You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Focus (August 4, 2009)
Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers have been Christian counselors for over 30 years. They practice at Rodgers Christian Counseling and the Institute for Soul Healing Love in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Tom also has a master’s degree in human development and Dr. Bev has a master’s degree in marital and family therapy. Together they have written three books: Soul Healing Love, Adult Children of Divorced Parents, and The Singlehood Phenomenon. They have appeared on NBC, NPR, and the BBC. Together they facilitate relationship workshops for couples and singles across the globe. They have been married for over 30 years and have two grown daughters.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Focus (August 4, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Meet the Smith Family
As the sun set over the trees behind our office, it cast an amber glow over Amy Smith’s face, making her look tired and sad as she poured out her heart. In her expressive, emotional style she shared about her 15-year marriage. Her husband, Bill, sat uncomfortably stiff on the far side of the sofa, his arms crossed in a resistant, nervous posture.
Amy told us that they had two beautiful children, Chloe, age eight, and Billy, six. Amy began to cry as she revealed that she was at her wits’ end with Bill because he would not interact with her and the children.
He spent most of his evenings and weekends parked in front of the television in his room, or “dungeon,” as they called it.
“He won’t talk or relate to us. He just works and comes home and disappears into his room,” she shared through her tears. “Chloe will do anything to get his attention. She even tried to be interested in fishing so she could spend time with him. But he just won’t respond to her. This kills me because I know how she feels. I tried to get my dad’s attention when I was her age, and when I could not reach him, it caused me to rebel and become promiscuous. There’s so much to deal with here,” Amy cried, wiping her tears in embarrassment.
“Our marriage is in trouble,” she continued. “Our son is having behavior problems at school, and poor Chloe has ADHD and has trouble with her school work. She has no friends because her self-esteem is on the floor. The problems in our family seem so big that I just don’t know where to start. I finally told Bill that if he did not come to counseling I might have to leave. I still can’t believe he came today,” she said as she looked at him for some type of reaction. But Bill just stared blankly at Amy, in what appeared to be his typical shutdown response. This just made Amy cry even harder. The hopelessness and despair in the room were palpable.
As Christian marital and family therapists for the past 28 years, we have treated many families like the Smiths. These families are typically desperate and overwhelmed, and they need help on many fronts. It is our job to help them eat the proverbial elephant of healing family dysfunction, one bite at a time.
Often, when people are inundated with problems, they cannot see a way out. But there is hope for this family and many others like them. Tom and I found that same hope for our own wounded family years ago.
Yes, we too have had problems. Just because we’re marriage and family counselors does not mean that we’re immune to trouble. We too came from homes where there was a great deal of pain. My mother was mentally ill. She was abusive to our family, both mentally and physically. As you can imagine, it caused a great deal of stress on my parents’ marriage.
My father finally left my family when I was five years old. This exacerbated my mother’s illness and she became even more angry and abusive. It was difficult growing up without a dad and many times without a mother; mentally ill moms are frequently missing in action. It was not until I started college and studied psychology that I realized the full impact my wounded childhood would have on my life and my marriage.
Tom grew up in a seemingly more “normal” family—at least no one was crazy! Even so, his family had troubles of its own. They were churchgoers and were there every time the doors were open. They were considered pillars of their small community in central California. Everything ran smoothly for them until Tom’s father’s repeated adultery was exposed.
Tom’s whole world came crashing down then, and this started the slow and painful dissolution of his family. They had to move from their community in shame and nothing was the same after that. Tom entered college with a poor ability to trust because everything that he put his trust in had disintegrated. His parents finally buried their dead, dysfunctional marriage when Tom was 25 years old. Though he was an adult when his parents eventually divorced, the hurt was no less painful. Like most Christian children of divorce, he even doubted God. All of this followed him into our marriage.
We were much like Amy and Bill Smith. We had no idea that we brought wounds from our respective families into our marriage. We now believe it was because of these wounds that we became therapists. It was because of our hurt and pain that we eventually developed a model for healing relationships. We call it the Soul-Healing Love Model. You’ll be hearing a lot about how it can work in your life as we follow the Smith family in their healing process. Along with the Smiths, you will learn how your childhood wounds have affected your adult relationships, and how to apply the soul healing balm of the Great Physician to these wounds so that you can have healthy, lasting family relationships.
We never started out to develop a counseling model. If you had known us in college, you would have assumed that we were the least likely candidates to do so. We were so insecure and fearful of trusting one another. We entered our relationship with so many wounds that we spent the first year of our marriage in a counselor’s office. We studied family interaction in school, attended workshops, read as many books as we possibly could, studied Scripture, and prayed often. Still, marriage was hard.
It wasn’t easy to attend classes and seminars by great Christian leaders who seemed to have it all together. We thought our childhood wounds would disqualify us from ever being able to help ourselves, much less anyone else. In the early years of our training it seemed incongruous for us to study about creating healthy families while our own family fell miserably short. We felt hypocritical when we would help a family stop their unhealthy patterns, only to repeat our own later on. It took a while to learn that all leaders feel this struggle in some way or another as they try to live out what they teach.
The Lord was good and heard our cries, and in time gave us ways to heal our wounded marriage and pass this healing on to others. This became the Soul-Healing Love Model. It integrates psychological principles and biblical truths so that couples and families can understand each other better, gain insight into their own and each other’s woundedness, have empathy for one another, move toward forgiveness, and become healing agents to each other. The premise of the model is that God’s unconditional love heals our wounded souls and restores us to wholeness. Jeremiah 30:17 says, “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.”
As we experience God’s great soul-healing love, we can allow that love to overflow to our family, so that we can be healing agents to them as well. Because loving your family can be harder at times than loving your neighbors, the Lord gave us practical, doable ways to walk out God’s unconditional love. It is nothing short of miraculous how the Lord can take a fearful, fractured family and move it to a healing place. We now use the model in our large counseling clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, and travel the globe doing workshops and teaching other counselors and pastors how to use it.
As you can see, the Lord used our pain to help us be an example to others, so we now believe that God does not waste pain. He did not waste ours, and we knew He would use the pain of the Smith family for good as well. Now, let’s accompany the Smiths on their healing journey and see how the Soul-Healing Love concepts worked for them, and more importantly, how they can work for you and your family.
In the Beginning: Wounded People Marry Wounded People and Wound Children
In order to deal with Bill and Amy’s obvious pain, we wanted to let them know that they were not alone in their struggles, that many couples have difficulties like theirs, and that their family could be healed. Watching their mixture of relief and skepticism as we shared, we moved on to asking them the all-important question: “What do you two want out of counseling?”
Amy had a list and was ready, almost anxious, to share it. We could tell that she had been preparing for this session for some time. Of course, the list contained everything she wanted to change about Bill, but there was no mention of anything she needed to improve. (We would have to deal with this later.)
“I want Bill to talk to me more, to interact with the kids more, to get involved in their projects, and help around the house.” She was on a roll by now and we could see where this was going, but could not even break in to slow her down. Bill, obviously feeling put down, sat lower and lower on the sofa until the cushions enveloped him. We could tell he was clenching his teeth as he rolled his eyes in utter frustration.
Oblivious to Bill’s mood, Amy continued to lament. “I want Bill to tell me what’s going on in his brain. He shuts me out so much! I want him to be a spiritual leader and care about how our children are doing spiritually.” She finally took a breath long enough for me to get a word in.
We knew we needed to get Bill to talk before he exploded, so I asked, “What about you, Bill? What brought you here today?”
“She did, she made me come,” he said somewhat sarcastically. (We soon learned that this playful sarcasm was Bill’s communication trademark.)
“I hate this sort of thing. I can’t stand sharing feelings anyway, much less with strangers. No offense to you guys, but talking about emotions is like torture for me.”
“Most of us guys have trouble with this,” Tom replied in an effort to comfort and identify with Bill. “In fact, after thirty-two years of marriage, my wife is still teaching me new ways to share feelings, so we hope we can make this as painless as possible for you.”
“Wow, thirty-two years and you seem okay . . . well sort of,” Bill replied with that same hint of sarcastic humor. We all chuckled and it seemed to lighten up the serious mood.
Finally, Tom asked, “So, Bill, why are you really here?”
“Well, if you really want to know, my biggest complaint is about Amy’s nagging. She always tells me what I’m not doing. No matter what I do, it is never enough for her. I finally just quit trying because there is no pleasing her.”
“Bill was not always so shut down,” Amy interrupted. (We were also soon to learn that this was her trademark communication style.)
“He talked all the time when we dated. I think he tricked me into marrying him, and after he finally caught me, his sullen self appeared,” she said resentfully.
“You’d be sullen too if you lived with her constant nagging,” Bill defended himself. “She thinks she’s right about everything. It’s too bad we all can’t be perfect like her,” he added somewhat scornfully.
“I don’t want perfection, I just want someone who is more involved with the family, like I am. Why can’t Bill be more like me?” she asked.
“I have wondered the same thing,” Bill said. “How did I pick a wife who is so different from me?”
Tom and I have been asked this question by couples thousands of times in the last three decades. The problem is that people are typically not attracted to mates who are similar to themselves. As with countless couples we see in our office, Bill and Amy could hardly be more opposite.
Amy was verbal, expressive, and animated, with a great vocabulary and no problem using it. Bill was her opposite: quiet, stoic, and emotionally frozen. We have found that we may date individuals more like ourselves, but when it comes to selecting a mate, we typically pick our opposite. This is because, as the old saying goes, opposites attract. There are actually physiological, psychological, and spiritual reasons for this. So to help them see that their differences could actually be a good thing, we explained to Bill and Amy what we are about to share with you.
For years relationship researchers have known that people are attracted to partners who are their opposite, but the issue of opposites attracting really goes back to the Garden of Eden. God, the Creator of the universe, has male and female characteristics, masculine and feminine. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26). Adam reflected the male aspect of His image. He was put on the earth to do God’s masculine tasks. He was to protect, serve, and have charge over all of God’s creatures (Genesis
In those first days, Adam was busy with his charge. He was responsible for naming all living things. As he did this, he utilized all of his, and God’s, masculine qualities. But it wasn’t long before he realized that something was missing. As God’s male image bearer, Adam permeated and interacted with the creation, but God’s feminine image was noticeably absent. The world needed His feminine characteristics.
Adam needed God’s feminine side too. When God said that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18),He wanted Adam to have this part of His likeness to complete His creation. Adam needed his opposite to feel complete and to be able to experience and utilize all of God’s aspects and characteristics, and husbands and wives have been looking for that completeness with each other ever since.
When man (God’s male likeness) craves woman (God’s female likeness), they marry and become one. In this oneness, they fulfill a divine destiny. Webster’s gives one definition of destiny as “set apart for a specific purpose.”
Since couples have both parts of God’s nature, they can do so much more together than they could alone to fulfill their special purpose. Together they form what we call the “Divine Us.” This Us is greater than the sum of the two parts.
Now, don’t misunderstand. We are not saying here that we as humans are divine. Far from it! Rather, the Divine Us is a calling that God has for only a specific couple, that man and that woman in all of their uniqueness, with the qualities that only those two people possess. Together they can learn to transcend their differences, even learn from these dissimilarities, and grow to be all that God has called them to be. God has a plan for the Divine Us that can be accomplished only when the two become one.
Tom and I have worked hard over the years to determine and develop our Divine Us. We have often said that without each other there are many things we simply would not, or could not, do. We’re certain that separately we would not have started a counseling, writing, and speaking ministry. Together we gave each other courage to do the things we would not do alone. I am gifted in administration. This is an area where Tom is lacking. Tom has a great sense of direction, both literally (I get lost in every hotel we stay in), and figuratively, in that he often knows the path that we should take in life.
These are not the only areas where Tom and I are opposites. I am very outgoing; he has a shy streak. I’m hyper and can’t sit still. He is far calmer. He’s athletic. I’m uncoordinated! Like our couple Amy and Bill,
I am a talker, and Tom is a man of few words. More than once in our marriage these opposite characteristics have caused us conflict. On more than one occasion, I have wished for a mate who was more like me. Yet, before we met I had dated guys who were more like me, and I found that there wasn’t a great deal of attraction. I even found some to be boring. We just didn’t have chemistry.
Chemistry and Love
Relationship researchers report that the more opposite the couple, the greater the chemistry. In fact, the term chemistry came from the science of alchemy, a forerunner of modern chemistry. It was a mixture of science and philosophy that developed in the Middle Ages when people were attempting to find an elixir of life. Early chemists knew that the more opposite the chemicals were, the greater the explosive reaction when they were mixed! Perhaps these early chemists saw the explosive reaction between opposite men and women as they declared undying love and devotion for each other.
There is also a biological reason for this chemistry. When you first fall in love, hormones and brain chemicals flow throughout your body. Researchers at the University of New York call this “the love cocktail.” These chemicals cause us to feel superhuman, making the “in love” feelings soar. They also alter our thinking so that we see our partner in the most positive light. So while we are dating, we not only overlook the opposite characteristics in our prospective mates, we actually like those very characteristics!
When we dated, I loved that Tom was laid-back and could take breaks when we studied. He loved it that I was driven and could accomplish a great deal in a short time. He got more done when he was with me, and I could relax more in his presence. It was not long after we married that those blessed brain chemicals began to fade, and our differences started to annoy us.
“Can’t you sit still?” he would ask.
“Are you taking another break? We have work to do,” I would bemoan.
The differences that we once celebrated and enjoyed soon became grist for the mill of marital conflict. Take a moment and think about the main thing that you were attracted to in your mate. Do you fight about this issue today? You will understand more about this as you read through the pages of this book. But first, let’s look at another way husbands and wives can be opposites.
Similar Wounds/Opposite Adaptations
Not only do opposite personalities attract, but people with opposite adaptations to similar wounds attract as well. This is the basis for dysfunctional family systems. Harville Hendrix in his book Keeping the Love You Find, says that we are attracted to people who have similar wounds from the past. It is not that we consciously know that people have similar wounds. Of course, we don’t ask about one’s childhood wounds on the first date, but we do find that there is just something about that person that feels familiar. Hendrix calls this “the phenomenon of recognition.”
This causes us to feel at home with people who have had similar experiences. In our counseling we have found that adult children of alcoholics find other adult children of alcoholics. Children of divorce find other children of divorce. Those who are abused as children may find mates who will abuse them. Though it seems crazy to outsiders, it feels familiar and comfortable to the ones inside the relationship.
This “phenomenon of recognition” was the case with us. Tom and I attended a Christian university in the 1970s. Most of the students came from wonderful Christian homes with great Christian heritages.
We were two of only a handful of students who suffered from the divorces of our parents. And yet, among thousands of students, we managed to find each other. The chemistry between us was so potent that all of our friends noticed it immediately. Indeed, people with similar wounds are attracted to one another.
The problem is that though people may have similar wounds, they may also have opposite ways of dealing with those wounds. We call those ways adaptations. Tom adapted to his parents’ painful divorce by withdrawing and isolating, becoming a loner. When my family fell apart I felt abandoned. I adapted to this wound by taking care of everyone and trying to fix things. I became a caretaker.
Here’s how that worked out in our marriage. When we had conflict, I typically fell into my caretaking adaptation. I pestered Tom to respond, often following him from room to room, trying to get him to open up to me so that I could “fix” the situation. This pursuing caused Tom to feel suffocated and pull away even more, which caused him to fall into his adaptation as a loner. The more he would withdraw, the more abandoned I felt. The more abandoned I felt, the more I pursued him and the more he would distance himself. We were in a crazy, vicious cycle and unwittingly became the classic pursuer/distancer dyad that John Gottman talks about in his book The Marriage Clinic.
In the Soul-Healing Love Model we call this phenomenon Marital Pac-Man, where one mate chases the other, and the other runs in fear of being emotionally “chomped up.” This is a common problem in marriage, and fortunately it can be repaired. To do this, though, we needed to stop our unhealthy adaptations. As a distancer, Tom needed to bite the bullet and move closer. As a pursuer, I needed to practice self-control and back off more. We learned to do this for each other by rediscovering and appreciating what we were attracted to in the beginning of our relationship. This enabled us to move toward becoming more like each other.
This was exactly what Bill and Amy Smith needed to do as well. But first we wanted to explore more about their history and how they got trapped in their unhealthy game of Marital Pac-Man.
Here's my review of this helpful non-fiction read:
First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Drs. Beverly and Tom Rodgers and their publisher for sending me a copy of "Becoming A Family That Heals: How To Resolve Past Issues and Free Your Future" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.
Drs. Beverly and Tom Rogers have released a helpful non-fiction book titled “Becoming A Family That Heals”. This non-fiction title deals with wounded people becoming whole. It presents the information that wounded people tend to gravitate toward each other and when they establish their own families, they perpetuate those wounds in their offspring. This book discusses how families can break those patterns and stop the unwanted legacy of pain.
This book would be a helpful resource for someone who recognizes this issue in their own family and has a desire to discontinue these behavior patterns.