Attachment Answers

What should I do?

Did You A Favor.  What's unfortunate about long-distance relationships is that good people can appear to be disconnected. I am unsure how to read this man's actions, whether they are as shady and disconnected as they seem. On one hand, he was seeing someone else, while with you. Do you think this was a new way of seeing people, something that you have to accept? I know with online dating, there is this norm where people talk to many people to try and understand which ones they want to actually date.  There are many pieces to this that could contribute to your thoughts to either end it and move on, or stay. The thing that pushes it over the edge for me was that he broke it off. I know you said you still want to see him and talk face-to-face, but why? What are you realistically expecting to do face-to-face? What can you offer, and what you are willing to offer? Is it good for you? What I am saying here is don't be willing to go further than he is in this relationship because it will drain you.  I understand finding someone we connect with isn't as easy as it sounds, but settling on someone who is far away and who dated someone else while you were considered together, are those the characteristics of a man you want to be with? Does being with him prevent you from meeting anyone else? If so, that is the problem here. This is why people still talk to someone else while they online talk to another, to make sure they aren't missing any candidates. I am not condoning this, but rather acknowledging how some people internalize and act out something now normal when we might see it as a personal thing against us. From that, is that someone you want to be with?  You did have some opportunities to talk face to face, and either you didn't (such as in November), or you waited until the last minute. Either way, these issues you speak of, why were they not the first things talked about? Was he allowed to control the narrative and therefore didn't want to address it? Did he have to leave conveniently and then break up (too correlated for my taste)? I think he is showing you his true self, but I think you think this is all you deserve. Do you realize that you could also make calls in this and have him respond to you? He could ask you, "are we good?" But he isn't, and you are just left to chase and try to make it all better.  Again, I don't have all the details, but from what I am noticing, you are giving too much of yourself away, and it will end up causing him not to respect you and you not respecting yourself. There are worse things than being single and being with someone you give up everything for; that is worse because it's you giving up on yourself, giving him too much say over your life. Those relationships and that power dynamic do not work, happily long term. 
Answered on 02/06/2023

How can I look at future relationships without letting trust issues cause a problem?

Dear Joann, First of all, I am deeply sorry to hear this news. This is devastating. What happened to the marriage? Did you two seek marital counseling? Did you two try to work it out? There are a lot of reasons why infidelity happens. When problems in the marriage is dealt with, in an appropriate manner, including infidelity, there are high chances for reconciliation, and therefore a deeper and long term trusting relationship.  The Gottman Institute, well known couples counseling team of psycho-education providers, highlights reasons infidelity happens: - Lack of affection - Loss of fondness for each other - Imbalance of give and take  - Breakdown of the communication as far as the emotional and relationship needs - Physical health issues such as chronic pain and disability - Mental health issues such as bipolar, major depression, and severe anxiety - Addiction to substances such as lethal chemicals and/ or impulsive behaviors such as sex or gambling  - Fear of intimacy or avoidance of conflict - Life changes such as transition to Parenthood or becoming Empty Nesters - Stressful period such as long distance relationships due to military deployments or long term work travels - Personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem Finding out the facts, and connecting the dots, then ultimately coming to the conclusion, validated by the partner, of the deep unfathomable deception, can undeniably be hurtful for you. As you mentioned in your posted question, it could not have been easy for you, because you already had a history of infidelity, before having a family with your recent husband.  Your question is now how do you go on into finding a new partner after these events have transpired. First off, definitely take a pause in starting a new relationship for now. I highly recommend just taking a break and instead learn to date yourself for the time being. Focus on yourself first for now. Spend time healing yourself at this time. You cannot enter a new relationship or even give this recent one (your husband) a second chance, if you are still clearly very distraught about it.  Some proven helpful coping techniques for now: - Stay distracted - Pick a task to do that you never had the time before because you were always with that other person - Gather your thoughts and isolate the ones that have been centered on your relationship first, then redirect them to automatically focus on self-healing starting now ("I can't do this because my husband will say something." Turn this thought around to, "I CAN do this now because my husband can't say anything now!")  - Do something nice for yourself for a change - Take good care of yourself - Work for yourself (and your children) - Set goals towards happiness and kindness towards others - Journal, Paint, Draw, Read, Exercise!  - Surround yourself with positive and supportive people - Recognize you are vulnerable right now and ask for help. Realize that you need to take it one step at a time.  - Remember You Are Good Enough.  - Do what you can. Do not overdo it.  - Do spend quality time with the kids and make sure their needs are met including therapy for them as needed.  - Assure the kids that no matter what happens to mom and dad, they will always be loved first, and make it intentional that this will always be true. - Whenever you are ready, focus on forgiveness. This will be better with an individuals therapist.  - If you want to give your husband a second chance, I recommend a couples counselor.  Good luck! Wishing you the best on your self-healing journey. 🙏🏼 Very respectfully, Grace, LCPC, Maryland Therapist
Answered on 02/05/2023

How do I deal with insecurities and trust issues in a relationship?

Hi K,  Thank you for this excellent question. I'm so sorry to hear you're losing sleep and we might call the persistent thoughts an "internal distraction." Relationships can really bring out some paradoxes even when we have the best of intentions of wanting to love someone. In this situation, we might notice there's a lot of care going on due to the nature of thinking and wanting to understand and yet, we might also notice there's an impact where we may feel drained, doubtful, and if you can pay attention to other emotions that may be going on. It may be helpful to journal about your thoughts to build some insight and connections. We can certainly have more than one emotion occur at a time, and we can experience more fatigue i.e. mentally drained or we might even become irritable because of it. This might contribute to feeling more tension, more distance in the relationship and then becoming more anxious/concerned about the sustainability of the relationship. It can be a lot of work and unfortunately, you're doing a lot of it on your own because it's based in overthinking. If you'd like, try writing down some of these things you might be noticing that gives you doubt - they could be validating things that you and your girlfriend could work through together, or they could prove to be something of a "rough draft" or Automatic Negative Thought (ANTs), that might be more of a reflex to avoid getting hurt. Our bodies are amazing when it comes to being hot-wired for survival, so if it gets stressed - our bodies will think whatever is stressing us out is a true threat. Sometimes, we notice factors like disgust or feeling like we're building a wall up. This could be part of how we develop trust with others, by building up walls and seeing who is strong enough or willing enough to tear our walls down to see us. This process can be fatiguing for both of you and although it might seem like we achieved something together, the longevity of the relationship might suffer because we're not basing these committed acts in hope, but rather in fear/distrust so they might feel less like wins and more like bail outs.   When we build a relationship with another person there is going to be some give/take in the form of compromise, intimacy, and opening up about ourselves with this person we want to spend quality time with. What is it to love? To be loved and to receive love? when we reflect on the questions there may be some relationship role models who come to mind as well as some experiences that we might consider "deal breakers" aka the things we want to avoid due to a not so pleasant experience, or what we might consider "baggage." The things we carry with us, like a business man and his briefcase. It may be time to do some spring cleaning in those areas to see what we want to keep in terms of serving us well as a person and as a couple. This could be values, things we enjoy or prefer, and perhaps it might be helpful to identify anything that might seem very idealistic or perfect and ask whether this is reasonable. We accept our partners and sometimes there is grace in this acceptance, and yet you may have some gut feelings/intuition that comes up.  One of my favorite therapeutic frameworks when we start talking about love and relationships is Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love which describes the need for passion, commitment, and intimacy for relationships to function well. Sternberg cautions us all, that the feat of strength is really maintaining the relationship - not just finding that special someone and getting through the process of dating. Sometimes, it might be this existential feeling of: I don't know if I've ever done that before (maintain a relationship past a certain point emotionally or with respect to time) and that might be giving us some pressure or doubt. Label and validate your thoughts, weigh the pro's and con's about the relationship, and see what's helpful and hurtful/holding us back from getting the love we desire/think we deserve.  Our perspective on life might be similar to a lens, do you feel like your lens is looking at the relationship in a "clouded" way or with a bias? Are there any fears like rejection or hurt that we're hoping to avoid? Can you find things to reassure yourself about the relationship based on facts and can you build more connections in the future? The past can be like an anchor with our thoughts, and that can feel like we're stuck and feeling held back. So making future plans can help build more connection and have things to look forward to.  I hope this helps as you navigate some of your feelings and helps develop more feelings of secure attachment with others. Love and vulnerability is an amazing human condition to experience, and can take courage to explore. 
(LCPC, (ME), LPC, (PA), NCC)
Answered on 02/02/2023

Am I still in love with my ex or am I just obsessed and cannot accept the rejection?

Break-ups can be so difficult, especially when we do not receive the closure or understanding that we are looking for. It seems from your comments that you were very close with your ex and did not want the relationship to end. It also sounds like there was some uncertainty and communication barriers that were not addressed within your relationship together. I am curious if you are yearning for the connection that you had with her, or if it is more how you felt when you were in a relationship and being in a relationship with someone. When there is vulnerability and trust given in a relationship and it is not always reciprocated or situations arise where trust is broken or questioned, it makes for hardships in communication, and trust. Barriers then begin to be built up and then in turn creates more strain between you both. By you reflecting now on your thought process and actions, it shows that you are wanting to understand the relationship, the break-up, and where this leaves you now. Moving on is difficult to say the least, but allowing yourself some self-reflection time and room to process and grieve is very important. Impulsivity to know more information or wanting to "connect the dots" can spawn from past hurts or unresolved issues. Sometimes we do not always receive the understanding and closure that we are hoping for. This is where the personal growth work can take place. Begin by looking into and understanding the questions that you have around why you may feel compelled to know more or find out exactly what she is doing and what has been going on. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based therapy model that focuses on the fact that we all have parts within ourselves that each play a specific role, and our core Self is where we are able to integrate and heal. By noticing, acknowledging and inviting certain parts within ourselves, it becomes less judgmental or self-criticizing and more about acceptance and understanding why certain parts have functioned the way that they have for so long. Moving then toward our core Self, which knows how to heal and remain in a healthy state is the ultimate goal. "You are the One You've Been Waiting For" by Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS would be a great book to begin reading during this transition in your life. I wish you luck and hope that you found some of this information helpful in your self-growth and therapy journey.
Answered on 02/02/2023

How do i let love back into my life?

Dear Mur, Thank you for reaching out to the BetterHelp platform, you have come to the right place for the help you need.  I am hearing that you came out of a one and a half year relationship a year ago and have been single, you say you are scared of getting hurt again, so I understand that you were hurt in the relationship and it sounds like you have taken steps to heal yourself, so well done if you have already put some of the work in so far, it is not easy and it takes time to build that trust back into your life.  Healing is a continuing journey and often means we have to step out of our comfort zone to do this. At the moment I am hearing that this still doesn't feel safe to you and you are afraid of letting your guard down and getting close to someone else for the fear of this. I am curious to know if now you are challenging yourself your "comfort zone" is no longer "comfortable" to you? I wonder if you notice how you feel when you start to get close to someone, does this cause some kind of physical feeling for you? Or perhaps a panic response? Often when we have had a difficult experience, our bodies retain these feelings and do anything to avoid repeating it, this is the element which makes us feel unsafe and our subconscious puts the guard up to guard ourselves. Maybe this resonates with you, and it may be worth exploring that for yourself?  Try asking yourself what is going on for you and can you rationalize with this feeling?  Perhaps take baby steps with the relationship and apply your boundaries effectively to go at your own pace, boundaries can be a way to take things slowly and keep you feeling safe as you explore how you feel.  I wonder if you have felt you can confide in the person, and have been able to explain how you are feeling, if someone cares for you then hopefully they will help you work this out and go at a pace you both feel comfortable with, this may also help you build trust in the person and see if their intentions are genuine, which may give you more confidence to let your guard down slowly. I wonder if you have explored your attachment style? This can help to again see what you may need from a relationship and help explain what makes you feel safe and what doesn't, I have attached some information you may wish to look at which will give you some idea of how you attach in relationships and also how others may attach to you, which again may help you. Understanding these patterns of behavior may help you identify what is working for you and what is not, by confiding in the person, you may find that communication is key to working this out between you, the other person may also feel a little confused perhaps about how you are feeling about them too.  You say that you want to be close but feel afraid and become cold when someone gets too close.  It may be worth speaking to a therapist such as myself or one of my BetterHelp colleagues, who can help you explore your fears and worries around this, we form our attachments in childhood and you may find your worries may stem from there, you do not say much about what happened in your last relationship, but again talking about this if you chose to do so may help you work out what is causing this fear for you. I wonder if you feel you are sabotaging the relationship before it has begun, this is common when you have been hurt, I sense you do not want to avoid intimacy and having a partner, however, it just becomes too much and you feel the need to retreat back into your safe place? This can result in pushing others away and causing you to be isolated and feel alone, this continuing pattern can make you feel down and isolated, so you are right to question your feelings and emotions at this time.  Fear of this is also linked to the fear of showing your vulnerability, I am curious if this is how you feel, by letting down a guard you open yourself up to being vulnerable and perhaps being vulnerable is not a good feeling for you? Or maybe it takes you back to that time when you were hurt? So understandably this is something you will want to avoid. You can work through this in a safe space, where you can be yourself without judgement or someone pushing you into doing something you do not want, by connecting with a therapist like myself you can work together to explore how you can help yourself come back out of your shell and make meaningful positive connections with others who mean something to you. Therapy can help guide you through those baby steps and give you the confidence and clarity you need to get you to the other side and gradually address your fears.  This also may be making you feel negative about yourself and your self-worth, this is common in this situation, so working through this can help you feel better about yourself, give you self esteem, and confidence in your decisions.  You can do this, have faith in yourself and above all be kind and compassionate to yourself, you have been through a lot and deserve your own love of yourself.  Hope you can find the right support and confide in loved ones whilst speaking to an individual therapist or medical professional, this may just be the help you need to give you that step up into being your confident future self. Wishing you good luck with the future. Take care Julie Cameron
Answered on 02/01/2023

My husband likes me so much that he wants to do EVERYTHING with me. I feel smothered by his love.

Inadequacy It kind of stinks when what presents itself as a "good man" is also the same thing causing him to act like a toddler. An inadequate, grown man is a dangerous and often insidious beast. They tend to be both "good fathers/grandfathers" and will remind you of the time you spend with your ex for the purpose of guilting you into spending time with them. These types of men are seeking external validation for an internal void. He isn't "bad" in the sense of malicious, but he's inadequate, and it's manifesting in these behaviors that can drain you.  So, you can sometimes see why, when you are advancing yourself or have the obvious previous relationships how these could provoke within a man who is already struggling with themself. It's hard for men to address this because it's embarrassing and appears weak. Bluntly speaking, we would rather rely on bravado and overcompensation and the appearance of things are under control than we would address the deep inadequacy our mind keeps us from.  The mind says to the man, "she isn't spending time with you, but she can spend time here or there; she must not care about you as much as those other things." I know to us, outside of the man's head it seems illogical, but to them, it is reality. We can relate, however, because we also have messages inside our heads. We have a narrative that we, too, believe without question. Our mind tells us things based on experiences and what is perceived in the current environment, and we are left to deal with these things, depending on the same mind that told us they were there and now controlling how we perceive the narrative. But, it doesn't have to be this way.  Here's what you can do in your marriage to try and remove that third awkward person in the room, the wounded mind. You, your husband, and his wounded self, the self that was formed early in life inadequate and now overcompensated and throws temper tantrums, also the same self that overproduces in kindness at times when receiving praise for doing so, that self needs to be addressed for what it is. He will have to do this work, but you can help him by being kind and acknowledging things you notice in a specific way.  Reflective questions for the sake of genuine curiosity can be a great asset that transcends this wounded self. Ask things like, "It seems like when I am doing work, you get frustrated with me, can you tell me what you are experiencing when I am not giving you that time?" Or, "What do you think when I am reaching out to my exes?" Now, he might respond with something that doesn't sound desperate and will rely on something superficial. Still, the more you have talks about that third person in the room, the wounded and inadequate self that he relies on for his advice when struggling in life, the more it becomes apparent to him and you.  Call out that third person by having him ask that inadequate part these questions. You can also notice your own inadequate parts and start to ask reflective questions such as "how am I doing today?" or "why am I not giving him attention?" Or, "Do I have any part in what he is feeling?" It's not that we don't know how to do this, but it's that sometimes the answers we know are there are often too painful to acknowledge, or they don't sound very good.  This is a pretty complex thing, actually and something a good couple's counselor can help address by identifying and communicating about this underlying self both of you have. I recommend that you get accustomed to asking the difficult, reflective questions, not to challenge or call him out (that will wound the ego and will not result in good things), but to get to know him and get him to know him better. You and him relate a lot more than you think, on these matters alone, and once you are able to remove that third person as a barrier, things can get better than ever, closer, more connected, and he will grow from that healthy place as well. 
Answered on 02/01/2023

I don't know how to deal. I need some coping mechanisms to deal with my first ever major heartbreak.

Breakup It's rough when we attach to someone and then lose them. After not being committed to anyone, you might find yourself a little lost in a year and a half of bonding. I think addressing the reality of your current emotional and mental state is beneficial at this time. When we are no longer with someone after making life plans and forming a future and identity, it just sucks. Identity is lost when the other person decides to go away for whatever reason. There is probably nobody you've attached with as much as you have with them. Maybe even your mom and dad are foreigners to what you felt with them, and now, that part of you is gone, dead, no more there is a part of you that you lose as well. It's extreme, but the mind is left to try to make sense of it all.  Often this is when people struggle with identity or being adequate. Sometimes we don't even know we struggled with ourselves until we break up with someone, and we are left alone to fend for ourselves, no longer supported and reassured by another. Also, when we are in a relationship, we like ourselves with that person, and now that the person is gone, so is that version of ourselves.  But is it? Once your mind can conceive a part of you that didn't before, you know it's there. You will always know there is a part of you that felt complete. Unfortunately, you might attribute that feeling to the other person and them alone; after all, you bonded with them. But you can support and love yourself, unlike that person could. You can be kind to yourself and notice the good things like you would with a friend. You can literally be your best advocate in all of this because heartbreak tears you from others, but it cannot tear you from yourself.  So, what can you do? How do you cope? You ask yourself, why does this hurt? It is probably bits and pieces of things, but try to identify what exactly you notice that causes you to struggle in this breakup and learn to sit with that part of you the most. The weakest part is the one we have to get to know and love. We have to love like we imagined this other person did. We imagine this other person loved all of us, enough for both of us. However, where they lacked long-term, you can do for yourself to at least get through this time and move forward into the next relationship. 
Answered on 02/01/2023

Is it possible to move on from a break up and still remain friends with the ex?

You care about him, but he's taking advantage of you. Your care for him may have been due to him presenting well enough to care for, but deep down, he is being selfish in not letting you go. It's unfair that you feel such commitment to him and that he isn't allowing that love from you to be enough to either commit or let you go; it's cruel, in fact.  Imagine that I tell my job I will come in to work, but then don't show up and then show up the next day and work really hard when I need the money. Imagine that work would have to hold an entire spot for me even though I don't commit to them. That would devastate the business. Much worse is happening inside of you as you accept this behavior from him as acceptable in your life. This is what is happening. Is this how much you value yourself, to be treated as convenient? It's not some noble thing on his part; it is immature selfishness, and you need to respect yourself enough to not deal with it.  Unless (this part is important) you see characteristics inside of him that are worth investing in. If you see a young man, not yet mature, or a good, caring person for others, who thinks of others' needs before his own, and is confident (not cocky, that is ego), then that tells me he might be worth investing in. However, that I believe to be rare given he is willing to string you along, as you present.  What is worth investing in is the man who says, "I am not good for you; we are breaking up." A weak man can't do that. A weak man tries to hold on to you while still open to exploring other people. I fear that he fails at a new relationship and then comes back to you. I fear that he gets the attention of another girl and then strays and then comes back when she figures him out. That is the sign of a weak man; he goes wherever the wind blows him, he is unsteady in himself and needs external validation and reassurance of other women.  What you can do is attempt to see this situation for what it really is, a young boy not yet man enough to be with you. He isn't a BAD person or someone who is evil, but he is immature, thinking he can play a relationship like that and get away with it.  I don't know this man's history, but if he has a history of childhood inconsistencies or trauma with his primary caregivers, then he may be struggling with a deep sense of inadequacy or being a victim, which will result in sad stories for other people to receive the reward of validation. This would affirm what he cannot do for himself. He cannot support what he doesn't accept, which is all of him, the inadequate parts as well. If he cannot accept these parts, he will hurt you because he doesn't believe you will stay, and so he will push you away before he gets too hurt. He's keeping you at arm's distance now in fact.  Your job is to ask yourself what is good for you and what you are willing to put up with. If you are willing to put up with his behaviors, then commit to it. Commit to the feelings of being wronged or treated inappropriately. If you really commit, then all of these thoughts and feelings come along with the decision. Either commit to this chaos, to else you better remove the negative and troubling from your life the best you can; that starts with him. 
Answered on 01/28/2023

Need support to help me emotionally leave this situation

Hi Shaun! Welcome to the Better Help platform! Thank you so much for asking this great question on the topic about leaving your current situation. Based on what you wrote in your question, it sounds like you have been trying to break ties with your significant other and end your current relationship. How long have you been trying to leave this situation? It appears that you have already made the conscious decision to end your time together. Congratulations on making this important choice. What has this decision making process been like for you? What barriers do you foresee as holding you back from following through with your decision? Would you say that you are experiencing a sense of hesitation about leaving your significant other? It sounds like you are preparing to make a big change at this point. My hope is that I will be able to help you to navigate this experience and assist you in coming up with a plan to move forward with leaving this situation. First and foremost, I would like to commend you for your courage in seeking out guidance on how to navigate your current situation. It is very brave of you to reach out for support on this topic. Ending a relationship can cause significant distress for anybody. Making the decision to end things is a really good first step. I can see why ending this relationship would be a challenge for you as you had mentioned that you have a soul tie to your significant other and that you two talk together frequently. Therefore, it is vital to be kind to yourself and continue to understand your own feelings about the situation. In addition, it may be important for you to recognize your personal strengths as well as make note of your admirable qualities. Doing so can be a means to foster your self confidence, which in turn can aid you in implementing your plan of terminating the relationship. One of the most effective ways to boost self confidence is through therapeutic writing. Take some time to write about your plan of action. Explore your positive qualities through therapeutic journaling. The therapeutic writing process can be an incredibly powerful tool to begin discovering more about your self and can be a wonderful tool to better understand your strengths and skills. You can start this process by writing a pro's and con's list about your decision to end the relationship. For more information about the benefits of journaling, check out the free resources online from the International Association for Journal Writing. The website is: As a registered art therapist, I always recommend that individuals participate in art based interventions. The therapeutic art making process can be incredibly inspiring, healing and informative. It is true that painting, drawing, coloring, weaving and sculpting activities can build self confidence, strengthen self awareness and boost self esteem. There are countless options for art therapy interventions that you could put into practice if you are willing to do so. For more information about the therapeutic benefits of art therapy, check out the website for the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). The AATA website is: An example of an art therapy directive that you could try is to draw a time line of your current relationship. Choose a starting point, such as the time when you first met or your first date. Utilize arrows to signify the direction in which the relationship has been going. Mark down major milestones on your time line using shapes to reflect important moments. Apply a variety of colors to indicate how you were feeling at any given moment in time. This art based directive may help you to reflect on your relationship and determine how you want things to end. Once you have completed your timeline, take a moment to reflect on your relationship. Draw a picture of your feelings about ending the relationship. Utilize this image as a source of strength as you move forward with your plan to leave your current situation. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide when the right time is to end the relationship and leave your current situation. You may need to break ties with this individual completely in order to be able to fully disengage the relationship. I know that you mentioned that the two of you talk every day so it may be challenging at first to cease that ongoing communication. You also noted that your significant other is not trying to move forward with the break up. It seems like you will have to put into practice assertive communication skills in order to successfully employ your plan of action. Despite the challenge you are facing, it is important that you have faith in yourself that you can do this! I want to thank you again, Shaun, for asking this invaluable question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. Also, I would like to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey on BetterHelp. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Take good care and have a great day!
Answered on 01/25/2023

What actions should I take? How do I go about fixing this? Should I leave?

Hi, I am so sorry to hear about your current situation with your boyfriend. It does become very difficult to survive in this type of an environment where your emotional needs are not being met. I know how challenging it can become to raise children while balancing work when you are emotionally not taken care of. I want you to start by shifting your perspective about yourself and your relationship. First, I want you to work on your own personal growth. This would include taking care of your physical health as well as your mental health. It is extremely important as if you are feeling good about yourself and your environment you will be able to look at the world from a different lens. Once you feel confident in your own skin then you can start working on your relationship as chances are when he sees a changed person he may become attracted to you again. if the relationship is meant to be and if he is the right person for you it will bring both of you closer and if he is not meant to be with you then this would be a point where it will get terminated. However, we are going to try to make the relationship work as you have children involved. I want you to do a swot analysis for him and your relationship where you would look at his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. SWOT Analysis is a tool to help you analyze your relationship in depth and to think about the potential of the relationship. The goal of this exercise would be to increase your awareness of your partner and how it affects your relationship. Some other things to consider are his ability as a parent. The strengths and weaknesses are some parts that you may have control over relatively in your relationships. This will help you develop a plan in setting boundaries and future goals for your relationship. I hope this was helpful and I do encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional for your personal growth and for your relationship. Best, Dr. Saima 
Answered on 01/25/2023

How to resolve regrets about ending a relationship and be sure I'm ready to move to new encounters?

Hi Ben, Thank you for your question, it sounds like you have been affected by the ending of that first relationship ever since.  I feel the first place to start would be to explore that first relationship and how you are feeling now about it and also looking at in particular the regret.  If that 'regret' could talk, what would it be saying to you.  Are you able to articulate exactly what the regret is?  This is something that can be explored in therapy and in time worked out if it is not clear at the moment.  You also mention that you do not want children but this is also something you were prepared to change for the first partner.  What was it about that partner that meant you were prepaid to change your mind over them.  In therapy you could look at if you are mourning that first relationship.  Being able to explore how it is, not just in feelings or emotions but in thoughts too would also help you to work through that mourning or regret.  I wonder if now you are comparing all your new relationships to that one? It sounds like you are now in a position where you are feeling confused about what was and also what it could have been and also what you might want in the future, possibly even about whether or not you want to have children.  I think there are a number of things to explore: The ending of the first relationship How you feel about that relationship now The reasons for comparing each new relationship with the first one What it is you are really wanting/looking for now, so then you are able to form new meaningful relationships I think once you have looked at these different elements, your thoughts will become clearer and you will know what you are wanting.  At the moment it may feel like a mass of 'I just do not know' and the emotions too are making it all the more confusing for you. It certainly sounds like there is some unfinished business with that first relationship that needs to be worked through. I hope my answer has given you some food for thought.  
Answered on 01/23/2023

How would I go about dealing with abandonment issues?

Hey, Great to virtually meet you.  Patterns of relating, or the way we work with other people can be ingrained, and there since childhood, we learn these early on and can go on for a long time realizing these are no longer working for us and trying to change these.  This kind of work can take some time to do and is really best suited to therapy, and a type of therapy that looks at relationships, or attachment styles, transactional analysis, and integrative therapies can be really helpful here. This can be a difficult task to complete alone.  Transactional analysis sounds a little fancy but it takes the interactions and looks at where these are going wrong, and how we can go about looking at them in different ways that feel more helpful, and more functional. Stephen Karpman and the drama triangle are a really good way to get some insight into if this is the right therapy for you and may offer you some solutions in dealing with this relationship in a slightly different way in relation to communication.  This is a long read but take a look here: Eric Bearne also wrote about the games people play again this is a long read but may be helpful to take a look to see if you and your partner are being drawn into games.  Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) also may be really helpful in supporting some change here as well, learning when the feeling of the abandonment is being triggered and recognizing the emotions and thoughts here then learning new ways to think feel and behave through talking about what's going on for you and developing new thoughts can be really helpful.  In any relationship it can be super important to have really good boundaries and a healthy agreement between the two of you, taking time to sit down and consider your expectations and have a conversation around this can also be really important. Once you have this initial agreement in place its also helpful to decide when you are going to review this and keep it up to date.  Online there are some really good relationship contracts and it may be worth taking a look at to see some of the resources that they have.  Take care Neil 
(Diploma, in, therapeutic, counselling)
Answered on 01/23/2023

How do I overcome abandonment issues?

Hello Augie! Thank you for your message. I will do my best to give you some general information that will hopefully provide some understanding. We are all greatly affected as children by the manner in which our parents interact with us. As children, we are helpless to take care of ourselves and we know instinctively that we need caregivers. Babies cry because that is the only method they have for communicating that they need something. We run to one of our parents when we are scared or hurt because that is who we believe is going to help us feel better. A parent is not supposed to leave us. In the mind of a child, this can be one of the most frightening experiences he or she might ever have. When that happens, though, the child records this experience as a wound. Sometimes, other people step in to help that wound heal. But if nothing is done to promote healing, then that wound remains unhealed in the body and in the mind of that child who was abandoned. If you like to read, there is a book called "The Body Keeps the Score" which explains how our bodies hold on to trauma. Some years ago -- I think it was the 1970s -- a large medical facility in California did a long-range study on the effects of abuse and neglect on children under the age of 18. The results were astounding. They discovered that those children who experienced what they called adverse childhood experiences were at greater risk to grow up to be adults with medical, social, psychological, emotional, substance abuse, relationship and other kinds of problems. Something else that happens in childhood is the development of what I call core beliefs. These are beliefs that we embrace as children about ourselves, others, and the world at large. Since we are not born with beliefs, the only way we come to believe things is by being fed beliefs from others -- our caretakers, our teachers, our older relatives, neighbors, etc. Sometimes, those core beliefs are communicated verbally (in our conversations) and sometimes they are communicated non-verbally (though the way people interact with us). So let's say there is a parent who, for whatever reason, has no ability to care for their child. Perhaps they are exhausted or ill or simply do not have the patience needed for children. This parent might actually say something like, "I should have never had children," or "I wish I would never have had children," or worse yet "I wish you had never been born." Those statements could also be communicated by that parent's behavior by ignoring the child, leaving the child to fend for him or herself, or by abandoning that child. However it is done, the child is left with the message that they are not worthy of that parent's love and attention. While this child has done nothing to deserve that message, the message becomes a core belief that they will carry with them into adulthood unless there are some intentional efforts to change that message. Can you see how it is not surprising that you came to believe that people cannot be trusted in general not to mention trusted to hang around? These are patterns of thinking that came from a core belief that you probably developed as a youngster when your father left. While you might not have been aware of how this was affecting you, there was probably a part of you that was wondering, "Why did my father leave me?" "What did I do that made my father leave me?" Of course, you did nothing wrong. This was your father's choice and it was a choice that impacted how you would grow up to interact with people. You may have heard of attachment styles. You can Google attachment styles and get all kinds of information and YouTube videos on this subject. This theory is based on the idea that we interact with others as adults in a fashion that resembles how our caregivers interacted with us as children. It is certainly possible that you learned as a child that it is so painful to be abandoned by someone you love that you went into any relationship with that expectation -- almost like you were bracing yourself for what you thought would be inevitable so it wouldn't hurt so much. Unfortunately, this behavior of putting up walls and keeping one's distance from potential partners becomes the reason that the other person leaves. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy in effect. Healing might involve doing some work with a trained therapist who can help your inner child heal. You might want to learn how to change the core beliefs and the narrative in your mind. All of us have a narrative -- a story -- that explains our lives at least to ourselves. The story is an interpretation of events in our lives and that interpretation is affected by the core beliefs that we developed as kids. So if we start with a very negative, self-scathing core belief about ourselves and others, the narrative is going to be very negative and sad. We need to learn how to examine our core beliefs and thinking patterns, and decide if these thoughts are helpful or hurtful. And if they are not helpful, we need to learn how to change them to something more realistic and healthy. There is another book called "You Are Not Your Brain" that discusses how your negative thoughts can be changed to something more helpful. You might need to learn how to love and trust yourself so that you can have trust in others. You could look up Kristin Neff on the internet for information about self-compassion.   Thoughts are not facts. They come and they go. But our thoughts can have a very powerful influence on our feelings. So understanding that our thoughts can change and our feelings can be tolerated is an important part of healing. Don't run from your feelings. Let them be a guide to helping you know what you need to heal. A great resource for understanding feelings and vulnerability is Brene' Brown. You can find all of her work on the internet as well. I hope some of this information will be helpful to you. Thank you for taking the time to read my response. Judi
Answered on 01/21/2023

I don’t love myself or feel good about myself, just love my boyfriend. How do I feel better?

Hi A, Firstly, I think it's helpful to explore your past, specifically your family of origin relational patterns. Some clients seek a therapist to help them through issues of self-esteem and insecurities, but most clients end up realizing their family of origin work is a more central issue to their lives than they might have thought at the outset of their therapy journey.  There are very few things in our lives our families of origin don't impact, for the simple reason that they are our first relationships and first experiences of the world.  Our earliest experiences with our families of origin shape our biases, tendencies, and what we consider "normal," for example, our attachment styles, family roles, and how we engage in conflict and communicate with others.  As adults, through the therapy process, we learn what does or doesn't serve us anymore: what might need to be uprooted and unlearned or what needs to be planted and learned like how to communicate vulnerable emotions to a romantic partner.  Beginning therapy with a clinician trained in family systems could help support this process for you. Once that work has been done and some understanding has been established, the present work can begin.  Feeling "good" about ourselves can be very tough, especially because we're always changing.  One of the first habits to establish is to stop comparing yourself to others.  Although natural, it can be dangerous because this causes you to not focus on your own journey and growth.  Along this same line, don't listen to other people's opinions.  As stated before, you are on your own journey, so listening to other people having something to say about it will only hinder your own perception of yourself.  Put yourself first and give yourself some grace because you're learning more about yourself and challenging yourself more than you likely have in the past.  So, be sure to acknowledge some of the small growths (because small progress is still progress) and be kind to yourself!  It's helpful to be mindful of how you're speaking to yourself and consider if you would talk to your boyfriend or a friend the way you talk to yourself.  If the answer to that is no, start considering yourself your own friend and shift that negative self-talk to something kinder.  You deserve to have the life you want for yourself, so think about what can be done to better help you with establishing habits that will help you feel more connected to yourself, your values, and your interests. And just remember, you already have the tools you need to help with these relationship issues.  You can do this for yourself, which will then help you do it for others.  I hope this helps! -Courtney
Answered on 01/21/2023

How do you move past a breakup?

Erratic It's not you; it's her, mostly anyways. Together and breaking up, the extremes seem to depend on her moods. So, what do you do with that? How do you stay with someone who is like that? Do you think you could be with this person as long as you toe the line and keep her happy? No, that is not what someone who embraces an erratic and shifting mood wants; they want chaos and confusion and thrive on it. So, what you can do is to sit with the situation, knowing you can't fix it, or fix it here and either accept the life you would have with her erratic and emotional self or get out and look for something that you know has the ability to reciprocate the feelings and emotions back to you. This person doesn't seem capable of doing that; she seems to be consumed with herself.  The best part about what I said was that it puts the choice back into your possession. She does what she does for whatever reason. Your job is to know what is good for you so you can be good and helpful and good for others. If you must constantly be at the mercy of someone's shifting mood, there isn't much left for anyone else. Are you willing to give up your life and what you mean to others to be with her? The choice is yours despite what you might believe today. You aren't lost. I think you are questioning yourself. She is selfish and can't think of you in all this. If she could, she wouldn't be testing you like this. I believe that you aren't willing to accept the reality that you know what you know about her, and you are going against this knowledge, invalidating yourself, leading to this lost feeling. Lost might mean trying to deny yourself to try and accept an alternative narrative that isn't true.  Trust your gut on this. Trust that what you notice is legitimate and that you can validate and support yourself in this process. The pain here is when you deny yourself and your feelings in the process when you accept these behaviors of someone else, and it hurts you. It's like going to yourself and saying the worst things you would never say to anyone. You are denying yourself when you allow your boundaries to be crossed by her when she comes and goes as her emotions direct her. Knowing doesn't necessarily lead to change. Learning can help us make a change if we are willing to endure the pain. Pain is inevitable no matter what you choose in life. There is pain in staying in the same situation. There is pain with change. Pain has to be accepted. You can experience pain on the way to something valuable to you versus the pain of denying and hurting yourself. Live according to your highest value, and the pain to do it (such as setting boundaries or not letting this other person cause you harm because it's harmful to others) is worth it. The real question is, what matters to you and prevents you from living according to that direction? If a relationship isn't helping you grow but draining you, get out. Endure the pain of turning people down that prevents you from living your highest value. 
Answered on 01/21/2023

Do I put my emotional and mental health first?

YES! You aren't good for anybody if you are in a situation where you are being bogged down, made to feel less-than, and unsupported to grow into other areas of life. Look, being a man, and being honest with you, "flirting" isn't harmless. It's insidious how the mind works; we cross a line a little bit, then a little more, then a little more, always aware of what we are doing, but getting better at justifying our actions. Certain thoughts from your boyfriend might be, "oh, we are just friends." Or, "Well, I didn't sleep with them."  Maybe a point of argument could be placed on you, that "you are just jealous." Even if none of these have actually been spoken about, the best-case scenario is that they have been conceived. The reason I say, "best case" is because if your boyfriend is engaging in flirtatious behavior and doesn't have to justify it, it means he genuinely doesn't see anything wrong with it, and that shows a deep belief in his lack of respect for you and your feelings. Even though ignorance can gain a pass when revealed for what it is, that he, "didn't know," it still leaves the question of what are you going to do with a man like that. Are you willing to teach him and work with him through it if willing? You mention it has already been five years. How much are you willing to accept that the best the relationship can get is with someone who doesn't know better, or if he does, justifies it? If he isn't willing to work on this or sees it as his weakness, what are you left with but settling for the less than? You, too, will have to accept you are less than, because a weak or unconfident man cannot be with a strong confident woman, and ma'am, he does seem weak. Flirting is Weakness Flirting is validation. Flirting is admitting that though I am in a committed relationship and have a child I could invest in, I would rather get the attention of these women. Someone like that needs it to feel good about himself. a man like that has a shallow self-image, one requiring another's validation of him, which he manipulates to be viewed as adequate.  Coward Not to speculate too much, but in my experience, his not engaging in any extra relational affairs is because the women won't go that far, and he is a coward. That's what happens with weak men, though. They are scared of getting in trouble or being embarrassed. Don't mistake his not cheating as being a good man, but take it as cowardice. Unless he is willing to do what is necessary on some interpersonal work, see a therapist, deal with the inadequate self, admit that he feels inadequate, etc., could stuff get better. If he isn't willing to do that or go there with it, he isn't going to change, and the behaviors get worse as he gets fed up, gets bolder, better at flirting, and then one day goes too far physically with someone. Look for these signs. If you tell him these things I am saying and he gets angry, and says it's not true, you have to then notice that he became angry, because....? Why do people get angry? This is usually from a place of hurt. Why do people get defensive, justify, and blame, because they are victims, and a victim makes everyone and everything their persecutor. None of this is about you doing better or me not saying anything, but it is about him being able to admit the nature of his actions and not admitting the actions.  Now, the part you play, if he can confess the nature of his sins, is if you have been disengaged as well. Or, if he reports that you don't seem to care or something to show he's not feeling connected to you. I don't mean that he is right if he blames you for what he has done, but there could be some truth there. Unfortunately, the truth could be that you are confident and willing to leave; he knows you could do better (mostly because of his poor self-perspective) and therefore wants to break you down. There is always truth in what someone says, but take it in context. If one cannot admit their part and immediately blames them, then that is their problem. If there is self-admission and connecting it to feeling like you are disconnected or don't care, that could be worth investing in to. Lastly Don't get too much advice here. People love to get relationship advice and say what sounds like a dramatic response. It's easy to say, "leave him," but it's hard to stay and work on things. However, if you choose to stay and work on things, then work on things, don't let this moment pass. Hold him accountable, and you hold yourself accountable. You should be allowed to ask questions to learn more about him and what he wants/needs in life. Try to love him again and learn to forgive. That is key here, if you choose to be with him, you have a lot of work to do, not to get bitter, which you do this by forgiving. You will have to make peace with the former, and if you cannot do that, then I have to say it probably won't work together. You will become bitter, justify your bitterness, and then get angry, resentful, and then be mad at yourself for wasting your life on him. He put you in a tough spot, but you are here now. Honesty is always the best policy, so get to know what you feel and think so you can present that. What I mention here is to help frame thoughts and ideas going forward and ask questions to help guide you to where you want to go. 
Answered on 01/21/2023

How to transition to a securely attached person?

Who You Are. Your attachment style does not define you, but it could help you understand the difficulties in forming a relationship. Your attachment style isn't a diagnosis either, and it isn't treatable alone, but the totality of this early formation of beliefs can be understood and managed. What is treatable is what you notice in your day-to-day life is affected by what you've identified. Had you not taken that quiz, what would you have noticed about yourself? What did getting a definition do for you? Did you feel validated that you found a reason for failed relationships or feeling the way you do? What exactly did the quiz, and this idea do for you that you now feel more empowered to work on, and what exactly would your life look like with this newly identified problem being solved? Being fearfully avoidant might mean you don't get into a relationship, or if you do, stay to yourself, and hold something back. You've been taught that this world, your partner, and your friends even will hurt you. You avoid because there was a belief formed very early in life 1-2 years old, where your parents didn't give you what you needed, and thus you lack a sense of security, so now you are fearfully avoidant, not just in relationships, but in life I would assume. This lack of assurance goes far beyond relationships and can be seen in everything from the clothes we wear to the trips we take, to the jobs we choose. Everything about us can be in service to a belief about ourselves and the world around us.  What to do with it all? Well, now you have something to tell you why you act the way you do, a failed connection in early childhood, and now you can make all the connections with what you found out about yourself, looking back on your interactions. Now what? Now is the hard part because it is painful. Now you have to leave these fabricated comfort zones to do the thing your mind would rather not do, form relationships despite this internal warning sign going off.  This work is incredibly difficult because it acknowledges the vulnerable childhood self and tries to form new beliefs even though the old ones are stagnant and there, constantly telling us what to do or think. Our core beliefs, our subconscious connection with others, and a general sense of safety have never been developed, and now we think with work, we can create that. Not likely. What happens instead is that you will internalize a less-than state of mind in continuing to fail at being better. Instead of trying to be better by ridding ourselves of a part of ourselves, accept this part of you exists. Learn more about that part rather than deny, judge, or try to alter it. We don't rid ourselves of that part; instead, we accept (which isn't agreement but acknowledge) our way of thinking and learn to live with that part of ourselves. To not accept a part of ourselves, in any fashion, is not accepting ourselves wholly. When we fail to accept or give voice to any part of ourselves that we try to get rid of, we waste our lives and reinforce inadequacy because we fail to give credit to ourselves. If you only accept the good parts of yourself, then you are condemning yourself.  Accept your thoughts as your thoughts, and try not to judge or alter them. Just learn to sit in your feelings and thoughts to improve your tolerance better and grow relationships that you would otherwise avoid. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and notice thoughts, allowing them to pass. Thoughts and feelings always pass; let them. You don't have to remedy or respond to all of them. This will help you the most. It's not about what you think but about noticing how you think. How you think is tied to your avoidant attachment. Anything that promotes fear probably gets your attention well enough for you to react to it. Instead, sit with the thoughts, and emotions, and bypass the reaction to try to fix it. Do what you find valuable and learn to cope with the thoughts that try to keep you stagnant along the way. 
Answered on 01/17/2023

Why do I struggle to forgive and forget?

Hello Carley, Thanks for reaching out. Forgiveness can be a hard thing to navigate even for those of us well practiced in the act. For those of us who struggle with navigating forgiveness it can be all the harder. So I offer you here that forgiveness can be a struggle under any circumstances. So then if we take that into account we can perhaps start to take the sting out of the struggle in knowing that it is normal to struggle with this.  There is of course the wider context here of your husband and the gambling and the resulting debt. When written on the page that can seem like one thing, but it's actually more akin to three things. I'll expand: So you are married to your husband and that comes with many commitments that you both make agreements to upon getting married whatever the ceremony you have there are still those vows which will of course differ in form depending but chief among them is trust. You are trusting him and he is trusting you with each of your hearts, your futures, your love. So theres an understanding there that you will be together through thick and thin, a contract of sorts. Arguably the one you will come to trust the most in your life going forward together. The second thing is the gambling which can come with other behaviours but by its very nature can lead to chasing money, when your up its feeling great when your down its feeling low and when your down it can lead to trying to make up lost earnings by gambling more money instead of cutting your losses after the first loss. Often gambling will result in blowing of ones budget chasing bets in this fashion. The third thing is the debt that occurs from the gambling and now the resulting financial risk as a result i.e. the risk of losing potential high value items to pay back the debt etc such as car, house etc. So when we break it down in this fashion its easier to see just how complex the situation can be. We can of course break it down more with further context around was the gambling known about by yourself or was it kept from you until was too late etc and more but essentially you are looking at the initial broken trust of the marriage due to the situation, the gambling addiction itself and the after effects of that addiction i.e. the situation you now find yourself in. There's a lot to work through there before you can entertain the idea of forgiveness and with all of that swirling around it may be some time before you can actually forgive and move past this together. It may also be worth looking at couples counselling if you wanted to work on this together in that setting. However if you want to work on this individually thats possible to. You may also be looking at your attachment style and what this means to you, is it a familiar situation in your own life or past. What is your attachment to this gambling etc, does the situation feel familiar or has the same situation happen to you or someone you were close to growing up i.e. parents etc. All these are things to think about, to get you started on that journey. But you can certainly benefit from exploring this further in session. As to the why, its too early to say at this point thats why we would need to explore this in session and the why comes out of the work we would do together, you would find your why then. Warmest regards, Kai
(BA, (Hons), Integrative, Counsellor)
Answered on 01/16/2023

How can I lessen my anxious attachment to a partner?

Hello, First, I appreciate you sharing what's going on and I can provide some guidance around this. I'll list a few different ideas on how to approach your casual relationship with him here. I might start out with acknowledging that the relationship has changed and it's normal to feel anxious about the unknown when you both initially decided on being casual together and noticing now you have stronger feelings for him. I think this is very important and overlooked. Often times we will act on anxiety and avoid how we feel, talking about things, etc. I might suggest asking yourself what feels effective around this? An example might be... I'm at a place where I want to problem solve my anxiety and ask if he'd like to have a relationship with me, etc.? I'm giving a hypothetical on this.  I can understand why you might not want to rock the boat either if you're enjoying your time with him and are fearful that it might end what feels pretty good right now.  Another piece that is more on a micro level is to notice when feeling anxious you may check things more often, which can increase your anxiety drastically. An example might be texting and checking your phone over and over and hoping for a response. I can understand how it can be validating and reassuring to hear from him and understand it can be painful when you don't get the response in the time frame you're looking for. often times, I will try to urge surf or notice my checking behavior and try to block it essentially (not look at my phone and instead notice the intensity or sensation of wanting to look at my phone for his text or snap, etc. My last idea to help you process this further is I'll often ask myself this question... Is keeping the peace now going to keep me miserable going forward? This is for you to recognize and decide when you're not okay any longer as a casual relationship. All these things may help alleviate your anxiety around the relationship and likely lead to you being more relaxed around him and silly. I hope this all helps and I understand this isn't a solve all. I wish you the best, Mitchell Daas, MA, LPCC
Answered on 01/15/2023

Why am I wanting to end my relationship with a good guy?

Perspective Your situation demonstrates the power of perspective and how your state of mind determines what you want. You think you could go without when you have him and are assured. Then, when you are alone, you question it and want him back. You know the relationship serves some emptiness or lack of self-assurance because when you are with him, his niceness reassures you that you are good. You conclude that you don't want to be here anymore from that good space.  It's a pretty good assessment of how we are doing if we are able to be by ourselves or not. Since you are struggling with being alone, I think you know that you aren't ready for it. It seems as though because you are alone, you lose that reassurance and therefore question yourself and question the relationship, and who knows what you start to think disrupting your life.  Now, it's not good to be in a relationship to "make you better" or to "be completed" that is called codependency, and it usually doesn't go well. When you are with him, you feel solid if it is because you are confident with him that you are healthy. If his presence provides a solid you, now you have an unhealthy dependence on him to make you feel better. You are not defined by the person you are with, and if you feel better with them than without, often that can mean you aren't fully established or confident in yourself. You need to ask yourself who you are, what you like, and what those likes and dislikes, independent of others, say about yourself.  Here's the deal with codependency. You are relying on your partner, whom you find unsatisfying, to reassure you of yourself. However, someone else could always come along who does it better or seems to be what your current man is not. It often happens when someone gets into a relationship without knowing it is unhealthy, only to have enough confidence from the relationship to be with someone else. Then the other person leaves them, and they are a mess.  You have to do what serves you best. What serves you is any situation where you get to discover who you are, probably in those uncomfortable alone times. Who you are, what you want, what you need, and how you define yourself. Maybe be alone for a while if you are questioning whether he is the right guy. You can always come back if you are meant to be together. As long as you stay in the relationship, you never get to know who you are when not with that person. Set boundaries with your current significant other, and learn how to cope when you are alone. 
Answered on 01/14/2023