Would I Seek You Out to Date if We Were Single Again and Didn’t Have Kids?

She asked her husband and then answered it herself, “No”, crying bitterly.

The couple had come in to address communication issues. They were 11 years married with 2 children. They had recently realized how isolated they are from each other due to their many family and work life responsibilities. As they began talking, insights like the one above began to surface.

It is sad to see this, much less be in it.  Two people….. incredibly busy working, being good parents (a.k.a., bus drivers, PTA members, etc.), attending to family, keeping up a home, etc….only to one day suddenly realize that that the one person you thought was your best friend/lover/partner, etc. is more like a roommate and a roommate that you don’t really know!

After the tears stopped falling, they looked at me. You could see on their faces the expression of a horrible judgment…. “I picked the wrong person to marry (because obviously, had I picked the right person, my answer would have been “Yes”).

I reassured them stating that I had witnessed this before….these questions, these judgments…..in other relationships. I asked them to take a deep breath and to try and listen.

I share with them that while their conclusions may be right (They may not pick each other today if both were single and just met.), that wouldn’t be because they were “wrong” for each other when they did meet and marry. Scientists tell us that every 5 years, every cell in our body regenerates itself at least once. This means we become a completely new and different person every five years. And as such, we develop new interests, preferences, perspectives, etc.

So, while it would be quite natural then, that you may not pick your partner now to date, as opposed to 5, 10 or 15 years ago, this does not mean that you can’t have a successful relationship today with that partner you picked 5, 10 or 15 years ago. It does mean however, that you have to work at creating that successful relationship today by looking for common interests, preferences, etc., in your partner ….and so does everyone else that is in a successful and happy relationship.  Experts in marriage tell us that one of the secrets of successful long-term marriages is the awareness that we continually change and grown and as such, you must continually “get to know” your partner.

Something to think about….

You Are Not…….Alone

This is an article from the June 2018 edition of Men’s Health.  It speaks to male child sex abuse and chronicles one man’s recovery from such.  Enlightening.

  

Men’s Health – June 2018

“One in 20 boys will suffer sexual abuse.  The author, who asked to remain anonymous, wasn’t yet a teenager when he was raped by his stepmother.  He’s still dealing with the psychological fallout as an adult.”

 

The first time I was sexually abused by my stepmother, I was 12.  She and my father weren’t married yet, but we were all staying together in Boca Raton that night.  We’d just gotten home from dinner at a tropical-themed restaurant, Bimini Bob’s, where I’d earned high score at the ring-toss game while my dad watched, drinking more light beers than usual.  I knew it would be hard for him to drive home, so from the backseat of our SUV, I leaned forward to turn down the radio to help him focus on the road.

As soon as we got home, my dad went upstairs, leaving me alone in the kitchen with her.  We talked about my ring-toss skills; she was probably humoring me.  Then in her early 40s, she was a competitive person, a successful businesswoman.  She leaned against the Formica island, her sandy blond hair done up in a bulbous, frizzy ball.

As the conversation petered out, she hugged me – a stronger one than usual.  Naturally, I hugged her back.  Then, after a few seconds, she leaned out, looked at me, and kissed me on the mouth.  Her alcoholic breath mingled with her perfume, suffocating me.  The house was dead quiet.  I had no idea what to do.  This was my first kiss.  My arms were clenched, frozen by my side, so she grabbed my hands and placed them on her chest, moving them around.  She asked if I liked it.  I don’t remember what I said.

She and I didn’t speak about what happened, but it kept happening.  Every few weeks, she would find me alone, make out with me, encourage me, and then chastise me.  If your dad ever found out, she’d say, he’d be furious.  It was clear this was somehow my fault, though I barely comprehended the reality of it all.

A few months after that first encounter, she took my virginity.  It was nighttime at a shabby rental house in the Keys, too early to sleep, but she and my dad had been drinking and went to bed early.

Later I heard a sound outside my room, so I opened the door to see what was going on.  I saw her standing in the doorway of the master bedroom.  My siblings weren’t around.  She walked up to me and started kissing me, and then escalated things:  She reached into my pajamas and took out my penis.  It was the first time she’d touched my genitals, and I didn’t understand what was going on.  She pulled aside her shorts, and, still standing in the hallway, placed my erection inside her.  I stood there, feeling cold and bizarre.  There was nothing intimate about it; I don’t remember ejaculating.  After she’d had enough, I durned and silently walked back to my room, utterly ashamed.

This continued for three years.  Out in public, she was my dad’s cool, hip girlfriend.  She played up to me and my siblings, whispering that she was on our side, that she could convince our dad to do whatever we wanted.  She was fun.  She wanted us to believe she was our friend.

My life went into a tailspin.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d slipped headfirst into depression.  I couldn’t focus on school and sometimes skipped whole days to stay at my biological mom’s house and work on computer projects.  As my grades plummeted, I blamed myself for being stupid.  By the end of seventh grade, my teachers considered holding me back.

When I was in my early teens, my stepmother was abusing me several times a year, usually when we were alone in the Keys.  I began avoiding these trips as much as I could.  By the time I turned 15, around the time she became my stepmother, I started to understand more of what was happening.

That’s when she began worrying about getting caught, and the brutality of our relationship evolved from sexual abuse to mental abuse, mean pranks, and manipulation.  When I bought new clothes for my job, she “accidentally” poured bleach on them; she once backed into my car in the driveway and claimed she hadn’t seen it.  She’d withhold money, her vise grip so strong on my dad’s funds that while I was in college, he had to take me grocery shopping in secret.  When I graduated, she handed me a card from the two of them with cash inside.  Then she told me my car payment was due and grabbed the money back within seconds.

She justified all this to my father as “tough love,” belittling my anxiety and stress and saying I needed to be more of a man.

I wanted nothing to do with her, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone – not my father, not my siblings, not my school friends, not my biological mother.

I learned to compartmentalize at an early age and have been leading a double life ever since she first kissed me:  In public, I was always a normal boy, popular but shy with girls, into film-making and computers.  Then, some nights, I believed myself a kind of adult, hiding a cataclysmic secret.  I couldn’t make sense of it; I couldn’t even acknowledge it.

The mere thought of it paralyzed me with fear.

One in 20 boys in the United States will be sexually assaulted by age 18, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Research from 1990 to 1997 put estimates much higher, with as many as one in six boys being the victim of sexual abuse by the time they reach adulthood.  In fact, the preeminent outreach group for sexually abused boys in the United States is called “1in16.”  Yet the problem remains “under-reported, under-recognized, and under-treated,” according to JAMA.

Behavioral problems resulting from sexual abuse are immediately apparent.  Victims are more likely to be aggressive, abuse drugs and/or alcohol, and attempt suicide.  Males are uniquely conflicted and less likely to speak out than females are.  If the abuser is male, the victim man not report the activity for fear of being identified as homosexual.  If the abuser is female, the victim may fear that the abuse will be culturally excused and that he should feel “privileged,” not violated.  Men are crudely congratulated for their trauma, as summarized in a Chicago Tribune headline from 2015:  “Victims of sexual abuse: Girls get our sympathy; boys get high-fives.”

When I began researching my trauma, I was frustrated by the lack of resources.  But the few studies that do exist are illuminating.  Researchers behind a 2008 study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, for example, say they had a much harder time getting men to volunteer for their research on sexual abuse than women.  The stories from the 16 men who did participate all felt instantly familiar to me.  The men compartmentalized their memories, didn’t know how to tell their families, wanted to just forget it, or said remaining silent seemed more “masculine.”

In my case, I shoved my adolescent memories aside as soon as I moved out of the house.  I became an editor at a national news company and was staunchly independent, refusing help so I could keep control over my life.  I enjoyed healthy romantic relationships that lasted years, but I never allowed my partners to be my equals.  I insisted on dominating the dynamic; in retrospect, it’s clear that I never wanted anyone to have control over me.  And as soon as those relationships started to feel too serious, I found an excuse to tear it all down and start again with someone new.

I rarely took time to think about my trauma.  But sometimes it still crept up, like the time we reported on the story of Debra Lafave, a female teacher who had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old male student in the summer of 2004.  In the editing room, one of my colleagues turned to me with a smirk: “Lucky kid.”

This mentality seeps into our legal system, which is being increasingly recognized as ill-equipped to deal with male victims of sexual assault.  Abusive female teachers, for example, frequently receive lighter sentences, while young male victims see smaller awards in court, according to L.A.-based lawyer David Ring, who has defended clients of both genders in hundreds of sexual assault trials.  Likewise, male pedophiles will be jailed exponentially longer than female pedophiles, who sometimes avoid prison altogether.  (Having pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, Lafave was sentenced to three years of house arrest, followed by a seven-year probation).

After all, some argue, what boy hasn’t fantasized about his female teacher?  How can it be called rape if you ejaculated?  What if the boy bragged about the experience to his friends?  These questions, frankly, are irrelevant to sexual trauma – especially sexual trauma involving a minor.

Some children show symptoms immediately, but others appear asymptomatic until adulthood.  For me, both turned out to be true.  Despite my middle-school depression, I pulled my life together in my late teens.  But I gravitated toward extremes.  I never did drugs – as many abuse victims do – but instead chased adrenaline highs.  None of them lasted.  Once, I went on a flight with a stunt pilot; we flew straight into the air, and then the pilot killed the engine.  The plane barreled straight for the ground – his idea of a prank.  After we landed, he looked surprised and said, “I’ve never seen anyone son calm.”

I traveled to the Himalayas to attempt a tough trek but developed a lung condition that cut my trip short.  That threw me into a depression like no other.  All I wanted from my long-term girlfriend was comfort and condolence.  But when she told me she felt abandoned during my trip, we fought instead of talking it through.  I broke our relationship off cold.

More than two decades after my stepmother first molested my, I started psychotherapy.  My periods of depression had grown more intense and more frequent, and my breakups showed that I had a clear pattern of being unable to accept intimacy.  I didn’t mention my abuse with my therapist for almost a year, even though he repeatedly asked me why I hated my stepmother, why I’d distanced myself from my family.

Then I blurted it all out.

It was the first time I’d fully revived the painful memories out loud.  I told him that she raped me dozens of times.  I flooded the room with years of shame and embarrassment, crying tears of fury and regret.  My therapist hugged me and told me a familiar line:  “It’s not your fault.”

When I stepped out onto the busy city street that afternoon, I could barely keep myself together.  I felt naked and alone, shivering in that landscape of glass and steel.  I hailed a cab to a friend’s apartment, where we cried for hours on her couch.  But I wasn’t ready to commit to a real solution.  As the authors of the 2008 Journal of Counseling Psychology study write, “Depending on personal readiness, initial disclosures may be tentative and incomplete.”

I was so overwhelmed by my first admission that I mostly avoided it afterward.  Talking about it made it real.  I spoke to my therapist for another year after that, switching to phone sessions after I moved to another big city.  But when I quit therapy, I barely told anyone else.  I tried to tell my sister the next time I flew down to Florida, but when we met for lunch and she asked me what was new in my life, I froze up.  I just couldn’t do it.

“Untreated sexual abuse is a time bomb,” says Padma Moyer, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., a Bay Area therapist who works with adult survivors of incest.  “Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it.  But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

My explosion came in late 2017.  I’d been seeing a woman for a year, and I was convinced I was going to marry her.  She was, of all things, a psychiatrist; I felt I could open up to her in ways I never could before.  I was the happiest I’d ever been, and our romance inflated my entire sense of self.  We developed pet names for each other, and she became “my person.”  We giddily invested in a life together, planning for kids and marriage, even planning a date for our formal engagement later that year.

But then my career took a turn for the worse: A big pitch was rejected, a reliable client scrapped my ad campaign, and I had a falling out with my business partner.  So I did what I have always done when things go wrong: I sabotaged my life.  While out of town on business, I met with a woman I considered a friend.  I don’t know why, but after drinks we went back to the house where I was staying.  Again, I was daring myself with self-destruction.  I’d never cheated before, and after 30 seconds of sex (we never even kissed) a panicked instinct flooded over me.  I stopped, pulled up my pants, and kicker her out.

I assumed I could hid the lapse from my girlfriend.  Living with a dark looming secret felt natural.  But I did share an abbreviated version with her.  We were working it out.  She passed her boards a month later, and I threw her a huge celebration party.  She told me she’d “fallen in love with me all over again” – a line I’ll never forget.  But the very next day, my girlfriend talked on the phone with the other woman.  I had left for a work trip when my girlfriend called to say she was leaving me.  I bumped up my flight, but by the time I returned to my apartment, every trace of her had vanished.

The months following our breakup, I had a breakdown and couldn’t function.  I barely left the house.  But eventually I realized that this depression could be a catalyst for profound change.  I somehow found the strength to visit a new therapist – two-hour sessions, three times a week.  I plunged into books and articles about relationships, affairs, and sexual abuse against men.

In our post-Weinstein era, it’s critical to include abused men in the conversation.  If we don’t, we risk deepening the alienation of those who’ve quietly suffered for decades because our pain is ignored, misunderstood, or laughed off.

I’ve finally begun talking about all this with my family and friends, while identifying my own triggers for self-sabotage.  I am most comforted by the understanding of my truest friends, even those I’d lost touch with or spurned in the past.  The solidarity of others who have suffered in similar ways assured me that speaking up was the most healing thing I could do.  I’ve relied on the love of my family members, for whom this has been uniquely difficult – especially my mother.  She has been wonderful, respecting my privacy and offering support.  I’m deconstructing my own walls into manageable hurdles, and today I feel closer to almost everyone in my family.

The exception has been my father.

A week after my breakdown, I made the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make.  Crying uncontrollably, I told him he needed to come to New York immediately.  I didn’t say why.  We rode to my therapist’s office in quiet, uncomfortable tension.  It took all my strength to not spill everything out and cry.

Once we stepped into the therapist’s office, I just threw everything out there at my dad: How his wife took my virginity, how she subjected me to constant abuse and manipulation, how she traumatized me sexually and emotionally.

My dad sat there, stunned.  He kept repeating the same phrase: “My world is turned upside down right now.”  Then it was his turn: His marriage had been unraveling for a decade.  She didn’t respect him.  They often slept in separate bedrooms, living separate lives under a shared roof.  He hadn’t loved her for years and was thinking of divorce.  This revelation, he said, might finally push him there.

Relief overwhelmed my anxiety.  Finally there might be justice – not the kind of justice that can be had in a courtroom, but at least my family would have a chance at healing.  As he flew back home, I focused on getting my life back in order, ready to recover from my trauma and begin anew with my father.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.  My dad separated from my stepmother after she moved out, but that was a far as it got.  At 69, terrified of loneliness and change, he went to work, frequented his bars, and came home each night more anxious and afraid.  My stepmother claimed she felt bad about my breakdown but never admitted to being a pedophile (although she did consult a criminal defense attorney).  She also helps with my dad’s business, so it was even harder for him to untangle her from his life.  By January of this year, she’d moved back in with my dad.  As she’d always bragged, she can manipulate my dad into anything.

The last time I saw my dad was in February.  He agreed to sit down with me, my sister, and her therapist.  My siblings and I had agreed to give him an ultimatum:  We loved him, but we couldn’t have his wife in our lives.  Until he changed that, we would cut off all contact with them both.  My dad suggested we could still see him – for his upcoming 70th birthday, or for holidays.  “Why can’t she go away for a few days and you come over?” he asked.  “You wouldn’t have to see her.”  I told him that was impossible, and by the meeting’s end it was clear he’d chosen her over us.  From his perspective, I realized, this whole ordeal was less about me or his wife than about him.  We shared an awkward hug, and I left the room.  It honestly felt like I said goodbye to my father.

When I was growing up, my family lived in discrete boxes of depression and guilt, ignorance, and abuse.  My father prefers it that way – he will continue compartmentalizing his life, shutting his eyes to the tsunami crashing around him.  But I can’t live like that.  I’ve spent too long pretending that problems don’t exist.  I have to be open about my trauma, and I want to help others do the same.  After two decades, I have to believe what I’ve never believed before – that despite it all, this was not my fault, and that, like every victim too afraid to speak out, I am not alone.

 

“I Believe God Brought Us Together”

Recently, someone told me this about how they met their partner. “I believe God brought us together.” I began thinking about this.

I am not an expert in religion or spiritual matters. I am not a Christian counselor. Further, I do not wish to offend anyone’s beliefs in God .I was raised in a devote Catholic home, attending church every Sunday. I have one brother that is a priest and another that is a deacon. Over the years, I believe I have matured in my belief in God and how God is present in our lives

I have heard that phrase (“God brought us together.”) before in my therapy office and I have said it before about my own life. I believe the person who said this recently believes what they said and this needs to be respected.

With that having been said however……… it occurred to me that such a phrase puts the speaker in a terrible personal/spiritual bind. If a person seriously believes God brought them together but they were to later decide to divorce, this would be essentially going against God’s will, which most people don’t want to do.  On the other hand, if they were to believe divorce is best due to insurmountable differences but further believed they had to stay together because their relationship was “God’s will”, this could be the death of both of them and their relationship, spiritually and psychologically.  Ever seen a couple in a “dead” relationship?

But, one could ask, what if it were God’s will that the relationship end? This thought further illuminates to my overall point…namely that one needs to be careful and think further about what one attributes to God or what is God’s will.

I do not believe God ordains who I am to marry or do in my life. But I do believe God expects me to treat others with respect (a.k.a. love one another) and do the best that I can in any situation I find myself in or put myself in; this includes any promises I make, including marriage. How then can I justify divorcing earlier in my life. I justify it by believing that I tried my best to make the relationship work and eventually came to believe it was not best that I be married. I keep that in mind as I go forth in life and enter new relationships and I hold myself ready to face God’s judgment about my decision to divorce previously.

Something to think about when it come to thinking about your religious beliefs and hard choices we face in our lives….like whether to divorce or not.

 

 

 

 

She Asked for a Divorce

The following is an email discussion I had with a woman contemplating divorcing her husband.  At the time of our dialogue, she had just, in session, announced to her husband, directly, that she wanted to divorce.

This is a wonderful example of why it is difficult for women to ask for a divorce, “…it kills me to see the hurt in his eyes”.  Note her thoughts being “all over the place”.  Finally, look at my last response to her, specifically my challenge for her to take seriously her thought processes DESPITE what others would say.

 

Ed,

As you know I have gotten off my chest that I do indeed want a divorce.

Though last night when we got home Bill begged me not to be done to give him one last chance. Even after I have told him I don’t think there is anything he can do now to change my mind. He really is hurt by me wanting a divorce. I know that he has hurt me for so long but it kills me to see the hurt in his eyes. I am having so many emotions right now that I can’t hardly think straight. I find myself using work to get a break from my mind these days. I know the choice I have made is not an easy one, or maybe it should be easy if it is really meant to be that way. I am completely all over the place with my thoughts, but it’s really hard for me to have a clear thought process right now. Is that normal?

Along with all this he has asked me to take a trip with him this weekend.

Would that be leading him in the wrong direction by going on a trip with him?

Please help me try to understand all my thoughts.

Thanks

Becky

 

Becky,

Real quick….I’m in between people.

It is normal….jumping from topic to topic. This is traditionally the most stressful situation most humans face. So, if you are confused, have a hard time concentrating or go from one thought/feeling to the opposite thought/feeling….know that that is normal.

Good point….or good awareness….that you have hurt a lot at his hands during the marriage AND that it hurts you that you’re divorcing him is killing him. That does not mean you are crazy or mean, that means you are human and empathetic…..it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t divorce him however.

The invitation to the trip is I think a way of wooing you back to him.  Go at your risk. The same is true of having sex with him. The more you do, the more it will make divorcing difficult.  He is hurting and I am and I know you are sorry about that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t divorce him.

Need to go.  If you have more questions, please email me.  These are good awareness’s on your part!

Edward

 

I do have one last question… Am I crazy for asking for a divorce? Bill claims this is me taking the easy way out….  I don’t see it that way due to the fact that we have been trying counseling sessions for at least two years and we are still needing to continue these sessions.  At what point is it OK to just say your opinion no longer matters.

He also is trying to bring our children into this by saying they are going to have an awful life if we separate, I feel very differently from that but he been there and I never have.

 

Becky,

Responding to your question, “Am I crazy for asking for a divorce?”…..

You must answer that for yourself. I say this for two reasons. First, I’ll give you my answer AFTER you give me your answer. Second, this is a more serious question than you think.  If you think you are crazy, then you are crazy…..regardless of what you do or say.  I have worked with people who believed they were, for example, the “black sheep” of their family. Everything they considered doing or thinking they looked at as if it were something a black sheep did or does AND they often only did things that were extreme or inappropriate or disruptive….the things that they thought only a black sheep would do. So, if you think you are crazy, you will probably not take this decision as seriously as you would if you thought you were of serious and stable temperament and if things turn out badly, you could say to yourself that you did such because you thought you were crazy and you consequently did crazy things.

So….are you crazy?

I will answer this question only after you tell me your answer to this question.

In regards to, “At what point is it OK to just say your opinion no longer matters?” I am assuming that what you are saying is “At what point is it ok to just say Bill’s opinion no longer matters?”  That is what seriously considering getting a divorce is all about…..deciding that the other persons opinion doesn’t matter and you want to live your life how you see fit.  YOU must decide that….WHEN his opinion doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t be considering divorce if you hadn’t already been thinking about IF his opinion matters or WHEN it doesn’t matter. Most decide it doesn’t matter when they see a history in the relationship that reflects going along with the other person’s opinion has lead repeatedly to bad consequences for the person consistently, that this pattern will continue in the future and that they know that that to do such in the future would be bad for them/the kids involved. You must also remember that, if you decide to divorce and he doesn’t want to divorce, he will not agree with your opinion and you will have to pursue this course of action AGAINST THE ADVICE of him. Most people, especially women, are not comfortable doing such. The more you are aware that you will have to do that as you pursue your divorce, the less this aspect will de-rail you.

Please email me again if you have further questions.

Edward

 

How Couples Can Rebuild Trust after an Affair

Below is a link to a TED TALK by Ester Perel.  She speaks of trust in relationships and more specifically the impact of an affair on trust in a marriage.

Really worth a listen…

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/how-can-couples-rebuild-trust-after-affair

A Monster Calls

The following is dialog from the movie, A Monster Calls, between a 15 year-old boy, Connor O’Malley, and a “monster”, voiced by Liam Niesen.  The boy’s mother is dying from cancer.  The monster has come to help the boy face this tragedy.  The boy has been having a dream in which his mother is falling into a deep hole and he catches her by the arm.  He struggles to pull her up.  Eventually, he can’t save her and after considerable struggles, he lets go of her.  He’s deeply ashamed of this.

The dialog occurs after the boy describes this dream to the monster.  Note what the monster says about the lies we tell ourselves.

Connor:  “I’ve known forever she wasn’t going to make it.  She kept telling me that she’d get better….because that is what I wanted to hear.  I believed her.  Except I didn’t.  I started to think how much I wanted it (her death) to be over but I couldn’t stand how alone it would make me feel.”

Monster:  “A part of you wished it would end even if it meant losing her.”

Connor:  “I let her go, I couldn’t hold on any longer, I always let her go.”

Monster:  “That is your truth, Connor O’Malley.”

Connor:  “I wanted to be there.  That was real.  Now, she is going to die and it’s all my fault.”

Monster:  “That is not the truth at all.  You were merely wishing for an end of pain.  Your own pain.  That is the most human wish there is.”

Connor:  “I didn’t mean it (the wish) though.”

Monster:  “You did but you also did not.”

Connor:  “How can both be true?”

Monster:  “How can a prince be a murderer and be loved by his people?”  How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right thinking?” (referring to earlier sections in the movie)

Connor:  “I don’t know.  Those stories never made any sense to me.”

Monster:  (chuckles) “You humans are complicated beasts.  You believe comforting lies while knowing full well the painful truths that make those lies necessary.  In the end Connor, it is not important what you think.  It is important what you do.”

Connor:  “So what do I do?”

Monster:  “What you did just now….speak the truth.”

Connor:  “That’s all?”

Monster:  “You think it is easy?  You were willing to die rather than speak it.”

A Therapist’s Suggestions for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A couple came in recently….grandparents, wanting to discuss rules to set before their grandson moves in. They brought in a list of rules/expectations they had created. It is the best set of expectations I’ve seen…so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Chores. The grandson would be given a list of household chores. He had to pick, I think 3-4 that he had to do every week (or he would lose a privilege). He could also opt to do an extra chore (a bigger one, like mow the yard), for which he would be paid.
  1. Curfew. They listed their curfew times for him. Not negotiable. They allowed his curfew to be later on Friday and Saturday nights but not beyond the legal curfew.
  1. Study time. They expected a set amount of time for the youth to study, either at the dining room table or in his bedroom, with the door open.
  1. Special events (i.e., basket/football games, etc.). They expected him to let them know 2-3 days before the event, ask permission to go and if they consented, they expected him to put it on the family calendar.
  1. Civility. They expected him to say “Hello” to them upon arriving home, “Good morning”, “Good night”, and “Good bye”.
  1. Meals together. They expected him to eat 2-4 meals with them a week, depending on practices and his work schedule.
  1. Privacy. They expected him to have his bedroom door open at particular times….study time, anytime there was a girl in his bedroom, and when unknown friends were visiting (until they were known to the grandparents).
  1. Transportation. They expected him to use his bike with temperatures above 40 degrees and to ask 1-3 days ahead of time if he needed them to take him to/from or wanted the use of their car.
  1. Accidents. He is expected to report all accidents (in-home or away, minor or major) immediately and would be granted amnesty, unless the circumstances were grossly irresponsible.
  1. Doctor appointments. He must make them aware of all doctor appointments; he must go; they will be taking on the “parental part” of any treatments and he must follow-through with any doctor recommendations.
  1. Checking and savings accounts. He must open such and put them on the accounts. He must allow all checks/withdrawal to be counter-signed by them. He must put 1/3 of his paychecks in his savings, 1/3 in checking and 1/3 will be for him to spend as he wishes.
  1. Employment. He must have a part-time job, even if he plays a sport at school.
  1. Specific rules. Specific rules could be added as needed, i.e., No sitting in grandpa’s chair in the living room.

This was the most complete list I have ever seen a couple comprise. Kudos to them.

The New Infidelity: Are You Guilty?

This is an article from Men’s Health, January/February 2018.  Be forewarned, this article contains adult themes, ideas, and crude, sexual wording.  However, it also references an interesting book on affairs, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by therapist Ester Perel and observations by therapist Marty Klein.  From the book, old myths of affairs are examined and thought provoking questions are posed.  Dr. Klein then shares 3 stories of affairs, provides intriguing views of each, and gives specific suggestions the participants are to consider.  The article closes with factors to consider and factors that suggest he or she could be unfaithful.

Worth a read!!

Ever sexted with a woman who’s not your partner?  Followed an ex on social media?  Shared secrets with a “work wife”?  Many women would call you a cheater, our exclusive poll found.  And a gender gap appeared:  Women are more likely than men to call given behaviors cheating.  Fair warning, men.

What’s clear:  Lust and temptation are eternal, and modern life makes it easier to succumb.  Of course, intercourse and oral are considered cheating by nearly 100 percent of men and women.  Kissing?  For 95 percent of women and 81 percent of men, yeah, that’s cheating.

But beyond that, it’s complicated.  Watch porn?  She’s probably okay with it.  Log on with a camgirl?  Not so much.  And cheating is not just a guy thing:  Plenty of wives and girlfriends cheat too.

There’s a new thinking about why we cross the line into a real affair.  Therapist Ester Perel sets out to bust myths in her new book, The State of Affairs:  Rethinking Infidelity.  Such as:  that an affair means the relationship is bad – or the cheater is.  The motive is often a yearning for a lost part of your identity.  “It isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person,” she notes in a TED Talk, “as much as we are looking for another self.”  Other myths, she tells us:  that men cheat out of boredom and that a marriage can never recover from infidelity.

Marty Klein, Ph.D., a California therapist for more than 30 years, says many of his patients want to make marital sex as exciting as affair sex.  “It isn’t a realistic comparison,” he says.  But you can learn from cheaters.  Treat your partner like a paramour:  Prepare for sex (prioritize, visualize), be present (savor it), embrace novelty (break your normal routine), and make your partner feel attractive, desired, and excited.  Start by reading some of his case studies on the next page. (below)

  1. The guy who keeps going back to younger women:

Joel had one or two affairs every year.  He took up with inexperienced young women impressed by his nice clothes and fancy dinners.  But he wasn’t just a jerk looking to screw younger women – it was more complicated.

According to Joel, his wife loved him but wasn’t impressed with him.  She knew him before his success and had plenty of sexual experience of her own.  And while Joel had no concerns about disappointing his girlfriends’ sexually, he was concerned about disappointing his wife.  The results:  performance anxiety, sexual frustration, and lower desire for his wife.

He needed a new attitude, I told him, one of “we’ll have fun in bed no matter what.”  First:  De-emphasize intercourse, making it one of many activities in bed.  That makes erections unnecessary, reducing pressure.

Joel also needed to understand that he is interesting to his wife.  I suggested he ask her what she liked about him – and to believe it.

He didn’t need to confess the affairs; he needed to confess his insecurity.  This meant opening uncomfortable conversations with his wife and choosing to be vulnerable, disclosing his lack of confidence.  “If you can do that,” I told him, “you’ll have plenty of erections and desire, and you’ll both enjoy sex more.”

He did, and they did.

What you can do:  Some Saturday evening when you and your mate have privacy, make a list of fail-safe erotic activities that you both enjoy:  dirty talk, stroking your own genitalia together, reading a hot story together, kissing for fun (not as “foreplay”), and asking questions.

  1. The guy who just wants some superhot porn sex, that’s all:

Claudio hadn’t had an affair – yet.  He loved his wife and thought she was hot.  But they couldn’t sustain a decent sex life.  They’d quarrel over sex, and then it was off the table for weeks.  Claudio was reaching his limit.

He wanted porn sex.  “Some deep throat once in a while,” he said.  “A little anal – not every day, but maybe once every month or two.  And she won’t even discuss a threesome with one of her girlfriends.”

“It isn’t helpful to think your wife is the problem,” I said.  “It’s a lot easier to change yourself than someone else.”  For starters, Claudio needed to realize that real sex doesn’t feel the way porn looks.  When we see porn as a manual, or expect our partner to be like the actress, that is a problem.

Instead of focusing on specific acts, I said, he should focus on how he wanted to feel during sex – and work with his wife to create that.  Some want to feel young or free or wildly attractive.  That’s what people create in affairs – sex that satisfies those emotions.

Like many people, Claudio wanted to feel manly, alive, desired, and as if the world had no boundaries – that he could do anything he wanted, without refusal by a partner or society.

He yearned to feel his wife’s enthusiasm for him.  This, of course, wouldn’t look like porn sex, something he needed to understand.  In real life, a little bit goes a long way.

What could he and his wife agree to do that would give him those feelings?  She was willing to send him a few sexy texts during the week.  He could pull her hair in bed as long as he didn’t hurt her.  They could have a soft light on, just not so bright to make her self-conscious.  She could be the one to reach for the lube, and she could stroke his penis without being asked.

What can you do:  Maybe you want sex to make you feel more desired.  If she says, “But I do desire you,” negotiate how she can express that.  She could look in your eyes during sex, use a pet name, text you during the day (“Can’t wait for tonight”), or ask during sex if you’re loving what she’s doing – even when she knows you are.  Invite her to negotiate like that with you.  Talk about what each of you can do to create the feelings you each desire.

  1. The guy who fears his wife’s judgment if he asks to get kinky.

Ted was having great sex, but the guilt and fear were killing him, so he wanted to end his five-month affair.  The sex in his marriage, though, was so-so.  “I’ve tried to leave my girlfriend, LaDonna, a million times in my head,” he said.  “But giving up a Mercedes for an old Chevy, I can’t do it.”

He loved a finger in his butt during oral sex – it made him orgasm like he had in college.  He loved playing a brother-sister pretend game with LaDonna.  And he loved lying on his back while she “climbed aboard.”

“We do other nasty stuff too,” he said.

And how many of these things had he discussed with his wife?  None.  He was sure she’d judge him, and idea he couldn’t bear.

“Maybe you’re judging yourself.” I said.  “It would be hard for you to imagine her accepting your sexual preferences – like a finger in the butt – if you didn’t accept them yourself.”

Self-acceptance is always easier in an affair than in a long-term relationship.  That’s because the stakes regarding rejection are so much lower.

I suggested he and his wife have a meta-conversation:  that they discuss how to share without fear.  They could agree not to ask “Where’d you get that idea?”  They could agree to be more curious when one partner suggest something new.  They could agree to take a few sexual risks together.  And he could start.

What can you do:  Tell your wife you want to make your relationship emotionally safe by each disclosing something that makes you self-conscious. (“You can be rougher with my nipples,” “Telling me you love my butt while we make love gets me hot!”)  Assure her that you’ll receive what she says without judgment.  Don’t tease her.  And do not compare her to other women, even favorably (“Your clit is more sensitive than most women’s”).

Daddy, I’m getting married!!!

Remember the movie, Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?

Remember the song by Paul Simon, Slip-sliding Away?

Remember the movie, Fiddler on the Roof?

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me his daughter (with fiancé) made that announcement, “Daddy, I’m getting married! Isn’t that great!”

My friend is divorced, successful business man, father of two children (a boy and a girl). His daughter is in the third year of college and intends to go to graduate school. She is a good student and expects (and is expected) to do well in grad school. She believes she will not have trouble finding employment after school. Her skills are and will continue to be in high demand.  She is also known as a serious, deliberate person; one who thinks through her decisions.

Her fiancé is 3 years older and a recent college graduate who is well established locally with strong working relationships with other colleagues in his field, in the area. He is a hard worker, has initiative and is eager to prove himself.

They dated on and off in high school. They have been dating steady for the past three years; since she began college. She loves him and all indications are that he loves her. They have been through some tough times and worked through them together, staying together as they worked through them.

All indications are that they are a level-headed couple with a bright future ahead of them.

Now….for those of you who are in this situation or fear being in it (a divorced parent of marrying aged children), this is a moment of great pause.

What do you say?

She/he wants you to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!”  You may want to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!” It would be easy to say, “Wonderful. I am so happy for you!”

But you hesitate. Why? Because….you are divorced. You have been there, done that. And you found out how life has a way of living itself, whether you notice it or not.  Life has a way of changing things. And no one told you about that. And yet, you are still responsible…for the consequences of those changes, for your reactions, despite your lack of experience in such situations,

What do you say then to this, “Daddy, I’m getting married!”

After A LOT of consideration, something like this occurred to me:

“Darling, I am so happy for you. You will make a beautiful bride and _____ will make a very handsome groom. You are in love and your futures look so bright!

I wish for you and _____ all the happiness in the world.

I also wish for you time for consideration about the decision you are about to make. The decision you are about to make is unlike any decision you have ever made before. It will be both a private and public decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. You will think about this decision nearly every day of your life…judge yourself by it and imagine others judging you by it.

You are going to change as you age. _____ will also. Despite these unknown changes, you will expect yourself to love and remain with _____. And he, you. Further, no one knows how you will change and you can’t prepare for such changing.

There will be times in marriage that you can’t see your partner; nor he, you; won’t know your partner, nor he, you; won’t know the right thing to do; can’t give any more despite there is more to be done; and can’t see a way around obstacles in your way.

It is in our very nature to pair off and everyone enters marriage this way.

If you want my permission or my blessing to marry, know that there is a big part of me inside saying, “No, don’t” because of what I have learned about marriage.  This is too big of an issue for you to ask someone else’s direction. It is your decision and your decision alone. All I can tell you is to consider what I have said about marriage and if you still feel the right choice is to marry, than know that I will support you, win or lose.”

Marriage in the Middle

This is a reproduction of an article, “The View”, (by Belinda Luscombe), from the February 19, 2018 edition of Time Magazine.  It describes two books about marriage, targeting midlife marriage.  “The Rough Patch”, by Daphne de Marneffe, and “Happy Together”, by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski.

I decided to highlight this article because the article and books address something I see in my office frequently, midlife marriage and more recognizably, midlife crisis.  These are difficult, painful, and too-easily ignored topics.

Enjoy the article and consider the books.

Everyone who just got married is psyched about it.  It’s a new adventure with their best friend.  Everyone who has been married for 50 years or more is psyched about it.  They’re living with their closest companion—it’s been a trip, totally worth it.

But the people in the middle?  They’re, you know, they’re fine.  They perhaps didn’t expect marriage to be quite as much work as it is.  Not just the child care and the housekeeping and the paying of the bills but the parts that are supposed to be fun—the talking, the planning, the throwing a leg over.  They had been led to believe it would feel easier, more natural.  The thing about walking off into the sunset together is that then it gets dark and people stumble over each other.

Two new books seek to solve just this midlife marital ennui:  The Rough Patch, by San Francisco clinical psychologist Daphne de Marneffe, and Happy Together, by husband-and-wife marital educators Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski.

The midlife crisis is an old cliché, with little support in research, but when we dismiss the happiness dip that people experience in their middle years, “we are actually trying to disarm the intensity of the forces we are grappling with,” de Marneffe writes.  “The midpoint of life represents the moment of maximal conflict between our drive to seek external solutions to our emotional dilemmas and our recognition that ultimately they don’t work.”  It’s also often the point where our tenacity falters and the neat selvages of our certainties about who we are and whom we chose start to fray.

Being married, as Ben Affleck memorably implied while accepting an Oscar for Argo, can be like pretending to make a film in a hostile land.  There’s a lot of negotiation, a lot of compromise and, sometimes, a hasty exit.  And yet a 2017 analysis of tens of thousands of Britons found that marriage really keeps people happier, especially if they’re best friends.  So how do couples find a way through?

Happy Together’s co-authors, who claim theirs is the first book to apply the principles of positive psychology to romance, advise “building and broadening” –expanding the life you have together—and “lengthening and strengthening,” which sounds like a shampoo commercial but is about savoring the good things you have, a sort of slow-food movement for feelings.  It’s an old marital chestnut that couples in it for the long haul should find new things to do together and new things to do apart.  Perhaps positive psychology might propel couples to try.

De Marneffe’s book is situated in the highly therapized air of San Francisco.  She too offers a two-pronged approach, which she calls “feeling with and thinking about.”  The response spouses need from each other, she claims, is one that is empathetic and then helpful.  When a child comes home with a scrape, good parents don’t just coo sympathetically.  Nor do they just turn away and reach for antiseptic.  They do one, then the other.  Similarly, relationships thrive when partners can acknowledge each other’s existence and feelings and troubles, then improve them.  This also means that saying to your spouse, “I just want you to listen, not help,” is actually depriving them of half the ways they can show love.

Ultimately, both books agree, the best way to right a marriage is everybody’s least favorite: hold up your end of the couch.  The Pawelskis spend half their book on cultivating character, becoming someone to whom another might like to be married.  De Marneffe offers specifics:  you become such a person by “facing authentic emotion and vulnerability.”  She encourages her patients not to settle, to have unflinching conversations about sex, money, drinking, bodies, desires, the whole mess.

If the only advantage of growing older is greater self-knowledge, then it follows that growing older with another offers a still richer source of feedback.  (Presented, one hopes, with compassion.)  And yet self-knowledge is not the point of spending life as a twosome.  Marriage’s chief promise is another-knowledge, a decades-long exploration, as de Marneffe says, of “a distinct being whose contour and interior you have yet to truly know.”  Like so many things, marriage is better when it’s between good friends.