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.

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.

The Heat of the Moment

Why is it that some things seem so right in the moment, but later you think to yourself, “How the hell did that happen”?  Living in the moment has it’s upside.  It can be fun to be spontaneous and carefree at times.  However, in the heat of the moment some people make choices they really live to regret.  A lot of the time I have students come into my office who are upset about cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend in a moment of anger.  Why is it so easy to seek comfort from someone else even though you know you’ll probably regret it later?

Our emotions have a lot to do with why we act certain ways at different times.  If you have been in a relationship for more than a few weeks you know that it isn’t always always perfect.  It is normal to have disagreements and not always get along with the one you love.  You will have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments of anger that you can easily veer off track.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry or frustrated with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, it’s only one more step before you’re doing something impulsive that can alter the course of your relationship if it ever became known to your partner.

Sometimes people don’t necessarily have sex with someone else in that impulsive moment, but they may have texted some things they now regret or said something to someone else that would be seen as a betrayal to their partner.  If you are feeling angry or upset it is very easy to convince yourself that you deserve to have this little bit of comfort, or that your partner deserves to hurt like you’re hurting.  You can justify any action in the moment. It is only later when you feel calm or less angry that you may regret the action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make you feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while you were angry.

It is easy to forget that angry or frustrating moments pass.  Anger usually fades with a little time and perspective.  You wake up the next day and decide you still really love your partner and want to stay with them.  What do you do now?  Do you tell them about your momentary mental lapse in judgment?  Do you let it slide and pretend it never happened?  I can not answer this question for you.  I can tell you that you take a risk if you don’t say anything because it may come out to your partner anyway.  I can assure you being caught in a lie is definitely worse than coming clean.  Although, either way, your relationship will never be the same again.  Only you know what decision you can live with in this circumstance.  Of course from the outside, it would be easy for me to say be honest, but I’m well aware that it doesn’t always make everything okay in the end.

The one answer I can give you is this…What is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  We all make mistakes we have to learn from and forgive ourselves for.  The brain is just looking to make things fair.  If we’ve been hurt it is easy to justify hurting someone back.  The biggest thing to remember is that life isn’t fair and hurting someone else doesn’t usually take our own hurt away.  Anger is a gift that keeps on giving and usually ends up biting you back in the end.

It is better to deal with your anger in other ways that won’t hurt you or someone else.   If you can remember that your anger will pass if you give yourself some time, you can do things during that time to help you process your anger.  Some people like to write and use their blog or journal to vent.  Other people need physical exercise to work out their feelings.  You can run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, or play your favorite sport.  Sometimes just taking a nap or going to bed for the night will help you feel better.  You may wake up and feel a lot better.  You can also watch tv, play with a pet, or engage in a favorite hobby.  Whatever you do, find something you enjoy and will get your mind off of your anger for a little while.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turning to someone else.  Once you’ve dealt with your feelings, you can think through what you want to do about your relationship.  Is there something you need to discuss or do you need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more logical when you wait for your feelings to calm down.

I also suggest talking to one person of the same sex who you really trust if you are having problems in your relationship. Or talk to a counselor if there isn’t anyone you can trust.  I don’t recommend talking about your relationship with everyone you know when you’re angry because you don’t want to poison others against your partner.  It will be easier for you to forgive your boyfriend or girlfriend than for your friends or family to do the same.  Sometimes your anger won’t resolve itself.  At that time you may need to decide to leave the relationship, even though it may seem easier to turn to someone else and cheat.  However, most of the time, anger is temporary.  In those times, it may seem innocent at first to reach out to talk to a friend of the opposite sex.  Just remember that boundaries can be crossed really easily when you’re angry at your current partner.  It is too easy to want to be comforted or wanted by this person who is “listening” to you.  It seems like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once your anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  It can be thrilling to live in the heat of the moment, but sometimes it can burn you so badly that you don’t recover.

Am I Dating a Master Manipulator?

Have you ever met someone and everything just clicked right away?  But then a few months down the road you ask yourself, “Who is this person”?

In the beginning of a relationship most people put their best foot forward.  They make sacrifices they wouldn’t normally make because they are so excited to be in this new relationship.  This is normal.  At first you may watch that basketball game even though you don’t like it.  Or you may go to church with that person even though you haven’t been to church in years.   Most people want to make that other person happy and it is easy in the beginning because the relationship is exciting and new.

As time goes by people usually settle into the relationship and you may share that you don’t prefer to eat seafood or like to go backpacking in the wilderness.  Those changes aren’t so dramatic.  The longer you are in a relationship the more you find out about each other and realize both of you will have to make sacrifices at some point.  No two people are exactly alike.

But there are people out there who will pretend to be just like you in the beginning of the relationship.  The person I am describing is capable of mimicking anyone they approach.  They often convince others that they are just like them.  They are very persuasive and can read people really easily.  They are adept at sizing people up by watching nonverbal cues and reading people’s faces.  They use that information to get close to you and you may feel like this is the first person who really “gets” you.  They seem to understand you so well that you feel like they have been able to see inside your heart and soul.  When in fact this is not the case.  They are just very good actors and should try their luck out in Hollywood.  However, before you know it, you’ve fallen in love.

The blissful part of the relationship may last a couple of months.  By this time you have become very attached and may even feel ready to be with this person forever.  Then all of a sudden they seem to change.  They may become mean at times, impatient, or refuse to do things they used to do.  They may stop calling you back, be late for a date, or not even show up.  This is when the roller coaster begins.   You feel mad, betrayed, upset, hurt.  You text them constantly to find out what is going on, but they don’t respond.  Then out of the blue they text you back or call.  They may try to convince you that you’re overreacting.  At first, just hearing from them is enough to forget how mad you were, so you may agree that you overreacted and blow it off.   Those feelings of love coming pouring back into your heart and you forget about your hurt feelings.   A week later, it may happen again that they don’t text you for a day and then tell you they left their phone at their friend’s house.  You believe them and all is well again.

Over time this happens more often.  Instead of being nice for a week, its only for a day.   You start to hold onto the anger longer.  When they realize it isn’t going to so easy to smooth things over, they’ll start to apologize and promise to  make it up to you.  They then usually become so attentive that you end up forgiving them.   It is so great when you’re together it convinces you that you’ve turned a corner in your relationship.  However, it never lasts.  When they are not with you, you wonder what they are doing because they ignore you.  When you finally see them again, they are so loving and kind you feel like an idiot for ever doubting them.  The fighting may increase, but the intermittent reinforcement of their attentiveness and promises of love keep you hooked.

It takes a very long time to break off a relationship like this.  Even though all your friends and family will start to hate this person, you feel like you know another side to him or her.  In time though, you will wonder if anything they’ve ever told you was true.  It is hard to say.  Were they being real when they were telling you how much they love you and giving you a lot of attention?  Or were they being more real when they were ignoring you and putting you down when they were mad?  There may have been times when they were genuine, but it was so inconsistent that you may never know the true answers to those questions.

They may have loved you in their own way.  They may have been sincere in that moment when they apologized, but when that moment passed, that sincerity was gone.  It is hard to trust someone like this.  They have a hard time following through with anything, not just relationships.  They usually pick the loyal, kind, giving types of people to hook up with.  You are not stupid for being a loyal, kind, giving person.  Just be aware that not everyone is as genuine and as unselfish as you are.

In most cases, these relationships eventually implode.  They will end up hurting  you so much over time that you eventually do end up leaving for good.  It can be hard not to blame yourself.  Remember, most of the time they KNEW what they were doing and preyed on your vulnerable emotions.  Eventually your heart will heal and then you can use what you learned to be more aware of these patterns in the future.

One thing I see as a red flag is someone who is too complimentary.  If someone barely knows me and continues to tell me how great I am or constantly tells me how great I look, that is a red flag to me.  You have to really know me to be able to compliment me genuinely.  However, this works because it is very hard to resist someone who seems so into you.  The other thing is they love the chase.  Resisting them sometimes eggs them on.  It is a red flag if a person doesn’t eventually give up if you tell them you aren’t ready for a relationship.  Or at least listen to you and give you some space.  This person seems to become more aggressive in their pursuit to get you to date them.   These two things are very common in manipulative people.  Please be aware that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

The one last thing you can do to safe guard yourself from a person like this is to become more confident.  If you feel good about yourself, you won’t be so vulnerable to someone who compliments you all the time.  If you are confident being single, then they won’t have that edge when they pursue you so aggressively.  You’ll be able to resist and they will go find someone easier to manipulate.

What to Know Before Moving In Together

If you are close to graduating and living out in the real world, money and living issues are going to become a part of your relationship.  It’s not the sexiest topic, but it causes a lot of stress in relationships.  Unfortunately, most people don’t get into relationships with someone who is similar to them in spending or living habits.  This can be a good thing.  Where you are weak, they can be strong.  However, I meet students who don’t really pay attention to how their boyfriend or girlfriend spends money or if they clean up after themselves, and this can be a problem if you plan to move in together in the future.

Some people look forward to being in a relationship and being “taken care of”.  Even in college they start dating someone someone who takes care of buying everything when they go out.  I also know people who start dating someone in college who comes over and does their laundry or cleans their apartment for them.  Some people like this arrangement at first because on one side it makes life easier and on the other side its nice to be needed, but it is still a good idea to pay attention to your differences.

If your boyfriend spends all his money on food and entertainment on a limited budget and freaks out when the rent is due, how do you think he is going to manage the money when he is making a lot more of it?  It may be nice that he pays for your night out, but not if you have to worry every month if he is also paying his rent.   If your girlfriend spends her refund from her student loans on tanning, make up and new shoes, do you really expect her to be more frugal once she is living with you?  You may be proud of how she looks on your arm, but you may not be so happy when you are the one paying all the bills when she has no money left.

The other thing to notice is their living habits and how they take care of their stuff.  If you always come over to your boyfriend’s place and have to clear a space in his room to sit down, be prepared to be clearing a space and doing a lot of the other cleaning chores when you live together.  If your girlfriend always asks to go out to eat instead of staying in to cook dinner for the two of you now, don’t expect her to become a world famous chef when you move in together.

When you are just dating, you don’t think of these issues.  You are still taking care of your own stuff.  However, you can observe how your partner takes care of their stuff or manages their money.  Impulsive spender while you’re dating?  Most likely going to be an impulsive spender after you move in together or get married.  If you are afraid of debt and like to save your money, you’ll only be fighting battle after battle with someone who is an impulsive spender with credit card debt.  Never cleans up after themselves?  Probably never going to clean up after themselves after you move in together or get married.  If you are someone who gets anxious around clutter and messiness, you’ll only be fighting battle after battle to get this person to help you with the daily household chores.

It takes a lot of compromise to live with someone who has very different living or spending habits than you.  It can be done, but again, you may have to do more than you bargained for in the relationship.  A saver won’t be able to save as much money as they want to, and a spender won’t be able to spend as much money as they want to.  A neat freak will have to live with a little messiness, and someone who doesn’t clean up after themselves may have to do the dishes once in a while.  You will have to step up or let go in some areas depending on your personality.  The other option is to find someone who operates just like you do, and then you can live in peace and harmony all the days of your life.

Well, it isn’t really that easy, but you know what I’m trying to say.  I’m a big promoter of being involved in all aspects of your relationship.  You should know how to take care of things your partner usually takes care of.   Even before you live together you should communicate about money and how each other takes care of your living space and other things you own.   Make sure both of you are on the same page.  It will save a lot of headaches down the road.

Also, another helpful thing to notice before moving in with someone is whether they are grateful and appreciate what you bring to the table or if they take you for granted or constantly try to change you.  Whatever they are doing now, they will probably do in the future.  An appreciative person will probably compromise and try harder to make you happy.  However, someone who is taking you for granted now, will be expecting you to do a lot for them in the future and feel that somehow you “owe” them.  Also, someone who is trying to change all your habits and won’t compromise now, will still be trying to control every aspect of your relationship in the future.

Even though most people in college aren’t in super serious relationships, you want to start observing behaviors once you do decide to settle down.  Know what you can and can’t deal with in a long term relationship.  Money and living habits are big issues that cause a lot of conflict.  Know how your partner spends money and be involved in the financial decisions once you start living together or get married.  Also, figure out a way to work out how you want to share your living space.  Don’t assume the other person will “take care of” you.  That person may not always be there or they may not be taking care of things in a good way.  Learn from the mistakes of couples who have been through it and try to be smarter in your own relationship.  It will be worth it.

Trusting an Apology

How do you know someone is being honest when they say “I’m sorry”?  When someone has hurt or lied to you it can be hard to trust the words that come out of their mouth.  Sometimes those two words just don’t cut it.  A lot of times people say things but never act on their words.  It is hard to believe someone after so many apologies.  How do you know when an apology is genuine?

A real apology has four parts.  Completing all four parts of an apology helps to show that you really mean what you say.

For example, let’s say I broke your window.  This is a genuine apology.

Part I:  Admitting you were wrong.  “Hey, I want to let you know that I accidentally broke your window”.

Part II:  Saying you are sorry.  “I’m sorry that it happened.  I feel really bad that I made such a mess and scared you that way”.

Part III:  Fixing or repairing the damage done.  “I will call someone to come out and replace your window.  I’ll pay for everything”.

Part IV:  Vowing to not do it again.  “I will not be playing ball outside your window anymore so this won’t happen again”.

Some people can’t even make it to the first part.  They won’t even admit they were wrong.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t even admit they were wrong it will either make you feel crazy or your mistrust will skyrocket.  If you have proof that someone did do something and they won’t admit it, there is a huge problem to overcome.  It will make you wonder how well you really even know this person which usually starts the downfall of many relationships.

Other people only get through the second part.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend will admit they were wrong and they do apologize, but they don’t follow through on trying to repair the damage or vow to not do it again.  Or they vow to not do it again, but skip the third step.  If they skip the third step, odds are great that their vow means nothing.   A person has to make a conscious change for you to really know that they don’t want to hurt you again.

So how do you repair damage like cheating?  Say your partner has admitted what they did and apologized and even vows to never do it again.  How do they complete step three?  It can be done in different ways.  Some people need different things to feel more confident again in their relationship.  Do you need them to spend more time with you?  Do you need them to be more affectionate and attentive to you?  Do you need them to tell you how much you mean to them and be more complimentary?  Do you need them to be more open with their phone, email and social media accounts?

An easy way to know if someone is still hiding something from you is if they become very defensive if you ask questions about their phone, email or Facebook.  If they have nothing to hide they should want to show them to you.  They start to feel proud that they aren’t hiding anymore, and you start to feel more confident because they are more open with you.  It is a win win for someone who is trying to prove they aren’t hiding anything from you.  If they rush  you to “get over” what happened and don’t feel they owe you anything to prove they are now being honest, be very very cautious.  This person is probably still hiding something.

A person who has cheated will not want to talk about it all the time.  It is hard to have it brought up because it is very shameful to those who regret their actions.  However, they shouldn’t be defensive about wanting to show you they are now being faithful.   When I worked in private practice I worked with many couples.  I met with people who have changed jobs so they can prove to their partner that they won’t see the person they cheated with anymore.  Some people have given up  promotions so they don’t have to travel as much for work.   Some people have told friends or family so they become more accountable.  If an apology is truly genuine, they will want to make the changes necessary to win back your trust.  It will also help them keep their vow of not hurting you in that way again.  It is not easy, but it may be very worth the effort to make amends and move forward.

Remember these four steps the next time you realize you hurt someone in any kind of relationship.  If you are honest about your apology, follow through with making changes to repair the damage so it will be easier for that person to believe you when you say it will never happen again.

P.S. Just to let you know.  If someone says they won’t ever do something again, and its a habit, like drinking, doing drugs, cheating, lying, being emotional abusive, or using pornography, be aware that they most likely will need professional help to change.

They need to learn new ways of dealing with things and have someone hold them accountable while they break that habit.   It isn’t as easy as depending on you to help them change.  If they are willing to get help, they are more likely being honest with you about stopping.  If they follow through for 3 months or more, you can start to trust that they are truly making a change.  Three or four weeks of staying sober, being nice, or being helpful doesn’t mean they have really changed.  This is from a decade of experience of working with many people with a lot of bad habits.  Give them a chance, but be prepared for disappointment if they can’t follow through with step three.

Facebook Stalking, Status Changing and Other Things That Drive Us Crazy!

You know how internet porn has made more people seem like they have a sex addiction?  Well social media sites make more people seem like they have obsessive compulsive disorder.  It is because it’s too easy.  You could fight the urge to warm up your car in zero degree weather to do a drive by your ex’s house at 2am, but it doesn’t take much to hit the Facebook app on your phone to creep on your ex’s page right?  Then you see a picture, a status change or a comment on someone’s page that makes you freak out.

Now it’s 2:20am and you don’t know what to do with yourself.  So you start texting your ex about the information on their Facebook page.  You may hesitate a few seconds before sending it because you don’t want them to know you were on their page in the middle of the night.  You fear they may delete you from their page which would be the worst torture imaginable, but the fear of not knowing for sure what is going on compels you to send the text to confront them about what you saw.  Then, you either don’t get a text back, which drives you crazy, or they text you back accusing you of stalking their page, which drives you crazy, or they make up some excuse that you don’t believe, which drives you crazy.  Great.  That makes you feel so much better and you can go get a good night’s sleep right?  Wrong, it makes you feel even more hurt and you continue to obsess even more about what they’re doing and who they’re with.

Never mind that you look to see what their FB status is every other minute.  Changing your relationship status can be a big deal.  According to the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Facebook relationship status is something that many people take VERY seriously.  Did the put that we’re in a relationship yet?  Don’t they want everyone to know they’re in a relationship?  Why don’t they want anyone to know?  Did they change their relationship status back to single?  Does everyone know that we broke up?  They did change their status!  How dare they broadcast our business to everyone we know!! 

Is this really something to break up over?  Obviously, it can be and then you turn into the “Facebook Stalker” who continuously checks to see if that person gets into a “relationship” with someone else.

So, which comes first?  The OCD or Facebook?  I guess I believe when it comes to relationships most people have obsessive compulsive tendencies.  Most people’s emotions are heightened beyond their logic when they first get together and usually when they are in the middle of a break up or in the immediate post break up stage.  The logical part of your brain says, “Take things slow.  You don’t need to see or talk to this person all the time.  They don’t need to change their Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ to prove they want to be with me”.  Your emotions tell you, “Text them now!  I miss them already even though they just left 5 minutes ago.  I want everyone to know we are together”!

It is the same with a break up.  You desperately want to stop thinking about them, but you can’t.  Your logical brain says, “Let it go.  You’ll be fine.  Delete them from your phone contacts and your Facebook page”.  Your emotions just can’t shut up though.  Unfortunately they speak louder and more insistently at the worst times.  They constantly ask questions like, “I wonder if they are over me?  I wonder what they are doing right now?  I wonder if we only talked one more time would we be able to work things out”?  These questions are evil and make people feel obsessive.  Especially if you are used to constant communication.  To go from that to nothing can drive the most rational person insane.

Now you add in the availability of Facebook.  To be able to look up people’s information without them knowing.  The ease of sending a text without really having to face that person.  What person isn’t going to act a little compulsive?  Not too many people are strong enough to resist the temptation to be a voyeur and see what their new crush or most recent ex is up to.  The curiosity gets the best of most of us.  Even so, most people do have boundaries.  Like I said earlier, you may not go to the extremes of warming up your car when it is freezing outside so you can drive across town to see if your ex is home or not.  It takes more effort and is easier to resist.  You then live with the anxiety and force yourself to go to sleep.  You wake up the next day and usually feel better.  With technology you can stalk people way too easily.  You don’t learn to live with the anxiety and you wake up the next day feeling like a creeper.

So, how do you stop the OCD with so much technology available?  I have had some students have a trusted friend change their password and not let them onto their Facebook page for a little while.  This is an extreme decision, but can be very helpful.  You also can deactivate your page.  It is easy to activate it again, however, it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus, it keeps your ex from stalking you for awhile.  Distract yourself with something else.  You can’t stop doing one thing unless you replace it with something else.  Write a blog about your frustrations.  Writing slows down your brain and stops your thoughts from running circles in your brain.  If you don’t want to write a blog, at least write your thoughts down on paper.  You can rip it up or burn it if you don’t want others to find it.

You may want to decide to delete the relationship status off your FB page and make people actually ask you about your life in person.  Some people break up because their new partner refuses to change or put up a relationship status.  Instead you might want to be grateful they don’t post every little thing about your relationship on their page.  Then if you really did break up you can trust they won’t slam you publicly.  If you are having trouble with texting your ex, try not to take your phone with you everywhere.  Turn it off at night and try to keep it in a drawer.  If you can’t seem to relax, look up guided imagery.  You can listen to the person’s voice and it can help you to relax.  They are easy to download and can get you through a very anxious moment.  You won’t have to do this forever, but for a couple weeks it will really help you to not follow through with the compulsion to say “hey, what’s up?” to your ex.

The reasons these things work is that eventually your brain does let go.  It learns it can live without texting this person again.  It can stand it if it doesn’t know what is happening in on their Facebook page.  After a few days or weeks it does become easier to resist these temptations.  The more you give into the obsessions, the harder it is to fight the compulsions.  The more you resist giving in and do other things to get yourself through that really rough time, the easier it will be to continue to resist the compulsions.  It won’t be easy, but it is possible.  The other option is to just creep along until time does it’s thing you eventually move on.  The choice is up to you.

Once you stalk the fun don’t stop

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

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.

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.

Friends 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 recognize 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.

Should Sexual Fantasies Become Reality?

I guess that would depend on the fantasy.  What I’ve seen is that the combination of casual sex and internet pornography has made more people believe that their sexual fantasies should become reality.  I guess if you are single and find others to help you live out your fantasy, it probably doesn’t cause too much harm.  However, relationships still do exist.  I believe sexual fantasies can cause problems in relationships when it comes time to actually try to live them out.  I’ve had many people tell me that they felt pressured to live out their partner’s sexual fantasy or fear losing them to someone else.

This seems to cause a lot of stress and anxiety for some people.  What if you don’t share the same sexual fantasy as your partner?  Should you do it anyway to please them?  What if they promise they only want to try it once, but then afterwards they beg you to do it again?  What if their sexual fantasy involves another partner or multiple partners?

It is a hard call.  If you love someone and they are asking something of you that makes you feel really uncomfortable, it becomes hard to decide what to do.  Should you be selfless even though you don’t feel you can handle what they are asking of you?  Should you stand up for yourself even if that means they may eventually cheat on you or leave you for someone else altogether?  Compromise in these kind of situations can be really difficult.  Someone is going to have to give something up.

My first instinct is to tell someone not to compromise on their values or morals.  If something goes against what you believe, it will cause you mental and emotional stress if you follow through with it.  In this case I would encourage you to talk to your partner and let them know why you object.  If you have strong beliefs, then you will be able to handle it if this person leaves you to pursue their fantasy.  If you compromise your beliefs, resentment will build and cause your relationship to endure a lot of stress.  Either way, your relationship is going to suffer if you have very different beliefs about sex, and one person isn’t willing to give in.

If your partner is asking you to do something you fear or feel uncomfortable with, then I would ask you to explore the reasons for why you feel this way.  Sometimes it is good to face fears to push beyond your comfort zone.  It really depends on what is making you uncomfortable.  Some people have had bad experiences or abuse in the past, or they are close to someone who has tried the same thing with negative results.  This can cause a person to be very reluctant and fearful about trying out their partner’s sexual fantasy.  If this is the case, I would encourage you to talk to your partner and help them to understand why you are so fearful.  Hopefully they will understand and be patient with you.  If they show support and understanding, it may help you to feel more confident exploring new sexual territory despite your fears.  If that doesn’t work, hopefully they will respect your fears and be able to keep their fantasy just a fantasy.

If your partner doesn’t understand or feels you are being too selfish, stop and think about your relationship with this person.  Are you always giving in to make this person happy?  Do they make sacrifices for you?  If you feel you are always holding back in your relationship, your partner may feel they have to choose you over themselves too often.  You may want to figure out where you can compromise more in the relationship.  However, if you find you are always giving in and your partner doesn’t seem to make any sacrifices for you, you may want to consider why this is happening.  Relationships are hard, but they shouldn’t be completely one sided.  In this case, I would definitely encourage you stand up for yourself and set better boundaries in your relationship.  Both people count and should have a say about what happens in their relationship.

I’m all for trying new things and making your partner happy.  However, everyone has their limits.  It is good to know what your limits are and be able to set boundaries in your relationship, as well as in your sex life, even if that means you risk losing the person.  If you want to push beyond your comfort zone, go for it.  You can always try something once and if it doesn’t work out, be strong enough to communicate that to your partner and move on.  That is usually how we find out what are actual limits are.  You may be surprised you can enjoy and be comfortable with more than you think you can.

*Just an added warning*  When it comes to sexual fantasies of threesomes and adding multiple partners, think long and hard about following through on this one.  If you are in a committed, long term relationship this can cause future problems.  Even when both people are open to it, unexpected jealousy and feelings of betrayal can happen.  You may think your relationship is strong enough to endure adding sexual partners, but I’ve met with many people who have tried to live out this sexual fantasy only to have it ruin their relationship.  Watching your partner have sex with someone else, even if you are involved can really affect you emotionally.  I find that many people are still insecure with themselves as well as their relationship.  Adding another person into the sexual mix can heighten those insecurities.  Jealousy is a strong emotion and it is hard to keep it under wraps.

I believe sometimes it is better to keep a sexual fantasy just that, a fantasy.  Real life isn’t a porno movie, just like real life isn’t a romantic comedy.  Sometimes fantasies can hurt relationships, more than they help, because they can cause expectations to be too high.  Be aware of your expectations in your relationship and try to be more realistic when it comes to living some of your sexual, as well as emotional, fantasies out.  Again, sometimes fantasies, which are kept strictly fantasies, are more able to enhance your sex life and your relationship then going after the real thing.