Therapy That Works...

Six Quick Marriage Saving Tips - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Golden Marriage Ratio - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Common Marriage Pitfalls, Part 2 - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Common Marriage Pitfalls, Part 1 - By Chris Gearing

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Talk To Your Child About 9/11 - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Watch Dr. Milton Gearing discuss how to talk to your children about 9/11 on CBS 11 - click here.

Cyber-Stalking - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss Cyberstalking and more on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Cyberstalking may be worse for your health than being stalked in person according to a just released study from the American Psychological Association. Almost a million adults, most of them women, are targets of cyberstalking each year leaving these women struggling with the trauma of stalking.

First - what is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is the hidden nightmare of the Internet. It is committed when the perpetrator makes a technologically based attack on another person via texting, Facebooking and email using mobile phones and computers. The ultimate goal is to harm that person using the distance and stealth of technology to get away with it. The motives are simple and vile—to wreck revenge on another person due to anger, revenge or the sheer pleasure they gain by controlling the fear of another person.

Here are the primary forms:

Harassment: Embarrassment and humiliation of the victim and/or the family to isolate the victim

Using Economic Control (ruining credit and stealing money out of bank accounts)

Threats and Lies to intimidate and bully

Tracking of the Victim via social media sites such as Facebook or using tracking devices such as a GPS.

The worst part is that cyberstalking is much more common than in-person stalking.

40% of women have experienced dating violence via social media, which includes harassing text messages and disturbing information about them posted on social media sites.

20% of online stalkers use social networking to stalk their victims.

34% of female college students and 14% of male students have broken into a romantic partner’s email.

Now this new study showed that cyberstalking, in comparison to in person stalking is more traumatic to women.

In person stalkers usually know their victims while around 50% of cyberstalkers are either acquaintances or complete strangers. The remainder of cyberstalkers however, are disturbed people we know.

The female victims were often left confused about why this was happening leaving them feeling even more unprotected. That vulnerability can begin to define their lives.

Cyberstalking victims experience more trauma because the harassment can last 24/7 and can occur anywhere, anytime, no matter whom you are with.

The harassment makes women feel socially anxious, physically vulnerable, lonely, and helpless. They suffer from a chronic hypervigilence and are always scanning their environment for who he is and what he might do next.

Here's what you can do if you're being cyberstalked:

First of all, refuse to be a victim. Too many of us allow the behavior of the bully to define how we think and feel about ourselves. Consider how pathetic he is. Refuse to stoop to his level.

Trust your Intuition: If you feel you are in danger, please listen to that inner voice. Do not hesitate but move quickly to a secure location.

Surround yourself with safe, dependable girlfriends who have your back. When you are in a social situation, your gal posse can be your eyes and ears against any potential intimidation.

Create a narrative in your own mind of what is happening and how empowered you remain irrespective of this behavior. You are not responsible for the choices of a criminal.

Educate yourself about your legal rights. Most states have some form or stalking law so access that information. Calm down, gear up with information and push through this adversity which is temporary.

Jennifer Lopez Divorce Woes - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Want to watch Dr. Sylvia dish on J Lo's Divorce on CBS? Click here.

Friday’s shocking announcement by Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony announcing their decision to divorce left many of us confused. While the world witnessed their affection and devotion onstage, there was obviously a very different story behind closed doors.

What happened to this great couple?

This divorce is unfortunately very typical for many couples that are wildly successful. It is very hard to remain married in the glare of celebrity since you acquire power by being incredibly self-interested. Being married requires an entirely different way of relating to your significant other. You have to learn to share resources—time, decision making etc. Thinking as a unit rather than as a single person is difficult for all of us after marriage but is especially hard for people who have a lot of power. They are used to getting their way and often want to dominate in the relationship.

The other issue that is difficult in a marriage like this is fidelity. In a survey of over 1000 people, one research found that the more power you had, irrespective of gender, the more likely you were to cheat. In fact, the most powerful people were 30% more likely to have an affair.

Which raises the question - Is it more difficult for powerful women to remain successfully married than for powerful men?

I don’t think it is a gender issue. I think that the real issue is that a lot of couples don’t know how to have two equally powerful people in the same marriage. Women who have acquired influence and power do not want to be told what to do and how to act. Neither do their husbands. Each partner has an expectation of receiving respect and the same consideration they would give to the other person. However, it doesn’t always go the way they had planned. Powerful men and women are often reluctant to share and they expect their spouse to give in on the decisions. Essentially, they are usually pretty bossy. They will let the spouse vote but ultimately want to hold the reins of power. That’s when all the trouble starts.

What about the classic cliche of a seven-year itch?

There absolutely is a seven-year itch but it is more likely to begin in the fifth year of marriage. By then, the couple should have figured out how to be married--how to handle money, in-laws, sex etc. If you haven’t figured things out, you’re much more likely to be fighting about it at the five year mark and then divorcing at the seven year mark. Remember that after the birth of the first baby, marital satisfaction drops significantly for 2/3 of the couples. If you never resolve those problems and remain married, after twenty years your marriage will most likely be characterized by a chronic lack of intimacy and closeness that causes the marriage to erode and then end suddenly.

Here are some of the common challenges that powerful personalities face in marriage:

Public Prominence is a Battlefield: Celebrities have a dual relationship with the media. They need the media attention to stay top of mind with the public but they also invite criticism and scrutiny when things are difficult. That is a lot of stress for a marriage.

Spouse's Needs May Compete: Celebrities must be driven by relentless ambition and vision. The "spin" machine can de-stabilize even the best of marriages, requiring the relationship to shift with events. Expecting one another to be emotionally present may be unrealistic, especially with the demands of celebrity. The challenge is to become accustomed to "less" spouse at times while maximizing the time you are together.

Strong Opinions and Big Personalities: Being a celebrity demands a big personality that often comes with strong opinions, high expectations of others, and a lack of compromise and patience. People of influence are often stubborn and they want their way. When both partners are celebrities, they are bound to clash.

Here's what everyone can learn from J Lo's example:

Style of Marriage: When you get married, it is important to be clear about the style of marriage you want. A traditional marriage that involves an automatic imbalance of power (usually the man is more powerful) is often preferred. However, when you have a female who is very powerful and influential in her own right may necessitate the couple having more of a peer marriage in which power is shared and negotiated.

Are You Willing to Fight for the Relationship? The bottom line is to ask yourself how willing you are to fight for the relationship. Relationships can be pulled back from the edge if both partners are willing to push through. However, it requires a total overhaul of marital expectations and a willingness to sacrifice your own agenda for the sake of the relationship at times.

Mom-Zillas - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss "Mom-Zillas" on CBS 11 by clicking here.

The Mother in Law Wars and What to Do About Them

There seems to be a new term in the wedding world—“Mom-Zilla.” Last week, a 29-year-old British bride- to-be received a scathing email from her prospective mother in law. The email criticized her table manners, sleeping habits and even her parents’ financial status. Someone popped the email on the Internet and the story has stirred a controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, what's up with a mother in law who would attack like this?

Narcissistic Mother in Law: Obviously, this woman is emotionally challenged and behaved ridiculously. All emotional attacks seem logical when we dream them up. She felt entitled to speak her mind without regard to the effect it would have, which was incredibly short sighted.

Right Back at You: In this case, as in so many, the contempt toward this young bride has now boomeranged around and become an emotional grenade in this family. Somewhere along the way, this woman convinced herself that she was perfectly justified in reprimanding the young bride to be. She couldn’t have been more foolish.

Where are Her Good Manners?: Anything that she had to say could have been said with class and good humor, if she had a right to say it at all. However, the cardinal rule of in-laws needs to always be, “less is more.” The less you say, the more peace in the family.

Here's why this story created such a media sensation:

What woman cannot identify with the bride’s position? Most women who marry must navigate the politics of a new family and the mother in law is central in making us feel either welcome or rejected. If your mother in law doesn’t like you, you will feel it either directly as in this case or indirectly when you are excluded or ignored by the female family coalition. The story really struck a chord with two camps—those of us who have suffered from Mom-Zillas rampaging through our lives and people who resonated with the mother in law’s right to criticize.

Can this young woman ever reconcile with her mother in law after this attack?

Never say never but good money wouldn’t bet on it. The mother in law acted savagely and she hasn’t shown one moment of regret. She has vowed to attend the wedding in “dignified silence.” The bottom line is that if she did it once, she’ll do it again. The real tragedy is that the couple now has a huge emotional explosion to deal with—an issue that would tax even veteran couples. How the groom responds will be central to whether they actually marry and stay married happily.

So, why are mother in law issues so hard for young couples? Usually because the son refuses to say anything. There are a couple of reasons why:

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. We initiate eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When there’s a problem between the women in his life, he wants to escape into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law can get along better today:

For Mothers-In-Law:

As I said earlier, “less is more.” Young brides are notoriously insecure and uncertain so anything and everything you say and do, good and bad, will be amplified.

Respect her relationship with your son but also request in a cordial way that your son includes you in his new family.

Don’t criticize her even if you disagree with her

Don’t criticize your grandchildren to her

Please do not compete with her mother

Keep your boundaries and focus on your special place as your son’s mother and the grandmother.

For Daughters-in-law:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Do not deliberately exclude her and become Wife-Zilla.

Hold your boundaries with grace. Please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious.

Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are.

Most of the time, if you take the high road, he’ll figure out what his mother is up to.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

Relationship Stress Can Affect Health - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watch the story on CBS by clicking here.


The health benefits of a good marriage are undeniable with married people making more money, enjoying better health and living longer. But new research reports that some marriages can be bad for your health, especially over the long haul.

This study reveals something entirely new about how marriage can affect our health. Here's what they found:

One of the strongest findings in psychology is the link between our relationships and our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that conflict with your partner can affect your physical and emotional well being over time. It’s not just a “today” thing since your mental and emotional health can be severely impacted by a challenging relationship. Your mood the day after a fight will fall especially if you are already uncomfortable with being emotionally close with your partner. The more anxious the relationship makes you, the more emotionally expensive it becomes. The real take away from this study is that being in a stressful relationship leads to longer-term health risks.

But what about the age old question -- are women affected more than men by a bad relationship?

They absolutely are and there are several reasons why this occurs:

More Sensitive: Women’s minds and bodies are more sensitive to hostile comments and behaviors from a male partner. Especially when men are verbally contemptuous, the female partner not only internalizes the label, but her body remains anxious for up to 24 hours longer while he is just fine.

Emotional Memory: We have unpleasant capacity for remembering every detail of a fight and we dwell on it over time. Women just have a hard time letting things go.

Women Are Highly Observant: We are also excellent at picking up those little meta messages in nonverbal behavior—how he looks at us, whether he seemed interested, did he look at her—and if the relationship is framed in negativity, we tend to assemble the worst case interpretation.

Quietly Suffering: Women are excellent assessors of the relationship and are more willing to face it when things aren’t going well. The downside is that women are more willing to adapt to a failing marriage than men are. We tend to become quietly miserable.

So, what happens when one partner becomes more negative about the relationship than the other partner?

Negative Emotions are Contagious: First of all we know that just like a virus, emotions are contagious. Negative emotions can penetrate a relationship and undermine the basic regard we have for one another. We share a home, bills and feelings on a daily basis. The good thing is that positive emotions are much more powerful than negative emotions.

Negative Perspective: Disappointment can become habitual and the entire relationship is framed within disappointment.

Emotional Disengagement: A dying relationship descends into emotional disengagement. The silent killer of marriages, it is often invisible even to the person experiencing it. They are aware that they are withdrawing and that they feel more helpless to effect real change. But their hearts often close up before they really understand how powerful a change this can be. They withdraw to protect themselves from further hurt and pain.

Here's what you can do today to stop negativity from harming your relationship:

Communication breakdowns are a part of loving someone else. But when arguments become gridlocked, the relationship over time will falter.

Stay Present and Remain Calm: As the conflict escalates, remind yourself that you are going into a negative downward spiral and that you have a choice to stay present and calm. Use these tips:

  • Be Concise (don’t whine)
  • Complain but Don’t Blame
  • Start with the Positives
  • Start your Sentences with “I”, not with “you.”
  • Describe what is happening respectfully
  • Talk clearly about what you need and hope for
  • Don’t Store things up—remain focused on a specific item or items
  • Be Vulnerable—express your pain and disappointment
  • Work for Compromise
  • Remain polite and appreciative

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - By Chris Gearing

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shortly before midnight last night, President Obama informed the nation that Osama bin Laden had been killed after a ten-year manhunt. Finally, a fatal blow had been dealt against Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations around the world. So what do these historic events mean for Americans going forward?

So, why is the death of Osama Bin Laden so significant to so many Americans?

Osama Bin Laden inflicted the greatest crime against this country in our history. But he also inflicted one of the greatest traumas in our history. There are several reasons why these atrocities have had such a long lasting and profound effect:

Nothing We Could Do: Traumatic reactions occur when actions don’t help—there was nothing we could do immediately to change the events. The lack of predictability was particularly damaging—what had we missed, why didn’t we see it coming? When you can’t fight back and you cannot escape (the events of 9/11 had already happened), your usual self-defense strategies become overwhelmed and disorganized. That’s when trauma gets a grip on your mind.

Trauma Lasts Longer: Trauma makes you feel powerless. However, when you have traumatic events that occur without warning, involve violent death and destruction and are engineered by a person who deliberately sets out to harm you, the trauma is more intense and more long lasting.

Intense Anxiety: If we cannot resolve the trauma by seeing justice done immediately, the body begins to encode the trauma. Physiological arousal increases—we are more anxious, on edge and agitated. Traumatized people feel like their nervous systems are still connected to the traumatic events.

Disconnection in Our Minds: Our minds begin to encode it too. We are affected in every area of our minds—our emotions, our thinking and our memory. Worst of all, trauma divides our mind—we feel but we can’t remember everything or we remember everything but we don’t have any emotions.

What would have happened to our country if Bin Laden had not been brought to justice?

He would have become more powerful in our own minds since he did not have to answer for his crimes. People who have been victimized need to see their victimizer held accountable. Without that, the perpetrator assumes an unfair advantage in our minds—he did the crime and got away with it. This can be extremely hard for everyone since we want to see our country as a just country with but one that insists that criminals face real consequences. His apprehension last night helped everyone breathe a huge sigh of relief and it will be very healing for the country.

Now, how will these events speed up the healing from the trauma from 9/11?

There are three broad stages or recovery that apply to both us as individuals and to the country as a whole:

New Sense of Safety: Seeing Bin Laden brought to justice gives all of us an incredible sense of safety and closure. This is a game changer because we can now begin to feel that our security is at least, somewhat in place again. We no longer have to think of this particular terrorist as free and plotting against us. We can embrace a feeling of renewed control and predictability.

Narrative of What Happened: Trauma recovery always involves coming to terms with the events, our part in them and creating a new outcome to those events.

Emergence as Victorious: Many Americans will feel safer now since we sent a clear message that terrorists will see justice, even if it takes us a decade to catch them. This is the final stage of trauma recovery—one of victory.

So here's the take away from yesterday's events:

Perseverance Leads to Achievement: This was a long battle to find a single man and sends a clear message to the Taliban. Our country was built by people who went the distance to achieve the goal and did not stop even if there was a setback. We persevered in the face of impossible odds and we did not back down. We hunted him down until we caught him. These events are a demonstration of pushing through until you win. Current generations that emphasize feeling good at the expense of achievement and hard work need to remember these core American values.

Seeking Justice: Most of all, Americans need to remember that our country seeks justice, even if it takes us a decade to achieve it. Once again, our military showed us why we are the best country in the world.


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