Category Archives: finances

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community and at best only talk to their primary care physician who either dispels such “nonsense” or over prescribes outdated and temporary solutions.¬†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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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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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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Why Women Change Their Tune when Jewelry is Involved

Feeling Loved?

Being a man can be many things…some good, some bad, some quite exciting and others quite costly. Recently, my fiance and I went out to shop for our wedding bands. I was aware that her band would be exponentially more than my ring and so I prepared myself.

I thought of the cost of the engagement ring, my checking account balance, my credit limit…said a few prayers and had a couple of sips of my coffee before we met at the jewelry store. As we proceeded through the “security” doors our sales associate peered up with that, “I know them ;)” look and I knew I was in trouble.

You see the one thing I didn’t take into consideration was that when you buy an engagement ring of a certain quality you HAVE to buy a band that equals that quality…and yes I do know the famous 4 C’s of a diamond and if you don’t, guys, you need to quickly. The world revolves around 4 C’s and the irony is that we were all taught that coming home with 4 quality C’s on our report card was average—at best. I shudder to think what 4 A’s would cost you and me if they were a part of the equation.

Now before some of you wonder if my fiance is one of the famous or infamous Bridezillas…you couldn’t be further from the truth. What we both are is practical…at least we strive for that. And, with that in mind it becomes very easy to look at your ring(s) as investments…as both an investment in love and commitment and in the value it holds on the open market. So…what happens is this—you find that you cannot just place an average band with an above-average engagement ring. It would be like buying a nice car and treating it like a contractors truck…both equally valued when kept separate.

Are YOU the Joker in your OWN Life?

And…who is kidding who? Both of us want the rings to look complimentary to each other and I want the ole ego stroked when she fawns over my choice…and it doesn’t hurt when her friends do the same ;). Which brings us to the overarching challenge of jewelry for men and women—men get hosed and women get the riches. We know it. You know it and we can only hope that when we want something that is a tad flashy like a riding lawnmower or season tickets to our favorite team—you understand the value we see in the purchase. Otherwise, the couple runs the risk of playing tit-for-tat with everything from material possessions to sex. Nobody wins and assuredly each party loses. The relationship loses overall focus, commitment to what brought you together loses focus…with the end result being two depressed individuals who look at their relationship like a failing stock that was given to them years ago by a less than normal relative.

Playing Games with your Love Meter?

So the next time you think of purchasing something for yourself or your family think twice about the message it can send your bank and your family. Yes we all want to have hand like George Costanza so famously stated on Seinfeld, but having hand without the one you love…well you get the point.

Please understand that we, the male species, struggle to understand the cues you give us and struggle even more to communicate beyond the material goods we purchase. We want you to know we care and that you are that special someone.

We also ask that you return the favor and express support for those other purchases that you might not necessarily deem important for your family. Yes jewelery and the purchasing of special jewelry is fun and expensive, but the look on your face fuels us to want to be the best and provide the best opportunities for the entire family. So many of us learned that men, and primarily from our fathers, communicate love through giving and doing and while we adjust to the new and Normal approaches to relationships we still might dip into the well a time-or-two.

Would a Ring Help?

We both know that if we are to call a spade a spade we would say that spending any amount of money on a ring is ridiculous when we take into account what truly matters in life. To some degree the purchase is a frivolous one…and that is ok. Sometimes being¬† like or exceeding the Jones’s feels good and other times it doesn’t even come into the picture. Openly communicate what you can and cannot spend for your display of commitment and you will set yourself up for emotionally prosperous communication.

All the best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Imagined Fears Men Have About the Women They Love

Am I Good Enough?

Men are fragile beings. There…I said it! Whew! For many men the completion of Valentines Day can feel like an exorcism. This results from hours and hours of between-the-ears conversations…listing all of the fears we have about ourselves, our relationships, and our “standing” in your eyes. I know it may be hard to believe that a gender famous for saying “what?” or “huh?” would actually worry themselves about you and how you perceive them.

Now it is true that, even for Normal Males, relationships are difficult for us. We struggle to understand how you can truly love and believe in us when we struggle so mightily to believe the very same things in ourselves. This is why we act out, speak out, run out, and work out. We do all of these things because we are striving to avoid any and all conversations that establish value, propositions of love, and/or situations that require reassurance.

We fear that we are not good enough with regards to our looks and our brains. Normal Males worry themselves with so many imagined fears that it is as if we are racing against baldness on a daily basis…fearing the receding hairline like a wave of perceived criticism coming our way. We aren’t sure what you want and we aren’t even sure what we want. So I ask you this

“What imagined fears are occupying your mind today?”

Now please don’t think that our fears just happened upon us. No…they have been building up steam and accolades for years. Initial fears can be seen from grade school on up through adulthood. If anything Normal Males can hang their hat on is this…we wouldn’t be Normal nor human if we didn’t worry or concern ourselves with what others think. Now, I would imagine my female readers will agree or at least say that they believed this to be true…some of my male readers, though, will tell themselves that I am full of malarkey. These men are kidding themselves and those in their lives. I have never worked with a male or been friends with a male who hasn’t admitted these fears. We all experience them…and here are the Top 10 we fear the most:

Top 10 Imagined Fears of Normal Males

  1. You compare us to former lovers.
  2. You see our inadequacies more than our attributes.
  3. You don’t trust us.
  4. You don’t love us.
  5. You don’t want to be intimate with us.
  6. You think we could do and be better in every domain imaginable.
  7. You look at us not like men, but like children you have to take care of and take Control of.
  8. You expect us to be MEN…ALL the time even though we might feel like sheep.
  9. You think you could have done better in choosing a mate.
  10. You won’t like or love us if we displayed our true fears and feelings.

Now before some of you throw your computers…I will remind you that these are fears…imagined and not completely based in reality. Fear of something can originate from negative stimuli and/or events and it can also be born out of assumptions and perceptions based on faulty intelligence. WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) we are not…misunderstood by others and ourselves…yes. It is neither easy nor desired to figure out the origins of our fears. We do not experience these fears daily, for the most part, and they can be fleeting in duration.

You Don't Want to CONTROL us...do you?

The most intrusive thought or fear comes from a worry that we will lose control. Normal Males have feared the loss of control since being young boys. We were told by family, friends, and the media that what we felt inside was a lie. That our emotional experiences of life were misguided and/or sissy. We were told not to cry or express hurt, sadness, or shame. We were told to buck-up, man-up, and stand-up. This pervasive messaging can put one on high alert for a very long and lonely time. It is no wonder why we have so many imagined fears…we were never encouraged to share with other males so how on earth would we know that others felt and experienced the world in the very same way.

Many men, women, and even professionals will scoff at such notions, but I will tell you this…males that are honest with themselves will admit having a number of these fears “a time or two” during their life. They can be experienced as crippling, annoying, and sometimes refreshing for the natural reflective properties of such fear(s). They can be painful, but also provide lessons for the individual in how far they have come and achieved since the origin of the fear.

Why share these unspoken truths about men? What is to gain or be accomplished? Great questions…valid and necessary. Because males have spent an eternity running from the truths and leaving subsequent generations to clean up the emotional and relational messes left behind. It isn’t fair and it isn’t productive to act as if everything is “fine” or “ok.” Sometimes life isn’t and should be talked about in terms of reality. The impact these fears have on the individual, the struggling marriage, and the young boys wondering what dad is doing when he “freaks” out are significant for short and long-term health. We want to get past the past and realize the present and the future to come. We do not want to be annoying to you or ourselves. We want to live without persistent worry for our place in your heart, our own heart, and place of employment.

We want to feel secure in the men that we are on the outside, the gentle boy on the inside, and the husband and father we both want us to be for a lifetime. We want all of these things and sometimes cannot help feeling insecure. Forgive us for being convicted of being a human being. We want to share all sides of our experiences and personalities. We want to feel proud of ourselves, what we have accomplished from fortitude and perseverance, and in the ways we make you feel good…and loved.

Push us. Challenge us. Let us know that you want to know us. If we respond poorly then shame on us. Normal Males will respond to your passionate pursuits with humility and security that the women beside us are just that…beside us.

Men..push yourself to share and share openly and honestly. The fears you think you have will probably be extinguished by the one you love…give them a chance…give yourself a chance!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Has Your Marriage Been Condemned…by You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will Watering Your Marriage Bring it Back to Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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