Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Austin Counseling--Decisionmaking

When interviewing for my first counseling job, I was asked what my worst flaw was. I spontaneously answered, "I'm not very decisive." Surprisingly, I got the job and my first goal when starting the job was to learn how to make faster, more efficiently decision and make the best decision given the situation.

The follow article reflects the process I learned about decisionmaking.

Good decisions are made "with the head and the heart". We actually make better decisions when we use our conscious mind together with our unconscious mind. Researchers in Denmark studied decisions made by people when they were allowed to think about their choices and compared this to decisions made when they were distracted and not allowed to consciously think about their problems. People made better decisions when they had been distracted - when the decision was heavily influenced by their unconscious mind.
We seem to be better able to hold multiple options in our unconscious mind and process them "in the background." Our consious mind can only attend to one or two things at a time.

Follow these steps if you are faced with a major decision in your life.
1. Before you start narrowing down options be sure you have considered all of them. It often helps to spend some time brainstorming. Are there options you haven't considered? What else might you do? Start with a blank piece of paper and write down everything you can think of related to your decision. Focus on generating possibilities without being critical.

2. After generating different options, put the piece of paper away and go do something else. Watch a movie; read a book; or literally sleep on it - go to sleep for the night.

3. Take a fresh look at the options that you generated. Do a few of them jump out at you as especially good choices? Underline them. Do others seem especially bad? Cross them out. Work toward coming up with two or three especially promising options.

4. Divide a piece of paper into two columns - one titled "advantages" and the other titled "disadvantages." Draw a line (or two) across the page dividing it into two (or three) equal sized rows. Label these for the choices you are considering.
Write down all of the advantages and disadvantages you can think of for each of the two or three choices you are considering. There will be some overlap - the advantages of one option may also be disadvantages of a different option. There will also be some unique entries in each section. It may become clear that one of your choices is better than another at the end of this procedure. Don't skip the next step, though.

5. Put the piece of paper away and don't look at it for 24 hours. You may want to take it out again the next day, or you may wake up having made your decision. If you do look at the paper again, look at it from a distance - from across the room. Do any of the blocks stand-out?
If you still can't decide, then bring a trusted friend in on the process. Another person's input can help you see things from a different point-of-view.

Source: Dijksterhuis, A. and Nordgren, L. "A Theory of Unconscious Thought". Perspectives on Psychological Science, June 2006.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Austin Marriage Counseling--Marriage & Money

An important thing for premarital couples to talk about in terms of money is whether they will combine their money after marriage or keep it separate. After seeing couples for over 20 years for pre-engagement, premarital, marriage and post-divorce counseling, I find that unless there are extenuating circumstances, couples who don't "marry," i.e., combine, their money lack a feeling of "being married."

Also, if you don't trust your mate with your money, is it wise to marry that person? Money, sex, and children are the top 3 things couples argue about. Do you trust the person you're marrying with your money, your body and your future children?

And if the couple live in a community property sate like Texas, where I practice, and they divorce without having a prenup, the money will be split 50/50 in most cases. So, keeping it set aside in two different accounts doesn't protect their money from their spouse.

In addition, keeping money separate somehow leads people to believe they have more money than they really do. That's like breaking a cookie in several pieces and saying, "Now I have more cookie."

If money is an issue with you and your future or present spouse, counseling can help. You can reach me at 512-795-0402. I'm located at 4131 Spicewood Springs, M-1, Austin, Texas 78759.
My website is

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Austin Marriage--20 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage

The following list of behaviors are very effective in ruining your marriage.

1. Expect your partner to read your mind.
2. Make it as hard as possible for your partner to apologize.
3. Ignore your partner's request for change by saying, "You knew this is how I was when we got together."
4. When your partner has a complaint about you, ask contemptuously, "What's wrong with you?"
5. When your partner brings up a complaint about you, get up and walk out of the room.
6. When your partner asks to spend time alone with you, refuse or ignore the question.
7. In a conflict, defend your position and refuse to see your partner's point of view.
8. Make sure your partner knows all the things they do wrong and never point out anything they do right.
9. Never show curiosity about your partner's life.
10. Never say to your partner, "Thank you," or "Please."
11. When your partner wants to have sex and you don't, tell them, "All you ever think about or want from me is sex."
12. Never, ever, let your partner change your mind in a conflict.
13. Refuse to reminisce about the good times in your relationship with your partner.
14. Dwell on the things you dislike about your partner and never try to remember their good qualities.
15.Never give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
16. Stop your partner from complaining by walking out of the house.
17. In a conflict make sure you point out all the ways your partner is wrong in their thoughts and feelings.
18. Find a friend of the opposite sex to confide in about how unhappy you are in your marriage.
19. If you're a woman, don't have sex unless you're in the mood. If you're a man, don't give affection until you've had sex.
20. Any one of these 20 things will be harmful to your marriage, but if you would like a divorce, do all of them. It's a guaranteed, sure-fire way to get your partner file for divorce.

If any of these things are happening in your marriage and you would like to heal the marriage and live "happier ever after," you can reach me at 51-795-0402. I'm located at 4131 Spicewood Spring, M-1, Ausitn, Texas 78759. You can find my website at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Austin Marriage Counseling--Caring for Your Sick Mate

The most prevelent feeling the well spouse experiences when caring for a sick spouse is guilt. There are a multitude of reasons the well spouse may feel guilty. One of the most common is feeling guilt about their own self care. "If my spouse is suffering, I should be suffering," often is the internal mantra running through the mind of the well spouse.

The airline analogy applies here as well as when sitting in an airplane seat. "Put your own oxygen mask on first." If your goal is to take care of your spouse to the best of your ability, don't kill off your ability to do that by not caring for yourself. Take time for yourself to recop. Here are suggestions:

1. If you need help, ask for it. Every good deed you've done has made it possible for you to call on others to help. And it is surprising how often people are completely willing to help someone struggling with caring for a sick spouse.
2. Survey your resources. Who or what organizations might be of help to you.
3. Figure out how you help can help your spouse help themselves?
4. See a counselor/therapist. Often we can't see the forest for the trees. Very often the well spouse can't see options for all the exhaustion. Getting an unbiased, professional's help can lead to new ideas and new perspectives on how to care for yourself and your spouse.
5. Stop and reflect on the possibility that the marital problems between you and your sick spouse may be both normal problems all couples go through and problems related to the illness. To what extent are those problems being worsened by your unwillingness to care for yourself and your partner's guilt about putting such a huge burden on you.
6. Read The Tough and Tender Caregiver, A Handbook for the Well Spouse

If you're struggling with caretaker's fatique or experiencing marital problems with a sick spouse, you can reach me at 512-795-0402. I am located at 4131 Spicewood Springs, M-1, Austin, Texas 78759. My website is

Austin Marriage Counseling--Your Man is Wonderful

I discovered a new book today. It's for woman, Your Man is Wonderful.

The idea behind this book is, "Love the one you're with." Too often I find in working with couples that they focus on all the things that are going wrong in their marriage and give very little credence to what is right and good. This leads to criticisim where there is a complete lack of acknowledgement for doing things right, compliments, words of appreciation and thank you's.

In John Gottman's research on marriage, he found that one of the four most common traits in marriages that are on the rocks is this lack of positive perspective. This book can help women regain that perpective. Now Dr. Nelson needs to write the corresponding book for men.

Here's a brief synopsis of the book: "Here's a secret about your man: He wants to please you. He wants to be your knight in shining armor. He wants to see the smile on your face that tells him he's worthy. He wants to be your wonderful man.

This is what Dr. Noelle Nelson has discovered about a lot of men in relationships: they want to be there for their women and create the mutually supportive, fulfilling partnerships women dream of. The problem is, many women haven't learned how to recognize their partner's good qualities. We notice when he forgets to take out the garbage, when he insists on refolding the laundry, when he goes out for an evening with the guys and forgets to call -- and overlook the very qualities that make a relationship blossom, like basic trustworthiness, reliability, and responsiveness. A clearly defined path to recognizing your guy's positive qualities, Your Man Is Wonderful defines what a wonderful man is -- not just someone who treats his partner with regard, affection, and respect, but one who eagerly engages as her greatest cheerleader, supporter, and best friend. And it shows how to stop griping about your partner and see that the toad on the couch is really a prince-in-waiting."

If you're marriage is on the rocks because there is a lack of positive perspective, you can reach me at 512-795-0402. My office is located at 4131 Spicewood Spring, M-1, Austin, Texas 78759.
My website is