WOMEN’S LIB IS A LIE

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 guysfishy.  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.

A PRETTY BIG BUTT

Americans who don't show up in labor force statistics because they didn't keep up a regular job search.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Graph: CNNMoney

Americans don’t show up in labor force statistics when they stop searching for a job.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011. Graph: CNNMoney

Doing work you’re passionate about has been the imperative for years now.

This, despite the contined high unemployment rate, a rate that doesn’t even reflect people who gave up trying to find work years ago. Ironically, they’re called the “invisible unemployed” and there’s about 86 million of them.  Like the “invisibly disabled”, both are a large part of our society where the “invisible” part suggests monkeys with hands over their eyes.

That we’re supposed to be finding passion through work might explain why the U.S. birth rate in 2012 declined for the 5th year in a row.

If you’re tired, though, or queasy, or breathing with difficulty, passion may be easier to define than it might be to find.  Passion may be found in small measures.  It’s simple:  sleep, a settled body, breath.

Being invisibly unemployed or invisibly disabled are both shameful ways of being.  Many in the mainstream believe there’s nothing wrong that getting off their collective lazy asses wouldn’t fix.   That’s a pretty big butt.

Being marginalized for any reason wreaks havoc with the central core of us and not surprisingly with relationship – marital, friend network, family.

For the people marginalized in this way, hunting down passion is a luxury.  Suggesting there’s a choice about it is lofty, naive, and exclusionary.

However.

Invisible or not, it’s a mental health responsibility for each of us to somewhere find joy, pleasure, peace, passion or whatever you want to call it.  To take charge of being part of humanity; to assert to yourself your right to be.  That might or might not be through volunteer or paid employment, marriage or relationship, or the family/friend network.

Kathe Skinner is married to one of the “invisible unemployed”; she herself is (sometimes) “invisbly disabled” by multiple sclerosis.  She’s a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach on Colorado’s Front Range.  More about the two of them at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.

THE JURY’S OUT.

I’m a fine one to talk.

“All change implies the acceptance of loss” is the line I berate my coaching and psychotherapy clients with.

Loss of function with invisible disability carries with it more than just the loss of “being able to…”  It’s how others’ attitudes might change.  Or how communication in bad hair daya relationship — married or not — is impacted.

Recently emailing with a colleague, another permutation appeared:  “All loss implies the acceptance of change.”

These days, for me, that applies even more.

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist and relationship coach living and working on Colorado’s Front Range.  She has been courting acceptance of the changes in her life for most of this year.  The results aren’t in.

THE DISABLED EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

Lots of us with disabilities, hidden or not, feel as if we’re a burden.  Needing assistance with basic tasks, like getting from one place to the other, feels like a loss of independence.  Depending on our experience with that quality, a loss like that can be emotionally upsetting.  Thus, we want and need to believe that relationships are unaffected.

In the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, swindlers were able to part a vain monarch from his money by appealing to his sense of entitlement.  Only the very smart, the very gifted were able to see his new clothes.  There weren’t any new clothes, but no one would say there weren’t for fear they would appear stupid.emperor

Our partners and families are like the Emperor’s subjects.   Secrets emanate from anywhere in the family system, usually set in motion as a way of controlling the environment and the people in it.  Control like that often comes from feeling out of control; in other words, denial of something being wrong sends the message that, like the Emperor without any clothes, the subject is closed.

Imagine if no one had spoken up.  Life would’ve gone along, albeit uncomfortably.  After all, only a blindfold man could be comfortable in the regent’s presence.    The Emperor may have become isolated as others began to avoid him.  But it would only be a matter of time before someone from outside the kingdom was presented at court.

Pretending has its costs.  Not just for the Emperor (who had to have been hugely embarrassed when that little honest kid called him out) but for the townsfolk who went along with the lie.  Pity the poor traveler, too.   There are always good reasons we can cite for living a lie, or for allowing others to live one.  Call an Emperor naked and you spend your time knitting in The Tower.  Or worse.

Feel sorry mostly for the Emperor.  Another word for entitled can be delusional.  When one of us wants to keep secrets about one side of a relationship, no relationship really exists.  Thus, the Emperor was alone although he didn’t even know it.  None of his relationships were truthful even as everyone in the relationship knew the truth.  Living as if is the same as living a lie.

Everyone colluded in living dishonestly.

There’s a problem, of course.  Feelings denied become corrosive; not just to the person swallowing them, but to everyone, especially an intimate partner.  It takes lots and lots of energy to act “as if”; there’s always the chance of a slip-up.  Maintaining a lie means additional lying and the exhausting need to remember the story.

Hard to put yourself in the Emperor’s place.  He could’ve learned his lesson about separateness, about being entitled by disability to keep thoughts and feeling secret.  Being outed may have made him a better man; more honest and willing to take part.  Or it could’ve embittered him further; providing justification for putting lots and lots of people in The Tower.   I choose the ending to this fairy tale.

The Emperor let go of pretense and chose honesty instead.

The Emperor looked for corrosiveness and sought to right it.

Intimacy took the place of separation, and destructive secrecy was banished forever.

Honesty was restored to the Kingdom, and that no punishment befell anyone who spoke up.

Vulnerability was again valued.

And that’s how  everyone lived happily ever after.

k-cropped-4x6Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach, Certified Relationship Expert and Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado where she conducts communication workshops for couples, pre-married’s, the invisibly disabled, and the over 50 crowd.  Kathe enjoys collaborating with other professionals in order to reach more relationships affected by hidden disability.  She sits on the Executive Board of the Invisible Disabilities Association, is a regular contributor to Disability.gov., and is an ardent-and-natural-teacher-without-a-classroom.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 30 years.  More about Kathe at www.BeingHeardNow.com.