“We Just Don’t Communicate!”

Very often, when people come in for couples counseling, this is one of the first things that they say.  Sometimes, it isn’t about communication at all, but when the problem is, remember communication isn’t magic.  Everyone can do it! When you see someone do a dangerous trick on TV, they follow it up with, “Don’t try this at home!”  Well, DO try this at home.ATT00010.jpg animal friends

Think about communication as “the process of exchanging information”. It can always be improved.

Here are 5 basic principles:

  1. In all relationships (family, work, love), communication never stops.  It is always there, so don’t bother to fight it.  Instead, pay attention and get good at it. You are always sending and/or receiving information.
  2. Communication can be verbal (messages sent through words).  Communication can be nonverbal (messages sent by actions or inactions).
  3. When you have a negative message to send, it is best to send it consciously and verbally rather than carelessly and nonverbally.  Communicating with words allows further, useful discussion.
  4. Communication can be simple and overt (“I am going to feed the dog”) or it can be more complicated (“I am going to feed the dog” accompanied by frown, groan, slamming the dog food on the counter, or announced when you in the middle of an argument).
  5. Communication is always edited and that is okay.  No one says everything that is on their mind and that’s just fine – it is civilized.
  6. Poor communication is not a personality problem (usually) or character flaw.  If you work at communication, you will get good at it.

Pay attention to these 5 ideas and see if it helps.  Let me know what you learn.

Many of these ideas came from a 1987 pamphlet prepared by Richard B. Stuart and Barbara Jacobson. It just proves that helpful, basic ideas are still worth remembering.

Titanic as an Ambiguous Legendary Brand: Why it Works

I’ve taken this post from a press release touting a study that will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Brands do not necessarily need to present a clear, well-defined image in order to appeal to consumers. Let’s use the Titanic as an example. The authors of this studyIMG_0818write, “Titanic. More than a century later, the name of the ill-fated steamship still strikes a chord with millions of consumers worldwide. Consumer fixation with the Titanic is not simply due to the scale of the calamity, since the death toll has been far exceeded on many occasions. Nor is it entirely attributable to humankind’s appetite for the macabre or merely a case of being famous for being famous.”
The consumer appeal is partly explained by the myths it embodies – the myth of nature trumping technology and the almost Biblical lesson that great riches are worthless in life-or-death situations.
Equally important is the unfathomability, the ambiguity, the imponderables at the heart of the Titanic’s terrible tale,” continues the authors. “Was the Titanic considered unsinkable? Why were several ice warnings ignored? Why weren’t there enough lifeboats? Were the steerage passengers locked below decks?”
The story of the Titanic leaves consumers pondering various questions that do not have clear-cut answers. It is this lack of clarity – the inherent uncertainties – that ensure the Titanic’s imperishable consumer appeal.
“The Titanic represents a marketing bonanza for movie makers, memorabilia sellers, tourist attraction managers, and many more. This casts doubt on the long-standing assumption that brand identities should be clear, concise, coherent, and consistent. Clarity is overrated. Imprecision is underappreciated. Legendary brands need both,” the authors conclude.
I find this argument very interesting and applicable to human relationships, especially dating. It isn’t always reality that people respond to – they also are attracted to myth and mystery. Ambiguity  allows people to project their own thoughts and ideas on to individuals and products.
source: Stephen Brown, Pierre McDonagh, and Clifford J. Shultz, II. “Titanic: Consuming the Myths and Meanings of an Ambiguous Brand.” Journal of Consumer Research: December 2013. For more information, contact Clifford Shultz ( or visit

Another Reason To Support Gay Marriage



This was a sign that I saw when I was walking on the high-line in NYC. It read:

Gay marriage=gay registry=gay clutter    They are advertising a storage facility!!

I loved it… every new event, change, or happening is a reason to advertise and make money. It seems that whatever social change is in the air, cottage industries (or just new advertising ideas) spring up overnight.

Who Do You Trust For Dating Advice?

Here’s some fun information. University of Texas researchers gave 146 participants an imaginary profile of someone nameddreamstimefree_1958759.jpg rainbow ‘Jordan’.  The profiles were identical except for ‘Jordan’s’ gender and sexual orientation. Then, they asked the participants to imagine having a conversation with Jordan about romance and dating. Would they trust Jordan’s advice? Straight women trusted Jordan more when Jordan was a gay man rather than a straight man or a woman. Gay men trusted Jordan more when Jordan was a straight woman rather than being a gay or straight man.

Hmmm, so straight women and gay men trust each other most when it comes to romantic advice.

Source: Evolutionary Psychology, February, 2013.



4 Traits of First-time Parents With Their First Born Child

New parents are interesting creatures. Here are some (fairly predictable) traits of first time moms and dads:

1.  parents give everything to this child until a sibling is borndreamstimefree_1084339 frog carrying frog

2. parents are brand new at this so nothing is taken for granted

3. parents may be over-protective because they are first timers

4. parents are in awe of the child and the relationship might be intense

we need to be kind to first time parents; no one and nothing ever prepared them for the love and craziness of it all.

Source: The Writer’s Guide To Character Traits. L. Edelstein

New parents don’t have time for a good mystery but everyone else can read Object of Obsession

OO v3


Domestic Violence Affects Men And Women

Springer Publishing Company’s  journal Partner Abuse  just published a comprehensive review of domestic dreamstimefree_12410790violence research.

Here are their findings – get ready to be surprised.

1. Women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse at comparable rates to men.

2. Women engage in control behaviors at comparable rates to men.

3. Similar motives exist for both women and men.

4. Most abuse is low level violence such as pushing and shoving. When it gets more violent, women suffer more physical damage.

5. 60% of domestic violence is bi-directional meaning both partners engage in it.

6. Women rarely get court ordered counseling.

I think we have ignored women’s roles in domestic abuse because we tend to think about high violence and the physical superiority of men. We fail to recognize how prevalent lower levels of abuse can be. Also, men are far less likely to report or complain about low levels of domestic abuse.

The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project, or PASK, was a three-year research project conducted by 42 scholars at 20 universities and research centers.

Watch a video interview with the editor of the journal, John Hamel.

Want to read a novel about an obsessive relationship?

OO v3

4 Steps To Better Marital Communication

Good communication? Everyone occasionally needs a reminder, so here are practical 4 ideas to improve your conversations:

1.  Never assume you know what your partner is thinking. Reading minds is dangerous and usually you are incorrect.dreamstimefree_girl with question mark

2.  Never assume your partner knows what you are thinking. You will be sorely disappointed.

3.  Be positive in your communications. Be appreciative and caring (not always easy).

4.  Keep your sense of humor and playfulness. Even if your partner doesn’t appreciate it, humor keeps you sane.

Source: Peter Kramer Ph.D. and Rhonda Kramer ACSW

Are you a writer who is interested in improving your character development?

witers book cover 002


Intersection of Midlife and Your Child’s Adolescence

It’s a nasty joke that many men and women are dealing with their own midlife issues at the same time their children are exploding, hormonal adolescents.  Just as mom and dad question, “What have I done with my life?” their most precious production slams a door in their faces screaming, “I hate you!”  Just as mom and dad ask, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” their teenager asks for shoes that will cost today’s salary and a car or a college that gives the parents a glimpse into their futures – work forever.

When teenagers are obsessed with their daily ups and downs, the lives of their friends, and the latest text messages crossing the ever present screen, they can be very self absorbed. They are certainly not thinking about the emotional lives of their parents. Parents? Oh, those annoying people who stand in the way of real fun.  When parents are contemplating mortality, they do not want to think that their legacy is an adolescent who cares more about skin care rituals and x box than family or future.

It isn’t fair – it ought to be one crisis at a time. When midlife intersects with adolescence, everybody struggles until they work through their developmental stage.  Mom and dad review their lives and decide that, when all is said and done, they did okay and can still make changes in the future. The adolescents don’t review because their lives feel like all future and no past but they muddle along and usually turn out surprisingly well.

Life gets easier after everyone’s identity shifts slow down. Parents settle down more confidently and so do kids.


Books About Divorce

On November 18,2011, I posted a list of books for children.  Here are more books about divorce for children and parents to read.

Why Don’t We Live Together Anymore?: Understanding Divorce; Interactive exercises and discussions   by Robin Prince Monroe

Don’t Fall Apart on Saturdays!  The Children’s Divorce Survival Book by   Adolph Moser and David Melton

 Mom’s House Dad’s House     [for parents]     by Isabella Ricci

 Let’s Talk About It: Divorce     by Fred Rogers

 Let’s Talk About It: Stepfamilies by Fred Rogers

 I Don’t Want To Talk About It   by Jeanie Franz Ransom

Dear Daddy     by John Schindel

Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls

 Families are Forever!  Kid’s Workbook for Sharing Feelings About Divorce  by  Melissa F. Smith

 Vicky Lansky’s Divorce Book for Parents: Helping your children cope with divorce and its aftermath   by Vicky Lansky

 How to Survive the Loss of a Love       by Peter McWilliams 

Marital Separation by Robert Weiss

If you are an early career clinician, a professor who teaches interviewing skills, or a clinical supervisor, you will find my newest book, “What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide To Answering Client’s Questions” (with C. Waehler, published by John Wiley, 2011) a  practical, useful addition to your library. 


Divorce Reading List For Kids

People often ask me if I can recommend books for their children to read when the family is going through a divorce.  There are many out there and lots of useless ones so, when I find good books, I keep track of them. For starters, here is a list of good books about divorce compiled by Dr. Melissa Perrin.

An Egg is an Egg by Nicki Weiss       (ages 2 to 6)

Two Homes by Claire Mazurel         (ages 2 to 6)

Mama and Papa Bear Are Divorced     by Cornelia Spelman      (ages 3 to 8)

My Parents Are Divorced Too by Jan Blackstone et al

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary    (ages 7 – 12)

What Children Need to Know When Parents Get Divorced by William L. Coleman  For parents and kids to read together           

How It Feels When Parents Divorce     by Jill Krementz    (ages 7 – 17)

It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear; A read-together book for parents and young children during divorce    by Vicky Lansky

What Can I Do?  A book for children of divorce  by Danielle Lowry  (ages 9 – 12)

If you are an early career clinician, a professor who teaches interviewing skills, or a clinical supervisor, you will find my newest book, “What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide To Answering Client’s Questions” (with C. Waehler, published by John Wiley, 2011) a  practical, useful addition to your library.