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‘Soul Surfer': The story of a true hero

Apr 19th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Every once in a while, Hollywood produces a gem of a movie.

It happened a couple of years ago when Sandra Bullock starred in and won an Oscar for her performance in “The Blind Side,” and now another great family movie, called “Soul Surfer,” has come to theaters. Both movies are based on true and inspiring stories, and there is something so appealing about watching everyday people overcome tremendous odds, whether physical or circumstantial.

“Soul Surfer” is a movie based on the 2004 biography “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.” The book and film are based on the real-life experiences of Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm as a result of a shark attack in Hawaii when she was 13 years old. The movie stars Anna-Sophia Robb as Bethany with Academy Award-winner Helen Hunt as her mom and Dennis Quaid as her dad.

Bethany grew up in a family that was immersed in surfing, and she developed a love for it at a young age. She has two older brothers who tease her, as would be expected, but they are also quite encouraging of her surfing.

It’s remarkable that this teenager even survived the shark attack after losing 60 percent of her blood. The poise she showed right after the attack was a sign of things to come.

In her feature-film debut, country singer superstar Carrie Underwood plays a Christian church youth leader and actually does a great job. The relationship between Bethany, who was raised in a family where she was taught to have faith in God, and her youth leader becomes increasingly important in her recovery.

Losing her arm in such a sudden and violent way turned Bethany’s life upside down. Her passion for surfing clashed with the physical reality of her situation. She was such a fierce competitor, and she faced an unknown future: Would she be able to surf again and at the competitive level she once did?

Wondering why something so horrible happened to such a wonderful young woman is human nature. How that question is answered and where it leads Bethany is the most moving part of the whole story. Trials in life often come with unexpected consequences, and the fact that she became an inspiration to millions is really the icing on the cake.

“Soul Surfer” is a family friendly, faith-inspiring movie. Too often we complain about the kinds of movies Hollywood makes; however, this time it got it right. The world needs positive, uplifting and inspiring stories like Bethany’s.


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

Relationship issues are not always the man’s fault

Apr 12th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have been following your articles for the last couple of years. Although I enjoy reading them, I have noticed a certain pattern. You, and others who offer advice about relationships, seem to favor women and their points of view. It gives the perception that women are usually innocent and that men are typically the “bad guys.” Has that really been your experience? I would appreciate any insights you might have on this topic.

Sincerely,
John

 

Dear John,

Thank you for your question and your willingness to explore a very important topic. First of all, let me say that the majority of my Mormon Times readers and those who pose questions on www.AskDrElia.com are women. This may, in part, explain why there is a perception that women seem to get the better deal. Because they write the majority of the questions, the issues that are brought up come from their points of view. I cannot speak for any other advice columnists, but I certainly don’t believe that men are usually at fault and that women are blameless.

Perhaps it is the topics that are brought up that play a bigger role in this misperception. When we talk about sexual addictions, pornography or gambling, these typically tend to be men’s issues. That is not to say that I haven’t worked with women who struggle with these issues, but they involve men more frequently. Because these addictions can cause such spiritual, emotional and mental upheaval in a relationship, they receive a lot more attention. Oftentimes they may even lead to divorce or a breakup.

On the other hand, when I have dealt with eating disorders or food addictions, it is mostly women who have struggled with them. Although these issues can also have a detrimental effect on the physical, emotional and mental aspect of a relationship, they lead to breakups less frequently. There also tends to be a lot more empathy for the one struggling, and the reaction typically is, “What can I do to help?”

Another issue that comes up frequently has to do with abuse — be it physical, sexual or emotional. For the most part, physical and/or sexual abuse is something associated with men, so they typically receive the blame. It is rare for a woman to be the one who perpetrates such abuse. When it comes to emotional abuse, however, I would say that falls more along the 50-50 line between men and women. Sadly, I have seen women be just as cruel verbally and emotionally to men as the other way around.

Making withdrawals from the relationship’s love account is not gender-based. Men and women may do it differently, but the results are equally devastating. In reality, when a relationship ends, the trust that once existed has almost always been eliminated.

You asked what my experience has been, so I will make one final point. After 25 years of helping individuals, it is my sincere belief that women have more courage than men when it comes to seeking help and accepting responsibility for their actions. Women seek help sooner and are more open to receiving advice. Oftentimes, men will seek help only after their spouses threaten them with divorce or when their ecclesiastical leaders strongly suggest it. Perhaps this does have something to do with gender. For example, why else do men refuse to ask for directions (myself included) when lost? Perhaps it is our pride or our expectations that real men don’t or shouldn’t need help. After all, are we not conditioned from early on to be self-sufficient in all things? Asking for help can be considered a weakness or unmanly.

From a spiritual perspective, however, I find it interesting that if our goal is to become more like the Savior, we must ask for help every single day of our lives. That is one big part of our prayers: seeking help, guidance, comfort, answers and so much more. I would certainly like to encourage more men to be more open in asking questions. More balance would certainly improve the perception that, in the end, we all make mistakes regardless of our gender.


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

Does the mirror lie?

Apr 5th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Everywhere we turn there seems to be an advertisement promoting the latest miracle pill or exercise regiment that will produce amazing results.

The pictures that accompany these types of promotions usually show a perfectly shaped woman or a perfectly built, Greek god-type man. The amount of money being spent on advertising to create the illusion of these types of bodies is astronomical. Unfortunately, it must be working because consumers are buying the whole concept: the idea that a great-looking body means happiness, better relationships and, especially, finding love. All you need to do is look like these models, and your life will be great.

Unfortunately there is a downside to all this hoopla about having the perfect body.

First of all, most of us will never look like that, but, more importantly, this obsession leads to eating disorders, poor self-esteem, depression and even feelings of not wanting to be here on this earth any longer. I realize this may sound overly dramatic, but I can assure you that it is real. If I don’t like what I see in the mirror every day, it will affect every other aspect of my life. Consider that there are people who consciously avoid even looking at the mirror when they get out of the shower for fear of what they will see.

Imagine having someone tell you every day, “You’re fat and ugly,” or “Look at you. How disgusting!” Obviously we don’t have anyone like this in our lives — or do we? The inner critic is wreaking havoc in many people’s lives, and I’m convinced that what we see in the mirror does not accurately reflect what we really look like.

Body-image distortion is a very common phenomenon. People will nitpick every possible physical imperfection without comprehending what they actually look like. Part of the homework assignments I give to those struggling with their body image is to get in front of the mirror and tell themselves the following: I love my body and I will take good care of my body.

This is not some kind of narcissistic mantra; it’s an honest attempt to formulate a healthier relationship with whom you see in the mirror.

Needless to say, initially many fail at this assignment. With tears rolling down their cheeks, they say, “I can’t do it, or it’s not true,” but with continued effort, minor miracles can happen with just this small exercise. Unless we change how we view our imperfections, our self-esteem will continue to suffer — and we can’t afford to berate ourselves long term.

Focusing on all the amazing things are bodies do for us, which we often take for granted, can also enhance our view of our bodies. In the end, it is not about having a perfect body; it’s about having a loving and healthy relationship with our body. Having a more balanced view of our lives based on the relationships we create, the amount of service we provide and the love we extend to others has a lot more to do with our self-esteem than our physical appearance.

The world may tell us otherwise, but our spirit cries out. Be kind, be sensitive, be loving. In other words, apply the often-neglected second part of the commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

In so doing, we will discover that loving oneself is a pretty good idea, even with our imperfections.


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

Help, I can’t lose any weight!

Mar 29th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have struggled with my weight for most of my adult life. I’ve tried so many diets that I’ve lost count. I typically end up losing the weight, only to gain it back again. I’m SO frustrated with myself because I know better. … I know what healthy foods I’m supposed to eat and how many calories per day my body needs. I know that exercising helps and that I usually feel better when I do it, except I’m not consistent. Is there something that I’m missing? It’s really taking its toll on my health physically and my self-esteem emotionally. Some days I just feel like giving up. 

Thank you,
Nancy


Dear Nancy,

I appreciate your candor about this very important topic. We all know that in this day and age the number of people who struggle with their weight has reached epidemic proportions. When I was growing up, the then-First Lady Nancy Reagan had a mission, which was “Just Say No” to drugs. Now First Lady Michelle Obama has a different mission, which is “Just Say No” to obesity. We are a nation plagued with eating too much, exercising too little, and we are suffering the consequences.

Although some have suggested that Latter-day Saints in particular struggle more with this issue, I think it’s a epidemic, without any regard for age, ethnicity, religion or race. We’re all in this together. As you clearly stated, everyone knows that moderate yet consistent exercise coupled with eating the right amounts and type of foods clearly can help us lose weight. So there’s no need to state the obvious. This is a very complicated issue with no easy answers. Yet every month it seems like the next solution pops up on TV, in books or the Internet — the next miracle pill or exercise machine that will solve all our problems, with a money-back guarantee! Most of them, of course, don’t work because if they did, we’d all be doing them.

What I can share with you is my experience with many of my clients who have struggled with their weight, with eating disorders and, of course, with their body image. All had an emotional relationship with food, meaning that when stress appeared in their lives (good or bad), so did the comfort food, almost simultaneously. Because stress is part of our daily lives, finding comfort in food is a dangerous path to take. It seems so easy to say it but very difficult to put it into practice consistently.

Therefore, many of us need to re-evaluate our relationship to food. If we answer the following two questions every time we go to the refrigerator, we may find ourselves eating less frequently: “Am I hungry physically? Or am I hungry emotionally?” By the way, I would suggest that putting these questions in writing and posting them on the refrigerator doors makes it more real and more effective.

If we’re hungry physically, then by all means we should open the refrigerator door. If we’re hungry emotionally (because of an upsetting phone call, for example), then we need to deal with whatever upset us. We have the choice, right at that point, to deal with whatever came up or to postpone dealing with it by eating, thereby creating another problem in our lives — damaging our physical health.

Because we can’t just stuff those feelings down our throat with food forever, what can we do? There are a few ways we can respond when we’re emotionally hungry:

1) A great step is to get on an exercise bike, go for a fast walk or do something else physical to process that energy.

2) If physical activity isn’t possible, we can write things down, journal our feelings, and describe exactly how we feel; or

3) We can pick up the phone and connect with another human being: a trusted friend, relative, adviser or coach.

4) There are many 12-step overeating (OA) meetings available for those who could benefit from belonging to a support group. Because most addictions come out when we are alone, opening up to others can be a very vulnerable, humbling but also incredibly freeing experience.

5) Figure out what your “trigger” foods are — those foods that often turn into binge eating — and become willing to eliminate those foods from your house completely. It gives you more time to make a different choice before giving in to overeating.

Buying ourselves some time when we want to eat emotionally is the key. Once we recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotions, we can vent and process those feelings. We may not come up with a solution to our problem(s), but we can deal with our feelings about that particular issue. Afterwards, the desire to eat emotionally will be gone. I have seen great results when people consistently work through their issues emotionally before giving in to food. It takes a lot of hard work, but most of those who have been successful at it have had a strong support system in place.

You are not alone; that’s for sure. Coming out of isolation and sharing your struggle is the first of many steps.

Take good care of your body and yourself, and always keep the faith!

P.S. — Next week I will discuss the relationship between food, weight, body image and self-esteem.


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

How to parent teens so they can govern themselves

Mar 22nd, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,

I am the mother of six children, the oldest three from my first marriage. My first husband died suddenly when the kids were preteens. Although it was extremely tough on all of us, I was fortunate to find and marry a wonderful man who raised them as his own. We ended up having three more children and for the most part have been a blessed family. My oldest three have graduated and moved on with their lives and are doing quite well, but my youngest three are now all teenagers, and I’m really struggling with some of their choices. I feel like I’ve raised two different families because the two sets are 10 years apart. Some of temptations facing my youngest three now did not even exist 10 years ago: social media, instant access to the Internet on cell phones, and the widely accepted view of marijuana. So my question to you is how can we as parents keep our children safe? Also, what does it really look like to “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves?” Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for all you do for families and marriages. I really enjoy reading your articles.

Beth


Dear Beth,

You bring up a great point when you say that your oldest three grew up in a different environment than your current teenagers. There are certainly more temptations than ever before, which requires us as parents to be extra vigilant. Although every family faces unique struggles and issues, there are a few things we can all do to increase the odds of helping our kids negotiate the turbulent teenage years more successfully.

First and foremost, we must establish channels of communication based on trust, understanding and acceptance. This means that our children feel comfortable enough to talk to us about their struggles and temptations, as well as their disappointments and failures. As parents we can encourage this type of communication by not overreacting emotionally, either through anger or tears (at least in front of them). From personal experience, I realize this is not always easy, but any kind of overreaction has the potential of shutting them down. Anger tends to breed more anger, and tears make them feel guilt and shame. In either case, the walls are likely to go up. When the communication lines are broken, that’s when you should worry the most. I’d rather know the truth, even if I don’t always like it or approve of it, than be in the dark.

Second, it is important that we communicate our “bottom line” in terms of what’s acceptable to our kids and the exact consequences for the violation of those clearly understood standards. Natural consequences should be part of any “course correction.” We must avoid any type of power struggle because there will be no winners! Parents might “win” the power struggle temporarily, but kids can always get sneakier and can act out much more if they really wanted to. Having worked with hundreds of teenagers over the last two decades, I have found them to be remarkably fair about consequences, once they understand that you’re not necessarily trying to control their lives. If they see your parental attempts to protect them as genuinely motivated by love and not control, they will be much more open to your counsel. Ultimately, they must understand that consequences are part of everyone’s life, even for us parents. Nobody escapes them; that’s why it is so vitally important that they learn this lesson early on in life. It will serve them well for the rest of their mortal existence.

Finally, you asked about the phrase “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” What does it look like in real life? Just like your three oldest kids have moved on, so will your three teenagers in a few years. The time you have with them seems to go by so quickly. I’m sure you and your husband have done a wonderful job teaching them right from wrong. In the end, isn’t that our primary responsibility? To teach, guide, counsel, educate, listen, encourage, challenge and love them unconditionally. We are not perfect as parents, and we can’t expect them to be perfect either. Looking at the big picture, it is our parents’ love that has sustained us throughout our lives — and so it will be with our kids.

May God bless you and your husband as you strive to do what’s right.


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

Will my marriage survive his addiction to lust?

Mar 14th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,

My husband was addicted to porn for the last four years before we got married. We’ve only been married for 10 months, and I’ve been dealing with it since I saw the signs of lust and found out he was viewing porn on television the second month we were married. He claims he has stopped viewing any type of porn and just struggles with the lust. I can’t go anywhere with him without him struggling and looking at other women’s bodies. He’s doing better than he was at first, but it’s still hard for me. My question is how do we deal with this and keep our marriage? He is trying to change, but although he knows trust will take time, he wants me to connect fully with him emotionally. Is it possible for me to do that?

Thank you,
Marie

 

Dear Marie,

That is a tough way to start off your marriage, but you’re certainly not alone. I receive questions similar to yours every day. Although I have written several articles on this subject (see previous articles at www.mormontimes.com) I would like to share with you a couple of thoughts. Anyone who’s been addicted to porn is also very capable of dishonesty. Unfortunately, one of the first casualties of any addiction is integrity. What one claims to be the truth versus what actually is the truth are quite often two different things. After working with addicts for the last two decades, I can promise you that it’s highly unlikely he’s over his addiction to porn. It sounds more like he’s “white-knuckling” his pornography addiction, and it’s manifesting itself through lust.

It is every woman’s right to be able to go out to dinner with her husband and not have to worry if he’s checking out all the other women’s bodies? I know you’re just newlyweds, but this is no way for you to live your life. The way to deal with this and keep your marriage, like you stated, is pretty straightforward. The most loving thing you can do for him is to highly encourage him to seek outside help. There are now more resources than ever available to help him with his addiction.

The first step is to make an appointment and meet with his ecclesiastical leader. You can do this together if you’d like, so the bishop can get your perspective as well. Addicts tend to downplay or rationalize away their behaviors — at least initially. Your bishop will most likely refer him to the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program. Most bishops should have a copies of the “12-Step Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing” workbook.

There are weekly addiction recovery meetings taking place at church buildings throughout the country. It is imperative that your husband begins to attend these weekly meetings and works on the 12 steps of recovery. Additionally, he needs to stay in close contact with his bishop and have frequent “accountability” visits with him.

Finally, he also might need to meet one-on-one with an expert in pornography addiction. It would be preferable to meet with someone who shares the same values, but if one is not available in your area, then any good professional with such an expertise would suffice. If he does all three of these consistently, then there’s great hope that he can learn to live his life without the destructiveness of pornography and lust. If he refuses to do all of the above, then in essence he’s saying that he will continue off and on to engage in these types of behaviors. I hope and pray that he will have the courage, humility and faith required to take these steps so he can ensure a better life with you by his side.

In the end, this will be his choice. If he invites the Spirit in his life and seeks the Lord’s guidance and protection and does all that’s required, then his and your life will have a very different outcome. There are many couples I’ve known who have reconnected physically, emotionally and spiritually as a result of their healing. It’s possible, but it requires a lot of hard work, dedication and faith.

Good luck and stay strong in your standards. 


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

‘Never give up, never surrender!’

Mar 8th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Several years ago my wife, Sona, co-produced a movie called “Galaxy Quest” (Dreamworks, 1999). It’s a family-friendly comedy with a great cast including Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver (of Alien fame) Alan Rickman (better known for playing the character Snape in the Harry Potter movies), Tony Shalhoub (Monk) and many more. The movie is a hilarious spoof of the widely popular Star Trek series, with Tim Allen playing the role of the captain of a spaceship, much like Captain James T. Kirk. The most famous line from the movie often quoted by Tim Allen to his crew when in peril is, “Never give up, never surrender!”

Over the years, this has become a favorite phrase in our home as well. When the going gets tough or adversity rears its ugly head, invariably one of us will enthusiastically say it out loud. It brings both levity to the situation and hope for a positive resolution.

As I’ve thought about this phrase recently, I’ve decided I’d like to expand it a bit: “Never give up, never surrender — to our fears!”

Fear often acts like some kind of an invisible cloak, permeating our society and our lives. Whether our sense of fear is triggered by world events or by our own thoughts, it can have a devastating impact on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.

In most cases, the result of fear is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. There’s never any peace that comes with fear.

While world events may be beyond our control, what about our own personal fears about our children, marriage, finances and health? Perhaps it is with these concerns that we can have the greatest impact. In my life and work I have discovered that the single most effective way to overcome fear and replace it with hope and optimism is through prayer. I realize this is not a very scientific method, but it continues to amaze me with its effectiveness.

Several times each week, it seems I have opportunities to practice getting out of the fear mode. Am I alone in this? My experience in working with people, talking to colleagues and friends and family members would say no.

I know that no matter how big and even legitimate my fears might be, there is One above it all. He is bigger, stronger and smarter than my fears. He loves to encourage and help us, and he only has one requirement: come unto him.

Take the time to share burdens, fears, and insecurities with humility and faith through prayer, and then watch what can happen. Time and time again, I have personally witnessed an instant conversion from darkness to light, from fear to faith, from negativity to hope.

How it happens is not something I’m interested in understanding. But I do know why it happens: simply because He loves us and wants us to be happy and have peace in our hearts and minds.

So the next time fear comes knocking on your door, answer it with faith and prayer. You’ll be glad you did.

Never give up, never surrender!


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

This subject (Divorce) is close to home.

Mar 7th, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,

I was divorced twenty five years ago. I had to move forward.  It was worse than getting passed the grief of a death. Really, death of my spouse would have been easier!  But, I grew from it and made something of myself.

The need to forgive him for his infidelity was the reason for the divorce. I did forgive him from the start. I then watched my former spouse move on and getting married right away to someone else was heartbreaking. He may have thought that was his answer.  We really got along as a couple and I was very good to him, and he really had NO reason to leave me and our eight children.  It just boiled down to that he did not love me nor had the commitment to stay and work things out. 

It was definitely his selfishness and lack of good judgment to leave. We, I and the children were better off without him in the long term. I focused on bettering my life, stayed faithful to my covenants and raised a fine family regardless of my husband’s bad example. I took six week classes at the community college for women who were in situations such as I was. I learned better communication skill and job skills as well, and improved myself in the process. I had support from these groups and looked for ways to get an education.

I was the stronger (religiously) the two of us in the marriage, so moving ahead without self-pity was the greatest thing for me and my children. I went to work and had benefits that he never provided consistently in our marriage. We were made aware of the opportunities we had to travel as a family, and I enjoyed raising my children the way the Lord would have me do.  I stayed active in Church and overcame the stigma back then of being a divorcee.  I had the great support of my bishop, home teachers and ward leaders. I had three son’s and three daughters to raise without their father in the picture. My older two were married by then. My oldest son became the example to his younger siblings, and still is.

It was not easy, but I had to allow my children to see for themselves what their father was about without the negative comments of what he was doing, etc. from me. I knew they were part of him and would hate themselves if I put out a negative feeling toward their dad.  Raising that many children alone and with graduations, marriages and baby blessings as time went on, I had to accept the “other woman” in our circle of association for those events. Eventually she stopped attending our family gatherings.  Now he is totally miserable and has changed so much.  Now that the children are grown, as when they were growing up he has very little involvement in their lives.

My suggestion to women who get divorced is to focus on bettering yourself and not waste time and energy it takes to be angry at the former husband. Put that energy into your family, and education. I went back to school after eight years of being a single parent. I graduated after getting an undergraduate degree and got a master’s degree ultimately. I feel good about myself for having accomplished what I have being alone. My children also got their education seeing me, their mother go to college. I focused on my children and it paid off in dividends. All my children married in the temple. five went on missions, my four sons and one daughter. I also had four Eagle Scouts. I could go on to tell all they have accomplished, but won’t. However, life goes on.

Divorce does not define me. I am happy and busy with all the grandchildren. We held family reunions over the years which their father comes alone to, but he is the one who feels out of place! His situation after leaving was not a better one like he had perhaps imagined. He is the one with the regrets, now.

I suggest women take their time before jumping to find a spouse and learn to be as independent as they can. Mixing dating and raising your children the way they should be is not a good thing, especially with the large family I had. I gave up that for them and getting an education, which meant more to me than finding a man. That would have just complicated things all the more.  There was too much stress as it was.
 
I continue to develop myself and have not given up hope to find a good man someday. I am not a man-basher nor anti-marriage. I have not given up hope to remarry. I just want it to be at the right time, to the right one.

Anna

How do I restart my life after divorce?

Mar 1st, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Dear Dr. Elia,  
I have listened to your CDs and have really enjoyed the uplifting counsel you share. You give advice on what we need to know before getting married and also how to improve our marriages. My question to you is what do you say to those of us who have gone through a divorce. Will there be a CD that covers that topic? I got a divorce a couple of years ago, and I know so many others who have as well. I never thought I would be in such a position when I first got married, so are there some things that we can do to better recover from such a devastating event? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

Sincerely,
Single Again

Dear Single Again,

First of all, let me say that you are not the first person to ask me about making a CD about recovering from divorce. Given that almost 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, there are many who fall into this category. 

You used the right words when you described your divorce as a “devastating event.” I don’t think there’s anyone, especially in the church, who gets married and says, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a divorce.” The expectations from the very start are that we stay together forever. The causes of divorce are varied and complicated but usually come down to one thing: selfishness. Although it takes two people to get married, it only takes one to get a divorce.

Over the last 25 years, I have worked with many individuals whose marriages have come to an end. Although divorce is extremely painful, there are times when it can actually become an opportunity for a new start in life. The first issue that needs to be addressed is the feeling of being a failure, and I want you to know that this is a universal feeling. It is vitally important for a person to get past beating themselves up mentally or emotionally for the end of their marriage. Asking what could have been done better or different has its merits because we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. Learning from our past experiences is one of the keys to having a successful future and choosing healthier relationships. Can we go through this learning process without being too hard on ourselves? Yes, we can, although it’s not always easy.

A lot of times the end of a marriage can feel like a death. There’s an appropriate time to mourn the relationship’s end — even if getting out of it was ultimately the right decision. In my experience, if it’s been longer than a year and life is still bleak, dark and depressing as a result of the divorce, then perhaps it might be time to talk to someone who can help facilitate the process a little better. I recognize everyone’s time frame is little different, but we also don’t want to be stuck in fear of relationships or moving on with life.

Having a strong support system and being surrounded by extended family members and friends will usually promote healthier thinking as we struggle to recover. Knowing that others still love us and enjoy being in our lives can do wonders for our feelings of self-worth, which typically take a beating during the divorce phase. If a person did not initiate or want the divorce, then loss of control is another major issue to overcome. Being single again offers the opportunity, however, to begin to regain control of one’s life.

One of the most rewarding aspects in working with clients who have gone through divorce is to watch them begin to see the possibilities of a new life. We start by identifying what life could look like with them being completely in charge of their life and destiny. This gives them a sense of new-found control, which leads to hope — perhaps for the first time in years. By listening, guiding, educating and at times challenging (but always encouraging) a person, we can accomplish great things. We create manageable goals that when achieved can help individuals to fulfill their potential.

I am certainly not advocating divorce as the answer to our problems. Protecting marriages and helping families has been one of my life’s goals, and I continue to do so through articles, firesides and CDs. If, however, a marriage ends in divorce, then the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to be open to the possibility that life can be good again.

Life after a divorce doesn’t have to be the end of one’s happiness. It can open up new doors to personal growth and lead to healthier relationships, which can restore trust and bring peace. Human beings have a remarkable ability to overcome adversity in life and a divorce certainly falls in that category. If you find yourself in that position, rest assured that good things can and will still come into your life. 


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

Words that changed my life

Feb 22nd, 2011 by Dr. Elia | Comments Off

Although I have read countless books, articles and talks over the years, there’s one document that has influenced my life above all the rest.

Here’s the story behind it.

While in graduate school, a fellow student named Katie, who happened to be the Los Angeles Stake president’s daughter, introduced me to the gospel. Shortly thereafter she also introduced me to her family, who took me in, fellowshipped and loved me — giving me a second home.

After a couple of years I made the decision to get baptized. As soon as I joined the church, I was also introduced by Katie to my future bride. Being introduced to the restored gospel and to my wife, Sona, have been the two greatest blessings in my life.

Katie’s father, President Howard Anderson, was married to President David O. McKay’s granddaughter, so obviously there was tremendous respect and fondness for him in their home. A few days before my wife and I got married in the Los Angeles Temple, we had our interview with our stake president.

Besides being our ecclesiastical leader, President Anderson was like a father to both of us. At one point during our visit, he asked if he could read something to us from the prophet. He read the following:

“Let my assure you, brethren, that some day you will have a personal priesthood interview with the Savior, himself. If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which he will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities.

“First, he will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife. Have you actively been engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual?

“Second, he will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.

“Third, he will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre-existence.

“Fourth, he will want a summary of your activity in your church assignments. He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in his eyes the home teacher and a mission president are probably equals, but he will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellow men in your church assignments.

“Fifth, he will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.

“Sixth, he will ask for an accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country and the world.”
— President David O. McKay

I was astonished by what he read to us and had an immediate and profound confirmation of its truthfulness.

President Anderson smiled and said, “Now Elia, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that now you know what the Lord is going to ask you … kind of like an open-book test. The bad news is that now you know what the Lord is going to ask you.”

I would have no excuses if I didn’t live my life accordingly.

That piece of advice has been the driving force in my life. I love how important family is in relation to everything else in our lives. We spend so much time working, but work comes after family, our gifts and talents, and our service to the church. And the only thing that matters is being honest in all of our dealings, not what position we attain or how much money we make.

Obviously this talk was given to the brethren, but I would be surprised if the sisters wouldn’t have a similar interview.

This talk has put everything in my life into the right perspective. I hope one day to be able to  answer all these questions and say that I did my very best!


 

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.