HOW THE HELL CAN A PERSON HAVE NOTHIN’ TO SAY?

Couple Watching Football

How John Prine, a very interesting singer/songwriter, knows myhusband is beyond me.  I mean, they’ve never met and the closest David’s gotten to John is liking his music and sometimes singing and playing it.  Oh, and seeing him once in concert.

So it’s a wonderment Prine described my husband, and probably yours, too, with a lyric from Angel From Montgomery.

I thought this year’s April Fool’s Day prank was inspired:  I didn’t have to construct a complicated plan David would see through like he usually does.  And I didn’t have to keep a straight face, something I seldom do.  Instead, my tom-foolery came by way of a popular movie rental box’s email advertisement for KIOSK AMBASSADORS!   People who:

• Like movies and games

• Love sitting in one place for 8+ hours

• Enjoy a very, very small workspace

• Must be able to think “inside the box”

• Not afraid of the dark

• Skilled at stacking discs

• Yoga experience recommended

The last requirement put me off a bit and I admit the photo gave me pause but it wasn’t until I I scrolled to the tag line APRIL FOOL! that I got that it wasn’t really a job for Kiosk Ambassadors.

Chuckling silently  – his office is next to mine – I forwarded the “ad” to him along with a message about how perfect the job of Kiosk Ambassador was for me.  Then I leaned back in my office chair, full of self-congratulations for reeling him in this year.  Instead, it went like this:

Him:  I knew it was a joke.

Me:    You did?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:    How?

Him:   I know how movie discs are replaced.

Me:    You do?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:     Geez, I fell for their joke.  Now I feel really stupid.

Him:    You shouldn’t.

Me:    Why didn’t you tell me?

Him:   I forgot.

Me:    So when did this Andy Rooney-worthy event happen?

Him:   Uh, the other day.

Me:    And you were where?

Him:   Someplace there was a kiosk.

Me:    It’s not like I got too close to some CIA secret you’re sworn to protect.  It’s chatting, for God’s sake!

John Prine asks the musical question “How the hell can a person get up in the mornin’/come home in the evenin’ and have nothing to say?”

Most women I know can relate to pulling information from their partners like it was a permanent tooth and scolding like a mommy when partners don’t share.  It’s not as if information is being purposely withheld but even if it was I’d be no less in the dark than if he was sneaking off to have wild sex in the storeroom at KwikWay.

I guess real men don’t chat.

Guys, while much of your infuriating behavior is kind of cute, even unintentionally withholding from your partner isn’t.  Deeming things “not very important” sends messages you put yourself above chit-chat, can’t be bothered, or find your partner not important (or smart) enough to share your day.  Take it from a wife: Being disregarded is excluding and lonely.

The small things, like how movie rental kiosks are refilled, is the glue that binds us together.  Sharing with your partner is like having dinner as a family – it’s a way of connecting and knowing each other better.

What couple can’t use that?

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado Springs where she’s been in private practice for over 20 years. For a short time after reading this blog, David made an attempt to keep her informed; a week later they are back to normal.  For out more about Kathe’s practice at http://www.CouplesWhoTalk.com where you can also sign up to receive a free, weekly, curated newsletter about men, women and their relationships as well as articles about parenting, health, travel, and more, 

copyright, 2016   Being Heard LLC

MY FAMILY IS CRAZIER THAN YOURS.

 

cartoon t;givingIn the month between November 26 and December 25 something odd happens:  Crazy families get crazier.

Giving Thanks, Spreading Light, Celebrating Culture, and Wishing for Peace on Earth are often replaced by the dread and fear of family fireworks.

Few families really are incident-free, although we figure it’s just ours that’s as dysfunctional as it is. While it might seem more comfortable to exclude certain family members to avoid celebratory disruption, what actually happens may be disrupting as well.

The classic struggle between expectations of “the way it should be” vs. “the way it really is” sets us up to have unhealthy negative emotions like sadness, guilt, anger, dread, and avoidance.

Shake the sugar plums out of your head and re-think your guilt:

The Throwback Effect:  Traditions, celebrated the same every year may be a reminder of past hurts, inviting behaviors that go way back.  Fight the impulse to side with your family against your partner; keeping  communication open is crucial.  Not everyone is happy at the holidays; no one has to be.

The Hallmark Effect:  U.S. companies will spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising this season, primarily on social media and television, to sell consumers on the notion that a perfect holiday can be purchased.  Movies — another holiday “tradition” — portray traumatizing family events as either funny or touching.  The constant stream of warm and fuzzy can lead to a very real mental health plague called holiday depression.

3 Monkeys Effect:  Pretending that crazy behavior isn’t crazy only makes you look crazy.  Minimizing reality for the sake of others’ comfort makes everyone uncomfortable.  Being honest is appropriate, even though ’tis the season for pretending everything is as it should be.

Forewarned, Forearmed:    Chat with the potential offender beforehand. Say why you’d like them to join everyone else even as you set boundaries for acceptable behavior.  Here’s the important part:  Quietly stick to the boundaries you set.  If you won’t, the offensive behavior is bound to be repeated and you and your guests are bound to be disrespected — again.

Cut the Drama:  It’s not like you’re surprised so don’t act like it.  Being dramatic about something you expect perpetuates bad feelings between people, who are likely to take sides.  This is one way that horrible holidays have become part of your family’s tradition.

Handing out explosives:  Alcohol and stress are a bad combination.  Bad stress makes everything worse; alcohol makes crazy worse.  If you fuel trouble, it will come.  Monitor the flow of booze if you want to avoid a bad scene.

Change It Up:  Change the usual setting or location, menu, focus of the day or even the day itself.   Get away from a personal, claustrophobic focus in order to re-focus outward to community — friends, neighbors, even strangers.  Take turns hosting; share the day’s responsibilities (being sure to include children); organize a neighborhood carol-sing, skating party or sleigh ride; volunteer; stay home and forge your nuclear family’s traditions; go on a Christmas tree hunt; or choose an activity that centers on the holiday’s meaning, are all examples of refocusing.

Come Down Easy:   The time and money spent preparing for, and celebrating, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas is disproportional to the let-down felt when all that’s left is the mess. Remembering how that feels might be incentive to celebrate in other, less costly but more rewarding, ways.

Take a Nap.  The day will wear you out so come rested to it, especially if you have a disability or chronic illness.  Add a few minutes to steal away, catch your breath and renew your smile.

No other time of year is as fraught with “shoulds”.  As with much of what’s difficult in life — leaving certain people out in the cold at holiday time — is a hard choice to make.  It’s reasonable to feel guilt and sadness and to feel guilty and sad because you feel guilt and sadness.

What’s important is that you acknowledge the situation and your struggle with it.  You don’t have to do anything.  There’s always next year and the crazies are likely to happen again.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family therapist in Colorado Springs where she lives with her husband David and their two hooligan cats.

Cartoon © Donna Barstow, 2015 Used with Permission

© 2015 Being Head LLC

THAT GIRL KEEPS FALLING ON HER BUTT

fall-down-stairs.jpgMy balance, isn’t.

So when I head straight toward the bushes at the entrance to my building it isn’t surprising.

Bushes are a trigger in picturing my first (and only) experience as a new MSer in an MS support group.   Recommended by my neurologist, the group experience was meant to help me cope with the way-past-due-diagnosis of my disease.

Instead, it freaked me out.

Walkers, wheelchairs, canes, crutches – and me, invisibly disabled, in high heels looking at a future unable to wear them.

Big time downer.

Especially when a guy lost his balance and landed on his butt in a bush. That he laughed it off was horrifying.

I understand, now, the reason he laughed.  Not only is laughing at the faux pas around the commonplace common, but situations that elicit that kind of response are also all too common.

The reality he must’ve experienced then is one I now share.  Today I laugh, too.  Because it’s truly comical at times and also because laughter is socially reassuring.  “It’s alright, folks.  I’m alright.  Nothing to see here, move along.”

Knock wood, I’ve yet to experience anything dire in my navigational mistakes.  Embarrassment to be impaired in public is what hurts. Most of us don’t know what to do in a situation like that.  I put lots of effort into looking unimpaired, but when I catch sight of myself in a shop mirror, the reality of how I walk, for example, isn’t normal at all. 

When I use an assistive device, a rollator in my case, parents scold their children for staring.  I’ve yet to hear mommy or daddy use the opportunity as a teaching moment to talk about disability; rather it’s “don’t stare” before hurrying away.  No wonder society hasn’t made much progress in accepting the disabled community who, except to children, remain largely invisible.

Recently, Disability.gov blogged an article about steps to take when being newly disabled.

It’s worth a read, especially if you’re not.

Specializing in couples work, Kathe Skinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist.  She works especially those couples where invisible disability is present.   For over 10 years, she and husband, David, have been Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Programs .  Find the schedule for their next Couple Communication Workshop at http://www.beingheardnow.com© 2014 Being Heard

50 YEARS LATER: IS MARRIAGE A WEAPON IN THE WAR ON POVERTY?

waronpovertyfail

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

NASA’S PHOTO: PROOF OF GOD’S EXISTENCE?

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

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