Archive for July, 2017

“The Ten Most Deadly Phrases In A Relationship”! Do You Use Any?

Friday, July 21st, 2017

In my practice I spend a lot of time in relationship counseling discussing communication. In an intimate relationship where both individuals are vulnerable and defensive (in most cases), the words that are shared have an awesome affect on the relationship. Brittany Wong recently wrote an article capturing some of the most deadly phrases not to use in communicating with that special someone in your life. I list them and add my commentary.

  1. “You never do the dishes. You always just leave them there.” There are two mistakes here. One is the use of “never” and “always”. Don’t use those words. Be specific and situational. Second, this criticism sets up a prosecutor-defendant relationship that usually escalates a negative encounter. I could go on and on as to how to best deal with this issue and those similar to it.
  2. “You sound exactly like your mother.” Boy, there’s one that works – not! Do not introduce others into your particular issue, especially Momma. Stick with the concern at hand and not add fuel to the fire by such additions.
  3. “You think you’re better than everyone else!” Mind reading is a no no. Do not pretend that you know what the other is thinking or feeling. Instead address the issue, or issues, that lead you to that conclusion.
  4. “Do I look like I’ve put on weight?” Don’t go there with this grenade. What is the asked spouse to say in this situation? The person knows s/he has put on weight and is looking for a confirmation that all is well. The only safe response here is, “you look great to me” – and then go wash out your mouth with soap!
  5. “Have you put on a few pounds?” Note that here again weight is a point of discussion. This usually is a dangerous topic between lovers. This unconstructive criticism is hurtful and only makes the recipient of such a comment feel bad and defensive and will probably lead to an emotional withdrawal.
  6. “You’re a horrible parent, breadwinner, lover … .” This may be the worst. You are going for the jugular here. Such cruel sweeping generalizations serve no purpose except speeding up the exit road to divorce court. If you have a specific issue with one of these areas, or others, address the particular concern in a kind manner and work to resolve this negative perception.
  7. “Ugh, I hate when you do that.” (Said in front of family and friends). This passive aggressive put down of your spouse is despicable. If you have a concern about something your spouse does, say it respectfully and privately. Also, when you do it in front of others you are making a fool of yourself and will be negatively talked about behind your back.
  8. “I barely know him – he’s just someone I work with.” I disagree on this one. If you have a short term crush on someone, you do not need to speak about it to your spouse. Don’t downplay it or own it. Just get over it and focus on continuing to build a solid trusting relationship with your spouse.
  9. “You shouldn’t feel this way.” This is one of my favorite phrases to eliminate. Never “should on” another, especially telling someone what to feel. Feelings just arrive. You don’t choose to feel something.
  10. “Don’t wait up for me.” This should be a rare exception. Sharing the last minutes of your day in bed with your spouse is a wonderful bonding way to end your day.


Well, Respected Reader, do you agree that these are the most “deadly phrases” not to use in a relationship? If not, what would you add or delete? I would add name calling and a few others to the list.

Think before you speak. Everything you think and feel does not need to come out of your mouth. Be respectful. Relationships thrive better that way!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Having Kids Can Ruin A Relationship – Unless .. “

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Most couples who commit to a life together want children. Little do they know that for many of them their relationship will get worse once they become a family. Research is quite conclusive in demonstrating this disappointing fact. Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples. In the event that a pregnancy is unplanned, the parents experience even greater negative impacts on their relationship.

A further surprising statistic is that even as the marital satisfaction of new parents declines, the likelihood of them divorcing also declines. So, having children may make you miserable, but you’ll be miserable together!

Worse still, this decrease in marital satisfaction likely leads to a change in general happiness because the biggest predictor of overall life satisfaction is one’s satisfaction with their spouse. This certainly is distressing especially since so many young couples think that having children will bring them closer together or at least will not lead to marital distress.

The arrival of a child changes marital dynamics. Parents often become more distant and businesslike with each other as they attend to the details of parenting. Mundane basics like keeping kids fed, bathed, clothed and other parental responsibilities take energy time and resolve. Stress and exhaustion become normative. Sexual intimacy usually declines. Parents stop saying and doing the little things that please their spouses

The above conclusions are based on the research of Dr. Matthew D. Johnson. These findings can be found in depth in his book “Great Myths Of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex, And Marriage.” Research verifies that the relationship burden of having children is present regardless of marital status, gender orientation, or level of income.

Johnson continues by saying that the consequences of the relationship strain can be serious. Marital stress is associated with many serious physical health problems as well as symptoms of depression and other mental health problems. He suggests couples therapy as the most effective way of treating these overriding concerns.

However, these conclusions need not be true for certain couples that know how, and practice, certain things that will lead to greater marital satisfaction after the birth of a child. Let me list a few things that can ensure marital happiness. Sherry and I have practiced these things and have had a wonderful marriage over the past 38 years together. Our adult children have become wonderful human beings, now happily married, and having children of their own.

  1. Put your marriage first: let each other know consistently that s/he is the most important person and priority in your life.
  2. Communicate well, including finding compromises that both of you can live with.
  3. Have a game plan for raising your children. Decide on expectations and consequences.
  4. Be consistent. Consistency breeds trust.
  5. Continue to have things to look forward to. This helps getting through the tough times.

Certainly there are other factors that help a couple have a satisfying marriage while also enjoying the wonderful times possible while raising children. This list is a good beginning.

What’s most important is whether you have chosen the right mate to share life with and that both of you are on the same page as to having children or not. Too often people wake up and discover that they should not have married the person that they did. And, having children further complicated the poor choice. The result is marital misery and children that did not get good parenting.  Choose wisely and timely!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Twelve Lessons You Learn Or Regret Forever!

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

I bring a particular philosophical perspective to life. It begins with the challenge to be the best person I can be, to develop my talents to their fullest extent. I want to experience all that life can possibly present. I want to give back. I want to live in such a way that I have no regrets. To live this life I try to continually learn about what it takes to “max out” on the short journey that I have in this world. I truly believe the Socratic statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

That said, I recently read an article that fit nicely into the perspective above. The article is entitled “12 Lessons You Learn Or Regret Forever”. It was written by Dr. Travis Bradberry. You can understand why the title caught my attention – and, hopefully, catches yours, Respected Reader. The intent of the article is to assist the reader to be successful. The “Lessons” follow, with added commentary by this writer.

  1. CONFIDENCE MUST COME FIRST: It takes confidence to reach new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones do not expand on their own. Self doubt stifles.
  2. YOU’RE LIVING THE LIFE YOU CREATED: You are not a victim of circumstance. Don’t play the victim card. You can create the future you want. It is up to you to overcome where you are stuck and any obstacles in your way.
  3. BEING BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING PRODUCTIVE: Success does not come from sheer movement and activity. It comes from focus on goals, time management, and prioritized efforts.
  4. YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS THOSE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH: This is a big one. You need to associate with those people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. Shed those people who drag you down in any shape or form.
  5. DON’T SAY YES UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT TO: Saying no is a challenge for many people pleasers. Stick to your guns, your plan, your direction. Be able to say no to that which interferes with your goal.
  6. SQUASH YOUR NEGATIVE SELF TALK: Negative self talk is self defeating. If you are not your own champion you become less capable of bringing out your best to a situation. Pessimists tend to do this to themselves. Optimists are their own cheerleaders. “Go self!”
  7. AVOID ASKING “WHAT IF?”: “What if” throws fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to reaching your goals. Focus on realistic achievable goals without the detour of “what if”.
  8. SCHEDULE EXERCISE AND SLEEP: Productive lives use good time management based on priorities.  First exercise: exercise lowers stress and gives more energy to reach goals. Doing this regularly leads to more self confidence and more competence socially, academically, and job performance. Sleep is necessary to get rid of toxic proteins in the brain which impair your ability to think clearly. It helps the brain reconfigure for optimal
  9. SEEK OUT SMALL VICTORIES: Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. Thus, confidence increases and eagerness to take on new challenges builds.
  10. DON’T SEEK PERFECTION: Perfection does not exist. If you choose it for a goal you will continually be disappointed and have a sense of failure. Thus, your confidence, and will to go after it, will dwindle. When you miss the mark, say to yourself one of my favorite sayings, “I don’t lose (fail), I learn!”
  11. FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS: Be positive and be pragmatic searching for solutions that work. Doing this creates a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and better performance.
  12. FORGIVE YOURSELF: When you get down on yourself and don’t forgive yourself for mistakes made, you allow negative thinking and emotions to continue to affect your capacity for excellence. Self esteem and confidence diminish. You owe yourself more. Love yourself and the ability to forgive yourself increases.

I hope the above “lessons” speak to you, remind you, and increase your ability to live them out with some degree of consistency. It is worth the effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates