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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Have Children or Not to Have Children

My children and granddaughter having fun.

Last week I was eating lunch with a couple of guys who also write. One of them talked about how glad he felt that his children had grown up and gone. The other one talked about how lucky he felt because he never had children.

I listened in wonder. Investing in relationship with my children has brought the greatest payoff of anything I have ever done. I have learned things I didn't know I didn't know.

Once a therapist with whom I worked sought my advice. "My wife and I are trying to decide whether to have another baby. You know we already have boy and a girl." I didn't hesitate to encourage him. My husband had said, "We have a boy and a girl. What else is there?" Then we had Carla and we can't imagine life without her. Next week we will celebrate the birth of our Christmas baby forty plus years ago--the best Christmas gift ever!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Give Advice

Katherine Rosman wrote a column titled, "Lessons Learned From an Epic Marriage." I read it in the Sacramento Bee dated 11/20/11. Evelyn and Leonard Lauder lived and worked together as they did for Estee' Lauder, the cosmetic company founded by Mr. Lauder's mother in 1946. The Lauders had been married 52 years.

"Mr. Lauder sat down with me first," writes Rosman. "When Mrs. Lauder walked into the den in a pink boat-neck dress, he stopped what he was saying to me, turned to his wife and said, 'Don't you look pretty.'"

The Lauders gave some good advice. One rule, never ever threaten divorce in jest or in anger. Another key to a great marriage is to learn each other's rhythms, and how to read them. Another way of saying, stay open to learning about each other. The Lauders agreed they were hardly ever on the same emotional wave length, but they were smart in taking turns between willfulness and acquiescence.

Mrs. Lauder died at 75 November 12th. Rosman noted, "There is an inherent sadness in the fact that the more epic a marriage, the more devastating the loss must feel." That is true, but soul mates will have accumulated an abundance of great memories to help them deal with the loneliness.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Demon Dialogue 3--Freeze and Flee

Dr. Sue Johnson's third demon dialogue she calls "Freeze and Flee." It usually happens after the Protest Polka has been going on a very long time. With the couple I described in my last post freeze and flee happened when the wife became more involved in her church. Her husband would have nothing to do with her church. He buried himself in his work often staying longer than necessary. Both of them seemed to have given up any hope of connection. Their daughters were graduating high school.

It was at this point the couple came to me for counseling. The wife was very angry. The husband disliked her intensely and wanted to get away. He had lost his sense of humor and shut down. Counseling became focused on how to get through the hurt and rebuild confidence and hope.

Eight years have passed and neither of them has gotten involved in another serious relationship. Both seem happy to have ended a relationship that kept them feeling alone and deeply disappointed. Could they have learned to communicate differently?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dr. Sue Johnson's Second Demon Dialogue

The second of Dr. Sue Johnson's demon dialogues is what she calls "demand-withdraw" or "criticize-defend". She also calls it "The Protest Polka". It is more subtle than the attack-attack pattern of "Find the Bad Guy". She describes it this way in her book,"Hold Me Tight". "One partner is demanding, actively protesting the disconnections; the other is withdrawing, quietly protesting the implied criticism."

The Protest Polka is clearly illustrated in the graphic, "The Male/Female 9 Step Emotional Confrontation Cycle" in my book, "Becoming Soul Mates". In this case my male client actually created the graphic trying to illustrate what happens between him and his wife. He confessed he often worked late because of his fear of coming home and facing confrontation by his wife for something of which he was unaware.

The wife, unaware of her fear of abandonment and disconnection, did what she knew how to do best. Get him in the bedroom at night and close the door. Then she would angrily confront him about what he had done or not done. The guy, unaware of his fear of her anger and criticism and disconnection, withdrew, spaced out, and responded as little as possible.

As you can see, this behavior does not lead to connection which both people desired. Instead, they both felt frustrated, unloved, and failure. They were unable to get past years of disconnection. They made it official and divorced.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Understanding Love--Key to Good Relationship

Couples impact each other at a neuropsychological level. They do an emotional dance with each other. I believe the underlying cause of disconnection comes from expectations that there has to be a right and wrong. If I am feeling unloved and unimportant to my mate, it must be his fault. Then I ask in an accusing tone, "Do you love me?"

When he feels blamed, he becomes defensive. "Of course, I do. What's the matter with you?" It goes downhill from there. People don't understand love, emotions, needs. They don't understand how they trigger primal fears in each other. Everyone needs to examine themselves. How do you protect yourself in relationships? Do you withdraw, freeze up, avoid? Do you pursue, yell, blame?

Be willing to tune in, open up, share fears and needs. Be aware of your own early experiences with attachment. Avoid blame and take responsibility for your part in this dance. Stay accessible. Forgive if necessary. Provide safety to each other. Touch. Comfort. Reassure. Be patient, kind, non-judgmental. This is the key to love and feeling loved.

Causes for Disconnection in Love

Dr. Sue Johnson in her book, "Hold Me Tight" describes three types of disconnection. The first is what she calls "Find the Bad Guy". She says this could just as easily be called, "It's not me, it's you." I believe most people grow up learning to blame and defend. This process fuels disconnection and makes understanding impossible. Until you can begin to recognize this pattern in relationship, connection becomes less frequent and love ceases to grow. Only by staying open to listening can understanding and acceptance be achieved and love grow.

Couples get so locked into their grievances and fears they often do not realize their automatic response to disagreements is to blame and defend. If you feel disconnected from your partner, try to increase your awareness of your response to disagreements. For most of us blame and defend worked well when we were children. Many of us often heard adults blame politicians, news reporters, ethnic groups, the weather and many other things for what they perceived to be the unpleasantness in their lives. We have learned well what Dr. Johnson calls "Demon Dialogue". If you want love to grow, you must learn a new way to respond.