welcome to emotional feelings continued!

about the layer down under that experience....
looking within: thoughts & thinking
looking within: am i an abuser or abusive?
looking within: are you the one who abandons others?
consistency.... learn about it & use it
about suicide..... it's a shame...
coping mechanisms
communication continued
temperment & personality
family dysfunction

to go back to the main avoidance page... click here!

the positive side of avoidance

Avoiding Life's Little & Major Strains

Staying in good health can often mean avoiding gripping, bending, pushing or twisting something too hard. The result could be repetitive strain illness.

To eliminate the possible damaging effects of such activities to your hands, wrists & shoulders, safety engineer Mary Carol Williams of Los Alamos National Laboratory has a few easy suggestions.

To reduce strain on the hands & fingers, she recommends using electric can openers at home, headsets or speaker phones for lengthy conversations & adding extra padding to your car's steering wheel.

While doing heavy manual labor, be sure to take a break every 15 minutes to stretch & relax muscles. Williams also suggests sliding heavy objects, using carts or dollies, avoiding overhead reaching & carrying objects close to the body.

Using the computer, strain can be reduced by using the keyboard instead of the mouse whenever possible & "mousing" with the hand you don't normally use, Williams says.

Remember to use both hands when picking up heavy objects or opening heavy doors & keep the weight & feel of a project in mind while considering a purchase.

where does avoidance of life's strains - little & large - fit into the picture?


if you're having a difficult time changing habits, you may have an easier time changing other habits that'll benefit you in the long run. take your pick, it's a matter of just trying to improve - think of how you can make things easier for you in every aspect of your life.... cool eh?

Avoiding Blaming Others


Blaming Others Disease

The following excerpt is from the self help sychology book, Be Your Own Therapist.

The tendency for groups to blame others for their difficulties is so widespread that at times it seems almost universal. While we often do this as individuals, blaming others for our personal problems, it as members of groups that we excel in this accusatory trait. It's one of the major neurotic (i.e., skewed) reasons why we join groups.

They often provide refuge for us with like-minded people who'll agree with us that our problems are out there instead of within. If there's any perceived truth in our blame of a particular target, then we're often quick to place all the blame on that target. This excuses us from looking at ourselves. How convenient!

Verbal bashing is rarely seen as a trap. There is a sense of being on the side of justice & the process of bashing seems to make one feel better (temporarily at least). Unfortunately, this process is no better than making oneself feel better by smoking, by drinking or by another addictive behavior.

Why? Essentially, bashing just releases steam w/out facing one's real issues beneath the anger. (A stage of blame is necessary, but is not effective when directed at people/ groups of today) In all likelihood, bashing will produce a painful backlash.

Confirmed bashers will feel righteously indignant about the backlash & often trap themselves into more bashing.


Blaming Others [Published March 1995]

Psychologists teach us to blame our neurotic behavior on our mothers & fathers, especially if they were strict.

An ax murderer blamed her "socially unacceptable behavior" on her mother who at one time said to her "no". The jury set her free.

Parents blame their children's friends for leading them into a life of drugs, drunkenness & crime. If they fail in school they blame the teacher.

Husbands blame wives for their problems. Wives blame their husbands. Society at large is blamed for the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases.

People blame others because the load of guilt is too heavy to bear. From the beginning it was so. Adam said, "The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). He put the blame of his first sin upon his wife, indirectly upon God.

People who know nothing of forgiveness must blame others for their own faults.

why should we avoid blaming others?

The Bible reminds us that even though others may have predisposed us toward sin, "Everyone of us shall give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).

Though friends may entice us to sexual sin, though our peer group seduce us to a lifestyle that leads to poverty, disease & crime, "God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Before the judgment throne of God blaming others will mean nothing. God's verdict will be, "The wages of sin is death."

Blaming others is a way of covering our sins. The Bible says,

"Whosoever covers his sin shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy"

(Proverbs 23:13) 

"If we say we have no sin (if we go on continually blaming others) we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"

(I John 1:8,9)

There simply is no hope for an individual or a community of people who put the blame on others for their own sin. Only when we honestly admit our faults & failures is there hope for improvement & change for the better.

God makes it easy for us to admit our failures when he offers forgiveness. The mercy He offers & the cleansing He provides comes thru the death of His Son upon the cross. The heavy guilt we seek to escape by blaming others, He took upon Himself by being "made sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21).

"God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all"

(Isaiah 53:6).

When you do wrong, admit it; believe God forgives you & trust Him to help you correct the situation in so far as it can be corrected.

when children use avoidance behavior....



Managing & Preventing School Misbehavior & School Avoidance


  . .a follow-up reading to provide an expanded perspective related to the unit on Mental Health Services & Instruction: What a School Can Do

Misbehavior at school & school avoidance are among the greatest sources of grief to teachers, administrators & pupil personnel staff. Efforts to deal w/such problems take up a disproportionate amount of time & energy. Worse yet, in some schools, the battle against such problems is being lost.

This follow-up reading is designed as an enrichment activity that can help you understand the motivational underpinnings of school misbehavior & avoidance & a broad perspective on strategies for dealing w/such problems.

Interventions to deal with school misbehavior & avoidance can be viewed in terms of phases, namely, efforts to prevent & anticipate such problems, actions to be taken when an act is occurring & steps to be taken afterwards. Part of the reason that prevailing practices have been so limited in effectiveness is that they haven't been built on an understanding of the motivational bases for such problems.

An understanding of intrinsic motivation, in general & reactive & proactive deviance, in particular, has major implications for each of these intervention phases.

i.e., with respect to prevention, regardless of theoretical orientation, most professionals recognize that social & school program improvements could reduce learning & behavior problems significantly. There's increasing acceptance that a primary preventive step involves normative changes in classroom programs.

From the perspective of intrinsic motivation theory, such changes include designing classroom instruction to better match the broad range of differences in students' intrinsic motivation as well as their difference in capability. Indeed, such changes have been discussed as an essential prerequisite to individual intervention.

However, even if primary & secondary preventive steps are taken, there remains the necessity of intervening with individuals who continue to be troublesome.

Discussions of practices for dealing with such students often are organized around the topics of:

  • discipline
  • classroom management
  • student behavioral self-management

An appreciation of the role intrinsic motivation plays in deviant & devious behavior suggests approaches to such behavior that go beyond current disciplinary & management practices.

Before discussing these matters, however, it's important to acknowledge the necessity of dealing with the impact of misbehavior & to highlight practical & research implications related to minimizing negative motivational & behavioral repercussions.

School Misbehavior:
Discipline, Logical Consequences & Recipient Perceptions

The first concern of school personnel almost always is with the impact of misbehavior & rightly so. Such behavior disrupts; it may be hurtful; it may disinhibit others.

Thus, when a youngster misbehaves, a natural reaction is to want that youngster to experience & other students to see, the consequences of misbehaving in hopes that consequences will deter subsequent misbehavior. That is, because the impact of misbehavior usually is the first concern, the primary focus of intervention usually is on discipline.

Given the primary role assigned to disciplinary practices in responding to school misbehavior, it's essential that their impact on intrinsic motivation be considered & investigated. Thus, some motivational concerns are highlighted here as a stimulus for practice & research.

Knoff (l987) presents 3 definitions of discipline as applied in schools;


(a) ... a punitive intervention


(b) ... a means of suppressing or eliminating inappropriate behavior, of teaching or reinforcing appropriate behavior & of redirecting potentially inappropriate behavior toward acceptable ends


(c) ... a process of self-control whereby the (potentially) misbehaving student applies techniques that interrupt inappropriate behavior & that replace it with acceptable behavior (p. 119).

In contrast to the first definition which specifies discipline as punishment, Knoff sees the other two as nonpunitive or as he calls them "positive, best-practices approaches." He appears to make this distinction because of the general recognition that punishment is an undesirable form of discipline to be used only in an emergency.

Given current circumstances, school personnel often see punishment as the only recourse in dealing with a student's misbehavior.

That is, they use the most potent negative consequences available to them in a desperate effort to control an individual & make it clear to others that acting in such a fashion will not be tolerated.

Essentially, such punishment takes the form of a decision to do something to the student that he or she doesn't want done. In addition, a demand for future compliance usually is made, along with threats of harsher punishment if compliance isn't forthcoming.

And the discipline may be administered in a way that suggests the student is seen officially as an undesirable person.

As with many emergency procedures, benefits produced by using punishment may be offset by a variety of negative consequences (e.g., increases in negative attitudes toward school & school personnel which often lead to other forms of misbehavior). Thus, as soon as the emergency is resolved & in nonemergency situations, the emphasis often shifts from punishment to implementing logical consequences.

Most teachers have little difficulty explaining their reasons for using a particular consequence. However, if the intent really is to have students perceive consequences as logical & non debilitating, it seems logical to determine whether the recipient sees a disciplinary act as a legitimate response to misbehavior.

Moreover, it's well to recognize the difficulty of administering consequences in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the recipient's perceptions of self. That is, although the intent is to stress that it's the misbehavior & its impact that are bad, the student can too easily experience the process as a characterization of her or him as a bad person.

Examples of an established, accepted set of consequences that gives major consideration to the recipient's perceptions occur in such organized sports as youth basketball & soccer.

In these arenas, the referee is able to use the rules & related criteria to identify inappropriate acts & apply penalties; moreover, s/he is expected to do so with positive concern for maintaining the youngster's dignity as well as engendering respect for others.

Logical Consequences & Recipient Perceptions

Guidelines for managing misbehavior generally emphasize the desirability of having discipline seen as reasonable, fair & nondenigrating.

Intrinsic motivation theory specifically stresses that "positive, best-practice approaches" are disciplinary acts recipients experience as legitimate reactions that neither denigrate one's sense of worth nor reduce one's sense of autonomy (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985).

To these ends, discussions of classroom management practices usually emphasize establishing & administering logical consequences.

This idea is evident in situations where there are naturally-occurring consequences (e.g., if you touch a hot stove, you get burned).

In classrooms, there may be little ambiguity about the rules; unfortunately, the same often can't be said about "logical" penalties.

Even when the consequence for a particular rule infraction has been specified ahead of time, its logic may be more in the mind of the teacher than in the eye of the students.

Indeed, the distinctions made by Knoff reflect an observer's perspective of discipline. In the recipient's view, any act of discipline may be experienced as punitive (e.g., unreasonable, unfair, denigrating, disempowering).

Basically, consequences involve depriving students of something they want &/or making them experience something they don't want.

Consequences usually take the form of:

  • (a) removal / deprivation (e.g., loss of privileges, removal from an activity)
  • (b) reprimands (e.g., public censure)
  • (c) reparations (e.g., to compensate for any losses arising from the misbehavior)
  • (d) recantations (e.g., apologies, plans for avoiding future problems).

i.e., teachers commonly deal with acting out behavior by removing a student from an activity.

To the teacher, this step (often described as "time out") may be seen as a logical way to stop the student from disrupting others by isolating him or her, or the logic may be that the student needs a cooling off period.

It may be reasoned that:

  • by misbehaving the student has shown s/he doesn't deserve the privilege of participating (assuming the student likes the activity
  • the loss will lead to improved behavior in order to avoid future deprivation

For discipline to be seen as a logical consequence, it may be necessary to take steps to convey :

  • that disciplinary responses aren't personally motivated acts of power (e.g., an authoritarian action) & at the same time
  • that the social order has established rational reactions to a student's behavior which negatively affects others.

Also, if the intent of the discipline is a long-term reduction in future misbehavior, it may be necessary to take steps to help students learn right from wrong, to respect others rights & to accept responsibility.

Towards these ends, motivational theorists suggest it may be useful to:

  • establish a publicly accepted set of consequences to increase the likelihood that students experience them as socially just (e.g., reasonable, firm but fair
  • administer such consequences in ways that allow students to maintain a sense of integrity, dignity & autonomy (e.g., Brehm & Brehm, 1981; Deci & Ryan, 1985)

These ends are probably best achieved under conditions wherein students are empowered (e.g., are involved in deciding how to rectify the situation & avoid future misbehavior & are given opportunities for subsequent positive involvement & reputation building at school).


From a motivational perspective, then, it's essential to:

  • gain a better understanding of recipient perceptions of discipline
  • develop disciplinary practices that minimize negative repercussions. These are both areas where there's a dearth of direct research.

National Association of School Psychologists

School Refusal/Avoidance Phobia
A Handout for Parents
November 1996

By Leslie M. Paige, NCSP
Hays West Central (KS)
Special Education Cooperative


School refusal / school avoidance / school phobia are terms used to describe children who have a pattern of avoiding or refusing to attend school.

Different from truancy, these behaviors occur in approximately 2% of school aged children. Historically called "school phobia," many researchers now prefer to use the terms "school avoidance" or "school refusal."

There's confusion regarding the terms because children who experience significant difficulty in attending school do so for different reasons & exhibit different behaviors.

In general, children who refuse to attend or avoid school stay in close contact with their parents or caregivers & are frequently (although not always) anxious & fearful. They may become very upset or become ill when forced to go to school.

Truants may be distinguished from this group by their antisocial or delinquent behaviors, their lack of anxiety about missing school & the fact that they're not in contact with parents or caregivers when they're avoiding school.


Part of the confusion regarding the term "school phobia" is that the behaviors aren't usually considered to be a true phobia. Although some children fear school-related activities (bus ride, reading aloud in class, changing for physical education), some are anxious about home issues or about being separated from a caregiver. Children become anxious for many reasons.

"Separation anxiety" typically occurs at about the age of 18 to 24 months. Toddlers will cry, cling & have temper tantrums when they're about to be separated from their caregiver (for daycare or a babysitter, for example). This is normal at this age, but some older children continue to have difficulty separating from caregivers.

Sometimes school-aged children who were previously able to separate from their caregivers; will suddenly become anxious & fearful. A recent crisis in the community or the family (such as a death, divorce, financial problems, move, etc.) may cause a child to become fearful or anxious.


Some children fear that something terrible will happen at home while they're at school. Children who are struggling in school with academic or social problems may also develop school refusal.


Many children have social concerns & may have been teased or bullied at school or on the way to school. Some neighborhoods or schools are unsafe or chaotic.

Children who've missed a lot of school due to illness or surgery may experience difficulty returning to the classroom routines as well as academic & social demands.

Still other children prefer to stay home because they can watch TV, have parental attention & play rather than work in school. Children & youth who are transitioning (from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school) may feel very stressed.

All of these factors may lead to the development of school refusal / avoidance. Additionally, many children avoid or refuse school for a combination of reasons, further complicating treatment.

If untreated, chronic school refusal or avoidance may result in more than family distress. Academic deterioration, poor peer relationships, school or legal conflicts, work or college avoidance, panic attacks, agoraphobia & adult psychological or psychiatric disorders may result.

What Can Parents Do?

Toddlers & preschoolers can benefit from structured experiences with other adults. Parents can help young children to separate from caregivers in several ways. Reliable & safe babysitting or daycare are excellent examples.

Many communities have opportunities for preschoolers such as story hour at the library, preschool religious training such as bible school, recreational activities, preschool etc. When the child fusses at separation from the parent, the best strategy is to inform the child calmly that the parent will return & that the child is to stay.

Then leave quickly. Children typically have more difficulty separating if their parents hover, linger, become upset, wait for the child to calm down or attempt to reason with the child . A firm, caring & quick separation is usually better for both parent & child.

Preschool caregivers will typically report that the child's distress quickly disappears. However, children whose parents prolong the separation or who've had unsuccessful preschool separation experiences may need more time or support to calm down.

This may be because they've learned that their distress results in parental rescue from separation! Successful preschool experiences ease the transition to preschool or kindergarten.

When children refuse or avoid school

If complaints of illness are the excuse for not attending school, have the child checked by the family medical provider. If there's no medical reason to be absent, the child should be at school.

The parent should attempt to discover if there's a specific problem causing the refusal. Sometimes the child feels relief just by expressing concerns about friends or school expectations.

If the child's able to pinpoint a specific concern (such as worry about tests, teasing, etc.), then the parent should immediately talk to the child's teacher about developing an appropriate plan to solve the problem.

Some common sense strategies to try include having another family member bring the child to school or if the child does stay home then rewards such as snacking, TV, toys or parental attention should be eliminated. A school schedule may be duplicated at home.

However, if the child's extremely upset, if the child needs to be forced to attend school, if there's significant family stress or if the refusal to attend school is becoming habitual, the family shouldn't hesitate in asking for assistance from the school psychologist, school counselor or other mental health professionals.

Parents & the school need to work together to identify what's causing or maintaining this behavior & to develop a comprehensive plan of intervention. A key to success is rapid intervention; the longer the behavior occurs, the harder it is to treat.

Treatment depends upon the causes, which can be difficult to determine. Many children may have started to avoid school for one reason (e.g., fear of being disciplined by a teacher, feeling socially inadequate) but are now staying home for another reason (e.g., access to video games, lack of academic pressure, etc.).

Several treatment plans may need to be tried. Helping the child to relax, develop better coping skills, improve social skills, using a contract & getting help with parenting or family issues are all examples of possible treatments.

Resources: Martin, M. & Waltham-Greenwood, C. (1995). Solve your child's school related problems. NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 208 - 213 (School phobia).  - Paige, L.Z. (1993). The identification & treatment of school phobia. Silver Spring, MD: National Assoc. of School Psychologists. (To order, call 301-657-0270, ext. 225) - Leslie Z. Paige, Ed. S., NCSP, is a school psychologist with the Hays W. Central (KS) Special Education Cooperative in Hays, KS.

to go back to the main avoidance page... click here!

Avoiding Unleashing Anger

Managing Anger & Fear: In an Angry & Frightened World

by Gary Egeberg

September 11th didn't cause anger & fear to be expressed for the first time. But the events of that day have caused another explosion, it seems. The challenging emotions of anger & fear are boiling, both in our culture & in our hearts.

Will there be further terrorist attacks? possibly involving nuclear or biological weapons? How should we regard angry mobs burning the U.S. flag while shouting anti-American slogans? On the home front, will our school, workplace or neighborhood be the site of a random shooting spree?

You & I have our own struggles with anger & fear, whether it's in response to terrorism or random acts of violence or simply in dealing with the inevitable conflicts that accompany our daily interactions with others. In short, anger & fear seem to be winning out over peace & trust.

Jesus’ vision of peace & justice can seem an elusive dream that grows dimmer each year. Yet because we're Catholic & live in a culture that calls itself Christian, we hear the call to be visionary dreamers, to be people of faith, hope & love. We hear it even & perhaps especially, when the raging waters of anger & fear threaten to sweep us all away.

The prophet Isaiah has words of comfort that touch our times:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you”

(Isaiah 43:1-2)

This Youth Update hopes to strengthen your understanding of anger & fear & the ways they’re linked & to explore how these feelings can help you. It also suggests 4 ways to defuse their destructive power.

I've had a case of avoidance behavior since the day I was born. I believe I've handed it down to some of my children as well. What I do have to say here, at this time has to do with avoidance of school - for kids...
For those of you who have read many of my columns, you may already be aware of the fact that I've had 5 children of my own & 2 step-children. Although I've explained many times about my background in dealing with mental health issues, domestic violence, anxiety disorders & even an eating disorder; I don't often pass on the horrible things that I've passed on to my children.
In this case, "avoidance behaviors!"
Those of you who are mothers in recovery of some kind, must examine - (only when you're ready & able) - where you've handed down some of your worst problem behaviors to your children. Unfortunately, for mothers, we own more than our own negative behaviors, but also the negative behaviors of our children who have modeled our poor behavior without our knowledge. It's not our faults, moms! Really!
Look, it's a proven fact that mothers who are depressed are most likely going to have depressed children. Think about it.
If you're living with a depressed spouse, depressed parent, depressed boyfriend or girlfriend, or just dealing with a depressed teacher, aquaintence or depressed pet.... it's catchy, that depression is. When you're around someone too often who is depressed, you feel just as depressed before long. You mimic the depressing behaviors. You identify with the depression symptomology. You become depressed.
So, you figure out that you're depressed. It's not easy to fix. First  you avoid the facts. You avoid the fact that you need help. You avoid the fact that you need a counselor. You avoid the fact that you may need medication. You avoid the fact that something has to change in your life. You avoid it all so much that you begin to deny that you're even depressed. You get thru each day doing the least amount of energy expending activities & thinking that you have to do to just get by. It takes work to avoid depression. It also takes work to deny that you're depressed. But you get good at it. And when you've gotten really good at it.... guess what moms...
Your kids are copying you. They're becoming depressed - "kidstyle." They're adapting to the depression by avoiding it. They're doing all the things you do to avoid it. They're eating too much of the wrong foods, they're watching too much television, they're playing too many video games, they're ignoring their friends, they're sleeping more than usual & they may even be doing worse things like ... maybe you might be.... like smoking, drinking, doing drugs? any of that sound familiar...?
If you're doing those negative things - those negative coping mechanisms - to avoid admitting to yourself that you're depressed & you need help... then most likely... so are your children.
Bummer, right? 

Another unfortunate fact in these scenarios is:
Developing avoidance behavior takes time... working avoidance behaviors takes even more time.... recognizing & identifying your avoidance behaviors takes more time.... getting help takes a very long time.... and before long.... you're beginning to recover, but folks...
Recovery takes a very long time...
Lots of things can happen to you and your family while you're avoiding things.

I have a son who just turned 14 in May. I've had a heck of a year with him. He is a very smart boy. He copied my avoidance behaviors!
He absorbed my avoidance behaviors that touched him in some way, studied them, and then began to use them because he didn't like his school, his life & he didn't know how to deal with it. He didn't want to deal with it. It disturbed him. So after watching me so many times, day after day, after watching me avoid things, he began to avoid school. He avoided it, "in parts."
By that I mean, he began to avoid paying attention in class. When he avoided his teachers, the ones he hated for being so mean and unfair to him; he began to have trouble in school. That was just one part of his school avoidance.
Then, he began to get grounded at home for having bad grades, demerits and detentions. To avoid dealing with getting in trouble, he developed a case of nausea everyday at school. He began to tell the nurse at school that he threw up so that he could avoid getting into trouble with his teachers, and avoid getting in trouble with me.
I'd go get him at school, bring him home, take care of him, let him sleep and then by the end of the day, when all his friends were outside playing, he was feeling better. He would avoid me, by being very quiet and not causing any arguments with his sister. Then he'd just go outside and tell her that I said it was okay for him to play outside even though earlier he had been too sick for school. I avoided his problem with school, because I didn't know how to deal with it. So, this went on for awhile.

to be continued.... kathleen

facing marital problems


Avoiding Facing Marital Problems

Some married people avoid expressing their unhappiness to "keep peace." Although well intentioned, this concealing of your feelings & pain from your spouse month after month causes serious harm to your marriage.

The quiet one is denying the truth, pretending to be happier than he/she is, minimizing the marital problems, endangering his/her own health, avoiding a vital task merely because it's stressful, trying to play it safe, acting uncaringly & hostilely towards his/her spouse, & reneging on his/her sacred vows to preserve the marriage.

This is kind of keeping the peace is the kind of behavior that causes problems. Honest openness is needed to maintain a marriage. Don't cop out. Learn about "I" statements & empathy responding in chapter 13, then get to work.

Some writers, e.g. Cole & Laibson (1982), believe that the hiding of disagreements between husband & wife also gives children a distorted view of marriage & deprives the children of the chance to learn how to handle conflict.

We need to realize that:

Many happy couples fight verbally or argue. Cole & Laibson think parents should "fight" (disagree or argue but not get verbally or physically abusive) in front of the kids & especially show the children that arguments can & should lead to workable solutions.

Children shouldn't witness certain arguments, however, such as about sex, child-rearing, money, relatives, or divorce, nor should the children become involved in the argument if it's just between the parents.

Always assure the children that they aren't causing the marital problems. No parent should ever involve a child as an emotional substitute for the spouse, an ally against the other parent, or as a pawn in the marital wars.

The rules for fair, good, constructive "fighting" are given in chapter 13; two psychologists have written a book on how to conduct effective, beneficial family fights (Rubin & Rubin, 1988). If you can't follow these rules & the arguments become vicious, name-calling, destructive battles, both partners should get counseling.

Judith Siegel's new book, "What Children Learn from Their Parents' Marriage," may help frightened or irritable or distant spouses uncover the source of their emotions. Her point is that, as young children, we observe closely the interactions between Mom & Dad.

Those experiences form a lasting basis for our expectations & fears of marriage & intimacy. Unfortunately, many children accurately see unhealthy relationships between their parents... plus & causing even more problems, the child him/herself probably has distorted perceptions of the parents' interactions & many children go beyond mere misperceptions into gross distortions & horrible fantasies about their parents' relationship, e.g. possibly imagining that the angry spats of their parents could turn into dangerous out-of-control rages, making the child very afraid of having disagreements with anyone (as a child or later as a spouse/lover).

As Freud observed, we are, for unclear reasons, prone to repeat the disturbing problems we observed or experienced in the past -presumably so we can try to find a way to resolve the troubling situation.

However, if we come to realize what we're doing, i.e., carrying our distorted fears as a child into our own marriage, maybe we could find a way to avoid this "repetition neurosis."

Siegel's book should, at least, help some people review their childhood experiences of their parents' marriage & hopefully, find the childhood origins of their current difficulties with intimacy. Siegel's basic purpose, however, is to help parents realize that their children aren't only affected by the child's relationship with each of them as individuals but also deeply affected by the way they see Mom & Dad relating.

Loveless marriages; lasting doesn't mean loving

With divorce being common, why would anyone stay married to someone he/she didn't love or even like? There are lots of reasons, according to Florence Koslow, a well known marriage counselor.

This would include the same reasons young people don't break engagements or leave boy/girlfriends when they suspect they haven't made the best possible choice.

If there are children, there are powerful reasons to stay married, even if the marriage is strained or dead. Even in a loveless marriage both parents can preserve their close relationships with the children.

Divorces often strain & even destroy parent - child relationships as well as terminate a marriage (see the discussion of step-parents later). Many people are also trapped in marriage by their own fears:

  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of losing status (people gain status by marrying an attractive, successful partner)
  • fear of criticism
  • fear of being alone
  • fear of intimacy & sex with someone new
  • fear that all marriages are unhappy
  • fear of losing income
  • fear of doing harm to the children
  • a fear of raising children alone

These are serious matters to consider.


Even though surveys vary greatly in their estimate of infidelity (from 25% to 70% of partners), the Kinsey Institute estimates that about 35% of husbands & 30% of wives have been unfaithful.

Janus & Janus (1993) also found that more than 1/3 of husbands & more than 1/4 of wives have had an extramarital experience, but less than 1/4 of divorces are caused by affairs.

Of course, as time goes on, more of the faithful will become unfaithful. It may be hard at first to separate the chronically unfaithful from those who have only one brief affair in 50 years, but these are very different people.

Pittman (1989) distinguishes between adulterers & womanizers. Adulterers (males) usually have one affair, typically during a crisis - when passed over for a promotion or when his wife is very busy & then feels guilty.

Womanizers compulsively seduces women as a full-time avocation & hide this from their wives. They often claim to have a high sex drive & a lust for sexual variety. Their therapists say such men often don't like women or even sex.

Womanizers have a disease or an addiction, in which they see women as the enemy. They think of "being a real man" as escaping a woman's control & as being someone who can powerfully manipulate & deceive women.

Like a rapist, he seeks power & superiority. Many had fathers who escaped their mothers via work, divorce, or alcohol. There are some 12-step programs for womanizers. Advice for therapists of people who've had affairs is given by Eaker-Weil & Winter (1993) & Brown (1991).

On the positive side, Greeley, Michael, & Smith (1990) report that a high percentage of married people (ranging from 91% & 94% for men & women under 30 to 95% or more of both sexes over 30) were monogamous, i.e., had only one sex partner, during the last year.

But, the years roll on & those 5% & 9% add up. However, most marriages today are faithful & the belief in being faithful to your spouse has steadily increased during recent decades, even during the time that premarital sex was being approved of more & more.

Unfaithfulness is always a devastating blow to the partner. We feel crushed, like a part of us had been ripped out. We may be very angry or sad or both. It isn't just that our partner wanted & did have sex, the ultimate expression of love, with someone else, but he/she lied to us, betrayed us & had so little concern for our feelings.

Yet, 2/3 of marriages survive infidelity. Many people say they would "immediately throw the b------/b---- out." The situation is more complex than that. A brief affair doesn't always mean there's a serious problem with the marriage.

Men having an affair aren't more unhappy with their marriage than faithful men; women are more unhappy. Nevertheless, infidelity is a huge problem even if the marriage survives. Putting love back together is a long-term, difficult task in our culture (it's no big deal in some cultures).

We need to realize how widely the rules about sex differ from culture to culture: we expect our spouse to be faithful, but 75% of societies are polygamous.

Frank Pittman (1989) clarifies some of the misconceptions about infidelity:

No, not everyone has affairs; about 1/3 to 1/2 of us do (although some new research suggests maybe up to 73%) over a period of years. Women, especially younger employed women, are having about as many affairs as men, but the difference is that men frequently have brief affairs or one-night-stands while women are more likely to get emotionally involved.

Only about 20% of married men are continuous, compulsive philanderers or womanizers. Pittman's experience is that womanizers usually get divorced (often after many years). Faithful partners rarely get divorced.

No, having an affair doesn't always mean that love is gone. Both men & women sometimes just want sex, not love. Occasionally, a spouse has an affair as a warning or a "wake up call" for his/her partner.

Often an affair reflects an ego that needs inflating. Or, a person finds him/herself in a tempting situation or in a friendship which gets out of sexual control.

Affairs frequently mean that the wayward spouse has a problem, not that he/she doesn't love you any more. Nevertheless, it often inadvertently ends in divorce. Pittman says with honest work on the marriage, couples therapy & with forgiveness (once), the marriage can gradually revive.

No, the "other woman/man" isn't always beautiful / handsome or sexually "hot." Pittman says the choices are mostly neurotic or a mishandled friendship. Sex isn't usually the main purpose. No, the deceived faithful spouse didn't "make me do it."

The unfaithful one makes the decision to "act out" his/her feelings via an affair. No, it isn't best to keep your affair secret or to pretend you don't know about your partner's affair. For sake of the marriage, the mess of the affair & other problems need to be dealt with. Affairs often die when exposed; marriages often die when problems are unexposed. Only 1 in 7 new marriages resulting from an affair are successful.

No, the best approach isn't to "keep it a secret." In fact, the suppressed emotions erupt & the marital problems multiply; thus, much honesty & work, usually in couples therapy, is almost always needed to salvage the marriage. (An isolated, meaningless one night stand may be another matter.)

If you're tempted to be unfaithful, read Pittman's book or one of several others, e.g. Lawson (1989) or Linquist (1989), before doing so, to find out what you're facing & why.

It's seldom worth it. If your spouse has been unfaithful to you, read Golabuk (1990) or Dolesh & Lehman (1985). Pulling your marriage back together is possible (Reibstein & Richards, 1994; Weil, 1994; Spring, 1997--recommended), even trust, forgiveness & intimacy may be possible.

Lessons from lasting marriages

Rather than studying failing marriages, several people (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1995; Gottlieb, 1990; Hendrix, 1991; Klagsbrun, 1985; Lauer & Lauer, 1985) have explored successful marriages to see why they last. Both men & women give the same basic reasons:

My partner is my best friend & I like him/her as a person; I put him/her first over all others, over my work, over TV, over everything. It isn't just "you're # one" in spirit; I actually give him/her my whole attention & make time every day.

I regard marriage as a deep, almost sacred commitment; we've had some disagreements but never for a moment did I seriously consider divorce. We worked it out. To love, you must feel emotionally safe --totally accepted, respected & supported. Therefore, we don't criticize or strike out in anger, instead we gently request a change.

I enjoy my partner, we laugh & touch, we confide, we agree on values, goals & sex. We look for the good in each other & in life; thus, we're optimistic. We have wide interests & try new things. We try to have fun.

We have equal power; we respect our partner's wishes & know we can't always have our way; disagreements are negotiated.

Decisions are made fairly, some together, some by me & some by him/her. We both make changes when needed, tolerate losses & accept unresolved conflicts. We are patient & forgiving.

We accept & trust each other, permitting honesty & security; I tell him/her everything. I love the closeness; we share our minds, hearts & souls. We listen to the other.

We're equally dependent on each other in ways that enrich our lives; & we're equally independent from each other in ways that enrich our lives. We do so much together & agree on most issues, but we have a clear sense of self & do things by ourselves. Clearly, we think for ourselves.

We cherish our time together, expressing our appreciation of each other for little acts of kindness as well as major sacrifices. We treasure our memories & frequently remind each other of the good times.


Note: Of course, everyone would stay together if they were getting all these benefits. No one has it so good but some come close. These are ideal goals which require a good psychological adjustment, great skill & effort to achieve. In this sense, good marriages aren't "made in heaven."



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