Marriage Answers

Is it possible to make a marriage better if just one partner is in therapy?

Hi there,   Thanks for reaching out with this question.   First, I’d like to commend you on 40 plus years of marriage!  That is no easy feat. I can understand how tiring that must feel, after so many years of feeling responsible for all the things, as if you were his parent and not his wife.  Can things change?  Yes, I believe it is possible to change.  Of course, it isn't an easy task... as you say, you like to be in control at times.  ;)   That said, I believe that you are capable of making changes... as for your spouse?  Well, you can't make someone else change... we are only responsible for our own behaviors.  What we can hope is that when we make changes, those around us will choose to adapt, as well.   More than anything, I wonder how freeing it might be for you to find a way out from under feeling like his parent?  And what would it mean to let go of the control (or perceived control, perhaps)?  Can you imagine what that would look like or how it would feel?   But yes, more than anything, I believe people can change (otherwise, I’m in the wrong profession!)... however, what that will look like, well, only time will tell.  And for as difficult as change might be (and for letting up some of the control), I suspect it might be far less burdensome or challenging to change than just learning to accept it!   While I don’t know you, I can say that knowing you have been married for 40+ years, I have little reason to believe that you also couldn’t withstand change.  As I said, 40+ years is no easy feat… you have shown your strength!   I wish you the best of luck on this journey, wherever it may take you.  I hope you find the answers and peace you are seeking.   Warmly, ~Keri Keri M. Zwerner, MA, LCPC   ps/ I hear they do make ‘less smart phones’ akin to the early generations of phones… text and calls.  That’s one way to eliminate those calls from him!   
(MA, LCPC, LMFT)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Severe anxiety/ depression

Thank you for reaching out, I know it is not easy to ask for help, so you can pat yourself on the back for taking this step :) I am very sorry to read about your situation with your spouse. It seems like things might have turned out for the worse. The best thing to do while going through something like this is to focus on getting yourself in a better mindset, and also performing self0care/ this will increase your chances of getting through your divorce without excessive suffering. and perhaps even with a new mindset. Here are a few ways in which you can naturally start the healing process: Physical techniques   These techniques use your five senses or tangible objects — things you can touch — to help you move through distress.   1. Put your hands in water   Focus on the water’s temperature and how it feels on your fingertips, palms, and the backs of your hands. Does it feel the same in each part of your hand?   Use warm water first, then cold. Next, try cold water first, then warm. Does it feel different to switch from cold to warm water versus warm to cold?   2. Pick up or touch items near you   Are the things you touch soft or hard? Heavy or light? Warm or cool? Focus on the texture and color of each item. Challenge yourself to think of specific colors, such as crimson, burgundy, indigo, or turquoise, instead of simply red or blue.   3. Breathe deeply   Slowly inhale, then exhale. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath. Feel each breath filling your lungs and note how it feels to push it back out.   4. Savor a food or drink   Take small bites or sips of a food or beverage you enjoy, letting yourself fully taste each bite. Think about how it tastes and smells and the flavors that linger on your tongue.   5. Take a short walk   Concentrate on your steps — you can even count them. Notice the rhythm of your footsteps and how it feels to put your foot on the ground and then lift it again.   6. Hold a piece of ice   What does it feel like at first? How long does it take to start melting? How does the sensation change when the ice begins to melt?   7. Savor a scent   Is there a fragrance that appeals to you? This might be a cup of tea, an herb or spice, a favorite soap, or a scented candle. Inhale the fragrance slowly and deeply and try to note its qualities (sweet, spicy, sharp, citrusy, and so on).   8. Move your body   Do a few exercises or stretches. You could try jumping jacks, jumping up and down, jumping rope, jogging in place, or stretching different muscle groups one by one.   Pay attention to how your body feels with each movement and when your hands or feet touch the floor or move through the air. How does the floor feel against your feet and hands? If you jump rope, listen to the sound of the rope in the air and when it hits the ground.   9. Listen to your surroundings   Take a few moments to listen to the noises around you. Do you hear birds? Dogs barking? Machinery or traffic? If you hear people talking, what are they saying? Do you recognize the language? Let the sounds wash over you and remind you where you are.   10. Feel your body   You can do this sitting or standing. Focus on how your body feels from head to toe, noticing each part.   Can you feel your hair on your shoulders or forehead? Glasses on your ears or nose? The weight of your shirt on your shoulders? Do your arms feel loose or stiff at your sides? Can you feel your heartbeat? Is it rapid or steady? Does your stomach feel full, or are you hungry? Are your legs crossed, or are your feet resting on the floor? Is your back straight?   Curl your fingers and wiggle your toes. Are you barefoot or in shoes? How does the floor feel against your feet?   11. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method   Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.   Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.     Mental techniques   These grounding exercises use mental distractions to help redirect your thoughts away from distressing feelings and back to the present.   12. Play a memory game   Look at a detailed photograph or picture (like a cityscape or other “busy” scene) for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, turn the photograph face-down and recreate the photograph in your mind, in as much detail as possible. Or, you can mentally list all the things you remember from the picture.   13. Think in categories   Choose one or two broad categories, such as “musical instruments,” “ice cream flavors,” “mammals,” or “baseball teams.” Take a minute or two to mentally list as many things from each category as you can.   14. Use math and numbers   Even if you aren’t a math person, numbers can help center you.   Try: running through a times table in your head. counting backward from 100 choosing a number and thinking of five ways you could make the number (6 + 11 = 17, 20 – 3 = 17, 8 × 2 + 1 = 17, etc.)   15. Recite something   Think of a poem, song, or book passage you know by heart. Recite it quietly to yourself or in your head. If you say the words aloud, focus on the shape of each word on your lips and in your mouth. If you say the words in your head, visualize each word as you’d see it on a page.   16. Make yourself laugh   Make up a silly joke — the kind you’d find on a candy wrapper or popsicle stick.   You might also make yourself laugh by watching your favorite funny animal video, a clip from a comedian or TV show you enjoy, or anything else you know will make you laugh.   17. Use an anchoring phrase   This might be something like, “I’m Full Name. I’m X years old. I live in City, State. Today is Friday, June 3. It’s 10:04 in the morning. I’m sitting at my desk at work. There’s no one else in the room.”   You can expand on the phrase by adding details until you feel calm, such as, “It’s raining lightly, but I can still see the sun. It’s my break time. I’m thirsty, so I’m going to make a cup of tea.”   18. Visualize a daily task you enjoy or don’t mind doing   If you like doing laundry, for example, think about how you’d put away a finished load.   “The clothes feel warm coming out of the dryer. They’re soft and a little stiff at the same time. They feel light in the basket, even though they spill over the top. I’m spreading them out over the bed so they won’t wrinkle. I’m folding the towels first, shaking them out before folding them into halves, then thirds,” and so on.   19. Describe a common task   Think of an activity you do often or can do very well, such as making coffee, locking up your office, or tuning a guitar. Go through the process step-by-step, as if you’re giving someone else instructions on how to do it.   20. Imagine yourself leaving the painful feelings behind   Picture yourself:   gathering the emotions, balling them up, and putting them into a box walking, swimming, biking, or jogging away from painful feelings Imagine your thoughts as a song or TV show you dislike, changing the channel or turning down the volume — they’re still there, but you don’t have to listen to them.   21. Describe what’s around you   Spend a few minutes taking in your surroundings and noting what you see. Use all five senses to provide as much detail as possible. “This bench is red, but the bench over there is green. It’s warm under my jeans since I’m sitting in the sun. It feels rough, but there aren’t any splinters. The grass is yellow and dry. The air smells like smoke. I hear kids having fun and two dogs barking.”   Soothing techniques   You can use these techniques to comfort yourself in times of emotional distress. These exercises can help promote good feelings that may help the negative feelings fade or seem less overwhelming.   22. Picture the voice or face of someone you love   If you feel upset or distressed, visualize someone positive in your life. Imagine their face or think of what their voice sounds like. Imagine them telling you that the moment is tough, but that you’ll get through it.   23. Practice self-kindness   Repeat kind, compassionate phrases to yourself:   “You’re having a rough time, but you’ll make it through.” “You’re strong, and you can move through this pain.” “You’re trying hard, and you’re doing your best.” Say it, either aloud or in your head, as many times as you need.   24. Sit with your pet   If you’re at home and have a pet, spend a few moments just sitting with them. If they’re of the furry variety, pet them, focusing on how their fur feels. Focus on their markings or unique characteristics. If you have a smaller pet you can hold, concentrate on how they feel in your hand.   Not at home? Think of your favorite things about your pet or how they would comfort you if they were there.   25. List favorites   List three favorite things in several different categories, such as foods, trees, songs, movies, books, places, and so on.   26. Visualize your favorite place   Think of your favorite place, whether it’s the home of a loved one or a foreign country. Use all of your senses to create a mental image. Think of the colors you see, sounds you hear, and sensations you feel on your skin.   Remember the last time you were there. Who were you with, if anyone? What did you do there? How did you feel?   27. Plan an activity   This might be something you do alone or with a friend or loved one. Think of what you’ll do and when. Maybe you’ll go to dinner, take a walk on the beach, see a movie you’ve been looking forward to, or visit a museum.   Focus on the details, such as what you’ll wear, when you’ll go, and how you’ll get there.   28. Touch something comforting   This could be your favorite blanket, a much-loved T-shirt, a smooth stone, a soft carpet, or anything that feels good to touch. Think about how it feels under your fingers or in your hand.   If you have a favorite sweater, scarf, or pair of socks, put them on and spend a moment thinking about the sensation of the fabric on your skin.   29. List positive things   Write or mentally list four or five things in your life that bring you joy, visualizing each of them briefly.   30. Listen to music   Put on your favorite song, but pretend you’re listening to it for the first time. Focus on the melody and lyrics (if there are any). Does the song give you chills or create any other physical sensations? Pay attention to the parts that stand out most to you.   Another thing to keep in mind during this process that you are going through is the fact that something such as Seasonal Affective Disorder could also affect you in addition to everything else that you are experiencing.   Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the "winter blues," because the most common seasonal pattern is for depressive episodes to appear in the fall or winter and remit in the spring. Less commonly, SAD occurs as summer depression, typically beginning in the late spring or early summer and remitting in the fall. SAD may be related to changes in the amount of daylight a person receives.   To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must meet the criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least two years. The individual must experience seasonal depressions much more frequently than any non-seasonal depressions.   Symptoms   Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms, but, according to the DSM-5, symptoms commonly associated with the winter blues include the following:       • Feelings of hopelessness and sadness     • Thoughts of suicide     • Hypersomnia or a tendency to oversleep     • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods     • Weight gain     • A heavy feeling in the arms or legs     • A drop in energy level     • Decreased physical activity     • Fatigue     • Difficulty concentrating     • Irritability     • Increased sensitivity to social rejection     • Avoidance of social situations   Symptoms of summer SAD are:       • Poor appetite     • Weight loss     • Insomnia     • Agitation and anxiety     • Either type of SAD may also include some of the symptoms that occur in major depression, such as feelings of guilt, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, ongoing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, or physical problems such as headaches and stomach aches.   Symptoms of SAD tend to recur at about the same time every year. To be diagnosed with SAD, the mood changes should not be a direct result of obvious seasonal stressors (like being regularly unemployed during the winter). Usually, this form of depression is mild or moderate. However, some people experience severe symptoms that leave them unable to function in their daily lives. Seasonal Affective disorder can be misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, or a viral infection such as mononucleosis.   The cause for SAD is unknown. There is some evidence that it is related to the body's level of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. As the winter days get shorter and darker, melatonin production in the body increases, and people tend to feel sleepier and more lethargic.   Alternatively, people with SAD may have trouble regulating their levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood. Finally, research has suggested that people with SAD also may produce less Vitamin D in response to sunlight; vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity. Insufficiency of vitamin D is associated with clinically significant depression symptoms.   There are several factors known to increase an individual's chance of developing SAD. For example, SAD is more frequent in people who live far north or south of the equator. Additionally, people with a family history of other types of depression are more likely to develop SAD than people who do not have such a family history.   Treatment   Treatment to alleviate the symptoms of SAD typically includes some combination of light therapy, vitamin D supplementation, antidepressant medication, and counseling. Because winter depression may be a reaction to lack of sunlight, broad-band light therapy is frequently used as a treatment option. This therapy involves exposure to bright artificial light that mimics outdoor light for some time in the morning. It requires the use of a lightbox or a light visor worn on the head like a cap. The individual either sits in front of the lightbox or wears a light visor for a certain length of time each day. Generally, light therapy takes between 30 and 60 minutes each day throughout the fall and winter. The exact amount of time varies with each individual. When light therapy is sufficient to reduce symptoms and to increase energy level, the individual continues to use it until enough daylight is available, typically in the springtime. Stopping light therapy too soon can result in a return of symptoms.   When used properly, light therapy has few side effects. The side effects that do arise include eyestrain, headache, fatigue, and irritability. Inability to sleep can occur if light therapy is administered too late in the day. People with bipolar disorder, skin that is sensitive to light, or medical conditions that make their eyes vulnerable to light damage may not be good candidates for light therapy. When light therapy does not improve symptoms within a few days, then medication and behavioral therapies such as CBT may be introduced. In some cases, light therapy can be used in combination with one or all of these therapies.   Self-care is an important part of treatment. For those with SAD, it is important to:       • Monitor mood and energy level     • Take advantage of available sunlight     • Plan pleasurable activities for the winter season     • Plan physical activities     • Approach the winter season with a positive attitude     • When symptoms develop seek help sooner rather than later.   People with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression. The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring. The most difficult months for people with SAD in the United States tend to be January and February. While it is much less common, some people experience SAD in the summer. SAD is more than just “winter blues.” The symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming and can interfere with daily functioning. However, it can be treated. About 5 percent of adults in the world reportedly experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year. It is more common among women than men.   SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter. As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock or a circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule. SAD is more common in people living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter. Common symptoms of SAD include fatigue, even with too much sleep, and weight gain associated with overeating and carbohydrate cravings. SAD symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include many symptoms similar to major depression. SAD can be effectively treated in several ways, including light therapy, antidepressant medications, talk therapy, or some combination of these. While symptoms will generally improve on their own with the change of season, symptoms can improve more quickly with treatment.   Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits a very bright light (and filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays). It usually requires 20 minutes or more per day, typically first thing in the morning, during the winter months. Most people see some improvements from light therapy within one or two weeks of beginning treatment. To maintain the benefits and prevent relapse, treatment is usually continued through the winter. Because of the anticipated return of symptoms in late fall, some people may begin light therapy in early fall to prevent symptoms. Talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), can effectively treat SAD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the type of antidepressant most commonly used to treat SAD.   For some people, increased exposure to sunlight can help improve symptoms of SAD. For example, spending time outside or arranging your home or office so that you are exposed to a window during the day. (However, exposure to UV light from the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, and you should talk with your doctor about risks and benefits.) Taking care of your general health and wellness can also help—regular exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and staying active and connected (such as volunteering, participating in group activities, and getting together with friends and family) can help.   If you feel you have symptoms of SAD, seek the help of a trained medical professional. Just as with other forms of depression, it is important to make sure there is no other medical condition causing symptoms. SAD can be misdiagnosed in the presence of hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, and other viral infections, so proper evaluation is key. A mental health professional can diagnose the condition and discuss therapy options. With the right treatment, SAD can be a manageable condition.     As the days get shorter during the winter months some people find that their mood worsens along with the weather. These “winter blues” leave many feeling gloomy, lacking energy and motivation in the days that lack sunshine, and feeling better on the brighter days. Some, however, are intensely affected by the seasonal changes and may experience a more severe form of the winter blues. For them, the winter months bring on a clinical depression called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD. Those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder find themselves feeling sad, anxious, and hopeless. They may be easily irritated, feel restless and have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. SAD often causes a decreased level of energy along with a loss of interest and joy from the activities that were previously enjoyed. Changes in weight, difficulty concentrating, decision making, and remembering details are also common symptoms of SAD.   People suffering from SAD experience the same symptoms as the traditional Depression, but throughout the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. SAD affects people in northern latitude climates, where the winters are usually long and dark, with a greater percentage of those affected being young women. Seasonal Affective Disorder is commonly treated with light therapy, in which the affected person is exposed to bright light in the morning to make up for the lack of natural sunlight. Natural sunlight causes the brain to establish a normal day/night cycle; the lack of natural sunlight in the winter months causes a shift in this cycle that is thought to cause SAD. Light therapy works to readjust the body’s sleep/wake cycle in hopes to reverse the depression.   In addition to light therapy, more evidence is showing that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), effective treatment for depression, is also effective in treating SAD. Research by Dr.  CBT for SAD involves a structured approach throughout the winter. The therapist helps teach the client techniques and strategies to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and implement healthy behaviors to counteract the symptoms of SAD. A lot of current events might be taking a toll on your mood these days: a global pandemic, reoccurring lock-downs, time away from your loved ones, an array of contextual events, you name it. The abundance of sullen causation makes it hard to pinpoint the actual root of your gloomy mood.   But if you’re experiencing recurrent mood swings during the darker winter months each year, it’s likely that you suffer from the seasonal affective disorder, or also known as SAD. As Mind explains: It’s like having your portable black cloud.’ A form of depression, SAD is mainly associated with the winter months, and no one is immune to it. SAD can affect not only your personal life but also your relationship. If you find yourself struggling to maintain a steady relationship flow, SAD might be the one to blame.   Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Usually, SAD occurs during the winter months when the bad weather, shorter days, and lack of vibrant social life can affect you. Nevertheless, SAD can also happen in spring and summer when the seasons change. The most common symptoms include persistent low mood, apathy, low energy, irritation, feelings of sadness or guilt, cravings for carbs, and weight gain. So, what can cause seasonal affective disorder? Of course, several factors play a role in your dismal mood, but the primary ones include insufficient daylight, disrupted body clock, and high levels of melatonin.   Lack of sufficient daylight   Light influences a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. This part controls your sleep, mood, and sex drive, and when the light is insufficient, these functions start to slow down and eventually stop. Some people need more daylight to perform these functions, while others are the opposite. The latter can experience disruption of these functions when it’s too bright, causing SAD in the spring and summer.   Disrupted body clock   Your body has its internal clock, which is in sync with the daylight and the times of the day. Daylight guides your body when to perform certain functions, primarily sleep. When your sleep pattern is disrupted, it can cause SAD.   High levels of melatonin   When it gets dark, your body produces a hormone called melatonin, responsible for getting your body ready to sleep. But when the darkness is more prevalent than the light, people with SAD are likely to produce higher melatonin levels during the winter, which can make them more lethargic.   The seasonal affective disorder can not only impact your mood and personal life, but it can also affect your relationship. Think about it, when you’re feeling blue and don’t have the energy even to brush your teeth, the last thing you want to do is be proactive in your relationship. Going on dates, communicating your feelings, and being in the throes of passion all seem like a lot of hard work you’re not ready to complete. Here are a few of the reasons why your relationship might be put on the side bench while you deal with SAD.   Turbulent communication   Communication is key to sustaining a connection. But when SAD strikes, your willingness to communicate with your partner can be minimal, if not non-existent. You’re naturally drawn to isolating yourself and snuggling up in a cozy blanket where your negative thought patterns can prevail. When you attempt to communicate with your significant other, you might find it difficult to articulate your feelings and keep your attention, which is counterproductive to active listening. Not only that, but you’re also prone to irritation during this time, so verbal disputes are not to be ruled out.   Lack of sex drive   Licensed clinical marriage and family therapists says:’If you’re experiencing loss of pleasure or loss of interest in activities that can make date nights or the sexual side of the relationship difficult to keep up with as well.’ Because of the never-ending spree of negative thoughts, your body finds it hard to relax, get aroused, and indulge in pleasurable experiences. Not having sex can strain your bond a little bit. Even if you have sex, you might still find it hard to orgasm because your mind is constantly wandering. This can make your partner insecure or guilty. Moreover, due to genetics, a person is more likely to have SAD if a close relative is affected, including your partner. Your unmotivated daily habits can become contagious to your significant other. The sofa life for couples can seem way too appealing, but it’s also dangerous for your mental health, so make sure you uplift each other’s spirits to avoid going into a deep depression.   I hope this was helpful, and please do not hesitate to reach out for more help, and have a wonderful day :)
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I find balance in my life and still have success?

Hello Rosemary,   Thank you for reaching out on The BetterHelp Platform with your question: How do I find balance in my life and still have success?   I am so glad you reached out for some support with your attempts to live a happier and more balanced life for yourself.  This is a great personal goal for any working parent! I will share some information and some tools you can implement to help you achieve.   Being A Career Woman And A Mother: How To Find Balance The majority of parents who are working struggle to find a balance between their job and their personal lives. This can be challenging for a mother who wants to be a career woman, but it's not impossible by any means. One of the things to think about is this - you don't have to do this on your own. You might feel that, as a mother, you've got to raise your children, bring in the money, and do it all by yourself. If you have a partner, they can help with childcare, and if you're both working, one of the things to remember is that you can work on finding babysitters or childcare centers together. As you know, raising kids together is a team effort. If you're a single parent, it's important to remember that your full-time job is important, and so are your children. It's okay to take breaks for yourself and hire a babysitter so that you can go out with your friends; in fact, it's vital. You need to get that downtime. There are ways that you can balance having a career and a family life, and we will go through that in this article. You Don't Have To Do it All There's a lot of societal pressure on women and mothers to "do it all." You might feel tremendous pressure to be successful at your career and motherhood, and it could feel paralyzing. That's an understandable way to react when you're trying hard to make a life for you and your children. Remember that you get to decide what works best for your life. It's not anyone's business to make judgments on your life choices. There are many successful female business owners, and a large number of these women have children. You do not have to give up your life as a mother to have a business or vice versa. You may be a go-getter or an entrepreneur, and that's a wonderful quality. Follow your passion and do what works for you. Maybe, you own your own business. It could be that you work in corporate america in a nine-to-five job. Perhaps you work as a freelance writer or artist. There are so many different opportunities to fulfill your life purpose as a woman and a mother. You don't have to be "just" a mother, or "just" a career woman; those things can coincide, and you can live with balance. You don't have to do it all. It's easier said than done, but it's important not to let other people's ideas about the person that you "should" be get to you. There are ways that you can make a life of balance work for you as a busy mom and professional. One of the first things to think about is what you want to do with your life so that you can establish your priorities as an individual outside of your family life. Finding Your Purpose If you haven't decided whether or not you want to have children yet, that's okay. If it's a priority for you to have children, honor that decision. There are many ways that you can become a parent, whether that's having children biologically or adopting a child; both of those are viable options for starting a family, and remember that there are an abundance of different kinds of families in the world. Some people have a partner, some people are single parents, and some kids are raised by their grandparents; these are only some of the ways that a family can look, and family has varying definitions. If you're a woman who wants to have children, you can do this, and you can have a career. Making It Happen Before you try balancing your job and family, it's essential to define what you want to do with your life. It's okay to not know the answer to that question. Think about it, the average person changes careers many times in their life. If you don't know "what you want to be when you grow up" it's not a big deal. You can figure that out with time and patience. Start by identifying your goals. Get out a piece of paper and a pen and write down what you want. What are your goals in life? Write down a list of five things that you want to accomplish in your career life. Look at that list and prioritize the first one. What's the most important thing to you? Say that you want to become a high-powered executive at a company. This doesn't happen overnight, and it'll take steps to achieve this. Break it down into smaller steps; write down three things that'll help you get to that place in a company and start with the skill set that you have. That could mean working as an assistant for someone first and learning a trade or being an associate and moving up in your company over time. It just depends on what your goal is in terms of what you'd like to achieve. Where are you starting, what's the end goal, and what's in between that? How will you get to where you're going? There are steps involved, and a plan of action is one thing that will get you going. What Is A Plan Of Action? A plan of action is when you write down the steps that you need to take to get to your goal. You know what your objectives are, and now it's time to figure out how to get to where you're going. It's a matter of defining those goals, and then creating the steps to get to your destination. It's okay to be nervous when you start defining the things you want to do, but don't let that stop you! Feel your emotions, and keep going. You will achieve your goals if you stay focused and on track. Let's say that you'd like to own your own business, for example, the first thing that you need to do is determine the following: 1.    What is my business? Once you decide what you want to do, the next thing is - 2.    What are the things that I need to get my business going? Write down the things that you need to get it going (money, people to collaborate with, and so on). 3.    What do I need to fulfill those needs? In a notebook, write down what you need to get your business to where it needs to be. Remember that there are short term goals and long term goals. The short term goals are things that you can accomplish right now. So, in this example, you'd research businesses that are similar to the one that you want to start. Start by understanding what they do and how they do it. The long-term goal is to start that business, but there are steps along the way, and you'll get to where you're going if you stay on track. Managing Your Life And Career Goals With Your Family Goals When it comes to integrating your family life with your career, It's about balance. Naturally, you're going to want to spend time with your children. When you have a family, that's your first priority; your kids are what comes first regardless of what else is going on. You need to make sure that your kid's needs are met and that yours are as well; that everyone is provided for in terms of basic functions such as food, shelter, and love. You know that you love your children; you also need to love yourself or be working towards that goal. Make sure that you're in good standing with yourself so that you love yourself and are working towards being well if you aren't already. Prioritize your kids' needs to be sure they are met both fiscally and emotionally providing the support they need in all areas. It doesn't hurt to have help along the way in the form of mental health care. Your mental health matters as a mother and career woman, and one of the things that you can do is pursue therapy. Online Therapy Helps Career Women There are so many things to think about when you're a busy mom. You're worried about providing emotional support for your children and helping them grow. You also want to make sure their basic needs are provided for, and that can be stressful. You don't have to do this alone! Talking to a therapist is a great way to talk through your problems. Online therapy is a flexible place where you can get help as a busy career woman and mother. Sometimes, it's hard to get to a therapist's office in person with all that you have to juggle, and that's why online therapy is a great place to discuss your concerns about your career, family matters, and your life.   I wish you much luck with your next step! In KIndness, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Can u come back from 15 years of infidelity?

Hello and thank you for your question. Ultimately, infidelity is a terrible experience. I could imagine making most decisions around this time is very difficult because of the emotions around this time. I will try to provide most information based on my own experience in working with couples and research. I answer based on the information provided so I apologize if I am making too many assumptions. It is hard to argue that you will not need a strong sense of trust to maintain the relationship. Trust is a major foundational piece of romantic relationships. If you decide to go into the path of continuing the relationship, it is important to recognize that recovering from this will likely be a stressful experience. However, people feel that the stress is worth it for the relationship. Thus, the answer that a relationship can be saved after so much infidelity is possible. I recognize that this may seem incredibly difficult because of the 15 years of infidelity. Despite that painful experience, it is possible to recover over a long time. Therefore, it is unlikely that trust will be rebuilt within the first year. Based on the Gottman approach, the first step is beginning to understand how come your partner cheated. Also, do you both agree to working on the relationship and working towards making sure to avoid future infidelity. It’s important to note that not all relationships should be saved following an affair. If your partner does not think they can stay faithful in the future, then it is probably not worth fighting for.  Here are some of the questions from the Gottman approach for you and your husband to ask each other separately and then come together to discuss them. Are you interested in making amends? Or are you willing to leave your partner? Will you be able to let go of their anger and resentment towards your partner and move forward? Can you imagine being happy with your partner despite what they did?  I believe this is a really good first step to take because you both are asking yourself if the relationship is worth saving before jumping into working on it. The next step is seeking out help from a therapist with experience in working with couples. I typically use the Gottman approach when working with couples, so I recommend asking the therapist you decide to work with if they have some experience using this approach. The therapist will be a good mediator so you can be begin to have deeper conversations about the issue. It is going to be important to determine if your husband will be able to be faithful in order to continue the relationship. This is devastating right now but could become worse if he continues to unfaithful in the future. These are some of the warning signs to look out for based on the Gottman approach. Does not view cheating as wrong, immoral, or unethical Has a casual, dismissive perspective on the cheating Does not take responsibility for what happened Has a long history of lies and deception Cannot communicate openly and is very secretive Refuses or cannot empathize with the pain and distrust caused by cheating There is no way to predict with a 100% certainty whether or not he will cheat again. However, this at least gives you some idea of whether or not to continue the relationship if you see many of these warning signs. Keep in mind that if he was able to be with you for 15 years and cheat on you the entire 15 years then that would be considered a huge warning sign.  As you can see this is complex issue. I strongly recommend still seeking out a therapist for further emotional support for yourself in this process. Again, I am not aware of other factors such as children, finances, etc. Thank you again for your question and I encourage you to continue to seek out support. 
(MA, LPC, Doctoral, Candidate)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How does one differ between a trauma bond and love?

Thank you for your question. It is a broad question you are asking, so I may not be able to offer specifics. What I would say is that you need to uncover if there are fears you have that keep you in the relationship. For example, fear of being alone or losing this person forever. If fear is keeping you together, then it may not be for the right reasons that you stay together. As some of the trauma research suggests, being alone is better than being in a bad relationship. I think the next piece is you recognizing what makes for a healthy relationship. For example, are your emotional needs getting met at all in the relationship? If not, sometimes we stay in a situation because it is familiar and we remain stagnant and in disbelief that getting out of the relationship will prove more beneficial than staying in the relationship. You need to consider whether you feel emotionally safe or can trust your partner since there is a traumatic past. Sometimes if the wounds are so deep, repair cannot be made. As to your question about differentiating trauma bond from love, you might consider what love is to you and for you verses what it is not. If you have a distorted belief that mistreatment is a part of what love entails, you will stay in the relationship despite the unhealthy nature of it. I think you need to consider what your rules are in relationships. For example, if you do not know any better than how you are being treated in this relationship, you will stay longer than you feel you should. If you believe that a relationship should work regardless of how you are treated and value loyalty above all else, it will be much harder for you to leave, even if it is in fact in your best interest to break away from the relationship. You need to allow yourself to have less rigid rules that you live by in relationships in order to reduce fear of shame or regret about leaving the relationship. You might also want to consider what will be better about your life outside of the relationship than in it. Often it will be difficult to break away from the relationship, if you feel you will be missing more than you will be gaining from leaving. One of the biggest gains I encourage you to recognize is that you will be taking a stand for your own self-respect. You need to work on building your self-confidence through actions you take. When you know you deserve better, you seek out more fulfilling connections. Starting by improving your self-esteem can prove beneficial in having the strength to end the relationship if you feel it is more detrimental to your well-being than beneficial to remain in the relationship. Attending therapy where you can begin to process this loss and gradually transition to life on your own may be beneficial, so you feel supported throughout this transition as well. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

How does one manage family and societal pressure

Hello Aspien,   Thank you for reaching out on The Better Help Platform with your question:   How does one manage family and societal pressure?   I think the best way I can answer your question is to share some information about the impact of social pressure and how you can manage the stress and pressure whilst remaining respectful to all those around you including your parents. I would encourage you to consider reaching out for support from a professional counselor to further dive into what might be going on for you with your relationships.   A counselor who is skilled and neutral who can help you understand the formation of attachment to others. For better or for worse, our choices as human beings are primarily impacted by social pressures. An article  Psychology Today refers to social pressure as powerful enough to alter humans’ perception of reality. While each of us bears responsibility for our own choices, understanding the role that social pressure can play in choice-making is profoundly imperative. As indicated by the research, social pressure can come in positive or negative forms. Put simply, this form of pressure is merely the influence that surrounding collective groups have on individuals. In and of itself, social pressure is a very real reason to carefully choose who you associate with. The people you surround yourself with can easily pull you up or drag you down. While social pressure, in and of itself, is part of living in human society, human beings are not totally helpless. In no way does social pressure mean that individuals are incapable of thinking for themselves or making independent decisions. With that in mind, understanding the leading ways that social pressure impacts our choices is still necessary. Top Five Ways Social Pressure Impacts Our Choices According to the National Institute of Health social pressure does share links to the performance of human behavior. Many people have a tendency to pick up on the habits of those who are around them or in their social circles; habits become choices, and the choices we make determine our outcomes in life. Also, it’s important to note that various factors on individual levels can impact one’s susceptibility to social pressure. Only you can decide whether or not social pressure is impacting you positively or negatively. With that being said, mindfulness of the following ways that social pressure impacts our choices can only help you. Creates the Desire to Fit In By its very nature, social pressure encourages people to fit in with those around them. Sometimes, fitting in comes naturally, but in other cases, one may feel the need to change their views, choices, and outlooks to avoid being the odd one out. In situations like this, social pressure comes with a very high propensity to be problematic. In some ways, social pressure is viewed negatively, and, in many regards, this view is justified. Although each person is responsible for their own choices, social pressure can encourage us to behave in ways that are unbecoming, out of character, or even immoral. Of course, there is a flip side to this also. If we are surrounded by people who are doing well and engaging in constructive behavior patterns, social pressure can also push us towards bettering ourselves and fitting in with the crowd. Teaches Us What Not to Do Social pressure impacts not only you but also the people around you. The story of someone getting in with the wrong crowd and making poor choices is sadly all too familiar; this ultimately boils down to social pressure, though. Observing other people make decisions that aren’t good for them can sometimes serve as a warning to us as individuals by teaching us what not to do. As a general rule, learning from the mistakes of others is advisable to only learning things the hard way. This is not to say that you’ll never make mistakes or feel the impacts of social pressure; these are inevitable parts of life. Still, there is as much value in being taught what not to do as there is in learning what we should do. Helps Us Grow As previously stated, social pressure is not always negative, harmful, or toxic. In many cases, social pressure from the right groups of people can help us grow as individuals. Being around others who are doing the right things, engaging in productive behaviors, etc. can encourage us to follow suit. In doing so, we can often break negative habits, push ourselves outside of comfort zones, and grow as individuals. On the flip side, mistakes can also help us grow as individuals.  American Psychological Association points out the positive and negative aspects of social pressure. As such, it goes without saying that human beings grow from both positive and negative experiences. Even when we make mistakes along the way because of social pressure, we can still learn from the experience and become more familiar with what to avoid in the future. Creates a Sense of Support Despite the often-negative connotations linked to social pressure, it can create a feeling of support. Whether or not this support turns out to be positive or negative depends upon specific circumstances at hand. Nevertheless, engaging in certain behaviors due to social pressure often causes us to feel supported and connected to those in our social groups. A sense of support is a double-edged sword. Just about everyone wants to feel as though they belong, but who we are supported by makes the difference. When we find ourselves around people who encourage us to make good choices, the outcomes are likely to have more positive effects than they would in a group of bad influences. Takes Us Outside Our Comfort Zone In many social groups, people are encouraged to try new things that they haven’t or wouldn’t ordinarily do. Similarly, to other choices impacted by social pressure, going outside of our comfort zones can work in our favor or against us. Barring extreme behaviors or circumstances, going outside of our comfort zone allows us to learn more about ourselves, life, and what we do and don’t want. Sometimes, leaving your comfort zone because of social pressure can make you reconsider your group of friends. In other cases, being taken outside of our comfort zone helps us realize that we’ve found the right group of people, after all. Making Independent Choices There is certainly worth and value in making independent choices without adhering to the pressure from others. Nevertheless, this is often easier said than done. Depending on our environment, how we were raised, and a plethora of other factors, social pressure can be immensely hard to resist. While no one person is entirely immune to social pressure, maintaining the ability to make independent choices is essential. It’s OK to listen to our peers and those in our social groups; however, we should avoid merely going along with things that don’t feel right simply because others around us are doing so. On another note, it’s important to remember the influence and value that you carry as an individual. Being comfortable enough to be yourself (even if this means differing from the crowd) is a great skill to have. You, as an individual, are also part of the social circle, and you never know who you could be inspiring. Ideally, each and every one of us should seek to find a healthy balance between social pressure and independent choices. There is value in the community, a sense of belonging, and support; however, of equal importance is the ability to stand on your own two feet and make choices that are worthwhile to you. When Social Pressure Feels Too Hard to Resist If you are someone who severely struggles with social pressure, you should know that you’re not alone. This is a problem that many people face, and the very first step is recognizing the presence of an issue. While social pressure does impact our choices in various ways, it should never feel impossible to resist or at least think about. Despite the natural influence that our surroundings have on us as human beings, our own will and freedom as individuals should still be present. In many cases, people struggle to resist social pressure because they fear disapproval from those around them. This is natural to some extent; although, no one should ever feel completely paralyzed in this way. If you have concerns that the people around you will desert you for not going along with what they want, reconsidering your presence in that social group might be a good idea. Resources for Support and Guidance If you find yourself regularly struggling with social pressure or other issues, speaking with a counselor could be of value to you. Learning more about your situation, gaining new perspectives, and finding solutions are only a fraction of the benefits linked to working with a mental health specialist. No matter what your situation is like or what you may be going through, support and guidance will always be available at  When you choose BetterHelp. se to get professional care from BetterHelp, you will be paired with a licensed and empathic counselor. Online counseling comes with many opportunities for you to not only overcome challenges but also learn more about yourself and develop new skills. Online counseling is not an overnight fix, and it won’t make life’s challenges vanish into thin air. What BetterHelp can do, however, is be there for you every step of the way. We can also commit to working with you on a schedule that is workable and convenient for you. Regardless of who you are, what you may be up against, or how tough things may seem, there’s always hope. If you put your mind to it, you can overcome whatever stands in your way. BetterHelp looks forward to offering support and guidance on your journey.   There is hope and there is help available to you! I wish you much luck with your next step in reaching happiness and resolution for you.   In Kindness, Gaynor
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I make the decision to move on?

Hello Phoenix, thank you for your email. I first want to thank you for your honesty in sharing the non-traditional marriage you are currently in. Based upon what I have read you are contemplating divorce due to lack of visibility and connectivity from your partner. Is your partner in the military or some other type of job that requires him to be away for long periods of time? If not, for him to up and leave the country and not send for your and your child is concerning. I must ask, do you think that he may be with someone else? Given the three year gap since you've last seen him. It's difficult to imagine someone living alone with a wife and child and not ever trying to send for them. Have you asked him what has been going on with him or if there is someone else? Does he expect you to remain in this situation indefinitely? Remember,relationships have to be mutually beneficial. What are you getting out of this relationship that has allowed you to stay for as long as you did? If the answer is nothing, then we have to explore how we value ourselves and our time in relation to others and realize that time is our most precious benefit. Once it's gone it's gone. So make sure you are spending your time with someone who values your time. Another point to consider is your child's. Your child deserves an active male role model in life that can model what marriage looks like. As of now what your child sees is not typical, even if the parents are in a long distance relationship It can still be better functioning than the one you have. If you feel though divorce is the best option then I would say definitely look up the requirements what documents are needed, how soon it can be finalized, etc. Also be prepared for family and friends to have an opinion but you must stay true and do what you feel is best for you and your child.  Also, depending on the age of your child, you can connect them to a therapist to discuss their feelings about everything. Wishing you all the best! Take care!
(LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What do I need to consider before marrying Mike?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with whether to marry Mike or not with the information you have.  It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have around being with him.       Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of difficult decision.       As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

When one spouse wants the marriage over and the other doesn't, what do you do?

Hello and thank you for your question,Ultimately, you have been going though a tremendously difficult and confusion situation. At times the anxiety is related to the uncertainty of the whole situation or the future. These are things that are ultimately outside of your control. It is not surprising that you will struggle with periods of psychological, physiological, and emotional impairment. The difficult part of divorce is that you are also being asked to make major decisions while experiencing these symptoms. I am unsure if there has been discussion around parenting, finances, sell or relocate your home, and navigate the grief and loss of dreams. You will notice that many things are coming undone quickly. Thus, I encourage you to focus on processing your emotions. It will be best to find social support or therapy to help you in this process. It may not be best to try to look for a way to convince your husband to stay or communicate feelings with him because he is unreliable at the moment. Although you may not want the marriage to end, you are likely better off on processing your own emotions rather than looking for a way to salvage the relationship with him. Consider that if he is already deciding that he wants a divorce and has taken steps to move out that he is not showing you an opporunity to still work on things. Moreover, he is saying he only wants to be with his friends and you are also having a difficult time trusting him. I assume their is some mistrust based on you refering to him as a liar. One thing I like to do in therapy with individuals going through divorce is having them develop their story of how the marriage came to fracture. Your story will begin to develop and as it does, you begin to understand the role you played in it. By gaining a better understanding you will see yourself as neither victim nor villain. Similarly, you will begin to see him from a similar compassionate lens. It is unlikely that he married you only to just divorce you. It is important to note that you may get stuck in different through processes. You continue to ask what you could have done to make things work or what you should do to make things work. Ultimately, these thought processes usually lead to more anxiety and sadness. In therapy, you can attempt to learn more about yourself in relationships and identify aspects you want to imrpove. However, do this for yourself and not necessarily with the idea that it will result in salvaging the marriage.  You are going through a very difficult siutation and I may not have all the details but I hope this provides you with some idea of your next steps to take. 
(MA, LPC, Doctoral, Candidate)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What can I do to help develop self worth and motivation?

Hello and thank you for this question. You are 22 years of age and it sounds like you have already had some experience being married and are now considering divorce. I would be curious to find out how old you were when you decided to get married? And what were the circumstances of your deciding to get married? What brought the two of you together? This would be an important thing to reflect on in deciding how to move forward. Taking a step toward divorce is a very serious step. Typically in counseling we might caution you against making such a move without first considering, in detail, the pros and cons of such a big move. Often times we want couples to work toward some sort of reconciliation or reunification and divorce is seen as a last resort. Perhaps you are already there and feel like this is the right choice but it is also possible that there are areas of your relationship which have yet to be completely explored. The divorce is possibly what is reducing your motivation for other activities in your life. Also, it sounds like you may be experiencing some symptoms of depression at this time. Depression can be measured from a low state of depression to a significant state of depression and it appears that you may be experiencing mild to moderate depressed mood. Some depressed mood can be caused or prompted by situation factors and it does appear to be what is happening in your case. Partly due to the divorce and partly due to the lack of support you are experiencing from your family. You are starting to work on your college degree and you apparently are also in the military and seeking to progress your career. It's curious that your family has shown you no support in this endeavor. When our families or loved ones do not support us or take interest in our activities it is easy to feel like we have no real motivation for anything. Natural sources of support are what we count on to help uplift us and keep us level. If we cannot count on such sources of support we must find other more relevant sources of support. So part of my advice to you would be to look for these sources of support. They can be found in the community and usually you might interact with them due to common interests. I would encourage you to find such community support so that you feel more uplifted and less alone, on a daily basis. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I confront a cheating husband

Hello I am glad that you reached out. I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this difficult situation. There is not a one way simple approach to such an emotional and complicated situation such as a cheating spouse. I encourage you to seek professional support so that you can gain clarity on how you would like to move forward and also have support as you are making those decisions. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems, including marital issues. It is common to not feel like your self when you are going through a difficult time. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. I encourage you to seek support so that you are not alone and I wish you luck as you move ahead in this decision!
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can I move on after years of emotional frustration?

Hi, hopeful   What does "reconciled" really mean, right? Does that mean that both parties agree on what they did wrong and come up with a nice, easy solution? Sometimes! But not always, right? Because life isn't a movie or a sitcom where everything ties up nicely with a bow. Sometimes, reconciliation means both parties agreeing to let the past settle and to move on. Which, from your question, it seems is what you both decided to do at the time and why these are past issues and not ones that just happened.    However, what is still very real for you is the feelings associated with what happened in the past. As I tell my clients, feelings are always valid (where thoughts may not always be). What is telling to me here is that these feelings and past experiences for you are still very much in the present, and not solely living in the past, right? Maybe the both of you will not agree on what should have happened or who was right or who was wrong, and I think that is completely normal. But I do believe it is important for your feelings to be heard and validated in the present. Perhaps you are worried that these same patterns of behavior will be repeated in the future and that is why you are posing the question in the first place. And I think that is something that can absolutely be discussed between the two of you. You might find that your partner has also been thinking of things from the relationship and may have their own feelings that need to be heard and validated.    You might find that what could build the strength and peace within the relationship is listening, truly listening, to the other person. Trying to see things from the other person's point of view and seeing where you could be better. Because, we can all be better as partners. We can always improve in this life. And if both parties do this, both listening to the other person's point of view and seeing where they can improve as a partner, you might find that peace you are searching for.    Best of luck! -Claudia
(M.S., LPC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Could you guide on how to decide if I should work on my marriage vs divorce?

Hello Nico22, I am sorry to hear that your partner returned from service and that you are both struggling to connect with one another/you are feeling that you no longer are attracted to him due to changes that occurred while he was away. I guess I am wanting to know how he feels about the relationship and what work has been done between the two of you to try and rekindle those lost feelings.  If there were a clear-cut test that would tell you whether to stay or go I would gladly share that with you. Unfortunately, such a simple test would not be based on the realities and dynamics of your own unique situation. Instead, you need to really reflect on the health of your marriage, your wants and desires (as well as those of your partner), and whether there is any realistic chance to rebuild the relationship. Ultimately, it comes down to making a decision and determining whether you have already made that decision; it does seem that you are leaning more in one direction than another with your statement "I don’t think I want to continue with him, even if we work on our current problems and things get better." If that is how you truly feel, and if your feelings towards your partner can't be softened in the other direction I believe you have your answer. I do encourage you however to consider working with a couples therapist to determine if the changes in feeling can be worked through and if a new appreciation/respect/admiration may be able to be formed. You both spent considerable amount of time apart from one another and it seems there may just be a need to get to know one another again and to connect in a way that allows you to see his strengths again.  Making a decision to end a marriage is not an easy one, but at the end of the day if you determine feelings can not be reignited it may be best to end the relationship before the relationship turns completely toxic and you are both hurting one another. I do wish you the best as you work through this decision making process; please consider a couples therapist as you wrestle with this question.  Best wishes, thank you for your question. 
(MSW, LCSW, CADC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do you know if a relationship is worth fixing?

Hello and thank you for posting this question!  I think you said three things in this question. 1) Your relationship, it  has been on and off.  2) It can be super toxic. 3)  It has also been really positve and you have grown.  So the first thing I would think to look at is are both parties interested in fixing this relationship?  That would be a first. You would be setting yourself up for a lot of angst if your partner is not interested.  If you are the one who is being asked to fix the relationship; you have to figure out the  if the toxicity outweighs the postives ; or if it is the other way around? I think it is important to remember that you have said that you have both grown.  So that indicates that the relationship can keep maturing and growing.  As for the toxicity  I would ask; is it the lack of communication?  Do you spend  your time together arguing or discounting one another ? Or is it something else like jealousy or not being able to let go off the past. These are issues many couples have faced.   If you both think the relationships is work fixing; going to couples therapy would be to your advantage and  you can find a good therapist through Better Help and the partner site Regain.    As for the really positives areas you have mentioned;  in what areas have the two of you grown?    Do you enjoy the time you spend with each other?  Do you miss each other when you are not in each others company?  Perhaps you can list the positives and see how far you have come.    It might even be an exercise you both can do! Do you share similar interests and have things in common? Consistency and dependability  in a relationship also counts. You did mention that your relationship is on and off.  So the question you have to answer is why? These are all things worth considering as you decide if the relationship is worth fixing.  Remember, relationships are hard work and they are always evolving.  They also  involve a give and take from  each partner.  Finally do you see this person with you in the next five years? Consider all these things as you decide
Answered on 01/21/2022

i’m not located in the usa

Dear mynick,   Thank you very much for your message and sharing with me the very challenging situation you are in with your family.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyways.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

I needed someone to talk to. My wife thinks it would be good. I think I want a divorce. Not happy.

Hi there, Thank you for your message.  If you feel there is any hope for your marriage, counseling is an excellent idea which will give you an opportunity to sort out your feelings and concerns, as well as, an opportunity to communicate what is important to you. Taking the time to make sure that you have taking every avenue to improve and revitalize your marriage relationship will give you clarity and peace toward whatever decision you decide is appropriate for you marriage and your life.  Then, you will know that you have taken the necessary steps to move forward. Most marriages fall apart because communication is broken. Improving the communication within a marriage can breathe new life into the marriage.  You stated that you wanted a clean house.  I am not sure I understand if you are speaking of actually cleaning the house or is this statement symbolic for something else.  Wanting a clean house seem simple enough.  Relationship means team work.  Are you and your wife working together to keep the house clean or are you expecting her to maintain a clean house by herself.  Do you both work? Does she not work? I need more information in regards to that statement in regards to wanting a clean house. In addition, participating in marriage counseling will allow you to learn to explore and understand the issues of your marriage through a different lens, with the help of a non-judgmental neutral third party. A counselor can teach you and your wife new tools and a way of communicating to help with conflict resolution. Marriage counseling is known to have a positive results for 70% of couples that receive treatment when treatment is offered by a trained marriage therapist. Most couples state that receiving counseling helped to resolve all of their serious problems. I hope I have help you this evening by providing you with important information about why individual or marriage counseling can assist you during this time of your life to make life better for you and your wife. Reaching out here is an indication that you want to save your marriage.  Take the next step and connect with a counselor.  I wish you nothing but the best.
Answered on 01/21/2022

Advice on infidelity and dealing with the emotions

Dear Cutie malz,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand the situation between you and your husband, that your boundaries were violated.   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 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 01/21/2022

Need help to make a clear decision that doesn’t scream I’m doing it for just me.

I don't think there is anything wrong with recognizing your needs. Before Covid you were perhaps (for the most part)comfortable enough within the family system in which you operated. Often it takes a significant change in the system to highlight or recognize things that need attention or improvement. In order for a system to function in a way that is optimal and healthy for all involved, it's important to engage in quality assurance checks from time to time. What is working and what isn't?  Some important questions that need exploring are: what is it about him being back in the system that prevents you from being a thriving person and having balance? Is it a communication failure? Resentment? A lack of consistent support or help? Inability to work together? Different objectives or goals? Is there something that can be improved upon that will bring harmony and appreciation back into the system? Does it just boil down to you have grown apart? Communication is key to mutual understanding , conflict resolution, and effective changes in attitudes and behaviors. Communication failures can be remedied and the quality of life of the individuals and the system as a whole can be greatly improved with motivated partners. It can be difficult to know where to start sometimes but a good place is acknowledging the problem and getting an understanding of each person's perspective and needs. "I statements" are an effective way to explore a problem without jumping into blaming or defensiveness.  This is just an example of something you might say using "I statements":     "I believe that we aren't working well as a unit and I am not engaged in the level of self care that I need to feel happy and well balanced.  This past year living separate allowed me to streamline the day to day operations and explore aspects of self care that I wasn't able to attend to in our pre-Covid household.  I felt capable and enjoyed my activities. I feel (insert feeling word; discouraged, frustrated, deflated) that I am slipping back into an old pattern since we are all back to the same old way of operating. I need (x, y, z) to change in order to feel more balanced and enjoy my daily experience." Stating your thoughts and feelings about  the problem is not a selfish act. It's necessary in order for any kind of change to occur. You stating your thoughts and feelings will open up the dialogue and allow him to do the same. Together you will be able to make the decision about the next step is and what kind of change is needed.  I hope this helps and wish you the best. 
(MA, LPC-S)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Identity

Hi Tito, So I know there's a lot of stigma attached to the things you're talking about, and that can make it really difficult to get help. The first point I want to emphasize is that none of what you are describing is that uncommon, and the stigma attached to these things has decreased over the years. I know that doesn't necessarily change how your wife knowing about these could affect your marriage, but as a therapist, I just wanted to let you know or remind you that you are not alone in having these desires. Not being able to tell anyone, including the person who is probably closer to you than anyone else (your wife) has to make you feel so alone. I'd imagine it's also scary, valuing her in your life but fearful that if she saw the "real you" she wouldn't want to stick around. Oftentimes partners respond with less surprise than one expects, and the commitment to the marriage outweighs anything else. You used the word "Identity". There is much more to your identity (as well as much more to your relationship) than what you find sexually gratifying, but I also understand that hiding a piece of you from your wife is probably not easy, especially when you don't have anyone else with whom to discuss how you are feeling. As a result, I strongly suggest getting involved in therapy. It could help in a few different ways--for one, you could talk through whether or not to talk to your wife about this. A good therapist won't tell you what you should or shouldn't do but rather help you make that decision for yourself, exploring what may produce the best results. Additionally, I wonder where hiding these things has affected your self-image. Talking about these desires may be cathartic not only because you have not been able to express how you're feeling, but also to allow you to process the feelings associated with your situation (I'm guessing you're feeling some sense of aloneness, or confusion, or fear, or maybe a combination of all three.  There's a saying that I think is relevant here: "Secrets keep you sick." Feel proud of the fact that you're reaching out for help, but also consider whether you're ready to begin to talk about what is going on. Regardless of whether you choose to share this information with your wife, having a third party to listen may offer comfort as well as help you determine what next steps are best. Just let me know if I can help, and take care. Nick 
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What am I going through and how best to deal with it?

Faru587,  WHat a story, I am so sorry this happened.  In life we dont know in the moment why things happen but one day we will.  Im bet your heartbroken but remeber you will heal. Rather then ask "why is this happening to me" Ask how can I make sense of this and reframe it .  We cant change people only how we react to them.  The fact she remarried so quickly after should say something.  SHe cant be alone. I know alot of people who are uncomftable being alone and its a gift to be alone and enjoy yourself.  It takes along time to know someone.  Sometime, we never know someones true colors until they divorce.  Her saying she love you, she problable did.  But only to the best of her ability.  The way to deal with this is to realize she wasnt the "ONE" and begin to heal.  Resentments only hurt ourselves.   Look at inventing a new version of yourself with new hobbies and adventures..( In time of course)  The heartache will dissapate and you will move on...There is always a silver lining.  You learned to really look for red flags and not assume all is grand.. Relationships are work.  That happens to be my specialty.  ALso, you gain confidence and continue to work on your self.  Read "how to keep the love you find" by Harville hendrix ( Imago therapy).  Its tells us why we choose how we choose and why. This is a new beginning and the heart will mend.  I suggest work on your self for a while befoe dating again and turn off social medial.  Do positive things and remember this is an expeirence.  A lesson or a blessing. I dont think you mentioned your age, but doesnt matter.  There are many women who will love and appreciate you as you reivent your self as a single person.  When you do decide to date, dont mention you just got divorced.  I know it makes people a a little guarded. JUst be yoursef and try not to compare.  I know you will be ok..there will be gof and days but thats to be expected...lets strive for all gook days.  I hope this helped. I hope to hear from you again.   All my best, Dr. Jill Foxman (forgive typse)
(Ph.D., LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022