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Notes #71

Back on track!

Second of a six-part series on Friendship

When Partners Stop Being Friends

      They either argued loudly and often or didn't speak to each
other for weeks at a time.
     Since day one of their relationship, her biggest complaint
was, "He's always out with the boys." While he had many male
friends upon whom he depended for his social life-fishing, pool,
going to hockey and baseball games, drinking beer into the early
morning-his wife of 21 years was not included. Twenty-one
years of marriage and, according to her, his newest "best friend"
was a neighbour he'd only recently met.
     The person who replaced her and with whom he spent most
of his time just happened to own an antique automobile and had a
small refrigerator in his garage. She explained to me that in the
past, she had tried everything to get his attention. But now even
her tears and angry outbursts were falling on deaf ears. She was
becoming desperate.
     I made the comment, "It sounds to me like you and your
husband are not very friendly, and are not good friends; that he
sees 'the boys' as being his friends and not you."
     "You think?" was her sarcastic response. "We're not even close
to being friends." Her response prompted me to do some serious
thinking about the role of friendship in the context of an intimate
relationship, and my response to her was:

When we first start a relationship with someone,
we often want to be with and do everything with
them. In time, this can change as a result of the
pressures of work, children, aging parents, health
issues, and the "power dynamics" that evolve
between individuals who live together. Change
is good, healthy, and inevitable. But when one
partner changes so much that they go from being
your "best friend" to your "chief antagonist ",
then the relationship experiences much distress.

That's what had happened to this woman and her husband.
They had become "worst friends".
     Her curiosity was heightened when I suggested to her that
"Someone has to break the deadlock you've found yourselves in.
And it might as well be you." In fact, it had to be her because he
refused to attend.
     The challenge I suggested was that she be her husband's best
friend for the next several weeks and monitor whatever changes
occurred. She thought about it, shrugged her shoulders, smiled
wryly, and said, "Sure." Then, at some point in the future, after
he had an opportunity to experience her change in behaviour,
she was to talk with him about the concept of friendship in their
relationship and how this might lead to their treating each other
much better than they were.

     All too often, partners talk about what they need to do to
make things better. But they either never get around to making
the changes-procrastination-or they become so annoyed at
their partner's perceived "lack of trying", that they give up and
revert to old behaviours.
     My client agreed to say nothing about what she was doing
for several weeks-being his best friend and then to ask him if
he was aware of any changes in her behaviour. When she felt that
enough time had passed and her behaviour was noticeable to him,
she was to ask him if he liked and appreciated these changes. She
was to then engage him in a conversation about the importance of
friendship in a relationship. This was a plan based on "change first
and talk about it later".
     In situations such as the one experienced by this client, people
often talk about making major changes in their behaviour after
they have had a crisis or big blow-up with their partner. But what
I often suggest instead is a discipline where you practice being
your partner's "best friend" for at least a two-week period. Stick
with your plan no matter how they act. And then "talk" about
your behaviour and what they "actually" experienced during that
period. "Do" (action) rather than "talk" (theory) about what you
should do or are going to do.
     If you are considering implementing the "best friend"
practice in your own relationship, I would suggest that you
think very seriously about two questions-
Do you really want this person for a friend? and, 
Do you really want to be friendly to this person?

     Don't react too quickly or get too glib with the "Of course;
they're my partner" response. Being a friend is hard work, time
consuming, and you have to sacrifice. If you're going to put the
energy into working at this relationship and at least one of you
hasn't for quite awhile, then let's be really sure we care for this
person and that we want them to care about us.

Do you really want this person to be friendly toward you?
   Do you really want to put the energy into 
      being a friend to this person?
      Be careful what you agree to!

A concept from my most recent book, "Communication & Relationships"  Dr. Dan Rosin


Did I read that sign right? 
In an office:

In an office:
Outside a second-hand shop:


The Gap is Very Wide!
I have a question for you that may seem somewhat self-explanatory and very dumb, but here goes: Why do people not see things the same way I do? Or, put another way, how does my logic and belief in science and experts differ so widely from the anti-mask, anti-vaccine, conspiracy theorists?

I'll answer my own question. We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems. These differences were influenced by the people we grew up with (parents, community, culture). We took many of their ideas, beliefs, and attitudes and made them our own with little thought to the logic, scientific data and just plain common sense of the issue. (Took might be too weak a word. For many, how they should see the world was forced on them by family, church and cultural rules.) I do realize that divergent thinking does not all come from youthful experiences; adult brains can surely conjure up bizarre ways of seeing the world,  particularly if those people have a dedication/addiction to social media and little desire to fact check.

Brandon University sociology professor Christopher Schneider stated some perceptions in the Free Press (June 2, 2021) that caught my attention regarding my original question about the huge gap in thinking between myself and some of the people making headlines whose behaviour I consider dangerous and self-centred. He stated, 
It's hard to change a person's mind when they feel they are being told what to do. It's a measure of the distrust that people have in social institutions, like government, like medicine... It is a "profound distrust" that is baked into some local communities in a way often backed up with some facts.

Schneider referenced Canada's long history of medical mistreatment of indigenous people as an example.

That distrust can be powerful enough to change people's entire worldview to the point where, even in sickness, they cannot be swayed. Some God-fearing folks may choose to ignore its severity or refuse a vaccine in the name of accepting the divine's omnipotence in deciding a person's health, while those more prone to conspiracy may point to the ever-changing nature of scientific discovery.

So to people who already have a strong belief in science or a strong trust in government, this would act as a shield or deterrent to those conspiracy theorists. But for those who don't have that, you might believe in things that are already fantastical or don't correspond with reality, coupled with the distrust in government, this I think would provide fertile ground (to potential bizarre thinking. DR).

If I am to believe Prof. Schneider's explanation, and I do, that there are a group of people who are leading the anti-mask, anti-vaccine, conspiracy theories campaigns that are out of touch with reality and that their beliefs verge on the bizarre and have no basis in science or logic, then my question is: how did they get this way? Is it childhood conditioning, mental illness, a real belief that government and the many institutions that make up society are sick and out to screw them, or is it the constant bombardment of lies and mistruths that overpower their rational thought process?

Perhaps a bigger question is: how do we treat/control these folks who are so out of step with society that they are dangerous not only to others but to themselves as well?

One thing, among many, that I have learned since the beginning of the pandemic is that we can't depend on the "goodwill" or common sense of people to make the right safety choices. No, there are too many self-centred and misled people in society who will not make the right choices to protect the majority of the population and so a tougher stance needs to be taken. People have definitely confused: 

                Democracy as a right, with Democracy is a privilege!