Tag Archives: relationship

repair toxic relationship

How To Repair A Toxic Relationship

You are in a toxic relationship and you don’t want to get out of it, you would rather work on trying to fix it. You want to repair it. Is it possible? 

A few things need to be present to turn a toxic relationship around, both partners need to want to make it work. Both of you need to recognize your faults and be willing to own up to them. Both of you need to be willing to put in the effort to make it work. If those three things are there, then you have the necessary foundation to move forward. 

To turn an unhealthy relationship into a healthy one, you must establish ground rules. Change is difficult and old habits die hard but steps need to be taken to make your relationship a positive environment. For example, if every time your partner brings up a past argument you feel bad, then kindly and calmly let he/she/they know that the past in the past and you would prefer to not relive arguments over again. If you need time to practice self-care, let your partner know that Wednesday nights are for you to go out. Setting ground rules helps you both to be on the same page. 

Boundaries are important. I write about them all the time. You must establish them in any healthy relationship. Maybe it makes you upset when your partner reads the text messages on your phone or calls you repeatedly at work. Let he/she/they know that is unacceptable to you. Boundaries are healthy. 

Take care of other relationships in your life. You need a support group. You need more people in your life than just your partner. Friends are healthy. Don’t let your partner be the everything in your life, let others in as well. 

Practice. Practice. Practice. Self-Care. I can’t stress this enough. It is so important to make time for yourself. Take a yoga class, go for a run, walk the dog, go to bed early, have a night out with friends, do stuff that makes you feel good. You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are not taking care of YOU.

And, finally, don’t hesitate to seek help from a licensed counselor. A professional can offer guidance and assist in the steps you need to take to turn your relationship into a healthy one. Changing the nature of your relationship is not easy. It takes work. But, it can be possible if you put in the effort. 

contributing toxic

Is Your Behavior Contributing To Your Toxic Relationship?

It is always difficult to admit we might not be behaving in the best way. It is hard to own up to the idea that you might be the one making your relationship toxic. But, the only real way to grow as a person is to be accountable for your actions. You need to first recognize your wrongdoing before you can begin to make changes. 

In the same way, it is difficult to admit wrongdoing, it can also be difficult to see the negative parts of yourself. You might feel like what you are doing is right, when it is actually very harmful. 

What are some signs that your behavior is contributing to the toxicity of your relationship?

1.) Making Affection Conditional — Are you withholding affection because you want your significant other to do something? For example, maybe you are upset about how often you have to clean the house or how little he/she/they are helping with the children. Maybe you want them to agree to move into a different home or buy a new car, whatever the reason — affection should never be used as a bargaining tool. It shouldn’t hinge on getting something you want. Of course, you NEVER have to be affectionate when you don’t want to be but don’t make it a bargaining chip.

2.)Frequently Passive Aggressive — We all have moments when we are passive-aggressive but it is not healthy, and not helpful to a relationship. If you are frequently getting angry with your significant other and not telling him/her/they why you are mad, then you are halting communication efforts. Communication is necessary for any healthy relationship. If you can’t talk to each other that needs to change. 

3.) “Test” Your Partner — If your relationship is healthy then you do not need to “test” your partner’s reactions to things. If you find that you are making them jealous or playing with their emotions in other ways to see how they might react, that is not healthy. If you trust each other then there is no need for mind games. Maybe this insecurity stems from something unrelated to your partner, maybe you need constant affirmation because of another deeper rooted issue. Regardless, this type of behavior needs to be seriously looked at. 

There is help

If any of these sound like you, it is ok. There is help. You can change. The first step is acknowledging that these are serious issues that need your attention. A licensed professional counselor can help you to work through these problems and get to the root of why you might be behaving in this way. They can help you turn things around. 

family of two

Two people can be a family, too.

There is this traditional idea of what family looks like that is just not realistic. I often hear clients tell me how they don’t want to have children but they fear that doesn’t make them a “real family.” That is just not true. 

Your family can be complete at two.

You don’t have to be married with children to be a family. You just have to be a more than one-person unit. Two people can be a family. All too often I hear of the family struggle because other people in their lives expect them to have children, to “complete” their family. Mom or grandma keep pressuring you to “take that next step.” But, that might not be your path and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your family CAN be complete at two. If that is what feels right to you and your partner, then that is the path you should be on. Kids are not a necessary part of a family unit. 

Many couples these days are becoming “pet parents” rather than child parents. But, even so, you don’t need a pet to be a family. Your family is what YOU make it. It isn’t about anyone but you and your partner. 

Family doesn’t have to be blood.

The Census Bureau definition of family is two or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption living in the same residence but that in and of itself is still a traditional take. More and more research is showing that a family doesn’t have to be the result of blood, marriage, or adoption. It can simply mean two or more people who are a unit. 

This is the modern family. The ever-evolving modern family comes in many different combinations, and that is truly a wonderful thing. As human beings, we are not one-size-fits-all. We all have different things that make us unique, so why should there only be one definition of family. 

All that really matters is you are happy.

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. 

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.

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.

How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy After Baby

Let’s be realistic. Having a baby can be a wonderful thing for a relationship but it does not leave any relationship unchanged. Babies are a huge life transition for anyone, which comes with a lot of challenges (and joys). 

In order to keep your relationship healthy post-baby:

1.) Change your expectations — Don’t try to go back to the way your relationship was before you had a child. It is not going to be the same because now you have another to care for, another to share your time with, and another to support. Your relationship will change and in many cases grow even deeper than it was before. 

2.) Communicate — As with any relationship, communication is key. But even more so during times of big transitions, you need to be honest and open. Talk to your partner about your needs, your desires, your struggles, etc. You can’t help each other through these times if you don’t know what each other is dealing with. 

3.) Schedule alone time — Yes, you have this new life to care for but don’t forget about your need to bond with your spouse. Even more so now date nights (even if they are at home on your couch while your child sleeps in the next room) are of crucial importance. You need time together.

4.) Give each other a break — Support each other during this transition time. There will be ups and downs and you both will need breaks. For mom, that might mean a good nights sleep, some girl time, or a massage. For dad, that might mean time for hobbies that they love and no longer have as many hours to give to them. 

5.) Have Patience — This time is going to be hard for you both, in different ways. There will be days when you feel angry or frustrated with each other. There will be days when you are so exhausted you can’t even think straight. Cut each other some slack. It won’t be like this forever. Recognize this is a rough patch and you will figure it out. 

Having a baby is a beautiful thing but few couples realize the complete life-altering impact of creating a family until they are in it. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to struggle a bit with this transition. The best thing you can do for your relationship is to not lose sight of what really matters. You love each other and this new addition to your family, and your child needs parents who care for each other and support each other. Talk it out and remember you are on the same team. 

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.” 

Why You Should Never Compare Your Relationship To Others

Comparing your relationships to the others in your life comes naturally to many of us. Without even realizing it you might start thinking about how kind your friend’s husband is to her and how you wish your husband would be more like hers. You might have grown up in what you felt was a perfect family home, with parents who had a “perfect” marriage or at least one you have strived to have of your own. This practice, however harmless it might feel, is a dangerous one. It can be toxic to your own relationships. 

First of all, it is important to note that no matter what you are seeing on the outside of someone’s relationship might be very different from their private life. You don’t know all the nitty-gritty details, even if you think you do. Second, by focusing on what your relationship is lacking (by your perception) you are setting yourself up for failure. 

Missing The Positives

When we are always wishing things were better, wishing they were different in some way, we are ruminating on the negative and missing the positives. Maybe you see your friend and her husband going on weekend hikes and you think that is something you wish you could do with your husband. But, your husband has bad allergies or a bad knee and hikes just aren’t in the cards. Maybe you are forgetting that you and your husband spend your weekends having other special moments, maybe you binge watch TV shows, cook together, or try to have a special outing of some kind.

Maybe you wish your husband brought you coffee in bed every morning because that is what you see when you stay the night at a relative’s home. But, then you are forgetting the other things your husband does for you— folds your clothes, puts the dishes away, wipes the snow off your car windows, starts your car before he goes to work, whatever it is we all have different ways of expressing love. 

Blind You

Comparisons can blind you from the things that were once important to you. It leads to resentment and sadness. Suddenly they don’t seem as important because you are so focused on what you are missing. Your relationship is special in its own way. You are a different couple than others in your life and that is healthy. Comparing just leads to unhappiness, arguments, and increased frustrations. It clouds your vision. It disables your ability to see what is truly beautiful in your personal life. 

Reign it in. Stop comparing. Instead, catch your brain before it starts ruminating and ask yourself to think about five good things in your relationship. If you can’t, well then, maybe you should reevaluate. Or, consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to sort through your feelings and come to terms with what you want out of your life and your relationships.