Give up on Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Marianne Williamson



How To Know If You Are Cherishing Your Spouse

There’s a simple definition of cherishing that doesn’t fully encompass the word, but it’s an essential
part of it. If you cherish someone, you seek to enhance their life.

If you cherish a diamond, you set it in gold and regularly shine it. If you cherish a car, it gets washes and waxes and you think about where to park it.

If you cherish a spouse, you think regularly about how you can enhance your spouse’s life.

couples counseling, Marriage Counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, relationship therapy, couples therapy, premarital therapy, marriage therapy, marriage counseling therapyIt’s the little things. Noticing what they like. What they need. How to step in and make their life a little easier. Connecting with them. Being considerate. Kind. Doing errands that are helpful. Thinking ahead of what makes them happy. One man said about his wife: “Lisa likes to read the local paper so I try to make sure she never has to go outside to retrieve it. She hates filling up the gas tank so I try to remember before trips to fill it up. She’s not a big fan of driving in general, so if there’s a shopping trip I can take her to on the weekend, I’ll do my best. In turn, Lisa excels at this much more than I do. When I’m tired and my schedule is overwhelming me, Lisa’s service goes on overdrive. She won’t let me do anything. I off-handedly mention I should eat sometime soon and suddenly a meal is in front of me. I reach to pick up the plate afterwards and she’s already there, scooping it away. “I’ll let you get back to work,” she says.

In any romantic relationship, it’s important to be mindful of each other and notice. Notice what makes them happy, what makes their life easier and how you can step in and make a difference. Make sure you are doing what they want, not what you think they should want or what you want for them. If you like classical music and your spouse likes country, you wouldn’t give them tickets to the symphony the same night Dolly Parton is in town! Be mindful of how and when to put their needs first. If you wake up and ask yourself, “How can I enhance my spouse’s life today?” and nothing comes to mind,

It can be fun trying to do this and something we all did when we dated. When dating someone we like it’s easy to spend time thinking about how we can please them. Just making him/ her smile was exhilarating! Giving attention and making them feel special made us feel special. It wasn’t a burden. But often when I work with couples who have been in a long-term relationship, focusing on the relationship is often not a priority. People are more focused on their responsibilities, like work, making money or raising their kids.

What makes people feel special and cherished is to be heard, validated, respected, and loved for who they are. The main reasons people have affairs is that they feel noticed, appreciated and alive due to the attention of someone else. We can keep the spark in our primary relationship by appreciating our partner, and staying mindful to continue to give to the relationship and make it a priority. When couples cherish each other, they can expect a relationship with much love and joy!

Real Repentance

“If a spouse has been unfaithful; or hurtful to a partner in any way, and then promises not to make the same offense again, what is a loyal spouse supposed to do? How can a partner know if their spouse is serious or just patronizing them? It’s an important question. Counseling tell us that at crisis points in marriage, a spouse may make a few small changes in the right direction only until the sense of crisis passes. Then he/she goes right back to the offending behavior.

couples counseling, Marriage Counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling houston, Marriage Counseling houston, premarital counseling houston, relationship counseling houston,This is flat-out abusive. When you know that what you’re doing is frustrating your spouse or even making him/her miserable and you do just enough to keep the platform of living together alive so that you can ultimately continue to make him/her miserable, that’s spiritually and emotionally sick. It’s malicious. “I’m not going to let you go but I’m also not going to change.” I can’t say this strongly enough: it is not only unkind demonstrates a real emotional disorder to treat anyone, much less your spouse, this way. Therapy needs to help the offending partner to bring an end to the evil (change needs to happen) rather than unwittingly offer a platform for the evil to continue (just try to do a little bit better so your spouse isn’t quite so angry and won’t separate from you).

If a marriage is going to be rebuilt after trust has been repeatedly broken, it has to be rebuilt on real repentance. The offending spouse has to demonstrate their horror at what they’ve done by going full speed in the opposite direction, not by taking a three-degree turn simply to show a tiny bit of “progress.”

This is true for major and minor issues, to a different degree. If my issue is being chronically late and I’m truly repentant, I start showing up early. If the issue is saying hurtful things, it’s not “repentance” to say hurtful things a little less often. Real repentance is stopping abusive language completely and intentionally saying kind, encouraging and praiseworthy things. If the issue is a lack of employment, I don’t settle for a part-time job. I work the part-time job and then spend just as many hours looking for a full-time job.

Real repentance reveals a real heart transformation; our spouse can see the change not just hear us say we intend to change.  

Real repentance continues with the offending spouse owning his/her faults. It’s common for me to see a spouse who has acted deplorably start to resent having the spotlight put on him or her and thus respond by saying, “You know, he/she isn’t perfect either.”

The sarcastic part of me wants to say, “Really? Well, this changes everything. We’ll forget about your offending and hurtful action until we get this person you’re married to to be a little more patient when you mess up.”

A mark of real repentance is that a spouse will welcome, without resentment, increased accountability. If you say you’re not looking at porn or contacting a previous flirtation (or worse), then you shouldn’t have any problem letting your spouse pick up your phone or IPad and scrolling through the messages or history. There is no good reason I would care if my wife looks at every app on my phone. If she finds out I ordered her a surprise birthday present, that’s on her. There is no good reason I should be afraid if she checks out where I’ve been on Amazon or Netflix or surfing the web. Why would I care unless there was something I didn’t want her to see? And why wouldn’t I want her to see it unless I shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with?

Secrecy is hiding and by definition the opposite of intimacy.  Repentance is, at root, a choice. You’re calling your spouse to make up his or her mind: do they want to be married, or not? You’re not interested in a quasi-marriage where they are half single and half spouse. You will be all-in with them, which includes forgiveness and generosity, but they have to recommit with conviction that they are committed to their primary relationship, not only in words but in actions and a changed heart.

One husband had several extramarital affairs. The wife was going to leave him. But she thought she saw a real change for the first time so they went to a place that specializes in sexual addiction. The counselor set out the conditions: “Your wife is going to write down thirty questions that she has always wanted to ask you. You’re going to be hooked up to a lie detector and a detective is going to monitor every answer. She’s finally going to get all her answers, and you’ll submit to this lie detector test every four months for the next two years. And by the way—one more act of unfaithfulness and she is going to divorce you.”

The husband agreed and through much counseling and confession their marriage was restored. At the end of two years the marriage had become so sweet that the wife told her husband, “You don’t have to take the lie detector tests anymore” but the husband said, “Yes, I do.”

You see, that’s real repentance. That’s a man who realizes the harm he has done and the harm he is capable of doing again so he welcomes accountability. His desire to stop hurting his wife is greater than his desire to “enjoy” doing what wounds her. He knows the latter desire is not yet nonexistent so he takes concrete steps to guard himself and ultimately protect his wife from further pain.

Contrast this with a husband who had “dabbled” in meth. He and his wife have two small children. When his wife said it wasn’t safe for her and the children to share the same house with a meth addict, but she was willing to work with him if he would enter recovery, he said he was done with meth, recovery wasn’t necessary, and he refused to consider any drug tests. That’s not repentance. Lying and addiction are virtual synonyms. A repentant addict knows this and admits it and sees the tests as necessary steps for healing.

One husband displayed controlling behavior over his wife until a separation woke him up. I told him he had to be more concerned for his wife’s welfare than he was over her return. “If you truly love her, you shouldn’t want her to return until you know she won’t be hurt by this behavior anymore.” He later told me that sentence hit him like a sledgehammer and he kept repeating it to himself until it was true. He really didn’t want his wife to agree to live together anymore until he was certain there had been a heart change sufficient enough to protect her from his former behavior. Today they are back together and enjoying the best season of their marriage to date.

If you are the offending spouse and your spouse is willing to hang with you, you owe him/her real repentance. Not a minor change that keeps them silent for a few more months, but an admission of guilt, a major overhaul of behavior, concrete accountability to maintain the change and a heart transformation so complete that you don’t even want to get back together until you are relatively certain that, your behavior won’t make your spouse miserable any more. Anything less is not real repentance.

If your spouse is on the treadmill of saying-I’m-sorry-but-never-changing you can say, with some integrity, “Being sorry isn’t about what you say or even about how you feel. It’s ultimately about what you do.”

Couples therapy and counseling, can help relationships mend and stay in integrity by emphasizing that love includes accountability. For happy couples, love is not only a feeling but an action.  

Paraphrased by Reverend Gary Thomas. Original Article – Read Here

Chemistry or Rationality? – Finding Romantic Love

Singles seeking to marry well can learn so much from a man who got married four hundred years ago. He made a supremely wise choice for all the right reasons and benefited immensely because of it.

There was a man, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) who lived half his life as a single man because he believed a zealous clergyman was “married to his congregation” and didn’t have time for a wife. When his church fired him and he was forced to make his living as a writer (he became the most popular writer of his day, he thought having a wife would be a very good thing, and he soon entered into a very happy and fulfilling marriage to a young woman named Margaret.

In making his choice, Richard was already a wise man who, as a pastor, had seen the folly so many others had fallen into to. Thus, he was determined to “avoid the foolish passion which the world calls love.”

He didn’t minimize love, but sought a higher love: “I know you must have love for those [you marry],” he wrote, but he was insistent that it be a “rational” love that discerns “worth and fitness” in the loved, not “blind…lust or fancy.”[i]

Richard had seen how “blind lust and fancy” (sex appeal and romantic infatuation) could make seemingly wise people curiously blind to a person’s poor worth and low character so he determined early on that he would not be guided by those things.

Instead, he was determined to find a “worthy” spouse, and a “fit” spouse.

If you find yourself crazy with infatuation, and your highest desperate desire is to hear that they feel the same way about you, force yourself to ask two rational questions:

  • “Is this a worthy person?”
  • “Are they fit for a long-term relationship?”

Let’s look at each in turn.

First, are they worthy of you having such interest in them? Force yourself to look at them objectively. Does this person live by core values that you admire and respect? Have they created a life for themselves that works? Are they happy? Are they accountable for their actions? Do they have good coping skills? Do they have good relationships with others in their life?  If you didn’t have such strong feelings for them, would you still like them, admire them, and respect them? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions you’re falling prey to “blind fancy.”

If you’re at all embarrassed by them, or constantly finding yourself having to explain away and excuse the faults and character flaws that everyone else sees and points out to you, you’re in the midst of “blind fancy.” They’re not truly worthy of you; you shouldn’t be afraid that they don’t feel the same way about you; you should be afraid of why you’re feeling that way about them.

Next, ask yourself, “Are they fit?” That is, do they have the necessary relational and emotional skills to be a superlative partner or spouse? Can they handle conflict? Are they humble and gentle and patient? Are they a giver or a taker? Do they seek out or are they open to personal growth? Would they be a good parent and a true friend? Can you trust them in every way? These are rational questions that promote healthy and successful relationships.

If the answer is no, they’re not be “fit” or emotionally available to be a good partner.

Feelings are loud and strong, and they come and go. Asking questions about “worthiness” and “fitness” will help you to be objective and make a wise choice.

One person cannot sustain a relationship. It takes two fit people to be present, attuned to each other and committed to make it work.

Because long term relationships include the future and because feelings are only about the present, it makes the most sense to choose someone you can love who is not only worthy of your love but also fit with maturity, coping skills and a desire to make it last.

Find out first if the person you are interested in is worthy and fit. Then ask yourself, “Is this someone I’d enjoy spending time with- Physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually? Sexual desire can be a delightful spice in life. If you make it the main course, however, you’ll end up relationally hungry.

Worthy and fit. Chemistry AND Rationality.

That’s what you want to look for and consider when evaluating qualities in a date or partner.

-paraphrased from Gary Thomas.






Seven Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude not only brightens and strengthens your marriage / relationship, but gives you a more positive attitude towards the world in general. Read this short but thought provoking article to see what it can do for you.

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How to be a better friend/spouse/lover, through Empathy and Compassion

Empathy is simply being able to feel and understand another person’s feelings, when they are in a difficult situation.  It is being able to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings to that person, and being non-judgmental. While this is important and certainly a good skill to use often, healthy and intimate relationships have to go beyond this. Think about it: just because I know what you are feeling doesn’t mean I care or will act in a helpful manner.

Compassion is going a step further. Compassion is the desire to show care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness and kindness, because you care and want to alleviate the suffering. Empathy is knowing: compassion is caring. Empathy says, “I know how your feel.” Compassion says, “I want to be part of this with you, so how can I help?”

Both skills are connecting, and kind. Knowing the difference can help assist you to respond and connect, in the manner you feel is most helpful and appropriate for your relationship and the situation.

“Personal Boundaries and Effective Confrontation” presentation by Denise O’Doherty

Presented for The Women’s Group at First Universalist Unitarian Church
5210 Fannin St., Houston (MAP)
Sunday, January 15 at 10:30
No charge. All women are welcome.

Denise O’Doherty, psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will give tips and insights on how we can better define, love and protect ourselves through “Personal Boundaries and Effective Confrontation”.  Good boundaries affect everything we do. They give us freedom to be ourselves and they teach others how to treat us. Topics addressed will be what gets in the way of having good boundaries, the difference between rigid and flexible boundaries, and how to deal with passive and aggressive people by understanding their cost and payoff. Boundary setting tips, self-esteem, codependency, shame and guilt will also be addressed. She will conclude with an outline for us a step by step way to confront someone effectively.

Denise will begin with a short review of “Stages of Grief” by special request, for those dealing with feelings of loss post-election.

Visit her website at:

For questions: call Denise at 713-524-9525

When Addiction Gets in the Way of Your Relationship or Marriage

The Purpose Behind Addiction

Altering your state of consciousness is a common act- and we all do it. Whether it’s morning coffee to wake up, an afternoon diet coke to re-energize, or a glass of wine to relax before bed-time, most of us use substances for attitude adjustments. Marriage Counseling, couples counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, We also use food for reasons other than nourishment.

It’s one thing to use substances within a healthy framework, but another to cross the line into addiction – and it can be very difficult to see the difference.

When we are in physical or emotional pain, we want relief immediately. When the nervous system is out of balance, we try to regulate ourselves in the best ways we know how. We turn to many substances and activities: alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, the Internet, porn, gambling and gaming.  What happens after a while is that we build up tolerance and after time you much consume more to get the same effect.

The Problem with addiction.

When you are in an altered state, you become very self-centered. Frequently, the addictive habit becomes your primary relationship. Now your partner becomes a competitor to the addiction for time and attention.

Transforming Addiction

Consider these questions:

  • Have you experienced an irresistible urge to use against your conscious wishes?
  • Do you anticipate and dwell on the use beforehand?
  • Have you made promises or plans to cut back or quit but eventually go back to old patterns?
  • Have you lied to yourself or others about your use?
  • Do you feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment about your use?

Answering “yes” to even a few of these can be cause for alarm and a signal to seek help.

Remember, addiction is the addict’s responsibility. It is not your partners fault or responsibility to fix. It is not your fault either, but it is your problem to get corrected. Therapy, a 12-step program, or a support group are 3 steps in the right direction.

It is always the right time to get control of your life. And it is always possible to heal and go forward. You are worth it and so is your relationship.


Some material paraphrased from “You’re Tearing Us Apart” by Pat love, Eva Berlander, and Kathleen McFadden




Holiday Bliss vs. Holiday Blues!

Houston is full of positive images and for the Holidays. Already, you can see beautiful colored lights adorning the palm trees on major roadways, colorful decorations that sparkle and glow catch your attention in shopping centers, and soon happy holiday music will be playing everywhere you go. couples counseling, Marriage Counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling Houston Texas,  Marriage Counseling Houston Texas,  relationship counseling Houston TexasThe message is that holidays are a time of giving and receiving surrounded by family and friends giving recognition for our lives. Its easy to envision festive images of family, friends, food, party’s and religious observation.

In other words the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and fun. Yet, ironically holidays can also bring about stress, anxiety, depression and disappointment. These occur for many reasons. Socializing for the holidays often is an excuse for people to over eat, and over drink, feeling miserable and remorseful later. Guilt and shame can also accompany “giving in”. The pressure of gift giving and going out more can be stressful if one over- steps financial boundaries and spends too much, only to pay for it later, both financially and emotionally. Feeling frantic, trying to live up to what you think others expect from you and what you unrealistically expect from yourself and others can lead to anxiety and disappointment. Compromising your values or beliefs, feeling stuck and obligated, with  limited choices and alternatives can lead to depression.

Symptoms that alert us to depression are:

  1. gaining or loosing a significant amount of weight in a short time
  2. over or under sleeping
  3. feeling overly tearful
  4. feeling that it’s hard to focus or concentrate
  5. feeling socially withdrawn.

To Get the Most Out of Your Holidays:

  1. Plan Ahead, so you can pace your activities without getting stressed.
  2. Get some down time for you. This should be a restful time not a stressful time, giving you time to reflect on the year, your life and your goals for the next year.
  3. Exercise your personal boundaries and be clear with others regarding what you can do and what you want to do, and stick to your plan.
  4. Make your own choices on what’s healthy and responsible regarding food and alcohol.
  5. Be realistic in what you spend. Sometimes the most heartfelt and appreciated gifts are not expensive.
  6. Choose your Company! Be with people who appreciate you, and who can enjoy a fun and stress-free holiday with you.

Make your holiday fun and memorable!

Psychotherapy can help restore joy and meaning in life.  If you or someone you know is struggling or has lost the ability to feel the joy that comes with celebration and connection to others, or who wants to focus on their direction and purpose for the new year, you may want to consider therapy. Call for a free phone consultation, to discuss what brief therapy can do for you, or someone you care about and make the holidays and new year something to celebrate!

Substance over Form

This is an excerpt from Melody Beatie’s book “The Language of Letting Go”:

Substance over Form

I’m learning that for a variety of reasons, I’ve spent much of my life focusing on form rather than substance. My focus has been on having my hair done perfectly, wearing the right clothes, having my car always neat and clean, living in the right place, furnishing it with the right furniture, working at the right job, and having the right friends and partners. Form, rather than substance, has controlled my behavior in many areas of my life. Now, I’m finally getting to the truth. It’ substance that counts.


There is nothing wrong in wanting to look our best. Whether we are striving to create a self, a relationship, or a life, we need to have some solid ideas about what we want that to look like.

Form gives us a place to begin. But for many of us, form has been a substitute for substance. We may have focused on form to compensate for feeling afraid or feeling inferior. We may have focused on form because we didn’t know how to focus on substance.

Form is the outline: substance is what fills it in. We fell in the outline of ourselves by being authentic: we fill in the outline of our life by showing up for life and participating to the best of our ability.

Now, in recovery, we’re learning to pay attention to how things work and feel, not just to what they look like.
Today, I can focus on substance in my life. I will concentrate on the substance of my relationships, rather than what they look like. I will focus on the real workings of my life, instead of the trappings.