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Archive for December, 2012

A man I am seeing in therapy says:
“How can I get my wife to stop bringing up an affair I had?”

“I had an affair two years ago and my wife won’t get off of it. She constantly brings up the affair. She says I don’t understand how hurt she is. I say, ‘Hey, I gave up the affair. I apologized. I’m here. Get over it.’ What can I do to get her to stop thinking about the past?”

Man, you don’t get it. It takes about 5 years to get over an affair, and then rarely does trust come back 100%. Each time your wife brings up the affair, something has triggered her bad feelings. And I bet there are plenty of times when your wife doesn’t bring up your affair even though she’s had thought of it and felt the hurt.

Instead of telling your wife to get over it, which is incredibly insensitive, apologize again and again for the hurt you have caused her. For example, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I love you. I care about you. You’re the best. And again, I am really sorry.”

After several thousand sincere apologies, yes, several thousand, such as the one above, your wife will be more able to move on in her life without being reminded on a daily basis.

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Recently, I got  this question from a woman.

I’m dating a guy who doesn’t make much money. I have to admit that I like “things.” So should I break it off and look for someone with a higher salary?

Let me ask you this girlfriend. Are you looking for a meal ticket? If you want and enjoy things as most of us do, no problem. Focus on how you’re going to make more money however, instead of how much money the guy makes. This new focus will allow you to evaluate this new man in more appropriate terms, such as:

Do you have the same interests?
Do the two of you laugh together?
Is he a good sex partner?
Does he demonstrate integrity?
Is he honest?
Does he show empathy?

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Helpful tips to avoid hurt feelings and help affect change.

One mother confessed that when she looks at her overweight daughter, she sees her as a failure. And then she translates her daughter’s failure into her own failure.

“I try to hide my disappointment and discontent with the way she looks,” said the mother, “but it’s always there.” I make subtle comments, which really aren’t so subtle. In the past I’ve said, “I heard about a great diet book. Should I buy it for you? ” I’ve also said, “It’s a great day; let’s go for a walk.” What I’m really saying is, “You need some exercise.” The worst comment was when I said, ‘Why, you have a double chin just like me.’ ” When I look at her, I think she’s lazy. She has no pride. I wonder where I went wrong.

Another woman confided that it makes her sick to watch her daughter eat. “I want to say, ‘Stop eating that roll and butter. Don’t you have any respect for yourself?’ I don’t dare say anything because in the past I have and it just makes her mad and not want to be with me.” “I never stop bugging my daughter,” said one mom. “I’m always coming up with a plan.” I take her articles and books on weight loss. Last year I enrolled her in a weight-loss program and she lost 50 pounds. Then she gained it all back. My next plan was humiliation. I told her I loved her, but the world hated fat people. This month I’ve offered to pay for her to enroll at a gym. Does all this do her any good? It doesn’t seem to help her, but it helps me feel as though I’m doing something.

“My daughter is 70 pounds overweight and seems to be on her way up,” moaned another mom. “She eats all the time. Her room is full of candy wrappers. I’m thin, and I just don’t get it. Nothing I say to her has an impact. She’s sweet and a successful high school student. She plays in the band and has lots of friends. I know she’s unhappy with her weight, but she can’t seem to get control of it.”

Yet another mother said, “The worst time for me is when I have to introduce my daughter, who is at least 90 pounds overweight, to someone she’s never met. I cringe. I think that the person must be thinking how ugly she is. I smile and am chatty and act like everything is fine, but on the inside I feel terrible and know it’s not fine. I feel bad for my daughter and bad for me.”

“What am I to do?”
If you are a mother having bad feelings about an overweight daughter, you know that your daughter also is struggling with feelings about her weight. The best course of action is to ask her directly, “Is there anything I can do to help you with your weight? Or would you rather I said nothing?”

Some daughters want their mothers to bring them diet programs and suggestions. This keeps the problem out in the open as opposed to pretending there isn’t a problem. Other daughters will ask that their mother not push food or tempt them with homemade cakes and cookies. Some don’t want their mothers to say anything about their weight problem. They already know they have one, and they’ve tried any number of diets and exercise programs.

If you truly want to be helpful to your overweight daughter, be a good model by following a healthy diet and exercise regimen yourself. Ask your daughter what she wants from you regarding her weight. And then have the strength and courage to give her what she asks for.

To take care of your own feelings about her weight, confide in one of your close friends from time to time. And then perhaps become a bit philosophical and ask yourself, “Why did I bring this child into the world?” I bet your answer has nothing to do with her weight.

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Teenage Blues? Find out how this father re-connected with his teenage son.

Recently I spoke with one father who confessed to having difficulty liking his son. Clearly his son was rebellious and had some behaviors that most parents would find offensive. The son rarely did what he had promised. He blew off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake.

When I pushed the father to tell me something he liked about his son, he reluctantly admitted that the boy was a pretty good student, didn’t get in trouble at school, had a great sense of humor and a rather endearing smile. The trick for me was to get the father to focus on his son’s attributes at least some of the time. This would allow the father to feel good about his son as opposed to always feeling negative.

The first thing I did was to ask the father to bring me a list of fifty things he liked about his son even if he had to go back in history and remember some of incidences from his son’s childhood. Although the father dutifully made his list he couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.

The father’s next assignment was to only comment on the positive things his son did. The idea was to get the father to change his focus from looking at the negative to looking at the positive. This assignment did not work either.

I then came up with the idea that every time the son messed up the father would say in his head, “At least he’s alive.” When I told the father this he said, “You do have a point.”

The following week when I saw this man he said that the assignment had worked. For the first time in almost three years he felt some genuine closeness toward his son. He no longer saw his son as an incompetent. What he saw was a boy struggling, sometimes inappropriately, for his own identity. As this father left my office that day, he grinned a little and said, “You know, I really do love that kid.”

If you’re having trouble loving your kid because of his hard-to-deal with behaviors, why not experiment with one of the previous homework assignments?

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