Reblog: How to Respond When Others Reject Your Boundaries

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Usually the quiet one in her group, Heather spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Heather’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely. We were never the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our “no.” They only love our “yes,” our compliance.

So what does Heather, whose husband is an avowed “boundary buster,” do? Will her husband carry out his threat to walk out on her? She can’t control his response. But if the only thing keeping Heather’s husband home is her total compliance, is this a marriage at all? And how will problems ever be addressed when she and he avoid them?

Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, “I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.” This person is called wise.

The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our “litmus test” experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them “no” in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy — or learn that there was very little to begin with.

Do Heather’s boundaries with her husband condemn her to a life of isolation? Absolutely not. If telling the truth causes someone to leave you, this gives you the chance to reach out to a counselor or a support group.

In no way am I advocating divorce. The point is that you can’t make anyone stay with or love you. Ultimately that is up to your partner. Sometimes setting boundaries clarifies that you were left a long time ago, in every way, perhaps, except physically. Often, when a crisis like this occurs, it helps the struggling couple reconcile and remake their marriage healthier. The problem was raised, and now can be addressed.

But a word of caution: the boundary-less spouse who develops limits begins changing in the marriage. There are more disagreements. There are more conflicts over values, schedules, money, kids, and sex. Quite often, however, the limits help the out-of-control spouse begin to experience the necessary pain that can motivate him or her to take more responsibility in the marriage. Many marriages are strengthened after boundaries are set because the spouse begins to miss the relationship.

Will some people abandon or attack us for having boundaries? Yes. But, it’s better to learn about their character and take steps to fix the problem than never to know in the first place.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

by Sam Eaton

I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street.

I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from The Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free.

It seems all-too-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good, and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note.

According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most drastic among millennials described as 22- to 35-year-olds.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

As I sat in our large church’s annual meeting last month, I looked around for anyone in my age bracket. It was a little like a Titanic search party…

IS ANYONE ALIVE OUT THERE? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Tuning in and out of the 90-minute state-of-the-church address, I kept wondering to myself, where are my people? And then the scarier question, why I am still here?

A deep-seated dissatisfaction has been growing in me and, despite my greatest attempts to whack-a-mole it back down, no matter what I do it continues to rise out of my wirey frame.

[To follow my publicly-chronicled church struggles, check out my other posts The How Can I Help Project and 50 Ways to Serve the Least of These.]

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these STAGGERING statistics.

Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is ANTI-CHURCH?

The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really.

So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us

Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

Solution:

  • Create regular outlets (forums, surveys, meetings) to discover the needs of young adults both inside AND outside the church.
  • Invite millennials to serve on leadership teams or advisory boards where they can make a difference.
  • Hire a young adults pastor who has the desire and skill-set to connect with millennials.

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements

Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.

Of course as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.

Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?

Solution:

  • Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jambo and get back to the heart of the gospel. If you have to explain your mission and values to the church, it’s overly-religious and much too complicated.
  • We’re not impressed with the hours you brag about spending behind closed doors wrestling with Christianese words on a paper. We’re impressed with actions and service.

3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.

If the numbers are not equal please check your Bible for better comprehension (or revisit the universal church mission statement stated above).

“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –Radical, David Platt

Solutions:

  • Stop creating more Bible studies and Christian activity. Community happens best in service with a shared purpose.
  • Survey your members asking them what injustice or cause God has placed on their hearts. Then connect people who share similar passions. Create space for them to meet and brainstorm and then sit back and watch what God brings to life.
  • Create group serve dates once a month where anyone can show up and make a difference (and, oh yeah, they’ll also meet new people).

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture

From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “twerking,” every older generation comes to the same conclusion: The world is going to pot faster than the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture—believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.

Solution:

  • Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
  • Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. (If this teaching isn’t happening in your life, check out the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel)

5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect

There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic Mean Girls.

In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”

The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.

Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.

Solutions:

  • Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service.
  • Create and train a team of CONNECT people whose purpose is to seek out the outliers on Sunday mornings or during other events. Explicitly teach people these skills as they do not come naturally to most of the population.
  • Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. We have to find ways to bridge that gap.

6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?

Solution:

  • Go out of your way to make all financial records readily accessible. Earn our trust so we can give with confidence.
  • Create an environment of frugality.
  • Move to zero-based budgeting where departments aren’t allocated certain dollar amounts but are asked to justify each purchase.
  • Challenge church staff to think about the opportunity cost. Could these dollars be used to better serve the kingdom?

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See: millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips.

For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.

We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)?

Solutions:

  • Create a database of adult mentors and young adults looking for someone to walk with them.
  • Ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.

8. We Want to Feel Valued

Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”

Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.

We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.

Solutions:

  • Return to point #1: listening.
  • Go out of your way to thank the people who are giving so much of their life to the church.

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)

People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.

We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.

No, I don’t think a sermon-series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to create a place where someone older is showing us a better way because these topics are the teaching millennials are starving for. We don’t like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either.

Solutions:

  • Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable.
  • Create an opportunity for young adults to find and connect with mentors.
  • Create a young adults program that transitions high school youth through late adulthood rather than abandoning them in their time of greatest need.
  • Intentionally train young adults in how to live a godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

10. The Public Perception

It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.

We desperately need to be calling the schools and the city, knocking on doors, asking everyone around us how we can make their world better. When the public opinion shows 1/3 millennials are ANTI-CHURCH, we are outright failing at being the aroma of Christ.

Solutions:

  • Call the local government and schools to ask what their needs are. (See: Service Day from #3)
  • Find ways to connect with neighbors within the community.
  • Make your presence known and felt at city events.

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)

Words without follow-up are far worse than ignoring us completely. Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. Lip service, however, doesn’t cut it. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what you say (because we’re sick of being ignored and listening to broken promises).

Solutions:

  • Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
  • If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.

12. You’re Failing to Adapt

Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells

Solution:

  • Look at the data and take a risk for goodness sake. We can’t keep trying the same things and just wish that millennials magically wander through the door.
  • Admit that you’re out of your element with this generation and talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what I am still doing here.

You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.

You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.

Feel free to write to me off as just another angry, selfy-addicted millennial. Believe me, at this point I’m beyond used to being abandoned and ignored.

The truth is, church, it’s your move.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the meantime, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

About the Author: Sam Eaton is a writer, speaker, and in-progress author who’s in love with all things Jesus, laughter, adventure, hilarious dance parties and vulnerability. Sam is also the founder of Recklessly Alive Ministries, a mental health and suicide-prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide. Come hang out with him atRecklesslyAlive.com.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Coaching Moms

By Dr. Henry Cloud

I remember Elisa Morgan once describing a mom as one of those juice boxes with multiple straws coming out of it, with little ones sucking energy out all day long. Not a bad description of the kind of demands that moms find themselves under each and every day. Add to that being a working mom, or a single mom, and the straws just multiply, because there is a second set of straws as well: time.

In the lives of moms, those are the two great commodities: time and energy. And the reality is that there is usually less of each than there are those who want to take them. So, the trick is to make sure of one thing before everything else: mom must be in control of both.

In all kinds of coaching, one of the most important first steps is to help the person regain a realization that they are “ridiculously in charge.” That is a phrase I wrote about in, “Boundaries For Leaders” for CEO’s to wake up to in their leadership: the fact that they are ridiculously in charge of what occurs in their organizations. But, moms need to realize the same thing. While they are not in charge of many of the demands upon them, they are in charge of which ones they invest themselves in, i.e. what they say “yes” to and what they say “no” to. And to get to that agreement is a tough tug of war in many instances. They often feel more out of control of the demands than “in control.” To help them, I suggest a few strategies.

First, prune to a specific budget. The first step is to help them realize that their time and energy is not unlimited. It is finite. There is only so much of them. So many hours in a day, and so much of themselves to give. Therefore, by definition, they must begin to treat time and energy just as they do money: a finite amount that must be budgeted.

What this does is to force them to prune their activities. Pruning occurs in three instances:

1.) The rose bush produces more buds than it can feed, so the gardener has to differentiate the best from the good, and cut the good ones, leaving only the best to get the resources of the bush.

2.) There are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well. The gardener has tried all he can do, and no amount of fertilizer, minerals or medicine is going to help. It is time to let it go.

3.) There are some branches that have long since been dead and are just taking up space. Other branches need this space to have room to stretch their limbs. So, the gardener must clip the dead ones. (For a full diagnostic paradigm for pruning, see my book “Necessary Endings.”)

Sit with your client and go through a pruning exercise in each of these categories of all of their activities:

Which meetings, friends, groups, activities, sports, clubs, social groups, etc. are “good, but not best?” Be ready to continue to drill further into her with questions, “And why is that the best way to spend your time, given your stated mission?”

Which activities, or even relationships, are “sick and not going to get well?” Maybe an extended family member, or friend, who is in denial and taking much time and energy, but is not using the help that is being offered? Maybe helping has turned into enabling, and that activity should be pruned, as it is not going to help the sick to get well.

And which ones have really not been contributing anything to her mission for a long time? They have been “dead” for a long time and should be cut.

So, what pruning leaves you with is the things that actually matter for her stated mission and objectives, whatever those are: the health of her children, her marriage, her work, her spiritual life, her well-being, etc.

Then, look at the budget and see how much time there is to spend, and spend it. Specifically in a calendar. Put in the “big rocks first,” meaning that the most important activities get a time and a place in the calendar. The most important, the vital ones, get put in first. Period. If not, the urgent will always get in the way. Then, she is left with the discretionary time and energy blocks to spend on what comes next in priorities. Remember, hone in on priorities, not on desire. Priorities are what drives activities, not desire.

At that point, she is realizing what reality truly is: there is only so much time and energy that any of us have, and we must be in charge of making the choices of how we are going to invest them. This exercise will drive those hard decisions.

Your job then becomes helping her to work through the conflicts and difficulties saying “no” to everything that there is not time left to do. Those are the choices that drive success in every area of life. What are we going to say “yes” to, and what are we going to say “no” to? When we realize that, and get our “yes’s” on the side of the things that really matter, we are truly back in control, the kind that we were meant to have: “self-control,” the “fruit of the spirit.” Then we are focusing on the things that are truly vital.

find the original article here.

Reblog: Why You Don’t Need Your Parents’ Approval as an Adult

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Ben was 30 years old when I met him. He came into my office burdened by the opinions of what his parents thought of his life choices. It sounds crass on the surface, but one of the first things I told him to do was to “grow up and get a life.” But the problem with this common phrase is that there is great difficulty in the process, so let’s look at both sides: growing up and getting a life.

Your symptom, feeling like you give too much weight to your parents’ opinion, is a sign that some growing up has not happened. And while you feel like you always have to honor your parents, you don’t always have to obey them. If you’re still in the child position, then that is getting in the way of how you were meant to live your life. So, we have to look at two reasons for still remaining in the child position: not growing up, and not having a life.

Some people stay in the child position with parents because they are either unable to “grow up,” or they are unwilling. Inability to get out of the child role and still want parental approval involves the process of needing something from your parents that you did not get. When there is something you are still looking for like love, acceptance, approval, validation or other ingredients that parents are supposed to give children to prepare them to be adults; you can be stuck waiting for them to finally grant you what you never had. You never really leave and become an adult because you are still waiting for “something.”

The truth is if it hasn’t happened by now, they are probably not able to give you what you want anyway. You have to get those things from the people you surrounded yourself with. If you are still waiting for your parents to give you something they cannot give, then it is time to grieve that and get on with growing up.

The next part, “to get a life,” involves taking control of your actions and your feelings, because you were created to have a fulfilling life that belongs to you and only you. If your parents still have that much power, then you are in the child position, still dreaming of one day having a life instead of getting one. Children dream of what they will one day be or do, and adults go for it.

The hard work is this – stepping out of the security of the child position, (where the biggest risk one ever faces is the disapproval of other mere mortals) – and into the risk of living life as it has been given you (where bigger things are at stake than someone’s approval). At stake is the ultimate wager – will what you do with your talents, abilities, opportunities and resources mean more to you than what your parents think?

find the original post here.

Reblog: Why Sadness Needs to be Honored and Processed Respectfully

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Sadness is our next basic emotion, for it tells us about hurt and loss. We live in a world where we get hurt and lose things. We need it to help us grieve and let go. If we repress and deny sadness, there is inevitable depression. Unresolved sadness always leads to depression and often other symptoms.

Sadness is always the way to joy, because sadness says that there is a hurt of some kind that needs to be processed, and usually it involves a loss.

When people deny their sad feelings, they “harden” the heart, and that is to lose touch with tender grace-giving aspects of who they are. They become unable to love and be tender, and to feel grief over their wrongdoings. This state leads then to become insensitive persons. In addition, it leads to all sort of symptoms – depressions, physiological problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the inability to get close to others.

Here’s a story:

Susan was in her mid-twenties when she began to have panic attacks. She would wake up in the middle of the night fearing that she was dying. If she saw anything on television about death or heard about death in any way, she ceased to function. The panic and dread of death overwhelmed her. She was referred to me when the panic rendered her unable to work.

“I feel ashamed that I am so afraid to die,” she said in the first meeting. I will never forget the confusion and hopelessness that she showed over the problem, she didn’t know what to do.

She had grown up very isolated in her family, with the exception of feeling some love from her sister, who was a few years older than she was. Her parents were non-relational people. When Susan was fifteen, she got up one morning and tried to get her sister out of bed, to no avail. Her sister had died during the night.

Understandably, her grief was enormous. But her father told the family that day, “There will be no more discussion of this. We must all be strong. Let’s forget the past and move on.” That was the way the death was handled.

As it turned out, Susan had many unresolved grief feelings about her sister. She was very sad that she was gone, and because she didn’t work through the grief, she still had a very deep wish to be with her sister, her only source of love. The wish was registering in her conscious mind as a fear; in reality, it was what she wanted, to be with her sister.

We began to talk about that loss, and she went into the long-awaited sadness and grief. She was able to talk out all of the feeling she had been denying for so many years. Over a period of months, she went through a normal grief cycle, letting go of her sister. That should have happened when she was fifteen, but because the family had a rule against sadness and weakness, it was delayed.

She lost her fear of dying as well as the vague depression she had experienced off and on for years. She also regained some loving parts of herself. The loving part that was sad and buried, away from time, was again available to get to grow and nurture. In addition, her sexual feelings returned, which she had not been able to feel either.

Whenever trauma is not worked through, the development stage present at that age gets affected. In her teens, it was love and sexuality. By processing her pain, she regained herself. There was joy after sadness.

When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of the ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted.

Sadness does not equal weakness. Rather, processing sadness leads to strength.

find the original article here.

Reblog: When is it Time to Leave Your Addicted Partner?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Deciding whether to end a relationship is a big decision. In fact, it’s one of the things I see people struggle with the most as a therapist.

For a codependent, the decision to leave an addicted partner is especially hard.

You’ve tried and tried, but things don’t ever seem to get better (or at least not for long).

You’re low on self-esteem.

You’ve devoted mountains of time to taking care of and trying to fix your partner.

However, despite the conflicts and disconnection, you love and care about your partner.

You wonder what will happen to your partner if you’re not around to help.

And what will you do without someone to take care of?

Leaving feels like a failure.

Things to consider when deciding to leave a relationship with an addict:

  • Is your relationship abusive? Abuse isn’t just about whether your partner beats the sh** out of your every time he gets wasted. It’s also the occasional shove or grabbing your arm. It’s forcing you to have sex or perform particular sexual acts when you don’t want to. It’s telling you you’re worthless or you’ll be alone forever if you leave. It’s threats to harm you or your kids. It’s blaming you and making you feel “crazy”.
  • What will happen if things continue on their current trajectory? I know you can’t predict the future, so the past is our best gauge for what’s to come. Have things gotten worse over time? Does your partner use more frequently or larger quantities? Do new problems continue to stack up?
  • How is this relationship affecting your kids? Are your kids really better off with you staying together? Perhaps their standard of living is higher in a two parent household, but don’t fool yourself into believing your kids don’t know what’s going on. Kids are very aware of arguments, abuse, or Mom being too drunk to drive; even babies can sense tension and conflict.
  • Is this an equal partnership? Marriage may not be 50-50 all the time, but it should even out to a reasonably equitable partnership over time. Are you carrying the bulk of the work and responsibility? Can you confide in your partner and feel supported? Are you appreciated and valued?
  • Is your partner invested in change? Remember the old saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”? Well, that’s the truth. Change takes sustained effort. Has your partner shown you that she is going to work at recovery day after or day or does she repeatedly quit programs, relapse, and make excuses?
  • What does it cost you to stay? Is staying eroding your self-esteem, your mental health, your physical health, your sense of peace and well-being? What else are you giving up in this relationship – your friends, goals, career advancement?
  • How long are you willing to wait? Change is hard and scary. It’s always easier to do the same thing rather than change even when you know the current situation is toxic. There’s a strong desire to hang in there thinking your partner will eventually change. You can’t rely on empty promises to change, you need hard cold facts. The truth is that even if there’s no evidence of change right now, your partner may eventually find long-term sobriety and recovery, but how long are you willing to wait? Six months? A year? Five years? 10 years? This is your life, too. What else are you missing out on while you’re waiting for your partner to change? You’ve put your life on pause. You deserve to live a fulfilling life with a partner that meets your needs.
  • Is your life unmanageable? Instead of waiting for your partner to hit bottom, consider whether you’ve hit your bottom. Do you want to live like this anymore? Are you sick and tired or being sick and tired?

Answering these questions will only be helpful if you can take an honest look at yourself and your partner. The sneaky thing about denial is that you don’t even know it’s there. Sometimes you need someone outside the situation to give you unbiased feedback.

It’s time to seriously consider leaving, if your addicted partner:

  • Hurts you physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually.
  • Puts you down; calls you derogatory names.
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for mistakes; blames you for everything.
  • Apologizes, but continues to hurt you in the same way.
  • Refuses to go to therapy or treatment.
  • Denies problems.
  • Tells you that you’re “crazy”.
  • Lies, cheats, steals, or other dishonest and unethical behavior.
  • Controls where you go, who you see, what you wear, or your access to money.

Deciding to stay

I’m actually not suggesting that everyone should leave their addicted partner. There are also times when a couple can recover from addiction and codependency together. I believe that in order for this to be possible, two primary things need to happen:

  1. Both you and your partner must be committed to recovery and participate regularly in recovery activities (in-patient or out-patient substance abuse treatment, psychotherapy, group counseling, 12-step or other self-help groups).
  2. Abusive behavior ceases completely. I can never advocate that you stay in a relationship where you’re being hurt physically, sexually, or emotionally. You deserve better.

I know from my personal and professional experience that relationships can survive addiction and become healthy. But I also know that codependents often stick around long after change is likely. Please remember that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t fix it. It’s not about whether she loves you enough to quit or about what you did wrong or what else you can try. Sometimes you need to save yourself before you go down with the sinking ship.

When I was at this crossroads, going to therapy was a lifesaver that re-centered me and helped me find acceptance. I can’t possibly know what you should do in your particular situation. If anything in this article spoke to you, I strongly suggest you get some support as you wrestle with these questions and try to see your life realistically.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Why Your ‘Friend’ may not be a Safe Person for You

by Henry Cloud

I received a message from an answering service one evening, and it told me that one of my clients was suicidal. I called Theresa on the phone. She was distraught.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“It’s not going to work, “ Theresa replied, sobbing.

“What isn’t going to work?”

“Telling other people about my problems,” she said. “I was talking to one of my friends tonight and told them about my depression and the problems with my boyfriend, and she really came down on me for being depressed and all the other stuff that’s been going on.”

“What was said?”

“Well, she said that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, and that if I was still having all these problems, then I was filled with too much negativity and that I bring everything on myself. I’ve tried all this ‘safe relationship’ stuff, and I’ve shared my feelings, and it just doesn’t work.”

“What if I told you that you still haven’t found safe relationships?”

“What do you mean? This is supposed to be my friend. I’ve known her for a long time.”

“Well, a ‘friend’ isn’t always safe,” I told her. “Safe is defined by helpful, and it doesn’t sound like tonight was too helpful.”

“How do you know what a helpful relationship looks like?” she asked.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Let’s talk about that.

We value friendship. We believe that friendship is one of the most powerful tools we have in our lives to change and heal character. In relationships with others, we are healed, and our character is changed. We know several people who have developed a support system of restorative friendships that have been of enormous help.

Friends give us what we need in the areas of acceptance, support, discipline, modeling and a host of other relational ingredients that provide change. But in picking good friendships that produce growth, several qualities are important:

  • Acceptance and grace
  • Mutual struggles, although they don’t have to be the same ones
  • Loving connection
  • Both parties need other support systems as well to avoid the same kind of toxic dependency on each other that led to the problems
  • Familiarity with the growth process where both parties have “entered in” and have some knowledge of the process so as to avoid the blind leading the blind
  • Mutual interest and chemistry, a genuine liking
  • An absence of keeping score
  • Honest and realistic
  • An absence of controlling behavior

Friendships of this kind are an absolute must for our personal growth. There are many good people out there, and to find them, make sure that you use discernment, wisdom and information to trust your experience with others. If someone is destructive or toxic, be careful. Keep looking and seeking until you find safe people, those who will give you all the benefits that are in store for your future.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Independence and Autonomy

by Henry Cloud

One parent once described adolescence as the terrible twos all over again, but this time in a bigger body. We personally don’t see either time period as “terrible,” but each one can be a time full of difficulty if you don’t recognize the important stage of independence, separateness and autonomy that a child is going through. In the “twos,” toddlers are moving away from the early dependency of infancy. In the teens, children are moving away from their lifelong dependency of learning on parents for a lot of functioning. They are looking to

  • Think for themselves and have their own opinions
  • Question, evaluate and choose values
  • Follow their own desires and goals
  • Build skills and abilities
  • Develop their own spirituality
  • Find their own ways of making money
  • Have parents available to them while they are working all of this out

These are all good things. Participate in your adolescent’s emerging autonomy by being proactive. Many parents just back off, wait for the testing of limits to begin, broaden the boundaries. In short, they put all the planning on the adolescent and then try to prevent the developmental path from working!

Being a partner in your teenagers’ independence is a good way to look at this issue. They will establish independence one way or another because they’re wired to do so. So it is better if you become a partner instead of an adversary. If you become a partner, they will need you and look to you. If you become an adversary, you will lose them, and they will lose the ability to grow into independence in a way connected to love and authority.

Partnering in independence and autonomy means to think always about your children guarding and managing themselves at the appropriate level. Give them enough space to fail and then manage the failure with empowerment, support discipline and correction. Or, when they succeed, give them more. Here are some areas where your teenagers are likely to demand more freedom and control over their lives:

  • More freedom to go places and stay out later
  • More freedom to do what they please without your being there all the time
  • More freedom in choosing things they like instead of what you like
  • Freedom to question things you have taught them and make up their own minds
  • Freedom to pursue their own interests
  • More control over their likes and dislikes
  • More control over their spiritual life

When these desires emerge, remember that your goal is to use them to manage the process of independence in a way that leads to teenagers being able to manage themselves. Give them the freedom within limits, and require them to use it responsibly. Do not see every drive to be independent as a testing of limits, although testing will come. See each incident as an opportunity to find out what kind of freedom they can manage and what kind they cannot. Do not give them more than can manage, for your role as a guardian and manager kicks in when they are in danger. But at the same time, do not restrict their freedom when they are able to manage it. To the extent that you are guarding and managing them in areas where they are showing responsibility, you are redundant and unnecessary.

Look for individual expression in music, clothes, hobbies, political views, overall appearance and the like. If their choices do not get them into danger, let it go. In most cases, their peers will enforce the limits of what is okay and what is not. If they go too far, they will run into trouble in their own social circles. But remember, their norms are different from yours.

In short, you want your adolescents to develop independence. If they don’t you will still be bailing them out when they are forty. This is the time to help them develop independence in the right way. Give them areas in which they can be different from you that do not involve values. If you allow them to do this, they won’t have to sacrifice more important areas of life to show you that they are their own person.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: What’s My Attachment Style and Why Does It Matter?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

If you’re in an unhappy relationship, feel stuck in a pattern of failed relationships, or can’t seem to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right, your attachment style may be the reason.

We all learn about human relationships from our first relationships – those with our parents or primary caregivers. Understanding your attachment style can help you get to the root of your relationship troubles.

Ideally, parents provide security and safety and children learn to trust that their parents will meet their needs. Parents provide comfort and help calm their children when they’re upset or afraid. As a result, children form a bond with their parents that builds a secure emotional foundation. Children can then confidently explore the world knowing their parents will keep them safe.

We know that humans are meant to connect to and depend on each other. Our survival hinges on it! Depending on others is healthy even in adult relationships. We are more successful and happy when we can form healthy, trusting attachments to other humans.

“We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.” – Brene Brown

There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant, and anxious. I have described each attachment style below.

Secure Attachment

  • You had your needs met as a child. Your caregivers were attentive and responsive to your needs helping you to feel safe and cared for.
  • You feel comfortable being close and emotionally intimate.
  • You seek and maintain close, stable relationships.
  • You feel comfortable expressing your feelings and needs.

Avoidant Attachment

  • Your caregivers were probably distant, cold, or unresponsive. As a result, you became more independent and self-reliant, not wanting to depend on inconsistent people.
  • Close relationships tend to feel smothering and like they’re impeding your independence.
  • You pull away from intimacy when it feels too intense.
  • You need a lot of time to yourself.
  • You may resist commitment.

Anxious Attachment

  • Your caregivers were inconsistent in attending to your needs. As a result, you hold on tight in order to try to get your needs met.
  • You crave intimacy and can never get enough closeness.
  • You question whether you’re partner really loves you or whether you’re lovable and seek frequent reassurance.
  • An anxious attachment can be described as “needy” or “clingy.”
  • You desperately seek security and attention from your partner, but this can push him/her away.

Why does my attachment style matter?

Attachment theory originated with work of John Bowlby, who studied mothers and infants, but we now recognize that our attachment style is still at play in our adult romantic relationships. The parent-child attachment sets the stage for our ability to trust that our adult partners will meet our emotional needs.

Our attachment style becomes a blueprint for the rest of our intimate relationships. Our attachment style impacts our choice of romantic partners and how we relate to them. We replay these attachment patterns over and over with new people as a way to find evidence for our beliefs about ourselves. This is why people often feel stuck in the same kinds of relationship patterns. For example, many anxiously attached people date or marry avoidants who can never seem to give them enough closeness and reassurance. This confirms the anxiously attached person’s fears of abandonment and belief that s/he is flawed or unlovable.

Understanding your attachment style is useful not only because it gives you insights into your relationship with your parents and how you felt as a child, but it can also help you understand difficulties you have in your adult relationships. Ultimately, understanding your attachment style can help you figure out how you can change in order to have more fulfilling relationships. In other words, having a healthy relationship is about choosing the “right” partner and about developing a healthy, secure attachment.

How can I become more securely attached?

Although attachment patterns are well established, you can shift toward a more secure attachment style by learning new skills and practicing a lot.

A few ways to start changing your attachment style are:

  • Notice your relationship patterns. Becoming more aware of your anxious or avoidant behaviors is the first step in change.
  • Pay attention to what you need and how you feel.
  • Share your feelings with your partner.
  • Recognize cognitive distortions and challenge them.
  • Communicate your relationship needs and expectations clearly to your partner.
  • Take good care of yourself.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself; acknowledge your strengths and successes.
  • Work with a therapist (shifting your attachment style is hard work).
  • Spend time with people who model healthy relationships.

I hope this post has shed a bit of light on understanding your attachment style and how it influences your adult relationships. For additional information, I recommend the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. As always, be patient and gentle with yourself as you challenge yourself to change.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Who is Responsible For My Patterns?

by Henry Cloud

We hear much today about dysfunctional father problems. Many women note their poor choices in boyfriends and husbands, or they may develop depression anxiety or compulsive disorders and make the connection that they had a problem father. They recall absent, distant, critical, abusive, weak, or scary dads. They are relieved that their present struggles have a past pattern that now makes sense to them, and they begin working on their “father issues.”

It has helped women to realize the reasons for their problems and provides a root to the issue that much of their current pain has to do with a past relationship. In addition, we have made a lot of progress in unearthing the father issues for people, looking at all the damage dads can do and discovering how to recover from those injuries.

However, some of this thinking oversimplifies and confuses important issues. For example, picking bad men isn’t always due to having a bad dad, and having a distant father doesn’t always create depression. We must investigate more deeply than this. Many women who grew up with absent fathers also had mothers who were both nurturing and assertive. Mom took responsibility for both mothering and fathering needs and made sure her daughter grew up in a relationship with several safe men who could help in her character growth. These women may have grown up technically fatherless, but they still received all the “good stuff” they needed.

Some believe that all attachment problems are mom problems and that all aggression problems are dad problems. So the logic goes, if a woman has a hard time setting limits and being her own person, it’s because of fathering issues. This is true, but incompletely so. Moms also have a lot to do with childhood assertiveness, and dads are able to teach tenderness. In fact, as children we generally learn our first no, our first independent steps, and our first identity moves from none other than mom. Mother issues of assertiveness occur years earlier than dad issues, which are a secondary process.

Kristin, for example, knew she was picking the wrong men. She found herself in her mid-thirties, leaving a second marriage, and then quickly getting involved with yet another man. The men she chose all tended to be strong, self-assured, and in control. Yet when she committed to them, their self-control would quickly turn into Kristin-control.

When she talked to a friend about her destructive pattern, he said, “You had a distant dad, and you’re looking for his strength and protection in the arms of a husband.” That sounded logical. Kristin’s mother had been quiet and nurturing, so as far as she could tell, Mom wasn’t the issue. Kristin began working on the loss of her father. Yet after all her work, Kristin still found herself attracted to controlling men. It was only when she began seeing a therapist who recognized the deeper “mom” issue, that Kristin could truly begin to change.

The reality of Kristin’s background was worse than she thought: Mom’s quiet nurture disguised a passivity and lack of identity in Mom herself. So Mother failed to lead her daughter through the separating, individualizing, and assertion training that Kristin needed. She taught Kristin to be sweet, passive, independent, but not to strike out on her own. As little girls do, Kristin then reached out for Dad, to repair what Mom couldn’t. But he wasn’t there either. Thus begun the eternal search for the Knight and Shining Armor. The truth was, underneath the armored helmet was the face of a structure-building, assertive mother. Kristin had unknowingly disguised mother issues as father ones.

Like Kristin, you may think you “man” problems are “dad” problems. They may be, but keep in mind the possibility that two dynamics are in play here: the mother who couldn’t let go and the father who couldn’t make his little girl feel special. They tend to occur simultaneously.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Dr. Laura: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Too Far Into a Relationship

  1. How well do I know them? Meeting the parents seems to be the last thing people do when dating. However, it should be one of the first. Observing someone in their “natural habitat” gives you a big impression of how your future with them might look. What is their family like? What kind of upbringing did they have?

  2. Can I trust them? If they share your private conversations with anybody, walk away. Don’t have an argument about it or give them a second chance. If they aren’t going to protect your innermost thoughts, drop them.

  3. Do I see how they are changing me? No matter who you’re dating, you’re going to be influenced by that person to some degree. Are they trying to get you to start or stop doing something?

  4. How do we communicate? Do you feel intimidated to talk or be open? Do you give them all the power because it’s easier than arguing?

  5. Am I attracted to their character or just their body? It’s easy to be attracted to someone who is a babe, but are you attracted to their heart, values, beliefs, and worldview? When you add up all the time you spend in a relationship, sex is only a tiny percentage. You have to be able to connect in other ways.

  6. Are they accepting of who I am? The most mature and loving people love you for who you are. If, while dating, they are already trying to change how you dress, talk, or eat, they are not ready for a relationship. And if you go along with it, you aren’t ready for a relationship either.

  7. How do they treat other people? Pay particular attention to how they treat people they say they care about.

  8. Do they make an effort to put my needs first? Relationships are give and take. If someone never gives, throws temper tantrums, displays outbursts of rage, or tries to control you, you need to watch out.

  9. Are their hopes and dreams for the future compatible with mine? This one is self-explanatory.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 7 Signs of a Doomed Relationship

by Henry Cloud

If you have read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Never Go Back, I will assume that you started with the first chapter. That chapter may or may not have been loosely based on an amalgamation of my failed relationships. I would see the 7 signs of a doomed relationship, sometimes more than 7, and instead of running away, I would run full speed into their closed arms.

Through all of my doomed relationships, I slowly started to figure out some of the signs that let me know that this was not my person. These signs are listed below in no particular order.

1. First and foremost, more than anything…you should feel safe. Safe expressing who you truly are, your mistakes and your triumphs. Every little thing that you have experienced has made you the person you are today and while some of this may not always be pretty to discuss, it made you, and the person you’re with will embrace your ups and not shame you for your downs.

2. It should never feel like a game. When someone is truly into you, and wants to pursue you and make you a part of their life….they don’t play games. They greet you with intention. They truly won’t wait an entire day/days to return a text message. When people are serious about you, you will feel like a priority. Whether you have been dating 7 days, 7 months or 7 years… relationships take effort and work, and when someone is genuinely interested in you, they will make it a point to make sure you know.

3. This ties into feeling safe, but the person you are with should not try and change you. I truly feel that you should feel accepted for who you are…but the caveat here, is that the person you’re with should help you grow. We all have areas that we can improve upon in life and relationship and I think there is a difference between changing for someone and growing with someone, I think it’s important to be aware of which one is happening in your relationship.

4. You try and make up for things that are missing. This was a mistake that I repeatedly made. I dated many people that looked so good on paper, and that I theoretically should like, or tried to like because all my friends and family loved this person. So, you try and convince yourself that it’s right. If something feels like it’s missing in your relationship, that feeling will never dissipate, it will just continue to grow. Don’t ignore it.

5. If you are starting to look outside your relationship to fulfill things that you feel are missing, it’s definitely time to reevaluate.

6. Relationships should progress. They are ever evolving and moving forward. Whether this is meeting friends and family, or planning trips together or future plans together. While relationships are very much about the present and what you are experiencing in the moment, they are also about the kind of future you see together, and not just talking about it but actively working towards something and bringing it to fruition.

7. Last but not least, and probably what I have personally used for a barometer more than anything, does this person make me feel crazy or are they a calming presence. We all have moments where we feel like we are losing our minds. Especially in relationship, because love can make us all crazy. Find someone who quiets your crazy not adds fuel to it.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Recharge Your Life By Putting Yourself First (Finally)

by Jonice Webb PhD

What didn’t happen in your childhood and what you don’t remember has as much power over who you’ve become as an adult as the things that did happen and that you do remember.

It’s an invisible factor called Emotional Neglect, and it can disrupt your health, personal life, relationships, and career in silent, invisible ways. Many of us suffered Emotional Neglect from our parents to some degree or another.

But it’s difficult to realize the effect this lack of nurturing, connection, and compassion has had on your adult life. Instead, adults who have been emotionally neglected often mislabel their unhappiness as something else, like depression, marital problems, anger, or anxiety.

As a psychologist, I’ve seen that even a very subtle lack of enough nurturing, compassion, and connection when we were children can have an insidious effect on us as adults, causing us to struggle with self-discipline and self-care, and to feel unworthy, disconnected, and unfulfilled.

But one thing folks who experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) have in common is difficulty taking care of themselves. Putting your own needs first, in the way that everyone must do in order to live a happy and healthy life, feels selfish or wrong.

Or, since you are literally “wired” to ignore yourself and your own needs, putting yourself first is simply not even in your mind as an option. It’s not on your radar screen.

The good news is that once you become aware of this unseen force from childhood, you can accept that your needs and preferences and wishes do matter, and you can begin to express them. You can begin to treat yourself the way you should have been treated all along. You can begin to put yourself first in a healthy, energizing way.

Four Ways to Put Yourself First

  1. Learn to Say No.

The people in your life have learned that you will be there for them, because that’s what emotionally neglected people do. Being a generous, compassionate person is wonderful, but sacrificing yourself too much by saying yes to things that deplete your time and energy is not. Remember this simple rule: Anyone has the right to ask you for anything, and you have the equal right to say no without giving a reason. Saying no when you need to, free of guilt and discomfort, is a vital building block of self-care.

  1. Ask for Help. Then Accept It. 

As an emotionally neglected child, you internalized your parents’ message: “Don’t have feelings, don’t show feelings, don’t need anything from anyone, ever.” If it’s hard for you to say no to others, it’s probably equally hard for you to ask them for help or a favor. To free yourself from this difficult bind, all you have to do is accept that other people don’t feel guilty or uncomfortable saying no, and they don’t have angst about asking for help. As soon as you can join them, a new world will open up for you.

  1. Discover Your Likes and Dislikes.

If you were emotionally neglected as a child, you may have difficulty knowing yourself, perhaps because your needs were not considered often and you weren’t invited to voice your preferences. As a result, you may have certain areas where you know yourself well, and others in which you’re mystified. If you’ve been focused outward for much of your life, you may not be able to identify your likes and dislikes, such as the types of people, food, and entertainment you most and least enjoy, or even the style of clothes, hobbies,  and future aspirations that appeal to you. Your likes and dislikes are valid and important, so take the time to write them down.

  1. Prioritize Your Enjoyment.

When you were growing up emotionally neglected, you probably weren’t allowed to make choices that led to your own enjoyment. Or, if your family was scrambling for resources, perhaps there wasn’t much left for fun things.  In some ways, this last strategy encapsulates the previous three. In order to put a higher priority on your own enjoyment, you have to say no to requests that pull you too far away from it. You have to ask for help sometimes so that you feel enough support and connection to others to allow for opportunities,  such as a movie or hiking companion. And you need to know what you like so you can seek it out. Think of one activity you’d like to pursue, and then follow up by taking action. Having more pleasure in your life will make you a happier person.

Following these four steps can have a tremendous impact on your life. As you gradually work on implementing them, you will find yourself feeling stronger, happier, and more empowered. You will find the voice you never found before, feel the fun you never knew existed, and preserve the inner energy you never before protected.

You will slowly,  step by step, bit by bit, send much-needed, long overdue messages to yourself:

Your needs matter.

Your feelings matter.

You are worth it.

Find the original article here.