Archive for November, 2007

November 14, 2007

He says he wants to marry me….

by Rod Smith

“I have been struggling for months. When can one say that they are ready for marriage and how long must you date to take that step? I have been dating this guy for the past five years and we have a son together. I can officially say I’ve met the person I want to spend the rest of my days with. We are both 25. He says that he wants to marry me and I am ready. I feel like I need to know whether he’ll ever actually propose so that I can figure out what direction my life takes. My biggest fear is that I’ll wake up in five years to find no progress in our relationship. How do I make him aware of how I feel without making him feel like I’m pressuring him into a commitment?”

I do not seek to be unkind – but let’s give this a little thought! You have a son together, you are adults, you are both 25 – yet you cannot tell him it is time to get married? Tell him. I could care less if he feels pressure. He is a dad and it is time to be a husband. I officially tell you it is time to think about the child rather than about yourselves.

November 13, 2007

To get the best out of sex….

by Rod Smith

The power and sacredness of sex …

Morality, religious beliefs, and family values and expectations aside, which, by the way I believe is impossible to do, don’t have sex with a person whom you do not know, and are not committed to in every area of your life, for the long haul.

To say “it (sex) is just a physical thing” is naïve, shortsighted, and misguided.

Sexual behavior is powerfully connected to the essence of who and what each of us is, and to regard it lightly or with flippancy, dismisses the powerful, creative, and beautiful place sex occupies in the engine room of each our lives, whether married or single.

To regard sexual acts as purely (only) physical is absurd.

Sexuality, and its expression through physical acts, potentially combines your whole heart, mind, your spirit (or inner being) and your body – in a sacred act of shared love, resulting in mutual replenishment, mutual recharging, and the willing refocus, as a couple on all that is mutually and individually important.

It is impossible to get the best out of sex (or put your best into sex) with a stranger, or with someone you hardly know, and with whom you have no long-term shared responsibilities and commitments.

November 11, 2007

My wife and best friend had an affair…..

by Rod Smith

“My wife (15 years) and my best friend of (45 years) had an affair. It was sexual relationship for 5 years. I finally realized what had happened three years after the fact. I find myself in a situation: Do I confront both my wife and my friend? Do I tell everyone about the affair? Do I suggest his wife and I do the same in retaliation? I know that retaliation is not helpful and will only create larger problems. Living with the knowledge by myself is increasingly difficult. My friend and my wife (whom I deeply love) have betrayed me. At this juncture, she seems to be unaware that I know and does not seem to be remorseful enough to ask for forgiveness. Of course, why would she? It makes more sense to deny at all costs.”

The affair has ended but your marriage has not ended. Gently, kindly, individually (not together) and in a somewhat public setting — let (only) your wife and friend know, that you know, what has occurred. Keep details to a minimum.

Do not let your wife or your friend know you will talk individually to both parties.

Such conversations would be an act of love, courage and growth, on your part, and you’d be beginning the process of defining the (personal) hell out of yourself.

Do not look for a discussion with each person, or even for an apology – have the singular goal of letting each person know you know.

November 8, 2007

Every now again, when she has problems, she does not want to be around people, including me…

by Rod Smith

“I have been going out with ‘Jill’ for several years. We do not live together. Every now again, when she has problems, she does not want to be around people, including me. I find this very difficult. I don’t think she understands how to love or be loved. I have tried to get her to understand that I want to help her but she will not listen. She says she wants to be left alone to go where nobody can find her.”

Jack, avoid interpreting Jill’s desire to be alone, or escape, to be about her capacity to give or receive love. These desires, however triggered, most certainly pre-date your relationship. Love Jill enough to grant her the fulfillment of her desires that you have difficulty understanding.

Love – by letting alone. You, Jack, love by being present, and through absence. Both can be acts of love. Some people simply need (no, I am going to say ALL healthy people) or desire some alone time. It allows for the natural stresses accompanying even the most loving of relationships to dissipate.

And, when she goes away to be alone, resist your powerful, understandable urge to go looking for her. Trust Jill, Jack, to get what she needs. This is a very important component of your love for Jill.

November 7, 2007

I want to end my affair…

by Rod Smith

“I am in an extra-marital affair and want to end it. I never ceased to loving or being intimate with my husband although my relations with another man have shattered some parts of our marital intimacy at times. I told my husband I also love another man and am sexually attracted to the other man. My husband does not find it wrong.. I think I crossed the border because there appeared dark corners and secrets. Could you share your thoughts about ending the affair?” (Minimally edited the portion presented. But a small portion of a much longer letter.)

I am not going to pretend to know what you should do or suggest you cut all ties and go “cold turkey” from your affair. Men aside, you have to decide what you want. Some emotional space from both men (sexual space, too) might be necessary for you to clear the atmosphere and allow you to see (think, feel, assess, process, clarify) more clearly than you are able to do right now.

While I might be legitimately accused of going against my own advice offered in previous columns, your dilemma portrays the complexity and power of human sexuality.

Sexual behavior is ALWAYS complex and this (its complexities) ought never be downplayed.

Your husband, I’d suggest, finds this (your love and attraction and sexual activities for and with another man) not wrong for deeper reasons than meet the eye.

Face your own dark night of the soul. Decide what kind of woman you want to be. This is what is in the balance.

November 6, 2007

My son comments on our “little” lives…

by Rod Smith

On Sunday morning I thought we’d do the “European thing” and ride our bikes to church. (It seems to me that everyone rides bikes everywhere in Europe). So, my five and nine year old sons following closely behind me, we Smiths set out to cycle the three of four blocks through our neighborhood — and then, on arrival, we tied our bikes to a tree outside the gothic cathedral which is our church home.

It didn’t end with the ride home after the service. The boys and I decided we’d ride to the nearest coffee shop, and then onto “Kid’s Ink” the local children’s bookstore. After a snack at the Food Emporium we hit the canal and cycled through the university – before we ambled (can one “amble” on a bicycle?) our way toward home.

Tired from several hours of cycling, we pulled our bikes onto the steps leading to our front door when Thulani (9) reflected, “Daddy. I like our little lives.” When asked to enlarge on this (I am a therapist, remember) he continued, “I like it when you are not too busy to ride with us and we can stop at the park and eat snacks on the grass and.., and.., I just like our little lives.”

November 5, 2007

Sleeping arrangements when brother visits with his girlfriend…

by Rod Smith

“I don’t know what to do. My brother (25) and his girlfriend (24) are coming to stay for a few days. They live together (and are not married). My children (boys who are 6 and 7) know they are not married and I don’t know if I should let my brother and his girlfriend stay in the same room. We are Christians and do not support living together and I am not sure what kind of message this will send to my children.” (Shortened)

If you judge your brother your attitude toward him will send your children a stronger, more memorable and negative message than any memory each boy might retain of an uncle’s sleeping arrangements.

I’d suggest you fall on your knees and thank God you have a brother who wants to visit your home, and allow your adult brother and his adult girlfriend to decide where they’d like to sleep – even when visiting your home.

Your children are likely to remember how you love their uncle more than they will remember where anyone slept!

November 3, 2007

When counseling will be most effective….

by Rod Smith

I am listening....

I am listening....

Conditions under which counseling or therapy will be of most value….

1. Neither client nor therapist exaggerates therapist’s abilities or the client’s condition.
2. Therapist sees role as helping client steer toward a more productive, healthy future.
3. Client sees the “big picture” over the “long haul” rather than immediate relief in the “here and now.” (Patience, patience, patience).
4. Client and therapist maintain a sense of humor (a sure indication of health) while facing life’s inevitable challenges. Not everything can or will be better no matter how much therapy you throw at it!
5. Client and therapist call forth the client’s strengths and the innate human desire for adventure, rather than engage in the seemingly endless pursuit to understand a client’s pathological history, weaknesses, parents’ weaknesses, and debilitating reasonable, and unreasonable fears.
6. Therapist and client understand the limited benefits of empathy in exchange for the overwhelming benefits of challenge and adventure.
7. Client realizes that psychological insight without action (acting upon the insight) is a waste of money, time and useful therapeutic process. Sometimes a person has to actually DO something rather than be filled with insight about what needs to be done.
8. Client is willing to increase the ability to tolerate necessary pain (both within self and within others) and resist the understandable pressure to alleviate the very pain essential for growth to occur.
9. Therapist challenges the client repeatedly toward self-definition (to grow up!) in the face of life’s natural obstacles.

Conditions under which counseling or therapy will be of little or no value…

Time and again I hear “If I could just get him/her to see a counselor” as if a counselor can work magic to heal and solve all personal and relationship problems. Few trained counselors would see themselves as possessing such unrealistic powers. Here are some conditions (there are others) under which even counseling will be of little or no value:

1. When a person is forced, or cornered, or manipulated into seeing a counselor.
2. When a person has no motivation for change.
3. When a person agrees to see a counselor because he/she believes counseling will “fix” someone else in the family.
4. When the person’s mind is already made up over and issue (a pending divorce, continued involvement in an affair) and goes to counseling so he/she can say he/she tried it and it was no help.
5. When a person is resistant to getting help (doesn’t see the need for help) and offers counselors little or no respect in the first place.
6. When the person is combative from the outset and sees the therapeutic hour as time to show how clever (or funny, or morose, or argumentative, or stubborn, or intellectual) he/she can be.
7. When the person has already made up his/her mind that there’s no hope (”we’ve tried it all before”) or that counseling is a waste of time and money.