Emotionally Abusive Relationships- Repost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust and Confidence In Relationships


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

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

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

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

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

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

Over Analyzing In Relationships

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“What’s up?”

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

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

“What are you doing later?”

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

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

“I wish you were here”

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

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

“I’m not feeling well”

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

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

“It was nice seeing you last night”

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

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

“Whatever you want to do”

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

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

“I’ll text you later”

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

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

“OK. (with the period)”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Text You Wish You Could Take Back!

It’s Saturday morning or maybe afternoon.  You wake up and look at your phone.  Then you start to freak out as you read your texts from the night before.   You know you’ve done it!  Then afterwards you swear to yourself that it will never happen again.  But like Katie Perry sings, “Next Friday night…do it all again!”

So, are you really doomed every weekend to text something you regret at 2am?  Let’s just say that not a lot of good things happen at 2am with your phone unfortunately.  Even if you haven’t been drinking or engaging in extracurricular activities, your guard is down when you’re tired.  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.  You may think alcohol gives you the liquid courage you needed to take a risk.  But, in reality the alcohol, or even just being over tired, is what shuts down the part of your brain that thinks through the possible consequences of your actions.  It is only when you wake up the next day that your brain remembers why you should delete that person’s number from your phone.

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 or some other idiot 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.

It is common to have those weak moments.  The lyrics of the song, One More Night by Maroon 5, say it better than I can.  “Trying to tell you “no” but my body keeps on telling you “yes”.  Trying to tell you to stop, but your lipstick got me so out of breath.  I’d be waking up in the morning, probably hating myself.  And I’d be waking up, feeling satisfied but guilty as hell.  But baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you. Yeah, I stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go.  Got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo.  And now I’m feeling stupid, feeling stupid, crawling back to you.  So I cross my heart and I hope to die.  That I’ll only stay with you one more night.  And I know I said it a million times.  But I’ll only stay with you one more night.”

Either Adam Levine has sent one of those texts or he knows someone who has.  How do you think one more night starts?  With a text late at night!!  So how do you solve this problem?  Flush your phone down the toilet??  Probably not.  There really is no easy way to stop being stupid with your phone if you feel tired, lonely or just plain horny.  Unfortunately, your phone, with all its cool capabilities, isn’t always your friend.  Also, be aware that life is full of mistakes.  Usually humans need to put themselves in a lot of pain or have to feel a lot of fear to change a behavior.  If you make too many mistakes with your phone, you hopefully start to feel some pain from embarrassment or become afraid of losing something else you value (like a current relationship).  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 late night texts are going to be painful.  Some might even be cute or hilarious.  However, if they are painful or get you into trouble, then hope that memory will help stop you in the future.  No one likes it, but pain is a good reminder of what NOT to do.  If something hurts, you most likely will try to avoid it in the future.  If you 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, it will get easier to have more control over your phone.   Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself okay?

Is Sexting Safe?

I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting.  I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about.  Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too.  People have told me it is a new way of flirting.  However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.

Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea.  It really depends.  In some cases, it is a very stupid idea.  If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick.  If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer.  They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you.  However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked.  Chances are, they have.  Colleges and universities are like small communities.  People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.

Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone.  Some students have told me they feel pressured into it.  They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual.  They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text.  The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo.  Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason.  You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.

Be yourself.  If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text.  This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person.  If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place.  It is important to be confident about your decisions.  If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so.  If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way.  If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.

Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust?  Maybe.  You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you.  However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land.  Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk.  Relationships break up all the time.  This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you.   The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know.  Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?

Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating.  You can cheat with technology very easily.  Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful.  You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you.  Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.

Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one.  This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature.  It is usually a huge turn off.  Don’t just assume someone is willing.  Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual.  If that person says no, be respectful.  It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either.  NO means NO.  If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.

If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo.  Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others.  Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture.  You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well.  Let the person know how far you want to go.  You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures.  If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.

I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating.  As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone.  It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating.  Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you.  If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18.  You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior.  If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know.  If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment.  Be smart and be safe!


Say What You Mean

Why is it so hard to say what we really mean?  Our feelings of pride often conflict with being vulnerable.  Its hard to let our guard down.  Even in a relationship.  A former student said to me once that her boyfriend never listened to her.  She explained by saying that one night she went over to see him.  She told him she had a hard day and she was exhausted.  She then stated that she was mad because he went on to tell her about how hard his day was.   I mentioned that he seemed to listen to what she said, but she wasn’t happy with his response.  She said that she was mad because he didn’t ask her what was hard about her day, or offer to give her a hug, or tell her how great she was anyway.  We discussed the fact that she didn’t ask for those things, but still expected him to get that message.

So often we want something from someone, but instead of being direct, we assume people are mind readers.   This student wanted a hug, she wanted to talk about her day and be encouraged, but she never asked for those things.  She wanted her boyfriend to just “know” she needed them.  A lot of times in relationships people don’t want to risk rejection, so they don’t always ask for what they want.  Or they believe that they shouldn’t even have to ask.  You may believe it doesn’t mean as much if you have to ask for something because you think it is less sincere.  I disagree.  If you tell someone what you want and they are willing to make that adjustment or change, it says a lot about their feelings for you.  I think its important to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know what you want or need, especially in a relationship.  If they ignore you, then you have a problem to address.

Communication is complicated in relationships especially because its hard to find someone that thinks, feels, and believes the exact same way you do.  It is easy to become upset when people don’t always interpret your needs in the right way.  It can cause a lot of conflict.  The first person to look at when it comes to communication is you.  Find out if there is anything you can do differently to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a way that others can understand you more easily.  Ask yourself if you are sending “coded” messages to your partner.  Is it fair that they should always know what you mean without you having to open yourself up a little more?  Remember, its not always the listener that is at fault.

It is difficult to be vulnerable.  You may be rejected.  You may ask your partner for a hug and they may look at you like you’re crazy.  You may come to realize that your partner isn’t ever going to be the physically affectionate type.  They aren’t going to automatically hug you when you’re feeling upset.  You can handle this a couple of different ways.  You can choose to let it go and get that affection from other friends and family.  You may talk to your mom or your best friend if you need a hug.  It may decide its enough that your partner does other great things for you when you feel down.  Maybe they offer great advice or cook you your favorite dinner to make you feel better.  Look for the other things that your partner brings to the table and ask yourself if that is enough for you to feel good about your relationship?

The other thing you can do is decide that it isn’t enough.  Maybe you’ve opened up to your boyfriend or girlfriend about things you need in the relationship and they’ve ignored all of them.  You may come to the conclusion that they aren’t able to give you what you need.  Sometimes a couple may have similar interests, but the way they communicate or show love is completely opposite.  This can be overcome, but it requires a lot of compromise.  Again, you can look outside your relationship to meet some of your needs.  One person is never going to meet all of your needs anyway.  Which is why friends and family are so important.  However, if you are going outside of your relationship to meet almost all of your emotional or physical needs, then you may want to consider the fact you may not be in the right relationship.

The key is first ask for or explain what you want or need.  Don’t let yourself get upset over something your partner may not even know you are wanting.  Again, not everyone comes from the same background or thinks the same way.  What may seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to your partner.  Give them a chance to know what you need.  Also, remember that you may need to remind them sometimes.  Habits are hard to break and they may not always react the way you want or need them to.  If they ask you to do something that seems odd or different to you, you’ll realize that it isn’t always so easy to remember something that doesn’t come naturally to you.  However, if you both can be patient, it will be worth it.  It always better if both you and your partner open up  and help each other make a few healthy changes.  However, sometimes the person can promise to make a change and never follow through.  You’ll feel like you have to constantly remind them and they constantly forget or fall off after one or two times.  The anger and resentment will build and start to really damage the relationship.

In this case, you may come to realize that you need to leave the relationship because you’ll start to feel rejected by your partner.  It does happen.  Not everyone can give you what you need in a relationship.  This is why you date before you get married.  You want to find out what works and what doesn’t.  Dating helps you realize what you can and can not compromise on.  You can either change what you need or change the person you depend on to meet those needs.  It isn’t easy, but definitely necessary to live your life with someone and be happy.

Ending a Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maintaining a Successful Long Distance Relationship

I haven’t written about this topic in a while.  It is that time again when school is almost done for the year, and most students go back home for the summer.  That means many of you could be experiencing the whole long distance thing with your boyfriend or girlfriend this summer as well.  I read this post by Julie, on Hugstronger, and wanted to share it on my blog.  I thought it might help to read about it from someone who has gone through it.  Here is her advice:

I’ve had almost eight years to sort out long-distance relationships. During that time, I’ve spent countless nights scouring the Internet for sources telling me what to do, how to cope and how to make myself feel like I wasn’t putting my life on hold.

I was practically living on my computer, and I felt utterly defeated when my one link to my partner couldn’t even help me figure out how to deal.

Unfortunately, Google and Wikipedia don’t have all the answers.

Recently though, I’ve realized that I don’t struggle with being in an LDR like I used to. It’s been a long time since I’ve appealed to the Internet, asking questions like, “How do you have a life when you’re in a long-distance relationship?”

What changed? Well, time and experience definitely helped. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and in turn, I’ve learned how to make my life in an LDR better.

I have three tips that will absolutely make being in an LDR easier:

Tip 1: You Are Not Alone

I recall too many evenings spent sitting around on my computer, waiting for my partner to wake up or come home, just so that I could say a quick “hello-goodbye.” Being in college can get lonely at times, and being in an LDR, on top of it, can make that loneliness even more astute.

It can be difficult for others who aren’t in LDRs to understand the rationale behind your decision to stay with your partner despite the distance, and that lack of understanding makes it feel like your friends aren’t a support system.

You do know at least one other person who’s in a LDR though: your partner. I encourage you to talk to them. Open up about what you’re struggling with. Chances are they’re going to relate.

Don’t write your non-LDR friends off though. Just because they haven’t experienced what you’re going through doesn’t mean they can’t listen.

Tip 2: Live In The Present

Living alone this year (as opposed to on campus) definitely taught me to value time with myself. It also meant that I couldn’t just run back to my room between classes for a quick Skype chat with my partner. This lack of constant Internet connections has helped me realized that it’s good to be alone sometimes, to not constantly be connected to my partner.

Sure, we text now and then during the day, but I’ve been refraining from constant texting. I want the people I’m spending time with in the here and now to have my complete attention, and I’ve found that texting during those interactions takes my mind away from what’s happening in the moment.

It’s easy to feel like you have to be available for the other person at all times because you can’t make up for it by being there in person. Try to remember that you’re still living your life right now. It’s important to nurture yourself and the relationships with the people around you, too.

Tip 3: Have Open Communication

This is a big one. Since you’re so far away from one another, it’s easy to stop sharing the daily details of your lives. I’ve noticed that once this happens, it’s easy to feel like you’re not a part of each others’ lives.

There have been times where I’ve felt like I didn’t really know my partner—what he was doing every day, who he talked to, what funny little things happened to him. Those little things make up life, and when we forget to share them with one another, we soon feel less connected.

Share the big stuff, too. If you have something on your mind (and this goes for every relationship) let your partner know. The healthiest relationships I’ve seen (and have been in) included people who realized this and did their best to be open and honest with one another.

About Julie

Julie is a college senior attending Humboldt State University, and every day she feels lucky to have the opportunity to be living amongst the beautiful trees and waters of Northern California.  She will be graduating in May of 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in English for secondary education, after which time she plans to move back to Europe to live with her partner, teach English, and write.

Is it Lying If I Withhold Information?

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

1.  They think they are protecting someone

2.  They are trying to protect themselves

3.  They feel guilty

4.  They feel insecure or embarrassed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Know Before Moving In Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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