Ghost Stories Can Be Hazardous to Your Relationship
When my stepdaughter Kristina was in the first grade, she was
invited to her first slumber party. Her friend Diane, the social
butterfly, invited practically all the girls in the class. For
two weeks the hot topic at Singing River Elementary School was,
What would it be like to sleep away from home? Who could handle
it? Who might crack under the pressure?
When my husband and I picked up Kristina up the morning after,
we asked, "Well? Was it fun? Did anyone get scared? Anyone call
"The only one who got scared was Diane."
"At her own party? Why?"
"She told us ghost stories. And then SHE was awake all night."
Kristina rolled her eyes. "She thinks ghosts are real."
Kids aren't the only ones who tell themselves scary stories-and
believe them. When you have a partner, a child, a colleague, or
a boss who's driving you crazy, chances are that it's not what
they are actually doing that's getting under your skin. It's
One kind of story that can cause a lot of havoc in a
relationship is an all or nothing story.
Have you ever felt restless and bored as you looked at your
calendar and realized you have no social events planned? And
then sighed to yourself, "We live such a boring life. We never
do anything fun." Well, it's possible that you are the only
couple on the planet who absolutely NEVER does anything fun. But
chances are that you are completely forgetting about that movie
you went to two weeks ago. It's probably more realistic to say
that you're not getting out as much as you would like to. But if
you convince yourself that your whole life is boring, you (and
your partner) could end up feeling too demoralized to take
action to pep up your social life!
Or, say your husband is mad because while you were tidying up
the kitchen, you accidentally buried that important report from
work that he's been looking for.
You think, "I'm always causing trouble for him. I must be a real
drag to live with. I don't even know why he wants to be with
Now you're prepped to see any complaint by your husband as a
sign that he doesn't want to be with you. You'll probably react
with anger that's out of proportion to the situation. And things
will go downhill pretty quickly from there.
In reality, your husband can be absolutely furious with you at
this moment and still love you to pieces. In fact, it's the most
natural thing in the world. Life isn't black or white; it comes
in all shades of grey. And all or nothing stories are every bit
as imaginary as children's ghost stories.
The next time you're upset with your partner, stop and look for
those words ALWAYS and NEVER. As in: I'm always the one who does
the dishes or She's never on time. That's the tip-off that
you're telling an all or nothing story. You may have a problem
to solve, but it'll be a lot easier if you get the facts first.
And leave the ghost stories to the kids.
P.S. To learn more about how understanding ghost stories can
improve all the relationships in your life, check out the
My Two Cents ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Two
weeks ago, the Iowa state Senate passed a bill that would cut
the waiting period for a marriage license from 20 days to 3 days
for couples who go to pre- marital counseling. The bill is right
in step with a current trend-state initiatives to reduce divorce
through pre-marital education and counseling.
Florida and Minnesota have reduced marriage license fees for
those who take a pre-marital education course. Arizona created a
"marriage handbook," and funds marriage-skills courses for
low-income couples. Forty states now fund some kind of
As a provider of pre-marital counseling, you might expect that
I'd be in favor of these measures. After all, recent research
evidence shows that pre-marital counseling can strengthen a
relationship by 30%. And no doubt many of these programs will do
a lot of good. Couples who wouldn't otherwise think about
counseling or who couldn't afford it will get some much-needed
skills. And they very well could save their marriage.
In spite of these possible benefits, I believe the government
should stay out of the pre-marital counseling business. Offering
incentives is a slippery slope. The next step could be
establishing requirements. And guess what? The government makes
mistakes when it makes lifestyle recommendations. It could
easily throw its weight behind programs that are a waste of
money. Or have unforeseen consequences.
I applaud the renewed value we are giving to marriage and the
increased concern about preventing divorces. And I applaud the
growing trend of couples choosing to go to counseling. But I
vote that pre-marital counseling remain just that-a completely
How to Get Along With Anyone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you have a
partner, child, colleague, or boss who is driving you crazy,
this class is for you. You'll learn how to catch yourself
telling stories that sabotage relationships. You'll also get a
template for problem- solving, a script for 'hard talks,' and
tips for making yourself understood. Getting a grip on your
stories is truly the way to get along with anyone and everyone
in your life.