On June 13, 2021 at 4pm, we joyfully watched a historically significant Face to Face event produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the first of its kind for this specific audience (ALL single adults, age 31+).
Single adults make up over 50 percent of the adult membership of the Church, noted Sister Bingham, “that is a significant audience!” Sister Eubank said that as a single adult herself, she is happy to have open conversations with other single adults, “Every member, no matter their circumstances, has so much to contribute, and we hope to better recognize this.” Elder Andersen added, “To those adults, whether you have never been married or are widowed, divorced, or a single parent, you are needed in God’s kingdom. We are grateful for all you do to progress the work of the Lord.”
Watch this event online for inspired words of counsel and comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. We highly recommend watching this if you are single or if you love and support a mid-single in your life. Here's a link to watch the playback at any time: Single Adult Face to Face
To help prepare for this event, review President Russel M. Nelson’s April 2021 general conference address: Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains
We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church, who was involved in planning this special event. She asked for our feedback and we had so much to say that we decided to do a podcast on our thoughts about it. To hear our commentary, listen to episode 14.
LILY Pod Episode 14:
The First Church Wide Devotional for Mid-Singles
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare – to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We currently have 683 wonderful members and would like to grow that number to 1,000 by the end of July 2021!
Come join us and please share with friends and family: LILYFacebookGroup
Also follow us on Instagram (where we post different content): LILYInstagram
Forward this email to a friend. If they would also like a little more love and light in their inbox each week, they can subscribe to our free weekly LILY Letter at www.loveinlateryears.com
CLEANING TOILETS ON FATHER'S DAY
Sunday morning, Cathy
remarked that the toilets were looking bad. Without even thinking, I said, "I'll clean them after Church."
Later in the afternoon, as I was actually cleaning the toilets, I started feeling a little resentful and thinking thoughts like, "Why am I cleaning toilets on Father's Day? Isn't it the Sabbath too? How can I keep it holy when I'm focusing on dirty toilets?" I also thought, a little cynically, "Yep, this is fitting for Father's Day. I get to do the do the dirty work that no one else wants to. That's what being a dad is."
Of course, I realized after a short pity party that these were just thoughts--and these thoughts were not serving me very well. What are the plain facts of the situation? (1) It was Sunday, (2) it was Father's Day, (3) I cleaned the toilets, (3) Cathy didn't ask me to clean them--I offered, and (4) I could have refused to do it or offered to do it Monday. Those are the facts.
The stories are what cause us pain. What stories was I telling myself? (1) Dads are not appreciated, (2) I am entitled to be self-indulgent on Father's Day, (3) If my wife and kids cared about me, I wouldn't have been forced to clean the toilets on Father's Day, and (4) I was breaking the Sabbath and my family was to blame for it.
As I realized that I was telling myself stories, I decided to choose different thoughts. (1) Father's Day didn't work out on Sunday this year because my two sons are grown and out of town, Cathy's string quartet had a gig, and my step-kids were with their dad. (2) We celebrated Father's Day Saturday evening by going out for Mexican food with the kids. (3) No one intended to hurt or disrespect me.
As it happens, while Cathy was playing her gig, both of my grown sons called me to say Happy Father's Day. The younger of them, who used to rarely call me at all, calls me almost every day now. My older son also made a post on Facebook saying that he loved me. My step kids are constantly telling me they love me. I chose to focus on the love of my children, rather than my prior interpretation of my own decision to clean toilets. I decided to cook Cathy dinner so she would have a hot meal when she returned home after playing her gig.
After Cathy returned home and we had dinner, we went for a walk. I shared my experience with her, and how I had shifted my thoughts to things that created gratitude, rather than to the self-indulgent and painful thoughts that arose from trauma. By shifting my thoughts, I shifted my mood. Even though I was no longer feeling sorry for myself, Cathy was sympathetic to my former feelings. She put her arm around me and said she was sorry it was such a busy weekend and that she had a gig scheduled on Father's day. She also said she would not have felt good about asking me to clean the toilets, but was grateful that I offered to do it.
We spent a very pleasant evening together, I called my dad and wished him Happy Father's Day, Cathy gave me a couple of little Father's Day gifts before we went to bed, and I went to bed feeling like a blessed man.
I have thought a lot over the past few months that most people are not naturally very good at relationships. We tend to be self-interested and self-indulgent, and we are looking to our partners to validate us in various ways. The truth is, that is not their job. We validate ourselves by showing up in relationships in the way we intentionally choose to, and by cultivating a relationship with God and understanding that we are His children. Most of us uncritically accept the self-defeating and invalidating thoughts that come into our minds, helplessly blame our partners for them, and feel miserable and short changed in our relationships.
If I had pouted and continued to think painful thoughts about what my cleaning toilets on Father's Day "meant," it could have created conflict with Cathy and ill feelings in me. I could have chosen to feel unhappy and let everyone around me know I was unhappy just to make a point. And you know what? That is what most people do. They believe all of the cognitive distortions that come into their minds, which generates hostility and pain regarding their relationships.
What I needed was not to make a point, or for anyone else to feel bad. What I needed was to love and be loved. When I realized that and chose that path, I created that experience and Cathy cooperated. And when I shared my experience, I received empathy and felt validated in my former feelings, even though I no longer felt I needed it. I felt like Cathy cared about me.
There is tremendous power in choosing which of our thoughts to accept into our consciousness, and which to discard. This is the essence of what Father Lehi meant when he said that people are "free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon." (2 Nephi 2:26.) We are often acted upon by our thoughts. We cannot help the fact that certain thoughts come to us or certain events trigger us. But we can help what we do with those thoughts. Do we allow painful thoughts and interpretations to linger? Do we waste our effort trying to get someone else to be different from how they are so that we can be happy?
To act instead of being acted upon means to live with intention. It means governing our relationships with intention rather than emotion. It means choosing the emotions we want to experience, rather than letting the panic of our brains dictate them. We are free to choose for ourselves. But if we don't know we can do this, it's easy to walk through life defensively worrying about the things other people say and do and being miserable about it.
This is an important topic because many of us in this group have failed marriages and other relationships in our history. If we are to learn from them and do better next time, it is imperative that we understand the power of our thoughts to create the experiences we want. This applies just as much in dating and friendships as it does during marriage. Think on it.
Who wants to recreate and rebuild their lives? This Program was designed for you!
Along with many incredible Relationship Coaches, Mental Health Professionals, College Professors and Public Speakers, Love in Later Years will inspire and coach our team of Dating Olympians in our 5-week online masterclass and dating event. Packed full of coaching challenges, supportive interactions and a 2-week in person dating event, where Olympians will earn points for putting to practice what they learn in the course.
To promote this event, the Dating Olympics is offering a huge discount for the first 50 people who sign up. Spread the word!
Share it with your friends or someone you want to get to know. This will be the perfect opportunity for you to do that.
Here is our LILY Pod interview with owner & founder of the Dating Olympics:
15. Sheri Braithwaite and the Dating Olympics by LILY Pod • A podcast on Anchor
Jeff & Cathy discuss Sheri Braithwaite's journey as a mid-single, recovery from divorce, and why someone who "hates" dating created the Dating Olympics.
This afternoon, we were privileged to watch the FIRST EVER Face to Face Event for Single Adults (ages 31+). This event had a different approach than others before, considering it’s for a more mature and experienced audience. It will be a blessing for so many! We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church who was involved in the planning process. Please watch this online for inspired words of counsel/comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. It’s an invite for ALL singles - never married, divorced, or widowed. We highly recommend watching this. Here's a link to watch the playback anytime:
The first presidency asked us to also study President Nelson’s talk: “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains” from Apr 2021 General Conference, which you can find here:
After watching the premier of this special event this afternoon, we had so much to say about it that we did a podcast. Listen to our thoughts on this first ever churchwide mid-single devotional on LILY Pod:
14. The First Churchwide Devotional for Mid-Singles by LILY Pod • A podcast on Anchor
Jeff and Cathy discuss the first churchwide devotional for single adults over the age of 30 in a Face to Face with Relief Society President Jean Bingham, Sister Sharon Eubank, and Elder Neil L. Anderson.
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We would like to have 1,000 members by the end of July 2021! 💕 Come join us and please share with friends and family:
A SIGN OF GRACE
I took this picture during a lunar eclipse on February 21, 2008 from the balcony of my home in Washington. 2008 was the last year my former wife and I were together.
As I look back on the night that moon appeared, I am reminded of a couple of things. Even when our circumstances are difficult, there is beauty in our world. We can gaze on it in wonder and focus on what we have been given. The things we choose to focus on become bigger in our minds and manifest in our lives. I don't know if that beautiful moon had that meaning for me at the time. I just thought it was cool and was trying to capture it on camera. With the wisdom of another decade of life, I can see that a loving father in Heaven gave me an opportunity to see that He still loved me and was blessing me with the radiant beauty of His creation.
I think this picture also reminds me of the elegant order in our galaxy. No matter what is happening in our lives and relationships, the sun will still come out in the morning and the moon will rise when the sun sets. An eclipse like the one in this picture is predictable and follows the rules given by the creator. All of His creation obeys him (except sometimes His children).
In Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph Smith refers to the Moon as female -- as it is referred to in many ancient mythologies such as the Toltec and the Egyptians. Could it be that God had that glorious moon shining down on me that night with a message that he would be sending a beautiful woman into my life at the proper time? There are times and seasons for everything in life, and for some our permanent and loving marriage comes later than for others.
I have a friend who went through a very bad divorce who sometimes cynically refers to life as a "big juicy peach" whenever someone else is trying to be optimistic. But maybe the appearance of this moon during a very difficult time in my life could have reminded me that life is, indeed, a big juicy peach. It is full of blessings and opportunities and joys if we know where to look.
Miraculous events only have the meaning we allow them to have. Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah saw angels and it changed their lives completely. Laman and Lemuel saw angels and pretty soon went back to murmuring and being bitter. Why? Because "they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." (1 Nephi 2:12.) They missed the point because they did not know (or seek) the divine meaning in the events of their lives. They had totally blinded themselves to it.
When we are weighed down with sorrow, our view can become very myopic. It is hard to see beyond the crisis of the moment, and that crisis grows in proportion to the rest of the world. We can become very narrow-minded without even meaning to. This causes us to focus on suffering and suffer more.
If you are still suffering from the loss of a spouse to death or divorce, consider when might be the time to refocus on the opportunities and blessings that can still be yours in this life, and even in the life to come. I think the scriptural injunction, "seek and ye shall find" profoundly applies to finding the divine meaning in the world around us. So next time you see a sign of grace in the heavens, don't forget to notice and contemplate God's eternal love, and His promises to those that love Him.
Those of us who are "culturally safe" can choose to be spiritually mature, loving, and kind.
We echo what was said in this article, written June 1st. For our LGTBQ+ mid-single members.
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN
There once lived a man named Huffnagle. He was a sensitive man with a bright mind, and he was lonely. He had many good things in his life -- he was young and athletic, got good grades in college, had some good friends, and he was handsome. He couldn't necessarily see these attractive attributes in himself because he focused on people who rejected him. He rarely risked his fragile ego to ask women for dates and, when he did, he was horrified if they refused him, even for really understandable reasons.
One day at the beginning of an academic year, Huffnagle met a lovely young woman named Hilda and walked her home from class. She was aloof and stand-offish but cordial. He assumed she was not interested in him and determined not to call her. He didn't even ask for her number.
The next week, Huffnagle and his roommates all decided they needed to start dating more. They bought tickets to a concert in a unique location and decided to all get dates. Huffnagle vowed to ask the next woman he ran into for that date. As he was walking from his apartment toward campus, Huffnagle met Hilda again as she was about to go out for a run -- and he almost forgot his vow. But he kept the vow and asked her to the concert.
They had a good time, and he asked her for another date. However, Hilda's roommate called him and told him that Hilda was making fun of him with her other roommates. His fragile ego was unable to stand this kind of insult, so he walked to her apartment, asked her if it was true and, when she admitted it, he broke the date. She told him she was not interested in dating him anyway, but asked if they could be friends. He said that was up to her and walked away.
The school year progressed forward, as they always do, and Huffnagle dated once in awhile, but the first dates didn't ever seem to lead to second dates. Huffnagle was discouraged. He doubted he would ever find a woman who could put up with him and keep him company over the long haul.
One night, when Huffnagle was returning from a Valentine's Day dance in his tuxedo, he found Hilda waiting in his apartment. His date had not gone particularly well, and he had decided not to ask the same girl out again. Hilda wasn't there to see him, but he needed someone to talk to. He asked her if she was doing anything later that evening and she said no. He said maybe he would go to her apartment and see her. She had said she wanted to be his friend, so now he was going to talk out all of his romantic woes with her. However, Huffnagle's roommates got home, and they decided to watch a movie together, and Huffnagle completely forgot about telling Hilda that he would visit her.
The next day in church, Hilda asked Huffnagle what had happened. "I waited up until 1:00 a.m." she said. Huffnagle felt genuinely sorry to have inconvenienced Hilda and promised he would visit her that afternoon.
During that visit, Huffnagle and Hilda talked like best friends, reminiscing about childhood, sharing experiences, talking about literature and ideas, and connecting at a really deep level about emotions and spirituality. After that conversation, Huffnagle and Hilda were inseparable for the remainder of the school year. They often went to the beach together, got together in the evening to study together, went for long walks, and otherwise just craved each other's company.
As the end of the school year approached, Huffnagle realized that Hilda was planning to go on a mission, and he realized how much he would miss her. He thought he might never see her again, and it made him very sad. He thought about it over and over again, and he decided he did not want to live without her. So one quiet evening on a beautiful beach, Huffnagle proposed marriage to Hilda. He read her a poem he had written to her and said, "I love you Hilda. Will you marry me?"
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 2
When Huffnagle proposed, Hilda smiled and said, "Aren't you going to get down on one knee?" More sure of her answer now, Huffnagle bent down on one knee and repeated his proposal. Hilda replied, "Of course I'll marry you Huffy!"
Huffnagle and Hilda tumbled ahead like careless puppies, having a baby 10 months after they were married, living in different cities where Huffnagle tried to develop a career. But early in their marriage, Huffnagle noticed that Hilda didn't seem entirely happy. She seemed to resent not going on a mission as she planned. She also made the comment wistfully that, "I was just getting to the point where I could get any man to ask me out and enjoying being young and single. Now I'm just old and married and knocked up!"
Huffnagle was very troubled by these words and didn't like Hilda thinking them, let alone saying them. Why was she missing the attention of other men? Wasn't the point of dating to find love and get married? Then why was Hilda missing the dating game? It seemed out of harmony with their religion. Wasn't eternal marriage the point of everything? Hilda's thinking seemed dangerous. Were there former boyfriends she missed? Did she wish she was with one of them? Did she regret marrying Huffnagle? He worried and fretted about Hilda constantly. He quizzed her and asked her questions trying to decipher any clue of her disloyalty or dissatisfaction -- even if it was just a passing thought. She refused to discuss it with him, which only made his horriblizing worse as his mind concocted all kinds of things that might be going through Hilda's mind.
And there was more. Hilda was often unhappy. She rarely smiled, except when she was putting on a show for other people. She rarely smiled at Huffnagle anymore. She worried a lot about whether they had enough money and seemed to regret their sometimes meager budget for groceries. She often slept in until well after noon and was unmotivated to do house work -- so their home was usually a mess. Huffnagle tried to clean up when he could. But working full time, he couldn't keep up with it.
Huffnagle and Hilda had more children and more children were more work. They loved these children, but life had started to feel overwhelming. Huffnagle was often worried that things at his home were unsafe when he was not there and worried about Hilda's well-being when he was away at work or out of town on business. The budget continued to be tight and Hilda and Huffnagle got in trouble with credit card debt a couple of times, which they only overcame by even deeper cuts in their budget.
Hilda finally decided that she needed more money than Huffnagle could provide. So she got a job working nights as a waitress at a local diner. At first, Huffnagle objected to this because it would give them little time together as a couple. Hilda watched the children during the day when Huffnagle was at work, and he watched them at night while Hilda was at work. Hilda did seem a little happier. She kept all of the money she made for herself. It wasn't a lot of money, but it bought her some of the things she wanted, like the occasional pair of new shoes or a meal out with a girl friend. Huffnagle sometimes resented that He worked "for the family" and Hilda only worked for herself. He resented that she had more money to spend on herself than he had for himself, because most of what he earned was used to pay bills and support the family.
Hilda also made glowing comments from time to time about the men she worked with, or who flirted with her when she waited on them. Huffnagle wasn't so sure he liked having his attractive wife out in a social place where she was exposed to so much positive male attention.
Huffnagle also noticed that lovemaking had become less frequent and more of a chore for Hilda. She rarely wanted to be satisfied herself and mostly just wanted it to be over quickly so she could get back to reading her book or other solitary activities. Huffnagle tried to talk with her about how this hurt his feelings, but she refused to discuss it or even admit that it was a problem.
Huffnagle decided that maybe Hilda would talk to him in marriage counseling where there was someone else in the room to help Hilda feel safe. He proposed that they go to marriage counseling.
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 3
Hilda agreed to go to marriage counseling. Huffnagle loved Hilda desperately and he told the therapist, "I'll do whatever I have to do to keep my family together." Hilda was less convinced that she wanted the marriage to work, so most of the therapy focused on making Hilda happier. Occasionally, Huffnagle brought up the concerns he had, but the therapist said they were "putting the cart before the horse."
After six months of marriage counseling, Hilda did feel better and more willing to be in the marriage. But her behavior toward Huffnagle didn't change very much. She was still unwilling to discuss his concerns. Since those had never been explored in counseling either, they remained unaddressed and continued to fester. Hilda continued to be uninterested in Huffnagle in the bedroom.
As the years passed, Huffnagle and Hilda occasionally caught glimpses of the relationship they had when they were young. They were both intelligent and could connect over thoughts and ideas. But they could rarely connect over the things that were most personal to them. There was an undercurrent of contempt between them.
They built their dream home with a vaulted ceiling, wood floors, and an incredible mountain view. Hilda had always hoped that moving into a house like that would make her happy. (Huffnagle secretly hoped so too.) In the end, Hilda was happier for a few weeks -- until the newness wore off and the house was just a place to crash. They tried the same experiment with a luxury car for Hilda. She was happier for a few weeks and then it was just transportation.
As our couple was sitting in church on Easter Sunday, Huffnagle looked over and saw that Hilda was not wearing her wedding ring. His anger swelled within him, and he removed his wedding ring and dropped it in Hilda's purse. She looked over at him incredulously and whispered, "what?" Huffnagle whispered back, "You haven't worn your ring in months and you ask me what?"
That moment between Hilda and Huffnagle was the beginning of the end. Huffnagle decided that his concerns had never been important to Hilda, and he persisted harder than ever to make her hear him. In turn, Hilda persisted more stubbornly than ever to stonewall and resist all uncomfortable conversations. The more they did this dance, the more polarized they became -- until Hilda wanted nothing to do with him and moved into to the spare bedroom.
Huffnagle went to Hilda shortly after this and said, "I love you Hilda. We've been together through good times and bad times -- 16 years. We have children. I don't want a divorce. Can we go to marriage counseling again?" She said she would think about it. Huffnagle went to her parents and told them everything and asked them to recommend counseling. They seemed troubled and said they didn't want to be involved, but said they would encourage her to go to counseling.
TO BE CONTINUED AGAIN . . .
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 4
Hilda agreed to go to counseling again and said she was hopeful. Huffnagle was hopeful too. But this time around, Huffnagle was different in counseling. He didn't approach it with the attitude that he would do anything it took to save the relationship. He thought it would be better if both he and Hilda were heard and understood in counseling.
Perhaps Hilda was hoping that counseling would do what it did before -- and get Huffnagle to focus only on making her happy at his own expense. Perhaps she was actually just done with the marriage and didn't know how to end it. Perhaps she only went to counseling to please her parents. Huffnagle could not tell for sure which of these answers was right or if they were all wrong together. All he knew was that, at first, it felt like Hilda was trying to "win" the sessions. Perhaps he was doing the same. It is common for people to go to counseling wanting the counselor to change their partners.
The counseling went on for 8 months, but it was mostly over after the first month, when Hilda mentally checked out and became mostly non-responsive in therapy. Whatever the reasons, she just appeared tired and crestfallen -- like she was exhausted from years tolerating a marriage to a man she didn't really love. She seemed to be following the path of least resistance. She wasn't quitting counseling, but she wasn't engaging either. It was quiet, passive resistance.
They say some marriages end with a bang and others with a whimper. This was definitely a whimper kind of ending. In fact, Hilda and Huffnagle never argued -- during their marriage or in the middle of the divorce. Their marriage just seemed to fade out of existence.
The counselor once said, "You two don't seem to have any passion -- even to fire one of you up to go and file for divorce." Huffnagle knew, for his part, that he had been passionate about Hilda. But he was emotionally exhausted from years of over-functioning with a chronically depressed wife, and trying to earn the love of a woman who would never give it. One person cannot have enough love for two. Huffnagle had learned that the hard way.
As the years passed, Huffnagle and Hilda tried to mitigate the harm the divorce did to their children through counseling and other interventions. But it was hard for Huffnagle to watch his children suffer and act out.
Hilda moved in with another man before the divorce was final, believing she was finally in love. Huffnagle dated many women for a decade before he re-married.
As his single years passed, Huffnagle sometimes reminisced about his younger years and his marriage to Hilda and he was sad that something that began with so much promise seemed to almost end for no reason. He heard from the kids that Hilda's new husband had a bad temper and he hoped she was o.k.
As he thought about it, with the benefit of some time and distance, he understood that he had not been a perfect husband. That is not to overlook Hilda's limitations. But he could remember moments early in the marriage where he was needlessly insecure and jealous, and realized that his questioning of Hilda not only seemed weak and needy, but also reflected a lack of trust. He also thought about how he was always a little bit afraid that Hilda was not who he hoped she was, and might not be true to him and to their shared faith -- and he had never been at peace about this. As he reflected on it, Huffnagle realized that this had probably helped to create a feeling in Hilda that she was not right for him and that she could not be what Huffnagle needed. This was reinforced by the fact that Huffnagle often looked to Hilda for his happiness and validation of Himself -- which was overwhelming to Hilda and felt smothering to her.
Huffnagle came to peace with the idea that the demise of the marriage had not been all Hilda's fault. He had also played a role. He had loved Hilda the best he knew how at the time. There were marriages worse than theirs that went the distance -- even involving severe mental and physical abuse. So what did that say for Huffnagle and Hilda? Not much. Such comparisons are seldom very helpful.
Huffnagle had always previously thought that marriages ended because of abuse and that people need a really good excuse to get divorced. He learned that divorce is about a choice, not an excuse. Huffnagle learned the hard way that you can never take love for granted. It is a precious gift. It cannot be taken, demanded, or extracted. It can only be freely given, and a wedding ring does not change that. Real love honors agency and accepts the consequences.
Huffnagle also learned that a marriage is more than a discovery -- it is the creation of the two people involved. He learned that he could only create his 50 percent of it, and that marriage could be better if the two spouses together formed clear intentions about how to operate and create a marriage they both loved.
And here ends the tale of Huffnagle the human -- utterly human isn't he? I hope all of us can see the little bits of Huffnagle and Hilda in ourselves and think a little more deeply about how we show up in relationships. Divorce creates a precious opportunity for us to intentionally consider how we can show up better, be less demanding, be more connected, and be more capable of personal happiness and, thus, marital happiness.
You may be in pain lover past losses. But take this journey. Accept the challenge. It might be the best thing you've ever done.
RELATIONSHIP LESSON FROM HORSES
I love horses. I mostly grew up in the city and my ranch raised father decided I was missing out on the education in hard work he had received as a child. So he sent me to work on my grandfather's ranch with my uncle David the summer I turned 12 years old, and I continued to do that every summer until I was 18. I was horseback 16 hours a day. At age 11, I learned to get up at 5:00 in the morning, catch and saddle my horse, and be working by the time the sun came up. By the time I was 13, I could cut and corral cattle as well as my uncle.
During those summers I would usually have two horses, and I would alternate them every other day so they would have a day off between work days. During that period of time, I got to know about five horses really well. Each one had its own personality and style. My least preferred mount was a tall and beautiful sorrel named Lad. He was beautiful, and a great cow pony. But he was mentally ill. When I would call the horses in, all the other horses obediently came in, knowing they would be fed grain. I always had to go out and catch Lad in the pasture. When I saddled him he would blow up his belly so the cinch would not be tight. A mile or so down the road I would always have to get off and tighten the cinch. Before I discovered that trick of his, I had the saddle just slide off to the side and fell off a couple of times. Whenever I went to get on him, he had his ears pinned back like he was angry and stepped around nervously like he wanted to buck.
Lad did buck with me a number of times. Typically, if I held something out to the side of me, he thought it was a ghost or something dangerous to him and would start bucking. The first time it was a water jug I was handing back to my dad. I didn't last three jumps before I was bucked off. I can describe the other incidents, but you get the general idea. Typically, I never got to ride Boots or Smokey when my brother or cousins were around, because I was the more experienced rider and knew Lad better -- and he was by far less gentle than the other two. Sometimes I hated him.
The biggest problem I had any time a horse started bucking was that I would freeze with fear and spend all my energy trying to get the horse back under control. I always try to keep control and stop them from bucking in the first place. But once they start bucking, I have to control myself before I can control the horse. If you talk to great rodeo cowboys, they can tell you that they simply accept that the horse is bucking and, in fact the harder he bucks the higher they are likely to score if they can stay aboard. They focus on themselves and the things they can control (body position and movement). They focus on reacting to the rhythm of the horse and getting into that rhythm with him. They aren't fighting the horse. They are working with him. You know what? Once the horse knows he can't beat you, he realizes that bucking is futile and he stops wasting his energy bucking.
Much like Lad, most of us in this group have experienced traumatic events or relationships in the past. We are likely to overreact as a result of that. Much like the 12-year-old me, we are tempted to try to control our partners to prevent chaos from erupting and destroying our lives.
Like a bucking horse, when a trial appears in my life, it usually feels like chaos unleashed. I instinctively try to seize control of it. However, if I relax and focus on the things I can control, I generally see that there is a rhythm to it. It is not chaos. If I accept that the horse is bucking and get in sync with the rhythm of it, I can ride it out. If I fight it too hard, I am likely to get bucked off.
Relationships are like that too. If my partner feels fear (which most do at some point in a relationship) and pulls away from me, I might be inclined to react with fear and try to seize control by arguing vociferously for why she is making a huge mistake. So what is she going to do? She's going to buck harder. (I have learned this from experience.) What if I accept that this is where she is and try to get in rhythm with it? We are more likely to ride it out. We are likely to build trust and both of us will gradually realize that no bucking is necessary.
Life and relationships can be like riding a high spirited horse. You can't take them for granted and they can surprise you in all kinds of ways. But remember, when it feels like chaos is breaking out, it probably isn't. There's actually a rhythm to it. If you can get in sync with that and work with it, life goes better and relationships go better.
This is my Zoom coaching space. I had a great session this morning with one of my awesome clients. It feels so good to connect with and assist mid-singles as they intentionally create the life they desire. It's rewarding and we are so thankful for every opportunity we have to make a positive difference in the lives of those who are ready for positive change through our LILY Coaching program.
If you are interested in booking a free consult with Jeff or Cathy, email us at email@example.com
During my mid-single years, I often heard the phrase "I hate dating." I even heard it from people who were actively making an effort to date -- maybe even especially from those people. If I asked the reasons, I heard disparaging comments about the opposite sex, feelings about having hearts broken in the past, negative comments about "playing games," and comments about how "phony" and "contrived" the process is.
In one way or another, all of these comments come down to fear. These include fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of emotional pain, fear of invalidation, fear of being deceived by a partner and hurt, or fear of not being able to "play the game" right and win the prize. Inevitably, dating is an emotional risk and it feels unsafe. (It's also exciting for the same reasons.)
How do we confront these fears and make dating more joyful and less fearful?
1. The Apostle John wrote, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18.) Isn't this true? It may have been written 2000 years ago, but it is true in 21st century dating that "fear hath torment." I am suggesting that the primary remedy for fear and torment is to love your dating partners. You might be thinking, "I don't know her yet. How can I love someone I just met?" I'm not suggesting getting carried away with romantic feelings and making commitments when you have barely met someone. I'm talking about genuine, Christlike love. Care about him or her as a person. Ask authentic questions about his or her life. Focus on the other person instead of your own fears. Focus on getting to know him or her and discovering what is special about that other person. Focus on finding genuine ways to build him or her up. Focusing your attention on the other person's gifts and goodness is the way to love him or her, even early in a relationship.
2. Focus on authenticity and be vulnerable. For some of you, this will trigger thoughts like, "but my ex-husband was a narcissist," or "I can fall in love easily and I need to remain suspicious to protect myself." No, you don't. That is fear talking. It is a fear of being vulnerable. You can never build high enough walls to protect you from getting hurt again. The best way to see who the other person really is, is to cultivate an authentic relationship, not a guarded or contrived one. As Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1.) Do you know any "sounding brass or tinkling cymbal" people -- who are very impressive talkers but void of real love? Such hearts are exposed in an authentic relationship. If you are only playing games and keeping your own defenses up, the other person will do the same thing and you will have a superficial dating relationship and not really get to know the person at a deeper level. That's how you get fooled. Take the lead in creating an authentic and vulnerable relationship. That is your best defense against marrying a narcissist. Focus on love and the fear of being fooled will dissipate.
3. Drop the excuses. If you think the dating process is "phony" and "contrived" change it. There is not some big governing body that sets the rules for dating. "How it works" is determined by the two people involved. Our social customs are not so rigid as to prevent authenticity and vulnerability. When you are dating, you and your partner make the rules. If it ends up being phony, it is because you made it that way. Honestly, it is such a relief to drop the pretense and stop trying to impress, and just have a real conversation with another real person.
I've heard every excuse in the book for why people don't date, and I know it's not for me to judge any individual. I only encourage you to seek for the things you really want. For most Latter-Day Saints who understand the plan of salvation, I think an eternal marriage is our highest aspiration -- second only to our relationship with God. As President Kimball said, "Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person." So why do many of us pretend we don't want something that we fervently do want? Fear. We do it in many areas of life. If you don't get that job you really wanted, you might be inclined to tell people, "I didn't really want it that much anyway” to make it okay. Any other time we are not chosen for something we really want, we make it okay by saying "I didn't really want it." For many of us, we tell ourselves that we don't want to get married because that's safer than getting our hopes up and being disappointed or embarrassed. So we make excuses instead. As Jesus said:
"Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:15-20.)
"I have to focus on my kids right now."
"I have to get my business up and running first."
"My church calling takes all of my spare time."
"I am not good at marriage."
Instead of making excuses, admit what you really want. Be authentic and real. If you are afraid of getting hurt, say so. It will feel a lot better than pretending you aren't interested, playing hard to get, or telling people you are apathetic or don't care Of course you care. You are talking about your eternal destiny. Confront your fears with love and not with walls.