This was on my mind ...

Consciously Married

Marriage has been around for thousands of years. It has bent and shook and shifted to meet the necessities of place and time. The problem is the world has changed so rapidly of late that marriage hasn’t had time to catch up. Our society no longer changes in the slow, plodding manner of the past. We now engage in the universal exchange of information and ideas at lightning speed. Legal, social and moral absolutes have shifted, been lifted and some have simply disappeared. Women, legally liberated and economically able, have choices they never had before. There are now have an endless array of options.

Compared to the way we used to work and live just a hundred years ago, we have copious amounts of free time and unparalleled access to things that give us immediate gratification. We now have the time and social permission to ponder what we want, ruminate on how we feel and ask ourselves, “Am I happy?”

Despite these sweeping changes, we haven’t rethought marriage in any significant way. Once an institution of obligation, it is now one of choice. No longer arraigned, mandated or simply the only game in town, today marriage is something we do simply because we have fallen in love. Formerly a legal fortress difficult to escape, these days it’s something we can walk away from any time we please. Having changed the reasons we get into it and obliterated most of the obstacles to out, the institution may look and sound the same but it’s completely new.   But we haven’t changed how we approach it. We keep reaching back for old school solutions to modern day problems because we liked the old school divorce rate. That’s like trying to fix a Prius with parts from a Model T Ford.

As contradictory as this might seem, I believe we can get closer to living the marriage fantasy of “Happily Ever After” by accepting the fact that the fairytale does not exist. We are not rudderless ships in the rising tide of a failing institution. In order to make this old institution work in this new day and age we need to take the best of what was, acknowledge the challenges that are, and create a something new. Once we removed all the stuff that used to cement marriages together, it ceased to be a state of being and became a process that we engaged in. We need to accept that and decide to accommodate the changes in social circumstances, absorb the aftershocks of unparalleled technological advances, and create a marriage scenario that functions well — not for everyone, but for the two of you.

We can replace the glue that used to keep marriages together with a greater understanding of how we work. We can revel in the joy of romantic love, but still be practical in its application. In modern-day marriage, love is king. But, as in all of life, practicality is queen. And I believe it is time to show Her Highness some respect.

Rule Number 1: Decide to be consciously married.

Think of marriage as a 2-year-old who we want to let go outside. Fifty years ago we had legal, social and moral fences that kept that kid in the back yard. Over time we took the fences down, one by one. Yet we still have the nerve to be shocked when we look up and find the child has left the grounds. Of course he’s gone. All the things we relied on to rein him in have been removed and we haven’t made any deliberate effort to replace them with anything else.

Now that containment is no longer the answer, we need to engage in active parenting. You have to keep that 2-year-old engaged and appropriately directed. You cannot take your eyes off of him and let him wander too far away from you. That means you have to start working on your marriage the very second after you say I do.

With those fences down you have to put procedures into place to feed what we know about the biological realities of love and the social realities of how we currently live. We have to actively pursue a passion that keeps our attention while we are out back. We need to spend more time being hand in hand so we don’t drift apart.

In other words, you have to be consciously married. It is no longer a state of being, something you can just enter into and let it rest where it is. It is that toddler who needs constant attention designed to keep him happy and occupied.

from Making Marriage Work

 

 

Women are Odd and Men are Weird

Sometimes it’s hard to understand how your spouse, someone who lives with you, loves you and knows you better than anyone else has a hard time understanding you.

“What fresh hell is this?” I’ve often muttered to myself. “How in the world can he know me this long and not understand what I just said.”

“What is wrong with this woman?” I’m sure my husband has wondered, “That’s not what I said at all.”

I’ll tell you what the problem is.  Men are weird and women are odd and that’s what’s just what that it is. The best way I can describe the difference between how my husband and I conduct business, is that he thinks like a laser beam and I think in photon bursts. Consequently, I contend he has tunnel vision and he believes I’m a ping pong ball.

I see how everything I do effects everyone in the house. I pay attention to the  emotional and physical well being of everyone around me. To me, this whole ball of wax we call a family is inextricably interconnected.  I think it’s weird that he can’t pick up on disparate clues from different places and figure out how someone feels. If I didn’t manage this all male household no one would have the faintest clue when they needed to go to the doctor.

On the other hand, my husband thinks I am odd because I talk so much about extraneous stuff. My desire to manage everyone’s emotions is a hindrance to him. I clutter up his time and mind with emotional details that don’t really affect what we need to do at the time. “What are you asking him for?” he says to me when I am talking to my son. “Tell him what to do and tell him to do it now.” He wants to establish authority. He knows how important that is. I want to have a conversation, one they have no interest in at all. I have to say I stood back and let him take that one on whole when any one of the boys turned 15. Those people would have had me for lunch had I not listened to him.

The beauty of this joint bewilderment is that we are both right. He is weird and I am odd. Moreover, that’s the way it is supposed to be and neither one of us is wrong. Between us we have it all covered. I may not understand why he thinks something or other but I do have enough sense to know when his way of doing business makes more sense.  Likewise Big Man has figured out when my point of view is the best way to go.

I’m not going to lie, it took us a while to get to here and it’s still not all smooth sailing. It still drives me crazy when he’s riding around the parking lot looking for just the right spot. And his eyes still glaze over a few minutes into 1/3 of the conversations we have. But I bite my tongue even on the third trip around parking garage and he hangs in there for the fourth story.

Love doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. You have to say it all the time. Sometimes it’s just knowing when to suck something up or leave something else alone.

for more see Making Marriage Work Chapter 6.

Look Deep in the Eyes of Your Lesser Self

The Bathroom Mirror Mandate

 

Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.

                                                           ~Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of Judicial Process

 

There are all kinds of people in this world and as much as we would like to think of ourselves a wholly unique and different in a world full of snob, jerks and geniuses – of pests and partiers – the sad, the stupid and the simply off their rocker – of the kind, the weak, the magnanimous and mean – odds are you are sporting an identifiable personality quirk that may or may not be serving you well.

This rule asks you to stare into the eyes of your lesser self. It requires you to take a good hard look inside. It asks you to fight the urge to put your best foot forward and focus on the one dragging behind.

Think through all of your major mistakes. Take a peek at your minor ones too. Search out their causes, peruse them for patterns and then figure out what they reveal about you. This soul searching is not designed to make you feel bad rather its purpose is to heighten your state of awareness. Remember, your faults and weaknesses will never hurt anyone else as much as they hurt you. But if you know what they are and understand how they work, they will be less likely to do you harm.

This rule also requires you to take into consideration all of the things that Political Correctness does not allow. Gender, race, class, sexual orientation, education, family and exposure all influence how we feel. And when we’re under stress it’s how we feel and not what we profess that most often dictates what we do.

Your hormones have not read Gloria Steinem; nor has your up-bringing been de-briefed. So you have to make a conscious effort to find whatever prejudices you have (and you do, there is no way around it). And when I say look I mean hunt them down. Most of our prejudices rest so close to us they are almost impossible to see.

You personality, your peccadilloes, your Odd Things A -Z, they are what make you, you and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have make sure what’s odd about you isn’t impeding your progress in any way.

I know it’s hard; we’re not used to doing it and it’s not something one would inherently find fun. But it’s not about beating yourself up because you have faults. Your imperfections are not indictments. They are just a part of what makes you human. The decision you have is whether or not you’re going to make a point of knowing what they are.

 

Because it’s not easy, I’ll go first. Here’s how it works:

 

I talk too much; I talk too fast and if I am talking to someone I think talks too slowly I will finish their sentences for them. I am fearful. I am relentless. I get disproportionality angry about odd things. I am lazy. I am a control freak and a bit of a slob. I’m not very good at friendship. I don’t call, text or reach out. I resent the fact that if I had a penis and made the kind of money I do no one would expect me to know how to cook.

I used to have an immediate guttural negative response to anyone who looked like this one particular person I really didn’t like. I worked on that for two years before I was able to finally sit that one down. But even before then I understood that was how I felt and made it a point never to let it sway me.

I don’t like people who I perceive as lazy even though I see that in myself.

I curse far more often than I’d like and I am impatient with people who don’t listen. Lastly, I am cheap … in the extreme. I can hang on to a dollar so tightly you can hear George Washington scream.

This is just the tip of a very large, endlessly morphing iceberg, but I think you get the drift. The point is I know all of these things about myself and I never use them as excuses. I keep these monsters well in my sights whenever I enter a situation that might implicate any of them because I know that the first battle in any war I have to fight is always with myself.

I think that’s true for everyone. We can be an inordinately lethal species for some very less than admirable reasons. I believe it would behoove all of us to do battle with the least of who we are.

updated from:

My Mother’s Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius

How to Stay in Love 101 – Feed the Right Dog

 

Falling in love is the easiest thing in the world. Your hormones jump in and do what they’ve done for thousands of years. There is no real effort involved; mostly, you just enjoy the ride.

The work begins after that first wave  passes you by. When passion has been put on pause and everyday distracts step all over everything. A relationship is a living breathing thing that changes with time. And like any other live organism it must be fed in order to survive.

People often talk about finding love. I want to talk about staying in it.  So every once in a while I’ll throw a few suggestions your way. Here’s the first:

Remember to Feed the Right Dog

Pretend you have two dogs, one named Displeasure and the other Joy. They both live in your house and you and your spouse are in charge of feeding them. Displeasure, bitch that she is, barks a lot. She is easily annoyed and she snarls and growls and carries on the moment something does not go her way. If her food is late she starts up. If she doesn’t get to go outside when she wants the yapping begins. You have to throw her a bone to get her to stop.

Displeasure gets fed a lot.

Joy, on the other hand, is a quiet and content canine. Loves to be petted but doesn’t cause you any trouble if you don’t. She will sit quietly in the corner and await the attention she deserves, but she does not howl when it doesn’t come her way.

She often gets ignored.

Here’s the thing: you have to make a conscious effort to feed the quiet dog. Acknowledge all kindnesses. Thank your spouse for the everyday things that could easily go ignored. Whoever is paying the bills should feel like you respect the effort that it takes. If you enjoyed something your spouse said or did let her know. If he did something that anyone on the street would be impressed with, don’t let the fact that you have seen him do it before keep you from mentioning it again.

from Making Marriage Work p. 63

 

Enjoy the Book, Ladies

 

 

I answer a lot of relationship questions in different places. One is on my Facebook Page “My Mother’s Rules.” I also answer questions on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern live on Divorce Court’s Facebook Page.

Sometimes I find that I get the same kind of question over and over again. The details are different, but the underlying issue is the same. These days the one I get most often goes something like this:

“I am 22 years old. I have been dating this guy for a year. I think he’s cheating on me. He doesn’t respect me and he causes me a lot of heartache. But I really love him and I want this to work out. What should I do?”

Before I answer questions like these I usually warn people about my biases and history. To do otherwise would be misleading.

When I was single, boyfriends didn’t have Angst Clearance. In other words, they were not valuable enough, especially in the early going, to warrant agonizing over them. In my 20’s I was all about my education and destination. If a guy wanted to be with me he had to act right because I had other things to do. Whether or not he hung around while I was doing them depended on whether or not he clogged up my mind or my time with negativity.

When I was in my early 20’s I had boyfriends because they were fun. Once they weren’t, they got fired. Or just as often, I’d get booted because they found me less than accommodating or just a pain in the ass. Such was life.

Around 26 or so I’m not going to lie, I did want to settle down. That’s when Boyfriendhood became a probationary period. Is he good for me or no? If the answer was no, I moved on. The important thing is I did not feel that the time I spent discovering that was wasted. It had value. In the interim, I enjoyed his company and had some fun. I didn’t lose anything because I had not altered my life for him; I had merely let him join me for a small part of mine. And that part was fun because once it got ugly I cut him loose.

I never asked myself, “How do I handle it?” or “Should I try to wade through it?” I always thought, “Wow, dodged that bullet.”

Now, I’m not going to lie. I may have taken the whole thing a little too far. My date and run attitude left me ill-prepared for marriage. Once married, I couldn’t just leave. I had to learn to deal with problems and I didn’t have much experience with that. So there were a few rough years as a result.

I think, however, there is some middle ground you can aim for. Having a boyfriend with whom you have a few issues is not a bad thing. Life is lumpy and there are always going to be problems.

But once it becomes a story of unrelenting unhappiness you have to know it’s okay to let go.

One young lady told me she wasn’t into all that “starting over mess.” She wanted me to tell her how to handle the misery she was in because she wanted to stay with the guy that made her miserable.

In fact, I’ve had a number of young ladies (21, 22 or 23 years old) tell me they want to make a bad relationship work because they didn’t want to feel like they wasted the year or two they’ve put into it.

My response? Any time you’ve spent learning something, enjoying yourself or progressing as an individual wasn’t wasted. So you dated someone for two years and it didn’t work out. Did you have fun? Did you enjoy your time with him? Did you learn anything from him? Did you have any new and interesting experiences with him? ALL OF THAT HAS VALUE.

Once it becomes a truly negative experience, though, it’s simply time to move on. Yes, you will feel bad but you will get over it. To be without a man is not a failure. To feel like you wasted your time just because that relationship didn’t end in marriage or a permanent relationship of some sort is, however, a mistake.

There is one very important caveat to this entire line of thought. You have to take care of your business in a way that does not make you vulnerable. If you don’t control your fertility you cannot control your life.  Don’t make major moves to please him that hamper your ability to make decisions that allow you to move on. Got that part? It’s important.

That said, feeling that you’ve wasted your time in a relationship if it doesn’t end in forever is like reading the end of a good mystery book before you’ve read the book itself. The journey, the red herrings, the false turns, the snappy dialogue, the words themselves have value.

I get it. We women want to settle down and have a permanent relationship. What concerns me is women who settle for misery in order to achieve that permanence. Please don’t.

What’s worse than not having a man?

Being stuck with one that makes you miserable.

Enjoy the book, ladies.

Make the most of everyday.

Don’t worry so much about whether you can tie down

your tomorrow that you miss today.

You early years are not about locking down a guy.

They are for loading up your life.

JLT

 

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*Audiobook Version*
My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

Using lessons learned on the bench along with humorous anecdotes from her own 30 year marriage, Judge Lynn Toler wrote "Making Marriage Work" as a logical and simple guide to bringing back the practicality lost in relationships over the years.

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Consciously Married

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Marriage has been around for thousands of years. It has bent and shook and shifted to meet the necessities of place and time. The problem is the world has changed so rapidly of late that marriage hasn’t had time to catch up. Our society no longer changes in the slow, plodding manner of the past. […]

Women are Odd and Men are Weird

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sometimes it’s hard to understand how your spouse, someone who lives with you, loves you and knows you better than anyone else has a hard time understanding you. “What fresh hell is this?” I’ve often muttered to myself. “How in the world can he know me this long and not understand what I just said.” “What […]

Look Deep in the Eyes of Your Lesser Self

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in This was on my mind | 2 Comments

The Bathroom Mirror Mandate   Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.                             […]

How to Stay in Love 101 – Feed the Right Dog

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

  Falling in love is the easiest thing in the world. Your hormones jump in and do what they’ve done for thousands of years. There is no real effort involved; mostly, you just enjoy the ride. The work begins after that first wave  passes you by. When passion has been put on pause and everyday distracts […]

Enjoy the Book, Ladies

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

    I answer a lot of relationship questions in different places. One is on my Facebook Page “My Mother’s Rules.” I also answer questions on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern live on Divorce Court’s Facebook Page. Sometimes I find that I get the same kind of question over and over again. The details are […]