Listening For Truth, Or Hearing What We Want?

Listening is active. At its most basic level, it’s about focus, paying attention.

Simon Sinek

The best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them.

Dean Rusk

My Dear Readers,

Often, when I answer a question, the person I’m talking to replies, “I hear you.”   Really?  Does he really hear me?  Is he listening to what I am saying?

Listening can be the greatest of all methods of learning about other ideas, dreams, cultures, and other things. However, one of our greatest failings may be that we hear rather than listen. You may think you’re listening, but in reality, it’s going in one ear and out the other.

When we hear something, it’s not necessarily reaching our inner core; there is often a hidden agenda in the conversation, and we are often just listening for a pause in the conversation so that we can advance our own objectives at the expense of others. When we fail to listen to our counterparts, we fail to understand them, and as a result, we lose the opportunity to learn from them.

In fact, when we hear others without really listening to them, we fail to achieve our greatest potential: the ability to understand who we are and what we mean to each other.

Below is such a story…..

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You can’t fake listening. It shows.

Raquel Welch

Dear Dr. Kane,

I could sure use your help.  I recently proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes.   We plan to be married in early January 2016.  We are both African-Americans and in the mid stage of life, with myself recently retiring from the US Marine Corps one year ago.  We both feel that we have found true love, as this is the third time for both of us tying the knot.  We intend for this to be the last time.

She feels that I am the right one for her and I feel the same way.  She is perfect for me.  However, there is one issue that keeps popping up: the difference in our religious beliefs.   I am a Christian and strongly tied to my faith.  My fiancée is Catholic.

I attend church services every Sunday and bible studies during the week.  I am also an elder in my church. I believe in the family unit attending church services together.  Since I am not married, I have been attending church services alone, but once we are married, I want my spouse to attend church services with me just like the other families.

Therein lies the problem.  My fiancée is opposed to attending my church.  She says that since her early childhood, she was raised Catholic, having attended mass regularly in Catholic primary and secondary schools.  She says that her Catholic faith feels natural to her and figures prominently in her family lineage.   She has no desire to convert to my denomination or to attend my church.

I am not asking her to convert.  I am even willing to compromise by switching weekly attendance with both faiths. However, during the six months we have been together, I have never seen her attend mass or any other Catholic services.

She knows nothing about the Bible.  If she attended my church, I know that she could learn the Bible and I could help her change.  I am frustrated. She is adamant and refuses to compromise.  She has dug in her heels when all I am asking is that she be open to learning about my faith.

In order to move forward with our relationship, we agreed that we would practice our faiths separately and she would not have to attend my church services. One Sunday service when I attended alone, I sat there observing the other couples.  I suddenly realized that I was not comfortable with the agreement and later that day, I told her I changed my mind.

I want to be honest with myself as well as to her.  I want to practice my faith and in doing so, I want my spouse sitting next to me, supporting me in church.  I know that if I did otherwise, I would not be true to my faith or myself. I saw red flags in my prior two marriages, and I ignored them, thinking that I could still make those marriages work. I am beginning to see red flags now, and I don’t want to make those same mistakes again.

She is not open to meeting with my pastor to receive either the Word or Christian-based counseling.  I hear what she wants, but she’s is not listening to what I want.  Do you think I should call off the wedding? I’m thinking that getting married now is not a good thing to do.  I’m open to your ideas.  Thanks.

Devout Christian, Tacoma, WA

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My Dear Man,

I appreciate the opportunity to respond your concerns.  It has been my practice to not comment on faith-based issues, as I believe that it is the right of all to practice the faith of their choice in the manner in which they see fit.  However, it appears that there is more to this story, and I suspect that what is being left out is being concealed beneath the concept of “spiritual faith.”

Language and its use can mean different things to different people.  For example, the word “hear” could mean that in hearing, one perceives a noise or sound by someone or something.    In contrast, to “listen,” one gives attention to a sound takes notice of what is being said, and acts on what they heard.

In your writing you stated,

“I hear what she wants, but she is not listening to what I want.”

In doing so, the words hear and listening appear to be used interchangeably, but both words may have different meanings to both of you.

I have developed a therapeutic model for reinforcing the art of listening in a marital relationship.  Utilizing this model, let’s explore the depth of your ability to “listen” to your fiancée’s concerns about maintaining her religious faith while you seek to maintain yours as well.

The model, “Listening: The I FACTOR,” is composed of the following segments: information, involvement, integration, implementation and finally, impact.

  • Information- facts provided or learned about something or someone. This refers to the items conveyed or represented by your counterpart.
  • Involvement– the processing of such information in a format that is understood by the individual receiving the information.
  • Integration-the acceptance and internalization of the information within the listener’s core being.
  • Implementation-the process of transforming the information into a decision or action plan. It is the movement of the information into the external environment.
  • Impact- the information’s ability to affect or influence a person, thing, or impose action on another.

In applying the model to what was said to you by your fiancée said to you:

Information (what was told to you)

  • She was raised as since childhood in the Catholic faith. She attended mass regularly in primary and secondary Catholic schools. The Catholic faith is nature to her and in her family lineage.  She has no desire to convert or attend your church.

Involvement (what was processed by you)

  • Although she claims to be Catholic, during the six months we have been together, I have never seen her attend mass or any other Catholic services. Therefore, she is not a true believer in the Catholic faith.  Besides, she doesn’t even know the Bible.

Integration (what was accepted and internalized into your core being)

  • I am not asking her to convert. Besides if she attends my church she could learn the Bible and I could help change her mind. I will present a compromise to her suggesting that we alternate weekly attendance with both faiths.

Implementation (transforming the information into an action plan)

  • In order to move forward, I committed to an agreement that she and I would practice our faiths separately and she would not have to attend my church services. Later, I changed my mind because I felt uncomfortable with the agreement.

Impact (the effect or influence upon the other person.)

  • I am frustrated. She is adamant and refuses to compromise. I ignored the red flags in my previous marriages and I don’t want to make the same mistakes again. 

Lesson Learned (or Not)

Earlier you wrote, “I hear what she wants, but she is not listening to what I want.”

In reality, however, you were not listening to what she wanted. Instead, you heard what you wanted to hear, and then went on to execute a plan based on your desire to fulfill your needs, despite knowing her beliefs about her faith.

You assumed that since she did not attend her faith’s services as regularly as you attend yours, she was not a true believer in her faith.  As a result, while your plan looked like it was a compromise, it was really a strategy to obtain what you wanted regardless of your fiancée’s feelings. In the end, when it became clear that you would get the results you desired, you sought to blame your fiancée for her failure to go along or more specifically, to fall into the trap you designed.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

All of the above could have been avoided if you had simply listened to what she had to say instead of hearing what you wanted to hear.  The plan failed because you wanted to advance your own desires at the expense of your fiancée’s desires.

It is clear that having your spouse accompany you to church services is an essential factor for you in this relationship.  However, it seems that seeing the other couples attending church services together is the basis for that desire, meaning that being viewed in a positive light by other church members is actually more important to you than a desire to be true to yourself.  And, as a result, you chose to break the agreement to respect the right of your fiancée to worship within her own faith and beliefs.

What is really concerning to me is that you would consider calling off the wedding because of this. It indicates a true lack of certainty about your commitment to the martial relationship.  I would recommend premarital counseling by a non-pastoral or non-Christian-focused counselor.  The reason I suggest this is so that you explore your readiness to maintain the commitments of a marriage outside of those issues associated with your spiritual beliefs.  If you are unable to maintain important agreements before walking down the aisle, how can she expect you to maintain such agreements after the wedding?

By breaking your agreement, you may have inadvertently provided her with a “gift,” that is, the gift of knowing that you may not keep your agreements when they no longer serve your desires.  She may, as is customary when someone receives a gift, simply say “thank you,” and walk away.

When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.”

Ten Flashes of Light For the Journey of Life

Dr. Micheal Kane …The Visible Man

 

 

 

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Stuck: Hold On, Or Let Go?

“Your son has the chance to wise up now or pay the costs later.  Should he choose the latter, there is nothing you, as a parent, can do except get out of the way.”

-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

One of the most stressful phases of parenting is adolescence. From time to time, the parent must become a bystander and watch the adolescent struggle in their journey, learning how to either sink or swim.

Below is such a story………

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Dear Dr. Kane,

My husband and I have two children. Our daughter attends college out of state, and our 15 year-old son attends a private high school here in Bellevue.

Our son is a good boy, but my husband and I are at our wits end.  We are proud of his maturity and the fact that he can hold his own in interactions with young adults.  However, he constantly makes poor decisions. Last year, he was suspended from school for selling marijuana to a minor. This summer, as my husband and I were about to embark on a cruise, we were notified that after dropping us off at the port, my son and his friend was in the dining room rolling marijuana cigarettes and smoking it in our home.

Recently, I woke at two in the morning to find that my son and his friend who had slept over were not in the house and our car was gone.   I texted my son and ordered him to come home immediately.  He did, but I later learned that he and his friends had taken the car on at least three other occasions while we were asleep.

On one of these occasions, we found that he had a one-car accident where he actually damaged one of the tires on the car.  He and his friends replaced the damaged tire with the spare and for the last several weeks, my husband and I have been unknowingly driving long distances without a spare tire.  We grounded him for a month and have now decided not to allow him to get his driver’s license.  We have taken his cell phone away so that he can’t talk to his friends.

We have taken him to a counselor, but I believe that he’s been running games on her the same way he’s been doing with us.  I am very angry and frustrated.  I can’t trust him.  He lies so well and so easily, I can tell whether he is telling the truth or lying.

Like I said earlier, we are at our wits end.  I believe the problem is the kids he associates with.  He refused to give me the names of those who have been with him during those times he took the car.

He has now started his sophomore year in high school.  Although neither the parents nor the school pressed charges for the marijuana sale, my son is now being forced to attend a public high school where he will be exposed to rougher kids and could be led into more poor decisions.  The counselor indicates that those poor decisions are because he is distressed.

We have resorted to hiding the keys to the car.  I hope you can provide guidance and direction for us.  We have provided him with resources and it does not appear to improve anything.

Bellevue Mother (Bellevue, WA)

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My Dear Woman,

I appreciate you writing to me.  To start, I would want to examine more in detail what the counselor means by he is distressed and making poor decisions.   For example:

  • Is his behavior a consequence of being ejected from the private school environment?
  • Is he responding to loss of peer friendship and as a result, acting out?
  • Is he having adjustment issues regarding settling into the culture/community of public school where he may feel more vulnerable than in the private school setting?

The answers to these questions may help you understand the specific issues your son may be responding to. However, these do not justify his actions or behavior.  There is no indication from your letter that he cannot distinguish right from wrong.  From what I can see, your son is simply doing what he wants to do.  

There is a phenomenon that happens during adolescent development that I call parentally stuck: where a child may exhibit inappropriate actions that the parents recognize as the same actions they had when they were adolescents. As a result, the parent may allow some leeway, thinking that with some reasonable discipline and consequences, the problem will resolve itself.

If you’re parentally stuck, the parent may say:

  • “I was the same way when I was at that age.”
  • “He/she will grow out of it.”
  • He/she is young, just trying to find him/her self.”

Parents may want to resolve the problem by:

  • Providing additional resources and activities,
  • Allowing more freedom and independence, and
  • Relaxation of rules, boundaries or guidelines

When I was young, it was not uncommon to allow an adolescent to have a few friends at the home where alcohol was being consumed and controlled under the watchful eye of a parent.  However, today’s parents appear to be more liberal and understanding:  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Movie night”-The parent whom allowing her 16 year old son, in exchange for using condoms, allowing her son to use the house when he wanted to engage in sexual intercourse with his girlfriend. (Outcome: The girlfriend gets pregnant.)
  • Staying in range”- the parent who allows her teen daughter’s boyfriend to move into her bedroom so the parent does not lose connection with the daughter. (Outcome: The daughter becomes pregnant, the boyfriend refuses to go to work.  The mother works two jobs to support her “new” family.)
  • The Cool Parents”-parents who smoke marijuana with their son and his friends so they can be part of their child’s life. (The home, located in a middle class neighborhood, becomes known as the “dope house,” with numerous teens coming and going.)

Being parentally stuck occurs when the parents realize that these strategies are failing and are unable to pull them back due to them essentially normalizing the behavior. Here are some recommendations to resolve being parentally stuck:

  • Accept the reality that as parents, we all make mistakes in using specific strategies.
  • Understand the parental role of providing guidance, discipline and boundaries.
  • Stop attempting to be friends with your adolescent. Parents, not friends, have a stake in the adolescent’s future.
  • As the adolescent moves to adulthood, be willing to transform your own role from that of director, supervisor and manager to those of an advocate, guide and consultant.

In this specific situation, your son not only shows a lack of concern for his own well-being, but for yours as well.   Should your son, who is unlicensed, be involved in an accident, you will be held responsible for his actions and financially liable for the damages and destruction committed by him, since he is a minor.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Woman,

The consequences you have put in place are ineffective, since they are short term and have little to no impact on him.   Hiding the keys from your son doesn’t help him make positive decisions and prevent negative consequences.   It may be time for more direct action that will impact his thinking and focus his attention on his own behavior.

In situations such as this, I have recommended that law enforcement be notified. In one such situation, the son had been hitting his mother since he was 12 years old.  Since he could not be persuaded to stop this behavior in therapy, I recommended that the mother notify the police and have her son arrested for domestic violence, serve jail time, do community service, and most importantly, participate in domestic violence counseling. There was no repeat of this behavior.

I have yet to meet a parent who has positive feelings about calling law enforcement when the adolescent is involved in criminal behavior.  However, please be aware that every day that you don’t do this, you are rolling the dice and hoping that your son does not engage in actions which will leave you with the financial liability, or worse, will result in his injury or death.

I deem it as a plus for an adolescent to have contact and involvement with the juvenile justice system rather than the adult correction system.  In juvenile correction systems, there are trained professionals who specialize in understanding adolescent development and behavior.  One cannot say the same for the adult correction system. The prison yards are filled with young fresh meat.  Your son does not have to be the next meal waiting to be chewed up in the correctional system.

Dr. Micheal Kane  …The Visible Man

 

When The Game Isn’t What It Used To Be

My Dear Readers,

Many people assume that psychotherapists can look into an individual’s eyes and see who that person really is. Of course, that is not true.  When a person comes to the therapeutic session, he (or she) brings their truth, or, more accurately, what they perceive to be truths, into the room.

My goal as a psychotherapist is to assist individuals with uncovering what lies beneath those perceptions and to help my patients discover what lies within their psychological selves.  From there, we focus on valuing our psychological selves and learning to listen to the direction it provides for our life journeys.

Where the homicide detective speaks for the dead, my goal is to assist the living to find their own voices.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Visible Man,

I am a 28 year old educated black male who has an excellent job in corporate America.  And, I have experienced sexual relations with five different women in the past week.

I grew up with a group of men who chase skirts and keep tabs on the number of conquests they’ve had, so I view myself as a product of my environment. However, I have come to seriously question with what I am doing. I know that I’m playing with people’s feelings, and I know that it’s not right. I find myself at a place in my life where I want to be locked down in a serious relationship.

I have decided to start attending church again, and engaging in activities where I hope I will join up with young people my age.  What are my chances of turning this around and finding a good relationship?

Tired of Trolling, Seattle, WA

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Dear Trolling,

Your letter piques my curiosity.  I sense a combination of weariness, regret, and although you didn’t say this outright, shame in your actions and behavior.

I am curious as to why you chose “Trolling” as your signature.  The term trolling can be defined in several ways: a means of fishing with a baited line, a person singing in a carefree manner, and finally, a way of provoking others. So:

  • Why are you really writing?
  • What is there to gain by staying in the shadows?
  • Are you standing at the crossroads? If so, will you continue the same behaviors or go in a different direction?

Young Man,

Stop trolling. There is no free lunch.  If you want the meal, prepare to pay for what you eat or in this situation, for your actions.  Using the model of RACE (i.e. responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment), come out of the shadows and allow the light to shine upon you. Cease the role of “victim” and the ensuing “blame game” that follows.  You seek to blame your actions on your environment and the people in it, but at the end of the day, you must take RESPONSIBILITY for yourself and your own actions.

Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Since you chose this path, why did you seek membership in such an illustrious group of fine young men?
  • What privileges or prestige did they offer you?
  • What are the actions and behaviors of the group that causes you to reject group membership?

Be willing to accept responsibility for your actions.  You chose this group of friends because they offered you something that you one valued. However, they are taking away something that you value more, so you are essentially choosing to reject the group.  In taking responsibility for this action, be willing to:

  • Respond to the pressure of the group to force your return.
  • Prepare yourself for the new direction that may be unknown to you.
  • Reinforce and validate yourself as you go alone without the protection and safety of the group.

You have a life that’s desired by many, but you seek to have that life without cost. Seek ACCOUNTABILITY for actions taken. Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want (or need) continuous and meaningless sexual encounters to fulfill me?
  • Do I love me? If I do love me, then why am I seeking others to fulfill me?
  • Do I truly desire change? How do I account for my actions?

Be willing to assume accountability for acts that you will carry as you walk the journey of life, because many of these cannot be undone. In assuming accountability, be willing to:

  • Acknowledge the damage you have done to others and yourself.
  • Bear witness to your actions, valuing and validating the experience
  • Share with others what you have experience and learned

Regardless of your success, your actions are indicative of an individual who is emotionally wounded and psychologically injured.  Your endless use of sexual encounters attest that you are searching for something. This has led to where you are now– the CONSEQUENCES are reactions to what we “do or do not”.

Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:

  • So in my longing, my search, what have I fulfilled? What have I found?
  • When I stare into the mirror, what creature do I see?
  • When I go to bed or wake up, whom is the person laying next to me?

Be willing to acknowledge the impact that your behavior has and will have on others, especially the women you are involved with.  In understanding the consequences of what was done (or not), understand that these women:

  • Will carry a wound along with your memory.
  • Their dreams and desires, which once included you, will go unrealized and unfulfilled.
  • They will take the awareness of being “played, used, or toyed” into future relationships and in doing so; innocent others will be made to suffer for your behaviors.

As you look back you are now able to see the emotional and psychological carnage you have done, and no doubt, the psychological self is screaming in your ears.

EMPOWERMENT is energy, a force that burns and builds from within.  It thrives on the human core values of belief, faith and trust.  Can you look within? Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I truly seeking change from within or new fertile ground in which to resume old behaviors?
  • Can one who has done bad things transform into doing good?
  • As I turn around to examine the journey so far traveled, what have I learned?

The only one who can answer these questions is you. Just be aware that:

  • One can run away and yet one cannot hide.. hide from self.
  • As all travelers know…wherever one goes, the baggage is likely to follow.
  • Self is the first person one sees upon awaking and the last one before sleep.

Concluding Words

Young Man, come out of the shadows. In your own words,

“I want to be locked down in a serious relationship.”

If this is true, ask yourself the following questions:

  • As you are locked down, whom will you trust to hold the key to your freedom?
  • Under what terms will you be allowed out?
  • Since when does the inmate give the guard the key to his freedom?

Young Man,

With only this letter and without knowing you and what your experiences have been, I see an individual who has been wounded and who will, unless there is an intervention, likely continue to wound others.

The goal of seeking a serious relationship will not help you remove, seal or forget the pain that you have been carrying. Just like everyone else, you deserve a life without pain and suffering, and you have the obligation to avoid creating pain and suffering for others.  I urge you to seek therapeutic assistance.

Seeking therapy is not an acknowledgement that you are crazy.  It is simply an acknowledgement that you are struggling on your journey and that therapy can be a way of is responding to the wounds that have impacted your life.

Come out of the shadows.  As you stand at your crossroads, I wish you the very best.  Safe journeys.

Dr. Kane: The Visible Man

Refusing To Cross The Color Line: I Want A Black Man!

My Dear Readers,

There are times in our lives when you may achieve most, but not all of what you want.  In pursuing education, money, status, and success, we can encounter frustration and failure. However, it is okay to want something, and yet, feel pained when it is not achieved in your desired timeframe.

We do not control the journey we call Life; we just walk the journey and learn from our experiences, including those that frustrate us.

Below is such a story……..

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Dear Visible Man,

I am an African-American professional woman in my mid-thirties.  I hold a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard, and I am single.  That’s why I’m writing to you.  I am single!

I am well educated, own my home, am a world traveler and serve as a top executive within a pharmaceutical firm in the Puget Sound area.  I am successful, I have a rewarding income and as you may expect, I am very independent.  So what is the problem?

Black men!  I want to be involved with a black man.  Where the hell are they?  I can’t seem to find an “eligible” African-American man that is suitable to build a long-term relationship with, let alone grow into a healthy marriage.

No, I don’t want to be with just any black man.  I want to be with one that is compatible with me, earns a reasonable income, has his own living space, and is self-sufficient.

All I come across are men who are unemployed, broke, living with their mothers or grandmothers, or have “baby mama drama” that I don’t want to deal with.

I don’t respond to catcalls from off the street, and I am tired of losers. One guy invites me out to an expensive restaurant and expects me to treat him to a meal and then wants me to pick up the tab for his cab ride.  Where are the real black men, the ones from the old school, who know how to treat a lady?  Where are the gentlemen like my father and men from his generation?  Don’t they exist any more?

I want a man, a real black man.  I want to be with a man who can be proud of his and my accomplishments, and not one who is jealous or intimidated by our financial and educational differences. I don’t want someone fresh out of prison, and I don’t want to take care of someone else’s problems.

My friends are always suggesting that I cross the color line and date a white boy, but that burns me up. If I want to get my needs met, I’ll just handle that myself. I just do not want to cross the “color line”.

Nothing’s wrong with white guys, but if a black man is what I want, it doesn’t make sense for me to settle for what I don’t want. It especially upsets me when this is suggested to me by other black women. When I talk to women of other races and ethnic groups, that suggestion is never made.  It only comes up with black women when the subject of dating arises.  It’s like a challenge being thrown down.

I am not a racist.  If others want to be involved in interracial or biracial marriages, that is fine for them, yet not for me.  Life for black folks is hard enough. Realistically speaking, I just don’t want to spend the time to school my non-Black spouse on Racism 101 or black history, culture and music. I have also seen the hell that these couples and their kids go through seeking acceptance from black and white people.

I would rather wait until the right black man comes around, but where are they? Where do I go?  Why don’t black men just man up?  I am not seeking a provider, but a partner.  Where do I need to go? I am not the problem!

Seeking Answers, Tacoma, WA

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My Dear Woman,

Wow.  Your letter is powerful.  As I read your words, I can feel your anger, pain and frustration.  It is clear that in driving towards academic and professional success, you have been unable to achieve an objective that is important to you, which is an intimate relationship with an African-American man.

I want to frame this in terms of the Five Stages of Development in the Journey of Self Discovery: existing, surviving, driving, striving and thriving.

  • Existing-the bareness of life. The individual is just sentient, with little or nothing to offer. Death would be a welcome relief or escape.
  • Surviving– daily struggle. This individual holds on to life by living in fear…day by day.
  • Driving-empowerment. This individual seeks direction, and is motivated to find it.
  • Striving-setting the pace. This individual is actively pushing to define success for themselves and achieve it.
  • Thriving– enjoying the fruits of what has been achieved. This individual lives with their fear instead of living in their fear.

It is clear in your writing that you are a person who is a high achiever, a go getter.  You have worked hard to reach your goals.

It seems to me that you are transitioning between the stages of driving and striving. The more you travel and fail to find black men who meet your expectations, the more frustrated you become.

The answer is to take a respite. Take a break, take a breath, and continue to breathe as you meet the challenges at the “crossroads” of your life.  Remember that there are other travelers on similar paths and as “time” and the journey permits, you may encounter the individuals that you seek.

Being frustrated at your friends for encouraging you to date outside of your race is simply a reaction.  Own it.  It is your anger, and not theirs.  What do you expect of them, to find you a black man?

Like you, they are also aware of the “shortage” of available black men.  It is clear that they are concerned about your well-being, otherwise, they would simply remain silent.  Don’t be so quick to bite at the hand that is being extended as a source of help and support to you.

Your frustration at black men for not being good enough or living up to the values of previous generations requires reflection.  Get out of the clouds and come down to reality.  Allow yourself the opportunity to balance your mind and your feelings.

Are black men of your father’s generation really stronger or better able to cope with the similar pressures of racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment?  There is no research data that leaves us with that indication. Black men today are impacted just as much by “race-related stressors” trauma on a daily basis as black men of previous generations were. The black men you are encountering may very well be at existence or surviving levels of their respective journeys.

How many black men were in the doctorate program you attended?  Even now, how many black men are present within the corporate structure of your organization? Be thankful that you had the benefit of wisdom from members of your father’s generation, but understand that such wisdom came at the expense of much blood, emotional trauma and silent tears.  You have risen on their shoulders.  Do not trivialize the struggle of those who have not had similar benefits.

When it comes to your frustration regarding your past and present dating experiences with black men, give yourself the time to formulate a thoughtful response. When a person does something that is either upsetting or offensive, consider carefully what your reply will be.

What do you say when a person offers you a gift? Thank you, of course.  When a person exposes who they really are, they are showing you their true selves.  Embrace the action and treat it as a gift.

Having said that, it’s clear that the men of which you speak are not the ones with which you would want to have an intimate relationship, so keep it moving! As one door closes, it provides the opportunity to open another.  Let’s place closure on the experience, tend to any emotional wounds derived from the encounter, and keep it moving.

Reevaluate your attitude about your preferences.  At the end of the day, this is about you.  It is okay for you to know what you want, and that doesn’t make you a racist.  It’s your life. Seek what you want.  However, review, re-frame, and re-design the way you accomplish your goals.

Concluding Words

I would encourage you to revisit your words and its possible traumatic impact upon others.  Earlier in your correspondence there was a reference to the following:

“My friends are always suggesting that I cross the color line and date a white boy.   That burns me up.”

You may not consider yourself to be a racist, but you continue to use language that is demeaning. Regardless of the ethnic group, your focus should be on seeking a partner; someone who shares your goal of shared equality.

By using the term “boy” in this situation, you risk the misinterpretation of your intentions as well offending others who may continue to recall the traumatic memories of growing up in a society in which regardless of age, education, professional or marital status, individuals of a certain race were referred to as “boy”.

In referring to your feelings about developing a relationship with an adult male of another different racial group, use specific language that indicates what you want to say.  Apologies and regrets do well for one’s intentions, yet do little to heal the wound that is often the outcome.

Finally, in response to your repetitive question, where the hell are the black men?  The answer, black men are here.  It is true that it may be difficult to find the quality of relationship that you are seeking however, as you continue this journey be clear of the following:

  • What are the character traits in the person I am seeking?
  • Why are these character traits essential to me?
  • What are the reasonable actions or steps I am taking to accomplish this journey?
  • Where am I looking or more specifically, what activities am I involved in that assist in furthering my goal?
  • Who are the allies (of both genders) who can be of assistance to me?

Hopefully we will meet at the crossroads again one day as we all continue to travel our individual paths of self-discovery.

“Intimate relationships should be treated like shoes at a department store; they should be placed on and discarded until there is a right fit.”

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

Wanting more, but not willing to settle for less?  Then walk the journey of self-discovery!

The Visible Man

 

No Free Lunch: Our Actions And Their Consequences

My Dear Readers,

“I want what I want and I want it now!”

Many of us have felt this sentiment, or even said it out loud. However, in doing so, we avoid, deny or fail to fully grasp the fact that there are consequences for the actions we take.

The term consequences has been given a bad rap.   Usually applied in the negative, consequences are merely nothing more than reactions to what we do or do not do.

Even in those circumstances, where you may look for faults or somewhere to place blame, it is still possible to be empowered and to accept responsibility for the decisions we make.

Only you can grant yourself the permission to lead the life you desire.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Visible Man,

I hope that you can help me.  I am a second generation American from the Philippines, and I have two young daughters. We currently live with my parents, who are retired and lived on a fixed income.

I am struggling with an important decision. I have a friend who is also a second generation American Filipino who has invited me to move into his new home with him.  I have known him for four years and we have been good friends during that time.  Although he has pursued me for a sexual relationship, I am not attracted to him in that way and I have been clear about not wanting to be sexually involved with him.

Granted, he is an attractive man.  He often says that he can have any woman he wants, but he desires me. He says that if my children and I move in with him, I won’t have to work; that I can quit my job and he will provide for my children and me.

I know that he can provide for us. He’s college educated and makes good money working in the technology industry. I also have a degree from a local college, but I am barely able to pay my bills and take care of my children.  I am in my mid 30’s and have had dreams of opening my own small business, but since I am barely able to get by every month, that dream is becoming more like a fantasy.

He says that he is willing to help me develop my business.  I am very tempted to move in with him and have this relationship, which would be one of convenience for both him and me.

However, I have been involved in an online relationship with another man. He resides in the Philippines where he is a citizen.  Although we have never met, I feel attracted to him.  However, for us to further develop our relationship, I would have to sponsor him so he could come to the United States.  Since I don’t have the finances, I am unable to do so.

I feel very confused. Perhaps I could move in with my friend for 2-3 years and then tell him I want to end the relationship, but I know that may be the wrong thing to do. However, I do know that such relationships of convenience between men and women are common, both in my native country and throughout the world.

I really want to create my own business so I can be independent.  As my parents are getting older, I must prepare myself as it is traditionally expected that I take care of them.   I am very anxious—my friend wants a decision from me within the next two weeks.

What should I do?

Panicking in the Pacific Northwest

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Dear Young Woman,

Take a breath.  Embrace your feelings and slow down so that you can reflect on this situation.

I will not tell you what to do.  It is up to you to evaluate the choices before you, and take responsibility for the decision you make. However, I can make some suggestions as to things you want to consider as you make your choice.

Be willing to be honest with yourself. Often, we are more willing to listen and accept the words of others rather than the truths which lie within ourselves, and when life fails to materialize the way we imagined, there is resentment towards both the other person and more importantly, to self. Yet, who should really bear the blame?  The seller of the bill of goods, or the buyer?

In this situation, I would suggest that you let go of blame and instead, embrace empowerment and responsibility. Be honest with yourself.  Ask yourself the following:

  • If he can have “any woman he wants,” why does he want me?
  • What do I have that the other women do not? What is so special about me?

Be willing to question his motives.  Regardless of how many sexual relationships he has had, he seems to be unable, for whatever, reason, to maintain meaningful long-term intimate relationships.  Consider the following:

  • Since he’s had so many sexual encounters, are you at risk for contracting a sexual transmitted disease from him?
  • Regardless of how he answers the previous question, would you truly feel comfortable being sexually involved with him?
  • What protection do you have? Despite his generous offer, there is no promise of marriage, or indication that your name will be on the title of the home. What prevents him from tossing you and your children out on the streets?
  • If you quit your job, that means that you and your children would be totally financially dependent on him and his good will. Is that what you want for your children and yourself?

You indicate that you are confused, but come on now. Look into the mirror.  It is one thing to tell a stranger like me that you are confused, but you must be honest with yourself.  This is not about being confused.  This is about being conflicted.  Conflict is defined as having or showing mutually inconsistent feelings.  IN essence, you want to have your cake and eat it too. You want to keep your relationship with the person you met online, but you also want to the financial security that your friend offers. Yet, you must be willing to ask the hard questions:

  • Are you prepared to let your lover in the Philippines go? Or, are you planning to hold onto him until you gain enough money from your friend to bring him over to the States?
  • Looking at your actions, are you simply being manipulative and playing games with your friend in considering his offer?
  • Are you instead being manipulated by the online lover in the Philippines?

You must also consider your children.  How would you explain your actions to them? Is this the model that you want your daughters to follow?  How would you advise them on handling a similar situation?

Concluding Words

Many people, including myself, have had to struggle from paycheck to paycheck. I currently have a male colleague master level therapist who struggles to support his family and goes to the food bank every month to make ends meet.  He does so with great humility.  He is a model not only for his son and for other men and women who work every day to provide for their children.

It has been my experience that there are times when individuals who seek “advice” from therapists are in reality seeking “permission” to do the things they want to do. This is evident in your observation that these “relationships of convenience happen all over the world.”

It may just be that you are conflicted and looking to justify what you are leaning towards doing.  However before you pursue this “relationship of convenience,” please consider that many of the women involved in such relationships throughout the world do so not out of choice, but rather due to force, threats,  and their own feelings of hopelessness or obligation.

As college educated people, we have what many do not have: the ability to choose our own directions, and the empowerment to pursue them.  It is not acceptable that we ignore or willingly surrender that which is often denied to others.

Life is not an easy journey, even for college-educated people.  It is absolutely possible that you can provide for your family, care for your elderly parents, and own your own small business, and it can be done without behaviors that you may later regret.

One of my patients once told me “one’s later can be greater than one’s beginning.  The question is: do you have belief, faith and trust in the journey you have chosen?

When you focus on the climb and its direction, you can’t help but achieve your destination.

The Visible Man

Waiting At the Wedding Chapel: The Power of Choice, Them or Me?

My Dear Readers,

     There may come a time when you or others will have the privilege of having your marital vows blessed in the eyes of your family and community.  However there are times when you are under so much pressure that the intended day of joy becomes a nightmare you seek to avoid.

Below is such a story….

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Dear Visible Man,

I am somewhat embarrassed to write to you about my situation.  I would ask that you don’t use my name, as I am concerned about how others, such as my family, friends and church members, will think of me.  I am at my wit’s end, trying to figure out what to do.

My people are from Texas and I was raised as a southern Baptist in a very conservative African-American church. My dilemma is simple and yet complicated. I am engaged to a wonderful man, but we have not yet set a date for the wedding.

There are two men in my life who would want to call themselves my father and my stepfather.  They have both kept tabs on me, pumping up their egos, bragging about my academic and professional successes (I have obtained a PhD degree and work in the corporate world), but neither of them have ever been involved in my life.

Neither of them have done a damn thing for me or spent any time with me.  It is sickening to hear from people in the church how they are so proud of me.  Church members are not aware that both have refused to assist me financially, and it leaves such a bad taste in my mouth that I could vomit.

The problem is that they are feuding over who is going to walk me down the aisle.  Honestly, when I was a teenager, I swore to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one of them escort me down the aisle at my wedding.

I love my fiancée.  I have waited long for this blessed day.  Now, because of this, my mother and other female relatives are pressuring me to set a date for the wedding. People in the church are whispering and gossiping regarding the delay.  I haven’t told my fiancée what’s going on; I avoid the subject whenever I can.

I am now questioning whether I really want to get married.  Eloping is clearly out of the question, as it will bring shame on the family.

I am so confused!  I don’t know what to do.  I just want to run away and hide.  Can you help?

Questioning At the Altar, Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest

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Dear Altar Lady,

So now that you have arrived at the crossroads and you have to make a decision, your response is to dump the man you say you love? Who do you choose? Them, or ME?

  • Understanding that others are not always acting in my best interests do I choose what they want?
  • Understanding that it is my wedding, my life and my future, do I choose what I want?
  • Or do I not deal with the stress and simply choose not to marry at all?

It is feasible that others in reading or listening to your words in seeking advice may state the following:

  • Tell them to mind their own business.  It’s your wedding!
  • You are a woman and not a child.  Tell them what you want!
  • Stop letting them push you around!

It’s a trap…nothing more than a trap.  To internalize these ideas would result in you having the same experiences as others—not your own. Your conflict may be derived from the fact that you are seeking to simultaneously address the wishes (and demands) of relatives, church members and yourself, and that’s impossible.

As you are seeking to follow the demands of the larger group (society, community and family), you are drowning out the voice coming from within the psychological self, pleading to listen to what I want. Furthermore, it is your wedding, but you clearly have prioritized their desires before your psychological self, the living being within you.

With some many opposing forces (society, community (in this case, your church) and family) pressuring you, how can one listen to the psychological self?

This is your time for empowerment. It is time for you to step into the Five R’s of Relief:

  • Take a moment for a respite, a time out.  Take a breath.
  • Take ownership of your reactions. Stop running and hiding.
  • Slow the process down.  Reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
  • Consider your options.  Develop your response.
  • Take action.  Reevaluate the impact of your decisions.

Allow the dense fog of confusion to dissipate.  In doing so, you will be able to see clearly.

Young Woman,

Before you choose to slip away and make a decision that may impact you for the rest of your life, please consider the following questions:

  • Are your relatives truly acting in your best interest as they exert the pressure to force you to do what they want you to do?
  • Why are they ignoring your wants?  After all it is your wedding, right?
  • What is their agenda?  Is it possible that they are planning the wedding of their dreams and not yours? Where are your dreams and wishes being highlighted in your wedding?

You may have been raised in the church community, but the vows of matrimony you are about to take will be a contract between you and your spouse, a pact made before God.  The church community and your family may have played a powerful role in your life, but they now must step away and take the rightful role of spectator by sitting down, being quiet and enjoying your ceremony and the following festivities.  However if this is to happen, the “voice of reason” must come from within you.  It must be your words expressing your wants.  Using the ABC model (i.e. advocacy, balance and calmness), consider the following steps:

  • Advocacy– Allow the psychological self its voice.  Let the larger group (society, community and family) know what you want and will insist upon in your wedding.
  • Balance– Find stability in your mind and feelings.  You are the captain of your ship and the master of your destiny.
  • Calmness– Achieve the absence of agitation in feelings and steadiness of mind as you walk down the aisle.

Concluding Words

Young Woman,

In choosing to address the issue of the struggle between your father and stepfather as to who will walk have the honor of walking you down the aisle at your wedding, focus on what your psychological self is saying to you.

Throughout your life, these men have provided you with a gift, that being an accurate picture of themselves.  They have given you nothing more than emotional pain and sorrow.  They have little or nothing for you and yet, have enjoyed the bounty of your success and joys.

As you have spoken about the tradition of the father giving away the bride in matrimony, one must seriously question: what has either of them done to earn that honor?  As the past fades, do not forget what you have achieved without their involvement.

The present is here. Do not allow the grinning smiles and hidden agendas to impact your event.  The future is before you, so grasp it and leave the drama behind.

Hell, it’s your wedding.  You have earned this day.  Walk yourself down the aisle. Let the church community be like sheep, gnawing and gossiping.  Walk with your head up and smile.  Others will understand and return the smile as well.

You once stated

“when I was a teenager, I sworn to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one escort me down the aisle at my wedding.”

Let this be your day.  Speak for the psychological self.  Smile. Then “step off” into your future.

The Visible Man

Betrayal & Self Sacrifice: His Loss, My Redemption

Dear Visible Man,

I am a 39-year-old African American woman who has a history of taking care of family members, while being indifferent to myself.

In telling my story, I know that there will be those who will sit in judgment of me.  They can do so, but they have never walked in my shoes.

I am currently awaiting the outcome of a judicial proceeding for a crime that I took legal responsibility for, but I didn’t commit.  Here’s what happened:

I was visiting my (now ex-) boyfriend in another state in the Deep South.  As we were driving back to my hotel, our car was pulled over by the local police. He had just been paroled four days earlier and was staying in a state mandated work release facility. 

As he was pulling over, he told me that he was driving on a suspended license and did not have auto insurance—both infractions that would subject him to arrest. In addition to these concerns, he had been smoking marijuana (and no, I do not smoke). 

So, once we were stopped, the police searched the car, and found marijuana.  Being from Seattle, where possession of such a small amount is not a big deal, and not wanting “my man” to go back to prison, I told police that the marijuana was mine.

I assumed that the police officer was going to write me a citation or make me throw it away—at least, that’s what would have happened in Seattle. But to my disbelief, I was formally arrested, fingerprinted, and photographed, and I had to come up with bail money in order to get out of jail. 

I have since returned to Seattle and I have hired an attorney to defend me in the state that I was arrested.  I have spent thousands of dollars dealing with this nightmare.  

Recently, I returned to the local court to face the judge.  My ex-boyfriend drove me to the courthouse, but waited for me in the parking lot while I faced the judge and responded to the charge.

My attorney and I explained the situation, and even mentioned that my ex-boyfriend was in the parking lot.  The judge was very sympathetic, but she said that unless he was willing to get out of the car, come into the courtroom and take responsibility, she would have no choice but to hand me a formal sentence.

It was clear that the judge, prosecutor and my lawyer were disgusted towards my ex-boyfriend for failing to “man up.”  In a way, I understood why he was unwilling to come forth- he was sure that he would have to go back to jail for violation of his parole.  Still, he was willing to allow me to take the weight of his actions– and he was my man!  How could he do this to me?

In the end, I was formally sentenced, and   thankfully, I’m allowed to complete my legal obligations in Seattle rather than being forced to remain thousands of miles away from home.  I have since ended the relationship, but he continues to contact me, saying that he wants me back in his life.

Today I carry a mixture of feelings.  I am still traumatized by the experience that I endured.  I feel betrayed and I am angry with him for allowing me to go through this nightmare.  I have flashbacks that keep me up at night.  I have some feelings of depression and being lost.

Yet at the same time, I still have strong feelings for him.  He continues to attempt to contact me, even though I’ve placed a block on his phone calls.  I know that the relationship is over, but it’s difficult for me to move on.  My eyes are open to his actions and irresponsible behaviors.  I know I have to move on with my life.

I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you may have so I can find resolution.

Kiki Seattle, WA

Dear Kiki,

Before responding, I want to thank you for having the security within the psychological self to share your story. It is clear that you have acknowledged your error in judgment and you are taking responsibility for actions that were not of your own making.

You do sound conflicted on how you feel and what you want.  You have likely experienced the following:

  • Anger/sadness in that he allowed you to carry the weight of his actions.

  • Being betrayed as well as his unwillingness to “man up.”

  • Symptoms that are impacting you physically as well as emotionally.

As you explore these feelings, have the willingness to explore the actions of this individual prior to the incident that has now impacted your life.  This individual, after being released from jail and while being housed in a work release facility while on parole knowingly chose to:

  • Consume marijuana in the car he is driving.

  • Drive with a suspended driver’s license.

  • Drive without automobile insurance.

  • Conduct these behaviors in a jurisdiction in which the listed infractions are offenses that mandate arrest.

Clearly, this is the behavior of an individual who is irresponsible, reckless and heading towards self-destruction.  He must want to look within the self and question why he is committed to behaviors and actions that will clearly lead to his return to a life of incarceration.

It would be an error to focus on his “unwillingness to man up.” Instead, let’s focus on his choices.  In this situation, this individual, faced with the option to accept responsibility and return to jail, he chose instead to “sacrifice” the woman “he loves.”

He affirms his willingness to be there for you in driving you to the courthouse for your formal sentencing.   Now he seeks to have you remain in his life given the “sacrifice” you have made for the relationship.  It may be apparent to him that you are prepared to make more sacrifices.

In your writing, there was a statement of “a history of taking care of family members while being indifferent to myself.”   It may be that this individual has “sniffed out” your nature to prioritize the wants of others over your own.

Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I prioritize others above myself?

  • Why do I allow others to use and abuse my kindness or me?

  • If I am living in fear, what is it that I am afraid of?

Have the willingness to love the self and in doing so “love me more.”  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I move towards living with fear instead of living in fear?

  • How do I respond to the conflicted feelings that lie within?

  • How do I move forth?  What lies ahead?

YOUNG WOMAN, you are not alone.  There are many travelers like yourself on the journey we call LIFE.  The answers to the questions above reside within you.

  • You must want to have belief, faith and trust in self.

  • You must want to embrace your fears because these are your and your alone.

  • You must want to extend to the self the gift of the apology and receive in return the blessings of forgiveness.

YOUNG WOMAN, the psychological and physical symptoms you are experiencing (depression, flashbacks, etc.) may be a response to “betrayal trauma.”  This form of trauma is a violation of implicit and explicit trust.  The closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and thus, trauma.

There are seven subtypes of trauma, of which betrayal trauma is identified as being the most intrusive and damaging.  Recovery from such a traumatic experience can occur, with therapeutic work.   The error of one’s thinking is that time heals emotional wounds.  Without work (therapeutic involvement), time is simply what it is and no more…. Time.

YOUNG WOMAN, your ex-boyfriend has given you a “gift.”  It is called the “gift of exposure.”  He has, by not taking responsibility, shown you who and what he truly is.  He has also shown you what can be expected of him in the future should you decide to return to him.

As you struggle with your feelings, ask the self the following questions:

  • Do I deserve more in my intimate relationships?

  • I have only one life. Am I willing to settle for less?

  • What am I willing to do in order to get what I want?

Finally, as I may have feelings for him, DO I LOVE ME MORE?

YOUNG WOMAN, in closing, you may be correct in your earlier assessment, that there will be those who will have much to say in their rush to judgment.  However, such individuals have failed themselves by not “listening” to the wisdom that comes from your story.  Simply stated, they are “not ready.”

If you have the opportunity to speak to the ex-boyfriend, encourage him to benefit from the loss of this most valuable intimate relationship.  And in doing that, forgive yourself.  The passages below can be useful for both of you.

“To err is human” is a common expression yet we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.”

“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”

Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, Dr. Micheal Kane

The Visible Man

 

Wanting More: When Achieving Acceptance, Commitment & Trust In An Intimate Relationship Is Still Not Enough

Dear Visible Man,

I am writing about my relationship.  Although I was born of African-American parents in the Pacific Northwest, my values are firmly rooted in the South.  As such, I was raised in the church.  I think it’s time for me to get married, but it is important to me that I wed a man who shares my Christian values.

My boyfriend says that he’s a Christian, but he doesn’t go to church.  I worry about his salvation and want more for him regarding his spiritual walk with the Lord.

I want him to attend church with me on a regular basis.  He is willing to go, but he wants to go when he feels like going.  I have waited a long time for a man of Christian values to come into my life.

What is the likelihood of getting him to change his mind?

Waiting For A Sign,

Tacoma WA

Dear Waiting,

Given the serious nature of your concerns, as well as the importance of this next stage in your life, I would ask that you review your reasoning for wanting to seek marriage with this specific individual.  I raise this question due to the fact that in the United States, first time marriages have a high rate of divorce– about 40 to 50%.  This rate is higher in specific communities, and for African-Americans, the divorce rate is 70%.

It is true that no one gets married for the purpose of seeking a divorce.  However, it is essential to understand the pitfalls we consciously and unconsciously create through our expectations and bring into the martial relationship.

But first, I want to clarify the issues you seek to address:

  • You have a strong spiritual and religious foundation rooted in your family and cultural beliefs.   You are seeking a marital relationship in which your mate shares similar beliefs.
  •  Although your boyfriend shares your beliefs, he does not share your commitment to regularly attend church services.
  •  You are concerned for him and want more for him as this relates to his spiritual walk.
  •  You are questioning the likelihood of him changing his mind regarding his beliefs.

Rather than address my responses to him, I would prefer to have you look within yourself.  If indeed you are choosing to marry him for the person that he is, then:

  •  Why are you working to change his beliefs?
  • If you are indeed satisfied with your spiritual walk, why can’t you be satisfied with his?

Utilizing the ACT Model (Acceptance, Commitment, and Trust), let’s shed light on these concerns.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  •  If I accept him as who he is and what joy he can bring to the marital relationship, why is it important for him to change to accommodate my beliefs?
  •   If I want to hold to my beliefs of marrying a person who has the same beliefs as I do, why am I unwilling to terminate this relationship that clearly does not equal the standards that I am seeking?
  •   Do I have hidden agendas, hopes or aspirations?   Will he change his ways of thinking following the marriage?  How will I feel if he does not change?

If we think of acceptance as defined as the action or process of finding something or someone adequate or suitable or the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  •  As there are no restrictions being placed on how I choose to worship, why am I unwilling to extend the same rights to my partner?
  •  As I want more for him, why am I unwilling to accept how he views or what he wants for himself?

If a commitment, in its basic form, is a “a pledge to do” and he in fact stands before God, family and friends stating something similar to the following:

I take thee, to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health to love and cherish, till death do us part…

Then ask yourself the following:

  •  Why does it matter if he chooses to worship in his way as you worship in yours?

If trust can be defined as the “belief that someone is reliable, good, and honest,” then ask yourself the following:

  • In this walk with God, what am I truly seeking?
  • If indeed my prayers for the person I seek has been answered, why am I focused on changing this person?

It is possible that instead of coming to terms regarding what– or in this situation, who— stands in front of you, ready to make a lifelong commitment, you may view this person as a “project,” and therefore, feel compelled to make improvements.  In doing this, you run the risk of your mate changing into a person that you now dislike and/or resent, and the feeling will likely be mutual.

Have the willingness to cease “living in fear” of his salvation and work on wanting to “live with fear” of the path he has chosen.  Have belief, faith and trust in the person you have chosen to marry. Embrace your fears.  If you feel the need to change something about him, be honest with your mate as well with yourself.

Flip Wilson, as his legendary character Geraldine, would always say, “What you see is what you get.”   It is human nature to want more and not to settle for less, but in the journey of life, let us focus on the experience and not the destination.    Have the willingness to accept what the other brings to the relationship.  If this is not the person you want to be with, then have the willingness to let go and move on; leaving the individual exactly the way he or she was found.

In your writing, you indicated that you have waited a long time for a man of Christian values to come into your life.  Given this, I leave you with the Five Ws of Waiting:

“If it is worth while waiting for, then it was worth the wait.”

The Visible Man

Mistaken Identity: Wisdom, And Not Strength, Is The Key To Successful Relationships

Dear Visible Man,
     My woman and I are both in our twenties and have been together for some time.  We are now considering getting married.  However, I am in a serious conflict with her in that she does not want to say the words “honor and obey” in the wedding ceremony. 

     We were both raised up in the church.  I believe that as the head of my household, it is important that my spouse respects me and follow the road in life that I will walk and support the home that I will make for us.
     I have read your website.  You seem to be a strong black man and the head of your household. Do you have any words you want to share?  Maybe she will listen to a neutral person.

Still Waiting

Seattle, WA
Dear YOUNG MAN,
     First, I want to congratulate you for having the wish and desire to take the journey of matrimony.  The marital bond/contract is not to be taken lightly, as creating a lifelong relationship is one of the most serious commitments you will make in your life.
     I find it interesting that in reading my website, you would find my opinion worthwhile in this decision process. Your review of my website has led you to believe that I am a strong man and the head of my household.
     The reason I am curious about your beliefs is that the website doesn’t speak to my personal beliefs, but to my professional aspirations and clinical interests.
     In addition, your writing seems to affirm my “neutrality,” but there is an underlying assumption that I would be in agreement with your position.  Such an assumption would deflate any perception of my supposed neutrality.
     That being said, I will, as you requested, write a response to your concerns. HOWEVER, I will address my response specifically to you and NOT to your bride to be. If I were to make any recommendations to your fiancée, it would be: “listen to the psychological self.”
So in speaking directly to you, let’s clarify the issues:
  • There is conflict because your fiancée is either reluctant, hesitant, or outright refusing to utter the words “honor and obey” as a featured part of your martial vows.
  • There is an internalized belief system that as the man, you are the head of the household.
  • Other internalized beliefs include a need for your spouse to respect you and follow your road in life and support the home you will make for your family.

     In researching marital vows that are similar to what you are seeking, I came across the Form of Matrimony, which originated in 1662 and was revised in 1928.  The words to be spoken by the groom are different from those being spoken by the bride.  It follows:

Groom- “I take thee (name of bride), to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Bride-“I take thee (name of groom), to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

In 1980, the words were revised and left to be identical for both groom and bride with the exception of “to love and to cherish.” The groom now says “to love, cherish, and worship” and the bride continues to say “love, cherish, and obey.”

     In 2000, the vows in Common Worship was changed to have both groom and bride to state “to love and to cherish,” but it was left to the bride and groom to choose whether to add “obey” when the bride makes her vows.
YOUNG MAN, the key concept in the 2000 revision is the choice of the bride to replace the clause and include “obey” if she so desires.  Your bride to be clearly does not desire to do so.  The key questions to ask yourself are these:
  • Why is it important that my spouse obey me?   Why do I need her to obey?
  • Why am I not listening to her wants?
  • What does the unwillingness to listen to her wants indicate about potential conflicts in our relationship as husband and wife?

YOUNG MAN, I would encourage you to examine your concepts regarding “leadership, strength and head of household.” A wise person has the humility to listen to the words of his/her spouse.  A wise person acknowledges not only his/her strengths, but also his/her weaknesses.  Furthermore, A wise person does not seek leadership based on gender; it is in one’s wisdom that leadership in the household is a shared commitment by two individuals, who have made that contract to God and each other, and witnessed by their family and friends, to honor, love and cherish until death do them part.

YOUNG MAN, a wise person does not seek respect from another or seek to fulfill a “need” for obedience.  A wise person understands that respect lies within the self. If the source of respect comes from another, then it can just as easily be taken away. Respect from a loved one is earned and not demanded via obedience.  A wise person understands that the sense of security that lies within a relationship based on mutual earned respect is strong and will be there during the hard and difficult days that will lie ahead.
Take the time to ask yourself the following questions:
  • If marriage is a lifetime commitment, why am I willing to obligate my relationship to a structure that is guaranteed to work towards its failure?
  • As I look around my community, what are the structures that reinforce marriage instead of weakening it?
  • Am I willing to let go of past teachings and seek another structure that may reinforce my relationship?
  • Do I want a life of leader/follower?  Or am I willing to consider a structure that is different?

YOUNG MAN, for you to be successful in your marital walk and to find the life and the security in the relationship that you seek, have the willingness to want to stop “living in fear.” Instead of walking a “road” that was created by others, have the willingness to create for yourself and your bride a new path, one that is yours and yours alone—a path that you can be proud of.

     Have the willingness to view your marital relationship as one of equals in the journey. Instead of obedience, seek partnership.  Instead of your word being “law,” strive for openness in communication, reinforcing the freedom of its flow.  Seek out strategies that will lead to a healthy and vibrant relationship.
     Focus on teamwork as your approach to problems.  Be willing to not only expose your strengths, but your weaknesses as well.  Let it be known to her that the both of you are signing up for this lifetime contract.   Be willing to enter into this blessed union with all eyes open and everything out on the table for both parties to see and comment.
YOUNG MAN, I leave you with these words: have the willingness to be exposed and vulnerable to your mate.  Are you prepared for the journey following matrimony that lies ahead?
     It is wise to question the wisdom of marriage in this time of your life.  Continue your walk and in doing so, focus on the experience, and not the destination.  If you seek lifelong commitment with a person in this journey, seek to broaden the meaning of what you want in your martial relationship.
 If you truly are seeking obedience in your relationship, perhaps more consideration should be given towards the marital contract as well as to the reluctance of your bride to be.
A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.
-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

The Visible Man

Knocking At The Door: Bisexuality Within The African-American Community

Silence… Pretend… Ignore… Avoid… Deny…

The Seattle Times recently published an article regarding the lack of acceptance of bisexuality by both straight and gay/lesbian communities. (“Study: Most bisexuals still haven’t come out” 7/22/13)
The article highlighted a photograph of an African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child.  However there was a discrepancy between the article and the photograph in the failure of the article to provide any information regarding the status or African-American bisexuals  “coming out” or responding to rejection from either their community or the majority population.
The article brought forth attitudes held by both members of gay/lesbians and straight communities as well as startling statistics regarding the impact of rejection upon bisexuals.  The article suggests that both communities are distrustful of bisexuals, holding onto stereotypes that bisexuals are indecisive or incapable of monogamous relationships.
It was found in a Pew Research study that as a result of rejection by both communities that a time in which many gay and lesbians are “coming out” asserting their civil rights, most bisexuals have chosen to remain closeted or hidden from public view.  Furthermore the research study developed the following findings:
·      Only 28% of bisexuals said that most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 71% of lesbians and 78% of gay men.
·      Only 11% of bisexual people said most of their closest co-workers knew of their sexual orientation, compared to 48% of gay men and 50% of lesbians.
·      Bisexuals were less likely than gay men and lesbians to say their workplaces were accepting of them.
The article goes on to state that as a result bisexuals suffer from isolation. Studies have found that
·      Bisexual people are at greater risk of emotional distress than gay/lesbian or straight people.
·      Bisexual women are more likely to binge drink and suffer depression.
·      Bisexual people are more likely than gays/lesbians and straight people to harm themselves or endure suicidal thoughts
Although I find the research to be startling as it provides proof that due to rejection, bisexuals are forced to reside in two separate closets: a straight one and a gay one.  The research also indicates that bisexuals are responding to the absence of a clearly defined community and the psychological stress of having to hide their sexual orientation.
However what I find most interesting is the photograph featuring of a African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child yet the article fails to provide any research or documentation regarding the impact of rejection being dealt with by bisexuals of ethnic minority communities.
In essence the photograph appears to serve as a prop adding “color” to an article that focusing on the psychological impact on bisexuals belonging to the “majority.”  Historically ethnic minorities have been cited in such articles as an “afterthought.” In this situation, the article does not even bother to attempt to hide its use or rather misuse of ethnic minority bisexual people.  Clearly this is one of those situations in which “they are seen, yet they remain invisible.”
In the article the biracial family “exists” for the enjoyment of the reader.  The reader attains internal satisfaction, observing the ethnic diversity of the mother and father as they are beaming with smiles as they hold their child.  However their “story” is not being told.
As the article clearly points out the rejection that Caucasian bisexuals are facing in both gay/lesbian and straight communities, it fails to provide information which is widely known that bisexuals of color and bisexual ethnic minorities are often responding to rejections from three communities: gays/lesbians, straight people and their own ethnic minority community.
Furthermore, where Caucasian bisexuals are responding to rejection due to sexual orientation, ethnic minority bisexuals are responding not only to the same rejection by the gay/lesbian and straight communities as a result of their sexual orientation, but to the rejection by their ethnic community, which denies them a source of protection and a safe harbor from the racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment that they face day to day due to the color of their skin or ethnic origin.
Whether the photograph serves its purpose in “selling” the article” is not of concern. The real issues are those of invisibility, manipulation and the failure of the article to tell the story of the people in the photograph.”  The article used this family in a manner that is a disservice and in doing so reinforces the perception of “invisibility” for ethnic minority bisexuals.
There is interesting research that has been developed among the topic of bisexuality within the African American community
·      Due to homophobia within the African-American community, African-American bisexual youth are often reluctant to disclose their sexuality
·      In a large sample of behaviorally bisexual men, it was found that African-Americans were much less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to their female partners than whites
·      Two major predictors for disclosure among African-American men were current age and age at initial engagement in sexual behavior, with older and more experienced men being more willing to disclose their sexuality.
There continues to be a wall of silence and ignorance (lack of knowledge) within the African-American community regarding bisexuality.  To provide clarification, the use of the word bisexual as a label and identity varies from group to group and from bisexual individual to bisexual individual. To provide some understanding to the question of what is bisexuality here are a few of the more popular definitions currently in use:
·       Someone who is capable of feeling romantic, spiritual, and/or sexual attraction for either male or female gender.
·       A person who loves despite gender.
·       One who loves individuals first and genders second.
·       An individual open to sexual or emotional exploration with two genders.
This African-American bisexual individual does not merely exist.  He/she is not invisible. They are alive.  They live vibrant and meaningful lives.  Their presence brings a picture of diversity of the human tapestry that is among us.  They have a story that deserves to be told.
Members of the ethnic minority bisexual community are knocking at the door.   The public, viewing and listening have a right to hear their story.
The Visible Man