When I decided a counselor was what I wanted to be when I grew up (I decided this around age 38 or so and am still not sure about the growing up thing), I began to look at the different paths of how to get there. I looked into clinical psychology, social work, and mental health counseling.
I knew my chosen profession was going to require at least a graduate degree and after earning an undergrad in psychology, I had a suspicion that going further in psychology was not going to be fulfilling. Mostly because a degree in clinical psychology, the area most akin to my goals, would involve math. Math and lots of it.
Psychology also seemed to be a bit too research-oriented for my taste. I really just wanted to sit and talk with people. Incredibly valuable work psychologists do, just not my niche. Next on the list was social work. I liked the fact that the field of social work is quite broad and there are tons of opportunities. However, I felt it was a bit too broad and the educational requirements would delve into areas that are of no interest to me. Sort of like with psychology and math.
I needed something a bit more narrow in scope (meaning the less math, the better) yet allowing for enough variety to keep my interest. I have been fortunate to find this balance in my counseling program.
One area I never even considered was that of a marriage and family therapist. In my mind, I had enough struggles in my own marriage and family-of-origin settings that I had no business trying to help someone else through theirs. In truth, like just about every human sharing this planet, I could have used a marriage and family therapist over the years of my life. Should have been part of a yearly medical checkup. Physical and mental health specialists working together over the lifespan of a person. Imagine the possibilities. Anyway, I knew from the onset that was an area I did not want to delve into.
Recently my wife and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. In thinking about this day, I realized this was the second time in my life I had been married for 9 years. Looking at both 9 year time periods is like looking at the darkest of nights and the brightest of days. Complete difference! My first marriage can only be described as horrible. Of all the things my ex-wife and I disagreed on, this probably would be the one thing we would have agreed upon: our marriage was horrible.
Reflecting on the differences between my first marriage and where I am now, I believe my first marriage has been summed up perfectly in roughly 17 seconds:
Whereas the marriage I have today has moments that reach realms almost indescribable.
Okay, seriously a marriage is not always filled with days of double rainbows, but I do have days like this.
Normally I try not to take such a dualistic way of thinking. But there are times where there is black and white with no grey in between.
So what made the difference? Other than the fact that I am older and would like to think I learned from (some) of my mistakes, I believe the ability to earn, accumulate, and afford-to-lose “cool points” is at least one answer.
So what are cool points? Cool points those little things one does for another that shows the other you are thinking of them and care for them. Cool points go beyond basic courtesies such as opening doors and paying compliments and involve much more from the male than the ability to open stuck jar lids and taking out the trash. I’m using a male perspective here but I assume cool points work the same for women. I can’t be sure because that assumption infringes upon mysteries of the female to which males will never understand.
Cool points are like silent “at-a-boys” you are awarded. You don’t work to get cool points for recognition, you work to get them because you enjoy it. And also because you may need them in the future (more on this later). Cool points are earned when you do something out of the ordinary. Doesn’t have to be extra special but spontaneity is almost certainly criteria for earning. You cannot self-grant cool points, they have to be bestowed upon you from the one you love. Cool points also come on a sliding scale. And, cool points add up.
Let me give an example. Buying flowers for your partner on her birthday is a lovely way of letting her know you were thinking about her and wanted to give something beautiful to her that pales in comparison, right? (I know it may sound a bit sappy but stick with me here). Having those flowers waiting at home for her to return to at the end of a day’s work will almost certainly earn a cool point or two. However, having those flowers delivered to her place of work (space permitted) where her co-workers can “ooh and ahh” over them? Well, you can imagine the increase in points awarded. I do not know why this works so effectively nor am I even curious as to why. I just know it works and that’s enough for me. So the tally: flowers at home = 2 cool points; flowers at work = who knows? Six, ten? Hundreds?
Cool points are actually pretty easy to earn (remember part of a cool point is that you enjoy earning it) and to accumulate them simply means to be consistent. Sometimes you can get lucky and earn a continuing source of cool point income but mostly cool points will have to be continuously gained. This is due to the fact that as humans we will encounter times when cool points are lost so earning only one or two cool points per year is probably not going to work. When I say a continuing source, think of a kitten (or puppy for dog lovers) but think carefully here because having a pet should be more than a whim purchase. My example would be a coat my wife saw in a magazine and commented on. I grabbed the ad when she left and ordered the coat. When she gets compliments on the coat, I get cool points. Perfect!
Of course knowing myself, I realize I have to view cool points as prey and am continuously on the hunt. I need an “afford-to-lose” stockpile. Afford-to-lose is an acknowledgement that there will be times when stupidity sets in and cool points are lost. Having a reserve of points is key here because cool points are lost in greater number than they are gained. The system giveth and it taketh away.
Without going into the math (because who wants to do that?) the system seems to work like this: Using the birthday scenario from above, flowers on a birthday grants somewhere between two and let’s say ten cool points, maybe more. Remember the birthday but do nothing special gets zero cool points. Nada. Forget about the birthday entirely and standby for a loss of hundreds of points. Minimum. If you are in a relationship long enough I am almost positive you’ll hit all three of these over the years. Luckily I have not forgotten a birthday but I’m saving up just in case I ever do.
Cool points are only portion of what makes a relationship work but it is a part I have direct control of and is both enjoyable and rewarding. Now back to the hunt.