Kimile TV Tue, 03 Nov 2015 19:20:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The First Source of Change is Ourselves Wed, 01 May 2013 09:31:50 +0000 Read more »]]> It’s a perfectly natural reaction. When there’s a problem, we tend to look for someone to blame. The problem can be a too-long line at the checkout counter at Smith’s (can’t that old woman count out her change a little faster?). It can be with our families (can’t my mother give me the benefit of the doubt when I say it’s impossible to come visit next weekend?).  It can be with our kids (“You’re driving me nuts!), and very often, it’s with our spouses and partners. I don’t think we need any examples for that last one.

The thing is, a lot of times? Others are worthy of blame. I can think of a well-qualified friend who is in his fifties and has a ton of great business experience. Due to the contracting economy, he was laid off about a year into the Great Recession. I’m telling you, the reason he can’t find a job is not because he doesn’t have the credentials. And it’s not because he’s not a good interview, or can’t pass a background check, or any of that. It’s because the economy hasn’t come back to the point where companies are looking to hire experienced workers. They’d rather pay lower salaries to newbies, work them overtime, and pray they don’t make any catastrophic mistakes.

There’s not a darn thing that my friend can do about the economy, really. And most of the time, there’s isn’t all that much  that we can with  the old woman at the supermarket, our tunnel-vision mothers, our impossible kids, or our spouses who look at us and don’t really see us.

We may long for a world where we are as powerful as a god. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who have the kind of clout to make the supermarket grandmother hurry up.

What we’re left with to change is that which we can change. We can change ourselves, our thinking, and our framing of the situation or our lives. As humans, we have control over our thoughts. Maybe not our feelings so much, though feelings can follow thoughts as easily as thoughts can follow feelings. But we can definitely adjust our thoughts in a way that reframe situations and defuse them.

Here are some examples:

  • With the old lady at the supermarket, instead of thinking about our own frustration, think about what it would be like to be that woman, who is either aware that she is holding up a line, or so old that her faculties have diminished to where she does not have that awareness. In either case, it’s better to be us than to be here.
  • With the mother who won’t take no for an answer, instead of thinking about our own irritation, think about the mother’s infantile neediness and how difficult it must be to live that way. Yes, a Sunday visit will be inconvenient to gratify her needs, but those needs can remind you of how you do not want to be.
  • With the children who are driving us crazy, instead of thinking of how the top of our heads feel like they’re about to come off, think about the unsteadiness that children must feel growing up among other kids who can’t be sure of their mother and/or father’s love. We all drove our own parents a little nuts. It can be thought of as a bit of divine retribution.
  • Finally, with the spouse who is looking at us but not really seeing us, instead of thinking of how that person is wrecking our lives, think back to a good memory that the two of you shared. Think about what must be stressing or affecting your partner so that he can’t see you. Think about what you might be able to do to help, on your end and on your own.

The key for all of these reframes is a solid sense of yourself.  Even my friend who’s been unemployed for such a long time can blame the system, or find a way to pull himself together and remake himself for the new economic reality. Neither the woman in the grocery store, our mothers, our kids, or even our spouses is on this planet to complete us.  Our thoughts and our feelings are our own. We can shape them in the way that help us the most, or that make our lives more painful.

The choice, more often than not, is ours.

Regaining Trust After the Discovery of Pornography Wed, 10 Apr 2013 17:35:37 +0000 Read more »]]> The civilized world is in the middle of a pornography epidemic, and that epidemic could well be coming to a computer or smart phone screen of someone you love. According to “Enough is Enough,” a Viriginia not-for-profit with the mission of making the Internet safer for children and their families, porn is a $100 billion worldwide business. That’s more than the GNP of many countries!

Porn is almost impossible to avoid. Benign Google search routinely lead to pornographic websites and images. Even with blocking and filtering software in place, porn slips through. When it does slip through – or if it’s searched for on purpose – it can be endlessly seductive to men (and some women). The latest neurological research seems to indicate that porn affects the same pleasure centers in the brain as crack cocaine, high-fat food, and alcohol. That makes it terribly inviting. That same research (see the online writings of Gary Wilson and Marnia Robinson if you’re interested in the details, such as also indicates that the chemical effect of high-speed Internet porn on the brain can spur the user to more and more use, with more hard-core images and videos.

Too many people – mostly, but not exclusively women – learn about their partner’s porn use the hard way. They find an open window on a computer, see an undeleted search or web history, or find an email from a porn site. The usual emotional response is horror, betrayal, shock, and loathing.  “My husband watches that?!”  There’s also a sexual component. What woman in her 30s or 40s can compete with the bodies of 18 and 20 year olds?  It can be humiliating.

If you have an issue with pornography, or you have a partner with this issue, the person with the issue needs to face the responsibility like an adult. He (and we’ll call the person a “he” for simplicity) made the mess; he has to clean it up. While there are allegedly women out there who have no issue with their husbands’ or partners’ porn use, I don’t know any of them personally.  More often, the situation is that there’s a partner who can’t feel trustworthy until their partner has done what it takes to become trustworthy with their online and smart phone behavior. The issue becomes, who’s the priority: the partner, or the porn?  If it’s the porn, then a meeting or meetings with me should be mandatory.

If unwanted porn has corrupted your relationship, the porn viewer is going to need to rebuild trust. The way to do that is by complete openness and honesty. Understood that this is not so simple in an age of “burner” phones and smart phones. But as much as possible, the person doing the unwanted viewing should agree to maintain all web histories, subject to review by his partner. One really simple thing that can help a great deal is for all screen viewing to take place in a public area in your home. Turning a monitor so that it can be seen by others is a wonderful step to take. So is the installation of screen shot monitoring software so that random screen shots are taken and emailed to the other party. All these things can help the former porn-viewer stay on the right path, and give assurance to the other partner that there’s no porn secrecy underway.

I like to see the porn viewer take the lead in all of this. Instead of being the one for whom filters are installed, he should be the one installing the filters. Then, it takes time and patience to get the overall relationship back on track, including sexually. Work with me in my office can help rebuild that crucial arena of being a couple.  It’s not just enough for the porn viewing to stop. Good sex between the partners needs to be reestablished, or the temptation of pornography will be reestablished too.

Picking Smart: How Do You Know He or She is “Right?” Fri, 08 Mar 2013 12:40:58 +0000 Read more »]]> They might be the five most-spoken words in the English language, and probably in any language, in the appropriate translation.

“I married the wrong person.”

Sometimes – if you’re lucky! – you figure this out quickly into a marriage, before there are kids, shared finances, and a ton of marital history. It may sound callous, but it is surely easier for both parties emotionally to end a marriage early on than if those fateful fatal five words strike you deep into your building a family. In that case, though you may say the fatal five words, you’ll keep the marriage going anyway. But will you be living at your most content? No possible way.  There are a lot of things that make a great marriage. Good luck, with health and the other things in life we can’t control, helps a lot. But I believe the most important variable is to pick the  right person. And what I mean by the right person is the right person for you.

If you ask people in successful marriages how they knew they had chosen the right person, a lot of times you’ll hear back, “Well, I knew.”  Yeah, sure. I’m here to say that “You just know” is incredibly unhelpful in most cases. Actually, it serves as shorthand for something that the speaker may understand intuitively, but which the rest of us need to make explicit. There are absolutely some tried-and-true criteria for picking a life partner. I’m not saying that marriages can’t work if your partner-to-be doesn’t fit this list. Marriage isn’t math. There are lots of intangibles. But I am saying that these factors are key more often than not.

#1: You Can Be Yourself With Your Partner

Life is too short to be lived inauthentically. Plus, our authentic selves want to come out. A great partner is a partner where you can feel at ease, safe, and not having to put on an act. If you’re a woman, you’re loved with or without makeup. If you’re a man, you’re loved even when you’ve had a career setback. You’re yourself, and that’s more than good enough.

#2  You Like How Your Partner Fits in His or Her World

Marriage is about the two of you. Life isn’t. People don’t just have to relate to their partners, they also have to relate to friends and family, church and state.  If you can’t stand how your partner operates with his or her family, it’s a sign that the partner may one day not operate so well with you. Is there respect? Caring? Acts of love and sacrifice?  If so, it’s a great sign.

#3:  You Grow in the Couple

How you are at the beginning of your relationship is not how you’re going to be five, ten, or fifteen years later. Woody Allen once said that a relationship was like a shark. That is, it has to move forward in order to survive. What you don’t want is a dead shark.  You want to become better, stronger, smarter, more capable, and continue to grow as your relationship improves. Boredom kills couples.  Growth makes them flourish.

#4 : They Know How to Stick To It

This is an easy factor to overlook. People who tend to be flighty about their lives tend to be flighty about their relationships. Look for a person who knows how to commit to something. Anything!  That ability to commit will port over to your relationship.

#5: The Things That Drive You Crazy Don’t Make You Too Crazy

Realistically, there are going to be things about your partner that drive you nuts. You may never like one of their friends. They have a stupid habit that makes your teeth hurt. However, if you can accept those things, your relationship is on stronger footing. And accepting them doesn’t mean embracing them. It means you can laugh at them with kindness, and move on.

#6: They’re Not Conflict Avoidant

Beware of someone who says they never argue. It’s not possible. Two people are going to have disagreements from time to time. Figuring out a way to work through those disagreements is part of how a couple gets stronger and more committed to each other.

#7: Your Relationship Embraces Your World

There are two kinds of couples. Those who turn inward, and shut out the world around them, and those that turn outward, and whose love makes the world a better place. The couples whose love is a force for good are couples that stand the best chance for success.


Can you be sure about who you marry? No. And for sure, luck does play a role.  But if you take these seven factors in account before you marry, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll say you married the wrong person, and a lot more likely that you’ll marry the right one.

Heal Yourself Without a Therapist #3 – Five Stages of Love Mon, 25 Feb 2013 16:46:46 +0000 Read more »]]> For the past few weeks, we’ve been concentrating here on tips and ideas that let you heal yourself and your relationships without an expensive therapist. A couple of weeks back, in the first installment (though we didn’t call it that!) we talked about three specific ways that couples can better communicate. That is, the healing power of words.  Last time, in the second installment, we talked about the healing power of love; how love is a verb even more than it is a feeling.

This entry shows you another way to heal yourself without a pricy therapist. If we all were conscious about the five progressing stages of our relationships – the five stages that all love relationships will inevitably pass through – we’ll both be better able to communicate and to express our love as a verb. The writer Maggie Crawford talks about these stages in some depth, but I’m going to add some crucial practical tips.

These tips are good whether you’re a long-time married couple, a new couple or anything in between.

Stage One: Sweet Storm

Crawford calls this first stage the “Cautious Stage,” but I prefer to think of it as the Sweet Storm. There’s nothing in the world like new love. Nothing.  Your heart is soaring, your hormones are going nuts in the best possible way, your heart pounds when you just think of the guy or girl, and you’re head over heels, obsessing, and crazy jealous all at the same time. It’s thrilling.  Meanwhile, this is also the getting-to-know you stage. In love, as in real life, we’re reluctant to show or admit those parts of ourselves that we don’t think are admirable. We want the other person, so we want the other person to idealize us. It’s natural, just as the instinct to idealize our new partner is natural. If there was no idealization, who of us would ever commit to that crazy thing called love? Thrilled as we are, we’re cautious about our self-revealing.

To negotiate this stage of the Sweet Storm, I encourage all my clients to reveal as much as they can. Not that a new relationship is a confessional! But if there are things that are important to you in life – whether it is children, sex, making money, whatever – it makes little sense to hold these back. Basically, if you care about something? Don’t shut up about it.

Stage Two: The Honeymoon

You’re with your newly beloved, your newly beloved is with you, and all’s right with  the world. Welcome to the Honeymoon. The world is perfect with the two of you, and perfect around you.  Sure, other people might be grossed out by your Public Displays of Affection, or that you two are holding hands all the time while they’re not touching their spouses, but so what? You’ve found your person, and your person has found you. This isn’t so easily achievable in this world, so revel in it. How long does the Honeymoon last? Who knows?  Recent social research by Acevedo and Aron indicates that for a non-trivial subset of couples, it can last a lifetime. We can only hope!

While we’re in the Honeymoon, the best way to have a shot at becoming one of these lifetime Honeymoon couples is to continue your self-revelation, and have some sympathy for those around you who are not so lucky. To build a life together, you’re going to need both to know each other and to have friends, family, community, church or synagogue, and the like. In the Honeymoon, it may feel like the two of you is all that you need. Life will tell you otherwise.

Stage Three: Companionship

Crawford called this stage The Comfortable Stage, but I think it’s better seen as Companionship. It’s when your relationship settles down and back into the world around you. Typically, this tends to happen after a couple of years of being together, and there are all kinds of complex physiological and psychological explanations for why this happens. No matter what the reason, it tends to happen a lot. You love your partner, but your heart might not beat so fast when s/he enters a room. Your conversations are more about the details of life than about the depths of your hearts and souls. Life happens.  And to tell the truth, you aren’t on your best behavior anymore. If you’ve got bad habits, they get out there. Things that you once were able to keep squashed come up like Whack-a-moles at the Salt Lake County Fair.  Gas gets passed.  Indigestion is had.  Secret love for the Bee Gees and chick flicks gets revealed. Romeo and Juliet get transformed into Mike and Molly.

The key here to healing yourself without a pricy therapist is to appreciate the comfort and realize that the Honeymoon is and has been one of the real building blocks of your couple.  The blessing is that you are finally being yourself, gas and indigestion and the Bee Gees and all. Most important of all, the two of you are building a history. Don’t fear the present. You’ve got someone who – hopefully – can accept you just as you are. If you make love into a verb with that person, you’ll accept them, too.

Stage Four: Aarrgh!

“Aarrgh!” Who among us in a long-term relationship has growled “Aargh!” at something our partner has said or has done? Crawford calls the stage of predominant aargh-ing the Frustration Stage, but I prefer to call it by what it is. Aarrgh!  Your partner is impossible. You can’t take it anymore.  One more belch, one more fast food wrapper left on the passenger sheet, one more towel on the floor, one more late night at the office, microwave dinner, or cuddle with your eight year old instead of a cuddle with you….

The list goes on. And on. And on. And on.

Some people can say “aarrgh!” and go on. For others, too many arrghs can put the relationship itself in jeopardy.  The stronger your acceptance of yourself and your foibles, and the stronger you understand that what works for you may not work for your partner, the stronger your chances of getting through the “Aarrgh!” stage with your relationship intact.

I know that blog is about healing yourself without a pricy therapist. But if things get bad in this stage? A few sessions with someone like me can set things straight, and I promise that we won’t spend weeks discussing your mother’s relationship with her own mother.

Stage Five: Life Partners

Some might call this “The Serious Stage.” I don’t. I call it “Life Partners.”  Because the two of you have committed to each other in the real world. You’ve managed the Sweet Storm, You’ve lived through the Honeymoon. You’ve enjoyed Companionship and had more than a few Aarrgh! moments.  You’re together for life. You’re life partners.

Being life partners, though, doesn’t mean being without issues. Healing yourself without a  pricy therapist at this stage means knowing that your life partnership is strong enough and resilient enough to take on any discussion. Sex? Talk about it. Money? Talk about it. Family? Talk about it. And then, go out and do something for your life partner. Because no matter what, love is still a verb.

Love is a Verb Thu, 14 Feb 2013 17:30:41 +0000 Read more »]]> It would be a stupid cliché, except it happens too often. We’re on the giving end of it, or the receiving end of it, and no matter which end we’re on, it always ends badly. You’ve seen it a two dozen times in the movies and on TV…and probably a more than once in real life:


John has brought Jane here because he thinks that she’s too polite to make a scene over what he’s about to say. But he doesn’t want to spend any more money than he has to, so he drops the bomb after the waiter had brought their appetizers.

JANE: I love this place.  It’s so special you brought me here.

JOHN: I’m glad. But you might not like what I’m about to say.

JANE: (sudden concern) What is it, John?

JOHN: I still love you. But I’m not in love with you.

You know what comes next. Usually tears. The good news is that in the movies, the guy turns out to be a jerk whom the heroine never should have been with. Meanwhile, the heroine always ends up with a great guy in the end.

In real life, it’s not so clean and easy.

Why does this happen? Why do we hear “I love you, but I’m not in love with you?”

The answer is simple. In neither case, despite the words spoken, is the person actually speaking about love. Not love as we know it, anyway. The “I still love you” part simply means that the speaker cares about you.  But the fact is, we can care about a lot of things. The homeless. The environment. The Salvation Army person who rings his bell over the Christmas season, and those misbegotten souls our donations can help. All good, worthwhile things to care about.

But don’t call it love.

On the flip side, neither is the speaker talking about love when s/he says, “I’m not in love with you.” All this means is that for the person talking, there’s some sort of visceral spark that’s missing; some emotional response that the speaker wants but isn’t there.

According to neuroscience, scans of the brain reveal that passionate romantic love fires neurons in a couple of zones known as the striatum and the insula. That’s right. When they put people who profess to passionate love under a PET scan for an fMRI test, those areas of the brain “fire” when they see pictures of their “loved” ones. Or even think about them.

The problem is, in both cases – and the neuroscience too! – the person talking is mistaking an emotion for the act of love. Real love – the kind of love that lasts and can flex with the crazy changes of the lives we all live – isn’t based on emotion. It’s based on action.

That’s right. Love is a verb.  Just like our elementary school teachers taught us, verbs are words of action. To run. To breathe. To eat. To breathe. To pray. To decide.

To love.

Love requires action.  Love requires things that you do for another person. Those actions can be in the present and in the future, with an immediate payoff or with the best parts of them still to come. Love can be spoken, for sure.  But even feelings spoken are best supported by things that we do.  (We don’t have to be religious to understand that at the heart of Christianity is an astonishing act of sacrifice on behalf of others. Actually, it’s an act of love).

Just as there are physical laws of the universe like gravity, there are laws for relationships that make them work and flourish. Love as a verb is one of them.

I’m betting you know just what to do, too.  Because if you don’t, whoever you’re in love with is eventually going to hear, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

And you know what?  You deserve better than that. Whether you’re the one saying it, or the one to whom it’s being said.

Get out there and love like a verb. If you’re not quite sure how to do that? Call me.

A Better Way to Talk Mon, 14 Jan 2013 19:20:13 +0000 Read more »]]> Communication, communication, communication.  It sometimes seems as if we can’t open a magazine or watch a Youtube video of a couples’ expert talking without that article or expert banging home the point that most couple problems are communications problems.

There’s a reason for this.  Many couples do find themselves in a communications rut. You may find yourself in that rut yourself, whether the “couple” at hand is you and your spouse/partner, you and a parent, or – come on, admit it! – you and your kid.  (Yes. A communications rut with a kid happens when you ask the kid how school was today, and the kid grunts, “S’Okay.”  And that’s the end of the conversation.)

The problem with most of these articles is that they’re half-good about defining the communications problem, and not terribly practical about defining the communications solution. They are half-good in that they identify that pairs of people often talk past each other, get lost in their own heads when the other person is talking, get activated by things that are being said and stop listening altogether, or just plain get distracted and lose interest. They’re half-bad in that they almost never talk about the flip side of communications problems: what happens when the two people in the couple are communicating just fine, but lose their minds when they come to understand what the other partner is saying!

More on that half-bad thing in another blog. For now, let’s talk about three things that all couples to can do to be better understood, and to better understand their partner. The best part is, you don’t need thirty sessions with a pricy psychotherapist to learn how to do them. You can start immediately.

First, what’s at the root of most coupling pile-ups? The great New York-and-New-Mexico-based therapist and thinker Harville Haddix believes that the issue lies in who we choose to be with for our lives, and why we choose that person. He suggests that couples pick their partners not because of love, looks, wealth, or family, but because they remind us in some unconscious way of those who raised us. That is, we pick our partners in the image of those who raised us up. He calls this choosing an “Imago match” – Imago for image. This kind of partner-picking is good, in that it helps us figure out our kid-hood upsets and traumas. Where it’s bad is that it can get us to act like children all over again. As Haddix puts it, “The trauma of childhood becomes the drama of adulthood.”

Here’s what you don’t have to do: Spend years on the couch working through those traumas of childhood.  Here’s what you ought to do: start talking with your partner in a way that can, as a matter of course and of life, both get you heard and be heard by your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

This is what Haddix suggests, and I think he’s dead on target:

  • First step:  Mirror. That is, don’t judge what your partner is saying, and don’t react it to it from your gut. If your husband is saying to you, “I think you’re spending too much money on stupid-ass stuff,” then mirroring would mean you’ll say back, in a calm tone, “You think I’m spending too much money on stupid-ass stuff.”  Don’t react, don’t be withering, don’t be defensive. What you’re doing here is making it clear that you hear what your partner is saying.
  • Second step: Validate.  Let’s face it. Our partners aren’t usually crazy. We don’t usually marry or be with truly crazy people. They may see things differently from the way that we do, but they’re not nuts. Therefore, a statement they make deserves a certain degree of validation, even if we don’t agree with it. We can say, when the partner says, “I think you’re spending too much money on stupid-ass stuff,” something like, “I can see how you feel that way. When I bought XYZ, it must have seemed stupid-ass to you.”  Get it?
  • Third step:  Empathize. Understanding doesn’t just happen in your head. It happens in your heart, too. If we can tell our partners, and get them to believe, that we can truly imagine the way that they must be feeling, they will feel understand as never before. The funny thing is, we’ll feel better, too.

There you go. Three easy steps toward making partner talk valuable, helpful, and productive. Try them out in your next serious couple convo and you’ll see how well they can work for you.

RESOLVED, This is the Year the Addiction Ends (the partner’s perspective) Thu, 03 Jan 2013 19:18:14 +0000 Read more »]]> Last week, we talked about addiction, and how the best new year’s resolution possible would be…

RESOLVED, 2013 is the year that the addiction ends.

The previous blog was directed at the addict himself or herself. This one is for the person who loves an addict, or is friends with an addict. You know who you are, and you know how difficult it can be. To see your boyfriend passed out in the bathroom. To see your girlfriend stuffing her feelings with food. To have a plan to take the kids to Sugarhouse Park, the Gateway, or a Jazz game, and then have to cancel because he isn’t fit to drive. Here in Salt Lake City and Utah county, we’ve also got a giant problem with people hooked on prescription pain meds.

You can read last week’s blog if you need clarification on why this is happening. But all the explanations in the world won’t get him sober behind the wheel. Nor are you satisfied by the thought that the addiction is wholly within the realm of the addict – that there’s nothing you can do, that the addict won’t end the addiction until s/he is good and ready, and you may as well not even try.

You want to know what you can do, and what you can do, now.

Here’s what you can do as the loved one of someone who has an addiction:

  • Don’t enable: If you’re going to pretend that the addiction isn’t happening, you’re part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. Addicts tend to have enablers, who are people that by action or inaction help the addiction along. Sometimes the enabling is done with the best of intentions, as with a mom who takes care of the kids while dad is out at the bar. If you find yourself enabling an addict, take a good look at your motives. I can help you do that in my office.
  • Confront: It is okay to tell the addict that this isn’t working for you. In fact, that it is a method of slow torture.  That that addiction isn’t just killing the addict, but is also killing the relationship. That in numbing themselves, the addict is causing real pain to others and you.
  • Make your case: Don’t be surprised if the addict says, “I don’t have a problem,” even as they’re worshipping at the porcelain shrine after a drinking bout. Do what you need to do to make your case. Take photos. Take videos. Show them the vid where they’re slobbering over themselves in front of the children. I hate to say it, but humiliation works sometimes.  Challenge the addict to love themselves as much as you love him or her.
  • Help find treatment resources: In the best of all possible worlds, the addict would do this for himself or herself. In the real world, they might not be equipped to do this. If you have medical insurance or even without it, there are outstanding in-patient and out-patient treatment centers.  Some of these are publicly funded, or have religious support so the fee is manageable. There’s therapy and work with someone like me. There are 12-step groups which some people find very helpful, as well as alternative support groups.

As a loved one, as a friend, you are allowed to say to an addict, “I don’t want to watch you kill yourself.”  The irony is that ultimately just about every addict will get treatment. That treatment will happen when the addict goes to jail. If it’s possible to end the addiction before that happens? So much the better.

The Four Kinds Of Couple Communication Wed, 02 Jan 2013 18:24:42 +0000 Read more »]]> Last week, we started a conversation about communication. I say the word “started” because there’s just so much to cover and understand. I will say this: fifteen minutes of reading about and thinking about the issues I raise will go a long way toward making your own couple relationship stronger, no matter what form that relationship takes.

This is the truth: No matter how close you are erotically to your partner, how many projects you do together, what hobbies you share, or how many backrubs you give each other, the thing that you’re going to do the most of in your marriage is talk.

Talk is how we mainly communicate.  So let’s take a look at the kinds of talk you experience in your relationship, and how an understanding of what we say and how we hear it can strengthen your bonds for a life.

Level One Communication: Social Oil

I call the first kind of communication “level one communication.”  We all know it well. It’s the kind of talking and listening that helps us through the day. It’s social oil. “Hello, how are you doing?”  “Can you believe how much it snowed?”  “Hot, isn’t it?”  “Have a nice day.”  “Here’s your change.”  To be sure, I’m not putting down level one communication. Most of our interactions require it. Level one communications are a way that we can manage our energy, manage our relationships, and get from Point A to Point B in our busy lives. Problems only arise when we start using level one communication as our daily currency with people we care about a lot.

Level Two Communication: Just the Facts

The second kind of communication is “level two communication,” and it’s all about reporting the facts. The people involved in the communication share what they know, but not much more. A lot of unemotional problem solving involves level two communications. When your car is making a strange noise and you take it to the shop (and hopefully, an honest shop!), you and the mechanic will share information and report such facts to each other that are aimed to solve the problem. You don’t care much about that mechanic’s inner life, and s/he is not terribly interested in your own. You’ve got a job to do in the communicating, and you do it.  Nothing wrong with that, either.  It’s a notch up from level one communication, but also how we get through our days.

Level Three Communication – Opinions

Level three communication means starting to open up. You’ve got opinions, judgments, and reactions to things. You know the person you’re talking with well enough that you can risk sharing them. Mind you, you’re sensitive to the reactions!  You might advance when the reaction is encouraging, but retreat if you find your conversation partner bristling or rejecting.  What you say has much to do with who you’re saying it to, and how that person is reacting. Opinions can be about many things, from quality of a lasagna to the quality of a movie to the quality of how your partner is relating to your children.  There’s joy in sharing them, but there’s also risk. Rejection hurts.  You learn over time with whom you can share opinions,  and how much you can share. You’re still not free to talk without monitoring yourself.

Level Four Communication: Transparency

There aren’t that many people in the world that you can be completely open with, right? Transparency means sharing the real you. We share transparency for our spouses and maybe a few other folks with whom we are close. When we’re transparent, two become one. When we’re transparent, we know that our partner can tolerate us and even their own discomfort at what we might be saying, because there is so much connection.  When we reach the level of transparency, we can talk about our feelings without fear, and find the safe harbor in another. Perfect love casts out perfect fear.


I’m not all that big on New Year’s resolutions. But resolving to seek transparency in our love relationships  isn’t like resolving to lose twenty pounds. It’s a resolution that reshape our futures on the most profound levels.


Resolved, the year 2013 will be a year of greater transparency with the loves of our lives!


RESOLVED, This is the Year the Addiction Ends Sat, 29 Dec 2012 19:14:05 +0000 Read more »]]> It’s a New Year, and a time for resolutions. We make resolutions about everything. Lose weight, get in shape, make more money, have more sex, go to church more, turn off the electronics, plant a garden, eat healthier, call our mothers more often…or call our mothers much less!  All good resolutions. But none of them is the most important one of all:

RESOLVED, 2013 is the year that the addiction ends.

Those of you who are living with an addiction, or who have a loved one who’s an addict, know that there is little that can be more destructive to yourself, your loved one, your family, and those around you who care about you.  Whether the addiction is booze, drugs, gambling, food, or whatnot, addictions is the wrecking crew of life. (Heads up!  Sex addiction requires its own blog post.You’ll see that blog post in the near future).

Addictions are joy and energy suckers. They make it impossible to love truly.  They need to end.  But if they were easy to end, there would be precious few addicts out there.

Let’s start by talking about addiction if you’re an addict. Next week, we’ll tackle what to do if your loved one or friend is the one who’s addicted.

If you’re an addict, this is your reality….

  • You know that your addiction is not about the thing that you’re addicted to, but about the crisis in your heart and soul. Addicts drink, drug, and all the rest not because they crave the feeling of being behind the wheel of a car when the police stop them for a DUI, or nodding out in a pool of their own barf in the bathroom, or watching the bathroom scale go up, up, up from compulsive overeating, but because the addiction is the best way you know how to numb the ache in your soul.
  • There’s a lot to be achy and dis-eased about in the world. Blood, sweat, and tears are everywhere; there is the constant shadow of our own demise to consider. When we awaken at four in the morning beset by fear and anxiety, our bodies tremble and it feels too much to bear.
  • Your drugs of choice help relieve the pain. They really do. I get that. But then, like so many medications, they both stop working and cause more harm than good.  Much more harm. Meanwhile, all the fear, anxiety, and trembling is still there.

So what to do? While there’s much good work that we could do together and with your loved one in my office, here’s how to start making 2013 the year the addiction ends.

  • Talk. With your loved ones, your family, and your friends. Talk about the fears. Talk about the spiritual crisis in your soul. Talk about what it’s like to awaken at four in the morning in a holy crisis. Share your feelings. You’ll be amazed how the people around you will listen and share back. You have feelings like this? You’re not alone.
  • Get help before the criminal justice system forces it on you. Your addiction, if it’s to drugs, alcohol, or something money-involved, will likely cross you with the court system before too long. Time in jail will separate you from your addictive substance;  it will be involuntary treatment for you. Even a non-jail sentence could well include a probation officer and mandatory 12-step meetings. Involuntary treatment is highly effective. It just wrecks your life in other ways.
  • Consider these voluntary options, since one size does not fit all and different things work for different people:
  • Twelve-step meetings are free, abundant, and pretty much stigma-free, at this point. You don’t have to say, “My name is X and I’m an addict.” You just have to go.
  • Counseling, with someone like me.
  • Residential treatment, short term or longer term.  Many of these are covered by insurance, or funded by the state or religious organizations. There will be one that’s right for you.
  • Let 2013 be the year that your addiction ends. Next week, we’ll talk about the partners to addicts. What should they do? And just as importantly, what should they not do?

    ]]> Keeping It Together Through the Holidays Thu, 20 Dec 2012 19:00:57 +0000 Read more »]]> Five days and counting til Christmas. Eleven days and counting til New Year’s. Our Jewish friends have already lit the last candle on their menorahs, but you can bet they’re going to going to be guests at many holiday parties. Our Orthodox friends won’t celebrate the birth of the Savior until January 7, 2013. Extra time to get stressed out.

    Let’s face it. Frank Sinatra may sing about this being the happiest time of the year, but  the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s – or even beyond! – can put a strain on just about any couple.  A few weeks back, we looked at ways to lower the holiday stress level. Today, let’s zero on how to make the holidays a time for the two of you.

    It’s possible.

    Delia Lloyd wrote a terrific piece last Christmas season in Huffington Post about just this issue. Let me share some of what she talked about, and add a few Wasatch Front-type, Utah-centric specifics that can make what she says apply to you and your loved one.

    1. Watch Your Checkbook!  Lloyd points to a BYU (I told you there was a hometown angle) study led by Prof. Jason Carroll.  He looked at 1,734 married couples, and tried to figure out the affect on their marriage of materialism. His bottom line, so to speak?  Couples for whom money mattered less were up to fifteen percent higher quality than couples where one or both of the partners cared more about things. I would add that watching your checkbook doesn’t just mean be cautious about how much you’re spending on gifts. It means watching it to make sure it doesn’t take control of you.
    2. Talk About Work! The holidays are a time for vacations, and many offices and businesses slow to a crawl or shut down between Christmas and New Year’s. This could provide a welcome breather for you and your partner to have a calm, unhurried conversation about the place of work – and the home division-of-labor – in your lives. Most recently, the divorce rate seems to be falling in those states where married women work. Maybe not full time, but part time. I’d add that this make sense. There’s less chance for resentment when both partners are bringing home a paycheck, and even less resentment when home chores are shared.
    3. Take Some Space! Lloyd cautions about hyper-fusion in relationships, and I agree with her. Hyper-fusion never helped any couple, and especially never helped any couple’s sex lives. Maintaining separate interests and even some separate friends doesn’t mean you’re growing apart. It means that you’re willing to do what needs to be done to make your together time even more meaningful. Our great-grandparents used to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try it for a few hours, especially during the run up to Christmas and New Years.  You may find you’re more grateful than ever for your partner’s company when you reunite.
    4.   Have Sex!  There are a lot of sexless marriages out there. I’ll be the first one to say that some of them are quite successful, but I’d also be the first to say that in the majority of cases, sexless marriages tend to be a red flag for one partner or the other’s unhappiness. If the sexlessness is the result of resentment, anger, or some other discernible cause, come to see me. I can help you. If it’s the result of just plain inertia, you know what to do. There is nothing wrong with locking the bedroom door for an hour. In fact, there’s a lot that’s right about it.  
    5. Go Small!  Little positive things can be like marital glue. A touch of the hand, a poured cup of herbal tea, an errand run without nagging or beckoning, a compliment on a new outfit, a thank-you when none is sought…all these things can bring a couple together again and again over the course of a day. Small is easier than big. It’s amazing how small things can add up to something huge.
    6. Forget It!  This is my original contribution to the discussion, and it might be most crucial of all to couple togetherness during the holidays. Be willing to quit engaging in the same old fight. Just don’t do it. In fact, take a look in the mirror and try to figure out your part in it, and how that part can change. If you need help with this, come see me.  But I’m betting that in the holiday spirit, this is something you can start to do on your own.

    There you have it. Six tips to support togetherness during this holiday season. Any one of them will help you. All six?  Well, that might just be a Christmas miracle.

    Of course, this is the time of miracles.