February 2014

Inside this Newsletter:


Message from Carolyn:

Happy Valentines Day! Alan and I have now been together happily for over 26 years. Not that we never had problems, especially in those early days. But we worked them through, and because we did, everything got easier. Below I've written an article on "Rules for Lasting Love." This information not only comes from being a relationship therapist for many years now, but from making sure that my relationship with Alan has stayed healthy.

For those of you who are single, you might want to check out my list below Ten Reasons You're Not Married Yet. And I'm not saying you should be married or in a relationship, as I was single for years and enjoyed it at the time. But you may find some reasons here that you haven't been successful in finding love if you are looking for it.

Alan and I (see picture from a couple nights ago) are going out to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants again for Valentine's Day. This winter has been wonderful here in Tucson this year, unusually warm and we've joined more activities and made some new friends. I hiked the Catalina Mountains yesterday (see picture below) which was nice, but nothing around here is as beautiful as Colorado. I do miss Colorado, but not the winter you have all had, of course. I'm glad we'll be back in May. We have friends from Colorado coming down to visit this next week for the golf tournament.

Last week a dove hit our window (which happens a lot). They usually either eventually fly away or die, but this time the dove seemed fine except for a broken wing. Our backyard is enclosed with a wall so he was safe and we fed it. After several days we became worried as to his future, so I found a group called Forever Wild that takes in the animals, gets them veterinarian care and then releases them in the wild, so I took him there. I just called and checked on him and they say he's doing fine.

For fans of the TV series Breaking Bad (which Alan & I just finished watching the last 5 seasons of on Netflix, and the last season is supposed to be available at the end of the month), I wrote an article below on Skylar (Walter's wife) after reading a lot of online trash about her role and even about the actress herself. Even if you haven't seen the show, you might enjoy the article as it discusses women's choices in relationships.

A new magazine called Closer Weekly came out recently and they have been calling me for my opinion on several stories regarding star's relationships, including articles on Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, and Bruce Springsteen and his long-term marriage. I also commented on this week's article about Liam Neisen and how he is handling his grief from his wife's death a few years ago, and how to get past grief. This magazine is trying something new -- to try and report positive things going on with the stars in every article. I hope they succeed.

I'm still regularly talking to clients on the phone in Denver and other places around the country, and even have a couple of new "in-person" clients down here in Tucson. I'll of course be back in Denver this summer with in-person office hours again.

I hear it has warmed up in Denver, so wishing you all a warmer spring!

 

Carolyn

Rules for Lasting Love

1) An attitude of "It's you and me against the world."

This is created by talking about beliefs and how much you are alike on certain things, and even how different you are from others. Don't keep secrets or stay politically correct when speaking with your mate, as you should be able to say anything to your partner. Share things you love or can't stand, as this intensifies the bond. Even if you have huge differences, talking about them often helps you find certain areas you agree on. Keep a sense of humor when dealing with each other. To deepen the bond, reminisce about the good times you've had together. Keep reminding each other why you chose to be together. Remind your mate what it is you love and admire about him or her on a regular basis.

2) Be a partner to your mate, not a parent.

No one wants to be told what to do or what they did wrong. Couples like to fight about who is right and wrong and hold it over the other's head when they are right. Don't get on a high horse about anything, whether it's smoking or exercising or what someone eats. No criticizing, scolding, or talking bad about him or her. Never say something to others about your mate that you haven't said to him/her and tried to work through. Instead, focus on how much you are alike. Regularly say things like, "It's amazing that we both think that way."

3) Treat your partner with respect and humanness.

Each person is different from others and makes mistakes because of their own humanness. You know this about your friends, but need to also accept this about your mate. We think of our mates as a reflection of ourselves and want them to be perfect like we want ourselves to be. But it's not fair. Give each other a break. Don't assume that your mate is trying to hurt you when he or she makes a simple mistake. Give your mate the benefit of the doubt, the way you would a friend. Don't make him or her feel like they're a bad person because they are different than you. Overlook little things that bug you, and in fact embrace and accept their quirks. Don't try to change your mate, but on important issues, let them know what serious behaviors they need to change when they are around you. Work with your mate, not against them.

4) Resolve issues as quickly as possible.

Nothing tears a relationship apart more than a recurring unresolved issue. If you have an issue you can't get resolved, go see a therapist so you can move on and stop building resentment. Sometimes it's difficult for one or both of you to bring up issues. It's important that both of you communicate and be emotionally honest about what's going on. If you are the more outspoken one in the relationship, your mate probably feels controlled and is afraid to speak up. To change this dynamic, regularly ask him or her, "Are there any issues or problems in the relationship that you haven't told me?" Then be ready to hear their answer without getting defensive. To resolve issues, think as if you are two businesses that have to compromise to be able to move on and both succeed. Most issues can be resolved if both people say what they feel and want, listen to their mate's wants, and agree to compromise. Then make win/win deals with consequences. And after a fight, be sure to make repair statements like, "Sorry about this morning. I know we see it differently, but I really love you and am sure we can get this worked out. I feel like we're okay now, are we okay?"

5) Make romance a priority.

In a recent article in Closer Weekly (2/17/14, pp 23), Julia Roberts talks about her relationship with Danny Moder, saying, "Eleven years feels like 11 minutes. It's really only all these kids in our house that shows a lot of time has gone by. Otherwise it feels like...me buckling and swooning still." Many couples focus on the children and work, thinking they can pick the romance back up when there is time. And it's not true. Usually once the romance is gone, it's gone. It's not that you have to work at romance so much as you have to schedule in time for it. Make having fun together a priority as this and sex are the glue that hold together the relationship. In that same issue of Closer Weekly (pp 22), Felicity Huffman says that what she and William H. Macy do to keep their relationship fresh is, "We have frequent date nights and we find a hotel and we just get away for a weekend." Also in that issue of Closer Weekly (pp 30) a friend of James Brolin and Barbra Streisand says, "She's always the center of his attention and that makes her feel beautiful." And of course when a woman or a man feels loved, the relationship stays stronger.

6) Stay in control of your own life and happiness.

Couples often still believe that it's your mate's job to make you happy, that if each person focuses on the happiness of the other instead of themselves, that's the key to a good relationship. But it's not true. Instead, this belief only causes blame. When couples "sacrifice" for the other in the name of making their mate happy, they end up resenting and feeling ripped off by each other. And yes, couples need to coordinate with each other and agree on the rules of the relationship (like each has a night out with their friends once a week, we try to go to bed together 3 nights a week, etc.), but each person needs to be able to have their own space and own friends and hobbies and not feel pressured -- whether it's nights out taking a class or drinking with friends or it's having alone time in the same house, or both. Barbra Streisand says (Closer Weekly, pp 30) that while she's singing in her home studio, he's on his computer, and that's perfectly fine. "It's like we're in the same house or in the same room, and he does his thing and I do my thing." There still needs to be quality time together of course, as well as alone time. If each of you focus on making yourself happy, then there should be two non-resentful, happy people living in the house, honoring each other's dreams and aspirations.

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Breaking Bad's Skylar -- Victim or Bitch?

I've only finished the first half of Season 5 of Breaking Bad (streaming on Netflix) and am eagerly awaiting the rest. I've just read all of the hate articles about Walter's wife Skylar, where some viewers are actually criticizing the actress Anna Gunn who plays her. And yes, I have hated Skylar as I've watched the show, but to me, it just proves what a great actress Anna Gunn is. I hate Skylar because she represents the worst in what women can become: cold, judgmental, controlling, bitchy, hypocritical. She stays in a bad situation so long that in her mind her resentment then justifies her bad behavior. As a relationship therapist, I see this behavior quite often in many of the "wives" who come to see me.

In an article written by the actress Anna Gunn, she herself says that those devoted to hating her "has become a flash point for many people's feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women." She also asks, "Could it be that they can't stand a woman who won't suffer silently or 'stand by her man?' That they despise her because she won't back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter's equal?" She suggests that people's hatred of her character Skylar has to do with their own perception of women and wives, inferring that misogynists are still very much alive. I don't believe that is the issue.

As I read many of the comments and do agree that criticizing her weight gain still seems somewhat sexist to me, I also believe that weight gain was a necessary part of the story about what happens to a woman who stays in an unhappy relationship, no matter what the reason is.

As a relationship therapist, watching the early episodes where Walter would not talk to Skylar about anything -- his cancer, where he had been, or any of his feelings -- I hated Walter and felt bad for Skylar. I believe Vince Gilligan did a great job of showing Skylar's resentment building up toward Walter. Skylar was conflicted, but finally made a decision not to divorce him, but to "grin and bear it" for the sake of the family, or the money, or both. She decided to stay even though by this point she hated Walter. This is a bad decision that many women make, and it is not what a "strong" woman does. This is instead "victim" behavior and what led to Skylar's inconsistent behavior in the future. Like many women in a situation where they resent their husbands but want to keep the family together, she would see no way out. Because she actually did not feel equal to Walt, she would get mean and more controlling, thinking that this would at least make her feel better.

And of course Skylar was not "standing by her man," but we need not be angry about that or pity her. She was instead "enduring" a bad situation -- by choice. Many people think it's strong to endure something to save the family, but all it does is cause intense resentment, which she displayed more and more of. Enduring a situation also enables each person's bad behavior.

My client Sammie did exactly the same thing. Her husband stopped talking to her as he built his business and a financial empire. She stayed in the relationship for her child and for the money. This is a common story. She, like Skylar, was possibly bi-polar to begin with, so as her anger and resentment built, her behavior became more and more bizarre. She would be self-righteous and bitchy one minute. Then she would feel bad that she wasn't trying, so she would spend a few days acting nice and supportive, only to go back to her bitchy behavior. As this would happen, her husband Joe would pull away more and more, confused by her behavior. Sammie would get more resentful and angry, continually nagging and harping at him, trying to knock him off that high horse of success. She kept that judgmental, scolding look on her face at all times as she piled on the weight. They are now divorced, but still play out their dysfunction as they deal with their son.

Viewers of Breaking Bad seldom judge Walter's behavior in the relationship. He may have grown into a heavyweight in his drug business, but he remained weak when it came to Skylar. He let her throw him out of the house (and yes finally stood up and came back) and let her send the kids to Hank and Marie's. But he seldom stood up to her on any issues, even small ones, or ever communicated at all until he would finally blow up.

Both Skylar and Walter show what happens in a relationship when a couple stops communicating. It takes two to keep a bad relationship going. But viewers excused Walter's "weakness" with Skylar for the same reason they (myself included) excused his making meth since he was doing it all "for the family." As a relationship therapist, I was constantly appalled by his passivity with Skylar. He enabled her to become more and more of a bitch, silently acting as if he deserved the bad treatment. Again, this is common in relationships, but there seems to be little understanding from viewers as to how Walter helped create Skylar's cold, judgmental behavior. I hate Skylar too, but I know women just like her. I think she pushes a lot of buttons for both men and women. Men hope to never be with a woman like her and women hope to never become her. I believe Anna Gunn herself is hated because she plays this role too well.

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10 Reasons You're Not Married Yet

  1. You choose people who are unavailable

  2. You will settle for nothing less than a 10

  3. You're looking for a husband or wife, not a person

  4. You've become too complacent

  5. You're too cool and aloof

  6. You suffer from, "I have to wait until...."

  7. You're still hung up on an ex

  8. You're jaded about relationships

  9. You're insecure, thinking you're above or below everyone you meet

  10. You fear a relationship as much as you want it

(To read the complete article (written for women, sorry guys), click here.

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Q & A: Why Is He Pulling Away?

Question:

My husband and I have been married 33 years. About 10 years ago, I developed a terrible anger problem. My husband and I went to marriage counseling but I stopped going after a couple of months. My husband had begged me to stay in counseling for my anger issues but I didn’t listen. He put up with my anger for years but eight months ago after one final angry outburst I had toward our 16 year old daughter, my husband had a meltdown, cried and said “that’s it.” He left saying he wouldn’t live
another day like this.

But after 2 weeks he began to come home on weekends. We don’t sleep together or even in the same room, but are on good talking terms and go out to eat and do errands together when he comes home. I love him dearly and he’s a great dad to our daughter.

Since he left, I’ve been going to a therapist for anger management and working very hard learning how to manage it. My therapist thinks I’m doing well and others have noticed a change too. When I asked my husband if he thought I was doing well, he sort of minimally agreed that I was.

But when I press him about reconciling, his standard line is, “Today I don’t want to be married – who knows how I will feel in a year.” He refuses to discuss reconciliation and won’t go back to a therapist with me for marriage counseling. His emotions run hot and cold. One day he wants a kiss and a hug, the next day he doesn’t, and he never wants sex.

I’m nice to him, cook him dinners and I guess I’m just hoping he changes his mind. Occasionally he reminds me that he still wants a divorce but he hasn’t made attempts to file papers. He’s said if we divorce it will be in two to three years.

So, my question is, should I keep things the way they are and hope things get better? Or should I file for divorce in the near future? During the holidays I asked my sister why he hasn’t come home as yet and she said, "Because he knows 1)you want him home and 2) he knows he can come home at anytime.

Answer:

Your husband has his cake and eat it too, as they say. He can have the warmth of feeling like a family anytime he wants it, and the rest of the time he can be single and do whatever he wants. Your sister is right. Many people, especially many men, would love to have this arrangement. Why would he do anything else? You obviously feel guilty and wish you had worked on the relationship before he gave up on it, but guilt isn't going to get you anywhere. Besides, you say you had an anger problem, but do you not remember the things you were angry at him about? Don't forget that you had to have issues with him as well as it's never a one-way street.

You are making it way too easy on him, and allowing him to toy with you at this point. You need to let him know that he is either "in" or "out." Don't give him hugs or kisses or dinners or anything else unless he is committed to working on the relationship with you. My guess is that it is too late to repair the relationship since he waited until he felt like "That's it," and because he doesn't want to have sex with you anymore. If he refuses to work on it, which I think he will, then tell him he can't come home anymore and that you are filing for the divorce because "now you aren't willing to live like this anymore." To get over him, look back at the issues you had with him in the past and move on. Start dating again, and if he does still love you at all, his fear of losing you will bring him back. If not, you need to move on anyway.

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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.

You can find articles by Carolyn on her website and Examiner.com.

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