As a therapist, I see a lot of couples who are working on their relationships. I also see a lot of individuals who are unhappy in their relationships but don't know where to start to improve them. Are they the problem? Is it their partners? Or is it the dynamics between them? Perhaps all of the above? Generally, a good place to start is in recognizing your own needs. If you were raised in a home where your needs were invalidated or chronically unmet, this can be a very daunting task. So here are some questions to ask yourself.
Let me just say, this isn't going to be a hearts-and-flowers sugarcoated sort of a blog. The fact is, we're living in deeply troubled times. Every day it seems like we're hearing about a new terrorist attack somewhere in the world and another shooting in our own country; the Republican presidential nominee tells us we're unsafe and only he can fix it but meanwhile, the Democrats are getting hacked left and right. Yep, these are troubling times. And I'm not one for false uplift. But I am a believer in searching for optimism and locating your sources of hope as a way to combat mental health symptoms. So here are some true reasons for optimism.
I recently wrote about emotional abuse, and how often people think of it as name-calling or explicit cruelty, when really, it might be about someone controlling you with silent disapproval. It's when someone causes you to feel you can never be good enough. That ties into my topic today. Are you in a relationship but often feel completely alone? Your partner might be emotionally withholding.
What with July 4th so recently behind us, I've been thinking a lot about what freedom means. From a therapeutic perspective, it involves personal agency--to have the space to figure out what you really think and feel, and for the process to be respected. You don't need to always know; you need to be surrounded by people who want you to find out, and support you in that. Does that describe your partner? If not, read on.
I just read the fantastic book "Girls & Sex" by Peggy Orenstein. What I love is that while it paints a somewhat dire picture of the landscape for teen (and even pre-teen girls), not to mention young adults, it's not just about diagnosing the problem; there's a prescription. You can help your daughters navigate that landscape, but it involves talking to them differently than you might have considered before. It means that instead of just talking about the risks of sex, we have to talk honestly about rewards, which is probably far more uncomfortable but incredibly valuable. So here are some ideas for how to have those talks. And remember, even if you've been approaching it differently, it's never too late to try something new.
So Trump's latest racist affront has arrived, and as usual, he makes no apologies. And the Republican party wants him to just say he's sorry so he can end the conversation. As anyone with kids knows, forcing apologies does nothing for the victim or the perpetrator. Expressing remorse is just the start, though. It's also about helping the other person (or people) to heal from what's been done to them. All of that takes tremendous strength. Sadly, the Republican nominee seems to believe it's a weakness. How do we teach our kids otherwise?
No, really. It can be a good thing. People who get each other -- who truly understand trauma, down in their bones -- can heal each other. In my clinical experience, finding a non-judgmental love (and extending that same non-judgmental love back) is incredibly powerful. So how do you let the light in, together?