Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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 »

As Mike was coming home one night, he found a puppy in the street. Who can resist a tiny, helpless, homeless puppy?

When Mike’s parents saw the dog, they reluctantly said yes he could keep the dog. But the dog was his responsibility. Mike would have to feed and water the dog, take him to the vet, and pay his vet bills. And the dog was to reside outside primarily.

Mike is 23 years old, so the requirements to keep the puppy didn’t seem harsh or extreme.

Mike’s mother agreed to buy an insulated doghouse. She also bought the dog a plastic swimming pool because “he seemed to love the water.”

Mike sort of kept his agreement with his parents. Sometimes the puppy was left with no water. Sometimes Mike took off with his friends for the weekend, so it befell his parents to take care of the puppy.

Now, as in many families, everyone in Mike’s family works outside the home or goes to school all day. So no one is home during the day. And dogs become bored. One boring day the dog ate all the shrubs.

A friend gave Mike’s mom some beautiful Japanese iris, each marked by color. When she planted the iris, she was careful to place them according to the color scheme in her garden. The next evening the dog removed each plant from its hole.

Mike’s mother planted the iris again, giving up on the color scheme. The following morning they were out of their holes again and strewn across the yard.

Then came the weekend. Everyone was going out of town. Mike, Mike’s father, and his sister had already left town.

Two hours before Mike’s mother was to catch a plane, she walked past the kitchen door and saw the dog. ‘Who’s taking care of the dog?’ she thought. Of course she already knew the answer. She got the dog in the car and took him to her mother’s house for the weekend.

The following Monday, Mike’s mother informed him that because he was not taking care of the dog, the dog had to leave. She gave Mike six months to find a home for the dog. After that, he would have to go to the dog pound. Mike agreed.

Five months passed. The dog continued to miss meals and eat shrubs. The mother kept issuing warnings: “The dog goes in four weeks… The dog goes in two weeks… Please find a home for the dog… The dog goes in one week… Please, please find a home.”

Eventually Mike was forced to take the dog to the pound.

For the rest of that week everyone was angry at the mother. Her husband and children gave her dirty looks. They avoided talking to her. She was an outcast in her own family.

Being responsible has more down sides than most of us care to look at.

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 24-year-old daughter had to move back home because of her financial problems several weeks ago. Both mother and daughter were concerned that the arrangement might not work, and they asked if I had any tips on how to keep their relationship happy.

I suggested that one of the best techniques I knew to side step an argument was to refrain from making critical comments. I further suggested that both the mother and daughter write down their complaints. Writing them would dissipate their own feelings without damaging the relationship.

Less than a week had gone by when mother and daughter decided to share their lists with each other. This was not part of my plan. However, as they read their lists, their laughter grew. It seemed that the mother had a preoccupation with bathing and water and the daughter was preoccupied with Mom’s appearance.

Here are some of the items the mother had on her list:

Don’t you brush your teeth first thing in the morning?

Are you going to wear that shirt again without washing it?

Would you please get your car fixed before your engine blows up?

Isn’t that the fourth shower you’ve taken today?

There’s a button missing on that blouse.

Do you have your glasses?

Wear a jacket. It’s cold out there.

Stop watching television and go do something constructive.

Your room is starting to look like a pig pen. Where is your pride?

Don’t forget to call your friend back.

The daughter listed these comments:

Those shoes look ridiculous.

Why are you wearing pantyhose with your shorts and sandals? If you could just see yourself.

Can’t you drive a little faster?

Get those curlers out of your hair!

That’s not the way to pronounce her name. It’s Oprah, not Oufrah.

Don’t you ever shave your legs?

Are you going to stand here and listen to my entire conversation?

Are you going to wear that? It has got to be a hundred years old.

Why don’t you just chill out, relax, calm down.

After going over each other’s lists, mother and daughter decided that they both needed to keep their criticisms to themselves if the relationship was to be a happy one.

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 »

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


Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: