Here’s a preview from Justin Arman’s latest work, Free Your Children: A Guide for Liberty Loving Parents. This will be released by liberty.me on June 30th, 2014!
Chapter: Marriage and Partnership
Choosing your mate is the most important decision you’ll ever make. Don’t rush it, and never settle for anything less than creating a life with your best friend. The below are the most important things I’ve learned from the ups and downs of married life. What never works, what always works.
The single most important element of any relationship is having common values. If you don’t align with your partner on the principles that govern your lives, your relationship will never be authentic; you’ll always stay on the surface and use a busy life, entertainment, drama, and other mediums of distraction to avoid these matters; this will always lead to distance in the relationship and the creation of separateness. When common values do not align, one partner always feels unsupported, alone, or misunderstood. This is especially true for those that have unconventional beliefs, such as a deep love for liberty. Your partner doesn’t need to be a voluntaryist, but he or she does need to sympathize with core libertarian values. What liberty looks like is up for debate, which is fun, but believing in the use of violence as a justifiable means to an end is enough cause for ending a relationship or just never allowing it to get serious. Don’t mate with a statist!
Note: Common values are much deeper than one’s faith. A marriage of two different faiths can work because faith is simply the reflection of values.
Common interests come second to core values.
Building a relationship on common interests is not as important as common values but really does come second. Common interests create lasting and meaningful friendships. When you create a friendship with your partner, this joyfulness usually leads to intimacy. If you are having difficulty connecting with your partner, even though your core values are the same, this is usually a symptom of lack of shared enjoyment. Reading together (this leads to better conversation), going on walks, working on a project together, working out, challenges, dates, adventure, etc., can all be effective remedies. The more you do together that brings you joy, the healthier your friendship will be and the more intimate you’ll become. Sweating together and risk taking is a total turn on.
What usually burns a couple out is losing purpose through the hustle and bustle. When you’re busy surviving, it becomes extremely easy to lose sight of what makes the struggle worth it. Maybe your goals aren’t clearly laid out, maybe your purpose is not potent enough, or maybe you don’t have a purpose. Purpose is what keeps you in integrity while you’re tackling each objective. Your relationship has collective goals as well. Reflecting on common goals brings harmony to your individual paths, and this helps determine what you two are setting out to create together. A relationship built on creativity and clear purpose will always be a healthy one. Purposeful living creates happiness, and when this is shared, there’s a kind of synergy that makes you even happier. Common goals can be starting a family business that will create more freedom in your life, becoming more sustainable by planting a garden together, creating an event that brings the community together, buying a home in south Austin, or running a 5K.
Art of Communication, the Third Way of Listening
The three paragraphs above can’t happen without honest communication. This is such an obvious relationship virtue; I’ll just touch on a communication technique that is extremely powerful. It’s called being with, which Jessica and I learned in a workshop together. This tool is probably the reason we have a marriage today. As information is being received, most of us are agreeing and disagreeing with it in real time, and the problem with this is that these hasty judgments prevent full discernment. There’s an expression that goes something like this: judgment without observation is ignorance; observation without judgment is wisdom.So, if we hear something that offends us, such as “You don’t appreciate all I do for you,” or “I feel like I’m your servant. You just throw clothes on the ground and expect me to pick them up behind you,” the first reaction is to lash out in one way or another, or defend yourself by denying the accusation altogether. A lot of times, when there’s a conflict, it’s because there’s a miscommunication, lack of mindfulness, or your partner feels like she needs something she’s not getting. As a couple, the most important thing you can do is give each other a safe space to fully express your feelings; this means that, regardless of what comes out, you will not judge or react to what you’re hearing. A lot of times, the smarty likes to use logic to reason issues away; however the irony is that in his attempt to outsmart his partner, he’s committing a fallacy arguing against feelings. Feelings are not truth statements!
If you feel an issue arise, try something like, “I have a feeling that I’ve been wrestling with that may not be accurate to reality, but I just need to share this with you. Please don’t judge or attack me. I could be wrong, but I really do need to share this. I promise to give you a chance to respond and not to interrupt, judge, or attack as well.” When your partner is listening to you, they should not be bobbing their head up and down, making faces, or trying to save you. If your partner is really practicing the art of being with, then you’ll feel that they are at least doing their best to be truly present. It’s okay to argue in real time; however, this needs to happen once the situation is completely understood for what it is. Another practice in being with that can make you proactive with building a relationship is to tell each other what love means to you.
Tell each other what you would appreciate from them. “Just be with me right now. I need you to start telling me you love me more. I need you to tell me that I’m amazing. I need you to kiss me more. I feel like you’re uninterested and it’s probably just because you’re working on this new, exciting project. I think that if you just take a couple of minutes to hold me, I’ll be good to go.”
Sex is the defining characteristic of your relationship. Without it, you wouldn’t be life partners; you’d be friends. You need to have a lot of sex; I mean a lot. And you’ll need to change this up and do whatever you can to turn each other on. Some couples are dealing with emotional trauma around sex; if this is the case, then you must do everything you can to heal from this together with therapy and communication. The bottom line is that sex is the fuel and without it, your relationship will fail or be far from ideal.
The art of communication can be applied here. “I want to show you something. I love you and I’m turned on by you. However, this is how I like it.” If you’re partner is offended, then it’s because he feels inadequate. Be patient and empathetic. Teach your partner what turns you on, what gets you off. Train each other by giving each other lessons in your uniqueness. Another key ingredient here is being intimate with yourself; self-pleasure is the core of being a good lover. If you don’t know your body, how can you expect another to?
Also, self-pleasure makes people healthier and happier and should never stop, no matter how much sex you’re having. Remember to live by your rules, and be original. And a lot of times jealousy and inadequacies arise from issues in the bedroom. This is where you can make your lives come alive and physically show just how passionate and grateful you are for each other. Sex is primal and doesn’t have to make sense; just go for it. Be daring, different, and explore, explore, explore.
Sex and intimacy are interconnected, but there is so much more to affection than what happens in the bedroom. Intimacy is created in how you talk to each other; this is your own language that you don’t share with anyone else. Is there passion in your words? Do you laugh with excitement during regular conversations? If not, work on this. Intimacy is in the small everyday nuances. Holding hands while you’re driving, hugging her from behind as she picks something up from the ground, randomly embracing him and telling him he smells good, raising your eyebrows at each other, whispering what you’d like to do to each other if you could, kissing on the cheek or behind the shoulder blade. I would say that intimacy has a lot to do with how you are in public. It’s actually quite easy to be intimate when nobody is looking. Public displays of affection make this planet more loving and beautiful. Being intimate in front of your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Kissing, hugging, holding hands, looking at each other passionately are the most beautiful examples of what it means to love. Children will always say things like, “Gross!” But they’ll be happier for it. They’ll also learn how to be intimate when it’s biologically their turn.
Never forget to laugh. It is extremely difficult to be joyful with all of the injustices around us, through the financial difficulties, and the obstacles that come our way; what matters most is not forgetting to live through the vicissitudes of life. Joke, be playful, be fun. Laughter is a medicine for longevity and overall health.
Respect means that you genuinely value your partner as an individual and respect the aspects of who they are that initially attracted you. What initially attracted you to your partner was pre-you. If you attempt to absorb your partner’s individuality into your needs and wants by being too demanding of their time, and at the expense of them pursuing their individual passions, some of the attraction will be lost. When a couple knows all there is to know, conversations get dull, and respect dies, along with attraction. Honor your partner’s need for alone time, and create a space for their unique expressions. I actually adore my wife as an individual and love the talents that she expresses that have nothing to do with me: her beautiful singing voice, her relationship wisdom, and her handiness and creativity. Jessica encourages me to pursue my music, even when this means time away from our family. She even encourages me to tour and pursue the dreams I had before I was Daddy and Husband; she finds it sexy when I play the drums. This reminds her of the man that caught her eye. This seems so rare, and friends cannot believe my wife is so supportive. “You’re lucky, Dude. My wife nags me, takes me away from the things I enjoy, and demands me 100 percent of the time! I could never do what I really want to. I gave that up when I got married.” It’s time to be confident enough to free-range our spouses. If you can’t trust them with freedom, then you should rethink your relationship.
Appreciation and Gratitude
The expression of gratitude is one of the most beautiful love languages there is. Gratitude fills the soul, raises your vibration, and essentially increases the wealth in each transaction of giving. “Thank you” isn’t enough; this expression is only half of the picture. Knowing how your partner receives gratitude is the full picture. If my wife has my nice pants ironed and ready for me in the morning, communicating my appreciation might look like saying thank you and doing a few tasks that she hasn’t gotten around to. If I said “Thanks honey” and shot out the door, that may not be a win-win exchange. (For a transaction to increase the wealth for each party in a capitalist exchange, each party needs to believe they are getting more out of what they’re putting in. Transactions are not zero sum. If it were, why act to begin with? I may want your eggs more than I want my milk, and the opposite is true for the person I’m exchanging with, which makes it mutually beneficial. This principle should be applied to your relationship.) A healthy relationship compliments and capitalizes on individual shortcomings and talents. I may decide to do this because my desire to make my wife happier is greater than my disdain for doing the dishes. I get a happier wife and am spiritually fulfilled as a result; she gets to not have to do the dishes and can spend her free energy loving on me and the children. Gratitude should be the currency of every household.
Being on the Same Team
So many couples have a win-lose mode of operation: Dad gains at Mom’s expense, and the reverse is also true. The all-pervading perspective of a healthy marriage is being a team player, all of the time. This looks different for everyone; however, what I mean here is one’s happiness should never come at the expense of their partner’s.
The outcome of disputes usually creates a clear winner and loser. However, it’s impossible for only part of the team to win. Rather, arguing should be used as an exercise in empathy so that understanding can lead to a clear resolution. Who wins doesn’t matter, just like it doesn’t matter which foot crosses the finish line first. Being wrong is an opportunity to grow and to learn a lot more about what makes each other tick. If you’re on the same team, and conflicts arise, then arguments become extremely productive and healthy. Instead of shutting down, try, “I’ve noticed that when these situations arise, it seems to cause you to act like this. I need to know how we can do something different because you are my priority and I don’t want this to hurt you.” (Then be with.)
Being on the same team also means being a completely open book. This doesn’t work for relationships that are anything short of marriage quality. I would never open myself fully to another person unless I was thinking of marrying them. If you are married, then you shouldn’t hide anything. Unless information is given to you in confidence and it doesn’t affect your marriage, your life, or your partner’s life in any way, you should share everything. If you don’t trust your partner to know something about you, then you may want to rethink your relationship. When you purposely hide areas of your life, this creates distance, and this withholding will show up negatively in your relationship. Sometimes getting in a habit of spending money your partner doesn’t know about, or creating friendships with people your wife doesn’t know about can end up spiraling out of control; next thing you know, you’re leading a completely separate life, which can lead to an affair. I’m not attempting to dramatize the effects of a private life, I’m just trying to make it clear that when you’re heart is completely open, your relationship is a lot more authentic. Give your spouse an opportunity to love the full you by letting everything you’re purposely hiding out in plain sight.
Money is another issue in marriages. Everyone is different, there are no universals here; however, I do believe that married couples ought to combine everything; this is where socialism works! Do what’s right for you; however, my ideal is a 100 percent union of finances and property. If you can’t trust your partner with the finances, then that isn’t their strong point and it’s your responsibility to solve the problem. When you marry someone, you take everything that comes with them, including their debt. Strategic accounting aside, combine your assets and liabilities. If you disagree and are happy in your marriage, then know this is just my opinion. My wife and I share everything. I always tell her that if I become an asshole and she divorces me, I would want her to have everything so that I could attempt to start anew. I couldn’t bear taking anything from our home. If I lose my relationship with my wife, I lose everything; so I’m all in.
Teammates make the best parents. When you are a solid unit, your children become solid people. When parents are divided, children will actually exploit this to their own end, and everyone gets hurt. They’ll know who to go to for what, and this actually incentivizes deception. Get on the same page as parents and always work together. Make compromises and stand united as a team. When the kids ask to have a sleepover, both parents should have a consistent, united response: “As long as you’ve finished your chores.”
You can become teammates in a co-parenting situation. When you’re divorced, you can still create a wonderful example for all the children involved. Just because the marriage needed to end, doesn’t mean you can’t be outstanding co-parents. A common love is all that is needed to make the most out of a difficult situation. You can love your ex for the children she gave you, and honor her as your child’s mother for that reason alone. A co-parenting guide is essential, but there is not enough space here to continue. Be reasonable with each other, keep communication open, and give plenty of time and space for healing. At some point, you’re going to have to put your big girl panties on and make it work. If you can spell out exactly what you need from your ex, and she can do the same, resolutions can actually be made; you can even become awkward friends. What a lesson for your child; you love your child so much that you’re willing to work it out with someone that you’d otherwise not look at again.
Children are the real victims of divorce, though they can grow up strong and well-rounded through this with the knowledge that their parents did their best and that they were blessed to potentially have two families rather than one. Also, if you find someone that really makes you happy, your children will know that, though divorce is horrible, the fragile nature of marriage can be beautiful. You can teach your children that they must always fight for their marriage, and always treat their partner well. A self-respecting person will never settle for mistreatment, even after fifteen years of marriage.
The team gets stronger through the bad times. When you’re on the same page, you’ll notice that the difficult times strengthen the family bond. Always remind each other that how you treat each other when things get difficult is a defining characteristic of your love; it’s no great accomplishment loving life through the thick. When you’re met with adversity or financial difficulty, be conscious of how you react to this and how you treat each other. Accomplishing great things together is notable, but accomplishing great things gracefully is the real success. When Jessica and I planned our first Parents for Liberty conference, our goal was to do this with grace. We asked tough questions: How are we going to treat each other when the tasks pile up and the stress builds? We kept reminding ourselves of this, and even when it got a little difficult, we actually never took it out on each other. This was a test of our commitment and we passed this time.
My master and teacher, Jessica Arman, has attempted to mentor me on the idea of love languages for the last seven years, and I still have a very difficult time with this. But I’ll do my best communicating this here. In a nutshell, love languages is the idea that people show love and receive love differently. Each person has their own unique language, and though you may think that you are telling your partner that you love them, if this is not how they hear love, then this will create a disconnect. Knowing your partner’s language will tremendously strengthen your bond. If loving your husband is different than his idea of being loved, then it’s your responsibility to communicate what love looks like. Maybe showing love is doing the dishes together, or making time for each other to snuggle and watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Maybe he receives love when he comes home to a warm meal and his wife is fully present with him over dinner. Maybe she receives love when her husband rubs her ankles and arms at night. What’s important is that we know how to love each other. Saying “I love you” isn’t enough if it’s lost in translation.
“The preceding was an excerpt from my forthcoming guide, Free Your Children: A Guide for Liberty-Loving Parents, which will be released on June 30. Visit the guide page for more information and links to related content.If you haven’t already, join Liberty.me today.”