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The Passive-Aggressive Personality

He’s kind, caring, an all-around nice guy –most of the time. Other times, you wonder about him. Doesn’t he hear you? Doesn’t he care? Is he stubborn, stupid or what?

Passive Aggressive personalityLike the time you were preparing dinner and asked him if he’d buy a quart of skim milk and a package of American cheese on his way home. He said, “Sure, no problem,” but instead brought home whole milk and Swiss cheese. You were left thinking – Hello, is anybody home? I could have sent my 10 year-old to the store with better results!

When you confront him about buying the wrong items, he becomes irritated with you. He says he forgot, doesn’t see what the big deal is and accuses you of never being satisfied with anything he does. You alternate between feeling guilty, wondering if indeed you are too finicky or demanding, and feeling frustrated that he can’t execute a simple task.

If this scenario seems familiar, it’s time to learn more about passive-aggressive personalities.

Bill appears to be a “nice” guy, both in his personal and professional relationships. If asked to do something, he typically responds, “No problem,” “I’ll get to it,” or “I’ll get back to you on this.” Yet his follow-through on these matters leaves much to be desired. Hiding his defiance under a guise of compliance, he promises anything, but then does whatever he wants.

Bill’s passive-aggressive pattern began in childhood. Not wanting to argue with his parents but wanting to get them off his back, he became well skilled in passive-aggressive strategies, such as:

“I’ll get to it in a minute, Ma.” (But never giving it a second thought.)

“I did my homework, Dad.” (In fact, he only did his math homework)

“I’m doing my homework right now.” (Works for a few minutes, then returns to his video game.)

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of that mess in the garage.” (Never specifies when.)

“Yeah, I’ll do it.” (He yells, as he scoots out of the house to play ball.)

“That project isn’t due till next week.” (Putting off responsibilities till the last minute.)

“As soon as I finish these other things.” (Always some reason as to why now is not a good time.)

These childhood passive-aggressive behaviors have carried over to Bill’s adult life. To this day, he’s still uncomfortable with conflict and confrontation. He’s unable to negotiate a compromise or refuse someone’s request directly. Instead, his way of getting along is to agree, but then do it his way or simply not do it at all.

But, what then is the effect of passive-aggressive behavior on the other person? In a nutshell, it drives the other person nuts!

It’s frustrating to try to communicate with someone who doesn’t give you a straight answer. It’s exasperating to count on someone whom you can’t trust. The excuses and double messages invariably try your patience and trigger your anger.

If you’re involved with a passive-aggressive personality, there will be times when you’ll lose your cool. Then, he’ll probably tell you to get a grip, acting as though he had no part in any of the dissension between you. Once it reaches this stage, he may become cooperative –as you wonder, why, oh why, does it all have to be so difficult?

In your gut, you know, there has to be a better way. What can you do to change the pattern? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Recognize the pattern. Instead of just feeling guilty, angry or bewildered, label this disconcerting pattern of behavior as passive-aggressive.
  • Express your anger before you get to the rage stage. Express your feelings before they get out of hand. Stick to the facts. Explain how his action (or lack of action) affects you.
  • Call the passive-aggressive person on his behavior. If a promise has not been kept, confront him. If a response is evasive, ask him for clarification. If he can’t give you a straight answer, tell him how his behavioral style is affecting you.
  • Encourage the passive-aggressive person to express his feelings directly – even negative ones. Despite any initial discomfort, you may find it refreshing to have open and honest disputes instead of working so hard to decipher double messages and oblique communication
  • Nix the guilt. Though you may be a part of the problem, one thing is certain. You’re not the sole cause of the problem; nor, can you be the sole solution.

When in doubt as to whether to trust what the passive-aggressive person, give less importance to what’s being said, more importance to what your instincts tell you are true. Keep in mind that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

If, despite implementing these suggestions, nothing changes, it’s time to seek professional help.


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at Visit her website at 


Humiliation is No Way to Teach

“You idiot.  Can’t you do anything right? I asked you to do a simple task. And what did you do? You screwed it up big time.  What the hell is the matter with you?”

Humiliation is no way to teachSome people believe that humiliation is a good teacher. You gotta learn. You must not forget. You will be punished if you don’t do it right. Humiliation will make a lesson stick.

These folks are right. Humiliation is a good teacher.

But the lesson you learn is not what the teacher is intending. You don’t learn to do things better.  You don’t learn to upgrade your skills. You don’t learn to trust your ability to learn.

What you do learn, instead, is to:

  • Embrace rigidity: “I can’t do this. No way. No how.”
  • Play it safe: “I’ll just make a fool of myself so I’m sticking to the tried and true.”
  • Shirk responsibility: “It’s too hard for me; you have to do it for me.”
  • Develop a fixed perspective: “I’ve never been any good at this and I never will be.”  

Yes, humiliation throws cold water on the joy of learning and shuts down the joy of risk taking. Indeed, a single dose of humiliation in a vulnerable child can lead to a belief that “I can’t do it,” while a regular dose of humiliation will profoundly cripple a child’s belief in himself and in his ability to learn. “I’m dumb. I’m stupid. I’m no good. And don’t try to convince me otherwise.”

If you’ve been exposed to the debilitating effects of humiliation, it’s time to rectify the damage that has been done.  Here’s what you must do:

  • Know that there’s nothing immutable about what you know and don’t know. All you can honestly say is that you don’t know how to do something yet.  Put the time and effort into it, and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn.
  • A mistake is not a felony. And it’s certainly not deserving of capital punishment. The most you can say is, it’s a misdemeanor or an oops!  Just an error. Something that slipped your mind. Something you forgot because you were distracted. Next time you make a mistake, don’t agonize over it.  Instead, acknowledge it.  Fix it (if you can). Learn from it. Move on to your next challenge.
  • Keep stretching. Keep reaching. Keep learning. Make new mistakes; it means that your mind is active. You have not given up on yourself.  You are not content to live within a comfort zone the size of a postage stamp. No, that’s not for you. It’s a big wide world out there. With lots of things to learn. You want to be a part of the world. Not apart from the world.
  • No matter how much you learn, how much you know, there will be stuff you don’t know. This is not proof of your stupidity. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is simply life. We cannot know it all.
  •  When you don’t know what to do, improvise. That’s what everybody else is doing (whether they admit it or not). Make it up on the spot. Sometimes it will work out well. Sometimes it won’t. That’s the nature of life.
  •  When something intrigues you, go for it. Don’t tell yourself “you’re no good at this.” Take up the challenge. Put in the hard work. Ask for assistance. Tolerate the discomfort. And watch yourself bloom.

Whatever humiliating experiences you have had in the past, do not let them continue to define you today. Right now, this moment, this very moment, before you put this article down, say something that gives homage to who you are and what you’re about. If whatever you say brings a smile to your face or warmth to your inner being, you know you’ve chosen the right words.


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at or visit her website at 

Talking to Yourself: A Sign of Sanity

Though we live in a noisy world, many people struggle with too much silence in their lives. They are either living alone or living with others who are engrossed in their own thing. (That’s easy to do in the digital age).

talking to yourselfSure you can always click on the TV, the radio, or your latest digital gizmo. But what happens if you’re aching for a live person to talk to? To bounce ideas off of? To appreciate your accomplishments (big or small)?

When you’re feeling lonely, chances are you’re neglecting to give enough attention to a very special person. One who is always there with you. Who’s that? Why, you, of course. So, talk to yourself. Not just in your head. But out loud.

Talk to yourself out loud? Doesn’t that mean you’re becoming daft? Losing it? Ready for the funny farm?

Not at all.

Talking with yourself not only relieves the loneliness, it may also make you smarter. Smarter? How? It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating. Just one proviso. You become smarter only if you speak respectfully to yourself.

I know one woman, a sane and lovely lady, who is not so lovely to herself. Her self-talk is a testament to everything she has done wrong. “You idiot!” is her hallmark headline, followed with a complete dressing down. “You should have done it this way; you should have been aware of that; you should have thought of it sooner.” That kind of self-talk is worse than no talk at all. So if your style is like her style, cut it out. Right now. Begin talking to yourself like you are your own best friend. Which you are. Right?

Here are four types of self-talk that will make you smarter and feel better about yourself:

  1. Complimentary Self-Talk
    Why wait to get compliments from another? If you deserve them, give them to yourself. Besides most people aren’t going to have the foggiest notion about the little actions you take that serve you well. Like the time you were tempted but decided to bypass the Carvel store because you honored your commitment to yourself to lose five pounds. Doesn’t that deserve a shout-out compliment such as, “I’m proud of you.” Or the time you finally accomplished a bunch of things that you’ve been meaning to do?.Doesn’t that deserve a shout-out “good job!”? Kids hear that phrase incessantly while most adults never hear it. Let’s fix that right now!
  2. Motivational Self-Talk
    You may not feel like doing boring or difficult tasks. Live with others and they’ll give you a swift kick in the pants as a reminder to clean up your mess or tend to that tough task. But you can motivate yourself to get going with a much kinder voice. “Hey sweetie-pie, (that’s you you’re talking to). You’ve got time this morning to tidy up; how about it?” Or, “Hey, big guy, time to call your accountant before the IRS comes knockin’ at your door.”
  3. Outer Dialogue Self-Talk
    Having trouble with making a decision? Should you stay or should you go? Speak up or stay silent? Buy this gift or that gift? Choices aren’t easy. Indeed, because they’re so difficult, we often don’t really make a choice; we respond impulsively from habit or anxiety. It’s much more effective, however, to create a dialogue with yourself so that you can hear what you think. “I want to stay because of xxx but I want to go because of yyy. I’m clearly ambivalent. Nevertheless, l need to figure out which decision to make. Time to have an interesting dialogue with myself and see which way the wind is blowing.” Having such a dialogue can assist you in making a commendable compromise or a workable conciliation between your wants, your needs and others’ expectations.
  4. Goal-Setting Self-Talk
    Let’s say you’re trying to be better organized so the holidays are not so frenzied. Setting a goal and making a plan (i.e. what to do, when to do it, how to do it) can be a big help. Sure you can just make a list, but saying it out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions and screens out distractions. Top athletes do this all the time by telling themselves to, “Keep your head down. Keep your eye on the ball. Breathe.” It works well for them, why not for you?

Whether you’re living by yourself or living with others, you’re always living with yourself. So, don’t leave yourself out of the equation. Converse, chatter, communicate respectfully with yourself. It’s not a sign of insanity. It’s a sign of good health.

© 2012
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at or visit her website at

But I Love Him! … So What is Love?

Immature love says, “I love you because I need you.”
Mature love says, “I need you because I love you.”
~ Erich Fromm

I-love-himOne of the best things about “being in love” is that you feel really good about yourself. It’s not only that you perceive the other person as terrific; it’s that you feel terrific about who you are and what you’re about. Yes, emotions are contagious. People catch them from others. So, when your love is acting lovingly toward you, it’s natural for you to feel joyous, confident, smart and secure.

Yet, as time passes, some “loving relationships” become anything but loving. Indeed, some become downright abusive. How does something like that happen? How can “love” be experienced so differently by different people?

Listen to the complaints of one young woman:

“I was flattered when he wanted to be with me all the time. I felt so special when he told me he couldn’t live without me. Now, I see how possessive he is. He wants to be with me all the time, not because he loves me so much but because he wants to control me.

When he called me many times a day, I felt like he was the most loving person, caring not only about me but also about who I was with and what I was doing. Now, I see how jealous he is. He didn’t trust me unless he knew where I was every moment of every day. It feels so yucky to me now.

He’d frequently give me advice about “life.” It could be politics, business, finances, how to talk with others, who to hang out with. It felt good to listen to him. He seemed so knowledgeable, so worldly. I liked that he was teaching me so much. Now, I see that he needs to give me “advice” about everything because he wants me to do things his way.”

So, now that she recognizes what his “loving” behavior was all about, does she break off the relationship? No way. Why? Because even though he becomes enraged when he doesn’t know where she is, sulky when she doesn’t listen to his “advice”, irked when she’s chatting with others on the phone, she still loves him.

Really? What kind of love is this where she is miserable most of the time – crying about how he treats her, afraid of being criticized for what she did (or didn’t do), worried about what mood he’ll be in when she next sees him. Does this sound like a loving relationship?

Love is a word that is bandied around a lot and has many different meanings. Here are three of them:

ROMANTIC LOVE is marinated in fantasy. Excitement rules the day. You are walking on air. He can do no wrong. You are the luckiest woman on earth. Nothing will ever come between the two of you.

But, alas, infatuation does not stand the test of time. As it wanes, either a couple breaks up (“that was a great love affair”) or it develops into seasoned love.

SEASONED LOVE is marinated in caring, respect, trust and empathy. Differences are respected. Conflicts are worked out. Individuality is respected. Love grows deeper. Love grows stronger.
And then there is addictive love.

ADDICTIVE LOVE is marinated in desperation. You feel you cannot live without this person. You need him to feel complete. Though you no longer feel good about yourself like you did when you were “infatuated with him,” you, nevertheless, feel you can’t leave him.

“BUT I LOVE HIM” has become your mantra. Despite rarely enjoying being with him, you love him. Despite being constantly criticized, you love him. Despite crying about insults you’ve received, you love him. Despite being afraid of his anger, you love him.

Clearly, addicted love does not listen to logic. It does not respect reason. It does not give credence to other people’s counsel. Despite your self-worth hitting a new low, you don’t leave the relationship. Just like a drug addict, you cannot give up your drug of choice.

So, what’s to be done if you are or know someone who is “addicted to love?” Take a first step by labeling it for what it is. It’s not love; it’s addiction. Admit the truth. You fear losing him. You fear being alone. You fear moving out of your comfort zone.

Once you summon up the courage to admit what your problem is, then seek out the services of a psychologist who can offer you support while providing you with the skills and strategies you’ll need to let go of your addiction. Then, one day, I have no doubt that you will be ready for a loving relationship that grows stronger and warmer as time goes on.
And, if you are wondering if this article could have been entitled …But I Love Her, the answer is absolutely yes.


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at Visit her website at

Panic Attacks

What are They? How Can You Deal with Them?

Imagine that you’re taking a stroll in the countryside. Everything is going well. The trees are in bloom; the sky is blue; the cool breeze is refreshing. You’re humming your favorite tune when suddenly you hear a blood curdling scream –


Now imagine that out of nowhere, a repulsive creature has stepped into your path. He’s got a grotesque body, horns on his head and a menacing smile. You freeze in terror as this hideous face stares into yours!

Though you desperately wish to flee, you find yourself helplessly frozen. Your heart is racing. Your chest is pounding. You can’t catch your breath. You feel lightheaded. You feel faint. You think you might die right there on the spot.

Now imagine feeling this very same terror when there’s no creature in your path. What would your experience be? Would you feel mystified? Bewildered? Embarrassed? Wonder if you’re going crazy?

This is the experience of those who endure panic attacks. Many keep their experience secret for they are embarrassed and at a loss for words to describe what happened to them. Nobody else has ever had such a reaction, or so they believe. Panic attacks, however, are more common than you may think.

The word “panic” emanates from the ancient Greeks who were said to experience overwhelming terror when they encountered Pan, their god of nature. Half man, half beast, Pan had a scream so intense that terrified travelers, who happened upon him in the forest, died from fear.

In our modern world, we don’t believe in Pan. But we do have plenty of fears that paralyze us. . Those who have had panic attacks are fearful of having another one. Hence, they avoid being in places or situations in which they feel vulnerable or where there’s no quick and easy escape. For some, this means they can’t be alone. For others, it means they can’t be with new people or in crowds of people. In their attempt to create a safe life, they inadvertently create a small life.

Some panic attacks are not so omnipresent, occurring only when zero hour draws near. Students panic before an exam. Hosts panic before their guests arrive. Actors panic before the curtain rises. Working folks panic before their annual evaluations. Patients panic before their medical test.

When family and friends witness the panic, they typically offer well-meaning advice. “Just relax.” “Chill out.” “Take it easy” “Roll with the punches.” Easy to say. Hard to do.

If the panic doesn’t subside, many people confide in their physicians. They are then prescribed anti-anxiety medication. At first, these meds may take the edge off. Over time, however, nothing changes. So, the medication is increased or another drug, usually an anti-depressant, is added to the mix. Fogginess, sleepiness and lethargy now become additional issues that the panicky person needs to deal with.

Too bad. For panic attacks should be treated with a combination of:

  •  Cognitive Therapy (changing your thought patterns and internal dialogue)
  •  Behavioral Therapy (gradually exposing yourself to more scary situations)
  •  Body Therapy (controlling your breathing and relaxing your muscles)
  • Adjunct Medication, if necessary, to calm your body down.

If you (or a loved one) are sweating bullets over an upcoming event, feeling frenzied about the future or restricting your life to cope with your fears, don’t shrug your shoulders and assume that nothing can be done. Actively seek appropriate treatment that can help you master your fears and get on with your life.

For an abundance of strategies and skills that can help you move forward, read Master Your Fears: How to Triumph over Your Worries and Get on with Your Life, available at Amazon or at


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior, particularly debilitating fear and chronic procrastination. Contact her at or visit her website at 

How to Live with a Narcissist

narcissistDo you have a narcissist in your life? Perhaps maybe even in your family? You know, the one who frustrates the hell out of you because s/he’s so wrapped up in himself and can be so demanding and demeaning. Sounds like a horrible person.

Yet, there’s something enticing about him/her that pulls you in. Perhaps it’s his self-entitlement or her know-it-all, does-no-wrong outlook. Plus, you’ve always been one to subjugate your desires. So, though you hate to admit it, his confidence and cockiness may be (or used to be) a turn-on for you. It’s amazing that your favorite narcissist can be both appealing and appalling.

If you’re not ready to toss your narcissist out of your life, you better learn how to deal with such a personality. Putting into practice the following skills will both strengthen your ego and preserve your sanity.

1. Know What You Will and Won’t Tolerate

Some behavior you may not like but it’s no big deal if you let it slide. Let everything slide, however, and you’ll find yourself in an intolerable situation.  She spends recklessly. Why? Because she wants what she wants when she wants it.  She doesn’t want to be confined by your “stupid” rules. After all, “you only live once. Why restrict yourself?”  In these types of scenarios, you need to know what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t. This doesn’t mean that her spending habits must align with yours.  But it does mean that you speak up and use your leverage to prevent patterns from getting out of hand.

2. Know When You’re Being ‘Gaslighted’

When your narcissist says something, then later denies saying it or claims to have said something different, you can find yourself doubting your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is he nuts? Am I nuts? What’s going on here?  Your narcissist may be doing this maliciously to throw you off balance. Or, more likely, he’s simply responding to his need of the moment, forgetting what he previously said.

3. Don’t Tolerate Denigrating Emotional Outbursts

At times you’ll be upset with each other and need to let off steam. But “how” one lets off steam is significant. If you’re being spoken to with disdain and disrespect, stop the action. Make how are being treated, the issue. Express your disappointment. Ask for an apology. And if necessary, walk away, letting it be known that you’ll gladly pick up where you left off when you’re treated with respect.

4. Learn the Skills of Negotiation

Just because your narcissist wants something, doesn’t mean she needs to get it.  Just because she expresses himself with force, doesn’t mean you fold.  Everything is negotiable. You need to know where your power lies and how to convey it and enforce it.  Learn more about the skills of negotiation. It will help you in many areas of life – today and in your future.

5. Bolster Your Own Self-Esteem

Don’t be surprised if your self-esteem tanks because your narcissist is bent on satisfying his own needs, not yours.  This doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you. What it does mean is that you’re not getting enough positive reinforcement. So, say kind things to yourself. Spend more time with others who think highly of you. Get involved with group activities that bolster your ego.

6. Stop Keeping Secrets

Don’t isolate yourself. It may be hard to be honest with others about how your narcissist behaves. You may feel embarrassed, especially if you’ve been covering for him for so long. Nevertheless, see if you can confide in a trustworthy friend or family member about what’s been going on.  Don’t hesitate to seek out the help of a professional who can assist you in strengthening your coping skills and building up your resolve.

Living with a narcissist is not easy. Accept that you cannot create a major makeover of another’s personality. Nor should you want to.  If it’s that bad, consider splitting. But if you want to stay together, do your best to put these strategies into practice. As you do, it won’t be long before you notice how much better you feel.


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at or visit her website at 

How To Interrupt An Incessant Talker

interrupt-talkerOnce they open their mouths, some folks don’t know how to shut them. They seem unable to differentiate monologue from dialogue, dissertation from conversation, minutiae from significant details.

When you’re in such a “conversation,” you may initially think of yourself as a good listener. However, it’s not long before you realize that you’ve become the captive audience for one who will drone on and on for as long as you allow it to happen. Giving indirect hints that “enough is enough” usually doesn’t work. Hence, in such situations, you not only have a right to interrupt, you also have an obligation to do so to maintain your sanity.

Here are eight tips on how to interrupt an incessant talker:

  • Segue into another topic. “That’s some story. But now I’d like to talk about something more upbeat.”
  • Be direct. “I need to interrupt you. I want to tell you what happened to me yesterday.”
  • Use the person’s name (always an attention-getter) then re-direct.  “Jen, I get what you’re saying; it happened to me too.”
  • Speak about your time situation. “Jared, I only have another minute to chat.”
  • Help the person move forward.  “Bob, what’s the bottom line here?”
  • Give honest feedback (with a light touch, if you can). “Maria, I haven’t been able to get a word in edgewise. Time to let me talk.
  • Make an ending statement. “I gotta go. I’m already late for an appointment. Talk to you another time.”
  • When all else fails, there’s always the bathroom excuse.

If you think it’s rude, crude or insulting to implement these strategies, think again. They’re simply assertive ways to obtain your freedom when you’re being held hostage.


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at or visit her website at 


The Teenage Brain: Still Under Construction

teen-driverHe was age 18. Old enough to take on the world (or so he thought). Yet young enough to take a dozen dim-witted actions before the sun rose the next morning.

Of course, he thought he was magical. He could do no wrong. He knew it all. He was a smart kid. Way too smart to listen to any stupid rules his parents lay down for him. His parents weren’t bad. They were good people. They loved him. But they were an endless supply of warnings. And fears. And mistrust. Enough of that crap.

Tonight was his night. It was easy. He was with his best buddies, speeding along in his sparkling new sports car. Flooring the pedal for excitement; braking ever so subtly to take a drag. It wasn’t until later that things got more complicated.

Later, after the screech of the brakes. Later, after the siren of the ambulance. Later, after the Jaws of Life pulled him out. Later, after he learned that his friend didn’t make it.

This story is every parent’s nightmare. Smart kids doing stupid things. Responsible kids daring each other to be irresponsible. Insightful kids displaying not an iota of insight.

What causes such maddening teenage behavior?

The teenage brain may seem like an adult brain. Even better than an adult brain. For sure, your kids are smarter, faster, stronger and even wiser than you in a myriad of ways.

But in other ways? Not so smart. If you have any doubt that teenage brains are not adult brains, just think back to your own teen years. Unless you were a very good kid (aka: a scared kid) you probably took chances you’d never take today.

An understanding of the construction of the adolescent brain may help explain the risky behavior they take, despite “knowing” better. The executive part of their brain (the frontal lobes) which is responsible for weighing choices, considering consequences, assessing probability and ultimately making decisions has less myelin on them then adult brains.

What does this mean? Research suggests that, as smart as they are, teens don’t access their frontal lobes as frequently as adults do. Parents’ lectures become background when competing with electric, adrenalizing, charged up activity. Boring for teens is mega bad. Their brains are wired to seek out thrills, court danger, take dares, as they convince themselves that nothing bad is ever going to happen.

So, if you have raised a considerate, caring, well-mannered kid and now have a surly, rude alien being on your hands, know you are not alone. The more you lecture your teen, the more he (or she) will have a tendency to blow you off. Some do it defiantly (Get out of my face, Ma). Some. sarcastically (Yeah, you always know best, ma). Others, passive aggressively (You’re right dad, then does as he pleases.)

As bright as the young people are today, there are still scads of things they do not know. This is not their fault. They are “baby adults.” Knowledge can smooth the transition, but it is mostly time and life experiences that will guide young people into mature adulthood.

I do not intend to insult the intelligence of young people. Indeed, many of them are equipped with skills and self-confidence that one can only envy. Still, these kids have “aged out” of childhood without successfully transitioning to the social roles, decision-making and myriad responsibilities of adulthood.

We adults should not confuse looking like an adult, talking like an adult, even acting like an adult with being an adult.

“Age considers, youth ventures.”
Rabindranath Tagore

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

male-female-friendsIt’s been more than 20 years since the witty romantic comedy – When Harry Met Sally – explored the still debatable question- “Can Women and Men be Friends?”

There are those who say ‘No’. Heterosexual men and women can‘t be true friends. Blame the hormones! Attribute it to spousal jealousy! Point the finger at the predatory nature of men (and aggressive women) who “want only one thing.” Or simply remember that men and women come from different planets and interplanetary friendships have never worked!

Despite the naysayers, what does the research show and what do the experts say? Since I am one of the experts (this was my dissertation topic), I’d like to share my findings with you. Despite the stories of Harry & Sally and Chandler & Monica, men and women can be friends without the relationship transitioning into a sexual one.

In Jane Austen’s time, when men and women lived in separate worlds, their primary attraction to each other was romantic. In today’s world, however, men and women live, work and play together. They are fellow students, colleagues, committee members, bridge buddies, tennis partners and more. This cultural shift has created a new norm in which people generally keep their sexual involvement and friendships separate.

Do some friendships turn into romantic relationships? Yes. And thank goodness for that; it’s been the beginning of many a great marriage.

Issues, however, can become challenging when friends are not on the same page with what the friendship means to them. Or, when the friendship becomes threatening to the committed relationship. When you’ve got a challenge in life, what do you do? Do you give up, saying this is just too difficult, confusing, or baffling for me? Do you avoid the problem, scratch the idea? Or do you deal with the challenge? My take on the matter: deal with it.

Here’s how to do just that:

  • Define the Relationship – All friendships, even same-sex ones, can have ambiguous and changing boundaries. It can be a shock to you when you view Laurie as a close friend, yet her behavior indicates to you that she views you as no more than a co-worker. Or, a friendship that you once considered “near and dear,” has morphed into something more casual. With cross-sex friendships, the ambiguous boundaries can be even more tumultuous. Hence, take the time to define the relationship – both in your own mind and out loud with your friend.
  • Deal with the Attraction – Let’s say both of you do feel physically attracted to each other. Does that doom the friendship or can you learn to live with it? Is there such a thing as harmless flirtation? Innocent sexual bantering? Sexual attraction without the wish to act on it? Some people believe that the only workable cross-sex friendship might be between two homely, asexual people – a nerd and a nun (and an old-fashioned nun at that). Stop fooling yourself. You can be attracted to your friend and choose not to make that attraction the nature of your relationship. Why? Because you are more than your hormones.
  • Respect Others’ Feelings – Other people, particularly spouses/committed partners, may feel threatened by your relationship. Do not discount their feelings. If the shoe were on the other foot, you would probably feel the same way. It is your responsibility to integrate your friendship with your committed relationship. Include your spouse in the friendship. At times, all of you can get together. Or, if you see your friend alone, you can openly discuss what you did, what you spoke about. Out of respect for your spouse, you may decide to alter where and when you interact with your friend. Lunch may be preferable to dinner if you’re leaving your spouse home alone, feeling abandoned.

© 2011
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at