Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Win the Battle Just to Lose the War If You Want to Keep Your Relationship or Marriage

E-mails and blog posts gave more coverage to Darren Sherman’s stalking behavior after a date didn’t go his way than about the problems of the world. Could it be that’s because this kind of behavior is a far bigger problem than crooked politicians and (alleged) oil shortages? Look at what you can learn from this poor idiot’s behavior concerning your marriage or committed relationship.

If you didn’t see one of the e-mails floating around about Darren Sherman’s post bad date behavior a couple of years ago, you’ve missed one of the most pathetic yet funny incidents I’ve ever heard. Here’s a hugely entertaining rendition of it at Peter Shankman’s “PR Differently” blog at http://prdifferently.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/how_not_to_act_.html and there’s a lot you can learn from reading it and listening to the voice mail message that isn’t so obvious at first glance. Jump over there and check it out before continuing here…

Pathetic just doesn’t really scratch the surface, does it? But since we’re talking about committed relationships and marriages here, let’s move past the idiotic, crass, and utterly uncouth bit of demanding a refund on her half of the check (because she was out of town and didn’t get his messages, leading him to believe there would be no second date, which, from his behavior, seems to have been a reasonable expectation on his part anyway!) and look at his behavior in from a broader perspective.

First, according to the girl’s letter, he apparently assumed that she didn’t want to see him again in spite of no facts supporting such a conclusion. Since it may have been awhile since you were in the dating world and possibly out of touch with current practices, if you’re going to call somebody you’ve been out with to acknowledge a good time and chat them up for another date, you call one time, and then you go about your business, and if they haven’t called by the time you need to make another date for the weekend, you simply call somebody else. A lot of people are subject to go out of town suddenly, especially in a town of movers and shakers like NYC, and you have to give them a bit of time to “clear out the clutter” and get their schedule stabilized before calling you back.

He apparently jumped into wuss mode, assumed that since she didn’t immediately call back that she didn’t want to see him again and was just snubbing him, and his ego jumped into the driver’s seat. And then what does he do?

He starts very childishly trying to punish her for the assumed rejection, and continues to escalate it, apparently without any regard for the risk he’s taking under today’s stalking laws, or for the mathematics of the situation; the guy is the CEO of a compliance consulting firm, and that’s “big bucks” anywhere you go, and double in NYC, and there is no way in the world that $50 came close to covering the value of his time in pursuing it. Got the picture? Okay, now let’s bring this closer to home…

How many times have you made or seen these mistakes made in your own or other relationships?

1. Letting an incorrect assumption create insecurity and/or motivate an act of reprisal against someone

2. Continuing to escalate a situation after finding out that your assumption was incorrect and that there’s really nothing to be pissed off about (but possibly something to be terribly embarrassed about, such as the original absurd assumption!)

3. Getting so hung up on “who’s right” and “winning” that you lose track of “what’s right” and “the risks and cost of fighting the battle.”

Silly things like assuming that somebody didn’t pick up something you wanted at the store while they were out when in fact the item was out of stock at the store in question can spur an incident that follows this path of escalation and destruction to the point that it causes a break-up or a divorce, and if you haven’t seen it happen at least once in your lifetime, I’d like to hear from you just to know that you exist. I’ve watched it all my life, and frankly, very early in my life (I was 17), I did it, and ended up screwing up a very good relationship that could have easily turned into a life-long partnership. Now for the big question…

What can you do to stop this from happening?

I’ve preached enough on the law of cause and effect and when trying to fix a problem you should seek to treat the cause and not the symptom, so I’ll spare you the justification for that approach and say that the cause of Darren’s problem and all occurrences of this kind of mess is low self-esteem. That’s right! If you feel good about yourself, you have no reason to be anxious and jumping to negative conclusions with nothing but fear of the unknown as the basis for that conclusion; if you feel like a victim, you’ll act like one, you know?

You also will not have the need to get competitive and try to punish someone for a disagreement and force yourself or your opinion on them or make them regret having disagreed with you, right?

And most of all, when you feel good about yourself, you’re much more interested in what’s right than who’s right, so you focus on finding the facts and truth instead of securing an empty victory. People who feel good about themselves also avoid putting themselves at risk unless the possible benefit justifies that risk.

Assuming for the sake of discussion that a man has a six-figure or even seven-figure salary and will lose it if he goes to jail for stalking, is that in any way justified in the recovery of fifty bucks for a meal check? Or even if it were five figures? At what point does jail become an acceptable substitute for a job? Or is the risk of a divorce and having your family torn apart, life turned upside down, and losing half or more of everything you have justified by getting your partner to admit that to doing something that they haven’t really done, or say that they agree with you when they really don’t, just to placate you and shut you up?

It’s intriguing to see how many of the laws of physics apply to relationships; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Granted, in the case of a relationship the reaction may indeed be disproportionate, and it’s likely to be an over-reaction if you make somebody fairly angry or hurt them. Monitor your emotions carefully, and next time you catch yourself feeling like you want to “uncork on your partner,” stop and think, “What am I going to gain by going through this, and what am I going to risk losing? What might I regret later?” before inertia (another law of physics) takes you whence there is no return! Then answer!

The easiest rule of thumb to follow is if you’re going to gain or maintain your self-respect, then you should continue (although you should try to keep your anger in check and ask questions and discuss rather than just jumping down your partner’s throat), and if you are going to risk losing your self-respect (through embarrassment over assumptions, etc.), it’s very likely going to be a bad idea and you definitely have some more thinking and fact-finding to do.

Speaking of the Law of Inertia, it’s another of my favorite laws of physics. It states that an object in motion tends to remain in motion and an object at rest tends to remain at rest, until acted upon by another force. This can be universally applied by merely simplifying the language:

If you always do
What you’ve always done
You’ll always get
What you’ve always got.

The limerick format just makes it easier to remember. So now think about this. If you’ve always had problems and do nothing to change the underlying cause, is there any reason to expect them to just fix themselves? Of course not, and you there, in the back, nodding your head “yes” with a dumbfounded expression on your face, will stay after class for remedial training and possible scheduling for a brain transplant. Where problems are concerned, a continuation of the problem without escalation is your best-case scenario if you don’t do something to fix it, and continuance with escalation and disaster is the most likely course if it’s causing any kind of ill feelings.

No ill feelings? Are you sure? Are you hearing things like, “You never listen to me?” Or are you hearing nothing at all? Have things slowed down at the dinner table discussions, or in the bedroom? Are you getting short or even monosyllable answers to questions that you’d think would invite a more verbose answer? Are you going separate directions when you go places that you used to explore together? An answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a highly-reliable indicator that there are indeed problems, either unresolved issues or boredom at least.

Didn’t know boredom was a major problem? You don’t know much about women, do you? Ask one how she feels when she gets bored. You and I aren’t that uncomfortable with it, indeed, it’s often a good excuse for a nap, but in women you’ll find that they are so stricken by it that they start exhibiting some of the same symptoms we do when we feel anger or fear: trembling, inability to focus, sensation of desperation, willingness to do anything, even if it’s wrong, just to cause some change in the situation, just to name a few. The greatest gift you can give any woman is to love her enough to remain vigilant and protect her from boredom.

That sounds like a pretty tall order, but if you talk to people who have been married fifty years and are still happy together (especially those who still have “the heat” for each other, and yes, there are plenty of them), you’ll find that the secret to their success is that they have learned, usually the hard way, how to cope with these problems or they are so well-matched that they never experience them enough to notice.

Whether subconsciously or consciously, they keep an eye on the status of their relationship, and they fix things when they break. They recognize that men and women have different needs and ways of doing things, especially communicating and dealing with problems and emotions, and they consider and accommodate these differences to reduce stress and build trust. They know what each other likes and values, and they share common values. They also know what turns each other on and off, and reserve their bedroom for sleep, sex and intimacy instead of taking their problems in there.

I’ve worked with hundreds of such couples, and imparted the knowledge that worked for some to the rest of the group to see what was universally true and what was more appropriate for only some participants. Everything that worked for 90% or more of the couples is in "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," and you should download it at http://www.makingherhappy.com right now, and have the benefit of all those who succeeded before you to do wonderful things in your own relationship…

…or, you can keep doing what you’ve always done, and keep getting what you’ve always been getting, like frustration, confusion, fear, celibacy, affairs, fights, questions with no answers, dirty looks, spousal abuse and sabotage – I really don’t need to give you the whole list, because you’re living with it. By the way, I’m not living with it anymore, and from the testimonials I’m receiving from readers, they’re not either. So how about joining us? If you’re not ready to commit to improvement and a better life yet, just join our forum at http://forum.makingherhappy.com and ask some of the people there about their own problems, experience, and results. I wouldn’t buy a pig in a poke and I wouldn’t expect you to, either. But whatever you are going to do, do it now, because not a single second of your life lost can ever be recovered, and spending it unhappy is the saddest waste of all.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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