Posts Tagged ‘family’

We’re Pregnant!

February 9, 2009

Ok, I know its customary for the mom and dad these days to say “we’re pregnant”, but I just have to tell you that my daughter is pregnant with my first grandchild, and it sure feels like WE’RE pregnant..(.actually just like her wedding felt like “our wedding”.)  We are just so close. She wants me in the delivery room and everything. I am just so honored about that. And even more honored that her husband wants me there.

No, he really does.

 She just got back from the doctor’s. We knew it of course from the home pregnancy test and other obvious signs, but it was nice to have him confirm that she’s healthy and they got to hear the heartbeat. She’s two months, due September 25th. 

Woohoowoohoowoohoo!!!!!!  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

She thinks she already looks pregnant, especially in her stomach. I don’t want to rain on her parade, she’s so excited, but truthfully, shhhh…here is what she still looks like:

If I Had My Life to Live Over

February 7, 2009

 

This is a well known column by Erma Bombeck, a very popular writer who was syndicated back in the days before the internet and died in 1996.. (Yes children, there once was a world without it when people couldn’t live without their paper newspapers!) 

Anyway, I thought I’d post it for anyone in younger generations, or other countries, who missed it. Its quite wonderful, I think. Hope you will too. Its called “If I Had My Life to Live Over”.  She writes:

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love yous”..  more “I’m sorrys”…  but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute…look at it and really see it…live it…and never give it back.

by Erma Bombeck 

About Erma from Wikipedia: “Erma Louise Bombeck (February 211927 – April 221996), born Erma Fiste, was an Americanhumorist who achieved great popularity for hernewspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late ’90s. Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers.

From 1965 to 1996, Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife with broad, and sometimes eloquent, humor. By the 1970s, her witty columns were read, twice weekly, by thirty million readers of 900 newspapers of theU.S. and Canada.”

To My Everlasting Shame

February 6, 2009

I did not stay at my father’s bedside, to be with  him until he passed. There he was, right upstairs in the bedroom, while I hid like a coward downstairs and out of sight. We knew it would be that night. The doctors had called the family in and said so. 

All his brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles I grew up with,  had been pretty much staying at my parents’ house for those last weeks.  The pasta pots were always boiling. They brought Italian bread and provolone cheese and sweet salami with big green olives. Most importantly,  they brought the black humor which is our family trademark , especially during our darkest hours.  It sustained us and carried us.

And yet, there was an age regression that took place for me. At age 32, they were still the grown ups and I was like a child again. That’s just how the dynamics morphed. When it was soon to be time, my favorite aunt had a talk with me and asked me if I really wanted to watch my father die. She explained to me, 32 going on 8, that dying was not like in the movies. It was quite a frightening thing to see.  She encouraged me to have my quiet time alone with him, now in a coma, and say my good-bye. I did so. Then I walked out of the room and all his siblings and my mother went in and the door was firmly closed.

And so he died with his wife, brothers and sisters all around and me nowhere in sight. They later said it was an awful thing. Blood and God knows what everywhere. Even his brothers were shaken by it. It was not something I should have had to see, they told me. As if they had protected me from something.

But not long after, I realized it was my own father’s awful thing. I should have been there. I allowed myself to be shielded by my beloved and well meaning aunt with childlike trust.  I should have been there. I was not a child. I was not, in truth, protected or shielded. I was written out of the last line of the last page of his life.  No, we wrote me out. 

And I am so ashamed, sorry, and regretful… What if my father knew or sensed I wasn’t there, right through the invisible walls of his coma? My shame is this: that I, his oldest and most responsible child, should have  accompanied him on the final stage of his journey. I should have been there. 

No tidy ending to this post. I should have been there.  

(This post was inspired by a poem by Cordie entitled:  If I had it to do all again)

The Measure of Grief

February 5, 2009

 

 

THE MEASURE OF GRIEF

 

Twenty-five years ago today my father died.  

Even in my dreamless sleep I knew it.

 

I stumble out of bed  

where is my husband?

 

I want to hug him    

hug him so tightly

but he is gone

gone to work  

to work his ass off.

 

Gone.

 

I worry about his heart.

 

I want to hug my father  

(who worked his ass off).

I want to hug him  

hug him so tightly

 

but he is gone  

 

gone to rest    

to rest in peace.

 

I’d rather he were here, God forgive  me.

Yes.  I would rip him right out of paradise  if I could

to have him back here with the whole family

loving    living   YES , even suffering

but right alongside us where   think he belongs.

 

A quarter of a century.

One-fourth of a whole.

A quarter coin is so small really.  

 

A hole the size of a quarter 

is still in my heart  

big enough to kill me.

 

by Psychscribe ©2009

If I Were to Die Today (Part 2 – Relationship With Family)

December 18, 2008

Well, I’m still here…stroke symptoms morphed into a lupus flare…ok, I can deal with that, not so scary. Bed and tea and my laptop…small price to pay for some aches and pain!

Yesterday I focused on the spiritual aspects of death…and my not being prepared in that regard.  But today I want to talk about my loved ones. Most of all my husband and children.

I can only write from a selfish point of view on this, so here goes: I don’t want to miss watching my children’s lives further unfold. I have no grandchildren yet. I want to know them. I want them to remember me. Yes…I want to live on a few years longer by having a place in their minds…. I want to see what they look like! Since both my kids are pretty much clones of their father, maybe some recessive gene somewhere would reincarnate my physical characteristics… Narcissistic, certainly. But truthfully, don’t most of us long for a genetic  replica when we, or our kids, are pregnant?

Not so selfishly, I worry about them handling their grief. Oh I know, of course, that we all manage to do it.  But…loss is not a strong point for any of us in this family.  It takes us a long, long time….and I so wish I could spare them what God has decreed to be necessary…(There I go again. God certainly seems to be talking to me…however discreetly…)

My husband? Oh…this is a man who does not know who he is if he doesn’t have someone to give his whole heart and devotion to. He cannot stand to be alone. He would have to, HAVE to, find someone else to spend the remainder of his life with…to give that to… I’ve told him I would want that for him. But just between us….I don’t!!! I can’t STAND the thought of another woman having what was mine…his love, him….the thought of him holding and hugging someone else…I feel sick as I write this…but I also know he would NEED that….its not about ME anymore….but I’m just being truthful..we can all say what sounds like the right thing…but truthfully it makes me feel slightly ill….

Well, I comfort myself with the thought that if I were to die today, I would pass on to paradise, to the place where dreams are made…and later, my husband and kids would follow, and however they’ve gotten through their journey without me, none of it would matter in the WAY BIGGER scheme of things.

Well, I’m realizing that in both these posts I’ve pondered dying in terms of my relationship with others.  Not a word about my relationship with myself. Guess there will be a part 3 coming….

My Son is Engaged!

November 15, 2008

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Photo copyright Jupiter Images 2008.


He officially proposed yesterday, after he took Mom and his sister ring shopping with him. I am so happy he has found a girl who really loves him, and better yet, laughs at all his jokes. (This is very important to a guy like my son) .

What a creative proposal he came up with. He pulled over to the side of the road – a rainy night – and told her he thought they had a flat tire. She totally disagreed with him that it felt like they had a flat.  He pretended to find one in the rear, and got her to come out and look at it, obviously acting all annoyed at the situation. When she got out of the car he was on his knee, in the rain and mud, with the ring box in his hand!

This is the first girl who he has seemed truly happy with, which of course makes his mom so happy (he’s 33 for goodness sake!). She’s shy, lovely, and this is not her original country. She was born in Ecuador, which is very cool. 

Well, that’s my announcement for the day 🙂 Other that when it rains it pours…my daughter just got married on Sept. 19th!

Psychscribe post on different blog today

January 15, 2008

Today’s post, Learning to Love an Aging Mother, can be found at http://cafecrem.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/learning-to-love-an-aging-mother/  Thanks for reading.

P.S. Sometimes All You Can do is All You Can Do

January 5, 2008

The epiphany I just had upon re-reading the previous post is this: since children learn and internalize  everything from their  parents about life, values , relationships etc., it makes sense that I would not have placed any value on my little brother.  After all, if my hero dad thought so little of him, why would I think any differently? How very, very sad…

Sometimes All You Can Do is All You Can Do

January 4, 2008

I’m thinking here about the siblings issues we’ve talked about.  I asked about yours….let me tell you about mine. I have a brother who doesn’t speak to me or our sister. He simply wants nothing to do with us.  There was no big argument that set it off.  He just has issues…(I’m a therapist, how can I not  think this way?). His childhood basically sucked. Our father criticized him relentlessly,  and favored his girls. Lavished his girls. With love, affection, and material things.  I basked in my father’s attention, and had no time or interest in my brother, 6 years younger than I.  I have no happy memories of him at all and I’m sure its the same for him…he was just the pain in the butt little brother…

It never grew to more than that….Then  my father died when we were young adults and  my brother began to drift even further away…literally across the country…meanwhile I got older, and sick, and began to belatedly appreciate the importance of family. I tried reaching out to him so many times…verbally, letters, sending photos of his neice and nephew who he has no interest in….but it was too late. He told someone that he really just has nothing in common with me…At first I thought that was ridiculous ! Nothing in common? We had the same parents! We grew up together.

But then I thought about it some more and realized that wasn’t true at all. We did not grow up together. We never connected or bonded. We experienced our childhoods and our parents entirely differently.  Too late, I grieve for the relationshp I could have fostered with my little brother. I envy women with brothers now. I am so pleased that my son and daughter are so close.  I grieve for what never was with my brother, and also for what never will be. He just doesn’t want it.  So as much as I yearn for it as a woman, and believe in it as a therapist, the reality is we can’t always mend relationships. Or in this case, start one. Sometimes all you can do…is all you can do…

Interracial Marriage – YouTube

December 14, 2007

I found some of these student interviews to be disappointing...but then again, what else was I expecting in today's world?  Anyone else have the same reaction?

Quote for you from Psychscribe

November 30, 2007

“Every woman extends backward into her mother and forward into her daughter.” Carl Jung

How Do You Define Forgiveness?

November 30, 2007

 An awful lot of people say things like, “That’s ok ….what you did….its alright. I forgive you.” Think about it. How often do you hear someone profusely apologizing, and the other person saying “No,  that’s ok! Don’t worry about it!”  The injured party is actually trying to make the person who hurt them feel better!   Actually, most of the time, its not alright. It could be something as trivial as someone stepping on your toe – that’s not alright. It hurts! Or someone accidentally spilling coffee on  your white shirt.   That’s not alright.   It burns AND ruins your clothing.

It is not ok to hurt someone intentionally or otherwise. (Bear with me please, I will get to my definition of forgiveness in a minute.) This becomes an important concept in my work with couples. Or adult children of alcoholic/abusive/fill-in-the blanks damaging parents.  I do believe forgiveness is neccessary in a wounded relationship in order for any healing and growth to take place . But to say or mean it as I’ve described it actually minimizes the painful behavior by implying, in essence, that it wasn’t that bad (when it was).  It also minimizes the very person doing the forgiving.

A better concept, I think, is this: When hurtful behavior has occurred, an emotional debt is owed. Just ask anyone you know who has gone for months, years,  resentful of wrongdoing by a loved one.   They’ll tell you how much they are owed. They will also tell you how impossible it would be for the person who hurt them to pay them back.  And they are right. By now the emotional debt is probably higher than the gross national debt. Forgiveness in my mind is being willing to write off that debt and start over. When you say “I forgive you” its about wiping the slate clean,  accepting the apology and remorse of the  person as they are now, having renwewed faith in the person, and moving forward.  It means you’ve processed the hurt,  felt the emotions, and started healing. These words should not be said prematurely in an anxious attempt to make things better because to do so will make things worse.

Dying: A Family Rite of Passage

November 29, 2007

When my mother lost her father it was sad, but not unexpected. He was 80 years old, had had that lingering kind of cancer that old men often get, and there was plenty of time to prepare for his death.

Not that any of us ever acknowledged his demise or named the dread disease he lived with for so long. Until the day he died he spoke of getting well, would not reveal his feelings or let us tell him ours, and we all aided and abetted his fantasy.

He hid behind the wall of an impossible dream because he needed to, but that wall troubled my mother long after he was gone. It’s not just that I miss him, she would say. It’s not that I haven’t accepted his death. But it feels like there was unfinished business. Something left undone.

How well I remember the false gaiety of those last visits with him, the strain of false smiles and tears held in check. It seemed so unnatural not to acknowledge the obvious. The natural. But what else could we do? In a society in which every other bodily function is treated as a group rite of passage, from christening to wedding to baby showers and on again, the last one of all is oddly ignored, considering its inevitability.

We are taught to live well and love well, to birth well and parent well. No one teaches us to die well, or help another person to do it. When death finally comes we are poorly prepared.

Two years after my grandfather died, my own father was struck with a lethal, untreatable form of cancer. The doctors could offer us no type of therapy, no extra time, no hope at all. Here was the inevitable. Here was the shock. But here also was tragedy. My father was only 53 years old.

At first I wished it could be any other way. Why not a heart attack, an accident, something sudden? What could be worse than the horror of having to just sit there and watch him die?

We had so many questions.

Should we tell him, and if so, when? Might it not be kinder to protect him until the last possible moment from the anguish we already suffered?

And how would we handle him? We worried less over his imminent death than over the helplessness which must precede it. How would such a bull of a man, who hated hospitals and even aspirin all his life, handle such an indignity? He was not the kind of person who would allow you to feel sorry for him. He was a giver all his life who didn’t know how to take. Gifts embarrassed him and so did thank you’s.

What would become of our family without our hub, our rock, our peacemaker who held us all together? It was he we turned to with all our problems.

The answers, though painful as all growing is, turned out to be simple. We called a secret, emergency powwow of his brothers and sisters. It was the last family gathering from which he was excluded. A very wise uncle settled the hotly debated issue of whether he should be told by saying: “He’ll be leaving you soon enough. Why put a distance between you even sooner by pretending? You can put all that energy into helping each other get through this.” Once my father was told we decided together, with him, to treat his passing as the natural though untimely event that it was. He would do it at home, among his loved ones. Just as birth is no longer something that happens to women but a process they participate in, my father’s death did not happen to him. He died.

We never pretended that he would get well, or treated him suddenly differently because he was dying. More often than not it was he who comforted us, retaining to the end the identity of the father we’d known and loved.

This was a family that never learned to say good-bye. Anyone going away on a long trip would find, at the door, that everyone had suddenly disappeared. It hurt too much to take leave of each other.

Now, of course, we had to.

We wanted to. Each of us spent private time with him saying all the things you always mean to say to someone you love and somehow never do. And in those quiet, solemn talks, mostly filled with affirmations, he launched us. We flew.

My young brother came forward with a strength we had not known was there because we had not needed to look. Two grown daughters and a wife stopped being girls at last because the man who had always sheltered them needed women now. We learned to give, and he to receive.

His relinquishment of the outer cares freed him to undergo a long overdue spiritual journey, a journey he shared every step of the way. He groped for, wrestled with, and found his God, and left us with his finger pointed in the right direction.

We didn’t just sit and watch him die. We all participated. It was intensely painful, but intensely intimate. I learned more about my father in those last few weeks than I had in 32 years, or might have in another 32. There was a feeling of wholeness in his passing with, rather than from, us. It was as if old age and the wisdom that accompany it had been condensed, but not lost. I miss him, but not who he would have been. It could have been worse.

Partners as Mind Readers ???

November 23, 2007

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to  happen. Though it’s amazing how many people expect mindreading in a relationship. Particularly women. See, we women think we can read our partner’s minds, and can’t understand why its not reciprocated.

The good news is, obviously, that no one can read anyone’s mind. That’s not communicating, that’s  very wishful, and not very helpful, thinking.

Example of woman thinking she’s mindreading: Husband is watching tv.  Gorgeous, sexy female appears on screen. Wife mistakenly mindreads,aloud: “You’re thinking about how much prettier she is than me, aren’t you? You’re thinking you’d really like to have sex with her, admit it! If you COULD have one time out on our commitment, you’d be with her, wouldn’t you?”

 Now, the poor guy was really wondering if tonight is a green light with his wife  but now he doesn’t go for it because he is too busy denying her accusations.   She gets mad at him for “lying” to her, and now he doesn’t dare come on to her because he’s already insulted her  (he has no clue why) when really she wants him to mindread that she wants him to come on to her….. but has chosen a less than effective way of communicating this to him…

Better would be: Honey, I feel so insecure when I see those gorgeous women on tv. Do you still want me like you used to? I guarantee you’ll both get what you want with this straightforward approach!

Example of male mindreading: The man gets into bed and, figuring the bed is a mating mat even though he’s been advised hundreds of time to the contrary, mindreads that she really wants him tonight and is just too shy to come right out and say it (see above). He jumps her bones and either gets shoved off or she plays dead through the whole thing (admit it, women: for spite).

Better: subtle communication works best here. Offer a back rub, or a foot rubScience Articles, and very slowly work your way to the desired destination. Give her some time to enjoy the relaxation and get in the mood. Minimal communication would be: does that feel good? Telling her why you love her or her specific physical attributes communicates that you still think she’s hot.

Don’t expect her to mindread how sexy you think she is. We never get tired of hearing it.

 

Women and Self Esteem

November 20, 2007

What do you like about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? If these questions make you feel uncomfortable, or you cannot answer them, chances are that you have a problem with self esteem. Why is that? Why do so many of us basically dislike ourselves? Why are we embarrassed to “esteem” ourselves?

Before answering this question, we must first define self-esteem. Self esteem comes from the inside out. It means that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, because she already knows she’s fine just the way she is. She is confident and aware of her strengths and abilities. She wants to share them with others.

This does not mean she is conceited. She is also aware of areas needing work and growth. But that’s ok, because she knows she’s not perfect, and she doesn’t have to be. No one is. She understands that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Self-esteem is a core identity issue, essential to personal validation and our ability to experience joy. Once achieved, it comes from the inside out. But it is assaulted or stunted from the outside in. A woman with low self-esteem does not feel good about herself because she has absorbed negative messages about women from the culture and/or relationships.

The reign of youth, beauty and thinness in our society dooms every woman to eventual failure. Women’s magazines, starting with the teenage market, program them to focus all their efforts on their appearance. Many girls learn, by age 12, to drop formerly enjoyable activities in favor of the beauty treadmill leading to nowhere. They become fanatical about diets. They munch, like rabbits, on leaves without salad dressing, jog in ice storms, and swear they love it! Ads abound for cosmetic surgery, enticing us to “repair” our aging bodies, as if the natural process of aging were an accident or a disease. Yet with all this effort, they still never feel like they are good enough.

How can they? Anorexic magazine models are airbrushed to perfection. “Beautiful” movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking “good for her age” or worse yet, “well preserved”. Mummies are well preserved. Mummies are also dead.

Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth.

Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. Many times, women with this problem don’t go for regular checkups, exercise, or take personal days because they really don’t think they’re worth the time.

Relationships are impacted as well. Their needs are not met by their partner because they feel like they don’t deserve to have them met, or are uncomfortable asking. Their relationships with children can suffer if they are unable to discipline effectively, set limits, or demand the respect they deserve. Worse yet, low self-esteem passes from mother to daughter.The mother is modeling what a woman is. She is also modeling, for her sons, what a wife is.

In the workplace, women with low self-esteem tend to be self-deprecating, to minimize their accomplishments, or let others take credit for their work. They never move up. Finally, with friends, they are unable to say no. They end up doing favors they don’t want to do, or have any time for. They end up going where they don’t want to go, with people they don’t want to go with! A woman with low self-esteem has no control over her life. But that can change. These women can get help and emotional healing.

It is criticial to remember that no one deserves to be abused. If something bad has happened to you, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person who chooses to hurt you. If you are presently being abused, you must put yours and your children’s safefy first. If you think you are in danger, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can choose your own identity. You can discard the popular cultural image and replace it with something real. As I read someplace once, “We are bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it.”

Nobody is perfect, but everyone is worthwhile. Believe in yourself.

What is Normal Sexuality in Marriage?

November 19, 2007

What Is Normal Sexuality in Marriage?

Everyone wonders about this. Do our friends “do it” more often than we do? Does anyone else have this problem where one partner has high desire, and the other one has little to none? We must be really weird. Everyone wants sex, don’t they?

The answer is no. Not really. More than 40 million Americans feel stuck in low-sex or no sex marriages. Research studies tell us that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men reported little to no sexual desire. Sometime in a marriage more than 50% of couples experience one or both partners with little to no sexual desire.

Desire problems are the most frequent complaint of couples entering sex therapy. They are also often the unspoken complaint of couples entering relationship therapy.

In our sex saturated culture, this particular difficulty has a stigma.  It’s ok to admit to having a drug problem or mood disorder. But a sexual problem? No way! We’re all supposed to be sexual superstars in our intimate relationships, aren’t we?

Actually, sexual anxieties, inhibitions, and problems are the norm. We’re afraid of not doing it “right”, like in movies and books. “Right” would be intercourse, with both parties craving each other all the time and having simultaneous orgasms every time they’re intimate.

Wrong! Healthy sexuality means giving and receiving touch that is pleasurable. It is not goal oriented, but process oriented. (The journey, not the destination.) It allows both partners to enjoy pleasure. It varies. Sometimes one or both has an orgasm. Sometimes not. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is not caring about yours or your partner’s needs.

There are many possible reasons for a discrepancy in desire between partners. The first is biological. As I mentioned in the statistics above, more than twice as many women than men have problems with sexual desire. This is because after the infatuation phase of the relationship, when hormones are running rampant, things settle down to natural biological rhythms. And biologically speaking, whoever has the most testosterone usually has the most desire.

Hmmm…. I wonder which gender that is!

Other reasons relevant to both genders are performance anxiety, emotional pain in the relationship, coerced intimacy, sex used as a bartering tool, lack of time, lack of energy, and fear of intimacy to name a few. These can be helped with an understanding therapist.

What you should do: first get complete medical exams to rule out any type of disease or medication causing the problem.

What you can do: see a relationship expert or sex therapist who can help you experience the pleasure and joy of intimate connection. You deserve no less.

Two Winners, No Losers This Morning

November 18, 2007

My husband gave me the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. I’m taking a two day seminar in NYC which he drove me to yesterday. He’s a nice guy that way.  He loves to do things for me. This morning he had other plans for the day,  but had still planned on dropping me off again this morning and getting back on time to pick me up at 5:30.  No problem, I said. I can drive myself in. He of course jumped on this because what a pain in the neck to have to cut his day short, right?

Here’s where the therapist had to walk the talk. I asked him to just write down the directions for me. That’s all I asked. Write down the directions. He got all cranky about that and frankly, I didn’t like his tone while he wrote them down and read them out loud to me. I could have called him out on this. I could have gotten reactive.  But I stopped myself and thought, I wonder what’s going on for him that he’s acting this way?

Since this man is the love of my life, I’d say I know him pretty well.  I realized very quickly that he was angry because he felt bad that he wasn’t driving me in again.  He worries about me when I drive into the city. I might get lost, or hurt or something.  He was angry because he wanted to be protective…. because he loves me. And also because he feels like its his job, 24/7. Again, that’s just the kind of guy he is.  

So instead of challenging him per my impulse, I went over and gave him a big hug. I told him what I’d realized and asked if I was right. Boy was I! He laughed a LOT, delighted that I know him so well (we all love to be known, don’t we?). So a potential fight ended up in laughter and a hug.

The only thing is, I hope I don’t get lost.

Couples: Its Not About Who Wins

November 18, 2007

I see this so much in my office- couples wanting to re-hash a week old argument and wanting me to judge who’s right. Detail by detail they correct each other, exactly who said what, who did what first, as if each admitted detail is a score toward the finish line.

But nobody really gets anywhere because there are no winners in an argument between partners. If there’s a winner that means there’s a loser, which means the winner loses too. Losers don’t like winners very much. 

Relationships are not about opponents or gladiators. They’re about loving your lover.

When you love you give the gifts of empathy and the benefit of the doubt. You understand that your partner is probably feeling hurt beneath the anger. You try to understand and ask for help in understanding because you want to make it better.

When you are loved you receive the gifts of empathy and the benefit of the doubt. You feel understood and appreciate the empathy and efforts of your partner.

The more you are given, the more you receive. The more you receive, the more you want to give.

It becomes a lot easier than the win thing.

What was your relationship defining moment?

November 17, 2007

Couples have an identity and therefore defining moments, just as individuals do.  A defining moment with my husband of 20 years took me, recently, totally by surprise. I  was going through the blues about the loss of my youth and youthful appearance. (Even therapists get the blues.)  He said, ” Well I think you’re still beautiful. More now than before. Because when I look at you I see all  of you … how you looked when I first met you, and how you looked over the passing years, and how you look now…like layer upon layer….all of you as one…”  I fell in love with him all over again in that moment, and I  believe it had to happen in order for our relationship to deepen to where we are now.

A Reader’s Hot Sand Defining Moment

November 16, 2007

“It’s taken some time but I think I’ve finally decided what was the first defining moment in my life. When I was little, every summer my family would rent a house at the beach. One morning when my father, sister and I were headed onto the beach, the sun was so hot it made the sand too hot for me to step on. I told my dad and sister this but unfortunately they didn’t think the sand was hot so they kept walking towards the water. I was stuck. I wanted to swim but did not want the hot sand to burn my feet. I stood on the deck for a few minutes trying to think of what to do. I finally figured out that I could slide my feet through the sand so they would not have to touch the top part of the sand that was so hot from the sun beating on it. This is my first defining moment because it was the first time in my life I had to figure out how to handle a situation without anyone else’s help. While it seems like a silly childhood memory, when faced with challenges in my life I often remember this moment and it helps me think of how to face the challenge without ‘burning my feet’. ” Written by Cheryl in a previous comment.

The Guilt Monster

November 14, 2007

Its a nasty little creature  but it does have a good  purpose.  Assuming you’re not a sociopath  you know what it feels like. We all do.  Who hasn’t done something wrong in this life and felt awful about it? We’re supposed to feel bad when we do something bad…. The healthy feeling of guilt prods us into making amends.  For example, you’ve had a lousy week at work and realize you’ve been very cranky  to your Person ( I happen to like this word much better than “significant other”. Its shorter and …well…more personal.) So when you realize this, and feel appropriately guilty, you apologize. Hopefully you have a healthy enough relationship that your Person accepts the apology and you’re both done with feeling offended and feeling guilty. And you move on.

But there’s another kind of guilt where the guilt creature turns into a monster that rules your life…not the kind that prods you to make amends, but the kind that takes over your life and relationships. A logical, cognitive solution that helps some of my clients, and maybe will help you, is this:

Imagine yourself in a court of law, where your guilt must be proven so that appropriate punishment, or amends, can be decided.  You’re the defendant representing yourself because no honest attorney worth their salt would represent you in this case.

Judge Judy, who has moved up to a higher court in her career (no I’ve never watched her in my entire life and I don’t feel guilty lying about this either) :  Ok, so its the State vs. You. What exactly is the crime we’re trying?

You (possibly stuttering at this point!): Uh, not a crime…..I just feel really guilty….

Judge Judy: Where’s your lawyer?

You: I couldn’t find one to defend me.

Judge Judy: Well why not? That tells me already that no one even thought you had a case.

You: Well….my therapist told me to come.

Judge Judy, rubbing her eyes: Oh my dear God,  why do therapists always send their clients to me? Do I look like a therapist????  What crime does your therapist think you commited?

You: Well….nothing…that’s why she told me to come here.

Judge Judy:  Fine.  So she wants me to do her work?

You: Well, actually I think  she wants me to do the work….

Judge Judy with a flamboyant  sigh : Ok, lets get on with this.  What crime do you think you committed?

You: Well, not a crime, exactly….I just feel guilty about….everything….

Judge Judy:  Could you give me an example?

You: Well, my son is unhappy a lot…actually he’s depressed…so I feel guilty all the time for being a terrible mother.

Judge Judy with confusion on her face: How old is your son?

You: 25.

Judge Judy (sighing and with even more confusion on her face) :  Ok…so….what exactly is the crime that I should convict you of?

You: Well, I didn’t say I committed a crime.

Judge Judy: But you did  say you feel guilty. Guilt by definition indicates wrongdoing of some kind.  What did you do wrong?

You: Well….I’m not exactly sure….but I must have done something wrong to be feeling so guilty.   If I’d been a good mother maybe he would’ve turned out happier.

Judge Judy: Did you take algebra in school? From what I’m hearing, a + b is not equal to c here.

You: Excuse me?

Judge Judy:  You have not convinced me with any logic at all that you are guilty of anything. Feelings do not necessarily imply cause and effect. What has your son  chosen to do about his depression? Does he see a therapist? Is he on medication?

You: No….

Judge Judy: Why not?

You: He  just….won’t….he flatly refuses.

Judge Judy: Are you supportive? Do you love him?

You: Of course!

Judge Judy: So what are you guilty of?  (She raises her hand in the air, to stop any possible interruption). And please don’t tell me about his childhood stuff.  That’s your stuff you’re consumed with here, not his. He’s a man now and its his choice how to deal , or not deal with,  the effects of his childhood. Did you do the best that you knew how when you raised him? Have you apologized  for any serious mistakes you made?

You: Yes! But if I could, I’d go back and do things differently now….

Judge Judy: Wouldn’t we all…thus the old saying “if I knew then what I know now”….But you have not convinced me of any crime worth the guilt you’re carrying on our back like a boulder. What was your crime? What should I convict you of?

You: I could’ve been a better mother.

Judge Judy:   I cannot convict you of youth and imperfection. Would you convict a mother of that?

You: No…

Judge Judy: Then what are you guilty of?

You: Nothing….

Judge Judy: Whose responsibility is it for your son to get help?  Can you pick him up and carry him into a therapist’s office? Can he still fit into a car seat? How big is he?

You: Too big (and now the light dawns…)

You grab Judge Judy’s gavel and slam it yourself.  Case dismissed.

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So think about it…if you will….and tell me….of what crime have you convicted yourself?

Do you feel guilty saying no?

November 9, 2007

A defining moment for me was when I learned the secret. I overheard a woman I admired, a former boss, responding to a request for her time  with the phrase “that’s not gonna work for me”.  She didn’t make up a million excuses for giving her time.   She didn’t recite a list of activities that would prevent her from doing what someone had asked.  What a beautifully honest response. Maybe it wasn’t gonna work because she’d planned to spend her time staying in with a good book that night.   Think about how important your time is. Your sands in your hourglass. 

It was a defining moment for me because until then I didn’t know how to say no.  I didn’t know how to set a boundary between my needs and wants and those of others.  It was a big moment on my journey to define myself.

I know we hear the phrase a lot. Its no longer original.  (Though in my opinion whoever first said it and set it in motion deserves an award of some kind.)  But its usually used when two people in the business or professional world have their schedules in front of them and are trying to arrive at a mutually agreeable appointment.  In the personal realm its a different story. At least, according to what I hear in my office. I hear way too many people telling me they went somewhere they didn’t want to go ,with someone they didn’t want to go with.  When asked why, they will sheepishly tell me they feel guilty to say no to just about any request.  

The guilt thing is something else again. Another post for another day.  All I can tell you is when I coach people to begin to use this simple  phrase in their personal lives, they see it really works for them. Because usually there is some family member who is accustomed to arguing or debating or insisting that they do something according to their agenda.  This phrase stops them dead in their tracks. How can any reasonable person argue it? Ah, but so and so is beyond, beyond  unreasonable, you think? All you have to do is never veer off the “that’s not gonna work for me” path. Don’t explain or make excuses because then they’ve engaged you into your former pattern and before you know it you’ve given up more precious sands from your hourglass.  Once my clients learn to use this phrase  they feel happier, less stressed, and are on their way to defining themselves.

So now I’ve shared another defining moment. Please think about it and tell me, if you will, what was yours?