Monday, December 24, 2007

Dysfunctional Family Bingo

This week, I think it would be fun to look at family relationships, and learn a unique way to get through the holidays. I come from a dysfunctional family, whom I love and am grateful for today. This wasn't always true. Often before I worked through my relationship issues, I was the one who had several squares on this Bingo game.
The game was designed and suggested by Martha Beck, PhD. When Martha talked about Dysfunctional Family Bingo as a way to get through family gatherings by stepping back from the fray, and being able to laugh at ourselves and our family, I jumped right on board.
If you find that your family gatherings are difficult and there are people you can count on to do the same obnoxious, silly, or even sad things every year, playing this game can help you get through, and be able to laugh at yourself as well. I find it also works great for office Christmas parties, and business meetings. So here are the rules, as written by Martha Beck, for Dysfunctional Family Bingo:
INDICATIONS: For relief of boredom, frustration, cringing, revulsion, childhood regression, and surges of violence due to holiday celebration.
INSTRUCTIONS: Prepare your Bingo card before any gathering you dread attending. Get at least one other player to create his/her own Bingo card to provide competition.
Begin by listing 24 dysfunctional events that are likely to happen at the gathering of your choice (for example, "Mom begs Morris to stop gambling," "Jim gets drunk," "Little Bobby Sue sets a fire," etc.).
Write ONE event into EACH of the blank squares on the Bingo card.
Take your Bingo card to the gathering. When the specified event occurs, mark off the corresponding square on your card.
When you have marked off one entire line of five squares, horizontal, diagonal, or vertical (the middle square is a freebie), sneak away from the dysfunctional gathering, call your competitor(s), and whisper "BINGO" into your cell phone.
DOSAGE: Create and fill out one (1) Bingo card per dysfunctional group interaction.
WARNING: May cause explosive laughter and family discord if discovered by hostile relatives. Do not use in combination with hallucinogens.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Change is in the Air!

How many times have you went into a relationship with the idea that you can change the other person? Or, even better, figured that they would miraculously become the person you wanted them to be without you having to communicate anything at all to them!
Today, I want to talk about what you can and can't change in a relationship. This is actually really simple to do, because there is only one thing you can guarantee to change in a relationship and that is YOU! Not again, you cry, it can't still be about ME. Yes, it can.
However, it is possible to be so clear with your needs and boundaries, that your partner will treat you the way you want, because they realize that nothing else is acceptable. If you are obviously not a person who will put up with lying, cheating, or other bad habits it becomes extremely difficult for a person to do these things when in a relationship with you. This is because when they do these things, you make it clear that the behavior is not acceptable, and either end the relationship then, or make it apparent that another occurence of the behavior will result in the relationshp ending.
There is opportunity for growth in relationships for both people by being totally authentic to who we are. For example, let's say you love to travel and your partner doesn't. This actually was true for me when I first began dating my husband. Since he was not very open to travel, I didn't often push him to go to exotic places with me. What I did was to continue traveling with other friends who enjoyed the same things I do, like river rafting and adventure. Not too long into the relationship, I asked my partner to go to Alaska with me. When he sounded like he couldn't go, I said, "that's okay, I'll go by myself." He actually said to me, "You mean you would go without me?" And I assured him that I would. Amazingly, he was able to get the time off, and went with me. We had a fantastic adventure on an 85 foot fishing boat, hosted by some friends of mine. Since then, we have also had other great adventures, including going to Hawaii.
So, you can change others through your behavior and influence, as long as you are not trying to force them to do things they really don't want to do, and you are not purposely manipulating them. It is no good to pretend you are going to do something to get your partner to change, you have to actually authentically be doing what you love, and often they will follow.
It is particularly difficult to change things that are important values or choices that others have made. For example, you meet someone and decide to have a relationship, but they really want children and you don't. This is not an area where you can expect them to change. I'm not suggesting that people don't change, but with really important issues like whether to have children, expecting that over time someone will change can lead to heartbreak for both parties. When you have strong differences in values or needs, it is important to be honest with your partner, and decide together whether the relationship can work within the boundaries of those differences.
So, it is almost a New Year and I always think about the future and change at this time. I hope that if there are things you personally want to work on this year that you will add a comment or response to a post, and I would love to respond.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mars Vs Venus

I know, this is a picture of Jupiter, but I like the look of it! The reason for the topic today, is that if you are going to love men, you have to like them for who they are, and understand that they are very different from us. I am sure most of you just read that statement and went "Are you nuts, they are really from Mars, how am I supposed to understand them?" It is true that we probably won't ever totally understand men, any more than they will truly understand us. That isn't what I am hoping to educate you on in this posting. What I am hoping to do is to help you see that by men being wired different than women, we can learn to love and enjoy the differences.
Let me tell you a little about my husband. He is what I call a "hunter-gatherer" to the core. He gets great pleasure out of going fishing, crabbing, clamming, picking wild blackberries, growing tomatoes, anything that will provide food for our table that doesn't have to be bought at a store. Now sometimes the cost of going fishing, etc. can be very expensive. When you consider gas prices for the truck and boat, fishing licenses, bait, equipment, and all the trip entails, a ten pound salmon can cost a lot. This doesn't matter, as the act of fishing and bringing it home and cleaning and cooking it give him so much pleasure, it is worth it to him. And, I am not complaining. I enjoy some of these activities as much as he does, what I lack is the drive to do them every chance I get.
The other thing that really makes my husband happy is (no it's not sex, although that ranks up there too!) is having his "cave". At our house, this looks a lot like a garage. When I get up and start working indoors, my husband heads for the garage. He can spend hours doing all kinds of things out there! I once tried to give advice to a woman who had just bought a new home with her husband and kids, and he wanted to turn the garage into a music studio. I said something like, "sounds good, that way he will have a space of his own." Her reply was, "are you kidding, I don't want him to have a space of his own, I want him in the house helping me with the kids." When I tried to show that men need their "cave", she made it clear that was not going to happen in her house. I'm still worried about that situation today!
Now, don't get me wrong. I have spent a lot of time suggesting you love yourself first, and I have not changed my opinion on that. If you need a room of your own, and space to be who you are, you should definitely have that! What I am suggesting by noting some of the things that men need or find important is that one of the best ways to love someone is to respect and honor and enjoy their choices and needs. I love the things that make my husband a guy. I don't want him to be a man who feels and acts just like me. Think back on the men you know that are happy in their lives and relationships, and think about why they are happy.
The other thing that helps is to be able to acknowledge with each other the differences and even talk and laugh about them. My husband and I both joke about our differences and realize that we are not ever going to think alike about many things. What we don't do is try really hard to change each other, and we work hard at loving what is.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I Don't Know if I Even Like Men!

One question I had to answer when I began being open to relationships again was, "Do I even like men?" Now, I wasn't questioning my sexuality, I knew that I am basically heterosexual in nature. What I was questioning was my belief that decent men existed. How many times have you heard someone say, "There aren't any good men left" or "All the good ones are married", or even "I hate men!" These statements are usually made by women who have been hurt in the past, and feel they are open to relationships, but in reality are not ready yet.

So, how does one learn to like men again when they have been hurt before? In my healing process, there were several practices I used. First, I spent time with men who were safe, and not available for me to date. One of the best people I hung out with during this time was my brother. I certainly was never going to date him, but he was a great person to go places with, play and watch sports with, and enjoy his male energy without the fear of being hurt. He is a wonderful guy, (and by the way single), and he showed me that no matter how much I said "Men are dirt!", that I was definitely not 100% correct.

The next thing I did was join a twelve step group. This group usually had more male participants than women. This was during the time where I was learning to love myself, and I was committed to staying single. What happened was, that as I listened to the honest and heartfelt sharing from the men in the group, I realized that men can hurt, love, care, feel, and grow, just as the women in the group did.

I was also on a co-ed softball team during this time. This was a good place to see men in all their testosterone's glory, and witness men who were able to accept me as part of the team, and witness a few men who did not. I made friends with some of these men, who are still good friends of mine today.

From all of these experiences, I learned that men are not so different than women (Oh, I know they are very different in some ways, but here I am talking about basic human nature, not male-female stuff). Men may express their feelings differently than women, but they do have them. Men also get hurt, struggle to find the right women, and become fearful of opening up to the opposite sex.

I also learned that men can tell if you like men or not. Really nice guys will not usually ask a man hater out. Men could tell that I was not open to them, and consequently I didn't get attention from the type of men I would have wanted to date. Once I got to the place where I no longer feared, disliked, or looked down on men, there were men who were ready and willing to get to know me.

If you have man issues, and you are not able to see men as inherently okay then try these steps:
  1. Find men to hang out with who are safe, these might be family members, people you work with, part of an organization you are a part of, anyone who you can enjoy without any sexual tension.
  2. Join a support group, there is Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, or try a local therapy group that is focusing on communication, relationships, etc. It is good to be able to witness men who are willing to express their feelings.
  3. Practice being open to men as decent human beings. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about men, ask yourself "Is this really true?" Come up with instances where you have met men who are kind, generous, and loving. If you can't find any in your personal life, consider movies you have seen, books you have read, public figures you know that are kind and loving.
  4. If you get really stuck on this issue, work with a coach, a counselor, or someone else who can help you get to the limiting beliefs that are keep you from being open to men.

I hope that this has helped you feel better about men in general. If anyone who reads my blog has other ideas and comments, I would love to hear them.