The Sucessful Relationship

A young friend of mine told me this morning that his fiancé moved in with him last week and that they are getting married in two weeks. They have been together for some time now so there in nothing rushed in what is happening. But he could not wonder what the future holds for him. His most basic question, one that many people struggle with, is “why me?” He wonders why she wants to spend a life with him. I told him it is because she really likes what she sees and that he gives her everything she wants. Now I have to admit that I speculated a bit on that point because I have never met his fiancé. But Adam is a really good guy and I believe my assumption to be a safe one.

He then asked me how long I have been with my wife. I embarrassingly had to stop and think about that for a second and decided that telling him how long we had been together was even more important.

My back story is one of too many failed relationships prior to the one I am in now. There are many reasons for those failed relationships and good deal, probably 90% or greater, are the result of my decision making. That decision making is more than just who I chose, but how I acted, what I said, what I did and a plethora of other things during those relationships. My failed relationships spanned from a few days to many years but finally I got my head out of my ass and took note of what I had done wrong. The things I had done wrong can be boiled down to a few basic truths: dishonesty, disloyalty, fear, doubt, and insecurity. And I can wrap all those things up by saying, I just did not know how to talk or to relate to people, not just women, but everyone.

I told Adam that probably the most important thing in a relationship has to be honesty. And that honesty has to start well before the marriage. This is where fear always crept into my psyche. I feared that if I was totally honest about what was going around in my head then certainly the woman I was with would go running for the hills. What I failed to do was consider that that might have been the relationship saver rather than killer.  The other relationship killer, absolutely, is resentment.  Resentment is the poison you drink while you wait for the other person to become ill.  But in truth resentment is simply the surfacing of our own shortcomings that we either deny or are unwilling to overcome.

I think we human beings have a natural amount of insecurity which shows up in our lives in a variety of ways. I feel badly for women because they are bombarded with the commercial world’s definition of beauty. They compare themselves to the reigning queens of beauty in music, on the silver screen and in the advertisements of the magazines they read. I can tell you from personal experience that I have known any number of women who were truly gorgeous on the outside and either hollow or some other negative characteristic to the core. Then I know a lot of people who are absolutely gorgeous. Most will never turn a head but what springs forth from them is a beautiful heart. True beauty is an inside job. Now this is not to say that physical attraction should not play a role in a good relationship, it does of course! But that can only be the start of things. There is a natural progression from that point that must happen.

I stated in an earlier post that you should marry your best friend. That is, this is the person you talk to freely and easily. The only time you edit your speech is to be politic about what you are saying without sacrificing honesty. Honesty is the bedrock of all good relationships. Partners who have been together a long time not only know their mate’s good qualities but also their shortcomings. All human beings develop a host of shortcomings. Those who desire to better themselves reduce or remove those shortcomings as much as possible. I like to use the common shortcoming of jealousy. I call it one of the two most useless feelings any person can have, the other be resentment. But I chose jealousy here because I firmly believe it can be entirely defeated. That is because I believe jealousy is a measurement of an individual’s insecurity. The secure man takes pride in other men admiring the woman he is with. In fact, if he could, he would invite it. He also does not worry that his wife is out with friends some of whom may be male. This is also the trust aspect of good relationships, you trust your mate no matter what.

I suggested to Adam that, if he had not already done so, he talk to his fiancé about his fears and his insecurities. I explained that everyone has them and anyone who claims they do not is a liar. Not only does your mate need to know such things so (s)he knows what is going on with you, but has the right to know such things. I think it an obligatory part of successful relationships.

To this Adam said he had always seen himself a “the rock” in the relationship. I asked him why since, as I explained, a rock never moves forward. I suggested he look at the relationship as mutually supportive as you move through life so that when one or the other has a weak moment you have all the support you need in your mate. They instinctively understand and are ready. They have you by your arm ready to hold you up when you stumble, which you will!

Society today in general seems to have a lot of trouble listening. When someone is explaining something to you not only is it polite to quietly listen until they are done, it is crucial to understanding one another. Some people just cannot seem to help themselves and interrupt the other person by talking over them before they are done. This has the effect of turning a nice discussion into a confrontational one. It is always best to hear the person out, take breath, literally, and then in considered terms, respond to what they have said. At the very least this shows respect for what has been said. That is particularly good when you find yourself in the position of having to disagree with what has been said. What is at work here is respectful consideration. People like to think what they say is of value but when they are interrupted it says just the opposite and who wants to be disrespected? In a marriage as soon as one party starts thinking the other does not respect them, it does not bode well for the future. It is then that questions of commitment and love also come into question.

I think it wise to take, at the very least, a mental snapshot of the person you are marrying or otherwise entering into a long term committed relationship. Remember the reasons that got you there, why you found that person so attractive. Those things you find attractive will not change much except in a positive direction. A good heart is always a good heart, it does not change. A kind, caring, considerate, deeply committed and honest person also does not change and those are the qualities that take you through the years. Outer beauty fades, sex drive fades, and energy level fades among other things. But that is to be expected and that happens the successful relationship realizes that just being with that other person makes their day. Their love is shown in a thousand other ways and even though they feel extremely comfortable in the relationship, they have also committed themselves to always working on it. But when everything and everyone else seems to fail us, we can count on our loved one because we know for certain they are always there for us.


Navigating Relationships in Your 20s

As human beings we are social creatures by design.  We are not meant to be alone and certainly not meant to live alone.  Somewhere around the age of 12 we all experience the desire to be with a special someone.  Unfortunately, schools do not teach us about friendships and relationships.  We learn by watching what other people do, what our parents do, and, unfortunately, what we see on television and the internet.  The last two, of course, are absolutely the worst places.  Still, we all seem to get into relationships that are doomed from the start.  Women, unfortunately, settle for “Mr. Right Now” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right.”  Men look for someone to take care of them, someone to replace mom.  We men will never admit to that but it is true.

Life is all about priorities and choices.  Young people, myself included when I was young, I am 66 now, seldom prioritize anything and are prone to bad choices.  Also, life is messy, just accept that truth and do not worry about it.  As much as you might think you do, you definitely do not know what someone else is thinking about you, never assume.

I recommend that all young people stay in school as long as possible.  Getting well-educated for young people must be priority number 2.  That assumes that priority number 1 is taking care of yourself and whatever that means.

It is not just young people who find the concept to self-care illusive, it is older adults as well.   I believe the most basic element to solving absolutely any problem we have or will have is that we keep a very sharp focus on taking care of ourselves.  Those basic things include eating healthy, annual visits to our primary care physician and dentist, regular exercise, and even something as basic as dressing ourselves.  The old cliché’ of dress for success is true.

That done we need to have a plan for our future.  This is also a self-care issue.  Until we finish the highest level of education possible or necessary, our education has to be priority number 2.  Few people at age 18 know what career they want to pursue.  Even some of those who think they do really do not.  What I recommend is that high school seniors who are undecided do one of three things: 1) take a year or two off from school and enter the work force while you discover yourself, 2) join the military, 3) when you enroll in the college of yourself do not decide upon a major, go as “undeclared.”  During the first one or two years in college there are more than enough courses all college students must take to qualify for a degree.  Those courses almost always are enough to fill a freshmen year and at least in part a sophomore year.  And during that first and second year discover what truly thrills you.  Discover what your dream career is and then ask questions of college advisors what it takes to achieve the highest level in that career.  With a few exceptions, physicians, lawyers, nurses, and some others, your course of action will probably not be obvious.  But regardless of what college you attend, there is someone there who can give you the advice you need going forward.

I have a B.S. in computer science and a masters in U.S. History.  The latter degree came from an extremely good university and I pursued that degree because I really like U.S. history.  But had I had my senses about me after I finished my time in the army, I was 21 at the time, I would have pursued a career in astro-physics.  At the time I would have complained that I sucked at math.  But the truth was simple, I did not know how to study and overcome obstacles.  Math would have been tough but manageable had I had a plan.  When I retired at age 58 I was sprinting away from a 30 year career because I simply could not stand going to work anymore.  I made a lot of bad choices and did not have the courage to pursue my dreams.

Between the ages of 18 and 25 young people are usually absolutely obsessed with being with that special person.  And unfortunately this obsessions becomes priority number 1 in their life.  In my priority list here it does not belong even in 3rd place, still too high.  But relationships in general do belong in place number 3.  One of the craziest ideas people have is that they should never date a friend for fear of ruining a friendship.  I believe people who think that way have only a tenuous hold on what makes a good relationship.

Our most important relationships necessarily are with our family of birth.  Our parents and siblings are our first relationships and given all the years such relationships exist, should be our best.  Too many times, however, that is not true.  Sometimes it is for good reason but I think that is the exception rather than the rule.  Young people, myself included at the time, think our parents do not understand us.  It is a ridiculous thought but prevalent.  What we all need to do is put forth whatever effort is required to understand our parents, where they came from and from that why they are who they are now.  There is no substitute for understanding.  Within the family unit one of the most common negative emotions felt is resentment.  Resentment, along with jealousy, is one of the most useless feelings we all have.  Resentments are founded in fear, doubt and insecurity and serve no good purpose.  When you feel a resentment ask yourself why and what happened to make you feel that way.  Then take good honest look at yourself to find the role you played in developing that resentment.  That done, let it go, get over it.  Resentment is the poison you drink while you wait for the other person to fall ill.

I have three daughters.  When she was in high school my eldest daughter came to me and complained that she did not have any friends, that no one liked her.  I knew that could not be true and asked her if she had one good friend.  She responded that she did.  I told her that she already had all the friends she needed and to not worry about anyone else.  She later told me how good that advice was when she suggested to her younger sister that she come to me about friendship advice.  It is my belief that people should practice being a friend and how to have friends prior to moving on to something more serious.  That is not to say you should not date, you should.  Just refuse to commit to anyone before you are ready and certainly not before you have the friendship concept down cold.

It is at this point people oft times find themselves interested in a good friend for a more serious and intimate relationship.  If you still feel you cannot be intimate with that person for fear of ruining a good friendship then I suggest you still do not have the friendship concept down.  Why would you want to be in an intimate relationship with anyone who would not also qualify as a best friend?

Try to avoid getting married before you are 25.  Considering 50% of all marriages fail, why not wait it out as long as possible?  I am not saying you cannot find that right person prior to 25 you can.  But when you think you have that right person in your life make sure you ask and answer the tough questions.  You want someone who is secure, devoted, monogamous, honest and who, when you are not engaged in sex or having a conversation with, you can sit quietly with and enjoy their company fully.  This is also the person who, when you are about to do something dumb, will lovingly suggest you consider your options.  This is the person who is not jealous, always courteous, thoughtful, and loves you when you are at your worst.  This is the non-judgmental person with whom you share your greatest fears and who knows all your shortcomings and loves you all the same.  But even my short list here suggests that you must be willing to invest a serious amount of time in the relationship prior to agreeing to marriage.

The long and short of all this is simple, make sure you can exist happily on your own before you make a commitment to be with anyone else.  Sometimes even with our best efforts relationships fail.  And when they do, do not be that person who has to scramble to find a place to live, to feed yourself and otherwise take care of yourself.  Do not be the person who will have difficulty in making ends meet.  Do not be the person who thinks because the relationship failed you are a failure too or that you are unlovable.  And definitely do not be the person who, on the heels of that failed relationship, quickly jumps into another because you feel desperate, lonely or anything else that puts you in a negative light.  Without being annoying or narcisstic about it, always consider yourself a catch and that whoever might want to be with you should be lucky to have you.

July 4, 1776: What Day One Looked Like

On April 17, 1775 a bunch of colonists from the Massachusetts Colony took exception, not the first time either, to the idea that the British Army had the right to seize guns and powder the colonists stored for future use.  On September 1, 1774 Gen. Gage sent troops to Somerville to confiscate guns and powder stored there.  Colonists heard of their intentions and secreted away their arms.  On December 14, 1774 Gen. Gage did the same at Portsmouth NH with the same results. The stage was actually set on February 26, 1775 when similar orders were given by Gage to collect ammunitions stored at Salem.  This time, however, Gage’s soldiers were met head-on by colonists.  The colonists offered just enough resistance by denying the British soldiers access to a draw-bridge across the river they faced that the commander of the British troops deemed it too late in the day for him to be effective and therefore withdrew back to Boston.

Those expeditions by the British troops were undertaken with relatively small detachments of men, 100 to 200 men.  But on April 18, 1775, American spies in Boston got word of a large movement of troops which were to be sent to Concord.  The seriousness of the situation was not lost on the colonist hence the actions of Paul Revere and his accomplices.  We all know that the spy in Boston signaled to Revere that the troops would travel via sea, which was actually little more than boarding ships in Boston Harbor and debarking on the shores of the Charles River.  Those troops numbered 500.  What they had not accounted for was the dispatching of an additional 400 troops attached the British artillery who would travel via land.  In those days Boston sat on a peninsula as shown below.  The land route meant going south over the “neck” of Boston to what is Dorchester today and then via Watertown westward to Concord.  Those 900 regulars outnumbered the entire population of Lexington and Concord by 2 to 3 times.  As John Hancock sat in a tavern in Lexington near to where the first skirmish took place he was fully aware that from that day forward he and his allies would be branded as traitors to the crown and subject to death if captured.  It was truly a very fearful time for these rebels.

boston - concord 1775

In September of that year the First Continental Congress was assembled in Philadelphia to discuss their situation and what to do about it.  Washington begged for financial support that he desperately needed to keep his troops not just fed and clothed, by loyal to the cause.  Unpaid soldiers were prone to desertion, something that plagued Washington throughout the Revolution.  Representatives from each of the colonies argued over how many troops they should send and how much financial support the should and could give.  Unfortunately little was accomplished.  Massachusetts, under John Adams, supplied the lion’s share of troops and supplies to the cause, something which did not sit well with Adams since being passed over for the job of General of the Army which he had coveted at the outbreak of hostilities.

But sometimes lost in this is one other document which affected all Americans at that time, “Common Sense.”  This was a pamphlet, written by Thomas Paine, an English expatriate, who set out in print how hostilities between the King and the colonists came to fruition and why such actions had to be taken by the colonists.  The pamphlet sold in excess of 120,000 copies during the first three months of 1776.  It helped set the tone for the yet to be written declaration.

In 1776 the Revolution was not going well for the Americans.  Some viewed it as a civil war over opposing ideas where one side would win and the government as they had known it would continue in some similar fashion when hostilities ended depending up who prevailed.  But from the very beginning, both the Massachusetts and Virginia colonial leadership knew full well that a return to life as it was would be impossible.  Thomas Jefferson had started writing treatises to that effect in 1774 and when he appeared as a congressional delegate in 1775 he was a natural to write a declaration of independence.  On June 11, 1776 a “Committee of Five,” as it was known, was selected to write the declaration.  Its members were Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Roger Livingstone of New York, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, John Adams of Massachusetts.  Jefferson wrote the majority of the document and presented it to the “Committee of the Whole,” Congress, on June 28. The famous picture below depicts this.


A debate ensued on how to adopt it which was settled on July 1.  Franklin insisted on a couple of changes which were granted and the signing began.  John Hancock was the first to sign.  His signature is by far the largest as well.  When queried as to why he had done this he responded that he wanted to insure that the King could see it.  At the end there were 56 signers, that was July 3.

On July 4 the Committee of Five, after rendering the document fit for printing, delivered it to John Dunlap, the broadside printer.  It was officially presented to the public on July 5 and sent via courier to King George III.  Fifty-six men had sealed their fate: lose the war and lose their lives in the process.

Prior to April 19, 1775, the inhabitants of the 13 colonies all considered themselves loyal subjects of the King.  They were Englishmen first and Americans second.  They had enjoyed great prosperity under English rule so their taking up arms against their own government in England was not taken on lightly but with great trepidation.  To wit, during that first year there was much discussion over who was a “patriot” and who was a “tory.”  Who could be trusted and who could not was discussed at great length and the matter was not settled until March 17, 1776 when the siege of Boston ended and British troops and loyalist left on an armada of ships for Nova Scotia.  Among them were here-to-fore respected and admired colonists of position and rank, judges, doctors and even one general in the militia.  There was even one colonial governor and son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Franklin, governor of New Jersey and son of Benjamin Franklin.  The two never spoke again.

Upon reading the Declaration you find the beginnings of our Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights.  This document not only set forth the grievances of the colonists to its former government, but a delineation of the direction they would be taking. It is sobering to consider that up to that point the new American army had won just one battle, that being Lexington and Concord.  Only two month after Lexington and Concord the colonists suffered a withering defeat at Bunker Hill.  Later, Gen. Washington suffered numerous defeats on Long Island and then New York City before retreating to the woods of Pennsylvania.  Only July 4, 1776 there was little reason for optimism even with the newly presented Declaration of Independence.  It was an extremely fearful time for all involved and still they had declared themselves “all in.”  On July 4th 1776 there was good reason to believe the colonists would not be successful and little reason to be on victory save that of their absolute dedication to the cause.  And in the end, that is exactly what won the day.