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...

How the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) Came to Be

Michael is a neatnick. This is not bad. He keeps everything in order, can find whatever he needs, feels free of debris, and thinks more clearly because of it. His wife, Marcie, is a bit more, shall we say, free. She is not bound by rules of where to put things, how to think, or when to do what. This may not be bad, either. She is an artist and has exhibited at major galleries across the nation. She does have a bit of challenge getting supper for the kids on time so Michael and Marcie have worked out that they would prepare it the night before and have it ready to pop into the oven the next day. Frequently, he will leave a piece of paper on the pan of food in the fridge saying something like, “put in oven at 5:30.” Michael finds his wife’s messiness a bit challenging but he fell in love with her free spirit, something that was not present in the house in which he grew up. He is proud of her national acclaim. And he doesn’t mind the income it brings in either. Marcie is delighted to have a husband that appreciates her creativity and who keeps some order in their lives. She grew up with one overburdened parent in the house and an absent one. She cannot remember family meals, so she was drawn to someone who represented stability and home. This is a healthy couple. They enjoy each other’s uniqueness. What’s bad about diagnostic labeling in your marriage Not every couple who is attracted to their opposite continues to appreciate...

What You Need to Know about Psychotherapy Approaches

On December 2, 2012, I spoke at a parenting conference to a pretty good-sized audience given that it was only a month after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. After the panel of therapists was finished with small breakout sessions, a sampling of them met for a Q & A from the audience. I was one of them. The audience had some good questions. I was more interested in hearing how my fellow therapists were answering those questions than in giving my own answers. However, a question arose to which I could not resist responding. The questioner wanted to know how to decide which type of psychotherapy approach to use in therapy for his child. I explained that family therapy, as opposed to psychology, operates on the principle that people are not sick and don’t have “diseases.” Therefore, taking his child to a family therapist would have the advantage of not placing a stigma on the child or the family. Furthermore, I was ready to add that he and his wife would be given effective tools to use with their child. No sooner had the first words left my mouth then the moderator, a psychiatrist, cut me off. Standing at the podium and speaking with passion, he told the story of a person who went to family therapy without success because that person had an undiagnosed medical condition. “So,” he concluded, “it is better to go to a psychologist or medical professional.” Until that moment, I had no idea that other psychotherapists felt threatened by family therapists. Talk about a learning experience! It now seems to me that giving readers...

Playing Victim Is Emotional Abuse

There are people who don’t allow the feeling of compassion in. That may seem amazing to you: If someone else said they are hurt, how can you not feel badly about it? The answer is that they come from worlds away where tears don’t stir emotions; they are hardened – except, perhaps, to themselves. Interestingly, they feel their own pain but have never been able to leave themselves behind in their dealings with others. They play victim. That means they feel they have a license to strike out and hurt others. That’s emotional abuse. Here’s how it works: This is what people like this believe about their loved one when the loved one cries and says he or she is hurt: they must be manipulative. they are just too sensitive and they will react badly to anything. they are really hurt because of something else and it is convenient to blame me. –Anything to not look at themselves Evan and Alice A year ago, Evan thanked Alice for the lovely tie that she gave him for his birthday, but was not as enthusiastic as Alice would have expected. He explained that he really would have preferred a new golf club. Alice was taken aback by this as he knew that she objected to his devotion to golf at the expense of time spent on Sundays with the family. She didn’t say anything and hoped he would forget that he had mentioned it to her. Now, a year later, his birthday was coming and Alice didn’t know what to do. During the year, she had gently mentioned her objections on...

Are You A Know It All? – A Simple Test

“I swear,” he said to me, shaking his head, “she is so stupid—.” I cut him off quickly with, “Stupid? Is she stupid? Didn’t she graduate college?” “Well, yes,” he stammered, “but, please, how could someone do something like that?” “Okay,” I answered, “that’s a different question. To figure out what was in her head, we have to ask her, but before we do that, I’m still interested in your use of the word, ‘stupid.’ Is she or isn’t she stupid?” “No, she isn’t ordinarily stupid,” he concluded with a deep sigh, slinking into the cushions as if wishing he wouldn’t have to get out of them and start dealing with the mess in his life. When You Say “Is” You Sound Like A Know It All “You see,” I point out, “the problem is not so much with the word ‘stupid,’ as it is with the word, ‘is.’ For example, if you said, ‘She is acting as if she were stupid, which is really strange since I know she is smart,’ you’d have a whole different meaning, one which really expresses how you feel without sounding like you are a Mr. Know It All and you’re passing judgment on her. I’m not crazy about the word ‘stupid’ in any case, but the word ‘is’ makes it sound like you’ve come down from Heaven with The Answers. You don’t want to do that, I’m sure. It’s disrespectful.” As Peter looked at me, I could see a little ray of light in his eyes, the dawn of an awareness. “Is that why she has told me so many times, ‘You...

Hurricane Sandy Snags a Therapist

Yaaay! We moved into our new place – finally after three months – and that is why I am a day late posting my new blog entry. Here is the story I wrote last week that led up to Monday’s move… One of my grandsons is sitting three inches from me on the couch reading from his first grade reader. His mother, an excellent mother – not because she is my daughter, but because she really is – is listening and following intently, managing to not lose her focus while patting the head of the two-year old who wants a little attention, too. It’s an honor to be here, listening to the learning and soaking in the earnestness of these beautiful children doing their homework. An honor, and yet, now that we have finally, finally, after three months found an apartment, I will be so happy to leave and not wake up to my four-month old granddaughter crying desperately in the middle of the night. So I am posting my blog from my own experience of having been unexpectedly rendered homeless by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. It’s going to be a little different type of post because being a Marriage & Family Therapist does not render me immune from the cauldron that is a family. A cauldron under pressure. The first six weeks went really, really well. It was my son-in-law that phoned the day before the storm was to hit, insisting that we come stay with them for the duration. He knew my husband is handicapped and didn’t want him to be placed in danger should...

The Relationship Between Negative Self-Talk and Grandiosity

Remember Kerry? We wrote about him a couple weeks ago. He and his brother-in-law had a flare-up because Kerry used some very sharp language to make his point. He felt entitled to “express” himself. His wife, Penny, was exhausted with a lifetime of this sort of thing. She used to quarrel with her husband and that certainly didn’t work. Then she tried to reason with him and learned, much to her surprise, that he could not apologize to her brother because he would feel it was “weak.” She disagreed; she told him that admitting mistakes is a sign of strength because it takes a strong person to do that. I asked how readers think that the story will end. Some people think that Kerry will never change. Here is my problem with that: You have to have tried everything—and I mean everything—before you can be sure that your conclusion is correct. Most people give up too easily. When You Criticize Your Child Kerry might possibly be able to change if he can heal from the original pain that caused him to become so adversarial and sharp-tongued. Kerry grew up with very critical parents. As he said, “They never had anything positive to say.” When that happens, the child is always on the lookout for criticism. He expects it. So, if the best defense is a good offense, then Kerry mastered the art. The problem, of course, is that it causes the very problem it was meant to avoid: attacks. Not only that, it certainly loses the good will of others. This is made worse because Kerry bears a painful...
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