Monday, January 31, 2011


We have been having an extra long period of fog here in our area. I'm not talking about fog that burns off by 9 or 10 a.m. This fog can last until early afternoon and then rolls back in in early evening. It is frustrating. It causes all kinds of road mishaps. It is something that builds uncertainty into our plans for the day sometimes.

When I'm driving on the freeway in thick, thick fog (the kind where you can barely see 1/4 mile ahead of you) it always has a feeling of uncertainty. What if there is an accident ahead that I can't see? What if the fog gets worse up there? Maybe I should get off and wait. But what if just 1/2 mile up the road it is completely clear? What to do. What to do.

I think that there are some things about fog that can be applied to our relationships. Mostly in the area of understand what our partner is thinking, feeling, wanting, or needing.

When there are things in our relationship that cause us issues, it is probably because we "can't see through the fog" and neither can our partner.

Here is an example:

A woman sees her husband's frustration in looking for something he has misplaced. She feels compassion for him, and offers to help. He gets very angry and yells at her, "I can do it myself."

She feels confused and literally "in a fog" as to why he would react so strongly and negatively to her offer of help. On her side of the "fog," she felt compassion and love and care which prompted her to offer help. On his side of the "fog" he feels angry and put down when she offers help.

The only way to break through the fog is to talk it out and see "through the fog" and understand what is on each side of this murky abyss.

They sit down later and talk about what each was feeling. It turns out that he had been beating himself up for misplacing the thing he was looking for, and in his head the tapes were playing. Tapes from his childhood of his dad telling him he was a loser and would never amount to anything.

Aha, now it makes sense to her why he reacted as he did to her offer of help. He wasn't reacting to her. He was reacting to his dad and the old tapes.

So what is the "fog" in your relationship? When things "don't make sense," try to remember that on your partner's side of the "fog" it makes perfect sense to him/her. Talk about it so that you can peer through the fog and see what is on the other side.

Things that make no sense to us make perfect sense to our partners, and the only way to understand is to communicate.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words Mean Something

The tragedy in Arizona with the gunning down of innocent people, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Federal Judge John Roll, has sent shock waves through our country. We now know that the shooter was a man who apparently is mentally ill.

It is unclear whether he was motivated by political rhetoric that was vicious and threatening. We may never know. What we do know is that some people are motivated by that kind of talk, and certain mentally ill people may act on what they hear instead of filtering it out.

The discussion that has arisen from this tragedy is one about words and how they change people, motivate people, influence people, and the climate they create.

It is simple. Words mean something. We can disagree, but we must not allow our disagreements to become personal attacks or threats.

It comes down to respect. It is important to have a basic respect for people, even if we disagree with their politics, their religion, or whatever else. If we have respect, we can enter a healthy discussion where ideas are shared, examined, and debated. Ultimately, we can have a better understanding of the other's views, though we still may disagree.

Respect and healthy disagreement is a part of every relationship--our "relationship" with our elected officials, or our relationships with family and friends. It is my sincere hope that this recent tragedy will change the way we talk to each other when we disagree.

I think it starts with John Q. Citizen. We must become intolerant of personal attacks and send that message in whatever way we can to our leaders. This is one thing that I personally believe will not change from the top down. I think we need a grassroots effort on this one.