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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


My brother-in-law told me about an email that he received. It was entitled, "Talking Dog for Sale." A man sees the sign and inquires about the dog. He is taken to the back yard where he sees the dog.

He asks the dog, "You talk?"

The dog replies, "Yep."

The dog says he discovered that he could talk when he was very young. He went on to say that he served in the CIA, traveled from one country to another, sat in rooms with spies and world leaders, and worked in airport security. Since no one suspected a dog to be eavesdropping, he was able to uncover many plots. As a result, he was awarded many awards.

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The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog. The owner says, "Ten dollars."

The guy says he'll buy him, but asks the owner, "This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him for $10?"

The owner replies, "He's such a liar."

The dog owner, missing the gift the dog had, reminds me of some relationships. So often when marriages are strained, we tell the history of the relationship in negative terms. It does seem that when we get down or negative, our mind is like a magnet. It attracts every negative thing that was said or done over the length of our marriage. We can even put a negative slant to the positive things that happened. Consequently, we believe our marital journey has been a bad experience. When we feel angry and depressed about our relationship, it is difficult to see the positives. This type of thinking prevents us from seeing the strengths that we can use to re-invent our marriage.

Not seeing the positives in a relationship reminds me of something a car dealer told me. He said that for a long time his dealership was the top dealer in his city. Things were going so well that the staff slacked off. One day they found themselves struggling with a lack of sales. He said they got away from the things that made them successful. The same is true about marriage. We stop making time to talk. We stop having date nights and playing together. As a result, we find ourselves disconnected from our partner.

One suggestion has been made that we divorce ourselves from the negative things in our marriage and keep the good things. We should re-invent the part of the marriage that is not satisfying. One of the steps in re-inventing our relationship is talking to each other about the times when we felt most connected to each other and remembering what attracted us to each other. (Maybe get out some old pictures of family gatherings, wedding, vacations, and holidays.)

The next step in re-inventing our relationship is bringing some of those connecting times back into our marriage.

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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