November 24, 2010
Inside this Newsletter:
Message from Carolyn:
Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for many things, including Alan and
my family, my health, and for having been in business in Denver now
for 26 years! I must say it was easier starting a business in Denver
in 1984 than it is to keep one going these days. When I moved here
from Aspen, my first call on my new phone was from the Rocky
Mountain News wanting to interview me. They did a 2-page spread on
my business in the Sunday paper, and I was off! Now I’m still in
business, but the Rocky Mountain News isn’t.
We all remember times when life was easier than it is now (unless
you’re 2). But whatever your situation is, there is always someone
worse off than you, so I’m sure you have things to be grateful for.
The holidays are a time when people have high expectations, however,
and they are often not met. It’s also a time when we want closeness
with family and may have arguments instead. See my article below on
family clashes that my clients have had to see how to resolve some
of those issues.
Though I still do traditional therapy and marriage counseling, I
know the word “therapy” has a stigma for some. The new more hip way
of thinking of therapy or counseling is “relationship coaching” or
“life coaching.” See the difference below.
Listen for me on 85KOA AM Radio on Thanksgiving afternoon on “The
Ride Home” with Dave Logan and Lois Melkonian. See times and topic
I have an article on Toxic Women below. Lillian Glass just authored
a new book about Toxic Men, which is a topic that has certainly been
overdone. But few people talk about Toxic Women. I have a client who
chooses toxic woman after toxic woman. Maybe my article can help him
and men like him. See article below.
Alan and I are staying here for Thanksgiving and Christmas this
year, so I guess we’ll miss out on the full body pat-downs from the
TSA screeners. Darn!
Carolyn on 85
KOA Thanksgiving Day!
Listen to me on 85 KOA AM Radio on Thanksgiving afternoon on “The
Ride Home” with Dave Logan and Lois Melkonian. Lois pre-taped an
interview with me on Holiday Family Clashes and Tips for the
Holidays that will be aired Thanksgiving Day (3pm to 7pm) and may be
aired a couple more times over the holidays.
Return to top >>>
(Client Questions Answered)
Question: I end up doing most of the work on Thanksgiving.
My husband helps some, but it really irritates me when his dad and
brother just sit there watching the game and never offer to help do
anything. What can I do?
Answer: You need to
address this ahead of time. First, address it with your husband
to be sure you’re a team on this issue. Then when people arrive,
state that these are the duties for today: setting the table,
helping cook, handling dessert, clearing the table, loading the
dishwasher, etc. and ask everyone which task they would like to
help with. If anyone says they’re not helping, just say, “Not an
option, we’re all working together today, now which task do you
2. Question: My husband and
I are separated and he’s taking the kids to his folks on
Thanksgiving. Now he wants them for Christmas as well, and says his
parents are coming here. I want to take them out of town to my dad’s
for Christmas, and he’s throwing a fit. Isn’t that only fair?
Answer: Yes, if you
were legally separated or divorced, the judge would probably
order a trade-off like that. Since the courts aren’t involved,
you both just need to be fair. Ask him if he will pay half (or
more) for the ticket (as it will be more expensive) if you
shorten the time that the kids are gone to your dad’s so that
his parents won’t miss out completely at Christmas. Then you
have somewhat of a win/win. And get it set up next year in
3. Question: My mom wants
me to come to her house for Thanksgiving, but my brother will be
there and we had a big blow-out this summer and it’s not resolved
yet. I want to be there for my mom, but I think it will be very
uncomfortable. What should I do?
Answer: Talk to your
mom ahead of time making her aware of the situation. Then limit
the length of time you will stay and let your mom know about
this ahead of time. Just treat your brother politely like any
other guest and let him know that the two of you need to talk at
a later time to resolve the issue. Then, after dinner if things
get uncomfortable, say your goodbyes without making a scene.
4. Question: My wife and my
mother had a fight a few months ago and my wife refuses to talk to
her much less have her over for the holidays. I’m close to my
parents and don’t want my kids to miss out. What can I do?
Answer: First of all,
be empathetic to your wife and how she feels about what
happened. Then ask her for a compromise, i.e. your parents
coming over for a couple of hours (or all of you going to their
house) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning and everyone
opening presents then, and that’s it. Be sure and let her know
you won’t leave her alone at any time with your mother. If she
won’t agree to that, make a deal whereby you take the kids to
your parents’ house one of those times while she stays home.
5. Question: I’ve been
dating a guy for about 6 weeks (but we’ve been friends for years)
and I assumed we would spend some of the time over the Thanksgiving
holiday together since I’m off work the whole week. But he let me
know that he’s going to Vail and all of his family is flying in, and
that no one is bringing “dates.” Am I wrong to feel hurt?
Answer: No, of course
you’re not wrong to feel hurt. But 6 weeks is a very short time
to be dating, and I’m not surprised that he’s not ready to
invite you to a family gathering. In trying to get what you want
(some time together), you might ask him if there’s a day during
this time that you could ski together or that he would be back
in time for a quick drink. If he says, “Not really,” I’d let it
go unless this becomes a pattern for future holidays and events.
6. Question: I hate family
gatherings. My mom always whines, dad is glued to the TV and doesn’t
talk at all, my sister sits there stoned making excuses about why
she doesn’t work, and I just want to run out the door. When a family
is this dysfunctional, isn’t it okay to just stay away from them?
Answer: Most of us have
so-called dysfunctional families to deal with at the holidays,
but I’m not saying to just put up with it. Try to set it up in
some way that changes that dynamic, such as going to a
restaurant or having them at your house and pre-plan an activity
for everyone. You could also set some boundaries and tell them
all ahead of time: “Okay let’s make this holiday different, no
whining, etc. I’m bringing a game for all of us to play after we
eat (or planning a drive to see the lights, etc.) so that we can
have some interaction together.” If none of these ideas work,
then make it clear that you’re just coming for dinner and excuse
yourself right afterwards. And, yes, another option is to just
stay away altogether, but I’d like for you to try some of the
above first so that you aren’t just avoiding (which is also
7. Question: My husband and
I fight because when we go to his family’s house for Thanksgiving,
they all just watch football, and I’m bored. Why do we have to spend
the whole day there?
Answer: You don’t.
First of all, drive two cars and make a deal with your husband
ahead of time. Let him know that after dinner, you’ll help clean
up and then stay for an hour or so. Then have a plan, like
visiting a lonely friend or taking the kids to the park (while
he watches the game with his family). If you make the deal ahead
of time, and let his family know you’re leaving early, there
shouldn’t be any fighting – or boredom.
8. Question: My wife died
two years ago, and I’ve been dating a new woman for 8 months and my
two adult children are not happy about this. They feel I’ve replaced
their mother, they say they don’t like her, and they refuse to have
Thanksgiving with us. What can I do?
Answer: You need to
have a talk with both of them, together if possible, and let
them know how much you cared about their mom, and that you know
this is difficult for them, but that they will need to accept
your moving on at some point. Make it clear that they do not
have to “like” her or be her “pal,” but that they do have to
respect your decision. Try to make the Thanksgiving dinner low
key and short if they do come, and clue your girlfriend in on
the situation so that she doesn’t try too hard with them. If
they refuse to come after your talk, accept it, realizing that
they’re probably just not ready yet. Hold your boundary, and
hope they will change their mind for the next holiday.
If you know of someone dealing with
holiday family issues you think these answers could help, please
pass this on to them as there are no restrictions on this material.
Return to top >>>
instead of Therapy
still has a stigma for some, so a new way of thinking about
getting help is to get a relationship coach,
life coach, or dating coach. No stigma
and often no long-term sessions. Most of the people who come to
see me are certainly not “sick” or have serious problems anyway.
They usually just need some direction in their lives from an
expert who is outside the situation and has had experience in
helping others. It’s best to go to an expert since friends often
tell you what you want to hear or push you into living your life
the way they live theirs (think about that). Both friends and
family have an investment in the outcome whereas an expert can
usually see the many sides of the issue.
Of course it’s good to come in weekly or regularly for therapy
when you have a serious issue to deal with. And I still do
traditional counseling for issues with self-esteem, depression,
etc. But relationship coaching, life
coaching, and dating coaching can be done
on a more sporadic basis. For instance, you might have a
particular situation like one of the family clashes (I discuss
above) and just need one or two sessions to figure out what to
And that one session can even be by phone if you want, and even
for just a half hour. Maybe you have a dating situation or an
in-law situation where you’re confused as what to do. I can help
you figure it out in a quick phone call or even an email
Of course I work mostly with relationship issues with mates,
parents, children, families work, etc., but I can also direct
you regarding your career, organizational skills, how to promote
yourself in your business, how to “get a life,” how to get
motivated, deciding whether to go back to school or move, and
even gardening (but my gardening advice is always free). If need
be, I can also refer you to other experts in different fields.
So, be sure and tell your friends, family, and acquaintances
about me when they could use a relationship coach
or a dating coach or a life coach –
because telling them that they need therapy, well, that’s just
wrong (and certainly not appreciated)!
Return to top >>>
clients of mine often mention to me that most of my books and
articles are targeted toward women, which is true. I explain
that when I wrote my books, the publishers made it clear that
women buy books and men don’t, so I had to write for the buying
audience. Not only do women buy most of the self-help books, but
they also search online for relationship articles. I do have a
few articles on my website for men, including
It’s Time Men Stand Up
and Say “No! But it’s true that most of my articles
are written for women, and many of them talk about how badly men
treat them. Having said that, I think it’s about time I speak to
the issue of “toxic women.”
Over the years, I’ve watched several of Alan’s buddies date
toxic women. We called them “psycho bitches” at the time. These
women were always beautiful, sexy, often younger, and had a
wildly exciting side to them (the roller coaster effect). His
one friend often married them as well, and then let them take
his money. Today he’s alone and broke because of his pattern
Most of these women weren’t truly psycho, just unstable, fickle,
confused, and emotionally unavailable. It’s not just men who can
be abusive, controlling, and commitmentphobic. My present client
Sam, successful and 40, has a long pattern with this type of
woman. When he talks about these “girlfriends” who always screw
him over in the end, he tells me how beautiful and sexy they
are. And that seems to be all he can focus on. He ignores all
the red flags, like their lies and excuses as they break dates,
their instability in the job market, their exes they always stay
in touch with, their financial instability, that they’re flaky,
and how much they drink or do drugs. They try to tell him it’s
not going to work by saying, “You’re too good for me Sam,” or “I
have too much going on to be in a relationship right now.” But
all he hears is that she thinks he’s good, and that he needs to
try harder to convince her to be with him.
They text, they talk, they have sex. She withdraws, comes back,
makes excuses, then flakes out again. He chases and begs her to
be a normal person so they can have a relationship. Sam admits
that all the clues were there, but that he ignored them. Does he
think he can save her? Maybe? He obsesses over her looks and
fears she’s having sex with someone else – and she always is.
She has no boundaries, no morals, no stability. He keeps hoping
she will be healthy some day. He tries to turn her into the
woman of his dreams because afterall, she is that woman in her
looks and sexuality. But in no other way. Women reading this
might think Sam deserves what he gets because he’s so stuck on
looks and sexuality. And it’s true that he doesn’t “get it.” He
doesn’t try to have an actual relationship with a smart, average
looking woman. But his pattern of choosing women is no more his
fault than a woman’s pattern of choosing emotionally unavailable
men (who are often super attractive). Actually, he’s just
choosing emotionally unavailable women. Yes, just like his
emotionally unavailable mother. We choose toxic people because
we have low self-esteem (often believing we deserve to be
treated this way OR needing the exceptionally attractive person
on our arm to prove we’re good enough), and because of the
patterns set up in childhood.
Sam wants a healthy relationship, but just like many women,
doesn’t know how to find one. He’s stuck. He needs to do what I
tell women to do: not have sex too soon so that he gets to know
the woman and has a chance to see the red flags before he falls
for her. But he won’t do it. He needs to actually search for the
red flags since he knows he has a pattern (he’s been with about
15 women like this). He needs to schedule an appointment with me
for therapy when he first starts dating a woman instead of
waiting until he’s “in love” and losing her, so I can help him
keep his eyes open for the red flags. And, of course, he needs
to work on his mother issues.
Will Sam ever change and have the loving, family relationship he
says he desperately wants? I’m not sure. As his therapist, I can
only give him the information, but can’t control his behavior.
But after the last fiasco with a truly toxic woman, maybe he’ll
think about it. After a couple of months of roller coaster
dating, many lies and secrets she kept, Sam buying her gifts and
bailing her out of various financial problems, she ended up
arrested and calling him from jail (she had broken a restraining
order her ex had against her). Just how far is Sam willing to be
taken down by a “beautiful, sexy” toxic woman?
Men are less likely to seek out therapy, but if you have a
pattern of dating “toxic women,” or know someone who does,
please forward this article to them, and tell them to make an
Return to top >>>
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
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