The Relationship COSTS of Skipping IDENTITY in Adolescence

Erikson's Developmental Needs Stages

Erikson’s Developmental Needs Stages

ONGOING CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE: Couples often continue to treat each other the same way they did when they were teens. One of the most tragic complaints I hear from couples in my Marriage Counseling sessions, is when they describe their arguments, fighting and resentment. Sometimes it has escalated into being mean, harmful, abusive or violent. They are indicating to me that that they are stuck and hope that I can help them.

They are usually stuck because they don’t know how to stop the negativity. They don’t have the knowledge nor the skill to resolve their differences. Even though they love each other, their inability to pour on the love and to share their grievances respectfully, is carving away pieces of their bond. They don’t know how to be generous and empathetic in an intimate relationship and they can’t solve or resolve their conflicts. 

Relationship Roles Ladder

Relationships: Stages of Advancement

MARRIAGE IS FOR GROWN-UPS: Sadly enough, sometimes, my job is to say, in the most respectful manner, “It’s time for you both to grow up.” They continue to treat each other the same way they did when they were teens. As a Marriage Counselor, I remind us that it really requires people who are individuated…who can function as adults. A man and a woman have completed their sense of self so that they are interested in their mate rather than in protecting their own opinions. To build an intimate relationship, it is best to be able to don the roles of a husband and a wife (or husbands and wives) in order to stand side-by-side…a unit which can become the unity of a marriage.

Our Ability to Create INTIMACY (Erikson’s 6th Psychosocial Developmental Stage starts in the First Adulthood between 28 and 30) comes AFTER Adolescence…after we have built our Identity. We grow our abilities in relationships through life which I illustrate in The Stages of Advancement in Life and Relationships at left: Infant, Toddler, Little Girl & Little Boy, Girl & Boy, Teen Girl (Damsel) & Teen Boy (Knight), Man & Woman, Husband & Wife, Protective Gentleman & Gracious Lady, Queen & King, Mother & Father, Grandmother & Grandfather. We understand that this is just a model and that the journey of life can’t be that tidy. But, it’s a teaching tool I created for ensuring that there are no blind spots. My hope is that each person has the advantage of living into all of the roles.

COSTS OF SKIPPING SELF: A Few of the Costs of Skipping IDENTITY (Erikson’s 5th Psychosocial Developmental Stage from 13 to 28) and trying to create an intimate, one-on-one relationship in adolescence before Identity is complete:

IDENTITY: An Integrated Image of Oneself as an Unique Person: A. Try Different Roles, B. Develop a Sense of Self and C. Learn the Meaning of Life through relationships with family, peer groups and out-groups.  (NOT  girlfriends or boyfriends.)

Should we expect otherwise?

  • Losing the attachment or bond with the family unit...with home and, instead, attaching to peers.
  • Dating too young – which locks in a craving for puppy luv and emotional neediness; a fear of being alone (needing a “Number 2” in the sidelines) and which displaces the time and interest necessary for growth, learning, meaning and mastery.
  • Developing unhealthy sexual behaviors or experiencing abuse from sexual inhibitions, prohibition, over-sexualization, sexual coercion or, even, molestation.
  • Lack of emotional intelligence…teenage over-sensitivity, aggressiveness and lack of resilience or robustness to handle miscommunication, fears, hurts, betrayal and anger.
  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence which causes, among many other dynamics, jealousy, insecurity, bullying and emotional manipulation.
  • Misuse of power through either inflexible discipline, aggression, bullying and punishment or passive entitlement and self-indulgence.
  • Interruption in developing the Inner Executive Functions through family and group dialogue, learning, projects, higher schooling, experimentation, travel, cultivation of skills and art forms.
  • The immature available peer group of friends and community are usually those outcasts who have attached to other immature and/or compulsive people.

HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS: If you want complete information about maintaining and enriching the healthy attachment to family through adolescence, I encourage you to learn from the genius of Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate in their collaborative book: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. You can find them both teaching on You Tube.


The immaturity and ignorance born of unfinished adolescence saddle us with:

  • Disrupted education, truancy, incompetence, drop outs
  • Inadequate or unhealthy coping mechanisms which lead to self numbing or self stimulation and, possibly, addiction
  • False beliefs, unclear values, financial incompetence
  • Psychological wounds leading to the emotional detachment and the unhealthy drama of aggression, violence, defiance, combativeness
  • Selfishness, lack of empathy or compassion, hardened heart, self-centeredness
  • Lack of skills in lifestyle and relationships which usually engender single parents, divorce and poverty
  • Confusion about differing personality and gender needs causing fighting, infidelity, co-habitation, domestic violence, breakups and divorce
  • Sexual immaturity or wounds via compromised arousal maps through early sexual activity, exploitation, etc. making people sexually incompetent, deviated or abusive
  • Romantic enmeshment, codependency, pregnancy, teen pregnancy, love addiction, emotional manipulation
  • Alcohol, tobacco, drug use, and other addictions
  • Problems in family functioning, lack of structure, unhealthy eating, school failure, mental illness, financial distress
  • Isolation in screen time: computers, gaming and virtual reality excluding the experiences necessary to communicate, create healthy relationships and a healthy lifestyle.

We face a lack of:

  • Physical Health
  • Bonds with a Happy Tribe or Family
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Identity and Confidence
  • Willpower, Achievement and Security
  • Purpose and Mission
  • Strength of Character and Citizenship.

With these handicaps, people justify compromising a respect for goodness. I hear the complaints and anguish of loneliness, lost hope, narrowed options, addiction, longing for a mate, tolerating abuse, boredom and emptiness.


GENERATIONAL JOURNEY: Our times expose those with the unwillingness to value adulthood, with its requisite psychological agility, clear identity, responsible achievement, service to society and quality activities. We have been on a generational journey to stay young, to seek stimulus or thrills, sensory distraction in pleasure or numbing and present-moment novelty. 

TO CONFRONT, TO OPPOSE, TO EMULATE: Our news media have been reporting incidents which display, as Leo Rosten observed, “what the dissatisfied students were looking for were adults—adults to confront, to oppose, to emulate.” Without education for “Keeping Our Teens On Track,” today’s parents are lost in a snowballing trend to stay young and to avoid growing up.

(See the supporting research done by Diana West in her book, “The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization.”)


PARENTING AND TEACHING: Developmental Psychology has mastered how the brain, personality and character grow and methods to ensure that we succeed with parenting and teaching the next generation. Here are eight basic growth goals:

  1. A Matter of the Body – Safety and Health
  2. A Matter of Bonding – Family, Friends and Society
  3. A Matter of Identity – Worthiness and Purpose
  4. A Matter of the Heart – Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  5. A Matter of Power – Enthusiasm and Willpower
  6. A Matter of Mission – Creativity and Service
  7. A Matter of Character – Virtue and Integrity
  8. A Matter of Relationships – Personal and Professional
Building Blocks of a Healthy Life

Building Blocks of a Healthy Life

Today’s mentors and educators are fully prepared to teach all of these natural abilities now. The only obstacle is how to develop enough providers and how to reach the people who are ready to learn. Perhaps the very mediums that deliver the bad news will create innovative means for delivering the information and resources.

by Heather Carlile

Dallas, Texas 2015

Infidelity: Cause #4. Lack of Skills

Ways We Lose Romance

Ways We Lose Romance

4. Lack of Skills in Intimate Relationships. Marriage or Intimacy Require that a Couple Be Two Things: Best Friends and that they Have a Romantic Bond.

INEPT MEN: I think that romance is a skill. Tragically, I see some cultures, North America among them, lack male role models and mentors who show guys the ropes in the relationship arts of being a gentleman, a romantic, and a man who respects women and can court a lady. The female side to this deprivation of romance is just one feminine paradox. Once he has bonded with her as a best friend, he is ready to offer her a home and become her lover.

INEPT WOMEN: And, so sadly, often, a woman doesn’t or can’t develop her flirtatiousness because of certain cultural attitudes, harsh beliefs or hurtful experiences. She learns either to repress her sexiness or to risk being labeled ‘easy’ or worse.

A spouse often ‘strays’ because the woman has been disrespected by her man’s ignorance about how to treat a lady in public, at home and in their bedroom. Usually a woman’s libido naturally shuts down if she isn’t feeling bonded, safe, understood, cared for and validated.

Ways We Lose the Romantic Bond - 2

Ways We Lose the Romantic Bond – 2

JUST BUDDIES: Her husband may know what he wants but may not know how valuable it is to be a romantic and, therefore, doesn’t know how to tend to her femininity and her sexual response to create the bond between lovers. The wife may be disconnected from her body and her sexuality for various reasons such as childhood harm, low self-esteem, cultural judgements, etc. And they may  still be more comfortable with their friends as individuals rather than focusing on developing a new lifestyle as a couple with mutual fun with other couples vs too much of him riding his motorcycle or her in her book club.

The Executive and The Wife:

Courtney had given up hope that Chris would ever listen to her. He was an energetic attorney who thought he was being a generous husband when he built a lake house so she and the kids could come with him and his friends during fishing season. Until they were in my office and until his outrage at her affair was sobered by my insistence, he had not yet heard nor placed any meaningful value on her complaints.

Courtney wanted what most women need in their intimate relationship: time for affection, validation, personal attention and friendship. The trips to the lake house didn’t provide that, rather she was exhausted by packing up the SUV for their whole family, doing the increased work at the lake of additional family housekeeping and cooking during what was supposed to be vacation. But her gentle complaints fell on deaf ears.

One of the other dads in their country club had noticed that, like him, she was always alone with the kids at the tennis court. He was a professional man in the world of communication and arts. His attention and conversation made her feel like a great mom and, also, a smart and beautiful lady. She enjoyed the easy friendship which ended up turning into an emotional affair and then quiet romantic hours when her husband was working long days and was too busy to notice.

At last, when her husband, Chris, agreed to learn to spend time paying attention to her, to listen to her concerns, to talk with her, to touch her in the ways that made her feel loved rather than in trying to get what he wanted, it was easy for Courtney cut off the affair. She genuinely wanted her husband and was grateful that, at last, the man she really loved wanted all of her and wanted to learn to make her feel adored in her marriage. It took Chris months to get over his feelings of being betrayed even though he understood that his wife’s affair was due to his lack of romantic skills. Their marriage counseling was complete as they built a new intimate bond through friendship and romance.

It’s a Matter of Growing Up

Ways We Arouse the Romantic Bond

Ways We Arouse the Romantic Bond

INTIMACY LOST: Romance before its time gives only the illusion of intimacy. I believe that our generation has unintentionally skipped parts of  the six natural steps of full psychological development. When we are unable to continue the family bond of learning and adventure through adolescence, our teens find bonds with each other and plunge into intimacy before they are prepared.

USE TECHNOLOGY ARTFULLY: Our parents and grandparents were not equipped to keep us on track to adulthood in the current environment. They couldn’t have been ready. One example: our great inventors and visionaries couldn’t foresee that a purely technical manual for our televisions, telephones, video games and computers couldn’t inform us of how to use our technology with wisdom and artfulness to maintain our children’s growth and a healthy family lifestyle.

Those of us who devote our professional lives to knowing people well are starting to have access to the research data which points out the value in choosing how to bring the media into our homes and hands for wholesomeness.

Ways We Arouse the Romantic Bond - 2

Ways We Arouse the Romantic Bond – 2

DATE NIGHT: For more help with knowledge, I recommend focusing on date night. And, go beyond the basic choices. Dinner out, movies and drinks will always be there. Consider the favorites either of you have or which the two of you share. Your dates don’t even have to be a night…just together.  Searching online for date ideas could be a date in itself.

And, my series of teaching videos on You Tube:


1. The Invisible Ways We Lose Our Romance and How to Get it Back

2. Arousing the Romantic Bond – Novelty

3. Chemistry – Arousal is More than Sex

4. Sexual Intimacy in a Marriage – The Universal Panacea.

INFIDELITY: Cause # 3. Lack of Knowledge about Intimacy




3. Lack of Knowledge about Intimate Relationships

Reading even a couple of chapters of a book or studying a few websites on relationships, watching a couple of videos on You Tube can make a startling difference in the quality of your friendship, your intimacy (sexual, mental and emotional), your home life and your parenting.  Dozens of sources have good information on gender difference, communication, love languages, sex, family traditions and personality styles. If you haven’t found my You Tube channel, you can go to: I created 33 different subjects to help people with their intimate relationships and their home life.

But, my opinion is that seeing a marriage or relationship counselor is a fast-forward. When I can work privately with a couple, I can determine which elements of relationship abilities I need to teach first and can help to make a difference in a couple of weeks. It saddens me when people feel a need to look for love away from the one closest to them and don’t make an effort to look for solutions with experts before they harm their current bond.

The Strong Leader and The Spunky Lady:
Ron and Kathy called me from Wisconsin. They had been married for 27 years; they were resentful and angry at each other and had no sex life. Ron had begun to get his needs for a romantic best friend through an emotional affair with an intelligent and extroverted woman at his workplace. He was rationalizing that elements of the personality quiz typically used on-the-job which he and Kathy had taken showed that Kathy was so opposite to him that she couldn’t love or understand him anymore.

The truth was, they’d been growing apart for years and lost their sexual intimacy but, for logical reasons. Kathy was very angry that Ron dominated her and their children and disrespected her because she was more introverted and less active than he was. I agreed to counsel them; so they drove to Texas for a Marriage Intensive with me.

Counselling Methods for Relationships

Counselling Methods for Relationships


I learned their history and scheduled prep interviews via 5 hours of phone sessions. When they arrived in Dallas four couples counseling, we worked for 12 hours in my office. Kathy and Ron got to the place where they were smiling and holding hands. One thing they learned was that their differences actually complemented each other–beautifully–provided they knew enough about treating each other with respect and handling their differences with kindness and good humor. Their differences were largely in their personalities revealed by their Enneagrams, their need for company vs solitude, their differing emotional needs as a man and a woman, and their gender differences in terms of getting their love needs satisfied.

Their last nights in Dallas while working with me were a lot more fun than they’d had in a decade. They wished they’d taken action sooner and asked if they could come back next year. I said, “I’m not going anywhere.”




Intensive Methods for Couples

Intensive Methods for Couples











For more help with knowledge, I recommend John Gray’s classic: Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus!

And, my series of teaching videos on You Tube:

1. Love Needs Female vs Male

The Different Ways of Caring that Women and Men Need in Order to Feel Loved

The Different Ways of Caring that Women and Men Need in Order to Feel Loved