I just broke a couple of my own rules, and here’s the lesson to be learned. It’s important to have a confidential consultant – either a paid counselor or someone in a professional position that requires confidentiality. I’m talking about a place where you can talk about something that you should be working through only with a person who is sworn to keep your issue confidential.

Two important rules (out of many) – two places (out of many) to be careful.

Mona’s broken rules.

AVOID TRIANGLES.  My own thinking convinced me I wasn’t getting caught in a triangle. Primarily my reason was that the issue involved me directly because of my own pain. But a good counselor would have pointed out to me that I was still creating a triangle.

TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION AFTER CONSIDERING ALL FACTORS: I should have spent time with a counselor who would have helped me do a better job of considering all factors and pointed out to me where my action(s) were inappropriate.

CONSIDER THIS A COMMERCIAL. But you don’t need to have a paid counselor, as long as the person is professionally committed to confidentiality. Don’t trust or burden a family member or friend with this job. It’s not fair to them – or even safe – to ask that a secret be kept.



WHY?   2 comments

I have the feeling I haven’t emphasized enough the importance of asking yourself, “WHY?” before writing that e-mail, or snail-mail, or making that phone call, or taking that action. Why are you doing it? What do you hope to accomplish? What are you asking of the other person?

It’s a little like the editing I’m doing with “My Father’s House.” With each sentence in each paragraph I ask myself that question. Why? Why that word? What am I hoping to convey? Why am I saying it that way? I try to make each paragraph one line shorter.

I’m doing it with each paragraph or section too. What purpose does it serve? Sometimes I’m not sure, so I tighten it up and leave it for when I’ve finished this editing go-round and other people will be willing to go through it. I’ll want them to mark the stuff they find boring, uninteresting, misleading, or superfluous. I will need the help of people who are willing to be honest with me.

But I can’t send out my plea for those consultants until I’ve done my darnedest to clarify it for myself.

My goal is to get 800 pages down to 500 or less. To get down to basics, I guess.

And that’s what I mean by “Why?” Why do it? What purpose does it serve? What do you hope for from the other person?


First: true confessions. Sometimes I wish I had never started this blog. Why? Because I find it hard to get to. It seems sometimes like obstacles just hop in my way, like a computer game where things pop up that I have to knock over or shoot down. (Actually, that’s what I get to see and do on the stationary bike I try to ride everyday.) Most recently, it’s a problem with my billing system for which I first sought the aid of a techie a few days ago, and we’re still playing tag with each other trying to follow through.

Oh well, here it is. I hope it’s helpful.


APPLY JENNIE’S RULE:  “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.”

You probably wouldn’t be seeking reconciliation in the first place if you didn’t see something positive in the person you’re working with, but don’t’ come up with your own answer and assume you’re right about how he or she feels (or felt). Don’t assume you’re wrong either – unless you know for sure that you are. Chances are you are two fallible people, because that’s what human beings are.


Create an opportunity to let the other person know how you felt about what was going on and be equally sure there’s a place to hear the other side of the story. Don’t issue an invitation that will shame or anger the other person. Try something like “I miss you. Could we get together and talk?” or maybe, in an e-mail, “Could we have lunch together next Friday?”

And find a comfortable and neutral place to do it – preferably away from both your homes – like a back booth in a restaurant, or a park bench. Somewhere that will help keep expressions of anger under control and neither one of you will possess location control.

Before making your reconciliation move, be sure you know what you hope for as a result. Do you want to call off the divorce? Or have lunch together on occasion in the future? Maybe just feel comfortable riding the bus together? Or feel that you’ll be able to enjoy eating Thanksgiving dinner with the family. You don’t need to announce your goal at the beginning –or even at the end – of the discussion. But know when you are satisfied that you are both feeling better about the whole thing – or at least you are.


Don’t start out with something like, “I’m trying to figure out why you didn’t see that what you were doing was wrong.” And don’t start out with, “I know I did something wrong, but so did you.” “Wrong” is not a positive word. Not only does it imply blame, but also it just plain creates a negative atmosphere – and may give the other person an opportunity to latch on to what you did wrong, or get defensive, either reaction interfering with an open discussion.


Don’t start out with a focus on you. That could be a conversation closer, as the other person might reply something like, “Oh, that’s (meaning ‘You’re’) the problem.” Or you might get a sympathetic reaction like, “That’s OK. Don’t feel bad about it. I’ve already forgiven you.” A good reconciliation discussion requires paying attention to both sides, listening carefully to each other, and searching for the positive in what each has to say.



Be honest about what is bothering you, and then expect the same from the other person.



Like preparing for an important test or interview, picturing how good you’ll feel when it’s over can be relaxing — stress-reducing.


Posted February 28, 2019 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR   Leave a comment

I’m happy to say I have finally carved out time to dig into editing “My Father’s House.” Lots of pieces landing on the cutting room floor as I try to reduce 800 pages to more acceptable size. But it means I’m neglecting other things, like my blog Seminar. I know I left you with instructions on how not to reconcile, and I won’t really relax until I focus on the “¨How to…”

In the meantime, I want to share this piece from the Sojourner’s message of a few days ago.

“… Let us be quick to welcome and slow to judge. May our faith be accessible to all and our relationships a testament to [the] beloved community.”



Posted February 24, 2019 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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BACK TO THE SEMINAR   8 comments

Forgive me for the long delay. I’ve been busy preparing and giving an in-person presentation on reconciliation at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, on Wednesday, February 13. You might be interested to know an answer I gave there to the question “Why?”

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” Mathew 5: 23-24

It’s the biblical way of saying you can’t enjoy the blessing of internal peace if you are harboring anger over a damaged relationship. It’s another way of emphasizing the importance of removing the impediment from your own eye before trying to straighten someone else out.

The point is, reconciliation requires coming together in one way or another with the other person(s). It’s a two-way street. Except when the other person refuses to engage. Then the reconciliation requires engaging oneself internally in working through the hurt and anger.

For now, though, I’d like to talk about initiating the connection. It’s important to know the outcome you hope for …  and how likely it is that you’ll get what you’re looking for. Do you want a response? What might it be? An offer to meet and talk? An agreement to follow through on the direct action you’ve requested? Or even for the person to realize there’s a problem in the first place? Are you creating more pain and anger for yourself by imagining an unlikely response, the absence of which will leave you disappointed (and even angrier?)

Or what if you just want to express your anger. If you do that and stop there, it’s guaranteed you’ll accomplish two things – hurt the other person, and encourage defensiveness, denial, and/or retaliation.

But if hurting the other person is what you want, here are the rules for doing it.

  • Create a triangle. Try to get a third person to deliver your message for you. Or maybe bring in someone else as in, “And Mary Jane agrees with me, too.”
  • Don’t respond if the person reaches out to you
  • Send a letter – snail mail or e-mail – with no opportunity for the recipient to respond. End it with something like, “I just had to tell you how I feel.”
  • Make sure you blame the person.
  • Make sure you imply that you are blameless.
  • Maybe offer a diagnosis to explain the other person’s misdeed, as, for example, “You always were good at being passive aggressive” or “I have to understand that you can’t help being like that, given what I know about your upbringing.”
  • Avoid the Jennie rule. Jennie, my mother, one of those people who qualifies as a natural confident – one whom other people felt comforted by – recommended “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.” That doesn’t mean making excuses or accepting abuse. It means there’s always another side. Finding it is the essence of love. It’s also the best route to understanding and potentially resolving a painful issue. Or maybe realizing that it’s time to give up. So, if what you want is to hurt the other person, then don’t invoke the Jennie rule.
  • Finally, and above all, if you want to avoid reconciliation, don’t communicate directly with the other person.

Maybe you can tell from reading this that I’d rather be talking with you in person, watching your reaction, coming up with spontaneous stories to illustrate my point. But I hope these thoughts are of some help.

And, to tell the truth, I hope you won’t apply any of the rules I’ve given above.

I’ll be back soon with the more positive side of the story, but maybe you can guess what will go into the next section: “What to do if you want to reconcile.”

I’d love to hear your reactions to this.




Now that we’re thinking about it, what is reconciliation anyway? The answer to “why” depends first of all on knowing what reconciliation means in the particular case. My thesaurus has some interesting answers, the first of which is “Settlement.” Under that it lists the following as equivalents for “reconciliation:”

  • Understanding
  • Resolution
  • Compromise
  • Reunion
  • Ceasefire
  • Appeasement
  • Bringing together
  • The opposite of Conflict

I think this list is as good as any as a jumping off point to answer the question “Why?” Why strive for reconciliation?

I’d like first to focus on “settlement.” Yes, I know the definition refers originally to money settlement, the payment of debts. But I’m choosing to take the psychological/emotional route. Reconciliation doesn’t even become an issue until something unsettling, disturbing, stressful happens, or creeps into one’s awareness. It’s the feeling that someone else owes you something and refuses to pony up. How quickly do we get to “He owes me an apology, or a change of attitude, or cooperation, – or at least an explanation.” If such is not forthcoming, there’s a good chance anger will follow. How good it would feel to get even – to tell the offender off. How about a nice angry e-mail? “There. That’s settled.”

But is it really? What about the recipient who, chances are, will not be happy to receive that hurtful anger? Would it really be enough just to make the other guy unhappy? Nope. There’s no settlement there. Just an increase in the pain total. Settlement and stress reduction and pain relief won’t follow.

So, why reconciliation? One potential reason, because unilateral vengeance won’t make the pain go away – unless, of course, one enjoys another’s distress. They call that sadism.

And, of course, there’s no opportunity to receive the apology or explanation if other people have been turned off, or the reciprocal desire to hurt gets turned on.

Conclusion, reconciliation requires a genuine desire to reduce distress. Something more than one-sided spewing of anger is needed for settlement. It seems to me that’s where “understanding” comes in.

Oh, but now what does “understanding” mean?

Or maybe it’s not anger that erupts, but despair that depresses. “I give up. There’s nothing more I can do.” Maybe settlement can’t happen between living people. Maybe the other person isn’t willing, or isn’t even capable of responding, as in having an issue with someone who has completed the earthly journey. Maybe the settlement can only be internal.

“Understanding” can still help. The stress can still be reduced. Next time I’d like to introduce “Jennies rule.”

In the meantime, are some of you willing to give examples of what “settlement” would mean to you?




Thanks to Victoria and Sheryl for their comments – my jumping off point for today. Victoria expressed the hope that people would share more stories. I am so hopeful that her wish will be met that I’ll start this brief entry by sharing a story of my own. As for Sheryl’s comment about avoiding accusations, I will add one more thing by way of my own story. Don’t start off by accusing oneself.

My story? I’ll change it a little bit to protect the innocent – including me. Our relationship had been a long one, and our current rift was deep. So deep that she threatened to go away mad. In my “wisdom” I arranged for us to meet and talk in neutral territory – a quiet booth in a restaurant that had just enough noise to cover our conversation for privacy’s sake and public enough to discourage voice-raising. “So, what are we supposed to do?” she said. “Well,” I responded (in my mistaken “wisdom”), “let’s just start talking about it. For example, I’ll admit that I was always somewhat jealous of you.”

“Oh,” she responded. “That explains it,” as she reached for the menu preparing to order. End of conversation. Well, sort of. I found other ways to keep it going, but it was in no way a successful reconciliation.

The lesson? Maybe you can tell me. I do realize that by “confessing” I had, from her point of view, reached the end of the conversation as soon as it started. So, Sheryl, the recommendation — don’t start out being accusatory – even if it’s directed toward oneself.

Now (in my “wisdom”) I realize that the opening step has to be a simple appeal to a reason for working at reconciliation. For example, opening with, “I really miss you.” Or maybe, “Could we get together to talk about what happened?” or possibly, “I’m really unhappy with this bad feeling between us. Could we get together over coffee and talk about it?”

To tell the truth, I like “I really miss you,” or a variant. It’s an opener, not a closer. And it doesn’t involve too many words. Too many words spoil the possibilities. For example, proposing to talk about “what happened,” could evoke the response, “What do you mean, ‘what happened?'” and you are suddenly on the defensive.

So, what do you say? Are you willing to give Victoria and me some examples of how you started the process of reconciliation? Or of how someone else started it with you?



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