Archive for October, 2009

October 29, 2009

Ritual dialogue for a healty couple….

by Rod Smith

“I will not get in your way. You may work where you choose, worship where you choose, and have all the friends you need and want. If you want to further your education I will do all I can to support you. You are absolutely free and do not require my permission for anything. I know the trust that we have developed between us gives me the confidence to know that you will always choose well and wisely, and when and if you do not choose well and wisely, I know your unwise choices do not arise out of an intentional desire to damage yourself, our relationship, or me.”

“I, in turn, will not get in your way. I will create space for our mutual benefit, work hard for our mutual enrichment, and honor the respect the trust we have built up over the years we have known each other. While I know I do not require your permission to enlarge my life through developing my career, and by developing many meaningful friendships, or enjoying a life of discipline and worship, I will willingly use the freedom that is inherently mine for our continued and mutual benefit.”

“Lighthouse” – friend, and reader, develops the theme —: “I will not (covertly) get in your way. I will collaborate with you prior to committing significant time, money, emotional resources and/or physical effort to ensure that our expectations are aligned with our mutually beneficial goals. I will do what I say so your trust in me is earned. When we have not explicitly agreed something, my actions will honor our relationship nonetheless. I will encourage you to uphold your agreements and thank you for your efforts every day regardless of the results. I will engage when reality doesn’t match our expectations so we may learn from the experience, forgive those that failed to keep their word and forget the situation. I dedicate the time to talk with you because it is the exchange of such emotional intimacies that differentiates our deepening love from that of my love for family and friends.” (Thanks, “Lighthouse,” for your valuable and beautiful contribution)

October 27, 2009

She’s going away for four months….

by Rod Smith


Use the time to grow....

My girlfriend is going to be working on a cruise ship in two weeks and I won’t see her for four months. I know it doesn’t seem long. I’m wondering how to pass time and not let it bother me so much?

Here are three of many options. I hope you take the third:

1. Think and talk about her all the time but keep very busy. Talk as much as possible about how she could possibly have done this to you. Measure your love by the degree to which you miss her and how much she says she misses you. Exhaust yourself (and her) by trying to contact her everyday. Bind yourself to your email and to your phone so you don’t miss any of her attempts to contact you.
2. Go into a cave for four months and don’t talk to anyone, so everyone can see how much you “love” and miss her. Do whatever you can to get people to feel sorry for you. Exhaust others. Appear neglected.
3. Before she leaves offer her a loving and free passage to contact you or to NOT contact you. Tell her that while you will miss her, you will not be pre-occupied with where she is and what she is doing. Use the time to grow: accept that part of love involves some separation and go diligently about your life.

October 26, 2009

My children manipulate their stepmother….

by Rod Smith

“My son (12) and my daughter (14) don’t like their stepmother but when they play their cards right for her she buys them stuff. I don’t like to see my children manipulating to get things from her. Should I step in and say something? We are not really on good terms with each other.”

Let then be...

Let then be...

I’ll be the first to admit that the challenges I will place before you are most difficult to achieve – but I repeat: parenting is for grown ups; successful co-parenting is for saints. So…

Do all you can to get on good terms with the other woman who is co-parenting your children. I am not suggesting you become bosom pals but “cordial adults” would be a helpful arrangement for all concerned.

Avoid stepping into the mix with your children and their stepmother. All three have a lot to teach each other. Approaches from you will hinder the process. While no parent wants to see his or her children develop manipulative habits, this is a matter for you to directly address with your children. Your children will manipulate if it works, and will not, if it doesn’t. Take care of how they treat you, and allow their stepmother to discover her own unique relationship with her stepchildren.

October 23, 2009

My parents want to force me to go to church….

by Rod Smith

My mother and father believe that Christianity is one and only way to God. We argue often! My dad blames the martial art I do for me rejecting the dogma of Christianity and is now FORCING me to go to church. Please help. I am 16 and male.

Flexibility on your part....

Flexibility on your part....

If your parents are anything like most of the men and women I run into everyday, they want to be your advocates and not your enemies. They want what is wonderful for you. I’ll bet the day will come when going to church with your parents will sound like a fabulous opportunity so I’d suggest you go, and that you go with a good attitude. While you are at church with your parents, try to be as open and affirming as possible.

Claiming to be grown up and able to make wise choices (which I admit you have not claimed in your letter) becomes evident when a young person chooses to enjoy doing what his or her parents want simply because the parents have asked. Be aware that your resistance could render you as difficult as you perceive them to be. I think you’d be amazed at how flexible and cooperative parents become when they see sons and daughters being flexible and cooperative.

October 22, 2009

Friday meditation

by Rod Smith

I am convinced that no matter how rough a person’s past is, or how traumatized the present might be, or how bleak or absent possibilities might seem, there is always hope for a more fulfilling future. Today I shall be an agent of hope.

I am convinced that no one is thoroughly bad (there is something redeemable in the “worst” of humanity) and no one is thoroughly good (everyone must combat his or her own “dark” side). Today I will offer guarded trust to all whom I meet.

I am convinced that while in the depths of the bleakest of circumstances, loneliness, and pain, some people attempt to display a brave front. Today I will be an agent of kindness to those who have to hide their deep pain.

I am convinced that my own happiness and fulfillment will be incomplete while it is at the expense of my integrity, while it requires someone else to lose, while it is contingent on darkness or deceit. I will live honestly and without manipulation.

I am convinced that conflict is a necessary part of fulfillment and integral to love. Today I will readily engage in helpful conflict that I may learn to love others more deeply than I have done before.

October 21, 2009

Guidlines for step-parenting….

by Rod Smith

Enemies don't co-parent very well

Enemies don't co-parent very well

1. If your former spouse chooses to marry do all you can to accept the “new” person – he or she will have a regular and meaningful role in your child’s life.
2. Meet and talk about a unified approach to parenting that all the adults in your child’s life will agree to – BEFORE and after the wedding. Of course you will not agree on everything but that doesn’t mean you should not meet and talk.
3. Don’t make the new person into the enemy. When enemies co-parent children get wounded by crossfire.
4. When issues arise go to the source – try to avoid telling your former spouse what you really want to say directly to his her new partner. You are an adult. Don’t walk on eggshells when it comes to your children.
5. Mind your own business. How “they” spend their money or where they go on holidays is none of your business. Your business begins and ends with your children.
6. Don’t recruit in-laws or grandparents to side with you. You are “enough” on your own.
7. Give your children room to form a relationship with the “new” person.

October 20, 2009

A woman offers appreciaiton…

by Rod Smith

“I wish to extend my sincere thanks to you for helping me turn my life around. I have been reading your column every day since I wrote you months back when I was a jittering useless person unable to make decisions and take that next step for myself. Your response to me regarding the abuse I have been subject to for nearly 30 years was a real wake up call, not that certain things you set out for me had not been said to me before or thought by me before, it was just the way you said it that was the cherry on the cake! I was too afraid to listen. I am still living with my son – 17 months since my husband kicked me out of our home. I do plan to get my own little home in the not too distant future. We are divorced. I have bought myself a decent car. I have actually made contact with the human race, even with men who are able to hold a decent conversation without my being told I am stupid or incompetent. All of this, and more, in the space of about 7 months. My sons are delighted with my transformation!” (Letter shortened)

October 19, 2009

Are the suggestions, challenges, relevant to all cultures?

by Rod Smith

No culture is perfect....

No culture is perfect....

I am regularly informed that my message (speak up, define yourself) may be culturally relevant to an audience in North America but that it is not relevant to, say, Indians in Asia, to Koreans, or to British housewives. “We (whomever is writing or taking) are closer, tighter, more conservative, not like you Americans. We don’t allow women to express their opinions in our culture.”

While of course, I acknowledge the beauty, the power, and significance of unique cultures within all of their many forms – there are some aspects or things about most cultures should be challenged* and changed.

Here are a few:

1. When the voices of some are ignored or silenced because it is “cultural” (as in come caste systems).
2. When violence is par for the course because that’s our culture. (“He beats me, but that is how men are in these parts.”)
3. When boundaries are violated and one person or group is constantly the victim. (“Children get no privacy in our – insert place, race, religion, or language – families.”)
4. When thoughts and actions are monitored and suppressed in order to perpetuate the power of one group or person over another group or person. (“In our religion we are not allowed to think such things!”)
5. When the powerless are victimized and silence is the expected response. (“That’s just the way it is in the south – this county, this neighborhood, whatever!”)

The Differentiation of Self is applicable across all cultures and to consider it not so, is to misunderstand the concept at its core.

* I cannot prance around the world uttering racial slurs and then claim that, as a white South African reared under Apartheid, I am expressing my culture. Some things about my culture are despicable and ought to be harshly rejected. The same is true when a culture (or church, or family, or boss, or significant other) robs people of their voices for any reason (gender, race, age, economic status, or religion). Domination, manipulation, so-called co-dependence is not good for anyone, no matter where he or she is born, what language he or she speaks, or what faith he or she claims or proclaims.

By the way, one of my first Egyptian students wrote in response to a week of exposure to my lectures: “You are welcome to visit Egypt but do not say anything.”

October 17, 2009

Mother won’t let daughter move on…

by Rod Smith

“I’m 35 and have been divorced for 5 years. I met a woman whose husband passed away two years ago. We are in love. I can’t stay away. We spend hours on the phone. The problem is that she wants to move on but is discouraged by her family. Her mum doesn’t want her to move on. She told her daughter not to communicate with me. The mum feels if I take the daughter away there’s no one to take the mum shopping. The mum says to the daughter the reason the mom left work was because of her and to look after the two children. They make the daughter feel guilty in every way possible. I told the daughter she must take control of it but she doesn’t want to disrespect her parents.” (Edited)

Mother is not the enemy...

Mother is not the enemy...

Your girlfriend has some decisions to make. The mother has reasons for stopping the daughter from moving on. The reasons might appear obvious to you but I believe there are deeper and hidden reasons: the belief that moving on will allow the deceased to be forgotten, or moving on is in some ways disrespectful to the man who is now gone.

Do not push. Invite. Challenge. But do not push. Try not to make the mother the enemy.

October 15, 2009

Adult sons and daughters who expect…..

by Rod Smith

Pushing, will push back...

Pushing, will push back...

I have had several letters, and also face-to-face discussions, about adult men and women who are inappropriately attached to a parent. This attachment is almost always financial: the parent has signed a loan; the parent has agreed to pay off a debt; the parent feels he or she must pay the rent for the son or daughter.

The attachment, while being uncomfortable for the cheque-signing parent, is also a problem for others impacted by the agreement (or the manipulation). Frequently it is a problem for a stepparent who was taken unaware by a financial burden not of his or her own making.

While I would encourage parents NOT to sign for loans, agree to pay rent and become embroiled over financial issues over which he or she has no direct responsibility or control, it is important to note that while the other adult (stepparent) sees it as his or her mission to untie the financial embroilments, the binds will not be eased.

Trying to get a spouse to “see the light” is as difficult as trying to get a financially irresponsible adult child to “be responsible.” The tyranny will only begin to ease when the one who is signing the cheques gets over the associated guilt and stops doing so.