Oh, No! I’m Pregnant…Repost

I wrote this post a year and a half ago, but thought it was worth repeating.  I’m reposting it for those who don’t go back into my archives…

How stressful is it to find out you’re pregnant when you weren’t expecting it?  Let’s face it, having a baby wasn’t exactly in your 4 year college plan.  So what do you do?  First, if you are in a relationship, talk to your boyfriend.  This can be a very difficult conversation.  The first emotion most people feel is denial.  Don’t feel hurt if he is hoping that maybe the pregnancy test was wrong.  He isn’t rejecting you, his brain is just in freak out, no this can’t be happening mode.  If you’ve had a few hours or days to digest this, it will take that amount of time for him to catch up with you.  His first reaction may be to consider abortion.  This too, is common.  The first instincts aren’t pregnantalways the smartest.  There is a lot to discuss and consider.

You both have to think about whether you want to tell family members.  If you have a supportive family it may help you to decide what to do.  If you don’t, you may want to decide what you are going to do before telling your families.  Or you may decide not to tell them at all.  Without outside family support, it is very hard for two college students to raise a baby on their own.  It has and can be done, but not without major sacrifice.  Even with a lot of family support, keeping the baby requires giving up a lot of things.  It may require one or both of you to have to drop out of school either temporarily or permanently.  When you aren’t expecting to have to make these types of decisions, it can be very overwhelming.

However, the pregnancy has a way of marching on.  You can’t NOT decide when it comes to being pregnant.  The baby can only stay in the womb for so long.  If you decide to have the baby, whether you keep it or not, you will need proper prenatal care.  Then you have a few months to decide whether you want to give the baby up for adoption or keep it.  There are many places that help women with the adoption process.  You may consider an open adoption where you still get to be a part of the baby’s life or a closed adoption where you give up all rights and no information is released to the adoptive parents.

If you decide to have an abortion, your timeline shrinks.  In order to take the abortion pill, you need to make up your mind within 9 weeks of pregnancy.  Some women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they are 6-8 weeks along.  After 9 weeks you will need to have an in-clinic abortion.  One type of in-clinic abortion is aspiration or vacuum aspiration.  This type is used up until the 16th week of pregnancy.  After 16 weeks another type of in-clinic abortion is used which is called dilation and evacuation.  Pain and cramping is involved with all types of abortion procedures.

No matter what you decide this is a life changing decision.  You and your boyfriend will never be the same.  That is why using birth control is so important.  If you both feel the same way, making the decision together can bring you closer no matter what you decide to do.  It is when you disagree on the decision that stress adds up exponentially in the relationship.  Both women and men have come in for counseling because their partner pushed them into a decision they didn’t agree with.  A lot of resentment, guilt and anger can build up in this case.  Making this decision is hard enough without also having to go against your values.  Please seek out other people to consult with if you and your partner can’t agree on what to do about the baby.

pregnancyAlso be prepared for psychological stress after you go through with your decision.  If you decide to have an abortion, it may be hard to mentally deal with this after the fact.  The same is true with adoption.  Many people have reported that they go through a grief process afterwards.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel sad or upset.  It is normal to feel this way.  If you have unresolved anger, guilt or resentment towards yourself or your partner, please seek some kind of counseling to help you resolve those feelings.  Also, if you find out you’re pregnant and you aren’t in a relationship, seek the advice of someone close to you that you trust.  This will help you talk through your options.  Have that person there with you if you decide to get an abortion, see a doctor for a check-up, or see an adoption specialist.  It is not recommended that you make every decision and do everything on your own.  That is a huge weight to carry and it helps to share the load with at least one trusted person to help you get through it.

If you do find out you or your girlfriend is pregnant there are many resources that can help you with your decision.  A few a listed below.

Planned Parenthood


Pregnancy Options

Fear of Being Rejected

It’s not easy to put yourself out there.  Some people live to meet new people and have no fear going up and starting a conversation with a perfect stranger.  Other people struggle with their fear of rejection.  They are interested in new people around them, but it can be scary to start something with someone new.  Especially if you’ve recently gone through a bad break up or you’ve been single for awhile.

If you have fear, the only way to get over it is to face it.  Outgoing people will tell you they are less worried about how they feel and more concerned with making others feel good.  If your goal is go out and meet new people, try to take your focus off your fear and focus on making just one person you meet smile.  Realize that not everyone you meet is going to be interested in talking to you.  That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or with something you said.  Some people just won’t be in a good mood or be interested in any type of conversation.  Don’t let those people set you back.

Look for people who seem more open or friendly.  Dare yourself to give them a compliment.  Try to learn something from what they are wearing or how they are interacting with others.  Use your observation skills to give you something to start a conversation with.  If you’ve ever noticed, shoes will tell you a lot about a person.  Shoes can give you clues into hobbies someone has or what type of job they do.  Their shoes can tell you if they are more laid back or more stylish with fashion.  Their clothes will also give you other clues as well.  Finally, look at their face and their body language.  Do they gesture or show a lot of expression?  Or do they seem more closed off because their arms or crossed and their face seems blank?

Also, realize that you are giving off vibes as well.  What does your appearance say about you?  Non-verbal cues give off a lot of information to others to let them know if you are more open or closed to being approached.  Are you smiling and interacting with others?  Or are you sitting alone hunched over your drink at the bar?  You don’t have to be super fit and all GQ to get attention.  Your appearance does matter, but how you are projecting yourself to others matters even more.  You want to seem approachable instead of giving off a vibe that says, “Please leave me alone”.

It is okay to be nervous, but try to be aware if you are sending off desperation signals.  Sometimes you can try TOO hard and make the initial approach very awkward.  Remember to think positive and tell yourself positive things to keep your anxiety at bay.  Every person has great qualities, but not all people are aware or acknowledge their positive traits.  Try to focus on those qualities and realize you have a lot to offer other people.  When people get nervous they can focus too much on the negative and think of everything that can go wrong.  Instead, try to stop yourself from going down that path and try to be more positive about yourself and others around you.  Confidence will carry you a long way.

Even if you don’t feel all that confident, you can fake it a little until you get more comfortable initiating conversations.  Practicing will make it easier.  I often tell some of my shyer students to start conversations in less intimidating places.  For example, smile and ask how the gas station attendant’s day is going.  Talk to the cashier at Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  Go to places where you don’t know anyone and take a few risks without too much pressure.  The more you risk facing rejection, the easier it will become.  You will become used to the fact that not everyone responds positively, but that a lot of people will.

The key to remember is that you aren’t trying to make yourself feel better, you are trying to make someone else feel better that day.  Not every person you interact with has soul mate potential or even one night stand potential, but you never know when you may interact with the right person who ends up becoming someone significant in your life.  Just don’t give up and remember that nothing in life worth having is ever easy.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t- you are right”  Henry Ford

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“This time, like all times is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fall seven times, stand up eight”  Japanese Proverb

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?

Finding Yourself When You’re Single

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing a Loved One

Loss is hard.  Fortunately, most college students who are dating don’t have to deal with their boyfriend or girlfriend dying.  It does happen, but it is a lot more rare than a typical break up.  However, after last Friday’s massacre in Aurora, Colorado, it makes you think about how fragile life really is.

A lot of people who were injured or killed last Friday were younger people.  They were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends and even boyfriends and girlfriends of people who are now grieving the senseless loss of their loved one.  This year has been hard on my family as well.  We have experienced a lot of loss since the end of 2011.  It can make you stop and evaluate your choices in life.  There are so many things people take for granted when it comes to the people they love.

It is easy in the every day stresses of life to believe that the people you count on the most will always be there for you.  I have met with a lot of students who really can’t imagine losing their boyfriend or girlfriend or even their close friends to death.  It is easier to imagine losing a grandparent or distant relative.  It is a little harder to comprehend the loss of a parent, a sibling or a friend who still has so much life to live.

That is usually why it can be harder to accept.  The people who lost their lives on Friday, July 20th were mostly in the prime of their life.  They were looking forward to seeing a good movie with their family and friends and had no reason to think there life would be over within a few short minutes.  Thank God incidents like this are very rare.  You are much more likely to be struck by lightening then to be shot in a movie theater or on a college campus.  No matter how a person dies, when it happens to someone you love, it can be hard to understand and accept.

So, how do you move forward after losing a loved one?  You’ve probably heard it takes some time.  It isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you.  Your mind, your heart and your soul are going to go through a long process.  The grief process has five steps.  1. Denial  2. Anger  3. Bargaining  4. Depression  5. Acceptance

You notice that acceptance comes after a lot of other emotions cycle through.  No person grieves the same either.  That is why it is hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving.  Some people want to talk about the person and feel better when they open up.  For others, they don’t want to talk about it.  They do better when they stay busy and distract themselves a little more.  For most people, you can’t go wrong with giving the person who is grieving a hug and asking if there is anything you can do for them.  Sometimes just bringing them a home cooked meal is enough.  Just knowing that you care and you want to help is better than nothing.

If you are the one grieving, be patient with yourself.  Some days you’ll wake up feeling better only to crash back into depression or anger a few hours later.  It is a long grueling process, but time does eventually help.  The days and weeks pass and your brain will start to adjust.  At first, you may be resistant to letting go of your pain.  You don’t want your loved one to feel that you’ve forgotten them.  I remind people who are grieving that you can still remember them without feeling so much pain.  You can start to remember them with a smile and actually feel happy in your memories instead of feeling so lost or sad.

Life has a way of marching on whether we like it or not.  Days, weeks, months and then even years pass.  New people come into our life.  They don’t replace the people we lost, but they fill in the gaps that are still there in our lives that need to be filled.  The only positive thing about loss is being able to empathize and understand what other people are going through when they experience it.  You will be able to relate and give encouragement to those people because you’ve been their yourself.  This may help you, in a way, deal with your own loss.  Giving to others has a way of healing your own heart from the pain.

Even though we are all different, all of us at one point or another are going to experience a loss of some kind.  I hope you never have to experience what the people of Aurora, Colorado are experiencing.  I also hope as a college student you don’t have to go through the death of parent, sibling, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.  It is hard enough to get through the stresses of college.  Going through a major loss can make it a lot more complicated.  If it does happen to you, know that you have choices.  You can withdraw from classes for the semester and take a leave of absence.  This will allow you to focus on your family or getting help for yourself without having to stress about papers and tests.  Many students have had to do this and come back to school after a few months feeling a lot more prepared to deal with class.  Other students need the distraction and choose to stay in school at this time.  There really is no right answer on how to best deal with situations like this.  Do what you think is best for yourself and your situation, and try not to compare yourself to others students.

Also, find trusted family and friends to talk to and gain support from.  You may also decide counseling is something you would like to try.  It can be helpful because you are able to open up without feeling like your burdening your family or friends who may be dealing with their own grief.  Many people have stated that counseling has been helpful, but it isn’t for everyone.  You can do some research to find out what ways of grieving will work best for you.  Just remember it is a process.  It is okay to be angry, upset and sad.  However, if you feel you’ve been stuck in one part of the grieving cycle too long, it is time to do something to be able to move forward.  One step at a time is the best way to approach the grieving process.  Feel free to look into any of the websites listed below that may be helpful.

Coping with Grief and Loss

Understanding Grief

5 Stages of Grief

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.

Why Am I Still Alone?

Do you believe we send out vibes to others around us?  I do.  I believe our moods and how we see ourselves affects how others interact with us.  If I believe there is something wrong with me, I’m probably going to believe other people think the same thing.  If I don’t like myself, I’m more likely to think others will reject me too.  It may make me afraid of dating or getting close to someone.  If I’m shooting off this vibe of “Please don’t look at me, I’m gross”, do you think that is going to attract the opposite sex?  No, they most likely will be put off by my nonverbal cues of insecurity.

If you haven’t dated a lot in high school or college it is easy to start thinking there is something wrong with you.  I work with students who are depressed because they haven’t been in a serious relationship yet.  When someone feels depressed it is hard enough to get out of bed, so it is no surprise that it is also hard to put on a smile, act friendly and send out a positive vibe to all those potential single people out there to date.  It is one of those crazy cycles.  Like how can I get work experience unless I have a job, and I can’t get a job because I don’t have any work experience.  The same is true for single people who may feel depressed.  It is hard for others be attracted to them because of their mood and because people aren’t attracted to them, their mood becomes worse.

The longer this cycle goes on the more depressed people feel and the more fear they have that no one will ever want them.  The fear comes from not feeling good enough.  The fear may have started in the past from hearing people tell you that you are stupid, or fat, or ugly.  It is hard to believe someone would see something different in you if this is what you have been told in your past.  Or if you have been sexually abused, you may be afraid that if anyone found out they would never want to be with you.  Many people have demons inside of their heads telling them they don’t deserve to be loved.  It only reinforces the fear of being in a relationship with someone.  The truth is everyone deserves to be loved, but it can be hard to believe it for yourself.

So which comes first?  The chicken or the egg?  Do you need to get into a relationship first to feel good about yourself?  Or do you need to feel good about yourself to find a someone to date?  It does happen that a depressed person meets someone who sees through all their negativity and loves them in spite of it.  This can be a huge confidence booster to find someone who sees how beautiful you are even with all your flaws.  This relationship may help you to learn to love yourself.

However, I do believe YOU have more control over learning to love yourself even while you are single.  You can get away from anyone else, but you can’t escape yourself.  Others may not always be there for you, so its very valuable to learn to be there for yourself.  You can start by deciding whether you want to work on accepting yourself for who you are, or if there are things you want to work on changing to feel more confident.  It takes time, but you can learn to diminish those negative voices.  I encourage students look over a list of positive characteristics and mark which ones sometimes describe them.  Most students are amazed at how many great qualities they already have, but don’t give themselves credit for.  I then ask students to focus on those characteristics several times a day.  You have to put positive in, to get positive out.  It’s easier said than done.  Changing your thought process is hard, but over time it can have a big impact on how you see yourself.

I also encourage students who are afraid of being alone to take the initiative to reach out to others.  Start somewhere easy like being friendly to strangers.  Practice when you are out at Wal-Mart and greet the person who checks you out.  Be friendly to gas station attendants, waiters and waitresses, and other random strangers.  See how they react to you and you may find that a lot of them respond positively to the attention.  This will encourage you and hopefully give you more confidence without much risk.  Again,it helps to start somewhere less intimidating.  When you feel a little more brave, then look for someone to say hi to while walking across campus.  Ask someone in your class how they are doing.  Have a goal of making at least one person smile each day by giving them a genuine compliment.

The best way to meet others is to show interest.  Start by just being nice and ask them something about their self.  Don’t start by asking a complete stranger on a date.  That will be too hard to do if you’ve never done it.  Build your way up to that by just being friendly and trying to make other people feel good around you.  As you build confidence, then start to notice people you may be attracted to.  Be friendlier to them and see how they react.  Again, if they show interest by continuing the conversation, then find more opportunities to talk to them.  If they don’t show interest (give you one word answers, don’t ask you anything back or ignore you), then simply move on to the next person.  Don’t be afraid of the rejection.  It is normal and doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.  Not everyone is going to click with you and that is okay.  The more people you interact with, the better chance of finding someone you do click with.  It does take time and practice.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  You may need someone to encourage you to not give up or keep you accountable to your goals.  Tell someone you trust about your fears so they can help you fight them.  The only way to defeat fear is to face it head on.  It takes work to be a more positive and initiate conversations with others, but it may be worth it to chase the FEAR of dating away.

On the Rebound

“The quickest way to get over someone is to get under someone else”.  I’ve heard this quoted to me in the past and it made me stop and think.  A lot of people after a break up are just looking for a distraction right?  They don’t want to think about the pain they are in.   Sounds reasonable, but is this the best way to get over a break up?  Well, you are reading a blog by a counselor, so guess what I’m going to say???  No, I don’t think the quickest way to get over someone is to have sex with someone else.  What I think is that it can temporarily distract you from your pain, but it can’t magically make you all better.

The definition of a distraction is just that…it is a temporary break from reality.  It doesn’t last.  A few distractions during a break up is actually a good thing.  I don’t think it is healthy to sit in your pain for days on end.  Sometimes you have to go out with your friends and pretend you’re fine for a few hours.  You may even decide that hooking up with someone is a good distraction as well.  However, when you go to lay down in bed at night be prepared to have it all come back and hit you again.  Your life kinda sucks right now.  It is hard to really run away from that.  You can try to push it away, but eventually it will come back to bite you.  I also agree that what works as a distraction for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.  So, please be picky about the distractions you use during this time.  Some may make you feel worse, not better even temporarily.

This is why I am more discouraging about rebound relationships.  Some people say if you immediately jump into another relationship, you will never take the rebound seriously.  Why might this happen?  Because you haven’t resolved feelings from your recent ex.  Does this mean ALL rebound relationships fail?  No.  I will explain why in a minute.  However, most of the time it doesn’t work.  You may feel better at the moment because someone is flattering your ego by being into you, but realize the sadness is still inside you somewhere.

It may even start out as just as a hook up or someone to hang out with at first.  However, it becomes easy to just start dating this new person.  Let’s be honest, you have a hole to fill.  For the first month or so, you probably will be totally distracted and actually feel somewhat happy.  You may even believe that you weren’t as into your ex as you thought because it was so easy to get over them.  Then you get a text from your ex or accidentally run into him or her.  All those feelings suddenly rush back and you feel like your heart has dropped into your stomach.  You feel  a rush of emotions which you didn’t realize you were holding back this whole time.  You may even be shocked that you’re actually happy to see or hear from your ex, and are mad at yourself for realizing you would say yes if they asked you to hang out.

What if they do want to hang out?  Do you spend time with them even though you are now in a new relationship?  Do you tell your new partner you ran into your ex and had a conversation?  Do you mention they want to try to work things out?  This makes things complicated to say the least.  Maybe your ex doesn’t even want to get back together, but now you’re thinking about them again anyway.  Your partner may notice something is off with your mood, however you feel bad telling them about it because it concerns your ex.  How do you tell them you now realize you still have feelings for your ex, but not to worry, it doesn’t affect your feelings for them?

There is a proper time to grieve a relationship.  You need to give yourself that time.  If you try to push it away, then those feelings come back later when it is really inconvenient.  Your friends are going to look at you like your crazy for talking about your ex now, when you’ve told them you’ve been fine for the last few months.  They won’t understand why you are now missing your ex and even considering hanging out with them again.  Your new partner is definitely not going to understand unless they are the truly selfless type.

Zachary said it perfect in his blog when he stated, “There isn’t a formula to calculate the success rate of a potential relationship by multiplying the amount of time spent mourning a previous one.  If you truly feel ready to pursue another relationship, you shouldn’t let a few stupid relationship rules stop you.  This advice comes with a caveat: you must be certain you actually feel ready to commit yourself to another person before you start dating. Many rebound relationships fail, but this isn’t a “rule.” They fail because people pretend to be ready for another relationship, when really they just want to procrastinate mourning their last big love”.

Sometimes a person has really grieved the loss of someone before they are officially broken up.  If  you’ve gone through a long drawn out break up, you may be ready to really move on by the time it actually totally over.  A person can also get over someone pretty easily after a break up if they weren’t completely into the other person.  In certain situations you can jump right into a new relationship and have it work out just fine.  You can also jump too quickly into a new relationship,  go through the big mess I listed above, and be able to work through it with the “rebound” person who then actually becomes a real long term boyfriend or girlfriend.  It does happen, but it is smart to wait rather than jump into something and go through potential drama.

“Rebounds in life are just like rebounds in sports. They have potential, but they can be ruined by how we approach them.  If we receive a rebound while our mind is elsewhere, our distractions will lead us to drop the rebound just as quickly as we caught it.  But if we receive it with a clear and focused head: a rebound can be quite the game-changer”.   Zachary Austen

I Feel Too Fat To Date

I torture myself a lot by watching shows like 20/20, Dateline & 48 Hours Mystery.  I don’t know why, but they always suck me in.  Last Friday, 20/20 did a show on cosmetic surgery.  I try not to think about all the women and yes, men too, putting themselves through so much pain because they don’t like the way they look. However, the reality is that too many people pay big bucks to change some physical aspect of themselves to feel better.

I, of course, work with college students.  Many of whom would love to get cosmetic surgery but can’t afford it.  It is very sad to me that so many people hate so many things about themselves.  This week is also National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  Another issue that greatly affects a lot of college students.  Many students believe they don’t deserve to eat a dessert or any food at all because they already think they are too fat.  They only see the people who are thinner than they are instead of being aware of all the different shapes and sizes around them.  Where did these messages of hate start?

Unfortunately hating yourself has been going on for a while now.  Too often my students will tell me they watched their moms diet and heard their moms put themselves down for being fat.  Even if their moms didn’t focus their negative energy on their child, the message still gets sent.  Then there are the students whose parents did focus on their weight.  This is the hardest to overcome.  When you’ve been told by your parents all your life that you aren’t good enough, there is no easy road to believing you are beautiful just the way you are.

The battle to love yourself is hard enough.  Just think about how hard it is to then believe someone else could love you?  I have many students who either have random sex with anyone available because they don’t think they deserve better.  Or I have students who don’t date at all because of their extreme fear of being rejected for how much they weigh.

The key is to learn to love yourself.  However, when I see a show on 20/20 about all the beautiful actresses having all sorts of expensive procedures to look even more beautiful, how can I convince some young college student to love themselves just as they are?  I’m not blaming Hollywood or everyone’s parents.  I just think the messages young people receive today aren’t always the most positive.  Yet we expect them not to fall into the eating disorder or cosmetic surgery trap.

Where is it written that you have to be a size 0 to be attractive and get someone to like you?  I know my female students see other women in relationships that are not exactly smaller than they are.  However, they still mistakenly believe they don’t deserve love.  They aren’t good enough.  No one would find them attractive.  Their eyes tell them one thing, but their brain tells them another.  If they can’t afford to have cosmetic procedures done then often they resort to some sort of disordered eating to try to look better.

Yet how come I can’t find anyone who has an eating disorder that is happy?  How come you can lose 20 pounds, but it still isn’t good enough?  Trust me, if you want to find fault with yourself,  you’ll be able to.  I know a lot of people who think they will feel better once they are 115 pounds.  Only to get to that weight and still think their stomach or their butt is too big.  Happiness is not found in a certain size.  You may feel a little better, but if your brain is used to negatively picking yourself apart, it isn’t so easy to change.

What happens is that your brain can still trick your eyes.  You may look better but your brain will still find something wrong.  A lot of women who have lost weight and look good still “feel” fat.  This is why eating disorders are about more than becoming thin.  It is more often about being sensitive to other people around them and being overly concerned with meeting the expectations of those people.  You also don’t have to be in the middle of full-blown eating disorder to have some of these tendencies and ways of thinking.  A lot of students I see struggle with their body image and eating habits, but are not considered anorexic or bulimic.

Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, most people with low self-esteem and poor body image need to seek some sort of counseling to develop better self-confidence.  It can be hard to fix your self-esteem without help because of how the brain can trick you into thinking or feeling things that aren’t true.  Most people who work on their self-confidence also need to work through some issues from their past and learn the steps to fighting intrusive negative thoughts.  Some people have been struggling with their self-esteem for years, so just imagine how entrenched some of those negative thoughts and feelings are?  Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel better overnight. It takes time.

If your confidence is keeping you from getting into or staying in a relationship, don’t give up.  Self-confidence is a long process.  It’s a balance between learning to accept things about yourself and choosing some things to work on and change.  Not everything can and should be changed.  Learning to accept yourself is more than half the battle.  The other part is having the courage to change some things about yourself that are possible.  The biggest thing most people have to change is their thought process, not their weight amazing enough.  Although, this seems simple, it is a complex process and is like learning a new language.  It takes time and effort, but it is very worth it.

Eating disorders and body image issues are serious.  If you want to know more about eating disorders, please click on the links below.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

National Eating Disorders Association

Reach Out

Body Dysmorphic Disorder