Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Please Visit Us At Our New Home....

We've got a new website. You'll find our blog there and interesting new articles. Don't worry, all the blogs posts from the past are there too! Please drop by, we'd love to see you there.


(click here)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Building Better Boundaries - Part 2 - Of Sausages and Picket Fences (by Ron)

In the previous Boundaries post, I talked about sausages and picket fences. Those are the metaphors Gayle and I developed to help us understand the function of our personal boundaries. Both have as their principle metaphorical function the free, but managed flow of ideas, actions, beliefs, etc. into and out of our personal space.

We don't always manage to protect that flow and sometimes find our boundaries have been breached before we even know it. We must first know how that happens before we can correct it. In this post I want to take the topic further by listing various types of boundaries and posing some questions below each one. Hopefully these will help you identify actions or beliefs that prevent you from properly protecting the integrity of your sausages and picket fences.

Emotional Boundaries - Do you...
  • Minimize or withhold your feelings to avoid conflict? I've found I usually feel even worse if I do this. After all, I can't avoid the conflict inside me.
  • Feel you have the right to hurt someone back when they hurt you rather than dealing with the pain directly? This approach doesn't work to get me what I need to feel better. Instead I usually end up feeling even more pain because I don't like myself for being so dishonest.
  • Believe your happiness depends on others? For argument's sake let's say this is true. Doesn't that mean you can be only as happy as they are? That's a risk I don't want to take.
  • Pick people who hurt you emotionally? You may find yourself going from one emotionally distant or unavailable relationship to another. This is a boundary many of my clients have failed to protect.
  • Feel ashamed of who you are? We are responsible for our own feelings of worthiness. I can feel shame for something I might have done and still protect my good feelings about who I am.
Intellectual Boundaries - Do you...
  • Let other people's actions, words, and attitudes determine your behaviors, words, and or attitudes? What better example can I use than the current presidential campaign? The hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent to get our vote are shameless, but often work.
  • Have difficulty making up your mind? I'm surprised at how easy it is for me to make the big decisions, like on cars or houses, and how difficult it is to make a decision about where to eat dinner. That may sound a little silly but patterns of poor decision making often become huge problems in relationships.
  • Find it easier to go along with others than to disagree? When your friends want to do A and you want to do B, who wins? You do if you make your decision based on your needs and beliefs. "Going along" for the sake of not making waves is not the same as going after making a purposeful decision.
  • Trust others' beliefs and knowledge more than yours? I may know something that you don't. I probably have beliefs that differ from yours in some way. That does not make me your expert. Only you know what you know. Sound silly? It isn't. We all need to get feedback sometimes, but ultimately we need to trust ourselves.
  • Ever tell yourself "I am not sure what I know? When I feel unsure of myself I first take the time to look within to see if I can determine the source of my self-doubt. If this isn't enough, I go outside of myself to study and/or seek help to find the knowledge I am missing.
Spiritual Boundaries - Do you...
  • Have difficulty knowing your spiritual nature and beliefs? Surrounded by so many religious organizations our challenge is to search within for our spirituality and to know it for ourselves. I learned what I now know in a secular workshop. You will learn what you know in your own way if you refuse to give up the search.
  • Find it easier to go along with the beliefs of your family than to disagree? As a child I was taught what to believe. As an adult I had to learn what I believe. Disagreeing with the family was never easy, but it was certainly necessary for me.
  • Are you afraid if you believe differently than your family they will no longer love you? You may have to take that chance when you make your own spiritual decision. I believe love will win out if it was real before you made your decision.
  • What if your beliefs are wrong? Only you and your higher power know if you are right. Allowing fear to keep you from believing will only make your search more difficult. After all, only your "faith" can prove your "beliefs" and even then, only to you.
  • Do you think it's not OK to have your own beliefs? Whether surrounded by love or not we are on this spiritual journey alone. When it comes to spirituality and other beliefs you are very fortunate - only you can know what's right for you.
Physical Boundaries -Do you...
  • Believe other peoples' needs are more important than yours? I knew a man in my home town who placed his mother's needs before his until she died. At the age of 45 he finally started dating and eventually married. By the way, his mother was never ill, just demanding.
  • Allow others to violate your privacy? I believe many people are naturally inquisitive and don't recognize boundaries. Intruding on your private thoughts, writings or areas just seem to come naturally. If you don't protect your privacy, they will certainly continue to intrude.
  • Pick people who hurt you physically? How many times have we heard "he didn't mean to, he loves me" as the partner explains away the behavior of his or her abuser? Both of them need to learn how to deal with their pathology. Most don't. This is a pattern you can break with help.
  • Feel ashamed of your physical self? Your physical appearance is rarely the issue here. You see what you feel, not what is real. Getting to know yourself is much more important than the right clothes, losing weight, applying makeup, or getting the perfect haircut.
  • Have difficulty saying either "no" or "yes" in sexual situations? Saying "yes" in the appropriate situations can be as meaningful as a well-placed "no!" To most of us our sexuality is the ultimate boundary and deserves to be both protected and enjoyed.
Other Boundaries - Do you...
  • Feel if only _______would happen it would change your life and you would finally be happy? And what if it doesn't? In most cases the changes never happen or aren't sufficient to "make you happy." On the other hand, you changing that belief can work wonders with your happiness.
  • Accept limitations with "this is just the way I am?" Then that's just the way you will stay - limited. "I can be more" is so easy to say. Try it on and see what happens.
  • Get your feelings hurt easily? I normally don't have to look too deeply inside to learn why my feelings are hurting. With that knowledge I can begin to deal with the pain. Without it I just hurt.
  • Feel different? Well, rejoice! You are! Seriously though, you are! Sometimes I'm told I enjoy my difference too much. Most times I just love knowing I am completely unique in this world. So are you. It's all perception.
  • Feel generally fearful? Fear is always about the future. Since it is in the future you still have choices. As long as there are choices you still have hope.
For most of us repairing and maintaining our boundaries is the most valuable work we will ever do. It seems as if the "world" goes out of its way to violate or intrude upon our boundaries. We are the only ones who can maintain and protect them. Although it is good to seek assistance, we must ultimately do the hard work ourselves. I will talk more about that work in future blogs about this topic.

Read Part One

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our Book Recommendations


No book is the right book for everyone. You can tell it's the right book for you when you pick it up and can't put it down. Even in a great self-help book, you'll find parts to which you don't relate. Skip those sections. If you can't get into the book, then don't read it. We've put down many books only to find them again at a later more appropriate time. Don't feel obligated to read a book from cover to cover. Skip around if it keeps you more interested. If a book is recommended to you by three or more people, you're probably getting a cosmic shoulder tap and might want to pay attention!


Though the husband is 14 or more years older than the wife in nearly 900,000 American marriages and the number of women marrying younger men is rapidly on the rise, there isn't a single, solitary book out there addressing the May-December relationship. While we are writing our book, this website responds to the needs of age gap couples by providing tips, tools, and secrets for creating -- and sustaining --a successful romance in all seasons.


  • You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
    Read this book when you find yourself in recurring negative patterns and want to get unstuck. This book is especially helpful for people with health problems.
  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, By Susan Jeffers
    Read this when worry, anxiety, and/or a lack of self-confidence keep you from being the person you want to be.
  • The Invitation by Oriah
    Read this book when you are struggling with the ups and downs of life.
  • Family Secrets: The Path from Shame to Healing by John Bradshaw
    Read this book when you find yourself acting out with negative and/or destructive behaviors and you don't understand why.
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
    Read this book when you are in an intense transitional period in your life.
  • The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Middle Age by Marianne Williamson
    Read this when you are looking for understanding and peace regarding your mid-life changes.
  • The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living The Art of Allowing by Esther and Jerry Hicks
    Read this book when you want to make changes or create new ways of living.


  • Mars and Venus: Starting Over by John Gray
    Read this when you have lost a loved one through death or break-up. It is designed to help you grieve your losses and re-enter the dating world.
  • Are You The One For Me by Barbara DeAngelis
    Read this BEFORE you start the search for a mate.
  • In The Meantime by Iyanla VanSant
    Read this when you are in a transitional period and want to "find" yourself, heal your wounds, and stop repeating old patterns.
  • He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, and Lauren Moncik
    Read this if you repeatedly pick the wrong men.


  • Men are from Mars - Women are from Venus by John Gray
    Read this when you are frustrated with your mate and want to understand how to improve your relationship.
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
    Read this when you are in ANY relationship. Even if you do not identify with Christian authors, the information in this book is simple, straightforward, and a must read for everyone.
  • After The Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful by Janis Abrahms Spring and Michael Spring.
    Read this if you are trying to heal your relationship after an affair has occurred.
  • Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate Intimate Lovemaking by Pat Love
    Read this when your relationship has lost it's sexual zip. This in NOT just a "how to" manual. It will help you understand the sexual dynamics in long term monogamous partnerships.
  • All Night Long: How to Make Love to a Man over 50 by Barbara Keesling
    Read this when you and your partner are dealing with the symptoms of aging included erectile dysfunction. This is NOT just a how to manual. It provides useful information about the mechanics of a man's body and the impact of wear and tear on his sexual functioning. It also suggests many useful techniques and tricks!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yes, Age Gaps Can be a Problem... (By Ron)

...but like any other relationship problem this too can be managed. When Gayle and I started out we didn't think too much about the age difference. 15 years when you are in your 20s and 30s don't seem like such a big deal. Of course there were lots of age related decisions we've had to make throughout our relationship and we'll talk about some of those in future blogs. This one is about the fact that aging happens.

Over the years we have managed to live life at much the same speed. As the saying goes, she kept me young. Hiking and walking (particularly in Yellowstone and Europe) are two of our favorite pastimes and they require at least a modicum of conditioning, particularly for me.

It's no secret that I celebrated my 65th birthday in December of last year. As I have aged I seldom thought much about the years that were passing. 65 wasn't a terribly significant number until I had an accident with a ladder on December 29th which resulted in the mother of sprained ankles. It has taken years and lots of abuse for my knees to get into their bad shape. It took only a few seconds for my ankle to become a significant physical liability.

So, here we are in August and my ankle is still an issue. My orthopod says the relatively slow healing process has something to do with the numbers in my birthdate field on his intake sheet. In other words, I don't heal like I did when I was in my twenties. All at once I am at risk for being unable to hike and walk long distances like I love so much.

Gayle is 15 years younger than me. Although she has her own ankle problems she is in better shape than I and we both know it. You already know the story of our recent trip to Yellowstone. We learned a great lesson on that trip. Acceptance. Yep, it's that simple. Now I don't mean I will be accepting my conditioning as is, that's not the point. The point is that our age differences are real and require more attention than I have given them in the past.

No, I don't heal as I did in my twenties and I didn't climb Mount Washburn as quickly as I have in the past. What I have to continue to remind myself is that I still have some control over these issues. With proper care and attention to my physical conditioning I can continue to be as active as I've been for all of my life - maybe just not as quickly.

There's no question that aging is a factor in any age-gap relationship. How you deal with it makes all the difference in the world in how the relationship endures. Keep in mind that it isn't only the younger person who has to learn to accept his or her partner. There is also the possibility that the older partner will have difficulty accepting the age difference. After all, I remember how much I could do when I was 50. I won't be 50 again. I'm not able to do as much at 65. That pisses me off sometimes. That's OK, too. In the final analysis it isn't always the age differences or differences in capabilities that matter. It's how they are accepted, understood and dealt with by both partners.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Let's Talk About ED (by Ron & Gayle)

Allrighty then, shall we talk about ED (as in Bob Dole and Viva Viagra - not the talking horse Mr. Ed)? Katie Couric made history having her colonoscopy filmed to help people get comfortable with discussing colons. So we’re going to plunge into the topic of erectile dysfunction (ED) right here right now. Let’s get blogging!

Gayle posted an answer to a question in a May-December forum to which she belongs. The question was about how age gapped couples were dealing with ED. The couple wanted to try other options before getting a prescription medication. Our experience and training tell us that you don’t have to have a significant age difference or be a senior citizen to encounter ED. We’ll talk more about this topic in future blogs. For now, here is the text of Gayle’s answer.

First of all, I know this can be a tough one for both of you. I’m glad you can come here for some advice. Anyone who has been there knows the stress of ED just compounds the problem. Here’s what I’ve got to share on the subject:

1. Even if you partner is under age 50, this book has some wonderful information in it…

All Night Long: How to Make Love to a Man Over 50

2. Talk to a doctor, you’ve always got to rule out “mechanical” issues.

3. Search on Yohimbine and see what you think. It’s available in places like Vitamin World and I know some urologists prescribe it for men with ED.

4. Alcohol makes it worse - not better as many people think.

5. Talking about the situation is best done OUTSIDE the bedroom, but talking about it when you are NOT trying to have sex can be very helpful.

6. Be gentle with each other. It’s happening to both of you. How you deal with each other in the beginning can have a marked impact on future sexual encounters.

7. It’s okay to get help. Talk to a therapist (either one or both of you.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Building Trust (by Gayle)

The key is to trust people to be who they are. Instead we trust people
to be who want them to be, and when they aren’t we cry.
~David Duchovny

I just posted an entry about building trust on the website for my counseling practice. It is so relevant to relationship building, I decided to share the link here. The question “how do I build trust/faith in myself” was posed to me. Read the answer here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Building Better Boundaries - Part 1 (by Ron)

This is the first installment of a series about boundaries. In it I hope to introduce you to our concept of boundaries. The first thing I did was to ask the internet to help me define boundaries. It’s not as simple as you might think. In fact, according to the magic of Google the list is almost endless. Here are a very few of the more interesting definitions:

  • According to worldnet.princeton.edu a boundary is “the line or plane indicating the limit or extent of something.” I kind of like that one since it includes limits.

  • In en.wikipedia.org, as used in Topology (a made-up word for Geometry?) a boundary has something to do with “a subset S of a topological space X is the set of points which can be approached…” The remainder just gets worse but it reminded me of how confused many of us are about our boundaries so I included it.

  • And this definition from dakotapathways.org says it like I think it should be said. A boundary “indicates a border or a limit.” A Limit, again! That’s what we all strive to develop in our lives from the first breath we draw until the last – Limits!
This and following installments will strive to help you understand your boundaries, or lack thereof, and hopefully, how to improve them. So what are your personal boundaries? Your skin is one. It helps keep out illness, among other things. Your beliefs are boundaries. They protect you in many ways and are constantly being bombarded by outside (and inside) forces. The physical space around you is a boundary. Your physical body is also a boundary.

Over the years as we spoke about boundaries in our workshops, Gayle and I developed two quite different metaphors that reach the same conclusion. Gayle likes to explain boundaries with a sausage link metaphor. When you put a whole sausage into a pan or skillet with other foods the permeable casing (boundary) allows flavors to pass both ways, into and out of the sausage. This blending of tastes enhances the flavors of all the foods involved. No one taste overwhelms the other. When you take the sausage out of the casing and cook with it, it loses its shape and form. It's flavor adds to the dish but you can no longer tell where the sausage begins or end.

I prefer a chain-link or picket fence metaphor. Since we live in Texas it’s much more likely that we would have six or eight foot privacy fences but even these fit into the metaphor. If you have a picket or chain-link fence there are lots of open spaces. If you have dogbabies, as do we, they can easily commune with the neighbors' dogs without fear of coming into physical contact. If your boundaries resemble these fences then you have developed space around you that allows the in and out flow of ideas but no physical or emotional contact that you do not invite. These boundaries allow an exchange of ideas and of your person, should you wish.

So, think of your boundaries as being flexible and strong even though they allow permissible ideas, thoughts, and personal contact. They are not like privacy fences which don’t allow exchanges. Those are walls, not boundaries.

As you read this try to imagine these boundaries around you. Think about who invades them and who respects them. Ask yourself how you fail to tend to your boundaries. The next few blogs will get into some specifics about how we succeed and how we fail to protect our boundaries.