You can’t build a boundary fence on others property.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Iron gate

Boundary gate.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Sometimes drawing boundaries goes very wrong.

poorly set boundary

Poor Boundary
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Having good boundaries is important for good mental health. Families that do not set boundaries develop long-term problems. Parents need to be parents and children need to be allowed to act like kids. People have the right to think what they think and feel the way they feel.

One important part of recovery is learning to set boundaries. Mature relationships, healthy ones, include the right to say no to things that make you uncomfortable.

Boundary setting, like so many other life skills, done well can increase your happiness. Done poorly, boundary setting results in adding to your problems. In recovery or just plain growing up, there are lots of boundaries that need setting.

Setting boundaries.

In early recovery, from whatever you call your life issues, many people find that they have not done a good job of setting boundaries. People drop in whenever they chose. Family members may show up expecting to stay for a while, sometimes months. They may “borrow things” without asking. All sorts of inappropriate things happen.

To have an emotionally healthy life you need to work on setting boundaries. What is OK and what is not. Let your yeses be yes and your no’s be no.

In addiction and mental illness roles and boundaries get blurry.

If you have gone through a period of illness, drug use, alcoholism or any mental or emotional illness, chances are roles got blurred. Parents have not been living up to their roles. Children may have had to care for their parents and siblings.

Dysfunctional families do not have clear roles or if they have roles those roles may not be appropriate. Children get used to telling parents what to do. Your family may be calling up to tell you what is wrong with your partner and your boss.

In recovery, boundaries have to change.

You have to start telling others that your choices are your choices. Then it becomes your challenge to make good choices. Recovery means you stop blaming others for your problems. It also means you have to take on the personal responsibility for those choices.

Sometimes you need to tell people to stop telling you what your kids should do and wear. Some of you will have had to tell people who have been in your life a while that if they cannot respect your boundaries then they need to stop calling or coming around.

Your time is your time.

You may need to set boundaries on what time you will give to others. You should not need to live your life running to do for others no matter how much you care about them.

One place you can’t set a boundary.

You can build a fence to keep people off your property. Good fences make good neighbors, so the saying goes. But one place you can’t put up a fence is on your neighbor’s property. I see a lot of people in all forms of recovery get that one confused.

You can say “If you can’t give me a ride then I will need to stop giving you rides.” That is a boundary. What you can’t say is “I am setting a boundary. From now on your need to give me rides when I need them.”

Boundaries are about what you will do and accept. They are not a way of getting others to fit into your plans. When you start setting boundaries expect others to push back. They may well start setting boundaries also. If you want others to respect your newly set boundaries you will need to respect theirs also.

Boundaries around feelings are a huge problem.

Do not say “You have no right to feel that way.” Do not try to dictate how others feel or think. What you can say is “I am sorry you feel that way, or even, “how you feel is not my responsibility.”

Your feelings are yours. Their feelings are theirs. Work on seeing the difference here. It is possible for two or more people to feel differently about something. You do not to have to be experiencing the same feeling as others. You need to maintain the right to feel the way you feel and grant others that same right.

Your lack of boundaries does not prevent others from having boundaries.

Dysfunctional families often have blurry or absent boundaries. People take each other for granted. Your things may not have been respected. Others may have felt that you owed them to do for them. As you begin to set your boundaries, avoid becoming the aggressor and trying to even the score by imposing on others. If you want your boundaries respected respect others.

Keep your boundaries consistent.

Once you set a boundary, don’t just walk into my house without knocking or don’t smoke dope around here, keep to it. People will test you. Things have a way of sliding back into the old patterns. Make sure you remind others that you have these new boundaries. If they can’t respect this you may need to find ways to get them out of your life or to minimize their impact on you and yours.

Good boundaries help you have good relationships. Learn what is acceptable to you and enforce those boundaries. In the process of setting boundaries, accept that others have the right to set some also. Boundaries mark the places where you end and another person starts. Practice maintaining good boundaries and you will have a better life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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11 tips for more marriage miles.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Getting better marriage mileage.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ways to get more mileage out of the marriage you have.

Marriage seems to be an endangered institution these days. Fewer people getting married and more divorces, people appear to be trading in their spouses faster than they are trading in their car. What we often find, with cars and with partners, is that there is a reason someone else is trying to trade theirs in.

Before you scrap your marriage and go shopping for a new relationship consider that whatever relationship you are in may be in need of a little refurbishing. Marriages need maintenance just like houses and cars. You may need to see a professional from time to time. That is what marriage counselors are for, but there are lots of things you can do on a daily basis to maintain that relationship before it falls apart.

Consider doing some of these activates frequently if you want your relationship to last.

1. Make couples maintenance a priority.

You’re in a relationship, you think you are past the hard part. Now that you have a partner you can focus on becoming a success in life. Not so fast.

Jobs will come and go. Life has its ups and downs regardless of the partner you are with. You may move around or change jobs. Your kids will grow up and launch out on their own. In all that living will you stay connected to your partner?

Put time spent maintaining that relationship in your schedule. Money may come and go but you only get so much life. Invest some of that time in maintaining your relationship. Otherwise, you will wake up one day and not know who this person you are living with has become.

2. Add more kind words to your relationship.

Families who are happy make kind words a staple in their emotional diet. There are plenty of times that people disagree and there will be arguments, but make an effort to say nice things to your partner.

If someone only hears about the things their partner does not like, but never hears that they are valued, they develop the belief that their partner does not see anything good in them or the relationship. For a long-lasting relationship say nice things to each other more often.

3. Touch is a two-way street.

Touch builds bonds. In early courtship couples hold hands, they snuggle and want to be close. Touch needs to be in the relationship for more than just the mechanical part of sex. Sex is good, it builds the couple relationship, but sex alone will not be enough.

Make sure you are including some hand holding, some gentle touching, and an occasional back rub or massage for a well-functioning relationship.

4. Talk more for more marriage mileage.

Humans use words for a lot more than conveying information. We think in words and we use them to express feelings. If you really want to understand your partner and to be understood, talk more. Talk not to convince them or to win the argument but to learn about each other.

Couples in the dating period do lots of talking, then they get together and there is progressively less time for talking. Life happens, the job, the kids. Over time people change. Make sure that you spend some time just talking if you want to know your partner. Otherwise one day you will wake up and discover that the two of you no longer know who this person is that you are living with.

5. Have new experiences together.

Far too many families discover when it is too late that the things of life do not make you happy. Yes, a new car or video game is enjoyable for a while but eventually, they wear out and get discarded. What you have after the things are gone are the memories.

Make memories together. You will need those good time feelings in the emotional bank when the trials of life arrive.

6. Problem solve. Use disagreements to brainstorm new solutions.

The easy solution to life’s problems is to fight for what you think you want or need. Do not blame your partner for the problems and make it all their fault. You are in this partnership together. Avoid win-lose solutions and spend some time looking for options that allow both of you to get your needs met.

Do not fall into the trap of trying to control the situation and your partner. When times are tough winning the argument can cost you the relationship.

7. Have something to look forward to.

Life should not be all grind. Have hopes and dreams and work towards them. Make sure you do not get so wound up in the work of living that you do not see the rewards down the line.

8. Do unexpected nice things.

One large meal will not fill you up for a month. Do not expect that an occasional nice thing for your partner should make them feel loved and satisfied.

In your love menu include small unexpected treats and you will maximize positive relationships.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at your mistakes.

Trying to be perfect can leave you perfectly alone. The perfect person is very difficult to live with. Take the pressure off you and your relationship. Learn to admit when you are wrong about something and try to fix it.

Being able to laugh at yourself is a very helpful ability. We all do silly things at times. Recognize when you do those things and do not keep trying to explain why you did that or why it is not your fault.

10. Create new together activities and interests.

Couples, like individuals, need to grow. Grow together or grow apart. It is healthy for there to be interests that your partner does not particularly share. Talk about those interests some of the time. But also make it a priority to do new things together and develop new interests. This keeps the relationship alive and growing.

11. Put more kisses on your to-do list.

Happy long-term couples kiss more. These frequent kisses are not reserved for the start of sex but are liberally sprinkled throughout the life together. Make sure that there are quiet together times for these affection gestures. While your partner is struggling with a misbehaving child or an overflowing washer may not be the best time. But sometimes those are exactly the time to stop the flow of things and interject an “I love you” and a kiss.

Those are some of my suggestions for things you might want to do to keep your relationship in top condition. Have you found any other maintenance techniques that make your relationship run better?

For more on this topic take a look at these other posts on counselorssoapbox.com

Relationships

Love

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Will marriage counseling help?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

End of Marriage

Marriage mistakes.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you get the most from marriage counseling?

Not all marriage counseling results in couples staying together. Occasionally the problem is the fit between the two parties, they should never have married. Most of the time the problem is in the individuals. Pick a new partner and you will get a new set of problems.

What do you need to do to get the most from this marriage counseling experience?

For marriage counseling to be helpful there are two things that need to happen. You need to pick the right counselor and you need to go into this experience with the right goals and attitudes. See my posts on “Why men fear marriage counseling” and “Picking the right counselor for you.

Be serious about investing your time in counseling.

How many hours a week do you spend fighting? Do you spend a lot of time complaining to others about your partner? Do the hours of the week include lots of time for misery?

People tell me that their poor relationship is destroying their life, interfering with their work and keeping them from having a happy life.

Then they tell me they are not sure they can fit an hour appointment in their schedule. Working on a relationship takes time and effort.

Why wait till after the divorce to come for therapy because of your anger or depression?

Lots of the individual counseling I do is actually “post-divorce therapy.” People get divorced thinking that will make them happy and find they are still unhappy.

Be serious about investing your money in counseling.

People spend hundreds on nights out, concert tickets, new clothes or hair appointments and then say they can’t afford marriage counseling.

If you have children the court-ordered medication and counseling for the children will cost a lot more than what you might have invested in marriage counseling.

How much of your money is spent in the pursuit of happiness? Consider going to counseling an investment in yourself, in learning the skills you will need to get along with a partner or to be happy without them.

Don’t keep putting the problem off because some days things go better.

If you are having relationship problems the sooner you begin to work on these problems the more likely you are to find solutions that will work for both of you. Too often couples wait until the wreckage of repeated fights leaves them both convinced that even if the situation changes they still would want out of this relationship.

Every relationship has its ups and downs. When you are having that rough patch, one of you may be thinking the worst. During the times that you are able to talk with each other rationally is the best time to make progress.

Relationship counseling does not always need to be a long drawn out process. If you both approach it with the desire to work out your problems things may improve more quickly than you expect. Sometimes it is a matter of learning new skills or getting another perspective.

Don’t go to counseling to prove who is right or wrong.

A good marriage counselor will not solve the problems for you. They should never take sides. You will waste lots of time and money trying to be right and the result will be that both parties will leave the relationship angry and bitter.

Figuring out who is right is the job of a judge when you go to end the marriage. If you are stuck on making your partner the cause of the problems then you can’t focus on the solution.

The goal in counseling should be to find common ground, things you can agree on.

Repairing the damage is far more important than beating your partner into submission. Couples who stay together learn to see things from their partner’s viewpoint rather than becoming good at making that partner wrong.

Be honest with the therapist and yourself.

If you have decided you want a divorce but have been afraid to say so, being in the room with a neutral mediator may help.

If your choice is to stay married? What are you willing to change about yourself to make this work? There are ways to influence your partner (see getting others to change posts) but the fastest way to see things improve is often to change yourself. Changing you may require giving up that resentment you use over and over to beat your partner into submission.

Many couples come in unsure if they want to stay together. They know there are things about their partner that drew them together and things that are pushing them apart. One day they want to stay married and the next they think it is over. In couples like this, the “leaver” and the “stayer” may shift back and forth from day-to-day.

See also:

Finding a marriage counselor who can help

Why men fear marriage counseling

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why men fear marriage counseling.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Couple

Why men fear marriage counseling.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Why men would rather ship out to a combat zone than go to marriage counseling.

There are a whole lot of reasons that men cringe in terror when they hear those dreaded words “we have a problem” or “we need to go for marriage counseling. They have good reasons to be terror-struck. I would want to avoid it also if I were in their shoes, except that I am a Licensed Marriage Therapist and have to do this sometimes. Here are some of the reasons men avoid marriage therapy.

Men do not talk about problems, they fix them.

Men, many of them, come from a culture that does not talk about feelings. When they feel sad or frustrated they do not talk – they do.  No young boy is taught that when he misses a shot in basketball he should sit and have a good cry and talk about it for a while. He is told to shake it off and get back in there and try again.

If he stopped to engage his feelings even his own mother, a man’s blueprint for how to be around women, might call him a sissy and tell him to knock it off and be a man. Then he gets married and his wife wants him to be more like a woman and have feelings and sit and talk about them.

For most men experiencing feelings, like crying in front of others is the equivalent of being asked to cut off a couple of inches. The man’s answer is if the board is too big, let’s just make the shelf longer, but I am not cutting off anything.

Marriage counseling traditionally was a tag team sport and the man got the beating.

Most marriage therapists are women. In California, the typical marriage counselor is a 55-year-old woman, who works 20 hours a week in private practice and mostly focuses on children and women’s issues. When I graduated there were only three men and row upon row of women getting their marriage counseling degree.

There are some great women therapists, unfortunately, there are also some who became therapists to fix themselves and they have the view that the problem is always the man.

A lot of men have come into my office and told me that the last “Marriage therapist kept telling their wife that the man was the problem and she should just leave him. You can take just so much of this tag team beating before you need to draw the line.

A good marriage counselor should never take sides. But under the circumstances, it happens way too much. The man is already being asked to be more sensitive, use his intuition and talk about his feelings.

They expect to hear that who and what they are is not acceptable.

When a man gets an email that the boss needs to see him for a talk, what he hears is that he is about to get chewed out.

Women do not “invite” men to marriage counseling for fun. By the time it is said it is because the problem has reached the crisis stage. This request is likely to sound more like an invitation to a flogging than a request for a problem-solving session.

Most couples, members of both, even multiple sexes, want to find a solution to a problem for which there is no solution. Gottman found after studying what couples fight about, that the majority of things over which couples are fighting about are things that can’t be changed.

She liked how “exciting” he was, only now she wishes he would be more “responsible.” He liked how “stylish” she was; now he is complaining about how much she spends on makeup and clothes.

When one party in the relationship says we have a “communication problem” what they really mean is you are not doing what I want you to do.

Men, most of them, do not have a strong tradition as good communicators. No NFL player stops the talk over the possession of the ball.

Men are more accustom to the idea that the more they talk over a problem the more they will lose.

The idea that there can be win-win solutions, activities and exercises that help both parties get their needs met rather than one winning and the other losing is not something men expect to find in marriage counseling.

Even their mother wouldn’t do this to them.

Mothers, the good ones that inhabit myths and legends, love their sons unconditionally. They watched him grow up and know his weaknesses. Mom gave up trying to get him to stop burping at the table and leaving his dirty underwear on the living room floor a long time ago.

The wife is sure she married a fix-it-up-project and has begun from day one to try to make changes in her new acquisition.

Men can’t understand why that woman who loved him unconditionally a few weeks ago is now on the way home from the honeymoon trying to change every nook and cranny of her new possession.

Does this mean it is over?

By the time the couple gets to the marriage therapist office many times one or the other party has already decided that they want out. What the man may be hearing is that she set this up so she could have a witness to how unreasonable he is and why she should leave him.

Now what?

How do you get the man or woman in your life to go for relationship counseling before the train wreck? Is there really a way to get that man to come and talk to make things better?

Yes, there are ways to find a professional who can help you work through those issues and help make your relationship happier. The key is to find the right marriage counselor for you and your partner.

In an upcoming post, we will explore how to find a marriage counselor that can help you both find ways to meet your needs by staying in the marriage instead of running for the exit.

See also: Will marriage counseling help?

Finding a marriage counselor who can help 

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Healthy relationships

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Couple

Relationship.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Type into a search engine almost any term about happiness or relationships and you find a whole lot of links to dating sites right at the top. Those dot com places, you know the ones I mean, make it sound like the only relationship that matters is a romantic partner one, and if you don’t have one you are somehow incomplete and unhealthy.

Most of the articles on these sites are about how to attract a partner. How to do the right things say the right things and wear the right things to be desirable. The inference here is that if you just got someone to be your partner you would be happy. If selling sex wasn’t illegal in most places I think they would flat do that also. Some get awfully close to selling relationships. So with so many people hooking up for more or less time, why are so many people so unhappy? Is a romantic partner relationship really the only one that matters?

Why do so many people in unhappy marriages divorce and remarry, only to be unhappy again? Because they never learned that happiness was inside and unhappiness was everywhere. That does not mean that sometimes relationships need to end or that having had one bad relationship you should never try again. It does mean that you need to learn to be healthy and happy or you won’t be able to be in a healthy happy relationship. Two mentally unhealthy people do not make for a healthy relationship.

People with some pretty extreme disabilities can and do have great healthy relationships. Schizophrenics who have a supportive person living with them are about half as likely to end up back in the hospital. Just be sure you are together because you both can contribute to the relationship.

So where do you start to have a great relationship? I suggest first try getting to be your own best friend, which is not an excuse for self-centeredness. I often ask clients if they would want themselves as a friend. Clients with deep depression or lots of anxiety usually say no. In fact, I continue to be surprised by how many people would not want themselves for a best friend.

If you sell someone something you would not buy yourself we think you are a lot dishonest. So how could you possibly get someone to be your friend if you wouldn’t want to be a friend to that kind of person? Now please do not give up here and say it is hopeless. Lots of mothers bring in their children and want me to change them. People in unhappy relationships come in and want us to change their partner. How about doing the remodeling program on yourself first?

Can you believe there are people who have been married to not one but two or three alcoholics? After a lot of pain and suffering, they get out of their relationship. They decide to get back out there, they go out for a night on the town with some friends and they meet a new romantic interest. Then what happens? That person, the one they met in the bar, guess what? They turn out to be an alcoholic also.

Women who have been abused and men also, often find they get into a new relationship and that person is abusive. Why?

Because unless we take the time to look at ourselves we keep being attracted to the same dysfunctional types. If you keep hooking up with drug addicts, you either need to change whom you are attracted to or get yourself a drug addict with fifteen or twenty years clean and sober.

Think back to a time in your life you met a new friend. You wanted to know all about them. Didn’t you? Why is it that my clients can tell me all about their significant other and their kids and often their parents but they have no answers to questions about themselves?

Ever heard the saying that beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone? Despite the fact that what is inside counts, far more than you may think, most people think that the way to be more attractive is to lose weight or change their look. Attractive people go through messy painful divorces also. Most women are surprised to find out that a happy smiling woman is a lot more attractive than an angry hostile one, regardless of their figure and their “look.”

Before I leave this topic, for now, I need to remind you that good relationships include the way in which you relate to your children, your parents, your boss and sometimes even your ex.

The take away from this? Before you are likely to be happy in a romantic relationship you need to learn to be happy with yourself and then learn to be happy in those relationships with family and friends you already have. Only after you have learned to master these challenges are you likely to be successful at having a happy romantic relationship.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.