Thursday, May 1, 2008

Meeting of the Mines

Landmines that is...

Last night, I attended a meeting for my mom's group. The meeting topic was "Spousal Relations" and it was intended to be the time and place where we could all get ideas on how to better communicate expectations regarding a division of labor in the household, teamwork in parenting and the other minutae that come up during the course of a marriage that includes one or more children. Nobody had come to the meeting at a crisis point in their marriage, feeling un-appreciated, unloved, or on the brink of divorce (that I know of). The speaker had been chosen based on a referral, although not a lot was known about his credentials as a counselor (because he didn't have any), nor about his world-views.

As I listened to him present his bio and 'expertise' my stomach began to sink. This man was not qualified to speak on the topic we had intended, and he kind of knew it; 'know thy audience' would have been an awesome piece of advice to whisper in this speaker's ear prior to his presentation. After all, (and please note the sarcasm here) I guess it's not his fault that we weren't all there to raptly listen to, and agree with, the ideals that he learned by attending a weekend retreat sponsored by The Sterling Institute (which was, we learned what made him feel he was qualified to address our group on the topic of spousal relations)...he couldn't say enough good things about it, hoping that we'd all run home and tell our husband's to attend. Here's what their site had to say:

The Weekend is led by A. Justin Sterling, an acknowledged relationship expert, author, and founder of the Sterling Institute. His expertise and familiarity with the innermost thoughts of women, has given him the insight and perspective to teach men to be better relationship partners by being more masculine, more honorable, and more disciplined. Men who are not ready for a long-term relationship will find good advice on how to manage their emotional well-being in romantic endeavors, while men who are considering marriage and family will find much needed guidance on self-preparation, choosing the right mate, and staying on the path to a thriving marriage.

Lest you be up in arms that these pearls of wisdom are only available to men, here's what Mr. Sterling himself had to say about the women's retreat, and how he got his start in relationship counseling and 'the weekends':

I had a professional relationship with a director of a women’s organization that counseled women about how to be successful in their career. We began to see a correlation between women’s ability to be successful in their careers and their inability to be successful in their personal relationships. This organization began referring clients to me and I experienced a great deal of success with those clients.

When asked to describe the basic philosophy of the Women's Weekend Mr. Sterling replied:

The basic philosophy of the Women's Weekend is that when a woman begins to accept and embrace all of her female characteristics, then she can make wise choices. These choices are very personal ones, ones that will affect the direction and outcome of the rest of her life. A woman’s freedom lies in the acceptance of her feminine nature, not in trying to adopt what are fundamentally male characteristics. A woman’s happiness and satisfaction in a long-term relationship with a man lies in accepting her man just as he is, without burdening him and the relationship with her expectations that he will change to accommodate the way she thinks he should be. The more a woman accepts herself, the easier it is for her to accept her man.

Armed with the vast and wordly knowledge gained at his weekend, our speaker also added fun on the farm facts such as "sex with your husband will go a long way, and will solve 9 out of 10 problems." Okaaaay...I'm as big a fan of sex with your husband as the next gal, but this sure doesn't seem to give much credit to the intellectual processes of men.

I had a little mini-barf when he stated "...and if you're not having sex with your husband, let's just say you can't be angry if he goes somewhere else for it." Seriously, this man was clearly over his head in presenting to our group, and was ridiculously underqualified given the topic we'd requested he speak to. Nobody had said anything about not having/liking to have a healthy sexual relationship with their spouse. I'm pretty sure Al Bundy had more respect for his wife than this man, and for women in general.

Here's the last portion of the interview with Mr. Sterling that I'll post and then I promise I'll stop. This is just like a 10 car pile-up and I can't take my eyes off of it:

"You say women should be 100% responsible for the success of the relationship - can you expound on that?

Whether or not men will admit it, the success of a long-term committed relationship is not really all that important to them. In a way that’s good, because men basically don’t have the desire or the skills to create a successful relationship; however, women do. Simply put, the one who has the skill and the desire should be the one who is responsible for its success.

If the woman is completely responsible, then what is a man's role in a relationship?

A man’s role is to make sure he doesn’t become feminine in his actions and attitudes, and to begin to learn what he as a man can do to accommodate or take care of a woman in the best possible way. A man who is secure and confident in his masculine identity has more to bring to a woman, which enables her to more effectively assume responsibility for the success of that relationship."

After reading what The Sterling Institute is based upon, I know that I would rather shove bamboo shoots under my fingernails than be married to a man who espoused (pardon the pun) these ideals.

The tragic part of the evening (actually there were many of them) was that we had foregone the use of a member's priest, who actually is a counselor, as we didn't want to offend any members of the group who may not have been of that religious affiliation.

Sadly, the speaker we got was about as appropriate and well-received as a fart in church.


Alex Elliot said...

I like your conclusion! All I can say is that I'm so glad I wasn't there. Can you imagine going in for careering counseling and being referred to that group?!

Jessica said...

All I'm saying is that when I bring home a paycheck to my wife, she brings the goods. What more does one need to know about spousal relationships?

Ah, good times. Thank goodness we have you to be our bouncer!