Archive for October, 2016

October 24, 2016

Danger brews

by Rod Smith

This week I have interviewed a woman whose husband:

  • Destroyed her underwear because he couldn’t get the thought out of his head of another man seeing her in it. She has never had an affair. He has.
  • Listens to her voicemails and messages and records her phone calls without her knowledge. Any call with a man (she is a saleswoman with many male clients) is “decoded” into affair-talk.
  • Not worked in years. He has to stay home and make sure his wife is meeting men when he is not home.
  • Blames her for covering for him when his alcohol issues began. He says he would have gotten help had she not lied.

Clearly the husband is a very troubled man and both people need help. It became clear to me once more, as it has in so many situations, that the woman (usually) is an expert in the behavior of her husband but somewhat (not fully) unaware of her own behavior. It became very clear to the woman that she is in danger of her life. As a result of our meeting she will pursue the divorce she’s already planned.

I am thankful to share these generalities and would encourage any woman facing anything vaguely similar to get help. Some men (and women) are very dangerous.

October 16, 2016

More about rebound relationships

by Rod Smith

“I read about rebound relationships – please explain.”

The term is used to describe a relationship that is in reaction to a breakup or a loss where one or both parties enters a relationship before finding “closure” on the immediate-past relationship:

  • Falling in love (or into a relationship) to fill a vacuum rather than because of who the new person is.
  • Falling in love (or into a relationship) because the grieving or abandoned person has apparently nowhere else to go.
  • Falling in love (or into a relationship) out of anger, revenge, or to prove a point, in the wake of a troubled breakup.
  • Falling in love (or into a relationship) out of a sense of novelty rather than because of who the new person is.
  • Experimenting with someone and dating as a sense of loss dissipates without being honest about intentions.
  • Entering a relationship because being alone is too frightening or shameful to contemplate.
  • Falling into a new relationship thoughtlessly and therefore showing little or no respect oneself or for the new person.
  • Entering a new relationship when the past relationship has not fully ended.
October 16, 2016

Being collegial…..

by Rod Smith

Secrets to working relationships:

  • See every opportunity or challenge as a potential to learn something new or to grow in new ways. No matter how many years experience you have there’s always room to learn and to grow. Your teachers may often be half your age. Get used to it.
  • See every conflict as an opportunity to learn more about grace and forgiveness. This is not some odd subservience or rolling over and playing dead. It’s acknowledging your possible part in any conflict and the willingness to learn from it – even if you didn’t cause it.
  • Do what you can to cooperate even with those who are not necessarily in your camp or on your side. Building bridges is usually better than burning bridges.
  • When you are wrong or make a miscalculation or a misjudgment or you over react to something admit it and make things as right as you are able. The truth is always better and easier to deal with. Nothing can be solved if you are protecting image over integrity or accuracy.
  • Volunteer wildly, but stay within your skills and talents. Things work better in organizations when people do the jobs they are hired to do and resist “bleeding” into other areas they are not necessarily skilled to work in – even as a volunteer.
October 13, 2016

What to do with helicopter parents….

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to knock so-called helicopter parents – the ever-present, ever-serving, ever advocating parents who are perpetually running interference with schools and coaches, often in ways that can be stifling, even damaging the very children around whom they hover.

All behavior has meaning. Parents “helicopter” their children (I’m amused that I used “helicopter” as a verb) for deep, powerful and hidden reasons, reasons often vastly beyond simple formulae or fixes.

What I do know is that it has nothing to do with the child.

I’d motivate for understanding, empathy, awareness, and acceptance for the helicopter parent.

Perhaps it is fear driven. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust with origins long before the child was born. Perhaps the child is regarded as a lifeline to something saner, more tolerable than the parent has ever known. Perhaps the parent has been used and discarded in the past and is dead set on safeguarding so history will not be repeated. Perhaps the marriage is perched precariously on hopes of the child’s success.

There are reasons to fear, lack trust, to want a life more powerful and meaningful than the parent may have known.

Empathy, awareness, acceptance, and understanding may go a long way to secure the helicopter’s safe landing rather than the humor or rejection used to shoot it down.

October 12, 2016

To women and girls everywhere

by Rod Smith

Run from men (and boys) who are more interested in your body than in your brain. Your appearance may be in some cases the first point of mutual attraction but if things don’t move beyond that within the first three minutes, forget it.

Bleach (borrowed from the debate) the thought that you are “half” waiting to become “whole” because of some man who will “complete” you. You’re not an incomplete jigsaw puzzle. You are a full person, partner or no partner.

• Relationships are not a game to be won or lost and flee men who treat them as such. If you (or he) treat relationships like a game of Chess, Risk, or Monopoly, you will probably end up rather lonely and bitter.

It’s not your job to train or to teach men (and boys) how to treat women. That’s what parents do. If his parents were unsuccessful, hope life itself teaches him. Don’t take it on. If you assume the role of teacher or guide and you marry, you will be signing up for an exhausting lifetime of parenting your spouse.

Enjoy your friends. The “right” man (or boy) will make you even more thrilled to be yourself than you already are. He will selflessly love your joy, encourage your freedom, and embrace everything about you. Please, settle for nothing less.

October 9, 2016

You did not mention the rebound….

by Rod Smith

“I am quite surprised at the advice you gave the family of a widower of five moths and his new dating venture. While one would be churlish to discourage the man feeling his way into a new position in society at large, I would have expected you to raise a cautionary note on rebound relationships. I have known several to fail and cause great heartbreak all round. It will be difficult to get the message across but perhaps a confidant with no strong emotional attachments would be the one to have a quiet chat to the widower.”

Thank you for your beautiful response. A “cautionary note on rebound relationships” from “a confidant” may well be a way to avoid further heartbreak.

I did not raise rebounds for three reasons:

  • Adult sons and daughters tend (in my experience) to treat the bereaved parent as if in the loss, mom or dad also lost autonomy, something of adulthood.
  • “I lost my wife, not my brain,” I heard a man say. Loss does not turn an adult into a child.
  • People who find new romantic attachments (at 17 or 70) become unreachable and resist logic. Resisting, blocking the new attachments causes fruitless, unnecessary conflicts that become hurdles when support is later needed.
October 8, 2016

Why we don’t use pornography

by Rod Smith

Why we don’t use pornography – an on-going conversation for parents to have with their sons and daughters – and I will continue to have with my sons:

Women are more than body parts.Behind the body part is a person. She is a woman with dreams, and ambitions. She’s part of an immediate and an extended family. No matter what her circumstances, and no matter how complicit (or not) she may have been in allowing herself (or not) to be used in this manner, you know better.

Just as she is a victim of someone’s cruel plan, by participating in this impersonal and detached manner, you, when you indulge yourself with her image, you become another who uses her, who disregards her humanity. You dehumanize her and you do the same to yourself.

She, whoever she is, is to be treasured. She is not to be faceless, not for you or for anyone. She has a face, even if you can’t see it or will ever see it. You know that.

The moment you separate this person from her body and segment her into parts – in your head – in your head you do the same within yourself. You sell yourself the lie that bodies are more important than relationships. You sell yourself on the lie that what you think you need can be gained at the expense of another.

You engage in the lie that you need some-THING rather than embark on the journey of intimately knowing some-ONE.

I will not police you. I will not dig in your closets or drawers. I will not examine your computer or your phone. It is more important that you have a dad than that you have a live-in policeman. My prayer is that you will always see other people as people to treasure and never need anyone to monitor you, because you do such a fine job of monitoring yourself. I know you can – I see you do it so well every day.

October 6, 2016

Things my boys (sometimes) do that I love:

by Rod Smith
  • Stand up for the underdog
  • Stand up to each other without escalating whatever the issue is into a conflict
  • Stand up for each other if I am being irrational or unfair
  • Stand up to me my low-level or tanglible anxiety distorts my thinking
  • Stand up to me and to other adults without being rude or obnoxious
  • Volunteer to assist people in need without being nudged to do so
  • Be thoroughly honest when anything less might have gone unnoticed
  • Open doors for others, stand back for others, offer their seats to others (even to peers) just because it’s the right, good, and possible
  • Ask me how my day is going and whether I am getting things done as planned
  • Reflect on something they admire about someone we may know
  • Have some awareness of how their individual needs and wants impact our family

Before you have the impression that my sons have sprouted angel wings be assured they have not. At the same time, I have seen them do all of the above in one context or another. What’s very reassuring is that I know that they know what is good and right even when they may not always do it.

October 4, 2016

Reader responds re moving on too quickly……

by Rod Smith

“I read your column today on moving on (quickly) after death. Whilst I sympathise with this family who are still grieving they need to remember that they started mourning the loss of their loved one when she recently died. The husband, on the other hand, started his mourning when they got the diagnosis of his wife’s ‘long illness.’ So he is much further along the path of healing. No one knows what intimate conversations took place whilst he and his wife, side by side, endured her long illness. After 40 years of marriage he has proved his love and loyalty. I have told my husband that should I die before him my dearest wish is that he will move on as soon as he can and find happiness and companionship with someone else. I can’t bear the thought of him all alone and sad.”

You are a very healthy woman and I thank you for your insights. You affirm an idea or an insight that I have frequently had when faced with this reasonably common scenario. A good marriage can become a platform of empowerment after the loss of a partner. Your selflessness shows, you want your husband’s happiness even if you are not the one enjoying it with him.

October 1, 2016

Differentiation of self

by Rod Smith

Self-Differentiation (a term coined by family therapy pioneer, Murray Bowen) is a progressive, internal interplay between autonomy (separation) and connection (togetherness) while progressing toward developing and known goals.

Being an authentic adult is hard work and a never completed task. The pathway is paved with difficulty and challenge.

To become an adult, every person faces the task of the differentiation of self.

Not to differentiate is to fuse (the failure to become a separate person) with others and to place responsibility on others (or on situations, predicaments, and hurdles) for the way in which our lives develop. To differentiate is to provide a platform for maximum growth and personal development for everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation is described in many ways in the following points:

1. Growing in the ability to see where and how I fit into my family, the position I hold and the power that is and is not given to that position.
2. Growing in the ability to be fully responsible for my own life while being committed to growing closer to those I love.
3. Intentionally developing, at the same time, autonomy and intimacy. In developing autonomy I set myself towards achieving my dreams and ambitions. In developing intimacy, I allow those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. Being willing to say clearly who I am and who I want to be while others are trying to tell me who I am and who I should be.
5. Staying in touch with others (co-workers, family members, neighbors) while, and even though, there is tension and disagreement. (This does not include a former spouse or former in-laws or any situation regarding a romance gone sour.)
6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without imposing my needs upon them.
7. Being able to understand what needs I can and cannot meet in my own life and in the lives of others.
8. Understanding that I am called to be distinct (separate) from others, without being distant from others.
9. Understanding that I am responsible to others but not responsible for others
10. Growing in the ability to live from the sane, thinking and creative person I am, who can perceive possibilities and chase dreams and ambitions without hurting people in the process.
11. Growing in the ability to detect where controlling emotions and highly reactive behavior have directed my life, then, opting for better and more purposeful growth born of creative thinking.
12. Deciding never to use another person for my own ends and to be honest with myself about this when I see myself falling into such patterns.
13. Seeing my life as a whole, a complete unit, and not as compartmentalized, unrelated segments.
14. Making no heroes; taking no victims.
15. Giving up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armour who will save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living.
16. Paying the price for building, and living within community. I am not suggesting some form of communal or shared living. I am suggesting the differentiated person finds a place with others while also being separate from others.
17. Moving beyond “instant” to process when it comes to love, miracles, the future, healing and all the important and beautiful things in life.
18. Enjoying the water (rather than praying for it to be wine), learning to swim (rather than trying to walk on water).

(Please PRINT this page and STUDY it. Spread it around your office and among your friends. Read more writers about this concept. The ONLY thing I ask in return is that you let me know you printed it – by leaving a comment – and you SPREAD the word to others.)