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When your moodiness is beginning to affect your marriage and family, it’s time to do something about it.

Are you a moody person? Do you have to deal with someone who’s moody? A mate? A boss? A child? A co-worker?

In a marriage counseling session, a husband complained that the past weekend had not been good. His wife had been in one of her moods.

I asked the wife what the husband meant. She shrugged and looked at him. He said, “Just what she’s doing now. She won’t talk; she refuses to comment on what you say; she acts like the kids and I don’t exist. And it doesn’t matter what we do to try to be nice.” He explained that the family can clean the house, cook the meals, and buy her a present, and she still won’t snap out of it. In fact, last year their eleven-year-old gave her a coffee mug that said, “Snap Out of It.”

I asked Marilyn if what her husband was describing about her was accurate. She shrugged and said yes. Then she said, “It’s just the way I am.” When she gets in one of those moods, she said, she wants people to leave her alone. Not talk to her, not try to cheer her up.

I asked how often her moodiness struck. She said a few times a month. Her husband said about once a week.

How long do her moods last? They both agreed — two or three days.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as a problem. She was noncommittal but added that all her family was like this and her husband had known she was moody before he married her.

He said he had thought her moodiness was because of the stress of the wedding and her dad being sick at the time. He never dreamed it would be something he’d have to live with for the rest of their married life.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as something she wanted to work on to make things better at home with her husband and children.

She said, “Not particularly.”

I asked if she understood how destructive her moods were to her marriage, her children, and herself.

She wanted to know how.

I said that each time she gets in one of her moods, she emotionally leaves the family. She’s not available for anyone. She closes everyone out. She discounts everyone’s existence. She sucks up the family’s energy as all wait for her to be in a better mood. And I said I suspect during her moodiness she can’t possibly enjoy life or feel close to anyone.

She asked what she could do about her moods. I said she’d have to want to make a change. And I wasn’t so sure she was ready. She agreed.

I said my usual routine would be to quickly review her childhood and see who she learned this behavior from and how it served her as a child. This would take no more than a half session. I’d also send her to her doctor to make sure she was okay physically. I’d have her make a list of the advantages she saw in being moody.

She said, “Such as?”

I said, “Well, when you’re moody, everyone is watching you, trying to please you. Maybe you get out of cooking, doing housework. Maybe you get to take a nap, guilt free. People don’t keep a behavior around unless they get a payoff. Sometimes understanding the payoff helps people give up the behavior.”

Another thing — when a bad mood starts, I want her to do some things immediately to help herself shake it off. Research shows that if you get a project going such as cleaning the garage, or if you do something for someone else such as running an errand, your bad mood will dissipate. Also, no television or alcohol when she’s in a bad mood, as both of these things exacerbate the bad feelings.

She said, “You feel pretty strongly about getting me to be in a better mood.”

I said, “I do because it’s miserable for your family and ultimately miserable for 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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How one woman handled her husband’s affair.

When Joan received an anonymous phone call informing her that her husband was having an affair, she said that she couldn’t breathe. “I think the phone call confirmed what I vaguely suspected,” she said.

“My husband, who had always been easygoing, had became hostile.” When Joan tried to find out why he was leaving so early in the morning for his job or what time he was coming home from work, he acted as if it were none of her business. “He also bought himself some new sweaters and pants, tennis shoes, and loafers.” When Joan shared information about her life or the children’s, her husband would act uninterested.

“I was spending a lot of hours at work, so I think I dismissed the changes that were occurring.”

After the phone call, Joan started checking her husband’s caller ID. She looked more carefully at the bank statements and the charge card bills. There were bills from florists and restaurants. “Restaurants we never went to. Flowers I never saw,” she said.

At first Joan thought of killing herself. “I just couldn’t make sense of it because I thought we had a good marriage. My husband even said we had a good marriage.”

When Joan confronted her husband, he gave up the affair reluctantly. He said, however, that he had never thought of getting out of their marriage. He bought his wife gifts, apologized, and tried to reassure her. When Joan would get angry and berate him, he’d take it. He refused to fight back and he kept telling her he was sorry.

After two or three years, Joan said she brought up the affair less and less. “I could actually get through an argument and not mention the affair. I still have pain, but I no longer obsess on how my husband could do this to me.”

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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Being critical with your mate may not be the wisest course of action for your relationship. Sometimes Silence Is Golden.

She and he are drying dishes. She clangs the dishes together and he says nothing. He clangs the dishes and she says, “Can’t you be a little noisier?”

She spills some milk on the counter and immediately takes a dishrag and wipes it up. He spills milk on the counter and she says, “Having a little trouble today?”

She sits and reads the newspaper by a dim overhead light. Later as he reads by the same light, she clicks on the lamp and asks, “Are you trying to ruin your eyes?”

She takes a second helping of potatoes and he says nothing. He takes a second helping and she pipes up with, “I thought you were watching your weight.”

She jams the milk carton into the refrigerator and he says nothing. He jams the carton into the refrigerator and she says, “Here, let me do it.”

She turns the radio on in the car and they ride along listening to the basketball game. He turns the basketball game on in the car and she says, “Are you trying to avoid talking to me?”

The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and she sits down to watch television. Two days later, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and he sits down to watch television. She asks, “You’re not going to take advantage of this beautiful weather?”

She runs out of money and says, “I have to stop at the ATM.” He says nothing. When he says, “I have to stop at the ATM,” she says, “When are you going to start planning ahead?”

Incidentally, in these examples, “he” could be “she” and “she” could be “he.”

However, in my clinical experience, more women than men are critical and judgmental. Perhaps it’s because they have been primarily responsible for whipping the children into shape, so it comes naturally. Perhaps it’s because males have more behaviors that demand correcting, and soon the woman is correcting everything.

Perhaps it’s because more women are outer-focused, focusing their attention outward on others rather than inward on themselves. When their mate does something annoying, they immediately feel a need to address the issue. But if they do the same thing, they are not as focused on it.

Regardless of the whys and becauses, sometimes — in fact most of the time — it’s better to be quiet than critical.

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 trying to change the bad habits of the person you are dating, maybe it’s time to move on to someone else.

A woman came for therapy because she had just learned that her boyfriend of several months was still involved with his old girlfriend.

When I asked what she wanted from therapy, she said, “I want the guy to give up his girlfriend and commit to me.”

Since I wasn’t sure if her goal was in her best interest, I asked if she would tell me more about this man as well as her dating history with other men. I learned she had been married twice. Her first husband left her for another woman, and she left her second husband because he was an alcoholic. She then had a long-term relationship with a man who was always on the verge of bankruptcy. “I got fed up with paying all the bills,” she said, “so one day I kicked him out.”

After talking with her about her past relationships, I said my best advice was for her to explore why she kept getting involved with men who left her, either emotionally or physically. I also thought another goal of therapy should be that she would come to like and respect herself enough to move away from any relationship that spelled trouble.

Her situation reminded me of a woman I had seen several months previously. She had come to therapy because she wanted to straighten out a man she had recently met. He had stood her up for their first date and was a half hour late for the second date. Her goal was to teach him to be more responsible. Here, too, my advice was to drop the guy, spend her energies learning to like herself more, and look for a healthier relationship with someone who didn’t discount her.

Certainly when you’re looking for a mate and find someone that you’re attracted to, it’s tempting to ignore the obvious. But pursuing a relationship that is probably bound for disaster is not in your best interest. Here are some danger signs to watch for:

* He’s heavily in debt.

* He can’t hold a job.

* She drinks too much.

* She has no friends.

* He’s rude to the waitress, the car mechanic, the store clerk.

* He’s always finding fault with others or with you.

* He flirts with other women which drives you crazy.

* She’s possessive, wants all of your time, and tries to exclude your friends and family.

* She lies.

* He has a bad temper.

* He’s a sports addict and you hate sports.

* He’s Mr. Frugal and you like to spend.

* You want children and he wants no part of them.

* She has a child by a previous marriage and you dislike this child.

* He’s a slob and you’re a neat nick.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re dating someone and there are signs that you’re headed for difficulties, move on. Don’t get hung up with trying to change the person. Remember that no matter how eager you are to find a fulfilling relationship, “the light you see at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train.”

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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Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal
with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back timeframe.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

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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Marriage Counseling isn’t magic, it takes work, but the end result can be everything you wanted and more.
A man told me that he’s not getting anywhere in marriage counseling. His marriage isn’t improving. His wife continues to be critical and aloof.

I asked him what he had learned in our two sessions.

He said, “Not much.”

I said, “Well, let’s review.” I pulled up my easel and newsprint to write on.

I asked him to go over for me what his wife has been complaining about over the years.

He said, “She doesn’t think I listen.” But then he added,

“I do listen.”

I asked him to recall what it meant to listen. He said that if she had an important meeting that day, he was to ask her about it that evening. If she had a disagreement with a friend, he was to be on her side and listen to how she felt. He said that he should not read the mail or walk out of the room while she was talking. And when she called him at his office, he was not to continue to work on his PC.

I wrote all these points down on the newsprint and asked if he had been practicing these listening behaviors. He said, “Sort of.” I requested that he tell me something else his wife complains about. He said she wants him home by 7 pm.

“And in this department, how are you doing?” I asked. He said some days good, other days not so good. In truth, he doesn’t pay attention to when he gets home. I wrote, “Home by 7 pm.”

I asked for more problems his wife had pointed out. He said she complains that every time she wants to do something, he says no.

I asked if he could recall anything she wanted to do during the weekend.

He said she wanted to go see Evita. He defended himself by saying that even though he had objected, in the end he went to the movie. I wrote on my easel, “Don’t immediately say no when wife suggests an activity.”

When I probed for other problem areas, he said she had been asking him to fix the doorbell, clean the basement, and take the newspapers out of the garage. And he was to call an attorney and set a date to go over their wills.

How was he coming on these projects? I wondered.

“Not too good,” he said. In actuality he hadn’t done any of them.

“Is there anything else that I should write on my chart?” I asked.

He said that she wanted him to give more time to the children, particularly their son, who was having trouble at school. “Be specific,” I said.

He said she wanted him to review their son’s homework each night, play ball with him in the yard, and take him to a sporting event or two. She also wanted to go on family outings a few times a month. I wrote down these points.

I then explained, “If you want a better marriage, you’ll need to do these things. Marriage counseling is not magic. People come to get help in defining their problem, getting some insight into why they have the problem, and then figuring out what they need to do differently. It’s not that marriage counseling isn’t working. The problem is you’re not working.”

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 someone tells you about a problem they are facing, think about your response before responding.
Your husband tells you he is disgusted with his job. The people he works with are idiots. You immediately respond, “Why don’t you tell the boss what you’re up against; how they don’t pull their weight?”

Now your husband has two problems. He still is disenchanted with his job. And he has to fend off your knee-jerk suggestion of talking to the boss.

——-

Your wife says, “What a great day. Let’s pack a picnic basket and take the girls to the park.”

Your knee-jerk response: “I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound good to me.”

Your wife says, “Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.”

You again say no.

To this second turn-down your wife shrugs and says okay.

About 20 minutes later, after some thought on your part, you go back to your wife and say, “Okay, let’s go to the park.”

——-

You leave a meeting hopping mad. You meet your friend and tell her you are furious at the way your co-worker Jim behaved at the meeting. He acted as though your committee had done nothing constructive. He cut you off when you were talking. He made one sarcastic response after another.

The friend you are spilling your guts to says, “Maybe he’s just had a bad day. Maybe he had a fight with one of his kids. Don’t be so hard on him.”

Why is your friend taking Jim’s side? You wonder. This woman is supposed to be your friend. In fact, she doesn’t even know Jim, so why would she be defending him?

——-

You decide to join a gym. You tell your mother you’re working out three mornings a week. Your mother says, “That’s ridiculous. You need your rest. You don’t need to be getting up at the crack of dawn three mornings a week to go to some silly gym.”

You feel deflated and annoyed. You told your mother because you wanted to share your new endeavor and you wanted her support.

——-

I have just presented four typical knee-jerk responses.

First I described the wife who jumps in and tries to solve her husband’s problem instead of simply listening to him complain. This is the problem-solving knee-jerk response.

In the next story, the husband immediately says no to his wife’s suggestion of going to the park. His is the “no” knee-jerk response.

In the third scenario, your friend defends Jim and starts making all kinds of excuses for him. This is the “let’s make it better” knee-jerk response.

In the fourth incident, Mom is unsupportive and critical of your early morning workouts. Hers is a “devil’s advocate” knee-jerk response.

Unfortunately, all these responses are inappropriate. The person who started each conversation wanted only to be listened to, to get some sympathy, and to get some approval.

Ask yourself, Which knee-jerk response do I usually have? Do I 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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