Friday, October 30, 2015


In a prior blog post I wrote about two experiences with marriage counseling in which couples were encouraged to separate when they both wanted to learn how to solve their marital conflicts. I cited an article by Dr. William J. Doherty titled, “How Therapy Can Be Hazardous To Your Marital Health.” Today’s post is a summary of four ways he believes counselors undermine marital commitment. 
1. Therapists who are incompetent in marital therapy. Many therapists have no training in working with couples. They are trained in individual therapy in which they listen in a laid back manner, are empathic and clarifying. Clients feel heard and learn to think through concerns and plans. This approach works well with individuals but not in marital therapy. A married couple who are in conflict need structure and guidance. Their conflicts will overwhelm a passive counselor or one who doesn’t know how to focus on the patterns of interaction. The counselor will often decide the problem is due to individual pathology and suggest individual counseling for each person.   
Incompetent therapists also will take sides and “beat up” on one of the partners.  This frequently happens with men who aren’t in touch with their feelings “they just want to save their marriage.” Again, the counselor and wife decide they each need individual help. 
2. Therapists who are neutral about the marriage. A neutral therapist will ask questions like “What are the pros and cons of staying versus leaving?” When someone is thinking of getting out of a marriage they use the language of individual self-interest, not the language of moral commitment. Neutrality undermines the marital commitment couples have made to each other.           
3. Therapists who focus on pathology. One party in the marriage may go for help and the counselor, hearing complaints about the spouse will label the spouse, sight unseen, as “narcissistic” or “very dependent.” This shatters hope. Some therapists even pathologize the reason a couple married suggesting the marriage was a mistake from the beginning. Someone determined to work things out after their spouse has an affair can even be pathologized for their loyalty. A new pathology, Doherty says is ascribed to those who are “bored” with their marriage. 
4. Therapists who overtly undermine the marriage. “If you’re not happy, why do you stay?” or “I can’t believe you’re still married.” This suggests to the couple that they are basically incompatible and there’s no way to help them. Undermining also occurs by direct advice. For example: “I think you should separate” or “For your own health you need to move out.”
Competent marital therapists have studied Marriage and Family Therapy where they learned how “systems” (groups of people such as couples and families) operate and they have had supervision of their work. In marital therapy the “patient” is the marriage. The main focus is on the relationship between the couple and the patterns and problems there, rather than on the inner conflicts or the childhood issues of each individual. 

Couples seeking help should ask a counselor about their training in marital therapy. Also ask about the therapist’s attitude toward saving a marriage versus helping couples break up. If they say they’re neutral, look elsewhere. You need a counselor who values the marital commitment and focuses on the marriage relationship. Counseling with a pastor or Christian counselor who firmly believes marriage is a life long commitment to each other and to God will also avoid these issues.
Educational programs in my opinion and in Dr. Doherty’s opinion are often more helpful than marital counseling – especially Christian programs. I recommend you join The Third Option, Marriage Encounter or Weekend to Remember. These programs will help you understand your differences and how to change things. The most difficult issues can usually be worked out if both partners are committed to the marriage.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, October 19, 2015

Parenting Advice: Teens & Brand Name Clothing

Q. My 13 year old daughter is already worrying about wearing the "right" or "in" clothes. She is refusing to wear the play shoes I bought her because they don't have a particular brand name on them. She wants a pair of very expensive jeans (with the brand name). Ordinarily she is easy to live with. Over this issue she seems determined and we are deadlocked. As a single parent I can't afford the fancy brands and it bothers me that she can't see that the name is unimportant. I don’t understand why this is so important to her. How should I handle this?

A. Children and teenagers from about 5th grade on often worry about "fitting in" with their crowd. Unfortunately, for many young people appearances are used to judge worth. This is because they are just beginning to figure out their own identities apart from their parents.

They are also beginning to experience many changes in their bodies and emotions as they physically mature. These changes are exciting but also scary. To provide some security, preteens and teens cluster in peer groups and the group does demand or value certain conformity in dress. In other words, your daughter has no doubt discovered that her group, or the group to which she aspires, wears the brand shoe or jean in question. Feeling socially inept due to the many changes going on within her, the clothes do assist her confidence.

Unfortunately, the manufacturers have also discovered this and they manipulate very expensive tastes among young people. And you are right; there is no reason for it. Often a $30.00 pair of shoes will wear just as well as the $80.00 pair. The same is true for jeans.

So, what do you do about it? If you say a flat no you will have a dejected child and she may make your life miserable. A power struggle at this age is seldom worth the battle. If you say yes, you will be going against your own beliefs and your own budget. When we "give-in" to our children we resent it, they sense this and feel guilty. We may also lose respect in their eyes.

The third alternative is best, though often over looked. Look for a unique solution that will satisfy you both. For example, this may be a good time to give your daughter a clothing allowance and let her spend it as she wishes. If she chooses the expensive items she will learn the consequences and have fewer clothes.

Another alternative would be to give her the amount of money you would normally spend on the item and let her put her own money with this to buy the item she wants. She may need to baby sit for a neighbor in order to afford these things. She will learn the value of money quickly once she starts earning and spending her own dollars.

Perhaps you can think of some other unique solutions that will satisfy both of you.

Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs 18:15 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, October 16, 2015


Q.  My husband and I are cautious about money. We’ve always saved for rainy days. We pay our bills on time and we live comfortably. We’ve never gone into debt other than for our house and our cars. Our son and daughter, both in their twenties, have a different attitude toward money. They received unsolicited credit cards in college and have gone wild spending money they don’t have. To make matters worse, our son likes to gamble. They are both in debt way over their heads. 
Why did this happen? We thought we taught them about the careful use of money. What will help them get out of debt and gain a realistic view of money? 

A.  Many of our values about money have been eroded by the changes in our society in the last fifty years. Thrift was a virtue and saving money was a primary goal for everyone. Children were taught these values in school, church and home. No one bought on credit. Any charge cards were paid off at the end of the month with no interest. Similarly, gambling was viewed as wrong, as an attempt to get something for nothing. 
Gradually we have become mad about money, driven to spend and spend and spend for more and more things. Our favorite pastime now is going to the malls. There were no malls 50 years ago. Shopping was done downtown and trips there were infrequent. Purchases were based solely on need rather than want.

With the advent of credit cards and easier and easier credit came the opportunity to have what we want before we pay for it. This has helped fuel our economy as the more we spend on things the more our industries flourish. To help these industries, advertisers do all within their power to make consumers want to consume. Commercials are slick and enticing. Credit is easy to obtain. Catalogs inundate us with choices of things we can buy. And it’s fun to shop. It is fun to have a new outfit to wear, the latest electronic gadget and it is more convenient to buy a book than to go to the library.
In addition, the acceptance and increase in state lotteries and gambling casinos enables us to gamble near home, not just on vacation and we can even take our children to some casinos where there is child care.

Your son and daughter grew up in this new culture and fell for its seductive offers without understanding the cost of credit or the cost of a life built on material things. Hopefully, life experiences will teach them that money and things do not satisfy. 
To help them get out of debt send your son and daughter to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. This is a non profit agency that will help consolidate their debts and work out a manageable budget - or they may recommend bankruptcy if that’s the only way out. Some churches also offer excellent classes to help couples manage their finances.  
Your son and daughter may be addicted to spending and/or gambling. If this is true they may need help from Gambler’s Anonymous or Shopaholics Anonymous. Those who are addicted get a high from whatever it is they’re addicted to. They attempt is to avoid inner pain or inner emptiness by spending or by gambling. 
A renewal of faith can help. God will fill an Inner emptiness that nothing else satisfies. 
“A person without self control is as defenseless as a city with broken walls.” Proverbs25:28

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, October 12, 2015

Understanding and Valuing Introverts

Three Book Reviews on Introverts

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

Quiet is a New York Times best seller. It is beautifully written, well researched and offers a wealth of information about the differences between introverts and extroverts. Cain gives many illustrations to show the reader that extroverts prefer action to contemplation, risk taking to certainty, and they are comfortable with conflict. They also make fast decisions, multitask, think out loud, and are talkative and interesting.

Introverts, in contrast like being alone, enjoy being cooperative, work slowly and deliberately, have great power of concentration, think before they speak, express themselves better in writing than in speaking, dislike conflict. They are apt to be sensitive and serious.

Cain gives evidence that extroverts are highly valued in our culture and introverts are ignored or even looked down on. This should not be. She explains in detail the valuable contributions introverts make to our culture and our world. Introverts are thinkers, creative and visionary. This is an excellent, thoughtful and valuable book.

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.  

The Introvert Advantage is a well researched and well written book detailing in clear and practical ways the surprising advantages of being an introvert in an extroverted world. This book offers good news for introverts. There’s nothing wrong with being quiet and reserved. In fact there is now scientific and psychological evidence that being an introvert has advantages. Laney gives valuable tips to help introverts not just get by, but actually flourish in our extroverted world. 

Laney gives evidence about the genetic differences in introverts and extroverts. In my layman’s understanding – our brain chemistry differs dramatically. Laney provides clear scientific information about this with pictures of the brain to help us understand.

Much of the book presents helpful ideas about how to live as an introvert in an extroverted world. Laney describes how to do this in our relationships, in parenting – including parenting an introverted child, in socializing and in working. The final section of the book offers many tips on how to create a life that’s “Just Right” for you.

Laney cites many of the same sources as Susan Cain in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Yet the books are quite different from each other. I highly recommend both. The Introvert Advantage offers more practical information useful in navigating life. Enjoy the books. Introverts love to read. I know because I’m an introvert.

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture
By Adam S. McHugh

Introverts in the Church presents up to date information about the inborn differences between introverts and extroverts as offered in the two prior books. Those who haven’t already read on this topic will find this valuable. Much of the book focuses on introverted pastors and leaders. McHugh makes the point that introverted pastors have gifts the church needs and these gifts are often not appreciated or recognized. The focus on introverted pastors and leaders disappointed me as a church member. I expected the book to focus on how the church can minister to introverted members – including children – who often are timid in groups. On page 197 McHugh finally has a few pages on welcoming introverts. This is helpful though sparse.

Nevertheless, the book did help me understand that introverts are drawn to quiet contemplation and prayer while extroverts are not. Introverts are also more comfortable in one to one relationships than with groups. This rings true for me – an introvert.

The list below can be helpful. I’m not sure who wrote it. There is much more good information like this in the books above.

How to Care for Introverts
  1. Respect their need for privacy
  2. Never embarrass them in public
  3. Let them observe first in new situations
  4. Give them time to think. Don’t demand instant answers.
  5. Don’t interrupt them.
  6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
  7. Give them fifteen minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
  8. Reprimand them privately.
  9. Teach them new skills privately
  10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities.
  11. Don’t push them to make lots of friends.
  12. Respect their introversion. Don’t try to make them into extroverts.
You created my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-14

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Promises of Jesus

Matthew 17:20 If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 18:19 If two of you on earth agrees about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

Matthew 19:26 With God all things are possible.

Matthew 21:21-22 If you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree but also you can say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea”, and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

Mark 10:27 With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

Mark 11:23-24 If anyone says to this mountain, ‘”Go, throw yourself into the sea’”, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen; it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

Luke 17:6 If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey. 

Luke 18:27 What is impossible with men is possible with God.

John 14:12 Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.

With God all things are possible? Anyone who has faith in Jesus will do what he has done? We will do even greater things than these because Jesus is with the Father? Can we believe this? Do we see evidence of this? Here are three of these verses and the study notes of William Barclay and John MacArthur

Luke 17:6 If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey. 

Barclay says that an event “which looks completely impossible becomes possible if approached with faith…if we approach a thing saying, ‘it can’t be done,’ then it will not; if we approach it saying, ‘It must be done’ the chances are that it will. We must always remember that we approach no task alone, but that with us there is God and all his power.”

Matthew 17:20 If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

MacArthur says about this verse “True faith by Christ’s description, always involves surrender to the will of God. What he was teaching here is nothing like positive thinking psychology. He was saying that both the source and the object of all genuine faith – even the weak mustard seed variety – is God. And nothing will be impossible with God.

John 14:12 Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.

MacArthur says about this verse: “Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit and would bring many to salvation because of the Comforter dwelling in them.”

God has done miraculous things in my heart, mind and soul – though these may not appear miraculous to others. He moved mountains of unbelief and wooed me to himself, showing me his love, power and forgiveness. He has called me to do things that seemed impossible – and with his power I did them. There are many miracles in the life of true believers though these may not be obvious to the world.

Dear Father,
We thank you for your promise that when we put our faith in you amazing things can happen. We are transformed by your Holy Spirit as we abide in you. Together with you we are able to do your will – no matter what. Your power is made perfect in our weakness. Your power is beyond all we can imagine – it’s unlimited. Help us grow our faith and continue to abide in you – watching miracles happen. We pray this in the glorious name of Jesus, Amen.