November 2013

Inside this Newsletter:

Message from Carolyn:

The holidays are almost here, though it hasn't felt like it down here in Tucson. Until the 2-day rainstorm this past weekend, it's been in the high 80's and I've been gardening and even swimming since we got down here in early October. See the picture of the water feature I put in (with help of course). I've also included my backyard picture of the full moon as the sun set over the Catalina Mountains.

I am still conducting phone therapy on Tues, Wed and Thurs afternoons from my in-home office here in Tucson. My main clients are couples who come to me for marriage counseling, singles (some recently divorced, some never married), and of course men and women just working on their own personal issues. A key issue that several of my clients are discussing is their handling of technology in their relationships. Check out my article below on "Are you having an affair with your iPhone?

As the holidays get closer, issues often come up revolving around the family. It may be about which family members to see when or how to handle your spouses mother, or how to endure family members you really don't like. Also, visiting the family during the holidays can bring up issues you had forgotten existed, as old dysfunctional patterns emerge. Whatever the issue, I'm here and available to help you with it.

Alan and I are spending Thanksgiving at our friends Carol and Oscar. At Christmas, we're going to my sister's house in Charlotte this year, and my 87-year-old mom and her boyfriend are flying in. My nephew Brett manages some properties in Ashville, NC so we may spend a few days there as well. We plan to Skype Alan's daughter Alecia, and our 18-month-old grandson David Wayne to wish them a happy holiday.

I've had several friends come down to visit from Denver. When Susan visited recently we shopped, went to the casinos, and sang karaoke, and my friend Carol and I are singing regularly. See my article below using Sarah Barielles words to Brave (a song I'm learning), "Say what you want to say," below. I sing mostly pop songs now, but some of my favorite songs to sing over the years were Linda Ronstat's. Alan just bought me her new book titled Simple Dreams, an autobiography. She grew up in Tucson, so it's fascinating to read about her childhood and her path to fame.

I'm trying to reach out to other women in business down here, as well as make new friends, so I've joined some Meet-up groups of business women, hikers, and "Ladies who lunch in Tucson -- and like Happy Hours" and I'm of course starting with a Happy Hour. That should be an interesting afternoon.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Check out my article below on "7 Tips for the Holidays!"


Say What You Want to Say

Sarah Barielles recent song, Brave, tells us to say what we want to say, and for most people this is harder than anything they've ever encountered. When we're little, we're taught to "be polite," "hold your tongue," "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," and on and on. And I'm sure that many of you still believe this. You don't want to be rude or hurt someone's feelings, so you keep quiet, even when you totally disagree with what's being said. What you may not realize is that every time you keep quiet or don't speak up for what you believe in, you lose a little piece of you who you are, your self-esteem. After awhile you become unsure if you really believe your own thoughts and begin to question yourself.

My 30-year-old client Marissa never spoke up for years. Or if she did, she only did it when she had held her tongue for months. So then when she exploded, her parents and others around her could write off what she said as crazy. Her family has made her feel crazy her entire life. In fact, when she was only 11-years-old, she tried to commit suicide because she felt like something was so wrong with her. Her problem? It was simply that she had emotions, and her family didn't, or at least it appeared that way. She was not allowed to express her emotions, so they would bottle up and then she would explode. Then no one would listen to her words because they wrote her off as crazy. The worst part is that she began to believe that they were right, that she was crazy. After her suicide attempt, her parents did what they believed to be the right thing. They sent her to a therapist. Marissa says that the therapist saved her life because she let Marissa know that she was normal and not crazy. But nothing else changed in her life, including her depression. Her parents glossed over what happened, never discussing the incident with her. In fact, on occasion when they asked her if she was okay, she would lie tell them she was happy because she didn't want to cause them anymore pain. She, in fact, bottled up her emotions even more. She went away to college, and life was somewhat better, but her self-esteem was still low and she still had difficulty finding joy in life. Then she met Sam, an unemotional man who appeared to be very in control of his life, and she was very attracted to him. Little did she know that she was just replacing her parents with Sam so that she could continue to play out the dysfunction she had learned with her family. When she tried to talk to him about the relationship, he did what her parents did, ignored her until she blew up, and then told her she was crazy. She spent 10 more years, 5 of them married to him, banging her head against an unemotional wall. Frustrated, yet still questioning herself instead of those around her, she finally left Sam. By the time she came into my office, she felt that she had solidified the fact that something was truly wrong with her. Her anger and frustration were out of control, and her suicidal thoughts were back.

What was wrong with Marissa? Her childhood, as well as her marriage, had stifled her emotional growth, made her no longer trust her instincts, and damaged her self-esteem to the point that she stopped even trying to speak up for herself. This perpetuated the myth that the problem was hers, when it was really the problems of those around her. They were avoiding their own emotions, faking emotional strength, and sending her the message that she was crazy because she didn't do the same thing.

Once we talked, Marissa got it that it was her parents and ex that had the problem, not her. She began to feel better about herself, like she did when she saw the therapist years ago. However, just knowing this is not enough. It was time for Marissa to trust herself and start speaking the truth to all of those around her. She has to let her parents know that they were wrong in teaching her to bottle up her emotions, and that in fact, they should not be bottling up their own emotions and that is one reason she avoids them. She has to let them know what she really needed from them at age 11, and still needs from them -- to be able to speak up and have them listen, understand, and share emotions back. She has to make it clear to her ex Sam that she knows the problem wasn't hers (though she knows she contributed). She needs to tell him that the problem is his and she won't take the blame for the demise of the relationship.

Marissa has started dating again and starting to speak the truth with the men she's going out with. She told one guy to stop pressuring her to go out when she says no. She has also started standing up to Sam. It's a beginning, but we all know that patterns are hard to break. Once she is able to say everything to her parents that needs to be said (without worrying about their pain more than her own), speaking up will start to come naturally. Like Sarah Barielles says in her song Brave:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out.
Honestly, I want to see you be brave....

Nothing's gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle 'neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight....
Don't run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I want to see you be brave

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I felt empowered and validated from my first session (by phone) with you. So challenging for the monies.

~ Angie in Florida

I just wanted to say thank you -- sincerely thank you-- from the bottom of my heart for all that you do, and you're great at it. I appreciate it and would some day like to be a therapist like you.

~ Terry in Denver

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Are You Having an Affair with Your iPhone?

Are You Having an Affair with Your iPhone?

My client Mary calls her husband's iPhone his mistress. She feels ignored and lonely even when he's home with her. People have become glued to their phones, tablets, and computers and have stopped communicating with each other the way they used to. My client John says that their sex life went straight downhill when they started climbing into bed together with their individual laptops. I hate the idea of a couple lying in bed next to each other with their two computers. When she wouldn't agree to stop, he starting watching porn while lying next to her, and she freaked out.

Many people are now choosing technology over their loved ones. My client Sue says now that she's finally found a wonderful man, she's worried because she knows she avoids him by constantly using her iPhone -- even when she's sitting next to him on the couch. She starts playing games and searching the internet -- nothing really important. She says it's more fun than communicating with him, even though she knows it's damaging the relationship. She's starting to worry about herself and her ability to be intimate and affectionate. Some couples complain to me about each other using too much technology. I tell them how to fix it with boundaries, but they hesitate because they want the boundary set for their mate, but not themselves. They're as addicted as their partners are.

When we talk about setting boundaries, parents will often set boundaries with their kids, like no phones at the dinner table (which is good). But they won't keep that same boundary. We talk about the fact that our youth is becoming unable to communicate in a normal healthy way and are losing their social skills, but it's not just them. Family time has all but disappeared, and couples have accepted it as normal since everyone seems to be doing it. Sue admits to me that she should put her phone down, but would not promise to do it. Without a "deal" with her husband, where she admits the problem, she'll probably never change it.

Start by setting some boundaries with the whole family. No technology at the dinner table, period. No computers or tablets after a certain time in the evening. Discuss it with everyone and make it realistic. Everyone will want some exceptions, like when they're expecting a certain call, but it's best to say, "Tell them to call before 7pm next time." If you can't agree to set a time to turn off all technology, at least set aside an hour or so of no technology, especially with your partner. Start somewhere. Promise yourself to put intimacy and communication back into your life.

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7 Tips for the Holidays

7 Tips for the Holidays

Some people look forward to the holidays and others dread them. The chances are that you are like thousands of others feeling the holiday pressures of too little time and too much work, too little money and too many demands, and too great a desire to please everyone because of too many family expectations. The holidays can be a lot of fun and/or a lot of trouble. No matter whether you dread this time of year or look forward to it, you can make your holidays better with some tips like I’ve shared with my Denver clients.

My client Mary, a single mom going through a divorce, always overbooks and tries to meet everyone’s expectations, but this holiday she doesn’t have the energy or the time. But that hasn’t stopped her family and friends from expecting her to what they want (afterall, she always has). But this year Mary as promised to put herself first, and say no.

My client Joe no longer wants to spend the holidays with his family. He says they all pretend that everything is fine while his mom whines, his dad doesn’t talk, and his brother (who’s too old to still be living at home) sits there stoned, making excuses about why he doesn’t work. I’m helping Joe confront his family about his feelings, and spend time with them only if they agree to his new boundaries. And if not, he’ll do his own thing, and not feel guilty.

Cindy, on the other hand, feels sad that she might not be with her family this year. She recently had a fight with her mom and they’re not speaking. Cindy believes the issue is not resolvable and refuses to give in to her mom. But she especially feels bad for her two-year-old not getting to spend the holidays with her grandparents. I’m helping Cindy find a way to make peace with her family in a way that allows them to have their differences – and still have a good holiday together.

  1. Don’t do the “shoulds.” Don’t spend the holidays just meeting obligations to others. Balance what you want to do with what you feel you should do. When friends or family tell you things you should do this holiday season, stop them. Tell them that you won’t feel guilty for trying to enjoy yourself. For instance, say, “I know I should visit Aunt Matilda while I’m home, but I’ve decided not to this year and I don’t want you trying to make me feel guilty.

  2. Set advance boundaries with family and friends. “I’ll only be there for 2 hours mom, so don’t get upset when I have to leave.” “I’m going to have wine with dinner, so don’t say anything when I do.” After dinner, Joanie and I are going out, so know that I have plans for that evening.” “If you do criticize my weight again, I’ll remind you to stop once, and if you don’t, I’ll leave.”

  3. Lower your expectations. We all have our fantasies of how we want the holiday to be, often forgetting how they turned out in the past, thinking that this time will be different. You can still hope for the best, but you must prepare for the worse, i.e. your uncle getting drunk, your sister making a scene, a family member being rude to you, or whatever. We’re all from dysfunctional families. Our mom, dad, or brother probably didn’t express their love the way we wanted them to as we grew up, why would we think they will this year?

  4. Don’t overbook. Like Mary, learn to say no. We often want to please everyone, even at our own expense. If you try to do too much, you will resent it and probably end up exploding at the wrong people. Think each situation through and only say yes to things that really sound like something you want to do. And even then, don’t try to fit in more than one thing at a time or you’ll end up exhausted.

  5. Create intimacy. Most of us wish we felt closer to the person sitting beside us at the holiday dinner. You can be closer if you will be more real since authenticity creates intimacy. Be open about yourself and ask them personal questions. Ask a relative you would like to be closer to to take a walk or a trip to the store to have that private time. Stay up late once it’s quiet and talk to someone you care about. Write a long letter to a friend or relative that you haven’t had time to see.

  6. Get involved. Whether it’s getting involved with helping prepare the meal or getting involved with the soup kitchen for the poor, getting involved always makes you feel connected. If you don’t want to help cook, plan the music for that holiday. Or, go sing holiday songs at the nearest old folks home.

  7. Take care of yourself. Be sure that your happiness and comfort are the focus. Imagine the holiday the way you want it, not having the drunken uncle over or a fun group outing instead of just football all day? Special time with your dad? A trip to the casinos? Speak up about what you want. And if your family doesn’t agree, find a way to fit in some of your “wants” anyway.

Instead of falling in line and having the holidays the same way they are year after year, change it. This year, prepare ahead following my 7 Tips, and you can orchestrate the holidays and have them just the way you want!

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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 26 years.

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