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Archive for the ‘couples’ Category

Danger… Your relationship may be in trouble if:

The two of you bicker all the time.
When couples bicker, they exchange lots of negative strokes. Over the years they remember these barbs and store them inside until they build a wall between themselves. This is called the Wall of Trivia. Once this wall is in place, couples stop feeling close and stop talking intimately.

You do not take time out to play just the two of you.
Many couples know the importance of play time with the children. They’re off to the pumpkin patch and the Zoo and soccer games. What they don’t do is take time for each other to go for a ride, to go out for breakfast.

You no longer have an active sex life.
It’s easy to get out of the habit of having sex. As one man said, “We have to pay our bills and have clean underwear. And there’s only so much time.” What sex does is renew the commitment – the two of you are a couple.

You are not sharing household chores.
Some individuals like to cook and clean. And some enjoy doing windows. But rare is the individual who wants to do it all, or who has time to do it all. Couples need to do an inventory of who does what and work toward sharing household chores.

You don’t agree on how to parent the children.
If you tell your son he may not have the car Friday night, and your mate comes along and tells him he can have it, your mate is sending the loud message that what you say isn’t important. You don’t count. He also sets up a good guy/bad guy relationship between you.

You do not have equal access to the finances.
Most often, one partner makes more money than the other. Unfortunately the one who brings in the bacon, or most of it, sometimes feels that he should be the one to spend more. This thinking causes a one-up one-down relationship, which translates into all kinds of bad behaviors.

You don’t respect or value your mate.
If you don’t value your mate, you’re not going to want to spend time with her or listen to her opinions and ideas. Once someone is of little value, that person becomes a throw-away.

One of you drinks too much.
When a mate drinks too much, he’s not intellectually or emotionally available, so he’s hardly a companion. Too much drinking also leads to the drinking spouse justifying rude and inappropriate behaviors.

One of you has a bad temper.
It’s OK to get angry. But if you’re always spouting off about what you don’t like, and always trying to control your mate with your angry feelings, aren’t you really saying that you matter more?

Neither of you can apologize.
Apologies say, “I stepped on your feelings and I won’t do that again.” If you can’t apologize, you’re pretending you’re perfect. It’s a drag living with someone who thinks she never makes a mistake.

You never have a disagreement.
No two people are alike. When two people agree on everything, someone is not being true to himself or herself. When two people see the world from slightly different perspectives, this brings energy and even disagreement sometimes. This is healthy.

You don’t have common goals for the future.
Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? Do you have a financial plan for the children’s education, your retirement? What are your goals as a couple? When couples are in trouble, they don’t think about the future.

One of you is unfaithful.
Affairs always hurt a marriage. Most marriages, however, can survive an affair, particularly if both mates do the repair work after it ends. But if one mate continues to be unfaithful it’s a marriage in name only.

You’re sarcastic and put each other down.
Every time you are sarcastic or critical, you drive a wedge in the marriage. If you’re sarcastic or critical five times a week, in 10 years you’ve chalked up 2,600 hits against your mate. Would you stay with a friend that hurt you 2,600 times?

The two of you don’t exchange compliments and thank yous.
It’s easy to forget to say, “Thanks for picking up my shirts from the cleaners,” “Thanks for taking care of that wedding gift,” “Thanks for putting in a new furnace filter.” Not recognizing what your mate does translates into taking advantage of your mate’s good will.

Most couples start out intending to stay married. If you hope to continue your married life, heed the warning signs.

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 person I see in therapy says; “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.

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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Some things are simply better left unsaid.

I’ve been building a collection of some of the silly, outrageous, hurtful, and goofy statements people sometimes make. Here are a few of these foolish comments.

Upon seeing her husband, a wife says, “You look nice. You must be planning on going somewhere.” The husband, not to be outdone, retorts, “Why, yes, I’m going out to chase women.”

We’re in church. The congregation is following along in the prayer books and every once in a while the people intone Alleluia. The woman behind me, however, instead of saying Alleluias shrieks AMEN. With that I hear another voice say, “That’s okay, Grandma, you can say whatever you want.”

Someone calls my office and asks for an appointment. I offer three possibilities. His response: “Business must really be bad.”

It’s early morning and the wife walks into the kitchen. Her husband is reading the news online. On seeing his wife the husband says, “What are you doing up so early?”

A friend tells me that he ran into one of our mutual college friends. He then says, “I asked the guy if he remembered you…and he didn’t remember you at all!”

A woman notices that her friend has obviously put a color on her hair. Her comment to the friend: “What color is your hair anyway?”

It’s noontime and I’m standing and eating a pretzel in my office. This woman comes in, sees me, and says, “Is that your lunch?”

One man asks another where he is going. The fellow responds that he is going to the store to do some shopping. His compatriot’s comment: “On a beautiful day like this?”

A woman is talking to her friends about plastic surgery and she says, “If I had $6,000 and could take a month off work, I’d seriously consider having my neck done.” At this point, her friend responds, “It would take a lot more than $6,000 to fix you up.”

How about this one? An elderly friend has been working outside in the garden almost the whole day so I say, “Come on in and take a rest.” Before he has a chance to answer, a woman visitor jumps in and says, “He won’t come in, he’s afraid he’ll miss something.”

Then there is the woman who is definitely looking for sympathy from her husband when she says, “I think I’m coming down with the flu.” Instead of sympathy her husband says, “Oh, no, now I’ll get it.”

A husband and wife are at a party, and she is telling everyone about her birthday the week before. As she’s telling the story, the wife looks at her husband and says, “He sent me the nicest card. I was shocked.”

At another party a man asks his wife, “What time is it getting to be?” His wife’s response: “You’re the one who has all the watches.”

As I said earlier, some things are simply better left unsaid.

Having troubles with controlling your criticism of others?
Look for Doris’ ebook: How to Stop the Criticism!

Also, 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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I see a couple in therapy who fight about orange juice. Here’s the way the scenario goes. He says, “Will you stop and get some orange juice for tomorrow morning?” She says, “Sure.”

That night as they are getting into bed, he says, “Did you get my orange juice?” She says, “I forgot. I got too busy. Besides, if it is so important, pick up your own juice.” His response, “I would if you hadn’t told me you were going to get it.”

She then turns the light out in the bedroom and the two of them lie there feeling frustrated and misunderstood. He thinks to himself, “After all I do for her, and I can’t even count on her for juice.” She thinks to herself, “Why can’t he get his own juice if it’s so important?” How often does this type of situation occur? About once or twice a month.

How can they get out of this game? He could decide that he will always be responsible for getting his own juice or she could decide to keep him supplied with juice.

Why won’t they stop playing? Because each of them gets a payoff from this game. Long ago they established a relationship in which he takes the role of the Critical Parent and she plays the role of the Rebellious Child. The juice is simply the excuse for him to act indignant.

In adolescence, this fellow made a decision that most people are incompetent. The juice script allows him to play out his original decision about people,  she’s so incompetent she can’t even remember my orange juice.

She, on the other hand, made a decision that men are fools based on the fact that her father was usually drunk and acted foolish. To prove out her decision, she “forgets” the juice and watches her husband act like a fool over a little juice.

Another couple that I see played the same game around vacations, although in there situation she plays the Critical Parent and he plays the Rebellious Child.

Each year about January, he starts talking up a vacation. She responds to his enthusiasm by searching online, reading up on vacation spots, and making plans. Come May, he announces that they don’t have enough money for a vacation. She responds with indignation and outrage.

They both operate from the old script that men are supposed to financially take care of women. Neither question the availability of money until feelings are riding high about the upcoming vacation.

The other thing that supports this game is that as a young child this man lost his father. For years he walked around feeling gypped and inadequate. Not being able to provide a vacation for his family helps him re-experience these old familiar feelings.

Here are a few more examples of how one spouse plays Critical Parent and the other plays Rebellious Child:
• When he’s late she gives him lectures on discounting her feelings about being on time.
• She uses his car and leaves the gas tank empty. He writes her nasty notes on the bathroom mirror.
• He wants to keep a running balance in the check book and she doesn’t write down the amounts.
If you recognize yourself, well . . . you’re halfway to giving up your part of the game. The other half is changing your behavior.

Check out the book, “How to Stop the Criticism” by Doris on Amazon, along with her other newer 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 Caretaker is a person whose main focus in life is taking care of others. Caretakers almost always put their mate’s needs ahead of their own. Because they are so focused on everyone else’s needs, their intuitive powers are highly developed.

They can walk into a room and know what their mate is feeling. If their mate is feeling happy, they feel happy. If their mate is feeling down in the dumps, they start to feel anxious, and try everything possible to make their mate feel better. It’s almost as if their mate is an extension of themselves.

A classic example is the Caretaker who dislikes watching basketball, but feels that she must sit and watch March madness with her husband in order to keep him company. He doesn’t ask her to sit down and watch with him, nor does he expect her to watch with him, but she watches because she thinks she should.

A caretaker also tends to be an advice giver. When she has a problem, however, she’s reluctant to ask for help because she’s supposed to be the helper, not the “helpee”.
The position of Caretaker automatically gives a person a tremendous amount of power because Caretaker makes most of the decisions in the relationship. And secretly she enjoys this position of power.

At the same time, she often feels cheated because her mate doesn’t take responsibility and make more decisions in the relationship. When her mate tries to take more responsibility, however, the caretaker is right there trying to take charge once again.

For example, Caretaker complains that her husband doesn’t discipline the children enough. When her husband does start to discipline, she immediately jumps in and gives additional advice to the children. Or she disagrees with her husband’s disciplining and overrides him.

Usually in a relationship it’s the woman who’s the Caretaker, because in our society, most often it’s the little girl in the family who is taught to take care of others. There are also some men who fall into this category, but mostly it’s the woman.

If you’re a Caretaker, you probably have already recognized yourself, but if you have any doubt, the following test will help you decide. Also, if you know you’re not a Caretaker but you suspect that your mate is, take the test with him or her in mind. For every yes answer, give yourself one point.

You are constantly concerned about your mate’s mood, forever taking his emotional temperature, and feel responsible when your spouse is depressed, bored, angry, sad or unhappy.

You are more aware of your spouse’s feelings than your own.

You give compliments, hugs, pats on the back, and you always try to please.

You prepare well in advance for birthdays, holidays, vacations, and social gatherings so everything will be just right.

You are willing to drop your own plans for those of your mate’s at a moment’s notice.

You have a high energy level, you are ambitious and definitely a doer in life.

You have the ability to look at a situation and recognize instantly what needs to be done.

You have trouble relaxing, and when you do, you still work on little projects such as paying the bills while watching television or wiping off the kitchen cabinets while talking to a friend on the telephone.

You are well-organized, efficient and somewhat compulsive.

You secretly enjoy taking charge and making sure things get done.

If you have 8, 9, or 10 yeses, you are definitely a Caretaker. If you have 5, 6, or 7 yeses, you are probably a caring person and often do nice things for others, but you do not operate from the Caretaker frame of reference.

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 Passive Taker is a person who floats along in life with seemingly little purpose and few goals. He does not focus on what he wants, likes or dislikes. Nor does he focus on his mate’s wants, likes or dislikes. His lot in life is to accept what’s happening to him at the time.

Most people see the Passive Taker as a nice guy. He rarely gets angry. He can pretty much be counted on to go along with anything. He makes few decisions for himself.

For example, Passive Taker and his wife are at a restaurant. As they are ordering, the waiter asks Passive Taker what kind of salad dressing he would like. Passive Taker looks at his wife to choose his salad dressing. I use the pronoun he because most Passive Takers are men, although occasionally a woman will fall into this category.

As children, Passive Takers were taught to expect others to take care of them. They in turn were expected to do what they were told. With their wants and needs consistently being met, they didn’t learn to plan ahead or think about what they wanted, nor did they learn to focus on anyone else’s needs. Like the Caretaker, they are a product of their upbringing.

Passive Takers do not initiate or organize in their relationship. They complacently go along with the program, but they rarely take charge or plan it. They are willing to help out, but chores must be assigned. They do not compliment their mate, nor do they criticize.

I want to emphasize that a Passive Taker does not think in the same way that other people think. He does not come home and think, “I’m going to watch a football game tonight.” He simply comes home, switches on the television, sees that a football game is in progress, and settles in to watch it.

What his wife and children happen to be doing at the time does not cross his mind. He simply does not think about what other people are doing or how others are feeling.

Now let’s take the Passive Taker test. For every yes answer, give yourself one point. If you know you’re not a Passive Taker but you have a suspicion that the person you are living with is, take the test with him or her in mind.

You will help out if assigned a task, like setting the table or putting away the suitcases, but you rarely take the initiative and do these things yourself, or start a project on your own.

You are content doing almost anything, spend a good deal of your free time alone, live in your own world and do not have a need to interact with others.

You rarely ask your mate to do something for you. You make few demands.

You do not think in advance or plan ahead in your marriage. You do not shop more than a day or two ahead for birthdays, or call ahead for reservations, or think in terms of the future.

You are not attuned to the wants or feelings of your mate.

You rarely give compliments or pats on the back, nor do you “see” what your mate has done for you.

You are rarely critical of yourself or your mate.

You are viewed by the outside world as nice, easygoing and content.

You are often accused by your mate of being selfish and lazy and are told, “You just don’t care.”

You are non-competitive and prefer to let others take the lead.
If you have 8 or more yeses, you are definitely a Passive Taker. If you have 5, 6 or 7 yeses, you sometimes exhibit Passive Taker behaviors, but you do not operate from a Passive Taker frame of reference.

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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Any relationship should support equity between partners: give and take.

A man told me in therapy the other day that he was bad because he was too good. He has a bad habit of doing too much in a relationship. Consequently, his relationships end because the women feel smothered and eventually pull away.

What does he do that ultimately causes every relationship to terminate? Here’s a partial list he made for me entitled “How to Smother.”

Make sure you hug her the minute you see her.
No matter what she’s doing, come up behind her and rub her back.
When she’s fixing dinner or doing a project around the house, offer to do it for her.
Just before you leave from work, call her to say good morning. When you leave for lunch, call and tell her where you’re going. When you leave work at night, check to see if she wants to get together even though you know she planned to be with her sister that evening.
Offer to pick up lumber to fix her deck and buy shrubs for the front of her house.
Tell her you forgive her for being late even before she apologizes.
Be available anytime she wants to get together and always drop your plans.
Arrange to bring all your bills and paper work to her house so you can both work in the same room.
Encourage her to pursue exercising and reading while you clean her house.
Keep hanging around her house even though she has a date with her girlfriends hoping they’ll invite you to go to dinner with them.
While she’s using the bathroom, make the bed and lay out her clothes. Press her skirt and blouse if it’s wrinkled.
Get up when eating to get all the unexpected little extras during the meal.
Insist that she choose the restaurant, movie or activity of her liking.
If this is you, stop. Remember, if a relationship is going to make it, one essential ingredient is equity between the partners; that is, a give and take in the 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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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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Take two steps back during an argument with your significant other and think about what you should say.

I was driving down the road when all of a sudden the driver of the car ahead of me and to my left started moving over into my lane. As he did so, this driver almost sideswiped the car in front of me. The man who was almost sideswiped, swerved to avoid being hit and honked several times. The woman who was in the passenger’s seat, whom I assume was the gentleman’s wife, looked over at other driver who had almost caused an accident, and shook her fist at him.

A moment later, we all pulled up to a stop light. The two drivers who had almost had the accident were now side by side. The wife leaned over to the driver’s side of the car and started shaking her index finger, parent style, at the guy who had made a mistake. The husband at this point focused his attention not on the other driver, but on his wife. He put his hand on her shoulder and patted it in the way you pat a child’s shoulder when you want her to calm down.

Meanwhile, the other driver started wagging his index finger back at the woman in a mocking fashion. To make things worse, he had a nasty grin on his face.

Thank goodness the light changed.

By the time the couple got to the next intersection (I was still behind them), the two of them were arguing. No doubt the argument was over the fact that this woman wanted to tell the other driver off and her husband didn’t like what she was doing.

Sadly, this type of interaction is a common one between couples. Instead of the husband agreeing with his wife’s angry righteous feeling, he focuses on her behavior, which he obviously doesn’t like. In the end, this only causes her to be more upset, because now she must defend her behavior to her husband. The real culprit in the situation is no longer the issue.

A similar interchange occurs, for example, when a couple attends a party and one of the husband’s friends takes a potshot at the wife. Neither the wife nor the husband says anything at the time, but when they get home, she starts to complain about the fellow’s comment. Instead of the husband supporting his wife at this point and saying, “That was really lousy,” he defends the guy, saying, “Oh, Matt probably had too much to drink. You know how it is when he drinks.”

Once again, I’m forced to muse: “Does familiarity breed contempt?” For, certainly, it doesn’t seem to breed support.

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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Don’t get caught in a cyclone of overspending – exercise some control in your life.

I’m seeing a couple in therapy who went on three vacations this past year — Hawaii, Colorado, and Florida — and they can’t pay their bills. They are maxed out on most of their credit cards, and they have gotten into the rut of using one card to pay another. She has student loans from years ago, and he owes his parents, his friends, his dentist, his doctor, and the plumber.

When I confronted them about their overspending and asked why they are now planning to go skiing, they both became indignant. She said they work hard, really hard, and they deserve it. He said he needs vacations because his job is so stressful.

I said they were creating more stress by adding to their bills. They said I was wrong and I didn’t understand.

I asked, “What if one of you loses his or her job?” His response, “We’ll get another.” She nodded in agreement.

I asked, “What about your doctor, and dentist, and the plumber? When will they get paid?”

She assured me they would get their money.

I said I doubted it because from my vantage point, I saw bankruptcy. Both of them shrugged, and I could see I was making no headway. Neither of them was going to stop spending.

How about you? Do you need to put the brakes on your spending? If so, there’s no time like now, today, immediately.

One of the best and first things to do: Figure out what you can afford to spend above and beyond your fixed expenses. Set a number, be it fifty, a thousand or two thousand a month. If you’re on the $50 plan and you want something that cost $100, this means you wait two months before purchasing the item.

A second tough task: Figure how much you are in debt with charge cards, home improvement loans, doctor bills, second mortgages, and loans from friends and relatives. Now figure out how many months or years it will take you to pay off these bills. If you’re in debt $11,000 and you can afford to pay off only $300 a month, it will take you more than three years to pay off this debt. An eye-opening exercise to be sure.

Now come up with a list of excuses you use for spending money, like those of the couple I discussed earlier. Here are some favorites:

I deserve it. I work hard.
We’ll go on a budget after we decorate the house.
My husband doesn’t watch what he spends, why should I?
Life is boring if you can’t shop or go on a vacation.
Hey, it’s on sale.

Next agenda item: What is the underlying reason you spend more than you can pay for? Do you use going to the mall and spending as a form of entertainment, a way to relax, or rid yourself of anxiety for a few hours? If so, discipline yourself. Allow yourself to go to a store only when you truly need something, not when you want something. For entertainment and relaxing, hit some tennis balls, try a walk with a friend, go to a movie, or read a book.

If spending makes you feel better, what feel-good substitute can you come up with? How about visiting an old friend, making a special dinner, doing your nails, or working out?

Next on your to-do list: Write out what you really need. Include those items you feel are essential. Maybe a new toaster is in order because last week your toaster died. But can’t you wait another few weeks for that toaster? And do you really need another pair of earrings, another jean jacket, and another sweater? How much do you really need?

If you’re a compulsive shopper, ask a friend to help you break this addiction. Write down everything you buy in a week, and give her your list. Writing the items down will make you more aware and more accountable for your spending. Or make a pact that you won’t go to any stores for six months. For groceries, maybe have them delivered.

Read the book Your Money or Your Life. It lays out a great plan if you are really serious about not continuing to overspend.

Remember the old advertisement, “Buy now and pay later”? Unfortunately it’s true.

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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