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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

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.

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

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