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Sunday, July 29, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The 3-second relationship fix — it's all in your head

Seattle Times staff reporter

After realizing he routinely blamed his wife for whatever marital squabble came about, Seattle psychologist and relationship expert Les Parrott decided to investigate ways to make the human brain escape its pattern of negative thinking.

His conclusion: It takes just three seconds to turn a negative impulse into a positive one.

Predictably, the best-selling author of more than a dozen relationship books turned that insight into a self-help guide, "3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice" (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2007; $19.99).

Over the last decade, Parrott has become a type of relationship guru, dishing out advice not only in books but also on "The View," "Oprah" and CNN.

He is well-known in Christian circles, but his advice reaches audiences in churches and Fortune 500 companies alike. He teaches psychology and co-teaches relationship classes with his wife, Leslie, at Seattle Pacific University.

Although his three-seconds advice seems easier said than done, he insists that this habit will save you from a heap of trouble in relationships.

He highlights six negative impulses and ways to rethink them.

Instead of thinking There's nothing I can do about it, It's too difficult to even try or Someone else is too blame, Parrott says, "When we can pause and retrain our brain to think 'I cannot do everything, but I can do something,' it empowers us to impact our surroundings or our community."

He even redirects the hakuna-matata way of thinking.

"The impulse is to think, 'I'll deal with whatever happens to come my way,' " he said. "The alternative is to say that I will do what I am passionate about."

Parrott's advice is practical for anyone in a romantic relationship.

He said understanding the book's six impulses creates awareness of what you are doing wrong in the first place.

One common scenario is the person who is too dependent in a relationship, or what Parrott calls the "Jerry Maguire Syndrome."

"People think 'this person is going to complete me,' " Parrott said. "But the truth is, nobody can do that, nobody's going to make up for everything you lack," he said.

The alternative? Recognize that each person is responsible for his or her own wholeness.

Taya Flores: 206-464-3825 or tflores@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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