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Archive for September, 2013

My letter to a young couple…

Dear Beth and Mat,

Happy Wedding Day!
Since within a few hours the two of you will be taking your wedding vows, I decided that a little counsel might be in order. As you know, through my work I’ve watched a lot of happy couples interact with each other and I’ve worked with a lot of couples struggling to make their marriages better. Each couple has taught me a lesson about marriage. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

No two people are alike.
Now you’ve probably heard that before. But sometimes when we hear something so often, we forget the essence. What this means is that the two of you will sometimes see some things differently. Beth, you may want to use your extra money to buy furniture. Mat, you may want to use it to go on vacation. One of you may want to get up early and get going while the other wants to sleep late and enjoy a quiet morning. One of you may be a talker and an analyzer, but the other may be more quiet. One of you may be acutely aware of your feelings. The other may not be aware of them at all. Remember, neither of you is right or wrong. You are simply different. Some differen­ces are genetic. Some you learned from your families as you were growing up These differ­ences make each of you unique. Be aware of them, smile and laugh about them, work to accept them.

Be generous with your praise.
Right now you are probably telling each other how attractive you are. The two of you are exchanging a lot of hugs and smiles and “I love yous.” These compliments helped you fall in love. If you give them daily, they will keep you in love.

Be cautious with your criticism.
Married people sometimes begin to think they have a right to critique their partner or to make helpful suggestions. Keep it to one criticism every two weeks and your partner will feel safe and want to be in your presence.

Know your own flaws
and correct them so they don’t interfere with your marriage. If you are always late, decide from now on to be on time.  If you get too mad, work on your temper.

Listen. Listen. Listen
to your partner talk without interrupting. Listen to his or her feelings. Listen when he’s happy, when she’s disappointed, when he’s scared.

Enjoy love making.
Accept your partner’s approach and approach your partner. Have fun and be generous in bed.

If you step on your partner’s feelings, say you’re sorry.
Recognize that you have erred. Remember, it’s easier to love someone who admits mistakes.

Play together.
Continue to develop interests…back-packing, dancing, cards, tennis. Develop a group of friends that will bring additional energy to your marriage.

Be respectful.
In marriage there is no room for screaming, or name calling, or refusing to talk, or threatening divorce.

Keep in touch with your families.
Let them be of comfort to you and share your joys and sadnesses. But, remember, each of you now should come first with the other.

Both of you are very much in love today. Choose to live in such a way that your love will last forever.

Your friend,

DORIS

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My friend lost her father not long ago. My friend is four years old. Her daddy drowned.

When I talk to my friend, she tells me her daddy is dead. She tells me this with little emotion.

What my friend doesn’t know yet is that her sadness over her father’s death will grow. As she becomes bigger, her loss will become bigger. She will stretch back in time to remember a scene of herself with her father. She’ll try to feel his touch. Remember his smell.

She’ll hunt through old pictures to see what this man looked like. She’ll try to see the resemblance. Is her smooth skin a gift from her father? Are her ears shaped like his?

She will try desperately to see from an old photograph that he truly loved her. Perhaps someone will be so kind as to save her a bit of his handwriting or an old school paper of his.

Most of her memories of him will be second hand. She’ll ask her mother and grandmother and aunts and uncles what her daddy was like. Maybe a family friend will save a memory for her.

When she goes to school and the other children tell of their fathers, she’ll have almost nothing to tell.

My friend won’t have a daddy to show her kindergarten pictures to. She won’t have a dad to watch her in her school play. She won’t have a father to help her with math or to help her learn to ride a bike or drive a car. No father to show off for or to tuck her in at night. No dad to argue with about a curfew or make a clay pot for. No father to exchange smiles, build dreams or memories.

My little friend, she’s been cheated.

My heart cries for her.

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Why DO people hold grudges?

I was talking with a woman one day and she said that her uncle had just died, an uncle she remembered only vague­ly.

It seems that when this woman was small, she was at a family party, and her three-year-old sister kicked the uncle in the shins. The uncle impulsively picked up the little girl, turned her over his knee, and spanked her. An argument ensued between the girl’s father and the uncle. For the next 35 years the two families remained estranged.

The woman’s father attempted to get the families back together a time or two, calling at Christmas to offer good cheer. But the uncle chose to remain angry-righteous, holding tightly to his grudge. Consequently, the families never saw each other again.

Not only did this woman lose contact with her only aunt and uncle, but she lost the relationship with her three cousins whom she loved dearly.

She, of course, wasn’t the only one who suffered from the grudge. Her sister and her mother also missed these relatives. Her father never saw his sister, his nephews, or his brother-in-law again. Family parties and get-togethers ended. “And my poor grandmother never was able to have all of her children and their families together,” said the woman.

As she told her story, I thought: This is a true human tragedy because all it would have taken to mend things between the two families was forgiveness.

If someone is holding a grudge because of your behavior, rush to the telephone now and ask for forgiveness. If you are the one holding the grudge, let go of your bad feelings and re-establish contact today.

If you have second thoughts about mending a fence, think of all the other people whom you are inadvertently hurting because of your position. Think of the woman who lost her aunt and uncle and her cousins because of one family argument that was never resolved.

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I stopped by my friend’s house the other day. She wasn’t home, but her son Steve was there. He’s back from college for the summer. He was sitting in a lawn chair, taking advantage of the sun and reading Dylan Thomas.

“So, Steve, what’s going on?” I asked. He said, “Not much.” He’s been reading, and playing guitar, and doing some writing, and walking in the woods.

“Sounds good,” I said.

Then I asked, “Are you working this summer?” I couldn’t resist playing parent.

“Sure,” he grinned. “But I need to find employment.”

“Where have you looked?” I queried.

“Well,” he said nonchalantly, “I made a few phone calls – landscaping, nurseries, the Muny opera. There’s nothing. I got a lead from a friend, some sort of construction. Maybe they’ll call me today.”

“And if they don’t?” I asked. (I’m like a dog who won’t let go of a bone.)

“Well,” he said, “I guess I’ll make some more telephone calls. Maybe I’II go to some businesses.”

“So how else are you driving your parents crazy?” Now I was grinning.

Steve smiled and said, “My mom doesn’t like my long hair. She says it makes me look rough. Personally, me, I don’t care how I look.”

“I also brought home a lot of stuff – a chest of drawers, some amplifiers, a chair, books, an air conditioner. There’s not enough room for everything.  So it’s sitting around.”

“When I first got home, I took my bed apart and put the mattress on the floor in my room. That also created a mess. I left the air conditioner out under the carport. My mom wants it in the house. She thinks it might get ripped off. I can’t imagine someone coming here and picking up an old air conditioner. I’ll bring it in the house when I need it.”

“I see why you’re parents could be annoyed, Steve. So what’s your side of the story? How are your folks driving you nuts?” I could see a column in the making.

“It’s culture shock,” he said. “I have no freedom. I’m used to staying up ’till four o’clock in the morning and getting up around eleven. Now I can’t make noise after ten at night. It’s a whole different routine.”

“I can’t be loud. I like to play guitar, turn up the tunes. I can’t do it when I want. I have to find somewhere else to go.”

“They ask if I’ll be home for dinner. I don’t know if I’ll be home. They should just go about their routine. Pretend I’m not here. But they don’t do that.”

“Mom wants me home early. She wants to know where I’m going. She nags about cleaning up the kitchen. She wants me to clean the garage, and put things in the basement. I’m not used to people directing me.”

When a child comes back to the nest, it’s a substantial adjustment for everybody. Usually parents only see how their lives have suddenly changed when a child reappears on the doorstep. And a child is only aware of how his lifestyle is suddenly altered. But for both parent and child there is an enormous adjustment taking place.

If a parent can empathize with the lifestyle change that their child is facing, and a child can grasp the modifications that the parent must make, each might be more respectful and appreciative of the other.

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