Fear of…Abandonment

I know you’re thinking, “Abandonment issues?  I don’t have abandonment issues”.  Some people may not even realize some of their decisions while in a relationship are influenced by a fear of abandonment.  Sometimes it’s very obvious.  Some people have been left by their mom, dad, or previous significant other.  They may still be dealing with that loss and be afraid of another in the future.  Other people may have an underlying fear of loss, but have no obvious reason for it.

You  may not realize how powerful fear can be in your life.  Many people will make huge adjustments in their every day life just avoid certain fears.  Fear of fat?  Will try to avoid eating and may exercise a lot.  Fear of heights?  Live in Illinois and will drive many miles to avoid flying.  Fear of getting older?  Pay lots of money for anti-aging creams and laser surgery.  We all have fears and some people choose to face them while others maneuver their lives around them.

In relationships, fear of abandonment has a strong pull.  Some people have an overt fear.  This means they do acknowledge they don’t like to be left and for good reason.  Their fear is real.  Someone they loved left them.  If that person was a parent or someone they depended on it can be very traumatic.  The brain will try to avoid repeating that experience at all costs.   Other people have a covert fear.  This means they make decisions based on their fears, but it isn’t always conscious or deliberate.  They haven’t thought it through far enough to acknowledge their decision is based on a fear.  They never have been left by someone they depended on, but their brain can imagine it happening in the future.  This causes them to do things in relationships whether they are aware of it or not.

So, how does this fear play out in a relationship?  It can look differently depending on the person.  If a person is a people pleaser, they usually will bend over backwards to make the other person happy.  They may take all the responsibility if things go wrong and do their best to make the relationship goes as smoothly as possible.  They will also be the first one to apologize so the fight will end.  If you try to leave they will chase you and beg you to stay.  They can appear very clingy and needy.  They may or may not be aware of their fear of abandonment that drives them to act this way.

If a person is more controlling type, they may try to coerce the person to do what they want.  This means telling the person what they want to hear to get their way.  They may also resort to threats to get a person to stay with them.  They trade a fear for a fear.  They will try to make you afraid to leave them so they don’t have to face their fear.  Usually this type of person can come across as very jealous and insecure.  You may not have given them a reason to be jealous, but their fear influences their thinking.  They may have an irrational fear of you leaving which pushes them to believe you could be cheating or wanting to date someone else.   If you do get tired of being accused of something you aren’t doing, you may actually try to leave.  At this point, they will turn on the charm and beg you to come back.

Of course, life isn’t this black and white and not every situation can be explained so easily.  Usually, people are motivated by several feelings, not just one.  The fear of abandonment is usually just one feeling that is influencing different decisions within the relationship.  It is hard to simplify all the dynamics that go into a relationship.  However, the fear of abandonment can do a lot of damage unless it is addressed.  Like I pointed out earlier, some people will be open about this fear and freely admit they are too clingy or too controlling depending on their personality.  Other people have no insight into why they are acting the way they are.  All they know is that they get pulled into this cycle.  Logically they know they should leave the relationship or let the other person go when they try to leave, but a force inside of them pushes them to do things to try to stay in the relationship.

This is another reason break ups can be so messy and sometimes drag out for a long time.  When those fears kick in, they are very powerful.  They have a huge influence on your decisions.  No one likes to feel anxiety.  If you can find a way to reduce that anxiety, you’ll use it.  Facing the fear actually increases the anxiety at first, which is why it takes so much effort to fight it.

Facing the fear is the only way to conquer it.  It is the only way you can achieve a healthy relationship.   Leaving an unhealthy relationship usually requires an extreme amount of emotional effort, but in the end it is worth it.  Don’t give up.  Your fears are strong, but I also know you are stronger if you only believe in yourself.  Don’t let what happened in your past take away from the happiness in your future.  You can make a positive change.  You can’t control other people and what they are going to do, but you can control your fears and how they influence your life.   Good luck!!

I Wish I Had A Magic Wand To Get Over A Break Up

It is a very hard time of year to go through a break up.  It isn’t easy to adjust to being alone and the holidays can drive that knife in a little deeper.  There have been many times I’ve wished for a magic wand to fast forward students through time.  Wouldn’t it be so nice if was May right now and all the leaves were back on the trees and this break up was in your past?

Trust me, I know how you feel.  Time does help, but it goes by so slow when you’re in pain.  Think about it.  How long does five seconds feel when you have your hand on a hot burner?  Way too long for me.  However, five seconds flies by when you’re kissing someone you love.  If you are going through a break up it can seem like your life has just screeched to halt and everyone else is going along on their merry way.

Since I don’t have a magic wand, I do my best to be there for those going through a painful time.  If you have a friend going through a break up, it can make you feel helpless to watch them go through this kind of pain.  There isn’t anything you can do to make their pain go away.  However, sometimes there are a few simple things you can do that are helpful.   I find that most of the time, just listening is the best thing  you can do.  There isn’t much you can say that will make them feel better.  Telling them to forget about it or that they’ll find someone else someday usually falls flat.  Try to keep your words to a minimum and give them a big hug instead.  Just sitting there while they cry is a huge help, even though it may feel like you aren’t doing anything at all.

Other times, there may be more you can do.  It is great to be there for them while they cry, but it is also good to sometimes try to distract them as well.  If you know they’ve been crying for a few hours or even a few days, it may be good to shake things up a bit.  Try to get your friend out to the mall or to a movie for a little distraction from their pain.  Entertaining them for a few hours can be a huge help as well.  I don’t see this as telling them to forget about the break up, but as a way to remind them there are other things to think about and do.  It helps the brain to have a mini break from processing all the feelings.  However, it isn’t good to take such a long vacation from the feelings so that denial starts to set in.

Another piece of advice for people out there helping friends and family through a break up.  Don’t expect your friend to cut off all communication with their ex.  A break up is a process.  Sometimes a very long one.  You will end up pushing your friend away if you try to guilt them into not talking to their ex.  I know you mean well, but you can make your friend feel worse not better.  They aren’t in a rational place, so trying to rationalize with them isn’t going to work.  Try to be supportive even when they make mistakes.  They are already beating themselves up for being weak, they don’t need you to add to the beat down as well.  If they ask for your help in trying to stay away from their ex, by all means step in.  If they aren’t asking, try to do your best to bite your tongue even though its killing you to see them possibly get hurt even more.

I hope if you are going through a break up, you have great friends out there who are doing their best to be supportive and helpful.  No one is perfect, so go easy on your friends when they say the wrong thing.  Their heart is in the right place.  Also, realize that your friends just want you to feel better.  They don’t want to see you get hurt again.  Sometimes it is best to take some alone time to cry in your pillow or while your holding your favorite pet.  Write your feelings down.  It can slow down your thoughts and help you get some of those crappy feelings out of your head without having to burden your friends.  Go somewhere away from everyone and scream your head off, jump up and down until some of the rage is released.  Art and music are other ways to help you process pain in ways that isn’t hurtful to you or others.

There is no way to make time go by faster.  I don’t have a magic wand.  However, before you know it, spring will be here.  Then summer.  You will be able to look back on this time and know you survived it and are stronger, smarter and hopefully happier as well.  We all have black holes of time in our past that we are glad are behind us.  This too will be one of those black holes.  Just be thankful they they do pass and be assured that you can get through it.  If December 2011 is horrible for you, hopefully December 2012 has something a lot better in store.  Keep your head up, the future will be here before you know it!

Sex With The Ex

Weak moments…many people have them when it comes to their ex’s.  Since it seems to be almost impossible to delete them off your Facebook and out of your contacts on your phone, it is too easy to hit them up for sex when you have a lonely or drunk moment.

It is logical to want to stay away from someone you just broke up with.  However, break ups are rarely ever logical.  Emotions are messy and it can take awhile to extricate someone completely out of your life.  Unless one half of the couple is resolute on never speaking to the other half ever again, sex is very likely to happen.

Why?  Because loneliness sucks!  Your mind tells you that at least your ex is familiar territory.  Sometimes there is an underlying agenda of wanting to get back together with your ex.  Sometimes it is just about wanting sex in a weak or stupid moment.  Other times, you just don’t want them to be having sex with anyone else, so you make sure your still offering it up.  You may not exactly want to get back together, but you aren’t ready to let them go either.

Whatever reason you are using to still hook up with your ex, just know that it could make things a lot more messy in long run.  First scenario, you are still in love with your ex, but your ex is no longer in love with you.  Yes, they may agree to have sex with you which makes you feel good in the moment.  However, after that moment passes you feel even more alone.  It can make you miss that person more and hope that maybe you might get back together.  You may think you can keep it casual, but deep down you know you’ll freak out if you find out they are seeing someone else.  Unfortunately, this is how this particular scenario usually ends up.  One day your ex will find someone else, at that point, they are probably going to have an easier time turning you down for sex.  When you find out they are in fact seeing and having sex with someone else you are going to go through the break up pain all over again.  The hope of getting back together is gone and it can be pretty devastating.

Second scenario, you are wanting to have sex with your ex to keep them from having sex with someone else.  This may or may not work in reality.  Remember, you are no longer together.  This means they aren’t cheating on you if they are having sex with someone else during the same time period they are still having sex you.  If it comes out that they are sleeping with other people besides you it is going to cause you to feel very angry.  You will want to start a fight that you don’t really have a right to start.  They don’t owe you anything after a break up.  I know they SHOULD have told you they were having sex with someone else, but they don’t HAVE to.  You may still feel like they cheated on you because they weren’t upfront.  However, remember many people lie in order to have sex.  Don’t be surprised that your ex is doing the same thing.

Third scenario, you just want a random hook up because you are feeling lonely or too drunk to care.  Maybe you don’t have a hidden agenda.  You have emotionally moved on, but the prospect of having sex with your ex is too strong to pass up.  This seems simple and at first doesn’t reveal any complications.  However, what do you think the chances are your ex is on the same emotional page as you when it comes to your break up?  Lets guess…about 1%.  I haven’t done a study, but I feel that is a pretty good guess.  So don’t complain when the texts and phone calls start up the following day.  You may have just opened a door that should have remained shut.  Now you have to deal with the emotional fall out all over again because they are hoping to see you or hang out again.  Remember, you aren’t the only one involved in this game, be prepared for drama when you don’t respond to their text or Facebook message the next day.

Last scenario, you are in a new relationship, but feel like hooking up with your ex for old times sake.  Think again!  This is cheating and don’t think your ex won’t try to mess up your new relationship because they are too mature for that kind of drama.  You are taking a very big chance that all will stay quiet and on the down low.  If you are in a new relationship then that hopefully means you have moved on.  Stay moved on or decide not to get into a new relationship yet.  The mature thing to do is be faithful, instead of expecting your ex to the mature one by not updating their status as “hooked up with ex last night”  on their Facebook page.

No one is perfect and it is hard to move on after a break up.  I know having sex with your ex is common, but don’t give up on trying to set better boundaries with them.  It is possible, and deep down, you know you either want more from your ex or they are wanting more from you.  Remember, short term pain for long term gain.  I always tell students that they can handle a lot more than they think they can.  Which means you can get through that lonely moment and feel proud of yourself the next day that you didn’t give in.  In the mean time, if you do mess up, just remember a day will come when you will be moved on.  Live for that day and don’t give up trying to make that day sooner than later.

I Want You to Hurt Like I Hurt

Pain is the gift that keeps on giving.  No matter how you try, you just can’t get rid of it by throwing it at someone else.  Yet, many people seem to keep trying anyway.

I recently read a story.  This guy falls in love and moves in with his girlfriend.  Soon after he finds his girlfriend having sex with her ex-boyfriend.  He goes crazy, beats the crap out of the guy, screams at his girlfriend, grabs some stuff and leaves the apartment.  He becomes bitter and angry.  He now doesn’t trust women or relationships.  For awhile he only uses women for sex, but doesn’t get involved deeper than that.  He doesn’t acknowledge how hurt he is, he only acknowledges that he is pissed off at the world.

In time he meets another girl.  However, this time is different.  This time he feels more than just a sexual attraction.  He starts to fall in love with her.  This is when he should finally be able to let go of his past anger, learn to trust again and live happily ever after right??  Well, as we all know, life just isn’t that easy.

He doesn’t acknowledge how afraid he is of being hurt again.  He doesn’t admit he still has unresolved pain and anger from his ex.  However, it comes out in his actions.  He starts breaking up with his new girlfriend for no reason.  Then in moments of panic, he begs her to come back.  When things start to go well, he finds a reason to start an argument.  They continue the cycle of breaking up and getting back together.  He knows he is in love with her, but doesn’t know how to withstand the vulnerability that true love brings to a relationship.  He believes if he is a jaded and bitter jerk then he could never get hurt again.  He continues to push her away even though she begs him to take her back.

She finally moves on because she can’t handle his hostility any more.  She starts dating someone new.  He realizes that he pushed her away with his negative emotions from his last relationship.  He wants her back, but doesn’t feel he can ruin what she has now to ask her to come back to him.  He starts to analyze why he pushed her away when he truly did love her.  He starts to heal the wound that has been haunting him and realizes he wasn’t avoiding the pain by being a jerk after all.  He was still in pain even though he was trying to push his pain onto someone else.  He now knows he ruined a really good thing because he couldn’t get past the betrayal from his ex.

He runs in to her a few months later and admits to himself that he has continued to think about her every day.  He doesn’t tell her this, but he does tell her he still loves her and misses her.  He asks her if she is happy.  She says that she is content in her new relationship.  He realizes she is still in love with him.  She starts to kiss him and he knows he could have sex with her if he wanted to.  He stops himself when he realizes he would be causing her to cheat on her boyfriend and he doesn’t want to bring her further into his negative emotion cycle.  He doesn’t really want to hurt her current boyfriend the way he was hurt by his ex.

He knows that her current boyfriend, even though he isn’t making her overly happy, is providing commitment and emotional stability that he wasn’t able to provide.  He tells her that although he had no problem breaking up his own relationship, he couldn’t break up hers for his own selfish reasons.  He admitted that he was terrified of hurting her again.  Even though he wanted to be with her, he couldn’t reassure her that he wouldn’t push her away again.  She told him she understood, even though she was sad, and left.

He wasn’t able to ask her to leave her current boyfriend, although this is what he hopes for.  He had to let the one girl he truly loved go, and he isn’t sure if she will come back.  In the mean time, he finally broke down and cried about all the pain he had been going through and holding back.  He finally wasn’t ashamed to show how he was really feeling.  He was learning that he had hurt a lot of people because he got hurt, and this wasn’t the way he wanted to continue to deal with his pain.  He hopes that one day he will be more trusting and vulnerable in a relationship.  He hopes the girl he pushed away will come back someday.  Until then he will continue to be single, take care of himself, and improve those areas he struggles the most with.

It is torture to live with pain.  As counselor, I have learned that if someone dumps a pile of crap (pain, anger, hurt) in front of you, you have three choices in how to deal with it.  First, you can pretend the pain isn’t there.  You can ignore it or try to forget it ever happened.  In time, most people will need drugs, alcohol, sex, food or other distractions to help them stay in this type of denial.  Pain has a way of sticking around even if you try to continue ignoring it.

Second, you can pick it up and try to throw it at someone else.  Many people try to give their pain to others and feel justified in doing it.  Pain can make someone very irrational.  The only catch is, it never really goes away.  It stays with you, only now you’ve spread it out farther than yourself and others are suffering as well.

Third, you can put some boots on and start wading through it.  Facing the pain and moving forward is the only way to truly get through it.  I believe you don’t really “get over” things.  However, I do believe you can get through things.  It isn’t easy to face your pain, but it is worth it.  You can handle it, because you are stronger than you think.  You also don’t have to dwell on your past to deal with it either.  It’s just being able to acknowledge it and feel the pain that you haven’t let yourself feel before.  The pain does lessen in time if you let yourself actually feel it.  You can choose to deal with it alone, or ask someone you trust to help you through it.

Also, realize courage isn’t the absence of fear.  Courage is knowing what you fear and being willing to face it anyway.  If you fear pain, then I hope you will have the courage to face it in your future.

Why don’t you love ME??

Are you the person who dates someone, falls in love, only to have that person leave and fall in love with someone else right after they broke up with you?  I was reading another blog post (Live Love Learn Breathe) and I really resonated with what the blogger said in her post.  I’ve quoted her below…

“From my first “real” boyfriend back in 7th grade to the love of my life from college, and all of those in between that I may have crushed on once before (or vice versa), their current status makes me feel that I am a mandatory stepping stone on his way to finding love.  In other words I am not the one for him, but one he must ’experience’ before finding the one who is.  And when he makes her his, I’m left behind with a bruised heart and the never-ending question, What is it about me that he couldn’t love?”  I met a great guy about a year ago.  He was the first great guy I had met in a while.  I thought there was potential, and believed he thought the same.  But as always, I had it all wrong.  He stopped writing; he stopped caring.  I was confused as to what caused this, but learned that he met someone else.  And now, that someone is his fiancée.  In thinking about him, and the connection we had, I cannot help but wonder, why her and not me?”

I can relate to this very well myself, and I know a lot of the students I’ve met with have felt the same way.  It is hard not to question yourself and wonder if there is something you’re doing that makes you unlovable.  The truth is that it’s really hard to find someone you connect with that connects with you in the same way at the same time.  Sometimes, the timing is just off.  Sometimes you meet someone too soon and they aren’t ready for a commitment.  They haven’t grown up yet or they have some unresolved issues that unfortunately resolve themselves after they break up with you.  This has nothing to do with you, but it’s hard not to feel rejected anyway.

Other times, it’s the chemistry.  No matter what you do or how perfect you are, it isn’t going to work.  Chemistry is more than just physical attraction.  It is a complicated dynamic between two people.  You feel the chemistry but for some reason they feel it more with someone else.  This doesn’t mean you are the ugliest, most boring, unintelligent person on the planet.  Like I said, its complicated and some of us don’t have the good luck to find the love of our life the first time around…or even the 5th time around.  However, there is no denying that it really sucks when you break up with  someone and find out a few months later that person found love and it wasn’t with you.

So, you may wonder when your good luck is going to kick in right?  If only we all had crystal balls.  Life would be a lot less stressful.  I look back now and tell myself, “If I knew at 20 I wasn’t going to get married until I was 36, I would have just relaxed and and enjoyed myself.  I wouldn’t have wasted so much time being anxious and sad about being single.”  It is the unknown that is scary, but unfortunately life doesn’t give us clarity and foresight.  We all have to fumble through it.  Just try not to be jealous of the high school sweethearts that are getting married in their early 20’s and having babies before 30.  It happens for some, but not for most.  It may seem like life would be simpler if we could all meet someone when we are still in high school, but those couples have to go through a lot of growing pains together that other couples who meet in their late 20’s or early 30’s don’t have to deal with.  Lets just say I learned a lot of what NOT to do while dating when I was younger.  Not that my relationship now is perfect, but I certainly have improved my communication and relationship skills, and my husband is benefiting from it.

It does hurt to know that someone fell in love, but it just wasn’t with you.  It is hard to be confident and self assured that your time will come.  All I know is that waiting can make you stronger and wiser.  Take this time to learn how to be more independent and confident.  Focus on your friends and family while you still have the time and energy (before you have an all consuming relationship and then later your own family).  Volunteer to help others and engage in hobbies or activities that you really enjoy.  Maybe you’ll end up meeting someone who you really do have an awesome chemistry with.  Focus on school or work and take time for yourself.  If you find there are things you want to improve on, this is the time.  I encourage people to focus on what they can control in the moment.  You may not be able to control having someone fall in love with you, but you can still control  A LOT of things about your life in the meantime.

It is okay to have moments, sometimes days or weeks of sadness.  You may feel lonely at times.  It isn’t fun, but be assured that you can handle it.  This time will pass and eventually you’ll find a great person and hopefully have a great relationship in the future.  Try not to compare yourself to the couples you see on campus all the time.  Trust me, there are a lot of single people walking around you too, all feeling the same way.  You aren’t alone.  And believe me, there really isn’t anything wrong with you!!  Don’t give up on yourself.  Remember, it’s a big world out there and you have plenty of time to find true love.

I Know What I Should Do, But I Don’t Want To Do It!

Ah love…if was just a more logical and rational emotion, it would make life so much easier!  However, emotions are not rational or logical in any way.  That is why they are called emotions, and love is the least logical of them all!

This is why I meet several students who know what they want to do, but just can’t quite make themselves follow through.  The mind is the first to know when it is time to leave a relationship, but the heart will fight very hard in it’s refusal to accept the inevitable.  What’s that saying about hope being a double-edged sword?  Yep, it keeps you hanging on…just in case it may work out.  However, it can keep you in a miserable situation for a much longer time than necessary.  Fear is the other emotion that gets in the way.  Most people think to themselves, “Am I doing the right thing?  What if I don’t find someone else?  What if I lose the best thing that ever happened to me?  What if I ruin this person’s life?  I don’t want to hurt them.”

Remember that no relationship is completely horrible.  It may even be good, yet you feel there is “something” missing.  The good part is what keeps people hanging on, even though they know in their head that it isn’t good enough.  You may feel at war with yourself sometimes.  Some days you tell yourself you’re settling and deserve more out of a relationship.  Other days you tell yourself that you’re being too picky and no relationship will ever be perfect.  Stay or go?  Go or stay?

Your head confirms that you know it is time to leave the relationship.  Your heart continues to argue that being alone sucks far worse than being in a crappy relationship.  When it comes right down to it, your heart is going to tell you that a little is better than nothing.  This is usually what keeps people from wanting to make the final break.  No one wants to make a mistake and live with regret.  So you wonder why break-ups are usually messy?  This is why!

When people break-up before it gets messy it usually means they are less emotionally attached so the logical brain is able to take over or they are interested in someone else and don’t have the fear of being alone holding them back.  If you are emotionally attached and don’t have someone else ready and waiting, then my guess is that you won’t be able to go through with the break-up until it is harder to be with the person than without them.  Getting to that point is often very messy.  It means you have to first develop a lot of anger and frustration which will finally propel you out the door.

Only anger does diminish with a few hours, days or sometimes weeks.  So, then the game of get back together, break up again, starts.  What a pain!!  Why can’t this just be a simple process?  Your brain knows this isn’t a good idea, but yet you keep doing it anyway.  Trust me, it is frustrating beyond belief.  However, give your heart a break.  It just wants to make sure you don’t have ANY regrets.  It just can’t let go until it is ABSOLUTELY sure this person isn’t the one.  If there is even still a 1% chance, it usually means you will stick in there even though it is extremely painful just to make sure you don’t make a mistake.  If you’ve seen “Dumb and Dumber”, I know you can relate.  When she says he has a one in a million chance of being with her, he doesn’t see that as a bad thing, he gets excited because he believes there is still a chance, even if her point was that he doesn’t have one!

Dumb and Dumber

Image via Wikipedia

I wish I could make it easier somehow.  Breaking up with someone is a process.  It will take time.  How much time?  That is another thing that is totally random and undetermined ahead of time.  Just don’t get too down on yourself because you can’t seem to do what you know you should do.  If the relationship isn’t going to work itself out, it will be obvious even to your heart at some point.  You may feel like you’ve wasted a bunch of time, but I will tell you that is better than trying to move on while constantly wondering in your head “What if?”  If you go through the whole process, I can almost promise at some point you won’t second guess your decision.  You won’t look back, and you will adjust to either being alone or being in a new relationship with someone else.

In a world where everything seems to come faster and easier because of technology, it can be hard to go through a long process like a break-up.  I wish technology could figure out a way to make the heart agree with logic a lot faster.  The person who can figure it out will definitely be a billionaire, because I don’t know who wouldn’t pay to make a break-up a faster and easier process.  In the meantime, remember to take care of yourself.  Depend on your friends and family.  If they end up becoming frustrated with you in the process, I encourage you to seek out a counselor who will let you take the time to talk through your feelings.  No one will be able to tell you what to do, but support can go a long way to helping you get through it.  Be confident that you will get through it, and eventually it will be behind you.  We all have those times in our lives that we don’t want to repeat.  If you are in the middle of that time now, don’t give up.  It will pass, and someday you won’t feel so conflicted and upset all the time.  I promise!

Don’t Drink & Text!!

You know you’ve done it!  Then afterwards you swear to yourself that you will never do it again.  Yeah right!  However, I’m thinking of starting a new campaign anyway against drinking and texting and texting while tired!  Those combinations just don’t work well.  Who wakes up to reread a text they wrote from the night before and says, “Wow, I’m a genius!”?  Not too many.  Most of the time students usually say to themselves, “Wow, I’m an idiot!  I can’t believe I sent that”.

Even if you haven’t been drinking, sending someone a text late a night usually spells trouble.  What you would never do at 2pm sounds pretty brilliant at 2am.  Why is that?  Your guard is down when your tired or if you’ve been engaging in extracurricular activities.  The judgment part of your brain that usually tells you to stop before doing something stupid isn’t at its peak after a certain time at night.  When you stay up late because your bored, studying, or even partying, it makes you vulnerable to those thoughts and feelings you’ve been able to keep under control the rest of the day.

How many of you text your ex in the early afternoon because you miss them and want to hook up for a few hours?  I’m guessing very few.  How many of you text your ex after at 11pm, midnight, or 1am to see if they’re awake and want to hook up?  I’m guessing a few more hands went into the air.  Maybe you think alcohol gave you the liquid courage you needed to take a risk.  In reality the alcohol, or even just being over tired, shuts down the part of your brain that thinks through the possible consequences that will only occur to you again the next day when the sun is shining brightly into your bedroom.

Even if you didn’t actually hook up, you still sent a text that you now wish you could suck back through cyber space.  It’s now out there that you are still thinking about this person.  Maybe you feel embarrassed or mad at yourself for giving your ex an ego boost.  You know when you get a drunk text there is a part of you that feels good.  It can be offensive or annoying, but it can also feel empowering.  This is why on the other end the person is cringing the next day.  It sucks to show vulnerability.  All I can say is that you are not alone.  This is an all too common phenomenon.  Texting puts that wall up and makes people feel bolder than normal.  If you actually had to call the person and hear their voice at 1am you may not have been so bold.  Even with alcohol flowing through your veins.  Texting makes it too easy to make those embarrassing mistakes.

So how do you solve this problem?  I wish there was an automatic lock that shut down your phone after a certain time of night.  Short of that, there really is no easy way to stop it.  You can try to make sure you go to bed earlier and get enough sleep.  I would also suggest not drinking, that may definitely cut down the embarrassing moments.  However, I know you can’t go to bed every night at 10pm or have someone guard your phone all the time.  Just be aware that your phone, with all its cool capabilities, isn’t always your friend.  Also, be aware that you will make a few mistakes.  I think the only way to stop is after you’ve made a few too many mistakes and are feeling the pain.  Once you’ve reached a certain pain threshold, then even liquid courage isn’t going to coerce you to send a text you’ll later regret.

Not all drunk or tired texts are going to be painful.  Some might even be cute or hilarious, but when they are painful and embarrassing then the memory of that is what’s going to help you in the future.  No one likes it, but pain is a good reminder of what NOT to do.  If something hurts me, I most likely will try to avoid it in the future.  If I keep repeating something, either it hasn’t been painful enough or too much time has gone by and the pain has faded away.  At some point though, the memory of pain is going to block out any voice in your head that thinks it’s a good idea to send a text to an ex, or someone else you shouldn’t be texting, in the middle of the night.  I wish you didn’t have to go through the pain or any other negative emotion, but so far I haven’t met a better teacher in the world yet!  In the meantime, I’m sending out the message that drunk texting is not the best idea!

The Sucky Side of Love

There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull:  How do you hold on to someone who won’t stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won’t leave?  -from the War of the Roses

Love!  Why can’t it be more simple?  Boy meets girl…boy falls in love…girl loves him back…they live happily ever after.  More often I see this…Boy meets girl…girl chases boy…boy plays along for a little while but then tries to drop off the grid…girl continues to stalk boy…or vice versa.  I’ve learned that nothing is ever simple in relationships and they rarely go the way you expect them to go.  Everything starts out okay, but somewhere down the line something shifts.

You know this shift has happened because you are the one that is always initiating the texting or phone calls.  You are the one wanting to make plans, and the other person is vague until the last-minute, like they were waiting to see if something better would pop u.  You can feel this change but your mind and heart want to remain in denial.  You want to go back to those first few weeks when everything was easy and you both felt super attracted to each other.  Those weeks make you do things you swore you would never do in a relationship.  Like stalking them on Facebook.  Texting them 5 times in one hour even though they haven’t texted you back.  Asking your friends over and over what they think and ignoring them when they say you deserve better.

The fact is that no amount of hoping, wishing or even begging can make someone stay who wants to leave.  The answer to the question above is that you can’t hold on to someone who doesn’t want to stay with you.  They will make your life miserable.  They may humor you at times or give you what you want randomly in weak moments, but overall, they will drive you crazy until it’s too hard to continue to love them.

The flip side is trying to get out of relationship when the other person is holding on to you with a death grip.  You realize you are ready to move on but know there won’t be an easy way out.  First of all, if you are like me, you don’t like to hurt the other person’s feelings.  So you may stay longer than you want, to try to avoid causing them any pain.  You may give in to their pleading for you to stay at first.  This can drag out a relationship and build resentment.  You will finally get fed up and become very mean in order to get your point across.  This usually has some shock value that gives you a little reprieve, but if that person is still very much in love with you, they probably won’t give up that easily.

I’ve always been scared to be a landlord for this same reason.  What if I get someone in my apartment who doesn’t pay, but doesn’t want to leave?  I may try to terminate the contract, but they may not budge from the apartment.  Anyone who has been a landlord knows that it isn’t easy to make someone leave who doesn’t want to go.  It is the same way with relationships.  Once you enter into a relationship with someone, you take the risk of them being attached to you for a long time whether you like it or not.  Some people will go quietly in the night and leave you alone when you tell them it is over, but not everyone is so easy to dismiss.

It is also true that many people waffle in their feelings during a break up.  This causes all sorts of damage.  You may try to break it off but then change your mind and take them back.  This makes it much harder for the other person to move on and for you to make a permanent break.  This person is not going to believe that you really want to break up.  They will try harder to get you back and the craziness reaches new heights.  With today’s technology it isn’t easy to break up in the first place.  You can find people too easily through social networks even if they block you because of mutual friends.  This makes it hard for one person to let go and for the other person to get out for good.

If you are trying to break up with someone, my advice is to be consistent!  That way the person will get the message sooner.  If you play games with their heart, it is only going to make things a lot worse.  Yeah, it may seem like a good idea to text them at 1am for a quick hook up, but then don’t be surprised if they turn all fatal attraction on you.  Most of the time it doesn’t work out to have your cake and eat it too.

If someone is trying to break up with you, do your best to give them what they want.  If you want someone to love you the best thing to do is listen to them.  If they say they want space, give it to them.  It will show them that you listened and respected them.  It is probably the best chance you have of bringing them back.  Chasing someone who is trying to get away from you sends the wrong message.  Don’t listen to your heart when it tells you that you need to keep letting them know you still love them and want them back.  If you told them during the initial break up that you still love them and want them back, that was enough.  You don’t have to beat them over the head with it. Let them at least have the chance to miss you a little bit.  If you really love someone, be selfless and give them what they want, even if its hard.

The moral of this story is that break ups are messy because it is very rare for two people to feel the same way at the same time.  If both people mutually agree to break up, it makes it easier.  It rarely happens this way unfortunately.  If you are going through this, take a breath and know it may take some time.  Hopefully someday soon you will be able to let go and move on.

Rebound Relationships

I remember in college someone telling me that the quickest way to get over someone was to get under someone else.  Hmm?  True or False?  From a counselor’s point of view I’m going to say false, but I’m sure many people out there would disagree with me.  Lets face it.  Breaking up is hard to do.  Most humans don’t like change.  If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time it is hard to go back to single status.  A lot of students state that they need a distraction from the pain of their break-up.  It is almost like they send a vibe out to the world that says, I’m vulnerable and need some attention.  Guess what?  There are plenty of people who will step up and provide that distraction for you.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the best way to get over your ex.

First, let me point out the obvious…you’re VULNERABLE after a break-up.  Your emotions are all over the place and your self-esteem has taken a big hit.  Like I said above, there are many people out there looking for the vulnerable type to take advantage of.  On a normal day, you might be anything but vulnerable.  You may consider yourself smart, fun, independent, and a good judge of character.  However, right after a break-up, your loser radar is a little off the mark.  Again, some people say one night stands and casual hook-ups are a way to soothe yourself after a break-up.  However, when your emotions are a mess, some people can sweet talk their way into your life.  A casual hook up can turn into a very messy relationship if someone is out to take advantage of your vulnerability.  I can assure you that is what I hear from students in my office.  Most of the time students often wonder what they were thinking, and I often hear about their regrets.  The thing is after a break-up, you aren’t thinking.  You are feeling.  That is the sucky part.  You are a ball of emotions.  Emotions are not the most reliable guides in the world.  They often persuade people to make decisions they wouldn’t usually make.  Unfortunately, a lot of losers out there know this and use it to their advantage.

Second, there is a chance you could meet a great person right after a break-up…but the timing couldn’t be worse.  Trust me, I know some great relationships that started just as one person was going through a break-up.  It can happen that a rebound relationship turns into a new relationship that lasts.  Just a few tips I want to throw out there though.  If you find someone new right away, try to go slow.  Evaluate your last relationship.  Some people go through drawn out break-ups.  They have grieved the loss of the relationship before the actual break took place.  In this case, a person may be able to move on faster.  People also may be able to move on faster if they didn’t really love their ex even if they dated for a long time.  Most of the time though, there is some grieving to be done after the actual break-up happens.  You may need time to readjust and acknowledge the loss.

A new relationship takes up a lot of energy.  It is also very easy to get caught up in the emotions of a new relationship.  Who wouldn’t rather feel excited and happy rather than angry and sad??  This is why it is hard to tell if it is a rebound relationship or the real thing.  I suggest going slow if you do happen to meet someone great.  Let them know you just got out of relationship and may need some time.  They will be more likely to deal with your sadness now rather than in six months when you really should be moving on.  Trust me, after all the newness of the relationship wears off, the ability to distract yourself weakens.  This is when all those painful emotions you were trying to cover up tend to come out.  This can damage your new relationship because no one likes to have their boyfriend or girlfriend thinking about or being sad over their ex months after they’ve broken up.  However, there  is a reason these negative emotions exist.  Crap happens and we need to be able to cope with it when it does.  It doesn’t just disappear just because some time has passed.  If we never allow ourselves to feel sad, over time we will need a lot of stimulation and distraction to keep going.  This is why some people constantly chase that new relationship high, drink or do drugs.  It is the only way to escape pain.  Guess what?  Life is painful!!  There are times when we must accept pain and learn how to deal with it.  I agree that a little distraction is good.  It is healthy to go out with your friends and pretend your fine for a few hours.  You need a break from the depressing sadness of a break-up, but remember that too much distraction is not good.

It is better to just get through the crap and then move on.  Rebound relationships have a track record of not working out long term.  They can be a temporary distraction.  If both you and your partner acknowledge it and keep it casual, then more power to you.  I think it is great to be open and honest.  That way, both people are on the same page.  However, most people aren’t honest.  They pretend they are over their ex.  They are in denial about their pain until it comes back later to haunt them.  It really isn’t fair to the person you get involved with if they think you are happy, healthy and over your ex.  Also, be aware of the con-artists out there who prey on vulnerable people just getting out of relationships.  They could use you while you are down and out and then dump you when you least expect it.  Then you’ll be feeling even more like a failure with extra baggage to deal with.  Life isn’t exactly black and white or linear.  People make choices and they aren’t always great.  Hind sight is always 20/20.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have fallen for the rebound relationship.  It happens to the best of us.  Just try to be more aware in the future so it won’t happen again.  I’d like to say that this new person will make all your dreams come true, but most of us just aren’t that lucky.  Take your time and get over your ex in the right way by just taking a few weeks (sometimes even months) to cry it out.

Out of Nowhere

Well its Friday again.  Maybe you’ve decided to stay in and just chill tonight because you have a big night out with friends planned for Saturday.  You’re sitting in front of your DVR watching a Jersey Shore Marathon with some pizza, ice cream and your favorite drink of choice.  It’s turning out to be a very relaxing evening at home without roommates or other people to bother you.  You’re thinking about what you want to wear on your night out tomorrow when all of a sudden your phone chimes that you have a new text.  You have this weird feeling in your gut and looking at your phone confirms it.  I guess it’s about that time.  Its been a few weeks since you’ve heard from your ex and now here they are again texting you out of nowhere.

What to do now?  You were feeling relaxed and happy and now all of a sudden you feel anxious, thrilled, angry, doubtful and a little horny.  Do you dare text back?  You know where this path will lead.  It seems innocent at first.  They are only texting you to ask you “What’s up?”  However, you are only one text away from “I miss you.  It would be great to see you again”.  There is always that one ex who takes joy in confusing the hell out of you.  It is like they are psychic.  They somehow know you’re about to move on, so they pop back in just in time to put doubt in your head.

Some people are so easy to walk away from.  You don’t look back and it’s easy to block them from your phone, email and Facebook page.  Then there are the ones who just won’t leave your head or your heart.  Some people call them, “The one that got away”.  This person is dangerous.  They still have some power over you.  They know what to say to get you to break down and they’ll use those phrases mercilessly.  On the positive side, it means they are still thinking about you too.  On the negative side, they may only text you because they know they can get to you easier than anyone else in their contact list.  Your mind starts to flash back to your break-up and warns you to go back to your regularly scheduled night of reality tv.  Your heart flashes back instead to all those great times together and tricks you into thinking that a little attention from the ex never hurt anyone.

If you haven’t gone through this scenario enough times to convince you that this is only going to lead to a big let down, you will probably text back.  It doesn’t take much to light that little spark of hope you still have in your heart for this person.  You may invite them over to finish off your pizza with you and end up sleeping with them only to have all your texts the next few days go unanswered.  Its frustrating and humiliating.  That anger will carry you for a while and it feels good to be angry again.  However, the anger always subsides.  You start to move on only to get that text once again.  At some point either this person will grow up and have a real relationship with you (this is like a 2% chance)  or this person finally moves on to someone else and leaves you in peace (more like a 23% chance) or you will finally be glad that this one “got away”  and not text back (75% chance).

Most of us go through this crazy cycle with someone at some point in our lives.  Those that find that great person at 15, marry them at 24, and live a happy life with one another are very lucky and rare indeed.  If this above scenario describes you, don’t feel too bad.  You are in very good company.  I’ve said many times on here that the heart is strong, but not very smart.  It can take a lot of abuse before finally getting the message that your head received a long time ago.  We all live and learn in our own way.  I just hope if you are going through a break-up that you get to the point where you can delete that text and go back to pizza and Jersey Shore without missing a beat very soon!!!  I wish I could fast forward time for you to when this will be easier if you are going through it.  I only know there is no fast way to go through the stupid emotional part of a break-up to get to the smart logical side of moving on.  So don’t beat yourself up too much.  The day will come when you will be stronger.  Until then, maybe turn off your phone while you are having a quiet night at home alone, or surround yourself with people who will take over your phone for you when you do receive those crazy “I miss you so much” texts.  If that doesn’t work, just remember that you can only take so many punches before you’re out for the count.  Which in this case, is a good thing!