Ever hear of the saying “New year, new beginnings?” Don’t know where to start? Why not start with your relationship … on this edition of Frank Relationship?
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: DR. JAMES WADLEY, RELATIONSHIP THERAPIST
Guest: Dr. James Wadley
Date: February 10, 2014
Frank: Ever hear the saying, “New Year, new beginnings?” Don’t know where to start? Why not start with your relationship, on this edition of Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at: franklove.com. You can also download the podcast of this and other archive shows on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.
I’m also joined by my co-host, the rev coach, Latonya Taylor.
Latonya: Hello, good morning.
Frank: She’s the extraordinary spirit-driven coach and she’s going to bring it like it needs to be brung. What’s up co-host?
Latonya: It’s so good to be here.
Frank: Could there be a painful or costly break-up in your future? According to most relationships statistics, the answer is likely “yes,” but that doesn’t have to be the case. In my new and now available book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship, I reveal what couples and individuals can do to create a more fulfilling partnership or to end relationships that aren’t working in a friendly manner, without suffering the emotional, financial and family ruin that major break-ups can cause.
Yep, it’s a lot more than a break-up book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship guides you through every stage of your romantic partnerships, helping you have the tough, important conversations that most couples avoid and whether you’re beginning a whirlwind romance, seeking to improve your marriage or looking to gracefully separate from your partner or talking to your teenager about relationships, this is the book for you, now available at franklove.com or at Amazon.
Today’s guest is a repeater. Yep, he’s repeated the authoring of two books. They are: Would you Marry You? and The Lost and Found Box. He’s also repeatedly written several scholarly articles and he’s our first repeat guest. He’s professional, he’s smart and he knows how to get couples back on track with their relationships. He’s marriage, family and sexuality therapist, Dr. James Wadley. Welcome back, doc.
Dr. Wadley: Thank you for having me this morning. Hello and how are both of you?
Latonya: Good morning. All is well.
Dr. Wadley: Great, great, great.
Frank: Alright, what’s the goal of your individual and group counseling groups?
Dr. Wadley: For my individuals-first I see individuals, couples and families and usually when people come to see me they are struggling with some sort of relational dysfunction or their own personal challenge in their lives. I guess I see those three entities. Their struggles go anywhere from trust issues to their relationships to poor money management to parenting strategies to sexual identity, orientation issues to whatever. So, I maintain a general practice, so my goals for each individual client or in group sessions, it varies.
Frank: What’s an example of a parenting issue that a couple or person might come to you about? Would you see one individual, if they came to you about parenting issue or do you really require the couple to come?
Dr. Wadley: I am what’s called a systemic therapist. My clinical philosophy revolves around systemic or family therapy. I also coin myself as an integrated therapist, where I use different clinical strategies and methodologies to get my clients wherever they want to go. With that said, when families struggle with parenting issues with their children, I try to get everybody- As many folks as I can in the room to have a family conversation.
If the child is at home with mom, dad, partner or guardian or grandma or whoever, the more folks I can get in my office, I believe the better off I can create what’s called “systemic change.” It gives people an opportunity to share their experiences of their child as well as of themselves with your child.
Frank: Tell us a story of where you did this, what the issues were, how you helped and ultimately how they walked away feeling?
Dr. Wadley: I guess just off the top of my head, I had a European American family to come in to see me and they were struggling not only with parenting strategies with their child, the child was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as well as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. What that looks like is their 10 year old was hyperactive, he was inattentive, he was impulsive and then he was oppositional towards his authority. The child came in with his parents and his two sisters.
Frank: Now, when you say European American, are you talking about they just got here off the plane, the entire family or are you talking about European American as in a white guy whose family’s been here 200 years? What are you talking about?
Dr. Wadley: No, that’s my politically correct way of saying Caucasian.
Frank: Got you. Okay, alright. I’m glad I asked. We got there. I hear PC when I hear PC.
Dr. Wadley: All those folks who fall under the European diaspora, that’s who I’m talking about.
Frank: Okay, Jeff, you got something to say? Jeff is my in-house white guy. He’s a European American.
Latonya: And Frank doesn’t do PC.
Jeff: I’ll just add that adjective to my resume.
Frank: Okay, please, please continue.
Dr. Wadley: The mom and dad, the kids who had ADHD, a 15 year old and actually a five year old. Not only were they struggling with the impulse to be hyperactivity, intensiveness and oppositional behaviors from the nine or 10 year old, but then there was a disconnect between the mom and dad. The disconnect looked like they hadn’t been intimate in some time, because they were involved with working and parenting and life management and everything else, so not only was the goal to work on managing the kids disruptive behavior in the home, but also an attempt to restore intimacy and boundaries for the parents who came in.
We spent about six or seven sessions talking about setting boundaries with the kid, which is turning the computer off at home or using a computer as a reward for appropriate behavior in school. We spent time talking about the developmental issues of the 15 year old as she sought independence with being annoyed by the 10 year old. We talked about how those two broker from that relationship. Then we talked about how the five year old was modeling the behavior of the 10 year old to seek attention in the house. Then, we collectively talked about how could we create space and time for mom and dad to restore the friendship that they haven’t had in some time.
Frank: What did that look like? Restoring that friendship and finding that time?
Dr. Wadley: It means that mom and dad need time alone. It meant giving the 15 year old authority to direct the 10 year old and the five year old with support from the grandmother, because again, sometimes kids don’t want to listen to their siblings, because their siblings aren’t their parents. She needed support from grandma and grandpa while mom and dad went off on a date and did their thing. Again, for me, the more components that I have in my office, the greater the likelihood it is to change the system of the family.
Frank: Nice, okay, alright. Now, what about boundaries around-let’s say the kids are knocking on the parents door or the parents door is just open and they cannot seem to close it. The kids will not respect it or anything. Is it okay to tell kids when they knock on your door to go away? “Don’t even come in here right now. Leave us alone.”
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, that is a, I guess, a value-laden discussion. Many families will say, “Yes, parents need to close their door and have their privacy,” but then if you have a small child who’s five, do you ever turn your child away who’s at the door and who wants something to eat. So, for me that’s where I explore the family’s value around privacy, around intimacy and around their knowledge about human development.
It may be okay to tell the 15 year old, “No, mom and dad we’re in our room, we’re watching TV, doing whatever,” and the 15 year can exercise independence and go and do what he or she wants to do and that’s okay.
Possibly for a 10 year old who may be able to function independently, but if you have a 10 year old who has special needs, he or she may be seeking the same amount of attention as the five year old, because the chances are they’re developmentally immature, so when folks come in to see me, we have to explore those different developmental factors as well as family dynamics to find out is okay if mom and dad close the door and say “no.”
Latonya: I love how you gave the political answer on that one too.
Frank: Right. He was really nice, wasn’t he?
Latonya: I love that you kept it really neutral.
Frank: I want to say, what are your values? What do you think?
Latonya: Yes, what do you think, doc?
Dr. Wadley: What are my values?
Frank: Yes. Give me something to dirty my hands with, please.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, well you know, I didn’t know if this was going to be an inquisition about my personal life, because that wasn’t in the questions that you all sent to me. I’m just here to help out your listeners.
Frank: Alright, do you have anything you want to weigh-in on the personal side, because I certainly can?
Dr. Wadley: No, again with five year olds, I would say-I don’t have a five year old, but I would imagine it’s tough telling your baby, “Mommy and daddy, we’re busy right now, go away.”
Frank: No, it’s not tough.
Dr. Wadley: There are families who do that. They’ll lock the door and the kids will be standing out there knocking at the door saying, “Hey mom, dad, what are you doing,” and that may end up leading to discussion about sex.
Latonya: That’s okay, right? A healthy discussion about sex early is good, but that seems like an all or nothing approach, where the child feels a little bit abandoned.
Dr. Wadley: Exactly.
Latonya: There has to be some middle space of communicating in the family when mom and dad has time.
Dr. Wadley: Exactly, exactly and you know sometimes when parents talk to their children about that, their children will actually encourage it. Sometimes it’s difficult for mom and dad to have their time at home, but when mom and dad come home happy after having a date and they can possibly be more somewhat affectionate towards each other, kids will actually celebrate it. They maybe somewhat dismayed, but they celebrate the fact that their parents are happy with one another.
Frank: I’m curious about the following. What do you think of parents having sex in the room when their infant is there? Let’s say infant, three month old, six month old, nine month old, you pick. What are your thoughts about that?
Dr. Wadley: Is the child awake or is the child asleep and does sex have to be vaginal, anal, oral sex or can it be, I guess, many faucets of intimacy?
Frank: I guess the most interesting question is, the child’s awake and the sex is all of the above, they’re just swinging from the chandelier. Are there chandeliers in the bedrooms? No, I guess not.
Latonya: Well some.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah. And you know, what’s nice about the question and what’s interesting about the question is that many families are faced with that dynamic where they don’t have two and three and four bedroom homes to put a kid in one wing and a kid in another wing and then the parents would go off and do their thing. What you’re alluding to is that probably before the 1950’s, many parents had their children in the room when they were having sex and so it was norm and it was commonplace, because you’d have the parents on one side of the room and then you’d have the kids right on the other side of the room.
At what point were parents intimate? Because times have shifted and with regards to sex and privacy, sometimes parents feel like they have to put their kids somewhere. Well, sometimes there isn’t any place to put the kids. Would I say it’s okay-and again, this is evaluating and discuss. Would I say it’s okay for parents to be intimate with one another with the child in the room? I would probably err on the side of caution, probably wait until the children are sleeping. But then, before the age of two and a half, kids don’t really remember anything at all, so the parents are intimate, the kids may see it, but they probably won’t remember it ten minutes from now.
Again, I would spend time talking with parents about, what are their values about sex? What are their values about body image issues and what do they know about human development?
Frank: Okay, body images issues-the whole family walks around stark naked. Of course that has to do with values, but you know, I’m probing, I want to hear what the good doctor has to say.
Dr. Wadley: I would say as long as it’s in line with the value system, sure go for it.
Latonya: We’re hearing values are very important for every family. You’ve got to set your own, right, doctor?
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Frank: Now, what happens when the neighbor sees it and calls the-
Latonya: Child Protective Services.
Frank: Authorities. Yeah, Child Protective Services and the doctor gets called in to testify, what happens then? What do you say then? Do you just kind of say, “Hey, if it’s consistent with these family values, I think its okay?”
Dr. Wadley: That’s never happened to me and I guess if I were called into court, I would talk about the developmental issues of children as well as parents and then as you just said, I would talk about the value of privacy. So, if parents want to walk around naked with their children that’s on them. Would I hasten call Child Protective Services, no, because-yeah, I wouldn’t do that? Again, I would have to get more information about what’s going on. I don’t believe that nudity is an infringement upon one’s functioning in the house. It would be tough for me to make that call.
Latonya: Well doctor, I have a question. In my experience with coaching and my psychology background, I find values to be a very interesting discussion. Would you like to define values for us so that we can be clear of how you would approach it for a family who maybe never thought about their own values?
Dr. Wadley: Right, that construct that deals with one’s moral compass in determining what’s right and wrong. It’s that kind of construct that helps families decide what’s good and what’s bad and it’s that construct that helps families make decisions about how the govern themselves and how the govern their family. Values run synonymous with morality and typically, children learn about their own value system and about morality, typically between the ages of three all the way up until 12 years old. And then, after 12 they, to some extent, formulate their ideas about what’s right and wrong and good and bad and they should and should not do.
Frank: The premise of my question could be completely wrong and both of you guys, Jeff you too, weigh-in if that’s an issue. However, I’m going to go with it. What do you think of the values and the consistency of values? If you look at the American culture, often what we do is not consistent with what we say we say our values are and you compare it to-for the sake of simplicity, compare it to European culture and let’s say European culture. Let’s say European culture specifically in Europe, where the values seem to be a bit more consistent with what they say their values are. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Do I need to explain any further? Does anybody want to weigh-in?
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, for me if you can share a little bit more about what you’re talking-
Latonya: Maybe a good example.
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Frank: I was reading an article recently in the Washington Post-I think it was the Washington Post and they were talking about how the paparazzi- apparently there was a politician in maybe it’s France, I’m not sure which country, but there was a politician that had a mistress and the photographers took pictures of him going into her place and the public generally speaking said they crossed the line. That was crossing the line as it pertained to what you need to know about politicians, what the public needs to know or what the public even cares about in terms of politicians.
In America, we have politicians and people mind you all the time, but we’ll stick to apples to apples-politicians often take the position that they have to take a moral high ground, but at the same time they create legislation that looks down upon certain behavior, while at the same time they’re doing it.
Latonya: They’re participate in it.
Frank: It seems to be a bit of a difference in terms of the two cultures. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Dr. Wadley: My initial thought is for-again, this is all based on their assumption, I don’t know all that much about some European countries as well as their culture-that for some European countries, my experience is that they exercise a greater sensitivity towards boundaries.
What you described with regards to the paparazzi following around a politician and checking into his personal business and crossing the line, for politician-I’m assuming they’re politicians, they just want to do their job, so, if you’re following a man home or following a person after doing their job, what do you really get from that?
In contrast here in the States is that because we subscribe to a heightened form of sensationalism and romanticization, we want to know everything about you. Sort of like the question that you had asked when we first got on the phone. I offered a professional answer, but then the conversation shifted to, “What’s going on in your personal life?” Well, the conversation was about professionalism. And that’s not an indictment on you, that’s the culture that we live in and so for some European countries, I would imagine that there’s a greater sensitivity towards, “What you do at your job is your job, but when you go home, that’s your own personal life.”
Frank: Any thoughts on that? Do you have an ideal that you would recommend, if you were talking to photographers or a public in general? Would you recommend us seeing it as segmented-that’s the job, this is home-or do you think it’s all mixed?
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, in a perfect world, I would say you know, let people have their personal business, but then because the world is flawed, the paparazzi, they got to make their money too. So with that, I can’t sit up here and say, alright folks, you all got to go get this footage of Johnny Joe who’s on vacation with mister or his mistresses, but I’m not in that line of work.
Frank: Okay. When a person who’s come to see you or family’s come to see you and we can go back to that European American family that you discussed earlier, when they come to see you, when is therapy done? When are you done with them? When do you say, “I think you guys have are where you should or where would ideally be for you,” in terms of therapy?
Dr. Wadley: What I do when they first come in is, at the end of the session, I’ll go over the goals of therapy and I’ll ask them if they have anything else that they want to contribute and they’ll say “yes” or “no” or whatever. So, I’ll send them maybe like five or six goals and then over “x” number of sessions, we revisit the goals to find out how far or close we are to achieving those goals.
Then, possibly somewhere down the line, if it feels like we’ve reached our goals, I’ll actually pull out the goals in front of them and I’ll say “Okay,” where are we at with reaching their goals and they’ll review the goals and they’ll say, “Well, we think that we’re there right now,” and then I’ll ask them, “Okay, what kind of support do you need from me at this moment?”
It’s very data-driven, both qualitatively and quantitatively and that’s how I know its time to discharge them. And I’ll tell them. I’ll say, “Well look, if we’ve reached the goals and you all don’t have anything else to share, maybe it’s best if we not schedule a visit for some time, but you’re more than welcome to come back in to talk about any issues that may emerge.”
Dr. Wadley: But that’s based upon my clinical orientation where goals are measurable, goals are set, goals are measurable and then goals are obtained. Now, there are some clinicians who will see clients for years and years and years and, for me, at least my clients, my folks, they ain’t got money to keep coming to be paying me years and years and years and years. I’m going to try and do my job in five, six sessions or maybe over the course of a few months and send you on your way, because then for me it becomes unethical for me to keep seeing you if I know that we’ve already obtained the goal.
Latonya: Wow, that’s interesting.
Frank: I was about to say that. Yeah, are there any ethics you think that are an issue when you’re seeing a patient for years and years and years?
Dr. Wadley: If the goals are obtained-let’s say I have a client and I know that the goals are obtained or whatever presenting issue they came in with, we’ve reached it, we’ve come up with some resolution. If I continue seeing that client after the goals are obtained, then for me therapy becomes more about me than it is for them.
Frank: What if they just say, “Hey, let’s set a new goal and keep going?”
Dr. Wadley: Well, if they have other issues that they want to work on, I’m totally okay with that, but if I’m keeping folks in my office just because I’m trying to make a buck or just because I haven’t dealt with my own-what’s called a counter-transference issues, then it’s wrong and I would never do that.
Latonya: Oh, I like that, counter-transference. I’m going to post that on my Facebook status, because there’s so many coaches or people declaring themselves as coaches without doing the inner work that coaching requires and so one of the things-and I’m a graduate. I’m mentored by Inyanla Vanzant and The Inner Visions Institute and one of the first rules is that you do the work on yourself. And so many people declare themselves as the coaches and they haven’t done their work-isn’t it accurate that when you get clients and you haven’t done your work, then you start work, doing your work through them or you get triggered?
Dr. Wadley: Right, right and I always tell people, “Hell, everybody’s a damn relationships expert.”
Frank: That’s real.
Latonya: But you know Dr. Wadley, when you talk about the different communities, particularly as a coach or a person who’s invested in personal development-and I know that Frank Love can attest to this is, there’s a community of majority African Americans and then there’s a community of as you say, European and those folks stay in therapy for a long time compared to other communities who resist going into therapy.
So, it’s interesting that you say something about five or six sessions, when I see that there are folks who absolutely budget it. My friends, my European friends budget it. They sit down, have family meetings and it is a part of their financial plan.
Dr. Wadley: Right and you know, I don’t try to have co-dependent relationships with my clients. I’ll tell them, I’m like, “Well look, if it feels like we’ve reached our goals and I believe that you’re ready to kind of move out on your own, then it’s my job to discharge you. It’s my job to work myself out of a job,” and I guess for me, I’ve been blessed to have a full practice where- but even if I didn’t have a full practice, I still wouldn’t keep people longer than what-
Dr. Wadley: Longer than what the goals may need for them to remain.
Jeff: Dr. Wadley, its Jeff Newman, question which might wind up might being a three-part question. It has to do with families who are dealing with a specific issue that may not know if they need therapy. Now, let’s say the issue of homosexuality, it’s a young teen who is coming to grips with the realization that they could probably be homosexual. The family has never dealt with this before, the child of course is coming of age, has never dealt with anything before. Do they come? Or in your experience do you see this, number one, being more prevalent now that in this day and age and number two, do you approach it as a “problem” to deal with or is this a lifestyle that you’re going to try to help them deal with and react to the social mores and the types of issues that they’re going to have to deal with not only as a family with a homosexual child, but the child itself, just trying to come of age and where there might be many issues “being normal.”
Dr. Wadley: Right. I had families who are challenged with that particular issue and when folks go to my website-so usually folks will find me on the internet and they’ll go to my website and I’m assuming that some of them reading more closely than others. On the front page of my website, I acknowledge that I’m an open and affirming therapist, which means that, a welcoming and affirming practice, meaning that I welcome folks who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gendered or people in question or even an inner-sexual or asexual. For me, that’s the starting point.
I’ve had families who come in and may not have read that or may not have know what that means. I had a single parent mom who was raising two sons and her son was either in question or in the closet and struggling with-not necessarily struggling with his sexual orientation or identity, but being able to negotiate that identity with his mom and mom being a minister thought that by bringing him into me that I would eventually convert him to being heterosexual.
The mom, the son who was struggling with the sexual identity and his brother, they came in and we spent time talking about the meetings that are created around same-sex relationships and same-sex attractions and orientations and the mom really struggled with it, based upon her religious affiliation. We spent time talking about the assumptions that are made about same-sex couples and we also talked about the assumptions that are made about religion as well as religious doctrine and then we also talked about the pervasiveness about homophobia and heterosexism in the black community, meaning that for an African American person to be anything other than heterosexual, sometimes it’s seen as bad, it’s wrong or as the language you use, “not normal.” We talked about if in fact her son or if in fact her son identifies himself as gay or bisexual, what might some of the challenges be in society and being able to negotiate or not negotiate that sexual identity?
So, then our conversation had revolved around how protective she wanted to be of him, but how she had to be able to allow him to have a sense of ndependence as a young man, because he was like 17 or 18 years old. Then, we had to talk about what the meanings are to the younger brother, because, I think his brother was like 12 or 13. He knows a little bit about sexual orientation identity, but he only knows about it through the religious teachings from his mom and what he gets from the media.
All those different streams had to be unpacked for starters and then negotiated with one another. So, long story short, they came for-the mom, the son who was in question and the brother, they all came for two sessions and then after that, for the third and the forth sessions, the mom dropped the son off to come and talk with me. That wasn’t by my choice, that was by her choice. Again-
Frank: I was about to say, was that some avoidance?
Dr. Wadley: Exactly. She wasn’t getting what she thought she was going to get from me, so she figured she could just drop him off here and somehow-
Frank: Let you raise him.
Dr. Wadley: I would convert him. Right. When he came in to see me on his own, we talked about the challenges of black adolescence and teenagers and how difficult it is to be anything other than heterosexual, because there aren’t the resources that may be available for other groups for black youths and teens to either come out or be able to feel like they belong to something.
Obviously we spent time talking about safe sex, but then the kind of partner he would like to have in his life. So, then probably doing the fifth or the sixth session or whatever, mom came back in and mom said that her son continued to be oppositional towards her at home and we spent time talking about that and then after that, I didn’t hear from them.
Frank: Him or her or them?
Dr. Wadley: Them. And so, for me as a therapist, my job I feel is to try to not only impact the behavioral and affect of cognitive manifestations that are going on there for the family, but then provide a cultural and historical context or why the family is where they’re at.
Dr. Wadley: Does that kind of answer your question?
Jeff: Yes it does and it also goes back to something you were talking about before where Frank was talking about a politician. You can also internalize or families can internalize the “new normal” or the fact that some traditions or family values have been altered, because of society and the way that society now deals with things. Things that were normal 20, 30 years ago or things that we grew up with in the 70’s and 80’s don’t really pertain or aren’t relevant in this year or in the next four or five years and for you as a therapist, I’m only guessing that might be difficult to instill the “new normal” in those very steeped in their traditions.
Dr. Wadley: Well, yes. First of all, I’m Christian, but I don’t do Christian counseling and my morality or my moral compass doesn’t have to be my clients moral compass and for me normal is relative, where there are some families who function out of a sense of normalcy and that may be a complete contrast to how I govern my life. So, my job is to find out what is normal or what is appropriate or appropriate for me is more accurate. What is appropriate for the family and to what extent their behavior, their cognition and their affect fall within that particular continual or that particular continuum or that particular construct.
So, if the family comes in and says you have a mom who is highly religious, highly conservative or maintains a more conservative view towards sexuality. I’m saying conservative, just based upon the heterosexual notions of that and then you have a son who identifies him or herself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or whatever, it’s not my job to say, “You’re right, he’s wrong.” It’s my job to say, “Well look, these are the facts, teens who struggle with their sexual identity. There’s a higher rate of depression, there’s a higher rate of isolation, there’s a higher rate of suicidal and homicidal ideation.
If, in fact, you’re going to offer that discourse of what’s right and what’s wrong, know that these are the implications for your child. So, then if I can get the mom to see the potential implications, then possibly she may relax her-
Dr. Wadley: Language to relax her language towards her son and say, “Yes, you’re still my baby. I still love you. I still want the best for you. No, I don’t necessarily understand the dynamics of sexual orientation or identity, but I love you enough to be able to allow you to make your own decisions and together we’re still going to be this cohesive family.”
Dr. Wadley: That was my goal.
Frank: We’re discussing relationships, let’s discuss nutrition too. Having trouble getting in your daily dosage of fruits and vegetables, well I strongly suggest you try All Day Energy Greens, a weight loss and dietary supplement all in one.
Many of us don’t make the time to eat and If you like me, fit this profile, All Day Energy Greens can help you by providing a full day’s worth of veggies in one spoonful and you can try it at no risk.
If you’re not 100 percent delighted with your results, just send the canister back for a full and prompt refund. No questions asked.
You can even return an empty canister for a full refund. Check it out at alldayenergygreens.com or give them a call at 800-218-1379 for more energy and fewer inches.
You’re listening to Frank Relationships; we’re talking with Dr. James Wadley, Marriage, Family and Sexuality Therapist and author of, Would you Marry You? and The Lost and Found Box. Dr. Wadley counsels individuals and groups who’ve experienced infidelity and other family and relational issues. Would you please tell us how we can find you, Dr. Wadley?
Dr. Wadley: You can find me-well, I’m a faculty member over at Lincoln University. I’m in the graduate center. I’m director of Master of Human Services Program. I’ve been there for three and a half years. So, you can find me on Lincoln’s website: lincoln.edu or you can find me at my own personal professional website. I said professional, which is: drjameswadley.com.
Frank: We’ve had the pleasure of having Nana Kwebena Brown as a guest on this show. His orientation, his organization in Nyama Healing Services is inviting our listeners to his Saturday February 22nd couples relationship enhancement event in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The workshop has helped hundreds of people over the last 10 years and many couples have returned for a second and third session. It’s for the young and old and is excellent for young couples moving towards commitment and marriage or older couples in need of a tune-up.
Those who come will receive effective communication skills, techniques in strategies for conflict resolution and decision making, recommendations for identifying establishing and conducting the three important couples meetings, comprehension and techniques on forgiveness and apologies, wonderful exercises for a renewal of sacred sensuality and much more. For more information, go to nyamahealingservices.eventbright.com or contact Nana Kwenaba Brown at 202-294-4471.
When I was mentioning you and who you are, we talked about infidelity a little bit. What are some of the considerations that families have to take in and deal with pertaining to infidelity and moving past it if they choose to stay together?
Dr. Wadley: Some of the considerations. How can I answer this? Infidelity for couples happens when there is either an explicit or implicit expectation about the relationship that is unmet. The assumption is that infidelity has to be with another person, but if you spend time or as I spent time talking with couples or over the years as well as doing literature reviews and my research, infidelity can come in so many different forms, where if there is an expectation or understanding that “I’m not going to spend 12 hours on my Xbox,” for some couples what’s the difference between spending 12 hours on your Xbox and being disengaged in the relationship compared to seeing somebody else.
At least one of the considerations that I take in to account with my couples is, one, what are the implicit and explicit expectations or standards that you may have about the relationship? And then, two, what might the implications be if one or both people do something that runs counter to those expectations? Most couples they will have somewhat of a cursory or somewhat of a surfacey conversation about “Okay, well we’re in this monogamous relationship, you don’t cheat and I don’t cheat.” Well, infidelity comes in a lot of different forms.
Dr. Wadley: And cheating can look like, “Well, I never had sex with that woman, but if she performed fellatio on me, well that doesn’t really count,” or “If I go to the bachelor party and everyone gets really excited about being there and someone pays for my toes to get sucked, is that really cheating?” Now, some couples will say, “Yes, oh my gosh, how could you ever allow some woman or some man to suck on your toes and we’re together?” And other families may, “Say, well look, you know, I don’t care about that as long as you don’t catch a sexually transmitted infection and bring it back home or have them,” excuse my language, “Bitches calling my house, then it’s whatever.”
Again, we’re talking about different value systems as it relates to infidelity. But then, the conception streams of that rest in honesty-honesty disclosure and trust. Kind of what we talked about earlier. To answer your question, yeah, I would say that for some couples, one, it’s difficult to really identify what infidelity is or having those unmet expectations, but then two, what are the implications of it and what do you do about it? Some couples they say, “Well, if you cheat on me, I’m out,” but when it happens that’s not the deal breaker, meaning that we’re going to collectively work through this. Yeah, we’re going to collectively work through this.
Frank: Interesting. I heard a person in a relationship posed a question one day and that was to the partner, “Would you prefer that I take a job that had me traveling 80 percent of the time or if I had another relationship where I was here 50 percent of the time and there 50 percent of the time?” And the partner said, “I prefer you took a job that had you away 80 percent of the time.” That blew my mind.
Dr. Wadley: Uh-huh. Why?
Frank: Because it ceased to be, in my mind, about the time that the two of them spent together and what those partners were getting out of the time that they spent together. It was more about the concept around what one would be doing with someone else when they were not together. You got anything rev coach?
Latonya: I do. Actually, I want to go back to the word “cheating.” I just read an article about that.
Latonya: Dr. Wadley, I would-
Frank: I’ve got to read that.
Latonya: Love to-yeah, because I actually have a eliminated that word from my relationship vocabulary.
Frank: High five, high five.
Latonya: And I think that word does such a disservice and I’m kind of surprised to hear you use it, doc.
Frank: What made you eliminate that? Did we talk about this or something?
Latonya: No, we haven’t talked about this, but I think it does a disservice. How can someone cheat you if you’re not putting all of your value in them? That’s my question.
Dr. Wadley: Okay, if I can take that question and then kind of join in what Frank said, is that if a person is working 80 percent of the time and they’re home for 20 percent of the time and I guess on the other side, person B is with their primary partner for 50 percent of the time with somebody else the other 50 percent of the time, people make the assumption that, “If we’re together that you are going to take care of my basic emotional needs,” which means that if I call you or if I need you, you will be there, right?
Dr. Wadley: Excuse me, I’m assuming that for the person who is 80 percent of the time, I’m assuming that the person who responded to Frank may have believed that, “Yes, you’re working, but if I needed you, you would be there.” That person may have also assumed that, “If you’re with somebody else, you cannot take care of my basic emotional needs, because you’re tending to someone else.”
Most couples won’t have that conversation about what their emotional needs are-what you need and what you don’t need. And for some couples it’s, “If I call you, you’ll pick up the phone, if I send you text message, you will respond back, if I’m talking to you, you’ll listen to me and you’ll listen to me without possibly listening to someone else.”
I use the language-I don’t know, I probably use it flippantly or probably threw it out casually, but I use the language, cheating based upon the assumption that couples have not met a particular explicit or implicit expectation and so the cheating is cutting corners for me. Cutting corners in the relationship to get what one needs rather than what was negotiated or discussed. And so, your point is well taken. Like I said, I hadn’t given it consideration you’ve given it, which is a shame for me on my part. But then like I said, the underlining premise of what I just offered is based upon attachment theory. Meaning that there are three different kinds of relationships: secure relationships, where you can predict your partner’s behavior, there’s anxious and ambivalent relationships where you love your partner, but then you hate them when they leave and then you’re calling them and you’re text messaging them and you need them around all the time and then, there’s the avoided relationships. And so, for couples-
Frank: What’s the avoided? Explain that one.
Dr. Wadley: Meaning that, “We’re in this relationship together, but I really don’t like to see you, I really don’t like to be around you and you get on my nerves when you are around me.”
Dr. Wadley: And for the couples who have anxious avoiding relationships which are couples who start with infidelity, one, there is the person who has acted out possibly with somebody else of some other entity, but then the anxiety tends to emerge for the person who has been offended based upon the relational trauma that’s occurred of the expectation. And then, how do you manage that anxiety when the person isn’t around you?
Do you have to call them a thousand times to find out where they’re at and even after you call them a thousand times, the person still may be saying, “Oh what’s that I hear in the background? Why are you still crying? How come you didn’t call me back when I just called you?
When couples come in to see me, we not only have to talk about the anxiety of the person who’s been offended, but also the anxiety of the person who has acted out with the secondary or tertiary partners, because the anxiety over the relationship and not being able to come up with a resolution for the relationship has enabled that person to go out and spend time with somebody else with their Xbox, Playstation, drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping or compulsive masturbation.
Latonya: So, doc when they come to you after there’s been an incident or to repair the relationship, does therapy guarantee happily ever after?
Dr. Wadley: No, because sometimes couples come and see men too late, where they’ve waited so long, where they’ve already gone to see their lawyer and they come to see me like, “Look, doc-” and they’ll tell me, “You’re the last option. I done already filled out these divorce papers, but I want the relationship to work.”
Latonya: Oh, wow.
Dr. Wadley: So, then I’ll pull back and I’m like, “Wait, whoa, it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind, but-”
Frank: Right, so why are you here with me”
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, “But if in fact you’re willing to hold off with sending the papers in and you’re willing to put two feet into working on the relationship, now we have something that we can work on.” I don’t guarantee anybody happily ever after, because that may not happen.
Latonya: You may need the Frank Love book to help them.
Dr. Wadley: Possibly so.
Latonya: Because it goes back to your values discussion about some people have a value that an ending or a renegotiation has to mean drama and sadness, because I heard you use the word “trauma” and I wonder if it has to be traumatic. If people have a high value for growth, because even what an active infidelity, if you will, could possibly be a growth opportunity for the individual or the relationship is how I tend to view it, particularly when I’m working with folks and myself, to be honest, even when I’m working with myself.
Frank: That’s real.
Dr. Wadley: That’s an excellent point. One of my goals is to actually help them reframe the experience, reframe the experience and possibly grow from it. And what that looks like is, there are three different entities in a relationship: it’s you, it’s me and then the relationship. When my couples come in to work on the relationship, that’s what we’re going to work on as well as how one identifies him or herself and how one identifies him or herself within the context of the relationship. For some couples, there is the notion of forgiving, but not forgetting. To me that’s okay and the reason why it’s okay is, because chances are you’re not going to forget about this trauma that happened, but can we use that experience and possibly have a different conversation with one another from here on out? And I have couples who say, “Well, you know what? Yes it sucks that my partner stepped outside of the relationship, but now I feel closer to him or her, because we have conversations that we’ve never had in our relationship and now I know my partner on a deeper level.”
Frank: That’s powerful.
Dr. Wadley: And so yes, it’s very difficult. And if I may, the trauma comes from having that expectation. So, if we’re saying, “Yes, we’re monogamous, yes, until death do up part, yes we got married, yes we’ve been in this relationship and then I find out that you went and had a baby with somebody else and you expect me to be the momma or daddy to that baby that didn’t come from me,” that’s a lot and that’s traumatic.
Latonya: Dr. Wadley, do you include the other person, the other woman or man ever at a certain point in your therapeutic sessions? Have you ever gotten to that point?
Dr. Wadley: No, that only happens on TV, on TV shows.
Frank: No, I can imagine that’s where it would be easy to get off, but there is a possibility for having all parties at the table. It really is and with just you saying that doc, if there’s anything I offer you from me to you today, is that-
Dr. Wadley: Okay.
Frank: The possibility is there.
Latonya: It’s there.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, you know what. Maybe I said that hastily. When I first saw it on a poplar TV reality show, I was like, “What the hell?” But then, hearing Frank say, there is a possibility. Sometimes the person who’s acted out and the person who’s been offended and then the other person can come together and have a constructive dialogue around it. Sometimes I would imagine that there can be conducive for it if done in a correct manner where all parties had the opportunity to share their issues and feel some sort of balance and profession, but that would be tricky.
Dr. Wadley: Is it possible? Would I do it? I don’t know if I’d go down that road, but you know what, would I do it, yeah.
Latonya: Wait, wait doc. You might have one of the parties who says, “You know, I’ve fallen in love with this person and so they matter to me,” and so, they don’t want to just leave them broken. Do you ever ask that question? Have you developed feelings for-or let’s use your language- “attachment.” Do you have an attachment to the other person, because maybe they do.
Dr. Wadley: Right and more often than not, they do. Would I invite the other person in? No, but what I do with my clients is that-if I have a couple and I’ll just use this couple. The dude was cheating on his wife and he had been with the other woman for four or five years. He said he was going to give her up maybe two years ago, he didn’t do it and he ended up maintaining the relationship and then the wife ultimately found out again.
We spent time talking about move on the potential loss of not being with this other woman. And for individuals who have been with somebody else and developed a secure attachment-that’s what it is. Developed a secure attachment with the other person, it’s difficult to let that person go and so there is some bereavement work that needs to be done. But at least with one and I guess a few of my clients, they weren’t ready to let the secondary partner go and your point is well taken.
Do I need to bring the other person in? For me, I don’t think I would. Do I think it’s a possibility of getting through it? Yeah, anything is possible. I just don’t see it, because the person who’s been offended-the primary partner, he or she would have to be grounded enough to be able to sit with the other person and allow that other person to tell his or her story in a way for potentially everybody to grow.
Frank: That’s powerful.
Dr. Wadley: But they may be so immersed in there trauma that the story that the secondary partner will tell, would only become another trigger or possibly, potentially re-traumatize the-
Dr. Wadley: Primary partner.
Latonya: Well, Frank is a little bit more advanced than me. I meant that the other person would just come into you, maybe in a separate session. Not necessarily all three-no. No, no, no. No, I wouldn’t put you in that position, doc.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, that’s happened. Yes, that has happened.
Frank: I’ve got two more questions, doc. One is on the comedic side and the other is just your wrap up. The comedy question is, have you ever told anybody to just get the hell out of your office?
Dr. Wadley: No.
Frank: Alright and-
Latonya: Can’t you tell how professional he is with us, talking to us, that he would never do that.
Frank: We all have buttons that can be pressed and I mean, you-
Dr. Wadley: You know what? Hold on. I never told anybody to get the hell out of my office, but I have told somebody that I wouldn’t welcome them back and-
Latonya: See, I like that.
Dr. Wadley: And the reason why I wouldn’t welcome them back is because the couple had signed a contract for not engaging in domestic violence. And so, the couple got into a heated exchange in my office and the woman ended up striking the man and I said, “What you need goes beyond the scope of what I can offer you right now and you’re going to have to get individual help.” And so, they had breached that contract and I was unwilling to allow them to come back until they sought additional help.
Frank: Alright. And you got a take-away message for me, for the rev coach, for the listeners?
Dr. Wadley: The take-away message is, spend time talking with your partner about what you want, what you need, what you desire and what you hope to have and the more you share about yourself-the assumption is that you will ultimately feel closer to whomever it is that you’re spending time with.
Frank: You’ve been listening to Frank Relationships. We’ve been talking with Dr. James Wadley, Marriage, Family and Sexuality Therapist and author of, Would You Marry You? and The Lost and Found Box. Dr. Wadley, last time, would you please tell our listeners how they can find you and your services.
Dr. Wadley: You can find me at Lincoln University, lincoln.edu. I’m the director of The Master of Human Services Program. We are accepting applications for the fall academic year, 2014 – 2015 academic year and you can also find me at drjameswadley.com.
Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed counter transference. In face, the rev coach says she’s going to keep that, she’s going to pocket that and hopefully you’re going to give him credit whenever you use it.
Latonya: Absolutely, right now. I’m looking in my Facebook.
Frank: Values and infidelity. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had discussing new beginnings with Dr. James Wadley.
As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that’ll help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook.com/relationshipflove, on Twitter @mrfranklove or franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, this is Frank Love. Keep rising.
END OF TRANSCRIPT