In Praise of Male-Female Differences

In Praise of Male-Female Differences

First off: this quote is a bit unfair.  There are certainly men who simply aren’t chatty, no matter who they are talking to.  And there are wives who are good at expressing their opinions in ways that are engaging and helpful and insightful and their husbands are totally fine.  What this quote is talking about are those situations that get a little off kilter. One of the biggest complaints of wives I hear is their husband’s won’t talk to them.  One of the biggest complaints of husbands is their wives are never happy. The more he feels she’s complaining, the more criticized he feels, the more criticized he feels, the more he quits talking, the more disconnected she feels and around and around they go.  This is why marital counseling can help: with a third person there he or she can help you get outside yourselves and look down on this pattern. You can look at it objectively and instead of blaming each other you can start to figure things out. Or, you can divorce each other, marry somebody else, and do the same thing.

The average wife speaks two to ten times more words a day than her husband.  Certainly, there are exceptions to this “average” where some guys are more talkative than their wives.  But let’s look at the more common pattern:

When they are dating these two differences are appealing.  He likes it that she gabs about these simple things and helps him see things he’s never seen.  He thinks it’s cute. She likes how she feels secure in his strong demeanor, that there’s something about his quietness that feels reassuring, even safe.  But human nature is such that every good personality trait has a bad, opposite personality trait to go along with it: He’s pleasantly shy, but he’s rude; she’s engaging, but she’s obnoxious.  When you marry each other you have to take the good with the bad.

A lady once told me she was divorcing her husband because he wouldn’t talk to her.  I knew her husband and pointed out to her that her husband was a pretty shy guy. She said, “I don’t care. I’ll find a guy who will talk to me.”  I feel sorry for that guy, if she ever found him.

Whether we talk or don’t talk, a little mutual respect would be good.  We could all probably use a little of that. It’s good men might not have to talk about everything, but work hard even when it’d be easy to give up.  It’s good women like to explain what they are feeling and work out what’s rattling around in their heads. Some wisdom and solutions can float to the top.  We can connect around silence or talking. We can disconnect around silence or talking. Neither is good or bad. The attitude you bring to the table, whether you are him or her, might be the more determining factor.

Part Five: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous: Elkader, Iowa

Part Five: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous: Elkader, Iowa

Well, maybe you would believe me!  Maybe you’ve had one of those disasters.  Hey, I tell couples, “Leave your issues at home and go have fun.”  It’s easier to say than to do.  Nothing can ruin a vacation quicker than unmet expectations.  If you’d hoped to do X and you never get to do X it’s hard to be in a good mood.  But, look:  You don’t want to pout when you don’t get to do X.  No one gets whatever they want whenever they want it and you are no different.  If you don’t get what you want…adjust!  Remember, how you handle unmet expectations is teaching your children how to cope in the future when they have to face adversity.  You don’t want to be like the saying I had hanging on my bedroom wall when I was in 9th grade:  “Don’t worry.  You can always serve as a bad example.”  So…it rains?  The plans you made fell through?  Figure out Plan B and have a ball in the process.

In my last blog I mentioned how all of a sudden my wife and I were faced with an entire day with absolutely no plans.  I was trying to think the last time that happened in our entire marriage!  Usually our schedule is pretty packed.  We’ve got most weekends planned.  Work covers the workweek.  So when do we have a day to do whatever?  The only time is if we plan for it, which is pretty funny if you think about it!  Having an unplanned day would be good to do anyway!  We saw it as a gift.  Here we were with an unplanned day sitting right in front of us.  What do we do?  We decided to hit the River Bluffs Scenic Byway (page 15 of  this PDF.  I have it saved on my laptop in a folder called “Travel”) we were near at our campground and we ended up with a pretty enjoyable and memorable day.

Along the Scenic Byway we happened by an Iowa Welcome Center just south of Elkader in Osborne (You can find the other Welcome Centers in Iowa at this website.  Put in the section of the state you are interested in and choose the city and it’ll give you the location of the Welcome Center in that area.  There are 45 of them, curiously none in Central Iowa where most of the people live.  Most of the centers are around Okaboji and Southeast, Iowa.  There are Centers on the Interestate Highways, also.). The travel center in Osborne was an interesting stop in and of itself and gave us lots of ideas for the day.  We also picked up some other travel info about Iowa.  We’ve lived in Iowa over 30 years and we’re still discovering new things.  We’ve learned you don’t have to travel too far to find new and interesting things to do.

We could tell by the brochures we’d looked at that Elkader was a popular stop and once we were there we could see why.  There’s been a lot of moaning about the demise of rural America, but if you keep your eyes open, you can find little jewels wherever you go.  Not every town has died.  Many of them have reinvented themselves and have a lot of personality.  Elkader is a town like that.  It’s on the Turkey River and they’ve developed a White Water Park for kayak’s and canoes and inner tubes.  The Water Park even has their own website.  One of Elkader’s claim to fame is their Keystone Bridge, the oldest this side of the Mississippi River.  You ca see that below as well as a few other pics of our time in Elkader:

After exploring Elkader a few hours we road the rest of the River Bluff Scenic Byway, minus the two legs that went down to the Mississippi River.  Those two legs would have been beautiful, but we were budgeting our time.  Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the landscape so have none to share with you.  We were too busy drinking in the wonder.  All in all a great little getaway.  To get an idea of the scenery check out these images from Google on the River Bluffs Scenic Byway.

Wherever you live or wherever you vacation, there are these little jewels mixed in here and there.  They are fun to discover and even more fun to explore, creating memories…..”oh, that was the year we went to Elkader.”

In this series of Planning vs Spontaneous  I hope you’ve seen these two characteristics are not incompatible, but complementary.  We need them both to make vacation time go well.  With my wife and I we’re both planners about different things and spontaneous about different things.  I like to plan our trips out a bit.  She just wants to be together.  It doesn’t matter what we do.  I like to just throw everything in the SUV.  She likes to have it organized.  I chaffed at that for a while until I realized she was pretty smart about that and that a certain amount of organizing keeps things in order.  Finding things is a good thing.  If everything has a place, then you know where to find it.  I didn’t learn that at home as a child.  My dad lost his keys every day and every day there was a key crisis.  My wife taught be early on, no, you have a place for your keys and, frankly, a place for everything else.  Hey, I can learn.

What’s this deal about you having to be right about everything?  Stop it already.  Work together.

And have fun.

Part Five: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous: Elkader, Iowa

Part Four: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous; Resurrecting a Rainy Day

In thinking through my gifts and abilities and what do I have to offer the world, I kept coming back to the simple truth that my marriage was one of the best blessings in my life.  Yet around me were people who dumped their marriages for the slightest of reasons.  It’s a sad fact that many people don’t know how to enjoy life.  I view therapy as largely mentoring and setting a good example.  Look, if I can do this, you can, too!

This morning I was encouraged by an article I read about Minnesota Twin Outfielder Torii Hunter, who just turned 40, who takes younger major league baseball players under his wing and mentors them, not just in baseball, but in life.  The Minnesota Twins played the Los Angeles Angels a while back and the article highlighted Hunter’s ongoing relationship with the Angele’s phenom, Mike Trout, and how Trout was mentored by Hunter when Hunter played for L.A. and how they still keep in contact.  The article went on to say that there are a number of up and coming players whom Hunter has guided and encouraged and he continues to do so with new, young, up and coming players.  The article is pretty uplifting and I’d invite you to check it out.  It highlights how I see my work with couples: demonstrating by my life how to get through life with joy and infuse your life with joy.

Vacation should be a time of joy.  You’ve heard the advice “There’s a time and a place for everything: a time for peace, a time for war; a time to plant, a time to harvest”?  It’s from the Biblical book, Ecclesiastes, from chapter 3.  Check it out.  You might recognize the passage as The Byrd’s used the lyrics from that wonderful poem for their famous song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  Implied in this passage is the notion of having the wisdom to determine the difference: When is it appropriate to do what?

On vacation, this is NOT the time to get into arguments or to prove a point or to be selfish or to obsess on something.  PEOPLE:  It’s a time to chill!  Leave your issues at home.  Leave your resentments at home.  Better yet, pray to the Lord to help you forgive.  Your resentments will tell you your spouse is at fault and will convince you, you are not responsible for your marriage being awful, even though you do not lift a finger to make your marriage better.  Resentment lies to you and tells you it’s not worth trying, so you don’t and then it ruins your life and your marriage and then if you are foolish enough to run away from your problems and divorce, you take your resentments with you.  Resentments turn you into a 2-year old who can only see life from his own point of view.

A better approach is let your resentments go.  Vacation is a good time to practice this!  Leave your disagreements at home.  Let it all roll off your back.  Decompress.  Quit thinking about work.  Quit worshiping your marriage failure.  Be a force for good and positivity.  Sleep in.  Experience new things.  Create memories.  Take pictures.  Make love.  Hold hands.  Cuddle.  Sit silently by a campfire and watch the constant change of the fuel slowly shifting.  Be mesmerized.

And shift gears when it rains.

You might wonder why I’m telling you about my wife and my trips this summer?  Because one of the biggest and recurring problems I’m seeing in my office is couples who have NO IDEA HOW TO HAVE FUN and BE FRIENDS with their spouse!  NO IDEA!  They never grew up in a family that had fun.  Everything is serious, serious, serious.  There’s no joy.  There’s no discovery.  There’s no relaxing.  Everything has to be perfect or it’s a crisis.  Woe is me…I’m going to ruin your life.  If I can’t be happy (and I can’t), then I will make your life miserable.  Then they take this self-absorbed, everything-in-life-needs-to-revolve-around-me and everything-has-to-be-perfect-or-I’m-in-a-bad-mood and pack it along with them on their vacation and they keep taking it out and using it as a club:

Recurring dialog in my office (hundred’s of times):

Me: What would make you feel close to your spouse?

Client: If we had affection.  If he (or she) would touch me.  He never touches me.  Our relationship is so cold.

Me: Do you touch him?

Client:  Of course not.  Our relationship is so cold.  It would be hypocritical for me to touch him if I don’t feel it.

I hope you can see by this little example, that resentment has taken this person’s wisdom away.  It has gone and blown away into the wind.  Which came first: the resentments to tell you to not reach out to your spouse or somebody not touching somebody for whatever reason?  Vacation is NOT the time to harbor resentments.  It’s hand holding time.  It’s cuddle time.  It’s laughter time.  It’s explore new things time.  It’s forget your problems time.  It’s go with the flow time.

Be careful.  If you do this, you might end up liking your spouse!

Okay, enough with the lecture.  On to how to take a rainy day and turn it into a sunny day, whether or not the sun shines.  That’s what happened to us on the day we discovered Elkader.

The story goes like this:

We were camping with family and it was raining and raining and then the rain stopped, but the forecast said more rain was expected.  The rest of the family were tenting and the thought of camping in the rain wasn’t appealing and they decided to go home.  So here my wife and I are in our camping trailer in the middle of a rainy day all by ourselves when the plan was to chill with our extended family that day.  All of a sudden the plans changed.  We had to be spontaneous instead!  We could have spent the day in the camper reading or chilling in our awesome screen tent (actually, this would have been a wonderful time!), but we both spontaneously said, hey, let’s go explore.  This is a new area of Iowa we don’t know anything about.  We’ve never been here before.  Let’s check it out.  Fortunately we had a copy of the “Iowa Byways” brochure from the Iowa Travel Board, or whatever it’s called, and we looked it over and lo, and behold, our camping area was smack dab in the middle of one of the Iowa Scenic Byways!  No way!  So we hopped in the car and had our little “Byways” map and went to see the sites.

If you live in Iowa or come through Iowa on your way west or east, you must grab this little magazine.  Check it out.  I’m guessing most states have a copy of this sort of advertisement to tell people the great views in each state.  There are national byways, too.  One hundred and fifty of them.  We have a book of them in our travel trailer and used it on our recent trip to Michigan (More on that trip on another blog.  Check out Amazon for a number of books on this topic that must be in your travel library).

The “Byway” we were on was called “The River Bluffs Scenic Byway.”  It’s 109 miles altogether and has a loop with two legs.  We did the loop.  We didn’t have time to do the two legs.  We’ll save that for another day.  We had our brochure map which we followed, but we also noticed there were signs on the highway pointing to where the Byway turned next.  A lot of thought has gone into these routes and they take you by some of the greatest sights in our great country.  A rainy day, turned into one of our most memorable vacation days.  In my next blog I’ll tell you the details of the trip.

Here’s the lesson:  If something happens on your vacation that upsets the plans, go with the flow and have fun anyway!  The flat tires and the car problems and the rain or the heat can create a unique opportunity for fun!  Plus it’ll show your children how to handle adversity!

The plans change?

It’s opportunity, Baby!

Part Five: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous: Elkader, Iowa

Part Three: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous; Example: Volga River and Decorah, Iowa

This takes the planning spouse and the spontaneous, go-with-the-flow spouses’ strengths into consideration. Vacation is a time to reconnect, to chill, to replenish your spirit, create memories, have unique experiences, and have many moments of “ahhh”. Ahhh as in relax and Ahhh as in to worship, to wonder, to marvel. You see the same thing every day and the familiar loses it’s surprise. Hit a new place with new sights and sounds and smells and even the feel of the wind can bring back that sense there is more to life than your next appointment or project or deadline.

If we don’t plan we won’t have anything to do or we’ll argue about what to do. If we are too spontaneous you’ll run out of underwear.

I mentioned in my earlier blog about our Memorial Day weekend camping trip at Volga River State Recreation Area we had few plans:

  1. Visit and bike Decorah, Iowa;
  2. Try my new smoker;
  3. Chill.

We chose Volga River because we wanted to camp in NE Iowa, a very beautiful part of the state.  We hadn’t explored that are much before.  Also, the area was only 2 1/2 hours away from our house, a perfect distance to be gone just a few days.  It turned out the campsite was wonderful and the camping area was completely new.

We visited Decorah as we planned, but the day there was pretty wide open.  Decorah was 35 miles away from Volga River, close enough for a day trip from our campsite.  Friends had recommended a place for lunch,  called Ruby’s.  We happened by it about lunch time so decided to go there for lunch.  Our waitress was the owner and spoke highly of her roast beef dinner, saying they make their own bread, mash their own potatoes and oven roast their own meat each day.  Very nice to have real mashed potatoes!  If you put this place on your agenda, you’ll have to hit it before 2 PM as they are only open for breakfast and lunch.

We putzed around downtown Decorah some as there were some cute shops, my wife’s favorite.  I make sure I bring my Kindle or iPhone to have something to read if I get tired of shopping.  I get to relax and my wife has a ball.  Both our needs are being fulfilled on that deal, a win-win.  We checked out the store for the Norwegian Museum.  We’re both from Minnesota and have a little Norwegian blood in our heritage somewhere, plus with our Minnesota roots we’re familiar with many of the artifacts.  That was fun.

Then we biked the Trout River Trail, which is an 11-mile trail around the outskirts of Decorah.  It follows the Trout River on one side of town and then goes into the bluffs on the other side.  Since this was earlier in the year, we weren’t quite ready to hit the hills, but the trail along the river was beautiful.

On most trips we like to find the best local pizza.  With the Internet we can do a little research.  I like the Pizza joints that have been around the longest.  They’ve proven they have a formula the locals love and there’s a good chance we’ll like it, too.  It’s been a 40 year quest in our marriage and a fun option to have as a “thing to do” on vacation.  We prefer thin crust.  I grew up on thin crust pizza from Mr. Pizza in Rochester, Minnesota (still there and still my favorite), near where I grew up, and Carbone’s in White Bear Lake near where my cousins lived (and still a stop now when we visit extended family in the area.  There’s over 30 locations in Wisconsin and the Twin Cities).  For supper in Decorah we chose a locally owned pizza restaurant that had a long history (since 1953!) called Mabe’s.  It was a walk back in time, just the way we like it.  My wife and I have a running conversation about the new decor in fast food restaurants.  It’s like they don’t want to you relax or enjoy yourself and want you to leave as soon as possible.  It has the opposite affect on me: making me not want to go in the first place.  The old, warm woods are fine for me.  I wouldn’t say Mabe’s was the best pizza we’d ever had, but it was pretty good, good enough to give us a high-five on our food choices that day.

We had only one thing planned this day: to hit the Trout River Trail.  The rest of the time was used to just enjoy the new sights and sounds and see what interested us.  It included a trip to Ace Hardware in Decorah to pick up some things for camping and to Wal-Mart to buy some more water hoses for our camp site so we wouldn’t trip over the hoses to our water supply for our trailer.  We got back in plenty of time to relax and chill before some of our family arrived the next day, a perfect blend of planning and being spontaneous.

Part Five: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous: Elkader, Iowa

Part Two: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning Vs Spontaneous

One of us is spontaneous and the other likes to plan.  Those two just don’t get along.  We’re just so different.”  Well, hello!  Yes, we are different.  This would be a good thing!  Nevertheless this idea that “We’re not compatible” is a sad statement, because people who think like this are missing out on one of life’s serendipitous joys: Spontaneous Vs Likes-to-Plan are not contradictory.  They are complementary!  Maybe you don’t know how to make that work for you as a couple, but figuring it out will bring a lot of sweet moments for the two of you.  How?  The planner plans the getaway, but you plan a spontaneous getaway.

In a nutshell here’s how to get these two complementary tendencies in harmony:  The planner plans the trip while consulting with the spontaneous spouse, but doesn’t fill every minute.  Then on the trip you plan to be spontaneous.  We had to plan ahead to get the time off and set it aside and make reservations.  What we do is scout out a couple of ideas in the area where we are going of things we can do and then we let the weather and our mood and energy level determine what we do each day.  We might want to have a couple of ideas we can do on this or that day, but as a rule of thumb, it’s go-with-the-flow.  Too many families get into trouble on their vacations when the schedule is packed too tight.    Nothing ruins a vacation faster than the planner insisting we do what they want every minute and then pout or gets mad when others want to do something different.  G0-with-the-flow is our vacation motto.  You plan, but don’t over-plan.

We just had one of these planning/spontaneous trips recently that was delightful and I thought I’d share it with you to prime the pump of your creativity.  Around January this last year I start planning our summer camping trips in order to get nice camping spots.  In Iowa you can reserve camping sites 3 months in advance.  In both Minnesota and Michigan you can reserve up to 6 month.  In Iowa you can reserve a cabin at a state park a year in advance.  Each state has their own rules.  Then I mark the calendar day when I can start reserving.  This is especially important for holiday weekends.  For the camping season that’s:  Memorial Weekend, Independence Day and Labor Day weekend.  This year we wanted to camp in Northeast Iowa over Memorial Weekend.  We were going to leave on the previous Wednesday (May 20th this year) and camp through that Monday.  Ninety days prior to May 20, 2015, was February 20th and on my work calendar I made a note to myself to make reservations for the campground we wanted on February 20th.  Since that was the first day we can make reservations we had the pick of what campsite we wanted.   Previously we’d decided on Volga River Recreation Area.    It was in the center of a lot of fun things to do, it had lots of open area, mountain biking trails, a lake and two rivers and two campgrounds with over 5000 acres to explore.  It turned out wonderful.  Our campground was brand new with new concrete roads and shower facilities and the area was beautiful.

We had to plan to make this happen, but we didn’t fill our schedule tight.  Part of being on vacation is to go with the flow, to just chill.  For five days all the plans we had were to

  1. Explore Decorah, Iowa which was near our campground and bring our bikes and hit the Trout Run Trail
  2. Try out my new Weber Smoky Mountain 14″ smoker with some baby back ribs
  3. Chill

Not much of a full schedule for five days.  Lots of spontaneous time.  We ended up with some rain days so we had to be a bit creative to not go stir crazy.  In a future blog I’ll tell you about that wonderful, spontaneous day…all because of rain on a camping day.