Undermining Your Spouse

This is one of the worst things you can do as a parent, in my opinion.  Unfortunately, I have a spouse who is just starting to see the importance of this idea, now that the kids are in high school and middle school.  I’m afraid that’s a little too late.  Up until recently, it pretty much felt like we were working against each other when it came to parenting.  The only way I can think of that we were always on the same page was whichever parent put one of the kids in time-out would always be the parent to end the time-out.  Otherwise, that turns into a “good parent, bad parent” situation.

At one point we realized that if our daughter came running to one of us complaining about the other, it was just causing us to be mad at each other, so we stopped doing that and let her know that wasn’t going to work anymore.  Some kids are very good at pinning one parent against the other, which becomes a lot easier when the parents are not presenting a united front.

As I mentioned in my post titled “Equal Parenting,” one of the biggest differences in our parenting styles is that my husband is not as concerned with encouraging the kids to do anything that needs to be done as I am and mostly wants to do fun stuff with them.  In my mind, sometimes the fun stuff should be a reward or be earned and not just a given, and sometimes there needs to be consequences for not getting things done.  That doesn’t usually occur to him without me suggesting it, so we are often at odds and are viewed differently by the kids.  This has had a negative impact on the family dynamics in several ways, and I consider it another form of undermining me trying to teach the kids about time management, being responsible, and so on.

If he thinks I will not like the kids having something or doing something, he will actually suggest to them that they keep secrets from me, lie to me, and/or hide things from me.  When they were younger, more than once I had asked him to not have the TV on while I was out running errands because they had already watched enough for the day.  It was more convenient for him to put in a video or turn on the TV, so that’s what he did and then asked the kids not to tell me, or flipped channels when I walked in and saw the kids in front of the TV and tried to tell me he was checking the weather while they were pleading with him to go back to the movie.  I would have rather he be honest with me and explain that he chose to let them watch TV because he had a bad headache or whatever the reason was, and I probably would have been OK with that. Instead, he ended up clearly lying to me in front of the kids, promoting the notion that if you do not like what Mom is asking you to do, just do what you want and lie about it if you get caught.

That’s the problem.  Bad examples end up being set for the kids, it sets the kids up to prefer one parent over the other or behave differently with each parent, and they learn how to get away with things or get what they want from the more lenient parent.  Basically, they learn how to play games and be deceitful.  At least my kids have, even though I have been trying to teach them about the importance of honesty.  Kids need consistency, not only from each parent individually from day to day, but from both parents.  And they also need to know that parents are treating all of the kids fairly as best as they can.  I realize this is difficult to accomplish, but it is much easier when parents have similar parenting styles, beliefs about what is expected and fair, and ideas of what they want to pass on to their children about morals, values, and character.

Up until recently, it didn’t appear as if my husband was the least bit interested in teaching the kids about these things, probably because he doesn’t fully understand what they mean himself.  I only wish I had realized this a lot sooner than I did, but many things didn’t become apparent until we had kids.  I think he is starting to see that not only does he need to step up his game with what he tells them about how they should treat people and behave, but he also needs to practice what he preaches.  Otherwise, they are getting a very mixed message, and they are much more likely to copy what they see, including not listening to or respecting one parent or the other.

I just hope it really isn’t too late in the game for him to have some sort of impact on the kids to make some changes for the better.  I think it’s only fitting that since he is a big part of the reason they behave the way they do, he should have to help “undo” the damage.  Our oldest has called him out on being hypocritical, and it seems they have all been a bit confused by his sudden willingness to back me up on some things.  So it would have been much better if we had been presenting a united front all along.

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.


Holding Back

There are definitely times where I get the sense that someone I am with is holding back and not saying something they would like to express but don’t feel they can or should at that moment.  I catch myself doing this as well with one particular person but on occasion with others as well.  It happens when I am not certain where I stand with someone or aren’t sure how they will react to what I would like to say.  But then later on, I usually wish I had gone ahead and said whatever it was anyway because I’m not sure I will have an opportunity to do so down the road.

I used to keep my thoughts to myself more so than I do now.  I have learned from this feeling of regret that I should speak my mind when I have the opportunity, but I still hold back at times.  It’s that uncertainty that gets to me every time.  I am definitely a pretty straight-forward person who doesn’t play games.  You don’t typically have to wonder how I feel about something or someone because I will usually tell you, although I will do it tactfully when necessary.  I don’t like having to play guessing games trying to figure out where someone else’s head is at, so I like it when other people are the same way with me and just speak their mind, good or bad.

I understand that there may be other legitimate reasons people hold back expressing their feelings, thoughts, or desires, but I want to eliminate the person feeling uncertain of what I will think or how I will feel as a reason whenever possible. Therefore, I try not to hold back my thoughts most of the time.  There are times where I probably say more than I should, but I’d rather err on the side of sharing too much of what I am thinking than not enough.  That way people aren’t making their own assumptions about what I am thinking and feeling, which could be incorrect.  So while I understand the reasons to keep things to oneself sometimes, I wish certain people wouldn’t hold back nearly as often as they do.  That way I won’t need or want to make assumptions about what they are thinking either, or be left wondering.

unexpressed emotions

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.

Being Humble

It seems there are several people I know who need to be the center of attention and have the spotlight on them as much as possible.  They tend to monopolize conversations and talk about themselves a lot.  It is often the same people who seem to need constant recognition for all of their accomplishments, even if it means they need to toot their own horn to get it.  I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, but this gets old after a while.  It would appear some of these people have low self-esteem, probably from being made to feel inadequate.  Thinking about a couple of people in particular, I think this has a lot to do with either being raised in a very critical environment or one that was not very nurturing and loving, or both.

Thinking about other people who are like this, I would say they just tend to define themselves by their accomplishments and not the kind of person they are.  I think this is true for plenty of people who don’t behave in this manner as well.  We are so driven as a society to be the best, to be successful, to make a name for ourselves, to impress others, and so on that we lose sight of what should really be important.  We should not be defined entirely by our cars, houses, clothes, jobs, awards, degrees, salaries, championships, grades, physical appearance, cell phones and other gadgets, projects we’ve completed, or anything else along those lines.  What should also matter is our values, character, morals, leadership abilities, integrity, how we treat people, and how helpful, giving, empathetic, compassionate, and supportive we are.  I have addressed many of these topics and others as well in my various posts.

I would much rather be around someone who has many of these qualities and knows how to be humble than someone who is always trying to make themselves look and feel better by being the center of attention and bragging about themselves and their accomplishments.  What makes you feel like a good person is actually being a good person on the inside without needing to convince yourself or others how great you are.  Your “goodness” should speak for itself.  I can think of a few people I know whose funerals are going to be packed, and they will be remembered for their huge hearts and how many peoples’ lives they touched in a positive way, not what kind of car they drove or how many degrees or credits to their name that they have.  They are wonderful in so many ways yet are so humble at the same time, which makes them seem even greater.  I sure wish there were more people like this and keep striving to be more like them myself.

I’m not saying that our accomplishments and possessions mean nothing, but they shouldn’t be more important than our character.  If you are sacrificing your character in order to achieve success, is it really worth it?  Unfortunately, I think there are too many people who would answer yes to that question because of what our society values.  I am reminded of Albert Einstein’s quote, “Try not to become a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”  That’s some good advice from a smart man.  It is difficult to teach this to my kids though when they are being bombarded by the opposite message in so many other places, but I think I am getting through to them.  Time will tell.

humility

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.

First Impressions

As I addressed in my last post, one of our basic needs seems to be companionship. We want to feel like others want to be with us, and we want to share our ups and downs with others.  Finding a compatible mate is high priority, so much so that we are often very willing to overlook a lot of not so good traits that we shouldn’t be ignoring. When we meet someone, until we really get to know them, our brain creates an image of what we think the person is really like based on our first impressions.  We see what we want to see.  With any luck, we are pretty close, and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out the person has even more good qualities than we first thought.  Very often we are not though, and over time we see the things we chose to ignore, or we discover other traits that we may not like, either.

Part of the problem is that we can all choose what we want others to see, and we can be on our best behavior for a while.  And then it becomes harder to maintain that, or we become more comfortable being all that we really are around that person, thinking they will not reject us if they know the good and the bad.  This would be true for friendships or relationships with relatives as well.  I think it is particularly true for romantic relationships though, because we often allow ourselves to be most vulnerable with those people.

So not only are we looking for more positives than may be there, but the other person may not be allowing us to see all of their shortcomings.  Therefore, our first impressions of someone may be way off base.  It’s easy to look back and see what the red flags were and what we should have paid closer attention to from the beginning. It’s looking forward that’s the challenge.  But that’s what makes life so interesting.  If everyone was an open book and we were all speed readers, then that would take the joy out of reading.  Hopefully, the first chapter of any relationship gets us hooked, and each one afterwards keeps us coming back for more.

expectations

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.

Companionship

What is it that drives us to believe that we are not complete unless we have a companion with whom to share all of life’s ups and downs?  Are we conditioned to believe that we are somehow a failure, not worthy of someone’s love, or cannot be happy if we end up alone, or is it really just human nature that we seek out a mate?  I think it is both.  Most of us grow up looking forward to having a family of our own and are filled with hormones pushing us to find a mate and reproduce.  Falling in love just plain old feels good because of the endorphins that are released in our bodies when we are going through that process.  But then there are the societal pressures and expectations that we should want to find a partner as well.  If we end up alone, there must be something wrong with us.  Who would want to be alone all their life?

We all have different reasons for seeking a mate that we may not realize are part of the equation, including that it is expected of us.  Some people want or need someone to take care of them like mom and/or dad did, some people like to nurture others, parenting is usually easier with two parents, there are financial benefits, and so on. But I think the most prevalent reasons would be that we want to love and be loved. We need to know and feel that we were chosen above all others by our partner and that there is someone who will be there for us no matter what circumstances, who will listen to us, celebrate the good times with us, and help lift us up when things are not going so well.

That’s a wonderful thing for those who can find a companion who is a good match for them and can do all of those things.  For the rest of us, having a companion seems like more of a hassle and not worth the effort and stress.  Some people upon reaching this conclusion go their separate ways while others don’t, and I think it is safe to say that one of the driving factors for that is that staying together in an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship that is causing a lot of stress and tension is somehow better than being alone.  It is the lesser of two evils.  Why is that?  Why are some people willing to put up with so many negative behaviors all to avoid being alone? For some of us, there are logistical reasons such as finances, not wanting to give up time with the kids, and not wanting to be a single parent.  But for many people, these obstacles are not as difficult to overcome, and it is simply a matter of not wanting to be alone. It is difficult to admit that you failed at something, but perhaps the stigma of being alone is just too strong.

Finding the right companion is not always easy, and maintaining that companionship is even harder.  But letting go of a failed relationship might be the most difficult for some.  It is easier to pretend that things are still good than to explain why they aren’t and then have to face the possibility of being alone.  Once someone else comes along with whom you may see a future and the possibility of being alone seems a lot less likely, then things change.  I’ve seen it over and over again all around me, and I have to admit I understand exactly how they all feel.

In a way, it’s too bad there is such a negative stigma about being alone and such a strong need within us to have a companion.  But then again, life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or challenging without the quest to find the “perfect” mate, and there is nothing that quite compares to that feeling when we think that has been accomplished, at least for a while.

2 cats

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.

Vulnerability

Some people have a very difficult time allowing themselves to be vulnerable.  There may be a few select people who they have allowed to see themselves in a vulnerable state, but for everyone else, they have their walls up for whatever reason, or perhaps boundaries that they don’t like other people to cross.  They are uncomfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings, for the most part.  There may be several different reasons for this.

The first and probably most obvious that comes to mind is the fear of being hurt, which comes into play even more so if that person has been hurt in the past.  It may be due to a relationship or two that ended badly or due to losing someone with whom they were very close.  The fear of getting close to someone, only to have that person taken away from you for whatever reason is a strong emotion.  Some people may view being vulnerable as being weak.  I think this may be especially true for some men.

Some people have anxiety over conflict and don’t want to discuss any topics that are touchy and may lead to a heated discussion or argument, so they just keep their thoughts to themselves.  My husband fits into this category.  He doesn’t like me asking too many questions either.  I can tell by his defensive responses that he feels like he is being grilled.  Without him being willing to talk about many things, it has been very difficult to understand his perspective and what he is thinking.  I can only make assumptions, which is never a good thing.  It is one of the big reasons our relationship has gone down the tubes over the years.  His anxiety over conflict has actually caused a lot of conflict, but he has no interest in trying to figure out why the anxiety is there in the first place.  I have a feeling there are too many painful memories that would come to the surface.  That’s another reason some people may not like to divulge too much personal information.  There may be a lot of painful memories associated with what they might share, and they don’t want to think about it or relive any of it.

I believe there is a certain level of trust, closeness, and intimacy that you cannot have with another person unless you allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them.  So I think it’s important to be able to share your thoughts and feelings with people who are most important to you.  This is not to say that you should share every thought that comes to mind at any given time.  There is a time and place for everything.  But if you are closing yourself off because you don’t like having deep and meaningful conversations, you don’t like sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings, and you don’t like anyone else seeing you in a vulnerable state, then I think you are missing out on some special connections with other people.

I actually think it is a stronger person, male or female, who allows themselves to be vulnerable than a person who is afraid to do so for whatever reason.  I have had a pretty strong connection with a couple people in my life so far whom I know don’t let just anyone see the more vulnerable side of them, but they let me see the “real” person that they are, and that was especially meaningful to me.  So don’t be afraid to be all that you really are, even the most vulnerable you, in front of at least some people.  It might just lead to something special!

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.

Mini Me’s

As the kids have gotten older, it has become more and more apparent that my husband, whether he is conscious of it or not, is trying to create “mini me’s” out of our two sons.  It’s pretty typical for fathers to hope their sons show interest in some of the same things they did and want them to root for the same sports teams and things like that.  As a mom, I’m happy to see my kids enjoy some of the same things I did as well, but I am also happy to see them develop whatever other interests they may have. I certainly wasn’t into karate, and I’m not the most athletic person, but I enjoy watching my kids participate in a variety of athletic activities.  I can participate in some of them such as badminton, softball/baseball, and volleyball, but I’m not a racquetball or tennis player, and you couldn’t pay me enough money to put on a pair of skis.  I was more into music, theater, and artwork, and I have enjoyed and supported whichever kids have shown an interest in music and/or art.  None of them have shown an interest in theater so far, and I’m fine with that.  I am not pushing anything on them and am happy to expose them to a whole variety of activities and let them choose what their interests are, and I am right there with them watching as many concerts and games and attending as many art shows as I can.

My husband is a different story though.  Yes, he enjoys watching certain sporting events on TV with the kids and doing certain activities with them, but it seems like he is pushing his interests on the kids and doesn’t show much interest in the activities that they choose to do that are not interests of his.  If he misses a band concert that I videotape for him to watch, he never asks to watch it.  The only sports he ever encourages the kids to try or do are the ones he likes to do.  I’m sure part of it is because he wants to have someone to do those things with him, which makes sense. It’s nice to have some common interests with other family members so you can do some things together.  However, it has become more about what he wants to do and not what the kids want to do.  My daughter has noticed this as well.

Not only does he push his interests on them, but he pushes on them his favorite foods and drinks, favorite brands of clothes and shoes, and even the colleges he hopes they go to, which are the ones he and his siblings went to.  The boys have been talking about going to the college he went to since they were in middle school because he hypes it up so much.  It’s almost as if they’ve chosen the college they want to go to and will find a major that will work instead of figuring out what they want to study first and then finding a college that is a good fit for them.  The only time he shows any interest in shopping with the kids is when it’s to buy them the same brand of shoes or socks he wears or something that’s the same as he uses.

I have tried talking to him about this a few times, but he usually thinks I am upset because they don’t show as much interest in the things I like to do as they do the things he likes to do.  He actually asked once, “What things do you like to do that you would like to see them do?”  He misses the point every time.  It’s not about what I want them to do or what I like to do.  It’s about them figuring out what they want and not brainwashing them into thinking that they want the same things that he wants.  If any of my kids’ interests happen to be something I also enjoy and can do with them or help them learn how to do, great, but I want them to choose their own interests and not make them feel like they need to choose mine.  And the same thing goes for colleges, shoes, clothes, food, drinks, sports teams, and anything else.

If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.