Archives for category: Relationships

The boy, or adolescent if you like, had been treating his mother with disrespect. It was suggested that he ask his parents for forgiveness before his sixteenth birthday. When he approached, not without fear and trembling, his very stern father the response was “go and sin no more” or more accurately “stop abusing your mother then we can talk about forgiveness.

The lad was duly taken aback and sloped off to lick his wounds in his room. A lesson, all be it rather harsh, was learned. Bad behavior has consequences, we do “reap what we sow!” The hapless fellow now a full-grown adult, still ponders the real meaning of forgiveness. He is now convinced, maybe it is genetic, that the simply solution to all wrong doing is the extension of forgiveness.

What may go some way, he thinks, towards the healing of a wound is genuine contrition on the part of the perpetrator and the victim’s fuller understanding of the said aberrant behavior. Possibly, forgiveness is not the goal but rather an acceptance of the imperfect nature of the human being. No one is perfect, “all have sinned”, all are wounded and from time to time act out their woundedness.

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After listening to yet another couple go hammer and tongs at each other in my rooms, I am about to pull my hair out!
Love…what’s that got to do with it! Of course they all confess their undying love for each other, they just can’t like each other or live with each other! Can’t live together, can’t live apart. They need the adrenalin rush that comes from abusing each other! They have the bull be the udder! They cannot grasp that marriage has nothing to do with falling in love or with maintaining an on-going ethos of romanticism.

It’s hard bloody work! It’s about learning to communicate in a clear, unambiguous, congruent, open, honest manner.
Think well before you speak, you obviously cannot retract your ill advised, hastily spoken words. Learn to phrase your thoughts and feelings carefully. Express them at an appropriate time and place. Ask for feedback and give feedback. Be willing to rephrase comments in a more palatable form. Above all, listen to each other intently.
Listen to the meaning as well as the words. Be attentive, focus fully on your partner thus showing your willingness to understand.

Stop all bad behavior! Stop attacking, stop blaming, stop all hair trigger reactions, stop accusing, stop shouting. Take responsibility where it is appropriate. Apologise where appropriate. Forgive and forget past hurts. Move on, do not keep digging up the past. Start a new way of interacting based on mutual respect, compassion, integrity, self-sacrifice, humility, honour. Marriage is about living together in a supportive, caring and nurturing way. Don’t even talk about love if you have not learned to do these things.

She sits blank faced before the therapist
A deep scar runs above her eye
Her father was a bigamist
Her step father beat her ’till she said “goodbye!”

Her confidence is shattered
Her self-esteem long gone
Another client who was battered
By a wretch who loved the wrong

She has a partner now
Who loves her good and true
But she needs him to step up and make the vow
Before she turns away driven by fear undue

I’m sorry but Mum and Dad are getting a divorce my boy
The tears welled up and the little face fell
Only nine years old was the freckle faced boy
Will my Dad still be here, funny stories to tell?

Is divorce for ever, he asked, will we never be together again?
His mother reached across the table and took his hand
She held it tight and saw the pain
The little boy’s life was crumbling like a castle of sand

He gave a deep sigh and put his head in his hands
We all tried to comfort him, the boy with no Dad
His mother embraced him with arms like strong bands
And he climbed the stairs to his room to be alone with his sad

Following rapidly on my last blog “On marriage”, here are a few thoughts on divorce (once again inspired by Alain de Botton). The current trend in marriage is to “throw in the towel” as soon as a spot of bad weather arrives in paradise. When some work is required in order to address an issue, the response is frequently “well, I didn’t sign up for this crap!” This reveals the faulty thinking about the meaning of marriage. The old saying was “marriage is not a bed of roses”, in other words rose stems have thorns!

Marriage was not developed to please or pamper the partners, it is not meant to be a summer camp! It is a meant to be a source of safety, security, stability and support. It involves selflessness and self-examination. It certainly doesn’t just happen! A third-party who shows some appreciation that we imagine we do not receive at home, is just as flawed as our partner. It will only take a short time before we discover that this “knight in shining armour” is also an asshole.

Divorce, in many countries, is made far too easy. It should never be the first or the easy option. In fact, the decision to split up often comes at the very point at which the relationship is actually becoming a marriage! The early years of marriage are usually spent discovering each other’s unique characteristics. In a sense, it is only after about ten to fifteen years that a couple are actually ready for marriage! Everyone is flawed and no one will ever fulfill all of our unrealistic expectations; that is the bottom line! It is best to get on with it and make the best of your situation.

I am, of course, not referring to marriages where there is any kind of abuse.

I have just finished reading Alain de Botton’s second novel, The Course of Love. In this very helpful and insightful book, Alain says that because of our obsession with romantic love we insist that compatibility must precede love. He believes that we are “putting the cart before the horse”; love should precede compatibility. No one can be instantly compatible with another. Rather, compatibility is achieved slowly, sometimes over many years, as a couple learn to be kind to each other, accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses and become sympathetic to each other’s needs.

I found this understanding of marriage very helpful; it emphasizes the old adage “a couple must work at their marriage”. No two people are the same and living with one partner for life is a tall order. It can only be accomplished if the institution of marriage is valued above the selfish desires of the individual. Marriage demands the sacrifice of some personal goals in order to build a safe, stable and nurturing relationship. In addition, we cannot expect to have everything our own way, neither can we expect to be molly coddled like small children.

Marriage is, of course, a complex thing and every expert (and every married person) has his or her theories. Alain comments that marriage is such a demanding relationship that it is probably something that you shouldn’t wish on your worst enemy…fair enough, however, we do not appear to have found a satisfactory alternative!
My personal opinion is that personality types do play a big role and that is something that we cannot readily change. So it is important to try to find a partner whose personality is “compatible” with our own.

Alain submits that being married to an opposite is a worthy challenge; there is a healthy complementarity and it is character building to learn to adapt to a different way of being.

The silence of “passive aggression” is well documented and very real. Silence in a relationship is not that simple.
It can mean a number of things. One partner may have a strong need for quietude, especially first thing in the morning when he is trying to come to grips with the waking world. Or there may be an acute sensitivity to noise of any kind; even the voice of a loved one! Or superficial conversation may not be his forte.

Silence in certain instances or on certain topics can be more telling. Why are certain matters never raised? Are they just too sensitive? Will they “open a can of worms”? Will they unearth differences that cannot be reconciled?
The saying, “just don’t go there” sums it up! There seem to be some subjects that are best left alone!
It saddens me…the way we feel that we can’t talk about some things and so all our conversations are filtered or censored before airing.  Some matters may be insoluble but discussing them may bring healing…

Have you ever touched a snail? Well, if you have you will know that it retracts into it’s shell with lightening speed. Very sensitive people behave in a similar manner. An e-mail brings no response, a telephone message no return call, a letter is a trifle ambiguous, a friend walks by without a greeting, your partner doesn’t answer your question immediately and you “retract into your shell” of self-preservation instantaneously.

News readers refer to you as “a person of a sensitive nature”. Friends and family tell you to stop jumping to conclusions. “Not everything is about you” they say. Well, they are not you so how can they know how you feel.
Good relationships are based on, among other things,  unambiguous communications. Say what is on your mind and say it in a kind and palatable way. That’s a good place to start!

Avoiding talking about the “elephant” in the room can be unhelpful but it must be said that some “elephants” are probably left well alone! Sometimes a subject has too many layers of emotion and trying to peel these off may cause the tears to flow freely.

There are matters that are not going to be resolved no matter how diplomatic or sensitive the players. The trick is to distinguish between the subjects that can be fruitfully discussed and those that will not yield to further examination.

It is important for people in long-term loving relationships to exercise this skill of discernment. Opening up some matters for discussion may promote increased closeness while choosing to see some matters as closed will ensure the continuation of the relationship.

Just a thought!

Relationships are frequently built on half-truths and incomplete backgrounds. We present a particular face to the world and generally get by quite well. When we are unmasked, we are generally pretty uncomfortable. What now? How do I deal with the “inconvenient truth?”

Relationships can last for many years without certain subjects ever being raised, let alone discussed. Theses sensitive areas are avoided like old military minefields. The voice of reason shouts “don’t go there!” Yet this huge “elephant” in the room becomes a barrier to honest sharing and new levels of understanding.

I wonder how many relationships end because the partners simply cannot face dismantling the glaringly obvious spectre standing between them. It may be more comfortable to live in denial or avoidance but at what cost to personal integrity and mutual trust?