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 April 20, 2017
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If someone breaks up with you for what you perceive to be unfair or unfounded reasons, one of the ironic effects of of the unjust uncoupling is that you can become so filled with confusion, pain and resentment that you can become the very kind of negative person your ex accused you of being in the first place. While there’s no reason to like the negative person you’ve become, there’s every reason to fear the results of sharing your feelings with your ex, even if you’re desperate to share something with her to win her back. Finding something sweet, giving and positive to think about and say may then seem like a good, positive solution that could restore your self-esteem and do some good. If being with her makes you become such a bad version of yourself, however, there are reasons to think twice about offering to help your ex feel better and instead use a different approach that will make you the better person you used to be.
I have an ex-girlfriend that suffers from depression and also has Aspergers. When she broke up with me, she accused me of being a liar and becoming a different, uncaring person over the course of the relationship. I don’t think any of those accusations are true, or that she even believes them, and I haven’t been able to get over her. Even though she said harsh words to me, I do not think she meant them and it was just the depression and Aspergers talking, especially since she told me she’s been depressed her entire life. I know that this might sound selfish and dumb, but I want to write something that could express that to her and maybe help her in the future. I will admit that I still like her and that’s why I’m writing, but I also really want her to be happier overall. My goal is to be able to get her out of her misery and be able to have a better life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 20, 2017
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It’s easy to tell that someone’s a bad friend when, as with our reader from earlier this week, they make you feel lonely and bad about yourself. If you’re ever unsure about whether a friend is worth keeping or is actually a friend to begin with, here are five red flags of bad friendship to look for.
1) They Only Call In Case Of Personal Calamity
Unless your friend is in crisis and needs to talk, it’s up to you to reach out to them to try to make plans, often in vain. They do you the favor of giving you their best, cheeriest small talk as a prelude to their anguished confidences and wonder what else you could possibly want. If you’re friends with someone who thinks the conversation’s over when they’ve finished talking, then your friendship should probably be over as well.
2) They Share Feelings And Not Much Else
Between the two of you, you wind up doing more than your share of cooking, listening, and paying in the friendship. That may make you feel like a good, giving person almost all the time, but there’s a fine line between being a saint and a martyr, and either way, you don’t need a flock, you need a friend who will give as much to you as you give to them. Because if you need something for yourself from this person, you’ll just find yourself angry, not just at them but at yourself for feeling needy, frustrated, and more human than holy.
3) Your Pain Is Not Their Problem
If you’re low, unhappy and irritable, they don’t want to know, because, while their pain is a big problem, yours is merely an unwelcome distraction. If you assert your right to be heard, they wonder why you’re childish and ungrateful for the attention they’ve been giving you and the time you’ve spent together (even though you spent most of that time doing their bidding). If you can give this friend your time but not a piece of your mind, you’re getting screwed.
4) Your Complaints are Your Problem
As we’ve often said, love only means never having to say you’re sorry when one party dies of cancer before they get the chance. Bad friends, however, often operate under that assumption despite not having a fatal disease. So, while you believe in giving serious attention to a friend’s criticism and apologizing if you’ve caused pain, these guys have the confidence to know that they couldn’t possibly deserve your criticism and they’re helping you by letting you know that, if you have a complaint, you’re just humiliating yourself. Friendship, like love, means always being willing to say you’re sorry, and if they can’t offer that, you should be willing to walk away.
5) They Get Close As Quickly As They Move On
Lots of bad friendships get off the fast start; their openness is so appealing and flattering, and their problems so interesting, that it’s easy to get sucked in before you even have a chance to see this person isn’t so much a potential friend as a potential headache. So you didn’t notice that they don’t have old friends, just current play-buddies and people they once knew and were disappointed by. Unfortunately for them, once you can finally recognize that they’re not worthy of your friendship, you’ll soon be one of them.
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 6, 2017
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It’s hard to knock the idea that being helpful to your friends is good for everyone, but when you’re always there to help and they only come to you in a crisis, that’s a good recipe for being used and becoming resentful. Even if being helpful will make you feel good about yourself in the short run and win you gratitude, it’s only worth it if you’re also mindful of your own needs and the character of the so-called friend requiring your assistance. Otherwise, your giving instincts can expose you to harm, exhaustion, and a whole bunch of other not-good stuff.
I’m a women in my 20s with a good tech job, but I feel like I’m always ignored by everybody, almost like I don’t exist. I do have many friends, but even they aren’t real with me— I feel that they don’t really care about me and are only good to me when they need something or need a shoulder to cry on. Then, when they feel better or have happy news to share, they find someone else to take it to, which doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel like everybody throws their problems onto me so they can go off and be happy, but I’m left here all alone to deal with the sadness on my own. My goal is to feel acknowledged and loved, not ignored and used. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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 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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 17, 2016
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Sometimes, as with our reader from earlier this week, our brains can ruminate obsessively after a relationship, despite being told by our heart, gut, and feet that it’s time to move on. Here are five examples of the constant regrets your brain can shoot your way after a broken heart, and how to refute them.
1) “I’ll never find anyone else like him.”
“When I look at my list of requirements for a marital partnership—someone who’s dedicated, open, is accepting with accepting parents—I know that not being with him, or someone like him, is actually a good thing.”
2) “Sex will never be like that again.”
“As hot as the make-up sex was with my ex, it would be easier to be with someone I fought with and made-up with less, even without the passion-driven follow through. Better to be out of that hot-but-going-nowhere relationship and moving towards the future I always wanted.”
3) “If I didn’t ask for too much, we would still be together.”
“If I imagine what life would be like if we had married, I can see that he’d frequently be absent, unwilling to share tasks, and unable to explain how he spent his money. In other words, I’d always be asking for what I deserved, and still not getting it, or getting anything but angry.”
4) “If I knew how much I was going to miss him, I would never have let him go.”
“I also know that I can assign more value to relationships than they deserve, and can certainly get too invested in someone who isn’t as invested in me. So, even though I miss him a lot, that doesn’t mean that what I miss is worth trying to get back. It’s more important to get over missing him by moving forward and finding someone who’s better for me, not sinking backwards.”
5) “If I was a better person/more like the girl he now loves, we wouldn’t have split up.”
“I know my ex didn’t want a committed relationship with me or anyone else prior to our splitting up, so as much as losing him hurts, cutting him loose wasn’t personal. I left him because I knew what I wanted in life and he clearly wanted something different. I know it was the right thing to do even if it broke my heart, and even if I can’t stop feeling wrong about it.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 15, 2016
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You can’t stop love from making old flames live in your memory and obsessions, and if you have the kind of brain that tends to make personal connections easily, your ex can feel like a phantom limb that you head and heart still feel long after he’s gone. Instead of waiting forever for the memories to fade before dating again, however, learn how to define the kind of future relationship that you think would be good for you, regardless of how much you long for your ex. There are ways to resume your search, even if your heart isn’t in it and your phantom feelings are.
Like so many people, I am struggling to get over a serious past relationship whose ghost just won’t go away. My ex-boyfriend and I had a five-year-long relationship that I confidently assumed would lead to a life together. We had a very pleasant daily life, enjoyed frequent activities with a circle of friends and shared values, important life events and love. Unfortunately, he was unable to move past the boyfriend/girlfriend stage, was never able to clearly communicate why to me (although I’m sure his parents’ snobbish disapproval of me had something to do with it), and a year ago we made the decision to end our relationship. This was an painful process that I am still not completely over— I feel rejected, insulted and strung along, not to mention robbed of my future with him for unfair and unfounded reasons. In the midst of and despite this grieving, a platonic friendship of mine transformed into more, and became serious rather quickly. This new person loves me in the way I always wanted my ex to love me— makes me a priority over his job and himself when needed, spends time on our relationship, spends time with me and his family together to make sure they understand who I am and enjoy being around me. It’s just … I pine for my old life with my ex daily. I know in my rational brain that there are very good reasons why I am not with my ex anymore. I just can’t seem to remember them. I actively dread the day when I will run into him in town with the new woman his parents finally approve of. I feel guilty when I have these thoughts, because I know I am very lucky to have found a new person who has an open heart that’s full of love for me, but I also can’t help but wonder if I was too hasty with my ex, if we could have compromised somehow. This conflict is distracting on multiple levels and keeping me from moving forward. My goal is to get over these feelings of rejection and resentment as soon as possible, and begin to fully appreciate the new person in my life the way he deserves.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 7, 2016
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If life puts you through the ringer, as described by our reader from earlier this week, it can leave you feeling like every last ounce of hope and joy have been wrung out of you forever. Here are five ways to get through hell with some of your positivity intact.
1) Less Reaction, More Distraction
Keep busy—the more time you spend working, volunteering, cleaning the garage, etc., the less time you have to think, remember, or have any serious talks you aren’t ready for. You’re not running from your feelings or avoiding facing the truth; you’re just working hard to keep these things from taking over.
2) Busy Body, Busy Mind
Exercise isn’t just a distraction, it’s a sort of healthy meditation; it gives you a chance to focus, but it’s active enough so that you can’t just sit and sulk. Running on the treadmill while watching Bravo will give you distraction, fitness, and endorphins all at once.
3) Dare (Not) to Compare
While it’s natural to want to gage your progress, never compare yourself to others, be they non-hell dwellers or hell-ions like yourself, because there’s always someone who’s happier and luckier. Think instead about what you’re doing to cope with hell, including surviving the pain and unusual heat.
4) Count Out A Cure
Don’t expect relief to come until it comes; assuming that a good talk with an old friend or therapist, a long vacation, or just a new pair of jeans will provide all you need to ease your ache will probably disappoint and then discourage. One day, the pain will be bearable, but all you can do is wait and focus on other things in the meantime.
5) Shelf Self-Blame
Never ask yourself what you did wrong to wind up in a feelings hell, or berate yourself for all the mistakes you made; sometimes things hurt even when you did everything right and nothing wrong. Remind yourself about the good things you were doing when everything went bad and the good things you continue to do in spite of the way you feel. It’s hard to be a good person when pain doesn’t stop, but if that’s what you’re doing, be proud of the way you’re surviving life at its worst.