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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


Many years ago, Karen and I lived in a small town located in the foothills of Appalachia. The sign outside of town said "congested area." The town consisted of two general stores and one gas station. The gas station was always running out of gas and this was before the oil crunch! The townspeople reminded me of Mayberry. There were many unique and special personalities. One person whom I admired greatly was Henry Stovall, a huge, muscular man whose arms were as large as my head. Even though he could crush another man, he was like a gentle giant. Stovall, a scholarly man, was principal of a high school. The students lived on campus and learned not only math but also how to cook, sew, and work with wood. The school's maintenance man was M.C. Nickel, a quiet man who was physically small. He was a genius in his own right. M.C. could do or fix almost anything.

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One day Mr. Stovall told me, "The worst beating I ever took was from M.C. Nickel." That was unbelievable! "How could M.C. Nickel beat you up?" was my question. Stovall went on to explain, "Before going on a trip, I gave M.C. a project that had to be done while was I away. When I returned home, I checked on this project and it had not been done. I was furious, so when I saw M.C., I jumped on him with both feet verbally. During the tongue lashing, M.C. was calm. After I finished saying my piece, M.C. told me why the project had not been done. He was absolutely correct in not doing it. That was the worst beating I ever took."

And speaking of jumping to conclusions ... One day I brought home a car that I thought would be a good purchase. I am the type of person who can talk myself into a need when in reality it is only a wish. So when I brought home this car, I made a presentation to Karen as to why this car would be great for us. We talked about the car and its merits. Later that day, I purchased the car and when I brought it home, Karen was upset. I was blown away. I thought her discussing the car meant that I should buy it!!! She never said, "Bill, let's buy this car." It was my wrong assumption. Just because we discuss something doesn't mean the other person is in agreement or that we should act on it.

It is true that one of the reasons we misread our partner or others is because we hear what we want to hear. Just because our partner says she likes such and such doesn't mean for us to run out and buy it. We really need to check out the next step with them.

Dr. Austin has decades of experience dealing with relationships. He charges clients on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay. His first book, Creating Our Safe Place: Articles on Healthy Relationships, was published in 2004. His second book, Keeping It Safe, was published in 2009 and can be purchased through,, and at the Parrish Book Store in Virginia Beach.  He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and seminars.

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