Archive for the ‘Unsolicited Advice’ Category

Homerun: The Movie

April 21, 2013

Might as well enliven this old blog just a bit.

I just saw the movie Homerun, at the request of my wife.  It is the first real kidless ‘date’ we have had in probably 4 years or more.  I have a review of the date in my other blog.  This is a review of the movie itself.  And there WILL be a few spoilers, such that they could be for this particular movie.

Basically this is a movie about redemption and recovery that happens to include a bit of baseball and a lot of feel good moments.  The protagonist is a pro baseball player who is also an alcoholic.  I give high marks to Scott Elrod who plays the lead as Corey.  He looks like he could actually play pro ball.  As an actor I thought he did a good job with the role he was given.  I give all of the actors and actresses high marks.

I would say the movie is ‘good’ based on acting and on the message which is positive.  But it is definitely not a great movie.  And the fault rests largely on the writing where there is a promising story that is just not developed enough and lacks emotional punch.  Almost everything that happens is predictable.  I’m not against predictability if it is used in some productive way that takes the audience beyond what they were expecting.  For instance the scene where he is speeding in the car with his brother, apparently drunk.  I could see the car wreck a mile away.  As a writer, I would have killed off the brother, setting up for lots more vitriole with his sister-in-law and a more powerful story of redemption.  As it is, the brother really served no other role in that movie after that crash except as a marginally supporting character.

I did enjoy Corey’s connection to the little league team he was coaching, but the interactions with the assistant coach who is also a widow and has a son in need of a father figure was entirely too predictable.  I think the fatherhood angle either needed more work or be dropped altogether as it seemed like the movie was trying to do too much resulting in nothing done overly well.

One bright spot was Vivica Fox who played the agent.  She played her role very well and added life to the screen whenever she appeared.

This movie felt overly long, which is always a bad sign in my book.  If I start wondering what time it is and how much longer, I have probably paid too much.  But others in the theater seemed to thoroughly enjoy the movie, so my experience might not be typical.  If you enjoyed Fireproof you will probably enjoy this movie too.

 

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What is the deal with TLC? (Kate and Jon move on)

June 28, 2009

As a collector of train-wrecked relationships, it should come as no surprise that I would hone in on the plight of Jon and Kate (and the 8). I had never been interested in the show until the airwaves began crackling with the news of their marital troubles. My attention was piqued even more as my wife was watching Youtube videos of the show. So I went on the internet and watched some episodes and clips to get up to speed. So as the resident relationship analyst, I give you my take on it.

First off, TLC totally blew a chance to turn this into an even bigger cash cow. Granted, 10.6 million viewers isn’t too shabby for a cable show, but they could have done better. They could have:

  • Rescued the marriage
  • Elevated another show;s ratings
  • Avoided the whole hiatus business
  • Come off as heros while making tons of money

How? My question is, where the hell is Rabbi Shmuley? TLC has its own resident relationship expert who has helped other couples with Shalom in the Home. Well he’s very much alive and well, and posted his own thoughts on the Gosselins in two different blog posts. His insights are a lot better than mine, but I wonder why TLC didn’t tap this guy, a celebrity in his own right, to help Jon and Kate. afterall, he has 8 kids of his own! He would surely have had something useful to contribute to the couple and he may yet be able to offer guidance toward helping the kids get through the experience with a minimum of damage.

Kate and Jon are dead wrong on what they are doing. Just a year ago, they were in Hawii, renewing their vows, and now Kate has filed for divorce. She already began drawing up custody battle lines saying that she would never miss a birthday or holiday with her kids. Both her and Jon went on and on and on abut how the kids were the most important thing in their lives. On one level, it’s a bit refreshing that commentors on their TLC site recognize what the fallacy is there. But this couple careened out of control and fell into the ditch faster than even I could have expected. The announcement of seperation was made on the same day divorce was filed for! It’s a travesty, and people should have a degree of outrage over how these two are throwing their marriage under the bus.

At some point, their kids will wonder why their parents had to split up. They’ll see all the stuff that was filmed and read all the comments people made about their parents. They’ll see the vows Jon and Kate made in their wedding and again when they renewed their vows. Then they’ll see as less than a year later their parents proceed to break those vows in a truly grand fashion. What Jon and Kate can not possibly say is, “We did everything we could to keep this family together.”

There was no counseling offered by TLC, and no attempt by either Kate or Jon to contend for their marriage. No one seemed to make any attempt whatsoever to salvage, reconcile or heal this couple. They both let circumstances dominate them, and got swept away and their family got blown apart. It really is an ugly spectacle and it’s going to get even more hideous. We’ve all seen this replayed all over the country countless times as divorces go from bad, to ugly to vicious. The divorce lawyers are going drag this on, keep circling and feeding until they have torn, consumed and shredded all of the assets this family has. We haven’t seen the tip if the meltdowns and ugliness that will be played out on the tabloids.

The faults of each of these two (plus the network) are all well-known, so I’m not going into all that here. I don’t think any one factor killed this relationship, but that it was a perfect storm of things that all came crashing down in a tragic chain of events that just keeps going. I think both of these folks gave up too easily on each other and should have fought harder. I know a bit about how hard, long and grueling the fight can be. But I can’t imagine fleeing in a headlong retreat the way these these folks have. I’m embarassed for these two, as well as for all of the people who have been watching from the beginning.

Should the show go on, as Kate says? I think it should become a show about divorce and kids and how hard it is, although ironically having that extra income stream might actually make it easier for them to break apart and divide things, which most divprcing couples don’t have access to. Just the presence of the fame and fortunes take away a lot of the reality implied by reality TV. Kate is definitely not going to let this cash cow go,and neither is TLC. It seemed to me that Jon was willing to at least consider shutting it down, but he might not get much of a say and might back down when faced with the prospect of having to go and get a job in this tough economy. What’s he qualified to do, anyway?

I wish someone would slow things down and at least consider reconciliation. Weren’t these two supposed to have strong Christian values and belong to a caring church? What happened to all that? Or was that one of the things they cut loose for the sake of their fame? It’s difficult enough squaring their actions with personal integrity of any sort let alone any sort of Christian morality. Once again, christianity ends up looking mighty foolish and impotent when pitted against fame, fortune and popular culture.

My advice would be to at least consider some form of repentence and seek forgiveness from each other and for anf from all parties involved. when they kids grow up to a point where they can understand all of this, when they are teenagers, the parents are going to really need it.

It’s All About Managing Anxiety

January 18, 2009

Marriage is a people growing operation in more ways than one. In the biological sense, the child rearing comes to mind, but it also helps raise the parents as much as the kids. It stretches and extends us in ways that we never would have imagined. When we see marriage as an environment that fosters growth, perhaps we can stop seeing it as something that is always broken and always needing to be fixed. Marriage involves the most fundamental unit of common culture and society because it represents the closest commitment that we may ever have with another human being. But that sort of closeness and commitment is not without some challenges.

Aphron recently posted about the need for control, and postulated the reason why people feel like they need to be in control. It all comes down to anxiety. I define anxiety as a heightened state of physiological arousal that is antagonistic to comfort. In other words, anxiety causes DIScomfort. That can be physical, psychological or both at the same time. In fact it is difficult to have physical discomfort apart from psychological discomfort. The two go together.

Think about stealing the first kiss. How did you feel? Chances are, you experienced some anxiety before, during and after that first kiss. And even if you’ve kissed a person a thousand times, you may feel that same anxiety again when kissing someone new. Generally, whenever we do something new, we experience anxiety. So most of us like it when things don’t change very much. We feel comfort in routines and the sameness of our surroundings. We like coming home to our own house. Control is about maintaining the sameness and managing our anxieties. The more anxious a person is, the more they tend to be very controlling. In Aphron’s case, Sybil seems to like sex but she likes it strictly on her own terms. She is terribly insecure and anxious and while she wants to have an illusion of surrender. But if Aphron ever truly took charge and made her truly submit, she would feel terribly anxious and would no doubt accuse him of betraying her trust in some way. So her illusion is basically the tyranny of the submissive; you take charge but ONLY as long as it does not threaten me.

But here is an astounding fact: couples are always evenly matched in how well they handle anxiety.

And right about now Aphron is feeling insulted, as are the rest of you. Each and every one of you probably think you handle anxiety better than your spouse. But you don’t. I didn;t say you handled it the same, I said you handled it equally well. In Aphron’s case, he tends to internalize his considerable anxiety. But it is definitely there, and Sybil effectively dominates him by externalizing her considerable anxiety. Whenever Aphron asserts himself, he can pretty much count on a whithering counterattack designed to put him back in his place. She tends to be extremely reactive, but Aphron reacts internally in almost an equal degree as she does externally.

Back to that first kiss, it provoked a lot of anxiety but you did it anyway. And lo and behold, we may have eventually came to like it. We like sameness, but we also crave novelty. But we tend to like our novelty to be fairly well controlled. We basically want to have our cake and eat it too where we have sameness and novelty at the same time which is impossible. This is how the two-choice dilemma plays out in reality. We’d like to have the good rush without the anxiety but the universe doesn’t work that way. God programmed us in such a way that boredom produces its own discomfort and causes us to to seek out new frontiers where we grow. And we face new anxieties. Facing anxiety is most often a way to open the door to new joys.

FTN’s recent post about his forays into eyes-open orgasm is a case in point. He and Autumn had to confront some serious anxiety in order to get to that point but once it happened it was electric. It wasn’t just the fact that their eyes were open but it was also that they made a leap into greater intimacy together. At that moment, it was more than physical it was spiritual. Most problems people have in relationships have to do with managing anxiety and discomfort. I’m not talking about real pain, just the anxiety around the possibility that there might be some pain involved. Some of us have spouses that are uncomfortable with certain sex acts. It’s not that one act within marriage is more perverse or dirty than another, it is more personal development and anxiety.

It was interesting how Aphron put his introduction to his follow-up/quote of my post about returning to Schnarch.

He tends to be a very introspective person and is struggling to obtain more sex.”

I can plead to introspection, and the struggle to obtain more sex has been a recurring theme. But it is really more intimacy that I really want. I can have sex if I want. If I ask Arwyn for a hand job, she’s willing to make that sacrifice. But I don’t want that kind of autistic sex where she stares into space and thinks about laundry while rubbing my magic lamp. So my dilemma is that if I really want sex that is good, I have to work harder and wait longer than I would normally want.

Going long periods without sex is a painful existence. Having sex is equally painful because then I get anxious about when it is going to end or stop. I can’t have it both ways. I have to choose which anxiety to face, and then I have to face it like an adult. And that’s really the hard part. The brat in me feels entitled to complain and throw a tantrum and most people wouldn’t blame me for it. But I don’t want to be a brat who sulks and pouts and tantrums. So in the final analysis this has less to do with Arwyn than it does with me. True, it is our interactions that bring out a lot of these internal conflicts with myself, but ultimately they are my own self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that cause so much of my anxiety and pain. Using her to medicate that pain through sex isn’t a terribly loving thing to do. But at the same time, there is my own integrity to contend with and how much I can allow her to violate it by allowing her anxieties to rule over both of us. And that is the beauty of marriage in that we are forever given new opportunities to manage our anxieties while staying close to another person. It’s probably the hardest thing any of us will ever do.

Advice on Counseling

July 20, 2008

07/20/2008

So after returning from vacation, I decided to catch up on a few of my favorite blogs. I’m still working on catching up on my reading, but I also have some catching up to do on my writing and posting. This is going to involve all 4 blogs, one way or another.

Check out RR Blogspot for a video/podcast. R&R WordPress has a bit of an update. And UA Blogspot might even have something new.

But this entry is a bit of unsolicited advice for FTN, after reading of his frustrations with Autumn. A lot of folks really glommed on to the idea that he should see about getting some counseling for the two of them. It was like deja vu all over again from a short time ago only it was FTN pounding out the steady drum beat of how I really needed to get us into counseling. Now he’s on the receiving end of his own advice and he doesn’t like it so very much. He raises all the same objections that I did:

– Money/cost

-work schedule

-The qualifications of available counselors

– child care

– Autumn wouldn’t be too thrilled about going

I might be missing a few excuses, but these are all valid while being a bit of a smoke screen. So let’s look at these objections, one at a time.

Money: this is no small concern. The going rate for counselors is about $100 per hour per week, which is an additional expense of $400 per month. It’s like having another car payment! But it is still cheaper than an attorney. In a minute I’ll discuss what you’re getting for your money, but first you have to dig around for the cash to make it work.

Most insurance will not cover marriage therapy, or if they do, they cover only a certain number of sessions and only if one or both people have a diagnosis of some sort. It is not a sure thing by a long stretch. I recall FTN might have given me some cost cutting advice to come up with the money, and he might want to consider giving up the cable, cutting back on the pizza or other nonessentials. For me, the opportunity arose as I got out of debt and had less going towards payments. Some counselors will have a sliding fee scale which might also help reduce the cost. Also there may be a cost of childcare to consider, which I’ll address later.

Work Schedule: Most people have fairly rigid work schedules, except self-employed and people like therapists. Evening and weekend hours are not uncommon for these folks. Let’s face it, if you want to go into therapy or counseling as a profession you’re going to have to work when other people have disposable time because counseling is not a top priority like food and shelter. Even though people going through a foreclosure might benefit enormously from marriage counseling, they are not going to do it. Convenience = clients and counselors try to make it as painless as possible. Most will take appointments up until 6:30-7:00 P.M. during the week. Most employers will be fairly flexible about taking one hour off early for physical therapy and the like, as long as you can make up the work. This is one of the weakest excuses of the bunch.

Qualifications of available counselors: I made kind of a big deal out of this one when voicing my own objections. I wasn’t interested in a lot of pop psychology, Mar/Venus stuff or psychotherapy where we talk about our parents. What we got was a counselor who seems to be totally into Mars/Venus, pop psychology and talking about our parents. While he’s familiar with Schnarch, he’s not familiar enough to use it. He’s also not at all skilled with Rational Emotive Therapy. So sometimes I feel like I’m flushing $75 per week down the toilet. However, anyone reading my blog over the past year will be able to see that some progress has been made. And I’m not sure it has anything to do with the skill or qualifications of this therapist.

So what do I get for 75 bucks per hour? Accountability. Arwyn is keenly aware of this other person who will want to know how we are doing. I’m aware of it, too. I think that one small thing has made more difference than anything else. Arwyn has bought into it, which totally helps. What if she didn’t buy into it? I’ll get into that in a moment. But suffice it to say that so far I’m game to keep it up just on that basis alone. Progress is progress, even if it is at a glacial rate. So qualifications are important, but just making the move is important in its own right, no matter how much of a nOOb the therapist might be.

Childcare: This was a real concern of ours, and it still is. We have one child who has high functioning autism, so finding willing and able people who work out is not always easy. Then there is the business of how much to let other people into your business. Tricky thing, but Arwyn has managed to find a good-hearted person who is willing and able to step up and who also knows the score. Otherwise, I might palm it off as some sort of parent support meeting, which is sort of true but doesn’t carry the stigma of marriage counseling. Make it a part of a regular date night, and it isn’t a bad deal. Arwyn and I often go out to eat after our sessions, just to make it more worthwhile. Childcare is doable. Plus, we have twice as many individual sessions as joint sessions, so that takes care of that issue most of the time. Again, this is about making our marriage more stable and enjoyablle which pays dividends for the development of our kids.

What if your spouse won’t go? First off, that takes care of the childcare issue as long as you can do it after work. But my advice is to do what I did. Tell her that your’re going to set this up. Do not ask permission. She can either buy-in or not. If she doesn’t that will say volumes in and of itself. It will also give you something to work on by yourself. Facing rejection and dealing with it constructively is a big part of this. Be prepared to follow through and go it alone, if necessary. I was already lonely and anxious enough as it was, Arwyn not going would simply be par for the course. The same applies to Autumn. By setting up the counseling session, you force her into a two choice dilemma that does not involve divorce. She may feel threatened by this move, but the purpose is to overcome the gridlock. In this case, feeling threatened is sort of what is needed to overcome the avoidance instinct. If she refuses to go, you still have a basis on which to work with a therapist. Even an incompetent one.

Now I’m going to throw out one more option that knocks down all of the above objections, except the first one. I looked into this while pursuing what turned out to be our present set up. This fellow by the name of Mort Fertel runs a sort of marital boot camp and does it all online and over the phone. I registered for his email newsletter and got little pearls of wisdom several times a week over a period of months. Of course, he pitched his tele boot camp every time, but he also said things consistent with what I already knew and had read in Schnarch’s book. There is a “Lone Ranger” option that allows a person to go it alone when the spouse refuses to participate. It is not specific to sex therapy, unfortunately, but we all know that it is pretty much impossible to separate sex problems from other marital conflicts no matter how we try.

FTN and most other people going through marital conflict have to ask themselves: how hard am I willing to work to make this the sort of marriage that I want? Marriage is not an easy thing to maintain let alone improve. It’s going to take a serious investment of time, cash and sweat. This why most marriages don’t even go into counseling until they are on the brink of disaster. This is also one reason why marriage counseling has such a poor track record.

One more thing I’ve discussed with FTN before. He regards their sexual conflicts as mostly Autumn’s fault or because of her issues. This is because he does everything he possibly can to accommodate her limitations, boundaries and issues. He’s a pretty easy going and flexible guy. Why should he see a therapist?

For a couple of reasons. First of all, anyone who reads him knows he is frustrated with Autumn’s seeming inflexibility. Job #1 is to get guidance on how to deal with his own feelings on this. I feel his pain and it is real and valid. Forgetting about it, avoiding and moving on are all ways to deal. So is escape. But are those the most productive ways that he has available? I don’t know, but learning the truth isn’t a bad goal.

Secondly, there is no possible way that Autumn can be so rigid and dysfunctional without affecting the sanity of everyone else in the house. Job #2 is making sure that he can hold on to his own sanity in light of being around someone who seems so obsessive about things all having to do with her own body or sex. Most dysfunctions in one married person has some sort of companion dysfunction in the other. Just like any addiction, it gets to everyone around; especially those they love most.

D.

Ask Autumn Anything

January 31, 2008

It’s that time of the year again! I was just looking through my archives from a year ago, and saw that feature and wondered if FTN would give it a go, again. I also wondered if Autumn would. Because I’m such a nosy guy, I usually have a mittful of questions for Autumn. Plus she does sometimes give me insight into my own wife. While that is still true, I’m a bit more interested in helping her help FTN with his hypersexuality disorder, if she’s courageous enough to share.

Are you game, Autumn?

1. What is the biggest change in your life since last year?

2. What do you think your biggest challenge is going to be in the coming year? How do you plan on dealing with it?

3. FTN sometimes makes it seem like you don’t want to deal with problems and you sometimes come off looking like an avoider who would rather wait for the problems to disappear on their own. Is that true? How much do you rely on FTN’s willingness and ability to confront or solve problems within your relationship, if there are any?

4. We kind of went through the “sexual anorexia” question in a previous year, and I apologize for that. Let’s pretend that I have the ability to offer a cure for this in the form of a pill. If you take the red pill, your sexual desire will increase and you’ll be as horny as FTN! If you take the blue pill, FTN’s desire decreases to the point where it is exactly the same as yours. What do you choose? Red, blue or no pills?  Or both pills, in which case your roles would completely reverse.

5. I asked FTN why he had such high sexual desire and he gave a list of 5 reasons.  (No cheating, FTN!) .  What do you think his 5 top reasons for liking sex so much were?

6. Apart from sex, what does intimacy look like to you?  Would you describe your relationship with FTN as intimate (apart from sex)?

7. How do you know sex is over with?  Who is more likely to be the one that wants to talk after sex?

8. FTN is having a huge mental block when it comes to figuring out what his psychological issues and dysfunctions are (apart from his hypersexuality).  You guys did do counseling, right?  Could you help him (and help us help him) by giving a list of 5 (or more) issues that he could work on?  Or was the counseling totally centered on your issues?  Feel free to make the list as comprehensive as you need.  Blogging is another form of therapy and we’re all here to help FTN in whatever way we can.

9. FTN wrote about a half marathon or something like it he was going to do with you.   Could asking him to do this be likened to him asking you to do certain sexual things?  You know, you might be able to motivate him to train harder if you wagered certain sexual things if he beat you in the race!

10.  As a busy mom, I realize your time is limited so I’m curious as to how you might prioritize your “spare” time.  So I’d like you to look at each activity below and classify each as to how you feel about doing them on a scale of 1 to 5.  5 = Excited and looking forward to doing it, 3 = will do if time allows but not too excited about, 1 =not excited about it at all and possibly dreading it.  Ready?  You go, girl!

a. Watching Discovery Health (The morbidly obese marathon)

b. Running/working out

c. Reading a romance novel

d.  Singing at church

e. Sex planned 2 days in advance

f. Reading a self-help book like Passionate Marrage

g. Going to a movie (romantic comedy)

h. Going to a movie (Action/adventure)

i. Attending a party with friends (no kids)

h. Eating out at a Chinese restaurant (no kids)

j. Eating at McDonalds (with kids)

k. Visiting your parents/family

l. Visiting FTN’s parents/family

m. Making out on the couch with FTN after the kids are asleep

n. Visiting a foreign country

o.  Blogging

p. Computer games/internet surfing

q. Changing diapers

r. Eating out at an Italian restarurant

s. Having drinks at a bar

t. Sleeping

u. Running a 15 mile race

v. Cooking

w. Unplanned sex TONIGHT

x. Talking about sex

y. Praying with FTN

z.  Answering questions from strange anonymous bloggers.

I hope this wasn’t too stressful of an experience as I try to make it thoughtful and at least somewhat fun.   You got a lot of courage (and patience) dealing with FTN, much less all of his strange, anonymous blogging friends!

D.

XH and Me

January 12, 2008

I throw tons of traffic XH’s way (or as much as I get) and read everything he writes because the guy has some serious brains. It’s also because I can relate to him on many, many levels. What started out as a connection of experiences with wives who didn’t seem to like sex has branched off into other areas, especially theology and Christianity. XH and I also share some very key personality aspects such as being analytical and deep-thinking. We also share some of the less glamorous personality traits that feed into a couple of his most recent posts.

I sort of felt that his “Problem of Self” post was an oblique reference to things I’ve been writing about differentiation. I had serious thoughts about ginning up a serious reply/rebuttal but couldn’t think of a good reason to do it other than mental masturbation. His latest post about his quest for intimacy with his wife, tho, does move us past that. That is because he knows, and I know and he knows that I know he knows that I know that this has some serious spiritual underpinnings.

Intimacy is something God desires with us. God created intimacy because of His own deep, deep capacity for it. God feels stuff. God created us in His image, and put His essence into us. We are created to love intimately. When one knows another, in the Biblical sense, it is more than simply interlocking parts and exchanging bodily fluids. It is about intimacy. I give XH some props for figuring this out in his 30’s instead of his 40’s, like me.

In the comments to the intimacy post (the “self” post didn’t have many, much to XH’s chagrin) Desmond offers a bit of generous criticism of XH’s ways. Namely the condescending and arrogant ways. I’m going to build on that a bit.

My first ever blog was Sensual Dementia which had a little tagline that said something like “Thoughts from a condescending prick of a husband.” That label was pinned on me when I lived in the iVillage, and I resented it at first but ended up totally embracing it. That label was given to me by none other than Satan! To be perfectly honest I was a condescending prick. I still have a lot of that prick within me that comes out often enough. This is one reason why XH has a capacity to rile me in ways few other bloggers can. It takes a prick to really appreciate the prickishness of another one! XH and I connect in a wierd sense of similarity and commonality but we also have some sharp differences of opinion. Our capacity to get along and be civil to each other hinges on our ability to handle those differences. I have to be able to recognize that despite our eerie similarities, we are different people. We are not the same and it is entirely possible that two intelligent people can look at the exact same thing and come to entirely different conclusions. That is a very important key, here. So even though I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on all of his theology, we can still get along without getting all flamey. It’s not as easy as the rest of you might think. I have a natural penchant for flaming and used to use it on Usenet all the time. Alt.flame could be a pretty fun place. I give him some credit for helping me grow out of that a bit more. I don’t have to respond to what he says if I don’t want to; I can walk away.

In XH’s particular denomination there is an emphasis on uniformity which they incorrectly define as unity. However XH has differentiated himself from his denomination in some very significant areas, namely with his sense of history and his take on creeds He also has maybe a half dozen other areas where he might not agree with the original founders. He’s opinionated to an extreme and isn’t too afraid to throw those opinions out.

So what does this have to do with why his wife won’t trust him with her feelings?

Everything. I know this because I can now see the sort of damage I’ve done in my own marriage by carrying on in exactly the same way. This goes beyond pop psychology, but into reality. And I’m all about reality.

XH’s blog relationships can serve as a bit of a model for what is happening in real life. The first time I handed him some criticism, he turned off his comments, flushed his blogroll and got royally pissed. I was seriously worried he might go dark over it! But given more time to think, he reconsidered.

Why did he do all that? It’s because he was hurt and he didn’t want to be hurt again. He still doesn’t want to be hurt again so he has taken another tact tthat I know really, really well because I’ve used it more than once.

In his Intimacy post, XH mentions his feelings about his wife’s particular intellect which I thought was gutsy. It was that point where a few people might take exception. And we can see how he does this in the blog world.

When it comes to theology and religion, XH looms very, very large. He knows the Bible, Bible history and Christian history probably better than anyone else around the neighborhood. He’s an intellectual heavy weight and this is how he fends off attacks. I’m sure this is not a conscious decision, but I feel pretty confident that it works. I’ve gotten more than one private email from people who are cautious about commenting on a religious post because their ideas might get him riled up. They are afraid to challenge him and afraid of being challenged by him. I admit that I often measure my words against the thoughts and response of an opinionated and zealous XH, who is passionate about his faith.

Thing is, I have the exact same problem. Not just with my wife but with other members of my family. Over the holidays, my mother shared that my brother and sister are often afraid of my intellectual sharpness. My words have the ability to cut deeper than I ever realized. It’s not about being abrupt, rude and vindictive so much as it is about being careless and casual. Like XH, I often assume people know things that I know and see things as I see them. When they don’t, I act surprised because I am surprised! I’m not intentionally trying to be mean or make others feel small and stupid, but it surely happens all the time. People get around me they feel really dumb. And sometimes I really do think some people I’m around are really dumb.

While it isn’t overt, it really does function as a defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense, and having a razor intellect and whip-like tongue can mask a lot of insecurities and other psychological deficiencies. This is why XH’s theological posts get very few comments while posts on his relationships garner so many. In his relationship posts, we are all on equal ground. He shows his weaknesses with honesty and others see his vulnerability and jump in. Not with accusations or flames but with support. Spiritually, he does have an arrogant swagger. Emotionally, he’s like the rest of us. If he wants more comments on his theological posts, he should quit being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. Show a bit of vulnerability there, quit acting like the fellow with all the answers and stop sounding like a pharisee. Find a theological question he doesn’t know the answer to and ask others about it.

All of the above only apply if he wants comments or friendly responses. Otherwise, a body writes and puts stuff out there regardless. I’ve got a butt load of posts about psychology on the Blogger version of UA that have few or no comments. I just like having them there and sometimes people come ’round years later and comment. While I like comments, I’m okay not getting them on every post. I just move on. Stepmania post, anyone?

So let’s get back to “self” for a minute and talk about how that fits in to this whole thing.

Like XH, I also see much of psychology having a very “selfish” orientation. Within the Freudian Psychodynamic perspective, it’s all about a person’s past unresolved conflicts. No room for God there. With the cognitive perspective, it is our own false beliefs and irrational thoughts that make things get unglued. With behaviorism, it is all about contingencies of reinforcement. None of the psychological perspectives have any acknowledgement whatsoever of sin and the need for redemption and salvation. No need of a Savior or an acknowledgement of God. It’s all about healing ourselves and becoming our own little god and saving ourselves from our own misery..

That’s not to say there are no truths in psychology. Studying it can be very beneficial in understanding human behaviors and emotions. But relying too much on it can result in losing perspective. The science of emotion and behavior is a worthwhile subject of study but not to the exclusion of others. I get where XH’s suspicions come from. I share much of his skepticism. But differentiation is not the same as individualism or existentialism. It has some similar ideas but isn’t married to a human construct of godlessness.

The problem XH has with his wife is derived from his problems with God. The lack of intimacy he shares with his wife is a mirror of the lack of intimacy with God. Both reflect a poor understanding of differentiation, nevermind its application. And keep in mind, XH and I share a similar psychopathology. We both want intimacy but we’re doing stuff that shoots us in the foot. It was by looking at how XH was coming across that made me realize where I was doing the same sort of stuff. Much of it has to do with being arrogant and being a condescending prick. Even if I don’t mean to be, I need to be more measured and conscious of what I’m doing and saying. I need to take some ownership of my own intellect and then realize that it really isn’t all that. In a sense, XH handing me my rhetorical ass on a plate has been instructive.

Being intimate with God means working past the tendency we have of see God as a being who is constantly and forever offended by everything we do. We do a lot of offensive things, to be sure. However we’re not going to get anywhere if we are forever on guard about offending Him. Who wants to walk on egg shells 24/7? This is how XH’s wife, Z, feels about XH. She can not open up to him because he will find fault with what she says and does. He will become self righteous in defending the faith. She isn’t allowed to have her own individual preferences without risking offense so she puts up her own defense. An intellectual defense against XH would take a lot of energy as he’s so formidable that way. So she uses an emotional one which is working exceedingly well.

Differentiation is about realizing that two married people are not in the same boat. They are still in separate boats, trying to act like they are in one. When someone else tries to steer my boat, they are being controlling and manipulative. When I’m steering both boats it is called togetherness, cooperation and unity! Invoking that whole Biblical submission theology is going to reap a cold dryness that will rival any polar ice cap in the solar system. You can not compel and force authentic intimacy by rules, force, intimidation, threats or any other way.

XH has all the mechanical elements of a fulfilling sex life. By any objective measure, he should be thrilled! He has frequency, he has techniques, he has a variety of activities and a wife who swallows. What the hell is he complaining about? He’s not getting intimacy. One can get all the sexual activity requirements from any hooker, but intimacy is something that can’t be purchased at any price. It is only bought at the expense of self, but not quite the way XH would have us believe in his “self” post.

There is a paradox coming up, and I know some people are going to have a problem with it. Rule-based people who are rigid get very constipated when there is a paradox lounging around. But here it is…

You are only going to be able to connect intimately with another when you are properly differentiated. The level of intimacy one has is directly proportional to the ability to deal emotionally with the differences. If one goes ape shit over some little issue like theology, how can I trust them with my heart? I can say the stuff I do here because I’m anonymous. But how do you stay anonymous in a relationship like marriage? You can’t do it. You can try to create emotional distance but the other person will know you more than you want over time. So you try to deal with differences by trying to eliminate them or acting like they don’t exist. Emotional fusion is when we try to eliminate differences through uniformity. We insist on conforming tothe standard. Whose standard? Well, the man’s standard of course! That’s because he’s conforming to God’s standard, which is the Bible! So we need to squash and press out any differences so that we are a nice, smooth, uniformly united couple. It’s a struggle to maintain that facade while we’re at church and I’ve met a few couples that couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t. Now imagine keeping the hot iron on every day all day.

Differentiation is about allowing the other person to have their own feelings and opinions without feeling threatened and anxious. XH gets his panties in a wad when I write something he sees as rifled with theological errors. Actually it’s probably not true emotionally, but intellectually he feels compelled to correct the error which he does thoroughly and completely. Which compels me to fix his errors! All done in love, right? It’s no way to run a marriage. Or at least a happy marriage.

Thing is, Z isn’t all that different from XH. We always pick someone with whome we are evenly matched. Z does have some sharpness of her own that was demonstrated all too briefly on her own blog. Just look at the title of it! There is a synergy there that is actually inhibiting their intimacy. Two people with their own unique brand of arrogance and condescension trying to live together. They have amazingly pulled this off but the price has been their intimacy. When their intimacy increases their arrogance will suffer. Not a bad thing but they will suffer for it.

This last paragraph is a real tail twister, because it sets up a bit of a dilemma for XH. I stuck it in there as a manifestation of my own sadistic nature, which oddly enough is covered in the next chapter in Schnarch’s book about the two choice dilemma and marital sadism.

I might extend this post out later but let’s see where it goes on its own.

D.

That didn’t take long.

While musing about the Christian Husband (XH for those who have yet to figure it out) thing I had another thought that plays directly to his “Self” post.

A while back there was some sort of meme going around and it asked something like “Could you live with a replica/copy/clone of yourself?” My answer to that is a definitive NO! I know this only because I see XH as my evil twin and he is bad enough as it is without being an exact copy. In our little community, he and I get into spats as much as anyone else. While this disturbs people in our peaceful, virtual Utopian world, I see that it is kind of necessary.

At the risk of blunting my sadistic side shown above, I have to say I’ve learned a thing or two about self growth through these heated exchanges. I’ve had to confront my less angelic side as well as acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. Using XH as a sort of reflection, I can say that I don’t like myself very much. I don’t like upsetting myself, I don’t like it when I make myself angry and I don’t like it when I see myself upsetting other people. I don’t like my pride and arrogance. I don’t like my condescending prickish self. I really, really loathe all that. But here’s the fact jack: I have to live with myself. I can avoid and move away from every other person on the planet except myself. My own sinful nature is right there, all the time, 24/7. Pretending it isn’t there means I end up fobbing off all my faults and insecurities on to other people. I cause pain to other people. I treat other people like livestock because I’m not dealing with my issues.

For example, there is the smoking issue. Bad, bad, bad, bad. Not much good about it. Except I like it and it helps medicate my pain and anxiety. That excuse of self medicating is a crutch I use to avoid dealing with my own shit. I blame Arwyn for causing my anxiety and thus my smoking. Arwyn hates my smoking. But I smoked before we were married, so she knew she was marrying a smoker. She had regular sex with a smoker: me. She refused to have sex with me when I stopped smoking. Smoking isn’t her issue. It’s mine. And I gotta deal with it without blaming her for it. I smoked before I met her and would continue if she left me today, using that anxiety as an excuse.

I’m confronting things on a lot of levels at the moment that I might rather not. But the conflicts are what have been driving me. Differentiation is a matter of introspection and integrity and not about selfishness. Denial and selfishness are all about fusion, manipulation and control of others. Whenever we try to become fused together through uniformity it is always at the expense of others. Insisting that others are fools for not using andouille sausage is a lot like insisting that others are fools for playing DDR instead of Stepmania. It basically involves an incursion into other people’s preferences and business. While it references their incompetence it also puts us into a corner where just about anything anyone else does calls into question our own integrity.

Uniformity is insisted upon in the military for a reason. It’s because we need to be exactly the same in order to accomplish a single unique mission: to kill other people before they kill us. Not exactly a model for Christian or marital unity.

D.

RXNs

August 29, 2007

I managed to Hoover up a few more of Finished Last’s blog before it went dark, and it’s a pity he had to take it down. But I do understand as his real life seemingly comes crashing about his ears, one can’t afford to be all sentimental about a blog. I was interested in his posts about his job and family as well as his phenomenal weight loss program. Who sets out and loses 50 pounds in 6 months? That really inspired me to seriously attack my diet and I’m seeing major results. So if yer readin’, FL, tanks!

I just finally had a chance to download that FTN-FADKOG podcast. That was interesting and a bit surreal to actually be linked in a podcast. Thing is, each of them had voices similar to what I would have imagined them to sound like. FTN had a certain whimsical quality to it, while FADKOG had a sexy sarcastic quality that comes through in her writing.

Seriously, I do find sarcasm to be sexy sometimes.

And now let’s get to the premiere reaction post of the week, which would be to Xian Husband’s post “Disfunction.” In it he takes a decidedly pointed jab at various unnamed bloggers who happen to claim to have wives with low libidos and tells them that they need to be real men and suck it up and fulfill their God-given roles as husbands to love their wives just as they are.

My first reaction was to rip the guy’s head off, and take a crap down his neck. Figuratively speaking, of course.

But if one can get past a few of the smaller issues and minor prescriptive over simplifications, there’s some truth to what he says. quite a lot actually. In fact he resonated with his question, “Why are you wanting to have sex so bad, anyway?”

Why indeed! That’s fodder for a future blog post.

I may return to this in a moment, but first I do need to clarify a couple of things. First off, XH has made no secret that he has problems with labeling anyone low libido (LL). He simply rejects the notion that people just might have a temperament that is asexual or perhaps even aversive to sex. This view threatens to undermine all of his credibility since hypo sexual desire disorder is a pretty well known and documented condition amongst those in the medical profession. I call it low libido and perhaps that’s an oversimplification but I do it mostly out of convenience. LL certainly casts a wider net than HSDD.

My Top Ten list is designed to be sort of diagnostic rather than prescriptive. In fact, I rarely offer much in the way of prescriptions for sexual dysfunction because I’m all too familiar with the complexities of the topic. I was on iVillage getting a female perspective (both LL and HL) long before blogging.

When XH suggests that a guy do more household chores in order to obtain more intimacy and affection, this is equivalent to asking the ladies in the same boat to wear sexier lingerie. It’s a bit insulting and a gross over simplification. There is even less cause-effect here than with the lingerie.

One really surprising thing in XH’s suggestions for solving the “imaginary” CL problem, is that he omitted the single biggest thing that contributed to him getting his own relationship turned around. Why he omitted all of the work he put into implementing Harley’s Love Bank principle’s, I have no idea. But it was when he began spending real genuine quality time with his wife that it appeared he was gaining some real traction in his quest for better intimacy.

He suggests loving a wife exactly as she is as the perfect prescription, but again that is not exactly where XH went, himself. Again, he omits his very important decision to sacrifice his sexuality to God in an attempt to draw closer to God. Perhaps these two things happened in tandem, and one would seem to follow the other. I do think his spiritual dedication played no small role, here.

I’m not prepared to discount his entire post,though. I think rededicating ourselves to mutual service (even if done unilaterally) isn’t a bad thing. It’s pretty much what God did for us through His Son.

I think I would be much, much more interested in reading Zanaleigh’s take on this topic. Afterall, she’s in a much better position to talk about when the light bulb went on and what it was, specifically, that began turning things around for her. Was it the extra housework? Was it XH’s selflessness in the face of her selfishness? Was it XH’s steadfast determination and faithfulness in the face of constant rejection?

Perhaps there will be a follow-up to this later.

 

Post edit: Oddly enough, FTN was the only one to really challenge XH in the comments and he certainly would have cause. His dedication towards his wife has made more than one female blogger pretty much swoon or at least become very envious. And most of us guys feel fortunate that our wives don’t read him. Otherwise, XH’s unsolicited advice was pretty favorably received.

This book caught my eye and the title sort of reminded me of XH’s position:

If You Don’t Die to Self, I May Have to Kill You: An Extreme Marriage Makeover

D.

Finished Last

August 17, 2007

Real life often interferes with blogging, especially nowadays. But occasionally I’ll go on a jag where I’ll still explore new blogging territory. New to me, anyway.

I just finished reading a big bundle of posts from a fellow identifying himself as Finished Last. I read the whole sordid “Story of Us” series and decided to go ahead and react to it here. After all, the original concept of Unsolicited Advice was to look at other bloggers and give…er…. unsolicited advice. But I’ll say upfront that I have little in the way of advice to offer at the present time. Sorry about that.

I originally saw the guy commenting on FTN’s blog and tabbed open his and few other folks commenting over there who are not on my blogroll. FTN, comment whore that he is, manages to elicit a fair number of regulars and I had seen that Charlie Brown icon on several occasions. So when I went over there I landed on the last post of his series and it didn’t take long for me to see that I wanted that entire story. I’m an avid consumer of other people’s drama. So I copied and pasted all 11 of those posts (31 pages) into a word document so I could read on my PDA while lying on the couch.

As I read from the beginning, I saw some similar themes that I saw with Xi Summit‘s story. At least at the beginning. But remember that I’m reading this series from beginning to end without any other entries in between to color my perception. What I ended up with was a story that contained more and more surprises as I moved along. It’s a good read that also gets quite painful as it moves from young idyllic college life to the stark realities of a marriage cascading towards disaster.

It is written with some biting honesty. Finished last often cautions readers that his wife, E will look unfavorably early on, even as he goes into the telling of how he eventually loses respect for her. While it is true that E does look a bit like an angry shrew at times, I came away feeling more pity for her than anything else. So he succeeds in balancing his story sufficiently as to buffer her from too many ill feelings from at least one reader while making me believe that I’m lucky not to be married to such a person!

I’ll have to dig around in his blog some more to see what other treasure’s lie within. Without having read anything else by him (other than comments to FTN) I am left with some question. The biggest issue that looms largest in my mind is his spiritual story. I followed the progression from Christian school to Christian college and the to youth pastor. Then when he went into teaching at the Christian school I sort of got lost until he eluded to the effect of his affair on his church as its pastor. That was a bit of a jolt that brought new perspective to things.

I’ve written extensively about my growing unease with the institutional church. What the institution does to its pastors is…well….sinful. Pastors often are without close friends, and if they struggle with any kind of addiction, hang-up or even have marital problems, the congregational sheep often turn into vicious rabid creatures akin to the rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie.

So Finished Last has had to endure his greatest trials and tribulations pretty much alone. It’s no wonder he has faith issues.

Anyway, no advice here except that once he detoxes himself from his present occupation he might be able to better understand the true nature of relationships. It’s something none of us are particularly good at and all have much to learn.

D.

Unsolicited Advice: 2Amsomewhere

July 6, 2007

It has been a long time since this blog has lived up to its namesake.  I have given very little unsolicited advice, but seem to be taking an inordinate amount.  Let’s see if I can fix that a bit.

 

At the top of the list is 2Amsomehwere, whose story is really moving along.  Reading him gives a good view how regular therapy keeps things moving and keeps the pot stirred.  In this case, there are two therapists stirring jointly and separately.  Season this with a generous supply of anxiety and stress over a job change, garnish with some sexual anorexia and you’ve got yourself one hot dish of a read.

 

One issue that 2Am‘s wife (who needs a name, by the way) has been pushing is the whole chronic masturbation and sexual addiction theme.  Most folks reading this will not be a stranger to this topic, covered most extensively by FTN and to lesser degrees by Christian Husband and myself.  Cagedone also has been writing about this more lately.  The husband masturbating has come up a time or two in Tajalude’s and C-Marie’s blogs.   I might as well mention Xi who has mentioned taking matters into his own hands, and who is probably blushing right now.

 

Oh, and it was the central theme of the now-closed Horny Old Guy’s blog.

 

But 2Am‘s case is a good one, because here we have a wife who seems to be preoccupied with his masturbation and sexual acting out, while not wanting to actually have any sex with her husband.  In the case of Xi, me and even FTN, the wives could probably care less if we yanked and wanked as long as it wasn’t hurting anyone or costing lots of money.  However 2Am‘s wife is using it as leverage to guilt and shame her husband.

 

The solution to this is really pretty simple.  And elegant.  Basically, all 2am has to do is get a chastity cage and give the keys to his wife.  Then see what happens.

 

My own experience, somewhat matched by Cagedone, is that a typically LL wife has serious difficulties with this position.  Because the guy is placing his sexuality totally into the hands of his wife, it actually tends to increase the pressure over time.  And we know how much LL people like pressure.  In 2Am‘s case, the result is that her objections over his masturbation is rendered totally moot.  She doesn’t have it anymore.  What’s more, now she has some responsibility as the keyholder towards her husband.  The elegance is that it disarms her while shifting the balance of responsibility and power over to her.  My guess is that she would give the keys back in short order and the whole masturbation argument disappears.

 

But I think 2Am is already preparing to unbind himself from this relationship, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever see it play out.  So much bitterness and resentment is there between them and while therapy has helped him individually, I don’t see it as having helped the marriage or his wife.  As he said, she simply hasn’t bothered to really show up.

 

D.