Better Habits=More Happiness in the COVID-19 Era?

Better Habits=More Happiness in the COVID-19 Era?

Craig and his wife, Nikki, enjoy the great outdoors surrounding Bend, Oregon

More Happiness in the COVID-19 Era?

In any relationship (Personal or Business), if we can’t be happy together at home in the “shelter in place COVID-19 era”, maybe we need to look in the mirror and be the change. That doesn’t mean you leave your partner, spouse or family and make a new life, it means we find greater happiness in ourselves and it may mean we take this COVID-19 era opportunity to create new better habits together.

The quote about how long it takes to form a new habit goes like this – “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.” Since so many self-help authors have written about making new habits and how long it takes to do so, I decided to find the genesis of that quote and it appears to be here in Psycho-Cybernetics (audiobook) by Maxwell Maltz. I’ve now purchased the book.

Interestingly to me, as I searched a little more I found this study that suggests it takes over 2 months to form a new habit. With that amount of time to be invested, it makes sense to be very intentional about it and that we work to form “good habits” in our personal, family and professional lives.

While personal life and family life are intertwined, I separated them for that same reason to make sure that I’m a better me for me, making me better for my family and my customers, partners, and peers.

Part of making me better is a focus on physical and mental health. The book Younger Next Year has been my go-to for years now, though please don’t buy this book for yourself and then force on your partner or spouse. In 2014, I started on a more intentional fitness path that prepares me for an annual backcountry mountain bike ride on the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. The preparation and ride make me better for me, my family and my customers, partners, and peers. You see the theme here.

Now back to the “shelter in place COVID-19 era” and a few observations:

First, my wife Nikki and I are having a blast together. Never perfect, though almost. Same as it was in the pre-COVID-19 era, but slightly better.

Second, we are watching a ton of shows and movies and I really liked the Dolly Parton themed movie Dumplin’ (Netflix). I really enjoyed the Dolly quote “Find out who you are. And do it on purpose”. Too many people (I’ve done it before too) felt others needed to change when we just needed to be a little happier with ourselves.

Third, what’s made Nikki’s and my time together in this COVID-19 era very special are the following, some old and some new:
– WE each have stopped sweating the small stuff

– WE laugh a lot

– WE are not pouting when the other doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, go for a walk, clean the house or do anything when we feel it needs to happen. If you do this pouty thing now, please STOP. Instead, one of us goes to the grocery store, goes for a walk, cleans the house or does anything when we feel it needs to happen and NOT guilt the other.

– WE have always functioned as a team to each do our share of the above OR other critical matters not listed above, like earning a living. It’s a balance, we talk about it and make sure we each give mutually so that one person doesn’t need to do everything.

– WE have added new work, fun, activities, chores, and hobbies that will hopefully become a HABIT alongside those in our pre-COVID lives that will continue to make us better together.

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My Wife Throttles and I Flatten

My Wife Throttles and I Flatten

By Patrick Fletchall

Our eldest son used to get frustrated with his Duplo set. His Duplo are comprised of many blocks, each of them distinct yet perfectly designed to fit each other. Most of the time he would patiently play, but on occasion he’d lose patience and angrily mash them together. The more he mashed, the less likely they were to click together. I’ll come back to that later.

My wife, Nicole, and I could not be more different people. After ten years, this is abundantly clear. She’s blunt and I’m circuitously wordy. She reads mommy blogs and I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She’s OCD and I’m slovenly. I could probably give 10 volumes of additional examples.

When we were first married these differences were exciting. During our first six months of marriage we lived in a 200 square foot room, and I discovered her the way that Louis and Clark explored a path to the West: exhilarating, breathtaking, and frequently dangerous.

At each step on the trail, I explored new territory and we learned more about ourselves along the way. Nicole revealed a different way of thinking, communicating, and looking at personal relationships. She viewed the world entirely different then I did.

For my part, I was thrilled to share my passions and interests with the woman I loved and admired. I was like a 6-year-old hosting his first sleepover. “Come look at all my toys!” It seemed like the perfect synergy: she taught me how to establish healthy boundaries within my relationships and I introduced her to the Die Hard movies. Either we fit each other like two puzzle pieces, or I had an extraordinarily munificent and patient wife.

I was like someone sipping a full cup of coffee while driving on a smooth road: I patted myself on the back for our steady marriage. But life, as we all know tends to throw a few bumps. Bump…recession. Bump…child #1. Bump…child #2. Lose job, downsize, sell car to buy groceries, global pandemic…bump-bump-bump-BUMP!

The circus of young children, careers, and school leaves very little luxury for reflective relationship-building. We all spin off each day and collide back together in sporadic bursts of energy. Nicole and I had less time to be able to have the deep conversations; our interactions became transactional. The cracks began to develop.

Over 10 years, our differences seemed less like doing a puzzle together and more like an unbridgeable gulf. The slightest interaction became the seed for bickering, and bickering became our new normal mode of communication. When you’re having five fights a day, saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” ceases to become the first step in the process of reconciliation.

Through unemployment and pandemic, our lives became condensed into a 1000 square foot apartment. There are very few places to storm off to. We had started this thing living in 200 square feet and 10 years later we’ve gained only a little more space and two adorable, inconsiderate roommates.

When you’re quarantined and have nothing else to distract you, you start noticing more things. For example, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they extract toothpaste. There are numerous methods: flattening, squeezing, rolling, etc. Personally I’m a flattener: I press the tube from the bottom upwards using my palm on the counter. Sometimes, I use the edge of the counter to ensure maximum efficiency; but I sometimes worry about the 0.05 ounces of paste that squirt back to the bottom and go wasted. My wife, on the other hand, throttles the life out of the tube like she had an ex-boyfriend named Colgate.

We’ve always shared toothpaste. For a long time, I felt mildly protective of the poor toothpaste. However, recently I’ve been struck by how incredibly effective our conjoined methods of toothpaste extraction are. Each day, we alternatively choke and press the same tube, which results in the most efficient technique to get the last ounce of product. I was impressed by the fact that our efficiency was the result of not simply complimentary methodology, but a common goal.

I mentioned previously that our son would periodically get frustrated and slam his Duplos together. To date, I’ve never seen him swing two bricks together and have them match up perfectly. And if they had, I believe he would have been too upset to notice they had aligned before ripping them apart. My wife and I have been doing the same thing.

We were designed to fit together, but we collided with such velocity and frequency, how could we possibly come together and how would we know when we had? What would it take to shake us from our bad habits?

Like many, the last month has been extraordinarily challenging. But it has also made life uncharacteristically simple. Nicole and I are still learning to put the pieces together, but the monastic minimalism of our days has forced us to intentionally partner with purpose.

No matter how long it may take for the world to get back to any semblance of normality, our marriage (and many marriages out there I suspect) will never be the same. We’ve always unwittingly squeezed and pressed together, but now we realize that we were designed to meet this challenge.

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Homeschooling with your husband: Personality Differences 101

Homeschooling with your husband: Personality Differences 101

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis

What if, during this time of forced Sheltering-in-Place… for those of us beyond the stage of homeschooling our children—we homeschool ourselves in a study of our spouses?

Undoubtedly, our family unit will begin to get on each other’s nerves (it’s bound to happen with social confinement). For me, this will most likely occur with my husband.

When I first met my husband John, I was drawn like a moth-to-flame by his effervescent joy. He attracted people with his overflowing love for others. His nickname was Smiley Riley for a reason. And twenty-five years ago, before we’d even started dating—after I’d experienced a very painful breakup—I found myself praying just to be friends with John; I wanted his “brightness” in my life too. Fortunately, our friendship eventually shifted, and a little more than a year later we were married.

As a couple, we demonstrated that wonderful dichotomy Christians refer to as “Complementary Personalities.” We were so eager to see how God would use John’s and my strengths to make this perfect overlap happen in our marriage. How naive we were to think it would just happen as soon as we said, “I Do” – and without its own uncomfortable transformational journey.

What I initially admired in John, that extroverted “life of the party” personality, soon became an anchor tied to my own mental health. Especially, as I compared his strength to my perceived weakness—my own introverted nature…and found mine lacking in comparison.

Following his lead, either led to me participating in activities that depleted my social reserves within minutes, or I found myself getting internally defensive and attacking all the shortcomings of extroverts everywhere.

For John, the oh-so organized, always had a plan, deep thinking Stephanie that he was so initially attracted to (as his perfect complement), turned into someone that sought control far too much and was a stick-in-the-mud when it came to Friday nights out…or any other night for that matter.

At least we weren’t alone. Everywhere we turned, our fellow “couples friends” were also discovering similar differences in their relationships during those first few years of marriage.

For some, what drew them initially “in the hunt of dating” wasn’t even an accurate representation of who they truly were after they married. For others, the portrayals were realistic, but the differences created chasms that grew insidiously—until the divide became so wide, it could no longer be bridged.

And then there were others of us who initially gutted it out, but over time have invested in better understanding who we are as a couple, and as individuals.

I have spent a lot of time over the years inspired by the insight of those who study personalities. From “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”, to the study of the “Five Love Languages”—and snippets of understanding began to unfold for John and me.

In more recent years, studies of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Assessment highlighted the unique ways we are both hard-wired, while a study into the Enneagram, pointed to what motivates our personality traits.

According to the MBTI (Meyers Briggs Type Index) John is the “Entertainer”, while I am the “Defender”. In our cases, his Type 7 (Adventurer) and my Type 2 (Helper) Enneagrams closely match in descriptions. His “life of the party/make everyone smile persona” is at its best in large groups or with every stranger he comes into contact with–from the cashier at the drive through, to our waiter, or whoever is behind the counter in a store.

But, confine the guy to being alone at home and his physical and emotional health withers before my eyes. Right now, during this quarantine, he craves connection and attention, and giving attention to others.

For me, as a social introvert—I have been training all my life “for such a time as this”.  I have my close family members, folks I can deeply connect with easily through social media (a common misnomer – social introverts crave connection just as much, but we prefer small group interactions). The aspect of my “planning personality” is taking a huge hit right now, as the upcoming months in my Day-Timer have been completely erased. My not being able to plan into the future, due to the unpredictability of the pandemic, draws me even more inward.

Can you see the potential clash here, ready to blow, in our small shelter of confinement?

My propensity to draw inward makes John want to play tug-o-war and pull me out of my shelter even more. In contrast, his need for attention just makes me want to ignore him to stop the behavior. It doesn’t necessarily help that our “third roommate,” our 18-year-old daughter, has a very similar personality type to mine. So, I’ll often feel vindicated because I’m not alone in my irritable responses.

However, I’m painfully aware, just because we are in the majority—it does not mean we are right.

So, while in forced confinement with my spouse—I’ve decided that rather than spend the time irritated by behaviors that happen because of how uniquely and perfectly God created him—I’ve decided to spend some time studying him and better understanding “why he is who he is.”

I’m opting to spend some time exploring his values instead of just mine, and trying to understand what makes him feel the most content? And while I’m at it, perhaps spend a little bit of time recognizing my own shortcomings—the ones that are a result of my own unhealthy coping mechanisms through life…and start working on healing.

It seems like everyone is “having to homeschool” these days, so I might as well join in. You’d think after twenty-five years of studying a subject, I’d have a Ph.D. or at least have graduated—but, as I’ve discovered time and time again, my marriage is always going to be a subject requiring continuing education.

If you’d like to try the free assessments of the personality tests mentioned in this article, the links are provided below:

Enneagram:
https://assessment.yourenneagramcoach.com/

Meyers-Briggs Personality Test:
https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

*I Do Part Two does not have a affiliate marketing relationship with Enneagram or Meyers-Briggs Personality Test

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10 Things I Would Tell Anyone Heading to the Altar

10 Things I Would Tell Anyone Heading to the Altar

By Tiffany Kong, founder of DiscoveringWE
with her husband, Joseph Kong

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice before getting married, what would you say? Chances are, there’s probably a lot that you would tell yourself to do or not to do. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about what to expect in marriage. Everybody knew that when you got older, you’re just supposed to find a job, get married, and then have kids. 

A lot easier said than done.

I wish I knew that being married would mean dying to myself every day and putting my spouse first. I wish I knew that being married would be one of the hardest things I experience because I’m tested and tempted each day. I wish I knew being married isn’t about finding the right person but being the right person.

You may not be able to change your thinking from the past, but you have that opportunity to do so now for the future of your marriage and also as you teach your future generations on what this sacred covenant really means.

Whether you need the reminder or are giving advice to a loved one headed for the altar, here are 10 pieces of advice for a happy and healthy marriage.

  1. Work on being a better version of yourself

The key to a better marriage is by being a better you. You are the only person you can control. Become the type of person you want to attract. And while it’s important to find the right person, it’s also just as important to be the right person. You can’t give your best to your future spouse if you aren’t your best.

2. You’re not always right

And it’s okay to be wrong! That’s how you learn and grow. When you want to be right all the time, you’re only allowing yourself to see one possibility instead of seeing all the possibilities together. You don’t win anything being right all the time, it will actually end up doing more damage to your marriage than you think.

3. Master the art of apologizing

Own the mistakes you make and apologize sincerely. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, so take responsibility for your actions and apologize. And sometimes just saying I’m sorry won’t be good enough. Be specific in your apology. Admit your fault, take responsibility for your actions, ask for forgiveness, and then ask what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

4. Learn to actively practice forgiveness

You and your spouse will be apologizing to each other for the rest of your lives. One of the hardest things you’ll need to learn is to become an excellent forgiver.  Stop holding grudges and keeping score. When you learn to forgive more often, you release yourself from constantly feeling chained. Forgiveness opens the door for change and growth.

5. Continue to date each other after marriage

Just because you got them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay. By dating each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy, you are building a strong foundation for your marriage. Going on dates creates the memories that you look back on and remember why you fell in love in the first place. It’s okay to schedule your date nights too, it’s all about being intentional.

6. Learn to manage your money

When you get married, you and your spouse’s finances will be combined. There should be no secrets because you will be sharing your debts, bank accounts, and credit. If you don’t learn to manage your money right now, it’ll only get worse after you get married. Your money habits that you have when you’re single will transfer over to become your money habits in marriage. If you have toxic spending patterns, you need to address that and resolve your own money issues before being responsible for someone else’s. Get smart with your money. 

7. Don’t bring your childhood baggage into the marriage

The reason why we act and think the way we do is largely because of how we were raised. When you face conflict, look for clues that explain why your significant other acts in the way they do. Did something happen to them as a child to make them feel this way? Your marriage is not the same as your parent’s marriage, whether it was good or bad. Your spouse is innocent from all of that. You must start fresh and new with your spouse.

8. Love and respect yourself

How you treat yourself will determine how you allow others, including your spouse, to treat you. When you love and accept yourself, flaws and all, there’s no chance that anyone else would treat you with disrespect. Know who you are and how much you’re worth.

9. Throw everything you think you know about marriage out the window

You’re going to build your marriage with your spouse. You two get to define what that means and how your relationship will look like. It’s good to learn about marriage by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching informative videos. But be careful not to idolize a relationship, whether it be fictional or real, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself and your marriage.

10. There’s a time for everything

There’s a reason why you’re still in this season. Learn everything you can from it, and do not be so anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

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The 14th Day…Beyond the Hype

The 14th Day…Beyond the Hype

A day known for love and romance is quickly approaching, and there are A-LOT of expectations wrapped up in just that one gentle rotation of the earth. 

If we buy into all the hype, there are roses to be delivered, perfect gifts to be wrapped, and dinner reservations to be made…weeks in advance. Plus, there’s an overwhelming assortment of cards and candies to choose from, which start filling up store shelves mere moments after the ball drops in Times Square.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Valentine’s Day. I’ve just never felt an overwhelming need to be wined and dined on this one particular day of the year. Even as a kid, I don’t remember it being that big of a deal…

I’m not sure if that incident in grade school has anything to do with it, but if your earliest memory of Valentine’s Day is laughing so hard you pee your pants…February 14th might not be your best day for romance.

Remember those Sweethearts candies, the ones with the cute little sayings like, “Kiss Me” and “You Rock”? Our teacher had the brilliant idea for all of us to read one aloud to the nearest boy if you were a girl or vice versa—one at a time—with everyone focused on you! 

Imagine having to ask the boy who calls you “bigfoot” at recess, if he wants to “Marry Me?” while fifty laughing-eyes stare in a chorus of giggles? 

All I could do was laugh along uncomfortably…unfortunately, I laughed too hard. That’s when it happened, the so-called “Sweetheart incident.”  Trying to keep it on the down-low, I quickly tied my sweatshirt around my waist (hiding my indiscretion), before sneaking out of class as fast as possible. Those chalky heart-shaped candies have haunted me ever since.

I don’t recall all of my Valentine’s Days past, but a few—for better or for worse—are memorable in their own special way…

One year, a boyfriend gave me a dozen red roses, a box of Russell Stover chocolates, and a teddy bear. That teddy bear is one of many reasons said boyfriend is no longer in the picture. 

As we discussed our plans for the big day, I happened to mention how cheesy I thought it was for couples to exchange stuffed animals. So what does the guy do? 

He gets me—wait for it— a teddy bear holding a stuffed version of a Sweetheart candy (best memory ever!) printed with “Be Mine.” It was definitely the beginning of the end for us.

Jumping way ahead in the time machine…

There was this one special Valentine’s Day shortly after we were married when my husband left little love notes all over the bathroom. He then proceeded to send me sweet nothings, via the World-Wide-Web, for the rest of the day. 

Walking in the door that evening, he greeted me with a kiss and a glass of wine as he escorted me upstairs to a warm bubble bath sprinkled with rose petals. I asked him about it as I prepared this article, and he laughed saying, “I must’ve seen it in a movie.” Sadly, no rose petals have ever graced my bubble bath since.

So, you know what I remember most about good ole’ days of Valentine’s Day when the kids were in grade school? Staying up late the night before the class parties to scribble their cute little signatures on each of those 75-plus miniature cards. Then folding those little buggers in half, while trying clip the tiny half-moon into the irritatingly small cut out. (Insert frustrated emoji here!!)

Of course, my kids didn’t want to only give cards, they wanted to give candy too. But, if you opted to include candy, you had to follow the Allergy Guide. “No nuts, remember-not everyone likes chocolate, some kids can only have sugar free, and others are gluten-free… and it went on.” It was SO stressful trying to meet everyone’s dietary needs—for candy!

All kidding aside, my husband and I have always acknowledged Valentine’s Day with each other and the kids in some small way. From love notes to small gifts, but making each other feel loved and appreciated has never been reserved for just February 14th.

What really matters is how we treat each other every day of the year. When we show up as the best version of ourselves for our spouse, our family and our friends, the myriad of ways we experience and express love are pretty extraordinary! 

It’s exactly why I’m a little hesitant to get overly hyped about this one particular day in February—when we ALL already LOVE the special people in our lives—TWO-FOUR-SEVEN-THREE-SIX-FIVE!

So this Valentine’s Day, if you’re stressing about creating the perfect date night or staying up late actually making Valentine’s cards with your kids, try to remember what’s really important about the 14th

It’s just one of many days to count our blessings, and remind our loved ones how fortunate we are to have them in our lives.

The Love Affair

The Love Affair

I am having an affair. I should feel very, very guilty … but I don’t. He’s a married father of three. I’m also married with three children. I happen to know his kids very well. In fact, I’ve known his wife my whole life. She is me, I am her. I’m having an affair with my husband.

It’s strangely quiet in our house this week while ALL of our children are gone. Our oldest recently moved south for his first job after college graduation and it’s going well for him. Our second is up in Canada with one of his best buddies visiting his other good friend’s family. Our youngest is at her favorite place in the world, a week-long overnight camp an hour north of us. 

We know all of our kids are safe and happy, soooo we can thoroughly enjoy these few days and nights that we have together. ALL BY OURSELVES. Did I mention that we’re ALONE? Good food, great wine, sweet music, and warm candlelight – we’re loving like we mean it.

We often wonder what we’ll talk about when the kids are completely grown up and not one of them is under our roof. If this week is any indication, it’s them. And we wonder, will we like each other? Yes we do. Yes, we most certainly do.

We’re approaching the thirty-first anniversary of the first time I fell for this guy I’m currently romancing. It was at a party about a month before he was leaving for college. We went on a date or two prior to that, but nothing serious. But THAT night, when he walked confidently through the front door of a friend’s home … I loved the way his shorts fit his waist and the look of his strong, tanned wrists. Truly! I’m not kidding!

We started dating exclusively after that fateful gathering, mostly long-distance because we attended universities in different states, but we married six years later on a snowy February afternoon. 

We keep several shoeboxes of cards and notes to and from one another, sent during the painful stretches we had to be apart, and still add new love letters to the collection now, even though we’ve been together and sharing the same address for over two and a half decades. 

Both my parents and my husband’s, had long-standing, rich marriages and without us even realizing it, modeled to he and I what a healthy, satisfying day to day relationship could look like. That’s a legacy that we prayerfully plan to hand down to future generations, starting with the dear souls that we’ve been raising, and pray that they each, often, have a married “affair” of their own. 

I sometimes daydream about them and about our daughter and sons’ futures and who they might marry, then realize that God already has every minute of their days mapped out. Whenever I look at those three, my heart fills with joy and understanding. God knew from the very beginning of time that my love and I were going to belong together and that those precious ones were going to belong to us. He will work out the details, big and small, for them also.

I’m mindful that the tenderness and affection we have in our marriage can be rare and I’m grateful. I know that every day is a gift from God and I’m thankful. Our girl and our boys have grown at the speed of light and all of our lives are constantly changing. I could worry about tomorrow, but why? I’ll enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

And tonight, right now, I’ll light the votives, pour two glasses of cabernet, play our favorite album and place dinner on the table…my beloved is almost home.

“My beloved is mine and I am his… ” Song of Songs 2:16