Ray Rice and Mark Fuller are not “NFL” Problems

mark_fuller_mug_shot_atlanta-35217-2014_08_11_14_31_20-142Sigmund Freud once said, “The first man to hurl a word instead of a stone had evolved.” Clearly, as a culture, we are watching a major evolution. We are on a mission to stop fists. The media spotlight is laser focused on the issue of intimate partner violence. I use the term IPV because for the first time in history there are more unmarried adults in America than married.

Ray Rice is the new monster for the cause. The new target. The new face of a misunderstood and feared lover who could flip and nearly kill. He’s every woman’s worst nightmare. But, may I offer, Ray Rice is also another convenient scapegoat. Like Chris Brown five years ago, and OJ Simpson twenty years ago, these men, whose actions we abhor and whose obvious crimes are clearly punishable are taking the well-deserved hit for the faults of a culture at large.

We raised these men. They grew up in our village.

If you haven’t noticed, the three notorious domestic violence offenders I just mentioned are black. This fact makes the conversation even more uncomfortable. For the few racist dinosaurs among our citizenship, it may cause a smug assurance that the problem isn’t in their backyard. This is an “NFL” problem. We all know what that’s code for.

Indeed, the National Organization for Women is calling for the NFL commissioner to step down. “The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms.”

It would be so simple. If the NFL were the only culprit, we could fire their leader, wipe our hands and close up shop.

But then there was this yesterday.

CNN contributor, LZ Granderson, took that spotlight and defused it until our own toes crept into its beam. His story yesterday was about blonde, blue eyed, Mark Fuller, a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Alabama. On a Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta a 911 dispatcher heard these words from Fuller’s wife:

“Help me, please. Please, help me. He’s beating on me,”

You can read LZ’s full column here, but here’s the gist that involves us all:

“If the NFL’s pathetic handling of the domestic violence charges involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy makes you angry, then you’re going to blow a fuse over Fuller. He is poised not only to have this horrific scene expunged from his record but to return to the bench. The only body that can remove him is Congress, and no significant steps in that direction have been taken.”

You read correctly. We have a working judge, about to decide cases that include domestic violence. Congress is telling the NFL to clean house while their own house is knee deep in, well, my grandmother would call it “cow paddy.”

Here’s the uncomfortable stone that no one wants to hurl. Intimate partner violence crosses all social, ethnic, economic lines. Period. In fact, middle and upper class victims are often trapped by excruciating social shackles and have fewer resources available to them.

This is the great American problem. Not just the NFL problem. Whatever that’s code for.

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Ray Rice Appealing Suspension. #WhyHeHits.

1342481785_7079_Ray-Rice_01-300x286ESPN reports today that Ray Rice is appealing his suspension from the Baltimore Ravens for knocking his fiancé unconscious, under the grounds that “he was punished twice for the same offense.” Whatever the NFL decides, twenty years after the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and the ensuing OJ Simpson trial, we, as a culture are still confused about intimate partner violence.

A twitter hashtag flood called #WhyIStayed has victims desperately attempting to describe the invisible shackles that bind them into a cycle of love and violence. Others are firing back with tweets that this is the wrong conversation and the hashtag #WhyHeHits has emerged. Still others are taking the eye-for-an-eye argument, reminding us that women hit too. (Surely a 200 pound man has the ability to walk away. When a woman lies on the floor unconscious, she can’t retreat.) But all these conversations are the wrong ones.

If one in four American women will become victims of intimate partner violence in their life time, then one in four men are potential offenders. I remind you, these are not crazed psychopaths living on the street. These are our brothers, and fathers, and uncles, and boyfriends, and husbands. They are not monsters. In fact, to outsiders they may appear to be good boyfriends and good husbands. And too many women who had a father who abandoned them as a child, think long and hard before tearing a father from the lives of their children. But I am digressing here, into that #WhySheStays conversation.

The much bigger question for our society as a whole is, what are we doing wrong? How is it that twenty-five per cent of our boys are being raised to strike instead of negotiate? How is it that the only tool available to many men in moments of deep emotional frustration, is the fist? And, trust me, there is no environment more frustrating than our personal romantic relationships. It’s a hallmark of intimacy — we save the most sadistic parts of our personality for those we love the most. If our lover is still present after the infant inside emerges to take a tantrum, then we know it is real love. But violence is more than a tantrum. It is a the act of shutting down a perceived attack that hurts more than words. Too many men are not taught to manage their feelings. Boys are taught that crying is weak. Sharing prickly feelings like fear and shame are unmanly. And, because women excel at verbal communication, men may feel ill-equipped in comparison, when trying to express their feelings.

And there’s another problem. We teach boys to hit. When a parent uses corporal punishment, they are assaulting a tiny body full of love and trust and wonder. Some of my social media followers are quick to point out that not all children who were hit grow up to be hitters. While I can’t say that all abused boys grow up to be abusers, we know that abuse has devastating effects on the psyches of all. Let’s start a new hashtag today #StopHittingBoys. It’s time we stop raising domestic violence offenders. And we owe it to our boys (and girls) to help them make sense of their emotions.

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When It Hurts The Most, You’re Growing The Most

Fumo dalle orecchieRelationships, whether they be business, romantic or family, are the single biggest environment that we place our tender psyches. Supportive relationships can help us grow, thrive and even live longer. But relationships filled with constant conflict, cruel put downs, or dismissive comments can actually make us sick. Simply put, there is probably no bigger stressor for our bodies than a bad relationship.

That’s why we need to listen to out body when our head and heart are wanting to stay attached. Our body doesn’t lie to us. In fact, stomachs are particularly clairvoyant. Psychologists have long referred to our intestine as our second brain. It’s where the term “gut feeling” comes from.

Here’s an exercise for those wrestling with the “should I stay or should I go” debate.

1. Lie down and close your eyes.
2. Take ten deep breaths. Relax fully.
3. Picture your pain. Check in with your body. Find it and pay attention to it.
3. Now imagine your life without the person you are tangling with.
4. Pay attention to your stomach — does it ease ever-so-slightly?

If the answer is “yes,” then it’s time to listen to your body. There’s an old saying, “When it hurts the most, you are growing the most.” In other words, personal growth isn’t pain free. In fact, when you are in intense psychological pain, you may be on the cusp of a big break through.

The only mistake in life, is making the same mistake again. You can learn through every relationship. Congratulations. You’re growing.

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Is a Cell Phone Addiction Real?

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.20.28 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.21.47 AMRecently on an episode of Nicole Richie’s hilarious VH1 reality show, Candidly Nicole, I moderated a group therapy session for people addicted to their iPhones. While the scene (watch it below) was a humorous look at all the ways that cell phone use can become dysfunctional — users admitting to using while in church, at funerals, while riding bikes, and while having sex — there is a dark truth in the comedy.

We know that cell phones and the internet are hurting our relationships. Digital communication has replaced talking and internet dating sites, with their buffet of romantic choices, have created a kind of Love A.D.D. But, aside from our intimate relationships, our iPhones have created a new kind of anxiety, one that bubbles up when our phones are powered down and our human desire for attachment distorts us into thinking a cell phone is a secure attachment figure. There’s even a pop culture term for this anxiety: FOMO — fear of missing out.

But if we are to psychologically survive as humans, we must program or be programmed. And, like our cravings for salt, sugar, fat, and even sex, the fittest will survive. And being fit means having an ability to self regulate. To control ourselves. Is a cell phone addiction real? Well, it isn’t a fully identified diagnosis…yet. But if your cell phone use has even one of the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for substance abuse, then, yes, you are addicted to tech. Check the list below. I changed the word “substance” to “technology.”

1. Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, home such as repeated absences or poor work performance related to technology use; technology-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household

2. Frequent use of technology in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when using technology)

3. Frequent legal problems (e.g. arrests, disorderly conduct) for substance technology use.

4. Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of technology use)

Now, to make light of a sometimes, serious subject, here’s my therapy session with Nicole Richie on VH1′s Candidly Nicole.

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Tickets Now Available For The Great Love Debate!

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 10.45.03 AMDo you live in Dallas, Austin, D.C., NYC, Nashville, LA, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, or Chicago? Then, I’m coming to you! As the host of The Great Love Debate, a unique town-hall style event, I will be joined by leading local experts and YOU to dish, discuss, dissect, and debate the current state of the date. Join hundreds of your city’s most eligible bachelors and dynamic single women at The Great Love Debate. I want to hear from you.

Get full schedule and tickets HERE!

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