082 Marriage: How the Connection With Your Baby Affects Their Future Marriage – Part 2


Many couples struggle with feeling like there is no resolution to their fights.  Some avoid disagreements at all costs due to their frustration over how arguments in the past were handled. 

Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage
Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage

Today, therapists and hosts of Relationship Helpers Vincent and Laura Ketchie, offer part two of their interview with Christian psychologist and author, Dr. Jesse Gill.  His book, “Face to Face:  Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage”, offers insights into how your attachment style influences how you get along with your mate. 

Be sure to check out Part 1 of our interview where we go in-depth with how your attachment to your parents affects your attachment style! 

Attachment Theory & Your Marriage

"Face To Face T.V."
“Face To Face T.V.”

Attachment is a bonding experience; a tangible experience of love. Each day you need to do “face-to-face t.v.” On a daily basis you need to spend face-to-face time with your spouse, along with “t” for touch and the opportunity to be “v” vulnerable with one another. 

The gold standard is secure attachment.  People who are securely attached are not afraid of abandonment and are able to ask for what they need. They feel comfortable being honest and open about what they need and feel.

If you had a secure attachment to your parents, these skills are available to you. But even if you didn’t, God can create a secure attachment in your marriage. 

“Conflict is always a fight for better emotional connection.”

 We are created for attachment and connection. You may be married to someone who is doing a lot of protesting and they are not tuned into your sensitivity.  You may feel criticized and inadequate.

Others, the protestors, feel abandoned from their detached, avoiding spouse.  The root for both the protestor and the avoider is the loss of connection.


Two Protesters
Two Protesters

A protestor in a relationship is the person who shows a lot of emotion.  They may nag and talk more than their mate. They can be critical and get angry.

They are not protesting their mate. They are protesting the loss of their mate. Their mate is the person they need, they just can’t reach their mate.


The avoider in a relationship may seem to be not responding to the other person’s emotional moments. They may either literally or figuratively leave the scene.

They are “internalizers’.  They have learned that sharing their emotions gets them nowhere. So they have stopped sharing how they feel. They feel that they must rely on themselves. They shut down. That’s how they cope. 

The Vicious Cycle

Struggling couples often are caught in a vicious cycle.  One spouse gets angry (the protestor), turns up the emotional heat and the avoider internalizes it and shuts down. Each spouse is operating out of their attachment style, and it perpetuates a negative cycle.

Neither one is left feeling understood, only more disconnected from their spouse. The protestor’s fear of abandonment is further fueled by the avoider’s distance, and round and round the cycle goes. 

Your Spouse is Not the Bad Guy

50% of couples are the "Protester & Avoider" type
50% of couples are the “Protester & Avoider” type

Instead of identifying your spouse as the problem, Dr. Gill advises looking at the negative cycle as the problem. Conflict is always because one feels abandoned or overwhelmed in some way.  When this goes on too long, couples contact marriage therapists.  

Dr. Gill finds about 50% of the couples that he works are stuck in the “protest/avoid” negative cycle.  Some couples, however, are composed of two protestors.  They may not appear this way at first glance, it is just that one of the spouses have burned out with protesting and have pulled back.

Other couples struggle with a trauma history and can bring a lot of intensity to protect themselves when they are hurting.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Effort

It’s a misconception that having to work on a relationship means that there is no love in it.  In fact, nothing communicates love more to a spouse than when their partner who does not naturally and easily say “I love you” puts forth the extra effort to show their love. 

She found his note to say "I love you" in the sock drawer.
She found his note to say “I love you” in the sock drawer.

Dr. Gill tells of a couple where the wife needed to hear from her husband the words, “I love you.” She lets him know of her need.  A few months pass by and she is putting away laundry and discovers a note tucked away in her husband’s sock drawer.  The note was a reminder for him to tell her that he loved her every day.

She felt more loved because he was being intentional. These words did not come automatically to him, so it meant more to her when she discovered how intentional he had become at communicating his love to her. 

If you know your attachment style, you’re better able to work towards establishing a secure attachment with your spouse. If you know you’re an avoider, you know that you need to take risks by sharing and reaching out to your spouse. If you’re a protestor, you’ll need to bring down the intensity level to a safer setting so that your avoider spouse will feel more apt to share and so that they will feel less overwhelmed.

Three Negative Cycles

The fuel of a negative cycle is two people that want to be able to be connected and are at increasing levels of despair.

1. Protest/Avoid

One spouse is emotional, the other is distant. (See above)

2. Protest/Protest

There is usually a trauma background for both spouses.  Both spouses are emotional. 

3. Avoid/Avoid

The protestor has been trying for so long to communicate with the avoider that they burn out and give up. 

How Marriage Counseling From An Attachment-Focus Can Help

A marriage therapist with a background in Attachment Theory can help a couple by interrupting the negative communication cycle.  The therapist is also able to help the couple to determine their attachment needs.

The therapist can help the couple come towards each other with open hands and open hearts.  The therapist makes them comfortable to come together and have that face-to-face t.v.  The goal of the therapist is to create a safe environment for the couple to be vulnerable with one another. 

Positive Cycle

This is healthy communication between a securely attached couple where each person is able to ask and receive without fear of abandonment or overwhelm. 

Engaging the Avoider

It is important to engage the avoider first to create positive traction. Sometimes this means helping them see what they don’t like, as it is easier to determine what someone does not like first.

This may mean helping them to put words to things such as “I didn’t like how that was furious,” or “I didn’t like how that was fast.”

Speed Round

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?

I’m a recovering avoider. I’m growing into the attachment zone.  My hangup is to be too self-reliant.  That’s very different from “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” where I’m acknowledging my dependence and great need for the Lord. I’m getting better by God’s grace.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Not be defensive, but to stay open and curious.  By being curious, we’re connecting with that inquisitive, playful side I talked about earlier. 

Even though something is confusing, I’m able to find out what’s driving it—what’s driving that in my spouse, what’s driving that in my child, or what’s driving that in me.  Stay open and curious.

Who do you admire other than a biblical figure?

Dr. Carmen Morrison (my marriage therapy mentor who taught me the attachment model) and her husband are doing attachment-based marriage therapy for the poor in the urban slums of Mexico City. It’s a beautiful ministry. 

She’s going to devote the rest of her life to bringing this marriage model to people who desperately need it. The rates of abuse and neglect are much higher there. They have a beautiful marriage, a beautiful ministry and the heart of Jesus beats in both of them.

What is your favorite book other than the Bible and why?

Rabbi Harold Kushner’s “Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.”  The story of Moses and his journey with God—some beautiful imagery of God’s desire for us to make Him our resting place. I plugged a lot of that into “Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage.”

What is your most effective relationship habit?

“I would say I’m a good listener.  A lot of that is how I was raised.  It’s a much bigger risk for me to put my own feelings out there.”

“Through the years I’ve gotten better at being more authentic in my emotional presence—just to show up with others.” 

Parting Wisdom

Remember “face-to-face t.v.” (Face-to-face time, T=touch, V=Vulnerable with one another) Try with your marriage, try with your kids, to bring in that gazing, that touch, that vulnerable sharing in any way you can.

Contact Dr. Jesse Gill:

Learn about his book, workbook, video series, or reach out to ask questions or to request him to do a workshop at your church at www.facetofacemarriage.com .

Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage
Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage

081 Marriage: How the Connection With Your Baby Affects Their Future Marriage – Part 1


Bizarre celebrity parenting techniques seem to be a popular topic in entertainment news.  Practices such as “premastication”, which is a parent pre-chewing food for their children, grab headlines and raise eyebrows. Inevitably, the term “attachment parenting” is unfairly linked to the newest celebrity parenting craze.

As with any concept or belief, people can distort it from its original form. Cockeyed renderings of attachment theory aside, learning the basis of attachment theory and how it applies to our lives can be very helpful in creating healthy, functional relationships.

Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage
Dr. Jesse Gill, author of Face To Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage

Today the Relationship Helpers are pleased to welcome Dr. Jesse Gill to the podcast.  Dr. Gill is a Christian psychologist and author of “Face to Face:  Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage.”  He uses attachment theory as a basis for helping couples overcome harmful communication and behavioral patterns creating secure, healthy marriages. 

Aspects of Attachment

Attachment Theory: Mom & baby

Dr. Gill explains how attachment theory is about bonding and how babies connect to their parents. Fifteen years ago, attachment theory began to come alive for Dr. Gill as he saw how important it was when working with couples.

Along with Dr. Carmen Morrison his mentor, Dr. Gill learned how powerfully attachment theory can be applied to broken relationships.  

Attachment to Our Heavenly Father

These sacred moments that occurred in marriage counseling sessions helped him to see how attachment theory applies our relationship with our heavenly Father. Dr. Gill pored over scripture. He studied the language God uses to speak to us, to establish relationship with us. 

Attachment Theory Speaks to Our Deepest Longing

We long to be connected. We long to be in relationship.

We are not alone. We’re safe, we’re protected, secure. We know this when we know God and his love for us. 

Attachment Theory for Therapists, Attachment Theory for Couples

Dr. Gill’s book is helpful reading for therapists and couples alike. Therapists can use it as a tool to help prevent counter-transference; that is to prevent a therapist from bringing his or her own attachment issues into the counseling process, interfering with the progress of therapy.

Couples will benefit from the book because they can learn their attachment styles. They can see how their style influences the way they communicate, and then make the appropriate changes. 

History of Attachment Theory

British psychologist Dr. Henry Bowlby is the founder of Attachment Theory. He is a pivotal figure in helping us to understand love and connection. He studied orphaned children post-World War 2. 

World War II left many orphans
World War II left many orphans.

Many European children lost their parents during the war. Bowlby wanted to learn why some people bounce back from hardships and why some people do not. Why are some people resilient and why do others struggle?

He identified that children who had significant separation from their caregivers sustained a lot of emotional damage. These children struggled with this for the rest of their lives.

He was one of the first researchers to study psychological theory in “live time.”  Before, most psychologists learned through situations that occurred in the past.  Bowlby studied how children handled hospitalizations in real time.

Bowlby’s Background

Bowlby’s father was the King’s physician in Great Britain, leaving Bowlby in the care of a nanny. He did not have much time or connection with his parents.

When he was four, his nanny died. This probably shaped his curiosity for studying emotional connection and relationships. 

Today’s Science Corroborates With Bowlby’s Theories

Today, brain imaging technologies and brain chemistry studies back up Bowlby’s theories.  He was prophetic and cutting edge in his field. We are wired for attachment.

Today's brain imaging corroborates with Bowlby's theories.
Today’s brain imaging corroborates with Bowlby’s theories.

Parts of the brain do not grow when we do not have connection with parental support early in development.  The bond we have with our parents helps to develop the “calming centers” of the brain.  These calming centers then take the lead in moments when we need to cope. 

If there is a disruption in our attachment with our caregiver(s), then our ability to self-soothe is hampered. The empathy centers and the verbal centers of our brains also hinge on our connection with our caregivers. 

The gazing and sharing we do with our parents early on is essential to our brain development and influences how we interact with people later on. 

After the fall of communism in Romania, hundreds of thousands of children were left orphans.  The orphanages were overwhelmed with children and there were very few caregivers. These children did not have people holding them, looking at them, loving on them. Irreparable brain damage occurred to so many of these children because the window of time that they needed connection the most was filled.

Study of Juvenile Delinquents

In the 1950s, Bowlby studied juvenile delinquents. He compared them to children with emotional problems who had not committed crimes.

Those who committed crimes did not seem to have a conscience. Bowlby found that these children experienced profound maternal separation experiences.

Their empathy did not get created. They did not develop consciences. They did not have the capacity to think of the needs of others and were very much in survival mode.

They basically operated in fight or flight mode because the areas of their brains needed for empathy were not developed. 

Study of Hospitalized Children
Study of Hospitalized Children
Study of Hospitalized Children

In 1952, Bowlby studied children during their hospitalizations. Parents, at that time, were encouraged to drop off children and leave them, during their hospital stays.

It was a misguided recommendation to prevent germs from spreading. Of course, now we see the error in traumatizing an already sick child. 

Bowlby observed and videoed the children’s responses to being left at the hospital on their own.  Three distinct stages occurred when they were separated from their parents:  Protest, Despair, and Detachment.

Three Stages of Separation:  


Protest: (Days 1-3) The child is very upset, inconsolable and angry. They are “pitching a fit”. They are displaying a lot of emotion and energy.


Despair:  (Days 3-5)  The child has become emotionally tired and is sad and mournful.  The intensity has come down and they feel that their parents aren’t coming back.

They are more subdued. They still long for connection.


Detachment:  (Days 5-7) The child re-engages with the nursing staff, but when the parents come back, the kids are strangely detached. At this point they have become mistrustful of connection and focus on being self-sufficient. 

Dr. Gill describes Proverb 13: 12, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  These kids hearts have become self-reliant and have hardened their hearts towards others. 

The Follow Up
Many of the children "perked back up."
Many of the children “perked back up.”

Bowlby followed up with these children a few weeks later and found that most of the children had “perked back up”. The takeaway from this study is that if short-term separation has this short-term effect, imagine the impacts of significant separation and trauma. 

Bowlby found that children that had prolonged hospital stays and/or numerous stays struggled more.  They had experienced getting attached to several different caregivers only to lose those caregivers. Their hopes had been dashed often.  Unlike the children with short-term stays, those with the traumatic experiences fared worse. 

Bowlby learned from this study that disconnection is bad. When we feel disconnected from a loved one, we act out.  Depending on how early on we are in the sequence, some of us are stuck in a protest mode, others in a despair mode, and yet others are in detachment mode. 

Secure Attachment

We’re created for connection—attachment.  Dr. Gill finds that there are three ingredients needed for secure attachment, denoted by “Face-To-Face TV.”

Children need “face-to-face” time with their parents. This means parents need to look into their faces and track their eyes.

The “T” is for touching them and holding them, responding to them when they are in distress, as well as cuddling with them and playing with them.

The “V” is for vulnerable sharing of emotion.  These are parents that are in tune with their child’s emotions and are able to engage them on an emotional level.  This means being able to identify the child’s feelings and put words to them out loud.  This could sound like, “Oh, I see you’re sad right now, come here and I’ll give you a hug.”  

Secure attachment is established when children receive this combination of parental involvement and caring. Children and adults need to know that they are loved and that someone “has their back.”  This develops confidence, and they can face the world. They are more likely to take the necessary risks that are needed to grow. 

The Strange Situation

Similar to Bowlby, Dr. Mary Ainsworth studied attachment in children.  She led experiments that were more short term. These were called “The Strange Situation.” 

Children with secure attachment give little protest.
Children with secure attachment give little protest.

She studied how children would respond to being away from their mothers in three minute bursts. A room was set up with a mother, her child and a female graduate student.  The mother and child would play a few minutes and then the mother would leave.

Psychologists behind a one-way mirror observed the quality of play between the mother and child before she left, and when she returned. A certain level of protest was not uncommon in the children when their mothers left.

For the securely attached child, he had such a nice play sequence with his mother before she left that he responded by having little protest.  He was able to settle back down. When she returned, he was happy to see her.  

Children with insecure attachments, those who were protestors, had a different experience.  Even with the mother in the room, these children were clingy and unsure that she would really be there for her. 

They weren’t good when she was in the room, and they are even worse when she’s gone. It’s kind of a tug-of-war.  They don’t know whether to hug her or clobber her. They don’t know where they stand consistently.  They are concerned about abandonment. 

Attachment In Marriage

Insecure attachment in childhood influences someone’s sense of security in adulthood. This is why learning about attachment theory is important when it comes to marriage.

Clinginess, and controlling and demanding behaviors are rooted in insecure attachments.  Dr. Gill explains this is why some people don’t feel good even when they are with their loved ones. They don’t know when they will be abandoned again. Anxiety is at the core. 


Protest behaviors manifest as controlling and demanding behaviors.  This person may have a hard time sharing their spouse with other people, because they are afraid of being abandoned. 


During the “Strange Situation” study, Ainsworth found some children who were aloof with their mothers prior to their mothers leaving and remained this way when she returned.

These children are shut down.  They don’t show emotions. These children have concluded that it does not matter what they say or do – no one is going to respond.

These children have learned that they have to go it alone.  They are avoiders. They do not bring their hopes and needs forward. They are internalized, low energy at times. 


The gold standard is secure attachment.  Unlike someone with protest tendencies, the securely attached person is able to cope with the absence of their loved one in an emotionally connected way.  This is different from the detached person who copes with the absence by avoiding their feelings. 

Secure attachment is in the middle of a continuum. Protest is at one end and detached at the other.  Protestors are clingy, demanding controlling and are on one end of the spectrum and detached people are avoiders who are internalized, shut down and low energy. Securely attached people receive, explore and ask.

Join us next week when we talk more with Dr. Gill about how you can learn how to develop a securely attached marriage!





Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage
Face To Face: Seven Keys To a Secure Marriage

072 Dating: Do They Put You On a Pedestal?


We all make mistakes.  People are fallible. Laura jokes that she forgot to turn on her microphone for this episode’s introduction. Vincent quips that he’s given her grace over the faux pas. 

8 Warning Signs That You Might Need To Break Up

In this spirit, today we look at what happens when a significant other places their partner on a pedestal, instead of acknowledging their significant other’s foibles.  Today’s advice is offered for dating couples, not married couples, as we continue our series, “Eight Warning Signs You Might Need to Break Up.

Knocked Off the Pedestal

Vincent starts with a story about his cousins Phil and Chuck when they were little. Two older cousins were babysitting them one day.  Phil and Chuck were in the backseat of the car talking.

Chuck reads signs off the highway and the older cousins are impressed. He then shows off his skills at reciting the alphabet backwards, rapid fire. 

His older cousins are impressed and praise him for his knowledge. Phil retorts “Oh, yeah, well he eats boogers!” Phil had to take him off his pedestal. 

Let’s Talk About This Unhealthy “Pedestal Making”

Cute kid stories aside, are you putting the person you’re dating on a pedestal or are they putting you on a pedestal?

Warning:   If you say any of these things, or any of these things are said about you, there are some unhealthy things going on in your relationship!

The following statements, although unhealthy, are often heard in movies and tv. 

Some Warning Statements:  

1.) You’re the man/woman of my dreams. (You make my dreams come true.)

This is the final episode in the 8 part series, "8 Warning Signs You May Need To Break Up." Is your boyfriend or girlfriend always making statements like "You're too good for me," or "I'll never live up to you"? Whoa, take a step back! Vincent and Laura discuss how this can be unhealthy and how to address it.
“Man of Your Dreams”

Our dreams are ideals, pillars of perfection, they are not reality. Telling someone that they are the person of your dreams is saying that they are not real. If you catch yourself saying this, it is important to recognize how this person meets your needs and tell them how they are good to you. An example would be “Wow, you were being so thoughtful when you…”

2.) You are perfect.

Laura mentions that she often hears this statement from people that she counsels. When someone enters therapy for relationship issues, it is not uncommon for them to start out by saying, “I don’t know what happened!  They were so perfect!” Really, these people were living a short-lived fantasy.  They were unable to see the person’s faults. 

3.) Making too strong of a positive comparison between you and their same sex parent.

Again, this is a common occurrence seen in couple’s counseling. So much friction occurs because this comparison has been made. It leaves a partner feeling like they are forced to live up to someone else’s way of life and they cannot be themselves.

You Complete Me
You Complete Me

4.) You complete me. 

We joke about this one frequently.  Austin Powers referenced this classic “Jerry Maguire” line when Dr. Evil said “Mini Me, you complete me!” Even other movies are able to poke fun at how unhealthy rom-coms can be. Jerry is pretty much married to his work, then he begins a relationship with his secretary.  He trades one unhealthy habit (workaholism) for a codependent one with his secretary. It sends the message that people are incomplete without other people and it forces an unrealistic burden on the partner. 

5.) I never meet up to you.

Pitting your significant other against yourself, making a comparison that finds one “better” than the other.  An example in marriage would be making the statement, “I married up.” 

6.) You’re too good for me.

"You're Too Good For Me."
“You’re Too Good For Me.”

In his book “Wild at Heart,” author John Eldredge discusses an encounter he had with a woman who he had given relationship advice.  She had been in a relationship with a man who made frequent statements about her being so wonderful.  He would say things like “I’ll never meet up to you. I’ll never be as good as you are.”  In her maturity, she could see how unhealthy that was and she broke up with him. She was healthy enough to recognize that he was not loving who she was genuinely as a person.  He was loving his version of her— a fantasy version.  He was projecting a fantasy on her. 

7.) I can’t live without you.

This one may sound sweet, but it is terribly codependent and unhealthy.  It is like the parasite needs the host.  It puts unforeseen pressure on the receiver as it “hooks” them with an internal dialogue of “What have I got to do to take care of them?” The healthy counterpart to this is the relationship where both parties complement one another, not relying solely on the other person for certain things. Some couples who struggle when there is an irresponsible party involved may particularly fall into this trap.  Be sure to reference episode 065 “Are They Responsible Enough”, if you need more help with dealing with an irresponsible significant other. 

Results of Putting Someone on Pedestal

1.) Pressure to be perfect

Pressure To Be Perfect
Pressure To Be Perfect

The receiver of the compliment feels pressure to maintain an extravagant level of perfection that creates a huge emotional burden on themselves and it feeds the compliment giver’s fantasy every time they over-perform.  It’s not fair to do this to someone.  In essence, they are wanting the other person to be God to them.  In ways they are idolizing the other person and placing them on a level above God.  

2.) Feel like you have to live up to their expectation

The compliment receiver then feels a need to live up to a God-like expectation. You can’t make a mistake.  It creates so much anxiety.  If you’ve been told you are perfect for so long and then you fail, make a mistake, or don’t perform greatly, it can cause a big let down for the compliment giver and a lot of anxiety for the compliment receiver. 

3.) When they fail, big emotional whiplash for other person


The person that used to believe that their significant other is perfect will be in for a huge shock. This expectation of the other person has created a conditional love. (That is, the significant other must be a certain way to be loved.)

The person on the pedestal will feel that he must always be on his “A game”, must always hit the home runs.  He may not feel loved for who he is. This flies in the face of wedding vows (for when the time comes).  They read, “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad,” meaning that there is no condition placed on our love for our loved one. 

4.) Feel like you can’t be yourself  

You can’t relax. You are not being received as who you really are. You’re performing and putting on a facade. 

5.) Huge emotional burden

Huge Emotional Burden
Huge Emotional Burden

This is very draining to the person on the pedestal. You must always be “on” with them, continually acting. This is very damaging to a relationship.  It drains your resources too, leaving little energy left to put into the relationship.

6.) You’re taking too much responsibility

Not only is being on a pedestal an emotional burden, it is a physical one, as well. If you are in a relationship, it is important to ask yourself, “Am I taking responsibility for how my significant other feels?”  

7.) Not seeing the person for who they are

This is a recipe for failure. Putting your significant other on a pedestal is not realistic, and when this person fails, you probably won’t have the relationship skills to deal with the failure. It will be difficult to process. 


Don’t let a statement like “I can’t live without you” pass without addressing it. If your significant other says “I can’t live without you,” it will be important to ask, “When you say ‘I can’t live without you,’ what did you mean?”  It’s important to understand what their motives are for saying these things.  

Many times, they are not particularly thinking through what they are saying.  Their statements are often influenced by what they have heard others say, our culture, movies, and even their hormones. 

Sweetie Let’s Have A Talk…

If you find that they want to continue placing you on a pedestal, it will be important for you to tell them that you want a genuine relationship – that you need to have an understanding between the two of you of what that looks like. 

Don’t think that you can marry someone and then “change them.” Having discussions like those just described is a healthy approach to being transparent in a relationship. 

Where Is God In Your Relationships?

God is our ultimate measure in everything.  We are usurping God when we place a human in His role.

Go back and look at “Results of placing someone on a pedestal” found above, and put God in the place of your significant other in each of these instances. You will then be re-prioritizing your life in a healthy way. 


071 Dating: Are They Always Wanting To Know Where You Are?


8 Warning Signs That You Might Need To Break Up

This morning on the way to work, Vincent and Laura were humored by the song on the radio, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police.  Of course the song is better known for it’s catchy and creepy tagline, “I’ll Be Watching You.” Ironically, this is the focus of today’s episode of our series, “Eight Warning Signs You Might Need to Break Up.”

Does your significant other check up on you too much or want to know what you are doing too much? What is appropriate? 

1. Appropriate

Healthy contact is checking in one to three times per day.  Of course, there are extenuating circumstances that can alter these numbers one way or the other. The number of times you check in with each other has to be tailor-made to your relationship.

Appropriate Cellphone Contact

If you find that there is too much checking in, explain it to the other person. If they respect what you say, then it is appropriate.  It’s very important that the amount you check in be communicated, not assumed. 

Boundaries have to be discussed.  It may look something like, “I appreciate that you care so much for me.  I can best be reached at (fill in the blank) time, otherwise I won’t be able to respond.”

This conversation needs to occur with sensitivity, open body language and a positive tone of voice. Make sure you have this particular conversation FACE TO FACE. Don’t let your intentions get lost in translation through texts, emails or phone calls. 

2. Inappropriate

Constant contact is unhealthy. Another red flag is when your significant other wants you to change your decisions/behaviors based upon them, even when it does not involve them.  (Note that we are talking about appropriate behaviors – not inappropriate/sinful behaviors like sexual addictions, gambling, substance abuse, womanizing, video game addiction, etc.)

Cellphone talking

In essence, they are controlling you. If they make demands such as telling you not to spend time with your friends or family or demand that you should not participate in certain healthy activities, they very well could be controlling you. Other examples may be, “You should only drive this route…” or go this way home. 

If you have communicated what is acceptable and they continue to contact too much or not respect your boundaries, it is inappropriate. They may not be a healthy choice for you.

3. Controlling Behavior

The person experiencing controlling behavior is emotionally burdened. There is no freedom.  The controller eliminates all of the healthy options from their loved one.

The controlling behavior creates an unhealthy dependence upon the controller. In these types of abusive relationships, it’s not uncommon for the controlling person to alienate their significant other from good, healthy influences.

They limit the decisions you can make.  They are taking your power away. This is terribly unhealthy. You’re losing YOURSELF in this relationship.

4. Possessive Behavior

Vincent gives the example of a single dad playing video games with his child. He’s focused on what he’s doing and does not notice that his girlfriend has texted him as his phone has fallen in-between the seat cushions of his couch. 

Of course, he plays the video game, and has a good time for a few hours.  Because he did not respond to the text she sent him, his girlfriend continues to text him. She breaks up with him during this barrage of texts that he has not even seen.  

A lot of assumptions took place in this scenario. And much of the unhealthiness centers around thinking that you’re supposed to be glued at the hip if not always in touch. 

Often possessive behavior could be accompanied by physical abuse or could lead to physical abuse. Those in these relationships feel isolated and trapped, whether or not they want to admit it.  

Healthy relationships are marked by trust.  It’s trusting that you believe your significant other when they say that they are doing what they say they are doing. It’s not putting tracking devices on vehicles. 


This series is geared specifically to those in DATING relationships or for parents who are preparing themselves for the day that their child begins to date.

We hope that you have found today’s episode helpful!  Check out next week’s episode when we talk about the pitfalls of being put on a pedestal in a relationship.

070 Dating: Do They Apologize?



8 Warning Signs That You Might Need To Break Up

Welcome to Relationship Helpers!  If you are joining us for the first time today, you are catching us in the midst of our dating series, “Eight Warning Signs You Might Need to Break Up.”  Today we discuss if your significant other apologizes and changes their behavior after their apology. Your hosts, Vincent and Laura, are marriage therapists and have been married thirteen years.


Laura begins with a situation that happened just last night.  Vincent arrived home after each of them had a L-O-N-G day.  He greets Laura with a hurried, Hi, I love you. DID YOU GET THE MAIL?” Laura was upset by his obvious agenda. 

It seemed more important to ask her about the mail than to wish her a warm, affectionate greeting. Vincent explains that there had been a few evenings where the garage door was left open because he had forgotten to shut it because Laura had already gotten the mail, and that was why he greeted her the way he did. 

Laura encourages Vincent to consider how he would have felt if he were in her shoes.  Vincent is able to reflect how disingenuous the greeting would sound to him. 

Even though the Relationship Helpers are marriage therapists, they still have to work on communication—especially in moments where they are tired! Vincent notes how we addressed the situation last night and how because we are able to communicate our feelings, it did not become a cause for resentment later. 


In coming up with this episode, Vincent and Laura had trouble coming up with situations where they had offenses against one another because they have become adept at communicating well when their feelings have been hurt. This means a lot of conflict resolution skills have been acquired. 

It has not happened overnight, however.  If you had interviewed them earlier in their marriage, it would be a totally different story. You can overcome conflict by learning how to communicate more clearly. 

Do They Apologize?

The ability to apologize and change behavior after the offense; to improve interactions later, is important.  Is your mate FAT (Faithful, Attentive, Teachable)?  This is an old acronym about how to be a good disciple, but this also makes a good spouse.


070 Dating: Do They Apologize?
Self-Assessment Barometer

Laura mentions how there has been a shift in focus by educators and parents towards self-esteem in children and how that it has backfired. It’s created a false sense of self. Rather than improving character, it has created a few generations of people lacking in empathy. 

As a result, we have a large population of people unable to be in healthy relationships. Kids grow into adults who have not been given a measured sense of reality. They’ve not been given opportunities to learn from failure.

Instead of always praising them, they need healthy, constructive criticism so that they can learn to measure themselves, rather than thinking they are the greatest at everything they do. (Say bye-bye to participation trophies!)  Then they will learn how to accurately assess themselves, having developed a barometer for their performance and abilities.


Steps of an Apology
Steps of an Apology

How does this pertain to apologizing?  When you are able to be self-critical in a non-judgmental way, you’re able to 1.) recognize when you’ve hurt someone, 2.) accept it, 3.) acknowledge it, 4.) be direct with the person you’ve hurt, 5.) explain how you’ve done it, and then 6.) show them how you’re going to change so it does not happen again.

These different components of an apology get lost in someone who has not learned to accept their failures and mistakes. 

Why Don’t People Apologize?



Pride— It can be particularly difficult for men to admit they are wrong.  They are afraid they will lose respect. Men really value respect. Men have a fear of being controlled. They feel like they have to be “big decision-maker”, not asking for help as should. (Think the man who won’t ask for directions.) 

It is difficult for women to admit they are wrong because may feel that they are losing control. They may be afraid of being “used.”

Another Therapist In The Wrong

Vincent references the book “Making Magnificent Marriages” by Dr. Jared Pingleton.  In it, Dr. Pingleton describes a time where he is watching a baseball game on tv. His wife approaches him and begins to talk. She is upset as he did not appear to hear her (he did not look at her while she was talking.)  Afterwards, Dr. Pingleton told her what she said verbatim.  During the next game, he had to prove a point to her.  He put two tvs together and watched two games at once.  He kept box score tallies up for both games at the same time to show her he was able to pay attention to two things at once.  

Ladies hearing this will find this absurd and can understand Ms. Pingleton’s continued dismay. Dr. Pingleton didn’t get the point—he obviously does now, as he is a couple’s therapist and is an expert on communication and sees the errors of his ways!  In other words, he learned that his body language needed to be validating to her. First, he had to get past his pride that he could prove to her that he could listen to her and a baseball game at the same time. 

Loss Of Respect?

For men, apologizing can really feel like a loss of respect.  For women, however, apologizing feels like they are losing control.  Women have a tendency to be more on top of keeping home-life together, and don’t like it if they don’t seem “put together.” They may take it to heart, feeling that they are a bad mother or bad wife. 

Another reason some women struggle with apologizing is that they have experienced trauma or have been “burned” in other relationships.  Sometimes this means they hide behind this tough facade to hide any sense of vulnerability.


Women Need To Hear "I'm sorry"
Women Need To Hear “I’m sorry”

“Women need to hear “I’m sorry.” They are wired to need “peace” in the relationship. They need resolution between parties.  There is a biological difference in how women are “wired.” Generally speaking, men are built with greater upper body strength and larger statures. 

In the Bible it says that violent men take by force. Men have a tendency to do more damage. However, Dr. Jordan Petersen says that women are more likely to be aggressive in relationships.  When a man is aggressive, it’s likely to be more damaging.

World Is More Dangerous For Women

The world is more dangerous for women.  Laura describes a message that went viral recently on social media.  A sociologist stood in front of a white board and asked a large room full of men what they do to avoid getting sexually assaulted.  The room was quite for a moment. One person jokingly stated, “Don’t go to prison.” That was their only answer. 

The sociologist asked the same question to a room full of women, and the women completely filled his white board up with things women do to prevent sexual assault. Women face the threats of pregnancy and many times the results of STDs are more damaging to women. 

Female Nervous Systems Not Adapted For Women, But For Babies

Further, women’s nervous systems are adapted to the survival of babies. it’s meant to help them communicate with the infant. Women are sensitive to environmental threats in order to care and protect children. Women are the emotional barometers of relationships. They need their partners to be vulnerable. 


Some people “over-apologize”. It can be received much like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

Apology Worn Out

The value of the apology lessens when someone apologizes too much.  Over-apologizing may be a habit, but to the listener, resentment builds because these apologies seem meaningless.

Consider Other’s View Point

They need to consider how the other person feels about hearing so many apologies. In other words, they need to put themselves in the shoes of the person who hears all of these apologies.  Also, they need to re-evaluate their apologies based on whether they are actually changing their behavior after the apology.  


Conflict Resolution
Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution—If you’re dating someone who is unable to apologize and/or unable to change their behavior after an apology, it is a predictor that the future of your relationship is troubled.

Understanding Where They Are Right & Where They Are Wrong

If they apologize, they can recognize their part in the conflict. Maybe the fact was right, but method of presenting wrong. A “right” apology means changed behavior. 

Address The Concern

If there is a lack of apology and/or changed behavior, it will be important to address it.  Starting a conversation with “I’ve noticed that when I tell you that you’ve said something to hurt my feelings you don’t change that…” 

How your partner responds to this conversation could tell you how teachable they are—how willing they are to bend.  Ask yourself “Should I be in a relationship with a person who is unwilling to be in a healthy relationship?” 

Be ready to say I’m not ready to make this a committed relationship until changes are made. Be prepared for your mate to continue to make mistakes after apologies. Having the conversation about apologies and changed behaviors is an ongoing thing. It is not something that happens once and is perfected. 


If you’re dating or a parent anticipating the dating years for your child, we hope that you’ve gained some new tips and insights into this very important topic. Be sure to check into our next episode when we discuss when your boyfriend or girlfriend excessively checks up on you.