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Suspicious in St. Clair Shores

  • Posted on March 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Dear Christine,

My husband and I are very active in the LGBT community.  Our daughter came out years ago and we fully supported her and we have been involved in our local PFLAG, marched in parades and made many friends in the community. We are almost as involved as if we were members of the community.  Perhaps too involved.  Though we are close friends, we don’t feel like a married couple anymore. I’m actually worried that my husband is now leading a double life.  He’s become very close to one of our gay male friends and I’m suspicious.  We haven’t been intimate in over 3 years.

I  brought it up last night and it didn’t go well.  My intention was to plan a romantic dinner and try and get our intimacy back.  When I realized he was avoiding my attempts I confronted him about our friend and he just got angry and walked away.  We haven’t spoken since.  He won’t talk to me at all!! Should I have reason to worry? 

Signed, Suspicious in St. Clair Shores

Dear Suspicious,

I think it’s important to trust your gut feelings, but you need to check them with reality.  To assume means to make an ASS out of U and ME.  I wish that you had sat your husband down for an honest conversation about your marriage minus any romantic dinner first.  In that conversation, it’s helpful to make “I” statements rather than “you” statements.  It’s your safest ground, to speak of your feelings, your needs, what you’ve noticed you no longer get from your marriage.  Then, ask him what his experience of the marriage is, listening on many levels, not just to the words.

Stay away from the “we” statements, even if it seems silly.  A good start is to say what you did:  “I don’t feel married anymore.”  Try not to say “we haven’t had sex in 3 years” but rather “I miss being intimate with you.  I realized the other day that it’s been 3 years since I’ve felt that closeness with you.”  Yes, having sex takes two (well, not always) but each of you needs to speak for your own self, not for the couple, or he’s going to feel like you are speaking for him and that may trigger more resistance.

After you both have had a chance to express your observations, feelings and needs, then is the time to ask a question.  Which question depends on what was said by each of you.  Starting with an accusation, which BTW begins with that “you” statement, puts him on the defensive, cornering him into denial, no matter what is going on.

Try psychotherapy if he won’t talk to you again.  Perhaps a neutral party could help the two of you restore communication and figure out what is going on and what you both want moving forward.  If he won’t go to therapy with you, try going alone.  You need support in figuring out how to approach your marriage and some communication tools would be helpful as well.  Good luck to you.

Christine Cantrell, PhD


Heated in Hell, MI

  • Posted on March 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Dear Christine, 

I work at a professional office where there’s a strict no dating policy.  It’s a really good job and I need it but I have a problem that’s making it hard to go to work.  A co-worker started flirting with me big time and though I knew the policy, I figured what the hell, we could be discrete.  We went out several times and I thought he really liked me.  I was falling!   Suddenly he just started ignoring me.  He won’t take my calls and acts at work like nothing happened.  I can’t talk to anyone at work about it but I did find out, he has a husband!  I’m so damn angry and there’s nothing I can do without serious risk of affecting my position at work.  Part of me wants to tell our manager just to get him in trouble and hell with the consequences.  If he would at least talk to me I might have some understanding but he has totally cut me off and I’m frustrated and confused.  How do I let this go before I blow!? 

Thanks, Heated in Hell, MI

Dear Heated,

Now you know why there’s a no-dating policy in most workplaces.  Even if you two hit it off, your dating can be very difficult on your colleagues who have to endure your drama once they realize what’s going on.

So, at work you met a flirt who is married.  Here’s the result of your decision to see  “what the hell.”  You took a big risk.  Welcome to hell!  You might be discrete, but  who is he really is?  Is he capable of discretion?  Healthy relationship are when both partners are equals to communicate what they feel and need and want.  That’s really hard to do in the workplace.

You can’t make someone else take your calls, like you or talk to you.  You can’t make a relationship work all by yourself.  A good relationship is when both parties are giving 100%, not even just 50/50.  You are putting your job at serious risk.   If you truly need and want this job, you’ll find a way to take a deep breath whenever you see him/think of him, and remind yourself that you need this job.

Welcome to a life lesson.  When you truly get a lesson from the School of Hard Knocks, you will never need a refresher course!  Consider yourself lucky that you still have your job and focus on that.  Count to 10 when you see him, use self-talk to talk yourself down when you get riled up.  Anger is a normal reaction, but after about 90 seconds of feeling anger surge, you have to feed it to keep it going.

Remind yourself that you put yourself in this position.  If you tell yourself you were the victim and you just want him punished, whatever the cost to you, that’s nurturing the anger.  For every 5 minutes that you are angry, you increase your blood pressure, decrease your digestion, your breathing gets shallow and your immune system goes off line for the next 6 hours!  That’s not including losing your job.  It’s not fun to be an adult:  bills, responsibilities, jobs, boundaries, communication and most important, self-care.   Good luck as you practice good self-care in the coming weeks, modulating your anger rather than feeding it!

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Licensed Psychologist

Angry in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on March 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Dear Christine,

I’ve had a roommate for the past 3 years.  My best friend for the last 20 years and I decided to share expenses as neither one of us has had any success in a relationship.  But that’s a question for another day!

Tuesday was Super Tuesday, but not so super at our house.  I’m for Hillary, she’s for Bernie.  She’s angry, I wasn’t, but now I’m starting to get really annoyed.  Seems to me by the way she’s talking and the other Bernie fans on Facebook that they actually hate Hillary.  OK, I could go on forever but let me get to the point.  How can I convince her that we need to elect a democrat.  I’ll vote for Bernie if he is the nominee but she and many others are saying they won’t vote at all if Hillary is the nominee.  We are both lesbians, both democrats.  The second question is how can we get past the anger going on between us.  It’s been an ugly election year and my relationship with my best friend is strained at best.  Thanks so much,

Angry in Ann Arbor

Dear Angry,
Welcome to election season!  You probably have heard that it’s best not to talk about certain topics:  religion or politics.  Now you know the reason.  Friends and spouses and family members do not always agree about these issues, and there’s a lot of emotional energy and meaning give to either side of the equation.

During election season, there’s a lot of campaigning, which means every candidate and their followers and surrogates are trying to make the case for your vote.  Sometimes they take the high road and give potential policies they back and sometimes it’s all mud slinging and smearing each other.  When the stakes are high, it usually gets ugly.

If you want to live in peace, it probably would be best to avoid politics and the election.  However, that’s hard, as you have known each other so long.  So, if you are going to talk politics and try to persuade one another, set up some boundaries.  When is it OK?  When do you need a break?  You can suggest articles or videos for each other to read/see, trying to inform each other of facts or beliefs you each think are most the most important.  If you can, try to listen to each other, not just shout over each other.  Perhaps she has an important piece for you to consider.  It may not change your mind, but being open with her will start a dialogue rather than a war of words.  If you listen to her, hopefully she will listen to you in return.  Trying to force your views on her or vice versa, usually kicks up a lot of resistance and stops communication.  I don’t find yelling matches helpful in making up my mind about politics.  Fox 2’s “Let It Rip” and some of the Sunday morning TV political talk shows are good examples.  No one wins and everyone gets high blood pressure!
So, the reality is, you can’t change her mind about anything.  And she can’t change yours.  The worst case scenario is that you each vote in the primary and your votes cancel each other out.  The most critical thing here is to vote!  This is your right and your responsibility as a US citizen.  I would love to see what happens if we got a 75 or 80% turnout!  I think our elected officials would look v ery different from most elections, where we have closer to a 25% turnout.

Tues, March 8, is the Democratic Primary, and there are two candidates, so you may feel “why bother?”  By abstaining, you are giving up your voice.  Which candidate turns out the most supporters to vote is who wins.  (Bernie won one election by 10 votes!)  If there’s a 3rd candidate, then there is the possibility of splitting the vote and no candidate gets a majority.  If In the general election, if that 3rd candidate gets enough votes, one of you may lose the candidate of your party.  These are high stakes fights.

If you can’t agree to disagree and still be friends, this election may cost you your friendship.  A lot of people lose FaceBook friends during elections as intense divisions crop up where before was only a pleasant connection.  Perhaps after the Michigan Primary on 3/8/16, you and your friend can give it a rest for a few weeks and then regroup as we learn who the nominees will be for the general election.  Then, maybe you will be able to discuss the pros and cons of the 2 (or 3, wait and see!) main candidates of different parties.  It’s painful.  That’s why we say it’s best not to discuss religion and politics.

The most important thing I can say is get informed and VOTE on Tuesday, March 8!
Christine Cantrell, PhD.