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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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

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My Mom wanted to take a turn having her friends over for dinner and cards,” said Mary Jane. But she’s no longer able to entertain by herself. Physically, it’s too tiring. And mentally, she’s having trouble remembering all there is to coordinate for a dinner. Because she couldn’t take her turn, she was going to quit the group. I told her not to quit her group. I’d help with the party.”

Several days before the party, Mary Jane and her mother worked out the menu. Mary Jane went grocery shopping. She ran to the bakery for dessert. Her husband picked up the wine. Mary Jane partly cooked the meal at her house, got dressed, packed up the food, took it to her mom’s and finished cooking it.

When the guests arrived, Mary Jane’s mother was able to sit and talk with her friends. Mary Jane served the dinner. She then cleared the table, washed the dishes and put everything away.

Serra took her 5-year-old granddaughter, Leah, to Union Station. When it was time to leave, Serra knelt down to fasten little Leah’s coat. As she was buttoning the coat, Leah kissed her on the forehead.

When my dad was growing up, no one taught him to say, “I love you.” It wasn’t something people did. Through the years, I’ve bugged Dad to give me hugs and say “I love you,” which he now does quite often.

Recently, my dad has become a little hard of hearing. This past spring he was helping me with my roses and I said something to him about mulching them. He looked up, smiled at me and said, “I love you too.”

Bill was busy with work. He knew from talking with his mother, who lives in another state, that she was feeling lonely and needed a visit. Bill, unable to go, telephoned his sister and offered to pay her plane fare so she could go visit their mom.

I was having a cup of coffee on the second floor of the Galleria and watching all the shoppers walking around below. I noticed a mother holding her child and repeatedly kissing him on the cheek. I saw a father stop, put his packages on the floor, bend over and tie his little boy’s shoe. I saw two young girls walking hand-in-hand.

I also saw a couple, who probably were in their late 70’s, standing by one of the fountains. Both were wearing suits and both had berets on their heads. Suddenly, they looked up and saw me looking at them. I waved, pointed to their berets, nodded my head up and down in approval and smiled. They each blew me a kiss. I blew them one back.

You can give a valentine each day of the year.

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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Someone in therapy recently asked,
“I’m dating a guy who doesn’t make much money. I have to admit that I like “things.” So should I break it off and look for someone with a higher salary?”

Let me ask you this girlfriend. Are you looking for a meal ticket? If you want and enjoy things as most of us do, no problem. Focus on how you’re going to make more money however, instead of how much money the guy makes. This new focus will allow you to evaluate this new man in more appropriate terms, such as:

Do you have the same interests?
Do the two of you laugh together?
Is he a good sex partner?
Does he demonstrate integrity?
Is he honest?
Does he show empathy?

 

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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Because everyone is sensitive to criticism and most everyone gets criticized from time to time, here are 3 questions that you might ask yourself the next time someone criticizes you.

1. Is the criticism I’m receiving valid?
2. Is it partially valid?
3. What might I have done differently in this situation to have avoided the criticism?

By asking these three questions of yourself, you put the criticism leveled against you in perspective. If you fine the criticism is valid or partially valid, change your behavior.

If after careful consideration, you find no validity in what was said, you might want to keep this third century B.C. story which was recounted by Will Durant in The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage in mind.

‘When a simpleton abused him, Buddha listened in silence; but when the man had finished, Buddha asked him: ‘Son, if a man declined to accept a present made to him, to whom would it belong?’ The man answered: “To him who offered it.’

‘My son,’ said Buddha, ‘I decline to accept your abuse and request you keep it for yourself.'”

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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The critical parent versus the rebellious child: overcoming marital games.

I see a couple in therapy who fight about orange juice. Here’s the way the scenario goes. He says, “Will you stop and get some orange juice for tomorrow morning?” She says, “Sure.”

That night as they are getting into bed, he says, “Did you get my orange juice?” She says, “I forgot. I got too busy. Besides, if it is so important, pick up your own juice.” His response, “I would if you hadn’t told me you were going to get it.”

She then turns the light out in the bedroom and the two of them lie there feeling frustrated and misunderstood. He thinks to himself, “After all I do for her, and I can’t even count on her for juice.” She thinks to herself, “Why can’t he get his own juice if it’s so important?” How often does this type of situation occur? About once or twice a month.

How can they get out of this game? He could decide that he will always be responsible for getting his own juice or she could decide to keep him supplied with juice.

Why won’t they stop playing? Because each of them gets a payoff from this game. Long ago they established a relationship in which he takes the role of the Critical Parent and she plays the role of the Rebellious Child. The juice is simply the excuse for him to act indignant.

In adolescence, this fellow made a decision that most people are incompetent. The juice script allows him to play out his original decision about people: she’s so incompetent she can’t even remember my orange juice.

She, on the other hand, made a decision that men are fools based on the fact that her father was usually drunk and acted foolish. To prove out her decision, she “forgets” the juice and watches her husband act like a fool over a little juice.

Another couple that I see played the same game around vacations, although in there situation she plays the Critical Parent and he plays the Rebellious Child.

Each year about January, he starts talking up a vacation. She responds to his enthusiasm by going to the internet, reading up on vacation spots, and making plans. Come May, he announces that they don’t have enough money for a vacation. She responds with indignation and outrage.

They both operate from the old script that men are supposed to financially take care of women. Neither question the availability of money until feelings are riding high about the upcoming vacation.

The other thing that supports this game is that as a young child this man lost his father. For years he walked around feeling gypped and inadequate. Not being able to provide a vacation for his family helps him re-experience these old familiar feelings.

Here are a few more examples of how one spouse plays Critical Parent and the other plays Rebellious Child:
• When he’s late she gives him lectures on discounting her feelings about being on time.
• She uses his car and leaves the gas tank empty. He writes her nasty notes on the bathroom mirror.
• He wants to keep a running balance in the check book and she doesn’t write down the amounts.
If you recognize yourself, well . . . you’re halfway to giving up your part of the game. The other half is changing your behavior.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Guide.” www.doriswildhelmering.com.

 

 

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finalcover

The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World will grab the attention of any upper grade or middle school student. Whether interested in science projects, bugs, getting along with others, or motivation, readers are caught up in the story from the first page to the last. Teachers, parents, and counselors will find the book useful to stimulate conversation about difficult topics like bullying, doing well in school, and family illness. Students will love the practical approach to friendship and family. Would make for a great classroom book group discussion!

Dr. Catherine Von Hatten, Educational Consultant, Retired Public School Assistant Superintendent, Teacher, and Principal

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Why are some people so indecisive, is there a hidden agenda?
No matter what, some people can’t seem to make a decision. What’s even more exasperating is that when you try to make the decision, they won’t let you.

For example: Sue asks me the other day, “Where would you like to go for lunch?”
I say, “It’s up to you.”
She says, “No. This is your day. You decide.”
I answer, “OK, how about the deli?”
She says, “I was thinking about something nicer.”
I say, “Well, how about Benos?”
She says, “It’ll probably be a long wait at this time of the day.”
I say, “That’s OK. We’ll wait and talk.”
She says, “It really may take awhile.”
I now know she has somewhere else in mind. So I ask, “Do you have another suggestion?”
She says, “You decide.”
At this point I feel like throwing myself down on the sidewalk and having a temper tantrum.

Here’s another example of an “I -won’t- make-a-decision-and-you-can’t-make-me”scenario.
My friend says, “What color do you think I should paint my bedroom?”
I say, “What color have you been thinking about?”
She says, “I really don’t know. What do you suggest?”
I say, “How about an indigo red or khaki?”
She says, “I don’t like those colors.”
I say, “Maybe something more subtle, perhaps beige with a rose tint.” (I’ve watched a lot of   HGTV.)
She says, “I don’t think so.”
What I want to say to her is, “I’ll run through the entire color wheel, and when I hit on the color you’re thinking of, you tell me.”

People who play this game have two agendas although even they may not be aware of it. They want to look accommodating, so they ask your opinion. But they also want to make the decision, so they won’t take your suggestion. In this situation play three strikes and you’re out. Give three suggestions and then say, “I’m out of ideas.”

Apply this same method when dealing with your child who comes to you moaning because he or she can’t figure out what to do.

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