Help Your Adult Children Without Enabling Them

Uncategorized Apr 05, 2019

Being a parent doesn't stop just because our kids reach a certain age. Many of us find that our love for our children is wrapped up in our desire to protect our kids and make sure their basic needs are taken care of, and that can go on well past any given age for a lot of parents. Helping our kids feels really good in the right situation, and sometimes we're the only place they can turn to when they're trying to make positive change in their lives. But we're also the place they're most likely to turn when the going gets tough, and sometimes struggling is necessary for our development.

When do you think it's a good idea to support your adult child directly? Not just moral support or love, but financially?

Every parent-child situation is different, but let's say that all parties agree that you've found a fair way to provide support for your adult child and that you have the means to be able to help them while they work toward a goal.

When you help your adult children, you're a...

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Why You're Not Getting What You Want From Relationships

Uncategorized Apr 03, 2019

When I have talked to individuals who are not finding what they want, or who are settling for what they don’t want, there is a common theme: they are trying to fill something inside them with that relationship. There is some sort of loneliness or a need to find validation of themselves—or even meaning—in a relationship with a guy. Many women give men way too much power to prove to themselves that they are lovable and desirable and even to make life worth living. They feel as if life is somehow not complete if they are not in a relationship with a guy.

When this happens, it makes letting go of someone, or not getting involved with someone, more difficult. The mantra seems to be that a notso-good relationship is better than no relationship at all. But are those the only options?

The answer is that people who attract the best partners, and who pick the best partners, are those whose lives are complete without being in a serious relationship. “Aw, come on,”...

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The Difference Between Toxic and Imperfect People

Uncategorized Apr 02, 2019

Twenty five years ago, John Townsend and I wrote a book called Boundaries. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

In talking with some people who have read the book, we’ve realized that a few have selfishly misused the point, which is to make relationships better. Instead, these people have tried to use boundaries to control other people or to make a big deal out of very small issues. So understand what we mean when we say you are to avoid toxic people: Imperfect behavior is not the same as toxic behavior. It’s important to learn the difference between problems that we should expect in relationships because people are imperfect, and problems that are toxic and need to be worked through or else avoided.

Not all things or people are toxic. There is no reason to start a war over someone’s immaturity or perfections that rub us the wrong way. That is the time for us to grow in patience and longsuffering, the ability to wait on people as they grow and mature.

Wisdom tells us...

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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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What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do  

Uncategorized Mar 27, 2019

Whenever I have heard someone say “I don’t know what to do,” it usually means much more than that. The words imply that the dilemma is just one of information, as if knowing the “what to do” would make it all different. But the truth is that these words are rarely said in a situation where one little tip will make it all better. Instead, they are usually said at a moment when someone has literally reached the end of themselves and feel as if there are no more options. In sum, they are at the end of hope. 

Whether the circumstance has to do with a relationship that is not getting better, a person who is won’t change no matter how hard you try to help them, a business problem that seems unsolvable, or even changing a pattern of behavior that has overcome you, the feeling is the same: “I have tried all I know to do, and done all that I know to do. And, nothing is helping.” At...

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Are You Owning Your Adult Child's Problems?

Uncategorized Mar 26, 2019

Do your kids have problems? Whose problems are they, really?

A lot of parents tell me all about how their adult children have this problem or that problem. Sometimes you'll find a parent who will come to you and say something like, “My 23 year old son has a failing out of school problem, he's got a drug problem and he has a can't get a job problem.'

I'll ask, 'Well, where is your son now?'

Sometimes the answer is, “Oh, well, he's on the couch right now. He wouldn't come with us today because he doesn't think he has any problems.” Other times, the answer is something like, 'Oh, well, he's skiing in Vail, Colorado right now.'

I have to tell these parents something that surprises them. Every. Single. Time.

I say, “Oh I see. Well, I can only help people with problems. I don't think I can help your son. It doesn't sound like he's got any problems.”

The parent gets flustered. “What do you mean? I just told you about all of these problems. Of course he's...

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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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7 Reasons You Stay Stuck and How to Get Out of Feeling Hopeless

Uncategorized Mar 17, 2019

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 informs 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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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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