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CONTENTS

DEDICATION ……………………………………………...…………………………………… 2

OUR STORY ……………………………………………………………………………………. 4

CHAPTER ONE: A NEW WAY TO SEE YOUR RELATIONSHIP ……………………….…12

CHAPTER TWO: “L” IS FOR LITTLE THINGS …………………………………………….. 36

CHAPTER THREE: “O” IS FOR emOtional CONNECTION …………………………...…… 54

CHAPTER FOUR: “V” IS FOR VICTORY…………………………...……………….……… 66

CHAPTER FIVE: “E” IS FOR ETERNITY …………………………………………………... 83

CHAPTER SIX: HOW TO RUIN A PERFECTLY GOOD RELATIONSHIP ………………..
96
Our Story

I started writing this book with our children and grandchildren in mind. Jennifer and I

have an unusually good relationship; in fact, our good marriage may be the greatest legacy we

leave. So, I began writing this as a letter to our yet to be born descendents and their future

spouses. I wanted to be personal and intimate, revealing aspects of our lives and how we became

so successful in our relationship. Though the format has changed from letters to manuscript, I

still consider my words a personal message to them.

Jennifer and I are experts. But we are not experts like relationship icons Dr. John

Gottman and Dr. Phil McGraw. Their research and clinical expertise sets them in a totally

different realm than our expertise. We are familiar with experts like them because we have read

their books and attended their workshops. In fact, much of what relationship experts have written

about we have incorporated into our relationship. When I first set out to write this as a book, I

was going to include references to research done in the field of relationships. A couple of factors

made me change my mind.

First, I discovered that nearly every book written on relationships was full of statistics

and references to studies. So I thought I would be different. What if I wrote from the heart and

just shared the secrets of our success? I liked that idea.

Second, I found out that many references to statistics and studies are over generalized in

many books. For instance, a study was recently released about how married people are wealthier

than divorced people. “Now that,” I thought, “would be a great piece to include in my book.” So

I contacted my friend Dr. Cameron Lee, who is professor of marriage and family studies at the

School of Psychology of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. I asked him if the study was

reliable. He answered that it was a longitudinal study, which gave it more credibility. The
problem, he said, is “how you generalize from the results.” He then gave me examples of how

different groups might use the information to further a specific agenda. I wondered how studies

and research had been “generalized” to fit many books on relationships. Then I realized that

“generalizing” was exactly what I intended to do with all the research I had found! I don’t think

generalizing is necessarily bad. . . but what it does is reduce the value of the research to the

realm of “inspiration.” What I mean is that more than anything else, generalized research and

studies encourage or inspire the general public in their relationships.

Encouraging and inspiring the general public is exactly what Jennifer and I want to do.

We think we have a great story that will make people want to grow in their relationships. So I

decided not to use research and studies, but to draw upon them and include them in the context

of our story. You won’t find specific references to Gottman, McGraw or others. . . but believe

me. . . they are part of our story. Perhaps more than anything else, we are good students.

As I said above, Jennifer and I are experts -- we are experts of our own relationship. We

are what some call “Marriage Masters.” Jennifer is a real estate broker and I am a clergy person.

I think it is kind of cool that a real estate broker and her minister husband wrote a book on

relationships. It gives the work a different kind of credibility. It is the story of a real relationship

set in the real world with real people.

We are not relationship experts with Ph.D.s. We are experts with the practical experience

of trial and error over thirty plus years of life together. I do have a Masters degree in Marriage

and Family Counseling. That gives me a great background to draw from, but I never pursued

licensure. To be honest, I did not particularly like face to face psychotherapy. Sometimes I even

found myself falling asleep during sessions. I have practiced my craft in the context of
congregational life. In the congregation, I work with families from cradle to grave. The context is

real life and the work is dynamic. I wish every clergy person had the counseling background I

have; I am sure they would benefit from it. A lot of what is presented here I developed from pre-

marital counseling and crisis counseling for troubled marriages. I also have a Doctorate from the

School of Theology at Fuller Seminary. This is where I developed my ideas about culture and

spirituality. My point is that while I have read widely and have plenty of experience working

with people, I claim only to be an expert of my own relationship.

Jennifer is an expert also. As a successful business woman and leader of a family

business, she brings her unique perspective to our project. People have a strong attachment to

their property and money and emotions run high in real estate transactions. Over the years she

has honed her relationship skills in the heat of raw real estate transactions. She knows about

people’s Wall of Protection. And she knows how to help them lower it. She truly is an expert in

her field and well respected as a leader in the local real estate community. She is ethical,

professional and, more than that, she knows how to relate well to her clients and colleagues.

Consequently, her insights inform every section of our book. I find her feminine wisdom to be

practical and down to earth. It is a privilege for me to watch her work with people, helping them

to buy and sell homes, helping them to realize dreams. When we present our workshop together

the audience always comments especially about her contribution. It is refreshing to see a real life

person talk about real life issues. As you will see from her contributions, she is genuine and

speaks from her heart. She speaks with practical authority, not just as a clinician.

Let me tell you how our relationship started. Jennifer and I were high school sweethearts.

She was fifteen and I was seventeen years old when a family friend suggested that we meet. I
discovered that Jennifer was a volunteer at the hospital where I worked as a dietary aide, but we

had not yet been introduced. One day I passed by a young girl standing near the elevator. “Are

you Bryan?” she asked. I stopped in my tracks, realizing who this must be. “Jennifer?” I

responded. In that moment, fireworks went off like the Fourth of July right there in the middle

of the hallway next to the elevators. It was the beginning of our long and great love. I understand

there is a plaque there to this day commemorating that great event. Well . . . there should be one.

I was a moody teenager with little direction in life and Jennifer was a bubbly girl for

whom there were no gloomy days. She brought light to my life and I quickly fell in love with

her. She enjoyed my dark side. Our infatuation led to a pregnancy that was, as you can imagine,

untimely.

Getting a girl pregnant throws a boy into a world of confusion, like being caught up in a

Kansas tornado but landing in a Grimm’s-fairy-tail. Initially, I suffered from undying optimism

with my wanna-be-hippie sub-culture idealism. “It’s all cool. Don’t freak out, man. This has

happened before and people make it. You know . . . plenty of families have started under worse

circumstances and have done just fine. It’s really no problem, man, everything is cool, man.” I

was certain that Jennifer would be a great mother and that together we would not only survive,

we would thrive . . . somehow. But I hadn’t thought about the little things like how I would

provide for my new family, how I would pay for the medical expenses, how my parents would

respond, how Jennifer’s parents would respond, how our pregnancy would effect my education,

what about Jennifer’s education, where would we live? As I look back now I just shake my head

in disbelief about how naïve and idealistic I was. I was brave and “hippy” cool, but ignorant.

The reality was not “cool” at all.
Our families immediately went into crisis mode. When Jennifer told her mom about the

pregnancy, her mom didn’t speak to her for days. Jennifer was virtually isolated and I was

strictly off limits. We had to sneak phone calls. My parents were against us getting married.

They didn’t offer any financial support and my dad threatened to stay away from the wedding.

(On the day of the wedding I wasn’t sure he would show up.) On top of that, I had to appear in

court. Jennifer was underage and we needed the permission of her parents and a judge to marry. I

had never experienced the solemnity and formality of court before and I was tail-between-my-

legs intimidated. I could barely give one word responses to the judge’s questions.

There was no money for us, period. We had no savings, no checking account and we had

to scrounge for funds for an apartment. We had to negotiate public assistance for medical

coverage. I had to quit college and work full time for meager hourly wages as a Nursing

Assistant. (I had to shove my long hair under a short hair wig per hospital regulations rather than

submit to the tyranny of the authority.). It was embarrassing, humbling and Grimm like. I was

scared, but more than that I was completely oblivious of the awesome and onerous task of caring

for a baby. Reality was setting in faster than Jennifer’s belly grew. If it hadn’t been for the

practical faith and help of Jennifer’s parents, I don’t know what we would have done.

Before we could be married, premarital counseling was required by the church. To their

credit, the church had a counseling center staffed by a licensed psychologist. After a grueling

afternoon of compatibility testing, the psychologist sat us down and delivered some bad new. We

were not compatible. Our temperament analysis revealed that Jennifer was too assertive and I

was too passive. He recommended that we not marry. Actually you did not have to be a rocket

scientist to figure out that we had little going for us. We were both teenagers; we had next to no

financial resources; our families were less than supportive; we were pregnant; and now the
psychologist said we were incompatible. The odds were against us; in fact, I would say that our

situation was a prescription for a disaster!

And that is how it all began. Now, all these years later, Jennifer and I are a statistical

oddity; we are still married. But our longevity is not the main point here. No, lots of couples

have been married a long time, but miserably. We actually have deep love for each other. . . and

we are best friends.

So we write this book as a testimony to what is possible in what seems like an impossible

relationship. This book is a story of hope and some good strategies too. We hope that you may be

encouraged and inspired by our “practically perfect” relationship.

Essentially the book is divided into five parts and a conclusion. The first chapter sets

forth a paradigm that many people enjoy and see in their own relationships. I introduce the four

pressures that every relationship faces, including an interesting view about culture. I also

introduce The Wall of Protection and the need that every individual has for personal safety. Then

I state that people only feel genuinely safe in the presence of love. I use the acronym LOVE to

fill out the rest of the book.

Next is the “L” chapter. The “L” stands for little things. Here I include a brief exposition

on the three-fold nature of love and how little things and affection are the epitome of love. The

“O” chapter is about how couples can develop a deep emotional connection by sharing their

dreams. The discerning reader will recognize John Gottman’s work in our discussion about

sharing dreams. The “V” chapter is about being “Victorious” as couple battle life’s problems

together. Here I often speak frankly, in the voice of Phil McGraw. . . “You know what to do . . .

just do it.” The “E” chapter (E stands for Eternity) is a wonderful essay about how to share a
meaningful life together. It is chock-full of ideas for you. The final chapter contains some humor

and a serious tone about how to ruin a perfectly good relationship and summarizes our book in

one-fell-swoop.

Each chapter has exercises to do, and let me say that you would be a fool to use this book

without the exercises. They are all tried and true -- so just do them. A neat feature of our book is

the dialogue between Jennifer and me at the end of each chapter (except the summary chapter).

These are actual discussions that Jennifer and I had about the chapters. I recorded our

discussions, edited them for the book and had Jennifer approve the final content. These are some

of my favorite parts of the book.

I can tell you honestly that the material in this book is the stuff that Jennifer and I actually

do. I can also honestly tell you that we are not the only ones who think we have a practically

perfect marriage. My mother-in-law will also testify that we have one heck of a good marriage.

Now, if you can get your mother-in-law to validate your marriage, then yours must be practically

perfect too.

Jennifer and I wish you great love. May God’s love flow through your heart to your

world.
Chapter One: A New Way to See Your Relationship

This chapter requires your participation. You will need paper to write on and a pencil with an

eraser. Believe me, you will need the eraser.

Your Relationship Circle

I could tell you, but showing you is better. So, on the space provided draw a small upside

down “V” (like this /\) about near bottom/center of the space.

Next draw a large circle so that it rest on top of the /\. It should look like a ball resting on

a point, sort of like the earth spinning on its axis, or a basketball spinning on a player’s finger.

This is your relationship sphere.

Now draw a smaller square inside the circle in the upper left quadrant. Similarly, draw a

smaller circle next to the square in the upper right quadrant. These represent you and your

partner; men are squares (just ask the women), and the circle represents women. This is the

picture of your relationship. It should look something like this:

<Insert image Your Relationship Sphere.jpg>

Your relationship circle is trying to remain balanced on that point. Loving is fun when

there is a good balance in the relationship. If only it was that simple.

Spin and Balance

But it is not that simple. The basketball player can keep the ball on his finger as long as

the ball keeps spinning. When the ball losses its spin, it starts to wobble and, if the player doesn’t
give it more spin, the ball will fall to the ground. The fallen ball is a victim of gravity, the force

that is constantly pressuring the ball.

Your relationship is like the spinning ball: as long as it keeps spinning then it keeps

balanced. What keeps the relationship spinning? Love! Love acts like the energy that flows

between the two of you and provides the balance you need. When you have fun loving, your

relationship is spinning like a top.

Jennifer and I have had a lot of fun loving in our relationship. Early in our relationship

we lived in southern California while I finished college and graduate school. Like most of our

friends, we were poor students, but we found inexpensive ways to entertain ourselves. In those

days, there was a dancing water show at the Disneyland Hotel. We could not afford to go to the

Disneyland Park, but we could go and watch the free dancing water show at the hotel. We also

enjoyed walks along the beach at Corona Del Mar, strolling through the malls hand in hand,

basically going on cheap dates. In spite of the pressure of school and being short of money, we

were very affectionate. I am sure that the flow of love between us, including the fun things we

did together, helped to keep our relationship balanced.

The Four Pressures

But, like the never ending force of gravity, the pressure was constantly on us. When the

pressure got too bad, weird things happened in our relationship. Those weird things forced me to

try to understand them. After all these years, I have simplified the pressures of life into four

categories. These are pressures from outside our relationship that are constantly pushing on us.

They never end. They will always be there, and they have the potential to completely knock our

relationship off balance unless we figure out ways to keep the spin going. Every relationship in
the world is subject to these pressures – no one escapes them. In spite of the pressure we know,

by our own experience and that of many others, couples not only can manage the pressures, but

by working together and having fun loving, can keep balanced spinning like a turbine engine!

Let me tell you what these pressures are.

Go back to your drawing and draw a bold arrow pointing to the relationship circle from

the upper left. We are going to make four such bold arrows one in the upper left, one in the upper

right, one in the lower right and one in the lower left, each representing an outside pressure

bearing on the relationship circle. Your drawing should look something like this:

<Insert The Four Pressures.jpg>

Culture

Label the lower left squiggly bold arrow “Culture.” Culture is the most insidious

pressure, yet it has the most potential to be used and benefited from. Here is what I mean by

culture: it is how meaning for life, from a specific perspective, is transmitted to others (and

generations) over time in ways that affects beliefs (including values and priorities), behaviors

(including practices and rules), and the things (including rituals and artifacts) of specific groups.

Culture determines what is important and meaningful for people. It tells you how to be

within your particular group. It includes the rules, what is right and wrong conduct, and what

roles have priority. Cultures have systems that regulate group functions. Examples of culture

include religions, ethnic heritage, business groups (including the culture at your job), regional

distinctives (like being from the south is different than being from the north and being from the

east coast is different than being from California), political parties, as well as sub-cultures like

lifestyle groups. People learn culture formally in schools and training programs and informally at
home and by expected social behaviors. In other words, learning your culture is as natural as

growing up and is usually accepted with little questioning.

Every person in the world, from America to Zimbabwe, lives in the context of culture,

sometimes multiple cultures. For instance, Jennifer and I live in the mega-culture of the United

States of America and geographically we live on the West coast, which is culturally distinct from

other regions. Further we were raised in the Christian religion, specifically Evangelical

Christianity and even more specifically within the neo-Pentecostal branch. All these distinctive

aspects are cultural and impact what is important in life, our values and beliefs, how we view

what is just and unjust, and actual behavior, even to the extent of how we raise our children and

act in public. Furthermore, Jennifer is part of the real estate community and within her role and

office there are cultural implications that affect her. Every business has a culture that makes

demands on individuals. It is a huge pressure and it is also the key to success with specific

groups.

Here is the most important aspect to know about culture: All cultures are invented by

people for the benefit of some. Some people, however, use culture like a tool; these are the ones

who are thriving. Some people are used like a tool for culture; these are the one who struggle.

Most people are completely unaware of the power of culture and how it impacts their lives.

Culture, therefore, can be the most insidious pressure in people’s lives or it can be a powerful

tool for happiness.

Religious and spiritual cultures pass down beliefs, values and practices related to God,

the afterlife, and your relationship to the universe. Being Roman Catholic, Orthodox,

Evangelical, Sikh, Moslem, Jewish, and any other religious group, whether it is your chosen faith
or religion of origin, these cultural identities carry a tremendous amount of meaning that are

often regarded as “God given” or eternal truths and mandates of how to live.

Ethnicity and culture related to national heritage prescribe your distinctive sense of

belonging or your “roots.” In the United States of America being of Irish, Italian, German,

English, Scottish, African, Latin, Russian, or one of many other ethnic or national origins is full

of cultural significance. Many of these groups also have religious roots as well.

Sub-cultures also have power, especially youth oriented sub-cultures. As young people

forge a sense of individual identity and group belonging they feel strongly about culture. Some

sub-cultures have gender or sexual specificity. Many sub-cultures are characterized by distinctive

music, fashion, body art, language, and a powerful need and pressure to conform to the cultural

expectations of the sub-group.

Business and professional cultures function the same way. Business cultures often

emphasize the need to be a “team.” There is a lot of pressure to conform to the culture of the

organization. Those who know how to work the system, to use the culture, are the ones who

thrive.

The pressure to conform to culture is titanic and irresistible. Even if you are a monk

living in the desert you will be influenced by the prevailing culture. Culture tells you what is

meaningful in life and how to achieve satisfaction and significance in a particular context or in

society in general. Culture defines success, dictates how you dress, where you live, the career

you choose, the kind of car you drive, the life mate you choose, how you will raise your children,

the schools you and your children attend, even how to grow old! Most of your “shoulds” and

“oughts” originate within your culture. It dictates your conduct and thinking at home, at work,

and at play.
Many good souls are lost in the matrix of man made culture. This happens when people

take on and hold to cultural mandates at the expense of their own unique identity. It is like they

try to emulate culture to the nth degree. They are obsessed with the driving need to conform to

the cultural stereotype. You see this in popular culture, sub-cultures (from gothic to jocks), even

religions and sub culture in religions. There are specific and certain ways “to be” in every

cultural and religious group. If we let it, our very identity can be swallowed up by culture.

Early in my spiritual life I was immersed in the neo-Pentecostal movement in Southern

California. It powerfully directed many aspects of my life, some of it was positive and some was

not so positive. I let it influence me, though, because it was important to fit in and belong, to do

the right thing, according to the culture. Now I am more discerning about my spiritual life. I

consider the wisdom of my faith and make my own judgments rather than blindly accepting

cultural mandates.

Of the four pressures listed in this book culture is perhaps the most treacherous because it

is largely unseen, yet it will demand your very self! On the other hand, because all culture is man

made, it is a merely a tool. Those who understand the toolness of culture skillfully use it and

forge great achievement and personal success by using culture. Keeping abreast of the ever

changing nature of culture is like riding an exhilarating wave, fast and exciting. Nevertheless,

managing culture is very stressful on the relationship circle.

Next, I will ask you to complete a very important exercise. On your drawing list the

culture settings that you find your self in and next to each one place a “+” on the positive culture

settings and a “-” next to the negative culture settings. Here is a hint about what is positive and

what is negative. Positive cultures affirm your unique contribution, give you a sense of belonging
to something bigger than yourself, and contribute to the greater well-being of all. The negative

factors add a significant amount of pressure to your relationship sphere.

Culture Exercise

1. Tell your partner which is the most influential culture (positive or negative) in your life.

2. Share how you use culture for your benefit.

3. Share how your culture uses you.

4. Tell your partner about one person who uses your culture well.

5. Share two ways that your cultural setting puts pressure on you and your relationship.

6. Brainstorm what you can do in your cultural context to enhance your unique identity and

benefit your relationship.

The Economy

Label the upper left bold arrow with the “$” sign. This represents the economy; your

personal economy and every economic factor affecting you. This includes everything that

contributes to your personal economy (your work, income, property, liabilities, debts, your

personal and family financial dreams and goals, etc,) and the world economy (national and world

markets and trends and every factor that affects them).

Financial pressure is significant, even if your finances are well managed. Many people

consider money to be the biggest issue facing them. Jennifer and I struggled for years about our

finances. It seemed we never had enough money. We raised four kids, mostly on a minister’s

salary. It was always tight at our house. Jennifer used to boast that she was the only one in the

world who could feed a family of six for three meals with one chicken. On top of being poor, we
were lousy financial managers. One of us kept the check register and paid the bills while the

other was kept pretty much in dark. We lived week to week, hoping for the best, praying that one

day I’d find a secure job in my field. Frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation about

money management, except if we had a financial crisis. Then we shared accusations,

defensiveness, and fear.

I remember one time when I went out and bought a car without consulting Jennifer. That,

in itself, was bad enough. The truth was we just couldn’t afford it, but I let the salesman talk me

into it. But wait. . . it didn’t get any better; the car was an ugly orange color. There was a bad

scene at home about it and I had to take it back. I don’t know what was worse, the conflict at

home or my personal embarrassment in taking it back. Believe me, that was not a pretty time in

our relationship.

Just about everybody has a story about personal finances, creditors calling, over-drawn

accounts, bankruptcies, mismanagement, the awful daily rat race, problems at work, huge student

loans, child support, liens, tax debts, law suits, the list, it seems, is limitless. The money

pressures many couples feel is just awful!

Next to the bold $ arrow I’d like you to list two or three significant economic factors that

affect your relationship circle.

Family and Friends

Next, label the upper right bold arrow “FOO and Friends.” FOO is not a friendly bear but

stands for Family of Origin. There is a house full of pressures related to FOO and Friends. If

your FOO was dysfunctional, you are not alone. Do you remember seeing that cartoon which

portrayed a large auditorium with only one lonely person sitting in the room and a large banner
over the stage boldly stating, “Welcome to the Annual Meeting of People from Functional

Families?” There are a host of family problems including, controlling parents, money hungry

siblings, declining elderly parents, shared family money problems, as well as dependency and

co-dependency problems.

Jennifer’s family values closeness. They stay connected and involved in each other’s

lives. Some relationship experts call this “enmeshment” because the family is constantly

enmeshed in each others emotional life. My family (FOO) values more distance and

separateness. Consequently, we only check in with each other several times a year. Some family

experts call this “disengagement” because there is very little emotional connection. It seems like

when a serious problem confronts us, we automatically revert to what we learned in our family

of origin. Jennifer would circle the wagons and solicit help from family members and I would

slip into my “leave me alone, I can figure this out without your help” mode. You can probably

guess that we have had more than a few fiery moments.

Many FOO problems are handed down from generation to generation; problems like

poverty, teen pregnancy, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, learning problems, and so on.

I have heard so many outrageous FOO and Friend stories, and have so much personal

experience, that it makes me wonder how people are able to get along as well as they do. Not all

families are dysfunctional. Yes, there are some fine families out there. If your family is or was

“functional” then give thanks. For the rest of us, in the upper right corner write down some of the

FOO and Friend problems you face.

Disease
Finally, label the lower right squiggly bold arrow “Disease.” I categorize three kinds of

disease that put an incredible amount of pressure on couples: Physical, Mental, and Addictions.

Physical disease relates to a host of medical and injury problems from heart disease and

diabetes to injuries due to accidents. If your family has ever had to suffer through disease or life

threatening accidents then I don’t need to tell you about the pressure. Sooner or later you will

face some physical disease. Childhood diseases, like cancers or congenital problems, create huge

pressures for couples. The death of a child is unfathomable. The pain creates such chaos that

many couples simply cannot tolerate it and the marriage also dies.

Jennifer’s sister and brother-in-law, Norma and Dave, were nearly killed in a motorcycle

accident on Easter Sunday, April 15, 2001. Our local paper actually printed that Norma had died

in the accident. Their injuries were so bad that The Learning Channel heard about it and wanted

to chronicle their case in a special TV feature about medical emergencies. Norma and Dave

required months in the hospital, much of that time in ICU. We did not know from day to day if

they would live. Jennifer had to quit her job so that she could attend to Norma and Dave’s estate.

Our lives were suddenly thrown into a chaotic blur of the literally daily struggle of life and death.

The emotional stress of dealing with the unknown consequences of their accident was

completely unlike anything we have every experienced in our lives. We lived in a virtual

Twilight Zone. Miraculously Dave is now able to walk, though he often uses a hiking pole for

assistance, and Norma is mobile as well, but both are significantly disabled. Our lives have

never been the same since then. What amazes me is the vast number of people that we have met,

known or heard about who have suffered even worse tragedies. In some cases, like ours, the

event actually deepened the connection between couples, yet in others the stress literally drove

them apart. I am not sure what makes the difference. I am sure that I would not want to judge
couples who didn’t make it. My point is simply this: the stress from physical illness and injury is

devastating, often beyond measure and understanding.

Mental disease includes mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, and other

debilitating mental illnesses like Bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, even character disorders;

disorders that you might find in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders.

Millions of families struggle with the pressure of mental disease, from the stigma of it to the

social, financial, and legal ramifications. News reports about individuals with mental disease

appear daily. Behind each story is a family attempting to manage with the consequences of the

disease. One of our children has a learning disorder that required constant management through

his school years. Once again, if your family has ever had to deal with the consequences of mental

disease, you know the stress of it.

Addiction problems are ubiquitous and many are not acknowledged. The number of

people with alcohol and drug problems is staggering. Problem drinkers alone, those who are still

able to function at work, but who drink nearly everyday, put incredible stress on their

relationships. Drug problems and obsession also affect millions of families with horrendous

pressure.

My extended family has experienced all three of the disease pressure problems. I

mentioned my wife’s sister and her husband’s motorcycle accident and my son’s learning

disability. We also have several family members who have struggled with mental disease. Twice

I have experienced the pain of a major depressive episode (not just the “moody for a couple

days” kind, but the “O my God, I am a worm, my world is coming to an end, just let me die” for

a couple of months kind). Some of my family members have struggled with the negative effects
of alcohol and drug abuse over the years. I can tell you from first hand experience; the disease

puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a relationship.

Now, what about your relationship sphere; which disease related problems does your

relationship endure; physical, mental, addiction? If you can, write down the disease pressure that

your relationship experiences.

These four pressures exert varying degrees of pressure on individuals and relationships

(not to mention businesses and organizations). You and your relationship can tolerate them well,

most of the time. But when the pressure becomes too intense another phenomenon happens.

The Wall of Protection

Here is a story I like to tell to introduce The Wall of Protection.

A man was fishing at the lake one day enjoying the warmth, the beauty of the day,
delighting in his catch, when he felt as if he were being watched. When he turned to see
what might be watching he saw a large bear gazing at him. He immediately dropped his
fishing pole and started running, the bear close behind him. As he ran he was not thinking
of certain things. He was not thinking about his well-deserved pay raise at work. He was
not thinking about his next mortgage payment. He was not thinking about stopping by to
visit his mother after fishing. He was not thinking about the problems his wife was
having with her sister. He was not thinking about his scheduled medical exam and his
borderline diabetes. He was not thinking about that hot little red convertible that he was
dreaming about. In fact, he was not thinking about his wife and family, other than
wondering if he would ever see them again. But he was thinking. He knew of a small
cave, too small for the large bear, just up the path. He was thinking about getting to safety
before the bear got him. He was running as fast as he possibly could. When he got to the
cave he barely squeezed through the long narrow opening and found safety in the small
cave just out of reach of the bear. He stayed there a long time before venturing out of the
cave and finding his way home.

This story illustrates our most basic human need: safety. While there are a few

exceptions, we will do just about anything to save our selves. So, when the pressures of the
culture, economy, our family of origin, and/or our disease become too intense and our personal

world feels unsafe, The Wall of Protection rises. The Wall of Protection creates a cave like

experience until we feel safe enough to lower the Wall of Protection.

The Wall of Protection is a natural God given gift and every person has one. This is one

of the most important concepts in Jennifer’s and my relationship success, so let me say it one

more time: The Wall of Protection is a natural human function; it is a gift of God which

automatically protects our emotional/spiritual self. The composition of The Wall varies from

person to person due to a variety of factors (genetics, environment, life history, personality, brain

chemistry, etc.). Some have applied the negative, pejorative term “defense” to this mechanism,

as if it existed to actively ward off an enemy. In fact many people consider The Wall of

Protection a weapon, but this is far from the truth. The Wall’s main function is to provide

personal safety for the owner of The Wall. Safety is the main issue.

Jennifer and I used to frequently argue about money issues, we still do sometimes, but

not with the same intensity because we are more aware of how our Walls work. But here is a

typically financial situation where The Wall would go up.

“Honey, there are a couple checks missing in the check register. Do you know what they

were written for?”

“How should I know? You’re the one that keeps the check book. I wish you would stop

trying to blame me every time you can’t handle our money.”

“Hey, wait a minute! I’m just trying to do my part here. If you don’t like the way I’m

doing it, then you can have the stupid job. Just don’t screw up like you did last time.”

“That wasn’t my fault! You are the one who. . . . ”
And the argument could continue on with blaming, defensiveness and accusations for

what seems like hours! It usually starts quite innocently, about pressure at work, money

pressures, family pressures or disease issues. When one or both of us lose our safe feeling, The

Wall of Protection goes up.

Here is an autopsy of Jennifer’s and my argument.

First, it is really important to me that I kept good accounting. In my sub-culture, being a

good husband means that I provide well for my family, keeping the family books is a key part of

that. So there is more to this argument than just bookkeeping. Bookkeeping, after all, is just the

emotionless task of record keeping, right? Not for me. A key part of my self is at stake. You

were not able to hear the tone in my voice in my written words, but it would be a safe bet to say

that it might have been a tiny bit accusatory. Okay, it was very accusatory. The point is, before I

even started this conversation, my Wall of Protection was rising because my self was feeling

threatened by not conforming to my cultural role of provider and record keeper.

Jennifer, on the other hand, has a strong need to be responsible, to be the “good-guy.”

Consequently, she really is attentive to details. If something, like something I said, makes her

feel like the “bad-guy” in an interaction, then you can bet that her Wall of Protection will go up.

When I asked about the missing checks it was as if I was accusing her of being irresponsible, a

bad guy in our relationship. Part of being safe for her is not being the bad-guy, so when it is not

safe, pop goes The Wall of Protection.

It didn’t take long, when we first began our relationship, for me to realize that Jennifer

had a Wall of Protection. It took longer for me to see, know and own my own Wall. It took even

longer for Jennifer and me to figure out what to do about it. We hope that our experience will

help you honor and understand The Wall of Protection.
It is amazing how easily The Wall goes up. That is because it is a natural God given part

of who we are as human beings. I am sure that this information about The Wall of Protection

rings a bell with you. You probably can see it in your life and in your loved ones, not to mentions

colleagues and co-workers. As you reflect on The Wall of Protection, take a moment to draw a

Wall between the circle and the square in your drawing. Here is an example:

<Insert The Wall of Protection.jpg>

You will immediately notice that, in spite of The Wall’s positive function of protecting, it

creates a problem with the flow of love and energy between the couple. When The Wall of

Protection is up, the flow of love slows. So The Wall feels like emotional distance. It is like a

bad phone connection or a dropped cell phone call. You can be sitting right next to your partner

and she seems a million miles a way, The Wall is at work.

The Wall has more than bad feelings associated with it -- The Wall can have negative

behaviors associated with it. You have heard the saying “she is as mad as a mother bear.” The

fact is that a mother bear will fight viciously to protect her young. The same is true regarding

protecting your self. A perceived threat can and often is met with hostility, even if it is just

passive aggression. Much has been written about the “Flee or Fight” response. We often engage

in the battle or flee the scene in an act of self protection. These negative behaviors simply mask

The Wall owner’s need for personal safety.

The Wall of Protection Exercise

What does your Wall of Protection look like? For me The Wall is withdrawal. I will

clam-up, get real quiet, and stop participating in the conversation. Jennifer, on the other hand,
becomes more assertive, almost “in-your-face” and then the “yous” start flowing. Take a

moment now to share with your partner what your Wall of Protection looks like.

What Does Safety Look Like?

Now that you know what The Wall of Protection looks like, what does safety look like?

Personal safety varies from person to person depending on a variety of factors; genetic

predispositions, family of origin, body chemistry, environmental factors, health and diet issues,

personality type, cultural influences, and more. The best indicator of personal safety is Well-

being. Well-being is the subjective feeling that one’s world is relatively safe. Well-being varies

in intensity, duration and from person to person. When you are at your base-line level of Well-

being, you can say, without reservation or qualification, “It is well with my soul,” and you can

say it in spite of the problems and chaos of the world around you.

One day Jennifer and I trekked to Glacier Point overlooking Yosemite Valley. Beautiful

North Dome and Basket Dome were across the valley; it seemed as if I could reach out and touch

them. To the east was Half Dome, the majestic symbol of Yosemite, jutting out, rugged and

enduring for millennia. As I leaned over the railing the firm gentle cool breeze from the Valley

whooshed against my body, and as I closed my eyes, it was if it had lifted me over the valley and

I was soaring. While I was there, I was fully aware of the struggles and episodes of human life,

nevertheless, it was well with my soul. That is just one example of what Well-being feels like.

Another example is sitting quietly with Jennifer in the morning, having a cup of coffee, reading

together, as the peace of the moment flows. Another example is just knowing that I am in the

flow of life, busy, productive, contributing, and connected to the important people in my life.
Well-being is subject to the factors mentioned above and the pressures of life. Love flows

freely when you are in a state of Well-being. I have read widely, talked with many people, and

have plenty of experiences, enough to know that there are many pictures and metaphors for

Well-being. What is Well-being like for you?

Well-being Exercise

With your partner share how you experience Well-being. What are the times and occasions that

generate Well-being?

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Thank God! The Berlin wall came down. For many years we lived with the constant

threat of the cold war. The dread of a nuclear World War III and total destruction was always in

the back of our minds. Our Wall of Protection can cause the same feelings of dread. So the

question that naturally arises is: How do you get The Wall down? Certainly not by shear will or

force.

Before I answer that question, let me tell you this: you cannot lower another person’s

Wall. The owner of The Wall is the only one who can lower The Wall. Reason will not lower

The Wall. Manipulation will not lower it. Force and violence will not lower it. In fact it is

impossible to lower another person’s Wall, more than that, any attempt to lower some one else’s

Wall by any means will only increase the height, depth and density of The Wall. The only way

to lower The Wall of Protection is when the owner of The Wall feels safe enough to lower it.

The owner has to lower it! He or she will only lower it when it is relatively safe to do so.
What follows now is another one of the key points of this book: The best way to create

safety for the owner of The Wall is to love them! Furthermore, Fun Loving is a dynamic,

consistent way to keep it down. When the owner of The Wall feels, knows, and experiences love

then The Wall will begin to come down. The Wall will come down in the presence of love. Then,

with The Wall lower, the flow of love between the two will increase and the relationship sphere

will spin and balance will be restored.

That is what the rest of this book is about; keeping the flow of love flowing, so that, in

spite of the pressures of the world and The Walls that we own we can have a balanced

relationship, enjoy personal Well-being while having Fun Loving.

LOVE

Write the letters L O V E vertically above The Wall on your page like this:

L.

O.

V.

E.

Let me introduce you to Fun Loving. In fact, let’s have some fun while we are learning about it.

Each of the letters of love stands for one of the four principles of Fun Loving. Here they are.

The “L” stands for “little things.” I believe that little things, more than anything else, will

quickly improve the flow of love and the quality of your relationship. The more affection you

share, the greater the flow of love.
“O” stands for your emotional connection. “O” is a picture from above of two people

standing face to face, gazing intently into each other’s eyes, holding hands. It is what I call God’s

view. Imagine that the parenthesis on the left is you ( and the one on the right is your spouse )

now watch what happens when they join ( ), ( ), () or O. It represents your emotional

connection. Your emotional connection is where the depth of your relationship is created and

sustained.

“V” stands for “Victory.” Battling the Four Pressures of life is a never ending war. They

are as relentless as barbarian invaders. If these diabolic entities were actually people or gods their

main tactic would be to divide the two of you and have you fight each other. Lovers fighting

each other is the greatest irony on earth. On the other hand, lovers fighting together is the key to

managing all the pressures of life. Victory is achieved each time the two of you manage these

ongoing pressures well, with fun and humor, respect, flexibility, and a willingness to be

influence by your partner.

“E” is the spiritual part of your relationship. I am not speaking about religion here,

though studies point to many health benefits for religious people. What I am referring to is

having meaning for life together. Frankly, many couples just seem to exist together. Some

merely have material goals together. I believe that life consists of more than just living together,

acquiring things. In fact, couples who share meaning in life, what I call “spirituality” seem to do

better, studies indicate.

This is love; doing little things, maintaining an emotional connection, managing life

problems together, and having a sense of meaning and purpose in life together.
The rest of this book is about LOVE and Fun Loving, how it sustains the energy that

keeps your relationship balanced and how it created safety for people to keep The Wall down or

to lower it when the pressure is too intense.

This relationship circle, trying to balance under the pressures of the world, with love

flowing and generating sustaining energy is a picture of your relationship. Now, stick with this

and keep reading to learn more about love.

An Interview with Jennifer

Bryan: How does culture affect our relationship?

Jennifer: I think culture and finances have been tied closely together for us. The Christian sub-

culture that we were in emphasized a “poverty mentality”; not to acquire much, not to have

much. That poverty mentality conflicted with my desire to have more and that created a tension

in our relationship. The culture said to have nothing, but the desire was to have something.

Bryan: How did we manage or change that problem?

Jennifer: Eventually we changed our culture, we moved out of that sub-culture group and out of

the poverty mentality.

Bryan: You just touched on an interesting point; that the four pressures often overlap.

Jennifer: I think that FOO and Disease overlap often in our extended family. FOO and Finances

overlap, too. I see that in Real Estate as families deal with inheritance and what they see as

family entitlements. Culture and Disease overlap when sub-cultures advocate recreational drug

and alcohol abuse. For instance the culture at work may demand or pressure going out for drinks,
encouraging or tolerating abuse. That creates tension at home, “Well, I have to go out and have

drinks with the guys (or girls), it is part of the job.”

Bryan: Of the four pressures mentioned in this chapter, which one put the most pressure on our

relationship, from your point of view?

Jennifer: The FOO and Disease pressures are what I feel the most. Our extended family

member’s lifestyles and values often conflict with our values and it creates issues that you and I

have to deal with. In the past when we dealt with extended family issues it would make me feel

not safe and needing to defend my family. My Wall would go up and I would get angry and get

involved with you in a direct in-your-face confrontation. Then your Wall would go up and look

like silence, withdrawal.

The difference between then and now is that I no longer feel like I am fighting you in

those extended family situations. It is more like we stand together against those situations or to

help deal with the problem. We are together in them. It is not you against me, or your family

against my family.

Bryan: How do you experience my Wall; what does it look like, how does it make you feel?

Jennifer: I used to perceive your Wall of Protection as a personal slam against me, or a personal

form of rejection. It was as if I owned your Wall and it was a bad reflection on me. Your Wall

reflected my self esteem. Now I realize that your Wall is just that; it is YOUR Wall, it is your

need for safety, and it has nothing to do with me or who I am or how I view life. It is your Wall.

So when your Wall goes up and you need silence, space or time, I am able to give that knowing
that it is not a rejection of me. It is your need to find safety and I have learned to stop fishing in

the toilet.

Bryan: What do you mean “stop fishing in the toilet?”

Jennifer: Well, you may not remember, but one time your Wall was up and I thought that I had

done something wrong and started asking all kinds of questions, just to make sure I was not at

fault and you said, “Listen, you are okay, but if you keep fishing in my toilet you’re going to

catch shit!” That statement somehow freed me to let you have your safe place behind your Wall.

Bryan: What does your Wall look like from your perspective?

Jennifer: (Long pause). I think my Wall looks different at different times. Sometimes, like you,

I withdraw emotionally. But it is more of an emotional withdrawal than a physical withdrawal; I

may get quiet, but I don’t leave the room. At other times, my Wall is more argumentative, and I

have the need to prove myself right.

As we have come to realize that we have each other’s back, the Wall of Protection comes

up less often and it does not go up quite as high or quite as thick.

I think that is really important to view the Wall of Protection as a good thing. For me, this

has been a radical shift in my thinking because I always thought that building a Wall was a

negative thing, and that by building a Wall you were pulling away and rejecting me. The focus

has changed for me. Now when somebody is building a Wall, it is not about me, it is about them.

In knowing that, I am able to not make it a “me” issue, but I can give love and help create safety

more often than I use to.
Bryan: What does safety look like or feel like to you?

Jennifer: Today I was feeling bombarded and my picture of safety was just being near you. Not

to have you hold me or anything like that, but just standing near you. It is that feeling that I’m

not alone in this, there is somebody who has my back, somebody who cares about how I feel and

who empathizes and supports. Not that you make the problems go away, or that you fight the

battle for me, but that you are there in my space in a positive way. That is safety for me.