Intimacy Answers

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
(MA, LPCC)
Answered on 01/15/2023

How do I know if I miss being with him or miss just having someone there?

Hi Saph, You are having natural feeling in the longing that comes from missing your boyfriend; these feelings can range from minor feelings of sadness to downright agony depending on the relationship and the amount of time you've been apart. Naturally, missing your boyfriend is a totally normal reaction to being separated from them. Whether you've gone a few days or a few weeks without seeing him; worrying after someone who isn't physically with you really sucks. Your heart will ache for him no matter how good or how bad the relationship is, and then your head will get involved in the situation also.  Your brain will cause major waves of emotions that are difficult to see with our own eyes, but neurobiology tells us that many chemical reactions will occur in your brain.  All people are motivated by our brain processes, and many times we have no idea that these processes are occurring on a conscious level, but that doesn't mean that the feelings arising from these chemical reactions don't affect us in very real ways. The brain activity is very similar to that of a person who is drinking alcohol or who has stopped drinking alcohol.  Again, we need to rely upon the fact many neurobiology tells us that many chemical reactions will occur in your brain.  Please go easy on yourself during this time of breakup.  Your brain is working full throttle, and you need to wait a while for your brain to get back to normal. Once you've fallen for someone, your body naturally speeds up its processing of these feel-good neurotransmitters, which creates a chemical intensity that is often described as "love." It's not long before our bodies become addicted to the euphoric feelings of love triggered by our partners.  It is fine to have these feelings of euphoric love.  You want that feeling of euphoric love again, but you are questioning if you can have that with another person.  Yes, there is no scientific evidence that only one person is the person that can cause these feelings of euphoric love in you.  Many different people can cause these feelings of euphoric love in you.  Luckily, there are also ways to combat the feelings of sadness caused by missing someone.  Becoming creative is the best way to get over the feelings of sadness.  When we are being creative, our brains release dopamine, which is a natural anti-depressant. Even though, you might not feel like doing much of anything when you're feeling down, distracting your mind is a key part of overcoming the blues.  Writing, cooking, drawing, photography, art, music, cake decorating, or coloring are some ways that you can divert your attention from not having your boyfriend around you.  Although staying busy and creative can definitely help your brain curb feelings of withdrawal and heartache, it's totally fine if you're still feeling a bit sad.  It's totally normal to miss your partner, but it's nice to know that there's a scientific reason behind why it feels so icky. Try to remember you're not alone; most people on planet earth have had a relationship end at one point in their lives or another.  This current distance between you and your parents might be the spark that you need to have a stronger relationship.  If it is a weak relationship, you are probably better off with it ending right now.  You are under no obligation to continue suffering just to prove that it is a bad relationship.  You did not mention what you boyfriend did to cause the situation, but you might want to consider forgiveness.  Scientists who study forgiveness have long agreed that it is one of the most important contributors to a healthy relationship. Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer, more satisfying romantic relationships. Research has even found that people who practice unconditional forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer lives. Forgiveness is such a key component to a healthy relationship, because, let’s face it, people are not perfect. No matter how close to complete a soulmate we find, every individual is incredibly different from the next. Couples who form a “fantasy bond” in an effort to merge identities, fall completely into sync and function as one are forgetting this basic reality. They’re also setting themselves up for great disappointment. It’s important to accept that we all have separate minds and points of view. Each and every one of us is hurt, defended, flawed and inevitably going to make mistakes. Having this perspective doesn’t mean we should sit back and withstand being mistreated.  However, if we want to enjoy a lasting relationship with someone we value and choose to spend our lives with, we may want to grow our ability to forgive. I don’t know if what your boyfriend did deserves forgiveness, but please realize that forgiveness is more about you than about him.  You will want to forgive so that your anger towards him does not become a resentment.  Anger is poisonous, but resentments are deadly.  When you don’t forgive a person, you will fail to enjoy the present.  Failing to enjoy the present is the greatest thing that you can have, and you might be giving it away for free.  Lack of forgiveness can easily lead to depression and anxiety.  Depression and anxiety can easily lead to many more problems in your life including a lot of physical problems.  Without forgiveness, you will find that you lack meaning and purpose in your life.  Having a meaning and purpose in life can help in many different parts of your life.  If you don’t forgive one person, you will slowly find that you will be losing connectedness with others.  Our common connection with others is one of the strongest forces in the universe, and I would hate to see that you are not trying to utilize it to your advantage.  Forgiveness is not forgetting, and you can easily forgive your boyfriend, but that does not mean that you still want anything to do with him.  Paul Teska, LPC + LCDC
Answered on 12/27/2022

How do I acclimate to feeling invisible in my communities?

Acclimate? We start to accept the narrative of the way the environment treats us. There is something here you have begun to believe about yourself from this current environment. You notice that your identity is wrapped up in one thing, and if that one thing is too rigid, you will struggle with the expectations of success in your identity. What else are you besides what you mentioned in this question? What do you value, and what do your decisions serve about you? Hopefully, you identify more about yourself than just the titles.  There is much to talk about here in therapy to understand your identity better, why it means so much to you, and what holds you back. However, address what to do with these feelings and how to deal with not being seen by your community. You determined in your query that the best way to manage your feelings of hurt or rejection is to acclimate, or just lay down, in your life. You don't need to agree to not being seen; you need to start to notice what you believe should happen in relationships.  According to your question, you mention your belief that things should be a different way. What way is that? What would life look like if you woke up tomorrow and your problem today was solved? Would you have friends that embraced you as you are? Would you be accepted, or better, feel accepted? Is it as deep as accepting yourself? You have to identify what change would look like in your life. Not the difference you would make but the ideal results of your changes.  I have to check on the "artistic" life and what it tells you about yourself. Again with the harsh self-narrative and how you have adapted to this lifestyle, is it a culture that embraces differences? You have to work on separating from the narrative your environment told you about yourself, leading you to the conclusion in this question. You believe that your life should be different and what is critical is that you notice your belief that interferes with where you are at in life.  "Invisible" in the communities you have invested in has to be painful. Rather than trying to remove the pain, it's okay to embrace it. It is painful to realize you are being rejected by a family of sorts, a community, that you have chosen to be in, but now they don't accept you. Do not accept their lack of acceptance of you as acceptable; why your community doesn't is their shortcoming and demonstrates the judgemental ways of said community.  Lastly, if you engage in therapy, it would be best to focus talks on what you notice from your environment and how that affects your view of yourself. If you constantly look down on yourself or feel like an outsider, which is not a good feeling, especially in later years, it is good to say it out loud. As a suggestion, is there another way to approach this or another group to be around? It would benefit you to get to know yourself better and be supportive of yourself and what you notice to be good for you. If there is guilt and resentment, mitigating these emotions is critical to prevent being bitter.  What is good for you? What stops you from fulfilling that for yourself in your life?
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/27/2022

How to deal with being in love with your best friend's girlfriend

Love can be very tricky and hard to hide. One of the great yet challenging things is being honest with yourself, which you have already done by acknowledging being in love with your best friend's girlfriend and acknowledging the feelings connected to this reality, which is the first step. You have identified that this is someone who you can never be with and it sounds like you have come to terms with that.  You also mentioned "Being with her would mean choosing between her and my friend" and this may come with the assumption that the feeling is mutual, which could be true or false. Identifying the pros and cons of saying something is important as it seems you value this friendship and this could cost you losing both friends. Although you all have perhaps built a strong connection with each other and are possibly around one another often, the second step is to set healthy boundaries for yourself by exploring ways that you can minimize hurtful interactions. For example being intentional about not being alone with this friend, not spending too much time with them, or asking questions related to their feelings about you. This is not easy to do at all, however, in trying to work through these feelings sometimes limiting interactions with that person is necessary. It sounds like friendship, comfort, and connectedness are important to you as it relates to romantic interests with others. Another step can be taking some time to think about what you love about that person so that you can be intentional about future romantic connections with others that will be meaningful to you based on what you like. You mentioned feeling shameful and guilty and the reality is we cannot always help who we are attracted to or fall in love with. Be sure to practice giving yourself grace knowing that you are human. Moving forward with this situation will take some time and could even be a grieving process. Giving yourself that time and seeking professional support can also help you talk through it. Coping with situations as such will look different for everyone. 
Answered on 12/21/2022

How do i move forward? Do i cut off contact?

Trust and Intimacy Ending things is possible, but it won't fix what you have going on. Your hurt from eight years ago seems to have manifested into policing both of them. In short, you will burn yourself out or already have. For eight years, you have been living this life this way while missing out on what you need. Growth comes from coping with life stressors and learning who you are in the process. You, though, are distracted by how to keep those two apart.  My question for you is, what are you doing for yourself? If you hold these relationships together, are they even good for you? What do you need in all of this? Again, you can cut all ties, but you are still left with you who is hurt and have dealt with self-sacrifice for the last eight years. The real question is, not do you cut ties, but what will you do for yourself instead?  Never "don't do" something. When we say, "I am not going to," that is a negative and leaves a gap that needs to be filled. With your partner and your friend, if you eliminate one, then what are you going to fill that time with? Your partner, of course, they say cut ties, they cheated with your friend, and they want to forget about all that. However, there are consequences to our choices, and your partner's is that they have to face the reality of what they've done. They hurt you, and now both of their behaviors continue to hurt you.  Please do not think about what to do with them but think about what matters to you and then make decisions according to what matters. Why does it matter if they are apart and you work to keep them apart if they want to be together? If these two would hook up on their own, then neither of them is a friend to you. People who overlook the feelings of others in their life are so selfish, it is hard to realize that other people have feelings, they hurt, and we played a part in that. Selfish people cannot sit with the reality of their choices and continue to put caring people like you in charge of making things better for them. Your partner wants you to cut ties? Well, that is your decision to make, make the best one for yourself.  Can we move on from people who hurt us? Yes, but you need to not focus on what they bring or don't bring to your life and instead focus on what you need more of in life. Working, school, taking care of children (if any), working out, reading more, and eating less are significant areas of life people work on when they want to make themselves feel better. Like a diet people don't keep, you ghost your friend because deep down you know they aren't good for you and so you don't show up.  Ask yourself "why" five times when you do something to discover what matters to you. You try to keep the two apart, why, so they don't hurt you, why does that matter, you don't like hurt, why, you think that hurt is a bad emotion, why....and so on. The objective of this exercise is not to focus on the surface layer but to get to the more meaningful (and valued) areas of life to start to love ourselves. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/21/2022

Do narcissists ever get better in relationship, or does the relationship continue to spiral downward?

Narcissism is a Personality  If this man is a narcissist, he has been his entire life. I do not think this is the primary purpose of your question, but I believe it is necessary not to allow his behaviors to be chalked up to a mental health disorder. Narcissism occurs in childhood from an environment where someone's sense of attachment or belief in oneself and the world around them is a sure way and then builds up behaviors to live in that world of detachment, and winner takes all. A narcissist is actually a fragile human who overly relies on the ego to participate in life. This ego only cares about itself, and its betterment. The rule goes, the weaker or more scared the child, the stronger and bolder the ego has to defend it. Your husband would have had these traits your entire marriage; thus, I question any authentic happiness as defined by being together in emotionally intimate ways.  Adultery would fall in line with a weak man. A weak man requires validation and fears missing out, fears being overlooked, and is absolutely devastated if rejected. Adultery is a way for the ego to feel powerful and worthwhile. The ego says to take and accumulate, and then you will be somebody. If he is a narcissist, your husband's adultery is a symptom of his inability to sit in the stability of a committed relationship. As a child acts out and seeks to devise more from an unstable environment, so did he.  You may not be able to reconcile mostly because he would have to take responsibility for his actions and admit to being weaker than he realized. A narcissist won't do that. A few things will destroy a marriage almost guaranteed, and one of these things is a lack of accountability. We require a partner who will carry his part of the responsibility because it validates what we see in them. Without validation through your husband's accountability, you will form resentment. Resentment and contempt are cancer to any marriage. If your husband messed up, confessed his sins, and gave insight into the nature of the wrongs he did, you may feel a different way about going forward. However, you know him and know that he will do it again once this pain passes and given another chance.  Why? Why, against all logic, would someone hurt someone and destroy a good thing? Because they are not driven by a rational mind but by the appearance of something they have never actually had, a genuine relationship. The ego says, "this next one will be better." This next thing will solve it. The ego has to do something; it cannot just sit and tolerate the pain of not having what it is entitled to. As I said, the symptoms of NPD are that of a wounded child who has learned enough to overcompensate as an adult. This person lacks empathy because the situation is all about him. His cheating was probably twisted to how he was wronged somehow or the victim of some circumstance. Do not fall for that sort of speech if it is occurring. It is the ego self-preserving, and sometimes people have to go through rejection to realize they cannot get away with these behaviors and that they are not the person to be overlooked and assumed to be weakminded. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/17/2022

How to rebuild a long term relationship after infidelity?

Rebuilding? In short, unless you can accept him and what he has done. Unless you can truly trust him and believe he is worthy of that trust to be in a relationship where you can depend on him. Unless you see these qualities, you should not stay in the relationship. You have to have a foundation to rebuild on before you can talk about rebuilding. That foundation should consist of character traits that you think are worthy of investing in. This man, he was having an affair for the last 3-4 years. If the guy acts the same in an affair as he does being committed to the relationship, then what kind of man is this?  Be honest with yourself when you address the questions I mention here. Be honest in looking at this man and what he offers to your life. Be honest in identifying if he can be committed to you. If he was having an affair for 3-4 years, there is a lot of details that have to be understood. For one, can he break ties cleanly with this other woman? Who is she to him? Do they work together and know each other in some way outside of intimacy? Does he even want to work on your relationship or save face and stay together where he is safe? It's good to know if people choose us because they want to be with us or if they choose us because the other option wasn't obtainable.  The questions I have are intended to invoke thought for you and to realize the context of his actions. He was not just cheating; he was lying to her, you, the kids, himself, and everyone around to be this other guy. All of that energy that wasn't going toward you or the kids was in service to preserve this selfish desire to have his cake and eat it too. There is no sugarcoating it when it comes to long-term infidelity. The man is weak, so I question his weakness in coming to the surface again.  So, is it worth investing in? You need to identify what you want and need, and choose from a place of what is best for you, not him. You are not responsible for his happiness. he lived independently from you in the most intimate ways. Him losing your trust is a consequence of those actions. He is a man who not only lacks honesty by lying for those many years, but he lacks self-assurance and seeks validation from someone else. These characteristics make it hard to recommend building on that foundation unless what I said before holds up.  If you stay, you are accepting him and his behaviors. You are accepting that he cheated and has that potential. Can you stay together? Sure, but you are the one that will have to do the most work to make it work, mainly because you have every reason to be jealous/upset. If you can find peace with this man and he is willing to do his own work on himself because clearly, he lacks insight into himself or a backbone to establish his boundaries, then you can invest in the relationship. If you cannot forgive him, accept him as he is, and accept that he could cheat again, it is best to let it go. Some wounds are just too deep.   
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/16/2022

I wanna know what to do

Hi Praise.  Thank you for taking that first step to reach out for help.  From my understanding, I gather you do not feel chosen, wanted, or valued by your partner. You may be feeling alone by your partner not spending time together and choosing others over you.  This type of rejection can be painful and affect how we feel and act. Relationship issues can also affect our self esteem, motivation and ability to focus and work, and connect emotionally with others. Are you together as a couple or has the relationship ended? In a relationship we need to have open, honest communication with our partner.  By expressing your feelings and making your needs known you can ensure you and your partner are on the same page and want the same outcomes in your relationship. There must be mutual respect and understanding to accomplish this.  It's important to focus on what is in your control.  Do what you need to take care of your mental health and well being.  Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy and help calm and distract you from the stress you are experiencing.  Get outside for exercise and sunlight.  Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol. Do not isolate.  Socially and emotionally connect with friends and family.  Lean into your support system to manage the hurt and loneliness. Talk about your feelings to those who support and care about you. Go out and meet with friends. Volunteer and help others.  Journal your feelings. Listen to music.  Practice mindfulness and focus on gratitudes. Pray and meditate.  Relationship difficulties can lead to depression and anxiety. Get professional help to manage your mental health. In individual counseling you meet with an experienced, licensed therapist in a safe space to self reflect, express your feelings,  and learn skills to help navigate this situation.  You will develop techniques to build confidence, learn healthy boundaries, understand how to effectively communicate, and form healthy relationships.  You are not alone.  Find the support and help you need to be a healthier, happier you. Take care of yourself.  Wishing you all the best.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/15/2022

Is it wiser to wait for someone to work through external stressors or move on with my life?

Hi Beany.  Thanks for reaching out.  Relationships can be difficult to navigate and manage.  Relationships require intimacy, vulnerability, communicating feelings, and working together as one to be mutually happy.   We have all been hurt and have things we need to work on and resolve to be stronger and there for others.  Self reflection and open truthful dialogue is needed to assess how you are both feeling in your relationship. How do we work towards forming healthy relationships? We trust, respect, and support each other.  We communicate with honesty and show compassion.   Can you be there for each other, move forward, and be supportive together? These are questions to openly discuss and resolve with each other.  This will help create goals as a couple, boundaries and lead to better understanding. Is being together causing pain or hurt? Do your values align? Do you both want the same thing in the relationship? While you were apart, did you miss each other or feel calm and at ease?  These are all important questions to ask yourself and each other.  Not a simple process or easy situation to manage.  Knowing when to walk away or deciding to stay and be together can be challenging and difficult. What do you need in a relationship to feel happy, intimate, safe, relaxed, and one with your partner?  Are you better together or apart?  Knowing and understanding these things helps us establish our boundaries and enables us to set limits with ourselves and the loved ones in our life. In many situations, it is helpful to reach out and seek guidance from a mental health professional.  An objective person with whom you can share your feelings and express your emotions in a safe space free of judgment.  In addition, should you decide to pursue the relationship, couples counseling can be healing for both of you and help you move forward to heal from past hurts. In counseling you will learn strategies and coping mechanisms to help figure out how to live a healthy, balanced life.  We need to gain these skills and techniques to be our best selves and be present in the relationships we form.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/13/2022

How do I move on after cheating on someone I love dearly and see the hurt and hate in their eyes?

Hello, Thank you for reaching out and asking your question, It is important to me and I hope to give you some support which you may find helpful to you. Relationships are complex and there are likely to have been many dynamics at play between you both which may have contributed to both your and your ex partners behavior. Endings in romantic relationships can be so painful, any type of loss can hurt emotionally but the feelings of rejection from a partner, when we are still emotionally involved can be particularly painful. It sounds as though you may have feelings of confusion, (after the initial forgiveness your ex partner has changed his mind and now feels unable to live with his initial decision,) disappointment, you feel that you are still in love with him and had hoped you had both moved forward over the last year and now Your ex partner is holding you cheating behavior to blame for his decision to end the relationship. There may also be the possibility of some feelings of guilt around your behavior of cheating on your boyfriend. I am curious to know a little more about your particular situation, were you always happy and satisfied within your relationship? How do you feel about what was going on for you, prior to you cheating and after this information had been revealed in your relationship? I am wondering if there have been any other factors over the last year that you feel may have contributed to the ending of your relationship? We always try to look for reason when something negative happens to us and yet it is rarely one thing that is responsible for the ending of a relationship. One partner may try to push all the responsibility for a decision onto the other, by blaming something that they did, because it can be extremely challenging to take personal responsibility for our own decisions, it may feel easier to blame someone else, than assertively state that they feel the way that they do and the action they have decided to take.  We operate better if we can avoid fault and blame speak and stick with talking from our own frame of reference, using plenty on "I" statements. What are your best hopes for yourself for moving forward from this point? What are you hoping to achieve from understanding what has happened to you? We can not change the past, it is gone, but hopefully if we can learn from it it can help us to accept our situation, take ownership of only our part in it and move forward in a way that pleases us and keeps us from making the same mistakes again. We can be empowered in ourselves and maintain our confidence in being able to have trusting intimate relationships with others in the future. I hope that you are able to find some love and support from those around you to support you through this challenging time.
Answered on 12/12/2022

Why do I always sabotage my romantic relationships with my partners?

Hi Amal.  Thanks for reaching out.  It's hard to take the first step to ask for help. Romantic relationships can be difficult to navigate.  Relationships require us to be intimate and open up to another person.  This makes us vulnerable.  Healthy relationships require boundaries and effective communication to work well.  Try to work together to find out what you both want in a relationship.  This is  part of communicating in a healthy manner. Unless we know what we want and need in a relationship, we may make mistakes and hurt the person we are with.  We are human, we make mistakes. It's important to understand the reasons behind our actions.  Are they intentionally hurting a loved one? You mentioned messing up and hurting your partner and not knowing how to fix it.  Have you asked him what he needs to feel safe, loved, and cared for in your relationship?  Are you able to provide those things, and do you say what you need too?   How do we deal with hurting those we care about? Do we acknowledge the mistakes and take accountability? This may mean apologizing and working to change our behaviors and actions.  Repeatedly sabotaging the relationship and hurting the other person can mean we are not ready to commit to a relationship, we are with the wrong person, or possibly stuck in a  destructive pattern of behaviors.  Individual and couples counseling can be helpful to determine how past relationships and upbringing affect us and influence our choices and behaviors in our current relationships.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help us identify how our thoughts affect our feelings and determine our actions.  Skill building with CBT can improve our relationships as well by learning to communicate, be there for each other, and manage our moods. Reaching out for help is a step in the right direction.  Working with an experienced, knowledgeable Counselor can you give you the safe space you need to have an objective person hear you out and work with you to develop the skills you need to form healthy relationships.  Wishing you all the best on your journey to health and wellness.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/10/2022

Why am I scared of intimacy?

Hi Lisa.  Thanks for reaching out.  Intimacy in all types of relationships can be intimidating and cause anxiety. There is a stressful, real component to this fear.  The more we are anxious and stressed about being close to others, the more we can become fearful.  Intimacy is needed to form social, emotional, spiritual, familial, and romantic relationships.  Opening up to others makes us vulnerable, which can be scary.  This can cause anxiety and stress, affecting our emotional and physical health.   You mentioned you do feel you need someone and that you feel lonely when hanging out with your roommates.  Recognizing fear of intimacy and the effects it is having is the first step to resolving this.  Making little changes and taking small steps forward can be helpful in this situation.  Try to talk to someone new once or twice a week.  Speak to the person serving you coffee or the waitress at lunch.  Talk to someone about the weather.   Discuss with a coworker or acquaintance the most recent movie you watched or your favorite holiday movie.  This will aid with building confidence and help with opening up to others.   Pursue activities and hobbies you enjoy.  When we participate in activities we enjoy, we are more likely to relax and meet others we have things in common with.   Show yourself some grace.  Try not to be so hard on yourself.  And know you are not alone in feeling this way.  Reaching out for support is a great way to start handling this issue.   Through therapy we can gain better understanding where fear of intimacy stems from.  Negative experiences, past trauma and attachment issues can all contribute to avoidance of getting close to others. Once we uncover the root cause, we can address these concerns. Many clients find Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps us process and rethink our approach and how we deal with our innermost thoughts and feelings.  We teach healthy boundaries, effective communication skills, anxiety reduction, how to reframe negative thoughts into positive thinking.  By learning these coping strategies and techniques, we improve our relationships within ourselves and with those around us.   
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/07/2022

How can I express my feelings and thoughts without feeling guilty or sad about it?

Hello, Great to meet you and this is a question that would be great to work through in therapy, there's a lot going on in this question and I can imagine some of the challenges you may be facing. There is not a simple solution in reality and some strategies may work and others may not, it's worth remembering to keep trying to maintain and apply consistent boundaries.  We all go through periods where we need different things in our life's journey, and when we need different things from our healing process and firstly this is really normal, you don't have to rush. Take some time to consider what you want and what you need. It's important to remember some social contact is vital to resilience and recovery also.  I hear you say you're unsure of how to state this, and I appreciate this can be a difficult part of all of our journey especially when we don't want to cause any offense, however this unclear communication can cause more issues than setting out a clear boundary.  If you have not been setting clear boundaries in the past this can be really difficult to start with, if you take some time to consider what you are comfortable with and for how long where and when, this may be a starting point for your journey. Taking time to consider which boundaries are a priority to you and start practicing these it becomes easier over time. When considering boundaries, be confident in knowing what you want to start with. This helps and supports you to confidently create these.  Planning can also be really important in creating boundaries, when and where are these issues going to come up and can you meet for a time limited period, practice some phrases like, 'I only have 30 minutes I have some tasks to complete/work to do/appointment'.  It can be really helpful to be honest in your communication as well, if you are struggling with a certain boundary or issue it may be worth taking some time to consider why this is a problem and what you want from the person to resolve the issue or boundary.  It's always worth remembering you are in control of the information you communicate with whoever you chose to, again it may be helpful to consider some phrases that you wish to remember for when these issues come up. An example may be, 'I appreciate you asking that question, I really value my personal space at the moment and would prefer to talk about something else'.  I hope this helps, each situation is different and I hope this response helps to some degree.  Take good care Neil
(Diploma, in, therapeutic, counselling)
Answered on 12/05/2022

I lost trust in my partner and it gives me a constant anxiety - is there a healthy way to change this?

Bonnie, thank you for reaching out and asking for guidance.  I see that your byline states that you "lost trust" in your partner which is giving you constant anxiety and you're looking for a healthy way to address this.  A small disclaimer before I go into my response: my response will be a bit on the general side seeing that the information you provided wasn't specific.  However, it is my hope that the questions and statements I pose will be a jumping off point to breaking the cycle you referenced above. First off, I want to touch upon your last sentence where you stated that you "can't stop having anxiety around this situation without having black and white evidence that he has been fully honest"...have you attempted to speak to your partner about why his actions have broken your trust?  I know it seems things would be easier if it were so clear cut black or white, but unfortunately life is not like that.  There are many nuances to situations where it is not as simple as black or white.  This is called absolute thinking, which can skew our thought processes leading to actions that we may not be proud of.  And in your case, it was going through his phone.  The reason why I ask if you have attempted to talk to him about this is so you can explain to him where you're coming from, while also giving him the opportunity to explain his side of things.  Just how you alluded to your insecurities, it is very possible that your partner has insecurities of his own, which were exacerbating his?   Using strategies to help with resolving this conflict will in turn help break this cycle.  Not knowing your interactions at the moment, it may be best to establish rules.  You can first start off by saying that you want to speak with him about what happened and that you want to have a productive conversation about how to move forward.  The first rule that I would put in place is that when each of you are speaking, the other person is quiet.  Doing this will help in making sure that you are hearing the other person.  Another rule to institute is "no blaming" language.  Meaning that when it is your turn to speak, you talk solely about how you feel and not pointing blame at the other.  Attached is a worksheet that does a good job explaining this in further detail - https://therapistaid.com/therapy-article/fair-fighting-rules-article  Something for you to think about prior to going into this conversation is what do you think your partner will need to do to earn your trust back?  Thinking about this ahead of time will also help in guiding the dialogue. Moving away from this conversation for a moment - how do you currently cope when you are feeling anxious?  Is there anything you do that helps you feel better, if even in the moment? Are you able to reach out to a friend?  Is there a certain type of activity you enjoy doing? While you didn't go into detail about what the situation was that led to your partner breaking your trust, it does sound like you could benefit from talking to a licensed professional who can help you unpack this more.  If this particular instance opened up old wounds that maybe never healed?  I do think that the suggestions I made above could be a good start for you to change this in a healthy way.  Good luck and happy holidays. 
(LMHC, LPC)
Answered on 11/28/2022

Should I ask my coworker out on a date?

Go for what aligns with your values.  Right off the bat, I love this question for a few reasons. You are honest here. You can admit shortcomings in life. You see someone you like, admit that it might not work, and you also admit that you believe you should go for it.  Fear is a funny thing, right? Fear says you shouldn't do something because of this or that. Fear here says that you don't want to impede on her. You don't want to embarrass or upset her. Because this is a concern of yours, I can tell you, you won't have the effect you fear, mostly because you genuinely care about her. You admit that she could end up with someone else. Here's the kicker: You admit that you can at least say you tried even if she does not want to be with you.  My title was, "go with what aligns with your values" because when we make decisions based on attributes we want to see in ourselves and others, we cannot fail. We cannot truly fail if we follow-through on our authentic self, which here is to ask her out, despite all the fears. Remember this too, your mind secretes thoughts like the pancreas secretes bile. Thoughts are what your mind does, just allow them to exist and stop trying to challenge or deny or fix these thoughts. Let old thoughts that get your attention pass by like leaves on a stream. You value being authentic and putting yourself in situations with others that you truly like and believe they like and could be good for you and you for them. You care about other people and think about them, which aligns with your values because you do these things. If you did not care about people, you would not consider these ideas.  If you do not ask, you will regret it. Think about you in five years. If you find some time machine and come back from five years in the future, what would you then tell you today? I highly doubt the older/wiser version of ourselves would ever come back to us today and say, "oh no, you shouldn't try; you should just put your nose down and admit defeat." Here's the bigger picture. Even if she says no. Even if she laughs, and says she feels uncomfortable (which is her issue and not yours), even if it ends horribly, you did something you can keep doing to start new habits.  How many times do people miss out on life because of stagnant beliefs or fears and don't even try to take a chance? People lay on their deathbeds and think about what could have been if only they had done the uncomfortable and challenging thing for a reward they really wanted. You, sir have the future you's possibility in your hand today. It is a lot of responsibility, but this power has been granted to you. You need to do with the power as a responsible caregiver would do, and that is to act on the opportunity given. Ask her out, stand there and see what she does. Don't get lost in your head, be present. Focus on the bottoms of your feet and stay grounded in all the awkwardness that is the moment. If she indicates discomfort, that is her issue and not yours to remedy. You could end up making an impact on her life as well, all the while living for what you care about. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 11/28/2022

So I’ve been feeling lonely and I wish I can fix it but i don’t know how?

Daniel, it seems like you've gone through a difficult/complicated breakup. There are probably details you could go through in a therapy session that would help you understand exactly why your situation is so painful. I know the question entails that you want to talk about loneliness and why this life is this way. Still, I think it is this way because of what happened to us and how it triggered something inside us, revealing a vulnerability we may never have known existed.  You moved into a house, still feel lonely, nobody to talk to. These are all stressors that someone who loses an identity deals with. When we are with someone, especially someone we have plans to commit to or be with long term, we form an identity of ourselves with that person. We bond. It's like we forget who we were before this person; instead, we are this new person now. However, when that person decides not to be with us anymore, it takes away that version of us with her. We become lost because we don't fully know who we are anymore. Old things we did, we did with her, and now are often painful because they are no longer what this new, single version wants to do.  Loneliness comes from a sense of feeling alone. The number of people, the attention, and the external validation does not cure loneliness. Often our minds will revert to childhood, where we received validation and recognition for doing things like chores, making money, or doing good things. As adults, we realize that this is no longer effective. We live our life, learn something, reform our identity, lose that identity, and in that grieving/seeking period, we lose interest in things we once loved, and then we are left to figure out who we are now in the midst of it all. Loneliness is not permanent but will pass as you get to know yourself more, live according to what you determine matters in life, and start to place yourself in environments where you will find people you connect with on that intimate level.  Remember that the internet has sort of ruined what would have been proximity. In the past, people would start relationships with people they saw at their grocery store, their bar, and their gym; now, the internet offers what appears to be endless possibilities for companionship. This awareness makes us feel even worse if we are alone or struggling with finding a partner.  The most significant thing you can do right now is to start to see yourself as someone who others would want to see. I don't mean say a few nice things and walk off, but ponder what you think about yourself and understand that you are suitable for people; they need you and your presence. Once you believe you are good for others, you will not hesitate to bring yourself into their lives. Seeing yourself as the person people want in their life does not mean people please or put up a front, but care for others, listen, open up, and confess. Honest and authentic people are the kinds of people, people gravitate towards. You can, too, if you discover what you want out of life and then work in some small way every day towards being around those people. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 11/24/2022

I am questioning my marriage.

Intimacy can mean very different things to many people. It may help for you two to have a sit-down and discuss some of the following things. I hear you say that he is very kind, nice, and cares about you and your family. Possibly asking your husband for you two to have a date night. That can be done at the home (something nice and quiet) or a day/night out on the town. During this time get to know one another again and find out who you two are today as husband and wife and as caretakers to your family. This time together will begin to bring you and your husband closer on a more intimate level with hopes of leading to sex eventually. However, you both would benefit from being on the same page with what the expectations are. Also, be able to explain to him that not talking is not the most effective means of communication for you.  What does intimacy mean to both of you? How can you all work towards getting what you both need in the relationship? What are other areas of strength in your marriage? Contemplating divorce-So there are many reasons marriages end and having a healthy sex life is one of them. You should be able to go to your husband and communicate with him the need for this particular area to be addressed in your life in a relationship. It’s not a good feeling to feel like you are the one who is causing issues in your relationship. From what I have read so far, it sounds as if you and your husband may not communicate as effectively as you both desire. For things to change, effective communication is going to have to be the key and foundation of making things better. If you both have time, pick a day that you can have a nice discussion with your husband. You both want to be able to have input on what that discussion will entail and what the outcome.  Once you both establish effective expectations and boundaries your relationship will begin to flourish. 
Answered on 11/18/2022

How do I open myself up for a fulfilled single life?

Hi Tori! Thank you for reaching out and asking this valuable question on the topic of making improvements in your relationships. Welcome to the BetterHelp platform! I can tell that you have been looking for ideas on how to prepare for your next relationship as well as improve and build upon your current friendships. What are some of your relationship goals? I hope that my response to your question will assist you in making changes in your current and future relationships. Sometimes advice and guidance is all we need in order to take the next steps! I can tell that you have been feeling motivated for change based on what you had written in your question. It is a really good sign that you have been reaching out for support. Who else is in your support system? What institutions would you consider to be supportive for you? Are you familiar with the cycle of change? What are some things that you can realistically do as you prepare for change? Here is a link to more information on the cycle of change: https://ououd.casn.ca/media/documents/the-cycle-of-change.pdf Also, here is a link to the circle of support work sheet in which you can continue to identify your natural supports: https://www.citn.org.uk/resources/circle-of-support/ In addition to reaching out for support and preparing to make change, I can see that you are trying to focus on your needs. Have you taken some time to focus on your feelings, as well? First and foremost, I recommend that you take some time to focus on recognizing your feelings and assessing how your emotions may have changed over time. I will share with you the link to the feelings wheel in order for you to practice feeling identification strategies: https://ytp.uoregon.edu/sites/ytp2.uoregon.edu/files/Feelings%20Wheel%20in%20PDF.pdf It appears that you have already begun the process of setting some really good goals for yourself! I realize that you would like to learn how to live a fulfilling, single life. That sounds really great! What are some of the things that would make life fulfilling for you? Perhaps you can make a list of your hobbies, talents and interests in order to have a better understanding on how to answer this question. What are some of your personality traits that you would consider to be your greatest strengths? Take some time to assess your own personal favorite qualities that you recognize within yourself. In addition, you mentioned in your question that you had moved to London for love. It sounds like that plan did not work out in the way that you initially expected it to. I realize that this experience could come with some feelings of disappointment or perhaps even feelings of devastation. Those are just some of my first thoughts. I am wondering if you are familiar with the four types of Greek love- stergo, phileo, agape and eros. I understand that you had moved to London searching for love and did not find the type of love you had anticipated. Perhaps you can still find love but maybe a love that comes in a different form!Below is the link to an article that explains the four types of Greek love for your review: https://annointing.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/love-types.pdf On another note, I understand that you were able to recognize some of warning signs of codependency in your last relationship. Have you noticed codependency signs in your past relationships, as well? Take some time to clarify some of the signs of codependency. I would like to encourage you to look into more information on the topic of codependency. Below are the titles of two books that you could read in order to explore more on this topic: "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie "Understanding and Treating Co dependnce" by James A. Kitchens Also, check out this web link for a quick synopsis about understanding co dependency: https://www.mhankyswoh.org/Uploads/files/pdfs/CoDependency-UnderstandTreat_20130813.pdf In responding to your question, I would be interested in hearing more about what you have been doing to live a fulfilling life so far. What can you do to take action in order to live a more fulfilling life? Would you be able to envision yourself feeling fulfilled in other ways? I recommend that you try to visualize your life feeling fulfilled. Would you be willing to prioritize yourself over other people? It sounds like you could benefit from self care skills. Essentially, from my perspective, self care skills mean practicing any activity that brings you joy and fosters a sense of self love. It is okay to be selfish. Not in a bad, rude and "no one matters but me" way but rather in an "I love you" (yourself) type of way! I hope that you can carve out twenty minutes or so in your day to practice self care. Here is a link to some more ideas for self care skills: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c154cf9372b964a03cbccdb/t/5c488d65352f534aa63aa58a/1548258661324/100+Coping+Skills.pdf I recommend that you begin the process of journaling or creating art on a regular basis. Would you be willing to participate in creative writing or therapeutic drawing interventions? You could keep a daily journal as a means to record and keep track of your thoughts and feelings. At this time, I would like to recommend that you you begin attending individual counseling sessions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It sounds like you could find meeting with a therapist one on one will be helpful for you overall. In individual therapy, you can have the chance to address your concerns with attachment. Ask your therapist about the attachment theory! You may also want to consider attending a group therapy session or a groupinar. The group therapy process has very unique benefits that you may find to be helpful for you! Lastly, I want to thank you again for your time asking this important question. Also, I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey on BetterHelp. I hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Take good care and have a nice day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/17/2022

I have been so anxious lately adjusting to our empty nest and I don't really know how to handle it.

Rae, I am sorry to hear of your struggles. It sounds like there may be some "empty nest syndrome" which is not a clinical diagnosis but a normal part of parenting and the adult process. This requires adaptation among the ones that remain at home as well as the relationships with the children that have left the home. Your family system has changed significantly. Some feelings associated with this can be sadness, irritability, resentment, anxiety, loneliness and guilt. The changes associated result in new role definitions within the family that can cause discord and tension, especially among the married parents at home. Your roles are redefined from parents to a couple which is understandably difficult after being defined as "parents" for so many years. Now your focus shifts. This is a temporary shift.  It is normal to experience a feeling of loss and grief through these transitions. It can also be a time to build on a relationship with your spouse that has likely not been seen as "couplehood" for many years. What you are experiencing is common. You may find support in other parents that have experienced the same or are going through what you are currently. Reaching out to others can often relieve a sense of isolation and feeling like we are alone in our struggles. It can be very validating in knowing others are also having the same issues. There is comfort in knowing we are "not alone". If what you are experiencing persists you may want to consider speaking with a professional counselor independently or with your spouse, depending on their willingness. This can be a time to redefine who you are individually and as a couple and to process the growth and experiences you have had for the past years of parenting. Life is ever changing and with out change "nothing changes". This is a time of acceptance of the changes that have come into your life. Acceptance and awareness are key. Acknlowledge how you feel and understand why you are feeling this way. Find ways to support yourself, your spouse and your child through these transitions.  Seek positive coping mechanisms. To maintain your relationship seek ways to do activities together yet support your differences and acknowledge the adults you have become to be. "Empty nest" can be a new beginning and not seen as an end. 
Answered on 11/16/2022

How do I commit myself in to a relationship?

Hello Lisa, Thank you for reaching out for your question. I will try my best to answer this as best as possible on the limited information.First of all, it is very hard to find good men these days.  Society has taken a modern turn and communication and steps to build a relationship don't seem to really exist.  People are wanting to "rush order" dating and relationships and they usually end up with someone who has a personality disorder or co-dependency issues, especially on a dating application where that platform is really attractive for someone who quickly wants their ego fed.With that said, if you are wanting to find someone of quality, I strongly recommend that you do things that you do and love and then someone who is also interested in the same things will find you there. For example, if you love to kayak, play tennis, etc. then gravitate to those type of activities.  In addition, volunteering for community service especially during the holidays is a nice way to help out.Lastly, when you do meet someone, the key is to take your time.  Take one step at a time and really get to know someone instead of rushing in a physical relationship.  This way, you can study their personality, see if they are a good fit and you have things in common, and develop a sense of trust.  It takes time to build trust and most people rush into things and then end up getting hurt.  It also might be good for you to seek professional counseling with a licensed therapist to see if you keep gravitating towards the same type of toxic guy. Perhaps, there is a pattern where you are drawn to more toxic men and this is why you continue to get hurt.  A licensed therapist can help you under why you are drawn to certain men and help you shift out of old patterns and perhaps help your "picker" find more trustworthy fellas.Hope this helps and I wish you the best on your journey of love.  Remember, do things that you love, learn to love yourself, and in return... you will attract love to you.
Answered on 11/15/2022