Confronting the People Who Create Unsafe Relationships

Uncategorized Nov 19, 2017

If you’ve read my book, Power of the Other, you know that we talk about the Four Corners. This means that there are only four possibilities for relational connection.

In Corner #2, we talk about bad connections.

A “bad connection” leaves you feeling like you are “bad” in some way. These relationships leave you feeling like, no matter what, you are not good enough. While this kind of connection might be overtly abusive, that’s not always the case. A bad connection might simply be someone who is highly critical. A boss with demanding expectations that can never be met. A friend who only points out the bad. A partner who is shaming or guilt-inducing. A co-worker who leaves you feeling, “I am not good enough.”

Trying to live and perform from this corner works against all of our internal systems of thriving…both personally and professionally. We were not designed to do well when we’re feeling bad. And the symptoms are...

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The Two Things You Need for Healthy Intimacy

Uncategorized Nov 18, 2017

A healthy sex life begins with love. Love brings a couple together and allows sex to flourish. Love encompasses sex; it’s larger than sex. Love can create the desire for sex, but when the passion of sex is over, love remains. It continues and is present with the couple, holding them close to each other and to the Author of love himself.

A large part of sexual love is knowing, and sexual love is about knowing your spouse, personally and intimately. That means you should know your partner’s feelings, fears, secrets, hurts, and dreams, and care about them – and likewise, your partner should know and care about yours.

The vulnerability of sex increases that base of knowing, as husband and wife reveal their innermost souls to each other through sexual love. By its unveiling and exposed nature, sex demands that sort of openness. In sexual intimacy two people show each other the privacy of their bodies as well as the privacy of their hearts and feelings.

Love involves the...

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How You Can Address the Patterns that Lead to Divorce

Uncategorized Nov 18, 2017

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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Honoring vs. Obeying - How to Set the Boundary With Your Parents

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Ben was 30 years old when I met him. He came into my office burdened by the opinions of what his parents thought of his life choices. It sounds crass on the surface, but one of the first things I told him to do was to “grow up and get a life.” But the problem with this common phrase is that there is great difficulty in the process, so let’s look at both sides: growing up and getting a life.

Your symptom, feeling like you give too much weight to your parents’ opinion, is a sign that some growing up has not happened. And while you feel like you always have to honor your parents, you don’t always have to obey them. If you’re still in the child position, then that is getting in the way of how you were meant to live your life. So, we have to look at two reasons for still remaining in the child position: not growing up, and not having a life.

Some people stay in the child position with parents because they are either unable to “grow up,” or...

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Seven Reasons Why People Are Unhappy

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all driven to grow. We see a future that we want to live in, and we are either able to intentionally get there, or we cannot. A major determinant of whether you will get there or not is simply that you actually believe that you can.

We carry around a huge amount of personal baggage from our past experiences that forms our attitudes about the future. In many cases we develop a sense of learned helplessness that causes us to believe that we will never be able to get the future we want. This self-defeating logic is reinforced by our own inaction toward overcoming this baggage from our past. It becomes a pattern.

We get used to not getting what we want. We come to believe that it’s normal. That it’s simply the way things are.

Before we can overcome these issues, we have to understand what they are. This is by no means an all encompassing list of issues that characterize bad past experiences that can prevent you from realizing your own...

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Abusive Relationships, Setting Boundaries and Getting Support

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Emily came into therapy because of “panic attacks.” Her husband’s increased drinking was causing problems at home. She tried to be loving and supportive, but this was doing no good; it was making matters worse.

She had begun to read some books on setting limits on abusive behavior and how to not be an enabler. She realized that she had to say no to his behavior, and at times this meant leaving him alone when he was on a binge.

However, when she began to put limits on his behavior, she experienced severe panic. She felt as if she were “falling into a hole.” She shook and felt terror. She felt as if some awful loneliness was going to “swallow her up.”

As she began to understand herself better, she found that she did not have very good bonding inside of her. She was isolated internally, she didn’t have the ability to maintain emotional connections with other people in their absence. If she were not in the presence of the one she loved,...

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The Reason Your Dating Life isn't Going Well

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Single life is a mixed bag for many of us. Some people like to be unattached and play the field, while others just want to curl up with someone and binge watch TV shows on Netflix.

If you're unhappily single, I've got something to tell you. A friend of mine and her husband seem like a perfect match. I asked them how they met.

"It was a miracle," she said. "There is no logical way we should have ever ended up together."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"We were completely different people when we met, randomly, at a party. I was a young girl who liked to have a good time. He was a bit older than me and wanting to settle down. I was not a churchgoing person, but religion was a big part of his life. In all honesty, he was really the type of person I was trying to get away from. Imagine my surprise when he asked me out."

"Well, why would you go out with him if you were so different?" I inquired. "And how did you guys get from there to married for 10 years with three children?"

"I have a...

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What to do When Your Spouse Won't Respect Your Boundaries

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Usually the quiet one in her group, Leah spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Leah’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become what we were never given the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our...

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You Can Create Separateness from Your Mom and Thrive

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Julia was in her early 30s when she began discussing the ideas of separateness, differences, and boundaries with her mother. It wasn’t easy at first: Mom thought Julia was rejecting her as a person. But they both persevered in the relationship. Mom agreed to respond to Julia’s truth and try not to hear it as pushing her away.

Julia told her mom, “Mom, when I tell you I can’t bring the kids to visit, instead of withdrawing and being hurt, would you just tell me you’re sad about it, and would you try to understand?” Mom learned that Julia’s differences were for Julia, not against Mom. And she began to respect, not resent, her daughter’s independence.

In fact, Mom became even more supportive. When Julia came for a visit, her mother surprised her by saying, “Let me take care of the kids while you and Rich leave for a few hours. You two probably don’t get enough time together.” They gratefully accepted. Then, when the...

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How to Take the Risks that are Worth it

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2017

Do you ever let your fears hold you back? Of course you do, we all do. Maybe if we were a bit more honest about our fears, we wouldn't have to be prisoners to them. Fear is a mechanism that allows us to avoid stuff that is unknown, scary, unpleasant or hard. Fears can be painful, and I'm not trivializing yours, but I would suggest that sometimes we don't really understand our fears.

Fears, like bad dreams, are best disposed of in the light of day. Expose your fears to yourself and others you trust. Identify them and where they came from. They are much less powerful when you can look at them in the light. Say to yourself, “I have not taken a risk in an important area of my life because I am afraid that…”

1. I will lose a relationship. (Are you sure? Or will that person just get mad and withdraw for a while?)

2. Someone will get mad at me (The anger of others is unpleasant, but you must be able to tolerate people being mad at you to be successful.)

3. I might hurt...

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