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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

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

Stalling in Southfield

  • Posted on January 18, 2016 at 5:33 am

Dear Christine,

I am a 35 year old woman and I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for about 5 years. We consider ourselves to be married but so far we have kept our finances separate. She has asked me several times to open a joint account with her and combine our money and assets. I have resisted and I’m not sure why. She makes considerably more money than I do, I believe she loves me and the income difference doesn’t seem to matter to her. I have always been very independent and a bit stubborn and feel like I just need to take care of myself. Right now I just pay her a monthly amount to cover my half of the household bills. The house is in her name and she has offered to add me, but like so many mortgages, it’s underwater so I don’t see the point. She says she really want us to be more like a “married couple” She really wants this!

So, why am I stalling? Stalling in Southfield

Dear Stalling,

Why are you stalling? Only you know the answer to that! Each of us are motivated by very different things, but usually we are looking to protect ourselves from further hurts. Two things that is fundamental in any relationship is that there be reciprocity and equality. Reciprocity means that I give as much as I get. Equality means that each of you are as worthy as the other. How you define what those mean is individual. This is often a problem with unequal incomes. If you earn double my income, I am not as worthy (as full of worth) as you. However, what we give to the relationship, and what we receive from it, isn’t only monetary. Time, energy, money and attention to the relationship, home and staying home to raise children would all be examples of what may contributed and received. There’s no right or wrong way to create an equal and reciprocal relationship. However, since we don’t have legal rights as married people do, we need to create legal documents to protect each other. So, if I buy a house, and I don’t put your name on it, and I don’t give you rights of survivorship, then you will be put out of the home we shared when I die. If I don’t have a will, the house will end up in probate and a judge will decide who should inherit it as my next of kin.

In a healthy relationship, we choose to be with each other and we choose to share ourselves with our partner. It takes trust and vulnerability to have an equal and reciprocal relationship. I have to trust that you will honor your commitment to me around money, family, house and shared belongings. I have had some people draw up elaborate legal documents stating who owned what before the relationship started, and who gets what that was jointly purchased during the relationship. Some detail this in a will, others make a long list and both sign it (probably not legal, but it clearly shows intent to be fair should the relationship end). Do you trust your partner? Do you feel worthy of her love and generosity, even though your incomes are not equal? Do you each give to and receive from the relationship of what you need? Do you each choose freely to be in this partnership. Do you really trust yourself, if something relationship ended? Do you trust your partner to be fair? These are some good questions to think about, journal on, and then to discuss with your partner, to find out what you both are thinking and feeling. And in this process you will learn about yourself and why you are stalling, and where you don’t feel equal or trusting or reciprocal in your relationship. Then you can choose to share that with your partner, to further the vulnerability, trust and emotional reciprocity, or you can choose to end a relationship that doesn’t feel equal or safe for you to truly be you.

Good luck!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD.
Psychologist