Fathering Goodness

Father and son having fun Since this is a parenting blog with a focus on personal development, we normally post tips and advice that parents can use to improve their own lives and the life of their children. But today’s post will be a bit different.

Today, I want to tell you about some things that happened to me with my own kids and to appeal to both mothers and fathers to do the best you can to raise your children in balance and harmony, including giving them enough time with their father.

This week, we watched the movie “Brave”. I cried at the end (I will not spoil it for you). After the movie, it occurred to me that scenes in which parents and children realize how important they are to each other (sometimes when it is too late) make me cry every time. Maybe this is part of my inspiration for today.

Our family has lived in a good number of places around the world and has visited many others. In all of them, fathers mostly go to work in the morning, leaving their children with their mothers, and come back in the evening tired, stressed, preoccupied and unaware of what their family has gone through during the day.

This used to be my life too. For 15 years, I worked for large companies, spent long hours commuting, stayed late at work “just to finish something on time” and even traveled on business. Among our friends, I actually spent the least amount of time on the road or at work and the most amount of time at home, but for the most part, I was “missing in action” as far as my family was concerned.

Read more about why kids should spend time with their dad

Easy Divorce

Happy seniors hugging

Everybody also knows that divorce is painful to all involved. Regardless of your circumstances, both partners and all their children get hurt. Yet, the rate of divorce is soaring and being single again after having children is now part of many parents’ lives. Divorce seems hard to go through, but awfully easy to choose.

In the past, divorce was unacceptable in many societies. Once people got married, which was often by parental arrangement, they were stuck with their partners for life. Marriage was literally “until death do us part”. Being married for life was what everybody did. The average divorce rate was 0%.

Believing that ending their marriage while both partners were alive was not an option, the only available course of action was to make the marriage work. Sometimes, that was just as much fun as digging holes, but everyone dug 7 a day and kept their mouths shut.

Now, when you try to make a marriage work and you are committed to it for the long haul, you make decisions accordingly. You join bank accounts, split the responsibilities for best household performance and comfort, do your best to get to know your partner and try to be accommodating. In return, you could also rely on your partner to be there for you in times of difficulty, simply because he or she was as committed to the marriage as you were.

Read more about how to keep your marriage strong

Save your marriage (19): Best Marriage Quotes

Loving coupleMarriage today is not what it used to be. I believe some of it is due to couples believing that they cannot fix their marriage, heal from conflicts and overcome the challenges they go through as part of life.

Couples that are still together do not have fewer difficulties. They sort them out before they get out of control.

In my relationship coaching program, I hear many couples use statements that make fun of commitment, mock stability and relationships and encourage giving up the marriage as an easy, accepted and preferable thing. They have read them on the Internet, seen them in “funny” PowerPoint presentations or watched them in video clips.

One of my clients is going through a divorce over something that could be easily fixed if both partners could sit together and talk. They had an argument over money. She wanted 150K, he wanted to give her 90K and to sort this out, they have had to hire lawyers, go to court and pay the 60K the argued over in fees. So forget about it, because divorce is never easy!

If you check the beliefs of divorcées about marriage, you will find that they always have the wrong ones – those witty, mocking, sarcastic beliefs.

My suggestion is to make sure you swap them with good beliefs. To help you do it, I have gathered the best marriage quotes I could find. I hope you will find some you like and can adopt, and I hope you can make good use of them.

Read these inspiring marriage quotes

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Scene from Crazy, Stupid, LoveThis is NOT a film review. It is a post on love and romance and marriage and kids and family and parenting. But it is inspired by the fact that Ronit and I watched the movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love” this week and it has been running around in my mind to the point where I just had to write about it.

Steve Carell makes movies that are full of embarrassing moments and this usually turns me off. I see him as the American version of Mr. Bean. I also find his acting melodramatic and externalized and I generally prefer subtle and deep. In this film, he was not only the main character, he was also the producer, which should have had me running in the other direction, except I only found that out in the final credits, and by that time, I already had a lot of respect for him.

If you have not seen Crazy, Stupid, Love, it starts with a marriage breakdown and divorce, continues through the attempted recover of both partners and their children and at the same time, weaves in the generational difference between the old one-partner-from-a-young-age and the new ongoing-partying-and-casual-sex-until-thirty-something.

I came away from the movie with a lot of love in my heart. In the past few days, there is more love in everything I do, more softness, more attention and more respect. I checked the patterns of my life against scenes from the movie and compared myself with the characters in it.

I want to share my discoveries with you.

Read more about Crazy, Stupid, Love

From the life coaching deck (4): Secret demons

Little girl looking embarrassed and sadKids’ mind is a puzzle. Working with kids for so many years (and with grownups who used to be kids), I am amazed by what demons they carry with them and how they use naive conclusions to navigate their life. The more I see clients, the more I am convinced there is never a way to predict how kids will interpret their young life and what they will make of it later in life. The kid’s mind puzzle becomes an adult’s mind puzzle that is even harder to solve. Trish’s story is a wonderful way to get some insight into how this happens.

Trish came to my life coaching deck with her partner. Ben, her partner and the father of their child, had said she needed help but he had no idea how to get it. Trish had not contacted me, had not completed the session preparations and had not even talked to me before coming, so this was an unusual session.

Trish was a beautiful young woman. Her hair was tied back and she looked tired, as if she had spent weeks crying. She was 27 years old and was preparing for her wedding. She had a one-year-old boy, a great job and … a demon.

“Hi, Trish. Thank you for coming. What brings you here?” I asked.

She looked at Ben and started crying. I gave her the tissue box and waited. She tried very hard to stop. Every time she started saying something, tears started again and she choked. Ben held her hand and whispered, “You can do it”. She looked at him and looked at me for a while before she finally started telling me her story.

After her son was born, memories of a childhood trauma had come to life. In-between sobs, she said, “At first, I thought it was a dream, but then I realized I see the same scene over and over again even when I’m awake”.

“Can you please tell me what you see?” I asked.

“It is very vague… I think it had something to do with my dad… I can see myself at the age of 6 or 7 playing with another girl… She was my neighbor and we played a lot together. I think someone did something to both of us… I can see my dad screaming and having a fight with her dad… I think my dad raped both of us”, she managed to say.

Read more about how children interpret their life

Save Your Marriage (18): The intention trap

clip_image004_thumbIn the last chapter of the “Save your marriage” series, I wrote about one trap that married couple are in. It was the “right” trap, when one person or both are convinced they are “right” and do not accept that the other person has a story of their own that can explain their behavior and be just as “right”. Many marriages break down over this type of dispute.

In my relationship coaching, I have discovered there are two more traps that are signs the relationship is going nowhere and may be heading for a breakdown. One of them is the “intention” trap and the other one is the “blame” trap.

The intention trap

Everyone wants to feel good in their relationships. We give ourselves to the other person and we want a good feeling in return. Usually, we find a partner who makes us feel great. At the beginning of the relationship, we want to spend lots of time together, we constantly want to be with him or her and when we are not together, we imagine us being together.

Our marriage is good when we look forward to the time we will spend together, because it boosts our self-esteem and motivates us.

Over time, this excitement gives way to stress, work and kids, and many couples just wait for the moment things are quiet, so they can veg in front of the TV, hit the bed, sleep in on the weekends or go away on a holiday. Most of their time is not filled with fun and the fun bits are pushed to the side. When we push too much of our “fun time together” to the side, the arguments start.

I do not think I have ever learned how to argue and in marriage. Strange as it may seem, I believe it is very important to learn how to argue, because if we do not argue fairly, we increase the stress and the pressure and decrease the fun time together.

Read more about how to save your marriage…

How to be Faithful

Newly wed couple

In the age of divorce aplenty, faithful partners seem to be going extinct. And that is a shame, really, because being faithful to your partner is not very difficult at all. In fact, with a little imagination, it can be both easy and enjoyable.

There is a barrier to breaking up with your partner, but once a couple separates, leaving becomes a viable option for both of them. If the pain of divorce is great, they make the next time easier by not getting married in the first place, saying they are “not ready”. Of course, if separation was done in a mature way without much pain, it makes the next time easier too.

One of my clients, I will call him Carl, is a young man who deals with many people for a living. Naturally, among these people are women and some of these women are in his age group. Occasionally, he likes one of them and finds her attractive.

This creates a dilemma for Carl, because he already lives with a lovely young woman. Sally has been by his side for a good number of years through “thick and thin”. In fact, Carl has made some serious personal growth thanks to her example and encouragement.

In our session, Carl admitted Sally was good for him. “She’s my best friend”, he said, “But I can’t get that other girl out of my mind. It’s making me question whether I want to be with one woman all my life and whether that woman should be Sally. Maybe I’m settling for less than I could get”.

Read more about how to remain faithful to your partner

Save Your Marriage (17): The "Right" Trap

Two dogsMarriage, like other relationships, requires two people with a special connection between them. There are many reasons why marriages do not last long and one of the reasons is falling into the “right” trap.

When I see couples during their relationship coaching program, the “right” trap is always there. It is not always spoken, but it underlies a lot of the conflicts. One of the partners or both of them have a strong feeling about their “rightfulness” and they cannot let it go. The problem is not just thinking that they are right, but believing the “right thing” exists, because when they sort out the first conflict by putting pressure and giving up, they get a confirmation of their “rightness” and they expect the next time to be the same – one is right and the other one gives up – a recipe for disaster.

Mira and Chris came for relationship coaching because Mira was convinced she was right and Chris was wrong. It happens a lot that one person does the booking and it sounds like this:

“Chris, why are you here?”

“Mira asked me to come”.

It was a very honest answer and it helped me find out who was seeing themselves as the “right” one in that relationship.

“OK, Mira, so why are you here?”

“I need you to explain to Chris…”

I knew that was another “right” trap.

First, I need to explain that our relationship coaching program is not mediation. It is meant to help the couple find their strengths and use them to renew their love and build their relationship on a mature and respectful foundation. If you want to get help in your relationship so the therapist can tell your partner he/she is wrong, you are trapped.

Read more about how to save your marriage

Every Child Knows

Couple shoutingEvery parent knows that dealing with other human beings is not always smooth. We find ourselves interacting with different people all the time, with a wide variety of communication styles, values, beliefs and perspectives. That diversity can cause all kinds of misunderstandings, awkward moments and sometimes even serious friction.

Yet much of the time, most people operate under the assumption that “every child knows” what they know, that what seems clear and simple to them is as clear and simple to others. In fact, it is not the differences between us and the other people that create the friction, it is our expectation that they can see our point of view.

The TV series Lie to Me has brought the interpretation of facial expressions and body language into our living room, but unless you have developed these skills with a lot of supervised practice, it is likely that you can read what someone else is feeling correctly as often as not. If your partner walks in the door looking upset, are they sorry they are late, did they have a flat tire, did they get fired or did they just step in something unpleasant? It is hard to tell.

Here is an example.

John gets fires from work. He is so upset he cannot speak and decides to wait until the kids have gone to bed before sharing the bad news with Betty. Not knowing what has happened, Betty casually asks him if he can pick something up on his way back from work tomorrow.

John explodes.

Betty has no idea what just happened.

Read more about how to avoid relationship conflicts

Boiled Frog

From time to time, I get it by email. Now, with social media, I also get it on Facebook and Twitter. It is the story of the frog in hot water. In case you have never read it, here it is for your reading pleasure:

image_thumb[1]Frogs’ sense of heat actually detects differences in temperature. If you take a frog at room temperature and drop it into hot water, the frog will jump right back out as quickly as it can. However, if you put the frog into a pot of tap water and then gradually heat the water, the frog will just enjoy the nice wet environment and think nothing of it … until it is cooked.

“Eew, gross”, you say, or maybe, “How cruel”. OK, gross or cruel it may be, but it is just a story to illustrate a point. And the point is … drum roll …

When we believe everything is good and we do not need to change, reality eventually bites. No matter how subtle, we still need to pay attention to change in our life and do something about it.

Read more about creating positive change in life