Emotionally Abusive Relationships- Repost

It may be hard to believe, but both men and women can be in emotionally abusive relationships.  Why is that people stay in a relationship with an abusive person?  It is more complicated than you think.Couple Fighting at School

First, most people don’t start out being emotionally abusive in a relationship, and it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when the relationship started to become unhealthy.  Unfortunately after awhile it all becomes a big blur of fighting, screaming, name calling, sometimes even suicidal threats that then lead to a pattern of apologies and make up sex.

Usually when I hear about these type of relationships the abuse starts out very subtle.  Over the first few weeks your new boyfriend or girlfriend may appear charming, laid back and fun to be around.  You start to develop feelings for them.  Then one night they surprise you when they raise their voice over some small issue about not texting them back right away.  At this point you write it off as them having a bad day or being stressed over other things.  Soon you realize they are irritable more often than not.  They yell over little things and start to call you names in angry moments.  A warning bell goes off in your head, but they always seem so apologetic afterwards.  Plus, you realize you’ve already developed feelings so it seems easier to forgive and forget in those first few months.  Another excuse I hear a lot in the beginning of a relationship is that it only happens when they are drinking.  You tend to let it go because the next morning they are back to their normal self and don’t even remember they said something rude.

However, in time each fight makes the emotional abuse become worse and worse.  With each honeymoon period that follows, they tell you things will be different this time around.  You believe them because you think your love can conquer anything.  What is hard for people from the outside to understand is after being told you are stupid, ugly, and any other disrespectful word you can think of, instead of sticking up for yourself you start to doubt your own judgment.  The abuser has started to convince you that no one else would ever want to be with you.  They  can even convince you that you’re lucky to just be in their presence.  Many people who have been emotionally beaten down will do anything they possibly can to prove to their partner they are worthy of their love.   I know this sounds crazy, but emotional abuse does a number on a person’s self-esteem.  This is why some people use it because then it is easier to control the other person.

Some people have given their last dime to their abusive partner to make them happy.  They stop talking to people because their partner tells them to.  They will skip class to run an errand for them.  However, no matter what they do, it never seems to be enough.  They usually still make you feel like you are always too fat, too stupid, too needy, too slutty, too something.

tiredFriends and family who are legitimately concerned about the person being emotionally abused may start to apply pressure to break up with the abuser.  This may sound logical and smart to someone who hasn’t been in an abusive relationship, but to those who are in it, the abuser still seems 50 feet tall and they still feel like they’re 6 inches.  They may logically agree with their friends and family, however they have become used to this dynamic and again don’t trust their own judgment.  The thought of breaking up can seem overwhelming like they are trying to conquer a giant.  They may not be ready to leave even though that solution seems obvious to others.

Being ready to leave is different than knowing you need to leave.  Leaving a relationship is a process.  If you’ve been controlled by someone for a long time it can seem impossible to actually think for yourself and even believe in yourself.  You may consider leaving for a long time before actually being able to go through with it.  Eventually, the relationship becomes so painful that you may finally have the guts to let go.  Most people have to leave a relationship on their own terms and in their own time.  It can be hard for friends and family to realize this.  I also want people to realize this type of abuse has long term affects.  Even after this person leaves the relationship, they still have a long way to go to recover their self-confidence.

After finally leaving an emotionally abusive relationship it can take months, sometimes years to feel yourself again.  An abusive person will strip away a lot of your strength and confidence.  Because you loved the person so much you do start to believe the way they do.  If you have actually adopted the belief that you are worthless piece of crap, realize that belief won’t change overnight.  Your relationship lasted months or years.  That is about how long you’ve been hearing these horrible things about yourself.  To turn that around is going to take about the same amount of time.  You may feel better sooner than later, but to fully recover your self-esteem will take some time.

I encourage students not to give up.  If you’ve been through this type of situation hopefully it has made you smarter and stronger.  You aren’t doomed to repeat the pattern.  Learn from the mistakes and next time you will strongrecognize the red flags.  Talk about it with others.  The quickest way to reduce shame is to accept what happened and use it to help others.  It will help you to heal which keeps your abuser from stealing happiness from your future.  They took enough from your past, don’t let them take any more from you now.  So many people have been where you’ve been and are in healthy relationships today.  You’ll get there too, just give yourself some time.

Oh, No! I’m Pregnant…Repost

I wrote this post a year and a half ago, but thought it was worth repeating.  I’m reposting it for those who don’t go back into my archives…

How stressful is it to find out you’re pregnant when you weren’t expecting it?  Let’s face it, having a baby wasn’t exactly in your 4 year college plan.  So what do you do?  First, if you are in a relationship, talk to your boyfriend.  This can be a very difficult conversation.  The first emotion most people feel is denial.  Don’t feel hurt if he is hoping that maybe the pregnancy test was wrong.  He isn’t rejecting you, his brain is just in freak out, no this can’t be happening mode.  If you’ve had a few hours or days to digest this, it will take that amount of time for him to catch up with you.  His first reaction may be to consider abortion.  This too, is common.  The first instincts aren’t pregnantalways the smartest.  There is a lot to discuss and consider.

You both have to think about whether you want to tell family members.  If you have a supportive family it may help you to decide what to do.  If you don’t, you may want to decide what you are going to do before telling your families.  Or you may decide not to tell them at all.  Without outside family support, it is very hard for two college students to raise a baby on their own.  It has and can be done, but not without major sacrifice.  Even with a lot of family support, keeping the baby requires giving up a lot of things.  It may require one or both of you to have to drop out of school either temporarily or permanently.  When you aren’t expecting to have to make these types of decisions, it can be very overwhelming.

However, the pregnancy has a way of marching on.  You can’t NOT decide when it comes to being pregnant.  The baby can only stay in the womb for so long.  If you decide to have the baby, whether you keep it or not, you will need proper prenatal care.  Then you have a few months to decide whether you want to give the baby up for adoption or keep it.  There are many places that help women with the adoption process.  You may consider an open adoption where you still get to be a part of the baby’s life or a closed adoption where you give up all rights and no information is released to the adoptive parents.

If you decide to have an abortion, your timeline shrinks.  In order to take the abortion pill, you need to make up your mind within 9 weeks of pregnancy.  Some women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they are 6-8 weeks along.  After 9 weeks you will need to have an in-clinic abortion.  One type of in-clinic abortion is aspiration or vacuum aspiration.  This type is used up until the 16th week of pregnancy.  After 16 weeks another type of in-clinic abortion is used which is called dilation and evacuation.  Pain and cramping is involved with all types of abortion procedures.

No matter what you decide this is a life changing decision.  You and your boyfriend will never be the same.  That is why using birth control is so important.  If you both feel the same way, making the decision together can bring you closer no matter what you decide to do.  It is when you disagree on the decision that stress adds up exponentially in the relationship.  Both women and men have come in for counseling because their partner pushed them into a decision they didn’t agree with.  A lot of resentment, guilt and anger can build up in this case.  Making this decision is hard enough without also having to go against your values.  Please seek out other people to consult with if you and your partner can’t agree on what to do about the baby.

pregnancyAlso be prepared for psychological stress after you go through with your decision.  If you decide to have an abortion, it may be hard to mentally deal with this after the fact.  The same is true with adoption.  Many people have reported that they go through a grief process afterwards.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel sad or upset.  It is normal to feel this way.  If you have unresolved anger, guilt or resentment towards yourself or your partner, please seek some kind of counseling to help you resolve those feelings.  Also, if you find out you’re pregnant and you aren’t in a relationship, seek the advice of someone close to you that you trust.  This will help you talk through your options.  Have that person there with you if you decide to get an abortion, see a doctor for a check-up, or see an adoption specialist.  It is not recommended that you make every decision and do everything on your own.  That is a huge weight to carry and it helps to share the load with at least one trusted person to help you get through it.

If you do find out you or your girlfriend is pregnant there are many resources that can help you with your decision.  A few a listed below.

Planned Parenthood

Adoption

Pregnancy Options

Trust and Confidence In Relationships

 

Are you “stalking” your boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook?  Waiting for them to put their iPhone down so you can check their texts??  Confidence is something I find lacking in a lot of people I’ve met.  Especially in relationships.  People are always second guessing their decisions or wondering what the other person is thinking.  I hear a lot about Facebook status.  I have students who will tell me what their boyfriend or girlfriend’s status is and ask me what I think that means.  Facebook and technology in general are great, but they also can have a negative impact on people’s confidence.

Often I have people who talk about who their boyfriend or girlfriend are “friends” with on Facebook.  Every post is analyzed to see if that person is interested in someone else.  It takes a lot of energy to stalk the internet and be a creeper on people’s Facebook pages.  It might be better to use your energy to improve your confidence or deal with the trust issues you may have.

There are a couple of reasons it is hard to trust.  One, because you may not believe in yourself.  I know people who think they aren’t good enough and are afraid their boyfriend or girlfriend will leave them.  It  causes people to over analyze every interaction their boyfriend or girlfriend has with the opposite sex.  Two, you may have been betrayed in the past.  If someone’s ex cheated on them, it is going to be hard to trust in the next relationship.  It also adds to feeling not good enough.  Three, your boyfriend or girlfriend could be making another person more of a priority in their lives.  This is a gray area, but sometimes opposite sex friendships can cross boundaries.    If a boundary is being crossed, it could lead you to feel less trusting.

The truth is that you are good enough.  In a relationship you only control 50%.  That is the risk of getting involved with someone else.  You could get hurt!  If you want to avoid being hurt, stay single.  All you can control is being the best person you can be in the relationship.  Being close to perfect won’t guarantee that person won’t leave, cheat, or in rare cases, die.  It could happen even you are the best girlfriend or boyfriend ever.   But YOU are the only person in the relationship YOU can control.  If you treat that person well and give them all the love you have, then they would be an idiot to lose you.  If someone doesn’t want to be with you, let them leave so you can be free to find someone who does.  Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t really want to be with you.  The rejection does suck, but when you know you have put your heart and soul into the relationship, you can be confident that you weren’t the one with the problem.  Sometimes you find people who can’t commit, find it easy to lie, or haven’t grown up yet.  It is hard to live and learn, but I find every relationship experience we have teaches us something.  I am a wiser persophonen for being hurt a few times.  Those mistakes then lead me to the right person.

It is hard to trust.  The only alternative to not trusting is to control someone.  Controlling someone usually makes that person resent you and want to spend even less time with you.  If you are feeling insecure in your relationship be careful that you aren’t becoming controlling.  It will only ruin your relationship and you will lose the person you are trying so hard to keep.  The more trust you have in someone, the less control you must have.   If your boyfriend or girlfriend has broken your trust, you have a couple of choices.  You break up with them or you forgive them and find ways to repair the trust.  Most people will give someone another chance, but they don’t forgive and they don’t work on repairing the trust.  This leads to a controlling relationship.

Is it worth the effort??  If the person is truly sorry, they will find ways to prove to you they are now an honest person.  If they aren’t truly sorry, it will happen again and you will have another choice to make.  Just remember, if someone cheats on you or lies to you, that doesn’t mean you are the problem.  If you think you are part of the problem, find someone who can help you work on the things you want to change.  Otherwise, be confident and move on!

Fear of Being Rejected

It’s not easy to put yourself out there.  Some people live to meet new people and have no fear going up and starting a conversation with a perfect stranger.  Other people struggle with their fear of rejection.  They are interested in new people around them, but it can be scary to start something with someone new.  Especially if you’ve recently gone through a bad break up or you’ve been single for awhile.

If you have fear, the only way to get over it is to face it.  Outgoing people will tell you they are less worried about how they feel and more concerned with making others feel good.  If your goal is go out and meet new people, try to take your focus off your fear and focus on making just one person you meet smile.  Realize that not everyone you meet is going to be interested in talking to you.  That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or with something you said.  Some people just won’t be in a good mood or be interested in any type of conversation.  Don’t let those people set you back.

Look for people who seem more open or friendly.  Dare yourself to give them a compliment.  Try to learn something from what they are wearing or how they are interacting with others.  Use your observation skills to give you something to start a conversation with.  If you’ve ever noticed, shoes will tell you a lot about a person.  Shoes can give you clues into hobbies someone has or what type of job they do.  Their shoes can tell you if they are more laid back or more stylish with fashion.  Their clothes will also give you other clues as well.  Finally, look at their face and their body language.  Do they gesture or show a lot of expression?  Or do they seem more closed off because their arms or crossed and their face seems blank?

Also, realize that you are giving off vibes as well.  What does your appearance say about you?  Non-verbal cues give off a lot of information to others to let them know if you are more open or closed to being approached.  Are you smiling and interacting with others?  Or are you sitting alone hunched over your drink at the bar?  You don’t have to be super fit and all GQ to get attention.  Your appearance does matter, but how you are projecting yourself to others matters even more.  You want to seem approachable instead of giving off a vibe that says, “Please leave me alone”.

It is okay to be nervous, but try to be aware if you are sending off desperation signals.  Sometimes you can try TOO hard and make the initial approach very awkward.  Remember to think positive and tell yourself positive things to keep your anxiety at bay.  Every person has great qualities, but not all people are aware or acknowledge their positive traits.  Try to focus on those qualities and realize you have a lot to offer other people.  When people get nervous they can focus too much on the negative and think of everything that can go wrong.  Instead, try to stop yourself from going down that path and try to be more positive about yourself and others around you.  Confidence will carry you a long way.

Even if you don’t feel all that confident, you can fake it a little until you get more comfortable initiating conversations.  Practicing will make it easier.  I often tell some of my shyer students to start conversations in less intimidating places.  For example, smile and ask how the gas station attendant’s day is going.  Talk to the cashier at Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  Go to places where you don’t know anyone and take a few risks without too much pressure.  The more you risk facing rejection, the easier it will become.  You will become used to the fact that not everyone responds positively, but that a lot of people will.

The key to remember is that you aren’t trying to make yourself feel better, you are trying to make someone else feel better that day.  Not every person you interact with has soul mate potential or even one night stand potential, but you never know when you may interact with the right person who ends up becoming someone significant in your life.  Just don’t give up and remember that nothing in life worth having is ever easy.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t- you are right”  Henry Ford

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“This time, like all times is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fall seven times, stand up eight”  Japanese Proverb

Rape Crisis on Campus

I found this article on the Chronicle for Higher Education and thought I’d share it here on my blog….

Amherst College tries to answer outrage, avoid tokenism, and engage everybody in a discussion of ‘sexual respect’

By Sara Lipka

The harrowing account of rape and disregard that has consumed Amherst College for two weeks isn’t going away—and nobody there seems to want it to. But in fact, the story of Angie Epifano published in the student newspaper didn’t start a dialogue about sexual violence on the Massachusetts campus: It took an evolving discussion and accelerated it.

That’s uncomfortable but crucial, says Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin, president of Amherst, who has praised Ms. Epifano’s courage. “All of this has created an opening,” Ms. Martin says, “for which I am very grateful.”

It’s an unusual response for the president of a campus in crisis. “Many universities, when news breaks, tend to dismiss it or make token efforts,” says Laura Dunn, a survivor of sexual assault and advocate of security in higher education. The approach of letting a controversy pass and moving on is disappointing, say Ms. Dunn and other advocates impressed by Amherst’s apparent resolve. But to confront outrage, and to engage and satisfy various constituencies, will require sustained effort.

As on many campuses, concerns about sexual misconduct had long loomed at Amherst. Last spring a fraternity promoted an annual event with a T-shirt depicting a nearly naked woman, bound at the wrists and ankles, roasting over a fire. A student frustrated with what she saw as the college’s inadequate response wrote on a campus blog in early October: “This is what sexism and misogyny look like at a so-called progressive, elite, liberal arts institution in 2012.”

A few days later, Ms. Martin, a scholar of German studies and gender theory, sent an e-mail to all students. Since arriving at Amherst last fall, she said, she had heard concerns about sexual misconduct and respect. She outlined some progress, committed to more, and asked for help, inviting students to an open conversation that Sunday evening. The following Wednesday, The Amherst Student printed Ms. Epifano’s account of why, feeling unsupported, she ultimately had withdrawn from the college.

“I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor,” Ms. Epifano wrote. “In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape?”

Pledges or Platitudes

Web traffic crashed the newspaper’s site. Personal stories of students and alumni poured out in online posts and e-mails to Ms. Martin. “This wasn’t just something that had happened to Angie,” says Brianda Reyes, editor in chief of The Amherst Student.

The college responded fast and forcefully—Ms. Martin, in a statement issued the next day. “Clearly, the administration’s responses to reports have left survivors feeling that they were badly served,” she said. “That must change, and change immediately.” Two days later, the Board of Trustees pledged “all necessary resources.”

But students were wary of such statements, Ms. Reyes says. “Everybody was reading them and saying, ‘Are they just saying this so we don’t riot, or are they saying it because they truly mean it?'” It’s hard to persuade a group leery of platitudes.

Amherst officials resolved to be direct, not defensive. “What encourages people to come forward,” says Ms. Martin, “is the acknowledgment that there are problems.” Maybe students have troubling tales to tell, or maybe they are misinformed on colleges’ obligations under antidiscrimination law. The president says she still wants to hear them.

The college has held a series of open meetings, not only for all students, but also for first-year students, staff, faculty, and parents visiting for family weekend. But while the opportunity to share experiences and opinions is vital, Ms. Martin says, it’s insufficient.

The president, a newcomer off a rocky tenure at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has to prove that she is listening. At one meeting, students set ground rules: two minutes per speaker, with a timekeeper, a role the president declined. When everybody had spoken, she took time to summarize their recommendations.

On a new Web page dedicated to “sexual respect,” Amherst details actions taken and planned, with checkboxes. Now, for instance, students sit on the college’s Title IX committee, named for the federal gender-equity law; its Sexual Respect Task Force; and a new body, formed on Wednesday, to take stock of the campus culture and recommend improvements in student affairs and sexual education. The goal is not just to have students’ representation, but to draw on their expertise.

‘Willing to Try’

Guiding Amherst through those issues is Gina M. Smith, a lawyer who consults with colleges on sexual misconduct. A former sex-crimes prosecutor, Ms. Smith started working with the college in July to review its policies and procedures. Lately she has traveled there more often, and lingered longer. “I have not seen a response in my history of doing this quite as robust,” she says.

Some students, though, remain skeptical. A couple of Fridays ago, several of them met with trustees. Others rallied, walking from the Robert Frost Library to the Lord Jeffery Inn, which brought out coffee and cookies. Protesters felt like “the administration was just trying to shut us up,” says Ms. Reyes, the newspaper editor, to “treat us like children.” (In fact, the snack was the inn’s idea.)

When the students in the meeting emerged, their classmates were frustrated to learn that the board hadn’t immediately agreed to a series of demands, such as redesigning the first-year seminar, a required course, to cover race, gender, and sexual respect.

But despite their impatience, students have noted Ms. Martin’s openness, and her sincerity. “The trust is not back completely,” Ms. Reyes says, “but I think people are willing to try.”

In doing so, they will keep the pressure on. Students are pushing for more information on an investigation by Ms. Smith of Ms. Epifano’s case, and on the recent unexplained resignation of Gretchen Krull, a long-serving health educator and sexual-respect counselor at Amherst.

In the meeting with trustees, students named four deans they say have “breached certain ethical boundaries or have simply not been able to support survivors appropriately.” And more than 250 students and recent graduates signed a letter calling the college’s mental-health services “inadequate.”

Amherst officials acknowledge a need for better integration in student affairs, particularly between the dean of students and the counseling and health centers. A permanent dean has not been in place for a couple of years, and an open search will involve students, Ms. Martin says. So will the revision of the college’s sexual-misconduct policy, including a move away from hearing boards composed of faculty and students, which can complicate privacy on a small campus.

Rising Expectations

Changing campus culture—the big aim at Amherst—is more often a catchphrase of controversies than an achievement. And the pursuit of that goal, says Lauren Bernstein, coordinator of a sexual-respect program at Emory University, can’t be led by administrators. “We need to be working in tandem,” she says, “with students at the center.”

The endurance of both sides will be essential. Amherst plans to maintain its checkboxes, and on Wednesday it held the first of four Webcasts with Ms. Martin. The new committee will report to her in January, and its chair, Margaret R. Hunt, a professor of history and chair of women’s and gender studies, understands the college’s work ahead.

“There are definitely some ways,” she says, “in which this is a revolution in rising expectations.”

Most students are attentive now, but a challenge to change over time is indifference, says Mark Kahan, a senior biology major who plays on the tennis team and serves as a peer advocate for sexual respect. “Some people maybe feel like this is hype,” he says. “They start to shut some of it out.”

But many students have started taking more seriously their responsibility to look out for one another, especially around alcohol, says Ms. Reyes. Touchy topics, such as how much is OK to drink and whom it’s a good idea to go home with, now come up more easily, she says.

Last week Amherst tried to start more difficult conversations by canceling classes for a day of dialogue. The event, dubbed “Speaking to Silence: Conversations on Community and Individual Responsibility,” was set for Friday, November 2. But then came Hurricane Sandy, and talk of postponing the program.

Organizers polled faculty and students, who said, in essence, No way. And so the college said it would stick to its plan.

When Honesty is Bravery

I saw this post on Freshly Pressed about a month ago.  I thought it was great and wanted to share it here.  Please click on  Queer Confessions to read more from this great blogger.

I remember the first time I came out to anybody. I was a socially awkward fifteen year old boy living in Texas. I had no athletic prowess to boast, and my musical tastes were closer to my father’s than to my peers. For three years, I kept my sexuality a secret from everybody because I was terrified of being gay. I didn’t know any other gay kid or adult, so I felt lonely and misunderstood. The only thing that scared me more than my solitude was the very real possibility that others could hurt me with their words or fists if they found out that I preferred boys over girls.

At fifteen years old, I decided that I had lived under fear long enough. There was a reality show on TV back in 2001 that documented the lives of average high school students, including one gay youth; his visible gayness gave me the courage to share my secret with one person. When I came out to a friend in my youth group, I was frightened that he would make my life a living hell – and because my friend was the most popular youth in our very large church, he had the means to do so. But he did not make my life miserable; he said, “Thank you for telling me. This doesn’t change who you are. You are still my friend.”

That was almost 12 years ago, and since the winter of 2001, I have mastered the art of coming out to friends, coworkers, and family. I have told my conservative, evangelical friends about my sexuality, and I have come out to my liberal friends and colleagues. I have come out in intimate conversations and in public speeches before large crowds. I have come out to straight neighbors and gay neighbors, rich friends and poor friends, Christian friends and doubting friends; by and large, I am a better man for being honest about myself. I feel better knowing that I can be my true, genuine self around my peers, because I do not have to hide something that is a profound part of my existence. I can simply be, and I can simply be gay.

My friends remind me that I am a brave man for coming out. A friend of mine regularly tells me, “You are the bravest, most courageous person I know;” this same friend has a story of being delivered by the grace of God from a life of crime (including murder), counterfeiting money, gang banging, and homelessness. Another friend said that my decision to tell my story to a crowd of evangelical Christians numbering over 200 was, perhaps, the bravest thing he ever saw a person do. These comments puzzle me; I am simply being honest. Aren’t Christians supposed to be honest? And yet, in this society, honesty is bravery; it takes courage to tell the truth.

Two realities – one societal, and the other personal –  remind me why it is so important for my LGBT brothers and sisters to come out and make their sexualities known to their network of friends and colleagues. Extremists from the far right will call us monsters, abominations, and sick perversions; their subordinates will tacitly (or not so tacitly) agree with them. The extremists are content to shove us into boxes made of fears based on ridiculous stereotypes and assumptions, and they cannot see LGBT people as such – people. When we come out, we force all our neighbors to see that we LGBT people are their neighbors, their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, their aunts and uncles and cousins. We show the world that we are their teachers, doctors, accountants, scientists, politicians, theologians, preachers, dancers, musicians, and athletes. We show the world that LGBT people, like our straight brothers and sisters, can have hope, can believe in God, can walk in faith and not by sight, can embrace a peace that surpasses all understanding. We show our enemies and allies alike that we are human like them: we breathe, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we hope, we dream.

However, I am constantly reminded two days a week why I must be out and why making my sexuality visible is so vital to my well-being. I work in a church that is hostile to the LGBT community, where the parishioners will sometimes make overtly homophobic comments, where I would be fired if the leadership knew my sexuality. I do feel like I live two lives – my normal life at home where I can be out with my friends and school colleagues, and a closeted life (although the closet is transparent) where I am trapped in fear and isolation. Because I am not out to anybody in my congregation, I feel like I have no connection to anyone, for I cannot truly be myself with those people. It’s enough to make me want to leave the church (but not the one, holy, apostolic Church); for the sake of genuine relationships and my own health, I must be honest about myself to my neighbors and friends.

If you are an out and proud LGBT person, I celebrate you and your courage!

If you are a closeted or partially closeted LGBT person, I am with you. Stay strong, and may you one day find a safe place to leave that prison of fear.

If you are a straight ally, thank you of your support and love. We need you as friends and advocates.

Signs Of Cheating

It’s hard to be sure if someone’s cheating, but protect yourself: Be vigilant, and pay attention to your mind and spirit within the relationship.  But, at the same time, be careful not to let anxiety lead the way because unnecessary paranoia will just drive the one you love away.  It is important to be confident in your relationship.  Insecurity can lead you to want to see things that aren’t there.  However, there are certain signs of cheating or lying that you can be more aware of in your relationship.

Here are some red flags that may signal that your significant other is cheating: 

Changes in Your Sex Life-  At first you may notice your partner wants to have more sex than usual.  This can actually happen when someone is beginning to cheat because they are turned on by this new person they’ve met.  It is sad, but true, that they may be thinking of this person and feel more sexual.  In time, if they actually start having sex with this person on a continuous basis, you may find your sex life comes to a sudden halt.  Unless your partner has super human powers, they can only have so much sex.  So, if they’re getting it from another source, you might notice.  Whether or not they are actually cheating with another person or they have a porn addiction, a decrease in sex signals possible issues in the relationship.

Jumpy Cell Phone Habits-  In a perfect world, we’d be open about sharing our correspondence with our significant others.  Most of the time, we trust that we don’t have to worry about who is texting or calling them.  But, if you notice that they’re getting protective and/or nervous when they gets calls or texts, it may be cause for alarm.

Gushing or Talking About Someone Suddenly-  You know that exhilarating feeling you get when you meet someone new and exciting?  You want to tell the world about him or her.   If your partner  begins talking a lot about a guy or girl they recently met, you may want to have your radar tuned in.  It may sound just friendly at first, but if this person keeps coming up in conversation, you may want to see if your partner is willing to let you meet this person they find so fascinating.  If they are reluctant, there may be more going on.

Disconnect-   Even though relationships ebb and flow naturally, if you’re sensing that your partner is pulling away from you, then there may be someone else.  Emotional disconnect should be investigated regardless of whether it’s caused by cheating.  There’s a problem if they aren’t laughing or seeming as passionate as usual.  It’s hard to spread love/passion between two people, so the person who used to have it will feel it slipping away if it’s being given to someone else.

Pulling a Houdini-  If your boyfriend or girlfriend is disappearing, traveling, or unavailable by phone to the point where you are starting to wonder, then they could be cheating.  Also, these times tend to take on a pattern because it’s tough to synch up schedules, especially in secret.

Friends Acting Strange-  Their friends will certainly remain loyal to them in most cases.  They will not let you know what’s going on, but they will definitely be racked with guilt, and their behavior may change slightly when they are around you while protecting their friend’s secret.

Caught in Lies About Other Things-  If you catch your partner in a lie, your trust will naturally be damaged.  Don’t hold a grudge — forgiveness is a good thing.  If they consistently break your trust, it’s can start a pattern of behavior that may lead to cheating.  Do yourself a favor: If they keep lying, whether these lies are big or small, seriously reconsider your reasons for wanting to remain in the relationship.

Done It Before-  Know your partner’s history.  It can be a red flag if they cheated before, but definitely consider the context.  If it was at the end of a bad relationship and they didn’t have that pattern with other boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s, you may not want to panic.  If someone is upfront with you that they’ve made mistakes in the past, maybe give them a chance — but make it a long probationary period before you let your guard down.  If they have cheated several times in one relationship, or cheated in several different relationships, you may want to open your eyes to the reality of the situation.  Especially if you find out from someone else, or they tell you after you catch them lying about something else.  Not being upfront, is a huge red flag.  There are people out there who simply can’t or won’t be faithful in relationships.

Trust Your Gut-  Don’t ignore your sixth sense.  People are gifted at sensing when something doesn’t feel right.  Whether or not there are red flags in your relationship, if something feels off, don’t ignore this feeling.  Usually that feeling is right, and something intangible may urge to look further into the situation.

Over Analyzing In Relationships

I have to admit.  I have been very guilty of this one.  I analyze relationships for a living.  I read into things and speculate on what things mean.  It is great at work.  Speculation is what helps me help others.  However, in a relationship it can be very stressful.  When people worry, it usually comes from a combination of feeling insecure and having a great imagination.  I find that a lot of people are like this, especially when it comes to relationships.   So, when I read the post, Translating Text Messages by Neal on COED Magazine’s blog, I knew I had to share it.

Neal writes…For many guys, the advent of the text message was an absolute godsend. Personally, I hate talking on the phone.  It sucks.  You can’t see the person you’re talking to, so you have no clue how they’re responding. I’m big on body language and facial expressions.  If I say something and I get dead air, I panic big time.  While I’m over here preparing a noose, it turns she might just be zoning out on The Bachelor, checking Facebook, or painting her nails.  The whole time, I’m thinking Did she get the joke? Is she rolling her eyes? WHEN ARE WE GETTING THE VIDEO PHONE?!

Yes, I know about Skype and Google Video chat – but…text messaging has been my communication of choice.  No matter how many times I read advice articles telling me girls want us to pick up the phone and talk, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s actually hurt my dating life as much as it’s helped it.

But, there’s a really good reason why girls tell us to call instead of text, because their minds go into absolute OVERDRIVE when they receive a text message – especially ones without emoticons to help them understand your intention.  Do you think I like using emoticons?  No.  But, for a girl to NOT go crying into her 15 pillows at night or throwing her phone in the toilet, I have to use ‘em.  As much as guys struggle with interpreting phone calls, girls have five hour panel discussions about your texts.

So, I’m going to attempt to break down how both men and women should interpret the following text messages.

“Sure”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: Guy’s cool with whatever you said, but doesn’t have the time or energy to put a pretty pink bow on it.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: She’s probably pissed. I always follow this up with “can’t talk now, call u later” unless of course her response is to “call u later” then CALL HER LATER (no matter how much that sucks)

“What’s up?”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: Most likely he’s bored, just wants to check in, or if it’s late night he wants some ass

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: She hasn’t heard from the guy in a while and is worried or if it’s late night she wants some ass

“What are you doing later?”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: He wants to go out with his buddies, but is hoping to secure booty with the girl BEFORE going out OR he might be meeting up with a girl and wants to make sure he A) doesn’t run into the girl or B) has a back up plan

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: She’s got plans with her girls, but it’s not girls night out. Things are looking good for you, my man.

“I wish you were here”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: … so he can hook up

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: … so she can hook up OR to save her from other dudes / show her friends her new catch

“I’m not feeling well”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: If this is the first text of the convo, he wants the girl to come over and nurse him back to the health (read: hook up). If it’s not the lead text, he just wants to end the convo for now.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: She just wants to end the convo

“It was nice seeing you last night”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: If he didn’t hook up with you, he wants to.  If he did hook up with you, he wants to do it again.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: Same as above.  There is a slight chance she felt bad for not hooking up with you and she doesn’t want you to think she’s a bitch.

“Whatever you want to do”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: Seriously, whatever you want to do. It’s your call. (this is when i throw that stupid smiley face on the end so she doesn’t cut her wrists)

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: Most likely, she’s pissed.  If it’s followed by an smiley face (god DAMN those emoticons) she’s perfectly happy with whatever you decide to do.  Wife that chick up.

“I’ll text you later”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: He can tell you’re antsy.  Yes, he’s dismissing you but it’s better than not getting any response, right?   Chill.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: It’s rare for a girl to ever send this.  If she does, a guy should know that’s a free pass to forget about her until she actually does text you.

“OK. (with the period)”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: Unless this is an accident, he’s pissed.  Do NOT call or text for at least a day, maybe half a day.  Better off calling.  If he doesn’t pick up, just leave a message explaining.  If no response then adios, muchacho.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: Pissed. Gonna have to wait this out til her anger subsides then call and leave a voice mail if she doesn’t pick up.

“haha”

Guys Sends / Girl Receives: Could be a dismissive laugh, but he wants to let you know it’s funny and he didn’t really have anything to respond with.  It’s filler.

Girls Sends / Guy Receives: To me, I think “lol” is the girls’ version of “haha”. Then again, if it’s followed by an exclamation point, she genuinely thinks it’s funny.  Same with extending the ha – as in ‘hahahahhahahahaha’ – that’s the honest to god laughing out loud.

That was Neil’s breakdown on text messages…here are my thoughts on why texting can cause people to over analyze.

I have found that texting seems to make a lot of people very anxious.  I see many people who over analyze everything they read in their text messages or in the status updates of their friends on Facebook.  If you read the interpretations above, you know that guys and girls can mean different things even when they say the same things.  It is hard to know what the intentions are behind certain texts because emotion doesn’t come across.  This drives most people crazy.

If you are someone who also has a vivid imagination, you may be more prone to feeling like an anxious mess.  In counseling sessions, I address self-confidence all the time.   If you over analyze, confidence is going to be what helps you minimize the amount of time your imagination goes in a bad direction.  Confidence is also the key to avoiding a lot of  relationship stress.  This is why texting is the death of many relationships.  A lot of people feel like their boyfriend or girlfriend is going to break up with them because they aren’t good enough.   They aren’t confident enough in themselves or the relationship to keep their imagination from going down a dark path when they read certain texts or messages.

Communication is complicated enough because men and women do think differently.  When you add insecurity on top of that it can cause many more problems.  I liked Neil’s post about texting because it does point out that men and women have different intentions when they say or do certain things.  That is why a lot of people can get caught up in it.  Also learn to prioritize.  There are more important things to worry about then why your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t texting back right away.  Being confident and having trust in the relationship really will help you to keep your overactive imagination on the right track.  Gaining knowledge about how other people think, especially how your boyfriend or girlfriend thinks, also really helps.  If you are naturally a laid back person, you may not have this issue as much.  However, I’ve noticed that even the most laid back person can act like a crazy worrier when it comes to their relationship.  If confidence is the problem, then continue to address that.  No one can fix that but you.  If you feel you don’t know enough about what your own partner thinks, then pay attention and look for patterns.  Knowing the difference between the sexes is also helpful.  If you are an over analyzer, I’m here to tell you there is hope!  You can get better and feel more balanced.  Just take it one day at a time and put more energy into taking care of yourself rather than analyzing those crazy text messages!!

5 Signs That a Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice

I found this post on Hugstronger, a website dedicated to helping college student’s stay positive.

We’ve all been warned.  Before leaving for college, we receive a surplus of information from older friends, advising us both academically and socially.  These friends also share their dating wisdom, cautioning us against falling for the “wrong” kind of guy.

Pop culture portrays the “wrong guy” as the unmotivated slacker who skates by on an academic probation, or as the misogynist who only wants you for your looks.  However, during my freshman year, I learned that the wrong guy can be difficult to spot, because he often disguises himself as the nice guy you can’t help but trust.

That fall, I met a boy with whom I instantly connected.  We fell into an easy friendship that eventually developed into more.  With little dating experience behind me, I took his seemingly charming personality at face value.

In time, I learned that his “nice guy” routine was exactly that – a routine.  He simultaneously pursued multiple girls who had no knowledge of each other, while feeding them the same lines and spreading hurtful rumors. Ultimately, I realized our relationship was unhealthy and would only drag me down.

Nice guys do exist, and I’ve dated a few since then. However, when dealing with new guys, watch out for red flags:

1. He says mostly negative things about his ex-girlfriends.
If he tells you extremely personal (or insulting) details about previous girlfriends, chances are he’ll say the same things about you when you break up.  Of course, you don’t want to date someone who still loves his ex-girlfriend, but if he seems particularly vindictive toward the girls he’s dated, you might want to break things off.

2. He likes to tell you about all of his admirers.
Even when he claimed to be interested in only me, my not-so-nice guy would constantly rant about the many girls who were “in love” with him.  I’m not a jealous person, but I often wondered why he needed to share this knowledge.  It’s one thing if other girls find him attractive; it’s another thing if he’s using that information to try and upset you.

3. He mixes up his stories.
First he tells you that he was spending time with his boys last night.  Then he casually slips in that another girl was there.  Then he gets annoyed when you ask him for details about his evening, and accuses you of not trusting him.  What starts out as simple curiosity can quickly morph into suspicion.

4. He plays hot and cold with your emotions.
If a boy is sending you mixed signals for any prolonged period of time, he’s not that into you.  If he’s truly worth your time, he will make it known that he’s interested, and he won’t keep you guessing whether or not he wants a relationship.

5. He disguises condescending remarks as compliments.
In trying to win me back, my not-so-nice guy once explained that I had grown since we last parted ways, and that he now felt more attracted to me because of how “assertive” I had become. (Translation: “Now that you’re unattainable, I consider you a challenge worth pursuing.”) The truth was, I hadn’t changed much in that time, and I didn’t need his affirmation that I had “grown” enough to be worth his attention. Remember, you deserve to be treated well no matter how much you still have left to learn or accomplish.

Not-so-nice guys come in all forms. Be aware of the warning signs, so that you won’t fall into the same traps as many others.  Don’t settle for anyone who treats you as anything less than you deserve.

Valerie Moses is a senior at the University of Central Florida, pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Hospitality Management. Trained in career counseling and advising, she loves working with college students and helping them discover the majors of their dreams. When she isn’t in class or at work, Valerie can be found planning theme parties and large-scale fundraising events, roaming around Orlando with her friends, playing with her two dogs, writing her memoir, and keeping up her own blog, So It Must Be True.

Happy National Coming Out Day!!

The History of Coming Out

In the Beginning, There Was a March

On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE.  The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.

2012- Come Out. Vote.

Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2012

Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors have advanced the movement for equality this year. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.

Frank Ocean

Singer, songwriter, producer and hip-hop icon Frank Ocean came out this summer as bisexual. In a beautifully written letter on his tumblr, Ocean said, “I don’t know what happens now and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.” Ocean’s coming out garnered support from several hip-hop artists and media moguls, including Russell Simmons, who tweeted, “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. His gifts are undeniable.  His talent, enormous.  His bravery, incredible.  His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.” Ocean’s coming out helped to prompt an ongoing dialogue within the hip hop community about sexuality and equality.

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe not only helped lead the US Women’s National Soccer team to an Olympic gold medal this summer, but she’s also played an important role in paving the road to equality for LGBT athletes. In an interview with AfterEllen earlier this year, Rapinoe spoke with joy about her life as a gay woman: “I’m obviously very proud of who I am. I couldn’t be happier with who I am. [Coming out] was something that was important to me.” Rapinoe’s likability and charm has earned her a widespread fan following since 2011’s World Cup, and the self-confidence she projects continues to steer the sports world in a direction of openness and acceptance.

Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel)

Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel came out this year as transgender and began her transition to living as Laura Jane Grace. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Laura recalls coming out as trans to her wife, Heather, and Heather’s reaction is an example of unconditional love: “He told her he was transsexual, and her response was, ‘Of all the things you could have told me, that is the least worst.’” Heather notes, “My friends have been like, ‘What about you?’ But I’m fine. I just want him to be who he is, and for us to get on with phase two. You know. Just… charge!” Laura and Heather have a young daughter, and Laura explains, “The thing I keep coming back to is that there’s no better example I can set as a parent than being true to myself. I hope…that’s what she learns from me.”

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper came out this year and emphasized the joy his identity brings him. “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He went on to explain the significance of being recognized as an equal human being: “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”

Barack Obama

Perhaps the most famous of this year’s coming out moments came from President Obama, who came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. His announcement came on the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass Amendment One, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, banned recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and stripped away other vital protections for unmarried North Carolinians and their families.  Obama is the first president to ever declare his support for marriage equality, marking a historical moment for the LGBT community. President Obama declared, “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Read more on the Human Rights Center page