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

Why Are You Cheating?

There are several reasons why people cheat.  Some people feel like it’s no big deal.  They don’t take their relationship seriously and cheat because they feel entitled to.  Some people cheat because they’ve been hurt or neglected by their partner and someone comes along who starts paying attention to them.  They fall into something without intentionally looking for it.  Other people cheat because they truly feel they are in love with two people.  They don’t know how to give up either one,  so they go as long as they can without having to choose.  Then there are other people who become addicted to the high of doing something sneaky.  They love flirting, sexting and sleeping around because to them it seems forbidden which makes it exciting.

Some people aren’t sure why they are cheating.  Is it because they are unhappy in their current relationship but don’t know how to end it?  Is it because they like the fact they’re getting away with something?  Is it because they don’t believe in being faithful or think they can be faithful?  Is there ever a good reason to cheat?  I’ve been asked this question.  I think there are good reasons to want to end a relationship, but I don’t think there are good reasons to cheat on someone behind their back.  However, I realize a lot of people get themselves caught up in something without intending to fall in love or hurt anyone else.

Before I started counseling people I used to be more judgmental about cheating.  I didn’t understand how people thought it was okay.  Today I can see how complicated some situations are.  How it can be hard to get out of one situation before you find yourself involved in another.  I also see how people truly start interacting with someone with no intentions of starting an affair.  How does this happen?

It happens when someone is going through a rough time in their relationship, which all relationships do at some point.  They may reach out to another guy or girlfriend to talk about it.  That person listens, pays attention and is helpful.  An attraction can start to develop and before either person is fully aware, sexual chemistry is flying every where.  Now this person is in dilemma.  They don’t really want to leave their current relationship.  They still truly love their partner even though they’re in a rough patch.  However, they have started to develop feelings for this person they’ve been confiding in.  It can become a huge mess in a very short time.

The reason it is hard to end something like this is because it hard for both people to be strong enough to walk away at the same time.  One person can decide to cut things off because they know what they are doing is wrong.  But when the other person has a weak moment and texts, things can quickly heat up again.  Then maybe the other person decides to pull away out of guilt.  Yet again, the other person reaches out in another weak moment and the person’s resolve to stay away disappears.  Unless both people are committed to ending the affair at the same time, it can be hard to stop.

What usually happens is that one person breaks down and tells their boyfriend or girlfriend out of guilt or they get caught somehow.  Then things blow up and when the dust settles either the original couple works it out or a break up inevitably happens.  It seems so clear from the outside to just avoid these complications and say no to someone who is encouraging you to cheat.  However, emotions are more intense than people give them credit for.  They don’t always make sense, and it can be hard to say no to those emotions even when people know it may lead to major problems down the road.

One way to avoid getting into a complicated situation is to be very careful who you open up to.  If you aren’t consciously out looking to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend then be very aware of becoming more intimate with people of the opposite sex, or the same sex if you are gay.  Opening up emotionally to others has the potential to develop feelings and sexual attraction.  It happens a lot to very unsuspecting people.  I suggest opening up to people of the same sex or opposite sex if you are homosexual.  You can also talk to a counselor or someone who has a professional boundary in place to avoid possible complications.

For those of you who are unsure why you are cheating on someone you actually really care about,  stop and think it through.  Is there something missing in your current relationship?   Is it something you really need and can’t live without, so therefore it makes sense to break off your relationship even though it’s hard?  Or is it something you can work though and live with?  Sometimes it is worth the effort to find ways to accept and be happy in your current relationship.  After doing this, it may not be so tempting to cheat in the future.

Life is complicated.  There usually isn’t one crystal clear answer.  Should you stay?  Should you go?  No one knows what the future will bring.  It can be hard to make a choice not knowing what could happen tomorrow.  We all do our best with the information we are given at the time.  Trust me, your life could go in a lot of different directions and still work out just fine.  There is no perfect person and no perfect path to follow.  Just do your best to make informed decisions in your relationships and make adjustments as necessary when new information presents itself.  Also, don’t beat yourself up for past mistakes.  You may find that you cheated when you never thought you’d be the one to do something like that.  It can happen.  Hopefully this post can help you to figure out why it happened so you can avoid it if you want to in the future.

Fear of…Abandonment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why don’t you love ME??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was I Raped?

You think you would know if you’d been raped right?  Not necessarily.  I’ve had women come in for counseling because they felt a friend or acquaintance took advantage of them, either while they were drinking or while they were feeling vulnerable.  They either felt they couldn’t say no or felt pressured by the person they thought they could trust.

Acquaintance Rape happens a lot more often then being assaulted by a stranger.  Over 77% of women report being sexually assaulted by someone they know.  Of those 77% only 2% will actually report the assault.  Why do you think so many women refuse to come forward?  Sometimes it is out of fear.  Sometimes it’s because the woman blames herself for getting into the situation.  Sometimes the woman feels she didn’t say no forcefully enough.   A lot of the time, women will minimize their feelings and try to tell themselves to just forget what happened.

The following situation is an example of why sexual assault isn’t always so black and white.  A lot of men and women are friends with each other.  One night a woman runs into one of her male friends.  She is upset, and he offers to listen and give her some advice.  She starts crying and opening up about what happened with another guy.  She tells him she feels rejected and unlovable.   Her male friend offers comfort and support.  He may start to hug her and rub her back.  It starts to get late and he asks her to stay a little longer so she won’t feel lonely.  They hang out and talk some more.  He starts to cuddle with her and before she realizes it they are kissing.  She says she should leave, but he convinces her that the other guy is stupid for rejecting her.  He tells he thinks she is beautiful, and he would never do that to her.  He continues to touch her and she gives in.  Soon most of their clothing is removed.  She starts to push him away again, but he resists and continues to hold and touch her.  He tells her not to worry, he’ll treat her right.  She feels guilty for letting things go this far.  She also feels she owes him for listening to her.  They have sex.

The best outcome of this scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She feels she consented in the end because she didn’t say no.  She may confront her friend and tell him she regrets her decision and doesn’t want to have sex with him again.  She may or may not ever choose to open up to him again when she feels upset or vulnerable.  She may also have lost some respect or trust for him, but doesn’t feel traumatized by the event.

The next best scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She regrets it, but doesn’t feel strong enough to say anything to him.  She may act like it never happened.  She most likely will avoid talking to him when she feels so upset and vulnerable.  She has lost trust and respect for her friend.  A distance grows between them.  She may feel a little upset about the event, but tells herself she has lived and learned.  Next time she will open up to a girlfriend or talk to her guy friends during the daytime when she feels a little safer.

The worst scenario is the next day she feels sick to her stomach when she thinks about what happened.  She feels violated.  She regrets not saying no more forcefully, but feels he should have known she wasn’t there for sex.  She wishes he would have listened when she tried to stop him earlier and pushed him away.  She not only has lost trust and respect for this male friend, she now feels like he is a predator who only listened to her so he could get sex.  She feels traumatized by the event and can’t stop thinking about it.  She is very emotional and doesn’t know what she should do now.  She is very afraid of seeing him again.  Will anyone believe her?  She may start to blame herself and tell herself all the things she should have done.  She most likely won’t report it.  She will go on to blame herself even though somewhere inside she knows she was sexually assaulted by her friend.

Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that  1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted.  September happens to be the month when most sexual assaults are reported.  School has just begun and many college students are experiencing their freedom for the first time.  Students go out with their friends and blow off stress from the week.  Some may drink and end up in situations similar to the one above.  The next day they may feel they were assaulted, but don’t report it because they blame themselves for drinking too much.

Unfortunately, sexual assault can happen in all different types of situations.  However, they all leave the person assaulted feeling very vulnerable, scared and alone.  A lot of guilt is also embedded into these situations.  I used the above example to show that rape isn’t always black and white.  Different people are going to feel differently after experiencing similar situations.  However, your feelings are not wrong, whether you feel just slightly uncomfortable or horribly traumatized.  Everyone is different, and your feelings are more true than the details of how it happened.  No one can tell you that you shouldn’t feel something.

If you do feel traumatized, it does help to talk about it.  Processing your feelings can help you move through them.  This will make them less powerful in your mind and help you learn to not blame yourself.  You won’t “get over it”, but it may help you not think about it all the time or have nightmares about it.   I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I do know that women have worked through this and felt they were able to take their power back.  If you are continuing to struggle, please see a counselor or someone non-judgmental who won’t tell you how to feel, but help you process your feelings no matter what they are.

A Note to Those Who Have Cheated

It seems like everyone cheats.  Unfortunately thinking like that can cause people to minimize the pain someone feels when they are cheated on.  The reality is that  if you want to repair your relationship after you’ve been caught cheating, it won’t be easy.  You may want to hurry up and move past it, but it helps to see things from your partner’s point of view sometimes.  Here are some things to be aware of…

First, just because your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t break up with you after you cheat, doesn’t mean they forgive you immediately.  In time, this should be their goal, but it isn’t going to happen right away.  They are going to feel all sorts of things after they find out.  Underneath the anger, they will feel humiliated, disgusted, disappointed, scared, betrayed, confused, not good enough, jealous, depressed and hurt.  Those emotions are powerful.  Try to understand that it will take awhile for them to process those feelings.  I don’t agree that they should use those emotions to “get back” at you, but be aware that those emotions are there and will affect your relationship for awhile.

Two, don’t expect them to not want to talk about it.  Your instincts may tell you to push them away because what they have to say will be hard to hear.  It won’t be easy to talk about what happened again, but if you become too frustrated when they bring it up, it will start too look like you’re trying to hide something.  The hard part of trying to work things out after getting caught is that you just want to move on.  Your brain wants to forget about it and try to “start over”.  Trust me, your partner wants to forget about it, but it will be harder for them to push those thoughts away.  You may have to rehash the same story several times.  You may feel harassed or impatient during the whole process, but if you really want to stay in the relationship it will be worth it.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that there are some details I don’t think are wise to share or rehash again and again.  Your partner may want to know specific sexual details that aren’t a good idea to share.  It will only make things worse.  However, you do need to let them talk about their feelings and allow them to bring it up if they need to.  It will drive them crazy for awhile and if they keep it all bottled up inside, it will only come out to haunt you in other ways.  If you can be open to listening it may help them move through their feelings faster.  I think it’s better to face something head on then try to hope that the problem will just disappear.  If you truly love this person and know you made a mistake, do your best to listen and be willing to answer the same questions over and over.

When should your boyfriend or girlfriend finally let it go?  That is a great question.  First of all, I don’t think people really let things go.  It is more like they get through things or learn to deal with it in time.  Don’t expect them to just forget it ever happened, however, their goal if they want to stay with you is to learn to forgive and trust you again.  How quickly that happens depends on them, but it also depends on you.  If you handle things the right way, you will help speed up the process.

The best way to handle getting caught or telling your partner that you cheated, is to be upfront about it.  Do your best to NOT MINIMIZE what happened.  This means, don’t down play it, say it was nothing, or pretend it only happened one time.  If it takes months to sort through all the lies because you aren’t completely honest right away, it is going to delay the process of your partner getting through it which will make life more frustrating for you as well.  Rip off the band-aid all at once and be honest from the start.  This means swallowing your pride and doing your best to be humble about what happened.  Also, DON’T BLAME the other person.  This will make it harder for your partner to trust and respect you again.  Think about it, if it wasn’t your fault, then you really can’t guarantee it won’t ever happen again right?  Taking responsibility and admitting what you need to do differently in the future will go a long way in repairing the relationship.

I’ve said this before in another post, but you also have to open up your life to your partner for awhile.  No hiding your phone, your email or Facebook from your boyfriend or girlfriend.  They are going to be suspicious for awhile and rightfully so.  Let them know you don’t have anything to hide and this will speed up the process to getting your relationship back on track.  It may become frustrating at times.  When you feel impatient, try to remember all those feelings your partner may now be going through and give them the time they need.  It will become obvious after a few months if your partner is unwilling to work through their pain or move forward.  At this point, you have the choice to leave the relationship.

Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to make it right.  Your girlfriend or boyfriend may try at first to make it work with you, but in the end, they may not be able to deal with it.  If you’ve done everything you can to try to repair the damage, then don’t blame yourself if your partner isn’t able to move forward.  You could be the perfect person in the relationship at this point, but some people have a hard time with forgiveness and trust due to their own reasons.  Sometimes one mistake can ruin everything you’ve worked hard to achieve.  It sucks, but it does happen to some relationships.  If your partner is not able to work it out with you, know that you can make positive changes for the next relationship.  If you don’t want this mistake to define you, learn from it and do your best not to make it again.  We all  have to live and learn.  Sometimes we can mess up and have a chance to make it right.  Sometimes, another person doesn’t give us that chance.  Focus on what you can control and hopefully that will help you make future decisions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dumb and Dumber

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

Once a Cheater Always a Cheater

True or False?  Is it possible the answer could be both?  I think so.  I do believe some people out there will always take the opportunity to cheat and not think twice.  They can’t commit or tell the truth to save their life.  However, I do think some people out there make a huge mistake that may be out of character for them.  Afterward, the shame and guilt is enough to keep them from ever making that same mistake again.

So, how do you tell the difference?  I think looking at the overall character of a person and their past track record is important.  As some of you may know, I’m an avid reader.  Right now I’m reading a book by Anita Shreve called “Testimony”.  The basic plot of the book is that three teenage boys, who are eighteen years or older, have sex with a fourteen year old girl at their boarding school.  Someone else videotapes the incident, and the book is about the fall out of being caught.

Cover of "Testimony: A Novel"

Cover of Testimony: A Novel

Two of the three boys are very different in character.  One boy, James, is known for getting into trouble in the past.  He was already expelled from one school and is trying to finish up one more year in order to get into college.  He likes attention and expects things to come easy for him.  The other boy, Silas, appears to be reliable overall.  He has been awarded a scholarship and works hard at school.  He is also a great athlete.  He has never gotten into trouble and has a long term girlfriend.

After they get caught the story goes on to narrate from each person’s perspective.  Silas is very distraught and ashamed.  He feels horrible about ruining his future and hurting his girlfriend.  He realizes now that one night can erase all the hard work and energy you’ve put in for years.  He is very remorseful and is determined to learn from his mistake.  James blames the victim and doesn’t take any responsibility.  He minimizes the incident and believes everyone is making too big of a deal out of it.  He doesn’t admit he is part of the problem, so he is less likely to change.

If this book wasn’t fiction I would bet money in Vegas that Silas would never cheat again and James would.   As a reader it is easier to feel sorry for and forgive Silas than James, even though both boys did something horrible.  This isn’t always true in real life.  Sometimes it is hard to tell who really feels sorry and won’t do it again, and who is still lying even after getting caught.  I do think that actions speak louder than words.  This is usually the only way you can know if someone is being honest.  Anyone can apologize and swear they will never do it again.  Only a few can actually follow up those words with actions that show you they really are sorry and want to prove to you it will never happen again.

If you’ve been cheated on, I suggest looking at all the other things in your relationship to tell you whether you think they will do it again.  Has this person treated you well for the most part in your relationship?  Are they respectful of you and give you their time and attention when you need it?  How are they with other people in general?  Can you count on them for other things in your relationship?  Do they follow through with what they say they are going to do?  If the answer is no, it could mean the cheating is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you have a lot of other issues in your relationship, the cheating could be only one symptom of many things wrong in your relationship.   If the answer is yes, it may be worth it to give them another chance.  If this act was completely out of character for them and your relationship seems to be pretty stable otherwise, then there may be hope.

Sometimes people aren’t aware of what they are capable of.  I’ve heard some people say they would never cheat.  However, the right situation mixed with certain emotions can put anyone in danger.  None of us is perfect.  Once it’s happened to someone it makes them more aware.  They may choose to not put themselves in certain situations with a false sense of security.  Pain and loss are the toughest teachers.  Some of those lessons are never forgotten.  Seeing how their actions can really hurt and effect others can be enough to make some people a lot more careful in the future.  This makes it possible to build trust back.

Then there are the people that don’t take responsibility in the first place.  They blame someone else or they minimize everything.  They say to themselves and everyone else, “It was only one time.  It wasn’t that big of a deal.  It didn’t mean anything.  I was drunk.  He or she came on to me.”   All those are excuses.  I love when people say, “It didn’t mean anything”.  Like that is helpful.  Something that doesn’t mean anything isn’t hurtful!  The act of cheating does mean something, and it can help build trust back in the relationship if the person who cheated can figure out what led up to it.  Even if it is just to discover how vulnerable they are in certain situations or when they feel certain emotions.   If someone doesn’t know why it happened in the first place or blames someone else, how can they promise it will never happen again?  They can’t!!  The person who can’t own up to it has a greater chance of lying to you again in the future.

Anyone who chooses to stay with someone after they have cheated is taking a risk.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  You aren’t stupid for giving someone another chance.  Only time will tell, and if they hurt you again, you have the choice to leave at that point.  No one else can tell you when it’s the right time to leave a relationship.  Everyone is different, and most circumstances are different.  Trust your instincts.  I do believe in my heart that once a cheater, always a cheater isn’t always true.  So, try to look at the relationship as a whole to help you decide if you want to stay or go.

Sex and Depression

Depression is a complicated thing.  Sometimes you can be suffering from situational depression (going through a break-up or homesickness) rather than clinical depression (longer term, also know as major depression).  With either of these, your social life can be dramatically affected.  You may not feel you have enough energy to hang out with friends or have interest in activities.  You may even be struggling to go to class some days.  What students don’t realize is that it can make you very vulnerable sexually.

I know some of you are thinking to yourself that you don’t have enough energy to shower, much less have sex.  Sometimes though, all you don’t have energy for is saying no.  A lot of students who feel depressed may still be functioning pretty well around others.  Other than your close friends, no one may notice you are struggling.  It is easy to put on the fake smile when you need to.  Because you don’t want to make a big deal out of it,  your friends are able to coerce you to go out on a Friday night.  You end up in a big group, and you are able to distract yourself enough to have an okay time.  You may strike up a conversation with someone new and become a little more relaxed.  All of the sudden, this person is showing more interest in you and begins to get physical.

In your former life you may have been able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed or put on the brakes.  A lot of people with depression lose perspective.  One, you may have lost some confidence (especially if you are going through a break-up).  This could really cloud your judgment.  You may not feel strong enough to say no or the depressive feelings could be making you feel more desperate than normal.  Two, you may not have the energy to confront the person and gently let them down.  It takes a lot less energy to go with the flow and let someone else lead than to stand up and change the direction of the interaction.  It is almost as if it takes too much effort to care.  Who cares if you have sex with this stranger?  Your life sucks already right?  This person couldn’t do much more damage.  In the past you might have cared who was trying to get you naked, but now?  Things have changed.

So, even though most people who are feeling depressed aren’t really experiencing a desire to have sex, they may find themselves in engaging in a lot of sexual encounters anyway.  The biggest thing you need to be aware of is that you are more vulnerable.  Your defenses are down, and that means you may be a target for those looking to use someone.  Not everyone out there is genuine and kind.  There are a lot of students looking to hook up on a college campus.  They know it is easier to score if they find someone who could care less about themselves.  If you are feeling depressed, this means they are looking for you!!

Even though you may look normal on the outside, there are people who are good at reading non-verbal cues and can pick up on little things you do or don’t say in a conversation.  They may try something with you because they don’t care about risking rejection, and something you said or did is leading them to believe you may not put up a fight.

What should you do?  Hide in your room for the semester?  No.  However, don’t let your friends leave you alone at a party.  Have someone you trust go with you to a party or when hanging out in a big group.  Let that person know you don’t want to hook up with anyone and to intervene if they see anyone hanging all over you.  You can’t trust yourself, so you need to bring in back up.  That means opening up to one or two people who you trust to keep your confidence and best interest at heart.  Also, try hanging out in smaller groups for awhile and skip the big party.  The other suggestion I’m going to throw out there seems like a no-brainer…Don’t drink alcohol or smoke marijuana!  Talk about making yourself more vulnerable!!  Will these things make you feel better?  Maybe temporarily.  They usually just make your symptoms worse over time, and they definitely screw up your judgment.

People ask me why drugs and alcohol only work temporarily.  For one, alcohol is a depressant.  It may numb your feelings at the moment, but guess what happens when you sober up?  The depression is back and usually becomes worse.  Marijuana also has the effect of making you forget your pain for awhile.  This sounds fabulous.  However, it also  makes you not care about anything except smoking and eating.  Most people who smoke marijuana regularly are also more likely to skip class and not turn in homework or papers.  Depression is already going to make school harder, so why throw fuel on the fire?  Trust me, you will feel worse if you find out you are flunking and may need to repeat classes.  It also costs a lot of money over time.  An empty bank account won’t lighten the load any either.

Be smart.  Take care of yourself in healthy ways.  Make sure you get enough sleep, but don’t fall into the temptation of sleeping too much.  Get exercise.  Walking and yoga can be done without a lot of effort at first.  They also have been known to alleviate some symptoms of depression.  Eat right!  Don’t skip meals because you are too tired or overeat to make yourself feel better.  Both of these will also make you feel worse, not better.  Talk to someone or write down your feelings to help you process them.  It is also okay to cry!!  Some people also decide that medication is the best way to manage their depression.  There are many things you can do to lessen your symptoms and move forward with your life.  Don’t let unsafe sex, drugs, alcohol, or food get in the way!  If you find you need more than a friend to talk to, there are counselors on almost every college campus that are available for free.  Seek them out if you are needing more help to fight depression.