Archive for January, 2009

January 29, 2009

I want a divorce, she does not….

by Rod Smith

“I want to know how one can facilitate an amicable divorce when the other party opposes the prospect. We’ve had marital counseling for 6 months. Despite telling the psychologist the past 40 years of our marriage was torture, my wife refuses to accept that we have irreconcilable differences. Our life as a couple is a sham but appears good. She wants us to stay together to maintain an air of perfection. It is purgatory. I am miserable. She is attractive and intelligent so does not need ‘us’ to succeed. I am willing to provide for her and ensure she is secure and comfortable financially. When I broach the subject of divorce, she threatens to protract any divorce proceedings until I die and turn my (adult) children against me. She is more than capable of doing this. How can I be expected to stay with those vindictive threats? How do I leave this toxic relationship without hurting anyone and in particular without losing my children?” (Minimal edits for space)

dsc_0642“Amicable divorce” is possible when mutually desired. Even then, it is tough. You want war without casualties. Hurt is inevitable and inescapable. Your relationships with your adult children, if sound, will weather any storm. Speak your truth to your wife AND your adult children.

January 29, 2009

Seven words, a mini refresher course on getting very well:

by Rod Smith

1. Size – power, influence, authority. Be your size. Occupy your role, fill your own shoes and take your place in the world. Let your voice be heard.
2. Humility – the willingness to learn, to change, and be taught. Discover and use your talents. This is humility.
3. Emotional process – the hidden exchange between and among people. People who are “moving toward” you will hear you. Persons who are “moving away” from you will not hear you no matter how skilled a communicator you are.
4. Space – proximity, both physical and emotional. Keep the emotional space around you clear by pursuing an honest life.
5. “Toxic” space – attitudes, actions, resentments, memories that sully or distort the physical or emotional space between and among people. It is hard to “see” yourself and others, if, through unresolved issues or jealousies, you have shattered your interpersonal lens.
6. Challenge – taking on something new, growing up, facing a hurdle with desire to accomplish one or several goals. Challenge trumps empathy, it is more important to grow than it is to be understood. Both are preferable.
7. Adventure – taking necessary risks, avoiding the safe options, shifting life into new forms of growth. Adventure and growth cannot be controlled or simulated.

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January 28, 2009

More on Brakes and Boundaries….

by Rod Smith

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

Yesterday I wrote about sound and healthy boundaries and the need to have a good sense of when to “apply the brakes” in a relationship. In an attempt to win a person, to find some sense of security in a relationship, many men and women abandon themselves and give their all, without clearly seeing the other person has little or even no desire to be reciprocal. It is NOT a relationship if ONE person is doing all the work. I’d suggest you need a brake alignment, or a complete new set of brakes, if….

1. You are giving your trust, forgiveness, and respect to a relationship and there’s little or nothing of the same coming back to you.
2. You buy gifts, send cards, and are always on the lookout for what a particular person needs or wants, and yet you get little or nothing back.
3. You will readily volunteer your services and time, reschedule your own plans, and try to move heaven and earth for someone, but you get little or nothing back.
4. You work hard to keep a particular relationship going and the other person appears not to work at it at all.
5. You are emotionally involved at a deep level with someone who may well be totally unaware of your growing obsession.

January 27, 2009

Good Boundaries / Good Brakes

by Rod Smith

dsc_0642Many adults (myself, of course, included) struggle with maintaining good and healthy boundaries. It’s part of the human condition. Knowing where I “end” and where you “begin” is not always easy. Knowing what is my responsibility, and what is not my responsibility is often fuzzy and ambiguous. Knowing when and how to draw my “line in the sand” when it comes to loving others and parenting children is certainly not for the faint hearted. Good boundaries – are a life-long challenge.

Another challenge, which seems less frequently addressed, and integral to having good boundaries, is the matter of also having good brakes. It is important to know when to “apply the brakes,” when to slow down, and to know when to stop. Knowing when “enough is enough” would save a lot of heartbreak. Persons with fuzzy boundaries often seem to have no, or at least poor, brakes. They tend to go over-board, to buy too much, to give too much, talk too much, to pursue too much.

Here is the challenge: work as always, on your boundaries. Then, sharpen your awareness of when it is time to apply the brakes. Resist over-giving, over-loving, indulging, chasing, buying, showering with attention — when it comes to those whom you say you love. Sometimes enough really is enough.

January 25, 2009

Improving your life…

by Rod Smith

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

Define yourself. Let go of what is not yours. Hold what is yours with open hands. Sever yourself from electronic devices and your Internet connection for several hours, even days, each week. Go for a long walk. Read To Kill a Mockingbird even if you studied it at school. Be unpredictable. Risk more. Seek adventure above safety or balance. Give. Climb down the corporate ladder. Forgive those who hurt you. Give up being right. Affirm others. Thank others. Read Cry, The Beloved Country. Listen. Talk less. Learn, and use, people’s names. Watch the movies Bruce Almighty, Shirley Valentine, Babette’s Feast, and Billy Elliot. Forgive. Hand-write, and mail, thank you cards. Read the “Sermon on the Mount” no matter what your core religious beliefs. Stop victim thinking or behaving like one. Blaming the past, others, or negative circumstances, for your current situation, even with cause, is seldom productive. Relinquish the idea of having the power to change those whom you love. Open the way for others to succeed. Stand in the gap for friends. Become outrageously generous. By all means, get out of yourself, and you will find, somewhat ironically, that you will be a lot more comfortable with yourself and “things” really will, – improve.

January 25, 2009

A wife writes….

by Rod Smith

“I was the wife in an extra marital affair. The woman (You & Me, 22/1/2009) is at fault because the man was married, and, since he did not leave his wife in four years, he is in the affair only for a good time. She may have not given him an ultimatum but there is indirect pressure. She says his wife subjected him to “Henpecking, bossing him, sleeping in separate rooms.” This is only what he told her. The mistress would not know the truth. He told her only what’s music to her ears. My husband told his mistress that he only lived with me and had nothing to do with me. In the meantime there was nothing wrong in our marriage. Others looked up to us. Our friends asked us advice on marriage. My husband cherished me and showed me love with all his heart and showered me with gifts. He never forgot special days like birthdays anniversaries. This is behind us now after some counseling and lots of prayer. I forgave him for his mistake and we renewed our marriage vows. We now have an even better marriage than before, but my wounds are still healing and it will be a while before I place 120% trust in him again.”

January 22, 2009

Frank Graham

by Rod Smith

You may know Durban’s Frank Graham as a celebrity, a well-known voice, an actor of great reputation, or a sidesplitting comedian – but he was my teacher.

He knew that, as a child, I had a debilitating stutter. He knew I was terrified of being called upon to talk in the classroom or to be made the center of attention in the hallowed halls of Northlands Boys’ High School (now Northwood College). This did not stop him from subjecting me to the benign force that is good for a boy who needs a shove, who needs a fire started under his lazy rear. Mr. Graham, my Afrikaans teacher, did this for me.

There was much I loved about Frank Graham. He was a force to reckoned with in the classroom, a fine, fair disciplinarian, who always found the time to practice his jokes upon his admiring audience.

More than this, I recall cycling from my home in Blackburn Road to where he lived at the bottom of Broadway, where he’d painstakingly try to help me improve the quality of my schoolwork.

Thanks Frank, you’re a teacher’s teacher, and a gentleman. On occasion, as I recall, you are even quite funny.

Received: 1/26/2009

“My dear Rod

I’m still feeling slightly fuzzy, not to say overwhelmed, by your words in Friday’s Mercury. I was out of town at the time; in Jo’burg. A friend and colleague for whom I do recording work phoned me, bubbling with excitement and asked whether I’d seen your column. I only got back yesterday and another friend brought the clipping round …

You honour me with such a tribute and I thank you. I remember your stutter; I knew you as a nice kid and it only served to endear me more to you. I made enquiries to become aware of its origin, so I did know what the most probable cause was. I ever after took my hat off to your dad for realising that his drinking was tearing you apart and for stopping cold turkey – at least, that’s the way I heard it.

I do remember making you get up and answer just like everybody else, but you will remember that I never rushed you. You were fortunate to have classmates who liked you and didn’t take the mickey; at least, not that I ever saw any sign.

By complete coincidence, I saw the telephone number in the book today of another of my pupils who had a bad stammer. I think he was after your time: his name is Alex Keen. And I phoned him just to make contact; I haven’t seen him since he left. He is now a social psychologist (I think I’ve got it right) with rooms in Umhlanga Rocks drive. I’ve an idea that what he does is rather a lot like what you do. He was delighted to hear from me and we’ll meet soon. We must have been on the phone for nearly ten minutes and only once did I detect a slight hesitation. His stammer had been a lot worse than yours and I remember how he would sometimes slap his thigh to get himself going again which unkind morons found hilarious; I nipped that in the bud.

Thank you for your loving words, for that is how I view them.

“Sometimes rather funny …” – ha! Damned with faint praise! But at least you had said “side-splitting” earlier on! I prefer that!

God bless you, Rod – and thank you again.

Much love


January 19, 2009

Controlling “love”….

by Rod Smith

“My husband won’t let me drive, see my friends without him, or even get a phone that he doesn’t inspect everyday. I know he will even be upset if he knows I have written to you – but I know how to delete Emails and take them off the system. He says it is because he loves me and is my protector. Please help.”

It appears it is himself he is trying somehow to protect, not you. Love does not micro-manage. You will live like this as long as he determines – while you give him the power to be so very loving. Until you start to resist his controlling ways you will continue to be his possession and his puppet.

Your freedom as a couple (I am sure he too is not having much fun loving like this!) will come after an internal rebellion has occurred within your heart and you begin to stand up, look him in the eye, and refuse to comply with these ridiculous barriers placed on you in the name of love.

January 18, 2009

Broad sweeps from an imaginary couple…

by Rod Smith

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

An imaginary couple addresses recent reader matters:

“She dresses for herself, not me. She wears what makes her comfortable. My happiness, contentment, and comfort levels are not so fragile that her clothes disturb my peace of mind,” he said.

“We both, almost equally, initiate sex. We talk about it very openly. We talk about sex whenever it is necessary, and we talk while we engaged in sex. Each of us can freely express exactly what we each need,” she said about their sex life.

“Body language is, of course, important, but the spoken word is more precise and less open to misinterpretation. Talk is primary. We don’t expect to look into each other’s heads and hearts or to decipher body language in order to communicate. When I think her non-verbal messages contradict her spoken words I ask for greater clarity. She does the same when my words and my actions are incongruent,” he said about “communication” issues.

“We both brought unfinished business into this relationship. We’ve both been hurt, treated unfairly, used – and we’ve done the same to others. Our task is to not visit this relationship with former conflicts. Of course it’s difficult,” she said.

“But when was love easy?” they asked in unison.

January 15, 2009

His brother would hate to see him happy…

by Rod Smith

My boyfriend of 10 years says he doesn’t love me anymore and is tired of pretending. I feel like I just lost my best friend. I don’t understand how a man can go out every night and drink while he has a beautiful woman at home? He’s not seeing anyone else. He claims he wants to be alone. I know he is getting brain washed by his brother who has had a failed marriage and who would hate to see his brother happy. His brother has always put me down and has gone as far to call me ugly. This is a sad situation because my boyfriend is letting his brother win. I know my boyfriend is a good man with good intentions who is throwing away our relationship to make his brother happy. Please give me some advice.

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

You are assigning more power to the brother than any brother can wield – except if your boyfriend was inclined to want to detach from you already. Mourn. Take stock of who you are and where you want to go with you life. Pick yourself up. If you work hard to stop him leaving, keeping him will require even harder work. Who could possibly want to live like that?