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!!

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.

Ending a Relationship

How do you know when to end a relationship?  Hmm…unless you’ve only been with someone a matter of weeks, breaking up with someone is usually a very difficult decision. There may be obvious signs that you need to pull up stakes and move on, but for some reason you just keep standing in the same spot.

I’ve been asked, “How many mistakes should I put up with before I decide to leave”?  That is a hard question to answer because everyone believes differently.  What one person wouldn’t put up with one time, may not seem like a big deal to someone else.  I usually throw the question right back at the person asking.  What do YOU think?  Does it really matter if your best friend wasn’t able to forgive their boyfriend or girlfriend for something?  Does that mean you’ll be able to call up your boyfriend or girlfriend and break it off with them with no second thoughts if they do the same thing?  Probably not.

One thing I know to be true is this…You can’t tell someone else when it’s the right time for them to leave a relationship.  Even in extreme domestic violence situations when it is obvious the relationship is causing more harm than good, it still futile to tell someone to leave if they aren’t ready.  There really is no “right” time to leave.  The right time is when YOU don’t see any other option.  The complicated thing is that everyone doesn’t get to that point at the same time.  When students come to me with this question,  I tell them that only they know when they’ll be ready to leave.

I usually see people in my office when they are in the position of being in pain no matter what they do.  They want to break up with the person because there are many things in the relationship that cause them pain.  However, the alternative of being alone or being without this person brings about thoughts of even more pain.  You may go back and forth with the decision.  I always say, if you still have doubts, you aren’t ready to break up yet.

So, what can you do during this time of uncertainty?  Work on ways to fix what you think is broke.  The trick is to remember that you can ultimately only control your own actions.  If you spend all your time thinking about how the other person can change to make your relationship better, you will be in for a very frustrating ride.  Even if the person is 95% in the wrong, you still can’t make them change.  You can tell them what hurts you or bothers you.  You can share your thoughts and feelings, but other than that, there isn’t much else you can do to try to change a person.  Let’s say you’re married and angry at your partner.  Is it easier for you to kick your partner out of bed and make them sleep on the couch, or is it easier to go sleep on the couch yourself?

Trust me, it is easier to focus on yourself within the relationship.  For example, if your partner cheated, can you really control whether they will do it again?  If you could, then you wouldn’t feel so nervous about them repeating the action.  Following them around and stalking their Facebook page gives you a false sense of control.  Micromanaging the relationship and taking your anger out on your partner isn’t going to make the relationship better.  Not that you don’t have any power.  You can still communicate your feelings to your partner in a healthy way that tells them how hurt and disrespected you are, and you can let them know you would like them to be more open if they want to continue in the relationship.  However, you can’t force those things to happen.

Since you can’t control your partner’s actions, then do your best to keep the focus on yourself.  Take time to reduce your anger and stress.  Maybe take up kickboxing, talk to a counselor, journal your feelings, go for a run or make sure you get enough sleep.  Think through the issues in your relationship.  Spend time figuring out if there is anything you can change that will make things better.  How much time are you spending with your partner?  Are you trying to communicate your feelings in healthy ways?  Are you trying to be a positive or negative influence?

Face it, you aren’t going to be ready to leave until you feel like you’ve done everything you can on your end to make things better anyway.  If you do this and your partner still continues to hurt you or take advantage of you, you’ll be ready to leave way sooner than later.  My husband always says, “Lead by example”.  Or as Ghandi would say, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  Only be the change you want to see in your relationship.

It will be hard to treat your partner well because they have hurt you, but it is the quickest way to know if they’ll hurt you again.  What this does is either make things a lot better because your partner appreciates the change and makes more of an effort themselves, which causes the relationship to grow.  Or it is causes the pain to increase tenfold when you’re really trying and they continue to crap all over you.  If you really put 110% into the relationship you will see a dramatic change one way or the other.  Even if you partner reacts positively at first, but then falls off, it won’t take long for you to reach that pain threshold again which may be just the push you need to get off the fence and end your relationship for good.  Trust me, you’ll just KNOW when you’re really ready to leave.

Do You Think My Ex Misses Me?

Do you ever wonder if your ex thinks about you?  If they broke up with you, you might assume that they are moving on pain-free.  If you were dating a heartless and selfish person, this may be true.  You may think they are being heartless and selfish, but most of the time there are good reasons for a break up.  It just can be hard to feel that way.  Trust me, your ex isn’t escaping without any pain.  They are probably still thinking about you more than you realize.

However, that unfortunately doesn’t mean they want to get back together with you.  So, why are they still thinking about you if they don’t want to be in a relationship any more?  The sad truth is that life is complicated.  In some cases your ex may have broken up with you because they were scared of how close you were becoming.  They weren’t ready for that type of commitment.  In those cases is really is about them and not you.  Fear is a powerful emotion that make people do irrational things.  This will make you want to reason with them, however you can’t reason with their fear or make them ready to face it either.  The more you push, the more they will dig their heels in and resist.  The best thing you can do is try to move on.  If they are running from you, the best thing to do is give them their space.  If they decide to conquer their fear of commitment or intimacy, they’ll come find you.  At that point you can decide if you want to give them another chance.

In other cases, your ex realized that something about the two of you wasn’t adding up.  Something was missing.  It isn’t because you aren’t good enough.  The rejection may make you feel this way, but the reality is that it is hard to find all the right connections in a relationship.  Sometimes you may connect really well emotionally, but be missing that sexual spark.  Other times you may have a really cool intellectual connection, but don’t have any recreational interests in common.  Different things are going to be more important to different people as well.  Some people can live without having a lot of common interests as long as their values are the same and the sexual spark is there.  However, not everyone feels or thinks the same.

Your ex may have needed more from a committed relationship.  There will be moments when they doubt their decision, but at the end of the day they know they need more than you are able to give.  That doesn’t mean they won’t miss the connections you did have whether it be your friendship, the sex or going to the movies with you.  It is just that the piece missing from your relationship was too important for them to give up.  I know this won’t help, but it isn’t your fault.  You have to be you.  Trying to be someone just to make your ex happy won’t work in the long run.  In time you’ll find that it is much better to be with someone you can be yourself around and know that it is enough.

Another case is your ex realizing you can’t make each other happy.  It is not about asking too much, it is about asking too much of this specific person you are with.   Your relationship may be good overall, but an underlying conflict keeps surfacing.  This can cause your ex to finally decide to move on.  For an example, it can be a problem if you are someone who values consistency, yet your boyfriend or girlfriend is someone who lives in the moment.  You may have a great sexual spark, be able to talk for hours, and enjoy spending time together, but if you make plans that your boyfriend or girlfriend always forgets or cancels the last minute, it can make things hard.  You may feel like they aren’t valuing your time and they feel like you are always lecturing them about it.  At the end of the day, some couples realize they won’t be able to compromise on an issue, and it tends to ruin everything else in the relationship.

Is it too much to ask for someone to be consistent?  No, but it may be too much to ask of your ex.  They may not be able to bend enough to make you happy.  It may bring them to the breaking point and they finally call it quits.  This will be painful for both of you.  Even though they broke up with you, they will still miss you.  They will have doubts.  This type of relationship may actually go through several break ups before it is finally over because there is a lot of good aspects.  Not to mention the relationships they developed with your friend’s and family.  It is usually not easy to follow through with a break up.  This is why your ex may end up texting you after a few weeks or still want to be friends.  It is painful on both sides.  However, one issue can become a major conflict.  If the resentment builds, it can be hard to overcome, and the overall happiness in the relationship dies.

The hardest part is convincing yourself not to beg.  You may want to text them and try to convince them why they were wrong to break up with you.  You may feel if they only knew how much you miss them and wanted them back, it would convince them to give you another chance.  You may want to convince them you can change.  What I know is this…begging and stalking never made anyone look good.  Try to fight your instinct to reach out to them to tell them one last time how much you still love them.  This will not make you more attractive in their eyes.  It may weaken their resolve momentarily.  You may get a conversation, a meeting, or even sex out of your efforts.  Remember, I’m telling you they do still miss you.  However, it won’t last and then you’ll be going through the pain of losing them all over again.

The point of this post is to remind you that you aren’t a loser.  Your ex didn’t break up with you because there is something wrong with you.  (If you did do something wrong, then work to fix that mistake whether they come back or not.  Some mistakes can’t be fixed within your relationship.  All you can do is hope to correct that mistake with someone else in the future.)  Most of the time there was something wrong BETWEEN the two of you.  That means there are things your ex will miss about you.  You may not be ready to think about finding someone else yet, but don’t bash yourself too hard while you’re grieving this break up.  The reason your ex broke up with you may not be an issue for someone else, so don’t go changing yourself for someone who has already closed the door in your face.  After you feel a little better, you will realize there are a lot of other open doors with people behind them who will be able to love you for you.

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.

Is it Lying If I Withhold Information?

There is a fine line between withholding information and straight up lying to someone’s face.  Sometimes it isn’t a big deal to withhold information, but other times it is worse than lying.  Here are a few reasons people withhold information:

1.  They think they are protecting someone

2.  They are trying to protect themselves

3.  They feel guilty

4.  They feel insecure or embarrassed

5.  They are normally very closed and private about everything they do

Are any of these reasons valid?  Of course the answer isn’t black and white.  I don’t think someone needs to report to their significant other everything they did, who they did it with, with a time and date stamp to go along with it.  If you’re boyfriend or girlfriend is demanding a play by play of your day, all the time, then there is a trust issue.  You shouldn’t have to share every detail  of your day.  However, it is important to share significant details with the person you love and spend a majority of your time with.  If you can’t open up to the person you are dating you may want to ask yourself, why?

Some people are more private.  By nature some people are more quiet and keep things to themselves.  Being quiet may not be a problem if you really aren’t hiding anything.  If your life is pretty boring and there isn’t much to say, then it shouldn’t cause a problem.  If you are really quiet, you may want to find someone who is okay with the strong silent type.  However, remember that communication is important in a relationship, so try to open up as much as possible to the person you’ve chosen to love and trust.

There are also people out there who have a hard time trusting someone else in a relationship.  It may be hard to open up and tell another person something if you think they are going to betray you, make fun of you, or scream and yell at you.  In a new relationship, look for signs in the person that they aren’t going to use your information against you.  Share small things and observe how they react.  Hopefully you find your new partner is more patient and calm than people you’ve opened up to in the past.  This may help you build your trust or convince you to leave before you become too attached.  It is important to try to build trust or you will have other problems down the line.

Sometimes a person thinks they are protecting their partner by withholding information.  This is usually an excuse, but sometimes it is valid.  If a person is already very stressed, anxious or depressed, it may be hard for them to handle something upsetting.  I tell students all the time in my office, the only thing you can do to get your partner to open up to you more, is to not overreact when they tell you something.  Let them know they can trust you.  If you start yelling, swearing, and throwing things when they tell you their ex texted them, then don’t expect them to tell you the next time it happens.

It is okay to be upset by information, especially if it is hurtful, but it isn’t okay to project your feelings onto someone else by yelling and freaking out even if you are stressed.  If you are too upset to talk to your partner, try to go in another room to calm down before talking about it.  Find a way to get in control of your emotions before you open your mouth and start a fight.  You want to be someone your partner can come to with information.  The better you handle it, the more likely they’ll keep opening up to you about something hard or potentially hurtful.  Trust me, you’d rather hear it from them than someone else.

Although, it isn’t okay to withhold information because you THINK your partner is too emotional or may over react.  You need to give them a chance and not just assume they can’t handle information.  If they have gotten really upset in the past, let them know it makes it harder for you to open up.  If you really aren’t doing anything wrong and they get upset all the time anyway, then figure out if you want to stay in this type of relationship.  It isn’t healthy to stay with someone you feel afraid to open up to.

Then there are the people who don’t share because they feel embarrassed, insecure or guilty.  They are trying to protect themselves in the situation.  This is not a good reason to withhold information, and it is very much the same as lying to your partner.  You aren’t innocent if your ex texts you and you don’t want to tell your partner because you want to keep talking to him or her.  You then effectively start lying to them in many ways.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend does find out, a lot of times I hear the excuse, “Well you didn’t ask me about it”, or “I didn’t think it was important”.  Your partner shouldn’t ask you every day if you’ve heard from your ex or any other specific questions about your day.  You also wouldn’t want them to ask you everything all the time because that means they don’t trust you.  You need to provide information to them when things happen.  If they find out you’ve withheld information, then you should expect to be asked questions all the time.  Which doesn’t help the relationship.  Being open helps your partner realize you don’t have anything to hide.  Your partner shouldn’t be the last person to know about something significant happening in your life if you want the relationship to grow and be healthy.

My advice is to think about your communication in your relationship and if you might be withholding things.  Ask yourself why.  Do what you can to fix that problem if you find it, or it will only end up blowing up in your face sooner or later.

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.

Puppy Love

There is a reason that a dog is a man’s best friend.  Puppies and even older dogs love people like no other.  I think it’s a good idea to analyze why puppies can be so therapeutic.  Maybe we can learn about love from analyzing how a puppy loves its owner.

1. Perseverance- a puppy doesn’t give up trying to win your love.  Even if you are trying to ignore it, a puppy will keep putting his nose in your hand to get your attention.  You can try to push him away, but he will continue to try to get you play with him.  Loving another  human being takes perseverance.  You need to really work at love to make it last.  A lot of people give up when a relationship becomes hard.  You aren’t always going to get along and your relationship may go through rough patches.  However, if you keep coming back to work things out, you find that most rough patches end.  Don’t give up too quickly and run to someone new because you think it will be easier.  Unless you have constant conflict, most of the time it is worth it to stay and work things out.

2.  Unconditional Love- a puppy loves you no matter what.  He doesn’t care whether your hair is messed up or you’ve gained a couple of pounds.  They love you for you.  They don’t judge you on how you look.  However, if you treat a dog badly, over time, they will withdraw from you.  It is possible to destroy their trust, although, they do still love you and want your love in return.  Dogs will also forgive you if you start treating them well again.  Loving humans should be more like this.  Love someone for who they are and try not to criticize or change them.  Although, be aware that it isn’t fair to take advantage of someone’s unconditional love.  If you are hurting someone or doing things to break trust, you can cause your boyfriend or girlfriend’s to pull away from you.   They do deserve better.  It would be wise for them to leave the relationship if they are being abused.  If a dog doesn’t deserve to be treated badly, your boyfriend or girlfriend certainly doesn’t.  Don’t think you can can do whatever you want to someone and expect them stay even if they do still love you.

3.  Loyalty-  a puppy is loyal to its owner.  It learns quickly who feeds and takes care of it.  A dog may learn to be nice and love other people they get to know well, but they will attack people who are out to harm their owners.  Loyalty is a huge virtue to find in someone because it builds trust and love in a relationship.  It is good to defend your partner when others are putting them down or attacking them in some way.  Stand up for the person you love and support them emotionally at all times.  A dog also isn’t going to leave its owner and go sleep on a neighbor’s porch.  Learn from dogs and know that cheating is never a good thing in a healthy relationship.

4.  Affection-  a puppy can be very affectionate.  It usually isn’t shy about showing it’s love to its owner.  Puppies will try to climb on you and lick your face constantly.  There is never any doubt they love you.  Not every human is so demonstrative with their affection.  You don’t have constantly be touching your partner to show them love, but every once in a while it is good to show signs of affection.  A 20 second hug will release feel good endorphins.  Sometimes holding hands or cuddling on the couch can be just what a person needs to feel how much you love them.  Also, dogs don’t show affection as a way to get sex.  Affection is not a tool to be used to get what you want out of the situation.  If you are only touching your partner as a prelude to sex, then try to find times to touch them just to show them you care, not because you’re trying to get something from them.

5.  Fun- a puppy is fun to be with.  It will remind you to let go of your worries and just relax for a bit.  A puppy can be stressful at times to take care of, but most of the time they make you laugh at the funny things they do.  They are entertaining.  Human relationships can be stressful at times to maintain.  However, it is important to bring an element of fun to your relationship.  It isn’t your job to get your partner to relax, but you can set a good example by making time to do something fun together.  Finding the time to have fun will defuse the stress built up over school, work and never having any money.  The reason a lot of people cheat is because their relationship isn’t fun any more and they find someone else who makes them laugh.  Find ways to make your partner laugh and your relationship will be healthier.

Relationships with puppies, dogs or any pets are not perfect.  However, animals do have a special way of showing love.  I think all of us could learn a little more from them to improve our own relationships.

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.