February 2015 Issue


As one of the most famous bachelors took his wedding vows this past summer, the question seems rather pertinent.  Can perennial bachelors like George Clooney change and become longstanding husbands – able to weather the rough seas that accompany the great times?
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Isn’t that the worst thing- to have a friend you adore but you cannot stand her kids? No doubt this puts a strain and wedge in the relationship.  You have to decide when and how to spend time with her.  It isn’t always easy loving other people’s children, but there are truly some children that are impossible to like, and the reality of the matter is that it comes down to the parenting. Children, in reality, are a reflection of the parenting, time, love, and attention they are receiving from home.
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If you have engaged in relationships of any kind, you have experienced and likely battled against “silent agreements.” While most have never used or even heard of this term, silent agreements are present in our everyday lives where they lurk in the shadows of our relationships—at home, in social circles, and in the workplace.
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Seduce with scent this Valentine’s Day
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Relationship Reality Check: Six Ways ‘Silent Agreements’ Are Undermining Your Life

By Merilee Kern

If you have engaged in relationships of any kind, you have experienced and likely battled against “silent agreements.” While most have never used or even heard of this term, silent agreements are present in our everyday lives where they lurk in the shadows of our relationships—at home, in social circles and in the workplace. They are those unspoken “rules” of our relationships that grow from the topics we don’t talk about—the needs, wishes, and expectations that we don’t share but hold others accountable to anyway. Most often the other party is doing the same thing, which adds layers that make silent agreements even more complicated and challenging to uncover and rectify.

Sometimes the unspoken expectations of two people line up, and when they do, their silent agreements line up as well. Then the relationships can hum along without drama, stress, or misunderstandings. Often enough, this does not happen organically. Because many silent agreements can be completely out of line and given their sometimes clandestine nature, silent agreements are sometimes problematic for our relationships.  With the litany of unspoken expectations people often have of one another on any front—money, commitment, intimacy, kids, jobs and careers, health issues, technology and social media connections—silent agreements can exist in all aspects of life. Sometimes unawareness of these values or expectations can naturally result in long term complications or even outright relationship chaos.

“Whether in alignment with others or not, in many cases the silent agreements we have with one another, or towards another, are not acknowledged or openly discussed,” notes clinical psychologist, Michele L. Owens, Ph.D. “This is largely due to the fact that we, ourselves, may not be consciously aware of the expectations we harbor. Other times, we feel that we have too much to lose if we talk openly, or, we regard silence as less frightening than what would happen if we tell the ‘real’ story about what we are thinking and wanting from another person. So, we avoid discussing the real issues because we are afraid to upset the status quo. Each of these scenarios creates the opportunity, and some might say the likelihood, for disappointments, misunderstandings, distortions, false assumptions, and resentment between individuals. The more a relationship lacks awareness of these silent agreements, the more pervasive the silent agreements are, and the more likely we risk losing authentic communication.”

“Often, we erroneously believe our silent agreements with others to be understood or implied, thinking we share the same understanding or meaning of an unspoken expectation,” reveals clinical psychologist, Linda Anderson, PhD. “One person can have a particular perception about an unspoken issue while the other is experiencing something entirely different. The result can be debilitating and downright deadly for relationships. Silent agreements that don’t match typically come to the fore eventually because of the complications and challenges they present to the relationship. And in the meantime, they’re growing and potentially taking their toll on you in other unknown ways.  Avoiding communication is not a healthy way to deal with it, and as time goes by, the harder it becomes to hide behind the silence.”

“Silent agreements are not just about communicating poorly in your relationships,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sonia R. Banks, PhD. “In contrast, a silent agreement is a situation where you have consciously or unconsciously agreed to something with another person without discussing it at all. That unspoken agreement and missed conversation shows up in your interactions and can have ramifications not only for your relationships, but for so many other aspects of your life. Once you become more aware of your silent agreements, you can identify and make choices about the ones that are prohibiting you from realizing your relationship potential. You’ll be much better equipped to actually begin breaking the silence and talking. Unfortunately, relatively few have the awareness and insights needed to recognize and address the silent agreements that adversely affect their relationships and lives overall.”

Silent agreements often revolve around those issues that people do not recognize or are too uncomfortable to acknowledge and “put on the table” to openly discuss. Sometimes individuals remain silent to protect themselves from exposing their insecurities or fears. Consider these six examples of some typical land-mine issues at home, play, and work that often result in, and are exacerbated by, detrimental silent agreements:

  1. Change and Stagnation: Changing the hardest paradigm you fear.

People who have been dissatisfied in their jobs and stay anyway often create silent agreements resulting in missed opportunities. Perhaps they are loyal to a person or cause that no longer fits them. The type of agreement they are living with undermines pursuing the career course they truly desire. This silent agreement starts with yourself and the fear of change. A more enriching silent agreement must first begin with a conversation with yourself. Acknowledge the challenge in moving on and create a way to leave even while you are feeling the discomfort.

  1. Flexibility and Inflexibility: When roles limit us.

He washes dishes and she cooks. Then one day he comes home and cooks and she doesn’t wash the dishes. The expectation that she would silently switch roles was part of his silent agreement but not part of hers.  Inflexibility can undermine the goals of relationships when unexpected shifts occur without an open discussion of the issue.  Here his agreement involves an exchange of duties, while hers is less flexible and focused on a predictable division of labor.

  1. Creative Freedom and Stable Tradition: Building blocks that sustain us.

Some couples are inseparable, and yet that intimacy works to keep each from being their “best independent self.” Their silent agreement maintains the intense closeness by avoiding any pursuit of individual fulfillment.  Consider how this agreement develops. She does not apply for the job promotion because of how it will make him feel. Later, she resents him for it. We sabotage each other’s ability to explore enriching options and reach our true potential when we sign on to silent agreements that neglect the desire for creative freedom.

  1. Commitment: Feeling secure in the face of insecurity.

The cheating boyfriend married his longtime girlfriend, each with different notions of their commitment to each other. He thought, “Now she’ll never leave me,” and she thought, “Now he’ll never cheat again.” They weren’t aware of their differing silent agreements and were unable to talk about what they needed to feel secure in the relationship. So, he cheated and she left, and locked in their silence, neither got the relationship they sorely hoped for, NOR the chance to achieve that goal together. When misaligned silent agreements are uncovered, it can prevent outcomes like these.

  1. Favoring Perception Over Reality: Debilitating agreements with yourself.

This silent agreement is sure to undermine us when we are committed to the trappings of success at any cost. It takes emotional maturity to recognize that what is truly important is not always what others approve of or perceive as important. Credit cards maxed and income squandered suggest that your emphasis on appearances has undermined your actual security. When maintaining excessive spending habits, financial insecurity, and monetary chaos is more important than reality, it is likely that you are in a depleting silent agreement with yourself. In contrast, an enriching silent agreement is the commitment to confront the conflicting identities being created at the literal expense of financial ruin, allowing you to make friends with the truth of who and where you are in your real life.

  1. Self-Care and Neglect: Denial does wonders for your health.

Communication is often undermined in relationships by counterproductive and contradictory actions that grow out of silent agreements.  A silent agreement evolved with the couple that doesn’t talk about how their weekly baking of cakes and sweets impacts the husband’s diabetes. With this silent agreement, they won’t have to face the fact that both of them have agreed to undermine his health. One baked and the other ate. While they talked about the impact of cakes on his diet and health, they never uncovered the real silent agreement. Rather than talk about the silent agreement that would require them to acknowledge the impact of sweets on his illness, he blames her for baking and she blames him for lack of self-control. As long as they don’t cooperatively acknowledge their mutual investment in the neglect of his self-care, they can point the finger at each other for the chronic disease that becomes life threatening. If they could imagine that their relationship could be enriched by acknowledging their silent fears about his illness while supporting each other, perhaps then they would prefer a relationship of open agreements.

Anderson concludes, “We convince ourselves that it’s safer to avoid bringing up sensitive issues in order to keep the peace. So we simply go on as if we have already communicated when the fact is that we have not. Meanwhile, in fact, our relationships continue to be unfavorably affected by this silence that’s bolstered with a poisonous undercurrent of expectation. After all, there are some things just not worth talking about, right? Wrong! Once you become more aware of the agreements that are keeping your life from flourishing, you can begin to uncover what is actually going on in your relationships.”

Doctors Linda Anderson, Sonia Banks, and Michele Owens are licensed clinical psychologists with private practices and a consulting agency, “Sessions: Innovations in Psychology.” Reach them on line at www.SilentAgreements.com and follow them on Twitter @agreements101.

Freelance writer, Merilee Kern, is a wellness industry veteran, consumer health advocate and influential media voice. She may be reached online at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.



By Dr. Sherrie Campbell

Isn’t that the worst thing- to have a friend you adore but you cannot stand her kids? No doubt this puts a strain and wedge in the relationship.  You have to decide when and how to spend time with her.  It isn’t always easy loving other people’s children, but there are truly some children that are impossible to like, and the reality of the matter is that it comes down to the parenting. Children, in reality, are a reflection of the parenting, time, love, and attention they are receiving from home.  We all have stories to tell and to share and to keep secret.  So, here are five ways to cope if you have a friend you love with kids you don’t:


  1. Don’t spend time with her if her kids are around:  The easiest solution is to not spend time around your friend if her children are present.  Ask to go out to girls’ lunches, girls’ nights, and times to exercise or go to an adult movie.  This way, you get the benefit of your friend without having to deal with her children, rubbing your last nerve.
  2. Avoid play dates between your children/child and hers:  the situation is even more challenging if you have a child in an age range where there can be play dates.  It is very likely that if you do not enjoy her children that your children will complain to you that they also do not enjoy time with them.  It is your responsibility to take care of your children in this situation while also maintaining your friendship.  Distract her with trying to plan adult time instead of play date time with the kids.
  3. Discuss parenting techniques that have worked with your kids:  Being a parent is no small job. It is the toughest job out there. One great way to enhance your friendship with your friend and possibly help her with her children is to talk about parenting skills that have been life-savers for you. Usually, parents know when their kids are out of hand and even annoying, so if you bring these things up casually, you may find they are helpful to your friend, who just may not be a natural when it comes to parenting.
  4. Put distance in the friendship:  When someone clearly is not parenting their children to be respectful, polite, and decent human beings, it can change the respect you have for your friend.  If it becomes the case that there is too much tension around her children and your opinion of her has deeply affected your ability to see her the way you used before children, this may need to be a friendship that you back away from.
  5. Be honest with her:  If things are tense and your avoidance tactics are not working, gently express your thoughts and emotions with her in a way that isn’t too cutting to her children but rather simple and truthful like: “I love our adult time together and want to continue to nurture that, but I have a hard time being around your children as do my children as it seems they have not yet learned to respect other people’s boundaries, which I am sure you are working on.”  In this way, you are stating your need and also letting her know that her children are emotionally out of control, which is hard for you and your children to be around.

The apple usually doesn’t fall from the tree. Parents whose children are not disciplined tend to come from parents who have a hard time disciplining themselves.  But give your friend the benefit of the doubt and see if there are any tips you can gently put out there that could help.  If she seems oblivious, then limit your time with your friend to “adult time” only.

Sherrie Campbell, PhD is a veteran, licensed Psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Yorba Linda, Irvine, Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea, California.  In her private practice, she currently specializes in psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, including marriage and family therapy, grief counselling, childhood trauma, sexual issues, personality disorders, illness and more. She has helped individuals manage their highest high and survive their lowest low—from winning the lottery to the death of a child.  Her interactive sessions are as unique and impactful as her new book, Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person.

She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2003 and has regularly contributes to numerous publications, including Intent.com, Beliefnet.com, DrLaura.com and Hitched.com.  She is also an inspirational speaker, avid writer and proud mother.  She can be reached at Sherriecampbellphd.com.

Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person is available on Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. SherrieCampbellHeadshot-(42



by D.H. Barkley

As one of the most famous bachelors took his wedding vows this past summer, the question seems rather pertinent.  Can perennial bachelors like George Clooney change and become longstanding husbands – able to weather the rough seas that accompany the great times?

Remember those snippets of advice our mothers offered on our love life? My mother’s wisdom was that you should never marry a longstanding bachelor, as they were set in their ways, too used to getting their own way, and unaccustomed to compromise.

But leopards can change their spots, as demonstrated by Warren Beatty who, after a string of relationships with beautiful women, married in his mid-50’s. More than twenty years and four children later, he and actress Annette Bening are still together – no small feat in Hollywood.

Apparently, many a middle-aged bachelor finally decides to settle down as they realize time is running out to fit in a wife and family before the ‘Grim Reaper’ calls. So if my mother’s advice on perennial bachelors is not universally applicable, what do they need for long-lasting love?  In the end, they probably just need the same as the rest of us – although it may be harder to achieve when you have been single so long.

Seven all-purpose ingredients for long-term romantic success

Similarity – Research shows that if we want our romantic relationships to last, we should search for ‘homogamy’ in a partner – that means someone similar to us, particularly in values. Born out by several studies, showing that similarity between partners for various characteristics, including age, background, intelligence, socioeconomic status, and values, predicts greater relationship success.

Realistic expectations – Realistic expectations of our partner and the relationship is another key ingredient for long-term success. It’s important we recognize that no one is perfect; it won’t always be clear sailing, and it is quite normal to feel we don’t like our partner from time to time. According to the so-called ‘Disappointment model,’ if individuals start out with extreme positive beliefs, disappointment frequently ensues. And such feelings of disappointment do not bode well for the longer term.

Friendship – Hardly surprising this one ranks as important – after all, we will spend plenty of time with that ‘significant other,’ so after the first flush of love is over, we need a true friend to weather day-to-day life.  According to Franz Schubert, “Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.”

Equality – We need to believe we bring as many desirable qualities to the relationship as our partner. Equality means we have balanced power in the relationship, that we can act independently of our partner’s control, influence their actions, and participate equally in decision-making.

Commitment – Commitment is the most powerful predictor of relationship stability. But it’s not about a marriage ceremony – it’s about making the relationship a priority and being willing to sacrifice for it, invest in it, link our personal goals to it, and seek the other person’s welfare, not just our own. It’s about having ties together, such as joint possessions and family, which help keep us glued together during rocky times.

Understanding – As mentioned in the best-selling relationship book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, many of our relationship troubles start because men and women are more different than we may think. When women have problems, we want care and understanding, but our partner offers solutions, and resentment builds as we feel we were not listened to. To help solve his problems, we try to be supportive by offer comforting, unsolicited advice, but our good intentions make him feel smothered and controlled. Then we have to contend with each other’s cycles. After getting close, men need to feel independent again and become distant for a time, whilst women go up and down emotionally like a yoyo. We need to talk and talk around our problems, whereas men prefer to be alone to mull over solutions in their ‘cave.’

Conflict resolution – According to researchers, “The mere presence of conflict may reveal less about the quality of a relationship than does the way in which the conflict is handled.” Conflicts are normal and inevitable in any partnership, and it seems that mutually satisfactory resolution to disagreements is key to the continued harmony, satisfaction, and even survival of the relationship.


And for Mr Clooney and Ms Alamuddin? She certainly ticks more of the boxes for similarity than many who have come and gone before. But he may need to work hard to ensure they are equal co-directors of their movie, given that he likes to be the ‘guy’ and his fame means that his partner’s identity inevitably becomes associated with him. In the past, he didn’t seem to have a big appetite for commitment – it was once said of him, “In marriage, you’re bound by what’s expected of you; he doesn’t want to be expected to do anything.” But he is older and perhaps more ready for the sacrifice and constraints that are key to commitment. As a macho man, he could be quite far up the ‘Martian’ scale, so a good understanding of gender differences could come in handy. And maybe a bright young lawyer is just the ticket to hone one’s conflict resolution skills, given that in his first marriage, “Instead of figuring out how to make it work, I looked for a way to get out of it. The truth is, you shouldn’t be married if you’re that kind of person.”

Only time will tell whether George Clooney can change from long-standing bachelor to long-standing husband. Let’s hope so for their future happiness.

After her interest was piqued by encounters with a number of women who clearly found George Clooney fascinating but were so different to the women he has dated, D.H. Barkley settled down to write her first book, George Clooney: From Bachelor to Betrothed. She lives in Switzerland with her husband. To learn more about Barkley, visit www.clooneythebook.com.