Congrats to Dr. Wall for continuing his blog for a year! He started posting to this blog one year ago yesterday (March 8, 2009). He reflects on the last year.
My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
Psalm 45: 1
When I think of the above verse I feel the opposite. My fingers are the tongue of a ready speaker. This writing process has been amazing. When I started this I had no idea where it would end up. I feared, for sure, I’d run out of ideas. Marty, my oldest son, who encouraged me to start this and also designed this blog and showed me how to do it, assured me I’d be fine. He told me that my audience will be reading me for my view of marriage and that there are certain themes and that it’s Okay to repeat those themes. I can say the same thing with different twists. I can even just say the same thing. He said look at Dave Ramsey. Dave Ramsey says the same thing over and over, but his followers keep coming back because they need the encouragement to get through a rough time financially. Marty said my readers will do the same thing about marriage. They’ll come to my blog for some ongoing marriage encouragement. It’ll be fine. Go for it. You are doing great.
He’s been right. It’s been fine. Actually fun. And I haven’t run out of things to say….yet. Today will mark the 130th blog I’ve posted. My goal was 150 a year, so I didn’t do too bad. Nearly all of these were written by me. I’ve referred readers to a few other pertinent things on the internet (here’s one by Ben Stein) and Carol Caskey, my colleague at Heart to Heart Communication, wrote one (Thanks, Carol), but the rest were original by me, written usually within a few days or the day of posting.
In order to post 150 in a year, I’d have to have post three a week, which is hard to do on a consistent basis. I usually work on these an hour or two the first thing in the morning when only Kyddie (our cat) and I are awake. One day I write the blog, the next I edit it and post it. So to post three blogs a week I have to do this process six days a week. Some weeks that is fine. Others, not so with schedules and fatigue my biggest excuses. But once my wife is up and the day has started I can’t stop everything and write a blog. If I don’t do it first thing, it doesn’t get done.
Most of the time I have no idea what I’m going to write about until I wake up in the morning. I’ll wake up with the idea swimming around in my head for a few minutes and then I’ll realize that there is no way I’m going to go back to sleep with these ideas going round and round. I’ll have a theme and a direction in mind and sometime even the whole article, but mostly just a thought or two and where the blog ends up I have no idea. I rarely have the punch line, the last statement of the blog, in mind until near the end and then it just comes to me. It’s weird.
This has been a devotional exercise for me. I often feel the hand of God on my shoulder when I’m writing, just as I do many times in therapy sessions. Back in the day I used to have the same sense when I preached. Sometimes I am in awe where certain ideas or directions came from.
I have in my mind’s eye two types of readers: Regular readers who need some encouragement to hang in there, to fight the good fight, to remain faithful to their marriages in this too tempting world and readers who need a kick in the butt to wake them up out of their selfishness and start investing in their marriages. Either of these readers could be potential clients. The blog gives a person looking for a therapist an insight into my brain and the things that make me tick. Many new clients have told me that reading the blog helped them see that this was the type of person they wanted to see as their therapist. In a way, they know me a bit before they come in the door.
My wife was a little concerned about the themes of the blog. She’s told me she likes the upbeat blogs, the positive ones. I appreciate her insight. I had one reader that pleaded with me to go easy on the sarcasm and to be more practical and I’ve thought about that, also. Unfortunately, marriage, while a wonderful, God invented institution, geared to be a blessing, has been marred by sin and darkness and people aren’t going to come and see me if everything is fine. They mostly come to see me when their marriage feels broken or nearly so or they sense it’s heading that way and don’t want it to be broken. Sometimes it’s because of a tragedy, like a death or a layoff from a job. Sometimes it’s newly weds trying to navigate these uncharted waters and they need a route to follow. But more often than not it’s because of hurt that’s got out of control: Affairs, pornography, fighting, falling out of love, money problems, kids problems, threats to divorce or someone thinking of leaving, sexual miscues, step-family coalitions or just down and out meanness and selfishness. These are not fun themes to have to address. I get sarcastic once in a while to jog slumbering marital partners out of their stupor before their partners do it for them with divorce papers and it’s too late. Several clients have told me that the article I have posted on my regular web-site on selfishness was the club over the head they needed to get their act together and call for therapy. I wrote that piece a year before I started the blog. If you are a regular reader you might enjoy it. You can find it here. It set the tone for later blogs on similar themes.
Look, you want to go to marital therapy BEFORE your spouse says they want a divorce! Let’s work on the marriage while Humpty Dumpty is sitting ON the wall, not after he’s fallen down. We’ll have a lot better success! I’m a nice guy and all, but I’m not a miracle worker! I can give you direction, but I can’t change your spouse’s heart. That wouldn’t be me.
Most of my blogs are random topics related to marriage. Over this last year I’ve had two series, both of which seem to have resonated with my readers. The first topic compared cohabiting with being married (The first in the series started August 25, 2009: “Cavalier About Marriage” and included the next six blogs after that through September 15, 2009). The second looked at the difference between living as roommates and living as husband and wife (starting with “Living As Roommates: Easy Ways to Destroy Your Marriage” on January 18, 2010 and continuing until February 19th with eleven more blogs on the topic).
I’ve mostly steered away from political and current events. When I started this blog I had no thought of writing about same-sex marriage, until our Iowa Supreme Court made it Okay for same-sex people to marry last summer. In my view, this was a sad day in Iowa and I wrote two blogs in protest (“Song of Fools” and “Iowa Supreme Court Math”). I’ve visited the topic one other time (“An Open Letter On Homosexual Temptation and Marriage”).
Just last week I wrote a protest on the new television show “The Marriage Ref.” In December I commented on Oprah’s embrace of porn in the marriage bedroom (“Porn and Oprah: This Time She’s Got It All Wrong”)
I wrote about and endorsed the Manhattan Declaration, which is a statement by leading Christian thinkers supporting the place of morality in public debate and law and practice. I wrote several blogs about the revelation of Tiger Woods’ affairs (“Two Lessons From Tiger,” “Lesson Number Three From Tiger” and “Needed: A New Culture Where Sexuality is Protected in Marriage”) and one about Steve Phillip’s affair (“Warning: You Can’t Have Sex For Nothing”).
Several were presentations I’d given: One at a funeral of my awesome Uncle Don from several years ago (“A Tribute to Uncle Don “Doc” Erickson”), and a tribute at my mom and dad’s 60th wedding anniversary (last summer).
This blog has been a little more religious than I’d anticipated (for two samples see here and here). The blog forum invites candor on what a person really believes. You’ll note that my blogs have a moral fiber. If you are looking for a therapist to pat you on the back and to encourage you to enjoy your affair, your porn, your wife swapping, or your pending divorce, I’m not your guy. I won’t just blurt out that your are an idiot in a therapy session. I’ll be more subtle than that. In a blog I’ll just tell you. Blogs are a lot more up front and in your face than therapy actually is. In therapy I’ll ask the pertinent questions to help you think it through. I’ll give you my opinion that such and such will lead to this and this and this will lead to that. You’ll still have to make up your own mind, after all. I don’t do hypnotism. I want you in control of your own brain. You have to live with your choices.
I’m amazed at the different topics that have come up. For example, just in the last few weeks in this blog I’ve discussed: Sexuality from several vantage points (“The Foundation of Meaningful, Marital Sexuality”, “A Primer On Sexual Desire,” and “The Great Tension In Meaningful Marital Sexuality”) maturity, love (“Love With Dignity and Grace”, “Love With Dignity and Grace, Part II,” and “Love Without Strings”) choices, disagreements, housekeeping, affection, priority of kids vs your spouse, and resentment. I never started out charting what I need to write about. It just sort of flows.
My two favorites are both on affection, maybe because the topic resonates with me personally. But I also am amazed at the power of affection to reduce resentments and anger and increase warmth and tenderness. It’s pretty hard to be mad at your spouse when you just intimately cuddled with him or her. I notice that rarely are my clients strong in affection. If they take my advice and start investing in it again (Imagine a couple dating without affection! They’d NEVER marry!) they usually do really well. I like the first article on affection because in my son Marty has an awesome cartoon making fun of his mom and dad (mostly his dad!). If you haven’t seen it you must check it out (“A Brief Primer On Cuddling”). The other blog that is my favorite is called “Aunt Bertha Kisses,” which are what I call the stale kisses we give Aunt Bertha when we say good-bye to her at Christmas. I had a real Aunt Bertha and I really had to kiss her goodbye and I really hated it. I call “Aunt Bertha Kisses” the kisses we give each other when we’re mad or totally indifferent: No blood to the lips and the lips are pursed together as if to symbolize that you cannot penetrate my heart at all. These kisses are insulting and more harm than good. I love the name “Aunt Bertha Kisses.” I’ve been calling them that in therapy sessions for a number of years. I imagine if I’m ever famous it’ll be because of that. I also imagine a drastic drop in the divorce rate if couples just kissed each other with a little blood to their lips, their lips slightly parted and filled with warmth and tenderness. Who knows, after awhile their hearts might warm up, too!
The most traffic I’ve received on any blog was 159 hits in one day on February 26th, the day I posted “Fork In The Road Therapy”. I have no idea what causes people click on my web site one day and not another. Blogs I thought were really good, hardly anyone reads. I thought my last one, “Grow Up Already” was really good and only 32 people hit that one. The most in a week was 610 which was the third week of February when I was discussing love and sexuality. Hmmmm. The most for a month was February with 1806 which was when I was doing the series on comparing roommates with being husband and wife. Over time the hits have grown. Last summer I was getting 10 hits a day. Now I average between 40 and 80 a day. I’m hoping over time that the number of hits will grow. The traffic has certainly helped my counseling business, so the investment has paid off.
I have no idea how long I can keep this blogging up. Certainly there must be limit to topics that can be covered or what I can say about them. I guess we’ll see. I’ll keep plugging away. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Feel free to spread the word. Maybe we can help improve marriages and decrease the number of divorces ever so slightly. That’d be worth it.