If you’re allergic to dogs, happiness is not a warm puppy.
Metaphors about puppies, or anything else, are potentially dangerous. Even knowing where happiness — like any other emotion — occurs on the emotional spectrum doesn’t give the whole story. The only way to really know about someone else’s happiness is for you to ask and them to tell.
Thinking in deep and different ways about happiness isn’t easy. Here are some thoughts to get you started:
– Happiness has to withstand time, age like fine whiskey. Update your awareness: what made us happy then may not make us happy anymore.
– Time and distance are sweeteners; I always love those I love when I’m away from them. Be aware that both time and distance can be distorting while still sweet.
– Remembering happiness transports us to a happier time; look at the popularity of oldies music, or school reunions.
– Happiness can be a trickster. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, usually brought to you by distorted reality. We want happiness so much that remembering it can be larger than life.
– The “gift giver” doesn’t have to be animate and neither does the gift, like what what we derive from picturing daybreak in our mind’s eye, or watching sunrise in the moment.
– Giving happiness to someone else requires mindfulness and presence. For example, active listening to what your child, friend, partner says, and being heard yourself are monumental gifts.
– Happiness shows externally (an ear-to-ear smile) while its meaning remains internal.
– Your happiness is unique to you; no one else has ever been happy in that precise way.
– It’s personal; no one can tell you what makes you happy. Letting someone decide for you can turn happiness into unhappiness and resentment.
– It’s a singular moment in time, that’s the reason it stands out.
– Happiness can be bittersweet; like remembering past happiness that is no longer ours. The coin of happiness has another side; in some situations, there is no happy at all.
– Happiness can’t exist in a vacuum; and it can’t start there, either.
– Happiness is an active process; changing as we change, growing as we grow.
– Happiness is dynamic: the act of giving brings as much happiness as receiving. Happiness is an endless loop, where giving begets happiness that begets the receiver’s happiness that can lead to the receiver becoming the giver where each one is giving and receiving and so on and happily ever after.
Mostly, you need to know that your happy can never truly be anyone else’s. Sharing words and thoughts and then listening and hearing each other, that’s the only way any of us ever really know what makes someone else happy.
Kathe Skinner is a Colorado-based Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially those for whom invisible disabiliy is a player in their relationship. Lack of happiness and poor communication are the two biggest complaints that have couples seeking her help. She knows all too well that there are times happiness seems to be hiding under a rock. What brings her happiness? Her husband David, their 2 kitties, Petey and Lucy, the people who trust her as their therapist, and lying on a pool float looking up at a clear blue sky.
Read more about her at www.beingheardnow.com
Kathe welcomes your comments and can be reached at 719.598.6232.
©2014, Being Heard LLC
First published on Disability.gov
For 70 years she put up with his (sometimes volcanic) rumblings. He doted on her with diamonds, and was a poorer father for it.
The youngest of 5 much older siblings, she was babied into being passive and timid. He was a blustering bad boy who loved control; a lifelong natural at most things mechanical. He took seriously his duties as a man, a spouse, and head of the household. He didn’t brook anything that deviated from his definitions of right and wrong, a bigot in many ways. A mother and military wife who could fend for herself and children when she needed to, she preferred being cared for . . . and he liked it that way.
Both were fortunate: for much of their lifetimes, neither was chronically ill or disabled. Unless you count legal blindness, which he didn’t (though most who drove with him did). And even though she developed macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that usually leads to blindness, she could sometimes see the world better than he did.
Several years ago her macular degeneration began to impact both of them. By then, her hearing had deteriorated, too, and her world shrank. Although she rarely admitted fears (not to us, anyway) he expressed his the only way he knew how: he fixed as much as he could. He cut her food, gently guided her through the dimly-lit places they avoided more and more, lent her his arm, and searched out gizmos and gadgets he found in catalogues. He took care of her.
Last year, George left Kate.
True to his role, George had organized everything, including who his wife’s legal caregiver was to be — my husband. Now, almost a year later, Kate no longer plans on joining George in death right away and doesn’t cry for hours each night. Not that she tells us, anyway. As her vision deteriorates Kate, not surprisingly, adapts. David and his sisters do what they can from a distance of a thousand miles, mostly via phone calls and the occasional visit. Immediate support comes from close friends and a kind and caring nursing home staff.
Today, it takes a dozen people to do what George did. Even so, he can never be replaced.
None of us could live well if we spent too much time dwelling on the eventuality of death. But some of us — the visibly or invisibly disabled or chronically ill — need to spend more time thinking about the profound changes a caregiver’s death brings. Like David’s parents, my husband and I are fused by years, experiences, commitment and love. Though I’m the one diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, in truth MS is something we both carry.
As we age and tire, slow and re-prioritize, both of us have to remember that though we plan to go out holding hands as star-crossed lovers, the truth is more mundane . . . and likely. Whoever is left to mourn, cared-for or caregiver, what needs to happen is the same:
1. Plan now. The outcomes might look different, but the grief will be the same.
2. Get your house in order. You don’t have to be a survivalist in order to be prepared with legal, medical, financial, and personal concerns.
3. Create your own family. Gather together people who care, no matter what the will says.
4. Get outside each other. Get perspective from someone trustworthy and caring who’s outside the mix — minister, counselor, or therapist.
5. Express yourself and your needs clearly, often, and appropriately. Consider what to say and who you say it to. Sometimes being blunt can be hurtful; at other times necessary. Some people are better prepared to bring a casserole or help with housekeeping than to see you cry. Try out your voice to a journal, or pay a therapist or counselor . . . they can be skilled and trustworthy allies.
6. Keep in touch with others. It’s unfair (and shortsighted) to place the burden only in one place — like with your son.
7. Have someone to talk to, starting now. Clergy, therapist, physician, friend, partner, family can help you sort out what to say and how to say it. Think of yourself as a nuclear reactor. Keeping it to you guarantees one of two outcomes: shutting down or exploding.
8. Join a group of those experiencing what you are. There’s no substitute for having someone “get it”. Don’t believe me? Try talking to someone who doesn’t.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist specializing working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability is part of the mix. She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years. Kathe and her husband David hold Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs and are both Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Systems. Along with their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, they live along Colorado’s Front Range. Find out more about Kathe and David at http://www.beingheardnow.com and read Kathe’s blogs, ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com and couplesbeingheardnow.com.
© 2014, BeingHeard LLC
Women, can you think of the last time your man brought up something that bugged him about you?
Maybe it was that you talked to your friends too much, your mother too much, or him too much.
But unless really, really pushed – like during an argument – men aren’t usually relationship-complainers; at least mine isn’t.
It’s not that women do more talking than men – that truism got debunked (by male researchers, interestingly enough) – it’s how and what they talk aboutthat seems to make a difference. Follow a husband and wife through any department store: listen to what each points out and the descriptive words each uses. Are both genders equally engaged and expressive? I hang with my husband at Home Depot but the reverse isn’t true at Ross Dress for Less.
Men are finicky about stupid things, like artichokes or wearing turtlenecks. Lots of things aggravate women, too, starting with men’s inability to recall what they do that women don’t want them to do anymore. Hence the phrase “How many times do I have to tell you?”
Now, I couldn’t swear to it, but I’d bet my last carton of yogurt that men forget things on purpose, even at the risk of appearing stupid, which is actually pretty smart.
How else to explain men who feign ignorance about where the kitchen towels go when enlisted in putting away the wash?
Or men who fix diesel engines but can’t remember to put down the seat?
While the splash of a fanny hitting the water at 3 a.m. isn’t enough to strike fear in a man, three words are: Can we talk?
That same carton of yogurt rides on my belief that when a woman says those words, it’s like a guy’s thrown into the deep end with shackles binding his wrists and ankles. It’s not that women bowl guys over with the quantity of words – the sexes actually say about the same number of words in a day. It’s the kinds of words used, the language that’s spoken.
Women generally have it over men in “feeling-speak”. So when a woman wants to talk, bet your yogurt it’s in the language of feelings. And even if both partners are talking about the same thing their understanding and expression of it are very different.
Just like being in a strange land where we don’t sprechen the language, we show our frustration with each other in the same ineffective ways:
- Talk louder and louder;
- Throw up our hands in disgust;
- Think how dense the other person is;
- Walk away, muttering.
Just as tourists in a different land need more than passports and sensible shoes, couples often leave behind what’s most basic to their enjoyment and success. Translator app, anyone?
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach specializing in couples work, especially with those relationships impacted by invisible disability. She has a firm belief that the quality of a couple’s communication skills have a significant impact on their own, and their family’s, health. Kathe and David have been married for almost 30 years and live in Colorado where they teach Couple Communication Workshops and continue to unravel Petey’s and Lucy’s cat-speak. Discover more about Kathe Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to check out more of Kathe’s blogs at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com.
©2014, Being Heard, LLC
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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
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.