Archive for June, 2011

Why Men Don’t Get It Until — They Might Lose. Their Wake Up Call!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

                                                        JOHN J. STATHAS, Ph.D., LMFT

     Most men are pretty stubborn.  I don’t think I’ll get much disagreement on that statement from the majority of women. Why does such a phenomenon exist?

     Men typically come from a competitive posture, where win-lose is the name of the game.  Most men with testy testosterone, can’t stand to be the loser.  Another related factor is that men do not like to be vulnerable in any sense of the word.  Included in this profile is that most men like to be in control, sitting in the power seat.

     This article began with the word “most” for a reason.  There are other stereotypical varieties of men that have a different modus operandi.  I am profiling a particular type of man who is probably in the majority and who present some of the more significant obstacles to women. These are the men who have the strongest defenses and go through the ugliest divorces if they don’t “get it”.

     These men generally are successful professionally. The above characteristics lead to positions of leadership and responsibility where the big bucks beckon.  There is a lot of emotional payoff in such recognition. It often is hard for these men to realize that what works in the boardroom strikes out eventually in the bedroom.

     Oftentimes a woman early on accepts this type of partner because:

a) he is bringing in the big bucks, therefore, a comfy life style.

b) she is a  “pleaser” who does not like confrontation.

c) she has young kids who consume her time and energies.

d) she is not in touch with her feelings.

e) she is not aware that she deserves, and can have, a better relationship.

     Once a woman deals with the above pertinent factors she is more ready to challenge this type of man to create a different type of relationship.  She may start by withdrawing, withholding sex, spending more time with girl friends, joining organizations, watching more Oprah and Dr. Phil – and reading more articles like this one. She will ask for what she needs. Then, hopefully, with this knowledge and behavior she will be able to assist her man to “get it” and, thus help him to be more appreciative, thoughtful, and romantic.

     If the above doesn’t get the desired change then relationship counseling is called for.  Getting a good fit with a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is important.  Some therapists and pastors can offer quality advice and cosmetic corrections, but only a trained professional in marriage and family issues can be of real help here.  Understanding emotional wiring is critical in this process. Too often when a woman suggests counseling the man balks.  If such a situation arises, I encourage the woman to see me for I usually can find a way to get the man to come in to try counseling. 

     The very last resort is to see an attorney to help the blind bloke see that he must change or he may lose his wife, accessability to his kids, half his net worth, and his home.  Too often these type of men don’t realize what they will lose until it is too late and the judge has issued the final decree. (There is a popular country song that features a man saying “ who’s that man living in my house?  Who’s that man raising my kids…?”)

     The song DESPERADO speaks to this type of man who hides behind the defenses of power and control, so as to not be vulnerable and let a partner in.

                 Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

                 Come down from your fences, open the gate. …

                 You better let somebody love you, before its too late.

     Thirty three years ago that song, sung by Banks & Shane at the Steak and Ale in Tucker, hit me between the eyes and helped me let in the one I was with that night. I never let her go and we are still together – happily.  Had some “fences” that needed to come down.  How about you?

How Good Are You in Relationships: Take This Survey and Find Out

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

     You only know what you know.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  In regard to relationships, you know what you saw growing up in your family.  You have your own experience.  You probably did not take Relationships 101 in school.  Therefore, to validate what might be a good relationship for you OR to help you realize that you are not in a particularly good one, I offer the following survey for your perusal.

     The following is a list of characteristics present in healthy relationships.  I encourage you to read each one of the attitudes and behaviors and then put a number from 1 to 10 after it, with ten being the best.

1. Communication: quality sharing and listening, open to each other. Verbal and nonverbal are congruent.

2. Expectations, rules, and boundaries are clear and executed, still having flexibility.

3. Individuality, freedom and identity are enhanced.

4. Each person enjoys doing things for both him/her self, as well as for the other.

5. Humor and having fun together is commonplace.

6. Neither person tries to “fix” or control the other.

7. Assertiveness exists: feelings and needs are expressed.

8. “Wiggle room” exists: neither person needs to “be right”.

9. Each person is secure and confident.

10.Conflict is faced and dealt with respectfully until resolution.

11.Each person is able to offer and accept constructive feedback.

12.Trust exists.

13.There is a balance between giving and receiving.

14.Forgiveness is quickly and sincerely offered.

15.Past mistakes are not brought up.

16.Willingness to take risks and be vulnerable.

17.Other meaningful relationships and interests exist.

18.Each person can be alone with privacy respected.

19 Frequent expressions of sensual sharing exist.

20.Personal growth: change and exploration is encouraged.

21.Balance of oneness and separation from each other.

22.Personal ownership of behaviors, with lack of blaming, exists.

23.Your partner is the most important person in your life.

The list could go on.  You may have other factors that you deem as very important that may not be covered here.

     After assigning a number to each item, assess what are the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship.  What did you come up with?  Has your awareness and knowledge been expanded? Perhaps you could share and discuss the results with your partner. Hopefully you can rejoice in the positives and work to shore up the negatives.

TMI: Perhaps You Talk To Much. Evaluate Yourself

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

     Communication relates to sharing your perception, experience,  thoughts and feelings with another. Everyone could enhance their ability to communicate at both the personal and professional level. Some people talk little, keeping everything inside. You cannot know or trust those folks. Boredom usually accompanies them. Others easily speak their mind, perhaps too much. They have a lot to say. Sometimes, however, “less is more.”  Some people need to listen to the TMI awareness buzzer = Too Much Information!

     Some of you may remember Joe Jones and his musical exhortation:

                          YOU TALK TOO MUCH

                          YOU WORRY ME TO DEATH

                          YOU TALK TOO MUCH

                          YOU EVEN WORRY MY PET

                           YOU JUST TALK

                           TALK TOO MUCH

The last line concludes: YOU CAN MAKE ME SCREAM

     Lest anyone conclude that this is just about women, forget it.  Men are just as guilty.  Maybe different themes, but just as much volume.  Repeatedly in my practice and personal life I observe people, including myself, saying too much – about that.  “That” includes many situations.  The focus per this article is about personal relationships, spousal, family, and friendships.  The following examples illustrate situations where TMI can make the other person “scream” when you talk about:

1. Your past, whether it be glorious or painful.  The “bullet points” will suffice.

2. What you experience. Too many details can be a killer.

3. Your successes. Your Hall of Fame invitation is “in the mail”.

4. How angry you are. Outbursts need to be contained. (tennis and golf players get  occasional exceptions.)

5. How hurt you are.  The “poor me” syndrome. Martyrs are about the next life!

If people really want more information they will ask.

     Measuring sticks for whether you have said too much would be when the person you are talking to: a) has glazed over eyes or continually looks off in a different direction.    b) keeps trying to change the subject.  c) falls asleep  d) gets defensive    e) withdraws.

The last two may be necessary consequences in regard to information that should be shared.  Just look out for overkill.

     Personal communication should have a pragmatic element to it in most cases.  What is said for what purpose?  Is it communication that is necessary to achieve a certain objective?  Is it two way or one way communication? Is a beneficial win-win outcome desired or is it meant to hurt or manipulate someone?

     The bottom line is: why do you say what you do? Are you in or out of control with your communication to another?  As in most expressive behaviors, awareness is the key ingredient.  Sometimes that means holding in some hurtful or angry feelings, not going into too much detail, or changing the tone of what you day. 

     Everyone has a certain tolerance level as too how much or what kind of information is offered.  Most of us would be well served to take the musical advice of “YOU TALK TOO MUCH”!

Do You Belong? Where or With Whom Do You Best Belong?

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

     The “need to belong” is the third step in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. If a person does not belong s/he is a misfit, usually out of balance, and “looking for love in all the wrong places!”  A person who does not belong usually has difficulty in loving  oneself or another.

     At each stage of a person’s existence one needs to belong: first within the family, then within one’s peer group as teenagers.  Later as an adult one needs to fit into a social milieu of some form or fashion.  If a person does not belong, connect, s/he feels “something is wrong with me.”  Sometimes this is at an unconscious level. This is what  low self esteem is all about.

     Have you belonged as you have grown up?  Do you  belong now? (On a scale of 1-10,

with 10 being the highest, assign a number as to how much you feel you belong in the following categories)

  1. Within your family, of origin and present?
  2. With your life partner?
  3. Where you live?
  4. Where you work?
  5. Where you worship?
  6. Where you recreate?

 

     If you are that “fish out of water” who does not belong, then you can, and need to, do something about it.  Perhaps concerted effort in one or more of the above areas can

help you accomplish that sense of belongingness. Are a lack of confidence or fear of rejection holding you back?  Or do you rationalize or trivialize the disconnect by saying it really isn’t important? (“I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.” Groucho Marx)

     As Ms. Streisand eloquently sang: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”  Another oldie song suggests: “Reach out and touch! We all need people and we should strive to reach out to join in, and also help others come in. Blessed be the welcomers!  To belong is to be a part of the beautiful mosaic of caring community.

Father’s Day: The Impact of Daddy is Powerful!

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

     Father’s Day is another one of those days that bears some reflection time. “Who’s your Daddy” is a phrase used in many contexts in popular culture. This article uses the phase in personal familial context.

     “Daddy deficit” was in the title of an article I recently read.  The writer, Allan Shedlin, writes about “daddying” and how it is more than a DNA deposit.  Being a daddy requires a lifelong commitment. Mr. Shedlin speaks of the “daddy deficit” in his own life and how it ultimately led him to make a “commitment to be exuberantly involved in the lives of the children I planned to have some day.”

     What kind of  father did you have growing up?  Was he a good dad?  Was he present? Absent?  A nemesis to be feared?  A father’s imprint on a child is incredible and indelible.  He is your model, the prototype of what a father is.  How did your father influence your later reality, i.e. emotional well being, career choice, relationship skill sets, mate selection, parenting capability, avocational interests, etc…?

     Everyday in my practice I speak with men who tell me of the impact of their father on them. Usually there is pain in their eyes as they speak.  Some, like Mr. Shedlin vowed to do if differently, many continued to do the same things that their father did.  Harry Chapin had a lot to say about this in his song “Cats in the Cradle”.  Most men are familiar with the song and usually get melancholy when hearing it:

                And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon

                little boy blue and the man on the moon.

                When you comin’ home, Dad?

                I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son

                You know we’ll have a good time then

Another verse has the child saying:

                I’m gonna be like you, Dad

                You know I’m gonna be like you.

Well, dad never did spend time with his son and later on when he wanted to be with his grown up son, the son talked of being too busy, but we’ll get together some time.

And the father painfully became aware:

                 And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me

                 He’d grown up just like me

                 my boy was just like me. 

     If you are a father, what kind of dad are you?  If you plan on being a father in the future, what kind of dad will you be, particularly if you are aware of your experience with you own father?

     Mr. Shedlin says that “becoming a Dad was the most transformational event in my life; it has been one of life’s rare opportunities to make a direct connection to my heart and my soul”.  Personally, I can relate well to that experience.  My father was in the car business and worked many hours, including nights and Saturdays.  I never developed much of a relationship with him.  When I became a father I made a personal commitment that whenever my young children wanted to spend time with me, I would stop what I was doing and “be there” with them.  That commitment continues today, and would you believe that now that they are young adults they still want to spend time with me! I am a lucky man.

     For those of you who are present and a positive influence in your child’s life,

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!  For those of you who have not been good fathers, fix it, so that next year you will warrant recognition as a good father and be honored and saluted with “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!