Doing Life Together

struggling coupleI was in the grocery store yesterday, and the tabloids were headlining the secret love child of yet another celebrity couple. Even though we tend to expect this sort of thing from celebrity relationships, secrets are a problem. They don’t usually end well.

I am often asked if it is a good idea to reveal secrets to a partner or a friend. The answer to this begins with a question. How does it feel to find out a secret after the fact? For instance, do you really want to be surprised with a secret ten years into a marriage, especially one that may have impacted your decision to marry in the first place? Or do you want to hear about something very personal from a stranger in a public place? Revealed secrets become gossip fodder in the wrong hands.

In my experience as a relationship therapist, keeping secrets usually backfires. Yes, secrets are difficult to bring out into the light, but keeping them sets the stage for heartache down the road. The hidden thing often surfaces later. Then the reaction is even more intense because now it is associated with dishonesty. Dishonesty makes the impact worse.

The person living with a secret carries a burden. That burden may interfere with intimacy as well. It’s hard to live with secrets—the guilt, the fear, and anxiety of being found out rarely helps a relationship.

Whom you share secrets with is important. In relationships where trust is absent, self-disclosure can open the door to betrayal, gossip, and violations of your privacy. So don’t reveal your secrets to people whom you can’t trust. I also don’t recommend broadcasting secrets to people not involved in your affairs. There is no need for this (unless you are a public figure who has violated the trust of the public, or a leader who has violated the trust of a specific group). In fact, it’s better to keep those secrets between you and the person involved and those directly affected.

In our tell-all culture, where privacy is seriously lacking, discretion is needed. Be wise. Talk to the people involved in your secret, work on repair, and then carefully pray about whether or not this is something that needs to be shared with others.

Excerpt and adapted from We Need To Talk (Baker, 2015)

Attachment StylesWe all develop an insecure or secure bond with our original families. That bond is referred to as an attachment style. The more secure the bond, the better you will deal with conflict.

Two bonding styles make conflict difficult–anxious and avoidant. To feel more secure you want to lower your anxiety and stop avoiding. So take a look at these attachment styles and see where you tend to fall. These are general descriptions. You may lean toward one style more than another.

1. Secure Type (Low Avoidance, Low Anxiety)

Secure people . . .

are generally happy in their relationships

are sensitive and responsive to others

think of connection as comfort and support

feel loved, accepted, and competent

can bring up issues and don’t worry that their relationships are at stake

listen, value, and have empathy for other people

2. Preoccupied Type (Low Avoidance, High Anxiety)

Preoccupied people . . .

worry about what others think of them

don’t consider their own thoughts and feelings

need to be close to others but do it in a clingy way

need validation and approval

are concerned that others don’t value them

doubt their own worth in relationships

3. Dismissing-Avoidant Type (High Avoidance, Low Anxiety)

Dismissive and avoidant people . . .

deny their need to be close to others

need to feel independent and self-sufficient

minimize how important relationships are

hide their feelings from self and others

think of others in less than positive ways

cope by distancing

4. Fearful-Avoidant Type (High Avoidance, High Anxiety)

Fearful, avoidant people . . .

think of themselves as flawed, dependent, and helpless

think they are not worth loving or being cared about

don’t trust others

expect to be hurt

want to be close to others but fear this

avoid intimacy

suppress feelings

Now that you know your attachment style, take the free conflict style quiz!




Source: Adapted from We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle (Baker, 2015)

Attachment styles: Kim Bartholomew and Leonard Horowitz, “Attachment Styles Among Young Adults: A Test of a Four Category Model. ” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (1991): 226-44.


504540_businessman_cell_phoneWhen Janet’s dad died suddenly, she was able to talk to friends and get though the tragic loss. Her husband, Jack, didn’t fare as well. Being male, he felt he had to be strong for Janet. Yet, Janet’s dad was the dad Jack never knew. The loss hit him hard.

When Jack felt the loss, he believed he had to be in control of his emotions in order to help Janet. In truth, he needed to let go and grieve with her. Both would have move through the healing process quicker.

But Jack felt he was weak for feeling depressed. He tried to minimize the intense emotions, feeling embarrassed that he was so emotional.

When women are depressed, they are more likely to seek help or talk to a friend. But when men get depressed, they prefer to deal with problems alone. And this lack of support and connection can put a man at risk for depression and suicide.

Men need to talk.

The problem is they don’t always feel they have permission to talk. And they are less likely to ask for help!

The silent epidemic of suicide and depression must be broken. When men are reluctant to talk about loss, relationship problems, burdens at work or in the family, they are at risk for depression.

Men experience depression differently. They tend to become irritable, restless, and tired, lose interest in work or hobbies, and have difficulty sleeping. They get angry, aggressive and take risks. Often, they turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to self-medicate. When they do become suicidal, men use more lethal methods than women.

So if you know a man who is depressed, get him to talk. Offer him support, listen and don’t ignore comments about wanting to end it all or check out. Encourage him to see a mental health professional to get help. Depression is very treatable.

When it comes to loss and grief, we all need to talk. And for men, that might take a little prompting.


ID-10063241-2Families are busy and when there is a little down time, kids usually grab their screens and engage in solo play. If they are on social media, they may have a number of “friends” but these are not deep friendships and may even interfere with developing solid social skills.

We know that having a best friend helps children with stress, loneliness and bullying. Friends help prevent depression and anxiety as well. So what can you do to help your child develop friendships? Here are 10 tips to teach your child:

1) Be friendly. Greet people with a smile. Give eye contact, speak so they can hear you. if you are friendly, you are more approachable.

2) Ask questions. Sometimes this is called, “being a detective.” You get to know people by asking them about themselves. One of the best ways to get to know someone is to ask questions.

3) Find a friend who shares their interests. When my daughter was dancing, her best friends were fellow dancers because they spent so much time together at the studio and loved to dance. Encourage your child to find friends who have similar interests.

4) Be positive and compliment often. No one likes a child who is negative and doesn’t have good things to say about others. Teach your child to focus on the positive and say encouraging things to others.

5) Teach skills of compromise and flexibility. Best friends don’t always get their own way or need to be right. They value the friendship and are willing to accommodate the other. A friend who can compromise and be flexible is someone people like.

6) Listen to others and forgive often. People make mistakes and need grace and forgiveness. A friend is someone who listens to another person and is quick to forgive and move towards repairing the relationship.

7) Help your child deal with rejection. There are many opportunities in any relationship for rejection to manifest. This will happen–not getting picked for a team, not invited to a party, etc. But friends support each other and don’t have to be a part of everything the other person does. Help your child understand that best friend doesn’t mean exclusive friend.

8) Teach your child to serve others. Rather than looking at a friendship for what it can do for me, teach your child the power of service to others.

9) Play cooperatively. No one likes a friend who is constantly arguing or grabbing power. Friends get along and cooperate with each other.

10) Be kind to others. Kindness begets kindness and is backed by research in terms of helping a child be liked. This is a life skill that begins at a young age and needs to be modeled and taught.