Archive for ‘Divorce’

March 20, 2023

Respect

by Rod Smith

What does respect look like? 

Respect is placing high value on privacy, even, perhaps especially, between and among people who are very intimate with each other. The deeper and greater the intimacy, the greater the need for individual space, even opportunities for extended solitude.

Respect is listening, it’s having the willingness to focus on what another is saying without correcting, interpreting, or interrupting. It’s developing an eye for what another may need or want and looking for ways to serve one another. It’s having an eye for mood and occasion, the ability to read a moment and to sense when strong emotions may call for deeper understanding.

Respect is having an ear for what is not said. It’s the capacity to read between the lines, to discern what may be uncomfortable to express. It is developing an ear to honour what another finds painful, the ability to understand that loved ones may hide pain, may want pain concealed, from some, but not from all.

Respect is found in the appropriate use of touch, touch to affirm, the kind of that says “You are not alone,” and expresses warmth, declaring the pleasure it is to share life with another.

[Merc 3/20/23]

February 23, 2023

Of COURSE he’s hard to get to know…….. (#1)

by Rod Smith

The problem with difficult childhoods in troubled families (pick your conflicts or addictions or stressors or health concerns – or a combination of several) is that children with difficult childhoods have had to dress for self-protection, and, as a lifestyle, have often had to prepare themselves for enduring domestic tensions or wars and regarded it as normal. This is how everyone lives isn’t it?

Once the child becomes an adult its difficult to shed engrained protection measures and essentials and throw off a guarded and conflictual lifestyle even if it’s no longer needed.

Carefree happy children may become carefree happy adults but it’s unlikely a stressed and anxious child will enter realms of stressfree bliss and trusting vulnerability on coming of age.

Adult survivors of difficult childhoods hear things like, “You’re so difficult to get to know,” and “You’re so difficult to get close to,” and “Why does everything have to be a fight?” and proceed with the hard work of adult life that mirrors the hard work of childhood wondering what on earth people are talking about.

************

Unrelated to column: got some new art in our home today: Cameroon artist Patrick Yogo Oumar (see Instagram if interested).

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
June 13, 2018

Are you desperate?

by Rod Smith

If you are desperate, perhaps wondering if life is worth living or even contemplating ending yours, there are a few things I would like you to know:

  • You are more loved and treasured than you probably realize.
  • Your voice is your most powerful weapon. Let someone know about your experience.
  • You have abilities and talents you are yet to discover.
  • Your life is a novel worth writing.
  • If you are still breathing you have the capacity to love.
  • Even if you have encountered rejection and faced failure for most of your life you still have the capacity to forgive and to love. Both capacities come with the human package.
  • There are people who will listen if you let them know you want to talk.
  • You have probably already faced more demanding challenges so you do have the resources to face this one.

You are correct if you respond with, “He doesn’t know me” or “he’s thousands of miles away.” Being far removed does not mean that I do not care. And, I am not the only one who cares. Please, let these simple thoughts seep into your being and perhaps become stepping-stones for you to find hope.

May 29, 2018

Rifts, wars, schisms, in families

by Rod Smith

Extended or immediate family discontent, even family rage, is more easily solved, healed, or negotiated sooner rather than later. Wait too long and it may go on for generations.

The longer schisms linger, the deeper they become and the more entrenched and “default” the reactive behaviors become. Bitterness, cynicism set in. Cut-offs become a way of life. Walls get higher and stronger.

The stories about who did what to who expand, often beyond recognition, in the heads of those who harbor and perpetuate the conflict.

To find healing or reconciliation, the “bigger” person, or the stronger member of the family, or the one who has the highest levels of “differentiation of self,” the one who wants the healing, initiates a conversation. That conversation must be devoid of all blame and all finger pointing. He or she does the necessary preparation and decides exactly what is wanted and what healing in a particular family may look like. Such an initiative demands humility, flexibility, and a deep desire for reconciliation.

Some families have been at war with each other for so long those who started it are long buried and those on the front lines do not even know anymore why they are fighting.

Please, don’t let that be true for you and for your family.

The consequences are too extreme, especially for innocent children who are inevitably caught in the crossfire.

April 18, 2018

Depression

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.

March 20, 2018

Considering an affair, are you?

by Rod Smith

If you’re toying with the idea of an extramarital affair or with the idea of cheating on your partner, may I caution you? Affairs are seductive. They are seductive, not because they woo you into false intimacy, but because affairs lure you away from your crucible of authentic growth, your committed relationship. This is where maturity and fulfillment are available.

An illicit relationship won’t teach you anything worth learning. It will reveal you as one who lacks integrity. It’s a character issue. It’s not about getting the sex you need or the companionship you crave.

If your marriage is not working an affair won’t enduringly help.

The one who is toying with the idea of an extramarital affair is unlikely to even read, let alone heed these words. Attraction is powerful. It’ blinds. The victims of infidelity can seem propelled on a course of self-destruction. The heat of the chase, the heat of the moment, the rush of the deceit and the intricacies of the cover-up can feel like amazing love. It’s not.

Go home. Make right with your spouse, or do whatever you need to do.

An affair won’t heal a lonely heart or help your troubled marriage. It’ll further damage both.

February 6, 2018

Love and freedom and what it is not….

by Rod Smith

Love leads to listening, freedom, warmth, care, and mutual support. It’s sharing dreams; it’s facing challenges together. It’s pooling resources for mutual benefit. It’s providing a safe place for each other and for any children with whom you share your life.

Love is not love when:

  • Coercion is threatened or used
  • There are attempts to seclude or cut off from family and friends
  • Betrayal is threatened or used
  • Love is used to trap, manipulate, or possess
  • Confinement is threatened or used – car keys hidden, doors locked, plans cancelled without consultation or knowledge
  • Privacy is denied (rooms, cupboards, purses, phone, computer, email, conversations)
  • Traps are set to test fidelity
  • Stalking, watching, tracking of any manner is threatened or used
  • Attempt at important talk repeatedly escalate to shouting matches
  • Violence of any kind (physical, sexual, emotional, psychological) of any degree of severity is used
  • Warmth, kindness expressed to others (old friends, family, former colleagues) is given as the reason for jealousy and conflict
  • When the use of alcohol or legal or illegal substances deplete mutual resources and lead to aberrant behavior or conflict

 

January 10, 2018

When your parents tell you they will be divorcing*

by Rod Smith
  • You may not be able to think about anything because such news can be like a powerful anesthetic. Do not be surprised if you feel dizzy and your thoughts and feelings jump around inside you. This may last for a while. You will settle into the new truth about your life and new routines.
  • Your parents will probably tell you they still love you and each other. Try to believe it. This can be very confusing. Parents can often forget they are finishing something they started as adults. They’ve had lives without each other before you came along. It can feel like you are losing everything because you’ve never known life to be any other way. For you love, security, and feeling safe are all wrapped in one package. The package always included both parents. Their change shifts everything about your life.
  • Now that you’ve been told, don’t be surprised if you think you are the only one who did not know it was coming. Your world is the only one you know. This was how you thought life was supposed to be.
  • Many young people create successful lives even though their parents divorced. Decide to do the same.

*Written to 13 and 14 year old