My 34-year-old client Al hates going home for Christmas because he knows he'll once again get judged about what he's doing with his life. He's smart and attractive, but has never found a career that he's into, and hasn't ever really had a long-term relationship. He tells them of the fun things he's been doing as a single person, and all they have to say is, "When are you ever going to grow up and settle down?" They tell him that they "worry" about him, that they feel really "down" that he can't seem to find himself, that they would some day like some grandkids.
Al makes excuses about why he lost that last job and how the dating world is crazy out there. Then they tell him how well his younger sister is doing and that she just got a big promotion. He leaves feeling worse and wondering what really is wrong with him.
Al came into therapy, admitting that he's not happy with where his life is now and asking me to help him. We talked about his job choices and we discussed his strengths and weaknesses, as well as some other options. We talked about dating and he said he just hangs out with his buddies on weekends and is too afraid to ask someone out. We talked about his fantasy of becoming a musician and how he spends much of his time playing the guitar and fantasizing that he will be a star one day. We had talks about dealing with reality instead of fantasy. I helped him set some boundaries with himself, like only letting himself play the guitar once he has enough money to pay his bills. We set up a list of goals regarding work and women and his future in general, but he had trouble following through. Then we talked about his lack of motivation which is caused by his low self-esteem.
We discussed his childhood and how his parents were always busy and never had time for him, so he would get lost in his guitar and fantasy world. But he says, "But I had a great childhood!" His parents bought him whatever he wanted, but they never really talked to him about what he wanted to be or if he liked a girl or anything else except to tell him what he was doing wrong. He had no guidance, no mentor, and remained a loner. So he kept doing what he was doing, including enduring their criticism.
I convinced him that being left alone to do whatever he wanted to do was not a great childhood, and that his greatest problem today is that he still endures their criticism. "But they're right about me, he says." I told him, "Unless they are perfect and have never made a mistake in their lives, they have no right to criticize you, and you have to tell them that." Allowing his parents to continue to judge and criticize him was why he had low self-esteem. And low self-esteem caused his lack of motivation, and success (in whatever he chooses) is not possible without motivation.
It was hard, but Al decided he would stand up to them. He let them know that they never encouraged him or spent quality time with him when he was growing up. He told them to back off and stop telling him how to live his life and that they've made mistakes in their lives too. He told them how the criticism damages his self-esteem and makes him want to give up, even in trying to date women. He let them know that their comments make him feel "not good enough." He set a boundary with them that they could no longer give him their negative comments. And instead of telling them his failures like he used to do, he is facing them and finding answers for his own future. This is growing up.
Al's life has already begun to change. He has taken on a second job, is going back to school to finish his computer science degree, and has lost 14 pounds. He's been flirting with a co-worker at his new job, and the next step is asking her out.
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"Susan & Mark"
Is it possible for a "set in their ways" older couple to save a 22 year marriage? Absolutely, but it will be the hardest thing each of us has ever done. And we needed our new therapist, Carolyn Bushong, to show us the way.
Mark had a terrible temper and I myself "inherited" my mother's drama and dirty fighting tendencies. However, at the time, I truly believed that every problem in my marriage was Mark's fault and I honestly had no idea there was anything wrong with me.
When Mark & I met, Mark had just gone through a nasty divorce that still involved court proceedings; and early in our relationship, I was in a terrible car accident. So things didn't start out very well with both of us in pain and feeling quite negative about life.
However, we were very much in love and stood by each other on the big issues, but we fought constantly about all the small stuff. He picked on me about things like how he didn't like the way I organized a cabinet to calling me an overspender. I nagged at him about everything from not fixing the gate the right way to his hobby of fixing up old cars. One of us was always on the other one about something. The long-lasting screaming matches were exhausting and almost unbearable. We had gone to counseling several different times throughout the years to no avail. We both just continued to blame the other. Mark didn't really even believe in therapy as he was a know-it-all and always thought he could solve everything himself. Besides, he wasn't going to have some therapist tell him how to live his life.
So, totally frustrated with Mark and my life, I began therapy with Carolyn Bushong by myself. I'm glad I did because I was forced to work on my own personal issues. The work was hard and Carolyn confronted me regularly on my drama and bad behavior, not only with Mark, but also with her as well. I had a habit of overstepping everyone's boundaries.
In therapy, I struggled with my relationship issues with friends, as well as Mark. I had to learn to change some of my behavior that I had never even questioned before. As we worked together, Carolyn & I both began to realize that I had not only inherited my mother's bad behavior, but also her tendency toward Bipolar Disorder. She referred me to a psychiatrist for medication which stabilized me and helped me understand what I needed to do in therapy. At this point I was able to control my bad behavior with Mark, but his angry explosions continued.
I finally told Mark that I was at the end of my rope with our marriage and was ready to call an attorney and walk away. He begged me for one more chance. I was hesitant, but we both agreed that we still loved each other. We just didn't know how to get along. I agreed to stay and work on it with the condition that he do both joint and private therapy with Carolyn.
In joint sessions with both of us, Carolyn pointed out the bad behaviors we were both displaying and forced us to stop pointing the finger of blame at each other. She explained how both of our bad behaviors made us feel unloved and insecure -- which then made each of us act worse toward each other.
During my individual therapy, Carolyn helped me understand that I was behaving with Mark the same way that my mother behaved with me -- criticizing and yelling at Mark until I got my way. She reminded me of how my mother's verbal abuse affected my self-esteem and made me feel like I couldn't win. In the past, Mark had continually told me that he felt like he couldn't win with me no matter what he did. I now understood.
In Mark's private sessions with Carolyn, she helped him understand that his rigid rules about how things are supposed to be and his fierce temper when things didn't go his way were exactly like his grandfather's behavior. He fought her at first and denied that these behaviors had anything to do with his grandfather. But as he continued to work with her, he finally realized that he learned to behave that way when he saw his grandfather dominating and controlling his grandmother.
Mark and I still wanted to blame each other until she helped us see the others' point of view and how we each learned our bad behavior from our childhood experiences. She told us that to permanently break the pattern, each of us needed to write a letter to the person who taught us our bad behaviors (even though those family members were no longer alive). We had to confront them for teaching us the behaviors that were now destroying our relationship with each other (as well as our marriages in the past).
Counseling with Carolyn was extremely difficult for both of us to adhere to and we both fought her tooth and nail. But she tells it like it is and doesn't let anyone slide. Our relationship almost ended because we were both so stubborn.
Now we have a much calmer relationship. And when one of us does make a mistake and goes back to a bad behavior, we talk about it, realizing that it's just because of what we learned in our childhoods and that neither of us is trying to hurt the other. We now stop ourselves and apologize.
Finally now that we're older and not knowing how many years we have left, we've learned to work together and have a happy, loving and peaceful relationship. We know that we did the work, but we truly do thank Carolyn Bushong for saving our marriage!
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I'm 38 and recently divorced with a 3-year-old child and I'm dating a new man who can't seem to get over his ex. I was in a bad relationship for 18 years where my husband basically ignored me. I thought if I gave him love, he'd finally love me, but he never did. I've been friends with this guy at work for years, and now that I'm available, we've been hanging out a lot and I'm starting to have feelings for him. The problem is that he has told me that he's not over his ex. A year ago he proposed to her and then found out she had been cheating on him. I know it broke his heart, and I understand, but he needs to let go. He says he doesn't want to get into a relationship and certainly doesn't want any drama. But he doesn't always act like that's true. We've been getting close, and he's met my daughter and my mom. He calls or texts me almost every day now. Then once in awhile, he'll stop texting and pull away and I freak out. We've only had a couple of sleepovers in the six months we've been hanging out and he's been hesitant about having sex, but we did twice. I really like him and don't want to give up on him. How can I get him to fall in love with me?
I'm glad that you have left your husband and that you have a new
friend to hang out with, but he is not "relationship" material at
this point. I think you've done what many singles do after a divorce
which is get close to the next person that's available instead of
trying to find someone who is right for you. He's made it clear that
he doesn't want a relationship and it doesn't matter how great you
are, he's not ready. The fact that he's attentive and then pulls
back means that he's enjoying it, but then gets overwhelmed and
scared when it starts feeling like a relationship. This behavior
won't change, it will only get worse.
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Sometimes life gets out of control and there seems to be too many pieces to know where to start. It might be anything that throws your life out of whack -- a divorce, lost job, or a move. Maybe you retired and don't know what to do with yourself or are having trouble with mid-life dating. Maybe you want to explore a new career or want a new "look." Perhaps you're just floundering in life and need someone to talk to and help you with direction and boundary-setting. That's why my new client Allison called me.
Allison's mother recently passed, and they had been extremely close, and she now feels lost without her. Since then, all of her sisters and brothers are leaning on her as well, and she already has two children of her own. Her adult son has become extremely bossy and she's having trouble getting him under control. She recently dropped out of nursing school, stopped working, and is fighting a lawsuit over her mom's estate. She has no boyfriend at this time and says she's incredibly lonely. But since she has put on a few pounds, she's not interested in dating yet. She's says she has gotten more and more disorganized to the point that she wonders if she's becoming a hoarder. All of these issues are causing her great anxiety and she doesn't know where to start. Understandably, her issues seem overwhelming to her. But in Life Coaching, we can break the issues down into pieces that she can start handling one by one.
These are just some of the issues that I am addressing with Allison as her Life Coach. In Life Coaching, no topic is off limits, and if I have no expertise in a certain area, I will refer you to someone who does. If one area or more of your life is out of control, like Allison, call me and we'll find a place to start.
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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 28 years.
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How to get Carolyn Bushong's Relationship Advice:
Individual Counseling: l hour or ½hr sessions
by phone, Health Insurance may cover a portion.
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 or home.
Email Advice: Visit Carolyn's website for more information.