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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




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


Missing Him In Metamora

  • Posted on July 30, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Dear Christine,

I never thought I’d be in this situation and can’t believe I’m writing to you for advice on this matter.
My husband and I were high school sweethearts, graduated in 92 and have been together ever since. We’ve been raising 2 children that we first fostered, then adopted. Life has been pretty good for two gay men. In the last 5 years, my sweetheart started drinking more than usual and acting totally out of character. Last month he lost his job due to his drinking and because he is a mean and verbally abusive drunk, I have asked him to move out. He is living in his parents basement now and they are at their wits end too and don’t know what to do or how to help him. They want him to leave but fear what will happen to him if he has no one. He refuses help or to admit he even needs help. I still love him.Is there something I or his parents could do to get him the help he needs? I want my old love back.

Missing him in Metamora

P.S. Second question. How could something like this come on when he was never like this before? I never saw it coming.

Dear Missing Him,

I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you and your sweetheart are going through right now.  It sounds like your partner has developed alcoholism later in life than many.  Two thirds of alcoholics begin drinking at an early age, say starting at age 14 compared to 21.  However, that leaves one third who are older adults when they become alcoholic.  These are called “late onset drinkers.”  Having alcoholism in the family can be a predictor of a higher prevalence of lifetime alcohol dependence, but it can happen to anyone.  There are all sorts of triggers and no single answer, but major life-changes often precede social drinking becoming alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.  The high stress events of divorce, being fired from a job, death of a parent, death of a spouse, retirement, a major change in health status or other perceived losses (income, mobility, social, social network losses) all can contribute to Late Onset Alcoholism.  People who had substance abuse problems early in life are at higher risk of developing drinking problems even after decades of abstinence. (
The hardest fact for you as the partner of a late onset alcoholic is that there is very little you can do.  You are doing the right things:  Set clear boundaries.  Make sure there are consequences for his drinking, abuse and unwillingness to get help for this problem.  Something happened five years ago when he began to drink more heavily and whatever it is has developed into a huge loss for the entire family and his job.  I understand that his parents are fed up with his behavior too.  It is excruciating to watch someone you love destroy his life and refuse to do anything to slow or reverse that process.
Try as you might, you, nor his parents, cannot make him do anything!  You can continue to be clear about the consequences of choices and behaviors, meanwhile suggesting, encouraging and urging him to get treatment for this disease.  It is very hard for parents to throw their middle age son out of the house for continuing to drink and not get treatment, but that may be necessary. He may need to “hit bottom” before he is willing to change. There are treatment programs, from individual counseling to inpatient treatment to make sure that he does not die from a sudden withdrawal of alcohol by the delirium tremens (DTs).  Someone I know recently turned her life around by entering the Salvation Army program, and by avoiding the people who trigger her drinking and working while living in a half-way house, is managing to be employed and sober.  This person seemed ready to live under a bridge rather than get help, and the family is grateful it didn’t come to that.
I wish I could encourage you to believe your old sweetheart will come back, but there are no guarantees.  There is a saying by Heraclitus “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  The relationship you had, the family you and your partner and kids were is irretrievably changed.  Hopefully, there can be growth, healing and reconciliation, but each of you will be marked by what has occurred in this time, and all of you will be different.
I wish you and him and your family the best.  May he see the light and enter treatment with an open and willing heart.  Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist