Category Archives: Success Stories

A Normal Education? Graduation Rates and Sports

Graduation Rate Czar Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed a bill that would require universities who want to participate in the hallowed NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to produce graduation rates exceeding 40% for their student-athletes. This has outraged many in the sports world and has taken a lion’s share of radio time from actual basketball banter as we welcome another heart pounding tournament to our tubes later today.

There are some who regard the proposition as a foolish attempt by a politician, once a Harvard basketball player, who lacks an understanding for today’s student-athlete. Earlier this morning on ESPN’s flagship show “Mike & Mike in the Morning” guest host Doug Gottlieb (former collegiate athlete at Oklahoma State) spoke to the global issue of athletics and education. Gottlieb stated that the majority of current college basketball players are not accustomed to college life, expectations, and need for higher education. He further opined that many of these athletes come from homes where college was never discussed or experienced by previous generations. So…how can we expect these kids to understand the value of an education when all they have been told is that their athletic ability is the ticket “out?”

Of course Gottlieb didn’t say it…but I will—His statements are really about race and resources and culture…and the commodity that is the student athlete. Should graduation rates be up? Absolutely! The mere fact that 12 out of 65 teams in this years tournament would be home watching instead of playing (University of Tennessee, Kentucky and others…I’m talking to you!) should say something about priorities of BOTH the student AND the institution.

Who is kidding who? All children begin their educational careers as commodities. Sorry if that doesn’t sound p.c. enough for you, but it is true. Last week I wrote about the Kansas City school district that is closing nearly 50% of their schools to save $50 million dollars and slash 700 jobs. Just yesterday Detroit announced the closing of 45 schools by the end of the academic year. This continues a string of closings (100 since 2004) in a system that has over 50,000 open seats.

This country doesn’t know which end is up or who to ask for help. We are throwing spackle, I mean tax payer dollars, at a dam that is in disrepair. The current topic on the hot stove may be athletes and graduation rates, but that is all that it is. The ball will be tipped up in mere hours, fans will plop down, and the networks and marketers will be salivating. Nobody truly cares whether or not these kids graduate. They just want them to stay out of trouble in the future so that the university can leverage their legacies to garner other prospective athletes and alumni dollars.

Maybe what we should do is bring in Temple Grandin to herd our educational system in the right direction. Or, maybe…and I know this is a novel thought…maybe we should look at our neighbors across the pond. Maybe we should adopt similar approaches to education realizing that not all children want to go to a classic college setting…maybe some would be better off at a trade school. That is precisely how we should view the student-athlete. If we think that raising the academic bar will entice better performance we are truly in stuck the sand. The goal at that point would be grade driven. Knowledge would be left on the kitchen counter just like your cell phone as you race to get the kids ready and the day started.

Temple...We Need Your Help!

Cultural shifts are not easy nor entirely necessary if the intentions are not well thought out. Raise the standards of the educational providers, the environments we call educational, and move the needle away from stats…and you just might uncover a special talent in each child. If we fail to change our perspective, then all we have done is maintain the status quo so that terms like tenure, election, and tax base proliferate our communities. Get the system on track THEN communicate student expectations. Driving reverse at 80 mph only endangers the rest of us.

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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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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Does your Relationship Have a Hidden Agenda?

Have you ever stopped to think about your marriage or relationship and the original motivations for becoming a pair? Have you ever stepped back and said, “…hmm what was I thinking or why was my spouse appealing to me back then?”

We would all like to think that our nuptials signify purity and above all else–honesty. I, though, want to talk about relationships in terms of walking, breathing agendas that we all carry around—it is just that so few of us are willing to share them.

Maybe you began your relationship to spite your history of train wrecks or maybe you chose your partner because they were the opposite of your parent’s choice. Some of you might have had a list…and a man with a job, a spare tire and an excuse for every domestic request was just a part of that bucket list.

So many of us are sly. That is right…sly. We act one way during courtship and then do an about-face somewhere between the “I do’s” and, “What…we’re having a baby?” Agendas do not have to be wholeheartedly bad or negative or manipulative. Your agenda could be to be the best spouse, parent, friend, employee or boss there is. Others will present their agendas using morse code, winks, growls, uniquely placed books and do-dats that spark curiosity from their partner.

Sometimes agendas come from society, your friends, or television. Sometimes agendas can feel like they are closing in on you with no escape route in view. The pressure can be daunting to say the least. It can feel like no one understands the pressure you feel and nobody, especially your spouse, understands the long-term impact of such pressure.

Whose Agenda will Win out?

Men and women can often feel pressure to meet an agenda that the other has absolutely no idea exists. A man may be absolutely oblivious that his partner’s agenda includes kids at a certain age to meet her girlfriends requirements/peer pressure…she may be in the dark about his agenda at work that includes trophy-wife expectations and expensive suits to land the management position.

Agendas can kill a marriage. Agendas can make us feel less than. We can feel cheated by our spouse, our family, and friends. We can become accusatory and hateful when wronged by a perceived agenda and we can walk away wondering if we ever really knew our spouse.

So why is it that we hold our agendas so close to the vest? Because we all want to maintain a certain level of control for our current and future circumstances. If your spouse told you that you fit a need or a check-box on a list you might be mortified. Ben Stiller’s character in “Along Came Polly” wrote a little cost-benefit or should I say risk analysis to see which woman was better suited for his agenda which was to play it safe in life. Sounds corny when Hollywood tackles a very real-life marital issue, but the fact remains that agendas are a mainstay for most relationships.

Of course, the natural life-cycle of an agenda means that it will surface at some point in the relationship. Whether one is caught or openly shares their agenda…the couple can be impacted for the better or as agendas are publicized–for the worse. Infidelity is the most common of “dirty” agendas for the guys out there. Women, on the other hand, are often accused of having agendas that:

  1. Create a Domesticated Spouse
  2. Provide Children at a Specific Age
  3. Position the Family for Social Prominence

Now, of course, these are rooted in stereotypical renditions of the American Family this side of “Toddlers and Tiaras” on any reality network in this country. Do they have merit for either gender? Your guess is as good as mine. What I can tell you is that when I worked with couples…what would come up the most were their individual agendas and the failure of the other to lend credence to their wishes.  So many of these couples wanted the other to take part in what we call “2×4” therapy. They wanted the agenda “beaten” out of the other…figuratively speaking that is. They were tired of the game playing. They were tired of feeling like they were a mere character in their spouses self-written and directed play about themselves…I mean a narcissist…I mean themselves.

The news isn’t all bad…nor should it ever be when we think of the motivations and agendas that permeate our lives. Do our spouses and partners serve a purpose in our lives? Absolutely!

Hopefully for yourself and your relationship you have both grown and become better people because of the one you share your life with. Maybe your agenda in the beginning was borne out of a reaction to your family or life in general…but now it is a mutual agenda…dare I say plan…for mutual growth and admiration for the partners you have become.

Here’s to couples who aren’t afraid to share their hopes and dreams, their reality and their faults along the way without malice. If there ever was a human on this earth who would “cut you some slack”…let’s hope it is the one you call “Dear”.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Avoiding the Pink Elephant in Your Marriage?

Come on…you know you want to read on, but you are a bit afraid that your spouse will see you and ask, “What do you think is wrong with us?” So with that in mind I will “allow” you to channel your inner 8 year old, grab a flashlight and sneak under the sheets to read today’s post. Or, I guess you could be like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle when she goes into the closet to hear Jonas talk about his lonely and grieving father played by Tom Hanks.

Either way…you do what you need to do because the Pink Elephant in your marriage is sniffing you and your issues out like a hot bag of peanuts on Opening Day. And, if I might ask, what is your interest in today’s post? Have you recently gone to sleep wondering why it is that you and your spouse can’t talk about the things that really matter in your marriage? Is it that you have been avoiding a topic for so long that you fear the dire consequences if it ever saw the light of day?

Has your love changed for better or worse? Have you gone in circles with your spouse without really bringing up the topic? Avoidance behaviors are learned early on in life and honed throughout to provide us with sample-sized packets of oxygen in a world full of smog. A quick breath and back to real life. Right? Does it have to be that way? Didn’t you and your spouse share everything with each other during the dating phase? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t—what matters is that the Pink Elephant rarely lies dormant for too long. As human beings we are bred to speak out, act out, live out, and shout out our thoughts and feelings. Now, many of us struggle to communicate the elephant in the room and as a result we play silly games with ourselves and our spouses.

We bring up issues that other couples are having in hopes that our spouse will then examine our relationship under the same lens. We get books, read books, and place books in strategic places hoping that SOMEONE in the family will see our silent cries for help. For years I wondered what the heck was going on with cherries! My mother had Erma Bombeck’s best-selling book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits?” I knew my parents struggled to communicate…I just didn’t know what cherries had to do with it and why it sat on our bookshelf. My mother is not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Human beings love to lay a crumb trail to be saved or to lay a trap for their relationships. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not you have been laying traps or maps for you marriage.

Elephants Like Cherries Too

For so many couples the issues are real and devastatingly personal. For many individuals the issues we avoid are often found in the following areas:

  1. Sexual Intimacy
  2. Family Finances
  3. Children
  4. Individual Health for Vanity and Longevity (Weight Gain/Drinking etc.)
  5. In-Laws

Whether we avoid talking about our mother-in-law, how many children we really want to have, how to spend our incomes, or how many times a week we expect to be intimate is ultimately irrelevant to the larger issue in the relationship…which is..Why do we feel slighted or ignored by our loved ones?

Why is it that she can’t notice how hard I am working for the family? Why is it that he always assumes that we are going to be intimate when I just want a hug? Why can’t she protect me from her mother’s meddling? Am I not important? Do you not love me? Are you picking them over me?

We have all been there during moments of vulnerability. We both want to feel as if our spouse can read our minds and act accordingly, and do so in terms of love and mutual growth and not spiteful retribution. We want to go to bed each night feeling thought of and cared for by our partners. And, for men out there that say otherwise they are just fooling themselves and their spouses. Men and women do not want to feel judged or ridiculed for their attempts to navigate life—they want a partner that catches them when they stumble and alerts them when they are about to.What we do not want is to approach life in fear. We should not approach our marriages with an, “I told you so” attitude. We should not our marriages assuming we know or can predict the manner in which our partner will respond. It may be funny for Dilbert, but not for our day-to-day interactions…especially with our loved one.

Avoiding Something?

So…what to do…when to do it….and what can you expect when you try to communicate? The answers to these questions are fundamental and yet require a healthy dose of originality from you. Talking about the pink elephant in the room will not be easy, but it sure will be fruitful for decisions made down the road. Remember this…when you can come to a point in your life and marriage where you can let the chips fall where they may…well, you will feel a sense of personal empowerment. So…without further adieu here are the basic steps to communicating those issues that gnaw at you more than you care to acknowledge…

  1. Choose a time that both parties are at their most relaxed and non-defensive state. Do not attempt to discuss sensitive and possibly shaming issues when emotions are running high.
  2. Begin with a statement about all of the things you love about your spouse, your continued commitment to loving them and the marriage and YOUR desire for continued growth for yourself first…the relationship second.
  3. Provide an acknowledgment of your role in the issue and any back-story as to why you believe your sensitivity levels are possibly higher than expected.
  4. Talk about how you think your behavior or avoidance has impacted the marriage and your partner and ask them if they have been feeling or suspecting the same issues.
  5. And finally…share with them your ultimate fear. Tell them the root fear you have if they reject your feelings (example: When we aren’t intimate I think that you don’t find me appealing and will ultimately look elsewhere).

These are but a few strategies with which to approach your partner. If your partner scoffs at your attempt…let it be on them. Maybe they need time just as you did to muster up the courage to speak in the first place. Don’t take an initial “No” as a long-term deterrent. If, after repeated attempts you get the same song-and-dance then you have the information to make decisions accordingly. Let’s be realistic here…the pink elephant may be very large and significant to the success or failure of your marriage—all you can do is be honest about your role, your commitment to the relationship and partner, and hope for a shared renewal of the values that brought you both together. If your partner continues to tease you with attempts and/or changes before resorting back to the original…then you can at least feel confident in the effort you gave the relationship. Some succeed and others choose to move on. Here’s hoping that you allow yourself and your partner the time to know the household pet you have been avoiding for so long.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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The Divorce Life-Cycle Stage 5: Reconciliation

Who said going through the Divorce Life-Cycle was difficult? I mean all we have had to do is deal with Irritation. We have been left to Contemplate our lives as they presently stand and judge them against an unknown but tantalizing future. We have been thrown to the laws of Irrigation where we work to bring back our desert like relationship to one lush with vegetation and promise…only to be swung back to the depths of Condemnation because we unwittingly set up our spouses for failure because we expected them to make reparations for ALL of their past transgressions.

Which means…we have reached the…well…not the end, but a time when we desperately want an end. Reconciliation. To restore relations with another party…yet the trick is on all of us. Sure, we come to a place in the Divorce Life-Cycle where we dust off the hurt, the mistrust, and the unabridged history of our marriage and we peer back to a time when all that mattered was being with your spouse because you felt fueled by their presence.

A time that was not fraught with discord or required a full-time translator or even bogus trips to “you-name-it-store” on a Saturday to just get you closer to Monday and away from your spouse. The Reconciliation stage is one that can make you weep in desperation because you always wanted to love your spouse. You never imagined a time that could feel so physically awful. You balance back-and-forth with your love, your decision, and your communications with those that care from the sidelines. For once in your life you might even feel like a Hollywood couple whose tale of marriage becomes talk show fodder for all to have……and it begs the question…

Are you prepared to give your marriage one last shot?

If you are to give your relationship another go, how far are you going to swing the marriage pendulum before it becomes impossible to recognize you or your spouse? This should become your marital compass. Your weight loss plan that aims to keep your day-to-day as Normal as possible because altering everything about your relationship only sets you up for failure later on. How many of us have either done it ourselves or watched others yo-yo diet because a new fad was in play. If you truly want to understand the cost-benefit of Reconciliation with your spouse you are going to have to look right-side-up and understand that Reconciliation can only begin when you apply it to….YOURSELF!

Reconcile with Yourself and you can Reconcile Your Past, Present, and Future.” -Dr. Rod

If you have been fooling yourself this whole time thinking that it will all work out and he/she will come around then you should be diagnosed and treated for Wishful Thinking…because you have gone outside of the marriage, during the Condemnation stage, and shared all of your dirty laundry or at least your version with friends and family…you may have pushed your marriage and spouse to the outer limits where not even the coolest i-phone app can bring you back.

Reconciliation should be focused on you…by you…for you…and then for the good of the marriage. It should not mimic a Spring cleaning check list of items pushed to the side like a teenager who hates broccoli.  A checklist that has more items linked to your sex life in an effort to revisit the courting stage will fade faster than your spray tan and yet most couples trying to work “it” out think that taking their clothes off will reshape and rejuvenate the gravitational pull of one another.

Not so. Not even close. For the man in that space you will discover an animalistic being who thinks that being “good” in the marital bed will have you craving him like old times. And, women who partake in this form of Reconciliation can be found hoping to be something in the bedroom that they have never been nor want to be…to give him what they think he wants and needs. The result…two unhappy people who engaged intimately with mixed results, awkward snuggling, and sometimes regret for an act not bore from love, but from hopeless desperation.

If your marriage has any hope for birthing anew it has to come from each of you. It has to be personal and somewhat confidential…and that is Normal. No one person is wrong in the fall of a marriage (minus domestic violence offenders) and no one marriage can sustain or grow without individual work for future collaboration.

Are you willing to look at the different iterations of yourself throughout the marriage…reconciling your part in the good times and in the dismantling of something now wrought with disdain? If you can then you increase your odds of predicting the future. You will have to look back at the different and evolving versions of yourself, your challenges and successes, and those times when you might not have been too proud of your behavior. You will come to understand the difference between needs and wants. You will begin to see how you have or have not matured as a person, a spouse, and as a parent. And, you will be better prepared to have conversations with your spouse and those you dumped your dirty laundry on without sounding like a broken and annoying record.

You may find that you are ready to re-commit or you might discover that divorce is truly the only loving course of action for you both. It will not be easy and it will not come without painful conversations and realizations. If you are choosing divorce you have to prepare yourself for a spouse that you have never experienced before because emotional pain can alter ones personality in the moment and cause commentary ripe with accusation and left-field thinking.

Reconcile your actions and feelings…take into consideration those of your spouse with forgiving undertones and if…if you come out on the other side with practical and loving reasons for marital Reconciliation then go for it. This means that you have been honest with your role. You have been honest about your reactions and demands…and you have been honest with those around you because if you are going to make it work you both are going to need your friends and family now more then ever. Remember that during the Condemnation stage you ripped your spouse to the public in hopes that they would support only you and share their support down the chain like a multi-level marketing scam where reaching out helps your friends and helps YOU even more.

You will get naysayers who will relish in reminding you of what you said in haste all the while wrapping their self-serving opinion into their diatribe. Find support from those in your life who understand life isn’t always black-and-white. Be productive in your attempts to re-solidify a marriage from the ashes of blame and sadness. Reach out to professionals who understand the dilemma before you and couples who, like you and your wife, are Normal and understand that some fault-lines may be cause for concern, but not relocation.

I would be lying if I said that marital Reconciliation works for all couples. For some it does and for those couples…I applaud you and wish you continued success in your ever-evolving courtship. For others, like myself, Reconciliation led me in a new direction…one filled with acceptance and forgiveness for myself and my ex-wife. Reconciling my part helped me land in a new world that is both fulfilling and challenging…two ingredients that remind me of what I have and what I need to do to maintain success in the future. Don’t be scared to look in the mirror…you might like yourself more than you think.

Check in tomorrow as we wrap up our look at the Divorce Life-Cycle and discuss the role of Emancipation in our relationship with…ourselves.

Wishing 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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