Chattanoogan: David Banks - “Love – How Are We Doing?”

Friday, January 25, 2013

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, author and counselor Dr. David Banks offers a head start toward developing relationships in his new book “2 Become 1”.

As a marriage coach who also counsels singles, Dr. Banks has committed to help people learn more about themselves and each other in order to have healthy relationships and lasting marriages.

Born in Covington, Ga., to parents Legree and Martha Banks, David was a compassionate person early on. Though he was quite shy in making friends, he always liked people and had concern for them.

When he was in kindergarten, David made a point to talk to fellow students as he passed them on his way to the restroom. He asked each one ‘how they were doing’. He took it upon himself to be in teacher mode and make sure students were doing okay.

“I always loved to encourage people,” David says as he remembers consoling a tearful classmate who did not make it to the restroom.

“She was so embarrassed and I went and put my arms around her and said, ‘It’s gonna be alright’. I never wanted a person to ever feel that they’re not loved. That was in my inner core from the very beginning,” he insists.

As a freshman in college, David had planned to go into business and began as a business major but when he took his first accounting class, it did not go well. “It wasn’t for me,” he says. “I changed to psyche and it just came natural.”

David obtained his B.A. in psychology at Bryan College where he met his wife Sylvia and then attended Jacksonville Theological Seminary to receive his masters and PhD in psychology with emphasis in marriage and family.

“Marriage and family really became a love for me. Sylvia is Indian and she and I would share differences in our cultures and about how divorces were rampant in America but suicide was rampant in India,” he divulges.

“Back then, an Indian woman’s life was ruined if her marriage didn’t work out. No one would marry her. Sylvia had a real passion for families and that became a real big thing for us and brought a huge connection,” he says.

David and Sylvia’s own love story was not the proverbial ‘love at first sight’ meeting.

“We started out as friends with the mutual burden we both had for couples and it just kind of developed,” he says.

Develop is a key word in David's training sessions as he enlightens participants who think that love is ‘just a feeling’.

With Sylvia being a year older, David was in his sophomore year when he decided to take their friendship to another level.

During Christmas break, David called to let her know he would like to get to know her better.

Valentine’s Day was the young couple’s first official date attending a banquet on campus at Bryan. “She was so beautiful wearing a beautiful pink dress,” David gushes.

Kenny G’s ‘Songbird’ was playing as they drove to Chattanooga and David remembers looking over at Sylvia. “She had rested her head back on the seat and had the most serene, peaceful look on her face. I just …looked at her,” David says visualizing that moment, “From that time on, we started to develop a relationship. It was a beautiful thing – ‘Songbird’ is still our favorite song,” he maintains.

David gave red roses as the romance began and the couple married after he graduated.

After the honeymoon and as the newlyweds began their journey of wedded bliss, David was in for a rude awakening.

“My mom grew up in the country, cooking biscuits and gravy and all that. I didn’t even need an alarm clock growing up. I woke up smelling breakfast,” David says. 

After the honeymoon, when he woke up and didn’t smell breakfast he wondered what was wrong. “I walked in and …it was bagels,” David muses. “I asked, ‘What is this?’  and she told me it was a bagel.” With boisterous laughter David contends, “We had a little misunderstanding…”

Attesting that his wife is very health conscious and saved him from potential health issues, he learned to accept change. 

“She is an excellent cook. She can cook Chinese, Thai food, American food, any food… she is just excellent,” he says.

As he reflects on the 21-year-old young man who expected gravy and biscuits, he acknowledges how a partnership came about in the marriage from the start.

“I respected Sylvia and I didn’t look at her as ‘barefoot and pregnant’,” he insists. “I did some cooking when we were in school. But I guess I had that little assumption that my mom cooked and Sylvia would just step into that role where mom left off. But at the same time, with her upbringing she realized that she ‘sets the tone’ in the home. We went into it as a team, but in the beginning I was thinking about biscuits and gravy!” he quips.

David is the president of Noble Success and also is a marriage educator with First Things First, where he teaches classes such as, ‘Jazz up your Marriage’ and ‘Passionately Married’. He and his wife have three children, Benjamin, Caleb and Maiya.

At Noble Success, David imparts the ‘Concepts to Create Success’ method to participants.

“That’s what I teach, I teach concepts,” he asserts, “Four of the concepts that I teach are Marriage Enhancement, Leadership Development, Purpose Discovery and Motivation.”

As he and his wife dated in college, they counseled freshmen couples. “We realize that most couples ‘just get married’ and they think, ‘We have our rings, we said our vows…’ and they think the work is finished; that it is just supposed to happen. They have done everything needed to get married and they think marriage just ‘evolves’. Then disappointment comes. I teach couples how to develop a marriage,” he affirms.

He gives a narrative about buying a brand new luxury Mercedes that is ‘voice activated’ but for a person who doesn’t know anything about voice activation, they still think ‘key ignition’ (or biscuits and gravy for a newlywed).

“What will happen? Nothing,” he insists. “Why? Because you don’t know how to operate it and that is the same as marriage. When the marriage is brand new and it is designed to work, but you have to learn the commands,” he instructs.

“Marriage only reveals the condition of the two people in it. If the two people in it know how to work together and understand how it works, marriage will reveal that. If they don’t know how it works, marriage is going to reveal that.

In pre-marital counseling David has come across a few couples obviously in trouble from the start. “The biggest indicator of a relationship in trouble is distrust,” he evokes.

He gives the commonly used “trust-test” by asking couples to fall back into their intended’s arms.

“Some cases, a woman wouldn’t even think twice and just fall back, while others might keep looking back like their boyfriend had left the office. And that’s a problem because trusting causes you to be vulnerable. When I see a couple who doesn’t trust – they don’t get vulnerable which means they still try to protect themselves. It’s a huge sign of struggle,” he warns.

“Another threat is when a couple has previous relationship issues. ‘I will not get hurt ever again’ they say; and that’s a flag. You can’t go into it thinking that,” he cautions.

The counselor makes no apologies when he states, “Marriage will change. People change and if you avoid change, that will be a big problem.”

When revealing a most important key for couples to understand, David inspires, “oneness”.

“Oneness does not mean that one person will not be utilized. A man and a woman come together to make a decision both agreeing to make it the best marriage ever; to develop a marital vision,” he says.

“You both have to be going in the same direction. If you have two visions; you will get di-vision. If a man comes in just like I did and thinks, ‘Hey, my wife is going to fix me a great breakfast like mom did’….” David trails off making his point. He continues, “I am a huge proponent of helping couples discover their marital vision so they both know ‘this is where we are going’. You develop oneness. Marriage can be lasting but you have to stay intentional,” he maintains.

“The way marriage was originally set up, your marriage should get better every single year and if it is set up that way; why would you want to leave it?” he says.

He notes that statistics say that most couples think the peak of their relationship is ‘the beginning’.

“They think the reception and the honeymoon is the height… people think, ‘How can it be forever?’ and they wish it was the way it was when they first got married. I developed a model called “Become One” and it makes sense. One of the seven habits that Stephen Covey encourages is to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Most couples were not doing that,” he admits.

David and Sylvia take the time to assess ‘how they are doing’ in their marriage.

“Each year we are getting closer to what we want to become,” But most couples go the other way saying, ‘This is how we were when we got married’ and, they let life take over. When most couples have children they forget about being husband and wife - they become mom and dad and you have lost a lot of good things,” he states.

To avoid the big “D” (divorce), he breaks it down with a “D-list” of goals.

“First is Destination – finding out, what you both want. Second is Discernment – reflecting on what is inside of yourselves that can possibly hinder the relationship. Third is Development – constantly developing communication skills and learning about your finances and other things. The fourth is Depth - how can you continue to develop,” he instructs.

“There should be one level for one year. Each year it should be going to another level; it should be getting better each year. That is the way marriage was set up to be,” he says.

David remembers when he and his wife first married, sitting down with her on the 30th of each month so they could analyze their relationship. He had seen in counseling other couples how their mistakes started and he wanted to make sure to ‘nip it in the bud’ in his own marriage.

He laughs at himself when he explains how meticulous his efforts were. “My wife thought, ‘Is this two businesses coming together or a marriage?’ I was really bad about it in the beginning not wanting to neglect the principles that I knew. I actually had forms that we filled out each month, analyzing our relationship. Do not laugh… I am much better. Now …it is short form,” he jests.

Couples will come to him admitting that their communication is gone or they have no romance or sex life anymore. He helps them to trace back to the beginning.

“That is one thing couples don’t do – they don’t ask the questions, ‘How are we doing?’ Always start with that question first. It sets the tone,” he says.

He demonstrates with a large sheet of paper with a tiny black dot on it and asks couples what they see. When couples all agree that they see the dot, he asks them ‘Who saw the paper’. He shows them how their focus can be on a tiny blemish rather than the overall platform before them.

“We have a tendency to focus, on what is not going well. I help them to think what is going well. Things we take things for granted,” he insists.

“When we see what is going well; we come up with one or two things that we want to develop. Instead of communicating what is going wrong, start out with what is going well. Then have a game plan and ask, ‘This is where we want to go; how do we get there?’” Dr. Banks encourages.

“Marriage is not focused on perfection, the focus is for progression and to constantly keep it going - further and deeper. That is the objective.

In his book, “2 become 1” David created 25 activities from his seminars and workshops.

“Men are not going to read a book on ‘feelings’. Men bond by doing; women bond by talking. Let’s work both of those together and ‘do something’ and ‘talk’. There are 25 things you have to do and to talk about it. A man is objective minded. We take care of the objective and move on to something else, checking it off… a woman is more connective oriented, hers is not as objective, she wants to talk about it and she will get that connection.  Ultimately they end up doing something and talking. 

David also counsels with singles and he tells them, something they may not want to hear; stop looking. “Relationship is based on attraction. I’m not a huge fan of online match making because anyone can say anything,” he discloses.

“When I think of relationships, I think of a garden; a natural process - you till the ground, put seed, rain comes down, things sprout… it’s a natural progression. When you add chemicals and make it happen quickly, you know it’s not healthy. You may think you have so much in common on the essay, and you say, ‘But it feels so good’ – if everything is about feelings or what you have in common, who is to say they aren’t finding someone else out there that likes blue?” he suggests.

He instructs singles first to become whole. “If you are lonely and insecure… you are not ready for a relationship.  You are getting in a relationship because you are lonely. Relationships are not set up to complete us. That may sound good on a Valentine card but that is not how marriage is set up,” he laughs.

“When you get to the place where you enjoy being single – that is your first step in beginning a meaningful relationship,” he advises.

“A relationship begins with attraction. I remember at age 16 I wrote down what I would like in a future wife. If it’s based on attraction, I needed to develop something in me that would complement and attract what I wanted. Instead, we look for someone to complete us and that’s when we are talking deficit,” he says.

“If you are messy and expect to marry someone who is organized or you are lazy so you need someone who is energetic and productive; you will end up taking advantage of that person,” David cautions.

He concludes, “I wanted a loving, compassionate person and I had to develop something in me that would attract that …and that is why I am married 23 years later.”

If you would like to order “2 Become 1”

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