Marriage Answers

How do I discern what is a better arrangement, and a reasonable balance, for myself and my family?

Hello, you are in a very difficult situation. This sounds like you need help with your jouney moving forward and you are not sure how to go about getting there. I think from your question you are struggling with guilt and grief. They cause depression, anxiety, and lose. Dealing with guilt from the past and grieving over mistakes can cause decreased clarity for the future. I would recommend reading the book "The Road Less Traveled." The author of the book is M. Scott Peck, M.D. Know that there is no one answer to get clarity. You are the only person who can make the right choices for yourself and they will not be easy. I try to help clients use open ended questions when talking to their spouses about relationship difficulties.  An example would be "how do you feel about changing our relationship" or "how can I do something differently to change our relationship?" I think writing out your "How" questions before you start using them is a good place to start practicing before using them. Developing questions that start with "how" and not "why." Why questions can put people on defense. Another suggestion is to do a pros and cons list of things you are willing to do to change your relationship. Try to be clear and honest with yourself on what things you are willing to let go of from the past. Understanding that you can never return to the past and change it, and the only thing you can do something about is in the here and now. Start keeping a daily jounal of what is important to you. Looking at yourself in a critical manner doesn't help. Drinking during times of discord doesn't solve problems, it creates more. Can you stop drinking? If not, maybe you should think about joining a self help group with others who have had trouble with drinking? There are many groups you can join on zoom calls and they are free. It is good to do individual counseling in addition to talking with others who have a drinking problem. Does your spouse want to attend counseling? Couples counseling can be helpful to both of you. It can help you both descide what is important in the relationship. Lastly, be honest with yourself and your spouse. Being hosest with yourself may lead to the hard answers and don't be afraid of them. Sometimes the hardest decision are the best ones. 
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I implement constructive conflict resolution in my marriage?

I love your question, and your openness in asking this question!  You showed humility and vulnerability in being able to ask this and to share your feedback from your wife about her feeling of the intensity and that she is made to feel small.  I sense that you don't want to make her feel intimidated or less than, and hence you are looking for answers to make this better. I would like to help you to find this answer within yourself, because I truly believe that it is there within you.  You wrote about how your wife feels.  Are you curious about what that feeling is like for her?  I think that maybe you are, and that is the key.  Of course if there is a conflict, there are two sides to it.  Both of you want to be heard, and both of you want your own needs to be met.  What would happen if you put your curiosity about what your partner needs first?  Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.  We can't hear each other when we are busy trying to make them hear us.   Part of that curiosity is setting aside your reactions to your partner's needs or wants and validating her emotions.  She feels what she feels, and there is a reason for that.  It is not a judgement on you or on her.  Emotions just are.  You each choose what you do or say, but you feel what you feel.  Is it possible that the conflict in question might not even be as important in the grand scheme of things as creating the safety of being able to feel and share those emotions and connect with each other in the safe space of your relationship? Your question is about how to implement constructive problem solving.  The words that you say will follow from your attitude of curiosity without judgement.   If there is already hurt and conflict between you, there may be some steps that need to be taken before you have this safe space where emotions can be shared.  Maybe you need to take a time out and use the time to regulate your own emotions before coming back to re-engage in the conversation.   Is it possible that any of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" are at work?  Curiosity is an effective antidote for the four horsemen too.  For more on this, I will refer you to the Gottman Institute: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/ The four horsemen are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  These guys can wreck a relationship if they are not put in check.  The article that I linked to above discusses them and the specific antidote to each of them. Once you have created a safe atmosphere where both of you can express your needs and emotions, you can proceed with addressing the conflict.  Remember that you can always go back to listening with curiosity, taking a time out if you need to, and recognizing those horsemen if they show up.  When it is your turn to discuss your concern with your partner, there are also steps that can be helpful. A great model for that is the DEAR MAN acronym from DBT therapy.  You can find a lot more about that if you do a search.  I will explain it briefly here. D - Describe the situation, briefly, sticking to the facts. E - Express your emotions, using "I" statements.  ("I feel ___."  The blank is an emotion, not a place to interpret or give opinions). A - Assert or ask for what you need. R - Reinforce (which could also be reward or reciprocate).  This is the part where you think about what your partner needs and how you can work together to find a solution that works for both of you. M - Mindful of your objective.  What is the most important thing to you? A - Appear confident N - Negotiate.  Remember that there are at least two sides to it! Here is an example with further explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC-M59r-0jg It takes time and practice.  You can do this!  Also, it is okay to ask for more help and support.  Changing a long-term pattern in your life doesn't happen overnight.
(MS, CMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I have a better communication process with my husband?

The first question to explore is why does he feel the need to entertain other women outside of the marriage. There is always a reason behind the behavior. The reason why he is not having those deep conversations with you is because he is having those conversations with other women, as you stated in your message. So, when you try to have a conversation with him, he becomes agitated because he no longer needs to have those conversations with you. Those women can not do any more than what he allows. The questions to explore would be: How long have you both been married? What happened prior to him talking to other women? Did you both get into an argument? Has there always been communication issues? Has there been infidelity in the marriage? Has anything major life changes happened in the marriage, like a new baby, etc.? He may feel as if he no longer has your attention so he seeks it out else where. There are a good number of questions to ponder in order to find out the root cause of the changed behavior. Communication issues are some of the main issues in relationships and marriages. Although communication is the foundation of relationships and marriages, without communication, everything else in the relationship will fonder. It is possible to regain that communication but it takes the both of you working together to do so. You can not do this alone. Of course, you can do your part but he has to do his part as well for this to work. There are "Fair Fighting Rules" with communication. Learning those rules will help improve communication. You also have "I" Statements. "I" Statements help to decrease animosity and defensiveness from the other person when discussing a topic that is as sensitive as this. Learning "Assertive Communication" skills are important along with setting "Boundaries". These are just a few of the strategies that can be used to help improve communication in the marriage. Overall, we are social creatures. We thrive when we are validated, loved and respected. Learning effective communication skills are positive steps toward a happy and successful marriage. 
(Ed.S, MS, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Best marriage relationship advice book out out there?

It sounds  like you have a lot on your plate, and I would not be surprised if you were feeling a sense of betrayal over finding out about this. It also sounds like when you try to bring any of this up that your husband gets defensive and you are not able to have a conversation that is productive about it, and perhaps not even honest. I would say you need to ask yourself how you are feeling about this? What would you like to do about it? And definitely have an open conversation with your husband about it as well. I would highly recommend counseling and perhaps even couples counseling so that you can explore more of how you are feeling. It sounds like potentially there has been some sort of rupture in your relationship and that even perhaps he has had or is having an affair. Or at least not having appropriate boundaries with other women on social media when he is about to become a father. Sometimes if you are struggling with how you feel about something, it can be helpful to ask- If a good friend was coming to you with these issues, what kind of advice might you give them? I am going to send over some general communication and conflict resolution tips as well, as well as general information around boundaries as it sounds like that is potentially a trouble spot for you both. Take care.    Relationship Conflict Resolution Focus on the problem, not the person.When a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices, or mocking tones, the conversation is no longer productive. Be careful to focus on the problem without placing blame on your partner. If a disagreement becomes personal, you should pause the conversation. Use reflective listening.Oftentimes during arguments, we focus on getting our own point across rather than listening to our partner. Before responding to your partner, restate what they have said to you in your own words. Continue this process until your partner agrees that you understand. Next, share your side. Your partner should reflect back your ideas in their own words until they too understand. Using this technique will help both individuals feel listened to and understood, even if you disagree. Use "I" statements.When sharing a concern, begin your sentence with "I". For example: "I feel hurt when you don't tell me you'll be late". With this sentence format, we show that we are taking responsibility for our own emotion rather than blaming our partner. The alternative sentence—"You never tell me when you're going to be late" - will often cause a partner to become defensive. Know when to take a time-out.When you and your partner are becoming argumentative, insulting, or aggressive, it's a good idea to take a time-out. Have a plan in place so you or your partner can call for a break when needed. Spend some time doing something alone that you find relaxing. When you've both calmed down, you and your partner can return to solving the problem. Be sure that you do return—it isn't a good idea to leave these issues unaddressed. Work toward a resolution.Disagreement is a normal part of a relationship. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Try to find a compromise that benefits both individuals. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship, and let yourself move on if not.   What Are Personal Boundaries? Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say "no" to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships. A person who always keeps others at a distance (whether emotionally, physically, or otherwise) is said to have rigid boundaries. Alternatively, someone who tends to get too involved with others has porous boundaries. Common traits of rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries. Rigid Boundaries Avoids intimacy and close relationships. Unlikely to ask for help. Has few close relationships. Very protective of personal information. May seem detached, even with romantic partners. Keeps others at a distance to avoid the possibility of rejection. Porous Boundaries Overshares personal information. Difficulty saying "no" to the requests of others. Overinvolved with other's problems. Dependent on the opinions of others. Accepting of abuse or disrespect. Fears rejection if they do not comply with others. Healthy Boundaries Values own opinions. Doesn't compromise values for others. Shares personal information in an appropriate way (does not over or under share). Knows personal wants and needs, and can communicate them. Accepting when others say "no" to them. Most people have a mix of different boundary types. For example, someone could have healthy boundaries at work, porous boundaries in romantic relationships, and a mix of all three types with their family. One size does not fit all! The appropriateness of boundaries depends heavily on setting. What's appropriate to say when you're out with friends might not be appropriate when you're at work. Some cultures have very different expectations when it comes to boundaries. For example, in some cultures, it's considered wildly inappropriate to express emotions publicly. In other cultures, emotional expression is encouraged. Types of Boundaries Physical boundaries refer to personal space and physical touch. Healthy physical boundaries include an awareness of what's appropriate, and what's not, in various settings and types of relationships (hug, shake hands, or kiss?). Physical boundaries may be violated if someone touches you when you don't want them to, or when they invade your personal space (for example, rummaging through your bedroom). Intellectual boundaries refer to thoughts and ideas. Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for others' ideas, and an awareness of appropriate discussion (should we talk about the weather or politics?). Intellectual boundaries are violated when someone dismisses or belittles another person's thoughts or ideas. Emotional boundaries refer to a person's feelings. Healthy emotional boundaries include limitations on when to share, and when not to share, personal information. For example, gradually sharing personal information during the development of a relationship, as opposed to revealing everything to everyone. Emotional boundaries are violated when someone criticizes, belittles, or invalidates another person's feelings. Sexual boundaries refer to the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of sexuality. Healthy sexual boundaries involve mutual understanding and respect of limitations and desires between sexual partners. Sexual boundaries can be violated with unwanted sexual touch, pressure to engage in sexual acts, leering, or sexual comments. Material boundaries refer to money and possessions. Healthy material boundaries involve setting limits on what you will share, and with whom. For example, it may be appropriate to lend a car to a family member, but probably not to someone you met this morning. Material boundaries are violated when someone steals or damages another person's possessions, or when they pressure them to give or lend them their possessions. Time boundaries refer to how a person uses their time. To have healthy time boundaries, a person must set aside enough time for various facets of their lives such as work, relationships, and hobbies. Time boundaries are violated when another person demands too much of another's time.
(MA, LMFT)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I get past my anxiety and exhaustion to get in the mood for sex more easily?

Hi Loving Wife, thank you for this question. First off, I'm sorry to hear you're struggling with this. It's all-too-common an issue in marriage (sex, in-laws, and finances are the topics couples have the most issues with) so it's great that you're addressing it.  Just to make sure--have you checked out that there are no physical issues? Women with endometriosis, complicated post-delivery scarring, and issues like bacterial vaginosis sometimes don't enjoy sex because of intense and unpleasant physical responses, so I would make sure anything like that isn't an issue or ruled out while you're looking at the underlying emotional issues.  I'll be honest, sex is really hard to talk about, even in couples with great communication skills, so I'd encourage you and your husband to work on your communication skills in general. As Esther Perel says (and I'm paraphrasing), foreplay starts as soon as sex is over until it begins the next time. That means that it's not about fancy lingerie, sex toys, etc, it's about your connection and how you see and know each other emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. Her book, Mating in Captivity, has been helpful for couples all over the world as a place to start.  I would also recommend Gottman resource or couples therapists who have experience with Gottman techniques. More often than not, it's not so much about the sex as just an ability to communicate effectively, and so a Gottman-informed therapist can help you work on some of these more practical skills. Sex is scary to talk about; it's incredibly vulnerable, so best to shore up your overall communication before tackling this one. And when you do get to sex, start small. It doesn't need to ramp up to your biggest and deepest sexual fantasies overnight. Basic needs are a good place to start. Again, Gottman's resources are a great place to start with this. His book, What Makes Love Last, has a whole chapter with questions you can use to start conversations about improving your sex life that range from the banal to the incredibly intimate and vulnerable.  No matter where you are, I would start with a lot of self-compassion and grace for both you and your hubby. It sounds like you are juggling a lot (three kids, wow!). Hopefully, you can approach this with some levity and humor as well. That always helps!  Best of luck working through this issue!
(LCSW, MST)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I handle feeling like I’m bothering my spouse with problems or unhappy feelings?

Your situation sounds painful and confusing. It can be really disheartening to feel as though you are bearing the brunt of your partner's irritation or avoidance of shared issues. You also share that you no longer feel as though the two of you are on the same page about the future, and that can feel really scary. Fundamentally this sounds like a breakdown in communication and it might be time to have an honest and open conversation about how things have been going in the relationship as a whole. Your feelings are valid, and if there's a new disconnect it usually means that something really has changed.  You may want to start by finding some additional support. Do you have a friend or family member that you feel comfortable confiding in? Getting an outside perspective can be helpful in gaining a greater understanding of the situation and grounding yourself in the reality of what's happening. It might be that your fears are unfounded and can be easily addressed through asking for what you need, but it also might be the case that something more serious is underlying the behavior, and speaking with someone who knows you and your relationship can provide some clarity. Seeking out a mental health professional could also be helpful in giving you a non-judgemental space to express yourself and additional coping and communication skills.  It's very possible that your spouse's behavior/effect is a reflection of something that is going on with him and not you. Irritation and annoyance can be symptoms of depression. Is he sleeping too little or too much? Has he been having trouble at work? Has he been isolating himself from his normal social support? Have there been any financial stressors? Any of these potential situations could be contributing to negative moods or disengagement. It's common for spouses to dump their unhappiness and frustration on each other. If this is what's happening it's important that you balance offering support with clear boundaries. This means you assume that he’s doing the best he can at the moment, while still standing up for yourself and holding firm to what’s okay and not okay with you. Whatever the cause of these changes, communication is going to be key to finding a way forward. It's important to make sure that you're setting yourself up for success with this conversation. Here are some things to consider:  Is this a good time? Don’t bring things up when you’re already feeling frustrated or upset. This is likely to make your partner feel as if they’re being attacked – or that you’re just saying them because you’re in a bad mood. Make it a proper conversation: sit down without any distractions and take the time to explore what’s going on. It might be helpful to ask for time in advance and allow your spouse to have some say in when this will occur.  Give him space to express himself as well as share what's been going on with you. Use specific and concrete examples of what you've noticed, try to avoid judgment or blame in your descriptions. Once you feel that you've captured the situation, it can be helpful to ask for feedback on what he heard you say. Then allow him to offer an explanation- even if you find his explanations frustrating or upsetting, try to take them seriously. Explain how things are affecting you, rather than just going in with accusations and anger. ‘I’ phrases can be a useful way of taking ownership of your feelings and not turning everything on your partner, i.e. ‘When you don’t talk to me for days at a time, it makes me feel isolated’, rather than ‘You’re so distant! What’s wrong with you?!’. After the conversation, you will ideally have achieved a greater understanding of what's been going on - whether that understanding makes you feel relieved or reinforces your feeling that you're no longer on the same page. Regardless, getting to that understanding will help you plan your next steps. You deserve to be in a marriage that meets your needs and where your concerns have a place. Your presence is a gift and there's a reason that this person married you- you get to have expectations of them and your concerns should never be dismissed.  What are the action steps you're both going to take to improve the situation? How are you going to check in with each other to make sure that those steps are followed? What support will be necessary to take these actions? Make sure you have answers to these questions before you let this rest. It is very easy to walk away from a tough conversation feeling relieved, but not having concrete steps for what to do next. When that happens, it's easy to fall into the same situation again. If you do the brave work of expressing your needs and finding a new path, make sure you also lay the groundwork for effective follow-through.  You've got this!
Answered on 10/21/2021

Dealing with Wifes midlife crisis

Hi there. First of all, I want to say that it takes a lot of strength to reach out for help and I want to commend you for that. It sounds like you are going through a lot right now, and I'm sure it is very difficult to wrap your head around this, especially if this was a sudden change.   There are a few questions I would have for you if we were meeting. First, you mentioned that your wife has said she wants out of marriage, but not a divorce. I am not sure if this means that she is willing to work on things? If she is willing to work things out, one option would be marriage counseling if both of you were open to it. If you both were open to marriage counseling, you could research couples therapists in your area. Also, BetterHelp has a platform called Regain that is focused on couples/marriage counseling! Even if this is not an option right now, this could be something to consider in the future!   It is very important to stay present right now and focus on what you can control at this moment. It sounds like you are feeling like a lot of things are out of your control right now, and that certainly makes sense. So, maybe take a moment to list off the things that you CAN control right now - for instance, how hard you are working, how many hours of sleep you are getting, how you are taking care of yourself. Focusing on things that happened 10-15 years ago can be counterproductive, and this may be something that could be brought up in marriage counseling. However, since that is not where you two are currently at, I would encourage you to focus on what is happening right now.   Lastly, while you are thinking about what you want to do - as far as holding on, letting go, or letting it ride - I would encourage you to think about the pros and cons of each decision. You can even write these down and then evaluate them further. Sometimes seeing this on paper can be helpful.   I hope this helped, and again, thank you for reaching out! :)
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Where can I contact or get help for free if I’m having family problems?

Thank you for reaching out to better help for assistance. I look forward to assisting you.  Sounds like you would like to know where you can get help for free with your family problems. You don't say where you live so that is a big question mark??  Do you have insurance?  If you have insurance your insurance should cover the cost of family and marital and individual counseling. Some counseling centers have some free services or sliding scales based on income. You would have to check with each counseling center and see what they have available?  Sounds like you are having problems in your marital relationship and problems with your five-year-old son.  Sounds like you are saying that your husband is a strange person and doesn't listen when you all talk to him and you have to repeat things a lot. You state that your son is picking up some of these bad habits. I know that is frustrating.  You state that your son is having some cleanliness issues too. Sounds like your son is having some acting out behavior. Children that age really doesn't know how to communicate their thoughts and ideas too well. So, they act out. He feels he is getting your attention. All he knows is that something in his life doesn't feel good or secure or he is frustrated and scared. So children act out with their behavior, school, or other ways. He is getting your attention. I know this is very frustrating for you.  How do you and your husband interact with your son?  Do you argue or fight around your son?  Can your son sense that you and your husband are not getting along well?  For a five-year-old, this could be very scary. He can't take care of himself and is totally dependant on you and your husband. Try and discuss things about your marriage away from your son. Try and have some schedule and normalcy for your son's life. Children like structure in their lives. It tends to make them feel more secure. Marriages and relationships require a lot of work. There are different stages to the relationship. The first stage is the romantic stage. You fall in love and don't notice the little things that later bother you. Oxytocin, the love hormone is rushing thru your body. The next stage is the conflict of interest. This is where you notice the things like your husband not listening and having to repeat things to him. You start to wonder why did I marry this person. This is where you tend to see the divorces and affairs. This is where you need to work on the marriage with therapy/ marital counseling or just work on the marriage with date nights and communication. Relationships require three things: communication, trust, and respect. The next stage is transformation and then acceptance of the relationship you have. You both are in the conflict of interest or work stage. Try and contact a church or counseling center and see if they have free sessions. You can also google this for your area. I hope this helped some. I wish you and your family the best. I look forward to hearing from you.
(LPC, NCC, MS)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do u find peace and forgiveness from my wife of what I did to her.

Hello and thank you for sharing with me.  I can imagine this isn't something one would like to divulge so I appreciate you trusting me to carry this with you. You mentioned God, so I can only deduce that you are Christian.   Given that, my first thought is for you to go in prayer.  The Bible says that he is faithful to forgive when we confess our sins to him.  You didn't mention whether your wife is Christian or not, but if you have not considered,  could you ask if she would be willing to go to counseling with you (if you haven't before).  You didn't mention whether this has been an issue in the past so the hope is that she doesn't have old wounds she's dealing with.    I am not a couples therapist however I will tell you that rebuilding trust (if there is still an opportunity for you to do so) takes lots of consistent, positive behaviors and interactions on your part.  It would take you being willing to be a "come through" kinda guy and answering questions again and again in order to provide reassurance.  You have to consider why and how you got to the place where you allowed for the other relationships and whether (truthfully) you can commit and submit to your relationship to only your wife.    I would also suggest that it might be a good idea (no matter how this plays out for you) for you to speak with someone about the things that perhaps you can't share with family or friends.   A safe person and a safe place to process and store all of your heart's deepest thoughts.  Again if you are Christian,  I would suggest it be someone who can speak life into you from a spiritual perspective.  So often as Christians the belief is in God as all-powerful and Savior.  But.....often God isn't considered FIRST.  The Bible says to seek FIRST the kingdom of God.......then...ALL these things.....(you probably know the scripture).  This passage refers to considering God's will in order to obtain those things that ultimately will bring peace and joy we are longing for in our lives (obviously I am paraphrasing, but you get the gist).   I am sorry all of this has happened in your life, but consider what you are learning about yourself,  about your relationship and about where you will Allow God to be. I will say that if you don't have insurance, and finances are tight,  you might go to college or university in your area.  They generally have a counseling department that is open to the public and they operate on a sliding scale so you might be able to get sessions for as low as $5.  It's worth checking into for sure! Take care of yourself,  acknowledge what has been done, begin to consider where you want your life to go and allow others who are trusted to walk alongside you.  We need each other.   Don't isolate.  Be blessed!
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

My husband left me one month ago, how do I get over this trauma?

Hello Betrayed,  I imagine, by the chosen pseudonym, that there is a deep wound that occurred in the relationship that caused the separation between you and your husband. I want to assure you that the mixed emotions you are feeling (regarding wanting him back but not wanting that and in fact wanting to learn how to get over him) are quite common after the loss of a breakup. This is further complicated by the fact that you share children together.    Give yourself space to fully experience all of these emotions and complicated thoughts, and if you need a place to express your thoughts about the breakup and lingering feelings a trained mental health counselor, like those on BetterHelp, can be a great support.    I know your primary question is centered around how to get over the loss of the separation. Getting over separation and/or divorce is a process of transition that you must go through. It is similar to the grieving process that you go through when someone close to you dies or if you experience any other sort of loss. You have to be able to grieve, embrace the hurting, accept the situation, heal from the pain, and lastly be able to move on with your independent life.  There are usually four phases that people go through when moving on from separation/divorce:    Shock And Denial  Anger  Acceptance and Healing  Moving On      So what does moving on after divorce look like? It is truly different for everyone, but as a general rule, you have moved on from divorce when you have finished grieving, accepted the situation, and begun to rebuild your life on your own.  Allow yourself to experience whatever it is you are thinking and feeling. Don't fight it. Allowing yourself to feel what you need to feel will help you progress through the grief stages and ultimately heal from the loss.   Again, if you need help working through the grief, talking with a trained mental health professional can help. You do not have to go through this alone and I encourage you to talk about what you are feeling. I wish you well in whatever you decide today. Take care.
(MSW, LCSW, CADC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Am I an unforgiving person?

Dear Moringa,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me the struggles you're experiencing in your relationship, resulting in not being able to trust.   Trust is a word we hear a lot. Recently I heard a story on the radio about investment fraud In which one of the victims of the fraud said, "I'll never trust anyone again." A strong statement about trust and one worth exploring.   What is trust anyway? The definitions of trust indicate that trust in another person imposes upon him a duty of care that asks him to be someone we can rely upon to do what we have asked of him. It seems straightforward to understand when we read it, but what happens when we examine the way trust works? Trust requires a relationship between two people, and all relationships are complex.   As we experience relationships, we come to realize that in a relationship, two people never fully know one another or can expect that the other person will do exactly what we want to have done. This is particularly true if we ourselves are not certain what we want and need or how to ask for it.   Where do we learn to know what to expect of our relationships? To know how to relate to another person we start with knowing the only person we can really know, ourselves. If we want to trust someone else, we begin with first learning who we are, what we want, and what we know about ourselves as we grow and change. We explore our strengths, boundaries, and limitations. Knowing who we are and what we are capable of, we learn how to trust ourselves.   One of the key approaches in our work here is to help folks who are sensitive to go from feeling vulnerable in their sensitivity to feeling powerful in their sensitivity. We may not be able to change how easily we feel sensitive about things due to our past experiences and traumas, however, we can continue to practice making choices that would empower ourselves even when we feel sensitive.   When we are able to create this "inner peace" within us and feel grounded, we will see ourselves being more capable to take care of others, because we have taken care of ourselves. We'll go through this process together. :)   One of the keys to making that transition is to start feeling safe & comfortable in your body and to create that safety for yourself wherever you go.   Situations that can trigger a feeling of unsafety   When we are sensitive, many situations can trigger a feeling of unsafety. For example, we can feel unsafe when:   We feel judged and/or rejected   Our finances are unstable   We feel a conflict between people (even when it’s not about us)   A situation reminds you of an earlier situation that felt unpleasant or unsafe   We get ‘triggered’ and our old wounds/hurts to come to the surface   We feel threatened by our surroundings/environments that remind us of our past   You can even run your life in a default setting of feeling ‘unsafe’ just because of all the energies you feel around you.   The result is that you leave your grounding and that you feel unstable, worried, uncomfortable, and out of balance. You move from your heart back into your head.   How can we feel safer?   Feeling safe is partly an inside job and partly an outside job. If you are in an environment that just isn’t right for you, where you don’t fit in and don’t feel a connection with people, it will be hard to feel safe and comfortable there.   This is not as easy as it looks.   In the context of our everyday activities and familiar circumstances, we may assume we have done this and already know ourselves. We may apply labels to ourselves and say we are “fierce” or “shy” or “lazy”, but labels do not invite knowing. They make categories. Do we actually know ourselves? Unfortunately not much may challenge our assumptions about ourselves until a major shift in our lives comes along. Then in the face of a significant change, we may understand we have not looked as closely as we might.   If the change is physical, we may begin to look deeply at our physical patterns of expression for the first time. We may have been unconscious of the ways in which our movement patterns, strengths, and weaknesses are unique. Now we ask: How do I get things done? What are my strengths and limitations? How do my strengths work with my unique movement patterns? How will I negotiate around my limitations?   If we don't know what to expect of ourselves, it can be very hard to trust the people helping us. After a sudden change in our physical abilities, we may feel deeply invaded. We all have boundaries - places where we feel vulnerable and want to keep ourselves separate from someone else. Where are our boundaries, and how do we protect ourselves if we cannot walk away? This is vital to discover at a time when we may need assistance in ways we have never needed it before and would prefer not to admit this need.   If we have a financial problem we may look at the decisions that led to the problem and judge ourselves harshly for making a mistake - not remembering that hindsight is 20/20. We may not realize that there were things we assumed and didn’t challenge or examine or learn that we had better learn now. Being critical of ourselves, we may be reluctant to look at our actions clearly and learn from them.   Building trust in ourselves requires us first to look closely at ourselves, being honest about what we discover. Then we must practice compassion for and acceptance of the person we are discovering ourselves to be. Being willing to know is not the same as harshly judging. Harsh judgments close us off to ourselves. Compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance open us up and allow us to learn.   If we know and accept our limitations without fighting that knowledge, we can learn to communicate what we know and don't know about what we can and cannot do. We come to understand that everybody has limitations. We see that we and our relationships are always transforming - never remaining static – giving us endless opportunities to keep on learning.   Building a relationship with another person is done a step at a time as we explore the ways we can interact and care for one another. When we know ourselves, we do not expect that simply because someone is an expert, she knows what is best for us. She will know many things we do not know and will have much to teach us, but she doesn’t know us. We are the only ones who can have that specialized knowledge. In a relationship, each person can regularly communicate what he knows to the other and both can learn where to trust the other. Perhaps that also goes with building relationships with ourselves and our inner being?   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I tell if I am the problem in my relationship?

Dear Tony,  Thanks for reaching out with this question. I think it takes courage and strength to seek out support around elements of our life that are creating distress. Relationships can be a great source of joy and positive emotions, but they can also involve a lot of hurt and negative emotions. When children are added to relationships it becomes even more complex.  Unfortunately, I am not able to advise you on determining the source of the conflict with limited information and without a thorough clinical assessment. I would recommend that due to the severity and complexity of the issues you described that seeking out some support would be beneficial. In the meantime, I can provide some basic education and guidance that I hope will be helpful for you in navigating this question and considering the next steps.  As humans beings, we inherently desire closeness. The ability to form stably healthy relationships is key to our mental and emotional well-being. For some people, healthy relationships come easy. These individuals may have grown up in environments where it was modeled to them. But for others, this is something that is hard and must be learned. Things like never learning what a healthy relationship looks like or have additional strains on the relationship like substance abuse, mental illness, financial instability, discrimination, or complex medical issues. If you are dealing with any additional psycho-social stressors, know that you are not alone AND that you can still have a healthy relationship. Signs of a healthy relationship would include partners who support one another through both the good and bad times. They tend to grow and develop together while allowing flexibility. Healthy couples are able to resolve conflict successfully as they have a mutual sense of trust and respect for each other. They are able to communicate with each other about the challenging areas in life and be open to hearing the other's perspective.  Common signs that relationships may fall in the unhealthy range include feelings of guilt that often occur for no reason. There might be a sign that you can not exist without the other person, which is a warning sign of codependency. You or your partner may not respect or be able to maintain boundaries that are set. Feeling like you have "lost yourself," like the relationship is draining of energy. Sometimes unhealthy relationships include elements of control where a person in the relationship is not able to spend time with family or friends (or even the reverse family and friends don't want to be present due to the control). Trust is typically lacking and elements of jealousy may start to appear. You might find that your confidence and self-worth deteriorate as you feel devalued by your partner.  Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse may be a part of the relationship.  I would consider what aspects of your relationship might fall into healthy versus unhealthy aspects. I would also consider what you might be contributing to each of these areas. It is likely you will find aspects of both and that you may be contributing to both as well. I would consider your values and how this relationship is meeting (or not meeting) these values.  In the process of reflecting, I would also consider many of the implications of the accusations of "beating and controlling" your wife. These accusations can result in a loss of relationship and parenting rights with your future child. They can result in legal and financial consequences. From here, it is a snowball effect when you explore things like employment or looking for housing. These allegations have serious implications in your life and the life of your unborn child. I would consider these seriously.  I would recommend that seeking both individual therapy and couple therapy if continuing this relationship is what is best for you. Oftentimes, couple therapy is not an option until the serious claims you bring up are addressed.  I would also recommend looking into group work. Many groups exist in communities around communication or anger that can really benefit relationships.  At the end of the day, I hope you are able to reflect on your relationship and determine what is best for you (and your wife). Continuing in an unhealthy relationship is not only toxic for the people in the relationship but is damaging to children that are in these environments.  Best,  Kelsey Place, MSW, LICSW
(MSW, LICSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Unable to make a decision regarding my marriage

Relationships can be so very difficult when things like this happen. But things like this can happen if we have not been clear with what we want or need. I could probably provide a more conscious answer if I knew more about the relationship, but I will do my best. Withholding intimacy may be a sign of something greater within him. Could he be guilty of his behavior? Is there something else that may be unspoken between you? Have you considered couples counseling?The only person who can decide if it is time to leave the relationship is you. You don't indicate how long you have been together, is it a substantial amount of time? What would you lose besides the relationship if you were to call it quits? I would recommend taking some time to do some writing about your relationship and how you are feeling about it. It can be much easier to do an exercise like this first so that you have something to refer to should you make a decision to leave. At least you will know you looked at it thoroughly before making a decision that will change your life. It also helps to remove emotion from the discussion because you will have done it before you become emotional in his presence. Decisions made out of anger, fear, or sadness usually turn out badly. So take some time to write it down.A good place to start is at the beginning. Defining things like commitment, vulnerability, and sharing your expectations for the relationship as you believe it, and then ask him to do the same and see if the definitions match. If not then you can discuss why or figure out how to change what needs to be changed. Or you will be clear that it is not something that you want to work on. Not knowing you or your history makes it a little more difficult to think of something that may be more helpful for you. Honest conversation, clear boundaries and expectations and consistent effort is the best way to make a relationship work.
(LCMHC, NCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is there even the slightest possibility of saving my marriage?

Hello- Every couple and the marital situation is different. However, it can be possible to save your marriage as long as the two of you are willing to work towards saving it. Working through an affair is tough. It takes tremendous energy and vulnerability on both sides. There are small steps that can be taken to increase effective communication, rebuild trust, and recreate intimacy. It sounds as though you are remorseful and realized that you made a mistake. This is already a step in the right direction for recovery. A step towards moving to heal your partner is, to take ownership of how much you have rocked the foundation of your marriage. It will also be important for you to practice self-compassion and acceptance of your mistake so you are not facing continued guilt and shame. This way of thinking not only keeps you stranded in pain but will push you on a downward spiral.  Couples therapy after an affair is critical. During this time, couples can get lost in a vicious cycle between staying hurt and blaming/shaming for the event that occurred. It is important to be able to feel heard and have your feelings validated in order to acknowledge the affair in a productive and healing way. Additionally to these steps, working on resentment and triggers will be equally as important. Learning how to manage triggers is important for all couples who have experienced infidelity. When triggered, the betrayed/ hurt spouse must avoid two extremes. The first is not mentioning the trigger and suffering in silence, which will make them withdrawal emotionally. The second is becoming verbally assaulting towards the spouse each time they get triggered, which will lead to bitter conflict. Lastly, the importance of recreating and setting boundaries will need to be outlined. Boundaries both partners will follow moving forward to reduce the risk of affairs. For example, how should boundaries look when you're traveling on business? What happens after an argument? How should it look if you're going out with your friends for the night without your partner? In conclusion, anything is possible, should you both be willing to walk the path towards mending and healing. Good luck to you both.   -Grace
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I get over an infidelity and get my confidence back?

Hello, thank you for reaching out, and thank you for your question. I am so sorry to hear about the conflict in your marriage. Infidelity is never an easy subject to discuss or challenge to overcome BUT, it can be done if you and your spouse are willing to face the situation together. First, move your focus from the past to the present. It is easier said than done but focusing on the past, blaming the situation, yourself, or your spouse is doing nothing to help move the relationship forward. We are all responsible for how we think, feel, and behave. That is important because even though we may not get to choose what happens to us, we ALWAYS get to choose how we respond to things, how we see things. Additionally, we cannot control our thoughts, they come and go but the good news is we can control which ones we choose to hang onto, which ones we entertain. Reliving the incident over and over in your head is not beneficial to you so, do not entertain that thought, instead, focus on what you need to do to move forward. You can do that by learning to communicate your thoughts and feelings in an honest and assertive manner. Honest and open communication is crucial in a situation like this because, without it, the resentments caused by the infidelity will only intensify. Another way to move forward is to re-establish clear, consistent boundaries in the relationship. Oftentimes, relationships hit snags because boundaries become blurred and lines of communication become interrupted leading to confusion, mistrust, and sometimes, betrayal. Maintaining healthy boundaries will help maintain a healthy relationship between you and your spouse moving forward. Finally, learning to forgive is perhaps the most important and the hardest skill to master in order to move the relationship from crisis to happiness. Most people mistake forgiveness as being something they do for someone else. They also think that forgiving someone means that they are letting them get away with bad behavior. On the contrary, forgiveness is neither one of those things. True forgiveness is for the giver, not the receiver. True forgiveness means that you are no longer going to torture yourself by carrying the past offense with you. It also means that you are no longer choosing to hold the offense over the other person's head. The cool thing about forgiveness is, the other person does not even need to know you have done it.  However, forgiveness does NOT come without consequences. It does NOT mean that you forget the offense. With true forgiveness must come the re-establishment of clear and consistent boundaries and consequences if those boundaries are violated in the future. I hope you find this answer helpful. I wish you and your spouse the best! 
Answered on 10/21/2021

My husband leave me . and I could not accept this . I love him so much . he said I have anger issues

First, have you tried couple therapy? If you asked your husband, would he do couple counseling with you? Has he already moved on? If he has left you and is not interested in communicating with you anymore, there is little you can do. It is not healthy to force people into anything. If you are meant to be together, he will come back. Life has a way to work out that way. But there is no timetable for if or when. Meanwhile, you are in a transition in your life. Transitions can bring all sorts of stress: abandonment, rejection, fear of the future, figuring out what you really want if you have to care for yourself and your pregnancy, etc So, in the meantime, seek your own therapy. You will have to learn to live independently for some time. You will have to learn to overcome your anger issues if your husband was right about that. You may have grief from relationship loss to overcome, you may have self-worth or self-esteem concerns. You will need a lot of support from family and friends. If you need a place to stay, do you have a family member or a friend that can give you shelter temporarily? You will have to look at your resources (financial, and relationships) to figure out what to do next and make a budget. You may need help from a social worker here if you don't know where to start or how to figure certain things out. If you are spiritual/religious one option is to ask the God of your understanding for help. A common mistake here is that a lot of people try to control God. If you truly believe in God, you have to let God solve this problem, and trust the process without interfering/controlling/losing patience. Meanwhile do what you can to bring yourself to a place where you can be in a relationship: love yourself, learn about co-dependence, learn about the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman, learn about what makes a relationship work, etc This may not be what you wanted to read. But know that I am talking from experience.
(MSMHC, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I need to talk my life is a mess

Hi IHC,   It sounds like you are feeling very overwhelmed and confused with the prospect of divorce being talked about. I can hear that you are feeling that your wife may have already made her mind up, and it sounds like you aren't on the same page with divorce being the only option. Relationships are complex and when we feel that our stability in a relationship is being threatened it can be really scary. If you are having any thoughts of suicide or self-harm I would reach out to your local crisis line or the LifeLine for immediate support.   I can hear many feelings you are experiencing and it sounds like you are feeling stuck with what else to do or say. It sounds like you could use a safe place to talk through these feelings and be able to come up with a plan for what you can do that is in your control. Many people find therapy really helpful in supporting them during times like these and could be beneficial regardless if it ultimately looks like the two of you might be able to work this out or if a divorce is imminent.   Have you thought about seeing if she is willing to engage in couples counseling? It will be really important during this trying time to find and reach out to trusted friends and family for support... this is a really difficult time and you deserve to have others around that can be there for you in the ways that you need.    I can hear that you are feeling really out of control, it would probably be helpful for you to do some grounding or other relaxation exercises when it gets overwhelming, as well as, periodically checking in with yourself and looking for the areas in which you do have control: communicating concerns and feelings effectively, reaching out to supports, thinking about starting therapy for some tools and a judgment free zone to process and vent, making sure you are eating and sleeping okay.    If you have a primary care doctor you could also make an appointment with them to discuss what has been going and maybe talk about whether it might be helpful to try some medication to help manage the depression/anxiety symptoms.   Lorraine
(MS, LCPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I deal with marital issues

Hello! That is a deeper question than it seems on the surface. It sounds like your husband does not want to put energy into figuring out your needs or how to please you, and expects you to do all of the emotional labor of pleasing both of you. When you say "even when it is not comfortable" I wonder if you are talking about things of a sexual/intimate nature, or more about things like "I work a whole day and he wants me to have dinner ready when he gets home from work anyway," neither of these is really reasonable and will lead to resentment, for sure.  Your comfort is actually pretty important, so is your CONSENT. If he is not interested in a reciprocal relationship, one with both of you trying to please the other, then this is definitely a red flag. I wonder if this has been going on for a long time or is new/newish.  Are you able to talk with him, to ask him for the things you need, even to express "I don't mind doing X with you, but you keep asking for Y, and I am really not OK with that?" If you can, do. If you cannot, then I'd want to explore why that is. If he is willing to ask for what he wants, and not respond when you do the same, then the relationship is very unequal. If what you want is a partner, then that needs to be discussed openly. If it doesn't feel safe to have that conversation, perhaps you could involve your therapist, a clergy person, even a trusted family member to help you have that. The signs are there that communication is the most likely ingredient missing from your relationship. Maybe even simple things like "When X happened I felt sad because I wasn't able to explain why I can't do that for you," or "I am really happy when we do such and such a thing."  Would you be willing to try some communication with him, and see what happens? If he really is uninterested in talking about you, your needs, and your feelings, then that is perhaps a sign that more counseling or intervention (or more direct and specific conversation) is needed. At worst, it might be time to move on. At best, the two of you sit and sort out where the disconnect is and are able to both express your needs in a safe and supportive environment. 
(MS, LMHC, CDP)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How to live your life without focusing on others problems

Dear Adaze, It is hard to be able to live in an environment where steeping problems are part of it. It does affect our daily life brings a lot of stress and sadness. It is harder when the ongoing problems are caused by whom we look up to be our protective factors and our land of trust. Studies have shown that children’s levels of stress rise when they witness arguments. Seeing an argument is one thing, but witnessing arguments between your parents, the two people you love the most, and you look up to is painful. The feelings of being helpless to change the situation can lead to sadness, worry and stress. It is so difficult witnessing arguments even if we are not invested with the arguing adults. If we witness arguments between strangers, we try to ignore them, yet carefully monitor them to see if we need to call for help. When we are witnessing arguments at home between our loved ones, we absorb the emitting toxins and we try to manage our lives through it. It is definitely more stress-inducing if the adults arguing are our parents. However,  many times we are told it was just a little argument as a child there is the automatic surge of anxiety and panic that comes with witnessing the conflicts. Arguments between parents affect the parent’s relationship, it also affects the parents’ relationship with their children. Discords between parents create a vicious cycle of resentment, anger, and frustration. Parents who live with a high amount of conflict tend to have their discipline tactics suffer and use tougher discipline with their children. Due to the continued marital discord, arguments become a norm that dissipates to the relationship with the children. The parents become accustomed to high-stress levels, where they are on the verge to lose their cool or defending themselves. The parents become either passive-aggressive, aggressive, or submissive. The parents oscillate being aggressive or submissive depending on the arguments. The parents in such households are unpredictable. This definitely leads to anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms that could lead to mental illness if early interventions are not in place. The parenting skills are negatively affected by such a state of the marriage and the children over time feel unsettled and uncared for. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depressive mood. The studies have shown that the children fare better living in a single-parent low conflict house than remaining in a two-parent high conflict house. The long-term psychological impact of parental discord on a child affects the relationships of the child throughout his life. It seems that your parents’ relationship has affected you tremendously. I know I talked a lot about the negative effects. However, you are taking the first step by recognizing the difficulties you have endured. You are strong and resilient, as you have identified the need to talk about the difficulties. Please make sure to seek professional help, as it will help you. While you cannot do anything about the relationship between your parents, you can work on the relationship with yourself and with each parent separately. Dr. Aboulhosn, LMHC, LMFT, CCSOTS  
(PHD, LMFT, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Caught wife in a lie by looking at her personal info, should I confront her about it?

Hi Bob!  I have to say if you are asking this question, you already know your answer.  Trust goes both ways in a relationship – you should trust that she won’t cheat on you (in any form), and she should trust that you won’t go through her messages.  The bottom line here is honesty.  If you are trying to work things out, then you need to own what you did and be honest with what you did and why.  Also, a relationship that is surrounded by dishonest behavior and mistrust leads to more problems to be resolved.  You said you are contemplating divorce, so was there a recent or previous indiscretion that would bring her trust into question?  Or would you say that you have been suspicious of her cheating and find yourself looking for evidence?  If she has cheated on you in the past (this can be emotional or physical) and you both agreed to work on it, then I would say this is something you may need to work on for yourself.  You both agreed to resolve your problems and work on your relationship but, if you are not respecting her space and are going through her phone, then this is something you need to look inwardly about.  Why can’t you trust her, or is this of all women, or people?  Now, if it is the latter scenario, then you may already know the answer subconsciously and maybe don’t want to admit to yourself the potential truth of the matter: she is cheating on you.  Again, you won’t know definitively if she is cheating on you unless you ask her and tell her how you arrived at that conclusion.  The better question here is what if she is cheating on you, how do you want to respond?  Do you want to leave her, or do you still want to work it out?  It’s better to confront this situation with how you would like to proceed in mind.  Also, on a side tangent, you need to also consider what if she isn’t cheating and what might this confrontation do to your relationship.  There are so many potential paths to follow here, and I’m limited in the information surrounding this situation.  The best thing I can say is why did you go through her phone and what were your intentions?  Is this a pattern for you in this relationship or do you find yourself not trusting of people in general?  I wish I could give you a straightforward yes, confront her or no, don’t but, each path leads to more questions because it’s not simple to do it or not, it really is what is the end game here: do you want to stay with her and work on your relationship or do you want to start a fight and have a reason to leave?  I’m sorry for answering your question with more questions but, really that’s what therapists do – help you to arrive at your own conclusion by asking questions and helping you navigate your thoughts and feelings surrounding the situation to come to your own resolution.  I can tell you what I would do but, this isn’t my relationship.  
(MA, LMFT)
Answered on 10/21/2021