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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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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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Whether you are the married child, in-law or parent, it’s important to have a close relationship with all family members. This may include visiting each other at your homes. People tend to feel taken care of when included.
A friend asked, “What’s the matter with children today? Our son doesn’t invite us to dinner. He was married four years in July, and we’ve been invited to his house twice. And that’s because both times I said I wanted an invitation for my birthday.

“He and his wife are good to us in every other way. They’ve taken us out several times to dinner and invited us to several plays. But it’s hard when we don’t know about their house, and how it’s decorated, or what they’re doing in their garden. As far as I know, they like us. And neither his dad nor I have been critical when we’ve been to their home. It’s a nice house. It’s neat and tidy. I don’t understand the problem. Should I just call and say, ‘How about if I stop by today with some lunch?’ Or should I say something more directly?”

I said, “Well, let’s think of why they aren’t inviting you over. Has there been a riff or bad feelings about something in the past?

“No,” said my friend, “not anything I’m aware of. And when we get together, or when they come to our house, we genuinely have a good time.”

“Is it possible they’re too busy,” I asked. I know they both have demanding jobs. And he’s taking some night courses, and she has a large family. “Right,” my friend said, “but they can’t be so busy that they never invite us over.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe her parents never entertained and she’s not used to it.”

“That may be,” said my friend, “but our son comes from a family where we always had family and friends for dinner. Another thing, they have a well equipped kitchen and beautiful crystal and china. Why don’t they use it?”

“Do they entertain other people?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” my friend replied.

“Well, it takes a lot of work,” I said, “especially when you’re new at entertaining. With cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, it can take all day to get ready for guests.”

My friend agreed.

“It seems to me you ought to talk with your son.” I suggested, “Tell him that you would like to be invited over to his house for a meal, or just a visit. Would he and his wife be willing to start inviting you every few months?

“If your son hesitates, you can ask if there’s something wrong, something you’re not aware of. Have you or your husband offended him or his wife in some way? Does his wife feel uncomfortable with the two of you? Is there anything you might do to get invited more often? Then be sure to listen to what your son has to say.”

When children first get married, they need time to set up their own house and to decide how much they want to see their parents, and how much entertaining they will do. Also, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law may feel anxious about fitting into a new family.

Parents, too, find it difficult to let go and adjust to a different type of relationship with their married child.

If you’re newly married, make sure you let your folks know how important they are to you. You can do this with a weekly telephone call and an invitation once or twice a month for dinner or an outing. Also, stay interested in their lives. Find out about them as people, what’s going on with their jobs, their social life, their dreams and disappointments.

If you’re a parent with newly married children, respect their privacy. Don’t pop in on them unannounced or ask them about their money or when they plan to have children. Also understand that they may have different standards of housekeeping from yours and different values about their life-style. Above all, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. And then be careful how you give it.

Chances are great that if you had a good relationship before your child got married, you’ll have a good one after he or she has said, “I do.” Often, however, both parent and child go through a period of adjustment.

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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Making your marriage better can be one of those “Best things I ever did.”
No longer in love with your husband or wife? Feeling bored or irritated with marriage? Yearning to go back to an earlier time when you had fun and looked forward to being together?

With some adjustment — thinking about things differently and changing a few behaviors — you can fall back in love. In fact, when you talk to long-time happily marrieds, most of them admit to periods of discontent.

Often people have so much on their plate with job demands, children, friends, relatives, household chores, sports, and hobbies that they forget to spend time with their mate. Then they report not having anything in common. True, because they’re not doing much beyond coordinating schedules. If this is you, what will you do differently? Nail down an evening or two each week where you spend time together. Write it down._________________________________

Next step. What will you do when the two of you are together? Will you take a walk, bike ride, go to a movie, watch television, go shopping? It doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as the two of you are doing it together.

People get lazy and take each other for granted when they live together day-to-day. They stop focusing on each other’s goals and struggles. When was the last time you really listened to your partner’s feelings about how things are going in his or her life? Can you name two goals your spouse is wanting to accomplish?

Can you list two concerns or fears he has?

When you’re in that period of two ego states collapsing into one and you’re falling in love, you can’t see the flaws in your mate. You only see the good. As time goes on, the issue of who didn’t take out the trash becomes more important than his wonderful sense of humor. It’s easier to move toward friends and co-workers and away from your mate when entanglements with money, chores and children permeate your thinking and cause negative feelings. In order to avoid this pitfall, write down three of your mate’s strengths.

1._______________________________________________

2._______________________________________________

3._______________________________________________

During the coming week share what you like and admire about your partner. When you were falling in love, you had no trouble giving compliments and hugs and “I love yous.” It’s time to start the process again.

Feeling discontent with yourself often translates into: “I’m bored in my marriage.” It’s easier to spotlight your mate’s flaws rather than look at what you should be changing about yourself. Ask yourself two quick questions:

If I had a magic wand and could change anything about myself, what would it be?_________________________________________________

If I made this change, would I like my mate better?__________

Other action items:

-Be respectful. No pouting, name-calling, or trying to bulldoze with anger.

-Get your sex life back on track. Be loving and approach your mate. When your mate approaches you, don’t turn him or her down because of some petty annoyance.

-Don’t criticize. Remember: “You will always move toward anyone who increases you and away from anyone who makes you less.”

Ask yourself: Am I increasing my mate’s self-worth?

Can people fall back in love? Absolutely. Wishful thinking will not get you there, however. You have to get busy and do something. Following the advice that you’ve just read will make a difference.

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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People often do not want to change until they are in a crisis situation in their relationship. It might be better to work on your marriage on an ongoing basis rather than loose your spouse.

He came to my office because his wife has left him after 37 years of marriage. He wants her back. She does not have anyone else. She simply is fed up with him.

As we talked, I got him to help me make a list of behaviors that probably drove his wife away.

Worked too much. About 60 hours a week for years.

Unwilling to take vacations because of his working.

Drank too much in the early years of their marriage.

Got too angry when drinking. Never hit her but was verbally abusive.

Continues to get too angry when he doesn’t like what’s going on.

Gave her the silent treatment.

Gave her nice gifts, but they were things he liked. He never consulted her.

Did not take much responsibility with the children or housework because he was always working.

Never helped make social plans.

Failed to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

Controlled the money. Insisted on saving most of the money instead of taking some for enjoyment.

Never acted like he appreciated her salary and how she contributed to the household.

Didn’t show much kindness or love.

Showed affection only in bed.

Was too demanding when it came to sex.

Watched too much television.

He’s now putting in fewer hours at work. He’s watching very little television. He’s doing housework and now understands how much there is to do. He’s willing to learn how to be emotionally supportive. He’s working to keep his anger in check. He’s sorry and in a great deal of pain. He hopes she will come back.

If he continues to say he’s sorry and clean up his behavior, perhaps she will come back. It’s unfortunate that sometimes people have to leave their mate to get their point across.

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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Sometimes when you want your spouse to be more of a conversationalist, it is your questions and responses that may get the ball rolling.

How do you get your spouse to start talking, open up, communicate?

Many couples find that after they’ve lived together for some years they feel they have little to talk about or share. It’s not that they don’t want to talk to each other. They just don’t know how to start the ball rolling or they’re out of practice.

Here are a few suggestions to get those lines of communication flowing:

When your mate says something, come back with a comment that indicates you’ve heard him and you support his thinking. For example, if he says, “This would be a great day for golf,” you might respond with, “Yes, it’s beautiful out.” If he says, “I think I need to get some mulch for the flower beds,” you might say, “That sounds good. Do you want any help?”

If your spouse starts talking about a particular issue or problem, stop what you’re doing, look at him, and listen. Nod. Make comments such as, “Oh… that’s great… how terrible… unbelievable.” Also make “reflective listening” remarks that show you are listening and trying to understand. “Sounds as though you were feeling overwhelmed.” “I guess you were really disappointed.” It sounds like you took the bull by the horns.”

Instead of hitting your mate day in and day out with that tired old question, “How was your day?” say, “Tell me what you did today.” It’s likely you’ll get much more information with the second tactic.

When trying to reopen lines of communication, be extra careful not to be critical, or move into a problem-solving mode, or take over the conversation. These responses will usually stop the discussion. I find that most people will talk if they feel supported.

Be aware, too, of what topics of conversation you bring to the table. If your topics are generally about housekeeping and scheduling issues such as what bills need to be paid or who is going to take Tommy to swim practice, you’re not adding to the quality of your conversations.

Topics you might discuss include a health or political article you read in a magazine or an interview you heard on the radio. You might also share the story line of a book you’re reading. When I’m busy writing a book, I have few spare moments to read. During these times my husband will tell me about the novel he’s currently reading.

Be conscious also of how much self-disclosing you do. Do you share with your mate when something goes wrong on the job? Do you tell her when something exciting happens? Sharing the little pleasures and sadnesses of your life invites your mate to do the same.

Another thing to be aware of is where and when might you have your best conversations. Some couples talk over that second cup of coffee after dinner. Others do better when they walk together. Some save their talk time for when they’re in bed. I know one couple who telephone each other several times a day to share bits and pieces of their lives. Try to establish several times and places for talking with your mate.

With determination and effort, you can reopen those lines of communication in less than two weeks. This mutual openness will make your marriage stronger, more interesting and fun.

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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