Inside this Newsletter:
Message from Carolyn:
As most of you probably
know, Alan and I left Denver for Tucson on December 21.
We are now officially permanent snowbirds – wintering
(Nov through April) in Tucson and spending the summer
(May through October) in Colorado. I am still doing
therapy, dating coaching, and marriage counseling, but
by phone now, and it’s going well. I hear it has been a
warm and dry winter in Denver. To our dismay, it has
been a colder than usual winter here in Tucson. It’s
quite an adjustment for me to have closed my office for
the winter and be working from home. I actually miss
getting dressed up and going into the office, and I look
forward to having a part-time office in Denver again
We drove the cats down here
with us (15 hour drive), which was of course not fun. We
had an outdoor cat cage built for them that’s attached
to the house. Yes, they are spoiled. They’re adjusting
very well, but the two feral cats howl at night wanting
It’s been strange to
actually have time on my hands. They say, “If you want
something done, give it to a busy person.” And it’s
true. I accomplished more when I was busier. But I’m
starting to adjust. I’m gardening, although my tomato
plants froze during our cold weather, but my lettuce and
green onions are an inch high, and my geraniums and
petunias are still blooming (they’re considered winter
plants down here). I’m taking Zumba dance classes, have
made a new friend in the classes, and am hoping to lose
a few pounds. I still sing karaoke once a week with my
friend Carol, and I hope to start writing more again and
maybe even starting a blog. I invite your questions
and/or topics you would like to see me address. I’ve
answered one below, and written about one of my favorite
topics, “Looking Forward to Being Attacked”
(emotionally/verbally of course).
Hope you had great holidays
and a great January and that you’re all keeping your New
Year’s Resolutions. Enjoy the Superbowl this weekend,
even though the Broncos didn’t make it!
Q&A - Making
It in a Long-Term Relationship
used to feel crazy in love with my partner, and that motivated me to
work through issues with him. But over the last few years, I don’t
want to bother with the arguments as I don’t seem to care enough. I
still love him, but I feel too exhausted to fight with him. My
attitude is “Screw it, it doesn’t’ matter anyway!” How do I get
enough energy back to actually do what I know I should do to fix
I know it’s difficult to face issues in a relationship, and it’s
easier to avoid them, especially when issues often don’t actually
get resolved and then just create more bad feelings. That crazy
in-love feeling we have at the beginning of a relationship does
usually diminish somewhat over time, and part of that is normal.
But, leaving issues unresolved builds more and more resentment,
which will eventually completely kill the “in-love” feeling
How it should work is that the crazy in-love feeling grows into a
deeper kind of love over time as a couple is vulnerable with each
other and works through their issues together. This gives each of
you a better understanding of your mate, helping the deeper love
grow. By avoiding the issues, however, this never happens and the
relationship becomes stagnant and boring. Both people eventually
become unhappy with their mate and themselves, damaging both
It sounds like this is where you are in your relationship, and that
you are angry at yourself too for letting it happen. It’s hard not
to be depressed in a situation like this. Depression, of course,
takes all of your energy away and causes your “Screw it!” reaction.
Instead of avoiding your emotions, start by journaling your
resentment and anger so you at least slow down your depression
and/or numbness. Turn your self-anger outward on paper. Be sure that
you journal in first person and to your partner, i.e. “I am angry at
you for ……,” instead of talking “about” the issues or blaming
yourself (that will keep you exhausted). Anger can energize you. It
would be good to ask your partner to do the same exercise. Then you
can both come together to negotiate. Both of you need to use my 4
Steps of Healthy Communication:
I feel _____when you_____.
I want _______.
Will you do this and this?
If not, I will _______.
The “If not, I will ____” part of my 4 steps needs to help you take
some sort of action, whether it involves going out with friends when
your mate won’t go with you or you deciding to leave the
Hopefully, this exercise will energize you, give you hope, and help
the two of you create some healthy negotiations where you both give
each other more of what the other wants. If your partner won’t
cooperate with you, you can try to get him or her to join you in
therapy, or seek therapy yourself to help motivate you to bring this
to a head. If none of this works for you, you need to move on and
leave the relationship to stop the downhill spiral you are in. For
most people, once you get your frustrations out and start making
deals, your energy comes back and you can build a healthier
relationship for the future.
This year take a look at your family dynamics. Note whether or not
you see yourself in some of their bad behavior. Think about how
certain behaviors of theirs have affected your own relationships.
Use this time as an opportunity to make changes in your life that
will improve all of your relationships, as well as make your
holidays better in the future!
Return to top >>>
Forward to Being Attacked
forward to being attacked” sounds crazy, I know, especially since
most people hate confrontations. In fact, many people avoid
confrontation at all costs. But being attacked (at least verbally
and emotionally) is something that happens to most of us on a
regular basis. Yet few of us ever develop the confrontational skills
needed to defend ourselves in these situations. This leaves us easy
prey for bosses, co-workers, family, friends, and mates who want to
control us. Our fear of confrontation lets others take control and
hurt us. When this happens, we either expose our weakness, or hold
in our pain and anger until we explode, often causing damage to the
wrong people. Not only does our self-esteem get damaged, but the
actual problem never gets resolved.
Years ago I picked up a book titled Looking Forward to Being
Attacked. It was a self-defense book, but the title
intrigued me. What if we changed our attitude from fear of being
attacked to looking forward to standing up for ourselves? Over the
years, I’ve worked on this attitude myself, as well as teaching it
to my clients. To gain this type of confidence, however, you have to
practice – just as you would with any sport or any special activity
such as singing or dancing. Yet, confrontation is not something most
people want to practice.
It’s surprising how often very confident-appearing people let
themselves get intimidated just because they’re afraid to stand up
for themselves. Take Nancy for instance, an attractive woman in her
mid-forties who appears very strong. Her co-workers and family would
say that she does stand up for herself because she often explodes on
a dime. But she is actually short-tempered because she usually
doesn’t stand up for herself. She says, “People aren’t respectful to
me and don’t seem to like me. I try to ignore it and can’t seem to
say what’s on my mind to them. Then it builds up and I’m mean to
them. Then again they don’t like me. It’s a vicious cycle.”
My 35-year-old client Dan has a similar problem. His boss constantly
rides him. He feels so intimidated that he is miserable at work
every day, constantly complaining to anyone who will listen as he
searches for a different job. Then when he gets home, he has a
tendency to take it out on his wife and kids. Afterwards he feels
guilty which further damages his self-esteem.
And my client Marie, who is young but has worked at the same company
for several years, also avoids confrontation. Actually, she avoids
interactions with people altogether (unless she’s known them for
years), but fools herself into thinking it’s because she doesn’t
like most people. But that’s just her defense talking. She covers
her pain with a cold, bitchy attitude toward co-workers and the men
she meets. In her last review at work, her boss told her that she
doesn’t play nice with others, and that her behavior needs to
change. Her attitude affects her personal life too as she admits
that she stayed with her last boyfriend way too long because she has
difficulty meeting new people.
All three clients spend most of their time covering their
insecurities with a façade of fake strength. It’s fake because they
feel rejected which erodes their self-confidence on a regular basis.
But nothing ever changes because they continue to avoid much-needed
confrontations. They confuse “strength” with protecting themselves.
True strength is being able to stand up for yourself by handling
emotional and verbal attacks as they occur.
Dan recently had an encounter with his boss and finally told him,
“If you think I’m doing such a bad job, why don’t you just fire me
and get it over with!” His boss was shocked that Dan even felt that
way. He backed down, reassuring Dan that he needs him, and has
stopped criticizing him. Dan can’t believe it – he assumed that
standing up to his boss would get him fired, but it didn’t. Dan had
taken his boss’s criticism personally (as most of us do), but now
realizes that the problem is just in the way his boss manages. Dan
has developed a new attitude he now calls “keeping my swagger.”
Nancy is also learning that instead of continuing to be nice to try
and win over her co-workers who are being disrespectful, she needs
to tell them that she doesn’t like the way they are behaving toward
her and to stop it. She has to learn not to fear them, realizing
that they have many insecurities themselves that make them behave
that way. She just needs to train them how to treat her.
And Marie says that her bad attitude toward her co-workers comes
from how much they irritate her when they ask stupid questions and
seem lazy, so she just gives them the cold shoulder, hoping they’ll
get the hint and leave her alone. People accuse her of acting like
she’s better than them, but she actually realizes deep inside that
she’s socially inept. She’s been using her defensive ways so long
that she doesn’t know what else to say or do. She’s agreed to start
trying to tell people how she feels and what she wants. With her
co-workers she’ll say, “I have to be honest, it irritates me when
you ask me that question when I know you already know how to do
that. I want to see you try, and then I’ll help you if I see that
you need it.” It’s a very simple change, but an important one. And
her co-workers may still not like her reaction, but at least the
issue can get resolved and Marie can start connecting with people
Real confidence comes from knowing that you can handle whatever
situations come your way. And avoiding something is not the same as
“handling” it. Avoiding will keep others’ bad behavior going and
will not help you get what you want in the long run. Standing up for
yourself -- by letting people know how you feel about what just
happened and what you want changed -- will help you have the
strength to “look forward to being attacked.”
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 25
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