alfreddepew

Posts Tagged ‘couples’

The Parents’ Drinking Problem, Guest Post by Pearl Mattenson

In couples, Family, Parenting, Realtionship on December 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Pearl Mattenson, PCC, ORSCC

He comes home from a long weekend at a friend’s house. He is a senior in high school. At 17, he is able to drive his dad’s car, which he had borrowed for the weekend. Walking in the door, he gives his mom a hug and helps her out with a project.  They catch up on the events of the past few days. His mom asks,

“So was there drinking going on?”

“Yeah”

“Did you drink?”

“No”

Several hours later the mom happens upon her son’s Facebook page left open on her computer. She learns he had been drinking beer. She learns he threw up.

——————

I am so tempted to end this story here and ask: How would you handle this?

But I will share with you what his parents did. Some of these things happened immediately. Other reactions happened in the days following the revelation as they considered their response and reached out to others for advice.

  • They calmly sat him down and asked for a full accounting of the truth, “The whole truth this time.” They asked him what he was thinking when he made the choice to drink. “These were my best friends. I had never drunk beer before. I thought they wouldn’t let me get into trouble or make a fool of myself.” They tell him that if he had to drink, that was actually good thinking.
  • They asked him why he lied. “Because I was so scared of how mad you would get.” They told him they were far more upset about his lying than about his drinking. They expect him to test the boundaries every once in awhile. And they know that there are likely to be many more occasions in the future when he might find himself in a difficult situation. “We need to know that you can tell us what is happening so we can be there for you.”
  • They asked him what he will do in the future when in the presence of drinking. “I think I won’t drink. It wasn’t a good experience. I feel comfortable saying I am the designated driver or the designated sober guy.”
  • They told him that for the next 30 days he can’t drive the car alone. They also banned the home of the friend who hosted the drinking. They asked their son if he felt this was a fair set of consequences. “Yeah, it is.”

Your turn: What did they get right? What troubles you? What should guide a parent’s response in circumstances like these?

To find our more about Pearl Mattenson and her work, visit her website: http://pearlmattenson.com/

Since feeling is first

In couples, Realtionship, Relationship with Self, World Work on October 23, 2010 at 12:53 am

Painting, acrylic on paper: Untitled, 2007, Alfred DePew

(Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

Canadians often put me in mind of Dorothy Parker’s quip about Katharine Hepburn, who, she once said, “ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

Some weeks ago, at dinner with my friend Hal, he said he had been feeling emotional.

“Which one?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“You know—happy? Sad? Pissed off?

“I don’t know—emotional,” he said.

Then we changed the subject.

As North American white guys, we tend to avoid direct expression of feeling in day-to-day conversation.

Unless, of course, the subject is hockey.

And yet, my stiff upper lip has been known to quiver. I have the kind of face that registers everything—worry, delight, perplexity, and suspicion.

I am terrible at poker.

I’ve had to learn about feelings—the hard way, by being tyrannized by them. Had I been born in southern Italy, I’d have had no problem. Or so I imagine. But I was raised in St. Louis, whose dominant culture was Anglo and Teutonic, despite the French name.

At sixteen, I began to suspect that feeling was not just the root of the problem but the problem itself. My first therapist was a psychiatrist, a bona fide Freudian analyst of the Viennese School. When he’d ask how I was, I’d say “anxious.” I didn’t have a very wide emotional vocabulary in those days, and I don’t recall Herr Doktor as being much help.

Twenty years and four therapists later, I heard myself say that I’d know when I was ready to stop therapy when I no longer had any feelings.

Then I laughed. So did my therapist. It was our next to last session.

What had brought me to that fourth and final therapist was grief. When my father died, I was overwhelmed, nearly paralyzed. My father and I were not close. It didn’t make any sense. It was wholly irrational. And yet, as I came to see, grief had its own kind of logic. My friend, the poet Anne Rubicam Witten, pointed me to Gilgamesh, Innana, Persephone, and Orpheus—stories about the decent to the Underworld. Stories that acted as a map in this new territory of grieving.

Therapists could only take me so far. For the rest, I needed the poets.

Robert Bly used to talk about the grief at the core of the male psyche. He spoke about it as an initiation, the “time of ashes,” essential to the evolution of a man’s mind and heart and soul.

Not that grief is particular to men. My friend Monica insists that at the heart of every silence lies some form of grief.

What Hal chose not to talk about that evening at dinner was his mother’s death and the fact that he’d recently declared bankruptcy.

Emotional indeed.

What then is the language of feeling? Not just one, surely. Proclamations of love. Lamentation. Sidelong comments. Innuendo. Carping. Sarcasm. Body language. A glance. Those looks.

I often work with couples who want more intimacy, better communication, and less fighting. Much of my work involves training them to become exquisitely aware of what  lives in the space between them. Feelings. As they become aware of the impact of what they say and do, they have more choice about how they speak and act in order to keep the relationship space clear.

When I began with one couple, the atmosphere between them was so charged that even an intended compliment could start a fight. Gradually, as they became more aware of how they were interacting and what feelings they were generating, they began trying new ways of communicating—at different times, with clearer intentions, using more neutral language. Then they noticed the impact on their children and how they were treating each other. All this took slowing down and paying attention. Giving themselves time to feel.

Another couple, men who’ve been partners for eight years, wanted to stop avoiding topics they simply couldn’t discuss. So we began with what they could discuss, always pointing to the space between them and what was there. That they loved each other was clear. That the relationship was skilled at any number of tasks was also clear. And so we built on that. Some weeks later during a session, one acknowledged the other, and he began to tear up. A hard place for men, even gay men. He made a joke and looked away. I asked them to pause and invited them to sit with what was happening. In the ensuing silence, they held each other’s gaze, tears in their eyes. This was the intimacy they were seeking to reclaim. A sweet, tender, dangerous vulnerability. And they’d learned to create the safety to experience it.

And what of our relationship to ourselves, the time we give to our own feelings?

All week, I have been busy coaching couples, setting up individual calls with my certification students in Europe, interviewing and assessing new clients. Relationship work. Then all of a sudden I am exhausted. I have stepped over my own feelings of admiration, frustration, impatience, love, envy, and longing.

They clamour for my attention.

So I close the computer, lie down and let everything surface.

After a while, I take my notebook and pen and give myself a half hour to listen and write down what I need to let myself know.

The poem from which I borrow my title is, after all, a love poem by e.e. cummings.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

It’s the thing that flutters up behind the eyes, a movement in the heart before language.

And then … the words to say it.

Vancouver’s Dynamic Duo Produces a Film About Pioneering Couples Work (Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

In couples, Dialogue, Realtionship, World Work on July 5, 2010 at 6:06 am

Hedy & Yumi Schleifer

“Crossing the Bridge,” a documentary film about the work of Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, shows the power of skillful, deep work with couples in the context of a public workshop. What is striking is the level of intimacy, trust, and truth telling. Indeed the courage of the participants speaks to the radical, transformative nature of Imago Relationship Therapy, developed by Harville Hendrix.

On their return to Vancouver after participating in their second couples workshop, Dennis Ewasiuk and his wife, Anne Dobbie, had an idea. To make a film about Hedy and Yumi. The only glitch was that neither Ewasiuk nor Dobbie had ever made a film and had no idea where to start.

That didn’t stop them from approaching the Schleifers with the idea.The Schleifers were delighted; they’d always wanted someone to film them. They set a March date for a workshop in Vancouver. That was in January.

Now what?

Dennis contacted a film producer friend to find out about the process. “He moved the rock and got it rolling,” says Dennis. “He was like a mentor through the whole process.”

Then Hedy called and said she and Yumi had just met a woman in Miami, Robyn Symon, who made documentary films.

“When you have a vision or a goal, it’s amazing how things fall into place,” says Dennis. “I thought, OK, there’s a reason we’ve all come together. Once Symon was on board, the rock really started rolling.”

Symon in turn hired a great crew to film the March workshop, which, as fate would have it, was way over subscribed. “We had to turn people away,” says Anne, “and here we were worried we wouldn’t get even 15 couples.”

“Filming in a hotel space is not like a studio,” says Dennis. “We had to get the permissions and release forms worked out. Robyn wanted to talk to some of the couples ahead of time. Hedy and Yumi explained that people were not coming to be filmed; they were coming to do work on their relationships. Hedy said, ‘not to worry: the stars will emerge.’ And that’s what happened. People were tentative at the beginning. To help things out, we told anyone who didn’t want to be filmed to let us know. We put dots on nametags—20% at first. By noon people had forgotten there was even a film crew there. And in the afternoon, a lot of the dots were gone. In the end, out of 30 couples, only two or three didn’t sign a release form.”

Testament to the atmosphere of trust the Schleifers are able to create.

“They are so true to what they’re about,” says Anne. “They’re honest about their own struggles, and they bring that into workshops. You see them in action. They’re able to help others understand what’s going on and give them tools to move forward. The power struggle is normal, and that’s when many go their separate ways. Their mission is to connect couples.”

“Hedy is brilliant,” Anne continues. “She lights up the whole space.”

“When you learn Yumi’s story, you see his evolution as a partner and as a husband,” says Dennis. “In his 40s and 50s, Yumi was fairly non-communicative like a lot of us men. It was only after he went to a workshop with his wife that he took his engineer’s brain and realized that there was more to relationship than just showing up—you had to work at it. That gives an example and hope to other men.”

As Anne puts it, “Yumi fathers men and women into their best relationship.”

And that’s what happened for Anne and her husband. “At one point, quitting was an option for us,” explains Dennis.  “Now we have tools to work with. It’s no longer about whether or not to be in relationship. Quitting isn’t an option anymore.”

At times, producing the film was challenging for their marriage. The were undergoing a major house renovation and raising two children.  At one point, the four of them were living in a one-bedroom basement suite.

“We had to be strong in our relationship to follow through with this commitment,” says Dennis. “Once we rediscovered and reclaimed the love we had for each other—that was the power.”

“It was a huge creative force,” adds Anne. “We took on something we had no idea about, connected with people through collaboration and vision and belief.”

And the result?  An astonishing and deeply moving film.

Last October, “Crossing the Bridge” won Best Documentary at LA Femme Festival.

To order a DVD of “Crossing the Bridge,” visit: http://hedyyumi.org/ctbfilm.html

To find out more about Imago Relationship Therapy, visit: http://imagobc.com/

Dennis & Anne at the film's premier

Imago and Me: A Guest Post by Michael Cohen, psychotherapist & coach

In Realtionship, Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 3:17 am

Michael Cohen

Until I was trained as an Imago Relationship therapist, I never really knew if I was helpful to the couples that came to see me. I always did the best I could to mediate their conflicts and to make sure they each could learn about their role in the problems they were experiencing. Inevitably one person would feel like I was taking sides, even though I made every effort to stay neutral. In conversations with colleagues and in supervision groups, we all shared our frustrations with the couples therapy we were doing.

Seven years ago my partner Dan and I went to a weekend workshop called Getting The Love You Want, http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com/. It was one of the prerequisites to Imago therapist training. Both of us decided we wanted to be trained in this method and there was no better way to begin than to experience it for ourselves.

We were blown away by how helpful it was. We learned so much during that weekend, about ourselves and about the repetitive arguments and frustrations we were having. We also got a really clear sense of what it was that was limiting our intimacy together. We spoke our fears and were able to understand them within the context of our families of origin, or what we had experienced as children. It all made great sense and released a great surge of hopefulness for us.

Now I have been practicing Imago Therapy for 7 years with many couples, and I know that the work is helpful. I see the progress clearly and I am excited to pass along what I know to other people. Imago Relationship Therapy is a very psycho-educational approach. I like to call it relationship training, because for many people it is the first time they have ever been taught the art of and techniques of being in a partnership. Most people come to relationship with very unrealistic expectations and very few skills.

Rose and Shawn were one such couple. They had a perfectly lovely first year of life together, and then as happens, they began to deal with some conflicts. Shawn had been brought up to believe that he would meet a partner who would make him happy, someone who would never disappoint him. He was very invested in that after his childhood, which was filled with disappointments. His mother died when he was 10, leaving him with an overwhelmed father who quickly married a significantly younger woman. Shawn felt perpetually left out of this new family and retreated inside to a lonely and resigned place. When he met Rose, she offered a loving connection and a sense of loyalty that reminded Shawn of none other than his own mother. We call that his relationship Imago, or his unconscious idealized image of love.

As a result of this history, Shawn’s reacted to Rose’s differing needs and separate sense of self by getting frightened, becoming angry and accusing her of being unfaithful to him. He had not made any of the connections yet to his past, as most people don’t, until they begin to take responsibility for their feelings and reactions. Shawn, like many of us, needed safety, support and guidance to make those connections. He needed a trainer, if you will, to help him understand what was happening between he and Rose, and to discover new ways to relate. After some work, Shawn was able to make those connections and to learn new ways to deal with his feelings. Of course Rose had her work to do also. They are still in therapy together and they love the process.

Sometime people come into couples therapy seeking to change their partner. Few things are less productive or more frustrating. In Imago therapy, there is great emphasis placed on learning about and changing you. Some of the questions put before you in the course of this treatment/training are: What is your role in each conflict? What of your past is influencing your reaction to your partner? What are the challenges present for you to become a better partner? What old habitual responses do you need to look at and revise so they bring you what you want? How well do you attune to your partner’s needs?

The creators of Imago, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt have created exercises and useful tools for couples to delve into this rich terrain. Self-discovery within the context of a relationship can be the most valuable of all personal growth.

One of the most helpful tools is called the Intentional Dialogue. It is a method of communicating that allows people to truly listen to each other. One of the foundational beliefs of Imago theory is that the core of most relationship difficulty is that people do not know how to communicate clearly (especially when it comes to feelings and needs) or to listen well. Once these skills are learned and practiced, many couples learn to solve many of their own conflicts by themselves.

Relationship can be so wonderful and at the same time, so difficult. We all need as much support as we can get to make them work well. The best support I have found, both as an individual, and as a therapist, is Imago Relationship Therapy. Check it out, and check out our new website as well: http://www.gaymalecouples.com/.Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have comments or questions. I love talking about Imago and about relationships.