Posts Tagged ‘ACHMI’

The Doormat Effect

February 22, 2011

Relationships aren’t always easy; things aren’t always perfect and at some point you are going to have to forgive the actions of your significant other just like he/she will have to do the same for you. Understandably then, forgiveness is an important aspect of any relationship and research has even linked forgiveness with mental health, physical health, and relational benefits. While we know that forgiveness is beneficial, what if it makes you a doormat?

In 2008, McCullough argued that individuals who forgive all the time will “quickly become everybody’s doormat” (pg. 87). The doormat effect comes from the idea that those who are constantly forgiving can easily be taken advantage of and may repeatedly find themselves in the role of the victim. Luchies, Finkel, McNulty, & Kumashiro (2010) researched the doormat effect and examined whether forgiving erodes self-respect and self-concept clarity. They found if the perpetrator acts in a way that signals that the victim will be safe and valued in a continued relationship with the perpetrator, then one’s self-respect and self-concept clarity are not negatively impacted. However, if the perpetrator does not behave in such a way, one’s self-respect and self-concept may be greatly diminished. Interestingly, just as the actions of the perpetrator influence one’s self-respect and self-concept clearly, so does the decision one makes to forgive or not forgive. For instance, in order to save or keep the relationship, one may hastily make the decision to forgive before being ready or may forgive even without truly feeling that the other person deserves it. When this happens, people may feel like they did not stand up for themselves and/or their beliefs and this may result in diminished self-respect.

Let’s think about this in terms of real life examples… Have you ever been in a relationship where you find yourself listening to the same apology over and over again, but nothing ever truly changes? Or maybe after awhile your diminished self-respect turns into uncertainty and you begin to apologize for things without even knowing why? Have you made excuses for your partner’s behavior or lied to your friends and family about the way he/she is really treating you because you believe/hope that things will get better? You aren’t alone. From personal experience and being witness to my friends’ experiences I know it happens far too often. Being the doormat in a relationship doesn’t make you feel good and it probably isn’t resulting in the happiest relationship either. So STOP. I know, I know… it isn’t that simple. But standing up for yourself is the first step. As mentioned in the Luchies et al. (2010) article, forgiveness bolsters self-respect and self-concept clarity when the victim is happy with the decision to forgive AND when the perpetrator acts in a way that lets the victim know that he/she will be SAFE and VALUED in a continued relationship with the perpetrator. This means that saying sorry isn’t necessarily good enough. If your partner truly values you and wants to maintain a healthy relationship, then he/she will make an effort to change future behavior. In a book called, The Doormat Syndrome, Lynn Namka suggests the following ways to pull yourself out of the doormat position:

  • Think of a situation in which you might not normally allow yourself to express your opinions. Write your opinions down on a piece of paper. What would happen if you expressed those opinions to someone else?
  • Adopt an “I love you, and I love me too” approach. Think of yourself and don’t allow your own needs to be overrun by someone else’s.
  • Behave in a manner that says, “I am responsible for my own actions and needs, and I’ll let him or her be in charge of meeting his/her own needs.”
  • Instead of focusing on negative things about yourself, focus on the positive. It may be helpful to write a list of positive things about yourself and keep it with you or somewhere you will see it often.
  • Ask yourself whether what you’re getting is worth the cost.  Do you get equal value for your effort, time and money? What benefits do you gain by being a victim or a martyr?  Think about how has this role been harmful to you?


Luchies, L. B., Finkel, E. J., McNulty, J. K., & Kumashiro, M. (2010). The Doormat Effect:

When Forgiving Erodes Self-Respect and Self-Concept Clarity. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 98(5), 734-749.

McNulty, J. K. (2008). Forgiveness in marriage: Putting the benefits into context. Journal of

Family Psychology, 22, 171–175.

Namka, L. (2000). The doormat syndrome. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.

Man’s Best Friend… Literally

November 10, 2010

I have the craziest of all dogs. Her name is Ziggy Stardust, and she is a chocolate lab and almost two years old. When I say she’s crazy, I mean that Marley (Marley and Me) has NOTHING on Ziggy. I have made countless trips to the Emergency Vet office at 3:00 am, spent a crazy amount of money on vet bills, new shoes, books, pillows, and whatever else she could get her paws on, and experienced a level of anger I didn’t know existed when she ate the head off of my stuffed animal that I have had since I was one year old. HOWEVER, even with all of the craziness, I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

Ziggy is one of those dogs who you just can’t help but laugh at when you look at her. She’s a special dog – really. When she was 9 weeks old, another dog popped her on the snout and broke through Ziggy’s sinus cavity. After that, the vet just started referring to her as special. Special and crazy, Ziggy is the best dog ever.

She gives me so much joy and comforts me when times are hard. We all experience hard times, and over the past year my family has experienced many.  Even at times when I was really down, I could always count on Ziggy to make me smile. She is always there to listen (and yes, I am one of those weirdos who talks to my dog) and always there to snuggle up and let me know that things will be okay. In my opinion, pets are the perfect cure for lonely or sad days. Interestingly, research seems to agree with me.

In 2009, Lawrence Kurdek examined people’s attachment to their pet dogs. Using Ainsworth’s (1991) four-feature model, attachment figures were deemed as someone who is adored for physical nearness and accessibility; missed when absent; a dependable source of comfort; and is turned to in times of distress. The last aspect is of particular interest to me. The study found that on average, participants were more likely to turn to their dogs in times of emotional distress than to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, best friends, and children. In fact, only romantic partners were rated more highly than dogs. So… if you are single, in a long-distance relationship, or your spouse is stationed far away, man’s best friend might be just what you need!

Visit your local animal shelter to find out how to adopt a pet in your area. You won’t regret it : )

Kate Taylor Harcourt


Kurdek, L. (2009). Pet dogs as attachment figures for adult owners. Journal of Family Psychology , 23 (4), 439-446. DOI: 10.1037/a0014979

Love is a VERB

July 19, 2010

        We often use the phrase “I love you,” to express our feelings for someone we truly care about. Sometimes it is really heart-felt, sometimes it is to get out of trouble, and sometimes it is simply said as a formality. While it is always nice to hear that you are loved, we need to remember that saying “I love you” is not all it takes. Love is a verb, and action is required to fulfill the true meaning of the word.

         I recently attended the 2010: Let’s Get Real: Healthy Teens, Healthy Families and Responsible Fatherhood Regional Summit, where I was reminded of this very thing. In order to maintain a healthy relationship, each partner has to be committed to “actively loving” one another. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on fancy gifts or over-the-top vacations. Instead, focus on the little things that make your partner happy and show him/her how much you care.

        The summer is an excellent time to start “actively loving” your partner. Here are a few easy, inexpensive ideas to get you started:

  • PLAN A DATE NIGHT! Whether you  have been together 5 months or 25 years, date night is always a great way to connect with your partner and strengthen your relationship. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  It can be as simple as spending an hour together on the couch with no kids, work, or interruptions.
  • Randomly send your partner a text or email just to say you are thinking about them
  • Leave little notes on post-its around the house for him/her to find
  • Instead of planning an activity that you will love, plan something you know your partner will love
  • Have a picnic. Take advantage of the summer and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Go camping. If you can’t afford a hotel get away, find a nearby campground and pitch a tent. Not only is it cheaper, but nature will provide an intimate and private setting for you and your partner to really connect.
  • Research your city or town. Google the name of your town and most often there will be a way to see upcoming events in and around the community. Often these activities are free to the public and offer a fun, inexpensive alternative to your daily routine.

        There are a million things you can do to show your partner how you love them. For more examples and tips, check out these websites:

 by Kate Taylor Harcourt

Do I NEED This???

January 15, 2010

Let’s take it back. Way back…. to about 3 weeks ago. It was the beginning of my Christmas vacation and I could not WAIT to see my family. After my plane landed in Houston (TX), I reveled in the company of my sisters, brothers-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, and nephew. I mean, my mother was here and she lives on another continent! What’s not to love?!

Fast forward to two weeks later. To me stalking into my sister’s guest bedroom for some peace and to maintain my precarious grasp on my sanity. As a loner by birth, it doesn’t take much for me to take a break from human contact, but I found myself seriously wondering if I really needed to be here and if I really needed to have a relationship with these people. I was overreacting (I do that), but it got me thinking: How important is it to have relationships?

As you may have guessed from my last post, I like research findings that are useful to Joe/Jane Six-Pack. Turns out that close relationships are vital to our well-being. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. As children, we gravitate toward our caregivers (for most, it’s a parent or two). We look to them for love, support, and protection. While growing up, we start to form friendships… we even invent imaginary friends. Then the teen years arrive, our hormones start acting up, and we look to forming intimate relationships. Around this time, it’s basically up to us to seek out healthy, long-lasting relationships. Relationships, according to research, help us realize who we are, how to treat others and how we want to be treated, and lend to our overall happiness. Having healthy relationships can also help manage stress! I’m all about that.

Forming and maintaining healthy relationships has a lot of benefits and that’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being a part of Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative or ACHMI ( ACHMI strives to educate youth and adults on the ins and outs of healthy relationships. It’s the best type of education – the one where no cramming is involved, you can learn things, and you can use those things for the rest of your life. It’s great being a part of something that has changed the trajectory of so many people’s lives by teaching the importance of healthy relationships and helping make current relationships even better.

I guess all this means I’m stuck with my crazy, loud, nosy, caring, protective, loving family. Darn. 😉

Happy 2010!

Christiana Datubo-Brown

PS – Are we saying “two thousand ten” or “twenty ten”??

New Year, Renewed Love

January 5, 2010

The beginning of a new year brings about resolutions and ways to improve the things that didn’t work the year before. It’s a time when people set goals and vow not to continue making the same mistakes from the past. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, New Year’s offers a feeling of renewal and a chance to start over. Living in this fast paced society, change is a constant and normal part of life. There is always something you will want to change about yourself, and always something you will want to change about others, even the people you love. But rather than focusing on changing your relationships, perhaps it is more important to focus on maintaining them.

With the craziness of holidays and the coming and going of friends and family, it can be easy to move “maintaining the relationship” to the bottom of your list of things to do. However, this time of year often produces unwanted stress and it is important to support, and have the support of, your partner during these times. It’s easy to get caught up in life, but remember to take time to slow down and enjoy the relationships in your life. As the new year begins, take time to renew the love between you and your partner.

Here are a few tips from The National Healthy Marriage Resource center on how to maintain a healthy relationship:

1. Spend time with each other. It is important to spend time with your partner to ensure there is room for the relationship to grow. It is always a good idea to have a date night for you and your partner to have intimate quality time together. Another idea is to take advantage of the holidays and vacation time and plan for a quick getaway. Relationships require work and time, and spending time together is a good way to learn about each other while connecting with your partner.

2. Show respect for each other at all times. Research shows that nothing can damage a relationship quicker than put-downs and criticism. Once a lack of respect occurs, it is easy for a couple to fall into a pattern of negative habits. During time with family and friends, it is especially important to show support for each other. Cutting your partner down in front of others, even if in a joking manner, can cause a lot of harm.

3. Explore Intimacy. It is important to know the difference between sexual and emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is an important aspect of the relationship and allows you and your partner to express your true emotions without feeling judged or unappreciated.

4. Improve your communication skills. Learning to really listen to your partner is a skill that takes time to develop, but one that is of the utmost importance in relationships. Learn when to listen to your partner and when to offer advice versus comfort. Never assume that the other person know what you are thinking and feeling… They don’t! Being open and honest is key in maintaining a relationship.

5. Forgive each other. At some point in the relationship, your partner is going to do something that hurts your feelings, frustrates you, or makes you really angry. The key here is to learn and practice forgiveness. Don’t dwell on arguments or hold grudges for the rest of your relationship. It is important to learn to apologize, forgive, and move on.

So as 2010 begins to move forward, remember it’s not all about the new. Focus on the relationships already present in your life, and look forward to a renewed love and support in the new year.

Money Management & The Holiday Season

December 26, 2009

The holiday season brings forth so many wonderful things: good food, family gatherings, presents, and the list just goes on and on. Personally, the holidays,especially Christmas, is just a magical time for me and I look forward to it every year. One of my family’s traditions is to draw names for Christmas at Thanksgiving dinner. The goal of this tradition is to ensure that every person receives a gift and that everyone is able to save some money. This was especially important this year considering the economic state our country is in. So this year like every other year everyone agreed that we would stick to buying a present for the person whose name we pulled. However, this year like every other year for as long as I can remember, the rule was thrown out the window, and my mother and I spent hours and hours in shopping centers and department stores and hundreds and hundreds of dollars buying Christmas gifts for everyone in our family. After the shopping was over and our retail therapy “high” began to fade, the realization of how much money we had spent began to sink in as it does year after year.

I am sure that my family is not the first and definitely not the last to go a little overboard with the Christmas shopping and for those people who are nodding their heads in agreement you know all too well the consequences of overspending during the holidays and the stress that it can bring, especially with your spouse or signficant other. Although it is too late at this point to give you any money-saving shopping tips or advice for the holidays use this time and opportunity to discuss money management with your spouse or significant other. The Alabama Marriage Handbook provides us with several tips to help you effectively manage your money with your partner.

  1. Set aside a regular time each month to discuss money issues (i.e. your budget, planned expenses, debt-reduction plan).
  2. Talk regularly about ways to better manage your money.
  3. Use a team approach (respect each other’s differences, and work toward decisions both of you agree with).
  4. Keep each other up to date on all personal assets and debts.
  5. Discuss and come to agreements about how to use any extra money.
  6. Write short and long-range financial goals together.
  7. As you get financial goals, remember to be realistic, specific, and flexible.
  8. Remember to use positive communication skills when discussing money.

I hope that these tips help you start or improve on you and your partner’s money management skills and who knows maybe when next years’ holiday season rolls around you will be able to apply some of those tips and advice to your holiday shopping.  Happy Holidays!

Jaleesa Albadani

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Single and Loving It (From Me to We): The Transition – Part 3 of 3

November 25, 2009

Here we are once again. Welcome back for part three of this journey that we have been taking. Previously, we have discussed recognizing personal and societal pressures to be in a relationship along with developing our “best selves” while we are single to assure that we are ready for “The Transition.” In the final part of this trilogy, we will discuss going from “me” to “we” as singles recognize potential relationship opportunities. In starting every relationship, it is important that careful and intentional steps are taken to make sure you have gotten to know the other person and to avoid the risk of sliding into a potentially unhealthy situation. During this process, many people may often be blinded by infatuation and fail to see warning signs that may present themselves. Take the time to learn more about the past relationships of your potential mate, their family history, and there present and future intentions. This will present a great opportunity for you to compare your morals, values, and beliefs. Once you feel that you are ready to move forward, it is time to define the relationship. I recently read an article describing the steps of defining relationships that listed the following tips:

1. Ask yourself if the timing is right.
2. Have the right mindset.
3. Pick the right location.
4. Be direct.
5. Be open and receptive of all perspectives.
6. Don’t give false hope.
7. Say “No” to ultimatums.
8. Offer an opportunity to think things over.

These things are essential to making sure that there is shared understanding between everyone that is involved. I encourage you to follow the above link to read the article. Please comment to share your thoughts. Thank you for traveling with me on “The Single and Loving It” adventure. We have come to the end, but I look forward to you reading my future posts. I am not saying that the journey of singleness is over for me, but I am not saying it isn’t either. You have to stay turned to find out.

“Is It Really THAT Serious???”

October 20, 2009

I just started graduate school (if 2 months classifies as “just”) and I’m thrilled. I find myself surrounded by intelligent people but when I sit back and look around (like I often do), I get worried. Some of my peers are so stressed out just watching them gets my heart thumping. Then I ask myself, “is it just me or are things just not that serious???”

Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of things seriously. For examples: my next meal, my future, and my shoes. However, I don’t take some things like school so seriously that when it comes time to worry about life’s necessities, I have no energy left. Listen, I understand that graduate school is really important and can be  REALLY stressful and I know the immense pleasure doing well at work can give a person. Call me crazy but I think having great relationships (family, friends, and “more than friends” included) and being healthy are things that could trump those any day of the week.

I’m not crazy. Research has shown that increased and sustained levels of stress can deteriorate your health (I don’t know about you but I want to live for a while… like to see my grandchildren). People who experience more stress or anxiety tend to be more susceptible to infections and may have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. For us normies, this means stressing out or getting worked up over too many things could have us getting sick more often and spending more time/money on hospitals and pharmacies. It’s a recession people. This also means that fussing could help our heart go kaput. I’m exaggerating… but I wouldn’t risk it.

Now to the main event: relationships. What does stressing out about school and work have to do with the people at home? Research has been very intuitive about this. I mean, think about it — if you are feeling stressed, overworked, or stretched to your limit, what kind of energy would you be giving off to others? Our poor loved ones get us at the end of our busy days and have to hear us snipe about this and that. What about those days when you displace your emotions? Meaning, you’re angry about all the work your boss gave you to do, then you come home and yell at your partner/children/mom for nothing at all! All this can not be helping your relationships. In fact, you are probably pushing the ones you care about away!

Now, I wouldn’t say all this without giving you a way to get some stress relief. Here are a couple of links to a great site run by my alma mater, UT Austin (Hook ‘Em!):

The first has great tips on stress management and more resources on this topic. This site is a little specific to the Austin area, so find resources near you! The second allows you to listen to audio relaxation tracks. This way you can relax anywhere then give off positive energy to your oh-so-important relationships!

So, the take-home message: the next time you find your shoulders by your ears and your heart racing or you feel panicky and weighed-down by school or work ask yourself: “is it really that serious???” Chances are it’s not serious enough to risk your health or having healthy relationships.

Christiana Datubo-Brown, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Does Age Really Matter???…. You Decide

October 6, 2009

Being a graduate student in the human development field and working in a “marriage lab”, conversations about marriage and relationships are bound to come up at least a time or two (hey it’s who we are). Most recently the spotlight was on me and my boyfriend of the past two years.  I was sharing that it has been my experience that when you’ve been with the same person for two years people start to question where your relationship is going and if they should “save the date”. While I love my boyfriend and as of right now am pretty confident that he’s the guy I’m gonna spend my life with, I’m not ready to take that walk down the aisle just yet. I’m a 21 year old new graduate student and just don’t feel that marriage would be the  right fit for me at this stage of my life. In fact based upon some recent self-reflection I don’t think I believe in marriage before 25.

Now I know that some of you may be disagreeing with me at this point, but just hear me out. I’m NOT saying that there is anything wrong with being married before 25. I know tons of people who have been happily married for years that got married before they were 25, however  it just does not fit with the direction I want my life to go. In fact there is research that says our brains are not fully developed until we’re 25 and I definitely need to be working with a full deck before I’m equipped to be someone’s wife.

No matter what age you get married whether it be 23, 35, 0r 40 just make sure you do what’s right for you.

Jaleesa Albadani

Graduate Research Assistant, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Single and Loving It: Taking Care of Me (Part 2 of 3)

September 4, 2009

Hello everyone. Many of you have been awaiting my long, anticipated follow up. A lot has occurred since the last time we spent time together in the World of WordPress. However, I am still enjoying the journey of being single. A few of you may have just noticed that this is the second part of a blog that I posted earlier this year. If you have yet to read it, please feel free to follow the previous link at your leisure.

I was recently asked, “When are you going to slow down to find love and happiness?” I began to answer with my usual reply of “whenever love and happiness speeds up to find me.” Then, I had a thought that this person may be in need of a deeper revelation. Thus, I shared with them and thought that I should adapt my response into a blog entry. So, here we are.

A relationship is comprised of two people with separate identities, thoughts, and personalities. For a relationship to be healthy, the individuals forming the relationship must be healthy. The National Extension Relationship and Marriage Educational Network, NERMEN, lists seven areas of focus for the start and maintenance of healthy relationships based on decades of research on marriage quality. These have become known as the NERMEN Core Components of a Healthy Relationship and Marriage. Care for Self is one of these concepts. It emphasizes the importance for individuals to maintain physical, mental, and sexual health and wellness to assure that they are the healthy persons they should be for themselves and their partners.  These are not practices that just magically fall into place when relationships are started. It is a lifestyle that is cultured over time.  Thus while single, it is vital that we begin to exercise this into our lives.  You will realize that it will allow you to find balance as well.

I recently read an article titled, “7 Top Secrets to Living Single Successfully” on that offers some sound advice. The seven steps are as follows:

  1. Love Yourself – Join and Exercise Program
  2. Treat Yourself Regularly – You Deserve It
  3. Open Your Heart
  4. Fall in Love! Adopt a Pet
  5. Don’t Live in Fear
  6. Learn to Enjoy Eating Out Alone
  7. Ask for Help…and 7.5. Dance!

I know each of you are capable of reading the article. Therefore, I will not go into depth. However, I will make a few comments about a few of these. Numbers one, two, and six fall right within the Care for Self component that I mentioned earlier. Not only is the gym a great community to meet other singles, but it offers you an opportunity to relieve stress. Likewise, taking yourself on a date is not as lame or corny as you think. If you can’t love yourself, you will find it hard to love someone else.  Number three is important as well. While being single, our resources are more free and available to be used to enrich the lives of others. Volunteer some time and money to a worthy cause. It is also understood that those who volunteer in the community and are more civically engaged tend to make healthier relationship decisions.  Number four has helped me with finding balance. Until recently, my family consisted of three dogs. Now, I live a less hectic life with seven tropical fish.

It is important to always remember that the word “single” is not synonymous with “lonely.” Until next time or until you are ready to start a relationship, continue to embrace your journey. Feel free to leave your thoughts and I look forward to sharing with you again when I write part three.