The Madonna and the Whore

For centuries, men have been putting women, and women have been putting themselves, into two categories, the Madonnas and the Whores. Consequently, they either get sex without love, or love without sex.

The Madonna is serious, pure, virginal, loving, forgiving, safe, and supportive. She washes the man’s socks. She raises his children. He can leave and she will still be there when he returns. She is his mother.

The Whore is fun, slutty, degraded, aggressive, hard, and wanton. She goes away when he’s done. He doesn’t have to wake up with her. He’s thrilled by her. She is his toy. Continue reading

WeConcile

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One factor that commonly limits the effectiveness of any kind of counseling is that fact that, at the most, you are only in your shrink’s office for an hour every week or two. If long term behavioral change is called for, you must identify what change is necessary and practice it long enough and frequently enough to make it stick. An hour every week or two just ain’t enough time.

In couple’s counseling, the problem is worse. When you come as a couple, there is at least twice as much to talk about in the sessions. When a couple is trying to change their behavior, both must be willing to change at the same time. That’s a lot of moving parts to get going in the same direction at once.

This is why I often give homework. There’s not enough time in the sessions to talk about everything, much less try anything new. What you do in between sessions contributes far more to success than the sessions themselves. Continue reading

Natural Variations

Take any two people and there will always be a natural variation between them regarding any characteristic.

There will always be one who is more strict with the kids, open to in-laws, careful with money, adventurous in bed, ambitious about career, social, self-confident, flirty, interested in a clean house, closer to family, better at math, permissive, more sharing of feelings, horny, generous to others, and on, and on, and on. Continue reading

Research on How to Make an Effective Apology

I didn’t see this research until after I completed my book, The Road to Reconciliation, so I couldn’t include it; but I’m happy to report that the findings support what I said about how to make and screw up an apology. Most people screw them up.

In Apologies of the Rich and Famous: Cultural, Cognitive, and Social Explanations of Why We Care and Why We Forgive, sociologists Karen Cerulo and Janet Ruane, analyzed and studied the effectiveness of 183 celebrity apologies that occurred between October 2000 and October 2012.

They categorized each apology as utilizing denial, evasion, reduction, corrective action, and mortification. They identified seven sequences. Some, for instance, start out by focusing on the offender; some on the victim; others on the context. Once they categorized each apology, the researchers measured the apology’s effectiveness as indicated by opinion polls conducted shortly thereafter. An effective apology was defined as one that resulted in an improved opinion of the apologizer. In other words, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, not the transformation of the character of the apologizer.

Less than a third of the apologies they looked at were effective with the public. In other words, at least two-thirds of apologies resulted in the apologizer digging a deeper hole for himself and becoming more contemptible. Cerulo and Ruane are able to say what works in making an apology.

  • Don’t wait, make an apology right away.
  • The first words in an apology matter. Don’t start by talking about how your life has been made more difficult since you got in trouble. Start by showing empathy for the victim.
  • Don’t apologize for what people think; apologize for what you did. Don’t say, “I’m sorry you misunderstood me.” Say, “I’m sorry I touched you without permission.”
  • No one wants to hear why you did it because it sounds like you’re making excuses.
  • Express regret and remorse.
  • If you express regret and remorse, actually feel regret and remorse. People can tell when you’re faking it.
  • Say what you’re doing to make restitution, but don’t say you’re going to rehab to make restitution. Rehab is not restitution. Rehab helps you, not the victim. Say what you’re doing to help the victim if you are able to make direct amends, or people like your victim, if you are not.
  • End your apology the same way you started it. The last words matter, too. End by showing empathy for the victim.
  • If you have already made your apology, but botched it, somehow; make a better one. You can still improve another’s opinion of you.

Like I said, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, but, had they studied whether the apologizer repeated the offense after apologizing, in my experience I think they would have gotten the same results. I am eagerly awaiting the results of such a study.

What Breathing Can Teach Us About Relationships

Old PostsSometimes people have trouble grasping what it means to let go. If that’s the case, I have metaphors. Lots of metaphors. Here’s another one. Letting go is as simple as breathing; exhaling, to be precise.

The entire breathing cycle can be seen as a metaphor of relationships. You start off in need. You have desires. You believe that if you do not have this person, you will die. That’s like inhaling. You expand yourself to take this person in. You incorporate him or her into your life. You feel full.

Once you inhale, try to hold your breath. Fresh oxygen inevitably becomes suffocating carbon dioxide. You get dizzy, confused, desperate. If you persist, you will pass out. If you still don’t inhale, you will die.

The very person you desired will sooner or later becomes the source of aggravation. That thing that you once found so charming will drive you nuts. The personal quality that you did not possess, but thought your partner could provide, will not be as important as you once thought. It never really was important to you. If it was, you would’ve developed it in yourself. There will be meddlesome in-laws, misunderstandings, mismatched goals, competing careers, money problems, poor timing in sex, squally children that may not even be yours, incongruent tastes, all the foibles that never become evident until two people live together. There will be minor betrayals and maybe major ones. There will be things to forgive. You’ll act dizzy, confused, desperate. If it persists, you’ll be out of there. If you don’t leave, something will die inside.

Exhale. Expel. Forgive. Let go. It feels good, doesn’t it? You were tense, holding it in, and you may not have even known it. Now you’re ready and able to desire again.

There are some who believe they can avoid this cycle in their relationships. They believe that if they find the perfect person, the relationship will never sour. They think that, if they can change their partner, everything will be all right. You might just as well wish for oxygen that will never become carbon dioxide.

By the way, oxygen does not become carbon dioxide by itself. It’s you that does it; and it’s you who turns what she does into aggravation, resentment, anger, and hurt. They’re your emotions. You made them.

To be sure, just as there is poisonous air, there are also poisonous relationships, affiliations that should be avoided. Your relationship might be making you sick. If that is the case, it may have to be ended. Even if that’s the case. Even if you are in a poisonous relationship, like poisonous air, you still need to exhale. Let go, let the poison out. You might even desire another again.

The Dance of Relationship: A Guide to the Positions

5apositions

Graphic Designed by Gloria Schaefer

 

When we think about love, we may picture something like this #1.

This position is called Turning Towards. You’re facing each other, open to each other, and paying attention to no one but each other. You may be touching.

You might believe this is the most desirable of the positions, but it’s very intense. It’s hard to do anything else when you are Turning Towards. It’s also hard to sustain attention totally to your partner, and it may feel threatening to have someone pay attention to you, not missing a thing. Still, the moments in which we are Turning Towards are meaningful, tender, and warm.

It’s also the position you are in when you are in a fight.

The second position looks something like #2.

This is Turning Away. Most of life in a relationship is like this. You may be mad at one another, but, more likely, you’re just busy and doing other things. Love can look like this, too. It may be a picture of two people who feel so secure in one another that they can let each other go and pay attention to other things. When you are permitted to turn away, you are free to explore.

Watch what happens when one partner changes position and turns toward. You get #3 and #4.

Turning Towards/Turning Away. In these positions, one partner is paying attention to the other while the other is attentive to something or someone else.

Sometimes, the Turning Toward partner is content watching. He simply admires his spouse, enjoys seeing her interact with others. He has no need for attention.

The Turning Away partner may feel her spouse has her back. He’s there if she needs him. She’s comfortable being the object of his attention.

Often, though, there’s an insecurity in this position. They’re the most unstable. Turning Towards/Turning Away can be very uncomfortable for both parties.

The Turning Towards one may feel ignored, neglected, and abandoned. He might feel jealous of the object of the partner’s attention. He may blame himself for being sticky, dependent, and needing excessive reassurance.

The Turning Away partner may feel clung to, limited by him. She may believe her partner has excessive demands. She may have the urge to flee.

These positions are sometimes the beginning of a ghastly dance. One partner clings, while the other breaks away. The more the one clings, the more the other needs to escape. The more the one avoids, the more the other hangs on.

There is a final position that should be noted, #5.

In this one, both partners are focused on the same thing. It could be a show they’re watching, a problem they’re trying to solve, or a child they’re raising. Having an important common purpose can be the most compelling reason to be in a relationship. You do more together than you could possibly do alone. However, the thing you are both focused on can be the thing that separates you and forces you apart.

Spend a few days noticing these positions in the natural world. See what it feels like for you to be in each position and see what you instinctively do next.

When You Need Your Space

Old Posts

Some days, you just need your space.

The trouble is, your partner is there, too, and if you try to get some space, they may take it personally. You don’t want to get into a long discussion over why you need your space when you need your space. It may not be good to get into discussions when you need your space. They seldom go well, then.

What you need, at times like that, is a hat.

Not just any ordinary hat, but a hat that is easily recognizable and officially designated as the I Need My Space Hat.

So, some time when you don’t need your space, pick out a hat and talk with your partner. Put the hat in a common area where both of you can find it. Whenever you need your space, put on the hat. Only use this hat for that one purpose. The hat communicates something to your partner, so you don’t have to. It says, I need my space. It’s not about you, it’s about me. I’ll tell you why when I take off the hat.

It’s important that you have this discussion first, before you need it, so both of you understand what the hat means. It’s also important to obey the hat, no matter which one of you is using it. Finally, it’s important to talk after you take the hat off. Tell your partner why you think you needed your space and was going on with you.

Some days, you just need your space and it’s hard to get it. Unless you use a hat.