Category Archives: Relationship

narcissist-codependent relationship

When Addiction is About More Than Substances

The Narcissist-Codependent Relationship

When we think of abusing drugs and alcohol and the nature of an addict, we generally think mostly about the substances they are using and the individuals themselves. But, that is not all. Sometimes it is the relationships they are in and the people in their lives contributing to their underlying problems. 

One such problemsome relationship is the narcissist and the codependent. Narcissist personality types tend to put themselves above all else. They use other people to benefit themselves, exploit relationships without feelings of guilt, blame others for their missteps, and look down on others to make themselves feel better. Codependent personality types lack self-esteem, rarely make decisions for themselves, always put others first, feel they must always be in a relationship and are overly dependent on the other people in their lives. A relationship between the two personality types often leads each person to reinforce each other’s negative behaviors. 

A codependent won’t stand up to a narcissist about unhealthy behaviors and a narcissist won’t listen to a codependent. One is too fearful to lose the other, and the other wants to stay in control of their partner and doesn’t care how he/she/they feels. Codependents often become the enablers in these relationships. They don’t stand up to their partners and they often financially support their partner’s negative behaviors, after all, they don’t want to make them mad. The codependent might also help the narcissist to hide his/her/their addictions.

It is obvious this kind of relationship is unhealthy and can’t last. If we want the addiction under control the narcissist needs to get away from the enabler, the codependent. The codependent also needs to work on being their own person, and stop being the doormat for the narcissist and increase his/her/their self-worth and self-esteem. 

It is possible to end these types of relationships, it just takes some work. The codependent needs to take a serious look at themselves to realize how dependent they are and to end the cycle, and let go of the narcissist. Seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional can help end these behaviors and turn things around. Sometimes it takes an intervention from people outside the relationship, who see things others do not, to get the ball rolling. 

These behaviors may stem from something much deeper—a childhood experience, past relationship, or trauma. Getting help can help each person to heal. 

healthy relationships after chaos

Having healthy relationships after growing up in chaos

When you are a child raised in an emotionally chaotic environment you learn how to survive in that situation. I am talking about children who are raised in untrustworthy situations where they have become accustomed to the fact that even when things don’t feel right nothing they say or do is going to make things better. 

In many cases, these children have learned that expressing discourse of any kind is a bad thing. They learn to shut their feelings down and ignore the bad they might be feeling inside. This is because as children we know that we need our parents or other caregivers to survive. They give us what we need, so we have to keep things as livable as possible. 

Stuck in Old Patterns

Now, this sort of behavior might work for a child but as an adult keeping your feelings buried and not listening to them, leaves us stuck. As an adult you can’t keep silent, it doesn’t allow us to grow or develop any real intimacy with others. It also doesn’t keep us safe as it did as children. 

By not acting on our own self-protective instincts we end up in harm’s way, consumed by fear, obsessively thinking about what we dislike about our world, and carrying overwhelming feelings of resentment. We become mad at ourselves for not being able to change our situation. 

Rediscover Healthy Relationships

When you have spent your whole life ignoring your nervous system, how do you then recover and allow yourself to develop healthy relationships? 

The first step to any change is to recognize what is happening inside of you. How are you feeling when? What causes you to react in a certain way? Then confront those feelings. Instead of pushing them down, react. Stand up for yourself. Speak your thoughts. Remind yourself that this behavior no longer takes care of you, and allow yourself compassion and gratitude for the fact that you once did exactly what you needed to survive. 

Let Go of Toxic People

Then, ask yourself what you need to know and hear from others in your life. If those people can’t provide what you need, then understand it is ok to let them go. You don’t need to hold on to another out of fear. Find the courage inside of you to speak your truth and to acknowledge what you need. You may not have gotten what you needed as a child, but you don’t have to live like that anymore. The time is NOW to take care of you. 

You can make changes for the better. The power is within you. Seeking help from a licensed professional can help you to identify these feelings within and confront them head-on. A mental health professional can guide you and help to give you the tools to make positive changes. 

support partner with depression

How to support a partner with depression

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be difficult. It is hard to know what you can do to help and you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It can also be difficult to know if what you are doing is helping, causing you to get discouraged and feel helpless.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is an internal struggle, a mental illness that ebbs and flows. People who are depressed have good days and bad days just like everyone else. Those who struggle with depression need love and support from those around them. They need people with knowledge and understanding who can give them grace during bad times.

That being said, as in any relationship, you must take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to breathe, relax, decompress, and practice self-care. Supporting someone who is depressed can take a toll on you, as a partner, as well. Take the time to recognize your needs.

Here are some ways you can help a partner with depression:

1.) Learn about depression— It is hard to help someone who is struggling with their mental health if you don’t have some knowledge. People who are depressed often have angry outbursts, moments of withdrawal, days when they want to stay in bed all day, bouts of crying, and unexplained sadness. If you aren’t aware of the symptoms then you, as a partner, might get angry, take things personally, or feel hurt. Understanding and making sure you also have a support system is important.

2.) Just be there — Sometimes caring for another is as simple as sitting with them, giving them a hug, rubbing their back, checking on them, etc. You don’t have to do any huge acts of kindness. It is more about showing your support by being present. Letting them know you care about them. Say things like “we will get through this together.”

3.) Encourage treatment — Often those struggling with depression get so down on themselves that they don’t have the energy or the motivation to get help. They might not even know why they are feeling this way, or notice changes in their behavior. As a partner, you can be a voice of reason. You can encourage them to get help, maybe even schedule and take them to the first visit. Tell them what you have noticed and explain to them you want them to feel better. You can assist in the research of mental health options. Let them know you are on their team.

4.) Create a supportive home environment — It is important to recognize that depression is no one’s fault. It is not yours and it is not your partner’s fault for being depressed. Create a healing environment in your household. Make plans to exercise together. Choose a healthy diet plan to help you both feel your best. Limit access to things like alcohol or drugs. Make time for counseling appointments. Create routines and work together to limit overall stress around the home.

5.) Positive reinforcement —People who are depressed often feel the worst about themselves. Everything they do is wrong, everything is bad, they feel worthless. Noticing small improvements and mentioning them to your partner can go along way, “I think it is great you got up to workout this morning,” “I am proud of you for making that appointment,” etc.

6.) Set small goals — Depression is overwhelming and overcoming symptoms can feel like a mountain to climb. Instead of looking at the big picture, focus on the day-to-day. Set small, manageable goals. Maybe it is taking a walk a few nights a week after work, going to bed by a certain time each day, making and keeping an appointment, or even getting out of bed and doing one thing — like making a meal, taking a shower, something attainable.

7.) Know suicide warning signs —It is hard to think about but suicide is a very real result of depression for some people. You must acknowledge the risk and keep your eyes peeled for signs. Talk to your partner about how they feel, is this something they think about? Keep notice of them making plans, talking about death, giving things away, or finding a sudden calm, see other warning signs here.

Supporting someone with depression can be hard on the partner. Make sure, as mentioned above, to take care of yourself as well. You can’t be expected to carry all the burden but you can show those you love that you are there for them. Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. Don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to do this alone.

abandonment article

Feeling abandoned can be painful

When we think of painful life experiences many times we jump right to trauma, but abandonment can be just as raw and painful as physical or emotional trauma.

Abandonment, such as a parent or grandparent who suddenly leaves a child, can stay with a person through their whole life. It can be easily triggered by other situations, such as a significant other who doesn’t call one day or forgets to say goodbye before they leave for work. When it is triggered it often floods the person with fear, panic, and intense shame — why am I not worthy of someone sticking around? What is wrong with me?

Raw Pain

That pain can be just as raw as it was on the first day of abandonment. That intense fear of being abandoned again can develop into harmful coping strategies that actually increase the risk of being rejected. This could include being clingy to a significant other, getting upset at missed phone calls or missed connection, severe jealousy, or complete isolation from others, to name a few. It can be a never-ending spiral of events.

Deserves Attention

If you or someone you love has experienced some type of abandonment it is important that he/she/they recognize that experience deserves some attention. It can seem easiest and safest to push that experience deep within and to not share it with anyone, but it will only compound and lead to more abandonment down the road. Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional can help to confront those feelings and develop healthy coping strategies, leading to healthy relationships.

controlling partner

Signs you may have a controlling partner

Toxic relationships can sneak up on anyone. You might enter a relationship thinking your partner is one way and later find out he/she/they have a different side of them you had yet to really see. They could be controlling. 

Having a controlling partner is dangerous and unhealthy. Sometimes, especially when love is involved, it can be hard to see the signs. 

Here are some signs of a controlling partner that you should watch out for:

1.) They want to isolate you from your friends or family — they make you feel guilty for going out with friends or constantly complain about you speaking or interacting with family. 

2.) They are chronically criticizing you— they are always making you feel bad about yourself by picking at every little thing you do, how you act, things you wear, etc. 

3.) Making threats — threats don’t have to be violence-related, those are clear red flags that you should get away. Threats can also include revoking privileges, taking financial access away or getting in the way of time with children, etc.

4.) Making love, affection, caring conditional — it is definitely not healthy for a partner to be saying things like, “we can cuddle tonight if you do the dishes.” Or, “make partner at work and I will really love you.”

5.) Keeping score— if your partner is constantly keeping track of the things you have done wrong, that is not a healthy sign.

6.) Does not trust you — your partner is spying on you, reading messages on your phone, following you when you go places, or asking for constant updates on your whereabouts

7.) Not respecting your needs — your partner isn’t allowing you to have alone time, get your hair done, get exercise, whatever it is you need

8.) Jealously — he/she/they is easily made jealous over little things, such as that conversation you had with a coworker, a phone call with a friend, a chance meeting with a neighbor, etc.

These are just some of the signs that you should look out for if you are concerned your partner may be controlling. It may also be helpful to speak to a licensed mental health professional to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. If you ever feel like you are in an unsafe situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for help. 

after baby

How To Keep Your Marriage Healthy After Baby

Adjusting to parenthood is hard work and it can put a lot of strain on a marriage. We all have ideas of what it will be like to have a child, to add an infant to our lives, but nobody truly knows what they are in for until they experience being new parents themselves. Not to mention every baby is different and every relationship has its strong and weak points. 

In the first few months after having a child, it is important to let go of any expectations. Right now is about survival. It is about keeping your child (and yourself) healthy and adjusting to your new life as parents. Give each other some grace. You are both going through a lot of changes right now, and you are likely dealing with them in different ways. 

Time To Connect

Allow yourself, and your spouse, time for yourself to connect with your new title as a parent and to rest. Breaks are important for both of you. Take turns. 

It is also important that you make time to be together, just the two of you. That is difficult after having a child because that child relies on you for everything but it is also important that you recognize it is important to keep your marriage healthy. And, alone time is key to keeping your relationship strong. Leave baby with a grandparent or a trusted friend, even if only for an hour, and take a walk with your spouse or grab a coffee or a meal. Whatever your heart desires. 

So often I hear new moms making the excuse that they just can’t leave their baby. Not even for an hour but the truth is even a short time alone with your spouse can do wonders for rekindling the spark. 

Talk It Out

Communicate with your family, your friends. Lean on others. This adjustment is going to be hard for everyone in your household. You will have to figure out a new normal. Talk to each other. Figure out what struggles others are having and brainstorm what might work best.

Share the load. You likely have heard the phrase before “it takes a village.” There is a reason that is so popular. It is true. We all have babies and think we can do it all alone. And yes, I am sure you could do it all alone but would you be happy and healthy? Let others step in and help you out. Let your mother clean your house or hold your baby while you take a much-needed shower. Let your husband do the grocery shopping so you can take a nap. Let a friend fold your laundry if he/she/they desire.

The more you and your spouse can work together during this time of adjustment, the stronger you will be in the end. It can be so easy to get angry and frustrated with each other during this time of change. Understandably so, you are both exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Allow each of you to make mistakes, to learn, grow, and to adjust as a team. 

It Is All About Perspective

Parenting is one of the hardest things a person can do in a lifetime, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. All will come with time. For now, snuggle that baby (or babies) and do your best to keep things in perspective. 

If you find you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or adjusting, in general, it can help to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help to provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and support during this transition.

coparenting with ex

How Do You Coparent When You Don’t Get Along?

Divorced parents, who don’t get along, are always asking me how they are supposed to coparent when they are always fighting? The truth is, they can’t. If you can’t get along and are always being harsh or disgruntled with each other, you can’t successfully co-parent. 

You have to make a choice. One parent can take primary custody of the kids and end the co-parenting relationship altogether, or you can decide to make a change. Together the two of you can make the decision to be civil with each other, to be kind, to communicate effectively and calmly because you have to. You have kids that need their parents. Constantly putting them in a toxic environment or bad-mouthing each other in front of your kids, is not helping them. In fact, it is doing the very opposite.

Shift In Dynamics

Someone in the relationship has to start this shift in dynamics. One of you has to make the choice to keep your mouth shut for the sake of your children. Ok, so you don’t agree with your ex’s behaviors, personal choices, or whatever it is that irks you but I am sure you can agree on one all-important thing: You love your kids. You want the best for your kids. 

Your kids need to be in a positive environment. They need to be raised in a place where they feel loved, safe, and comfortable turning to either parent in times of need. As a parent, you need to help guide your children in making the best decisions and you need to set an example. If your children are always seeing you and their father and/or mother arguing, name calling, being verbally abusive, or talking bad about each other behind the others back, you are teaching them that this behavior is ok. And, your child is likely going to experience more feelings of anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. They will likely withdraw from both of you because they don’t feel safe and secure with you. 

Best for your Child(ren)

You decide. But, the answer is simple. You have to get along with your ex in some capacity in order to raise your children in a healthy environment. To do what is best for them, you need to get past your differences. If you can’t, then it is time to decide who your children should be with. 

Seeking help from a licensed counselor can also help you to determine the best course of action for you and your kids. 

boundaries post

Setting boundaries: The cost of avoiding conflict

Your friends call you “easy going.” You never get into an argument about where to go eat dinner, or who is going to do the chores, or pick up the kids, or host the holiday dinner—you are known as a “people pleaser.” And, while it sounds nice and simple, it has some long-term costs.

By failing to set boundaries with others, you will quickly take on more than you can handle. Those around you may abuse their relationship with you because they know you will never say “no.” You may start to form feelings of resentment against those in your life for putting so much on your shoulders. 

Creating Balance

That being said, standing up for yourself also has its challenges. It tends to lead to arguments—it forces you to stand your ground, and to take a stand for you. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to have some “guts.” But, contrary to popular belief, it can actually strengthen the relationships in your life. 

So, how do you create a balance? How do you set boundaries you are comfortable with?

1.) Recognize and acknowledge your feelings—Recognizing your feelings instead of pushing them to the side is the first step in making positive changes. By acknowledging that your feelings have merit—that you matter—you can take better care of yourself.

2.)Evaluate how your boundaries have been crossed—Does this person always call to borrow money and never pay you back? Does a friend always expect you to take care of her kids? 

3.)Decide how to set a boundary—Come up with a plan to talk calmly and confidently about your feelings to this person. Determine the best solution to the problem, maybe you will pick up the kids from school two days a week instead of five.

4.)Voice It—You have determined what the problem is and how to approach it, now do it. Set the boundary. If you experience some backlash, understand that it might be better to just walk away for the time being. It won’t do you, or the other person, any good to argue. 

5.)Take care of yourself— Don’t feel guilty for doing something to improve your wellbeing. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. You need to be healthy and happy, so you can be the best version of you—so you can do your best work, be a good spouse, parent, and friend.

undermining

Ask Mabel: How do I communicate with my husband in front of our kids without undermining him?

Dear Mabel, 

I am reaching out to you again for your guidance and support. I have an issue with my husband and the way he addresses our children when he is angry. He can get to the point where he looks and speaks very terrifyingly at them, and my heart just breaks. They are fearful and he drowns himself in shame afterward. This morning he was yelling at my six-year-old daughter and she was dysregulating in all kinds of ways as a result, which was pushing him even further into his anger. I felt compelled to jump in and protect her, which often results in him feeling betrayed by me and upset that I am making him a “monster” in front of the kids. 

Today we were able to talk afterward and I told him that I feel like I need to protect them and his feelings when I intervene because I am in flight-or-fight mode myself. It is usually very hard. I am stuck. What language can I use in these moments to communicate that he needs to stop without undermining him in front of the kids? This is a heavy day for our family. 

Sincerely, Amy from Florida

Mabel: Hi Amy, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. There are a few ways you can approach this situation. You can have a family meeting when calm, where you all make an agreement that when things escalate you each are empowered to call a time out and take a break. Make a plan that you can all follow. If you are all following the same plan together that would take the shame out of it. I also suggest you look at the Zones of Regulation curriculum for some help on the language for self-regulation and emotional control. 

Together, you two can come up with a plan, or code word, for timing out and determine how long the timeout should last. Come up with something you can both agree on. Determine what you can do when he is in that state to deescalate the situation. 

This is a quick bandaid. Long term, you need to have a discussion about what he wants to do about this and go from there. Seeking some help from a licensed mental health professional could also help the two of you to work together as a team in these situations.

love practice

Love Is A Practice

Love is part of being human but it is not something that just comes naturally, at least that is what one analyst believes. Loving another takes work. It requires effort, discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. Love is not a feeling, rather it is a practice.

Psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm outlined this perspective in his 1956 book, The Art of Loving. Fromm thinks of love not as something that is mysterious or magical but rather something that can be analyzed and explained. His theory revolves around the idea that a person cannot fully experience real love until they have developed their total personality. Part of this involves self-love. It means learning how to care for yourself before you can fully care for another. It means taking responsibility for your choices, your decisions, your actions. It means respecting yourself, knowing and being honest with yourself about your weaknesses and your strengths. Truly knowing and understanding yourself means being realistic. A person must learn to love their neighbor with “true humility, courage, faith, and discipline,” he writes. 

Work To Be Loved

He believes that a person cannot fall in love but rather they have to work to be in love. It is not something that happens to a person, but instead is something that is worked at achieving. Fromm argues there are four basic elements to true love: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. 

His perspective, while agreed to by some and criticized by others, contains a foundation that is undeniably true across all relationships—you can’t maintain a relationship without putting in the effort. That is the bottom line. It is not smooth sailing all the time. You can’t throw in the towel every time things get difficult. You really have to work at it. It does take discipline, it does take a level-headed mindset and the ability to consider both sides of the spectrum. 

Regardless of beliefs or theories, at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that love is beautiful and as Fromm would say “is one of life’s greatest achievements.”