Archive for February, 2009

February 25, 2009

Her mother wants to be in every detail of our wedding…..

by Rod Smith

My fiancé and I are getting married in about a year and her mother is dominating every aspect of the wedding. Because she is paying for it does it give her the right to get her way in every detail? This upsets my fiancé so much and yet she will not say anything to her about it. Please write something about this – perhaps her mother will read it and back off a little.

dsc_0642I applaud your attempt to triangle me, but I am going to jump out of the middle of this once I have encouraged you to see: 1. It is your wedding. 2. She is your future mother-in-law. 3. You are engaged to a woman who has a voice she might want to use.

You’d all be better served if you all started to talk directly with each other regarding how each of you sees the big day, and what role each of you has in making it happen. If you really desire your bride’s mother to have no say in the design of the wedding, pay for it yourself. A better option would be a series of prolonged, honest discussions.

February 25, 2009

Psychologist wants to medicate our son…

by Rod Smith

A well-respected child psychologist and his school want our son to be medicated for some problems he is having at school. He can’t seem to focus and he gets behind with his work. My husband and I are dead against it. We never had such things when we were growing up and we have heard some horror stories. What do you think?

Your resistance is understandable. By your own admission you have no experience in these matters, and there is much talk of the “over-medication” and the “unnecessary” medication of children.

Air your concerns to the psychologist and listen to his or her answers with open minds.

Your child’s health and success is of primary importance – and – you would be unlikely to resist treatment and medication if, say, he’d broken a bone or had a sinus infection.

Try to get over your understandable prejudices and get your son the help he needs.

February 19, 2009

My wife is too busy…

by Rod Smith

“My wife insists on making food for ill neighbors, baking cakes for the church, mending clothes for the homeless, knitting this and that for some missionary, and driving me crazy because she is so busy with doing things for others. I want some time for us to relax together and do some activities that do not always have to involve helping ‘the needy’ as she calls it. Our neighbors are far from ‘needy’ but she seems overly invested in doing things for other people at the neglect (‘neglect’ is too strong a term) of her husband. Maybe she’ll read this and know the letter is addressed to her.”

It appears you have been married for many years. I’d suggest you make requests of your wife to join you in activities you enjoy. If she chooses to proceed with her kind deeds, get out of her way, applaud her efforts, and continue to do what you enjoy.

You remind me somewhat of my father who’d playfully say our mother gave her parakeet more attention, and spoke to the bird, more than she spoke to him. He wondered if he should sit in the cage with the bird! All things considered, I’d suggest my parents were rather happily married.

February 17, 2009

When you are a guest in someone’s home for a few days (or longer) …

by Rod Smith

1. Buy groceries and, after a few days, make a special meal for all to enjoy.
2. If there is a maid, pay her very well when you leave.
3. Schedule some face-to-face time with your hosts each day.
4. Don’t assume the phone or Internet is free.
5. Avoid comparing where you live (politics, economy, crime statistics, way of life) with where you are visiting.
6. Don’t discipline other people’s children, offer your hosts marriage counseling, or criticize the decor.
7. Say “please” and “thank you.”
8. Don’t invade every corner of the home. Clean up after yourself.
9. Don’t insert yourself into every conversation.
10. Create your own schedule but let your host know if you will be home for meals.
11. Realize your hosts probably have to continue with “life as usual” even if you are on holiday.
12. If you are offered use of a car ALWAYS leave it clean and FULL of gas (petrol) even if it was dirty and on empty when you first got the car.
13. Don’t complain about how expensive things are or of the lack of things you are accustomed to having.
14. Don’t ever belittle your spouse, especially in someone else’s home.
15. Leave a gift at the end of your stay.

February 17, 2009

Should I keep quiet?

by Rod Smith

“My brother and family are visiting from overseas. They have been out a lot and we have not seen much of them. I made a comment about wishing we could see more of our brother. His wife shouted abuse, ‘if there’s a divorce, it will be the fault of this family.’ She took the baby and moved out to her mother. Did I say something wrong? Should we keep quiet to avoid further tension?”

An in-law cannot “cause” a divorce – but your words could provoke exposure of the fault lines that are already in the marriage. So, continue to speak up. Speak directly to your brother and let him know you’d like to see more of him during his visit. Avoid using your sister-in-law to convey what you want to say to your brother. She is “laying eggshells” so everyone will “tread lightly” as she attempts to control her surroundings. As she has probably already silenced your brother (although I do not know this to be true) she is now attempting to silence you or at least keep you in check.

In a day or two I will write simple guidelines regarding how to visit family at “home” if you have chosen to live anywhere overseas.

February 16, 2009

My daughter is dating an older man…

by Rod Smith

“My daughter (22) is seeing a man who is 30. He has been married before while she has hardly had a boyfriend. I see him controlling her and this worries me. I know I have no say over her anymore but I stay awake at night watching this unfold and it is all too quick. Please help.”

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

Build, rather than burn, bridges. Express, as lovingly and quietly as possible, your concerns directly (face-to-face) to your daughter, and then step out of the way. If your daughter chooses to embrace this man into her life – which she is of course free to do – I’d encourage you to accept him and to include him into the broader family as thoroughly as possible.

That he has been previously married ought not be held against him – unless you, of course, have lived a perfect life.

February 15, 2009

Hope, goodness, and acts of desperation…

by Rod Smith

I am thoroughly convinced that there are always reasons to hope. No matter how dire or conflicted the circumstance, no matter how bleak the prognosis, while there is life, and even beyond it, there remain reasons to be hopeful. Like you, I’ve seen hope in action. I’ve seen painful family scenarios, the most estranged of siblings, the most obstinate of personalities, turn, and find previously unimagined degrees of humility, and move in healthier directions.

But of course evil abounds, and it tries to rob us of hope. Of course men and women are capable of inflicting much hurt and destruction. But I believe that the good in this world by far outweighs the evil. There is goodness and kindness and benevolence latent in every man, woman, and child, and I believe it far exceeds an inner desire for hate and destruction.

And while I am well aware that this idea will be considered absurd in some circles, and heresy in others, I’d suggest that when a lonely woman reaches again for alcohol, or the deprived man engages in illicit behavior, or an adult or teenager self-destructs, these behaviors are desperate acts of prayer, desperate attempts at sanity, desperate attempts to relieve pain and even restore hope.

February 12, 2009

I’ve just got divorced…. do I have to wait…..?

by Rod Smith

“I am very recently divorced and everyone tells me to wait before getting involved again. My husband and I were married for 10 years but the last five we ‘existed’ in the same house. We were not really married. Doesn’t this count?” (Edited)

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

The tone, the tenacity, expressed in your longer letter suggests you have a man waiting in the wings. You apparently want your friends (or me) to give you permission to dive into a new relationship before the ink on your divorce decree is fully dry.

I have learned to get out of the way when someone is set on getting what he or she thinks he or she wants. Go ahead – get involved – it is unlikely you will heed my suggestions anyway.

But, — the aftertaste, the hangover, the unresolved tensions of your 10-year marriage will surface in your new relationship. You will see life differently post-divorce if you allow your eyes and your brain time to re-focus. Now, you are attracted to a man who is not your husband. Given time, you will be attracted to a man simply because of who you have become, and for who he is – I’d wait. I hope you will.

February 11, 2009

Thanks for writing about spiritual manipulation…

by Rod Smith

“Thank you so much for your column on spiritual manipulation. I wish we had read this 20 years ago. We have experienced everything that you list and only escaped by the grace of God when we began to read the book of Galatians for ourselves. This phenomenon only occurs when people are at their most vulnerable. We are planning to use this list at our weekly sharing time with our two sons who are in active Christian service. I have been so blessed by your column and everything that I have read has been relevant. However I have been told that you are into “New Age” theology and are an astrologer. I have seen no evidence of this in your column but would so appreciate your comments.” (Unedited)

You’ve made my day – and I am still chuckling at the idea that I am into “New Age” and astrology! “New age” I understand – many are threatened by thoughts they didn’t come up with themselves and some are quick to label, – but no, I am not a proponent of any so-called “new age” theories. I am a “systems” therapist, and a Christian. And, by the way, I think I am a Capricorn, but I have not read my “fortune” in many years.

February 9, 2009

Ten signs of Spiritual Abuse….

by Rod Smith

Take Up Your Life

Take Up Your Life

Ten signs of the presence of spiritual abuse, manipulation, domination, or intimidation. Spiritual Abuse (which is always expressed in varying degrees) is occurring when a pastor, leader, or even a friend:

1. “Hears” God for you. God apparently “goes through” him/her to speak to you. (This requires a sense of superiority – from him or her and is often framed as being “more mature,” and a sense of being “less” from you.)
2. Alienates (shuns, ignores) you if you do not adhere to his/her guidance, leadership, or authority. (This is usually VERY subtle – so it is easy to deny.)
3. Suggests that rejection of his/her “higher understanding” is done so at your spiritual or even physical peril. (You will hear things like, “Be careful. You will move yourself from the covering and protection of God.”)
4. Rewards your obedience with inclusion, and punishes your questioning or resistance with withdrawal. (Compliance gets stroked, resistance gets struck!)
5. Demands “cathartic” honesty. Unless you spew out every detail of your life you must be hiding or withholding something (and that “something” will, of course, impede your spiritual development).
6. Lavishes you with praise, acceptance, and understanding when you are “good” and “pushes” you away when you are “bad.”
7. Is apparently fixated on the use of titles like reverend, pastor, elder and cannot appear to relax in the company of “ordinary” mortals. The issue is not in the use of legitimate titles (or robes or religious garb) – it is that identity seems impossible without the titles or the trappings.
8. Leaves a trail of cut-off relationships. Usually in the trail are those who refuse to bow, to submit, to stand in awe of, to be thoroughly entranced by, the will of the pastor, the leader or the friend. Always regard with suspicion or caution leaders who are cut off or alienated from members of their family, especially their parents.
9. Lives from a “for me/or against me,” “black/white,” “all/or nothing” platform of “relationships.”
10. Genuinely sees God’s Call so zealously, so fervently that any signs of resistance are seen as the expressions of The Enemy or an enemy – thus, relationships are expedient (disposable) in the light of getting on with God’s work.

The perpetrators of abuse apparently fail to see that reconciliation, and forgiveness, “space,” and room to move, and room to respectfully disagree (boundaries, morality) are all part of the glorious work of the Gospel. Freedom begins with recognition. Recognition must result in action. Stand up to those who misuse their positions of leadership. Spiritual abuse serves the welfare or neither the perpetrator nor the victim – quite apart from the disservice it does to the church.

(This post is written in honor of “J” in Honolulu – I am sorry for all you had to endure.)