Have  you ever wanted to find someone from your past yet knew that would be simply impossible? Someone who meant more to you than you realized at the time?   I have someone like that in my life.   She is a very distant memory yet one of the key figures in my life.  I can’t fully picture her: blonde, on the thin side, and she was a social worker.  I can’t remember her name. Grrr.

Well, I went on several dates with her in 1966.  One night we were parked.  In the 60’s when you had a date, frequently  a couple would go to a movie, get something to eat and then find a dark street and park.  And then you‘d talk and listen to music and “make-out”.  Now that term might not be familiar to you if your under fifty.  But it would involve  kissing and fondling and rarely lead to  sex or a blow job (altho that might happen).   But we did not go that far, but just some light kissing and mostly talk.

I was working for Davenport Bank and Trust at the time in the Trust Department as a management trainee.  My Dad got me the job and it was a well paying, professional job that my Dad was very proud of.  Me…..not so much.  I hated every minute of it.  Numbers and accounting are not my thing.

But at that time in my life I didn’t know what my thing was.  But I was dying at the Bank.  I had a bachelors degree from the U of Iowa in Sociology.Not exactly Wharton School of Finance.   So I was ill prepared for this job and all the trappings that go with working at a bank.

As my friend and I sat and talked she began to tell me what she did as a “social worker”.  She worked in protective services.  That is perhaps the most difficult work one can do in the field of social work.  It meant removing kids from their home, going to court and testifying against parents who had abused or neglected their kids.  It was low pay, being on call, entering dangerous situations and having people hate you.  But you also were saving kids (or at least one might think that).

She was passionate about what she did and loved it.  As I listened to her something began to happen to me sitting there fascinated by a job that was so different from what I was doing at the bank.  It seemed important.  It seemed exciting.  It meant caring about children and peoples lives.  

I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but my heart and gut were literally feeling things I had never ever encountered before.  It was something I wanted to do.  In fact in retrospect it was something I had to do.  I didn’t know that at the time, but I know that now.  I had to get out of that bank and do something that had meaning and value.  She then went on and explained that if one worked for the State of Iowa for a year in the Department of Human Services, the State would send you to a graduate school of social work for what is called an MSW and not only pay  your tuition but pay a stipend which would cover living expenses.

I decided that night to leave the bank. I had to do this.  I had no idea how or where I would go or even if I could get in to a graduate college.  But I knew I had to tryThe rest is history.  Soon after I applied for a position with the Department of Social  Welfare for the County in Davenport Iowa.  I was hired.  I took a 50% cut in pay.  I went from wearing a suit in a art deco bank to a cubicle in a smoke infested building serving the poor, people of color, people deemed “poor white trash” and welfare mothers who were on food stamps.  But I felt at home.  Perhaps initially I could relate to being poor, which my family was desperately when I was young.  But my father understandably had trouble with my decision to leave the bank.  I’m sure it made no sense to him and in many ways objectively it didn’t make a lot of sense.

He once asked me “why would you want to work with a bunch of niggers?”   That sounds awful but he wasn’t actually that prejudiced.  He helped many people of color as he was the driving force in organizing a union at his foundry.  His energy as a union organizer helped the quality of life for many foundry workers and they respected my Dad for what he had done for them.  And I also remember sitting with him watching our black and white television in the summer of 1964 as congress passed the Civil Rights Act which my Dad fully supported.  He was glued to that television. I was always an enigma to my father and again I can appreciate why,  as he and I were so different. 

I take great comfort in knowing he would be proud of the success I have today.  But in 1967 there just was no way of predicting that some of my choices would lead me anywhere.  But sometimes when you are listening to your gut and take crazy risks, they lead you to places you could never predict.  

So I am so grateful for that woman who sat with me that summer night telling me of things that completely turned my life around.  She was a good social worker.  I could tell. 

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It was Iowa City, Iowa, 1965.  I was a senior at the University of Iowa.  The women's movement was in full swing.  It was in your face, often militant and determined.  Betty Friedan's book, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE was on the news stands and a must read for most women.  It was one of my text books. I was walking on campus and about to enter Osco Drugs which was a popular store right across the street from the Pentacrest.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see a female student coming towards me about to enter Osco's.  I could see that her legs were unshaven and she had no bra on.  Typical on campus at that time.  I stopped, held the door open out of courtesy and she stopped dead in her tracks.  She looked at me and said clearly, "FUCK YOU!".    While stunned, I knew what this meant and I went on in to Oscos.  

That wasn't my introduction to the woman's movement, but it was a stunner.  And it is something I have never forgotten.  Whether it be racism, sexism or the recent accomplishments of the LGBT community, all minorities have had to fight for their place.  And the fight was on.   Little did I know how some of the results would effect me professionally as the years would pass by.

When I began practicing psychotherapy in 1971 perhaps 10% of my patients were male.  Today, I see more men than women most months.  Perhaps 52% to 48% approximately.  With each decade I have practiced,  the gender roles have changed.  And it has had a huge impact on the institution of marriage.  In my opinion these changes have been positive.  Yet the results at times have most likely led to more divorces and hopefully fewer marriages of convenience.  I will let others judge whether that is good or bad.  But is a fact.

The woman's movement has led to financial independence.  Women literally do not need a man in their life as they once did.  Women are less likely to tolerate verbal abuse, marital rape, being the  only one  in charge of the home and all the work and responsibilities that go with it.  They take more ownership of their bodies and no longer prostitute themselves in order to keep peace or avoid abuse.  Now some women actually generate more income than their spouse.  The list of changes goes on and on.  And I haven't even mentioned the support women now enjoy with other woman as a result of working outside the home and of course social media like Facebook and Twitter.  And this has led to women being as likely as men to have an affair. It's only fair.  If you don't know what I mean by that watch MAD MEN. 

Of course any movement and any change brings with it side effects.  Some are negative.  Some are unanticipated.  And the woman's movement is no different.  But rarely do I see any negative  effects that over-ride the incredible improvements that have come about for women AND for men as a result of this movement.  But I do see where men have had to adjust and are still adjusting.  While going to college I worked at a grocery store, much like Hy-Vee.  Rarely would I see  a man pushing a cart filled with groceries and a child or two without his wife.  Now it is common place.   Men are much more engaged with childrearing. There is far more co-parenting.  Men play a much more significant role in their children's lives. And women are simply less willing to put up with abuse or control by their husbands.  Is it perfect?  Far from it. Wages, treatment in the work place, and domestic violence and other forms of violence against women remain.  All minorities struggle with those who have not been able to adapt to changes.  But the fact remains that it is better for everyone.

What I see in my office are often those individuals who have not been able to adapt or change.  Both women and men still can struggle with each other as they try to each find their place and reconcile their differences and create a  viable long term monogamous relationship.  I wish to focus on what those couples seem to struggle with most.

Pat Love, Ed.D, has spoken and written of the the neuro-biology of love and its profound impact on that early period of a relationship which we so often refer to as infatuation.  This is a Darwinian aspect of our species' need to procreate.  It evolved into place to draw us together and to insure that our species propagates.   It involves a rather complex cocktail that is set off in our brains when we meet someone that might become a romantic partner.  This cocktail of neuro-chemicals  is powerful and is capable of over riding logical, intelligent thoughts.  Thus once it is set off we are vulnerable to not picking up red flags and not using good judgment even in the face of obvious warning signs that danger lurks.  I see this every single day with my clients. I will ask them, "were these things happening before you got married?".   I'm referring to things like his drinking, her rage, his anger, her control, etc, etc...  Virtually ever time I will be told they were in fact there before they got married.  Yet they went ahead with the marriage.  

This neuro-chemical cocktail and it's influence on our judgment lasts about 20 months or so.  Good studies have shown this to be the case.  It is a bit different than "good chemistry" between people but is similar.  But it is not LOVE.  It is not something we should listen to exclusively.  It's wonderful, and arousing and movies and music have institutionalized it, but it is just not true love.   It is something we should be aware of and be careful of.  It can be so seductive.  Yet it is an important part of any good relationship.  It's not bad if we are aware of it and if we factor that into the experience of a new relationship.  It's actually something to behold.  To be in awe of.  It is a magnificent part of our evolutionary brain.  

But then you might ask, how do we know what's love and whether this is the person for me?  No one can answer that with certainty.  All we can do is position ourselves to where we reduce the risk of making a bad choice.  And the first step in that is taking the time to find out who this person REALLY is.   And that takes time.  Not only time in the sense of how long the courtship lasts, but  how much continuous time we spend with each other during that courtship.  And here is where some of you might disagree with me.  Be it religious or moral reasons, I can appreciate why some might argue against  living together before marriage.  But that is exactly what I would recommend to anyone.  That in itself begins to make things real.  One can fake it for an evening, an over night or a long weekend.   But not for six months  or more.  It is by being with each other 24/7 that we begin to see, hear, feel and experience what and who this person really is and how one  truly feels about that "whole" person.  On every level;  sexual, emotional or behavioral we begin to see who this person is and how we then feel about the different sides..  Bad behavior can be hidden from view for short periods of time, but not for months at a time.  Drinking, anger, jealously, control.............so many things begin to surface if they are in fact actually there in the first place but hidden by someone who doesn't what you to notice.  

Time is but a partial way of knowing who this person is and how one does feel about them. Time will help quiet that chemical cocktail allowing one to notice red flags if they re there.   As the intensity of the sexual attraction settles down a bit, ones rational self might then allow them  to actually see the real person.  Time will allow one to experience that persons extended family.  That will tell us a ton.  And watching their relatiopnship with their parents, siblings and other family members will tell one much that they need to know about what that persons issues might be.  Anyone who thinks we are not products of our environment is kidding themselves.  Our partners attitudes, feelings and future behavior will be so influenced by the nature of their relationship with their  opposite parent.  And our partners self worth, self esteem, self image will be so influenced by their same sex parent.  We need to take that information in as it comes to us and factor it in as to whether this person is capable of the kind of relationship we are seeking.  How one feels about the opposite sex will be strongly influenced by how they feel about their opposite sex parent.  How that person treated them. How they  saw that person interact with their partner.  

Loving someone isn't enough.  And we need to quite thinking that love is a feeling.  It is not. It' a verb.  Chemistry is very important.  We must have some attraction and experience a good sexual attraction and response to our partner.  But that cannot be all.   And the chemistry can be confusing.  How much is it just sexual.  And sexual attraction fades over time.  It waxes an wanes.  And so it has to be more than that.  True chemistry however can last a lifetime.   It is more than just sex.  But don't ask me to define it any more clearly than I have.   It just is.  It's like one of the Supreme Court Justices said (I think) when asked to define pornography.  "I don't know how to describe it, I just know it when I see it".  Chemistry is like that.  Hard to define, but one knows it when they experience it.  Just be careful tho when you see it.  I also looks like sex.  And sexual attraction won't take us very far.  

To summarize what I am saying, and this discussion is far from over, let me note that because our brains can betray us into thinking we are "in love" by the rush of feelings initial attraction will produce, we need to be cautious of those feelings, take the time to truly find out what we need to know about this person and then pay attention to the red flags as they appear, check them out and be capable of leaving a relationship if we need to.  It is amazing how many people have told me they knew on their wedding day that they shouldn't be getting married to this person.   And too many others didn't know on their wedding day that they shouldn't marry this person.

Next time I will look at what it is about US that causes us to ignore the red flags.  What allows us to repeatedly seek out and often marry people who are not good for us.  I will examine what we get out of being with someone who treats us poorly.  And why we avoid people who could be good for us.  





I"d Never Join A Club That Would Accept Me As A Member

Tom Osborne's Final Goodbye

Tom Osborne's Final Goodbye

Woody Allen's character said in his movie ANNIE HALL, "I would never join a club that would accept me as a member".  Actually Groucho Marx originated that line, but that is beside the point.  The point is that this line says a great deal about relationships and self-worth.  Why would I join a club if it would accept someone like me?  Obviously, it couldn't be much of a club.  That is how someone who is shame based would think. 

Extending that to real life, it is obvious that if I don't feel good about myself  (shame), it is easy to see why I would seek out relationships that would reflect the way I feel about myself.  To seek a relationship with someone who values me doesn't make sense.  If someone wants me, they either don't know me, or they must not be worth much.  If they are worth much, then they likely won't be around long once they find out what I'm really about.   

So........the thing that drives relationships is not love, it's about seeking out someone who matches up to how I feel about myself.  If I fail to recognize that, then I am at risk of either picking the wrong person or picking the right person and sabotaging it.  

Let's look at that more closely and make some sense out of how relationships start and unfortunately  often end.

I read  the book, THE MIRAGES OF MARRIAGE, shortly after I got out of graduate school.  It listed "the myths of marriage" the authors had identified.  The first myth was that "people get married because they are in love".  The authors maintained that this is a myth.  That love is actually a "verb", not a noun.  Romantic love (infatuation) develops quickly out of a neurological chemical cocktail that is set off in the brain that turns the pleasure centers on and is fed by newness, sex, and one's need to not be alone.  It is a feeling that should not be trusted.  This cocktail usually burns out after about 20 months or so.  It doesn't need to go away completely, but it loses it's strength neurologically.  Unless something else develops, it will be unable to sustain a relationship on it's own--that is where real love comes into play.

Real love is not just a feeling.  Chemistry is important, of course.  But real love develops out of knowing someone,  going through real life with someone, out of enduring challenges and truly getting to know each other.  It is about making a commitment and sticking to it.  As true trust develops, then we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable which is easier said than done for most of us.  The chemical, romantic aspect waxes and wanes over time. This is normal and inevitable and it takes work to maintain it.  Kids, stress, work, familiarity......all work against it.  But if a  couple works at it and sees it as a priority, it can be sustained through the life of the relationship.

Let's look more deeply at this.  I used the word vulnerable in the previous paragraph,and this is the issue that puts most relationships at risk.  To be vulnerable means being open to getting hurt, rejected, not valued, taken advantage of,  and even abused.  The problem is that it is simply impossible to experience love without being vulnerable.  The minute I love,  the minute I allow myself to be loved--I am vulnerable.  Then and only then can I be hurt.  

The fear of being hurt is a powerful feeling and a common one.  The fear of rejection is a powerful force.  If one's life experiences are such as to have undermined their sense of worth, their having value, their feeling loved--then the fear of being vulnerable often develops.  Risking  belief someone could  love me  stirs primal fear.  So what do I do.

People seek out the familiar even if that familiar is negative.  Our brains are wired  to avoid the unfamiliar. If  experiences in being loved are absent or negative, then that person is likely to pursue what is familiar which is disconnection.  

Hopefully,  you are beginning to see that we are set up neurologically and emotionally to protect ourselves from being hurt and that means avoiding being vulnerable at all cost.  Thus,  to find someone who treats us the way we feel about ourselves means seeking that which is familiar.  Feeling unlovable, one will seek out someone who cannot or is limited in being able to love. Again, that is what is familiar.   To have a loving relationship is what is unfamiliar and scary, and leaves one vulnerable.     For if I allow myself to believe that someone can and does love me when I have never felt truly lovable, then I can really get hurt.  Knowing I will be hurt I choose not to go there.  It may be what I need (perhaps desperately) yet it is so scary to go there when one is so convinced it cannot happen.  Thus I am at risk to sabatoge..  

How might I do that?  First,  marry someone who is so dysfunctional they are unable to love anyone.  That person is actually safe.  I may not like the way I'm treated, but that persons behavior allows me  not to have to worry about being vulnerable  That  gives me plenty of rational not to let them in-- not to be vulnerable.  If I'm foolish enough to find someone who could love me, then I begin to find fault, be critical of and become intolerant-- then I can justify backing away.  Or, I can behave in such a fashion that my partner will want to back away.  Either will allow me or my partner to justify that the relationship isn't worth it.  This dynamic is truly the number one reason for divorce.  

My next writing will address how to avoid this trap.  So often we marry the right person for the wrong reasons.  If we can figure out the real reasons we were attracted to each other, then we can work that out and realize that in fact my partner is the right person for me.


Pictures and Travel

The Colosseum  -  Rome, Italy

The Colosseum  -  Rome, Italy

The pictures you will see on this site come from my interest in photography and in recent years my travels with my wife Patricia.  Hopefully they will often relate to the essay that I have presented.  Capturing moments has a wonderful way of reinforcing memory and as a result of taking 3 to 4 thousand pictures on a typical trip abroad or in this country has left indelible images  in my mind and as  a result, both of us remember so much more of our travels than if we had taken an occasional snapshot.

I also have been a long time season ticket holder of Nebraska Football and love sports photography, so on occasion you will likely see some of those on this website.

For those of you who might be interested, I have used a NIKON D- 700 and more recently an Olympus micro 4/3rds mirrorless camera.  


The hysteria over banning gay marriage brings a smile to my face. The viewpoint that the bond of marriage is somehow a right to be shared only by heterosexual couples would make one believe that those couples have something wonderful and lasting to protect. I beg to differ.

Don’t get me wrong. I know for a fact that human beings need a committed relationship. Research shows us that those who live alone don’t do as well emotionally and physically as those who are married. It’s actually more stressful to be single. Our need for attachment is compelling. But we need to be realistic as a society about how we try to accomplish this.

Listening to thousands of couples over many years of practice has left me in awe of how difficult it is to maintain a long term monogamous relationship with another human being. The late historian Stephen Ambrose titled his book on the Lewis and Clark expedition, UNDAUNTED COURAGE. One could well use that title to describe what it takes to enter into the state of matrimony. It is truly a challenge.

I routinely see couples in their 30’s, 40’s and older who are literally sexless. Either they have no sex or it is very infrequent. Affairs are frequent by both sexes. The divorce rate is high. Divorce rates for second and third marriages approach 70 - 80%. The state of marriage in our country is dismal.

Too many couples live in what I would term “marriages of convenience”. These are sexless, emotionless “relationships” that are capable of enduring for years and years. They are often filled with bickering, arguments, distance and silent resentment.

Over the years, I have noticed marital anniversary announcements of 40 years or more in the newspaper. These seem to confirm that marriage is indeed a wonderful thing. However, too often I personally have known that many of these same couples have endured a relationship that few of us, including their own kids, would desire. They argued frequently, slept in different bedrooms, and rarely talked or worse yet, were emotionally abusive to each other. Is that something to celebrate?

With the high divorce rates and ”marriages of convenience” accounting for far too many marriages, it’s obvious that a sizable number of marriages are dysfunctional,arrangements that are anything but desirable.

I have worked with gay couples and straight couples since 1971 in my practice as a clinical social worker. The problems they encounter are pretty much the same. Their desires, wants, conflicts, and struggles are very similar. So too is their desire for companionship and emotional fulfillment.

Heterosexuals don’t seem to be very good at this “marriage” thing. Few of these couples seem to take their vows very seriously. They pop in and out of marriage so easily. At one time it was rare for me to work with someone who had been married two times. Now it isn’t rare at all for people to be in their third marriage.

I hardly think that gays and lesbians could do much worse. Let’s give them a try and see if they might be better at it than their heterosexual counterparts. I have a hunch that they just might be better at it. Perhaps they could restore marriage to it’s proper place..........as a desirable, lasting, meaningful institution. Or, at the least, let’s allow them to be married and be as miserable as the rest of us. 

What I Believe To Be True

Big Ben  -   London, England

Big Ben  -   London, England


Dr. Milton Erickson, famed psychiatrist and  the father of modern clinical hypnosis was asked a question by a medical student. Dr. Erickson was approaching 85, and not in the best of health.  "Dr. Erickson, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us who are just starting our clinical careers in psychiatry?"  Dr. Erickson responded most seriously, "Well, honestly son, I feel like I'm just beginning to get the hang of it."

For years, I thought he was perhaps just being a bit jocular with the young student.  But now, at my age, I think he was dead serious.  This is exactly how I feel.  As a result, I have never felt more confident, more relaxed, or more effective than I am right now in my clinical practice.

Those of you who know me are aware that I see patients (now called clients) who struggle with life problems that include depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, and many who struggle with relationships.  

Dr. Irvin Yalom is a vociferous writer of fiction and non-ficton, as well as one of the most successful psychiatrists in the country.  He writes in EXISTENTIAL PSYCHOTHERAPY  of the four main issues that we all experience as human beings that are inescapable:  aloneness, death, meaninglessness and freedom.  Rather than going into each one and explaining what he is referring to about each,  I will only refer to aloneness.  

Not being heard, not feeling seen. having no one there for you - those are the most common experiences I hear from client usually beginning at a very early age.  This leads to self-doubt, shame and the development of cognitive errors about ourselves that can plague us the rest of our lives unless we challenge, address, come to terms, resolve,  and discover who we truly are.

Feelings over-ride our logical selves, so it doesn't help much to be told that we're okay, that we have value, that we aren't bad, and that we're not alone. I might KNOW that, but for some reason I don't FEEL that.   Being told that from well-meaning people doesn't do much good at all.  It takes more than that, and I am convinced it takes something much more thorough and in depth to get us to the point where we are truly comfortable in our own skin.  I believe psychotherapy can help, but not just any old therapy.  Not the kind that insurance companies want us to seek, nor Big Pharma.  But in-depth, introspective, emotionally challenging therapy that becomes a corrective emotional experience.  It takes time, it is costly but it is worth every cent. And it is a bitch to do.  It is exhausting at times.  And there is no other way.

But getting to an age where I AM comfortable in my own skin, when everything I do, think or feel is not filtered through guilt and shame is what true serenity is about.  It is then that I can be more productive and more effective in being me.  This  is the path to not happiness,  but of being able to face up to the challenges of living, and knowing I can now do that more effectively.