Signs of Grandparent Alienation

grandparent alienation

If the parents of adult children don’t have healthy relationships with their kids, it can be hard for those grandparents to have healthy relationships with the grandkids. After all, the grandparents have to go through their kids to have access to the grandkids. This can lead to grandparent alienation.

Grandparent alienation is about power and control. The parents have the control. They use the grandkids as instruments to wield it. This can be a way to “punish” the grandparents or manipulate them to do things the parents’ way. Here are some examples that can suggest that this is happening.

  1. Parent withholds or limits contact with grandchildren via phone, Facetime, or face to face.
  2. Creates strict rules around when, where, and how contact can happen.
  3. Ties contact to the parents’ needs or desires, such as babysitting, the child’s need for transportation, or money to pay for something for the child such as school, sports, or other activities.
  4. Avoids including the grandparents in things like holidays, birthdays, or school functions.
  5. Parents don’t allow the grandchildren to speak lovingly of the grandparent.
  6. Parents subtly teaching the grandchildren to treat the grandparents poorly.
  7. Lack of appreciation or acknowledgement for the grandparents’ positive influence in the grandchildren’s lives.
  8. Criticizing the grandparents in front of the grandkids.
  9. Lying to justify the parents’ behavior.
  10. Blaming.
  11. Telling the grandchildren about adult issues that don’t concern them.
  12. Refusal to have a conversation based on the issues.
  13. Ignoring the grandparents.
  14. Grandparents feel that their child is “brainwashed” by the spouse.

This is unhealthy for all parties. Although the grandparents love their grandchildren, many disengage because they fear that the damage to the grandchild is made worse by their involvement. There is no one size fits all solution to this problem. If this is impacting your family, you may wish to speak to a therapist to find your way through it.

Healthy Boundaries for Grandparents

healthy boundaries for grandparents

It’s holiday time! Lots of stress can happen when expectations are high, time is short, and buttons are pushed. Old family issues can rear their heads making this an unpleasant time for some people. Here are some guidelines for healthy boundaries for grandparents that may help.

The Parents Rules are Your Rules

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That means that the parents get to decide what are the rules for their children. Consistency matters. It helps to create stability. So, defer to the parents when it comes to bedtime, diet, discipline – everything. This doesn’t mean you have to ask how to do every little thing. Observe how the parents do things and keep the rules the same when the kids are with you. It shows respect and confidence in your kids’ ability to parent. This will go a long way with the parents and the kids.

Don’t Pass the Baby!

Times are different. The previous generation did a lot of things that today’s moms don’t do. One of them is pass the baby. Babies have undeveloped immune systems. Passing the baby to many different people can make the baby vulnerable to infections. Let people admire the baby from afar. If mom wants baby to be held, let her pass the baby to others.

Don’t Ask About (More) Children

Today’s adults are having fewer children or even no children. Trust that if they want kids, they will have them when they are ready. It’s not “wrong” to wait, be childless, or stop at one or two. Infertility is also on the rise. The inability to get pregnant could be a sensitive topic. Avoid talking about it unless the subject is brought to you.

Don’t Let Your Grandkids Run Amok

It can be tempting to be the “good time” grandparent and let your grandkids just run wild. Unfortunately, you don’t have to deal with the temper tantrums later. Kids need discipline. If a child gets away with being sassy, messy, undisciplined, you’re teaching them that’s it’s worthwhile to manipulate and have temper tantrums. It’s much healthier to show them how to make amends, be pro-social, and cope with disappointment.

Don’t Sneak the Kids Treats

Lots of grandparents want to treat their grandkids. Back in the day, that was often done with sweets. Many of today’s parents are more food conscious than in the past. We have a lot more food-like substances and foods with sugar added than in the past. Many people have struggled with emotional eating, too. So parents may not want their kids to associate sugar with rewards. Follow the parent’s guidelines.

Don’t Pump Your Grandkids for Information

Grandparents may be concerned about how things are going. Asking the grandkids for information is not the way to get it. Let your relationship with your children dictate what is shared. Don’t go through the backdoor to get information.

Don’t Use Guilt or Manipulation to Get Your Way

Guilt and manipulation are never the way to improve relationships. They are power plays that create a winner and a loser. If someone loses, the relationship loses. Approach the parents with respect. Allow them their dignity. Respect their power. Parenting is a huge responsibility. They need support. Give it to them.

Assume the Best

People are different. Generations are different. There are bound to be differences in values when it comes to how your kids are rearing your grandkids. Assume that the parents want the best for their kids and are doing their best. Unless the kids are being abused or neglected, it’s all going to be okay. Even the most well-meaning parents make mistakes. Most of us turn out okay.

Grandparents can assume that being a grandparent gives them certain privileges and rights. When children grow up, they become sovereign beings who guide their own lives. They may decide that their rules for themselves are different than those that they were brought up with. That’s okay. Everyone is healthier and happier when their boundaries are respected.

When Is It Time to Walk Away From Your Relationship

walk away

Relationships are tough! It take a lot of bravery to enter into one and even more to walk away. So how do you know when it’s time to walk away?

Why Relationships Are Hard

Relationships are hard because we tend to be drawn to those who fit our into comfort zone. We like people who inspire us to be our highest and best selves, love us the way we want to be loved, and help to maintain our shadows. This last piece keeps us in our dysfunction unless we grow. And if we do grow, then that person is no longer a match.

For example, if our pattern is to find comfort in taking care of others, we choose partners who need that care. If we feel inferior, we may choose a partner who puts us on a pedestal. If we have a lot of shame or guilt, we may choose someone who either validates that by putting us down or someone who accepts us as we are. Either way, the partnership keeps us in our shadow.

When we begin to grow, if our partner isn’t growing with us or in the same direction, we grow right out of the dynamic that brought us together. So, it can often feel like we have to choose between what’s in our best interest vs. what’s in the interest of the relationship. If we choose the relationship and stay the same, a part of us dies.

When To Walk Away

So, when is it time to walk away? Well, there is no right or wrong answer. What is “right” for one person won’t be right for another. It’s not black and white. So, the guideline is to know yourself. Know what your deal breakers are. They are times when the cost outweighs the gains. Here are some possible deal breakers.

Safety Issues

I put this one first because I hope that we all agree that where there is no safety, there is no relationship. I refer to physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. We all have a right to sovereignty. Our bodies are a sanctuary. Our thoughts and feelings are also precious. They are ours. We have a right to them. If they are invalidated or violated, we cannot thrive. We all owe it to ourselves to choose situations that allow us to be our highest and best selves.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that our partner agrees with us or caters to us. It does mean that we are free from harm, coercion, and judgment.

Children Issues

Children are forever relationships. They are non-negotiable. If one of you wants children and the other doesn’t, it’s a deal breaker. Forcing someone to parent who doesn’t want to parent is a recipe for disaster.

If you already have children and the children don’t accept the new partner, the relationship will endure unbearable stress. You may be able to help the kids feel more secure in time. So, this could be more of a “let’s slow down” thing than a “we need to break up” thing. If the children perceive it’s a choice between them and your partner, someone is going to lose. It’s best for all if things move at a pace where everyone can feel loved and like they have a choice.

If your partner’s ex makes co-parenting with you impossible, that could also be a long term hassle that is just not worth the cost.

The other common issue with children is when partners have a radically different parenting style. Believe it or not, money and children are the top two reasons that couples argue. When one is too lax and the other is too strict, this can be a deal breaker. Parents care about their kids. They want them to be healthy and happy. When parents have different ways of achieving that, it can feel invalidating.

In-law Issues

Compatibility is a balance between sameness and differences. The things that are the same provide us with a foundation for commonality. Our differences keep things exciting so that we grow. Compatibility looks at things like socio-economic status, age, religion or spirituality, education, intelligence, recreational preferences, political ideology, sexual likes and libido, etc.

Unfortunately, one of the things we often overlook is our families. We say, “I’m marrying you, not your family” when in actuality, it’s a package deal. We might get away with not seeing the in-laws often, but if there are kids, the in-laws become aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are now a part of their lives and your family. If they are inappropriate, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, or have radically different ideas than you, you can only go so far away. Separating your partner from her family isn’t a reasonable request. Separating yourself from your partner’s family isn’t very unifying either.

Addiction Issues

If we’re creating a trend, it’s “deal breakers are anything that make you choose between yourself and something or someone else.” In this case, it’s addition. Lots of people in a relationship where their partner has addiction issues say that it’s like having another person in the relationship. The person with the addiction seems powerless over it. So you never know when the next shoe is going to drop. Maybe the next surprise is a financial hit, an affair, a medical issue, or a legal one. It often feels like a betrayal. You know it’s coming, but you don’t know when, what, or how. So, it’s like waiting to exhale.

Dishonesty

There are all kinds of ways to be dishonest. They range from telling withholding the truth, telling “white lies”, half-truths, bold face lies, and gaslighting. (Gaslighting is deliberately manipulating to make the other person question their sanity). Relationships are based on trust. Anything short of honesty undermines trust.

It takes two to tell the truth. One to speak it and the other to hear it. If the fall out for telling the truth is not worth it, then perhaps the relationship is not healthy enough to sustain itself. It’s like a choice between “Am I going to maintain my integrity for me, or am I going to sacrifice it to stay in this relationship?” And if you choose the latter, is it a relationship that you want to be in?

Works in Progress

We’re all works in progress. We make mistakes. All relationships go through growing pains and challenges. Sometimes we go through period of the problems above and we can work it out. Sometimes we compromise our integrity or comfort for a while out of love for our partner. That’s not a bad thing. Commitment is often lacking in our modern world, so it’s commendable. Only you can choose when enough is enough.

If you’re going through this process, I suggest you ask, “What is staying costing me? Is this a price I am willing to pay?” Then proceed mindfully. Accept the consequences and cost. Look at the growth opportunities for you and allow the situation to take you out of your comfort zone and into a healthier place. Whether you stay or go, you will come out healthier, so it’s a win/win.

 

Why Defensiveness is a Relationship Destroyer

defensiveness

If someone says something that we perceive as “You’re bad,” we generally respond in one of two ways:

  1. You’re even worse (attack).
  2. No, I’m not! (defense)

Both of these are relationship destroyers. Most of us know that attacking leads to fighting and away from connection. In this article, I will discuss why defensiveness is a relationship destroyer. I will also let you know what to do instead.

When two people are connected, they play off each other. If you zig, I zag. So, when someone gets defensive, it puts the other person in the position of being the attacker – whether they actually were or not. Both attacking and defending sends the message, “You’re the bad guy!” This sets up the hero, victim, oppressor triangle. There are no winners here. This pattern can last forever with no forward movement, only hurt for all players.

So what do you do instead? Here are some skills to help.

Observe

The first thing that has to happen is that you notice that your buttons have been pushed. When our buttons are pushed, that alerts us that we have buttons. Buttons are growth opportunities. It’s not about what the other person did or said- even if it truly was hurtful. It’s about how we responded to what they did or said that made us vulnerable. So this step is about noticing that we were tweaked and now we’re in a vulnerable position.

Take a Moment to Pause

Slowing down gives us a chance to respond with thoughtfulness. Our impulses may get us in trouble. Take your time. Step back and breathe.

Achieve Clarity

Think about what really happened. What observable data do you have? Are you jumping to conclusions? What does this situation look like if you remove all the judgment? If you are unsure of what you heard, saw, or interpreted, ask for clarification.

Be Effective

When choosing your next move, be effective. What is your big-picture goal? For many of us, our immediate goal is to feel safe again. This is why we attack or defend. Resist that impulse and lean into the problem. If your big-picture goal is to retain connection with this person, think about what will get you there. Think about the data you just got from getting clear.

Did this person really communicate that you’re a bad person or was that your past training creeping in? If this person really did attack you, was he playing out some past issue? Can you bring it back to the real issue? If you feel safe enough to do this, go vulnerable. It’s a really easy way to neutralize conflict when you’re dealing with someone who cares about you.

Let’s look at an example to make this more clear.

Guy: Are you wearing that?

Sheila:

  1. Look at what you’re wearing! You’ve got some nerve asking me about my wardrobe. You’re not exactly fashionable yourself. (attack)
  2. What’s wrong with what I have on? Are you calling me fat? (defensive)
  3. Yes, I love this outfit!
  4. Oh! Do you think it’s not a great choice? I really care about your opinion. What prompted your question? I feel pretty when I wear this. It’s one of my favorite outfits.

Do you see the difference? The first two are probably going to lead to hurt feelings. The third doesn’t show any signs of buttons being pushed. It’s assertive and creates no conflict. In the fourth, a button was probably pushed. It acknowledges the hurt feelings, asks for clarification, and shares the speaker’s perspective. It’s much more connecting and honest than the attack or defensive answer.

Defensiveness is one of the Gottman’s Four Horsemen that predict relationship failure. Chances are, if you have one, you have more than one. If you want healthy relationships, you have to know what kills them and what nurtures them. Removing defensiveness as a coping strategy will help you grow with people instead of away from them.

How to Make Every Date a Success

make every date a success

There is one thing you need to make every date a success. It’s not manners, grooming, a hot body, timeliness, nice clothes, or straight teeth. It’s authenticity. Here is how this can help.

You Know Right Away Whether or Not it’s Clicking

If you are focused on authenticity vs. “Does she like me?”, you are going to be more present in your body. So, it’s not about whether someone likes you, but whether it’s a match for both of you. Your body will tell you if you’re digging the other person. Your body will also tell you if they like you. There is no guessing if you’re present. This is a great time saver. If you eliminate people who are not a great match on the first date, that’s a success! You don’t waste time with people who aren’t what you are looking for or who aren’t into you.

You Start Off With Honesty

Honesty and integrity are components of authenticity. When you display it, there is no game playing. This can make both people more at ease and set the tone for future interactions to be honest, too. So many dates are about trying to make a good impression. We do this by donning masks and being nice. This can lead to disappointment down the road when you find out that your date doesn’t really like ice hockey or Neil Diamond. If you go into every date with honesty, every date is a success because you’re always getting information that can either draw you in closer or let you know it’s time to let go.

Authentic People are More Attractive

Studies show that people who are not afraid to show their quirks and speak their mind are viewed as more attractive. They are also more likely to find a good match more quickly. Perhaps this is because when we don’t feel safe to be ourselves, we keep things hidden, play games, aren’t all that responsive, and keep the other person on edge. So things that might exclude us as a matches don’t show up until we’ve invested a lot of time in someone. When you show up as authentic, your date is more likely to reciprocate. This way you never come into a counselors office after the wedding bells have sounded saying, “This is not who I married.”

Being authentic doesn’t guarantee that every date will end in love. It does guarantee that you won’t end up disillusioned because you’re going into it with high self esteem, confidence, and a willingness to let things be as they are. That’s always good for both people. That’s what I call a success.

Why Your Fairy Tale Romance May End in Divorce

fairy tale romance

Did you know that a fairy tale romance, or soul mate relationship, has a higher chance of ending in divorce? Does that sound crazy? Yes, the National Marriage Project found that people who feel they’ve married their soul mate are 150 percent more likely to divorce than those who do not feel this way. Isn’t knowing right away that he’s The One a good sign? Isn’t the whirlwind courtship a sign that it’s True Love? If this is true, why would soul mate relationships be more likely to fail? Let’s take a look.

Unrealistic Expectations

Those who believe in soul mates often have a lot of unrealistic expectations like:

  • My mate can read my thoughts.
  • I don’t have to ask for what I want. My soul mate knows me inside and out.
  • My soul mate will drop everything to make me happy.
  • We won’t have to deal with mundane problems because love will sweep all stress away.
  • If my partner loves me, she will do everything for me.
  • Our relationship will always be a deep, romantic love fest.
  • Fate brought us together and will keep us together.

All relationships require healthy communication, respect, boundaries, and negotiation. All relationships go through growing pains. This doesn’t make them less loving or real. It just means that we’re all human.

Additionally, all relationships go through a “getting real” phase. This is when real life demands of work, children, family, health, self care, finances, and other day to day matters vie for our time. Our partner cannot be the first priority all the time. Or even if she is, there may not be enough time or energy to be fully present and enthusiastic when in her presence.

This getting real phase also includes relaxing our masks. Maybe we’re more demonstrative when we’re angry. Maybe we let our bad habits show more. If the mask and the real self are extremely different, this can leave our partner feeling that we are not the person that he married. Now we might feel betrayed or stuck. So what do you do?

Get Real

  1. Don’t hold out for the fairy tale. It might seem like the fairy tale is romantic and sweet, but it’s not real and could end up a bigger disappointment than finding Mr. We-Fit-Really-Well-Together.
  2. Take responsibility for your disillusionment. If you want things to get better, accept that you are where you are and do what you have to do to improve them. It doesn’t matter how you got here. Just start from today.
  3. Make yourself happy. It’s not up to your mate to make you happy. You can choose to see the bright side of everything. You can do things for yourself. Any ineffective habits or destructive behaviors can be changed too. When you love yourself and do for yourself, you appear strong and capable. This is usually far more attractive than being needy and dependent. It’s also healthier.
  4. Allow your partner to be who she is. Everybody is different. If your partner needs time alone or needs to be more social than you, giving her that space will help her to feel happier. When she’s happy as an individual, there is a greater chance that the two of you can be happy as a couple. If she needs time with friends, doesn’t like to eat in bed, or really likes to watch a certain show at night, so what? We all want to be respected and have space to do what we want and be who we are. When you try to impose something different, it can lead to resentment.
  5. Be flexible. If you think something is important and it isn’t important to your partner, you may wish to take responsibility for it. For example, if you want the towels folded a certain way, just do it yourself. It’s easier than seeing them done “wrong.” If you like a certain spaghetti sauce recipe, don’t criticize if it’s not to your liking. Communicate what you want or fix it yourself. And do this with a smile.
  6. Never keep score. Doing something nice doesn’t  mean that something is coming your way. Happy relationships do have reciprocity, but not obligations. Once you start expecting things, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

We are all reared on fairy tales. We all want to live happily ever after. Unfortunately that is not realistic. Life always moves in a circle from order to chaos and back again. When you learn how to negotiate those changes and expect them, you have a much greater chance of being happy.

What Boundaries Are Not

boundaries are not

Is it Mercury in retrograde? Holiday stress? The full super moon? I am not sure, and I don’t suppose it matters what is causing the boundaries to be pushed. But you know what? it’s a good thing. It’s practice for strengthening them and making them healthier. You can’t fix what you can’t see.

I’ve already written a lot about healthy boundaries, so this article isn’t going to be about that. This is about what healthy boundaries are not.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Walls

Some people deal with stressful situations by shutting down, pushing away, or making sure that nobody gets close enough to upset you. This is not an example of healthy boundaries. These are walls. With walls, it’s true that no one can get to you, but walls keep everything from coming in. This means that you don’t get love, comfort, attention, or any of the good stuff either. Shutting others out requires that you shut yourself down.

Boundaries are more like fences. You can see out. Others can see in, but you are in control of the gate. This allows for you to have relationships and true human contact.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Rules

Some people set rules for how things are going to be. This is actually pretty good… unless it’s dictating what the other person must agree to in order to have a relationship with you. The only way for two people to be happy in a relationship is if both have a say in how things are going to be. You want both to be free to be authentic and take care of themselves. If your rule is “You must be here when I get home from work,” the other person may have to jump through hoops and do a lot of self sacrifice in order to live up to those expectations.

It’s easier to understand what I mean by “rules” if you have some examples. So here are a few:

  • If I don’t like someone, you can’t hang out with them either.
  • When I get angry, I express myself in ways that you may not like. That’s just who I am. Don’t ask me to change.
  • I’m talking to you. When I ask you something, I expect an answer now.
  • Don’t ask me about my past, my relationships, my thoughts or feelings. It’s none of your business.
  • Don’t bring up topics that you know will make me angry or touchy.
  • Act the way I want you to around other people. Don’t embarrass me or make me angry.
  • I am only possessive or jealous if I like you. You should be glad I care enough to set boundaries.
  • I go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. You have to go to sleep then too.

Boundaries are limitations. They let others know what you want and who you are, but they don’t tread on other people’s boundaries to do so. When my boundaries don’t line up perfectly with yours, that’s when we have a conversation about how we to do things in a way that honors both of us. Without that, one of us will feel disrespected or less important. That’s not the goal. Healthy relationships go for the win/win so that both people can feel great about being together.

Healthy Boundaries Are Not Political Correctness

Boundaries are not about saying all the politically correct things when in the presence of others to keep from upsetting people. Political correctness is a rule that tells you how to behave that may not be reflective of your true nature. So in other words, it’s a mask. This is how people end up in long term relationships with people they feel they don’t know.

It’s true we want to be sensitive. Yet we also need to be honest and true to ourselves. Disagreeing or being different is a part of relationships that can lead to growth, creativity, and deeper understanding and connection. Disagreeing isn’t bad. Being upset is not the end of the world. Simply use it as fuel to go deeper into your truth. When both parties are exercising healthy boundaries, they are both being authentic and empowered. When they are wearing masks to please others, neither is authentic or empowered.

Healthy Boundaries are Not Control Mechanisms

Sometimes people pull the boundaries card in order to control others. That could look like me not wanting to give my partner a chance to speak up, so I shut it down by leaving, changing the subject, or going into hysterics. That’s not setting boundaries. That’s attempting to manipulate the situation to get my way.

Healthy Boundaries are Not a Guarantee of a Happy Ending

Practicing healthy boundaries doesn’t guarantee that you will always be happy. They will guarantee that you are always standing in your power and truth. That’s it. This may lead to unhappy, stressful, or challenging circumstances in the short term. Your self respect and self worth will be intact. This can help you recover from unpleasant circumstances more quickly. This can help you to leave abusive relationships or job situations quickly instead of wasting a lot of time there and slowly becoming beaten down. So even though there is a cost, the cost of not upholding your boundaries is generally larger.

When you are Effective and things don’t go your way, you could feel cheated, like “I practiced healthy boundaries! Why was I not treated well?” Being in a healthy space greatly decreases the drama that comes your way, but it doesn’t make you drama repellant. Others may still be inappropriate or demanding because you don’t have control over how others treat you or what their boundaries or values are. You only have control over your own. Being in a healthy space means accepting that and allowing others to be who they are and have their own experience.

Is it You or Is It Me?

Do you ever scratch your head in confusion and say, “Is it you or is it me?” Of course! We all do. But how do you figure out the answer? Here are some steps that can help.

Get Mindful

If you want to see a situation clearly, you have to remove the things that make it confusing. Getting into a mindful space does that. When you are mindful, you remove all judgments and anything else that you cannot verify. For example, if someone is calling you names, you could notice what labels they are using, what happened before the situations, what occurred, and your feelings about the overall situation. So let’s break this down.

“Sheila” and “Guy” are driving together in the car talking about travel. Guy says the waterfalls in Scotland are the best. Sheila then talks about the spectacular waterfalls in the USA, Canada, and Africa, none of which Guy has seen. 

Sheila changes the subject and asks, “How do I make a bank deposit in the teller line?” 

Guy replies, “You’re an idiot. Nobody makes a bank deposit in the teller line. Why don’t you get in the twenty first century?” (this is the unclear event).

Sheila feels hurt and confused. 

Take Responsibility For What Belongs To You

The next step is about taking personal responsibility. You may not know what is going on in the other person’s head, but you certainly know yourself. Sheila looks at the conversation for her tone and body language. She knows that she didn’t intend to offend, yet she also knows that giving offense is not always intentional. So she supposes that could be a possibility.

She then looks at the words themselves. Her words were her honest opinions. Opinions are never wrong. She didn’t violate any boundaries. Sheila knows that insults are never appropriate. She knows that banking is mainly done virtually now, but tellers still exist, so that’s not wrong either. Her feelings, like anyone’s feelings, are valid. So, she finds no intentional error in her behavior.

Ask for Feedback

The next step is to validate your perception. We can be blind to our issues, so if another person is involved, it’s best to ask them directly about what they perceived to get more information.

Sheila says to Guy, “You seem to be upset with me. Can you tell me what is going on?” Guy says, “I am not upset.”

This is a common scenario. When you can’t get any additional information, all you can do is go with the data that you have. In this case, Sheila doesn’t see anything that she needs to repair in her behavior, so for now her answer is “It’s you.” This could change if more information becomes available, but for now it’s all that Sheila has to work with so the most effective thing to do is to let it go.

But let’s say that Guy’s reply is, “You’re so judgmental and high and mighty. You’re always trying to one up people and show off. That’s why I hate talking to you. We can’t just have a normal conversation without you show boating.” 

Okay, now we’ve got loads of feedback! Guy is perceiving Sheila to be a judgmental show off.

Evaluate the Feedback

Guy is clearly blaming Sheila for making him feel something that is uncomfortable. That’s Guy’s issue. But what is Sheila contributing to that? Let’s take a look.

Sheila stays in her wise mind and removes the judgments from Guy’s statements. She sees that Guy feels Sheila is elevating herself above him. She perceives that Guy finds their conversations disturbing. So she takes a look at that for veracity.

Sheila asks herself, “Is this true?” No, these are opinions, not facts.

Sheila puts herself on the receiving end of the things she says and doesn’t feel any sting. She puts herself in Guy’s shoes (because her perceptions and Guy’s are not the same) and can now see how he might feel this way.

Take Action

Now that Sheila has some more information it’s time to decide what to do with it. Sheila can now see that this is stuff that Guy is projecting on her. In other words, it’s his stuff. If Sheila wants to maintain healthy boundaries and keep the power equal, one way to do that is to do nothing. It’s Guy’s work. Let Guy have it.

The other thing Sheila could do is to be compassionate and realize that while Guy’s perceptions are not her problem, there are things that she can do to make it easier on Guy. If this is a meaningful relationship that Sheila wants to keep, this is probably the best option. This is a tricky one though because if you make a lot of accommodations for other people’s feelings, you could end up people pleasing and being self deprecating. That’s not healthy. On the other hand, if you make no accommodations, it may limit the number of people in your circle because we all want to feel safe.

What accommodations? That depends on the situation. The most effective thing to do would be to ask Guy what would make things easier for him. Assuming that he gives a reasonable reply, Sheila could do as he asks.

In a perfect world, Guy would just say something like, “When you talk about places I haven’t seen, I start to feel inferior. I want to see the world and know things and am impatient to get there.” This would honestly communicate the issue without all the destructive judgment and projection. Honesty is the bridge to intimacy and connection. Sometimes we just aren’t that self aware and don’t feel safe enough to be there.

What Not to Do

Notice that Guy spoke with insults, blame, and judgment. Don’t follow that pattern. It will remove mindfulness from the situation and make it cloudy again.

Notice that when Guy says, “I hate talking to you” he turned his feelings of discomfort into something that Sheila was doing to him. Avoid making other people responsible for your feelings. They may be doing something, but they don’t cause you to do or feel anything. You do that.

Don’t assume. Guy assumes that Sheila talking about the waterfalls that she likes is a way to one up Guy. In Sheila’s mind, she was just sharing her joy. If you are not sure what’s happening, ask. The view always depends upon where you are standing. Even if what you think has been the pattern five times before, today could be different. When you stay present in this moment, you create opportunity for it to be different.

Be flexible, but don’t be pressured into accepting compromising your values, integrity, or desires. When Guy says Sheila is an idiot for wanting to make an in-person bank deposit, there is lots of evidence to support that people really don’t do that anymore. Times change. Still this doesn’t make Sheila an idiot for wanting to do that. (See bandwagon fallacy). Doing something different is just a preference. It really doesn’t say anything about Sheila at all. If we were talking about values or integrity, it would be really important to Sheila’s self esteem to keep those things however.

When something happens that leaves you feeling confused, it’s always useful to ask, “Is it me?” Life is always giving us opportunities to grow. If you never ask the question, you will limit yourself. So ask the question. Then use the information to move from confusion to clarity.

 

 

Is this Sexual Activity Okay?

sexual assault
If a topic appears on my blog, it’s almost always because it is about something I’ve seen repeatedly, said repeatedly, or been asked about repeatedly. With sex becoming more and more casual, there is a lot more grey area about what is and what isn’t appropriate. I hope that this article clears some of that up. If I’ve gotten something wrong, haven’t been specific enough, or left out something important, please comment below. It’s too important a topic to keep quiet about.

Is this  sexual activity okay?

  • A seventeen year old male and fourteen year old female engage in oral sex with both parties agreeing.

No. According to AgeofConsent.net, the legal age of consent in Virginia is 18. However, Virginia has a Romeo and Juliet clause that says that people aged 15 to 17 or 13 to 15 are exempt. These teens are too far apart in age to fall under this exemption.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • A 19 year old male and 17 year old female in Virginia have sex with both parties consenting.
  • A 22 year old female teacher has sex with a 17 year old male student. Both parties consent.
No. The legal age of consent in Virginia is 18. A legal adult cannot have sex with a minor even if the minor consents. This is considered statutory rape, meaning that it’s prosecutable because the law does not allow the minor to consent. The law is the same for males and females.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • An adult female prisoner and adult male prison officer have sex with consent on both sides.
  • An adult female singles out a young, inexperienced male at a party. He’s not interested. She gets him drunk. There is no force, but he’s too incapacitated to say no.
  • A mentally ill client begins a romance with his case worker that eventually leads to a consensual sexual relationship.
  • A mentally retarded woman agrees to have sex with her landlord for a break in the rent.

All of these are aggravated sexual battery. This is a felony. A conviction will result in one to twenty years in prison because one party cannot consent due to mental incapacity or physical helplessness. That might seen strange in the case of the inmate and the officer, but because of the power differential, the inmate isn’t seen as having the ability to consent.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • Two teenagers are petting. They are in a relationship. They have had sex before. One wants to stop halfway through coitus. The other continues.
  • Two adults into BDSM are “playing rough.” They enjoy this. One is bound and gagged and unable to verbalize the use of the safe word. This partner makes motions to stop, but they go unheeded.

No. This is a violation of consent. Consent is a moment to moment thing. Consent only exists until it doesn’t. Even if you’ve had consensual sex a hundred times, it doesn’t mean you have consent now. Even if you have already begun a sexual act, consent can be withdrawn at any time. Consent doesn’t have to be given or withdrawn verbally. Saying, “I didn’t realize you were serious” isn’t a legal excuse.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • As part of a fraternity initiation, one male is told to perform oral sex on another male. He pulls his face into his crotch with his pants on. About seven other fraternity members are present. They are not drinking. They all laughing and calling it a joke.
No. Using force, threat, or intimidation – even if one party thinks it’s a joke – is inappropriate and illegal.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • An adult step-mother has consensual sex with her seventeen year old step-son. They are in love.

No, for two reasons. The step-son is under the age of consent. Abuse by a step-parent makes this a felony. In Virginia, incest is illegal in all cases, even if both parties are legal adults.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • A visibly drunk female is in a bar wearing short, tight, revealing clothing and flirting with several men. She is followed to her car and held down while a stranger forces her to have sex.

No. This is what some people think that sexual assault looks like. This is rarely the case. Rape doesn’t have to be violent, committed by a stranger, or be done by physical force. Sexual assault is about consent. All you have to do to define it is ask yourself two questions. Have both parties given consent? Are both parties able to give consent?

There are many examples of behaviors that may not be criminal, but are inappropriate. Talking about someone’s gender or body parts can be harassment if they aren’t willing participants in the conversation. It doesn’t matter if one of them thinks it’s just in fun. Subjecting someone to sexually suggestive photographs, cartoons, or videos might also be inappropriate if the person is a child or the behavior is unwanted. Touching, brushing your body parts against someone, or brushing against someone else’s is inappropriate. Exposing private parts is also inappropriate.

Questionable sexual behavior can happen because of a lack of restraint manifested in disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment. This can also be due to lack of awareness. The more disconnected we become from lack of face-to-face contact, the harder it becomes to read nonverbal cues.

If you are the target of inappropriate behavior, provide the person with immediate, direct, concrete, and clear communication about the behavior. For example, you could say, “I do not want to see pictures of naked people. This needs to stop now” or “I really do not want to hear about your sexual experiences. Don’t speak about that around me again.” Your words don’t have to be judgmental or humiliating, just clear and direct. Of course if the behavior is criminal, you could report it to the authorities.

If you don’t know what is appropriate and what isn’t, ask someone you trust. Always ask someone if what you want to do or say is okay before you do it. If someone objects, stop immediately. Remember, it’s about consent.

Why Won’t You Talk to Me?

talk to me

Do you ever want to shake someone and say, “Why won’t you talk to me?” Do you have to repeat yourself? Have you ever wished that your partner, family member, or friend would just pay more attention? This might be one of those times when it’s appropriate to say, “It’s not you. It’s me.” Hear me out.

The Meaning of the Communication is the Response That You Get

Let’s start with the presupposition that the meaning of the communication is the response that you get. So, if you offer a thought or question and you get no response, a “what?” or something other than complete engagement, the problem is that your partner isn’t ready to have that conversation with you. If you want to be effective, you simply wait until you are in rapport to move forward.

In Rapport/Out of Rapport

“In rapport” means that you are connected. “Out of rapport” means you are not connected. If I am sitting on the couch watching tv or working at my desk and you start talking at me, it would be ludicrous to assume that I would hear you or respond because we are not in rapport. I’m not even looking at you!

The problem isn’t that I am not listening, responding to you, or disrespecting you. The problem is that you barged into my mental space without invitation and demanded my attention. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s home uninvited would you? If you want to be in rapport, you knock, wait to be invited in, and then begin speaking.

Rapport Changes Moment to Moment

Now let’s say that we are talking about going to play tennis. Everything is going along fine. It’s animated and happy, then you start talking about your feelings about politics. Suddenly I become quiet and just listen. When you ask me what I think about the latest news event, I am vague and noncommittal. What just happened?

What happened is that we lost rapport. If you aren’t tuned into that, you could keep talking and leave with a disconnected, unsatisfying feeling. Over time this leads to us feeling not so close without knowing why. This happens all the time. The way to avoid it is to pay attention to the ebb and flow of rapport.

Red Light/Green Light

Have you ever played that children’s game Red Light/Green Light? One child is ‘it.” The rest try to grab her. The rules of the game are that the one who is It turns her back to the rest. When she calls “green light” they advance towards her. When she calls “red light” they have to freeze. Meanwhile she turns around trying to catch them moving. If she does, they are out. If she doesn’t they continue to advance until she’s caught.

Staying in rapport is a bit like that game. When we approach, one or both are at a red light state. We may be speaking, but if so, it’s superficial conversation like exchanging “Good morning.” This is safe conversation that is usually not going to upset anyone or ask anything of anyone.

“How are you?” may be an invitation to a green light. If you get a “Fine, and you?” in return, that’s still a red light. It’s still superficial. This means, “I’ll be polite, but don’t probe.” If you get something like, “Man, I can’t believe the morning I’ve had, and it’s only 9:30!” This person is at least at a yellow if not green. This means, “Talk to me about more than pleasantries. I am willing to share.”

If you want to have mutually satisfying conversation, you’ve got to obey the street sign. When both people respect each others’ level of engagement, communication is generally clear and connected.

Hitting a Red Light

Everyone is different. We all have different communication styles. We have different levels of openness. So, despite being sensitive to being in rapport, you may still hit red lights more often than you’d like. What do you do then?

The first thing is to back off. You don’t want to pursue a line of conversation when it’s clear that the other person isn’t engaged. Backing off could mean that you stop talking, change the subject, tactfully leave the room, or something like that.

It’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what you think about why you’re getting a red light. If you think, “I am more important than that video game and you will give me your attention now,” you may get their attention, but you won’t have rapport. You’ll likely have an argument because you’re creating a power struggle. Demanding rapport doesn’t really work.

If it’s a topic that has to be discussed, you could deal with the underlying emotional need that is creating the red light. For example, let’s say I am want to discuss borrowing your bike, and every time I bring up the subject, there is a disconnect. I could ask myself, “What might make this easier to talk about? Or what could be creating this block?” My next move would either to be to do something that I think would remove the block or ask about the block. When done effectively, this usually leads to a green light.

Why It’s Important

This is really important stuff because without being in rapport, we go through life talking at people. Loneliness is rampant. Being in rapport creates connection. It deepens affection. It facilitates problem solving and leads to greater feelings of happiness. It’s the difference between being tuned into life and tuned out. The other big benefit is that it keeps you from wasting time with people who aren’t interested in connecting with you. You won’t have to ask if you’re being friend zoned or dealing with someone with intimacy issues. You will know.

Keep in mind that people are entitled to their boundaries. They don’t owe you their attention. It’s a gift. When you approach it in this way, conversation usually gets better because people can feel your intentions. If you are honoring them, they generally want to reciprocate. So it works out as a win/win. If you wonder, “Why won’t you talk to me?” try these strategies and let me know how it goes.