Category Archives: Education

Adults Failing our Children?

The last time I checked…adults were supposed to be the ones providing good examples for children. Ironically, the opposite seems to be occurring the wider we focus our lens. If you happened to peruse the top headlines yesterday you would have seen stories like these:

“Governors Propose National Education Standards…48 governors seek nationwide standards for what kids learn in school”


“Kansas City board OKs plan to close nearly half of schools


7-Year-Old
911 Hero an Example for all Families
Experts Say Carlos Likely Saved His Family With Quick Thinking, 911 Call

At first glance you might say, “What’s the big deal?” You might even say that we have heard these stories before. If you dig a little deeper, though, you will see how desperate our educational system is at the present moment. The Kansas City school board voted to close down 28 out of 61 schools saving approximately $50 million dollars and shedding 700 jobs. CNN is reporting that schools in 17 states have opted to run four day weeks. The federal government assembled the nations governors in an effort to standardize English and Math standards. And…do I even need to comment on the fact that 48 out of 50 agreed. Alaska? Texas? I will take the 5th at the moment…hoping that they have better solutions to the ever-growing gap between American kids and the REST of the world.

As I dust my hands off from these appalling stories like a brick layer tired of the cement after a long arduous day…I find the story that has been plastered everywhere…little Carlos who calmly called 911 while protecting his sister as armed gunman stormed his home. As the media descends on this little guy we all find out that his mother regularly went through the proper procedures during an emergency. Smart. Concise. Thoughtful. These are the words that come to mind when I think about the effort made by his mother to lay the foundation for difficult work.

She is just one woman whereas the state and federal agencies and representatives are vast and, supposedly, representative of our communities.

Taking Down the Very Folks That Will Be Taking Care of YOU?

It is refreshing to know that somebody is being educated these days…even if reading, writing, and arithmetic are not. The irony can be found in the manner with which our educators are approaching the various problems at hand (i.e. low test scores, crowded classrooms, declining educator skills etc.)…and the irony is that we are scrambling to fix the problem.

We are scrambling like a kid who forgot he had a book report due today. Our schools are eroding, literally and figuratively, and the only thing we can think of is to throw test scores at the wall. We have decided to treat education and our children like NASCAR vehicles plastered with ads. It is and will always be about the almighty dollar unless we begin to focus on the way(s) children learn. Innovation does require funding and support from multiple levels. It requires a humble mindset. A way of thinking that looks at the experience of the audience….the child.

And, if that pains you too much to think about then think about what you liked/disliked when you were a student. What connected you to the material, inspired you to put forth the effort, and provided you with an overall pleasurable experience? It really isn’t that difficult. How do teachers and administrators feel? What works for them and what continues to befuddle them? After my work in education over the past 10 years I can tell you that the general consensus from educators is that they are inundated with new “campaigns” on a yearly and sometimes semester basis. A new way to score, a new way to observe, new boxes to check…and all we are doing is creating mass burnout.

You are getting slews of educators that aren’t enjoying their jobs anymore. They are asked for more and more with less and less professional development and support. The children see this coming and what you end up with is the makings of a perfect storm. Two disenfranchised groups of people who can’t wait for the awful song to be over…kinda like Simon Cowell screaming “rubbish!” after a grueling 2 minute karaoke audition. Ladies and gentlemen…we are not auditioning educational principles…we are preparing the next generation so that they will prepare the next.

Ah! You Scared Me! I thought You were trying to TEACH Me Something...

It is sad that widespread education has become a laughing stock to the participants and to our global neighbors. We have been so concerned with a child’s behavior that we have failed to ponder whether or not it is actually our methods that are eliciting dry heaves from our children.

We want our children and educators to wake up with some degree of optimism not pessimism. Tough decisions lie ahead. Some will be unpopular…some desperately needed. Get out of your comfy lazzyboy, stretch your legs, and get ready to stand up for the needs of the new world and the children tasked with saving it.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Is Your Life a Waste of Time?

Oh the Oscars! Oh the Oscars! The award show for all award shows. The glitz, the glam, the awkward interviews about this designer and that designer. Blah, blah, blah. Right? A waste of time and money…right? Tradition? You and I might have different opinions about last night’s show, but there remains a reason why we all tuned in…

…we tuned in because each year one movie touches us. One movie reel spins a tapestry unique to you, your life and the trials and tribulations weaved throughout. We all celebrate those moments that whisk us away from ordinary, transpose our life for all to see, and reap the rewards of a like-minded character and storyline.

The beauty of the show is that when our “horse” wins we get a brief glimpse into their lives and approach. Some confirm our estimation of ignorance for the “common folk” and others remind us that good actors and movie magicians are thoughtful, well spoken humans who capture the day-to-day better than any bought-off politician aiming to win re-election. One such magician did just that…

Now he may have flown under the radar, but (Oscar for Best Original Score for “Up”) Michael Giacchino delivered the kind of acceptance speech that radiates long past the lights of Oscar night.

“Thank you, guys. When I was… I was nine and I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you”
Michael Giacchino

Mr. Giacchino’s speech got me thinking…Is he speaking of an epidemic? Could he be talking about the millions of children who are instructed not to be kids, but rather robots in classrooms? Could Mr. Giacchino be talking about the droves of women who are in marriages where tradition means one thing and support another? Or, maybe Mr. Giacchino was talking about all of the good, normal, and well-intentioned men who want to participate more in the lives of their children, but feel society’s mountain is just too steep to climb?

Thank You For Taking The Time

How many of us waste time…not because we are inept, but because we are scared to death to access life? How many people out there squash the dreams of others to keep our own dormant? Do you view life as a big waste of time? Do you look at the miracle of life and realize you are lead character or do you see life passing you by. Mr. Giacchino spoke poignantly to those children without support systems last night.

He reminded us all of the children in our lives and the children hidden deep within our hearts. Can we dust off the child inside, rediscover our dreams, and live a life filled with purpose?

Effort in anything we do is fraught with emotion. Effort brings reflection whether we like it or not. Why put effort into one thing or person and not another? Our relationships with our children, friends, work colleagues, and partners are all impacted by the belief we have in ourselves to achieve and overcome.

The true miracle is through demonstration. When we demonstrate commitment to our own dreams a little bit of “movie magic” touches the lives around us. For some of us, we were given wonderful examples from the caregivers in our lives…for others…well…we were left to friends, neighbors, educators, and yes characters on the big and small screens.

As so poetically said by a passing homeless man in Pretty Woman…“What’s Your Dream?” Never give up the most important mortal you know…YOURSELF! We only get one shot at this thing…make yourself proud. Be the best with the skills and attributes that make you a miracle!

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Are YOU Normal?

Just Wait for the Next Generation!

It becomes increasingly obvious that a segment of the population fears the word NORMAL. Maybe some folks think that it implies less than, adequate, or maybe even average when in fact it has NOTHING to do with performance!

Our country has sent us all down the river. Yes, this is a great country in so many ways but the messages we have sent down the stream to males and females can be devastating. Even I get sent down the river, as they say, by readers who send me angry notes of bewilderment. I sporadically receive some of these back-channel emails from individuals who are new to my blog and they ask what my definition of Normal really is. I am thankful for the reminder for both our sakes.

Re-establishing a marketing campaign for an entire generation can be daunting…but I am up for the challenge! I am showered, dressed, hair quaffed, new stylish glasses resting on the bridge of my nose…and oh yeah did some curls to exercise the ole biceps…mighty beneficial for a blogger these days. And, now that I am prepared for this challenge I want to reintroduce thoughts that I was recently asked to provide given the tenuous position our gender is in these days…

As I sit and ponder my place in the world I am reminded of the men who have gone before me, those around me, and those thrown at me. It has become increasingly hard to define what normal males look, sound and, maybe more importantly, act like.

On television and other media outlets, normal and male aren’t represented accurately or collectively, for that matter. We are inundated with reality TV shows about swapping wives and nannies who know better than parents. And on CBS we have men fighting in cages.

It is True...We are Humans During the Day...Superheros in our Dreams

I don’t see normal conversations about the experience of manhood or the shared activities and thoughts between a father and his children. I don’t see family shows depicting stable family life or marriages that one could be relatively proud of. What I see are dumb men who are presented as normal: men who don’t know how to respond to their spouses dreams, take care of the kids, or do anything requiring thought for others.

Can this be normal? I hope not, but I am gravely concerned that this is what our young children believe to be true. The bar for men has been set so low that the only direction to go, I hope, is up.

As our boys continue to struggle in academic settings and our adult men struggle to find their places at work and in the home, we need a change. We need to redefine what it means to be a part of this group called manhood not at the expense of women or children, not at the expense of common sense or traditional grunting during a playoff game, and not at the expense of our communities.

Redefining our gender requires adult men to think about it from a boyish stance. What do we want our boys thinking about when they think of themselves and this group they belong to? Do we want them to have a sense of pride for the good we contribute and the leadership taken through thoughtful discussion? Or do we want them to think of boys behaving badly at school, home, and work?

We Can't ALWAYS Be Perfect or Feel Invincible

In the 1980s we saw a redefinition take place for the youth of the African-American community. Prior to the Cosby Show, critics wondered how young African-Americans viewed themselves and what they could or could not accomplish when they grew up. Our media, to that point, had given limited opportunity for a child to see successful African-American children and their families. We are at a similar point in our history as men.

We have an opportunity to reshape the motivations of young men, and it will come at the cost of our own experiences. A certain level of grief can be expected when we begin exploring our lives and the motivations behind our good and bad decisions in the context of those who provided such lessons. It takes courage, community, and commitment from normal males to shepherd the next generation from I.S.S. (in school suspension) to college campuses where men are in danger of extinction to careers and families they can be proud of.

To be Normal ultimately means that one is fallible, successful, strong, weak, proud, humble—we are everything that encompasses a human being. Please do not support the notion that males only value comes through performance, but rather in the discretionary spaces of life where we can demonstrate both wisdom and compassion, emotion and direction, love and disappointment. We are many things…what we are not should NOT shape our direction now or ever as we steamroll into the future. The next generation of young men and boys need us and the next generation of young women and girls need us too. Let’s provide an accurate landscape that does not misrepresent the challenges and celebrations of life.

Best Wishes!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Were YOU Bathed in Ignorance? Taking Relationship Advice from Family…

Where did you learn about love?

You can probably admit that you are either in a relationship currently or that you have been in one at some point in your lifetime. You and I have selected mates out of spite, for something “different”, in the name of love, as a rebound, in secret, in public, to satisfy your family, and/or to prove something to yourself.

You have followed in someone’s footsteps, made the same mistakes your mother and/or father made or find that any mate you choose appears better than the choices of your messed up sibling. You and I have paraded certain “someone’s” to holiday gatherings, graduations, and Super Bowl parties. Some of our “better-halves” have embarrassed us, scorned us, and even left us when we least expected it.

Have any of us ever sat down to explore the reasons for our decisions and the origins of our approach? I have and cannot believe how some of my decisions were made and how they were based on people that have struggled to know the secret(s) to successful relationships themselves.

I would imagine that I am not alone. So many of us Normal folk make the most important decisions based on faulty information and examples. This is not to say that our friends and family intend to sway us in dead-end directions, but for some reason picking a mate purely based on the fundamentals of love can be fleeting—at best.  We can become so obsessed with proving people wrong that choosing the right mate is…well…sadly inconsequential.

When we examined the beginning of what men and women want in a relationship last week we did not include the root of our desires and those most influential in our decision making process. And, doesn’t it make sense to have a better understanding of our histories and those of our “cabinet” if we are going to search out the correct suitors?

Who has played Cupid for YOU?

Shouldn’t we utilize our critical thinking skills when evaluating whether or not a friend who has been divorced twice should influence our thought process? If our mother has been divorced three times should we listen to her opinion of our choice? How should you respond when your colleague gives a thumbs up or down on your new partner when they haven’t had an online nibble from Match.com?

It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld bit, years ago, where he talked about scouring the grocery store to find healthy looking people to ascertain their daily diet. “You look healthy…what do you eat.” Makes some sense doesn’t it? Whether or not genetics play a role is irrelevant to our basic understanding…we see someone fit and trim and we can assume that they aren’t on a name-by-name basis at the local burger purveyor.

Why can’t we take the same approach in love? Why can’t we avoid our train wreck family and seek out those amongst us with happy and healthy relationships? Because for many of us…at least during one phase of our life…we really want to prove our family wrong or right the wrongs of the past with one fateful trip to the Justice of the Peace. Some of you reading this will think that I have lost my marbles…and others will be honest with themselves even if only in the corners of your mind.

10 Questions to ask yourself in the privacy of your own mind and preferably not at the family picnic:

  1. Who have you gone to for relationship advice in the past and Why?
  2. How much of the advice given do you actually put into practice?
  3. How do you evaluate the quality of advice given to you?
  4. Has it been easier to receive advice from outsiders or your spouse?
  5. Do you pick confidants based on the expected advice…to support you when you need it even if you know that you need more honesty?
  6. Looking back, can you determine a pattern of advice givers and outcomes?
  7. Why is it that I can ask for references for local plumbers, but not for relationship advisors?
  8. What am I ultimately afraid I will hear if I seek out advice from those individuals successful in love?
  9. Am I one of those that likes to give advice on love and not receive it myself?
  10. Who is the best example of a loving partner and what has been their mantra and approach?

We have all been exposed to various relationships and taken away a number of lessons. The challenge before all of us is to accurately evaluate the sources of information, their motivations, and our reactions to their influence. When two individuals join in union they bring their collective assumptions and experiences, all of which can fit nicely together in the beginning…often faltering in the end.

What Should I Do Jerry?

The ability to balance our needs from those well intentioned and the partner we have chosen takes a level of deftness most of us have yet to perfect. The nuclear family has found a slippery slope in our country and role models for love and affection have become collateral damage. We are quickly becoming a nation that finds love advice from self-help isles, BRAVO TV, Governor Sanford, and The Enquirer. And…when we don’t find suitable answers, we seek out friends and family that either support our neuroses or challenge our better judgment.

If we have a shot at correctly predicting what the other sex wants and how we can successfully integrate our needs and wants we HAVE to take a realistic look at who we seek out for answers and examples. Nothing against friends and family, but the minute I find one of them relishing in my success because it rectifies their past…I need to question the advice given. Taking stock tips from your mailman might make them happy, but won’t do anything to your pocketbook. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions of yourself and those giving advice…your “right” partner will thank you.

Continuing to wish you the best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Has Your Marriage Been Condemned…by You?

You have done it. It has been said. What else can be said? Have you seen enough? If you have been following this week’s series on the Divorce Life-Cycle then you know that we have reached our 4th stage of Condemnation. You and I have looked at Irritation, Contemplation, and Irrigation all the while feeling the roller-coaster of emotions that accompany love in the E.R.

And…if you are going through this cycle or have in the past, you know the ebb and flow of emotions that sways in the wind like a springtime thunder storm rolling over the plains. You are desperate to get “it” through their “head.” You want reciprocity! You want to see them “prove” they love you and you want it now. Where do you turn?

Well if we take history or folklore into account…we might feel a bit like Paul Revere as he took his midnight ride through Boston in 1775 yelling, “The Redcoats are coming!! The Redcoats are coming!!” We are dying for anybody and everybody to take up our cause. We want their support of our campaign against our spouse and we do not want to hear of salvation or commitment or promises. We feel that we have exhausted all options and we have begun to lay the foundation for an exit plan even though many of us won’t readily admit it during this stage.

We want to feel Normal! We want to cease feelings of craziness and disillusionment. So what we do is we test the waters. We dip our toes in…share a little at a time…and see if any of our family, friends, or colleagues take the bait. We crave ears like a Texan craves brisket. We want it all and we want the unbiased and supportive ears of anyone in our path. o

And…if we don’t get the response that we want we begin to act like first-year lawyers staking out our claims and passion for “justice.” We get big picture. We talk about dreams and what we thought we wanted and we condemn the inaction of our spouse like a building unfit for human occupation. NOW we want others to see the cracks in our marriage.

We tried Irrigation tactics…in our hearts we tried to “work” at getting the marriage back, but if you are like me and the millions of other divorcee’s…you probably found yourself setting a trap for your spouse. It becomes so easy, when your trust is waning, to “provide” your spouse with opportunities to reform their usual and irritating ways. What happens, though, is that what you really are doing is setting a “trap” where both parties are going to lose out. You want dramatic and swift change and you wouldn’t mind if they threw in a little humility and honesty. And…when you get anything less than a miracle…you want to explode.

You run to your friends and anyone who will hear and you spill your guts just praying that someone will utter the most damning words to a marriage in trouble…

“You deserve better…You deserve someone who loves you for you.”

Once those words have been released into the atmosphere there comes the crossroads you never thought you would find yourself at. The intersection of life that takes you back to childhood wondering which path to take in this big, scary, and often lonely world. To feel these emotions…to feel this level of pain can be heartbreaking. You never wanted to get to this place and yet some part of you desperately did. You wanted the mental and emotional freedom to explore life the way it was “intended” to be…not shackled to the skeletons of your spouse and not restrained by your personal fear of abandonment.

To be a Normal Male and Female means experiencing all facets of a relationship…the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, whether we are Paul Revere galloping through our life in desperate need for outside support…we all want to know that what we are feeling, fearing, and hoping for is NORMAL.

Let me tell you this…it is Normal and not going through these emotional cycles would make you abnormal. Life is often a great mythical tragedy filled with love, passion, romance, defeat, and rebirth…the question is whether you can weather this stage of your marriage to make a decision that will truly point you in a direction of emotional prosperity…with or without your spouse.

I leave the answer to you because some will emerge with a new appreciation for the quirks and idiosyncrasies of their partner and others will determine that Reconciliation (Stage 5 coming Monday) means forgiveness for the difficult decision ahead and all of the challenges that await the dissolution of a marriage once thought indestructible.
Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Will Watering Your Marriage Bring it Back to Life?

I am sure you never thought we would or could get to Stage 3 in the Divorce Life-Cycle. You must have thought that after the Irritation and Contemplation stages we would never be able to think about resuscitating a relationship that has caused great distress in recent weeks, months, and years.

It takes a lot of work and if you can, honestly, say that you are at this stage then you have put some work in. You have had to deal with the mortality of your marriage, your role, your fears, and the unknown and often maddening wonderment about your spouses thoughts and feelings.

Not an easy voyage, but possibly the very thing you and your marriage needed. A Spring cleaning if you may. But….and this is a big one…if you are like most of us–and gauging from the fact you are reading this I will go out on a limb and say you are human–then you quite possibly side-stepped the first two stages in the name of Uncle Denial and are artificially entering the Irrigation stage thinking that if you ignore the problems they will just go away.

The result? You run the risk of playing house in a world thirsting for reality if growth is at all possible. As a colleague of mine says, “A band-aid is a band-aid is a band-aid…it ain’t gonna fix the deeper problem.”

And that can be a problem if you are any ole’ man or a Normal Male because we have been raised to fixers of problems. Men of all backgrounds have been taught that to have value we need to be able to fix things. Guys, the problem–fixing a marriage takes a lot more than a socket wrench to stop a leak.It is going to take hard work, open communication, sharing in safe environments, and personal ownership of your part.

So why is it so difficult to properly Irrigate your marriage? Why is it so hard to sit down and evaluate without judgment? Because we are all afraid that if we truly examine or autopsy our marriage we will find residue from our family of origin, past relationships, and a mirror that seems to be coming closer and closer to showing you…you.

Who on earth wants to open the proverbial Pandora’s Box? Who wants to think about why they treat their spouse poorly and its connections to other events and people? Who wants to think about how badly they have emotionally hurt the one the professed love to not so long ago? No one does! Nobody with a sensible approach to life wants to think about all of these horrible possibilities. What we want is to think about tomorrow in terms of yesterday. We want to act and react as if the endorphins are skyrocketing towards our spouse in a way that will cure all past ills and propel happiness into the cosmos for eternity. Irrigation can and should be tempered. It should be approached with a feedback loop that demonstrates to your spouse that you think of them when making decisions about the relationship. And, it should be understood by BOTH parties that nourishing your marriage is what you are attempting and planning to do. Too many, desperate, adults commence Irrigation plans without asking or gauging the interest of the other party.

Your marriage arrived at this place for a reason and traveling at the same speed to the same locales in life probably hasn’t been common place so why would fixing it be any different. Patience can be fleeting during lean times and marriage is no different. If you rush the “fixing” of your marriage without having your partner on board will only perpetuate your tangled communication patterns. Sit down. Breathe. Realize that if you are going to read a self-help book together you should both WANT to.

Bringing back your marriage will be the hardest thing you will ever do in this lifetime. You have to prepare yourself for the journey with the knowledge that if you’re a successful Sailor, you will cross the horizon to find a new land and relationship different and more palatable to the present you…not on the hopes and dreams of the past you.

Sometimes the odds are with us and sometimes they are against us, but what we do know is that if we make an honest effort to Irrigate our marriage we can rest our head at night in peace…whether we remain with our spouse or move on to new adventures. Check back tomorrow to continue on the Divorce Life-Cycle.

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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The Divorce Life-Cycle Part 2

Well then. Here we are. And, if you have been with me from the first leg of this journey then you know that either you are in a “rough patch” or you are looking for direction with regards to your relationship.

You have entered Stage 2….Contemplation A scary place to be…yes! You are beginning to think about your life in rewind while trying to fast-forward at the same time.

This process is akin to putting your foot on the gas and the break at the same time….result?

You become exhausted with worry and discourse;
You wonder what will be;
You wonder if you can make it;
You worry no one will support you;
You worry your kids will hate you;
You worry about holidays and birthdays and all the little things that WILL be different if you leave;
You wonder who you are and what you have become……

Contemplation is the delicate assessment that one goes through…weighing the checks and balances of love in a very fiscally and condemning world. Both genders can worry and stake claim to the very same ideals and items all the while puffing ourselves up to state our case and “leave” with what is “ours.”

And…as we contemplate our life after divorce or after reconciliation we begin to experience feelings and imagery looking a lot like a set of flashbacks.

Flashbacks from our youth to the present day about previous relationships and the manner with which we handled that conversation can be an eerie trip down memory lane. I remember I broke up with my girlfriend, if you can call it that in Elementary school, because I didn’t like the Roo’s tennis shoes she wore…ridiculous I know. Am I proud of myself? No. Have I broken up in ways and for reasons that are foolish looking back or did I make decisions that helped to light my path to my mate?

We have a memory that suits us well in so many instances that we are able to prevent redundancy and befuddlement. This memory, though, brings to the surface every little nook and cranny that spurned us, excited us, and challenged us.

Exploring our memory for the good times in our marriage when it is going through a cold-snap can be difficult and unforgiving. We can feel like beating ourselves up…questioning our actions and intentions and those of our spouse.

We can find ourselves in a place reminiscent of a kindergarten playground where mine and don’t take on fiery tones for we are staking our claim, our land, our litter box of the world…and we autopsy our marriage. We grade each others contributions, estimate damages, and always come up with an equation that has our best interests finishing first.

Marriage isn’t easy. Contemplating the end of your union even harder. Being honest with yourself about your contributions, successes, and missteps will allow Normal Males and Normal Females to accurately evaluate the role they played to determine whether or not they want to continue with their original commitment. Then and only then can you sit down and think about the contributions, both negative and positive, your spouse has provided the relationship.

Being real with ourselves goes along way in communicating needs, fears, wants, and decisions in a humane and thoughtful manner. If your relationship even has a shot to get to the Irrigation stage, you have to tread with soft gloves as you sift through your memories, past actions and decisions, reasons for break-ups and hook-ups…because not doing so keeps you in an emotionally high gear with your feet firmly planted on the gas and the brake of your marriage.

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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