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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Slow Yearn

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 13, 2017

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Yearning is the bastard child of love and frustrated need; both emotions promise happiness if only you can spend more time with whomever or whatever it is you yearn for, but their emotional spawn is less a miracle than something that’s usually shameful, illegitimate, and not discussed in mixed company. That’s because most people you yearn for are out of reach for good reason; if a love is forbidden, then getting what you yearn for is rarely good for you, better than what you’ve got, or likely to make you a better person. So persistent yearning isn’t a sign of true love; it’s a sign that you’ve got the beginnings of an addiction and should use all your experience, wisdom, and proven techniques to evaluate whether it’s worth trying to satisfy or avoid in order to escape shame, social or otherwise.

-Dr. Lastname

I have a good life, especially from the outside. I have the most beautiful children and a husband, who, despite his incredibly high levels of anxiety and his sometimes ridiculous temper, loves me and cares for us. The problem is that after almost 20 years of marriage I met a man whom I fell into a meaningful relationship with (although nothing physical ever happened because I knew that was a slippery slope and I made sure not to go there). It’s now been a few years since I told this man that I wasn’t leaving my husband, and while we have occasional contact because of work requirements, we’ve remained professional. The issue is that I cannot truly get over it— I believe he is my soulmate and that this is all just a cruel joke that the world is playing on me. I was fine with never knowing what that kind of love felt like because it was better that way. My goal is to get over this man and to stop feeling sad and sorry for myself.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Reasons You THINK You Should Reach Out To Your Ex

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.

5 Ways To Evaluate The Dry Drunk

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2016

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People who aren’t drinking are technically sober, but, like our reader’s ex-husband described in a post earlier this week, many have not developed or just lost the ability to put aside selfish needs for the sake of long-term goals, values, and making relationships work. They’re often good at pleasing you in the short run, which makes you feel things are going well, but you must look closely at how they handle frustration and painful emotions before you know whether they’ve overcome the negative impact of alcohol on character. Here are five ways to evaluate the dry drunk before you get too close and find out the hard way that his sobriety is only booze-deep.

1) See How He Handles Hurt

Because drunks are blind slaves to their needs and impulses, a dry drunk still feels entitled to get back at you when he’s hurt or, at least, to find immediate relief the way he once did from booze. What you hope is that, instead of pouting or sulking, he’ll assume that hurt feelings are sometimes unavoidable, suck up his pain, let the bad feelings pass, and continue to act like a decent human being. If he instead acts petulant and feels entitled to have a good time with his buddies or new girlfriend because you’ve let him down, then he still has a drunk’s habits, just without the bar tab.

2) Mind the Money

Thanks to the same impulse control issues, a dry drunk can also have problems saving money; he means to be financially responsible but winds up spending more than he intended on various virgin ways to feel good and stop feeling bad. Ask yourself whether he really can stick to a budget and save money or whether he can’t stop himself from getting you a flashy present when he worries that you’re mad at him or losing interest. If he can’t, then he’s likely to act twice as bad when he’s the one losing interest in you.

3) Assess Kill-building

Since learning new skills or taking on a new challenge is often a frustrating process, it’s one dry drunks often lack the self-discipline and pain threshold to deal with. Note whether he can make himself take on difficult projects, stick to unpleasant routines involving errands or exercise, and do other boring activities for the sake of a good cause. If he has values of his own, he’ll stay busy even when you’re not there. If his motivation is to make you happy, he’ll look busy when you’re around, but not do much more. That speaks poorly for his ability to learn (or relearn) the skills needed to stay sober, like patience and acceptance.

4) Look for Lies

Of the average drunk’s propensity for dishonesty, Stephen King once said that, “Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he’ll lie to you.” Similarly, a dry drunk will also lie with ease, usually to avoid conflict, regardless of whether the lie is easily discovered and the consequences are much worse than if he told the truth. Don’t avoid checking on the facts because you want to show him you trust him and build up his confidence; look for honesty as a sign of real sobriety.

5) Track the True Source of Blame

In the absence of morals or values, the main belief held by any addict, aside from the importance of getting high, is the absolute importance of quid pro quo. As such, a dry drunk also feels you should make him feel good if he made a good effort to make you feel good, and any unwillingness to hold up your end of the bargain is the ultimate betrayal. So, whether he’s bored, angry, or hurt (see above), he’ll find reasons to blame you for his bad feelings. Don’t think that expressing such blame will improve your relationship; instead, recognize it as a sign that a good relationship may be impossible, at least until he realizes that he’s got a lot more work to do on his sobriety beyond staying sober.

Hugs and Alcohol

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016

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There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.

-Dr. Lastname

I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Determine If Your Spouse Is Worth It

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.

5 Steps To Figuring Out If You’re A Wicked Stepmother

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 21, 2016

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If you’ve survived a marriage that’s gone horribly awry, as our reader from earlier this month has, it’s hard to make a new commitment without wanting assurance that everything will go exactly according to plan. Before you pressure yourself to find and create a perfect life with your next partner and his kids, it’s important to take a little time and get a realistic idea of what your perfect life would be. Here are five steps to figuring out what your ideal life together would be so you can best decide whether it’s worth taking a second shot at family and, hopefully, happiness.

1) Calculate Kid Time

Depending on how much you loved childrearing the first time around and how much parenting fuel you have left in the tank, figure out your ideal parenting job description with family 2.0. Let your imagination roam from the minimum (frequent babysitting and microwaved meals but no disciplinary responsibilities or butt-wiping) to the ultra-max (you’re the boss, baby-maker, and mommy supreme). Take into account how much time you’d like to yourself or for work, as well as the kind of chemistry you have with your step-kids, because, if you don’t feel that close to them, you won’t feel up to a big investment.

2) Investigate your own interests

When considering how much time you’d ideally like to put aside for yourself, include the treasured hobbies of your single life (e.g., the Sunday crossword, afternoon jogs, the occasional boozy weekend brunch with friends), as well as the powerful ambitions postponed by your first marriage that you may never get to complete unless you do them soon. Then total up the hours required, whether regular or one-shot, and see whether you can balance that number with your new family obligations.

3) Wonder about work

Unless you really love your current job and don’t want to give it up for any reason (and already budgeted for the time it requires above), you should calculate your ideal job and hours in a two-income household. Review your existing income and expenses, as well as your potential partner’s, and see if a partnership shifts you in a desirable direction by giving you more disposable income and/or time.

4) Consider Your Spouse Vs. Being Single

In order to see whether your partner does more to contribute to your “perfect life” than detract from it, add up your new husband’s potential contributions as companion, parent, hunter-gatherer, etc. Then subtract his potential burdens as irritant, expense, and partially disabled albatross/additional adult child. Add a few points for a pleasing personality and good sex, but don’t forget the basics.

5) Wonder About The Worst Case Scenarios

Use all of the above information, along with your social time with him, vacations, and time with his kids to weigh and test out the pros and cons of abandoning the single life you’ve got. Remember, you may no longer have to try to be attractive or win anyone over once you get married, but you will have a new job description, a new round of child-rearing, and a new personality to contend with, so imagine them all at their most exhausting extremes in order to figure out your worst case scenarios. Then you can not only get the best idea of whether you can handle your possible new life, but reduce the possibility of unpleasant surprises and regrets for leaving single life behind.

Once you know what your “perfect” life entails, you’ll be ready to either take a well-thought-out chance or avoid another mistake.

Crappily Ever After

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 6, 2016

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Surviving a bad break-up of a worse marriage to the worst partner can certainly makes a new, reasonably decent partnership candidate look like a good choice. A better idea than jumping into something new, however, is taking the chance to evaluate the possible pleasures of single life and shortcomings of your new situation. So don’t let well-intentioned advice or social convention convince you to ignore your fears and reservations; weigh your alternatives carefully and choose the path that is really best for you.

-Dr. Lastname

After a long, messy divorce, I have been dating a man who has primary custody of his primary school-aged kids (my own kids are almost out of school and great despite the messy divorce). Dating in midlife stinks, to put it mildly, but he is a great, independent, financially OK guy. We have dated over a year and he wants to relocate to my town so we can marry and I can help with kids— his constant compliment is how great a mother I am/my kids are. Bottom line, however, is that I have very mixed feelings how I feel about him, and when I have doubts or change my mind, it’s frustrating for him and me. I just would like a guarantee that life will be perfect if I decide to go forward, or at least that there will be no problems from addict crazy exes and I can still accomplish my independent dreams…that I can do that even if I become a hands-on mom to my step kids (coach one of their teams, chaperone their school dances, etc.) and have fun doing all that stuff AGAIN. It will be fun, right? Come on, give me the guarantee, because single life is really boring, I still can’t work the damn remote by myself, and I loved the family mom thing first round. My goal is to decide what is right for me.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Great Aspy

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 1, 2016

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Unlike severe autism, autism spectrum disorder is more a collection of differences than a disease. True, there are disabilities and moments of feeling alienated, but some abilities are enhanced, so it’s less like being broken and more like being Batman. So if you have Asperger traits, don’t make it your goal to be “normal.” Recognizing your weaknesses does not oblige you to eliminate them, but to learn how to use your strengths to manage them and be the person you are (and perhaps save Gotham, if you’re so inclined).

-Dr. Lastname

I’m over 60 and have just discovered/realized I am on the autism spectrum (what they used to call Asperger’s). I’ve spent my life trying to fit in to a neurotypical world. I’m also a little over a year divorced from someone who emotionally abused me for almost 20 years. Between these two things, I’m kind of reinventing myself. I’m already saying f*ck to ‘normal’ (neurotypical) and to society’s dictates for women my age, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally comfortable with what’s happening. My goal is to figure out how f*cked I am, and what can I do about it. 

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Legal Disintegration

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 23, 2016

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Once you’ve been struck by a natural disaster—a snow storm caves in your roof, a tornado takes off your roof, and flood sweeps away your roof and the house it’s attached to—you have no choice but to grit your teeth and start over. Legal disasters, on the other hand, often seem resolvable, thus luring you into putting the rest of your life on hold while fighting for a victory that may never come. So never assume that a legal problem will end, even if right is on your side. If a lawsuit has blown the roof clean off your life, start learning how to begin again instead of waiting for it to eventually blow back into place.

-Dr. Lastname

My ex-wife has falsely accused me of physically and sexually abusing her and our children over the course of our entire marriage (over 20 years). The accusations have resulted in a complete cutoff of any contact with my elementary school-aged children. I’m hoping it will be ultimately resolved in the family court system but after two years, I’m losing hope. The loss has been overwhelmingly devastating for me and isn’t getting any better over time. I go to bed, crying and having dreams about my children when I fall asleep. Only to wake up again, crying. I’m not sure how to cope with this anymore. It’s really taken a toll on me. My goal is to figure out how to move forward.

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5 Reasons To Stand Up For Yourself

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.

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