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Second Marriages: 'Bet the Farm' Part 1

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Protecting Your Marriage (Bet the Farm -- Part 3)

By Marita Littauer with Chuck Noon, MA, LPCC
Guest Columnist -- Last time we looked at a couple, Rich and Pat. In their marriage, a second marriage for both of them, tension was building as they began to deal with the loss of a job. For those facing a major upheaval in life as Rich and Pat are, looking at your Life Direction will be helpful. If you missed the last installment or are new to this column, click here.

Life Direction
Help on attitude adjustment came for Chuck in some entertaining armchair travel books by Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, and Encore Provence. In these books Peter Mayle introduces a French habit he calls the "classic Gaelic shrug," a physical habit that means so much more. He describes it this way:

A certain amount of limbering-up is required before any major body parts are brought into action, and your first moves should be nothing more than a frown and a slight sideways tilt of the head. These indicate that you cannot believe the foolishness, the impertinence, or the plain dumb ignorance of what the Parisian has just said to you. There is a short period of silence before the Parisian tries again, repeating this remark and looking at you with some degree of irritation. Maybe he thinks you're deaf, or Belgian, and therefore confused by his sophisticated accent. Whatever he feels, you now have his complete attention. This is the moment to demolish him and his nonsense with a flowing, unhurried series of movements as the full shrug is unfurled.

Step One. The jaw is pushed out as the mouth is turned down.
Step Two. The eyebrows are fully cocked and the head comes forward.
Step Three. The shoulders are raised to earlobe level, the elbows tucked in to the side, the hands fanning out with palms facing upward.
Step Four (optional). You allow a short, infinitely dismissive sound—something between flatulence and a sigh—to escape from your lips before letting the shoulders return to a resting position.

It might almost be a yoga exercise, and I must have seen it hundreds of times. It can be used to signify disagreement, disapproval, resignation, or contempt, and it effectively terminates any discussion. As far as I know, there is no countershrug, or satisfactory answering gesture. For these reasons, it is an invaluable gesture for anyone like myself whose command of the French language is far from perfect. A well-timed shrug speaks volumes." Footnote: Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France, Peter Mayle, Alfred A. Knopf NY 1999, 79-80. (Special thanks to Lynn Morrisey for finding this quote for me.)

With the body language of the shrug, the person says, "Oh well. Life goes on." Chuck suggests that Rich practice this cognitive process by pairing the physical action—palms turned out, elbows pointed out, corners of the mouth turned down, with the mental letting go/letting God idea. Chuck has been working on making this behavior modification in his own life. Rather than getting upset or being too hard on himself, Chuck is learning to shrug. Sometimes he will just look at me and say, "Shrug." He is learning to let go and would advise anyone in a similar position to Rich, to do the same thing.

Chuck suggests considering, "Is God preparing both of you for something new? Should you start a business or ministry together? Do something with e-commerce or go back to school?" Along the same lines, Sherrie suggests that Rich capitalize on his experience by "mining" the treasures. She encourages anyone in a similar situation to Rich and Pat to look at

writing an article in a business magazine as an option, a web site support group for displaced executives, a how-to booklet on avoiding the unexpected pitfalls in the business world, and the like. Often community colleges hire executives and other experts to teach business classes at night. If Rich was to find some outlet for giving of himself— possibly in a mentorship capacity to a younger man, volunteer a few hours a month in an area of his interests—it would help curb self pity and go far to gaining a new healthier view of himself. When people start to feel better about themselves, it seems that the rest of life tends to line up better and gravitate toward more positive experiences.

Many people have chosen to leave the corporate rat race and make a different life for themselves. In Rich and Pat's case—and those in a similar situation, perhaps God has made the choice for you. Shrug—and move on. In reading about Rich and Pat, Jan and Carl responded by saying,

Our situation is mildly similar, except that we both chose to leave the corporate world—which meant severe downsizing and adapting a mindset of simplifying life so we had more time to pursue our passions and serve the Lord. . . . It has brought on struggles for which we were not prepared, and we are constantly re-examining our priorities, life mission, and how we define ourselves. As two separate people bringing in two paychecks, it is easy to be independent, but downsizing forces interdependence and sacrifice, needs versus wants, and a complete change in lifestyle.

While the practical reality was far more complicated than the dream of carrying it out, Jan and Carl report that they would not trade their situation for the way it was. From their experience, they offer anyone in Rich and Pat’s place hope.

See the blessing in being free of the corporate jungle and that God's hand is in it. The warehouse job is only a stopgap measure to bring in some groceries. Both should find out what God is calling them to do and do it—no matter what the salary. Sell the big house, if they have one, and live in what they can afford. They are both healthy and still young; there is no reason for poverty. Without the trappings, they will find greater meaning in life!

If you are in a similar situation in your marriage, we hope these peer and professional insights offer you encouragement and equip you to make some changes in your situation. Be sure to watch for the next installment of Love Extravagantly when “Bet the Farm” continues when will look at some practical steps for growth for anyone in a situation like Rich and Pat’s.

If this is the first installment of this column you have read, we encourage you to click here to read previous articles.

Marita LittauerMarita Littauer is the author of 13 books and is President of CLASServices Inc. She can be reached through

Chuck Noon is a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage. Chuck is married to Marita Littauer.  For more information visit:

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