By Dr. Steve
Click Here to Return to
the Table of Contents
Getting to Know You
I accept you where youre at,
youll become who you are capable of being.
That cinches it, I thought to
myself. Enough is enough, I muttered under my breath as my foot pushed harder
on the accelerator.
and I were out for a Sunday evening drive. The top was down, it was a breezy summer
evening. This was our time to be with each other, away from all the hustle and bustle that
awaited us every Monday. I brought her favorite tapes along. We loved cranking up the
stereo as we sang along with our favorite tunes.
this Sunday something was different. Karen had been quiet, somewhat withdrawn. I asked on
four different occasions if anything was wrong, but she wasnt talking. In fact, she
had been that way for at least a week now. Her flavor of the week charity dinner--she
canceled out on me. That was definitely not like her. Thursday and Friday when I called to
say good-night, all I got was the answering machine. My messages went unreturned.
Something was definitely up, only she wasnt talking.
there was no denying this. I turned the volume up as Carly Simon began singing
I havent got time for the pain. I havent the room for the pain. I
havent the need for the pain. Karen would always, always, sing along with
Carly, almost as if the two of them were having their own private celebration about the
emotional exorcisms they had undergone. But she was just sitting there, arms crossed
against her chest, blankly staring off into the distance.
on Kare, theres gotta be something bothering you. What is it? I pleaded
with her. You never, ever miss a chance to sing this song.
well Im not singing anymore, she sneered at me.
mean, youre not singing anymore? I asked somewhat confused. You love to
sing. How can you just decide not to sing?
me be more specific then. Im never, ever going to sing in front of you,
Einstein, she said, each word dripping with sarcasm.
why are you honoring me as the one person who youll never, ever sing in front
turned towards me, glared and said, Because!
of what you said to me last week.
now the pieces were starting to come together. The canceled dinner. The unreturned phone
calls. The silent treatment. I could see I was being punished, but I hadnt a clue as
to what for.
have an advantage over me. I dont remember all that I said to you last week.
hard, buddy. I have no problem remembering. Do you remember anything you said about me
breaking a stereotype?
could feel my face turn red. I sank a little in the seat as that particular conversation
came flooding back to me. But I had a position to maintain here and, by god, I was
sticking to it. Honey, honestly, I don't remember. Lets just forget about it.
Im sure its water under the bridge by now, I said, feeling somewhat
satisfied that I had come up with a solution that would put an end to all of this
that wasnt working, because now she was ready to talk about it. Listen,
Kreskin, all of a sudden your memory doesnt work? I dont buy that. Lets
see if I can refresh it for you.
wasnt expecting her next move, she actually went into her purse and pulled out a
piece of paper.
this ring a bell? she asked as she began to read from the paper. You said,
Karen, youve broken a stereotype that I have about all women being able to
sing, because you sure cant sing. With that said, she balled the paper
up and threw it out the window.
knew I had to think fast. How could I spin this just a little to my advantage? Why with
any luck, I might be able to get her to apologize to me for overreacting. Okay, here
goes nothing, I thought to myself.
so bad about that? Up until last week, I believed that all women could sing. Is that so
disparaging against you and your sisters? Come on, lets just drop it. I looked
out of the corner of my eye to see how that was playing. She wasnt buying it.
think youre missing the point, as usual. Why do I always have to spell things out
for you? You inferred that I cant sing.
time for a tactical switch here, I thought to myself. If I couldnt go around
her I was going to go over her. I tried to give her an easy way out, but she was making me
do it her way.
now thats where you have it all wrong. I didnt infer that you couldnt
sing. Im telling you right now to your face. You cannot sing. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You aint no Streisand,
ha! she shouted.
ha, what? I replied. Is that such a crime to say to you? Whats the big
had her back-pedaling now, so I thought this was the perfect time to do what I do best,
turn the tables on her, make her out to be the bad guy, show her how Im the victim,
how dare she try and make me wrong for just speaking my mind about how tone-deaf she was.
been punishing me all week because I was kind enough to tell you the truth, how dare you!
Ill tell you what, I will graciously accept your apology and we wont talk
about this any more. I leaned over to kiss her, but she pulled away as she pushed me
back to my side of the car.
so quick, buster. This isnt about you. Its about how your comment made me
do you mean made you feel? You cant sing! How do you think that makes me feel?
can we get off the singing for a moment? This isnt about my singing. Its about
how your insensitive comment hurt my feelings.
are your feelings hurt? Im right about this. You cannot, I repeat, not, no how, in
any way, sing.
the G.D. singing! Will you focus on me? Can you quit defending yourself long enough to
hear what Im saying? You hurt my feelings. I felt judged by you. When I feel like
youre judging me, it makes it unsafe for me to be around you. I know in my head that
you love me, but I feel in my heart that you dont accept me. When I feel like you
dont accept me, it makes it hard for me to want to be with you.
of that because you cant sing? I feigned bewilderment.
Im going to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Youre too smart to think
that this is all because you believe that I
need to feel accepted by you. People who love each other dont judge each other. I
feel safest with you when I feel like youre on my side. I dont need to be
teased by you, or belittled by you. I need to know that you accept me with all my quirks.
I dont want to have to be worrying about every little thing I do and say. Should I
always have to question whether youre judging me, that youre going to make fun
of me? I need to know that I can just be myself around you without giving you material for
your standup routine.
so thats why youve been so angry
with me all week.
knew I had no way out of this. I could see that it was about time for me to punt.
Sometimes its better to retreat in order to live to fight another day. Im
nothing if not a gracious loser. So I did what any man would do when hes backed into
a corner with nowhere else to go. I pulled the car over to the side of the road. I gave
her a hug, kissed her on the cheek and said, You are right. I am sorry. It will
never happen again.
look on each of our faces said it best, Yea right, it will never happen again.
Woman. Child. Adult. Doesnt matter your station in life. Competent. Incompetent.
Bright. Not-so bright. Aloof. Sociable. Kind. Self-centered. Self-denying. Underneath all
the exteriors a person can don, were all sensitive, oftentimes frail. What
were sensitive about may vary from person to person. But make no mistake about it,
we all desperately want to feel accepted by the people in our lives.
share together the need to feel accepted. Dont buy into the assertion that there are
fundamental differences between people. We are all from planet Earth. There are
fundamental truisms about human nature that apply to each and everyone of us alike. Your
ability to create a harmonious relationship is dependent upon embracing one simple truism.
Not operating from this space in your heart will handicap your best intentions.
Overlooking this simple truism will keep you running round and round in circles with your
partner, never getting to the heart of the matter.
next sentence needs to be underlined, place an asterisk by it, write it fifty times on a
blackboard. We are much more similar than we are different. I want to repeat that. There
are profound implications for this sentence. Do not be seduced by the simplicity of this
statement. We are much more similar than we are
get it? Were all wired the same. The only difference is that some of us choose to
insulate ourselves to a greater or lesser extent from all the ways we hurt, from daring to
want and need. Make sense to you? You have your own level of comfort with feeling
vulnerable, so you insulate yourself from the discomfort that accompanies feeling
vulnerable. That, my friend, is the only difference.
of this sound familiar? I dont care what anybody thinks about me?
Im my own person, I dont need you or anyone else. Nay. Nay.
Dont believe it about yourself or anybody else.
need for acceptance bubbles underneath the surface of any interaction you have with
another human being. You may feign indifference. Or you may have made acceptance the lord
of your existence. Or perhaps you have found some middle ground. But its there.
Getting stepped on. Being titillated. Spreading warmth throughout our being.
know what it feels like, all that fear when confronted with all the firsts in your
life--first day on a new job, a first date, all those first days at school. New worlds,
new people, new arenas where you have to make your way. All the questioning, self-doubts.
Do I belong here? Will I be liked? Will I be noticed?
long for a kind word, a knowing nod. Remember those times someone placed a comforting hand
on your shoulder? The gentle touch, a thoughtful comment, someones willingness to go
out of their way to acknowledge you and your discomfort. Fear melts away as we feel safe
when we dont feel safe and accepted, there are going to be hurt feelings. Not
feeling accepted coats us with a thin film of alienation. Insensitive comments, myopic
behavior that insures our well-being at the expense of our partner creates layer and layer
of hurt, resentment, and mistrust.
be willing to bet if you took the time to step back from the devices you and your partner
use to hurt each other, you would learn a thing or two. If you peel back the layers to
your discord, perhaps youll discover what you and your partner are truly feuding
over. The significance of how well you can sing, or dance, or make love? Perhaps
thats the circumstance, but Id be willing to bet that someone is not feeling
accepted. Might this be true?
theres a place in you that is aching from the accumulation of slights, innuendo,
accusations, omissions of recognition, sarcastic observations, and more. Has your need to
feel accepted by your partner been frustrated to the point that your hurt has been twisted
into anger and resentment?
is really very simple. No sophisticated psychology is needed. Im talking about the
tenderness of the human condition, the soft underbelly of the hard exteriors we create.
When that underbelly is pierced, we hurt and we dont forget--its just one more
incident added to a long list. When our tenderness is honored, we dont forget that
either. A little more of who we are is able to come out, delivering kindness to our
partner, thereby expanding the presence of love and respect between two people.
have no fancy techniques to offer you, only encouragement. The solution itself is
seemingly easy. Stop focusing on the circumstances. Dont settle for believing that
how well somebody sings is at the heart of what is troubling the two of you. Pull back and
go deeper. Pull back from the battle. Go to a deeper layer and focus on the underlying
hurt youre experiencing.
is the path to a deeper appreciation of your partner. A deeper appreciation of your
partner is the path to a less conflictual relationship. Less conflict needing to be
resolved frees up more energy to invest in the well-being of your partner and, ultimately,
the nourishment of your relationship. Afterall, isnt that why we all want to learn
how to make molehills out of mountains?
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.