Category Archives: Friendships

Relationships Make You Grow

Hooking up, shacking up, or having sex with someone within 20 minutes of meeting them does nothing to help you grow.  These types of behaviors stifle you and set you back.  Only relationships help you grow. 

A healthy relationship means choosing wisely and treating kindly.  I’m not saying it has to be perfect – that’s never the case.  However, in a good relationship, you and your partner have each other’s interests at heart, and you each feel like you are changing for the better.  You feel very secure, and it allows you to relax.

It’s amazing how much better your mind and body work when you have some level of peace and a sense of security.   I can’t tell you how many times people have called my show saying that they feel they’re lacking in some area for one reason or another, and I ask them, “So, are you saying that your husband/wife is stupid?  Because they seem to think you’re nice, attractive, talented, and interesting.”   A big reason relationships help you grow is because your partner usually sees something objectively that has been hard for you to accept emotionally.   It’s not unusual for you to start rejecting your distorted, self-critical perception of yourself when your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, who you admire tremendously and love, sees you more positively than you see yourself. 

There was one woman who I had in therapy a while back who went through this very process.  When she came to me, she was the stereotypical dumb blonde.  She had overly bleached hair, huge boobs, and a dingy way of speaking.  Then one day when we were talking in a session, she started to analyze something quite intelligently and articulately.   I just sat there with my eyes opened wide like a kid in a candy store for the first time.  I realized that behind this dumb blonde shtick was a very smart woman.  After gently nudging her for a while, I got her to start attending community college.   She would bring me papers she’d written for her philosophy class, and I remember reading them thinking, “Wow, I could never have written this. It’s brilliant!”  She went on to graduate, and she now has an esteemed position.  I am very proud of her.   

For this woman, the turning point was simply me believing in her. She had come from a very disruptive and destructive family, and she had been into every drug known to man (it’s a miracle she was still alive).  However, because I believed in her, she decided to believe in herself.  The same goes for intimate relationships.  When you are in a quality relationship and your dearly beloved believes in you, you believe in yourself.

Relationships also help you become a better person because your partner introduces you to new things.  They’ve probably had a million different experiences you haven’t.  Generally speaking, you get introduced to terrific things and expand your attributes and talents.  You learn to do sports or hobbies you would have never thought of doing, like watching science fiction movies or going whitewater rafting. 

In addition, your partner’s good habits will rub off on you.  Whether it’s their ability to cope emotionally, their physical fitness level, their commitment to eating right, their knack for managing finances, or their choice of friends, you can benefit from their good habits.  This happens a lot in marriages.   For example, if one spouse is more hyper than the other, the hyper one will become more calm and collected, and the more sedated one will become more energized.  They offer each other their positive parts and end up creating a nice mix if they are open and supportive of each other.

Another benefit of being in a relationship is that you are encouraged to be yourself and expand who you are.  If you love to sing but have anxiety about performing, your partner can encourage you to take some lessons or sing at the local restaurant on Wednesday nights.  If singing is how you love to express yourself, your beloved will encourage you. 

That’s another reason why relationships are great: you and your partner are there to support each other.  Be it emotional support (being their cheering section), physiological support (giving them a hug), or financial support (working extra hours so they can have the money to do something), it’s all about helping each other out.  When you’ve had a bad day, there’s nothing like coming home to a hug (*note: no matter how bad you are feeling, make sure you give your spouse a hug when he or she comes home after they’ve had a bad day). 

A final way relationships help you grow is that you are held accountable for your behavior.  For example, women, in particular, like to talk negativity.   We spend a lot of time expecting the men in our lives to sit and listen to us bitch and moan about what has hurt and upset us.  Guys can hear it once, and then they want to fix it.  They don’t want to keep hearing about the same drama with your mother or sister over and over again (guys, the same goes for repeating the “I’m angry with my boss” story every day).  You are going to be held accountable by your partner because they won’t tolerate certain constant behaviors like this.  It’s a good thing when your partner draws the line and says, “Enough of this!,” because it ultimately makes you a better person.

As Jack Nicholson said in the film, As Good As It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.”  That’s the whole point of relationships – they help make you a better man (or woman). 


The Importance of Getting Your Kids Outdoors

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day, although they stress that the activity doesn’t have to be consecutive.  Is that not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?  As long as the time they spend walking across the living room and back to go to the bathroom or play video games adds up to an hour, that’s considered OK.  It’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are overweight or obese. 

I know this may sound obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to be fat.  According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, kids living within two-thirds of a mile of a park with a playground are five times more likely to have higher levels of physical activity and weigh less.  In addition, children exposed to nature can reduce their stress levels by as much as a third.  It only takes a 20-minute walk outside to help children with ADHD concentrate better (believe it or not, you don’t have to just drug them).

With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine why so many of our kids are overweight when there are more than 20,000 parks and 11,000 playgrounds totaling over 1.5 million acres in cities across the U.S.  When my son was little, I’d put him in the kid seat on the back of my English racer and ride him over to the park to play all the time.  I don’t know why more people with kids don’t try moving closer to areas with parks nearby.

What I really don’t understand is why kids these days don’t want to go outside.  When I was young, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was be in the house.  That’s where your parents could tell you what you could and couldn’t do.  Instead, I’d always be outside running, riding my bike, hiking, and playing ball with friends.  And it wasn’t called exercise – it was called playing.  Nowadays, kids have Wii and Xbox, and they need special shoes and other electronic equipment in order to be active.

I think one of the reasons kids aren’t as active is that a lot of parents are either too busy or just too lazy to pay attention to what their kids are doing, where they are doing it, and who they are doing it with.  They also take their children to sedentary “mommy and me” groups where they sit there and put one block on top of the other.   Whatever happened to kids going outside, running, pushing, and falling down laughing?  Parents need to stop being so freaked out about the possibility of their child getting a boo-boo.  My theory is if your kid turns 18 with no scars or broken bones, you have been too controlling (I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my son broke his arm when he was 17).

Furthermore, a recent study suggests that your child’s social network of friends can greatly influence how much they move their butts.  The journal Pediatrics conducted a study of 81 kids between the ages of 5 and 12 for 12 weeks in an after-school program.  They interviewed the kids about who they were hanging out with the most and equipped them with devices called accelerometers to measure their activity levels.  What the researchers found was the children’s activity levels increased or decreased depending on who they were hanging out with.  If a child’s friend was sedentary, then he or she would also be inactive.  When given the choice to keep their activity levels the same or change them to match those of their pals, the children were six times more likely to match their friends.

The takeaway from this study is that kids are influenced by their peers, even in how much they exercise.  You need to arrange play dates and encourage your children to have relationships with kids who are active.  Even if your child tends to be sedentary on his or her own, having friends that like to play will make them more likely to go out, run around, ride bikes, and do normal kid stuff. 

As parents, you need to get your kids playing outside.  Limit their electronic media use to an hour a day.  Don’t let them sit there staring at a screen all day with hyperactive thumbs – it’s like a scene out of a scary movie.

Nightmarish Dream Weddings

The economy is really bad, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  Because finances are such an issue, practicality is especially important these days.  However, a lot of people still have delusions of grandeur about certain things like weddings.  Many of them watch too much reality television and get swept away by the fairy tale nonsense.   Instead of seeing a wedding as a stage for making vows to love, cherish, protect, hold dear, and support in sickness and in health, they (especially women) look at it as a major opportunity to be queen for a day.

The average couple spends $27,000 on their wedding. Talk about extravaganzas.  I think the reason for this is because women, in particular, are pressured by friends, family, and even strangers.  They are also victimized by media visions, such as all those incredible photos you see posted on Pinterest.  These kinds of things are what create the sense of fantasy and cause weddings to go way over budget. 

Sadly, what results is couples starting their lives together in debt and often without the resources to go on a honeymoon.  When you’re young, you already have a lot of bills.  If you’ve got $30,000 in student loans to pay off in addition to the wedding, you are not going to have enough money to live on.  Marriage is already tough enough without the added stress of money problems. 

In addition, parents borrow on their homes or dip into their retirement funds to pay for their kids’ weddings.  It’s not all that surprising seeing that couples, on average, spend $12,000 on the reception and $5,000 for the engagement ring.

We really need to simplify.  Love is simple and sweet.  You’re planning a celebration of vows, not the Academy Awards.  At a time when the median U.S. income is about $45,000, no one should be spending $27,000 on a single event.  In one article I read, a couple said, “If it were up to us, we would have a taco truck and a DJ.”   However, instead, women spend thousands and thousands of dollars on dresses that they are (hopefully) only going to wear one time.  What happened to this being a touching and meaningful occasion? 

If you want to cut down on your wedding costs, here are some helpful tips:

1. Avoid wedding seasonWedding season is traditionally May through October.  If you get married off season, things will be a lot cheaper.  In addition, avoid the highest-priced time charged by reception halls (Saturday at 7 p.m.). 

2. Limit the guest list.  When your parents and friends want to bring people you’ve never even heard of, you need to tell them “no.”   Your mom or dad might object, “But, I do business with these people!,” however, the answer is still “no.”  There should be nobody at your wedding that a) you don’t know, or b) you don’t think is there to support your vows.  I know that’s a novel concept these days, but it’s an important one.  You shouldn’t be walking around the room wondering, “Who the hell is that?”  If your parents want to invite business partners or other friends, let them have their own party at some other time and invite all these extraneous people to celebrate that their kid got married.

3. Consider having a wedding buffet, luncheon, brunch, or just a dessert reception instead of a multi-course wedding dinner.  You don’t need to have a major sit-down dinner.  You also don’t have to go overboard with desserts.  Most of the time, people have stuffed themselves and don’t want to eat a huge dessert.  You could offer them cookies or other itty bitty things instead.  And as for the booze – buy it yourself.  It’ll be much cheaper than having a catering hall provide it.

4. Rethink the location.  Consider having your wedding at a national park or the beach.  Ask a relative or friend to use their backyard.  I’ve had several friends’ weddings in my backyard.  I said to them, “Do you know how much money you are going to save if you just have your wedding at my house?  We can rent some tables and spiff it up.   It has got a beautiful view, and most importantly, it’s free.  That’s a good price.”

5. Save on flowers and decor.  Instead of spending a ton of money on floral arrangements, buy some small, inexpensive vases and dress them up with ribbons and other accessories.  Then, get your flowers from the grocery store.  It’s as simple as that.

6. Cut down on attire.  Attire accounts for 10 percent of the average wedding cost.  Did you know that you can rent a gown?  Check out sample sales, department stores and outlet stores.  You don’t have to pay $2,000-7,000 for a dress you’re not going to wear again.  Even if you get divorced and remarried four times, you’re probably not going to wear that same dress. And, if you try to sell a $5,000 dollar dress, you may only get $750 for it.   It’s a ridiculous expense – rent a gown for the night.

7. Go for a DJ instead of live music.  Couples spend an average of 8 percent of their wedding expenses on music.  DJs are very popular these days, and they are much cheaper than hiring a live band.

8. Get an amateur to take your photos and videos.  Why go through all the hassles and fights you’re bound to have with a professional photographer?  Hire an amateur.  Check out the local colleges where people are studying photography and find somebody there.  Or, like one wedding I went to, put disposable cameras on every table so that your guests can take pictures of each other.  You’ll end up with quite a lot of pictures. 

9. Send your wedding invitations via email.  I recently got invited to a baby shower via Evite.  All I had to do was click “yay” or “nay” to RSVP.  It was very cute.  Something like that is a whole lot less expensive than the 42 different envelopes packed into one with all the tissue paper and stamps.  Forget all that. Use the net.

10.  Don’t have so many bridesmaids, and let them wear their own choice of attire.  It saves money and makes everybody happier.  Give them a color scheme and say, “Whatever it is, it needs to be ____ shade of blue.”  You can even send them all a swatch of that shade for comparison.  In addition, you only need to have one or two bridesmaids.   You are not one of the royals in England. 

Nowadays, people tend to spend more time on the desserts and who’s going to sit where than they do on what they’re actually committing to: their sacred vows.  Keep it simple, keep it sweet, and most importantly, keep it meaningful.

A Teenager in Love

I think my most heart-wrenching breakup happened in early high school.  The irony is that I have no memory of the guy’s name but, nonetheless, he was my boyfriend.  In those days, having a high school boyfriend didn’t mean what it does now.  Kisses were just quick pecks, and there might be some hand-holding or an arm put around you at the movies.  That was it.  There was no sex.   

The night before my 15th birthday, my best friend called me up and said, “There’s something I have to tell you.”  I figured she was going to divulge something about the gift she was getting me, but instead, she said that she and my boyfriend were going steady and that he had given her his ring.   “Ha ha. Very funny,” I thought, but then I realized she wasn’t kidding.  I was devastated and began crying my brains out.  There had been no hint from either one of them, and I had never even seen them together.  Of course, that was the end of our friendship. 

I told my parents about it, but you know how parents are.  “It’s just puppy love. It’s no big deal,” they said.  But it was totally devastating to me.  It was rejection, stealing, betrayal, and 15 other things I can’t even think to mention.  I didn’t want to go to school the next day – birthday or not – because I just did not want to face all that.  But my mother got out a very fancy outfit that I would normally not be permitted to wear to school because it was too dressy, and said, “Tomorrow you’re going to school.  You’re going to wear this nice outfit and your new shoes.  You’re going to fix yourself up and walk around with your shoulders back and head held high.  You’re going to give the impression that neither one of them matters to you.” 

I cogitated about this for the rest of the evening – “Can I do this?  Can I really walk around like it doesn’t matter and not cry?” – and the next morning, I got all spiffed up, put on a little pink lipstick, and went off to school.  Evidently by this time, the news had ricocheted around the class and everybody knew about what had gone down.  All sorts of people were coming over to me offering support and saying how terrible it was.  It went a long way in making me feel better.

When you’re a teenager, breaking up is especially hard to do.  High school dating is more about having an identity than simply being attracted to another person.  It’s really important at that age to have serious peer acceptance.  Your mother thinking that you’re the bees’ knees is just not enough anymore.  You get attached to somebody because it’s a status symbol. 

I want to discuss how teenage breakups should be handled on both ends – if you’re the dumper, and if you’re the dumpee.

Now, there are school programs that have been implemented to teach kids how to deal with breakups.  I think they are absurd.   I don’t believe there should be school programs about anything except science, math, English, history, computers, etc.  In my opinion, schools shouldn’t be dealing with emotional things like bullying and breakups.  It should be handled in the home like when I was a kid; the vice principal called your parents, you got your butt hauled off, and there were serious consequences if you misbehaved.  Period, end of sentence.  Public schools today care too much about social engineering, which is just another reason why I support homeschooling.

In addition to the school programs, there are forums like the Boston Public Health Commission’s Break-Up Summit for teens which are equally ridiculous.  According to a USA Today report, “Counselors at the forum urged teenagers to communicate with partners about relationship boundaries, together defining whether they were ‘just texting,’ casually ‘hooking up,’ ‘friends with benefits,’ or in a monogamous relationship.”  Is this really what we’re teaching teenagers?: “Sit there and think about whether you’re screwing with no meaning, screwing with no meaning, or screwing with no meaning.”  It’s insane.  We’ve escalated things to pseudo-adult behavior.

If you’re a teenager or a parent of a teenager, here are some better breakup rules:

  • Don’t tell your friends before you break up.  Don’t feed the gossip machine and embarrass the other person.
  • Don’t post it on Facebook.  Setting your Facebook status to “Single” is not the way to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re done.  Do not be cold and callous.  I don’t care if it was just puppy love – they are still a human being who deserves respect and compassion.  Remember, you once cared about them very much.
  • Don’t do it via text or email.  About one-third of teenagers said they’d either broken up with or been dumped by somebody via text.   Show some humanity and don’t text.

When breaking up with someone, the first thing you need to do is be clear about why you’re ending the relationship.  Maybe you’ve been arguing with them all the time, or you realize that this person is not as much fun as you thought and you don’t really enjoy spending time with them. Perhaps you’ve developed feelings for someone else, or you can’t be hindered by a serious relationship right now because you’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see. 
You really need to think through why you’re doing this because you will be asked, and you have to give an answer without being mean and without beating yourself up.  Be honest with them, but don’t be cruel.  And just because the other person doesn’t accept it, that doesn’t mean you can’t like somebody else or want to spend your time doing something else. 

In addition, treat the other person with respect, and break up with them in person.  Yes, they’re going to feel hurt, disappointed, sad, rejected, and heartbroken, but don’t back down.  Stick to your guns and remember that it’s not a negotiation.  You’re going into the conversation to let the boyfriend or girlfriend know that you’re leaving the relationship.  Respectfully say what you have to say, and then politely listen to what they have to say.  If you’re getting out of a relationship because it’s abusive, you better have people around you, including someone with police experience or an Army Ranger.

Here’s how to start things off:

  • Make sure you’re in private. 
  • Tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that you want to talk about something important.
  • Start by mentioning something you like or value about them. 
  • Say what’s not working (your reason for the breakup). Whatever it is, you can do it in one sentence: 
    - “I’m not ready to have a serious boyfriend right now.”
    - ”You cheated on me, and I can’t accept that.”
    - “We’re arguing more than we’re having fun.”
    - ”It just doesn’t feel right anymore.”
    - ”There’s someone else.”
  •  Follow it up with: 
    - “I want to break up.”
  • Saying, “I want to stay friendly,” is probably better than, “I want to stay friends.”   It’s very hard to be friends with someone who is still thinking about you day and night, and you’re already on to somebody else.
  • Tell them it pains you that it hurts them.  
    - “It’s not the way I wanted things to be.  I hoped things would work out, but it is the way it is.”
  • End by saying something positive.
    -  “I’m always going to have good memories about…”
    - ”I know you’re going to be OK.”
    - ”I’ll always be glad I got to know you.”
    - ”I know there’s somebody out there who will be happy to have a chance to go out with you.” 
  • The final part: spend some time listening to what they have to say.  Of course, if they start getting out of hand, you can excuse yourself and leave.

Now, on the flip side, what if you’re the one being dumped?

When someone breaks up with you, it hurts.  It feels like your heart has sprung a leak.  It’s reasonable to feel sad, and it’s OK to cry.  Sometimes people don’t want to feel the pain, and they turn it into rage and get mean.  Don’t do that.  It doesn’t help you get better.  It only makes you look bad and it hurts other people.  There is simply no upside to getting enraged. 

You need to remember that you have a lot of other relationships in your life.  You have friends, family, teammates, and many others who care about you, and they can help you feel like yourself again.  When I went through my breakup in high school, I had some of the most random folks suddenly being very kind to me because they didn’t think my best friend did a nice thing. 

Another thing you can do is spend some time thinking about what you gained from the relationship, good or bad.  Did you become a better person?  Did you become nicer?  Did you become worse?  Did you become a doormat?  Did you become a bully?  Did you become a whiner?  Did you become a good support system?  Think about what you got out of that relationship.  Ask yourself questions like, “What did I do wrong?,”  “What could I do better in my next relationship?,” and “What had nothing to do with me?” 

Finally, if you’re the parent of a teenager, you have to remember that as much as you’d like to protect your kids from all pain, you can’t and you shouldn’t.  Most teenagers are going to experience a lot of breakups, but being consistent in your love and support for them will help.

Can You Not Live Without Your Cell Phone?

I recently went to go see a movie (something I very rarely do), and I didn’t bring my cell phone in with me.  I then went to lunch, and again, left my phone in the car.  For some reason, this freaked people out.

My friend: “Where’s your cell phone?”
Me: “In the car.” 
My friend: “Why don’t you have it with you?” 
Me: “Because I’m having lunch. I want to relax.”

My cell phone is even off now as I’m sitting here in my office.   I don’t understand why so many of you folks can’t do without them.  According to a survey, more than half of Americans would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and/or caffeine than their cell phone.   A third of you would rather give up sex.  Over 20 percent of you would do without your toothbrush, and if you’re an iPhone user, that percentage doubles (well, I suppose it is good you’re talking into a phone because nobody’s going to want to smell your breath!).  In addition, 21 percent of you would go without shoes before separating from your cell phone.  Two-thirds of you even sleep with your phone by your side. 

When it comes to being able to access the Internet, the insanity level is the same.  Forty percent of you feel lonely and 53 percent of you feel deprived if you can’t get on the Internet.  I guess if you live your life through Facebook rather than face-to-face, that makes sense.  One participant in the survey said that unplugging was akin to having their hands chopped off.  Another stated, “The emptiness overwhelmed me,” and yet another described feeling incomplete.

I can only say one thing: This is scary!

I remember in one of the original Star Trek episodes, there was this group of people who had ceased being corporeal.   They were essentially just thought waves, and they had no need for sex or farming.  All interpersonal interaction was gone.  It was very interesting to them to see how humans interacted with each other because they had bodies.   This is what we’re becoming.  A lot of you see technology as a way to keep in touch, but in my opinion, you are all becoming more and more distant.  You are only engaged in virtual relationships as opposed to real connections. 

Here are a couple little things you can do to unplug and start having healthier relationships:

Schedule some periods of time where you are inaccessible and nobody can reach you.  No texts, no emails…nothing.   Nobody can access you.  You can even make them short at first.  You’ll probably feel anxious and maybe even depressed from being disconnected, but guess what?  Your life will not implode!  It’ll be good for you – just think of all the time you could be spending seeing a friend or doing a hobby while you’re not plugged in.

Pick a day where you don’t touch your email or your cell phone.  Just one day.  It could be Saturday, Sunday, your “day of rest,” Shabbos…whatever.  Pick a day.

Or, if you think that’s impossible, how about this?  Set intervals for when you check your email, or don’t check your email before a certain time.  You can use an autoresponder explaining that you can be reached any time on your cell phone.  At least your cell phone is voice-to-voice.
Try to get some humanity back in your life. 

Do you crave your technology?  Take this quiz.  If you can’t get to the end of it without texting, you probably already know your diagnosis.