Wednesday, 7 March 2012

We Don't See Life & Relationships In The Same Way

Dear Babs

I am a 28 year old Legal Secretary and I have lived with my partner for 5 years. Over the last few months I have been feeling dissatisfied with the relationship. I don't think my partner and I see life or relationships in the same way. I met him on the rebound. I had just finished with my then boyfriend who I was in love with but he had problems with anger. I tried to resolve the difficulties with him but it didn't happen. I later had therapy and realised my reaction came from my childhood. My mother was a very angry woman who intimated my father, my sister and me. The upshot is that I have come to terms with the loss of that relationship and though I'm sad about it I realise it's gone. Now my partner has suggested marriage and I really don't know what to do. I feel awful because he really is a nice guy but I'm not sure he can be there for me in the way I want. If I had come to you for counselling what would you say? 

Dear Lauren

It sounds as if you've done a lot of thinking and clearly you've gained some insight into what makes you react in the way you do. I guess what you now need is some insight into what makes your partner respond in the way he does.

I will admit to some concern at what you see as a lack of common ground 'my partner and I don't see life and relationships in the same way'. I would say shared cored values are important and that behaviours can be changed. However, you say you've only become dissatisfied recently so I'm wondering what has happened to create this change. I wonder in fact whether it was his proposal? 

I don't want to put words in your mouth but you seem to have seen him as second best and that while you've been able to see him as that you've been able to mark time. Now with him suggesting marriage it means investing him and the relationship with value. I wonder if you simply have cold feet? What about working out just what your differences are? If you feel you can't do that on your own then why not consider counselling again? But not until you've shared with your partner what's happening for you and how you feel. He is after all half of the relationship and you do need to be able to promote dialogue about your concerns both now and in the future.

It may be on the other hand that this isn't the man for you but again you won't know that unless you explore further. I do hope you are able to make sense of what's happening for you. I wish you well.

Monday, 5 March 2012

I Feel Isolated In This Relationship

Dear Babs

I have been married for 18 years. I think I can safely say we are good people who try do right by others. We have a 6 year old daughter who we both love. The problem is that in our relationship we never solve a problem. We have argued and tussled from the beginning and nothing ever changes. So a couple of weeks ago after a particularly heated argument I asked him to leave. He did go reluctantly but every day since then he's been asking to come home. He says he loves me but that doesn't feel enough. I just feel so isolated all of the time. He doesn't talk about how he feels he just says he wants it to go back to normal.  It feels as if all I do is nag him so why does he want to go back to that? I feel so isolated. I'm pretty sure I want to go for a legal separation. The main thing that bothers me is our daughter and how she will cope with it. My husband is self employed so he shouldn't have any problems sharing custody and in any case he's living with his widowed Mother at the moment so he has support. My family are horrified but that's their problem. I don't want to make a mistake but neither do I want to find myself 10 years time still in the same situation.

Dear Peggy

I am sorry you feel so unhappy and isolated. I am at a bit of a loss because you haven't specified the problems you're experiencing. You have told me he doesn't respond to your complaints and he doesn't share his feelings.

I am intrigued as to what your complaints are because it does sound a bit like irresistible force (you) meets immovable object (him) and you say it's been like this from the beginning. So my fantasy is that from the beginning you've been highlighting where he's been going wrong and he's been fighting back by sitting tight. The other thing is you've told me he loves you but you haven't told me whether you love him? You have, however, indicated you are tired of the struggle whilst he would give it another go.

My first question to you would be do you love him? My first to him would be what makes him want to continue? My advice would be to ask yourself some serious 'what' questions. By this I mean for example. If you feel isolated - ask yourself what is it that makes you feel isolated?  Perhaps the answer could be - he doesn't listen to me. What stops him from listening to me? Have I felt that in other relationships? When did I first feel that? So on and so forth. The aim is to gain some insight into yourself and your feelings.

The next thing is to ask yourself what you want from a relationship and whether your expectations are realistic? I'm assuming by you writing to me that you read the blog and so you will be aware that I believe good relationships are built on compromise and not capitulation.

It could be that part of the problem is different communication styles. It may be that your husband would need to talk more but that you would need to make room for that by talking less? In the final analysis you would both need to be willing to change and see some payback in making that change. I think counselling could help but you would need an open mind and a shared agenda, for example we want to explore. If one partner wants in and the other wants out therapy is rarely successful.

Finally you mention the welfare of your daughter but you seem in part to have answered your own question. The main thing is that she feels loved and secure so the way you deal with any separation is very important. By way of help this is a good  website for children and there's a good children's book on my page.

Whatever you decide, Peggy, please know I wish you well.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Susan's Addictive Relationship

Dear Babs,

I've been in an on off relationship for 4 years with my ex from when I was a teenager, he got in touch on Facebook and since then my life has been a living hell.

At the time he got in touch he was married and I was with the father of my child. We live in different countries but met up a few times and realised there was still a very strong bond there. I left my partner and he left his wife. At that point he just lost his nerve really. He was supposed to come here but I think giving up his career and moving to a foreign country (in Europe) was just too much for him.

I never really got over the break up but I tried to get on with my life, met someone else and things were ok.

The problem is that I don't feel anything close to what I felt for him. He gets in touch every couple of months filled with remorse and says he realises he made a mistake, but gradually the contact dries up and its heartbreak all over again. This whole thing has destroyed my new relationship and we're now in the process of splitting.

My ex tells me that I'm the love of his life, he can never give me up, but he's living with someone else now. He seems in a constant state of confusion about what he's doing.

I just find it very hard to let go and not reply when he gets in touch because I've never really felt like that about anyone and I guess he hasn't either .

I just feel like this has gone on too long and I'd like an end to it, problem is we've both said that so many times in the past 4 years and it never happens, one of us always gives in (usually him) and the other always responds (usually me).

I'm just not sure where to go from here.

Thank you

Dear Susan

Thank you for writing to me. What can I say?  I found your closing comment 'I'm not sure where to go from here' quite depressing. This man has been messing you around for 4 years and you are questioning what to do?

To be honest It feels to me as if you are both living a fantasy. A fantasy which prevents you both from having a meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone each other. I am not being flippant when I suggest you read my blog Do What You've Always Done Get What You've Always Got.  Please take specific note of the video at the bottom of the post.

My best advice would be to ask yourself what is in this for me and what would you be saying to a friend in this situation? I am sorry you are in pain but the only way to stop an addiction is first to admit you have the addiction. Because in my opinion that's what it is. There is a good publication which I'm sure you will find illuminating entitled 'Is It Love or Is It Addiction' on my books and ebook page. I would recommend you read it. 

I would also suggest you access some individual counselling to help with your feelings of loss and to help you understand what made you go into the relationship and to hang onto it so destructively.  I do hope you start taking care of you.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

On Being Stuck

It's been an interesting week. We had a visit from a relative who is sadly suffering with Alzheimers. She was, however,  in good spirits and patently enjoyed being with us and it has to be said it was good to see her. She appears to be responding well to the medication and she does seem to have improved since we last saw her. We had friends over for dinner which was pleasant. We received a parking fine for overstaying the stipulated time in a well known supermarket car park. Jim was not best pleased about that but as he'd been driving, there was minimal fuss and we paid up online. I had a business meeting which was useful and a friend came to lunch. I was deprived of my broadband service for three days. I had a brief chat with our son on the phone and have just visited our very busy daughter for an hour. Much of it was good and some of it downright frustrating.

With the loss of broadband I was limited in my normal interactions on Facebook and Twitter. I had been thinking of cutting down the time I spend online because of its addictive nature. I really enjoy the interactions I have but it really sucks up the time, but to be deprived of the choice was irritating. I have as you know been suffering from some kind of inertia. It has been mooted that I was depressed but I have no diagnosis. I have spoken to friends about about my feelings who are sympathetic.  But, as is normal with most friends they want to help and offer solutions. I am not being ungrateful or a know it all but I'm quite good at solutions. I rarely want solutions when I share what I'm feeling. I want someone to listen and to be fair they did that too.

Anyway, I have been grizzling away for weeks and Jim has been goodness itself. He has been very patient. He has put up with my irascibility. He hasn't complained. He hasn't suggested I get off my backside and do housework. He's just kept repeating this is a normal part of coming to terms with retirement you will be ok eventually. I have kept repeating this to myself. I'm now beginning to feel I am going to be ok. I don't think it's due to the repetition though I know that can help. 

I was lunching with my friend on Friday, she is a little younger than me and she's a therapist. I am sharing this because therapists sometimes respond differently. We are after all trained to empathise but not offer solutions. I was trying to explain to her what I was feeling and finding it really difficult. This is something of a new experience for me. I'm usually insightful about what's happening for me and I am articulate. But this time I seemed to be blocked. I didn't know. Now in therapy speak, not knowing is a defence mechanism. If you don't know you can't deal with it and, therefore, cannot change. So the question was - what was I defending against? Certainly not her. I have known her for years and I trust her.  

It was when I was speaking about not wanting to do chores that it dawned on me what the chores represent. They represent a me before I found me. I do hope this makes sense. I'll explain more fully. Years ago when my children were small and before I returned to paid employment. I did housework. Boy did I do housework. I cleaned and I scrubbed and the cupboards were sorted out every week. I kept busy imposing order and staving off chaos. In some sense this wasn't unpleasant because I had it at the back of my mind that things would change and there was something around the corner. 

I have realised that what I felt was that by throwing myself into chores I was going back. But this time without the hope that things would open up. So the refusal to do chores was a refusal to go back. I have been digging my heels in. I have been stuck. Now this perhaps doesn't make sense from a pragmatic point of view but if you look at it as an unconscious process it makes perfect sense. By the way I have just downloaded an education app for my iPad and I am looking at an OU course on 'What Is Religion' and in celebration I cleaned the kitchen!