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Click here to Contact Me easily via email.  I would love to visit with you today if possible!  I look forward to talking to you!

Chuck Sugar

Licensed Professional Counselor

 

Blogs

Criticism

This is an article I found in a Psychology Today magazine on Criticism, written by Jay Dixit.

"All relationship irritants can lead partners to criticize each other. But criticism is a dangerous irritant in itself. "If you want to kill a relationship outright, have an affair," says Buri. "But if you want to bludgeon it to death slowly, use criticism." Criticism makes people feel attacked and unloved, and can be so damaging to a partner's sense of self that it borders on abuse. Yet most people respond to even petty annoyances with criticism.

In reacting to annoyances, says John Gottman, men are more likely to shut down and refuse to engage. But women voice their complaints in criticism. They are apt to tell a partner exactly what is wrong with him and how he needs to change. But such an approach seldom brings about the desired goal; men feel attacked, defensive, unable to listen with an open mind. Conversations that begin with criticism are likely to end in anger.

 

Criticism can sometimes be indirect, manifesting as sarcasm. Madanes prescribes a pattern-interrupt: Wherever the couple is, as soon as she makes a sarcastic comment, he's to lie flat on his back and say, "Kick me! Kick me! It would hurt less." "It's very effective," Madanes reports.

Relentless nagging—about money, about irritating habits, about anything—is another form of criticism that especially bothers men. Madanes similarly prescribes a pattern-interrupt. The goal isn't to shut down communication about real issues but to use playfulness to nudge destructive communication toward a more constructive mode.

Couples assume that since good communication is the linchpin of a relationship, all communication is good and more is better. That's a fallacy, insists Madanes. "With most couples, the problem isn't insufficient communication but too much communication." Many couples get caught in vicious cycles of complaining and criticizing each other, hammering the same issues over and over.

Not only is criticism flat-out destructive to a relationship, it often doesn't budge an issue. Most behaviors never change—because most relationship problems are unresolvable. Gottman calculates that 69 percent of all marital problems are immutable, arising from basic personality differences between partners.

In other words, what you can change is your perspective."

By Jay Dixit

 

Hope you found this helpful.

Sincerely,

Chuck Sugar, LPC, MHSP

Chuck Sugar Counseling, PLLC

http://www.ChuckSugar.com

Affair Recovery Couseling Process

Affair Recovery Counseling...

Nothing can turn your world upside down like discovering your spouse has been having an affair.  The hurt, anger, and fear are overwhelming.  It’s hard to concentrate, sleep, or even sit still.  Your mind keeps going over and over the details wanting more truth and information, yet fearing the answers.  Recovering from an affair is probably the most difficult marital issue there is.  Trust has been broken, respect has been lost, and hope is at an all-time low in the marriage.  It’s hard to know what you should believe anymore.   You probably have questions like, “Can I ever trust her again?” or “How can he say he loves me and have an affair at the same time?”  “And what about the kids?  How will they make it through a divorce?”  It seems that nothing makes sense anymore, but there is hope!

Affair Recovery is not typical couple counseling and should not be treated typically!  Taking the time and making the effort to do the work needed to stabilize a relationship that is suffering from an affair is critical.  It is imperative for the couple to work through a very specific process to stabilize and rebuild their marriage.  

I take couples through an affair recovery process called, "Torn Asunder" created by Dave Carder.  This is the most complete process I’ve ever seen.  The first four sessions are designed to understand what caused the marriage to deteriorate.  The remaining sessions are devoted to building a healthy and meaningful marriage.  Couples that go through this process usually understand the “why” of the affair, realize how their marriage was vulnerable to the affair, and learn how to build a healthy, faithful marriage.  There is hope for marriages that have suffered from an affair.  I get to see marriages survive and thrive that were once crippled by one or multiple affairs.

According to Dave Carder, there are four classes of affairs: Class I, the One Night Stand, Class II, an Entangled Affair, Class III, the Sexual Addiction Affair, and Class IV the Add-on Affair.  The recovery from an affair will differ depending on the class of the affair.  All affairs are horrible and painful, but different types of affairs are treated differently and typically recover in differing lengths of time.  There are many parts of the Torn Asunder program that make it such a complete program for marriages that are suffering from an affair. 

Some of the key components of the program are:

1. The Marital Satisfaction Time Line
2. The Contributions section
3. The Forgiveness process, and
4. Exercises for rebuilding communication, respect, trust, and love in the marriage.   

Interwoven throughout the program are marriage relationship building exercises in which almost all of the homework assignments involve both partners working together on the homework.  This is a key component to getting both spouses involved in rebuilding the relationship.  After going through this program, the partners will know each other like they’ve never known each other before, they will have had meaningful conversations they’ve never had before, and they will have created a much healthier marriage than they’ve ever dreamed possible.  

As devastating as affairs are, there is hope for those who take the time and make the effort to do the work necessary for healing to begin.  It is my hope and prayer that you will have the courage to lean into this process and repair your marriage for your sake and for the sake of your children!

Chuck Sugar, LPC, MHSP

Licensed Professional Counselor
Chuck Sugar Counseling, PLLC
Chuck@ChuckSugar.com

http://www.ChuckSugar.com 
(615) 369-0650

Men, Criticism, and Shame - The Perfect Storm

    Why does my husband feel attacked when I ask him normal questions?
•    Why is he so defensive when I want to talk about money?
•    Why does he leave, shut-down, or rage when we argue?
•    Why doesn’t he pursue me romantically anymore?
•    Why doesn’t he lead our family like he’s supposed to?

Here are some pretty typical questions women ask men and some pretty general things men “hear” when they say them.  

Women - “I’m going to the store, how much money do we have in our checking account?”
Men - Often hear, “I doubt you are able to provide for us,” “I can’t trust the way you handle our finances,” or “Are you wasting your time again?” i.e. “You are a failure.”

Women - A question asking, “Hey, what did you do today?”
Men - ...a man often hears, “you probably aren’t spending your time productively...therefore, you probably are failing to perform to my expectations
and you’re not providing for us to your optimum level!” i.e. “you must be doing something wrong, you are lazy, and I think you are a failure at being a provider.”

Women  - “Are we going to be able to go on a vacation this year?”
Men - Often says to a man, “do you know what you’re doing? Have you saved enough money so we can have a vacation or have you failed at providing for us again this year?” i.e. “I think you are incompetent and a failure!”

Women - “I am going to need your help with the kids or dishes when you get home tonight?”
Men - Often means, “I usually can’t count on you...are you going to be an incompetent father or husband again today?” i.e. “you are usually a bad husband and father again!...i.e. you are a failure...yet again!”

Women often ask, “So, what’s up with men? Why are they so sensitive to criticism? I ask the simplest questions and you would think I had challenged him to a dual.  So, are women just supposed to be quiet and not ever ask men questions?  How are we ever supposed to talk to them about issues if he hears everything as criticism?”     

Here’s the deal:  the emotional differences between men and women are profound!  I can only generalize what most men and women do and feel.  There’s always the exception when the man and woman reverse the typical emotional roles.  It is important to know that those whose emotional tendencies are opposite of the norm are not awkward or unhealthy. They are just different than the average.  

Women seem to have different reactions to the scenarios above about how men feel criticized or threatened by women.  Some women are just plain angry with men for taking it that way.  Others go to a place of guilt and/or shame themselves because they never would have wanted to communicate criticism or been a threat.  Many women are just asking a face-value question.  Still others will admit that they know exactly what they’re doing and sometimes use shameful words to manipulate their man.  I have heard all three confessions from women on more than one occasion.  It has been my experience that the vast majority of women are not trying to send their man to a place of shame; they just want or need to know information.  For example, the woman asking, “how much money do we have in our checking account” before she goes shopping probably just wants to make sure she doesn’t bounce a check and that she can buy groceries for her family.  It’s really not her fault that her husband feels criticized and threatened by her questions.  But, it sure gets all over her when he does and it makes it a difficult environment in which to ask questions and navigate life together when you can’t talk about certain topics without a painful interaction.

Garden Variety Shame
For a better understanding of the dynamics between men and women, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden.  First, Adam and Eve were in the garden and the bible tells us that they were “…both naked and were not ashamed.”  When they ate of the forbidden fruit, they covered themselves with fig leaves because they were aware and ashamed that they were naked.  When God asked Adam where he was, the bible says that Adam was afraid and hid himself.  I believe that day, Fear and Shame entered our world and men have been hiding in one way or another ever since.  If a man loses his job, he goes to shame; If you ask, “why don’t we have…” man goes to a place of shame; If you are unhappy, men often go to a place of shame.  Basically, if his adequacy or role as a man are questioned, he goes to a place of shame.  If he fails in almost any area and he is not measuring up to what a man “should be,” he goes to a place of shame…and I believe he hides (isolates) like he did in the garden.  So I don’t think any amount of talking will change the dynamics, but there are ways to have healthier conversations in spite of this dynamic.

How to use man’s places of shame to heal your marriage.  There are numerous areas in which men experience shame.  Here are some of the more prevalent ones. 

A man needs to know that he’s a great:

1.    Father
2.    Lover
3.    Husband
4.    Provider
5.    Protector
6.    Godly man
7.    Leader

To help you change your perspective of your husband, quit thinking of him as a grown man who “should” be above such things.  Rather, think of him as a 6-year-old little boy stuck in a grown man’s body with the daunting expectations and responsibilities of a grown man.  Further, think of him as a 6-year-old boy in a man’s body who is “supposed” to know what he wants to do when he grows up, how to be successful, and how to solve your marital problems.   Surely you know by now that this is not happening.  Most men are not taught how to express their feelings, fix marriages, make you happy, resolve conflicts lovingly, read your mind, take hints, or meet and exceed your expectations. Most men are taught at an early age some of the following messages:

1.    “Don’t cry
2.    Be a man
3.    Showing emotions is a sign of weakness
4.    Grow up
5.    Don’t complain
6.    Pull yourself up by your bootstraps
7.    Get up boy; you’re not really hurt.”

So, men, who are taught that being in touch with their feelings is a mistake and makes them less of a man, rarely know what they are feeling and certainly don’t feel the freedom to express it if they do.  They just don’t believe they can both express their feelings and be a man at the same time!  Quite frankly, most men are scared to death of failing and the fear of failure and fear of rejection is debilitating to them.  Since fear usually leads to control in areas of self-protection, when a man is emotionally shamed and off balance it is doubtful that you will see healthy relationship patterns.  Men, when afraid, usually isolate and pull away from meaningful relationships to protect themselves and process the situation.

But, you don’t have to be stuck walking on eggshells around your husband because he both can’t express his feelings and is allergic to anything that feels like criticism.  You can take the same list: Father, Lover, Husband, Provider, Protector, Godly man, and Leader and use it to build up and nurture your husband.  Why should you do that when he’s been treating you so poorly lately?  Because he needs it, he’ll feel better about himself if you do, he’ll probably be happier and will treat you better if you do, and most importantly, for your marriage to get healthier, someone needs to start the cycle of nurturance.  Surely you’re tired of the negative feelings, words, and patterns your marriage has evolved into!  In counseling, I usually see dramatic changes happen when one partner begins treating the other valuably.  Sometimes it’s almost instant and sometimes it takes a while.  But, we all want to be loved and in a relationship that is safe and secure.  Chances are both of you don’t feel safe with each other anymore.  

Nurturance
This is not about manipulation or faking it.  But, I’d like you to think of something off the list of Father, Lover, Husband, Provider, Protector, Godly man, and Leader  that your husband is doing well and compliment him in that area.  Don’t make something up; find something that’s real.  For example, comment sometime tonight to your husband how much you appreciate how hard he works and how he takes such good care of you and the kids.  Or, think back over your earlier years and tell him that you have good memories of the time you went on a vacation.  The goal is to begin focusing more on what has done well and communicating that to him, not on what you think he’s doing poorly now. If you are disappointed in him, I can almost guarantee you that he both knows it and is reacting to it.  

Act like you did when you were dating
Remember back when you were first dating. You both had found the person of your dreams that you wanted to spend the rest of your life being with.  You both felt safe with each other and talked a lot about hopes and dreams.  Few people marry someone they don’t feel safe with.  During the course of your marriage each of you have both hurt and been hurt by each other and the “I won’t ever be hurt like that again” syndrome settles in.  If you don’t have a great way to resolve conflicts in a way that is both loving and caring, the hurts usually turn into resentments and the resentments stack up like bricks on the “wall of resentment” that many people have built up to protect them and their hearts from being hurt.  The distance that is caused by pulling away like that causes your partner who is also probably hurt to pull away, too.  Or, when your partner feels the distance from you pulling away, he likely doesn’t know how to reconnect with you and resolve the hurt or miscommunication.  So, it’s common for him to feel like a failure at keeping you happyn and go to a place of shame!  (Complicated, huh?)  You can end up with a standoff before you know it and the wonderful hopes and dreams of safety, romance, and happiness are a thing of the past and many relationships start the downward spiral to marriage dissatisfaction.  It doesn’t have to end that way.  But, someone will have to take the first step toward being brave and vulnerable to start the cycle of apology, nurturance, forgiveness, or affirmation.  

It feels great to know you matter!
Unless your relationship is one of physical abuse and you live in an unsafe environment, I would encourage you to move toward your spouse in a way that risks again.  We can’t live to protect our heart from being hurt again and have meaningful relationships at the same time.  Relationships hurt, but they can be so rewarding when you both rediscover that you are with the one who can love you well.  It’s worth the effort.  I get the wonderful opportunity to help couples repair their broken relationships.  When couples decide to roll up their sleeves, swallow their pride, and move toward their spouse again in humility, compassion, and forgiveness, things usually change.  God moves toward us everyday.  Ask God to give you the grace to forgive your spouse and to walk in the compassion and humility that He extends to us everyday.  It is amazing to see what can happen when each partner starts treating the other in a way that communicates that they matter and their hurts, thoughts, fears, ideas, opinions, and dreams matter, too!  

Blessings,

Chuck Sugar, LPC, MHSP
Licensed Professional Counselor
Chuck Sugar Counseling, PLLC
Chuck@ChuckSugar.com

http://www.ChuckSugar.com  
(615) 369-0650

5 Steps to Help Your Marriage Survive These Tough Econonomic Times

During these tough and uncertain economic times, marriages are being tested at an all-time high!  People are losing jobs or afraid they might lose their job any day!  Income is lower than it’s been in a long time for most of the country and companies are laying off people in record numbers.  Many marriages are taking a beating due to the stress associated with all this!   I work a lot with married couples in the areas of building communication skills and resolving conflicts.  For married couples, learning how to communicate well and often during these tough times has never been more important.  Some married couples are dealing with feelings of fear and/or inadequacy; some are trying to figure out if they will make it in their current home or whether they need to sell and downsize until things get better.   Here are 5 steps to help you overcome conflict during these economic struggles.

1.    Have a Date Night – (the cheap version) – plan a regular date night.  For us it’s Thursday nights.  Going on a date may seem like you’re going the opposite direction when you should be saving money.  On the contrary, building a date night into your life is a great way to increase the quality of your relationship.  You don’t have to spend more money to do it either!  In fact, part of the fun might be planning an outing that costs no more then eating at home.  Go to a local park instead of a restaurant, take a picnic lunch, chill out, and just be together.  Remember when you were dating?  It didn’t matter what you did as long as you were together.   Also, we all need a way to keep bringing our marriage relationship back together.  Life creates distance the moment one person goes off to work.  Each of you has different things on our minds; possibly different problems you are trying to solve or navigate through.  Being intentional about being together helps bring you back to the oneness you used to experience.  If there are children in the picture, find another family that would love to trade off in taking care of each other’s children.  That’s free! (maybe a little crazy, but free)  Regardless of the “when, where, and how,” make the time to be together to keep your marriage growing!  I heard somewhere “you are either working on your marriage or you’re working on your divorce.”  What a sobering thought!

2.    Increase the lines of communication
This is a great time to begin communicating more than usual.  Not just small talk, but this is a time to start talking about the matters of your heart.  Make it a practice to be less reactive to what your spouse says, try not to take their personal thoughts and feelings so personally, and create a safe place for each of you to talk about how this economic situation has affected you individually.   Everyone wants to be known by someone.  We are just afraid to get hurt by being too vulnerable.  A while back, I found a little box with questions inside called a “Chat Pack.”  I started giving these to clients to take home with them to ask each other when they were on a date.  The response was overwhelming! As wild as it sounds, the “Chat Pack” has proven to be successful in helping couples reconnect and rejuvenate their marriage.  I use them frequently with couples I’m counseling now.  Whatever you do, keep talking!

3.    Husbands validate your wife’s feelings!
This is not a time to take how your partner’s feeling during this time personally.  But, rather this is a time to listen to the heart of your partner without offering suggestions, fix-it tips, or telling them not to worry.  It is a time to move toward them as if what they are experiencing is the most important thing to you in the world.  Though their concerns may threaten you or cause feelings of inadequacy, learn to listen without interruption.  For example, if a woman expresses to her husband that she’s uncertain and fearful about what will happen you can:
a.    Tell her it’s ridiculous to feel that way, which usually diminishes the importance of her concerns and she probably hears that you don’t care about what’s important to her and that her fears are stupid.
b.    Tell her not to worry about it; everything’s going to be OK, which again doesn’t address her fears; it probably tells her that you think her fears are not worth feeling.
c.    You can get angry because it questions your ability to provide and protect your wife and family…which will push her further away and she will probably emotionally distance herself from you.
d.    You can say, “Tell me more about how you feel!”  You can tell her, “I have some ideas, but I’m curious what would help you feel secure during these times.” This tells her that her concerns, and in fact she, is important to you and you care about her deeply.  Chances are this will calm her fears because she knows you are in this together.
e.    Ask your wife, before you speak, “do you want me to help you solve this problem or do you just want me to listen.”  You’ll be amazed at the freedom that gives her to invite your opinions if she wants them.  If she doesn’t, just listen and love her well. 

4.    Women, validate your husband’s feelings, too!  Men are generally taught not to express their feelings.   Many are taught that emotions are a sign of weakness.  Hiding your emotions may help you close a deal, but it is counterproductive when trying to build an intimate, authentic relationship!  Some women can’t really handle their man being vulnerable.  Men can usually sense that.  Most men will do just about anything to avoid being criticized or shamed.  So, women, listen to your man and provide a safe place for him to talk about his emotions.  If you can’t handle being with a man who has some fears, you may need to go to mars to find one without fears…we all have fears and most of us spend a lifetime making sure no one knows! 

5.    Lastly, confess your faults and forgive each other every time there have been hurtful words or actions between you.  Too many people avoid conflicts. Usually, when couples tell me they resolve conflicts, I find out that they actually just stop being in a conflict; they don’t resolve them.  In my opinion, a conflict isn’t resolved until both partners have confessed their part in the issue and asked for forgiveness.  One may apologize for saying hurtful words and the other may need to say “I’m sorry” for having hurtful thoughts or for reacting in a hurtful way!  Saying I’m sorry is great, but it does not complete the resolution process and put the issue to rest.  I’ve seen many couples that stop with one of them saying “I’m sorry” and the other either being quiet, saying, “thanks,” or saying, “you don’t have to apologize for that.”  That’s not resolved!  It takes true humility and brokenness (the good kind) to both ask for and give forgiveness, but it’s critical.  I assure you that when partners finally forgive each other, there’s a healing balm in the relationship.  I always ask them how it feels after they went the extra mile and forgave each other and they always say that it feels better than just apologizing.   It seems to be over.  There is usually a twinkle in their eye and peace in their heart.  But, it takes two people that are willing to get over their self-righteousness, their pride, and their arrogance for it to work.  But it’s so worth it!

It is my prayer that God will use this “economic crisis” to both draw us to each other in building stronger marriages and to the Lord as we realize that He is our only true Provider...
Have a great marriage!

Chuck Sugar
Licensed Professional Counselor
Chuck Sugar Counseling, PLLC
Chuck@ChuckSugar.com
http://www.ChuckSugar.com
(615) 369-0650

Conflict Resolution

I am Chuck Sugar, a Christian Counselor in the Nashville, Franklin, and Brentwood Tennessee area and I love working with people. Though I work a lot with people dealing with depression, self-worth, and trauma issues, I particularly have a passion working with couples in the area of couple communication and conflict resolution.  I believe that conflicts, that are resolved in a loving and caring manner, build intimacy, trust, and hope in any relationship.  We are not typically taught growing up how to resolve problems with another person without arguing and trying to win.  My wife, Teresa, and I have been teaching a couples class at our church since the spring of 2008 and we have seen some amazing things happen when the couples do the work presented in the class.  Couples are beginning to resolve conflicts in a loving way for the first time and their marriages are increasing in quality and intimacy.

Alongside my passion to work with couples, I am also having to learn how to blog. Blogging, to me, is the opposite of working with people:  I usually do it alone in front of a computer and what I have in my thoughts and experiences are not necessarily easily put down on paper…or blog.  I can see why it would be a great advantage in teaching and helping couples, not only in a local church setting, but also worldwide.  I have found several things to be true worldwide, but the most prevalent one is that couples need to learn how to deal with conflict with one another.  Avoiding conflict or arguing without a healthy resolution causes so much damage in the areas of trust, intimacy, romance, fun, friendship, etc.  I believe that the journey to greater intimacy is through conflict when is resolved in a loving, caring way.  

In reflecting on this, I created a blog.  It’s just a record of thoughts and counseling information, but the funny thing is, the more I write on my blog, the more I can separate my thoughts and create something that we all can use in resolving our conflict.

First, I put together a worksheet that asks questions to walk someone through a healthy process of doing their part of the conflict resolution process.  The worksheet is only part of the process, but it’s a huge part.  After creating the worksheet, I created a process chart that shows us the steps typically needed in resolving conflict in a healthy manner.  I use it a lot in class and in working with couples in my counseling office.  The chart helps us as couples deal with each issue. It also helps us see our old destructive or unhealthy patterns of behavior and hopefully, in time, we can change those patterns to healthier, more productive, patterns of behavior that allow us to build a marriage that thrives.

So even though blogging is new to me, and not a person-to-person relationship, I can see how blogging can help us learn and help us grow. So, come check out my blog. Send me an email. And while you’re at it, download the worksheet and chart on resolving conflict. They are both free and there to help you.

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