Category Archives: Relationships

Please Tell Me You Love Me Daddy

Nothing warms my heart like my daughter telling me, “I love you, daddy.” It’s simply the greatest. So you would think that if she said it to me five or six times in an hour my heart would burst with joy. Um, not really. I started to worry something was amiss.

Please Tell Me You Love Me Daddy

You’ve probably taken a late night inventory? Everyone else is asleep. You're still awake going through a list in your mind. What did I do? What didn’t I do? What has changed about our lives?

We have been adjusting to my wife working full time, which has put added stress on me. But I couldn’t figure out how that related to my daughter’s need to convey her love for me. Then I ran out of responses since I didn’t want to parrot back, “I love you too” every time.

Taking the bull by the horns, or in this case the little girl by the hand, I asked her why she expressed her love for me so frequently. “Because I love you so much daddy, I just have to tell you all the time.”

Be still my heart. Yes, tears are welling up as I write this.

While I think she was sincere I wasn’t satisfied. Her profession of devotion still had an air of disquiet about it.

Then it hit me.

“Baby,” I said, “You know I love you and always will love you. Right?”

“Yes, daddy. But I like to hear you say it.”

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So there it was. She wasn’t making a statement she was asking a question. “I love you daddy” meant “Daddy do you love me?”

Since first hearing Extreme’s More Than Words I’ve known it summed up my feelings about love. It's heart-wrenching lyrics speak of a man’s yearning for demonstrative, rather than spoken, love.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be shown that someone loves us. Isn’t it enough for me to do the dishes unbidden, bring my ladies flowers, and buy special treats for the Sabbath? Turns out some of us prefer to be told. Or perhaps need both. My wife and daughter are in the latter category.

Here’s the most interesting part. Since I started interpreting her “I love you” as a question and answering it in a focused, sincere way, her need to ask has diminished.

The exchange takes a moment. It creates a lifetime of relationship glue.

What about you?

When your spouse, child or parent says “I love you” do you know whether it’s a statement or question?

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Relationships Require Trust Before Rules

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Yisro 18:1-20:23

I still shudder when I think about the consequences of challenging my parents, especially my father. Suffice it to say when he asked me to do something he expected it to be done, no preliminaries and no discussion. I thought this was the natural order of life until reading Parshas Yisro:

“I am the Lord, Your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” -(Shemos/Exodus 18:14).

Relationships Require Trust Before Rules

In this Sabbath’s parsha Moses reunites with his father-in-law Yisro or Jethro, a Midianite priest who heard about the wonders G-d performed for the Children of Israel. He outlines a leadership plan that Moses adopts. His reward? A parsha is named after him - in Biblical terms, this is like appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

After Yisro departs, the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai where they accept the Torah and prepare themselves to receive the Ten Commandments. Rashi and the Rambam explain they heard all Ten Commandments in one instant but could not comprehend them. So G-d repeated them. But after the first two they were so overawed they begged Moses to intercede and teach them the other eight.

Have you ever noticed how people give advice to someone who did not ask for it, is not listening, or does not care?

Why should you listen to someone merely because he thinks he is smarter or more experienced than you? And why should anyone listen to you merely because you think you know better? Any good salesman knows before a sale can be made the customer first has to develop trust.

Parents are tested here. Sometimes children trust their parents, doing what they suggest, while other times they claim to trust them but do not listen to, let alone take, their advice. In such cases, perhaps children are saying credibility must be re-established. Rarely do humans trust permanently, implicitly. Why would it be different between children and parents? Would such an attitude serve them well when they are adults? Surely they’re better prepared for life by dealing with the ebb and flow of trust.

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G-d shows you the proper way to influence children. The first commandment, above, does not look like a commandment at all. Rather the Almighty reminds you He is your loving creator and redeemer. Then He gives the rules. G-d prefaces many mitzvahs with a reminder of His affection and intimacy.

A story is told of a rabbi who was in his study when in walked Berl, the town pickpocket, who says, “Rabbi, I was walking down the street and found this wallet lying on the ground. I know that returning lost objects is a mitzvah of the Torah, so I brought it here. Will you make an announcement in the synagogue and find its owner?” The rabbi sees there is a good deal of money in the wallet. So inspired is he at Berl's repentance, he hugs him and congratulates him on his reformation. Later, the rabbi realizes his gold pocket watch is missing. He calls Berl and asks him if by chance he may have inadvertently picked it up. Berl confesses to the crime. “I don't understand you, Berl. You find a wallet full of cash in the street and you return it, then you steal my watch?” Berl answers, “Rabbi, a mitzvah is a mitzvah, but business is business.”

Before you give advice or set rules, take the time to establish, or re-establish, your credibility. Otherwise, you risk being hoodwinked into believing your counsel was internalized when it fact, like Berl, no such change of heart has occurred.

Is there a time when you should just give an order expecting it to be obeyed?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

You’re Addicted Aren’t You? Here’s How to Break It

Not long after the tragedy in Paris, a friend asked me if I was going to blog about it. I answered no because naval officers should not comment publically on political matters. My reason may sound wimpy though even if military regulations allowed it, I would refrain.

You’re Addicted Aren’t You? Here’s How to Break It Photo by Alan Cleaver (Unaltered)

One of my most politically outspoken friends adopted a similar policy a few years ago. He told me it was fruitless to argue politics since mostly it alienated people. I’ve found many people interpret a challenge to their political positions as an attack on their morality.

Here are several reasons for avoiding discussions of politics:

  1. It’s a waste of time. Have any of your discussions changed the positions of either political party?
  2. It’s a waste of time. Truthfully, how many people’s minds have you changed?
  3. It’s a waste of time. How long does it take you to calm down after a rancorous political debate?
  4. It’s counterproductive. How many friends and potential customers have you lost over political conflict?
  5. It’s counterproductive. How badly have you diminished your influence in other areas by people who discount you because of your political beliefs?

I have a handful of longstanding friends with whom I talk about politics. We agree on the necessity of comity so our discussions help us examine alternate viewpoints.

In the same vein, being caught up in the 24-hour news cycle is equally unproductive. The idea that people should constantly keep abreast of current events began with the advent of cable news in 1980. It’s a function of news needing to be a profit center for networks. But rarely do enough things happen to justify more than 15 to 30 minutes a day of news consumption.

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Similarly fictional is the idea that news sources are unbiased. Many used to candidly disclose their partisanship. Although they may have changed since their founding, there’s no mystery about the original voice of the Press-Republican in Pittsburg or the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And while Colorado’s Delta County Independent would seem to be unbiased, more likely it laid a pox on both major parties’ houses.

To be sure, journalists are schooled in objectivity. But they are still human beings. I’ve found people who agree with a news source’s voice think it’s nonpartisan while those who disagree claim it’s biased. Who’s correct?

How is it that during World War II, by any definition a more tumultuous time than now, people survived reading a daily newspaper and perhaps a special edition when some momentous event justified a special press run?

If you cannot quit news consumption completely, I recommend you limit yourself to no more than 30 minutes per day. As a naval officer, I have access to the Chief of Naval Information’s News Clips, also known as the Early Bird, which aggregates relevant stories from many sources. I can skim headlines and read articles of interest in about 15 minutes. You can create something similar with Feedly or another RSS aggregator.

With life overburdened by too many responsibilities, even an extra 10 or 15 minutes per day can be put to better use. Relaxation between projects, a short walk, or a call or text to your spouse or child are of much greater benefit to you, your colleagues and loved one than getting the latest minutiae passing for news or rehashing political arguments to no avail.

Replace both addictions with a productive habit in line with your personal mission statement and goals.

What downside is there to abstaining from politics and news? 

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Strengthen Your Marriage in a Minute per Day

Amidst all the priorities competing for my time, I have found too often I loose focus on my foremost relationship, my marriage. It was so much easier when my wife didn’t work and our daughter went to bed early. We had dinner and a cocktail most nights and a special date night once a week. But since she went back to work, and the night shift at that, we have been sorely challenged to find time for just the two of us.

Strengthen Your Marriage in a Minute per Day

So for the last six months, I tested variations of this scheme. When I do it well it works wonders. Here are the three things you should do each day:

  1. Wish your spouse good morning, preferably including a kiss.
  2. Sometime during the day, express appreciation to your spouse.
  3. Say good night to your spouse, again even better if you include a kiss.

Here’s the key: You have to be intentional and focused for the 5 to 20 seconds it takes to perform each act.

Sometimes I replace expressing gratitude with an act of kindness, perhaps doing one of her chores or bringing her a small gift. When I have to leave the house early or Melanie isn’t home I send her a text instead.

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When done consistently, these three briefs deeds strengthen the bond with my wife. Conversely, when I am inconsistent or unfocused our connection erodes.

To hold myself accountable I list LT | BT | EA, meaning lila tov (Hebrew for good night), boker tov (Hebrew for good morning), and express appreciation, in my daily to-do list. Good night is first because my day starts when I reunite with my family after work in the late afternoon. (Read about how I manage my day based on my priorities rather than by time convention.)

You don’t need to commit for a year. Try this plan for 30-days. Let me know how it works!

What do you to consistently bond with your spouse? 

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If You’re Wise You’ll Be Inconsistent

Recently I read Stephen Asma’s book Against Fairness. Intrigued by the title, I hoped to get some ideas for explaining to my seven-year-old why life is not fair. While this need went unsatisfied, it caused me ponder the nature of fairness and how it relates to wisdom.

If You’re Wise You’ll Be Inconsistent

Fairness seems to be part of the American character. But as Asma points out, other cultures, in particular, many in Asia, favor family ties above all. Abandoning nepotism in favor of a stranger is shameful.

But if we dig below the surface, fairness flies in the face of another cherished American societal value: individualism.

The rabbi of my community is admired by all as a wise, humane man. Beset by requests for guidance, he could spend 25 hours a day dispensing advice. While under his tutelage, one day I questioned him about a particular issue in the Jewish dietary laws. His answer astounded me. He told me it depended on several factors:

  1. Who is asking the question? Specifically, where on life’s journey was the person? How extensive were her knowledge and expertise?
  2. To what spiritual level is the person aspiring? Is the person seeking to stretch herself and increase her level of observance?
  3. What day of the week and time of day was it? Was it late on a Friday close to the start of the Sabbath?

There were others but you get the idea.

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This seemed consummately unfair. Essentially, as an aspiring rabbi, I would get a strict answer but someone less knowledgeable would be treated more leniently. The rules should be the rules. Of course, if everyone got the same answer, why do you need to speak to a human? A computer would be much more efficient and fair.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. Each person is unique. So any question requires the context of that person’s specific situation in order to come up with the right answer. Similar to doing an act of kindness, insight into a person’s character and circumstances are necessary to find the proper solution to his challenges.

Such is the nature of wisdom. It requires knowledge and experience, but most importantly good judgment.

Inevitably, from the outside, it will appear inconsistent since when two people have the same issue, the solutions will in all likelihood be different.

I suspect you want to be dealt with in the context of your own life challenges, not those of society or other people. Not only is such a desire reasonable, it is the only way to support a realistic path of personal growth.

Would you rather be treated by a societal standard of fairness or as an individual

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