Archive for ‘Space’

April 30, 2017

My sister is caught up with her son

by Rod Smith

“My sister changes plans on me all the time because of her son (4). We will make a plan to meet and then it gets cancelled because the child had a tantrum. I wouldn’t think this was an issue but it has been repeated many times. This is really testing my patience. If we do meet she brings him with her when we have lunch but we cannot talk because he takes so much of her attention. It’s so bad my boyfriend won’t come with anymore. I just want one time when we can talk like it used to be. Is this too much to ask?”

It’s not too much to ask but you may never get what you are looking for.

Your sister’s relationship with her son will probably always trump her relationship with you. She’s his mother; she’s your sister. If she really is too caught up in mothering then that is not news she will probably be open to hearing from you.

Declare your wants. Do it kindly. Do it clearly. Then, understand that your sister will place what she determines as the needs of her child above the needs of her sister.

Join her; love your nephew, rather than attempt to compete with him.

April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 9, 2017

The company you keep…..

by Rod Smith
  • Embrace people who believe in you. Seek out the men and women who are in your unofficial support group and spend your effort in their direction. It is necessary and acceptable that you define your boundaries with men and women who pull you down and who try to minimize or ridicule your contribution to your family, your work-place, or your broader community. Be cordial, be kind, to such people but limit the power you give to people who denigrate you.
  • Embrace people who have a vision for their own lives. The more you can rub shoulders with people who are “going places” and are invested in building their futures, the greater the likelihood that you will get caught up in similar healthy habits. Drainers and downers and doubters are easy to spot but often harder to avoid. Disillusioned people love a target and are especially attracted to bringing happy and motivated people into their fold.
  • Invest or reinvest in a cause bigger and more meaningful than simply enhancing your family and yourself. There is so much need and suffering everywhere and you are fully capable of reducing some of both for people in your immediate environment.
July 17, 2012

The joy of our humanity

by Rod Smith

Is found in our connection with others (a connection sufficiently powerful so that we are not alone) and can therefore give and receive strength to and from each other. It is yet separate enough so that we not drain each other of the adventure of being unique and distinct beings. This is one of the greatest blessings accompanying our humanity and, when it fails, it becomes the source of exceedingly powerful pain.

April 23, 2011

I was unfaithful and now he wants out

by Rod Smith

“I have been an unfaithful wife and my husband is tired of it. He has given me a fresh start on three or four occasions but this time he refuses. He says his trust well is empty and that he has to move on with his life. How do I convince him that one more chance is all I need? Please help.”

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Take responsibility for your actions

Your husband appears to be taking an option necessary for his well being. I’d suggest you move full force into recovery from serial infidelity.

Unfaithfulness can hardly leave you with good feelings about yourself and I’d suggest you get professional help to delve into its origins in your life.

While his actions are painful for you, I’d suggest he has not had a painless journey.

If your husband were consulting me I’d attempt to solicit from him the level of his desire to remain married. Given any suggestion that he’d prefer to stay married, I’d encourage him to embark on an extended separation to allow you to get your troubled house in order.

Unfaithfulness is an individual pursuit. There’s nothing anyone can do to make you unfaithful. It’s not your spouse or any of your multiple cohorts. It is you who needs the help – get it. Allow him, in the mean time, to do whatever it is he needs to do.

April 21, 2011

My husband says I am obsessed with my children….

by Rod Smith

“My husband says I am obsessed with our children. He says they take up all my time and leave little for him. I tell him that is what it means to be a good mother. We discuss this a lot. Please comment.” (Synthesized from a very long letter)

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Mutuality is a challenge

I see several good signs: your husband is speaking his mind; you are listening enough to write for my opinion; you are able to have some reasonable dialogue on the topic without either of you closing down to the other.

I am in no position to comment on your particular relationship but I have seen women hide from their husbands in the name of being a good mother. I have seen women bury themselves in the children in order to escape the call of mutual, respectful, and equal relationships with other adults. Likewise, of course, men can also “hide” from wives – they can hide behind children, careers, and sports.

While a woman is enmeshed with her children she will rob herself, her husband, and her children of the beauty and freedom that comes with respecting the space and the distance everyone needs in order to grow.

Even trees cannot reach full height if they are planted too close to each other. Give your children some space and face whatever it is that makes them a useful shield. It will do you all a service.

March 31, 2011

Couples who are too close…….

by Rod Smith

Edwin Friedman – a pioneer in family therapy, writer, teacher, and rabbi and who was trained by Murray Bowen who is considered the “father” of family therapy and “Bowen Theory” – wrote about helping couples to separate, establish space, maintain individuality and secure room to breathe and room to move in order to help the couple avoid radical separation (divorce) in their future. Friedman suggested sometimes couples were “too close” meaning that everything done one or both persons seemed to unsettle or rock the world of the other or both.

Identifying couples who are “fused” or who are too close:

1. Every thought, move, glance, blink of the eye, every gesture is interpreted to mean something by the other person and the meaning is usually negative.

2. Mind reading is at its most intense. What is damaging is that what is “read” or interpreted is believed as fact. “I know exactly what you are thinking when you look at me like that.”

3. There’s no room for change or growth because there’s no emotional “wiggle room.” If one person is convinced that he or she knows exactly what the other person will do and will think there is no room for anything new to occur.

I have named these writers to facilitate reading beyond this column.

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.

December 28, 2010

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged….

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Fully live (women, too!)

I am thoroughly aware that some cultures do not “allow” women to have a voice, make choices, speak up to husbands – having regularly addressed men and women from such cultures for years. I remain convinced that this robs said cultures of half of its creative capital.

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged. Thus my suggestion the woman in yesterday’s column (12-28-2010) define herself to her husband. Of course it flies in the face of many cultures – but if she is to give of her best to herself, her husband, to anyone, speaking up to all in her context is the place to start.

What can be so threatening for some men that some are terrified if women (whom they love) makes their full contribution?

Yes. It will more than ruffle the marriage. Rather a ruffled marriage than a life-time of control, submission, manipulation, leading to intimidation, then domination – not that all men in said cultures are this way at all.

If he really “treats her like a queen” he will also grow. If not, he will reject her; even leave her. At least she’d have expressed herself as a woman and be able to achieve, albeit at great cost, her selfhood as a woman and will have discovered she requires permission from no one to BE.

PS: I have delivered lectures in several Asian countries where it seems women are strongly discouraged from expressing their voices. While trying to be as culturally sensitive as possible, I did not water down my message at all and called on all men and all women to encourage all men and all women to find, express, and use their voices. While I have had some strong kick-backs (some rejection and exclusion) I have always been invited back. I’ve even asked leaders and organizers the reasons I am invited back despite my contrary message. I am told, “Yes. Your message is dangerous for us but we still need to hear it.”

August 15, 2010

Rage is never pretty…..

by Rod Smith

Call me....

Want wisely.....

Rage is never pretty – not in you, me, nor in the man in the moon. It has no upside. It produces nothing worth having. It reduces everyone in its environment to a victim. It scares children. There’s nothing redeeming about rage. It causes physiological distress, psychological pain, and accelerates physical exhaustion. It hurts relationships. Rage is always ugly, always destructive.

Rage is never helpful

I’ve witnessed rage erupt in clients during therapy where there’s a sudden burst of rage over a matter that might appear inconsequential to the observer. I’ve seen it while I am engaged in the give and take of life – a woman loses it with her child in public, a man yells uncontrollably in the traffic, a teenager storms off from a parent in the mall.

Regretfully, I’ve felt it in me. Forces collide, my world feels out of control, I resort to blaming others for whatever I perceive as having gone wrong. Something primal snaps. I’m momentarily blind, deaf to reason. Then, I breathe deeply. I hold onto myself. Reason returns. Logic prevails. I get my focus off others. I look at myself. I take responsibility for myself. Do I always catch it? Handle it well? Of course not.

How is a person to handle a moment of rage in a loved one? Keep a level head. Walk away. Try not to react. Don’t personalize it. It’s not about you. You may participate in the precipitating event, but you don’t cause the outburst. In the moment of his or her fury don’t try to reason, negotiate, or restrain.

This too shall pass.