Archive for November, 2012

Money and Sex: Are You an “Odd Couple?”

Friday, November 30th, 2012

What do couples disagree about most regarding their relationship? If you are like most couples you will respond “money and sex”. And you will be right. It is not easy for a committed couple to be on the same wave length on everything and you can bet that these two topics are usually the most challenging. I mention “Odd Couple” because many people are aware of the comedy bearing that name where two opposing styles of living try to co-exist in harmony.  Most couples have “opposites attract” components to them.  This article focuses on the money issue.

I invite you, Respected Reader, to examine how you view money, both the earning and spending of it. Which of the following styles best fits your situation as a couple dealing with money in your relationship?

  1. All monies go into one pot. Whatever income either person brings in goes to “our account”. This account is usually managed by one person with total openness and access to the other. Sometimes one or both may have a separate business  account .
  2. If two incomes, both keep separate accounts, in addition to a common account to which each puts in a certain amount.  This common account is used for mortgage, household expenses, etc.. that are shared by each. With the other money each is free to spend as desired.
  3. One spouse makes all or most of the money. This money still is “ours” or this money is “mine” (sayeth the income provider).
  4. One spouse makes most of the money.  Other spouse brings in a little bit. All money goes to “ours” or small income spouse has a stash that is “mine”.
  5. Money is divided up for spending based on the amount that each person brought in.

COMMUNICATION on spending can be interesting and challenging.  Do you do it well? Are big ticket items discussed and agreed upon? Do you have disagreements on how the other person spends money – either what is bought or how much is spent? Do you agree on what are “needs” and what are “wants”?

BUDGET: Is there one? Need for one? How determined and managed?

SAVERS versus SPENDERS: Which title most characterizes each of you? Disagreement  here?

HONESTY: Does trust exist between partners regarding money matters?

One’s attitude toward money, especially regarding the Saver – Spender continuum, is often conditioned by the model you witnessed in your family of origin.  How was money discussed and handled in your family of origin?  Did your parents fight over money? Is that model the one you desire in your household?

In my practice practically every couple has some sort of disagreement relative to the handling of money.  The above issues cover most but not all disagreements.  It is important to understand the idiosyncratic thoughts and feelings of each person relative to money. These types vary from those people that are “anal” to those that are “out of control”- and all shades in between. In my role as therapist I try to mediate and develop a model that includes good communication, compromise, accountability and consistency. Integrity must be at the core.  If such a model is developed the “Odd Couple” will live in harmony! (and only have Sex as a source of conflict! Another day for that “hot potato”!)

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Holidays: Family Wounds and “Homecoming”!

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

I hope that Thanksgiving was special for you and that some positive form of “family” (of origin or of choice) was experienced.  Family or origin, or lack of it, creates optimal strengths for the future or serious wounds that delimit growth potential. The holidays bring forth the deepest emotions about family. More so than any other time of year.

 

John Bradshaw has been one of the foremost teachers in helping people understand the deepest part of who they are and how they got that way.  His many books, beginning with THE FAMILY, and PBS appearances have been impactful to those willing to look at themselves and the life they lead.

 

HOMECOMING is another of Bradshaw’s seminal books. I would like to share some of its key concepts with you, plus my added commentary.  Emphasis here will be on some of the major contaminants of a healthy personality.  You may well see yourself in one or more of the categories.  Take a gander at these “wounded” personality traits.

 

1. CO-DEPENDENCE: This person has not developed a true identity from within. S/he is out of touch with the deepest feelings, needs, and desires.  S/he depends on others for a sense of self.  Often this person is a “human doing”, out of touch with his or her true “being” side. Certain basic childhood needs were unmet blocking the ability of the person to know who s/he is.

2. OFFENDER BEHAVIORS: These folks take no responsibility for their behavior.  They often are reckless in their way of life. Beware, these are dangerous people to have in your life.

3. NARCISSISTIC BEHAVIORS: These people have an insatiable craving for love, attention, and affection.  Everything is about them.  Often they need excessive materialistic things to give them a sense of self worth.  Often they develop some sort of addictive personality – either positive or negative.

4. TRUST ISSUES:  These people usually are on guard and very much in control. This keeps them safe and also emotionally untouchable. You will not get close to them.

5.  ACTING OUT/ACTING IN: This type either “acts out” with anger or “acts in” with fear and depression.

6. MAGICAL BELIEFS: These people develop an unreal belief system that they can buy into so that they can feel secure or have self worth. It is hard for these people to be grounded in reality and accountability.

7. INTIMACY DYSFUNCTION: These people move back and forth between fears of abandonment and a fear of engulfment.  “Don’t leave me”.  “Don’t get too close”. Thus the walls protecting emotional hurts that keep the other out, stay tall and deep.

 

Most people have some or much of the above wounded personality parts. There are no perfect people, except for the “narcissistic” who live in their own distorted hedonistic world.  Much of the above mentioned weaknesses come from early childhood experiences.  Besides genetic orientation, a person’s experience in the family, or not having family, is the greatest factor in the development of one’s personhood.

 

Hopefully you have been open enough to objectively see a part of yourself portrayed above that you can continue to work on being the best person you can be.  If you are such a person you love yourself, are aware from whence you have come, and are capable of giving and receiving love.  If there is further work to be done I encourage you to do your HOMECOMING work.  To be in touch with the deepest part of your being is worth the effort!

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

 

Thanksgiving: What Does It Mean This Year? Family?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

We celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving this week.  Thanks  giving.    Giving  thanks.  Are you thankful?  Are you giving thanks to anyone?  I invite you to use this column as an opportunity to reflect on what this holiday means to you.

Thanksgiving is different than other holidays.  It is not about gift giving, Easter eggs, patriotism, or religious practices.  It is about uniting, coming together.

Thanksgiving is about family.  No other holiday brings family together in quite the same way.  Airlines and highways are crowded as family members assemble.  It is not just about that tasty turkey!

Walk down memory lane for a moment.  What was Thanksgiving like in your family when you were growing up?  What was your family like?  Extended family?  What kind of family do you have now?  What people are considered “family” for you? How will you celebrate, or just get through, Thanksgiving this year?

As we grow older family members go off in various directions, physically and emotionally, for different reasons. Some remain close, others have little connection.  There are reasons.

Dysfunctional families, divorces, and deaths have left people bereft of available family members.  You may be glad some are gone, others are mourned.  John Bradshaw, a noted family psychologist, has written about “family of origin” and “family of choice”.  For those who do not have a healthy connection with their biological and marital related family, they can create/choose a different kind of “family”.  These family members may come from church, synagogue, recovery community/group, neighborhood, or “Cheers” tavern.

Thanksgiving can be a very lonely day for some if there is no “family” present for connection.  If you are in a position to invite such a person into your gathering, please do so.  Or, perhaps, go to a place that is serving turkey to the homeless or other less fortunate people.

Hopefully this Thanksgiving will be special as you are able to participate in a loving and welcoming “family” of one sort or another – and that you are giving thanks for that.  If not this year, perhaps you can create a better “family” to share in next year.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Do You Know What Your “Soul” Is All About? Connecting with a “Soulmate”?

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

What is “soul”?  Do you have a definition?  How do you use it? It is a term that has long interested me, even though my early experience of it was frightening. When I was a young Catholic lad the priests and nuns said to me “Johnny be good (a song said that, too) or your soul will burn in hell.” Now that was scary, though it did not always dictate my behavior! I kept trying to find my soul to no avail.  Where, or what, was it? The quest continued.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has eight definitions.  The first two are:

1. The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.

2. The spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe.

Thomas Moore has written two immensely popular New York Times best sellers: CARE OF THE SOUL and SOULMATES. Mooredescribes “soul” as “a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. Soul is the deepest part of who we are. …It is the source of life and either we respond to what the soul presents … or we suffer from this neglect of ourselves.

Mooresays that to take care of your soul you must “know your story” – know who you are and where you’ve been.  This is your identity.  When you are “with you” – conscious – you then can transcend the mundane of every day life and spiritually connect with another, with nature, in a richer and deeper form of existence.

In SOULMATES Moore writes about intimacy as it relates to soul.  Intimacy is the soul engagement of the “most within” of oneself and another.  One finds one’s soul by being introspective and attuned to the deepest parts of one’s being.  Reflection, meditation, and dialogue are worthy avenues leading to soul connection.

At this point some of you may be saying to yourself , “What the hell is he talking about?”  I guess discussion about soul and intimacy is a lot like describing “love”. You either get it and experience it or you don’t.

In an attempt to summarize I invite you to know your deepest essence – your soul.  In doing this you will love and embrace the best of you.  This will enable you to live a more noble life and one which can connect with the depth of another – a soul mate.  This energetic connection helps you understand your spiritual dimension and, thus, clarifies your purpose in life.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

 

Spouse, You Don’t Have to Tell Your Parents Everything!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

This blog is inspired by something I read in a newspaper.  A woman asked for advice from a free lance writer/columnist (yes, that certainly is the person one should write for marriage advice!).  Her dilemma was that she and her husband of a year were having marriage problems.  She left him for a few months and went back to Mama and Papa. While living there she bad mouthed her husband.  Later she and her husband worked it our. BUT, now her parents refuse to talk to the husband or come over to visit.  This lass is torn between her parents and her husband.

This problem, in some form or another, is presented to me on a regular basis.  The good news here is that a spouse has a good relationship with her parents.  The bad news  is that she polluted the family waters with her negative comments about her spouse.  “Family blood” is impactful here.  The talked about spouse becomes the enemy forever more.

Lest any of you think that it is only women who talk to their parents about marriage travails, you are wrong.  A surprising number of men do the same.  The adage TMI -Too Much Information – is pertinent in these situations.

Certainly in marriage mistakes, sometimes grievous, are made.  Marriages go through challenging times. Many adult children are close to their parents and routinely seek advice from them. Most parents care and want to be helpful.

However, in regard to marriage details, do not share them with your parents.  To say, “we are having a rough time” is fair enough to share.  Do not give details or bad mouth your spouse.  Just ask for loving support. Beyond that only danger lurks.

So, you’re dying inside from your troubled marriage.  Who can you talk to?  My advice here is simple.  If you must talk, share with one friend confidante, one who will listen, support, and not tell anyone else.  You know, of course, that this person, hearing only your version of the story, will take your side.  The support feels nice, but the advice will be biased – and perhaps wrong. There is danger here as well.  If you do patch it up with your spouse your friend may have difficulty accepting your spouse as before based on the info you have shared.

The damage of such sharing with parents is most often significant and irreparable.  Many people do not understand the impact of words spoken.  They are damaging and cannot be taken back.  The results continue to linger and fester.

Back to the lady who is having trouble choosing between her parents and her spouse.  The right choice is simple.  You choose your spouse, your life partner.  In time, hopefully, her parents will see that the bedeviled spouse is now making a good effort and that their daughter is happier.  They will forgive the spouse, and perhaps even know that they heard a one-sided version of what was going on in the marriage.

Other people do not need to know the private intimate details of your marriage. A confidante support, okay; the world knowing your marriage problems, not okay.  Such blabbing comes back and bites you where it hurts – every time.

I salute those of you who have been able to keep your marriage woes private.  Those of you who go to your parents with details, please stop. It is in nobody’s best interest to do so.  As for you parents, do not ask too many questions.  None of your business.

If the marriage is finished, every effort to salvage it has failed, then it is most appropriate to speak to your parents and ask for their support.  Again, however, don’t share too much information, especially if you have children with your divorcing husband.

 

(Knowing that every rule or norm has exceptions, there may be a particular family and situation where communication between adult child and parent may be appropriate.  Just be sure and be careful)

If you have a problem seek out a consultation with a Marriage and Family Therapist who can assist you to evaluate the issues and come up with a game plan for marriage success.