Author Archives: Nick

Nick

About Nick

Nick Sorani is a personal coach and consultant for those seeking healthy marriages, families, and life. Contact Nick for more info about personal coaching, upcoming seminars, or to host your own growth event.

Every Husband and Wife Relate To This

Almost every husband and wife who sees this video does two things – laugh and relate.  The third option is to cry.  Let’s start first with the laugh and relate.

Humor is sometimes good medicine and let me begin by just saying that this video is hilarious.  It’s outright brilliant in the way it captures what most all of us have experienced.  The snagging sweater line, the husband’s expressions, everything just speaks to us.  We have been on that couch, and both sides!

Generally speaking, the feedback I get is that both wives AND husbands see a little of themselves in both characters here.  Men, we like to solve problems, but there are a lot of women who are also problem solvers.  And women are not the only ones who appreciate and need someone to occasionally just listen and let them know you hear and care about what they are going through.

All of the this leads us beyond the “laugh and relate” and onto cry. Some of us cry because we know too well what’s its like when our spouse doesn’t listen to us , and conversely, how frustrating it can be when we want to help our spouse but they don’t seem able to hear what we have to share.

My point is not to encourage a critical view of our mate, but to (hopefully in fun) bring to the table an awareness that we both, husband and wife, find it challenging at times to be the person the other needs in a certain moment.

Why do I frustrate my spouse so often?

While there is a part of me that is tempted to share some solutions, or communication tools, my gut tells me that solutions to this scenario are worth little if we don’t first take time to become more aware of why we frustrate our spouse at times.

Therefore, I will share more in a future post, but for now, let me just encourage you to ask a simple question: why do I get frustrated with my spouse when I am trying to share my experiences and/or feelings with them?

This is a good question to ponder.  Can I identify the trigger to my frustration, my harsh tongue, my feelings of despair or aloneness?  Is it something I am needing, and if so what?  Is it something I am wanting, but they don’t see or understand?  What could I do, or do differently that would minimize these triggers and help my spouse be there for me?

Validation is key to feeling connected

In the video we see a husband wanting to help.  This is where most of us are, wanting to offer support for our spouse.  Men (and women) often feel at a loss in these cases?  Why can’t I just pull the nail out?  Here’s a short answer, but in this case the wife is tired of the symptoms that nail is causing.  While she would like these “symptoms” to go away, perhaps her greater need is to first have her sufferings understood and acknowledged.  Validation is often as important as solution in feeling connected and loved.  As the listener, remember to first acknowledge, then ask if they would like to hear your thoughts or ideas.

Blessings and humor to you!

Nick Sorani

 

The Law of Investment in Your Marriage

A smiling couple in fitness clothing sitting on a set of steps eWe all know that in our savings accounts we can both invest and withdraw money.  But say that we reduce the amount of our investments, or deposits.  For a while we will still have money to withdraw, but eventually that money will cease to be sufficient, and if we stop depositing altogether the account will at some point run dry.

This same law of investment is played out in marriages everyday and everywhere.  For marriages to remain solvent and healthy, both spouses must choose and make the effort to invest in it.  Every day and week we withdraw on our goodwill, love, patience and connection with each other, and these things do not replenish and build themselves back up on their own.  A common deception is that that we can lean of the deposits of yesterday as if they will never run out or keep our credit rating positive.

The cycle of investment

Investing is often at its shining best when a couple is dating.  This is that incomparable time of sheer joy in getting to know one another, in putting things aside to help, share and enjoy the growing connection between two.  Creatively expressing love and appreciation is often at its peak here.

But after marriage, investing looses its urgency.  Life, work and children all call with demands on our time and energy.  If we are not careful, we find ourselves making large withdraws on our connection, then wonder why we feel so disconnected.

I’m working hard for my family but…

I have had both husbands and wives say, “But Nick, I am working my tail off for my family and my marriage.  At my job, around the house, with the kids.  Don’t tell me I’m not investing.”

That all may be true, but there is a difference between your energy on behalf of your home and your kids, and investing in the relationship you have with your spouse.  Here is the question to ask yourself:  What am I doing that builds connection between my spouse and I?

Connection is the key

The reason and purpose for investing is to maintain or re-establish connection.  Connection is that place when both husband and wife feel loved, understood, approachable, supported, and desires to share and experience life together because they are not two, but one.

It is often easier to understand this when we think about the times we have lost that connection.  Without connection, we rarely share our thoughts because we think, “what’s the point, he or she doesn’t understand what’s going on in my life anyway.”  Without connection we cease to do thoughtful things for one another because we have forgotten how good it makes both of us feel to do these things.  Without connection we are not putting our spouse’s needs in the forefront, and instead are only thinking about our own needs.  Without connection we feel alone, and we look to others besides our spouse to share and celebrate life.

As many of us know, this is not a good place for a marriage to be, and if connection is not rebuilt, complacency takes residence at best, or worse, the marriage continues to lose altitude.

I conclude with the same question I asked above:  What things are you doing in your marriage that build connection?  If you’ve read this far, then choose now to do something, or plan something in the next few days that will be a deposit.  If you feel lost, then simply find a time to ask each other what things, when done, make you feel connected to me?  Just asking that question will make your spouse feel more connected to you!  Don’t expect their answers to be the same as yours, and don’t look at this as if you’re being scored or judged.  Use the ideas below and create your own list.  Then go and enjoy the fruits that result.

I feel connected when:

  1. You ask me how my day was before you ask me to help you with something
  2. We laugh together
  3. You share something that was hard for you today
  4. You put your hand on my shoulder or initiate a hug
  5. We plan a date together
  6. You send me an unexpected note or text just to express love or appreciation
  7. You put your work aside to help me with something
  8. We share affection and intimacy
  9. We pray together and/or read a Bible devotion together
  10. We enjoy something outdoors
  11. We read
  12. We go to bed at the same time

The Empire State Building And Manhattan SkylinesA Proposal To Remember!

Last year I was doing some premarital counseling with a young couple engaged to be married.  I asked them to share with me the story of how he proposed.  There was no video or anything new or unusual about the proposal, but take a minute to read what happened and the reminder it is to all of us who are married.

Tom and Chandra (names changed for the story) were both ready for marriage and it was now just finding the right time and place to pop the question.  For Tom, the opportunity to go along with Chandra’s family to New York at Christmas presented just what he needed.

Reservations for two were made at a wonderful but off the beaten path restaurant.  After dinner he would take her where else, but to the top of the Empire State building.  There, alone at the top of the world, he would pull out the ring, and just like the movies, all the stars would align and everything would be perfect!

Well, almost everything turned out to be perfect.  Dinner was perfect.  She was looking beautiful as always.  He was feeling confident and sure.  All of that changed when they arrived at the top of the tower.  Instead of a wonderful, romantic bubble reserved just for the two of them, Tom shared that to his dismay it was jam-packed with other people, noise and lots of jockeying for position.  In sum, it was anything but calm and romantic.

Tom panicked, and couldn’t find a place in the crowd to do things the way he imagined.  Flustered, he was about to throw in the towel and wait for another day.  After a few minutes at the top, they began to head back to the elevator when something told Tom to stop.  Something told him to go back and “make it work.”

Filled with a renewed sense of confidence and importance, Tom asked Chandra to come with him as he took her back to a viewpoint out in the crowd.  Ignoring those around them, Tom says he looked Chandra in the eye and everything else disappeared except the two of them.  He pulled out the ring, proposed, and the two celebrated for several minutes “on top of the world!”

Making It Work

Tom’s description of the crowd and how it almost deterred him says something that is real for many of us.  As husbands and wives, life is busy and we are crowded all around with deadlines, requests, appointments, meetings, responsibilities, not to mention family and friends.  The reality is that the crowd around us will not part and give us space.  Other people and demands on us will not stop to give us time to go and spend some meaningful time with our spouse.

That is why I loved what Tom said.  There, at the elevator, he decided to “make it work”.  This is what many of us desperately need to do.  We need to silence all the other voices.  We need to barge into our busyness and say, “Aside, everyone and everything!  Tonight I am taking my wife out to dinner and nothing can stop me!  Aside, email, Twitter and Facebook.  Tonight we will take a walk together!  Aside fear!  Today I will share and discuss things with my spouse that I’ve been putting off, but would be good for us to talk about.  Aside, television or whatever else is knocking, for today I shall write my beloved a note of appreciation!”

I know, I know.  Wake up, Nick.  You’re talking goofy.  But think about if for a minute.  Life will not stop and give us the time to do these things.  Life is crowded with wonderful and challenging stuff all around us.  It is up to us to make it work, to ignore the crowd so that we might invest in our spouse and our life together.  Not in things, but in each other.  In “us.”

I confess I am not real good at this.  My wife will read this and probably print it up and put it on my desk with a smiley face.  Few of us are doing this well, and too many times we have gotten back on the elevator and gone home, missing out on another opportunity for something wonderful or meaningful with our beloved.  And the great thing is we don’t have to try all that hard.  Sometimes the top of the world can be found at the kitchen table, or across a Backgammon board, or playing tennis, or praying together.

As Tom said we must “make it work.”  To that, be encouraged and press on.  As always, I would love to hear your own insights, and feel free to share your own story of “making it work”.

Nick

 

 

Wanted: The Skill of Listening.

Have you noticed how common it is in our culture to interrupt each other in mid-sentence?   Even if your not an “interrupter” ask yourself how often you stop listening to what the other is saying to begin formulating your response in your mind?  As well, no one enjoys being married to a person who is always correcting or criticizing what they say.

These patterns of communication happen at work, around the dinner table, between spouses, parents, kids and everywhere.  We often fail to truly listen to others and validate their opinions or feelings, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  In my own house I see this happening and I am guilty of it as much as the others.   We live in a culture where the loudest and most aggressive voices are the ones heard, yet, is anyone really listening?

When it comes to a marriage relationship, the communication skill of listening and honoring each others thoughts and opinions is essential to a healthy and positive relationship.  Too often one person in a marriage keeps their feelings to them self when there is a pattern of being ignored, interrupted, or criticized for the things they say.

Where To Start?

Thinking from the perspective of prevention, we need to start with the reality that many adults go into marriage with poor listening habits.  Thus, if we as parents want to give our kids a skill that will serve them well in adulthood and marriage, we would do well to teach them how to listen, as well as give them the confidence to share their thoughts and ask good questions.

Below are some ideas that can be adapted and get you started with your kids, or with each other.

  1. Discourage interruptions.  Make your house a “no-interruption” zone.  Use rewards or consequences in a way that encourages everyone, adult and child, to practice the common courtesy of letting others finish their thoughts.  While no one is perfect, make this the norm, not the exception.
  2. The Saltshaker.  In our house we went through a period at the dinner table where it was so bad we started having the person who was speaking hold the saltshaker.  When someone interrupted, the speaker would hold up the saltshaker and remind them that they had the floor.  The offender would apologize and encourage the speaker to continue.
  3. Tell stories.  Telling stories around the dinner table or on the go in the car is a great way to practice listening skills.  Encourage questions and give affirmations.
  4. Ask questions.  Now is the time to instill the belief in your kids that it’s okay to ask questions and share their opinions with others.  Too many children grow up inhibited because they were criticized for asking questions or when sharing their thoughts.  Make it a practice to ask your kids questions and affirm them when they ask you questions.
  5. Thank others when they share their opinion.  This is a powerful validation of each other, especially when you may not agree with what they said.  In doing this you are telling the other person they are important to you and you care about what they think.

 

 

 

 

The Choice We Have In Our Marriage

Couples In Living Room SmilingIn marriage we have choices.

Awhile back my wife shared some thoughts with me that hit me pretty hard.  They were not critiques or accusations, but in marriage it doesn’t take much for a spouse’s words to feel like a critique.  Even though they were spoken in love, they were hard to hear.

So there I was, sitting on the couch, and as she spoke I could literally feel the emotion and energy of defensiveness rise up in me.  Several times during the conversation I was about to retort with a defense or justification of my actions and person.  Yet I also sensed a voice that was telling me, “Nick, just listen and don’t try and defend.”

So I did.  I listened.  I asked clarifying questions.  I shared a little here and there of my perspective.  I even did a fair job of owning my stuff and taking responsibility for my patterns and habits.  This was a good and needed conversation for us to have, even though neither of us enjoyed it.  It was not a time to find fault or to seek solutions, but to listen and take in each others thoughts.

The Choice We Have

Later in the week as I was reflecting on the conversation and spending time evaluating some things about myself, I came to a realization of a choice that I have, that all spouses and parents have.  I can be the husband and father that I want to be, or the husband and father that they need me to be.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I am not advocating that I or any spouse deny their personal values, needs and sense of self.  What I am trying to say is that when I am the husband and father that suites my own instincts and comforts, I can often be like water and go the path of least resistance.

To clarify further, my natural instinct often means avoiding conversations I don’t really want to have.  It means blaming someone else or being too passive at times.  It means side-stepping my own growth and change because, well, growth and change is not easy.  Its like stretching.  You have to push beyond your comfort level and hold the stretch if you really want to lengthen the muscle.  In the end a choice is always made.  The easy self-centered path, or the more difficult path of love.

Give Me A Reason

So what’s my reason?  Why would I want to be uncomfortable?  Or vulnerable?  Or have to admit things that I could work on that would benefit my marriage or family?  The answer to these questions, and the motivation to actually do them, is that when when I am no longer working to satisfy my self in the marriage, then I become the father my kids both need, and the husband my wife needs.

The wonderful secret and reward in this is that, deep down, this is the kind of husband and father I really want to be.

  • I want to be a strong for them.
  • I want to be present and sensitive to their needs
  • I want to have fun and laugh together
  • I want to be a spiritual leader, not a passive participant
  • I want to be a helpful and effective teacher and mentor for my kids
  • I want to be romantic and pursue my wife’s affection

Of course this is an idealistic list and I will never be perfect, but when I am working to be this kind of a husband and father a funny thing happens.  The self-focused fears, and the desire to do my own things, my own ways, seem to lessen.  In their place grows a sense of joy and gratitude to God for my family, and even for the hard work, sacrifice and responsibility of being a spouse and parent.  It is in this that I find the truth in that well known verse “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

Wives, don’t get the wrong idea here.  Your job is the same for your husband.  This is not the time to sit down and make a list of all the things you want your husband to do and be, demanding that his job is to comply.

What Will It Be?

So where does all this leave us?  In the end it comes back to the opening question: what kind of spouse or parent will you be?  The one you want to be, the one that meets your needs, and keeps you in your own comfort zones?  Or will you be the one they need you to be?  Below are a few questions to consider and get you started.

  1. What needs does your spouse have that are not being met?  In what way are you helping or hurting?
  2. Is there a conversation between you and your spouse that one or both of you have been avoiding?
  3. What is a need you have that you would like your spouse to know about and honor?

 

Why You Shouldn’t Talk To Your Kids About Sex

When talking to your kids about sex, avoid the temptation to give lectures and instead ask them key questions.

When talking to your kids about sex, avoid the temptation to give lectures and instead ask them key questions.

Okay, so my title is a trick of sorts.

What I really want to encourage is not talking to your kids just about sex.  Talk to them as well about the larger context or story within which sex will fall – life, relationships, commitment, and their future.

Talking about sex with our children can be a scary thought.  Not too long ago I had “the talk” with our son about “how babies are made.”  I confess that it was possibly the most clumsy I have ever felt in a planned conversation.

The look on his face when I broke the nitty-gritty was something else, and both of us just broke out laughing!  Not sure if that was a good thing, but it got the topic onto the table of what I hope will be an ongoing conversation over the next several years.

Where Do We Start?

The best place to start is at the beginning, and while there is no easy way to do it, there are some not -so-good ways to break the news.  Below are a few things to consider regardless of where you are in this process.

  • Don’t think of “the talk” as a talk, but an ongoing conversation over many years.  It helps to start when they are toddlers on up, talking to them about their body, about what’s appropriate and having respect for their body and the privacy of others.  This is a natural time to develop rapport with your child and develop a two-way comfort using vocabulary of body parts and such.
  • Biology 101.  At some point you’ll know it’s time to tell them where kids come from.  The right age to do this is different for each child and each family.  Generally speaking, in our culture today if you haven’t shared the news with them by 9-10 years old they’ve likely heard it already somewhere else.  Note that this is a biology talk about how babies are made, not a sex talk.
  • Sex.  As the kids get older you’ll want to look for opportunities to discuss sex and dating.  For years kids have heard all the talk about “safe sex,” but what about “smart” sex?  Sex is never an isolated physical act, but something that affects two people for the rest of their lives. Take time to talk about your values and beliefs, and to ask your teen what they think.  As awkward as these conversations may be, your teen is usually very interested and has lot’s of questions they would love to discuss with someone.
  • Talk about Boundaries.  We were all 17 once and that’s what scares us.  We know that hormones didn’t come with very good brakes.  The time to determine physical boundaries is before you are in the heat of the moment.  Make a list of the physical progression of intimacy, starting with holding hands, kissing, french kissing, petting over the clothes, etc.  Avoid the temptation of telling your child where they should stop.  Instead, ask them where on that list do they think is a safe place to draw the line given their values and life/relationship goals.  In the ensuing conversation there will be plenty an opportunity for you to share your thoughts .
  • Consider a Dating Policy.  While this may sound strict, it actually gives teens security and comfort.  By “policy” I mean this: let your daughter or son know at what age you will allow her/him to date, and any requirements that will go with that.  If you require that you meet a potential date, and at least one of his or her parents first, let that be known.  It helps if your daughter/son know this policy by age 13, so that when they come home at 14 head-over-heels asking if they can go out with so-and-so, you don’t have to unload an unknown policy on them in the heat of puppy love. They’ll already know that they have to wait until 15, 16, or whatever it is you determine is best.

Ask Questions More Than You Lecture

The key if you want to have influence with your teen is this: ask questions and avoid lectures.   This will open the doors to some truly wonderful conversations and the opportunity to share your heart and experience with them.

In my seminar “Raising Kids To Succeed In Marriage” parents often discuss their general desire to transfer decision making and responsibility to their children as they get older.  It is noteworthy, however, that  when it comes to dating parents often revert, pulling back the reins to more of a controlling approach, often based in fear.  Yes, there is much we can fear if we let ourselves go there.  That is why we need to take the earlier years to develop our children’s own ability to discern, to be their own wise gate-keepers.

In the end, if we are not talking to our kids about sex, and sex in the larger context of their life, values and future, then rest assured they while talk about it with someone else, or, not talk about it at all and wing it as it unfolds down the road.

Does Marriage Matter Anymore?

Many years ago I was doing premarital counseling with a young couple that sought me out to perform their wedding ceremony. As we were spending some time discussing what they expected marriage to be like, I threw out a question I ask many engaged couples. “What will be different in your relationship after you are married?”

“It is in marriage that we are confronted with the reality that the highest level of relationship requires the highest level of commitment.”

“It is in marriage that we are confronted with the reality that the highest level of relationship requires the highest level of commitment.”

Read More…

Is It Okay To Argue In Front Of Your Kids?

The other day we had one of those mornings where stress was high, and soon my wife and I were not only frustrated with one of our kids, but also with each other.  Parents-swear-and-childrenEverything happened so fast that the two of us found ourselves somewhere in between the land of healthy conflict-resolution and disrespectful blaming and arguing. Read More…

What Cars and Marriage Have In Common

Most of us invest a certain degree of time and money into servicing our car and keeping it in good running condition.

Winter-Car-Breakdown

Even if car maintenance is not our thing, none of us wants to break down on the side of the road.  All breakdowns are untimely, and many cost us a significantly bigger chunk of our time and money, not to mention the hardship for a few days or weeks without reliable transportation. Read More…