Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

April 18, 2018


by Rod Smith

“Hi, I suffer with severe depression and cannot afford a psychologist can you help me?”

Thank you for your brief email. I am moved and sad that finances prevent you from appropriate help. You have asked your question for millions of people who similarly suffer and had the strength to contact me:

  • Depression comes in a variety of sizes, strengths, shades, and your experience is unique to you. It’s from a wide variety of sources. You’re not to blame for its access into your life. You didn’t do something to deserve or cause it.
  • Letting a handful of trusted friends into your inner circle and telling them about your experience is crucial for your wellbeing. I hope you have such friends and I hope you will let them in. Part of your healing will almost certainly come from significant integration into a caring, small community.
  • Identifying your emotional rhythms: when you are feeling good, when you are not, when you are empowered, and when you are not, and identifying the triggers bookending these rhythms, will give you clues, keys to handling yourself when things are well, and when they are not.

Writing to me took courage. I am a stranger to you. I am a face you see in your morning newspaper. I’d suggest you were in your “best self” when you contacted me, even though you may have been at your most desperate. Access that person. She’s within you. Live from her as much as possible. Let her guide your day. When she is unavailable or uncooperative, lay low, and trust your community. She’s not abandoned you. She will emerge and you will feel empowered again.

Despite the darkness that can be so overwhelming there is a powerful and emboldened woman inside you and she will come out on her own terms. How do I know this? She wrote to me. I have her email.

April 16, 2018

His ex-wife asks the children questions….

by Rod Smith

“My husband’s ex gets involved in our lives by asking their twins (12) about our lives. She snoops through the children by asking them questions about their visits with their dad and with me. I don’t like this. Some things are none of her business. How do I get this to stop?”

You don’t get it to stop. Just as you correctly think that what goes on in your home is none of your husband’s ex-wife’s business, so is what the children talk about to their mother none of yours. The mother of the twins is at liberty to ask her children whatever she wants. The children are at liberty to talk about whatever they want with their mother – and with you.

If you silence the children you may meet your short-term goals but you will also send the unwanted message that the children cannot divulge other matters you may indeed want them to speak up about.

A better option than trying to monitor conversations of which you are not a part, is to live in such a manner that you’d be proud of anything the twins wish to report to their mother.

Shutting children down is not a good idea. You may pay the price of them shutting down around you forever.

April 15, 2018

Monday’s prayer upon rising

by Rod Smith
  • May I be a source of healing rather than of hurt or injury.
  • May I value other people more than things.
  • May I apologize sincerely and efficiently when I wrong others.
  • May I be immovable about matters of my integrity but understanding when others fall short.
  • May I give my full attention when I am in conversation with others and listen more than I speak.
  • May I become the most generous and optimistic person I know.
  • May I learn to avoid using and believing damaging stereotypes.
  • May I resist knee-jerk reactions to issues of race and equality.
  • May I bring optimism to others when they most need it.
  • May I learn to avoid gossip or saying things that are unhelpful or untrue.
  • May I learn to promote the strengths of others.
  • May I learn from losing and not gloat in victory.
  • May I give my children all the freedom necessary for growth and adventure.
  • May I learn to be a listening ear.
  • May I learn to live fully in the present while designing a great future and valuing my past.
  • May I enjoy deep connection with others and necessary separation from others.
April 11, 2018

We are attracted to each other but….

by Rod Smith

“Is it possible to have a lasting and fulfilling relationship with someone who is on a different intellectual level and who also does not share many interests with you? Emotionally and physically there is a connection but I fear that eventually I will get bored or we’ll drift due to intellectual differences.”

People of varying or differing intellects can do well together. I’d suggest it is more complex. “Intellectual” is only one component.

If he bores you, you can always read a good book or spend time with a more interesting friend. He can do the same if it is you who bores him.

Rather, I am going to use the term “differentiated.” People who are equally differentiated (or not) will find each other attractive. Needs calls out to needs and strengths calls out to strengths.

Your mutual attraction is because you are similarly differentiated – despite levels of intellect. If you are not on a similar level of differentiation I’d suggest you’re in for battles.

The lower (more needy) levels will find the higher (less needy) to be standoffish or arrogant. The more differentiated person in the two-some will find the person lower on the scale to be high-maintenance or suffocating.

 The fact that you are asking this question is a really healthy sign. Love is usually blind and avoids important questions.

April 9, 2018

Be the adult you want your children to be

by Rod Smith

Today, and every day, be the adult you hope your children will become. How else will they learn it?

  • Stop blaming the teachers, coaches, or the school for your child’s every challenge, difficulty, or hurdle. Blame restricts maturing, yours and theirs.
  • Stop blaming the government, the economy, or prejudice for every distress or dilemma you face, unless you think blame will be a good tool for your child to take into adulthood. If you want your children to be adults who take responsibility for their lives then show them how it’s done.
  • Your children won’t forget your temper tantrums no matter how young they may be; they will emulate them.
  • Demonstrate, by your own display of excellent manners, the manner in which you hope your child will navigate life and relationships. It is true, they are going to watch and learn from multiple sources, but you are their primary resource when it comes to how they will respect and treat others. Little eyes are watching.
  • Respect, visit, and be kind to the elderly so they know exactly how to do it when it’s your turn.
  • Dismiss no one; look down on no one. Young eyes and ears are absorbing how to be in the world, and you, parents, are the primary teachers.
April 4, 2018

My wife’s drinking bothers me

by Rod Smith

“I think my wife (4 years) is drinking too much. She says it relieves her stress. I sometimes join her. If I refuse she badgers, calls me playful names, and gets out of control after a few. It’s always at home. It’s always just the two of us. It’s unpleasant if I won’t join her. I think she is an alcoholic or at least almost one. We are still hoping to have children. I am nervous about her drinking when she pregnant. I am nervous about life with an alcoholic. I saw what my mother went through with my father. How do I get her help?”  

An informal way to assess if a behavior is already (or becoming) an addiction is as follows:

  • Does the person experience cravings for the substance?
  • Has a job or status been lost because of the activity?
  • Has a significant relationship been threatened or lost because of the behavior?

If any one is positive the person is an addict or well on the way to being one.

Addicts don’t usually enjoy or respond well to exposure or confrontation. Denial is the usual response. In the cold light of a sober morning-moment, express your fears to your wife. Show her this column. She might not buckle and agree to run for help immediately or warm to either of us, but it may well set her sober mind thinking.

April 2, 2018

What people want

by Rod Smith

This past week has been pivotal for me. I have now had the privilege of teaching on every continent. I have not, like a handful of people I know, been to every country on Earth – but there’s still time.

In the process I read listen as much as I can and I gather people-stories.

While there are people in the depths and on the fringes of severe mental health issues in all communities and in all cultures and to whom this may not apply, I have discovered both up-close and casually, that people are much the same in despite differences in culture, language, race, and expressions of faith or the apparent lack of it:

  • People are helpful and pleasant when you yourself are friendly and open.
  • People want to belong, they want respect, they want worthwhile endeavors into which they can plow their idea, talents, and strength.
  • People will do about anything for their children, especially their education.
  • Bitterness and family resentments can lodge themselves in families, rich and poor, and can pervert thinking and perceptions for generations for those families.
  • It takes just one family member who is in the midst of most entangled of toxic family circumstances to begin dramatic positive shifts when he or she embraces the courage to live a life of forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace.
March 27, 2018

Other people’s stories

by Rod Smith

People often find other people’s true stories inspiring.

Please tell me your story if any of the following topics apply to you. Try to keep it to 200 or fewer words and include permission for me to run it in You and Me.

I will not print your name unless you specifically indicate you want your name included.

  • You left your spouse for another man or woman and it did, or did not, turn out well.
  • You have seen a radical change in a family member for good or for ill.
  • You were abandoned in a marriage but came back from the trauma to live really fully and well, or, if you never did really recover.
  • You are an adult who was adopted as a child and finding your birth parent(s) was, or was not, a rich and rewarding experience.
  • You left South Africa to live in another country but returned.
  • You have witnessed amazing acts of grace and forgiveness and generosity.
  • You have worked for the most difficult boss in the world and survived.
  • You have witnessed or experienced a miraculous act of friendship.
  • You found love in a most unexpected place or from a most unexpected source.
March 25, 2018


by Rod Smith

I have the joy and privilege of traveling this week – alone. My sons’ schools “spring breaks” do not line up with mine, and so they’re home and I have just ended a long trek to Curitiba, Brazil via Toronto and Sao Paulo.

Indianapolis was hit this weekend with a giant snowstorm and we sat in the plane on the runway for three hours waiting for the plane to be de-iced before we could head for Toronto. So the journey didn’t start well.

After a long night awake on the nine-hour flight to Sao Paulo and while passengers were emptying the overhead bins and waiting to de-plane, my name was announced over the intercom. I was asked to immediately identify myself to the gate agent. Mine was the only name called.

Connecting flight change, I thought. What amazed me was that in my tired state during the short walk from row 37 to the front of the plane my anxiety triggered. My sons have been in an accident. The house has burned. Your sister’s ill. Your brother needs you. You’re back on the next flight. Calm down, I told myself.

“Your flights been rebooked, Mr. Smith,” said the Air Canada representative, “you’re going to Curitiba three hours earlier than ticketed.”

HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired: messes with our thinking.

March 21, 2018

Keeping healthy

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

We are all immersed in an endless connection of triangles, the unavoidable building blocks of all relationships.

Our individual challenge is to keep them healthy. If you, in your corner, are as healthy (high-functioning) as you can be, and I, in my corner, am as healthy as I can be, we are positioned to ward off the dis-ease (the lack of ease) that comes with being unsuitably “cornered” by less than healthy men and women.

Keep the inevitable triangle as healthy as possible by:

• Knowing who you are and being unafraid to express it

• Knowing what you want and being unafraid to pursue it

• Refusing to engage in gossip of any kind

• Refusing to engage in negative talk about others

• Listening, really listening, not waiting to reply or formulating a reply while another is speaking

• Keeping short accounts with others by apologizing and forgiving regularly and efficiently

• Thanking others for kindnesses observed and kindnesses received

• Opening doors (literally and figuratively) for others and being willing for others to get the credit you could legitimately claim

• Valuing relationships over being right and over so-called winning.