Tag Archives: Expectations

Don’t Make These Marriage Mistakes

A marriage is a terrible thing to waste, especially when there are children involved.  People enter into marriages all the time with such optimism, but realize that perhaps they were overly optimistic.  Maybe you barely even knew the person, but you said you did because you had passion for them.  However, marriage is not about passion – that’s just part of it.  Marriage is about two healthy people learning to live together and take on struggles together.  They don’t turn on each other – they turn to each other. 

I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to marriage:

1. Before you get married, the various things that make you “you” get exercised with a number of different people in your life.  For example, you’ve got a friend you play golf with, somebody else you go beading with, somebody you talk to about politics, and somebody you share your religion with.  Well, do you know what happens when you get married?  You have the expectation that your spouse is now supposed to be the whole package, having all the accessories in life.  Your spouse should definitely be your best friend – no question about that – but not your only friend.  Some other people might be better mentors, workout partners, antiquing buddies, etc.

2. Sabotaging trust.  Love brought you together, but lack of trust will terminate everything.  Trust is all about the small things – hiding store receipts, telling small lies, and casual flirting.  If your spouse sees that you’re dishonest with the small things, they make the assumption you’re a big risk for the big things.  Be open and honest about the small things, and that way, you won’t be doubted.

3. Breaching privacy.  How many times have you heard me yelling at people on my show because they told their mother/father/sister/uncle/cousin/friend or posted on Facebook about what their husband or wife did?  They humiliated their spouse in public, made others think less of them, and now they’re wondering why their relationship stinks.  Don’t put your spouse in the position of feeling exposed and betrayed.  Don’t talk to friends and family about private things.  Just don’t.

4. Throwing around the “divorce” word every time you get pissy.  In the beginning of people’s marriages, even little disappointments and slights can turn into big arguments.  It’s no wonder why so many people call my show saying, “We’ve only been married a short amount of time and we’re fighting all the time.”  It’s because they went into the marriage with certain expectations, and then reality hit.  Their illusions about “he’s perfect…she’s perfect…it’s perfect” get dented and bruised, and they become angry about feeling let down, trapped, frustrated, and betrayed.  However, you have to see this as just “real people time.”  Don’t be throwing around “divorce” every time you have a disagreement.  Emotions can run high if you’re not good at resolving conflicts together.  In your minds, you should both be saying, “Divorce is not an option.  We must work to find a way to work through this.”

5. Insisting on being right.  Some of you folks do this like you’re arguing about what’s the best Italian restaurant in town. Constantly insisting that you’re right, that your opinion is the correct one, or that your way is the best way is a quickie way to make your spouse feel undervalued and underestimated. If you find yourself in this situation, whether it’s during a heated argument or just a friendly debate, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right or happy?”

6. You don’t spend enough time slurping each other.  When I talk to people on the radio, I don’t ask them if they are their spouse’s husband or wife – I ask them if they are their “husband’s girlfriend” or their “wife’s boyfriend.”  What I’m implying is whether or not they do all the flirting, slurping, complementing touching, cuddling, tickling, and smiling people do when they’re somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  These are things that people tend not to do with their wife or husband.  It’s probably the biggest thing people admit to after going through a divorce: they know they weren’t slurpy enough.

If you’re thinking about getting married or contemplating why the hell your marriage isn’t going well, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, in addition to these tips.  Trust me, it’s really worth it. 

I’ll Never Learn! I’m a Loser!: Helping Self-Critical Kids

“Is my kid being unduly hard on themselves?” 

I hear this question a lot.  I get calls from parents saying, “My kid is a perfectionist.  When they lose a game, don’t get chosen for something, or somebody doesn’t like them, they go bonkers.” 

Adolescence is tough enough; you’re not a baby, you’re not an adult…you’re just sort of in a swing state.  And what makes the adolescent swing state painful is when young folks are inclined to be very hard on themselves after some frustration or disappointment.  You’ve probably heard this at home: “I’ll never learn!  I’m stupid!  I can’t do anything right!  No one likes me!  I don’t have any friends!  I’m such a loser!  I hate myself!  I wish I were dead!”   

Doing poorly or not doing as well as they wanted triggers a belief that they deserve the self-inflicted bad treatment.  And a lot of people take this feeling all the way through adulthood.  They feel obligated to come down on themselves. 

Where do they learn this? 

Oh I don’t know, let me think…

…From their parents!  Not always, but generally.  They either learn it from a parent who’s blatantly role modeling that behavior, or just from a very critical parent.  And then these young people spend most of their time hating themselves for any perceived failure, big or small.  “The parental rule of ‘judge and punish’ carries on.”  They beat themselves up out of habit, not because they want to motivate themselves, do better, or change.

So, a lot of the time kids learn self-critical behavior from having a parent or two parents who they could never please, who thought criticism was the best motivation, or who felt that expressing dissatisfaction was motivating.  But parents are not always the culprits.  Some kids get it in their heads that they just have to align themselves with an unreasonable set of expectations.  Maybe it’s from sibling rivalry stuff, something happening at school, or just moon spots…who knows.   In any case, parents really need to help them. 

Here are a handful of triggers that cause kids to get down on themselves, and how you can motivate them to go in another direction:

* Losing a game or contest. In a kid’s head, they think, “I have to win or I’m a loser.”  Oh my gosh!  Nobody wins all the time.  How could they?  Also, by following that logic, if you win and someone else loses, that means they’re a loser.  And of course, that’s not true.  Probably the most important thing you can teach your kids is that winning and losing are exactly the same.  Rudyard Kipling said that, except much more eloquently in the poem If.  You should approach winning and losing the same way – calmly.

It took me years to learn this while playing pool.  If I made a great shot, I’d be bouncing around the room.  But if I missed a shot, I’d start muttering things to myself like, “I’ve been practicing this for three hours, and I’m still terrible,” “I’ll never learn this,” and “I suck at this game.”  I couldn’t tolerate missing.  And I know exactly where that reaction came from.  It was parental.  I didn’t make it up myself.  I can really understand when people get into that mode because I personally had trouble getting out of it.  However, now when I make a good shot, I just say, “That felt good, let’s try to create that feeling again.”  And if I miss a shot, I think, “I didn’t go through my whole routine, or I adjusted my aim while I was taking the shot.  Hopefully I’ll get another shot at this, and I’ll do better.” 

You have to teach your kids that it’s best to expect you’re going to win some and lose some, just like the person on the other side of the game.

* Making a mistake. A kid thinks, “I have to get things right or something’s wrong with me.”  Show your kids the problem with this mindset by role modeling the correct attitude.  If you make a mistake while doing something, stop and say, “Aha!  I think I know what I did wrong.”  They’ll see you analyzing the error and remedying it for next time rather than going on an incomprehensible tirade about how mad you are at yourself.     

Failing to perform well.  Many kids believe they have to be a success to avoid shame.  However, in life, you can control your effort, but you can’t control the outcome.  The result is not entirely up to you.  For instance, things are handicapped or there are politics involved.  Or people cheat, even on the highest levels, which can be seriously demoralizing because cheating seems to pay off when people get away with it. 

So, you have to teach kids that everything in life is not on an even playing ground, and if they fail to do well, it’s not completely their fault.  They can’t always control the outcome because there are too many other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with them. 

* Getting in trouble.  A kid thinks, “Since I did this wrong, I’m a bad person.”  If you have a propensity for doing bad things, then yes, you probably are a bad person.  However, kids do stupid things, they test limits, and they don’t think things through – their brains just aren’t ready to do that.  They do dumb things but it’s not the same thing as being a bad kid, unless they do it continuously.  So, it’s best to teach your kids that if they do something wrong, they should take responsibility, pay their dues, and then forgive themselves.  Instruct them to move on and not repeat it. 

* Getting criticized.  A kid thinks, “Oh my gosh, everybody has to think well of me or I’m inadequate, inferior, or horrible.”  That’s the point where you can remind them just like they’re not going to be a fan of everyone they know, certain people will not like them.  And it’ll be for reasons that may have very little to do with them.  It could be because they look like somebody from the other person’s past who upset him or her.  The other person could be jealous of what they have, who they are, and what they’re like.  It has nothing to do with your kid being a bad person. 

* Being left out.  This is one of the tougher ones.  At some point your child will probably say something like this: “I wasn’t invited to the party,” or “I wasn’t asked to be on the team.”  Tell them that just like we don’t want to be with every group, every group doesn’t necessarily want to be with us.  Or as Groucho Marx put it, “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member.”