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I love the short film Validation . In this romantic festival favorite, the protagonist literally changes the world with sincere compliments. After watching this film I felt, well, validated. In my day to day life, I have long been someone that is likely to say to a friend, colleague or even total stranger “Nice smile” or “Great shoes today” or whatever. I think it is essential that alpha romantics practice being complimentary.

However, the movie diverges from reality on one key point: Not everyone can accept a compliment, especially from a member of the opposite sex. There are those that feel they don’t deserve a compliment and are always looking for the ulterior motive. There are those that have been trained to equate compliments with pick-up lines and flirting. Still others have no real idea why it makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

I find this very sad. Everyone is worthy of a compliment… everyone is special in some way, shape or form. Not everyone has an ulterior motive or is a pickup artist and it is a shame that I can get painted with that brush. But the thing that makes this the saddest for me is the fact that, given that there is a chance to offend, many people choose to never offer compliments. I may be wrong, but I believe that when we don’t practice, we are less likely to compliment our heartmate (I’d love to see a research paper done on this).

I choose to take my chances. But I’d love to hear from those that are unsettled by a compliment what can be done to make it less creepy, scary or annoying. I’d also love to hear from someone that deals with sexual harassment cases about where the line would be drawn legally. I suspect it is not only what is said but how it is said and how often. But I’d love to hear from you on this issue.

Should we be trying to change the world with words of affirmation or should people keep their observations to ourselves? How do compliments make you feel?

Can you receive a compliment from a member of the opposite sex without feeling hit on/uncomfortable?

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“What is your take on cheating Greg?” was the rather provocative question I received on Twitter yesterday.

“It’s bad,” was my less than enlightening response.

“Would you forgive?”

Now I was getting the real question and frankly the answer is a lot more complicated.

First off, I’ve been really pondering what it means to forgive. It isn’t as easy to define as you might think (see the discussion topic “What is forgiveness?”).  Similarly, there are definitely degrees of cheating (physical, emotional, drunk-once, long term, passively permitted, etc.).

So would I forgive? Yes. Would I stay together? That depends.

You see, for me, cheating is less about a physical, observable act and more about a loss of trust and transparency in a relationship. If you feel you have to hide anything from your SO, especially because of guilt, shame or fear, you are setting yourself up to fail – period. Maybe I watched too many episodes of The Brady Bunch growing up, but I am of the persuasion that the longer you stay together, the more likely a lie will be uncovered: either explicitly or at least “felt.” Cheating – that kept secret – is a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off and level everything to below the foundation of the relationship.

In addition, the fact that the cheater is keeping that secret means they are not being true to their own feelings. Integrity is about making choices that you can stand behind.

So, by my definition, a cheater is basically behaving like a liar with no integrity. Is that someone I could forgive? Yes. Is that someone I would stay with? Not necessarily.

If I was just dating the person, and they cheated on me, no. Cheating is a sign of a deficiency in the relationship. Selecting a lifelong mate is about making wise choices and there are plenty of fish in the sea. Why settle for second best? (And frankly, why hold them back from their other “love.”) I am worth more than that.

The situation changes for me drastically though within marriage. I would definitely try my hardest to stay together as long as there was a commitment to counseling and rebuilding trust and honesty. I see marriage as a covenant; a contract in today’s words. If there is a way to keep that contract intact, it is my responsibility to try. Given that there are two people involved, there is no guarantee it would work, but I would try. This is not about being a doormat. Rather it is about sticking to my end of a bargain – it’s that integrity thing again. Cheating is still a sign of a deficiency but, in order to stand behind my commitment, it is now my responsibility to try and repair that deficiency.

So would I forgive and stay together if my Mrs. cheated on me? I say “Yes, with counseling.” My Mrs. responded “Yes” and then jokingly reminded me of the established offer to remove parts of my anatomy if it ever happened. LOL. We are together for the long haul. Transparent. Honest.

It is one of the reasons I am such a big fan of romantic gestures. I’ve always said that affairs don’t happen because the other person is richer or more beautiful. Those are just outward expressions of a deeper truth. I believe that affairs happen because of how the “other person” makes them feel. It is my job as a husband to make sure that my Mrs. feels the safest, the most taken care of and most loved in my arms. She needs to feel secure in her decision. But that’s a discussion for another topic.

I realize my views are more than a little counter-cultural. Also, I have to acknowledge that, like with anything human, there are shades of gray here. What is your take on cheating? I’d love to hear your comments.

As someone interested in the dynamics of love and relationships, I sometimes get sucked into the oddest conversations and debates. The following is an example of just that. I have my opinion about the following scenerio, but what do you think is the right thing for this guy to do?

Scenario: A man has been in a romantic relationship with a woman for about one year. The relationship is going well, companionship has been achieved, but there is a noticeable lack of excitement and desire in the relationship. It feels as though the relationship has become stale and both partners would agree that they need to find a way to rejuvenate and add excitement to the relationship. The man then goes out to a party and meets a girl that sexually interests him and he rationalizes that the relationship he currently in is not meeting his needs and will need some work in order to rekindle the desire. After a few drinks, rationale leaves his mind; he throws in the towel and has a sexual affair believing regardless of that night he would be breaking up with the girlfriend in the future. He believes she will never find out.

Given that he is going to break up with her anyway, does he confess to cheating?

Please vote and/or add a comment below. Like I say, I have my opinion, and frankly got into a long winded debated about the subject but I don’t want to bias the initial comments. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if you have a “it depends” type answer.

He cheated. Given the scenario described, what should he do?

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A few months back I picked up the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. I am in the research/rough draft stage of a writing a “romance” how-to book and as part of that exercise I kept running across the concept of love languages.  I thought I should check it out and I’m very glad I did.

First, what the book is not. It is not a romance how-to book, although it does include some good ideas. It is not an exploration of different kinds of love (e.g. the Greeks had eros, philia, agape, storge and thelema) – there are other books on that.  And while Dr. Chapman devotes a chapter to the “in love” experience (aka limerance), it is a book about long term emotional  love – love that is a choice. The subtitle of the book is “How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”

The author’s position is that, even though being loved is important to everyone, different people express/receive love in different ways – each person has a primary “love language” that fills their “love tank” the best.

He categorizes these languages as:
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch

(For summaries of these, you can read: http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/)

Why are these important to recognize? He suggests that, while all of these expressions are positive, relationship problems can occur when we do not speak the language that is important to the other person in our lives. In my life, I know that my Mrs.’ primary love language is “Quality Time.” In that context, I could bring home flowers every night (“Gifts”), but if I am late from work and just flip on the TV when I arrive, I’ve done the opposite of show her love because I am not giving her the time she needs. I’m a “Words of Affirmation” person, and I suspect that is part of the reason I like to compliment others as much as I do. It is in my nature because that is what fills me personally with self-worth.

The implications of the book are many and I’ll be thinking about them for a quite some time.

So, is it a perfect book? No. As an observational book, there are times when it comes across as a tad sexist as examples are given. While Chapman tries to make the book gender neutral, there are times that this comes across as forced, ironically having the reverse effect. Also, there is no discussion of whether or not a person’s love languages changes over time and I suspect that this is/could be the case. Further, the theory as a whole has the potential to be much like a horoscope, with a reader’s interpretation of specific parts and love language associations being more a reflection of what the person is going through at the time than any intrinsic tendency toward a specific love language or predictive character trait.  However, I would argue that even this has value. Last but not least, the book, a New York Times best seller is published by the secular book subdivision of Zondervan, one of the largest Christian book publishers. There are a few references to biblical text given in the book – something to note if that is something that might offend you. Warning aside, I firmly believe that this is not a book just for Christian couples.

The 5 Love Languages
Overall, a very good read and potentially one of the most life transforming books a couple can read. If you don’t think you’ll ever get to it, I’d suggest at least taking one of the short tests available on the Love Languages site to find out more about your Love Language preference.

I’ve taken a few of these now just to test them (e.g. http://www.afo.net/hftw-lovetest.asp ) and, while some of the lower categories have come out shuffled, my top pick has almost always been the same – “Words of Affirmation.”

If you have read this book and are comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear your comments.

Dr. Chapman has an official Twitter presence at @DrGaryChapman.