Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do You Know - Number Two


Family spending on a child born in 2009 would total $286,050 by age 17. A two-child family would cost about $600,000.

*Source: Newsweek August 16, 2010

What I don’t know is what makes up that number. Is it only specific expense outlays for the child or does it include a pro rata share of the family vacations, cost of housing, the family car(s) or what? The average annual cost then is $16,853 for a child and $35,294 for two children.

Hard to image any average middle class family having that much money, I would just like to have a breakdown of how those numbers were compiled.

You know the old expression by Mark Twain, “there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.

One more U.S. statistic for you to ponder. In 2005, the median personal income for the population age 25 or older was $39,336. (Median means the one in the middle so half of the workers earn less and half of the workers earn more.)

For more information, feel free to contact me at or 888-546-1580.

Do You Know - Number One


Children who eat dinner with their families at least five times a week are 40 times less likely to be overweight.

I hypothesize that this is because the shared family connection nourishes them far better than sweet or salty snacks.

Ideally, each person gets an opportunity to add to the conversation that goes on around the table. Even babies can be encouraged to join the conversation, even if only gibberish.

A shared family meal gives everyone the vehicle for keeping in touch with each other and therefore, it offers the opportunity to strengthen the fabric of that family’s life. At the same time, it builds the self-esteem and sense of belonging of even the smallest family member.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Failure to Fearless

Discover The Great, Powerful, Passionate, and Purposeful YOU.
Yes, it is a fact of life that we all face failure at times.
All of those limiting thoughts, self doubts, and negative patterns knocking around in your brain can change!
Make a POWER CHOICE to change.
You get to attend and listen for FREE! That is not is a fact!
If you truly want to change the direction of your thinking today...
Register for FREE NOW:
You can listen to all 22 interviews for FREE...
In fact, you can attend ALL 22 calls in the Failure to Fearless telesummit series as my GUEST.
Remember, you get to attend and listen for FREE!
The REALLY BIG NEWS is...Suzanna has decided to continue the Failure to Fearless telesummit series
throughout the month of November!
Register here:
Groundbreaking Failure to Fearless Series with 22 one-hour sessions…
World renowned speakers and personal success experts and so much more!
Countless easy-to-use and proven success Wealth Creation tools, techniques and systems that can help you achieve all your dreams and goals...
Plus, this is an entirely *FREE* series.
No obligation. No strings attached.
Sign up NOW to reserve your spot today.
If you act quickly, you can also take advantage of a special offer that will allow you to get your hands on the entire series of incredible unadvertised Bonus Gifts (worth $197 for *FREE*) . . .
To learn more and to register today, check out the site:
I promise, you will be AMAZED at what you will learn in every session.
I do hope you take advantage of this opportunity and FREE is a very good price. I am always looking for ways to help change the world and I believe this is one. Empower yourself to take charge of your future. I implore you to invest the time to listen to these teleseminars. Knowledge is priceless.
Dr. Beth

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dr. Beth’s Book Nook

Today I am instituting a new feature on my blog called Dr. Beth's Book Nook. Because I get so many wonderful books from potential guests who want to come on my radio show, I have access to some great titles. And that is how I found Chris Tatevosian’s book LIFE INTERRUPTED – IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

In his memoir, Chris shares what he has learned through his own personal mistakes in being self-absorbed with his own illness. And this, more than anything, destroyed his first marriage.

Chris has had Multiple Sclerosis for thirty years. As a consequence of this dreadful, degenerative disease, he lives his life in a wheel chair and is legally blind. And yet, he remains undaunted.

Through my decades of being a therapist, I can understand the stresses that a chronic physical disability can cause in any relationship, especially when a spouse or loved one becomes a care giver by default. It often isn't practical or affordable to hire care givers. And so the needs required to care for someone with a physical disability often fall on the spouse. It is easier to see the difficulties of the person with the disability, so we may fail to see the stress that this causes on the care giving spouse.

Chris's book openly and honestly discusses these issues and shares many personal examples to support his ideas in the book. It is well-written and worth reading. Even if you are thinking, "This doesn't apply to me," unfortunately any one of us can find ourselves in Chris's situation. In a single second, an accident can place you in a wheel chair, incapacitated for the rest of your life. It even happened to Superman, a.k.a. Christopher Reeve.

You can obtain this book directly from Chris's website at: It truly is a profile in courage.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Live Conversation with Dr. Beth

People have asked me if there was any way to ask follow up questions after listening to my Relationships 101 conversations on

Because you decide when to listen and there is not a specific day and time I was reluctant to try to have a live call in portion with my show.

Because of you, the listener's interest, I am goingto try this on a test basis I have created a venue where you can call and engage with me live to address issues and answer questions you may have about life, relationships, family, grief theoretical concepts or other emotional concerns.

I invite you to join me for a follow-up to these conversations this Thursday evening October 28, 2020, at 8:00 Eastern 7:00 Central 6:00 Mountain 5:00 Pacific called “Live with Dr. Beth.”

If you would like to attend, please send an e-mail to me at

Put “Talk to Dr. Beth” in the subject line, and we’ll send you the call-in information.

If you would like me to specifically talk with you about a specific issue send me the question in your response email. When I know you are on the call as soon as a natural break occurs I will start discussing with you the issue you provided to me.

I truly hope you can join me. Hope to see you there.

Please feel free to invite others to join these conversations. It is not necessary to be on my mailing list to call in. If you know of a family member or friend who is up against some issue please do invite them to call in.

Just forward a copy of this email to them. I will not have a specific topic but will engage with callers to address their issue regardless of where that takes the conversation.

Dedicated to your health and happiness.

Dr. Beth

What Are Your Biggest Regrets?

Next month, I will be doing an interview on “Relationships 101” on the topic of regrets. A surprisingly large number of people – 30, to be exact - responded to a query I recently posted asking people what are their regrets. That floored me. In fact, I almost didn’t post that query, thinking I’d probably get only a handful of people responding. Instead, I got a large outpouring of people’s heartfelt answers. It almost felt to me as if I were reading people’s confessions.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. We all have regrets of one kind or another. Maybe we still remember the time we didn’t help someone when we could have. Or when we were curt with a Customer Service representative. Or maybe when we betrayed ourselves by not pursuing our own dreams in the service of someone else’s vision of what our life should be like.

What follows is a list of some of those regrets. See if you recognize yourself in any of them.

• Being banished from the family because of the mistakes I’ve made in my life.
• Letting my Mother’s ideas for me stand in my way.
• Not pursuing my dream of being a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
• Marrying the wrong person and staying too long.
• Trusting the wrong person who then betrayed my trust.
• Being overly concerned about what others thought of me.
• Doing drugs.
• Neglecting my children until it was too late.
• Not sticking with my goals, dreams, and passions.
• Letting fear rule my life.
• Not going far enough with my education.
• Surviving a life-threatening illness and then spending the next 25 years believing I didn’t deserve to survive.
• Being jealous of my little sister and coming to grips with that too late to make amends.
• Trying to handle my son’s drug addiction on my own.
• Not doing all I could to help workers at Ground Zero after 9/11, which is my biggest personal failing.
• Not being more attentive to a parent before s/he died.
• Not believing in myself.
• Doing too much too young and failing in the process.
• Switching my kids from Catholic schools to public schools.

The task for each of them now is to find a way to understand and to forgive themselves and others who they believe wronged them.

And that’s the hard part.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hey Control Freak!! - Want to Stop??

People often ask me, “How can I stop being such a ‘control freak?’”

The first step is to recognize that you are being one. Often, others tend to shy away from those who are being controlling. But those who are controlling don’t often get the message. It is much too subtle for them to discern.

After all, no dialogue is possible with those who insist that “It’s my way or the highway.” Neither is collaboration and mutuality.

Here are some tips and sure signs that you are being controlling.

You know you’re controlling if:
Ten Tip Offs
• You must dominate conversations to avoid feeling invisible
• You enjoy bullying people with your anger
• You have to be “right”
• You constantly feel “swamped”
• You resist learning how to delegate
• You seldom take vacations, and you’re proud of that fact
• You insist on being the center of attention, and if you’re not, you feel deflated and worthless
• You actually believe that no one else can do what you do
• You can’t trust other people to do their job or other tasks they have taken responsibility for, so you micro-manage
• People ask you lots of questions, because they are afraid of doing things “wrong” in your eyes

Once you can see yourself doing these practices you can then figure out what fuels them, it will make it a lot easier for you to stop. The basis most often is from your early childhood so think about what made you uncomfortable when you were young, that is always a good starting point for your development of a controlling personality.

Often people who are married to “control freaks” exhaust themselves trying not to lose themselves. Yes, the ultimate “control freak” controls by violence or threats of violence, intimidation, name calling, sarcasm and put downs. These, of course, wreak havoc on intimate relationships.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blending Thoughts and Feelings

“It’s not what happens to us in life.
It’s how we deal with what happens
that counts.”
Dr. Beth Erickson

We’ve all known them: people whose I.Q.s are in the stratosphere but who are dumb as posts. They have no common sense. They lack people skills and consciousness of those around them. A current example of this type of person is the outgoing CEO of British Petroleum, Tony Hayward. He displayed his Mr. Spock-ness when he whined to the national news media that he wants his life back, oblivious to those in the Gulf of Mexico who may never get their lives as they knew them back.

We’ve also known people who seem not to have a brain in their head. Their lives are driven by their emotions without the tempering provided by standing back and evaluating their options from a realistic perspective. Actor and current newsmaker, Lindsay Lohan, could be the poster child for this type of person when she acts out her adolescent temper tantrums.

As in anything, operating at either extreme is precarious.

My definition of a mentally healthy person is one who is able to think and feel at the same time. Yes, I know that doing this can be very difficult to do, especially when feelings run high such as in a heated argument with your spouse. But it can be done. And people are well-advised to learn to do just that.

Being able to blend the two allows people to use their feelings as a valuable data source that leads to sound decision making and eventually a satisfying future.

My guest this coming week on "Relationships 101" to discuss this topic with me is Suzanna Abbott, creator of a series of telesummit interviews called from Failure to Fearless. She interviewed a group of people, including yours truly, on their stories of going from failing to being fearless. It could be said that her panel of experts can use a blend of the two.

The abuse of parishioners by clergy is a hot topic today. But did you know that members of the clergy also are abused by parishioners?

Rev. Jackie O’Neal speaks with me on the topic of clergy killers. Not literal killings, but emotionally abusing them so that clergy are forced out of the ministry at the rate of 1 every 6 minutes in the U.S. A primary cause of this is parishioners whose problems with authority are acted out upon the religious leader who represents the Ultimate Authority.

Join me on Monday after noon 8/16 on or Tuesday 8/17 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time on WWPR 1490AM in Sarasota, FL.

I hope you enjoy the show.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Failure to Fearless!

When Thomas Edison was trying to create the electric light a newspaper man from New York City came to his Lab in Menlo Park and asked him how many different experiments he had tried. His response was well over 1200. When asked by the reporter how can you continue to pursue this after that many failures and Thomas Edison replied. I have not had a single failure. I have proven conclusively more than 1200 ways that absolutely do not work.

On Monday, August 16, on I have a conversation with Suzanna Abbott on from failure to fabulous. Some very important points are made but failure is more than an event that occurs in one’s life. If you have tried to master some sport and have discovered you do not have the ability to be good at it, you have not failed to learn the sport. Like Edison you have discovered positively that you need to employ your skills and talents in another arena.

No one is a failure if you give your very best but still do not accomplish your goal. A failure is someone that wished to do something but never risks starting toward that goal because they fear they will not be successful. Regardless of what you desire you must take the responsibility of trying to achieve it or you will be a failure and it is always self-imposed.

Adopt the Edison attitude and try everything until you find your personal niche. We are not all born equal in physical agility, muscle mass, intelligence and most other human skills. Just because you can’t dunk a basketball doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the game

Listen in on Monday afternoon in Chicago to learn more of From Failure to Fearless. Here is the link.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Life and Death Matters

Last week, Paul and I called our grandchildren’s other grandmother whom they lovingly call “Grandma Kansas.” We had seen her a month ago at our great-grandson’s first birthday party, and she didn’t look or sound good. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer about three years ago that had metastasized into her other breast and then into her lungs. Shortly after that visit, our granddaughter called to tell us that Grandma Kansas’ doctor told her that she had between three weeks and three months to live.

Then maddeningly, after allowing her to stew on his prognosis, he told her he had one more treatment he could try. I wondered why he would do that, when he had already had told her the wonders of American medicine, at least as he practiced it, could do no more for her. She had already told him and her family that she was tired of fighting. I surmise he was fighting his own battle with the helplessness he must have felt when he could not cure her or at least prolong her life. Or less benignly, he may have been practicing aggressive medicine to protect against a lawsuit.

As we spoke last evening, she told me about her plans for her funeral, that she wanted to be cremated, and to whom she would donate her few things. She spoke in such a matter of fact way that I wondered if she were resigned to her fate, or in serious denial. But since our only connection is through our shared grandchildren and not by blood or through mutual friendship, I felt I could only offer her the opportunity to share what she wanted to and leave it at that. I didn’t feel I had permission to ask more. I only wanted to offer her the comfort of knowing that she was in my thoughts and prayers.

My offering was precious little I know, but it was what I could do from four states away.
It is a universal human need to know that we make a difference, that our lives matter. That was the major message I attempted to convey last night. I hope I succeeded.

And many times, that’s enough.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Caring for a Chronically Ill Spouse

My mentee and friend, Chris Tatevosian, has had Multiple Sclerosis for thirty years now. Diagnosed when he was in college, he now is legally blind and spends his days in a wheel chair. Despite this, miraculously the assistance he receives from services for the blind allow him to use his computer. He co-hosts a radio show on blogtalkradio on coping with chronic pain, and is a lively and engaging host. I know. He and his co-host interviewed me on their show a month ago or so. He is relaxed, comfortable, and funny.

But it was not always like this.

It is natural, when you have a chronic illness, especially one as pernicious as MS, to become self-absorbed and self-pitying. After all, you have significant limitations that make it difficult for you to do what others take for granted, like a morning shower. If you drop something on the floor, you are unable to retrieve it yourself. And your day-to-day activities are severely limited.
In his book Life Interrupted – It’s Not All about Me, details how his preoccupation and self-absorption destroyed his first marriage. Not only that, as happens to many caregivers, his first wife gained massive amounts of weight and eventually was diagnosed with cancer herself presumably from the stress of caring for her seriously ill husband. What had begun as a story book marriage ended in divorce.

Chris details all the lessons he learned from that unfortunate experience in his book Life Interrupted – It’s Not All about Me. He has gone from being a self-pitying chronically ill man to someone who exudes kindness and love for others. He truly is a magnificent human being.

If you want to be inspired, or wish to have more information about Chris, to contact him, or to purchase his book, go to You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Going Terrestrial

I have some fantastic news!

My radio show, “Relationships 101,” which currently is heard on, is about to be heard on terrestrial radio. It will air on WWPR 1490 AM in Sarasota, FL from 9:00 – 10:00 EDT beginning on July 14th. I am thrilled, because this is a prime radio time slot, and because this is the first concrete step toward syndicating my show.

Yes, you can still tune in to my show on where it will air as well. However, WWPR also will broadcast my show over the Internet. And after we’ve been on for 6 to 7 weeks, they will poll their listeners to see if they liked the show. So perhaps if you tune in to WWPR when it streams over the Internet, I might be fortunate enough for them to call you and other members of my caring community to ask for your opinion of the show.

I would not have been able to do this show as well as I do or get as far as I have without my coach and mentor, Brad Saul. Allow me to brag on him a bit. He owns Matrix Media, the parent company of He earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Radio and Television at Northwestern University. In addition, he earned a law degree at Chicago’s Loyola University, although he has never practiced law, he says, because he hasn’t known any happy lawyers. He also sits on Northwestern’s university-wide admissions committee. He readily admits that he “bleeds purple,” the school’s color. Just imagine being mentored by someone who has been in the radio biz for 30 years and who has that knowledge and skill! I indeed am privileged. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for Brad’s tutelage.

All my life, I have had the rather modest goal of wanting to change the world. (I hope you’re smiling.) And I have been tilting at windmills like Don Quixote my whole professional life. My goal now is to take “Relationships 101” national by syndicating it. I untimately intend to become a kinder, gentler version of Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil.

I would so appreciate your sending me your blessings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family Pets Can Teach You How To Grieve

Robert McCartney of the Washington Post wrote an Op Ed piece reprinted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Tuesday, June 22. It was entitled, “A Best Friend’s Final Gift.” McCartney at first didn’t want to be present when his old and sick dog had to be euthanized. In fact, he didn’t even want the dog in the first place. “I did not want anyone to see my tears.” He did not want anyone to watch his fall from manhood as tears rolled down his cheeks.

McCartney wrote, “I avoid funerals, adept as finding reasons why it’s too inconvenient to go. But in the last hour or so I spent with Brooks [the dog], I came to recognize what I’d been avoiding – feelings of sorrow and loss.”

“Keep a stiff upper lip, you will get over it very soon, it was probably the best thing, and she was just a dog” are all admonitions by well-meaning people who attempt to have us stop being sad at our loss. In fact what they do is give us permission not to face our loss, if we heed them. This also prevents our grieving as we should, in order to be psychologically healthy.

My radio show, “Relationships 101” on, which will be posted next Monday, June 28, is a conversation with Judy Mandel, author of the book Replacement Child. This book details the impact on one woman of her parents’ failure to grieve the loss of their child who died in a plane crash. Their “solution” which helped them to avoid their grief was to have Judy as a replacement for the lost child instead. Anything to avoid grieving. In doing so, however, they created an intolerable burden for Judy to live up to a phantom child.

Loss is a profound and deep experience. The more attached we are to the lost individual, the deeper the grief. And failure to effectively grieve simply allows grief to steal remnants of a “normal life” and hold them prisoner forever. In Longing For Dad, in print for more than 12 years and available at, I detail the devastating impact of unresolved loss.

Grief is a natural process that needs to be felt and effectively dealt with, in order to be mentally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why There Will Always Be Cougars

Cougar is the current slang term for women who date younger men. On my most recent radio show (, I interviewed a woman who has had a dickens of a time meeting a man her age or older who also is her intellectual peer. This woman is a divorced eye surgeon, and she’s seeking a male partner who has some kind of professional degree. She has not found anyone age-appropriate, so she has begun dating younger men out of necessity.

A little research explains why men date older women and women frequently date people substantially younger than themselves.

For the past half century in the United States, there have been on average 1050 boys for each 1000 girls born each year. According to Census Bureau statistics, the number of boys compared to girls continually decreases until at the age group of 30-34 when women outnumber men.

In the U. S. by ages 20 to 29, there are 623,000 more men than women. And by ages 30-39, women outnumber men by 262,000. And it just gets more challenging as people get older.

For a woman of 40, that means that there are not enough men to provide a partner for her and every other woman in her age group. So dating a younger man may become necessary if she choses not to be alone.

Men, on the other hand, seek younger partners as well, not because of demographic imperatives, but because of ego. Young and beautiful trophy brides seem to be more than happy to be seen in a BMW or Mercedes gifted to them by an older gentleman. This just makes matters more difficult for women who are their age mates.

If you are a woman over 40 and looking for a mate who is your educational and intellectual equal, good luck. The disparity between men and women educationally grows every year. Substantially more than half of the advanced and professional degrees are awarded to women today.

Besides, as Safire, the Uppity Blues Woman, sings in her song “Middle Aged Blues Boogie”:

“Well seems like men my age are all married, boring or tired…
Got to find a young man if you want to feel desired
Now some of my friends are worried ‘bout what some people might say
I say ‘age ain’t nothin’ but a number.’ The good Lord made it that way.”

In addition, the chances of spending time as widow are reduced, since men generally die sooner by at least 5 years than women. So ladies, I hereby grant permission to get out there and go find an appropriate “youngun.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Second Chances

Currently, in the United States, $14.6 billion is spent on moms every Mother’s Day. That number is second only to the Christmas holidays. I can believe it. Mothers have such a major and important role in shaping our character and personalities.

While I still had the option to have a child, I chose for a host of reasons not to do so. Chief of all the factors is that I watched my favorite sister struggle with having had 4 babies in 2 ½ years - by the time she was 20 ½. Although she loved each and all of them dearly, I could see how mightily she struggled to take care of them and the house, prescriptions for a good wife in the 1950’s and the 60's. I would take the school bus to her house at least once a week to help her, and all I would do was iron clothes. This was also a time long before permanent press fabric and where a good wife starched and ironed all of the family’s clothes, including sheets and tee shirts. Because my sister couldn’t keep up with everything even with my help, on my arrival, I usually would locate the sprinkled clothes in the freezer where they would have been put to avoid their molding before one of us could iron them.

There is no doubt that her example was my best lesson in planned parenthood. I just didn’t think I would have the wherewithal to be a mother and to manage my studies and meet my life goals, too.

However, when I met and married my husband Paul, I got a second chance. Paul has three adult children from his first marriage. From two of these kids, we have five grandchildren, one great-grandson who will turn one year old in a couple of weeks, and the unrelated half brother to two of our favorites who asked, “Grandma, will you be my Grandma?” There was no way I could refuse that request, nor did I even consider it.

If you think kids will eat your heart out as a parent, just wait until you become a grandparent! I would give these kids anything and do anything for them. I joke, “You want a car? Sure, I’ll get you a car. What kind do you want? You want a trip around the world? I’ll hire a travel agent immediately.” Of course, I am exaggerating. But that is genuinely my emotion. I can’t seem to say “I love you” enough and give and get enough hugs and kisses. And I am over the moon when one of them calls just to talk. And when Tristan, now 13, calls us “my most precious grandparents,” my heart swells with love for him and for all of them.

Paul’s willingness to share his grandchildren and the children’s receptivity to me bring a very special dimension to my life. As any grandparent knows, being a grandparent is one of God’s greatest gifts. In fact, it’s a little bit of heaven on earth for which I am incredibly grateful.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Honor of Mother's Day

This year, I decided to do something I’ve never done before on my radio show. For both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I am hosting a three-part series of conversations on “Relationships 101” leading up to each holiday. If money spent is an indicator of importance, $14.6 billion spent on Mother’s Day every year. This is second only to the Christmas holidays.

The first in the series is a conversation that was posted this last Monday with Dr. LeslieBeth Wish. She is a marriage and family therapist based in Sarasota, Fl, and her family therapy training was virtually identical to mine. So we had great fun sharing our mutual knowledge and being on the same wave length with each other. The “marching orders” I gave here were to provide an overview on why there often tends to be so much conflict in mother-daughter relationships. In broad brush strokes, some of the reasons are competition for the father's attention or to be the fairest one of all, jealousy at the daughter’s youth, the mother’s displacing her anger at herself onto her daughter, and the daughter using conflict as a tool to separate and individuate from her mother. You’ll have to tune in to the show to hear the rest.

This coming Monday the conversation is from the mother’s perspective about what parenting a daughter can be like. I spoke with Julie Pech who intuitively is just plain a good mom. She gives her 14 year-old daughter and 12 year-old son the freedom to explore and discover who they are while still helping them learn self-discipline. And she doesn't smother them. She shared stories and offered hints about how to be a good mother who acknowledges her children’s individuality while still providing structure for them.

The third in the series will air on the Monday before Mother’s Day. It features a conversation with a woman whose mother was harsh with her children because she was frustrated with her life. It seems she was born a generation too soon. My guest is Karel Murray, who talks about how, when she was 26 years old, she took charge of her relationship with her mother so that eventually, they would develop a loving connection out of what otherwise could have been a lifelong disaster for both women. She describes the before and after of this very important relationship and offers suggestions for my listeners regarding how she went about creating the relationship the two women finally had before the mother’s death.

Tune in to hear each of these fascinating stories from the perspective of both mothers and daughters. My shows are posted every Monday afternoon and three times throughout that week. But don’t worry if you can’t listen in live. Shows remain in the archives for three months. So there are plenty of opportunities.

Join me at “Relationships 101” on

Monday, April 19, 2010

It Happened Again

Last week, I received an e-mail that left me with a lump in my throat as I read it. When people reach out to me almost begging for my help to resolve a loss, particularly of their father, that is how I typically respond. Tears actually rolled down my checks as I read an e-mail from another man from Dubai who later became a phone client. His father had left home for another Middle Eastern country to work when my client was two years old, and he seldom saw his father again. As we worked, he described in great detail the crippling depression that clouded most of his childhood and how, most nights, he would cry himself to sleep all alone. Clearly, his was a cry unheard.

Last week, the e-mail began, “I have been studying your book Longing for Dad, and I think it may be the key to a lifetime of inability to create either a career or a personal life for myself in spite of a professional degree and all the effort I’ve been able to muster. . . . Your book has given me the specific insights I have been searching for for decades. . . . You’re the only one who has opened those specifics up to me. If you can help me come to resolution, I’ll do whatever it takes.” He even suggested a willingness to temporarily relocate to Minneapolis in order to work with me. Talk about desperation! I told him that would not be necessary, and that weekly phone calls and a face-to-face meeting on a weekend would suffice.

I truly am honored when I am approached like this. Partly because I am thrilled that my book is still having an impact 12 years after its release. And partly because I know what father loss and being left alone with it are like, having experienced that myself. And partly because it is my life’s work, my mission, to end pain for people who are suffering.

With Father’s Day fast approaching, if you are among the walking wounded damaged by your father’s literal or emotional absence, give yourself the gift of resolving your emotions, regardless of the circumstances that caused it. Mind you, it will be very challenging and difficult. But it can be done. And I would be honored to help.

Feel free to contact me to set up a complimentary initial consultation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Promise and Perils of Internet Dating

Fun Facts
• 30% of America’s 80 million baby boomers are single.
• U.S. residents spent $469.5 million on online dating and personals in 2004 and over $500 million in 2005. No doubt the number is even higher now.
• Online dating sites comprise the largest segment of paid content, other than pornography, on the Internet.
Let me get something out of the way from the get-go. My husband and I met on line. He had been on the ‘net looking for me for about three years. I had only been online for about three months when he spotted my profile and wrote to me.
Although we had lived only 6 or 7 minutes away from each other for two years, our paths had never crossed. Not at the post office, nor at the grocery store, or on a walking trail. We simply never would have met were it not for the Internet. To say we are both grateful for this modern day Yenta would be a gross understatement. Clearly, it has helped us find the level of happiness, contentment, mutuality, and comfort we have searched for for decades. To make matters even sweeter, in marrying Paul, I gained six grandchildren and one great grandchild, each of whom, of course, is the best thing since sliced bread.
I had such a lovely conversation this week with Lynn Lorberg on her online dating experiences for my radio show, “Relationships 101” on That segment will air this Monday, April 12th and I invite any online daters or those contemplating it to tune in.
So I decided to offer some tips on how to maximize the opportunity that Dating 2.0 provides while protecting yourself from its pitfalls. I recognize that these suggestions are common sense. However, because it is easy to get swept up in fantasies of who others are and of the relationship you could have, so take a good long look at them anyway.
Tips for Maximizing the Opportunity Internet Dating Provides
• Do not misrepresent yourself in your profile just because you think that will make you more attractive to a potential mate. While doing so is certainly unfair to people reading your profile, you are short changing and undermining yourself.
• Be clear in your profile about who you are and what you are looking for in the other person. For example, my radio guest, Lynn Lorberg, comes out and tells potential suitors, “I’m a petite blonde. If what you’re looking for is a leggy brunette, I’m not for you. And that’s okay.”
• Be respectful of other people’s time just as you would expect them to be of yours. If you mislead people by lying about who you are, you are wasting everyone’s time. And it’s not rocket science to say that no solid relationship can be built on a foundation of lies.
• Don’t post a photo of yourself when you were decades younger or had a full head of hair. This only will mislead. Misleading snuffs out any possibilities for a genuine relationship before it has a chance to generate sparks. And as Shakespeare said, “The truth will out.”
• Get good at asking questions of a potential suitor. Then sit back and listen carefully to the answers you get. Do the words and the music go along? Do the answers you get pass the smell test?
• Even if all of the people you meet on line aren’t potential suitors because of distance or any number of other good reasons, if you have been honest and respectful with each other, you just may have made some friends in the process.
• Develop your intuition. Your gut can become a very reliable guide in the choices you make. Learn to recognize when your fists clench or you get a headache or your mind drifts off. These are messages that something just doesn’t feel right. You may not know immediately what those unconscious messages are telling you. But you’ll need to figure it out.
Strategies for Protecting Yourself from Its Perils
• E-mail before you talk on the phone, and talk before you meet face to face.
• When you do decide to meet, do so at a coffee shop or other public place where you are known and there are others around. Having a cup of coffee isn’t the major time commitment that having dinner together is. This will give you a graceful out if you simply don’t click. Do not be afraid to excuse yourself and leave as soon as you know it is senseless to continue.
• Don’t take it personally if someone you think might be dandy is just not into you. There is no point in trying to force the ugly stepsister’s shoe into Cinderella’s glass slipper. In fact, be grateful for this realization.
• Don’t confuse a virtual relationship for a real face-to-face one. Sooner or later, you will need to meet in order for both of you to gauge the level of chemistry between you. It does not take long before you know that a room full of chemists could not make you effervesce. Be sure to meet only when both of you are ready and do not allowed yourself to be pressured to meet before you are truly ready. Someone seeking a true partner will not be in a great rush.
• Get the other person’s home and office numbers. If s/he balks at giving them both to you and only wants you to have a cell number, there’s a pretty good chance this is a married person on the prowl. In which case, simply say, “Next!”
• For you ladies, when it is time for a real night out and not simply meeting someone for a glass of wine after work or a walk in the park insist on driving your own car. This way should the evening really turn bad you can simply leave.
• If you are young and less experienced with dating, you will need to be more cautious than you would be if you are dating, say, someone in your English class or who is a member of your church, mosque or synagogue, or whom your aunt knows.
• Chances are, the people you meet online will be complete strangers where there is no way to vet them other than by how they conduct themselves with you. If anything at all doesn’t feel right, or if things just don’t add up, honor your gut feelings and don’t pursue a relationship with this person.
Tune in to my conversation with Lynn Lorberg next Monday, April 12th on “Relationships 101” on You’ll be glad you did. And as always, remember that I offer a complimentary consultation on an issue of your choosing. Just call my toll free number (888-546-1580) to arrange this.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Effects of Transgenerational Patterns

Yesterday I received a frantic call from a gentleman with whom I have been consulting for a couple of months. His urgency was not for himself. Rather, it was for his twenty-something son. “Doc, I gotta get him in to see you as soon as you can schedule it.”

It seems that his son is living with a woman whose rage and violence against him are escalating drastically. For example, in one of their recent fights, she hurled a huge pot of spaghetti at him. And he woke up the next morning to find that she had stabbed a butcher knife through his pillow and cut up his clothes. The father’s alarm was certainly justified!

Since I have not yet met with the young man, I can only speculate on the contributors to violence in his relationship and his impotence to do anything about it. However, I know from the father that the older man grew up in a household where violence was the norm. And since the older man was the oldest of three, he bore the brunt of his parents’ frustration and mistrust that was expressed through rage and accusations. For example, one time when the older man was about 7 years old, his mother stabbed a fork into his forearm so far that it stood up by itself. Although not a daily occurrence the way the parents’ brawls were, instances like this were not all that rare, either.

The older man originally had sought my help to try to end his marriage to a woman who nightly gets drunk, swears at him, throws dishes at him, and berates him. In our meetings, at least a dozen times, he has shaken his head incredulously and said, “I don’t know why I married her. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I married her.” So I began probing to help him answer that question. When he began telling me his story, he was shocked and amazed when I pointed out that he had married a woman just like his mother.

Furthermore, because he had never resolved the abuse he witnessed and was the brunt of in his childhood, that pattern came down the generations to his own son. So it seemed normal somehow for him, too, to be with a violent woman.

Am I saying it is my client’s fault that his son is in this untenable situation? No. Absolutely not. But he does bear some responsibility for not having cleaned up the psychological mess his parents’ misery created in him. Unfortunately, in that both of his parents died forlorn and alone, he is unable to face his parents directly regarding his maltreatment. So it’s up to him to come to terms with his childhood traumas so his son can face and handle his own untenable situation. Then in both instances, we can see what can be done to improve their relationships or leave them.

Am I saying that the son will be unable to leave his relationship unless his dad leaves his? We’ll see. But I can tell you this much. It would be a whole lot easier for him if his dad were to lead the way.

When well-meaning people advise others to put the past in the past, this advice translates to “ignore it and hope it goes away.” However, the only way to genuinely put the past in the past is to turn towards it, face it, and resolve the feelings and thoughts surrounding it.

For those who would like some expert assistance to do just that, I am offering two weekend events to help people get unstuck in their lives and move forward unencumbered by past events, some of which have already receded into their unconscious mind. In this instance, what you don’t know will hurt you.

One will be held on May 15 and 16 in Ocala, FL, and the other in Minneapolis, MN on May 22 and 23.

The beauty of doing this work in a group is that participants will have the love and support not only of me, but also of the other group members to help each of them resolve their issues. Or at least they’ll get a darned good start at it. The primary reason that traumas go unresolved is because people assume they would have to experience it alone. The best part of working on tough issues in a group facilitated by someone with expertise is that finally, they don’t have to go it alone.

Won’t you consider please joining us? Spring is a beautiful time of year to give yourself a fresh start. Of course, if you want further information, feel free to call my toll-free number: 888-546-1580. I stand ready to help.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mental and Emotional Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time of renewal, of starting fresh. A time of looking back to move forward in some qualitatively new directions. Yet too many people take their emotional old, no longer useful “clothes” with them into summer, fall, and the next winter like last year’s parka and snow pants.

At least once a season, I go through my closets. I sort my clothes, shoes, belts and handbags into a pile to give away, a pile to take to consignment, and a pile I want to keep. You’ve guessed it. The pile that I either consign or give away is stuff that I have to face the truth about: I simply am never going to wear the stuff. Either I’ve outgrown it, (drat!), or I no longer need it or like it.
I always feel lighter, less encumbered somehow, when I have completed this arduous task, having procrastinated on it long enough.

So it is with mental and emotional spring cleaning. And yet, too few people do this. They continue to take their emotional winter clothes with them year after year, in the form of outworn defenses and no-longer-useful thought processes.
For example, people who are stuck in their lives likely are at an impasse because of a trauma that hasn’t been resolved. Or an early decision they have made as a result of an experience that they have promised themselves never to repeat. This is the best self-protection that children can come up with because they are capable only of concrete reasoning.

According to the great Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, children aren’t capable of abstract reasoning until they are in their mid-teens. Concrete reasoning means that children are not capable of questioning their thoughts. They just unquestioningly think them. So if a child concludes that Mom and Dad got a divorce because s/he was a bad girl or bad boy, they carry that with them on an unconscious level until they are helped to raise that early decision to the level of consciousness. Then they can make a new, decision that is less damaging to their growth and development. This is a graphic example of an early decision run amuck and then corrected – spring cleaning at its best.

What lurks in the cob webs of your mind that needs to be brushed away? What hides in the dark corners that need to be faced and put to rest so you are no longer held back? What baggage is in your trunk of unhappy memories? Finding and putting these archaic experiences is essential. Otherwise, they will continue to haunt you and overshadow your ability to live the life. Then you will continue living someone else’s life, not your own.

In May, I am offering two opportunities to help you “spring clean.” The first will be on an acreage in Ocala, FL, on May 15th and 16th. The second will be held in Minneapolis, MN, at the lovely 1893 Nicollet Island Inn, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River on May 22nd and 23rd. At each of these events, I will guide your mental and emotional spring cleaning.

For more information, visit my web site, Click on Services and then Group Consultations on the left. This will allow you to access a video where I explain about the Florida Consultation Group and read specific details. The Minneapolis group will be a mirror image of the experience in Florida.

And of course, call my toll free number, 888-546-1580

Dr. Beth

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Makes a Marriage Successful?

This week’s show on “Relationships 101” on was an animated and fascinating discussion with Doctors Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz on ingredients of a successful marriage.

Here’s what made the conversation so interesting.
1. For starters, this power couple has been married to each other for 43 years and counting. And they plan to make it to their Golden Anniversary.
2. They have interviewed over 1000 couples on 6 continents in over 70 cities, and they’re not done yet.
3. The first criterion the couples they interviewed for their qualitative research project had to meet was being married for at least 30 years.
4. Once they met that criterion, the Schmitzes had a standard interview protocol that allowed them to determine if these marriages were successful, or merely long.
5. If they were deemed successful, then the interview proceeded.

The results of their work are summarized in their recent book, Building a Love That Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage.

On the show, I challenged them on areas where I thought our work and perspectives differed. For example, in none of their examples did I read their views on the importance of effectively resolving conflict to a successful marriage. While they acknowledged that they, too, occasionally fight, their relationship and those of the couples they interviewed were peaceful the majority of the time. And so is my marriage. However, I absolutely know that couples who refuse to fight never enjoy the depth of intimacy that is possible when couples can fight fairly and successfully work through their inevitable differences.

Tune in to this week’s show on “Relationships 101” on Here’s the link.

Enjoy the show. And don’t worry if you can’t listen live. Shows remain in the archives for 3 months.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dismantling Defensive Scaffolding

Yesterday, I blogged about Having the Guts to Allow Someone to Love You. And I promised an article on how to dismantle the defenses you erected in order to keep yourself safe. Of course, these steps are much easier said than done. So be patient with yourself.

Although these remarks are in the context of having the courage to accept love, the process I am outlining here can be applied to dismantling defenses in general.

Let’s suppose that you have finally seen that you are in your own way when it comes to receiving love. Then what? How do you change that?

Step 1: Realize that you react defensively, knee-jerk style when a spouse or partner shows their love toward you.

Step 2: Develop an observing ego. Do this by metaphorically learning to sit on your own shoulder and watch yourself interact.

Step 3: Initially, you probably will realize you have reacted defensively sometime after the fact. That’s okay. This realization will be a major building block to your ability to stop the pattern.

Step 4: Even when you notice yourself reacting defensively, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop yourself at first. But it is important that you notice your patterned response. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ll get better.

Step 5: Finally, you will be able to see yourself reacting defensively when you are in the middle of it. This allows you to back up and start again. Now you can choose a better, more functional reaction.

Here’s a caveat. If you are emotionally invested in a relationship with someone who fits this description, ask yourself an important question. What’s in it for me that I choose to love someone who is emotionally unavailable?

Remember this: It’s a lot easier to want than to have.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Having the Guts To Let Someone Love You

Have you ever tried to love someone who was bound and determined not to allow it? I have. It sure is frustrating, even infuriating, isn’t it?

Since to love and be loved is a universal human need, it surely isn’t reasonable and logical for anyone to reject love. But on a whole other level, it makes perfect sense. This concept is counterintuitive. Let me explain.

People who are afraid to be loved suffer from a very deep intimacy fear. But they don’t know they are afraid. This is because the reasons they got this way have long since passed into their unconscious mind. This is especially true if the situation that created this logjam happened in their childhood.

Keeping themselves at arm’s length from anyone who offers love serves to insulate them so effectively that they don’t even recognize that they are afraid. They just “know” they are easily irritated about this, or feel self-righteous about that because they believe they can’t trust anyone.

Perhaps the most precarious part about trying to relate to these people is that the more you attempt to give them love, the more they will fight you, rejecting your attempts. This often becomes a crazy-making pattern. This allows them to build the wall brick by brick that they hope will keep them “safe.” Never mind it’s a lonely, empty, frightening existence. But at least they can’t get hurt this way, they often reason however unconsciously.

It takes courage to allow yourself to be loved, because it tends to stir up childlike feelings of dependency. Along with this are powerful feelings of fear, which is the reason people develop this counter dependent response in the first place. The unconscious rationale for their defensiveness is, if you just don’t allow someone to really love you, you’ll never become dependent and can never be let down.

The bottom line is that when these defenses were constructed, they were an early decision designed for survival. However, these defensive strategies no longer serve them in adulthood. Therefore, these self-protective barriers need to be dismantled. Check back on my blog tomorrow to see how to go about doing that. Clearly, it is easier said than done.

A baby step to get you started is to follow the advice of Martha Beck in a recent issue of O The Oprah Magazine. She wrote, “Every time life brings you to a crossroads, from the tiniest to the most immense, go toward love, not away from fear.”

More tomorrow.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Challenging Workplace Relationships

There are many energy vampires in the workplace. People who run around like Chicken Little proclaiming, “The sky is falling!” Whiners who incessantly complain about how they’ve been wronged by a boss, co-worker, or family member. And yet, they attempt no constructive solutions. Chatterboxes who talk incessantly and say nothing because they are anxious and don’t know constructive ways to bind their anxiety. And then there are bullies. And it makes matters much worse when those bullies are bosses. These "leaders" have managed to bamboozle someone higher up about their qualifications to lead. And where they exercise their “leadership” the most is in creating a highly toxic environment.

Toxic bosses regularly set team members up for failure, blaming them when they can’t accomplish the impossible. They empower people, who are already difficult enough to work with, to become impossible.

And yet who can simply quit their job in this recession?

Many times, people want to help make the situation better, but they don’t know how. This is particularly true when they are not in a position of power on the job. These employees must grapple with questions such as:

• What happens when you have a big blow up with someone you work with, but you have to continue working with them? How do you do that? Is it even possible?

• What about having ongoing tension or conflict with someone you work directly or indirectly with. How do you manage that?

• How do you collaborate if you're being forced into a situation where you have to work with an old nemesis? Do you set aside old grievances and the knowledge you have about this person to start over again for the good of the team? Is that even possible?

It can be precarious to blow the whistle to upper management. But there are times to do so and clearly, there are times not to do this. But how does the average employee know which is which? How can they be constructive without jeopardizing their own job?

Today, I have started a discussion group on LinkedIn to tackle workplace issues such as these called Challenging Workplace Relationships. Please join me in reading the comments and adding your own questions and opinions. Let’s make this a useful discussion group for folks who are struggling to connect with those who have constructive suggestions and solutions.

And please join me on March 8th on “Relationships 101” on when I interview Roger Hall, an executive who literally spent his career traveling the world helping companies to neutralize their toxic, conflict-ridden work environments. We will specifically focus on coping with bullies in the workplace.

You won't want to miss these interesting and essential conversations.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We’re Not Raising Our Children; Society Is

Yesterday on my radio show, “Relationships 101,” I interviewed psychotherapist J.E. Wright, author of The Sexualization of America’s Kids. He specializes in treating children and adolescents who have been victimized by the sexualized messages with which they are bombarded daily. Unfortunately, those messages generally are not from their parents or other responsible adults. Rather, they come from television, their peers wwho are just as confused as they are, the Internet, social media and MTV. And the more parents are unaware of this, the more they are unable to appropriately protect their children from this barrage of distorted messages.

One of the net effects of this situation is that these media have contorted children’s barometer of what is normal. “Dials” on kids’ heads that once told them what was normal and what was not, when it comes to sex and sexuality, have been twisted into a new normal. And that new normal isn’t all that healthy, unless parents intervene and offer alternatives to the messages their kids receive from the culture. Too often, the result is sexting, random oral sex parties, and skiddle parties where kids set out whatever drugs they can get their hands on like adults set out chips and dip.

What is a parent to do? Parents, take heart. There are several things you can do to prevent your kids being confused and programmed by sexually titillating material with which they are inundated. One is to teach your kids about normal sexuality at home by modeling it. For example, it can be helpful to step from the shower to your bedroom naked. This helps children realize the nude body is not so mysterious. Have conversations with children about what they think of a particular commercial and why they think sexy, beautiful women frequently are seen in car commercials. Regularly dialogue with their kids from the time they are young, even though they most likely will be uncomfortable and resistant at first. If so, ask if you can talk with them about it in a few days. This lets them know that you are interested in talking with and listening to them without it disintegrating into a fight.

If that doesn’t work and if a child begins to act out his confusion at school or with other children, it is essential that you seek professional help. Otherwise, this dangerous behavior can become a calcified pattern that your child may well bring into adulthood. Then the consequences of this confusion may be much more significant and dangerous.

Be sure to tune in to “Relationships 101” next Monday, when I will speak with psychotherapist Jeff Ford on “Internet Addiction.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

"A Lot of Forgiveness Goin’ On!"

As I wrote in my last blog entry, I conducted an extended session with a young man who flew in from the East Coast. He sought my help to resolve issues created by the untimely death of his father when my client was 15. Unfortunately, his father’s dying was not the worst of it. Rather, it was the silence of both of his parents’ before and the continuing virtual silence of the mother afterward. For all of them, there was an elephant in the room that everyone walked around, as the teenage boy withdrew farther into himself.

The young man arrived in Minneapolis on Friday morning ready to get down to brass tacks. The flood of emotions began after about twenty minutes in my office, accompanied by profuse tears.

He had many "ah-ha" moments throughout the 5 hours and 15 minutes we worked together. When I asked his permission to summarize some of the major ones in my blog, his response was immediate and clear. “If it will help somebody, sure!”

First, I should note that it is a relatively simple process, though still painful, to resolve a loss at the time it occurs. That is, if there are no variables that complicate it, such as a family’s conspiracy of silence surrounding the loss, as my client experienced. However, when additional factors become entangled into the loss, resolving it is a painstaking process. It requires coming to terms with a host of often interlocking components that each must be understood.

Furthermore, just intellectually grasping what happened or didn’t isn’t enough. The range of feelings surrounding events must be experienced and expressed, in order for the dark clouds of grief that often turn to depression to lift.

Here is a summary of some of his healing realizations, in his own words.

“I had always felt there was something wrong with me that I felt either sadness or anger about my
father’s death.”

“I always felt a lot of shame because there was so much I couldn’t figure out, and that was
controlling my life.“

“The constant feedback that my feelings were wrong was crippling.”

“No one else in my whole family was [expressing feelings], so something must be wrong with me
that I felt sad and angry. I never knew how anyone felt.”

“[As a result], I became this other person completely, ruled by demons.”

“I always felt I’d been chosen to suffer.”

“I’m finally admitting to myself that I have been suffering. And I feel like I’m getting myself

Even reading that courageous young man’s feelings in isolation on paper is gripping. So many years, he isolated himself and felt isolated. So much pain, much of it unnecessary, if only someone had understood and effectively helped.

What’s important now is that he has chosen to help himself, and that he wants to help others by sharing his lessons from this difficult but maturing experience. I would be proud to have him as my own son any day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Longing for Dad: Resolving Father Loss

This weekend for two days, a young man with whom I have been consulting by phone for the last couple of months is flying to Minneapolis from the East Coast to work with me. He found me when his mother spotted my book Longing for Dad: Father Loss and Its Impact and purchased a copy for both of them.

My client’s father had been ill with cancer for a year, but my client, who was then 15, wasn’t told of his father’s condition until a week before his death. This gave my client no opportunity to say good-bye to his beloved father. And worse still, his mother left him on his own after her husband’s death because, she admits, he was having a hard time and she didn’t know what to do. So there he was, trying to make sense of this traumatic experience all on his own. Yes, his mother brought him to a therapist for 2 or 3 sessions, but the therapist didn’t know what to do with him, either. So all his grief went down inside.

In essence, he lost both of his parents when the father died.

He recalls having tears once. He sobbed on his sister’s shoulder for a few seconds at the graveside until he could regain his composure. He then stuffed all his feelings down inside.

When he initially called to begin work with me, he was extremely depressed and, by his own admission, lost. His being clueless about how he felt translated to his being virtually paralyzed when it came to relating to women or knowing what he truly wanted to be when he grew up.

Although we made much progress in our phone appointments, I was delighted for him when he requested to come to Minneapolis to work face-to-face with me on the extremely arduous task of resolving his father’s death. He had been left alone with it for so long, that I interpreted this request as a giant step forward toward his being willing to trust and to ask for what he needed.

I have spoken with his mother three times. Now, in retrospect, she wishes she had been more assertive in breaking down her son’s protective shield and protecting him herself. Surely, this would have helped him with his skittishness with women. Undoubtedly, she was grieving and adjusting to being a widow herself. However, what a difference it would have made for her son if she had been more effective in protecting him and talking with him at the time.

Parents, please do not leave your children on their own to make sense of life’s traumas. They don’t have the cognitive machinery to do so until they are at least sixteen, according to the great Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. And they need your support and constancy, then more than ever. If you don’t know what to say to them, just sit with them. Ask how they are feeling and how you can help. Above all, don’t abandon them. Just being there for and with them is an elegantly simple balm.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Would You Please Be My Messenger?

Just today I received this comment on my Blog. “I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.” Lucy

Thank you Lucy for posting your comment. I truly appreciate knowing that my message has been received. My goal is to help make every reader’s life happier, more successful, and every relationship better and more fulfilling.

Lucy's comment was posted on a Blog Post from November 2008, so I am sure this lady had scrolled through several postings before leaving me this comment. Whether you are a faithful reader or simply a periodic visitor to this Blog site I sincerely hope you have been enlightened, entertained, educated or simply amused by my postings.

Lucy and every person who reads these posts, I have a special favor to ask of you. I do not know if your own email address book has one address or thousands of addresses but once you have read these posts and have like Lucy “enjoyed reading them” and believe this is a blog worth “visiting often” would you send the link to access my blog to your list with an invitation to visit. The recommendation of someone known by each of us carries great weight.

If you believe as I do that my message is important, I ask you be my messenger to help get the word out about my blog. I will be forever grateful.

Dedicated to your Health and Happiness.

Dr. Beth

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finding Love

It took my husband and me decades to find each other. We each had been married, divorced, remarried, and divorced again when we finally found each other. Having been around the block and then around it again by the time we met, we knew what we were looking for.

We both sensed even before we actually met our search was over. Even my 17 year-old great nephew could see. He told his mom after he had met Paul, “Aunt Bethie sure got it right this time, didn’t she?”

Paul and I each had at times despaired of ever finding the love of our lives. But we never gave up. And you shouldn't, either.

Our first date was magical. I walked into the mostly full restaurant where we were to meet and walked directly over to him. Before we said a word, we hugged. And the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about marriage on our first date, but we gave ourselves six months to live together, just to be really confident in our choice.

What made us so confident? All of our experiences with dating and marriage had been the school of hard knocks that taught us about ourselves and what we were seeking. Each time a relationship went south, regardless of who initiated the breakup, we had practiced and learned. And best of all, we loved. All of this was priceless, if disappointing,knowledge.

What is the best favor you can do for yourself if you are single and starting over? Remain open- hearted. Of course, you need to go into a new relationship with your eyes open as well. But don’t be afraid to be loving. You will learn the most about yourself when you do.

The other favor you can do for yourself is to learn as much as you can about yourself and what makes you tick. About your contribution to the relationship disappointments you have experienced. About your defenses and how you protect yourself that gets in the way of giving and receiving love. About your dysfunctional patterns that limit your success in relationships. And about the partners you have chosen, you can see with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, that virtually guaranteed the your relationship(s) wouldn't work. In other words, instead of blaming your partner(s), identify your contributions to the demise of each relationship have been in.

And don’t wait. Volunteer. Start a book club or a gourmet club. Be busy with other people and activities that are soul food for you. Take art, cooking or singing lessons. Go on vacations with friends or family. If you think of this period as waiting, you will be impatient and prone to making a mistake just to end the waiting and feel like you have some control.

And most of all, make a decision. Decide that you have no intention of remaining alone for the rest of your life. And then commit to remaining open to new possibilities.

Who knows. You may receive a visit from Cupid this season of love. And if you don’t and in order to salve your loneliness, hire a competent relationship therapist or consultant who can help you make sure you get out of your own way while providing support in this very important interim of incubation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Blueprint To Assess the Viability of Your Relationship

Last night’s teleconference on deciding whether to go or to stay in a relationship was an animated conversation indeed. In it, I was asked to create a kind of checklist for assessing the health and viability of relationships. Although I hesitate to reduce this major life dilemma down to a checklist, I acknowledge that people have different learning styles. So I agreed to take up the challenge of attempting to delineate some questions to ask yourself as you struggle to resolve this life-changing question. I don't have to tell people who wrestle with this question that either way they decide, their life will be forever changed.

At the risk of stating the obvious, no relationship is all good or all bad. Rather, successful relationships contain relative strengths and weaknesses. So as you answer these questions about your current relationship or do a postmortem on a prior one, keep in mind that most relationship attributes are neither all or nothing.

Please fill in the blank with numbers ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being not very much and 5 being nearly always.

_____ 1. Is there reciprocity, give and take, in the relationship?
_____ 2. Do you work together to solve problems?
_____ 3. Do you enjoy being with each other?
_____ 4. Do you laugh and have fun together?
_____ 5. Do you each seek to understand your partner’s feelings?
_____ 6. Do you feel understood?
_____ 7.Do you respect each other’s opinions and perspectives, even when you disagree?
_____ 8. Do you want similar things out of life?
_____ 9. Are you both willing to compromise, rather than insisting on having your own way?
_____ 10.Do you feel safe expressing your feelings and needs?
_____ 11.Do you respect each other?
_____ 13.Do you look out for each other?
_____ 14.Do you trust each other?
_____ 15.Do you feel like your partner has your back?
_____ 16.Do you like your partner?
_____ 17.Is there a minimum of blame in your relationship?
_____ 18.Are your feelings and needs respected?
_____ 19.Do you and your partner operate as a functional united front, especially regarding children?
_____ 20. Do you feel treasured by your partner as you treasure him/her?

When you have completed this self-test, study your responses. Were you surprised by any of your answers? If your spouse or partner had completed this self-assessment tool, in what ways might his/her answers be similar? different? What can you infer from this self-assessment tool about the strengths in your relationship? the work areas in your relationship?

If you wish to have my help in working with the results of this survey, please remember that I offer a complimentary consultation. Just call my toll free number (888-546-1580) to arrange it. And please keep in mind that I also offer relationship coaching and consultation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Makes People Resilient?

I am blessed to have two friends who have severe cases of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Of course, neither of them would go so far as to consider their steadily deteriorating health a blessing. But they each have managed to maintain their optimism, good humor and grace in the face of this horribly daunting illness. Both live the bulk of their lives in wheel chairs. Each is losing his eyesight, with one already having been declared legally blind. Yet they still face each day with a gusto that I wonder if I would have if I were in their situation.

What makes people resilient? Is it innate? Or is it cultivated? That’s the age-old nature vs. nurture question. I think the answer is “Yes. It’s both.”

I consider myself to be very resilient. In part, because of my native intelligence. I’m no genius, but I have devoted my adult life to doing the best I can with the “horsepower” I have been given and to help others do the same. And in part because my mother actively cultivated our resilience by her words and by her role model. After Daddy died, Mama was a widow at 48, left on her own to raise the last four of us kids. I never once doubted she would take care of us. And she managed. Both her counsel and her example advised us to “Make the best of it” regardless of situations we faced, whether it was getting a C on an Algebra test or a boyfriend breaking up with us.

What has made my friends with MS so adaptive and unflappable? First, I need to say that clearly, they both have their bad days, just like the rest of us do. But they have learned how to think of and care for others, not merely dwelling on their own miseries. I am humbled to say that I regularly am the beneficiary of their kindness and good humor. They both consciously avoid having a “poor me” attitude. Although each confides in me, it is to get my help and perspective, rather than out of a “pity party.” They are good, helpful, pleasant friends whom I am blessed to have in my life.

How can adults instill resilience in children? Perhaps the most important way is to put their children in situations that are mildly taxing. For example, it is challenging enough to learn to play the piano. I started taking lessons at age seven and continued for ten years even into college. Having to play the piano at a recital was taxing. But it was do-able. I just had to get a grip and do it. Another way is not accepting slap dash efforts children make. When I taught English in high school, I had a student who had just completed a year’s inpatient hospitalization for depression. On the first day of school, I assigned a short paper to be handed in the next day. This student approached me after class to tell me she had not completed her assignment because she had been psychiatrically hospitalized the year before. My response was one she said later she’ll never forget. “So? What does that have to do with your not handing in your assignment?” You can be sure she was not late with an assignment for the rest of the year.

What adults should not do if their intention is to build resilience in children is to not praise each and every little thing a child does with the ubiquitous, “Good job!” For example, my husband and I went to a conservatory last spring so he could engage in his favorite hobby of photographing flowers. On a trip to the rest room, I noticed a mother supervising her 4 or 5 year-old daughter’s hand washing. When the child on tiptoes turned off the water, the mother pronounced, “Good job!” I wondered to myself a) What was such a good job about doing a routine activity like washing her hands after using the bathroom? and B) What would the mother have left to say when the child brought home an A on a report for Social Studies or English? “Good job” by that time would surely seem to the child to be lame.

If everything children do yields a gratuitous “Good job!” they learn two things: 1) to be praise junkies dependent on gratuitous words of others in order to function; and 2) to expect praise from others, rather than establishing their own internal gauge for a job well done.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How Do Coaching and Therapy Compare?

It seems like there are getting to be relationship coaches everywhere you turn. With little or no training, many entrepreneurs decide to call themselves coaches. They hang out their proverbial shingle and begin trolling for clients. Many say they specialize in coaching people in marriage improvement, having no more expertise than being divorced themselves.

What is coaching, anyway? How is that different from psychotherapy? How do you know when you need therapy?

Generally speaking, coaching tends to focus on the present and future. A coach’s main action will be to help you identify action steps you need to take and see to it that you carry them out. For example, if you intend to start a business, a coach will ask you to figure out your top five goals and the strategies you need to employ to carry them out. Your coach’s main function then will be to hold you accountable for carrying them out.

On the other hand, sometimes you need the training and expertise of a therapist. The primary way in which coaching and therapy differ is in depth. For example, if you have anger or depression issues that haunt your everyday life, a therapist would help you explore and unpack the roots of those issues. Freedom comes in understanding those roots and how they are still affecting you. This knowledge gives you options, rather than simply knee-jerk reacting to situations that trigger your obsolete ways of responding.

For example, I am working by phone with a young man from Massachusetts whose father died of cancer when my client was fifteen years old. To make matters worse, neither of his parents told him about his dad’s illness and impending death. So he was in total shock when his father died. And he was angry, too. In an attempt to cope on his own, he withdrew from his friends, sports, the rest of his family, and the world. And that is where he had stayed, until he began working with me. Needless to say, his isolating himself severely compromised his social development, which was my secondary concern, once we had emotionally buried his dad. His work included a trip to Minneapolis so he could literally put an end to his isolation.

It is easy to see, then, that psychotherapy goes way beyond the scope of coaching. Clearly, there is a place for both modalities in helping people to make changes in their lives. However, if you find yourself repeating the same mistakes or unhelpful responses to life, you would be wise to seek the services of a competent, well-trained psychotherapist with whom you have good chemistry. Whom you choose for your therapist is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. So choose carefully and wisely.

If you wish to have further clarification about the similarities and differences, feel free to contact me at my toll-free number, which is 888-546-1580.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I’d Love Your Input

Most people this time of year intend to start the new year right. For some people, that means examining the validity of their intimate relationship. Knowing whether to stay or go takes on even greater urgency as they contemplate their life and the new year.

What do they want and need to do in the new year and decade? I suspect, at least partially in response to folks already pondering this question, something interesting has come up.

Over the last several weeks, I have received a series of questions from people in my online caring community, requesting my feedback on how and when to know that it’s time to leave a relationship.

I have blogged my answers to that question. People have commented on my blog. And still the questions come in.

Here’s how I need your input.

I am considering doing a special private, exclusive conference call to give people my insights as they struggle with this life-changing question. Whichever fork in the road they decide to take, their life will be different.

Of course, I can’t – nor would I – advise people about whether to go or to stay.

And having been divorced myself, I place no judgment whatsoever on people who choose to divorce. Or to stay, for that matter.

And I know from both my personal and professional experience, life’s questions don’t come any
bigger than this! The weight of this conundrum only increases when there are children whose lives will be impacted for the rest of their lives, for better and for worse, by their parent's decision.

Is hearing my thoughts on this vital topic something you would be interested in?

If I offer such a call, you would attend?

If yes, please send an e-mail to me at indicating your interest in participating. If there is sufficient interest in such a call, I will schedule it and send you information about it very soon.

Don’t forget. I offer a complimentary consultation on any relationship or personal issue you are struggling with. Just call my toll free number (888-546-1580)to schedule your consultation.

Monday, January 4, 2010

“When a Best Friend Dies”

Best friendships are arguably the most underrated of all intimate relationships. And yet, research has shown that close friendships act as a kind of “behavioral vaccine,” as two female researchers wrote. Strong social supports improve an individual’s sense of happiness and overall well-being. Conversely, loneliness and lack of social supports are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infection, and higher mortality rates.

My big sister Julie’s best friend died on Christmas Day. Bev had been hovering near death for ten days before she died at 91 in hospice with her six children gathered around. Nearing eighty herself and a widow, Julie had never before had a best friend. Oh yes. She had coffee klatch friends that typically are found in small towns across mid-America. And church basement ladies with whom she had served countless after-funeral lunches. And friends she saw at work or in her volunteer activities. But never a best friend. Until five or six years ago, when she and Bev became chums.

She had proudly introduced Bev to me twice. And she told me stories of their trips to visit her friend’s daughter in Florida. And of excursions to the Wal-Mart in the next town. This is the kind of hanging out that female best friends enjoy. So I knew when I received the first e-mail from her saying that her friend was gravely ill, this would be significant and difficult for Julie.

I began e-mailing her daily. And on Christmas Eve, I called her. Normally, Julie likes to exchange basic information while on the phone and finish the call. That day, however, she talked for over 35 minutes, reminiscing and worrying for her friend’s safe passage. I felt complimented that she would let me take care of her, rather than the reverse as she had done so many times throughout my life.

Even before Bev died, Julie began using the past tense in referring to her, as though she was already dead. I thought that was curious, so I mentioned it to my best friend, Karen, when we spoke. “She has lost so much, so she is used to experiencing the death of loved ones.” Indeed, she already was preparing herself to deal with Bev’s absence.

I wondered and continue to do so what it will be like for Karen or me when one of us has to bury the other. And my other best friend as well. I have already asked them to make certain their partners notify me if anything happens to either of them. I suspect that, because both Karen and Faye live in different cities, it will be easier for one of us to be left behind. It also will be easier for us to remain in denial, with our minds playing tricks on us to blunt the loss. If so, that will impede our recovery.

I know this much is true. I am blessed by all of my friendships, particularly those to whom I can tell all my secrets -- my best friends.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Dear Anonymous"

I had two strong reactions when I read the comment you posted on my blog on 12/23. Thank you for leaving it. I invite all of my readers to comment. It puts me in touch with the caring community I am building online.

My first was heartbreak for you. After five years with this woman and three sessions with a counselor, you are primarily being beaten up? It sounds like you haven’t gone back to see the counselor, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It is possible for a well-trained family systems therapist to work individually with one member of a couple and then bring the other partner into joint therapy. However, doing so requires extraordinary skill. In order for that to work, the therapist must know how to balance alliances to and join with both of you.

Clearly, your relationship issue with your significant other requires more skill than the male-bashing that this counselor does in the guise of therapy. It may seem like she is helping your s.o. out by siding with her. But look at it this way. After 3 years, she’s still suffering from the after effects of the divorce, and the counselor is both allowing and encouraging her to remain in her misery? Your s.o. has won only a small victory!

Your story is exactly why I wrote my first book, HELPING MEN CHANGE: THE ROLE OF THE FEMALE THERAPIST. It was not because I felt that men needed to do all the changing in a relationship. However, that was the prevailing sentiment at that time. It was a time of feminists’ backlash against the power men had claimed in relationships up until the 1950’s. HELPING MEN CHANGE was published in 1993 after an editor who heard my presentation about my men’s groups offered me a contract on the spot at the end. She said, “I’ve been looking for two years for the right woman to write this book. If you want a contact, you’ve got it.”

What made me “the right woman?” My ability to see relationships as systems. I believe to my core that relationship are an interlocking web of covert agreements that people strike between each other that stabilize and perpetuate their relationship. So to blame one of them for all the relationship’s woes is simply not accurate. Nor is it fair. It really does take two to tango.

My other reaction was anger at the counselor. Male-bashing is simply not an adequate therapeutic strategy! Nor would the reverse be appropriate if a male therapist were to perpetrate it on female clients. Her response to both of you belies unfinished business of her own that has created a major blind spot for her and has crept into her work. I can only theorize about what that might be. But I can tell you this. It is indefensible.

How do I work with couples differently from this? The core of how I work focuses around a few key questions. Often, they can't be answered the first, the third, or even the tenth time I ask them. These are abstract, emotionally-laden issues. But they must be answered by people.

1. What are you getting out of continuing to fight with each other about this situation?
2. How is it helping you? (Yes, you read that correctly.)
3. What do you suppose you two would be thinking about and working with if you weren’t struggling with the aftermath of her divorce?
4. What’s in it for you to stay?

I don’t have to tell you that five years is a long time and a lot of investment. So it behooves you to advocate for your relationship by finding the best therapist you can to help you. And if your s.o. refuses to see anyone other than the person she’s been working with (who, as you see, has not been very helpful) then get some help to sort through your feelings and questions on your own.

If you can’t answer the questions above and would like my help, remember I offer a complimentary consultation. Just call my toll free number (888-546-1580) to schedule a appointment.