Imagine that you are about to embark on a long-distance, solo motorcycle ride across the Mojave desert. The trip is bound to be grueling and, if you know anything about motorcycles, you can be certain that your vehicle is going to break down, probably multiple times, during your journey. Since you’re going on this adventure alone, not knowing how to make repairs along the way would put you in serious peril. In fact, you’d be wise to cancel the trip entirely. However, if you are skilled in the art of motorcycle maintenance, then no problem! You can fearlessly set forth without reservation. When dilemmas and challenges arise, you’ll know just what to do to get yourself back up and running.
Relationships are a lot like this. Although it might look like you are going on such an adventure with a partner, in truth you are going alone. You are still you, a separate individual setting out on a journey that, at times, may be grueling and will invariably present you with an assortment of unexpected challenges. Anticipating anything else would be like trusting that your motorcycle will flawlessly traverse the Mojave without encountering a single hitch. The odds of that? Zero.Read More
When we resent someone for something they did or said, we are holding onto something in the past, something we do not like, something we have not forgiven. Holding onto this thing is hurting us, just like holding onto a cactus. No matter how justified we may feel to be holding onto this perceived offense, doing so is causing us pain and solving nothing. So what if we are justified? It’s like proudly declaring, “I have a right to clench this cactus!”
Okay, sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are harming yourself in the process. You can feel as justified as you want, but those needles are still sinking deeper and deeper into your palms. Don’t you deserve better? Don’t you deserve to not suffer? Don’t you deserve to forgive?Read More
The issue of boundaries has long been a hot topic in the field of interpersonal psychology and, over the course of the past several decades, much has been written about this important subject. Questions about how to understand and define one’s personal limitations and to communicate these effectively to others so that these are respected and honored are valuable ones to answer. As such, the idea I am going to share in this article is not intended to completely contradict or undermine notions of “healthy boundaries”, but rather to develop this concept one step farther—toward the place where even “healthy boundaries” can be replaced with something, well, even more extraordinary.Read More
All we do is fight—Our communication skills stink—We’ve stopped thinking about us—We can’t seem to get along—We don’t agree about anything—We’re just mean to each other—We’ve grown apart—We’re at an impasse—We need help.
I hear pronouncements like these frequently when couples first come to see me for counseling.Read More
Our internal friendship is a reflection of our self-image, the opinion we have about ourselves. If we do not like someone, we are not likely to have a very close relationship with them. Why would we want to? Similarly, if we do not like ourselves, we are not likely to have a strong and vibrant internal friendship. “How we think about ourselves” (our self-image) is really no different from “how we speak to ourselves”.
Our internal communication is what constructs our self-image. Communication is what forges relationships. That is why the way we speak to ourselves is so important. Our internal language is always effecting our internal friendship.Read More
Most of us want to be close to others, to share deep connections built on trust and love and affection. We want relationships in which we can open our hearts fully, knowing another person will not stomp all over it when we do. We want to be vulnerable, knowing that intimacy requires it, yet we do not want to get hurt. We want two things really, intimacy and safety. Luckily, these goals are not mutually exclusive. We can, indeed, have both, once we answer the question, “How can I protect myself and build intimacy at the same time?”
Everyone emotionally protects themselves in some way. We can be guarded, can be tight-lipped about our emotions, can get angry at others when we are actually sad, can get aggressive or defensive, act aloof, condescend, criticize, shout or scream, fight or flee. Since we do not want to get hurt, we protect ourselves.Read More
You might wonder how the art of giving permission relates to parenting, especially towards young children. After all, are you expected to give permission for your son to play with a set of steak knives or for your daughter to jump on top of a friend’s dining room table while you’re stopping by for a visit? Are you really expected to give permission to everything?
Someday, I'll write an entire book explaining this important topic, but for now, I’ll just say a few words. In general, let’s call this parenting style “Permissive Parenting”. And, no, it’s not about letting your children simply do whatever they want. That would be irresponsible, an approach that could very well lead to serious injury, both emotional and physical alike. So, if it’s not that, then what is it? What is Permissive Parenting?Read More
Trust is a major issue that commonly comes up in couples counseling, especially in cases where one or both partners have experienced infidelity in the past. If we want others to trust us, then we decide to trust them, trust them enough to hide nothing from them. In particular, we trust that they will not react emotionally to discovering a certain piece of information related to us. Because we want extraordinary relationships, we choose to remain transparent. Because we want extraordinary relationships, we forego privacy, certain that we prefer being discovered over remaining hidden, certain that we prefer being known over remaining unknown.Read More
Imagine that you have this great idea for a party. You plan the most resplendent décor and exquisite cuisine, lavish flower arrangements, and only the best in lighting and live music. You’ve diligently prepared every detail. Unfortunately, your party isn’t going to be much fun if you skip one essential step: sending out your invitations.
Most people value honesty and recognize it as an important aspect of healthy relationships. However, it takes some wishful thinking on our part to assume that others are always going to be honest with us—our closest friends, family members, and partners included—simply because we want them to be. This would be like expecting all our favorite people to attend our party without inviting them to it first.Read More
Most people believe that an apology is a kind and considerate way to take responsibility for one’s past actions. It is common practice for individuals to seek apologies from those by whom they feel wronged, or to apologize when others feel wronged by them. This stems from the notion that apologies have a certain reparative effect, that they have the power to heal emotional wounds.
In actuality, this is true. Apologies do heal. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to apologize. Unfortunately, most people apologize in an unhealthy way, a way that, although it may ease some tension within the moment (and therefore seems helpful), actually injures the long-term vitality of the relationship. And this injury far exceeds the benefit. It is like placing a Band-Aid on a scratch, only the Band-Aid is laced with lethal toxins. Since this idea—that an apology can be harmful to relationships—goes mightily against the grain of normal thinking, let me further explain.Read More