Today we are discussing relationships in America with a practitioner of African culture right here in the states. He has conducted more weddings than he can remember, and he also embraces a mission to help those and other couples sustain them. Stay tuned as we explore the components of maintaining a healthy marriage on Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: RELATIONSHIP COUNSELOR AND TRADITIONAL AFRICAN PRIEST, NANA KWABENA BROWN
Guests: Nana Kwabena Brown
Date: February 10, 2013
Frank: Today we’re discussing relationships in America with a practitioner of African culture right here in the States. He’s conducted more weddings than he can remember and he also embraces a mission to help those and other couples sustain them. Stay tuned as we explore the components of maintaining a healthy marriage on Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with the 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.
Once again I’m joined by my co-host, Dr. Gayle.
Dr. Gayle: Good morning, Frank.
Frank: She’s looking good today. What’s up, Dr. Gayle?
Dr. Gayle: I’m good. How are you?
Frank: I’m good. Why you so happy?
Dr. Gayle: It’s Thursday. It’s Friday eve.
Frank: Dr. Gayle is the shows go-to guru for psychology. She’s my right hand in the studio and she’s the anti-Frank.
Dr. Gayle: I got love for you.
Frank: I thought she was going to come in here with brass knuckles on today after last week’s Shorty Lo conversation, but she’s shining right now. Very nice. Now you know our guest is married, so no flirting.
Dr. Gayle: I got it.
Frank: Alright. Marriage can be a beautiful thing; the joining of two people, two families, their good times, their challenging times. There are times when assistance is helpful and there are times when support seems absolutely essential. Enter my guest.
Over the course of numerous decades, he’s performed a healthy number of marriages, so many that he’s also seen many of those that he’s ushered in, usher out. At some point he said, “I’m going to do something different.” So he mandated that couples that he married participate in counseling. Since then his counseling and assistance has grown from those that he marries to well beyond. And from those individuals that are getting married to those that are married. Through his workshops he helps participants of all religious backgrounds and relationships of all compositions refocus so that they can be healthy.
If you’re ready to begin an earnest study on parenting skills, relating, separation and loss and grief, team building and group bonding, then join me for the next hour for our heart-to-heart with marital counselor, priest of the Akan tradition of Ghana West African and the founder of Nyama Healing Services, Nana Kwabena Brown. Welcome.
Nana: Well, good morning, Frank. It’s a joy and a pleasure to be on your show. It really is.
Frank: Thank you. Well, let’s face it, we live in a Christian country. How does an African priest develop a reputation that allows him to gather the trust and the loyalty of practitioners of Christianity and those that are just in the normal everyday relationships that we have?
Nana: Well, I thought about that. I’ve been thinking about that and basically folks come to me because there’s a need. There’s a need. Even if appearing for marriage or there’s some challenges within their relationship or they just want a–more or less, a tune-up; make sure they have a reinforcement-the skills that they need. And so what happens by word-of-mouth, folks tell their friends, they tell their relatives that they came, they got some counseling that was really, really sound and that they were able to see some improvement in their strengths and in their relationships. And the majority of people who I counsel are of a different religious, spiritual background than myself.
Dr. Gayle: From a psychological standpoint, I must say I agree with as much counseling that one can obtain is great. So, do you not focus on the religious aspect? How do you get around that?
Nana: No, at my workshops, I’ve had people who are Muslim. I’ve had people who were Jewish in their religious and cultural background. I’ve had African Americans of every persuasion and the thing that I do, which is a part of me, is I take a very spiritual approach which is a little bit different from a religious approach.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Frank: Tell us the difference.
Nana: The difference is that I try to help people to find their own strengths. I try to help people to realize that their true nature is that of spirit-of being first of all spirit; spirits of possessed bodies and not body-possessed spirits and to see that as an important beginning place in terms of having a healthier relationship; as such that by seeing themselves as a spiritual entity, by accepting that love is a natural part of our humanness that the thing that we want to do with their relationships is to remove all barriers to the flow of this love and flow of this spirit. And so, that’s the approach that I take.
Now we do have things that we do which are a part of what we call religious tradition. However, we do it in such a way that it’s just so very casual. We set up an alter with candles, flowers, etcetera and we have that as a place where couples will come; and at the end of the workshop to sign their own personal covenant between the two of them. So, I would say that we’d have to say that there is a religious element to it. However, it’s one that is so general and universal that everybody who’s ever experienced it has really felt quite comfortable with it.
But the most important thing is to really help people to understand the importance of themselves a spiritual entity, of their partner as a spiritual entity. As love, they’re in their natural phenomenon and condition of human beings and that the necessity’s is in finding out the blockage, the trauma, the blockage to the flow of that love, that energy between themselves and their significant other. And when we can do that and get people to also learn some of the tools and skills that we provide, we’re able to help them to bring about more healthier conditions in their relationship.
Dr. Gayle: Could you walk us through some steps of your relationship forms and the different aspects of it?
Frank: Well, Nana Kwabena, before we get to that I want to recap what you said and what I heard is the way you’re able to get past some of the possible religious barriers is that people come to you simply because what you do works. Is that accurate?
Nana: That’s very true.
Nana: That’s very true and then through word-of-mouth. Other folks tell folks.
Frank: Before we get really into the workshops, I want to know a little bit about your history. How’d you get started and put your beginning wherever you’re comfortable placing it.
Nana: Okay. Alright. Well, I have been a priest, my goodness, most of my life; about 40 some odd years now. Let’s see, I’m 69 in a couple of weeks–
Dr. Gayle: Happy birthday.
Nana: Thank you, ma’am. So, about 42 years.
Dr. Gayle: Wow.
Nana: Yes. And so I’ve been doing wedding ceremonies for about that same amount of time and one of the things is that I was so very disappointed when I would meet somebody two or three years after I had done a wedding ceremony for them and they’d tell me they were no longer together.
Dr. Gayle: You sound like my pastor at church.
Dr. Gayle: He says that he no longer marries people unless he wholeheartedly knows them and they’re in his life and so forth and so on.
Nana: Well, I tell you–and I agree with him because once he or I marries someone, we put a certification on them. In other words, they know that you’re pastor, I have married them then they’re assuming that everything is in good order.
And so, for me I told people, I guess, some 35 or more years ago that the only way that I would do their ceremony is if they could document that they were going through pre-marital counseling and they had the skills and the tools necessary to have the most likelihood of a successful relationship. And without that, I tell people, “I’m not saying not to get married, I’m just saying that I won’t be the person doing your ceremony. You have to do pre-marital counseling.”
Frank: And it doesn’t have to be your pre-marital counseling, it can be any pre-marital counseling. Is that what I’m hearing?
Nana: Yes, one that I can see where the basic skills of communication, conflict resolution and forgiveness are the skill that are part of the components of that pre-marital training.
Frank: People being people, we have a way of setting our eyes on the prize, so we find that the man who we want to marry us has a requirement that we participate in pre-marital counseling, “Hey, no big deal, we’ll go get some pre-marital counseling. That doesn’t mean we’re going to soak it up. That doesn’t mean it’s going to mean anything.” How do you deal with that?
Nana: I give assignments. I tell people, first of all, that they have to have three meetings that they put within their organizers on their calendars that they’re going to do regularly. And the three couple meetings are relationship meeting, business meeting and intimacy/quality time meetings that they have to put on their calendars.
Dr. Gayle: And this is after they’re married?
Nana: No. No, I tell people immediately that they have to start having those kinds of meetings and particularly, if you think about it in terms of the economic aspect of the marriage ceremony and other things which are connected with that, it’s a very, very good thing to start at the beginning, of getting people to talk about the economic or economical aspect of their relationship. So, when people come back for the second time, I’m expecting to see some documentation that they have both scheduled these meetings and had one to all of those meetings between the two times that I’ve seen them. They’re required to come at least three times after that meeting.
Frank: And when they come, they’re actually coming and sitting with you?
Nana: Yes. Yes.
Frank: And they’re bringing just the two of them or family?
Nana: No, just the two of them.
Nana: Just the two of them. Uh-huh. So, I’m expecting to see whether they have scheduled their relationship meeting, their business meeting and where they have scheduled to put time for each other. A lot of times people get so busy, so busy that the whole thing about quality time, intimacy, it comes in second or third. It’s not really addressed as a really important focus of their relationship, so they have to demonstrate that.
And then with the relationship meeting, they have to really go through the whole thing of having looked at their values, their beliefs, expectations, etc. and have shared this information with each other so they can begin to see what is there really about this person? What drives this person? What are their beliefs? What are their values? What are their expectations? And so, we guide them in first looking at their own personal beliefs, values and expectations and then sharing them with their partner. So, people now are understanding what drives this person, what informs this person, what are this person’s aspirations, beliefs, etc.
Frank: Before you implemented this kind of mandate, if you were going to do the ceremony, did you get a pulse of what the problems were in many of the relationships that you heard that had dissolved?
Nana: The thing that I got were the lack of skills; just a total lack of skills. And I can tell you right now, I got married at 21. Oh my God, when I think about that I just shake my head. No skills, no tools, no understanding of how you conduct a relationship.
And so, the problem is that most people get married and they get married, “Help me Lordy, thank you Lordy. Oh dear God, I hope this works.” Without any kind of skills and communication, without any kind of skills in conflict resolutions, without any kind of skills in just understanding another person or how to meet that person’s needs and how to really present the needs that you have that you want met. And so it’s really a–I hate to say this–a disaster waiting to happen. But it is really going into one of the most important kinds of situations we can find ourselves in as human beings without any skills, without any tools.
Probably the number one–I think communication’s probably at the top. However, it’s probably very foundational. However, conflict resolution is very, very important and also really having a–that’s why that relationship meeting is so important and having it is so important. So you know what the value and beliefs of your potential partner happen to be and what the expectations are. And so without those we really are walking into a situation that, quite often, we’re totally unprepared for.
Dr. Gayle: I wholeheartedly agree with you. How do you think people can become informed of these tools if they don’t bypass you at some point?
Nana: They will find that they don’t have them and I say that sincerely. You see people–quite often you find couples not understanding the *(inaudible) 16:12 they’re sharing; power. We inherit a lot of our relationship skills from our parents and that’s okay as long as they had healthy relationship skills.
Dr. Gayle: Right but if they’re dysfunctional, you don’t know what to do. You’re kind of lost out in the world, right?
Nana: Exactly and that’s why you really, really hope that somehow they’ll be walking into a bookstore and a book will catch their eye or they’ll hear a piece of a conversation or they’ll turn on the Frank Love show. They’ll do something that will really spark their mind that, “Maybe this is something that I really need to be paying attention to and trying to learn.”
Frank: You said that you were married at 21.
Frank: I’m drawing the conclusion that that marriage did not last until today.
Nana: No, it did not but it lasted a long time.
Frank: Okay. Tell us about who you–
Nana: It did not last and–
Frank: Tell us about who you were then and who you are now and what you learned.
Dr. Gayle: That’s funny. I thought it did last, because you said that you learned a lot then.
Nana: One of the things that I caution people about is that a lot of times one or both partners can understand and know what it is that they need to do to repair that marriage. However, they may feel overly-tired, over-fatigued, overburdened and just not willing to put out the energy to do it. And that’s what happens because–and that’s what we tell people. Get to a workshop. Get to a counselor. Get to someone who can help you through it. A lot of times people know what it is that needs to be done or have a hint of it but by the time they put so many years into the marriage, they may feel fatigued; not really willing or able to put that energy out. And that’s why we encourage couples who even–and we have quite a few couples who come who are my age in their mid to late 60’s and we encourage them to come to get those batteries recharged and go over the tools and the skills that can help them to refurbish and revitalize their marriage. Now, if I had come in contact with these kind of workshops, say 30 years ago I think my life would’ve taken an entirely different direction.
Dr. Gayle: Right okay, so now you conduct these relationships or these courses with your current wife, correct?
Nana: Yes. Yes, I do. Uh-huh.
Dr. Gayle: Okay, how long have you guys been married?
Nana: It will be 10 years in May.
Dr. Gayle: Okay, and I think it’s great that you are willing to be open and disclose the fact that, “Hey, this first relationship didn’t work out, but now I have something that’s successful.”
I was wondering, do you think all relationship or all marriages are able to be saved or can all relationships be able to be worked out if they have these specific tools? As you just stated, by the time you get to a counseling session, you’re already fatigued and this is “my last step before I exit left out the door.” So, do you think that before you get to that point or even when you do get that point, can all relationships be savored or no?
Nana: When you say “all” that’s the real keyword, because I believe that quite often people grow at different rates and it could eventually be where your “Partner One” was the one that was less informed, less motivated and then over a period years, “Partner One” could be the one who’s more motivated, more informed and then the other partner’s the one that’s not really at the same level.
Statistically, the experts have said, in which you find in literature, is that with the tools of communication and conflict resolution and having regular meetings, regular scheduled meetings that the people who practice this have a 60 percent probability of success and clearly the literature states that those who do not have the skills have a 60 percent likelihood that that relationship’s not going to last. So, skills are very, very, very important; very, very, necessary and of course there’s got to be a willingness to really walk that second mile with that person.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with Akan priest and the host of various marital workshops, Nana Kwabena Brown. Please tell our listeners how they can find you and learn about your marital workshops.
Nana: Okay Frank, thank you so much for that. Alright, for the current workshop that’s coming up on February 16th, I would ask you to please to go to nyamahealingservices.eventbrite.com and my number that you can reach me on is 202-678-3100. And we’re available for couples counseling, couples coaching as well as the workshops that we do. We do quite a bit of couples coaching, couples counseling. We do a lot of that.
Dr. Gayle: Where are you guys located?
Nana: The workshops are done primarily in Silver Spring.
Nana: We do the counsel–
Frank: Silver Spring, Maryland.
Nana: Oh, that’s right. I’m sorry. Silver Spring, Maryland. My home is in South east, Washington. That’s 1501 P Street, Southeast. And by appointment, if you give a call, we’d be more than happy to set up an appointment and time for you. And that’s 202-678-3100.
Frank: That’s 202-678-3100.
Nana: Yes, uh-huh.
Frank: Have you ever had anyone or a couple that came to you for counseling, say, “I don’t think we should get married,” after this counseling?
Nana: Yes. Yes, Frank and also there have been people that have come to counseling and I tell them that they really needed to wait.
Dr. Gayle: So you actually tell them, “I don’t think this is a good idea for you guys?”
Nana: Yes, I do.
Dr. Gayle: I think that’s commendable.
Nana: I do. And one of the interesting things is that a real flag that goes up is when I’m asking one a question and the other one starts answering the question for that person. That’s an immediate flag.
Dr. Gayle: What makes that a red flag?
Nana: Well, it’s a control issue.
Nana: Yeah, and I say, “Listen, do you realize that you just answered the question for her? Do you realize that, that this is not really a good sign? It’s very important that, that you guys share [hours] 23:01 in a relationship?”
Dr. Gayle: Can you mention some other red flags?
Nana: Other red flags–
Frank: Or how about this, what did they see? When the couple themselves concluded that “we shouldn’t get married,” what did they see that caused that–
Dr. Gayle: Turmoil.
Nana: When we get into the discussion of values and beliefs, values and beliefs and expectations–particularly when values and beliefs, beliefs are the foundation for what we expect, our expectations, and when people realize that a lot of expectations that the potential partner or partner has, I think, that they’re not really willing to fulfill, that’s a flag that they see. And also, when they realize that they are operating without a good system for conflict resolution, that they don’t have it in place. And I tell them, “If you don’t have, you guys can’t resolve conflicts now or you don’t have a plans for getting some training in that.” When people able to see it they realize that they need to wait. They need to wait.
Frank: Give me an example of a good system of conflict resolution?
Nana: A good system of conflict resolution sits upon good communication skills. Good communication skills is a understanding and acceptance as speaker-listening technique and reflective listening along with validation which is respecting the rights of person to express their opinion and you may or may not agree with them. However, what they’re saying is never dumb, it’s never stupid, it’s never, “I don’t understand how you could say something like that.” It’s respecting their right to express themselves and present their opinion. So, that along with the communication techniques of speaker-listening respect and reflective listening.
Set the foundation for resolving conflicts in a healthy kind of way. When it is understood and accepted, that power belongs to both persons in the relationship. Neither gender nor anything else is a diacritical of who should control power in a relationship. And so, one of the bases of resolving conflicts is to accept the fact that power belongs to both persons. Power in a relationship and control in a relationship belong to both persons–
Nana: And that along with the communication skills helps people move successfully in a healthy ways to resolve conflicts.
Frank: Very nice.
Frank: You mentioned a covenant sometime earlier in the interview. Tell me about the concept of a covenant.
Nana: Okay, what we do and is that at the end of the workshop, we have a covenant, which is really good; particularly for couples who are revitalizing or healing their relationship and even for those who are just starting out. If the pledge to each other to be faithful, trustful, loyal–what’s the other word–you know, fidelity of a relationship, a commitment to the relationship, to see each other as a gift from the Creator, to see each other as a spiritual being and it’s and a pledge to devotion and commitment and when they do that, one of the things that we do is that this Monday they will approach this altar that I talked about earlier, where we have like a sacred area that we put in our workshop–
Nana: And so they will approach that and sign that of their own free will. We move ourselves out of that space. In other words, we’re deliberately remove ourselves and busy ourselves with doing other stuff while they’re signing that covenant, so that it’s clear that this covenant they themselves have do of their own free will. There have been times when couples have not felt as though, at the end of the workshop, that they wanted to do that.
Dr. Gayle: And are they able to add other things to their covenant?
Nana: Well, not on this because our thing is already printed out–
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Nana: So I if they did it would be something verbal.
Dr. Gayle: How long are your workshops? Is it one day, two days a week?
Nana: Well, we do the one day intensives, which go for about–let me see how many hours would that be? I guess about a good eight hours, eight to nine hours.
Dr. Gayle: Oh, wow.
Nana: Yeah, and we take breaks though. We take breaks. We use music. We have a lot of movement. We do a lot of touch and un-touch exercises. We do a lot of role play. We keep it really interesting, because we know that different people learn different kinds of ways, so we try to use all the different kinds of approaches to learning and for people to get the information.
Frank: You discussed faithfulness as a part of the covenant, how do you work with Poly relationships?
Nana: You know, I’ve been working with–
Dr. Gayle: I’ve been waiting for you to bring that in somehow as a segue.
Nana: I had a family that are in polygamist relationships–
Nana: And so we’ve been really talking and trying to work out how exactly we would really manage that and though no one has really come forth to really partake in any workshop, which I would do just for them or just for them or another polygamist family, that thought that one of the best ways would be to really do a workshop with each of the other partners.
Frank: Each of them, meaning the one side–so, if it’s a polygamist relationship, the man and each one of the partners?
Nana: Yes. However, not at the same time.
Frank: Not at the–
Dr. Gayle: So it’s the husband and each wife–
Frank: At different times?
Dr. Gayle: At separate times?
Nana: Exactly and that’s seems to be the one that has been okay with two of the families who I’ve spoken to. Even though they haven’t come forward yet.
Frank: Does divorce mean that the relationship didn’t work out?
Nana: Does divorce mean that the relationship did not work out?
Frank: Or did it simply change?
Nana: You know, I’m going to give you a little aphorism that I have discovered in the course of doing these workshops and that is that issues never go away–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Nana: And relationships are forever. So even in divorce, it’s still a relationship with that other person. Hopefully it’s an amicable one. It has turned into an amicable one where people can at least talk to each other respectfully and respect and think about the good times that were in that relationship.
Dr. Gayle: Now let me ask you this, is that only for people that have been married? Do those relationships never end or is that consistent for relationships where people are just dating, like long-term; they live together, they have children together?
Nana: No relationships are forever. You can go down to D.C. court, DC superior court and get married. The court could–two of my children, two of my children, they get married at the court and then came back and had a more formal kind of a celebration. So, there’s legal aspect to marriage, there’s a cultural, spiritual aspect to marriage, there’s certainly–it’s how you define marriage. It’s how you define marriage.
If one’s definition is a religious one or if one’s definition is a legal one–there’s some people aren’t extremely inclined towards religious ceremonies who can go down to the court and get married.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Nana: So the marriage is really the commitment between the two people or the covenant between the two people.
Dr. Gayle: Right, because at once upon a time, I was married and, myself and that person, we were in a marriage group. My friends had–and they still do carry on this marriage group. So, one of the couples in the group stated that they believe that you’re married spiritually. They believe that you’re connected spiritually, you’re married spiritually and what you just stated, going to the courthouse is just a formal piece of paper, right? So, with regards to that aspect, it kind of seems like relationships go on if you’re spiritually connected wherein if it’s just a piece of paper, you don’t share anything, you don’t share children. There’s no need for that relationship to carry on.
Nana: I think that everybody who’s ever been in a relationship remains a part of us. Yeah and the whole is thing is really–one of the things that I have talked about with people and people have asked me about and I’ve helped with. I have actually had people ask me to help them with separating–
Nana: Yeah, ending the relationship.
Dr. Gayle: And what does that look like? How do you go about that? What are the steps?
Nana: I believe that the healthy way would be to talk about what has happened–first of all–positive within the relationship. It’s always a positive there somewhere and what are the things that did not go well and–
Dr. Gayle: Even when you’re separating, what positive and what and–
Nana: Yes, there’s always something that was–first of all, for yours to have come together–when I’m talking about “you all,” I don’t mean you and your husband.
Dr. Gayle: Right, right, right.
Nana: I mean generally–
Dr. Gayle: Generally speaking.
Nana: Generally speaking, there’s something that attracted you all together at one time. There was a point and time when you could not wait to see each other again, where you broke out in a sweat, your pulse went up, the whole shebang. so sometimes it’s very important–
Dr. Gayle: Hypothetically speaking.
Dr. Gayle: Hypothetically speaking.
Nana: Hypothetically speaking, and one of the things we do in our workshop, is to really do some guided imagery and take people back to that point. The point where you really, really love that person, you really, really wanted to be with that person. A lot of times we put that on the back shelf and though I have yet to do it, I’ve been asked to do the separation ceremony, I would first take the persons back to the point where they first realized that was who they wanted to be with.
Dr. Gayle: Now, is the subconscious goal for separation ceremony to ultimately have the people come together since you stated that you oftentimes see a lot of the persons that you marry, two or three years later, they’re divorced. So, is your ultimate subconscious goal is have these people recognize what it is that initially attracted them to each other?
Nana: And what they learn from the situation. A lot of times they don’t realize that we learn something from every situation that we’re in. And hopefully, it helps people to understand they got something out of it. What they got out of it may be what to do differently next time or they may have gotten out of it, what not to do. And they may have gotten three or four really beautiful children out of it, and so we really try to get people to see the positives of that particular situation and to help them be able to resolve and come out of it with respect, with forgiveness, with the least amount of bitterness possible. And if there children are involved to realize that they still are going to be involved with each on a certain level as co-parents and that they need to really make a pact to deal with each other in a forgiving and positive way; and also to allow themselves and to allow each other to move on and establish new relationships.
Frank: You mentioned your children.
Frank: Let’s talk about co-parenting a little bit.
Frank: Co-parenting skills, what are some of those?
Nana: I would say in realizing that no one person has more right to the children than the other. And a lot of times, that’s a real struggle. I can understand why women may feel as though the child is more theirs than the dad’s, because the child is inside their body for almost a year. However, I think it’s very, very important that people realize that and accept, very important, that the child belongs to both persons and the child, his or herself, loves both their parents and should be encouraged to have contact and interaction with both parents, with both parents taking a vow of never ever saying anything negative about the other parent.
Dr. Gayle: I think that’s so important.
Dr. Gayle: Yeah.
Frank: Often people are able to get around “the children should be equally ours” issue by way of saying, “Well, the children are better off with me,” or “The children are abused by her or him.” How do you deal with that–what is it? What do I want to call it? That caveat that’s often used?
Nana: Well, what I tell people who are in that situation is that both parents have a right to that child and that child has a need for both parents. A lot of times we talk about boys and fathers, but they’ve done a lot of studies on girls and fathers and how–
Dr. Gayle: Absolutely.
Nana: And how their future success and relationships in life are really based upon their connection and relationship to their dads. So, I tell people the importance of a child having both the male and the female parent as part of their lives. I do, and for their growth and development. And also, generally speaking, people have to consider what does the child want and I try to encourage people and encouragement them to realize that they have a personal responsibility as a parent, regardless if somebody says, “You can do a better job.” Well, we cannot get away from our responsibilities to give that child the energy, the time, the love, the attention that he or she needs to grow in development in a healthy kind of way. So, that’s what I encourage–folks to co-parent.
Frank: Some parents are able to indoctrinate their children into believing the other parent isn’t a good one, how do you deal with that?
Nana: I tell people that that is the totally inappropriate, incorrect thing for them to do, that–
Dr. Gayle: Now, let’s throw in the fact that either parent, whoever is supposed to be paying child support, they don’t pay child support, they don’t come pick you up, they don’t visit, they don’t do this and that. How do you still encourage the primary parent to not talk negatively and speak out negatively about that other parent?
Nana: Because they have a responsibility to help that child to respect that parent and that parent needs to be confronted one-on-one, needs to–if there’s any real action that needs to be taken, they should do that. But in terms of the child having a positive attitude, a positive relationship, a positive kind of opinion about his or her parent, whatever the good that they can find to say about that parent is what they should do and it’s and it’s very, very important for that child.
Frank: Very nice.
Nana: Yeah, very important.
Frank: Separation loss and grief, that’s a big part of what you cover during your workshops. Would you talk a little bit about that?
Nana: Well, I’ll share something personally with you. It took me about 10 years to totally recover from my divorce.
Frank: And recovery looked like what?
Nana: Feeling balanced, feeling confident, feeling on point. I mean, just feeling whole
Dr. Gayle: So how long were you married the first time?
Nana: Oh, for well over 20 years.
Dr. Gayle: Oh, wow, okay.
Dr. Gayle: So you were married for 20 years and it took you 10 more years to recover from that?
Nana: Yeah, to feel whole as a person again.
Dr. Gayle: Okay.
Nana: And I think that’s true of a lot of people and they need to really work with that and to work with the grieving process of the loss and allow themselves to move on. Because when you don’t really go through a healing process, what happens is you stay stuck in the past.
Dr. Gayle: Exactly.
Nana: And I always talk about and I always think about when I was coming up, my dad was seldom home.
Dr. Gayle: Your dad was what now?
Nana: Seldom home.
Dr. Gayle: Okay.
Nana: More not home than home.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Nana: And so I was around my mom and her girlfriends a lot and I would hear them talk about what this person did to them, what that person did to them like that, like that, like that. And then when I got older as a teenager, I realized that they were talking about stuff that happened to them 20 or 30 years ago.
Dr. Gayle: That they were still holding onto?
Nana: Still holding onto and that’s why we have to realize that we’ve got to get to the forgiveness. We’ve got to do the forgiveness, we’ve got to recognize that we are grieving and that’s where the anger comes from a lot of times.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Nana: And move on. It’s very, very important that we realize, okay, we’ve had a breach in a relationship, we’ve had a disruption in a relationship, we’re feeling a sense of loss and we need to really take a look at what part did we have in it, what part did the other person have in it? What did we learn from it? How are we going to move forward in terms of establishing our relationships differently and not do the same things we did last time that we may have been a part of this? And that’s not to say that there might be–we never want to blame the victim but at the same time we want to help people to try to understand what may have been happening with them, what maybe happened to the other person or maybe what happened within the relationship.
First of all, infidelity is a symptom. So, we try to get people to really begin to understand what may have been going on with them, with the other person or within the relationship and to really try to learn and move on from it. And that’s why I separate the loss and grief within relationships. It’s very, very important and why forgiveness is at the very, very core of it. Forgiving the other person and forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to move to both in space and in time, to move forward to life.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with Akan priest and the host of various martial workshops, Nana Kwabena Brown. Once again, please tell our listeners how they can find you and learn about your marital workshops.
Nana: Okay, please give us a call on 202-678-3100 and please go to nyamahealingservices.eventbrite.com and that will give you most of the information that you need on us. And by all means, feel free to either couples coaching or couples counseling to give a call on 202-678-3100.
Dr. Gayle: Okay great, thanks. I want to continue talking about the grieving issue and forgiveness for a bit. I think that’s so relevant. I remember when I was going through my situation, my mom told me, “Divorce is worse than a death, because when in death the person is gone forever, wherein divorce person’s still here.” You have to deal with them and deal with your issues and that relationship and possibly seeing them again in the community or what have you. So, what steps do you go through to get people through the grieving process?
Nana: Well, I would say a couple of things. One, what did you get out of this? What did you learn? What did you learn about yourself and this situation? Have you run into similar situations with previous partners? A lot of times people are unaware of or unwilling to accept that they have been with the same kind of person each and every time. And they have to ask themselves why. What is it that you’re trying to heal? What is it that you’re replicating and is the replication of behavior in a relationship, is it helping you? And are you preparing yourself for the next relationship where if there’s things you need to do differently or where do you need to look at yourself differently, are you able and are you willing to do that? And then again, I come back to, what did you get out of this? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about life in terms of this relationship, because each relationship teaches you something?
Frank: I want to interject, what did you get out of being in that relationship? Many of us don’t ever ask that question or get the answer.
Nana: That’s very, very true.
Dr. Gayle: Besides children.
Nana: Very, very true.
Dr. Gayle: That’s all people tend to say. “Well, we had beautiful kids together.” Like what did you get other than financial and tangible items; a house, a car, alimony, if that’s what you got, and children? I like that Frank. Finally we agree.
Nana: I agree, I agree, I agree. And a lot of times we–if you look at this journey of life, sometimes you look at it in overly small segments as opposed to a broader picture of growth and development and the expansion of ourselves as human beings. Sometimes it’s very, very important to take a look at what have we gotten from this? What have we learned about ourselves? What have we learned about life? How has this helped to make us a better person? And what are we going to do differently next time in preparing for our relationships, like coming to these kind of workshops and listening to Frank love? These are really, really important things; to begin to think differently, to do things a little bit differently the next time. Believe that we’ll improve the next time.
Frank: Well, I got to tell you, I’m a little irritated right now, because–
Dr. Gayle: Oh, here we go.
Frank: Dr. Gayle has agreed with me and that’s just–
Dr. Gayle: That’s just–that just ain’t right.
Frank: I’ll keep her around for this. Now I got one thing that I know she disagrees with me on–
Dr. Gayle: Let’s hear it.
Frank: And I have said there’s no safety in relationships. Do you believe that there are victims, and it’s not quite the same, but do you believe that there are victims in relationships?
Nana: There can be.
Frank: Let’s hear it.
Nana: There can be if we have allowed ourselves to get into the pattern of not being balanced and fair in a relationship. Balanced and fair in terms of our partner and balance and fair in terms of ourself and always making sure that we do things, which according to our particular set of standards, rules and regulation of life that we are following those in terms of how we interact with our significant other.
And what happens is that quite often people either give too much or give too little and repeatedly do that. And the only thing–let me issue an aphorism that one of my colleagues gave me and that is that when we give people what they want without getting what we want and we do that consistently, we’re going to end up being a very, very angry person. So, it’s very, very important in stating what the expectations are within the relationship, being fearless, as anti-fear as you can be and sticking to that standard. And if you stick to that standard and at any time that you deviate from it or you feel as though that the person that the person who you’re with deviates from it–and this is why we have the relationship meetings, because there has to be one standard within that relationship that you both co-create and share from your individual standards. That if people are adhering to that in a fair and balanced kind of way, then it’s really challenging and difficult to become a victim or become victimizer.
Frank: Well in the scenario that you noted who is the person who is giving the other what they want and not getting what they want? Who are they the victim of?
Nana: I’m going to say two things. They’re the victim in that relationship and they’re their own victim, because that the pattern they probably have had and have probably have acted out on for most of their life.
Dr. Gayle: Right, because people oftentimes play a role. You learn to play a role growing up in your nuclear family. You learn to be a victim, you learn to be the outcast, you learn to be the person that is the go-getter, the aggressive one, so you carry that pattern on into adult relationships. And so you have to, at some point, learn to take control of your own responsibility and be responsible for your own actions. And that’s why I’ve heard and I’ve been taught, you give 100 percent whether you get that back in return, everyone in the relationship has to give a 100 percent to that person to help that–to help yourself and also to help your relationship foster.
Nana: Right, I agree and also to really work on your own personal self-esteem and value so that you don’t mind holding people accountable for what you believe to their inappropriate unfair behavior.
Dr. Gayle: Now let’s talk a minute about if you, at some point, gain insight, right, into, “Well this is the relationship pattern I’ve been carrying on for such a long time,” how do we then and if it’s something that you don’t like, right, how do you then learn to change that or how do you teach people to learn change that behavior pattern?
Nana: I do–a person the mirror exercise.
Dr. Gayle: Right. Now, I know what that is. Can you explain that our listeners and to Frank?
Nana: Looking at that person in the mirror, loving that person in the mirror, forgiving that person in that mirror, knowing that that person in the mirror has worth, has value that can never change, never, never change. I tell people, “If you are a hundred dollar bill that is folded, mutilated, neglected, abused and thrown to the ground, just like a hundred dollar bill that you do that with, your value can’t change. Your value cannot change.” And so, we start with really telling people that they are valuable, that they are divine in nature, that they’re unique and special in unique ways; that they’re capable of receiving love, capable of giving love and deserving of love and good and positive kinds of behavior from other people. And that they should, by all means, give it and accept nothing less.
Frank: If we can, let’s switch gears just for a moment and let’s talk about the Akan tradition. What is that?
Nana: The Akan tradition is that which is a cultural group that is in West Africa; primarily within Ghana and Ivory Coast West Africa. It’s a very, very ancient tradition. Those who are the Akans originally lived in Upper Egypt, which is in the lower part of Egypt and who migrated from east to west across the Sahara to Niger and somewhere around 1200 dropped down and moved towards the coast of West Africa. And so it’s a very, very spiritual ancient tradition that has it’s roots in ancient Kemetic culture and also to a great extent in Judaic culture and it posits a belief and respect in a Creator God, a reverence for one’s ancestors and a belief and a reverence for other spiritual forces called *[Abba Soom] sp 52:43, which are equivalent to what other people would call angels, etc. And it’s a way of life. It’s a way of respecting one another. It’s a way of being in harmony and really putting an importance on relationships. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Nana: And maintaining and sustaining healthy relationships with yourself, with your family, with the Creator and with the planet earth itself.
Frank: Thank you. Last week we had all Hell break loose in the studio. We were talking about Shorty Lo. A gentleman, a rapper who had a show about–it was called “All Babies Mamas,” and it was about he and his well–I don’t think they, all the of the women he had children with were going to be a part of the show but it was about him and a lot of the women he had children with and how they got along and–
Dr. Gayle: Please tell him how many.
Frank: There were 11 children, 10 women.
Dr. Gayle: Ten baby mamas. How ignorant does that sound?
Frank: Let’s not load the question. How about we just say, “What are your thoughts on such a scenario?” The show never aired. It gained a great bit of momentum by way trying to have it cancelled and it worked. So the show never aired and would love to hear your thoughts on just a scenario of that nature.
Dr. Gayle: Mind you, these were all African American women and one rapper, African American dad, if you want to call him that. Sperm donor.
Frank: I wonder where Dr. Gayle stands.
Nana: Oh, my God. Well, there’s a lot to say about that and I would say to be a father means that you spend time with a child. That’s what it means, that you give that child time, attention, love, economic support, etc. So, I think that would probably be the first thing that I would be interested in knowing and is he and does he with–you said 11 children?
Frank: Eleven children.
Dr. Gayle: Ten different baby mamas.
Nana: Does he spend time with each of those children? There’s 30 days in the month, does he give each of those children at least one day with just himself?
Dr. Gayle: And he has a 19 year old girlfriend.
Frank: Well, she’s not answering it. He asked a question and–but all we saw was the trailer and based on what was on the trailer, it appeared that he had relationships with all of his children.
Dr. Gayle: It didn’t.
Frank: It did not?
Dr. Gayle: No.
Frank: Oh boy.
Dr. Gayle: He has to work at some point and as Mr. Brown just stated there are only–what? Thirty to 31 days–28 to 31 days in a month, so half of that is already gone because he has to work, he has 11 kids.
Frank: Work days can be divided in three, not in half.
Dr. Gayle: And I’m certain that all those baby mamas are not located in the same area.
Frank: Oh my–okay, alright, alright. Speaking of children–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Frank: Let’s talk a little bit about teen defiance. We talked about co-parenting, we talked about children. Generally speaking, how do you deal with teenagers and the defiance that they bring often?
Nana: Well, I think that–and it’s funny you mentioned that, because I’m doing a special program at a foster agency, which is just helping to manage teenagers. We have to realize that it’s a normal stage of development for teenagers to exercise their independence, their individualism–
Dr. Gayle: Their autonomy is developmental.
Nana: Exactly and it’s part of the behavior and you add to that the tremendous influx of natural hormones and chemicals into their bloodstream, into a brain that has not completely developed, years away from being developed–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Nana: And you have to really just have some really, really good, strong skills. And again, primary [motor] 57:04 skills is communication, another one is really knowing the difference between discipline and punishment, which is very, very important. What do we–
Frank: What is the difference?
Nana: Well, discipline is defined as–you know when you’re disciplining well when a person has learned something and they will carry out that thing even in your absence that you have conveyed to them by word, by modeling, etc. In other words, you don’t have to be there for them not to smoke a joint or two do drugs or to do something that’s going to hurt them physically, emotionally, otherwise, because you’ve taught them and it’s becoming *[cockaded] 57:42 within inside of them.
Punishment is you have to be around or it has to be a fear of you being around or a fear of some kind of serious kinds of repercussions. And so, disciplining means that you have raised your child with the kinds of principles, values and beliefs and also to love and care about you as a person that really, really has a big impact upon their behavior, what they will do and what they will not do.
Frank: I really appreciate that distinction.
Nana: Yeah, it’s a big job. I mean, it’s a really, really–marriage and parenting are the two most important jobs any of us can really have. And that’s why having the skills for them is so really important.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’ve been talking with Akan priest and the host of a variety of marital workshops, Nana Kwabena Brown. Last time, please tell our listeners how they can find you and learn about your marital workshops.
Nana: Okay, I would like you to go to the following website: nyamahealingservices.eventbrite.com and give a call at any time on 202-678-3100.
Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed the pillars of a successful relationship, co-parenting and we rounded it off with teen defiance. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have talking with Nana Kwabena Brown about marriage and relationships. As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that will 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/relationshipflove, on twitter at @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. Until next time, keep rising, This is Frank Love.