Jennifer Newcomer, MSW, LCSW
Specializing in Helping Women Overcome Depression and Anxiety
You want to have a better relationship but are not sure what to do. Sometimes you feel sad, angry, lonely, or anxious, and you want to feel better and function better.
The fear of getting hurt often stems from past betrayals, which then creates distrust issues in the current relationship with our partner. Physical abuse or sexual abuse (as a child or as an adult), emotional neglect, and being cheated on by a previous partner are often the main culprits.
If you loved someone and he or she told you that they loved you back, but then they behaved in a way that was not loving - is very confusing and incompatible. If you do not ever want to feel that vulnerable and take that risk again, then you will create an emotional wall.
This can lead to several issues that may then prevent you to seek or maintain a healthy relationship- fear of emotional intimacy, fear of being alone, fear of commitment, fear of losing someone, fear of abandonment, fear of losing control, fear of being controlled. The fear of betrayal - of trusting someone again and getting hurt - is often at the core of relationship problems. It is a common underlying theme or pattern.
Power and control struggles manifest themselves in several ways also - it is not really about the dishes or laundry. Look beyond the surface issues to the deeper issues that get played out over and over in different ways. Power and control issues can show up in several areas- chores, parenting, sex, and/or money.
Couples often disagree about balancing individual vs. couple vs. family time. Counseling can help you to try to resolve these issues, increase healthier communications, and improve your relationship. Our relationships in our lives are the most important- not our job, not money, and not material things.
Most of us want to be heard or listened to. We want to feel understood. We want to have our feelings validated, our opinions considered to be important, and we want to feel like a priority. We want to feel wanted, desired, needed, cared about, and loved. It is a human need to want to belong.
There are several things one can do to become more emotionally healthy and stable. Realize that it is not fair to transfer your past distrust issues onto your current relationship, and talk to your current partner about how those past issues might affect you now. For example, if you were cheated on in the past by someone else and constantly accuse your current partner now of cheating yet have no actual evidence that they ever have cheated on you, then you need to address and deal with this core issue of insecurity that keeps coming up over and over in different ways – then let it go and move on with your current life in the present tense. Also, set appropriate emotional boundaries with others. Be assertive – not passive, not aggressive, and not passive-aggressive.
Get to know someone for at least two years before you get married. Take your time; do not just jump into a fast whirlwind relationship where you trust someone too quickly without knowing them first, only to end up disappointed later when you find out they were not who you thought they were. If a person's words and actions match over time consistently, then they are probably trustworthy. If a person tries to make you feel bad about yourself, that is not real love. Codependency and relationship addiction often get confused with love. Love is stable; it is not suppose to hurt and it does not involve emotional or physical abuse. It is not just taking and it is not just giving- it is mutual. Also, differentiate what is a want and what is a need.
Remember, you are whole to begin with; you do not need anyone to complete you. If you are looking for a relationship, the goal is to find someone who compliments you. You are worthy because you exist and you are a human being. Do not settle for less than what you deserve.
The tapes you play in your head may be incorrect- tapes from critical parents, peers who teased you, an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, others who told you that you were in some way inadequate or not good enough. This gets internalized as "I am inadequate. I am no good. I am a failure. I cannot succeed." Feelings of inadequacy is a common theme leading to low self-esteem, often stemming from as well as contributing to depression and anxiety. If you have the negative, irrational thought "I must be perfect" then you will surely be disappointed, as there is no such thing, it is an unrealistic expectation, and you could never possibly measure up to that.
Some people sabotage their own success, and therefore block their own goals, due to fear of failure, so the person does not even try. Blocked goals often lead to frustration. No one is going to give you high self-esteem. You decide whether you accept another person's opinion of you or not.
In any relationship, there are strengths and there are weaknesses. Ask yourself, am I better off with or without this person? There are some options to change in most relationships. You can change yourself and hope that it leads to change in another person, but you cannot "make" another person change. If the other person refuses to change, then you can decide whether to stay or go. If you stay, in order to cope, then you must change how you view the issues or other person, so you do not continue to be frustrated over and over by the same situation. If the other person is emotionally or physically abusive or addicted to something and refuses to change, then do not expect a miracle- unrealistic expectations and hoping a person will change does not produce actual change. The other person has to want to change and actively find ways to do so.
If you are requesting change, and the other person refuses, ask yourself why. Are your requests reasonable? Do they care about your wants and needs or are they too selfish to be in a relationship with another person? If you choose to live with someone who refuses to change, then you must live your life in spite of them so you will not lose your sense of self. Are you staying in an unhappy relationship because you do not think you deserve better? Are you afraid to be alone? Do you not think you can make it on your own? Are there obstacles that need to be removed first?
Try to find out the core themes, patterns, and issues in the relationship. Some core themes include wanting to maintain control, overfunctioning vs. underfunctioning, the mother-nag or father-nag role vs. the rebellious-child role, the mama's boy (or girl) with apron strings still attached issue, outdated traditional male-female role beliefs (the working woman who is expected to cook and clean like his or her own homemaker mother), the overly authoritarian parent vs. the overly permissive parent (conflicting parent styles), the saver vs. the spender, etc.
Sometimes we are attracted to someone who is considered our opposite (or someone like one of our parents), yet this quality also becomes irritating later and we try to unsuccessfully change them later, for example, the free-spirited relaxed B-type personality that complimented the A-type personality is now seen as a lazy, unmotivated moocher. The abusive alcoholic boyfriend who is just like a person's abusive, alcoholic father is an example - you cannot undo or correct the past by re-enacting it. If you have issues with getting close to someone, you may pick out partners that are in some way emotionally unavailable.
Learn how to change your negative and irrational self-talk and replace these old thinking patterns with newer positive and rational thinking. Learn how to increase your self-care by doing social activities that are fun, peaceful, and relaxing to you. Learn how to practice relaxation and stress management techniques. Learn how to find ways to better balance your work life and your personal home life. Learn how to unstuff bottled up feelings and let go of old resentments. Learn how to increase your coping skills, strengths, and support systems.
Find a counselor who you can talk to and connect with, one who will really listen to you and understand you, one you can trust, and one you feel comfortable with. Counseling can help you deal with your issues, problem-solve, and change your perception and interpretation of the situation to better cope with it. The first step is easy- you just make the phone call- and the counselor will help you with the rest. Counseling can help you improve your self-esteem so you feel better and move forward to reach your life goals. Counseling can help you feel happier, calmer, and more in charge of your life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is very effective in treating women who suffer from depression and anxiety. Jennifer Newcomer is a cognitive-behavioral therapist who specializes in helping women overcome depression and anxiety.
Jennifer Newcomer, MSW, LCSW
Dipoto Counseling Group
200 NE 54th Street
Kansas City, MO 64118
phone # (816) 268-8501 (opt. 2 for scheduling)
fax # (816) 452-5700