Tag Archive | Men

Why do Pre-Marital Counseling?

Watching this video is the most compelling reason for adding a psychotherapist to your wedding budget. Women are still being raised with their mothers speeding them down the aisle with visions of white dresses and doves flying through the air. We play with Barbies before we have hit puberty, already merging the dolls with Ken or GI Joe. We are focused on boys in high school, which often causes young girls (and boys) to do poorly in their subjects. Marriage is an investment not a fashion show and if you don’t want to be one of the 40-50% who goes through a divorce, then you need to treat this contract as an investment not a day to play Cinderella. The woman and man who plan consciously and patiently on the big day have better chances for success then the one’s who are only focused on looking good. Wouldn’t you rather be the couple who people gush over rather than taking bets to see how long you’ll last? Your family and friends will respect you more when they see the respect you have for each other. I highly recommend a psychotherapist trained in the Gottman method as they are teaching you communication skills and this includes how to argue without tearing each other apart.

A wedding day is meant to be a beautiful time in your life. Not the day you rue in the years to come. It is not his fault nor is it her fault; when you are a couple, you both have a responsibility to your self, your marriage, your future children and to your family as a whole.

Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

Tips for Online Dating

I’ve recently utilized one of the online dating services and have learned quite a bit about what goes on in this modern society and the world of singles. Firstly, you want to make sure you are on the right website. Since dating, hook-up and sex sites just want your money, they are not taking any time whatsoever to explain their format, give examples or basically provide you with a reason why you should want to pay them money. They all say they are free and none of them are except a couple. But who wants to be on a free website when this tells you how much the other is willing to invest in their future? Dating websites JUST want your money, they don’t care what happens after that. Be conscious of this and the choices you make. Click on Top 10 list below:

Ask Men has a really good list of Top 10 dating websites which explains the costs, what the site is really for and gives you the pros/cons. Once you read their article, click on the numbers below it to start learning about each of their picks that they chose based on their research.

TIPS

1. If you are just trying to hook-up, or have sex, don’t go on a “Dating” website. Look at the Top 10 list above and find the right one for you.

2. If you have a sexual perversion, again, don’t go to a “Dating” website. Look at the Top 10 list above and find the right one for you. A decent woman is not interested in looking at your Cross-Dressing YouTube videos.

3. Beware of Scammers – yes, they have now taken over dating websites. Look for someone who appears to be American White/Black but the text they write has tons of grammar/content mistakes that someone would not talk like if they were born here. Of course if they are honest and say “I here from Belgium,” okay but if they don’t, be leery.  I’ve heard women say they are usually living in a very small town and often mention being a Widow. If they seem to want you to Text – DO NOT. They scam you through Texting.

4. Players – Beware of men who have two email conversations with you and then say they want to meet you and DON’T or you never hear from them again. I have read Elizabeth Stone’s article “5 Sketchy Reasons Why Your Online Match Won’t Meet You In Person and What to Do About it.” You should read this too.

5. Photos – There is a lot to say so I will break it down. 

            a. Don’t take photos of yourself as a selfie – it looks ridiculous, especially when the camera is right there in the photo. I have seen people where their heads are up in the air and you mostly see their neck, a profile, their mirror, selfie’s are for kids not grown-ups looking to find a person to have a relationship with. Get a friend to take the photo and look into the camera.

            b. Don’t have a woman/man in your profile photo if you are the opposite and looking for a partner. I have seen some photos with only a woman in the photo, which at first made me think the wrong sex was sent to me. No, the guy was heavyset and too afraid to put his photo on his profile.

            c. If you have photos with kids or women/men please identify that these are your kids, grandkids, niece, etc… so that someone doesn’t think it is your young date, ex-girlfriend, or your kids when they are your grandkids.

            d. Don’t do goofy photos because it makes you look like a moron. It is one of those “you had to be there,” moments and well, we don’t get it. Present yourself in a mature manner or try-out for a comedy club instead.

            e. Men love to do “I am a man” photos which show them popping wheelies, running in Ironman, working out in their basement etc…  This makes me think of a little boy looking for a mommy who will allow them to play. Think how you would feel if you saw a woman turning a cartwheel  or doing the splits, in a ballet pose or bouncing on a trampoline. There are pictures that say “Looking for a fellow skier, skydiver, rock climber,” and photos that say “My main priority in life is playing.”

           f. Photos of Nature??? Even if you are a photographer, women are interested in seeing you, not what you see in life. My first thought is, why are they afraid to show me themselves? Showing a photo of your home or backyard isn’t really that great either unless you are an interior decorator or landscape artist. You can say in your profile that you own a home.  If you were gay and knew how to make a stunning looking house, that is showcase ready, that is one thing but if you were gay you wouldn’t be on a heterosexual dating site. Looking at a dull house or a brown colored grass yard isn’t what a woman is going to get psyched about.

             g. Multiple photos of the same. It is not very clever to show two-three of the exact same photo.  Also, if you aren’t capable of posting them right side up, then don’t.

             h. Sexualized photos – If you have these types of photos, you really need to be on a sex/hook-up site not a dating website.

            i. Dress like a man who wants to find a woman – Don’t expect if you show photos of yourself dressed like a slob or in a rock concert T-shirt that you are going to get a sexy lady wanting to go out with you. If you don’t know how to dress nicely, pick up GQ magazine or another stylish men’s magazine  to see how you can upgrade your style a bit. Birds of a feather flock together. You want a decent person, act like a decent person.

             j. Don’t put a photo on there that has your text attached to it. SCAMMER!! If you can’t afford the dating service go to a free website that really is free.           

6. I am out of your league! Don’t see a pretty girl and go crazy sending emails to every single one to see who will bite. Emails that start out “Hey Beautiful,” or ” Hi Princess,” or “Hi Sexy,” don’t get a woman excited. This is bar room talk and meant for the bar and a beer, not a serious person looking for a man.

7. Read the profile – If it says “Looking for a God Fearing man,” then don’t send an email if you are an Atheist or some other thought process. Religion is important to people, especially when they say this. I saw quite a few profiles that said “If you voted for Trump, we aren’t a match.”  These are pretty strong words but weed people out that will waste their time. So pay attention. People take time to write profiles for a reason.

8. Be honest – Seriously. When someone meets you in person, it will be obvious that you are not “Athletic and Toned.” If you are a cheap skate and have no intentions of paying for the woman, don’t wait to go on a date to suddenly look up in the sky when it is time to buy the tickets for the movie. Put on your profile – I only do Dutch on dates. Please don’t insult women by saying you are a feminist. That is such a low blow and it only means you are cheap, not a feminist. If a woman is a feminist and big on doing Dutch, this will be made clear by her, so you need to be honest too.

9. Steer clear of online dating websites that don’t let you see photos immediately or make you pay extra after you have paid the bill to see them (very dishonest). A mutual attraction begins when you look into someone’s face. I live in Ohio, lots and lots of really, really, nice, great, men here. Unfortunately, I am not attracted to every single one of them. It is not what a person looks like either but the energy that is emitted from their photo. You are attracted to it or you are not.

10. If you say “let’s meet in person,” then you are expected to do just that. It is called integrity. Don’t brag about being a professional on your profile and then say one thing and mean another.

11. Coffee Meetings – these are meant to be a way to single out if there is chemistry, conversation, begin to build if there is. It is not a marriage proposal so don’t get so egotistical about this and fear the first date.

Guys, you are the reason why dating websites get a bad name – for the most part. I have talked to many women who have been on these websites, read articles, etc… Don’t ruin it for the good guys. Don’t ruin it for us women. No one who is on a serious dating website wants to be played, spend money on your Nigerian adventure, or be told “Lets meet” and then your never heard from again. It wastes everyone’s time and energy. Don’t be so egotistical to think a woman is dying to meet you, she is afraid too. We are all on dating websites because we are tired of trying to meet a person live, the old fashioned way. No one wants to meet at bars, except if they are an alcoholic. So be mature, have some integrity and be a real man who embodies these rules. A real man wouldn’t show photos of himself popping wheelies or in a baseball cap w/a beer bottle (unless you are looking for an alcoholic). A real man would show a professional, well-groomed, clean appearance that would make a woman get excited. No one gets excited to see a man in a t-shirt, beer belly, baseball cap, sunglasses, hoodie, pants pulled down, gold teeth, etc… you get the picture. Women are looking for a responsible, well-behaved, mature professional man. I have talked to women in the inner city and even they are not looking for gold teeth and pants pulled down. They are too smart for that!

Keep it simple and sweet. Don’t go into long monologues because the more you put on there the easier it is to weed you out. If you say too much, it is easy for a woman to see things she won’t have in common with you.

Dating websites are meant to be ways to meet people and it is hoped that someone will take their time to get to know you and if you seem interesting ask to meet you somewhere in public and then see what happens next. Act like a responsible, mature, professional man with integrity and you will find the right person to share your life with (since that is what you keep stating in your profile). Otherwise save your money and sit at home watching football.

 

 

Emotional Abuse is Domestic Violence too

I like to use movies, literature, TV Dramas and other forms of art to discuss issues we face because then people will hopefully turn to them and re-examine what I am proposing. When it comes to Domestic Violence, most people think that it is simply physical abuse and nothing else.  In fact a woman is considered to be in a domestic violence situation when she is emotionally abused (even when nothing else is present). If you are trapped in a relationship because of emotional abuse and manipulation then you do not have the freedom to live your life or make choices and often lose a sense of self. Women are always surprised when I tell them this because they have tried so hard to cover up for their partners for so many years. Sexual abuse has long been undercover because of the assumption presented in society that if he is your husband you are supposed to have sex with him. Often sexual abuse takes play in emotionally abusive situations because he is not afraid to manipulate you in any situation he can.

When I turn to both literature and a musical, I think of characters who never got their woman – and in some situations we feel sad for this; i.e., Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights because it is written for us to believe Heathcliff and Catherine would have had this great love between them. I recall growing up, hearing my friends talk about this terribly romantic story of unrequited love, no different than Romeo and Juliet. In other situations such as Judd in Oklahoma, it is written for us to think of him as a lowlife, even though he is no different than Heathcliff and so in this musical we are grateful that he and Laurey don’t get together. Yet both characters are the same. They are possessive men who don’t get the girl but then continue to show how abusive they are to others. These types of men make me uncomfortable as a woman because I know that had they been able to be in a relationship with the girl, their possession would become much stronger, more dominant and she would have become strangled by their love. It would have led to sexual abuse, possibly even physical abuse. When a person is that narcissistic about their beliefs there is no self-awareness, no self-examination and the result is a catastrophe.

Currently, I am watching the Turkish Muslim TV drama on Netflix entitled “The Girl I Loved.” The story of Heathcliff and Judd are turned around because Timur (pronounced Tee-mur) is now a wealthy businessman and he has control over Mine’s family as he is the boss of the patriarch and later the son too. Mine (pronounced Mee-ney), is in love with Sinan (pronounced See-naan), also from a wealthy family though he is the son of a capitalist and comes across more like a socialist instead. He rejects his money and status for love. The difference here is that Timur is an adult male about 20 years older than Mine and Sinan is a man of about 18 or 19 when he first appears in the drama. Mine is 17 years old. Sinan’s father rejects his love for Mine and when she turns up pregnant (which happens when you have sex carelessly without a thought for being responsible and taking birth control), Sinan’s father whisks him out of the country to America without telling him that his love is pregnant. At the same time, Sinan’s father tells her father – who comes to plead to the family to take responsibility for their son’s and his daughter’s actions – that his son wants nothing to do with his family and they even question the paternity of the child.

Now the story begins. Timur, who had now fallen in love with Mine, a young vulnerable girl who he feels he can relate to, hears of her plight and wants to save her. We have already learned that he has saved the life of his housekeeper, another woman, but we don’t find out her story until much later. She had fallen in love with him but the minute he becomes consumed by Mine, Timur begins to reject his housekeeper and even his daughter. His housekeeper is sent to live elsewhere and return each day to tend to his household needs, whatever and whenever he demands. He marries Mine, after embarrassing the father and the family by asking for her hand – Mine’s father has a lot of pride and does not want his boss to have all this control over his family, the class issue and plus he realizes he is 20 years older. But the mother of Mine, delights in her daughter having this money which means stability so she is more practical and talks her husband into it. This of course causes him to eventually fall in love elsewhere; a different level of the control by men in this story. Mine rejects Timur’s love but is basically forced into the marriage because it will get her father to love her again. He had now considered her dead to him and refused to speak to her. Timur marries Mine, knowing that Sinan didn’t know anything about the pregnancy and is very much in love with her. Eventually the father begins to talk to daughter again and everything is written to look like a happy marriage.  The one thing that we can respect Mine for is that she is smart enough to realize that Timur wants her badly and so she makes demands which he actually respects. He will not sleep with her and for a couple of years she even locks her door to ensure this. This caused me to wonder if Timur has sexual problems. I doubt this will be brought into the picture (I am on episode 42 out of 79). I am pretty surprised to see a man who will give up sex in a marriage (and not have a lover on the side). This is how we see how his devotion and love for Mine is more of a religion. He has idolized her to be this saint and will do whatever it takes to have her by his side, even if it is a faux marriage as it is never consummated.

The conflict begins for Mine when Sinan returns from America and eventually he learns that she is pregnant with his son and they both find out that they were tricked. However, by this time, she is so emotionally manipulated by Timur, she cannot see his possession. She is now dressing nicely, like a rich wealthy woman (at first she rejected his money). She doesn’t have to work (at first she did anyway) and has now returned to college though there is no emphasis on this in the story so it is more like an idle past-time that Timur allows her. Mine and Sinan get together many times because she is still so in love with him and they have crying fests over her conflict and his undying love. We also see that Mine has grown up and is putting her child’s needs first (the martyr) and that Sinan is trapped in a fantasy of young love he is still chasing. He is unable to accept that she has grown as a woman and his jealousy has made him into a whiney little boy rather than growing and taking steps to turn this situation around. I keep wondering why he doesn’t hire an attorney to fight for paternity, visitation as well as put on a suit and become a responsible man that Mine will fall in love with all over again. If he fought for her and his son this way, she would be able to respect him. His character seems doomed though and when I accidentally read someone’s English comments I found out this is exactly what does happen in the final episode.

This emotional manipulation of Timur goes to great lengths that many women cannot see in their relationships (straight and even lesbian/gay). Timur stalks her first with a cell phone that she must answer whenever he calls. He locks her in the room himself and doesn’t let her leave (the fact that there is a sliding glass door on one side of her room is now hidden from camera and we the audience are supposed to forget it is there). He steals her phone so she cannot call anyone and even when her parents show up unannounced he talks them into believing this is just a lover’s quarrel. The first time she leaves him to go and clear her head at her aunt’s house – he follows her there and brings her back home. The second time she is already there and in front of all the women in her family tells him she needs time to think. This time he is too embarrassed to do something in front of these women and leaves. However, he is there every day and calls every day to check up on the son and her. Each time he arrives he  pesters her again about why she is doing this and how much he loves her and so on and so on.  How is she expected to actually think – I wonder? But he has no respect for his wife. He idolizes her and she can do no wrong but he doesn’t want her to think, he wants her to remain stupid and naïve so he can continue to possess her. We are still led to believe he is undaunted by the fact that they have not had sex and he has not had sex either for the past two-three years now.

What is saddest of all is Timur’s daughter, Merve (pronounced Mare-vey) who is so caught up in her love for her father that it would seem incestuous driven though this is normal for a child psychologically, i.e., the Oedipus complex. She has lost her mother (story is vague) and dad has been there for her until Mine, to the point of it seeming a little too close, on his part. Because she is bright enough to see her father’s obsession for Mine, she tries all types of tricks to get her father to notice her including attempting to kill herself (accidentally as this wasn’t her intent) and controlling Mine while she was pregnant (though Mine didn’t care because she didn’t want to be there anyway at the onset). When her father continues to reject her, even after a temporary “I am sorry, I still love you” moment between father and daughter, Merve goes in another direction. She is the one to tell Sinan about his son and was the one who brought Mine and Sinan together initially when he returns from America. She finally gives up and decides the only way to get her dad’s love is to love his “son” and be nice to Mine. You can see though how she is falling apart emotionally and I can only imagine, as a psychotherapist and if they write the story correctly, that she will eventually fall into the hands of a male that she will either control or be controlled by dependent on how vulnerable the character is shown over the years. It will depend on whether she is a survivor with one more trick up her sleeve or completely collapses altogether because some cocky guy makes her feel loved once again. Either way, it won’t end good for this young child because her father continues to ignore her over and over again as if she is nothing more than the housekeeper.

Now, if you were to be Turkish and could read all the comments on Turkish websites about this show, you might see a lot of favoritism toward Timur. This show is trying desperately to go in his direction and give you the idea that he is the one for Mine. At the same time, they are not allowing the Sinan/Mine relationship to end – it keeps the show rolling but they continue to show it as pitiful and hopeless and leave us to believe that Mine will end up consummating her relationship with Timur. Perhaps there are sides – women choosing Sinan and those opting for Timur. I hope she ends up leaving Timur and coming to her senses that she is a grown woman and doesn’t need a man. Both men are equally possessive but Timur is so emotionally abusive and if he ends up owning her 100%, which he is close to now, this won’t be a happy marriage. He lives for conflict because he is a passionate man and will soon need another woman to protect and shelter. How did he get to this place that he felt he was this God of poor lost women? This is what I question as a psychotherapist. What is his backstory? I hope we will find out in the end as I want some closure on this.

In real life though, a middle class woman marrying a rich man is something “dreams” are made of for many young girls. It is a fairytale that we see in cartoons and musicals and classics. So many women have entered into this story and at times it has a happy ending. Other times though it ends with emotional abuse but the woman fights not giving up all her money and prestige. It is a tough call. When you have become enslaved by money, power, prestige, and realize that if you leave this person you will have nothing, may end up being shunned, will fight him in court, and so on, it can cause a woman to remain and this will cause the man to feel he has even more power over her. This of course means more domination and control. Emotional abuse is domestic violence. This needs to be recognized and understood more. It is difficult when the art world romanticizes this and ignores the fact that it exists.

No Caretaker Needed in a Healthy Relationship

Many times people talk about being a caretaker in their relationship. They want to change their partner. They aren’t doing enough in the relationship. I try to turn this around by asking a simple question, “Are they worrying this much about you? Do they feel they are not doing enough in the relationship? Do they feel a need to take care of you?” Often the answer is going to be no. When there is a caretaker in the relationship, this means the couple has fallen apart and now someone is desperately trying to pick up the pieces and salvage what is left. There is no unity or a sense of “we,” in a couple, if only one person is dedicated to the partnership. In this case you have two individuals going in separate directions. If you are trying to be someone’s caretaker, it is probably time to end the relationship.

When two people meet and take the time to get to know one another, not by jumping in bed and declaring they are soul mates, instead they begin toward a healthy relationship that is fueled by conversation rather than sex. This does not mean there is no sex or passion as many people tend to confuse. It means that you are interested in what each other has to say and you respect one another’s opinions. It means that when you have a difference of opinion you are still able to be respectful of your partner. It means that you allow the other person a voice.  It means that you know and respect each other’s boundaries. It means that you share the same values and beliefs. When these things occur then you begin to explore intimacy and it is so much the better because you have generated a lot of excitement for your partner. Does anyone really love to have sex with someone that does not have respect for them? Or can you be passionate about someone you can’t even have a conversation with? An orgasm is a waste of time if you are then sobbing into your pillow once your partner has fallen asleep (or worse, left to go home). If you are just out to have sex, that is one thing but be clear what you want in life. Whatever you choose, make sure you can live with your choices, don’t make it the other person’s problem (also, be clear about your choice up front). If he/she doesn’t agree with you, then they aren’t willing to play your game, it doesn’t make them wrong. It is not okay to set up vulnerable people.

Conversation doesn’t mean that you have told your partner your deep dark secrets and so now they owe you. Your partner isn’t your therapist and there is a difference between sharing childhood abuse or family drama vs. sharing who you are, right now. What is more important in a relationship building process is that you talk about the type of person you are. For example: what motivates you, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time, what type of friends do you have, what are your goals for the future? A new relationship is not going to understand how to handle the trauma in your past until they have a solid foundation with you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come clean on mental health issues. For example: “I don’t drink, I am a recovering alcoholic.” That sentence is a mouthful. It already covers the meaning of I don’t drink. This doesn’t open the door to re-telling how you hit bottom and what your last 10 years have been like on the bottle or being sober. It could mean this though if your partner says “I am too,” and then proceeds to ask “How did you do it.” If they don’t, leave it and be comfortable that you have gotten this part off your chest. Never lie to anyone about anything but save the therapy conversation for a rainy day when your partner asks. Saying too much too soon is a sure way to end a relationship. This is because someone is being set up to be a caretaker and many times people are willing and this spells disaster. You are beginning the process by saying “I need help,” instead of saying “I am ready to share my life with someone.”

Two people can have a healthy relationship, even if they have had a hell of a life. First, they need to get into therapy and deal with this trauma. No, (1) you can’t fix it yourself and (2) a relationship is not your therapist. Love will not save you from a dad who harmed you in some way or your mental health condition. Love is not really happening if you are merely trying to save someone. That is your ego saying to you “If I love them enough…” Ego and love are an oxymoron. Second, you have to know what you want in life. It isn’t as simple as “I want a nice Christian…” Lots of religious people have been known to be abusive, alcoholic, drug addicts, and just plain jerks. But guess what, they thought they were a good Christian person or whatever religion because they were in denial about their vice or issue of concern. You have to really be grounded in what you do want from a person and what to look for when you see it. Be careful with admiring role models. You don’t really know what they are really like behind closed doors. Thirdly, you have to know how to present yourself when you meet this person. This doesn’t mean you find out that you have shared values on a first date, have a great conversation about it and then jump into bed. Again, you are not soul mates. You are just horny and happened to meet someone who was too. A person who gives up their body too easily is going to be seen as someone who has no self-respect. Sure, they slept with you too but that doesn’t mean they should now be in a commitment with you. You can’t blame the other party in a situation like this either.  If you both do choose to fall into a relationship and move in, etc… etc… don’t be surprised when it falls apart after the honeymoon is over.

Be a person who is the person you state that you are. Act like a professional when you get to know someone. This doesn’t mean you can’t flirt but have some patience. Don’t take them into your home right away. Don’t even drive with them (which will make the situation much easier). Keep your dates personal and in the field (vs. at home). Get to know their families and friends but again, be cautious about how much to say about the family or friends. Don’t set your partner up before they have even gotten a chance to get to know them. Be sparse with details. For example: My dad can be a bit controlling with my mom or my brother and I are not really close. Instead of saying “My dad has been in and out of jail three times now for domestic violence,” or “My brother molested me when we were kids.” A partner who is respectful of you is not going to choose sides and say “Well, he sure seemed like a good guy to me.” This is because a healthy partner would understand that you have a better grip on your family members than they do.

Now, how about someone who is reading this and did seem to do all the right things in the beginning but ended up in a bad place nonetheless? A healthy relationship has to work at continuing down this path and this means that you continue working together as a team throughout your lifetime together. If someone starts going off on their own, as in picks up the bottle, has an affair, becomes abusive, then the relationship is no longer a healthy relationship.  A healthy relationship is one where no one “takes their eye off the ball,” so to speak. Yes, it is hard work but so is owning a horse, living on a farm, keeping your luxury car in good shape, or running a business. If you don’t look out for either of these things, they will die or fall apart. It is no different with a relationship.

To recap, a healthy relationship that is nurtured over time is one where you (quoting the Gottman method directly now) – have started with trust and commitment and then:

  1. Get to know one another’s world,
  2. Share fondness and admiration,
  3. Turn toward instead of away,
  4. Keep a positive perspective,
  5. Manage your conflict by a. find relevance in what each of you have to say, b. self-soothing, c. dialogue about problems,
  6. Make each other’s life dreams come true; and
  7. Create shared meaning.

If you want to learn more about a healthy relationship, I recommend reading “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work,” by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver. I also recommend reading “The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts,” by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. If you want to meet someone to have this relationship with then be patient, set your boundaries, trust your instincts, know what you want and then, when you meet this person, take your time to get to know them. To be on the safe side, wait a few months before becoming intimate, don’t move in until you have spent at least a year getting to know them and only then, move in for love not convenience. Don’t move forward at all if you have any doubts whatsoever – they won’t change with a bigger commitment.  Finally, only get married because you love someone and the two of you have gone over your idea of what being married means and can agree on this. I definitely recommend pre-marital counseling with a therapist or at your place of worship. Don’t have children until you have gotten married and have waited at least 3-5 years. Children don’t need desperate parents. They need parents who have nurtured their relationship as a married couple and are again clear (and have discussed) that it is the right time to move forward.

A good business plan is necessary to have a successful company. Once the doors are open you have to keep on top of your firm by having good communication with all of your employees, from top to bottom. The business is not YOU, it is all of them plus your product and your customers. Each year you have to continue to look back as well as focus on the future. What do you need to do differently in order to continue this success in the changing times?

A relationship requires a plan too. You can’t just run out there and start a partnership. Take your time, focus on what it is you want and then don’t second guess yourself. Get back together each year and re-commit yourselves to the year ahead. If there have been problems, tackle them head on. Don’t wait ten years to then decide to see a therapist. Continue to create new goals for each year and help support each other in making these dreams a reality.  A cute person is not so cute when they turn out to be someone who you knew was wrong from the beginning. A cute person that you have gotten to know and taken your time to build a relationship with becomes very handsome and more interesting over time.