Archives for May, 2012
Probably the hardest things to change are the things we don't realize we're doing – like invalidating our partner. Thanks to a plethora of self-help books on relationships, most partners, whether dating, committed or long married, have become aware of the value of listening for improving understanding and connection. Most recognize or are reminded by their partners when they are not listening. Validation is much more than listening or even active listening. It is a verbal affirmation of another’s right to think or feel a certain way. “I can see why you felt embarrassed when I said that in front of our friends.” “Most people would feel betrayed in that situation.” Invalidation The problem with invalidation, and the reason it is so caustic to relationships, is that it is not simply the absence of validation. Invalidation is actually the disqualification of another person’s thinking or feelings. It carries the implication that you must be crazy, bad, over-sensitive or inept to feel a certain way.
On May 8th, 2012, award-winning author and illustrator of the children’s book, Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, died. He was 83. In a postscript written about him in The New Yorker this week, Mariana Cook revisited some of what he had offered in a 2009 interview. In that interview, Sendak shared his feeling that it is hard to be happy and that some people find it easier than others. He ended with the question, “Do you believe it when people say they are happy?” In one of the final interviews Maurice Sendak allowed with Terri Gross on NPR in late 2011, he said something different, “I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people.” In his words, this very creative man underscores the challenge, complexity and possibility of happiness. Resonating with this, I recently wrote a blog for the final newsletter of “This Emotional Life” entitled “The Pursuit of Happiness: Your Inalienable Right.” In it I draw upon research that suggests happiness is a “many factored thing.” Often considered a sense of well-being, I add that, as such, happiness is neither a static place, nor one that is incompatible with tears or challenge.
If you are a mother, you know that there are times when you feel you have been through the war. If you are a military mother…you actually have! Men and women don’t go to war – families go to war and as a result there are many military mothers. They include mothers who have to leave their children to serve; mothers of the men and women who serve; and military spouses who hold on to their children and the life at home while their partners serve. A closer look at these military mothers offers a reflection of fear and courage, of sacrifice and maternal resilience, of trauma and triumph. Military Mothers: Bearing Children and Bearing Arms Nearly 38 percent of women in active duty have children. Approximately 11 percent of women in the military are single mothers and women are five times more likely to be in dual military marriages where both partners are eligible for deployment. The Conflict of Roles When Heidi Kraft, author of Rule Number Two, was deployed as a combat psychologist to join the Alpha Surgical Unit in Iraq, her twins were 15 months old. Leaving them in the hands of her parents and marine officer husband, she would be gone for 8 months.
If you were asked whether you think men or women are the first to say, “ I love you” in romantic relationships, what would you say? Most people – both men and women - believe it is women. Such beliefs are congruent with those who have studied gender differences. For example, Women are generally thought to be more interested in and willing to express love and commitment than men. Women are considered to have an easier time than men expressing vulnerable emotions such as love. A content analysis of emotional expression in Valentine’s Day cards, for example, found that women were more likely than men to express love and fidelity. A questionnaire study of 55 men and women walking across a college campus which asked, among other questions, “Who normally says they are in love FIRST in romantic relationships?” found that both men and women believe that women are more likely to be the first to confess love in relationships. REALTY suggests something different. MIT researchers Joshua Ackerman, Griskevicius & Li (authors of the questionnaire study above) found across a series of studies that what men and women believe and what they actually do is quite different.