This was on my mind ...

Giving Voice to a Silent Epidemic

No one goes out and gets into a relationship intending on being abused. Yet it is an epidemic. An incredible number of women (and increasingly men) become involved in physically dangerous relationships every year. Part of the problem is that abusive relationships typically develop over time. The behaviors are often incremental. They start out so small that they are hardly noticeable or can be easily explained away. He just grabbed your arm for a second in the heat of an argument and quickly let it go. You can’t see a reason to leave a guy you are crazy about for that reason alone. Sometimes it is a sudden act under pressure that you see as an aberration. She screamed at you about being five minutes late, but, after all, she’s had a tough week. An apology and an explanation usually come with the territory. The apology can be heartfelt and sincere because that is truly how the person feels at the time. Or it could be a well-practiced response learned over time.

I sat on a municipal court bench for eight years and saw thousands of domestic violence cases. Many abusers knew what they did wasn’t right, but at the time they were unable to act in accordance with what they knew because of how they felt. Others felt justified and saw the legal interference as usurping their rights. To them, I was a mouthpiece for an over-active and intrusive government that really did not understand the depth of their spouses’ failings or stupidity.

Sometimes abusers are hard to recognize because signs of their insecurity, which can ultimately cause them to abuse, may come off as romantic in the beginning. He needs to talk to you every hour because he is just that much in love. It is flattering at first but could be a sign that he needs to have access and control, and that usually doesn’t get better. In fact, as he becomes more emotionally invested, it tends to get much worse.

The problem with recognizing abuse arises because it is often a process and not an event. It can start with all manner of minor behaviors and small hints of what might be. One by one, signs appear but each one is apologized for or explained away. There is often a slow, subtle but consistent shifting of blame that occurs from the abuser to the victim. “I would not have done that if you had answered my call.” That presents the victim, who is often by this time in love, with a false sense of the importance of the abusive behavior and the notion that it can be controlled. It’s a small thing, she thinks. He apologized and I can make sure it doesn’t happen again if I answer his calls right away. What gets missed is the disproportionate response to something that is really not important. What gets misinterpreted is that his desire to know where you are is not a function of the overwhelming nature of his love but of his incredible insecurity.

Domestic violence is about power and control. Fear, shame and a sense of helplessness all contribute to making this shadow epidemic underreported. Even if we don’t consider the abusive situations that go unreported, the numbers are alarming. And domestic violence against men—though not nearly as common—is clearly on the rise.

Don’t say it could never happen to you. Don’t think that you don’t deal with the kind of person who is an abuser. Look at the numbers, accept the possibility and make sure you are aware of the signs. Then don’t fool yourself into believing that the rules that apply to the rest of the world do not apply to you.

Here are some of the signs of a potentially abusive relationship. It is not an exhaustive list but it’s a place to start. If anything here sounds familiar or you have other concerns take the next step and the next step and visit a domestic violence website like TheHotline.org.

  • Volatile relationships in the past

If the person you’re with has left a whole stream of messy relationships in his or her wake, take heed. Don’t let him get away with telling you that a restraining order or a domestic violence charge was all the other person’s fault. Also watch for people who have great anger at past partners that they can’t quite seem to let go. If someone she used to date is now afraid of her, you don’t want to take that person’s place.

  • Too much too soon

If you met him on Tuesday and by that Thursday he can’t live without you, that’s not love, that’s unusual. People with great insecurities and jealousy often do that kind of thing. In people like that, it is a precursor to a need to possess—and that you do not need. So keep you antennae up if something like that goes on. Watch to see if in a couple of weeks s/he starts needing to know exactly where you are all the time. Ignore statements like “It’s just because I love you so much.” That’s not true; it is because he is insecure. Get your tack shoes on and hit the road. It only gets worse from there.

  • S/he gets mad easily over small things

Just because someone who gets angry a lot at others has yet to get angry with you does not mean that you are the one person in the world she can really get along with. What it means is that while she is in the process of seducing you, she is focused enough to stay in check. But a hothead is a hothead, and once you are no longer new and shiny, you will not only lose your exemption but you will become her easiest target.

  • S/he tends to blame others for his or mistakes and problems

If the person you are dating blames everyone around him for what is going wrong in his life, scrutinize that tendency and make sure it makes sense on an objective level. Don’t get sucked up into his explanations; think it through for yourself. If she’s a blamer and cannot take personal responsibility for anything she does, once you get involved the easiest and most frequent person to blame for what happens to her will likely turn out to be you.

  • S/he comes from a home where people get hit

People tend to do what they know and see, especially if they have been around it for a long time. Not all people who are raised in abusive situations become abusive themselves, but if you see that dynamic don’t ignore it. People default to what they know when emotions become involved. If they were raised in a place of violence that may very well be the script they read from when things get a little hairy.

  • S/he tries to isolate you

            Your lover should not get angry when you want to spend time with your friends and family. If he starts telling you that he is all you need, and does things to cut you off from people you love, that is a bad sign. Isolation is an abuser’s best friend. If she cannot tolerate anyone else having any input or positioning in your life, that is a means by which to garner control—and is a drop kickable event.
            · Lots of criticism

Part of the process of abuse involves dehumanization and erosion of self-esteem. It is easier to command and control someone who doesn’t think much of herself. If you are with someone who tends to devalue everything you do, criticizes you, says you are crazy/stupid/ugly/a failure and that no one else will want you, that’s a power move that can change who you are. Run from it; it only gets worse.

  • Unwelcomed physicality of any sort

Pushing, shoving and grabbing, or spoken reminders that s/he could do any of those things, are all signs of violence you do not want to ignore. Someone who loves you should not restrain you, adjust your position, or move you from where you are to a place he or she wants you to be. Yet again, we have drop kickable moment here.

  • Hitting

            They may be sorry. They may say they’ll never do it again. My experience is that is not the case. To my kids I’ve said “One blow. You go”. You do so intelligently, having gotten in touch with organizations that understand the complexities and dangers of leaving, because lethality often goes up when the victim decides to leave. But you go.

from Making Marriage Work

 

 

 

Getting Your Mind Right

There are a whole lot of things I can’t control, but I don’t want to be one of them. I want to be in charge of how I react to whatever’s  happening. I don’t want my responses to be dictated by some past experience that welled-up unnoticed and handled a situation it had no business being anywhere near. I don’t want my fears to dictate where I go or circumscribe what I do. I can’t have the specter of this morning’s problems haunt my afternoon. A sister is busy. I need to have the presence of mind to let my mind handle my present.

I don’t want the least of me to command the rest of me. While I’m not ashamed of my odd,  I’m not enamored of it either. While some of my weird is helpful other parts are not.  So I make sure that the latter doesn’t mess up the good things the former does.

I have to be in command of me even if I can’t command the situation so at the very least I don’t fool around and make matters worse.  To do that I have to, in my mother’s words, “Get my Mind Right.” “Getting Your Mind Right” is a decision to actively address how you feel. This is how my mother explained it to me as my impatience showed up and was about to show out one day at the DMV.

“Get your mind right, ” she said.  “This process is what it is and there isn’t anything you can do about it.  You should have been prepared when you came here to feel a little annoyed and you should know enough not to pass that along. That woman up there didn’t think up this mess and she has a job to do. All day long she deals with impatient people like you who are angry with her for something that is not her fault.  If you want this thing to go a little smoother, go up there and be especially nice.  Sympathize with the problems she has and she’ll be more likely to go out of her way for you. Either way this process is what it is. How you feel when you leave here is completely up to you.

I now live my entire life with that last line in mind. I don’t act on how I feel until I figured out whether it will help me get what I need to get done, even if it’s just maintaining my personal peace during a situation I can’t control.

I work my emotions like a job. I think everybody should.

My Mother’s Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius p. 37

 

Consciously Married

Marriage has been around for thousands of years. It has bent and shook and shifted to meet the necessities of place and time. The problem is the world has changed so rapidly of late that marriage hasn’t had time to catch up. Our society no longer changes in the slow, plodding manner of the past. We now engage in the universal exchange of information and ideas at lightning speed. Legal, social and moral absolutes have shifted, been lifted and some have simply disappeared. Women, legally liberated and economically able, have choices they never had before. There are now have an endless array of options.

Compared to the way we used to work and live just a hundred years ago, we have copious amounts of free time and unparalleled access to things that give us immediate gratification. We now have the time and social permission to ponder what we want, ruminate on how we feel and ask ourselves, “Am I happy?”

Despite these sweeping changes, we haven’t rethought marriage in any significant way. Once an institution of obligation, it is now one of choice. No longer arraigned, mandated or simply the only game in town, today marriage is something we do simply because we have fallen in love. Formerly a legal fortress difficult to escape, these days it’s something we can walk away from any time we please. Having changed the reasons we get into it and obliterated most of the obstacles to out, the institution may look and sound the same but it’s completely new.   But we haven’t changed how we approach it. We keep reaching back for old school solutions to modern day problems because we liked the old school divorce rate. That’s like trying to fix a Prius with parts from a Model T Ford.

As contradictory as this might seem, I believe we can get closer to living the marriage fantasy of “Happily Ever After” by accepting the fact that the fairytale does not exist. We are not rudderless ships in the rising tide of a failing institution. In order to make this old institution work in this new day and age we need to take the best of what was, acknowledge the challenges that are, and create a something new. Once we removed all the stuff that used to cement marriages together, it ceased to be a state of being and became a process that we engaged in. We need to accept that and decide to accommodate the changes in social circumstances, absorb the aftershocks of unparalleled technological advances, and create a marriage scenario that functions well — not for everyone, but for the two of you.

We can replace the glue that used to keep marriages together with a greater understanding of how we work. We can revel in the joy of romantic love, but still be practical in its application. In modern-day marriage, love is king. But, as in all of life, practicality is queen. And I believe it is time to show Her Highness some respect.

Rule Number 1: Decide to be consciously married.

Think of marriage as a 2-year-old who we want to let go outside. Fifty years ago we had legal, social and moral fences that kept that kid in the back yard. Over time we took the fences down, one by one. Yet we still have the nerve to be shocked when we look up and find the child has left the grounds. Of course he’s gone. All the things we relied on to rein him in have been removed and we haven’t made any deliberate effort to replace them with anything else.

Now that containment is no longer the answer, we need to engage in active parenting. You have to keep that 2-year-old engaged and appropriately directed. You cannot take your eyes off of him and let him wander too far away from you. That means you have to start working on your marriage the very second after you say I do.

With those fences down you have to put procedures into place to feed what we know about the biological realities of love and the social realities of how we currently live. We have to actively pursue a passion that keeps our attention while we are out back. We need to spend more time being hand in hand so we don’t drift apart.

In other words, you have to be consciously married. It is no longer a state of being, something you can just enter into and let it rest where it is. It is that toddler who needs constant attention designed to keep him happy and occupied.

from Making Marriage Work

 

 

Women are Odd and Men are Weird

Sometimes it’s hard to understand how your spouse, someone who lives with you, loves you and knows you better than anyone else has a hard time understanding you.

“What fresh hell is this?” I’ve often muttered to myself. “How in the world can he know me this long and not understand what I just said.”

“What is wrong with this woman?” I’m sure my husband has wondered, “That’s not what I said at all.”

I’ll tell you what the problem is.  Men are weird and women are odd and that’s what’s just what that it is. The best way I can describe the difference between how my husband and I conduct business, is that he thinks like a laser beam and I think in photon bursts. Consequently, I contend he has tunnel vision and he believes I’m a ping pong ball.

I see how everything I do effects everyone in the house. I pay attention to the  emotional and physical well being of everyone around me. To me, this whole ball of wax we call a family is inextricably interconnected.  I think it’s weird that he can’t pick up on disparate clues from different places and figure out how someone feels. If I didn’t manage this all male household no one would have the faintest clue when they needed to go to the doctor.

On the other hand, my husband thinks I am odd because I talk so much about extraneous stuff. My desire to manage everyone’s emotions is a hindrance to him. I clutter up his time and mind with emotional details that don’t really affect what we need to do at the time. “What are you asking him for?” he says to me when I am talking to my son. “Tell him what to do and tell him to do it now.” He wants to establish authority. He knows how important that is. I want to have a conversation, one they have no interest in at all. I have to say I stood back and let him take that one on whole when any one of the boys turned 15. Those people would have had me for lunch had I not listened to him.

The beauty of this joint bewilderment is that we are both right. He is weird and I am odd. Moreover, that’s the way it is supposed to be and neither one of us is wrong. Between us we have it all covered. I may not understand why he thinks something or other but I do have enough sense to know when his way of doing business makes more sense.  Likewise Big Man has figured out when my point of view is the best way to go.

I’m not going to lie, it took us a while to get to here and it’s still not all smooth sailing. It still drives me crazy when he’s riding around the parking lot looking for just the right spot. And his eyes still glaze over a few minutes into 1/3 of the conversations we have. But I bite my tongue even on the third trip around parking garage and he hangs in there for the fourth story.

Love doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. You have to say it all the time. Sometimes it’s just knowing when to suck something up or leave something else alone.

for more see Making Marriage Work Chapter 6.

Look Deep in the Eyes of Your Lesser Self

The Bathroom Mirror Mandate

 

Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.

                                                           ~Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of Judicial Process

 

There are all kinds of people in this world and as much as we would like to think of ourselves a wholly unique and different in a world full of snob, jerks and geniuses – of pests and partiers – the sad, the stupid and the simply off their rocker – of the kind, the weak, the magnanimous and mean – odds are you are sporting an identifiable personality quirk that may or may not be serving you well.

This rule asks you to stare into the eyes of your lesser self. It requires you to take a good hard look inside. It asks you to fight the urge to put your best foot forward and focus on the one dragging behind.

Think through all of your major mistakes. Take a peek at your minor ones too. Search out their causes, peruse them for patterns and then figure out what they reveal about you. This soul searching is not designed to make you feel bad rather its purpose is to heighten your state of awareness. Remember, your faults and weaknesses will never hurt anyone else as much as they hurt you. But if you know what they are and understand how they work, they will be less likely to do you harm.

This rule also requires you to take into consideration all of the things that Political Correctness does not allow. Gender, race, class, sexual orientation, education, family and exposure all influence how we feel. And when we’re under stress it’s how we feel and not what we profess that most often dictates what we do.

Your hormones have not read Gloria Steinem; nor has your up-bringing been de-briefed. So you have to make a conscious effort to find whatever prejudices you have (and you do, there is no way around it). And when I say look I mean hunt them down. Most of our prejudices rest so close to us they are almost impossible to see.

You personality, your peccadilloes, your Odd Things A -Z, they are what make you, you and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have make sure what’s odd about you isn’t impeding your progress in any way.

I know it’s hard; we’re not used to doing it and it’s not something one would inherently find fun. But it’s not about beating yourself up because you have faults. Your imperfections are not indictments. They are just a part of what makes you human. The decision you have is whether or not you’re going to make a point of knowing what they are.

 

Because it’s not easy, I’ll go first. Here’s how it works:

 

I talk too much; I talk too fast and if I am talking to someone I think talks too slowly I will finish their sentences for them. I am fearful. I am relentless. I get disproportionality angry about odd things. I am lazy. I am a control freak and a bit of a slob. I’m not very good at friendship. I don’t call, text or reach out. I resent the fact that if I had a penis and made the kind of money I do no one would expect me to know how to cook.

I used to have an immediate guttural negative response to anyone who looked like this one particular person I really didn’t like. I worked on that for two years before I was able to finally sit that one down. But even before then I understood that was how I felt and made it a point never to let it sway me.

I don’t like people who I perceive as lazy even though I see that in myself.

I curse far more often than I’d like and I am impatient with people who don’t listen. Lastly, I am cheap … in the extreme. I can hang on to a dollar so tightly you can hear George Washington scream.

This is just the tip of a very large, endlessly morphing iceberg, but I think you get the drift. The point is I know all of these things about myself and I never use them as excuses. I keep these monsters well in my sights whenever I enter a situation that might implicate any of them because I know that the first battle in any war I have to fight is always with myself.

I think that’s true for everyone. We can be an inordinately lethal species for some very less than admirable reasons. I believe it would behoove all of us to do battle with the least of who we are.

updated from:

My Mother’s Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius

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My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

Using lessons learned on the bench along with humorous anecdotes from her own 30 year marriage, Judge Lynn Toler wrote "Making Marriage Work" as a logical and simple guide to bringing back the practicality lost in relationships over the years.

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Giving Voice to a Silent Epidemic

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

No one goes out and gets into a relationship intending on being abused. Yet it is an epidemic. An incredible number of women (and increasingly men) become involved in physically dangerous relationships every year. Part of the problem is that abusive relationships typically develop over time. The behaviors are often incremental. They start out so […]

Getting Your Mind Right

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There are a whole lot of things I can’t control, but I don’t want to be one of them. I want to be in charge of how I react to whatever’s  happening. I don’t want my responses to be dictated by some past experience that welled-up unnoticed and handled a situation it had no business being anywhere […]

Consciously Married

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Marriage has been around for thousands of years. It has bent and shook and shifted to meet the necessities of place and time. The problem is the world has changed so rapidly of late that marriage hasn’t had time to catch up. Our society no longer changes in the slow, plodding manner of the past. […]

Women are Odd and Men are Weird

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sometimes it’s hard to understand how your spouse, someone who lives with you, loves you and knows you better than anyone else has a hard time understanding you. “What fresh hell is this?” I’ve often muttered to myself. “How in the world can he know me this long and not understand what I just said.” “What […]

Look Deep in the Eyes of Your Lesser Self

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in This was on my mind | 2 Comments

The Bathroom Mirror Mandate   Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.                             […]