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6 posts from May 2011

May 26, 2011

A Letter to Mothers and Fathers-In-Law

IStock_00motherinlaw(2) With the most recent royal wedding, I seem to have new marriages on my mind.  I’ve been thinking, in particular, about the new family dynamics that occur whenever a new marriage takes place.  We’ve all heard horrifying in-law stories throughout the years and some of us may have experienced some of these hardships up close.  Too many people have no idea how to maneuver these in-law waters with any skill.

Below is a little cheat sheet for the parents of the brides and grooms of the world on how to start their relationships with their daughters/sons-in-law off on the right foot.

1.    Be the first to reach out a welcoming hand.  Remember that your son/daughter-in-law is entering your family—not the other way around.  They will be anxious, hopeful and on guard about you so help put them at ease.  They will feel like the outsider and will be waiting for your lead.  Lead…and do so in a positive way.
2.    Go out of your way to make your child’s spouse comfortable with your family.   Keep an eye out for them at family gatherings and make sure you’re inclusive.  Introduce them to other family members, talk with them when you notice they’re off by themselves and treat them as you would want their parents to treat your daughter/son.

Continue reading "A Letter to Mothers and Fathers-In-Law" »

May 19, 2011

A Letter to Men: A Lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IStock_00harrassmentall In an article in The Huffington Post, regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illicit affair with his housekeeper, http://tinyurl.com/3ktnywq, Gov. Schwarzenegger is quoted as saying, "After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago.  I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family.  There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused.  I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family.  I am truly sorry.“

Really?  Here’s my personal take on what Arnold might have said if he were truly being honest: “I waited until after I had left the governor’s office to tell my wife about this event…because then her reaction could no longer jeopardize my position as governor.  And because my housekeeper could tell the world at any time that I fathered her son, I thought it would be in my personal best interest to tell the story first. “ 

Arnold is apologizing because he got caught.  He’s apologizing, like so many politicians before him, because to not do so would be a huge political blunder. And please tell me that the power differential between the Governor of California and his housekeeper is not lost on the world.

This latest report comes after years of reports about Arnold’s grabbing women’s breasts, putting his hand up their skirts, groping them at his will and countless other abusive behaviors.  This comes after years of our culture accepting his outlandish minimization of these incidents by stating that sometimes he “behaves badly.”  It follows decades of those in the movie industry (producers, actors, directors etc.,), movie audiences, and voters bowing down to his enormous sense of entitlement due to his fame. 

Continue reading "A Letter to Men: A Lesson from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn" »

May 12, 2011

Women - It’s Time to Step Up and Stop Accepting Toxic Relationships

Below is a post from my new blog http://lmerlobooth.typepad.com/straight_talk_4_women/ Enjoy!

IStock_00couple alcohol I hear story after tragic story of women in relationships with men who ignore them, cheat  on them, yell at them, belittle them and even hit them.  Again and again these women excuse the men’s behaviors because he’s stressed or sick or had a tough upbringing or got laid off or was hurt by something she said, or he hates women because of his mother or…  Ugh.  STOP THE EXCUSES---PLEASE!!!!  There is NO excuse for poor treatment.  Period.

The woman responds to poor treatment by trying to get the man to see how hurtful he’s being.  She begs, pleads and demands that he treat her better.  She hopes, dreams and wishes that he’d treat her better.  She silences, accommodates, placates and enables, in the hopes that he’ll see the error of his ways and change.  She continues to use one, two or all of these approaches again and again and again, hoping that some day, they will magically work.  They never magically work.  She continues endlessly to try to change him. 

Women stay in these relationships, allowing their spirits to get chipped away on a daily basis.  These are not relationships with minor bumps in the road.  These are not average relationships with occasional struggles.  These women stay in relationships that are emotionally toxic.  Relationships where their thoughts and feelings are constantly minimized, dismissed and treated as silly, insignificant, stupid.  These relationships are toxic to women, families and our world.

Women will forever be in these types of relationships if they don’t stop trying to change this kind of treatment.  As long as women continue to plead, demand, cry, etc. in the hope of changing him, they will be stuck in the same miserable relationships their entire lives.

Stop it and step up. 

The only way to change these relationships is to take your eyes off him and get them on you.  Pay attention to the thousands of ways you teach him that the ways he treats you are okay.  Get conscious of all the mixed messages, watered down messages and empty threats you send.  Pay attention to YOU.  The way you change your relationships is by changing how YOU are in them. 

The way you change verbal abuse is by not taking verbal abuse.  The way you stop physical violence is by not taking physical violence.  The way you stop his belittling, affairs, selfishness…is by not taking it.  You must be willing to put your relationship on the line.  Often the only way to save a relationship is to be willing to lose it.  Are you willing to walk away from toxic treatment if it does not stop?  Until you are…it will not stop.

Too many women are desperate to keep their man or their family together, yet not desperate enough to make sure it’s a healthy relationship.  Keeping a toxic family together is toxic.  It is not helpful for children, men or women.  If women want to have an intact family, than they need to fight to make that family a healthy one.  Children live what they know and they know what they live.  Make sure what they’re living is what you want them to repeat.  Trust me, they will repeat it.

Challenge: If you’re in a toxic relationship, stop looking at your partner and pay attention to all the ways you are allowing the toxicity to continue.  Do your own work to get stronger and more grounded.  If there’s addiction—get into Alanon or AA.  If there’s abuse—contact Women’s Protective Services.   If there’s disrespect, contempt, and coldness—get into couples therapy as well as individual therapy.  You and your family are worth the effort. 

May 08, 2011

A Mother’s Day Thanks


IStock_0motherdaughterll To all the loving mothers in the world,

Thank you for the countless baths, 2 a.m. feedings and seemingly endless diaper changes. Thank you for your loving pats on our backs, strokes of our hair and words of encouragement.  Thank you for holding us, singing to us and rocking us to sleep when we were just too young to do it ourselves.

As we got older, thank you for hanging in there with us when every fiber of your being wanted to give up, lie down or go away.  Thank you for your words of wisdom in the toughest of times and for your patience when we threw those words right back at you. Thank you for loving us enough to go on.  Thank you for the times when you set limits, knowing there would be hell to pay from our reactions.  Thank you for staying true to your values when we seemed to have none. 

Thank you for loving us even when we screamed that we didn’t love you.  Thank you for being wise enough to know we didn’t mean it.  Thank you especially for not saying those words back to us; we were too fragile to hear them.  Thank you for those times when you kept your cool even when we couldn’t keep ours.

Thank you for the endless housework, meals and loads of laundry you’ve done for us throughout our lifetimes.  You’ve taught us tenacity, unconditional love and modeled an inner strength we seldom acknowledged.  Your ability to give to us when it seemed as though all we did was take, was powerful.  We’re sorry for all those thankless moments.

Most of all, thank you for being there in ways few others were.  You are our calm in the storm, our go to person when things get hard and a key person we knew we could always count on.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Mother’s Day!

With much love…



May 05, 2011

Straight Talk: What is it and What Does it Sound Like?

IStock_0silencellI’m struck by how much people don’t say.  They hint, insinuate, tiptoe, sugar coat, say half-truths, silence, manipulate, annihilate, etc., yet few actually directly state (respectfully) what’s going on for them.

When I talk with clients about saying things directly, they almost immediately start to get anxious.  Many people don’t want to “be mean,” get into a fight or be perceived as hard to get along with.  In an effort to avoid these appearances, they become inauthentic or foggy at best.  When they’re not clear about what they’re trying to say, people don’t know what they’re saying.  And this lack of clarity leaves people guessing.  Then, when they guess wrong, we get annoyed, angry and frustrated.

Speaking honestly about something is mean only if we speak it in a mean way.  If we are clean in how we speak (respectful, calm, compassionate), then our truth is often a gift.  This is true in even the most difficult of conversations such as those in struggling marriages.  Saying it straight in a struggling marriage might sound like: “Honey, I’m worried about us.  I don’t feel loved, desired or even liked by you anymore.  I find myself not wanting to come home and cringing when you touch me.  I’m worried that if we don’t get help -- and fast -- that we won’t make it.  I’m worried that I’m going to turn to someone else for the affection I want from you and I don’t want to be one of those women who has affairs to escape the loneliness of her marriage.  I need us to get into therapy.  I need things to change or we won’t make it.” 

Many people will read the above and be shocked by how direct it is.  They will think they could never say that because they wouldn’t want to hurt someone with those words.

Continue reading "Straight Talk: What is it and What Does it Sound Like?" »

May 03, 2011

An Open Letter to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge…and All Other Newly Wed Couples

IStock_0justmarriedllBelow is a post from my new blog http://lmerlobooth.typepad.com/straight_talk_4_women/ Enjoy!

First and foremost, congratulations on your recent marriage.  I can only imagine the pressures the two of you must be under.  This letter is a gift from me to you both (and any other newlyweds) who could benefit from advice that too many couples never get.  I hope it helps gives your marriage a healthy start.

The first rule for newlyweds is likely the most important rule for you.  You will have countless people telling you what to do, where to go and how to be.  You will have people telling you when to have children, how many children to have and how to raise them.  You will also have people wanting to get close, others trying to break you up and still others spreading rumors.  The way you handle all of this is by always remembering that you two come first. 

Imagine that you are both in a bubble.  The primary bubble goes around you two first, the next larger bubble goes around you and your children, the next larger bubble includes your closest family members and friends and so on.  Do not allow work or other family members to enter the key nucleus bubble or you risk shaking the foundation of your marriage.  The most important bubble is always the two of you.  Nothing enters the principal bubble until you both have talked and decided what’s best for your family. 

Because so many of us are young when we first get married and often greatly influenced by our families, putting our couple-ship ahead of our families is one of the most difficult skills to master as a couple.  Be diligent and remember you two are the core -- and always protect the core.

Remember to make time for you to be a couple.  Too many marriages fizzle out, not because of a huge disagreement or a major betrayal, but because life gets in the way.  Couples begin to get caught up in the demands of everyday obligations and they forget to keep their fingers on the pulse of their relationship.  Keep your finger on the pulse.  If you’re feeling distant, it’s because you are getting distant.  Set up a date night, minimally twice a month from the start of your marriage.  When you have children, this is even more important to do.  As flight attendants say all over the world, “Put your oxygen mask on first and then assist the children.”  Marriage is the same.  If your relationship is not strong, your family will not be strong.

Talks things out -- always -- and be respectful in how you do so.  The most damaging thing couples can do in conflict is either silence or become abusive in their fight.  When we silence, we leave no room for repair.  Each unresolved incident becomes a crack in the foundation.  Eventually these cracks become insurmountable and the entire structure collapses.  Similarly, name-calling, belittling, yelling or moving in power with our partner rots out the relationship.  When we verbally attack our partner we show them we don’t respect them.  After a while this becomes old and not something anyone wants to be around.  Harsh interactions create huge distance.  If you want a loving marriage, then act loving, even in your disagreements.

Remember to check in with one another regularly.  Intimacy means, “into me you see.”  Share yourself.  Give your partner a glimpse of what’s going on inside you.  A mutual sharing will keep you both close.  Too often women share and men don’t—those couples end up in my office.  Don’t make that same mistake.

Do not allow your friends or families to dictate how you are with one another.  Be your own people and make sure you have each other’s backs.  You want to be one another’s greatest supporter.  See life’s struggles as something to trouble-shoot together, not obstacles that keep you stuck.  Be committed to solution, not criticism and nay-saying.

I wish you both the best.  Know that despite what many people may say, marriage can be a great source of refuge from an otherwise difficult world.  Although there will be difficult times, marriage should not be hard work.  Healthy relationships have a way of flowing comfortably.  If yours does not, each of you should look at your part.

On a final note, always remember to treat one another as equals…because you are.  Neither of you is better or more important than the other.  If you begin to act otherwise, your relationship will pay the price.  Hold each other accountable for this equality at all times.  Holding yourself in warm regard and insisting others do as well will be the greatest gift to yourselves and any future children you may have.

May you both have an amazing life together filled with endless laughter, far more joy than sorrow and a peaceful love that you both grow to count on throughout your lifetimes.

Warm Regards,
Lisa Merlo-Booth



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