Category Archives: Relationship

How To Stop ‘The Blame Game’ From Ruining Your Relationships

At some point in our lives, we have all played “the blame game” and we have likely all been victims of that very same game. Placing blame on someone for something that has gone wrong in our lives may might us feel good momentarily but its effects can be detrimental to the relationships in our lives. 

It is like the ongoing struggle on the popular television series Friends when Ross and Rachel have the argument over and over again that they were “on a break” when Ross had relations with another woman. It terrorized their relationship up until the very end when they just had to get over it and move on. 

Shifting the load

Shifting responsibility takes the load off us. It is easier to say “it is your fault” than it is to accept any personal wrongdoing. Nobody wants to feel bad for something they have done but, the truth is, we all do things at some point that end up being wrong. 

Playing the blame game takes control off us. It puts control onto the other person. That person is now responsible for “making it up” to you, for “fixing” what went wrong. We end up feeling victimized and internalizing these feelings and standing firm that the situation will not change. When we blame others we completely let go of ourselves and put it all on other people. It is harmful to our personal relationships and not very good for our personal psyche to always feel like the “victim.”

Instead of blaming others for what has gone wrong in your life, look at the things you have control over. You have the ability to change the outcome. You personally can make adjustments to “repair” things. You just have to focus on what YOU can do. Not others. Stop putting all the weight on other people and instead take a deeper look at yourself. You have the ability to make better choices in the future. You can learn from mistakes. You can accept some responsibility. And, even if it wasn’t your fault at all you can learn to accept that things went wrong and learn from them. Blaming others only causes more harm. It doesn’t lead to any reconciliation. 

How to overcome commitment issues

If you are a person who is fearful of commitment, someone who enjoys being close to others but grows distant when the relationship becomes more emotionally involved, then you might struggle with attachment issues.

Many commitment issues stem from past relationship experiences and/or our attachment to our parents or primary caregivers as children. It all comes down to having our needs met and being confident that if for some reason a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s ok. The good news is even if you are a person who has a hard time moving forward in relationships, there is hope in overcoming these struggles. It just takes some effort on your part. 

Moving Forward is Possible

Talk to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional has the proper training to help you move from unhealthy attachment styles to secure attachment. Proper counseling can help to heal the deep wounds that are causing you troubles now. Forming a secure relationship with a therapist can help to increase feelings of security and help make sense of the past. 

The first part of overcoming attachment struggles is to identify the problem. You must first understand where these emotions are coming from so you can work to heal them. A therapist who asks the right questions can help you to identify aspects of your childhood that may have led to your current emotional state. 

Second, it is important that whoever your partner is has a healthier attachment style. Being with someone who understands what a healthy relationship looks like can further help you to heal by developing more trust in others and how they will respond to your needs. That being said, you don’t need another person to heal, but if you are in a relationship try to choose a healthy one—one that makes you feel good, one that is not full of jealousy and insecurity. 

Third, believe in yourself. You do have the ability to move forward and have a happy, committed relationship.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201802/healing-attachment-issues

Where do commitment issues stem from?

We all know someone who has trouble with commitment. You know the type—the serial dater, the person who suddenly stops calling or showing up when the relationship starts to progress. It can be frustrating for both sides.

Insecure Attachment

There are a few reasons why a person might struggle with commitment. They may have formed an insecure attachment/avoidant relationship style. This type of personality style usually stems from a person’s childhood and their relationship with their parents or primary caregiver. Likely, as children, they felt as if their emotional needs were not being met and have since learned to not give as much weight to their emotions making it harder to get close to people. People with this type of attachment style tend to enjoy being in relationships but become uncomfortable when relationships get too emotionally close. 

Another reason why someone might struggle with commitment is because of catastrophic thinking. They have severe anxiety about relationships and always think the worst— “it will never work out, why bother,” “I am going to be trapped,” “I am just going to get my heart broken,” etc. This usually stems from childhood experiences of seeing their own parents unhappy and arguing on a regular basis. Or, they may have had a series of bad relationships in the past that has led them to think nothing will ever work out. They have lost faith in relationships and are fearful of getting too attached. 

It is, of course, difficult for both sides of the relationship when commitment troubles are a factor, but it doesn’t mean it is not possible to find love and to have true, meaningful relationships. It just might take some work. Meeting with a licensed mental health professional can help those struggling with commitment to identify the reasons why they might have trouble in this area and what can be done to move forward. 

Source: https://www.psychalive.org/anxious-avoidant-attachment/

How long should it take to get over a divorce?

The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?

While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.

Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful. 

Your Internal Core

When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being. 

That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap. 

All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time. 

Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change. 

Anxious Attachment is Harmful to Teens

Is your teen falling for someone easily? Are they easy to pick a fight? They likely have an anxious attachment style. 

Anxious attachment is something that develops when a child is young based on their relationship with their primary caregivers. In many cases it is a result of a parent who sometimes was very in-tune to their child’s emotional needs while in other cases was emotionally unavailable, creating confusion for the child on what to expect when turning to a parent. These children, as a result, often develop clingy tendencies as they have learned the best way to get their needs met is to cling to their parent. 

As that child turns into a teen, that anxious attachment manifests in other ways—jealousy, insecurities, over-dependence on a partner. This can be dangerous to teens who instead of focusing on their self-growth become dependent on their relationships to determine their self-worth. They grow emotionally desperate and can become over-bearing for their partners. These teens and adults are often always looking for ways the relationship is going to end, anticipating that they will ultimately be rejected. 

As a teen who is already going through a lot of changes and confusion in their life, anxious attachment puts them more at risk for unhealthy behaviors. They are more likely to do whatever they can to get the attention and acceptance of others around them, and likewise, they are deeply hurt and distraught at any actions of rejection. They become angry when they don’t receive the attention and reassurance they need from their relationships. It can lead to unhealthy patterns that can follow them through adulthood. 

By recognizing that your teen may have an anxious attachment style, you can help them change their patterns and get the help they need to become confident, healthy adults. Licensed mental health professionals have tools to assist in helping teens to feel more comfortable in their skin, more self-confident, and secure. Your teen can be taught how a healthy relationship should look. 

Source: https://www.psychalive.org/understanding-ambivalent-anxious-attachment

Surviving Valentine’s Day Post-Divorce

The day of love is here, but you aren’t feeling it. You recently got divorced and want to forget this day even exists. And maybe that is what you do, maybe you distract yourself with something else. Valentine’s Day can be a hard day for anyone not in a relationship but especially for someone who recently got out of a marriage. 

Create a new normal

Maybe burying yourself under the covers of your bed looks really good right now. I get it. But, I generally don’t encourage avoiding situations. This day might be hard but doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it. Avoidance just pushes away feelings that will show their face later down the road with more strength. 

Rather than avoiding the dreaded Feb. 14, embrace it in a different way. You can celebrate Galantines Day, as it is often called, and treat your friends to a special date. Share a moment with the girls and relish in how loved you are. If you have kids, treat them to a special dinner. Embrace the day as a time to show love to those in your life, not just a romantic partner. 

Try something new

Take it as an opportunity to do something you wouldn’t have been able to do before. Make a new normal. Maybe you love Thai food but your ex did not, take yourself shopping and buy yourself something special, get your hair cut, your nails done, or get a massage. Use the day as a day to love yourself. Recognize that the most important person in your life is you. You deserve to take care of yourself, to treat yourself, to show yourself how much you are loved and how much you deserve. 

Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take yourself to a movie, do something special for someone else, whatever it is that makes you feel good. Read a good book. If the idea of being out with other couples just makes you cringe, then don’t. You don’t have to expose yourself to uncomfortable situations. Rent a movie, order in food. The bottom line is to ask yourself what matters to you? What is something that would make you feel good? Then do it. 

If you are feeling particularly down, take a moment to think of five things you love about yourself. Write them down, repeat them to yourself. You do you. Make this day about love, loving you, loving your friends, your family, your pets, whoever has been there for you. You will get through. Tomorrow is a new day. 

Why is your partner acting distant?

All relationships go through ups and downs. Sometimes your connection might feel off. Your partner feels distant and you aren’t sure what to do, or why he/she/they are feeling so far away from you. Your conversations might be simply transactional— what time do the kids need to be picked up? Will you make it to practice? What are we having for dinner? Etc. 

Before you jump to conclusions about your relationship, have a conversation. Communicate with your partner. Pick a quiet time, free from distraction and talk. Let them know you feel they are being distant and ask them why that might be. It might be something as simple as your partner needing some alone time. Maybe they are stressed from work or other things and need to clear their head. Maybe they feel overwhelmed, smothered, or just plain exhausted. Maybe they need a break from the day-to-day. 

Your partner could also be struggling with depression. It might have nothing to do with you at all, but they just don’t feel themselves making it hard to let you in. By clearing the air and letting your partner know that you are there for them in whatever way they need you, you are helping to open the doors of communication and increase closeness. 

Other reasons your partner might be acting distant could be they don’t feel as close to you anymore. Maybe you need a date night, some time to reconnect. Maybe you need to find a hobby, a tv show, a common interest of some kind to bring you back together for a few minutes a day or a couple hours a week. It can be easy to get caught up in life and lose touch of what really matters. 

There might also be a cycle of avoidance. Could there be serious issues that you keep brushing off? They all come to the surface eventually and need to be addressed. Is there a cycle of criticism that makes your partner not feel comfortable opening up to you? Maybe they feel judged or uncomfortable for some reason.

Much of the problems couples face come down to the fact that they aren’t talking about them. Issues are arising and they are ignoring them. They are thinking maybe if they pretend they don’t exist they will go away. But, if something is really bothering someone it won’t just go away. It needs to be talked about. There needs to be a solution agreed upon or a compromise. The air needs to be cleared. 

If you and your partner are having difficulty communicating, it could be helpful to seek couples counseling from a licensed professional.

Ask Mabel: A wife questions why she can’t get over her husbands affair.

Dear Mabel: Why can’t I get over my husband having an affair?

I am a mom with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, who is deeply religious. I recently found out my husband has been having a longterm affair and I am struggling with moving past his actions and repairing our marriage. It is all I can think about. 

After a brief time away from our family, as a result of his confession, he claims he is a changed man. He, who has also struggled with alcoholism, no longer drinks. He has started attending individual counseling, as well as couples counseling, and he regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He repented in church and prays every day with me and our children. He claims he is “over the moon” in love with me and is constantly telling me how sorry he is and how he will never do such a thing again. But, I just can’t move past this. 

Every time he leaves the house I immediately begin thinking that he is going to be with another woman. I think about his actions all the time, and especially during sex. I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust him again. I don’t know if I can get our marriage back. What do I do? What can I do? Why can’t I get past this? 

Mabel: 

I am so sorry that you are going through this. Infidelity is an extremely difficult thing for anyone to accept. There are a few things that I think are making this situation even harder for you to move past. First, because of your religious affiliations, you have an internal battle you are struggling with. Religion teaches that sex is sacred which is the opposite of what your husband was doing when he had an affair. You are married and have children with this man. That means that he made a pact years ago to stay committed and loyal to you always, and he has betrayed that. 

While he did go to the church to repent and become a reformed man and had the church pray for your family, the expectation is that you would forgive him and sometimes it is just not that simple. He did his job of apologizing to the church, which gives the expectation that he should receive forgiveness in return. But that expectation is only suppressing and invalidating your rightful anger. It is ok to be feeling betrayed, hurt, distraught over all of this. You have every right to those feelings. 

Your emotional security is in turmoil. Your marriage to your husband was a secure relationship, a place where you felt safe. That sense of safety is in question now. You feel emotionally unsafe, insecure, and are anxious that these actions will repeat themselves. But, this is your husband and your family and deep down you are scared to lose that as well. 

Those are a few of the reasons you might be having trouble getting over these actions. I want you to know, your feelings are completely warranted. My suggestion would be to give yourself time. Don’t feel like you need to rush into instantly repairing anything. I also suggest you get yourself some help. If you haven’t already, seek out a licensed counselor who can help you to work through things and help you take care of you. 

boundary title

Boundaries and Relationships Intersect

Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary. 

boundary graph

Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?

Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship. 

A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.

Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you. 

Grudges vs boundaries: the powerful difference

Grudges and boundaries can often be perceived as similar — but they are so very different from each other. 

Grudges are a form of punishment. It is constantly holding something over another person’s head, not letting them recover for a past failure, it is not accepting that people can grow and learn from mistakes. Grudges are toxic to relationships. We are all human beings, meaning we are all going to do things that others are not ok with at some point or another. When a grudge is established it leaves the other person stuck, unable to recover from that action or actions that injured the relationship in the past. It is a lack of forgiveness and acceptance. 

Boundaries are an act of protection for your personal self and the relationship you are in. They are away to help keep the relationship on a positive track so neither partner gets burnt out or overwhelmed by past issues. It involves growth, acceptance, open communication, understanding, and in some cases compromise.

Boundaries are about love

Grudges often lead to burn out because they are established by internalizing strong feelings and not determining solutions to move forward. It is like stepping on a piece of gum and not being able to move forward without that bump on the bottom of your shoe. A boundary is wiping that gum off, accepting the evidence that it was once there, but moving forward without that bump. 

Maybe your partner forgot about an important dinner which left you feeling upset and hurt, a grudge would mean you are always bringing it up every time a dinner is planned and you are overwhelmed with worry that he/she/they will forget. A boundary would be telling your significant other how upset you were, finding out what happened to them and why they missed the dinner and then figuring out how to make sure it won’t happen again. Maybe they need a morning reminder, or an alarm on their phone, whatever it is work together to solve the issue rather than tucking it all away.  Grow and learn together and you will be making your relationship stronger.