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Thoughts on Relating with Men

Relating with men feels like a mixed bag to me.  “Some of my best friends are men!”  In fact, a lot of them are!  I have two sons that I really enjoy relating to.  Of my colleagues at RRC, I feel most comfortable with the men in many ways.   On the other hand, I feel closer in some ways to my daughter-in-law than I do to my sons.  I do more things socially with my women friends.  And I experience a deeper level of intimacy in talking with my close women friends than I do with the men in my life. Our relationships just happen differently.

What is the difference?  I think that, when I’m with women, we talk more about our personal lives – from clothes, to relationships with others, to our feelings about ourselves and our lives.  It feels “juicy”. This certainly doesn’t happen with all women but, in relationships where this doesn’t seem to flow, I find myself moving away from the relationship.   With the men that I choose to spend time with, I find that we talk much more about ideas – from philosophy, to politics, to movies or books.  There’s something that feeds me about these conversations also.  AND, especially in mixed groups, I begin to get bored and feel disconnected when this goes on too long.

So, what does this say about men and women relating in general?  I’m not sure.  Does it mean that we are just very different and have to accept this?  When I say that I realize that, to me, this means that I have to be satisfied doing relationships with men their way!  I seem to believe that I have no right to expect, even ask, that they come in my direction!  I wonder if this position/belief is common in women.  It worries me that, even with all my experience with men who value me and want to be relational with me, I still feel that I must adapt!  Is this particular to me and my dynamic, or is it still part of the cultural norm and expectation?

Mary Simon, Psy.D.

Moving Beyond the Power Struggle


Remember the song that said “For everything…, turn, turn turn, there is a season…, turn turn, turn.”  This is a phrase from Ecclesiastes that provides deep reflection on some automatic behaviors in relationships.   After the “Romantic Stage” of all relationships there comes a period in which the partners feel hurt and betrayed by each other.  This is often referred to as the “Power Struggle”.  At this time conflicts are not resolved and resentments begin to build up inside both partners. 

Many people handle this stage by turning away from the other person.  It just feels safer and less fraught with frustration and grief.  The endless repetitions of all too familiar fights are avoided by shutting down, stonewalling the conversation, and turning inward.  This can have devastating effects on a love relationship.

Unbeknownst to you, your partner feels lost and abandoned.  S/he feels unimportant and unloved by you as you stop talking and control your own reactivity through silence.  What you are doing to feel secure and to avoid the conflict feels provocative and offensive to your partner.  Obviously this is not going to move the relationship closer.

 What is required here feels counter-intuitive.  You must stop your retreat and turn toward your partner.  You must abandon the security of your fortress of silence and approach your partner with an open hand and a curious mind set.  What you say is not as important as making the approach with warmth and a desire to be closer to your friend.

~ Dr. Howard Lambert





One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, once posed the poetic question, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” I have found this to be a wonder-filled, thought and action-provoking question, and one that is particularly poignant as we leap into 2012 (which coincidently happens to be a Leap Year).  Another similarly provocative question that I like to ponder around the New Year is, ‘What would you do if you had no fear and you knew that you could not fail?’

A colleague of mine (and an excellent writing coach), Andrea Costantine, recently asked the question, “What would it take to make 2012 your best year yet?”  As I consider my answer to this question, I recall the notion that what you focus on expands. In other words, if I focus on what I fear, or what I don’t want (my “NO”), I will tend to move in that direction, and that will play a large role in determining what I create and draw into my life. If, on the other hand, I focus on what I love, on what is life-affirming, and on what I do want in my life (my ‘YES!’), that will be the direction I will tend to move. As my daughter, at age 4 wisely proclaimed, “Peace attracts peace.”

 With this in mind, I challenge you to consider the following questions:

  • What is your vision of the best year ever?
  • What would you do if you were to focus on what you truly want in your life in 2012? How might that look, feel, sound?
  • Who is the person you will need to be or become in order to bring this vision into reality?
  • What support might be helpful (e.g. a friend or relative, a coach, a therapist) as you stretch into your new vision?

 As you enter the portal of this New (Leap) Year, I invite you to discover your “YES!!!” and then take the leap!

~ Suzanne Mariner 










We have probably all had the experience of being in the middle of a fight with our partner and thinking to our self… “That is absurd. How can you possibly think that? You have got it all wrong.” It is my contention that those thoughts are an indication that I have totally lost my neutrality and that my non-verbal behavior is about to become dismissive, invalidating and maybe even condescending.
I generally know my partner to be thoughtful and reasonable. Why do I doubt that now? Well it is probably because she is disagreeing with me. She sees something differently from me. My sense of self is threatened and I feel an urge to fight back and assert my superior knowledge or right to my own opinion. It is actually my own insecurity that is taking command of the ship.
If I presume that everything she says, thinks and does makes total sense (to her) from within her own perspective I would never look down on her and become arrogant and dismissive. If her ideas do not make sense to me it means that I have not taken the time to inquire into her world view to see how it makes sense to her. That needs to be my next job at those moments.
When I say, “You are not making sense!” I am actually saying, “You are not making MY sense.” How pompous I must sound at those moments.
~ Dr. Howard Lambert

We’re writing a book!

  • After 35+ years of working together, we (Mary and John) have decided to write a book.  Now, at last, it seems time to do this.  We realize that we are a “good team” in many ways.  Without John, the visionary, we would never get started.  Without Mary,  the “closer”, we would never finish!
  • Anyway, at first, we planned to call the book, Seeking Wisdom.   More recently, we have come up with the title, Happy Misfits: Living with Wisdom, Compassion and Kindness in a Troubled World – or something like that. 
  • So, why write a book?  And, why is time?  We want to write a book because we think we have something important to say about our journey with psychotherapy as a pursuit of wisdom both for ourselves and for others. 
  • We believe that our long collaboration, including the ways our lives and work have intertwined, illuminates the psychotherapeutic journey in ways that may be useful to others embarking  on this “wisdom path.” (more…)

Growing Up #5

The Adapted Child, or survival, ego state is driven primarily by fear.  There are different levels at which this fear operates.  There can be fear of physical survival, not usually an issue in most of our lives.  There can be fear of the unknown or the “different”.  We can be afraid of not “fitting in,” being socially unacceptable.  We can be afraid of losing support from, or connection with, others.  We can be afraid of being seen as “less than” others, or of being shamed.

The Adapted Child state also tends to be able to see only two options – either you OR me, either us OR them, either right OR wrong, good OR bad – you get the point.  For this reason, all conflicts are viewed as “win/lose.”  It is very difficult to value and respect both myself AND others when I see everything in these terms.  Others’ wants, needs and ideas appear to be in competition with mine.  Fear can easily kick in – fear that, if they get what they want (win), I will, of course, lose; fear that, if they are “right”, I will be wrong.  And on it goes!

Growing Up #4

So why bother growing any further?  If we have got this far, we have figured out how to survive at least reasonably well in our culture and society.  To get this far is both a blessing and a curse.  It is important to figure out how to survive reasonably well.  Without our basic survival needs being met, we can’t even think about going further.

The curse part comes about because surviving reasonably well is a source of great comfort.  Comfortable people do not, as a rule, change and grow.  They don’t see any reason to change and grow.  So what motivates a person to grow when they are comfortable.  The answer, unfortunately, is usually PAIN!  And, survival existence, sooner or later, generates pain.  Fortunately, it is the kind of pain that the application of more survival skills usually won’t cure.


Growing Up #3

What is not so commonly talked about, even in therapeutic circles, is the concept of an Adapted Child ego state.  This concept refers to the strategies we learned in our families and in our culture.  This part of us is primarily interested in survival and in “getting along.”  As children, we learned the skills and developed the internal structures that make this possible for us.

As we grow, these structures become part of our “personality”.   They may work well, or not so well, in our families, culture and society.  These adaptions or structures become “who we are”, a major part of our ego identity.  If they work well in the culture we live in, our ego identity and the culture are a “good fit.”  We will have little reason or motivation to question  this “fit”.

If our survival adaptations work poorly and we struggle to find our way in our culture, we may bump along barely making it.  Various forms of anti- or a-social behavior, addictions and other compulsive behaviors are examples of more destructive survival behaviors.

Here’s the thing – good fit, poor fit or bad fit – our survival adaptions, initially learned as small children, are usually characterologically hardened into place by the time we reach “adulthood.”  AND they are limited, constricted and distorted forms of who we would have been had we grown up in a perfect world that supported our being “all we can be” rather than required us to focus on survival.

While each of us learned different strategies to adapt and survive, the point is that this Adapted Child ego state is NOT the sum total of who we are, much less who we can be.   It is the furthest our family and our culture have been able to bring us on the journey to being fully alive.

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