The Attitude That Will Kill the Relationship with Your Significant Other

Uncategorized Jan 09, 2018

I listened as Faith told me about her fiancé, Daniel. She was excited about their relationship and their upcoming marriage. I was excited as well, until she said something that revealed a dumb attitude people have about relationships: she expected her fiancé to be her other half.

“We are such a good balance for each other. I am the people person in our relationship, and he likes to get out there and accomplish things. It feels so good to have someone who will fight all my battles for me, and I help to draw him out and express himself. So we are a great team!”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news in a thriving relationship, but as her counselor, I had to do it. I could see a lot of potential problems in their relationship if the division of labor was exactly as she described.

Here was the issue: Faith was doing the age-old math problem the wrong way, but the way so many people try to do it when it comes to relationships, like this:

1/2 person + 1/2 person = 1...

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What it Means to be Independent from Your Mom

Uncategorized Jan 07, 2018

If you had a controlling mom, you’ve most likely experienced problems in separation, autonomy, and individualization — becoming your own person. We’ll go through the necessary steps to repair yourself, but first, let’s clarify the real problem.

A controlling mom may be the hardest mother type to perceive accurately and realistically. The bottom-line issues and dynamics are often difficult to identify. This is because of the following two tendencies:

1.) To see mom as the solution. While the controlling mom may be controlling and enmeshing, she can also be loving and supportive. Her care and concern are often genuine. She can be very involved in her child’s life in positive ways. Because of this, the symptoms — depression, relational conflicts, and independence failures — don’t necessarily lead you to wonder about mom issues. In fact, you may even return to mother over and over again for support in the very problems that began with her....

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4 Steps to Getting Through the Winter Blues

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2017

Winter can make it feel like everything is frozen in time. Between the holidays and the cold weather, in can feel like real life has come to a halt. As the days get shorter and the night gets longer, it's tough to maintain the energy to even get through the day. Many of us have to remind ourselves that, yes, the sun does set every day before 5PM for a few months. And no, we should probably not feel this tired.

Our goals, drive, personal time, discipline and all of the other things we work on so relentlessly, may feel like they've gone into hibernation. Maybe this is one of the reasons so many of us get excited about New Year's resolutions. We crave to be our best selves, even when our schedules, families and life demands get in the way of our individual wants and needs.

Don't fret: It's important to remember that there's a lot of growth happening underground in the winter. Our interactions with families and friends may stimulate a lot of positive aspirations, or they may remind us...

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What to Do When You've Been Burned Too Many Times

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2017

I worked with someone who once told me they were “done” with people. Their sentiment was understood. After being hurt multiple times in different capacities, I could see why they came to that conclusion. I just didn’t agree with it.

But before you believe you’re “done” with people and all relationships relationships, allow me to elaborate on something here.

People who avoid relationships have problems not with functional self-sufficiency but with relational self-sufficiency. The problem with the relationally self-sufficient person is that he operates in his own relational world. He runs his emotional affairs like a one-man business. His emotional philosophy is the following:

  • I take care of my problems.
  • I don’t burden others with my problems.
  • I can handle my problems myself, thank you.
  • I’m fine, really.
  • No, really, I’m fine.

What’s wrong here? We were not created to be relationally self-sufficient. We need each other. Our...

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Life Isn’t Less Messy Because the Holidays are Here

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2017

The holidays can be a tough time for people that are feeling down. If you're not feeling holiday cheer, many people think you're a grinch.

But not everyone wants to “deck the halls” and sing “fa-la-la-la-la.”

Some people get the holiday blues every year, whether because of some bad memories or past experiences that they haven't dealt with, or simply because of the stress. Others have experienced misfortune recently: a bad breakup or the loss of a job. Likewise, people dealing with serious depression don't get a break from their demons just because Santa is coming to town.

It's important to remember that life doesn't stop happening to people just because there are Christmas lights out. Life can be messy and real, and we have to make room in our hearts to understand that some people are dealing with a lot this season.

One of the worst things we can do to people is to tell them how they should feel. That's a one way communication and it invalidates that person's...

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Why that Narcissist You Know Won’t Get Far in Life

Uncategorized Dec 15, 2017

I had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it. Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive. He said, “I think it’s probably part of my anxiety disorder.”

I inquired more, and he told me that he had been managing a significant anxiety disorder for some time and had relied on a number of tricks and habits to keep it in check. As I listened, I couldn’t help being moved by how much effort it must cost and how distressing it must be for him to manage this condition. I also couldn’t help wondering how much better his life and work could be if he...

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Self-Esteem is Not the Most Important Thing to Build in Your Child

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2017

Self-esteem is a sensitive topic for parents, and they’re careful to build it into their children. Does it help? Can you actually build it, and what does it do?

People who talk about building positive self-esteem in a child are often trying to cure the child from the feeling of a “bad self,” or they’re trying to prevent the child from developing a “bad self” by having the child see herself solely in a positive light. This is a confusing idea for several reasons.

First, it places the security of the child at risk by basing it on her positive performance. The concept of self-esteem hinges on a child being able to see herself positively. What happens when her performance is not positive? What happens if she fails?

If the goal is to see ourselves in a “good” way, what will we do with failure? How can we maintain this “positive view” in the light of badness and failure? One answer is to have more positive than negative. Another...

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A Letter to my 12-Year-Old

Uncategorized Dec 11, 2017

Dear Lucy,  

How proud I am of you! You have turned into and are turning into such an amazing, incredible, loving and lovable person. I love watching you, being with you, listening to you, learning from you and much, much more. Your presence lights up a room, and when you are around, heaven has taken a moment and touched us all. I love you.

So, as you turn 12, I have asked myself, "What is 12 about? What does a 12-year-old need to be able to do to really be 12? Just because a body is 12 does not mean the person is, at least on the inside. They may be 4 and just wearing a 12 year old's costume, looking like they are 12. But 12 has some very important aspects to it. It is a time of completion, and a time of growing up that will have meaning for the rest of your life. In light of those kinds of thoughts, here is my test for you to answer the question: "Am I 12?"

I do not expect for you to answer 100% on the whole list, nor 100% on any given question all of the time. None of us...

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The Best Thing a Couple Can Do for Each Other

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

Acceptance has to do with being able to relate lovingly and without judgment to everything about your partner. It is embracing the reality of his or her strengths and weaknesses, gifts, and imperfections. It does not mean that you approve of everything about your spouse, but it means you are willing to relate to all of him or her without condemnation, even those parts with which you don’t agree or of which you don’t approve.

Sexuality requires you to be open and exposed, with all your blemishes and scars. Acceptance creates an environment in which you and your spouse are aware of what the other lacks, but you don’t allow those imperfections to stop the flow of love and gratitude for each other. You are so much in love with the character and soul of your beloved that accepting the body is a small thing. However, if you don’t convey acceptance, or your partner does not feel acceptable regardless of what you say and do, then your spouse will tend to hide,...

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Having Boundaries Means Taking Responsibility for Our Choices

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

Any time is a great time to take stock of boundaries in our lives and renew the desire to take responsibility for our choices. This leads to the fruit of “self-control.” A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay the responsibility for them on someone else.

Think for a moment how often we use the phrases, “I had to” or “She (he) made me” when explaining why we did or did not do something. These phrases betray our basic illusion that we are not active agents in many of our dealings. We think someone else is in control, thus relieving us of our basic responsibility.“I really need you to watch your nephew,” Tiffany said.

“What does she mean by ‘need to’?” Kyle thought to himself.

“Adam has been out of town for work. I’ve got a million things I’ve got to do, and I think you should help me out here. I’m you’re sister, and you should do this for your...

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