Read each statement and put the number that best corresponds to your current behavior at the end of the sentence.  The numbers are 1 through 5; with 1 meaning “never”, 3 meaning “sometimes”, and 5 meaning “always”.

  1. I use “I” statements rather than accusatory sounding “you” statements.
  2. I stick to the current problem during an argument, and I refrain from mentioning past grievances.
  3. I allow the other person to state their point of view without interrupting him/her.  I really listen to my partner, even if I disagree with what is being said.
  4. I try to understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings about the conflict.
  5. I realize it is a big problem if I have to “win” every argument or I will be very upset.
  6. I understand that not every disagreement needs to be argued about.
  7. I understand that sometimes loving couples just “agree to disagree”, and that’s ok.
  8. I express my feelings through my words, not through dramatic behavior or through the “silent treatment”.
  9. I realize my withholding affection/communication/sex is passive-aggressive behavior on my part, and it hurts a couple.
  10. I believe not every discussion/argument has to happen “right now”.  Sometimes it is ok to have a cooling-off time, or just time to think about the topic at hand before entering into a discussion or argument.


10-20: You need to develop your fair-fighting skills.  Pick three statements from the above, and work on them before your next confrontation.

21-40: Fine tune a couple more skills, and your arguments will be resolved more effectively.

41-50: Terrific! Your partner is a lucky person! Back to the top 


In the end, it is our relationships that matter most.

It is my pleasure to offer these pieces of information for use in your own most precious family.  I hope the strategies discussed here have relevance in your home, and that you use them with a sense of fun, enjoyment, and openness.

Today’s healthy family incorporates dynamics from diverse areas, and faces stressors unknown to families as little as ten years ago.  Following are certain qualities that are found in highly functional families that have to do with the family’s COMMUNICATION ABILITIES.

Healthy families typically:

 Allow each member to appropriately communicate their thoughts and feelings to other family members without fear of reprisal.

Expect their transactions with each other to be open, caring, empathic, and trusting. 

Family members are active, do things together, and spend time together.

Respect personal autonomy and tolerate individuality – members feel free to agree or disagree (respectfully) with each other.  Family members are close but well differentiated – which means healthy boundaries are in place which make it possible to maintain a strong sense of self within the family.

Accept separation and loss realistically.  Family members are able to adapt to changes brought about by growth and development, by aging, and by death.  Adolescents are able to separate from the family in a healthy, loving manner – without enmeshment or clinging, and without emotionally cutting-off from the family.

Humor, tenderness, warmth, and helpfulness are family traits that are cultivated and respected. Back to the top 

DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING (breathing from the diaphragm)

This physical relaxation skill involves abdominal breathing, and is central to learning to relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety.  In our hectic lives, we fall into the habit of shallow breathing – we often just use the top portion of our lungs to collect and disburse oxygen.  Breathing in a shallow way leads to the development of the symptoms of anxiety.  Practice this deep breathing exercise several times each day, and put yourself to sleep at night by doing this.  You want to develop “muscle memory”, so you can breathe deeply in a split second when needed.

Read these instructions to yourself, then close your eyes and follow them.

Get as comfortable as you can where you are.  Relax all of your body muscles, paying special attention to lowering your shoulders.  Using your mind, instruct your muscles to relax and release any tight stress throughout your body.  Place one hand on your abdomen, above your belly button.  Take a big breath in through your nose, noticing how your abdomen rises under your hand as you inhale.  Then, let the breath out through your mouth, noticing how your abdomen sinks under your hand as you exhale.  Now, letting the air move in and out at its own pace, notice your breathing as the air flows in and then out with no effort from you.  This is how your body is designed to work at its optimum.  Notice how your abdomen rises with each “in breath, and then falls with each “out” breath.  Just relax, and notice how your body responds to your mental instructions.  Enjoy this deep breathing for a few moments. Back to the top 


There are different types of depression, and different diagnostic terms used.  All forms of depression (also known as Mood Disorders) have similar symptoms, but vary in length of time the symptoms are present, and the severity of the symptoms.  The symptoms include:

  1. Depressed mood, or feelings of emptiness.  In children this can show as an irritable mood.
  2. Diminished interest in pleasurable activities.
  3. Significant increase or decrease in appetite.
  4. Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  5. Physically being agitated or very slowed down.
  6. Feeling fatigued, having a loss of energy.
  7. Feeling worthless or inappropriately guilty.
  8. Not being able to focus or concentrate well.
  9. The symptoms may also include thinking about death, thinking about suicide, or actually having a suicide plan.

DEPRESSION IS TREATABLE.  Harvard School of Medicine’s Psychological Journal writes that the “most acceptable form of treatment for Mood Disorders is a combination of medications (when appropriate) and Cognitive Therapy.” Back to the top 


Anyone who has had the unpleasant experience of a panic attack will attest to this being a miserable, but VERY TREATABLE problem.  Symptoms of Panic/Anxiety include:

  1. Palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate (it can feel like a heart attack)
  2. Sweating
  3. Trembling, shaking
  4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  5. Feeling of choking
  6. Chest pain or discomfort
  7. Nausea or stomach distress
  8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, faint
  9. Feelings of “unreality”, or feelings of being detached from oneself
  10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
  11. Fear of dying
  12. Numbness or tingling sensations
  13. Chills or hot flushes


If you experience these symptoms – see your doctor!  Rule out medical reasons, and then see a therapist.  We can help you!

Please see my page on DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING.  It is an exercise that will help you immediately control panic and anxiety.  You will notice all the symptoms associated with anxiety have to do with physical symptoms related to shallow breathing.  Teach yourself (and practice, practice, practice to build muscle memory) how to breathe deeply.  Your body will thank you by reducing the symptoms of anxiety/panic!

Back to the top 





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  Copyright © 2012 Sheila Garrett Gutierrez M.S.,MFT. All Rights Reserved.