Losing Yourself in a Relationship

It can be easy to lose yourself in a relationship.  In the beginning you can be so excited by the possibility of love that you can lose what makes you really you.  Not that you change completely, but sometimes people find afterwards that they gave “too much” of themselves just to be in a relationship.

Trust me, this isn’t an easy balance.  You don’t want to be too selfish and demanding in a relationship.  However, you don’t want to shove all your wants and desires away to get someone to like you.  Again, this can be hard because most people have a tendency to give in and overlook things when they are first dating.  This could give your potential boyfriend or girlfriend the wrong idea about you and your personality.  I’ve heard a lot of people say their partner changed after a few months in the relationship.  What tends to happen is that it’s easy to give in a couple of times, especially in the beginning.  For example, it may not be too much of a hardship to watch a couple of football games when you start dating someone.  However, it is whole other thing when your partner wants to watch 6 or more hours of football every Sunday with a few hours on Saturday and Monday night thrown in too.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend could be confused by the fact that you all of a sudden hate football or don’t want to watch 5 games in a weekend with them.  It isn’t that you “changed”, it is just that you are becoming more yourself in the relationship.

This can happen in all sorts of ways in a relationship.  Most people don’t always speak up about what they like or don’t like right away because they don’t want to risk being rejected.  Some people even falsely believe that they will be able to make a permanent change in one of their habits or interests.  This can be true on occasion.  Some people do broaden their horizons and find they like or are interested in something they’ve never really tried before.  However, most of the time, you know in the back of your mind you don’t like something but continue to tolerate it for a certain period of time in the beginning of a relationship.

That is why it is called the honeymoon period.  Everyone is more accommodating in the beginning.  Just be aware that you don’t sacrifice too much of yourself in the beginning that it becomes really  hard to assert yourself later.  You want to be as honest as you can be about yourself.  It is better to take the risk of being rejected, then to be loved for someone you’re not.  It took me a while to learn this myself.  I finally got to the point where I felt I would rather be rejected within the first couple weeks so I could move on faster, than wait a few months and find it was really a lot harder to face the rejection once I really liked someone.

If a person really can’t accept something about you, isn’t it better to figure that out sooner than later?  You don’t have to pretend you are into something just please someone else or get them to like you.  Everyone has different habits and interests.  It isn’t always easy to find someone who gets you.  It is also okay that not everyone does get you.  It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.  Not all people are meant to be compatible.  It is okay to make small changes or to stretch yourself in a relationship.  You just don’t have to stretch so far that you end up breaking.  Know your limits and try to be upfront about it even within the first few dates.

If you have a fear of rejection or being alone, you can work on it.  Fear is the main reason people try to change or give things up to make a relationship work.  Try to work on facing those fears.  Then you will feel stronger and more confident.  Then hopefully you find a really great relationship instead of settling for whatever comes your way.  It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.  If you feel fear is holding you back, I suggest you talk to someone who can help you through it.  Try to figure out and understand why you do what you do when it comes to relationships so you can make positive changes if necessary.  We are all works in progress.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if this post describes you.  I’m sure it describes a good percentage of the population.  There is hope for change and you can find a way to be more balanced in your current or future relationships.

First, figure out who you are and respect yourself.  Second, learn how to communicate that to someone else.  Third, learn to recognize what you can and can’t handle in a relationship with someone else.  Last, be confident in your choice even if that means possibly being single for a little while.

Rumors Are Ruining My Life!

You don’t mean to, but you overhear people talking about your friend’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  They saw what?  With who?  Last Friday?  At Steve’s party?  You suddenly feel outraged and want to immediately tell your friend.  Suddenly a rumor is started…

Sometimes rumors are spread with innocent or good intentions.  However, it can be devastating if you don’t have all the facts straight.  Lots of arguments and break-ups happen because someone started spreading misinformation.  What makes it worse is many couples don’t feel entirely confident with themselves or the relationship, so any hint that someone is cheating can cause a lot of drama.

Sometimes rumors are spread with evil or bad intentions.  Camera phones and social media have made it even easier to get revenge or ruin someone’s relationship without trying too hard.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend is talking to someone of the opposite sex even just to say hi, it can be caught on camera and uploaded to Facebook in 2.5 seconds.  Someone with intentions to screw up your relationship can post the picture so you can find it easily when you log on to your Facebook page.  The logical part of your brain says not to worry, but the emotional side of your brain can’t help but panic and wonder if your boyfriend or girlfriend is possibly cheating on you.

Rumors start whether you want them to or not.  People talk and social media makes it even easier to spread crap around.  So how should you handle it if it happens to you?  First, consider the source.  Is your source an eye-witness?  If they are a friend to you and they were an eye-witness, then the information may be more credible.  However, before you jump to crazy jealous land, slow yourself down and remember you still need to talk to your partner.  If you love them, they deserve to be able to share their side of the story before you allow yourself to go all Jersey Shore on them.  Why waste a bunch of energy if you don’t have to?  There will plenty of time for a freak out if you come to the conclusion that the rumor is true.

If your source is a friend, but they weren’t an eye-witness, try to find out who was there to confirm the rumor for you.  Do your best to get your facts straight before confronting your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Your friend may be trying to help you, but if they only heard something second or third hand, it still may not be reliable information.  Again, remember to not let yourself freak out until you’ve heard the whole story.  The whole story includes your partner’s version.  You will hurt your partner and your relationship by jumping to conclusions.  It is easy to overreact to a rumor.  Work on being more confident in yourself and in your relationship.  It takes time and effort to work on being more confident, but it also takes a lot of time and effort to worry about something that probably isn’t true.

If the source is someone who wants to get with your partner or doesn’t like you for other reasons, you should be very skeptical.  Most likely the information coming from this source isn’t true at all.  Stay calm and try to find out more information from a more credible source if possible.  If that isn’t an option, then continue to stay calm while you relate the details of what you saw or heard to your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Try to keep paranoid accusations out of the conversation because this will only make your partner defensive.  Try to be factual with the information and then listen to what your partner has to say about it.  Hopefully they will be able to put your fears to rest and you can move on with your life.

What if the rumor turns out to be true?  Well now it is more acceptable to be upset within reason.  It doesn’t give you permission to be emotionally or physically abusive to your partner.  It is devastating to find out your partner has been cheating, but do your best not to make a horrible situation even worse.  Realize that you do have some power to decide which direction your relationship is going to go in.  You can break-up and start to move on by yourself, or you can give your boyfriend or girlfriend another chance.  Either choice is going to be hard.  If you decide to give them another chance you will have to find a way to deal with your hurt and angry feelings.  Many people choose to stay but don’t let go of the anger and resentment.  This will only kill your relationship slowly over time.  You will need to find a way to forgive and trust again for it to work long term.

Rumors can be very deadly, but you don’t need to let them ruin your life.  Remember it is easy to overreact to something you hear.  Try to keep yourself from jumping to conclusions.  Rumors are often not reliable and it is worth the effort to find out more information before letting yourself get so upset.  Anger is a powerful emotion that sucks a lot of energy.  Energy you desperately need.  Try not to waste it on something that may or may not be true.

Sometimes you have to live with the fact that you will never know the whole story.  Sometimes it is a matter of he said/she said.  If in doubt, believe your partner.  You chose to love them for a reason.  Rely on the history of  the relationship to decide what further action to take because history has a way of repeating itself.  If your partner has always been faithful, try not to let your fears get the best of you.  Work on that confidence to keep you from causing unnecessary drama.  Trust me, if the rumor was true, it is only a matter of time before things will start to add up to confirm your fears.  If it becomes obvious for other reasons that your partner is cheating then you can deal with situation.  Until then, hang tight and don’t let others rob you of your happiness.

Fighting on Facebook

It is easy to say a lot of stupid things when you’re angry.  Before texting and social media a lot of those hateful words disappeared literally into thin air.  Now they are caught in black and white and seem to live on forever.  How does a couple recover after having a fight on Facebook?  How do you move forward once all your “friends” have witnessed this fight and possibly commented on it?  I know a lot of couples try to agree before hand not to make their fights public, but when you’re angry you really just don’t care.  However, when that moment passes how do you take back those hateful words you typed, sometimes for the whole world to see?

Anger, just like love, has a way of making us act a little nuts.  People say all the time they would never do something, but then in a moment of anger or passion the crazy comes out.  How easy is it to misinterpret something someone tweeted or typed in their status?  Well the impulse to tweet or type something back comes even easier.  It is hard to hold back if you think someone is “subtly” attacking you for the whole world to see.  Sometimes it may even be you that starts something.  You may have typed something that had a little edge to it because you felt frustrated by something your boyfriend or girlfriend did.  You weren’t really meaning to put your dirty laundry out there for everyone to see, but now your partner has interpreted it that way and is attacking you back.  What do you do?

You can either call them up and try to clear it up in private.  Or you can continue to get angry and just say things to hurt them on the internet.  Privacy is something that is hard to come by these days.  I find a lot of college students tend to bring their friends or family into a fight or argument they are having with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  This can feel good at first.  Your friends and family may validate your opinion or may even give you good advice.  Just remember it will be easier for you to forgive, forget and move on.  Friends and family members may not have such an easy time letting your partner back into the fold.  You can damage your partner’s image really quickly and it may be hard for others to let that bad image go.  This can eventually hurt your relationship.

If you happen to bring your friends and family into your fight through Facebook you’ve now caused a horrible ripple effect.  When you say something sarcastic or mean on Facebook other people will have a hard time not making certain comments.  You may feel a small bit of satisfaction at throwing your partner under the bus, but it can quickly get out of control.   A lot of people can get involved in a short amount of time.  Now your friends may be fighting with your partner’s friends as they try to defend you guys.   Something simple that may have been resolved easily can become an impossible mess on social media sites.  Those words can be hard to erase.  Like I said earlier, words said out loud tend to fade into thin air, not that they can’t be just as hurtful.  It does tend to be more private though, unless you are screaming at your partner in your dorm hallway for the rest of the residents to hear.

No one usually makes a good point when they are angry anyway.  It is best to calm down before trying to get your point across or effectively listen to what your partner has to say.  If you are feeling angry, try to figure out why.  Do you feel hurt?  Disrespected?  Ignored?  Embarrassed?  Scared?  There are a lot of emotions under your anger.  Try to figure out what is really bothering you, and then try to communicate that to your partner.  Anger pushes people away, but true emotions will help the other person understand where you are coming from.  Name calling and accusations in a public arena isn’t going to solve anything.  You may get some back up, but that will only make your partner more upset.  I’ve never seen someone respond to an angry attack on the internet by saying, “I’m sorry, you are right.  You and your friends helped me to see the error of my ways.  Thanks for pointing out to me and everyone else that I’m an idiot.  I’m glad I have you and Facebook to save me from stupidity.”

That is what we all hope would happen when we have an argument with someone.  That they will just give in and say we are right.  Too bad most of us have issues with pride and have a hard time backing down.  Especially if we are called out in front of others.  It can be tempting to bring other people into your arguments, but think about the long term effects.  When you do calm down and realize you want to stay in this relationship, you are going to regret letting your anger get the best of you.  Be smart and keep things between you and your partner private.  Also, do your best to be respectful even when you are angry.  Only share what is going on with one or two friends or family members that you really trust.  When you do realize you are still in love with this person, you don’t want everyone else around you hating them.  Unless this person is violent or consistently picking fights with you, its better to leave others out of it.  If you are being abused either emotionally or physically, I do suggest you ask for help and support to either change or help you leave the relationship.

What Was I Thinking??

Why is it that some things seem so smart in the moment but later you think to yourself, “Why the hell did I do that”?  The brain is a complex organ that never ceases to amaze me.  When it comes to sex and relationships the brain does things even crazier in my opinion.  I have had a lot of people come into my office and ask me why they did something that seemed so out of character for them.  Most of the time this question centers around cheating.  I have had many students ask me why if they love someone are they attracted to someone else or wonder why they are tempted to seek comfort from someone who isn’t their partner.  The answer isn’t always black and white or very simple to answer.

Our emotions have a lot to do with why we act certain ways at different times.  If you have been in a relationship for more than a few weeks you know that it isn’t all lovey and fun all the time.  You have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments that all hell can break loose in a relationship.  Some people will find that they did something impulsive in a moment of anger or frustration that will alter the course of their relationship if it ever became known to their partner.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

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

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

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

It is better to deal with your anger in other ways that won’t hurt you or someone else.   I like to write, so I tend to write down my feelings and then rip them up so no one will read them.  I also like to run or walk to get rid of my frustration.  Sleep also helps me a lot.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turn to someone else.  Once I’ve dealt with my feelings then I can make better decisions about what to do about my relationship.  Is there something I need to discuss or do I need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more sane when I wait for my feelings to calm down.

I suggest talking to one person of the same sex who you really trust if you are having problems in your relationship, or talk to a counselor if there isn’t anyone you can trust.  I recommend not talking about your relationship with everyone you know when you’re angry because you don’t want to poison others against your partner.  It will be easier for you to forgive them than for your friends or family to do the same.  If you can’t resolve your anger, it is better to leave than to cheat.  Reaching out to find some comfort or love from someone else may seem like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once that anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  The biggest thing to remember from this post is not to trust what your brain is telling you when you’re angry.  Anger usually makes us more stupid, not smart!

In a Relationship with Anxiety

I wrote a post a couple of months ago about being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder.  I thought it may be helpful to write something about how to deal with someone who has anxiety.  Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of fear or worry.  Anxiety causes a person to feel out of control.  This affects a person physically as well as mentally.  A person in an anxious state has an accelerated heart rate, their breathing is fast and their muscles become tight.  They can’t usually think rationally in those moments because of their fear.  To avoid those feelings, some people with anxiety try to control the things around them that make them anxious.  This can cause problems in their relationships with others.  If someone is anxious about being late it can cause them to be pushy to those around them who may make them late.  They feel the need to leave early to avoid being late but if they are waiting on others, this person can seem very impatient.  I can relate to this one because I have some anxiety myself.  My husband has to deal with some of my quirks because of this, and it isn’t always easy for him to understand my moods.

When I get anxious I tend to become more impatient and my tone of voice changes.  I don’t always realize how I am coming across to people.  When I take a step back I can see that I become more controlling and less flexible.  I tend to speak in a more condescending tone and I sound more demanding than polite.  This means I usually hurt other people’s feelings in the middle of dealing with my anxiety.  I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I’m usually very empathetic and don’t like when other people are mad or upset.  However, when I’m worried about something my empathy tends to fly out the window.

For example, bugs make me anxious.  I don’t like them at all.  They creep me out.  I remember when I was first dating my husband.  I took a plant out of a planter because it was dead.  When I pulled it out to put it in a lawn bag it was full of bugs.  I barely was able to put it in the bag, roll the top of the bag down and put it at the end of my driveway.  When Steve came over later he noticed the bag at the end of the driveway and because it was going to rain thought it would be helpful to put it in the garage over night.  Needless to say, when he told me of his kindness I didn’t say thank you.  I totally freaked out and yelled at him that there were lots of bugs in that bag.  My mind was now thinking they were all over the garage, in my car and around other stuff I had stored in there.  I can see now how irrational I was being, but at the time my fear was stronger than my intellect.  I ran out to put the bag back outside because I didn’t care whether it was going to rain.  Steve was upset that I yelled at him even though he was trying to help.  After I calmed down I realized how crazy I sounded.  Just because I was scared didn’t give me the right to treat him like he was an idiot.

People with anxiety do worry about things that other people don’t usually worry about.  They become upset over things that other people don’t necessarily become upset over.  This is confusing to people who are close to them.  A person with anxiety may apologize afterwards, but sometimes the damage has already been done.  I do my best to work on my anxious thoughts.  I am much better now than I used to be.  However, from the above example you can see that it is a work in progress.  It is never ending.  When I was single, I didn’t have to worry as much.  I had control over my environment and not living with other people was helpful because my bad moods weren’t always caught by others.

In college, most people live on top of one another.  It is a luxury to have your own space.  This can make people with anxiety feel even more anxious at times.  I work with students who have roommate issues because they or one of their roommates has anxiety.  You could also be dating someone who is like me.  Your partner may overreact at times and take their frustration out on you.   My best advice if you are dating someone who suffers from anxiety is to not feed into it.  Try to take a step back and remember that they aren’t attacking you.  They are feeling scared and are trying to regain control.  Trying to reassure them isn’t always going to help.  It can make it worse.  Give them a little space if possible.  There anxious moment will pass.  If they do apologize, try to be forgiving, but be honest about how they made you feel.  I realize how selfish my anxiety makes me at times.  That is why I continually work on it.  Hopefully your partner is aware of their anxiety and is working on it as well.  You may be tempted to call them crazy or irrational.  However, it isn’t helpful to throw their anxiety in their face.  Asking them in a sarcastic way if they took their medication that day because they are acting crazy or suggest they get on medication will only make their anxiety worse, not better.  Try to remember that they are suffering from something they can’t always control or even understand themselves.

If you date anyone who suffers from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder it is going to be frustrating at times.  If you are dating someone who isn’t taking care of themselves and doesn’t care about how they affect you, then you may want to rethink your decision to be in the relationship.  You can’t save them and you can’t make them be better out of your own sheer will power.  They need to take responsibility for themselves.  If they are trying to take care of themselves and apologize when they do mess up, please try to be patient with them.  Be supportive and try not to take some of their outbursts personally if possible.  It isn’t easy, but if you love the person, it will be worth the effort you put in.  Fighting anxiety isn’t easy and some days it isn’t even possible.  I’m very grateful to be with someone who goes through some of my ups and downs with me.  I know I frustrate him some days but he never throws my anxiety in my face.  I really appreciate that.  No one is perfect, but it easier to be with someone when you know they are trying.  If you have anxiety, try to continue to fight the battle against it.  It isn’t only hard on you, it’s also hard on others.  The more you can do to fight it, the better your relationships with others will be.

Here are a few quick tips to help you reduce anxiety.  The first thing is to distract yourself if possible.  This helps to get your mind off of what you are worried about.  Also, take deep breaths.  You need the extra oxygen because your muscles tense up and suck a lot of energy from your brain.  Shake out your hands, and if you can, take a brisk walk or jump up and down to release some of that tension that is built up.  If you are suffering from extreme anxiety, I suggest seeing a counselor who can help you first.  If you still can’t get it under control then I suggest seeing a doctor for medication as a last resort.  Anti-anxiety medication like Zoloft, Paxil or Lexipro is not habit forming and some people are only on it temporarily to get their symptoms under control.  They then learn how to control it better through cognitive behavior techniques and are able to live medication free.  If you suffer from extreme panic attacks or obsessive compulsive disorder, medication may be life long to keep symptoms under control.  For more information please see the website below.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Pain, Pain Go Away!!

Sometimes pain is like rain, it just keeps on coming…when it rains, it pours!  Our lives can be like this at times.  Sometimes we will have a drought with no pain for awhile.  It lulls us into complacency and denial.  We think life is great and we’ve finally found a way to be happy.  Then the forecast changes and the outlook sucks for an undetermined amount of time.

Why is life so hard?  I’ve asked myself this question many times.  It is hard for me to comprehend why we have to go through what we go through.  I have to admit, some of us will go through more than others.  Fair?  Nope.  Reality?  Yep.  I’ve asked God many times why I’m facing certain challenges or forced to wait so long for something I want.  The best answer I’ve been able to find is that it usually does make me stronger, wiser, and better able to relate to other people who are in pain.  I can look back at my painful memories and it helps me to know how to encourage other people through their pain.

As a counselor, I sometimes feel guilty if I haven’t had a certain experience, yet I’m trying to help someone else through it.  Thank God I don’t have to experience everything to be an effective counselor.   A good friend of mine just had a baby.  A couple weeks after he was born the doctor heard a heart murmur.  A routine check-up quickly became an ongoing nightmare of tests and surgery with many  more tests and surgeries to come in the future.  They found that her son had a hole in his heart and his aorta was not functioning properly.  Being in the hospital watching your child suffer and go through so much when they are so small and vulnerable is like being in hell.  I don’t have to be a mother to empathize with and support my friend.  You realize who your real friends are when tragedy strikes.

It is hard to be there for others while they are going through pain, but that is usually when people need their friends most.  There isn’t anything I can say that will make my friend’s son better, but just knowing that I care and can give her a hug may help her get through those dark moments.  It may also be helpful for me to run errands or make a meal for her while she is so focused on her son right now.  There are plenty of things people can do for others while they are in pain, even if you don’t really know what its like to feel their pain.

However, I do realize now that my own painful experiences have made me a more compassionate and empathetic person.  I believe this is why 12 step programs are so effective to helping people stop addictive behaviors.  Someone is there who understands the pain of recovering from addiction.  They can help guide others through it.  The person helping also may begin to feel a sense of purpose for the pain they had to go through.  Pain can be a  powerful connection for people.  Misery does love company.  Many great songs, poems, books, plays, movies and art are written and created out of extreme places of pain.  They become so popular because so many people can relate in some way to another persons pain.  It helps me to process my pain by listening to music or reading a book.  It seems wrong, but it helps me to know I’m not the only one who wins the bad lotteries in life.

The best way to handle pain is to try to stay balanced.  There is a time to feel to feel sorry for yourself, but there is also a time to pick your head up and keep moving forward.  Its okay to be sad and to cry.  Its also okay to have a good time and pretend things are okay for a few hours or a day.  Don’t sit in pain too long and don’t avoid pain for too long either.  Neither of those things is good to do for a prolonged period of time.  It is also okay to depend on others.  It is humbling to ask for help, but sometimes this is the best thing for us.  Pain has a way of cutting through what you want and forcing you to see what you need.  Letting someone else take over can be a valuable lesson that again helps us to be more thankful.  I know now that lots of beautiful things can come out of painful experiences.  Like a rainbow forms when the sun finally peaks back out after a storm.  If you are going through extreme pain now, hopefully someday soon you will be in a better place.  Maybe you will be able to see the reason for all the pain in time.  Until then, deal with it in the best way you know how and know that you aren’t alone.  Life does have its ups and downs.  I do believe what has gone down, eventually will go back up!

Why aren’t they texting me back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuck in the Middle

Don’t you wish you could always look ahead and know how your choices in life were going to work out?  We would all be so much smarter!!!  Making a decision about which person to be with can be brutal.  I know some of you are thinking, I can’t find one person to date, let alone have the choice between two people.  From the outside it can seem like having the choice between two people would be the best position to be in.  However, I find the middle man almost always gets slammed.

I’ve met with people who are either in the middle of this equation or on either side of it.  The person in the middle is one who has had a long term relationship with someone.  They still love that person but the relationship has been rocky lately.  They have now met a new person and are interested, yet hesitant to commit to going in that direction.  You want both, but can’t figure out a way to make that happen.  A decision must then be made.  The people on either side are the girlfriend or boyfriend who may potentially be dumped and the new girl or guy in the picture.

It isn’t fun to be any of these people.  The person in the middle is usually conflicted over taking a chance on something new or staying with what they know.  The option of going in a new direction can be scary because there is a chance it won’t work out.  They are worried about having regrets about leaving their current relationship only to be alone at the end of it.    Taking this risk is usually not easy.  Especially if your current boyfriend or girlfriend is wanting to be with you even thought they may be aware you might be talking to someone else, and the new person also wants to be with you even though they know you are still in love with someone else.  For awhile the person in the middle gets to have their cake and eat it too.  This usually doesn’t last long before the stress of juggling both relationships becomes overwhelming.

Finally, you decide to break up with your current partner and spend more time with the new person.  This is great at first, but then something reminds you of your ex and in a weak moment you text or send them a message on Facebook.  Your ex jumps at the chance to talk to you again and you realize you really do miss him or her.  You start to pull away from the new person for a couple of days.  You feel like you want to get back with your ex, but then you have another fight and run back to the new person to vent about it.  They listen because they really like you and want to be with you.  You feel comforted and end it with your ex again.  This cycle may go around a few times before someone makes a permanent decision.

It may seem easy from the outside.  Plenty of friends will be commenting on which direction you should go.  Your ex’s friends as well as your new person’s friends are also going to be chiming in to tell them what to do.   This is a very hard place to be in for everyone involved.  At some point you will have to make a definite decision or eventually your ex or the new person you are seeing are going to pull away because it gets to be too hard on them to wait for you.  Not making a decision will force someone else to make a decision.

Of course in an ideal situation you would close one door before you try to open another so you can avoid all the drama listed above.  However, I find that it doesn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes when you meet someone new it helps you to make the decision to leave the bad relationship you are currently in.  The new person entering your life actually helps you to put the final nail in the coffin.  But when you do get caught in the middle, realize that you only have so much time to play both fields before it becomes very stressful on everyone involved.  Your friends may also lose patience with you as well because it isn’t easy to watch all the drama unfold.

If you’re on either side of the middle, you also have to realize that you have choices in this situation.  You don’t have to wait for the person in the middle to decide what is going to happen.  Just remember that the heart doesn’t choose rationally and it usually gets messy before it gets better.  If you find yourself in this type of situation realize that it may not be as easy as you think to make the best choice.  But like any break-up, at some point you cross a line and it becomes very clear what you should do.  Until then, do your best to deal with the situation because we don’t always get to choose who our heart falls in love with.

Opposites Attract

But they may have a lot of conflict if they stay together.  I think it is good to have some differences in a relationship.  Then you don’t get bored and it challenges you to compromise.  However, if you are completely opposite in personality it may be hard to communicate sometimes.  Also, at least one person has to really be able to give in to make it work.  This does happen sometimes.  I know couples where one of them is so flexible they don’t mind giving into the other one on almost anything.  If this isn’t the case it can become very hard not to have major conflicts.

When I used to do marital counseling I found that most couples that came in were very different in personality.  What attracted them to each other at first started to make them crazy in time.  If you are a very laid back person you may be attracted to someone who is super organized and gets things done.  You like that they are so motivated.  However, in time you may feel like this person is a Drill Sargent who is always nagging you to commit to things and get things done.  The opposite is also true.  Someone who is a little uptight likes to be around a more laid back person at first.  It reminds them to lighten up a little.  In time, you  may feel like the only who cares about getting things done or showing up on time.

The same is true for extroverts and introverts.  A lot of compromises have to be made because what relaxes one doesn’t relax the other.  One loves to be around people to feel energized the other needs more alone time.  If one person likes to go out all the time, the other one has to keep doing something that doesn’t make them happy to make it work.  If they stay home all the time, the extroverted one will feel very bored and unstimulated.  Unless the couple can agree to go out one  night of the weekend and stay in to relax the other night.  That way both people are giving in a little to  make each other happy.  It can be done, but if every aspect of your personalities is opposing, it can be exhausting.

Here are the four different personality categories.  The first I mentioned above, people who are more extroverted and people who are more introverted.  The second one is people who are more practical and down to earth and people who are more intuitive and imaginative.  The third one is people who are more logical and people who are more emotional when it comes to making decisions and relating to people.  The fourth is also listed above, people who are more laid back, spontaneous, and impulsive and people who plan ahead, follow through with things, and are more cautious.  Some people are pretty balanced in a couple of categories and can see themselves on both sides.  This is helpful in relationships.  Most people fall into one or the other of each of the four categories.  If you and your partner are opposite in all four categories, it usually causes problems in the long run.

My suggestion is to find someone who is different from you in a couple of ways, but the same in the other ways.  That way you have to compromise about some things, but not everything.  If you are both introverted and practical, it may be easier to deal with the fact that one likes to always make plans and the other likes to live in the moment.  Or that one is more logical about things and the other is more emotional.  You may get frustrated when your partner doesn’t remember they said they would meet you in the library to study, but you never argue about staying in on a Friday night to watch a movie.  Not everything in your life is constant compromise.  The good helps you get through those rough moments when you feel frustrated.

It is also helpful to know your partner’s personality type so you can understand why they do what they do and not take it personally.  If you remember that your partner is logical about everything, you may not become so upset when they don’t get sentimental about birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day.   They just don’t think the same way you do.  It is helpful to know that to avoid arguments.  People don’t change too much.  We can all adjust and try harder to make our loved ones happy, but there are times we fall back into old patterns.  Be willing to forgive when these things happen.  There is no perfect match.  You have to know yourself and what you can and can’t deal with every day for the next 50 years.  Dating is the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Awareness about yourself and your partner is half the battle to getting into a good relationship and being able to make it work over time.

Addicted to Love

I’m just kidding right?  Are people actually addicted to love?  Well…yes, but it’s complicated.  “A love addict is someone who chooses people to love who cannot or will not love them back”, from the book “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody.  This book does a great job explaining what love addiction is and how to recover from it.  I will be summarizing some of the concepts Pia Mellody presents in her book.

Love Addicts are dealing with two different fears.  The first one is very obvious, the fear of being abandoned or left.  This causes them to hold onto the relationship with an iron grip.  The unconscious fear that is also involved is the fear of real intimacy.  When Love Addicts reach a certain level of closeness, they panic and will do something to create distance in the relationship.  This is often because in childhood they were abandoned in some way and never reached a level of closeness with a caregiver.

This leads to a dilemma in relationships.  Love Addicts crave closeness but are unable to tolerate healthy intimacy.  This leads them to often unconsciously choose a partner that is unable to be intimate with them.  This person is called a Love Avoidant.

A Love Avoidant is the opposite of a Love Addict in their fears.  A Love Avoidant is afraid of intimacy.  Their unconscious fear is abandonment.  This is often because a Love Avoidant grew up in a home where they were enmeshed with a caregiver.  This means the caregiver sucked the emotional energy from them instead of giving to them.  They also feel abandoned because they were too busy taking care of the parent and no one was there to take care of them.  They now are afraid of getting too close to someone because they might lose control but yet still want to feel loved.

You can see why there is an attraction to each other.  This is how the cycle works.  In this scenario the Love Addict will be female, the Love Avoidant will be male.

1.  The Love Addict enters the relationship because she is attracted to the seduction and apparent “power”  of the Love Avoidant.  The Love Avoidant enters the relationship because he will feel guilty if he says no.

2.  The Love Addict feels high as the fantasy of finding “the one” is triggered.  She feels relief from the pain of loneliness, emptiness, and not mattering to her partner.  The Love Avoidant attempts to be relational behind a wall of seduction to avoid feeling vulnerable and to make the partner feel loved and special.

3.  The Love Addict shows more neediness and denies reality of the Love Avoidant’s walls.  The Love Avoidant feels engulfed anyway and puts up a wall of resentment or anger and becomes critical of his partner.

4.  The Love Addict develops awareness of her partner’s walls and behavior outside the relationship and her denial crumbles.  The Love Avoidant uses resentment or the sense of being a victim to gain the emotional distance he needs from his partner.

5.  The Love Addict enters withdrawal and obsesses about how to get the Love Avoidant to return or how to get even.  The Love Avoidant continues to seek intensity outside the relationship in order to feel “alive” and have a life of his own.

6.  The Love Addict compulsively acts out obsessive plans to get her partner to return.  If that doesn’t work she will try to leave.  The Love Avoidant returns to the relationship out of guilt or out of fear of being left.

7.  The cycle repeats for both sides.

A Love Addict who feels the seductive pursuit of the Love Avoidant experiences an emotional “high”.  When the Love Addict gets too close it creates fear in the Love Avoidant.  When he bolts and runs,  it creates fear in the Love Addict.  Then the Love Addict chases the Love Avoidant out of fear the Love Avoidant starts to feel powerful or in control.  This may cause him to start pursuing the Love Addict again.  If the Love Addict stops chasing this will trigger fear in the Love Avoidant and he will return at this point.  The moment the one being chased turns and they’re facing each other, they’re both experiencing positive energy at the same time.  It is what keeps them together.  As the relationship continues, that time of mutual positive energy gets shorter and shorter until it’s reduced to a split second before they’re back to fighting again and creating negative energy.

Even though a lot of people consider not being able to leave someone as normal or being in love, it is actually a very dysfunctional form of obsession.   Many people feel the right partner will complete a missing part of them, finally making them feel whole.  This is a fantasy.  You have to learn to love, protect, and care for yourself.  You can realize your own sense of self-worth and feel complete on your own.  A healthy relationship is not based on needing someone and feeling worthy only because this person “loves” you.  A healthy relationship allows each person to nurture the other in a way that promotes their personal growth and taking responsibility for themselves to increase their self-esteem.  When you love yourself  and increase your self-confidence it will drive out the fears that cause unhealthy patterns.  I will write more in another post about how to work on self love.

If this post described you, I recommend reading “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody for more information.