Archive for ‘Grief’

March 14, 2017

I ask a woman….

by Rod Smith

I ask a woman how her life is going and she tells me about her children. She’s very forthcoming. I hear about their failures and successes and their disappointments and their accomplishments in sports.

So I ask again how she is enjoying her life and she tells me about her children’s teachers and how dedicated they are and how they go the extra mile for her sons and how much she appreciates it and how happy her sons are at school.

I persist and ask her if she has any close friends and how much time she spends with her peers and she tells me how her sons’ friendships are a little disappointing to her and that sometimes they get left off birthday party lists and how much it hurts her when that happens and how she wishes adults were more sensitive to her children.

I ask the same woman who happens to also be a wife how she is enjoying her husband and she tells me they “work together” as parents and they are almost always on the “same page.”

I press in and ask the woman if she has a life outside of being a mom and she gives me that blank look as if I have no idea what I am talking about.

June 5, 2012

Affairs are seductive, they seduce you from what’s important

by Rod Smith

Extramarital affairs are very seductive. They appear to offer better, more intense passion than the marriage. Hide and seek will do this, spawning the kind of relationship we wished was possible with a spouse. It’s amazing how “attractive” someone can sound, look and feel when you add large amounts of adrenalin. The secrecy idealizes the other, not love or truth. Deception, the “ducking and diving” past family can give vitality to the stolen hour.

What is so ridiculously seductive (and hurts so badly when the truth comes out) is the belief that affair is about you. Actually, it is about who you are not. It about what you do not represent. You are not the wife or husband; the “routine.” Yours is not the other name on the mortgage, you are not one who owns the other car in the garage. You are not the one whom the children sound like when they are at their worst (and best). It’s not your beauty. It is not your charm (although you might be both beautiful and charming). It is the difference from, the contrast with, what your affair knows. In his or her boredom and selfishness, you become so very appealing in the heat of it all. It’s the contrast he or she “loves.” The secrecy, the chase, the conniving makes it all so surreal and convincing and such a turn on. It is not you. It is not he or she who has met you here in this rendezvous, but the secret itself, the fact that you will share this secret, that’s lighting your fire.

The seductive thing is that for a period of time one or both of you actually believe in the affair as if it is a real and enduring relationship, able to offer you each something you really want. For a time you will give so unreservedly, so wildly, and be sucked in by passion. Every meeting will feel like you were meant for each other and that it is a cruel world forcing you apart. The really sad thing is that even your children will feel, to you, as if they are in the way, obstacles to your freedom, hindrances to your finding true love. When you are with your lover the first hours will slip past feeling like heaven. The approaching absences and those times when you are apart, will begin to fill with suspicion, heaviness and demands that come with cheating. You will think your love is cheating on you (even when with his or her spouse) every time the cell-phone is off, a call is not returned or a weekend happens without you. The moment the clandestine activity began with you, the scene was set for it to occur around you and to you. He or she who cheats on a spouse will most certainly think nothing of doing the same to you.

The affair itself, born in secrecy and lies, itself begins to lie, making the participants believe they have been short-changed, deceived in marriage and that a fling can offer what’s really wanted. It is not so. Affairs seduce the participants from what is real, what is important, what is enduring and significant. If I cannot talk to my wife, talking with someone who is not my wife (or who is someone’s wife) doesn’t help anything one iota. Learning to talk with my wife is where the real action is, it is not in talking with some other lost person looking for a temporary shelter from her own storm.

Affairs are always a poor substitute for a relationship. No matter how intense, how willing each person is, inevitable pain and suffering lies ahead for each person in the seductive cycle. If this is your dilemma break it off today. Go cold turkey. See a professional. Change locks. Change phone numbers. Quit your job if you have to. Run home to your parents! Get out of it. No, you do not owe him or her an explanation or closure. Everyone you love, or thought you loved, will be better off for it.

Copyright 2002, Rod Smith, MSMFT

April 6, 2011

Could he kill you? Are you married to a violent man?

by Rod Smith

Are you married to a man who could kill you, or someone you love? Are you dating a man who could murder you one day?

Dangerous relationships are easier to endure than address. It is not surprising that the murder of a wife, an ex-wife or lover usually takes everyone by surprise. Secrecy, cover-up and denial are the hallmarks of these toxic binds.

I believe some women could use a set of criteria to evaluate whether they are involved with a man capable of committing a violent crime against them. Accurate or not, my list could help a woman escape a potentially abusive relationship, or at least eradicate the virus before it destroys her.

Men capable of killing a “loved” one often leave a trail of early indicators, like rose petals around an open grave, before they commit a horrible crime.

Perhaps someone’s life will be saved because this list, incomplete as it is, will assist someone toward getting appropriate help:

1. He tells you how to dress and insists you obey his wishes in this regard. If you resist he becomes irrationally hurt or angry. You are beyond choosing what you wear because your dress is his domain.

2. He checks up on you for “your own good.” He wants to know where you are, what you are doing and whom you are with. Time unaccounted becomes an accusation. You find yourself explaining or hiding everything, to avoid the laborious conflicts that inevitably ensue.

3. Any move toward independence on your part is rewritten as betrayal. His response is anger.

4. He tells you when you are happy, and rewrites what you feel if you dare say you are unhappy. He tries to keep you from your family, suggesting they are not good for you.

5. He tells you when you are hungry and what you like to eat. He says he knows you better than you know yourself. He gets angry if you dare disagree.

6. He is jealous of your friendships, even those that predate him and those that are over.

7. Keeping peace is second nature to you. Ironically, the peace seldom lasts because he jumps on the smallest issues, magnifying them into major breaches of trust.

8. His highs are very high and his lows very low. It seems as if your response to him is inordinately powerful in changing or determining his mood.

9. He pouts easily. He manipulates truth so you are taken by surprise. He plays “hurt puppy” if you’re not happy, thereby making your emotions his business. He expects you to always be glad to see him and to drop whatever you are doing to focus on him.

10. He demands his own way and has an inordinate perception of his own importance. He shows off his “power” by threatening to “talk to the manager,” when he is not given the service he thinks he deserves. He becomes irrationally angry at the smallest of inconveniences. He accuses you of “taking sides” if you suggest he is being unreasonable.

11. He lives on the edge of “white hot” anger, becoming very angry with children, animals, and anyone or anything that doesn’t obey him. He hides this anger from people outside the “inner circle” and his mood quickly changes if an “outsider” appears so that his anger is kept secret.

12. He removes your car keys or your purse to restrict your movements and then denies doing so.

13. In the early days of the relationship you felt like you were on a fast ride on an unpredictable roller coaster. Everything was too much, too soon, but you did not know how to say it. Any comment about wanting to “slow down” on your part was ignored. You felt invisible, as if you were just along for his ride.

14. If you work, he accuses you of having an affair with a man at work – especially if that man has innocently told him that you’re a good employee/colleague to work with or know. Any praise whatever of you – from anyone, really – is twisted into suspicion and jealousy. (Added by friend Jenny Lowen, Harpenden, UK)

For such men, winning is everything — losing control is not an option, even for those whom they proclaim to love the most.

March 29, 2011

How do you explain suicide to a child?

by Rod Smith

“I struggle with what I told the little one’s in my family of the death of their young and vibrant ‘Aunt L.’ She had been really sick and took her own life in the end. I just could not tell these little one’s that she committed suicide – how would they understand, ranging in age from 9 to 2 years old. I just told them she got sick and she died – her body and her spirit were tired. I am so afraid of them finding out the truth one day. We all have continued to grieve our loss. All of the children attended the funeral and memorial services and we all take an active role in remembering her life. But how do you explain suicide of a very close loved one to a child?”

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Your chidren will understand

Relax. You have done well. Of course what you faced was difficult and, once the children are old enough to know the truth, I believe they will understand the reasons you have said what you have said. Suicide is perhaps the strongest and most powerful form of prayer I have ever encountered – giving ultimate relief in dying, what seemed impossible while living. “Aunt L”, I believe, has found in death what she could not find in life.

January 17, 2011

The most viewed column: When your husband says he doesn’t love you anymore…..

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

80,000 online views

Of course you are going to fall apart, and mourn the loss of the future you thought you’d have.

You will feel like death itself and even welcome your own.

Then, when your mind somewhat clears, you’ll wonder what really occurred. You will question what you might have done to cause the marriage breakdown and wonder what you might have done to save it.

Then you will bargain with God, your husband, even your children, or with anyone who will listen as you urgently try to get things back to normal, and get yourself back into his heart, head, and bed.

And, when things somewhat settle, and you’ve gotten some rest, and you emerge from the initial impact of what has occurred, you will see that this is not about you, or what you did or did not do. You will see there that there is no real power in bargaining with him, or real value in your becoming whatever you think he’d prefer you to be.

You will see that, quite apart from whatever he decides to do, there is great power and value in picking up your life, one emotion at a time, and doing what is best for yourself and your children.

(November 2006)

Tell me your story. I am listening:

July 26, 2010

My brother steals from us…..

by Rod Smith

“My younger brother (19) just got out of jail with nowhere to go because our mother has kicked him out for good. He walked to my dad’s who, with loving arms opened his home to his him. He has been here for four weeks but after two weeks he picked back up on his old life: smoking pot, stealing money from us, lying, not coming home, and lying more. My mother (our parents are divorced) catered to this lifestyle for about two years until she had nothing left. I cannot bear to see this happen to my dad. My brother is the sweetest kid in the whole world but a habitual liar and a thief. I have begged my dad to kick him out but he is still under the illusion that his son might change.”

Rod Smith / 1964 - got to do something unexpected or you can expect the same results....

Rod in about 1962!

You have as much power over your dad as all of you have over your brother. It took your mother two years to reach a point that you want for your father to reach in a month. Until your brother sees the light and your father sees his enabling role, all of you better lock your valuables in a safe place.

Do all you can to stay out of the middle, to allow your brother and father to have to face each other, and increase your tolerance for your father’s pain. While this might sound hard or uncaring, nothing will change for your family while everyone is doing what everyone has always done The healthiest person in the family usually holds important keys for beginning transformational processes, and it can’t happen without the willingness to upset the applecart, and sometimes, even watch it crash.

While ANYONE but your brother assumes responsibility for your brother, he will continue to use behavior that has worked for him in the past – and something must be working if he keeps repeating it.

It is important for you to see that you are not responsible for either of these grown men in your life. You are responsible to each, but not for each – understanding the difference will make a world of difference for you and even potentially for your father and your brother.

May 16, 2010

We are in a sinking ship….

by Rod Smith

“My husband became friends with a girl at work. He started staying at work longer than before. Then he started taking 4 or 5 hour hikes with a few ‘male friends.’ Big surprise! I found out that it was with her and only her. Anyway, she moved a thousand miles away. I thought we could once again be his best friend and get back to normal. After a year he tells me that he doesn’t love me and that he hasn’t since last year. He said he didn’t cheat. I explained that even if he never even kissed her, confiding his feelings to her and not to me is a form of cheating. I don’t know what to do. I feel like we are in a sinking ship. I’m the only one trying to bail us out. He’s waiting for it to sink. I still do dearly love him.” (Letter shortened)

I like the metaphor – but there are three ships: yours, his, and the marriage. Bail out your own ship (work on yourself), let him worry about his (don’t try and rescue him) and the marriage ship will take care of itself (which does not men it will survive). Until you love yourself more than you love him you will all go down.

April 19, 2010


by Rod Smith

The crematorium called to say my mother’s ashes were “ready.” I found the term somewhat amusing! Ready for what? And so I picked up the box, wrapped in brown paper (her name and the date were hand-printed on the box as if I was to deliver it to her) and took it home. I couldn’t immediately bring myself to perform the priestly act of dispersal and so it was months before I retrieved them from a dark corner under my bed.

One morning, and I am not completely sure what compelled me to do it on this particular morning, I made my way to the Japanese Gardens she loved and chose a spot I considered beautiful and held the box to my chest and waited to begin this sacred task.

Surprising myself, a little like a child playing in beach sand, I sprinkled her dust gently into the wind and felt none of the expected terror. Rather, I was reminded of the talcum powder she so liberally used in the steamy bathroom of runny mirrors, slippery floors, and twisted towels. I could even smell it.

Sandy remains powdered my hands and fell easily through my fingers to the buffalo grass around my feet.

Then I threw the drab box and its wrapping into a bin attached to a nearby tree and broke into a steady jog toward my car and cried all the way home. The closer I got the more my chest heaved, my body rocked and my throat clogged with phlegm, so I stopped at a firebreak in the sugar cane fields to vomit.

Spreading mother’s ashes was easier than I thought. I should have done it sooner.

November 9, 2009

How soon can a person have sex after the death of a spouse?

by Rod Smith

Your brief question leaves many unaddressed variables. That you desire sex might be considered a positive thing in the wake (no cheap pun intended) of your loss. Yet, if you have used sex in the past as an escape, rather than as a means to contributing to a mutual, respectful, and equal relationship, you will be furthering behavior that is ultimately destructive for you. Then, if you adhere to a faith tradition which precludes you from engaging in sex outside of marriage, you might find some short-term relief in sexual behavior, but you will ultimately self-inflict emotional and spiritual discord.

But I will assume you, an adult who has endured a significant loss, are understandably reaching out for love and affection.

Three things:

1. You are not betraying the deceased.
2. You and your faith tradition decide on when is acceptable to you to have sex (it is not up to anyone else).
3. You will take into account that sexual behavior is never purely recreational.

It is impossible to do something so profoundly intimate with your body that doesn’t also impact every other aspect of your emotional and spiritual life.

June 18, 2009

Taking up life after severe loss….

by Rod Smith

“Thank you for your column that appeared 18 June 2009. I have been feeling particularly sorry for myself after the death of my wife 18 months ago. The added responsibility of bringing up a family on my own and holding down my job has made me feel this way. I guess it is just time to grow up and get over myself at my age? You are so right. I am the only person who can change my life!”

This letter makes it worth it.

This letter makes it worth it.

It is your letter that makes the hours I sit at this computer worthwhile. Yes. It is deeply sad that your wife will die at any age, especially at a young age. Yes, it is deeply difficult to simultaneously rear children, hold down a job, and mourn great loss. Metaphorically speaking you have been hit by several buses and have much reason to feel sorry for yourself. But, it will probably not be helpful to you to remain in a condition of feeling sorry for yourself. Of course grief is absolutely necessary and appropriate. Dwelling the rest of your life in a state of grief will certainly not be helpful to you, your children, to the memory of your wife, or to anyone with whom you work.