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Mar 13
The last year and a half has been about relearning how to live life as a couple with my husband, Greg as well as individually. I always thought we had a decent marriage with normal problems, but that there had to be more. In January of 2009, God began the process of showing us the abundant life we were both missing. We both trusted in Christ at an early age and had grown a lot over the years, but had settled for far less than what God wanted for us as His children. 

I was devastated to learn of Greg’s struggle with sex addiction and how it eventually led him to commit adultery. Greg lost his job as worship pastor and the life we had known for 11 years came to an end. It was extremely difficult in those early months, as our lives were completely turned upside down. I had idolized Greg for years and I believe God allowed my idol to fall - in order to restore and heal him, but also to get my attention.

In counseling, not only did I learn about sex addiction, but I also began learning about co-dependency and how it had developed over the years in ways that were extremely unhealthy. I found that it ran through most all of my relationships, not just with Greg. Whenever we had conflict in our marriage, my goal was to get Greg’s approval and for us to be in agreement about whatever the issue was. I didn’t believe we could be at peace with each other if we agreed to disagree. I often felt like a “caged animal” so I would end up apologizing just to end the conflict and restore the peace (now I know it wasn’t true peace). I didn’t believe that what really mattered in those moments was if I was pleasing God. 

I have always known that I was a people pleaser, but I never knew just how much damage it does to constantly say “yes” when you so desperately want to say “no.” I never wanted to say no, or be honest about my true feelings because I was always worried about hurting someone else’s feelings. At least that’s how I rationalized why I had agreed to do things I didn’t want to do. There was another aspect to my people pleasing that God has shown me and that is pride. I liked being known as the one who will always come through for people. If I’m honest and say no, people might get angry with me. In recovery I’m learning that when I’m not honest with others, I am actually a liar who is trying to control them and how they respond to me. I am learning that I can be honest and speak the truth in love. Even if others reject me or get angry, I will be ok! I am not responsible for how others respond to me. It is so freeing to really have confidence in Christ and trust in Him! 

You may be going through something just as traumatic as what I have experienced. There is hope! The work is hard and there are days I want to quit. Recovery is our life and we are committed to it until God calls us home. Our life is so different than it was just a year and a half ago, but I wouldn’t go back either! 


What I Know Now:

-If you feel something is wrong, you don't need to wait to seek help until you know something major is wrong.
 
-If your spouse doesn't want to get help with you, you can seek it on your own. Getting healthy yourself is your responsibility.

-Once you seek help, find a support group. It critical to live in community and to have a safe place to share daily struggles and victories. 

-Trust God to work in your spouse, especially when you don't see the results you would like. You're not going to change them by trying to control them.

Stacey and her husband, Greg now help other couples heal from the pain of sexual addiction.  

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Apr 07

I burst into tears yesterday talking to my best friend about my mother.  Truly, “burst” is the only way to describe it. I never really thought about this phrase before now, but it’s completely accurate.  Up until the second I started sobbing, I had no idea I was about to cry.


I had talked to my mom on the phone about 30 minutes earlier – nothing earth-shattering there.  I talk to her almost every day, these past few years … ever since my father started losing his memory. I call just to say hello, to make her smile, to see if I can gauge how my folks are really doing behind their cheery news and brave voices.  I try to hear what they aren’t saying, from 600 miles away.


My parents are, by nature, optimistic people. They enjoy life, each other, their kids and grandkids. They are funny, outgoing, smart and generous with their love, time, support.  They have been married 58 years, and have been together since my mom was 18; my father was 22.


They are, and always have been, best friends.  And they literally grew up together.  My dad had to sign for my mom when they went on their honeymoon and rented a car – she was underage. My mother taught my father how to cook (well, he can make hot dogs and boil eggs.) They had four children in six years, and I only wish to be the kind of parents they were. They taught us to be independent, kind, hard-working, loving. They didn’t think of themselves as “parenting;” it wasn’t a verb back then. They let us live by trial and error; they grounded us when we needed punishing and they set us free to make our own mistakes.


They were always near but never hovering.  They had their own lives – well, really, they had their own life. Singular. Together. They were in a bowling league. They did local musical theater. They performed a comedy act for charity organizations. They threw parties and drank cocktails and ate mixed nuts and candies on bridge night. They drove all of us to the Ozarks or to Miami for vacations before we moved to South Florida, and then every day felt like a vacation.


And when they went out together, or got ready for bed, or walked over to a friend’s house, they held hands and talked. I’m sure they spent a good deal of time talking about us – their kids, the light of their lives. But they talked about their own dreams, too – the trips they wanted to take, the grandchildren they wanted to see, the golf and tennis they hoped to take up. And they did nearly all of it; they would tell you today that they love their life.


They even made the hard times look easy. My mom had a horrible bone disease that required numerous procedures. My dad took her to Tampa to see a specialist.  They would fly back on the plane, my mother covered in bandages with blood seeping through, my father queasy at the sight, and they somehow found a way to laugh through all that pain.


My dad had prostate cancer and he and my mom weighed the options and treatments carefully – as if my mom had a prostate, too. Heck, she would have taken that fear away from him, if she could.


Hell, even when they argue, you can tell they are best friends. My parents have never called each other anything but “Honey.”  I have never heard them refer to each other by their first names. And when they are mad at each other, it’s simply, “Damn it, honey!” 


Ten years ago, my mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  My dad was beside her all the way, through biopsies and lumpectomies and bone marrow tests. He listened to her and made her smile.  That’s my mom’s favorite quality about my dad – he always made her laugh. No matter what.


But now, my dad has lost his memory, and my mom has lost her best friend. Oh, he’s there, of course; they still have their meals together; they still go out at night sometimes; they occasionally see a movie (which my dad promptly forgets), they sleep together at night.  But my mom can’t really talk with my dad anymore. He doesn’t remember that she has cancer, so he doesn’t cheer her when she comes home from a treatment. He doesn’t remember the trips they took, so he can’t walk down memory lane with her. He can’t even recall much about the grandchildren – who’s doing what exciting thing that makes my mother swell with pride; that would make my dad, in earlier days, dash off a hilarious letter of praise and wisdom. My dad can’t join my mom in these golden-aged moments … he can’t remember who or what she’s talking about, so she just talks to the air.


My mother was used to having my dad as her biggest fan, the only audience she ever really  needed.  So when she said yesterday, “Daddy had a bad day; he is kind of depressed,” I could hear the “he” replaced by “I am” as if she had spoken it out loud.


What must it be like, after nearly 60 years of coming home to your best friend, and he’s no longer the man you knew?


I burst into tears because I had a sudden visceral feeling of what that must be like: very, very lonely.  And it broke my heart to think of my mother, so full of life and verve and laughter, so grateful for all of her blessings, now sitting home … not all by herself, but alone just the same.


As a mother, wife, daughter,  volunteer, nurse, chaperone, she’s used to fixing things. And I know that’s what makes her the saddest of all: she can’t fix this.


Unfortunately, neither can I.

 

Ginger is the new national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com, and a blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) She is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

 

May 22

Cal came to therapy at the urging of his girlfriend, Anna. At first he stated that he wanted my help so that he could commit to marry. Anna had given him several ultimatums that had passed without change or follow through by Anna. After the last one, she said she’d only continue the relationship if he sought therapy.


Thus he sat before me.  A few minutes after he indicated his desire to commit to Anna, he told me he wondered why she couldn’t enjoy their comfortable relationship the way it was. He found the relationship satisfying and comfortable, except for her urgency to get married. He smiled sheepishly when I noted that it’s hard to motivate a person to move when they are happy where they are. He assured me that he wanted to marry Anna, he just had some reservations.


Cal and Anna had been dating for three years.  He had some things in common with other men I’d seen with “commitment issues.”


1. Most men who have trouble committing to marriage are super committed to their careers and have trouble prioritizing their relationships at the same level. 


Cal worked tirelessly at his own accounting practice. He saw Anna mainly on weekends and usually worked on his laptop when they nested at home. He viewed social outings as opportunities to network and his friendships were almost exclusively with clients and associates.


2. Many men who have trouble committing are Type-A and highly responsible and thus envision a life where they do the “hard stuff” and their partner has it easy.  They have trouble even knowing what they need in a relationship, let alone asking for it.


Cal was very giving and responsible in his relationship with Anna. He helped her with work projects, played Mr. Fixit around her house, taught her to keep a budget and was generally the ideal boyfriend.  Cal tried to anticipate Anna’s needs and apologized profusely whenever she was upset with him.  However, he rarely asked for anything from Anna or expressed any of his misgivings with her.  In short, he asked for very little and didn’t get very much from her.


3. Most men who have trouble committing to marriage witnessed poor relationships growing up.


Cal’s mother ruled his house with a firm hand.  Cal’s father was a successful small businessman who “did what he was told around the house.” Cal remembered his Dad as “a dead man walking.”  He’d come home around 8 p.m., eat dinner, describe his grueling day then endure Cal’s mother complaining about everything he didn’t do right before falling asleep in his chair in front of the TV.  Understandably, Cal felt very sorry for his father. He viewed marriage as a miserable place where a man gets stuck and loses his identity.


So, of course, that was Cal’s vision of marriage to Anna.


Because he’d never witnessed a mutually satisfying marriage where both partners maintained a strong personal identity, Cal believed the only way to maintain his sense of self was to stay single.


4. Many men who have trouble committing focus on future fears rather than on present feelings.


If I asked Cal what he felt, he would tell me what he thought. (The difference between thoughts and feelings is a fine but extremely important distinction for men to learn.) He was essentially trying to think himself into committing to Anna rather than pay attention to his heart or his feelings.  Part of my task with Cal was to help appreciate the value of his feelings in his relationship decisions.


Early in my career I had a client named Jim who reminded me of Cal. We talked about his childhood excessively, went through lists of concerns about his girlfriend and even focused on conflicts at work. The only time Jim seemed uncomfortable enough to consider committing was when his girlfriend gave him another deadline, but his fears prevented him from listening to his heart. Finally she followed through on her millionth threat, ended the relationship and married someone else the following year.


So now I have a new approach to the problem of commitment. After several individual sessions, I asked Cal and Anna to come in for couple’s therapy.  The new conditions were that Anna would not impose deadlines and Cal would embrace the goal of moving forward while learning to openly discuss his desires, needs and fears in the relationship.


Cal’s ability to ask for what he wanted instead of simply complying with or resisting Anna’s requests and Anna’s new skill at giving Cal what he needed assured Cal that he would not end up as “a dead man walking.” 


As it turned out, Cal and Anna married sooner than Cal might have wished but a year or so past Anna’s timetable. In the meantime, Cal learned to express his desires and feelings to Anna, which helped him feel safe enough to get married (since he now trusted he would not be re-enacting his parent’s relationship).  Anna learned to listen to Cal without invalidating his concerns or assuming he was just trying to be resistant. I helped Anna understand that by giving up some control and allowing Cal to determine the timing of events, she was building a mutually satisfying arrangement, not “giving in to Cal’s ambivalence” as she had once viewed it.


Commitment to marriage is difficult for many people. The courage to explore memories and fears that keep them stuck while learning new relationship skills can allow them to envision and build a committed lifetime relationship.


Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.  

 

More Gerald Drose articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

When a caregiver is on call 24/7 every day, getting away without interruption seldom occurs, so when an opportunity arises, we say, “take it!” Every married couple needs time alone, time to focus on each other, time to rejuvenate. When a person with special needs is involved, that opportunity is harder to find. You can’t just pick up and take off—ever, without involving and including others to help make it happen.

Everyone has different options and choices. We were blessed in the early years of caring with a child with special needs with time away to be alone. The grandparents were willing and able to care for Joey, so we tried to use that time for us whenever we could. Not all couples will have this particular option, so before you stop reading and say, “This doesn’t work for us,” realize that some of us might need to be more creative than others in getting what we need. If we don’t try to figure out ways to make things work for us, it is doubtful that some stranger will approach us and say, “Perhaps I can help.” Creativity and flexibility must stay high on our list as we work through taking care of our marriage, and all of life.

We might want a week away but need to settle for three hours. We might want a trip to Europe but need to be content with an overnight stay in an adjacent city. We need to find ways that will work practically and financially.

For us, pampering our marriage ranged from staying home and going to bed together early when the grandparents took the children overnight, to a weekend away 45 minutes from home, to a nice 12-day vacation out of the country. We liked the out-of-the-country pampering the best because short of an emergency, no one would call us. Selfish, you say? Perhaps for some, but for oth­ers it’s self-preservation.

When we had just the two children, we had a chance to take a cruise, not even a business or ministry-related trip, just pure fun! If memory serves us correctly, it was the first or maybe second trip we’d taken alone since having children. Someone had said to us, “That must be nice. I wish we could do that.” Perhaps our response should have been “Oh, thank you so much for sharing in our joy” and might have been, had the comment not been made in a condescending tone that we heard as “It must be nice to leave your kids and go off on a trip alone.” We smiled and said something about looking forward to it.

If your enjoyment comes from playing golf, diligently search for someone who can handle the responsibilities of spe­cial needs long enough to get to the golf course to play nine holes! (Be happy with nine even though 18 sounds better!) Of course, some of us then need to learn how to relax once we’re on the course! If not golf, then perhaps running, swim­ming, or taking a dance or foreign lan­guage class will give a couple the sense of enjoyment and rejuvenation that will allow the pair to go back home to life as usual. We can’t do life as usual for very long without some kind of relief from the pressures of caring for another’s full-time needs. Whatever you do, pamper that marriage!

 

Cindi Ferrini is the co-author of “Unexpected Journey: When Special Needs Change Our Course,” and “Get It Together,” as well as a popular conference speaker, artist and mother of three grown children, including a son with special needs, Joey, 29, who still lives at home and provides daily smiles.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Cindi, visit her website: www.cindiferrini.com

 

Read other Cindi Ferrini columns here.

 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Jun 17

We are both divorced.  Five years ago, Phang moved in with me.  A cousin likes to say we have just celebrated five years of unwedded bliss.  In times past, we would be considered a common law couple after cohabitating, in Georgia, for seven years.  This is a beautiful, romantic relationship that has suddenly taken a turn.  We have been approved for group health insurance as domestic partners.


That benefit came with certain requirements, so we opened a joint bank account and included our names as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy.  We are now in a legally recognized relationship and part of a growing trend. 


Why not just get married?  A few friends have raised the question.  We don’t really have an answer.  This relationship works and living together has been beneficial to us both.  But our new status has made us aware of the pros and cons of cohabitation versus marriage. 


Cohabitating couples are unmarried and living together in a long-term committed relationship.  While the couple may act like and consider themselves a family, the law considers them legal strangers in the event of death or a breakup.  Cohabitation agreements are gaining in popularity and establish the intent of both opposite sex and same sex partners in the relationship.  Cohabitation agreements are flexible written agreements that outline the general rights and obligations of the consensual partners and may address the following:


Health care


Domestic partners may establish who can make medical decisions.  The document may include a health care proxy that would allow the partners to make health care decisions in case of emergency or incapacitation.


Residency


This agreement may include the division of property in case of a breakup, or the rights of each partner to stay in the residence if the other partner dies.  Each partner may specify who is entitled to what and the rights of survivorship.


Finances


The agreement may cover key points relating to financial support and payment of debts.  The couple may agree to keep separate bank accounts or agree to use a joint account.  The law, however, frowns upon any financial agreement based on a promise of sexual relations.


Expectations


The partners may outline their expectations in caring and taking care of each other.  Couples may specify instructions concerning assisted living or nursing home care, and funeral arrangements.


These issues can also be addressed in each partner’s own will, durable power of attorney and power of attorney for healthcare.  Many states do not recognize common law marriages.  Georgia and many other states provide a domestic partner registry and extend certain benefits to domestic partners. 


We live our shared lives under the same roof, as do millions of other couples today.  We each have our history and our baggage.  We have our own names and identities.  Together, we fill up a house and a domestic partnership with lots of benefits.  Our friends call us the Katzlicks.  Phang calls himself the Lucky Dog.  I am thankful every day that I am living this Second Life.


Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling (www.mtvcounseling.com), coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.


More Susanne Katz here

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

 

The news buzz as of late seems to be about the death of marriage.  I am surprised that some people are surprised by this.


I think marriage is on life support.


For years, Groucho Marx ‘s amusing quote about not belonging to any organization that would have him as a member always ran through my brain when the discussion turned to the pros and cons of marriage.  I think that is why I never married…until recently.


I consider myself a keen observer of the human condition,  and I think us mere mortals have made a mess out of the institution of marriage. Maybe it needs to be broken so it can be fixed. Or maybe we need to start all over.


When I was a kid, my parents seemed to have a great relationship. I was brought up in a house where equality of the sexes was a way of life. I was one of seven kids and my parents did not have the time or strength to assign chores by gender.  I am still grateful for that. So I didn’t run away from marriage because of some early childhood trauma.


But as I moved into my teens and early twenties, the last thing I wanted was marriage.  I saw women being suppressed, viewed as sexual objects for the overinflated male ego, or doing the walking corpse dance. It seemed like a lot of women were walking down the aisle just to put Mrs. in front of their first names so that they could make someone else responsible for their happiness.  That is a heavy burden to put on someone else.


Now I am not covered in warts and did not just escape from the nunnery.  I have been in long term relationships and some were longer than a lot of marriages out there. Hell, I was engaged four times. I am a little embarrassed by the last statement, but they wanted it and I was confused.


Okay, I will come completely clean. There was one man I did want to marry. But, as our relationship went on, I realized that I would not have the luxury of being able to trust him. And you know who you are. So for a short while, I got tangled up into thinking I was supposed to get married. But my inner voice would wake up me up and scream, “Do not walk. Run.” So I skipped out.


I think what really left me unimpressed with the idea of marriage was that there were no other acceptable alternatives in the eyes of society. Every other way for a man and woman, man and man or woman and woman to be together in a committed relationship is still considered scandalous and sinful. So I signed up for an alternative lifestyle.  I always felt more comfortable living on the fringe than in the middle of society’s rules.


If you didn’t marry by a certain age then you were viewed as a threat by some wives and some of their husbands thought you wanted to sleep with them because you must be lonely and desperate.  I didn’t want to sleep with any of pasty old fools and, in most cases, neither did their wives. How crazy is that?  Just to get a complete service for eight of bone china, some people will and did sell their souls.


So now that I have depressed a few people out there, let me just say that I got married for the first time four years ago. And I think what worked for me was doing it on my own terms. So after 12 years of cohabitating, we married so that the cats could get health insurance.


I think all I am saying is to do what works for you. Get married, live together, have kids, don’t have kids, live alone, have friends with benefits (was unsuccessful in working that into my marriage vows) but just do what works for you. And health care for all living beings. 

 

And then I woke up.


Next week I will bring world peace to the planet.


Elizabeth Cassidy is a creativity coach for artists and writers and is a faculty member of the Art League of Long Island. Elizabeth showers her clients with support, motivation and dark chocolate when needed.  Her two websites are My Views from the Edge and Coaching for the Creative Soul. She is a national blogger for Skirt! and GalTime and interviews artists and writers for the Glen Cove Patch. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


 To read other columns by Elizabeth Cassidy, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Jun 04

In my last column I wrote about Harry who came for therapy because he was having an affair.  I felt compassion for Harry when he revealed at the next session that his wife had discovered his affair.  I felt for his wife Alice, too.  Being sexually betrayed by a spouse is especially devastating and cuts to the core of our sense of safety in our world.

 

After Harry’s wife discovered his affair, his ambivalence about giving up the other woman was resolved.  The awareness of his wife’s pain and the fear of losing his marriage changed everything for him.  The thought of trysts with Sally were no longer tempting.  Once the stark light of day shined upon his fantasy relationship, he saw that it was full of flaws.

 

Harry asked me to meet with him and his wife to help save his marriage.  The next several months of therapy were focused on helping them work through the anger, pain and grief attached to the affair.  This can be a very challenging process (which I will address in a future column. In the meantime, a helpful book is, “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms Spring). 

 

Once the initial crisis abated, we started doing the marital and sexual work that they should have done years earlier.  Harry and Alice needed to find the courage to move beyond emotionally safe sex; they needed to bring hot sex back into their marriage.  Thankfully it was not solely up to Harry to bring back the passion: as a joint project it had a higher likelihood of success.

 

We started talking about their parent’s sex lives. Harry’s father had left his mother for another woman, only to end up with another stale (and likely sexually dead) marriage. While Alice’s parents were still married, her mother had indicated that sex was not an important part of the marriage. Clearly both of them had to commit to building something different and better than what they had seen.

 

Further, they needed to confront complacency and embrace change.  Complacency leads to emotionally safe sex which runs the risk of becoming boring, stale and eventually killing the sex drive of one or both participants.  When I asked them each to describe emotionally safe sex they painted the same picture: brief kissing leading to cursory touching, etc.  Her goal was to help him get erect.  His was to help her lubricate so that they could have intercourse. There was little passion or drama, just the following of a mutually agreed upon and predictable script that read: Touch here first, then here, then do this, then do that, and then it’s over.

 

When I asked Alice what she preferred, her description surprised her husband.  With some prompting, she admitted that she wanted him to “take charge” and be “more assertive” with her.  I went out on a limb and asked her if she really meant that she wanted him to be more aggressive and dominating.  At first she protested, but when she defined “assertive” she agreed that her description sounded more like “aggressive and dominating” than assertive.

 

This drama was what Harry had found so appealing with Sally during his affair. He had wanted to enact this with Alice, but because they had not risked sharing their deeper desires with each other, he assumed that she would not be interested in this kind of sex.

 

Harry and Alice gradually became honest and open enough with each other that they were able to bring some real passion back into their marriage. The affair had shown them that they needed to hold hands and leap out of the “comfort zone” that nearly destroyed their marriage.

 

Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples’ sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.   

 

More Gerald Drose articles, click here.

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010 

Oct 17

To say I am an optimistic person is like saying Lady Gaga has some interesting outfits. I am the real-life incarnation of Pollyanna. I am so upbeat it can be annoying to some people (most notably, my teenage son). I can’t help it. It’s scientific. A group of behavioral researchers did a study years ago that showed that every person has his or her own predetermined level of happiness. No matter what happens, the person eventually returns to this happiness level.  You win the lottery? Sure, your level goes up … for a while. Then it bounces back to whatever normal is for you. Your partner dies suddenly? The level drops – dramatically and perhaps even continuously. But eventually your level of happiness returns to its original state, or at least pretty darn close.


Of course, I’ve had my ups and downs; days when I’m blue or a little out of sorts. There was a three-month period during my senior year in college when I could barely drag myself to class. I also know what it’s like to have hormones playing havoc – making me cry for no reason during adolescence (and again, these days, during the joy of perimenopause.) 


But still, I was particularly unprepared for a life married to a man with clinical depression.


To tell you the truth, even my husband didn’t know how bad he felt until he started feeling good.


Our marriage was one of the most difficult and most enlightening experiences either one of us has ever had.  Over the first six months, we learned about my husband’s perfect storm of disorders: depression, anxiety and drug use.  Who’s to say which came first? They are often diagnosed together, and often – as in Jon’s case – many years after they have taken up permanent residence in our thoughts, personalities and actions.  


For much of my early marriage, I was overwhelmed by the reality of the man I had married – a man who, when not exhibiting emotional upheaval, was brilliant, funny, good-hearted, creative and a talented musician. But those days were halved by the shadows of depression, despair and sometimes nearly paralyzing anxiety.


I got a glimpse of these feelings myself; living day-in and day-out with Jon made me anxious, too. And sad. And lonely.



I kept a journal during that decade; through the changes in the appearance of my handwriting you can easily see me go from happy and hopeful to furious and fearful; my large, loopy cursive transforms into two-inch-high four-letter-word rants that leave deep indentations on the pages. 


I once asked Jon to explain to me what his depression felt like. I remember his answer exactly:


“You know how normal people look at a skyscraper and wonder how tall it is? People like me look at that skyscraper and wonder how long it would take from the time you jump off the top until you hit the ground.”


Perhaps Jon was born without his level of happiness. Or maybe it was permanently retracted when his father died when Jon was only 13 years old. Maybe it was the words he heard – or didn’t hear – from his mother as she struggled with her own demons. But no matter what we did, or how happy Jon sometimes felt, he said he was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.


Living with someone with this kind of depression means worrying about him every time he got in his car. Would he get in a road fight? Would he be under the influence?  Our home was often filled with tip-toeing – literally and figuratively. It was not only because my husband slept a lot – one of the avoidance mechanisms of depression and anxiety -- but also because I tip-toed around feelings, conversations and requests that would have been completely appropriate in a healthy marriage. Making no conversation and making no demands made for a quiet, cautious and ultimately unsustainable equilibrium.


The best thing we did for our relationship was to end our marriage. Within months, on his own initiative, Jon did something he never attempted during our 13 years of marriage and couples’ counseling: he got help at a rehab facility just outside of Atlanta.  There, he learned that he could participate in a dual track of healing: one for substance abuse, one for depression.


We all participated – me, our son, Jon’s family, and to some extent, our close friends. We listened. We learned. We supported. We went to meetings. We cried. I prayed.


I believe that Jon’s immersion in rehab, and the program’s excellent dual track, healed my ex-husband, saved my son’s father, and taught me how to love Jon as a friend – without codependency or a desire to control the future. Jon broke the cycle of boys in his family growing up without fathers; of people in his family growing up without abusing drugs. This healthier Jon is one of the most thoughtful, involved and present fathers I know.


It might sound extraordinary – that my ex is one of my best friends. Let me assure you that it never would have happened if we had not done all the work we did during our marriage … during rehab … and the support we continue to give post-divorce.  But most of all, it never would have happened if God did not ironically match this die-hard optimist with a man who needed unconditional love and hope more than anyone I’ve ever known.


Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Men are from Walmart. Women are from Nordstorm.


I am a snob. I inherited this trait from my father. Never got those blue eyes that could have helped me in the charm and disarming department.  No, I got the eye color that looks like mud on a spring morning and the snob gene.


I don’t really feel all that guilty about it. The snobby part that is.  I remember my dear old father proclaiming that if he died while in Walmart (where my mother used to drag him crying and screaming) that he would want his lifeless body driven over to Lord & Taylor’s where it would be placed ever so gently on its front steps. No New York Times obituary was ever going to state that he expired by the Bermuda shorts and novelty tee shirt department at Walmart.

 

The husband was getting ready for work the other day. He gets up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m., which means that I might as well get up also. Lights, action and some low muttering about what one of my well-behaved cats did during the night. Just charming. It’s like having all the really cool religious leaders sitting at the foot of my bed and going, 


“Elizabeth, have a wonderful day. And you know all those things you wished for last night? Well, the UPS man will be delivering them to you today. And the Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus families want you to spend the holidays in Vail with them.” Notice they made no mention of Walmart. Even God knows that you can’t wash clothes from Walmart twice because they will melt together in the dryer. I have seen that happen.


Where the hell was I? Oh, right the husband is getting dressed. And then he comes in to say “Get up, you lazy bitch” and I see him wearing a red baseball cap with a ghastly flame on the side, shorts with 17 pockets (and men say we carry big bags), tube socks and black sneakers. Oh and a tee shirt with De Kooning-like paint stains splattered all over it and a denim shirt finishes the ensemble. And he is leaving the house this way? Does he not realize that he is living with a snob? Oh, yes, he does.  I think he puts these outfits together as a way to punish me for marrying him. 


Running me over with his pick up truck six to 800 times would hurt less. And yes, he does have a pick up truck.  My membership to the Project Runway Fan club is in jeopardy. Tim Gunn - I can explain.


I know our mailman has to be confused. I look at our mail and I am sometimes aghast and horrified. There are cute little kittens and puppies in need who are featured on envelopes that are stuck in between Outdoorsmen Love Quiche and I Have a Rifle and I Don’t Care How Cute You Are Quarterly. I just hate how my InStyle and Spirituality and Health magazines have to rub shoulders with Cabela’s 15-pound catalogue that features camouflage thongs for men. With beer bellies.  I was asked if I would like anything from Cabela’s for Christmas. Who knew they have a divorce lawyer section right after the gun and pepper spray section – way in the back. Real small type.


Just for the record, the husband can look quite dashing when he applies himself.  And when he does, I don’t feel like the need to apply to the Snob Protection Plan. But I might try it out for six months.


Now please let me know if I am wrong about this, but who wears black shoes with a brown belt?


Give me a pair of shoes and belt that coordinate or give me death. Just plant my cold body by the entrance to Neiman Marcus’ jewelry department – by the sales items. I said I was a snob. Not stupid.


Elizabeth Cassidy is a creativity coach for artists and writers and is a faculty member of the Art League of Long Island. Elizabeth showers her clients with support, motivation and dark chocolate when needed.  Her two websites are My Views from the Edge and Coaching for the Creative Soul. She is a national blogger for Skirt! and GalTime and interviews artists and writers for the Glen Cove Patch. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

© 2011 My Views from the Edge ™

Please visit my site: My Views From The Edge

You can become a fan of mine on Facebook at:  elizabeth cassidy Views from the Edge with a Slice of Reality

Follow me on Twitter at: EdgyCoach

 

 To read other columns by Elizabeth Cassidy, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
 
Nov 20

There are key skills that can make or break relationships. One such skill is the ability to apologize. The typical (ineffective) apology goes something like this:


1.     I’m sorry this happened, but You….blah blah blah…(did XYZ to cause me to do this)

2.     OK, I said I’m sorry, now get over it.


The Effective Apology goes like this:


1. Take responsibility for the offense (no excuses or blaming).


2. Listen and connect to the painful emotions caused by your offense.


3. State that you don’t want to cause those feelings again.


4. Make an action plan going forward that will protect the relationship from a subsequent offense.

And finally (and often the hardest part): 


5. Repeat for as long as the other feels pain.


I met Jim three months after his wife had discovered he was having an emotional affair with his college girlfriend. They had reconnected on Facebook and gradually started chatting on the web before having secret, daily conversations over the phone. The conversations were a violation of the boundaries that both Jim and his wife, Alice, thought were reasonable.


When Alice discovered the relationship she asked him to stop, which he immediately did. At that time, Jim had apologized to Alice by saying that he knew what he did was wrong and had hurt her. He indicated that he felt terrible about her pain and that he would remove his ex-girlfriend from his Facebook account, email her and let her know that he would not be talking to her again and he would let Alice know if she tried to contact him again.  He also felt that he had made it clear to Alice that he loved only her, had little current feelings or desire to connect to his ex-girlfriend


Jim did all of these things, but now he was upset that Alice was still struggling three months later. He told me in our first session that he had apologized “over and over” and yet Alice couldn’t “let it go.” Her “meltdowns” were driving him crazy.


Jim wanted to know what he could do to keep Alice from “beating him up” anytime a memory of the affair came up?


Jim already knew from reading “After the Affair,” by Janice Abrahms Spring (an excellent “How To” guide for recovering from affairs) that what they were experiencing was normal.  Alice needed to talk about her feelings (which he described as “meltdowns”) and he needed to be less negatively reactive and go through this with her.


In spite of knowing this, Jim’s immediate retort was, “I can’t apologize anymore. I’ve done that over and over. Now it’s just when she wants to humiliate me she brings it up. It’s like she’s bashing me over the head with it.” 


Jim knew how to apologize. What he didn’t understand was that some apologies have to be repeated even when (maybe especially when) they made him uncomfortable.  Alice would bring up the affair something like this:


“Today I heard something that reminded me of how you would sneak around and have heartfelt conversations with your ex-girlfriend. I can’t stop thinking about it. I just can’t believe you would do that when I have to hound you to have those kind of conversations with me. How could you be so sneaky and deceitful?”


Jim was a do-the-right-thing kind of guy. In truth, he thought of himself as significantly more moral than others. He saw himself as above reproach at his job and loathed those who cut corners and behaved in “sneaky, deceitful” ways. When he heard himself described by Alice this way he felt humiliated. Feeling this, he would grow silent, leading Alice to continue to talk about her anger— or as he saw it, “bashing me over the head with it.”


At that point Jim would attack back and any potential healing that could be brought about by an effective apology was lost. His attack usually went something like this: “If you would have been there for me instead of playing tennis with your friends every night this would never have happened in the first place.”


So three months into recovering from a relationship trauma, Jim and Alice were in worse shape than they had been earlier on. Jim had initially taken full responsibility for his behavior, but now he was blaming Alice. For Alice this was akin to taking back the apology.


What Alice needed was for Jim to say something like: “I can see how you’d see me as sneaky and deceitful.  What I did was sneaky and deceitful. I am horrified by my actions, too. That will not happen again, I promise.”


What was preventing Jim from doing this was his own shame over doing something he thought he would never do. Essentially, Jim’s shame and his refusal to accept that he could be hurtful and morally flawed like the rest of us was preventing him from empathizing with Alice and thus continuing to accept responsibility for his actions.


Jim worked with me for a while before he was able to understand how his feelings of humiliation were interfering with his empathy for Alice. When he understood this better it was easier for him to maintain his apologetic stance with her and complete Step 5 of the Effective Apology.  


An Effective Apology needs to take into account how much pain your actions caused your partner. Sometimes the hurt we inflict is so great that we have to repeat again and again our soothing words to help the other feel safe again. Many times we know the right thing to do, but we are stymied by our own shame. In Jim’s case, his offense flew in the face of his own view of his moral character, making it difficult for him to continue healing the wound his actions caused.


Next time I will address another important relationship skill that Alice needed to master for the relationship to finally heal: Forgiveness.


Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.  

More Gerald Drose articles, click here.

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Dec 10

It is our holiday tradition…I buy a few new shirts to replace his old, torn and smelly ones.  We go into his closet and choose the ones that are no longer allowed to live there.  Actually, I choose and he moans. 


“You can’t throw out that one,” Phang complains.  “It’s got history.”


“Yes,” I reply, “I can see the history all over it.  And it doesn’t smell fresh anymore, even when it gets washed.”


It was after I removed the smelly shirt from the master bathroom sink and carried it dripping into the laundry room, that I took a stand.


“Phang,” I said, “That shirt stinks.”


“No it doesn’t,” Phang replied.  “It smells like orange.”


“You mean orange with a putrid chemical smell on a shirt that has a mildew smell,” I said.


Phang explained his side.  “That shirt has paint on it and I tried a new kind of remover.”


“Well, I removed it from our bathroom.”  That should have ended the discussion.  I went to sleep with a migraine so I didn’t want to talk more anyway.


In the morning the discussion continued.  But now the minute matter had become a universal situation.  It seemed that men and women have different ideas about what smells and how to handle the smelly situations. 


This was the inspiration for the Things that Smell list. 


That’s right, we are actually listing things in our lives that smell.  In our Second Life, we have learned that compromise comes only after we have said what is on our minds.  In other words, we are too old to be mind readers.


On my list of              Things that Smell

Cigars and cigarettes                                   

Garbage left in the kitchen sink

Garbage in the garage

Work clothes at the end of the day

Exercise clothes at the end of the workout

Clothes that are older than both of us

Clothes that have lived on the closet floor for more than a year

Things that live in his car

Mystery meat that he only he eats

 

On Phang’s list of     Things that Smell

                                    Armpits

                                    Dogs

                                    Unidentified smells in the refrigerator

 

Then there are things that we both agree do not smell.  This includes our grandsons…and that is all.


This is just the beginning of what I see as a series of lists that remind us both to laugh at ourselves and to cherish every playful moment.  These are the precious gifts we are giving each other.



Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

More Susanne Katz here

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

                                   

 

Dec 30

My favorite blog is: "My Wife for President."


When I initially published this blog people thought I was trying to be cute, but at the time I thought my wife would make a terrific president. As the New Hampshire Primary approaches, I daily wish my wife was running for president. Now more than ever! Why? She's change I believe in.


--Dale



My Wife For President


After examining all of the options, I’ve decided that my wife should be the next president of the United States.

Teaching at Saint Anselm College, I’ve had a chance to meet and speak with every major Presidential candidate of both major parties for the past 17 years, along with a host of others. Last Monday night CNN televised another round of candidates debating from our campus. With all due respect to the others, Rachel is simply the best.


For so many reasons.

  • To begin with, she has an uncanny ability to answer questions. She allows follow-up questions, but there is rarely a need to do so.
  • She can sum up the State of the Union in about 10 minutes including time for questions.
  • She would only go to a couple of political parties a year and never stay past 10 p.m.
  • Rachel is very frugal. She could balance the budget by herself. She wouldn’t need to appoint a secretary of the treasury. She’d just sit on top of the treasury, do her crocheting, and just stare at anyone who comes with a frivolous request.
  • She has her own car and driver’s license. She can drive a stick shift.
  • She’s quite slender and doesn’t need her own 747 aircraft. The bus, the train, and a commercial flight would suit her just fine.
  • Rachel is a very reasonable woman. She could be persuaded to go to Washington, D.C. a couple of times a year, if it could be demonstrated that the trip would be worthwhile. What’s better, she’s really good with kids, which will come in handy when she does make the trip.
  • The rest of the time she would stay home and attend to her garden, her family and her part-time job at Michelle’s Bakery. The five women with whom she works would form her team of advisers. In the two to three days a week that she works, Michelle and the rest of the team could satisfactorily address every issue we as a nation face. They’ve worked together for over a decade and haven’t yet encountered a problem they couldn’t resolve.
  • She’d be very accessible to the public and the press. Just come to the bakery, wait your turn, and she, along with her advisers, will address your concerns.
  • Some may wonder what will become of all of the buildings and government employees that would be under utilized during her administration. That is worth wondering about.
  • I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of her. She wouldn’t do the job for free. She’d accept the salary and benefits, and I don’t think she’d release her tax returns for the press to scrutinize. She’s a born and bred New Englander; no one tells her what she must do, unless you are trying to get her to do the opposite.
  • She doesn’t suffer fools gladly. If you are a CEO and you make more money than she does, don’t bother asking her for government help. Take a pay cut, and she might let you in the bakery.
  • If you don’t know the meaning of the word “it,” don’t let her know.
  • And there are two other things. Don’t mess with her children, and there is only one person on earth who can criticize her husband, and it’s not you.
  • I grant that she doesn’t have a lot of experience in foreign policy, and you can’t see much of the world from our backyard, but commander–in-chief is an apt description of her determination. Additionally, she is fluent in several languages, knows how to use SKYPE, and could communicate from our living room with any world leader that has an Internet connection.
  • Jack Nicholson need not be concerned if she can handle the truth. It’s the only thing she will accept.
  • She loves to travel, and would be happy to entertain world leaders as long as she can do the cooking. (But no one is allowed in the kitchen.)
  • She won’t spend much time working on elections. Her platform is the same now as it has been the last 53 years, “Do the right thing every minute of every day.”
  • She would be happy to attend fundraisers so long as all of the money goes to charity.
  • She won’t run negative ads, because she won’t run ads.
  • She is not delusional and she believes in God.
  • She doesn’t need a treaty or a longitudinal scientific study to persuade her to care for the environment.
  • There will be no debate about whether we will care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the blind, and those in need.

With Rachel what you see is what you get, and that is priceless.


Some may wonder if America is ready for a woman president, but there is a woman ready to be president. My wife.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.” He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 29

I wrote this favorite column after realizing, after several painful interludes, and an inner struggle against the vanity of "winning" such a remarkable and beautiful and wise woman, that this second marriage had to be stored in my heart and not go to my head.  We had really helped each other, in long talks, deep revelations, for about a year after our prior marriages had dissolved.  There were four children, of widely different ages, involved and not without anger.  It just took time to realize that our friendship-grounded marriage was like good leather--fine but flawed and therefore real.


--Ben



Nothing More Naked Than A Lover's Quarrel


Although it is a malady of the heart, it seems to first affect the linings of the stomach.  It immediately sucks comfort from the intestines and the resulting disorientation feels like the clinging aftereffect of a blow to the midsection.  Your eyes don’t see straight, your ears ring with unfamiliar and unwelcome sounds, and you don’t really know where to put your hands.


You are stuck in a place that you are determined to hold at exactly the same time you wish desperately to flee.  You don’t know why your pride has completely vanquished any trace of common sense and how you can possibly be saying the most hideous things to exactly the one person who represents the opposite of the words that are coming out of your mouth.  And these words are flying with more convincing velocity (and perilous disbelief on your part) than anything you remember.  Meanwhile, she is blurting out declarations, flaring, some really hitting home, others painfully gratuitous.  Her product is convincing--you know this but at the moment are in no mood to tenderly forgive.  What she says smacks of cultural or personal baggage that on other days are actually part of her charm and vulnerabilities.


Then comes the worst part—the Sitzkrieg.  You both retreat to separate, edgy spaces, though no one really has a place to alight.


Two people, desperately in love, having perhaps fought hard to build a life together, both cognitively aware that a few misplaced words triggered by economic stress and/or petty resentments (none of which should go unexamined ultimately) withdraw to emotional and geographic sanctuaries for what amount to synthetic and decidedly unfulfilling and opaque intervals.   The movie you share may have been interesting, but the adjacent seat was unequivocally empty.  The ocean you walked was particularly vast during the trek to clear the head and the horizon, lonely.   Anger is quite insipid, even as words blasted in anger can wound like verbal bullets.


It’s not funny nor is it cute, this business of fighting between lovers—though it is a hallmark, if sickening experience of real human life.  Good people suddenly reach for old dark histories and scatter them, like contaminants, about a marriage already seasoned and refreshed by maturity and atonement and the harvest of partnership.  It is so easy to trample a garden in just a moment of pollutant carelessness after several solar turns of experience.  Strong relationships, like leather, survive the marks, and retain their character.  But will what was said this time be the ugly collateral for the next time?


Postscript:  I have twice been married, (now successfully) and have been a central part of the failure and success of the enterprise of love throughout my adult life.  Moreover, my work happens to revolve around the business of human life.  So this much I know for sure:  When folks tell me they don’t ever fight, that’s when I really worry. 

  



Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


 More Ben Kamin articles, click here 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Dec 30

So here I was, getting adjusted to a new life, when I entered into this relationship.  That started the tug-of-war known as the proverbial battle-of-the-sexes.  It was time for both of us to develop new skills and laugh at ourselves as we stumbled around the kitchen.


The aha! moment came when we realized that our battles were waged in the name of love and honor.  Now he snorks and I leer, and we appreciate the different people that we are.  It is challenging to learn how to dance with your new partner.  And that is what Second Life is all about...doing the same things better while being better at being ourselves.



The kitchen is where the power is.  Powerful are those who mess up and those who clean up in the kitchen.  This isn’t a joke.  We keep people close or keep them at a distance depending on how they relate to our kitchen.


For instance:


I do not eat meat.  It is not allowed to come into my kitchen.  Anyone who brings it in is relegated to the porch no matter what the weather is.  Vegetables, grains and fruits are welcome any time, but they have to be fresh, washed, and not made with meat soups or sauces.  Mine has been called a Mediterranean diet.  Add fish or cheese and I have my perfect meal.


I live with a wonderful man who I call Phang (not Phyllis Diller’s Fang).  He is a rip-roaring meat eater; a bar-b-q fanatic who loves that beef, pork and even lamb.  He and his leftovers are relegated to the porch.  Better to just overeat at the bar-b-q place than to bring that stuff home.  I know this will offend meat lovers, but truthfully, it reminds me of the neighbor’s cat bringing home a bird.


Then there is the washing and loading of the dishes.  Some folks like to put all the dishes and pots in the dishwasher.  Phang washes the pots and all the large serving dishes by hand.  So the dishwasher doesn’t get run that evening and there is a heap of dripping pots and dishes on the counter.  That saves on energy but wastes water and destroys my manicure. 


It’s a different story if we are washing my china, crystal and silver.  There is some dignity in treating these 

as fine objects.  It’s akin to respecting your elders. 


In every kitchen there is the drop area.  It’s the place where everything goes first, then gets sorted and then goes somewhere else.  This includes the mail, papers that haven’t been read yet, purses and keys.  The designated counter is not the glass kitchen table.  It’s a workhorse counter that can stand up to the daily drops.  This is the third kitchen frontier.


It used to be that a kitchen desk was standard in every home.  But no desk was large enough to do the job.  That is, unless you institute the one-drop rule.  That’s not the rule for eating food that has dropped on the floor.  It’s the rule that says if you pick up a bill, you pay it and mail it the same day.  It’s the same for newspapers.  They are to be read and put in the recycling on the same day.


Phang’s mail and newspapers can last on the counter for a full week.  I move them to his side; he moves them back to the counter in the middle.  I would move them to my side, but that’s already filled with magazines I haven’t read and the grandkids’ artwork.  These have much more staying power and I like to look at them more than once.  Actually, I just don’t really know where they should go.


When we started living together, I expected the power play would be in the bedroom.  But it looks like control of the house is really determined in the kitchen.   And I like a man in the kitchen.


Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.


More Susanne Katz articles, click here.


2012 ©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Looking to lose weight in the New Year? I don't know how to help, except to tell you how I was able to lose .5 pounds last year: my freezer and stove broke and I couldn't eat for a week.  Worse, the warranty man said he couldn't cover it, causing me financial stabs to the heart. This took two weeks off my life, which I don't want to happen to you. So instead of helping you lose weight, I will help you with the secret code of warranties. Then you will be protected from emotional harm and be happier, causing you to safely lose weight.



That new treadmill or gadget you got? No worries, you say, I have a warranty. If it breaks, they will fix it for free!



Do not succumb to this myth.



I can help you break the secret warranty code. "Covers all parts," translated, means "covers all parts, sometimes, between the hours of 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., Indian Ocean time zone, on the Mayan Calendar."



Now, I'm not saying this about all warranties. I’m sure some are good. The ones I’ve had, of course, are not; but I’m sure some are. I once had a boyfriend who worked with warranties, and he assured me warranties were not represented by The Devil. He even went to church with me once, so I believe this. He now owns a pro sports team, so, I’ve learned a lesson here: warranties may be the ticket to you sitting in a team suite with important people and trading players and stuff.



But I digress. Here’s what happened by a company I can’t name, because they actually asked me to NOT WRITE ABOUT THEM. So I am going to write about them and name them Caring Company.



We had just moved into our house last year, and my freezer and my stove were broken.



We will help, Caring Company assured me!



The week before Christmas, when I suppose I needed to fix a non-microwaved dinner for my family, they sent a gentleman to live in my kitchen.



He came. He saw. He did not conquer.



“Ma’am, “ he said. “I’m sorry, but they’re broken.”



“That’s why I called you.”



“I’ve tried to fix them but I can’t. And the parts they need are not under warranty, and will take a while to order. Not to mention the cost of the labor.”



(This happens to everyone. The car warranty does not actually cover the car going forward. But if you need to drive sideways, the warranty is valid.)



And then Man in my Kitchen That I Actually Offered a Diet Coke To tells me that will be $75.



Did you just tell me that’s $75 and you didn’t fix anything?



Yes, he said, and then he uttered something that I swear sounded like, “Please pay up now.”



I didn’t.



The drama then involved a series of harassing phone calls by Caring Company, and my attorney husband read some stupid fine print that wasn't in my favor, and somehow we choked out $75, and nothing was fixed or scheduled to, in fact, work.  This is the very moment that I began my Crusade Against Fake Warranties.



Case in point: my friend Carrie's story. She has a defective yet beautiful $3,000 garden window, which is leaking. With the window still under warranty, man comes over. They agree to pay him $45 for his “service call.”



Guess what happens next?



He cannot repair the gorgeous garden window that lets light into their kitchen. He says they’ve had complaints on those types of windows. But he can sell her an improved and upgraded version. He wants $1,000.



She says no, he will take this back and exchange the window for free. “I told the guy it was not happening,” she says. “I wouldn’t give his company one more dime."



“Am I missing something?” Carrie asks me. “We have a drip and all this guy can tell me is that it isn’t covered because they don’t sell that style anymore?”



Why yes, Carrie, many warranties do not actually COVER the item warrantied. For fun, Carrie now reads aloud to her family the love language of the Lifetime Warranty Text.


Now if you excuse me, I must figure out what to do about my new smartphone that takes pictures that turn out blue. I did not buy the warranty, but I’m sure-- if I'm not doing something wrong by pressing the button with the camera graphic--the manufacturer’s warranty covers this. And I’m sure they will tell me it only covers pictures taken on Tuesdays, on years that the Olympics are held in Liechtenstein.



Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in best-selling anthologies, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, or join her updates at www.facebook.com/KristineMeldrumDenholm or Twitter @writerandmom.  



For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here 



©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 12

What's Love Got To Do With It?
Eight years divorced and I’m still sending my ex Valentine’s Day Cards
.



I have always loved the greeting card aisle … I pick up the ones with indie-art designs or intriguing words and fonts, and I admit I'm attracted to those with a little bling. 


I like reading the sentiments inside, deciding if that’s how I would say it, or tossing it aside as too mushy or not clever enough. In fact, back when I was in college, I wanted to be a greeting card writer for Hallmark. I even wrote the company and sent some samples. (Big surprise, I never heard back.) 


When I have been away from home on a trip, I have brought cards with me to send back to my family. I have made my own {geeky} cards for a select few loved ones, and of course the cards I treasure most are the ones my son has drawn for me over the years.


When I was married, I remember standing in greeting card aisles during many a February, reading all the Valentine’s Day cards for “My Husband” and suddenly tears would be streaming down my face. Well-versed in optimism all my life, I so wished that I felt what the cards expressed … I wanted desperately to give my husband a card filled with love and thanks and hope for the future – and to believe it, feel it, want it.


Sometimes I would buy a card of love and promise, saving it for the day I knew would come; the day that the words on the card would match the emotions in my heart.


There were times over our 14 years together that I did feel it, to be sure.  I made a card for him with a picture of us sitting in front of our fireplace. There’s no date, so I’m not sure what year it was. But it starts, “Jonhoney … when I met you the air around me quivered. You made me laugh and made me fall in love…” Another time I wrote a song about how we dance to the beat of a different drummer ... but that he created the soundtrack to our lives. I recorded it on one of those cards that immediately start playing as soon as you open it.


How could I have written those verses, then stand sobbing in the greeting card aisle during all the in-between years, at a loss for words?


He also gave me cards, declarations of love, promises of trust, visions of our future. Beautiful words – words we both felt at the time. I have no doubt they were heartfelt and true.


I have some of those cards … both the ones I gave him and the ones he gave me. They are mixed together in an old paper box. Looking them over, there’s a sweet sadness at the naiveté of what was ahead of us; of believing that if I loved him enough, if we worked hard enough, we could overcome our obstacles and get to the other side. That’s how I thought of it back then, through more than a decade of couples’ therapy – that we would get stronger and closer and what we would have on “the other side” would be better than we could ever have imagined.


Today I took out one of those cards I had bought in hopes that it might one day be true. And you know what? It is. I’m sure that for my ex and me, it has a completely different meaning than the greeting card-writer ever intended.


But during the last seven or eight years – years in which we separated;  a year of rehab for my husband, individual therapy for both of us, where we could grow, assess, and learn to let go with grace … years in which we created a post-divorce relationship like none other, based on friendship and years of knowing each other … years in which I learned to love him differently, with care and support, instead of "taking care of" and enabling… years in which we’ve partnered and parented through the normal difficulties of raising an adolescent … years in which we showed remarkable compassion for our shortcomings, our idiosyncrasies, our  human-ness… years in which I fell in love with another man (a man to whom I can give the kinds of Valentine’s Day cards I used to cry about…), and my ex has embraced him as a true friend, and vice versa.


All making for exactly the kind of emotion-filled, definitely different, some-would-call-crazy, amazingly beautiful roller-coaster of a life that makes this card -- purchased more than 10 years ago – perfect to give my ex-husband this year.


What’s love got to do with it?  Everything.

 





Ginger Emas is a 20-year veteran marketing, web and business writer in Atlanta, and the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a contributing blogger for The Balancing Act, Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com; the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared on dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.    


 For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 


When my editor said that this week’s topic was divorce, I started researching immediately. There was important TMZ celebrity divorce news to analyze, I figured! ( Did you know that Arnold and Maria were spotted buying furniture together? You know what that means, girlfriend.)


 Yet Hollywood marriages spill no secrets why people become, er, terminators. It’s what you find in the rest of America—or at least Beverly Hills: infidelity, addictions, hot tub abuse, “irreconcilable differences” after being together 55 hours, and of course the ever- present complaint “Honey, after they did my make-up and hair, they called 'action' and I had to be in a bed with this gorgeous naked actress. Don’t worry, there was a sheet, and she wasn’t nearly as hot as you!"  Or other grievances:  “Ever since that party at Heff’s, you’ve been acting strange…”


But the online gawking world of celeb divorce offered only futile research, so I switched over to data on the real folks, and spotted the headline “Jobs That Cause Divorce” on divorce.com. And surprisingly, “Hollywood A-list actor with $50 million who goes to awards ceremonies” was not tops.


A paper published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology showed people working in stressful jobs have a higher rate of divorce. (Really?) But when they controlled demographics, race, gender, age and income for each occupation, here’s what they found:


Dancers leap into the divorced pack at 43 percent (it did not specify whether this was pole dancers, teaching a ballroom dance class at the Y, or the going-on-tour-with-Lady-Gaga-type-dancer). Bartenders and massage therapists come in second at 38 percent (baffling:  a spouse resisting a free back rub?), and nursing, psychiatric and home health aides, as well as entertainers and sports people, concierges, and telemarketers (do they fight with their spouse when the phone interrupts dinner?) tie at 28 percent. Scroll through more occupations -- everything from judges to maids to executives -- and there at the bottom is the lowest divorce rate.


Agricultural engineers:  2 percent.


There’s our answer, people.  Did you marry an agricultural engineer, someone who can invent machinery, solve complex problems, and figure out how to conserve soil and water while growing better food? It should’ve been on your “marriage-material” checklist. Your divorce rate would be down to 2 percent! And, imagine, if an agricultural engineer marries another agricultural engineer, it is probably 0 percent!


I suddenly realize that this must be correct because I do not know any divorced agricultural engineers!  (For that matter, I don’t know any agricultural engineers. I suffer from allergies, so I base myself around cities of concrete and steel instead of fields of wheat and corn, preventing a violent sneezing death.)


True, my collective knowledge includes passing through corn fields on a highway and seeing engineers drinking coffee at Cracker Barrel, but they seem incredibly nice. I imagine these people come home from long days and not complain that it’s your night to go to book club and they’ve got to watch the seedlings, two of which have strep and the third has algebra homework. See? They LIKE to solve problems! “Sweetie, go. Have a great time with your friends. I’ll feed the kids and animals and install a sprinkler system in the sloping backyard while you’re gone.”


 I imagine the agricultural conventions to be happy places, where spouses are invited.  I envision the colleges of agricultural engineering to be full of nice students who binge drink milk and grow up to be people who can solve complex riddles, like how do you get child 1 over to baseball field B while child 2 must be at field C at the other end of the county from where child 3 is.


 These engineers are probably so courteous that there would be little anarchy 10 years later over who gets the remote.


If you want the secret for sustainability in marriage, become an agricultural engineer, or marry one. Be fruitful and multiply.


It just may be your field of dreams.


Who needs to know that Kevin Costner’s divorce cost him $80 mil, anyways? 


 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com or on Facebook www.facebook.com/KristineMeldrumDenholm or on Twitter @writerandmom.

 

For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Mar 23


Politicians, pundits, and social commentators, among others, are talking about the various challenges facing America, but no one is focusing on our most acute crisis: the crisis of relational hope.


We are losing faith in the possibility that we will be able to enjoy lifelong relationships of growth, maturation, and love.


This realization has been growing within me for some time, but it was brought home to me recently.  


I received an e-invite to visit a website called “Ashley Madison” that was created to expand “my relational horizons.”  As my therapist has been encouraging me to get involved in some new activities and groups, I decided to check out what the site had to offer.  


When I went to the site, the slogan immediately clued me into its essential purpose: “Life is short, have an affair.” 


I quickly discerned that “Ashley Madison” existed to expand horizons I didn’t want expanded. This site, targeted at married men and women, is one of the largest social networking sites on the web, and its membership rivals dating sites for singles.  


Call me naïve but I was astounded to find out that within seconds of entering my zip code there were dozens of married women living just a mile or two from me in search of a tryst with a married man.  


With my curiosity piqued, I then visited some dating websites, and a cursory search of the web revealed many different sites, with each having dozens of women looking for dates living a mile or two from me.  Almost all the women were over 30 years of age, and on virtually every site women seemed compelled to advertise their luring physical qualities.  There seemed to be little demand for great companionship and good conversation.


You could look at these sites and assume they reflect what has always been, updated for a technological age, but I believe they reflect something new: a significant erosion in relational hope. 


Married people have had affairs since the dawn of marriage, but I’d venture to say most of them were based on physical and emotional attraction and when they entered into their liaison they shared some relational capital.  “Ashley Madison” is about engaging people in affairs with minimal relational capital, and no sense of a longer commitment.


It is as if we live in an age where we are so relationally challenged we can’t even have a “decent” affair.

 

The various websites bring to mind a lyric from the song “Eleanor Rigby,”


"Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?"


These sites are signals to something deeper going on in our society.  Recent research is revealing the following about us:


  • More individuals over the age of 50 are getting divorced with the intention of growing old alone.
  • More young people are delaying marriage, and only 20% of 18-29-year-olds are married:  the lowest figure in American history.  
  • 45 percent of children in American are born outside of marriage.
  • Grandparents are serving as the primary care providers for an increasing number of children.


These are not merely statistics that impact a segment of the population with which we don’t socialize.  These trends are expanding across our culture and impact all of us.  Each of us knows people in all four groups; for virtually all of us, they have impacted our families, and the number of those we know is growing.


For many years I have criticized college students for engaging in the hook-up culture on campus.  What I failed to notice is that they are merely following the cue of culture.  We live in a hook-up culture. Unless you are married and wish to stay faithful, the new matchmakers in America are bars and websites.  They are  providing the primary social outlet for Americans of all ages who are looking for companionship, with step one being the one-night hook-up.  Dating and courtship are relics of the past.  We have very limited options for meeting others outside of a sexualized encounter.


It would be easy to say that these trends don’t matter in a society that values individual freedom, as no one is forced to opt into this lifestyle.


But we are more intelligent than that.


Choice only matters when you have meaningful options.


How do we know it matters?


We see it in the lives of our adult children.


Their children.


Our friends.


Our extended family.


This is a development whose significance is beyond what we can presently comprehend.  If trends were arrested at present we could not yet understand its full implications.  We will only know when those 0-18 grow up and enter adulthood.  Early reports from grade school teachers are not promising.


As there is no indication of the trend abating, about the only thing we can say with certainty is that this shift toward temporary relational connections will continue to change the relational nature of American society as we know it.


As our relational commitments become more temporary and less permanent, bonds of blood and long-term commitment will dissolve.  


Family life will fragment


Extended family life will wither.


Marriage will become less common.


Grandparenting will become more complicated.


Friendships will be more temporary.


The factor that all these changes have in common is the loss of long-term relational hope.  We need to get what we can now from our relationships because either party could be discarded soon.


Who will this most impact?  Those yet to be born.  


Lest I be accused of treating this with a “sky is falling” paranoia of Chicken Little, I cannot find a serious social commentator who doesn’t recognize the gravity of the social implications of these trends.


This is not just a crisis impacting individuals, families, and friendship; it is a crisis of democracy as well.


Democracy requires citizens who can engage in responsible self-government.  Self-government is not an individualistic term but a description of how men and women come together to govern us collectively.  Of all forms of government, democracy requires the most trust and relational hope. 


So is there hope?


Yes.


It is to be found in love.


Love is by definition a relational word.  


Love is not something we can do by ourselves.


We can be nice by ourselves, but we can only love with another.


Henri Nouwen said that love dwells in the space between us, and we can only experience it when we are in a relationship in which love is welcomed.  


It applies to all relationships and not merely romantic ones.


We are losing relational hope because we are losing touch with love.  


Love is the currency of human relationship.  It is the air relationships breathe.  


We live in an age that could be coined the “iWorld.”  A world all about “me” and every other “me.”


We are living as though the universe is designed so that each of us can live as we wish or as we please.  


Love is a better way.


What difference can love make.  Here is one example.  


How about if we use our religious meeting places and public spaces to create “Friendship Zones” on Friday and Saturday nights?  These “Friendship Zones” could be places where people can come and be with others in a safe place and a no “hook-up zone.”  People can come as strangers, spend a few hours getting to know a variety of others, and they can build on these relationships in subsequent weeks without expectations and with the luxury of time.


This wouldn’t be hard to organize and I believe that the demand would be overwhelming.  Why?  Because we are made for love and relationships.  Right now we are catering to the lowest common denominator.  We can do better. 


How sure am I of this?  


I am helplessly hoping.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 25

Given the secretive nature of infidelity and the reality of the marital contract, are extra marital affairs so surprising?


Listed below are some of the most well-supported facts about "cheating" and the truth about about monogamy in our culture.


It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60 percent of all married individuals (in the U.S.) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.These numbers are on the conservative side when you consider that much is never talked about or revealed.


Research consistently shows that two to three percent of children are the product of infidelity. And most of these children are unknowingly raised by men who are not their biological fathers.


Infidelity is becoming more common among people under 30. This increase may be due to the greater opportunity (time spent away from spouse), or due to the habit of having multiple sexual partners before they got married.


There are no definite "signs of cheating," but in hindsight you may always find them.


Different cultures adopt different measures to combat infidelity: female circumcision, death as a punishment and very limited contact, while many other cultures view infidelity as more of a nuance rather than a serious marital problem.


Men are more likely to "stray" but, as women become more financially independent, they are starting to act more like men with respect to infidelity.


In many cases, infidelity never does get discovered.


Emotionally, it IS possible to have feelings for more that one person at a time.


As more women enter the workforce, "office romances" are becoming more common. Spouses often spend more time with co-workers than with each other.


The internet, e-mail, and chat rooms are making it easier for people to engage in infidelity.


The initial decision to be unfaithful is rarely ever a rational choice; instead, fidelity is usually driven by circumstances and one's emotions. In fact, most people are surprised by their own behavior at the start of an affair.


Emotional infidelity, compared to just physical infidelity, can inflict as much, if not more, hurt, pain and suffering. And to make matters worse, most infidelity involves both physical and emotional betrayal.


Unfortunately, many people find a more suitable mate after they are already married.


Biological evidence indicates that long-term monogamy is difficult for humans to achieve-NOT impossible, but difficult.


Almost everyone admits to having fantasies that involve someone other than their spouse.


Jealousy is such a fundamental, universal emotion because infidelity has been a part of human nature for a long time.


To bond is human. It began long ago with the sex contract, and though the rules of the contract will change with the changing times, the instinct to make a contract will prevail.


Dr. Judie is a Clinical Sexologist and educator who has appeared on numerous television programs and hosted an award-winning cable television program called "Sex Talk."  A contributor to Lifestyles magazine, she also authored a sexuality column for "Senior Life," an award-winning publication of Mature Media.  She has been an interviewer for the "Better Sex" video series and serves as a talking head in the video, "Sex After 50."  

 


To read other blogs by Dr.Judie, click here.  

 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Apr 08


I am not a faith hero.  To do so requires discipline, commitment, and sacrifice greater than I would like to give.


I may be an ordained minister, but truth be told I don’t really want to live like Abraham, Joseph, Noah, or virtually any of the Biblical heroes.  I know love needs heroes, but I fear the cost of faith and am well aware of the humiliation of the misguided.  I’d prefer to be a member of the crowd, but faith asks more of us.


The life of faith requires a belief that God acts through whatever means he chooses for purposes of His own.  It assumes that we can hear the voice of God when He chooses to speak to us.  Most importantly it requires we respond obediently regardless of whether what He asks makes sense to us.


The faithful say, “Yes Lord.” 


I say, “Why me?”


Noah was asked to build an ark, and the promised flood doesn’t come for decades.  But he sees it through despite the taunting.


Abraham is asked to leave his home and take a journey toward an indeterminate destination on the promise he and his wife Sarah will have a child and descendants there is no earthly reason to believe they will have.  But they live as if the promise is true.


Joseph is asked to remain faithful and attentive to God despite the fact he is in prison and there is no reason to believe he will ever be released.  And he ends up a prince of Egypt.


Jesus is asked to believe that his life achieved its purpose when at his moment of greatest need virtually everyone in whom he had invested deserted him.  After losing everything he found a throne.


So what’s my hesitation?  The fear of being wrong.  Judas, Solomon, and others who were close to the heart of God, assumed they were being faithful even as their heart led them astray.


What do I believe to be my calling?  To explain to a culture that doesn’t want to hear it, why the historical teaching confining sexual relations to a marriage between one man and one woman is good news for everyone.


When I share this sense of calling with friends, they usually respond with phrases like, “Why?”  “Better you than me,” or, “I think you are on the wrong side of history.”


That last sentence haunts me.  Faith is belief, not certainty.  The annals of history are filled with those who sought to defend the status quo and others who challenged it.  History judges them with a perspective those in the present never possess.  


Our culture's conception of marriage is changing so quickly that it’s not clear which position is counter-cultural, let alone on the right side of history.  


But I digress.  I am not asked to predict the verdict of history, I am asked, we are asked, to live faithfully come what may.

I am not a brave man nor am not emotionally well adjusted.  I continually pray for wisdom, guidance, and hoped that this “cup” would be taken from me.


I can see why Jesus felt forsaken as he hung dying.


The life of faith is frightening.


Abraham, Joseph, and Noah must have experienced discouragement, despair, and had every good reason to give up, because there was no really good reason to go forward, but in their moments of darkness they lived faithfully and didn’t waver.


When I was a young man, I believed I was called by God to live at the nexus of faith and public life.  


As I scanned the horizon, I found virtually no role models.  I saw religious politicians, and I saw political pastors, and virtually no one did both well.  Mostly I saw people doing it poorly.


But I felt called to live well in both worlds and to get there I got a seminary degree, a Ph.D. in government, and all the debt that goes with it.


In my younger years I never wanted to pastor.  I didn’t like the church that much, but after I turned 40 I gave into deep sense God was asking me to become a pastor.


Much to my surprise I found myself living in both worlds as I taught government and pastored a church, and I found much joy in both.  What’s more I earned accolades and respect in both realms, and I reveled in it.


Until now.


Twenty years ago the questions concerning sexuality and marriage were merely academic and there was little need to address the issues.


But the times have been a ‘changing and I found that the changing cultural views on sexuality were impacting my students and parishioners in significant ways and the existing resources were inadequate to address these questions in a post-modern age.


Unexpectedly I sensed God asking me to write a book on the trifecta of political incorrectness: Sexuality, Theology, and Politics.


I knew that doing so would have an undesirable impact on my family, life, and work.  But I felt utterly compelled.  All my education and training had put me in a position to write this book.  And I did.  I wrote it with the desire to clarify the issues in such a way so as to help facilitate a discussion among people.  On issues like these, our society doesn’t need more polarization, but a safe place to discuss issues that are very important and personal.


All the while I've believed I am being faithful, even as I've hoped I wasn't walking in the footsteps of the misguided.  I live in the ambiguity of faith and not the security of certainty.


When Sex and the iWorld was published, my life changed. Addressing the trifecta of political incorrectness had the immediate effect of narrowing my professional opportunities. 


I tried to ignore that by focusing on the fact that fewer professional opportunities translated into more time to speak to the subject, which is my passion.


Unfortunately, I’ve not needed the time.  Except for a surprising high level of interest in Europe, Asia, and Australia, I’ve been largely ignored in the US by religious institutions.  To my surprise the few invitations I've received have come from largely secular organizations.


Apparently it’s not part of the business plan of the American church to discuss sex.  


All this was discouraging, but it didn’t deter me.  No worries I said.  “God works in his own ways and has a plan for my life.”


In October I felt compelled to step down from pastoring after a decade with a congregation I loved.  I did so with the belief that such a move was right for all concerned and that it would give me more time to write and speak, because after all, the speaking invitations would come. They had to come!  The issues surrounding my book are more relevant today than the day they were written.


But after a few months the speaking opportunities I had, such as they were, dried up, and while I realize man cannot live on bread alone, I haven’t figured out how to make do in the absence of it.


I found that I had arrived at the "last minute.”  I pleaded with God to intervene before more hardship came upon me.  


I believed he would rescue me at the "last minute."  


The "last minute" came and went.  Nothing happened, except my fears being realized.


But when my grief and denial subsided I discovered I was still alive and the world was still here.  


I find myself in a place I never knew existed.  Life on the other side of the "last minute.”


Every doubt I’ve ever had is here to greet me. Foremost among them is the question of whether I’ve been faithful or misguided.


Misguided or not I've discovered much to my surprise that this place, on the other side of the "last minute," is where every story of real faith begins.  When our expectations are exhausted, common sense is a distant memory, and we cannot rescue ourselves, we have come to the place where true faith is exercised.  Our heroes all found themselves here and they persevered.


I am not at a dead end, but the way forward is dark. 


I can see left and right, but not forward.


Doubt is in plentiful supply.


Did I hear right?  Did I hear wrong?


I am looking with renewed interest at Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Jesus.


They lived for decades on the other side of “the last minute.”


They listened well.


They walked forward into the darkness and discovered what cannot be seen.


Now is my opportunity.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 31


Most people are serious and have every intention of keeping their word when they give it when it comes to marriage and monogamy.


But while people generally have the best intentions when making such promises, human behavior is not always governed by the fact that vows were taken and that promises were made.


When it comes to making decisions about love and and relationship, logic and reason have a difficult time competing with emotions. So frequently, our emotions influence our behavior and lead us down paths we had no intention of traveling.


Many separate emotional systems are involved in not following the agreement to be monogamous-- sexual desire, romantic love, attachment, anger, resentment and the "unexpected." And often these emotional systems pull people in different directions - Truth, Lies, Romance,  Desire, etc.

 

Often the victim is seen as the recipient of a spouse's infidelity. But... what about the perpetrator?

 

What is with them that their actions take a path they never expected or wanted to take?  What is it that triggers someone getting intimately involved with another?


What types of situations influence our emotions and bring out the least expected in our behavior?

 

ASK:

         Is something is happening to our original relationship?

 

IS it...

  • Being close or interdependent on someone other than one’s spouse
  • Being around someone who is sexually interested and interesting
  • Spending a lot of time one-on-one with someone else
  • Not feeling close or connected to one’s spouse (e.g., feeling lonely, being upset or angry with a spouse, etc.)
  • Situations that create the sense of opportunity - the feeling that one will not get caught (e.g., meeting someone in private, out of town trips, etc.)
  • Situations involving alcohol or drugs

 

When placed in these types of situations, one's emotions often prompt people to act in ways that are contrary to their original intentions. On occasion, poor decisions get made. Unfortunately, for many people, it is very difficult to be in control of one's emotions when placed in these types of situations.


What about the usual expectations of  "willpower" or "self-restraint?"


Research shows that "willpower" or "self-restraint" alone do little to change or influence our behavior. In fact, some cultures have decided that individual "willpower" and "self-restraint" can not be trusted. Some cultures have made the decision that the best way to prevent lack of monogamy is to make sure that the situations listed above do not occur - essentially, controlling situations as the best way to control behavior.

IS this possible??

In western cultures, we place greater value on individual responsibility. We do not collectively try to prevent these types of situations from occurring. Rather we allow situations to happen, but then we hold individuals accountable for their behavior and we expect people to behave appropriately. Individuals are supposed to exercise their self-restraint and have the will power to control their emotions and their actions. Unfortunately, for many people this does not work.

Relying on willpower or self-restraint  fails to work when other issues are involved, too.  People make promises and vows they cannot keep. More often than not, willpower and self-restraint are not enough to control one's behavior,  and it often requires a change in lifestyle,  communication, environment, social networks, and sometimes even therapy to reach that level of control.  The consequences of "cheating"  on both people are much more severe than the consequences of failing on a  diet. In any case, people do struggle with these issues and making promises alone typically does not result in a lasting change.


Overall, infidelity, like many other human behaviors, is difficult to control.

 It takes two to tango. Being faithful to a spouse is more complicated than simply making promises to do so.

Bot  people in the relationships will suffer  (albeit not in all situations).


Being faithful to a spouse often requires ___________________________________________ . Fill in what you think.


Dr. Judie is a Clinical Sexologist and educator who has appeared on numerous television programs and hosted an award-winning cable television program called "Sex Talk."  A contributor to Lifestyles magazine, she also authored a sexuality column for "Senior Life," an award-winning publication of Mature Media.  She has been an interviewer for the "Better Sex" video series and serves as a talking head in the video, "Sex After 50."  

 


To read other blogs by Dr.Judie, click here.  

 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

     So Brangelina* is getting married.

     This is about as exciting to me as a root canal.

     (Next, we will be subjected to pictures of Brangelina’s root canal. Hopefully for the men in the audience, she will stick out her Oscar leg as she is getting the root canal.)

     It’s not that I’m anti-Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie, though I am solidly in Jen’s camp.  It’s not just a nice-girls-always-lose thing, it’s just that when I picture inspirational parents, they do not strut on the red carpet of my mind. Yes, I know they’ve adopted from foreign countries but, uh, so have my friends. And before I start getting hate mail on this, let me say that yes, I know they’re caring people and give away millions. So does Jen. (And if I had a several-million-dollars-a-picture salary, nannies, trainers, hairstylists, a launderer, a chauffeur, a body guard, a librarian, tutors and teachers, homes around the world, and my own UN staff, I would give millions away too.)

     Now we have to hear every detail about their upcoming nuptials.  Have you ever had a Bridezilla in your life who showered you with details of the type of toilet paper that will be in the stalls at the reception? This is what I fear will happen with the Brangelina Wedding.  Brangelina “experts” will be called in to pose as TV “analysts,” using perfectly good primetime airwaves, when we could be watching the Real Housewives of Orange County, to state how it’s possible that Angelina’s nosehair will be clipped for the wedding.  Then they will do a split screen of her former teenage hairdresser, who will say that before she was fired, she used to bleach her nose hair.

     Today my home page trumpeted the latest “news.” It was not North Korea’s nuclear capabilities (or maybe it was, but I didn’t notice because of this glaring headline: ”Jolie’s ring different from Aniston’s!”)

     Oh. My. Good Jen.

     As my nine-year old would say, “Duh.”  Would you give your second wife the same ring as you gave your first?

     Why is this newsworthy?

     Everyone knows they’re already married. Have they changed explosive diapers and faced whiny temper tantrums? Signed mortgages and gotten little coupon books? Traveled together? Fought over who’s watching the kids more? Has one parent stayed up all night with a vomiting child while the other is comfortably sleeping? Then they’re married. Even if they haven’t done this, their subcontractors have argued about this. Plus, like many men who wait for their wives, Brad was probably mad Angelina was going to make them late to the awards show. “You can NEVER decide between the Versace and the Wang,” a bodyguard’s ex-neighbor will quote Brad as complaining.

     Do you remember when Alec Baldwin said he would leave the country if Bush was elected? (Didn’t Brangelina say that they weren’t going to get married until everyone could do so?)

     So, if Brad and Angelina get married without 15 "We’re-breaking-it-off-fights!" covered in the tabloids, I vow to live in a neighboring county. For the morning. There, I will find a coffee shop where  I will write my latest “news” and trumpet it on the internet: I AM GOING TO SUBWAY TOMORROW TO GET A VEGGIE SUB. THEN I WILL BUY A SNAPPLE.  Then, I will toast Brangelina’s love and prosperity and brilliance.

     And maybe even buy them that waffle maker they’re coveting.

 

*If you do not know who Brangelina is, you have not glanced at the front of any magazine at the grocery store. Congratulations. You may bypass this column and go directly to their wedding registry.  Good luck finding a gift!

 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs. Visit with her at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, on Facebook  or on Twitter @writerandmom.


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm columns, click here.

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 17


Divorce has become a major force in American life. Today, 50 to 60 percent of all new marriages are likely to end in divorce. As far back as 1991, 15.8 million Americans (8.1 percent) were divorced, and those Americans who divorce usually do not stay divorced for long. They usually remarry within three to four years.


Scholars suggest that divorce does not represent a devaluation of marriage but, oddly enough, an idealization of it. We would not divorce if we did not have so much hope for and about marriage’s ability to fulfill various needs.


I remember when I was teaching college students in China and they questioned me about American social and cultural behavior. They queried, with (a slightly righteous attitude…) “Hey Professor Judie…look at how many Americans get divorced. That doesn’t happen here. Our relationships must be better.” And my response was…Now, let’s see. I would then say, “When American couples are not happy with the decision (contract) they made at 20 they are free to discuss it…admit then there was a mistake… and go on to have a better relationship with someone else. What do Chinese couples do who are unhappy with their marriage? What would you prefer?” They would nod their heads and look at each other… pondering that question.  I would then say, “Our high divorce rate further tells us that we remain married only as long as we are in love… or we think there is a potentially better partner that could or does come along. Divorce is a choice or decision."


After that… what?


Dating, again.


Separated or divorced men and women who are beginning to date again may be ( oops… will be ) excited, nervous, worry about how they look and wonder whether or not it is okay to hold hands, kiss, or have sex.


Let’s cut to the chase: all divorced adults have had sex and most still want sex. The problem is that we may not want the 'strings’ of a full-on relationship; we may have concerns about our bodies, our behavior, what others think.  We just aren’t ready and, as much as masturbation (if we don’t have hang-ups with that normal behavior) gives our bodies something to ‘snack on,’ we know what we really want is the full-meal deal.


The question of whether sex without strings is “bad” or “good” ultimately comes down to you -- the  person deciding. You’re the one who has to live inside your head and body; you’re the one who holds the gavel.


---------------------------------------------------


After a divorce… what about sex?


(Fill in the blanks)


What are your old thoughts about sex?


What are your concerns about dating?


Where do you find a date... if you want one?


What do you do if you don’t want one?


How was it with your husband or wife? How was it before? How are YOU about sex?


How are you about your body?


Remember...The first concern and star is YOU.


Give yourself time to read and talk.


Dr. Judie is a Clinical Sexologist and educator who has appeared on numerous television programs and hosted an award-winning cable television program called "Sex Talk."  A contributor to Lifestyles magazine, she also authored a sexuality column for "Senior Life," an award-winning publication of Mature Media.  She has been an interviewer for the "Better Sex" video series and serves as a talking head in the video, "Sex After 50."  


To read other blogs by Dr. Judie, click here.  

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

Jun 12



I can identify with almost any song written about love.  “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” “LoveHurts.” “Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone.” “Two Hearts Beat as One.” “Love Stinks.”  I could go on.  If I were a poet I could add my voice to the joy and lamentations of the generations.


An enduring favorite of mine is “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.


And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?


Shakespeare said, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”  Shakespeare assumed, however, that love would live to be lost another day.  He doesn’t tell us where to look when we can't find love.


Love has been the subject of poetry and ballads since the beginning of time.  It has an elusive quality that compels us to rejoice when we find it and lament when we have lost it. 


And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My God!...what have I done?


Almost all of us have been in relationships in which we believed love dwelt, only to be mistaken.  At times we believed we were loved, but were discarded for another.  Sometimes we were the ones who did the discarding, and other times the unpleasant discovery was mutual.  As love is such an essential part of life, one would expect humans to be good lovers, yet we are often deceived by others who are themselves deceived, or worse, by clever counterfeiters.


When we discuss love gone wrong, it is romantic love that immediately comes to mind.  But love is multidimensional and encompasses all human relationships. We have one word for it in English, the Greeks had four words for it, and there is no reason to believe they understood every dimension of love.  Love is the foundation of all relationships, including family relationships, business relationships, and friendships.  We don’t often associate love with business or politics, but relational betrayal of every sort cuts to the core of our being, and romantic betrayal isn’t the source of even half of our pain.  There will never be a recession for therapists because relational hurt is never in short supply.    


Were love not essential for existence, our ancestors would have cast it into the dustbin of history.  But we cannot live without it, which is why we continue our search even though it often feels that love will be our undoing.  Try as we might, there is no substitute for love.  Nothing, not even wealth can suffice.  The stories of lottery winners, along with the pain that fills the faces of the rich and famous on the tabloids, testify to its indispensable nature.  Without love we cannot live.  Coroners aren’t allowed to attribute cause of death to a broken heart, but this needs to be changed.  Very few people die from alcoholism, yet their cause of death is almost always a broken heart.   


Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...


Despite the difficulties involved in understanding, let alone finding love, our quest continues.  Consider the curious phrase “true love.”  Its loaded meaning is immediately apparent to all who hear it precisely because of the relational misunderstandings and betrayal we have all endured.  This experience is so universal and pervasive that a child can understand it, witness the use of the phrase "true love" in virtually every fairy tale. 


Anyone who has ever lived bears the scars of relationships that were not true.  Socrates said that that the very best of men would be hung on a tree, because no one is exempt jealousy and betrayal.  Love has never been tame, and like our shadow, it possesses an elusive quality.  

Yet I believe presently we are facing a crisis of love that few generations or societies have ever faced.  Love amongst us is becoming an endangered species.  


The evidence is overwhelming.  Marriage as an institution is withering.  Only 20 percent of Americans under the age of 30 are married.  It is the lowest figure in recorded history and signals that we may be to the point where a majority of Americans will never be married.  


Some commentators surmise that young people are merely delaying marriage. I beg to differ.  I believe an increasing number of young people will not marry because they are losing relational hope.  The idealism of youth is being replaced by relational cynicism at an earlier age.  Why?  Children and adolescents, when they look at the lives of their parents and the families of their peers are provided scant hope that they will find security and love in marriage when they come of age.  Little wonder social networking and avatars are such an attractive alternative to the messy world of relationships.  


It is understandable why an increasing number of adolescents, rather than looking for their "true love,"  the one person with which they hope to spend their lives raising a family, live in the hope that they can find a couple of relationships, romantic or not, that can sustain them to the grave.  

The loss of relational hope is not confined to young people.  An increasing number of us over the age of thirty are losing relational hope as well.  The rise in debt and consumerism among the Baby Boomers betray self-absorption grounded in a decline in relational hope.  It should not surprise us to learn that an increasing number of unmarried boomers over the age of 50 profess to prefer singleness for the rest of their lives.  


With relational hope in decline among younger grandparents, parents, and children, I find an increasing number of students telling me, “The world of relationships has always been this way, it’s just that people used to be more tolerant of bad marriages.”  In their next breathe they tell me that today we are better off because people are getting out of bad relationships.  


We are right to reject those who romanticize the past, but it is important not to commit the fallacy that relationships are the same as they ever were. There are good marriages today, and there have always been.  There is domestic abuse today, and there has always been.  But all marriages are not equal and never have been.  All cultures are not equal, and never have been.  Marriage and family is in crisis in the West, but it has not always been this way.  


What is constant is that there is not an example of a society that survived the relational breakdown of family.  Why?  I believe it is because humans cannot live without the type of love nurtured in family life, and particularly in the extended family.  Psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists can all see the adverse long-term impact family breakdown has on the lives of children.  


It is not just alcoholics who die of a broken heart,  Nations and civilizations die when their is widespread outbreak of broken-heartedness.  Rome was not undone by external forces, and as historians have never quite found the words to describe Rome's cause of death, I think we can attribute it to broken-heartedness manifest in self-destructive personal and social behavior.


There are few constants in this world, but one of them is our need for love.  What the world needs more than anything else is love.  In the midst of all the talk about economics we need to remember that ove is the only thing that can save us.  


Can it be found?


It has always been here.


We merely forgot where to look for it.


It isn’t found in roses and contracts and guilt.


Philosophers and the great religions exhort us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Some also emphasize the importance of loving God, self and neighbor.   Love is not something we can do alone.  It is not an “I” activity, but a ”we” activity.  Love is not a task to perform, but something that lives in the relational space between two or more people.  As we love God and neighbor as ourselves, love will grow in the relational space between us.


Love can’t be bought, but it can be found anywhere on earth, including the most humble of circumstances.  People were not drawn to work with Mother Teresa because of the smell.  They were drawn by the love they found in the relational space between her sisters, and the people for which they cared. 


It is in loving our neighbor as ourselves that love dwells.  


Same as it ever was.  



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jul 13

“We were at a local arts festival,” I explained to our friends, “and I found a booth with very contemporary rings.  It was just what I always wanted.”  


“And that is why we got engaged,” Phang added in jest.  “Because we found the right ring.”


Actually, we got engaged because it felt right.  We knew each other in high school, served on committees together in the community, worked out together at the gym and became a couple seven years ago.  Being together just felt good.  For the first few years we kept asking each other "…so you like this?” 


We are engaged.  We are planning to be together the rest of our lives.  At first, life was about me and my first life and Phang and his first life.  Now, life is about our being together in our second life.  Getting there, though, was a growth process for us both.


Being better in your second life means growing and changing your patterns.  We are aware of each other’s limitations and have learned to accept them.  We have learned to talk…even argue …about tough stuff and push each other’s buttons.  We have struggled with each other’s boundaries as if we are living out a sibling rivalry.  


I love being engaged to this man.  He loves planning a future with me.  We are parents, grandparents, friends and lovers.  And we are learning how to take care of each other daily.  He does mornings.  I do afternoons.  He gets the paper, makes the coffee, walks the dog and takes out the trash.  I get the mail, walk the dog and make dinner.  Planning a future is as much about what we are doing now as it is about what we will do later.  


It is different in this life.  First we talked about powers of attorney and health insurance.  Now we talk about long term care and advance directives.  So many of our discussions relate to planning a future that is starting at an age when we have grown children, grandchildren and grey hair.  Our legal status will change and there are many decisions to be made.


Friends ask when we will tie the knot.  We don’t really know that yet.  Right now, we are happy being engaged.  


My best advice to a couple in their second life is to be all there in the present and to make today the best day in your life.  The tastiest meal ever is the one before you now.  Relish every morsel.  


And, on some days, that really is enough. 


Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC. She is co-author of the book A Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and care giving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt Vernon Counseling in Atlanta.  A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Aug 06

One of life’s greatest transitions is the journey from being single to being a couple.  Becoming a couple involves two people agreeing to a mutually exclusive relationship.  We call this monogamy.  Polygamy is not legal -- that usually refers to one man with multiple wives, but it can also refer to a woman with multiple husbands.


According to Wikipedia, polygyny refers to a man with more than one wife.  Polyandry refers to a woman with more than one husband.  When there are multiple partners of both sexes, that is known as a group marriage.  In countries where polygamy is illegal, the practice is called bigamy.  The question has been asked…should the government be able to regulate marriage?


A logical question, as well, is… how might the government regulate divorce amongst multiple partners?  Let’s suppose a man is married to three wives and chooses to divorce wife two.  How are the assets to be divided?  And how will child custody and support be determined?  


With three wives, does a husband give each wife a third of the assets if they divorce?  It would be a forensic accountant’s dream to be hired to determine what were premarital assets and which assets where co-mingled during the marriage…or marriages.


Phang and I have discussed this.  “Why,” he jokes, “would you want to have three wives, when you have enough problems with one wife?”  


“Would you be more willing to stay with three wives at one time,” I ask, “versus being married to and divorced from one wife at a time?”


TV programs "Big Wives" and "Sister Wives" explored the issues addressed by polygamous families in Utah.  I am wondering how these folks could afford all their homes and all their children.  In the post recession era, I wonder if economics, rather than morals or legislation, will determine how many partners and how many marriages a person is willing to have.


Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC.  She is co-author of the book A  Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and care giving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt. Vernon Counseling in Atlanta.  A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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