Archive for February, 2014

Your Barriers To Quality Relationships? A Checklist To Assist

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Many enlightened people take stock of how they are living.  You may be one of those.  I hope so because I believe a continual evaluation of how you are living can be a catalyst to a better and richer life.  Having quality relationships is essential for a life of happiness.  Often there are personal idiosyncracies that inhibit the type of connection desired.  The following is a checklist for you to use for assessing your barriers to quality relationships.  Check the ones that fit you. You may even want  to put a number from one to ten indicating the degree that it is a concern.

Low self esteem.

Addictions, compulsions, illness (mental and physical).

Prioritizing work over relationships.

Alienating or isolating tendencies.

Super independence from others.

Over dependence on others or co-dependency.

Worrying too much.

Social anxiety or shyness.

Feeling “different” from others.

Fear of rejection, abandonment, or being alone.

Fear of failure.

Fear of criticism, confrontation, or anger.

Oversensitivity, including defensiveness.

Excessive feelings of guilt.

Martyrdom or “victim syndrome”.

Frequently comparing self to others.

Unrealistic expectations toward self or others.


Take life or self too seriously, difficultly in having fun.

Rigidity, inflexibility, or controlling tendencies.

Chaotic or overflexible tendencies.

Not being able to take things seriously enough.

Procrastination or indecisiveness.

Extreme loyalty to others.

People-pleasing or approval- seeking tendencies.

Non-assertiveness (passivity or passive-aggressiveness)

Ignoring or not expressing self and own needs and feelings.

Caretaking or super-responsibility for others.

Stereotyping people.

Aggressiveness or resentment (holding grudges).

Jealousy or envy.

Super-irresponsibility or not keeping agreements.

Nondisclosure of self (including fear of “being found out”).

Dishonesty or manipulative tendencies.

Avoidance of commitments (including fear of “being trapped”).

Overuse of defense mechanisms (e.g. denial, blame…).


After going through this checklist are you encouraged that you are in a pretty good place and capable of creating and maintaining healthy relationships?  If not, what areas appear to be weaknesses that you might want to address to have the capacity for better relationships.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

One Of The Primary “Marriage Killers”: Nagging!

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Bernstein caught my eye.  It was entitled, “Meet the Marriage Killer”. The working definition here is to “annoy or irritate with persistent faultfinding or continuous urging”.  Do you know anyone who does that?

Why does the nagger nag?  According to Dr. Scott Wetzler, “we have the perception that we won’t get what we want from the other person, so we feel we need to keep asking in order to get it”.  Wetzler continues by addressing personality styles.  “An extremely organized, obsessive or anxious person may not be able to refrain from giving reminders, especially if the partner is laid back and often does things at the last minute.”

Bernstein says that experts believe women are more likely to nag, “largely because they are conditioned to feel more responsible for managing home and family life.  And they tend to be more sensitive to early signs of problems in a relationship. When women ask for something and don’t get a response, they are quicker to realize something is wrong.  The problem is that by asking repeatedly, they make things worse.”

Bernstein continues,” men are to blame, too, because they don’t always give a clear answer.  Sure, a husband might tune his wife out because he is annoyed, nagging can make him feel like a little boy being scolded by his mother”.

Dr. Howard Markham, one of the most prominent marriage and family researchers, states “nagging can become a prime contributor to divorce when couples start fighting about the nagging rather than talking about the issue at the root of the nagging”.  He says that those couples who learn to reduce this type of negative communication will substantially increase the odds of staying together and keeping love alive.  Couples who don’t learn often fall out of love and split up.”

Tips offered to stop this negative communication regarding nagging include:

  1. Recognize that there is a problem. Both commit to changing this destructive divisive interaction.
  2. Look at it from the other’s perspective.
  3. If you are the nagger, realize you are asking for something.  Use an “I” statement, rather than a “you” statement.
  4. Explain why the request is important to you.
  5. Manage your expectations.  Make sure you are asking for something that is realistic and appropriate.
  6. Set a time frame. Ask your partner when you can expect him/her to finish the task.
  7. If you are the naggee, give a clear response to the request.  Tell your partner honestly if you can do what is asked and when.  Then follow through.  Do what you say you will do.
  8. Consider alternative solutions. Maybe it’s worth it to have someone in to do the given task, rather than consider the harm your relationship is suffering from the arguing.

These suggestions, if followed, can help eliminate the nagging problem.  In my practice nagging is one of the “issues” that couples discuss with me.  It is a marriage killer.  What I try to help couples realize is that the marriage is the most important thing.  That which threatens it needs to be addressed, with both individuals heard and resolved to communicate respectfully to solve it.

Bottom line, are you a nagger?  Do you live with a nagger?  Address the issue and fix it.  Your marriage deserves a more respectful and cooperative style to endure and thrive.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

What Do You See In Someone And Then Say – Sincerely?

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

A confession.  I am a Type A personality.  I’m genetically wired like that.  There are plusses and minuses to that personality profile, as there is to any other. Over time I have tried to maximize the benefits of that personality and minimize its down side.

As you probably know Type A’s are competitive drivers. Being successful, winning, is important. To “win”” one must seek out every competitive advantage at hand.  This style includes finding the weakness in the opponent  – whether it be a person, team, or business.  To do that you look for any flaw, a  vulnerability, that may exist and use it to your advantage.

In relationships the same modus operandi exists – perhaps even amped up because of the emotional vulnerability that can exist in a deeper relationship. This can lead to a detective-like search for the other’s flaws – and scorekeeping – one ups man ship.  “The best defense is a strong offense”.

This competing, find the weakness in the other, style may work to some degree in sports and in business, but it is absolutely fatal in personal relationships, especially between spouses.

A turning point in my life’s lessons journey took place in a graduate class that I took early on in my doctoral studies at Georgia State University.  The class consisted of an ongoing small group whose primary agenda was to get to know people in the group, seek out and find positives of fellow group members, and then sincerely offer the observation to the appropriate person.  Such a process began with the superficial, i.e., “I like the outfit you have on”.  As time wore on, and we began to know each other better, a positive comment like “You come across as a very caring and empathic person” would be offered and comfortably welcomed. The goal was to get to know the person at a very personal level, see the positive of that person, and offer the compliment.  (We developed some nice friendships out of that group!)

My point in this is to say that this experience significantly modified the way I perceive and interact with people – both personally and professionally. I have re-trained my brain to look for, see, and say the positive that exists in another person.  The more I know the person the richer and deeper the positive statement.  The emphasis here is on sincerity.

Sincerity is critical. No BS, no superficial flattery, no excessive sucking up.  I must be honest, objective as possible, while stating the positive.  That is not to say that I cannot point out that which may be lacking in another – if in a professional capacity – or if such an observation is requested or warranted.  No Polyanna in me!

I enjoy seeing the positives in another person. In my profession I have the privileged opportunity to look into the deepest parts of people, their soul, inner core, and find that for the most part most all people are pretty special – even when they may do something stupid or hurtful things.

Bottom line, Respected Reader, do you look for, see, and then share what you perceive to be positive with another person?  It is a better way to live!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

Valentine’s Day Reactions Vary. Yours?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The annual Valentine celebration, or mourning, arrives this week on your calendar.  What does this noted day mean to you?  Possible options:

1. “It means nothing to me.  I’m not in a relationship. I’m very Single. Therefore, no obligation or opportunity. Deep down I do wish I had someone to love, someone who loved me.

I’ll cover up my loneliness by getting engrossed in American Idol (she). I’ll hit the sports bar and watch anything that’s on (he).”

2. “Another disappointment.  My husband is clueless and not romantic at all. He doesn’t understand that his thoughtfulness on this day makes me feel closer to him.  And who knows what might follow from that!”

3. “This is another female holiday where I’m supposed to send flowers, take her out for dinner, etc… What’s in it for me?  Get laid?  May be worth it.  Haven’t had sex is four months.”

4. It is a business promotion holiday- but so what, I love her and I’ll show it this day –and other times.

5. I’m so fortunate to be in love and want to share this day in a special way with my significant other.

6. Other response?  Fill in the blank.

If Valentine’s Day does nothing else – and this is significant- it calls attention to the presence, absence, and/or the quality of one’s love life.  Do you have a partner?  Is it a good relationship?  What is missing? Anything?  A lot?  Do you express how you feel.  Does s/he hear it?  What is the response?

One thing I have learned over the years in my practice is that it is the goal/job/ privilege of each partner to love the other the way s/he needs/ wants to be loved – to the extent possible.  Nobody does it perfectly, but maximal effort is called for.  When each person tries, movement forward results.

There are a number of people who will not finish this article.  They don’t want to deal with this.  They keep their disappointments, dashed hopes, to themselves (except maybe to a close friend (she) or a buddy over too many beers (he).  Trust, it can be better.

May Valentine’s Day serve as a gut check, perhaps wake up call to address your love life and add a bit more pizzazz to it!!


“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates


My Quest To Get A Younger Brain – Or At Least Slow Its Deterioration!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

I was born and raised by a Father and a Mother who loved each other. They were a solid couple who enjoyed life, had good values, and did their best to raise two children.  After their children, my sister and me, left for college and life beyond the homeland of Green Bay, they continued their life and marriage.  They had good friends and had a lot of fun, especially during the Lombardi era.  My Dad was one of the Packers Directors and was good friends with Vince.  He and my Mom had a wonderful life until … my Dad’s brain began to deteriorate and his behavior became erratic.  After a period of continued uncharacteristic antics he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – at the age of fifty five!

My Mother’s love and devotion rose to the occasion and she took care of him until he died at the age of sixty seven.  She was heroic in her continuing caretaking of him, especially with little support since their good “friends” tended to fall by the wayside – not willing or capable of being supportive.

To watch a handsome intelligent outgoing man with a wonderful personality deteriorate into a state of existence that no person should have to go through was heart wrenching – especially for my Mother. Some of the best potential years of her life, sharing it with the man she loved, were taken away from her by this insidious disease. She has endured and still lived a zestful life since his death. She  cultivated a new group of special friends and has been a loving and generous Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother.  She is now ninety three with an incredibly sharp brain. She reads, plays bridge, does crossword puzzles, and plays Scrabble and various card games on her computer. Recently she has moved in to live with Sherry and me. She continues to beat us at gin rummy and rummikub!

More personally, it is my hope that my brain genetics come more from my Mother than my Father! Whatever they are I am doing my best to continue to create new brain cells and slow down the decay of other brain matter. There are a number of things that I do to effectuate that goal.  Some of the things that I do have recently been published in a Prevention magazine article.  I share the seven recommendations cited in the article.

  1. Use internet search engines: When you search the internet you engage key centers in your brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. Such searching activity uses neural circuitry not activated by reading.
  2. Exercise: Researchers have demonstrated that aerobic exercise boosts not only speed and sharpness of thought but also the volume of brain tissue.  The brain can grow!
  3. Brush and floss: Gingivitis and periodontal disease are associated with worse cognitive function throughout adult life. I doubt many people know that!
  4. Drink moderately (if you can handle it). Too much alcohol reduces brain volume.
  5. Eat blueberries: They promote increased cell growth in the hippocampus region of the brain. They contain chemicals that may cross the blood-brain barrier and lodge in regions that govern learning and memory.
  6. Do puzzles: A University of Alabama study of nearly 3000 men and women using brain booster exercises like puzzles found that their brains performed like those people more than ten years younger.
  7. Meditate: Meditation is more than a stress reducer. Research has shown that meditators have experienced growth in the cortex, an area of the brain that controls memory, language, and sensory processing.  One of my favorite books in this area documenting the various benefits of certain types of meditation is THE RELAXATION RESPONSE by Herbert Benson, M.D., a prominent cardiologist and researcher at Harvard University.

Another thing that I do to take care of my brain is to focus on the positive. Positive thoughts and feelings create brain cells. Negative thoughts and feelings destroy brain cells. I have trained my brain to be aware of whenever I have a negative thought, I “change the channel” to something positive. It is a better way to live and, hopefully, a way of living longer with a healthy brain!

May this writing and the insights expressed further motivate you to make every effort possible to enhance your brain functioning.  Seeing my Father in his final day has been a constant reminder to follow the above recommendations in addition to other brain training that I do.  Give it your best shot!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates