Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘couples’ Category

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Every once in a while I’ll read a headline on the cover of a woman’s magazine that states “Affair Makes Marriage Better.”

What I’ve seen through the years, however, is that an affair does not help a marriage. In fact, an affair always damages a marriage. It causes tremendous pain to the partner who has been cheated on. It frequently brings pain to the partner who is forced to break off the affair. And the issue of trusting one’s mate again almost never resolves itself completely.

So why the headline about an affair helping a marriage?

Partly it’s a gimmick to sell more magazines.

Partly there is some truth in the fact that when a woman has an affair, it changes the dynamics of a marriage. And it is this change in the dynamics that often creates a better relationship.

When a woman starts focusing on someone else outside her marriage, she is not so focused on meeting her husband’s emotional needs. She no longer hangs on everything he says, nor does she do special things for him. Chances are, she stops complaining about what she wants him to change. She is simply not focused on him.

On a subconscious level, her hus­band feels this pulling away. No longer does he receive the day-to-day attention, whether it be positive or negative, that he has become accustomed to.

When he starts to feel this lack of attention, he automatically starts looking toward his wife, who in the past has been the main source of his attention. And inadvertently he starts focusing on her. He may ask his wife about her day. He may fix her an iced tea. He does things he’s never done before.

Therefore, an equally valid headline might read “Break Your Leg and Your Marriage Will Improve.”

Why? Because if a woman breaks her leg, simply because she can’t get around and do a lot of caretaking, the dynamics in the marriage are going to change. The man is going to have to do more chores and focus more on his wife. The wife is going to have to do less and focus more on herself.

If you’re the woman who feels disgruntled in your marriage because you do not feel that your husband takes good enough care of you emotionally or physically, decide on your own to change the dynamics in the relationship. Don’t have an affair or break your leg, but do focus more on yourself and less on him.

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

 

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: