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Three years ago I had lost a job, was on my way to divorce, and my father died. A well meaning friend looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you get out of bed in the morning!” I can remember thinking, “Do I have a choice?”
Well apparently my shit cycle runs in threes because I recently went through a very “low” time in my life again. Wait, I’m trying to shine a turd…I”m still going through it, but doing much better. And I was talking to my therapist and told him that I feel as though I’m a weak man. Regardless of my own training as a therapist and a pastor…I have the same thoughts and issues as everyone else. And to struggle with heartache, and depression just makes me feel weak. I wanted to know why I can’t just move on and be more positive!
My therapist asked me something I’ll never forget, “Do you still get out of bed every morning and move forward?” Again, “Do I really have a choice?” He let me know that I absolutely have a choice, and every morning I was choosing to get my ass out of bed. I never thought of it that way. When Alexa starts sounding that alarm in the morning (I’ll be honest with you) I wake up and think, “I can’t do this again. I can’t go on the radio and be fun, funny, and goofy today. I can’t listen to 100 straight country songs that make me remember why I’m hurting. Hell, I am a country song!” Many of you know what I’m saying, when we are struggling emotionally…we would prefer to sleep it off, but I don’t and neither do you, we put our feet on the ground and move forward.
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, heartache, grief, or all of the above…it doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human! We all go through difficult times, and it doesn’t make us weak. In fact, if we wake up each morning, get our ass out of bed, and move forward…we are showing an incredible level of strength. We are saying, “I’m going to win this battle!” We aren’t giving in to it…we are giving it hell!
May you continue to get up every morning and push forward, because not only are you showing strength…you are building it. Resist the voice of the enemy that says, “You’re weak!” You are a bad ass who is growing stronger each day! This too will pass, and you will be stronger and ready to thrive in 2020.
Tony Russell, The Pastor of Disaster
A very good friend of mine recently went through a divorce where she felt embarrassed and humiliated. It was in a small town where the family was well known, and thus everyone knew more than she would have liked. Her divorce, much like many of you, centered around infidelity. And when someone cheats it always sends the false message of what? You weren’t good enough or they are better looking, smarter, more successful, and the list of stabbing words continue. Before long you are giving yourself a beat down!
So my friend went on a journey to repair her self-esteem and to learn to love herself and one of the things she did was change all of her passwords to, “ILoveMe.” She then said, “You won’t believe how many times a day you’ll end up typing in “I love me.” So there is your tip for the day. Figure out a way to force yourself to love you some you!
Women have friends. Seriously, they have close friends. They even travel together! Did you hear me guys? They literally call each other up and plan vacations, nights out together, and concerts. We don’t do that! We did when we were younger, but somewhere along the line we just resorted to calling each other a few times a year and calling it a friendship.
Over the last few years of dating I have been amazed at how many friends women have and how much time they spend together. Look at their Instagram pages…there are tons of awesome vacation pictures of them together. First, let me say that I believe this is a sign of a healthy person. The women I’ve met that go from relationship to relationship (much like guys) are not healthy. In fact, if a woman doesn’t have her little estrogen small group then you may want to move on, but I have no research to back that up.
What saddens me is that many of these women have found that men can’t be depended on but their friends are solid as a rock! Men come and go, but they can depend on their friends. However, I’m not going to dive into judging my own kind…it’s just an observation. I simply want to point out to men that we need to follow their lead.
I have to be honest and say that while I have some amazing friends that I love like brothers, and want to talk to them occasionally…I really don’t want to vacation with them. Honestly, I don’t really even want to have dinner with them. I’m not sure why, but if I’m going to go to dinner, a movie, Las Vegas, or anywhere in the world…I prefer the company of a woman. Especially that woman who is like a best friend. I just love the way they smell, their smooth skin, and I can go on and on. There is NOTHING better than having all of that in the opposite sex, but I digress and I show the weakness in my foundation.
Before you and I can be in a healthy relationship with the opposite sex I believe we have to first be good with ourselves. And yes I hate this crap, but the truth is…we need to learn to date ourselves, love ourselves, and enjoy the company of friends, before we are ready to move on to dating. I don’t have research to back this up other than three years of dating. The women I’ve found who are healthy aren’t going from one relationship to another. They have healthy friendships, they are independent, and while you get the feeling they want you…they don’t have to have you. Why? Because they have learned to love their self, their friends, and they are likely a mom first and foremost. Meaning, you aren’t going to meet their kids until month 6 of dating.
I know this will feel weird for many of us dudes, but we need to learn to first be alone. I’m working on that and not happy with it at all! We also need to build or rekindle friendships. And here is something to think about, how about JUST friendships with women? Yes, just make friends with a woman and don’t try to date or anything else! This is something new to me. In the last few months I’ve established and fostered healthy friendships with women. What a gift! They teach me so much about…guess who…women!
So let’s wrap this blog up since I’m writing it from happy hour on a Wednesday night. Ladies, keep your friendships. Men, build deeper friendships. Men and women, learn to love each other and offer one another both a deep friendship and true intimacy.
I love ya,
Tony, The Pastor of Disaster
You know how people say, “You shouldn’t talk about politics and religion?” I think that is ridiculous! So, today we talk about religion and how it plays into our foundation for life and love. More specifically, what happens to our foundation when we get to that point that we think, “Either God isn’t there or He is deaf?”
I don’t know about you, but it pisses me off when it seems as though God has left the building. Seriously, before going to bed on Sunday night I got on my knees beside of my bed and said, “Seriously God…what are we doing here? Because I’m not feeling you, hearing you, seeing you, and I’m tired of the pain!” Guess what He said? Not a damn thing! Guess what changed in my life? Not a damn thing! Well, I was able to go to sleep thanks to having a half a Xanax left. So I guess He could get credit for that? So, “Thank you Jesus for the highly addictive benzo I have left from the last breakup, and forgive me for chasing it with red wine which we know helped you pull of the first miracle. Amen.”
So what do we do next? For those of us who believe or want to believe in God what do we do when He seems distant? Well, you are going to want to throat punch me for this, but that is when faith truly comes into play. For me, faith is when we keep following God, loving God, and praying even when He seems to have disappeared. Remember my motto, do as I say and not as I’ve done. Because there have been too many times in my life that I’ve given up on God. And without exception I’ve regretted it. And that brings me to making a point that will make you roll your eyes. Ready? God never leaves you. See, look at your doubting ass rolling your eyes. I really don’t blame you, but stay with me.
One of my favorite passages from scripture is Psalms 34:18. Please know I’m not making a joke when I say that the writer of Psalms (King David…the guy who kicked Goliath’s ass) was bipolar. We never hear from his psychiatrist, but that dude was so impulsive and hit such deep depressions that he had to be struggling with bipolar disorder. He knew triumph and he knew tragedy like no man on earth and in his greatest pain he said, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
I will turn 50 something years-old on January 3rd. I put the date so you’ll be reminded to venmo me money. And I also tell you that so you know that I’ve had my share of “crushed” moments in life. The last 90 days could easily make it into the Tony Russell Got His Ass Kicked & Crushed Hall of Fame. And guess what I now know as I look back on those moments? There was Jesus (see video below)!
I know that many of you reading this are hurting and I want you to know that God is near. He is near to those who are “crushed in spirit.” He is near to those who are broke, busted, and disgusted. Trust me, I know you are having trouble believing that right now, but keep reaching up. And most importantly, don’t give up on Him or YOU! This is a time of year where many people decide they’d be better off cashing in all the chips. Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. God has a plan, it isn’t OUR plan, it isn’t in our time, and quite frankly He is slow as hell, but stay with me and let’s ride this out.
Again, please know that I feel some of your pain. I know what it is like to wake up and wish it was time to go to bed. I know what it is like to have your heart “crushed” and wish you could suddenly get amnesia. I know what it is like to hear, “I don’t think I ever really loved you.” I know what it is like to feel like you’ve lost everything. I know what it is like to wish you could just go back and right your wrongs. I know what it is like to have such a deep heartache that it seriously feels as though your body hurts! And I also know what it is like when God finally delivers! Stay with me, stay with God, and get ready for 2020!
I love you,
Tony Russell, The Pastor of Disaster
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We are continuing to talk about building a strong foundation for our lives and more specifically our relationships. In the previous blog posts we talked a lot about how our past failed relationships can damage our foundation for future relationships. We have to move things like control, mistrust, and being permissive out of our foundations. Today let’s look at something that I’ve heard a lot about from the walking wounded…those who were hurt badly and have a fractured foundation.
The one diagnosis I hear many folks give their ex is narcissist. I am thankful I have never been in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, but I have had working relationships with many. And for a lack of a better phrase, it is a beating! Before we go any further let’s list out the symptoms of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder (from Mayo Clinic):
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
- Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerate achievements and talents
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
- Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
- Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Take advantage of others to get what they want
- Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Be envious of others and believe others envy them
- Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
- Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
- Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
- Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
- Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation
Now, many of you read through that and said, “Yep, that was my ex” but remember this blog isn’t here to help your ex. We can’t control their behavior, but we can control our own. Well on second thought, you can send them the link to the blog, but as you can see from the above symptomology they will lash out and possibly say you are the one with the problem!
So the questions you and I need to ask ourselves today is one, are we narcissistic? Two, if not then why have we found ourselves attracted to those who are narcissistic? The first question is difficult because most narcissistic people don’t see it in their own behavior. So you may need to ask a close friend and hold your breath. If so, that is a major crack in your relational foundation and it must be repaired for you to have healthy relationships. And you’ll need professional help.
The second question has an easy answer. You likely fall for the narcissist because in the beginning they are “large and in charge.” They are charismatic, funny, often times successful, charming, and know how to win friends and influence people. It isn’t until you get close to them that you realize they are quite frankly jerks! And they use people up very quickly. When you are no longer useful to them or making them look good then they will move on. They crush everyone in their path.
If you find yourself continually falling for this personality type you need to repair your foundation. My guess is that you are drawn to their power. They are often times (as earlier stated) in positions of power and some folks find that intoxicating. Look at that word intoxicating again. Can you find a word in there that describes how the relationship with a narcissist eventually turns out? TOXIC! When we find people intoxicating we need to take a step back and ask why. We need to make sure that our level of inferiority isn’t being lifted by their overwhelming sense of superiority. Does that make sense?
If you are a person who feels you lack power or a prominent position in life then you may be drawn to attach yourself to those who do. It will cause you to ignore their red flags because again, you are drawn to their power, which gives you a false sense of power for yourself. We see it all the time in politics and the entertainment business. When we seek to gain power by being in a relationship with someone then there is a crack in our foundation.
So let’s end with a special message to those of you who have been hurt by the narcissist. You have been lead to believe that the relationship failed because of you. You have been lead to believe that you are the one who needs help, and they likely even said you were crazy. Sweet man or lady, you have been manipulated. You have been mislead on nearly every relational level.
The narcissist can truly be evil in how they handle others. You will walk away feeling as though you failed when in reality you were being abused. And if they were really good at being bad…you even believe you deserved to be abused! Yes, you may have even said, “I just pushed him/her too far!” Listen, you are one of God’s beautiful children, and you were created not to pursue those with power, but to realize the greatest power of all lives within you. You don’t need someone to empower you. You need someone to love and adore you.
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The need to control or be controlled is a relationship killer! We’ve been talking about building a strong foundation for life and more specifically for relationships. When we enter into a relationship we have an established foundation. And for some of you lucky folks that foundation may be very strong!
However, As we talked about yesterday, that foundation can be severely damaged, due to our past. One example, when fear is in the foundation, it can cause us to run when we start to care for someone. As soon as we start to care a red flag starts waving and and an annoying voice screams, “You might get hurt…run! Run Forrest Run!” It’s imperative we repair that part of our foundation so that we don’t run from what is good for us. Let’s move to talking about a need to be controlled and then we’ll hit you control freaks.
Yes, there are those who I believe have a need to be controlled. There were moments I thought I was one of them. However, I realized I’m simply like my father. Meaning, I will go along with the “control” as long as it is what I want to do anyway. If I begin to feel as though I’m being controlled to do things outside my desires or values then I’m out! But what about you? Do you find yourself in controlling relationships?
This is a common thing with those of us that are the “babies of the family” or only children. We get accustomed to being taken care of and so we can adjust easily to a controlling situation. However, it can also lead to misery for us and our partner. Let me quickly explain. This is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t for the person who appears to want to be controlled. Because they were also spoiled! Meaning, they got what they wanted growing up. Guess what, the control freak may take JOY in not giving you what you want. It gives them a power they feed on! And it won’t be long until the spoiled child/adult revolts and chaos ensues! All of a sudden the dynamics of the relationship change and the “control freak” will ((well)) freak out and the spoiled child begins to become the problem child! It gets ugly!
Ironically, the control freak does love us, and not just because they are in control. And they may not even realize they don’t want to always be in control. Their past just tells them that if they give up control then things go horribly wrong Let’s wrap this part up by saying, you are a grown ass man or woman…you don’t need another momma or daddy. So if your foundation for relationships and life has the “I need to be taken care of” brick in it…fix it! If you’re already in a relationship with a controlling person they won’t like it (at first). Their need for control will be threatened. So email me for a good therapist…you’ll need it. And when they realize they no longer have to do all the work in the relationship they may just love it!
So what about you control freaks? You know who you are! There is nothing in your home out of order, you know where everything is located and when you get to it…it is color coordinated, your dog and even your cat behaves when you are home, and you lose your dang mind when things don’t go as you planned. Listen, I love you! Seriously, I admire your ability to take control and keep things in order. And as I alluded to earlier, I am attracted to you, because I can’t even organize the trunk of my car! Seriously, I drive a nice Mercedes and it looks like I live in it! However, God gave me one momma and one daddy so I have my limits in a relationship. And that is my point to you. When you are over controlling you move your relationships from a boyfriend/girlfriend connection to a parent/child connection. And guess what? When you move to the parent/child connection intimacy flies out the window! I’m having some fun with this, but please take note. If your relationships tend to go from hot and steamy to quick “pecks” on the cheek or lips then this may be what is happening. I don’t want to be gross, but when you start seeming like mom or dad then you aren’t going to get those long romantic kisses anymore.
When I was a counselor I would have couples come in and the intimacy was gone! They were having less sex than a 95 year-old heart-patient in an ICU. And it wouldn’t be long until I would see the parent/child dynamic. Let me say it one more time, God gave us one momma and one daddy…we don’t need another one. If the need to control is in your foundation for life and love then fix that brick! Sure, there are places in your life where you need to be large and in charge, but not with your sugar booger! What? You don’t call them your sugar booger? Well, start there and watch things start rocking and rolling! Ah, if it were just that easy right?
In summary, please know that I do love you control freaks…I need you in my life (to a point). You are strong and powerful leaders in our community. I would just encourage you to keep that in the boardroom and leave it out of your home, and especially the bedroom.
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I’ve been back in the dating world now for almost three years. Granted, if I’d done what my therapist recommended then I’d have said, “I’ve been back in the dating world for 2 years. Meaning, I would have taken 6 months to a year away from dating after my divorce. I’ve yet to meet someone who did that, and that is why many of us have been or will be single for many years. It is because we are trying to build relationships on weak foundations. Let me explain.
First let me say I am writing not as an expert, but as someone who wants to help you learn from my mistakes. One of the “red flags” of dating started waving when after two years I began to realize that almost the same exact people were still on the dating apps (including me). Yes, they would come and go, but for some reason these amazing men and women were in and out (mostly out) of relationships. I kept hearing people say, “I’ve been single” for 10 years or more. And listen nothing is wrong with that…if that is what the person wants for their life. However, that wasn’t what I was finding. They wanted to find “their person.”
As I stated in my previous blog post, I began to believe that many of us couldn’t find our person due to the fact our foundations are shattered. Many of us are trying to build a relationship on foundations made of sand…including me. In the words of Old Dominion, “Are we written in the stars, baby, or are we written in the sand?” I want my relationships to be written in the stars so they don’t easily wash away. It is why I hope you’ll join me in reading my blog posts so we can do our part by repairing our foundations. Remember, you and I can only choose to fix our foundations. We have no control over others. So make sure you choose to date or enter into relationships with others who want to put in the work as well. Many will just want YOU to change while they remain shattered.
For some, the foundation has been shattered by a father or mother who wreaked chaos on a family. They were unfaithful, suffered from an addiction, and or they were abusive, and we’ll discuss that in future blogs. However, when you and I go through a divorce or breakup our foundations can be critically damaged. From this point forward we’ll just use the word “breakup” to include all the above! The damage a breakup causes is why psychotherapist tell us to take time away from dating afterward. We have to take the time to repair the foundation! So ask yourself, what is the longest amount of time you’ve gone without dating? Keep that in the back of your mind for now, and lets look at some things that occur to our foundation during a breakup:
- You begin to lack trust in others
- You feel as though you are unattractive
- You may feel the need to control everything
- You are lonely and will do anything to fill the void
- You think sex will feel the void
- Self Medicate to kill the pain
- You assume you need to be a pleaser so you don’t lose the next “one”
- You believe God has failed you…so you’re done with Him
- You think you’re unlovable
- You think you are irreversibly broken
- You believe you need someone else to make you complete or happy
- You rest your happiness on others
- You assume you are unable to manage life alone
- You think you need someone to tell you what to do
- You believe that you need to tell others what to do
- You must remain in control so as not to be hurt
- If you feel as though you’ve found the one…you must run
You could add to the list and feel free to do so by making comments below. As I continue to blog about establishing a strong foundation we will dive deeper into the above “cracks” breakups cause. Today let’s look at one of my cracks that has caused major problems, and that would be mistrust.
What did your breakup say about you? No, not what is everyone else (including momma) saying about you…what did it say to you? I’m still processing it somewhat, but for me I think it made me very insecure and scared beyond belief. Many of us dating in our 40s and beyond were married for 15 to 30 years, and one day found ourselves single. We assumed that we had met “our person.” We assumed we had chosen correctly. We assumed we were a great husband or wife. We assumed a lot of things and then felt like we’d made an ass out of you and out of me. So what does this mean you find in my/our foundation?
I realized a few months back that this has caused me to run when I begin to truly care about someone. It is a decision that haunts me daily. I have trouble trusting that someone can truly care about me, and will stick around, and thus I run before they have a chance to ditch me! You hear how messed up that is right? The truth is, if you want to have a great relationship then you have to be willing to handle great risk. There are no guarantees. However, we have to be willing to allow ourselves to love and be loved all while knowing it may not workout. If you aren’t there yet…then don’t start dating just yet.
In my next blog we will look at how many of us develop a need for control, and how that weakens the foundation for future relationships. I love you and hope you’ll share my blog with others by clicking below, and signing up to receive my posts by email. I am a guy who loves love! I want a healthy relationship and in fact…I know I will one day find it. I hope we can do it together! Join me on the journey.