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Marvin Marinovich thought he knew how you pass down your values to your kids. 

He may have tried harder than any parent in history

Recognized as a training guru in the 1960s, he became the NFL’s first strength and conditioning coach. He opened an athletic training research center and pioneered training methods still in use over fifty years later. If you’ve ever done “core” training, you have Marinovich to thank. He invented it. Impressive resumé.

His parenting resumé? Not so much.

On July 4, 1969, Marvin became the father of Todd Marinovich. Long before Baby Marinovich was born, dad determined that his son would be the greatest quarterback of all time. “The question I asked myself was, ‘How well could a kid develop if you provided him with the perfect environment?‘” This obsession made Todd less a son and more a lab experiment.

Training Todd began before he was born. (Really.) It continued from crib to college, earning Todd the nicknames “Robo QB” and “Test-Tube Athlete.” His entire upbringing revolved around being a quarterback. 

  • Dietary restrictions before he was born. 
  • Daily training before he could walk. 
  • A team of football tutors was soon in place. 

Sports Illustrated ran a story titled “Bred To Be A Superstar.”

✱ Todd Marinovich’s unremarkable eight-game NFL career ended abruptly after a series of interceptions and failed drug tests.

Passing down your family values is a tricky business

Many parents dream of their children being doctors, lawyers, or taking over the family business. Some dream of Johnny being a scholar, an athlete, a world-class cellist, or graduate from their alma mater. But what about their kid’s dreams? What about the values and character qualities parents want to instill in their children? How do parents pull that off? (One way that Marvin Marinovich was successful was demonstrating that our kids can’t be programmed.) 

How do you go from desiring values to developing them?

Whether you realize it or not, you’re already doing it. As the saying goes, “More is caught than taught.” The life you live in front of your children is the best tool you have as parents for passing down values. Ask yourself, “What did I pass down today?” If we could rewind today and watch it, what would be today’s life lessons?

Kids are sensory sponges. They see and hear everything and soak it all up. Your kids watch where you put your energy, efforts, and resources. They pick up on your attitude. They hear how you talk to people. Your children watch dutifully to see how you fulfill your duties as spouse and parent. It’s not a question of “if” you are passing down your values; it’s more a matter of “what” values you are passing down.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect parent.

Trudi Marinovich, a collegiate swimmer, and athlete in her own right, was also an art lover. She exposed her son Todd to jazz and classical music, art-house movies, and regularly took him with her to art museums. She simply lived her love of art.

Despite Trudi and Marvin’s divorce when Todd was a teen, her influence on Todd was indelible. Although Marvin only had football aspirations for his son and tried to program him from before birth to be a quarterback, Todd surprisingly chose a Fine Arts major when he enrolled at USC—not a major you would expect for the NFL’s “next big thing.”

Todd Marinovich made ESPN’s list of “Top 25 Sports Flops.” Marvin Marinovich was listed #2 on ESPN’s “Worst Sports Parents In History.” Trudi (now Trudi Benti) is reduced to a footnote in stories about Todd, but which parent successfully passed down their values?

Today, Todd paints. 

And plays bass guitar, loves concerts, and runs an online art gallery. 

Listen, there is no formula. There are no guarantees. But there is the life you live in front of your kids. You may not be passing down the values you think you are, but you can be sure your example speaks volumes. Forcing your dreams onto your kids may backfire. Live out your values and passions. Leave room for them to dream their own dreams as you love and support them.

The YMCAs and Planet Fitnesses in town and all the other gyms are packed full this week with all those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose some pounds, to better their physiques, and to get healthier. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Did you set some goals for this year? I hope they weren’t all about diet and exercise! Did you make some Relationship Resolutions?

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Let’s be real, there aren’t too many people in this world that would choose to actually be lonely. We as human beings thrive off our interactions and connections with other people. We are usually our best selves when we have people who care about us in our lives.

Sometimes, we’re afraid of being lonely.

We often don’t do well alone. Some fear it so much they settle and keep people that don’t deserve a spot in their life hanging around. Is being in a toxic relationship better than being lonely? Is being unhappy with an individual emotionally and mentally better than just learning how to be comfortable with just you?

I’m not just referring to romantic relationships either. I can think of a few friends I allowed to stay too long in my circle. Being alone for a little bit isn’t a bad thing. Being alone can be the best time for self-discovery. When you go on a journey to learn more about you, it’s the most beautiful thing. You discover things you never even knew about yourself. You learn to not accept the disrespect and abuse you maybe once did.

It’s not an easy process, but we work hard for the finer things in life, like knowing ourselves better!

Quick story, I was hanging out with this guy, and he was so fine, his smile was perfect, and I loved our conversation. Everything seemed pretty kosher. Soon enough, things started changing. I started to see some of his true colors, and they weren’t the prettiest, but I didn’t care. Why? Well, because I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want to be alone.

I couldn’t stand the thought of not being with someone, and though he was a bit controlling and handled his anger in inappropriate ways, I was still intrigued and drawn in by the fact that there was this guy right here, who wanted to be with me, even with my imperfections, so why not put up with him, right? URRR, wrong!

I started to see myself becoming insecure and dependent on this man, and that’s not like me at all. When I told him the things that bothered me about some of his habits, he would find a way to make it my fault. For a while, I believed him and thought everything was my fault. And that, my friends, is manipulation. We can’t stand for that.

There has been plenty of research proving that staying alone is better than being in a toxic relationship. Sometimes we just think too much with our hearts and not enough with our heads. Who said being single isn’t fun? We can look at it like this: at least if we’re single and miserable (which you probably won’t be) we’re just miserable with our problems. Period. We don’t have to worry about being miserable with our own problems, plus their own problems, plus both our problems being together- arguing, insecurity and jealousy and on and on. That’s two-thirds fewer problems just by being single! Check my math!

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn who you are. That often requires you concentrating on just you. Don’t look at being single as a bad thing. Look at it as an opportunity to explore yourself and the things around you more. Take it as an opportunity to learn how to be content and happy with just you. Take advantage of that time to hang out with family and close friends. Don’t let your fear make decisions for you.

When you’re choosing to stay single for YOU, you’re also choosing a few other things.

You’re choosing to say:

  • I’m enough.
  • I’m capable of self-love and self-acceptance.
  • I’m in control of my own life and decisions.

You don’t settle because you know what you want! Give yourself a high-five!

To answer the question at hand: No, it’s not better to be in a toxic relationship than it is to be single. If you can relate to this, I hope you can soon recognize that you’re enough, if you haven’t already. Because you are.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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What do you do when your friend is in a toxic relationship? Can you spot it? But what about you? Do you know when you’re in a toxic relationship? Most people want to be in healthy and satisfying partnerships, but sometimes we settle for less just so we can feel wanted, appreciated, or loved.

We ignore the red flags an individual reveals and we pretend like we don’t notice their toxic traits. We might straight up just not see them because, let’s be real: love has the ability to make us blind to all of the negative qualities a person might possess.

When you’re in a healthy relationship, there is healthy communication.

You are energized by being together. You feel comfortable around one another. There is trust. You all have a clear understanding of the expectations and boundaries you have set in place, so you feel secure. Most of all, they build you up and you feel respected.

In a toxic relationship, you don’t feel some or any of those things.

You constantly worry if you’re being lied to, feel distraught and tired just being with this other person, and feel drained when you are together. It breaks you down and contaminates your self-esteem, and makes you second guess your worth at times. There is constant tension and you feel like you have to walk on eggshells. Happiness doesn’t always come naturally, all the time, but it doesn’t come often when you are with one another.

A toxic relationship not only puts a strain on your relationship, but it also puts a strain on the other relationships you have in your life – friends, family, even co-workers wonder if you are ok. If you still aren’t sure about the “toxicity status” of your relationship, let me give you some clear examples.

Maybe this will help you out a little bit…

  1. You stop communicating your needs because there is no point. We all have needs when it comes to a relationship. If you feel uncomfortable expressing yours, or you simply just don’t see the point of it because you know they will be ignored, then that is a big red flag. Healthy people should always be able to ask for what they need.
  2. It’s a one-sided relationship. If you are the only one showing effort and affection then cut it. Endearment and work are supposed to come from both parties. Also, both people should feel empowered in a relationship – not just one.
  3. There is never any compromise. It is normal to argue and disagree. In a toxic relationship, you will argue and disagree, but you either always lose or disagreements NEVER get settled. (Then you can look forward to a big explosion soon. All of those unspoken feelings and expectations will express themselves one day, but it won’t be very pretty.)
  4. Physical or Verbal Abuse. No one, and I mean, NO ONE should ever make you feel inferior by physically intimidating you or screaming and yelling at you. If someone needs to do those things to you to get their point across, then that is not the person for you! (Or anyone for that matter.)
  5. There’s no such thing as privacy. If your partner is constantly asking for your passwords, asking you where you’re going, and is always asking who you are texting & talking to, then get away, fast! Being in a relationship should not mean that you lose your right to privacy. Trust is important for a reason.
  6. They continually lie to you. It’s really hard to regain trust once you have lost it, but how can you trust someone who always lies to you? Well, if you have to ask yourself that question, maybe that’s not the person you should trust.

Now I need to be clear…

You are not a weak individual if you find yourself in a toxic relationship. It happens to the best of us, and it can be a real learning experience. You may not have known what you were in for with someone at first. It happens.

Sometimes people don’t show us their true colors for months, then some external factors reveal who they really are. Sometimes conflict in the relationship reveals the real “them.”

Whether it started out toxic or it became toxic, it is just important to recognize toxicity when it begins so you can take care of yourself. Some relationships are worth fighting for, but others are best left exactly where we found them. Love and respect yourself enough so you don’t have to go through toxicity a minute longer than needed. You don’t deserve the stress or heartache.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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“I have a dilemma.” An old co-worker mused as we headed back to the office after a quick lunch date, reconnecting after I had recently changed jobs.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” I asked, but the tone of his voice already raised a red flag in the form of my quickening pulse and intuition that his answer was going to change everything.

“Yeah… You.”

And there it was. The unspoken attraction, the endless flirtations, the lighthearted jokes were suddenly in question. Was he serious? But he was married. And I was married–HAPPILY married, in fact. So I told myself, “No… we’re just friends. He’s just sad we don’t work together anymore.”

But then the emails got more suggestive and the text messages ramped up. We’d send each other smiling selfies at work with accompanying messages about how we missed each other. We started exchanging songs with lyrics that implied more intimate feelings were evolving in our friendship.

I didn’t know how to handle what was unfolding.

I loved my husband with all my heart, but I didn’t want to lose the friendship (or, if I’m honest, the attention/validation) of this other person. So I eased my guilt by convincing myself that it didn’t really mean anything. We were still just joking, not being serious.

However, with each passing day, the anticipation of another text from him grew and grew. My heart skipped a beat when his name appeared in my inbox. I started having vivid dreams about being physical with him. Consequently, I became more irritated at my husband. It made me anxious when he was near my phone, afraid he would see or read something that he’d question.

The guilt of secrecy weighed on my chest.

So I feverishly googled “Emotional Affairs” to see if that’s what this was… even though we didn’t really share intimate details about our lives. In fact, we didn’t confide in one another at all or even lean on each other for emotional support. But we connected on some unspoken level. And it was having a serious impact on my daily life – I could think of nothing else.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. The way I was acting was so disrespectful to my husband and our marriage. How I was acting was telling people something completely different than the truth. It was saying I was unhappy and unfulfilled in my marriage, that I didn’t really love my husband. When I realized that my actions were painting a false reality of my marriage, I knew something had to be done. Even though I hadn’t physically cheated, all the texts and emails were harmful and inappropriate, just the same.

So I took steps to set things right:

  • I admitted it. Shame can only exist in secret. When I was able to voice what was really going on, all the complexities of why I allowed it to go as far as it did and how I had realized the line had been crossed, the shame that surrounded the entire situation dissipated.
  • I stopped it. I wrote my ex-coworker a lengthy email telling him our friendship crossed a line and that I felt it seemed unfair to ourselves and our spouses to continue it. Then I let him know that I had told my husband and encouraged him to tell his wife and take time refocusing on his marriage too.
  • I set personal boundaries: Hindsight is 20/20, so I was able to look at my mistakes and create a guide for boundaries in future opposite-sex friendships. Such as, I will never write another man something that I wouldn’t want my husband to read.
  • I reinvested in my marriage. Obviously no marriage achieves perfection–there’s always work to be done. With my energy and attention refocused on my husband, we grew stronger, together.

Was any of this easy? Not at all. Was it necessary? Absolutely.

Looking back, yes, I was having an emotional affair. (Although at the time, my misconception about what constituted as an emotional affair made me deny it wholeheartedly. A line crossed, sure. But an AFFAIR. No way. The label was too strong, it had too many horrible implications.) Ending it before it went any further was emotionally exhausting. I felt everything from embarrassment and anger to guilt and shame to relief and hopefulness. And honestly, it took longer than I expected to let that relationship go completely. But I don’t regret it at all. Ultimately, I came out stronger, wiser and more in love with my husband than ever before. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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As I think back to when my children were first born, there are many memories that come to mind of being bombarded with all the things that babies need. I remember attending a presentation for a $1,000 high chair. It was implied that if I didn’t purchase the high chair, I really didn’t love or wasn’t very concerned about the safety of my child. And I’ll admit, I began to struggle with the paradox of what my child needs versus what I, in my parenting, want my child to have.

If I were keeping it totally honest, I really wanted that high chair. Not for all the safety reasons or the fact that it would grow with my child, but the honest truth was I thought it made me look good to others. I heard messages that said to be a good parent, you provide what your children NEED, but even more so what they WANT.

Let’s talk about this struggle.

I should’ve owned stock in LeapFrog due to the number of their electronic toys that I purchased for my son, only because they were educational and would help with his language skills, color recognition, etc., or so I thought. I felt so disheartened when I found him playing with an empty 2-liter bottle rather than the toys I bought.

That was a pivotal point for me. I recognized that I was seeking external approval from friends and family rather than looking inside, and I realized what I was really teaching my sons. While I had taught them that they could have everything they wanted, I never taught them that there was a difference between a want and a need.

I composed a list of things that my sons really need from me, emotionally. It included:

  • Love
  • Time with me
  • Support
  • Discipline (teaching)
  • Comfort
  • Consistency
  • Teaching them values of hard work, sacrifice, persistence, grit, etc.

That was the easy part. The hard part was changing the expectations and behaviors of my sons. Every time we went to a store, their expectation was to get something because they WANTED it. Really, they wanted it because I taught them to expect it by usually getting them something. They didn’t like the word NO.

After one especially rough trip, we had a meeting of the minds.

  1. I no longer took them to the store with me.
  2. I explained to them the difference between a want and a need in practical terms.

For example…

Need:  Food (home-cooked); Want: Eating Out

Need: Shoes; Want: $200 name-brand that you are going to outgrow in 3 months.

Need: Uniforms for school; Want: Name-brand pants that you are going to get grass stains in and holes in the knee.

You get the idea.

As I look back, I’m so glad I made that pivot.

Even though that $1,000 high chair was fancy, I can’t put a dollar value on the lessons learned. My sons have grown into young men who know their worth doesn’t come from things like the right shoes or clothes or cars. And when they start parenting, they will know the difference between a want and a need.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

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A young man burst into the medical office, walked right around the counter and grabbed my wife. This rude interloper hugged her tightly, crying, saying “I love you so much, Mom!” My wife was shocked and then delighted and touched. They had a wonderful, spontaneous, tear-filled moment right there in her office in front of staff and patients. This is certainly not typical teenage boy behavior. What prompted this sudden outpouring of emotion and affection from my teenage son?

The dots are actually easy to connect. A little earlier, he stopped by my office after class. I showed him the journal that my wife kept about him during his childhood to preserve her child’s memories. My son spent about an hour reading this journal and all of the memories that it had captured. Then he stuffed it in his backpack and promptly left my office and drove straight to my wife’s workplace to express his love and appreciation. A notebook sparked all of this.

For each of our five children, my wonderful wife kept a little notebook where she jotted down anecdotes, funny quotes, little moments, and dreams.

You know all the things that you think you will always remember as a parent but the sad reality is that they get lost to time? She really has them. Moments catalogued and dated. They are a treasure. They are a time capsule of a parent’s love and devotion. These journals stir up nostalgia, laughter, and tears. They’re a perfect visual for your child’s memories.

When I think about social media and how parents post about their kids, I can’t help but wonder if these digital memories will have the same impact as my wife’s journals. In fact, I think there is a generation of kids that are going to be upset when they get older – “Mom, I can’t believe you put THAT on Facebook!”

One of the biggest differences between social media and my wife’s journals is that the journals are strictly between my wife and kids.

The journals are incredibly personal and intimate. Social media is a digital stage that invites the world to judge and validate moments through likes, shares, and comments. Sometimes I wonder what really is motivating parents to post some of what gets shared on social media…

What I love the best about these journals is that they represent a legacy. Unlike the internet, they are tangible and concrete. They can be built upon and perhaps passed on to the next generation so a grandchild or great-grandchild is connecting with preceding generations that are long gone. It preserves my child’s memories. I’m so grateful that my wife invested the time into these journals and into my children. Her example makes me wonder what I am passing down to my children.

A watch, a military medal, letters, photo albums – little tokens infused with meaning and significance that become the connective tissue from one generation to the next. Totems that represent a legacy. Whatever the item, it only has meaning because of the relationship built around it. I wonder how many items in estate sales were meant to be treasured and passed down instead of sold to the highest bidder?

What are you passing down to your kids?

  • Journal or notebook filled with thoughts and memories
  • Letters that you write that you don’t give your child until they are 18
  • An album of photographs of you and your child
  • A collection of “found items” from places you’ve been- napkins, coasters, knick-knacks
  • Something that’s been passed down to you that you have talked to your child about and made meaningful to them

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“Money, money, money. That’s all we seem to argue about.”

“She spends too much money at the grocery store on stuff we don’t need.”

“He always wants to eat out.”

“She’s always buying new clothes.”

“We’re not buying the furniture he wants. It costs too much.”

“He won’t let me loan my sister a few ($500) dollars.”

“She should get a better job.”

“He should get a better job.”

Countless marriage experts have documented that one of the top reasons couples give for divorce is – you guessed it – fighting about money. If that’s the case, why is the world’s richest couple, Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon) and his wife, getting a divorce when they have all that money?

I’ve noticed in my 14 years of marriage that although we have had countless discussions, arguments and conflicts about money, wait for it… the issue isn’t really money.  But if it’s not, then why do we fight about money so much? And why do we think it’s about money?

First, let’s recognize that every couple is different and there is no blanket answer. However, we know that our spending habits often reflect what we value. And if we disagree about what we should spend money on, then we disagree about what we value. And what I value is at the core of who I am and no one has the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t value. Right?

For example, maybe I shop a lot because I value my appearance, because to look good is to feel good. Or maybe I value my independence and freedom and don’t like to feel controlled. Maybe I want to spend as little money as possible because I need to feel secure and if there’s no money in the bank, then I feel insecure. The issue wasn’t money in any of those instances. Instead, it was the symptom of a deeper issue.

If you feel like you’re fighting about money all the time, here are three things that can help:

  • Start with understanding what you value and your attitude toward money. There are tons of resources you can use, but I think Sybil Solomon’s Money Habitudes can really help you gain insight into your own personal habits and attitudes toward money. Check it out, and trust me when I say that your marriage will thank you.
  • Don’t forget to add in a little lightheartedness. Things like this Financial Would You Rather game from Annuity.org can help you get the ball rolling about some important conversations while keeping it fun.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Do ask questions. I’ve learned to ask some simple questions when we discuss money matters in my marriage. When my wife I disagree about a purchase, I may humbly and non-judgmentally ask, “Why is that particular purchase/outing or whatever important to you? Help me understand.” I’ve learned a lot from that question. And it doesn’t mean that we always end up buying it. But now we are communicating and understanding what we value, not just what we want to spend money on.
  • Seek to understand. (Did I mention that being humble really helps?) Perhaps your spouse has already spent money on something you believe was unwise, and you’re really unhappy about it. Before you accuse them and tell them they were irresponsible, inconsiderate or uncaring, check your own attitude first. Take a deep breath and ask why they thought that purchase or expense was so important at the moment. Humility + a non-judgmental attitude = Progress

Being humble and staying out of the judgment zone when it comes to spending can be a major win because the right attitude communicates that we care deeply about our partner, and NOT just about the topic at hand. Plus, moving past the symptom to the deeper issue is a major accomplishment you can both feel good about.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***