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 below.

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.

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Holiday Family Clashes

(Client Questions Answered)

1. 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 choose?”

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 advance.

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 dysfunctional).

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.

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Coaching instead of Therapy

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 do.

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 session.

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)!

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Toxic Women

Male 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 with women.

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 appointment.

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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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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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