Category Archives: Relationships

Why Health Care Reform Represents our Downfall

We aren’t bad are we? We don’t have a core wrought with evil or vengeance…do we? You and I have been listening to stories of infidelity (Jesse James/Tiger Woods), audacities of the Highest order (Catholic Church), and vitriol spewed from men and women who are supposed to represent us and our interests (Health Care Debate). I watched in disgust as a man with Parkinsons Disease was belittled for all to see because he supports President Obama and the health care bill. 

Are we all strung out on life? Have we been beaten down by so many that we have lost our way? What are our real or true complaints? Do we have any? Sure we do. But…no matter how upset we are, should we really be tearing down others for our own gain?

Common sense says we should not. But common we are not…and sense is running low these days. It baffles the mind how we are, collectively, getting by. All of our costs are escalating…services and products are declining in quality…the nuclear family has gone up in smoke like its’ name…

Normal? Abnormal? That is for you to decide. That is for you to evaluate…and you alone. Personally, I am sad that we are becoming a wishy-washy people and country. When our party is in power we know it all…when we are not, we do all in our power to extinguish the other. We rejoice the downfall of our celebrities and casual hero. We say, “better him than me” when a colleague loses their job.

Are You Living a "Life" You Can Be Proud Of?

Either patriotism has given way to narcissism or something even graver has settled in our living rooms.

Apathy…

Apathy for all that is good, that matters, and that rejuvenates our souls on a daily basis. The Discovery Channel‘s new documentary entitled “Life” shows in great splendor the core drive for survival. Sometimes I wish we could all watch our actions in slow-motion. Maybe we, too, would see the ills of our ways and treat one another with kindness and concern.

Do You Care?

Living a Normal life and being the Normal You requires a rich participation in the wonders of the world. Making a difference for others and thinking before we tear down. Something tells me that the very men who despicably undercut one mans’ spirit have experienced the kindness of others when it wasn’t asked for themselves. Do we really want to be known as the home of the free when we can’t even call ourselves brave?

Expect more from those around you….Demand more of yourself.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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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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Ben Roethlisberger: Just Another Famous Athlete or Abuser?

Needing MORE Attention?

Patience is a virtue or so I have been told. This however has finally bubbled over for me and in the name of Normalcy I must forge ahead. Here at Normal Headquarters a decision has been made to finally discuss the out-of-sorts mole that continues to grow just beyond our reach. It is hideous from what we can tell…out of place…and needs to be addressed. We are not sure whether the mole is of any great consequence, but enough is enough!!

Ben Roethlisberger, of the famed Pittsburgh Steelers, has been accused of sexual misconduct for the second time in the last 12 months. The first woman accused Roethlisberger of raping her at a casino near Lake Tahoe. The most recent accusation states that Big Ben, as he is known to millions of fans, sexually assaulted a college-aged female in a local bar. To be fair it should be noted that Roethlisberger has not been charged or convicted of either accusation.

It is, however, fair at this point to question the motives of all involved parties. Why is a filthy rich athlete hanging out with college girls and at college bars? He just recently signed a contract in excess of $100 million dollars. Has Roethlisberger not heard of Michael Vick or Gilbert Arenas? Vick has already lost millions and Arenas is poised to do the same because of his love of comedy and guns. There is a significant issue here with Roethlisberger that stinks of disrespect for women, his family, and his employer.

Can't You ACT Like a Champion?

Can't You ACT like a Champion?

Which brings me to another curve in the road…the media and their handling of this story. I will be the first to call a timeout when I think erroneous claims are disseminated by the media…with that said, though, I have to wonder if Big Ben is receiving preferential treatment.

I know some of you have thought about it. I didn’t want to in the beginning, but I am finding I can’t shake my wonderment. Is Ben Roethlisberger given the benefit of the doubt because he is White?

Dear NFL...Don't Be STUPID!

I cannot imagine an African-American athlete dealing with a second sexual assault charge in less then a year being treated with such kid gloves. Maybe we have matured and it really isn’t about race. As a White male I hope that we have evolved and that we treat Roethlisberger the same as we would anyone else accused of similar acts. I would like to think that I live outside the city limits of Delusion-ville, but the lack of national conversation tells me that we haven’t changed for the better.

It will be might interesting to see how the NFL responds to the latest detour Ben has taken us all on. I am not one to support making an example out of someone for the sake future dividends, but I am leaning that way right now. Maybe that is because Roethlisberger has failed to grant an interview to the police or maybe I am just burned out from repeated stories of fame and the misuse of power.

Aside from an outsiders perspective…the NFL and the Steelers need to evaluate what is important to them…the almighty dollar and championships or their image and fan base. I would imagine the spinsters at the league offices are working overtime to figure out their next steps. Yes men represent the majority fan base, but there are millions of female fans that are truly rabid for their teams as well. Sending a message of deference to sexual misconduct won’t enhance gate numbers on Sundays.

Men, not just athletes, should be role models. For those of you not incensed by Roethlisberger’s lapse in judgment–raise your standards and support responsible behavior.

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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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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Competing Sexes

Looking to Beat the Next Guy?

HBO has done it again! They have secretly become a documentary juggernaut. Their latest prize pits NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in an epic depiction of two men possessed with competition. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the layers these two icons peeled back during their reign…racism, big versus small town, East coast-West coast, and dollar for dollar they delivered.

I will admit, as a sports fan, that my competitive juices were flowin even if from the couch flanked by my two cats and a lukewarm cup o’ joe.

I suddenly thought about my youth and how my seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years were staked out by competitive outlets. I had a sport for every season, a grade or project every term, a girl I wanted to look buff for, and distant educational and career goals to tide me over. Life was competitive ALL the time!

Now…well it seems that for many of us competition is relagated to survival…not for mere advantage or gamesmanship, but for our financial security and lifestyle. Where did it all go? Is this Normal? Is it Abnormal? Am I losing a step?

I mean I can turn on the tube and see competition for viewership and marketshare. Shoot, I can even read about competition between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Democrats and Republicans, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Oprah vs. The World, Mac vs. Windows, and last but certainly not least Conan vs. Jay. Competition is right at our fingertips…and as I painstakingly reach for it I can’t help but wonder what we would all be without competition?

Looking for Your Competitive Advantage in Life?

Would we be lost? Would we be a species that never got out of the Stone Age? Competition has a place…we need to feed our species, advance our species, and procreate our species…and competition remains the single most important ingredient. It inspires us during times wrought with disallusionment and pain. Competition helps us gauge our progress, modify our approach, and reach for new heights. And, for each gender competition can be deeply personal…

Males are given the edict that to compete is to demonstrate your prowess amongst all in your path from dusk to dawn. Some have deemed this male character the Alpha Male….the Silverback. So, as men age they look for arenas to compete in, to win…and many do so with very little regard for their opponents.We have all read of the hostile takeovers, the businesses now running lean and most have a man at the helm. Most of us have been personally impacted by the corporate competition…I mean greed…

Females, on the other hand, have been wronged for centuries. Females have been given the message that the competitive landscape is for men only…thus relegating women to compete for these men. Let’s not forget that, though, times have changed significantly, the overwhelming message has been for women to compete in non-threatening areas and for menial purposes.

You see it has been the great spoof our species…men convincing women that their pursuits were more important to the greater good…that women had a place…just over there on the sidelines.

For many, these deficient approaches are not borne from intention or malice, but rather from generations trying to survive the way they knew how. It really is hard to pass definitive judgment when we, as a country, are continuing to breed competitive destruction…we have just found new and different ways to mask our approaches and intentions.

Feeling Competitive?

We all have a burning desire to stay on top, to pursue the unattainable…it is the American way. Just look at the current landscape…looking even closer at our educational system. We now have “Race to the Top” from the federal government, we have schools and districts that pay students for attendance and top grades…and why? Because competition, today, isn’t about aspirations or dreams…competition is about the almighty dollar. Adults are wooing kids for higher test scores, ratings, and marketshare. It is as if they are saying…“Here kitty kitty….here kitty kitty.”

All the while, children who are only concerned with competing in gym class are actually playing lead roles in the high-stakes game of adult competition. In fact, it is the children who hold the magic ticket and not the adults. Failing tests grades, reduced product usage, and even fewer website hits put us and our American dollar at risk.

It truly is sad that competition, while fantastic as a sport and motivator in times of despair, brings out the animal in all of us. We were once young people competing for a cause, for a purpose, for the betterment of generations past and present. Somewhere along the path to adulthood we lost our way, sold out to the highest bidder and forgot what makes this country so grand….The hope and belief that with a little elbow grease and commitment we can win at the game of life…together.

Let us all think about the role competition plays in our lives, the impact on those around us, and the messages we are downloading to the up-and-coming generation of children.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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