“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.


“Behind Closed Doors”

“Behind Closed Doors”

I was deeply saddened this week to hear of the suicide of Robin Williams, by far one of my favorite actors. Who can forget the nontraditional inspiring college professor in Dead Poets Society who made me to want to stand up and shout “O Captain, My Captain!” Or his endearing role as Mrs. Doubtfire, a divorced father, desperate to spend time with his children who poses as a nanny. Etched into my memory is his tender dialogue with Robert De Nero as a patient resurrected from a coma by a creative and genius doctor whom he portrays in Awakenings. Lastly, in Good Will Hunting, I know I’m not the only who had tears in my eyes (and sometimes still do) in his role as a psychologist when he speaks into Matt Damon’s troubled childhood “It’s not your fault! It’s not your fault! “It’s not your fault!”

Watching various news channels, they talked about his genius, wit, energy, physical humor, acting prowess and philanthropy (it’s reported that he always said “Yes” to the requests of others). Yet behind closed doors Robin Williams was tormented by depression, anxiety, severe mood swings and substance abuse. Like Robin, most of us have a public versus private self. We all have the potential of being amazing in public but when the curtains go down and the audience stops clapping; as Robin, we’re not always comfortable in our own skin… in the quiet… in the dark… behind closed doors.

Research provides the backstory that begins to shed light on the diverse facets of his soul. We begin to get a glimpse into the animating forces that drove his heart felt dramas, the redemptive themes, his manic comedy and his battle with a troubled soul.
• In middle school he was bullied and sought out new routes home to avoid his tormentors.
• He told jokes to his mother to make her laugh and pay attention to him.
• As a child he spent much of his time alone in the family’s large house playing with his 2,000 toy soldiers. He says, “My only companions, my only friends as a child were my imagination.”
• His father traveled a lot for work and when he would come home, Robin found him to be “frightening” and avoided him.
• His mother worked and as an only child, he was attended to by the maids they employed.
• Williams claimed his upbringing left him with “an acute fear of abandonment” and a condition he described as “Love Me Syndrome.”
• When he graduated from high school in 1969, his class voted him “The Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “The Funniest.”

Let me be clear, not all people who commit suicide had dysfunctional childhood homes and not all people who had difficult families harm themselves or others. There can be many factors that contribute to internal conflict where a person experiences depression, anxiety, despair, anger, cynicism and hopelessness. But as is seen in his personal testimony, family of origin played a major role. While each of our families of origin has a lifelong impact upon us, the “training” we received occurs slowly, secretly and without notice… behind closed doors.

Regarding this training ground, it shapes our view of “self” and “other.” Questions like who am I? Who are you? Will you see me and love me? Am I worthy to bring myself to you and ask for help? Who am I as a human being? Am I accepted by God? Do I have a purpose for my life? Based upon his childhood and teen experience, Robin may have been struggling with some or all of these questions… just to name a few.

If our parents did not nurture us or help us wrestle and resolve these questions we can idealistically march into adulthood believing our childhood is “over.” We then think marriage, parenting, careers and accomplishments will make us feel complete. Yet, instead of bliss, relational conflict and life’s realities eventually expose our unresolved inner self. As a result, relationships are damaged, deep pain ensues and addictions, compulsions, obsessive thought patterns, busyness and distractions function as a means of medicating our aching souls.

At How We Love and Relationship 180 (our non-profit counseling center) we are dedicated to exploring and beginning the healing journey in each of our lives. Here, we begin the process of growing up a second time by seeing the roots of unresolved painful patterns. We help to foster emotional and relational healing so we are gradually transformed toward a more secure and confident version of ourselves within healthier relationships. This is God’s heart’s desire for each and every one of us. The counselors at Relationship 180 are all committed to these principles. All of our sessions are private, confidential and of course conducted in our offices behind closed doors.

Our heart goes out to the “little” Robin who was struggling in an adult world. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and those who were close.

If you or anyone you know shows signs of depression, anxiety, isolation and negative thinking, please intervene. Ask yourself or them directly “In your current emotional state would you intentionally harm yourself or others?” If the answer is “Yes” or you are still uncertain, be an advocate and reach out for help from other sources.

Thanks for listening,

What has two boxes of ice cream to do with How We Love?


We received this fun note on the website from a group who just finished watching the How We Love DVD series. We thought we would share it with you all!

What has two boxes of ice cream to do with How We Love? You may ask

Our life group has just finished watching the How We Love DVD sessions. It was an awesome 6 weeks of discussion, surprising discovery of ourselves, honest and open sharing of our past and struggle, with vulnerability. The series not only revealed areas we need to address, but also brought the group closer together.

This past meeting I brought two boxes of ice cream to the meeting. A box of drumsticks and a box of ice cream bars. I noticed how everyone took his/her time to choose between the two flavors and commented that we could see their personality by the ice cream they chose. “John”, without losing a beat, chimed in that we could figure out their Love Style by the ice cream they picked. “Sally”, while eating hers, asked what happened if she wanted both. As if on cue, ‘vacillator’, everyone shouted. The funny thing was, “Sally” was a vacillator. And when “Julie” asked what happened if she didn’t want any. “Avoider”, all jumped in.

We had a great laugh. I never thought that the series has this much impact on each one of us. On a personal note, I have benefited so much from reading the book and watching the DVD series. The concept has revolutionalized the way I look at myself and help me to mend many relationships. I tried to share this with as many people as I can, as I have felt the life-changing power. Thank you for all you’ve done and may God continue to bless many through your ministry.

Blessings to you all!!