“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 4

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 4

Last week we received a two part question from MaryH, and we addressed the first part in last week’s post. This week, let’s look at the part of the question where she asks “I was raised in a family where we were taught to protect and wall in. I know that’s wrong but I don’t know what to do?” I’m impressed with Mary’s self-awareness and self-reflection skills. She’s able to observe herself and reflect back upon how she was trained in her family of origin. In so doing, she is capable of seeing areas within relationships that have the potential of jeopardizing or sabotaging God’s intentions for relationships.

All of us were emotionally and relationally trained by our family systems. For a child, more is caught than taught. By hearing words and phrases, the child learns to speak. The same is true emotionally and relationally whereby we simply observe and absorb the family’s way of connecting or protecting itself from others. In Mary’s case, her parents constructed a fortress that kept people at arm’s length.

The problems then arise when we enter into the adult world of connection with other human beings. Those of us with healthy modeling will do much better overall than those of us who came from a “walled off” protectionist model of relating to others. Or, from the opposite side of the spectrum where people were enmeshed and fused. When everybody is in everybody’s business , there is no separation or individuality allowed and marriage and parenting will be tough.

Adults from a home like Mary’s may tend toward:
• Relational avoidance
• Few if any close friends
• Isolation in pain
• Loneliness
• Social awkwardness and anxiety
• Insecurity
• Superficial relationships

Adults from the enmeshed home may tend toward:
• Becoming your BFF overnight
• TMI: Divulging too much information indiscriminately
• Wanting to know more information that is appropriate
• Gossip
• Offering opinions without being asked
• Forming judgments prematurely without knowing all of the facts
• Taking sides in relational dynamics where taking sides is not even necessary
• Talking incessantly without asking any questions

People from both extremes will struggle as they attempt to perilously navigate the uncharted waters of the safety pyramid. Next week, we’ll talk about how each of these camps can become more mature and relationally successful.

Thanks for listening.
Milan for Milan & Kay

Upcoming Events
This coming weekend on March 20-21: Relationship 180 will host a How We Love Sexually Event in Orange County. Please click on the Events tab for more information. We would love to see you there!

We have several new products in the works that we are very excited about. The first should be available very soon and is a new DVD series titled: Turning Stress in Opportunities for Emotional Connection. Milan and Kay explore how each Love Style deals with stress and then teach us how to bring our stressful feelings into relationship, thus developing emotional connection and intimacy instead of isolation and loneliness.

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 3

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 3

MaryH asked the question: “How does one move from the lower third into a friend? And what makes a friend different from an acquaintance? I was raised in a family where we were taught to protect and wall in. I know that’s wrong but I don’t know what to do?” Fabulous question Mary… you were reading my mind. That’s precisely what I’m going to talk about this week. Thank you!

I hate shopping for clothes. Pick stuff out, go to the changing room, try something on, look in the mirror, ask opinions, take it off, start over. As I look at this process, picking friends is much the same except for the fact that I don’t hate it like I do clothes shopping. Everybody you know and who is a part of your life is an acquaintance. This is the department store for shopping around and looking for people whom you want to bring in closer… a friend. Here are a few thoughts about the process… random… not in any order but sound principles learned over time.
1. Do I enjoy the person? Do I find myself amused and laughing? Most of my friends make me smile. If you don’t make me smile, you might just stay an acquaintance. Don’t get me wrong, they can be serious also… but if always morose, somber, and never in a lighter mood, I might be kind to them, care for them and love them… but they’ll probably stay at arm’s length at the bottom of the pyramid.
2. Are they emotionally predictable, or is spending time with them kind of a waiting game? Are they like “Old Faithful” where something hot and dangerous bubbles up on a regular basis? Again, I can be nice to them, but bringing them too close might result in me getting scalded… repeatedly. No thanks.
3. Do they call me and seek me out or am I the only one pursuing? When someone calls and asks “How are you doing? We haven’t talked in a while!” I take notice. Wow… they remembered me and their call wasn’t about asking me for something.
4. How do they handle the word “no”? I remember a friend telling me something unkind about another friend and I told them I didn’t appreciate hearing their negative opinion (a form of saying “no”). They became dark and I could instantaneously feel a chill in the air. Definitely not close friend material. A friend can accept boundaries, see the good and bad in me and give me grace. They don’t hold a grudge and can mend fences easily.
5. I have a meal with them and see if they ask me any questions about myself and my family. Are they emotionally intelligent or shallow? Do they remember what I said the next time we meet and bring it up or do I have to bring it up? A person that cares enough to remember what you talked about the last time you met, means they care. Now that’s a friend.
More next week! Thanks for listening.
Milan for Milan & Kay

Upcoming Events
March 20-21: Relationship 180 will host a How We Love Sexually Event in Orange County. Please click on the Events tab for more information. We would love to see you there!

We have several new products in the works that we are very excited about. The first should be available very soon and is a new DVD series titled: Turning Stress in Opportunities for Emotional Connection. Milan and Kay explore how each Love Style deals with stress and then teach us how to bring our stressful feelings into relationship, thus developing emotional connection and intimacy instead of isolation and loneliness.

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 2

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 2

An Apology:
I am so sorry that it’s been a whole month since my last post. As some of you know, I had my mitral valve repaired at UCLA in 2008. I just went through a battery of tests to evaluate heart health which took away from my office time. Everything checked out OK and we’re grateful. Now I can get back on track with writing and managing a very busy life.

In part 1, we drew a triangle, divided it into thirds, with the bottom section labeled “acquaintances”, the middle third “friends” and the top section “safe people.” All of your friends and family fit into one of these categories and depending upon your experience with them, they will begin to fit into a classification that will end up defining the nature of your relationship with them. As I said last time, Rule #1 is that all people start at the bottom. Friends, parents, siblings, extended family, business partners, spouses and grown children.

Rule #2 is that people can only move up one category at a time and they cannot jump over the friend category and be thought of as safe without gradually earning their way to the top over a period of two years. We received a call at New Life Radio (www.newlife.com) recently from a woman who complained that her husband was a spiritual dud. He made convincing promises to her that he would be a great spiritual leader. Six months after their marriage, he was a couch potato. I asked her how long they had dated and if anyone had done any pre-marital counseling where hard questions were asked? She said they dated nine months and had no pre-marital counseling.

In retrospect, she could see that she had married him thinking he was a safe and loving man. Boy was she mistaken and all because she violated Rules #1 and 2. She immediately placed him into the high friend category and concluded he was safe with very little time invested into relational discovery and investigation. The well-known saying, “let the buyer beware” is really true. Without tenacious research, exploration and testing, she erroneously concluded he was safe when she said “I do!”
How about you? Have you promoted someone too quickly only to discover that you are hurt over and over by them? Perhaps they need to be demoted to a lower category and less time spent with them?

More next week!
Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay

Upcoming Events

Friday, March 6th in Omaha, NE Milan and Kay will speak at the Married Life Event for Brookside Church.

March 20-21: Relationship 180 will host a How We Love Sexually Event in Orange County. Please click on the Events tab for more information. We would love to see you there!

We have several new products in the works that we are very excited about.
The first should be available very soon and is a new DVD series titled: Turning Stress in Opportunities for Emotional Connection.
Milan and Kay explore how each Love Style deals with stress and then teach us how to bring our stressful feelings into relationship, thus developing emotional connection and intimacy instead of isolation and loneliness.

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 1

“The Safety Pyramid.” – Part 1

Happy New Year!
If you work at a hospital, they say that a full moon brings out lots of bizarre and unusual activity in the ER, Labor and Delivery and the OR. While the staff may be caught off guard momentarily, all they have to do is look at the night sky and remind themselves, “Oh yes, this seems to happen every full moon.”

The holidays are like a full moon to the millions of families that are artificially shoved back together every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of us find ourselves excited for a moment standing on the front porch, but this gives way to feeling caught off guard as the bizarre and unusual activities begin to play out. It seems that every family has an Uncle Charlie, whose already had too much to drink, and the siblings that are treating each other like the cannibal who was late for dinner… wait for it… who got the cold shoulder. But then we remind ourselves, “Oh yes, this seems to happen every holiday season.” We can feel hurt and disappointed.

Who’s safe, who isn’t? Should family always be considered “safe?” They’re often not safe, but we find ourselves drawn back into close proximity on a regular basis. Some family members are very safe and provide a lifetime of love and friendship. How do we decide who is safe and who is not? We’ve devised a simple concept called the Safety Pyramid that can help us sort out this question.

Take a piece of paper; draw a triangle on the page that resembles a pyramid. Now divide the pyramid into thirds with horizontal lines. Label the bottom base section “Acquaintances”, the middle “Friends” and smaller top section “Safe people.” It should begin to be obvious that the people in our lives are not all the same, the vast majority fit in the bottom two thirds, and that a smaller number of people are truly “safe”. Beginning next week, I’ll share with you the “rules of the pyramid”… but this week I’ll give you a sneak peak and give you the first one. Rule #1: Everybody including friends and family starts at the bottom level.
Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay

Upcoming Events:

January 23-24: How We Love Sexually- The Chapel, Grayslake Campus, Illinois
February 21: How We Love – Evangelical Free Church of Crystal Lake, Illinois
March 20-21: How We Love Sexually – Orange County, California

Please click on the “Events” tab on howwelove.com for details for each event.
Please join us for one of these events, we would love to see you!

Integrated Holidays

As some you know, I had an older sister named Millie Kay who was born in 1942 with cerebral palsy accompanied with a moderate mental retardation. She lived in a group home in Covina and enjoyed her life of independence as well as a daily workshop for the developmentally disabled. She was the social queen bee and everyone knew who Millie was. She had a way of getting close to people and was a staff favorite. With this privileged position she was able to garner extra perks and privileges such as an extra burrito from the food truck or a cup of coffee when everyone else was working.

I would always bring her home for the holidays which brought her great joy. To just sit, drink coffee and watch the our family going through the pre-holiday craziness made her erupt in laughter and tell everyone how much she loved each one of them at least a dozen times throughout the day. Around 10 PM I’d say, “Millie it’s time to drive home” at which point the “other” Millie came out. “I’m not going!” “How about fifteen more minutes?” I’d suggest that I’d load the car up so she could stay a bit longer, but inevitably that moment would come when I’d start pushing her wheelchair out the door.

Her spasticity made transport and transfers challenging, but when she was angry it became harder. I’d finally get her into the car, get on the freeway and she’d say ”Well, be that way then” and proceed to give me the silent treatment for the next twenty minutes. I’d put on Christmas carols and reminisce about our childhood, aunts and uncles, cousins and mom and dad. Somewhere in the drive she’d say,” I love you Brother.” I’d respond with “I love you too” and talk about how fun the day was. By the time we’d get to her group home, she was tired and ready for bed. I’d get back on the freeway and decompress from the tension and try not to doze off for the next fifty miles.

Our day with my sister was wonderful and difficult all at the same time. Good elements and irritating moments… side by side. That’s how every holiday was, a mixture of good and bad. I came to expect it and anticipate it. Instead of being bummed out by the negative emotions I learned to remind myself that this was how every day is, good and bad, happy and sad, joyful and hurtful. Accepting this fact has made life easier for me. I hold things more loosely, lower my expectations and learn to see the simple joys within the reality of every day.

Millie passed away three years ago and we will miss her…the good moments and the not so good.

May you have in integrated Holiday season where you learn to embrace and accept the tension of joy and pain coexisting side by side.

Love and blessings,

How We Love Workshop

How We Love Workshop
November 14th and 15th 2014
Sponsored by Relationship 180 and Mission Hills Church

Join Authors, Milan and Kay Yerkovich, of the book How We Love, for a unique and proven approach to healthy relationships.

Where: Mission Hills Church
24162 Alicia Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

When: November 14th & 15th, 2014
Friday evening 7:00 to 9:00 PM
Saturday 8:00 to 12 Noon

Cost: $59 per person; $118 per couple
(Scholarships Available)
Register: Go to our website www.relationship180.com to register and pay on line.

Are you tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues?
Do you dream of a marriage with less conflict and more intimacy?
Are you struggling under a load of resentment?
Let us help you.
We have been helping people just like you for over 25 years
Please email or call Liz Lusk with questions at liz@relationship180.com or 949-830-2846
Relationship180 is a 501c 3 charitable organization. We depend upon tax-deductible donations.

We would love to have your join us!

Common Problems for Each of the Love Styles in Therapy

Common Problems for Each of the Love Styles in Therapy

Each of the love style responds in predictable ways to therapy. Here are some of the issues we see over and over. Therapists need to understand and be able to navigate these common issues.

Avoiders: Avoiders don’t see any problem with their past. They often have vague memories and say, “It was fine.” They may be annoyed when asked to identify feelings. When asked to explore emotions or try something uncomfortable, avoiders do better if given logical explanations as to the goals and methods for making progress and are reminded of the big picture routinely. Avoiders hate feeling inadequate (which they will feel a lot in therapy) and need reminders of what they missed as kids and how that is related to their current struggles.

Pleasers: Try to be the best client ever and have difficulty disagreeing with the therapist. Pleasers need to work on boundaries and speaking their mind, even with their therapist. As with everyone, pleasers want to make their therapist happy. They often keep an eye on their mate and monitor their reaction to anything they are saying to make sure they aren’t going to be in trouble with their spouse when the session is over. Speaking the truth and being honest even if it makes someone mad is an important step of growth.

Vacillators: Vacillators tend to idealize a therapist at first believing they are the answer to their problems. Their agenda is, “Fix my spouse, they are the problem.” Vacillators easily feel misunderstood and want to tell the therapist detailed stories to prove their point. This can take up the full hour. If the therapist doesn’t direct the session, the vacillator will! Vacillators feel deeply rejected and misunderstood when confronted by the therapist about their part in relational struggles. When challenged, vacillators quickly feel “all bad” and are filled with shame. This is a miserable feeling that makes them feel flawed and unwanted. They get rid of this feeling by getting angry and making others “all bad”. Accepting feedback and sticking with the process is important for the vacillator. Over time the vacillator often makes the therapist “all bad” when the counselor doesn’t see things the vacillator’s way. They tend to leave therapy in a huff and may try to find another therapist who will see only their point of view.

Controllers: Controllers often challenge the therapist authority feeling threatened by giving anyone else any kind of power. They may intimidate and test the therapist boundaries. I connect with controllers by helping them understand how the painful childhood experiences are at the root of the current anger they feel. Getting to the grief will be the most important challenge for the controller. Both men and women who are controllers are some of the most sensitive people under all that anger and intimidation. This trait just got obliterated in their childhood as it was not safe to be sensitive.

Victims: Victims are so use to living without hope they don’t often expect much from therapy. They need lots of encouragement that small changes can make a big difference. Of course, safety is the first concern. If the couple is a controller victim duo, the therapist should meet privately with the victim to check for physical or emotional abuse. The victim needs to learn to stand up to the controller, but may be in danger doing so. Safely is of foremost importance when working with a victim.

We will be in Pittsburgh this weekend! Hope to see some of you there!


Am I with the right counselor?

Am I with the right counselor?

Having gone myself to a number of different therapists, I wish I had had some of the advice back then that I can offer now. Unfortunately, the bell shaped curve applies. There are some very bad therapists mixed in with some fair therapists and then there are some very good counselors. Here are some questions to ask.

Do I find myself feeling safe to explore yet, at the same time, challenged to grow?

A safe environment and a good connection with your therapist are both crucial to a good outcome in therapy. Safety to explore your deep feelings, secrets, and dark places is important. Safety should not mean you are coddled and never challenged to face your shortcomings and grow. If your therapist never confronts you in a loving way or points out areas that need growth that is a problem.

Do I feel a sense of competence from my therapist? Does it feel like they know what they are doing?

Notice I did not say: “Does your counselor solve all your problems for you?” Your therapist is a guide and your appointment time is a place to gain insight, practice new skills and in some cases experience some of what you missed growing up. For the most part, you should feel your counselor is capable of helping you make progress. From time to time, ask your therapist to review your progress and remind you of the big picture of where you are headed in your work together.

Did you think your counselor was great and now you feel annoyed or dissatisfied in the same way you felt annoyed or dissatisfied with one of your parents? (For example, your therapist feels just like your dad…uncaring, too busy, inattentive, distracted, etc)?

If you have been in individual therapy a while you may experience something with your counselor called transference. This means the old feelings you had with your parents are now arising with your therapist. What annoys you? What disappoints you? Is it the same thing that annoyed you with your parents? If so, now is the time to talk about it. It can be very healing to get these feeling and reactions into the open and talk about them. Most likely you could not do that as a kid. Hopefully your therapist will understand your feelings of dissatisfaction are more about the past than the present and will help you see the connection. If you don’t talk about this you will remain stuck. Transference is less common in couples’ therapy as transference is happening within the couple relationship. That’s what triggers are all about.

What if something is bothering me about therapy itself?

A woman approached me recently complaining about a therapist I had referred her to. She told me her complaint: “The counselor and I talked about some important childhood events in my life when my husband couldn’t attend and the therapist did not even bring up the content of our session the next week when my husband was at the session. I want a new referral she said. I asked her if she raised her concerns in the session telling the therapist she wanted to review the previous session with her husband present.
The woman told me, “I don’t think I should have to tell her.” (The therapist should just know.) I encouraged her, “Not only is it appropriate, it is essential that you can talk about something you do not like or do not think is going well in your therapy. Ruptures between the client and therapist occur in therapy just like they do in any relationship. Your therapist isn’t a mind reader. Tell them when you are hurt, dissatisfied, angry or upset. Your therapist should be able to hear this without defensiveness and make adjustments or explain their methods and rationale for their approach.


What is your part in getting the most out of counseling?

What is your part in getting the most out of counseling?

Here are some more suggestions about getting the most out of therapy. Therapy is an investment of time and money. There is no such thing as a perfect therapist with a magic wand. Like anything, the more you put into it the more you will get out of it.

Tip 1: Focus on yourself and your growth.
Remember, you can only change you! Whether you are in individual or couple’s therapy, don’t spend an entire session complaining about someone else. Once your therapist understands the dynamics, this kind of complaining is a waste of time. You will gain a lot more by asking the counselor to help you identify and change your part of the problems and struggles you face. You do have a part. If your partner has refused to participate in couple’s counseling, observing some fabulous growth in you may be the ticket to having them join you in therapy.

Tip 2: It may get worse before it gets better.
Change upsets the apple cart. Change in only one person will alter the dynamics of the relationship and the partner will have to adjust to a new person! Change, even for the better is uncomfortable because it’s NEW. We tell clients, “If you feel uncomfortable, good. It is a good indication that you are growing and change is taking place.” We say, “Pick your pain!” Usually the painful places in our relationships cause us misery. Change is distressing too, but it offers hope. Why not pick the productive pain and GROW?

Tip 3: Don’t wait until it is really bad to get help.
Some of the most difficult couples I have worked with have been married for more than 18-20 years and should have gotten help long before they did. Bad patterns, habits and attitudes only get more entrenched. The sooner you get help the easier it is to change.
Resentment and bad attitudes build when problems go unresolved for a long time.

Tip 4: Don’t give the lame excuse you don’t have the time or money to get help.
Come on now! We make time and spend money on what is important to us. Everything in this world takes maintenance. Nothing stays shinny, new and in great working condition. Maintenance is just a part of keeping something in good working condition. If we don’t take care of what we have, we may end up having to replace it; whether it’s cars, homes, or relationships. Often, people don’t attend our Saturday workshops because they “have a soccer game”. That is short sighted thinking. When don’t you have something to do? Make an investment in your marriage. The kids will thank you for it. They would rather have happy parents than see you at every single game. Getting help can be expensive, but divorce is way more costly than marriage counseling.

The failure rate of second marriages is 72%. By the third marriage the statistics finally get better…about 32%. Why? Did the right person finally appear? No. People in our offices on round three say, “I have to make it work this time. I keep running into the same wall and I can see I’m a part of the problem.” Finally! If money is really tight, get our book and do the corresponding workbook as a couple or as an individual. Do something!

Tip 5: Practice at home.
Growth involves insight. This is the fun part. Oh!!! That explains why I do this or feel a certain way. Insights are the Ahhh Hahhs! You should have some of those moments with the help of your therapist. Growth also involves learning and practicing new skills. A couple can do a great job of listening in my office, but if they never practice at home they won’t get very far. If you don’t know what you should be practicing at home, ask your therapist,: “What is the most important thing I could be doing outside this office to foster my personal growth?” If you are not in therapy, there are plenty of ideas about things to practice in the How We Love Workbook.

Next week we will look at some ways to tell if you are with the right counselor.


How to Choose a Good Therapist

How to Choose a Good Therapist

We are often asked for referrals from all over the United States for therapists who are familiar with our approach. Do you have someone trained in our area? How can you find a good therapist?

Here are some suggestions. First of all, you are the consumer. Ask questions. Shop around. Try to work off referrals from people who have already been helped by the counselor you call. When you make phone contact, briefly explain your problem and ask the counselor to share how they would approach such an issue. Try and chat on the phone with at least three different counselors.

Milan and I have opinions about what makes a good couples therapist. Here are some questions you might want to ask in the first phone contact or appointment.

How many couples do you see per week?

Obviously, the more couples a therapist sees in their practice the more experience they have with couples. Most therapists only see a few couples and mostly individuals. Or, they split couples up and see them as individuals. You want a therapist who works primarily with couples.

Do you work with a couple together or in separate session?

Milan and I think it is imperative to see a couple together. The therapist misses the dynamic of how the couple relates when they are seen separately. While there may be a good reason to have one or two individual sessions, this should be the exception not the norm.

Are you more direct or indirect in your approach to working with individuals or couples?

Counselors come in many flavors and schools of thought. Some are indirect, believing the answer is in you and can be discovered if you have a safe place and a good listener. This type of counselor will take a more passive role letting you direct the topic and content of the session. This kind of therapist might be good for a person who always finds themselves “one down” in relationships being told what to do and how to think.
In such a setting the client would have to learn to “take charge” and take responsibility for the focus on the session. A passive person might benefit from individual counseling with a more indirect approach.

Other counselors are more “directive” with the mindset to give guidance, teaching, insight and at times may have an agenda for the session when you come for your appointment. Our most common complaint from people (especially couples) who are unhappy with their counseling is this: “The counselor just sat there and I was never sure where we were going or what was supposed to happen.” When it comes to couples therapy Milan and I take a very directive approach.

We use the principles in our book to set the agenda and teach couples the root of their marriage struggle, regardless of the presenting issue. We use session time to practice (with guidance) listening, discovery of the childhood injuries that contribute to the marriage dynamic, holding and comforting. We point out triggers (areas of over reactivity in the marriage dynamic) and tie them back to childhood experiences and feelings.

If you are shopping for a couple’s therapist, in our opinion, a directive approach is beneficial.

Do you look at the past and assess development or do you just focus on present issues?

Milan and I are of the opinion that you should have a Ph.D in your spouse’s childhood. This doesn’t mean spending years combing through childhood memories. We explore enough to understand the major impact and resulting love style. We give couples tools to keep exploring on their own. When you understand history, you will have more compassion for yourself and your spouse. Often your spouse’s most irritating behavior is the result of a wound in their childhood. Most of us reach adulthood lacking full maturity in some areas. We need to develop and grow in certain areas. Understanding one’s background helps pinpoint these areas.

How much experience do you have working with couples?

In our experience, there is a lot more competent individual therapists than there are couples therapists. Why? Because it is a lot easier! Many therapists don’t do a lot of couples work. It is OK to ask how much experience a therapist has. If they get defensive, that is definitely not a good sign.

Next week we will look at the client’s role in getting the most out of their counseling.