Friday, December 26, 2008

The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief Henry Ford said: "believe you can, believe you can't, either way your right."We are living in challenging times and no one has to explain that to us. What we may not know is that our viewpoint of the times will determine whether we are successful or whether or not we shall fail.In 1993 I was paragliding and fell 70 feet on my back and broke my neck. I was instantly paralyzed. I recall my first thought. "I never dreamed this would happen to me". I became instantly engaged in a process that would require 6 months hospitalization and a physical therapy 8-hour day as I learnt how to walk again. My neck was broken at C6 and I had done permanent spinal cord injury. My future was very unknown to everyone but me.From deep within me I found the entire experience positive. I never dreamed I would not recover. I never pictured myself in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. I just knew I had to give my all to my recovery, and in so doing I recovered much of my mobility.I have told many people since "The best thing that ever happened to me is that I broke my neck". I constantly get the response that is a strange way to view your accident. Then i say, "OK, the worst thing that ever happened to me is that I broke my neck. Which way would you look at the experience given I had broken my neck?"The power of belief is well documented. The mind can return from all types of adversity. People are incredibly powerful if they give themselves the willingness to achieve success in the face of difficult odds.As a community of people, we are all trying to make our way through these tough times, and it is easy to just let down and give up. But in so doing we shall achieve nothing. Better to fight back. Better to hold onto the power of positive thinking.During my 6 months in hospital many incidents helped me in my recovery. But undoubtedly the strongest gift was the power of friendship and the strength in people supporting people. That got me through the hardest times, and the bleakest nights.Community is power. If we support each other, we can make it to the end goal, whatever we decide that is for us. But it requires people supporting people. It requires community.Obama is the President elect because he understands community organization. He could have taken any job upon graduation but chose to go to Chicago and make $13,000 per year as a community organizer. He was ridiculed by some for having such small capabilities, but the truth is the last laugh is upon his critics, because he community organized himself right into the White House. And now, he intends to community organize the USA into a full economic recovery.I have no doubt he will succeed. It is not him, it is us. He constantly says so. And he is right. But he does provide the right backdrop for "US" to make it. He is the right leader for the right time.I encourage all of us to community organize ourselves into a successful venture. I encourage all of us to view life positively rather than hopelessly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Creating a Long Term Successful relationship

Creating a Successful Long Term Relationship

The average marriage lasts 6.8 years. Makes you wonder about the “seven year itch” Marilyn Monroe spoke of. Historically most couples stayed together for financial reasons. Today, financial support will not hold relationships together. Emotional support is required for a lasting and successful marriage.

What is emotional support? It is the love bond that exists between two who want to join their separateness into one. It is the ability to communicate feelings. It is the quality of friendship that must exist in a marriage if it is to survive the challenges of stressful life.

When a relationship begins to turn sour, inevitably most people blame their partner. Being right and making the other wrong holds more value than love, peace and harmony. The ego reins, and love begins to die. Mature individuals resist the temptation to blame and make the other evil. Watching grown adults fight like children in kindergarten may be understandable, but it doesn’t create soul. Mature and loving people face their inevitable challenges with dignity and grace and resist the temptation to throw insults at each other like children in a sandbox.

What to do when your relationship is faced with challenge. First and foremost, accept the reality that a wonderful relationship isn’t just destined, it is also hard work. To believe that relationship is effortless is to believe in magical thinking. Children use magical thinking as fantasy to avoid responsibility and work. Grown adults too often revert to such childish behavior when they give up when the going gets tough. No relationship is always easy. Just as a beautiful rose garden is created by a dedicated gardener, so a beautiful relationship is weeded, watered, and fertilized by the couple who treasure what they have. It may be tempting to see a beautiful cultivated area and magically believe it “just happened” but I can promise you, some dedicated gardener has spent countless hours caring for the elegance that you are beholding.

Beyond accepting that all wonderful relationships require work and effort, it is also important to engage each other using your differences as strength, not weakness. Too often, people see differences as difficult, rather than understanding that difference is healthy. If we were all the same, we would never grow. It is in our differences that we are challenged and created. Sameness is boredom and death. Difference is aliveness and creation.
Finally, a successful long term relationship understands the value of patience. Good things happen to those who wait. It is in the waiting that growth occurs and love deepens. Impatience is short sighted. Patience is at the heart of longevity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Turning Off The Worry Machine

Turning Off The Worry Machine
The secret to loving and living well is not to allow worry to control your thinking. In other words, not to give into the human emotion we commonly call fear. That is easy to understand. What is truly a riddle is how do humans turn off the worry machine? Saying, “stop worrying” doesn’t do cease worry and fear. Declaring you will stop worrying, is just an argument you have with yourself about this behavior. Worry will not stop with mental will power. So how do you turn the brain worry process off?Wait. If worry cannot be controlled by thinking “don’t worry”, why attempt to turn it off? Why not laugh at it. Why not be the observer of the machine and watch your own thinking. When you recognize that you are not your mind, you can begin to see the ridiculousness of worry. It is a mind puzzle set up inside the human psyche, similar to the rat chasing the cheese inside a maze in a psychological lab.To understand that you are not your mind, begin by observing your finger. If you lost that finger, would you still be you? Yes, of course. Then you are not your finger. You use your finger, which is directed by your brain to obey your thoughts. Just as you are not your finger, ultimately you can recognize that you are not your mind. You use your mind, but you are the consciousness using your mind to receive and give your being information.You are however trapped inside your mind. Some of the information you receive in your mind is wrong. To counteract the capacity to believe fearful thoughts, you can accept that you are not your mind, but that you use your mind, and right now your mind is misbehavioring by worrying. You are the consciousness observing and deciding all that is occurring in your experience. You use your finger and your mind but you are not your finger or your mind. Understanding this is essential to turning off the worry machine. You can only manage the mind with your consciousness.Now to understand worry. Worry is false thinking. Worry is based upon fear, never is worry based upon love. Worry is a dress rehearsal for a possible disaster created by the mind as a mental preparing for such possibility so you can be ready when disaster strikes. This worry creates stress and does harm to your body. It also interferes with your relationships. Fear is not a healthy basis for good relationships. Love is the better choice over fear and worry.Worry defines who you are. Those important things you worry about define who your personality is, how you respond, and how you show up in life. If you worry about your appearance, then you place all your attention to that, and everyone knows that about you. When you worry, stress appears, and you move out of harmony with yourselves.Turning off the worry machine requires you begin to live in the present moment rather than allow your mind to race into the future. When we race into the future and worry, we allow fear to consume us. Pulling your mind out of this futuristic negative thinking, allows you to recognize that worry is a fantasy of the future based upon your personal fears. Living right now you will see that nothing is wrong. But thinking about the future being wrong produces worry, fear and stress. This projection of your thinking into the future is worry or fear. Love is based on living in the present moment. Fear is based upon living in the future.Truth is worry is a psychological disease that is epidemic within our Western society. The media feeds us information to stimulate fear in the news, movies and other entertainment. This is because fear is a powerful motivator. The media uses fear to sell us the commercials that feeds the fear-producing machine called your thinking or your mind.Not only does the media feed the public fear, politicians and religious fundamental charismatics also use fear to sell people their products. Be careful of fear mongers. They usually have something to sell you, and once purchased you end up the worse in the deal. They feed you fear and you respond, as they want you to respond.Worry is a negative aspect of the human mind that can be lessened. To do this, you must accept that you are the consciousness observing the mind’s thoughts. You do not have to yield to the fear and worry. You can choice to laugh at the thoughts and dismiss the topic as soon as your conscious mind will allow the topic to disappear. Always remember the conscious mind is similar to a chattering monkey sitting on your shoulder always judging and always commenting upon everything you observe. The conscious mind is not always your friend. When you worry, you do not love yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Managing the Financial Panic now engulfing the World

Panic is a anxiety response to excess emotion. Currently the entire world is experiencing a major panic attack seen in the financial markets and the ceasing of the availability of credit for capitalism to run smoothly. We have heard endless reasons for the panic and everyone knows it is happening. What is important is not that we understand the "why" for the panic, but rather we need to understand the methods for dealing with this panic.
When a human has a panic attack, it is recommended that they breathe into a paper bag. This slows down the excess of emotion that has flooded the brain. The purpose for this is simple. When emotions flood our mind we go into an overload of negative emotion and fear, and cannot gain a clear sense of what is important and what is not important. By breathing into a paper bag, you learn that breathing is the primary function needed to survive. So by breathing into the bag, you take your mind off the excess emotion, and get down to basics. That without the next breath you will die. This is similar to the method of getting air out of a bottle. You place water into the bottle, thus empting it of the air. The air is forced out by the water. So fear can be forced out by remembering to breathe, and realizing that breathing is far more important than the fears we have racing through our thinking.
Panic attacks can be managed by meditation as well. This simply places your mind in a position that causes you to watch your breath or count numbers rather than have a contant stream of thoughts that have you overwhelmed. Meditation is a clear method for inner peace. It can when practiced regularly stop the mind from excess fear and panic.
Humans tend to follow each other. We are societies of humans and when panic occurs, we need to stop the fear and settle down. That is wht F. D. Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". FEAR is the issue. Fear is the problem. Fear and panic are the same emotion.
What is occurring is we are letting go of the old system that no longer works. The old ways that no longer serve the majority of people. We are entering into a time for massive changes and there is every reason for hope as we let go of the old and grab onto the new. But all transitions are emotionally disruptive, and thus the currrent panic.
The solution is to let go of the fear and embrace the new changes that are coming. Keep your focus upon the good that is coming and celebrate the old that is no longer serving the human race.
Fear and panic are human emotions that can be managed once we comprehend them. They are useless emotions that only serve as a dress rehearsal for disaster. All fear is the mind preparing itself for the worst case senario. But how do you know the worst is going to happen? What evidence do you have that this panic is based upon sound principles? I would argue the panic is gaining momentum as everyone joins into the panic. As we individually embrace the changes that are coming, and welcome the new, the panic will cease to consume us.
Roosevelt said it best of all: THE ONLY THING WE NEED TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Make no mistake about it; divorce is a profound emotional, financial and spiritual disruption for all involved. Many men and women consider it one of the worst experiences of their lives. No matter who makes the decision, both partners are profoundly affected by it. Usually, the spouse initiating a divorce carries the guilt, while the one not wanting the marriage to break up assumes the anger ¾ and the role of victim. But, in reality, both spouses suffer enormously before, during and after a divorce occurs. No one, not even a therapist, can tell someone if and when she should seek a divorce. In this chapter some reflections on divorce are offered in hopes of lending a new perspective to those facing this painful decision.
Once upon a time not so long ago, when a bride and groom stood at the altar and repeated the vow "Until death do us part," they meant it as a lifetime, unbreakable commitment. Divorce laws of the past reflected this black and white meaning, and there were enormous social pressures to stay married. Now, for many, this notion of permanence seems quaint. Putting aside the historical inequities of traditional marriage and property laws that harmed women and children and required reform, there were unforeseen and largely unacknowledged costs that came with the change in the definition of marriage from a permanent to an impermanent union ¾ with consequences that continue to shape the lives of men, women and children today.
Increasingly, the idea of divorce (or the contemplation of divorce as an option) functions as the "solution" for personal unhappiness within marriage. It's also fair to say that divorce as an idea serves as a rationalization used by one or both unhappy spouses for giving up on the commitment they made at the altar. Arguably, this revised concept of marriage as inherently impermanent and divorce as a solution for all things that go wrong in the marriage relationship inflicts a sizeable amount of harm on the husband and wife and, especially, on the children who must face the real, lifelong consequences of the dissolution of the family they hold dear. A bit of history enlightens.
During the 1970s, divorce, and by extension the institution of marriage, went through a major transformation with the introduction of the legal concepts of no fault divorce and community property. Prior to this time, fraud had to be publicly proven in a court of law in front of a judge who would then decide who was "at fault" in the marriage and whether or not to grant the divorce. He could then award custody and make financial dispensation of any and all marital assets. This system of divorce produced shame, and embarrassment and, often, the public ridicule of an entire family. The burden of proving marital fraud in a courtroom became so acrimonious that divorce tore many families irreparably asunder.
No fault divorce allows two people to dissolve a marriage without any evidence of fraud, with the most common, often perfunctory legal reason for divorce now given as irreconcilable differences. In most states, after the impersonal processing of a few official documents, each divorced spouse walks away with half of the marital assets. At first this approach seemed humane as it reduced the disastrous affects associated with the public humiliation of divorce trials. However, it produced other challenging ramifications.

What now appears clear is that after divorce became legally easier and more socially acceptable many people didn’t include the idea of "till death do us a part" in their thinking about the marriage vows. They may have said the same words, but either didn't take them seriously or, didn't think through their implications, leaving millions of husbands and wives psychologically unprepared for the difficult times all marriages bring.
America's divorce rate began rising in the late 1960s and jumped during the '70s and early '80s, as nearly every state enacted no-fault divorce laws. The rate peaked in 1981 at 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people. Since then it has dropped by one-third (The National Center Health Statistics, NCHS).
It seems that many who stood at the altar and spoke the words "until death do us part" meant instead “until this gets too hard, or until I get bored with you and someone better comes along.” This is not to say that the millions of people who married and divorced over the past three decades ¾ including both authors of this book ¾ were being dishonest or deceptive while going through with those marriages and subsequent divorces. What is far more likely is that (with the help of the larger culture) many were deceiving themselves.
Women, since the 1960s have been working in greater numbers and are thus less economically dependent upon men. During this same period women have sought divorces much more frequently than before. The most recent data shows that nearly 70 percent of divorces are female initiated. While economic and legal changes have allowed more women to consider divorce, there are other, strictly emotional dynamics that may be pushing women from simply considering taking this step to going through with it.
Women have a deeper sense of what is possible in an emotional relationship, and with greater independence, many have been less willing to tolerate inadequate marital relationships. Men on the other hand seem more content inside a marriage especially if they are physically cared for by the female whom many have unconsciously come to relate to as mother replacements. Also, in many cases men who are unfamiliar with emotions have permitted the female to carry the emotions for both of them ¾ a burden that can become very difficult for the woman in a marriage.
At the most simplistic level, one which women often find offensive, many men tend to see marriage as an exchange of services. They take out the garbage, take care of the cars, and mow the lawn, while the woman tends to the inside of the house, offers sex and takes care of the children. For many men, this seems like an equal exchange, while women, when asked, tend to see this as too much giving on their part and not enough receiving.

When June and Stan came into therapy, June explained that the giving and the receiving in their marriage were out of balance. They both worked full time, yet June felt the burden of the housework and caring for the children. As the unconscious assumptions of this relationship were further exposed, it appeared that, at first, June gave these gifts without resentment, and Stan was only too happy to receive them. But with the passage of time, June began resenting the imbalance and, as her resentment grew, she began to close down emotionally towards Stan. With this emotional shut down, their sexual lives ceased, and Stan began to store up resentment towards June for withholding sex.
This is the stalemate June and Stan had reached when they began marriage therapy. But, it turns out, the reason they came at all was June's ultimatum to Stan. "Come with me to marriage therapy or I'm leaving you and taking the kids." Stan had to be shocked into seeing the problems in the relationship as real and threatening to the marriage itself. But as Stan was unwilling to go through a divorce, June’s decree that either they went into therapy or she wanted a separation worked to move the relationship towards healing.
The process of marriage therapy eventually helped Stan realize that the shutting down of sex was his responsibility as much as June's. Stan came to realize that June needed emotional satisfaction before she could open up to Stan sexually. He accepted the need to engage in foreplay, something he generally resented and avoided. Slowly Stan learned the harder lesson of how to pay attention to his own feelings, which allowed him to be more receptive to June's. As he became more knowledgeable about emotional connectedness, June became more available to Stan for sexual activity. She felt loved and reassured that Stan cared for her emotionally. With these changes the marriage began the healing process, with all the richness that is available when two people emotionally care about each other’s feelings.

Stan's ignorance of his own internal emotional life is very common. Men often have to learn about emotional connectedness after they get married, while women understand these principles naturally, although some women can be said to feel too much; they can find themselves flooded with emotions. For a marriage to work harmoniously, this imbalance has to change. Often, a wife can teach her husband about emotional satisfaction, and a husband can teach his wife about controlling her emotions when it's necessary to do so. Many men tend to be dismissive of emotions in human beings, and this attitude can make a man unwisely see his wife's emotional display as manipulative, and then harden himself towards her, which is the very thing you do not want to have happen if the marriage is going to improve.
The decision to dissolve a marriage is extremely personal. And while divorce is always a failure, sometimes it's a necessary one. Physical or emotional abuse is the main reason people should seek a divorce. Physical abuse is easy to assess, while emotional abuse is far more subjective. But this type of abuse is real and severely damaging to its victims. Emotional abuse can include one spouse making degrading remarks, being very controlling or emotionally neglecting the other spouse.
If one parent is violent or verbally abusive towards the other, the children will always side with the one who's been hurt. If you are the victim of spousal abuse, your first job is to find a safe place for you and your children. Try to avoid painting the image of the other parent as a perpetrator. This will ensure the children distrust the entire sex of the offending parent. Where a mother has conditioned a daughter to see her father as “evil”, she can grow up to view all men as “evil,” severely limiting her chances of having a good marriage.
Addiction is another extreme, potentially abusive situation. In cases where one spouse is in the grips of an addition to a substance, or to a behavior such as gambling, or sex, and refusing professional help for his addiction, separation or divorce may be necessary for the protection of the spouse and children. Many spouses dealing with an addicted partner find support and suggestions on how to help the addict without endangering themselves from the Al Anon twelve-step program. Associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, these all-volunteer organizations are in every community (check your phone book), and offer their valuable services anonymously and free of charge.
Before you make a decision to divorce your spouse, you should make at least one visit to a marriage and family therapist. Like a dentist is trained to understand what is happening to your teeth, therapists are trained to understand the difficulties within a marriage and family. Seeking outside guidance before making such a large decision is obviously desirable, just as it is better to go to the dentist than take a pair of pliers to extract a tooth from your own mouth because it is painful.

According to the NCHS, the divorce rate for people with higher levels of education has fallen slightly over the past decade, while the number of divorces for those without a college degree has stayed the same. Noted author on marriage, sociologist Stephanie Coontz attributes this difference to education giving people better communication and negotiation skills ¾ both essential for a marriage. Coontz also pointed to studies that show a wife's work outside the home tends to stabilize a marriage.
If you feel the need to divorce your partner but he does not wish this to happen, your first step should be to let your partner know what behavior of his is bothering you, and see if he can change it, and whether you can change your responses. Often, the best way to try to effect such changes, particularly if communication between you has broken down, are through marriage therapy. Better to pull out your own teeth with pliers than take on a divorce without outside guidance and counseling ¾ especially when underage children are involved. Still, the majority of divorces occur without any outside help sort, whether that help comes from a minister, Rabbi, or from a licensed therapist.
Before the legal and social sea changes that fundamentally altered the institution of marriage in the 1970s, unhappy spouses stayed married "for the sake of the children." In the decades since, this view has often been derided and denied as unnecessary, even antiquated. But, as one out of two marriages end in divorce, up to one million children per year experience the trauma of divorce. Only within the past ten years has it become undeniably clear that the negative impact on divorce on these children has been disproportionate (compared to their parents) and dire.
One landmark study on the impact of divorce on adult children conducted by Judith Wallerstein caused major reverberations when it was released in 1999. In it, Wallerstein and her colleagues resoundingly demonstrated that parental divorce caused heretofore unacknowledged emotional and behavioral negative consequences ¾ including mood disorders, school failures and relationship problems ¾ in 25 percent of adult children of divorce who were tracked in many cases into their forties. This was compared to 10 percent of adult children from intact families who experienced these problems.
Judith Wallerstein's study demolished a popular myth advocating the view that it is less harmful for children to experience the "temporary" trauma of divorce than to witness their parents' ongoing marital unhappiness. In reality, the degree of damage to children depends upon the level of unhappiness, or abuse they witness.
A good case can also be made that when children witness divorce they are seeing a harmful example of their parents' failure to keep a commitment. Which is the worse behavior for a child to witness first hand, marital conflict or the avoidance of commitment? Only you can decide, based on your own marriage, and personal experience.
This all assumes under age children are involved in the marriage. When two adults without children come to such a volatile crossroads in a relationship, the bar is obviously much lower. Personal growth can be valid reason for a divorce when one of the parties believes he has worked extremely hard to bring improvement to a marital relationship and is frustrated by a lack of effort by his spouse or a lack of results. But if children under eighteen are involved in your decision, the decision should be examined with much more care and concern for the children's welfare.
If there are under age children involved, perhaps other arrangements can be made so the marriage can continue until the youngest child reaches eighteen. You may be remain husband and wife and parent your children while maintaining quasi-independent lives. One of you may have an additional residence. Remember there are no longer any or many hard and fast rules for marriage. Each man and woman create most rules independently in a marital relationship. Seeking outside therapy can assist you find other ways to remain in relationship for the purpose of keeping your family intact until the children are older.
Once the youngest child is 18 years of age, any married person who has put up with a failed marriage should be entitled to follow his own inner calling and end the marriage, if he so desires. To take this idea to its extreme, perhaps all marriage licenses should expire upon the 18th birthday of the youngest child in a family. The couple that then wishes to continue being married would have to formally renew their marriage license, and reinvest in their union for the second half of their lives. With such a decision, perhaps a re-marriage ceremony and community celebration should take place.
This perspective, although radical, is presented to underscore the physic and practical benefits ¾ to you an your children ¾ of treating your original marriage vow as both real and permanent. The completion of the commitments you made when you married and especially after you created a child together contains an integrity that is often overlooked, worse, scorned as "old fashioned" in today's culture. Once again, underage children are the real victims of a divorce. It is their well-being that must be considered before the decision to divorce is made final, or before a family is dissolved.
Every marriage has good and bad times. Some don't make it through one year. Many others succumb at the aptly named "seven-year itch." If you thought your marriage had made it through these familiar pressure points, but now find it very troubled, first be aware that you're probably not thinking clearly right now. Emotions, from hurt and anger to grief or fear can be overwhelming. So how should you make the difficult emotional decision to divorce if you are currently weighing the possibility?
One deceptively simple method is to write out a list of the positive and negative aspects of your marriage and carefully weigh the pros and the cons. Put all the reasons for ending a marriage on one side of the page, and the reasons to stay married on the other side. Then attempt to give a weight or point value to each point, from one to ten, so that you rationally see what the choices are, how important each is, and why you ranking it thusly. The fact that your husband is a great father to your children might be given a point value of 10 and lead the "pro" column, while his inability to share his emotions may receive a six and go in the "con" column.
The idea is to slow down the decision-making process behind a divorce. When divorce is frivolously chosen, your experience of commitment is shortchanged. It is a dangerous romantic fantasy to believe that a good marriage is an easy one, free of conflict. The opposite is often true. A marriage that looks calm and peaceful on the outside can be stagnant, or even rage-filled on the inside. A good marriage provides a safe container for conflicts to be worked on and resolved. The only way to create this safe container is for both of you to make a rock solid commitment to keep working at it ¾ especially when the times get tough. It's not that divorce should be abandoned. Just because it is slowed down, does not mean divorce should be or could be taken away as an option.

Temporary separations can help a troubled marriage. The problems and the stress they cause can be mitigated with a little space from your togetherness. A separation can provide new insight into what is valuable and what cannot be tolerated in the marriage. Because many people fear that a separation always ends in divorce, they avoid it as an option. But many couples gain new vitality from spending some time apart from each other. Think of it as a trial divorce. Then you will better know what is best for you, your family and your children. In Stephen Martin's 30-year marriage therapy practice, roughly half the couples who tried trial separation got back together after six months. A trial separation may also help expose the real, perhaps hidden issue underlying one partner's desire for a divorce. For example, an issue that frequently leads to divorce is the deep unhappiness within one of the partners in a marriage. Often, that unhappiness is self-created, but, while living with his wife, the one feeling unhappy cannot completely understand his reasons for it. By the point at which he is considering divorce, he could be projecting that unhappiness on his partner. He may believe that if he were no longer married to her, he would find happiness.
If this is the case, it's best for the one feeling deep unhappiness to perhaps spend some time living alone, and/or seek individual therapy to see if the problem can be corrected within himself, thus making a divorce unnecessary. If, on the other hand, the problem is toxicity within the relationship, and he is convinced that the toxicity cannot change, perhaps a divorce is the only reasonable alternative.
Divorce ends a marriage, but should it end a family? Everyone needs the safety and support of a family, and when it is torn apart by a divorce, the consequences can be disastrous. In order to minimize the damage to the children should a divorce become necessary, marital issues between Mom and Dad should be kept out of view from the rest of the family. The relationship between two married people is distinct from the relationship between a mother and a father of a family. Wise parents who need to divorce know that divorce does not end a family, and they struggle to it together while they let go of their marriage.
To facilitate this, each parent should obviously refrain from telling the children her personal grievances with the other parent. Unfortunately this rarely happens as emotions spill over and inside the emotional disruption, parents tend to complain about the other parent in front of the children. Immature parents either consciously or unconsciously wish to force the children to make choices between mother, and a father. Nothing can disrupt a child’s life more than siding with one parent over the other, and to have the parents encourage this alienation from one parent. Children never want to choose. When this happens it inevitably is the result of either parent forcing this decision, unless the children witness extreme abuse.
When telling children of a coming divorce it is best to have the child see her own therapist to handle the emotional disruption she is experiencing. Give as few details as you can, and only answer questions she asks. Attempt to have children remain non judgmental about the coming divorce. Teach them it is not their fault. Most children blame themselves when a divorce occurs. If only they had been better children, their parents would not need to divorce. Whatever the situation in a family or stepfamily, divorce is never a child's fault; it is the failure of two adults to get along as husband and wife.
Let your children know you will always be a father and a mother to them, that what is changing is simply the role of husband and wife. Again, the family is not divorcing; the husband and the wife are changing their roles inside the marriage, not inside their family.
After a divorce, emotionally mature parents try to get along as parents, and let their marriage go. This means your conversations as parents should (at first) be limited to just the children and their well-being. Sensible parents know that you never divorce a child, even if you have to divorce the child's other parent.
The key to success in this difficult transition is making a distinction between your roles as husband and wife and separating those roles from mother and father. Healthy families navigate a divorce by understanding the different roles, and never destroy the role of the other parent in the eyes of their children.
If you need to complain about your ex, never do it with the children. Find friends or seek professional guidance to grieve the loss of the marriage and release the anger of a divorce. Usually a divorce will take at least three years to heal from. Allow yourself the time to grieve, be angry, to feel hurt and disappointed, but keep this from your children. Children never want to choose between good parents…. they always want their parents to get along and love each other. Sometimes it takes a divorce to accept the other parent of your children. If this is the case, and you've tried many different approaches, unsuccessfully, to save the marriage, perhaps the divorce was necessary. Better to get along as Mom and Dad than hate each other as husband and wife.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why Does the State grant Marriage Licenses without any evidence of proficiency?

Why Does the State grant Marriage Licenses without any evidence of proficiency?

Before you are granted a driving license, you are required to prove to the state issuing the license that you know how to drive. This is good common sense as a car can be a destructive machine when not operated correctly. If you do not know what you are doing, you can hurt yourself and others.
Does anyone doubt marriage can be destructive to human beings, families and society when they fail? To assume proficiency before granting a marriage license is to take a huge chance on the lives of many people, especially the children that are born into such a disastrous contract.
What is the purpose of a marriage license? Is it a mere formality? Is it a romantic fantasy permitted by the State without requirements just so they can raise revenue by charging a fee? Historically, marriage is the legal mechanism that permits property to be properly distributed upon death? The license assumes certain inherent rights and codified rules that shall be followed. A license to marry is granted by the State to the individuals wishing to marry, and it formalizes financial agreements that the State has codified.
I believe in most States, there are only two requirements before a license to marry is granted. One is that both parties are of the legal age for marriage. The other guarantee is that there be only one partner permitted at a time. Polygamy is not permitted in this country, although multiple marriages are permitted as long as a divorce occurs in between those marriages.
Is this really enough to grant a license? After all, a license grants certain rights. If you don’t like the rules of the license, you should not get married.
Why do we permit a condition to exist where the majority of marriages end in divorce in this country? The answer is complex, but divorce began in earnest after the State changed the rules about requiring fraud be proved before a divorce would be granted. This change was necessary because divorce degrees became very odious and a public scandal where human inadequacies were testified to in a court of law and made public to all. So now we have a condition called “no fault” divorce, which allows a divorce to be granted when one person wants the marriage to end.
But what about the children of failed marriages? Are they not casualties we need to consider before we so casually grant licenses to people who wish to be married? Why should licenses be necessary to demonstrate proficiency in handling an automobile, but not the potentially far more hazardous matter of marriage? Surely there should be more to it than just a revenue-collecting device. And if that is the main reason States grant a license to marry, it is a very cynical view of a marriage.
As a licensed Marriage and family Therapist who deals exclusively with marital and family issues, I would propose society establish more evidence of proficiency before granting a license to marry. I would like to see mandatory premarital counseling and educational course about marriage and family given by either the Church or the psychotherapy profession. I know many ministers and pastors who will not perform marriages without such thoughtful preparation. They take their role as minister seriously, and as with other sacraments of the church, require thoughtful study before solemnizing a marriage in their churches.
I believe this is responsible action on behalf of the Church. But it is not the church that grants the license. It is the State. You don’t need a church to marry you. So surely it is the State that is ultimately responsible to make sure a potential couple are competent. If we as a society are ever going to take seriously the downward spiral of family life in this country, we must eventually require educational evidence that two people are ready to receive a license to marry before the license is granted.
Is marriage a serious institution or is it the playground of the romantics? When Britney Spears got married in Las Vegas several years ago and divorced the following day, it made a mockery of the entire institution of marriage. Such weddings, entered into impulsively in a moment of fun, should no more be allowed than giving children a license to drive ‘just for fun’.
Eventually the States are going to have to hold the granting of marriage licenses more seriously than they currently do. This will happen when we as a society become disgusted with the current state of divorces and the human catastrophe that results. Surely some educational requirements before the license is granted would go a long way towards putting this right.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Should Your Marriage Be Saved?

One of the most troubling questions I encounter during the first session of therapy with couples is "Should we work on our marriage or should we end it?"

My answer is always the same. "I assume if you have taken the time to call me and discuss this question with a marriage therapist then their answer is 'yes.' Otherwise, you would be seeing a divorce lawyer."

Never go to a marriage therapist and expect them to answer this question any other way. To do otherwise, is like going to a doctor and asking whether or not you should live, or give up and die. A doctor is in the business of saving lives. It's the same with a marriage therapist who assists couples in repairing marriages. I never presume a couple wants to end their commitment, and let their marriage die.

Divorce is often a lack of imagination about how to live in a committed relationship. The real feeling that exists behind a couples' statement that they wish to end their marriage often is, “We are exhausted by trying the same old patterns and encountering the same failure. Can you give us any ideas how we can be different in this relationship?”

Now that is an excellent place to begin. So lets explore the possibilities.

After thirty years of doing marriage counseling, I have found that, in most cases, within thirty minutes of listening to a couple, I can see what needs to change in a marriage. Of course, most couples are not ready to hear what I can see after listening to them for just thirty minutes.

They first want to complain, release their anger, and express their frustration. Then, perhaps, they're ready to hear what is needed to repair the damage.

Marriage counseling is not rocket science. It involves a basic comprehension of couple dynamics and the skills to help the couple see what it is they need to do differently in order to heal their marriage.

Although marriage counseling may not be a complicated process, I would say that marriage is the most complicated human relationship I know of. It is more complex than parent / child, employee / employer, or any other family relationship. Why is this so?

It's complicated because, in order for it to work, the modern institution of marriage must be an equal relationship. In the work place, democracy doesn’t rule. The boss is in charge. In the parent child relationship, the parents are in charge, or they should be. As many parents have found out the hard way, setting boundaries for one's children is the only parenting style that enables children to feel secure enough to become responsible, self-confident adults.

But in marriage, the two partners need an equal relationship. If your relationship is not equal, it will breed a power struggle. When one spouse holds more power than the other, eventually that relationship must come unglued. The reason is simple. An imbalance in the distribution of power will create disrespect and passive aggressive behavior. The more powerful spouse will disrespect the weaker one, and the weaker one will express their hostile feelings in a passive-aggressive manner.

This imbalance of power is at the heart of most marital problems. It affects the self-esteem of both individuals in the relationship and results in the one who is weaker sabotaging the one who is more powerful.

Many marriages of this kind are held together by the negative use of power. For example, traditionally men have the power over money, while women have the power over sex. As a result, in marital therapy, sex and money are the two most disputed issues. But, most declared problems are not the real problem. The real issues lie under the surface and have never been deeply examined. The couple must look beyond their money and sex issues to see the underlying power struggle that has created their dsyfunctionality. Until they see this deeper dynamic, they will go around in circles fighting and struggling, complaining and hurting each other, but never really knowing what is at the route of their problems.

In my experience, most couples blind themselves to their real issues, preferring to instead fight about issues that are merely symptoms of these underlying issues. Until the real issues are addressed, the couple will never heal.

Enter the competent marriage therapist. He should see the underlying dynamic of a marriage and have the experience to guide the couple to heal their original wounds.

Not getting to the bottom of the real issues is like the story of the princess and the pea under the mattress. No matter how many mattresses she placed on top of the original mattress, until the pea is found and removed, will she not be able to sleep. Good marriage therapy finds the pea under the mattresses, and teaches the couple how to remove the disruptions that are causing their strife.