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

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

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

What Does Your Calendar Say About You?

September 26th, 2017

I end each article that I write with the Socratic saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I write that to remind myself, and challenge you, Respected Reader, to please look at  life – all of it. Every day, as I look around, I see obvious examples of people continuing to do things that are destructive – to themselves or to others. They are clueless, or have just forgotten some basic truths that have hindered and harmed them.

One of the ways to examine your life is to look at your calendar. This is presupposing that you have a calendar. If you don’t have one, get one. Put on your calendar most of the things you do each day. Once you have an ongoing list of activities you can assess how you are spending your time. Time management is a vital life skill.

I believe that time spent should be based on priorities. Some priorities change over time due to certain circumstances. There are, however, certain basic factors that are involved in a life worth living. I will list a few of them for your consideration.

  1. YOURSELF: Your goal in life is to become the best you that you can be. So, what does that involve? How do you take care of yourself – physically, psychologically, spiritually? What does your calendar say about how much time you spend on healthy self care?
  2. YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER: If you are in a committed relationship, your lover deserves both the best of yourself and your quality time. What do you bring to this person? How much time do you spend with him or her?
  3. CHILDREN: If you have kids they need you to be involved in their lives. Do you devote time to mentor and play with them, helping them to be the best of their potential?
  4. FINANCES: How much time do you spend earning income and successfully managing your finances?
  5. OTHER RELATIONSHIPS: Who are other important people in your life? Are certain family members and friendships deserving of your time?

Other priority items could be added to this list, as well as expanding on each of those offered. The point that I am trying to make is that to have a high quality life you must examine it and be accountable for how you spend your time based on your chosen priorities. To avoid vague and evasive reality, I am suggesting your put your life on your calendar and that you pay attention to how much time you spend doing what you do? Does your time spend reflect well the priorities you espouse? Or, perhaps, you may need to change some priorities? May your calendar display a life well lived in balance with priorities clearly lived!

“15 Traits Of An Emotionally Mature Person”: Are You?

September 17th, 2017

Maturity, what is it? How defined? You’ve heard the expressions, “He’s so immature” or “he’s so mature for his age”. This writing seeks to characterize the emotionally mature person. I am guided by the fifteen traits listed by a blog entitled “Conscious Rethink”. I will embellish these descriptions with my own thoughts.

  1. SELF-AWARENESS: Essentially self awareness is about building up an understanding of your personality, its strengths and weakness, its potential and limitations, and every little nuance. This means you take the time and develop the means to raise your consciousness to a level to be able to do that. Another trusted person’s description of you may assist in developing this capacity.
  2. SELF CONTROL: Building on self awareness you are better positioned to exert more self control. You can better understand urges that build up in you and develop the restraint to behaviors that are self destructive or damaging to others.
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY: You take a proactive stance in your life. You develop goals and progress toward them, willing to be accountable for your commitment and actions.
  4. HUMILITY: You don’t have the need to put yourself above others. You are not arrogant or boastful. You respect others and treat everyone fairly.
  5. SELF ACCEPTANCE: You own who you are, with your strengths and weaknesses. You do not live in the past or blame the past for your shortcomings. You move forward challenging yourself to be the best person that you can be.
  6. GRATITUDE: You appreciate the good things that exist in your life. You are grateful to be in a position in your life that you can read this and, hopefully, appreciate the blessings in your life and the capacity to continue to create a wonderful life.
  7. COMPASSION: When you are grateful you usually also develop the capacity to empathize, have concern for others, and do what you can to help others.
  8. BEING OTHER-CENTERED: You recognize your inter-connectedness with others. You celebrate their successes and assist where possible with their failings.
  9. OPEN-MINDEDNESS: You no longer see things black or white, right or wrong. You are open to endless possibilities, ideas, beliefs, etc… beyond your own enculturation.
  10. A SENSE OF WONDER: You view the universe as an incredible thing as it evolves and see more and more of its wondrous complexity. As a devotee of Einstein, I offer this quote of his: “The most beautiful emotion we can express is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is inpenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.”
  11. OPTIMISM TINGED WITH REALISM: You understand good things don’t always happen but you maintain a positive mindset because you know that the alternative is defeatism and despair.
  12. FLEXIBILITY: You adapt to situations. You are not stubborn or rigid. You are capable of change when the situation or knowledge calls for such. You do not have “hardening of the categories”.
  13. RESILIENCE: Even when things are going badly, you do not give up. You are not overwhelmed. You persevere continuing to seek solutions for moving forward.
  14. PATIENCE: You do not over react to situations. You do not try to do things before the time is right.
  15. HONESTY: You are a person of integrity. You have no need to deceive. You seek and speak truth to the best of your ability. You can be trusted.

Personally, I am impressed with this list of fifteen and will review them periodically to assess to what degree I am an emotionally mature person. I invite you to do the same. Only good things can come out of such an effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“10 Habits Of People In The Happiest Relationships” Are These Yours?

September 8th, 2017

Do you happen to remember the song “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life”?  It says to marry a wife (I won’t say what kind the lyrics suggest). People that are the happiest, and live the longest, are married people. A caveat to that would suggest those in a good marriage. Thus, they are “happy”. So if you want to be happy in your marriage you need to do certain things. You create consistent habits that make each other feel loved, trusted, and respected. Author, Kelsey Borresen, surveyed relationship experts asking them what such habits are that lead to “happy relationships”. I share them, along with my own embellishment, for your edification.

  1. THEY ALWAYS KISS THEIR SPOUSE HELLO AND GOODBYE: Yes, that is right. Consistent pecking, smooching, lustful kissing (depending on timing, intent, etc… ) allow for a connection each day – even if briefly. (Try to kiss your spouse when you are angry and disconnected. Good luck with that!
  2. THEY ARE GENEROUS WITH COMPLIMENTS: Everyone needs compliments, especially from their partner. Pay attention and notice something superficial or profound on a consistent basis and offer the positive compliment.
  3. THEY DISAGREE AT TIME, BUT THEY FIGHT FAIR: It is normal to disagree but how you do it is the key. You need to respect the difference of opinion and work to find common ground using good communication and conflict resolution skills. Do not talk over each other, swear, call names, etc… .
  4. THEY FOCUS ON THE THINGS THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR PARTNER, RATHER THAN THE THINGS THEY DON’T: Nobody is perfect. You aren’t. Your spouse isn’t. If you have bought into a relationship help make it grow by focusing on the good qualities of your partner. By doing this positive thing you will create a deeper bond and, perhaps help the other shed some of the things that you struggle to accept in the other. Good helps cancel out bad.
  5. THEY ENGAGE IN A LITTLE PDA: Overt affection, within the boundaries of good taste, especially in public, is endearing and connecting. Loving touch is a basic human need. Timing and style are important here.
  6. THEY DON’T EXPECT THEIR PARTNER TO READ THEIR MIND; THEY ASK FOR WHAT THEY NEED: Partners are encouraged to know their needs and express them. Also, a loving partner asks the other what his or her needs are – listens well, and does his or her best to see that such a reasonable need is met.
  7. THEY SET ASIDE TIME TO RECONNECT AND MAKE IT A PRIORITY: Happy couples are able to make the relationship a priority. Good time management of this priority is important because there usually are other important, or perhaps unimportant, factors calling for attention.
  8. THEY LAUGH TOGETHER – OFTEN: Laughter is a very important component of couple connection. Find a way to have it infiltrate your relationship.
  9. THEY DISCUSS THEIR FINANCES: Touchy subject often. Spending and saving styles don’t always match up with couples. It is one of the top three factors causing divorces. Regular discussion about income, expenditures, saving for retirement, etc… carried out by respectful communication leads to a financial team going forward united.
  10. THEY GIVE EACH OTHER THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT: This is a biggee. Try to assume that your partner is doing the best s/he can day by day. Some days are better than others. Focus on the positive. If you reach a frustration point about something communicate it in a non critical non accusatory manner.

Well, are you, Respected Reader, a partner in a “happy couple” relationship? Rate each of the above within a range of 1-10, with ten being the highest. Need improvement? Share this with your partner and get his or her perspective. No, you won’t?  Why not? Is that saying something?

“If you want to be happy for the rest of your life”!!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates