Archive for March, 2008

March 31, 2008

My son is ungrateful……

by Rod Smith

My son (11) is quite ungrateful for all I do for him. I don’t want him to go around being unkind to women and he’s not getting any good lessons from his father who is a miserable woman-hater who I am glad I divorced. What can I do to make him appreciate all I do and honor and respect me. I am a single mother. Please help. 

Taking care of some of your anger might be a good place to start. The tone of your letter hardly suggests you are roaming around life with your arms and voice lifted in praise and thankfulness.

May I remind you the father of your son is the man you once loved enough to marry?

Attitudes are quite contagious. Get yours right and you might see a little shift in the manner in which your son sees life.

March 29, 2008

At the beginning of the week…

by Rod Smith

Good questions to ask yourself…

1. Am I a truthful person?
2. How will my children describe their childhoods?
3. Is this (my career) what I want to do with my life?
4. Am I regularly using all of my God-given talents?
5. Do other people trust me?
6. Who do I still need to forgive?
7. Am I predominantly a giver, or a taker, or do I have a healthy balance of each?
8. Whom do I need to affirm for his or her good work (attitude, behavior, results)?
9. What could I do today to give my spouse great joy?
10. Am I a healthy member of my immediate community (family, church, synagogue, mosque, team)?

March 26, 2008

He can’t handle his drink…

by Rod Smith

“I have been with a man I adore for two years. I love him completely and I would do anything for him. Throughout the relationship there have been problems. It was slow to get started because of a large age gap. I’m 21. He’s 40. He struggled with the idea of holding me back and dumped me countless times in the beginning every time I was settling down and gaining some sense of security and stability. He cannot handle his drink and starts to change beyond the man I know and love. I have been humiliated many times in public places, shouted at, screamed at sworn at, ignored, and left on the street late at night. All the while I have been the most understanding person, I believed I could see the root of his issues as he has had a lot of problems in the past and I thought I could help him- forgive him.” (Excerpt from long letter)

Until you love yourself more than you “adore” him you will a victim. Sadly, you will look to “fixing” him and your desperation to “save” this “relationship” will ruin you before you are able to hear voices of love and reason (family, friends) all around you.

March 25, 2008

My family is troubled…

by Rod Smith

My family is troubled. We are facing financial issues, relationship problems, and change (one sister is getting married, one sister is getting divorced). I am 23 and feel as if my parents are looking to me to be the wise one. In the meantime I am trying to build my own life and get an education. I work two jobs and I really don’t feel like I have the time or the energy to be my family’s helper as well. I feel a lot of guilt over this. Please help. (Condensed)

There are no easy answers, no formula to tell you what you should or should not do, but there are broad guidelines: assume no debt you did not incur, go to the source of an issue rather than recruit others through gossip, define clearly what you will and will not do given any requests for help.

You will contribute more to your family’s problems (than you will contribute to the solutions) if you try to be more than a son to your parents and brother to your sisters. It takes great wisdom to avoid taking on what are not legitimately your responsibilities, and perhaps even greater wisdom to take responsibility for what are legitimately your responsibilities.

March 18, 2008

Married daughter lives with mother and husband visits on the weekend…

by Rod Smith

“I have a daughter who is married but lives with me. Her husband comes on weekends and takes her out. He does nothing else for her. In four years of marriage she lived with him for only about 3 months. He said he made a mistake. I have tried to stop her going with him but my sisters say she should be allowed to go out with him otherwise she get depressed. She is quiet reserved and has no friends. She waits for Saturdays. She gets happy and bubbly. She loves to be at home and loves to cook. She is not ambitious. I tried telling her in the past that she should divorce him and get on with her life and improve herself. I can’t tell her to leave home because she is not working and is on disability. What can I say or do to give her a wake up call?” (Minimal edits)

Your daughter and her husband have found the perfect accomplice in you. What incentive is there for change to occur? Your mothering days are long-gone and yet you (understandably — I think!) provide a safe place for your daughter. Earlier accommodations on your part have created the way your family functions. Nothing will change until you do.

March 17, 2008

Sex or intimacy… tough to do both….

by Rod Smith

“I am seeing a man who, after a very physically intimate time, told me he wants a break. I just wish I knew how two people could be so intimate, so close, and share everything and then just cut himself or herself off totally from that person as if they were never a part of each other’s lives.” (Letter edited)

Sounds like you are dating a person with a propensity toward sexual addictions. Such people will do almost anything for a sexual “fix,” and then, once “satisfied” will move on. Your encounters are not about love or intimacy but lust and conquest. Don’t confuse sex with intimacy. Sex (what you do with your body) is the easy part. Intimacy (what you do with your head, your will, and your heart) is one of the toughest relational challenges humans face – and almost impossible to achieve outside the safety of marriage.

March 16, 2008

Living with a grateful heart….

by Rod Smith

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of making a living, parenting my children, trying to be a helpful member of my community, I try to preempt any feelings of self-pity by counting my blessings “one by one.” There is great wisdom in the Sunday School standard, “Count your blessings.” Gratitude can change everything. Dark moments can lose their tenacious hold when placed under warming lamp of gratitude.

As a young child, my Sunday School teachers at Greenwood Park Methodist Church, Mrs. Eileen Cresswell and Mrs. Cynthia Lawrence (nee Reardon), taught me this powerful truth. Of course I did not then know of the life-long impact their life-lessons would have upon me. It was under their tutelage that I learned that there is always something for which to be grateful. These women embodied this timeless truth, and encountered me, their timid charge, week-by-week with the injunction to live as one who was grateful for all he had.

I think often of my long walk down Blackburn Road to Greenwood Park Methodist Church, and of the youth “guild” I attended as a young adolescent – and I try to continue to learn that life’s struggles are made a lot easier when my heart is brimming with gratitude.

March 12, 2008

A note of thanks to readers (hard-copy and web)….

by Rod Smith

I find it fascinating that after seven years (I think it has been that long!) of You and Me I still get a stack of mail every day. Thanks. Thanks a lot! Three years ago I had so many readers asking for back issues of the column that I began posting the column on a website. This has resulted in almost half-a-million hits on from readers all over the world. I find all of this greatly satisfying and I owe the men and women of The Mercury and The Mercury readers much gratitude.

I am frequently asked about the column, about whether I get tired of reading about people’s problems, and whether I print letters as they come. I am also asked about the most common issues people face, and I am asked if I really do phone readers on occasion.

I do not get tired of hearing from readers no matter how troubled the circumstances may be. I do reduce letters to 200 words and I try to remove clues to the reader’s identity. Perhaps the most striking issue or theme unifying most family problems is the seeming unwillingness to speak up when problems first emerge. And, yes, I really do phone readers from time to time.

Thanks for reading You and Me.

March 9, 2008

Husband says I talk too much….

by Rod Smith

“It seems my husband dislikes it when I talk. He says I want to be the boss of the home. I don’t believe this is true as all I want is just a good family life, like most families. We are married for 26 years and I can count the number of times we had a good conversation. He does not listen to my conversations. I’ve stopped talking to him for two weeks. This seems to work as I’m happier now. When we do talk its not for long, as then he says I’m talking too much. What is your response? I would appreciate your comment.”

Nothing you do (or I say) is going to (a) turn your husband into an active-listening, engaged, and supportive conversationalist, or (b) modify your words, message, or the sound of your voice into something he welcomes. This does not mean you ought to stop talking!

You might want to consider communicating only bare essentials with your spouse and accumulate other outlets (clubs, church, neighbors) for everything else you want to express. In the event others begin to send you a message similar to that of your husband, then it is you and not your husband who is in need of enhanced training in the subtleties of communication.

March 4, 2008

There are “injustice collectors” in every group….

by Rod Smith

There are “injustice collectors” lurking in every organization…

He or she is very easily offended. Being offended (hurt, bruised) is a permanent condition.

His or her emotional life is akin to an over-ripe peach. Thus, the slightest disagreement, or your failure to smile (or thank, or praise) leaves him or her with a lingering bruise.

You’ve got to appreciate injustice collectors in exactly the manner in which he or she has trained you, or the fine for offending will be repeatedly demanded. And, even if he or she says he or she does forgive, injustice collectors are not big on forgiveness.

Injustice collectors enjoy being “best friends” which is another way of saying, “you’re mine, I own you, you will love me just like I train you to love me, or I will be offended, depressed, lost, hurt!”

And when “best friend” fails to conform, passive-aggression enters, and alas, best friend becomes “worst enemy.”

Work with one? Keep it light. Sing ditties around them. Don’t fall for it. When he or she tells you, with an accompanying martyr sigh, that he or she is hurt, tell him or her to put his or her feelings away, and get on with the tough job of living.

(I’ve used the bulky “him and her” and “he or she” so as not to offend!)