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Monday, May 11

Who Comes First: Partner or Kids?

Ask a therapist — and mother of seven—how to prioritize

QUESTION: My girlfriend is upset that I put my kids before her. I’m doing the right thing, right?

Military dad hugging his two kids with a semi-truck in the background.
Did you leave her in the cab? (Image credit:

First, congratulations on being a stand-up parent. There aren’t enough of you in the world, so round of applause. But are you entirely right to put your kids first? Let me ask you a few questions, because the answer’s not as simple as you might think.

Monday, May 4

Pandemic politeness - How to say ‘back off’ without getting punched

There you are, walking Fido and staying in your own lane, when you hear “Oh, what a cute dog!” … and cringe. Because the next step in this dance is that a complete stranger walks over and pets your pooch.

Bad enough in normal times, but in pandemia, it’s potentially lethal.

Step away from the dog. 
(Image by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash)

Or an oblivious neighbor, a distant acquaintance, or a fellow shopper strikes up a conversation and stands much too close. The pizza delivery guy, waiting for a tip, licks his fingers before handing you a receipt. 

What to do?

Saturday, February 22

The Words Your Upset Wife Needs to Hear

Not to be sexist, but…

My father is an inch shorter than my 6-foot 2-inch (188cm) mother. Despite the example of grandma and grandpa, though, amongst my siblings and our many children, nearly every opposite-sex attachment has involved taller males connecting with shorter females. My tall daughter shudders — literally — at the idea of dating average-height men.

Lesson? I’m not confident socialization is the most compelling explanation for gendered differences.
Little girl handing a flower to a littler boy
It’ll never work out. (Image credit:
Here’s my theory: There’s something fascinating and compelling about people who aren’t us. Perhaps that’s part of the reason most humans are drawn to people of the other sex: They’re mysterious, and mystery is interesting.

But here’s the thing about that mystery. While it’s interesting, it also leads to confusion and misunderstanding…and quite often, hurt feelings.

Tuesday, February 18

How to Stop Getting Sucked In

When Jessica* got online with me, she was nearly in tears. Her husband was furious with her, and she was ready to give in.

Cartoon woman asking questions
What should I do? 
(image credit:

“What should I do?” she asked.

“He wants to buy more toys?” This wasn’t our first conversation about her spendthrift partner.

“Yep. Another set of golf clubs. Even though he already has a set.”

“And he wants to take the money from…?”

“From the money I’m saving to replace my tires. He says the tires aren’t that bad.”

“So, when you disagreed?” 

“At first, he was trying to be nice about it, but when I didn’t agree, he started shouting that I’m a selfish, controlling bitch.”

Monday, February 17

Are we having (dys)fun(ction) yet?

How well does your family function? Are you all quite fond of one another, or are one or more family members contemplating airing the family problems on an upcoming episode of Dr. Phil?
Bet you'd quit fighting if a bear suddenly showed up!
(Image credit: Flickr)

Here's a quick one-question test to determine whether your family is functional, or dysfunctional. Ready? Here it goes:

Where's the enemy?

Are members of your family causing

Wednesday, February 5

The Fast Fix for Spinning Thoughts

When emotions overwhelm, don’t word vomit. List vomit.

I have an acquaintance who is married to the idea that she has a right — a right, I tell you — to unload on her partner whenever she’s upset.

Her fourth marriage is on the rocks.

What did shouting ever get you? (Image credit: frank mckenna on Unsplash)
I’ve shared with her the research(1) that says venting is a terrible coping strategy. (Incidentally, so are self-blame, denial, withdrawing, and using social support — ie, gossiping.) But she’s so angry, so often, that she never gets to the three effective coping strategies: positive reframing, acceptance, and humor.

Tuesday, January 28

How to Pick a Counselor — And Bypass the Bullies and Buffoons

Do I need a psychotherapist, a regular therapist, a psychiatrist, a counselor, a psychologist, a sociologist, a life coach, or arggh!

Who ya gonna call? 

(Image credit:
Say you need a mental-health professional.

Who you gonna call?

Choosing is easier than you might think. Here’s help. 

We start by introducing a few terms you should know before hiring a therapist, then list the five kinds of therapists. Then we help you decide whether the one you’re considering is any good.

(We also describe a few other

Friday, January 10

You’re Not Wrong. And Neither Is Your Partner

Here’s how to stop treating your marriage as a zero-sum game

Everybody gets one housekeeping pet peeve, and here’s mine: Stuff left in the sink. My husband’s pet peeve is: Stuff left on the counter. 

Just…no. (Image credit: StockSnap at

OBVIOUSLY, I’m right. I cite as my authority: Sink Reflections, the organizational book that make Marie Kondo look like a rank amateur.* This is me: “Sinks are work areas, not storage bins. How do I fill the water pitcher when there are dishes in the sink? I’m just gonna set this stuff over here to the side and…”

His authority? “I just installed this counter. Don’t ruin good butcher block!”

Tuesday, January 7

Which Ugly Kind of Jealous Are You?

Consumed by the green-eyed monster? There’s a better option.

Until I landed in Europe, I lived just one town south of earth’s two richest humans. Gotta admit: It was sometimes a struggle to keep envy in check.(Hubby and I moved from our Seattle ’burb to a Paris ’burb last year. Now our neighbors down the road are only earth’s third-richest human, and earth’s richest woman. So much better.)

Of all the ways people differ from animals, this may be the most telling: We human folk can get really strong, dark, even obsessive feelings when we notice that other people have what we don’t. (Sure, animals steal one another’s food — I’m looking at you, crows — but they don’t spend months or years suffering, plotting, and gloating over it.)

Monday, January 6

Just Say Yes -- To Everything. Including Your Kids.

Musical quarter note containing a sad face
Why start on a down note? 
(Image credit:

The Black-Belt Communication series provides step-by-step tools and scripts for solving all of life’s communication problems. In this episode, we solve relationship negativity.

Have people stopped inviting you to events? Is nobody asking your opinion about anything? Do you call yourself a “realist”?* Have two or more people used any of the following words to describe you: cynical, no fun, downer, pessimistic, too busy, defeatist, never has time?

Hey, Negative Nancy and Problem Pete: We need to talk.