Relationships

Q. I’ve heard it said that words aren’t as important as actions. What does that mean?

Q. Several years ago I attended part of a women’s retreat and heard you say that affirmation was the programming language of the brain. What did you mean?

Q. Teachers have complained that my two children are argumentative and sometimes even disrespectful. When I ask the kids why they argued or were disrespectful, their response is that they didn't like the way the teacher talked to them, so that the reason they argue and their comments are being interpreted as disrespectful. How do I handle the teachers?

Q. Have you ever experienced discrimination? If so, please help me understand how bias, prejudice, and discrimination differ.

Q. Recently I broke up with someone I love very much—he could not or would not be monogamous. Furthermore, he couldn’t seem to understand the reason I found his behavior upsetting. He says that I’m the one he loves the most and the others are just for letting off steam. Even knowing our break-up was for the best, my heart is fractured and I can’t seem to get back on track. What’s wrong with my brain?

Q. Do you have any words of wisdom about relationships?

Q. I have a friend who brings me some little gift when she visits. It may be a card, a jar of jam, or an article on brain function. However, she almost always points this out to whomever else is present, saying, “Look what I brought for...” I don’t mind her doing this, but it's childish behavior. What would trigger her brain to do this?

Q. I just turned 19 and don’t have a very good handle on choosing relationships, and on prioritizing their position in my life. Any ideas?

Q. As a company administrator, I have made it a policy to mentor younger individuals, usually quite successfully. Recently an employee whom I mentored for several years moved to a different organization. Initially, it seemed they wanted to continue our association and even expand it to a personal friendship since we were no longer working for the same entity (and I am careful to avoid mixing business with pleasure). As they moved up the ladder in the new position, however, it seemed a level of competition has developed and strained the relationship. They do many things well and have some excellent skills but frankly they differ from mine. I have always stressed the concept of identifying and honing “your own gifts” rather than trying to copy another’s style and mimic what they do very well. Over the past couple of years I’ve sensed a distancing by this individual unless they want something from me. The perception of some observers is that there may be a lack of accurate perception about what they do well. Any ideas?

Q. As a parent I have a duty to make my child subscribe to family values, beliefs, and behaviors. My son has a different opinion, especially related to church attendance. How do I make him conform?

Q. I once heard you use the term counterfeit forgiveness and said it was filled with hidden dangers. I’m confused. I thought forgiveness was forgiveness.

Q. My 19-year-old daughter is dating a young man who was once accused of date rape but his fiancée didn’t pursue it and they broke up. I’m terrified that my daughter will get herself into a situation that she won’t be able to handle and will end up getting raped. What do you suggest?

Q.  I perceive I’m being taken advantage of by a CEO and part-time romantic relationship who travels a lot. Recently I identified an untruth in one of our conversations. What type of a brain tells a bare-faced lie and expects to get away with it? And how do I deal with this? I really love this person.

Q. Before I lost my father to cancer, the hospice volunteer discussed with him the stages of death and dying. While it gave him some peace, it hasn’t done much for me. Is there something wrong with my brain? I’d appreciate your comments.

Q. My 26-year-old daughter is dating a young man who has made some comments that we think are demeaning to her. For example, she mispronounced a word and he sneered and said, “You won’t get far in life when you can’t even say words correctly.” Another time when she wasn’t leaving the restaurant as quickly as he wanted to her, he snarled (my interpretation), “Just get your fat ass in the car.” We seem to see less and less of her and we’re scared for her. What do you think?

Q.  My husband’s hearing is deteriorating and yet he refuses to even be evaluated for a hearing aid. His point seems to be, “I can hear as much as I want or need to hear.” Is there anything I can tell him to encourage him to at least explore assistive hearing devices?

Q. My mom had a difficult childhood with a difficult mother (the woman that my mom is turning in to each and every day).  Her dad moved away to start a new family when my mom was 2 severing all ties to the family. In turn, my grandma sent my mom away to live with various relatives for sporadic amounts of time up until the age of 11. My mom says that there are big gaps of time in her childhood that she cannot remember. She remembers meeting her mother when she was 11 years old and was brought back to live with her and new stepdad, who proceeded to have three more girls. Guess what? My mom became their built-in babysitter. I am thinking this has to do with why my mom does not seem to “attach to people.” She seems to live in a state of every person for him or herself. Some days she is loving and wants us around and the next day she accuses us of mistreating her and of not meeting her needs and wants nothing to do with us. I swear that it’s like an 80-year-old acting like an angry 2-year-old. Crazy making! I could write pages about her behaviors that are driving all of us nuts trying to deal with her. What do you think is going on?

Q:  I have a trip planned to my childhood hometown and haven’t been there for decades. My sister wrote to say several high school classmates have recently moved back to town and are looking forward to seeing me. I have very negative memories from one of those girls and almost decided to cancel my trip, until I heard about EMDR. Do you think this could help me stop thinking about this incident? It seems to have a kind of weird power over me and the more I say “I don’t want to think about that,” the more I seem to think about it.

Q: My husband has three adult children, a boy and two girls. The 24-year-old girl is unusually close to him and she was very upset when we married. I don't think they've had inappropriate touching but it feels like emotional incest. They talk often on the phone and via email and he spends way too much money (my opinion as I’m the sole wage earner) on his kids, especially on her. This not only causes hard feelings in her two siblings but also uses money that is now not available for us. Recently I discovered that when he goes grocery shopping he’s been getting sizable amounts of "cash back" on transactions and using that for his kids. My husband often invites them over for Sunday afternoon backyard barbecues or Friday evening dinners and we really can't afford the outlay of food. I already owned a home when we married and he is pushing me to add his name to the deed. My attorney says NOT to do that because if anything happens to him or to our marriage, I will likely have to sell and give him (or his kids) half the equity. My husband says that if I loved him I'd put his name on the deed. I'm so confused (and the letter goes on). My brain is fried!

Q. I grew up in a family that used the terms emotions and feelings interchangeably and that let them all hang out. My partner says I can control my behaviors regardless of what I feel like. Is that right?

Q. I’m often tired after spending time with a specific individual. Is it possible for this person to impact my energy levels?

Q. Once again I find myself depressed. My cousin and his wife did not invite me to their son’s wedding. What is it with their brains that makes them exclude me, and what is it with my brain that I let it bother me?

Q. How can family-of-origin work help me and my relationships?

Q.  I read your article on “forgiveness” in a recent Brain Bulletin. I also finished the book “The Body Never Lies” by Alice Miller. She made a comment about how honoring your parents can be misunderstood with resulting dire consequences. How could that be? 

Q. A friend of mine overheard you remark, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” Whatever do you mean by that comment?

Q. I heard you give a brain definition of generation gap some time ago that made a lot of sense. Please repeat it.

Q. I tested as having a fairly high IQ but routinely having difficulty communicating with most people. Do you have any suggestions?”

Q. Holidays were a nightmare this year. I’m the eldest of five. My siblings take advantage of our parents’ generosity and good nature and don’t pitch in to help them. As the only one unmarried, I end up doing everything! What can I do to make them step up to the plate and do what they are supposed to do for their parents? I am so frustrated I am almost ill! My parents recognize the discrepancy but they don’t want to rock the boat or create any conflict among the siblings.

Q. The holidays were a total bust as usual. There’s always a lot of conflict—I’ve learned to expect it—with family members picking on each other and bringing up all the sad stuff that’s happened throughout our lives. It doesn’t help that my name is Holly! If I could afford it, I’d take myself on a cruise over the holidays next year.

Q: Earlier in life I concentrated on my career early in life and only married in my fifties. My right-brained husband is a wonderful man in many ways. Shortly after our marriage, however, he quit his job as manager in a fast-food restaurant. We had not agreed to that prior to marriage. I thought he was going to get another job but the reality is that he hasn't worked in the 11 years since. There is always an excuse: “no jobs,” pay is too low,” “hours aren’t good,” “can’t get weekend days off,” “he needs to be a house-husband” since my job is busy and stressful at a VP level. I'd like to retire but I can't support two on my pension. It is so frustrating. I love him but am losing respect for him. How can he be satisfied to be living off me? I believe he felt better about himself when he was working as a manager. I neither need nor want a house husband and I feel manipulated. Some nights I don’t even really want to see him—all rested and relaxing around the house. He may have made dinner but it didn’t take all afternoon and I can get a housekeeper to come in a couple of times a month. Do you think he has a brain problem?

Q. I have been working on raising my level of Emotional Intelligence and every small improvement seems to provide even bigger positive results in my life. I have several close friends who are not on that bandwagon with me. How do I get them to change?

Q. My partner and I recently attended The Brain Program. What we learned has improved our relationship immensely and we now have a more neutral language with which to discuss differences. We’re considering consolidating our living arrangements. One behavior pattern concerns me, however. My partner has a tendency not to follow through on promises and commitments. But I love this person! What should I do?

Q. Three years ago my partner and I fell in love. Lately I don’t get that "kick in the stomach" when we kiss and that puzzles me. Where did it go?

Q. How can you know when others are trying to manipulate you? Recently I’ve sensed that another person has been trying to manipulate me, and then have felt guilty for even thinking such a thing. Can you give me examples of some characteristics that would indicate manipulation?

Q. My boss tends to say "no" to most suggestions or requests I make. I've never thought of her as particularly negative or vindictive but this is getting ridiculous. I'm curious to know if you think this is a "brain thing."

Q. There has been a clergyman in each of the last five generations of our family and it is important to continue that tradition. The only male out of 12 children in the upcoming generation (my son) does not want to into my profession. His desires run counter to my own ethics about mission, parental wisdom, and service. Recently, this lad of 23 (who I know is not yet mature) attended one of your seminars and returned reinforced in his desire to be a pilot. You have no business saying anything that could interfere with my will as patriarch of the family!

Q. We have two couples with whom we associate with fairly regularly. One male likes to insist on paying the bill. The other couple seems to have no problem always accepting. I appreciate the gifts of dinner but would really like to reciprocate and am never allowed to do so. What to do?

Q. Recently a friend and I were discussing The Brain Program. She said it was one thing to believe strongly in something but quite another to spend your time flying around the country lecturing. I’ve always respected this woman and don’t quite know what to do with her comment.

Q. I have a cousin whom I love very much and for the past 40 years have frequently invited him over to my house for events and bought tickets for us to attend a musical program or play. I’ve come to realize that he never reciprocates. Lately I find my enthusiasm waning for continuing these efforts. Is it because my brain is getting older or because I’m now on a fixed retirement income and think more about finances?

Q. I seem to have difficulty relating successfully with other people. Someone suggested I read Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I did but it seems a bit dated. Do you have anything more current to suggest?

Q: I dated my current husband in college. After we broke up, we each married, had children, and subsequently divorced. Last year my college beau and I crossed paths again after nearly thirty years. He has five children and they are very upset about our marriage. Mine just want me to be safe and happy. My husband seems obsessed with getting his children to accept me; invites them regularly to our house and keeps pushing me to go with him on visits. They typically are at least civil to me now (at least face-to-face, though I have reason to believe they say very unkind things about me when I'm out of earshot) but it’s still tense and stressful. I've never considered myself a stupid woman but I feel naive in this situation. What is going on with his brain?

Q. After spending a couple of decades taking care of my husband and four children, I finally obtained my GED and recently enrolled in junior college. When I leave/return from class, however, my husband often makes derogatory remarks (e.g., don’t bring any of "those lesbian classmates" home). I don’t understand what’s going on and this doesn’t seem fair.

Q. I recently remarried after being single for nearly 20 years. The man I married is warm and caring, and tells me every day how much he loves me. But I don't believe it because he calls or texts his 97-year-old mother every day. That makes me feel like I'm not the most important woman in his life.

Q. A friend of mine gave me one of her parrots for my birthday. A big parrot. Over the past three years I’ve enjoyed it in some ways but its screeching is beginning to wear on me. I’ve developed a sort of hypersensitive, unable to relax, wondering when it is going to cut loose next. My sensory preference is kinesthetic (not auditory) so this puzzles me. My friend says there must be something wrong with my brain and suggested I take anti-anxiety medication. What do you think?

Q. A man we know suddenly decided he was “in love” with another woman. There were, of course, all kinds of excuses for this including that his wife wasn’t giving him enough attention. He and his wife are friends of ours and while we have decided not to take sides, I’m wondering how this happens?

Q. My sister is dating someone who I think is showing sociopathic tendencies. Can you help me better understand what’s going on in that type of brain? I’m frightened although she doesn’t seem to be.

Q. If I resist urgings from my spouse or friends to do something they want me to do, they just raise their voices and keep repeating the same thing over and over. What is going on in their brains?

Q. Help! This is a second marriage for me. My husband really spoiled his only daughter (she is now age 25) and I mean really spoiled her! Her mother died when she was 11 and he was a single parent. It’s over the top! She is gorgeous and flatters him continually. If she wants money, Daddy forks it over. If she wants to talk because she is bored or lonesome or had what she terms a “frightening experience,” he spends hours on the phone and at her place. She married two years ago and if her husband so much as looks at her crosswise (her words), she is on the phone to Daddy. Every little thing that happens is a major crisis and, of course, she has no problem-solving skills because “Daddy has always rushed around solving everything for her.” She may be age 25 but is an 11-year-old emotionally and mentally. I have no idea what she will do when her daddy dies. I do know that he and I have no meaningful relationship. It doesn’t matter what we have planned or what we are doing. His little girl comes first. In a restaurant, he will leave the table to go outside and talk to her, leaving me sitting patiently alone. If I say anything about the time involved, he says I don’t understand how his daughter needs him and tells me to stop being jealous. If she finds out what we are doing or where we are going there is always a crisis. She views anyone that her daddy likes—including me, his new wife as of one year ago—as a threat. She must be first with him and is sneakily manipulative. She is sugary sweet to me on the surface when we meet, and then trashes me to him behind my back and begs him to dump me because “she’s not good enough for you.” She’s done that with every friendship he’s had since her mother’s death. I do not know what he gets out of it. Help!

Q. I have heard you speak several times and really like what you say. Yeah, I believe I do have quite a bit of control of how well and how long I live, but no one in my family or circle of friends will get on board with me.

Q. I have a friend who pretty much talks nonstop. It’s hard for me to get a word in edgewise. Sometimes after spending two hours together I’ve actually said two words: “Hi,” and “Bye.” What is it with that type of brain?

Q: My twins, a boy and a girl, must be going through the “terrible twos,” so-called. Well, they really are! It’s just “no, no, no, no, no....” until I want to tear out my hair. My neighbor says that every time the twins say “no” if we put them alone in their room they will learn to say “yes.” Do you think this will work?

Q. What type of brain engages in terrorist activities? I’m scared since 9/11!

Q. I disagree with your statement that “living together is not a trial marriage.” What is your reason for saying this?

Q. A friend of mine attended The Brain Program and later quoted you as saying, "Living together is never a trial marriage." What do you mean?

Q. I enjoyed your PowerPoint® presentation about the tsunami of romantic love. Being totally in love with another human being, I know what that feels like—it’s beyond wonderful. Here’s my dilemma: this individual doesn’t seem to love me back. I’ve tried everything I can think of and I sense a moderate friendship response but no love in return. What is the formula to make this brain love me?

Q. My teenager recently asked me to explain what being an adult means. Can you help me?

Q. Our fraternal twins have been self-identified as being gay. My husband and I accept them as they are and we have a happy family. As they are approaching middle-teen years, however, and are dating and developing teen-age crushes, a problem has arisen. Both tell us: “You don’t understand what it feels like to be in love (or dumped by someone you really like), because you are straight, not gay.” What do I tell them?

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