“9 Signs You Are Dealing With An Emotional Manipulator”

November 16th, 2017

Emotional manipulation is an art form, a true skill set. Unfortunately it is a devious and dangerous method used by self centered people who want to get what they want by manipulating you. They win, you lose.  A skilled manipulator can destroy your self esteem and may even cause you to question your reality. Thus, the reason for this article – to help you become aware of signs that someone may be trying to do this to you in some form or fashion.

Dr. Travis Bradberry has written an informative article on this subject. I am sharing his “9 signs” and adding my own commentary.   See if you know any people who do these things.

  1. THEY UNDERMINE YOUR FAITH IN YOUR GRASP OF REALITY: EM’s (emotional manipulators) are skilled liars. They are so good at this that you question what really is going on. They will say this happened when it did not. They will say this did not happen when it did. They are pretty convincing.
  2. THEIR ACTIONS DON’T MATCH THEIR WORDS: They say one thing and do another. Tough to keep up with this deceitful behavior.
  3. THEY ARE EXPERTS AT DOLING OUT GUILT: This is a biggee! They keep you on the defensive by making sure that whatever you believe, say, or do is wrong. Your fault!
  4. THEY CLAIM THE ROLE OF THE VICTIM: This is another clever move. Nothing is ever their fault. It is always someone else’s fault and they are the victim. They do not take accountability for anything. They’ll pin it on you.
  5. THEY ARE TOO MUCH, TOO SOON: They skip steps, share too much too soon, and expect the same from you. They portray vulnerability and sensitivity, but it’s a ruse.
  6. THEY ARE AN EMOTIONAL BLACK HOLE: Whatever EM’s are feeling, they are geniuses at sucking everyone around them into those emotions. Also, they make you feel that you are responsible for these bad feelings and you are responsible to fit them.
  7. THEY EAGERLY AGREE TO HELP – AND MAYBE EVEN VOLUNTEER – THEN ACT LIKE A MARTYR: They express this willingness to help and then morph into sighs, groans, and suggestions that this is such a burden to them. If you question this they will turn it around on you and help you feel guilty for questioning this incongruity.
  8. THEY ALWAYS ONE-UP YOU: No matter what problems or situations you may have, Ems have it worse. They undermine the legitimacy of your complaints by reminding you that their problems are more serious, so shut up. They take it over and focus on themselves.
  9. THEY KNOW ALL YOUR BUTTONS AND DON’T HESITATE TO PUSH THEM: EMs know your weak spots, and they are quick to use that knowledge against you. For example, if you are insecure about your weight, they comment on what you eat or the way your clothes fit. Their goal is to make you feel bad so that they may feel better about themselves and the situation. They always want the upper hand.

The key to dealing with Ems is to be aware of what they are doing. Once you have determined that they are of this type, distance yourself emotionally and behaviorally. If you must continue to interact with them, establish clear boundaries so that their tactics cannot harm you in any way.

Well, Respected Reader, do you know any of these types? Hopefully this writing has alerted you to be more cognizant of EMs in your life. Do not let them infect your being. They are hurtful!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

You Thought You Were “In Love”. Nope, You Were Not!

November 8th, 2017

Have you ever heard this “oldie” song by Lloyd Price entitled “I’m Gonna Get Married”? Some of the lyrics are: “Johnny, you’re too young. But I’m gonna get married. You’re so young. My name she’ll carry. You’re too young. … How come my heart deserts me, burning full of love and desire. How come every time she kisses me it sets my soul on fire. … You’re so young”

On the journey through life the “chemistry of love” overwhelms us and takes us to a land of euphoria. Question for you, Respected Reader: how many times have you been “in love”? Did you marry each time? Probably not, hopefully not! If you did, “whew”! I have had a few “in love” moments in life before I found my one true love. I am so grateful that I did not let those few “in love” moments lead to commitment. They never would have lasted, for they were not marriage love. What is going on in these “in love” moments is a complex short term chemical reaction in the brain.

Let me explain. PEA (phenylethylamine) is the chemical that sets off the “in love” feelings. It releases norepinephrine and dopamine into the brain giving you those dizzying feelings associated with romantic love. Great feelings. However, these activated chemicals don’t last long. Three years max. The relationship needs to evolve through the many factors that make for a long term marriageable love. If that develops the enduring chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin will abide. This is the true feel good enduring “love”. (We are chemicals!)

It is because of this knowledge, gained personally and professionally, I like one of the roles I have in my multi-faceted practice – “Dating Coach”! In this role I help people know who they are, what they bring to a relationship, what they need in a relationship, what to be aware of in a potential marriage partner, the do’s and don’ts of the dating process, what are “red flags” in the relationship, etc… . Many elements go into finding the best fit for a long term relationship. Too many people take the short cut, side tracked by the PEA impact.

Since I’m using music to help convey the message, allow me to offer some other lyrics to help make my point that love is a process deepened over many years. (Sorry, Bachelor and Bachelorette for your lame attempts to couple up individuals to be “in love”). The song “Love Takes Time by Orleans conveys the message:

“I saw the twinkle in her eye, it lit a fire inside (PEA, my insert). But it burned so wild and strong, I knew it wouldn’t last  long (wise person, my insert). Cause love takes time, and it’s hard to find. You gotta take some time to let love grow. I saw a shooting star go by. It blazed a path across the sky. But the beauty did not last, no some things just happen too fast.  But love takes time, and it’s hard to find. You gotta take some time to let love grow.”


Respected Reader, how does the above message resonate with you – your past and present? Has a deep abiding love been found and nurtured?  Are you still “in the hunt”? An enduring committed love must pass through various roads, the first one usually is the PEA road. Don’t let it detour you on the way to finding “The One”. Hope this helps!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Devoted Spouse: A Local Inspiration!

November 1st, 2017

“Devoted”, how is it defined? A dictionary stated “very loving, loyal, faithful, true, staunch, steadfast, constant, committed, dedicated, devout.”  I do not witness devoted spouses very often, but when I do I marvel.

I received a phone call recently from a woman that I met many years ago. She called to tell me that her husband had been stricken with ALS (“Lou Gehrig disease”), a debilitating and ultimately deadly disease. The call brought forth a memory – and a tear.

I met this couple, Joe and Sally, many years ago when I was a young priest in Decatur, Georgia. They came to the church I was stationed at, St. Thomas More. They liked my sermons and thought they might like me to marry them in the church. I met with them, did the pre-marriage ritual and them had the privilege of united them in marriage for the Church and State.

They were a unique couple, especially back in the late 60’s. Joe is Caucasian, Sally is African-American. Joe served in the Air Force, retired and began a life as an Educator, retiring as a Principal of an Atlanta High School. Sally was a teacher, with a bright mind and compassionate heart. Their marriage was the first interracial marriage in Georgia.

Joe and Sally, now retired, live in the Lake Oconee area. As a result of the onset of ALS Joe currently has lost much muscle in his arms and, thus, is not able to feed or bathe himself. Sally, devoted wife, makes sure he eats and is clean! She loves him dearly and does all she can do to help him through this challenging time.

I write this both as a testimony to Joe and Sally, for their service to humanity and their steadfast love for each other over the years. Also, I share this as a reminder that true committed love does whatever it takes to share the joys and burdens that life presents to a couple.

I saw another devoted mate at a closer level. My Father developed Alzheimer’s disease at the age of fifty five. He died at age 68. In those intervening years my Mother heroically took care of him night and day until such time that he needed assisted living. She loved her “Jake” and took care of him with all she could muster – a “devoted” wife!

I am fortunate to be in a marriage where both Sherry and I know that no matter what travails lie in store, we are totally there for the other. Our mutual devotion runs deep. A comforting feeling!

Respected Reader, I hope that you have, or will create, a marriage that has a devoted love at its core. Thank you, Sally (and Mom) for the reminder!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Do You Give Compliments To Your Spouse? It’s Important!

October 19th, 2017

Too often in my therapy sessions do I hear the words, “I don’t feel appreciated”, “my spouse rarely gives me compliments”. The related feelings are of hurt and sadness, or anger. People need attention, recognition, affirmation. Whether it be in the workplace, the family, or in a marriage, this need is present. Compliments serve this purpose.

Let me give some underlying theory to back up this premise. Two prominent psychologists, Alfred Adler and B.F. Skinner, have given a credible theoretical basis for this human need.

Alfred Adler, an early contemporary of Sigmund Freud, emphasized that when we are encouraged, we feel capable and appreciated. This contributes to a feeling of connectedness and, therefore, one becomes more cooperative. Is this not a desired end game in any human interaction?

B.F. Skinner is the founder of the operant theory of conditioning. He showed that positive reinforcement led to repeated behaviors. If reinforcement did not occur the behavior died out or was extinguished. Does it not make sense to reinforce a person for doing desirable things, understanding that more of that will be forthcoming?

Given such a theoretical framework it makes great sense to develop the skill set of giving compliments. In a marriage, where individuals are particularly vulnerable to the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of one’s partner, this is a very important. In every marriage each individual wants to “feel capable and appreciated … having a feeling of connectedness … and more cooperative.” And, if you want certain behaviors of your spouse to continue, reinforcement is the vehicle.

Part of my training in graduate school was learning to look for and find positive qualities in another person and then give him or hera sincere compliment based on that observation. Emphasis on being sincere. I have found that skill to be of great value, both personally and professionally.

I love to give compliments, as well as receive them! I am fortunate personally in that my wife Sherry is a pro at giving compliments, as well as our two adult kids, Kris and Brittany. This shared gift of complimentary communication is one of the main reasons we love each other so well and feel so connected.



So, please, Respected Reader, look for and find positive qualities, behaviors, etc… that you like in your spouse and give those compliments – over and over again. Certainly you can find some of these to share. If not, see me. You are in trouble! Your spouse wants and needs that from you. Also, you may show this article to a non complimentary spouse and ask him or her to give you some of the “good stuff” compliments that you would like to receive. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage

October 10th, 2017

You are in a bad marriage. What to do? Stay in it? Get help? Divorce? First, why are you in a bad marriage? Bad choice in the first place? Started out good but has fallen apart? Damage reversible? Have you tried quality marriage counseling from a trained therapist? The answers to these questions will vary from couple to couple.

If you have a bad marriage and have tried your best to make it a good one, and it still is terrible, what choice should you make – stay or leave? Typical arguments used by many to stay are:

  1. “What God has joined together … “ Some people of religious persuasion say that no matter what conditions exist in your marriage you should stick it out because you made a marriage vow before God.                                 2. The kids need two parents in the home. Divorce will take place after they leave. Just look at divorce statistics and you will find that many divorces take place when the kids leave home

I won’t address reason number one here, let that be between you and God. The second reason I will challenge based on the following rationale. Brittany Wong, has gathered information that shows that staying in a bad marriage can be unhealthy for children. The reasons given follow, along with my added commentary based on my clinical experience over the years.

  1. YOU MAY BE SPARING YOUR CHILDREN EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS BY STAYING TOGETHER: Children feel the tension and this affects their brain wiring in the limbic area of the brain. Kids and adults have often told me of the stress and trauma they have experienced by seeing and hearing parents fight. Even if the parents are not fighting but coldness and disrespect exist, the children are scarred. It affects them in a number of ways over their lifetime.
  2. YOUR KIDS WILL FEEL UNEASY IN THEIR OWN HOME: Kids need consistency and predictability, among other things, to thrive. If they do not have that they walk on egg shells, wondering what might happen next.
  3. IT MAY LEAD TO LOW SELF ESTEEN IN KIDS: Studies have shown, my clinical experience has verified, that children coming from high conflict homes often have low self esteem and unworthiness.


  1. KIDS OFTEN FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PARENTS’ HAPPINESS: This one breaks my heart as I so often see this. Time after time I have heard children tell me the various ways in which they are trying to “fix” their parents marriage or try to make one or the other parent happy. When they do this they lose part of their childhood. No child should! Sometimes kids feel that the marriage struggle is their fault thus they develop a sense of guilt.
  2. UNHAPPY SPOUSES ARE OFTEN LESS PRESENT AS PARENTS: When couples are not getting along, one or both of them are often gone from the home. They “escape” their unhappy marriage and, thus, are absent from their children. These kids then feel abandoned. If divorced the kids often regain a parent in their life, albeit on a limited basis.
  3. YOU ARE SHOWING YOUR KIDS AN UNHEALTHY MODEL FOR RELATIONSHIPS: Children are sponges taking in the reality they experience. A bad marriage model leaves an unhealthy model in their brains. They deserve to see a good one. Oftentimes a second marriage can provide the positive model needed.
  4. DIVORCE CAN BRING PEACE TO THE WHOLE FAMILY, IF IT’S HANDLED CORRECTLY: Kids being raised in a war zone or in silence and apathy of a dead marriage may well be better off with parents splitting. Hopefully, the divorced parents can do a better job of parenting from a distance.

A good marriage and effective parenting are not easy things to accomplish. Yet they are goals worth pursuing. Hopefully a couple committing to marriage will have done their “due diligence” and focus on how best to have a wonderful relationship. And, as a part of their quality marriage they will learn how show their love to each other and their children and thus negate the need for a divorce. But, if they can’t do it, alternatives exist.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates