December 24, 2008

Inside this Newsletter:

Carolyn, Jennifer, and Mary Lynne

Carolyn, Jennifer, and Mary Lynne

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!! The picture above was taken outside my picture window a few weeks ago. Alan & I are staying home this Christmas and New Year's and spending some t ime with his daughter. We both just celebrated our birthdays (I hate having a birthday in December!). He sent me flowers and asked me where I wanted to have dinner for my birthday. I said "Vegas!" So we are going to Vegas Jan. 15 for dinner - and more of course! I also went out singing with the girls for my birthday. (See .)

Alan & I went to Charlotte over Thanksgiving and saw my family. One night when I was out singing karaoke with Kathy (one of my sister's friends who is single), we were approached by a man who had the worst pick-up line I've ever heard. He asked Kathy, "How old are you? Have you been through menopause yet? I'm looking for someone who has, because women who haven't, are all crazy!" Then, of course, he asked if he could join us - and we said no! While we were there, a man was shot (3 times) in a karaoke bar (down the street from where we were) while on the stage singing! Alan says, "See I told you that people don't like to listen to that stuff!"

Carolyn's 82-year-old mom

Carolyn's 7-year-old nephew Cameron

Carolyn's 82-year-old mom

Carolyn's 7-year-old nephew Cameron

I visited my dad in the nursing home at Thanksgiving, & Star (a nurse) and I sang karaoke there, and we almost got thrown out. I sang some oldies songs, and then we were singing some songs that are popular now (thinking the Alzheimer's patients wouldn't know the

difference) when we decided to sing one by Katy Perry (if you know which one I mean), and the administration came in and told us to cut

Carolyn and her Dad

Carolyn and her Dad

it off or sing only Christmas songs! My sister says I'm going to get dad thrown out if I don't watch it!

On a positive and tear-jerker note, I wrote down a beautiful saying they had on the wall which I try to follow with him: "To love someone is to know the song in their heart and to sing it when they have forgotten the words."


Handling Relationships During the Holidays

Emotions run high during the holidays. We talk about holiday stress, loneliness, and handling family issues. But what about your relationships with your mate, or a man you just started dating, or your "acting out" 17-year-old son who lives with his mom, or your estranged sister who's in trouble and now wants your help, or your move with your husband to the city he grew up in, or avoiding your brother because of your abusive sister-in-law, or your adult children who don't want you dating so soon. These are the present situations of many of my clients (names changed of course) this holiday season. The holidays don't cause these problems, but they do intensify the situations. Below are a few of their stories.

Linda's Story:
I'm Overstressed & They're Ungrateful: Linda and her husband have been in marriage counseling for a few months, and things were starting to improve. Then with the holidays, they began canceling all their appointments. Linda was baking cookies, buying presents, sending cards, and even took on a 3-night benefit. It wasn't until she was back in my office after 2 months off that she realized she had regressed into her "overgiving and resenting" behavior. She isn't close to her sister, but got a call that she better check on her and found her in an overdosed state and rushed her to the hospital, paying for everything since her sister had no insurance. She called her husband to come and help her and he said he was busy playing poker. After Linda's boyfriend arrived at the hospital at 3am, Linda felt she could finally go home. Then the police called at 4am telling Linda that her sister had checked herself out against doctor's orders and that they were headed over there to arrest her. Needless to say, she got no sleep that night. Later, her sister called and yelled at her for interfering in her life! That was ungrateful #1. That morning Linda had a doctor's appointment for her daughter who had found a lump in her breast, and of course she kept the appointment even tho she had no sleep. Then her daughter wanted to go be with her friends instead of helping her get some chores and errands done. That was ungrateful #2. Her husband called after that appointment, and instead of asking how the appointment went, said, "We need to talk." They met for lunch Quiznos and he confronted her about some issues in their marriage. All she could say is, "Not now." Especially since she had had no sleep at all, and his office party was that night. Her husband owns the business and Linda had singlehandedly set the entire party up "Martha Stewart style." She so didn't want to even go, especially when he yelled at her right before they left because he couldn't find something he was looking for. That was ungrateful #3. The next morning, her husband disappoints her by informing her that he won't be able to make it to her benefit that night. Not only did she need him to take the gifts in his SUV that she had gathered for the event, but of course she also wanted to have her husband by her side. That was ungrateful #4. Linda feels used and abused and can't understand why nobody seems to care about her, i.e. the fact that she walked out of that hospital at 3am alone with no one concerned, the fact that she had no sleep before going to the party, the fact that it should be obvious to everyone that she is ready to collapse!

My advice:
As if it wasn't obvious, I told Linda that she was doing way too much and that when you keep taking on more and more, people just accept your overgiving and don't think about you. Linda doesn't show that anything bothers her - and never says no. I told her that she had regressed into letting her husband treat her badly again without setting boundaries with him. She was back to playing "the good little wife" perfectly. I reminded her that people will do to you whatever you let them get away with. I told her to stop and nurture herself, and she told me of the 10 more things she had to do first, including go to a client party with her husband that evening. I suggested she "bow out" of it the way he had "bowed out" of her benefit and that she use that time to "veg" in front of the TV. "If I stay home, I should bake cookies with my daughter instead, she replied. I reminded her that she never says to anyone, "NO, I can't/won't do anymore and am taking a break." It's her job to say enough is enough, not theirs. Her daughter will for sure understand. And she just needs to tell her husband that she has a right to cancel on him if he has the right to cancel on her.

Linda also needs to confront her husband and let him know how she feels. Since it's the holidays, she keeps telling me that she can't yet because this or that event will get ruined. The problem is that she is building a huge case against him, and he doesn't have a clue. Sure, he has been a jerk, and she's feeling pretty sure that she wants to divorce him at this point. BUT, for her to be healthy, she needs to speak up and not hold it in, whether she stays with him or not. Besides, people will get worse in the way they treat you when you don't tell them to stop!

What she did:
She promised to skip her husband's party, and to go have a drink with a friend instead, and decided to take a girlfriend up to the mountains for a weekend ski trip and relax. AND she scheduled an appointment for next week. She also agreed to write down a list of all the issues and confront her husband this week. But, I'm not sure it will really happen until after the holidays!

Mary's Story:
I Refuse to Spend Time with Her! My client Mary was in turmoil about the holidays and the way her brother's wife treats her. The sister-in-law makes rude comments to her when Mary is in her home, and her "older and somewhat controlling" brother just says to get over it because his wife doesn't mean it. She doesn't want to lose her relationship with her brother, but is not willing to take anymore abuse from his wife. What to do.

My advice:
Of course, I told her to tell him the truth, "I'm not coming to your house for Christmas because of the way she treats me!" Then she should tell him that she still wants a relationship with him, but it will have to be outside of his house and without the wife. And if he refuses to do that, she will have to let him go, at least for awhile until he believes she is serious.

What she did:
She called and excused herself from Christmas without telling him the real reason why, but made plans with him to meet for a drink after the holidays and tell him then, even though she knows it will make him really angry.

Jane & Margie's issue:
I Wish My Mother Would Get a Life! Though Jane & Margie are clients who don't know each other, they are both single and both have mothers that are needy and who guilt-trip them when they aren't constantly attentive to them. They ask me, "How much of my time does my mother deserve? And do I need to feel guilty when I would rather go on a date than see her? And I'm an adult, do I really have to keep reporting in to her?"

My advice:
No, you do not owe your mother to report in to her or spend large amounts of time with her. What you do owe her is: letting her know what she can expect. Try telling her, "I can come over next Saturday from noon til 3, so let's decide what we'll do during that time." Make it clear that you won't see her until then, and that you will call her Friday to confirm (which says, don't keep calling me in-between). It's no different than dealing with a needy man or woman that you're dating in that you first try indirect boundaries, and if that doesn't work, you have to be very clear, i.e. "I can see you once a week (or once every other week, or whatever)," then stick to it. If she keeps calling, tell her which day in a week you have time to talk and talk to her then, but at other times, tell her, "I can't talk right now, so unless it's something urgent, I'll talk to you Friday like we always do."

What they did:
They both followed my advice and said that it worked beautifully. And guess what, they both stopped feeling resentful toward their mothers. Besides, maybe their moms will have to "get lives!" now.

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What Clients Are Saying

A client's email to a friend:

When we had lunch I talked about this psychologist I had heard on the radio and subsequently met with twice. You had asked about her contact information. So, here it is. Her name is Carolyn Bushong. Her email is There were a lot of hits when I googled her, including her website. I found her to be very direct, empowering and helpful. She doesn't just sit and listen. She is very interactive and says it like she sees it.

~ MC, Denver

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Q&A: How Do I Make Peace with my Mother?

Question: How Do I Make Peace With My Mother?

I enjoyed the article you sent me on "Making Peace with Your Mother." However, how do you deal with a mother who since her divorce twenty years ago has become a different person? I am the one who has defended her to an abusive man, but somehow she and he have made me some kind of scapegoat for their problems. I have stayed out of their business and even though this man cheated on her and now is married for the third time, she thinks his divorcing me when he divorced her is "my fault". I am from my mother's first marriage. I try to tell her my feelings and how others also see the problems and she just gets angry. It is very sad. I am now saying very little to her since it just makes her mad and she pretty much ignores me. I am afraid it is going to be like this until the end of our lives. This is so sad, because my mother has been such a vibrant woman when she was young and we were close.

Should I just keep my mouth shut and go on, stop beating my head against the wall? Or is there something I can do? Thank you for any and everything,

~ TR


You need to "agree to disagree" since your mother will never be able to see it the way you do. Women who have been abused and haven't gotten help and/or moved on to a nice man end up very depressed and bitter! You can't fix her or make her "get" it. If you have personal issues involving how you were treated by your stepfather, or how it affected you when he abused her, these are valid to discuss with her. You may want to put them in a letter, and yes send it, and that will help you. However, it sounds like you did try to "help" or "rescue" her in the past, and I'm sure it was with good intentions. But, people who need help, but didn't ask you for it, are not appreciative. In fact, they are resentful that you interfered, even if somebody needed to. You may need to apologize to her for interfering, and admit you overstepped a boundary, reminding her that it was only because it hurt you to see her get hurt by him. Then let her know what you want from her now, i.e. a loving relationship, support, love, etc. describing how that would look. Tell her in a vulnerable way that you do not want the two of you to be at odds forever, and plead to her motherhood regarding developing a loving relationship before it's too late. Good luck!

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About Carolyn

Carolyn Bushong, L.P.C, is an expert on relationships and a licensed therapist. She is known for being one of the top relationship therapists in the country and the author of 3 relationship books. She has appeared on Oprah, the View, and many other TV shows, and she has been giving relationship advice on Denver radio for 10 years. She has been helping people like you improve your life and relationships for more than 25 years. Cosmo, US Weekly and other magazines quote her expert relationship advice, and she writes articles for on-line article banks. Carolyn Bushong always has fresh, up-to-date, hot information on topics that will inspire you and change your life and improve your relationships. She has clients all over the country, some who come into her office and others who receive Carolyn's expert advice through phone counseling. Carolyn Bushong is an excellent psychotherapist, but she also lives what she teaches, as she is in a happy, healthy relationship with Alan, her mate of 21 years.

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l hour or ˝hr sessions in office or phone, Health Insurance covers a portion. Couples Counseling: 1 ˝ hr. sessions, Health Ins. covers a portion.
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Phone Counseling is a great way to do therapy, especially for the really busy person who's constantly on the go, or the person who is shy or hesitant to talk about their problem, or when the weather is bad and you don't want to drive to a therapist's office. It just makes sense in this day and age to be able to call and discuss a problem and get advice on a situation with having to leave work and drive to my office.

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