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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Dr’

Stressing The Positives

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

My husband and I are, Baruch Hashem, happily married for five years. But there is a stumbling block constantly facing us.

I grew up in a home without any shalom bayis, as my parents constantly argued and fought. They tried to be good parents but they were always in bad moods because of their relationship. I often hated being home and was embarrassed to bring friends around because of what they might witness.

With maturity and a lot of soul searching, I finally understand their issues. I am have stopped blaming them for what they put us through and instead try to respect them for the efforts they put into raising us. But when it comes to my marriage, every time my husband says something that remotely resembles what my father may have said to my mother, I find myself responding the way she did. This happens even if what he said doesn’t bother me when I think about it calmly. For his part, my husband understands the way I grew up and tries to be patient with me, but his patience is wearing thin.

Related to that is although my husband and I are happy now, I am sure that unhappiness will soon set in. After all, my parents were probably happy when they were first married; their unhappiness developed over time. And that make me wonder whether or not we are actually happy now.

All of this is taking a toll on my marriage and I am not sure how to deal with it. I’d also like to know if this is normal.

Thanks in advance for your advice. We are looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

A Reader

Dear Reader:

You appear to be experiencing transference in your relationship with your husband. Transference is when someone transfers the negative feelings he or she feels toward one person who is important onto someone else.

Your attitude is a key issue in your marriage. If you believe that you are happy, you will in fact be happy – as happiness is a state of mind. Therefore, it is not healthy to think negatively.

It sounds as if you have worked on your personhood. The fact that you are so aware of your issues demonstrates your strengths. Take advantage of this and work on improving the way you respond to your husband. Just believe that you can find positive ways to react – once you believe that you can, it will be easier to do!

There is something called the Imago Theory that I often employ in therapy sessions. Basically it allows people to recreate their imago – the image of their own childhood in their lives and in their marriages.

What often happens during the dating process is that you are attracted to someone who, in your mind, may resemble one or both of your parents. This may present challenging issues to you (and possibly to your spouse as well) in your marriage. You may want to subconsciously recreate your childhood problems and work them out through your marriage. At times, even if your husband does not really behave like your father but does certain things that sometimes remind you of your father, you may overreact to those things because of your childhood.

As to your important question about whether your situation is normal: it falls within that category. But please remember to reasonably do what it takes to fight your negative feelings and the overall depressing cycle.

Since your husband is attempting to not allow you to recreate your childhood, you may need individual therapy. While as you say your marriage is good right now, you are falling into the trap of responding the way your mother responded to your father.

Much of what is transpiring is not on a conscious level. Thus, a therapist will hopefully be able to help you focus and build your positives. Through the building of those strengths, you will enhance your chances of overcoming your nisyonos (challenges) in life. I honestly believe that it will be difficult for you to change the way you respond to your husband without professional help.

Keep in mind that the therapist’s personality is key to your success in being helped. Seek a therapist who is cognitive-behavioral and solution-oriented. In order to conquer your problem, help the therapist in his or her attempt to focus on all of your strengths.

Degrees Of Rejection

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a 20 years old and dating. While I know that people consider me to be an attractive young woman, I have been getting rejected – quite a lot. This might be happening because I am painfully shy. For the most part I clam up while on a date; I become very anxious and don’t know what to say.

Then there are the times when I do speak and end up saying something that makes me look stupid – all that does it make me feel insecure. On the other hand, I am comfortable speaking with my friends who are girls.

I’m confident that I will make someone a good wife, as I am a loving person and enjoy cooking, baking and cleaning – and I adore children. I am just not good at the dating game. What can I do about my dating problem?

B.T.

Dear B.T.:

It is unfortunate that in our dating “system,” people sometimes have a hard time getting married since they find it difficult to relate to someone from the opposite gender. At times we wonder to what extent being a “good date” relates to being a “good marriage partner.” An individual can have a hard time with dating, but still be an excellent marriage partner.

Clearly, chassidim have found a way to resolve some of the dating issues and are generally more successful in marrying off their children. This is because they do a lot more in-depth research about the prospective mate and his or her family. They certainly do not face the crises with older singles that those in the more litvish/yeshivish groups face. With that in mind, here are some social skills tips that will hopefully help you during your dating experience:

1) Don’t put yourself down! Self-deprecating remarks can be your own worst advertisement.

2) Accept compliments graciously. A simple thank you with a smile will suffice.

3) Compliment your date subtly and specifically. Comments like “that idea sounds very interesting,” or picking up on a comment by your date and building on it will make him feel that you were truly listening and that his idea helped you come up with another point.

4) Prepare interesting material for your dates – stories, jokes and interesting accounts of your life experiences that you can access when you feel as if you are freezing up. Spend some time practicing doing this; you will have an easier time relaying them when you are anxious. In all likelihood, you will feel calmer because you will not feel pressured to immediately come up with something.

5) Make your date feel like you care about his life by asking questions – then listen enthusiastically to his answers, commenting on them with interest. These questions can also be prepared and practiced in advance so as to enable you to feel calmer and more ready. Also, try some deep breathing techniques before a date in order to calm yourself.

If after implementing some of these ideas you still find it difficult to connect with your dates due to your shyness, you should seek professional help. Social-skills training, part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be most effective in ameliorating your difficulty. I hope these ideas are helpful. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Respler:

My wife and I disagree on a crucial point regarding the issue of childrearing. I believe in discipline but not in hitting. My wife, however, becomes angry and hits our children. Thankfully she hits them on the behind and not too hard, but I believe she does this too often. The children listen to me more than to her, and I even overheard my eight-year-old son say, “I don’t care if Mommy hits me; it doesn’t hurt anyway.”

My wife is also inconsistent. After she hits the children, she kisses them and buys them gifts. I feel that I am strict but loving and fair, and believe that the children respect me more than they respect my wife. My wife agrees with my assessment, but she says it is because I spend less time with them. I believe that it is her inconsistent methods and the fact that she hits them that leads them to disrespect her. I know that she loves our children, but I am upset with her relationship with them. What do you think?

The Repercussions Of Divorce

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

In your August 24 column, What Can Prevent Marriage, you eloquently discussed how losing a parent at a young age may cause someone to have a hard time getting married. As you made clear this is because of a deep-rooted fear of getting closer to someone and facing the possibility of loss.

Here’s my issue: my parents got divorced when I was young, and I am afraid the same things will happen to me. You see, not only are my parents divorced, two of my siblings – along with an uncle and an aunt – are also divorced. I feel as if divorce runs in my family, and even the married people who I am close with don’t seem to be to happy.

I am writing to you hoping you can address this issue and possibly calm my fears. Dr. Respler, if someone comes from a divorced home and divorce is prevalent in his or her family, does it make the fearful person more afraid of getting married?

I am a young man with many options, but I am afraid of ending up divorced – and miserable. Please help me understand this issue (it would be most appreciated if you would include research to document some of your suggestions).

I want to be able to get married!

Frustrated

Dr. Yael Respler and Dr. Orit Respler-Herman offer the following reply:

Dear Frustrated:

Let me say that we do understand your dilemma. Based on our experience your fear is somewhat valid, as children from a divorced home are more likely to get divorced. That being said, there are many other factors that come into play that can affect a person’s marriage.

There are many individuals who have grown up in a divorced home and have wonderful, happy marriages. There are others, though, who grew up in an intact family but end up get divorced. The manner in which the divorce takes place also plays a role in how the children are reared. For example, if for whatever reason a couple decides to get divorced but ensures that it is amicable to the point that their children are shielded from its details and one (or both) of the parties remarries and is in a healthy and happy marriage, the chances of the children having happy marriages are much greater. The reality is that many children of divorced parents, whether the divorces were amicable or non-amicable, are happily married.

Research shows that growing up as a product of divorced parents significantly increases the likelihood of a child terminating his or her own marriage. Children from divorced homes in America are more likely to get married as teens and marry someone who is also a child of divorced parents. This also increases the likelihood of getting divorced. Research also shows that children from divorced homes are one-third less likely to marry if they are over age 20 when the divorce takes place (Wolfinger, 2005).

More recent research indicates that children from divorced homes have an increased risk of having difficult relationships and marriages (Cui & Fincham, 2010). However, expanded research was conducted to understand why this is so. The two most important factors: conflict managment and commitment to marriage.

One of the main ways children learn about relationships is by watching their parents interact. If children see their parents communicate in a positive fashion, they are more apt to communicate this way with their siblings or peers – as children often copy their parents’ styles of communication. How conflict is handled and how quickly parents become angry seem to have a particularly powerful effect on children’s own skills in dealing with others. Cui and Fincham (see above) found that children raised in households in which their parents do not manage conflict or disagreement well are more likely to have similar difficulties in their own relationships.

Parents also sometimes connect their feelings of commitment to their relationships. Cui and Fincham found that children with divorced parents have less positive attitudes toward marriage and a lower commitment to sustaining romantic attachments. Specifically, when these young people come across difficulties or are somewhat unhappy with the relationship they’re in, they are more likely to end the relationship – as compared to young people whose parents stay married. This finding also extends to marriage, whereby children with divorced parents were less likely to remain in the marriage – as compared to children from intact families.

The Benefits Of Countermoves: A Follow-Up

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Having enjoyed your column, The Benefits of Countermoves (Dear Dr. Yael, 8-17), I am now seeking your suggestions regarding my problem in this area.

My husband practices the “silent treatment,” whereby if I tell him something not to his liking or if I do something that does not meet his approval (these acts are not meant to hurt him) he can stop talking to me for hours or even for one or two days. After awhile, he returns to his normal behavior and we never discuss the issue again.

I am almost afraid to raise this issue since he may return to the silent treatment. By nature I am a bubbly, gregarious person while he is quieter and more subdued. When we get along he loves my personality. However, if I become too bubbly or gregarious when we are among Shabbos guests or extended family and he disapproves of something that I said, he will stop talking to me. He can become this way with little provocation.

My husband’s behavior can be triggered if I tell someone something about myself that he thinks I should keep private. I will beg him to stop, tell him that I love him and even cry – but he won’t relent. He becomes cold and silent and I am at his mercy. I will try to do nice things for him and act lovingly toward him, but nothing works. When he gets like this I cannot reach him and he totally controls me. As a result, I become very tense and upset. He can ruin a Shabbos and destroy hours of happiness – all for nothing. Sometimes, I am not even sure what it was that I said that set him off.

We are in our first year of marriage and spend a lot of Shabbasos and Yamim Tovim by our parents. We are both from large families and both sets of parents have lots of guests on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Do you have any countermoves for my husband’s silent treatment? Other than the times I’ve described, we get along. But I am tired of crying and want my husband to stop with the silent treatment!

A Frustrated Newlywed

Dear Frustrated:

I have a great countermove for the silent treatment. To begin, you must stop giving your husband so much power over you. Thus, stop crying! It only feeds his power trip. Then tell him something like, “I understand that you need your space and I did not mean to upset you. When you are ready, I would love to talk to you.”

Then get busy with other things. Please do not feed into his need to control and upset you. If he persists in his no-talking mode, go out with friends. This will show him that you are busy and not upset. If you are close to your mother or sister, spend time with one or both of them – out of the house. When he sees that you are not begging him to be with you and that you are happy and content doing other things, you will see how quickly things will turn around.

What use will he have in playing the silent treatment game if you are not there to receive it? What pleasure will he derive if you are not upset and simply understand that he needs his space? Trust me that the silent treatment will disappear. You will be surprised at how quickly he will realize that it is no longer challenging or exciting to upset someone, namely you, who is so busy with her own life and is allowing him to sulk.

I have worked with many patients using this tactic. Sometimes it is the wife who practices the silent treatment. I had one patient, a husband, who would buy his wife expensive jewelry every time she went into her silent mode. When he tried my approach, she ended her shtick since it stopped getting her more jewelry or attention. He began learning more and spending more time in shul when she went silent. This caused her to quickly realize that she was losing all of his attention with her behavior. Believe it or not, she stopped using the silent treatment.

What Can Prevent Marriage

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I notice a certain unfortunate trend. People who lose a parent at a young age often stay single for a long time – or, unfortunately, do not marry at all. This was first pointed out to me at a sheva berachos in the fall of 2011. My internal thought was that the person who lost his father when he (the son) was just 28 – which, in my opinion, is an age when one should be able to function on one’s own – was simply looking for an excuse to rationalize why he had not yet gotten married.

I then reflected about a few other people whom I know, all over 30, who are still single – but I still was not convinced. I have another friend who, unfortunately, has no parents and does not expect to get married. All of these situations caused me to start thinking that it was possible that the aforementioned person’s rationalization was not just an excuse.

Very recently a non-Jewish colleague, in his early 50s, was asked by our client if he was married. He responded that he wasn’t, as his father died when he was a young teenager. As this answer came from a non-Jew living in the secular world, I began to think that maybe there is in fact a general correlation between losing a parent at a young age and not getting married – or marrying later in life. Following my colleague’s insight, I had a date with a young lady who lost her father when she was young; she is one of four unmarried children.

My sister, brother, and I lost our father, a”h, when we were in elementary school. Baruch Hashem, my sister is happily married. My brother and I still have not found our basherts. Could it be that since parents may be one’s emotional and financial anchors, orphans have a very hard time getting married? Could it be that since orphans do not have both their parents to rely on, they have a hard time getting married? Could it be that since kol hatchalot kashot (all beginnings are hard), not having both your parents at the early stages of one’s growth makes it much harder for orphans to get married? Or maybe there’s a totally different reason why orphans have a hard time getting married.

Or am I totally off the mark on all this?

Anonymous This answer was written by both Dr. Yael and Dr. Orit:

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. It was courageous of you to discuss this personal and painful issue in writing.

When one loses a parent, one experiences deep pain. When someone goes through a trauma early in life, it can affect him or her in many different ways. Specifically, the early death of a parent influences a child’s development.

Additionally, children experience their grief yet again as they reach every developmental milestone. Thus, it stands to reason that when reaching the milestones of dating and marriage, people go through their grief again. It is important for a person in this situation to seek professional help in order to work through this complicated emotional process.

Research has shown that losing a parent between the ages of five and nine is perhaps the most challenging time for the child, as it is the most vulnerable and difficult developmental stage. Children at that age think practically, and have a hard time understanding abstract thinking. They often feel that the parent’s death is their fault and that if they behave, their parent may return. A child aged five-nine who experiences the trauma of a parent’s death needs to speak with someone who can clarify what the child is thinking and feeling, and who can reframe events to make them more logical. The child also needs someone who can help build his or her self-esteem, namely by praising the child’s accomplishments and by highlighting his or her importance. Even just having someone listen to his or her ideas and helping the child understand what he or she is going through can be extremely beneficial.

Perhaps children are afraid to enter into another loving relationship when they lose someone they love so deeply. This could be because they are subconsciously afraid of losing someone else they would care for so deeply – namely a future spouse. By not committing to a marital partner, they do not risk ever experiencing the extent of pain they endured when losing their parent. While this may sound a little extreme, it can truly take place in a subconscious way.

Dealing With Your Daughter’s Troubling Relationship

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am concerned about my daughter. She is dating a boy whom she is crazy about, but I see certain things in him that make me nervous. He tries to control her and wants her to spend all her time with him. If she has plans with friends or family members, he will often become upset; as a result, she cancels her plans so she can be with him.

As I see this intense connection between them, I understand why she likes him; but to me it does not seem like a healthy relationship. I am worried that she is going to take the relationship with him to the next level – namely, get engaged – and I am not sure how to proceed. I do not want to alienate my daughter and am not sure that this boy is abusive, but I know that his being controlling is a red flag.

What can I say to my daughter and how can I get her to listen to me? When I expressed disappointment that she canceled certain plans in order to go out with him, she became very defensive. I know that her life is her own, but this kind of mistake is not one I am willing to let her make.

A Distressed Mother Dear Distressed Mother:

It appears from your letter that there are definitely some signs that this relationship is not healthy. Isolating someone from their friends and family is definitely a red flag and is usually the first step that abusive spouses take to exert their control over their wives or husbands. Once a person is cut off from her or his support system, it is very easy to manipulate the person and make her or him feel badly about herself or himself, while convincing the manipulated individual that it is her or his fault.

People in an emotionally abusive relationship become entrenched in this cycle of abuse and often do not realize what is happening. Generally it is their friends and family who are the ones to pick up on the abuse and help them out of their situations; however, if they are cut off from family and friends, an extremely dangerous situation ensues.

There are organizations that are very helpful in these matters, such as Shalom Task Force and Shalva. Shalva offers some questionnaires on their website (www.shalvaonline.org), which may help you approach your concerns about your daughter.

The first step is to evaluate what is really going on. Some signs of an abusive relationship are:

* Isolation of a partner from friends, family and community.

* Conflicts are resolved by one partner, who dictates the solution in a demeaning manner.

* Disrespect and denigration of a partner’s values and beliefs.

* Use of criticism and humiliation to reinforce the partner’s shame and guilt.

* Lack of communication is prevalent, as the partner does not feel that she or he can raise issues that are bothering her or him.

* The use of threats and coercion to solve problems.

It may be helpful to share this information with your daughter and print out a screening questionnaire from the Shalva website (see above). This must be done very gently and with much sensitivity. Perhaps you can approach your daughter when things are calm and when she is not feeling torn between her feelings for her boyfriend and those toward her family and friends. Express how much you love her and that you want the best for her. Tell her that you understand why she likes him and you can see some very nice qualities in him. Then explain to her that you see some things that are making you nervous.

Give her, and ask her to read, copies of the questionnaire and the signs of an abusive relationship. Urge her to consider whether she believes that her relationship with her boyfriend is healthy. You must ensure that you do not come across too strongly. However, it is important to remember that even if she becomes upset with you, she may be reacting to shame and insecure feelings – and may look at the paperwork you gave her later on. Show her physical affection (i.e., hugs) if she seems receptive and assure her that you will be there for her regardless of her decision. This will show her that you are not trying to take her away from her boyfriend (something that he may be telling her if he is indeed controlling and abusive) but rather that you care about her and want to support her.

The Benefits Of Countermoves

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I wish to share with your readers and you what I did to enhance my marriage through the use of your suggested technique of countermoves.

My husband is, by nature, a closed person and has a hard time paying compliments. Many people have advised me to accept him and love him just the way he is, as he is both a good husband and good father. He is also a great provider.

But I was very frustrated with his lack of warmth and deficiency in giving compliments. He would often say that the “good is expected and the bad is noted.” This was painful, since I yearn for positive statements and warmth from him.

Even though my nature is to be warm and loving, all my praise did not seem to help him reply in kind. He told me, “I know that you are complimenting me to get me to compliment you, but I just do not need all this praise.” This pained me even more.

I finally said to him, “I know that you do not need my praise, but I yearn for your compliments. Nobody means so much to me, and it is only you who can fill this void.” Then I did something very creative: Every time I wanted a compliment, I would ask for it!

If I were wearing a new outfit, I would say, “Do you like my outfit?” After he would answer yes, I would ask him, “Do you think I look good in it?” I would add, “It would mean so much to me if you told me that I did.” Sometimes he would get upset, but other times he would tell me what I longed to hear. I used this strategy with many issues that were important to me. For instance, I tried to get him to compliment my suppers with this technique, my small successes at work, and even the way I handled the children.

I’ve been working on this for over a year, and surprisingly he is better at complimenting me. I tell him how much his compliments mean to me, and I show him my happiness. Occasionally he actually praises me on his own, and I am still persistent in getting his praise.

I see how his parents’ marriage is devoid of all praise and warmth. As a young couple, I do not want my husband and I to end up like them. Thus I think that if I keep at it, we will have a different kind of marriage, one that is more loving and positive than that of my in-laws.

For my part, I continuously praise him – an act that he is enjoying. I try to give him compliments that are important to him. As an example, he davens beautifully. So the other day I got a babysitter and went to shul at the time I knew he would be davening. He was shocked to see me there. I told him that I came since I knew he would be davening, and I really enjoy hearing him daven. He did not respond, but he could not stop smiling. He could not believe that I took a babysitter and made an effort to come to shul on a Shabbos that was not Mevorchim HaChodesh or Rosh Chodesh. (I know that many people are away in the summer and that the shul needed him to daven.)

I am so happy with the positive changes in my marriage that I wanted to share my experience with your readers. I hope that the details I’ve expressed help others in a similar predicament.

A Happier Wife

Dear Happier Wife:

Thank you for your amazing letter and your wonderful ideas. Your letter is an inspiration to all women, as well as to men who have closed and non-complimentary wives.

I have previously referred to the imago theory in my column and recently did a radio show about it. I often use imago therapy to help my patients. The imago means the image in which you grow up.

In essence it seems as if your husband comes from a negative imago, as there is, based on your description, little praise and very little warmth between his parents. In all probability his parents were also not warm toward him and probably did not compliment him. Therefore all this praise is alien to him. By using your technique, you are trying to create a new imago in your home so that you do not copy your in-laws’ marriage. You do not talk about your home life before marriage, but I would venture to say that you probably come from a warm, loving home. Otherwise, you would not be able to be so positive when faced with so much negative energy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/the-benefits-of-countermoves/2012/08/17/

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