Actually, my dad was real stickler for this. He used a strong hand to dominate our thoughts and was very determined that what we said we did.
there is a great book written by a guy Viktor Frankl the title is man’s search for meaning, and I’m sure he meant women to, but this book is basically about the freedom to think what we want to think. And when somebody tries to control what we think they are trying to control our spirit.
as a result of my dad teaching me that blessings result from your thought, word and actions, I developed a powerful commitment to think whatever I want to think. That of course came with a massive amount of trouble.
in my 50 years of my professional working life I’ve only been employed for four years. The rest I have been self-employed. I’ve owned many businesses and worked all over the world. You might say that this is a great achievement but it’s not really. I had no option. Basically those four years of employment taught me that I was unemployable. My renegade spirit does not survive in the corporate environment as an employee but it provides a fabulous perspective as a coach or a consultant into the corporate world.
As a renegade spirit my flight for self responsibility and self determination has also had significant and unique consequences. Firstly, and most conspicuously I have been married seven times. The only thing that this signifies is that I have to be brave enough to know when relationships are over, smart enough to let go quickly, and loving enough to be open to new love and new relationships afterwards. But all of this stems from the inspiration to love more of life.
When I arrived in my first marriage at the age of nineteen, I stopped that search. I went into a ten year hibernation. Love was not a high priority because I had it. I had love, enough for ten people, and kids, kids and more kids. The topic of wanting more love was never even a whisper in my ear. Work was work and loving my work was never a topic of search. I loved my business and loved the product I built, engineered and sold. I loved our factory and loved the income and great car I drove. I’m not sure if my love and my pride were one in the same thing when it came to work. I suspect the latter. But the point is, there was no thirst for love even when my domestic circumstances were not perfect. I loved my family. I loved my wife’s family and their family. But it was all pretty “low grade” love and I had no other benchmark to define it as such. Until Ann.
Ann was a an executive recruitment consultant and we used her company exclusively to hire new staff. Her business did well from ours and so she constantly invited me and my now business partner to lunch. One lunch, my partner couldn’t attend, and I ended up at Ann’s house. Two years later the affair, which had become intense, was the undoing of my marriage. In the process Ann and I broke up and she started an affair with my business partner. I wasn’t around to see the end of that. The point here is that until I had something to compare my love for my wife with, which was the affair with Ann, I was totally satisfied and in love with, my wife. When both Ann and my wife went out of my life, and I started to meet new partners for love, I found myself in a whole new and exciting world. Love was suddenly different.
What I came to realise about love is a separate story. But most importantly, what I came to realise about my marriage was saddening. My thoughts, my words and my actions were no aligned. Even though, for ten years there was absolutely no doubt in the love I had for my family, and hers, my thoughts, my words and my actions were not aligned in it. Let me explain.
My thoughts, call it my attitude, outside the home with my wife were not loving to other people, not always. My actions and words outside the home were not always loving and kind. My thoughts inside our home were task focussed and sometimes I was critical or rude to my wife with my words and yet, had a strong daily appetite for intimacy. I travelled on business for extended periods, and loved the travel. I was almost as if, I gave the impression to my wife, that my life was better away. I think, so long ago, I mistook turning up and doing the right thing as a way to show love.
Within all this clumsy framework, I knew I loved my wife. I loved her in a clumsy way. I felt love for her but felt unattracted to her. I felt love for her and measured it in house value, fences built, kitchens renovated, income deposited and holidays had. I measured my love in games played with the kids and what I was teaching them about footy and fun and surf. I loved my family but my thoughts, words and actions aligned with something else. Something more clumsy.
That alignment of my thoughts, words and actions with my family was my exceptions. When the kids and my wife aligned with my expectations of love I was over the moon in love, when they didn’t I did whatever it took to adjust them in my direction. I called that being a loving husband or dad. But people can reject your expectations they cannot reject your love.
After 13 years of marriage, from the age of 19 all the way to 32, the wheels fell off the marriage and, if we hadn’t had children to buffer the declining quality of my increasing expectations and misalignment between thought, word and action, as my mistaken confusion between expectations and love expanded, my wife, logically went into an affair, as I was getting my cake with Ann and bringing home the bones with the marrow sucked out. My expectations and hers were not being met by each other and the whole family exploded into a his and hers battle Royale.
The gift of all this is the process I had to go through in order to trust a relationship again. At first, after a few years of therapy and psychoanalysis and an MBA full time to reset my work life as a new man, I started to date people who were not conditioned by the family bubble my wife and I had created. Here are a few examples of what the difference was.
- A quality dinner wasn’t measured by how much it cost or how long it took to cook. It was measured instead by the quality of conversation and focus.
- My opinion about my date’s choices in life were now considered insulting and macho whereas they were a measure of affection in our marriage bubble.
- The authority to say “WE” was renounced and the core investment in a good relationship was “I” – individuality became the mark of excellence rather than, as it was in marriage, a sign of dissatisfaction.
- Sex became a barometer for others as well as me regarding thought, word and action. How I treated a person when naked, reflected strongly how I would treat them with clothes on in daily life. I had to re-learn the art of zen in sex as well as life.
- A new measure of compatibility arose and rather than defined by whether we liked the same sports, or time investment was good for the kids, it now became a vital ingredient of self. Who I was, to be loved, included my commitments outside of my romance.
- It was now boring and droll to talk about work. Where once in my marriage it occupied 60% of all air time, with the other 40% the kids, it now became a zero interest topic. I was expected to be a person who had their work life together and if not, was of no interest to my now, outside the family bubble, dates.
- My love for my kids was welcome conversation. But it had shifted remarkably. Instead of my worries about where they were not meeting my expectations, where I needed to fix what was broken, the conversation was more about how beautiful they are. That was a remarkable shift from my married bubble. And, it was given about 5% of any air-time.
- Ambitions for the future was the 95% topic. and not only mine. In dating we fall in love not only with how a person behaves and the words they share, but in their thoughts of the future. It was the biggest swing in moving from a family bubble of low quality control over love and relationship, to the free world. In our family dialogue, where I was taking my business, what house we would buy next, what schools the kids would go to and what cars we should buy, where our next holiday trip would be was an important part of the rhetoric. But in the free market of meeting other human beings, none of that was of interest. Dreams beyond the confines of the current management of reality were top of the table. Dreams, I had had but not shared with my wife because we were invested in building the dream within the bubble. Now, with the bubble burst, I needed to be accountable for having a personal vision, a sense of purpose greater than the bubble. And, what shocked me most is how much I had been itching to engage in a dialogue about it. Not to be criticised or advised, but to find an ear that pricked up when they heard the dream.
Those are just a few of the in-bubble out of bubble realities I discovered. I wrote long and hard about this in “Sacred love, the honeymoon that lasts forever” and “Innerwealth, putting the heart and soul back into work and life.” Both books are about how to have your cake, the family and partner, and do great work, without creating a self dissonance between the dream, the real you and the responsibility of relationship and family.
I have been married 6 more times since my first wife. Most lasted 3-5 years. Quality control is so much easier when you do not have the responsibility of joint financials and children with each other. I’ve nor had more children but willingly played the role of step dad in many. It’s always challenging to let the children I’ve sort of adopted during a relationship go. But I’m convinced that a child is far better off with a single parent than they are, living in a home with a bubble relationship where the quality can be lower than market. So, in that regard, I see how couples can raise their expectations as a measure of relationship and in doing so, default to poverty in a relationship or marriage on the true meaning of love, and the true purpose of a home.
A stressed parent, no matter what the cause, injects poison into the heart and mind of a child. They will say, “I love you” at breakfast, but like an alcoholic, will not end the day in the same state of mind. When words, thoughts and actions are not consistent, usually the result of work stress or hormonal imbalances, a certain trust is broken and acceptance and rejection become the new definition of love. The consequence of that that slip is conspicuous in the world we now see filled with iPad screens, medications and agitation.
What I say to parents whose kids are spending what the parent thinks is too much screen time, is this. What is so bad about the home outside the screen that they’d prefer a computer game to life outside of it. The parent often blames the school yard, but that’s just living in a family bubble and not realising that expectations block love and when parents say they love someone and then speak or act differently, that they are the cause, not at the effect, of behaviour by the kids.
Love is a lifestyle.
Love is a lifestyle.
Love is a lifestyle.
Love is a lifestyle.
Love is a lifestyle.
Love is a lifestyle.
That’s the end of 100 Things I wish my Dad taught me. Episode 20. “Blessings result from your thought, word and action.”