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Read This With An Open Heart

Read this with an open heart, giving grace to yourself or others in need of grace, and a caring mindset - As my leadership speaking career began, I often talked about marriage and infidelity. It was something I felt compelled to speak on, given my own personal experiences and professional experiences. The workplace is an environment in which things happen. As I always talk, communication occurs, daily happenstance events occur, then texting started to occur, people dress up, some start talking about their personal problems with you, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc…… Lines get blurred, our decision making can get blurred, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. And for me, there wasn’t a vet clinic I worked in where infidelity had not occurred at. And for me personally, it nearly got the best of me.

My observations and experiences shaped me into who I am today, but those things also pushed me to speak and talk on these things, all in an effort to bring awareness to a subject in which no one talks on given the sensitivity, and a subject that has destroyed so many marriages. My passion for my own marriage, my own mistakes, finally “growing up”, doing what is right not what feels good, and a focus on “filling my wife’s cup” vs my own, continues my journey driving towards a fiercely devoted marriage.

Given the work I do, I get the honor of talking to some about marriage, their struggles, and help them work to get better at marriage. I have talked to and counseled many different people and couples over the years, and some survive and thrive, and others don’t. And I by no means have all the answers or am nowhere near an expert on the subject matter. But for me and my wife, I do know there are several keys and they are as follows –

  1. Yielding to the other when needed. The goal isn’t to win any argument, but to end with a solution as to what is best. We often get caught up forging a path forward getting “our way”, with no care for what the other is thinking or their input. And if we are always “on go”, the other will at some point “just stop”. For me, it’s understanding when I need to let Karen take the lead, letting her use her strengths for the betterment of our family. There are many things she is much better at than me, so why not let her fulfill her strengths as to what is best! Yielding when needed took me a long time to grasp, but it works. It works not only in marriage but in business and leadership. So long as the same person isn’t always doing the yielding, if so, as said, they will “just stop” at some point.

  2. Focus less on self, and more on the other. So often we get caught up in what we need, of which we must take care of ourselves. But both partners must be working daily to fill each other’s cup and not just our own. For me, as a young arrogant whipper snapper vet, it was all about me. I had my goals, and never took the thoughtful time to incorporate hers until we began to talk about buying a vet clinic. And I finally took the final growth step in this area when our kids were born! And was the best thing that ever happened for my personal growth. If one person is only filling their cup, and not making routine daily deposits in their partner’s cup, then at some point your partner’s cup will be on empty. And the care can’t go forward if their tank is on empty.

  3. Do what is right, not what feels good. As Dave Ramsey says, “Kids do what feels good, adults are supposed to do what is right.” For me, I did both for many years. I worked hard, played hard, and sometimes harder. I worked very hard from 6th grade on, harder than most, and that is still one of my continual goals, but I certainly did what felt good for many years. My play hard has never been too crazy, just the typical small-town country boy things, but as I continued to grow older, my mind was telling me, “Nels, you need to be hyper-focused on serving others, not yourself.” Now, we are all going to do what feels good from time to time, it’s just done with boundaries, marriage and business in mind, and control because your marriage, kids, family, and people depend on you doing what is right. If you don’t do it with boundaries, marriage and business in mind, and control, you may find yourself “doing what feels good in the moment, and feeling terrible when it is over.”

  4. “Do the dishes.” - I don’t care what it is, but each partner must do a task that the other partner generally does routinely, for the other. In most all marriages, we typically always have duties each person is responsible for. Sometimes that is intentionally discussed and done, or sometimes it just occurs that way over time. Whatever the case, just help out with things that aren’t on your list of duties. For me, if I get home in time, I typically always try and do the dishes for Karen. She has worked hard all day, poured her heart and mind into our children, amongst all things in between, and doing the dishes is a step in the day I can help with and remove from her plate. And I know she appreciates it. Roles reversed, Karen knows me, sometimes the best thing she can do for me is just drive. I may get home for the day, and we have someplace to go, and I drive on average of 2-3 hours a day, up to 6-7 hours a day. And she knows to help me, just doing the driving is all I need. What should you be doing for your spouse!?

  5. Refill your tanks together once a week or as best you can once a week. For Karen and I, in our younger years, as we journeyed through marriage things like where do we live, what kind of toothpaste or toilet paper we bought, how who and when we spent holidays with other families, who did what in the marriage, when to have kids or not to have kids, how and who pays the bills and how finances are managed, lived the work hard play hard life, etc, we found that going to church was our one a week “reset” on our marriage and life. It brought us back together after a great week or after a bad week. Church was a humble time of coming together in a pew, getting recharged, asking God for forgiveness grace, and mercy, and some ministering and counseling we desperately needed each week in our younger naive hard-charging journey of life together. And it still serves that purpose.

As I said, I don’t have all the answers and have been damn far from perfect. But I have learned from my failures, learned from failures of others, and simply look to serve others. Marriage is the most beautiful relationship we can have on the planet. The person we choose to marry is the most important decision in life we will ever make. I have watched marriages crumble, and had my heart crumble with and for them. I have watched marriages thrive under stressful adverse times, including my own. And the 5 points above are key points my wife and I have found to be a part of our success, and hope they can be a part of yours. Regardless of where you are in your journey, there is hope. Give yourself permission to give yourself and other’s grace and kindness. Utilize these principles, reach out for other teachings by people like Emmerson Eggrich and Dr. Les Parot. There are opportunities for you and your marriage to learn and get better. My wife and I pray for those things daily!


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