Reasons That People Divorce: Good To Know!

March 19th, 2017

Divorce happens. Too often. It is painful. It should be avoided in most cases. Hindsight often offers clues and insights as to why a marriage did not work. The following is offered in hopes that by reading what divorced people say as to what caused the demise of their marriage, you, Respected Reader, may glean wisdom pertinent to your marriage to be, present relationship, or how to avoid another divorce.

Huffington Post divorce editor, Brittany Wong, asked readers to submit the real reasons why their marriage ended in divorce. The following answers resulted. I add my commentary.

  1. WE DIDN’T SPEAK THE SAME LOVE LANGUAGE: “We are both so different that we didn’t speak each other’s love languages.”(Laura) “Opposites attract”. Yes, to a point, but there needs to be sufficient connecting points that bring a couple together so that their “love language” unites, not separates. What is important to one person may not be very important to the other.
  2. MY EX DIDN’T PRIORITIZE OUR MARRIAGE: “He never made our relationship the most important thing in his life.” (Bren) If I have learned anything over the years doing marriage counseling is that both persons need to make the other number one. This is your life partner. Kids, other people, jobs, etc… are transitory and move on.
  3. A LACK OF TRUST LED TO LACK OF INTIMACY: “We had an ‘open marriage’ and lost that incredibly special foundation of trust and intimacy with each other. We became more like roommates than intimate partners.”(Amy) Trust and respect are the bedrocks for a sold marriage.
  4. WE DIDN’T DISCUSS BIG LIFE DECISIONS WITH EACH OTHER: “We didn’t have the ability to communicate well. … I made independent decisions … .” (Chris) Marriage is a partnership and both persons need to be able to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully in order to arrive at mutually agreeable decisions.
  5. THERE WAS NO FRIENDSHIP: “We weren’t friends. Everyone and everything was always more important.” (Tamara) A basic core friendship is an enduring need in a relationship that can survive the various challenges that present themselves over the course of time.
  6. I GOT LAZY: “I could have been better. I could have found a way to keep us on track. I could have done more.” (Al). You cannot half ass a marriage. Be prepared to be your best self and give it your best shot – or don’t bother, cuz it ain’t going to work!
  7. MAY SPOUSE LET ME DO ALL THE WORK: “There was no dependability or attention. … I didn’t want to be the diligent strong woman all the time.” (Susan) Here again, marriage is a partnership where each person does his or her fair share after each agreeing as to what the responsibilities are.
  8. THERE WAS NO SENSE OF ADVENTURE: “We never really did anything. The same things got old, and since that is what our marriage consisted of, sadly our marriage started to feel old.” (Chelsie) A couple needs a sense of adventure, something to look forward, something new. This need not be expensive per se, but does have to have some creative, look forward to, energy. Stale and “old” just doesn’t get it.
  9. WE WERE TOO STUBBORN: “Our marriage became a staring contest and neither one of us was blinking. We were locked in stubbornness.”(Bill) Being flexible and able to give in are important traits for staying aligned and not in separate stubborn corners.
  10. WE MARRIED TOO YOUNG: “We were the poster children for marrying too young – the lack of maturity resulted in a tumultuous marriage. … We lacked the tolerance, patience, and understanding that is critical for all healthy adult relationships … .” (Nicole) Age at time of marriage is a very real factor for the durability of a marriage. Lust and fun together at a young age are not enough of a foundation for an enduring marriage.
  11. WE DIDN’T ENVISION THE SAME FUTURE: “One of the biggest qualities that was missing from my marriage was the desire to mutually grow. … Without a shared vision, the journey failed.” (Bill) Here, again, maturity, compatability,  good communication, and awareness of needs/wants are basic qualities needed to determine a shared vision for the future.

Well, Respected Reader, what impact do these voices of the divorced have on you? These are not the only reasons but in my experience they are “right on” to explain the divorce of so many.   “If the shoe fits”!

The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: stathas@plantationcable.net. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com.  Blog: drstathas.com

 

 

A Personal Journey From Naive Dreamer To Pragmatic Idealist

March 7th, 2017

Have you ever had your dreams shattered? Hopes dashed? Had a life-changing wake up call? Found out were naïve? If so, perhaps you can understand, perhaps learn from, my experience.

Recently I heard a song that took me back in time – with some emotion. The song is entitled
“Get Together” by the Youngbloods. It brought back memories of why and when I transported my body, mind, and ideals from Green Bay to Atlanta. I came to Atlanta as a naïve idealistic Catholic priest. Ecumenism and social justice were my big dream causes. I was an enthusiastic proponent of each and I was primed to do my part to move these issues forward while performing my priestly duties.

I chose Atlanta primarily because of two men, Archbishop Hallinan and the spirit of  home town Martin Luther King. Atlanta was to be my Mecca – an opportunity to build on the ideals and leadership that these two espoused and died for. Atlanta was popularly seen as a city of unity, a city “too busy to hate” as Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. proclaimed.

Ecumenism was an effort led by Hallinan to bring together the commonalities of the Christian religion, regardless of denominational division. King’s efforts were about bringing the races together into a peaceful harmony. I brought my Christian faith ideal to these efforts. This was right up my alley!

As a priest I preached ecumenism and social justice, as well as performing my other priestly responsibilities such as baptizing, forgiving sins, marrying, burying, and counseling. I married the first interracial couple in Georgia who still live happily married here in Lake Country. I instituted and celebrated a folk Mass which brought together people of all faiths, and agnostics as well. One of the songs sung at this celebration was “Get Together”. It was emotionally spiriting and motivating. I share some of the lyrics here. You may want to Google and hear it. It will get you moving!

“Love is but a song to sing. Fear’s the way to die. You can make the mountains ring, or make the angels cry. Though the bird is on the wing, and you may not know why.

Some may come and some may go. We shall surely pass when the one that left us here returns for us at last. We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass.

If you hear the song I sing, You will understand. You hold the key to love and fear all in your trembling hand. Just one key unlocks them both. It’s there at your command.

Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another. Right now.”

 

 

It was a beautiful and meaningful time in my life. However, change was on the horizon. Archbishop Hallinan died. A new Archbishop replaced him who was a throwback to such idealistic change. He did not like what I was doing and sent me packing to a place no priest would want to go. I went. Briefly.

This punishing banishment precipitated my looking at my life in a more enlightened manner. My Catholic enculturation through 12 years of parochial education and five years of seminary began to not make much sense in certain areas of dogma and practice. A more objective view of the Scriptures and Church history helped me realize that I could no longer continue to believe and practice certain aspects of these teachings – and my body was increasingly intolerant of celibacy!

So I moved on to Higher Education. I earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. I began this part of my journey as a Counselor/teacher at DeKalb College. From this entry point I “Peter Principled “my career all the way to being a Dean at Kennesaw University.

I was not happy in this latter position, however. I felt I had compromised my ideals. I was no longer a change agent putting my idealism and talents into making this world a better place. I was a bureaucrat, although somewhat enjoying the status, perks, and financial remuneration. But this was not why I was put on earth! Again, a move was in order.

It was time to get back to my core ideals – the purpose of my life. I had to face my fears and begin a new career – a psychotherapist in private practice and motivational writer. With a supportive wife, I started my practice. This was a fit. Again I was, and still am, an idealistic change agent, but this time at a pragmatic level.

It has been very satisfying to touch people’s lives in very profound and personal ways through therapy and written articles. I find it extremely rewarding to help a couple create a life of love together, to help people successfully parent, to assist kids with their developmental challenges, to assist individuals to know themselves and a fitting vocation, to help people deal with their mental health issues, and other varied concerns that people trust unto me.

I am grateful beyond what words can express that I have found the balanced pragmatic idealist life I was searching for. I have an incredible wife, two awesome kids and their wonderful spouses, and four beautiful grandgirls – along with a profession that is meaningful and impactful every day of my life!

C’mon people, let’s “Get together”!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

How To Raise A Girl To Have A Positive Body Image

March 3rd, 2017

The female body has been a popular subject since the beginning of time. Perhaps it all started with Adam being beguiled by Eve’s charms!  (If you are a Bible literalist) The female body has been glorified in art and humiliated in sleaze. How a woman ultimately portrays herself is a result of her environmental formation. This conditioning comes primarily from her parents, especially her Mother. In my therapy sessions a woman’s body is often a topic to be delved into relative to her self esteem, eating disorders, abuse, sexuality, style, handicap, etc…

With that preface I want to introduce you to our daughter, Brittany Stathas Dixon. She is happily married and a mother of two special girls. (Papa John knows that for sure!) Brittany also is a blogger of some note, having 300 thousand followers per month. She writes primarily about good health and parenting. (ahealthysliceoflife.com). Recently she wrote a marvelous blog about “How to raise a girl to have a positive body image”. I want to share this with you, adding some of my own thoughts.

  1. NEVER TALK ABOUT MY OWN PHYSICAL APPEARANCE IN A NEGATIVE WAY: There is no denying that in parenting more is caught than taught. I can tell my girls all day long how wonderful they are and to be confident, but if they were to see me pinching my sides, sucking in my stomach or making derogatory statements about my own appearance, then they are going to do the same. So I just don’t do it. I don’t talk about my body in a negative way. This is actually something I’ve come to believe so strongly in that it makes me feel uncomfortable to hear the usual body bashing verbiage other women use to describe themselves. I’ve learned that changing the way I talk to myself not only benefits my children, but it benefits me as well.
  2. USE WORDS TO DESCRIBE MYSELF AND MY DAUGHTERS BEYOND PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: I’m not in the camp that says never to compliment the way my daughter looks. When a color is beautiful on her I tell her that it makes her eyes shine. I’m OK letting her know how beautiful she is. However, just as often, if not more, I use character traits to give her compliments. She is creative, brave, kind-hearted, funny, intelligent, and loving. I want her to recognize these things about herself to know she is more than just a pretty face.
  3. EXERCISE ALWAYS HAS A POSITIVE CONNOTATION: Exercise is something I do because I love my body, not because I loathe it. I do it to make myself feel strong and healthy. It’s never punishment. I love that my girls see me make a concerted effort to get to Burn Bootcamp regularly. I want them to see that mommy feels so good when she sweats! I show them how strong or fast I am getting and they see how the endorphin rush puts me in a good mood. I want them to find an activity they love that has them moving their bodies so that they can feel great and enjoy exercise for a lifetime.
  4. FOOD IS FOOD: I know I’ve touched on this before, but in our house food is food. There is not good food or bad food and we don’t use it as a reward. When they get older I won’t mind going into more detail on how this food will make us feel good and give us more energy versus a food that may slow us down or make our tummies hurt if we eat too much. At this point though, I control almost all the food they are exposed to, so if I bring it into the house, it’s fair game in my opinion. If I bring in ice cream and they want ice cream, then we eat it.
  5. DISPLAY POSITIVE SELF CONFIDENCE WHETHER I’M WEARING A SWIM SUIT, SWEATS OR A BALLGOWN: I will be honest, this one has taken some working on for me. I don’t naturally feel extremely confident in a bathing suit. However, when the urge rises u for me to self deprecate my swimsuit-clad body, I imagine my girls saying the same things about themselves and it shuts me up really fast. My body is not perfect, but I’m proud of it, what it has done and what it can do, so I’m going to on my damn swimsuit and let them see and remember a mom that got out and played with them.

Respected Reader, as you can imagine I am immensely proud of Brittany for who she is and for the insights she shares with others. This topic is highly relevant and I hope that you may find a way to put to good use this content, whatever state of life or role you play.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

How Close Are You To Your Adult KIds? And Vice Versa?

February 24th, 2017

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

Recently Sherry and I had a wonderful weekend with both of our kids, and their kids, visiting us at our home here at the Lake. I relished the mutual sharing, nurturing, and fun that the weekend encompassed. When they left to go to their respective homes I was reflecting on the experience and how wonderful it was. We are a close loving family! So fortunate.

My relished reflection led to this thought, do most adults in their more senior years have a good relationship with their adult kids? And, how do the adult kids feel about their parents? Too often in my practice I am working with the two generations to heal emotional distance that has occurred over time or by a recent unfortunate situation or event.

This emotional distance can come from either generational side. The adult parents may initiate this wall or the adult children may feel the need to establish a rigid boundary. The reasons often are complex. I would like to list a few of the reasons that I hear in my practice.

  1. Divorce
  2. Money issues
  3. Inappropriate behavior, past or present
  4. Advice giving, not requested
  5. Inability to nurture or connect emotionally
  6. Criticism
  7. Alcohol or drug issues
  8. Inability to forgive and move on

Certainly there are other idiosyncratic reasons for generational emotional distance. This list could provoke some thinking of why such distance exists. Identifying the issues is the first step in moving toward reconciliation, once the awareness that such emotional distance exists. Often an experienced Family Therapist is needed to mend the rift that exists. A lot of frustration, anger, and hurt are usually present – and defenses are high. However, the positive outcome of such efforts is well worth it – especially as Father Time moves on.

For those of you who are as fortunate as Sherry and myself regarding such love and closeness – cherish it and continue to build on it. Each generation can benefit from such a close connection.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Do NOT Share Your Romantic Partner’s Failings With Others!

February 15th, 2017

A portion of my practice involves counseling romantic relationships. Some counseling sessions focus on the front end as couples come to me to see if they are a good fit for a lifetime of marital bliss. Others come toward the back end, sometimes too late, to discuss what is going wrong in their relationship. Oftentimes, one of the spouses, usually the male, will complain that his wife/girlfriend is talking about him and his perceived failings, with other people. He does not like this biased perception of his failings to be discussed with others. Less often it is the male partner that is the blabber mouth. In most all cases this is not a good idea.

Isabelle Bank had a short article in Psychology Today entitled “Love and tell”. In it she listed the most commonly shared topics by percentage. They are: growing apart (67.5%), not being able to talk together (66.3%), not getting enough attention (63%), a partner’s personal habits (58.8%), possibility of divorce (57.9%), infidelity (50.8%), in-law or relative problems (46.6%), household responsibilities (41.1%), sexual problems (37.7%), emotional abuse (31.5%), physical violence (27%).

Based on her survey Ms. Bank said that these confidantes were primarily friends, followed by siblings, coworkers, and other family members in that order. In my clinical opinion none of these should be called upon to hear the one-sided presentation of relationship woes. Perhaps there is room for one exception in some cases. That person is the heralded “BFF” – best friend forever. In most cases the BFF is the confidante of another female. She may have earned that designation based on being loyal, trustworthy, a good listener,  objective and non judgmental. Rare, but occasional.

Usually confidantes offer too much advice, usually poor, turn it around and focus on themselves, or speak too critically about the partner being discussed. Plus, once this confidante gets the “dirt” on the offender, she will look at him in a different light – and sometimes the damage is irreparable for future connection. Another factor of too open sharing is the resulting gossip. Relationship problems are some of the juiciest fodder for gossip.

Respected Reader, should you be in this situation where your relationship is not doing well and you want to share it with someone – someone who can make a difference – visit with a seasoned Marriage and Family Therapist one time. At such a session you can vent with vengeance, or hurt, and gain some insight as to a possible game plan to remedy the dysfunction present. Professional empathy, analysis, and advice going forward can be a rewarding outcome from a single session. It is a better choice that prattling with a girlfriend, or a buddy!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates