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Archive for March, 2019

Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal
with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back timeframe.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Marriage Counseling isn’t magic, it takes work, but the end result can be everything you wanted and more.
A man told me that he’s not getting anywhere in marriage counseling. His marriage isn’t improving. His wife continues to be critical and aloof.

I asked him what he had learned in our two sessions.

He said, “Not much.”

I said, “Well, let’s review.” I pulled up my easel and newsprint to write on.

I asked him to go over for me what his wife has been complaining about over the years.

He said, “She doesn’t think I listen.” But then he added,

“I do listen.”

I asked him to recall what it meant to listen. He said that if she had an important meeting that day, he was to ask her about it that evening. If she had a disagreement with a friend, he was to be on her side and listen to how she felt. He said that he should not read the mail or walk out of the room while she was talking. And when she called him at his office, he was not to continue to work on his PC.

I wrote all these points down on the newsprint and asked if he had been practicing these listening behaviors. He said, “Sort of.” I requested that he tell me something else his wife complains about. He said she wants him home by 7 pm.

“And in this department, how are you doing?” I asked. He said some days good, other days not so good. In truth, he doesn’t pay attention to when he gets home. I wrote, “Home by 7 pm.”

I asked for more problems his wife had pointed out. He said she complains that every time she wants to do something, he says no.

I asked if he could recall anything she wanted to do during the weekend.

He said she wanted to go see Evita. He defended himself by saying that even though he had objected, in the end he went to the movie. I wrote on my easel, “Don’t immediately say no when wife suggests an activity.”

When I probed for other problem areas, he said she had been asking him to fix the doorbell, clean the basement, and take the newspapers out of the garage. And he was to call an attorney and set a date to go over their wills.

How was he coming on these projects? I wondered.

“Not too good,” he said. In actuality he hadn’t done any of them.

“Is there anything else that I should write on my chart?” I asked.

He said that she wanted him to give more time to the children, particularly their son, who was having trouble at school. “Be specific,” I said.

He said she wanted him to review their son’s homework each night, play ball with him in the yard, and take him to a sporting event or two. She also wanted to go on family outings a few times a month. I wrote down these points.

I then explained, “If you want a better marriage, you’ll need to do these things. Marriage counseling is not magic. People come to get help in defining their problem, getting some insight into why they have the problem, and then figuring out what they need to do differently. It’s not that marriage counseling isn’t working. The problem is you’re not working.”

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Whether you are the married child, in-law or parent, it’s important to have a close relationship with all family members. This may include visiting each other at your homes. People tend to feel taken care of when included.
A friend asked, “What’s the matter with children today? Our son doesn’t invite us to dinner. He was married four years in July, and we’ve been invited to his house twice. And that’s because both times I said I wanted an invitation for my birthday.

“He and his wife are good to us in every other way. They’ve taken us out several times to dinner and invited us to several plays. But it’s hard when we don’t know about their house, and how it’s decorated, or what they’re doing in their garden. As far as I know, they like us. And neither his dad nor I have been critical when we’ve been to their home. It’s a nice house. It’s neat and tidy. I don’t understand the problem. Should I just call and say, ‘How about if I stop by today with some lunch?’ Or should I say something more directly?”

I said, “Well, let’s think of why they aren’t inviting you over. Has there been a riff or bad feelings about something in the past?

“No,” said my friend, “not anything I’m aware of. And when we get together, or when they come to our house, we genuinely have a good time.”

“Is it possible they’re too busy,” I asked. I know they both have demanding jobs. And he’s taking some night courses, and she has a large family. “Right,” my friend said, “but they can’t be so busy that they never invite us over.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe her parents never entertained and she’s not used to it.”

“That may be,” said my friend, “but our son comes from a family where we always had family and friends for dinner. Another thing, they have a well equipped kitchen and beautiful crystal and china. Why don’t they use it?”

“Do they entertain other people?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” my friend replied.

“Well, it takes a lot of work,” I said, “especially when you’re new at entertaining. With cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, it can take all day to get ready for guests.”

My friend agreed.

“It seems to me you ought to talk with your son.” I suggested, “Tell him that you would like to be invited over to his house for a meal, or just a visit. Would he and his wife be willing to start inviting you every few months?

“If your son hesitates, you can ask if there’s something wrong, something you’re not aware of. Have you or your husband offended him or his wife in some way? Does his wife feel uncomfortable with the two of you? Is there anything you might do to get invited more often? Then be sure to listen to what your son has to say.”

When children first get married, they need time to set up their own house and to decide how much they want to see their parents, and how much entertaining they will do. Also, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law may feel anxious about fitting into a new family.

Parents, too, find it difficult to let go and adjust to a different type of relationship with their married child.

If you’re newly married, make sure you let your folks know how important they are to you. You can do this with a weekly telephone call and an invitation once or twice a month for dinner or an outing. Also, stay interested in their lives. Find out about them as people, what’s going on with their jobs, their social life, their dreams and disappointments.

If you’re a parent with newly married children, respect their privacy. Don’t pop in on them unannounced or ask them about their money or when they plan to have children. Also understand that they may have different standards of housekeeping from yours and different values about their life-style. Above all, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. And then be careful how you give it.

Chances are great that if you had a good relationship before your child got married, you’ll have a good one after he or she has said, “I do.” Often, however, both parent and child go through a period of adjustment.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Learn to put limitations on your whining. Whining can be acceptable in some situations, but your friends and family don’t want to listen to it forever.
We’re told we’re a nation of whiners. True. But is it good to whine? Does whining have any value?

Yes, some of the time. Suppose you’re overwhelmed at work and then your boss asks you to attend a meeting for him. A little whining to a co-worker may be all you need to dissipate your irritation before you gear up for the meeting.

If you lose a job or find your mate has been having an affair, initially you’ll cry, squeal and yelp. It hurts! As the weeks go by, you’ll probably settle into a steady whine. Eventually you’ll move to an on-again, off-again whine.

Whining phrases include: “I can’t believe he did this to me.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I can’t stand it.” “People are stupid.” “Doesn’t anyone give a darn?” “Nobody’s trustworthy.” “I could lie down and die and nobody would notice.” “Life’s crummy.” “I’m so tired of this whole thing.”

Note that most of these phrases place the whiner in a victim position. The whiner feels at that moment in time that he has little control over his life and what other people are doing.

If you have a mate or friend who’s a whiner, here are some tips. Start by listening. Listen for 5 minutes and make a few sympathetic comments such as, “That’s awful…I can see why you’re upset…It’s frustrating.”

After 10 minutes, you might make a suggestion as to what the person could do differently. Or ask if there is anything you can do. If you get nowhere, try switching to another topic. For example, to your friend you might say, “Well, how are your other children doing?” Or, “How do other people in your department cope?” To your mate you might suggest, “Let’s have a nice dinner in spite of….” Or, “Let’s have a nice evening. Why don’t we start by going for a walk.”

How much whining should you allow yourself? It depends on the situation. With a major problem such as a layoff or a cheating spouse, feel free to whine an hour a day. But do it in your head. If you’re whining aloud to a family member or friend, a half-hour goes a long way. If the problem is ongoing, for example, you have a difficult boss or difficult child, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of whining. After 10 minutes, make yourself change the focus of the conversation. Ask the other person what’s going on in her life. What happened with her today?

Another suggestion: Get up and do something physical. Sweeping a floor, taking out the trash, or sorting mail will change your focus of attention.

Everyone who whines, and most of us do from time to time, should keep track. If your whining is on the increase, perhaps there is something you need to change in your life. Also, play a game with yourself. Decide that Wednesdays and Saturdays are no whine days.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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