If nothing else, after 50 years fighting poverty, one thing’s clear: America hasn’t found the right WMD.
Poverty’s still the winner.
Among the most ill-advised social programs developed to counteract the effects of single parenthood on women is one that promoted marriage as an effective weapon. While it’s true that a healthy, stable marriage between two committed people helps in the battle against hopelessness and helplessness, there may be a population not committed to marriage in the first place.
Whoever conceptualized that encouraging the chronically ill-prepared to otherwise marry was delusional at best; a bureaucratic butt-kisser at worst.
What were they thinking?
Not in doubt is that solid relationships can be beacons, gateways to education, employment, mental and physical health. The kicker is that such relationships can’t just be imagined, wished for, or expected without knowing how solid relationship works and passing it on, for at least 5 generations that adopt healthy marital functioning.
Marriage, itself, is a complicated construct that, in the hard sense, pre-exists poverty. Lack of knowledge is a set-up to failure to anything (imagine wiring a house without knowledge of electricity), especially regarding something as profoundly complicated as building a better relationship. Put bluntly, how can anyone expect that partners raised in dysfunctional families would, by dint only of wanting to, create a functional one? That marriage is imbued with such magical powers that, by its very existence, an intricate human condition is untangled? Or that the people who inhabit those relationships remain, generation after generation, committed to their marriages?
Welcome to the Magic Kingdom.
Children learn what they see. Further, children seek more than anything to belong and to be loved. When the cost of having that is withstanding an environment that is counter to family/relationship health — e.g. abusive, withdrawing, uncommitted, adulterous, enabling, permissive, angry, addicted or violent – children often choose unhealthy over healthy. Immature brains learn that this is what marriage and family looks like. Even people who strongly react against their upbringing stand the risk of riding the pendulum to the other extreme, becoming overly compliant, accommodating, permissive, rigid, pious, rule-bound.
The knottiness of relationship is that each of us brings a perspective on these experiences that are often different from our partner’s. Often explosive, this confluence paves the way for increasingly unhealthy negative behaviors for each partner as well as the relationship.
Marital success is promoted when partners participate in learning relationship skills. Partial participation, which seems the rule, doesn’t count; it’s like being “sort of” dead. Besides, when a parent is struggling to provide the basics of life, little, if any, focus is given to the hard work needed to sustain a healthy union during formal couples education, let alone past its end.
Abraham Maslow put it elegantly when describing what needs to be in place before someone can even minimally “become”. The condition of being poor, pregnant and female plays out on a stage of basic needs where relationship improvement is trumped by paying the rent. In the same way, one wonders if self-esteem can be extrinsically motivated in generations raised dysfunctionally.
Poverty in America is generations-old; institutionalized; a mind-set. It would stand to reason that any upward movement on the psychosocioeconomic ladder would also be a lengthy process. A multidimensional process. And a difficult one. As we see development of the New Poor, Americans’ marital behavior will be interesting to track. Will there be a relinquishment of the values that inspire healthy relationship? Will difficulty bind people closer together? And what will happen to the trillions of dollars spent on social welfare programs that, fifty years out, have been unsuccessful in eliminating poverty?
That social success in other countries is not surprising given the unique social structure and size of the United States. While a nation as small as Finland, for example, may be socialistic success in reducing the strife of single parenthood, Finland is not the United States. Not in vastness of size, diversity, political structure, and multiculturalism. Even in the best of situations, marriage is no less multidimensional or difficult; with behavioral and attitudinal improvement also measured in generations.
While I offer no resolution to the multiple dimensions encompassing poverty (my magic wand is broken) better minds than mine have tried and failed.
I do know that a uni-dimensional solution to single mothers’ poverty through marriage insults the problem and ignores the complexity of the fix itself.
For more insights, read Julie Baumgardner’s response to the Council on Contemporary Marriages position on this subject. Ms. Baumgardner is the Chair of the National Association for Relationship and Marriage Education.Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Colorado. Over almost two decades, she has seen low percentages of middle-class couples who have engaged in relationship education continue to apply what they learn. She calls the ones who have, like Adam and Leslie, “Super Stars” and their existence is cause for a smile every day. For almost 30 years, Kathe and her husband, David, have been committed to each other and to their marriage. As Jethro Tull once said, nothing is easy. Read more about their programs for couples at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com. ©2014, Being Heard, LLC
What’s a hand doing in deep space?
And what’s it attached to?
Is God just a big hand?
Wait a minute. Is that a hand at all?
The so-called “Hand of God” is the result of a combination of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuStar, combined with Chandra X-ray Observatory’s imaging. God (and Superman) only knows what that pulsaristic, X-ray, and magnetic energy stuff’s about.
That we humans jump quickly to proof of what we so desperately want proof of is telling.
When familiar objects are seen in otherwise vague ways, a phenomenon known as pareidolia is at work. Examples include seeing the face of Jesus in an apple core or your neighbor’s poodle in a cloud. When the need to believe is strong enough, we “see” what reinforces what we believe. Those who are especially adept at recognizing and interpreting such “signs” are attributed with magical abilities that enable them to understand the past, explain the present, and foresee the future. They’re called shamans, therapists, or witches, and every culture has them.
Anyone who holds the hand of God is powerful indeed.
Our fervency at making a disconnected connection can be seen everywhere in our lives, not just in questions about transcendence. When we’re always looking for signs, signs are always found. For some of us, magical thinking beats realism every time: I’m always a bit miffed when my husband can “explain scientifically” what tingles to believe. Like yeti or synchronicity.
A peek at the animal kingdom demonstrates how natural it is to go for glitzy — brightly colored and smiling is more alluring than earth-toned and frowning. If you still aren’t convinced, go to Vegas. Shake its pockets and the likely fallout will be all manner of charms, amulets and carved stones. If you’ve ever played anniversary or birth dates in the lotto, you’re exercising the same belief in magical power.
How powerful is it to “know”?
People have been hung or burned alive for failing to share explanations we want, figure they have, but would rather die than tell. Curiously, we never fault our dysfunctional thinking when plague continues after we’ve roasted all the cats.
Distressed couples or the chronically ill may get caught up in the myths of “other reasons”, blaming themselves or those around them for what is ultimately ours to carry, even when understanding is absent. Better communication in marriage or the development of chronic illness are examples.
Nevertheless, many of us feel helpless when comprehension fails. So far-reaching is our need to know that we look outside ourselves for a “magic cure”, “quick fix”, or to blame. It’s as if we were cognitively incapable of apprehending knowledge by ourselves, alone.
Facing the Great Unknown is frightening.
We call for help that protects, soothes, and explains.
And that’s as good a reason as any to search out the Hand of God.Kathe Skinner is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist. She’s especially keen on working with couples whose relationship includes invisible disability (e.g., cancer, lupus, hearing loss, depression). Kathe and her husband, David, live in Colorado with their two cats, Petey and Lucy. They know that holding the hand of god is as easy as adopting a pet. ©BeingHeard LLC, 2014
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.
There’s still a long way to go in making people aware of invisible disabilities. And that so many of us experience them.
Of course, ILIKEBEINGSICKANDDISABLED is about much more than invisible disability. That’s as it should be because our lives are so much more than how we feel or what chronicity label we carry.
If you read my blog because of my sly humor or because something has touched you , made you laugh or think or angry, I’m happy for that. I challenge you to share with someone you know who might appreciate something I’ve said. Oh…and please let me know what you think about something I think.
Thank you, readers, for putting on a smile on the face of the last day of 2013.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach in private practice. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years she’s like many who experience invisible illness — most of what happens in her life is not directly attributable to being disabled. With her long-suffering husband (that doesn’t have anything to do with illness, either), they’ve been married almost 28 years, sharing their Colorado home with two resourceful hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy. Read more about the Skinners at http://www.beingheardnow.com
© 2013 Being Heard, LLC
I think Tiny Tim got really chilled waiting in line on Black Friday.
And Cyber Monday.
Come to think of it, somebody told me he was at the mall the other day, too. Amazing, since he hit the deck real hard when he lost a tug of war over some on-sale Levi’s. Gotta give him credit for gettin’ back on the horse.
We had coffee at his house the other day. I didn’t say anything, but you shoulda seen the place. Like Santa’s workshop, but no ho ho ho. Bags from Macy’s and Target and Aeropostale with who-knows-what in ’em. Honestly, I don’t think Tim even knows.
Tim told me he couldn’t resist. “So what’s left over’ll go into the storage locker with last year’s stuff. No big deal.”
I don’t wanna say anything, but he seemed a little stressed. Okay, okay, a lot stressed. Nasty nightmares, even when he could sleep. Way overspending. I gotta say, the marriage ain’t lookin’ so good, either. Vicky’s back at her mother’s; said she just couldn’t bear to hear one more ***damn ring-a-ling-ling. What? I didn’t tell you? Tim sat on a bag of bells, didn’t notice, and they somehow worked their way into…well, you know where. Actually a nice sound when he moved; a little muted, but what the hey.
All that shopping, gotta be listed somewhere they talk about sicknesses. But you know Tim; can’t tell him anything.
If you ask me, I think all this joy and peace and fa la la la la is killing him.
So, hey, me and the missus, we’re gonna do this 90% off warehouse sale. Gonna go early. Like before the sun’s up. Wanna come?
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Coach. She has a small stash of presents for somebody-in-the-future but has considerably whittled down her holdings. She’s a firm believer in the concept of ceasing all manufacturing of giftable goods, believing everyone should recycle stuff by shopping at one big garage sale. She and husband, David, live in Colorado with Petey and Lucy, kitties who leave little presents for them all year round.
©2013 Being Heard, LLC
I keep a book in my office and if I had a coffee table, it would be on it.
It’s red, with a coffee spill down the front that’s dried into a Rorschach-kind of thing. Nifty for it to be in a therapist’s office.
Inside, dozens of clients have written their “should’s”.
It’s not instructive to describe what they said; more than likely, their self-flagellations are the same as yours. What catches the new subscribers is how similar their self-flagellations are. Put another way, there’s nothing special in their dysfunctional thinking.
Back when I was exploring how should’s get perpetuated, I was stunned and amazed to find myself described in the exact words I’d always used in describing my neuroses (notice I used the plural). Admittedly, there was disappointment in seeing myself laid out like some common Rorschach wench. I suspect that others, too, hold their depression, anxiety, mania, whatever, as a sort of badge of differentiation from others.
For others, as it was for me, depression is powerful; it was the coin of my realm and the way I bought into the realm I inhabited growing up. Depression can get attention, especially when nothing else seems to. That can be true in a marriage where one partner exists with an invisible disability. And just like for the kid who acts out, it’s attention of some kind, even if it bears a high price.
Being a therapist, consequently, has been double-edged: one edge cuts through the dysfunctional thinking, the should’s, the irrespective unfairnesses; while the other is sad to see those defenses so cut down. What I do in my office forces me to be embarrassed at my own mental laziness. Being depressed is hard; so is being anxious or manic.
But hey, it’s hard even when you’re not.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She comes by depression naturally as well as artificially and has recently added anxiety, for which she can thank multiple sclerosis. Petey and Lucy, the two hooligan cats Kathe and David share their lives with, are too annoying to let depression settle too quietly in their home. Kathe and David get out of the house by teaching partners the communication skills their relationships need.
I’d forgotten all about them, so when my husband plunked down dusty, dirty old boxes for me to go through, I inwardly groaned at more work. What I found caused me to turn off the TV, plop down on the floor, and get teary.
Some things are personal. It’s okay, healthy even, to keep private some things, especially from your partner. You disrespect all three of you by telling all, or worse: using an old relationship to make your partner angry or jealous. What passed between you and an old love is about as private as it gets and ought to be kept that way – unless it’s an STD in which case your partner knows something anyway.
Here’s why those almost 50-year old letters are meaningful to my marriage today.
That was then. Old love letters bookmark a time never to be recaptured. Memories are wrapped in words that are still breathtaking, kind of like a favorite old movie watched over and over again. That was long before kids and careers, mortgage payments and personal tragedies – all the water that’s gone under the bridge. Anyone who’s tried knows wishing doesn’t make it so. If you have the chance to go to a school reunion, take it. It’ll make you careful about what you wish for and maybe keep you from trading one used car for another.
20/20 Vision. How many times have we wished for hindsight? Knew then what we know now? Old love letters give you an opportunity to jump between realities; to see that your life has become far richer in experience than what it was then. You wouldn’t make the same decisions today because you’re more knowing and because you know more, too. Seeing clearly isn’t just about having new glasses; they only work when you wear them. Maybe the past gets romanticized because it was so free of all we see and know today. Most of what happened long ago was drama without impactful consequences; no wonder those were the best days of our lives.
An ego-boost. Those old love letters described things that, ahem, were personal. Very personal. After reading them, I’m likely to dial up some oldies, suck in what I can of my tummy, and turn my best side to the mirror. But, at 60 years old plus, I can’t see much of the hot-looking girl in the picture I hold. Those letters dialed back the scale, dialed back the clock, and let me be Cinderella waltzing a horizontal dance with someone who’s not the prince of my heart today. Part of what’s swoon-worthy are the words themselves – I can always be bought that way. That I was described so beautifully made me feel beautiful every time I read them. They still do.
Appreciation for today. My high school years were spent in Hawaii – a place imbued with the honeymoon-like magic of new love – during the powerful and poignant Age of Aquarius. Juxtaposed with rule bending and breaking was the rule-bound experience of Viet Nam. But my memories, all these 40+ years later, pumped as they were by the unique history of the late 60s, are no less vivid and meaningful as anyone else’s. Reminders of the past, like the letters I re-read, show me how much more I have to love now. And even how much better at it I am.
Didn’t Want Him, Anyway. Back then, love was pretty black and white; no mortgages, usually no kids, definitely no wisdom. Today’s love, mature love, knows that love can be fickle and to keep it requires attention and effort. If I’d gotten on a white horse (or in a VW van) and ridden off with my first love, the scenery would look nothing like it does now. I like the bourgeois creature comforts most aging hippies fell for, too. Honestly, while I would’ve made a few changes along this long, long way, starting over with the boy who wrote those heartbreakingly beautiful letters wouldn’t have been one of them.
Having moments of nostalgia and longing for the past are natural. Keeping those moments alive is part of the romantic, fanciful, non-threatening part in each of us. Humans are unique in the ability to fully remember the past. But know that bringing it forward, unaltered, never works.
I finished reading the notes the other night, then broke down the dusty box and put it in the recycle bin. The few I saved still whisper about what was and will get packed away until I again need to feel delicious. The touching wish left behind is about gifting the past’s richness to my marriage today.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Expert who shares with couples how to keep love alive and growing. She encourages them to write love letters. Kathe, and her husband, David, have been married nearing 30 years; their love is shared with cats Lucy and Petey, both of whom send messages in other ways. In that dusty box Kathe found the first card ever sent to her by David; odd she kept it since it wasn’t romantic at all.
As most men will agree, the only thing more bracing than Black Friday shopping is more shopping. This isn’t big-name, big-box stuff. Small Business Saturday® encourages consumers to SHOP SMALL®. American Express developed the program as a way to help small businesses market themselves. While the financial giant’s small biz bolstering is less than selfless, it’s still very cool to encourage spending of which 52% stays within the community.
If you’re a small business owner, like I am, it’s sometimes not so cool to be a business partner with the person who’s also a romantic partner.
1. Wear another hat. Lots of relationship problems arise from mixing what are two very distinct entities. Keeping the purpose of each is absolutely necessary to keeping them both alive. For example, a business can’t thrive when one partner is trying to undermine the other as a way of “getting back” after a fight.
2. Keep clear goals. Is it the purpose of the business to create loving, relaxed time together? Hardly. Likewise, it’s deadly to a romantic relationship to bring rude customers, money worries, or business planning into the bedroom. A top agenda item needs to be agreement on what each of those relationships look like. Especially who you will look like as a businessperson as opposed to a partner. Who gets to be on top?
3. Don’t fight in front of customers. You don’t have to actively argue in front of other people for them to know that something’s wrong. Want customers to walk out? Bring tension into the room. However, it’s easier said to keep from having animosity leak out your pores when you’re angry with each other. For couples who work together having communication skills that work is essential. If you don’t have ’em, get ’em. To your accountant; investing in communication classes might even be a deductible business expense!
4. Leave your children out of it. It’s often convenient for small business owners to have their children around their business. What’s especially off-putting is when those kids have roles within the business. Personally, I don’t want the house cleaner’s eight-year-old doing the vacuuming or playing hopscotch on the tile floor. Whenever there’s a personal face on your business, treat your customers professionally.
5. Be professional, not personal. There’s a line that some business owners cross when it comes to customer relations, especially when the relationship is with one of the business’ owners and not the other. Giving discounts, freebies, sharing personal information, can set up tension among owners and customers to say nothing of how this kind of practice crosses business and home thresholds.
6. Remember who you are. Family expectations start early and run deep. Both partners need to be absolutely clear about themselves: who they are; what they want for themselves, each other, and the family; and the relative role a family business plays in their lives. If you inherited a business, be clear on whether you both want in or out. I’ve counseled partners together and separately about the destructiveness that business can cause to togetherness.
I’m not kidding when I say that learning communication skills isn’t just for a marriage. Make continuing conversation part of your business plan. Success in one sphere is intimately tied to the other. Separating the two will always challenge you.
Kathe & David Skinner have been business partners for the past 14 years, beholden to Being Heard, a business dedicated to teaching and coaching romantic relationships. They were romantic partners first, married for over 27 years. They’ve learned, through some prickly times, to keep the two relationships separate. Kathe is also a Marriage & Family Therapist in addition to be a Certified Relationship Expert.
Speaking from a disabled woman’s point of view, living the “lib lie” in relationship simply doesn’t work.
The “lib lie” I’m talking about is putting career before relationship, being damned if I’ll make cacciatore, or being complimented for how I look.
Where was my head all these years. I’ll tell you where: in the conference room, the kitchen, and in front of the mirror.
Truth be told, I like making cacciatore — and being appreciated for it. The same as anybody would, including guys. Liberation doesn’t stop at individual freedom; its true worth is in how liberated our partnership is. Oh, stop — I’m not talking about three ways. See, if one partner realizes cultural or family baggage enough to detach a bit from it and the other partner is clueless, the relationship’s pretty lopsided. But hey, some partners like their partners a tad underdone.
Clueless for real or clueless pretended, either path leads right back to a problem that’s repeated itself for generations.
Sherod Miller, co-founder of Interpersonal Communication Programs, defines a healthy relationship as the collaboration of two strong people “bridging” to each other across a committed lifetime. Paula Derrow, writing in The New York TImes, calls it “leaning in together”. Writing recently about her marriage in The New York Times, Paula describes a marriage right out of Home Depot.
A do-it-yourselfer, her marriage to another do-it-yourselfer spanned two states. Their finances were separate, and so was ownership of their separate homes. Except for weekends, each lived a separate life.
Talk about distancing.
When Paula was laid off from her job as a writer, she had reason to need her husband in very real ways, one assumes for the first time. Lying awake, the writer struggled with questions about her independence, whether she could afford to continue living separately, and whether her husband was encouraging and supportive only as a way to get her to come live with him and cook up a cacciatore.
I won’t say where Paula Derrow’s head was, but to come to the realization that her marriage was about the two of them together, not separately, is, to put it charitably, wrong-thinking.
More than most, those of us with disabilities, invisible or not, have had to come to terms with the lie that we can make it on our own.
The poor state of the world economy has left millions out of work, stressing personal worth and identity. With so many jobless, you’d think social perception about being unemployed would’ve changed; it hasn’t. Role expectations die hard.
Changes in the social order are happening all around us; role-turbulence is no longer reserved for the disabled or marginalized others.
These days, anyone can become marginalized.
Relationship’s great test is how to be together without losing oneself; how to get from one place to another while travelling together.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach specializing in work with couples whose relationship is affected by invisible disability. Like most of her generation, she has been powerfully affected by the Women’s Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and has had trouble integrating that independence with the sometimes-limitations of multiple sclerosis. She and her husband David live in Colorado where they teach couples to collobate their way to happier relationships. Read more about she and David’s Communication Workshops at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.
In the modern age, long past the time Aesop and Burl Ives were telling stories, hybrids thrived.
One such unlikely combination was the grasshopper and the ant.
Now, you would think that being such behavioral opposites their paths would never cross.
You’d be wrong.
Somewhere in the reeds and weeds all the bugs were doing their thing. Beetles rolled balls of doo-doo around in circles. Bees started happy hour before five o’clock while cockroaches didn’t look anyone in the eye.
Ants, on the other hand, saw none of this, nor did they care. Their journey was always the same: back and forth back and forth from here to there here to there without looking left or right the whole time.
“Don’t wait it’ll be too late don’t wait it’ll be too late,” That was the mantra of the ant.
A world away – in bug terms, actually only a few yards – a grasshopper did grasshopper things. A traditional dance danced to a traditional song. A game of Reverse Limbo. Hopping and leaping hopping and leaping getting the rep of not being in one place too long. A grasshopper’s boots were never parked under anyone’s bed.
“La la la la la la live for today.” That was the grasshopper’s mantra.
Now, I know a lot, I’m very smart and awfully tuned-in, but, to be honest, I don’t know how the two of them – being so different and all – got together.
But they did.
No longer was it this way or that way right or wrong yes or no. The grasshopper and ant created an us where before there was only a yours or mine. No longer just different bugs, the grasshopper and ant created more:
A view looking down plus a view looking around;
Purpose and play all in one day;
In turns open-minded and single-minded;
Rewards from busy and the permission of intimate;
All that, plus leaving room for each to do their own thing.
Here it is, the end of my story. I thought long and hard about the best way to finish it.
The truth is that the end is the beginning as much as a beginning is an end in itself. It’s truly true that an ant by itself and a grasshopper alone is never as juicy as the two together.
Two together is the only way to live happily ever after.
The End (The Beginning, as well.)