MArriage vows and the divorce rate

I am often confronted by the beauty of the wedding vows and the cold reality of the current divorce rate.

I have often wondered if in fact, the wedding vows may be part of the problem. You see, we vow to stay with our partner in good times and bad. No matter what. In a way giving them licence to do whatever they want because we have vowed to GOD to stay with them in good times or bad.

I felt inspired to write some new ones. I shared them with Jax tonight:

 

I Stephen, take you Jacqui, to be my lawfully wedded wife.

I promise to honour, trust and love you.

I promise to continue to get to know you and never to stop courting you.

I promise to communicate with you, get present with you often and spend time with you, in short, to value the partnership we are creating today.

I promise to express my needs clearly and undertake to understand and fulfil yours.

I promise to keep the home fire’s burning, always choosing you over all others and make you see by my actions that you are my number one.

Right now, I don’t know how I would react to you being unfaithful, getting into any major addictions, losing your ambition or gambling all our money away. I would so prefer not to find out.

I promise to be a beautiful balancing mechanism in our relationship and a catalyst for ongoing growth.

I take our relationship, this marriage and our friendship seriously.

I commit to enjoying the good times, working through the bad and seeing the marriage through to the end.

Above all else, I promise to be yours as we journey through the adventure called life, together.

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What if heaven is the default?

What if heaven is the default?

[this is a thought. A hypothesis. An attempt at challenging paradigmes. IT DOES NOT MEAN I BELIVE IN THE HEAVEN AND HELL MODEL] [I speak of God here as He. That does not mean I personally believe God to be a man]

Why is it that main stream religion believes that HELL is the default? If we don’t live withing a certain religious code, we go to HELL?

Why not, if you live a good life and renounce evil, we go to heaven?
Why is heaven not the default?

I have a daughter, there is nothing she could do that would make me build a fire and ut her into it – for eternity! Am I a better parent than GOD? Am I more forgiving than GOD? Is my ability to love my child greater than God’s? I THINK NOT.

In my opinion, HELL is a construct created by religion to coerce us into living the way they decided we should. It’s a fear based model.

I dont believe in a jelouse God. A wrathful God. A vengeful God. A God that must be feared. I did not fear my earthly father. Why should I fear my father in heaven?

My Father in heaven, the great architect, made me. He knows who I am, what I am, what I will do, where I will go, how I will turn out. How could He get angry with that? I’m his creation. If he gets angry with me, he is dissing himself. His own creation.

I believe HEAVEN is the default. The way to HELL is specifically choosing HELL.

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Entitlement vs Fulfillment

Entitlement vs Fulfilment

 

We certainly are living in interesting times. The world is in such turmoil. Old paradigms being challenged every day. Some violently some peacefully.

 

Currently one of the ugly words out there (especially in SA) is ENTITLEMENT. I want to share my take on this from a human-behaviour and meaning-of-life perspective.

As human beings we all seem to have entitlement issues. We believe we are entitled to married parents. To an easy life. To having both parents present in our lives. To a job, a house, annual increases and regular promotions at work. We believe we are entitled to a loving, caring spouse and a marriage that somehow just works without any effort. We think everyone must like us, that people will behave like we do. That other cultures must fit into our societal paradigm. We believe that no one SHOULD ever lie to us, steal from us or embezzle our pensions.  We believe we have a right to loyalty, honesty and fidelity from our friends, family and spouses. We believe that we are entitled to our God given 3 score and 10 years (70). That no-one should ever bury a child. We believe that our lives should just flow and the universe must just provide.

SO HOW’S THAT WORKING FOR YOU?

We are entitled to a full life. A life full of happiness and despair. Filled with ecstasy and depression. Good times and bad. Fulfilled and unfulfilled. The truth is that as humans we are entitled to the FULL ambit of life experiences. Gut wrenching grief AND moments our hearts could burst with joy. The truth is that some people will love you and others will hate you. That you will love some and hate others. The truth is that most of your achievements will come from actions that you have initialled and acted upon. The truth is that most of your failures will come from actions that you have initialled and acted upon too.

You are entitled to feedback. Negative feedback tells you that you are out of sync with authenticity. Positive feedback tells you that you are in sync with authenticity. Your mastery will come from constant tweaking, constant trial-and-error. Doing more of what works and less of what does not.

You are entitled to balance. When you are egotistical the universe will pull you down. When you are down-in-the-dumps it will conspire to lift you up. You will be arrogant and humble and then grateful when this occurs.

When you start following your internal compass and tweak accordingly, constantly improving, you start to live in a state of grace. A state of fulfilment.

When you are doing more of what you love and less of what you hate, you build your self-confidence and positive self-image. You create health, wealth and fulfilment.

When you are doing more of what you hate and less of what you love, you kill your self-confidence and create negative self-image. If you do enough of this you will probably get ill and shorten your life span (and hate life while you wait to die).

Fulfilment is a chemically induced state. It is the result of an internal chemical reaction. It is created when you live a life filled with the things you truly love and appreciate. When you sub-contract the things you really dislike doing to someone who actually loves doing them.

Most importantly, it is a state achieved by yourself for yourself. It’s not your parent’s duty. It’s not your government’s duty. It’s not your Boss’s duty. Nobody wakes up every morning to fulfil your needs. Only you can create that.

 

Stephen

What I love about you is that you speak the God Honest Truth whether people appreciate it or not. Yes, you are provocative, but that’s what forces us to grow. In this day of Political Correctness and double-speak, you are a beautiful breath of fresh air. Just the God Honest Truth. Thank you.

Charlotte Du Plessis – Founder of Woman of Substance after my talk on FULFILLMENT

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Chapter 1 of So you lost someone, now what? The journey through grief and back.

Firstly, please accept my condolences on the passing of your loved one. The fact that you are reading this probably means you are mourning the passing of someone special. I am truly sorry for your loss.

I have been performing funeral services for about 20 years now and I have been actively assisting people with grief counselling for the last 5 years. Let me start by saying that there really are no words that can take away the pain you are feeling. There is nothing anyone can do to immediately make you feel better. Grief is something you need to deal with. It is a natural emotion, a rite of passage we all go through and a real part of the healing process.

I generally do not like to do grief counselling in the first 3 months because the greatest obstacle to stopping grieving is the person feels that they owe it to their loved one to grieve for a while. And while I agree with this, there is a time when you need to heal and move on. I believe that our prolonged grieving hold those back in the next world and that while they do appreciate our caring, they hate seeing us unhappy. I am certain that one day when we pass, we will want our family and friends to recover as soon as they can.

One of the reasons I am putting this into book form is the enormous number of people that ask me for my funeral service once it is over. Instead of preaching brimstone and fire, I take everyone through a journey of ‘a celebration of life’ and then acceptance. My fundamental belief is that the world is in order, that we pass on the day we were meant to and that GOD knows what GOD is doing. Anything else will leave my families in ‘victim’ mode and is not healthy. I would rather assist you to come to terms with what has happened than to leave you feeling that it should not have and that it is a big mistake.

Of course there are degrees of sadness and tragedy. Most of the funerals I perform are for the elderly who have reached the end of their lives and are generally pleased to be released. Those are sad. When a youngster dies, that is sad and tragic. My worst funerals are when the parents of the deceased are in the chapel. That hurts. And when the spouse and children are also present…EINA! The hardest for me are when the deceased is my age and the children are my daughter’s age. That brings the reality of the fragility of life, home to me in a big way.

People often ask me how I manage to perform over a 100 funerals a year and remain sane. Part of the truth is that I balance them out with over 100 wedding ceremonies but in reality I get some fulfilment from assisting families to say goodbye in the manner they want to. Funerals also keep me humble and grounded. I appreciate life more, I appreciate my wife more and I appreciate my daughter more. Facing death weekly assists me to appreciate what I have and live life more fully.

Speaking of balance, what very few people are able to see at the time, is the beauty of the moment. People are so caring, supportive and loving. Families and friends rally together in a rare show of humanity. People gather together, often for the first time in years. Unified in their love for each other and the grief they share. It is very touching to observe and renews my trust in the human race.

In case you are wondering about empathy, I have lots. I lost my dog Toby when I was only 12 years old, my dad (to heart disease) when I was 22 and my mom (to cancer) when I was 46.

As a Universalist Minister I am blessed to be in the position to assist just about any family from most backgrounds to say good bye to their loved one. What follows is my entire funeral blueprint from which I ‘cut and paste’ as appropriate when preparing for the service. The most important question I ask the family when I meet with them is, “How would you describe the Spiritual beliefs of the deceased? Was she Atheist, Pagan, Agnostic, Christian, very Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, believer not church going, more Spiritual than Religious, Spiritualist?” Most of my services fall into the ‘Christian – believer not church going’ category. You will notice that I have drawn inspiration from many religions, cultures and beliefs in putting this together.

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Compromise and the big “R”

Compromise and the big “R”

I have spent hours and hours with hundreds of couples as well as the hundreds of hours in my own relationships and the word I hate the most is ‘compromise’.

When I ask couples what they believe the key ingredients are for a happy marriage I inevitably get ‘compromise’ amongst them. The longer the couple have been married the more I get ‘patience and forgiveness’. The newer relationships usually give me ‘honest & open communication, trust and compromise’.

Personally I believe the three most important ingredients are, commitment, courage and friendship. Commitment to enjoy the good times, work through the bad times and see this thing through. Courage to have the difficult conversations and keep each other accountable. Friendship to see you through to the end.

My problem with compromise is that someone is always unhappy. Either one is totally unhappy because they compromised 100%. Or both are half unhappy because they both compromised 50%. I also generally find that one partner generally compromises more than the other does. In fact, that partner will probably be more caring, do more for the other one and hold out the olive branch sooner and more often than their partner does.

This is all fair and well during the ‘chemistry stage’ when the testosterone and oestrogen are flying and both are working hard at showing each other how lovely they can be. The problem is that over time, the big “R”, RESENTMENT, starts to build. Dr. Demartini speaks about an under-dog and an over-dog in every marriage. Generally it’s the underdog that compromises and will start to build resentment and if left un-checked, will erupt like a volcano, leaving both partners looking at each other open mouthed in astonishment.

I often speak about Money, Sex and Power in relationships. One partner will earn more than the other. One partner will have a higher sex drive than the other and one partner will be the boss or more controlling. Over time the person who is not the boss will build resentment, especially if the other partner keeps making bad decisions.

Resentment could come from many sources. One partner spending more money than the other. One partner wanting more sex. One partner not enjoying being bossed around. One partner wanting the lights out at 10pm and the other wanting to read. One partner consistently working late and the other wanting them home. One partner having a full time job and being expected to run the home with no assistance. One partner always being the designated driver. One partner playing golf every Saturday while the other looks after the kids. One partner getting a new car every 3 years and the other getting a second hand one every 5. One of you wants a maple finish for the renovated kitchen and the other wants a cherry finish.

In my opinion, one of the most important questions you can ask before getting married is, “Is the marriage a hierarchy (a head and a neck) or is it an equal partnership?” A hierarchical marriage can only work if both partners are 100% happy with that arrangement and actually want it that way. A partnership is much more difficult but, in my opinion has more chance of working. What you DON’T want is to think you are in a partnership, only to find you are actually the neck and subservient to your spouse!

Of course, there are always situations that cannot be solved simply. For example, you love bathing together but one likes a very hot bath but the other cannot manage that heat. Or one of you loves violent movies but the other cannot stomach them. In these type of situations you will just have to accept that the bath will always be cooler than you like when you are bathing together and your partner may go to movies without you sometimes.

I have found that one of the most difficult issues in marriage is how you decide on an outcome when you are in disagreement.

My advice is this:

  • Instead of compromising, always seek an alternative that is acceptable to BOTH of you.
  • Make sure that it is not you that is always ‘winning’ and that you are a fair partner.
  • See your marriage as a 50/50 partnership where you have only 50% vote.
  • Then treat each other as equal partners.
  • When there is no acceptable alternative, determine which of you it means most to. Then let that one decide and make the decisions on that specific situation.

And remember, resentment, the big “R” always leads to volcano, the big “V” and is always unpleasant.

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I AM ALSO A VICTIM OF APARTHEID

Our programming is our greatest curse.

I AM ALSO A VICTIM OF APARTHEID. I was born into a racist system. I was programmed to believe I was superior. I was programmed to believe that others were inferior. My (well meaning) parents believed this too. My schooling reflected it. Those in power ensured I was not exposed to international opinion. I was even given (so called) biblical evidence that this was true. Changing your programming does not happen overnight. One may have an intellectual understanding of what is right and wrong and profess to be something other than what you are. Unfortunately changing who you are does not simply occur when legislation changes. We find ourselves in a God-awful mess with no simple solution. I do not know how to right the wrongs of the past, without creating new wrongs that will have to be righted in the future. I do believe that it will be our great grandchildren that will bear the true fruit of the changes. But can we wait that long?

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Managing your wedding day, on your wedding day

I cannot count the times I have uttered the following sentence:

“John and Mary, now that you have signed the register, take a moment to be together, have a hug and a kiss before you go to meet your guests, this is the last time today you will spend quality time together.”

People often ask me if I have ever had a run-away bride or groom. NO not in 20 years.

People often ask me if anyone has ever seriously objected to a marriage. NO not in 20 years.

I have had several brides call me up a week before the wedding to ask if they are making a mistake getting married. I have had several brides and grooms have a massive fall out in the days and weeks coming up to the wedding day. I have had a couple of brides and grooms having a humdinger of an argument at the wedding reception itself. I have even had a couple leave separately and almost break off the marriage just five hours after saying “I do”. I also refuse to do marriage coaching in the two months leading up to the wedding day.

You echo a million past brides when you say, “But Stephen, our wedding day should be the happiest day of our lives! It’s the day we get married. The day we have our family and friends all together in one place to witness our vows and then have a party with us!”

Here is the rub.

Planning a wedding is stressful. Having a wedding is expensive. Agreeing on every detail is almost impossible! Keeping EVERYONE happy, a fantasy.

Very often, the bride has been looking forward to and planning this for years.

The groom on the other hand, knows that one day he will be married and have some kids and has a vague perception that this will entail a wedding ceremony.

Very often the bride will want full participation from the groom. Very few men can achieve this to the required degree.

Going to a wedding expo and checking out all of the different stands, chatting to suppliers and seeing what’s new may be heaven for the bride and bridesmaid but torture for the groom.

While the bride sees a beautifully orchestrated day in exquisite surroundings, the groom wonders if the money would have been better spent on a good deposit on a house.

I suggest you simply realise your differences, accept each other and plan around it. Use a wedding budget and then agree on who does what. What you each need to do on your own, and what you agree to do together. Be patient with one another. Be kind to one another. This is about the two of you getting married. Don’t forget the Spiritual while you plan the material and physical aspects.

Now we add personalities.

Everyone wants the best wedding for you. Unfortunately, everyone has a different vision of what a perfect wedding is. Everyone will want to add their view and give their opinion and everyone is correct – for them. I strongly suggest that you get emotionally strong here. Decide with your spouse what you want. Then ask lots of people what they suggest. Then tweak what you want together. You need to let everyone know that while their input is valuable, you retain the right to take it or leave it. Thank them profusely for caring and sharing and then use what you like.

This gets tricky when you add money. This version of the golden rule is often very true. “He who has the gold, makes the rules”. If your parents are paying for most of the wedding, they may feel that they have some rights as to how it is spent. On top of that, I predict that your wedding will cost you at least 50% and sometimes 100% more than your initial estimate. It’s difficult to ask dad for more money AND ignore his suggestions!

I often get brides asking me how to handle a meddling mother-in-law. This is tricky. You want the wedding your way but have a life-long relationship with mother-in-law and her son. To be honest, I don’t know what advice to give here. This one is incredibly tricky. Here is a thought. When you get to a situation where you cannot agree, generally someone will be angry or resentful. If you do it their way, you will be resentful on the day. If you do it your way, they will be resentful. My advice; be selfish and let them be resentful on your wedding day.

I have observed that very often weddings, funerals and Christmas bring out the worst in families. They seem to magnify the family issues. On the one hand, the family rally together as a team while on the other hand, those irritating little foibles seem to re-surface. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

My friends, you cannot imagine the intensity of the wedding day. There are a million things going on. A million people doing things. A million thoughts going through your minds. A myriad of relationships tugging in opposite directions. Minister, DJ, Caterer, décor, flowers, drinks, petals, rings, photos, ID copies, candles, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, acquaintances, groomsmen, bridesmaids, hair dresser, makeup artist,  flower girls, ring bearer, wedding planner, wedding crashers and a whole lot more.

Now add all of the relationships and their requisite expectations. The bride and groom expect this to be the happiest day of their lives. It’s the day they become husband and wife. It’s all about them. They will revel in the attention of friends and family while being together most of the night. Not really! Actually, it’s also about the friends and family and they will all vie for your attention. On the way to the wedding a lot of people will comment to their partner, “Man, I wonder how long the minister is going to go on for? I hope he does not bore us for hours!” The groom and his groomsmen have a BOY relationship. They punch one another, heckle each other, play tricks and DRINK. The bride and her bridesmaids have a GIRLY friendship. The bride and groom will have a myriad of possible relationships with their parents, siblings, new parents in law and siblings in law. There could be people there you don’t know, people you don’t like, people who you wish could have made it and invariably, people who have passed before who you dearly wish were still around.

I suggest you do not add alcohol to this  too soon. Especially if you have taken a prescribed calming tablet or tranquiliser! You have probably not eaten properly over the last couple of days. The chances are you have not slept well either. If you have just a sip too much alcohol before the wedding ceremony, you may be too zonked to actually be mentally present and if you take too many tranquilisers you may even miss you own wedding even though you are present physically J. I would rather you cried through the entire wedding than look at the minister with pupils that don’t dilate!

It is also an incredibly long day. You will be up early and leave late. It could be 15 to 18 hours long in total. You will be drained on many levels but mostly physically and emotionally. Everyone will want a piece of you. Everyone will want some time with you. The wedding planner will be directing you. There will be times when you are separated. Be prepared for this.

In closing. Your wedding day is exactly that. YOUR wedding day. Manage the process, don’t get bullied, try to include everyone, accept all input graciously and realise that it’s way bigger than you ever imagined. Once you have done all the planning, let go and allow it to happen. Invariably there will be a hiccup or two. Sort them out and move on. Above all, be prepared for an incredibly complex get together and then ENJOY it together.

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