9 Things Saying Sorry To Your Children Teaches Them

9 Things Saying Sorry To Your Children Teaches Them

Even kids understand this. How many of us have told our kids to go apologize? What normally is their reaction?  They look down, speak softly, put their hand in their mouth, or, if they are like my boy, just says sorry really fast and proceeds kicking the ball, while the child he hurt is still lying on the ground crying.

For good parents, this is where we step in. We tell them to look up, speak louder, take their hands out of their month, and at lest attempt to mean it. We do this because we understand as parents that cultivating character in our children is important.

This type of training is important but has limits. What is also needed is for them to see humility and remorse in those that they look up to—i.e., you.

That’s right. If you want your children to learn how to say sorry and really mean it, then you are going to have to model it for them. And one of the ways to model humility and remorse is by you saying sorry to them when you’ve wronged them.

Here are 9 things your children learn when you say sorry:

1) That adults make mistakes

2) There is a standard of morality above adults (you are also held accountable)

3) Teaches them to own up to their faults

4) Teaches them the way to say sorry

5) Teach them that authority can’t do whatever they please—i.e., might doesn’t equal right

6) Models humility to them

7) Teaches them not to cover up their wrong doings

8) Teaches them to not be stubborn when wrong

9) Teaches them how to forgive

So here’s the question that you need to ask yourself: when is the last time you apologized to your kids? And by the way, buying or spoiling your kids after you do something wrong is not an apology. You’re just teaching your children they can be bought. Saying you’re sorry is an apology. It’s fine to take your children out for ice cream, but first say your sorry and reconcile with them. Then ice cream is a joy you both can partake in.

It doesn’t matter the age either. Saying sorry to a teenager teaches him or her that adults are not necessarily hypocrites.

Did you yell when you didn’t have too? Apologize.

Where you too harsh? Apologize.

Where you lazy today and ignored your kids? Apologize.

Did you not follow through with a promise? Apologize.

We all want our kids to be humble and empathic to others. Start modeling this behavior yourself.

Part Nine On Sexual Desire: Surefire Ways to Kill Sexual Desire (And Your Marriage, Too!)

Part Nine On Sexual Desire: Surefire Ways to Kill Sexual Desire (And Your Marriage, Too!)

We’ve been discussing sexual desire in all it’s variant forms from extreme high sexual desire spouses who can’t seem to notice anything else in the world (here, here and here), to extreme low sexual desire spouses who wish that sex would just go away like a bad dream (here and here). We’ve also looked at more normal situations and how even in the best of couples there can be some hurt feelings around the topic (here). Sometimes we use sex as a weapon (here) and sometimes we let it deteriorate (here). Neither of those options is very helpful. Today we’ll look at some of the common ways people use to suck all the meaning and mutuality out of marital sexuality and end up taking sexuality, which is supposed to be an expression of love and life between a married male and female, and turn it into an instrument of hurt.

Hurt feelings around sex? What’s that about? Here’s the most wonderful feeling in the world, at least for a moment, and it becomes, for too many, an instrument of pain? Dang. What a bummer. Anyone can have a robust sex life in their teens and twenties. Anyone. Try keeping that up until you’re 80 and let’s see how that goes. Turns out sexuality is pretty sensitive and it needs the protection of marriage between a husband and wife to protect it. Do it any other way with any other person or thing, or by yourself, for that matter, and you invite chaos into your life and you let the air out of your sexual life. One of life’s cruel ironies. Turns out abstinence wasn’t such a dumb idea after all!

Here’s how to completely destroy any meaningful, mutual, marital (husband and wife) sexual desire and turn it into an instrument of hurt:

Surefire Ways For Husbands:

Be promiscuous when you are young.Sleep around without regard.The more the merrier.Who cares what gender?It’s just sex, right?It feels good, right?You can do all things without consequence, because you are invincible.A lifetime of vigor for you!Do the masturbation and porn thing for hours and years on end while you are single.Live with your future spouse before you get married and rip each other’s clothes off everyday until you get bored with that (Which will eventually occur.Crap.How am I supposed to be excited about getting married when sex is boring?), then break up with that person and start the adrenaline-newness cycle all over again with somebody fresh and different and unexplored and once again have great sex, but for a shorter period of time this time, or get married someday and rip each other’s clothes off for a while until you get bored with that or she gets bored with that and then go back to porn (let me guess: you stopped porn for 6 months after you got married ‘cuz you were bound and determined to be faithful, but, no, you’d been masturbating and pornifying your mind for, what?, 10-20 years before you got married?, and how are you supposed to stop a habit like that, just because you walked down an aisle all decked out and everything and signed a paper and smiled for the camera one too many times?) and here was porn and masturbation waiting in the closet as a long-lost friend and he was so glad you discovered him again and pretty soon you are doing really weird stuff on Craigslist or Yahoo Personals or in one of those totally creepy chat rooms where people talk about stuff that would normally burn your ears if you had any sense at all, but you need excitement, baby, and you are gonna get what you want when you want it ‘cuz you are concerned about you, right?And this is all really fun and everything until your wife happens on your internet history or your phone buzzes with a text and your wife is sitting right there and she asks who the text if from and you lie to her straight to her face that it’s whatever than what it is, ‘cuz it’s some prostitute or whore posing as your friend and she’s asking you about your private member and if it needs a little attention, if you know-what-I-mean, and hopefully your conscience kicks in ‘cuz you’ve been lying to the wife of your youth waaaaay too many times, and she doesn’t deserve to be treated like that, and you admit to violating your marriage vow, but probably not.More likely she grabs the phone, because she can see the embarrassment in you eyes and your word didn’t match your facial expression and the incongruity of it all didn’t match and she’s been wondering how come you didn’t want to be sexual with her much lately and she’s not stupid and she wonders what all this secrecy and hiding of your phone is about, and she reads the text from your internet friend on the other end masquerading as an angel of light and you can bet she’s not as turned on as you when she reads what she reads.

Or you can nag your wife how sexless she is.Point it out.Over and over.Train her that sex is about making you happy and if she’s not sexual with you, pout a lot.Or lecture her about what a prude she is and she’s denying you and purposely refraining from sex because she doesn’t love you or she’s trying to hurt you.Tell her she was a bait and switch: Sexual with you like crazy before you got married and then after she won you, she completely shut it off.Tell her she’s frigid.Frown and scoff.When she’s not sexual with you ignore her.Only show her attention when you are sexual.This way you will convey to her that you are very self absorbed and only thinking about sex, not her.That’s it.Don’t treat sex as a way of connecting with your wife.Use it as a way to get off, to feel good, just like you trained yourself from your youth using porn and masturbation.That way, when you are sexual with her, you won’t connect with her soul or her spirit or her personhood at all.Nope.It’s orgasm for you and too bad for her.

Or when you are sexual don’t bring her along. Don’t romance her at all. No I love you’s, no surprise gifts, no cute little notes, no surprises at all. Just do the same ol’, same ol’. Don’t touch her anywhere else. Don’t talk to her about how pretty she is or how you like this curve or that curve or how this connects to this and look at this curl in your hair. Don’t mention anything. Don’t talk at all. Just get off. Don’t look her in the eye. Convey to her that you are just using her to masturbate. Make it as impersonal as you can. Suck the life out of sex. This way you can train her to hate it. Over time, she may even hate you, too.

Or don’t help around the house or be a servant in any way.Don’t pick up after yourself.Or help with the kids.Make sure, if you do “help” that it’s “help.”Convey it’s her responsibility and you are just helping.Be gone all the time doing all your hobbies and missions and work and that’s just who you are and if you don’t love me for me than you know where to go.Show her by your words and actions that she is not important to you.Don’t tell her about your day.Don’t call her up and ask her about hers.Don’t ask her out.Don’t plan anything for the two of you…ever.Just veg on the couch.Put on all kinds of weight and drink beer.A lot.A ton.Oh, you just love beer.Make beer your new mistress.Or whatever.Just not your wife.She’s a nag anyway.

Surefire Ways For Wives:

Or, if you are of the fairer gender, you can literally ruin your sexual drive in your later years by sleeping around in your younger years when the waters run fresh and clear and cool and then when your husband starts to bore you with his arrogance or indifference or his obsession with fishing lures or computer pixels you can start your own exploration of excitement again, because that’s what you used to do before you ever got married and go on-line to that eternal fountain of bliss and find a guy out there who will tell you you are wonderful and sexy and godIcan’twaittoripyourclothesoff and your husband never talks to you that way any more and it’s just so nice to be attractive and have someone notice, but, speaking of notice, you notice your experience of sex is dropping off, not gradual like a long road off of a mountain, by like falling off a cliff, and you could care less about sex.Hmmm.Oh, well.I can always go to Target and get a buzz.

Or maybe I’m gay? That’s it! Ha! I’ll just try that! Oh, the joy. Tell yourself the reason your desire for your husband dropped off is ‘cuz you were never heterosexual in the first place! Woohoo! Tell yourself whatever you want. It’s about you, right? Forget this marriage crap, and commitment and giving and reaching out to your husband. It’s all a ruse. Some cruel, male joke. Same song, second verse. You seek sex as a god it don’t deliver. Heartache and pain and sorrow are the cousins of SEXASGOD. You pursue sex for it’s own sake and that’s what you get …. For a while. Sex as a drug don’t deliver for very long and then there’s a bill to pay.

Or you can ruin your sex life the subtle way by neglect. Refuse to take care of your body. Refuse to dress up and look feminine….ever. You are too mature to play that game right? Besides, you have a poor self-image. You’ve put on too much weight and don’t feel sexy any more. What a relief!!!! Too bad your husband doesn’t feel the same way. Ahhhhhh, he’s supposed to have a vote here, sweetie. Not just you. Just ‘cuz you’ve turned off the spigot doesn’t mean he doesn’t need a drink. Too bad for him. You are in charge of you and you ain’t gonna let no male chauvinist sex fiend influence you. No, sir. You are your own person, right? Stupid one-track-mind males. Drive me crazy.

Or keep yourself busy. Always have something else on your list. Convey to your husband that he is NOT on the list and that you don’t WANT him on the list and you will do whatever you can to keep him OFF of the list and everything else you do is your mission. Everything in life is your mission except your husband. Give your heart to your children. Make them your number one priority. Convey to your children and your husband that your children are number one. Your husband is only a nuisance. All he does is make a mess and resent him for that and nag him about that and point out his faults and drive him away, drive him away, drive him away. Whew!!! I can drive sex away, too! All by myself! Very easily. What a relief! I don’t have to worry about sex any more. Done, done, done, done, done, done, done.

Or, if you are the wife and you happen to want sex more than your husband (which, by the way, is a pretty common, though little known pattern), chide him for not wanting it with you.Accuse him of being gay.Suck the manhood out of him.Point out his lack of virility.If you make an advance and he pulls away, scoff and scold him.Or get mean or pull away yourself.Make him feel guilty about not meeting your needs.Shut your heart to him.It feels like he’s shut you out so treat him the same way.That’s it.Make sure that NEITHER of you is reaching out.That way your marriage can crash and burn and you don’t have to even feel guilty about it.Why’d you divorce?Oh, he wouldn’t have sex with me.Really?Of all the….Start sleeping on the couch or going out with your friends or look for comfort on the Internet.Find comfort somewhere, just not in your marriage vow or in your fidelity.Let your heart wander.You deserve to be happy.Search for happiness by looking for it.Forget patience and tenderness and love and caring.You’ve had enough of that.You’ve given enough.You tried (you think) and failed.Oh, well.

Surefire Ways For Either Husbands or Wives:

You can destroy sexual desire for either you or your spouse without hardly trying.Here’s a couple of surefire ways for either gender:

Have an affair. You weren’t looking, right? It just happened. You were just friends. Imagine how the brain works, the largest sex organ. Now you are spending all your time thinking of your affairee! How are you gonna be sexual with your spouse now? You can fake it. That’ll be fun. How long can you keep that up? How long before your spouse starts to put two and two together. Better hide your phone. Watch your back. Change your passwords. You need another mailbox now? A different bank account? One of those traceless cell phones from the Wal-Mart electronics aisle? Funny how you are paranoid all the time. This is REALLY fun. How you gonna hide all that? Look at you. How come you’re mad all the time and pissy about nothin’? You make a great liar. Who’d a thought? Just wait til your affairee gives you an STD! Then you can give it to your spouse and he/she will never know the difference! I didn’t mean to. HA! No consequences for you! You can do whatever you want. You can run your car without oil, too. Forget seatbelts and parachutes. It’s just you and excitement, Baby. A walking miracle. You can walk on water, too. And calm the waves. Just like that. Mr. or Mrs. No Consequences. You could start your own religion. You may as well. You are already worshipping you.

Or quit sleeping together.  No cuddling.  No affection.  Just you and your private blanket or pillow or dog or kid.  Anybody and anything, except your spouse.  You don’t want to convey to your spouse that you are married or that you care or that the two of you are special or anything.  Or have a kid or two in bed with you and your spouse.  Insist as a badge of honor that your child MUST be in your bed because Johnney or Sally can’t ever cry.  Can’t have that.  Let your spouse bellyache, but not your kid!  We are nothing but fair in our family!  Let the kid determine if you are going to be sexual or not.  That’s a plan.  Let the kids run the family.  Use every excuse you can think of to not have to sleep with your spouse and then tell yourselves you love each other and you are just being caring by not sleeping together.  He snores too loud.  Her leg shakes.  She keeps me up. He keeps waking me up.  I need my sleep.  We go to bed at different times.  Whatever.  If you need more excuses, make them up.  Sound believable.  Convince your spouse the two of you don’t have to sleep together to be married.  You don’t have to have sex either.  If you are sexual in this environment (good luck) you will resolutely, completely annihilate any meaning in it at all because the two of you won’t be warm enough to start any friction, let alone a fire.  Do this for years.  You won’t notice it at first.  This is a very subtle way.  It usually ends with somebody serving someone with papers.  What happened, Honey?  We had such a nice arrangement?  Arrangement, yes.  Marriage?  In name, maybe.

Or, if your spouse tries to be affectionate, turn away, turn away, turn away.  You don’t want to be sexual, right?  And if you are affectionate, he/she will start taking it to the next level?  YIKES!  Can’t have that.  So we’ll just have affectionless sex every once in a while.   Do your duty, so to speak.  You aren’t the affectionate type, anyway.  Or the sexual type.  Or the loving type.  Or the married type.  You are the selfish type and that’s fine with you.  Giving isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway.

Or if your spouse quits pursuing sex with you, make sure you DON’T pursue sex with your spouse.Treat him how he treat treats you.Treat her how she treats you.Don’t treat him or her how you want to be treated.No.That would keep the embers burning, right?Don’t want that.Treat your spouse how your spouse treats you.Don’t pick up the ball.Drop the ball.Drop everything.He doesn’t try anymore.Neither will you.Indifference is our new mantra.This way the relationship will deteriorate to the lowest common denominator, which, in your case, is as roommates.Roommates make poor lovers.They may even worse husbands and wives.

And then the divorce will just be this mutual agreement.No biggie.We didn’t have any fire left in us.The fire went out years ago.It’s hard to make a flame with only one stick.The two sticks have to rub together to make a fire.Oh, well.We tried.

Right. You call that trying?

And then you can live in your tiny one bedroom apartment, because your spouse took half your retirement and half of everything else.  Somehow you ended up with more of the debt. How’d that happen? Stupid rip-off lawyer. I’m still making payments to his sorry butt. At least you got the kitty. Couldn’t divide the kitty in half.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.

Don’t you wanna come sit on my lap?

Part Nine On Sexual Desire: Surefire Ways to Kill Sexual Desire (And Your Marriage, Too!)

On Triangling: An Open Letter to My Niece, Cassi, and Her Husband, Cam, On the Birth of their Third Child, Son, Chase

Dear Cassi and Cam,

It was so fun to see your family two weekends ago.Thanks for letting me hold little Chase. He’s a sweetie.Holding him made up for the devastating loss of the U.S. to Ghana in the World Cup.

Cam and Cassi Piper’s third child, Chase, was born May 31, 2010. He spent some time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, but everything turned out fine. He joins his brother and sister, Caden (3) and Rori (2)

When I told you about my Open Letter to Brandon and Philly on the birth of their second child, LydiaSue, and you asked me to write one to you on the birth of Chase, I had no idea what I would say different.Both you and Cam are in the same age range as Brandon and Philly and both of you are in career transitions and both of you are young parents and both of you are making wise choices.I would encourage you to look at that Open Letter, because I could say the same to the two of you.

So, what can I say about a young family with 3 kids?Hmm.We’ll see where this leads.

Is there that much difference between having 3 kids and having 2?I’m saddened that so many people fear having larger families.You already commented that the other two kids are helping out.And, you know, kids don’t need nursing and extended care for long, and then they grow up and become your best friends and confidants.What’s really fun is when they start giving you insight that blesses your life.

But there can be some hidden pitfalls to adding a new family member if we’re not careful.Here’s the math on relationships: The number of people squared is the number of relationships in the family, so every time you add a member to your family, the total family dynamic changes.So if you have a husband and wife there are 2 times 2 possible relationships (4 total): you, Cam, Cam and You, and You and Cam = 4.Add Caden and you have 9: Cam, Cam and You, You and Cam, Caden, Caden and you, you and Caden, Caden and Cam, Cam and Caden, you and Cam and Caden.I was explaining this to a mathematician client once and she told me, no, it was the number of relationships cubed and then she tried to explain it to me and she lost me.Anyway, it’s a bunch.So add Rori and we’re up to 16 and add Chase and we’re up to 25.

What this means in practical terms is that there are 25 opportunities for relationship breakdown!YIKES!Look at our family with 6 of us with our four kids growing up:36 opportunities for us to mess this whole thing up.Given how our family turned out I think you will have to admit there must be a God in Heaven and a Holy Spirit that protects and leads us because given all our wildly varying personalities there is no way in the universe that it would be possible for all of us to survive intact.The Wall Clan is proof of the existence and benevolence of God, I am sure.

With three kids you could easily see how this could implode.When we have 3 the temptation is to get into 2 verses 1.These triangles (what they are called in Family Studies) can be a mess.They can go by gender: Caden and Chase verses Rori; Age: The two oldest Caden and Rori verses the youngest, Chase or the two youngest Rori and Chase verses the oldest Caden or personality: The two most dominant verses the one more passive.I’m sure there are other scenarios, but you get the drift (interests, beliefs, etc.).Add parents in the mix and it can become the men and boys verses the women in the clan or dad and the oldest two verse the mom and the youngest.The gender pattern is common around dad and the boys’ sports and mom and the daughter’s dance class.The bonding in these activities is fine as long as it doesn’t go too far.If mom gets closer to the daughter or dad becomes closer with the boys than mom and dad are to each other we will have a mess on our hands.I’ll spare you the technical terms.Trust me.It’s chaos.This is where we get things like the daughter becoming rebellious because mom is fairly well creeping her out or mom has an affair because dad is overly involved with the boys and she’s so lonely.And on and on.

This triangling deal can be pretty devastating.But the curious thing is that triangles are the foundation of the universe and a blessing for us all (You won’t learn this in grad school.):The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.Three in One has stood the test of time.So…there are good triangles and bad triangles.Let’s major on the good triangles.

How do we have a family of good triangles instead of bad triangles?When I came across this concept in grad school, I read through the Gospels in light of it, asking, how did Jesus handle triangles?It was pretty amazing.

You have to know how they work in a hurtful way first.A person will try to get you on their side against someone else by telling you something bad about someone else (Herod and Pilot verse Jesus), so that it becomes two against one.We call this gossip outside the family, but if it’s in your own clan under your own house and you wash these people’s underwear and sheets it’s not called gossip.It’s a disaster.Mommy, mommy Caden hit me.That’s all cute and everything when they are four.It’s family terror when they are 14 and warfare when they are 25.

I’d encourage you to read the Gospels in light of this concept, but in a nutshell Jesus ignored negative triangles or used it as a teaching moment, or changed the subject altogether.He never got into a negative triangle once.A curious thing to me is that this concept was not even delineated in Family Studies until the 1950’s.It’s enough to make a believer out of you if you are not careful:The Miracle Wall Clan and Jesus and Triangling:The New Apologetic (That’s a secret Joke for Brandon).

The key to avoiding negative triangles in the family is for mom and dad to have a solid relationship that no child problems or agitation can thwart.Here’s a negative example:Sally comes and tells Mommy that Daddy scolded her.Mommy and Sally go to see Daddy and, in front of Sally, Mommy chews out Daddy.

If this happens in your family, welcome to Hell.

Here’s a better way to handle it:Sally tells Mommy that Daddy scolded her.Mommy says, “Really?” and asks about it.Then Mommy tells Sally that the two of them need to go talk to Daddy.Mommy has Sally tell Daddy what Sally told Mommy.This teaches Sally we’re not tolerating negative triangles in our family.What you say to me you need to be able to tell Daddy.Then Daddy gives his side of the story.Then, Mommy and Daddy dismiss Sally and Mommy and Daddy talk about the situation outside of Sally’s hearing, conveying to Sally that she CANNOT come between Mommy and Daddy.If Mommy and Daddy determine that Sally was out of line for trying to create a wedge between Mommy and Daddy, the two of them figure out how to handle it.If Mommy and Daddy agree that Daddy had inappropriately treated Sally, the apology will be arranged so that it does NOT convey to Sally that Sally and Mommy are against Daddy, but that Daddy had over reacted and he’s sorry and that Mommy and Daddy are one and Sally is looking in from the outside.

This example illustrates The First Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling in the family:

Don’t let your kids come between you and your spouse.Period.

When your kids attempt to come between you, ignore it, use it as a teachable moment, or change the subject altogether.

Parenting is a good example of positive triangling.The two parents are working together for the good of the family.Counseling is another example.I’m in the positive triangling business.If a therapist allows a client to get him on the client’s side verses the spouse, we’re done.We’ll lose the husband if he feels his wife and counselor are against him.We’ll lose the wife if she feels her husband and counselor are against her.

As parents, then, we want to create a positive triangle of blessing for our family.The easiest way for this to happen is for mommy and daddy to make sure that the two of them have enough alone time without the kids to bond, to care, to talk, to tease, to consult, to be friends and lovers.

The Second Rule to Avoid Negative Triangles in the families is this:

We (as husband and wife) will spend enough time alone to nurture our love and friendship to make sure we are closer to each other than either of us is with the children.

For some young families, this seems virtually impossible.If either parent starts to love the kids more than they do their spouse, we’re entering negative triangling territory and better watch out.Given that Cassi is home with the kids and Cam is working hard to make ends meet, you might be tempted to enter into the following very common and sad destructive triangling scenario:

He feels that his wife is overly involved with the kids and that she has no time for him.She starts to resent him because it feels to her he’s never home and when he is he’s preoccupied (exhausted and burdened most likely).She has all this bonding time with the kids.She uses the kids to meet her social needs.Over time, she triangles in with the kids verses daddy.Daddy becomes the scapegoat.He’s on the outside.He resents this and either gets angry or quietly seethes within. She can easily become harsh and bitter because she feels it’s unfair that she has to do nearly all of the housework, childcare and family management.She’s on his case to spend time with the family and to help around the house.Am I just a maid?If he’s not careful he can start resent his kids who took his wife away.She wants to spend time as a family.He wants to spend time alone with her.They fight about this (Duh?They have to do both!).Neither will give in so they quit fighting and end up in two camps. This husband is vulnerable to an affair or to just dump his wife outright.She doesn’t want me around.Why come home?She’s vulnerable to an affair because she desperately needs adult companionship and her husband seems unavailable.She can also be tempted to divorce her husband.It’s no fun being around him.I can survive with out him.He’s never home anyway.

In this example you can see that triangling doesn’t have to be between only 2 verses 1.It can be one group and an idea verses one (The Media and the President against BP.The Media and BP against the President.Curiously, it’s never any two camps verses the Media.Hmmm.).In the example above it’s mommy and the kids verses daddy.How people often solve these problems is to create a counter negative triangle:daddy and beer verses the mommy-kids clan or daddy and his work against the mommy-kids clan or daddy and his affairee verses the mommy-kids clan.The ultimate negative triangle in the family is when each gets their own lawyer verses the other spouse and the other spouse’s lawyer.If you really want to see negative triangles in motion, look at divorced families and then add a new stepfather or mother and/or stepbrothers and sisters.We’ll have negative triangles all over the place with enough friction to heat several city blocks.Divorced families and stepfamilies are rife with negative triangles because divorce reinforces negative triangling and it becomes a lifestyle for years (generations?) to come.

Blessed is the family that figures out how to NOT get into negative triangling.

With adult family members the principle to avoid negative triangling is this (The Third Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling):

Do not say anything to anyone in the family about anyone else in the family that you would not say to that person’s face.  If you make the mistake of saying something you shouldn’t have about another family member behind that family member’s back, tell that family member what you said (in humility) and apologize and make sure the person you initially told knows that you apologized.  This is will nip a potential negative triangle in the bud.

If someone in the family says something negative to you about another family member, refuse to be triangled (the 2 of you verses the other family member), and gently avoid getting sucked in by making a positive comment about the family member that was criticized and then gently change the subject.

The exception to this rule is that the husband and wife need to be able to have private conversations about the rest of the family (including extended family) that is no one else’s business.But don’t use this privilege to criticize your spouse’s family.For example, if a wife tries to triangle her husband with her against his blood family, she will be in for a fight.It would be wise for her to lay off putting down his family because blood is thicker than water and he will be tempted to side with them against her.

The basic principle here (And the Fourth Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling) is:

I can critique my own family in the privacy of our relationship, but I won’t criticize your family.

This is why the Christian faith is so powerful.God sends his Son to a lost world to positively triangle us in against death, sin, the flesh and the Devil and his Cohorts.Woohoo!As the Father has sent the Son, so the Son sends us.We are called (positively triangeled with God) to be a blessing to others.If we can’t be a blessing in our immediate family, it’s all a gong and a noisy cymbal.

Love, (trying to be) Your Positively Triangled Uncle,


Part Nine On Sexual Desire: Surefire Ways to Kill Sexual Desire (And Your Marriage, Too!)

Part Four On Communication: Anger Will Get My Point Across! NOT!

It’s better left for emergencies.  For the first in the series click here, the second click here and the third, click here.  For the entire series click here.

Be angry and sin not.

Ephesians 4:26

Anger’s gotten a bad rap.It’s destroyed so many families and individuals and marriages and careers that it’s easy to think we oughta just chuck the whole thing.But be careful.Anger is a great motivator.

On an international level it’s why Hitler’s cronies aren’t running the world right now and on national level it’s why we don’t have slavery in slave states anymore. We still have slavery. It’s just not legal. Sex slave traffic is a worldwide problem. If we ever got rid of that, it would be because enough people got mad about sex being used outside of marriage as an object for one’s personal desire. The porn industry is running billions and billions of dollars in profit with no end in sight, so it’s going to take more than a few bloggers, ministers and counselor types to squash all that. We’d pretty much all have to get mad enough to say freedom does not mean license to do whatever. Unfortunately, we’ll probably self-destruct before anything is done about that.

On a personal level anger can motivate you to study for a test instead of flunk, stop drinking, lose weigh or get out of debt.

It’s also very handy if your child is in danger and you yell to get his attention so that he doesn’t hurt or kill himself. Very handy.

So, hey, anger’s not all bad. But use it wisely. If you yell at your kids everyday, they will learn to tune you out and when a dangerous event is about to occur and you yell to warn your child, he may very well ignore you and plunder on and get himself killed. Wouldn’t that be ironic that your lack of self-control on anger caused your child’s death? Don’t worry, anger lies and will tell you your kid just never listened to you. You probably will never figure out that your misplaced anger taught your child to ignore you.

Anger as an everyday, normal, communication tool is a complete waste of time and just sucks whatever love you have left out of your marriage and fills your soul and your brain with a slurry of resentment and hurt and confusion and self-righteousness and a bunch of words on the other side of slang to boot.Pretty soon you are spouting threats of divorce and leaving or cheating or looming over her all threatening and imposing like.It ain’t no marriage enhancer.

And when you use anger as a tool to defend yourself from your spouse’s suggestions or to attack your spouse for not heeding your suggestions, anger changes the subject to whatever it is that the two of you were talking about to you causing your spouse think to herself that “I’m married to an ass.” If you had a sane point you were trying to convey, it got totally lost in the meanness and hurtfulness and despicableness of all the cruel things you said and the threatening and imposinglike nonverbal cues you were sending with your puffed up chest and your curled up lip and throwing your hands in the air in superiority and smashing your fist against whatever is handy and hopefully what you are smashing is not your spouse or your kids, but you better watch out, because anger will tell you to cross boundaries and once boundaries are crossed it’s hard to differentiate between smashing a teacup and smashing a loved one’s face. But anger is also very subtle and you hear about people who only smash their loved ones’ faces once because it leaves marks that the public can see, so then after that mistake they only smash their loved ones in places that are covered by clothes so that no one else will know. This is the kind of self-control that will land your loved ones in the psych ward at the hospital or worse. You communicated all right. Anger did help you communicate. The message that you communicated is that you are mean, and hurtful and despicable and your loved ones are thinking you are an ass.

And then, later, of course, you are sorry you said and did all those things and you didn’t mean them and you were just so angry and you were pushing my buttons.When anger gets this insane it is really good at passing the buck and making your own stupidity and selfishness and cruelty someone else’s fault.Your spouse is going to have a hard time believing you didn’t mean those things, because she just heard everything you said and you sounded pretty believable and sincere to her.Your face was red while you said it, for heaven’s sake.That’s pretty passionate.And how is she supposed to believe you now when you take it all back?And now you are crying on bended knee that you didn’t mean those things.Is she just supposed to have a switch that goes on when you say you are telling the truth and turn off when you start saying (yelling!) those things?How is she supposed to sort that all out?The good and the bad came out of the same mouth.Are you purposely trying to make her crazy?It’s a good plan.I’m sure our mental hospitals are full of people who were on the receiving end of misplaced anger.Then when you divorce her after she’s a ward of the state rocking back and forth saying to herself “he didn’t mean it, he didn’t mean it” and “it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault” you can tell everyone you divorced your first wife because she was crazy!What a plan!

So whose life are you going to destroy next?Here’s one way to do it:Divorce your spouse because you are just so mad at her making you so mad.No one else makes you mad like her and you don’t like yourself when you are mad.If you divorce her, you think, you won’t be mad any more!Another great plan!Right.

Do you know what happens to you when you divorce somebody because you are trying to escape resentment or anger or an inability to forgive or a cold heart because you’ve shut your spouse out of your heart and refuse to reach out and love your current spouse anymore and you say to yourself you love him, you just aren’t in love with him?Do you know?Do you know?

You’d think you’d have figured this out by now:Whatever negative spirit you have when you willingly dump your spouse, that negative spirit gets set in cement in your heart.You will carry that into all your future relationships.You’ll turn into Jesse James and leave a wake of Sandra Bullocks wherever you go.

Keep in mind I’m referring to the dump-er not the dump-ee.If your spouse dumps you, in my view, you have a much better chance of overcoming negative hurt in your previous marriage than if you are the one that casts your spouse to the curb and cinches up his pants and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”A lot better.

Marriage, by the way, is a great place to learn self-control, but if you didn’t learn self-control on anger or choosing to love and giving and forgiving and sacrificing and bucking up and going the second mile in your first marriage, you won’t have a clue where to start in your second marriage and marriage will not survive unless you learn to develop these things. When you divorce you shut off your ability to learn these things in the crucible of marriage, short of some miracle. Now I believe in miracles, but I also don’t believe in borrowing trouble. Divorce borrows trouble. It tests God to see just how big of a jerk you can make yourself before He intervenes. I suggest you don’t test God to see how far He will go before He steps in and saves you from your insanity.

Anger is fine if it tells you you need some help and you can’t figure this out and we seem to be doing the same things over and over again and it just doesn’t seem to get anywhere or it tells you maybe you should get a book about this or bone up on that or maybe read your Bible for a change and seek the Lord and grow spiritually and become a bit more patient or the two of you sit down and brainstorm solutions and come up with some pretty creative things to try to solve whatever and over time you figure things out. Anger is really good about motivating people to change. It’s really good for that.

But if you don’t listen to the constructive side of anger, pretty soon the destructive side of anger will rear its ugly head and it’ll tell you to get even, to hurt back. That’s when you shut down anger. Enough already. Ain’t goin’ there. No way. When anger tells you to hurt your loved ones that’s a boldfaced lie and it’s time to say no, to stop it already. Don’t use anger as a communication tool unless your plan is to leave a trail of tears wherever you go.

Just stop it.

For a humorous look at this check out the link my son Brandon sent me with a comment that my education was all in vain. I just needed Bob Newhart’s therapy technique. The clip is six minutes long. Hang in there. The punch line doesn’t come until the end:

Part Nine On Sexual Desire: Surefire Ways to Kill Sexual Desire (And Your Marriage, Too!)

Cheap Therapy: Naked Room Secrets

Structure determines function.

Engineering 101

One of the first things a new engineering student learns is that structure determines function. In simple terms: a toothpick makes a great tool to extract food items from between your teeth based upon its structure, but an automobile makes a terrible toothpick and a toothpick makes a terrible car. The toothpick’s structure determines what it can do. Structure is neither good nor bad. It is also no respecter of persons. You could be Adolf Hitler and your toothpick won’t make an automobile any better than it would for Mother Teresa. So you don’t need to be mad about it. It is what it is. You can’t change the results of structure. If you know what the structure is, you know what the results will be. Period. End of story.

Families have structure, too. This is such an important concept that there is a whole branch of family therapy called Structural Therapy. If you change the structure, you change the results. I call structural changes in marriage “Cheap Therapy.” Easy fixes. If you change these structures, you will immediately get better results.

It’s amazing how stubborn people are about their structure. They are often bound and determined to keep the structure as is even when their marriage is crashing and burning. Then they are still mad at the results, when, unless they change the structure, the results will remain the same. Structure is NO respecter of persons. You keep the structure the same, you get the same results.

Here’s some common structural problems in the marriage bedroom couples tell me about in my office:

Not sleeping in the same bed. You are kidding me right? You’d be amazed how many couples don’t sleep together. The reasons are myriad: He snores, she has restless leg syndrome, one keeps waking up, they are mad at each other, one falls asleep on the couch and doesn’t come to bed. What is the structure telling each other? We’re not really married. We’re just roommates. Or co-parents. Or business partners.

But we ARE married. Every night when the couple goes to their separate sleeping quarters a silent voice screams in their heads that this marriage is for the birds, and what in the world are you doing, and I can’t believe I’m putting up with this, and how come my spouse doesn’t love me, and my spouse is so selfish, and we’re not special, and we’re not a couple, and all we are is stupid roommates, and why don’t I have the courage to divorce, and on and on and on.

I’m not a good enough therapist to help you if you both insist on NOT sleeping together. I’ll argue for it. I’ll advocate for it. I’ll fight for it, because I know that if you are not in the same bed, your resentments will shout at you that this marriage SUCKS and no reassurance from a nice therapist dude will make an ounce of difference.

The couple has dogs or kids in the bed or no lock on the bedroom door. Different structure, same result. The Bible says, “The marriage bed is undefiled.” That means it’s holy and needs to be protected. So protect it already. Put a lock on your door. Kids need to learn that mom and dad’s bedroom is hollowed ground and you do NOT come in unless you are invited. You barge in at your peril. You put your life in danger if you do not knock. No. You respectfully knock and mom and/or dad will invite you in AFTER one of them unlocks the door!

Mom and dad do things in the bedroom that is none of the kids’ business.It’s the NAKED ROOM*!We do naked things in here.We dress in here.We cleanse in here.We make love in here.ALL NAKED.So, no, we don’t need dogs gawking at us and we don’t need the worry of Sally coming in again ‘cuz she can’t sleep and you never know when she’s gonna barge in.

AHHHHH!Stop it!Your little precious will be fine.If you want to raise a complete emotionally disturbed child, just let her sleep in your bed ‘til she’s four or five.By then you’ll be divorced and Sally will really need to sleep with you now to deal with all her insecurities!

One of the most fundamental truths of parenting and childhood is that a child needs to learn calm him or herself down.It’s okay for Johnny to cry himself to sleep.It’s okay for Sally to fidget.Let your kids learn to calm themselves down when they are upset or else you will be calming them down their whole life and they won’t be able to face any problems or fears or worries without mommy or daddy.This whole thing is creepy, so stop it!

And NO. NO dogs in the bed. They take up too much room. They look at you like they have a soul, and it’ll creep you out being naked and not ashamed in front of Rover, and you’ll not have the courage to push Rover aside, so you can cuddle with your spouse, and your spouse will be laying there thinking that he or she is married to a crazy person that puts dogs (or kids) first, and the resentments will grow, and the distance will grow, and both of you will wonder why in the world you ever got married, and the whole sexual idea will go out the door, and we’ll sacrifice our marriage, so a stupid dog (or kid) can be comfortable.

Not going to bed at the same time. Sometimes this is a problem because of work schedules, but it’s amazing how often couples DON’T go to bed at the same time for whatever excuse: I need my alone time, I’m a night owl, I don’t need as much sleep, or it’s when I get everything done. Sometimes these couples go to bed and don’t even say goodnight, let alone give each other a kiss goodnight. But what is the silent message that you are telling your spouse when she’s in there lying in bed alone? I’m all alone in the world. Is there something the matter with me? Why does my wife avoid me? We’re not much of a couple. I feel distant with my wife. He only comes to bed for sex so that’s all I’m good for. I’m not on her priority list. Everything else is more important.

You need less sleep than your spouse?Here’s a cheap therapy idea:Lay down with your spouse when he goes to bed.Cuddle with each other and have some laid back pillow talk.When your spouse has wound down and is ready to fall asleep or is asleep, you can slip out of bed and do whatever.But get your cuddling time and pillow talk in.Let each other know structurally, simply, that each of you is special.

There.I just saved you a ton of money on therapy.Cheap therapy.Of course, if you insist that you can’t change and you like your comfortable habits that keep you from being connected, come on in for therapy.I’d be happy to yell at you.

You’ll be in therapy for years. This is good job security for me.

*I’m in debt to Cheryl Mendelson in her delightful book Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House for the idea of calling mom and dad’s bedroom “the Naked Room.”