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Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


Growing up in Tennessee, I heard my share of far-fetched fishing and hunting stories. One of my favorite stories was about two colorful characters, Clyde and Rufus. Both of these men would argue about who had the best hunting dog. One day, Clyde invited Rufus to go duck hunting. Clyde went on to announce that he had a new hunting dog and wanted to try him out.

As they sat in their boat with the new dog, a flock of ducks flew over. Rufus shot a duck that fell into the water about 100 yards from their boat. Rufus offered to steer the boat over to the fallen duck, but Clyde said, "No! My dog will get the duck." The dog jumped out of the boat and ran on top of the water, picked up the duck, and ran back on top of the water, dropping the duck into the boat.

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Clyde looked at Rufus to see if his dog impressed him. Rufus appeared unimpressed. Another duck was shot with the same procedure. After several times of fetching the duck and walking on water, Clyde could not stand it any longer.

"Say, Rufus, have you noticed anything different about my dog?" he asked. Rufus replied, "Yeah. I didn't want to hurt your feelings. Your dog can't swim, can he?"

Some people are like Rufus. They would never acknowledge our accomplishments or gifts even if we had walked on water. These people often make statements such as, "You should know I appreciate what you do. You know I love you. I should not have to tell you." We all know people who brag about never complimenting anyone as though it was a great personality virtue.

Many people do not praise because they have been manipulated or used by people who praised them. I remember one teenager who was angry with his parents because they praised him. They were shocked. The teenager told them that they were judging him and telling him who he had to be in order to get their continued praise.

There is a danger in many relationships that we take each other for granted. We assume that they know we appreciate what they do for us. The truth is that it is important for us to acknowledge what our partner, parent, child, etc do for us. We all want to know that what we do is of value to the other person. So it would be good to think of praise as acknowledging, valuing, encouraging, and saying thank you.

When our boys were growing up, Karen and I wanted our dinner time to be pleasurable. One of the after-dinner activities was to have one person be a guest of honor. Then the rest of us took turns saying one or two things we appreciated about something the guest had done.

We shouldn't have to walk on water to receive acknowledgement.

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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