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Hopeless in Huntington Woods

  • Posted on March 1, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Dear Christine,  Eight months ago, a girl I loved dumped me.

She was all I ever wanted.

But I wasn’t what she wanted.

I tried not talking to her, dating other girls, having sex with women I barely knew, throwing myself into work and hobbies, etc. etc. I tried being her friend. I tried being her acquaintance. I tried hating her. I tried everything. I still love her, and it kills me that she doesn’t love me, or want me, and has made it clear that it will never change.

I’m a hideous, fat, stupid ******* bytch who no one will love. The only girl who could, who accepted me as I was, didn’t like what she saw.

I’m considering three options:

1) Staying forever single, learning to be OK with that.

2) Try and win her back, someday, somehow.

3) Shutting down completely emotionally.

Hopeless in Huntington Woods

Dear Hopeless, So, it sounds like you’re hurting really badly from this breakup. Guess what? Life isn’t over! It doesn’t end because one person wasn’t ready, willing or able to see the beauty and love that is you and are in you. Everyone’s ideas of who is attractive and who is not, is different. You don’t have to accept that her decision to move on is a judgment on whether or not anyone else will accept you! You do need to reclaim your power, and love yourself, see the beauty, uniqueness, love and quirks that are all yours, and you need to be able to spend time with yourself, appreciating who you really are. Frankly, you deserve someone who loves you for YOU, and if she doesn’t, keep looking! Staying single forever is way too long a time! There’s lots of other potential girlfriends out there, who also have been dumped and don’t want to beg the dumper to take them back. You don’t need her! You need you, including your emotions. See if you can find 5 things about yourself that you like or appreciate, and focus on those. If you can’t think of a single thing you like about yourself, then think about 3 people you like or love (not her for this thought experiment), and then think of 3 characteristics that those people have the you like about them. Guess what? The only way you can recognize those positive traits in others is because you also have them! So, open up to yourself, and start seeing that your ex is but one person in the 6 billion plus here on earth. There has to be AT LEAST one more out there for you! Love you first.

Sincerely,
Christine C. Cantrell, PhD,
Licensed Psychologist

Pity Party in Plymouth

  • Posted on February 24, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Dear Christine,

Hi, I have been reading your advice and it all sounds good. I decided to write for some myself. I am getting older and I feel completely out of the scene I am overweight and feel unattractive. I have been single for six years now and miss having a relationship. I also live in the burbs and feel so disconnected. so I am feeling kinda disenfranchised, pathetic and lonely. Okay enough of the pity party but seriously how do you get back in the game with out looking too much like a goof (although I kinda like that look) I don’t want to be 80 and alone! not that I am that old yet but it could happen.

Pity Party in Plymouth

 

Dear Pity Party in Plymouth,

The best way to get back in the scene is to start liking yourself. Find things you like to do with you, and then find friends who can do those things with you, sharing in the fun you’re having with yourself. Meet new friends through activities and events that bring people together. Check out the listings of what to do on GOAL, and other gay/lesbian websites. Drop by Affirmations in Ferndale, join a softball league or golf outing. Do things that you enjoy and you are bound to find people that also enjoy these events and will find you easy and fun to be around. Look for friends first, not a relationship first. Once you’ve asked a friend enough questions to find out if they fit your needs, your non-negotiables, perhaps a relationship will follow. Don’t force it, don’t be desperate, but instead come to enjoy your own company and find interests in the community that will get you out and mingling with other people with similar interests and values.

Christine Cantrell, PhD, LP

Damaged Goods in Detroit

  • Posted on January 5, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Dear Christine,

I am a 28-year-old gay man. I came out when I was 18 and since then I’ve enjoyed a healthy, active dating life. I’ve always been comfortable with my sexuality. Three months ago, however, I tested HIV-positive and since then feel like I have to come out all over again. I haven’t been able to start dating yet because I’m afraid of how people will react when I tell them about my situation. And I don’t know what the rules are. What do I tell people? When do I tell people? And, if safe sex really is safe, do I have to tell them at all? And mostly I’m afraid (although I know it sounds crazy) that no one’s ever going to love me again.

Damaged Goods in Detroit

Dear Damaged Goods:

I hear you, coming out all over again, now as HIV + being just as confused and uncertain how to tell others as you were to tell people you were gay 10 years ago. Trust your instincts with people, and tell those who feels safe to you. There may be some rejection from some people, but if they were people you wanted to date or be friends with, they’ve actually done you a favor. They are not the kind of quality person you deserve in your life as a friend or lover. Keep in mind that in many states it is illegal to not disclose your HIV+ status and put someone else at risk. Honesty really is the best policy, and telling someone right up front, before making a date, will save you investing time and energy into a potential relationship that isn’t going to go anywhere, anyway.

The truth is, you are not damaged goods. You are not your illness. You are a human being, complete with all kinds of love, compassion and feeling, and you have much to offer the world, and the people you date. If someone rejects you because of HIV, know that that is a statement about them, not you. HIV requires you to face your fears and be honest with yourself on a whole new level. Those who are willing to have unsafe sex have little self respect are not are not capable of a healthy relationship. We each have to have with self respect before we can be present to someone else. When I was researching my PhD dissertation “The Experience of People with HIV+/AIDS with Multiple Losses”, I interviewed a number of people who amazed me by describing how much improved their relationships are since they were diagnosed. The diagnosis cut through a lot of BS, and people who connected with these co-researchers were quality people, who enhanced their lives. In fact, one of my interviewees, Jim, asked himself in front of me if he could do it all over again, would he choose to have HIV or not? I waited, holding my breath, and finally he said “Yes, I would choose to have it again. Through HIV I have met so many wonderful people around Detroit and the US, and I have grown and healed so much spiritually, that I would definitely choose to be HIV again.” He went on to find a committed relationship with a man and was surrounded by a loving community of friends and colleagues.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Sneaking Around in Southfield

  • Posted on December 6, 2015 at 5:00 am

Dear Christine, 

I am a 37 year old lesbian who has only been deeply in love one time when I was 23.  She loved me too and it was so intense.  She had a lot of pressure from her family and religion and eventually broke my heart and hers and she left me and married a man.   I have tried to move on and I just haven’t been able to feel that strongly about anyone else.  Recently I met someone who I could see myself growing old with.  There is love and comfort although not the same deep passion I once felt.  I am on the verge of having a good life with a good person and then,  “the one” finds me out of the blue.  She is married, has 3 kids, super active in her Baptist church, and apparently has never stopped thinking about me either.   She will not leave her husband, tell her family or let on to anyone at all that she still loves me but wants to see me “privately”  We did spend one amazing afternoon together and the passion is still there.  Unlike her, I can’t keep the wife and have a mistress. I know this sounds nuts and in my mind I know the right answer is to not be tempted by empty promises.  Do I choose a life sneaking around to have the love of my life in bits and pieces, or do I choose safe and comfort even if I may never feel the intense kind of love again.   I seriously think I may make the wrong choice.  Thanks for listening and if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. 

Signed, Sneaking Around in Southfield

 

Dear Sneaking Around,
Wow! Look what you have created!  Yes, you are in charge of your life and you can make your life work for you the way you want, or you can drift from one happening to another, being victim to other people’s actions.  You didn’t expect your ex to reappear, but here she is, creating earthquakes in your otherwise calm life.

How wonderful that you have had that incredible passionate love experience at least once in your life.  That’s an amazing feeling, but you know by this point in your life, it never lasts.  It is hormones, chemistry, timing and is fleeting.  It’s also a lot of projection:  putting your hopes and dreams of the perfect relationship on a human being you don’t know well who is frail, contradictory and has faults that you are not seeing or acknowledging yet.  The Japanese call it “love psychosis” and if it lasts 3 years, that’s unusual.  During that passion, you have an opportunity to form a deeper emotional connection with that person from shared values, trust, honesty, openness and vulnerability and mutual goals.  Or the passion fades and the relationship cannot be sustained.
So, your choices at this point are:  What sort of relationship do you want?  Passion that is hidden?  Being someone else’s mistress? Cheat on your partner you are growing old with?   Trust your ex who broke your heart  and promises nothing of substance now?  Honesty with friends and family who care about your happiness?  Or sneaking around, taking whatever crumbs of passion your ex has for you, all the while keeping a huge secret from your partner, and everyone else you interact with?  And if you choose your ex, what happens when her husband or your partner learns the truth?

It’s all in your hands.  Who you choose reflects your values and your character.  Be fully yourself and be confident in your choices.  Write me again and let me know what you decide.
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Wondering in Walled Lake

  • Posted on November 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

Dear Christine,
Question?  Why do gay men get so offended when I hit on them.  I even had a guy at work report me for sexual harassment just because I told him he was cute.  I’m a flirt, I know it. Is it wrong?
Wondering in Walled Lake

Dear Wondering,
You’ve given me no specific personal information about your sex, gender, age, orientation, etc, so I don’t have a clue who you in this work conflict. Apparently, the “guys” at work do not appreciate being told they are cute at the workplace. Flirting can really mess up a work environment. My history as a former blond hair woman is that sexual harassment is a real problem and can make life a real nightmare. I forgot just how angry Mediterranean men made me when I lived in that part of the world when I was 20 and still blond. I would speak Hebrew only and never admit I was from the United States, or else all of the men (Greek, Palestinian, Israeli, etc) assumed I was ready to join them in immediate sex. Tourists with blond hair have a reputation, it appears. I lived there for a year, so I made it clear I understood the local language and learned to walk with my eyes on the ground in front of me always. Anything else was considered a come-on! I appreciate my relative freedom in the United States, but since my hair has turned white, I truly appreciate the fact that men ignore me! I no longer get whistled/gestured at or get unwanted flirting at the office or on the street.

So, from one who has been sexually harassed for simply being who I was, blonde and a young woman, I can understand how your colleagues are offended by your flirting. You are at work. Keep your interactions and behaviors work related and I’m sure you won’t get any more sexual harassment reports from gay men or anyone else. Flirt at parties or at the bar. At work, be professional, always.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,
Psychologist
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Outsider in Ortonville

  • Posted on November 15, 2015 at 8:00 am

Dear Christine
I’m new to the LGBT community and about a year ago established myself with a fun group of lesbian friends and it was great. Then I started dating one of them and I’ll admit, I thought it would lead to forever. After 2 months, she broke it off and now I’m out of the group. One person from the group who still talks to me a bit told me that’s the way it is in this community. Is this what I have to look forward to? Ugh!
Outsider in Ortonville

Dear Outsider,
I’m sorry that you’ve been dumped not just from your girlfriend, but also from this circle of “friends.” I imagine she’s been a part of this group for a long time, so it isn’t too surprising that her friends welcomed you at first, but they also are following her lead as far as friendship goes. Not all lesbians are like this, but friends usually “side” with the friend they have known the longest and the best. This happens with straight couples all the time. Last week I answered a question about someone wanting to date someone at work. The same dangers apply to a group of friends as to a group of colleagues. There’s a lot of dynamics at play here, and a lot of long term friendships and connections. To date one person when you’re fairly new in a social group and have the relationship end, can cost you that circle of friends. Perhaps once the emotional dust has settled, you will be able to be friends with some in that circle again. Perhaps not.

Go out and keep meeting new people and several new circles of friends. This one group is not all of the metro Detroit LGBT community. Try events listed in GOAL/WOA and at Affirmations, or at the local Metropolitan Community Church in Ferndale. Be open, not bitter. Be at peace with that group’s response to the break up, rather than angry. If they can’t be friends with you after one of their own broke up with you, it’s probably saved you years of grief and drama!

What you have to look forward to is whatever you create in your life. Your attitude and your approach will pave the way for future friendships or tensions. There are a lot of people who are open to meeting new friends all the time. Get out, get involved in something that interests you and go have fun. Meet new friends and remember that living well is the best revenge!
Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD
Psychologist
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Dateless in Detroit

  • Posted on November 8, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Dear Christine, 

I am 28 years old and have never had a date.  There have been a few women I’ve been interested in and when I’ve tried to show my interest, I get rejected.  There is a woman in my office that I’ve been getting close to lately.  I feel like there might be something there but I’m so afraid to let her know how I feel.  I don’t think I could take another rejection and we work for the same company and I don’t want to have to see her every day if I make a fool of myself.

Dateless in Detroit

Dear Dateless,

I’d advise against dating anyone at work.  Why?  It complicates work and relationships and possibly productivity when the relationship succeeds and also when you feel rejected or there’s a break up.  We are around neighbors and colleagues so much of our waking life that we often become interested in people we work with. Whatever happens, it can be negative to others in the office, even when you and she are doing fine. So, if you are truly close to this colleague, take it very, very slowly.

It’s always best to date people who you don’t live with or work with, so there is room to get to know each other and discover if you are truly compatible before expectations begin to develop. Get away from work and find some hobbies and interests that other people share:  skiing (winter is coming), softball, bowling, biking, hiking, helping at a soup kitchen, helping with set design in a local theater:  the list is endless.  If you are participating in something that is meaningful to you that you enjoy whether or not you are single or coupled up, you will meet like-minded folks who may become friends.  If they aren’t dating material, they know lots of people you don’t know and they might be able to help you meet more eligible singles.

The ironic thing with dating is that if you seem desperate, people will reject you and avoid you.  If you are comfortable in your own skin and being with yourself for company, you are more likely to attract others who are interested in getting to know you better.  Make friends with yourself, find things to do that you enjoy that cross your path with others and go out and meet them.  Not everyone you’re attracted to will be a good fit for a relationship with you.  You will have to kiss a lot of frogs, so to speak!  But if you can be comfortable in your own company, with you, that will make you much more attractive to a potential date and it will make the dating process, replete with rejection, more bearable.  Good luck.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Not Sure in Novi

  • Posted on November 1, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Dear Christine, 

I met someone new through Match and I have a question  I’m going really slow with her because on our second date, she told me about her childhood, which was horrific!  I don’t want to share the details of that but she told me she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.   I’m not sure I believe that really exists and fortunately, I’ve seen no sign of it in her.  I know she is damaged and that I do see.  I’m concerned about going forward in a relationship and considering steering us towards just friendship.  Is there any advice you can give me about dealing with someone who is still recovering from a horrible past… and does MPD really exist?   Thanks for your thoughts on this. 

Signed, Not Sure in Novi

Dear Not Sure,

It is wise to move slowly in this friendship or relationship or whatever it develops into.  All of us emerge from our childhoods and families with scars and wounds and part of our responsibility in adulthood is to work on healing from those traumas that befell us as children through no fault of our own.  Dating is a time to learn about each other and find out who each other is and if you are compatible, if you share the same values, needs, goals and approach to life.  It takes time to get to know each other well enough to find all this out.  Don’t rush it!

Multiple Personality Disorder diagnosis does exist, though it is currently called Dissociative Identity Disorder, (DID) which is one of several Dissociative Disorders.  DID involves the person experiencing two or more distinct personality states and gaps in recall that is more serious than could be attributed to ordinary forgetfulness and are not induced by medical issues or substances.

Everyone dissociates to some degree.  Marathon runners and other athletes will separate themselves from their physical pain to complete their goal, for example.  You might “get lost” in a book, or find that 3 hours have passed without notice while playing a game on the Internet.  Most people don’t feel like they are two or more distinct personality states, though most of us will talk of our “inner child” or “inner parent”.  We all wear different hats in our life, depending on whether we are at work, with family of origin or with friends, for example.  But most of us are completely aware of their personal history or feel a sense of self and of agency even as we switch one hat for another.

People with DID creatively figured out how to dissociate, even to the point of having different personalities, in order to survive great horror, chaos, trauma or abuse in the first 5 years of life. Try not to be skeptical  or judgmental, but instead have compassion.  You heard her story on the second date, and I’m sure that was pretty rough for you to hear, and for her to tell.  Perhaps she told you early on so if you couldn’t handle what she is about, neither of you would be too deeply invested.

I hope that she is in therapy and working on her own healing and integration of the fragments of her self.  I hope you can be honest with yourself, as well as her, to  supportive of her chosen path for healing.   Ask her questions in a non-judgmental way.  Find out if she has got a handle on her particular constellation of issues, personalities, needs and ways to cope with all of this.  Does she have a therapist and a supportive network of friends that she can call in a crisis?  You should not set yourself up to be her one and only support.

There’s several excellent books you could read for your own understanding.  Robert B. Oxnam wrote his autobiography:  A Fractured Mind.  My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder, 2006.  He was a successful man, scholar, world traveler and sought after expert on Asia appearing on television.  His story is of his treatment and recovery from MPD.

A couple of other helpful books are:
*The Stranger in the Mirror, Dissociation–The Hidden Epidemic, by Marlene Steinberg and Maxine Schnall, 2001.

*The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk,  2015.  Dr. Van Der Kolk is one of the leading experts in trauma and dissociation diagnosis and treatment since the 1970s.  This book is filled with neuroscientific research findings as well as stories of resilience of his patients.

*Amongst Ourselves:  A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, by Tracy Alderman, Karen Marshall, 1998

*Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation, Skills Training for Patients and Therapists by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steel, Onno Van Der Hart. This is a manual for patients with trauma related dissociation disorders, including exercises and homework sheets.

Movies such as The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil are dramatic and not helpful to understanding what DID is or how to be in a relationship with someone with DID.

This is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself and what you can handle and where your limits are.  Take your time.  Enjoy this friendship and whatever else it might become.
Christine Cantrell, PhD,
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Used in Union Lake

  • Posted on October 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

 

Dear Christine,

How do I tell my best friend she needs to move out of my house?  She moved in about a year ago when she ran into some financial trouble. She said at the time that she would be out in 3 months tops.  She has no job and doesn’t seem interested in finding one.  She’s always working on some get rich quick scheme that she swears will pay off.   For a while I believed in her but now I’m thinking of her as a freeloader and I don’t want to feel that way about her.  I’m afraid that if I give her a deadline or ask her to move out that it will ruin our friendship and I really love her and don’t want to hurt her of be mean.   I’m a wimp and a pushover but I want my house back. 

Thanks, Used in Union Lake

 

Dear Used,
I’m not sure there’s much of a friendship left after she’s ignored your agreement and whatever hints you’ve been dropping for so long.  There are consequences for not meeting expectations in friendship, housing and jobs.  In college I learned it’s best not to be roommates with my best friend, as being in each other’s space, putting up with each other’s patterns and habits can destroy an otherwise wonderful friendship.  Anytime you give to a friend, it’s wise to set boundaries before they move in or receive a loan from you.  As Robert Frost said:  “Good fences make good neighbors.”

It’s time to have a direct conversation.  Tell her your expectations:  set a new timeline that feels reasonable and fair to both of you.  If she’s been getting her mail at your address and established residency, this could go all the way to an eviction, dragging the process out 6 months.  Hopefully, there’s enough friendship left for her to honor the deadline without having to involve the courts.  If she agrees to your demands but takes no initiative to get a job, save money, pay rent or look for another place, then be ready to back up your agreement with the eviction.

Good luck to you both.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Freaked Out in Fenton

  • Posted on October 18, 2015 at 11:41 am

Dear Christine,   

I am dating an amazing woman.  We met just 2 months ago at the Womyn’s Music Festival.   Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to this as my family rarely showed any physical affection but I am really freaked out about my girlfriend’s odd relationship with her brother.   When we’ve been out with him people often think they are a couple and not us!  When he is at our house they seem to have no boundaries when it comes to even private bathroom time.   I’ve made some subtle remarks and she just says her whole family is that way.   I had always wished for a closer family but this stuff is way over the top.  Is this normal for some families?  We are visiting her family for Thanksgiving which will be the first time meeting them.  Perhaps I’ll see how that goes before I make a decision. 

Signed, Freaked out in Fenton

 

Dear Freaked Out,

Boundaries are critical to a successful relationship.  Understanding and accepting each other’s boundaries provides emotional and physical safety for intimacy to grow and deepen. But individual needs of boundaries can be very different.  Think of the Saturday Night Live recurring skit of Virginia and Roger Klarvin, (played by Rachel Dratch and Will Farrell) insist on being overly affectionate in social situations and dominate the conversation about sex and their expanded boundaries, making everyone else uncomfortable.  It’s great fodder for comedy, as we all have been on one side or the other!

You don’t have to have the same open boundaries as your girlfriend and her family, but you do have to be comfortable around them when you visit.  There may be ways to do that without breaking up.  You might need to stay in a hotel and be at the family house for limited times during the visit.  Think about your needs and comfort, share those with your girlfriend.  If any of your needs are non-negotiables, please make that abundantly clear, as that may be what helps you decide if this relationship is for you or not.  Non-negotiables are those things that you have to have or cannot have to be in the relationship.  Don’t compromise on your needs.

I remember working with a couple long ago.  The husband’s mother would come into their bedroom and climb into bed with them when they visited her home.  The wife found this creepy and uncomfortable, but the husband thought it was normal.  Later, this differing definitions of boundaries was one of several non-negotiables that the wife had tried to ignore to stay married.  They eventually divorced.

Your number one job is to take care of you and your needs.  Likewise, your girlfriend needs to take care of her self and her needs.  What’s left over is what you create a relationship with.  If she’s undermining your needs, it doesn’t bode well for a future together.

Happy Thanksgiving, where ever you celebrate it.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com