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Archive for the ‘couples’ Category

Sometimes I’ll ask a couple I’m seeing in therapy to do the following exercise.

  1. The husband and wife stand about six feet apart.
  2. The husband walks slowly toward his wife until he reaches a point where he no longer feels comfortable. Some men stop about three feet from their wives. Others stop at 30 inches and still others at 27.
  3. The wife now moves toward her husband or steps back from him, depending on how much space she feels she needs between the two of them.

The purpose of the exercise is to help a couple understand that each has an invisible boundary line. If the husband moves into the wife’s space, she’ll immediately step back to reestablish her boundary. Everyone has a different physical comfort level.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon to observe in yourself as well as others. Walk up to anyone and generally you’ll see the person step back from you or move toward you. If the person steps back, you may move closer. If the person steps forward, you may move back. Usually the two of you will move around until you establish a comfortable space between you.

Just as people have invisible physical boundaries, they also have unspoken psychological ones. When these are crossed, there is discomfort and sometimes even an argument.

One psychological boundary people have is their tolerance for talking. Some people like to talk. Others like quiet.

If a wife likes to talk and her husband likes quiet, her talking may create a sense of uneasiness in him. His psychological space is being invaded. He may address his discomfort by walking out of the room or tuning out.

The wife, on the other hand, may feel anxious when her mate doesn’t talk. One might say her psychological space has been invaded by his silence. She may address her uneasiness by picking a fight to get the verbal energy flowing.

Household noises often cross people’s psychological boundaries. One spouse may like the TV volume higher than the other. When the volume is up, one person feels intruded upon, but when it’s down, the other is uncomfortable.

One couple has trouble when the husband watches sporting events, particularly football. His wife becomes anxious and distressed. The continual talking of the announcer and the roar of the crowd impinge so much on her psychological boundary that she feels a need to run away and leave the house.

Another psychological boundary involves how much information spouses believe they should share with others about their relationship. The husband may see no problem with telling his best friend that they’re having financial difficulties. But the wife may think that discussing their problems with others is a betrayal of the relationship.

A couple may have different psychological boundaries when it comes to the number of things they like to have around the house. Some people feel most comfortable with many collectibles sitting around. Others want absolutely clean surfaces and a lot of knick-knacks create a sense of discomfort.

Think of yourself and your mate. How far apart are your psychological boundaries for talking? Noise level? Sharing information with others? Items around the house?

Conflict frequently results when couples fail to respect each other’s psychological boundaries. Understanding your boundaries as well as your mate’s will make you more tolerant and reduce stress between the two of you.

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 know an accountant whose house was about paid for. His wife wanted to take the money they had in savings and finish paying off the house. He didn’t want to do this because the money he had in savings was making more interest than he was losing on interest payments. Even after seeing the figures in black and white, his wife still wanted the house free and clear. She didn’t want to take any chances that she might lose their home.

Even though it did not make sense economically, the fellow paid off the house.

This man was a real friend to his wife. Despite the money he lost, he took care of her emotionally.

Take the following test to determine if you are a true friend to your partner. Answer each statement with a yes or no.

1. You make a point of asking how a meeting or an appointment went that you know your mate was concerned about.
2. You remember to say “good luck” when your mate is about to embark on a difficult task such as confronting a co-worker, making a presentation, or talking to your child’s teacher.
3. When your mate asks you to do a favor, you usually say yes without hesitating and needing to think about the request.

4.​ You take responsibility for the times when you have acted badly and you apologize.
5.​ You volunteer to do things for your mate such as picking up a new alarm clock, returning a shirt, or taking the car in for an inspection.
6. If your partner has a headache in the morning, you make a point of calling later in the day to see how he or she is feeling.
7. When your partner suggests going for a ride, taking in a movie, or going out for dinner   you usually respond to these suggestions with enthusiasm.
8. You are conscious of how much money you spend on yourself and do not spend more than your fair share.
9. When your mate is ill, you comfort and take care of him or her, and you do not get angry or pout because you  have to change plans or take more responsibility in the house.
10.​ You feel joy when your partner receives recognition outside the home and you suggest a celebration. You feel some sadness when things go badly for your mate, and you offer comfort.
11.​ You are careful how much you criticize your mate or make helpful suggestions as to how he or she might do things differently.

What’s your score?

If you have nine or more yes answers, you know how to give emotional support to your mate and your partner has a good friend in you.

If you have less than nine yes answers, you’re not particularly attuned to your partner’s emotional needs. Work on it.

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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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 man I see in therapy explained.

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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Someone in therapy recently asked,
“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?

 

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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The critical parent versus the rebellious child: overcoming marital games.

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 going to the internet, 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 Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Guide.” 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.

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