Intimacy Answers

How much is each therapy session and would these sessions take place virtually?

Hi Shez Thank you for reaching out. Each session typically lasts 45 mins. We meet virtually, video, phone, and or chat sessions these are in real-time. We can also communicate in messages, daily if you would wish. I like to start therapy sessions slow, I like to develop a therapeutic relationship, by getting to know and learning about what you have been through in your own time. That way you can feel that therapy is a safe place for you to talk about those bad experiences that have changed your life. I use the example that therapy is like your car. I am not going to drive this car for you, I am not going to stop, or start for you. What I am going to do is sit in the front seat with you. I am going to hold the road map, which is your goals and the things you want to accomplish, and support you through that. If you go off course, I am going to ask why and do you want to change things and we would adjust as you need to do so. I would want to talk about trust, how you feel trust should work. How trust is bulit for you and what you need in order to feel secure in trusting anyone.  We would talk about building your confidence and what that would look like. Its important to you to feel like you can be comfortable. Is the sensitivity related to everyone or family or? I think we start determining where these feelings have started? Then learn how to stay present in the moment and not be drawn back into the pain you feel on a regular basis. We start with something called  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that we work to stop the feelings that beings these unhappy thoughts and then change the action.   The action of turning negative feelings into positive feelings.   Once we can change the negative feelings we can work on increasing that trust and building that confidence you need to feel love, feel happiness and not feel like you have to pretend to be happy when you are not.
(LCMHCS, CCS, MAC, ;, LCAS, CCMC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I deal with sexual guilt?

You raise a great question. What is guilt in your mind? What is your experience of it? Questions to ask...Are my decisions to have sex consistent with my values and life priorities? Is sex a choice or a need? What is the function of sex in your life? When you answer these questions with curiosity, not judgment, you will have a better grasp of the issue as it relates to you. As you process, this question remember you are a woman of value!  What is guilt? Wikipedia says it is feeling responsible or regretful for a perceived offense, real or imaginary. Can be part of the grief reaction. Usually is experienced if your actions are not consistent with your personal values. COMMON CAUSES Guilt can be normal and is only an indicator of underlying disease when feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and interfere with daily living. Otherwise, it is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. Once you grasp the meaning of guilt you can answer the other questions and determine is sex as you experience it,  a choice or a need. Let's explore the need as a form of avoidance of other issues or of control. Many men and women who suffer from sexual trauma commit to never being in a situation they they are not in control. Is this you? Does the belief you need to be in control feel true to you?  Is your sexual expression a need? An obsession with sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors that may cause distress or that negatively affects health, job, or relationships. This is a form of dependence and is a function of something else and a form of bondage.  What is the function of your sexual expression? Adventure....... anxiety reduction........control?  Each of your answers indicates of different course of action. I encourage you to talk to a counselor to address your responses unless the function of your sexal expression is adventure........ then as long as you are taking precautions enjoy and realize you are not doing anything wrong. You can work on changing your beliefs that create the feelinbgs of guilt.  You matter and how you value yourself and the live you live,  is the greatest priority in maximizing your potential.  In each action you take and decision you make, once you make a decision the decision makes you. This is why you have to follow the values you desire to live by. Sex can be an integral part of a meaningful relationship or more for fun or sport. What does it mean to you? What is it's function? Adventure? Avoidance? 
(LISW, LCSW, LICDC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I tell my husband what I’ve done and how do I deal with my overwhelming emotions?

Hi!  Thank you for reaching out and giving a detailed account of what's currently going on for you.  It sounds like you have been going through a lot and need an outlet to process all of your complex emotions you're experiencing.   I think the first place to focus on is starting to unpack those emotions you're feeling around shame, guilt, self-loathing, loneliness, anger and emptiness.  And what I mean by that is how can you separate the best you can, the feelings around the loss of friendship from that around navigating your feelings as it pertains to your husband.  A question to ask yourself is - how are you coping with all of this?  Do you find that the ways you cope are more positive or negative?  Your statement around having no clue in how to come to terms with what a horrible person you are is a heavy thing to say.  It appears that your actions are a cumulation of many factors, ultimately leading you in trying to get your needs met.  As much as our brain wants to label our actions as either all good or all bad, there is so much grey area for us to sift through.  I know it's hard to hear right now, but you were not in this alone and by putting all the blame on yourself for causing your friend and her family pain will just continue to eat away at you.  We are all human and we sometimes make ill-advised decisions, but that also doesn't soley define who we are.  That doesn't make us less worthy of feeling loved or getting our needs met.   I do understand that having the conversation with your husband is top of mind and can be very scary since there is no way of knowing how he will react or what the outcome will be, especially since it does sound like your husband has issues with expressing his anger.  In knowing this, one of the things to think about is how you want to deliver your message.  I know it will be one of the most challenging conversations to have, but I also hear how much this is eating at you.  Some things to think about - How can you set the stage for the most optimal response?  Would he be open to couples counseling and having an impartial ear guide the conversation?  In knowing that he sometimes breaks things in anger, maybe also having a safety plan of calling 911 if things get out of hand and you feel in danger.  I know you don't want to think about that, but we want to make sure that you remain safe (while this is the worst case scenario, I do think it's important to discuss).  Ultimately, you are grieving the loss of your friends as well as the potential loss of your marriage and I think the question to keep going back to is this - how can you forgive yourself?  Finding forgiveness within yourself will be the first step in this healing journey for you. 
(LMHC, LPC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I trust someone again after being hurt over and over again ?

I hear you, and I am sorry that trust is something you have been dealing with for a while in your relationship. First, I would like to address that trust is a fundamental aspect of human experiences. Trust is not a black or white concept; it is a spectrum. Certain life events can influence an individual's capacity for trust. Before I mention the specific story you reported, I would also like to state that trust might be a sign of childhood experiences or past betrayals or disappointments. Since you both had an experience of cheating, each of you might be more vulnerable to trust each other back. This is very normal. However, this needs to be discussed with both of you. There are many reasons that your husband still communicates with the person. Also, there are many reasons that you decided to stop cheating on him and stay in this relationship. However, It appears that there is a boundary issue here. Both of you have a right to discuss either you want to be monogamous in this relationship or not. Both of you have a right to have a different opinion about it. However, both of you have to be comfortable with each other's decisions or opinions. Communication is the key here. To answer your question and to prioritize what needs to be discussed first, I believe that you both need to set boundaries and express what you believe at this moment about each other's behavior. You both might have various thoughts and feelings about each other's behavior. That needs to be explored. You have every right to let him know that you are putting more effort into making this relationship work if this is what you believe. It is also essential to learn what he thinks and where he is standing in this relationship. I believe couple's therapy definitely will be helpful to address what is crucial right now for both of you. In the session, hopefully, you both will feel safe enough to express your thoughts. There are more to explore, but I think this statement is a brief answer to your question. How does it sound? 
(MA, LCPC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Is it possible to want to die everytime you think about going out in public?

Dear PP,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially on how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions in your relationship. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress / depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized to it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid / fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like suffering, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace, and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompanies a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight / avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings and thoughts, while continue to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce their intensity.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I handle my partners emotions while taking care of myself?

Dear Sam,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand the difficulties you and your partner are going through, especially on how they are much controlled by their emotions.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How to forgive someone even though what they did still hurts?

Hello Lex,  I am sorry that you are experiencing such hurt. It seems that what your boyfriend said to you when he was drunk really upset you. I realize that what he said to you made you feel insecure and lingers in your mind. What is even more upsetting is that he does not remember however you do.  Why is it so hard to forgive? Forgiveness is a subtle notion: it is sometimes confused with other notions, but different in their effects. To apologize, pardon, forget or deny that an unfortunate event has happened do not define forgiveness. Each of these steps can prevent forgiveness or lead to mock forgiveness. Forgiveness, in this case, would be the act of overcoming resentment towards your boyfriend, not by denying your right to that resentment, but by striving to view him with kindness, compassion, and even love, knowing that through his attitude, he waived his right to such behavior. There are several important points to forgiveness which defines it. You have been hurt deeply, hence your resentment; you have a moral right to your resentment. When will you forgive? Forgiveness will happen when a sufficient bond of empathy has been restored between him and you. If your boyfriend is able to explain his side, apologize, or simply ask for forgiveness from you, it will restore the balance in your relationship.   You did not mention if you are religious. Many people forgive because they were raised to do so in their faith. They think that it is good to forgive, and that is why they forgive. Some people forgive due to their pragmatism. They forgive in certain cases to appease or fix a troubled intimate relationship, to keep the loved one: in this case, forgiveness is constrained; a variant of this forgiveness is that which one reluctantly grants to someone in order to be able to continue a relationship. There are times when other people forgive so that they can hold it against the offender. “You have hurt me in the past and I have forgiven you but I expect you to behave this way from now on.” It is a way for the person offended to regain control over the dynamic in the relationship. This type of forgiveness does not really offer either party a way to heal nor does it allow to have closure. At this point, let’s talk about the benefits of forgiving for you. Will you be able to forgive your boyfriend even though he does not remember what he said while he was under the influence of alcohol? Also, does he even take responsibility over what he said when he doesn’t even remember saying it? Does it make a difference to you that he does not remember what he said or are hurt just the same? Can you forgive him when he is expressing no remorse or desire to be forgiven? There has been many studies that demonstrate the benefits of forgiving because they allow the person who was offended to put their mind at ease. Another great consequence of forgiving is a noted improvement in physical well-being. You will probably find it easier to forgive and move past this situation if your boyfriend was to own what he said and present you with an apology. It might be hard for you to accept the apology if you don’t find that he is being sincere. What makes your situation complicated is that he has no recollection of saying that his ex is his soulmate.  He might be telling you the truth about not remembering saying it. It might have been his subconscious talking and he does not even realize that. The real question is that what he said is fueling your insecurities and making you feel uncertain that he cares about you. Your other choice is not to forgive which will lead you to feel resentful. It will strain your relationship with your boyfriend and cause you to feel an emotional distance. I am sure that you don’t want that to happen so not forgiving is not a viable option.  The final option which is one that you probably don’t want either is to break up. It is sometimes easier to walk away than stay in a situation that causes one pain. I tend to think that it is the least therapeutic way of dealing with a situation such as yours because whether you are with him or not, the impact of the situation will still be present. Also, it will delay your ability to process your feelings. One of the reasons to cut ties with someone is to restore your self-esteem. What your boyfriend said while he was drunk impacted you. You have been spending time going over what he said and trying to fully comprehend it.  Chances are that your boyfriend was just rambling while in a drunken stupor. People say all kinds of things when they are under the influence and not all of it is true. There is a notion in our society that alcohol is a truth serum but it isn’t. Alcohol is a great inhibitor and a depressant. People often say and do things while under the influence that they would never in a million years do while sober. It does not mean that they are truly being themselves but rather than with the absence of self-control, they act wildly and foolishly. I truly believe that you ought to forgive your boyfriend because he didn’t know what he was saying. You should be vulnerable with him and tell him how it made you feel. You could ask him to reassure you. I also want to point out that you are his current partner and not his ex. His ex is just that, an ex! Be resentful is only going to harm you, your relationship and your boyfriend. You have more to gain from sincerely forgiving than being upset. It will allow you to take the charge out of this negative experience and empower you to grow closer and stronger in your relationship.  
Answered on 10/28/2021

Why am I never happy with relationships? Am I broken?

Hello, I am sorry to hear regarding your childhood and what you and your mother had to go through. You are wondering why you feel bored or exhausted early into every romantic relationship for the past 3 years?   The answer to this question can vary. It will be beneficial to process this with a counselor that can ask questions regarding the family background you provided but other questions concerning past relationship history or significant stress history in general. There are many schools of thoughts regarding human behavior. One of the most widely used modalities to teach individuals why they do what they do is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This modality teaches that there is a direct link between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Depending on the thought an individual initially has about a situation: "This relationship is wearing me out, maybe I am not meant to have a healthy relationship.." then leads to emotions: (powerless, hopeless, defeated) which then leads to behaviors: Become emotionally distant, quits communication, acts out the self-fulfilling prophecy of the thought. A good therapist can help you navigate which thoughts you are having that lead to your feelings and behaviors and help you learn how to examine those thoughts and replace them with more RATIONAL or REALISTIC thoughts. Equally important is to learn about your CORE BELIEFS. These are deeply held truths about the world everyone has that influence their thoughts, (which then influence emotions and behaviors) It is critical to examine these as well, as core beliefs are learned from childhood or from traumatic experiences as adults and serve as the lens we see the world.   The good news is that even though negative core beliefs (It's better for me to be alone, I'm not good at relationships, I'm not loveable etc.) are rigid and fixed, they can be changed with enough processing and challenge. I wish you courage in your journey as you seek to go deeper the drivers behind your beliefs about yourself and how you are in relationships. Being in a relationship is one of the most special things and brings about much joy (and sometimes pain). I commend you in your pursuit of truth and healing. 
Answered on 10/28/2021

how to have control over my feelings

Dear Ellie,   Thank you for your message and I am sorry to hear what you have experienced in the past year in your relationships. Thank you for your courage in sharing with me your pain.   “If you are brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paul Coehlo   Closure is something everyone would like. We would like validation and understanding after a relationship has ended.   We can accept that someone doesn’t want to be with us. We can accept that the relationship has changed or that they want something else. What we can’t accept is our partner’s inability to communicate that fact effectively and tell us what went wrong.   Unfortunately, sometimes your partner does not have this same need, or they may have the same need but they’re better at hiding it and pretending they don’t. They would rather just push you, and their feelings, away.   In my experience, people can’t always be honest with you because they can’t be honest with themselves. It isn’t about you. We always want it to be about us and our flaws and failures, but it isn’t.   Many people don’t know how to deal with the emotions that come with a breakup, so they prefer to avoid their feelings altogether, and this is the most likely reason they won’t talk to you. It has nothing to do with you or the relationship or something you did wrong or that you weren’t enough.   I’ve dealt with trying to get closure a few times, and it’s awful. No one likes to be ignored, and no one likes to not get answers to their questions. But, what you have to learn is that any answer you get won’t change anything, and it may or may not be the truth anyway.   I can only control myself and my actions and how I deal with the ending of another relationship that I thought could mean something.   If people want to be in your life they make an effort. If they don’t, then you are better off without them.   If you are struggling with getting closure with an ex, ask yourself why you want to talk to them. Is it to get them back? Is it to get them to validate the relationship? Is it to try to get some type of reaction, or any type of reaction?    If you are making up reasons why you need to talk to them, then perhaps you need to get closure from yourself. If they won’t talk to you, reaching out will likely cause you more pain and frustration. So instead, I suggest the following:   1. Write a letter.   Write one every day if you need to. Don’t send it; just get the feelings out there. You can write them here if you would like. :)   2. Write out reasons why they may be avoiding you that have nothing to do with you.   We all create explanations in our heads as to why our ex won’t talk to us. We imagine they think bad things about us, they don’t want us, that we weren’t enough, or that everything was our fault. Thoughts in your head are just your interpretation of what happened, and they are usually incorrect.   What if what they are really thinking is this? Do you think they are going to tell you?   I’m afraid to be open and be hurt again. I don’t think I can give this person what they need. Being vulnerable is too scary. He/she is too good for me. My abandonment issues have triggered my unconscious need to be alone.   3. Unless this was your first love, remember that you loved before and you got over it.   You control whether you move on. And you can decide if you want to wallow in self-pity and misery, or pick yourself up off the floor and be the spectacular, amazing person you are and get out there and show yourself to the world.   4. Take your feelings and write them on little pieces of paper.   “I am hurt.” “I am angry.” “I am sad.” “I am devastated.” “I am heartbroken.” “I feel rejected.”   Get a fireproof bowl and fill it with some sand. Put all the little pieces of paper in the bowl and light them on fire. Watch the words burn and with them, let the feelings go.   5. Be alone.   Be still. Cry and be sad over the loss. Accept that what once was, is no longer, and what you thought would be will never be. If it’s meant to be in the future, it will find a way to work itself out. Maybe now is just not the time.   6. Live in abundance.   They are not the only person in the world. There are literally millions of single people in the world. If you had love before, you will have it again. Stop thinking that you’ll never find someone else so wonderful. If they were so wonderful they would still be with you. They aren’t. They’re gone.   What is it you are really hoping to hear? Do you think most people can admit their fears? Of course we all would like our partner to care enough to tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts.   There are a million reasons that relationships don’t work and tons of reasons why your ex won’t talk to you. Don’t take on their issues and make them your own. Realize that we all have insecurities, and not all of us can understand how they impact us.   I’m sure you would love for your ex to say, “You are truly amazing and wonderful, but I don’t think we are a match.” The reason most won’t say this is that they don’t want you to come back at them with all sorts of reasons why you are a match, so they’d rather avoid the topic altogether.   For whatever reason, your ex has chosen to cease all communication with you. The best thing you can do is take it as a sign from the universe that it’s time to move on, and that any person worthy of being your partner would never leave you in the lurch like that.   Remember this saying, “If not this, something better.” These words sound stupid and irritating when your relationship has just ended, but they are true for a reason.   We don’t’ always get what we want, but we get what we need. Change is inevitable. Change is good. If it was meant to be, it would have been, and if it is meant to be, it will be.   Unfortunately, life does not always go along with our pre-conceived notions of how things should be, and people aren’t always what we want and need them to be. Life isn’t always wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow on top.   Sometimes you get closure and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the lack of closure is the very lesson that you needed to learn. Maybe you needed to learn to validate yourself and accept yourself.   Consider seeing this person as a gift sent to you. They were brought to you as a reflection of yourself. Thank them for being a part of your journey and send them on their way in your mind.   Lastly, if you are waiting for your ex to give you closure, it might be time to dig deep inside and give it to yourself.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

how can I break this obsession?

Dear Lavieenrose,   Thank you for your message and I am sorry to hear about your break up. Thank you for your courage in sharing with me your pain.   “If you are brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paul Coehlo   Closure is something everyone would like. We would like validation and understanding after a relationship has ended.   We can accept that someone doesn’t want to be with us. We can accept that the relationship has changed or that they want something else. What we can’t accept is our partner’s inability to communicate that fact effectively and tell us what went wrong.   Unfortunately, sometimes your partner does not have this same need, or they may have the same need but they’re better at hiding it and pretending they don’t. They would rather just push you, and their feelings, away.   In my experience, people can’t always be honest with you because they can’t be honest with themselves. It isn’t about you. We always want it to be about us and our flaws and failures, but it isn’t.   Many people don’t know how to deal with the emotions that come with a breakup, so they prefer to avoid their feelings altogether, and this is the most likely reason they won’t talk to you. It has nothing to do with you or the relationship or something you did wrong or that you weren’t enough.   I’ve dealt with trying to get closure a few times, and it’s awful. No one likes to be ignored, and no one likes to not get answers to their questions. But, what you have to learn is that any answer you get won’t change anything, and it may or may not be the truth anyway.   I can only control myself and my actions and how I deal with the ending of another relationship that I thought could mean something.   If people want to be in your life they make an effort. If they don’t, then you are better off without them.   If you are struggling with getting closure with an ex, ask yourself why you want to talk to them. Is it to get them back? Is it to get them to validate the relationship? Is it to try to get some type of reaction, or any type of reaction?    If you are making up reasons why you need to talk to them, then perhaps you need to get closure from yourself. If they won’t talk to you, reaching out will likely cause you more pain and frustration. So instead, I suggest the following:   1. Write a letter.   Write one every day if you need to. Don’t send it; just get the feelings out there. You can write them here if you would like. :)   2. Write out reasons why they may be avoiding you that have nothing to do with you.   We all create explanations in our heads as to why our ex won’t talk to us. We imagine they think bad things about us, they don’t want us, that we weren’t enough, or that everything was our fault. Thoughts in your head are just your interpretation of what happened, and they are usually incorrect.   What if what they are really thinking is this? Do you think they are going to tell you?   I’m afraid to be open and be hurt again. I don’t think I can give this person what they need. Being vulnerable is too scary. He/she is too good for me. My abandonment issues have triggered my unconscious need to be alone.   3. Unless this was your first love, remember that you loved before and you got over it.   You control whether you move on. And you can decide if you want to wallow in self-pity and misery, or pick yourself up off the floor and be the spectacular, amazing person you are and get out there and show yourself to the world.   4. Take your feelings and write them on little pieces of paper.   “I am hurt.” “I am angry.” “I am sad.” “I am devastated.” “I am heartbroken.” “I feel rejected.”   Get a fireproof bowl and fill it with some sand. Put all the little pieces of paper in the bowl and light them on fire. Watch the words burn and with them, let the feelings go.   5. Be alone.   Be still. Cry and be sad over the loss. Accept that what once was, is no longer, and what you thought would be will never be. If it’s meant to be in the future, it will find a way to work itself out. Maybe now is just not the time.   6. Live in abundance.   They are not the only person in the world. There are literally millions of single people in the world. If you had love before, you will have it again. Stop thinking that you’ll never find someone else so wonderful. If they were so wonderful they would still be with you. They aren’t. They’re gone.   What is it you are really hoping to hear? Do you think most people can admit their fears? Of course we all would like our partner to care enough to tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts.   There are a million reasons that relationships don’t work and tons of reasons why your ex won’t talk to you. Don’t take on their issues and make them your own. Realize that we all have insecurities, and not all of us can understand how they impact us.   I’m sure you would love for your ex to say, “You are truly amazing and wonderful, but I don’t think we are a match.” The reason most won’t say this is that they don’t want you to come back at them with all sorts of reasons why you are a match, so they’d rather avoid the topic altogether.   For whatever reason, your ex has chosen to cease all communication with you. The best thing you can do is take it as a sign from the universe that it’s time to move on, and that any person worthy of being your partner would never leave you in the lurch like that.   Remember this saying, “If not this, something better.” These words sound stupid and irritating when your relationship has just ended, but they are true for a reason.   We don’t’ always get what we want, but we get what we need. Change is inevitable. Change is good. If it was meant to be, it would have been, and if it is meant to be, it will be.   Unfortunately, life does not always go along with our pre-conceived notions of how things should be, and people aren’t always what we want and need them to be. Life isn’t always wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow on top.   Sometimes you get closure and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the lack of closure is the very lesson that you needed to learn. Maybe you needed to learn to validate yourself and accept yourself.   Consider seeing this person as a gift sent to you. They were brought to you as a reflection of yourself. Thank them for being a part of your journey and send them on their way in your mind.   Lastly, if you are waiting for your ex to give you closure, it might be time to dig deep inside and give it to yourself.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Is it time to end the relationship or am I being impatient?

Hi there - thanks for reaching out. Dating and intimacy can be really complicated, especially in the beginning when you haven't really established a communication style/pattern and it's hard to have conversations about these things. My first question would be about how this man has made it to nearly 30 without any kind of physical intimacy with anyone. My guess is that the answer to that question is probably very complex. It may stem from his social awkwardness. Maybe he falls somewhere on the autism spectrum? Maybe he is someone who is more or less asexual (not interested in sex or intimacy with either gender). I think it would definitely be worth it for both of you to speak with someone but not necessarily a sex therapist to start. I think communication will help you if you choose to overcome this. I wonder why you assume it's because he's not that into you. Have you had an experience that may have damaged your self-esteem? If this is true, this is something that the two of you can work on together both separately and together. I think being unskilled when it comes to sex is something that can absolutely be remedied over time but if he is asexual, that may be irreparable. There are other ways to establish intimacy as well that aren't sexual. Ultimately it will come down to your decision to your final questions. If you think that this man has great potential to be a partner for you but something doesn't seem right related to sex, and you're both open to addressing it, I absolutely think you should stay with him and try to be patient. Think about your first experiences - if he is truly late to the game, you should remember how awkward they were and that things usually get better when you practice. If you think that he's incapable of being intimate or that maybe he's unable to connect with you and either of you is unwilling to put in some work to address it, I think your statement about not wanting to hurt him is very kind. With patience and love, these late bloomers really can turn into wonderful partners, especially if he has qualities that you're already attracted to. I hope if the two of you commit to the proceeding, that you're able to have a wonderful and healthy relationship.
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/28/2021

What should I do to prove to my girlfriend that she can trust me?

Hi, Chris: You have shown me by your question that you care deeply about your new friend and that you realize that the trauma of being raped by her uncle has led her to be triggered by touching or intimacy. You have made her feel safe enough with you to share this trauma experience as evidenced by her request that her father shares that information with you.     If you feel that you can follow her request to not be touched or be intimate until (or if )she ever feels she would like to hold hands, touch, or be intimate, then you might choose to continue the relationship with your respecting her clearly-stated boundaries. I would suggest the two of you set certain clear expectations, such as that you will not hold her hand or sit next to her unless she clearly states exactly what she wants: "I want you to sit next to me and hold my hand, but if I feel uncomfortable and need you to move away from me, you will do that without hesitation."    You might also want to discuss the possibility of helping her find counseling to help her deal with the trauma and offer to help her meet the counselor the first time.  (If you feel that you wanted to be there for her in this way.)    You might also discuss with her your willingness to learn how to be a supportive friend or partner, and your plan to perhaps seek counseling to help you understand how to help her feel safe.     A person who has experienced trauma can "freeze" and might not be able to state what they want at certain times means that you would need to not initiate anything without her clearly stating "with words" what she wants you to do or not do.    I would also want to know, going forward, what your and your friend's individual ages are and would want to ensure you know what the legal age of consent would be for the state in which you live.    I am happy to discuss any further questions or concerns you might have.    I appreciate your thoughtful question.    With warmest regards,    Beth Boyett, LICSW   
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can I connect with myself, wife and family again!! when the spark has left. It’s just a no love

An Emotional Disconnect This happens when couples begin to focus on the distractions of each other. Nothing good can come out of distractions if not properly handled. I begin the emotional connection as a counselor by getting the couple to think about the things that are attractive to each of them about the other. This is the list that they had of each other when they decided they wanted to be with each other and become a couple. This is the stuff that kept them focussed on each other during the time they dated each other. This is when they spoke each other's love language without taking the 5 Love Language Test (this is a great tool to help them begin to talk about what they need from each other). We don't focus on the distractions because they are already doing that without the help of a counselor. We can list distractions (if the list of distractions are longer than the list of attractions, Houston we have a problem, lol.), and that is to let them get it off their chest, but that does not become the focus any longer. The couple thinks the counselor has to hear what is wrong with their significant other, why? I don't know, but they want to make that list of distractions, so I always have them make the list and not let their spouse see it (as if they don't know, but the significant other will get really upset if they see it). We then work on how to communicate attractions and possibly bring up distractions if the same one keeps coming up and needs to be addressed. It is like strength-focused therapy. This can be time-consuming because they have become immune to the distractions and that just comes up like regurgitation when someone is sick, by the way, the marriage is sick and needs to be healed. It is not dead, it is still alive, we just have to begin the resuscitation process and giving them the medicine they need to begin to become heart-healthy. The marriage has become sick because they have lost focus on what is attractive about their significant other. The "magic moments" have left the scene, along with the dreams, and the dance and romance. Love has become just a word, and the actions that are supposed to be there are gone. They have looked at the negatives (distractions) so long, that is all they chose to see. Are the distractions there? Yes, and they have always been there, but they were not the central focus. The medicine that needs to be taken to make the attractions become more prevalent than the distractions are LOTS OF: telling each other "at the moment" what is so attractive about the other, along with I am sorry, I forgive you, I love you, I care too much (in place of "I don't care"), kisses, long hugs, and dates. "At the moment" means it can't be fake or "put on." The moments can be created by speaking your significant others' love language, using the right L.U.R.E. (listening, understanding, and replying with empathy), making life fun by doing something fun together, and just being there for each other in spite of the distraction. I can't tell all the secrets of couple counseling, you have to make an appointment, and let's get started with creating a spark so we can get a fire going with a few sessions. Martin Romero, MA, LPC, NCC
Answered on 10/28/2021

Why don’t I deserve the right guy

First, let's start by reframing your question.  It should read, "I haven't found the right guy that deserves me". You will find what you need and will get what you want. The biggest thing is that you are working on bettering yourself so when you better yourself, that doesn't always mean that everyone else is working on themselves. Therefore, their energy can be toxic and it is nothing you should settle for. I think the biggest question you need to ask yourself is do you love yourself? Are you able to recognize and appreciate the love you have around you or are you always comparing yourself to others? Because comparison is the death of joy. Can you just enjoy exploring who you are and the people that you meet? What type of guy are you hoping to attract? Also, why do you feel alone? Often we feel alone, undervalued, and not loved because we aren't happy with who we are. I would explore more about you, who are you outside of roles and titles. The other thing to consider is where are you looking to attract the person that you want to be with. Energy is important. If you are thinking and feeling negative then negative things will come. However, the more optimistic you are about your situation the better your outcomes. You have to change your mindset and have patience with yourself and with the universe. Your person is out there, you two just haven't discovered each other yet.  So please don't harbor any anger, jealously, or envy because that blocks people from seeing the true you. Lastly, wait! Sometimes we get so consumed in looking that we don't enjoy the time of just sitting still and loving ourselves.  The more you love you the better you will be able to tell the other person how to love you. Show yourself some grace! People come into our lives for reasons and seasons.  Start to outline what you have learned from these past relationships. Do you have a dating pattern? With each one what did you learn about yourself? Also, ask yourself why are you so uncomfortable with rejection? 
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I stand up to people who hurt me and still love myself?

This is such a great question and one that is so critical for social and relational development. I see that you are able to recognize when people aren't treating you in a way that fosters a healthy connection with them and that is actually the 1st step: recognizing when your expectations arent being met. That is so critical.  I wonder if the difficulty with "putting people in their place" is due to your thoughts about where they will go? Validation seeking typically is caused by a lack of confidence that the people that you care about will still care about you enough to stay in your life after a situation of potential conflict. That need to have a relationship is normal because we ALL need love and acceptance. It becomes harmful when that need puts us in the position to be harmed or otherwise disrespected. Healthy relationships are the ones that heal us and teach us, but that also respect and accept us; whether we completely agree or not.  I might also take a look at how you were raised. Only because, there can be many indicators there to show us how this need took its shape. What experiences did you have? How were you parented? What did those relationships look like? What were your early dating experiences? All of these answers can help shape the path that causes this thinking that you are experiencing now to take its current form.  Lastly, determine for yourself what you want and need in a friendship. What does that need to look like for you to feel healthy, supported, and cared for? It may be difficult to hold someone accountable to a standard that you haven't even created for yourself. Once you are able to determine what you need that to look like, you can lovingly redirect those in your life that have meaning so that you advocate for yourself but also preserve the integrity of those relationships that mean so much to you to begin with. I hope that makes sense.  For some of these things, I recommend actually speaking to a counselor in order to uncover and resolve any of the long-standing issues that may have come from your past. Then you will be much more equipped to work through the challenges that come with developing a healthy mindset to go into these relationships. Good luck to you moving forward. Take care! 😊
(MAMFT, LPC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Am I an unforgiving person?

Dear Moringa,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me the struggles you're experiencing in your relationship, resulting in not being able to trust.   Trust is a word we hear a lot. Recently I heard a story on the radio about investment fraud In which one of the victims of the fraud said, "I'll never trust anyone again." A strong statement about trust and one worth exploring.   What is trust anyway? The definitions of trust indicate that trust in another person imposes upon him a duty of care that asks him to be someone we can rely upon to do what we have asked of him. It seems straightforward to understand when we read it, but what happens when we examine the way trust works? Trust requires a relationship between two people, and all relationships are complex.   As we experience relationships, we come to realize that in a relationship, two people never fully know one another or can expect that the other person will do exactly what we want to have done. This is particularly true if we ourselves are not certain what we want and need or how to ask for it.   Where do we learn to know what to expect of our relationships? To know how to relate to another person we start with knowing the only person we can really know, ourselves. If we want to trust someone else, we begin with first learning who we are, what we want, and what we know about ourselves as we grow and change. We explore our strengths, boundaries, and limitations. Knowing who we are and what we are capable of, we learn how to trust ourselves.   One of the key approaches in our work here is to help folks who are sensitive to go from feeling vulnerable in their sensitivity to feeling powerful in their sensitivity. We may not be able to change how easily we feel sensitive about things due to our past experiences and traumas, however, we can continue to practice making choices that would empower ourselves even when we feel sensitive.   When we are able to create this "inner peace" within us and feel grounded, we will see ourselves being more capable to take care of others, because we have taken care of ourselves. We'll go through this process together. :)   One of the keys to making that transition is to start feeling safe & comfortable in your body and to create that safety for yourself wherever you go.   Situations that can trigger a feeling of unsafety   When we are sensitive, many situations can trigger a feeling of unsafety. For example, we can feel unsafe when:   We feel judged and/or rejected   Our finances are unstable   We feel a conflict between people (even when it’s not about us)   A situation reminds you of an earlier situation that felt unpleasant or unsafe   We get ‘triggered’ and our old wounds/hurts to come to the surface   We feel threatened by our surroundings/environments that remind us of our past   You can even run your life in a default setting of feeling ‘unsafe’ just because of all the energies you feel around you.   The result is that you leave your grounding and that you feel unstable, worried, uncomfortable, and out of balance. You move from your heart back into your head.   How can we feel safer?   Feeling safe is partly an inside job and partly an outside job. If you are in an environment that just isn’t right for you, where you don’t fit in and don’t feel a connection with people, it will be hard to feel safe and comfortable there.   This is not as easy as it looks.   In the context of our everyday activities and familiar circumstances, we may assume we have done this and already know ourselves. We may apply labels to ourselves and say we are “fierce” or “shy” or “lazy”, but labels do not invite knowing. They make categories. Do we actually know ourselves? Unfortunately not much may challenge our assumptions about ourselves until a major shift in our lives comes along. Then in the face of a significant change, we may understand we have not looked as closely as we might.   If the change is physical, we may begin to look deeply at our physical patterns of expression for the first time. We may have been unconscious of the ways in which our movement patterns, strengths, and weaknesses are unique. Now we ask: How do I get things done? What are my strengths and limitations? How do my strengths work with my unique movement patterns? How will I negotiate around my limitations?   If we don't know what to expect of ourselves, it can be very hard to trust the people helping us. After a sudden change in our physical abilities, we may feel deeply invaded. We all have boundaries - places where we feel vulnerable and want to keep ourselves separate from someone else. Where are our boundaries, and how do we protect ourselves if we cannot walk away? This is vital to discover at a time when we may need assistance in ways we have never needed it before and would prefer not to admit this need.   If we have a financial problem we may look at the decisions that led to the problem and judge ourselves harshly for making a mistake - not remembering that hindsight is 20/20. We may not realize that there were things we assumed and didn’t challenge or examine or learn that we had better learn now. Being critical of ourselves, we may be reluctant to look at our actions clearly and learn from them.   Building trust in ourselves requires us first to look closely at ourselves, being honest about what we discover. Then we must practice compassion for and acceptance of the person we are discovering ourselves to be. Being willing to know is not the same as harshly judging. Harsh judgments close us off to ourselves. Compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance open us up and allow us to learn.   If we know and accept our limitations without fighting that knowledge, we can learn to communicate what we know and don't know about what we can and cannot do. We come to understand that everybody has limitations. We see that we and our relationships are always transforming - never remaining static – giving us endless opportunities to keep on learning.   Building a relationship with another person is done a step at a time as we explore the ways we can interact and care for one another. When we know ourselves, we do not expect that simply because someone is an expert, she knows what is best for us. She will know many things we do not know and will have much to teach us, but she doesn’t know us. We are the only ones who can have that specialized knowledge. In a relationship, each person can regularly communicate what he knows to the other and both can learn where to trust the other. Perhaps that also goes with building relationships with ourselves and our inner being?   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can I earn my trust in people back?

Dear Eru,   Thank you for your message.   Like what you've said, what you have witnessed and experienced in the past most likely conditioned you to avoid all emotions and to disassociate from those situations so that you could function and survive, by doing so perhaps we have learned to suppress most if not all unpleasant emotions. We have done the opposite from what we should be doing, to understand and accept all emotions without judgment. Yet you're not the one to be blamed for that, your brain did what she thought was the right thing to do to keep you alive, by protecting you from these unpleasant emotions because she thought they would harm you.   After all, we are all humans, and sometimes I say to myself that since I'm a human I might as well learn to live as a human, which means not to force myself against my feelings, rather learn to float and accept all of the experiences as I go through in life.   According to recent psychological researches, one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance. This may seem surprising because the attempt to avoid negative emotions appears to be a reasonable thing. After all, negative emotions don't feel good, and they are often linked in our minds to negative events that we want to avoid or forget. Moreover, we are all familiar with the momentary relief that avoidance can provide. If the thought of speaking up upsets me, then I can make myself feel better by deciding not to speak. Indeed, avoidance is an effective solution in the short term. Long term, however, it becomes a bigger problem than whatever was being avoided in the first place. And life, if you're at all lucky, is a long-term proposition.   Avoiding a negative emotion buys you short-term gain at the price of long-term pain. When we avoid the short-term discomfort of negative emotion, we resemble the person who under stress decides to drink. It ‘works,' and the next day, when bad feelings come, he drinks again. So far so good, short-term. In the long run, however, that person will develop a bigger problem (addiction), in addition to the unresolved issues he had avoided by drinking.   However, there are several reasons why emotional avoidance could be harmful.   First, as we all know and experience, important goals, and pursuits in your life may inherently involve going through some challenging times and situations, and an unwillingness to ‘pay the toll' for the trip may narrow your life horizons needlessly. Over time, avoidance becomes a prison, because after a while you begin to feel the need to avoid many situations, people, experiences, and places that may bring the negative emotion to mind, stir it, or remind you of it. And the more you avoid, the weaker you feel, the more your coping skills diminish, and the less of life you can experience.   Meanwhile, attempts at avoiding negative emotions are usually futile. Telling yourself that a certain emotion is intolerable or dangerous traps you in constant vigilance regarding the very thing you're trying to avoid. You become hyper-vigilant about any possibility of this feeling arising. The fear of the impending negative experience becomes a negative experience in itself.   Plus, emotional avoidance often involves denying the truth--not a good foundation for a healthy life. It's like someone who looks out the window, sees snow falling, and then tells himself: "it can't be snowing." Clearly, it can, and it is. Granted, you may not like snow. But denying the fact that it's snowing is unlikely to solve the problems posed by snow.   Also, avoidance lengthens the period of anticipation, and anticipatory anxiety is usually a much more noxious condition than the actual situation being anticipated. This is mainly because when you anticipate, your imagination is unbounded by actual situational demands. You can go anywhere in your head regarding something that hasn't happened yet, and so you'll often go wild with negative, catastrophic scenarios. In contrast, once actually in the feared situation, your mind becomes bounded by the parameters of what is happening around you. And what is actually happening is usually less than spectacular or catastrophic. Real catastrophes are, after all, really rare. Reality generates many fewer extreme situations than the unbounded imagination.   Now, before we discuss a more healthy way to handle negative emotions, we need to understand the function of emotions in general. You can think of your emotions as a source of information. Your emotions tell you something about what's going on with you and around you. Emotions, however, are not the only source of information available to you. You also have your rational thoughts, your stored knowledge, and experience, your values, and your goals. Information provided by emotions needs to be appraised and evaluated in light of these other sources in order for you to decide how to behave in the situation.   Regardless of our emotions, we always have choices of action. Our decision will depend on synthesizing knowledge from many sources. For example, if you and your child are approached by a wild dog while on a nature hike, you may feel fear, and with it a desire to flee, but decide to stay and fight the dog to protect your child. In this case, your values ("I have a duty to protect my child") dictated that you ‘disobey' your fear. Emotions, when viewed as part of a spectrum of available sources of information, are a bit like the weather report. They are important to know, consider, and understand, but they are not necessarily the overriding factor in your life plans.    When the weather is bad (not to your liking), it doesn't mean you have to deny it, focus all your attention on it, or cancel your plans because of it. What you need to do is accept the weather and adjust your plans accordingly. If my goal today is to pick my son up from daycare at 4:00, and it's suddenly snowing, and I don't like snow, I will not waste my energy raging at the sky, nor will I leave my son stranded. I will put on a parka, leave home 15 minutes earlier and drive carefully to get him.   As a human being, we are going to have all kinds of emotions, just like there are all kinds of weather. These emotions are, more than anything else, just a part of being a living human being. By accepting your emotional life, we are affirming our full humanity. Emotional acceptance is thus a far better strategy than avoidance.   Emotional acceptance refers to the willingness and ability to accept and experience the negative emotion, to acknowledge and absorb it. Acceptance offers several advantages. First, by accepting your emotions, you are accepting the truth of your situation (it is snowing). This acceptance means that you don't have to spend your energy pushing the emotion away. Instead, once the emotion is acknowledged, you can then turn to pursue the behaviors that are aligned with your goals and values.   Second, when you accept the emotion, you are giving yourself a chance to learn about it, become familiar with it, become skilled in its management, and integrate it into your life. Avoidance doesn't teach you that, because you can't learn to do something by not doing it.   Third, acceptance is implicitly akin to saying, "This is not that bad." Which is the truth--negative emotions may not be fun, but they won't kill you; experiencing them as they are--annoying but not dangerous--is eventually much less of a drag than the ongoing (failing) attempt to avoid them.   Finally, when you accept a negative emotion, it tends to lose its destructive power. This is surprising and counterintuitive to many people, but if you think about it for a while, you will see the logic of this approach.    Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Unable to make a decision regarding my marriage

Relationships can be so very difficult when things like this happen. But things like this can happen if we have not been clear with what we want or need. I could probably provide a more conscious answer if I knew more about the relationship, but I will do my best. Withholding intimacy may be a sign of something greater within him. Could he be guilty of his behavior? Is there something else that may be unspoken between you? Have you considered couples counseling?The only person who can decide if it is time to leave the relationship is you. You don't indicate how long you have been together, is it a substantial amount of time? What would you lose besides the relationship if you were to call it quits? I would recommend taking some time to do some writing about your relationship and how you are feeling about it. It can be much easier to do an exercise like this first so that you have something to refer to should you make a decision to leave. At least you will know you looked at it thoroughly before making a decision that will change your life. It also helps to remove emotion from the discussion because you will have done it before you become emotional in his presence. Decisions made out of anger, fear, or sadness usually turn out badly. So take some time to write it down.A good place to start is at the beginning. Defining things like commitment, vulnerability, and sharing your expectations for the relationship as you believe it, and then ask him to do the same and see if the definitions match. If not then you can discuss why or figure out how to change what needs to be changed. Or you will be clear that it is not something that you want to work on. Not knowing you or your history makes it a little more difficult to think of something that may be more helpful for you. Honest conversation, clear boundaries and expectations and consistent effort is the best way to make a relationship work.
(LCMHC, NCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

My Relationship patterns keep repeating itself

Dear Tiff,   Thank you for your message and for allowing me to understand more about the dynamics in your relationship.   Through your words, I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving/helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor, I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggles is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

My boyfriend asked for space a day after saying he loves me

Dear brokenhearted girl,   Thank you for your message and I am sorry to hear about your breakup. Thank you for your courage in sharing with me your pain.   “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paul Coehlo   The closure is something everyone would like. We would like validation and understanding after a relationship has ended.   We can accept that someone doesn’t want to be with us. We can accept that the relationship has changed or that they want something else. What we can’t accept is our partner’s inability to communicate that fact effectively and tell us what went wrong.   Unfortunately, sometimes your partner does not have this same need, or they may have the same need but they’re better at hiding it and pretending they don’t. They would rather just push you, and their feelings, away.   In my experience, people can’t always be honest with you because they can’t be honest with themselves. It isn’t about you. We always want it to be about us and our flaws and failures, but it isn’t.   Many people don’t know how to deal with the emotions that come with a breakup, so they prefer to avoid their feelings altogether, and this is the most likely reason they won’t talk to you. It has nothing to do with you or the relationship or something you did wrong or that you weren’t enough.   I’ve dealt with trying to get closure a few times, and it’s awful. No one likes to be ignored, and no one likes to not get answers to their questions. But, what you have to learn is that any answer you get won’t change anything, and it may or may not be the truth anyway.   I can only control myself and my actions and how I deal with the ending of another relationship that I thought could mean something.   If people want to be in your life they make an effort. If they don’t, then you are better off without them.   If you are struggling with getting closure with an ex, ask yourself why you want to talk to them. Is it to get them back? Is it to get them to validate the relationship? Is it to try to get some type of reaction or any type of reaction?    If you are making up reasons why you need to talk to them, then perhaps you need to get closure from yourself. If they won’t talk to you, reaching out will likely cause you more pain and frustration. So instead, I suggest the following:   1. Write a letter.   Write one every day if you need to. Don’t send it; just get the feelings out there. You can write them here if you would like. :)   2. Write out reasons why they may be avoiding you that have nothing to do with you.   We all create explanations in our heads as to why our ex won’t talk to us. We imagine they think bad things about us, they don’t want us, that we weren’t enough, or that everything was our fault. Thoughts in your head are just your interpretation of what happened, and they are usually incorrect.   What if what they are really thinking is this? Do you think they are going to tell you?   I’m afraid to be open and be hurt again. I don’t think I can give this person what they need. Being vulnerable is too scary. He/she is too good for me. My abandonment issues have triggered my unconscious need to be alone.   3. Unless this was your first love, remember that you loved before and you got over it.   You control whether you move on. And you can decide if you want to wallow in self-pity and misery, or pick yourself up off the floor and be the spectacular, amazing person you are and get out there and show yourself to the world.   4. Take your feelings and write them on little pieces of paper.   “I am hurt.” “I am angry.” “I am sad.” “I am devastated.” “I am heartbroken.” “I feel rejected.”   Get a fireproof bowl and fill it with some sand. Put all the little pieces of paper in the bowl and light them on fire. Watch the words burn and with them, let the feelings go.   5. Be alone.   Be still. Cry and be sad over the loss. Accept that what once was, is no longer, and what you thought would be will never be. If it’s meant to be in the future, it will find a way to work itself out. Maybe now is just not the time.   6. Live in abundance.   They are not the only person in the world. There are literally millions of single people in the world. If you had loved it before, you will have it again. Stop thinking that you’ll never find someone else so wonderful. If they were so wonderful they would still be with you. They aren’t. They’re gone.   What is it you are really hoping to hear? Do you think most people can admit their fears? Of course, we all would like our partner to care enough to tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts.   There are a million reasons that relationships don’t work and tons of reasons why your ex won’t talk to you. Don’t take on their issues and make them your own. Realize that we all have insecurities, and not all of us can understand how they impact us.   I’m sure you would love for your ex to say, “You are truly amazing and wonderful, but I don’t think we are a match.” The reason most won’t say this is that they don’t want you to come back at them with all sorts of reasons why you are a match, so they’d rather avoid the topic altogether.   For whatever reason, your ex has chosen to cease all communication with you. The best thing you can do is take it as a sign from the universe that it’s time to move on, and that any person worthy of being your partner would never leave you in the lurch like that.   Remember this saying, “If not this, something better.” These words sound stupid and irritating when your relationship has just ended, but they are true for a reason.   We don’t’ always get what we want, but we get what we need. Change is inevitable. Change is good. If it was meant to be, it would have been, and if it is meant to be, it will be.   Unfortunately, life does not always go along with our pre-conceived notions of how things should be, and people aren’t always what we want and need them to be. Life isn’t always wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow on top.   Sometimes you get closure and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the lack of closure is the very lesson that you needed to learn. Maybe you needed to learn to validate yourself and accept yourself.   Consider seeing this person as a gift sent to you. They were brought to you as a reflection of yourself. Thank them for being a part of your journey and send them on their way in your mind.   Lastly, if you are waiting for your ex to give you closure, it might be time to dig deep inside and give it to yourself.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021