Posts tagged ‘Marriage’

June 21, 2011

Three poisons for love: Manipulation, Intimidation, and Domination

by Rod Smith

When people have to use intimidation, manipulation or domination, the relationship is already spoiled or poisoned. It has become a power play of control. Redeeming such a relationship is possible with the implementation of a wise plan, strongly re-defined boundaries, enduring commitment, and the possibility of a time of separation in order that a modified perspective might be gained.

Willingness and desire to be together, equality between people and complete mutuality are the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Where any form of strong-arm tactics are used, the relationship has already taken a turn to become something harmful to both the parties.

Each of these relationship-poisons (manipulation, domination and intimidation) can be very subtle, coming in different shapes, sizes, and intensities.

Here are some of the evidences of manipulation, intimidation, and domination in a relationship:

1. The relationship has been kept on an unequal footing in order that one person might keep power over another. In a severely controlling relationship, both persons might have forgotten there are choices at all.

2. One person tries to get what he or she wants without declaring what is wanted. In attempting to get what the one person wants, both persons are in some way diminished.

3. One person does not see the other as totally free.

Confused boundaries4. One person tries to get what he or she wants through threats or withdrawal.

5. It is expected that every move, thought, and feeling will be reported at least from the less-dominant person to the other. If one person is unwilling to tell all, it is assumed there is something to hide.

6. One person is not free to make plans without consulting or getting permission from the other.

7. One person in the relationship continually evaluates and examines the commitment and love of the other.

8. The dominant person tells the other how they should feel and usually re-scripts any division or disagreement into the appearance of unity.

9. One person feels at liberty to speak for both people and then, is offended when the partner wants to express his or her own views.

10. Desire for self-expression or a distinct voice (by one) is considered betrayal or a lack of trust (by the other).

11. One person expects unilateral support for his or her opinions, choices and desires, declaring somewhat of an attitude which says: If you say you love me then you have to love everything about me, under all conditions, and all of the time.

12. Difference in opinion or having different interests is considered a lack of love, or a lack of respect and commitment.

Simple definitions and a metaphor which might be helpful in considering the three “cancers” of relationships:

Manipulation: playing chess with another person or with people. Maneuvering as if life were an attempt to checkmate others into loving us or doing what we want.Explosive

Domination: playing chess with another person or with people as in manipulation. The difference is the dominator has removed the opponent’s pieces without declaring so in the first place.

Intimidation: playing chess with another person or with people where winning and losing comes with either the threat of punishment or actual punishment.

Healthy Relationship: There is no element of either winning or losing; it is not a game. It is free of tactics, ploys, moves, and agendas.

January 29, 2009

I want a divorce, she does not….

by Rod Smith

“I want to know how one can facilitate an amicable divorce when the other party opposes the prospect. We’ve had marital counseling for 6 months. Despite telling the psychologist the past 40 years of our marriage was torture, my wife refuses to accept that we have irreconcilable differences. Our life as a couple is a sham but appears good. She wants us to stay together to maintain an air of perfection. It is purgatory. I am miserable. She is attractive and intelligent so does not need ‘us’ to succeed. I am willing to provide for her and ensure she is secure and comfortable financially. When I broach the subject of divorce, she threatens to protract any divorce proceedings until I die and turn my (adult) children against me. She is more than capable of doing this. How can I be expected to stay with those vindictive threats? How do I leave this toxic relationship without hurting anyone and in particular without losing my children?” (Minimal edits for space)

dsc_0642“Amicable divorce” is possible when mutually desired. Even then, it is tough. You want war without casualties. Hurt is inevitable and inescapable. Your relationships with your adult children, if sound, will weather any storm. Speak your truth to your wife AND your adult children.

January 5, 2009

The women always make the decisions in the end…

by Rod Smith

“I have been in a four-year relationship with a married man. I still believe in his love but also believe he needs a push to do the right thing. I told him he has to own up to the affair and tell the wife himself, or I will tell her. I am not walking away with nothing after giving four years of my life. Then the wife can either have the choice of working things out with him or getting a divorce. It’s the women always make the decisions in the end.”

dsc_0642You might believe in “his love” (for you) but it is hard to believe you have any love for him. You clearly ignored any “push” to do the “right thing” and regard married men as “off limits.” While you are apparently vengeful and determined, you will most certainly find only temporary and limited personal peace.

I hope you will have some dramatic moment of insight, some divine encounter, an event of sorts that transforms you from within, and makes you ready to learn and ready love in ways that are helpful to you and to all persons in your sphere of influence.

December 9, 2008

If we are “one flesh” isn’t his emotional life also my responsibility?

by Rod Smith

dsc_0642You say we are each responsible for our own emotional health. I read that I am ‘one flesh’ with my husband. Surely I bear some responsibility for his emotional health? (Online question)

Go ahead. Try it. While you are at it, lose weight for him. Get him over his anger. Make him patient in traffic. Make him work more or less, depending on your needs and circumstances. Tackle, on his behalf, any one of the challenges each of us must individually face, and see how successful you are. Before you can say “Jack Robinson” (actually it might take quite a few years) you will be riddled and crippled with anxiety.

One flesh, united, soul mates, joined at the hip – use whatever picture works for you – but avoid taking on what is NOT yours to take on and avoid taking on the things you have no power to change. Resisting attempting to solve what are his issues (and his alone) does not make you less “one flesh” or less loving. I should think it is a greater demonstration of love and respect to “hold your own” while your partner is working through difficulties. Issues that are sufficiently powerful will readily take you both down. Then how much help would you be?

You can, of course, provide a context where your husband is supported in any of the individual challenges he must face but, like each of us, he has to take responsibility for his own emotional wellness.

Be responsible to him (do what is right and good) and not for him. Care about him, and not on his behalf. If this is too overwhelming for him, professional help is highly recommended.

August 17, 2008

Two in “one boat” or two in “two boats”…..that is the question?

by Rod Smith

“I always read your column and then the daily ‘tail-piece.’ One of the many things that caught my attention was that marriage is not two people in one boat but two people, each person in his or her own boat. I think my husband would like us to be joined together and have us share a brain (his brain of course). He asks my opinion and then always improves on what I say. When I’m on the phone he tells me what to say and corrects me, sometimes he even shouts at me and the person on the other end can hear. Because we work together I try to ignore it to avoid having a bad day but every now and then I explode. Then it gets nasty and he hurls verbal abuse at me, bringing up my family and poor upbringing.”

This is a fine example my repeated encouragement that readers “focus on your behavior, and not the behavior of others.” The reader tells in detail about the “other” but appears to miss that she has allowed his nastiness to thrive by putting up with it. It is a fool who curses his wife but a very foolish wife who remains a willing target.

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July 30, 2008

Indications he/she might not be the best person to marry…

by Rod Smith

Letters consistently pour in from men and women in unhealthy relationships. I think often of how much pain could be avoided if people were simply willing to see the warning signs before marriage, before children, before hearts harden, and before bitterness sets in. Here are some, of course not all, of the early warning signs that a relationship will sour short of a miracle. Although cumbersome, I have used “he/she” on each occasion for neither gender appears to be guiltless when it comes to distorting intimate relationships:

He/she does not respect his/her parents.
He/she lies about “little” things.
He/she is in debt at a young age.
He/she sees people as expendable (uses, then “dumps” people).
He/she gets angry very quickly with waiters or servers of any kind.
He/she feels entitled to respect he/she has not earned.
He/she is financially, morally, and sexually unfaithful, and appears unconcerned about the importance of personal integrity in his/her life.
He/she opens your mail, snoops in your business, and thinks you should have no secrets between you.
He/she speaks for you and tells you how you “should” feel, think and speak.
He/she tells you that you are stupid and that he/she knows you better than you know yourself.
He/she believes most other people are idiots and often says so.

April 2, 2008

Violation of sacred trust….

by Rod Smith

I frequently get letters from women who cannot seem to forgive a husband or partner’s unfaithfulness. “Even though it was 10 years ago and I have said I forgive him, it still haunts me,” writes one person. “He expects me to just get over it as if it is no real issue at all,” writes another. “He rolls his eyes at me, he sighs, as if it is my issue – and HE was the one who cheated!”

Infidelity violates sacred trust, and, while most relationships are resilient, and can survive much stress and trauma, infidelity often serves the deathblow to all vibrancy in the marriage (even if a couple stays married for years after the ending of an affair) for it undercuts the very humanity of the partner who has offered her mind, her soul, her spirit and her body in loving and appropriate abandon.

March 17, 2008

Sex or intimacy… tough to do both….

by Rod Smith

“I am seeing a man who, after a very physically intimate time, told me he wants a break. I just wish I knew how two people could be so intimate, so close, and share everything and then just cut himself or herself off totally from that person as if they were never a part of each other’s lives.” (Letter edited)

Sounds like you are dating a person with a propensity toward sexual addictions. Such people will do almost anything for a sexual “fix,” and then, once “satisfied” will move on. Your encounters are not about love or intimacy but lust and conquest. Don’t confuse sex with intimacy. Sex (what you do with your body) is the easy part. Intimacy (what you do with your head, your will, and your heart) is one of the toughest relational challenges humans face – and almost impossible to achieve outside the safety of marriage.

February 13, 2008

Bi-polar husband and his road-rage….

by Rod Smith

“My husband is bipolar and for almost all of our married life he has shown severe aggression whilst driving. The slightest irritation on the road would cause him to exhibit road rage. He would most often tailgate and show aggressive signs to other drivers. I have known him to get out of his vehicle to remonstrate with other motorists, without fear of his life or the safety of others, including my own or our young family. The slightest intake of breath on my part would make him angrier, and he would be even more reckless. I often felt as though a gun was being held to my head, except that the weapon was the motor vehicle. Other than not to travel with him for months on end, I felt trapped. I had thoughts of going to the Metro Police to report him, but feared repercussions. What steps I should have taken? Due to illness he no longer drives. Please Rod, what could I, or should I have done?”

This is a tough call. Bi-polar or not, no one has the right to endanger his family and others. Staying out of the car was a good thing to do! Readers, please, send your suggestions!

February 2, 2008

Getting ready for Valentines Day…… going beyond romance…

by Rod Smith

“There are two potential tragedies in life and dying isn’t one of them,” wrote Ronald Rolheiser, the Catholic theologian. “What’s tragic is to go through life without loving and without expressing love and affection toward those whom we do love.”

What great thoughts to ponder and then motivate us to action beyond romance on Valentine’s Day.

Let’s not fall victim to either of the tragedies — not today, tomorrow, not forever.

One of the great things about life for most of us is that we get more than a few chances at most things, even things we fouled up in the past. Failing at love yesterday doesn’t mean we have to fail again.

While the holiday is Hallmark-driven and its history buried in 5th century Rome, it’s up to us to push love to the limits, to go beyond Valentine, beyond Hallmark, beyond Cupid, beyond Eros, red balloons and red sweaters and candy. It’s up to us to take Rolheiser’s caution to heart.

Let’s express love in tangible ways to all those whom we love.

Loving is more than breakfast in bed. Say what you want to say without leaving it to another day. Don’t wait, don’t avoid it, and don’t run from it. Act upon the love you feel in measurable ways, express it in ways that are new and unique for you.

Love your family by encouraging the expression of the unique voice of every person. Enlarge their freedom, oust all jealousy.

Listen, and wait to speak. Try to hear even the things you’d rather not hear. Learn things about members of your family even if it has been so long that it is hard to remember a time when you did not share life.

Loving people celebrate strength, encourage freedom and admire the talent of others.

Then, in loving and being loved, compromise yourself, your talents and skills for no one.

True love will never steal your voice, your brain, your heart or your body.

Minimizing who you are in the name of love will not make you more lovable or make your family a happier or healthier place. It is never worth it. It is never loving. It is those with dark motives, who seek for you to be less, minimized, diminished or silenced. Reject such small-mindedness, such evil, even if doing so is very costly.

In your loving, deal a deadly blow to love’s bitter enemies of resentment, anger and bitterness. These close cousins, if permitted, will hold hands within your psychology and dance a woeful dance. They will make you blind to all things beautiful. Angry, bitter and resentful people, no matter what their justification, become increasingly unreasonable and difficult to live with.

Bitterness will have a soul for breakfast. It’ll chew you up, spit you out, and then get you some more. That’s its nature. It has no regard for you, except in your destruction.

Make the most powerful decision a person can make and forgive everyone, everything. Forgiving others completely for everything real or imagined done against you, will give you a degree of personal liberation heretofore unknown. Such forgiveness, offered from and within our human frailty, releases the spirit beyond comprehension.

When people forgive each other, they wear divine clothing, and the prison doors of their own hearts become unlocked and the miserable trio of anger, bitterness and resentment are set free to do their work elsewhere.

“There are two potential tragedies in life,” wrote Rolheiser, and today we each decide the extent of their power in each of our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day.