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How many of you might write a letter similar to the one below?

Dear Bob,

I know you are mad at me because I have been refusing to have sex with you lately. And I also have not approached you for sex, even though you have hinted that I should do so. The problem is, I’m very annoyed with you at the moment. Maybe after reading this letter you will understand my feelings and change your behavior. Then maybe we can have sex again.

I guess the final straw came when I was working at the fish fry at church and cut my finger. When I called to tell you I thought I needed to go to the hospital, the first thing you asked was whether the church had workers’ compensation. You said if they didn’t, I shouldn’t go to the hospital because it would be too expensive. What I needed at that moment was for you to ask me about my finger.

When I found out that the church had insurance, I called you back to take me to the hospital. You said you couldn’t get away. You had too much work to do. So a friend took me to the emergency room.

When I got back, I called to let you know how I was doing. Your secretary said that you were out to lunch.

Bob, why would I want to have sex with you when you act as though I don’t count?

And now that I am on a roll with this letter, here are some other reasons that I justify turning you down.

You drive too fast and when I ask you to slow down, you drive even faster.

We never go out alone as a couple.

If you don’t get your way, you let everyone know by pouting and refusing to talk.

You are not affectionate outside the bedroom.

You tell me I’m spoiled because I work only part-time.

You put me down in front of other people.

You chew with your mouth open, you are overweight, and you drink too much.

You do not help me with the children or help around the house.

You call me names, even right after we have had sex.

You expect a big meal every night no matter how tired I am.

You refuse to go to the children’s school functions.

You do not pick up your clothes, bath towel, or dishes, or clean out the tub when you have finished using it.

You are friendly and outgoing, and nice to everyone but me and your children.

I have always liked sex. It’s a way for me to feel close to you. But lately I don’t feel very close. Please change your behaviors so we can get our sex life back on track.

Your Wife,
Jan

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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Did you know that when you fight, your fights always follow the same pattern? What you fight about with your mate or your child may change from year to year, but the way the fight unfolds remains the same.

Take for example Marge and Bill. No matter what they fight about, Bill takes the mild-mannered, logical position while Marge becomes furious and raves like a maniac. The more calm Bill becomes, the more hysterical Marge acts. The pattern is always the same.

On Tuesday, this couple fought because Bill didn’t get home until 6:40, when he usually arrives by 6:00.

As soon as Bill came in the door, Marge expected an explanation.

Bill explained that his boss had wanted to see him just as he was walking out the door, and he couldn’t get away.

At this explanation, Marge became angrier and insisted that Bill should have excused himself to call her. After all, most people live on some sort of time schedule, even the boss.

Bill countered by telling Marge in a reasonable tone that she didn’t understand the corporate world; and most people in his position don’t leave the office until 6:30. To call home hadn’t seemed necessary because it wasn’t as if he was being delayed until 10 at night.

Angrier still, Marge pointed out that she had taken time out of her life to go to the grocery store and make a nice meal for him, which was now ruined. Why was his time more important than her time? She also recounted all the other times Bill had chosen his work over her – like when he went out of town on business when their first child was due.

At the end of the argument, which lasted most of the evening, Bill felt persecuted and believed Marge was completely unreasonable. Marge felt that she didn’t count and once again Bill’s work had come first.

If Marge and Bill would take a moment to see that the pattern is always the same – Bill gets logical and Marge gets hysterical, and they rarely resolve their differences – they could change the pattern.

Instead of defending his actions, Bill could focus on Marge’s feelings. He could acknowledge that she had to wait and hold dinner and that it would have been more thoughtful for him to call. Bill should give no explanation or rationale for his decision to stay and talk with the boss.

Marge could change the pattern by stating her position and then restating it and not allowing herself to become hysterical.

The problem is, neither Bill nor Marge would get to feel misunderstood and persecuted. And who would express Bill’s anger for him if Marge became more controlled? And what about their familiar routine? What would they do if they were not fighting?

That’s why it’s so hard to give up your fight pattern.

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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Marie threw a load of clothes into the washer and started it up. A few minutes before, Frank had stepped into the shower. As the washer filled with cold water, Frank was showered with very hot water. He stepped back from the shower nozzle and started banging on the wall. “I’m being scalded to death,” he bellowed. “Turn off that washer!”

Marie rushed to shut off the washer. Neither she or Frank had messed up. You might say it was just bad timing.

But some problems caused by bad timing can be prevented.

For example, you’re talking on the telephone and your husband asks you the whereabouts of the checkbook. You must now tell the party on the other end to wait while you talk to your husband. Or you can try to mouth the answer. Or you can grab a paper and pencil and write a note. No matter how you handle it, your mate’s timing is poor and he’s created a stressful situation for you.

Another example: As you are rushing out the door to go to work, your child asks you to sign a permission slip for school or announces this is her day to bring a snack. Had she brought up the issue the day before, it would not have been a big deal. But because of her faulty timing, your feathers are bound to be ruffled.

One woman says her husband’s “favorite trick” is to start talking finances right before bedtime. “Talking about bills and our money makes me feel anxious. Once he brings up the bills, I can’t fall asleep.”

Bad timing in the home also includes:

  • Making a telephone call right after your wife has told you dinner is ready.
  • Asking your parents for money or the car a few minutes after you’ve smarted
    off to them.
  • Starting an important conversation with someone who is engrossed in a movie
    or trying to balance the checkbook.
  • Yelling for your mate to come and look at something in the front yard when you
    have no idea where he is in the house or what he’s doing.
  • Expecting sex when you’ve been rude and just had a fight.
  • Telling your spouse you have no money as you pull in the movie parking lot.
  • Sweeping the floor when the rest of the family is in the car waiting to leave.
  • Talking about redecorating the family room when your husband has just told
    you he feels insecure about his job.

Remember, smooth relationships require sensitivity to what others are doing and feeling. So watch your timing.

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 lot of couples for marriage counseling and although each couple has a unique set of problems, one thing stands out: Couples who are having problems often stop doing nice things for each other. It may be that when she went shopping she used to always buy him a little present – a tie, a travel coffee mug, a half-pound of English toffee. Now she goes and buys for the children and herself. But the treats for him have stopped.

He, on the other hand, used to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work and bring her strawberries. He also used to make a point of bringing home his company’s newsletter for her to read. Now he does neither.

Here’s one technique that I’ve been suggesting to couples which brings quick, positive results and good feelings.

Get a large note pad and draw a line down the middle of the page. Write your name on one side and your mate’s on the other. Every day each of you should do three nice things for the other and write them on the paper. Your list for several days may look like this:

Joan     11/1 Brought him coffee, picked up his cleaning, told him his haircut looked good

Jim       11/1 Got her popcorn at the show, told her “I love you”, helped her wash windows

Joan     11/2 Bought food for his hunting trip, bought him new wool socks, fixed him breakfast

Jim       11/2 Gave her a back rub, made a fire when she asked, made her coffee

Joan     11/3 Sent him a card, had a key made for his locker, made him a cherry pie

Jim       11/3 Made dinner and cleaned up, listened to her about a job problem, told her the house looked nice

Joan     11/4 Complimented him on his tie, said “I love you”, sewed a button on his shirt

Jim       11/4 Sent her a card, picked up milk, bought her doughnuts

The trick to this technique is to keep doing it even if you’re annoyed at your mate. And keep it in a place where you can both see it – on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table. If you have children, let them see your list. It’s good for them to know that Mom and Dad do nice things for each other.

Every couple who has used this technique has reported good results. Try it for a month. I guarantee, it works.

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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“Let’s go to a movie tonight,” said Janet.

“That doesn’t sound good to me,” yawned Ralph.

As Janet was gathering up her coat and purse, Ralph suddenly clicked off the television set and announced he would be joining her.

Janet, already set to have a nice evening alone, asked, “Are you sure you want to go?”

Ralph assured her, and out the door they went.

As they drove into the parking lot, Ralph mumbled that the last movie must not have gotten out yet. So where did they expect everybody to park? Certainly the theatre could do a better job of scheduling.

As they waited in line to buy tickets, Ralph said that everybody and their brother must have decided to see this movie judging by the length of the line.

Janet, sensing Ralph’s annoyance, made small talk. She wanted this to be a good evening.

When they got into the lobby, Janet suggested that Ralph go with the crowd and find seats. She would get the popcorn.

Ralph replied, “You’re going to stand in that line just for popcorn?”

Janet shook her head yes, and in her head told Ralph he was acting like a jerk.

With popcorn in hand, Janet made her way to where Ralph was seated. His comment on seeing her: “You didn’t get anything to drink?”

“No,” she said. But she offered to go back after the movie started to get Ralph a drink.

“Never mind,” Ralph said.

“No, I’ll go back,” Janet replied. “I just didn’t think you’d want anything.”

“I don’t now,” said Ralph.

As they sat in silence waiting for the show to start, Janet struggled with feelings of guilt over the drink and irritation over Ralph’s negativism.

During the movie she couldn’t help checking on Ralph, trying to determine if he was having a good time. Every time he shifted his body, she felt a twinge of anxiety.

Once he commented that the popcorn tasted stale.

At the end of the movie he asked her what she thought. She said she loved it.

And what did he think, she asked. He said it was okay.

They rode home in silence.

The moral of this story: Good sportsmanship goes beyond the playing field.

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 called my office once to make an appointment. He said he had gotten my name from his lawyer. Out of the blue his wife had filed for divorce, and he was very interested in staying married.

Then he proceeded to tell me that he thought his wife didn’t know what she wanted and was maybe going through a mid-life crisis. Also a few days ago she had said she would go to a marriage counselor, but now she didn’t think so. He just couldn’t understand why his wife was leaving him.

I volunteered that maybe she was interested in someone else or maybe she was just fed up with some of his behaviors. He said it was the latter, his behaviors.

I told him I could give him an appointment, but it would be about a week before he could get in to see me. But since he sounded as though he was in pretty much pain, I offered to arrange for someone else in the office to see him sooner if he wanted an appointment.

He didn’t respond to my offer to help him get an appointment with another therapist, but when I gave him several dates that he could see me, he kept pushing for me to see him sooner.

Before we had an appointment time nailed down, he said, “You’re in Clayton, right?”

I said that I had moved from Clayton and then told him where I was. As I tried to give him directions to my office, he kept interrupting and trying to tell me where I was. I got quiet, and, after he explained to me where my office was, I said that he was mistaken. Then I gave him directions.

I then went back to setting the appointment. I told him that it would be good if his wife would accompany him, but if not, I would see him alone and we could figure out what he might do differently to save his marriage. I pointed out that divorce takes time and perhaps not all was lost.

What I already knew about the guy was that: he didn’t listen, he didn’t answer questions, he shifted responsibility for the failure of the marriage, he needed to be in control, and he discounted my time by trying to go on and on over the telephone.

Incidentally, he never kept his appointment nor did he call to cancel. I guess he concluded that his wife was having a mid-life crisis.

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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Connie couldn’t wait to get home and tell her husband Pete that she had gotten a raise. To set the scene, she picked up some steaks, greens for salad, baking potatoes, French bread, a bottle of wine, strawberries for dessert, and a bouquet of tulips for the table.

When Pete walked in, she handed him a glass of wine. Then she said, “Tonight we are having a celebration. I got a raise, a big raise.”

When Pete heard the numbers, he sighed dejectedly and said, “Now you’ll be making more than me.”

At first Connie felt a twinge of pain for Pete, but when she realized a few minutes later that Pete was telling her about a meeting that he had that day, she became angry. She confronted Pete: “You never support me emotionally.”

Another wife told her husband that she was really worried about their money situation. Instead of letting her talk about her worries, the husband immediately assumed that she was accusing him of not making enough money. His assumption switched the focus from his wife and her worries, to him and how much money he made. As a consequence, the wife was not supported emotionally.

The other day I saw a young man in therapy who said his girlfriend is always accusing him of not giving her emotional support.

Just what is this elusive thing that women keep telling men that they want?

Men, here it is!

Emotional support means focusing on her and being empathetic to what she is saying and feeling. It means letting her express her thoughts and feelings and trying to understand. For example, if she is crying, let her cry. Maybe put your arm around her. Don’t try to talk her out of crying. Let her express her feelings. If she is excited about a raise, be happy with her. Don’t get competitive by thinking about your salary.

Another way to give emotional support is to let your mate talk through a problem if this is what she wants to do. Even though you think you see an obvious solution, keep your mouth shut.

Following up and checking back is another way to give emotional support. If she has a doctor’s appointment in the morning that she is concerned about, call and find out how it went. If she is having trouble with a friend, ask if the relationship is going better.

Perhaps one of the most difficult ways of giving emotional support is to listen when your wife or girlfriend is angry or disappointed with you. If you defend yourself and tell her why she shouldn’t be angry or disappointed, you are not hearing the issue from her perspective. Hearing it from her perspective is giving emotional support.

Giving emotional support means listening and responding without passing judgment, or trying to solve the problem, or switching the subject. It means trying to understand and respond to what your wife or girlfriend is feeling and thinking. It means making her the center of your attention.

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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