Taking Action In Your Relationship – No More Shame, Blame or Criticism

When people have been in a committed relationship for a number of years, they usually each have a fairly accurate map of how the other needs to grow and change. It’s one of the benefits of being in a longer term relationship; that our partner has this unique perspective on our personal landscape and they do not hesitate to tell us, whether we want to hear it or not. They are often better able to see us than we are able to see ourselves.

We should be eternally grateful to them for their pointed observations. Right?


variety of relationship emotions

The problem is that more often than not, our maps contain “BASEBALL BATS” of shame, blame and criticism, which we use to beat each other up.

“Read my map!”
“No! You read my map!”


We need to take the bats out of our maps and leave them out for good. No more shame, blame or criticism. Then our partners may be able to read our maps, which often are useful and accurate representations of how they need to grow. And who knows? If they do the same, we just may be willing to look at their maps of ourselves as well!

Have you found yourself using the “BASEBALL BATS” of shame, blame and criticism in your relationship? What have you done to stop this action?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Do You Use Comfort Food to Medicate Pain?

Just about everybody loves comfort food. (What do you mean, “Just about everybody?” EVERYBODY man!)

The problem with comfort food is its potentially addictive and destructive nature when comfort food is used to medicate pain. And we live in a society where there is a lot of pain to medicate, especially if you are the wrong class (lower or disappearing middle) or the wrong race (African-American or Latino) or especially combined with these, the wrong gender (female).

Comfort foodEver notice how relatively cheap sugar is? And French fries? So yes, I’m talking about comfort food and fat. One way of looking at body fat is that it is roughly proportional to the amount of entitlement and discounting you have to put up with in order to get through the day. In other words, the class and race you are part of. You don’t see a lot of overweight wealthy people these days, in case you haven’t noticed.

Now unlike Mayor Bloomberg in New York City, I am not advocating that we take people’s Big Gulps away from them or stop Wendy’s and other chains from “Biggie Sizing” it. I would advocate that we address the real pain that many people, especially the poor and underprivileged in this country, experience and medicate with comfort food. Instead of trying to pry the comfort food away, let’s work to change the underlying conditions that lead people to de-value their health in their more fundamental struggle for survival.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Dead Stop: An Extremely Useful Action

Not long ago, I came home from work tired and hungry, and my wife hadn’t started dinner yet, even though I thought it was her turn to cook. I began to complain and rag on her. And I kept at it while she was fixing the meal. Our 15-year-old daughter was doing her homework at the dining room table. Finally my wife said, “Are you just going to keep complaining?” I was about to answer in the affirmative when my daughter looked at me and said, “Stop, Dad!”

stop signI stopped dead in my tracks. A dead stop.

(By way of information: a dead stop can be an extremely useful action, especially when you are heading for a precipice!)

I realized I had been behaving offensively; I apologized to my wife, and she apologized for getting a late start on the meal.

But that wasn’t all.

A little later, I told my daughter that I had an appreciation for her (she loves appreciations). I told her how grateful I was that she felt safe to call me on my behavior. I told her how glad I was that she spoke up to me when she didn’t like what I was doing. And I told her that I had this powerful realization that she would always be willing to speak up in situations when she needed to do so, and I was so very proud of her.

By the way, complaining, besides being whining and offensive, is not an effective strategy for getting one’s needs met. As far as I can tell, I didn’t get my dinner one minute sooner, and I am very thankful that my wife is not a person who likes to throw things.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A Rare Occurrence In Our Culture? Men Who Like Women and Women Who Like Men

Sadly, men who like women and women who like men are pretty rare in this culture.

Before you object absolutely to this statement, let me try to explain what I mean a little further. I am not talking about physical, sexual or romantic attraction between men and women, which is wonderful and exciting and better than the cat’s meow! (I can already hear some of you, particularly some of you guys saying, “So what else is there?”)

What gets in the way of deep caring and fondness between men and women is what I call following Terry Real, the dance of entitlement and resentment that entraps men and women in their closest relationships with one another.

I have come to really like women only as I have been willing to look at, understand, and change my entitled positions and move to a position of same as. Same as is basically the realization that I am not better or worse, higher or lower than any other person, man or woman. Coming to like, care for and trust women has been one of the gifts of my growth towards real equality I never could have imagined. Starting out on my journey, I did not realize that letting go of entitlement would feel much better than the alternative.

Women, for their part, have to be willing to let go of their resentment towards men. Resentment is a poison we carry for someone else and keep drinking ourselves. It is much easier for women to give up resentment when men move out of entitlement. Poison is still poison, however, and one way or another women have to let resentment go, even if it means moving away from men who love their entitlements more than them.

Embracing LoveFor my part, I am hopeful. I see men that I work with and love growing and changing, even when the growth and change is challenging to their up-bringing in what I call “guy school.” I see women turning to these men hesitatingly at first and more and more affectionately as their hearts open to one another. I am hopeful because I see my daughter both having excellent boundaries and being fond of the men in her life. I like to think her mother and I have something to do with that. I like that she likes herself, and I especially like that she seems to genuinely like me, in spite of my limitations and imperfections.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker