Monogamy Answers

¿ Am I suffering psychological and financial abuse from my husband?

Dear Dina,   Thank you for your message and for allowing me to understand more about the dynamics between you and your husband. I do share your concerns regarding some of his behaviors.   Through your words, I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving/helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor, I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggles is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I control my stress and anger caused by my husband's multiple cheatings on me

Dear Seema,   Thank you for your message and for allowing me to understand more about the dynamics in your relationship with your husband.   Through your words, I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving/helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor, I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggles is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Can an infidelity be something I can cope with and move on from?

I do believe that couples can heal from infidelity.  However, the responsibility is on the one who cheated to make amends.  It is the responsibility of the one who stayed faithful to process feelings of anger and betrayal, and for them to learn to eventually forgive.  Unless both partners are ready to do whatever it takes to make things work, the marriage may end.  If only one spouse wants to give their all, and the other spouse continues to play emotional games, avoid responsibility, blame others, or any other form of manipulation, it probably will not work.   On that note, some people cheat because they show narcissistic tendencies.  Those are the manipulative tendencies listed above.  Many of them will try to convince you that you are to blame for their misbehavior.  Narcissistic people also have a lack of empathy.  They tend to feel no remorse for their behavior that hurts others.  If you see those traits in people, then they may not be a healthy person for you to continue in a relationship with anyway.  Narcissistic people also tend to need adoration from others, so having multiple women grasping for their attention tends to encourage their ego.   However, if they are both willing to take responsibility for their part of the issues, there is hope.  I do sense from your question that you are taking on some of the responsibilities that your partner must hold, and therapy usually helps with sorting that out.  Even if someone is lonely or feeling rejected from their partner, cheating is still their choice.  The non-cheating spouse does not have to take responsibility for that.  However, in most marriages, there is a lot of issues that lead up to an affair.  Sometimes it can be prolonged loneliness, lack of intimacy, lack of emotional trust, and other factors that can lead someone to venture out of their marriage.   Whatever your decision, therapy is beneficial in people who may be on the verge of divorce to promote healing so if a divorce does happen, the anger is less likely to spill over to the children.  I do hope you consider counseling for yourself in this difficult time as a way to take care of yourself. 
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is having a guy friend cheating when you would talk to them about your problems with your husband?

Hi Harley, You bring up a couple of questions/points that could be helpful to take a look at. As for your original question of what constitutes "cheating," my definition of cheating could be very different than another mental health professional's definition. It wouldn't be my place, nor do I think it would be helpful, for me to tell you what I consider to be cheating. What I think is more beneficial is for you to examine what you consider cheating, what your partner considers cheating, and to explore factors related to any guilt you may feel.  As for talking with a friend about your husband, in general, I feel it is very important for people to express their feelings on a regular basis, and because your husband is certainly an important person in your life, you will have feelings about him and should have an outlet to share how you feel. Whether your male friend is the best person to talk to about your feelings, I don't know. I could imagine that if he has feelings for you, and especially if you also have feelings for him, that talking with him about your husband could at the very least make things complicated. You may want to ask yourself why you have chosen this person with whom to vent about your husband. Is it because he has had similar experiences, because he is a good listener because you have limited other support, or because he pushes you to have these conversations. Just try to examine your motive, and remember that everyone needs to talk about their feelings. Of course, what can be more productive than talking about your feelings associated with your husband is talking with your husband about how you are feeling and working through those problems with your husband. You may want to look at whether you feel you can be open with him. Therapy has a number of advantages for those who are experiencing problems in relationships--for example, you can talk about these problems with someone who is a third party and who will maintain confidentiality, you can know that the therapist has no motive other than trying to help you, and you can look at solutions for the problems in the marriage and possibly, if your husband is willing, invite him to join the process at some point, which may yield the best benefits.  I don't know to what extent the next part of your question (your coworker making uncomfortable comments to you) relates to the first part. I'm not sure if you are talking about the same individual with whom you are expressing your feelings about your husband. If so, I do suggest considering establishing and maintaining strict boundaries with this person. You should never feel guilty for someone being inappropriate with you, but you may want to look at whether this is someone who truly respects you and wants the best for you. Anyway, no one should feel sexually harassed at work, and you may want to talk with someone you trust or a therapist about whether it would be best to report this. A concern is that it could continue to escalate.  The last sentence is also something you may want to explore further. Does your husband make you feel inadequate, or do you feel unappreciated, unwanted, or disrespected in the relationship? If so, I strongly suggest talking with a therapist about this relationship. If your husband is treating you as if you are "horrible" you can internalize that and begin to develop poor self-esteem. If you do have difficulty recognizing your strengths and appreciating yourself, therapy can also help you develop self-love and self-acceptance.  Anyway, I really hope you will seek support. You shouldn't have to feel uncomfortable with a coworker at work and then additionally feel persistently guilty and a failure when you are at home with your husband. It sounds like therapy could be very helpful, and I'd be happy to work with you.  Nick 
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I know I’ve made the right decision for myself?

Hi, and thank you for reaching out.  We often find ourselves second-guessing our decisions when we feel very strongly about something or someone, and it sounds as though you have some very strong feelings for this person.   Polyamorous relationships can be very difficult, especially if one person really does not feel comfortable with this type of relationship.   Many people are exploring these types of relationships in today's society; they work for some, but not others.   You did not mention why you decided to cut off all communications, but I suspect it was to try to distance yourself so you could heal from the relationship and be able to move on.  One of the most important things to consider is whether or not you are comfortable in that type of relationship, and apparently, it was not for you.  I often ask individuals to make three lists when they enter into a relationship:  the first list is your expectations of the relationship; the second list is that of behaviors you really don't like but can tolerate in the relationship, and the third list is that of deal-breakers, meaning if such-and-such occurs, under no circumstances will I stay in that relationship.   I ask each individual to make those three lists by themselves and then sit down and share them with their partner or potential partner.  This discussion makes things very clear in a relationship, so there are no surprises and no one can say, "well, you never told me that before we got together." Above all, one must be comfortable in the decisions in the relationship; if you are uncomfortable, you will never feel fulfilled in the relationship and there will be a strain.  If you feel very strongly about polyamorous relationships, then they are not for you and you deserve a relationship where you can be happy. Sometimes we can continue "friendship" with our "ex-partner", but other times, we cannot.  If you decide to continue a friendship with that ex-partner, then you can decide what the parameters are of that relationship and set boundaries. Sometimes we need a "clean break" with no contact for several months to be able to heal from the relationship, and then we can go back and become just friends.  One thing to consider is what you do value about this person and is it worth staying friends, or maybe taking a break and coming back later to revisit the idea of just friendship.   Another thing to consider is what your needs are in a relationship; your needs are very important, as is your partner's.   So, I hope this helps to give you some ideas of where to start to decide if you made the right decision.  Remember, you are grieving and we all grieve at different paces; it takes time to grieve and heal.  I wish you the very best.  
(LMHC, ACHT, CTS)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I get over my childhood trauma that affects me till this day?

There are numerous ways to get over childhood trauma that happened years ago.  You can also gain information concerning your mother which may lead you to a family of half-siblings if she had other children.  There are many reasons why a person does not raise their own child and most are not done with an intent to abandon or reject the child.   Concerning treatment, there are numerous methods of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) available today and any one or a mixture of them may be instrumental in effectuating the change you are seeking.  EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a popular method of treatment and is known for effectuating change more quickly than any other method.  It involves the use of bilateral stimulation to assist the brain in its focus on using the entire brain in treatment and it is available in many locations.  I would recommend this method of treatment.  EFT which is also called tapping is important in the field of trauma.  It involves the meridian of the body (core) and frees electrical impulses which are stuck or which sometimes become stuck during treatment.  The benefit with tapping is that it can be done in the clinician's location or done by the client in their home which makes it very private.  There are numerous other methods all of which are capable of making change.  Neurolinguistic Programming is useful and has been used for more than 20 years.  Somatic methods are also useful and all of these may be mixed with various alternative methods of treatment.  I think that you will be able to find a clinician at Better Help to provide your therapy.   Many people who were given up for adoption find that they are able to find half-siblings using ancestry.com to match their DNA with that in the database.  Just as many people are able to make a connection with these family members that they never knew.  I don't see where you mention what happened to your father after he was incarcerated.  Was he ever released from the state prison?  If so, you might find him or other family members you don't know.  With regard to the little child inside of you who you feel is crying out, it is possible to heal that child through the work of Charles Whitfield.  Attachment work can also assist with the residual complications which grow out of your traumatic separation from your mother.  In all likelihood, she felt that she could not manage to raise you and supporting you alone.  I would encourage you to go forward with your recovery and search.
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I recover mentally and emotionally after being with a narcissist for 12 years?

That sounds like a very difficult and stressful situation to be in. I have worked for years with individuals working through narcissistic abuse and recovery. I use a book called "Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse" by Shahida Arabi. It is an amazing book that literally walks you through the entire process of understanding the abuse, how it has affected you, and what you can do about it. It also points out what to watch for in the future. I believe the first question you need to answer is: "Do I want to make my marriage work?" If the answer is yes, there is a lot of work to do between both of you. If the answer is no, then I would recommend you make a plan and begin the therapeutic process of working through your grief.  This is not an easy decision to make, nor should it be. Please take care in considering what step you would like to make to move forward. When we act quickly, we can't weigh our options and can make decisions we may later wish we hadn't.  As a form of education on the subject, I will make a blanket statement about Malignant Narcissists--they thrive on your pain, and they enjoy it. To quote Andrea Schneider, LCSW, "Extreme narcissists (malignant narcissists and psychopaths) do deliberately and premeditatedly cause harm--and they enjoy it. They love hurting people as a form of narcissistic supply", and also states, "Extreme malignant narcissists or psychopaths are sadistic and beyond help devoid of any empathy or remorse for their actions." What we can learn from this, is that narcissists don't change, unless they can both see their wrongdoing, and have a desire to change that. With intensive therapy, recovery is possible, albeit difficult.   It is important to have all the tools and information so that you can make an educated decision. Again, please take care in making your decision for moving forward in one direction or the other. Good luck to you, and don't hesitate to reach out again.    Arabi, S. (2017). Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse. Thought Catalog Books.
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can we fix our trust after infidelity on his part multiple times?

Hello Janey, I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even though you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process, you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you start to build trust back with your husband and other struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through your struggles and be able to ask for support from others. After reading your question I wanted to send you skills to help you with building trust in all relationships you have in your life.  If you want a healthy, happy, long-term relationship, you’ll need to prioritize building and maintaining trust, Why? You need trust in order to feel secure in what you have and to know that your person won't dip when things get stressed. You need trust in order to know that when you are having a moment, they'll be there to hold your hand. You need trust in a relationship in order to feel safe, embraced, and truly loved.Trust is the feeling of emotional, physical, and psychological security generated when a person is consistent with their behavior. Trust is the foundation for so many aspects of a solid relationship, such as feeling understood, having confidence that your partner is being open and honest with you, and having the freedom to express your authentic self. Relationships are hard work, trust is a tricky business, and building and maintaining trust is a long-term, never-ending job for both parties. Trust is built on regularly showing up in your relationship, Small, consistent efforts are worth more than grand gestures.But where to start? Here are some suggestions on how to build trust in your relationship. And just a reminder: These tips are for you and your partner, so you might want to encourage them to read this, too!Be there when they need you.When life throws you punches, it helps to have someone to weather the blow with you. It’s about prioritizing your own thoughts, feelings, and your emotional needs and your partner doing the same for you, and it will show you’re always there to provide support in a vulnerable time.Being open and honest and talking with your partner about your needs will allow for your partner to know that you will validate their feelings and avoid defensiveness, it makes it easy to trust you with their emotions.  We all want a partner who can be here for us when we’re having a hard time.Be responsive and engaged.You know those times when you finish expressing your feelings, only to realize that nobody has been listening to you? Yeahhh, that is pretty much the worst feeling in the world. Establishing trust with your partner takes thoughtful communication and active listening.When you are communicating or spending time with your partner, be attentive and attuned to their feelings and experience.  Being attuned involves using your non-verbal and verbal communication to show that you are paying attention and that your partner and what they express are important to you.If you are in a long-distance relationship, you can still validate your partner’s emotions and experiences over the phone, by text, or via video, as long as you are paying enough attention enough to recognize how your partner is feeling and taking time to ask clarifying questions when you’re unsure.If, on the other hand, you are the one who feels like you want to share something important with your partner, tell them before you jump in. Try, Is this a good time to talk about this? to make sure they are emotionally available. Arranging a mutually agreed upon time to talk gives all parties the opportunity to be as present as possible.Be consistent and committed.Anything that you do to build a positive connection in the relationship has to be repetitive, Building something nice doesn’t just take one random act, it takes a lot of consistency and support, for example In order to build a strong house, you have to place brick after brick after brick for it to feel like a home. Relationships are the same way—they take committed and consistent actions. And it'll spare you tons of doubt and stress.So, show up for your partner when you say you will—even when things get tough, and come through on your promises, so they know they can rely on you long-term. Consistency is for the long haul.Get in touch with your vulnerable side.Sharing things about yourself can be awkward, raw, and downright intimidating, but you to risk it to build trust within yourself and others. Start off by sharing that secret project you’ve considered starting, or why you’re nervous to meet their friends. While it might not come easy to you from the get-go, it’s a great way to feel more comfortable with the other person. That’s how you build intimacy and confidence in your bond—both of which create trust and try to make eye contact with your partner while you're opening up. Even that small gesture shows you’re open and willing to connect on a deeper level. Getting in touch with your vulnerable side means that you are allowing yourself to make the courageous decision to be fully expressed in your relationship. Prioritize quality time.Prioritizing quality time allows you more opportunities to practice being emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged. Quality time also helps you and your partner to build awareness about your personal boundaries and relationship expectations.Respond to their needs.Building trust can actually be very simple. Listen to what is important to them, and do it.  Sometimes, this calls for a little sacrifice, like rescheduling happy hour plans when your partner tells you they had a bad day at work and could use a cuddle. Doing so says, ‘I hear you, I see you, and you’re important.’ And that is the foundation of trusting each other to be able to attend to their needs and yours.Set boundaries.Boundaries are important with building trust, setting boundaries will help your partner treat you how you want to be treated. Without knowing your boundaries, it is likely that your partner will do or say something that will cross one or many of them. Don’t wait until your partner has violated a boundary to bring it up. Take some time on your own to identify your boundaries, and then set aside some time to have a discussion with your partner about them. You could tell your partner, “my time is really important to me. If you are going to be late, I’d appreciate you communicating that so that I can adjust my schedule accordingly,” Respect each other.This might sound like a no-brainer, but it makes the list for a reason. Sure, it’s like the first rule of being human, but it gets taken for granted all too often. “Belittling, criticizing, and yelling erode trust—fast. So, set up rules for your arguments, since that's when respect often becomes an issue. Agree to never resort to the things you won't tolerate. So, if that's name-calling, cursing at each other, or calling each other crazy in the heat of the moment, identify those actions you want to avoid—and stick to your rules.Follow through on promises.Say what you mean and do what you say.  If your partner can trust your word, that goes a long way.  It can be small things, too, like promising to call the plumber and actually doing it. Trust develops in situations when people have the opportunity to drop the ball but actually come through to show they’re reliable.Take responsibility for your actions.On that note, if you ever do drop the ball (you're only human), know that you can still nurture trust in your relationship by acknowledging your shortcomings. Accountability proves that you’re a team player and that you know your words and actions hold weight, so don't skimp on it.For example, if you forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, instead of blaming your partner for not reminding you, 'fess up and do it as soon as you can. Doing so encourages them to do the same, and it also says, "Hey, I'm not perfect, but I'm going to try my best for you." That's genuine trust at its finest.Don't bail on commitments.Of course, life happens, and sometimes you have to cancel your Zoom date because you're dealing with a sudden fire at work. But as often as you can, show up for the things you've agreed to, especially plans you make well in advance. Following through with plans communicates that you are consistent, which is necessary to create trust in any relationship.  Doing so shows your partner that by sticking to the commitments you make with them, you're sticking to your commitment to them—regardless of how you might be feeling when the time comes. You want the same from them, right? So be the example and you'll help form a level of mutual, deep trust.Bring up issues as they happen.When something in the relationship bothers you, don’t bite your tongue. That’s holding out on your partner. You might think you're doing them a favor, but you'll likely end up airing your grievances in other (worse) ways down the road. No one wants to be the one who stews on an off-handed comment from three months ago, then starts an unfair argument out of nowhere.Instead, share concerns as they arise. By doing so, it shows you’re comfortable enough to be honest and straight with your significant other at the moment.What if I have "trust issues"?The only thing you can do is be completely honest with your partner and let them know what's going on in your noggin.To keep anyone from getting defensive, clearly telling your partner how you feel (disconnected, for example) and what you need from them (like, reassurance about your future). If you make it about their actions, they’ll reinforce the insecurity you’re already feeling. Make it more about you, so your emotional needs are the ones in focus.Trust yourself...you got this! I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in the struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.
Answered on 10/21/2021

Are there counselors that are familiar with narcissistic personality disorder

Dear LL,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on the dynamics in your marriage.    Through your words, I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving/helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor, I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggles is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I prevent my insecurities/inferiority complex from causing nonexistent issues with my GF?

Hi T, It sounds like you have already done some self-exploration and realized that there may be some projection happening, which is wonderful! You sound like a person who has the good emotional intelligence to be able to recognize that. You and your girlfriend have been in a committed relationship for an extended period of time. Sometimes the mere knowledge that things are getting more serious or moving to the next level can trigger insecurities and feelings of fear about losing the person whom you have become so close to. Has anything changed in the communication patterns that make you think she is ignoring you or is this the same amount of text and calls you have typically shared? It is possible she may be feeling MORE secure in your relationship after a year and feel that you inherently understand that she is not ignoring you if she does not answer right away. It sounds like this would be a great conversation to bring up in a non-threatening or defensive way and let her know that it bothers you and makes you feel ignored when she is not responding. Using “I” statements is a highly effective way to communicate this to her without blaming or pointing fingers. For example, “I feel hurt when I text or call you and there is no response, and it feels that I am not important enough to answer.” If you are comfortable enough to share the insecurities you are feeling, you could say “I feel scared that something might have happened when I don’t hear back in a timely manner.” Avoid using “you” in your sentences as much as possible to avoid her defensive response. It is probably also a good time to set some ground rules on how much communication is wanted by both of you so neither person feels crowded or ignored. Maybe she will say it’s hard to answer during work hours because her phone has to be in her locker or that she doesn’t like to talk on the phone every day. There are many plausible explanations, but instead of speculating, it would be much better to have this conversation and hear from her. You mentioned feeling dissatisfied with work, which can also easily leak into your relationship if you are not careful. Work dissatisfaction can lead to rumination, anxiety, higher stress levels, irritability, etc. that can affect your partner if you’re not managing those feelings well. Make sure that you are engaging in self-care practices while you’re dealing with your work issues, like getting enough sleep, hydrating, eating well, and exercising, as well as using coping skills that help you feel better. Those could be watching a show, taking a walk, cooking, playing with a pet, hanging out with friends, etc. If your work situation does not improve, it may make sense to find something that brings you more happiness (or less stress). As for the feelings you are having with worrying about your partner’s faithfulness, it could very well be a projection of your own guilt from flirting with other people and fantasizing about single life. Just because you were doing that during your time away from her does not mean she is doing that or that she even wants to be. What do you miss about being single? What would you have to gain/lose by being single again? Is it possible that this goes along with the original thought that you might be feeling a little trapped or scared about the relationship getting too serious after a year? These are important conversations to have with yourself or a trusted person. It is often the case that the “grass looks greener on the other side” when you feel a lack of control over your life. It’s possible this lack of control and agency be coming from your work situation. I would recommend generating a list of pros and cons about staying in your relationship versus being single again. What does your girlfriend bring to your life and what are you sacrificing by being in a relationship?   Hope this has been helpful! Good luck to you in working through your situation. Sincerely, Katherine
(M.Ed, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do i decrease insecurity towards my partner?

Dear Tia,   Thank you for your message and for allowing me to understand more about the insecurities you're experiencing in your relationship.   Through your words, I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor, I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

My wife said the she doesn’t love me anymore, i want to fix my marriage. How can i make her love me

Dear Noisy boy,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially on how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions in your marriage. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress / depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of become traumatized to it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result we would do everything we can to avoid / fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations, while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like sufferings, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting of life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompany a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight / avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings and thoughts, while continue to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What to do when you found out that the guy you thought was your fiance is getting merried to another

Good morning, I am so sorry to hear about this situation. I am sure that this was extremely heart breaking and life altering.  Unfortunately, it sounds like there is not a whole lot that you can do. If your partner has made up their mind to be with someone else, there is not much that can be done EXCEPT FOR focusing on taking care of yourself during this distressing time.  I would highly encourage you to reach out to trusted friends and family during this time so that you are not alone. Being pregnant can be stressful, and when you add in stressful life events on top of that, it can feel extremely overwhelming. Who are the people in your life that you trust and can lean on? I think it is imperative to focus on self-care and relaxation. As difficult as that may sound, it can really help your mental and emotional health along with your baby's health. Some people really enjoy engaging their senses to work on self soothing. A few examples are taking a relaxing shower or bath. You can engage multiple senses doing this; the scent of your soap, shampoo, conditioner, bath salts, etc. The temperature of the water and how slippery the soap is. The sounds of the water. Looking at the bubbles/suds or the shampoo/conditioner in your hand. Another example of engaging your senses is creating a really comfortable, safe place in your home that you can go to, to relax. For some people this is their bedroom. They may make sure that their bed is comfortable, light a candle, dim the lights, put on music... create a very relaxing environment that you can retreat to when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  Another form of self-care will be deciding if this person will be someone that remains in your life or not. It sounds like, because he is the father of your child, your preference is for him to remain in your life but he is not taking responsibility. You may want to check in with your doctor to see what your options are in a situation such as this one. I would be willing to bet that they have been a part of situations such as this one and may know what direction to steer you in.
(LPC, NCC, CEDS-S)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Relationships

Hello, my name is Christie and I am a new therapist on Betterhelp.  I would like to help you if possible by explaining a few things about the situation you have shared. I cannot tell you what to do because that is your decision, but I can provide some information that might be helpful.   Relationships and people are very complicated. However, it is never the other's persons fault if someone cheats on them.  No one forces another person to cheat. Cheating is always a personal choice. People cheat for a lot of reasons...but most of those reasons have to do with what is happening inside of the mind of the person who is cheating. I would encourage you to ask yourself if you feel that you have a good foundation in the relationship and if you really want to continue with your partner. If so, you will need a plan to ensure that your needs are met. Part of this might include couples counseling to help increase the communication in your relationship and to help you find ways to trust your partner again. On the other hand, I would also ask you to consider that perhaps your partner is showing you that he is not ready for the committment that you want through his actions of cheating. If that is the case, then you will need to make a decision about whether or not you will stay in the relationship. And last but not least, I would ask you to think about your emotions. How do you feel in the relationship? Do you feel it is healthy for you emotionally? Do you feel like you can be yourself? And what are you willing to sacrifice to be in a relationship? I would advise you to spend some time reflecting on these things in order to prepare to make any life decisions.    In any case, I feel that therapy, whether its with me or someone else, would be helpful so you can make some decisions about how to handle the situation and start to feel better about yourself. I hope this helps. Thanks, Christie 
(M.A., LPC-S, Ph.D., in, Education)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do you move forward from a relationship that had hurt and mistrust when years have gone by.

This question can only be answered with due consideration of your religious and spiritual beliefs as well as those of your family.  The impact of both the activity and the deceptive behavior throughout the years that it continued is both sinful and yet a ground for divorce in most organized religions.  Having an affair is also grounds for a civil divorce.  If you honestly feel you have erred in your ways by what you have done then you will need personal forgiveness to make yourself whole and able to go forward as a happy and satisfied person.  There are many books available concerning the issue of forgiveness but the one person I recommend is usually Robin Casarjian.  Her work has been around for a long time and there are many current researchers who continue to use her as an Icon in the field.  You need to coordinate your work on forgiveness with your clergy or other spiritual leader.  I say this as there are many considerations that are at work in the issue of forgiveness.  There is forgiveness of self for your own health and wellness that does not concern others and then there is the forgiveness others grant to you by your community in general.  Twelve step programs indicate that one engage in an expansive inventory of how one's behaviors have affected others and involves going to the persons harmed and confessing or at least sharing that information "except where to do so would cause irreparable harm".  It is this quoted material that is of essence in your situation and those in similar situations.  Who determines what irreparable harm is?  How does a human have or gain the power to make that decision?  What constitutes what it is irreparable? These are serious questions and the ones which I would believe may be the source of your ethical dilemma.  It also may be the basis of any considerations you have regarding the religious and/or spirituality question.  There are differences of opinion regarding what is "irreparable harm" even within twelve step programs.  Once one adds the various religious and spirituality cohorts it may become even even more difficult to answer your question.  Remember, however, that your ultimate decision, depending on your religious and/or spirituality beliefs, rests between you and your deity or God not you and an earthly being.  
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I move on?

Dear Zo,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me the pain you are going through with losing your marriage. I can feel the pain through your words.   “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paul Coehlo   The closure is something everyone would like. We would like validation and understanding.   We can accept that someone doesn’t want to be with us. We can accept that the relationship has changed or that they want something else. What we can’t accept is our partner’s inability to communicate that fact effectively and tell us what went wrong.   Unfortunately, sometimes your partner does not have this same need, or they may have the same need but they’re better at hiding it and pretending they don’t. They would rather just push you, and their feelings, away.   In my experience, people can’t always be honest with you because they can’t be honest with themselves. It isn’t about you. We always want it to be about us and our flaws and failures, but it isn’t.   Many people don’t know how to deal with the emotions that come with a breakup, so they prefer to avoid their feelings altogether, and this is the most likely reason they won’t talk to you. It has nothing to do with you or the relationship or something you did wrong or that you weren’t enough.   I’ve dealt with trying to get closure a few times, and it’s awful. No one likes to be ignored, and no one likes to not get answers to their questions. But, what you have to learn is that any answer you get won’t change anything, and it may or may not be the truth anyway.   I can only control myself and my actions and how I deal with the ending of another relationship that I thought could mean something.   If people want to be in your life they make an effort. If they don’t, then you are better off without them.   Try This   If you are struggling with getting closure with an ex, ask yourself why you want to talk to them. Is it to get them back? Is it to get them to validate the relationship? Is it to try to get some type of reaction, or any type of reaction?    If you are making up reasons why you need to talk to them, then perhaps you need to get closure from yourself. If they won’t talk to you, reaching out will likely cause you more pain and frustration. So instead, I suggest the following:   1. Write a letter.   Write one every day if you need to. Don’t send it; just get the feelings out there. You can write them here if you would like. :)   2. Write out reasons why they may be avoiding you that have nothing to do with you.   We all create explanations in our heads as to why our ex won’t talk to us. We imagine they think bad things about us, they don’t want us, that we weren’t enough, or that everything was our fault. Thoughts in your head are just your interpretation of what happened, and they are usually incorrect.   What if what they are really thinking is this? Do you think they are going to tell you?   I’m afraid to be open and be hurt again. I don’t think I can give this person what they need. Being vulnerable is too scary. He/she is too good for me. My abandonment issues have triggered my unconscious need to be alone.   3. Unless this was your first love, remember that you loved before and you got over it.   You control whether you move on. And you can decide if you want to wallow in self-pity and misery, or pick yourself up off the floor and be the spectacular, amazing person you are and get out there and show yourself to the world.   4. Take your feelings and write them on little pieces of paper.   “I am hurt.” “I am angry.” “I am sad.” “I am devastated.” “I am heartbroken.” “I feel rejected.”   Get a fireproof bowl and fill it with some sand. Put all the little pieces of paper in the bowl and light them on fire. Watch the words burn and with them, let the feelings go.   5. Be alone.   Be still. Cry and be sad over the loss. Accept that what once was, is no longer, and what you thought would be will never be. If it’s meant to be in the future, it will find a way to work itself out. Maybe now is just not the time.   6. Live in abundance.   They are not the only person in the world. There are literally millions of single people in the world. If you had love before, you will have it again. Stop thinking that you’ll never find someone else so wonderful. If they were so wonderful they would still be with you. They aren’t. They’re gone.   Think About It   What is it you are really hoping to hear? Do you think most people can admit their fears? Of course we all would like our partner to care enough to tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts.   There are a million reasons that relationships don’t work and tons of reasons why your ex won’t talk to you. Don’t take on their issues and make them your own. Realize that we all have insecurities, and not all of us can understand how they impact us.   I’m sure you would love for your ex to say, “You are truly amazing and wonderful, but I don’t think we are a match.” The reason most won’t say this is that they don’t want you to come back at them with all sorts of reasons why you are a match, so they’d rather avoid the topic altogether.   For whatever reason, your ex has chosen to cease all communication with you. The best thing you can do is take it as a sign from the universe that it’s time to move on, and that any person worthy of being your partner would never leave you in the lurch like that.   Remember this saying, “If not this, something better.” These words sound stupid and irritating when your relationship has just ended, but they are true for a reason.   We don’t’ always get what we want, but we get what we need. Change is inevitable. Change is good. If it was meant to be, it would have been, and if it is meant to be, it will be.   Unfortunately, life does not always go along with our pre-conceived notions of how things should be, and people aren’t always what we want and need them to be. Life isn’t always wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow on top.   Sometimes you get closure and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the lack of closure is the very lesson that you needed to learn. Maybe you needed to learn to validate yourself and accept yourself.   Consider seeing this person as a gift sent to you. They were brought to you as a reflection of yourself. Thank them for being a part of your journey and send them on their way in your mind.   Lastly, if you are waiting for your ex to give you closure, it might be time to dig deep inside and give it to yourself.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

He cheated on me

Dear Lolo123,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially on how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions after discovering your partner has cheated on you. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress / depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of become traumatized to it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result we would do everything we can to avoid / fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations, while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like sufferings, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting of life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompany a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight / avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings and thoughts, while continue to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

how do you heal and move on from betrayal? How do you forgive those who have betrayed you?

Hello,  Thanks for reaching out and inquiring about your situation.  I will do my best to provide some options and things for you to think about and consider in this situation.  Let me begin by offering empathy to you in this situation as it sounds to be an extremely difficult position to be in.  Have you considered both of you all attending counseling, both individually and as a couple?  He reportedly has experienced sexual trauma which sounds like he has not addressed it and how it has effected his life.  You have also experienced a traumatic event that attending counseling to address maybe beneficial for you in addressing some of your concerns regarding how to trust again.  The importance of you all attending couples counseling would be to address together the feelings and address them head on as you're experiencing them.   You mentioned he has done this in the past and you "forgave" him.  I noticed you put forgave in quotes and went on to explain that you just buried it.  It sounds like it's safe to say you did not truly forgive him and since it has happened again all the feelings you had from the first situation have now resurfaced which seems to have assisted in your feelings of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, etc.  The dilemma you are currently in is a difficult one especially with a child being involved.  It seems as if you have some major decisions to make regarding your future.  There are couples that survive infidelity and there are couple that do not. The couples that do survive also put in a lot of work, emotionally and mentally to get themselves to a place of forgiveness and understanding.  Do you have that type of energy within you to put in the necessary work as it will not be easy.  I will reiterate the importance of attending both individual and couples counseling for both of you as it will be beneficial to be able to get out all of your vulnerable thoughts and feelings.  The thoughts and feelings you mentioned that will be going on in your mind if you stay, are not healthy ones at this time. The time within the relationship most likely would not be healthy and the resentment could start to set in and that would not be helpful or beneficial for either of you or your child.   I would suggest doing some soul searching and deciding what you actually want for yourself.  Do you want to be in a healthy relationship, can you trust, can you forgive, do you want the father of your child involved in your lives, if so what does that look like and how can you make it happen.  If you decide to leave, be secure in your decision as you should not feel guilty. Also do your best to keep close friends and family out of the decision making process, they should know very minimal about what is going on between the two of you as they may attempt to sway your decision.   Hopefully this was helpful to some degree.  Again my best advice is you both attend counseling to address the various traumas you all have experienced.  Then address the trauma as a couple if you decide to stay in the relationship in order to make a sound decision about your futures.
(MEd, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do you deal with a woman that the moment she’s not happy she shitson u And sleeps with everybody

Thank you for writing in.  Emotional distance with the person you love can be difficult to say the least and to add on top of that the fact that she has chosen to step out of the relationship of 20 years. Is this a sudden change in behavior? T  Have you talked to her about how you feel ( about her only coming to you when she needs something.)  Also, why is she unhappy? One thing I would do is focus on your own mental health, and fulfillment. Other questions I would consider is does you partner want to work on improving the relationship?  If she ( and you) want to work on the relationship then I would get some counseling as a couple. If she does not want to work on the relationship then I would consider getting individual counseling to help you sort out where you would want to go from here. It's is important to find out the answers to these question to know what you are fighting for. Also, It is important to treat yourself respect and set appropriate boundaries with loved ones ( ie not tolerating behavior that is disrespectful towards the relationship). I like to think we all have an emotional well within our souls and we cannot pour from a well that is empty.  The other thing to consider is if their are any children involved what is best for the children.  I your partners is willing to work on ya'lls relationship then work on it with all your might. However you can't be the only one working to improve your relationships . Also is this impacting your self esteem and self confidence. Doing things that lift your self confidence. do you have any friends that support you.  Focus on what you have to offer the world that is positive. I hope this provides a starting point of a few things to consider. I would welcome the chance to explore these issues with you furture in a counseling session. I have some resources about relationships that I think you may find beneficial. Again thank you for writing in I hope this helps 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

When I have anxiety about my relationship why is it so crippling/overwhelming?

This is a tough one! I have a few thoughts regarding what you shared with me. The first thought is on the fantasies that you mentioned. I think it is very normal for someone to have fantasies about different things, including other people. It is very common for women to have to, or want to, fantasize during intimate moments. I understand that it must be difficult to know that your partner is thinking about other people. On one hand, I think it says a lot how much your partner trusts you that they shared that private information with you. On the other hand, I am sure you would prefer that they are fantasizing about you. As challenging as it may be, I think it is important for you to check in with yourself and decide if you do in fact trust your partner that these fantasies are harmless, or if you do not trust your partner. Now, the second part is your partner stating that it is difficult to be faithful. This is a bit more concerning. Once again, I am thrilled to hear that your partner is being open and honest with you, however, if you are not in an open relationship then faithfulness (I assume) is extremely important. Your partner stating it is difficult to remain faithful (I am guessing) makes the fantasies that they are having feel more worrisome. Have you sat down with your partner and asked them to be very clear and specific regarding their struggle with remaining faithful? Are they wanting to be with other people? Have they come close to being with other people? Having the full picture, I am guessing, would allow you to then assess the situation for what it is and then make a decision based off of that information.  I am not trying to say that one of you is in the right, and one of you is in the wrong. What I am trying to say is that I think what you are sharing indicates that a larger, more serious, conversation happen between the two of you so that you can assess what next steps make the most sense for the both of you.
(LPC, NCC, CEDS-S)
Answered on 10/21/2021