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Are You Ready For A Kid Because You Have A Dog?

I’m crazy about my dog. So much so that it embarrasses my kids. “Please don’t talk to the dog in that voice while our friends are here,” they plead. That voice is the reserved-only-for-him, baby talk-ish language I’ve (purportedly) annoyingly developed when talking to Spike.

My husband ranks himself #3 on my list of importance. My kids, he claims, own the #1 spot and Spike captures #2. He may or may not be right. I’m not at liberty to say.

But as much as this dog owns a huge piece of my heart, I’m also a mother to human children. If you have a dog — but don’t have kids — I’m gently suggesting that as much as you may love or dote on him, having a dog is not like having a child. Your dog is a wonderful, beloved addition to your family but, again, not a child or even like a child. If you have a dog and you’re thinking about having a child, please don’t delude yourself that raising a human baby will be anything remotely like life with your pup.

Here’s why:

1) Ownership. Brace yourself for this one: You don’t own your children. Your dog, however, is your property. Your children are simply loaned to you on a temporary (but sometimes seemingly endless) basis. Your children belong to themselves. You may be their instructor or role model, but you will never be their master.

2) Sacrifice. Yes, taking care of a dog requires some sacrifice. You may lose a few nights’ sleep when he’s a puppy or when she’s sick. But the sacrifices you make for your children, although done willingly, are countless. You may sacrifice your career goals or hobbies. You will, inarguably, sacrifice the overall freedom to live and do as you please. You may sacrifice the bloom of youthful escapades. But your dog will never require you take a huge chunk of your pay and stash it in a college fund. Your dog will never necessitate a move to a bigger home or safer neighborhood with a better school system.

3) Care. Before you walked out the door this morning, you gave your dog a pat on the head or a quick hug. Then, seamlessly, you walked out the door. Perhaps you went to work for the next ten hours or just ran out to do a few errands. With kids, there’s at least a decade before you can do anything like that. Small children (and some teens) require constant supervision. All eyes on deck all the time. Reflect for a moment on how this would or will change your life.

4) Unconditional love. Your dog gives it to you. Your kids can’t and won’t and shouldn’t. I’ve never walked in the door when Spike hasn’t been ecstatic to see me whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five hours. Your dog thinks you’re your best self every minute of every day. Your kids will never see you that way no matter how many brownies you bake or how much spending money you provide.

5) Communication. I know when Spike is hungry or needs to go out. I know when he’s tired or when he wants to play. I know because we’ve developed our own way of communicating. But Spike will never tell me hates me because I won’t let him stay out past midnight. He’ll never get in trouble at school or fight with his siblings. He’ll never throw a tantrum in Target. He’ll never petulantly inform me that he didn’t ask to be born. Conversely, he’ll also never tell me he loves me (aloud) or acknowledge the sacrifices (see above) I’ve made for him. He’ll also never make me as proud, delighted, and humbled as I am watching my sons grow into young adulthood. #schleppingnachas

6) Legalities. You can leave your dog for a few minutes alone in a cool car with the windows open. You can put your dog behind a gate when company’s over. You can send him out to the yard unsupervised while you vacuum. I do not condone doing any of these things with young kids. The law doesn’t either.

7) Training. Kids can be taught and guided. Dogs can be trained. And never the twain shall meet.

8) Grief preparation. Spike will be 13 years old in the spring. If life continues in a normal trajectory, I will lose him in the next couple of years and I have to prepare for that. Yes, parents lose children. That’s unquestionably the worst thing that can happen in this life. But although we worry about our kids’ safety, we don’t anticipate that kind of loss and we pray fervently we never have to. Just getting a dog is brave because, when you do, you’re knowingly signing up for losing him. But every joyful day with your dog is well worth the journey to whatever sadness or challenge awaits you. And, as it turns out, that also holds true for having kids.

 

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5 Ways To Stop Fighting About The Same Old Thing *PODCAST*

5 Ways To Stop Fighting About The Same Old Thing

stop-fighting-about-the-same-old-thing-twitter

Not again! Having the same argument you’ve had with your partner a dozen times before? You’re not alone. Relationship researcher John Gottman reports 69 percent of marital conflicts are never resolved. That adds up to a whole lot of repeat disagreements.

You know better than anyone the hot topics in your relationship. Many couples argue about extended family (in-laws, usually), money, and parenting styles. Common issues may also include jealousy, substance use, and negotiating the right amount of time to spend together.

You may be sick of hearing your partner’s same list of complaints and you may even be tired of your own. You both realize there’s got to be a better way, but how do you go about it?

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Secrets and Lies: How They’re Toxic To Your Relationship *PODCAST*

 

secrets

Secrets? We’ve all kept them. Lies? We’ve all told them. But what are the consequences of keeping secrets from — or lying to — your partner?

Join psychotherapist and relationship strategist Abby Rodman as she discusses how secrets and lies affect us in more ways than we think.

If you’re convinced that keeping the truth from your partner is better than coming clean, you may not be considering the cost of what that could be doing to the well-being of your partner and relationship…and, yes, even your health.

Ready to tell the truth? Committed to keeping that secret or perpetuating that lie? Join Abby as she explores what both options really mean for you, your partner, and the future of your relationship.

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Everything I Write, I Write It For You

It’s possible I’m mildly obsessed with Facebook. Scrolling through my feed, I am often — in equal parts — admiring, envious, and glad. I truly enjoy the “last-one-I-promise!” shots of vacation sunsets, successful kids, and sparkly cocktails — of folks I care about. But I do know — as I desperately hope you do as well — that Facebook hasn’t earned the nickname Fakebook for nothing.

Where are the pictures of us watching eight hours straight of Hannibal on Netflix? (This may or may not have been how I spent the holiday weekend). We don’t boast about our shrinking bank balance or that day we stayed in bed because depression got the best of us. When our Facebook friends do share their shadow-lives, it takes us aback. It’s like, “Don’t you know Facebook is reserved for our TV-ready selves? Get with the program, people!”

In the past few years, I’ve blogged a ton and written three books. I’m currently working on a novel which may or may not become a bestseller. (Who’s to say? Could happen.) When I tell people I’m a writer (which took a long time for me to say aloud, btw), they have some combination of these responses:

  1. That’s cool. I really admire you for doing that.
  2. I wish I could write, but I can’t because (fill in the excuse here)…
  3. Do you make any money at it?
  4. I would never put myself out there like that. Why would you do that?

Question #4 is a really good one. Why in the heck would I put myself out there for all the world to read? The plain answer is: I don’t write for me, I write for you. Before you fake gag, hear me out. I write for you because I hope one turn of phrase, one personal story, one emotion I invoke in you, will set you on the path to positive life changes.

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Great advice but…what other choice do we have? I’ve strolled through those flames more times than I’d like — the mega-bonfire of my divorce, for one. Divorce, if you don’t know, is one of hell’s guests of honor. Heck, it has its own presidential suite. Divorcing was one of the toughest experiences of my life, but honestly…so what? That doesn’t make me any different from you or your neighbor.

But here’s what happened: In the ashes of my post-divorce life, the lessons left behind kind of started following me around. And they were kind of yelling, “Share us! People need to hear this stuff!” So, I started writing those lessons down — sharing what I wish I’d known sooner. That, and I wanted those lessons to shut up and leave me alone. Turns out, they’re still hanging around and new ones are popping up all the time. Because of their tenaciousness, many of those lessons about divorce are in my books, Without This Ring and From Bitter To Better.

If I could have a few superpowers, one of them would certainly be preventing folks from marrying the wrong people for the wrong reasons. How great would it be to be able to swoop in and save people from years of marital misery? Answer: Pretty, pretty great.

But, without that particular superpower, my choices are limited. I knew I could help people one-on-one in my psychotherapy practice. But I realized, by writing, I could also get my message out to thousands of people at a time. That’s one reason I wrote Should You Marry Him? — to share lessons about what to look (out) for when you’re choosing your Mr. Right.

Writing isn’t a superpower, but sometimes its the next best thing.

Any blogger will tell you there’s little money in it. A couple of viral articles won’t make you famous or land you a book deal with an elite publishing house. I can’t tell you why others write, but I can tell you that whatever the topic, my message is always the same: Please learn from my very real mistakes, professional expertise, and life experience. Please.

But I’m also guilty of perpetuating the Fakebook persona which doesn’t feel very real at all.  I have a sparkly website. I display professional photos of myself wearing things I never would in my everyday life. And — surprise! — many of them have been retouched.

I love Gary Vaynerchuk. I love his blunt messaging. I’m pretty sure he rolls out of bed, brushes his hair (or not), and jumps in front of the camera. Vaynerchuk is the anti-Fakebook and I’m jealous of the freedoms that allows him. But although his love-me-or-leave-me approach works for him, it probably wouldn’t stand a chance for most of us trying to catch the public’s eye.

I want you to read my work. I want you to be touched by it, moved to action by it, comforted by it. And if a glam, Fakebook shot of me makes you click the link, then I’m all for it. Go ahead, perk me up and slim me down. If that gets your attention, good on me. Because it ain’t about me. It’s about your journey through hell — and my commitment to helping you to keep going.

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I Got Blamed But I Didn’t Do It!

Ever been blamed for something you didn’t do or say? Discredited by someone you thought would never question your character? If so, you know how icky and awful it feels. It’s like everything you believe about yourself — and what you hope others believe about you — gets erased in the madness. What follows is my version of that madness: 

Some years back, I had the most wonderful aesthetician. I’ll call her Kat. She gave a mean facial and, afterwards, my skin would glow for a week. But I didn’t continue to see her strictly for her skin expertise. I went back for her. Over time, we developed a close friendship. I was surprised at the things I shared with her — things I hadn’t shared openly with anyone else, including my closest friends. And she did the same.

Even more years back, I stayed one night a week with a friend’s lovely family. I lived in a rural area where driver’s ed classes weren’t readily offered. My friend, who lived closer to civilization, suggested I stay with her and we’d take the class together. The bonus was that my boyfriend lived quite nearby, and, if her parents allowed it, I would be able to catch a couple of additional precious hours with him on those nights.

Both of those two memories, as written, are sweet and comforting. But both of them went haywire when I was blamed by those very people for things I didn’t do. I don’t have a great memory, so the fact that these two events have stuck with me says something. There’s something so disturbing, so discomfiting, about telling the truth, defending your good character — and still not being believed.

Here’s how the first scenario went down:

Clients would enter Kat’s treatment room alone. There, they’d undress, don a comfy robe, and drop any jewelry they were wearing into a glass dish on a small table. Nothing unusual there.

One day, after I’d left her office, Kat called to ask if I had seen a “very expensive” ring in the glass dish when I had gone into the room to disrobe. I hadn’t. I had placed my own jewelry in the dish and it was empty when I did. Apparently, the client before me believed she had left her ring in the dish. Kat was very upset but I assured her the ring wasn’t there.

It was clear almost immediately that Kat wasn’t convinced. She made comments like, “But you were the only person to go into that room after her!” I realized she was probably worried the other client would hold her responsible. But, point is, I didn’t see the ring, I didn’t take the ring, and I certainly didn’t lie about any of it.

Being accused of stealing by Kat was indescribably hurtful. I didn’t have any hard evidence to the contrary, but I did have my word. Not being believed by someone who knew me and knew my character, was the worst of it. Suddenly, all the goodwill and trust we had established was demolished by some woman who was obviously less than careful about where she left her diamonds.

Here’s the second:

One night, my friend’s parents gave me permission to see my boyfriend after class. The requirement was I be home by 9pm and not a moment later. They were on the stricter side (compared to my parents) but, hey, their house, their rules.

That night, my boyfriend and I spent those hours doing what teens did in those days: We went parking. I made it back by nine bells and was surprised to find the house very dark and quiet.

Since I was a guest, I didn’t want to disturb the rest of the family by traipsing through the house, so I decided to sleep on the living room couch. Before dropping off, someone came into the room and turned off the small lamp on the table behind me.

The next morning at breakfast (this family sat down for every meal together except lunch), my friend’s father was irate. As my friend and her mother sat by silently, her father loudly berated me for disrespecting their home and betraying their trust. He let me have it in a way I guarantee parents no longer discipline kids who don’t belong to them.

Near tears, I choked out my version: “I was home, I swear. I was on the sofa. Someone shut off the light. They must not have seen me, but I was here!

But Daddy-O wouldn’t even entertain that perhaps there was another story to be told about the previous evening. He threatened to call my parents which wasn’t much of a threat. I knew my parents would believe me.

There’s no happy or pithy ending to either of these vignettes. I stopped seeing Kat after unsuccessfully trying to contact her a handful of times (apparently her other client’s accusation held more sway than my truth). And I don’t remember if it was made clear I was no longer welcome to stay in my friend’s home, or I was too humiliated to go back. In any case, I didn’t.

Has anything like this happened to you? Have you been blamed or doubted when telling nothing but the truth? What did you do about it, if anything? I’m all ears.

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5 Sure Signs You’re Emotionally Abused *PODCAST*

5 Sure Signs You're Emotionally Abused

Are you wondering if you’re emotionally abused? Do you feel anxious around your partner on a consistent basis? Do you feel you’re no longer the person you once were? Is your home life marked more by chaos than peace?

No, you’re not crazy. But if you’re a victim of emotional abuse, you may be starting to doubt your sanity. And that’s only one of the many damaging byproducts of emotional abuse.

You’re not alone. Emotional abuse touches women and men from all walks of life. But emotional abuse is invisible until you’re able to really acknowledge just what’s going on in your relationship.

Join psychotherapist Abby Rodman as she discusses the 5 sure signs of emotional abuse. Being able to recognize emotional abuse in your relationship is the first step toward a healthier you.

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6 Ways To Convince Your Partner To Stay *PODCAST*

 

In the history of the world, begging a partner to stay in a relationship has never ended in a good result. Even if — after all your pleading — your partner agrees to hang out in the relationship a while longer, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll grow tired of the charade. Not only that, but begging is demoralizing. There’s no dignity in it. And sometimes, when a relationship is crumbling, self-respect is all you’ve got left.

No More Begging! (4)

Tears and threats won’t move your partner — at least not in any permanent fashion — so save your energy for tactics that will make a difference. What you’re going for here is reason not emotion.

Join Abby Rodman for six conversation starters that just may tilt the relationship — and your partner — back toward togetherness.

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Choosing A Psychotherapist? Avoid These 5 Red Flags

Choosing A Psychotherapist? Avoid These 5 Red Flags

We’ve all been there. If you haven’t, you’re probably not reading this article. By “been there” I mean struggling. Whether it’s with a bad marriage, a troubled child, an addiction that has us in a half-nelson, or simply the feeling that something isn’t right. Maybe that something is depression or anxiety. And maybe it’s time to find a psychotherapist.

Reality is, people seek out therapy for all kinds of reasons. And they’re usually really good ones. Even highly successful folks — the ones you think couldn’t possibly have anything wrong with their lives — seek therapy in big numbers.

But if you’re looking for a therapist, what — and who — exactly should you be looking for? Fortunately, the internet has made shopping for a psychotherapist easier than ever before. Websites like Psychology Today and Network Therapy provide profiles of therapists which consumers can browse based on geography or specific issues. Know that therapists pay to be on these sites — it’s advertising of sorts — but they’re certainly a good place to start.

The number one predictor of success in psychotherapy is the connection a client feels to their therapist. As long as the clinician is credible, don’t worry about how many diplomas they have hanging on their wall. A zillion master’s degrees or doctorates will not determine a therapist’s ability to empathize and help you work through your challenges.

Most therapists work hard at their vocation. It’s comforting to know all licensed therapists are required to complete continuing education credits in order to stay licensed. This means therapists are always learning and staying current on treatment recommendations and diagnoses updates.

However, I’ve heard more stories than I can count about psychotherapists who’ve somehow, some way, gone awry in their treatment of patients. I’m not sitting in judgment of other therapists but I know, as a psychotherapist, what I personally would not consider acceptable treatment in therapy.

Here are five red flags you should avoid like the plague when you’re choosing a therapist. Remember, your comfort level is what matters above all. But if you’ve never been to therapy, you may not know what is common, appropriate practice.

1. Distracted. If a therapist seems more interested in watching the clock or reading his emails during your session, get outta there. And fast. I’ve heard about therapists who actually answer their phones when meeting with clients. A friend of mine saw a therapist who took her clients with her to run errands. Uh-uh. You’re paying for the undivided attention of a professional and that’s what you should get.

2.  Self-absorbed. It’s fine once in awhile for a therapist to share a small tidbit about their own life if it’s appropriate to what’s going on with you. Therapists should use these details sparingly and only when they believe this information will be useful to the client. A therapist once said to a client of mine, “Your husband is exactly like mine and he’s not going to change, so you should leave him.” Any therapist who is talking more about themselves than listening to you has lost their way. Move on.

3. Critical. Yes, it’s absolutely the job of the therapist to guide you toward seeing your role in your relationships and how you may be sabotaging yourself in any number of situations. But therapists shouldn’t be unkindly critical. Long ago, a friend of mine was working through her abusive childhood in therapy. This was very emotional for her and she shed many tears in her sessions. At one painful point, she began crying uncontrollably. Her therapist said, “You’re pathetic. Stop your whining.” And that, people, is not the way therapists should talk to their patients.

4. Inappropriate. Sorry to say, this happens. A very beautiful female client of mine saw a male therapist who insisted on rubbing her shoulders during her sessions. She felt uncomfortable but wasn’t sure if this was what therapists routinely did. Um, no, they don’t. Your therapist shouldn’t touch you, and certainly not without asking first. Same goes for inappropriate or flirtatious remarks about your looks or clothing.

5. Personalizes. A divorcing client of mine — who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic — recently met with his child’s therapist who was helping determine custody arrangements. This psychotherapist shared that her own father had been an alcoholic and that she had many painful memories of him. Almost immediately, the therapist began raising outrageous parenting concerns that were clearly about her own father and had nothing to do with my client. Therapists are people with life experiences, but those experiences should in no way influence how they work with their clients. If you get the feeling your therapist is judging you based on their own issues, cancel your next appointment.

Bottom line: If you feel unheard, criticized, or victimized by a therapist, find another one stat. No psychotherapist is going to hit it out of the park every time but, in general, you should feel liked, respected, and thoughtfully guided by the therapist you choose. And most importantly, don’t let one bad apple dissuade you from getting the help you need.

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No More Begging! 6 Ways To Convince Your Partner To Stay

No More Begging! 6 Ways To Convince Your Partner To Stay

In the history of the world, begging a partner to stay in a relationship has never ended in a good result. Even if — after all your pleading — your partner agrees to hang out in the relationship a while longer, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll grow tired of the charade. Not only that, but begging is demoralizing. There’s no dignity in it. And sometimes, when a relationship is crumbling, self-respect is all you’ve got left.

Tears and threats won’t move your partner — at least not in any permanent fashion — so save your energy for tactics that will make a difference. What you’re going for here is reason not emotion. So stop all the conversational processing and give your partner some thoughts to sink their teeth into.

Here are six conversation starters that just may tilt the relationship — and your partner — back toward togetherness. More than one break-up scenario may apply to your situation, so mix and match as needed!

Script #1

When It’s A Shock

I know you’re ready to call it quits. The thought of that is devastating to me especially since it seems so sudden. This is all so unexpected and I don’t know what to make of it. Given all the time we’ve had together, I’m asking you to consider setting a mutually agreed upon timeline for your leaving. Please understand that I need some time to adjust (and so do the kids). If you still feel the same way in x months, I won’t stand in your way — but I hope we’ll use that time to try and fix what’s broken.

Script #2

When Forgiveness Is the Issue

You know I’ve been having a hard time forgiving you for (your affair, your lying, your unavailability) but I know I have to if I want you to stay in this relationship. You’ve apologized but I haven’t really heard you. I’m sure you think I’ll never forgive you and that we’ll be fighting about this until the end of our days. I promise you, that’s not the case. I’m going to do everything in my power — and I’m committed — to fully forgiving you and moving on. I hope you’ll give me a chance to show you I’m capable of this.

Script #3

When the Kids Are (Almost) Gone

You really seem in a hurry to leave — and I understand that. Neither one of us has been happy here for a long time. You know I really don’t want this but we have to consider that the kids are struggling, too. Given that they’re in high school (or leaving home soon), we only have a short time left to live together as a family. I truly think that would be the best thing for all of us. If you can wait a little while, I don’t think you’ll regret you made that choice for them. Please think about it.

Script #4

When You Need Counseling

It seems crazy to throw away our relationship without getting some outside advice. We’ve put so much time and energy into our marriage (and family) that it’s only wise to see if we can make improvements with the help of a professional. On top of that, we really want to be able to tell the kids we tried everything to hold our marriage together. If we don’t at least try couples therapy, we won’t be able to tell them that and mean it. We have to show them that our marriage — and our family — was worth fighting for.

Script #5

When You’re Ready to Take Ownership

I know you’re having a hard time forgiving me for (my affair, my addiction, my neglect) and I totally get that. Now, I’m paying the price for my behaviors and you’re ready to leave — and it’s killing me. Maybe I haven’t shown you enough how sorry I am. I know I’ve hurt you through my words and actions and it slays me to see you in so much pain. I certainly have a lot of making up to do. Would you consider staying a while longer so I can show you I can take full responsibility?

Script #6

When The Relationship Has Been an Afterthought

I can’t believe we’ve gotten to this place where you want to end our relationship. I’m sad to say that I kind of get it. Neither one of us has put much effort into it for a very long time. We’ve let everything else take priority — work, the kids, our families — and we’ve neglected what was once a very good thing. I’m horrified that things have deteriorated to this point and I’m wondering if there’s any chance we could try again. We loved each other once. We really did. And I’m convinced, with some work, we can get things back on track. Are you willing to give it a try?

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10 Golden Rules For Moms Raising Sons *PODCAST*

10 Golden (1)

When my boys were young, an older mother advised me to, “wear beige, keep your pocketbook open, and your mouth shut,” if I wanted to have a good relationship with my sons.

In other words, be an invisible, mute ATM! I was floored. Raised in a sisters-only family, I had little frame of reference. But even with my limited repertoire, I decided then and there that those golden rules were Not. For. Me.

I had to revamp her advice. I wanted to foster loving relationships with my boys while raising men I’d be proud to launch into the world. Now my sons are young adults and not one expects me to remain silent or fade into the wallpaper. (Full disclosure: The “pocketbook open” thing remains open for debate.)

It’s a crazy world out there…so, how do you make sure you’re raising your boys to be men who will be among the good guys? In my first Blogpost-to-Podcast episode — based on a blog of the same name — I discuss what it means — and what it takes — to raise responsible, loving, and respectful sons.