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.
Jeff and Cathy each hold college degrees in the family science field. The principle of least interest is a prominent theory in this discipline. It simply means that the partner who is least invested in a relationship controls that relationship. This is so because the less interested partner is more willing to walk away rather than compromise or change.
We have seen many manifestations of this, such as a wife who is constantly clamoring for her husband's attention while he works long hours to avoid feeling smothered at home. It could be the husband who is pressing his wife for more couple time while she focuses on the kids and her friends, often to the exclusion of her husband.
In the realm of dating, one person may be very excited about another, while that other may still be dating a lot of other people. That dynamic creates a great deal of frustration for both of them. The one who is dating all of the other people controls the relationship because he or she is prepared to pursue other interests, while the other is willing to make the relationship a priority.
If you are the more interested dating partner, here are a few suggestions to help you deal with a relationship where you have no power:
- Date other people. If your partner does not commit to an exclusive relationship, neither should you. I have coached people who have protested, "But I don't want to date anybody else. I have found the person I want to be with." Don't invest more than your partner is willing to invest. This isn't a matter of playing games but of recognizing where your relationship really is. For commitments to be meaningful they need to be mutual. If you are constantly chasing someone who is chasing other people, you are likely wasting a lot of time and emotional energy, and smothering your partner in the process. Keep dating other people and give your partner a chance to catch up. Be open to meeting someone else.
- Develop other interests. Take a class. Restore an old car. Get together with friends and go to a movie. Do some scrapbooking – whatever you enjoy. Don't overload a relationship with constant demands that the other person "be there" to make you happy. Make yourself happy and accept what the other person is willing to give. Ultimately, if your partner does not get more invested, your relationship is not going to go anywhere and it shouldn't. Occasionally we have seen relationships where the more interested person gave an ultimatum and the less interested person gave into it under pressure. That leads to a marriage to a half-hearted partner. Does anyone want that?
- Don't get married where there is a huge emotional intimacy gap. If you are in a relationship where you find yourself always wanting more of your partner, this may not be the right relationship for you. You may have fundamentally different ideas about the appropriate amount of time together and the balance between relationship and outside interests. You might have great physical chemistry and the ability to connect in conversation. But if your partner is not invested in the relationship at roughly the same level as you, it is going to take a lot of adjustment for you to get comfortable in the relationship. You're probably going to do a lot of grieving. You have to decide whether that is something you are ready to do, or if there might be another person out there that is better suited to you.
Listen to our LILY Pod episode which outlines dating etiquette for mid-singles and for married couples. If in addition to these free materials you would like to consider one-on-one coaching for your own dating and relationships, email us at loveinlateryears.com to schedule a free consult.
Enjoy LILY Pod Episode 7: Dating Etiquette for Mid-Singles and Married Couples
When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus answered: “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Loving God, ourselves, and our neighbors is at the root of all other commandments. When we cultivate that love, it is relatively easy and makes perfect sense to honor God’s other requests of us.
We encourage mid-singles to date and find a forever companion, but “love in later years” is so much more than that. It’s about developing the root of all other commandments, which is love. Life, with all its challenges and blessings, is more joyful as we carry the love of God in our hearts. God’s love provides us with a healthy sense of self and reminds us of our divine worth and individual wholeness. Our inherent worth is a constant – no earthly experience can ever change it. As we become love, as God is love, we have the power to develop love in our later years no matter our relationship status.
To dive deeper, enjoy our FREE LILY Pod series, which focus on developing love through honoring the two great commandments. We recommend listening to these in order (episodes 2-6). Links to each episode are provided below.
LILY Pod 5-Part Series:
God is Love, So are We
Relationship Priority Order
Cultivating Love for Thy God
Cultivating Love for Thy Self
Cultivating Love for Thy Neighbor
Lilies are our symbol for Love In Later Years. They have three true petals and three sepals, which are the same color, shape and size of the petals they are there to protect. We relate the three petals to Peace, Progress, and Pairing and the three sepals to Resilience, Intention, and Faith!
Resilience protects peace, and it is the first step in becoming whole as a mid-single. Healing from adversity, heartbreak, and disappointment rather than remaining stuck, is essential to obtaining and protecting inner peace.
Intention protects progress, by getting purposeful about efforts and actions. This moves mid-singles in the direction of their desires and deliberately cultivates what is in their highest good. Intention and progress also means investing in loving relationships so that in the latest years, we will have the assurance of eternal love and the blessing of warm memories. Consider the famous line from An Affair to Remember, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories. We’ve already missed the spring.”
Faith protects pairing, opening doors to the love of God -- which ultimately leads to love of self and love of others, our two greatest commandments and the source of our greatest joy! Having faith that our loving Father in Heaven knows our deepest desires can provide peaceful reassurance that a power greater than our own is at work in our lives. This is what our Savior said about lilies:
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin... if God so clothe the grass of the field...shall he not much more clothe you?... your Heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of... seek ye first the kingdom of God... and all these things shall be added unto you."
St. Matthew 6:28-33
To us, the LILY represents the glorious blessings of a loving Father who knows what we need and has the power to provide it. May the LILY of resilience, intention, and faith bloom in every season of your life!
Jeff & Cathy discuss the challenges and blessings of mid-single life. As highlighted in our most recent General Conference, single adults have now become the majority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During our mid-single years, we each felt like a minority in our church – many mid-singles feel like they don’t fit in. Little did we know that we were all in a class that was becoming and now IS the majority of our adult members! President Ballard and Elder Gong both cited in their talks at General Conference in April 2021, that more than 50% of our adult members are either-divorced, widowed or not yet married.
President Nixon talked about “The Great Silent Majority” of Americans, the same applies to mid-singles. Why are we silent? 1. Because we are busy and have a lot on our minds and on our plates 2. We may not feel comfortable speaking up 3. We just plain aren’t there because some of us become less active. Why? We are dealing with painful emotions. We don’t like being talked about. Divorced men tend to get treated with suspicion and women tend to get pitied. Transitioning to celibacy from marriage is hard. We may feel less relevant in a family oriented church as we adjust to less traditional family units.
We have compassion for all of those concerns it is worth living a covenant life despite all the challenges associated with it. 5 good reasons to stay on the covenant path and to start speaking up:
- There are more of us than we thought and there is strength in numbers.
- There are more opportunities to date within the Church than ever before.
- The eternal blessings of being sealed in the temple are just as real now as in our twenties.
- There is power and strength in our covenants to withstand the turmoil in these last days. Standing in holy places gives us support while we are without a spouse.
- We can give our much needed perspective and compassion as people who have experienced loss and grief in ways that no one else can.
Our Church and communities need your voice! You are the great silent majority. It’s time to not be silent anymore. Allow your voices to bless and build the Kingdom of God.
LILY Pod Episode 1: The Silent Majority
"Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love comes along and brings you a fairytale."
We were living ordinary lives as single parents until we finally found each other. And even then, it wasn't a typical fairy tale but we love our love story anyway. What we felt was missing before is even better than we imagined now that we are creating it together.
Wishing all the best to our mid-single friends who are busy living ordinary lives while diligently seeking and patiently waiting for their own special love story to come along.
Can you imagine finding both romantic love and the best of friendship in one person? We finally did, but it took us a lot of years and a great deal of patience to find each other and to create that desired balance in our relationship once we did.
Being able to imagine anything you want in life, especially things that haven't happened yet, requires deep faith and firm intention. Because purposeful vision, combined with faithful prayer, provides power to create and attract the righteous desires of our hearts, it is definitely worth the effort.
Happy imagining and envisioning to our single friends out there!