Dear Cassi and Cam,
It was so fun to see your family two weekends ago.Thanks for letting me hold little Chase. He’s a sweetie.Holding him made up for the devastating loss of the U.S. to Ghana in the World Cup.
Cam and Cassi Piper’s third child, Chase, was born May 31, 2010. He spent some time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, but everything turned out fine. He joins his brother and sister, Caden (3) and Rori (2)
When I told you about my Open Letter to Brandon and Philly on the birth of their second child, LydiaSue, and you asked me to write one to you on the birth of Chase, I had no idea what I would say different.Both you and Cam are in the same age range as Brandon and Philly and both of you are in career transitions and both of you are young parents and both of you are making wise choices.I would encourage you to look at that Open Letter, because I could say the same to the two of you.
So, what can I say about a young family with 3 kids?Hmm.We’ll see where this leads.
Is there that much difference between having 3 kids and having 2?I’m saddened that so many people fear having larger families.You already commented that the other two kids are helping out.And, you know, kids don’t need nursing and extended care for long, and then they grow up and become your best friends and confidants.What’s really fun is when they start giving you insight that blesses your life.
But there can be some hidden pitfalls to adding a new family member if we’re not careful.Here’s the math on relationships: The number of people squared is the number of relationships in the family, so every time you add a member to your family, the total family dynamic changes.So if you have a husband and wife there are 2 times 2 possible relationships (4 total): you, Cam, Cam and You, and You and Cam = 4.Add Caden and you have 9: Cam, Cam and You, You and Cam, Caden, Caden and you, you and Caden, Caden and Cam, Cam and Caden, you and Cam and Caden.I was explaining this to a mathematician client once and she told me, no, it was the number of relationships cubed and then she tried to explain it to me and she lost me.Anyway, it’s a bunch.So add Rori and we’re up to 16 and add Chase and we’re up to 25.
What this means in practical terms is that there are 25 opportunities for relationship breakdown!YIKES!Look at our family with 6 of us with our four kids growing up:36 opportunities for us to mess this whole thing up.Given how our family turned out I think you will have to admit there must be a God in Heaven and a Holy Spirit that protects and leads us because given all our wildly varying personalities there is no way in the universe that it would be possible for all of us to survive intact.The Wall Clan is proof of the existence and benevolence of God, I am sure.
With three kids you could easily see how this could implode.When we have 3 the temptation is to get into 2 verses 1.These triangles (what they are called in Family Studies) can be a mess.They can go by gender: Caden and Chase verses Rori; Age: The two oldest Caden and Rori verses the youngest, Chase or the two youngest Rori and Chase verses the oldest Caden or personality: The two most dominant verses the one more passive.I’m sure there are other scenarios, but you get the drift (interests, beliefs, etc.).Add parents in the mix and it can become the men and boys verses the women in the clan or dad and the oldest two verse the mom and the youngest.The gender pattern is common around dad and the boys’ sports and mom and the daughter’s dance class.The bonding in these activities is fine as long as it doesn’t go too far.If mom gets closer to the daughter or dad becomes closer with the boys than mom and dad are to each other we will have a mess on our hands.I’ll spare you the technical terms.Trust me.It’s chaos.This is where we get things like the daughter becoming rebellious because mom is fairly well creeping her out or mom has an affair because dad is overly involved with the boys and she’s so lonely.And on and on.
This triangling deal can be pretty devastating.But the curious thing is that triangles are the foundation of the universe and a blessing for us all (You won’t learn this in grad school.):The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.Three in One has stood the test of time.So…there are good triangles and bad triangles.Let’s major on the good triangles.
How do we have a family of good triangles instead of bad triangles?When I came across this concept in grad school, I read through the Gospels in light of it, asking, how did Jesus handle triangles?It was pretty amazing.
You have to know how they work in a hurtful way first.A person will try to get you on their side against someone else by telling you something bad about someone else (Herod and Pilot verse Jesus), so that it becomes two against one.We call this gossip outside the family, but if it’s in your own clan under your own house and you wash these people’s underwear and sheets it’s not called gossip.It’s a disaster.Mommy, mommy Caden hit me.That’s all cute and everything when they are four.It’s family terror when they are 14 and warfare when they are 25.
I’d encourage you to read the Gospels in light of this concept, but in a nutshell Jesus ignored negative triangles or used it as a teaching moment, or changed the subject altogether.He never got into a negative triangle once.A curious thing to me is that this concept was not even delineated in Family Studies until the 1950’s.It’s enough to make a believer out of you if you are not careful:The Miracle Wall Clan and Jesus and Triangling:The New Apologetic (That’s a secret Joke for Brandon).
The key to avoiding negative triangles in the family is for mom and dad to have a solid relationship that no child problems or agitation can thwart.Here’s a negative example:Sally comes and tells Mommy that Daddy scolded her.Mommy and Sally go to see Daddy and, in front of Sally, Mommy chews out Daddy.
If this happens in your family, welcome to Hell.
Here’s a better way to handle it:Sally tells Mommy that Daddy scolded her.Mommy says, “Really?” and asks about it.Then Mommy tells Sally that the two of them need to go talk to Daddy.Mommy has Sally tell Daddy what Sally told Mommy.This teaches Sally we’re not tolerating negative triangles in our family.What you say to me you need to be able to tell Daddy.Then Daddy gives his side of the story.Then, Mommy and Daddy dismiss Sally and Mommy and Daddy talk about the situation outside of Sally’s hearing, conveying to Sally that she CANNOT come between Mommy and Daddy.If Mommy and Daddy determine that Sally was out of line for trying to create a wedge between Mommy and Daddy, the two of them figure out how to handle it.If Mommy and Daddy agree that Daddy had inappropriately treated Sally, the apology will be arranged so that it does NOT convey to Sally that Sally and Mommy are against Daddy, but that Daddy had over reacted and he’s sorry and that Mommy and Daddy are one and Sally is looking in from the outside.
This example illustrates The First Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling in the family:
Don’t let your kids come between you and your spouse.Period.
When your kids attempt to come between you, ignore it, use it as a teachable moment, or change the subject altogether.
Parenting is a good example of positive triangling.The two parents are working together for the good of the family.Counseling is another example.I’m in the positive triangling business.If a therapist allows a client to get him on the client’s side verses the spouse, we’re done.We’ll lose the husband if he feels his wife and counselor are against him.We’ll lose the wife if she feels her husband and counselor are against her.
As parents, then, we want to create a positive triangle of blessing for our family.The easiest way for this to happen is for mommy and daddy to make sure that the two of them have enough alone time without the kids to bond, to care, to talk, to tease, to consult, to be friends and lovers.
The Second Rule to Avoid Negative Triangles in the families is this:
We (as husband and wife) will spend enough time alone to nurture our love and friendship to make sure we are closer to each other than either of us is with the children.
For some young families, this seems virtually impossible.If either parent starts to love the kids more than they do their spouse, we’re entering negative triangling territory and better watch out.Given that Cassi is home with the kids and Cam is working hard to make ends meet, you might be tempted to enter into the following very common and sad destructive triangling scenario:
He feels that his wife is overly involved with the kids and that she has no time for him.She starts to resent him because it feels to her he’s never home and when he is he’s preoccupied (exhausted and burdened most likely).She has all this bonding time with the kids.She uses the kids to meet her social needs.Over time, she triangles in with the kids verses daddy.Daddy becomes the scapegoat.He’s on the outside.He resents this and either gets angry or quietly seethes within. She can easily become harsh and bitter because she feels it’s unfair that she has to do nearly all of the housework, childcare and family management.She’s on his case to spend time with the family and to help around the house.Am I just a maid?If he’s not careful he can start resent his kids who took his wife away.She wants to spend time as a family.He wants to spend time alone with her.They fight about this (Duh?They have to do both!).Neither will give in so they quit fighting and end up in two camps. This husband is vulnerable to an affair or to just dump his wife outright.She doesn’t want me around.Why come home?She’s vulnerable to an affair because she desperately needs adult companionship and her husband seems unavailable.She can also be tempted to divorce her husband.It’s no fun being around him.I can survive with out him.He’s never home anyway.
In this example you can see that triangling doesn’t have to be between only 2 verses 1.It can be one group and an idea verses one (The Media and the President against BP.The Media and BP against the President.Curiously, it’s never any two camps verses the Media.Hmmm.).In the example above it’s mommy and the kids verses daddy.How people often solve these problems is to create a counter negative triangle:daddy and beer verses the mommy-kids clan or daddy and his work against the mommy-kids clan or daddy and his affairee verses the mommy-kids clan.The ultimate negative triangle in the family is when each gets their own lawyer verses the other spouse and the other spouse’s lawyer.If you really want to see negative triangles in motion, look at divorced families and then add a new stepfather or mother and/or stepbrothers and sisters.We’ll have negative triangles all over the place with enough friction to heat several city blocks.Divorced families and stepfamilies are rife with negative triangles because divorce reinforces negative triangling and it becomes a lifestyle for years (generations?) to come.
Blessed is the family that figures out how to NOT get into negative triangling.
With adult family members the principle to avoid negative triangling is this (The Third Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling):
Do not say anything to anyone in the family about anyone else in the family that you would not say to that person’s face. If you make the mistake of saying something you shouldn’t have about another family member behind that family member’s back, tell that family member what you said (in humility) and apologize and make sure the person you initially told knows that you apologized. This is will nip a potential negative triangle in the bud.
If someone in the family says something negative to you about another family member, refuse to be triangled (the 2 of you verses the other family member), and gently avoid getting sucked in by making a positive comment about the family member that was criticized and then gently change the subject.
The exception to this rule is that the husband and wife need to be able to have private conversations about the rest of the family (including extended family) that is no one else’s business.But don’t use this privilege to criticize your spouse’s family.For example, if a wife tries to triangle her husband with her against his blood family, she will be in for a fight.It would be wise for her to lay off putting down his family because blood is thicker than water and he will be tempted to side with them against her.
The basic principle here (And the Fourth Rule To Avoid Negative Triangling) is:
I can critique my own family in the privacy of our relationship, but I won’t criticize your family.
This is why the Christian faith is so powerful.God sends his Son to a lost world to positively triangle us in against death, sin, the flesh and the Devil and his Cohorts.Woohoo!As the Father has sent the Son, so the Son sends us.We are called (positively triangeled with God) to be a blessing to others.If we can’t be a blessing in our immediate family, it’s all a gong and a noisy cymbal.
Love, (trying to be) Your Positively Triangled Uncle,
(An open letter of a marriage therapist to a husband and father thinking of leaving his family to pursue his homosexual urges):
When your wife told me at our last session that she wanted me to tell the two of you my unbridled opinion on your situation, I went into that with fear and trembling. I had 15 minutes to advocate for your marriage when you had been struggling for years against voices trying to convince you to lay your family at the altar. I also suspected it would the last time I would talk to you. For that I was sad. People come to see me after fighting their own demons sometimes for years. I haven’t been able to help resurrect a marriage in two sessions very often. Maybe in eight or ten. In your case I don’t know how long. Usually it takes me several sessions just to get to the point where I can share some different ways of thinking about things. If I go too quickly, my clients react by not coming back. It takes me awhile to bond with them and earn the right to be heard. Afterwards, I felt I failed you, that my arguments in favor of you taking a stance to fight for your family had fallen far short. Now, since our chat, I’ve extended this conversation in my head over and over of what I could have said instead. Even now, as I try to articulate them more coherently, I doubt my own ability to do so.
If a person is a husband and a father, it is my belief that they should continue to be a husband and father. There should be no force on earth, however attractive or alluring, to convince them that they should no longer be husband or a father. Of course, in our society today, there is a pervasive lie that if you are not happy being a husband you can cash that in and still be a father. But this is not really true. Maybe he is a father in name or by birth. If he is divorced he is only a father part of the time. A father is a full time job. It is a terribly gut wrenching thing to only see one’s children once in awhile. It is so gut wrenching that many fathers give up on it altogether.
If we’re going to do this right, a father is also a husband and demonstrates to his sons and daughters what it is that fathers do. Fathers love their children’s’ mothers. Fathers are selfless and set examples to their children how to fight the temptations that come their way. Children idolize their fathers. A son’s glory is his dad. He wants to be like him; to have the strength to not give up like dad; to have the wisdom to outwit the enemy like dad; to love his future wife just like dad did. But if dad has given up and left his family for whatever reason, that father has lost his voice.
A son then says, no, I don’t want to be like my father. He quit. This hurts me very much. Why would he leave me? What force could there possibly be that could convince my father to leave my mother and me? I would never want to hurt my children. I will never leave my family. So now the father has become, instead, a bad example to be avoided at all costs. He loses his right to be heard. Why listen to a father who doesn’t believe in us as a family unit? Why listen to a father who put his own needs in front of the family? Why listen to a father who is never here when I need him? Who’s going to teach me to shave? I won’t see my dad til Friday and I have a problem today. I had this run in with my teacher or what should I do with my life and I need to talk with my dad, but he seems like a stranger to me. It takes so long to warm up to him, because I rarely see him, and by the time I have the courage to talk to him I have to leave to be with my mother. We’re basically strangers. He’s my dad. But he’s not really my dad. But really, I don’t even know if I want his advice. Why would I ask advice from a guy who dumped my mother? I love my mother. Sure she has bad points, but I love her, faults and all. Why can’t he love both sides of her? Am I more of a man than my father? What kind of a man just leaves the wife of his youth? I would never do that. How can I respect a “dad” who does that? Why would I want his influence in my life?
Now let’s imagine that instead of “just” divorcing his wife, this “father” has had an affair during his marriage and divorces his wife to be with his affairee. I’ve seen some of these “fathers.” They come see me afterwards, when the romance of their lover has dissipated, as it always does. They hold their heads in their hands and weep at the loss of their own integrity at the hand of pleasure and how the mirage has turned into a desert. They sit in their apartments alone, for rarely do marriages or even relationships with affairees last beyond a year let alone long term. They wonder why their children won’t have anything to do with them…for years. Sometimes they never reconcile.
Even if they don’t divorce, but Dad had an affair and it’s now over, if the children find out that dad was bedding someone other than their mother, they go into shock and rage. Most of the children withdraw entirely from their fathers. Some withdraw from the family altogether. Many will lose their moral bearings and go adrift in a sea of lust themselves. Like father, like son. If dad has no reason to live other than for himself I guess I don’t have any reason either. No one is there to set an example to the son how to face the temptations of the day. Children, who’s father had an affair, have a much higher rate of having affairs in their future marriages, than children who grew up with faithful moms and dads.
Now lets imagine that dad leaves his wife and children to pursue a life of pleasure with other men. What? This is somehow OK? Well, I have to be true to myself. True to yourself? Whatever happened to your calling of being a father and husband? Oh, I was self-deceived. I should have never made those promises. My bad. Sorry. I meant them at the time, but you know, times change. I’m gonna do this now. Really. Well, you know, I’ve struggled with this for years. Yeah, it’s a bummer, I know, but I can’t be a hypocrite. If you object, you are persecuting me. You’re homophobic. But dad, you’re supposed to love my mother! You’re supposed to set an example for me. Sure, but you don’t know how I’ve struggled with this…this internal battle. I just finally had to be who I am. Turns out I’m not meant to be a husband…in the traditional sense.
I personally don’t buy this idea that if a person has gay tendencies that that lets them off the hook and they don’t have to fulfill any obligations or promises and they can do whatever they want. I personally don’t believe that there should be any force on earth or under the earth or heaven above that should talk them into NOT being a husband or a father. If my religion said, leave your family and pursue this religion I’d say dump that religion. If a job said, your family has to go, I’d say get a different job. If a temptation said, dump your wife and marry this hottie, I’d say, dump the temptation, dump the hottie. Well, I love her. No you don’t. Love doesn’t tell you to leave your wife a disheveled mess to pursue some fantasy that will never fulfill your dreams. It doesn’t tell you that the hottie is more important than setting an example for your son on how to live in our crazy, fallen world. If a proclivity says dump your wife and pursue me, I’d say dump the proclivity. What?! Gay temptation has to be succumbed to? Am I a dog? I can’t say no? I have to say yes to every idea that comes into my head? That cute college coed that keeps flirting with me…I’m not supposed to resist that? You mean I can do what ever I want? Aren’t I a hypocrite if I don’t submit to the temptation? You think your wife or your son would buy the argument: This is my calling. Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve wanted to have an affair and sleep with a young college coed and dump my wife and leave my son in moral quandary. I have to be who I am. This is who I am. I’m just a sleep-with-pretty-college-coeds kind of guy. And if you are upset about that you just aren’t enlightened and you are persecuting me and being totally unfair, because there is no morality. You can do whatever you want. Really. Follow me to nirvana. You’ll see that the key to life is to submit to whatever temptation that comes into your mind. Be true to yourself. If your feelings tell you to steal, steal. If your feelings tell you to breed another man go ahead. And why stop with one man. Think of all the studs you can stick your penis in to. Raise your penis high. This is the new symbol of freedom. Unrequited self-absorbtion. You can put your penis wherever you want. There is no morality. There are only naysayers, self-righteous pricks who are the fuddyduds of the universe. They are just trying to take your fun away. Live for yourselves. Do whatever you want. Promises mean nothing. Having all the gusto is what you are to do. Father, forgive me forever thinking that there are right and wrongs or promises that are worth keeping. Amen.
Let’s put aside the proclivities and the tendencies and the temptations and the fantasies and ask instead: what’s so bad about this marriage that I would be willing to flush it down the toilet to do whatever? That is the point I was trying to make in the 15 minutes I had in our session. We can work on the marriage. We can work on trying to reconnect. We can heal and forgive and figure out a way to reconnect. But first a person has to decide if they WANT to fight the temptation, slay the dragon. If they want to embrace the dragon, so be it. They don’t need my help. If they want to slay the dragon, I’ve got a few pointers that might help.
If I have a couple in therapy and they tell me that one of them is having an affair and the person having the affair thinks the affair is fine and the other spouse needs to get a life and realize that this is who her shusband is and to accept his limitation, I would meet with the spouse having the affair alone until they decide to advocate for their marriage and drop the affairee. Sometimes this effort fails and the spouse having the affair is convinced his or her affair is the right thing to do. There is not much help I can offer for the marriage at that point.
But if the person having the affair ends up deciding to advocate for his or her marriage the affair has to be TOTALLY OVER: No future contact, no cell phones, no texts, no momentos, no clandestine meetings, no chatting or emails. That’s it. Done. Yeah, he will fight temptation. Yes, he will long sometimes for his affairee. Part of dealing with the temptation is dealing with the remorse of what might have been, saying goodbye to the romance. There is some sadness there. But over time that will dissipate as the person recommits to his marriage and his marriage improves. There will be trust issues with his spouse. There will be hurts that will have to be forgiven…on both sides. This isn’t easy. Sometimes there’s a relapse and the affair lovers unite for a time. The second go around of reconciliation is much more difficult. Now the offended spouse may say, enough of the indecision already. I get it. You don’t love me. And then the offended spouse divorces. Those that choose to reconcile have a long road of healing ahead of them. But hopefully it will be worth the sacrifice on both parts and they will look back on this crazy period as an aberration. The spouse who had the affair will have learned to keep his passions focused on his spouse and be able to fend off temptation, so as to not put the relationship at risk anymore.
Is fighting homosexual urges any different? In my estimation, if a married person fulfilled his homosexual temptations, it’s still an affair. The results are the same: hurt, anger, selfishness, self-absorption, and indifference. We’ve only just changed genders. We haven’t changed the nature of marriage, which is based upon faithfulness, fidelity, love, tenderness, loyalty, perseverance and protection. Your marriage vows said “having thee only till death us do part.” Those vows didn’t say you wouldn’t have urges you don’t understand or you would never be tempted to do such and such. It said only that your spouse would be enough for you. She’s not the prettiest, the best, the richest, the most glamorous, only that she is enough.
Now you are saying she’s not enough. You need more. Too bad for her. I guess I didn’t mean it. I changed my mind. I was self-deluded. I shouldn’t have ever gotten married (Don’t tell that to your son. He might be a tad offended that you’d wished you’d never conceived his existence.). These urges are who I am. I can’t fight them. They are not temptation. They are good. Homosexual feelings are good feelings. They are so good that it is worth sacrificing everything that used to mean something to me: family, integrity, caring, giving, faithfulness, trustworthiness, sticktuitiveness. None of these things mean anything to me now. I cast them aside and follow my passion. Morality be damned. There is no such thing as right action. There is only right feeling. And I have a right to feel. I’ve been surpressing these feelings for years. I’ve been living the life of a hypocrite. If you are hurt by it you are just being selfish and not glorying in my differentiation of self. Rejoice with me as I tear off the shackles of bondage and slavery to tradition and paternalistic and smothering marriage where the boundaries are really only a prison hindering the exploration of my authentic self. If you have hurt feelings, that just shows how unenlightened you are. If you were one of the illuminated ones, you would see that sexual desire for one’s same gender is a right and must be pursued at all costs. No cost is too great. No sacrifice too small. Faithfulness to my wife! Are you kidding? Anyone can do that. No. My feelings are more important. What? She’ll be hurt by this? Who cares! I’m liberated! I’m free to explore any whim. My happiness is of utmost importance. That’s it!!! Seek my own happiness. Responsibility and commitment a scourge. Out damned spot! Can’t you see I’m trying to rid my life of you? No guilt! No remorse! Only glory in self! My son be offended? Maybe he’ll see the light as I have. Maybe he’ll come to his senses and explore all that his gender has to offer. Oh, the grandeur. Oh, the wonder. If only his eyes could be opened as mine have. Oh, spread the glad tidings of great joy to the world: World! You don’t have to abide by your promises anymore! They are only a facade hindering your fun! Come, join me in releasing the captives. Let the prisoners go. Feel, be, do. Do whatever your heart says. Pursue your passions. Right be gone. Responsibility be gone. Kindness and love be gone. It was all a ruse anyway. Look where it got Jesus. This is the new gospel. This is the new truth. There is no truth!!! Oh, the liberation.
Or you can fight the dragon. It may be a battle. But if there is not a battle worth fighting, there is not a victory worth winning. If you are interested in slaying the dragon, let me know.
Dr. Bing Wall