Archive for March, 2006

March 31, 2006

Responsive people can help heal relationships

by Rod Smith

Are you a responsive person (as opposed to a reactive person)?

1. Responsive people can function within life’s many tensions without becoming overwhelmed.
2. They can see possibilities within problems.
3. They are extraordinarily flexible and they can be very playful.
4. They shape their emotional environment, bringing calm and creativity to their context, rather than assuming the anxieties of those around them.
5. They initiate creatively rather than react defensively and can be objective and consider implications for everybody involved.
6. They see the immediate and the long-term effects of decisions.
7. They see the whole picture and how the whole moves and changes; they do not see only parts, but also how parts influence and impact each other.
8. They do not recruit others to be on their side when conflict occurs.
9. They are not “either / or” or “black and white” thinkers but can see many alternative options and possibilities when reactive people think there is none.
10. They place thinking above feeling: feeling is consequent to the thinking, not the reverse.

March 31, 2006

Reactive people tend to damage relationships….

by Rod Smith

Get out of the middle!

Get out of the middle!

Are you a reactive person or a responsive person?

Reactive behavior is characterized by:

1. Rash, knee-jerk decisions; being anger-driven, living with a “short fuse.”
2. Getting other people rallying for a cause, stampeding to get your way.
3. Being highly subjective and self-protective.
4. Running in the other direction.
5. Being easily hurt, insulted, or damaged.
6. Being humorless or seeing humor as a waste of time.
7. Developing a conspiratorial tone with others.
8. Saying, “People are saying…… about you.”
9. Over-functioning (doing things beyond your responsibilities).
10. Under-functioning (avoiding your responsibilities).
11. Giving unsought advice and expecting it to be followed.
12. Doing things for others that they can do for themselves.
13. Remaining surprised and innocent after causing much disruption.
14. Being vindictive.
15. Trying to get people to take sides.
16. Being unable to see beyond survival, feeling threatened at every turn.
17. Feeling overly responsible for others.
18. Feeling no other person, except you, knows what is right or good.

March 28, 2006

Should I meet my ex-wife’s new man?

by Rod Smith

QUESTION: My children (8 and 9) really like their mother’s boyfriend and I am fine with it. He is okay with the children and I know from a distant mutual acquaintance that he is a good father to his own children. The problem is that I think he tries too hard with mine and they say he is trying to take my place. I get all this third hand when the children come to me (most weekends). From your columns over the past few weeks I get the feeling it would be good for me to meet him. My ex-wife would probably not want me to meet him. What do you think?

RESPONSE: You have every right to meet any person who is sharing time with your children. You do not need your ex-wife’s permission. I’d suggest you phone him and cordially invite him to talk face-to-face. When you meet, don’t critique his relationship with your children, talk about your ex-wife or create any false alliance with him. Do not draw your ex-wife into this. He might choose to tell her about your phone call but that is something over which you have no control. Go well: you are being the man your children can respect.

March 26, 2006

Partner disrespects me; treats me like a doormat

by Rod Smith

My partner treats me like a doormat. I don’t mind doing the things he asks me to do if he’d show some appreciation now and again. I work all day while he is home watching movies and talking to friends on the Internet. When I am home he doesn’t have time with me because he has to focus on getting a job. He gets angry and silent when I am not all happy to see him and the truth is that I am not very happy to see him because he is hard work and very demanding. Please help.

I bet you could tell me every detail about this man’s behavior, yet be stumped if I ask you about your own. He treats you this way because you allow it. When you start to stand up for yourself and you refuse to be abused, he will move on to the next willing doormat. Sadly many women are willing to put up with lazy and abusive men so he will have no problem finding another willing host for his leech-like behavior. You’d be better off without this man but it will first require you to be able to face the prospect of being alone.

March 25, 2006

Differentiation of Self

by Rod Smith

Please print this out and spread it around...

Please print this out and spread it around...

Self-Differentiation (a term coined by family therapy pioneer, Murray Bowen) is a progressive, internal interplay between autonomy (separation) and connection (togetherness) while progressing toward developing and known goals.

Being an authentic adult is hard work and a never completed task. The pathway is paved with difficulty and challenge.

To become an adult, every person faces the task of the differentiation of self.

Not to differentiate is to fuse (the failure to become a separate person) with others and to place responsibility on others (or on situations, predicaments, and hurdles) for the way in which our lives develop. To differentiate is to provide a platform for maximum growth and personal development for everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation is described in many ways in the following points:

1. Growing in the ability to see where and how I fit into my family, the position I hold and the power that is and is not given to that position.
2. Growing in the ability to be fully responsible for my own life while being committed to growing closer to those I love.
3. Intentionally developing, at the same time, autonomy and intimacy. In developing autonomy I set myself towards achieving my dreams and ambitions. In developing intimacy, I allow those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. Being willing to say clearly who I am and who I want to be while others are trying to tell me who I am and who I should be.
5. Staying in touch with others while, and even though, there is tension and disagreement.
6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without imposing my needs upon them.
7. Being able to understand what needs I can and cannot meet in my own life and in the lives of others.
8. Understanding that I am called to be distinct (separate) from others, without being distant from others.
9. Understanding that I am responsible to others but not responsible for others .statue1
10. Growing in the ability to live from the sane, thinking and creative person I am, who can perceive possibilities and chase dreams and ambitions without hurting people in the process.
11. Growing in the ability to detect where controlling emotions and highly reactive behavior have directed my life, then, opting for better and more purposeful growth born of creative thinking.
12. Deciding never to use another person for my own ends and to be honest with myself about this when I see myself falling into such patterns.
13. Seeing my life as a whole, a complete unit, and not as compartmentalized, unrelated segments.
14. Making no heroes; taking no victims.
15. Giving up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armour who will save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living.
16. Paying the price for building, and living within community. I am not suggesting some form of communal or shared living. I am suggesting the differentiated person finds a place with others while also being separate from others.
17. Moving beyond “instant” to process when it comes to love, miracles, the future, healing and all the important and beautiful things in life.
18. Enjoying the water (rather than praying for it to be wine), learning to swim (rather than trying to walk on water).

(Please PRINT this page and STUDY it. Spread it around your office and among your friends. Read more writers about this concept. The ONLY thing I ask in return is that you let me know you printed it – by leaving a comment – and you SPREAD the word to others.)

March 24, 2006

She is driving me crazy with her superior ways!

by Rod Smith

Reader: I am livid with my sister-in-law who tries to outdo me at every turn. She is a “keep-up-with-the-Jones’” kind of person who always has to have the latest and the best of everything. I wouldn’t mind that except that she has a subtle way of telling everyone that she is better and richer and more traveled than I am and it is this that rubs me up the wrong way. My husband says I should just ignore her but I can’t. I don’t want to say something and cause a family rift. Please help me. She is driving me crazy. (Letter shortened)

Rod: What is it about you that you allow her behavior to annoy you rather than to amuse you? She is not driving you crazy. You are driving yourself crazy. Your husband is right. Ignore her. If you can’t do that, then at least humor her. Clearly she is hitting some vulnerable spot within you and might even be getting some obscure pleasure from doing so. This is not about her. Excuse the cliché but if she is getting your goat there must be a goat to get!

March 21, 2006

Seven “essentials” before marrying someone with children?

by Rod Smith

Enjoy it? Pass it on...

Enjoy it? Pass it on...

1. Plan several sessions of “hard” talking with your potential spouse. It is essential that you temporarily forget the romantic elements of your relationship to talk business. Blending families is one of life’s most difficult challenges, which is further compounded when both parties have children.

2. Don’t try to be the stepparent before you legally occupy the role. Prematurely playing a role will create problems once you legitimately occupy it. It is essential you do not assume roles you don’t occupy. If a child (or future spouse) treats you as a parent, it doesn’t mean you are one. Troubles brew when people push themselves, or are pushed by others, into roles they do not occupy. (This is true even beyond families!)

3. Bridges are best built before they are needed. It is essential that you insist on multiple meetings with both parents of ALL the children before you consider marriage. These meetings will focus on methods of co-parenting in order to secure everyone’s best advantage. If implementing such meetings seems overwhelming to you, you are probably heading for a minefield of countless unexpected, unwelcome complications – that will seem (believe it or not) even too large for love to overcome! What is avoided (denied, glossed over, minimized) pre-wedding will rise like a rabid monster quite soon after the wedding.

4. Financial integrity is as important as sexual fidelity! It is essential that you look into every detail of all financial records of your spouse-to-be and offer your own finances for similar scrutiny — before you plan a wedding. Persons who cannot responsibly handle money are unlikely to be able to handle the pressures of thriving within a blended family. If a would-be spouse suggests information* about his or her finances are off-limits to you, wipe the dust off your feet and depart, no matter how much love you may feel. Authentic love, apart from having many other facets, is also measured in the degree of financial partnering* (not necessarily blending) is established between lovers. Resilient love seeks the wise, open use of combined resources. Because blending families also often involves complex financial arrangements (child support and so forth, divorce costs, education bills for children of a former marriage) hiding the details from a would-be spouse is exceedingly unfair to all involved.*

5. Flee “blamers.” An adult who blames their former spouse (or parents, or childhood, the new political order) for everything will also, before long, blame you for everything.

6. Avoid people who cannot engage in civil conversations with an ex, with their parents, or their children.

7. Getting Johnny (or Mary) a stepparent will not ease his dissatisfaction with the divorce, school, or his craving for a “real family.” It is essential to understand that getting married will not solve any but the most superficial current family issues. Blending families is likely to unveil and exacerbate more problems than it solves.

This said, and so much of it sounds negative, blended families hold the potential to enrich and empower all the people involved. Some of the healthiest, happiest families I have met in many years of meeting with families (in all manner of circumstances) have been blended families!

* A reader kindly pointed out that my column suggests finances ought to be blended. I do not believe this is always wise or necessary. I do believe the couple MUST be OPEN about the details or all financial matters. See comment here:

March 21, 2006

Enriched is the teenager…

by Rod Smith

1. Who has many wisely chosen friends and several safe homes in which to visit and enjoy them.
2. Who has benevolent, yet alert, adult supervision.
3. Who is not over-powered by “negative” friends, and, as a result, does not engage in activities that contradict the “positive” values embodied by his or her immediate and extended family.
4. Who is wise enough not to be preoccupied with his or her peers to the unnecessarily exclusion of siblings and parents.
5. Who rejects the pervasive deception that rebellion is a necessary part of growing up.
6. Whose parents understand the delicate balance of encouraging autonomy while providing a necessary safety net when confusion or turmoil strikes.
7. Who understands the value of hard work, the joy of saving money, and the necessity of guarding his or her integrity.
8. Who has learned appropriate humility and who can therefore say things like “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” without expecting an applause or a reward.
9. Who embraces full responsibility for his or her own future.
10. Who and lives without blaming others (parents, childhood, teachers) or circumstances.
11. Who lives without feeling entitled to that which he or she has not earned.

There really are such teens. I have met many around the world.

March 19, 2006

Husband denied then admitted affair….

by Rod Smith

I read your “Jack and Jill” column last week and was pleased to see that I am not alone. I found out that my husband of 14 years had been having an affair for months. He denied the affair and through pure digging he admitted it. When I bring the affair up he gets angry and tells me to get over it otherwise our marriage is never going to work. He says I have to control my emotions and I must believe him when he says it is over. He says I have to stop going through his personal slips, his cell phone bill and that he feels like he has no privacy. He has turned that situation around after begging me to please forgive him and promising to do anything to make our marriage work and believe in him again. (Letter edited)

It is not your lack of control but his that landed you both in this unfortunate place. It is his lies, not your discovery of them that eroded your capacity to trust. A regretful man would invite you to talk about it as much as you want and to “dig” anywhere you please. Don’t permit further abuse – it was not you who broke the marriage bond.

March 15, 2006

Three poisons for love: Manipulation, Intimidation, and Domination

by Rod Smith


Stay OUT of control...

When people have to use intimidation, manipulation or domination, the relationship is already spoiled or poisoned. It has become a power play of control. Redeeming such a relationship is possible with the implementation of a wise plan, strongly re-defined boundaries, enduring commitment, and the possibility of a time of separation in order that perspective might be gained.

Willingness and desire to be together, equality between people and complete mutuality are the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Where any form of strong-arm tactics are used, the relationship has already taken a turn to become something harmful to both the parties.

Each of these relationship-poisons (manipulation, domination and intimidation) can be very subtle, coming in different shapes, sizes, and intensities.

Here are some of the evidences of manipulation, intimidation, and domination in a relationship:

1. The relationship has been kept on an unequal footing in order that one person might keep power over another. In a severely controlling relationship, both persons might have forgotten there are choices at all.

2. One person tries to get what he or she wants without declaring what is wanted. In attempting to get what the one person wants, both persons are in some way diminished.

3. One person does not see the other as totally free.

Confused boundaries4. One person tries to get what he or she wants through threats or withdrawal.

5. It is expected that every move, thought, and feeling will be reported at least from the less-dominant person to the other. If one person is unwilling to tell all, it is assumed there is something to hide.

6. One person is not free to make plans without consulting or getting permission from the other.

7. One person in the relationship continually evaluates and examines the commitment and love of the other.

8. The dominant person tells the other how they should feel and usually re-scripts any division or disagreement into the appearance of unity.

9. One person feels at liberty to speak for both people and then, is offended when the partner wants to express his or her own views.

10. Desire for self-expression or a distinct voice (by one) is considered betrayal or a lack of trust (by the other).

11. One person expects unilateral support for his or her opinions, choices and desires, declaring somewhat of an attitude which says: If you say you love me then you have to love everything about me, under all conditions, and all of the time.

12. Difference in opinion or having different interests is considered a lack of love, or a lack of respect and commitment.

Simple definitions and a metaphor which might be helpful in considering the three “cancers” of relationships:

Manipulation: playing chess with another person or with people. Maneuvering as if life were an attempt to checkmate others into loving us or doing what we want.Explosive

Domination: playing chess with another person or with people as in manipulation. The difference is the dominator has removed the opponent’s pieces without declaring so in the first place.

Intimidation: playing chess with another person or with people where winning and losing comes with either the threat of punishment or actual punishment.

Healthy Relationships: There is no element of either winning or losing; they are not a game of chess at all and are free of tactics and agenda.