Category Archives: Marriage

Jesse James Tattooed!

Has Your Marriage Been Tattooed?

Another day…another foolish man! Jesse James didn’t get away this time. He was tattooed by a woman nicknamed “Bombshell.” James’ wife Sandra Bullock has moved out just two weeks after accepting the Oscar and praising her husband publicly.

And, what wouldn’t be a Hollywood scandal without a little reflection from the media outlets. Now we are looking at the curse of the Oscar for winning actresses from Witherspoon, Winslet, to Halle Berry and Hillary Swank, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts and the list goes on and on…

Some were mere breakups and others divorces. Some were for sex addiction and others sexual perusing. You almost get the sense that these poor poor men were left home alone while their significant other worked. I can see it now… “I am only a star on T.V. (insert Jesse James voice)…I’ll never make it big like Sandra…why don’t I go window shopping to get my fix? Yeah…and then I’ll chase my dog CinnaBun around the Monster Garage compound.” By the way for those keeping score…yes CinnaBun was found after James reported the little one lost.

Truly pathetic. Sad. And yet none of us should be surprised. Men who cannot handle the success of their female partner has been around for centuries. Maybe this riddle goes back to the cave days. Maybe Fred Flinstone started this whole charade. I am not sure where it began, but its roots seem deep and unweildy.

I would like to think we are getting better as men. I would like to think that we understand the big picture…that if she is successful… “I am successful.” Men need to be more realistic about the *&**^$# match they are in with the other gender. If winning is the ultimate goal then pray pray on ole’ brotha cause you’re going down in flames. If you haven’t noticed guys…corporate America has become a female dominated arena…in the manner or approach business is taking. The current work environment utilizes all the skills that are innate to women…not men.

"Now Wilma, You Stay Home...I Wouldn't Want YOU To Out Shine Me"

I agree with the switch and think that ones’ ability to communicate, to work in groups, and synthesize information is far better then the stuck-in-the-mud, cowboy individualism we have been gifted by previous generations. Out with the old and in with the New (Trumpets trumpeting in the background)!!

Gentlemen, do you really want your female partner to fail? Because that is the message so many are sending when they fail to support their partners. Men are saying that our egos are far too fragile for someone else to demonstrate competence let alone success. We are living in lean times and I don’t know about you, but when I hear that my partner had a great day and is movin up the ole’ ladder…I applaud, make dinner, and encourage her.

Support the one you love and enjoy the spoils of two happy people…life is short enough!

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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How to Help Your Man When He is Depressed

Sometimes our greatest fears are realized. Sometimes that pit in our stomach actually means a great deal. Yes, we are men. Yes, we can be and are often strong, but many times we are one degree from emotional combustion.

Normal men struggle with confidence more often they will ever let on. We, men, wonder what you wonder about us. We burn out, feel left out, and sometimes when we are vulnerable we lash out. These are things we are not proud of nor do we want to be sponsors of for the next generation.

Men become depressed at rates that are still unknown and baffling to the health care community and the providers educated to treat them. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to better understand male depression, its origin, and proper methods for therapeutic inclusion and treatment. Too often men and their families are unaware of the signs and symptoms of depression. Men shrug off their blue feelings as just another struggle they have to endure alone. They struggle to access the health care community and at best only talk to their primary care physician who either dispels such “nonsense” or over prescribes outdated and temporary solutions. 

I will admit that I am quite tired of the temporary solution-based approach that America has taken with just about every social problem. Makes me wish I owned stock in Band-Aids. The issue of male depression reaches far and wide impacting millions of men and their families.

The solution(s) will not be fast acting, maximum strength, over-the-counter goodies. The solutions will have to start at home. They will have to be identified and approached by the very person who has seen this man at his best and worst.

The signs are there even if communication about them is a bit archaic. We are and have been in a funk, as a country, for a good long while. Many men and women have lost their jobs, homes, and self respect. That’s right self respect…meaning that too many folks have not responded to their adverse situation in the manner they thought they would. They, like the peanut in this ad, are wondering why they can’t get up off the curb and start anew.

And, it is during these times when men need their partners the most. This undoubtedly puts women in a very difficult position because the language used, verbally and non-verbally, greatly impacts the man early on. When tragic news hits or you see a series of little defeats mounting for your man you have to treat him in the first 72 hours. This is, of course, not an official number but it gets the point across that to be effective in helping your partner you need to move swiftly and deftly in the early hours.

Are You Ready to Respond?

Think of it like a legal defense. We have all seen “Law & Order” or the new smash hit which I love “The Good Wife.” We watch as the lawyers and officers strategically plan the response and subsequent actions…all of which have to be done early on if they are to get ahead of the charge etc.

So, in that vein let us look at some things to look out for when you think your husband/man is depressed:

  1. First and foremost know how YOU typically respond to him when he is down.
  2. Prepare yourself for statements that are nonsensical and reactionary because he too knows your typical response style.
  3. Think about how YOU would feel given his stressors and situation.
  4. Take YOURSELF out of the discussion–this is not the time to talk about your needs/wants.
  5. Use physical touch to caress and reassure him–difficult because you may feel inclined to “mother” him.
  6. Remember that, like you, he may not want solutions early on.
  7. Let him know that you love him, believe in him, and will stand by him.
  8. Do NOT say, “Life isn’t easy” or “You’ll find something” or “That’s just the way life is.” Statements like these minimize his current fears and distance you from the solution. The message you are sending is…”I will wait till you figure it out alone and in the meantime buck up, you’re a man.”
  9. Stay connected and engaged. Do not fall the way of so many women who yield to giving him “space.” Men may say they want that, but only for a short time and most often because it is safer. They do not trust their feelings with you.
  10. And last but certainly not least…continue to love and support him…encourage him when his spirits are increasing and support him if and when mental health intervention is needed.

It takes a team effort to assist anyone who is down on their luck. Knocking them down even further because they are vulnerable sounds horrific, but practiced more than your neighbors would admit.

You can be your own best friend if you approach your man in thoughtful ways. These are tough times for everyone not named Palin, Jordan, Lebron, Gosselin, or Steve Jobs…let us all use a little compassion as we support the ones we love.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Fathers, finances, Good Men, head of household, Males, Marriage, men, Relationships, sex, women, Work

What Lane is Your Relationship in?

Relationships are comprised of a series of destinations, pit-stops..with a dash of road rage and a hint of irony. Life can move so fast that we are susceptible to potholes in the name of love. We unknowingly hurt one another with our words, our individual decisions, and half-hearted “I love you’s.” Relationships are not easy and sometimes they warrant a check under the hood. A look at the coordinates on the GPS device.

One might wonder…”Why?” The answer is quite simple…which is that before you know it both of you will be racing down the highway of life without a clue where to go or how to get there. And, that doesn’t take into account our individual comfort levels. Some of us might like the Sunday afternoon drive while others enjoy the bumpy NASCAR ride while others still yet like the ole’ cruise control approach.

So I will ask you this…do you know what speed your relationship travels at…where your relationship is going and whether or not your co-pilot in life agrees? These questions sound mundane, but they can really be quite scary.

What if your partner disagrees? What if they really don’t like the direction and/or speed? What then? Fixable? Worth it? What about other couples….how do they deal with all of these questions?

I know people who sputter down the road so cautiously that their family and friends are nauseated. You know the ones…the couple that never wants to officially commit yet they have lived together for years. They never want to go further than two steps and one checking account withdrawal from gettin outta dodge.

Then there are other couples that are traveling so fast down the road that you wonder how they can honestly enjoy the journey. These folks met, got engaged, married, had 2.5 kids, got the house, moved up in their careers, AND got their 2.5 kids on the waiting list of grade-A preschool everybody wants in at…and all within a 3 year time period! Whew! Exhausting to even think about it…

Now of course these couples represent the outer edges of society…which leaves the rest of us. Many Normal couples go through ebbs and flows often changing directions and itineraries at a moments notice. There are couples who change seats, drive for a little while until their partner is ready and then re-assume previous roles and directives. Flexible you might say.

The challenge for all of these couples remains the same…can you honestly and with great humility check the particulars of your relationship? Can you evaluate what is and is not working well while traversing through life? You can, but many of you won’t. Harsh? No. Honest? Yes! Status quo and even contentment can be descriptors for a well-oiled machine or they can be indicators of apathy…a relationship that is on life support with no end in site because neither person believes it is worth it to change it up.

Am I describing you? Go ahead…check and see if you are alone in the room…no one is looking over your shoulder….so be honest. Are you apathetic to the current state of your relationship and its growth in the future? Are you emotionally hurtful? Are you limiting the potential of the relationship though manipulative means?

These are important questions even if you are not sabotaging your relationship. Never forget that relationships veer off course not because of the big potholes, but more often from the little ones. Those day-to-day interactions that point to confusion not coherence. Remember the days when doing the little things for our partner was fun? When we actually thought about what they wanted…even needed to thrive.

Tempted to Veer Off Course?

We did all of those things because we wanted our partner to feel loved…to feel special and unique and cared for even when we weren’t around. But, sometimes we forget our collective purpose and even direction. We forget why we chose each other and worse yet we forget that love takes effort…conscious effort.

If we don’t make a point of planning our collective road-trip we run the risk of glancing over into other more desirable lanes. Chevy Chase might have discovered Christie Brinkley in the movie “Vacation” while driving with his family cross country, but we all know who he ended up with in the end.

Images Appearing More Realistic in Your Mirror?

Don’t set a trap for your relationship out of pure fear. Ask the tough questions that will yield growth over time. I, personally, have had great results when I queried my partner on the mutual direction and satisfaction of our relationship and you can too.

If you scoff at this then maybe you already know the destination your relationship is headed for. A wise business man once told me that you never go into a deal unless you are prepared to lose or leave the deal.

Your relationship and its success depend on continued calibration and assessment. No successful relationship ever endured with an approach that celebrated ignorance.

We are all human and it IS Normal to have a change of heart, a change of direction and/or purpose. That doesn’t mean that our relationships have to suffer or end. Don’t be the couple that holds each other down out of fear.

Give each other a chance to drive the relationship and who knows…you might actually find your relationship accelerating in new and exciting ways.

Afraid to Ask for Directions?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Can You Trust Your Husband To Travel Alone?

"You will not bring your husband along!"

Alright fine…you caught me. Yes, I did watch The Real Housewives of Orange County last night. How could I miss it? I mean this was the “cage match” fans had been waiting for…the reunion show that had the wives AND their husbands! Call me shallow. Call me bored…but don’t call me sucker.

Yes, the show and its premise are relatively absurd, but the infighting and topics displayed with all the glitz and glam of a red carpet shindig actually provide some interesting talking points about our society. You know that I am all about the redefinition of Normal and this very concept was on full display last night.

One of the original Housewives had previously scheduled an all-girls trip to Florida. No husbands allowed! Well, this was quickly shot down by a number of the women who felt that it was Normal for them to always travel with their spouse. Arguments and whispering ensued…one side felt that it was Normal to have your partner with you at all times and the other ridiculous and wrought with trust issues.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the women who were for their husbands traveling were also the women who are portrayed as subservient to their men. Is this a real issue for your marriage? Do you have concerns when your partner isn’t with you? What are the fears one might have?

Well…let’s look at it from each gender and then…like NBC’s The Marriage Ref we can decide. I will start with the obvious…and I know you’re thinking it…The Men…because those in fear are probably insecure—right?

Men’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. Women cannot protect themselves
  2. Women cannot spot danger ahead
  3. Women together spell sexy clothes, alcohol in excess, and flirtatious communication
  4. The OTHER women will talk poorly of me
  5. My spouse won’t think about or miss me!

Women’s Top 5 Fears when Spouse Travels Alone

  1. All men are tempted by the Siren at the airport bar
  2. All men want freedom and when they sense it they make bad decisions
  3. All men are secretive in some form or fashion
  4. Is he really going to sleep or is he going back out…and where? With whom?
  5. Will he think about all of his responsibilities before he makes a bad choice?

Ok…so we have looked at some stereotypical fears. We have looked at fears that have either been supported by real life experiences from our own world or situations we have heard about from our friends. Either way, it is safe to say that we have all been burned by trust. We have all felt that indescribable pain when trust from someone we care about has been shattered. It could have come from a significant betrayal like infidelity or it could have been that teeny weenie trip-up that sent trust down the drain.

They both hurt. They both leave a residue for yourself and your future relationships to clean up. More often than not we act surprised when the big failures hit. We cry out, literally and figuratively, for support. And really what are we doing? We are actually acting like lawyers…detectives if you will. We lay the groundwork so that we garner ALL of the support from our inner circle. We never let on that we had ANY idea trust was sneaking out each night for a metaphorical smoke on the roof. Oh no…not us! Who can blame us? WE CAN!

We are all so deathly afraid of contributing to our own demise that we become proficient in cover-up scams…and we cast ourselves as the lead character. The mere thought that we could have contributed to the series of unfortunate events that killed our trust goes against our very fabric.

Trust can be a very fickle and elusive element in the modern relationship. We watch television…we watch movies like Up in the Air…laughing and crying with our spouse at the overall entertainment value…all the while wondering if what we are seeing on screen is merely art imitating someone else’s life…or hinting at our own.

Can you Trust the Friendly Skies?

The next time your partner wants to go Orange County on you think about the benefits, for you both, of traveling without the other. We could discuss Attachment Theory in the context of child development, but why not apply that to our own…adult worlds? To see a young child thrive with the supportive guidance and trust of a thoughtful caregiver is truly magnificent…no fear…just trust that if I fall I know who will be consistently by my side to comfort and reassure me. The same holds true in marriage—trusting yourself means trusting yours spouse. You can help each other celebrate the wonders of life and marriage without control…without submission…and without the fear that you will be forgotten.

Growth comes in stages for kids and adults. What stage are you currently in and how can you reach the next level?

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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Instant Replay Needed for NBC’s Marriage Ref

Seinfeld or Springer...You Decide

Here at Normal headquarters we have a duty to sniff out fact from fiction, belly button lint from organic accessory, and social responsibility from entertainment. NBC’s The Marriage Ref , from executive producer Jerry Seinfeld, attempts to solve marital problems with a touch of levity and a dash of sarcasm.

In true network fashion…NBC decided to capitalize on the Olympic swell and air the pilot episode after the closing ceremony. The show continues tonight at its regularly scheduled time of 10/9 central Thursday nights. I guess they are trying to relive the ole glory days of Must See TV Thursdays from the Clinton era.

Only problem is that I, and millions of BRAVO TV fans, will have to choose from The Real Housewives series and comedic commentary from celebrities who haven’t exactly been pros in the marriage arena. I mean Alec Baldwin and Madonna are…well very talented, but advisers of relationships I’ll take a pass. Oh excuse me…phone ringing…conference call between Guy Ritchie, Kim Basinger, and A-Rod. Any whoo….

Are you Ready for the Season Finale?

Guests aside, what I can say that is positive about the show is that it does provide an element of relief for couples. The past 18 months have been very challenging for millions of families and the American marriage has experienced the brunt of it. A little humor. A little… “Oh my gosh…no he di-d-nt” never hurt anybody. Critics will probably cite the eerie similarities between the Ref and any 1980’s NBC Baseball Blooper show (yes Marv Albert is actually a part of the Ref), Jerry Springer hi-jinks, and a mid-season fill-in for a network trying to reclaim some…any market share…did I mean the Jay Leno Show?

I'll Give You Some Advice

The featured couples, so far, have discussed stripper poles and the stuffing of pet dogs named The Fonz. I know it sounds a bit like the wacky neighbors down the street, but maybe that’s what we all need. Maybe we need to laugh together as a country and as couples. Maybe we need to set the laptop down, temper our texting addiction and share a bit of humor with the one who once made us laugh more than any other.

For the time being, I will give the show a pass on its usage of stereotypical men who only care about sex, pets, and hobbies. I will let it pass that each marital issue pertained to a husband’s desire to stand firm when looking ridiculously too proud for his britches. The Marriage Ref is, however, put on notice by the board of directors here at Normal headquarters to show the equality of stupidity and tomfoolery.

My guess is that The Marriage Ref will be around just long enough to wet our appetites. It’s appeal will wear off like the guy/gal you bring home that woo’s your family in the beginning only to disappoint shortly thereafter. Take it for what it is…don’t take it too seriously and you might have a bit o’ fun.

Hey....a dog?

I only hope that this is the beginning of Seinfeld’s reemergence and not a tease. He is too talented to stay on the sidelines for much longer and probably a tad concerned that the next sitcom would die a sudden death when compared to the behemoth that was Seinfeld.

I’ll check the instant replay with The Marriage Ref here at Normal headquarters…you…well, sit back, relax and breathe a sigh of relief…I mean now you can choose between Palin on FOX and Seinfeld on NBC…ahh life IS back to Normal.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Jake Pavelka…Just Followin His Heart

Jake and His Special Lady

Well, he did it! Jake Pavelka made his decision. He went out on a limb and chose Vienna Girardi over Tenley Molzahn. Of course life will go on, birds will sing, and our politicians will still be arguing over health care reform as they go in for their annual prostate exam.

Life will get back to Normal. But…I would be cheating the both of us if I didn’t take the time to recap “…the most DRAMATIC season yet!” (Host Chris Harrison’s voice)…And, why shouldn’t we? You and I know that you watched it. You were glued to the drama, the intrigue, and probably even had your favorite “horse” in the race. Mine lost. I will admit it. I thought Jake would choose Tenley. He didn’t and now I wait in purgatory…waiting for another rendition of roses and champagne. Which brings me to the small, but irritating rash Jake gave me that just won’t subside no matter how much cage wrestling I watch to cleanse myself of the romantic hit show—which is this notion that he was just following his heart.

Come Back My Heart! Come Back!

I am not sure if you noticed, but Mr. Pavelka made it his mission to tell the world that what he was really doing all season was chasing after and following his heart to its desire. So much ABC saturation has given me an image of Jake chasing after his heart like it was a little gopher on a golf course. You know the character—the little #$%# that pops up for just a second and then burrows far beneath our reach…snickering along the way.

Put Your Champagne Flute Down Jake...NOW!

Jake said it so often that I really wondered who was making the final decision? Was it his family? Was it his friends? Was it his flight crew or was it even Chris Harrison (Host of The Bachelor)? It couldn’t actually be this elusive organ running around Malibu…Could it?

I even found myself digging through old nursery rhymes like “Where O Where Has My Little Dog Gone?” I just couldn’t understand the lack of personal choice with such a significant decision to be made. I actually think Jake is fooling all of us. I think that he actually thought of this strategy to avoid persecution from the viewers and the 24 spurned lovers. Think about it–you can’t blame Jake for not picking you…you must blame his rogue heart. Brilliant! Brilliant!…as a couple of Guinness guzzling gents might say! Brilliant!

All joking aside…the show captures all of us because of the fundamental question it tries to answer–How do we all find and select a mate? What is the secret? Is there true happiness? Let’s face it–there were more people watching The Bachelor who are in lukewarm relationships and marriages than those in passionate, supportive, team oriented ones. “Just the facts mam…just the facts.”

This is precisely why the show is casting the next two seasons with Allie already booked to be the next Bachelorette. People want to see others struggle with the love game…while others want to see what romance under the lights looks like. Some of us wonder how we would fare on the show and some of us scoff at the notion that love can be found on a dating carousel.

For the Love of the Game...

According to Jake he found it. I just hope that he can control his heart when Vienna isn’t lathering him up in a sulfur pool with mud from the Gods. When she is Normal and not waiting for him at every terminal will that little weasel of a heart race off to another port of call. Here’s to Jake and Vienna—I wish you all the best with your relationship, Jake’s gopher-heart, and your golf game. You just never know when you’ll shank your tee shot off the 18th tee.

Best of Luck!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Divorce, Family, Males, Marriage, men, Relationships, women