Archive for October, 2017

Do You Give Compliments To Your Spouse? It’s Important!

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Too often in my therapy sessions do I hear the words, “I don’t feel appreciated”, “my spouse rarely gives me compliments”. The related feelings are of hurt and sadness, or anger. People need attention, recognition, affirmation. Whether it be in the workplace, the family, or in a marriage, this need is present. Compliments serve this purpose.

Let me give some underlying theory to back up this premise. Two prominent psychologists, Alfred Adler and B.F. Skinner, have given a credible theoretical basis for this human need.

Alfred Adler, an early contemporary of Sigmund Freud, emphasized that when we are encouraged, we feel capable and appreciated. This contributes to a feeling of connectedness and, therefore, one becomes more cooperative. Is this not a desired end game in any human interaction?

B.F. Skinner is the founder of the operant theory of conditioning. He showed that positive reinforcement led to repeated behaviors. If reinforcement did not occur the behavior died out or was extinguished. Does it not make sense to reinforce a person for doing desirable things, understanding that more of that will be forthcoming?

Given such a theoretical framework it makes great sense to develop the skill set of giving compliments. In a marriage, where individuals are particularly vulnerable to the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of one’s partner, this is a very important. In every marriage each individual wants to “feel capable and appreciated … having a feeling of connectedness … and more cooperative.” And, if you want certain behaviors of your spouse to continue, reinforcement is the vehicle.

Part of my training in graduate school was learning to look for and find positive qualities in another person and then give him or hera sincere compliment based on that observation. Emphasis on being sincere. I have found that skill to be of great value, both personally and professionally.

I love to give compliments, as well as receive them! I am fortunate personally in that my wife Sherry is a pro at giving compliments, as well as our two adult kids, Kris and Brittany. This shared gift of complimentary communication is one of the main reasons we love each other so well and feel so connected.



So, please, Respected Reader, look for and find positive qualities, behaviors, etc… that you like in your spouse and give those compliments – over and over again. Certainly you can find some of these to share. If not, see me. You are in trouble! Your spouse wants and needs that from you. Also, you may show this article to a non complimentary spouse and ask him or her to give you some of the “good stuff” compliments that you would like to receive. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

You are in a bad marriage. What to do? Stay in it? Get help? Divorce? First, why are you in a bad marriage? Bad choice in the first place? Started out good but has fallen apart? Damage reversible? Have you tried quality marriage counseling from a trained therapist? The answers to these questions will vary from couple to couple.

If you have a bad marriage and have tried your best to make it a good one, and it still is terrible, what choice should you make – stay or leave? Typical arguments used by many to stay are:

  1. “What God has joined together … “ Some people of religious persuasion say that no matter what conditions exist in your marriage you should stick it out because you made a marriage vow before God.                                 2. The kids need two parents in the home. Divorce will take place after they leave. Just look at divorce statistics and you will find that many divorces take place when the kids leave home

I won’t address reason number one here, let that be between you and God. The second reason I will challenge based on the following rationale. Brittany Wong, has gathered information that shows that staying in a bad marriage can be unhealthy for children. The reasons given follow, along with my added commentary based on my clinical experience over the years.

  1. YOU MAY BE SPARING YOUR CHILDREN EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS BY STAYING TOGETHER: Children feel the tension and this affects their brain wiring in the limbic area of the brain. Kids and adults have often told me of the stress and trauma they have experienced by seeing and hearing parents fight. Even if the parents are not fighting but coldness and disrespect exist, the children are scarred. It affects them in a number of ways over their lifetime.
  2. YOUR KIDS WILL FEEL UNEASY IN THEIR OWN HOME: Kids need consistency and predictability, among other things, to thrive. If they do not have that they walk on egg shells, wondering what might happen next.
  3. IT MAY LEAD TO LOW SELF ESTEEN IN KIDS: Studies have shown, my clinical experience has verified, that children coming from high conflict homes often have low self esteem and unworthiness.


  1. KIDS OFTEN FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PARENTS’ HAPPINESS: This one breaks my heart as I so often see this. Time after time I have heard children tell me the various ways in which they are trying to “fix” their parents marriage or try to make one or the other parent happy. When they do this they lose part of their childhood. No child should! Sometimes kids feel that the marriage struggle is their fault thus they develop a sense of guilt.
  2. UNHAPPY SPOUSES ARE OFTEN LESS PRESENT AS PARENTS: When couples are not getting along, one or both of them are often gone from the home. They “escape” their unhappy marriage and, thus, are absent from their children. These kids then feel abandoned. If divorced the kids often regain a parent in their life, albeit on a limited basis.
  3. YOU ARE SHOWING YOUR KIDS AN UNHEALTHY MODEL FOR RELATIONSHIPS: Children are sponges taking in the reality they experience. A bad marriage model leaves an unhealthy model in their brains. They deserve to see a good one. Oftentimes a second marriage can provide the positive model needed.
  4. DIVORCE CAN BRING PEACE TO THE WHOLE FAMILY, IF IT’S HANDLED CORRECTLY: Kids being raised in a war zone or in silence and apathy of a dead marriage may well be better off with parents splitting. Hopefully, the divorced parents can do a better job of parenting from a distance.

A good marriage and effective parenting are not easy things to accomplish. Yet they are goals worth pursuing. Hopefully a couple committing to marriage will have done their “due diligence” and focus on how best to have a wonderful relationship. And, as a part of their quality marriage they will learn how show their love to each other and their children and thus negate the need for a divorce. But, if they can’t do it, alternatives exist.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates