The Heat of the Moment

Why is it that some things seem so right in the moment, but later you think to yourself, “How the hell did that happen”?  Living in the moment has it’s upside.  It can be fun to be spontaneous and carefree at times.  However, in the heat of the moment some people make choices they really live to regret.  A lot of the time I have students come into my office who are upset about cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend in a moment of anger.  Why is it so easy to seek comfort from someone else even though you know you’ll probably regret it later?

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 always always perfect.  It is normal to have disagreements and not always get along with the one you love.  You will have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments of anger that you can easily veer off track.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry or frustrated with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, it’s only one more step before you’re doing something impulsive that can alter the course of your relationship if it ever became known to your partner.

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 the action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make you feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while you were angry.

It is easy to forget that angry or frustrating 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.   If you can remember that your anger will pass if you give yourself some time, you can do things during that time to help you process your anger.  Some people like to write and use their blog or journal to vent.  Other people need physical exercise to work out their feelings.  You can run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, or play your favorite sport.  Sometimes just taking a nap or going to bed for the night will help you feel better.  You may wake up and feel a lot better.  You can also watch tv, play with a pet, or engage in a favorite hobby.  Whatever you do, find something you enjoy and will get your mind off of your anger for a little while.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turning to someone else.  Once you’ve dealt with your feelings, you can think through what you want to do about your relationship.  Is there something you need to discuss or do you need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more logical when you wait for your feelings to calm down.

I also 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 don’t recommend 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 your boyfriend or girlfriend than for your friends or family to do the same.  Sometimes your anger won’t resolve itself.  At that time you may need to decide to leave the relationship, even though it may seem easier to turn to someone else and cheat.  However, most of the time, anger is temporary.  In those times, it may seem innocent at first to reach out to talk to a friend of the opposite sex.  Just remember that boundaries can be crossed really easily when you’re angry at your current partner.  It is too easy to want to be comforted or wanted by this person who is “listening” to you.  It seems like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once your anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  It can be thrilling to live in the heat of the moment, but sometimes it can burn you so badly that you don’t recover.

Being A Supportive Friend

When a friend is going through a break up or a hard time it can be hard to know what to say or do.  Most people mean well when they say certain things, but it can end up sounding more hurtful than helpful.  Here are a few statements that can really miss the mark:

1.  “It’s for the best”

2.  “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else”

3.  “Just try not to think about it”

4.  “He/she wasn’t good enough for you anyway”

5.  “Why would you want to stay with someone who did this to you?”

I know these sound good in theory, and most of them are probably true statements.  However, they don’t work because our emotions are stronger than our intellect during a breakup.  We know something in our head, but don’t feel it in our heart.  For example after watching a scary movie I KNOW there isn’t a serial killer in my shower, but I FEEL like there is because now I’m scared.  So, I pull back the shower curtain to double check.  My emotions win, not my mind.

The same thing happens during a break up.  Even if your friend KNOWS the breakup is for the best, they aren’t going to FEEL like it yet.  They still feel extremely hurt and upset.  It is hard for friends and family to watch someone they love be so sad.  Most people want to cheer someone up or just make them feel better.  The intentions are good, but only time will help your friend’s heart get on the same page with their brain.  Trust me, no one wants to get over this break up faster than your friend, but you can’t fast forward through time unfortunately.

So what can you do when your friend is still in love with someone and has been hurt?  Sometimes you just have to let your friend feel sad.  Things don’t always have to be “alright”.  They mostly need you to listen and give them a hug.   Yes, they will need to talk about it, and most of the time they will feel guilty about needing to talk about it so much.  Processing their feelings will help them.  They also need to cry.  It can be hard to watch someone cry, but being there during that time to offer emotional support without giving any suggestions will be valuable to them beyond belief.   Your friend can’t be rational at this point.  Let them know it is okay for them to be sad and again, give them a hug.

It may be helpful to remind them that it is healthy to balance a break up by feeling sad for awhile and then trying to find a distraction to give the brain and heart a little break.   Encourage your friend to vent, and then try to distract them by going out and doing something fun.  People going through a hard time need both time to feel the reality of the situation and time to pretend they’re fine and that everything is okay.

Remember, your friend didn’t choose to go through this break up.  Most likely it was forced upon them.  They still see good qualities in this person, and for an undefined widow of time they will jump to take this person back.  It is easier for you to see how this person has hurt your friend and to hold on to that anger.  Your friend will be irrational about the negative and want to cling to the positive things they miss about their ex.  It is hard to listen to, but realize they will start to get better with time.  Like I said earlier, break ups take time to get over.  Try to be patient.  If you feel they need to talk to a counselor because they are having trouble moving on, then encourage them to go.  It does help a lot of people to talk to someone who is a neutral to the situation and a counselor will keep what is said confidential.

The reality is that emotions can take a long time to heal and that is okay.  Also know that your friend can move forward and still feel sad at the same time.  They may start to move on and still feel “love” for their ex.  It is normal to go back and forth for awhile, like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back.  Eventually their pain will lessen and finally their brain will kick into gear all those things you’ve been thinking from the beginning.  And if you say those phrases above months after the break up, they may finally hit the mark.

Alcohol Makes Me More Social

Many students tell me they don’t feel comfortable in social situations without engaging in some type of extracurricular activity.  Some claim they want to have the “college experience”.  Others say that parties are boring unless they get completely wasted.   Then there are the students who started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol back in high school and can’t imagine changing that pattern in college.  Most studies would say that students use these extracurricular activities to lower their inhibitions and be more social.   Because we all know college is about socialization.  Many students who admitted to using alcohol or marijuana as a freshman in college stated they used it to feel more confident when meeting new people.  What happens is this becomes a way of life and everyone around you now sees you as someone who drinks or smokes at every party.

I have counseled some students who are now labeled, “the party girl or guy” in their circle of friends.  They have considered slowing down or even stopping their drinking or smoking habits, but feel obligated to keep their status with their friends.  It isn’t so easy to go to a party and say no to the drugs or alcohol offered.  Especially if you never have declined these activities in the past.

It can be intimidating to reinvent yourself.  To have to explain to your girlfriend or boyfriend why you are making  a change.  Your friends may even feel like you are trying to blow them off or that you starting to look down on them.  So the pressure to stay in the same situation is intense.  Only you know why you do what you do.  If you know you don’t need alcohol or weed to relax and have a good time, be courageous and show others they can do the same.  Sometimes it only takes one person to say no before others will have courage to do the same.

Confidence is the key to saying no.  If you’re single and going to parties to find someone to date, be self assured enough to know that you don’t need alcohol or marijuana to be outgoing and social.  There are students who go to parties and stay sober, or at least don’t get completely wasted.  They are able to meet people and have fun anyway.  There are many reasons you can use to say no.  One, you may not want to spend the money on it.  Two, you know it is illegal (underage drinking and smoking marijuana) and you don’t want to risk having it on your record when applying for a job in the future.  Three, you can say you don’t enjoy it anymore and that you would rather not suffer from hangovers in the morning.  Four, you can say it is interfering with your grades and you want to be able to stay off of academic probation.  Five, you can admit that it changes your personality and you don’t like the choices you make under the influence.

Other students may not be bold enough or want to say no to everything.  There are other ways to cut back on alcohol at parties.  You can sip your drink and then go to the bathroom to pour most of it down the drain.  If you have a glass you can fill it with water or pop.  No one will notice what you’re drinking after a couple of hours.  You can also switch back and forth between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks to slow down the amount you consume.  You can opt of out drinking games or refuse shots and just drink beer.  You can eat a big meal before going out to slow down how fast your body absorbs the alcohol.  You can also volunteer to be the designated driver for others at the party.  As for marijuana you can share the love and pass it on to the next person.

We all have things we don’t like about ourselves.  Alcohol and weed may help you to numb out those things or make you not care for the moment that they exist.  But they do exist and instead of ignoring things you may not like about yourself or your life, you may just want to work on  making positive changes.  If you don’t like that you are shy or nervous around others, work on those things to improve your confidence in social situations.  This means exposing yourself to social situations when you are sober and feeling anxious.  This is the only true way to develop that confidence and get rid of the fear you feel.  If you have a hard time relaxing and letting go of the stress of classes, you can find ways to learn to relax without the help of alcohol or drugs.

It is worth it to figure out how to be yourself in social situations.  You want someone to meet you and like you for who you are all the time, not only when you are drunk or high.  You can also learn how to drink or smoke less and still have fun.  This will help you find and stay in healthier relationships, as well cope with stress in better ways.  The point is to still go to parties and have fun, but without needing to be completely wasted to feel comfortable in your own skin while doing it.  If you want to build your confidence and self-esteem it is more beneficial to cut back on the use of drugs and alcohol instead of using them as a crutch.

For more information please see these websites below:

http://collegedrinkingprevention.gov

http://niaaa.nih.gov

http://marijuanaaddictiontreatment.org

50 Ways To Scatter Sunshine

I am reblogging this from Jaclyn Rae’s blog because I’ve been working with a lot of students going through a hard time.  The crazy thing is, one of best ways to feel better is to do something nice for yourself or someone else.  If you scatter some sunshine, you can’t help but get some on yourself!!

“It took us so long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” — Kurt Vonnegut.

1. Send a hand-written thank you card to someone.

2. Give a compliment about your waiter/waitress to his or her manager.

3. Hold open a door for someone.

4. Have a conversation with a homeless person.

5. Compliment a co-worker.

6. Pay for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru.

7. Clean out your clothes and donate to a local non-profit.

8. Send flowers to someone anonymously.

9. Leave an encouraging note in a library book.

10. Ask an elderly person about their childhood.

11. Be a courteous driver.

12. Mentor an at-risk child.

13. Mow a neighbor’s lawn.

14. Donate blood.

15. Introduce yourself to a new coworker/classmate/church member.

16. Share inspirational quotes.

17. Write letters of appreciation to organizations that serve your community.

18. Leave happy post-its for strangers to find.

19. Smile.

20. Appreciate the people who support you.

21. Treat everyone the same– from your best friend to your mom to postal worker.

22. Release your expectations of other people. Allow them to be who they are.

23. Be genuine.

24. Forget yourself.

25. Delight in every day.

26. Flatter people.

27. Tell people how much you like them.

28. Share your lunch.

29. Fill a parking meter.

30. Volunteer somewhere. Anywhere.

31. Seek forgiveness.

32. Do your best.

33. Love yourself.

34. Dream big.

35. Tell someone why you love them.

36. Check in on someone who is lonely.

37. Stay curious.

38. Adopt a pet from the humane society.

39. Tell your boss that he/she does a great job.

40. Renew an old friendship.

41. Donate toys/books to a hospital.

42. Give someone a sheet of brightly colored stickers.

43. Make eye contact.

44. Take someone’s picture and send it to them.

45. Don’t think about other people’s definitions of success, beauty or happiness.

46. Create spaces for others to enjoy.

47. Make beautiful art.

48. Send unexpected gifts.

49. Be enthusiastic.

50. Love your life and everyone in it.

Facebook Stalking, Status Changing and Other Things That Drive Us Crazy!

You know how internet porn has made more people seem like they have a sex addiction?  Well social media sites make more people seem like they have obsessive compulsive disorder.  It is because it’s too easy.  You could fight the urge to warm up your car in zero degree weather to do a drive by your ex’s house at 2am, but it doesn’t take much to hit the Facebook app on your phone to creep on your ex’s page right?  Then you see a picture, a status change or a comment on someone’s page that makes you freak out.

Now it’s 2:20am and you don’t know what to do with yourself.  So you start texting your ex about the information on their Facebook page.  You may hesitate a few seconds before sending it because you don’t want them to know you were on their page in the middle of the night.  You fear they may delete you from their page which would be the worst torture imaginable, but the fear of not knowing for sure what is going on compels you to send the text to confront them about what you saw.  Then, you either don’t get a text back, which drives you crazy, or they text you back accusing you of stalking their page, which drives you crazy, or they make up some excuse that you don’t believe, which drives you crazy.  Great.  That makes you feel so much better and you can go get a good night’s sleep right?  Wrong, it makes you feel even more hurt and you continue to obsess even more about what they’re doing and who they’re with.

Never mind that you look to see what their FB status is every other minute.  Changing your relationship status can be a big deal.  According to the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Facebook relationship status is something that many people take VERY seriously.  Did the put that we’re in a relationship yet?  Don’t they want everyone to know they’re in a relationship?  Why don’t they want anyone to know?  Did they change their relationship status back to single?  Does everyone know that we broke up?  They did change their status!  How dare they broadcast our business to everyone we know!! 

Is this really something to break up over?  Obviously, it can be and then you turn into the “Facebook Stalker” who continuously checks to see if that person gets into a “relationship” with someone else.

So, which comes first?  The OCD or Facebook?  I guess I believe when it comes to relationships most people have obsessive compulsive tendencies.  Most people’s emotions are heightened beyond their logic when they first get together and usually when they are in the middle of a break up or in the immediate post break up stage.  The logical part of your brain says, “Take things slow.  You don’t need to see or talk to this person all the time.  They don’t need to change their Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ to prove they want to be with me”.  Your emotions tell you, “Text them now!  I miss them already even though they just left 5 minutes ago.  I want everyone to know we are together”!

It is the same with a break up.  You desperately want to stop thinking about them, but you can’t.  Your logical brain says, “Let it go.  You’ll be fine.  Delete them from your phone contacts and your Facebook page”.  Your emotions just can’t shut up though.  Unfortunately they speak louder and more insistently at the worst times.  They constantly ask questions like, “I wonder if they are over me?  I wonder what they are doing right now?  I wonder if we only talked one more time would we be able to work things out”?  These questions are evil and make people feel obsessive.  Especially if you are used to constant communication.  To go from that to nothing can drive the most rational person insane.

Now you add in the availability of Facebook.  To be able to look up people’s information without them knowing.  The ease of sending a text without really having to face that person.  What person isn’t going to act a little compulsive?  Not too many people are strong enough to resist the temptation to be a voyeur and see what their new crush or most recent ex is up to.  The curiosity gets the best of most of us.  Even so, most people do have boundaries.  Like I said earlier, you may not go to the extremes of warming up your car when it is freezing outside so you can drive across town to see if your ex is home or not.  It takes more effort and is easier to resist.  You then live with the anxiety and force yourself to go to sleep.  You wake up the next day and usually feel better.  With technology you can stalk people way too easily.  You don’t learn to live with the anxiety and you wake up the next day feeling like a creeper.

So, how do you stop the OCD with so much technology available?  I have had some students have a trusted friend change their password and not let them onto their Facebook page for a little while.  This is an extreme decision, but can be very helpful.  You also can deactivate your page.  It is easy to activate it again, however, it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus, it keeps your ex from stalking you for awhile.  Distract yourself with something else.  You can’t stop doing one thing unless you replace it with something else.  Write a blog about your frustrations.  Writing slows down your brain and stops your thoughts from running circles in your brain.  If you don’t want to write a blog, at least write your thoughts down on paper.  You can rip it up or burn it if you don’t want others to find it.

You may want to decide to delete the relationship status off your FB page and make people actually ask you about your life in person.  Some people break up because their new partner refuses to change or put up a relationship status.  Instead you might want to be grateful they don’t post every little thing about your relationship on their page.  Then if you really did break up you can trust they won’t slam you publicly.  If you are having trouble with texting your ex, try not to take your phone with you everywhere.  Turn it off at night and try to keep it in a drawer.  If you can’t seem to relax, look up guided imagery.  You can listen to the person’s voice and it can help you to relax.  They are easy to download and can get you through a very anxious moment.  You won’t have to do this forever, but for a couple weeks it will really help you to not follow through with the compulsion to say “hey, what’s up?” to your ex.

The reasons these things work is that eventually your brain does let go.  It learns it can live without texting this person again.  It can stand it if it doesn’t know what is happening in on their Facebook page.  After a few days or weeks it does become easier to resist these temptations.  The more you give into the obsessions, the harder it is to fight the compulsions.  The more you resist giving in and do other things to get yourself through that really rough time, the easier it will be to continue to resist the compulsions.  It won’t be easy, but it is possible.  The other option is to just creep along until time does it’s thing you eventually move on.  The choice is up to you.

Once you stalk the fun don’t stop

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

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Love About Being Single

I know Valentine’s Day can be rough if you are single.  I went through many single Valentine’s Day’s in my life.  It kinda sucks to have love thrown in your face when you don’t have it.   I wanted to write a post to encourage all the single guys and gals out there, but then I came across Catherine’s post.  I thought it was so great I wanted to use it on my own blog.  Catherine was gracious enough to let me.  She wrote this post over a year ago and titled it Things I Love About Being Single on her blog, Simply Solo.  I hope her positive message about being single will help you through those rough moments you may be having in your own single life, especially around Valentine’s Day.

 

While being single definitely has its downsides (I can’t tell you how much I miss having someone to say goodnight to every night and there’s nothing like having a date for every work function or wedding imaginable), there are some definite positives to being single that I’m starting to realize. And please, someone remind me of this list when Christmas and Valentine’s Day roll around and I’m alone, OK?

Here are the top things I love about being single:

  1. Going to bed whenever I want, and getting up whenever I want. There’s no one to share the bed and interrupt my beauty sleep. And, there is definitely no one to wake me up with their endless snoring, at which point I have to kick them (semi-softly), which definitely interrupts a girl’s sleeping patterns.
  2. I can flirt with anything that walks. Sometimes, you just gotta flirt. And when you’ve been with the same guy since you were 18, sometimes you just gotta flirt A LOT. Just to make sure you’ve still got it. Definitely can’t do that in a relationship.
  3. Opportunity to reconnect with old friends and family. It’s amazing the relationships that you put to the side (and you may not even notice it) when you are in a relationship. I’ve loved taking the time to reconnect with those people – and have learned my lesson that I will never become disconnected from them again.
  4. Time, time, time. Time to do whatever the hell I want. Like learn how to cook, start a blog, read book after book and actually use the gym membership I’ve had for a million years. Um, for the record, I haven’t really learned to cook and the gym hasn’t seen me in quite a while, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. No one to judge my ice cream intake. Maybe this one is a little specific to me, but there’s nothing better than eating a bowl of ice cream for dinner. Being single allows me that luxury. I can eat all the ice cream in the world, and there is no one to judge me as I stand in the kitchen after a long day’s work with a spoon, freezer door wide open, taking just one bite (maybe two or three) of Cookies and Cream. Maybe not so good once I go through a gallon in a week, but liberating none the less.
  6. Similar to the above, no one to judge my toilet paper usage. My ex used to be amazed at the amount of toilet paper I would use weekly. I’m not sure where it all goes, but I guess I like to keep a pretty clean behind. Sometimes, I find myself using a million squares and laughing literally out loud because of how amazing it feels to use all the toilet paper in the world, and no one will ever know. Until they read this blog.
  7. No more annoying conversations about what to eat tonight. You know the ones, where you say, “What would you like to eat tonight?” And he says, “Oh, I could do anything, whatever you want.” You: “What about Chinese?” Him: “Um, no, not feeling Chinese.” You: “Thought you said you could eat anything?! What about that pizza place down the road?” Him: “No, I’m not really feeling that either. Maybe we should make something here?” You: “Ugh, I don’t feel like cooking. Maybe I’ll just eat cereal.” These conversations are like my personal hell. Make a decision and eat. It’s not that serious.
  8. I can watch whatever the hell I want on TV. And that means, endless hours of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Food Network Challenge galore, Bachelorette every Monday night and whatever else I find that seems vaguely interesting. And there is no one to steal my remote control – cause it’s my house!
  9. Walk around naked. And not get smacked on the butt or hear lewd comments when doing so. Sometimes, walking around naked when you are living with a guy is like walking around naked next to a construction site. While I appreciate the recognition, sometimes you just wanna walk around naked for no good reason and have no one address it. You can do that as a single girl (just be sure the curtains are closed!).
  10. Do nothing. Literally, do nothing. Don’t shower, leave the house, get out of my PJs, etc., for a whole weekend if I want. And there is no one to annoyingly remind me of how nice a day it is outside, or how I really should get some fresh air, or gosh, you are really starting to stink – think you’ll shower today? If I want to stay home and be a total bum, it’s my prerogative.
  11. Things are exactly as I left them. And I mean that to say, I don’t come home to a mess that I didn’t create, or food that has mysteriously disappeared from the fridge. And speaking of food in the fridge, I can buy all the Weight Watchers ice cream sandwiches I want, and not worry about someone eating three of them because one is just not enough, never mind that those tiny portions and low fat vanilla imitation ice cream cost an arm and a leg. They are all mine.
  12. No one to ruin my mood. You know how when you are in a relationship, and sometimes you are in such a good mood, but your boyfriend/girlfriend had a shitty day and they somehow ruin your day too? Not like they meant to, but somehow they brought down your entire mood? Now, I own my moods. Good or bad. And, when I’m in a bad mood, I don’t have to answer someone a million times when they ask what’s wrong, did they do something wrong, what am I thinking? It’s just me, with my crappy mood, all evening long. Eating Weight Watchers ice cream and using absurd amounts of toilet paper.
  13. No one to criticize my driving. I’m a terrible driver. Probably among the worst. However, I can live with myself, and even find it humorous sometimes. I crack myself up sometimes when I jump an obvious curb, and I know how ridiculous it is that I’m a 25 year old woman who doesn’t know how to parallel park. But, I can live with myself, and I don’t have to hear anyone else’s commentary about my driving if I don’t want to.
  14. I can have guy friends again. Not that I was ever forbidden from having guy friends, but sometimes when you are in a relationship, it’s hard to keep guy friends around. Your partner will often think something is going on, even if it’s not, and sometimes guy friends come with awkward situations. Now, I can be friends with whoever I want, and not worry what anyone thinks of it.
  15. Getting to know new people. While there’s definitely something to be said for knowing one person so much that you love them for everything they are and possibly can be, there is this amazing feeling you get when you meet someone new. The initial conversations, learning of their background, laughing, telling stories and connecting with another human being that you weren’t connected with before can be so much fun. For example, last night I literally spent more than four hours on the phone with a guy I just met (the Chef – you’ll hear more about him soon. Our first date is tomorrow. But after four hours on the phone, it almost feels like a second date). You can’t connect in this way with new people with you are in a relationship.
  16. No obligatory sex. You may think this is a weird one to include on the list, but we’ve all done it. We’ve all had sex when we weren’t really in the mood. Your partner is really in the mood. You are absolutely not, had a rough day and are just not feeling it. Maybe you literally “have a headache.” But, you have sex with them. You do it because, well, they asked, and they made dinner last night, maybe tomorrow’s their birthday, and well, you would want them to do it for you too if the tables were turned. A single girl does not need to worry one bit about this conundrum.
  17.  First kisses. There’s nothing like a first kiss. Really, there’s nothing like the first 20 kisses with a new partner (assuming they are a good kisser!). I plan to enjoy these – fully.
  18. No one to answer to. I can go where I want, when I want. I can stay out late, go to bed early, talk on the phone till late in the night, drop by a friend’s house to just say hello and because I don’t have any plans. I can do all these things, and not really report to anyone what time I’ll be home, or if I’ll be seeing them for dinner. While there are times that I wonder if I were to get kidnapped if anyone would notice, I definitely think overall this is a plus to being single.
  19. Crushed velvet purple curtains. Yes, you heard that right. I have crushed velvet purple curtains in my bedroom. And I absolutely love them. No guy in his right mind would want those in his bedroom, but as a single girl I can adorn my space with whatever the hell I want. Including a picture of butterflies above my bed. Because that’s how I roll.

“58 Happy Customers Served” – Mark

I’ve been watching the show Whitney on NBC.  It’s a new sitcom this year.  Whitney is the main character and Alex is her boyfriend.  They have the usual friend side kicks every episode.  In this episode, Alex’s friend, Mark, goes with Whitney’s friend, Roxanne, to donate blood.  The nurse needs Roxanne to fill out a questionnaire first and asks how many sexual partners she has had.  She tries to cover the sheet so Mark doesn’t see her number.  However, when the other nurse comes out with a questionnaire for Mark he blurts out, “58 happy customers served” before he is even asked the question.

Images courtesy of NBC/Whitney

Are guys sexually insecure?  That is a good question.  I can’t speak for the whole male population, but generally speaking I think a lot of guys are sexually insecure.  Later in the same episode Mark accidentally tells Roxanne the number again and it is in the 60’s.  She confronts him about changing the number.  He finally admits to her his real number is 7.  She is surprised the number is actually low because he talks a big game when it comes to sex.  She asks him why he lied.  He admits he was embarrassed to say that he feels sex should be shared with someone special.

Why do guys talk a big game, especially in front of their buddies?  If you are tuned into the media like teenagers and young adults tend to be, then you know how both men and women are portrayed.  Sex is everywhere in the media.  They don’t show men who choose to wait to have sex until they are in a serious relationship and it is unheard of to see someone, man or woman, waiting until they are married.  Like Mark said, he was embarrassed to admit that sex means something to him.  That isn’t what is seen as “normal” for guys.  Instead, you see Jersey Shore, and everyone is having sex with different people all the time.  It makes it seem like it’s a great thing for guys to have sex with as many women as possible.  Go out, party, get drunk and have sex.  The pressure to feel like you fit into that kind of lifestyle can be pretty intense.  Some guys are confident enough to keep their sex life private.  However, sometimes friends and peers can be pretty hard on guys who are more quiet or reserved about their sex life.

Guys also have an issue with wanting to date a woman who has a lower number when it comes to sex partners.  They might not care if they are having a one night stand, but when it comes to getting serious, the double standard still exists.  Guys have told me they can be really insecure if their girlfriend’s number passes a certain limit set in their head.  It comes down to competition.  The more men their girlfriend has slept with, the more men they have to compete with.  Many guys have admitted they don’t want to think of competing with the 9 other guys their girlfriend previously had sex with.  Even though their own number may be higher.  Other guys have also admitted it has been difficult to continue dating a girl who’s number is higher than their own.  Not all guys feel this way, but sometimes the greater the perceived competition, the greater the insecurity.

I can sympathize with the pressure guys are under.  No one wants to be thought of as incompetent.  It is hard to get through high school or college and not feel inadequate if you aren’t out conquering sexually.  I think there are a lot of guys out their trying to break down the double standards, but it isn’t easy.  It is usually done behind the scenes because the media doesn’t really emulate responsible and respectful behavior.  To all the guys out there respectful and responsible, I say THANK YOU.  I hope you feel confident about your choice and that you find a great women who appreciates you for it.

Remember, there is more to you than just the number of sex partners you’ve had.  (Same goes for you women out there!)  It is a good idea to stop thinking of sex as a competition.  Instead, start to think of it as pleasurable experience you have with someone you are attracted to and hopefully care about.   It is about you and the other person.  Leave the past out of the bedroom and focus on being in the moment.  This may help lessen that insecurity you may feel due to the numbers game.

It isn’t easy to develop confidence over night, but it starts with accepting yourself.  You don’t always need to change to please others.  Try to drown out the voices of the media and others around you who try to tell you you’re missing out because you aren’t bagging a different female every night.  Sometimes it starts with accepting that you might be different or not fit the “norm” of society.  However, in this case I think that is a good thing.  I like the character, Mark,  a lot more now that he stopped trying to be something he wasn’t.  I’m glad he was able to admit he isn’t really an disrespectful idiot, even though he thought it was more acceptable to be this way.  He is much better off just being himself.

Plus, if you saw the whole episode, you know that both Roxanne and Mark are worried the blood bank is going to call them to say they can’t accept their blood because of STD’s.  It may be hard to admit your number is low, but trust me, it is a lot harder to tell your partner that you’ve contracted an STD.  No matter what, always use protection when engaging in any type of sexual activity.  It is true that the higher your number, the more at risk you become of contracting an STD.  So be smart and be safe!