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Archive for March, 2014

Did you know that when you fight, your fights always follow the same pattern? What you fight about with your mate or your child may change from year to year, but the way the fight unfolds remains the same.

Take for example Marge and Bill. No matter what they fight about, Bill takes the mild-mannered, logical position while Marge becomes furious and raves like a maniac. The more calm Bill becomes, the more hysterical Marge acts. The pattern is always the same.

On Tuesday, this couple fought because Bill didn’t get home until 6:40, when he usually arrives by 6:00.

As soon as Bill came in the door, Marge expected an explanation.

Bill explained that his boss had wanted to see him just as he was walking out the door, and he couldn’t get away.

At this explanation, Marge became angrier and insisted that Bill should have excused himself to call her. After all, most people live on some sort of time schedule, even the boss.

Bill countered by telling Marge in a reasonable tone that she didn’t understand the corporate world; and most people in his position don’t leave the office until 6:30. To call home hadn’t seemed necessary because it wasn’t as if he was being delayed until 10 at night.

Angrier still, Marge pointed out that she had taken time out of her life to go to the grocery store and make a nice meal for him, which was now ruined. Why was his time more important than her time? She also recounted all the other times Bill had chosen his work over her – like when he went out of town on business when their first child was due.

At the end of the argument, which lasted most of the evening, Bill felt persecuted and believed Marge was completely unreasonable. Marge felt that she didn’t count and once again Bill’s work had come first.

If Marge and Bill would take a moment to see that the pattern is always the same – Bill gets logical and Marge gets hysterical, and they rarely resolve their differences – they could change the pattern.

Instead of defending his actions, Bill could focus on Marge’s feelings. He could acknowledge that she had to wait and hold dinner and that it would have been more thoughtful for him to call. Bill should give no explanation or rationale for his decision to stay and talk with the boss.

Marge could change the pattern by stating her position and then restating it and not allowing herself to become hysterical.

The problem is, neither Bill nor Marge would get to feel misunderstood and persecuted. And who would express Bill’s anger for him if Marge became more controlled? And what about their familiar routine? What would they do if they were not fighting?

That’s why it’s so hard to give up your fight pattern.

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I’ve talked to a number of parents who feel their grown children do not treat them with respect.

Here are a few things parents have said they wanted.

Please say hello and act like you’re happy to see me when I come for a visit. And when I call on the telephone, show some interest in what we’re talking about.

Ask about my life and what I’m doing.

It would be nice if you helped me pay some of my doctor bills.

Respect my right to redecorate and change things in my house. I’m not ready to be buried yet.

Ask before you help yourself to food in the refrigerator.

If I tell you I don’t like something you’re doing, don’t punish me by not seeing me or not talking to me.

Sometimes invite me to one of your parties so I can meet your friends.

Just because you’ve changed religions, don’t ridicule mine.

Offer to bring something when you come to dinner.

Accommodate my schedule some­times when we make a date to get together. I have a busy life too.

Once in a while come for dinner and stay the whole evening.

Stop ridiculing me when I tell you about something I’ve read about vitamins, or diet, or changes in the laws. I’m not always mistaken or stupid.

Tell me about your life and the people you’re dating.

Call back when you say you’re going to call back.

Say yes or no to an invitation in a timely manner. Don’t keep me on hold until the last day.

Remember my birthday and on time.

Be gracious and thank me when I give you a gift, rather than acting as though it’s too much trouble to open it.

Listen and believe me when I tell you I’m tired. Don’t push me to go on to one more store.

Invite me to dinner sometime.

Take a little time out of your life to remember to see your grandparents. They always took time with you when you were little.

Be on time for dinner or call when you’ll be late.

Pay back the money you owe me or talk to me about it.

Stop being critical of my taste in clothes.

If you borrow one of my appliances, return it without my having to ask.

Don’t get mad if I tell you I can’t baby sit, and don’t expect me to baby sit every weekend.

Stop talking about what I did wrong when I raised you. Tell me what I did right.

Give me a hug and a kiss when you leave.

Treat me as nicely as you treat your best friend.

Following these requests won’t solve all problems between parents and grown children. But it will certainly set the stage for a more respectful relationship.

 

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A friend and I went antique hunting one Saturday to celebrate her birthday. The first store we walked into had some construction going on. In fact, we could hear a buzz saw in the background.

My friend spied a locket in a case. When the owner approached, she asked if she could help. My friend asked to see the locket. The woman said, “I can’t get into that case. Look at this mess. I have no idea where my keys are. Come back in two weeks.” We both shook our heads to the woman’s comments, felt a little disappointed, and said, OK.

As we turned to leave, the woman added in a rather condescending tone, “And you shouldn’t be in here anyway. We’re closed.”

I dutifully marched toward the door. My friend, however, isn’t so easily intimidated and her button had been pushed. She said, “Then you should put up a closed sign.”

The woman’s comeback: “It must have gotten moved.”

As the woman was shutting the door behind us, she must have had second thoughts about what she had said, for she added more gently, “Well, we really don’t have a sign.”

Naturally, my friend and I talked about this woman and her poor business approach.

It would have been so much better if she had said, “I’m sorry, I’ve mislaid the keys in all this construction. In fact, we’re really not open for business. But do look around. And please come back when we’re a little more organized.”

The second antique store had no construction going on. My friend and I peered in all the cases, looking at this and that. Then I approached the young man behind the counter and asked, “Do you have any paperweights?” thinking that I might have missed one. He looked at me and said, “Lady, if you don’t see it, we don’t have it.”

At that point I started giggling and said thanks. As my friend and I walked out of the store I said, “Is there a full moon tonight?”

How much better it would have been for this fellow to have said, “I don’t think we have any paperweights right now. Check back in a few weeks.”

The week before last I wore a leather vest to work. I thought it looked great. When I walked out into the waiting room, one of my more critical clients said, “My, don’t you look fancied up. Ha. Ha. Ha.”

I didn’t respond.

How much better it would have been if this woman had said nothing. Or if she had said, “I like your vest.”

A wife had asked her husband about the Kurds. Several days later he found an article on the topic in a magazine of his. Because he thought it would be of interest to her, he put in on her dresser. His wife’s response when she saw the papers: “Why are you always putting your stuff on my dresser?”

With one thoughtless remark this wife had put her husband down, thrown away his caring deed and made a fool of herself.

Jeannine is  moving to Europe. Recently she ran into one of her friends and told her of her adventure. The other woman’s comment: “What would you ever want to do that for?”

Now, tell me, how is someone supposed to respond to that?

I believe most people are well meaning. The trouble is they don’t think before they speak. They don’t listen to what they say. They don’t hear their tone of voice. They don’t think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their comments.

This week, be determined to watch what you say. Be determined to listen to how you say it.

Think with your ears.

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Three weeks ago Beth’s cousin telephoned to say she was coming through St. Louis and thought it would be fun to spend the weekend with Beth. Since the call, Beth has transformed a tiny junk room into a guest bedroom. She has painted and wallpapered the room and bought a bed, curtains, bedspread, and lamp. She has hung several pictures. She has washed the windows and blinds throughout the house, cleaned the kitchen cabinets inside and out, hung a new mirror in the bathroom, bought new dish towels and had all the rugs in the house cleaned. She has also put in several new rose­bushes and planted four flats of impatiens. Beth has three children and works full time.

Beth’s husband thinks she is being ridiculous. After all, the cousin will only be there for the weekend. Beth says she wants everything to look nice and, besides, she enjoys making things look pleasant.

A friend’s son graduated from college last year. Before the graduation party, she mortared the cracks in the foundation of the house and painted the front door. She bought hanging plants, and strung Chinese lanterns around the backyard. Three weeks before the party she decided to put in a brick patio. The day before the party she was still leveling some of the bricks. The party was great, but she was so tired she could hardly stay awake for it.

I must confess, the day of our son Paul’s graduation party, I went into one of the bathrooms to do a final check. I was already dressed for the party, and I saw a streak on the glass shower door. Without thinking, I grabbed a wash cloth, slipped off my heels, stepped into the shower, and wiped off the streak. All of a sudden I said to myself, “Get out of the shower, Doris. Stop cleaning.”

Why do people, mainly women, go to such extremes when they are having a party or out of town guests, or when their grown children come to visit?

One reason is that the anticipation of someone coming for a visit gives one energy — energy to do those extra cleaning and repairing and renovation chores.

Another reason is that many women’s self-esteem is tied up with how nice their house looks. Therefore they work hard to make everything right, so they will feel good about themselves.

A woman is also concerned about how others will view her home. If others see it clean and well manicured, they will respect her more, she thinks.

The way I see it, running around frantically a few weeks or a few hours before guests are to arrive is no different than going to the gym and working out like mad to lose weight before swimsuit season. Working out gives one energy. And a clean house like a firm body gives one self-esteem and respect.

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