Water Your Own Lawn

By: David I. Defoe, LCPC, NCC

The other day when I went to take out my trash, I took notice of my neighbors yard.  Sure it is the dawn of winter and the vegetation common to his yard was gone for the season.  But I noticed the meticulous care he put into his yard.  The leaves were all raked up, he had trash bags around his planter pots to preserve the annual flowers which bloom in the spring.  Unlike in my yard, his tools were all packed up and everything seemed perfect and in order.

To be honest I was envious.


I began to ask myself, why in the world does my back yard not look like that?  The answer was so simple… I had not made the commitment to making my yard neat, clean, and the envy of others.  I heard someone say one time (or perhaps I read it somewhere), if you think the grass is greener on the other side, water your own lawn.


The reason people have successful marriages has nothing to do with luck, or even with great compatibility (even though that does help big time), but they are successful because couples work at it.  They are successful because they are committed to doing what it takes to make their marriage the envy of others.


Over the next few weeks I will share 12 Principles for Building a Stronger Marriage… Here are the first two:

  1. Don’t EVER Expect Perfection– Allow your husband/wife to be human.  They will make mistakes, and so will you.  We cannot place so high an expectation on our husbands/wives which they will never be able to fulfill (this goes for non-marital relationships as well).  We did not marry a perfect person… we married someone with the potential for failure, flaws, faults and we have to be compassionate and loving enough to create an environment for personal growth.  Growth never occurs where unrealistic demands place a stranglehold on us.
  2. Leave the Past in the Past – History is for textbooks.  Learn the art of forgiveness and forgetfulness.  As long as an issue has been resolved and not swept under the rug… let it go.  If you have a spouse that is constantly reminding you about something you have done in the past, you may not have dealt with the problem effectively.  But if the issue is resolved… don’t dig up the old bodies you have buried… it will only make everything around you stink

Until Next Week…

Imara Counseling Services is an independent counseling practice located in Laurel, Maryland, that provides person-centered therapeutic services for a wide variety of mental, behavioral, and psycho-social concerns.

Dealing with Disappointment

By: David I. Defoe, LCPC, NCC

Things do not always go as planned!

No matter how old you are, where you come from, what socio-economic class you belong too, one day we will all face the harsh lonely road of recovery from disappointment. Disappointment is where our unmet expectations and reality collide, to send our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and best intentions spiraling out of control. At the intersection of what we wanted and what we received, we are oftentimes left with feelings of anger, guilt, regret, sadness, or confusion.

We ask questions like:

  • How in the world did that happen?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • How am I to respond?
  • Who is to blame?

What exists in the vacuum of our unmet hopes, is a significant amount of pain that we try to blame on others, toss up to chance or for the religious… try to explain away as a part of God’s larger plan. But the reality is, the pain is still there. The sadness, no matter how much we blame shift, rationalize, or replay with alternate decision points in our mind… the sadness is present with us. So how do we deal with disappointment, be it from people, or events?

While there are many things I could suggest, I tried to concretize them into 4 actionable items.

1. Talk about your feelings, do not suppress them. Ironically our best efforts to be strong, or not show hurt or negative emotional responses actually makes matters worse. We think that somehow swallowing the bitter pill of disappointment and just “dealing with it” will help mask how we feel. But if we would take an honest look, we would see that the hurt comes out instead in negative behavior. We become short with people, rude, cynical, and oftentimes displace those feeling on those closest to us.

2. Challenge the feelings of regret. I know we have all said it, “If I had it to do all over again, I would…” Stop it!!! We cannot be seduced into thinking that we have to the power to change someone else’s mind, or their behavior. When looking into the past our vision will always be crystal clear. Search for what you can learn from the situation, but do not blame yourself or others for what happened. It will not help. One thing that we all can attest to is that life exists in circles. Oftentimes we are placed back into similar situations that once again call for making impactful choices. Take some time to reflect on what happened and search deep for 1 or 2 things you could take away from the situation that can assist you down the road when you face it again.

3. Recognize that disappointment causes grief. When our expectations are unmet, we grieve. Many people may disagree… but the same emotional responses that people have when they lose a loved one, are the same emotions people deal with when they lose what they hoped for, worked towards, or expected. Take a look at Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and what you will discover is that disappointment carries with it complementary feelings. First we can’t believe it happened, then we start to externalize our internal frustrations, which turns into us bargaining with ourselves by dwelling on what if’s. Finally, while I cannot accept depression as a result of disappointment, we began to develop habits that are reflective of depressive symptoms. We avoid social contact, we under indulge or over indulge in activities, our sleep patterns change, and feelings of anxiousness develop. When we are disappointed our heart hurts, we are sad.

4. If you are stuck, seek help.