How You Can Address the Patterns that Lead to Divorce

Uncategorized May 17, 2019

Jason and Sara came to see me for premarital counseling. They wanted to prevent any unnecessary problems in their marriage as much ahead of time as possible.

This couple was especially concerned because each had been divorced. The devastation that the split-ups had played in their lives had made them more wary and thoughtful this time around. They were more sober about the marriage and less idealistic than your average “never-married-early-20s” pair.

“What have you learned about yourself from your first marriage?” is one of the questions I ask in this case. It helps people understand their character patterns and look at the possible pitfalls in the relationship.

When I asked them the question, Jason and Sara were somewhat perplexed. They’d honestly never considered the issue before. As we continued exploring, I found out why. Both of them had simply figured they’d married a bad person the first time around, and now they were marrying a much better...

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7 Ways to Handle a Personal Crisis

Uncategorized May 06, 2019

When you're in crisis, you won’t be able to make the bad news in the big picture go away quickly, but you do have control over yourself, and you can focus on the vital things of life immediately. Let's take a look.

1. Connect sooner, and more, with those whom you are close to. Every bit of research in stress that science has amassed has verified this fact. The more connected you are to people who fill your heart, the less circumstances will affect you. Even my German Shepherd knows this, as in a thunderstorm he will come to find someone to be near. From monkey research to successful leadership teams in times of crisis, rule number one is get connected and stay connected. When a soldier lands in enemy territory, question number one is “where is my buddy?” If you are a leader in a company, make sure you do this with the ones who are depending on you to steady the ship.

2. Get back in touch with the things that will outlast the crisis, like your faith, your values,...

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Being Vulnerable Does Not Mean You Don't Have Boundaries

Uncategorized May 02, 2019

When two people in a relationship hurt each other, their relationship can be restored if they allow their hearts to be vulnerable.

Soft-hearts vs. hard hearts are the real issue, and a soft heart is vulnerable. But, the problem is that when people hurt each other, there is a danger that for either protection’s sake, or because of old wounds, or a refusal to forgive, a heart hardens, making connection and trust impossible.

So, the “never do this again” lesson here is to make a covenant with each other that “we will never harden our hearts towards each other again.” Never close the door, hold on to old wounds, be closed to working it out, and getting vulnerable again.

Now, let me say what this does not mean. It does not mean that someone remains open and vulnerable to abuse, attack, unfaithfulness, addictive destruction, and the like. That requires very strong boundaries. Boundaries are ways of limiting the danger, and the hurt, not setting oneself up for...

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How We Keep Picking People Who Hurt Us

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2019

Please keep in mind that article is NOT meant to place blame on victims of abuse. It was written to address character weaknesses that lead to unfulfilling relationships. 

We must find out what it is about us that causes us to make such poor, hurtful choices. The truth is that it is not just a lack of knowledge. We usually make such choices out of our own weaknesses. For example, if we are unable to confront people who hurt us and set good boundaries, we will continually be attracted to controlling, hurtful people. So, in a very real sense, we bear responsibility for the problem.

Or, if we are so isolated and lonely that we are afraid to end or confront hurtful relationships, we will choose hurtful people to avoid being alone. We need to make sure that we have a good support system in place and are not so in need of any one person. Or, if we are still trying to please some perfectionistic standard in our own heads, we will find perfectionistic people to live out that...

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How Envy Can Destroy the Heart

Uncategorized Mar 30, 2019

At some point in our lives, we feel envy. It’s part of the human condition, some more than others. Generally, the more we fill our lives and hearts with good things that are meaningful and are humble about how fortunate we are to have them, the more gratitude we feel and the less envy we experience. Nevertheless, all of us would do well to be aware of it when it creeps up in our hearts, minds, and souls.

Envy works this way. It defines what is good as what we do not have. In other words, if I do not possess something, it takes on a higher value than if I do. Likewise, once I attain it, it is no longer valuable to me, because I have it. It makes keeping up with the Joneses a full-time job.

When envy dominates a person, he or she is looking over the fence at the yards of others. They think that another person’s position or some other relationship or status or possession would make them happy. They think that the real things of value are the things that others have, not...

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How to Build a Better Relationship with Your Teenager

Uncategorized Mar 19, 2019

I was at a friend’s house for dinner one evening when, out of the blue, their son turned to his parents and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I got suspended from work for a week.”

“What happened?” his dad inquired. There was concern in his tone. It had been difficult for their son to secure this job.

“I was late twice within the same week.”

“That’s too bad,” his mother said. “You needed the money.” She continued eating, and we chatted for a minute before the subject changed.

I was so proud of his mother, I wanted to scream, “Way to go!” She didn’t get hooked into taking care of him or hooked by her own anxiety into lecturing, trying to ensure that he would never be late again so he wouldn’t lose his job. She just empathized and listened, allowing him to shoulder the problem. She also did not offer money, talk about how unfair “they” were to do such a thing, or enter into any...

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Resolving Internal Boundary Conflicts Start With Us

Uncategorized Mar 18, 2019

Kellie had been working on major boundaries issues in her therapy for a while now. She was seeing progress in resolving responsibility conflicts with her parents, her husband, and her kids. Yet today she introduced a new issue. “I haven’t told you about this relationship before, though I guess I should have. I have tremendous boundary problems with this woman. She eats too much, and has an attacking tongue. She’s undependable — lets me down all the time. And she’s spent money of mine and hasn’t paid me back in years.”

“Why haven’t you mentioned her before?” I asked.

“Because she’s me,” Kellie replied.

Kellie was echoing the conflict most of us have. We begin setting limits on others. We begin moving from taking too much responsibility to taking just enough. But how do we begin to set limits on ourselves?

Instead of looking at the control and manipulation of others, we also need to be looking at our...

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Why We Pick the Wrong Relationships and How to Change That

Uncategorized Mar 16, 2019

Please keep in mind that this was written in the context of general relationship conflicts and is not placing blame on victims of abuse.

After 30 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way. Consider these questions:

  • Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
  • Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
  • Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
  • Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?
  • Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their...

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The 7 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship

Uncategorized Mar 14, 2019

We don’t always see warning signs of a bad relationship. The “do not cross” sign is flashing, and yet we remain oblivious to the oncoming train that will mess up our emotional world.

But I’ll tell you what you can do. Be engaged in what’s going on in the interpersonal dynamics of your relationships. Regularly take the temperature of your relationship and learn to recognize the problems before they become catastrophes, and you won’t have to worry about being caught off guard.

1. First and foremost, more than anything...you should feel safe. Safe expressing who you truly are, your mistakes and your triumphs. Every little thing that you have experienced has made you the person you are today and while some of this may not always be pretty to discuss, it made you, and the person you’re with will embrace your ups and not shame you for your downs.

2. It should never feel like a game. When someone is truly into you, and wants to pursue you and make...

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The Two Ways We Truly Find What Makes Us Happy

Uncategorized Mar 11, 2019

There's so much research that tells us material things do not bring us happiness. When I look at all of the scientific research on happiness and thriving, and I looked at what all the studies have found in the last decade or more, it's amazing. There are ways of living that make you happy whether you're rich, poor or healthy or sick, or have the job you have or don't, or the car you want or don't, the salary you want or don't.

That all of that external stuff, research shows, only counts for 10 percent of our happiness. Then there are some biological things like temperament. But the rest of happiness comes from basically some life practices. There are things like staying connected and being grateful, and forgiving and having a purpose and utilizing your talents and sharing, and a bunch of things that our brains are wired to release -- positive states of joy and happiness and chemistry and all of this, when we have certain things built into our lives.

Yet, what we do is we don't...

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