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Your fondness and admiration system
May 01, 2008

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Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #105, May 1, 2008

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Want an Adventure? Volunteer overseas

Your fondness and admiration system

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Written by Noel McNaughton
Midlife-Men.com
(c) copyright 2008 midlife-men.com

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If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favour and forward it to him. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting Midlife Wisdom for Men.

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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

The midlife transition has us mulling over and questioning almost every aspect of our life, including our marriage. Sometimes it feels as though we need a 'time away' from work, or relationships, or almost any other aspect of our everyday life in order to contemplate what our life has been to date, and where to go from here.

It is a mistake, though, to close all the doors to our former life. Especially doors to relationships.

This will be the only newsletter this month. Elizabeth and I are going to Britain on Monday, and won't be back till after the 15th, so rather than scramble to write a newsletter while we are holidaying, I have decided not to do one.

Talk to you again on May 1.

There are about 1000 words in this issue, which should take you about three minutes to read.

Noel

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Want an Adventure? Volunteer overseas

Perhaps you are taking early retirement, or are scaling down to working part time, and are looking to make a worthwhile contribution in the world.

Maybe you have always thought about working in a Third World country, but didn't know how to go about it, or maybe it just wasn't practical while you were building a family and establishing your career. Now it is.

Our friend Margaret has gone on two-week jaunts to Columbia with Hearts and Hands the last two winters, to build very efficient small concrete stoves for peasants who until now have cooked over smoky, wood-wasting open fires.

They spend a week building stoves, and a week travelling and site-seeing. Margaret loves it.

There are literally hundreds of organizations looking for volunteers for short-, or even long-term, projects in dozens of countries.

A search on the net using the term "volunteer Overseas" gets thousands of hits, but you can start at this site: www.unitedplanet.org/

I have done a bit of cross-cultural work myself, starting with two years teaching adult education in a remote Native community in North Eastern Alberta. I have also done short-term projects in Egypt, China, Japan and Barbados.

Things to keep in mind when working in other cultures

1. We do not have 'the answer' for people in other countries. Often people from industrialized nations want to go to 'less developed' countries, and 'help' them by telling them what they need, and arranging for them to have it, whether they want it or not.

This is called 'ethnocentrism'.

To actually be helpful in other countries, it is important to have a basic understanding of the culture and language, and to LISTEN more than speak, when travelling abroad. We are not superior in any way, but we are no doubt more privileged, and better educated academically. Our foreign hosts are far better educated in the skills of living in their own society, and knowing what their true needs are.

2. Genuine interest, friendliness and respect go a long way in other societies, just as in our own. Although people in a different culture may have different values and habits, they are exactly like us in all ways that matter. They need to be appreciated, respected and loved just as we do, and they like to have fun too. If you like telling jokes, though, be ready for many of yours to flop, as humour is very culture-based, and what is hilarious to us might be puzzling to others.

3. Gender roles in most other societies are far more traditional than in our own, with male and females roles clearly defined. Respect that, and do not try to bring about 'gender equality' by treating men or women differently than their culture calls for.

4. Take the time to learn as much of the language as you can. Any attempt to speak their language is greatly appreciate by people from other cultures.

That is about all the unasked-for advice I have, and if you do volunteer in another country, be prepared to have a lot of fun, learn a lot, and have your life enriched in ways nothing else can come close to.

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Some cultural differences...

Americans: Spell words differently, but still call it "English."

Brits: Pronounce their words differently, but still call it "English."

Canadians: Spell like Brits, pronounce like Americans.

Aussies: Add "G'day," "mate" and a heavy accent to everything they say in an attempt to get laid.

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Your fondness and admiration system

I get a lot of emails from women saying their husbands have suddenly left them, saying they don't love them any more, and the women don't know what to do. The most distressing part is that often the men are verbally abusive as well, saying mean things to their wives.

Many men (and probably women too), by the time they get to midlife, seem to feel they are in a dead-end marriage, or that they are missing something in their marriage, or perhaps missing something in their life, that they think they could find if they weren't married, or were married to someone else.

No doubt that is sometimes true.

But it may be equally true that over the years, the couple has lost touch with what they liked about each other originally and have begun to treat each other badly. Resentment and bitterness may have grown to the point where they don't want to be together any more.

If they have forgotten what brought them together in the first place, they have lost what Dr. John Gottman, in his book The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, calls their 'Fondness and Admiration System'.

Says Gottman:

"Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner's personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. When this sense is completely missing from a marriage, the relationship cannot be revived."

Mike Steinhauer, a Cree elder who was an important mentor to me, described love as being demonstrated by kindness and compassion. Love is not a 'feeling', but rather an action. And if we treat our partners kindly, even if we do not feel 'in love' with them at the moment, it may save a lot of pain in the long run.

Midlife can be tumultuous, and I know a number of couples who have separated for a period of time, then got back together, sometimes months and sometimes a year or two later, and found their 'new relationship' very satisfying.

If you make it a habit to be kind to each other, you will not have done so much damage that if you do split for a while, you can't get back together.

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Some football humour: "Sure there have been injuries and deaths in football - but none of them serious."

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Unusual travel Web sites:

OneBag.com - Devoted to giving practical tips and tricks on traveling light with the focus on how to pack for travel anywhere with only one bag.

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Like coffee, but are afraid it is not good for you? I drink healthy coffee: Gano Cafe

**************************************************** I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to noel@midlife-men.com . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.

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Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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