7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages part 7: Curdled Heart

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A month ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last four weeks check out our first FIVE Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

Habit #4: Criticism Floods

Habit #5: Inconsistent Sex

Habit #6: Lack of Laughter

Here we go…#7 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #7: Curdled Heart

cur·dle/ˈkərdl
verb: To separate or cause to separate into curds or lumps. To spoil or turn sour.
Synonyms: clot, coagulate, congeal, thicken

After taking  week away because of some health issues, I’m bringing this blog series to a conclusion with #7 of my 7 dysfunctional habits.  I’m not huge on the KJV (King James Version of the bible), but I was raised on it. And there are some verses that will always stick out in my mind that are worded a specific way in the KJV:

And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 1 Samuel 1:10

Bitterness, to many people, is the most sensitive of the tastes. Most of us find it harsh and unpleasant. My case in point: Unsweetened cocoa. I remembered discovering it in our pantry growing up. To me, it looked like chocolate.  To my chagrin, my mouth was filled with the shockingly harsh taste of unsweetened cocoa. It blew my mind that anything bearing the brown Hershey label could taste so bad! It cured me of sneaking around to find chocolate…well, almost.

Identifying bitterness is not as simple as a taste test. A harsh or bitter person will rarely admit it. He/she will call themselves firm, melancholy, sober, principled or any number of pseudonyms for bitter. Here’s the reality: bitterness is very easy to see in others but hard to see in ourselves. It sits in our heart releasing its venom causing the curdling process to begin.  Over time the bitterness begins to spoil our attitude.  Our personality begins to sour and our defenses begin to thicken.  If not taken care of, bitterness turns to unforgivenss and causes hearts to separate.

Bitterness has now finished its work.

Defective marriages hold onto the toxin of bitterness, anger, and regret? I say quite often, unforgiveness (which comes from bitterness) is the cancer of marriage. And as a pastor, I deal with this issue more than most. Bitterness will break apart/curdle your heart and undermine your marriage.

In 1 Samuel 1, we find the scripture talking about someone in agony. The “she” being talked about is a woman named Hannah.  She was hurting.  She was broken.  And yes, she was bitter.  Unable to conceive, she was in inner turmoil.  The Hebrew word for “bitterness” means bitter taste or inner pain.  She was experiencing both.  We have limited knowledge to what was taking place here in 1 Samuel 1.  But we cannot help but speculate that her bitterness was taking its toll on her personally as well as her marriage.

The story is kept simple.  And even though we only need 10 verses to see Hannah’s agony.  We only need a few words to see her response to the bitterness.

Hannah turned to the Lord.

It may sound like a religious cop-out, but something far deeper was happening than a religious crutch.  She was emptying her burden/bitterness upon the shoulders of God.  It wasn’t for a moment of release.  It says in verse 12 she “continued praying before the Lord.” She refused to live in bitterness.  She didn’t succumb to its venom.  Hannah didn’t play games with it.  She opened up, faced it, and cried out to the Lord for help.

There is a beauty to the simplicity of Hannah’s response.  Bitterness wants to isolate you and curdle your heart toward your spouse, yourself, and the Lord.  It wants to do its work of separation.  But if we, simply, opened up to face it head on, we’d see that bitterness is normal for us to face but abnormal for us to carry. Your shoulders where never built to hold it.

One of my favorite scriptures says this:

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22

Are you harboring bitterness?  Have you succumb to its venomous hold?  Has your heart started curdling toward your spouse? Then do yourself and your marriage a favor.

In bitterness of soul…cast your burden on the Lord. And if you will, his promise is he will sustain you.

For Hannah, God gave her a son Samuel that would bless a nation..  For you, I do not know what God has planned, but I believe though you, God will birth great things that will bless the world around you.

Stop feeding the defectives of marriage.
Stop being bitter.
Cast your burden on the Lord.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages part 6: Lack of Laughter

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A month ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last four weeks check out our first FIVE Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

Habit #4: Criticism Floods

Habit #5: Inconsistent Sex

Here we go…#6 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #6: Lack of Laughter

laugh·ter/laftər
noun: the action or sound of laughing
Synonyms: chuckling, chortling, guffawing, cackling, sniggering

I feel I can’t blog on this topic enough.  There are too many people who take themselves WAY TOO seriously.  A great quote from Agnes Repplier says,

We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.

Such truth about a sorely forgotten VITAL aspect of marriage.  We do not realize how necessary laughter is in marriage. Anne and I always talk (and blog) about our two essential ingredients to marriage: Jesus and laughter.

Psalm 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

I remember it was almost four years ago, I was in the salon waiting for Anne to finish getting her hair cut.  We were playful arguing back and forth about something silly.  We were not just laughing, we were egging on each other causing a bit of a scene which drew in the rest of the people in the salon.  We found out later (from Lisa…Anne’s stylist) that after we left, the people in the salon (workers and customers) were talking about us.  They assumed we had just gotten married because we were playful as well as willing to laugh so much together.  Lisa blew them away when she told them married we had been married 10+ years.  Why were they shocked at that? Because, for some reason, couples with any vintage, are NOT supposed to laugh that much.

Why do we see laughter as an option in marriage? Why do we not strive for more of it?  We wait for it to happen like a desperate person holding their lotto ticket listening to the numbers being read on the TV.  We yearn to laugh with our spouse again.  We hope it’ll happen. Maybe today we’ll hit the jackpot and enjoy a time of fun together.

Laughter isn’t something that happens randomly like a lightning strike.  Laughter is fostered and cultivated. It has to be seen as an essential piece of the marriage puzzle. Take it from professionals.  Comedian Bob Hope said laughter is an “instant vacation.” Jay Leno says, “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” And Bill Cosby says, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.” These men made a living on the understanding that laughing brings an astronomic affect to people.  Crowds would gather around them to get “medicated” with humor (Prov. 17:22).

When it comes to laughter, it produces a number of benefits: 

  • Reduces stress and tension.
  • Stimulates your immune system.
  • An increase of natural painkillers in your blood.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Raises your spirits.
  • Laughter relieves tension and brings closeness.
  • Having a sense of humor refreshes your relationship.

As you can see, laughter is not to be taken lightly. Laughter is to be indulged in.  It’s the dessert of life that should be enjoyed every day…as much as possible!!! You need this.  Your spouse needs this. I want to help you increase the laughter and in your marriage.  I challenge you to…

  • Look for the “funny” in your day. Be aware of the humorous moments around you.
  • Laugh when you don’t feel like laughing.
  • Make it a habit to share funny moments with your spouse. Don’t wait to tell them later.  Bring them into the moment.
  • Become of student of your spouse. Study what makes them laugh.
  • Reflect on funny times in your past together.

When it comes to laughing, psychologists and scientists agree. Their studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression and they are more likely to enjoy life in general — including their marriage. Do you want a marriage that is set up for success? Do you want to bring health and vitality to your marriage? Do you want a marriage that is HIGHLY EFFECTIVE?

Create a culture of laughter.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 5 Inconsistent Sex

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A month ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last four weeks check out our first FOUR Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

Habit #4: Criticism Floods

Here we go…#5 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #5: Inconsistent Sex

in·con·sist·ent/inkənˈsistənt
adjective: not staying the same throughout
Synonyms: unstable, irregular, unsteady, unsettled, uneven

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The subject that people, single and marriage, have a hard time talking about but don’t mind reading out is sex.  When it comes to sex, it is the action that provides so much enjoyment yet so much conflict. The most common sexual conflict in marriage is in reference to frequency.  In that average couple (not always the case) one spouse tends to have a higher libido and want more sex than the other.   This leads the spouse with the higher sex drive to feeling under appreciated, unimportant, and unloved.
“Why doesn’t my wife want me?”
“Why doesn’t my husband desire me?”
“Why won’t she initiate anything?”
“Why won’t he touch me?” 
This begins a spinning carousel of chaos where the other spouse thinks:
“Is sex all they want from me?”
“What about my love language?”
“I shouldn’t have to do something I don’t want.”
It’s at this place where it feels like the wheels are falling off.  The carousal of sexual chaos is spinning and you don’t know how to stop the cycle that continues to stifle the marital joy. Your marriage isn’t the only one dealing with this.  Couples struggle with sex being inconsistent (unstable, irregular, unsteady, unsettled, uneven).  I’m not saying “inconsistent” as it is HAS TO HAPPEN on certain days at certain times.  What I mean is your marital sex life has become irregular and unsteady.  It’s in a cycle of instability and frustration.  It is vital to break this cycle that most couples fall into at one time or another.
There is no magic number.  I’m not after getting you to the average frequency of the american couple.  What I’m after is CONSISTENCY.  What helps is remembering what 1 Corinthians 7 tells us.
Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree
I’ve never met a couple who had a consistent healthy sex life who wanted a divorce.  But the act of depriving (deny a person the possession or use of something), has been used to destroy so many marriages. Let me clear the air on this: There is a difference between refusing occasionally and depriving someone habitually. If depriving has become your habit.  You’ve let selfishness creep in. My wife says it best, “You are the only one that can meet the sexual needs of your spouse. No one else can. If you don’t, you’re opening up the door for the enemy to try to use someone else to fill in that need.”  (Anne is a wise woman.)
“Do not Deprive” simply means…
  • Sexual intimacy is a God-given gift given to your marriage.  To deprive your spouse is to deprive them of a gift from God
  • Sex isn’t a weapon to wield for power in the marriage.  It cannot be used for leverage or manipulation.
  • You are not after the minimum.  You are just “doing your duty”. You’re after experiencing the gift TOGETHER.  Sex connects us on three levels: physical, spiritual, and emotional…but that’s for another blog
  • You are after intimacy and not just release.  It’s not about releasing frustration.  Sex is at the deepest level of intimacy and should be treated and enjoyed as such.
You have to start by taking your SELF off of it. It’s recognizing that if you as a couple remove selfish needs and wants and walk in a manner that says, according to 1 Corinthians 7, “your body belongs to me and mine belongs to you.”  I even love how the section ends.  If you step away because you MUTUALLY decided to do it for a time, come together to make sure the enemy cannot tempt you at all.
The result of a consistent sex life is simple: It will be a mutually fulfilling sex life.  It sounds easier on the blog  that it is to be reality.  But the beauty of it is it’ll be more fun to practice than it will be to read.  As I said earlier, I’ve never met a couple who had a consistent healthy sex life who wanted a divorce.  Why? Because at the center of a consistent sex life, was a self-less, humble, servant-like heart.
And that makes for a HIGHLY EFFECTIVE marriage (and a fun one at that).
Stop being defective…
Stop being inconstant with your marital sex life…
Stop depriving and enjoy each other.
Thanks for letting me ramble…

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 4 Criticism

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Three weeks ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last three weeks check out our first THREE Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

Here we go…#4 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #4: Criticism Floods

crit·i·cal/ kritikəl
adjective: expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments
Synonyms: disapproving, scathing, fault-finding, judgmental, negative

Luke 6:37:38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” 

Of all the ways there are to die (not that I’m looking for one), drowning has got to be ranked up there as one of the most miserable ways to go.  Yet I find there are so many spouses drowning their spouse by flooding them with criticism.
You and your husband/wife have the ability to overwhelm each other with such critical (disapproving, scathing, fault-finding, judgmental, negative) words that it can cause an emotional shut-down.  That emotional collapse can result in a detachment within your relationship. When one of you brings on a sudden barrage of criticism, you leave your spouse feeling shell-shocked.  The results: disengagement and often, over time, leads to contempt.
Defective marriages have at least one individual that constantly speaks with a critical tongue. Criticism, if not handled is a form of emotional violence.  It’s used as an attack against the character of the other. The tongue is an open faucet that will beat down your spouse leave your partner broken down, gasping for emotional and mental “air.” In most cases, they’re going to be reaching out to something or someone for a fresh breath to breathe into them.  What is sad is the breath they need should be coming from their spouse.
The Gottman Institutes says criticism is “a wish disguised…a negative expression of real need.” What needs to be done is to shut off the valve of criticism and YOU take responsibility for change.  Instead of unloading all blame, you begin to own the wish/need and help shoulder the responsibilities at hand. Critical spirits fractures the oneness between you and your spouse.  Introspective and humble hearts heal and fortify your marriage.
According to Luke 6, stop “picking on” your spouse with criticism.  Shut off the valve.  Give your marriage some air and let the introspection and humility breath life back into your marriage.  If you do, watch life come back into the eyes of your husband/wife.
Stop being defective.  Stop being so critical.
Thanks for letting me ramble…
(for more on criticism, check out my post from last year called “The Bold and the Beautiful“)

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 3 No Fun

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Two weeks ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last two weeks check out our first TWO Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Here we go…#3 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

fun/fən/
nounenjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
synonyms: enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, pleasure
adjectiveamusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing

For a while, whenever I read Ecclesiastes 3, my eyes went to the negative parts of the scripture.  (Maybe that reveals something about my psyche…that would explain a lot). Focus get’s drawn toward words like die, kill, break, weep, and mourn.  We can get so caught up in theses inevitable unfortunates.  Marriage is no different.  We too can get drawn into “inevitable unfortunates” and dwell on them as if to forfeit the other side of the coin. It’s time to get out of our marital pessimism.  It’s time to return to what we relished in our dating/courting.
Fun…times of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.  It’s more than a noun (something to do). It should describe who you are (adjective).
Defective marriages struggle with a deficiency of fun.  We treat our marriage like a business transaction instead of a growing relationship that THRIVES on fun. Couples forget that fun isn’t optional for a growing marriage. It’s a vital time filled with, according to our writer a time of building up, laughing, dancing, and embracing (which is my favorite one).
A couple of years ago, we had an odd winter here in Michigan.  We hit temperatures in the 70’s to the 80’s.  In the Michiganders minds, this was the best winter.  It’s as if we skipped the season of winter.  The problem: it messed with our agriculture and was a tremendous burden for our farmers.  Our harvest wasn’t the same which affected our economy.  Skipping a season may feel okay in the moment, but it’s detrimental on so many deeper levels.
It may not seem like a huge deal, but I want you to know something:
“FUN” is a marital season that is not optional. Skipping the season of fun in your marriage is detrimental on so many deep levels.
Come together with your spouse and plan out some fun.  I’m not talking about what YOU think is fun.  Look into your spouses heart and position them for a great time.  What do you two like to do together?  What can you both do that will facilitate laughter, emotional intimacy, and stress-release?  What can you two try that may be new? Have you talked with other couples to see what they do (get some ideas from others)?
Know this: marriage wasn’t designed to be in a constant season of stale monotony.  It’s to reflect who God is.  God is life.  God is celebration.  God is a God of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. God is fun.
If our marriage is to reciprocate who He is, then our marriage, therefore, needs to have “fun.” Don’t just let it naturally happen. Be purposeful with your fun.  Be strategic in your busyness.  Be a fun spouse. I leave you with a great scripture out of the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 12:7 (MSG) Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.
Get off your butt and go have a time of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure with your husband/wive…
Go have fun!
Thanks for letting me ramble…

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 2 Staying Single

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Last week we started a new series of seven MINI-blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed last week check out our first Highly Defective Habit: Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity

Here we go…#2 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #2: The Single Life

sin·gle, siNGgəl
only one; not one of several
Synonym: one (only), sole, lone, solitary, by itself/oneself, unaccompanied, alone
Mark 10:9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
The synonym’s of the word single say it all.  People, who are married, living by and for oneself.  Daily life exists as if the marriage covenant didn’t even happen.  “My spouse is an inconvenience.” “I have a life outside of my spouse.” “My private life has nothing to do with my married life.”
Alone.
Single-mindedness in marriage causes corrosion to the integrity of the marriage.
As said in so many sermons, blogs, books, etc., the design from the beginning was “two becoming one.” I’m not talking about the much-needed time that men need to be with men and women need to be with women.  We all need time with friends.  I enjoy time with the guys to eat wings and watch football.  Anne likes running and shopping with her friends. I am talking about the intentional actions that individuals chase after to maintain a “single” life while being married.  To claim to have a private life outside of the “two becoming one” means, quite simple, the two are NOT one.  
To be single means to provide for one person.
To be single means there’s no one to report
To be single means I’m responsible to myself and no one else.
In prison, there may be no worse punishment for prisoners (other than capital punishment).  Solitary confinement causes an individual to breakdown on every level. One study (psychiatryonline.org) about solitary confinement says it can cause “hallucinations, and other changes in perception, as well as cognitive problems including memory loss, difficulty thinking, and impulsiveness.”  The more you isolate yourself away from your spouse, the more you abandon you spouse to “solitary confinement.” By living single, you’re inviting problems in marital perception, thinking, and impulsiveness that will break your unity down.  Don’t be surprised  when you see this lifestyle cause jealousy, frustration, hurt, distrust, and resentment.
How else is your spouse supposed to act?  You’ve put them in solitary confinement.
The relationship we have with God helps provide keys to starting, repairing, and maintaining a highly effective marriage. Why? I believe the image of God is shown in the covenant of marriage. There are so many parallels to take. One scriptures I’d like to speak into you:
James 4:8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
When we draw near to God, there is a reciprocal movement on his behalf.  He comes near to us.  The response we have to that closeness: humility and repentance so that our loyalty to our life outside of Him is severed.
It should be no different in our marriage. If you’ve been living single, draw near to your spouse.  The only way to do that is to step away from being single.  Approach your husband/wife in humility and repentance.  If you’ve put them in “solitary confinement”, there’s gonna need to be some healing needed.  But you step away and draw near so that the loyalty to your “singleness” can be severed and your marriage healed.
Stop living single.  Stop leaving your spouse in “solitary confinement.”
Draw close to your spouse.
Next week, #3…
Thanks for letting me ramble…

New Marriage Series: 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages

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Some years back, I had come across the famous book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  It, to this day, is one of the most sold self-help books ever on the market. Since then there have been so many “spin-off” books that have spawned from the original.  My personal favorite was the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Miniature Edition.”  Maybe it was because my life, at the time, was centered around reaching teenagers.  I think it was more so about the size of the book.  Reading hasn’t always been my strong-point and I loved that it was short and to the point.

Today starts a new series of seven MINI-blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits.  If you’re like me, I can get into read marriage blogs and think, “Communication, I communicate all the time” and I don’t realize that my communication, even thought it is being done, isn’t being effective.

Here we go…7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages.

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity

con·ti·nu·i·ty ˌkäntnˈ(y)o͞oətē/
The unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.
Synonyms: continuousness, uninterruptedness, flow, progression
Matthew 7:24-27 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
There could be no other #1 on this list.
This is that place where couples get things backwards.  You don’t get everything else in order and then, and only then, do you bring Christ into the picture.  You don’t build the house and THEN install the foundation.  The foundation is first.
Highly defective marriages refuse to put Christ first.
“Well, my wife is the spiritual one.  She’s the one to bring God into the home.” Struggling marriages have one of many things in common: one spouse is working at something that BOTH should be working together on.  Are you the only one trying to bring Jesus into your marriage? If you are in a marriage like that, you are probably frustrated and fatigued. I don’t have any easy answers for you other than “DON’T GIVE UP”!!!!  I want to speak Galatians 6:9 into your life.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
There’s no better time than now to tend to the foundation of your marriage. Here in Michigan, we’ve had an obscene amount of snow storms. Case in point…My mailbox:
1003224_10152167308888537_734357989_n
The trouble is when the storm hits, people come to grips with how well they’ve built the home.  Storms are not the time to build, they’re time to rest in the comfort of what’s established.
Build now.  Set Christ as your foundation now.  Help your marriage to keep from becoming defective.
Next week, #2…
Thanks for letting me ramble…