Archive for October, 2010

October 31, 2010

Love in Harsh Places – November writing competition announced

by Rod Smith

It is counter-intuitive, I know......

I want to see where you saw love in action.... in a harsh or troubled environment

My reading has repeatedly led me to the theme of Love in Harsh Places. Not only is this a common literary theme, I am reminded of it on a daily basis with work I am exposed to around the world.

Bethany O’Conner, an American social worker in Cape Town, exemplifies this in her work with the Baby Safe program (see http://www.TheBabySafe.org). Glenwood High School’s Marshall McKenna and is wife Larisa, against all odds, have built a rehabilitation center for former street children in Campina, Romania. Elisabeth Harness, with Humphrey Waweru, pioneered a home for babies in Nairobi, Kenya. I could go on and on….

During November I request readers to tell me of “Love in Harsh Places”. Where have you encountered love when you least expected it or from an unexpected source? Use 200 words. Submit by November 30th, 2010. The winner gets a R200 gift card for Exclusive Books. Place “Love in Harsh Places” in the subject line. I will publish the winning submission early in December and others that catch my eye as I receive them.

(USA winner will receive a $30 gift card. If you win and you are from neither the USA or South Africa, I will work out the equivalent prize for you where ever you reside!)

October 29, 2010

Change………

by Rod Smith

Is tough if you are not desperate enough. But once a person is able to see the necessity for change, he or she will ultimately move in it’s direction.

Such change is not necessarily geographic and nor does it necessarily require some momentous relational move- it can be internal and unapparent to others for years.

October 28, 2010

Do we have to get along just because we are family?

by Rod Smith

“I was born into a family that has experienced conflict that has affected us for three generations. Not even the education has been able to prevent the inevitable downward spiral or find ways to resolve differences and remain on speaking terms. A sibling and I did attempt to resolve issues and things hobbled along for awhile, but after the last crisis, which involved the passing of a parent, I realised that the members of my family, including in-laws, are too different in outlook and philosophies to ever get along. Some friends have exhorted us to try to make peace, simply because we are ‘family’. This sort of encouragement doesn’t occur when the feuding parties are not related, then people seem to expect one not to be able to effect reconciliations. Is it really so bad that families feud to the extent that they no longer speak? What if they really are happier going separate ways? We often expect far too high a standard from our relatives, simply because they are blood. We have different and apparently irreconcilable standards.” (Edited)

Getting along is not compulsory because of biological ties. Openness to (even) limited dialogue will serve the invisible emotional loyalties. Family cut-offs exacerbate individual issues. Reasonable, even guarded dialogue, is likely to ease some individual anxiety, even if at first it serves to spike it.

October 27, 2010

Taking the high road when faced with family conflict

by Rod Smith

Healthy attitudes when your family is in turmoil:

1. The solution, or at least an approximate solution, begins with me. I will ask myself what can I do to move this issue toward resolution.
2. While I am willing to stand my ground, I will not do so at the cost of the integrity (unity) of the family. Although I know it is not about winning or losing I am willing to appear to lose so the family might win.
3. Taking the “high road” is likely to teach me more than having a win-at-all-cost attitude.
4. Before I confront others I will examine my heart and do what I can to rid myself of unhelpful thinking.
5. I know that in any conflict it is the more mature person (which often has little to do with chronological age) who is key to helping the family find resolution.
6. I will yield rather than hurt, I will forgive rather than harbor resentment, I will hold my tongue rather than use it to increase the conflict.
7. I know that nothing is gained by bringing up past issues, by blaming others, or by judging myself for things in my past with information I have in the present.

October 25, 2010

We just live in the same house……

by Rod Smith

“Married 43 years and I have gone 30 years without sex. Sex wasn’t great from the start. I only did it to please my wife. I have no desire for sex. I told her it was exciting but it wasn’t. Then 13 years down the road and I couldn’t perform any more. Doctor told me I had E/D and high blood pressure. With age I developed other problems, which didn’t help my libido. The little blue pill did nothing for me it actually made me sick. Finally free of sex and intimacy! My wife was really upset and still is. I told her to buy a puppy or find a girl or boy friend to find companion ship. I told her that’s life and I can’t change that. We just live in the same house, she has the upstairs, and I have the down stairs. We share nothing except the garage and laundry room.”

Perhaps this arrangement works for this couple since it has been in operation for several decades. Your insights, comments, suggestions, would be appreciated. I will publish three or four of the most helpful (or insightful or amusing) comments in a day or two.

Two readers respond: See full (unedited) response under comments:

“Marriage is about intimacy and companionship. Even if sexual intimacy is no longer possible through intercourse intimacy should not be destroyed altogether. Each person living in separate locations in the house is indicative of deeper issues. It sounds like a wedge has been driven between the two and sex is the tool to inject more pain. The arrangement lacks humility, honor, and trust. The only difference between this and a divorce is geographic. They are already emotionally, sexually, and physically separated. The arrangement lacks honesty.”

“Why did HE write? He doesn’t seem conflicted, living in an arrangement that he likes. He gives us an example of how ‘normal’ people make life arrangements work that are far from our common cultural ideals (and would be disappointing to most). At this point, 30 years since they last had sex, does he really want to be told how wrong this arrangement is, how ‘unhealthy’ it is? Does he want advice he is not willing to take? He is a known quantity. He knows how he wants to live. It’s his wife that has some hard decisions to make. Either she needs to accept his terms, finally (after 30 years!), or she needs to find some other way to have a fulfilling life that she CAN accept.”

October 24, 2010

He’s not himself since he met her…..

by Rod Smith

“My brother’s new girlfriend is very possessive. He is a different man, for the worse, since they met. We seldom see him. He has to make excuses and lie so he can drop in and see us. Even then he’s constantly on the phone to her while he’s away from her. What responsibilities do I have to let him know what we see or do we just let him go further into this mess? She says he ignores her when he is with us. Please help.”

It is counter-intuitive, I know......

Say it kindly, then let him alone

That your brother is unable to enjoy his family AND have a girlfriend suggests this relationship doesn’t hold much promise. Steal him for a meeting, then stand back and allow him to “go further into this mess.” Both are possible and necessary.

Drop the “we” and “us”. Speak only for yourself. Don’t “corner” him. Simply tell him what you see. Then, leave it up to him.

If you are calm and non-possessive in your approach and during you stolen moments with your brother, it is likely that he will be able to relax and tell you if he is finding the relationship stressful. If you are anxious and demanding (like another woman he knows) it is likely his pushback will push him deeper into her corner.

October 21, 2010

Single mother writes: thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles…..

by Rod Smith

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

“Thank you on behalf all my many single mother friends for the article published yesterday. Thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles. Thank you understanding the many roles we play and the many difficulties we overcome because of our love for our children. Thank you for noting it is near impossible to have a romantic social life as solo parents. Thank you for listing and understanding what women do not need in a potential partner or in friendly advice. I am 50 and the mother of two sons whose fathers disappeared when the going got tough.

“I have been a single mom for 32 years, and despite the challenges, long hours, and little thanks associated with the job of single mom, I have been blessed to have my sons and love them dearly. I am also proud of having still managed to forge a career, own my home, a car, and travel the world. I have recently studied to become a Life Coach. I just sit with the thought that my children did not chose to be born and hence, are entitled to the best Mom and woman I can be. One thing I know is that my son’s will make wonderful Fathers.”

October 18, 2010

Divorced mothers: what these brave women don’t need

by Rod Smith

It is counter-intuitive, I know......

Honor courage when you meet it

Divorced mothers are among the bravest people I have ever met. Not only are many fighting financial battles with a former spouse, they are at the same time negotiating with schools, coordinating visits to doctors, ferrying children to and from sports events, strategizing visits for the children with the other parent, and trying to placate a boss and colleagues at work. Simultaneously, many are trying to maintain some form of sanity though attempting to develop the semblance of a social life while having to face a stigma (thankfully it is diminishing in some cultures) about being divorced at all.

What divorced mothers do not need is:
1. Romantic involvement with a needy man – especially one who is in search of a mother but doesn’t know it.
2. Judgment about her parenting, her discipline, or her children’s behavior.
3. Questions about what went wrong in her marriage, or the suggestion (overt or covert) that had she “given” her marriage to God, or been more obedient or submissive, or prayed more, fasted more, tithed more faithfully, her marriage would have survived.
4. To be thought of as an easy target for sex as if it is the one thing she must surely be missing now that her marriage is over.

October 17, 2010

A counter-intuitive map to greater intimacy…

by Rod Smith

It is counter-intuitive, I know......

Work on yourself, not the relationship

Distinctness (uniqueness, separateness) usually facilitates greater intimacy rather than distracts from it. Couples often think a relationship needs more “glue” (togetherness, common interests, more time together) when, in fact, a relationship might be better served by each person finding a more interesting, more adventurous, a more distinct individual life.

If you cannot be distinct and have the necessary self-awareness to be alone, it is unlikely you will be able to withstand the togetherness-pressures of a truly powerful, intimate, equal, and respectful relationship. He or she who cannot hold his or her own without a partner, will feel overpowered, overcrowded, or consumed when in an equal, respectful, intimate relationship. This is true unless he or she, in the name of love, gets lost in the relationship and “disappears”. Under such circumstances the “weaker” party will experience the relationship as a take-over rather than as a shared, mutual, adventure.

To work at your distinctness:

1. Express your opinion even if it is contrary to what your partner expects or wants to hear.
2. State what you want and don’t want even if it places stress on the relationship you have.
3. Maintain many and diverse non-romantic friendships.
4. Pursue interests outside of your romantic relationship even if your significant other has no interest in the same endeavors.

October 17, 2010

Dating a divorced woman with children…

by Rod Smith

It is counter-intuitive, I know......

Hold back and listen

Postpone meeting the children for as long as possible. Give time to enjoy and know each other without the children. If each of you cannot do this (let’s say she perceives she is unable to be away from the children and you feel somewhat obligated or compelled to include the children in the dating process) then she is not ready to date, and you are not ready to accommodate a woman and children into your life.

When you do meet the children keep out of her relationships with her children. Withhold your opinions (insights, guidance, discipline) if she is not parenting as you think necessary. No matter how much she asks for your input, or how much the children appear to need or love you, if you get prematurely entangled you will ultimately come out second best.

You are at your most helpful when you support, empower, encourage the woman to tap into her internal resources to be fully the mother she is able to be. She has to do this without you if she is ever to be comfortable sharing this with you.

Withhold your opinions about her ex-husband, visitations, her finances, how he treats her or how he treats his children. This potential minefield predates you and you will be better off as a couple if you regard it as none of your business. A relationship built on trying to correct the injustices of her past will not bode well for your future.

Your distinctness (separatness) is more important than your necessary ability to bond with the woman and her children. When the time comes and bonding with both mother and children is necessary, your distinctness will be a life-saving necessity both in the immediate and in the long-term future.