Archive for January, 2016

“Veto” Use In Marriage Can Enhance The Relationship!

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

When working with couples who have difficulty in making decisions regarding various facets of their joint life, I find that effective use of the “veto” can be helpful. Obviously I do not use the word “veto” in the sense of government and Constitutional power. One of the definitions of veto is to prohibit from going forth. I think there is a productive use of a veto in a marriage. Let me explain why I choose such an emphatic term.

In a committed relationship there is an exchange of power. The goal in this exchange is to make decisions that are respectful of each person’s interest and results in a win-win decision, not win-lose. Too often in marriage one person is more the controller, usually more self-centered than his or her pleaser type who tends to give in on an issue.

The “veto” says that a suggestion, idea, direction is not going to happen. The person using the veto is establishing a boundary that prohibits any further consideration of a proposal.

Let me use a couple of examples that have come up in marriage counseling which have divided a couple and left each one “frustrated” (female) or “angry” (male). (Yes, this is a stereotype but it fits so many couples.)

  1. Buying an object for their home. Joe wants a deer head in the den. Sally doesn’t like the idea. This argument could go on and on, but if Sally employs the “veto”, it’s over. The decision is made – no deer head in the den. Or, Sally thinks this feminine pink love seat would look great in the living room. Joe says, “over my dead body” and yells “veto”! Sally ponders his statement of his demise and then agrees to the veto and gives up the idea of the preferred love seat. In each of these cases, once the deer head and the love seat were off the table, the couple was able to further communicate, compromise, and come up with something for the den and the living room that each could live with.
  2. Where to go out for dinner. Sally wants to try out a new sushi restaurant. Joe says he doesn’t eat “bait” and says he won’t go to it. He plays the veto card. Sally is frustrated because she has heard some good reviews from her girl friends. Joe says he wants to go to the sports bar so he can watch the ball games. Sally doesn’t want that because she wants to have her husband’s attention and some conversation. Veto is her response to that. As a result of each veto the couple’s disagreement doesn’t escalate and they find a nice Italian restaurant that both can live with.

These two situations may seem silly or mundane to some of you but I can assure you that so many arguments I witness in counseling are about these topics or other seemingly mundane issues. People get invested in their choices and often excessively push them on to their partner. Perhaps you can think of an example or two when you two disagree about what to do and each stridently tries to influence the other to agree to his or her way.

By employing the veto you can stop the argument from escalating and can rather spend the time looking at alternatives that each of you can buy into for a win-win solution. To do this effectively one of you (usually the most “enlightened” of you two) needs to say to the other, “I read this great idea from Dr. Stathas about using a veto to stop debate, and potential arguments, by using a veto when either of us proposes something that the other person cannot comfortably accept. Let’s agree to do that”.”Yes, Dear”!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

Are You A Procrastinator, Slow To Get Stuff Done? Reasons Are!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Are you a person that is chided or criticized because you did not get around to doing something or were a slowpoke in getting it done? It is not a good feeling to receive such comments. It would be well worth your while to understand why you are this way.

Rieva Lesonsky has written an informative article about this directed primarily for the work place. I believe it also can be helpful in the home place. Thus I share her rationale and my own commentary.

  1. FEAR: Fear of failure causes you to procrastinate. Who wants to fail!? Ouch. As long as you don’t try you won’t fail. And, surprisingly, fear of success also can lead to procrastination. If you succeed, what expectations and challenges might crop up? You’ve heard the expression “frozen in fear” have you not? Fear shuts you down or at least slows you down. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Face your fear and move forward!
  2. BURNOUT: Sometimes you are just exhausted with something. Your brain is fried. No energy to move forward. Take a break and find your way to get refreshed so that you can come back to the task at hand with renewed vigor. It is important to be in touch with yourself so that you can find a rhythm for your life that maximizes productivity without getting burned out.
  3. INCOMPETENCE: Some tasks throw you for a loop. It doesn’t fit within your skill set. What are your options? One is to find someone else to do it that is competent. If you feel you are going to screw it up you probably will procrastinate. Second, learn how to do it. When confidence emerges you will “get around to it” and quit procrastinating.
  4. DISTRACTION: If you cannot focus well on something you probably will procrastinate. You need to find out what any distracting factors may be and then do your best to get rid of them. Sometimes those distractions are mental, perhaps you are a ADD candidate or just have too much on your mind to concentrate enough to get the task done. Or perhaps your environment is not conducive to productivity. Noise, clutter, certain obstrusive or demanding people can be mitigating factors slowing you down or prohibiting the task getting done.
  5. COMPLEXITY: Sometimes a task can be, or feel, too complex. Some of the above factors may be making the task more complex than it really is. Or, perhaps, it really is. Sometimes, breaking the task down into simpler parts or delegating part of it to someone else may help to get it done without further procrastination.
  6. EMOTIONS: Sometimes a task is burdened with emotions felt toward someone or some situation that emotionally blocks you from getting into the task. You may be mad at your spouse or boss for example and, thus, just don’t want to do it. Sometimes you just have to clear your head out of certain emotions that inhibit your getting into the task at hand. Always it is important to know what you are feeling and the implications of those feelings relative to your thoughts and ultimate behavior.

Well, Respected Reader, are you or someone special to you struggling with procrastination issues? If so I hope this may help to eliminate the problem. Procrastination is not a desired behavior. It doesn’t feel good to procrastinate or be chided or criticized for being one. “Git er done!”

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Do You Know Which Side Of Your Brain Is Most Dominant?

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

One of the biggest insights of my life is some understanding of how a brain is wired and manifests that wiring in everyday choices.  The brain is the “computer” in us that drives all of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The brain has a LEFT and a RIGHT side and sometimes they are at a tug of war between themselves.

The LEFT brain is logical, rational, and oriented to analyze and problem solve. The RIGHT brain is emotional and creative among other things. The optimal result of brain functioning is to have the two sides complement each other. If there is imbalance between the two a distortion takes place.

The mainly LEFT brain, with limited RIGHT brain input, is a machine – getting it right while using all of its rational and analytical prowess. People having this emphasis tend to have a narrow emotional band. You won’t see much emotion expressed by these folks.

The overly RIGHT brained person tends to be excessively emotional, unrealistically creative, and not very pragmatic. They tend to not be very rational as they wear their emotions on their sleeves. They are very impulsive usually.

I’m aware that this description is a tad simplistic but let me tell you it is pretty darn accurate. I would gladly meet with you to help you know which side of your brain is most dominant and the implications of such relative to career and relationship choices. The brain is malleable. Through neuroplasticity exercises the underdeveloped side of the brain can become more viable and, thus, match up better with the other side of the brain for better balance.

Let me enflesh this brain description relative to a person choosing a mate. The LEFT brain person will overanalyze a relationship and tends to be commitment phobic.  S/he has to get it right, no room for error. Ironically this person, with his or her narrow emotional bandwidth, is deep down emotionally fearful of being emotionally vulnerable. Therefore, s/he often has analysis paralysis as s/he exhaustively comes up with “rational” reasons why s/he should not commit. Definitely a very picky person.

On the contrary the RIGHT brain person stereotypically is emotionally needy and way too ready for a deep emotional connection with someone. “If it feels good, it must be right”! Au contraire, more analysis is needed here. Emotional people tend to be more sensate. They want to touch a lot – at all levels of connection. They tend to not do their “due diligence” well in vetting a potential mate.

As a therapist doing relationship counseling I try to help each individual know his or her primary orientation and see how they match up to be a synergistic couple balancing each other out. The trouble is most people do not know the extent of their possible imbalance and don’t look for, or find, an appropriate person that makes for a good fit.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Questions To Help You Know Why You Are Who You Are!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Some people enjoy the quest for self knowledge.  If you are one of them the following questions and answers may lead to further enlightenment.  I invite you to plunge in for further self revelation.

  1. Are you male or female? 2. What race are you?
  2. Are you an only child? 4. Do you have siblings?
  3. Do your siblings have the same biological father and mother?
  4. Where do you fit in the sibling order?
  5. Did your parents have a good marriage when you were a child?
  6. Did your parents nurture you?
  7. Were your parents “there” for you?
  8. Was there any physical, emotional or sexual abuse in your family?
  9. Did your parents divorce? What age were you?
  10. Did either of your parents abuse alcohol or use drugs?
  11. Was your father gone a lot due to his job?
  12. Did you move a lot as a child?
  13. How did religion affect you?
  14. What was the culture like in which you were raised?
  15. If you had a step parent, what was s/he like?
  16. Were your teenage years difficult?
  17. Was school challenging for you?
  18. Have you felt that you “fit in” in most social situations?
  19. What kind of relationship did you have with your grandparents?
  20. What was your family economic/social status?
  21. Did you have any serious physical ailments?
  22. Was their a serious illness or death in your family while growing up?


The above factors, plus genetics, significantly effect and affect your personality, marriage success, parenting style and career.  Most people do not pay enough attention to these influences.  If people would only do their homework, they could avoid many painful and costly mistakes.

In most cases you probably are quite different from your sibling (s).  Think about it. A few stereotypical examples follow, based only on birth order.

  1. First borns usually are the most left brained, logical, responsible, and successful career wise. They tend to be more emotionally restrained.
  2. If the first born does mostly the right things, the Second borns will tend to have a “rebellious ”or “out there” side. They often are more right brained, creative, and emotional.
  3. If the First born is a “screw up” the Second one is usually more successful.
  4. If the Second child is a middle kid, s/he oftentimes will have problems. The “squeezed” child usually feels short changed and presents challenges.
  5. The Only child, or the Last child, tends to be self centered and self absorbed. Often they are “spoiled”, so they think they are the center of the universe.

Remember, these are stereotypes. There are exceptions because there are so many other idiosyncratic variables involved in the developing brain/personality. There are plusses and minuses to each personality type. One type is not particularly better than another. Each of us is unique!

Knowing where you came from, what developed you, is critical to knowing yourself.