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Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.
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A Better Relationship is Only a Lesson Away
Our dog was a bundle of undirected puppy energy
when we got him. My wife and I knew nothing about training a dog. He was our
first. We attended group training classes and proceeded through the school’s
five levels of training. The process took a year and cost about $1,500.00.
Without training, we know his behavior would
have been a mess. We have met many other dog owners who somehow or other seemed
to instinctively know how to manage and direct their pet’s behavior. Most of
these people grew up with dogs in the home and saw their parents manage the
family pet. Truth is, what seemed instinctive to them was actually the result of
the casual learning that came from observing their parents with the family pet.
With our being taught to care and manage our
dog, “Kugle” has since been a well mannered little boy who knows when to sit
and listen and knows when he can run off his energy. He is so good in fact that
he is certified as a Therapy Dog through St John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.
As a social worker, I see many couple who, no
fault of their own, do not as yet possess the skills to maintain their
relationship with each other and/or parent the children to facilitate them
achieving their potential. They haven’t been taught.
Scratch the surface and I learn that their
parents also didn’t possess the full range of skills providing for mutually
satisfying relationships or child management. Their own parents were
ill-equipped for relationships and parenting. The casual learning that was
transmitted didn’t provide for appropriate lessons. This is not to blame, but
only to explain.
The folks I work with therefore feel or
experience their own blame, shame, inadequacy, conflict and turmoil.
“Therapy” that dwells on those distressing
feelings only serves to keep people immersed in the negative feeling and does
nothing to provide or equip them with the tangible skills that could provide for
more satisfying outcomes. There is a belief by some therapists that we all
possess those skills and that by empathetic and non-judgmental listening, people
will unlock their hidden skill set and manage better. I beg to differ.
Skills can be taught. If one teaches and
facilitates skill development directly, you improve the likelihood of persons
adopting new behaviors which in turn leads to improved outcomes – more
satisfying relationships and better parenting.
So many people come to me asking to learn “the
tools”. They have attended other therapies in the past that either provided
non-judgmental reflective listening or quite frankly, grandiose and colorful
statements as to how life should be. Nice, but not necessarily helpful.
I am of the view that therapy can quickly
connect the dots, help people understand and appreciate the impact of formative
experiences and then move towards skill development, which through practice
changes the trajectory of their life for the better.
One cannot provide a cup of happiness. There is
no magic cool aid to drink. However, feeling better in the present can be
achieved as an outcome of relationship or parenting skill development. There are
tools. We can provide them. It begins by acknowledging our shortcoming and need
I couldn’t train a dog to save my life. My
wife was actually afraid of dogs. We invested in ourselves. Attending lessons
was our “date”. The outcome was our fun as a couple; a common approach to
the care and management of our family pet; my wife now comfortable with
virtually any dog; and a well behaved little boy who delights elders on visits
to the senior’s residence.
What we don’t know, we can learn.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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