Are You Living With A Woman Who Struggles with Intensity? What To Do and Not to Do
July 21, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Are You Living With A Woman Who Struggles with Intensity? What To Do and Not to Do

by Lisa Merlo Booth

A common union I see in couples is a very strong woman partnered with a fairly passive man.  The men often say their partners are overbearing, controlling, intense, critical and never satisfied.  The women say the men don’t talk, are walled off, often passive-aggressive and say yes just to get the women off their backs.  Often they’re both right: the women are over the top and the men are too passive.

If you’re a male and happen to be living with a woman who matches the descriptions above, here’s your cheat sheet for being in relationship with her.

1.    Stop ducking in response to intensity.  The worst thing you can do with an angry woman (or man for that matter) is to duck.  If your partner is coming at you with high intensity (yelling, swearing, raging, name-calling, etc.), then set a limit on the intensity.  Don’t try to talk her down or jump to do what she’s asking of you until you address the way she is speaking to you.

2.    Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Learn to become a man of integrity and stop lying to avoid her intensity.  Do not just “yes” her to get her off your back.  If you say you will do something, do it.  Otherwise, say no.

3.    Ask for your needs and wants.  Stop being resentful that you’re constantly trying to please her and stand up for yourself.  Healthy relationships require that both partners ask for their needs and wants.  The more you try to do what she wants without asking for what you want, the more resentful you will get.  Pay attention to what you want and learn to ask for it.

4.    Don’t play the victim.  Too many passive men act as if their wives/partners make their lives miserable.  No-one has the power to make your life miserable without you allowing it.  Look at how your behaviors contribute to your unhappiness and address those.

5.    Be direct.  Do not sideswipe your partner by throwing out underhanded comments, sarcastic quips or disdainful looks.  If you’re not happy about something—speak it.  Don’t stoop to being passive-aggressive by emotionally withholding or being behaviorally irresponsible.  Those are child-like responses to adult issues; step up like an adult and address things directly.

If you’re with a woman who you believe struggles with intensity, start looking at what you’re doing that is not helping the situation.  Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect at all times.  If your wife or partner is highly intense or reactive, she is not being respectful.  It’s your job to teach her how to treat you.  Do not play the victim to her rants…or you will ensure they will continue.

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Is Alcohol Affecting Your Relationships
June 9, 2011 · Posted in Alcohol and Drugs, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Is Alcohol Affecting Your Relationships
by Lisa Merlo Booth
Many couples seem to be dealing with a third party in their relationships…alcohol. One partner typically comes home from work and makes him/herself a drink to help “wind down”
from a stressful day. It’s not uncommon for the person to drink two to three drinks, three to four nights a week. If there’s a party or an event on the weekend, they drink more.This pattern can, and often does, go on for many months or even years.

Gradually the atmosphere in the home begins to change. The conversations seem to slow down, the interactions begin to center around what needs to get done rather than how each person’s day was, and the energy in the house becomes tenser. In some households, the person who has a few drinks becomes short, impatient, and irritating to be around. The rest of the family distances more.

When I work with couples in this pattern, often one partner is worried about the impact the alcohol is having in their relationship and the other partner is not. Guess who’s worried and who isn’t. You got it… the one not drinking is worried, and the one drinking is often certain their drinking isn’t a problem. The drinking partner will often say the alcohol isn’t impacting the relationship; it’s their partner harping on them about the alcohol that’s impacting the relationship.

I’m a firm believer in responsible, social drinking. In fact, I would like to be able to have a drink when I’m ninety years old while I’m soaking my dentures and holding my ninety-one-year-old husband’s wrinkly hand. I’m very aware, however, that in order to do this, I will always have to drink responsibly. I will always have to be in control of my drinking and not have my drinking be in control of me. I’m also aware that there may be a time in my life when I may not be the best judge of my drinking. If you’re drinking several nights a week, you may not be the best judge either.

Drinking is deceptive. Alcohol dulls our senses, it deadens us. Initially, it starts out as a part of a social experience. Next it moves to an enhancer of our experiences. Perhaps next we turn to it to “relax” us or even to help us reduce our stress. Finally, we just use it because. And before we know it, someone in our life is saying it’s a problem.

Alcohol provides a veil that clouds life; it distorts the picture. If you’ve developed a pattern of drinking several nights a week to “wind down,” you’re no longer a responsible, social drinker. You’re a person who’s using alcohol to handle your stress or to settle you down from a long day.

Don’t fight with your partner about whether or not you are an alcoholic—take steps to insure you don’t become one. Creating a weekly ritual around drinking will catch up to you. It may not catch up to you today or next week, but keep drinking several nights a week, and, I promise, it will catch up to you.

There are tens of thousands of alcoholics and substance abusers in this world, and I’m very confident that few, if any, intended to become addicted. It just happened somewhere along the way.

You never know when that one drink or that one drug is going to be the drink or the drug that turned your use into abuse and your desire for a drink into your need for a drink. It’s like playing Russian roulette–several drinks for several months may not do it, and then WHAM, all of a sudden that next week of drinking leads you to think you need another one.

Are you playing Russian roulette with alcohol? If so, are you prepared for the consequences should it be your day for that fatal bullet–that one drink that just turned your “social drinking” into a social problem: addiction?

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The Sperminator, Etc.
May 26, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, Media, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on The Sperminator, Etc.

Now let’s make a prediction. Arnold Schwarzenegger will go on to make many movies, millions of dollars and maul more women. Maria Shriver will grieve and comfort her children and learn deep lessons about herself and move on to a new more fulfilling chapter in her life. Any dissenters out there? It is embarrassing that time after time, our culture continues to not only disregard men’s bad behavior but even reward it with more money and more celebrity. The culture is so out of control that we really have to rely on ourselves as parents to teach our children, and in this case, boys, how to be respectful and loving people.

Sexual harassment, inappropriate uses of power positions, and betrayal in relationships are happening all around us. From Arnold Schwarzenegger to male students at Yale, from the head of the International Monetary Fund, to soldiers using rape as a widespread war weapon in the Congo. The truth is that the objectification of women is alive and well in 2011.

I look back at the hopeful naïveté I had in college that rights for women and equality and safety would just keep increasing and increasing. In many arenas of life for women there have been tremendous gains. In the realm of safety and respect for the physical and emotional life of girls and women, unfortunately, things have not changed much and are actually exacerbated by our culture.

As parents, we need to remember that respect for women and girls needs to be a primary lesson to boys. We need to model as mothers the self respect and intolerance for even benign “boys will be boys” behavior, and fathers have a tremendous responsibility to teach their sons what is really means to be a man. To embody the bravery it takes not sink down to lowest common denominator of human behavior.

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Healing Our “Connective Tissue”
May 19, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Healing Our “Connective Tissue”

Healing our “Connective Tissue” by Carrie Krawiec, LMFT

Yogis have long known the healing power of turning into oneself and deeply stretching one’s muscles and ligaments — while also stretching one’s mental focus, tuning out the static and noise of the world outside. This practice, thousands of years old, has far-reaching physical, mental, and spiritual benefits for the individual, and it fosters a sense of community and fellowship for the group.

In Yin Yoga class, practitioners hold nonmuscular poses to delve into connective tissue, healing joints, tendons, and ligaments. Recently, the instructor said in a slow, smooth voice, “There is a reason why there are only 10 of you here this morning.. We live in a society that does not value turning into ourselves, focusing on our values, or taking the actions necessary to facilitate our intentions.” How true. We live in a culture that instead turns out or tunes out; we turn to iPads and smartphones to get relief from daily burdens.

Perhaps this observation resonated so deeply with me because, as a marriage and family therapist, I often see the breakdown of “connective tissue” in individuals, couples, and families. No one is shocked to hear that Americans have the highest rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obesity in the world. Turning out and away from our burdens naturally leads us to seek relief from outside. This temporary relief may come in the form of food, alcohol, prescriptions, hours spent on Facebook or Farmville, gambling, shopping binges, or infidelity. Such activities damage our “connective tissue” to our unique values and intentions — and prohibit us from taking the actions to reach our goals. Likewise, these activities also damage the “connective tissue” of our relationships with those we hold closest.

Just as the practice of yoga can be strenuous and challenging, the practice of turning in to ourselves will likely be painful and difficult at times.

Just as yoga helps the body to melt away soreness and tension, shifting our focus to our true values and needs will help to ease the emptiness and anxiety that often cause us to look for external solutions.

Whether it’s within the practice of yoga or within the context of the individual or family, the act of turning inward involves behavioral, emotional, and cognitive adjustments.  An initial — and rudimentary — behavioral change is simply to turn off everything electronic. Silence the radio and cell phone on the way to work, and ask your child to turn off his iPod or DSI. The silence will help you hear your own worries, questions, intentions, and goals — and those of your child or partner.  Emotionally, make an effort to be patient, positive, and open, both with yourself and others. Leave denial, defensiveness, judgment, excuses, criticism, resentments, and competition at the door. Remind yourself of what you admire about yourself or your child/partner.  What are your/his/her strengths? As you gain strength, you may consider asking yourself,  “What can I learn from this? ” or “What is my part in this problem? ”

As we begin to heal the “connective tissue” in our bodies and our relationships, we can hope for a society that is more sensitive to the needs of the individual and the community. If we look inward for solutions, we can aspire to be part of a society with less substance abuse, mental illness, divorce, violence, and crime.

Read more: http://addictionrecoveryreality.com/healing_connective_tissue.html#ixzz1LaYKgzvV

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Women in Relationships: The Five Biggest To Do’s!
May 12, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Women in Relationships: The Five Biggest To Do’s!

by Lisa Merlo Booth

•    Listen to your gut. Too many women ignore their instincts.  We need to learn how to tune into that voice that tells us something is off.  If something feels off, it usually is.  Check it out, don’t tune it out.  In my experience, this voice is usually right on—even when others swear it’s not.  (Note:  the only caveat to this is if you tend to be suspicious, jealous or untrusting to begin with.  If this is the case, then you need to get more data and ask yourself if your jealousy is at work here or are the facts supporting your suspicions).

 

•    Ask for what you want, not what you think you’ll get. Too many women base their requests on what they believe the other person will be willing to do.  Your requests should be based on what you want—that’s why they are called requests.  Do not dummy down your request because you don’t think the other person will want to fulfill it.  Ask for what you truly want and then celebrate the yeses you get and learn to accept the nos.  If the nos far outweigh the yeses, decide how you want to handle that imbalance and then step in and speak to it.

•    Share what you want to share, not what you think others want to hear. If a loved one asks you how your day was or something similar, share about your day if you want to.  Don’t silence yourself because you think the other person won’t be interested.  Speak about what you care about and know that if the other person cares about you, s/he will be happy to listen.  (Note: this, by the way, goes for you, too.  You need to listen to what others choose to share — even if it’s not something you’re excited about hearing).

•    Be authentic, not “nice.” I’ve seen countless women lie to friends, lovers, parents and kids under the guise of being nice.  Believe it or not, lying is not nice—even when you do it with the best of intentions.  Telling your girlfriend you’re sick and can’t go out to dinner because you want to go out with someone else is not being a nice friend.  Be honest, not fake.  If you can’t be honest, then, minimally, be neutral…but don’t lie.

•    Speak directly. If there’s something you don’t like, stop stewing about it and, instead, discuss it.  Trust me, you will feel much better, even if the conversation doesn’t go well.  When we hold things in, we pay the price.  We end up holding the unspoken stress in our bodies and then get sick, depressed or worse.  Nobody — and nothing — is worth that.  Be determined to speak directly—and respectfully—about issues from the start.  The more you deal with things directly from the beginning, the less baggage your relationships will have…which can lead to the end.

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Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin
December 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off on Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stay in the same family role we played when we were children.  Perhaps you were the peacemaker of the family and still find yourself trying to keep the peace among everyone.  Some people are the family scapegoat, forever seen as the troubled or irresponsible one.  Still others are the quiet ones, who just try to stay out of the line of fire.

Regardless of the role we played years ago or how much we’ve changed since then, our families have an uncanny ability to pull us back into our old roles and patterns like no one else in our lives.  We could have been working on ourselves for years and then — wham — we see our families and we’re right back to being that little girl or boy again.

Part of this phenomenon happens because, no matter how much we’ve changed, we tend to act the same as we always did when we get back to our old home turf.  It’s as though we become that young child again – the one who has to throw a tantrum to be heard or has to silence to feel safe or…

The reality, of course, is that this re-enactment truly is not the case.  We can choose to be different with our family, just as we can choose to be different with anybody else in our life.  All it takes is a conscious decision to not play by the old rules, good boundaries and healthy self-esteem (not an easy task, I realize).  We need to decide how and who we want to be in this world and then have the courage to be that person regardless of the audience.

In my own life, I am the youngest of five children.  Naturally, I was seen as the baby of the family.  I played that role well for many years, until I finally realized that it didn’t fit me anymore.  As I began to step up in my interactions with my family, I began to change that story.  I didn’t need to cower in the presence of my father or have everyone do things for me that I was able to do for myself.  I could share my opinions, set limits and speak honestly and confidently about what was going on for me.  As I began to step up, I started to break through the chains of my old family role.  Although, I’m sure there are times when my old role creeps back, it feels really good to not be acting like a nine-year old every time I go back home.

I constantly hear stories about raging fathers who are still hotheads in their 70s or mothers trying to micromanage their adult children.  Whatever the issue is with your parents or siblings, remember that you’re no longer that nine-year-old who had to just take it.  You are a grown adult who is responsible for taking care of yourself and your family—even if that means setting limits on your own parents.  Break the chains of your old family role and have the courage to have an adult relationship with your family.  Set limits when you have to, share your opinions when you choose to and make requests when you’d like to.  Take all of these actions with a centered, powerful strength that is always respectful.

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Are You Keeping Yourself Stuck? Stop The Sabotage
November 4, 2010 · Posted in Marriage, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Are You Keeping Yourself Stuck? Stop The Sabotage

This is a piece from Straight Talk 4 Women, Lisa Merlo Booth’s new blog dedicated to helping women in relationships. Enjoy!

I hear endless statements of self-sabotage from women every day:

•    I’m not very smart
•    I don’t have the energy to change things.
•    I don’t have any control of the situation.
•    I don’t have any options—I have young children and I don’t work.
•    My boss is a jerk but at least he pays me.  I have to put up with his treatment.
•    I’m fat; I’m ugly; I’m…(fill in the blank)
•    I don’t know what I think

Stop thinking about all the things you can’t do, don’t know or can’t change and start trusting your instincts, your abilities and your strength.  Things may be hard, you may be scared and those around you may be hurtful, AND… you can create change if you so choose to.

Change starts with you and you alone.  If you feel trapped—figure out the obstacles and do what you need to do to chip away at them (find a job, see a therapist, start exercising etc.).  If you don’t like how you look—take steps to take better care of yourself (exercise, eat healthy, cut your hair etc.).  If your boss is a jerk and you need a paycheck—start looking for other jobs and start having your back on issues that won’t jeopardize your job.  Begin to send a clear message that it’s not okay for your boss to treat you mean.

If you’re feeling stuck, start looking at what you’re doing or not doing to keep yourself in that position.  Stop telling yourself all the things you can’t do and begin to look at all the things you can and have done.  I’ve yet to meet any woman who has done nothing and seriously doubt that you are incapable either.

The only way to have healthy relationships is for you to be healthy in them.  Get yourself healthy and stop sabotaging your success and your life.  You deserve better than that and only you can give yourself better than that.

Challenge: Pay attention to all the negative messages you give yourself and how they keep you doubting yourself and playing small.  Every time you hear these messages step in and fix them.  Refuse to allow your brain to attack our success.  You have the ability to create change all by yourself; stop telling yourself you can’t and instead start stepping up.

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Healthy Self Esteem is the Cure for Competitiveness
September 16, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Healthy Self Esteem is the Cure for Competitiveness

You thought  you were done with junior high school. Then you had a baby.

Now the worries about being invited to play dates and birthday parties has begun.  What about serving anything with white flour when friends come over when you neighbor only has organics? The not-so-subtle competition for the most “advanced” child, who takes more classes, which preschools accepted you. It is enough to cause a nervous breakdown.

Mothers in our groups are really feeling the pressure out in the world and it cuts into their enjoyment of motherhood. In many ways, motherhood seems to have become a competitive sport.

The only antidote is remembering that healthy self-esteem is feeling that you are no better, or no worse, than someone else. We all have the same essential worth. Working toward not feeling smug because your baby is talking a lot, or believing you are a terrible mother if you don’t make all your baby food is the goal.

All this competition is just a reflection of how worried parents are about doing a good job. So give yourselves and your peers a break. Practice healthy self-esteem.

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The Truth, It’s Dizzying
July 8, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (1)
by Bethany Saltman
**
I just finished reading Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open. I loved it because it is actually a fascinating memoir, and also because in the 80s I had a big crush on Agassi, so it was almost like reading about an ex-(fantasy) boyfriend. Growing up, though, I had no idea how tortured he was, or that he had dropped out of school in ninth grade, or that he, in his own words, “hated tennis.” I had no idea he was suffering so terribly, doing drugs, destroying himself, but looking back, that certainly explains why I found him so attractive.
**
Another thing I had no idea about was the fact that Agassi was driven by a ruthless father who was determined to raise the world’s number one tennis player. It’s not like I had ever really considered Agassi’s childhood before, or pondered how such a talented tennis player comes into being, but there was something about the absolute power his father had over him that was, in fact, surprising. Comforting? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I am catching a parenting vibe these days that cautions us not to think that we are actually having an effect on our kids. Like, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out, but just remember that in the blink of an eye our sweet little “Look, Mommy, Buddhas are everywhere!” babes can turn into the neighborhood dealer, depressive, garden-variety A-hole, or much, much worse. And of course, ultimately, we have little or no control over what will happen to our children, or the kind of karma they come into this world carrying with them. And god help us all, it’s the most heartbreaking work in the world—to cultivate sincere intentions, make mistakes galore, and then not attach to any result. But sometimes I feel like we forget just how much influence we really do have on our kids. Or, more to the point, I deny how much influence I have over Azalea. And fancy this: in a good way.

**

Here’s an example. One of the things that we have been wrestling with lately is kindergarten. For now I would like to set aside the complex and fraught socioeconomic/political details of public v. private school, and just say that the questions concerning Azalea’s education, and whether or not we would even entertain the idea of sending her to a private school, brought up a wave of such deep confusion in me it was actually stunning.

As I have mentioned here before, I grew up in a pretty hands-off house. Grammar school…please…I just walked there, suffered alone at my little table, then walked home. Middle school? Were there books in that building? In high school, I won my one award for anything in my whole life, ever, in Mr. Martel’s Biology class: Most Talking During Filmstrips. I wasn’t even planning on attending college until my even-then professorial friend, Stephen Jost, who spent senior year slumming it with me in the back of Mr. Norris’s English class, said, “B, you should go to Antioch.” Lucky for me, Antioch was a truly “self-selecting” institution, meaning—if you want to come here, and you are not currently in rehab or jail, welcome! After my first semester, which was a continuation of my hang out, smoke, read, and resist life, I plugged into something new and found myself wandering around the beautiful 1850s Ohio campus, holding my head, wondering, Woaaaa, what’s that strange sensation? And then it hit me: This must be what learning feels like. And what do you know? I kind of like it!

Where were my parents during all this?

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, May 26, 2010.

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Divorced? Feeling You Have a Scarlet D?
July 1, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (1)

scarletHere is some sensitivity training about divorce. To say divorce is provocative is an understatement.  Though approximately 40% of couples divorce, people experiencing divorce can still feel like an outcast. It is common for friends or acquaintances to fade away and seem uncomfortable around you – as if it were catchy.  Married friends are often frightened by separation. “If that could happen to you maybe that could happen to me,” clangs in their heads. Out of this insecurity some friends feel compelled to wax on about how great their marriage is, lessening their capacity to be supportive.

On the other hand, your divorce may cause jealousy. Your new freedom, a sense of liberation and empowerment, new romantic partners – it’s enough to drive a moderately unhappily married friend insane. Those people may want to live vicariously through you, or judge you because of the way your new life makes them look at their own.

There are of course, friends who are there through thick and thin and can manage their reactions. Acquaintances can surprise you with incredible empathy and support.  So remember, for the divorced and married alike — try not to judge and be aware of your reactions.  Life takes unexpected turns and if we can support each other the journey is much, much easier.

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