Archive for October, 2009

October 14, 2009

Should I address injustices I see?

by Rod Smith

Families can be dangerous...

Families can be dangerous...

“I see a lot of injustice in my extended family. It’s not horrific stuff, but subtle shunning, leaving people off lists, playing innocent when guilty, and so forth. Should I be addressing these things or should I just let things be? How much can one person change a family?”

Address, with courage and kindness, the matters that directly pertain to you. The price of peacekeeping (appeasing others) is a far greater one than you will pay for peacemaking (allowing and facilitating necessary conflict).

But, tackle only what directly pertains to you. If you mess with relationships that you are not part of (where you are not one of the parties in the relationship) you will pay a price you might not want to afford. Families can be very dangerous places.

October 12, 2009

Fundamental errors in thinking when in a toxic relationship…

by Rod Smith

1. I have to stay in this marriage for the sake of children.
2. I have no options because he/she holds all the power.
3. I’d rather have an abusive partner than no partner at all.
4. If we only had enough money there would not be all these stresses and strains.
5. My friends (family, neighbors) will never forgive me if I get divorced.
6. No one cares how bad it is and I have no one to talk to.
7. He will lose his job if this comes out.
8. We keep our marriage troubles secret and no one knows about them.
9. My parents will reject me if this relationship doesn’t work.
10. It is my fault that he/she is abusive.
11. Things will improve if I am sufficiently patient.
12. He’s a lot better because he/she doesn’t hit me as much (drink as much, scream as much) as he/she used to.

October 11, 2009

When you are in a jam….

by Rod Smith

Love leads to freedom.....

Love leads to freedom.....

1. Realize your jam, fix, or issue, is not about someone else; solutions don’t depend on trying to teach, fix, or change someone else. You are the persistent part, the ever-present piece in all of the issues you face.
2. Begin with taking personal responsibility, seeing what it is you can do differently from what you have done in the past.
3. Work your way out privately (don’t announce it to the world) and slowly (don’t try to go too quickly).
4. Know that there are always more options than might be first apparent. Once you move beyond the initial impact of what you are facing, spend some time thinking. Options formerly clouded by anxiety, will begin to emerge.
5. Given several emerging and unexpected choices, take the more adventurous option, the less obvious choice. This will till the soil of your life and bring you new-found zeal.
6. As you work your way out of your fix by taking new and risky choices, behave in such a way that you have others asking, “What got into him/her?” This will help others see that your healthy unpredictability is part of your desire to shift former unproductive patterns.
7. Welcome and expect resistance – especially from those to whom you are closest. It’s the by-product of all change. Change upset the power balance in relationships and it is usually, at least at first, resisted.

October 8, 2009

My daughter is aggressive….

by Rod Smith

“We have been separated for 5 months. My husband has moved on with his life and living with his girlfriend who my kids (twelve and eight) get along with. I have met a friend with whom I have fallen in love with. My children don’t seem to adjust very well to this. I have spoken to them about the relationship but my daughter (12) always seems aggressive. She has tried to stab herself and pack her bags. She calls her dad and makes me a bad mother. She always says that I have no time for them since her dad has left. She threatens that she will go and live her dad.”

It's NOT the child...

It's NOT the child...

Your children appear to resist the rapid, thorough, re-organization that your family has undergone in a few short months, which includes the separation of their primary caregivers from each other, and then the attachment of each to someone “new”? Fancy that.

You are surely not surprised? There is no easy solution. The problem is NOT your daughter.

If I were writing the script (which I am not) I’d have both adults resist finding “love” until they have allowed the children time to get somewhat used to the first trauma (mom and dad’s divorce) before I thrust them into the next (mom and dad’s new relationships).

October 7, 2009

Ten quick-checks: Is it a healthy romance?

by Rod Smith

Take UP you life....

Take UP you life....

1. You don’t obsess about each other (whereabouts, activities) when you are not together.
2. You don’t have to check in with each other several times a day.
3. You feel freer, more empowered than ever, because you are in this relationship.
4. You stay out of things that have nothing to do with you, like past relationships, choices of clothing; who he or she meets for business purposes; relationships with siblings and parents.
5. You offer your innermost self (through regular conversations) in a manner that is less and less guarded as time passes and as trust increases.
6. You are inspired to pursue previously held dreams and ambitions, which perhaps have taken a backseat in your life for a period of time.
7. You have a renewed sense of childlikeness and adventure and are eager to explore individual interests outside of your career.
8. You choose to become financially, sexually, and emotionally accountable as you desire to build something permanent and lasting with your new-found love.
9. You keep thorough and complete confidentiality with personal matters that pertain to the two of you.
10. You are bolder and more courageous in this person’s presence and he or she affirms your boldness every step of the way.

October 5, 2009

How she dresses does impact me……

by Rod Smith

“If I go out with a person how she dresses is relevant to me. This has nothing to do with vanity. It has to do with presentation and being comfortable with your partner. Her dress impacts on me. To say that tomorrow she will control my life is wrong. If she is correcting a shabbiness or unacceptable behavior by me what is wrong in that?”

Love leads to freedom.....

Love leads to freedom.....

If you want an over-functioning mother, aunt, or a fairy godmother to serve you and keep you well dressed and well behaved, then simply make it clear at the outset. This stated, the woman can decide if she wants to play parent-child in her most intimate relationship. Believe me, there are many people who’d love to “love” you in this manner and would equate interpersonal monitoring – being each others “prefects” or hall monitors- as signs of love. Healthy adults, on the other hand, correct their own “shabbiness or unacceptable behavior”.

Of course there is nothing amiss when healthy people who love each other suggest items of clothing for each other and to suggest otherwise would be absurd. I will remind you that readers frequently write about “partners” who want to orchestrate every move of the person whom they say they love – and it always, always begins with a focus on clothing! Here’s a better idea: Love each other enough to leave each other alone! Live in your own skin, tend to your own behavior and your own clothing. Require LESS, not MORE maintenance. This is love: that you love enough to mind your own business – and trust that your adult partner is adult enough (and wise enough and kind enough) to mind his or her own business.

October 5, 2009

What am I supposed to do if I meet the man who cheated with my wife….

by Rod Smith

“What am I supposed to do if I ever have to meet the person my wife cheated on me with? How should I treat him and let him know I disapprove of his ‘taking my wife from me’ and that he is not, and never will be my two children’s father, but that I am ‘not out for blood’ in vengeance against him?”

Offer grace

Offer grace

If this man and your ex-wife marry he will be very much a part of your children’s lives as a co-parent (but not their father) whether you like it or not. So he must hear from you: not the angry you, but the “best” you. A carefully planned, well-timed, one-on-one meeting is essential. [Take someone with you – preferably a professional – if it will help you get it accomplished.]

That your wife cheated reflects thoroughly on your wife’s character for it takes two to tangle (have conflict) but only one to cheat. That he too is a cheat (she did not cheat alone) means that it is up to you, for the children’s sake, to take the high road. Therefore I challenge you to do your part to reduce your children’s anxieties (they are not immune to the destructiveness of their mother’s actions) by NOT making this man or your ex-wife your enemy.

The situation you face goes to the heart of what it means to be a man. Can you rise up and do what is right and good and healthy for your children when others are choosing not to do so? Call me. I’d love to talk – these are “primordial” issues and ought not be faced alone.

October 3, 2009

My girlfriend wants to dress me…..

by Rod Smith

“What if your girlfriend insists that you wear certain styles of clothing because you are ‘showing her up’? Why does my girlfriend insist that I’m always turned out and color coordinated? If people are going to look down on me because I don’t always wear smart outfits then they are not the sorts of people I wish to impress. My girlfriend says that she loves me no matter what but still gets concerned about how I’ll make her look in front of others. How can I broach this tactfully?”

Tact won't do it....

Tact won't do it....

Tact is not going to do it. You are going to have to loudly declare that your girlfriend is relieved of all further responsibilities regarding your attire. If you allow her to dress you (so she will look good) the day will come when she will decide what you will and will not say (so she will look clever!). Then she will decide with whom may or may not talk (so she will not feel left out).

If she loves you “no matter what” she’ll respect that you are a separate being. While she thinks your clothes are a reflection on her she is apparently devoid of the healthy boundaries necessary to sustain a healthy long-term relationship.

October 1, 2009

When conflict happens, what happens to children?

by Rod Smith

Reduce your anxiety

Reduce your anxiety

When parents fight children are affected. Many parents have a “not-in-front-of-the-children” policy as if hiding their conflict, or storing it for later use, protects children.

Kindly consider:

1. Healthy conflict between spouses (the kind which leads to deeper love) is inevitable. It can teach children invaluable lessons.
2. Unhealthy conflict between spouses (the kind which desires to hurt or punish) is painful for everyone even if it does not occur “in front of the children.”
3. Children do best when parents work at reducing their own, individual, anxiety. Seeing mother NOT infected by dad’s anxiety, or seeing dad NOT being pulled into mother’s worries, helps children see that authentic love embraces necessary emotional separation. When both mother and father “go under” when mother worries, or both become debilitated by father’s anxiety, the children are emotionally abandoned; they “lose” two adults. No one is holding the ropes. When couples attain necessary emotional separation (growth in the Differentiation of Self) at least one is left standing when and while the other “goes under.” The children are less likely to experience abandonment.
4. Secrets (not the kind which hide “good” surprises) upset families even if (some of) the members of the families are unaware the secret exists.
5. Young children and babies are aware of stresses and strains in a marriage and, while the content of the conflict might not be understood or even heard, the anxiety the child (or baby) experiences and internalizes is unlikely to be easily shed or forgotten.
6. The barriers of protection children erect and serve a necessary purpose in childhood are often hindrances to intimacy and love later on. What serves well in childhood is often not helpful in adulthood.