Signs that a marriage will end in divorce.

April 17, 2008

I just found this article and thought it was interesting enough to share. I don’t know much about the rest of the site or what it’s worth, but there is plenty of truth in the article by Shanel Yang, a lawyer and writer:

4 Signs That A Marriage Will End In Divorce

“Experts found that there are four quick and easy, but reliable, signs that a marriage won’t last…

When all four of these signs exist, chances are very high that your marriage won’t last. And, these clues can be found in even the briefest arguments between married couples…

We can all improve our communication skills, especially when it comes to arguments. We can’t avoid all arguments, and we shouldn’t try. Relationships grow the most from conflict and healthy conflict resolution…” (source)

There have been studies done on the topic, and this article features a fairly calm and collected newlywed couple that exhibit the kinds of habits in their arguing (however brief or trivial) that tend to lead to the breakdown of relationships. And they aren’t necessarily violent, loud and dramatic habits.

I don’t want to give away the whole thing here, so this is just a summary of the four signs:

1. Defensiveness

2. Stonewalling

3. Criticising

4. Showing Contempt

There is a brief list of counseling tips at the end. Communication is the ultimate key to a quality relationship, and this would be a great place to start to get enlightened.

Turning drug addicts into people, one story at a time.

April 1, 2008

I joined a class field trip to a drug addict recovery center in south Tel Aviv today. We had a discussion with one of the administrators, young woman who was very passionate about her job, and then we heard from about eight recovering addicts about the conflicts and issues their drug abuse had caused their families, as well as what kinds of family trauma led to their drug use.

As you may have realized, I’m a huge fan of contact theory and I viewed today as a chance to spend face time with a demographic I really don’t know much about aside from stereotypes. This group were in the process of becoming clean or were already somewhat clean for months. You could see the struggle in their eyes, along with the love, pain, fear, laughter. They were married at some point, or on the verge of getting so; they had kids or the desire to create them; they had jokes to tell and empathy to share.

There were a few big points that I got the feeling these men and women wanted us to walk away with:

First, the matter of turning to drugs was not an issue of life getting bad and not knowing how to handle the pain. It was a matter of – due to family trauma as youngsters – never learning how to deal with life, good or bad. Whether it was losing a job, struggling through a marriage, a newborn baby, or making money, these folks did not have the emotional tools to handle life and needed an escape or a way to numb it all. Heroin (in most cases) was that tool.

It was fascinating that these people had varying backgrounds – Russian, Arab or Arab Jew – and they all had family trauma in common, whether it was an abusive father, drug dealer parents, absent parents.

In addition, it is not often the case that these people were bored and turned to drugs and got caught up in a serious and deadly cycle. At this recovery center, most of the addicts or former addicts experienced serious traumas in their childhoods caused by screwed up family relations or abuse. The drugs were the result of such a situation. These people stopped experiencing normal emotions at a young age, and, coming out of that daze now they are picking up where they left off – at age 9, 13, 18, etc.

For instance, one man in his 50s was telling us about his father who made him, at age 13, his secret-barer and assistant in doing drugs and drinking. The boy would have to hide this from his mother and help his father set up his pipes.

A mother of two described growing up in a home where her father was the dominant and her mother the submissive. To escape it, she ended up getting married – to her father all over again. Without any control in her life, she started on drugs, with the added bonus that her verbally abusive husband was strictly anti-drugs.

Another point was that it becomes a disease where the drug addict cannot make informed decisions any longer; the substance plays the master while the human mind becomes a slave. Once this relationship exists, it takes a lot of struggle to break free of those chains and every. single. day. is a battle to be waged and won by the human mind and physical condition.

A young father of three explained that the on-and-off periods of drug abuse and keeping ‘clean’ are not to be taken lightly. A person who has kept clean for thirty years can fall as low as a current addict with just one hit.

I am glad I got to participate in the discussion. It became clear how much these people hurt their families and themselves, but also how much they have been hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of those faces.

If a bumper sticker can communicate…

March 16, 2008

Walking through a residential Jerusalem neighborhood today, I spotted this Israeli bumper sticker I thought I’d share:

Israeli bumper sticker
“Ze lo yigamair ad she’nidabair”
“It won’t end until we talk”

While I’m not so interested in bloodying myself with Palestinian Israeli politics at the moment (it’s too pretty of a day), I do want to mention how true this statement is for any conflict – especially our own personal ones.

For instance, how often have I thought I disliked someone until I had a meaningful conversation with them? We all go through this and it seems that we all forget the power of communication until we find ourselves doing it.

Just can’t communicate that enough!

The gift of perspective.

March 10, 2008

Last night I attended the burial of a 91-year-old rabbi who could boast perfect health but was involved in a tragic accident last week in New Jersey. The reason I was there, really, was because that rabbi was the father of my own hometown rabbi, who I have known and respected since… forever.

Anyway, if you don’t know the whole circumstance of his untimely death, you can read about it here. In short:

…Rabbi Zev Segal, 91… headed to Livingston, N.J., on an errand.

He never arrived.

On Thursday, Rabbi Segal was found dead inside his car, submerged in the Hackensack River.

The authorities here say that Rabbi Segal… may have driven his car… off Duncan Avenue, which dead-ends into the Hackensack River… (nytimes)

Perspectives… I think it’s important to not get too caught up in the tragedy of his death but to remember the amazing things for which he was known. He was a major rabbi in the New York area and committed his life to attaining many goals for observant Judaism, including leading a large congregation in New Jersey.

To put this in another perspective: At his funeral, it was made known he had expressed his wish that at his funeral there should be no time spent on eulogies, but instead spent on reciting the tehillim prayers.

After the burial, I waited around to pay respects to my own rabbi, this man’s son. Of course, funerals are not comfortable or happy places, but they are usually enlightening if you let them be.

He walked over to me and offered the following, his own perspective:

The death was in fact not a tragedy at all (he smiled when he said this), but one last job for him in this world. When he went missing, it is said that over 200 Jewish volunteers searched for him in the New York-New Jersey areas for over 24 hours. Hundreds – if not more – Jews spent time praying for his safe return. Hatzolah, a Jewish-run emergency service, organized worldwide, was on top of the search mission before the New Jersey police came on the scene. They were complimented by how organized and efficient they were. If this is not a kiddush Hashem – a display of good behavior honoring God – than what could be?

Now, I’m usually skeptical of religious rationalization, but when it comes to significant life events, the truth is, after seeing the peacefulness in my rabbi’s eyes as he shared this insight with me, I felt completely engulfed in comfort and peace. It was a kind of human spirit overtaking my sadness.

When you take a step back and manage to gain perspective on something – happy or tragic – I believe it adds to our humanity. The human experience is guided by perspective and it is our job to shape our skill for gaining it so that it comes to us with ease as we grow older and, hopefully, wiser.

It’s a gift we are born with, but too many of us lose sight of it… Perhaps that is something else we can take from this tragedy – that it needn’t be a tragedy at all if you see it through the right perspective.

Read. Learn. Understand.

December 29, 2007

As a kid, I was a big reader. I devoured books one by one, digesting between one and three a week.

I’m still an avid reader, even if my metabolism has slowed a bit. I read across genres, and lately have found myself reading novels written by authors hailing from the other side of the world, namely India, Afghanistan and China.

I find novels taking place in other parts of the world – or describing people of different cultures – fascinating. Even if the book itself is not spectacular, I do find myself able to delicately pick out bits of cultural information so that I can learn new details about diverse populations.

Currently I’m breezing through Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini‘s A Thousand Splendid Suns. His first novel, The Kiterunner, took America by storm and is about to be released as a film. I think it probably has to do with the fact that the story takes place in Afghanistan, a place which Americans associate with the Taliban, backwards villagers and war. Hosseini’s novel is colorful, historical and human.

Hosseini’s works confirm the idea that by writing novels painted with authentic culture and bits of historical events, and then translating them into other worldwide languages like English, people can start to see through new lenses into cultures not usually accessed. What the media and government hurts, authors and artists can heal.

It’s a skill for both writers and readers to do this right, because it would be too easy to fall into the pitfalls of stereotyping, generalizing or taking everything literally. But with a few grains of salt and an open mind, reading realistic and historical fiction can be a worldly lesson in other cultures, and eventually a basis for tolerance and understanding.

The highs and lows of conflict resolution.

December 24, 2007

I can’t describe the pride-swelling I experienced when five and a half hours after we began, the two disputants shook hands with each other. I think that moment must never get old for a mediator.

The tension is released during that handshake…. Like breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding, the whole room changes and relaxes. Suddenly, the disputants can look each other in the eyes… They can smile, even joke a little. And that’s the best time for the mediator to strike with the closing details.

The feminine side of conflict and management.

December 24, 2007

There are people who say that if the world was run by women, we’d all be at peace. I think they say that because we’ve never seen it yet…

But I do think that we can credit women with something incredible: Women have this ability to transform conflict, even when they are poised at the center of it.

At today’s mediation session, the two official disputants were men. Each man brought with him a woman – one, his wife, and the other, his mother-in-law.

At first, both women backed their man’s charges, adamantly and fiercely. But over the course of the five and a half hour session, both women showed hints of transformation first. I would categorize it like this:

  1. Loyalty – strength phase
  2. Panic – introspective phase
  3. Resolution – strength phase

I notice this pattern in my own relationship with my husband. Often, I’m the one who gets more riled up and passionate when he finds himself in a dispute. My loyalty to his cause usually gets him worked up more than he might normally. Together, we enter a space of conflict.

We get to the panic – introspective phase together, but I’m the one who speeds through it. The last phase, resolution – strength, washes over me like cleansing waters, and I find myself as calm – strong as I was passionate – strong in the first phase.

At this point, I think women serve as guides to cross the male disputants over that bridge to resolution. I think the women see it first and the women don’t mind bursting the bubble sooner.

That’s how I watched it happen today, and I felt like I was looking into a mirror as I watched my fellow girlkind go through these steps to management and resolution. Until today, I thought I was alone (and crazy), switching from phase to phase like that, passion to calm.

I guess that’s why people also say that women are fickle (for better or worse…)