1. All relationships are temporary – give the people closest to you your best shot at everything.
2. If you do not understand and appreciate how money, the failure to forgive, and, bitterness, do their work, they will dominate your life.
3. If you do not take care of yourself no one else will.
4. Defining yourself (telling others who you are, what you want, what you will and will not tolerate) is an act of love, not selfishness.
5. Laughter is good for the heart and brings it healing – finding time to appreciate healthy humor happening all around you, might do you greater good than regular visits to an experienced therapist.
6. Life is too short to be sworn at, ridiculed or taken for granted – extricate yourself from toxic relationships.
7. Find the appropriate moment to express the love you feel in simple ways – it re-ignites the soul.
8. Take an hour or two to create a blueprint for what would make 2007 your most fulfilling year – if you can’t articulate it, it probably won’t occur.
9. Become actively involved in the goodness in the world – avoid gossip, be generous and give to others more than you take.
This is the season children seem to take center stage, and so much excitement is generated whether people do or do not recognize Christmas. May I be yet another voice issuing a few simple words of caution at a time often associated with parties and all that often comes with seasonal celebrations.
Remember the adage that less is more – your presence (availability, good humor, affirmation, listening) with and to your family and friends is probably more valuable than even your most carefully selected, expensive presents.
You need never be a passenger in any vehicle where you think the driver has had too much to drink.
No gift is really a gift if the giving of it puts you and your family into short or longterm debt.
Fidelity, truth, openness and freedom are the greatest gifts you can offer your spouse.
Love, and any form of controlling behavior (jealousy, pettiness, shutting each other out) cannot co-exist in the same relationship.
Last night when I said good night to Nathanael (my almost-5-year-old son) he sang: “I saw mommy kissing Santa Clause, underneath his messy toes last night.”
Peace, joy, and thanks to who read You and Me.
Reader writes about her emotional abuse which doesn’t involve physical violence and is therefore not seen (by others) as abuse….
“My husband always says how much he loves me claims he lets me do whatever I want. But the reality is that he is disparaging and condescending. I feel I am trapped in a relationship with someone who is totally at odds with my personality. I never discuss anything meaningful with him for fear that he will criticize it. He is also very critical of the children. His discipline is very blame-oriented. He seems to be very angry all the time that the world and everyone in it doesn’t behave according to his criteria of right and wrong, and he is completely dismissive of the idea that different people can have different ideas about what right and wrong are. He always says, ‘There are objective criteria that everyone agree on.’ Sometimes I fantasize that he will die but of course I feel horribly guilty about having such thoughts. I imagine if I admitted such thoughts to him he would leave me but I could never admit them – it makes me sound like an insane and evil person. Is it possible that he is really not that bad and I am the one with the coping problem?” (Extracted from a much longer letter)
I’d suggest you get face-to-face (wiser than you have already had) counsel as soon as possible. You are trapped in a crazy-making cycle that will have you convinced that you are the one who is out of sync with reality. Please read Anna Quindlin’s BLACK AND BLUE. Make personal contact with me through the web. I have no idea what country you are in but I am real and I will listen. Go to www.DifficultRelationships.com to see how it is set up for you talk directly with me.
“My husband says he doesn’t love me during a heated argument argument and then he later retracts it. I walk away wondering just how much he really meant it. Then I begin to reflect on our 21-year marriage and get lost in what is, what isn’t, and what never had a chance to be. I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is I want a really great love in my life and I am running out of time.” (Minimally edited for clarity)
“Least said, soonest mended” is the wise adage. If your husband could learn to contain his angry words a little, and you learned to believe him a little less when he is in such a state, you’d both have a chance to grow into the kind of “great-love” experience you have tucked somewhere in your dreams.
Please read Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. It really is the most perfect book for people who want more from marriage and life. A business man recently thanked me for suggesting he read the Schnarch book. “Finally a book about relationships an engineer can love!” he said.
My girlfriend an I are from two very different faiths, and cultures, and race groups – but we do speak the same language! We met at work and we naturally kept our relationship quiet at first knowing that our respective families would probably disapprove of our association. After two years we have both met families on both sides and her family is more accepting of me than mine is of her. We (her family and my family) are not overly religious yet everyone warns us about marriage and says it will not work because of our many faith and cultural differences. What do you think?
I am sure there are many “inter-faith” couples who can testify to the pleasures and rewards, and the pain and the difficulties that accompany such marriages. While your faith may not seem important to you at present, matters of faith (and the contrasts between your faiths) are likely to be accentuated when weddings are planned, when babies are born and named, when schools are selected, and when children celebrate rites of passage.
Be cautious. Seek counsel from persons who represent each of your respective faiths. While all relationships are tough and require dedication, an interfaith, cross-cultural relationship might test the strength of even the most profound of romantic love.
I know I have poor boundaries. What can I do?
Recognizing your ill-defined boundaries is a step toward greater emotional health. Such self-awareness requires good boundaries.
Recognition is the beginning of health. Start by learning to clearly define yourself. Express who you are. Say what you like and do not like. Let people know what you want. Let others know your opinions, beliefs, values and expectations. Begin in comfortable ways, then, after some practice, begin to set boundaries about more consequential matters.
A client told me her boyfriend controlled everything. She felt she had no say in anything. He ordered food, told her when she was tired and hungry. He even dressed her and became upset when she dressed other than he preferred. He held all the money and programmed her cellular phone (blocking some numbers) – for her own good.
She mustered the courage to tell him that despite all-encompassing love, she had her own brain, and would like to use it. She told him she would take over the driver’s seat of her life and be the one to decide on things for herself.
Despite his angry reaction she is learning to be a full person (one with good boundaries). He is apparently too immature to see that stronger boundaries between them will enhance their love, not destroy it.
Twelve ways to have a fulfilling day…
- Surrender the illusion of control you have over everyone you love.
- Trust your instincts when they point you toward doing something good for those who least expect it of you.
- Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot.
- Look across the restaurant and then, having chosen someone, collude with your waiter to pay for that person’s meal. Ask the waiter not to identify who did it.
- Contact an old friend.
- Leave a few groceries on the steps of someone whom you know is in a hard place.
- Forgive your enemies.
- Visit your next-door neighbors.
- Refuse to gossip.
- Pick up litter.
- Go the extra mile for someone who has hurt you in the past.
“I have been married for 25 years with ups and downs like most marriages. I’m at a point where I want to be alone. There has been too much baggage from our past marital problems, which seem intolerable. I will devastate a lot of people if I leave my husband but I want to. I’m 45 years old and feel I want a fresh start. Not with another man, just with myself so I can find the self I lost somewhere along the line. The longer I stay, the more I realize how hard it is going to be. I have two sons who live on their own. It’s just my husband and me. I am finding it difficult to stay. I want a change. Is it okay to be so selfish?” (Edited)Try first to salvage yourself within your marriage. This is the greater challenge. While I will agree that some marriages are irredeemable, it is the best place to begin looking for the person you feel has been lost.
Wanting to be fulfilled is not selfish. Many marriages reach a time and place when one of the partners desires to discover the person perceived to have been lost in the marriage.
My boyfriend is very jealous. I cannot make phone calls, read email or go out for lunch without him becoming enraged. He says this is natural and it will change after we are married.
He is wrong on both counts: it is not “natural.” It will not change when you marry. It will become worse. So, if you want your “wings” trimmed go ahead and marry him. At least you know what you are getting into and you can prepare for a life of conflict over your natural desire to know and relate to other people (including males). It is natural to want friends of both genders, to widen your interests and to sometimes want to explore the world with people other than your spouse. There are sufficient “red flags” that I’d suggest you run a mile from this guy until he grows up, gets some confidence about himself, sees that his jealousy will destroy the relationship he says he values. Do not change your behavior that he says is making him jealous. His jealousy has nothing to do with your behavior. He has the feeling – he has the problem. Do not try to solve his problem. You might as well try and “swing from a star.”
Added 4/11/09: There are many other later columns about jealousy on this website. Please do a search for them.
Reader, in the event you wish to talk, send me an Email and I will make time for you.
“My relationships begin well then I find out the person has a whole lot of baggage. If this continues I will be alone and never get married. Do you have any suggestions?”
There are worse conditions than singleness. If you do not believe me, ask any person trapped in a toxic marriage. To be lonely, and be married, must surely be far worse than being single and lonely.
Now to my suggestions: Next time you meet someone you’d like to date, demand a copy of his or her latest credit report, conduct an extensive interviews (in secret) with several of his or her former spouses or significant others, meet (in secret) with as many persons in his or her extended family as possible. Secure (secretively) and study a copy of his or her family tree. Insist on a full medical (try to talk to the doctor yourself). Having completed all of the above, and having found everything acceptable, agree to lunch in a well-lit restaurant. Drive separately.
To avoid all disappointment, remove all mystery and romance from your prospective relationship and, just to be sure, analyze everything to death. Then, if he or she sticks around, you (and I mean only you!) might have found yourself a winner.