January 27, 2010

Inside this Newsletter:

January is almost over and I’m so glad. Since I get the “midwinter blah’s” (see article on this below) every January, Alan and I agreed to go to Mexico this month.. We flew to Phoenix and then drove with our friends to Puerto Penasco, MX two weeks ago. However, we did not get the warm “basking in the sun” weather we had hoped for. I still sat on the beach and drank Pina Coladas while Alan and our friends played golf. But the waiters and waitresses (& even masseuse) wore coats & gloves & scarves. We did see some of the most beautiful sunsets ever though (see below).

I didn’t mention it in my December newsletter, but on Dec. 3, I fell on the ice and tore my rotator cuff (in several places), so life has been a little difficult the last two months. I will probably have to have surgery, but not sure yet. The pain has been incredible. If anyone has any opinions on whether or not to have the surgery or what to do to heal, I’d appreciate your ideas.

FIRST Magazine for Women is doing a series called Marriage SOS and they will feature a couple I helped, along with information on me and my book Bring Back the Man You Fell in Love With, in their March 22 issue (on the stands March 1). They will also interview other couples I’ve helped for future issues.

Be sure and listen to me on the radio on Thursday mornings at
7:30 am on KYGO 98.5FM with Kelly and Rider, and call in your relationship questions!


Carolyn

Is Your Relationship Normal?

My client Kathy wants to know what’s normal in a relationship and what isn’t. Is it normal for her husband to spend inordinate amounts of money on his hobbies while she struggles to pay her half of the bills while she also does all the housework? “Should I expect him to be fair with me or not?” she asks.

Kathy’s mother was a drug addict so she is used to fending for herself while still taking care of others. Her expectations of others to be there for her are extremely low. So to her, her husband’s behavior seems normal.

“Normal” is whatever we get used to. So if your dad treated your mother with disrespect, then it seems normal for a man to do this to you. Watching others treat people badly that you love and/or having them treat you badly gives you low expectations for other relationships in your life. On the other hand, if you were daddy’s little girl and he (or your mom) spoiled you, being spoiled seems normal and your expectations in your relationship may be too high.

Many people believe it is normal for their mates to be critical or nagging with them. After all, our moms and dads did it, even our friends do it to each other. My client, Jim, was trying to decide whether or not to marry his finance who he felt he could never please. I suggested that he bring her in and work out that issue before he married her. He came back to me and said that all of his married male friends said not to worry about it because “wives are never satisfied – just get used to it!” They basically told him that her bad behavior is normal in marriage.

When I was in college and married in my early 20’s, my then-husband criticized me constantly. But my dad had criticized my mother as long as I could remember, so I thought it was normal for someone to love you, yet criticize you. Then I took my husband to a party with fellow counseling students. They were appalled and asked me why I let him talk to me like that. I said, “Like what?” It seemed so normal to me that I couldn’t even hear how abusive it was. My clients are now shocked when I tell them this story. They assume that I have always been strong, but I haven’t. I had to learn that my husband’s behavior was wrong, no matter how normal it seemed. I had to raise my expectations beyond my family’s, and communicate what I felt and wanted to my husband. I told him that I felt humiliated by the way he treated me, that I wanted him to stop criticizing me; I asked him to agree, and told him that if he didn’t, I would have to leave. It was many years ago that I left, and I now surround myself with people that would never treat me that way.

My client Samantha’s live-in boyfriend lost his job a few years ago, and she started picking up all their living expenses, as well as continuing to do all the housework. When he found another job, he told her he still wasn’t making much money, and she didn’t question him or ask him to contribute again. It’s been three years and she just found out that he has a huge savings account while she has a huge credit card debt! Is that normal to take advantage of someone like that? It seemed normal to her since she watched her mom cater to her dad’s needs her whole life, avoiding confrontation at all costs. When I told her that her “allowing her boyfriend to use her” was caused by her parents’ bad behavior, she immediately defended them. “But dad really loves mom!” she told me. It took her awhile to see what she learned from them: that being taken advantage of is okay as long as you believe he loves you.

It’s not just women who get taken advantage of using the excuse that their bad behavior is normal. Jacob’s wife convinced him that he should pay more of the household expenses even though they both made good money. She said it’s normal for a husband to be a gentleman and show love and respect by paying more. After all her dad did that for her mom (but of course her mom didn’t work). He agreed, bought her a new car, paid the mortgage, and then they split the rest of the expenses -- except when she was able to talk him into paying for trips, furniture, etc. He felt good about being such a good husband, and hoped that eventually she would start having sex with him again because of his “gentlemanly” behavior. Imagine his shock when she asked him for a divorce right after he got his Christmas bonus at work. But “giving while getting nothing back” is how Jacob spent his entire childhood, so spending years investing in a relationship that produced no return didn’t seem that abnormal to him.

Being treated badly, being taken advantage of, being shown no respect – all may seem normal to you because you are playing out your childhood legacy, but it is only “normal” in dysfunctional relationships. Your gut tells you when you are not being treated fairly. Maybe you put up with it because you’re afraid of confrontation or you feel bad about yourself and think you deserve the bad treatment. But deep inside you know you would never treat anyone that way – and that’s how you know it’s wrong.

What Should You Do?

It is your job to make sure that someone treats you fairly, whether he or she thinks their behavior is normal or not. People in general will get away with whatever they can. If you aren’t getting a fair deal in some area of your relationship, you are playing victim instead of resolving the problem. He or she probably doesn’t even know that you think something is unfair. He just thinks it’s normal that he has the guy’s over for football and leaves the mess for you to clean up. She thinks it’s normal that she nags you all the time about your bad eating habits. But they’re both wrong.

Use my 4 Steps of Healthy Communication to confront your mate on a behavior that may seem “normal” to him or her, but that you believe is unfair. You should expect to be treated as well as you treat your mate. But it’s your job to tell your mate if it’s not happening. And promise yourself, that from now on “normal” in all of your relationships will also mean “healthy.”

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Q & A: Why Do Men Stop Calling?

Question: I have a question for you...Me and my friends are ready to sign off from dating. We’re very disenchanted at this point because we’ve been experiencing a rather odd thing with men lately. We're all baffled, so I thought I would ask you... What makes a man you're getting to know suddenly drop all lines of communication? For example: A friend was emailing and texting a guy of whom her family connected her with. He had to cancel their date, as his business flight was cancelled. He told her he would call her to reschedule and never did. Another friend of mine was emailing a guy who was working in another country. He came back to Colorado for their first date. They had a nice time. He even made sure to tell her he was "looking for the one to settle down with" and told her he would be sure to come to Colorado to continue getting to know her. They had daily emails and constant communication. Suddenly, he told her he was going to Argentina to "maybe move into the next phase of his life..." She hasn't heard back. What's the story? Can you shed some insight? Thank you so much!!!

Answer: There are many possible reasons a guy might do this:

Maybe he has a girlfriend. Years ago I dated a man for a couple of months and then he stopped calling and returning my calls. When I finally did catch up to him and asked him what happened, he admitted that he had a girlfriend and that she had been out of town when he met me, and now she’s back!

Maybe he took one small thing you did and turned it into a reason he shouldn’t be with you (probably because he’s afraid of relationships). A male client told me recently that he pulled away from a woman who got on his case because he told her he was taking an extra day off work. Instead of standing up to her, he stopped talking to her. Men do this all the time because they’re afraid to speak up.

Maybe you were too easy, i.e. not enough of a challenge (especially if you slept with him already). When you’re available every time they call and will see them whenever they want, they often get bored with you and decide you’re not good enough. You know the old saying, “I’d never belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

Maybe he met someone else he likes better. Men don’t feel like they need to explain anything to you when they move on.

Maybe he really did get too busy at work. Men don’t have relationships on their mind as much as we do and can easily “forget” to follow up.

Maybe he lied. The guy who said he was looking to settle down was probably just using a good “line.”

Maybe he’s a misogynist, i.e. hates women and gets off on a power trip treating women this way.

If you want to comment on this article, send me an email that I’ll put in next month’s newsletter OR join my Fan Page on Facebook and click on Discussions.

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Midwinter Blah’s

You feel restless, bored at work, desperate for a change. You dream of a vacation on the beach, but instead of lying on the sand, you lie on your sofa and become a couch potato. You have the energy of a burned-out light bulb and wonder when you ever feel like cleaning that closet or going out with your friends again. You’re a victim of the midwinter blah’s, usually caused by a holiday letdown, shortened daylight hours, and nothing exciting happening in January (especially since the Bronco’s are not in the Super Bowl this year).

Cures for the Doldrums

  • Spend as much time as possible outside. Take a stroll through your neighborhood, spend a day skiing or sit in the sunshine on your lunch hours (& soak up that vitamin D). If you can’t get outside, full-spectrum lights in your house is a wonderful therapy and improves your outlook and productivity.

  • If you can afford it, take a long weekend to the beach or to visit a friend. Even a drive to Colorado Springs or Vail for the day can lift your spirits. Getting away from your regular routine can work wonders.

  • Use snowbound days to plan for the future. Get seed catalogs and outline your spring garden, or draw up a blueprint for a needed household renovation. Organize a spring vacation or a St. Patrick’s Day party. Plan strategy for paying off the credit card bills you ran up over the holidays. (On 2nd thought that might make you more depressed.)

Statistics say that the most depressing day of the year is January 25. And when you get this article, that day will already be over, so see now there’s something to cheer up about! It’s cheering me up to see (& buy) all the beautiful spring bulbs that are already blooming and available in the grocery stores. See, spring is just around the corner!

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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 McCall’s named her one of the “Top 6 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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