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Why are some people so indecisive, is there a hidden agenda?
No matter what, some people can’t seem to make a decision. What’s even more exasperating is that when you try to make the decision, they won’t let you.

For example: Sue asks me the other day, “Where would you like to go for lunch?”
I say, “It’s up to you.”
She says, “No. This is your day. You decide.”
I answer, “OK, how about the deli?”
She says, “I was thinking about something nicer.”
I say, “Well, how about Benos?”
She says, “It’ll probably be a long wait at this time of the day.”
I say, “That’s OK. We’ll wait and talk.”
She says, “It really may take awhile.”
I now know she has somewhere else in mind. So I ask, “Do you have another suggestion?”
She says, “You decide.”
At this point I feel like throwing myself down on the sidewalk and having a temper tantrum.

Here’s another example of an “I-won’t-make-a-decision-and-you-can’t-make-me” scenario.
My friend says, “What color do you think I should paint my bedroom?”
I say, “What color have you been thinking about?”
She says, “I really don’t know. What do you suggest?”
I say, “How about an indigo red or khaki?”
She says, “I don’t like those colors.”
I say, “Maybe something more subtle, perhaps beige with a rose tint.” (I’ve watched a lot of HGTV.)
She says, “I don’t think so.”
What I want to say to her is, “I’ll run through the entire color wheel, and when I hit on the color you’re thinking of, you tell me.”

People who play this game have two agendas although even they may not be aware of it. They want to look accommodating, so they ask your opinion. But they also want to make the decision, so they won’t take your suggestion. In this situation play three strikes and you’re out. Give three suggestions and then say, “I’m out of ideas.”

Apply this same method when dealing with your child who comes to you moaning because he or she can’t figure out what to do.

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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What happens when the parent-child relationship changes? Grown Children speak out.
When children grow up, the parent-child relationship is destined to change. When both are adults, it’s time to change the way they relate and communicate. This, however, does not come easily.

Grown children speak out to their parents:

Respect that my schedule is different from yours. Try not to call too late or during our dinner. And when I can’t talk, be understanding.

Realize I can’t telephone you every day and understand that my not calling has nothing to do with love.

Don’t try to make me feel guilty because I don’t attend church every week.

Don’t tell me what other kids do for their parents.

Don’t talk about my father’s or mother’s shortcomings and expect me to take your side.

Please be understanding when I turn down your invitations – I have a very busy life.

Don’t expect my political viewpoints to be the same as yours.

When I share things such as I’m getting a dog, or we’re thinking of moving, don’t become negative and try to talk me out of it.

Don’t go on about everyone’s problems or how bad the world is.

If I share one of my problems with you, don’t minimize it and say I have nothing to worry about.

When I do nice things for you please be appreciative.

Compliment me.

Don’t always talk about my brothers’ and sisters’ accomplishments.

When you come over for dinner, please offer to help but don’t take over.

Don’t talk against me to my children.

Treat me like an adult, with respect.

Parents and grown children desire a good relationship, but sometimes it’s not clear how to get there. Evaluate the suggestions I’ve given. Then ask yourself: Do you need to do anything differently?

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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When you look your partner in the eye while you communicate, you are less likely to spark a negative discussion.

Think about the last conversation you had with your partner. What do you recall about the way he or she looked? Did your partner raise his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks, look disbelieving and smile incredulously? Did his hair lie a bit differently than usual? Did your eyes ever meet? Did she have on lipstick? Was she wearing earrings? Were her eyes twinkling, or did she appear tired?

I see a lot of couples for marriage counseling, and one of the things I’m continually made aware of is that couples frequently do not look at each other when they are talking. In fact, they spend more time looking away and avoiding eye contact than actually looking at each other.

When I point this out to the couple, the partner who is not looking often becomes defensive and says, “I was thinking and that’s why I was looking away.” What he doesn’t realize, however, is how seldom he looks at his partner.

One reason a partner does not look at his mate when talking is that he is paying attention to something else. He is texting or looking at email. Or the children are fighting, and she is trying to hear what’s going on with the kids. Also, people speak only about 120 words a minute while we think at light speed in comparison. So it’s easy to become distracted, think of something else, half listen and not look.

In one study, a group of college students in a classroom purposely looked away from a visiting professor as he lectured. His speech soon became monotone, and he lost almost all facial expression. Then, at a predetermined time, all the students sat up and started looking at the lecturer. Within 30 seconds, his face became animated, his body posture changed, he started moving his arms about and his voice became stronger.

At another prearranged time, the students again stopped looking at the professor. Within minutes, he again lost his enthusiasm and started to drone.

When partners look at each other, they are less sarcastic and less likely to respond negatively. In addition, partners who learn to look at each other report feeling less annoyed and more concerned for their mate.

Why not look at your partner today when he or she is talking? Find out how much you’ve been missing.

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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Lisa, walking into the bedroom, says “Jeff, did you know the light bulb is burned out in the bathroom?” Jeff raises his eyebrows and says, “Oh?” Inside his head, Jeff says, “There’s no way I’m going to replace that light bulb. If she wants me to replace it, she’s going to have to ask.”

Two days later Lisa says to Jeff, “I can’t even see to put on my makeup in the bathroom.” Jeff gives Lisa the old “um-hmmm” response and reaffirms to himself that he’s not going to replace the light bulb until she asks.

Another week goes by and Jeff notices that Lisa is straining to see herself in the mirror with the light that’s coming from the hall. At that moment he feels some compassion for Lisa, and later that day, when she is nowhere around, he replaces the light bulb.

The saga continues when Jeff, decides not to tell Lisa that he replaced the light bulb and Lisa continues to put her makeup on using the light from the hall.

A few days later, Lisa walks briskly into the kitchen and yells indignantly, “When are you going to replace that light bulb?” Jeff looks up from his newspaper, leans back in his chair and says, “Why, I replaced it last week. Didn’t you know?”

Lisa caught off guard, feels confused and indignant. Jeff, on the other hand, feels triumphant.

Lisa takes a deep breath and is ready to fight. Jeff becomes defensive, and for the next 10 minutes they engage in a heated exchange of words followed by another half-hour rehashing who did what when.

Usually in situations like this, a couple will repeat the scenario. The topic will be different, but the scene will play the same way. The reason is because deep down the partners are afraid of closeness. However, because they are human, and each of them has a need to be close and emotionally recognized by the other, they quarrel. Their quarreling allows them to engage each other emotionally, while at the same time avoid closeness.

If this scenario sounds too close to home, examine your motives when arguing, and vow to make some changes in your relationship.

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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When your mate is overweight, best keep your mouth shut if you hope to have a good relationship.

Is your mate overweight? Do you try to monitor what your husband or wife eats? If so, you’re probably caught in a not-so-nice power struggle.

A woman told me that she had bought a chocolate cake but needed to hide it so her husband wouldn’t eat it. As she’s talking I’m thinking, “The guy’s almost 50. He should be the master of his food intake. Her telling him what to eat is not going to make him a happy camper. He’s going to resent it. She’s putting herself in the bad guy category because when she directs her husband what to eat and not eat, he feels resentful.”

When given this kind of feedback many women respond, “Yes, but I don’t want him dying on me because he has clogged arteries and is overweight.” What I say: “I doubt if your harping is going to keep your husband alive. Besides, you’re not with him every waking hour. If he wants to eat or overeat, he will. He’ll just do it behind your back. In policing one’s mate, you become the nag while your mate becomes the sneak. Ridiculous!

If your husband is overweight or has a health problem and should not be eating certain foods, it’s up to him to restrict his diet. The best way you can help is to have healthy food in the house and provide a good example by eating healthily yourself.

Here’s another frequent weight issue. A woman’s angry because her husband wants her to lose weight. She’s put on 60 pounds in the last four years and he no longer finds her attractive. She is angry and asks if it’s fair for him to expect that she lose weight.

Gaining or losing weight has nothing to do with fairness. If your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse finds you unattractive because of the extra pounds, and you want to be attractive to him or her, then it’s important to lose the weight.

What about the father who’s unhappy with his teenage daughter about her weight? He should stay away from the weight issue except to provide good role modeling by eating healthily. Teenagers who are overweight are painfully aware of the fact. Comments such as, “I thought you were watching your weight,” or “You’d really be beautiful if only …” do not serve parent or child. You also don’t want to chip away at the already fluctuating self-esteem that many overweight teenagers have. Instead focus on your child’s attributes and decide to look beyond her weight.

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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If you are always defending your position instead of being open to someone else’s, you may keep yourself from learning new and different ideas.

I was at a meeting once listening to a fellow explain what direction a particular magazine should take, when another fellow piped up, “That’s ridiculous. I disagree completely.”  Within seconds, the various participants at the meeting took sides, and it became a win-lose situation.

So often when people hear something that is new or doesn’t fit with the way they have been thinking, they jump to a negative response such as, “What a stupid idea,” “That would never work,” “How could you think that,” “That’s nonsense,” “It makes no sense to me,” “That makes me mad,” and “I can’t believe you think that.”

As soon as someone makes one of these “close-out” comments, the other person puts up a wall. Now both people are locked into supporting their position, as opposed to considering another idea or blending both ideas for a better solution.

Close-out comments happen in families all the time. A wife says to her husband, “Let’s tear out those old lilac bushes this year and put in some burning bushes.” His response, “No, I don’t think so.” A teenager says, “I think I’m going to get a job.”  The mother says, “That’s stupid, you have enough to do already” A mother says to her grown son, “I didn’t tell you I was sick last week because I didn’t want to worry you.”  The son says, “That makes me mad.”

If you’re a person who goes for the close-out without thinking, commit the following to memory. When you hear something you immediately disagree with, say instead, “Let me think about it,” or “It’s a possibility that would work,” or “Well, that’s one way to look at it.”  These statements suggest that you’re open to the other person’s point of view and make for a more productive, win-win situation.

Other words that soften your opinion and make it easier for your listener to digest include “often,” “sometimes,” “perhaps,” “usually,” and “maybe.”

Most people do not intend to block communication, but many people inadvertently do. Use these suggestions and you’ll keep the lines of communication open.

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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A friend and I went antique hunting one Saturday to celebrate her birthday. The first store we walked into had some construction going on. In fact, we could hear a buzz saw in the background.

My friend spied a locket in a case. When the owner approached, she asked if she could help. My friend asked to see the locket. The woman said, “I can’t get into that case. Look at this mess. I have no idea where my keys are. Come back in two weeks.” We both shook our heads to the woman’s comments, felt a little disappointed, and said, OK.

As we turned to leave, the woman added in a rather condescending tone, “And you shouldn’t be in here anyway. We’re closed.”

I dutifully marched toward the door. My friend, however, isn’t so easily intimidated and her button had been pushed. She said, “Then you should put up a closed sign.”

The woman’s comeback: “It must have gotten moved.”

As the woman was shutting the door behind us, she must have had second thoughts about what she had said, for she added more gently, “Well, we really don’t have a sign.”

Naturally, my friend and I talked about this woman and her poor business approach.

It would have been so much better if she had said, “I’m sorry, I’ve mislaid the keys in all this construction. In fact, we’re really not open for business. But do look around. And please come back when we’re a little more organized.”

The second antique store had no construction going on. My friend and I peered in all the cases, looking at this and that. Then I approached the young man behind the counter and asked, “Do you have any paperweights?” thinking that I might have missed one. He looked at me and said, “Lady, if you don’t see it, we don’t have it.”

At that point I started giggling and said thanks. As my friend and I walked out of the store I said, “Is there a full moon tonight?”

How much better it would have been for this fellow to have said, “I don’t think we have any paperweights right now. Check back in a few weeks.”

The week before last I wore a leather vest to work. I thought it looked great. When I walked out into the waiting room, one of my more critical clients said, “My, don’t you look fancied up. Ha. Ha. Ha.”

I didn’t respond.

How much better it would have been if this woman had said nothing. Or if she had said, “I like your vest.”

A wife had asked her husband about the Kurds. Several days later he found an article on the topic in a magazine of his. Because he thought it would be of interest to her, he put it on her dresser. His wife’s response when she saw the magazine: “Why are you always putting your stuff on my dresser?”

With one thoughtless remark this wife had put her husband down, thrown away his caring deed and made a fool of herself.

Jeannine is moving to Europe. Recently she ran into one of her friends and told her of her adventure. The other woman’s comment: “What would you ever want to do that for?”

Now, tell me, how is someone supposed to respond to that?

I believe most people are well meaning. The trouble is they don’t think before they speak. They don’t listen to what they say. They don’t hear their tone of voice. They don’t think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their comments.

This week, be determined to watch what you say. Be determined to listen to how you say it.

Think with your ears.

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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Planning to remarry next year? Before you book the caterer and the band, best have some straightforward talks about your future married life.

One man I know is ready to take the plunge. Two problems loom large however. He’s a neatnick and she’s a slob. He reports that she’s trying to be more tidy – hanging up clothes and shutting bureau drawers. But her nonchalant attitude over putting things away is going to be a stumbling block to closeness.

Another issue. He has a thriving business and is well off financially. She has little financial worth. Although ready to say “I do,” he’s not ready to share all his money. Should he have his business evaluated and work out a prenuptial agreement? Or should he just tie the knot and hope they live happily ever after?

Another couple face a different dilemma. She has a teenage daughter. When her boyfriend tries to tell this girl what to do, the mother finds herself feeling resentful. She wants to marry but doesn’t want her new husband involved with parenting. What will this man do when this child gives him trouble, leaves her messes around, demands to be driven somewhere?

Couple number three are trying to work out a different sort of problem. He has two children and a nice home that is almost paid for. She has two children and rents her home. When they marry and move into his home, she wants her name on the house title. He’s reluctant to put her name on the deed. His reasoning: the house is his children’s   inheritance. If he dies before they’re raised, the money has been ear -marked for their education. Because he has an ongoing medical problem, life insurance is out of the question.

When planning to remarry – if you really want the marriage to work – write down all concerns.

Here’s a list to get you started.

Where will you live? Is the type of house important? What about the school district? I’m working with a woman who is determined to live in a particular school district. Except her fiancee doesn’t feel comfortable in that area of town.

Who will do the cooking, grocery shopping, repairs? Just because your ex-wife did the cooking each night, it doesn’t mean your new wife enjoys the kitchen.

How will you budget your money? Will everything go into one account? How will you decide who gets to spend what? Even when couples decide to split expenses, resentments arise because one mate frequently has more spendable income.

If someone is coming into the marriage with a home and a savings account, are things to be shared from the get-go? Older men frequently marry younger women. The man has the money, the woman has the looks. The man wants her to sign off on his money, but he gets to enjoy a young wife. What’s fair?

If one of you has children, and 60% of couples who remarry do, consider the following:

– Who will physically take care of the children? I’ve seen too many couples in therapy where the wife is resentful because her husband expects her to do most of the work with his young children.

-Are your ideas of disciplining similar? If one of you is laid-back and the other somewhat demanding, problems will occur. Negotiate now.

-If your mate makes more money, do you expect him to foot the bill for your child’s education? Maybe his plan is to use his savings to retire early. Is he willing to forgo his plan to pay your child’s tuition bills?

-What about having a child? If only one of you has children, it’s likely that the childless individual will want an heir.

Other considerations before tying the knot a second or third time:

  • How do you want to spend your weekends? If one of you likes to stay home and the other likes to be out and about, there will be conflicts.
  • How about vacations and retirement? If one of you is expanding your career and the other is slowing down, how do you intend to handle differences in play time?

If you can take the issues in this column, thoroughly talk them through, and come up with specific agreements, you will have lessened or eliminated future marital problems.

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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When my son rented a house in Philadelphia with several other students during his college days, he found himself the keeper of a mangy 13-year-old dog, Blackthorn.

The problem for Blackthorn was that one of the other students who was renting also had a dog. This dog’s name was Kaya. Kaya was young, energetic and certainly more attractive than Blackthorn. So he got almost all the attention.

To make matters worse for Blackthorn, he had a large patch of hair missing on his back. This, of course, discouraged people from petting him.

Come winter, Kaya and his owner moved out. How fortuitous for Blackthorn. Now he was the only dog in the house.

One day, my son bathed him. Another day, he took him for a walk in the woods. When the students had a barbecue, Blackthorn was invited to play Frisbee.

Suddenly, Blackthorn was receiving a lot of attention. He became more energetic and less docile. He wagged his tail more often. His hair grew back. It was almost as if he had returned to an earlier time in his life.

One time, I was sitting in a booth in a restaurant when several men in their 70’s passed by. The one man said to the other, “You know, Sam, I think that woman over there was flirting with you.” Sam half-laughed and said, “You think?” At which point Sam threw back his head, put his chest out, stood a little straighter and quickened his stride across the room.

Which brings me to my mother-in-law. Several years ago I took her to Harry, her eye doctor, for a minor operation. After the surgery Harry asked her if she would like a cup of coffee. Mother, then in her 80’s, said that sounded just wonderful. Harry himself went to get the coffee.

For three days Mother was more perky and more girlish and told everyone about Harry getting her a cup of coffee.

Woman, man or beast – we all need to be recognized.

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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Why DO people hold grudges?

I was talking with a woman the other day and she said that her uncle had just died, an uncle she remembered only vague­ly.

It seems that when this woman was small, she was at a family party, and her three-year-old sister kicked the uncle in the shins. The uncle impulsively picked up the little girl, turned her over his knee, and spanked her. An argument ensued between the girl’s father and the uncle. For the next 35 years the two families remained estranged.

The woman’s father attempted to get the families back together a time or two, calling at Christmas to offer good cheer. But the uncle chose to remain angry-righteous, holding tightly to his grudge. Consequently, the families never saw each other again.

Not only did this woman lose contact with her only aunt and uncle, but she lost the relationship with her three cousins whom she loved dearly.

She, of course, wasn’t the only one who suffered from the grudge. Her sister and her mother also missed these relatives. Her father never saw his sister, his nephews, or his brother-in-law again. Family parties and get-togethers ended. “And my poor grandmother never was able to have all of her children and their families together,” said the woman.

As she told her story, I thought: This is a true human tragedy because all it would have taken to mend things between the two families was forgiveness.

If someone is holding a grudge because of your behavior, rush to make a phone call now and ask for forgiveness. If you are the one holding the grudge, let go of your bad feelings and re-establish contact today.

If you have second thoughts about mending a fence, think of all the other people whom you are inadvertently hurting because of your position. Think of the woman who lost her aunt and uncle and her cousins because of one family argument that was never resolved.

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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