Feb 132015

My Mother passed away one year ago. I use the term “passed away” very purposefully since her death seemed almost anti-climactic. There was no shudder. No gasp. No dramatic oration, declaring her willingness to go into that goodnight. I saw her last breath and waited for the next which never came. It was 7:02pm and we watched her in disbelief. How could someone so loud and big spirited leave this reality so peacefully?

Aida with Chip 300x225 On My Mothers Passing

It was just the beginning of the surreal experience of living life without my Mother’s tether of love. Like a cellular umbilical cord, I spoke with my Mom every day. I was a woman with children of my own who had to check in with her Mommy on a daily basis. Even being over 40 didn’t change anything. It wasn’t for the purpose of being nosy or to control, she just wanted to know that I was alright. One year later, I still think of calling her to tell her that I am safe and sound at home. I miss that.

One thing that was apparent after her passing was that she touched the lives of many people. A normal life may effect some folks but my Mom changed the lives and destinies of entire families. Many people reached out after her passing and shared stories of how Mom helped them out of Cuba or Spain. How my Mom helped them become citizens and gave them a job or simply brought them food. My Mother was not an attorney or a case manager. She did these things out of a sense of duty. She did this because of a sense of compassion. Even months before she passed, she was still visiting the Rehab center where her Mother had lived her last days to entertain the seniors. She would bring them cookies and would gift the old folks her eyeglass holders (the same ones she would tell me to buy her in bulk). She gave everything she had and left none for herself.

Please do not think my Mom was Mother Teresa. I often think about our relationship and how it evolved over the years. As I grew up, she tried so hard to maintain that Scary Mommy façade. Unfortunately for her, as I grew up I realized that she was not as scary as she was scared. I realized she was not rough or tough but was dealing with life like it was a big bear- she made loud noises and tried to look bigger than her teeny frame really was. She loved with a ferocity that the emotionally stunted feared and the love starved prayed for. By the same token, she could cut off a person so suddenly that it would feel like an amputation.

My Mom did not bake cookies. My Mom did not help us with homework. My Mom was not the sweet old lady she became as a Grandmother. I didn’t know that lady growing up. My Mom was tough, rough, inappropriate, funny, mischievous and often over the top and dramatic. As our Mom, she was busy and always moving fast. She did everything quickly and efficiently. It is no wonder that she died the way she did. You can only burn so bright for so long without exhausting yourself.

I recently found myself, one year after that last breath, still waiting for her to inhale deeply. It is becoming clear that, as my youngest thought, she is not going to pop out and yell “surprise”. I will always carry a sense of denial about her death. It isn’t an unhealthy abjuration of reality but a sense of knowing that she is not really gone. I know she is with me as she is with my siblings. No need to make a call or send up a prayer because she is around all of us.

I miss her more now than a year ago. Grief may have a beginning but it does not have a clear end. You do not conquer grief and come out the other end unaffected. Grief molds you. Grief teaches you that those annoying daily calls were an act of love. Grief teaches you that loss can either weaken you or empower you. Learning to live without checking in with my Mom has taught me to check in with myself. I needed to become my own cheerleader. I no longer allow a setback to dictate my mood because my Mom is not there to tell me everything will be OK. Her final gift to me was to teach me that I must be giving but I need to remember to always save some for myself.

Nov 012014

When you look at a couple, do you assume who is in charge? Do you know couples where they are always fighting for control? Is that your relationship? Control is a weird thing. When we are kids, we believe that we can control our environment and we push limits to see how far this control goes. When we are teens, we believe we ‘got this’ and our parents just want control of us. When we are young adults and set off into the world, this idea of control becomes very real and we may lose it a little by drinking and partying too much. When reality sets in, we use control to try to create safety because the big bad world is scary. In relationship, that does not change. Control is an illusion of security and fairness is a playground game.

still the boss of you by dustyold clock d5q4d68 300x229 Who’s The Boss?

When I worked with couples, the problems usually stemmed from deep rooted trauma from their childhood that they were still playing out in their adulthood. Most of it usually resulted in exerting control over the other in whatever way possible. For some, withholding sex or the silent treatment was their weapon of choice. For others, intimidation, violence and threats were the only ways they knew to keep that elusive idea of control. Whatever the method, the couple would battle it out in these bizarre passive-aggressive, aggressive-aggressive games that resulted in deep hurts and damaged psyches. When I would suggest that they stop playing the games, I was usually met with laughs. You see, this was what these people though marriage was all about.

They were wrong. Someone I love very much would tell me that I was being naïve to think that marriage did not require someone to be in control and that these games were natural. Just because this is how lots of people do it does not mean that it is right. We know many behaviors that are perpetuated in society that are sick but they continue. Being statistically normal is not necessarily healthy.

Control is an illusion that we were taught is the only means by which to feel safe. We are taught throughout our lives that taking control of something is the same as taking care of something. We also learn from the trials and tribulations of our development that when someone tries to tell us what to do it is not always in our best interest.  This idea that we need to be in control is exhausting. It is a basic lack of trust that, when whittled down to the root cause, comes back to a lack of self-trust. How can you trust your spouse when you can’t trust yourself?

When we feel out of control, we start to look for the culprit of these scary feelings. It could be that we were told that we are sick. It could be that we lost our job and are having financial woes. It could be that life is happening and the outside world is needing us to make changes. Whatever the cause, the end result is a need to regain control. We do this by demanding control or by controlling things around us like our spouse or children or employees. We plan. We tuck in the corners of our sheets. We pretend that that has created control in our environment- but it doesn’t.

Couples who are battling for control will also start keeping score and are not afraid to tell people who is winning in this bizarre Blood Sport. In the end, all they have done is create an uncontrollable mess were neither of them feels safe or secure in their marriage or themselves.

Jul 032014

Writing about rape culture is aggravating. When anyone uses the word ‘rape’ to describe the consequences of certain beliefs and ways of being, there is always push back. Why? It’s icky. It exposes the dark under belly of our society. It reminds us that our assumption of safety is a veil of ignorance. It reminds us that evil is lurking around the corner. It reminds us that the bad people are walking around and look just like us. They do not have a dastardly mustache or wear a shirt proclaiming their nefarious nature. Rape culture is alive and well because society is too immature and scared to believe that it exists.

annette kellerman 150x150 Whats Rape Anyway?

I imagine the first time Annette Kellerman donned her bathing suit that covered her from neck to foot leaving only her arms exposed, the shock to the community was palpable. Her arrest for indecency was not just a signal to women that they were responsible for men’s wicked thoughts but that they needed to fear the consequences of a man and his machinations. The mode of dress for women has long been the subject of rape discussions. Is a mini-skirt or plunging cleavage an invitation to sex? Is wearing form-fitting clothes a form of solicitation to every lecher in the vicinity to ogle and cat-call their appreciation?

As a society we abhor this behavior of men but with the caveat that they are behaving in a normal manner and just reacting to the stimuli provided to them by these women who are dressing inappropriately. Regardless of the behavior, men are excused for their beastly ways because they are only men. The sexual urge in a man, according to societal beliefs, is only reined in by a slight veneer of propriety. The slightest provocation can unleash them onto an unsuspecting populous. The problem with this belief is that it is not true. Most men can easily control their urges. Most men are complete gentlemen and respect women. The reason we, as a society, excuse the behavior is that age-old Jimmy Carter nugget of “sinning in the heart”.

Men are ashamed of the thoughts and fantasies that have resided in the recesses of their mind. If they have sinned in their heart, what would it have taken to make these thoughts reality? Excusing sexual assault and harassment is based on this belief that rape is a part of life. It is inevitable. What these men refuse to see is that they can stop themselves. What these men and women fail to realize is that our societal permissiveness to this behavior is why it continues.

Where do we draw the line? The following is societal understanding of rape.

Can an adult rape a child? Depends on the age or how old she looks and as long as he doesn’t hurt her.

Can a man have sex with a woman who is unconscious or incapacitated? What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

Can a woman change her mind when having sex with a man? No. She is just being a tease.

Is date rape a real assault? If she decided to stop fooling around after his point of no return then she should just be quiet. She asked for it.

Can a man rape a prostitute? Isn’t that what they are paid for?

Can a husband rape his wife? See prostitute.

Jun 302014

The conversation for feminists has changed recently from equality to one of educating society on the meaning of ‘rape culture’. This discussion is vital, also, for the creation and maintenance of a healthy relationship. Whether you believe it or not, marital rape is very common. The root causes for this behavior are so embedded in our culture and religions that separating right from wrong is tangled in beliefs and concepts of morality. This week we will try to separate the wheat from the chaff and what is healthy versus the dysfunction of some beliefs.

steubenville 150x150 The Institution Of Rape

Before we jump into the topic, we need to have full disclosure- we are feminists. There is much written for and against this moniker. We simply believe that everyone should be equal and, due to our patriarchal society, women have historically been relegated to a second class citizen role. There have been advances and there have been successes, however, we are not equal until we are all equal. To that end, we need to address some of the issues that keep the status quo like judging a woman by the length of her skirt or using phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men have needs’.

Rape culture refers to these types of beliefs. If we believe that a woman’s mode of dress can be an invitation to rape or that a man’s need for sex somehow is uncontrollable, that is part of the intricate belief system at the root of rape culture. If we continue the double standard between boys and girls regarding sex, like boys need to sew their wild oats and girls need to attend purity balls and commit their virginity to their dates that happens to be their Fathers then rape culture will continue. If we make rape a political topic where one side uses terms like ‘coveted status’ when referring to rape victims and that pregnancy as a result of rape is a gift from God, then we will continue to support rape.

This topic was inspired by a quote from the matriarch of Duggar family, famous for having enough kids to play baseball with two teams and relief pitcher. She gave her daughter the following advice:  “And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’”

That is her advice, be “joyfully available for him”. Smile, lay there, and be there for him.

Look, we here at CoupleDumb have much to say and not all of it nice but this expectation within a marriage is not healthy. All marriages are not created equally and if we are to play the odds we know that some men can be assholes and the expectation of availability whenever he wants will be abused.

What do you think? We want to know? How realistic is this idea?

Jun 252014

Click Here to help.

Is the Ability to Make Meaning Correlated to Marital Satisfaction Experiment 300x165 Help With Lees Research

21 years ago, I was working on my Ph.D. in Psychology. I needed to complete a handful of courses before I was able to begin my dissertation. Then, something amazing happened, we adopted our daughter. Because of her needs, I took a leave of absence from my program and never returned. I know now like I knew then that I had made the right choice. However, the desire to complete my goal of earning a Ph.D. was always lingering in the back of my mind.

When Jeannie went to college a few years ago, that nagging thought started getting louder. I waited for Paul to finish up his MBA before mentioning that I wanted to get my Ph.D. before I turned 50. Paul, being the perfect husband, supported this idea and encouraged me to start looking at programs. I started school 18 months ago and just passed my comprehensive exams. Yes, in 18 months I have taken all of my course-work and written countless papers and I am ready to embark on my dissertation.

Before I jump into what my study will be about, I will share with you a little realization that I had recently. Back in undergraduate days, we were required to do a study for our research class. Even though I was in a group, I pretty much decided what we would study because that’s how I have always rolled. We studied the effects of semantic processing versus rote on memory. The experiment was simple; the subjects were read a list of words and then asked to write down what they recalled. One group was told to repeat the word several times (rote) after hearing it and the other group was told attach a meaning to the word (semantic processing). The results showed that semantic processing was a better way of remembering things. So what does this have to do with my dissertation?

My dissertation will be on marital satisfaction and what are the protective factors to make a marriage work. To that end, I hypothesize that making meaning is a tool that marriages use to survive and thrive the ups and downs of life. Making meaning is a term coined by Viktor Frankl that refers to making sense of senseless things that happen in life like loss or tragedy. People who make meaning experience more happiness and are better equipped to deal with what life flings their way. Making meaning and semantic processing are closely related. Both involve making connections. So, 30 years later, I am still studying the same thing!!

We launched a crowd-funding campaign to help with the expenses of my experiment. All donors will receive a special mention in my dissertation and we also occasionally give some great gifts for those who donate the most on any given day.

Here is how you can help:

You can post/share this campaign with your Facebook and Twitter folk. Here is a sample of what you can post.


Hi Family and Friends! My good friend Lee Reyes-Fournier, from CoupleDumb.com, is working on her Dissertation and is crowd-funding to help with the expense of the experiment. She is studying risk factors for marital dissatisfaction. Specifically, she is looking at whether making meaning, which is looking for the silver lining, is related to marital satisfaction. She needs our help so please donate anything you can and if not, share with your networks. Everyone who donates will receive a special mention in the forward of her dissertation. https://experiment.com/projects/is-the-ability-to-make-meaning-correlated-to-marital-satisfaction


Our friend from @CoupleDumb is crowd-funding to help with her expenses for her dissertation. Please help with a donation or RT http://bit.ly/Thci7m

Check back with CoupleDumb on Facebook for daily mentions and possible gifts for the largest donations.

Thank you in advance!