Tag Archives: communication

Marriage counselling part 1: clearing the decks, building skills


My husband and I have been going to couples counselling now for around three months, seeing the fabulous Frances Amaroux who specialises in working on relationships. She has chops as a poly counsellor and understands the intricacies and complexities of building relationships within a poly framework, whatever that may be for the couple concerned.

When we first began seeing her, our relationship was under a lot of stress. We’d just lost our baby in early pregnancy and were trying to unpack the fallout. My husband was struggling with the anxiety of going through the visa process to qualify for permanent residency. We’d sunk into a state of constant conflict and competitive arguments, with a big empathy gap on both sides (despite me thinking at the time that my husband was the only one lacking empathy – I’ve since realised I had some work to do as well). Neither of us was enjoying the day to day of relating to each other because of some serious relationship skills deficits on both sides. Our first appointment was pretty rough, and revealed starkly just how much we were struggling.

Frances was robustly caring, yet pretty frank that we had a lot of work to do. She was also frank about all that we had going for us. She sort of presented us with a choice: break up, or work on our relationship. Neither of us wanted to break up. We just wanted to not feel so miserable all the time.

She took us back to the basics – she talked about the three circles to be cared for: our individual circles or “I spaces” and then the third circle of our relationship or “we space”. I know, it sounds hippy dippy but hey, it’s good stuff to contemplate and getting ‘back to basics’ has been good for us, and in three years we’d just been feeling it out and hoping for the best. She quickly assessed some of our biggest hurdles, and gave us simple tools to start taking them apart.

Thankfully, both of us had a starting point of goodwill, and I’m grateful that’s the case. Knowing that about ourselves, and each other, is the best start. Cunning Minx, a poly commentator who has been podcasting with the amazing Poly Weekly for over 10 years, mentioned in a pod-cast I was listening to the other day that “the assumption of good faith” was a really important ingredient in communication and negotiations. That really struck me and I’ve taken it quite to heart. I now try every day to assume my husband is working on things in good faith, and try in as many ways as I can, to reassure him I am doing the same. That assumption makes a HUGE difference – because how can you possibly work out a problem if you’re convinced your partner is out to get you? Instead if you’re uplifted by the assumption that you’re both trying your level best to work things out with each other’s well-being in mind, you’re liberated from a certain cynicism that really shrinks trust.

We both love each other enormously, and thanks to Frances we’re no longer in constant “emergency” mode. We’re getting increasingly skilled at checking our ego at the door of our marriage and instead focusing on being well in ourselves, taking care of each other’s wellbeing, and taking care of the “third circle”. We’ve concentrated on being ambiently aware of each other’s mental health, how the other person’s day is going, and we’ve also started to assess our individual happiness – how much we are taking care of ourselves personally (because this has a huge impact on how we relate to each other, obviously.) I think my husband has been doing too many practical things for our relationship, and not taking enough time for exercise or hobbies, and he is starting to address that. I’m trying to take better care of my health, and I’ve taken up crochet, which really comforts and engages me. Having a hobby again is great – something just for me. Poly is still kind of on the backburner, but is on the “discuss again soon” list now that things are settling down. Getting our relationship right before engaging with others has been a priority.

Some of the key skills and ideas we’ve learned include:

  • The importance of developing ambient empathy – being aware of each other’s wellbeing and state of being as a basis for making decisions and communicating with each other. We do this by checking in through the day with texts, phone calls, emails or whatever works and using a numbers system – asking how each other are on a scale from “1-10”. That establishes a bit of a baseline from which we can ask questions. “How come you’re only feeling a 5? What’s happening today?” Or “I’m glad you’re an 8! I’m a 9 because I’m getting a lot done at work today.”
  • Not flooding. I’m a BIG flooder. When D asks me a question or we discuss something I TALK AND TALK AND TALK and he only really processes the first two things I’ve said. Using the numbers system above helps make emotional information a bit more concise, and then he can seek out more clarity, little by little, and get a picture of what’s going on that he actually understands. Nothing is gained by me talking if he is unable to process what’s being said. So slowing down and chunking out information is important.
  • Active listening. A lot of lip service is paid to this, and sure I’ve HEARD the term a million times but actually practising active listening well is pretty hard. What is active listening (other than something I need to practice a lot more?) It is when somebody talks and you reflect back to them, paraphrasing and without judging or commenting or adding to it, what they’ve said to make sure you’ve fully understood them. They can then clarify if you’ve not totally grasped it. When you have fully understood them, you can move on to the next point. “So what I hear you saying is that you felt pressured when I asked how long it would be before you can get your citizenship?” Reflect, seek clarity, reflect. Rinse and repeat. It seems like such a simple thing but it really reduces the chances of conflict based on misunderstandings.
  • Owning your shit and not talking for others. This is pretty important because we were both shocking for it. Rather than just talk about how we personally felt about something, we were talking about what each other thought/felt, which was causing a lot of aggrieved feelings. Pretty much nobody likes being spoken for, especially when the other person is making a bunch of negative assumptions. Increasingly, we just try to speak about our own perspective and then inquire as to what each other are actually thinking/feeling.
  • Topping up on affection. Frances encouraged us to keep, as much as possible and is consensual, a constant drip feed of affection and care flowing between us. It could be something small – a touch of a knee, a kiss on the head, a nice friendly text, a shared joke, a cup of tea made, or generally reminding the other person you think they’re pretty cool. Keeping the other person aware that you love them, and they are loved, means the “trust account” gets filled up all the time. When shit hits the fan, we are finding we are now so much more resilient and accommodating of each other because of that baseline of care and tenderness.

I’m really glad we’ve started this process in the aftermath of the loss in early pregnancy of our baby, Elliot, because I think it will make us stronger parents. Both of us (and some of our friends if I’m being honest) were feeling scared about the consequences for a child of our poor communication; my pregnancy with Elliot had really highlighted some of the major flaws in how we connected. And rather than split up and waste the last three (mostly really enjoyable) years, we decided to work on our stuff collectively so we could deal with the issues at hand before I got pregnant again. I am so glad we did! Things are looking so much better, and now that we’re feeling functional again and can go weeks without conflict (and when conflict arises, we are dealing with it SO much more carefully and thoughtfully) I feel we have a fighting chance of having a relationship that actively supports the well-being of another life.

We just got the great news that my husband has been made a permanent resident, which is a huge weight off his and our shoulders. Now that lots of pressures are off, we can breathe a little, and try to enjoy each other as we prepare for the next stage of our lives together.

Next up on this blog: negotiating “job roles” as we embark on our next pregnancy! TBC…


Active consent and Aspergers: a wobbly week

hands and ringsI’ve written here before about navigating a marriage with my rather wonderful ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder/Aspergers) partner and I guess it’s time for another installment because…what a week.

A week ago my husband and I decided to have children next year which is a massive step for us – and not without complications. Since it’ll be a non-neurotypical pregnancy all round – with one partner with Bipolar and PTSD on a cocktail of meds and the other with high functioning ASD – there’s been plenty of reason for our mutual therapist to question the sanity of having offspring. We’re a fairly determined, hard-working and stubborn pair with a lot of community support though, so we tend to have a fuck-you attitude to suggestions that we not have a family because our brains were born queered.

Of course, life has a sense of humour so it was inevitable that we’d have some AS roadblocks through the week. Honestly, it felt a little like the universe was taking our thrilled enthusiasm and poking at it, grinning, sneering “oh YEAH? We’ll see about that.”

So what happened and what have I learned?

One of the biggest issues for all ASD+non-ASD romances is communication. Because my husband is high functioning and has loads of shields that helps him move in the world of human relationships without tripping the radar of NTs (neuro-typical people), I sometimes forget he has ASD. Seriously. I forget. The moment in which I remember feels like the most horrible, stomach turning moment, when all becomes frozen and fractious and there feels like no way out.

In this case, it was during a moment of getting-it-on. I thought we were running one intimacy script and he thought we were running another, and playfulness ended in the most awkward irritation you could imagine. My bratty, cutesy taunting was taken not as bratty, cutesy taunting but on face value as real meanness. Things that another partner would understand as play and silly cheek, based on a bunch of non verbal cues and context, my husband takes literally. And the first I knew of this was when he suddenly withdrew, became extremely cold and irritated and asked with a degree of hurt in his voice “what are you doing?

It felt like standing in the snow in a warm jacket, only to have it ripped away. My reaction was one of sudden emotional whiplash, and this small and seemingly unimportant interaction took on huge significance and became about ALL intimacy and the WHOLE relationship. I was hurt and he was hurt and everyone was having a bad time. The ensuing conversation was not the best, and we fell asleep feeling exhausted and pained – two people on different continents, staring across at each other in hostile rebuke and wretched mystery.

The morning brought more discord and my ramping PMS did not add coins to the situation at all. I was back in jesus-fuck-I-don’t-get-you land and he was feeling…well, I don’t want to speak for what he was feeling, but it appeared difficult. We walked to our morning bus holding hands, trying hard to reach over the water between our continents and mostly succeeding.

All that morning I felt so isolated. It is difficult knowing not one soul in my situation. I don’t know anyone with an ASD partner and that’s lonely at the best of times. When in crisis, it feels utterly bleak. I reach out to friends and feel met with either a rejection of my partner (which angers me – I don’t want to leave him, I want strategies to stay with him!) or a rejection of me for having feelings (because apparently anything less than a wholesale celebration of ASD and a suppression of the difficulties of loving these wonderful people is flawed). Both stances are fucked and unhelpful. And then, of course, there’s the friends too busy with their lives to give a shit because they have their own problems.

What I really need is just one damn friend who has an ASD partner, with whom I can have coffee, who will reflect back to me the mutuality of love and frustration that is this way of life. From whom I feel no judgment, and receive unequivocal support – not just of me, but of my marriage.

That night, we went to see a movie together because we love doing that. We splashed a little cash to do it, despite needing to save for our Europe trip in September, and it was seriously the best decision. Being able to bond again over something that we found emotionally neutral and fun, to see each other again as desirable and a comrade, to make out in the dark on Norton street…these were ways to meet in the middle, and not travel to poles apart.

We briefly discussed through the day by text, too, the idea of moving towards a more heightened active consent model. Inspired by an article I’d read about how very active consent is good for people with ASD who find negotiating these situations hard, I suggested we talk about it. It came out that the problem with the intimacy exchange where things had blown up was because my husband had just not known what the fuck was going on. In my mind, it was obvious, but it wasn’t to him.

To me it was incomprehensible that it wasn’t obvious but that’s where the divide between ASD thinking and non-ASD thinking comes in: what I can intuit is often a garbled non-language to my husband. He needs it stated, he needs the checkin, he needs the clear-cut discussion. He needs me to use a safeword or to signal that I’m playing before I play. Non-verbal cues that might just be enough with another partner are lost on him. He doesn’t do information that way. And while that’s completely excellent to know (now), I hadn’t known that before and adjusting to that new way of doing things requires practice and some thinking.

This morning we had another one of those overwhelming “different planet” discussions where I brought up where we were going towards active-consent practices and what we were reading/doing/thinking, really eager to do some work with him on it (I tend to get over-excited about relationship work and want to roll up my sleeves and get cracking right away).

Thrown, he became immediately stressed and hostile that I’d raised it in that moment, saying we had too much to do today. As the discussion wound on, with ebbs and flows of arrrgh, wtf, etc, it became apparent that the very same issue that had come up with the intimacy exchange 48 hours before had blocked us again. After some teariness and wariness of each other, he eventually stepped me through the fact that having no time to reflect and consider before entering into a difficult emotional discussion freaked him out immensely. In his mind, the plan of the day was eat pancakes, do dishes, hang laundry, do study…not discuss emotional things with no notice. The plan was disrupted and the plan was important, and disruptions to the plan were unacceptable or at the least really difficult.

Everything was ok once I understood this…not perfectly ok, or crytallised into easiness, but I could see how it had come to pass that this conversation (so easy and natural for me) was actually fairly horrifying for him.

I find it hard to admit just how much of the work we do is slowly skewing towards supporting the ASD perspective in our relationship, but in the end, that’s life. I am the more flexible one, thus I must bend. What else is there to do? I will feel angry and I will feel tired, but would I change out him for someone else? Fuck no. I love him for all his complexities, just as he loves me for mine. And there are many things about his ASD that make him a kickass partner, and much better for me than someone without ASD.

I can honestly say that despite the tears and the exhaustion, the week has rounded out with us both even stronger in our bond and our resolve to be our best selves for each other.

What’s my takeaway learning from this? It’s a little like a lot of what I’ve been reading on teh internets and more and more the penny drop moments that partners of an ASD cutie express really track for me too.

1. My partner needs notice before things that are potentially emotionally fraught. This includes intimacy – which is hard to read for a lot of us, but sometimes completely unfathomable for my partner. Active consent practices are something that can help – simplifying the feeling of ‘not knowing’ for him by integrating systematic checking in regardless of how time goes on, or however comfortable we feel. Rather than waiting for him to intuit, open up the floor for him to tell me and ask questions by starting a conversation every time we are close.

2. My partner needs notice before emotional discussions, to gather his thoughts and do reading, research or even just note what he’d like to say and feel prepared. I need to find out too what is happening in his head before emotional discussions. Does he have a script running that I’m disrupting? If the goal is a healthy, happy discussion, how can I help facilitate that and accommodate the fact that he has additional needs in these contexts?

3. Accept the ASD/non-ASD divide and the fact that there is inbuilt inflexibility in working on problems that mean things will tend to go towards accommodating the ASD perspective. Having to do a lot of work and make ‘concessions’ is part of the package. Rather than complain about the dark, light a candle, and if you just don’t want to deal with the dark, you know what you need to do. If leaving the relationship is really not your goal, then it is time to accept some things – and vent, sure, but ultimately work on your shit.

4. Find your people. This is my big project because I really feel like I don’t have anyone, yet, who I feel can support me well in this aspect of my relationship. And yeah, I feel pretty scared about that in the runup to having kids. So since I’m working on my shit, it really is time to make “finding a tribe” (so to speak) a bigger priority. Because fuck, coffee with another partner of an ASD person sounds like the biggest craving I have right now.

It’s all a continuous learning curve that leaves me very aware of just how deep my connection with my spouse runs. We stick out the hard times for each other consistently, and that’s what my grandparents and parents have taught me of love.

We are not mere mortals. We are something more when we are together, and that more is difficult to put into words. So instead of try, when I hit post on this post, I’m going to go give my husband a massive life-affirming hug.



The art of crying alone: living alongside an ASD partner

“He would always speak the language of the heart with an awkward foreign accent.” – Orson Scott Card.


The snowy, misty veils as you ascend Grouse Mountain, Vancouver.

My partner has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Specifically, in the old language before the nominally distinct branch was stricken from medical diagnosis, he has an informal diagnosis at a clinical level of high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.

This post is written about my feelings and experiences, not all feelings and experiences. It is not written to try and describe ASD. Nor is it written in a politically clean way – it is written as a partner, as a very close loved one, who struggles to share life with someone who has behaviour we may organise and label as ASD. There will be things I write here that are seen almost entirely from my flawed perspective and won’t reflect how my partner sees himself. Such is life.

Nothing here is intended to demonise him or say he is a bad person. He is, in fact, better than any of you. He is the best. And certainly the best thing that has happened to me.

I knew from early on in our romantic entwinement that Something Was Up. Despite my partner (D) being a romantic, exuberant, involved and cheeky playmate – and despite his clear and intimate fondness for me – there were times when he just didn’t seem to ‘get’ emotion. He was also very specific and organised about certain things, enjoyed routine just a little too much and didn’t like when it was thrown out of whack. He was prone to sensory overload – noise, lights, touch. He had a tendency to fixate upon details, thoughts and could talk me under a table on a subject if it was the current subject of focus.

All of this was interesting, but in the throes of feeling all-the-things I pretty much thought it was cute, and ignored it.

Then there was That Night Of Crying, and that was the night that I knew something was actually, properly up.

One of evening I was distressed while ill and trying to fill out a medical form so that I could get antibiotics and not miss my first day of work in a new job. It was late, and I was in a horrid pickle, and needed assistance. I asked my partner for help and he expressed slight grumbles due to needing to go to bed for work the next day. I felt positively awful – and a burden – and began to cry. Solidly, for a very long time. D watched me and said nothing, seemingly impassive. After much hard and increasingly hysterical crying without any physical or verbal comfort from him, I ended up feeling even more upset and said something about it, albeit in a grumpy and sad way. He replied that he didn’t know what to do, so he was just doing nothing. I sat outside of our door and continued to cry on my own. Eventually I came back to bed under my own steam, and lay beside him in bed – still with zero cuddles or comforting words or understanding forthcoming.

It was an eye opening night, and after seeing a therapist and undergoing some testing, he was diagnosed informally with ASD. He fits the bill of a high functioning ASD person to almost a tee – though of course any description you read lumps people’s symptoms into a wholistic mass. Few ASD people have *every* symptom, but he inhabits many of them. And so a journey of discovery and heartache began.

The biggest, most painful discovery was that I was in love with a person who in this moment was not capable of meeting my emotional needs during my most vulnerable moments. Normal life events where a little empathy goes a long way are constant sources of stress in our house – at the end of a gruelling work day when I’m blowing off steam and needed a big hug and unconditional support, I get cool critique and emotional remove.

When I’m depressed and sad, he often just doesn’t have the words, or even the right questions. He’s awkward, stilted, absent or glazed. I know he’s in there, and cares in an odd yet feeling way, but it’s hard to remember when you already feel isolated and trashed by your day. You just want a comrade, someone to be beside you with their own anger at your shitty day. Or someone who understands the love language of physical touch and the wonderful healing power of a hard, wordless bearhug.

What’s terribly hard about this is that I *know* he isn’t an emotionless robot. Far from it – he is full of love, cheekiness, amusement and despair as the next sod. He feels plenty, it just doesn’t filter outwards like me and neither does the information he receives generate a similar response. I know, for instance, he cares in an abstract way about my happiness, and can also parse that a hard day at work interferes with said happiness. But that’s about as far as it goes, because many people with ASD do better with global empathy than specific empathy that requires projected imagining. If he can’t picture himself even close to walking in my shoes, he can’t react genuinely and empathically to my specific experiences. It just leaves him cold.

All he can do is coolly analyse what seems accessible, so a rant about a coworker is digested between us in a barely interested academic style where he picks apart whether my actions and thoughts are logical in the same way we would take down a movie with analysis during a cab ride home. Critique and lack of perceivable connection are obviously not the best in terms of tender loving care. What comes across is an icy, immovable exterior and all feelings inside him seem hidden behind a veil of snow and mist I can’t reach through or push aside.

It seems that it takes me ramping up to a state of absolute hysteria before he feels he can spontaneously wrap his arms around me; that same gesture, if given three hours before, would have met the lion’s share of my emotional needs. Simple gestures seem as far away as a distant star. I’ve taken on board the many suggestions my therapist has, who treats both of us, though I’ve certainly been more dedicated to therapy (and kind of wonder what a mess I *would* be like, without it!) Yet these suggestions don’t seem to advance us much right now beyond acknowledging realities and having the balls to deal with it head on.

At the moment what I’m finding crushing are two things: firstly, imagining the future and secondly, the impact it has on my sense of reality.

My concerns for the future are obvious. If D and I are to have the family together that we so dearly want, then I worry for our kids. I don’t really do distant dads; our kids aren’t having one if I can help it. So if my darling husband, who I love more than he can actually conceive of inside his bright and beautiful brain, can’t handle an articulate and thoughtful me after a hard day – how is he going to deal with the irrational explosive bundle of a baby? I can say “give me a hug” but a baby just bellows and has inarticulate, heavy needs that are unreasonable and potent. They are noisy and confronting. They create chaos, they wreck routines. We talk about this and he worries too. There’s no answer, and while it seems my therapist is determined that I should never have children, I’m not giving up. (If my grown children should ever read this, know I loved you enough to defy Jo.)

A large part of having a child, for me, will be enduring a Bipolar pregnancy which by all descriptions will be a special hell. If I manage to make it un-medicated through the entire thing without a psychotic episode, manic episode or depressive episode, it’ll be a miracle and I’ll have to seriously reconsider my current lack of commitment to the church. But it is likely I will be a pretty hard to handle wife in that time, while I cook a baby. And I’ll have big, unruly emotional needs that will almost require their own raft of solar panels to power and right now I’m scared that he just won’t have it in him to support me.

Secondly, I am just so scared of my reality changing. If you’re denied for long enough of basic hugs and cheering up and connected response from someone you’re close to, you shut off from them (horrible and not good for intimacy) or I think you may start to believe you are in some way wrong for needing what you need. Right *now* I can say firmly that there’s nothing wrong with expecting your husband to be in your corner and be making the tea and saying “WHAT a DICK! UGH!” and scowling when you describe someone street harassing you. I get that this is a normal expectation. But over time, when I just fail to get it over a long period of time, perhaps I’ll start to think I’m unreasonable or irrational, or worse: that I’m too much. I spent almost all of my twenties trying to kill that mindset. I’m not giving it new life now.

After a night of sleep deprivation and sobbing – all very dramatic – I’m feeling tired of a seemingly intractable incompatibility and unsure right now of accessible solutions. Do I accept that living with ASD is just going to suck and deal with it? Do I try to get these needs met elsewhere? Do I become a zen monk who has no emotional needs? Do I prod my partner back into therapy for skills building and concrete strategies?

In the end, I only know one thing for sure: for better and for worse, my Michaela. In sickness and in health. I’m so far from done yet, though I may be limping a little.

Use your words: why opening your mouth is better than keeping it closed.

For Ange.

Anyone who has worked with children has probably heard the phrase ‘use your words’.

I’ve been in many situations as an educator where children passively accept patent disrespect from a social equal – I’m not referring to bullying, but friendship disputes that are clearly that – and lash out by hitting, kicking or biting the person. Spitting, throwing something at them.

Sometimes the stimulus is them having a desired object or activity denied them by a peer or an adult (by accident or intent), or a range of other real or perceived slights that cause them to experience unpleasant emotions.

Some children respond with a bright flare of violence. Some respond with passive aggression, insults, undermining the source of their discomfort. Others react by totally removing themselves – mutely recoiling and passively whimpering, often allowing the situation they dislike to continue.

As educators, we teach children a core principle that I really believe in: use your words.

This is early communication education. Outside of bullying and abuse where clear power imbalances operate to silence the victim, this phrase places part of the responsibility for negotiating difficult circumstances back on the person feeling upset. It requires the person to open their mouth and say how they’re feeling, and to accept that they must at least attempt the first and most basic part of conflict resolution.

Another part of this is the ‘stop, go, tell’ technique we teach from infancy. Both techniques are largely to teach children to resort to everything except violence first. If someone pushes in line and you know you were first you say ‘STOP! I don’t like that! I don’t want you to push in. I was first.’ If that doesn’t work, you ‘go’ by walking away. And if pursued, you tell an ally and they intervene on your behalf.

What you don’t do is keep your words inside you, and go from zero to sixty by clocking someone over the head because they pushed in line. This is a work in progress, but I have seen it work – slowly and over years in a child’s life.

So how are you using your words?

This week has been a reminder for me of the power and importance of communicating our feelings in a timely fashion. A dear, funny, clever friend of mine has been dealt a stunning blind-siding blow in the form of an unexpected divorce ultimatum from an uncommunicative husband. It seems that it was old news to him, and new news to her.

How does something like this happen? While I’m sure there are subtleties and complexities I can neither comprehend nor convey – for in every divorce there are delicacies and mysteries of the human heart known only to those involved – it seems communication was a cornerstone fuckup.

He didn’t use his words until the very last moment, which far from being the moment of truth was simply the moment of coming out from his hiding place. So much was hidden and removed from discourse.

My first girlfriend didn’t use her words. For months she was a mystery to me, hiding under the cloak of ‘I’m just a private person’. Ten years later, I’ve learned that when people say they’re too ‘private’ to tell you important things about themselves and their thoughts – while still enjoying close proximity to your tender core – it just means they’re dysfunctional.

Now, this is not to say you can’t be private in general. Of course you can – who (besides me, apparently) wants to broadcast the entirety of their daily life to the world? However, if those closest to you have no idea how you feel and what’s going on in your skull, that’s a problem.

And it extends also to how and when you communicate. My partners tell me when they’re feeling something important, even if it may come out a little wrong. Otherwise that pent up feeling may escalate to conclusions you didn’t know you were approaching, hot feelings that could have quietened given an earlier intervention.

By using our words, we acknowledge our reality as interdependent beings who need to ebb and flow into those around us, to be known and to defuse bombs and to enjoy a richer quality of life.

And for the tall humans who have been somehow broken to the point where they think they have no choice but to hit, hurt, scream or run away without talking – get yourself into therapy. Your actions have consequences and if you can’t effectively use your words, you need to get help to find out how.

When we reach adulthood we can ask for consideration in finding our voice. However, we are no longer ten years old, no matter how much we may feel so, inside. A 37 year old man is old enough to know, especially when being told, that he needs to accumulate the tools to open his mouth better.

And if we need no other motivation, it is that brokenness feeds other brokenness. Opening our mouths and talking about how we feel is probably one of the more important steps in arresting that flow.

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