Archive for September, 2015

My Wife Has “Manipulated” Me For 37 Years”! And I Like It. Why

Monday, September 28th, 2015

After reading this headline I suppose you are wondering what kind of wimp that I must be.  But not so fast. Let me give you the whole story behind such a headline.

Webster’s offers three definitions for “manipulate”.  Two of them are:

  1. To manage or utilize skillfully. To change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s  purpose. For purpose of this writing, I am using definition number one.

My wife Sherry is a very positive person.  She sees the good in everyone and does not have a critical bone in her body. She has, from day one of our getting together, seen the best in me and offered it up as a compliment. (Thank goodness she has a “blind spot” or two or just knows how to keep her mouth shut when experiencing my less than wonderful side). She “catches” me doing helpful things and thanks me consistently.

Now any of you who might have taken Psychology 101 will immediately recognize that she is employing Skinnerian Operant Theory. In essence it is a reinforcement theory. It says if you want a behavior to continue and get stronger you reward the desired behavior on a consistent basis.

Because Sherry has continually reinforced my positive behaviors I have become a better man, husband and father. (You should have known me before she started her manipulation!) I certainly have a ways to go but am on the right track.

I wish more couples would follow her example. In my counseling sessions I hear individuals complain that all they get from each other are criticisms.  Guess what the response is to criticism?  Usually it results in an angry confrontation or a silent withdrawal takes place. Criticism rarely creates change to a positive behavior.

So, perhaps you are wondering what a spouse is to do when s/he observes a behavior that is most bothersome and is in need of changing?  This is where refined communication needs to take place. In my sessions with couples I focus on the issues present and the needs of each. This approach sets the stage for a more constructive dialogue on how each can better bring his or her best self to the other.

I believe that if you love someone, notice the “given” here, you want to meet that person’s needs. This presumes, of course, that one’s needs are within the realm of reality given the best intentions and capacities of each other. If you are trying to meet the needs and desires of your loved one you will make positive progress and then, hopefully, the other will notice and compliment the effort.  This should result in each person doing his or her best and being recognized for it.



This method focuses on a “fresh start” and going forward rather than re-hashing yesterday’s complaints and criticisms. Needs are offered and explained. A person commits to doing his or her best to meet that need. Positive reinforcement is offered and a person accepts the effort believing the other is doing his or her best to meet the need requested.

It is my hope that this writing has helped some people “manipulate” and be “manipulated” so that each person may positively grow into a better person and that a more loving union may result. If you need any assistance with this you can call the expert, my wife Sherry, or me and I will do my best to teach you the art of “manipulation”!

This week is our 37th wedding anniversary. I’ve just re-enlisted for 37 more years of her “manipulating” me since it has worked so well thus far!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

16 Ways To Ruin A Relationship! Are You Guilty Of Any?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

If you have moved beyond the headline of this writing you must have some interest in developing, maintaining, and, hopefully, thriving in your primary love relationship. It is my intent to offer you both the positive things that you might do to enhance your relationship as well as to present behaviors that ruin your relationship. Psychotherapist Amy Morin has put together fifteen factors. I list them and add my commentary. Plus, I have added another that I feel most people need as a reminder.

  1. NAGGING TOO MUCH: Many studies have indicated that this is very high on the list of grievances that men have with women. Hopefully your communication and negotiation of what needs to be done by whom at what time can be easily agreed upon and carried out accordingly. Men don’t need “Mamas” to nag on them nor do they need to act like a petulant or procrastinating teenage boy when certain things need to be done.
  2. NOT TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF: I hear this one a lot in relationship counseling. In good relationships each partner makes a big effort to bring his or her best to the other – in every form and fashion. Your partner deserves your best!
  3. TAKING YOUR PARTNER FOR GRANTED: Think of the time when you were very consumed with your partner when you were dating. You did little, and big, things to make that person feel special. Time should not erode those continued behaviors. Ramp it up a bit.
  4. HALF-LISTENING: Nodding your head with an occasional “ah hah” doesn’t get it. Focus in more and maybe mention a point heard and ask him/her to elaborate.
  5. AVOIDING DISCUSSIONS ABOUT PROBLEMS: It is amazing for me in counseling to hear how many problems are “shoved under the rug”, not brought up and attended to. The more problems are avoided the more serious they usually become.
  6. NOT BEING ASSERTIVE: Too often individuals passively assent and do not speak up as to what they are thinking and feeling about a particular issue. It’s hard to respect someone who is not assertive with regard to issues of importance.
  7. TESTING YOUR PARTNER’S LOYALTY: Trust is not to be tampered with. Consistent confidence in your partner is important. Earn and maintain it.
  8. COMPLAINING ABOUT YOUR PARTNER: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If you have an issue with your partner talk with him or her about it. By bringing the issue to someone else you damage trust and may damage your partner’s reputation in ways that cannot be redeemed.
  9. NOT BALANCING FRIEND AND FAMILY TIME: Your calendar tells you how you divvy up your time. Hopefully spouse and kids are your highest priority.
  10. USING THE SILENT TREATMENT: Question for you. Who does this more, men or women? You or your spouse? There is a place for short term silence as in cooling your temper down. However, communication is necessary for direction, problem resolution, and re-connection when needed.
  11. TAKING TEASING TOO FAR: Once you are past your teen years teasing should be kept to a minimum or not done at all. Teasing rarely makes the other person feel good and usually tends to move the person away emotionally. Most people are more sensitive, especially in certain areas, than you may believe they are.
  12. TELLING “WHITE LIES”: Any lie whittles away at trust. Better to say nothing than to cop out and offer a “white lie”. That is not to say that everything that you think and feel needs to come out of your mouth!
  13. FOCUSING ON YOUR HAPPINESS ONLY: You may think you are important, and you are. However, so is your significant other. Being all about you is narcissistic and off putting. Do your best to make your partner happy in various ways. If you are in a good relationship, this will help and assure that you will get plenty back to make you happy.
  14. KEEPING SCORE: I despise this one. Score keeping ruins relationships. Do your best to fully participate in the relationship and have confidence that your partner is doing the best s/he is capable as well.
  15. MAKING A SCENE IN PUBLIC: This is a classy one! You embarrass yourself and your partner doing this and probably assure yourself that you will not be welcomed back to that place again. Watch your drinking, your temper, and your mouth, especially when you are in public.
  16. CRITICISM: It doesn’t work. Give it up. A better way is to make a positive statement of what you would like or need. Invite your partner to do something rather than criticize what was not done. I know this is tricky but language can be learned that avoids criticism and optimizes the possibility of getting done what you want.

Needless to say these are not the only ways to ruin a relationship. There are many more! These are some of the more subtle or common ones that well meaning individuals do to erode their relationship. May these serve as reminders even to the best of you!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Pre Marriage Relationship Counseling Is “In”!

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Most couples do not participate in couples counseling until they are in some form of marital turmoil and conflict. What a shame.  So much of it could have been avoided.  Perhaps the marriage itself should have been avoided.

But, “the times they are a changin’” in this regard. Dysfunctional family members, adult children affected by their parents’divorce, commitment phobics, those who want to “be sure”, and others who have already gone through a divorce are people who are now participating in this new wave of pre-marriage counseling.  They want to learn more about themselves and whether this relationship has long term potential.

There is no standard process utilized by various relationship counselors.  Some methodologies are more successful than others in giving valuable information to the couple about the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship and the probability that a successful marriage will result. If interested be sure to ask the counselor/therapist a lot of questions about the person himself/herself and the process utilized.

The process I use combines genetic pre-dispositions and family influences resulting in certain personality styles, with specific emotional and behavioral capacities.  Further exploration brings forth a greater awareness of what areas need to be improved for both personal and relationship growth.  Communication nuances and a marriage plan (akin to a business plan: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”) will help build the trust needed on the way to establishing intimacy. Intimacy means vulnerability to, and synergy with, the other as partners, resulting in a spiritual and sensual closeness.

Just as you research, learn more about, buying a house before writing a contract, so should you do the same before buying into a permanent relationship.  The expertise of a professional is invaluable in both pursuits.  What if the house you were going to buy had a serious defect, wouldn’t you want to know about it BEFORE buying it?  A thorough inspection is important, not just a superficial once over, to ensure what you are contracting for.  Don’t be afraid of having your relationship looked at for structural flaws. If  weaknesses exist improvements can be made – or maybe you are buying the wrong house (person)!  Pro-active research can save a lot of later headache.  If the relationship is truly sound it can stand, and be enhanced by, closer inspection and discussion.

The sooner you truly know what exists in the relationship, and what probably will result in the future, the better you are.  Learn early – breaking engagements or divorce is painful. If you are in a serious relationship, check it out more thoroughly through pre-engagement counseling.  Parents, you may want to mention this to your children at an appropriate time.

Men Suffer Depression Differently Than Women

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Men and women both suffer depression at various times in their lives. However, men suffer depression differently in most cases than do women. As for treating men’s depression, it is not easy because it is well known that men are less likely than women to seek help for any mental health concern, depression in particular. Male ego, society’s image and expectation of strong men, not trusting or expecting help from mental health practitioners, not wanting to spend the money are among the reasons that men do not seek therapy for their depression.

Psychologist Aaron Rochlen documents how the traditional male role – which restricts emotional expression and encourages a pre-occupation with success, power and competition ­– is associated with negative physical and psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety and relationship problems. These types of men often hide their depression with overwork and getting into more risky behaviors.

Traditionally depression has been mainly characterized by sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt. Some current research is describing a “male-based depression”. This male oriented depression is more likely to be expressed by increased fatigue, irritability and anger (sometimes abusive), loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex, and sleep disturbances. Many of these depressed men often use more drugs, alcohol, and pornography perhaps to self medicate such feelings.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, doctors often may overlook the signs of depression in older men. It can be especially hard to single out depression when men have other problems such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which can cause depressive symptoms, or whose medications may cause depressive side effects. Older white males have the highest rates of suicide. Four times as many men than women commit suicide in the United States. This statistic alone points out the need for, and reluctance of, men seeking psychotherapy.

If only closed off depressed men would admit their depression, help could be on its way. Psychotherapy, sometimes joined with appropriate medication, can positively impact men’s depression eighty per cent of the time.

Since most men are either clueless or reluctant to admit their depression, it is incumbent on those people who care for such men to proactively intervene. Such people may include a spouse, children, relative, co-worker, friend/buddy, etc… . A caring comment, or perhaps a needed confrontation, hopefully will help the depressed man acknowledge his condition and then, hopefully, seek out a competent therapist.

Depression is debilitating and has serious ramifications in relationships and in the work place. May this writing help those concerned deal with depression in men – especially when such a positive outcome is possible!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

Recipe For Relationship Success! Really

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Most people need either instruction or reminders in order to create and maintain a healthy relationship. Some useful tips have recently been written by Catherine Townsend. I would like to share some of her tips and add my own commentary. Here goes:

  1. APPLY CEO LOGIC TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP: Mega-successful people do not focus on their failures, they treat them as learning opportunities. The key here is to truly learn from mistakes. Too many people continue to do the same dumb things and continue to get the same failing result. This is where a relationship professional can offer some guidance.
  2. SHUT THE BATHROOM DOOR: You cannot maintain a sexy mystique while squatting on the toilet!
  3. SAY YOU’RE SORRY: Forget about being “right” or “winning”. Just say you are sorry for the distance that exists between you and your significant other. Odds are that the other person will say “sorry” as well and a re-connection results.
  4. GO TO YOUR GIRLFRIENDS INSTEAD OF YOUR MAN TO VENT: Give your man the “bullet points” of your frustrations and, hopefully, you will receive empathy, and helpful solutions if you ask for them. Save the details for your girlfriend.
  5. SNUGGLE MORE: Snuggling is as important as sex. It releases the hormone oxytocin and lowers stress and blood pressure while making the two of you feel connected.
  6. EAT AND WORK OUT LIKE YOU’RE SINGLE: Keep making the same effort to keep your body in good shape after marriage as you did when you were single.
  7. TALK ABOUT MONEY: Differences of opinion regarding money matters is one of the chief reasons for arguments and divorces.
  8. PUT YOUR PAST BEHIND YOU: Make your relationship a “fresh start”. Let go of you emotional baggage of hurts and mistakes and live in the present with an eye to the future.
  9. HAVE ADVENTURES TOGETHER: Have fun, open up new possibilities for living life more fully.
  10. MIND YOUR MANNERS DURING ARGUMENTS: Do not rage, call names, bring up the past, or argue in front of other people.
  11. CLEAN OUT YOUR EMOTIONAL LIFE: Get rid of toxic friends or anyone that gets in the way of your relationship with your significant other. Your relationship needs to be number one.
  12. SCHEDULE SEX: Make time for “date nights”, time that is sensually connecting.
  13. GO TO BED ANGRY: Not always but sometimes. There may be times when you are both mad and exhausted so it could well be better to get a good night’s sleep and, hopefully, wake up refreshed and able to bring a different perspective that allows a forgiving re-connection. One of my favorite sayings is “begin each day with fresh forgiveness”.
  14. COMPLIMENT YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER OFTEN: Criticism doesn’t work, compliments do! Look for opportunities to recognize positive things about your significant other and say it.

Of course there are a multitude of other valuable tips to build and maintain a special loving relationship with another person. Hopefully these will serve as reminders of some that may be of value to you, Respected Reader.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”             Socrates