Does Cutting Costs Create Mental Illness?

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Recently I heard a well known Dale Carnegie graduate give a talk on how to attract new business. He used as an example, what attracted him to the family physician who had attended to him, his wife and children for years. The good doctor had given a similar talk at a public event and impressed the man with his expertise, solid reputation, and sincerity. For something as personal and life important as the health care of his family, the man wanted such an individual as this dedicated doctor. And for years his initial decision to choose this physician proved to be a good one. Yet in spite of the importance of choosing the “right” health care professional, this Carnegie graduate dropped the doctor like a “hot potato” when managed care rolled into town. Because his company chose a managed care plan that would not allow the doctor to join the panel, the dedicated patient who had so carefully chosen and developed a meaningful relationship with his health care provider, decided to follow the impersonal dictates of the managed care plan. Closer to my own area of practice, psychology, is another story that is even more disconcerting. A young teenage girl had been treated for depression by a psychologist. In actuality she was not seriously depressed but rather angry at her boyfriend for being somewhat shallow. The girl’s parents called the managed care company and were referred to the psychologist. After a few short sessions with the psychologist, the girl felt she had more control of the situation and would not allow the boyfriend’s manipulation to continue. Two weeks after terminating psychotherapy, the girl and her father had a fight that erupted into yelling and screaming between the two of them. The father in frustration called his managed care plan (an 800 number in southern California) and told them his daughter was suicidal. Without any psychiatric evaluation and without contacting the daughter’s psychotherapist, the clerk at the other end of the 800 number advised the father to take the girl to a psychiatric hospital. Although the girl was not suicidal and didn’t need hospitalization, she did learn to fear her father and to behave lest she be hospitalized again. Not a healthy outcome. By now you probably have the tone of this article. While managed care may save your company dollars, and while there is a need for health care reform, you might think twice about just what you are subjecting yourself, your employees and your family to. The mistakes made by the Carnegie graduate and the father of the teenager are not uncommon. There is a mystique about managed care. People have come to believe that the 800 number is like a parent, able to solve all of their woes. They believe that they will get the same personal service they received for years by a doctor who knows them. They are puzzled when the service they do receive is not sufficient to resolve the problem. Often they assume that there is nothing more that can be done, since their managed care company has not authorized additional services. It’s as if the managed care company has assumed the paternalistic mystique that the family doctor once held. But now the mystique has no concern about the individual, only cutting medical costs.

All right, I realize that I am biased on this subject, given that I am one of those doctors that is being pressed by the managed care industry. It may be hard for some of you to accept my complaints about managed care, even though others of you have your concerns too. So let me relate a few statistics to bring you up to date on the state of the art when it comes to psychotherapy. The following points come from recent published research. Ninety percent of emergency room visits are psychosomatic in origin. In a review of 58 studies, 85% of the studies found substantial reductions in the medical and surgical costs of patients who regularly used psychotherapy. In a review of 475 studies, the authors found that the average psychotherapy patient at the end of treatment was better off than 80% of those patients who need psychotherapy but remain untreated. Therapist competence relates more to client improvement than does the particular treatment modality. By 8 sessions of psychotherapy 50% of the patients are measurably improved. By 26 sessions or about six months of psychotherapy, 75% of patients are improved. Cognitive-Behavioral psychotherapy alone is as effective and efficient in treating depression as are drugs, or drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapy combined. Drugs have side effects. These are pretty impressive statistics. If as an employer you could improve the health of an employee, certainly you would see an improvement in your bottom line. Healthy employees produce. Most managed care companies, however, are not into improving employee health, but in cutting insurance and medical costs. If they were really interested in your bottom line, why are they not increasing mental health benefits? If psychotherapy works as well as or better than drugs; if psychotherapy reduces emergency room visits and medical and surgical costs; if psychotherapy works better than no psychotherapy; if competent experienced psychologists are part of the success, why then are benefits for psychotherapy being slashed and watered down so dramatically? You may question my findings, noting that your managed care plan includes mental health benefits. However, if you review your benefits in particular, you will find some serious flaws. Such flaws include the fact that your employee is entitled to five or ten employee assistance visits with a counselor. If the problem cannot be resolved in five or ten sessions, they get no more. Also the counselor they must see cannot be of their own choosing. Many of the psychotherapists contracted to managed care companies are inexperienced master’s level people. Another flaw is that all psychotherapy plans must be reviewed with the clerk at the managed care company. The treatment plan is not a confidential arrangement between the client and the psychologist. It is part of a computer record available not only to the insurance company, but to the managed care company who reviews and authorizes insurance claims.

There are some estimates that up to 12 people see your psychotherapy treatment plan. For things as personal as serious depression, or marital problems, this is hardly sensitive or confidential. Furthermore, do you really want an anonymous clerk to be making decisions about your personal mental health? A third flaw is that the managed care company makes decisions about what kind of treatment you should receive based upon actuarial tables. It is not based upon your unique situation, nor what you and the doctor feel would be best. There is no sensitivity to your needs, but what fits the budget. If psychologist competence is significant to treatment outcome, then why is a clerk making these decisions? I personally am willing to participate in only three managed care plans for the above reasons and more. I will work only with those plans that leave the treatment plan between myself and the client. I will work only with those plans that maintain client right to confidentiality. I will work only with those plans that pay me what I am worth as a seasoned professional. I will work only with those plans that authorize appropriate treatment and will not cut off therapy for short term gain, forgetting the long term health loss. If you are shopping for a new health plan and if you are considering a managed care plan, why would you be interested in my point of view? After all, as I said earlier, I am biased in favor of preserving my profession. But there are compelling reasons to take a good look at all sides of the situation. It’s like my CPA says about taxes. If you find a way to save some taxes in one area of your business, you ultimately pay more tax somewhere else. It’s the same with mental health. If you cut premiums and cut services to your employees when it comes to their mental health, you pay the price in increased medical and surgical costs, employee accidents, higher turnover rate and so on. In an ideal world, there would be enough to go around; enough dollars to pay for health care and the ability to choose any provider you wished. However, obviously employers have to strike a reasonable balance and health care has skyrocketed. But in the time that medical and surgical costs have skyrocketed, mental health costs have not grown. They are essentially at the same utilization rate and cost as they have been for decades. So psychotherapy is not the place to cut. It just doesn’t make financial sense, when the price you pay is increased health problems. So when you are shopping around for a health plan, I hope you consider just what you are buying when it comes to mental health benefits. ? Do you have ample psychotherapy benefits; at least 26 to 52 visits per year per employee? Do you have the right to choose the most experienced and competent psychologist? Is there true confidentiality guaranteed? Is the treatment plan dictated by actuarial tables or by the unique needs of the situation and the employee? Is the payment to the therapist worth the time of a competent professional, or are you forced to seek out an untrained, inexperienced person who will charge rock bottom prices?

The Family/Business Vacation

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

A couple of years ago at a Family Firm Institute annual meeting, a woman approached me and asked about how I manage to attend these meetings and still have time for my family. She noticed that my children and husband were staying with me at the hotel and would frequently meet with me during breaks throughout the conference. She also wondered if there were others at the conference who may benefit by arrangements for their children and families. Since I had had several people question me about this, I assured her that there were many conference attendees who would be interested in a conference that allowed for family participation of some kind. Being a woman may make it easier for me to consider how to balance family and professional needs. Not that men don&rsquot value their families, but there is no precedent for a man to bring the baby to the board room. On the other hand, it is becoming more common for women executives to have a play pen in their offices and to take breaks from work for baby. And more and more large corporations have child-care on site, so working parents can visit their children for lunch.

I remember taking my younger daughter Phoebe to a conference in Raleigh North Carolina when she was just three months old. She slept on the long plane ride to Chicago, then explored with wide eyed interest the Chicago airport as I whisked her and I to the next plane to Raleigh. At the conference itself, I mixed batches of formula in my hotel room (I brought along a mini-hot pot to boil water) and asked hotel staff to chill bottles in the staff refrigerator. Even though my environmental consciousness required that I use cloth diapers, for the duration I acquiesced and used disposables.

As I wheeled Phoebe (in her umbrella stroller, which easily totes on the airplane) to various conference meetings, I got quite a few inquisitive looks … and smiles. Everyone wanted to talk to the baby. And I got several offers to baby-sit, so that I could attend a meeting without interruptions.

My husband and I are committed to raising children who have a sense of belonging to a family with parents who are professionals. The children see our work as part of who we are … and they are part of it too. I seldom attend a conference anymore without taking one or both children and my husband along. This last trip to L.A. was no exception. This time, Mom stayed at the hotel in downtown L.A. for three days, while Dad and the girls visited Grandma and Grandpa in Orange county. Following the conference, the family picked me up to visit my uncle and cousin who live near Burbank. So close to Hollywood, we made a side trip to the famed Universal Studios. We all rode the Jurassic Park ride and the girls have T-shirts stating “I survived Jurassic Park.” Before leaving town, we made one last trip south to say good-bye to the grandparents and slip in a trip to Disneyland. Needless to say we were tired when we got home eight days later, but we were nourished, professionally and personally.

Within just a few short years, since I first took baby Phoebe with me to Raleigh, hotels and resorts have started catering to business travelers who wish to bring their children with them. While Mom and Dad are at their business meetings, or downloading their e-mail from the office back home, the children are able to participate in events sponsored and supervised by hotel staff. This certainly makes it easier than in the days when there was no one to help with the children. Sometimes, I would just have to skip a meeting because baby came first.

However, there is another potential problem. Workaholics may never learn how to leave work, if even the entertainment industry (i.e. hotels) encourages you to work instead of play. Combining work and play as I have described above is one alternative, but another is to plan vacations without work in mind at all. Oh, I know, pure vacations aren&rsquot write offs, but they may do more good than reduced taxes. In our family, we plan at least one two week vacation a year that has nothing to do with work. And we usually have two to three long weekends that are purely family fun too.

These considerations are especially relevant to family firms, of course. As a family who also happens to be in business together, you have the sophisticated task of integrating the needs of family and the needs of business. If your spouse and your children feel a part of your work, they are in a better position to help with business growth, even if only as interested stakeholders. And if you are willing to take time from your busy schedule to play with your children and family, even at a business conference or trade show, you are sending a very important message. That is, no matter how important the business, no matter how you wish the business to succeed, what&rsquos the point if you cannot share your successes with the ones you love?

Managing Wealth

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Steve and Karen were $38,000,000 lottery winners, so they immediately quit their respective jobs, and bought a beautiful house, horses and new cars.

Nancy had been a social worker for most of her adult life. Her standard of living was modest but she made a good salary for a single woman. She even qualified to buy a house. At age 32, she met Mark, a software designer who made a million overnight.

Frank was a poor kid who grew up in an inner city neighborhood. After a stint in the Navy, Frank decided to try his hand at mining, then real estate, then almost any other business opportunity that turned a profit. By age 40 he was a multi-millionaire.

Sharon grew up in an upper-class neighborhood. Her best friend was her nanny, until her father fired her. She attended school with children from other wealthy families. Sharon never really knew the extent of her parent’s wealth until her father’s death, although she always had everything she ever wanted and was sent to the best schools. At the age of 38, she inherited billions.

Really, the only thing these people have in common is that they have wealth. Most people would not consider that a problem, nor even worthy of a column in this newspaper. However, another thing these people have in common is that they have to learn to manage their wealth. Like any other lesson in life, if you have no previous experience, there may be bumps in the road.

One bump for Steve and Karen was the loss of family and friends. Coming from families of modest means, Steve’s and Karen’s family and friends found it difficult to relate to them anymore. Although invited to the “mansion” for parties, they felt uncomfortable, out of place, envious. The envy turned to anger and conflict. Although Steve and Karen had been generous with the money, making loans to family who needed it, they were blamed for not being generous enough.

Nancy was overwhelmed with guilt about the money she and her new husband had. She had chosen the profession of social work because she wanted to help the disenfranchised. She was a liberal politically, so acquiring wealth while others starved seemed immoral. She spent many months in therapy before she was even willing to marry Mark, and then only after he agreed to invest his windfall in “socially- and ecologically- based investments.”

Frank never really thought he experienced any setbacks as a result of his wealth. As he puts it, he “loves making money!” On the other hand, he is estranged from his grown children and is divorcing his third wife.

Sharon had been so sheltered from the real world, that she was entirely unprepared to step into her father’s business. He never considered training her to take over his business. She really had no skills to speak of except how to shop. With her father’s death, Sharon had to start thinking about what she wanted to do with her life and all of that money.

Again, if you do not think any of this applies to you, think again. The average millionaire started out an ordinary working person and acquired wealth through building their small business. To avoid or at least be prepared for some of the problems that plague Frank, Sharon, Karen and Steve, and Nancy, it is necessary to plan ahead for the day when you may have wealth. If you are in business, that is probably one of your goals anyway, so why not think positively?

Recently, the New York Times published some data on the “average American millionaire.” Surprisingly, most millionaires do not lead glamorous lives. They own bowling alleys, funeral homes and small manufacturing plants. In fact, the average millionaire is a 57 year old man, married with three children. He is self-employed in a practical business such as farming, pest control or paving contracting. He works between 45-55 hours a week. He has a median household income of $131,000 and lives in a house valued at $320,000. He drives an older model car. Although he attended public school he is likely to send his children to private school. Finally, he is first generation affluent.

It sounds to me like the American Dream is alive and well. However, many of these millionaires are not doing that well in the areas of personal relationships, health and emotional well-being. Some, like Frank, neglected their marital partners and their children because they were so focused on the thrill of making money. At mid-life now, Frank is trying desperately to re-establish these relationships, but his children feel that his addiction to money is greater than his love for them. Frank waited too long to strike the balance between love and work.

Nancy’s problem is more common than you think. Ordinarily, this type of mindset prevents the acquisition of wealth altogether. But Nancy was faced with the painful situation of having to re-evaluate her social values. This pain nearly put her in the hospital with a severe depression. She felt “dirty” having money, yet she felt guilty for wanting to keep it. Nancy had to do a lot of soul searching to realize that she was just as important as those disenfranchised folk she had helped as a social worker. When she began to view the money as a gift, as love, as energy from the universe, she started using it not only to help others, but to benefit herself and those she loved.

Steve and Karen have resorted to drug addiction and gambling to alleviate the stress of their sudden wealth. The lottery not only brought wealth, but power. Neither of them ever saw themselves as powerful and had no experience as leaders. However, with $38,000,000, their friends and family have put them in the position of leadership. They long for the simple life that can only be accomplished by giving all of their money away, which may happen if they do not curb the addictive behavior.

Similarly Sharon needs to take stock of her lack of skills for leadership. She does not have to work, nor have any management responsibility in the business at all. Yet she feels a tremendous responsibility to do something with the great gift she has inherited. What Frank, Steve and Karen and Nancy have in common with Sharon is the awareness that wealth brings with it responsibility. Planning for this new responsibility will put you ahead of the game when the time arrives.

Stewardship is another name for this responsibility. Once all of the bills are paid, once the new house is purchased, once you have exhausted all of your fantasies for travel, jewelry, cars and horses, the “average millionaire” still has to ask himself or herself, “What am I contributing to my community?” This is the bump in the road that takes the most maneuvering. As long as you barely make enough money to pay the rent, or you work night and day to get your start-up business off the ground, or your days are filled with managing small children, there is precious little time to ask yourself “what will I be remembered for?” But the acquisition of wealth puts people in this spot, sometimes overnight.

Charlene took care of her basic needs after she and her husband struck it rich with their manufacturing business. She built a new house, decorated it, bought a condo at the beach, traveled to Europe, sent her children to private schools. Then one day she woke up deeply depressed because her life had no meaning. She tried therapy. She volunteered for worthy causes. She joined social clubs. She took up sculpting. Nothing worked, however, until she read about foundations. This idea took hold of Charlene and she began the process of funding a foundation that would sponsor young women interested in entrepreneurship.

If you want to be prepared for wealth start thinking now about what you really want to do with that money. Ask yourself, what is really important to me in my life? If I could change the world to make it a better place what would I do? If you can answer questions such as these, you will have principles to guide you as you acquire wealth.

Love,hate, and guilt in the family business partnership

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Love+Hate=Guilt. How many of you have this type of relationship with one or more of your parents? Or how many of you have felt like this at least once with your parents? Or are you suspicious that this is how your teenage or grown children feel about you? Unfortunately these feelings are all too common among parents and children. They are the natural byproducts of normal human development that has not been allowed to progress to completion. Anger and Love are healthy human emotions that emerge often in our daily lives. Learning methods to process these feelings constructively so that we can mature is the work of childhood. Guilt, on the other hand, is not a normal nor healthy human emotion (unless of course you have legitimately committed a serious offense). To feel guilty for being angry at your parent or child is a misunderstanding of the relationship. Nobody is perfect and so it is very likely that someone you love will do something that makes you mad, even if they don’t mean to. You are under no obligation to stifle your anger or to feel guilty just because it is a parent who has misbehaved. Many people balk at the idea of Blaming their parents. They feel guilty for being angry at their parents whom they love and admire. They haven’t learned how to reconcile those feelings of love and hate. They either feel guilty about their anger, but more often they deny it altogether. Blame isn’t really necessary, but holding your parents (and others too for that matter) accountable for their mistakes is important. Just as you give others credit for their successes, it is important to note the failures, the misunderstandings, the faulty choices. By holding others accountable you accomplish two important goals. First, you are actually treating the other person with respect. You are offering them the opportunity to correct their error. In other words, you are treating them as if they are capable.

By stuffing your anger, you feel helpless and like a victim with no where to go with these feelings except to build up resentment (i.e. Love/Hate). Second, by holding others accountable, you are able to view your own flaws more objectively. Not only can you learn from your mistakes but from other’s as well. Take your parents for example. Many adults tell me that they don’t want to blame their parents for the mistakes they made, because the grown child should take responsibility for their life now. Yet that grown child is making the same mistakes their parents made; often that is the reason they are in my office! Because your parents raised you and because they are flawed, they made mistakes. You as a child made mistakes too. One of them is to develop the belief that you should feel guilty for being mad at your parents, even if what they did was wrong. By acknowledging what they did wrong (and right) you are better equipped to correct their and your mistakes. For example, a few years ago, my daughter Bianca was taking interminably long to get ready to go out. I was in my usual hurry to get somewhere, never planning quite enough time to prepare myself and two young children for an outing. I told Bianca several times to get her shoes on so that we could leave, but she was preoccupied with some toy and was not getting to the task. Finally in desperation, I grabbed her by the arm, pulled her down the hall and said “Let’s go now!” She pulled her arm away from me, put her hands on her little hips and looking at me very disapprovingly said, “That is rude!” Several options whizzed through my mind at that moment, but fortunately I was amazed at her perceptiveness. She was absolutely right and she had the guts to tell me. She was four. I apologized for pulling her arm, told her that I loved her and informed her that because I was the mommy she had to put on her shoes now.

She obliged and we had a fun outing. If you want to clear up the Love+Hate=Guilt relationship you have with your parents or children, take a moment to do the following exercise.

  1. As honestly as possible, list your loved one’s flaws, mistakes and even downright nasty traits. Make sure you include everything that makes you really angry about this person.
  2. Now list all of those traits you admire and are grateful for.
  3. As you review these lists, ask yourself, which traits are you carrying on, in the family tradition. Be honest. You might ask your spouse for feedback because you may feel so guilty that you cannot acknowledge your parents flaws, or your own.
  4. Finally, make a plan of action to change the negative counterproductive traits.

This little exercise is very revealing. By feeling guilty and by avoiding blame you may inadvertently be carrying on the same mistakes generation after generation. The goal of each generation should be to improve upon the goals of the last, not repeat mistakes. By holding your parents accountable you are more free to do this. I hope by now that you realize that blame is not really the answer, but that accountability is. Be respectful in your confrontations. Tell your parents what they did that hurt or angered you, but treat them as if they are human beings quite cabable of accepting responsibility for their mistakes and cabable of correcting them. This is especially crucial in a family business. How is the business to prosper if children coming up into the business never correct the errors of their predecessors? How is the business to remain competitive if you hang onto old ways just because you are afraid to confront a parent or grandparent? On the other hand, if you trust that your love for this person and their love for you is strong enough to handle the confrontation, you both benefit by getting things out in the open.

Here’s the secret to finding a reliable auto mechanic

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Have you ever experienced that chilling feeling that creeps up your spine when your car starts acting up? It’s bad enough to be inconvenienced by having your car in “the shop,” but what’s even more frightening is having to face the mechanic, a person you don’t trust, yet need.

Mechanics lie to you. They make unnecessary repairs and over-charge you. It’s not just a feeling. There have been “undercover” stories on television where the mechanics are caught “red-handed.” Mechanics can’t be trusted. That’s a fact! At least, this is what I believed until a couple of years ago when I met our current “family auto mechanic.” This guy is like a breath of fresh air. He and his wife run the shop with a couple of employees. He’s honest, hardworking, RELIABLE. His prices are fair. The work gets done in a timely manner. And to cap it off, my car is always better after he’s fixed it. Is it any wonder that his business has grown steadily over the years, so that he had to move from his quaint little storefront to larger more professional space? I hope the growth doesn’t change his values. With this issue of the Vancouver Business Journal , I began to wonder what is it that makes our “family auto mechanic” so exceptional. There are the basics. He’s timely. He’s knowledgeable. He’s personable but not terribly out-going.He remembers my name. He charges what the work is worth, not what the traffic will bear. I always get answers; no double-talk. He rarely tells me he has no time for me. If he can’t fix it, he tells me where I can get the car fixed.

He does little extras; he’s willing to pull leaves out of rain drains so that the interior of my car stays dry.A major appliance company conducted a study a few years ago to learn how to improve the quality of the repairs on customer’s appliances. The technicians were given tests to determine their personality style; then divided into one of two types, introvert and extravert. Introverts are people who quietly within themselves figure out the problem. Whereas, extraverts are more noisy about their problem solving, needing to talk aloud and get feedback from others. The appliance company then asked their customers two questions: (1) How satisfied are you with the repair?; and (2) How satisfied are you with the technician? While the customers found the extraverted technicians more personable, there were fewer complaints about the repairs done by the introverts. In other words, the guy who quietly goes about his business of getting the job done, but doesn’t interact much with the customer does a better job. Our “family auto mechanic” fits this picture. But there’s more. There’s something deeper that makes my mechanic special. He really seems to love his work. He works hard, often late into the night. And his wife is working right beside him. It must be that he enjoys solving the mystery behind my car problems. He probably wants to earn money too, but money is a byproduct of doing what you love.

Obviously our “family auto mechanic” is being paid well for doing what he loves. I know that I am not alone in this desire to have a mechanic I can trust and who does quality work. Recently on National Public Radio I was listening to “Car Talk,” a lively program dedicated to answering tough car repair problems called in by listeners. On this particular night I was amused to have an astronaut call in from his space shuttle orbiting the Earth. Although the reception was compromised by a little static, I learned about the problems astronauts have with their vehicles.But what was even more fascinating about the program is that the hosts were offering to set up a free locator service for mechanics. They asked listeners to send in the names of mechanics that they felt were RELIABLE and trustworthy. If you want to find a mechanic you can trust, you need to get to know the person. Just as with your physician or hair dresser, the relationship with your mechanic should be more than passing. In our frenzied world, many of us have lost tract of the community spirit, but that community spirit is what helps build trust. If I know my mechanic and his family and he knows me and mine, we can build a relationship of trust over the years. He knows just how I like things done. I know that I can trust him to have my best interests at heart. Most importantly, I want to work with someone who cares about me, not just my car; and I want to work with someone I care about too.

Building balance in family business partnerships

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

The Yin and the Yang; other than an interesting design for a T-shirt or jewelry, what do we really know about this symbol? Better yet, what is the relevance to our modern life? Simply, the Yin and Yang symbol represents those masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves as individuals, as couples, as neighborhoods, as corporations, as countries. Because the symbol is drawn to show the intertwining of these aspects, the meaning inferred is that we are dependent upon both to build a whole…a whole person, couple, neighborhood, corporation or country. Whatever your spiritual convictions, most people will agree that there are these feminine and masculine traits to be seen in many situations as well as within us. Psychologists have even developed tests to determine how strong certain masculine and feminine traits are within an individual. For example, some people score highly feminine, some highly masculine and some androgynous (or highly masculine and highly feminine). The masculine qualities are typically assumed to be aggressiveness, decisiveness, little show of emotion and so on. Feminine qualities are passiveness, supportiveness, emotionality and so. None of us have only feminine traits or only masculine traits. And some of us even have both masculine and feminine traits in abundance. The value of assessing your Yin/Yang quotient is to determine how much balance you have in your life and your relationships. It is not more desirable to be androgynous or masculine or feminine. The real question is whether you have struck a healthy balance within yourself and among your loved ones. In a family/business this balance is even more crucial. Not only is the health of your relationships affecting family functioning, but business functioning as well. Therefore, a healthy dose of masculine and feminine within a family/business should keep it humming successfully. “I couldn’t be successful without her.” “I wish more wives could learn the joys of working with their husbands.” “

You don’t really understand what it takes to run this business because you work in the office.” “He doesn’t really care about his family because he works all hours.”These are examples of the Yin and Yang in operation among couples who work together. At times there is respect for the strength of the other person even though it is different than your strength. At other times, we get bogged down in our own reality and forget the valuable contributions of our partners. When the latter happens, the couple and the business are headed for trouble. Avoiding the pitfalls requires lots of love, open communication, and fearlessness in confronting problems. For example, I had a wife come to me in tears because her husband was dominating her in the family business. Apparently the wife had started the business at home in their garage. When the business took off and became too large to handle, the husband quit his job and came to work for his wife in the business. Unfortunately, his masculine qualities were pushing against his wife’s feminine qualities. While she wanted to have his help, she still wanted to be the leader. And as his wife, she wanted to be loving and supportive, but not if it meant giving up her accomplishments. The husband, on the other hand was totally oblivious of the trouble he was stirring up. He was only trying to help. In a typical masculine way, he thought that if he had a good idea, and if his wife didn’t say no, then it was OK to proceed. This type of complication between husbands and wives who work together is all too common. The research shows that husbands will dominate decision making and leadership in the business even if the wife founded the business…even if the business is a stereotypically female business, such as a nail salon!

To bring things back into balance, these copreneurs need to remember why they chose to work together in the first place. They need to assess whether the Yin/Yang balance is a good one in the work place and at home. The research shows that working people find great rewards at work, unlike what they get from family interactions. Yet these same working people report that their families are more important to them. In order to get the most from both worlds, especially when they overlap as in a copreneurial venture or family business, you need to really appreciate the Yin/Yang in your self and your spouse and other family/coworkers. For example, when you find yourself complaining that your wife/business partner doesn’t really understand what it’s like “out in the field,” ask yourself if you could do her job in the office. Better yet, ask yourself who you would hire to replace this trusted employee and tireless worker. When you feel that your husband/coworker doesn’t really love you anymore or that he treats his business clientele better than you or the children, ask yourself how the business would have grown without his determination and willingness to sacrifice his own personal time. With these new perceptions you are in a much better position to renegotiate the terms of the relationship. To be sure, if one spouse keeps putting in long hours at the expense of the family; and if spouses work side by side, doing their jobs, but never understanding each other, there is not much of a relationship, personal or business. Instead, with love and appreciation for past contributions, begin talking about change. Talk about striking a balance between love and work. Talk about the risk of losing a client or losing a spouse if priorities don’t get straight. Talk about doing a little training with your spouse so that they do understand just what your job involves. Train the kids too; prepare them for the future when they too will seek to balance Yin and Yang.

If you have a loved one on the Spectrum, please check our private MeetUp group. We have members from around the world meeting online in intimate video conferences guided by Dr. Kathy Marshack.
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