Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

Analyze This!

This is a really great video from “The Psych Show” host Dr. Ali Mattu. All therapists dread this question but he does an exceptional job of explaining what is really going on. I agree with him completely. It also says a lot about co-dependent behavior. Wanting to know whether or not a person is okay with you, feeling threatened by a therapist because you don’t know how to act around them. It is also a way of saying “I have low self-esteem,” out loud or “I know I have a zit on my nose,” to attack before you are attacked. A defense mechanism designed to protect ones self, which is in essence saying “En garde.”

Usually when I am asked this question I will say, I am here to have a good time and I get paid to do these things. I might also say “What do you do for a living,” then I will ask them if when they go to people’s houses do they question people about these things that they do. For example, CPA – do you go to a house and question people about whether or not they expensed the boat they have out on the dock and then discuss the legality of this? Or a carpenter – do you go to a house and think about all the mistakes in the way it was built (actually they do – then they can drum up business). When therapists go to a party, we are dressed in our normal non-professional outfit, might have a drink in our hand or took a bite on a cheese puff and are wondering about the books on the shelf or the cute guy in the corner, just like you are.

The Girl on the Train or The Wife of the Narcissist

“I am not the girl I used to be,” the beginning and the ending of the movie, somewhat like a poem. In between is the passion, frustration, and anger; all building toward self-awareness.

The Girl on the Train is about the lives of three women who are joined together directly and indirectly through one man. They are all involved with a narcissist. What is clever about this movie is that the director takes you on a long journey; giving you a chance to get to know these women but only their interpretations of what they believe is the truth. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are made to believe that you are the one causing all the problems. The narcissist causes you to feel as if you are walking on eggshells, that you are going crazy. Your reality becomes distorted as a result. In this movie, the woman is an alcoholic so this of course makes it very easy to assume she is the bad person.

Naturally the movie shows us a bad therapist, which is sad, but in this case it is just continuing to lead us down a tunnel of wrong turns. In fact, two of the three men in the movie are false assumptions and the guilty party seems like a good guy at first. That is the makings of a good suspense. In reality though, the narcissistic man often seems like the good guy. He comes across as very appealing, sexy, responsible, a good provider. So in a sense the director was doing his/her job of turning the audience into a victim of the movie. When they finally present the truth, it is done through a scene where the alcoholic has the courage to humble herself in front of another. Meeting up with a woman on the train whose party she had attended, blacked out and created a scene. After making amends, the woman is able to tell her what really happened and suddenly she is able to wake up and trust her instincts (not her perceived reality) for the first time.

Armed with that small dose of reality, she begins to re-build her sense of self. She revisits other scenes from her life and is able to remember what actually happened, not what she was made to believe happened. Stupidly, but then we all are, she confronts her emotional tormentor with the truth. A narcissist confronted is a very dangerous thing to do because they are unable to confront the truth. Naturally, victims often believe that they are doing the right thing by standing up for themselves and trying to make sense of things with the abuser. This is the nice person wanting to give the bad person a chance to apologize, to come clean and admit to the truth. Make sense of your reality on your own, you can’t try to get them to make sense of things because their life is pathological. They get rid of what is in the way; they detach themselves so far from reality that they are incapable of self-awareness. Instead of trying to make sense of why they do the things they do, learn from the experience and become a stronger person. However, The Girl on the Train is a movie, not real life. As it is not a nice new age storyline, with Louise Hay giving us an affirmation at the end and everyone doing yoga, it has to end with something violent and more to the point.

It has to end with women cheering in the audience. The bad guy has been assaulted and we can all go home feeling relieved that justice was served. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen. In real life I doubt that the other woman would have stood up for her either but it is possible. I think what might have really happened is that the wife would have defended her husband. In reality, the alcoholic finally made peace with herself. The other woman was just beginning.

The ending of this film shows the alcoholic probably in recovery; for real this time. She has symbolically moved to the other side of the train because she is ready to move past her trauma and move forward in her life. We look at the ending but don’t realize that the truth is so easy. Taking that step forward by sitting in a different chair, looking out a different window, getting a new job and just letting go, which is what everyone wants us to do. It is simple for someone who is facing a small problem. When the victims psyche has been wounded at a depth such as this, they become glued to the chair and cannot get up. Thus they force themselves to try and make sense of reality because their instincts are telling them there is just something not right about what they assume is the truth. Trusting your instincts can become a task when you have begun to give your power to someone else.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Living in a nice neighborhood and being married to a man with money, does not make it okay to be emotionally abused. Emotional abuse is Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence does not mean you have to ALSO be physically or sexually attacked for it to be named as such. So many women are victims of emotional abuse alone and are surprised to hear they are living in a domestic violence type relationship. They often feel unworthy because they have not been hit. Unfortunately, the physical abuse can happen, the longer you stay and where there is emotional abuse, often there is sexual abuse as well. If you are being pushed into acts of sex that are unwelcome, uncomfortable, unwanted, than this would be sexual abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.

Who will buy the cow when you give the milk for free?

 

Metaphors are very blunt and get to the point. Who will buy the cow when you give the milk for free? Why marry the woman when you are already having sex with her? This brilliant movie from Turkey “Kurt Seyit and Sura,” shows a young Russian girl smitten by an older dashing Turkish officer. He is from a wealthy family and works as a Lieutenant for the last Czar. She comes from a noble family. The empire is about to collapse when the two lovers meet. They fall in love and then when both of their lives are in danger, she runs off with the handsome man. Of course sex has already occurred and for years they continue to have a relationship but never marry. His father demanded he would not marry outside of the culture and now he has died. The man and woman struggle with their love. For years she begins to become a stronger woman and this becomes an issue for him. He is used to being in charge and not having people question his orders. Their relationship finally meets with an end. He is set up to marry a Turkish girl (whom he never beds until they wed) and within the week they are married. The young Russian girl is distraught, shocked and confused.  Why is it that after all these years, he marries a woman just like that? Why when she has been there for him, waited for him, ran his business for him, loved him, nurtured him, was he able to quickly change gears? This is the question that many women continue to ask themselves in today’s modern society. The story of Kurt  Seyit and Sura is based on a true story. It is the tale of so many women around the world.

Almost half of all marriages fail in today’s society. We get it all wrong. We think our historical characters were the ones who erred and we are much wiser. We believe in sex, birth control, drinking, drugs, everyone can vote and hold down jobs, we can make babies whether we are married or not, and we can marry and have relationships with whomever we want. Anything can happen in our current “Caligula,” type of society and yet, and yet, we have half of all marriages that fail – this obviously is not counting all the relationships that never marry and fail. It is not counting the countless interludes that never make it to a relationship. So what is more important is looking at couples who do succeed and never marry. It is more important to look at why this occurs.

How many of you know people who waited to have sex before they were married? What can you say about this relationship? How many of you know people who have married for over 50 years and you can, without a doubt, say that you would look up to these people for marital advice? What have you learned from these couples? I think it is equally important to talk to older women who are not married to find out their story and what they have realized as an aging woman about marriage and what lasts.

The TV series above would seem out of place in today’s society. We all have sex so why is this a problem? The male character above has loyalty to family, roots and traditions. Not too many people even know what their roots are anymore and so they are scattered and ungrounded. Knowing and being proud of your culture helps a person to have confidence, stability, security and a sense of boundaries. It is easy to respect someone who is loyal to their culture, religion and family. It is not easy when you are a young person who is out on their own for the first time and full of lust, passion and vitality that makes you believe you can conquer any obstacle that comes across your path. Young people practically beg for this to happen on an unconscious level. As a young person, misplacing values will easily lead you in the wrong direction. Sex is wonderful, it is fun, exciting, lustful, and yet it is the key to longevity when you hold it at bay. Having sex as a young woman, without the wedding, means that you are more than likely going to end up with children, more than one partner and alone in old age.

Look around you at single women, single mothers and single older women. Talk to them to find out their story. What do they wish they would have done differently, now that they know?

Most American audiences hated the TV Series above. They assumed the title meant that this was a Cinderella story and everyone would end up happily ever after. European films are not about happily ever after though, they are about writing great storylines, building characters and dealing with tragedy. The male character in this storyline was a Turk in Russia, working as a soldier for the Czar, he spends the rest of his life running and hiding because anyone connected with the Czar was killed. He goes to his native country after his family is murdered and tries to find some respite there. Unfortunately, this is the same time period when the British occupied Turkey, along with the Italians and a few other powers. It was the end of the Ottoman Empire as well. Most likely he was suffering from PTSD and what works for this male character, his defense mechanism or coping skill, is that he continues to play the Lieutenant. He expects everyone around him to follow him. He leads others in attempts to strengthen the Turkish in their attempts to fight against the British (they only mention British in this TV series). As I listened to Americans crying, getting angry, talking about having depression symptoms when they saw the end of this film, I kept this in mind. I was already half way through the series and had an inkling the title was just the beginning and not the ending. I too felt sad at hearing how the ending would turn out but then I continued watching anyway. This is my fourth Turkish TV series so I have gotten used to how they turn out.

Watching the second half as a psychotherapist, I saw how the writer carefully prepared the audience for the ending. We could already see that Seyit, the male character, was holding back from marriage. We could see that Sura, the female character, was going out of her way to do whatever she could to salvage what was left. She became desperate, overcompensating, strong-willed and independent. It is natural to assume that a man would respect you for these character traits and perhaps some would. However, many males prefer to continue having to take care of the girl and aren’t so enthralled to see her become a woman; especially when they are not even married. He wanted to continue seeing her as his fairytale princess who reminded him of the past. She was becoming a survivor, a woman she could be proud of and hoped he would too but he did not.

When it comes to relationships, you must set the rules from the beginning. You must do this before you give things away. You must see that these rules have been met before you go to the next stage. For every rule that you allow to be broken, you are saying “I don’t have much respect for myself.” Yes, absolutely it is a double standard – he can do but you can’t do. We can have a modern society all that we want but on an instinctual level we are going to go for what we know makes sense. We all like rules but when we break them we have disconnect and sabotage. When we follow rules that we know are right because it is natural to us at the gut level maybe I could say at the primitive level, life runs much more smoothly. So why do we make life so difficult for ourselves? We have a big ego!! 

 

 

 

Libs vs. Cons and Social Media

Our society has continued to go on a downward spiral as a result of Social Media. For all it is worth, it is mainly used to take advantage and destroy others. This is because anyone and everyone can make their opinions known and you can’t do anything about it. As a result of this groups of people are gaining more and more power and are using it to destroy rather than to help other people. Both the Liberals and Conservatives take this to mean that they can use Social Media as they wish. Whoever gets the most likes wins!

Sadly this has destroyed our country and no doubt has destroyed other countries as well. Instead of having intellectual discussions on the Internet, which it could certainly be used for one can be attacked for saying the nicest of things. Steve Martin, a comedian, known for making people laugh was destroyed by Social Media because he made a nice comment in regards to the memory of Carrie Fisher. When comedian Robin Williams died, his family was attacked because of their outrage over his choice of exit.

The Liberals are now on the attack, because a Republican is in the White House and this makes people feel threatened from all walks of life. If you don’t think like they think you are bad and should be shunned. Recently the Mexican-Americans decided to do a standoff, to show their outrage to President Trump in regard to his views about illegal immigration and the “Wall” on their border. Naturally they have a right to be scared and concerned about some of their fellow people. However they forced other Mexicans to close their restaurants whether they wanted to or not and this is gang mentality (I have also heard of this tactic used in communist countries). It is not an encouraging or empowering way to think. It certainly does not have anything to do with Freedom of Speech or living in a democracy and having the right to your opinion. Having been a patron to several local establishments, I learned that restaurants were being attacked on Facebook. The attackers went in search of establishments, taking photos of those who chose to remain open and then blacklisting them online and telling people not to eat at their restaurants. The people I spoke to said they felt afraid as did some of their compadres locally that they spoke to. They closed because they were forced to, not because they wanted to.

The fashion industry mavens now think they have a right to pull Trump clothing lines and avoid his daughter at a fashion show. Who listens to the fashion industry for political advice? When I look at Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, I am looking at clothing and how to wear my scarf or part my hair. I am certainly not buying these magazines to challenge any philosophical views as they are about dressing women and men, that is all. The fashion industry has never really been about politics. They use the current events to determine fashion trends and how they will design clothing but not to tell people how to think outside of buttoning your coat. As my first degree is from FIDM, (aka The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) I never once studied anything about politics during my term there in Los Angeles. I did study current events though and how this effected change in fashion over the years.

I also read both of Stanley Marcus’s memoirs, the son of the founder of Neiman-Marcus and went on to head this elegant family business before selling out to Carter-Hawley Hale in the 80’s. Mr. Marcus (A Jewish businessman), was a huge fan of Coco Chanel because he knew that her clothing lines were going to be legendary and he had an eye for quality and taste. Perhaps he was disturbed to hear that she was known to collaborate with the Nazis, during WWII. I am sure he was also disturbed to hear that she underbid a Jewish businessman trying to flee the country, who had to take what he got for his building and store. Yet Mr. Marcus did not get his political feelings in the way of selling products in his store. He knew this was not good business sense. Just like you have separation of church and country, you also have to separate personal feelings from running a business. Otherwise, open a non-profit that is based on making change in the country. Unfortunately, Nordstrom and Burlington have decided that they should share their political views with the world and have pulled the Ivanka Trump lines. This shows that they are not about business; they have decided to put their own political views as the headliner to their store. Who made this decision? Did all executives and employees agree with this? It is a corporation not a one man show. Will they next tell employees how they should vote in an election or they will be fired?

My stepfather lived in a communist country and it is the reason he left in 1956. You can read many historical novels that talk about life in these countries and how people are treated. I saw a documentary about China once where there were “grandmothers” assigned to report people who had a second pregnancy (in their one child only policy), they were then forced to have abortions. My cousin fled Hungary in 1987 (via Germany) because he was tired of dealing with the communist regime and fighting for his rights to have a home and other essentials. He told me that life in a communist country means you have to hide behind closed doors to talk to one another and be very, very, careful whom you talk with. In Russia, people go to Siberia for speaking out openly, or they disappear. 

This is what we are turning into.

What is rather strange to me, more than anything is all this talk of moving to Canada, the same bark that was heard when President George W. Bush won the election in 2001. Moving to Canada is hardly the easiest place to “move to.” I myself looked into this years ago because I thought about living there. I was fascinated with the idea of living in another country and chose Canada or England. Both were extremely difficult places to just get up and move to and friends talked me out of it for various reasons. Yet, this seems to be the liberal motto whenever a Republican wins as president. It is hard to take it seriously when I have heard this before and they are still here. However, young people are ignorant of the past and become scared when they hear people say they are fleeing the country.

It is also very strange to hear that President Trump is a “narcissist” as if this is unusual for a CEO or a President or anyone in power at whatever type of organization or government agency. Someone asked me on Twitter if I was afraid of this. I asked him if he was afraid of people with Asperger’s. I explained that the boy who killed children at an elementary school in Newtown, CT had Asperger’s. People who have clinical depression are known to be more apt to do a death by suicide but this does not mean we should lock everyone up with this diagnosis because they might harm themselves.

Actually, if President  Trump were a narcissist than I ask myself why are they pandering to his ego by behaving so violently and antagonistically? This only makes a narcissist feel that they are justified in their beliefs and creates more self-righteousness. Narcissists never do anything wrong, it is always someone elses fault, so why have liberals decided to be the scapegoat? If I were wanting to get the attention of a narcissist, I would placate them and allow them to respect me first so that I could sit down to the table with them and talk. Having received this respect, I would then talk to them in a diplomatic way about my ideas and help them to see it is their idea too. This would be the clever tactic to choose. But this also takes a level of maturity and dignity. I can see that this is the way most political dignitaries are choosing to behave on their visits to the White House. It appears they are succeeding to create a partnership with our country, based on whatever it is they are coming here for. Of course who really is the narcissist here; the president or the liberals out on the streets? He actually has the power to run the country. He is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. Like it or not, he is in charge. The people on the streets are being disrespectful Americans and are pushing the limits of what is legal and ethical. They are expecting people to think like them or you are wrong and this is the definition of a narcissist. Should we all just sign a waiver saying the liberals are right and I pledge to follow behind whatever they say or do? It is calling a spade a spade, or the phrase “It takes one to no one.”

Some conservatives have gone against their own political ally publically and this is very interesting too. I firmly believe this has a lot to do with the fact that President Trump won and this destroyed the political system. It means that it is possible for anyone in this country to be a government official and this creates a challenge for the “career politician.” This has never been President Trump’s career. So even though what President Trump is saying would have been favored by many Republicans in our history because he is speaking like a conservative, their egos have been bruised. It is no different than hiring a manager from outside of the company and then employees hate this person because he/she has no experience and because they didn’t get the job.

The media has fallen by the wayside for many decades now. They have chosen to compete with the National Enquirers and People magazine types and have sensationalized their stories that are being eaten up by the masses of liberals. They pander to the liberals which is causing this faction to believe they have more power and pushes them to be more and more aggressive. I find it extremely difficult to find out what is going on at the White House because instead of behaving like Walter Cronkite and reporting the facts on national television, they are stating their opinions which often seem to be aggressive hateful headlines. I have been following Ivanka Trump on Twitter and have been impressed with how she handles herself publically by not talking about the negative publicity from Nordstrom and Burlington, instead focusing on the positive. She is continuing to work toward being an advocate of women and children and is highlighting women business owners, attending meetings with Canada in regard to women in the workplace and raising children at the same time.

The way I was raised is that you should have respect for your country. Even when Presidents have won that I have not liked, I had respect for them anyway. I do not vote Republican or Democrat, I vote for whom I think is the right choice for right now.  Locally, I have had concerns about term limits for mayors in this state but my plan is to go forward and talk to people about this and will be doing so very soon at the state level. This is a more intelligent way to get people to listen. Will I change the state? I have no idea because I don’t know if anyone else cares about this. I am standing up for my beliefs in a tactful way and realizing if I don’t “win” than I must accept this and keep trying again when I have the opportunity. I would never distance myself from my friends because they think differently than I do – unless I find them to be rude and disrespectful to me. It would never be because they are one political side or another or one religion or another. I have had friends who have distanced themselves from me for my political views because they apparently only liked me because I was thinking along the same lines as them. It showed me that they were never my friend in the first place because they were judging me for my thoughts, not loving me for my kindness and concern for them.

The buzzword of the day is to be “Mindful” of… This does not support antagonism, violence, or disturbing the peace. It is about being mindful of your actions and the effect they have on self and others. Whatever your political opinion, you have a right to this thought process because we live in a free country. Freedom of Speech does not mean forcing someone to think like you do. Our ancestors created this amendment to separate us from other countries that did not allow people the right to an opinion. The reason that we have liberals and conservatives is so that we may have a balanced system in politics. As we have two different ways of thinking; this gives way to ideas that are sometimes challenging our own thought processes. Whatever a president chooses to sign or whichever change he wishes to invoke, this cannot happen by him alone. It is the reason we have the House of Representatives and The Senate. We live in a democracy not a dictatorship and no President can become a dictator unless this is approved by the House and Senate.

For those wishing to make change in the world, this is wonderful. But first learn how politics work and educate yourself on getting laws passed and speaking in front of Congress, etc… Then get out there and become a politician on the local level so that you can impact the government in some way. Or, start a non-profit or get involved in a position with a company that will enable your vision. Getting on Social Media and forcing others to be like you is not creating healthy change in this world. It is actually making our country a very dangerous place to live. Take responsibility for your actions instead of placing the blame on someone else.