Three Reasons for Fear of Commitment

We live in a singles world – and instead of being happy about their freedom, these singles are, for the most part, lost and lonely. If the obvious solution is to get hitched, the obvious question is: Why aren’t they doing just that? Why are they afraid of commitment? Here are three reasons. Children of Divorce Research shows that ten years after divorce, adult children may delay commitment in order to avoid putting future children of theirs through the same experience they had. They search for lasting love and faithfulness. They can still remember traumatic moments from their parents’ divorce (http://www.jabfm.org/content/14/3/201.full.pdf). In other words, adult children often search fruitlessly for the ideal relationship that their parents didn’t have. The task is doubly hard for them because their family of origin didn’t teach them what they need to know about happy homes. In fact, if roughly 50% of first marriages end in divorce, 75% of second ones do. What do the children learn from this? Children in Conflicted Homes There is a significant proportion of homes in America that remain intact in spite of abuse, affairs, and neglect. Parents worry that a divorce will harm their children, but without two people on board to create a harmonious home, the children are harmed anyway. Here’s an excerpt from my own published research: “Cummings and Davies (1994) have been observing young children from non-violent homes in laboratory situations for twenty years. They catalogue the following behaviors in response to witnessing laboratory anger between adults: ‘crying, freezing (motionless tension for an extended period), facial distress, distressed body movements (e.g., covering of the ears),...

4 Strategies to Get Kids to Listen

Eli is quite clear that he is a pretty important person. At six and the youngest of four, he’s used to those around him just stopping short of bowing down to him. Answering his every wish goes without saying. When he was two and oh-so-cute, he was irresistible. Now that four years have passed and he’s a normal school-boy with homework and schedules, cuteness has to take a back seat to responsibility, sharing, and kindness. He may be a child of the King, but he is definitely not the King. The problem is, he doesn’t know that – yet. How can his kindly and loving parents get this kid to listen and cooperate while maintaining their sanity? As my children were growing up, I tried four strategies that worked very well and I am happy to share them with you. Strategy #1: Have a sense of humor. You can tell me that certain people are born with a sense of humor and others are a bit more serious. Listen, I get that. I was always the serious one and that’s because I came from such a serious family that they didn’t even see the value in having newspapers with comics. They bought the Sunday Times and when I complained that there were no comics, they kind of waved me off. In spite of this, there is an easy solution to learning to take everything more lightly. Just look around you at people you know – people with children who are challenged medically or mentally, people who have lost a loved one, people with deficits they can’t overcome – and...

Why People Blame Others Instead of Taking Responsibility

Dear Dr. Deb, I have been following your columns for a while now and I have to say, they are a little bit “fluffy.” I don’t mean to be rude, but you make everything come out so easy, as if all problems can be solved in the course of one column. And life just isn’t so simple. For example, my husband actually went on Amazon (at my urging) and bought your book, The Healing is Mutual: Marriage Empowerment Tools to Rebuild Trust and Respect—Together. He tends to blame others instead of taking responsibility so I thought reading your book would help. He read it, or says he read it, and didn’t like it. He didn’t like the idea that you mentioned the word, “abuse” somewhere in there. He said the following: “Anyone can say they’re abused. Maybe they are just too sensitive.” How can you help someone like me who is knocking my head against the wall trying to get through to my husband? —Frustrated   Dear Frustrated, You are correct that my columns can’t tackle the essence of individual problems. All I can do is write general principles that seem to work for many people. The same would be true of reading self-help boks. They are good for some people; others need a therapist. In the case of my book, I’m guessing that your husband didn’t actually read it because there is a chapter in it called, “My Partner is Hypersensitive.” Had he read that, he would not have made the comments about people being “too sensitive” since that is the very thing that chapter addresses. Had he...

Work-Life Balance: Dr Deb Has a New Problem

My youngest son, when he was still living with us, shocked me by saying that there were no family dinners during the week in the years he was growing up. Here I was, the mommy-cook to end all mommy-cooks, the person who would experiment with various recipes multiple times in her single years just to prepare for that wonderful day when she would get married, being told that she didn’t have family dinners. I was in school and juggling that work with my family obligations. The Importance of Family Dinners I checked with my husband who reminded me that the children stayed for after-school when I was in graduate school so that already took care of one or two meals during the week. But this wasn’t good enough for me. Suddenly, all those years that I had spent working so assiduously on my dissertation came into focus. For me, it had been all about my progress toward my personal goal, but what about being there for my children? When I started my doctorate, my youngest was only five. Worse yet, my husband didn’t know how to cook, wasn’t about to learn, and could live on pizza. Furthermore, he was a marshmallow when it came to discipline and didn’t keep the same watchful eye on homework that I would have had. “Don’t worry, ma,” my son told me that eventful day, “I’m okay!” Well, that’s very nice to hear now that he is an adult, but still. . . . Did I do the right thing? Nursing Creates a Bond that Pushes away Work This point was brought home to me when...

Don’t Send Your Teen to the Missing Persons List

Regarding the horrible revelation in Cleveland in May, 2013 when 3 women who had been held captive for ten years were rescued, several news outlets reviewed how the missing-persons list works. “Hundreds of thousands of people are reported missing each year,” the Wall Street Journal stated, “the vast majority of whom turn out to have run away, FBI data show.” Those numbers are misleading. Millions of children run away every year Actually, the data is worse. According to the National Runaway Safeline which obtained statistics from peer-reviewed journals, “between 1.6 and 2.8 million (that’s not a typo) youth run away in a year. 47% of runaway / homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem.” “Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care.” “32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.” Why do they run away? Why do they get into drugs, sex, and cutting? Is there a connection among all these youth problems? To get an idea of the answer, let’s look a little closer at the history of two of the three girls who were held captive for a decade and how they came to be kidnapped. First, let’s look at Amanda Berry, the brave girl who orchestrated their escape. According to news reports, she had piercings in her ears and eyebrows and liked Eminem’s music. What do runaway children want? For those who wouldn’t know Eminem from an Oreo, Wikipedia explains...

4 More Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

To continue with PART II of our look at singles’ warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, here are the next four. Sign 4: You’re being isolated. This one is the opposite of #3. There, you didn’t feel “part of.” Here, you’re “all of.” In the beginning, this seems very flattering. You are the center of attention. But after a while, you look around and notice that there is no one else in your circle. Just you and this person. You realize that your family has been cut off and so have your friends. That’s a big warning sign that something is wrong. When someone does that, they take away your support system. When they have you to themselves, they can start to convince you that everyone else is wrong, sick, or no good. And without being able to talk to anyone about it, you start to become confused. That’s the goal. When you’re confused, you can turn to them more and more for answers. It’s a form of mind control. When you have no one else to turn to, then this person has so much more power over your thoughts and opinions and how you spend your time. After a while, you don’t even quite know who you are. It is because we can express ourselves to others–and hear their reaction—that we clarify our ideas. And our ideas are the basis of who we are. So, don’t let anyone cut you off from your friends and family. Sign 5: You’re always the bad one. When something goes wrong, does your significant other manage to be the victim and you...

Singles’ Top 3 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

Part I When people have long-term marriages and things are bad, we can work on fixing them. It’s better to resolve problems so kids can grow up in a home with two loving parents. But you aren’t married and you have your life ahead of you, so why get bogged down with something hurtful when you don’t have to? Why suffer? Life was not meant for suffering, not in my opinion. Are you shocked to hear me say this? You thought I promote marriage. I do. If you’ve read my articles or if you know me, you know I am very pro-marriage. If you want to save your marriage, I will do everything in my power to help you. On the other hand, perhaps one of the reasons for so many non-committing singles is fear. Perhaps people have seen their recently-married friends get divorced within a year. Perhaps their own parents divorced or were unhappy. I have figured out a way around this fear. If singles would know exactly what to look for – and avoid it like the plague – then they can relax about their dating experience with everyone else. I think we were meant, like the Constitution says, to pursue happiness. Maybe it doesn’t come easily, not on a silver platter. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go for it. That’s why I wrote this. I want you to have a simple blueprint for your relationships that will help you stay on the road to pursuing happiness rather than being stuck in misery. I’ve boiled it down to the top seven warning signs that something is...

How to Build Healthy Self Esteem in Children

Research shows that low self-esteem is associated with depression in adolescents and lower achievement in school.  How can parents help their children to build healthy self esteem? High self-esteem can be dangerous One would think that it is obvious that children should have high self-esteem, but research shows otherwise. For example, a child told he is “so smart” when his ability is only average could, conceivably develop an unrealistically high opinion of his abilities. He could then be in for quite a shock when he performs below what he expected. Another outcome could be that he stops making an effort to do well because he falsely assumes he doesn’t need to put effort out since he’s so smart. Being told he’s smarter or better than others can lead to arrogance and callousness as well. Going to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, John Rosemond, an author in this area, recommended breaking down children’s self-esteem so that it does not become artificially inflated. That’s really bad advice. The result of that tactic can also be a child giving up trying: He figures that his parents are telling him he’s not so smart after all, so why make an effort to reach for the impossible? The same conclusion came from research reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2007. Investigators attempted to encourage failing children to make more effort in school by sending them emails that said, “Students who have high self-esteem not only get better grades, but they remain self-confident and assured.” Therefore, each one needed to “hold your head-and your self-esteem-high.” That plan backfired; those...

7 Ways to Win an Argument

In 1974, Dr. Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire was interested in testing the prevalent theory of the time that said “venting” works to let off emotional steam when someone is angry. Surveying over 300 college students about aggression in their homes, he found that as couples were more verbally aggressive, the amount of domestic violence increased. Surprised, he went ahead with the first national survey on this topic, interviewing 2,143 couples. Again, he got the astonishing conclusion that the higher the verbal aggression, the higher the physical aggression. It looked like venting anger is a bad idea. Dr. Straus then thought that perhaps this was because when people argue, they don’t really listen and are not trying to reason. In such an atmosphere, it really is no surprise after all, that physical aggression increases: People are frustrated and their arguments get nowhere, so they escalate. He therefore wanted to explore the idea that people who try to reason and negotiate might reduce the physical violence. Nevertheless, in analyzing the data, he found the high reasoners “are the most violent couples in the sample.” The least violent people, it turned out, took a breather when they were upset and then went and calmed down. That’s all very good, you might want to say, but how do you get there? How do you get to calmness when you and your beloved are in the middle of something far from it? The answer has several components. The first key is great listening skills. 1. If You’re Willing to Listen, You’ll Get Listened to If you know you’re right and your...
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