Protecting Your Marriage (Bet
the Farm -- Part 3)
By Marita Littauer with Chuck
Noon, MA, LPCC
-- Last time we looked at a couple, Rich and Pat. In
their marriage, a second marriage for both of them, tension was
building as they began to deal with the loss of a job. For those
facing a major upheaval in life as Rich and Pat are, looking at
your Life Direction will be helpful. If you missed the
last installment or are new to this column, click here.
Help on attitude adjustment came for Chuck in some entertaining
armchair travel books by Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence,
Toujours Provence, and Encore Provence. In these
books Peter Mayle introduces a French habit he calls the "classic
Gaelic shrug," a physical habit that means so much more.
He describes it this way:
A certain amount of limbering-up is required before any major
body parts are brought into action, and your first moves should
be nothing more than a frown and a slight sideways tilt of the
head. These indicate that you cannot believe the foolishness,
the impertinence, or the plain dumb ignorance of what the Parisian
has just said to you. There is a short period of silence before
the Parisian tries again, repeating this remark and looking
at you with some degree of irritation. Maybe he thinks you're
deaf, or Belgian, and therefore confused by his sophisticated
accent. Whatever he feels, you now have his complete attention.
This is the moment to demolish him and his nonsense with a flowing,
unhurried series of movements as the full shrug is unfurled.
Step One. The jaw is pushed out as the mouth
is turned down.
Step Two. The eyebrows are fully cocked and
the head comes forward.
Step Three. The shoulders are raised to earlobe
level, the elbows tucked in to the side, the hands fanning out
with palms facing upward.
Step Four (optional). You allow a short, infinitely
dismissive sound—something between flatulence and a sigh—to
escape from your lips before letting the shoulders return to
a resting position.
It might almost be a yoga exercise, and I must have seen it
hundreds of times. It can be used to signify disagreement, disapproval,
resignation, or contempt, and it effectively terminates any
discussion. As far as I know, there is no countershrug, or satisfactory
answering gesture. For these reasons, it is an invaluable gesture
for anyone like myself whose command of the French language
is far from perfect. A well-timed shrug speaks volumes."
Footnote: Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of
France, Peter Mayle, Alfred A. Knopf NY 1999, 79-80. (Special
thanks to Lynn Morrisey for finding this quote for me.)
With the body language of the shrug, the person says, "Oh
well. Life goes on." Chuck suggests that Rich practice this
cognitive process by pairing the physical action—palms turned
out, elbows pointed out, corners of the mouth turned down, with
the mental letting go/letting God idea. Chuck has been working
on making this behavior modification in his own life. Rather than
getting upset or being too hard on himself, Chuck is learning
to shrug. Sometimes he will just look at me and say, "Shrug."
He is learning to let go and would advise anyone in a similar
position to Rich, to do the same thing.
Chuck suggests considering, "Is God preparing both of you
for something new? Should you start a business or ministry together?
Do something with e-commerce or go back to school?" Along
the same lines, Sherrie suggests that Rich capitalize on his experience
by "mining" the treasures. She encourages anyone in
a similar situation to Rich and Pat to look at
writing an article in a business magazine as an option, a web
site support group for displaced executives, a how-to booklet
on avoiding the unexpected pitfalls in the business world, and
the like. Often community colleges hire executives and other
experts to teach business classes at night. If Rich was to find
some outlet for giving of himself— possibly in a mentorship
capacity to a younger man, volunteer a few hours a month in
an area of his interests—it would help curb self pity
and go far to gaining a new healthier view of himself. When
people start to feel better about themselves, it seems that
the rest of life tends to line up better and gravitate toward
more positive experiences.
Many people have chosen to leave the corporate rat race and make
a different life for themselves. In Rich and Pat's case—and
those in a similar situation, perhaps God has made the choice
for you. Shrug—and move on. In reading about Rich and Pat,
Jan and Carl responded by saying,
Our situation is mildly similar, except that we both chose
to leave the corporate world—which meant severe downsizing
and adapting a mindset of simplifying life so we had more time
to pursue our passions and serve the Lord. . . . It has brought
on struggles for which we were not prepared, and we are constantly
re-examining our priorities, life mission, and how we define
ourselves. As two separate people bringing in two paychecks,
it is easy to be independent, but downsizing forces interdependence
and sacrifice, needs versus wants, and a complete change in
While the practical reality was far more complicated than the
dream of carrying it out, Jan and Carl report that they would
not trade their situation for the way it was. From their experience,
they offer anyone in Rich and Pat’s place hope.
See the blessing in being free of the corporate jungle and
that God's hand is in it. The warehouse job is only a stopgap
measure to bring in some groceries. Both should find out what
God is calling them to do and do it—no matter what the
salary. Sell the big house, if they have one, and live in what
they can afford. They are both healthy and still young; there
is no reason for poverty. Without the trappings, they will find
greater meaning in life!
If you are in a similar situation in your marriage, we hope these
peer and professional insights offer you encouragement and equip
you to make some changes in your situation. Be sure to watch for
the next installment of Love Extravagantly when “Bet the
Farm” continues when will look at some practical steps for
growth for anyone in a situation like Rich and Pat’s.
If this is the first installment of this column you have
read, we encourage you to click here
to read previous articles.
Littauer is the author of 13 books and is President of CLASServices
Inc. She can be reached through www.classervices.com.
Chuck Noon is a licensed professional counselor specializing
in marriage. Chuck is married to Marita Littauer. For more
information visit: www.chucknoon.com
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