Marriage Is A Growth Experience

This is the third installment about a young couple, Jordan and Mimi, whose marriage was about to be derailed. Last week, we got to know Mimi a little better and this week is Jordan’s turn. Jordan is a smart, reserved boy who loves his work. He is one of a large family, the sixth of eleven children. Perhaps he became quiet because there was already too much noise in the house! Or perhaps that is just his personality. It would have been easy for Jordan to be lost in the middle but he saved himself from that by becoming quite self-sufficient. At ten, he could put a piece of cheese on a piece of bread and pop it into the microwave and call it a meal. He could eat his sandwich, and then do his homework. It gave him a sense of pride that he could take care of all his needs and not bother his overworked mother. Because he was nearly always at the top of his class, he was not asked to do too much in the house other than keep his own room neat, which he did. As a result, although Jordan was a pleasant guy, he was not too tuned into others; they did their thing and he did his. This meant that when he got married, he was pretty unprepared to “read” women in general and certainly not a young lady who dazzled him when they were dating but turned out to be needy underneath. He didn’t even know what a needy person was like. Could Jordan step up to the plate as a husband?...

A Simple Tool To Reconnect

Mary Smith walked into the office of the Marriage & Family Therapist resolved to maintain her dignity. She would not cry; she would not allow herself to be put on the defensive, and most of all, she did not want to point fingers. She knew that being blaming never got anywhere. She just wanted some answers. Her husband, Simon, reluctantly came with her. He didn’t see the need for this and Mary had had a hard time explaining her reasoning to him. She had told him she was unhappy and she could see that he was stressed, too. Simon had argued with her that neither of them was crazy and “What else do you go to a shrink for?” Mary had tried to couch the reason for the appointment in terms of happiness: “Of course we’re not crazy,” she said, “I don’t think that’s why people go for help. They just go for help because they need it.” Mary exhaled a long sigh. Their conversations were so exasperating. When would they ever be on the same page? In spite of her bravery and her resolutions, Mary was nervous as she sat waiting for their turn to go into the therapist’s office. Here, they would be sharing their personal and private lives with a total stranger. Did the stranger know enough to help them? Did the stranger have the wisdom and experience to read between the lines? Would the stranger make them feel guilty for the occasional mean remark that one or the other might have made? Would they really get the help they so badly needed? The therapist greeted...

DrDeb’s Book Review: Difficult Conversations

“Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen are from the Harvard Business School, of all things! But that is precisely why we can benefit from listening to what they have to say. Let me explain. We can be sloppy with how we talk to our loved ones. We feel we have to be “honest,” right? And then what happens? Well, I don’t have to tell you: It generally doesn’t work out so well. But business! Ah, that’s a different thing. When money is on the table, everyone wants to be careful. Not only careful as in “diplomatic,” but careful as in “getting the outcome that I want.” Yeah, in business, we are usually smart. If we want to make a sale, we nurse the customer. But with our families, we are just as liable to shoot ourselves in the foot, unfortunately. So what can these three people tell us about conversations that we didn’t already know? A lot, apparently. I have to tell you *I* was impressed because they break down conversations even more than I thought I did. (Yup. That’s right. I don’t have to have a big ego about this.) As a manual of how to work with people — or your family — it is great. Let me give you a bunch of great examples, pages I dog-eared just for you. “When Blame Is the Goal Understanding Is the Casualty” (p. 64) “Even in situations that require a clear assignment of blame, there is a cost. Once the specter of punishment – legal or otherwise – is...

You Can Control Your Emotions!

  I was on the main avenue in my neighborhood a few years ago after I’d moved in looking for a store. Not being from here for very long, I just didn’t know all the shops and where they are located. I crawled along riveting my head from the road to the store numbers when that old familiar, grating noise intruded: beep-beep-BEEP!! And I had that urge that I always get – to rush out to the the beeper and ask, “So…I’m looking for an address and I’m a little confused….How, um, how, exactly, does your beeping help me find my address better so I can get out of your way?” Of course, I never do ask that question. For one thing, I don’t want to be shot because who knows just how irritated and aggravated that person is who is behind that steering wheel? And that really is the second and most important reason why I never have done this and never will: It’s because I know that the beeping comes from the emotional place in the brain and rational questions can’t “reach” an emotionally overwrought person. People use their horns as an expression of emotions that have gone out of rational control. In fact, people often use their mouths as an expression of their emotions when they ought not to. It’s those darn emotions that get in the way of brains that work so very well otherwise. Think about all the emotional things that deter us from living happy lives: Worries over what is beyond our control like someone who is sick, fears of failure when failure really...

Why “Communication” Doesn’t Work

The caller had that dull tone in her voice that comes from having gotten to the end of her rope. “My marriage is at the end. Basically, it’s over,” she explained, “because I can’t take another day of the way I’m being treated. We are strangers. And I’ve told him over and over what needs to change and it is not happening.” “I understand,” I said. “Why did you call me, then?” “Well,” the caller sighed. We have children. I – I could never forgive myself if I didn’t at least say I tried everything.” “You know,” I replied, “I could see you for a time or two to see if there really is hope, but, honestly, if you don’t re-commit to the idea of your marriage before you come in, it will be wasted effort.” Now it was my caller’s turn to put me on the spot. “Why should I?” she asked. “So as to come crashing down all over again? Get my hopes up and then – splat! Down they go!” “You’re right,” I said, nodding although she couldn’t see that. “You don’t want to be emotionally vulnerable and then get hurt; you don’t want to pile disappointment upon disappointment, and I understand that. But a lot of times, there really is hope. That’s what my specialty is: putting marriages back on track that were on the brink of divorce. I don’t advocate divorce no matter how many “experts” have told you it’s the way to go. “You can go look at my blog for all the reasons why even divorce attorneys don’t recommend it. A lot...
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