December 23, 2009

Inside this Newsletter:


Alan & I are staying in town for the holidays and have decided to be extremely non-traditional and spend the day gambling in Blackhawk (weather permitting).  Weíll spend some holiday time with Alanís daughter Alecia & her family and Iím in touch with my family, but we will visit mine in February or March instead of now.

Iím excited --  Iím back on the radio on a regular basis  again.  Therapy Thursday is back and now on KYGO 98.5FM with Kelly Ford and Rider!  Every Thursday at 7:30 am you can call in with relationship questions and I will answer them on the air.  To hear last Thursdayís show on Handling 4 Christmasís (like the movie) ! 

Go here to listen to the audio for the Thursday Therapy show.


Christmas - A Time to Look at Your Family Relationships!

By Carolyn Bushong

Itís a fact that we think about our family relationships more during the holidays than probably any other time of the year.  Most of us wish those relationships were better than they are. 

Most of us have unrealistic and ďfantasizedĒ expectations about the holidays that seldom pan out.  We all want to feel close and loved by our families, but often thatís not the case.  Even memories of past holidays are often glorified in our minds because we forget about the fights weíve had over the years and just hope it will be different this year.  We work hard to remember the good times and forget about the bad.

We also often believe that other people have the Norman Rockwell Christmas, so why canít we?  Actually not that many people get the Christmas fantasy, or if they do, itís only every once in awhile.  Thereís almost always some sort of situation -- whether itís a recent divorce, a recent death, or a recent major family fight over something that probably is not really that important Ė that creates an uncomfortable situation. 

Itís not that our families donít love us, itís just that there are many unresolved issues that rise to the surface again once weíre all together.  Because we usually forget about the issues with our family when we havenít seen them for awhile, we often get blindsided year after year, forgetting what might happen with a certain relative, instead of preparing for it in advance.  You may have forgotten how critical your mom is until she comments again about your weight or how much wine youíre drinking.  You may forget how jealous your sister is until she starts making remarks about ďWho do you think you are?Ē  Your dadís controlling ways may seem kind of normal until you have to face them again and realize that he always has to have his way.  And you may forget how much your brother has to brag about his work to remind you that you arenít quite as successful as he is. 

These issues come up more at the holidays when emotions run high and especially if you havenít seen your family in awhile.  But that doesnít make it hurt any less.  In fact, the issues hurt more because of the time of the year.  Besides, weíre much more vulnerable when weíre on their territory and feeling trapped Ė it reminds us of who we were and who we donít want to be.

What You Can Do About it

  • Think ahead about what your family may do to you (from what theyíve done in the past), and set boundaries, i.e. ďMother, I will be having wine with dinner while Iím there, and I donít want any comments from you.Ē Or, ďI have put on a few pounds since last year and I donít want you making me feel bad about it. Promise me you wonít comment on my weight!Ē
  • Donít be too dependent on them while youíre there, i.e. donít stay at their house with no transportation or way out (friend or other family member to turn to). Have a rental car and a backup plan!
  • Have a talk with yourself before you see them and promise yourself not to let them get to you. You really are a strong, capable, attractive person, instead of the person you may feel like when youíre around them.
  • Do not put up with anyone treating you badly just so you can keep the peace. Donít let your family make you feel 8-years-old again. Instead, speak up for yourself even if you donít feel strong: fake it Ďtil you make it.

Make yourself a promise to get through this holiday with your self-esteem intact. But whatever family issues do come up, make a pact with yourself not to ignore them until next Christmas. In fact, promise yourself to clean up the issues and set boundaries with your family before you forget all about them again. Ignoring them does not make them go away. In fact, even when youíre not around your family, these conflicts affect you on a daily basis and in all of your personal relationships. Use this time of the year to step out of your comfort zone and into realizations you have about the dysfunction in your family and how it still affects you. Then commit to changing it!

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Q & A: Christmas Gifts

He gives me presents he wants to give me instead of what I want.  How do I tell him that I donít like this without hurting his feelings?

A past client of mine recently emailed me and said that she and her husband are now doing quite well since their therapy with me, but that she has an issue that continues to irritate her:  he never gets her what she really wants for Christmas.  She says she gave him a list of things she wants, and sees nothing that could be any of those things under the tree.  In fact, she instead saw him bring in several Zales bags, which she assumes has expensive jewelry in them.  She has made it clear to him again and again that she no longer believes in wearing expensive jewelry and doesnít want him to buy any for her.  Sheís upset because he thinks it romantic to buy her jewelry anyway.  I think maybe heís watching too many of those ads on TV that brainwash men into thinking this. 

My Advice: 
This is a very difficult situation because he is doing what he believes is the good romantic thing to do, and to be honest, many women would really love this.  Christmas is very close, but you can hint and remind him that you were really looking forward to getting thatÖÖ computer (or whatever it is you want).  But, it probably wonít change anything at this point.  If you actually wonít wear the jewelry, open it and tell him how beautiful it is, but remind him that you really donít wear much of that anymore.  Tell him your feelings about wearing expensive jewelry in a time when so many people are hurting financially, and that youíre just not comfortable doing that (or whatever your reason is).  Then tell him that you donít want him to be upset, but that you are going to take it back and buy the new computer that you really wanted.  This should help him get it for next year or the next gift situation.  You can keep the jewelry if you really like it and tell him not to do it again, but I assume you have done that before, which reinforces that he really is doing the right thing.  Even if he gets angry and says, ďMost women would be thrilled to get those diamond ear rings!Ē  Say that you agree with him, but that you arenít most women and you really need him to listen to you from now on about the types of gifts you want -- and thatís why youíre taking the jewelry back this year.  Heíll get over it, and hopefully change his pattern.

If you want to participate in this discussion, or ask other advice open to discussion, go to my  Fan Page on Facebook

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Handling Four Christmas's

By Carolyn Bushong

The movie Four Christmas's is about a couple who have to visit all 4 sets of divorced parents and how crazy it is to try and please everyone, while of course, not pleasing the two of you. Hereís a bit of advice on what to do if the two of you are in a situation with the two sets of parents

  1. Agree on a plan ahead of time, whether itís Thanksgiving at one parentís and Christmas at another, or noon at one and an evening celebration at another, or even that we arenít going to go to any of their houses at all. Let them know what the plan is in advance and donít be swayed by eitherís parents.

  2. Discuss and set boundaries ahead of time on how long you will stay at each personís house and make it clear to the family in advance. Stick to it no matter what. 

  3. If you know one of you will want to leave sooner than the other, take separate cars or be sure and get a rental car if out of town. This will allow more freedom and he can stay for the whole football game and meet up with you later if necessaryówithout any fights.

  4. Give your mate warnings of what might happen while you are there, whether itís the crazy uncle getting drunk or your mom telling stories from your childhood. And if itís that they want you to stay longer, stay strong as a pair, having your story straight about why and when you have to leave.

We all want more love, happiness, romance, respect, admiration, and sanity in our lives. But most of us donít know how to get it.

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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 was named by McCall's as one of the "Top Passion Doctors" in the country. 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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