Archive for August, 2007

August 29, 2007

When is it time to cut “friendship” ties?

by Rod Smith

I hope I hear from you...

I hope I hear from you...

Healthy people seldom engage in friendships that are more work than necessary, and have little or no problem cutting ties when a friendship becomes over-taxing, overly demanding or draining. Friendship is supposed to be enjoyable. Thus, whenever any of the following occur in a friendship, I’d suggest it is time to cut and run. I am not at all suggesting the friendship ONLY involves good times. I am suggesting that if a friendship is hard work when it is time for the good times (no present illness, no unusual trauma) then it might be time to move on:

Your friend: (1) Doesn’t want you to have other friends; expresses jealousy through sullenness, withdrawal or antagonism.
(2) Lies to you, about you, or about others.
(3) Expects you to keep “special” secrets or information when the knowledge makes you uncomfortable.
(4) Watches the clock if you are late and interprets your lateness as meaning something about the friendship.
(5) Compares your behavior in one friendship with your behavior in another (“How come you are never this way with your other friends?”).
(6) Expects you to buy into his or her values even when they differ from your values.
(7) Wants or needs to book up your time a long time in advance to make sure your life is planned around his or her life.
(8) Plays games of “hide and seek” to see how much you care or how important the friendship is to you.

August 27, 2007

Wife of drunk replies to yesterday’s letter…

by Rod Smith

“I read your reply to my letter in the paper this morning. Thank you for your advice, which I know too well but, as your readers have expressed, it is so hard to leave a relationship. However it is so sad. If only he had the courage to seek help. What a wonderful person he is. We had a wonderful weekend together as a family. He was so pleasant to be around but come Monday and I have to go to work, the alcohol demon will creep back into my home.”

Everything has a price! A great weekend apparently holds enough reward for you to be willing to dance with the “alcohol demon” (your term and not mine) for the rest of the week. You apparently do not have a problem with this marriage.

I am going to say this only one more time: it is you, and not your husband, who has the issue.

The “alcohol demon” will creep back into your home, and so will you.

Nothing will change until you are sufficiently fed up with the way you accept his treatment of you – making you second (or third or fourth) in his life to his selfish and destructive ways.

August 26, 2007

He drinks too much….

by Rod Smith

“I am at my wits end with my alcoholic husband. He has got better over the years in that he has gone from the hard drink to a softer drink but drink is drink. When I met him he use to sleep with a bottle of cane under the bed and have some all night long so when he woke in the morning he was totally drunk. Then it was wine all day. After much moaning from me he used to drink a bottle of sherry a day but after 15 years of nagging he drinks beer only. When I reach home he is not a happy site to look at. What must I do? (Portion of much longer letter)

Regular readers of this column will know what I am going to tell you. Your husband’s problems, although significant, are minor in comparison to yours! Why do you continue to live in a situation that is so toxic? He is unlikely to seek change while you resist assessing and changing your behavior. I know I will receive heaps of mail telling me that it is not easy to leave some relationships, but leaving will prove a lot more helpful to you than staying. Get the help YOU need.

August 22, 2007

Parents tend to blame themselves too much….

by Rod Smith

A note to parents…

Despite your best efforts at providing an encouraging and challenging environment for your children, your children will ultimately determine the degree of their success or failure as adults. Avoid the tendency to blame yourself for every problem your child faces: you are just not that powerful! Popular press will try to place almost all the blame at your door, when, in truth, your son or daughter has to make his own life productive. In the event he or she chooses not to do so, it is not the parent who ought to be blamed.

Of course there are awful parents. Of course there are absent dads. Drunken mothers. Yes. There are angry homes. Anxious environments. There are volatile, hell-homes where children are victimized, where a boy or girl would have great cause for blame. But most people do not live like this, and nonetheless, even from the worst of homes have emerged world leaders, artists, writers, teachers, nurses, and engineers.

Contrarily, I have seen parents dedicate their every waking hour to the care of their children only to have them emerge as anti-social, destructive adults.

Your children will turn out in a manner that far exceeds your capacity to parent. While offering your best, remain cognizant that your son or daughter’s future is primarily in his or her own hands.

August 21, 2007

My sister won the lottery and does not seem to want to share her winnings…

by Rod Smith

“I am part of a large family of siblings ranging in age from 55 to 38. Recently one sister won the lottery, and she says that lottery counselors told her she should not give anything to her family. She has come under fire by some of her siblings about her apparent lack of generosity regarding our Mother. Please explain why psychologists recommend that family should not be given money, why siblings feel they should get a small percentage. Perhaps she should have given $10 000 to each of us.”

Your sister’s newfound wealth is her wealth – she can do with it as she wishes. Generous people are generous whether they are poor or rich. Leave your sister to decide what to do with her money – it will most certainly reveal what she is made of, and your family’s response to her newfound wealth will expose each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

August 19, 2007

A counter-intuitive secret to powerful intimacy…

by Rod Smith

To become authentically closer to your lover, and to develop greater intimacy with that person, work conscientiously at your separateness from him or her. This is, I believe, is the most challenging behind-the-scenes issue of every intimate relationship.

“Is it possible to love you without also losing me?” expresses the inevitable tension every close relationship faces.

“Closeness” is not usually a problem for most couples. There is usually an abundance of closeness (being overly connected, intensely joined) resulting in couples being highly reactive to each other, and it is this very closeness and lack of definition between people, that, given some time, becomes uncomfortable for at least one member of the relationship.

Remaining unique, distinct and defined within the relationship is what allows healthy, freeing love to flourish.

If couples worked enduringly at remaining unique (it is never complete) and developed their separateness, while also being deeply involved in a committed relationship, then, I believe, there’d be less need to separate (“I need my space”) at a later time when the closeness inevitably feels claustrophobic and overwhelming.

Loving you is not love if the cost of loving you means losing the essence of who I am.

August 16, 2007

Have I done the right thing by taking him back?

by Rod Smith

“My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We have been together for almost 8 years and married for 3 and half of those years. He got a new job and wanted to start working out all the time to be more muscular. He also became very distant. If he was present physically he wasn’t mentally. I began suspecting something and he would get angry. I was to go on a ‘girl’s weekend’ and take our 16-month-old little boy and right before I left he told me we should separate. When I came back he said there was another girl. He said he was with her all weekend. They kissed and nothing else happened. He told me he regretted it, began crying and called her and told her they can’t talk any more. I could look into his eyes and knew it wasn’t over and he moved out for a night. The next morning he phoned and said he wanted to come home to his family. Did I make the right choice taking him back or should I make him leave so I can start my life over?” (Shortened)

While one would not condone his behavior – all three of you (husband, wife, son) have a lot of reasons to work at this. Get face-to-face professional help, please!

August 15, 2007

Ex wife seems to take divorce lightly….

by Rod Smith

My husband’s ex-wife seems to take their divorce lightly. There is a need for communication because of my step-daughter, however, she has become almost “too friendly” with me. For instance, she will call me up and say, “How is my ex-husband?” She is also cultivating an affection towards our kids, which makes it feel like she wants to create a psuedo family – that is, be divorced, but be a part of the entire system. In some ways, it is very difficult because it looks like it’s in the spirit of what is best for my step-daughter, yet it is quite awkward. It seems as if she (ex-wife) is needy and has definite boundary issues. I don’t know how to broach it – my husband simply ignores and detatches from her, but I don’t want her to feel rejected. We have common events to attend, not to mention friends from the same circle. Any insight would be appreciated.

ROD’S REPLY: Your husband “ignores and detaches” from his ex-wife and you “don’t want her to feel rejected” but SHE is the one with the boundary issues! I’d suggest the “entire system” (of which she IS a part) could use a boundary tune up. I challenge you both to sit down with her at a venue other than your home and define your marital boundaries so she might reassess how to mother a daughter as one who is divorced from her daughter’s father. Resist blaming this woman for boundary issues when you have hardly done much better at it yourself.

August 14, 2007

A stepchild writes…

by Rod Smith

“Stepchildren are not guests in the stepparents’ households but were usually there first. In the eyes of the stepchild, they are not at fault for the mess and were thrown into the disruption. Divorce is a selfish thing. However, this does not mean that they are allowed to run the house, but they need love and kindness from stepparents. I feel very unwelcome in my father’s house. I have not been allowed to have a good relationship with my father, although I have tried everything. I feel disrespected. Children really need to know that both of their parents support them. They need their stepparents to respect and support the (biological) relationship.

“A wise decision for a stepmother is to leave the discipline to the father for a time, until they have established a caring relationship with their stepchild. They need to know their stepparent will allow them to feel comfortable as part of the family and not be excluded because they are not their children. They need to be careful to not come between the child and her biological parent. They need to realize that the child just wants to feel loved and cared for by all. This requires a lot of patience and understanding.” (Edited for space)

August 13, 2007

Avoid pornography because…

by Rod Smith

1. It is addictive and temporarily eases pain from deeply felt sexual inadequacies. Like all addictions, it constantly requires more, stronger, harsher forms to be “satisfied.”
2. It is seductive, helping you avoid your sexual/relational immaturity.
3. The woman (or man) on the page or in the movie, combined with what the images stimulated in your head, will ultimately outperform the flesh-and-blood person who loves you and sever your authentic connection to intimate others.
4. It demonstrates your lack of respect for yourself and others.
5. It helps you to copout from facing the challenge of loving the real people. “Relating” to porn is easy: the images, unlike real people, don’t talk back; don’t express opinions, needs, wants, or feelings – the very essence of authentic love.
6. “Everybody does it” is neither true for helpful. Do not expect your partner to participate in sex if you use porn as a “warm up.” This is most degrading for everyone.
7. Pornography can be as damaging as an extramarital affair. Meeting “someone” in your head can be as damaging to a marriage as secret meetings with a stranger.
8. Pornography makes it “all about you,” feeding the narcissistic tendencies lurking within you. It is the antithesis of love and does nothing to serve it.