s busyness accumulates, it’s very easy to forget that newness, forget the balance, and forget the other’s needs. It’s commonplace to get into a routine that can become somewhat stale. A woman doesn’t warm to the sexual routine as quickly as a man. Here’s where issues arise, power struggles occur, and leadership is needed before weeds overrun the garden.

I have described above that women are more psychologically sensitive by their biology than men. The menstrual cycle and inclusive hormonal swings are an integral factor in how a woman feels about herself because of how she thinks her biology impacts the relationship. I have attempted to describe the implications of a cup that needs filling and how that lack thereof can lead to tension. I think a woman is naturally more inclined towards intimacy and is therefore, by nature, more vulnerable. As such she can be hurt more easily which also lasts longer than it does for men. She is looking for mature leadership from a man to create an emotionally secure world. All this by nature and by conditioning, a woman is less inclined to be the leader in bed.

The divorce rate is 50%-ish for a reason. I propose it is due in large part because of the issues described in these last two Letters – ineffective filling of one another’s cup. Sex is a major driver to happiness. For guys, by having sex, our cup is filled. For a woman, she needs to have her cup filled in order to have sex. Certainly she’ll have sex other times when her cup is not filled, but that is of a limited supply. Therefore, marital happiness and sexual satisfaction rests initially on the man’s shoulders to solve the problem of a woman’s nature and figure out how to fill her cup so she can in turn pour it out on him.

Next week: How to do that.

To your continued success,


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By | November 1st, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Sex #3

Sex 3
Sex is a driver for me and probably for you too. I can’t think of an instance in my relationship with my wife that sex wasn’t somewhere in my thinking, expectations, motivations, and of course desires. From working hard to working out, doing the dishes to leading the family, from sun up till sun down, sex factors in. Does that make me some sort of sex freak? Somehow I doubt it, but you can decide relative to your life. I’d like to discuss a couple of points about sex in a marriage that hopefully will save you countless hours of frustration and quite possibly your marriage itself. Because I think sex is so central to a marriage that mishandling it messes up many days and too many messed up days leads to marriage difficulty. Of course it doesn’t stand alone in messing up a marriage, but it sure plays a central role.

In Sex 1 I labeled different scenarios in which sex reflects the various circumstances and attitudes of the moment – Discovery Sex, Accommodation Sex, Fantasy Sex, Vacation Sex, Pre Travel Sex, and the like. Inherent in each of these is the psychological component for each person. I believe the female psychological makeup is significantly more variable and complex than the guy’s. I’ll give that explanation a try later. But for now I’d like to provide a little insight into your motivations.

I am a simple creature. Feed me. Love me. Do those two things and I can endure just about anything. Feeding me is pretty straightforward. Loving me is less so. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Languages of Love, the five primary ways in which people give and receive love. They are Words of Encouragement, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gifts, and Physical Closeness and Touching. In our relationship, our marriage improved dramatically once we learned that I was primarily Physical Touch and Words of Encouragement as my number 1 and 2 and she was Quality Time and Acts of Service. Our relationship was able sync up with giving love in a way that the other could feel and appreciate. Up until that time, we were misinterpreting the messages the other was sending. She was investing her time and love into making a wonderful home when I wanted something more physical. I was telling her how pretty she was and wanted to make love and she wanted me to help with making the house look nice. (Oversimplification, but essentially true).

In another psychological boost, being a guy and being simple, I need proper expectations set. For example, if the day is filled with chores, I need my wife to make me a list. If it’s not on the list, it’s not going to happen. The list has a two-fold purpose: 1) list what needs to get done; 2) list what will make her happy. My expectations are that if I do these things, she will be happy. If she’s happy, and all the other stars align, I’m getting sex that night. Life isn’t exactly quid pro quo, but it kinda is. Further setting of expectations, if a routine has been set that sex is the third night, or second Tuesday, or first night below 50 degrees after the full moon in Spring, whatever the formula is for when sex night is, then by God that’s the night. I think about it, anticipate it, gear up for it, clear my calendar for it, and have my expectations etched in quick-dry cement. So if something happens that requires me to adjust, like sick kids, menstrual cycle, sick wife, argument, friend needs help, or any other piece of crap excuse (eh hem), it takes me a while to chip away at the expectations firmly dried in cement. Because here’s my non-adult thinking – it’s time to fill my cup. I feel as though I’ve done my share of giving and now it’s my time to receive. I’ve worked. I have forgone playing, but instead have come home and played with the kids. Yes, I know, I should want to do that on my own and I do, but I have choices and I choose to be home. I have helped around the house and done my darndest to fill my wife’s cup, so now, when it’s my turn, I want to be filled. (Again, somewhat tongue in cheek, but not really).

But seriously, I clearly and certainly understand that life happens, of course I do. But when life happens, I want to be treated with the respect of a loving partner that says “oops, there’s been a delay, but I want you and I want you to know that I want to be with you as soon as life gets back in order”. I can live with that. But instead, when an interruption occurs and me-as-a-priority is cast aside without a shred of thought, it sends the message that the whole sex event is just an accommodation. (Not that my wife ever did that…)

And here’s the heart of a man’s psyche. You see, I want to be wanted. I don’t want love coming to me as an afterthought, as an accommodation. Being wanted is to be a priority. Certainly urgencies arise, but priorities should remain and not taken for granted. I want my wife. I take her calls when I’m at work regardless of what I’m doing. I want her to be happy, content, and fulfilled. I want to fill her cup so that she has an abundance of well-being to pour out in all aspects of her life. That’s what it means to me when I say I love my wife. That she is my priority. And none of that conflicts with my secondary priorities of kids, work, working out, and other personal pursuits. So in turn, that’s what I expect. I want her to want me and that sex not be an accommodation as if it were her wifely duty to “put out”.

Furthermore, and this is asking for it all, I want passion. In our schedule of expectations, I want to make sure that we regularly have a night of passion. Now, scheduling passion may seem rather unspontaneous. Whatever. I’ll take it. If I were to wait for spontaneity, I’d be waiting a while. No, I need to experience that there’s something about me that my wife is passionate about. It satisfies me that she is satisfied with me and satisfied by me. I want to believe that I quench her need for a man just as she quenches my need for a woman. This subtlety is meaningful here for me – she engages in sex to satisfy herself, not just to satisfy me. The occasional sex for sex’s sake does that for me.

So sex is predominantly a psychological game in the long run. Sure, young love may not readily see that because the newness refreshes the batteries so quickly. But as life accumulates, the need to get the nuances right also accumulate. Ultimately, sex is about intimacy. Yes, you can love one woman for a lifetime. It’s possible because though physical sex is the same no matter who you do it with, it’s the psychological aspects that are merged between man and wife. And figuring that out takes time. Each era of marriage creates new challenges to manage, yet if you continue to invest in each other, sex gets better. It gets better because you appreciate each other more, you pick up on all the nuances, you provide grace and patience, and satisfaction results in just being together, sexually and otherwise. This kind of intimacy is the top of the mountain, so gentlemen, gear up.

To your continued success,


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By | October 26th, 2014|Relational|1 Comment

Dream Catcher

I put my hand on Dano’s forehead and started shaking it back and forth. “Ok, I see it. Here it comes….Wow! It’s a rocket ship and you’re blasting off into outer space.  Dano, this is going to be a great dream.  Ok, you’re pressed back into your chair as the rocket leaves the earth’s orbit” as I pressed his head harder into his pillow. “And now you’re out of the atmosphere and soaring through space in your rocketship. OH!!! Look out! There’s another ship and it’s firing on you! You have to avoid being hit by photons.” And I would push him around, Dano giggling like a typical 8 year old. The story went on for 5 minutes or so till I cut it off and said, “We’ll continue this next time.  Time to go to sleep.” And Dano would lie there and continue to mentally play out the dream I had planted.

Bedtime routines were anything but routine when I put the kids to bed. I would take away their bad dreams and plant good ones. The kids loved the time that their dad would come in and spend talking about their day, but it was the dreams that really made bedtime exciting. There was a serious burden coming up with a new story 3 nights a week (three kids one night each). And ultimately, that’s what did me in. I did this for more than a year, providing stories, but eventually ran out of steam. My big regret. I deeply regret not steeling myself to the task of building their creative minds and filling them with stories of adventure and character development. I had the energy, I could have continued if I knew then what I know now.

But here’s what my thinking was. Long day. I just want to relax in front of the TV, have some dessert, and think about whether tonight was sex night or not. In other words, I was looking to fill my cup. Filling my pleasure cup with rest and passive sensations. I look back on the opportunity in my late thirties and early forties to become something bigger and I have TV shows and desserts as my memories. Now, I was a pretty good dad, don’t get me wrong, but I have these nagging regrets on the life I could have had. Not huge disappointments, but little nagging “oh, I coulda been a contendah” thoughts. I was at a fork in the road and I didn’t see it. In my eventual good – better – best philosophy, I settled for good.

Maybe this might be different for you because I had my first child at 28, second at 30, and third at 32 and many of you are starting so much later and are more mature than I was.  I started my business at 35.  Our marriage conflicts ended around 37. I gained relative economic success around 39. And at that point, I started taking my foot off the gas. I had built something respectable, something I could point to and say “Look what I’ve got. Got the great marriage, got the happy kids, got the money, got some material things, got the MBA, Black belt, rhythm – Who could ask for anything more?” My dreams, or so I thought them to be, were fulfilled. But I missed an important lesson that didn’t come clear to me till much later.

I should have continued to be a Dream Catcher for my kids at night. It is a metaphor really. Through my actions I would have said ‘I will be with you and plant good thoughts in your mind and encourage you to the highest of heights through story, yes, but much more importantly, through modeling. I will continue to pursue my own dreams and when achieved, find new dreams to capture. Did I put on the brakes in my life? No of course not, but I stopped accelerating. I looked to satisfy me in a way that slightly diminished my own potential.  I should have pursued significance instead of meager success by continuing to be all in.

Be a Dream Catcher.

In your Ironmen group, discuss what kind of life you’re building with respect to family, economics, health, spiritual, and personal. What will you do when you get there?

To your continued success,


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By | September 26th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments


I remember:

  • It was Greg, and Tom, and Eric, and Brad, and Scott, and Mike and all the kids and a few others and all the wives. We hiked to the top of the Sand Dunes National Park. Not an easy climb given the steep slope of sand. At the top Eric and I hit golf balls and almost killed his son with a 7-iron 600 yards down by the creek where the wives were preparing lunch. We played football and drank Corona’s till the sun’s setting brought out the cold and mosquitos. That weekend, like the 20 others like it, was awesome. Thanks to our friends the Nixons who took the lead in coordinating the trip every year.

  • Easter Sunday brought the gang together every year. We’d trade off taking turns on who would host the post-church event. We’d start to arrive at 1:00and everyone would bring a dish or two. In the early years there were some games. But the egg (candy) hunt was the highlight. When my son was 3, I was in charge of watching him – which I did from afar. He plummeted from the jungle gym and broke his leg and I, uh, well, let’s just say I was in the doghouse for a bit. The dozen-plus families have continued this for 20+ years.

  • Every Santa Lucia holiday, my Swedish wife would put together a smorgasbord for our friends that included Swedish meatballs, sill, bockling, honey-baked ham, glogg, beer, wine, and of course, aquavit. The singing of Helan Gar and the raucous hilarity and Jimmy’s annual costume surprise has been a staple of our group for 20 years.

  • Last year, the gang of 20 of us went to France for a week on a barge trip. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in my life. While we biked along the canal, and tromped around the vineyards, and indulged (or over-indulged) on gourmet lunches and dinners, we put a capstone on a life-long community of friendships.

  • Girls nights out. Guys nights out. The time that the guys coordinated a treasure hunt  that sent the women all over the city that ended up at a picnic in the foothills.The 4th of July parties – wow. The myriad sporting events because the families grew up together. The countless dinners together, graduation parties, engagement parties, and weddings.The examples go on – as does life.

Here’s the thing guys, community is not some tired out old slogan that you hear at church. A movie theater full of people is not a community. A church isn’t necessarily a community. It takes relationships – deep, deep relationships to make a community. And deep relationships take time. So you need to start working on building those relationships and figuring out how to break down the walls – your’s and theirs.  But community isn’t all just fun and games. Sometimes it’s life-saving support.

  • My buddy and his wife confronted a situation that they couldn’t fathom when their youngest was 18 months. She somehow got cancer and it threw them into immediate turmoil. Even though they had a big family to draw on, it was their friends that picked up the pieces so that their oldest two daughters had clean clothes, had lunches, got to school on time. Their friends kept the house together, did laundry, made sure that things kept functioning while providing them with ears to hear and shoulders to lean on. Only a developed community could have done that. This calamity saved our friends and brought us together as a community.

Over the next 20 years of your life, you will be confronted with the opportunity to participate in events, dinners, and gatherings that act as opportunities to gather couples into your sphere. At some point, someone is going to have to take leadership in coordinating something that creates a group. Mike and Nanci had game night. That was awesome. Caren and Brad coordinated camping. My wife had the Swedish party. All the ladies coordinated Easter. These are the times that knitted my family together and all the families into a community.

Why did it happen? God I suppose. But the key here is that I didn’t get in the way and oppose it. I was a participant and sometimes leader in getting our friends together. And I bring this up because I’ve seen guys push community events away for ego, disposition, or trivial reasons.  Building community is a big part of your job. This is where you want to go, trust me. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Discuss in your Ironmen group how you and your mates can get together and have some fun.


To your continued success.



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By | September 17th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

What Women Want

Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb here and expose the sexist that I am. Do I know what women want? Hell no. Not with any certainty. But I’ve been around awhile and can probably offer a pretty good guess. Does my guess apply to all women? Definitely not. Is my observation tainted by my gendered bias? Duh. What women want is they want a Man. A real man. That’s pretty obvious.  What isn’t so obvious and what the debate is about in every strata of society is what being a man means. I propose to take a swipe at it today. I would say that what women want primarily is spiritual leadership. Hang with me because it won’t be traditional.

First off: Why is it important to know what women want? The answer almost doesn’t need articulating – it’s so we can get what we want. Hello! As the great Zig Ziglar famously said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you get what you want.” And that is never more true than when it comes to the woman in your life. When she believes that you want to lead, intend to lead, and in fact attempt to lead, then she will increasingly buy into that as she sees your resolve and activity.

My wife and I spoke at a MOPS event last year. We received questions in advance about what issues were most concerning to these young moms. The most common question asked was “How do I get my husband to lead the family spiritually?” Where to begin. Let’s start with the context of the mom.

So here you have a young woman who is new to the life thing, say 32 years old with 2 kids under 4. Her world is crammed full of diapers and feedings and storytime and naptime. She might work full or part time. She’s got housework and shopping and boo boos and continuous questions and monitoring of activities. The job has a weightiness that would lead to weariness except that they’re so darned cute. This is the job of nurturing.

There are elements that the mom can’t supply. She can’t dad the way that dads can. She’s not rough. Sometimes she can over protect because the need to nurture and avoid pain is ingrained in her spiritual DNA. She doesn’t have the loud voice and can come across as shrill. She needs someone to comfort her when she caught one of the kids’ sniffles. And then there’s the hormones. She wants to be held, but not as a prelude to pouring out into someone else’s cup – again.

When she said “I do” so many years ago and later accepted the seed of the family, it was with the belief or underlying assumption that this male would continue to grow and become the man for her. She would do her part, carry life, nurture life, spend countless hours investing in life, so that life would be shared and an abundance would flow from it. That is her part.

His part is a little tougher. It’s tougher because it isn’t ingrained. It wasn’t taught. It’s not defined nor is it clear as to how to grow up, what role to play, how to be a man. A man is a man because he leads in the big things. That he leads in such a way as to be inclusive, proactive and forward thinking. It isn’t about force in any way, but about building up. The man that a woman wants is a man that energizes himself to have a vision for the family and each individual member. A vision that is pursued with intention.

So where does spiritual leadership come in? Well, what I said already stands alone as spiritual leadership. The picture I painted of a man leading by waking up early on the weekend and rousing the family in song to get up and get ready because “We’re going to go on a picnic at the park” where he takes the load of the decision and preparation. He inspirits with the cheerleading of the family, of action-orientation, of Dad being engaged. That is spiritual leadership. But there’s more to it than that because the kids won’t be 1 and 3 for long. There are countless and countless situations and factors that will call upon the dad to lead. And if dad isn’t ready or mature or knowledgeable, then what? What if dad is caught up in his head about “Damned religious hypocrites” and would rather be “I’m spiritual and not religious” (which is really secularism) than go to church.

Hey, church isn’t everything, but for a growing family that is looking to establish a solid base, it’s a big, big, BIG deal. The man is a man when he weighs the long range pros and cons of life and leads the family to the horizon that offers the most wholesome benefits. A man is a man when he gets out of his own way. A man is a man when he acknowledges in front of the family that dad’s knowledge and power is limited, so he’s therefore reaching out for guidance. He reaches for wisdom which is in the Bible, it’s in community, it’s in the idea that God exists and a relationship with Him is better than going it alone. (This is a particularly valuable position with teenagers.) Each of these elements aren’t pure and must be navigated (this statement is too much to expand on today), but they’re steps toward what women want. Women want to be connected. Women want to be connected. What? Connected.

So the man your current or future wife wants? She wants you to create an environment of well-being where she and the kids can connect and grow. You do this by cheerleading the family, by going to church, by leading in mealtime prayer, by being intentional in short, medium, and long range thinking about family well-being. And you can’t do this if you’re not up to speed on spiritual (and religious) perspectives, all of which takes time to navigate properly.

So if you’re not dating, you should go to church to start figuring all this out.  If you’re dating and having sex, go to church anyway, even if you think you’re a hypocrite and going to church might spoil your jam.  If you’re dating and not sure she’s the one and going to church might send her the wrong message, go anyway. If you’re serious about her, then church will seal the deal. If you’re married and no kids yet, go to church to start the big discussions. Why church? Why am I pushing church? Because for you to be the man you want to be, it’s going to take some momentum in this area to get through the later in life issues you will have. And your (future) wife and kids will be a million times better off with a man leading the family.

To your continued success,


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By | August 8th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Family Culture

My marriage has ranked a 10 for about 15 years.  Prior to that, I’d say it averaged a 6 or 7. At one particularly low point, I wondered if it was going to last. What changed so that we went from a question mark to truly happy?

One night when my wife and I were arguing in bed for the umpteenth time about the usual things: me helping her, her respecting me, not enough leadership, not enough sex, blah, blah, blah, I suddenly was hit with an epiphany.  Literally, bam, I saw the futility of our arguing against one another in a power struggle of a zero sum game. I stopped that night arguing on MY behalf and started reasoning on OUR behalf. The shift was subtle, but tectonic.

That night could have been as a result of my brilliance (unlikely) or as a result of a journey we had undertaken over the previous year.  We started taking a parenting class, Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. We had learned through this class the outlines of family structure and values, languages of love, disciplining children, and countless parenting techniques. But it wasn’t till I was in the moment of a leadership opportunity where it was up to me to understand what the argument was about and what my role in it should be that I finally understood what family leadership meant. We needed to be a team and I had to lead the team in my role. My wife was completely ok with that, in fact that’s what she wanted more than anything. But she had often experienced me as an immature idiot. I needed for her to understand that she hadn’t hitched her wagon to some out of control donkey. Therefore, arguing that night like all previous nights for my power and ego was only reinforcing that impression. Instead after that night when I started providing her with a true sense I was on her side and wanted what she wanted – happy wife, happy life – she stopped arguing with me and we started negotiating our wants and needs together. It was the simplest of revelations. I actually listened to her instead of preparing my rebuttal. Our communications were no longer AT one another, but WITH one another. Every aspect of our relationship improved almost overnight. (almost).

That then became the foundation of our family culture. A husband and wife trying to figure things out together, working as a team, to navigate the infinitely complex life to come. From there, over time, we determined our core values.

  • Family first. Many people say God first.  I don’t. When you put family first, God can be (should be) part of the package. If you put God first, I think family takes a back seat in a way that kids don’t really get. Maybe the other way works too, but I’ve seen a meaningful distinction. It also means that career also isn’t first. Now, you can borrow against family for a time, which I did to get my MBA and build my business, but it was restored to its rightful place.

  • Mealtimes are the keytimes to build family values. I was blessed to be able to eat at home 90+% of the time. Research supports this evidencing that truancy, drug use, early sexual activity, etc. are highly correlated with not eating together consistently as a family. It’s true, look it up. I had to prioritize so that work fit around this critically important family investment.

    • Appreciation: At mealtimes we would pray essentially the same thing every time, but not rote or empty. We would give thanks to God for blessing our family so massively. He has showered us with goodness and for 30 seconds we express gratitude. It’s not much, but the consistency has created a family trait.

  • Adventure-minded. At dinner the saying was “Gotta try before you cry.” We traveled a lot, therefore different foods and experiences were a big part of our lives (my wife is Swedish). So it wouldn’t work to have the kids closed-minded as we ate raw fish or haggis or curried eggplant. Adventure is exciting and new, so an open mind is required. This is huge.

  • Health-minded. Eating good balanced food with lots of water (no sodas) was the mainstay of our lives. Since we ate at home, it was easier. It was nice that Lis was a stay at home mom and liked to cook. My contribution was often cleaning the kitchen. Bottom line – the kids followed effortlessly what we modeled. They ate what we fixed.

  • Integrity-minded. Learning to give your best is a matter of integrity. Kids often just throw down the first thing that comes to mind on homework; so we read what they did and replied pretty much every time, “Hey, great first try. Now go back and re-read it and see how you can improve it.”  We didn’t re-write if for them as they needed to own their grades. As a result, the kids got A’s in school, but more importantly, they have A’s in life. Integrity is also a value where hypocrisy is always lurking in the shadows for mom and dad and is identified as such when the kids are in their teens.

  • Other-oriented. In order to grow spiritually, you really do have to take the focus off of self. Kids will follow whatever is the family model. If husband and wife don’t think of the other person in the regular course of everyday life, the kids won’t buy the argument on other-orientedness. Words matter, but action matters more. We stole the motto “Love is action”. Also, trust is a delicate family component and is the reason parents discipline against lying because it breaks trust, breaks relationship. Lying has many forms (speaking untruths, half truths, omitting important information, unfulfilled promises, holding oneself above others), so family culture requires firm adherence to building trust through other-oriented integrity.

There are many of you in the honeymoon period of your marriages, some literally. That period builds goodwill and can last till you have your second child. I don’t know if you’ll have marital conflicts or not, but I suspect you will. The above list isn’t comprehensive, but can be a good starting point for discussing what you want your family to value. In addition to your Ironmen group, start a conversation with your wife.


To your continued success,



Hey, do me a favor and talk to someone about Ironmen and get them to sign up.  Thanks

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By | August 1st, 2014|Relational|0 Comments


As I sit down to write these lines, I agonize like a dad on how to connect. I ask myself again and again how I can come up with a concept, a phrase, an example, an analogy to open up the aperture of a young man who, knowingly or not, is seeking the path. For I am a dad talking to a son on the multitude of thoughts, attitudes, skills, habits, and perspectives that mark the path. Hopefully, the goal of a dad is to equip his sons and daughters for the life to come. But it gets complicated as he grows from baby to boy to adolescent to man. Intentions get lost in the maze of life. The baton is handed off well or poorly, but handed off nonetheless. So each son, now a man, must take over the job of equipping for the life to come. And, regardless of the quality of parenting that has gone before, he must go back and re-parent himself into manhood.

“The ball is red”.

What just happened there is a miracle. Think about the complexity of that little line. I conceptualized an image of ball and red. Through the miracle of language and subvocalization, I silently sounded it out while holding the image in my mind. Instantly, I was able to translate the image and subvocal sounds into symbols I learned a lifetime ago through that cute ABC song. I learned to type in high school and can now type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Because of the compounding of human learning and capitalism, I typed the symbols onto the computer screen that is captured and saved in the Cloud. All of that is miraculous enough, but the real miracle is what follows. You are now reversing the process of capturing from the Cloud the symboled thought of a red ball so that you now hold the image of it in your head. It is a miracle of transferring conscious thought from one mind to another.

But you move out of “Red ball” dialogue pretty quickly. What happens if the son doesn’t want to read these letters? Or he wants to but doesn’t know how to open your email? What if you’re pissed off at me that I say the ball is red when it’s really magenta? What if I’m drunk and say the “lob is ded”? What if you’re hungry and tired? What if.. what if? So even if your parents were fantastic, these what-ifs created a suboptimal growing experience. In thinking about parenting, look at the increased complexity necessary to communicate.

My dad (whom I love and who loved me) used a technique that I wouldn’t recommend. Negative psychology was the term he gave it. “I bet you can’t…run to there, catch this ball, finish first…” His thinking was that I’d respond “Oh yes I can! Just watch me!!” and then I’d buckle down to prove him wrong. His dad was an alcoholic so maybe that’s why he liked that idea. Well as it played out there are pros and cons: I ended up being successful for whatever reason. I intellectually understand his point. I have had to work hard at confidence almost my whole life. I’ve also had to work at positive self talk. I have been known for sarcasm and a biting sense of humor. All attributed to negative psychology? Who knows.

So the point is: you come from your unique background that has some good and some less than good. For you to hit on more cylinders, you need to understand the inputs you’ve received and come to grips with how they have formed your current self. But importantly, you need to realize that you can change. You’re not stuck with who you are. You have been given the power to grow out of your history and into your future. Obviously if your parenting inputs were way down the quality charts, you have more work to do, but everyone must own their life and reevaluate their childhood.

A friend of mine had a dad who was a cad in his early years. Divorced his mom due to philandering. He drank a bit and womanized a lot. As my friend grew up, his dad wanted to bring him along on some of these escapades. Needless to say, my friend had challenges with appropriateness and women and, as he grew to understand this dysfunction, his dad. The guilt and anger he had for his dad played a significant role in his marriage and business life. I suggested that he write a letter to his dad, get it all out on paper, pour over it with all the emotions, then send it…to himself. Then I suggested that he write a response from his dad, sign it from his dad, and actually send it to himself so he could get it in the mail and open it. He took that advice and said it helped him quite a bit.

My friend did this heavy lifting in his forties. He eventually forgave his dad’s shortcomings and they have a good relationship today. I did my lifting in my thirties and my dad and I had a great relationship. You should start today.

The journey from red ball to college between father and son is an incredibly complex and dynamic miracle. It would be so even if everything else in life were stable and enriching. But that is far from the case. A father must first navigate his own shortcomings, his ignorances, biases, intentions, childhood, economics, and relationships that all influence the quality of his parenting. You can only pour out from your jar into a child what you have in it. And if your marriage is challenged, or your job, or your health, or the health of one of your children, etc, etc. etc, your jar runs a little empty. Therefore, you as the son must take over the job of parenting. You must go back and forgive and fix in order to grow.

From a dad – for your continued success,


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By | July 11th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments


My groin told me to get in the elevator.

Recently I have been confronted with several stories of men following the call into a situation that eventually led them into another’s bed. I suspect every man faces this dilemma, some more than others. Ultimately it’s to satisfy ego – the need to be wanted. More times than not, it leads to divorce and the destruction of trust you have with wife and kids.

I had an office in Bellevue Washington where I traveled every other month to get my office set up. I stayed at the Hyatt a few blocks down the street. One night after a long day at the office, I went up to the restaurant for dinner. The place was packed so I went into the bar to wait for a table since they said it’d be almost an hour. No big deal, I’d have a couple beers and hang out. There wasn’t anyplace to sit, so I leaned on the piano. I’m halfway through my first beer when a good looking blonde comes in, does the same math as me, and comes to the piano to wait. I do what all guys do, I check her out without trying to be too obvious. Nonetheless, we have eye contact and she smiles. She’s pretty.

I don’t remember who started it, but within a handful of minutes we’re talking. She’s waiting for a friend who’s late. A drink goes by and we’re chatting it up. Wow, she’s pretty. Her friend arrives and now they can put their names on the list. Two minutes later the hostess comes to get me for my table. It’ll be 40 minutes before the ladies get a table and I’m alone, so I invite them to join me. We order a bottle of wine and dinner. I’m funny and oh so charming. I’m getting the eye from both of them. The bill arrives and we split it 50/50. I’ve had too much to drink and feeling the urge. She reaches across the table and touches my hand saying “Thanks for the lovely evening”. The eye thing again.

We’re at the elevator and the two ladies get in. “You coming?” asks the blonde.

The fork in the road: (In)Fidelity.

So what’s really going on when someone decides to go outside the marriage table for a little snack. Given that surveys today indicate that plenty of people do it, what’s really happening?

I think pre children, it’s like all those home buyers that bought houses they couldn’t afford and put nothing down to get the home. Then one day they just can’t come up with the payment and they default. Reality caught up with the fact that they weren’t prepared to be homeowners; they were essentially just renting anyway. If two young people get married and ultimately decide that it doesn’t fit their current lifestyle or maturity, I’m not opposed to calling it quits. Infidelity is just another low integrity way of saying, I made a mistake and I like this other house better.

So when children are added to the mix, it’s a totally different story. Infidelity can be naively thinking that sex doesn’t matter. Evoking the Rule of 382 (when you’re 382 miles from home, marriage rules don’t apply) is a way to be free and enjoy life. Saying to some gal in a bar “My wife and I are separated (by 382 miles)” is a choice to put the future and happiness of your family up for sale. The price? A couple hours of chase, the thrill of capture, and a few seconds of release.

Today’s society has a strong push towards “Happiness” or personal fulfillment. As you certainly know, there are different degrees of fulfillment – a quick one night stand of physical and egotistical satisfaction or long abiding intimacy and companionship (and the infinite variations in between). The first is easy, the second takes work. And the real challenge is the “work” isn’t a straightforward or easy path to follow. Your ego, biology, psychology, relationship, communication skills, and maturity play a role in being able to follow the path to relational intimacy.

The recent situations I’ve become aware of are complex. He said, she said, he did, she didn’t, kinds of scenarios. It’s as old as time, so don’t think (you young marrieds) that your marriage is different. You must decide (today would be good) that you want to have a great marriage with a great sex life that is an anchor to your world and the world of your kids. You can do that right now. Commit in your heart and mind that you will do the things necessary to stay faithful to your commitments, faithful to your future, faithful to your own potential, faithful to your kids, and faithful in body and mind to your wife.

Here’s how you do that:

When you decide not to flog the dolphin before you go out, you’re choosing to leave your hotel room with a loaded gun. When you decide to drink that extra beer and go ahead and enter into a harmless conversation with that blonde, you’re cocking the gun. Shooting the gun is at the end of a series of choices. But the biggest choice you make is not investing in the relationship you have at home while you’re at home. Be there. Engage. Learn love languages. Speak them fluently. Express your intentions and seek direction from your wife on how to lead the relationship and family.

If you’re enjoying a good sex life, have good conversations, enjoy being a dad, enjoy the growing sense of responsibility, and then decide to have an affair – yes, you are a selfish pig. Pure and simple. But if your relationship is challenged, sex is infrequent, and communication is spotty, it’s understandable to be attracted to the easy allure of starting something physical elsewhere. Everyone is susceptible to the tug. But before you surrender to that superficial aspect that we all have, invest again in your own character, invest in your children’s long term happiness, invest in the vision of your life that gets through the tough parts of marriage and discovers true intimacy and satisfaction that emerges from tough times. Don’t get on the elevator.

So I said, “I think I’ll take the next one. Good night.”

Discuss in your Ironmen group ways in which you will invest today in your marriage to avoid marriage problems 5 years from now.

To your continued success,


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By | June 20th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Suitable Helper

“Hey Dad?”

“Ya, bud. What’s up?”

“Can we have The Talk?”

“Uh, you’re twenty-one years old.”

“No, not that one, sort of. I want your thoughts on this girl I’ve been dating.”

“I’ll give you whatever I’ve got.”

“I know that. Alright so you know I’ve been with my girlfriend a while, and I want…”

“My blessing?”

“No, too soon for that. I just want to know your thoughts on whether the person you’re with is ‘The One’. I mean, you and mom have a great relationship. How did you know she was the one you wanted to marry?”

“Hmmm. Well, we dated for a while, five years. I got to know her pretty well. I would say that I was pretty ignorant of all things I would conclude today were important. Marriage is a big deal, picking that person will define you for sure. I can’t think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life.”

“Yeah, therefore my question.”

“Well ok. I imagine I’ll say things you’ve heard a dozen times. It’s mostly about fit. Does she fit with you? Does she harmonize with your spirit? Does she have the same general views and values as you? Is her life trajectory in sync with yours? These questions are hard to figure out with limited information. I’m not a fan of whirlwind marriages. I think that while you’re figuring her out, you’re also figuring yourself out.”

“Sure, ok. When you say ‘does she fit’, what do you mean?”

“Physical attraction has a kind of fit to it as a starting point. If she’s way better looking than you, then that might be a problem down the road for one of you. But the bigger issues of fit are cultural. Is her upbringing similar enough to yours where both your hidden assumptions can be brought to the surface and worked out and reconciled; or are they too different so that they’d cause a break in the relationship.”

“Like what?”

“Ok, say she grew up in a completely different economic strata than you, say 2 levels up, and was used to buying whatever she wanted. If her clothing allowance exceeded your mortgage payment because her parents showed her love by buying her material things – Would that cause strife at some point? What if she couldn’t or wouldn’t change and used debt to satisfy her need?”

“Yes, that would be a problem.”

“What if she came from a family where the mom and dad were divorced and not on speaking terms? What was her childhood like?”

“So you’re saying don’t marry someone whose parents were divorced?”

“No, of course not. But we all define love and happiness based largely on our childhood experiences. Don’t you think someone who observed family conflict every day and didn’t see affection between mom and dad might have a different view of love than you?”

“Yes, I suppose. But my girlfriend’s parents are divorced. I don’t know what her childhood was like.”

“Ok, that’d be a good discussion to have if you’re serious about moving to the next stage.”

“Good idea. Then how did you know when you wanted to marry mom?”

“When I got married I just assumed I’d be happy. I had no idea what I was getting into really. I think we got married out of momentum. It was just the next thing to do after dating for so long. I got zero advice or feedback on whether my choice of partner appeared to be a good one. But fortunately for me, I hit a home run.”

“Yeah it seems as though you and mom have had a perfect marriage.”

“Ha! No, but we’re happy now. But there was a time when I doubted. As we piled on responsibility, that’s when you get tested, personally and relationally. We both had jobs along with a new house and two kids and had been married for 6 or 7 years when those doubts came on strongest. The weight of all that just seemed insurmountable to me. I would work all day and come home and your mom would be tired from taking care of you kids plus working her job out of the house. Our energy tank didn’t have much left for each other.”

“What do you mean you doubted? What does that mean exactly?”

“We would have arguments, not fights, but strong disagreements over lots of stuff – kids, money, sex, me helping her out, her giving me respect. Ultimately it was all about whether we valued one another and how we demonstrated that value. My doubts lingered on the fantasy of having a much more selfish life where I could find someone else who was more suitable.”

“You thought of leaving mom?”

“Not seriously, but it crossed my mind.”

“Can you land the plane Dad? I mean you’re kind of pushing me away from the whole idea of commitment.”

“I don’t want to do that! The reason I hit a homerun in marrying your mom is because we fit together in ways that only conflict could reveal. Because of her upbringing, she didn’t run away from conflict. She stayed engaged to move toward resolution. She was always looking to resolve our issues. I remember the dozens and dozens of times we’d lie in bed at night with tension in the air, neither sleeping. Your mom would break the ice countless times insisting we not go to sleep angry. Eventually, I shared that responsibility till it became our marital credo. I believe her parents raised her to value marriage over her own personal ego, so she was well equipped to help me grow through my own immaturities. Now, she had some of her own immaturities that I was all too happy pointing out. In that way, we were suitable for each other.”

“But you were happy.”

“Oh gosh yes. We always had this shared belief that we were building something. Even though I had fantasies of starting over with some nubile wench, that was just a passing thought I never chased. We fit together even though sometimes we had to sandpaper some of the edges. I think it goes to the biblical concept of ‘Suitable Helper.’ You familiar with that?”

“Relatively. I’ve heard you and mom talk about it.”

“Suitable Helper is from The Book of Genesis. ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Suitability in my opinion is about growth. You want to find a woman that will help you grow and vice versa. So you want to make sure that she’s interested in growing with you so that you fit together. My initial thought was to make your mom just like me, but I eventually grew up enough to know that that’s not what I wanted. Fortunately, we had many things go our way and we came to a place in our relationship that has worked exceedingly well for a long time. But I think all that came as a result of being equally yoked – similar families, similar values, similar likes and dislikes, no major trauma or tragedy in our background.”

“Well Dad, finding someone that fits seems a little vague.”

“If you’re serious about this girl, then you should take the time to invest in knowing who she is. You should both go to a marriage class because she’s going to be the one you’re choosing to navigate through ever growing levels of sophisticated problems. You’ll want to discuss deep issues. You’ll have problems whether you’re married or alone. It’s better to face life with your best friend by your side.”

“Sounds ideal when you say it like that.”

“It can be. Having said all that, I’d think you should lean forward into taking risks rather than lean back and be too cautious. There’s no clear answer most of the time.
“That’s good to know. Thanks Dad.”

“I love you buddy. You’ll be fine. Maybe next time we should talk about leading a marriage when there’s conflict. That’s a discussion worth having.”

To your continued success,


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By | May 9th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments