Archive for December, 2009

December 31, 2009

For 2010 — here we go…..

by Rod Smith

Thanks for being a part of my work...

I am not sure how many “You and Me” columns (or “Difficult Relationships” columns) I have written in 2009 – but, apart from minimal technical limitations of email occasionally occurring, as far as I know I have not skipped a day. As “You and Me” has become an integral part of my daily routine going back about ten years, I have often asked myself what it is that so motivates me. Friends, of course, who are regularly fascinated by this anomaly (how many people do you know who write a daily newspaper column that is published 12,000 miles away?) ask me the same question.

I think I know the reasons:

1. I thoroughly love the discipline of family therapy,
2. I deeply desire to make an impact with my life,
3. I need the daily discipline required to form the column everyday, and
4. Being in your daily paper is a fine way to stay connected with my roots.

It’s 2010. It’s time to invigorate our emotional, physical, and psychological lives afresh. Thanks to all the readers who offer this column support and to the many who write to me on a daily basis. One of my deepest regrets is that I cannot write and talk to every one personally – but it is certainly not without trying.

Thanks for a great 2009, this year is going to be even better!

December 28, 2009

Divorce is as war…….

by Rod Smith

“I have been married for many wonderful, happy years. For the past several months my husband has been behaving in a ‘detached’ way and every time I’ve tried to get to the bottom of it he has blamed business pressures and the fact that he lost a lot of money in a business venture this year. A few days ago he told me he wanted a divorce. He said he wasn’t happy and that he’d fallen out of love with me. He refuses to go for marriage guidance as his mind is made up. How can someone just ‘fall out of love’? Surely in a marriage love is a choice? I just don’t understand it. He says no other women are involved. Surely his being ‘unhappy’ is all about him being unhappy with himself right now? I haven’t changed. I’m still the same person that he used to love and used to be happy with. Obviously I’m absolutely devastated right now. We don’t have children. I know that I have no control over how he feels and I think my best option is to try to take care of myself as best I can, although that’s easier said that done right now.”

Begin to take up your life....

Five tough points, perhaps the last things you want to hear:

1. That your husband claims to no longer love you does not render the past years of love and happiness any less real.
2. You will gain nothing by caving in, losing your way, because of his revelation. Continuing to mourn ought not inhibit your determination to begin building a new life.
3. “Thinking single”, while it is the last thing you want to do, must immediately become core to the manner in which you see life. While it is tantamount to relearning how to walk, it is essential. While you’d prefer things to be different it is time to take up your life, put back the pieces and maneuver yourself (with the help of close friends) through the quagmire of emotions and justified anger.
4. Given that your husband wants to proceed with a divorce, remember that divorce is more like war than anything else. Secure a good lawyer. Get everything you are due from the marriage. Allowing him to handle everything would be very unwise.
5. Trying to understand the unreasonableness of your husband’s position is an attempt to reason with the unreasonable. It is understandable but it is a wild goose-chase.

December 28, 2009

He keeps coming back. Why?

by Rod Smith

“I have been married for twenty years to a habitual liar. He cannot speak the truth. He has had numerous affairs but still comes home. Why? I have asked him to leave but he says he never will. I have reached the end and am going to divorce him in the New Year. The problem is he continually gets into debt and cannot repay his debts. I have unhappy for 20 years, but stuck hoping that this man would change. He has told me that I am ugly. I still look after him; cook, clean, and wash. I no longer have any sexual relationship with him and he thinks he is the victim. The question is why does he still come back home?”

Your happiness is in your hands, not his. It appears you are at least as resistant to change as he is. He comes back because you allow him to. Get your eyes off his flaws and focus on your behavior. I continually meet men and women who are experts on their spouse’s behavior while, at the same time, appear to be blind to how their own behavior contributes to what the spouse is able to do and not do.

December 27, 2009

He’s the sweetest guy for me….

by Rod Smith

“Not every married man’s situation is the same. I have a friend who is a married man who happens to be so unhappy it just makes my heart break. He has been nothing but the sweetest guy for me. Whether or not we end up together isn’t the end goal, it’s ALL about being happy and sharing that with each other. It is true an extremely happy marriage won’t leave a spouse ripe for an affair, but to tell someone they have to stay miserable while in one and have no way to share happiness with another human being is absurd.”

Deal with what you have, first.

Any relief a married man finds outside of his marriage will be short-lived and heartbreaking to all concerned. The issue regarding “your” unhappy man is not whether he can be “sweet” to you but whether he can be honest with his wife. Of course I am aware that not all marriages must continue for some are beyond toxic, but the solution is not reached by searching outside of the marriage while a person is still in it.

Affairs are seductive, seducing you away from the real problem, and preventing an arrival at its solution. If it is ” ALL about being happy and sharing with each other” and you choose to do so with a man who is married, it will ALL be very powerful, and very temporary.

December 23, 2009

Getting ready for 2010….

by Rod Smith

When all the hoopla surrounding the season subsides I’d challenge you to take stock, to assess, to reflect upon the following questions as you prepare for the New Year:

1. Am I up to date on telling those whom I love that I do indeed love them?
2. Am I up to date with forgiveness, or am I withholding it from someone and therefore stunting my own growth and maturity?
3. Have I exercised wild generosity toward members of my family, my friends, and my enemies, which reflects my capacity to empower and to give?
4. Am I out of integrity with anyone, anywhere, and, in the event that I am, am I willing to take every step necessary and required to set matters straight?
5. Am I blaming anyone or anything for the manner in which my life is not pleasing to me? What will it take to stop living as a victim and to start living as a highly functional responsible member of a community?
6. Am I under-functioning (being lazy) in some of my roles and over-functioning (enabling the laziness in other) in other roles? Am I willing to bring correction where correction is necessary?
7. Are all my adult relationships mutual, respectful, and equal?

December 23, 2009

Some things are simply overrated in their power to influence and form you….

by Rod Smith

Some things are overrated for their power to shape people. Before I am barraged with mail, kindly note I am not suggesting these things are not important. I am suggesting they are offered more power to heal or hurt than appropriate:

1. Parenting: While of course it is important parents do all they can to be good parents, do the right and loving thing, and be available to help and correct and love their young – multiple factors influence and shape children into adults. Thank God my children are infinitely more than, much more, than a product of my parenting.

2. Empathy: Counselors spend much time developing their ability to embrace the experience of the client – as if understanding the client, feeling what the client feels, is in itself the silver bullet of greater mental health. Empathy is not, in itself, a useful end. Thank God my professors offered me personal challenges, invited me to embrace change, while also attempting to understand and embrace my experience.

3. Childhood: I believe our self-help culture has managed to convince the masses that, pivotal to ensuring healthy adulthood, is a happy childhood. While no one in their right mind desires an unhappy childhood for any child, an unhappy childhood does not preclude a person from a full, purposeful, and prosperous adulthood. Look around you: many men and women with the most troubled of childhoods have risen above it all and changed the world – for good.

December 22, 2009

If you were my client….

by Rod Smith

It would be my joy

Thank you for including me into your life as your therapist. I trust you will find what you are looking for, and more. If you know how I perceive the therapeutic process, what I think and hope to be able to do, you might be better positioned to understand the development of our shared journey. You might also be better able to determine our suitability as client and therapist. It is naive to think our styles will necessarily click. I hope our therapy is creative, fun, and brings you to the results you want. If at times the process is painful, I will do my best to ensure that you (we) are able to get the best out of the pain.

When therapy begins I ask myself, “What will it take for you to live to your full potential and have enduring intimate relationships?” I ask myself what it will take for me not to interfere with your journey. I think about what it will take for us to connect in the most helpful manner, for the greatest return. I remind myself that every person, if he or she desires it, can discover his or her unique calling and destiny. This destiny, I believe, will be unveiled in the process of living deeply and thoughtfully. I remind myself that we all have the capacity for wellness and the capacity to take responsibility for our lives. I remind myself that most often people come for therapy because they feel a specific need or face a specific problem. This “felt need” can be far removed from the real cause, and the “real cause” might forever elude us, or be irrelevant to the process.

Whatever the immediate problem, whatever is its origins, it is drawing our attention to the larger patterns being created with your life. I remind myself that while such patterns might possibly be clear for me to identify, it is my clarity that could keep me from ever connecting with you or your family. In other words: I will try not to be so sure of myself. I remind myself that the pain you are feeling is what you probably want to talk about. In the telling of your story, you will give your insights about how you see the world, your world, yourself, and your relationships. I will see something of what you believe about life and family and what I call your “tribal code.”

I will try to understand that if you are like most people, you do not want to be well, and you probably do not want to be free. Rather, as I also often want, you want to be pain-free. You probably want balance, and to have a life that feels manageable, which, of course, can easily be confused with wellness. I try to remind myself that, like me, you probably want to have your needs met and have perhaps forgotten that having your needs met is very likely to leave you somewhat miserable or feeling as unfulfilled as you now feel. I will try to help you identify your network of visible and invisible loyalties that surround you. I will try to show you how this crowd of interested on-lookers can switch from being for to against you in a flash.

I will try to hear what you consider “sacred cows” as you give them voice. I will try to see your perceptions of what family, health, relationships, and everything else means to you. I will try to see what you consider certain and what you consider uncertain.

I will see myself as being on your side, no matter what, but this does not mean it will always appear as such to you. You, in cooperation with the power of God, are the resource for your empowering or healing. It does not rest with me. I believe that what you need lies within you. I believe this is true even when it comes to matters of faith and trust in God.

I believe that even God will leave some things totally up to you. Said another way; the ball will seldom leave your court. It is always your play. While being fully aware of where the responsibility lies for your life, I will try to remember how difficult I find it to access my own soul and bring desired changes to my own life.

I will try to remember the many misconceptions that are often brought into the therapist/client relationship as we attempt to connect in the deepest recesses, and often the darkest recesses, of what is important to you. You might believe that I am endowed with some special ability to see into your life, the future, your family, your head or anyplace else that you believe is hidden from you. Then, you might believe that I have the keys to your life and that on some magical day I will hand the keys to you. You might believe that the relationship we develop is exactly the relationship for which you have been searching. In all of these matters and misconceptions you will join the ranks of people all over the world who give misplaced power to therapists, pastors, priests, and rabbis. I will try to always remember that these misconceptions are indeed misconceptions even when I am tempted to believe them myself.

I will try to remember that I am flawed and have regularly needed assistance when my own goals have needed clarification or when I have wandered from what is really important. I will remember that I have needed help to recognize and befriend afresh my vision and dreams and desires. My heart has frequently needed realignment after a seduction; large or small, when the temporal parade as significant.

I will recall that I stand in a context of both success and failure, and that I have benefited greatly from loyal friends, and supporters, detractor and enemies who inhabit my current context and my distant history and my present. I will try to remember that the better I am at living my own life; the better I am able to engage in helpful therapeutic encounters.

I will try to remind myself that every time a person allows me to see his or her life, I am entering holy territory. I know that what we will see together, do together and experience together will somehow connect us both with the beauty of our individual and shared humanity.

Because of what you discover through therapy, I hope your life holds the possibility of being that much more meaningful to you. People in your circle of influence are likely to benefit from your commitment to authentic relationships and we would all have had a greater taste of (authentic) community.

December 19, 2009

He wants me out of my “old lady night gown” …..

by Rod Smith

“My boyfriend gets really angry to the point of almost leaving me because I have on my ‘old lady night gown’ when any maintenance man comes to our house. When I’m at home I like to be relaxed in a loose flowered long night gown. I hate wearing outside clothes when I’m at home. I feel that I shouldn’t have to go through changes by running in my room to hurry up to put on clothes. My boyfriend doesn’t want them to see me dressed this way. But I think I have nothing to show them because my hair isn’t done at home and I’ve gained a lot of weight the last couple of years and my face is plain. What should I do?”

Fortify your boundaries and stay out of control

Fortify your boundaries

Dress how ever you want. You are an adult. A man who has to control how a significant other dresses is clearly not engaged in too many meaningful pursuits. It’s a very small man who monitors the wardrobe of others and, if you give into it, next thing he’ll be choosing your friends, deciding what you should be reading, thinking about, and finding funny. It’s not about clothes – it’s about control.

Fortify your boundaries and stay out of control – especially when it comes from someone you love. Remember Love and Control cannot exist together in the same relationship. They are mutually exclusive – always. No exceptions. In other words, and forgive me if I am beating a dead horse, you cannot both LOVE and CONTROL the same person.

Of course, when you do stand up to such a man you will pay a price. He’ll kick and scream (hopefully not literally) and plead and say you don’t love him. Then he’ll become all boyish and try to charm you into obedience. When you allow all these tricks to fail he will have at least two options: leave, or grow up. No matter what his decision, you will always be better off if you are the one making decisions about what you do and don’t wear. Remember it is not about clothing – it is about regarding you as a possession, or respecting you as a separate, unique person.

December 17, 2009

How to ruin the festive season…

by Rod Smith

I've seen all of these done to perfection....!

1. Re-ignite resolved conflicts as if they have never been resolved. If you can’t recall an old conflict, invent one or start something new. Good openers are always “your mother always” or “your brothers are….” or remarks about how someone in the family handles his or her children?
2. Measure love by the price paid for gifts. If you are unsure what something cost, simply ask.
3. Ask for receipts so it makes cashing in or exchanging gifts easier for you.
4. Sneer at handmade or homemade gifts.
5. Get all bent out of shape if someone forgets you – especially if you know it is unintentional.
6. Make the entire festive season about getting what you want.
7. Talk incessantly and loudly (especially about how things used to be) and never listen.
8. Complain as much as possible – the weather, economy, overcrowding, and crime rates are good starters.
9. Wear your feelings on your sleeve so you can be offended as much as possible – especially about things that do not involve you or are none of your business.
10. Practice being as reactive and emotional as possible so you can cause a scene at the drop of a hat.

December 17, 2009

He’s leaving the children and me for someone he found on the Internet…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband told me four weeks ago that he does not love me anymore and he has felt like this for the last seven years. We have three small children and have been married ten years. He has found someone through the Internet and he loves her and he is waiting until after Christmas to see if he will move out. I still love him so much even though he has broken my heart. I don’t know how I am going to carry on. Please help.” (Edited grammar)

Don't hide his actions.....

Although you must face tough issues, it is time for you to go into action. I will offer you only the first step in your long journey: Rally the support of your extended family, in-laws, neighbors, and all you consider friends, and let them all know what you are facing. Call a community meeting if you must. In such conversations, or at such a meeting, do not seek pity, sympathy or revenge. Simply state the truth about what is happening and confess your need of help and support as you face possible desertion from your husband and the father of your children. Do not protect a man who is willing to leave his wife and children for someone he hardly knows, let alone believe he loves.