Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2017
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Sometimes our brains act like our parents, tricking us with white lies so we’ll do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, unlike our parents, our brains sometimes get the wrong idea about what the right is for us in the long run. Parents reason that it’s OK to bribe kids into eating broccoli or coax them out of inappropriate behavior with empty threats of brain damage or blindness (or both) if the benefit outweighs the crime, but brains often do the opposite, convincing us that we should do what feels best in the short term, consequences be damned. So, if like our reader from earlier this week, your heart is broken and your brain is giving you any of the following seemingly legitimate reasons to reach out the person who did the breaking (with the secret hope of putting everything back together again), push your brain to think twice.
1) “I’m genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.”
Unselfish love is a wonderful feeling and seems above approach reproach, but once you’ve learned that a specific love will likely lead to misery/not-wonderful feelings, you’re supposed to protect yourself and keep your own wellbeing in mind. You may genuinely believe that the act of checking in on your ex is truly altruistic and that no harm can come from wanting good things for another human being, but if that were true, then martyrs wouldn’t exist. Your job isn’t to sacrifice yourself to save your ex but to keep yourself out of troubled relationships, exhaustion, and pain. Your brain may tell you that you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s OK, but experience tells you that the buzz you get from seeing and helping her is like that from any other heavy drug; short-lived with a nasty hangover and a high risk for longterm damage.
2) “I don’t want to get back together, I just want to get some closure.”
Closure, like true love or perfect New York apartments, is another of those good feelings we see Nora Ephron movies for (RIP) because real life seldom provides it. As long as you’re honest and fearless in sharing your true feelings, TV and movies generally tell you that you can end a relationship with both parties (or more) accepting that it’s over and that, regardless of sadness and loss, with no resentment, unfinished business or unanswered questions, or self-doubt. Unfortunately, experience and Woody Allen movies (his career and integrity, RIP) tell you otherwise. Yes, you should try to be honest and accepting, but when closure doesn’t happen, remind yourself that the irreparable conflict is why the relationship didn’t work in the first place; if you were able to feel closure, you probably wouldn’t have broken up. In real life, closure isn’t a possibility, just an excuse to see your ex for a momentary respite from the pain of being closed out of his life.
3) “We were friends before we dated so we should be able to be friends now.”
Most people weren’t really friends before dating, just friendly; most people go through a platonic, getting-to-know-you period before dating begins in earnest (unless they’re in an arranged marriage or lost a bet in Las Vegas).
As such, they don’t actually have a pre-existing relationship to fall back on if romance fails, because real friendship requires a kind of comfort and trust that no one controls or manufactures at will, even with the best of intentions. That’s why even good people can’t necessarily be friends with the people they used to date or even love, even if they wish them well and have the strength to apologize, forgive, and get over past grievances. So, if your feelings and chemistry permitit, friendship is great, but if it’s not working, don’t try to pretend the uncomfortable or negative feelings aren’t there or you’ll make them worse. Being friendly non-friends is better than trying to force a friendship you just can’t have, especially since you’ll probably ruin any possible friendship in the process.
4) “I just want to let her know I forgive her.”
We may watch Nora Ephron movies to experience things that rarely happen in real life, but we watch Larry David to see someone suffer the same humiliations that we do, mostly from trying to do the right thing, at a safe distance. Trying to offer forgiveness is one of those good deeds that usually backfires and makes for good comedy on TV but tragedy in real life. After all, if your ex did something wrong but doesn’t see things that way, then forgiveness feels like condescension or re-accusation and will just stir up her old resentments. If she acknowledges responsibility, then forgiveness may be acceptable but won’t change the fact that most kinds of bad behavior happen again unless someone really, really wants to change, and even then they can’t always do it. In other words, you’re forgiving something your ex may not be able to prevent herself from doing again. No matter how strong the urge to give your ex the gift of forgiveness, do the more difficult work of finding acceptance instead, both of her unfixable flaws and your own covert desire to reconnect. Then decide whether further contact will give you the protection you need from whatever you’re forgiving her for.
5) “I just want to tell him this story I know he’d find really funny—it’s not like I want to get back together again or anything.”
Next to the aforementioned “I just want to ask him for my favorite T-shirt/mug/broken umbrella” excuse, “I just want to tell him (X unimportant fun thing)” is one of the flimsiest pretenses there is. As innocuous as it may seem to share stories that you used to enjoy together, it’s risky to share anything together until the not-enjoyable negative feelings left over from most normal breakups have truly cooled. Yes, you might like to see him again and remember the good times (and to possibly remind him or you of your friendship—see #3), but doing so won’t really help you and your ex move on to the next stage of life. Again, most of the painful feelings caused by breakups can’t be smoothed away by good talks, conjoint crying, or wacky anecdotes. It’s best not to reach out to your ex until you can be sure you’re truly over each other, but paradoxically, being over it means that you can hear a funny story (or do almost anything) without thinking of your ex or wanting to reach out to him at all.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 4, 2016
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As illustrated by our reader from earlier this week, it’s hard to trust a partner who leaves you out of the loop sometimes, even if, in almost every other way, you love him or her very much. Before letting either suspicion or your special emotional connection be the key factor in whether or not to stay together, ask yourself these five questions to determine whether or not your spouse is telling the truth and worth taking a chance on.
1) Examine His Honesty Experience
Think back on whether or not he has a solid record of truth-telling, not just by looking at your own history but by seeking out the opinion of family, friends, and, depending on the level of commitment at stake, his exes and even his possible- court records. Ignore anger or hurt in favor of the facts, and give extra weight to crimes, credit card debt, and infidelity. Don’t pay much attention to white lies unless they seem indicative of worse offenses.
2) Assess His Lies’ True Effect
After getting a complete history of his truths and falsehoods, consider whether you’re bothered more by his lies because of the way they impact your life, finances, or future, or by the way they affect your feelings and inspire paranoia. Look at his worst lies to you and their impact on your relationship, paying more attention to how they damage your security, wealth, and family relationships than how much they piss you off. Define for yourself the kinds of impact you can’t afford to tolerate, even from someone you love.
3) Determine His Ability To Divulge Honest Answers to Direct Questions
One good way to distinguish the liar from the truth-evader is to see how he responds to questions about his hidden dealings, because if he makes up lies to cover up previous lies of omission, you’ve got a problem. If he doesn’t and easily tells the whole truth, then develop your own system for reminding yourself to pin him down on a regular basis. Your system must protect you from any real danger to your security or that of your family in order to be effective.
4) Figure Out His Ability to Own His Dishonesty
If he agrees that his lying is a serious problem, you still have to figure out whether he genuinely agrees or if he’s just going along with you in order to make you happy. If he truly owns his lying, he will take the same steps as an addict in recovery; he’ll talk about it, own up to his slips, and examine triggers that get him into trouble by working with a support group or therapist. What you’re seeing then isn’t just apology, but an honest effort at improvement and reparation and, hopefully, a good result.
5) Given His Dishonesty, Make A Choice
If your safety and security are endangered by staying with your less-than- forthcoming partner, then your only choice is to end it, but if they aren’t, then make your decision by listing whatever you value about the relationship. As we always say, think less about what you like about this relationship than what you want a relationship for in general, i.e., how much you require from a partner for companionship, co-parenting, sex, etc. Then ask yourself whether your current partner’s contribution to those goals outweighs the impact of his truth-impairment, taking into account what you can and can’t expect to change about his behavior. If it is worth it, then learn to ask a lot of questions and become better at forgiveness. If it isn’t, then learn a valuable lesson in what your relationship standards are and you’ll be better at finding someone new who meets them.
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2016
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Because trust between people who know one another well usually depends on how well they treat one another (and their cars, pets, and fancy coffee makers) over time, we tend to assume that mistrust would not flare up in a close relationship without good reason. Unfortunately, some apparently normal people are sometimes prone to limited bursts of paranoia, so mistrust can also arise spontaneously for reasons that we don’t understand. That’s why it’s important to develop objective methods for assessing the causes of mistrust, whether it’s your own or others’, and whether it’s broken-espresso- machine-related or not.
I love my partner very much— he makes me very happy, and I feel very cherished. Despite that, however, I cannot trust him because there have been a few times that he has neglected to tell me very important things that affected us. He will keep me informed for a week or so, and then neglect it again. If I cannot trust him, can this relationship work? Can someone who behaves like this change? My goal is to figure out whether I can stay with someone I love, even if I can’t take his word. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 28, 2016
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Everybody knows that they should think before they act, but most people ponder whether they should act or not, not why they want to act in the first place. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re someone with a natural inclination to keep the peace at any cost, thinking before you act may still tell you that it’s best to placate an aggrieved party, even if doing so causes harm in the long run. So, before you think yourself out of doing anything at all, here are five good, non-feelings reasons for standing up for yourself and taking responsible action.
1) Constant Criticism
Since there will always be nasty, negative people out there (or not-normally- nasty people being negative due to stress or depression), it’s often not worth trying to stop someone from criticizing you, even if when you’ve done nothing wrong. On the other hand, it’s not good to listen to undeserved, repeated criticism indefinitely without giving yourself the right to calmly speak up, declare your self-acquittal, and refuse further discussion.
2) Rampant Risk to Self
When someone’s abusing drugs or alcohol or generally determined to endanger themselves, there isn’t a lot you can do, short of hog-tying them or freezing them in carbonite, to keep them safe. What you can do, however, is coolly voice your concern to them and offer your help. If they refuse it, you’ll know that you’ve tried, at least once, to stop them, and at this point you need to step back and protecting yourself from their destructive impact.
3) Serious Slack
If someone at home or work isn’t doing her share, there’s usually no amount of nudging, nagging, or passive aggressive notes that will get them to step up or even admit they’re not pulling their weight. What you can do, however, is have a reasonable discussion with them about what constitutes a fair contribution, ask them to examine their own actions, and then take whatever protective action you can if they’re still obstinate, e.g., reducing your share or finding someone else to share with, period.
4) Anger and Abuse
Obviously, if you have good reason to believe that someone is abusing their kids, you have a moral (and sometimes legal) obligation to take action. Instead of holding yourself responsible for personally stopping the abusive behavior, however, specify to the abuser what’s intolerable, what you’ll do about it if it continues, and what the repercussions will be for everyone involved.
5) Committing Crime
As a civilian, stopping someone you know from doing bad things and breaking the law isn’t something you should attempt on your own. What you can do is inform the offender what you can and can’t accept and then what you can do to stop being an accomplice or a victim.
Taking a stand doesn’t mean telling someone off, but calmly telling them where you stand, what you’re willing to tolerate, and what the possible consequences are for their bad behavior. You can’t make them stop, but you can make them see where you’re coming from and make things right with your own conscience.
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2016
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Avoiding conflict is an important part of making a long-term relationship work, but going too far to placate your spouse in order to avoid arguments doesn’t diffuse the conflict so much as internalize it. Not surprisingly, if you keep eating shit in order to keep your partner happy, that’s how you’re going to feel, and it’s what your marriage is going to turn into. It’s important then to know when and how to draw the line on agreeableness without being disagreeable; if you can avoid a big fight without compromising your integrity in order to do it, you can make your relationship last.
Early on in my relationship with my wife I fell into a pattern where almost every time we got into a big fight, I’d end up apologizing and admitting total fault, even if I didn’t feel that it was all my fault, basically because I didn’t want to continue the argument. She can be a dirty fighter who is great at playing on my guilt, but also, I’m not very good at being assertive and dealing with conflict. And now, as we have had more complex problems to sort through in our life, and the stakes have gotten higher (kids, in-laws issues, mortgage, etc.), it’s even harder to break this habit, which has resulted in me feeling resentful towards her and emotionally withdrawing at times, which is not something I want to continue. I do get her to “compromise” at times but often those compromises are still tilted strongly in her favor. I’m not a total doormat, but I’d like to stand a little more upright. My goal is to be more assertive, and not fear the outcome of being more assertive with her, which I imagine (based on many past experiences) is her losing her temper (rage, blame, etc.), sometimes making threats (divorce) and making me the bad guy, until I play by her rules.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2015
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Regardless of whether a marriage is happy or not, it takes work to maintain your own priorities and point of view. In a happy marriage, pleasing your partner may interfere with your agenda as an individual. In a less happy marriage, feelings of failure may deprive you of energy and confidence, but it’s all the more important for you to remember who you are and what you value. As long as you do, an unhappy marriage need never prevent you from being successful as a person.
I have a chronic illness that may or may not go away. For now I am disabled to the point that I cannot take care of myself and I have to depend on my husband. We have been married for over 20 years, the first decades of which were spent raising two children who now live away from home. It seems the children were and are all we had in common, because as soon as child #2 left home, all hell broke loose and it’s been pretty bad since then. I know he will never change and become the person I want him to be, and why should he? He should be with someone who appreciates him just as he is, but I am the one stuck with him and I need to have a better attitude towards living with him because I have no choice. He still drives me crazy, even if It’s a little better since I figured out he cannot change. I am as kind and nice as I can be and I don’t think he really knows that I am staying with him because I have to. My goal is to find a better attitude for myself to make this unavoidable situation less unbearable.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on November 19, 2015
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Sometimes, when you add up everything good about your spouse and subtract the stuff that drives you nuts, the marital math shows you that they’re not equal to (e)X, i.e., that they’re worth keeping around, despite their less attractive behavior. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re trying to stay together despite some behavior you can’t stand, here are five ways to positively address the issue without going positively nuts.
1. Be Calm and Clarify
With as much clinical distance as possible, identify a grouch-related behavior that is simple, easily defined, and well worth reducing. Possible examples include a raised voice (that can be heard clearly in the next room, or next town), swearing, or personal criticism that is more cruel than part of a constructive conversation.
2. Frank but Fair
Before beginning the discussion, announce your intentions by first describing your pleasure in your spouse’s company when he’s being nice/not doing that one jerky thing. Assert your belief that it hurts your relationship for you to hang out and engage in conversation when he’s not being his normal, nice self. Then define the behavior you don’t like without sounding critical or arguing about whether or not it’s bad; slinging insults is objectively bad, no matter who’s slinging them.
3. Brace Yourself
Even if your spouse agrees with your goals, he or she may complain that your new rules are destroying his spontaneity and causing him to second-guess himself and feel perpetually self-conscious. Don’t argue, but express confidence in your observations and the long-term benefits of change. Show no guilt and offer no explanation when you implement your plan, just support and assurance that this transition period will soon pass.
4. Extend the Experiment
Whether you try withdrawing in response to negative behaviors or lavishing praise on ones that are positive or both, refine your methods as you observe how they work. Don’t expect to get your husband to see what he’s doing wrong or agree to change. Remember, your goal is to protect yourself, even if you can’t reduce his inappropriate behavior.
5. Embrace an Exit Strategy
If you’ve done your best to alert your spouse to his bad habits and he still can’t reign them in, then your next best strategy is to avoid being in the presence of that behavior altogether. Put together an escape plan that will protect you from having to listen to further grouchiness while also discouraging it. For example, you can leave the room, put in ear plugs, or go for a walk. Because if s/he can’t keep bad behavior under wraps, you can always keep up good methods for getting around it or, if you really can’t take it, getting a good lawyer to get out of the marriage entirely.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2015
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You’d think that people would want to stop doing things that are irrational and painful, but it’s because they’re uncontrollable that they’re doing them in the first place without being able to stop. In any case, don’t let your allergy to irritability control your partnership decisions. Look at the whole person before making up your mind about the value of preserving your relationship. Then, if you decide it’s worthwhile, we’ll have tips later this week for using your acceptance as a tool in negotiating a better relationship that any (mostly) rational person could agree to.
My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD, takes meds for ADHD, and sees a psychiatrist twice a month. A couple times a week (sometimes more) he gets angry/irritated with me for the tiniest of missteps. I’m usually surprised and I never know what will set him off. I’ve been seeing a therapist who helps me to maneuver around it and not take it personally, etc., but it always stings when he gets pissed at me. It seems kind of human to flinch when anger comes at you out of the blue. Plus, he denies that it’s anger, even though if any human were to overhear his voice and see his face, they would say, “wow, he’s pissed at her.” He’s really wonderful in many ways (which is why I’m trying to find a solution), but I don’t know if this is something that can be resolved. I have a metaphor for the situation: its like we have this lovely glass of water, but he keeps pissing in it, then says, “just drink it, it’s just a little piss.” Well, no thanks. I know sometimes bad and unfair things happen and when they do, by all means, get angry…but his anger is way out of proportion. My goal is to have peace and harmony in our marriage.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on November 12, 2015
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Breaking the cycle of addiction may be a boon to reality television producers, fancy rehab centers, and the makers of terrible coffee in church basements, but for the addicts themselves, the rewards are a lot more hard won. Whether you’re hooked on a drug or, in the case of our reader earlier this week, a bad relationship, getting clean is always a difficult process. While 12 Step programs have a lot to offer anyone trying to get clean, we humbly offer these five steps specifically for those trying to move on from a bad relationship.
Five tips for overcoming love addiction:
Step 1: Step Back For Perspective
Without allowing yourself to mention your current partner, describe the qualities a prospective partner must have before a relationship has any chance, not of starting, feeling good, or being exciting, but of lasting and bringing more to your life than it takes away. If your list is more about how a guy smells or what a girl’s legs should look like than whether s/he can pay bills on time or be trusted with a car, then you’re doing it wrong.
Step 2: Stick To Your Guidelines
In the presence of a trusted friend or therapist, honestly and carefully assess your current partner’s ability to meet the requirements listed above. Give yourself credit for every time you can admit they don’t have what it takes, but take away that credit (and then some) for each time you attempt to re-open the discussion by imagining something you could do to change them. This isn’t about changing them, but changing your priorities and ability to tolerate too much BS.
Step 3: Find Support
Since the worst partners are often the hardest to leave, strengthen your partnerships with friends and family, because their support is invaluable. Talk to them about your helplessness with your addiction, which is, of course, the first of the actual 12 steps. Give them permission to stop you by any means necessary if you want to change the subject from what you should do next to what you could say or do to get him to see that he’s done wrong.
Step 4: Stick to the Script
Once you’ve become certain that you need to move on, and you’ve lined up allies to help you, you might still need a little reinforcement when it comes to delivering the news to your ex-to-be. Write a paragraph that describes your requirements in a partner and states, with regret but without anger, the requirements you believe he’s unable to meet. If you sound like you’re trying to persuade him to meet your requirements, or that you’re open to argument about whether he is or isn’t eligible, then enlist one of your friends to edit that garbage right out.
Step 5: Step Away
If at all possible, go on vacation with friends, because the best way to put distance between yourself and a bad relationship, at least at first, is to literally go far away. While you block him from your phone and drop him from social media, give yourself a chance to go through withdrawal in pleasant, nurturing circumstances. It’s a quick trip to relationship rehab with lots of distraction and a built in support group who will help you come up with a strategy if you’re ever tempted to slip. Getting over someone is hard, but if you can get your priorities together, get reinforcements, and then get away, you can get on with your life.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2015
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Louis CK once said that no good marriage ends in divorce, but it’s also true that really bad relationships seem to go on forever; those connections built on intense neediness and over-responsiveness tend to get stuck in a death spiral as both parties endlessly circle the emotional toilet, never quite flushing their connection away. That’s because, once you care deeply about someone, it’s hard not to become over-attached and treat his or her commitment problems as if they were misunderstandings that might be your fault, even if that someone doesn’t treat you well and isn’t great partnership material. All of this can be avoided if you learn how to withhold commitment until you’re sure a prospective partner has the right qualities, regardless of how intense your need and attraction. Later this week, we’ll explore the five steps of bad relationship recovery, but you can’t recover until you know why it’s good to walk away from your bad relationship in the first place.
I’ve been in a relationship off and on for almost a year, and the reason for the “offs” is his fear of everything— three times he’s done the same thing and broken up with me for “a possible problem,” or “fear of ___,” or whatever stupid reason, but in the end I always find him and we get back together. I know this is a bad pattern. I mean, it’s pathetic to keep wanting to be with him after how he’s been such an asshole to me for no apparent reason. He chooses to treat me as if I were shit, as if he wants to hurt me badly while pretending it’s nothing. I know I should be mad and write him off as an asshole, but I can’t. I keep justifying his actions, because I know what he’s been through. Anyway, I love him and I hate that I can’t love myself enough to stop looking for him despite all the mean things he’s said and done to me, how he’s treated me like a toy. When I finally did stand up for myself recently and say some really mean things, he didn’t react at all, won’t respond to my apology…I don’t want to keep waiting for him to talk to me and my head knows that it’s stupid, but my heart keeps wanting to reach him. I’m not trying to be a victim—I believe that everything that happens to us is the consequence of our choices—but I need to know how to choose better for myself. My goal is to figure out how to get over this guy and the rut of our unhappy relationship.
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