In 1970, the buzz in Hollywood was about the romantic movie Love Story
. The movie was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and made stars and household names of the young actors Ryan ONeal and Ali MacGraw. Even if you havent seen the movie or dont have it in your Netflix queue, you have most likely heard the famous line that MacGraws character uttered early in the film: Love means never having to say youre sorry.
Now, I was preteen when I first heard this line and even then it didnt sound quite right. Granted, I didnt know much about relationships and romance but I had done enough wrong to those that I loved to detect a flaw in the logicdespite the poetry of the line. Sadly, I must dispute the words of philosopher William James who once said: Theres nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it. Unfortunately, given the power of pop culture and pop psychology, I think that many have embraced this absurd and convenient retort, especially those who have trouble with mea culpa.
I was reminded again of this line a few days ago when I came across a book by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas called: The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationship
. You may be familiar with Chapman from his many books on the five love languages where he asserts that we generally like to receive love in one of five ways: acts of service, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time or physical touch. The problem is that we usually give love in the manner that we like to receive it and this may not be the right love language for one that we are seeking to love. In short, its the receiver, not the giver, who determines if an act is loving.
In any case, Chapman and Thomas have developed a similar model for the language of apology. They argue, rather convincingly, that an apology, just like giving love, is not really effective unless its expressed in terms appropriate for the receiver. Below are the languages of apology that they have discovered:
- Expressing regret: Im sorry may be the first words expressed in this apology language but you will need to clearly express what you are sorry for. For example, if you inappropriately spoke harshly to one of your kids and this is their language, you will need to be specific and say, I am sorry that I lost my temper and raised my voice at you.
- Accepting responsibility: This apology begins with the words I was wrong and then explains what was wrong with your behavior. For example, you would say to your spouse that you were wrong for not planning well enough to get home in time to pick up your children from school.
- Making restitution: This apology language is focused on making it right. So, if you forget someones birthday, and this is his or her language, you cant just say that youre sorry. With a person who speaks this language, what they really want to know is Do you still love me? and making restitution helps assure them that you do.
- Genuinely expressing a desire to change your behavior: This apology needs to be linked to a plan to keep the behavior from occurring again. If this is a loved ones apology language, in their world, apologizing without a sincere desire and demonstrated behavior to change is not apologizing at all.
- Requesting forgiveness: For someone who speaks this language, the words Will you please forgive me? are critical. In their mind, if you are sincere, you will ask to be forgiven.
I really believe that Chapman and Thomas are on to something here. A love story without apologies only happens in the movies. Indeed, love means always
having to say you are sorry. Ironically, the title of the Love Story
theme song, which won an Academy Award for best musical score, is Where Do I Begin? If you want to restore and/or maintain relationships with your spouse, the mother of your child, or your children, I suggest that you begin with an apology.
In Roland's latest Washington Times column
, he explores the idea that "a good father helps his daughter find her prince without kissing all the frogs" and how this is played out in Disney's upcoming movie, "The Princess and The Frog
He also points out the father factor in the President and First Lady Obama's strong marriage.You can read the full article here!
Fathers have long complained that the post-divorce custody decision was slanted against them because they spent (or appeared to spend) more time working than actively parenting. In this recession, however, it seems that some working moms are experiencing the same phenomenon. A Working Mother magazine article
profiled some working mothers who did not get as much custody as they had expected, and the New York Times
followed up with another viewpoint.
Obviously custody battles often produce Pyrrhic victories, and one wishes they never had to occur. However, to make a fair decision about co-parenting responsibilities, judges need to consider a wide variety of factors about both mom and dad. Having moms get less custody time in some situations does not, by definition, mean the wrong decision has been made. What do you think?
This opinion piece on CNN.com
deals with the importance of marriage in raising healthy children. It cites the Obamas as a great example of a family enjoying the fruits of marriage.
I will not say much about the article itself, but about the comments at the bottom of the page. Whenever I see an article like this, touting the benefits of marriage, there are invariably "commentators" who say, "marriage does not work these days," or they cite all of the examples of bad/abusive marriages they have seen in their lives.
Two things come to my mind whenever I see such comments:
1) Let's assume that what these commentators say about marriage is true - that marriage does not work, that there are tons of bad marriages out there. Then how do you reconcile that with the fact that, despite all of this bad stuff, children with married parents still
do better, on average, than children from the family structures that are replacing marriage? What does that imply about these replacement family structures?
2) That leads to my second thought -- why doesn't anyone ever make a comment like, "Cohabitation just does not work today." In other words, why doesn't anyone ever criticize the family structures that, according to decades of research, are actually
failing children (on average of course)? After all, if marriage does not work, then cohabitation, by these commentators' very own standards, works even less - cohabiting relationships are less stable, last less time, have more child and partner abuse, etc.
It seems there are people who are so ideologically opposed to marriage that they have a huge blind spot when it comes to the faults of "replacement" family structures. Sure, marriage has its faults, but why pretend that whatever replaces it has none of the problems that marriage has and all of the benefits?
I was delighted to see this article
in the September 22 USA Today about a new book on the marriage of Barack and Michelle Obama. Christopher Andersen, a former editor of People Magazine, who called his book Barack and Michelle ObamaPortrait of an American Marriage, interviewed more than 200 people to get the details.
Although I have yet to read the book, on the surface, this is really good stuff. Frankly, I have often been frustrated, especially with stories about the President that encourage young people, in particular African American boys, to emulate Obamas modeling as a black man, and even as a black father, but are strangely silent on the need to follow his example as a black husband.
Interestingly, the President and I share a lot in commonwe are both African American men raised by single mothers, who attended Ivy League schools and who married accomplished women who graduated from Princeton in 1985. Accordingly, I think that I am on pretty sound footing when I state that, like me, the reason that Obama has been able to break his legacy of father absence is not because of his professional and political success, but rather because he is married to Michelle. No baby mama for Obama. You see, good fathering, like real estate, is about location, location, location and the fact that Michelle is in the houseWhite House or otherwiseis key to Barack being the kind of father that he never had.
That said, I do have one bone to pick with Andersens characterization of the Obamas relationship. He states, Theyre devoted to each other. Its unique
Actually, its not unique
its marriage. And lots of couples in the black community are doing the same thing. The problem is that the press spends more time covering black rappers than black weddings and often fails to highlight the benefits of black marriageand marriage in general. No doubt this neglect has been instrumental in facilitating a pernicious self-fulfilling prophesy that has yielded 2 out of 3 black children living in father absent homes.
Finally, I sincerely hope that in his book Andersen spent as much time chronicling the benefits that Michelle has received from being married to Barack. This article, like most that I have seen, focuses on the benefits that Barack has received. (e.g. She is the reason he is where he is, the author says.) I have been happily married for 27 years and I know first hand that a good marriage is about giving
. Over the years, Ive
had women friends who weren
t big on marriage or who had children with guys who clearly weren
t marriage material say, I can do bad all by myself. Accordingly, I think that its essential that women hear from the First Lady that you can do pretty darn well with him too. No doubt, this is the way she feels. Just look at the portrait on Andersens book cover.
My life was interrupted yesterday. I was all set to head to work when I got a call from my wife. She told me that she was not feeling well and was heading for the emergency room. She said not to worry but asked that I get there as soon as I could. So, I grabbed my briefcase, etc. and headed out.
By the time I got to the hospital, she was already in a room and was hooked up to a few machines and an IV. They had already started to run some tests to check her blood. After an hour or so, the doctor came in and told us that the test results were fine and it turned out that she was having a bad reaction to some medicine that she was taking to settle her stomach. This was certainly great news and I have to admit, being a man of action, I instinctively checked my watch to see how long before I could get back to my regularly scheduled programming.
Just then, a nurse rushed into the room and told us that we needed to move to another room quickly because they needed this one for a patient in critical condition that was on an ambulance in route. Moments after we settled in the new room, the PA began to blare code blue this and code red that. It all sounded like a foreign language to me but not to my wife, who quickly grew somber. She is a family practice doctor and she decoded the announcement and told me that the incoming critically ill patient was a small child, probably a baby. We said a quiet prayer
Soon there was a storm of activity of rushing feet, urgent commands that nearly muffled the wailing of the mother of the child. However, almost as quickly, it was silent againsort of an eerie hush. So I decided to leave our room to see what was happening. As I approached our old room, the curtain was pulled back just far enough for me to see him
a little baby boy no more than 6 months old laying on an oversized gurney. He just looked adorable laying there. He had the cutest little face with a small tuft of blond hair tumbling gently on his forehead. And, he looked so peacefulalmost as if he was sleepingbut he wasnt
his day had been interrupted.
Its been a long time since I have been this close to someone who was dead. And, I have never been this close to a death so quick and so young. It was really difficult to take it all in and I could not help but to think back to how my day started and the interrupting call that I received
and the one that the father of this little boy received. Like me, I am sure that he had a day planned with lots of important stuff too. Now, he had to come to terms with a painful loss, an interruption of life-changing proportion.
Over the years, I have been fond of reminding dadsrather tongue in cheekthat what makes you a dad is that you have kids. Otherwise, youre just a guy. But I had not really thought about what it means to be a dad in this situation. How does one view his identity as a father in light of the death of his child, especially one so young? Does one wrestle with a sense that he is now a dad in name only? I dont know.
But I do know a few things for sure. First, 6 months, 6 weeks, 6 days, 6 minutes and 6 seconds before this father received the call, he had hopes and dreams of many firsts to share with his son that will never happen. Second, I know first hand as a father that despite the joy and blessing that babies are, at times, they place demands on us and they often interrupt our sleep, our plans and our life. Finally, I know that this father, as he cradles his little guy in his arms for the very last time, will look into his sons face and think
I would give just about anything for another chance to pardon his interruptions.
Relationships. Families. Those are the casualties of war that you don't see in the news everyday.
USA Today had an insightful, emotional article today - Troops' Families Feel Weight of War.
It profiles several different families as they struggle to reintegrate after not just one, but several deployments.
NFI and Lockheed Martin's 2009 Military Fatherhood Awardee, QMC John Lehnen of the U.S. Navy, said something so telling at this year's award ceremony
: The hardest part...when you're gone...your family grows without you...you come home to strangers.
That's exactly what this article is saying. One of the military fathers profiled is having a hard time reconnecting to his teenage son, and his son is acting out:
Scott, at 15, says his dad still seems to treat him like the 12-year-old he was before the last combat tour.
He says he loves his father and is proud of his military service but feels distant from him and often finds it easier to just leave the house and go skateboarding...
One a recent Sunday, before his father left on a trip, Scott suddenly threw his arms around his dad and hugged. "I didn't know what to do," Mark says. Father and son had shed that kind of physical affection one or two combat tours ago. "I lost that connection," Mark concedes.
Military families sacrifice so much for our freedom, both on and off the combat field. After the war in Iraq started, NFI developed a suite of resources specifically for military dads, to make sure they are able to reconnect with their kids. And the response we've had to these resources is overwhelming - the Deployed Fathers and Families Guide
is being used by ten of thousands of families in all branches of our armed forces. You can learn more at www.fatherhood.org/military
There is hope; these families show an amazing resillience and commitment to making it work. And, if these families can make it work, almost anyone can.
After the recent cover story in Time
about the benefits of marriage for children and society, some have decided to attack the author and the idea that marriage is an institution worth preserving and encouraging.This piece in The Nation
by Katha Pollitt reads like a lot of sarcastic noise. While it is successful at being snarky, it, like most articles of its kind, ignores decades of social science research that show that marriage is best for children. The article ignores the data on the benefits of marriage and the negative effects of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth so that it does not have to confront, head on, a very simple idea - children do best when their parents get and stay married. If this is not the case, someone needs to produce a body of research that shows otherwise - I have not seen it yet.
This article, predictably, offers no data of its own, just meaningless comparisons to other countries (where, by the way, cohabitation is a completely different beast than it is here in the U.S.).
Pollitt also lists several other solutions to improving child well being that she says are more attainable than improving marriages or reducing divorces. You have to see the list for yourself, but the items are far from 'no-brainers' that could be easily implemented. For example, she says that we can
achieve "Neighborhoods safe enough for kids to play outdoors and air clean enough so they don't get asthma." Needless to say, we have been trying to create safe neighborhoods and clean air for decades, to no avail (ironically, the cause of much neighborhood violence is fatherless boys acting out).
Would Pollitt give up as easily on the idea of creating safe neighborhoods as she does on strengthening marriage because it is "hard to do"?
Our friends at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy yesterday released a wonderful compilation of mini-essays on the definition and shape of personal responsibility vis-a-vis unplanned pregnancy. "Rethinking Responsibility: Reflections on Sex and Accountability
" surveyed 29 leaders for their thoughts on this critical issue.
NFI's own Roland Warren contributed an essay
on the resounding benefits of putting a ring on it.
I just read an item
from Time about a "personal site aimed at facilitating extramarital affairs." It is called AshleyMadison.com. Among the many ghastly things about this, one of the most interesting statements in the article was this: traffic on the site tripled the day after Father's Day. According to the site's CEO, it is because the day after Father's Day is a day when many men feel "underappreciated."
That is very sad - not a reason to cheat - but sad. Why don't we as a culture appreciate fathers enough? Too many bad ones, our own screwed up priorities, selfishness .... Any ideas?