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

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…

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Red Flag in Roseville

  • Posted on September 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Dear Christine,

I am newly dating someone I met through Match and I must say, I am falling hard.  I am a romantic and have been deeply in love twice in my life.  In getting to know one another, we have talked about our past relationships and I have told her about mine and she has shared hers. The troubling part for me is that she is 47 years old and says she has never been in love even though she has had several relationships.  How can that be?  It makes me question whether she can fall in love and will she with me.  We have already talked about a future together and she seems excited about it.  I wonder if she just settles for less than.  I can’t and will not just settle and if we move forward, I want to believe she will be in love with me and not just settle.  Is this a red flag?

Signed, Red Flag in Roseville

 

Dear Red Flag,

Red flags are those things which warn you to move slowly and check out whether or not they are non-negotiables or whether you can be in the relationship without them.  Non negotiables are like water and air, or food.  You can go a month or more without food, but you can only go a few minutes without air, so some of these non-negotiables will weigh differently for you.  But they are those things you MUST have or CANNOT have in a relationship for it to work for you.

I met a 47 year old man several years ago who claimed to have never fallen in love, despite several relationships.  He recognized that he never really let himself feel vulnerable and seemed to keep 2 or 3 possible lovers on the side, so as to never be too deeply disappointed if one backed away.  Finally, he was forced with a choice.  “Choose me and me only or I’m leaving. ”  He thought long and hard, but finally chose that person, cutting off his back ups.  He reported feeling much more love than he’d felt before.  I speculate, however, that no one at 47 falls in love like someone who is 17.

First love is something ultra romantic, where we project everything we want on someone else, and since we don’t know ourselves very well, much less the one we fall in love with, the relationship is intense, highly emotional and when it ends can feel like the end of the world.  Through these love relationships and break ups, and just from living more years, we gain experience and self awareness.  And we learn to choose partners who tend not to be quite so completely opposite to our own personality.  Young relationships tend to be opposites:  one is extroverted, the other introverted, and so forth.  In older relationships, we tend to find someone who fits us more closely, recognizing that we have to each take care of our own needs and our own self.  The relationship works when we take care of each other only after meeting our own needs.   It sounds less romantic and more practical, but it goes deeper emotionally and intimately and has the more solid foundation to last the ups and downs of life.

So, you may be seeing red flags.  Do you need your partner to be as romantic as you?  fall as hard as you?  Or do you need a partner who can accept that you are like that even if she is not quite the same?  Remember that you can’t change someone else, and to change yourself is very hard work when you truly are committed to changing whatever you find flawed in yourself.  Trust her to reveal her true self to you, and if you don’t like what you see, pay attention!  That would be where the red flags wave!

Keep talking to her, as you are getting to know each other through words, which are symbols.  We all use words like “love” differently.  Ancient Greek had 6 words for love, and English has only one.  In Greek:  philia or deep friendship (Philadelphia), eros or sexual passion (erotic), agape or love for everyone, universal loving kindness or charity, often used in spiritual groups from Christianity to Buddhism), ludus, or playful love, laughing with friends,  pragma, (pragmatic) or longstanding love or the compromises made with patience and tolerance overtime, as in a marriage, and finally  philautia, which is love of the self.  There are two types of philautia:  the healthy self-compassion and narcissism.

Hopefully, both of you have philia and ludus and will be looking for eros, and agape, as well as creating pragma from both of you having healthy philautia.

I wish you both the best, where ever this shared journey takes you and however long or short it lasts.
Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

To read more on these 6 worlds of love:http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-ancient-greeks-6-words-for-love-and-why-knowing-them-can-change-your-life