Wondering When to Say “I Love You?” Here’s How to Know if You’re Ready

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, who counsels couples, finds that our vulnerabilities threaten to deceive us. “If you’re coming out of a difficult season in your life, you may find someone who brings you a lot of happiness, quickly feeling the impulse to say ‘I love you.’ But much of the time what you’re really saying is, ‘I’m hurting, and I’m lonely, and I need to be linked up with someone who will care about me,’” he says. “While it may feel good in the moment, misdirected feelings can create problems later on.”

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4 Things Great Relationship Builders Do

Networking versus relationship building—aren’t they pretty much the same thing? I’ll admit, I thought they were until recently. Listening to a podcast featuring Glen Jackson of Jackson Spalding in Atlanta changed my mind.

As Jackson says, “Networking is about meeting people; relationship building is about investing in people. Networking is a task; relationship building is a commitment. Networking is about talking and taking, and relationship building is about listening and learning.”

Wow! That’s a huge difference, and very eye opening. As I think about my most prized relationships, I have to ask myself if I’m really doing my best to build them well, or if I’m just networking my way through life. Turns out there are certain things great relationship builders do. Here are four that resonated with me:

  1. Listen and Learn – We’ve all been there. You’re in a conversation with someone and you can tell they aren’t present. They are nodding, “uh-huh”-ing, but it’s clear their mind is somewhere else. Too often, that absent person is me. But good relationship builders truly listen. They ask good questions. They hear the answer. They want to know more. They want to know about you. They care, and they are present.
  1. Invest – Building a relationship takes time, and great relationship builders are in it for the long haul. They want to go deep instead of wide. They invite you to lunch or coffee. They go to your games. They ask about the job interview, or the parent who had a health scare. And perhaps most importantly, they roll up their sleeves to help, giving their time and attention without looking for something in return.
  1. Personalize – While I love getting gift cards for Christmas, there is nothing quite like getting a gift from someone that communicates, “I really know you.” Great relationship builders do this, sending personalized notes, articles they know you’ll like, or texts of encouragement. They order a book for you that they know you’ll love. They bring you your favorite Starbucks drink. It feels good to be known, and great relationship builders do this well.
  1. Care – This is fourth on the list, but truly foundational to the other three. Good relationship builders care. They care enough to listen without having to get a word in. They care enough to learn about you and really get to know you. They care enough to invest their time and energy into you. Their attention is personalized because they’ve cared enough to learn about you and make observations. Great relationship builders genuinely care.

Those are four relationship-building traits that resonated with me. While relationship building doesn’t come naturally to many of us, we can all improve. I hope some of those resonated with you as well.


5 Virtues My Children Have Taught Me

Raising young children has been the most difficult job I’ve had. I know that’s not exactly a newsflash for a lot of people. But I was an only child who was consistently told by my family that I would one day make a great father. Somewhere along the line their reassurances translated into a simple equation in my mind:

Raising Children = Moderately Hard/Mostly Fun.

Oh, the bliss of ignorance . . . until the moment of truth arrives.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father of two young kids, but I was quite naïve about the lessons parenting would bring. I’ll call these lessons “virtues” in an exercise of cognitive reframing, rather than what they often feel like: grueling events that, if not respected and studied carefully, could suck one’s very will to live.

Who knew I’d learn so many virtues from my kids?

Here are my top five:

  • Enthusiasm. This one’s easy at first, especially when you are eyewitness to the birth of the most beautiful baby in the history of mankind. That’s an adrenalin rush I’ll never forget.But when the sleep deprivation kicks in, parental enthusiasm begins to peter out. You begin to ask yourself hard questions, like “What was I thinking?” and “Why won’t this thing stop crying?!” But then she falls asleep on your shoulder and you are in awe of a sleeping angel. All of a sudden all the sleepless nights become worth it, and your resolve as a parent moves forward, stronger.
  • Patience. I thought I was a patient person . . . and then I tried teaching my three-year-old how to tie his shoes. Make one bunny ear . . . make a second bunny ear . . . no not that way . . . oh, hell. Let’s buy the kid some Velcro! But these small, teachable moments (for me, not my kid) have helped me understand what is important and what isn’t. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.
  • Assertiveness. Ever tried feeding a 6-month-old a jar of strained peas? Yeah, that’s not happening, no matter how many times the choo-choo approaches the tunnel. But there’s something refreshing about the black-and-white nature of a kid’s likes and dislikes, and their innate belief that their opinions matter. I’m trying more often to make my preferences known so I’m not Mr. Wishy-Washy. I believe God gave each of us unique gifts and talents, and a unique point of view that needs to be heard.
  • Imaginative. Storytime with my kids is my favorite. To see the look on their faces as they let their imagination enter the story I’m reading is inspiring. I’m starting to better understand that we can each write our own inspiring story through the life we live and the memories we make.
  • Acceptance. My kids didn’t get to choose their dad, but the way they light up when I get home at night makes me feel as if they did. Unconditional love is a powerful thing, though I don’t doubt the power of a well-timed ice cream cone as well. My kids seem to accept me for who I am, and I’m trying the same response with the people in my circles as well. We’re each a work in progress.

Well, there’s my Top Five.

What other things your kids are teaching you? Please let me know in the comments below.

by Chris Epstein, Clinical Director of Innovation360 Dallas


5 Things to Never Say to your Struggling Child

It’s typical for parents to equip themselves with knowledge on how to raise healthy children.  However, we are rarely knowledgeable or prepared to deal with a struggling child.

In an effort to motivate our children toward healthy behaviors and attitudes, we unfortunately and unintentionally say things that produce more shame and resistance.  Over the many years of working with families, clients have shared their perceptions and feelings about certain statements that parents frequently make.

Below are 5 statements parents often make with love and good intention, and what their child who is struggling often hears instead:

  1. “But you have so much potential!”
    What they often hear: “So why are you such a screw-up?”
  2. “If you loved us, you would stop drinking/taking drugs!”
    What they often hear or perceive: “You are doing this to us intentionally. We have absolutely no understanding of your pain or situation.  You do not love us.”
  3. “It is best not to tell anyone you have been in rehab. What happens in our family should stay in our family.”
    What they may hear: “We are so ashamed of you.  We don’t want anyone to associate you with our family. It is not okay to reach out beyond our family for support.”
  4. “You have been provided with more than most kids could ever hoped for.”
    What they often hear: “Because you have money and privilege, you have no right to have problems.  You are a failure and a disappointment.”
  5. “You brother and sister never did anything like this.”
    What they often hear: “We love them more than you because they don’t have problems.  You do not belong in our family.  Our family is wonderful except for you.”

Intention and impact are two very different things.  We all say things in fear and pain that may not be the best choice of words to share.  There is such healing and relationship mending when parents apologize to their children for statements that may have hurt them.  Empathize with them, do not justify your statements and admit you are struggling too without blaming them. There is comfort in knowing parents are human, fallible, imperfect and willing to walk beside them in their struggle.


Stop-hating-valentines-Day i360Dallas

Guys, it’s time to stop hating on Valentine’s Day

Ladies, here’s a little secret about Valentine’s Day.

When it’s just us guys in the room and women are out of earshot, we take a vote. Nine out of ten of us agree that Valentine’s Day is just a made up holiday for us to do things for our wives and girlfriends because we didn’t do enough at Christmas or on birthdays or on anniversaries or on Mother’s Day, if you’ve birthed one of our children (by the way, thank you for that).

But what about that one out of ten kind of guy who thinks Valentine’s Day should be federal law?

Usually he’s an extra tender fella who loves his wife so much that he’ll sit through an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy without complaining. He’s the kind of guy who makes the rest of us look bad because nobody else was willing to step away from the poker table to answer a call from his wife.

The truth is we may roll our eyes at the poor sap, but guys, it may be time to start listening to him. It may be time to take a page from his playbook and start recognizing the value in celebrating a day devoted to your significant other.

Our biggest mental block is that we see Valentine’s Day as this goopy, floral-fueled, chocolate-covered lovefest. And for years and years we, ourselves, have perpetuated this. That’s right, guys. We’re to blame.

It’s not that women don’t like flowers or chocolates or carnival-sized teddy bears, because plenty do. It’s that we don’t know how to do any better.

We haven’t figured out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about saying “I love you,” which most of us say every single day, anyway.Valentine’s Day is about a very concrete thing. It’s about showing gratitude. It’s about saying thank you.

You know you’re doing Valentine’s Day right when you’re doing something to say, “Thank you for being supportive in my life. Thank you for your companionship. Thank you for holding down the fort when I was swamped with work for three weeks. Thanks for handling the kids when I couldn’t. Thanks for going on bike rides with me even though it’s not really your thing. Thanks for being so nice to my mom when she came to stay with us. Thanks for helping with the taxes. Thank you for letting me share my life with you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

That’s all it really is. It’s an opportunity to say thank you.

One of the most common problems in long-term relationships is that we grow complacent. You see each other every day, you take trips together, you eat together, you brush your teeth next to each other. For newlyweds, that’s an exciting prospect. For marriage veterans, being together so much breeds complacency.

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to stop being complacent, to break up the cycle a little.

Maybe you’ve raised kids together, started a company together, redone houses together, traveled together, suffered the loss of family, or helped care for an ailing relative together. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to say thank you, to express gratitude for the role she plays in your life, to say, “I’d pick you all over again.”

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


11 ways to ruin your relationship

Many of us are doing these things daily, and have no idea we are well on our way to ruining our relationships, because thankfully, we feel like its our partner’s fault.

1. Tell them “just calm down” or “get over it” when they are really upset.

2. Remind them of all the times they have failed you (ESPECIALLY when they least expect it, like when they are in the middle of a football game, or have just woken from a nap).

3. Tell them that they are just like having another child, and treat them that way too (phrases like “can you handle that small task?” and “I have to remind you a million times because I know you’ll forget!” are perfect).

4. Pretend you are going to do something they want you to do just to get them off your back, then don’t do it (while telling yourself that it’s really their fault you’re lying, I mean, come on, if they weren’t so needy and demanding you wouldn’t have had to lie!)

5. When they do something you asked them to, rather than thanking them, say things like “Well for once you followed through!” Tell yourself they won’t do it next time, its just a fluke. Stay cynical.

6. Don’t remind yourself, (or your spouse) what you know about real stresses and hardships in their life that make it hard for them to be the person they really want to be. You must act as though they could easily be pleasant and helpful and when they aren’t that way the only explanation is that they are SIMPLY CHOOSING not to.

7. Meditate on the idea that committed love is just a hoax, no one can really do it, people are too different, who wants one partner anyway? Think on your friend who’s been married 10 times. This must be proof. (DON’T think on the couples you know who somehow seem to be so close through the years, or deep yearnings in your heart to be known and accepted; keep that stuff pushed down!!)

8. Assume the worst – at all times! They most definitely purposefully forgot your birthday, just to hurt you; she’s bringing up that worry not because it is a real worry, but just because she likes to see you suffer.

9. Spend time wondering if you didn’t just choose the wrong person (rather than thinking about what you could do differently in the relationship). Focus on the idea that if you had just waited and married so-in-so, everything would be different, you’d have the life you want. Don’t let yourself think about how you felt about your partner in the beginning or factors that may have changed your relationship.

10. Never, I repeat NEVER consider your own role in your current struggles with your partner (especially not how you are so critical about the dishes, or how you tune them out every time they start talking about something they are worried about).

11. Above all, tell yourself you don’t really need them, what they do doesn’t effect you. You can leave any time and be fine.

Of course, if for any reason you’re interested in something else… something like a longer and healthier life; quicker recovery from physical and mental health problems; a significantly lowered chance of addiction; a more satisfied sex life; and a healthier next generation… if you’re interested in that, well, you might want to try something else.

(If you want to find out more about these claims about what a healthy relationship can do for you and how to do it, read Dr. Sue Johnson’s Love Sense.)

Emily Savage, M.MFT, LMFT-Associate


Day 12 | What did January ever do to you?

We’ve all got those ticks, those natural irritants that get under our skin. Leaving the seat up or down, for example, can really set a person off. Or being forced by your straight-A kid to watch the presidential debate when Dancing with the Stars is on the next channel over. Or that plate of enchiladas doused in onions when you clearly said, “No onions.”

Yep, this world’s got it in for us.

What else pushes your buttons? The month of January? It sure seems like it. If an alien race suddenly decided to descend to Earth and observe the way we humans “go all out” in December with our holiday parties and seasonal celebrations, they might conclude that January is going to be a real you-know-what for us. Surely, January must be the worst month of the year, because we humans sure go overboard before it gets here.

But what did January ever do to us? It’s not like January is an unimportant month. For businesses, January is very important. It means recommitting to the business plan, developing new ideas to maximize on profit, and continuing to provide customers with a satisfactory product. For individuals, January means a fresh start, the kind of fresh start that the rest of the year just can’t seem to provide.

We get so wrapped up in the month of December that we forget just how solid of a month January is. January didn’t really do anything to us, but because we love to celebrate the end of things, we don’t pay much attention to what’s coming next.

When you were in school, and you just finished finals, did you immediately hit the books again? Of course not! You probably went out to celebrate with friends and family. We enjoy relaxing after a long challenge or struggle, and the end of the year, this month of December, is no different.

But January is coming, and the best way to both enjoy the end of the year and ring in the new one is to practice moderation and ease into the transition. You don’t always have to have a Mardi Gras before Lent.

Let’s instead take some time to gather perspective this December and remember all the good things that happened throughout the year both in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And in the process, let’s begin turning our attention to all the great things sure to come when our good friend January pays us his annual visit. January is coming.

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 11 | Beating the holiday blues

So this guy walks into a bar. Then another guy walks into the bar. And then another. And another. Pretty soon you’ve got a full house, and you realize what the big deal is. They’re here for the holidays.

Their heads are low. Their voices are soft. Underneath the sparkling red reindeer cutouts and glittering green garland strung above the counter, everyone here’s got the wintery blues.

Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you’re considering joining them. There’s a reason for that.

For many, this holiday season is the first one they’ll be celebrating following a loss in the family, the loss of a job, a fractured relationship, or any number of big life transitions.

From the outside looking in, the pain they must feel may be difficult to comprehend. From the inside looking out, the pain may be difficult to explain. But the holidays are here, nonetheless, and grappling with the new “normal” doesn’t have to debilitate us.

The reality is this time of year can be really difficult for a number of people for a number of reasons. This doesn’t mean that we do anything less to mark the occasion or that we stop celebrating the season altogether. It does mean that we’re mindful of others and how their experiences this past year may have deeply affected them. Compassion is critical.

If we ourselves are feeling the holiday blues, we have the opportunity to embrace our new “normal,” instead of choosing to reject it. We have the opportunity to start this new chapter of our lives on the right foot, which means it may actually be a good time to start a new tradition.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something new. It can be as spontaneous as going to the movies with friends one night to watch the worst reviewed film of the year. Or start a Christmas potluck and show the world how good you are at making green bean casserole. Just remember, it’s a tradition, and that means you’ve got to keep at it, this year and the next.

Whatever tradition you start, turn it into a bookmark to celebrate the next chapter in your life, to passionately embrace the new “normal,” and to turn those holiday blues bright red and green.

-Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 10 | The bird didn’t sh*t on you. The bird just sh*t.

“I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead, others come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m not going to name names because that would be rude. But, you and I know that there are times when our perspective warps our life.

Take the holiday party. We have high expectations when we put on an event or a dinner or a gathering or a party. We exhaust ourselves, trying to achieve a level of perfection and excellence for all the people that attend. That may not be a realistic goal, and when people step into those occasions and have a different response, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you or what you’ve done to prepare for that event.

Take the proverbial bird, carefree and excited, who sails 75 feet above your head when all of a sudden…. Holy crap! (You’re half-right…)

Really, you think that bird picked you out for this honor?

No, no. It didn’t. That is not how the bird works.

When it comes to holiday gatherings, you must know by now that people show up with their own Santa bag full of emotions, expectations, and behaviors.

Their baggage most likely will have nothing to do with you, but when we see the baggage being slung around, we do what so many others do and we believe (if not say), “When I see you do that, the story I make up in my head is that I am to blame, I’m an idiot, I’m a worthless blah, blah, blah….”

We personalize others’ stuff when they bring it to our parties or gatherings. And, if we’ve been spending too much time with Mr. Eggnog, those feelings tend to be way exaggerated.

So, when you experience or see the bird doing it’s business during the holidays—at your party or one you’re at, remember this: The bird didn’t sh*t on you, the bird just sh*t. It’s what birds do. It’s not personal.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 9 | Is this really rest?

“When you can’t wait for your ship to come in, you’ve got to row out to it.” – Greer Garson

I love Greer Garson. Not just for the wisdom she left us (may she rest in peace), but for her silky, smooth voice that comforted me when I was a kid and ready to relax a little during the holidays.

I remember plopping down in front of our sorta-color TV and listening to the soothing story-telling voice of Ms. Garson in the 1968 TV holiday classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.” You’ll remember the program if you’ve seen it because the characters were Claymation. And, don’t deny it if you’ve seen it and really liked it. It’s a classic.  And that’s just one of the many great shows and movies this time of year.

We all need rest, and the holidays seem like the ‘perfect’ time to rest. But, sometimes we make a mistake when we think, “I have to go from all that I’ve been doing to absolutely nothing and that’s going to recharge my batteries.”

No, that actually may not be the case.

There’s a lot of data in the exercise and physiology field that speaks to the value of “active recovery.”

Yes, you heard me correctly, you actually recover better from fatigue when you still keep a little bit of momentum in your life—not when you go from doing a lot to doing nothing.

I would encourage a little bit of caution when we’re tempted to totally veg for days on end. Too much of a good thing can end up putting us in a place that’s not as healthy as we would like.

What I would encourage is to make sure that your rest is restorative.

By the way, have you ever seen Elf? Let me tell you about that show…okay, another time.