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How to Handle an Abusive Spouse

They were getting ready to go to a party. She was all dressed. He demanded that she change her dress. “He didn’t like the way it looked,” she said. They got into a huge argument. Finally she backed down and changed her dress.

The other evening a friend called to talk. Within five minutes he was telling her it was time to get off the telephone. He thinks she should talk to her friends and her mother during the day.

He continually points out how much money he makes in comparison to how much she makes, as if their individual worth as a human being were determined by their paycheck. At one time she did have a better paying job, but he demanded that she quit because she had to travel and he didn’t like that.

If they’re at a party and he wants to leave, they leave. The other evening they were with friends and she started to feel sick. She wanted to go home. He refused.

Why does she stay in the marriage? She says she loves him. They have fun. She wants to have a baby. She’s hoping he’ll grow up.

—————

Rose is also married to a bully. She’s been married to him for 44 years. All their children are out of the nest.

“He complains about everything,” she says. “We’re driving down the street and I’m looking at the beautiful trees. He points out that the neighbors haven’t put away their trash cans. I say, ‘Look at nature. Don’t look at the trash cans.’ He says I have my head in the sand.

“He expects to be waited on. When’s lunch, when’s dinner? And then he never makes a suggestion for what I should fix.”

“When I ask him to help, like take out the trash, he says okay. But when two days go by and the trash starts to smell I take it out. He then tells me I have no patience, and asks why everything has to be done on my schedule.”

“If I get irritated with him about anything, he puts me down, tells me I’m stupid, and then refuses to talk for a few days.”

“Last week there were no towels in the bathroom. I had taken them to the washer. Instead of getting himself a towel, he fussed, ‘There are no towels in here. Get me some towels.’ Our linen closet has not moved in 20 years.”

“If I want a new lamp or carpeting, I have to fight for it. When I tell him I’m going shopping with a friend, he tells me I have enough clothes. We live carefully and I do not overspend.”

“He puts me down in front of our children. The children have said they don’t want to come visit if we are going to argue. So I say nothing when he makes rude remarks. Sometimes I wonder why the children don’t say anything to him.”

Why does she stay married? She wants a companion. She wants to be a couple. She’s fearful of being poor.

I suggested to both of these women that they detach. They need to pull back emotionally and stop arguing and trying to get their points across. Detaching is a little like watching a scene in a movie and having no feelings.

When the first woman’s husband wants her to change her dress, she should say nicely, “This is the dress I’ve chosen to wear. Next time I’ll wear something different.” When her mother or a friend calls in the evening, she should take the call if she and her husband are not having dinner or doing something together. She should be respectful of their time together as a couple but also respectful of herself. When her husband talks about how much money he makes, she can say calmly, “It’s nice that you bring in a good paycheck.”

The second woman’s goal should be: Not to respond to her husband’s inappropriate comments. Nor should she roll her eyes or show by her body language that he’s gotten to her.

If he complains about the neighbors’ trash cans, she should say nothing. If he complains about her wanting to put in new carpeting and they can afford it, she should get new carpeting and stop the ugly discussions.

Because he resists seeing the house as half his responsibility, she can make a list of what she will do and not do anything else. This may mean that the basement, garage, and closets never get touched. Or she should decide to hire a cleaning service periodically. Another choice would be to do all the tasks and take pleasure in a job well done.

Men who are bullies are not nice people. What I regret about women who live with bullies is that they often become not nice people themselves in response to their mate’s bad behaviors.

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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Why people complain, why it’s bad, and how to stop it.
Complaining is a real drag in any relationship.

Have you been grumbling, complaining, and whining to someone recently about your job or an unfulfilling relationship with a mate or friend? Why are you doing this?

Chances are your complaining is a way to make contact with the person you’re complaining to. If you can get the person to listen, even briefly, you get some attention. And this attention is important because it makes you feel better about yourself. It helps you forget about those job difficulties or the other people in your life who have been letting you down.

At the same time, too much complaining can be destructive.

If you complain too much about your job, others will start to see you as passive or unmotivated because you’re not doing anything to correct it. If it’s really that bad, think about a transfer to another department. Start checking the online job search sites. Beef up your skills. Do something to make your situation better. Act instead of fussing.

A constant stream of complaints about your mate also gets old after awhile. Work to fix the problem. Insist on seeing a marriage counselor together or go yourself. If you change the way you relate to your partner, it’s likely that he’ll change. If you can’t get him to change his behavior, you can work on handling it better.

Health complaints also drag your listener down. Most people do not want to hear how much sleep you didn’t get, or how your teeth are bothering you. Instead, talk about a class you’re taking or a book you’re reading or a movie you’ve seen recently.

Another problem with complaining is that you tend to frame the problem. It’s as though you put the problem in a picture frame and then it takes on more significance in your life because you focus on it.

Complaining sets in motion operating from a pessimistic frame of reference. Always we have problems to deal with in life. No one escapes. But continually focusing on problems is not helpful. And it certainly wears on those around you.

Think of the people you enjoy being with. They are people who are upbeat, laugh, and give energy. They are not people who spew out a steady stream of complaints, grievances, and ailments.

If you’re feeling down and start to complain, decide that you won’t go on for more than a few minutes before switching to a more positive discussion. If you need to do more fussing, at least call another friend and spread your complaints around.

Another option: think about what you want from the person you’re complaining to. If it’s more attention, perhaps you’ll ask the person to join you for lunch or a movie instead of complaining.

Also, ask yourself, Is there any way I can fix this particular problem? If there is, get busy.

This week, listen to yourself. See if you can stop those endless complaints. You’ll like yourself better. And so will those around 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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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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