Finding Yourself When You’re Single

I saw this post on College Candy. It was written by Katie.  Feel free to click on the link to read more from Katie.

My name is Katie. I’m a twenty-something. I am single. I mean like, painfully single. This means no guys to kiss, to flirt with, to text, to complain to your girlfriends about, etc. Nada. Nothing. Zip. I’m in the healing process from a pretty brutal breakup, and now that ex-Manfriend and I are dunzo, it’s time for me to be single—painfully single.

This is usually the moment when I panic and scramble to find someone, anyone to fill the void that comes with being alone. I will reel in past loves that didn’t work the first ten times. I’ll text a “thinking of you” message to The One That Got Away. I’ll even contemplate online dating for a hot minute. I feel the need to do all this because I’d rather grasp at straws than let the loneliness step in and take control.

I think this is the time in our lives when we’re just plain confused about everything, including love. Am I supposed to be single? Am I supposed to be looking for a hubby? I never know what’s “right” or “normal” in the dating world of a twenty-something. Maybe it’s because a few of my friends are getting hitched and having babies (Please stop doing this by the way, people. I’m not emotionally ready to handle it. Think about ME.), or maybe it’s because I’m afraid of being alone. It could just be the anxiety that drives me to feel like if I don’t pair up soon, I never will. It could be because I’m not exactly the best at being single.

And that doesn’t mean that I’m always in a relationship—quite the contrary actually. I’ve said the “L” word a couple times and been in “serious relationships” (Whatever the hell that means anymore. #bitter), but for the majority of my life, I’ve been a single woman. I think I’m okay with being single, just not painfully single. I guess I should explain the difference.

If you ask any of my girlfriends, they will tell you that I always have “someone.” This basically means that I always have a guy to like or “talk to” or text. I go on dates and all that fun stuff, but there is never any pressure of commitment. When I’m not committed, I’m probably semi-committed by my own doing because I can’t deal with the pain of being single. Sidenote: If I don’t make sense right now, that’s normal because I never make sense to myself when it comes to any of this stuff either. It’s just that when I don’t have anyone to “talk to”, that is when the pain of being single seeps in. It feels like nothing else will ever come along. No new catches, no old flames—just me, myself and I.

When I become painfully single, the panic sets in. I switch into desperation mode. I start looking at my best guy friend differently, consider online dating, and go out more than usual just in case the man of my dreams sits down at the barstool next to me.

I have to ask myself why I’m suddenly entertaining the thought of dating my Boy BFF. Is it because I’m actually interested and have feelings for him or could it be that I can’t deal with being 100% alone? I’m beginning to think the latter. Can you blame me though? Who doesn’t like having someone to text the mundane details of your life to? Someone to snuggle and watch Netflix with? Someone to call yours? Being part of a pair is a wonderful feeling of fulfillment. Though for the first time as a twenty-something, I’m starting to recognize that having a guy be interested in me is not the “be all, end all” for my personal fulfillment.

I’m learning that I can be happy and content without a guy in my life. I can believe that I’m worthy without needing a guy to reassure me of that. I can find out who I am on my own. Male attention should not dictate my happiness and quality of life. I can be alone.

There is nothing wrong with being single. In your twenties, it might actually be one of the best things for you. I think that being single is something you have to do for a little while in order to understand who you are as an individual. A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend about a year ago, and of course, she was bummed. But instead of crying and moping around, she took up running. Whenever she was feeling upset, she just went out for a jog. She soon found herself running almost everyday of the week. About a month ago, she crossed the finish line of her first half marathon.

She told me that she would never have known how much she enjoyed running if her and her ex had never called it quits. She’d be too busy traveling to go visit him a few states away or working extra hours at her job to save up for a plane ticket to go see him on the weekends.

Being single allows us ladies to find out who we are and what we’re passionate about without having a guy influence us. Because let’s be honest, do you really like to golf? Or watching Monday Night Football? Or playing Tony Hawk on his old Playstaion? Or watching Dumb and Dumber whenever it’s on cable? Maybe you do if you’re the perfect woman, but I’m guessing you probably don’t love all those things, you just adopted them because he loves them.

When you’re on your own, you have the opportunity to discover your own passions. You have the time to go out and figure out what you enjoy and what you want to do with your life. You get to cross the finish line of your own half marathon. There is no one to answer to. There is just your mind, your passions, your ideas—yourself. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and I think for the first time, I’m understanding that difference.

Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!

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.

In Love with an Addict

I remember what it was like to be in love with an addict.  In my case he was wanting to quit, and I was going to help him.  Of course I didn’t know how bad it was.  Like most addicts, he minimized or denied most of what he was doing.  I believed him because I’m an honest, trusting person.  I got caught up in a rollarcoaster of happiness and disappointment.  I became addicted to wanting to save him.  Leaving the relationship was nearly impossible at first.  It took several tries, great friendship support and few counseling sessions to get me to finally leave.

I hope to give some good insight to those who may still be struggling in this type of relationship today. First, the hook.  I believe people who are addicts have learned or already have a natural tendency to be excellent liars.  I got into the relationship under false pretenses.  He led me to believe he only smoked occasionally.  This made sense because at first he seemed ambitious and fun to be around.  He had goals, was getting his Master’s Degree and seemed to have a very loving family who lived down south.  I didn’t realize how much I was being manipulated.  I really did believe that he liked me and wanted to be drug free.  I also didn’t realize how long, how often, how much, and how many different types of drugs he was using.  I was sucked in by the lies.

After a few months I became familiar with his mood swings.  When he was depressed he would tell me how much he needed me and that I was the reason he wanted to do better in his life.  It is easy to see through all that crap now, but at the time I needed to hear that from someone.  I realize now that if my self-esteem had been stronger, I probably wouldn’t have fell so hard for his lines.  When he was happy, it was so great to be around him.  He would stay drug free for a week, maybe two and I would get my hopes up.  Then the depression and the admission that he had yet again slipped back into old habits.  Little did I know how much he was using behind my back as well.  He was good at hiding it.  I was also naive and didn’t realize all the signs I would notice today.

I see very clearly now how my weaknesses, not just his, played into this whole relationship.  For a long time I blamed him for everything.  I didn’t want to admit that I was co-dependent.  I was finally able to admit the reason I stayed around so long is because I felt empty without him to worry about.  He became my life.  If you asked how I was doing, it would depend on how he was doing.  If he was having a good day or week, so was I.  My purpose in life was to help him.  I realize now, that I have a lot to give the world, whether I’m in a relationship or not.  I also know very well that no one can save anyone else.  I was trying to control his life, and he led me to believe for awhile that I could.  However, all along, he was in control of his destiny and I was just along for the ride.

Being in a relationship with an addict is an allusion.  There is no relationship because addicts are selfish and their partners are usually too selfless.  There is no equality, honesty, trust, or real love.  He was using me, and because of reasons stated above, I was using him.  He may have had moments when he honestly wanted to quit, but they were fleeting.  He wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t make him ready.  He needed to be able to quit for himself, not for me.  That was one of my many mistakes and misguided beliefs.  Sometimes, love doesn’t conquer all.  He needed to love himself before he could love me, and I needed to do the same thing.  We were both missing something.  He looked to drugs to fill the void, and I looked to him.  It didn’t work.  This relationship taught me a lot.  I lived and I learned!

If you are going through something like this, know that you aren’t stupid and you aren’t alone.  It is easy to fall in love with someone when it seems at first that they need you so much, but remember that you can’t rescue them.  You can support them if they decide to change, but you can’t make them change.  You can throw their drugs or alcohol away.  You can hide their porn or lock up their money so they can’t gamble.  They will still find away to get what they want if they want it.  Their addiction comes first.  No matter what you want to believe, they can never put you first if they have an addiction.

It is also true that a person in a relationship with an addict usually puts the addict first and becomes dependent on saving them.  The most important thing to learn is to put yourself first.  You are important too.  That was a big lesson for me to learn.  I know now that I can only control and save myself.  You are just spinning your wheels if you’re focusing all your effort on someone else.  Taking care of yourself isn’t being selfish, its being responsible.  I couldn’t be in a healthy relationship if I didn’t take care of myself.  I would drive my husband crazy.  The best gift you can give your partner is to be a confident, well adjusted person.  Life is a balance.  I found I can take better care of others if I’ve first taken care of myself.  Just because I focused on myself didn’t mean I couldn’t be there for others.

I hope you will remember that as well.  If you want to save anyone in this world, save yourself.  Then you will be able to help the people who really want help.  You know how I know when someone really wants help?  They are willing to go see a professional.  If they think they can do it themselves or have convinced you that they only need you, they are lying about wanting to really change.  I know it won’t be easy to leave, but it may be the only thing that will get them to change.  If they always have you to rescue them, it may make things worse.   I also know some people will never change.  Please focus your energy on what you can control, and try to let go of needing to save anyone else except yourself.  For more information, please see this website:  Co-dependents Anonymous  or see books listed on my page: Great Books on Sex and Relationships.

Date Rape

I had the first interview with Jaycee Lee Dugard on my DVR.  I watched it last night and it prompted me to write a post about a topic I see too often in my office.  Jaycee wasn’t on a date when she was raped, but the story made me think of several of my clients from the past who have been date raped.  Jaycee’s story is incredible and a lot of things she said in her interview are things I say to my students when they have been through a traumatic event such as rape.  I can’t imagine being Jaycee’s counselor.  I’ve never counseled someone who has undergone so much trauma over such a long period of time.  She stated in the interview that she wanted to tell her story to help other survivors of sexual abuse.  I know the statistics are high for women who have been sexually assaulted.  In college the numbers go up.  Date rape is more common than people realize because it goes unreported most of the time.

I want to point out some of the things that Jaycee said in her interview in hopes that it may help those of you out there reading this who have survived some type of sexual abuse.  Obviously, Jaycee’s story is an extreme one which is why it so amazing that she can speak about what happened to her at all.  If you are not aware, she was kidnapped at age 11 and held prisoner in Phillip Garrido’s back yard for 18 years.  Jaycee was raped repeatedly for several years and had two children  by Garrido in her teenage years.  She stated in her interview that she is not angry and doesn’t feel rage toward Phillip or his wife, Nancy.  She stated that she is unwilling to give him any more of her than he has already taken.  I can’t imagine how hard that is for her to not feel anger.  Although, I agree, it only means he wins if she continues to be angry.  Anger and rage take a lot of energy.  That energy can be put to better use because it isn’t hurting the person you want it to hurt.  Students always ask me how to let go of the anger.  The answer isn’t easy or simple.  It is a matter of refocusing your thoughts and feelings.  Those feelings of anger and rage will come unexpectedly and threaten to take over.  When that happens it is a matter of distracting yourself and focusing on the blessings you do have in this life.  I know Jaycee focused on her mother in those dark times.  She also looked at the moon and remembered the pine cone she last touched before she was taken which were symbols of home.  She stated today she focuses on her daughters and being back home.  I believe she is also grateful just to be alive.

I also tell students to let yourself grieve.  This person has taken a lot from you.  They’ve taken your trust in people, your innocence, and sometimes your virginity.  There isn’t a way to get some of those things back.  It is okay to cry when you need to.  It is healthy to recognize the loss, and it will take some time to adjust.  Most students tell me they just want to forget it happened.  I will tell you from my experience that isn’t possible.  I recommend telling your story.  I see people who have locked this secret in their heart for years.  They haven’t told anyone or maybe only confided in one other person.  It can consume your thoughts if you’ve been too afraid or ashamed to share.  I think it was healing for Jaycee to write down her story and then talk about it in an interview with Diane Sawyer.  I can’t explain the science behind why talking about the trauma is healing.  I just know it seems to help those who do open up.  Some people tell me it is validating that someone hears them and believes them.  It takes away some of the burden and helps them to realize it wasn’t their fault.  Some people are better at communicating their feelings through journals, music or art.  Any way that you can let some of those emotions out is helpful.  I think the best part about telling your story is you may be able to help someone else.

Jaycee mentions in her interview that she felt she was keeping Philip Garrido from hurting other little girls.  If she stayed with him he wouldn’t have to seek out other girls to rape.  This is what prompts many women to report their rape.  Even though it is extremely difficult, in their mind it is worth it because it may save someone else.  I know a lot of rape survivors who go on and counsel others going though the same thing.  By reaching out to someone else, you can get outside of your own pain.  It helps the brain to feel that at least something good is coming out of this horrible thing that happened.  We all know that life isn’t fair.  Bad things happen to good people.  I can ask why all I want, but the reality is that it could happen to anyone.  Jaycee thought this man was only going to ask her for directions.  She didn’t sense any danger when she was suddenly kidnapped.  In a date rape situation this happens all the time.  You trust the person you are with.  You don’t sense the danger.  You believe this person will listen if you say no or get the hint by your body language that you want to stop.  Unfortunately, there are many people out there only concerned about what they want and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

If you are blaming yourself for being raped, please stop.  It is not your fault.  Your mind is going to play tricks on you.  We all want to feel in control.  Our brains tell us, “if only” all day long.  It is not your fault that this person chose to violate you.  In Jaycee’s interview she says it is his shame, not hers.  He is the one with the problem, not her.  She was an innocent victim who survived and is now thriving.  She told her story so other victims could learn to feel the same way.  I plan to buy and read her book, “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” that comes out today.  I believe it may be helpful to many survivors of sexual abuse.  I encourage all those out there who have survived being raped to continue to work on healing yourself and I hope in time you are able to find peace.

Why aren’t they texting me back?

Does it drive you crazy when someone ignores you?  I have heard that ignoring someone is the highest form of disrespect.  Respect is defined by holding someone in high regard.  When you ignore someone, you are disregarding them and saying they aren’t worth your time or energy.

This is usually what causes physical violence to occur.  When a couple is arguing and one person walks away it is infuriating because the person talking feels ignored.  It is a power play.  When you ignore someone you automatically take the power and put the other person in a one down position.  You are making a judgment that what this person is saying isn’t worth your time.  The person walking away could be just trying to go calm down, but the perception is that they don’t want to listen.  It is helpful to use words to communicate your actions so the other person knows what is going on.  If you are in an argument and need to get out before you say something you regret, tell the other person.  It may not always work, but it is much better to say, “I’m feeling too upset to listen or respond right now.  I need to take a walk or go in the other room to think before we continue talking about this.”  It is helpful to let the other person know you aren’t ending the discussion, just pausing it for a while.  If the person thinks you are ending the whole discussion by leaving they are going to be even more desperate to stop you and finish making their point before you go.  This usually ends very badly.

Another way people ignore each other is by not calling or texting back.  The phone has so much power in relationships.  Silence sends a huge message to the person that you don’t think they are worth the energy to respond.  Sometimes you are trying to send this message.  In some cases, you have let the person know you don’t want to talk to them anymore and have broken things off.  So when they continue to contact you it is good to ignore them to let them know you are serious about what you said.  The person knows where they stand and knows what the silence means.

However, some people are trying to send this message by purposefully ignoring texts or calls, but haven’t told the person what is going on.  This is when ignoring someone becomes disrespectful.  You may make the person feel rejected, which is your intention, but they don’t know why.  They are lacking information which usually makes people crazy and they try to contact you even more.  This may not be the effect you want.  If you want someone to go away, ignoring them without explanation usually backfires.  You haven’t been upfront about your intentions and are using a power play to make the other person feel bad.  However, they don’t know what they did or why you aren’t communicating.  They can speculate that you don’t want to talk to them, or they could speculate that your phone died and they should keep trying.  They may even know you are ignoring them for a reason but are so angry about being put in the one down position that they fight harder to get revenge.  If you don’t want to talk to someone, you should let them know why and then ignore them if they don’t listen.  People can still act crazy even when you break things off respectfully, but you can feel better that you did everything you could to handle it the best way possible.

Sometimes it is unintentional.  You may not have meant to ignore someone, but you got caught up doing other things or your phone really did die.  Expect that the other person may be hurt by your lack of response.  Most people are sensitive to rejection and may wonder why they didn’t hear from you.  Make sure you do explain what happened so they can understand it wasn’t about them.  If this is not your normal behavior then your explanation should smooth everything over.

If you are in the habit of ignoring others because you have so much going on in your life, be honest with your friends about your situation.  This may help avoid frustration or conflict in the future.  I sometimes meet with students back to back for a few hours a day.  I have my cell phone on silent and sometimes don’t check messages for hours.  All of my friends and family are aware of my work schedule and don’t expect to get a response right away if they try to reach me during the  day.  I stopped dating a guy in the past who wanted to constantly text all day.  I couldn’t do that and he felt ignored.  He was better off with someone who wanted to be in constant contact, because it wasn’t my intention to ignore him but it bothered him anyway.

The best you can do is be upfront and if your lifestyle doesn’t fit with some people, then it may mean you aren’t supposed to be in a relationship or close friends with them.  If you do want someone to leave you alone, don’t try ignoring them as your first option.  It usually causes more harm than good.  Try to be as respectful as possible and then use ignoring tactics to make your point.  If someone is harassing you even after you’ve tried to respectfully end the relationship, try to block them on your phone, Facebook or IM account.  If they are physically stalking you, seek out help from the police or get a restraining order to protect yourself.

Is it Love or Abuse?

Everyone gets angry and has conflict in relationships.  How we handle our anger or our partner’s is essential to keep the relationship healthy.   We all have different tolerance levels of conflict as well.   In relationships I call this having boundaries.  We have physical boundaries in relationships and emotional boundaries.  I want to talk a little about both.

Boundaries look like a bull’s eye target.  You get to decide how someone treats you both physically and emotionally.  Emotional boundaries have to deal with respect.  The rings of the target represent the boundaries in a relationship.  The outer most ring defines the tone of voice you allow someone to use with you.  Some people allow their partner to raise their voice at them.  If you do, you are allowing your partner to cross that boundary.  For some people this boundary isn’t a problem.  If it is, you will let your partner know you will only have a conversation with them when they are calm and use a respectful tone of voice.  If they refuse to cooperate you would choose to leave the relationship in order to keep that boundary intact.

The next ring represents name calling or put downs.  Some people allow name calling in an argument.  If you do, you are allowing your partner to cross that emotional boundary.  If you don’t, you will refrain from engaging in a conversation with your partner unless they are more respectful.  You let them know you won’t tolerate being in a relationship with someone who continues to put you down no matter what happens.

The next ring represents coercion and threats.  Some people use coercion to persuade their partner to do something.  If that doesn’t work they will resort to threats.  How do you know when someone is using coercion?  The person will not be able to handle it if you use the words, “Maybe”, “I don’t know”, “I have to think about it”, or “No”.  If you don’t agree or say yes to them right away, they will resort to using threats to intimidate you.  If you allow coercion and threats, you will give in and let your partner have their way.  If you don’t, you will let them know you will have to leave the relationship if they continue to use this type of behavior.  **Warning** It is very easy to give in to a coercive and threatening person.  They know what buttons to push to scare and intimidate you.  A person allows someone to cross this boundary usually out of fear.  If someone is threatening you, you may need outside help to leave the relationship.

The next ring represents physical violence.  Some people allow a person to grab, push, hit, kick or throw things at them.  If you do, you are allowing this person to touch you in a violent manner.  This is unacceptable.  No one deserves to be physically abused.  No matter what you do, no one has the right to put their hands on you in a violent way.

The innermost ring represents sexual violence.  No one willingly allows someone to violate them sexually.   A person may not outwardly fight or verbally say no because of extreme fear.  This is the last boundary that is available for someone to cross.  The person is now actually penetrating your body.  Unless you give them VERBAL consent to have sex with you, this is an act of violence.  Silence is not consent!!!  Some women feel guilty because they didn’t feel brave enough to say no.  If you didn’t say yes, it was still a violation.  You can learn to be more assertive with your words and actions to reduce the risk of  a date rape situation, but remember it is never your fault if someone sexually assaults you.

Rape is so traumatic because this person effectively crossed every boundary you have in seconds.  It is not an easy thing to “get over” or “forget about”.  If you are in a relationship with someone who is violating your boundaries, please seek help.  Domestic Violence in any form is not okay.  The websites below can link you to the resources you need to get further help.  If you are entering a new relationship, be firm about the boundaries you set from the beginning.  You will deter abusive people if you refuse to let them cross those outer boundaries in the beginning.  It is hard to lose someone, but a violent relationship is never worth it.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- www.ncadv.org

Domestic Violence Information- www.domesticviolence.org

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network- www.rainn.org

Jealousy in Relationships

“Hey.  What’s up?  What are you doing right now?”  This question can have a couple different intentions.  It can be an innocent.  Your partner is texting you because they love you and care about what you are up to.  It can also be controlling.  They are texting you the same question for the 10th time today because they don’t trust you.  It doesn’t take long to figure out when your boyfriend or girlfriend has jealousy issues.

A little jealousy in the relationship is normal.  You may feel a little put out about girl’s night out or a night with the guys, but overall it is a healthy form of missing the one you love.  You aren’t really worried that something is going to happen while they are out, but you secretly hope all the people of the opposite sex are really ugly that night.  For the most part, you feel pretty confident even when you aren’t with them.

Romantic jealousy starts when someone lacks trust.  This becomes obvious because they won’t be satisfied with one answer and they become impatient if you don’t answer right away.  A jealous person feels out of control.  How they try to regain control is by checking up on you.  The only problem with this is that no one can reassure another person.  For example if you believe you are fat and someone says you look thin, you won’t believe them.  You will bounce that comment right off your insecure belief system.  It is the same thing when you try to reassure someone who has trust issues.  They can’t believe you.  So they ask in many different ways because the first five answers didn’t satisfy them.  (By the way, the only person who can reassure you is YOU)

Jealousy gives a person a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.  They have fears about losing you to someone else.  At first that fear may be rational.  Nothing in life is guaranteed.  So of course they may worry at first that the relationship will break up.  Or if they have been cheated on they worry it will happen again.  After awhile instead of feeling more confident in the relationship, they start to feel even more worried that you will leave.  Their fear grows and become obsessions that they can’t let go of.  They try to deal with it by controlling the situation which means, controlling you.  They can’t help asking you where you have been, what you’ve been doing, and who you’ve been with over and over.  It is frustrating to date someone like this.  The other problem is that most people who are jealous can’t admit they have this form of anxiety.  They truly believe YOU must be doing something that is causing them to feel this way.   So they feel justified in questioning you, following you, and showing up to places uninvited.  They believe you owe them this because you’ve caused them to worry.

Unfortunately this person is trying so hard to keep you but their actions are probably pushing you away.  So you end up spending less time with this person.  That makes them even more desperate.  It can become a vicious cycle.  You have to focus on what you can control, which is yourself.  If you constantly set boundaries and they cross them, try to explain how this is affecting you.  You can be upfront about what boundaries you need and explain how you want to feel trusted.  You can explain what your actions will be if boundaries continue to be crossed.  If you have been honest in the relationship you can point out that their fears are unfounded and hopefully get them to recognize their own anxiety.

The natural instinct is to answer their ongoing questions in order to reassure them.  This usually makes their obsessions worse instead of better.  They have to admit and believe they have certain fears, be able to face them one step at a time and learn how to reassure themselves.  I’ve told my clients in the past that it is easier to learn to control yourself than to try to control another person.  Most people with jealous obsessions need counseling to learn how to face their fear and build confidence in themselves and the relationship.  They also learn how to reassure themselves instead of seeking it from you.  They will learn not to text you, call you, or follow you to get reassurance and be okay with you not responding if they slip up in their anxiety.  I have found that people with anxiety will only accept boundaries if they have learned about why they are so important.

Hopefully they will get help.  If they don’t, the best thing you can do is stick to your boundaries and try to stay calm.  If you get upset and emotional, it won’t help either of you.  They may continue to blame you and this may make you feel defensive.  Take a step back and remember that their jealousy isn’t about you.  If you haven’t done anything to violate their trust then they would be jealous no matter who they dated.  You can continue let them know how it is affecting you and ask them to get help, but that is about all you can control.  If they become abusive, please seek your own help to learn how to best cope with this.  It may come to a point that the relationship ends if they can’t take responsibility.  Remember that you have choices and need to take care of yourself too!

What happened last night?

Ever wake up and not remember what you did the night before?  In college, it happens more often than people would like.  Sometimes its because you chose to drink too much.  Sometimes its because someone else drugged you.

Date rape drugs are something to be aware of when you go out to the bar or to parties off campus.  The four most common date rape drugs are alcohol, Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine.  Alcohol is the most used drug in date rape situations.  Be aware if someone keeps bringing you drinks without being asked or keeps encouraging you to drink more.  Date rape drugs are any substance that renders you incapable of saying no or asserting yourself in a situation.

Rohypnol is a prescription sedative/depressant.  It is not approved or manufactured in North America but can be found as a street drug.  It is tasteless, colorless, and odorless and can be added to any drink without detection.  It can take effect within 20 minutes.  When mixed without alcohol the effects last 8-12 hours.  With alcohol the effects can last up to 36 hours. The most common side effects are disinhibition, amnesia, confusion, drowsiness, memory impairment and semi-consciousness.

Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate is an odorless, colorless liquid that resembles water.  It is a depressant.  It is illegal in the U.S. and Canada, but it manufactured in illegal drug labs.  It can take effect within 15 minutes.  When taken with alcohol the effects last 3-6 hours.  With alcohol the effects can last 36 hours or more.  The most common side effects are amnesia, intoxication, drowsiness, severe respiratory depression and in some cases coma.

Ketamine Hydrochloride is a legal drug sold as a veterinary sedative or hospital grade anesthesia.  It acts like PCP.  When taken orally or nasally can take effect within 20 minutes.  When taken intravenously the effects are instantaneous.  The effects last less than 3 hours.  The most common side effects are disassociation, amnesia, mild respiratory depression, confusion, delayed reaction time and delirium.

The drugs listed above are very dangerous for obvious reasons.  Here are some ways to protect yourself from Date Rape Drugs.

1. Don’t accept open drinks from others who you do not know or trust.

2.  At parties, only accept drinks in unopened containers.  Don’t drink out of a glass unless you have poured the drink yourself.

3. Never leave your drink unattended.

4. Go with friends, stay with friends,  go home with friends.

5. Use Drink Safe Technology.  It is test strips or coasters that work like litmus paper in Chemistry class.  They change color when they come in contact with a date rape drug.   http://www.drinksafetech.com

What should you do if you think you have been drugged?  The reason these drugs are used is because it has the effect of erasing your memory.  So some people may never be aware that something has happened to them.  Here are some signs you have been drugged.

1. You don’t remember drinking anything after having one drink.

2. You feel very hung over but don’t remember drinking much at all.

3. You have no clear memory of events during an 8-24 hour period and have no reason for the memory lapse.

4.  You feel soreness or have bruising in your genital area, thighs or wrists and arms.

5.  You may feel like you have had sex even though you don’t remember it.

If you realize that you have been drugged, get to a safe place.  Call a friend to take you to the hospital right away.  Do not bathe, wash your hands, brush your teeth, change your clothes, or eat or drink before you go.  At the hospital ask to take a urine sample so they will test for those specific drugs in your system.  Contact the police when you get to the hospital to report what you do remember.  Get counseling or support.  Remember, that you are never at fault.  No matter what the situation, no one deserves to be raped.

For more help call the National Sexual Abuse Hotline- (800) 656-HOPE

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network- www.rainn.org

CONFLICT!!!

Conflict is inevitable in a relationship.  The misconception is that all conflict is bad.  Conflict is bad if you approach it in the wrong way.   Sometimes conflict is good and can strengthen the relationship.   It depends on how you handle it.  Here are four ways to handle a conflict.

The Pacifist-  You hate conflict.  You enjoy harmony and do not like to disagree with another person.  To avoid a disagreement you will go along with almost anything.  You may be a very laid back person who is very adaptable.  You may not mind letting someone else have their way most of the time.  You will speak up only if you think its safe and an argument won’t start.  Otherwise, you keep your mouth shut and let someone else take the lead. This is a fine way to deal with a conflict if you really do not mind giving in.  Why have a conflict over something that doesn’t mean too much to you?  But what if you do mind but don’t say anything???

Miss Passive/Aggressive-  Otherwise known as inner resentment.    This happens when you only give in to avoid an argument but you really feel angry about it inside.   You only go along with what someone else wants to avoid a fight.  Then down the road you will get that person back somehow, someway.  You may forget to do something they want, you may become sarcastic, you may set that person up for an argument with someone else, you  may withhold sex or affection, or you may wash their new red shirt with their whites.  The problem with dealing with conflict this way is that it never really gets resolved.  Your partner thinks you are fine, when you really are not.  They may keep doing things you don’t like because they are unaware of how much it bothers you.  You will start to feel taken advantage of and it isn’t all the other person’s fault that this is happening.

Mr. Aggressive-  You don’t mind conflict.  You almost thrive on a good yelling match.  You feel passionate about a lot of things and don‘t mind letting the whole world know it.  The goal is to win no matter what because losing isn’t an option.  So if that means you have to get loud, be threatening, or physically intimidating to win the argument, you do it.   You may believe you have a sense of entitlement and have a hard time comprehending why people don’t always realize you’re right.  You don’t like to compromise because that means giving up control.  You may believe it is always the other person’s fault for disagreeing with you and blame them for starting the argument.    This makes having a healthy relationship very hard.  No one is going to agree with you all the time and they may feel they have no respect in the relationship.

Mr. and Mrs. Assertive-  To have a healthy relationship, you have to be able to compromise.   Being assertive is being open to another person’s ideas and feelings.  It is also being strong enough to speak up about your own ideas and feelings in a respectful way.  You both may have good points and sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree on things.  Hopefully you didn’t get into a relationship with someone who you think is an idiot.  So, give them a chance to voice their opinion and feel confident enough in yourself to counter if you feel you have a valid point on your end.  Conflict isn’t the enemy, its how we handle it that is the problem.

Ignoring someone is the highest form of disrespect.  You may feel that walking away is the best way to end an argument.  All it does is tell your boyfriend or girlfriend they aren’t worth listening to.  This leads to a lot more anger as your boyfriend or girlfriend feels disregarded and they usually will try to stop you from walking away because they aren’t done saying what they want to say.  When you try to walk away, you take the control with you and that is going to infuriate the other person in the room.

If you find that you are getting too upset to listen, you need to tell the person you need to take a break.  Get away for a few minutes or a few hours so you can stop and think about what is being said.  First, you need to tell your partner where you are going (the other room, to the store, for a walk around the block) and when you will be back to resume the discussion.  The conflict isn’t over just because you walk away.  When you take the break, think through what the other person is trying to say and why you may disagree.   Also think through what you have been trying to say and if there is another way to get your point across to resolve the conflict.  When you feel calmer, resume the discussion and see if the conflict can now be resolved.  If it is a very heated matter, it may take many breaks to get through it.  Most of the time if you sleep on something or let an idea take time to sink in, you may find you actually agree with the other person.  Or you may be more willing to compromise after you’ve taken some time away from it to weigh the alternatives.

Also, remember, anger will lower your IQ by almost 20 points.  If you feel very upset about something you won’t be able to think clearly because all your energy will drain from your brain to your muscles.  Which is why you feel so tense.  Take time to release that energy in a positive way so you can get that oxygen back up to your brain and actually think through the conflict you are having.

Being CONFIDENT in your Relationship

Are you “stalking” your boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook?  Confidence is something I find lacking in a lot of people I counsel.  Especially in relationships.  People are always second guessing their decisions or wondering what the other person is thinking.  I hear a lot about Facebook status.  I have students who will tell me what their boyfriend or girlfriend’s status is and ask me what I think that means.  Facebook has been great for Egypt.  A man even named his baby daughter, Facebook because of its impact on his country.  But in college, I feel it has a negative impact on people’s confidence.

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

There are a couple of reasons it is hard to trust.  One, because you may not believe in yourself.  I know people who think they aren’t good enough and are afraid their boyfriend or girlfriend will leave them.  It  causes people to over analyze every interaction their boyfriend or girlfriend has with the opposite sex.  Two, you may have been betrayed in the past.  If someone’s ex cheated on them, it is going to be hard to trust in the next relationship.  It also adds to feeling not good enough.  Three, your boyfriend or girlfriend could be spending too much time talking to someone else.  Their actions could lead you to feel less trusting.

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

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

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