How to Win Conflict with your Wife Every Time (1 of 3)

Husbands, let’s get some critical things clear: You didn’t marry your wife so she’d be your female roommate or a poker buddy. Instead, you married her to build a deep friendship and a great family with. That requires collaboration, but also conflict. Honestly, you can’t have one without the other. Collaboration and conflict are inseparable in a thriving marriage. Bottom line: You married her to make you better, and better requires battles.

Let’s face it: No couple is perfect at conflict, but some are really bad at it; I mean really bad like they either avoid conflict—”everything is fine.” But it’s not. They’re both driving each other crazy, but neither one will talk about it. Or, a couple lives for conflict—everything is a fight to the death (no, to the pain).

So, I’m breaking this conflict talk into 3 rounds (you get it conflict, rounds?). Today, I want to start with the best practice in conflicting with your wife.

Here it is: Listen without Defensiveness. Listen just means “to pay attention.” So, whether you started the argument or not, determine you’re going to pay attention to your wife, rather than defend yourself. This is very, very hard at first because let’s admit it, our male ego gets so easily offended and defensive when we hear something negative from a female. We interpret it to be an assault on our competency and character as a man. So, when the stress goes up, we fight, flight or freeze, instead of just receive.

Look, just because she is not being your cheerleader in that moment doesn’t mean she’s your opponent. This woman signed up to be on your team and to help you build a winning one.

Think of her like an assistant coach in that moment. The role is to let the head coach know what the team needs to win. Think about it: If you’re losing the game, would you rather have a cheerleader or an assistant coach defining reality for you? If you’re wondering, coaches help you win the game, not cheerleaders (nothing against cheerleaders; I married one).

Back to the listening, even if you think she’s wrong or ridiculous, let her talk it out. Sometimes she’s just verbalizing or venting a frustration, and it has nothing to do with you.

A lot of men think they understand listen without defensiveness, but then they get in the battle and all reason goes out the door—fight, flight or freeze. So, here’s some practical moves:

First, 1) Keep your mouth shut. Just like it’s impossible to breathe and swallow at the same time without choking, it’s equally impossible to talk and listen without choking. Keep that illustration in your mind, and make listening to a personal contest in your mind. Give yourself mental points every time you resist the temptation to lawyer up and defend yourself. Here’s how that might look, “She being completely ridiculous about that!” you think, but instead of saying it you catch the thought and count it as a touchdown.

Next, 2) open your eyes. This both literal and mental wisdom. Look at your wife’s eyes while she’s talking to you because it communicates attention, but also process what’s she is saying.

And finally, 3) Posture yourself humbly. This is the most critical move. Everything depends upon this. You will fail at listening and conflict if you don’t get this one. Humility is not weakness nor is it inferiority. Humility means to choose to be less to make someone else more. If you tell your heart, mind, body and soul, “My wife is more important than my ego” her spidey senses will see it all over your face and your body language.

I’ll bottom line this point with a question I’ve heard and applied: Do you want to be right all the time or do you want to be married for a lifetime? Because you can’t do both.

So, listen without defensiveness. I’ll post round 2 and 3 in the coming weeks.

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The World Needs Fathers

I was sitting at a stoplight recently and noticed a father walking his two kids to school on the sidewalk.  He was dressed in Carhartt clothes and steel-toe boots, but he also had his preschool daughter’s pink backpack thrown over his shoulder.  She was holding her dad’s hand, while her big brother bounced around behind them both.  This scene both haunted and inspired me: A dad, his kids, walking to school.  Here’s why I was haunted because fatherhood seems to be dying.

I’m not talking about dudes making babies.  That is alive and well in our world.  I’m talking about adult men raising kids into responsible adults.  That seems to be nearly extinct.  I don’t want to get preachy or political, but I do want to get real for a second.  Fatherlessness is not just bad for kids; it’s bad for the world.

But, before I get into this, thanks to all that fathers and father-figures who stand and stay to lead, protect and provide for the kids.  On behalf of the world, I thank you.

Here’s why: 3 Reasons the World Needs Fathers

1. Fathers keep children out of prison: So, we’re starting with the low-hanging fruit on this one: 80% of incarcerated men grew up in father-absent homes.  Here’s the deal:  Fathers and father figures teach kids self-control, moral boundaries and good judgment.  Take those things out of a kids development years and you often get undisciplined, un-teachable and irresponsible men who often wind up doing time.

2. Fathers make children feel safer:  Nothing against mama bear, here, but most men are physically stronger and psychologically more aggressive than most women.  Yes, there are exceptions (like Ronda Rousey and Xena Warrior Princess), but for the most part, this is true.  And yes, mama bear you can protect and provide, too, and sometimes you’re doing it solo; but when a man acts like a father, the children feel an exponential sense of safety and stability.  It’s simple: Low trauma + low drama = peaceful kids and peaceful mama.

3. Fathers reduce poverty:  According Census Bureau, children in father-absent homes experience poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.  So, when daddy stays at home and stands at home, prosperity goes up.

Why? Well, it’s not just daddy’s paycheck; it’s also daddy’s partnership with mom and visa versa.  Think about it.  It’s simple physics: 1 person does the work of 1, but 2 people do the work of 5.   So, instead of single mom parenting and providing alone, a father brings an exponential factor to developing, disciplining and directing their kids.  Oh, one more thing: Fathered children most often father their children.  But the opposite is also true.  Fatherless kids make fatherless kids.  Yep, it’s a cycle.

Four Actions for Fatherhood:

Start Simple- The day you find out your father, don’t overthink your responsibilities.  It’s simple: Lead, protect and provide.  Don’t under-think it either.  Those three roles, even poorly executed, will help keep kids out prison, feel more secure and reduce their risk of poverty.

Stay- The best fathers are first committed husbands.  So, persevere through the different seasons–good, bad, ugly and beautiful.  Remember, if you leave their mother, you’re essentially leaving them.

Stand- Lead.  God designed you to be a catalyst for change and creativity in your home.  So stand humbly and courageously to lead your kids.

Start Over- Your marriage and your kids are going to go through different phases, so you’ll need to keep to start over and grow.  Each new phase will require you to combine the wisdom from the last phase, but the open-mindedness to learn new things for the next phase.

If you’re reading this it’s probably because you want to be a better father or father figure.  Here are some resources to go further.

Better Dad, Stronger Sons

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

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Durable Friendship Will Save a Man’s Life

The story of David and Jonathan is one of the best biblical examples of durable friendship (built to last and makes you better).  Every man needs one or two of these friendships in his life, because they’re both life-giving and life-saving. 

Here’s my story (and there’s a twist at the end).

A few years ago, I was in the epicenter of a season of loss and self-doubt.  My leadership at work had been stuck for more than a year and I was losing faith in myself, so my teammates and other longtime supporters understandably started to move on to other things.  I felt like a failure in so many areas, but I knew better days were coming, or, at least, that’s what I prayed.

Then, an acquaintance of mine called me up and asked to have coffee.  Honestly, I didn’t feel like meeting, because I presumed he wanted to add to the negativity I already experienced from these kinds of meetings. But instead, he said something like, “I want to help you get through this…I am here for you no matter what.” 

What?  You’re “for” me?  No matter what?

A turning point happened right then, not only for that season, but for the rest of my life.  Because, in a time when I seemed so messy and resistible, this man loved and committed to be with me and for me.  God used that friendship, and others like it, to help me walk out of the swamp and back to high ground again.  God used this friend’s words and confidence to help me believe once more. And now, years later, he is one of my “Jonathans.” 

Every man needs a durable friend.  So here’s the twist: Don’t look for it to show up for you, go be that guy for someone.  Risk him pushing you away, but don’t let that possibility stop you from saving a guy and letting him do the same for you.

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Friendship is not Optional for a Man’s Health

Once, I thought friendship was optional, like choosing cream for your coffee or not. Truth is, I can live without coffee or cream, but I can’t thrive without meaningful friendships. That’s hard for a man to admit, but it’s undeniable.

Part of my ignorance came from a conventional misunderstanding of what a friend is meant to be. For most of my life, friendship was project or proximity focused; you know, get a job done or get along with some guys that circumstance brings together. Yet, when either of those elements changed, I accepted the slow fade to acquaintance status. This relational state is better known as fellowship, which is not friendship.

Friendship requires more than just a project or proximity, though, more than just getting together and having a good time.

Now, at almost forty, I recognize that God has made us men to need closely bonded relationships that go the distance and make us better. These relationships require three things to flourish: choice, time and vulnerabily. All other virtues stream from these.

Choice means picking a friend or two and committing to practice friendship through thick and thin. This builds virtues like patience, forgiveness and resilience.

Time is understanding that being together on a regular basis is what creates experiences and conversations, which are the bricks of friendship. Virtues like dependability and accountability come from time spent together.

Vulnerability is earning trust and “showing your cards” through the entire emotional spectrum, to not hide feelings or failure, but share your deepest, darkest heart with some trusted men. Honesty, restoration and trust are forged here.

The kind of friendship that gets beyond fellowship is a lot of work, but it’s strengthening every role in my life–being a man, husband, father and, well, being a friend.

Get started and keep growing.

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3 Most Potent Aphrodisiacs a Husband Can Use in Marriage

When I visited the Bahamas recently, a local beach vender tried to sell my wife and me raw conch. His sales pitch was that consuming it is a proven aphrodisiac, or a stimulant for sexual desire. Claims like this exist in many cultures, whether it’s oysters, red wine, cologne or a full moon, men especially search for a magic potion to arouse their woman’s desire.Fortunately, the most affective aphrodisiacs are included in a man at birth. He just has to discover, mature and apply them as he ages. And, these have little to do with the car he drives and how many pull-ups and sit-ups he can do.

Let’s get started:

1) Humility: When you admit you’re wrong and apologize, it becomes steadily irresistible to your wife. Add to that a lack of defensiveness. If your wife enters the scene upset about something you did and you hear her out instead of escalate into anger and denial, her coldness gets increasingly warm. Once she has made her case, tell her thank you for pointing out ways you can improve and invite more feedback. Don’t be false or patronizing, because that’s well, a lie; but, own what you can, clarify what’s needed and apologize with an intent to learn.Sure, the macho scene will say you’re being soft or spineless, but those are the same guys telling you to get your wife drunk on shell fish and Merlot to get her in bed. And, if you interview a woman that feels unheard and chronically put down, she will have to go pretty far back to remember when her husband was sexually irresistible to her.

2) Helpfulness: For every pound of work and pressure you take off your wife’s shoulders, it gets replaced with desire for you. Your wife is a woman that carries a trillion things in her heart, mind and arms that she never wants you to know about, because her nature is to serve everyone around her. In some cultures, if the women stopped working, everyone would starve. That’s not America, but the fact is women carry a lot, and they’re easily taken for granted. So, when you recognize and lift some of her load, it’s like giving her heart and soul a full body massage (and a literal massage helps, too).

Simply, a more relaxed and stressless women, is a more turned on woman. And, the man she sees as her load carrier(not load maker) will awaken the fire inside her.

There are several more, but I’ll conclude with this one. And, it is last for a reason, because the first two must be applied with it:

3) Confidence: When a man is secure in himself, it projects safety and strength to a woman. Yet, confidence is often misunderstood and poorly applied by men.

For example, confidence is NOT cockiness or arrogance. The woman drawn to this false-confidence is still 13-years old in her mental maturity. Grown up girls are repulsed by fake assurance (bragging, strutting and dominance claims), because female humans are not female wolves. Pick-up-artist tricks are sleazy and cheesy to your wife, unless she is being intentionally playful, which presumes this is not the real you. Basically, what applies in a wolf pack doesn’t apply in a family. If you have to puff your chest or claim you’re the leader, then the opposite is happening in her mind. She decodes this as insecurity and selfishness. Big turn off.

Confidence is NOT a lack of fear nor to be all-knowing, because no man is either. Instead confidence is to know, grow and live out your core values, which means you’ve developed core values over time. A wife is magnitized to her husband when he has direction for himself, his family, work, future hopes and dreams, etc., and he casts this vision both subtly and outwardly in most decisions he makes.

So, when you talk out, pray about and include your wife in the big picture of a shared and hopeful future, she is unconsciously aroused. She is able to see past the maintenance of family life and work to visualize a bigger purpose for it all. To her, you are the landscape painter that frames beautiful masterpieces in her imagination. Your confidence begins to strengthen her confidence. Ultimately, as a natural responder, she unlocks and opens up all the doors to her sexuality. She trust herself in your arms and much more, of course.

So humility, helpfulness and confidence are natural born aphrodisiacs equipped inside all men to apply to a woman’s vulnerable fire, and they are proven to be the most powerful sexual stimulants.

By the way, I bought the conch and it was pretty amazing.

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3 Conversations a Husband Should Lead Every Week

Husbands are the catalyst for growth and change in their marriage.  A wife will take that role if needed; but, the relationship is best led when a man acts with vision, resilience and humility.  

However, as Rory Vaden says, “Success is rented, not owned; and the rent is due everyday.”  That means success in marriage needs a husband to work on it daily, weekly and annually.  Coasting is not an option for longterm health.

These three key conversations should be enacted every week to keep crucial areas catalyzed and  progressing, and avoid deterioration.  A husband can initiate these talks with his wife by simple questions, active listening and directional leadership.  Note: love and unity must drive the tone and outcome, not selfish agendas.

Finances. One spouse might be the bookkeeper, but both must be engaged in the financial outlook of the home.  Key question to lead on: Are we staying on budget and meeting our financial goals this week?  

Calendar: Life’s urgencies will try to control your time, but you must take command instead.  Key question: What activities in the coming week do we need to say yes, no or later to, so we can stay productive, connected and stabilized as a family? 

Sex. Weekly sexual intimacy is the barometer to emotional and spiritual connectivity.  If this area is lacking or unsatisfying to either spouse, it’s a sign that the marriage might have deeper issues, so don’t leave this activity to the muses.  Instead, be intentional and talk about it once a week.  Key questions: Are you satisfied with our sex life this week? Why or why not? When are we going to make time to be intimate?

There are plenty of other things for a husband to discuss weekly, but finances, schedule and sex seem to be the ones we react to instead of plan, so automate them to stay moving forward.

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Setting Your Son Up for Success in Manhood

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My oldest son turned thirteen a couple weeks ago, which means he’s officially entered manhood.  For the milestone date, I curated a book of wisdom for him (King Solomon style) by asking several other men he knows and respects (grandfathers, mentors, family friends, etc.) to write down a page of manly advice specifically for him.  Then, I bound these personalized proverbs together into a pamphlet and awarded it to him that week–his very own field guide to being a man.

This simple act lets a boy know that he’s now a part of a tribe of men who’ve gone before him, who will watch and guide him to success in his masculine role.  For more ideas, read Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis.

Here is my entry on page one as an example:

“You are my firstborn son.  In ancient times, this role meant you must lead the family when the father is gone.  But also, you must lead your own family someday.  I’ve seen your heart and mind, and know God has given you the raw materials to thrive as a man and leader—faith, integrity, courage, self-control, determination and the Holy Spirit.”

“Here’s my wisdom as you turn thirteen and enter manhood and the call to lead: Begin everyday asking God to fill you with His Spirit.  This simple act will remind you where your power comes from.  You cannot be like Christ or have a powerful faith-life without going to deeper places with God’s Spirit.  This is also your assurance that you belong to God’s family and will live forever with Him.  Christ bought this gift on a cross, so submerge yourself in such a gift.”

“Read the Bible everyday, especially in the morning.  The Bible is hyperlinked with wisdom, direction and where you’ll find your place in God’s Big Story.  The older you get, the more compelling and transformational it will be.”

“Live true to your convictions when no one else is around.  If you say you believe and follow Christ, then let His life guide you into the private spaces—mind, heart and habits.  Otherwise, hypocrisy and double-mindedness will gnaw away at your soul and leave you spiritually and relationally bankrupt.”

“Choose friends that influence you to take greater steps towards Christ.  These men will carry you through winning and losing seasons, talk you into great things and talk you off the ledge.  They’ll tell you what you need to hear and sometimes what you don’t want to hear, but they’ll love you into a greater man.”

“Let your work be an act of worship.  Whatever profession or project you’re working at, do it with a perfect effort and a grateful attitude.  You’re not entitled to anything; so treat every job like it’s your dream job—yes even taking out the trash.  If so, you’ll always have a job.”

“Marry a woman that loves Jesus more than you.  If so, she’ll love you like He does when you’re not acting lovable.”

“Manage money like a squirrel—eat enough to thrive and save for a long winter.  Stuff will not make you happy, but generous giving will make you sleep with a smile on.  Always give your church at least 10% of what you’re given and you’ll never be in want.”

“Tell someone about Jesus everyday.  Take a missions trip every year.  Then, the world will be better because you were here.”

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Three Basic Elements of Raising Boys into Men P3 (3 of 3)

Boys need authority and authorization to function well.

Before, I commented on how boys need to understand objectives and rules, but these two get imparted by a trusted rule-giver.   Be assured, I know that history and our own personal experience is stockpiled with poor examples of rule-givers, from Hitler to our angry Kindergarten teacher, but toxic examples must not exempt this principle.  Some even argue that no authority brings chaos and ruin, which is worse than bad authority.  I won’t wade into that debate, but authority is indispensable, even though human authority is categorically imperfect.

As a father or gaurdian, you are a boy’s first understanding that the galaxy doesn’t revolve around him and he has a calling beyond satisfying his appetites.  You also teach him that he is both under authority and holds authority.  Being under authority means he is accountable to someone–fathers, teachers, pastors, police, coaches, etc–to know and live by a common ethic and standard. Simultaneously, a boy must learn to hold authority, meaning he is responsible to lead himself and others in the common ethics or standards with humility and courage.

Of course, there will be times he must challenge and hold authority accountable, which means you must teach a boy to do that humbly and effectively, by coaching him to do so with you.  Why?  Something my dad used to teach me, “Submit to law, and law will submit to you.”  Basically, no matter if I think law is fair, seek to follow it or I can never petition to change it.  Personally, how many times have you wanted to adjust a decision for an uncooperative rebel?  Not so easy is it?  Still, how many times have you been willing to adjust a standard or outcome for someone who humbly petitions it after trying to abide by it?  If you’re a just authority, then you probably can’t count that one.

Simple application:

  1. Explain under authority and holding authority to your boys.
  2. Choose moments to highlight how you’re applying this to them, and help them apply it, as well.  Example: If he gets in trouble at school, don’t bash the teacher and bail him out.  Take him to meet the teacher and teach him to submit and apologize; yes, even if the teacher is mostly wrong.
  3. Recognize, reward and adjust as he gets it.

One of the most freeing things you can explain to a boy is how authority works in and through his life.  He will be more effective in life, especially when he gets his first horrible boss.

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Three Basic Elements of Raising Boys into Men (Part 2 of 3)

Raising boys into men requires some basic elements that apply to nearly every setting.  For example, earlier, I expounded on the Boy Scouts’ saying, “Boys need to know the objective, the rules and know who’s in charge,” referenced in Michael Gurian’s book The Wonder of Boys.  This simple statement is packed with practical wisdom as you guide boys to maturity.

Knowing Rules:  Boys (and men) function best when they are clear on the boundary markers in all of life’s dimensions–home, school, playground, relationships, etc.   These markers, or rules, help them know how to succeed, but also when they succeed.  Just like men, they want to sense reward, recognition and accountability when they play by the rules and win.  Without clear rules, though, or others playing by those rules, boys get frustrated and discouraged, and then act out based upon those negative emotions.

Give your boys simple and clear rules wherever they go, and hold them accountable to follow them.  More specifically, define rules that point them towards respecting others and themselves, and ones that make a job success possible. For example, I tell my boys that in our house we don’t bully or pester, so when either of those relational rules get broken, we point back to that axiom, and hold them accountable.  Also, when it comes to work or play, we have the rule: Do the job right, because sloppy or lazy work isn’t tolerated.  Sounds demanding, at first, but I want my boys to feel a since of pride and healthy pressure as they work and play.  In other words, how they work and play is as important as their outcomes.

Finally, rules must have a rule maker and rule keeper.  I’ll handle that in part three.


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Three Basic Elements to Raising Boys into Men (Part 1 of 3)

I have two sons (12 and 10) and raising them into men must be intentional and not based upon cultural myths (I’ll handle myths later).  Much is written about the complex physiology of boys (chemistry and anatomy), but what are the basics, or the indispensables to get him from boyhood to manhood without false masculinity or feminization?

Every year, I read at least three resources dedicated to understanding, leading and raising men.  One particularly, The Wonder of Boys, Michael Gurian recalls the Boy Scout saying: “Boys need to know the objective, know the rules, and know who’s in charge.”  More elements are necessary, but these are fundamental to just about every setting.  I apply them to my sons just about wherever we go.

Know objectives: From the playground to the dinner table, the ballfields to the classroom and everything in between, a boy needs to know the core purpose of his time there.  For example, if you’re at the playground, tell your boy that the next hour is about playing with creativity and respect.  Describe what both values mean and calibrate his actions to them.

When he’s older, and his wife wants him to go shopping, she’d serve them both well by saying, “Our objective today is to find a dress for the party.  I need you to give me advise on fit, color and style.  We want to accomplish this in less than 3-hours.”  He will be fully enrolled then; otherwise, if the objectives are vague or unclear, then he gets lost quickly.

I will comment on knowing the rules and who’s in charge  in part two and three.

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