Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

When me and my wife first met each other, we first connected through laughter. Well, laughter and just a bit of sarcasm. One of the first things that attracted me to her was her smile and the way she laughed. She tells me she loved my dimples when I smiled. Throughout our relationship—which has had many ups and downs and challenges over the last 7 years—one thing that has made a key difference in our ability to move past hurts and fights and survive difficult circumstances is the ability to laugh together.

Here’s a real-life example that happened very early in our relationship:

I had planned a romantic evening in the city of Pittsburgh for the two of us that was to include a relaxed dinner at a local Italian restaurant, followed by attending a play at Heinz Hall. If I remember correctly, the play was the Nutcracker—which was 100% for her benefit. I’m a bit more adventurous than my wife, but we are both country kids who consider 4 cars following a school bus “heavy traffic.” If you’ve ever had the misfortune of driving in the great city of Pittsburgh, you know that its not exactly easy. There are three rivers that come together right in the middle of the city, so there are bridges and hills and curves and on- and off-ramps everywhere. You can often see where you want to go, but can’t find a way to get there. Oh, and there is ALWAYS construction somewhere. But being the romantic planner I am, I entered a relatively unfamiliar city with my trusty GPS on my dash. “Tom-tom will get us there just fine,” I said. “Just relax babe, it’ll be fine,” I told her. Apparently that particular GPS doesn’t like construction or tall buildings (big surprise) and combined with my increasingly flustered driving, led us on a scenic tour of the downtown area, then several neighborhoods, then back on the highway, then back downtown again. After about 45 minutes of frustration and we’ll call it “loud talking,” we finally reached our restaurant which was conveniently located next to a parking garage. We ate our dinner somewhat quickly, but still enjoyed it. As we left dinner to “simply” drive down the street to the play venue, our frustrations from earlier seemed to flair up again. I could see the playhouse, but among multiple lanes of traffic, pedestrians, buses and various signage, I was unable to easily locate a place to park. My lovely bride suggested I pull into the parking garage “right there,” she said. “Right where?,” I said. To which she responded, “right there, with the big red sign and the giant letters right in front of your face, that says PARK!” That is something we still bring up often whenever one of us doesn’t see something and the other one does and we still laugh about it.

Sometimes we start by laughing at each other, but it usually ends up with us laughing together.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t take things seriously or that we make light of our issues; we just know when our circumstances have us stressed to a point of blowup or breakdown we can opt for a third option by stepping back and laughing at ourselves. Just talking through our issues and struggles honestly while allowing our sense of humor to shine through has enabled us to relieve stress and continue to press on. Especially since having kids, our ability to laugh has been a life saver. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” and it was likely in a situation that was stressful or frustrating or just ridiculous. Its important that we actually take that time with our spouse to look back and laugh—by doing this often, we can re-frame our minds and put our past (and current) circumstances in right perspective. The bottom line is this: if you want to have a good marriage, don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to laugh loud and often.

When was the last time you and your spouse laughed until you cried? Share your story in the Comments, on Facebook, or send me an email

*This post is the second installment in the series The Truth About Marriage

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Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

When I proposed to my wife, everything seemed perfect. We were so much in love and so right for each other that I couldn’t wait to marry her. After only 8 months of dating, I finally popped the question to which I already knew the answer. But then something interesting and unexpected happened—as we started to actually plan the wedding our lives suddenly got stressful! We went from daydreaming about the adventures and babies we would have together, to arguing about flowers, guest lists, and the difference between the colors white and “ivory.” I wanted to be deeply involved in the wedding planning since I was going to be part of the ceremony too, but eventually I realized my wife had thought a lot more about the actual wedding day than I had and honestly, she cared more about it too. After several heated “discussions” we finally decided to relax and agree that if we ended up married at the end of the day we would be happy. At one point prior to this resolution, we were so caught up in the details and planning for the wedding, it started to damage or relationship—which of course was the whole point of the wedding in the first place. We temporarily got off track and we had some really bad fights. 12682856705_6a8f645bc6_b

I’ve seen this happen so often when couples get engaged and start wedding-planning; they start out happy and excited but get sidetracked and stressed out by the details of the day, forgetting that it is merely a drop in the ocean of their new life together.

Your wedding is NOT your marriage; it only signals the beginning of your marriage. Focusing too much on the wedding itself is like worrying so much about sweeping the runway before takeoff that you forget to fuel up the plane—if you’re not mindful of the big picture, it could cost you. So instead of freaking out about the first day of your marriage, why not focus and plan for the rest of the days. Men, let your bride-to-be do and wear what she wants (within reason) and ladies, just try to relax and remember that your marriage won’t be perfect, so your wedding doesn’t have to be either. This will hopefully help you realign your expectations and reduce your stress, keeping you from hurting each other before the big day. If you’re reading this and you’re already married, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Regardless of what your wedding day was actually like, remind yourself continually of why you got married in the first place—because you loved each other and wanted to commit to being together for life.

Do you have any good wedding-gone-wrong stories you would be willing to share? How about another truth that you have learned first-hand?

Let me know in the Comments, on Facebook, or by email

*Keep an eye out for more upcoming truth about marriage in the days and weeks to come!

If you’re like most people, January has you thinking about the new year ahead and you probably even made some resolutions or set some goals. For years I have done the same thing and have repeated much of the same without success. I have often felt like I start the new year with the best intentions and I’ve even made specific plans, set deadlines, and broken bigger goals into smaller ones. The problem is after a few months go by and life gets busy, my priorities tend to change. I find ways to use my time for things that may be good, but are not moving me closer to reaching my goals. One of the reasons goals don’t stick is because we don’t set ones we really care about. You may want to lose weight, eat healthier, or finally start that business or get a new job, but at your core you know that you’ll probably be just fine if you don’t do any of those things. And there’s always next year anyway, right?

Well I’m sure you can agree that setting an intention of becoming an overall better man is a worthy and achievable goal. However, pursuing this goal for one year is a bit short-sighted, as it takes time to really develop yourself and change your character and lifestyle. So why not set this goal for yourself over the next 20 years, repeating your intention and simply updating the details? Why not focus in on a few key areas in which you can improve yourself, then break them down into smaller, more specific goals for this year, for the next six months, and for the next 90 days, and all the way down to this week. The more specific you get, the easier it will be to track your results. But don’t only give yourself until the end of this year to become a better man; its an ongoing process that you have already begun—you simply need to keep moving forward.

Though your own goals and intentions should be specific and personal to you, here are 3 steps you can take this week to become an increasingly better man over time.

Reflect

On your past year, on your past five years, on your whole life…look back at the way you have lived, the relationships and jobs you’ve had and the kind of man you have been. Take an honest self-assessment and determine what is broken so you know where to start your work. But don’t just fall into the trap of self-loathing and beat yourself up over every mistake you made or bad habit you continued; look at the positive things, those things you did right that you take for granted. Go ahead and make a pros and cons list about yourself if want to see it all out on paper (I process things well this way). But don’t forget to ask yourself the why question: why did I do that? What were the circumstances, influences, or attitudes that led me to taking that action, quitting that job, or starting that habit? Remember to look at your life from all angles, trying to identify your core motivations and influences for the man you are now.

Find a good role model

I don’t know what your relationship is like with your father, maybe its good, maybe its terrible, or maybe you’ve never even met him. Men typically become like their fathers, as they have a tremendous influence in their lives for better or worse. Although fathers are supposed to be the best role models for their kids and especially their sons, they often miss the mark. Whatever your story with your father may be, you need to have at least one good role model of the kind of man you would like to become. If your dad is not one of those men, then determine clearly for yourself why he is not and find someone who is. Ideally you could find a friend or mentor who you could meet with in person and talk to about your past and your desires for the future. At very least, you need to read good books, listen to podcasts or sermons and do everything you can to soak up the wisdom and guidance of great men. Some of my favorites are pastor Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge) and Jim Daly at Focus on the Family, among many others. Many resources you can get for free or a very reasonable cost, but they deliver a tremendous amount of wisdom and value. The truth is if you don’t have a clear picture of the kind of man you want to be, you won’t ever make it there.

Find accountability

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yet I cannot stress enough the importance of accountability among men—this is the real key to not only reaching goals, but living a life of integrity. You must find someone who is willing to ask you the tough questions without worrying about your feelings, who will hold you accountable to the boundaries, values, and goals to which you have committed. You must share with them the desires and fears of your heart, verbalizing not only what you want to do, but where your present weaknesses are at the moment. This is especially tough for men to do; guys don’t usually sit around talking about their fears, hopes and dreams, past hurts, or their current feelings about their identity. This is definitely a learned behavior and comes with time and practice, along with trusted friendship. But if you really don’t want to share your heart and your issues with other men, I have to ask why not? What exactly do you fear? That the other guy will judge you or look down on you, gossip about you, or otherwise hurt you? This type of thing is obviously possible, but from what I have seen it’s not likely. And even if you do get burned by some jerk who you thought you could trust, so what? You’re man enough to take a few bumps and bruises along the way, aren’t you? What if you do find a meaningful friendship that offers real accountability? It could literally change your life and have a ripple effect in your family tree, positively influencing the lives of your wife, children, and even grandchildren.

No matter what day of the week you’re reading this, you can take these 3 steps within the next 7 days and be well on your way to becoming a better man. Take 15 minutes tonight to dedicate to some quiet, uninterrupted reflection on who you are now and how you got here and don’t be afraid to jot down a few notes. Lay out a few key areas you need to focus on this year and think of very practical goals. Tomorrow take a few minutes to identify one or a couple potential mentors or role models in your life and contact them this week if possible. Download a few podcasts or buy a book. Get accountable—call or text a friend or acquaintance whom you respect and know has some wisdom to offer. This guy doesn’t have to be a pastor, a coach, a mentor, or even older than you; he should simply be someone you can have honest conversations with on a regular basis.

What are other ways in which you want to become a better man this week/year/next 5 years?

I would LOVE to hear from you in the Comments, on Facebook, or by Email.

Also, if you want some more direction on where to look for good resources, or you want me to help you out with personal accountability, let me know and I’d be glad to help (send me an email or PM if you don’t want it to be public).

Don’t forget to check out some of my other posts about manhood, purpose, and other topics on tylerjbrooks.com/blog 

Lessons in online etiquette: 5 ways to avoid being a cyber-jerk

Placeholder ImageThe rise of the Internet and social media channels have forever changed our culture. The world has become so much smaller and more accessible that people can connect and share ideas and knowledge easier than ever before in history. But along with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Most people I know interact online on a daily basis to some extent, reading and responding to Facebook posts, news articles, blogs, photo memes, etc. Wherever you may spend your time online, if you want to avoid being perceived as a jerk (or something worse) I believe it’s important for you to know and practice a few rules.

1. If you don’t have the time to read a post or article in its entirety, you shouldn’t take the time to leave a comment 
It never ceases to amaze me at how many people will only read the headlines or the first couple of paragraphs of an article before posting a critical comment. I read a comment last week on an article where the commenter actually said he didn’t read past the point with which he disagreed, but HAD to stop and comment. What he disagreed with was only a minor point that really had no bearing on the entire theme of the article…but he doesn’t know because he didn’t bother reading past the two sentences he didn’t like. I’ve had comments on my blog posts from people who clearly didn’t read beyond the first paragraph, yet felt compelled to share how wrong and misguided I was in my thinking. I love constructive criticism and civil arguments, but don’t be a jerk by reading only the first paragraph before picking a fight or making a definitive statement about my entire identity.

2. If you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, don’t write it online 

I don’t know why this one seems to be so hard for people to understand. It’s like people don’t realize they are talking to and influencing other ACTUAL human beings when they converse online. If you were at a coffee shop talking to me face to face, would you still be so harsh and critical in your comments about my viewpoint? Remember that even when you disagree with a person’s ideas or actions, they are still a person who deserves to be treated with at least a minimal amount of respect. Online disrespect = disrespect in real life

3. Don’t be afraid to do some research before sharing an article about a controversial topic 

If you can’t believe everything you see on TV then you certainly can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. A lot of the time information is shared for the sake of being sensational and getting attention, whether or not it’s true or accurate. When you read a headline or a meme and immediately share it, you may be passing along bad information. It only takes a minute to do a little research and find some other reputable sources that back up a particular claim. If it’s hard to find a good source that accomplishes this, that’s a good indication that the story or “facts” might be bogus. We have a tremendous wealth of information at our fingertips–we just need to learn how to use it effectively.

4. Be sensitive to the fact that most people online don’t actually care about your opinion 

Do you know how many people have Facebook accounts, Email, or Internet access? I don’t know those numbers, but I know it’s astronomical. We’re talking multiple millions of people, logging on to thousands upon thousands of sites, reading billions of words around the clock. The Internet may have made our world feel smaller, but it’s still huge! Even someone with an online following of 100,000 has still only captured the attention of a very small percentage of the population.  My point is that it’s important to remember that while a few people may value and want to hear your opinion on certain matters, most won’t. And that’s OK. That’s why we collect Facebook friends and a following because those are the people saying they are more likely to be interested or care about what you’ve got going on. So when you comment on a stranger’s post and they respond with an insult or just ignore you, don’t be surprised. It’s probably not personal anyway. And try not to be the person who posts a rant or controversial statement with the disclaimer that you don’t want to start an argument and you ‘just HAVE to say…” something you know people will disagree with.   The truth is, you don’t actually have to say anything. I know it feels good to make your voice heard, but it’s not good when you do it in such a way to steamroll others and dismiss the opportunity to have a conversation.

5. Keep everything in the right perspective 

The bottom line when it comes to the Internet and social media is that it’s awesome only when it’s used well. All too often people and relationships are damaged because of the misuse of these powerful tools. At the end of the day, try to step back and look at the big picture of life, both on- and offline. The Internet is only one way to interact with the world and shouldn’t be your ONLY way. Don’t forget to have some personal conversations from time to time that are actually in-person. Don’t hurt a friend or lose a job or even a spouse because of something you did online. If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone in your life, please talk to them in person or on the phone. Your Facebook feed is not the place to argue with family members or tell someone what you really think of them. I know it happens all the time, but it shouldn’t. Keep it all in perspective and do what’s right.

Have other rules or tips for how we should communicate online? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or by email.

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com