Category Archives: Relationship

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.

You Can Love Someone and Still Have Boundaries

Just because you are in love does not mean you have to let everything go. Love can—and should—involve boundaries. You and your significant other are still two separate people with different needs, wants, expectations. Boundaries are healthy.

Boundaries often have a bad rap. They can be perceived as pushing away the other or creating distance. That is not the case at all, the healthiest of relationships have boundaries. A relationship isn’t a free ride in another person’s life. It does not entitle one person to treat another a certain way. Establishing boundaries can very much be an act of love. It is a way to get deeper in the intimate details of your significant other’s personality and needs. It is opening the doors of communication and being honest with each other. 

Boundaries are a way to love yourself

Boundaries are a way to love yourself, to make strides in your life to take care of you and what you need, and they are also a way of loving another. There is the saying “I love you too much to let you act like that.” Think about your children and when you have had to punish them for hitting a sibling, or stealing from a friend— you are establishing a boundary by telling them you are not ok with that. Similar things can happen in a relationship—maybe you have a partner who frequently takes part in unhealthy behaviors or is short-tempered. By communicating with your partner that these behaviors are things you are not comfortable with and you will not stand by and be part of them then you are doing some good for yourself and for your partner. You want to see them live their best life. 

We all have limits

We need each other but we all also have limits. A boundary can be as simple as establishing a time to be by yourself. Maybe after work you are stressed and just need to unwind in quiet, so you lock yourself away to watch a few minutes of TV or read a book and you ask your partner to leave you be during that time. Maybe you have a longstanding tradition with a family member that is special and your significant other suddenly wants to be part of it, and you explain that this is something that is important to you and this family member—a tradition of sorts. Maybe its a food that you don’t like and you ask your partner not to prepare that item for you personally any more. Or maybe it is down to how your clothes are folded or a chore around the house is performed. If you are not ok with it, it is ok to tell the other person to leave it be and you will take care of it. 

When setting boundaries with your partner be calm, open your heart and mind to what they have to say, and establish greater respect for both yourself and him/her/they. When we keep our mouths shut and just “go with it,” or try to be “above” by not saying anything we are quietly building up resentment that will eventually explode into an argument or even the end of the relationship. Before things get to that point, speak your concerns, let your partner know what you need and acknowledge that they also have needs. 

What are some boundaries you have set with a partner?

Why do some men have a hard time with emotions?

Some men have a very difficult time confronting and processing emotions. They seem to be able to compartmentalize emotions so as to not carry things with them. It is a nice skill really, they are able to break things down and problem solve.

Of course, not all men have difficulty with emotions. There are exceptions. There are men that do handle emotions well and can empathize with their other halves. From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, cavemen were tasked to be the hunters because of their relative stature and built compared to cavewomen. They needed to hunt for their families in order to keep them alive. It became a survival tactic to not let empathy get in the way. If they saw a baby bear they had to kill it for food, otherwise, they risked themselves and their tribes going hungry or starving to death. Empathy equates to death in this context.

Physical & Strategic

Over time, men have evolved to be more physical and strategic rather than emotional and empathetic. Not all men, but many. It is part of who they are. It explains why often times men try to be the “fixers.” You come to them with a problem and they want to try to correct it, rather than just “trying to understand.” It is a common argument from couples— “I can’t read your mind,” “I just want you to tell me that ‘it sucks’ and not try to fix it.” It also explains why many men turn their emotions into a physical response — such as cleaning the garage, fixing a car, exercise, etc.

Most men might ask, “If the problem is solved, then what’s the issue?”

Solving problems is great! The world needs problem solvers. However, problem-solving is different from bonding and connecting. That is why some relationships on the surface appear to be problem-free, but there is no emotional connection. It is not that men don’t feel the same as women; they may experience the same emotions (ie. fear, sadness, anger), it is just that they have different ways of processing these emotions.

So dear men, we need you to step into your emotions and connect with us so we can bond and have better relationships.

Choosing between two guys? You are not that into either one.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are deciding between two guys, then you are not into either of them. A decision like this should be an easy one if you have true feelings. 

It is like what Marie Kondo is teaching about the tidying up your home, does this spark joy? If neither guy stands out as one that sparks joy in your life then you shouldn’t be choosing between either. You should be moving on, looking elsewhere. 

Look for Joy

The concept is a simple one, if it is not a “hell yes” then it is a “no.” When we are talking about relationships, sharing your time and your life with another, you should feel good about it. It should enhance your life. It shouldn’t be a “well maybe I like this person.” Life is short, too short to not be with the people who light up your world. You should be spending time with people that leave you craving to spend more time with them. 

Just because you have someone pining over you, doesn’t mean you have to go for it with them. Think about yourself and what your subconscious is telling you. Listen. Chances are there is a part of you that already knows the right decision and if it has to be a decision at all, then drop it. 

Find happiness, the rest will fall into place

There are lots of people out there in the world and you will find the one who makes you feel great in your own skin. I understand the frustration that women get as they struggle to be single and the rush they feel to jump into relationships. But, why waste your time on something that doesn’t make you happy? You shouldn’t be settling because you feel a rush to get married or have children or create that nuclear family, you should be happy. You deserve to be happy. The rest will fall into place. 

‘I just want someone to love me’

“I just want someone to love me.” Let’s think about this phrase for a minute. I hear it quite often. 

While it might seem harmless on the surface, is it really? It’s true—everyone does want to be loved. Everyone wants to feel cared for, appreciated, and truly madly loved. But this method of thinking about it is dangerous. This thought process could be what is leading some of us into bad relationships. 

We are thinking we want this one thing so badly that we are losing touch of the process of connecting with another. We are losing ourselves. We are desperate to be loved by another that we are jumping into any old relationship and staying in it—whether we are happy or not — because we want to feel loved. We want to be loved. 

Fill your own bucket

Are you relying on someone else to fill your bucket? What about you? What about your goals, your hopes, and dreams, the stuff that makes you special. You need to work on filling your own bucket and finding that love inside you so you are not so reliant on others. Learn to love yourself. It can be a difficult thing to do but it is crucial to your happiness. The only person you can ever truly rely on in life is yourself. You need to take care of you, to trust in yourself so that you can find that true connection with another. 

It is amazing what can happen when we love ourselves. The relationships we get into are healthy ones, they are beneficial to us and truly meaningful. They are not born out of desperation or need but rather true attraction and connection. So rather than relying on others, we need to start relying on ourselves. Fill your bucket. Do what you need to do for you before you go hunting for love. 

True love doesn’t mean healthy love

I understand true love. The intense feelings you can have for another. That whole, complete kind of love. But, I also understand healthy love and the two can look very different. 

Emotions vs. Behaviors

There is a big difference between emotions and behaviors. Emotions are what we feel on the inside, while behaviors are our actions. You can be completely head-over-heels in love with a person who treats you bad. It is possible to love a person who abuses you, or knocks you down, or keeps you from forming meaningful friendships. 

You can be in a relationship where you and your significant other both love each other very much but insecurities from one or both of you lead you to act in ways that are unhealthy. Things like being jealous, over-protective, or controlling. There are many cases where we enable each other to continue unhealthy behaviors like drugs and alcohol. The list can go on and on. 

The bottom line is even if you are in love, you need to be in a healthy relationship. Both parties need to be with people who treat them with respect and allow them to live a meaningful, fulfilling, happy life. Healthy relationships involve communication, give and take, compromise. They are about supporting one another through good times and bad. They are about arguing and learning from those arguments. They are about growth. Often times unhealthy relationships are not able to grow. They can be toxic.

Even the truest of love is not worth it if it is unhealthy. We have to take care of ourselves. This one life is short and we deserve to live our happiest life with a person who understands that means to us. In many cases, counseling can help a couple who might not be behaving the healthiest to develop a new normal. A licensed counselor can provide guidance, tools, and accountability.