Tammy watched, shocked, as her small five-year-old son Chase threw the toy car his father had gotten him clear across the room of the daycare.
“I want daddy!” He screamed as tears ran down his face.
“Daddy couldn’t make it, hon.,” Tammy said, while she tried to comfort him. “He’ll be home tomorrow.” She said.
Another business trip had extended far beyond the time it was expected to. Tammy’s husband, Brad had taken a new job in sales with a local software company. It was supposed to improve their financial situation. It did. Brad’s salary was finally pulling them out of debt. He was such a natural at the job, that he was quickly promoted to a lead position in the companies sales department. The new position meant he had to fly and present the software to businesses that had previously been difficult ‘to break ground’ with. This meant he had to fly to head offices of companies located anywhere throughout North America.
His most recent trip had taken him to Vancouver B.C., in Canada. The CEO of the company was so impressed by the presentation; he’d asked Brad to stay another night to have dinner with him. The opportunity meant the possible closing of a deal with this company. Brad had called Tammy with the news. He explained that this could mean a big commission on top of his salary. Tammy had mixed feelings about the news. She was happy for Brad: happy for the money that could help them out of debt. She struggled with thoughts and feelings of the strain this new job had brought their relationship and family. She kept telling herself that things would improve, and the ‘pace’ of Brad’s job would slow down and become steady.
It seemed since Brad had taken this job he played less with Chase, and was rarely home. She could remember when Brad was employed with a smaller company. He would be at home more regularly, and would spend more time roughhousing with Chase. She remembered the way they would both sit and talk with each other about their dreams of owning a bigger house, with plans to have a larger family. Now, when Brad was home, all he would talk about was the deal he’d closed, and what company he wanted to target for the next big sale. He spoke about software, and didn’t really seem interested in anything that had to do with family, or how Chase was doing in daycare. He would be home for a small while and then off again.
Each time before he would leave, Chase would ask him when he would be home. Brad would say “in a couple of days ‘slugger’! I’ll bring home a little something for you too!” Every ‘couple of days’ became even longer and longer. It often stretched out to four or five days. Brad would be called upon to present at another company in the same vicinity where he’d just finished one of his deals.
Each time he came home late, he would be too tired to spend any time with either of them. He simply handed Chase a toy, gave him a small hug, and then dragged himself to the bedroom to sleep. As a result of the demands of the job, Tammy started to notice changes in Chase’s behavior.
It had gotten to the point where she dreaded Chase’s question, “When is daddy coming home?” Every time Brad was not home when he’d promised, and wasn’t at her side when she picked Chase up, he would throw a tantrum. It would take a couple of hours for her to calm him down. She began to bring the toys that Brad had bought Chase on his trips. It helped at first. It seemed like Chase would cling to the toys as though it were some sort of ‘connection’ between he and his father. This tactic worked for a time, but then the crying and tantrums began to start once more.
This time it was different. His fit was much worse than she had witnessed before. Tammy had never seen Chase throw one of the toys Brad had gotten him. She tried to hold him, but he pulled away screaming, “Daddy! I want daddy!” When she approached him, he hid from her under a table. The workers at the daycare tried to help her by comforting him, and encouraging him to come out from underneath. Every attempt was unsuccessful. Finally, after Tammy had exhausted all of the tactics she could think of, she grabbed him, and pulled out. She held him tightly against her chest, trying to stop him from squirming. He began to scream all the more, and his arms and legs began to flail wildly. As he continued to screech and scream, Tammy made her way to the door as fast as she could, thanking the workers who had tried to help her. She quickly made her way to the exit of the day care, trying to avoid all eye contact with the other parents who were just coming in to pick up their children.
Chase’s body began to thrash about even more violently then before. Tammy’s hand was on the door, when Chase did something that shocked her all the more. In an instant, he had wrestled one hand free and clawed at her right cheek. Tammy felt a sharp, stinging pain, and then the warm trickle of blood start to run down the side of her face. One mother gasped, while a father stared on, in disbelief at the scene that he was witnessing. Tammy squirmed under the myriad of gazes that were aimed in her direction. She felt for the door and pushed it open. She bolted through the door of the exit, and almost ran towards her car.
Afterward, she had to hold Chase down as she buckled him into the car seat. When he was finally in, his screams began to subside and turn into whimpers. Then, there was silence. Tammy looked over her shoulder to see him fast asleep in the seat. She sat inside her car, still parked in the daycare’s driveway. Tammy stared, sitting in a daze while she pressed a tissue to the side of her cheek. After the shock had worn off, she quietly began to sob.
“This can’t go on.” She whispered. “This just can’t go on.”
Although this story is purely fictional, it is a familiar scenario that many families go through today. Brad, Tammy and Chase are very typical of some of the family pressures and problems that can be experienced in today’s world. However, there is something much deeper under the surface that’s happening here. Let’s explore just what that is.
When you read this story, what would you say it was about? Some might say that it’s about a family and a marriage that’s in trouble. Some may even say that it’s about the affects of workaholics on their family relationships. Others may even be able to point out the obvious dysfunctional dynamics at play here. All of that (taken together) may be true, however, I take a different slant on things. I would say that it this story about hunger. Yes, that’s right, hunger. You may be saying to yourself right now, “Huh? What on earth is this person talking about? Hunger?!” Exactly that. What do I mean? I mean the type of hunger that makes a person look for something else to fulfill the things that are missing in their lives.
A Hunger that Destroys
Some, like Brad, look to their work to fulfill them. Others may pursue money. Still, others may even look for relationships outside of their marriage. There may be a whole host of other things one may pursue that’s I have not mentioned here. Either way, the results tend to be the same. Trying to ‘fill the void’ ultimately leads to destructive behavior for the one practicing it, as well as anyone else that’s involved with them. Inevitably, once they have their high that makes them forget that something very real, (and missing inside of them) is there, they end up continuing the cycle to get a greater ‘buzz’ from whatever is consuming them. It makes them feel really fulfilled…for a time.
All in all, it is about hunger, and the underlying ‘fuel’ that spurs this type of appetite on. That fuel is fear. It is a fear that the person engaging in these pursuits is often oblivious to. They are usually too caught up in the ‘whirlwind’ of achieving this high (or, even in the midst of the high) so much, they can’t grasp that they are acting out in fear.
Let’s look at the scenario above. The first fear that had developed long before Brad and his family began having their problems was when he was at his last job. They had incurred so much debt that Brad eventually had to look elsewhere for employment. Their first fear was rooted in their lack of finances. Then, there is the possibility that because Brad had found his niche in the area of sales, he may even had experienced the need to perform so much that when he was called upon to visit another company in the same area where he had already presented his product to another. His need to do more may have been based on the need to outperform and impress his bosses to keep the type of bonuses he was getting. When we take a look at the fear of Chase it is quite clear why he was acting out. It was the insecurity in his relationship with his father. Brad was no longer around. When he said he’d be home, there were broken promises. When Brad finally did arrive home, he no longer had the energy to spend time with his son. This may even have seemed (from a child’s perspective) that his father may even lack love for him. Children learn socialization, and even expressions of affection through play. This is where they learn their most basic expressions of relationship when they are very young. That was no longer there.
Let’s take a look at Tammy. Her fear would have been similar to Chase’s, only with the expression of love being different. Remember that Brad and Tammy were much more communicative early on in his earlier job. They planned and envisioned their future together. They shared their hopes and dreams as a solid unit. They began to drift apart when Brad’s focus shifted from his family to his job. Tammy may have even felt very much like a single parent, having to deal with the emotional turmoil of her son, and feeling very alone without Brad around. In essence, she had to act as the mother and the father at the same time. That is a very difficult role for anyone to fulfill. The situation above can certainly be remedied. How do we do this?
A Hunger that Heal
What do I mean by the title above? I mean the type of intense desire and passion it takes to pursue things that will cause an atmosphere of healing and wholeness. It is a ‘setting up’ of circumstances that can bring about the change that’s required in Brad and Tammy’s relationship. It will also bring about healing that is desperately needed for the restoration of the relationship between Brad and his son Chase. We need to be completely honest about our situation. This is always the first and most important step. Being as transparent as we can about our feelings to ourselves, (and loved ones), will lead to a better focus for what is at the root of the kind of ‘breakdown’ that we see happening in the story above. Identifying the fear, and what that fear is based on, will help us deal with it head on.
Once we’ve identified that, we will be ready to approach the circumstances with much more clarity. If there is a loved one involved, we can better communicate what is bothering us that is adversely affecting our relationship with that person.
Hopefully, as with the dynamics that happen in all relationships, this will cause an openness to occur between those involved with each other. Sometimes this open state of communication will allow the other(s) involved, to feel freer and more secure to admit some of their own struggles they’re dealing with. Once there is open communication, there can be great healing and much needed clarity of the circumstances that surrounds our life situation(s). This can naturally lead to some resolutions that will bring about healthier steps to a better lifestyle and relationship.
In Brad and Tammy’s circumstance, that may even mean requesting to ‘cut back’ on the frequency of the business trips. If the employment where Brad works isn’t flexible to this, it could mean that he’ll need to seek employment elsewhere (regardless of the money). This may be necessary to maintain a healthier choice for a better family life. I can tell you of people I know of personally, that have suffered greatly because of putting the wrong priorities ahead of their family. What a tragedy when this occurs! Everyone loses when this happens.
What would be a desirable outcome for Brad here is if he were able to cut down on the frequency and length of his trips. Another important thing would be to not promise his son of a specified time he will be back. Children are particularly sensitive to whether someone is consistent to keeping their words (especially towards them). The better thing to do is honestly answer them if you aren’t sure, and simply say so. Consistency is the key to communicating even with your children. The best solution in Brad’s case is to not be so busy that you literally let the deeper things in life ‘pass you by’ simply for a job and the money it could bring you (regardless of today’s economic situation).
It’s important here for Tammy to be the one to approach her husband first. Why? As I said earlier, some may not even admit to, or even recognize that their pursuits are fear based, and therefore would not even realize there is a problem. Tammy needs to inform Brad of the affects his being away is having on both her and their son Chase. That action may be enough for Brad to see there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Tammy also needs to focus in on the thoughts and feelings she’s dealing with. It would have probably been better if she had done this when the problem first appeared. However, many may dismiss these thoughts and feelings by thinking that they are simply an overreaction on their part. So, what do we do if we are faced with a similar circumstance?
The best way to deal with the situation even if you think you’re over reacting, is to still identify the fear you’re dealing with and what it’s based on. Communication is still paramount in any relationship. It’s important that you take your loved ones aside, and explain what thoughts and feelings you’re dealing with. In a healthy relationship you should still be able to do this without the fear of any negative repercussions. There should always be a ‘steady stream’ of communication between you and your loved ones.
The best relationships are the ones where there is communication, and the feeling of safety and security in expressing all of your thoughts and feelings. All three components must ‘walk hand-in-hand’. In any relationship where one of these three key elements are missing, there are often ‘voodoo’ subjects where either side feels a restriction of freedom, and an inability to be completely honest with the other. If there are any of these kinds of topics that one feels is a subject that’s too touchy to approach, that is often a warning sign that there is something amiss in that relationship. Many may feel that if they are completely honest there might even be condemnation and damage to the relationship(s) over all. This makes for an unhealthy setting to try and have any kind of good connection between all of those involved. So, what do we do?
A Safe Place
One must strive to be the person to ‘step out’, and approach the person(s) they’re have concerns with and take them aside privately. Once this is done, I have personally assured that person(s) that I am not out to judge or condemn them. I also speak with a term that is not using definitive wording. What do I mean? Let me give you an example. If I said to you “ You always say this when you’re stressed out!” would that make you feel safe enough to let me know where you are coming from? However, if I said to you “I’ve noticed you’re a little stressed. I wasn’t sure if I was reading things right, but you seemed a little on edge. Is everything okay? Have I said or done something?” Which of the statements made you feel safe enough to speak to me without any defenses up? One statement conveys condemnation, with seemingly no chance to negotiate with the person saying them. The other leaves an ‘open door’ of communication. It is not a statement that supposes it knows absolutely what the other person’s motives are, nor circumstances that are causing their behavior. One creates a position where the other person feels they’re backed in a corner, while in contrast; the other statement sounds like it’s more out of concern. It’s important that it’s said with a softness that shows that concern as well. People respond to gentle tones more favorably then if it were said firmly in such situations.
Saying definitive words only creates the feeling that someone cannot really speak to another, because all judgments have already been made over them. Safe places are created when you show genuine concern for the other person. It’s completely irrelevant whether you think you’re right about where they’re coming from. If you show them you’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, there is more of a chance they will feel safe and communicate with you openly.
Remember, communication is paramount! It doesn’t matter if it is even a working relationship.
Wrapping it Up!
Can things still go awry even if you use the proper tactics? Absolutely! Some people have been taught very poor relational habits. Some, have even been exposed to conflict that was severely negative-even abusive at a young age. As a result, they are ill equipped to even know how to handle positive confrontation with a favorable response. In these cases one may have to bring in another person to help. Although they likely won’t respond to it well, they really won’t respond to any tactic well anyways. If, however, an authority figure comes into the picture to help, this may be enough for the other person to ‘back down’ and listen. There are situations where even this will not work. Unfortunately, there are times we may strive to create a ‘safe place’ and circumstances do not work out. It is, however, important to continue these methods, as they are more likely to work than fail with most others.
It’s all about healthy relationship, intimate or casual acquaintances. Human beings are social by nature. In today’s world where there is a breakdown of communication and relationships, it is now more important than ever to preserve the very things at the heart of society. If we don’t, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that there is havoc with people ill equipped to even know how to function with another.
I want to leave you with some encouragement though. If society was completely loss of all hope there wouldn’t be anyone interested in improving their communication skills, or their approach with other people…. after all, if you weren’t interested you wouldn’t be reading this-right? You most likely aren’t the only one. Healing and better relationship starts with one person at a time. I encourage you to be one of the many.