You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'communication'.

Dear Christine, When to Call it Quits in Westland

  • Posted on May 14, 2018 at 9:43 am

Dear Christine, my girlfriend has dumped me so many times – the day i went to mexico, two days before christmas – etc.! and i take her back every time. she said she left because a)i would not tolerate her excessively close relationship continuing with her ex and b) because i have teenage kids whom she did not like (she has no kids). now we are back together again, she said she was making the big commitment this time and no more running away, but i feel like something died and i can’t really get behind it emotionally. we have not had sex for almost two years! she is my first girlfriend. i hesitate to let her go, she’s a good person, but i don’t even want to hold her hand! i think something dies inside when you get so many hard hits. should i just cut her loose? another aspect is that she is not educated like i am, so i get frustrated that she cannot understand what i am saying…plus she is the perky type which i find irritating. did i answer my own question?? when to call it quits in Westland Dear When to Call it Quits, Most…

Stay or Leave in Southgate

  • Posted on November 28, 2016 at 5:58 am

Dear Christine, I keep wondering if its it worth it to stay in this relationship.  My partner, who I’ll call Anna, works constantly!  And then when she does have free time, she’s too tired to do anything fun.  There’s no time for us!  To top it off, Anna can’t stop herself from constantly telling me what to do and how to do everything better. I mean, she corrects me about EVERYthing, like cooking cleaning, singing, dancing, sex, money etc. Anna is a  know-it-all personality and the worst yet, is she never tells me “good job!”  Always, she tells me, I should have done it her way, instead.  I’m going crazy! Signed, Stay or Leave in Southgate Dear Stay or Leave, There’s a lot I don’t know about you and your relationship, like how old you both are and how long you’ve been together.  I’m assuming you are both adults and have been together several years.  That means you both entered into this relationship freely.  And you have been together long enough to know that you are partnered with a smarty-pants.  Commitment doesn’t change personalities, but those characteristics that drew you to her may well be the ones that are pushing…

Teetering in Trenton

  • Posted on October 2, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Dear Christine,

I’ve done something really impulsive and now I’m afraid to tell my husband. Each year his family comes in from out of town and stays with us for Thanksgiving for a 4 day weekend. That includes mom, dad, brother, his wife and three young kids. I love him. I’ve put up with his family who are still a bit judgey about the gay thing for 6 years now. I’ve been kind and gracious, I think, but I will lose my mind if I have to deal with them this year. I haven’t told him yet but I bought an airline ticket to visit my friend in New Mexico for that weekend. I can’t even work up the nerve to tell him. Now that I’ve done it I feel really guilty. What should I do? I’m teetering between getting out of town and cancelling my reservation. I’ve never even really told him how much I dread these visits. I love him so much. help!

Teetering in Trenton

Dear Teetering,

Seriously?!  You are married to your husband, co-hosting his “judgey-about- gays” family for Thanksgiving for not 1, not 2, not 3 but SIX years.  And it never crossed your mind to tell him that you dread these visits?  And you think he has no clue as to your actual feelings of dread? What kind of marriage is this?  Apparently, there is no honesty about what each of you need and how either one of you feel!  My prediction is that this marriage can’t last long.

Trust is one of the fundamentals of a healthy relationship.  Trust comes from being vulnerable, honest and open with your spouse.  It’s not easy.  It’s not fun.  But it’s entirely necessary to build trust.  It would seem that your husband values his family coming to visit at Thanksgiving each year, despite their moral stance.  Seriously, you have never said a word to him about how difficult this annual ordeal?!  Time to change that!

You can keep your reservations for New Mexico if you don’t tell him, but you might think about looking for a job and an apartment there while you are visiting your friend.  I’m not sure your husband will appreciate your surprise disappearance.  Or you can just fess up to your husband and let him know just how uncomfortable you are with his family visiting and see if he is willing to graciously let you out of this co-hosting of his family.  Or you can cancel the tickets and fess up to your husband that you’ve been hiding the real you from him for six long years and see if he gets your misery or feels hurt and angry.  Your choice.

Physics teaches that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  No matter what you decide to do or when you decide to do it, there will be a reaction.  You choose what is the best course for you and for your marriage.  If you have any hope of this being a long-term marriage, I’d suggest cancelling the tickets and then telling all to your husband.  And I mean all.
Maybe he’ll understand your desperation and give you the green light to avoid his  “judgey” family.  Maybe he won’t understand and resent your cowardice.  I don’t have a clue.  Good luck to you, but just remember, honesty is the best policy and the sooner the better.  This would have been a really good conversation in year 1 or 2.

Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Deal Breakers and Dating in Dexter

  • Posted on September 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Dear Christine,

I am recently dating someone that I really like.  I have a list of deal breakers that she actually got annoyed with me when I listed them to her on our first date.

Deal Breakers = No Smokers, No Drug Users and No Alcoholics. Those are the big ones.

On a lesser scale, must have a decent job, be fairly intelligent, no fussy eaters and must want kids in the future.

We have two little glitches. One, she doesn’t think I should have voiced my deal breakers so early in a relationship. Two, she doesn’t want kids and I really do. I always have hoped to have at least one child, perhaps two.

So the following questions are, is it ok to let people know what I want and expect in a relationship?  Can you change another persons expectations for the future?  Can I get her to change her mind about kids when she seems pretty firm?

Deal Breaking and Dating in Dexter

 

Dear Deal Breakers and Dating,
Keep dating!  It may seem too early to bring up deal breakers early on, but it sure saves you time and heart ache!  Now you know that this woman is definitely not a keeper for a committed relationship including children!  Time to move on.

One of the advantages I found of dating once I reached my early 30s is that I no longer wanted to play “the game.”  I didn’t want to try to change anyone else, but instead, I wanted to let dates know who I know I am and what I need to make a relationship work.  For me!  The might have been fun in teens and twenties, but it grows old.  You may have offended her by getting serious too quickly, but you also learned that she’s really not into kids.  And you are.  You both now know that about each other and you haven’t wasted 3 years living together and fighting all the time.

Have you ever tried to change something about yourself?  Like lose weight? Quit a bad habit?  How did it go for you?  Was it quick and easy?  Did it just take a couple of reminders to yourself, a couple of changes to your routine and the weight was gone or you gave up the bad habit?  Hmmm.  I didn’t think so.  And this was a change YOU wanted for you!

So, if you try to change someone else who is OK with how they are (she doesn’t want kids) and now you make it your mission to convince her to be a loving mom to only 1 or 2 children, how will that go?  Smoothly?  Easily?  What will that do to the children that you want her to help you raise?  Will they feel loved and cared for by her?  Or might she feel resentful towards them and you?

Be glad you know yourself so well.  It’s not romantic to tell your date all your non-negotiables the first or second date, but it does move the process of finding a life partner along well.  Be who you are, with no apologies!  Keep dating!
And keep me posted, OK?

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

 

 

Piqued in Pontiac

  • Posted on July 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Dear Christine, I am married to a know-it-all!  I’ve dealt with it for years and it’s finally starting to get to me.  I had gotten used to her always having the better way to do something or the better answer but recently my grandson has come to stay with us for a while and she does it to him and though he’s being kind, it is really making me angry.  I’ve lived with it so long and accepted it, that I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to approach the subject. Subtle hints over the years haven’t worked.  Any thoughts? Piqued in Pontiac Dear Piqued, I imagine that your know-it-all wife has been knowing better than everyone else for many years.   You figured out a way to tolerate this arrogance in your marriage and you made the decision that staying married is right for you.  But now, your precious grandson is getting the same treatment! Subtleties don’t work with this sort of person.  I know.  My father is the same!  He’s always known everything and anything and has never been shy to voice his knowledge.  My parents will celebrate their 65 wedding anniversary in August.  I don’t…

Anita (a-neat-a) in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on January 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Dear Christine, 

I’ve been with my partner for 10 years and we get along great.  I feel the secret to our success has been keeping separate homes.  Every couple years my partner, Alice, really pushes for us to move in together.  I realize it would save us both a ton of money and it’s a pain going back and forth.  Plus, I do love her and plan to spend the rest of my life with her.  What holds me back is one, she’s a slob and I’m a neat freak, and two, I sometimes like my space and really feel the need to go home and sleep in my own bed alone. 

I’ve almost given in at times but I worry it will end us.  If we sell both of our homes and buy a new one and don’t make it, it’ll be a mess.  I have absolutely no one who agrees with me.  My friends, family and partner all think I’m wrong.  So I see you answer questions and I read your columns so I thought I’d ask.  Am I in the wrong? 

Anita in Ann Arbor

 

Dear Anita,

Your conflict is the fodder of comedy, as in The Odd Couple on TV and on stage.  It’s as common as can be in human existence.  And everyone you know likes to weigh in on who is “right” and who is “wrong.”  The only opinions that matter in this situation is yours and Alice’s. My first question is: What’s true about your relationship with Alice?  Do you and she really get along great or does she need you to cohabitate?  Is she just tolerating your quirk or does she also credit the success of your relationship to each of you having your own space?

There’s no right or wrong way to be a couple, so long as you both agree on the boundaries and ground rules.  I once had a client, a gay couple who lived in different houses a mile apart.  They were told by their therapist that they could NOT be a couple if they lived in different residences.  I don’t understand that requirement. One in the couple was fighting his ex for custody of their children, and living with someone out of wedlock was used against his case, so they bought 2 houses.  There’s plenty of straight couples who do not cohabitate, and sometimes live far from each other, one on the East Coast, the other on the West.  How do they manage to still be a couple?  I’m sure there’s a lot of commuting back and forth, phone calls, texting, Skyping and the like!  But no one disputes they are a couple. So, couples can be couples but not cohabitate, if that’s what they both choose.

Opposites attract.  It seems that every couple is made up of a lark and a night owl, and so co-sleeping can be difficult, as described in a New York Times article today:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/fashion/sleep-marriage-couples.html.  People actually get better rest when sleeping alone, but report more satisfaction when sleeping next to their partner.  And if that partner snores, or if both of you have different sleeping schedules or work opposite shifts, sleep may suffer and the relationship might be stressed. But it is better for each to sleep as their unique chronotype (https://www.bioinfo.mpg.de/mctq/core_work_life/core/introduction.jsp?language=engdictates).  Forcing a lark to become a night owl may well put more stress on the relationship than sleeping separately.

What’s important is to recognize and accept differences between you and your partner.  That means, you accept Alice’s sloppiness and she has to accept your neatness.  What does acceptance look like?  That can vary considerably.  It might mean having one home, but double the size of either of your houses, so you can divide up the neat areas and the messy areas, and close doors to not see each other’s way of being.  And compromise on the common areas.  It may mean two houses.

What do you and Alice need to do to make your 10 year relationship work for you as you go into your 11th year? Talk openly and honestly about each of your needs.  Are there any points or areas of overlap?  Is there any sane way to live together in one house and have both of you feel comfortable and at home without resentment?  In the NYT sleep-marriage article, Bruce Feiler recommends that you accept your differences and not force the other to sleep or wake at your schedule, as that will cause the other to be tired, irritable, less focused and less able to function at work, and the demanding partner will be blamed.  Instead, carve out time when you both are alert and make sure that is quality time.  At least when it comes to sleep.

So, I’m not in the business of telling you if you are right or wrong.  😉   I just want you and Alice to negotiate with each other without benefit or detraction from family and friends’ opinions.  Be honest with each other about who you really are and what you must have and absolutely cannot have in the relationship.  I know you’ll figure out what is best for the two of you as individuals and as a couple.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Left Out in Lathrup Village

  • Posted on December 21, 2015 at 5:00 am

Dear Christine,

My girlfriend and I have been together since last July. It’s been a pretty easy four months for us. We have a lot of fun together, talk like we’re best friends and respect each other a great deal.

HOWEVER, she too, has an ex boyfriend whom always gets brought up at least once in every conversation.  She’s usually bitching about him because he still texts, emails and calls her, but it seems like she’s living in the past and isn’t truly over him. They had a very on-off relationship for four years and brought out the worst in each other, so I can’t figure it out.

Another thing is that she has a lot of friends who say they’re in love with her and yet she still hangs out with them (even alone at her house) like they’re just regular friends. Is this normal? Should I tell her she can’t?  I’ve tried to inform her many times that in order for a new relationship to work, we need to try to eliminate the things that’ll make us insecure, meaning all of the past and would-be romances of her life.  She says I’m more than welcome to talk and hang out with my exes, but it’s clear that she’s saying this so she can have a guilt-free permission slip to do the same.

We’re so close in many ways, but I just don’t know if I can fight for a relationship when the other person doesn’t take it as serious as I do.

Left Out in Lathrup Village

 

Dear Left Out,

You didn’t mention how long ago your girlfriend broke up with this ex boyfriend or how long they were together.  It sounds like it lasted long enough for her to have some strong ties, though they don’t sound very healthy.  It seems that however long it was since they broke up for the last time, she hasn’t finished processing her feelings, hurts and experiences with him.  She needs time to work through all this, though it isn’t helpful for her to do that with you.  So, in a sense, she’s not fully available to be in a new relationship, fully, because she hasn’t completely left the last one.

I’m not sure what to make of the friends who say they are in love with her.  Do they tell you that?  Do they tell her that?  Is she leading them on?  Does she interact with these friends in any way that violates your agreement with each other in your new relationship?  Have you talked together about what boundaries you each need in your current relationship.  It sounds like you have, at least about you wanting both of you to leave past and would be romances of your lives.  What exactly do you mean:  that there can be no contact with someone either of you loved, were in a relationship with, or who is loved by others, friends?  The relationships that happened and the love that occurred are how we grow and learn about ourselves and about each other.  It’s fair to express your feelings about her friends and relationships and you need to find out how she feels about your friends and past relationships too.  If you made a request that she cut off contact with her exes and would-bes, did she agree or was this something you said in anger? It doesn’t sound like you both are on the same page yet about where those boundaries need to be.
It’s ok for her to have unresolved feelings about her ex, but it’s also ok for you to request that she not process all of that with you.  It’s also good to share your feelings with each other about your needs, expectations and what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.  That’s a two-way street.  You may not see eye to eye on some things, so ask yourself before you make a request:  “is this something I need to be emotionally safe in this relationship or is this something I like but can be more flexible about?”  Knowing eachother’s needs and communicating those critical for any relationship to work.

So, if your boundaries of things you need in the relationship include her not processing about her ex with you, and not leading on her friends that are in love with her, tell her that.  If it’s a non-negotiable that you can’t deal with her having any contact with her ex, after telling her your feelings and listening carefully to hers, then make your request.  If it is a need, like water, like air, be very clear about that.  And then be willing to walk away if she can’t abide by the boundaries that you need.  It’s not about right and wrong, it’s all about what each of you need to feel safe and vulnerable with each other so that you can grow closer together and create a committed, stronger relationship.
So, is this relationship worth fighting for?  Do you both agree on the boundaries, knowing what each other must have and cannot tolerate in a relationship?  Can you give her the space to have friends and exes in a different way from your friendships?  Do you need her to cut off all contact with her ex? Figure out where you stand, then share your feelings and listen to her feelings.  Make your request and be willing to live with whatever happens next.  Good luck.
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Astonished in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on December 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Dear Christine,

I was lucky enough to nab the love of my life about 4 years ago and we’ve been blissful ever since. I have no doubts about my feelings for her. Last weekend I had to go into work on a Saturday and others were there. Everyone was casual in jeans and such.  My boss, a man a few years older than me was there and its so weird I almost have a hard time writing this, he was HOT in his blue jeans!  So, that night I had a sex dream about him and I’ve had a few since.  I would never act on it and I doubt he even knows who I am. He has a wife and kids.  I have NEVER been attracted to a man in a sexual way.  Is this normal? Could I be Bi?  I never thought so.  Should I tell my wife?  Thanks,

Astonished in Ann Arbor

 

Dear Astonished,

We are sexual beings, wired to feel that chemistry with people that suddenly look hot to us that we never thought about sexually before.  It’s just part of being human.  It’s not like you were out looking for your boss to be hot, or to be attracted to a married man, or a man at all!  It’s not like it makes you bi or gay and if this is where it ended, you didn’t cheat on your wife either!  It just happened. There is nothing wrong with feeling turned on by anyone, even if that person is your boss! There could be something wrong with actions you might take on those feelings!  You could lose you your job and your marriage.

How open are you with your wife?  Do you share personal attractions each of you might have for someone else?  I have known couples who have rated individuals walking down the street as they sat at a sidewalk café, each sharing who they found attractive and comparing each other’s choices.  It can be fun!  It also could be threatening if the two of you have never talked about the possibility of being attracted to anyone but each other.  I would encourage you to talk to your wife about this, as being honest and open deepens emotional intimacy.  If she has any questions or fears, she has the opportunity to ask them.  If you are afraid you might act on your feelings, it’s really important to talk about them, if not to your wife, then to a therapist or someone you trust to help you sort out what your priorities, values and needs are.

Feeling an attraction so anyone is completely normal and does not have to be a threat to your marriage.  Keeping your feelings a secret could end up being a problem, particularly if your wife noticed your reaction to seeing your boss.  I have always told my wife of any attraction I’ve had to someone else, because I want her to know that the attraction is there, but there is no threat.  I choose to be with my wife each and every day, and when that changes, I know it will be time to get some therapy, and maybe end the relationship.  Likewise, she has told me when someone has had a crush on her.  I particular I remember a student (adult) when she was teaching.  I later met the student and I found the student’s crush adorable.  My wife kept good boundaries with the student, and we kept talking honestly to each other throughout the situation.

It’s ok to feel whatever you feel because you are not your feelings.  You are more than your feelings.  You have the awareness to have choices in your behavior, even though you do not choose what you feel.  I would encourage you to tell your wife about your attraction to your boss, so you can process with her and protect your job and your marriage.   Good luck!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD.
Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

 

Snooping in Springfield

  • Posted on September 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Dear Christine,

My girlfriend hardly ever uses the computer so I guess that is how I first got suspicious.  We’ve lived together for 3 years now and I was the one who suggested we maintain respect for each others privacy. When she first moved in she started opening all the mail even if it was just addressed to me.  I have nothing to hide but I didn’t like the feeling so we talked about boundaries and since then have been doing fine.  “Mary” I’ll call her Mary but that’s not her name, hardly ever touches her computer at home since she’s on it all week at work.
For the past few weeks she has been on it all the time.  So, I got to wondering why and I snooped when she wasn’t home.   
She has been talking to a former girlfriend and it’s mostly catching each other up on their lives over the past years.  There is some talk of their past relationship and trying to hide it from parents and other friends before they were out. 
This ex lives out of state somewhere it seems and they’ve talked about a potential trip to visit in the future.   I’ve found nothing to prove that the intention is to get back together and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to confront her because of our agreement to respect privacy.  She hasn’t told me she’s emailing an ex even though I did make a comment asking why she’s always on her computer at home. 
Do I wait it out? Do I tell her I snooped?  Should I stop snooping? 

Signed, Snooping in Springfield

 

Dear Snooping,

This someecards sums up your problem pretty well.  You were the one with the privacy issue, and yet you are the one breaking the agreement.  If this information you gained is truly insignificant, then let the whole issue go, and resolve to not snoop again!

If it is significant to you, then it’s time to have a conversation with “Mary.” The only way to create a foundation of trust is to be trustworthy and honest. Mary probably suspects nothing, unless you are acting guilty around her. Snooping is how reporting is done.  It definitely can crack open doors for you to push on.  You can orchestrate this snooping into Mary eventually telling you why she has been on the computer so much lately.  And then you can have a discussion about boundaries about being friends with/travelling with your exes.

Or you can confess to Mary that you had hinted around, asking her about her extra time on the computer, stoking your curiosity and your snooping. Confession is good for the soul.  However, then Mary knows a truth about you that may be uncomfortable for both of you to acknowledge.  No one is perfect, and perhaps what Martin Amis writes is a deeper truth:  “Are snoopers snooping on their own pain? Probably.”

Search your soul and see what you need to do for you, and for Mary and for the relationship.  Perhaps this is a reminder that you need to have more frequent honest conversation.  When your fears get the best of you and you snoop, sometimes it backfires.  Learn from this, do whatever you need to, to let it go or make amends, and then move on.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist