My Idea of Friendship

FriendshipOne day many years ago, my friend Ann told me she had scheduled an appointment with a surgeon to discuss whether to undergo a hip replacement. She and her doctor would be evaluating the results of x-rays and a recent MRI. As a candidate for this type of surgery, Ann was young, in her late 30s, but she was in more-or-less constant pain as a result of a car accident many years earlier when her hip joint had been shattered. She walked with a limp. When she told me about the upcoming appointment, Ann seemed quite apprehensive. I knew she was preoccupied with her decision, whether or not to go under the knife.

I fixed the date of Ann’s appointment in my memory and recalled it from time to time as the day approached. Throughout the day itself, I kept her in mind then called that evening to find out the results. She had decided to have the surgery, she told me. We talked at length about what the surgeon had said, the nature of the operation, and how much relief she could expect. A few days later, she left a message on my answering machine: “Know who else called to ask about my surgery? No one.” Besides family members, not one of her other friends had reached out to her. She seemed grateful that I had kept her in mind.

Continue “My Idea of Friendship”

Codependency Issues in Marriage

Twins I received an email earlier this week from a married friend of mine who always signs off, “With love from Natalie and Jeff.” Jeff has never sent me an email nor, as far as I can tell, does Natalie consult with him in advance about what she plans to write. Despite its inclusive closing, the email came from Natalie alone. I was reminded of a couple I knew back in Los Angeles, Tom and Molly, who shared a single email address: It was a clever play on the word tamale, of course; but even then, in the early days of email, I wondered why they didn’t have separate addresses. Marriage involves the formation of a new joint identity, but for some married people (and for some unmarried couples, too), this new combined identity overshadows and often eclipses a separate sense of self for its members.

“I now pronounce you husbandwife.”

Continue “Codependency Issues in Marriage”

Outgrowing Your Parents

During a recent session, Becca (mid-20s) was describing a typical argument with her mother. She and her mom have a close but combative relationship; in their fights, Becca often feels frustrated at her mom’s immaturity. Becca’s parents have been divorced for many years and her mother has drifted from one low-level job to another, never fulfilling her early potential, largely because of impulsive or ill-considered choices that involved taking the easy way out. Since therapy began, Becca has worked hard to overcome similar tendencies in her own character and has done remarkably well in a difficult career.

Becca’s mother often gives unwanted advice that Becca finds irritating. “Look at what she’s done with her own life,” she told me in session. “Who is she to give me advice about how to run mine?”

Continue “Outgrowing Your Parents”

The Difference Between Anger and Hatred

In preparation for my appearance later today on Sandy Weiner’s BlogTalkRadio program Courageous Conversations, I’ve been thinking about anger and hatred. Sandy and I will be discussing how to cope with the eruption of hatred in our intimate relationships and I needed to clarify how hatred differs from anger.

We can distinguish between anger and hatred in two ways: intensity and duration. It helps to think of them as occurring along a spectrum. Anger might be triggered when a loved one does something that frustrates us. It tends to come and go and doesn’t crowd out all our other feelings for that person. We can often voice it in ways that aren’t hurtful. Hatred lasts longer and is more pervasive. It tends to overwhelm us and obscure everything else we might feel. It makes us want to take action, to hurt or destroy whatever inspires the hatred.

Continue “The Difference Between Anger and Hatred”

What Hurts the Most

I don’t usually relate to the trending topics on Twitter — often about celebrities I don’t know and TV shows I’ve never watched — but earlier this week I noticed that #WhatHurtstheMost was a popular hashtag for the day. Out of curiousity, I searched the term on Twitter and read through a hundred or so tweets to see what it was that people found especially hurtful. There was a variety of answers, but the most popular one involved romantic rejection or unrequited love. Here’s a sample of the variations on that subject:

Continue “What Hurts the Most”