September 30, 2010

Inside this Newsletter:


From Carolyn's Desk:

The leaves are changing, the kids are back in school, the summer flowers are barely hanging in there, and most of the hummingbirds have left for warmer climates.

I just got back from a high school reunion. You forget how old you are until you see those old classmates (and I do mean old)! Alan kept saying, “Who are these old people??” Reunions make you look back and see how far you’ve come. (See my article on “High School Reunions and Approval Issues” below.)

Expressing anger is a topic that comes up regularly, and recently I’ve had several clients who are especially having difficulty with this. When you don’t deal with your anger and frustrations with your mate (and others of course), you build up resentments that eventually destroy the relationship. See article below.

Since I only have office hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it sometimes makes it difficult for my clients. So, I am adding Monday afternoons and Friday mornings to talk to clients, but only by phone.

Look for information soon on a new international internet dating book I will be helping sponsor, titled “Daters Anonymous Live!” It’s filled with great internet stories (good and bad)! Related to this, see my article below on “Traits for Attracting a Man Long-term.”

The magazine First for Women is still interviewing couples I have helped with their marriages. If you are one of my present or past clients and would like to be interviewed about how I have helped you resolve a certain issue in your relationship, please let me know. First for Women does a two page spread with photos, etc. To see one of the First for Women stories from my past clients, click here.


High School Reunions and Approval Issues

High School Reunions and Approval Issues

I recently went to my high school reunion. It’s amazing that after all these years I’m still interested in impressing my classmates. I had my hair colored, got a pedicure, and bought a sexy flattering dress to wear. It feels like we never get past the approval issues we feel during high school. I was not popular in high school -- I wouldn’t smoke or go to the wild parties (but I wasn’t a prude, I did drink). But I think it makes it more important to go back if you weren’t one of the popular kids. I was not a cheerleader, not the prom queen, not on the honor role (except once). I was just average. So I guess I still had something to prove.

At each reunion the cliques from high school dissipate a little more and it no longer matters who was popular and who wasn’t. The jocks talk to the nerds. There is still some competition, but the measuring system has changed. Who still looks young, who has money, who is most successful, who married well?

Classmates still gossip and say, “Time has not been kind to her.” “How could he let himself go like that?” “Why doesn’t she die that gray hair?” “Do you think she had a face lift?” The competition is nothing compared to what it was like in high school, however. Nobody cares like they did back then. Our teen years are our most vulnerable years – the time when we were trying to find ourselves, when we were trying to decide if we were “good enough.” And many of the messages we got from our classmates told us that we weren’t up to par. Many leave high school scarred.

Approval is so important to us when we’re teenagers – especially when we’re transferring parental approval to peer approval. But it’s not all bad. Competing for approval can be motivating. The desire to show someone can lead us to great things. When we think others think we’re “not good enough,” it can either shut us down or make us decide to prove them wrong.

It was partially my old high school insecurities that were a driving force for me to get my books published and appear on TV and radio. In high school, I typed the school newspaper (instead of writing for it) and prepared to be a secretary. One classmate at the reunion (after finding out that I had written books) reminded me clearly of who I was back then when she said, “I never remember you being that smart.”

It can be good to go back to a reunion and realize that none of it really mattered. You may even be able to work through some of those issues. At one reunion, my high school nemesis (she was prom queen and cheerleader) told me that she wished she was me, and I told her I had wanted to be her. Something felt magical when she said that and it took away years of high school insecurities. The thing to remember is that even the prom queens and jocks have insecurities too. And for many, those years were the highlight of their entire lives.

We always need a little approval in our lives. That’s why housewives and househusbands (and others who have lost their jobs) often become depressed. They’re getting no strokes from the outside world. And anyone who says they don’t care what anyone thinks is either fooling themselves (denial) or emotionally dead or numbing themselves with something.

Seeking the approval of others can be a good thing if used properly. But it can also hinder us if we stay too focused on it. Many of us naturally switch that need for approval from family and high school peers to our mate, people at work, or keeping up with the Joneses. We become more concerned about what others think than staying true to who we really are.

There is a natural process that should happen during adolescence where we begin to separate our identities from those around us. We clarify how we are different from our family and peers and become stronger in our own belief systems. Some people never complete this process. When we complete the adolescent phase of our lives (which we can do at any age), we finally grow up and are focused less on what people think and more on what truly makes us happy.

The process involves separating your identity from others and taking risks that others might not approve of. If you care too much about what your peers, coworkers, or mate think of you and it keeps you stifled so that you don’t follow your dreams, you need to break free psychologically and strengthen your own identity. Use your approval issues to motivate you, but don’t let them hold you back. (For more information on the Separation Process, order my book Loving Him Without Losing You.)

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Traits for Attracting a Man Long-Term

Traits for Attracting a Man Long-Term

(Not necessarily in this order)

  • the ability to make yourself happy

  • personal strength that doesn’t involve anger

  • not blaming him or others for your problems

  • flirtatiousness (with him, not others)

  • showing sexuality without looking trampy

  • knowing what you wants

  • not having too much baggage

  • affectionate

  • having your own friends and interests

  • being supportive

  • being fair with money

  • listening to him and not judging or criticizing

  • admitting when your wrong

  • attractiveness

(Would love to hear from you if you disagree or have traits to add, please email me your thoughts at

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Expressing Anger

Expressing Anger

Many of my clients who come in with relationship problems don’t know how to express their anger, and that’s why they never get what they want. In fact they get very uncomfortable when I tell them this. They think that relationships should be magical – that if their mate loved them they would be able to read their mind and know what they want. They don’t realize that relationships involve resolving conflicts, and that means that you have to express your negative feelings to your mate and tell them what you want to have changed.

Though clients don’t know it, it’s why most of them are having relationship difficulties. When they come to see me, they say, “I just can’t get over him,” or “I’m not in love with her anymore.” They don’t know that their inability to express their anger has created the situation that they are now in.

My client Cynthia had been divorced for two years when she came in, but still couldn’t get over her husband Sam, who had long left her behind and taken a new wife. Cynthia had given too much in the relationship providing the money, raising the kids, and taking care of all the chores. Why would he leave her when she did so much? I told her that he took her for granted because she made it too easy for him. I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t angry. She said she was hurt instead.

Many people have trouble moving from the hurt stage to the angry stage in their situations. It’s normal to feel hurt, but if you stay in this stage, you play victim and never move on. It’s necessary to process that hurt, which allows it to naturally turn into anger as you start to feel pride and a need to protect yourself.

But Cynthia had been taught by her mom that anger was not okay. That’s what got her into this mess. She never told her husband that she was angry that the entire responsibility of the relationship was on her. She needed to tell him that he needed to contribute more to the family and that it is not okay that he put the burden on her. By not expressing her anger, she enabled him to become more and more selfish. She created a monster who felt entitled. He was able to use her up and move on with no guilt, leaving her feeling victimized and hurt, longing for the life she thought she had.

My client George, on the other hand, was the one who had been taken advantage of in his relationship. His wife was controlling and demanding and he just took it and did what she wanted and built a little more resentment toward her very day. Several times he thought about just leaving. He told me about all the angry things he wanted to say to her, but he would seldom go back and say them. He told me that one day he would probably just wake up and leave her, never to be seen again. Actually that’s what he did with his first wife. George doesn’t understand that by not expressing his anger, his wife thinks she’s doing the right things. He, of course, is also enabling her to feel more and more self-righteous. George thinks she should know that her controlling ways are wrong. But she doesn’t have a clue and will be shocked when he leaves.

What We Do Instead of Expressing Our Anger:

  • We learn to edit our feelings, believing we “shouldn’t” feel that way.

  • We think that it won’t do any good to tell someone how we feel because it won’t change anyway.

  • We fear hurting our mate, but end up hurting them more in the end by not speaking up.

  • We use indirect anger by criticizing and becoming sarcastic.

  • We whine to others about how we feel instead of telling our mate.

  • We talk ourselves out of our feelings telling ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel that way.

  • We fear being hurt, that if we speak up, he/she will go away.

  • We think our mate should read our mind.

  • We behave in passive/aggressive ways, indirectly hurting our mate to get even.

How to Express Your Anger:

  1. Admit that you are angry at someone about something they did.

  2. Allow yourself to feel the emotion fully, then ask yourself if they or someone else has done this to you before. Get in touch with all of the anger, both past and present.

  3. Decide what you want to have happen. Do you want to end it or is there something he/she could do to fix the problem?

  4. Visualize yourself handling the problem with your mate.

  5. Use the 4 Steps of Healthy Communication to handle your anger:

    Step 1: I feel ______when you_____.
    Step 2: I want ________.
    Step 3: Will you ________(be specific).
    Step 4: If not, I will __________(give an ultimatum).

(For more information on communication skills, click here to order my book The 7 Dumbest Relationship Mistakes Smart People Make.)

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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 more than15 years. She has been helping people like you improve your life and relationships for more than 30 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 23 years.

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