Archive for November, 2011

My Mother’s Wisdom

I learned some important lessons from my mother while growing up. Here are 10 rules to live by:

1) If you want to know how a woman will look in 20 years, look at her mother.

I know many people subscribe to this idea. But the fact is, barring some horrible physical disorder, you don’t inherit your parents’ fat cells, you inherit their habits. If you decide to live an active life and be a doer, you may be a little soft around the edges but you won’t be morbidly obese. If you decided to take up triathlons, do you really think by the time you run your first Sprint you’ll have any meaningful amount of fat left on you? NO.

In 1992, when I first crushed on the woman I married in 2011, she was a skinny little thing with a mother who had lost her figure. Until my bride found me in December 2010, I assumed my mother was right and wondered how that skinny little frame could put on 150 pounds. As it turns out, my mother was wrong. She’s still a skinny little thing. She’s skinny because she looked at her mother’s habits and chose not to inherit them. She has always lived a healthy lifestyle.

2) Going steady is tantamount to marriage.

I never said my mother was always wrong. But she did take it a little far. The premise is, if you’re 10 and you crush on a classmate, you shouldn’t do any of the usual flirting, “going steady” or any of the rest of childhood relationships, because it’s like an early marriage. If you aren’t ready to marry them, then you aren’t ready to “go steady” with them.

This may be mean, but perhaps if my mother had practiced more relationships before she married my dad, she would have learned to be a better partner.

3) Persistence beats resistance.

This rule is the one that I took with me to live by. It never fails. It is particularly helpful in my job. If you persist, you will always win.

3a) Subset of rule 3: If you persist and don’t win, it wasn’t good enough for you anyway.

What I will say here: This rule, when applied generally, works better for women than for men. Men can’t be brutally persistent or they’ll go to jail. It’s pretty hard for a woman to go to jail for being persistent.

4) Your competition is your enemy. Hate your enemy.

My mother would tell me when I was 8 and onward, “You have to see the people you’re competing against as your enemy. You have to hate them so you can beat them.” I would be all dressed up in a suit, with my sheet music in my lap, surrounded by other 8-10 year olds. I’d try very hard to figure out who was my toughest competition and hate their guts. It didn’t help. I won, but only when I ignored her advice. I still get an automatic hateful feeling inside me when I think about certain kids I used to compete with. And when I find myself in competitive situations, I have to consciously avoid being too aggressive.

The Law of Unintended Consequences: My mother set my brothers and I up to compete with each other. I can’t stand one of my brothers, and he can’t stand me. Thank you, Mommy. Then again, he is a loser.

4a) Subset of rule 4: Pulverize your opponents.

My mother always said, “If a kid tried to fight you, you have to knock his lights out. Aim for his gut and his nose – you have to flatten him.” What this actually accomplished is that I never fought in my life, because I was afraid of what damage that would do to someone (or the damage it would do to me if I missed!). Probably not the right thing to say to a kid, anyway.

5) White people are weak; best to discipline your children with “Japanese torture.”

My mother was never one to settle. When your kids are bad, why look like a wuss and make them sit in a corner? No, she wanted to exceed expectations.

5a) Subset of rule 5: Spankings should be measured in minutes, not strokes. At one point, getting a couple of smacks on the backside weren’t enough, so she decided to punish me by X minutes’ worth of spanking. I quickly learned to yell like the dickens when my butt got numb, or else she’d find more tender spots to spank in her rage. My longest spanking? 45 minutes.

5b) Subset of rule 5: Time-out is for wimps. My mom decided the best time-out is measured in days, and should be in a scary place. She punished us (mostly me, but once or twice my brothers got this one too) with X number of days in the garage without food. It was never more than 2 or 3, and there were ways to get food. We had our cans in the garage, and my dad ran his business out there, so I would use his mill (like a drill) to open cans and eat tomatoes and stuff. We had a lemon tree outside so I ate some of those in season.

6) White men who marry Asians want a subservient wife.

My mother had a best friend whose twin married a series of Asian women. I think because those marriages didn’t really work out, she was convinced the man married for subservience’s sake (that rhymes with “rake”, not “hockey”). The final reason I ran away from her house was that I was dating a Filipino girl for a few weeks. My mother wanted to forcibly end it so I wouldn’t shame her when her friends found out an Asian was in the picture. When I balked, she swung a large vacuum at my head.

7) Junk food is bad. Really bad.

My mother turned healthy eating into an element of our already out-of-the-mainstream religion. More people noticed my eating habits than my religion, and often would ask if it was part of being Mormon (with fear in their eyes).

7a) Subset of Rule 7: No white food. No white flour, no sugar, no salt and no milk. These were the rules she lived by, so we had a lot of honey, alternatie flours, soy milk, and she really had to fudge the salt so we’d get some sodium intake.

What good did it do? Well, she also had a rule against vaccinations, but my brother caught whooping cough anyway. Someone else I know had a similar mother and all the kids caught German Measles (that’s the Rubella in the MMR shot). All of us kids caught the flu every year, we all caught chicken pox, we still got strange rashes and tummy aches and everything else under the sun. It did nothing!

8> Fat people are bad people.

My mother despised fat people. She always told us, “If you ever get fat, I’m locking you in the bathroom till you get skinny. You’ll have all you need there: water and a toilet.” The funny thing is: she was fat until she was 19 years old. She certainly ate all the donuts she wanted until she needed to drop the pounds. I wonder if she ever fully lost her inner fat girl; she was certainly afraid of her.

9) Plan your children’s lives out for them.

My mother had it all planned out. I was child #1 and I would be a concert pianist. Child #2 would be a dancer or a model. Child #3 would be in sports. Child #4 would be… something, maybe an accountant to handle the other children’s riches. That’s a quote.

She also sat down child #2 and I and said, “Child #1, you will always have to rely on your brains because you don’t have Child #2’s looks. Child #2, you will have to rely on your looks because you don’t have Child #1’s brains.”

The aftermath of Rule #9: Child #1 gave up piano, is still smart and is now beautiful. Child #2 lost his looks and is still dumb as a box of rocks. Child #3 never got into sports. Child #4 is marvelous at the piano, can’t dance, can’t do sports, but has planned his own life out so well, he has things figured out better than the rest of us.

10) Set strict rules for the kids and then be a blatant hypocrite.

See all those rules above? You would think she would have learned about spankings, as her father was famous for his beatings. But no. See the dietary restrictions? She would have Rocky Road ice cream in the fridge at times, and bought herself chocolate frequently. She bought flour tortillas for her own meals. There’s more, I’m sure.

These are things I learned from my mother. What have you learned from yours?

By the way, I’ve come to one important conclusion: As parents, it’s our job to make sure we only pass on 1/2 of our personal psychoses. Good rule to live by. I sincerely hope I have less than half of hers.

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My First Divorce

My first divorce was my parents’ divorce. My second divorce was breaking things off with my mother. My third divorce was the one I just wrapped up in 2010.

My parents divorced in 1992. I was 15. This was back when I was always the youngest person in the room (that was annoying, then fun, and now it’s gone!).

My parents were divorcing. Here’s how it went down.

Background
My parents fought a lot. It usually ended with my dad driving away to sleep in his office. Once it ended with my Mom taking us kids to her friend’s house for Christmas. Sometimes it ended in laughing, which meant my mom was punching my dad in his gut and he was choosing to laugh about it.

My parents thought poorly of people who divorced. I still remember my father telling me about a lady in our ward (our church community) when I asked where her husband was. He wore a look as if he had tasted bad milk and said, “She’s divorced.” So even though the fighting had gotten bad, and I would tell my friends at school I expected my parents to divorce, it was hard to imagine it would ever happen.

I only once saw my mom run to the front door and kiss my dad when he got home. I remember being shocked — I practiced piano 4 hours a day, 10 feet from the front door, so if it had happened I would have seen it. I never saw any snuggling. I never heard any sounds from the bedroom. I knew they were married but never learned anything about what it meant to be married.

The most intimate thing I saw my parents do was actually a point of massive frustration for my father. It was right at the end of their marriage. They had been fighting in their room – I remember it was just before a holiday because she had been wrapping presents in her room. I think it was Easter, though, and not Christmas, but I could totally be wrong. I heard her make a different kind of frustrated noise than I had heard before, and I walked into their room. They were fully dressed, but dad had her sort of awkwardly pinned down. He had reached his last straw and had no idea how to handle her other than to hold her down to make her listen. He ended up taking his blanket and driving away that night, and I helped wrap presents, but my mother had to tell me to leave during that event, but not to worry and not to call the police. I remember thinking two things: “This is not good,” and “This is really more intimate than anything I’ve ever seen them do.”

The Snowball Starts
The year is 1989. I got my first computer. My dad gave me a computer he was done with from his office – an IBM AT with a 10MB hard drive, DOS, WordStar, and a 600 baud modem. Soon he upgraded me to a 40MB hard drive and I thought, “How will I ever use this?!”

The year is 1991. My parents have been much more on the rocks lately than ever before. When my dad upgraded my computer, once again giving me a hand-me-down, within a week I typed “delete *.*” (a command my dad had just taught me) from the C:\ directory. For you geeks out there, stop groaning. For you non-geeks, that means I accidentally deleted everything on the computer. Dad gave me a copy of Norton Utilities which helped me be able to see everything that had been deleted off of the computer. In my spare time, I started tooling around with it.

I soon found a document that outlined how my father would want to divide the estate if he divorced my mother. I printed it out and gave it to my mom. I knew this was a seminal moment.

The year is 1992. My parents go through the divorce process after a lengthy separation. My mom enlisted my help, which meant slowly turning me away from the father I loved very much. She had a multi-level marketing business called Sunrider. While she was out of the country seeing her married Australian boyfriend, I would run her business for her. In her defense, there was no boyfriend until she became separated from my father – that meant she saw separation like I do: You’re never going back. Her error was making my father believe otherwise. Also in her defense: She got the Australian to divorce his wife, and she’s been married to him now for 15 years.

While my mother was seeing the Australian, she would have me type her love letters to him (she was embarrassed of her handwriting, which was quite good). This was the first exposure I ever had to romance. I found other letters she didn’t want me typing for her, which she faxed to him. They were dirty! Also a first. Later, when I was mad at her, I opened up the suitcase where she stored those letters and showed my dad.

My Brothers
My brothers were born in 1980, 1984 and 1987. My mother started off the divorce process saying she wanted to give up my three brothers to my dad, that she never wanted to be a mother and he forced her to have them, but that she’d keep me because I was such a big help. She then said, “I’m getting $3200/month from your father anyway, and they cost a lot.” I told her that I had read through her divorce agreement, and I was fairly certain it was child support, not alimony – meaning the money goes away if she doesn’t have the kids. She made me show her the spot in the document – I was right (see the name of my blog). From that point on, she full-on manipulated my brothers every time they even hinted of wanting to see more of our father. She would even produce tears – she’s a wonderful actress.

My Faith
I was born in the LDS faith – “Born in the Covenant” as we call it. My parents had both been complete zealots when I grew up. I couldn’t date till I was 16, and that meant missing out one every important high school function because there would be girls there. No dances, no formals, nothing until Senior Prom (when I was actually 16). My mother would scream at me how evil I was when I was 8. She was a Mormon’s Mormon, good and bad. The only thing she hated about the Church was Utah – probably why I still have never been. I still remember her holding the hymnal during songs at Sacrament, and teaching me the melodies as we sang, including how to sing the other parts (Tenor, etc.) instead of just the melody.

A few things we didn’t have: We didn’t do family home evening often. I didn’t see the temple more than once before one was built in San Diego, and by then my parents were almost through with their divorce. I didn’t go to Church dances and generally we didn’t go to a lot of Church events (the reason would usually be that Dad was out of town and Mom didn’t want to do it alone, or that they had “bad food” there and my Mom didn’t want to cook something just for us kids to eat).

When my parents’ marriage began to disintegrate, my mother stopped going to Church. Her only appearances were the meetings with our Bishop, and she got really involved in trying to block my father from remarrying in the Temple. I am personally bracing for a similar fight when I go to the Temple again. My mother never went back. When missionaries went to her door, she and her husband screamed profanities at them until they left.

Note: She never withdrew her records from the Church, and won’t ask my brothers to do it either. I think that means that deep-down she knows the Church is true, but has too much pride to humble herself and submit herself to God. When I left the Church when I was 19, I tried to rekindle a relationship with her. She asked me to convince my brothers to withdraw their records – I told her that was a really big decision for me, and not one I’m going to influence for them.

My Mother’s Great Error
I mentioned it above – not letting Dad know it was over. I know how she thinks – I’m half hers, remember? The moment she was into getting a divorce, she was never going to be comfortable in that marriage again. She was emotionally out. However, the initial divorce agreement wasn’t favorable enough to her desires. I still remember being quite frustrated that even though she was signed off emotionally from the marriage, she would go out on dates with Dad and string him along some more. She explained why: if she could convince Dad he had a chance at reigniting the marriage (And again, she’s a great actress), he would give in on divorce terms. She always had in her arsenal the threat to divide the entire estate, including his business, but felt that you can attract more flies with honey. So she laid the honey on thick, got everything she wanted (including the entire equity in our home, instead of partial; Dad assumed all of the debt; and she got child support till we turned 19 instead of 18). Probably the most worthwhile nonprofessional acting in history.

My Father’s Error
He gave in. He loved my mother and wanted the marriage to be repaired. At every turn, he chose to run instead of fight. He may have done it for love, but the wrong things happened – my mother got her way. That means she got all of the financial gains, and she got my brothers and I “on her side.” I don’t think he realized, though, that he would lose so many of his sons in the process. I think just a little foresight, however, a good lawyer and the right counseling (perhaps from his lawyer) could have told him to put up his dukes where it counted.

Aftermath
This divorce left plenty of dead bodies, so to speak.

My mother continued to reach into my father’s life and screw with him for another decade after their divorce. She tormented him with hateful faxes, and my dad’s failure to fight back properly had his second wife convinced that he was still in love with my mom. Dad’s current wife put a stop to that by standing up for him. But even recently, at my brother’s wedding of all places, my father sacrificed a lot to get to China to be there. At the wedding, my mother used every last ounce of knowledge about how my father ticks, and ticked him off enough to leave right after the wedding. She has a tremendous sense of timing. I am firmly convinced that if his wife had been there, or I had been there, things would have turned out differently at that wedding.

I think my father believes he could have saved his sons’ souls by sacrificing his own soul and staying with my mother. He fails to understand a few things, though. The way some people think (including my mother and I), once you sign off of a marriage you never go back. Why make such a monumental decision if you aren’t going to stick with it to the end? What kind of spine would you have, or moral confidence? His real responsibility, the main effort, needed to be from the day she asked for divorce. Instead, he concentrated on making her happy. All that did was sink him into her smokescreen while she had her way with us.

I too bore many of the influences from my mother before I could properly sort out who I was and what was important for me in the long-run. By the time I graduated high school in 1993, I was firmly disgusted with my father (partly by him giving up, and heavily because she had convinced me of all the usual suspicions an ex casts on her hated ex-spouse – manipulation, being a control freak,etc.). On the night of my graduation, outside City Hall (where graduation happens) I told him he was no longer my father. I remember shaking while I was doing it, thinking I was making him pay for his errors and making my mother proud. He didn’t take it well, and I didn’t get to repair things fully until 1998.

My parents taught me nothing about marriage. They taught me some good lessons about divorce, however. My brothers are still reeling from the after-effects and it’s now been a long, long time. Years after the marriage, my third brother asked my dad when he was getting back together with Mom. It embarrassed Dad, but he failed to recognize even at that point how much he needed to be shepherding us through the process. That brother doesn’t even speak to him (or me) any more.

The Lesson
You can avoid many of the long-term damages that can stem from divorce if you take a strong hand with your life and the lives of your children from the moment a divorce seems inevitable. Your children need your strength. Your soon-to-be ex (or now your ex) needs to be dealt with in the legal process, and you need to treat them with respect, but you are no longer responsible for their salvation. They made their choice by asking for a divorce, or for their contribution in destroying the marriage to the point that you had to “man up” and make the divorce happen. Your children need you. Your own soul needs you. Shepherd them.

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Fashionable Apostasy

What’s the trendiest way to obscure your quickly dissolving faith? Allying yourself with:

Homosexuality

It’s so very powerful. You claim you used to love the Church (or any other Christian sect that hasn’t diluted itself with abandon) but you no longer can stand by a faith that hates homosexuals.

Defending the Church
Let’s step back a moment. First, in defense of the Church.

We don’t stand against homosexuality out of hate. When we have rules in the Church, they’re steadfast. The rules say things like “Never give up on a loved one,” and “Moderate your response to the news of your loved one’s homosexual struggles,” and “Do not encourage him or her to marry as a “cure” for homosexuality.” These aren’t the words of a community mobilizing with militaristic hatred.

An easy fact: you can’t hate people into changing. So if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, then you won’t make any headway by ostracizing and/or mocking them. We are to embrace the homosexuals we know, and encourage them to strengthen their relationship with God and their faith in the Gospel. We happen to believe something like this: if they strengthen their faith, if they submit themselves to Christ, they probably won’t continue living an active homosexual life.

We stand against gay marriage because marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, with the ideal that the union produce children. Among other reasons, there are wonderfully utilitarian uses for encouraging procreation:

  • The major cultures who hate us around the world are very happy to breed themselves into little population explosions, and don’t think they’ll refrain from using the excess people to kill us one day.
  • Our quickly bloating welfare state (and the already bloated welfare states elsewhere in the West) needs a new generation to work for 40 years to pay for 30+ years of free money to all the old folks.
  • It’s a lot easier to manufacture new Mormons (or other religion) than to convert some (and some religions you can’t convert to, like Orthodox Judaism)


The Apostates
I will give a concrete example from someone I have known – a woman I’m vaguely related to. The first time I met her and her husband, they were leaders in their Ward (their Church community); in fact, he was the 1st Counselor in his Ward’s bishopric. They had everything Church-wise going for them, and they were graduating from college. They have 3 kids. They have owned a home or two. The world should be their oyster.

Then he had trouble finding the right job. Then he decided maybe he wanted to go to grad school. She supported them financially. Then she got a new job, surrounded by successful homosexuals. She hung out with them a lot.

At this point, the husband started to drink (a big no-no for us) heavy liquor to diffuse the stress from his grad school. The woman was shocked and appalled. Soon, this woman and her husband started to one-up each other in destroying their relationship.

She went drinking with her homosexual coworkers frequently. She would pass out at their homes and sleep in their beds.

Quick aside: The dirty stories in dirty magazines are full of men who are otherwise straight who stray gay for a night. Can’t a gay man stray straight? Should a lonely housewife really be sleeping in a gay man’s bed?

Back to my story. The husband “fell in love” with a girl at school and told his wife, plus an aside that he didn’t plan to do anything about it. She wondered whether she should get into swinging to make him happy. Yes, that’s the order of it.

She then reconnected with a high school boyfriend and would leave the State to watch his sporting events. Then this woman, the high school boyfriend and his own wife, and this woman’s husband started going to strip clubs in Vegas. (This woman AND her husband each had to drink themselves into oblivion the first time they went to the strip club in order to feel comfortable being there/drown out the Holy Ghost.)

Lesson: If you have to take any drastic measures to drown out the Holy Ghost, just stop.

The woman soon announced she wanted no more children, but if her husband wanted one, then he could feel free to sleep with the high school boyfriend’s wife and make one. In my mind, she was trying to find justification to sleep with that old boyfriend.

So after all this spiritual and mental deterioration, this woman’s only regular friendships were the old high school boyfriend and the circle of homosexuals from work. And after all this deterioration, she decided she cannot support a Church that hates people who are so nice as homosexuals are.

First of all, some of her own gay friends say they don’t want gay marriage. So are these gays discriminating against their own kind?

Second of all, she leaves this whole story of her deterioration out of her reasoning for falling away from the Church.

I met another woman who has fallen away from the Church based on our stance on homosexual marriage as well. She hadn’t attended church regularly in years.

Analysis
There are a couple levels to these people’s apostasy

  • The hypocrite within: They know they’re not living their lives in accordance with our standards/rules. They don’t want to get punished and go through the repentance process. Look how easy it is to support the wrong side in this social controversy.
  • The WASP Ridiculousness/Stuff White People Like: It’s so cool to have gay friends. You’re in that circle, and the best way to keep ahead of the curve is to be a zealot for their societal issues.
  • The Morally Obtuse: You’ve depleted your “spiritual bank account” and now you need a way to obfuscate the call of the Holy Spirit to come back. Best to drown it out with a contrived emotion like zealotry. In a way, the social issue fills the void that your religion once did. Something has to fill that bank account, so why not counterfeit spiritual dollars?

I’d say that people who sacrifice the religion they once loved for a social issue like homosexual marriage have all three of these levels somewhat equally.

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Administrative Note

I have updated the About Me section. Had the proper time and motivation to get it right.

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Twilight is…

…Porn for Desperate Housewives.

That’s right, I said it. Yes, I read them (they’re written hardly above the Harry Potter maturity level). No I didn’t read the failed book online. No I didn’t read the booklet she wrote for charity. No I didn’t read her little sexual alien book. No, I didn’t identify with them. I was guilted into reading them (long story). The only part of any of the books I liked was when Edward was nowhere to be seen for so much of the 2nd book. Then I didn’t have to read the only dialogue on God’s Green Earth that’s worse than anything George Lucas can come up with (“I love you.” “I love you more.” “No, I love you more.” “I’d die for you.”). Gag me with a spoon, chainsaw, whatever.

Let me lay down my premise. Men watch porn to get what they don’t have, but what they really want. They look at pictures, watch videos, wait with bated (I’m so surprised that’s how it’s spelled) breath for the sexy parts of movies and HBO series, some go to strip clubs, and more. We frown on all this behavior, but of course, it’s how the world works. For every man who doesn’t do any of the above, there are 10 who wait to see the sexy parts of movies, and 100 who do all the other stuff. I’ve seen it all, and it always left me feeling less than before. So I choose not to partake.

But the fact remains that men do this, and generally speaking women do not. I once heard that the same thrill a man gets from seeing a woman topless (clarify: a woman you’d want to see topless), a woman gets when a man walks up full of confidence (thank you yet again David D! — married men, stay away from his stuff!). So, women, try to relate when you know it’s that thrill we get from the opposite sex.

Now, I was once married to a diehard Twilight fan – a Twihard. That’s right – reading all the books. Reading all the books again right before the movies come out so you don’t miss anything. Hosting Twilight parties on the opening night of every movie. I stood in line (and I’m not begrudging anyone for this) from 5pm till 11pm for the first three movies so I could hand off the place in line to all of the Twihards at her party, and then blissfully walked off to have a quiet evening alone. So I have real Twihard cred.

Women see in these books the different flavors of men they want – youthfulness with (strength? maturity? perspective? creativity? artistry? wealth?). Fill in the blank depending on which flavor of man you really wish were at home with you. They see the girl with all her weakness on her sleeve, and then of course she has all the strength no one could have seen by looking at her (the stupid magic power, and the strength no other young vampire had). Women who qualify as Twihards are getting their sexual rocks off reading about these men and the relationships they give these women. If you have any tendrils into this silly crowd, you just know so many who had to calm themselves down reading the mystical sex scene in book 4.

Here is where there’s a similarity between women and men. In an earlier post, I told the story of the guy who drove around with his car door unlocked so at any time a random stranger (beautiful) woman could jump into his car and offer to have sex with him. Of course it never happened. By watching Twilight, women who know they’re plain-looking (or past their prime) get to imagine they’re with the man who never grows old and always looks 17, and of course screws like a 40 year old with vigor and vim. Bella is plain. Bella is a wallflower (as my bride likes to point out). Plain wallflowers never get the hot guy. Plain wallflowers are reading these books (and they may be perfectly beautiful on the outside, but inside they fit the bill and we all know perception is reality to these people! – see Jessica’s blog for more about perception). Both views are equally silly.

These books are clearly satisfying everything for women that porn satisfies for men. And it’s oh-so-ironic that the books were written by a fellow Mormon! I think it’s because she can get away with it, that there’s a veneer of innocence by being a member of my church. But it’s just a veneer, people. She clearly identifies with her own characters, writing the heroine as this ridiculous woman-child who (in the end) gets to stay woman-child forever.

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A Man’s Millstone

Whenever anything in the media, whether it’s a news channel or something in pop culture, talks about a woman’s mind, it lovingly describes the multitasking going on in a woman’s mind. She has to think about her job, her home, her children (if she has any), her significant other, her appearance, etc. These same channels portray the man’s mind as being simpler. It is and it isn’t.

What consumes a man’s mind? 100 levels of:

Worry

Let me start off by saying I’m a reasonable guy, reasonably intelligent, and rather well put-together; that is to say, I have no psychosis. I know enough, asking my friends and sometimes (when the circumstances are right) simple acquaintances, to know I’m not wrong when it comes to these topics.

We never fully quash a worry, sometimes not even silly worries from our childhood. We keep little worries tucked away in hidden crevices within our minds, and they stack up on each other. Have you heard the one about women needing financial security to feel comfortable, and men needing security at home/emotional security? That’s because it helps the worries drop down to a din from a roar.

Here are some worries I know about, or I experience. If I know about them, my acquaintances hold onto them at all times. If I experience them, I’ve had them for some time and I feel them at some level right now:

Car accidents
Deaths in our family
Having our credit card get declined at the grocery store
Our business might not make enough money to feed the family
We might lose our job
Might have to fire someone
Spouse might leave us
Spouse might stop loving us
Children might not do well in school…college…life…marriage
Someone might break into our home
Might get sick
Might get really sick
Might die and not leave enough to support our families
Might not get enough sex
Might be seen as a bad lover
Might get caught doing ______ (fill in the blank)
Might be seen as ugly
Might get fat
_____ might break down (car? computer? Dishwasher?)

I have a recurring dream that I haven’t finished high school. Sometimes it’s college. Sometimes it’s grad school. Sometimes it’s my military stint. Really believable dreams. The military ones now, I go to the right office and complain that why did I get pulled back into the military as an enlisted person when I have all these degrees?

These are worries that sit in every man’s soul. We may not think shallowly about 100 topics during the day, but we have 100 levels of one big topic. Absorb that before you judge a man so poorly against the equivalent woman.

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The Pillars of Fulfilling Relationships

I believe romantic relationships have three pillars, and if one pillar fails utterly it will invariably drag the other pillars down with it. The three pillars are:

Faith – Communication – Intimacy

Let’s take these one at a time.

Faith
Faith takes many forms.

It can be a home-grown faith, it can be Judaism or Mormonism or Catholicism.
It can be smoking – if you’ve never seen a zealot, try talking a smoker out of the cigarette they’re halfway through, using logic and reason.
It can be Veganism – that is an act of faith unsupported by science (as atheists accuse us religious types).
It can be atheism (it IS a faith) – you believe without any actual evidence that there is no God.

If you are of one faith, however defined, and your spouse is of another, it will chafe inwardly no matter what you say vocally. The first rule of relationships is:

You cannot change anyone. They are who they are.

You have to bridge the gap between your faith and the other person’s. Now don’t get me wrong – two Mormons or two Lutherans will have the same faith but will have vastly different intensities of that faith.

Here’s your warning sign:
Feelings of betrayal

The biggest disappointments come when one spouse tries to fake it. This betrayal starts off as them trying to shut you up – “Ok, I’ll join your religion/give up mine,” or “I would love to live as a vegan.” You are expecting them to change who they are – quite unrealistically, I might add. Ultimately you are who you are.

My former mother-in-law once said that the face resists plastic surgery, because you have an overall pattern of who you are – this is why pieces of Michael Jackson’s face would fall off periodically. It’s the same with your psyche. If you try to force your spouse to be someone who they are not, they may fake it awhile but will ultimately revert to who they are.

They will feel betrayed that you don’t love them for who they are, and you will feel betrayed that they lied to you.

Communication
You simply cannot have a successful relationship without communication. You have to understand the minutiae of who they are, and accept it. Then you have to be conversant in the subjects that matter most to them. You can’t sit on opposite edges of the couch watching the boob tube (yes it’s a dated term but I love it) until you get to escape to bed to sleep so you can face yet another day desperately trying to avoid speaking with the person you’re supposed to cherish for eternity. And don’t think you can just avoid certain subjects and get along fine! In all likelihood the things you want to avoid are subjects that matter a great deal to your spouse, whether it’s cooking or movies or sports or reading or fishing or beer.

Here’s your warning sign:
Every conversation that happens, results in an argument/misunderstanding.

Now of course you want to be able to talk to the person you wake up to every day. You want to be able to relate to them, to lean on them, to have an eternal companion. You married them (and are highly encouraged to do so, if you haven’t yet), after all! In order to do so, you smooth the skids by starting to sacrifice you you are. The next rule of relationships is:

Each spouse sinks to their lowest common denominator.

If you don’t like facets of your partner/spouse, you will absorb some of those facets just to survive in the relationship. This is because marriages and other relationships are built on the common experience, and you have to bridge the gap between two people or else you can’t have that commonality. You need to survive the relationship! And so you give.

You may give up meat.
You may give up smoking.
You may give up your religion.
You may start eating meat.
You may start smoking.
You may join their religion.

But if this change doesn’t sink into your bones, the nagging feeling at the back of your mind will ultimately take over and consume you. You’ll cast off the poseur mantle and return to who you are fundamentally! Are you a smoker? Are you a vegan? Are you a Wiccan? If not, and you’re posing as one to please your spouse, your days are numbered.

Now for the fun part:

Intimacy
First of all, my disclaimer. If you’re born without boy or girl parts, or your boy/girl parts are gone or useless thanks to disease/surgery/accident, of course you can have a healthy relationship. You make accommodations for actual barriers, but you don’t make them for virtual ones.

Once upon a time I was a middle schooler where we had to poll people we knew on the subject of your choice. I called divorced people I knew and asked them what makes a successful relationship. Nine respondents said “Communication,” (and some of them divorced again) and my grandmother said, “Lots of sex,” (and she never divorced again). See above for my thoughts on communication.

If you can’t hold onto your spouse for dear life at every opportunity, if you buy the world’s largest bed so you can be safely far away from your spouse’s drooling/kicking/snoring/fighting, then you are avoiding the intimacy that will bind you together with your spouse. They need you, and you need them. If that need isn’t there, then you have bigger problems to worry about.

Here is your warning sign:

Opposite ends of the couch, and opposite ends of a very large bed.

We are human beings with tactile needs. We need touching, affection and love. We expect that marrying someone means that we will get these needs fulfilled. We invariably use it as a weapon, denying our spouses what they need as payback for whatever injurious betrayal (see above) we feel they inflicted upon us. But take this food for thought in the third rule of relationships:

If your spouse isn’t getting it from you, they will get it elsewhere

Men sink into porn (and some women do too), women sink into Twilight (only slightly tongue-in-cheek here), and at the extremes one spouse sinks into the arms of another person. We are desperate for the person we married to treat us like they did when they were trying to convince us to love them. But feelings get in the way of touching. Do not let this happen!

Back in the 1950s, wives were taught to submit to their husbands. That has now become perverted so that the very thought is an affront to feminist women everywhere. But the fundamental idea is sound: husband and wife submit to each other to retreat from the stresses of the day. You should forgive each other their offenses (see the Catholics’ Our Father prayer) and harbor no ill will for the person you’re bound to for Eternity.

I firmly believe (Mormon talk time) that a person who denies their otherwise well-behaving spouse the intimacy they need, they are breaking their Temple covenants. There are many ways to do this of course, without just saying “No.” And I’m not talking about a one-off night with a headache. I’m talking about a systematic denial of what your spouse needs through action or inaction. So what if he didn’t initiate the intimacy enough times in a row? Do it yourself! There are so many “So what’s” I can’t cover them all. But do not destroy your bedroom (virtually) to satisfy your pride. Remember, the other columns will fall if you tear this one down with that pride.

My Story
When first I decided I needed to divorce my ex-wife, I looked at the relationship and realized all three columns had been ground to dust. When I talked with my ex-wife, she said I had overblown everything, that it wasn’t that bad. She definitely didn’t think we should divorce.

The first thing she did was start scrutinizing my every activity and proceeded to browbeat me into regretting my request for divorce. But you can’t bully someone into staying with you. She failed to internalize that she had any part in the sickness of our relationship. I put my divorce plans on hold and took all of her complaints about how terrible of a husband I was and conquered them to the level of my personal satisfaction. We even had twin sons.

When I had squashed every one of her complaints, I assessed the situation again and realized nothing had improved. I felt dirty from my personal sins in the relationship and there was nothing clean about our marriage (other than the children) to help me feel better. I also felt like I was not where God intended me to be – the only thing I can liken it to, is feeling like you’re in the wrong place, or on the wrong track. I would be alone in my car, crying in prayer to God to show me where I had gone wrong.

When I approached my ex-wife and told her that nothing had improved, that everything was still broken and that I would be divorcing her, I walked through all of my complaints – no communication, no agreement on our faith, and no intimacy, she said that all my complaints were “Stupid and fixable.” But do you know what? They weren’t stupid and 4 years of fixing had shown nothing was fixable. I’m in the relationship too, and I should be satisfied. Satisfaction was the furthest thing from how I felt.

Aftermath
I am now married to a wonderful woman who found me as I was begging God to show me the way. After I initiated my divorce proceedings, I discovered she was the love of my life. She moved 1,500 miles to be with me and has spent every day building these columns with me.

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Dangerous/Lonely Husbands

I have seen and experienced a dangerous trend among people I know who are less than happy in their marriages. Three words:

Cheating – Leaving – Death

It all stems from cowardice. We want our spouses to be the people we expected them to be when we married them. It turns out that often it was a veneer they assumed while trying to convince us to love them, and you can only play the part so long. After years of waiting for our spouses to return to the people we thought them to be, we realize they are the person we know now, and have known for several years, and not the person they were for the first 1-18 months of marriage.

What to do now? We have an innate objection to divorce, and no clue how to fix it. We are long past the position to actually communicate with our spouse – we can barely stand them in the same room. We know people who have gone through counseling, and have seen nothing good come of it. In the worst case I’ve seen, the first counselor saw fault with both sides, which the wife could not stand, so she hand-selected a feminist counselor who found all fault with the husband. Who would voluntarily subject themselves to this misery?

For the record, I chose divorce. But keep reading. These options below are those that I know lonely husbands consider because they have told me so, and they are pretty typically a sequential line of thought. First one idea, then it never happens, then the second, and then the last.

Option #1: Cheating.

 More than one person I’ve known have started by hoping their spouse would cheat. Then they’d have the perfect way out! They could leave their marriage with clean hands. We all want clean hands! What they don’t realize is it’s more like Purell – it kills 99.9% of bacteria and leaves the .1% of the strongest bacteria alive and well to breed and make you sick. From the outside looking in, it seems to be a glorious way out of a bad marriage. If you have kids, you would even have leverage to make sure they love you more than her!
But that never really happens when you want it to.

Option #2: Leaving.

Many lonely husbands think if they sequester themselves away from their spouse, the spouse will just leave them. This is less than perfect, but still a wonderfully convenient way out! Except we don’t realize that they have greater stamina than we do. That’s why they can let a painful pregnancy go for 9.5 months and then give birth for 1-36 hours without medication. They likely figure the man they married will return to them sooner or later, so they just need to stick it out. Also, they too have been building up plenty of resentment for us, so they want to make sure we suffer for the many ways we’ve hurt them emotionally.
Conclusion: They don’t leave us.

Option #3: Death.

I personally have had to talk reason into a friend who confided it to me. My friend said, “I was hoping maybe she’d get hurt, like a car accident. Something where she died quickly and I could then take care of the kids and marry someone who makes me happy.” Another friend’s fleeting thought was that if he didn’t lock the door on his way out of the door on the way to work, maybe there’d be an intruder to take care of his problem. But the fact is:

Once you consider your spouse’s demise, you have started down a path that could lead to you hurting them.

I have suspected that Option #3 was the first line of reasoning that Scott Falater went through before he killed his wife (and subsequently tried to say he was sleepwalking at the time).

We discourage divorce generally, but if you have these thoughts:

GET OUT.

I know some men won’t divorce their wives because it’s “cheaper to keep’r.” No, it’s not. Unless you actually fix your problems, squashing the problems flat and never to return, they will continue to plague your every thought and you’ll be back to considering Options 1-3 above.

This whole line of thinking comes from cowardice. I heard once that a lonely man would drive around with his passenger door always unlocked, just in case a beautiful woman would see him and jump into his car and sleep with him (that might be from Neil Strauss’ The Game or from a guy mentioned in that book, David D. It’s been awhile, and this stuff isn’t for married men anyway.). This comes from that same muscle – the muscle that places a desire in your heart without the chutzpah to do something about it.

Ultimately, we are men. We have an obligation to act, and to act in whatever way causes the least harm to ourselves and to our spouses. They put faith in us, and that means an assumed risk that you may end the marriage someday, but not that you might hurt them.

If you think it’s cheaper to keep’r because a lawyer could cost you $5k-$25k, think what a defense attorney will cost you for spousal abuse or worse. What’s the cost of 5 years to life in prison? It’s not worth it.

We are here on earth to be happy. If you’re not happy, exhaust every available way to make yourself happy, and if none of them work try one more way and then get out. If Options 1-3 above enter your mind, you are heading down the wrong path, a most dangerous one that is never acceptable. If anyone you know is considering options 1-3, refer them to this article and help them to:

Fix it or get out.

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Shredding Dollars and Virtue

I grew up in what could be considered the fence between upper middle class and lower upper class. I had years of piano lessons with the world’s best teacher, I went to private school, my mom did my school clothes shopping at Bullock’s and Broadway (now Macy’s). This isn’t to brag, but to paint a picture. My dad owned his own business which was thriving, my grandfather was a very successful lawyer in Palm Springs who ran in an election for a judgeship and helped get Reagan elected into California. I was surrounded with people of similar or greater affluence than I myself had both at church and at school.

Now that I’m an adult, I am exposed to people who have net worth from the low to high millions of dollars. I am starting to see an ugly trend. First, let’s start off with what I would expect from these people:

  • A clean house
  • Well-behaved, cultured children
  • Children who know how to treat people nicely, even those being paid to help them (maids, babysitters/nannies, etc.)
  • Appreciation for expensive things
  • An affinity for high quality and high aesthetic
  • Tolerant, non-racist, non-sexist
  • Smart people who think through things with logic and reason (because they can afford a great education)

What I have actually found:

  • A filthy house even when they bring in a maid/housekeeper
  • Maniac children who can’t focus on anything for more than 12 seconds
  • Children who scream at the help like they’re a lower life-form
  • Buying lots of THINGS for their price without any regard for keeping them in working order
  • Blindness to quality and aesthetic, only buying things for the high price tag
  • Intolerant, incredibly racist and sexist
  • People who learned a lot from books at expensive schools but can’t really relate to the real world. This particular flaw results in:
    • Panic if they’re forced to mingle with the little people at regular stores like Costco
    • Racism
    • Sexism
    • Hypochondria as they’re just sure they (or their children) suffer from some disease that’s expensive to treat
    • Believing absolute lies just because another rich person said so (this is how Madoff made off with rich people’s millions)

Now, out of these 7 bad attributes, just about everyone I know worth over $1M has 4 or 5 of them. That’s right, people — they’re trailer-trash in a mansion.

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Celestial Expectations

As someone who has grown up in the Church, and as someone who regularly attends my Sunday meetings, the penultimate goal you hear from every pair of married lips is living in the Celestial Kingdom.

Quick review: After we die, and the resurrection of the just occurs, there are three degrees of glory: the Telestial kingdom, which world looks a lot like this one, the Terrestrial kingdom, which is like the Garden of Eden in its beauty, and the Celestial kingdom, which is something just too amazing for any of us to comprehend. To get to the Celestial world, you can’t just be good, you have to be perfect in Christ. Lesson over. If you wish to learn more, pick up a copy of the Book of Mormon and when you’re finished with it, read the Doctrine and Covenants.

Many couples, however, are missing the point. You don’t just get married and sealed and then wait for the Celestial Kingdom to pluck them out of life. It’s not about sitting with a pint of ice cream, abusing the body God gave you (your bodily temple) and waiting for this life to pass by so you can enjoy glory in the next.

You have to be good. You have to repent of anything you do wrong, even to the person whom you’ve wronged. You have to read your scriptures daily (and read them in a thoughtful, prayerful manner so your loving God can give you little bits of revelation as you go). You have to attend your meetings and renew your baptismal covenants. You have to obey the Word of Wisdom (essentially, stay away from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, coffee and caffeinated teas. There are guides on how to eat, but the Church leadership is a great place to get guidance on that – you definitely don’t have to be Vegan, but you do have to have moderation in all things, even ice cream). Above all: you can’t hold hate and anger in your heart for your spouse.

Think about it: your spouse is your avenue to the Celestial kingdom, the greatest degree of glory. You are committing to live with them for eternity – not to tolerate the things you hate about them for eternity. If you don’t love everything about them, or work with them to strip away the things you hate, the little things you despise will turn out to be really important things you despise that you’re too upset to change (or they’re too obstinate to).

We learned on Sunday at Church that our spirits have the same appetites and desires that they had when they lived on earth. This is important, people! If you have a coffee problem, a fattening food problem, a booze problem, a picking-your-nose-in-public problem, it doesn’t go away when you die just because you got sealed to your spouse and are now dead! You are alive in the Spirit, with all of the same inclinations as before. You think that because you die, you can abuse your postmortal body with abandon? I think this is a popular yet severe corruption of our scriptures. We have a perfect form, sure. It isn’t going to be hurting in all the strange places that age and abuse brings you. But don’t you think your spirit will be a reflection of what you are inside? Yes, it will be a perfect reflection.

This is why we’re supposed to be spending our lives becoming more perfect, and then submitting what’s left to our Savior. Life is not a waiting game, people!

As you’ll know from my previous post, I’m divorced and I have remarried to the love of my soul’s infinite desires. My ex-wife was who she is, and her soul was full of things that someone could love, but I only grew more frustrated. Perhaps I shouldn’t have married after just a few weeks of knowing her. But I think that many of our fellow Church members get into a similar predicament and think that the spouse they are unfortunately unhappy with will magically change when they die into the person they’ve always dreamt of.

No! That’s not what the Church teaches us! It is time to be realistic, and learn to love everything about your spouse, fix it, or make the painful yet responsible decision to get out. It takes strength and bravery to submit yourself to God and ask, “Am I supposed to be in this marriage?” You’ll get your answer, and then you’ll know what to do. But “Do” is the operative word – you have to “do” something about your ills, whatever they are.

Otherwise I think the judgment seat of God will be a very surprising and unhappy place for you. Wailing and gnashing of teeth indeed.

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