Archive for October, 2008

October 30, 2008

I am seeing my former college professor, who is also a married man…

by Rod Smith

“I have been in a relationship for two years with my married, former college professor. How in the world do I end this? I have never been in love. I was raised a strict Catholic, even looking at a married man was against my morals. Somehow I got lost. I looked up to him so much now the man who I thought was my hero has destroyed me. How do I end this?”

As you have discovered, layers of deception under girding your covert liaison cannot lead to long-term fulfillment. The imbalance of power, and your vulnerability, while skewing the responsibility toward this devious professor, does not let you off the hook. You too, are an adult. Regarding your faith: this is not about knowledge. It is about distorted “space” (the room and the distance between you) and very fuzzy boundaries. Take the initiative. Cut all ties. Offer no explanation. Don’t fall for the “closure” nonsense. The pain you will experience is worth it, and will be nothing compared to the pain you will know when the relationship is exposed, or when the professor decides to go his selfish way and to cut off from you. You deserve better, but will not find it until you walk through this fire, get some rest, gain perspective, and then are able to move on.

October 28, 2008

He’s divorcing me this week….

by Rod Smith

“I married a man two years ago and this week he is divorcing me. I brought my son (14) and he has older sons. His sons did not accept me as their mom who had died several years ago. I did everything for them to like me. His kids did nothing to integrate my son at all. My husband is a lovely, kind man who never raised his voice and does not like confrontation. When he married me, he said that he has never loved like this! If asked why he is divorcing me he says he does not love me, that home life was not right, that he still loves his wife who’s passed on, that he has nothing to live for inside of him, and he is trying to find himself. After two months (as I have moved out) he says he loves me and I am his soul mate. But he is still going ahead with the divorce. Please help.” (Edited)

As devastating as this is for you, it is time to get your focus off him and his behavior and onto you and your son. Surround yourself with a community of healthy friends (not those who will ONLY help you commiserate) and begin to plan your future.

October 27, 2008

A year or two of celibacy will help you clear your head…

by Rod Smith

“I dated a man for more than two years. I accepted all his faults and he accepted mine. Then wham! The sex, even the kissing, stopped. I asked him if he wasn’t attracted to me anymore and he said that he was. He said he ‘needed time’ to finish his education and to decide what he needed. He told me we weren’t parting ways and wanted to be friends, but needed time. I have given him time and I have spent too much time alone. I feel unappreciated and totally used. I know education is important and I give him my full support. Do you have any suggestions?” (Minimal edits)

Before any relationship will work you are going to have to love yourself and care for yourself more than you love and care for any man.

Your investment outweighed his. Give him what he says he wants. Move on. Don’t look for so-called “closure” or try to be sure he understands.

Take an indefinite break from sexual relationships and give yourself time to “regroup.” A year or two of celibacy will clear your thinking and empower you to offer your next relationship the sacredness that all intimate relationships deserve.

October 23, 2008

Life is too short to have our hearts broken by inconsiderate, selfish men…

by Rod Smith

“We just had our second anniversary when my husband told me that he ‘has no feeling for me.’ We have a six-month-old daughter. He has been ‘friends’ with a woman (22) and he will not end this relationship to save our marriage. I am filing for separation/divorce on Friday and will leave him and never look back. We women have the strength to pick ourselves up and move on. Life is too short to have our hearts broken by inconsiderate selfish men. Yes, I was hurt, and yes, I cried my heart out, but I love my daughter and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure she grows up with a loving family and in a happy home. Our happiness is more important than trying to chase him while he chases some cheap woman. I won’t do it. I am going to get what I can and pick up the pieces because things will get better. They always do.” (Minimal edits)

I commend you for your stand, for finding and expressing your voice, your hope, and your willingness to create an honest future. I am sure your soon-to-be ex-husband will ultimately regret his loss. There are more important things than marriage – one of them if fidelity.

October 21, 2008

Partner abuse does not stop at physical violence….

by Rod Smith

Partner abuse is not restricted to physical violence. Emotional and psychological abuse, while leaving no visible scars, can be as devastating as an act of violence. If your relationship is leaving you drained, if it is eroding your confidence, if it is isolating you from others, and if it feels more like a prison sentence than a platform for love and adventure, you are probably in a controlling, abusive relationship.

If any of the following is true for you, I’d suggest you get “outside” help.

1. When you try to talk about your feelings, your partner railroads the discussion, giving you no time to think, feel or express yourself.
2. You can’t discuss what is bothering you.
3. Your partner criticizes, humiliates, and undermines your ideas, dreams, and any views you express.
4. Your partner tries to isolate you from your friends and family.
5. Your partner stops you from working, keeps you “in line” by withholding money.
6. Your partner has stolen from you and run up debts in your name.
7. Your partner destroys things that belonged to you, opens and reads your mail, checks your phone bill and reads your emails.
8. You are afraid of the person you are supposed to be closest to.

October 20, 2008

“I sent the other woman a big red ‘A’……

by Rod Smith

“I am a wife, and when the ‘other woman’ called me, my husband broke down and told me everything. He stopped seeing her that day and he hasn’t looked back. She calls and Emails him all the time, begging for him to come back to her. Now that we are in counseling our lives are starting to heal. I recently sent her a letter and a big “A” painted red as a present to her work. Then I ran an add in the paper that said ‘Congratulation Xxx’ you earned the A all by yourself.’ So when friends asked her what it means, she will either have to come clean or make up a lie!” (Minimal edits)

This is not the approach I’d endorse, but it apparently makes you feel totally in control of your life and marriage once more. I hope the counseling and the marriage you are re-building, keeps you together and fulfilled for a very long time.

I will remind you, if you have read this column for any length of time, that extra-marital affairs are very seductive. They help the participants (perpetrators and victims) shift focus off what is really bugging the marriage.

October 19, 2008

Thrilling moments for a parent….

by Rod Smith

Watching your children love, support, and have fun with each other. Seeing your children develop a curious eye, a desire for information, a desire to achieve and accomplish greater goals than you could ever have had at a similar age. Hearing your children stand up for themselves, speak their minds, challenge authority, and declare their thoughts and feelings – all in an appropriate manner. Experiencing moments of tenderness and care directed towards you, the parent, in a manner that is unexpected and unsolicited on your part. Witnessing your children entering into healthy, open, mutual, respectful, and equal relationships of love and trust.

From Nancy Axelrad: When good news starts to trickle back from others that your children are kind and well-mannered, you know you’re doing something right as a parent. You’re doubly thrilled when you discover that your child did something special for another caregiver. Helping your child to keep his joy and wide-eyed sense of wonder about life helps you do the same.

A parent, who requires no attribution, responds with….

My daughter is too young (six) to have a lot of knowledge or assets, but her polite articulation of her discretion regarding time, commitment, effort, self-awareness, awareness of others and forgiveness is awe inspiring.

Any time she shows emotional awareness, flexibility in process and stability in objectives rather than denial of reality, rigidity in methods and disappointment in results, I know she’s going to be o.k. … and any time she doesn’t, I get to lead by example.

Several instances stand out:
Polite – “I’m going to ask you to respect my words. Please don’t do that.” (After initial “please don’t do that”, repeat request for lack of rough housing by friend.)
Time discretion – “No, that’s not my priority” (When asked “isn’t having candy more important than visiting with friends”?)
Commitment discretion – “Safety first, jobs second, then play, play, play, play, play” (When we were planning to address our less pleasant responsibilities.)
Effort and forgiveness discretion – “I did my best … perfection isn’t the standard” (When falling over for the three thousandth time trying to roller blade.)
Self-aware “Ow. That was a painful … and a shock … but I’m o.k.” (When she tripped over her Hanna Montana flip-flops.)
Aware of others – “Yes, but Todd doesn’t always do what he says.” (When discussing commitments for a play date.)

But my favorite public recognition – voted “most patient” at summer camp.

No attribution desired.

[Submit your own thoughts to the list via “comments” and I will add and acknowledge your contribution]

October 17, 2008

Signs of health in a new relationship…

by Rod Smith

You both take things very slowly. You feel no pressure to tell him everything about yourself. You do not expect him tell you everything about himself. He shows no interest in your former relationships, but is polite when you want to talk about your past loves. He doesn’t pry. He doesn’t expect to be told about what you do when you are with other people. He is respectful of his parents and, if necessary, would help them financially. He turns off his cellular phone, pager, message service, palm pilot, music devices, and all other gadgets when you are together. He is respectful of the fact that you have a life apart from him and encourages you to see your friends. He takes time to cultivate his own friendships. He listens more than he talks. He tips servers very well even if the service is poor. He does dishes, his own laundry, and cleans up after himself. He washes his own car. He does not tell you stories or jokes he’s already told you – although failure at this would only qualify him as a bore – and you could do a lot worse than date a bore! (I’ve used “he” but of course this is just for easier reading).

October 16, 2008

Children can take a long time to understand the consequences of moving in together….

by Rod Smith

When families blend by moving in together, or through marriage, the impact upon the children, and the time taken for adjustment ought never be underestimated or taken for granted. Because the children might think it is a good idea or are pleased at the decision to “unite,” it should not be construed that the road ahead will be easy. I have talked with children who wanted parents to divorce because they considered it “cool” to live in two homes. I have talked with children who thought moving in together would be fun because the new house had a swimming pool.

It can take a day or two (or even a month, or a year!) for reality to set in. It can take time for child to realize the move (the new marriage, the parent’s new relationship) has turned his or her own world upside down, even if he or she previously thought it to be a positive thing to do.

Parent, please remember: (1) you have fallen in love with someone new. It is unreasonable of you to think your children ought therefore to “automatically” love your new partner or love the new living arrangements. (2) You will spare yourself a lot of heartache if you, the parent, do not meddle with previously established relationships. Let moms and dads deal directly with their own children. Your interference, no matter how welcome, benign, or benevolent, will ultimately be a source of conflict.

October 15, 2008

How can I help his son feel more comfortable?

by Rod Smith

I have known my boyfriend for eight months and recently moved in with him. He has a son (11) and a daughter (15) who come every Wednesday and every second weekend. My three young children live with us. When we discussed the move with all the children together they seemed very happy. We discussed house rules and who would be sharing rooms. So far all has worked well with four of the five children. His son however complains of headaches and stomach aches and makes comments like ‘I would rather be at mom’s house’ and ‘I need time alone.’ My son has moved into his room with him and they get on quite well. His son had his father to himself for about four years where they did everything together. I understand that this must be very difficult adjustment for him but it is causing some conflict between his father and me. How I can help him to feel more comfortable without us having to move out to let him have his father back? (Shortened)

Do all you can to get out of their way. It’s the father’s issue, not yours. Regard it as a pre-existing condition. I am surprised only one child is reacting to the change. I will say more on this tomorrow.