Baggage Check Live: MOB needs to MYOB

Feb 19, 2019

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

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Hi, everyone! So nice to see you in the queue today. What's going on in your life this week?

Today's column-- which was posted on the late side, sorry about that-- involves a father who doesn't handle his toddler's questions too well. (Sort of reminiscent of last week's chat about tolerance of kid chaos, though that letter came to my inbox long before!) And-- we've got some wedding drama, specifically in terms of bridesmaid selection. What say you?

Let's begin!

My sister did NOT choose me-- her only sibling-- as her maid of honor. Thank goodness! We were friendly as adults but not intimate friends, and I am not a social organizer type. My mother stayed out of it (smart mom). My sister's friend took on the role of MOH with an enthusiasm that I would not have had, and I was able to enjoy the day without the pressure. (As an aside, my sister also wisely sent each bridesmaid a fabric swatch and said "get a dress in this color, and hem it xxx long." As the bridesmaids were very very different personalities-- think hippie, preppie, frilly and beauty queen-- we all wore dresses that suited us and the day, and the pictures turned out just fine.) Just sayin, my sister rocks, which was something I didn't fully appreciate for a long time.

Yes! Always so good to hear of wedding planning that does NOT do years of interpersonal damage.

I am betting that sisters not choosing each other as maids/matrons of honor is not all that uncommon at all.

Is it normal for a guy who professes to love me to speak of how “hot” other women are in front of me? He casually flirts with women and says it is just to make them feel good.

Oh, what a kind and benevolent man you have there-- spreading his charitable acts of (possibly even uninvited) flirting far and wide, while simultaneously hurting the one he loves.

Um.... what?

Look, every couple has to find their own understanding of what feels okay-- from couples who ogle together, to jokes about movie star crushes, to innocuous flirting that is totally sanctioned, to an understanding that it feels weird and disrespectful and so most physical admiration is kept silent.

It's only okay if it works for you both.

But his whole thing of saying that he's doing this for the sake of random women's self-esteem-- not for his own jollies (again, what?) and meanwhile you are not a fan of it-- the question is not whether this is normal or not, but whether this is acceptable.

And you have every right to decide that it's not.

I know my vote.

Last week's chat had a question from a mother about how her husband struggled with the noise/chaos of kids. To a certain extent, I understand--kids, crying, loud noises, messes, are all stressful things. BUT. I grew up with a father who had a very low tolerance for noise/crying/chaos. It would make him irrationally furious. If there was crying in the car, he'd furiously slam the brakes or pull off the road while yelling that everyone needed to STOP YELLING. Even now, at nearly thirty, my first instinct when I hear a pan fall in the kitchen, or a baby crying, or a lively discussion, is to cringe and expect to hear him losing it. Please consider the effect that a parent's inability to cope with stress can impact the kids, and please insist that he learn better coping skills. I wish, desperately, that my mother had insisted on my dad getting help rather than just trying to smooth things over every time.

Yes. I am sorry you had to live like this. The reverberations are clearly fierce, even years later.

It's one thing to have quirks as parents, and a loving family can take those into account. But there's got to be a balance there where parents take ownership of working on their own baggage so as to not make their kids walk on eggshells all the time. That's not any way to grow up.

I hope you can grow out of it and break free over time.

I was struck by this part of the post: "It has become clear to me that he is practically incapable of functioning under times of stress, chaos, or even just noisiness. If both kids are being loud in the car he has a hard time driving. If our routine gets disrupted or if things are messy it can upend his whole day." Possibly I'm overly sensitive, but this sounds like my husband, who is high-functioning on the ASD. If her husband has always been particular and not flexible about his routines, environment and the like, it might be worth doing some online assessments, and if those are strong indicators, getting a formal evaluation. There are so many undiagnosed men out there, because they grew up before we knew much about ASD. It could help the whole family. My personal tipoff was when our son was 3 months old, and we were taking our first trip to see family. My husband insisted that we could pack all of our things--yes, for 2 adults and a tiny baby--in his one small carry-on. Because he had used that for his own traveling when he was single. We got into a huge fight about it, in fact, because he absolutely would not budge, and neither would I. We did end up taking enough luggage for a small army, but he was mad about it for days. Yeah, so that's what undiagnosed ASD looks like . . . .

Ooh, this is a really good point, and I'm so glad you made it. Thanks. You don't say how you have coped with it over the years, but I am guessing with some adjustment and understanding, it is a success story!

Floating out there in the World Wide Interwebs is a Modern Love essay, I believe, about someone sort of uncovering their partner's undiagnosed ASD as an adult. I will try to find it.

Yes! Here it is.

I wrote to you a while ago about my MiL, who had a terminal illness. She passed a little over a month ago. My husband and I are mostly doing okay...except when it comes to dealing with our 2.5 year old. We haven't really said much about it to her, as she really does live in the moment and we don't think she would understand something as abstract as death. This past weekend was the first time we took her down to visit her grandad (we left her with a carer during the funeral). It actually went okay, she accepted 'Grandma's not there, just Grandad', without much fuss. But the last couple days she's started asking to see Grandma, wanting to 'talk' to her on her pretend phone, things like that. The first one my husband just said she couldn't (it was in the morning on the way to get dropped off at childcare, kiddo was grumpy because she hadn't wanted to get out of bed). She threw a fit but, as usual, was fine shortly after drop off. The phone thing I pretended to talk to Grandma for her until I had to stop because I was crying too hard. Then her dad distracted her. Now I'm getting worried about how to explain, and how to handle all of this. We don't want to lie to her but she's so little, I really can't work out how to help her understand that Grandma isn't coming back.

Oh, I am just so, so sorry.

But you're not alone in this. And though it is excruciating trying to explain a beloved person's death to someone who won't quite grasp the concept, and who will continue to show that lack of comprehension in heartbreaking ways, it is something that many people have unfortunately had to do. I know there are lots of books and stories on the subject and I am hopeful that some chatters will chime in here, because some of mine may be on the older side.

It's true that she's so little and it's an abstract concept. But in some ways, that may open the door to a simplicity and concreteness that may defy your expectations in terms of her ability to "get" it. It really depends on the child. But I would not do any more pretending, as much as I can understand your desire to do so in the moment.

I really see this as an opportunity to give your daughter a gift, even if it comes in a terrible, horrible, cosmically ugly package of the death of someone she loves. The gift is not just the knowledge that death is part of life and grief is part of love, but also that feelings can be shared and faced and talked about, and that there is strength in going through life’s hard times together, and that you and your husband have her back and will always be there to help her make sense of the sole DNA’s her feelings.... and that just because someone is not on this Earth anymore doesn’t mean that love or memories die with them. We get to keep those, and in many ways the relationship itself, always. 

I know this won’t be easy, and your heart will be ripped from your chest when you think she gets it and then she asked something on a random Tuesday morning that blindsides you with the fact that she doesn’t. But if you can make the commitment to really engage, to really be with her in this, tears and all, I think that’s a beautiful thing. 

Just an update--the open house/information session for the special high school program got rescheduled to tonight because of bad weather on the original date. We'll go and find out as much as we can and then sit down to go through the pros and cons. I really appreciate all the good suggestions and messages of support-- they have helped me think about this in a different way, and let go of some of my own anxiety.

I am so glad!

Good luck at the open house tonight. Here's to thorough, collaborative communication and a decision that feels fully informed and works best for everyone!

The letter indicates that the sister didn't choose the LW as her bridesmaid, so why the pressure on the other bride? Is this part of a pattern of favoritism? In any case, the LW should stand her ground and make her own choice.

I was struck by this as well. Why is it only a federal case for THIS sister's wedding?

Thanks.

But doesn't your self esteem count for anything? Why can't he see that when he is "trying build up their self esteem" that yours takes a hit in the process? Further, how far does this flirty behavior go when you aren't around to witness it?

Great questions, all of them!

Maybe involve the kid in an activity so that his attention is too absorbed to ask questions. Also at that age it helps if you set your expectation to “I am watching the kid” with no goals of getting anything else done.

Perhaps there are activities out there like that! I fear I never managed to find them. And I do think it can be helpful to devote certain times where you just dig in and answer the questions-- maybe you can even tell the kid that "Right now I'm trying to get dinner finished, but once we are sitting and eating I am happy to hear more of your questions."

Thanks.

I was too late to join in the chat last week, but wanted to mention there are lots of potential counselors who fit that description. I know a female minister who's married to a woman (not the first marriage for either of them) and they share a blended family of kids from their previous marriages. She's a married Christian with kids! (Being a liberal Democrat with a low tolerance for dudes' BS, and a fantastic clergyperson, is a bonus.) <evil grin>

Thank you! Yeah, it would be pretty awesome if they ended up with someone like that. Not sure with his likely parameters that I see it happening, though we can hope! OP?

Hi Dr. Bonior! So happy that you have joined the chat world! My birthday is this month and as I take stock of my life, I have no complaints except for my job. I am compensated well, but the job no longer fulfills me. After 10 years in my position, I feel like I am suffering from compassion fatigue and the other parts of my jobs consist of tedious administrative tasks and paperwork. Until I can find something else, any suggestions for getting over the fatigue and ennui I feel so that I can continue to be a good listening ear and support for my clients?

Happy Birthday Month! Thanks for the kind words.

It sounds like you are in a helping profession-- and I do think you need to give some thought as to whether or not you actually need a serious shift or whether you are suffering from (more transient) burnout? In some ways, the answer is the same either way-- you need more self-care as of yesterday.

I suspect Mom is obsessed by appearances, and it's the fact that it's COUSIN-not-sister, which wasn't the case in the other daughter's choice of best friend-not-sister. She thinks people will "talk". Regardless, none of Mom's beeswax.

Yup, I think you could be right.

It's interesting, though-- in some ways, isn't it less of an overt supposed "slight" to Sis to choose another family member rather than "just a friend"? (I say that last part with a wink, as friends can be every bit as emotionally intimate as family.... it's just that usually the Judgy McJudgersons concerned about appearances don't tend to think so.)

If this were remotely true he'd be doing it for everybody. Ask him why he never talks about how hot random guys are.

Okay, this is great! I am holed up in a Georgetown classroom today-- class schedule abnormality-- and now there are people down the hall wondering where that howling laughter is coming from!

"help her make sense of the sole DNA’s her feelings" - was an autocorrect crime committed here?

Ahh.... and I suspect a bleary-eyed-reading mistake as well, since I didn't catch it! Now, for me to try to figure out what that meant to say-- I find that notoriously fascinating as a puzzle-- or for me to tackle other questions!!

If I disappear for the rest of the hour you'll know why.

Or maybe someone else will help me out.

I recently got an unexpected email from an ex of mine who blocked me on social media years ago. I was trying to reconnect at the time but since he was newly engaged at the time, was having none of it.Fast forward to this week & I get an email from him wishing me well. My ex is in a new relationship & works at a great company. I'm wondering what his reason was to reach out to me & if I should reply back. Thanks!

Wow. So his engagement went kaput, he's in a new relationship, and now trying to do a little look-see at what an additional ex is doing?

Hmm.

This could be totally innocuous-- perhaps he even feels bad about blocking you before (and perhaps his ex-fiance was a controlling person and he is trying to call his own shots now) or it could be manipulative or shady or who knows what. No way for you to know, but here's what matters more: do you want to be in touch with him? And would you want him to have certain motives? The more of a vested interest you have here, the more likely you are to get hurt.

My husband learned when he was in his 30s that the father who raised him was not his biological father. He's now in his 50s. He has relationships with both fathers, although the father who raised him refuses to acknowledge the relationship he now has with his biological father. I.e., he cannot talk to him about it. While I understand that this may have been how situations like this were handled in that time, I think all of us who have to interact with my husband bear some of the emotional damage he carries of having his parents not be honest with him all those years...and even now his having to cover up his relationship with his biological family. I've found that when we have to interact with his family, my husband gets very anxious before the visits. What strategies would you suggest for me on how to respond to my husband when he has to interact with his family? Given that I cannot change all the history that happened and I don't expect the mother and father-in-law to change either. They do live far from us and we don't have to interact with them but every now and then.

This is tough.

Most of your husband's work is going to need to be around letting go and accepting the limitations of what his family can offer. Learning that this is just who they are, and while it is not in his power to change them, it is in his power to adjust his expectations accordingly, and reset the parameters of what he wants to get out of the visits. In some ways, it's not dissimilar to learning how to still maintain a relationship with someone who has disappointed you in some fundamental way, or who has political beliefs you find abhorrent. You take what you can, you learn to accept and be grateful for the smaller moments, and you learn to grieve having a deeper kind of connection that may still itch in your brain as the holy grail.

In his case, I'm also thinking that the more he can identify the specific anxious thoughts he has before these visits, and the more he can learn how he physiologically reacts to them, the better he can target them, whether by talking himself out of the anxious thoughts, or just labeling them and letting them pass, and (with your help) engaging in some breathing exercises or other mindfulness techniques to get him feeling more in control of the situation.

Chatters?

I was confused at first but read this as "the source of her feelings" RE: "help her make sense of the sole DNA’s her feelings" - was an autocorrect crime committed here?

ahhh... "source" is a good contender. Thanks.

To me, the questions are only: Does it bother you? If so, will he stop? If not, do you still think he’s the right person for you? Doesn’t matter why he does it.

This is beautifully succinct, and spot-on. Thank you.

I did not choose my sisters as my MOH and did not have bridesmaids. I can't even remember what my next sister did and the third of us did not have either of her sisters as MOH or bridesmaids. Yay all of us. Never occurred to us it should be any different. MOB needs to MYOB.

So true.

That addition of the Y in the last sentence just sums it all up!

Thanks.

We got a lot of mileage out of answering "why" to questions that had no answer, by saying "What an interesting question-- why do you think that is?" and being completely entertained by the answers.

Heck, I get occasional mileage out of that as a therapist as well!

Thanks.

My husband and I have a very good friend - not just generous but also very funny and kind. BUT. I will never forget the first time I saw this friend interact with his/her 6 year child - which is when I asked my husband, "How did we never notice how closely Friend resembles someone with ASD?" Fortunately Friend's spouse understands what is going on and their family unit is able to function. I think a lot of people (or their spouses) become aware of this aspect of themselves for the first time when faced with children.

Wow. It makes a lot of sense, it really does. I don't think I'd ever really thought of it that way before.... the presence of children definitely can illuminate so many things, that's for sure!

Three years ago, my boyfriend was offered a great job in SF and we moved from LA for it. I had been in LA for 15 years and was enjoying a successful freelance career that took forever to get off the ground. I had always had the bay area in the back of my mind as a backup, but never went through with it when I was single due to the prohibitive housing costs. Now here we are, three years later. I've managed to get my freelancing career going somewhat, but I still don't make nearly what I used to, and many many weeks I find myself without work. My boyfriend and I have created a wonderful life up here and despite some hiccups, I'm happy with him/us and what we have but I'm starting to stagnate professionally and am getting somewhat depressed. My conundrum is now- do I explore other job options and stay in the bay, or do I return to LA where I think I could do fulfilling freelance work like I did before I left? I don't want to leave the bf and our lovely life, but I also don't want to stay and compromise everything just to be with him.

I really think you need to talk to him.

I know, I know, it seems like an advice columnist's copout, but it's a huge gaping hole in your letter-- what he thinks about your stagnation, what he thinks about the fact that you moved for him, what he thinks about LA versus the Bay area, et cetera, et cetera.

If you are a couple who is in it for the long haul, then your stagnation is not your problem to figure out on your own. It is part of your joint problem as a couple sharing a life together. And so any potential solutions could benefit from joint brainstorming, empathizing, and communicating.

If it feels totally wrong to let him in on how you are feeling, I'm thinking that's a problem in and of itself, no?

Why would it be problematic to want a marriage counselor that shares your religious beliefs? I wouldn't be comfortable (and therefore would likely be wasting significant money and time) with a counselor that doesn't see a couple's prayer life as worthwhile, that sees divorce as an easy option, that considers an open marriage to be a permissible solution, or that would suggest other actions inconsistent with the faith my wife & I share. If you don't ask up front, how do you know whether your counselor fits that criteria?

I hear you. But I think the problem comes from the (totally warranted) fear that he will have very specific parameters about the counselor to the point where he will reject any meaningful help that will actually entail looking at the fact that he is being controlling-- and therefore prevent his partner from getting help, or getting a voice.

In this situation, I believe the couple isn't even married yet, no? So let's not conflate this with the objection of going to some 'heathen' counselor that is supposedly just going to say "Oh, just go get a divorce and then get your nails done!" This is a serious situation that is possibly an abusive relationship, and we need all mental health hands on deck-- not an undue limitation on the type of counseling help that they will even be able to get. 

I've found that responding with "Why do you think?" is a pretty good way to stop a deluge of "Why?" from kids. It keeps our interactions more interesting to me and gets them using those critical thinking skills as well!

Yes!

Though tone is everything, of course. I know I've let loose some "Why do you THINK?"s that aren't exactly the height of loving compassion.

I don't have any sisters (and neither does my husband); but, I've had friends who have had a best friend as their maid of honor and their (married) sister as their matron of honor. That might be a compromise, if you want to compromise.

Ah, yes, I've seen that too. Appreciate the solution-- though it sounds like MWNTM (my new meta-acronym for MOB —Mother of Bride —Who Needs to MYOB) is the only person who even sees the need for compromise.

Oooh, I'm not sure we're supposed to go quite THAT far behind the curtain <smile>.

hahah!

I meant that mainly as a joke, but the truth is-- in therapy sometimes it makes a lot of actual sense to find out what is behind the question.

(And, let's be honest, if someone were to ask something too personal for me to answer, I do need a bit of a polite deflection.)

Which means that he’s mainly flirting with the great, mostly invisible mass of humanity that is women over 50, right, and not comely 26-year-olds?

Most excellent point!

I am sure he extends his benevolence only to those who are not at ALL typically attractive. You know, to even things out.

What about asking yourself, "If I won the lottery, where would I want to live? And would that include BF at all?" Might be a way to discern just how important your career--and for that matter your BF--are to you….

I love a good lottery hypothetical!

Thank you.

Is there any space for 3rd party intervention here? You don't say what conversations have already been had. Is a way your husband can say (truthfully) "You're my Dad, but I'm also going to have a relationship with this person who share my DNA." (no typo :) ). Or for you to say, "You know, John loves you with all his heart and knows that you're the man who raised him. But he also needs to have his bio-dad in the picture." Is it possible to shift the topic from something you don't talk about because it's a non-issue, rather than something you don't talk about because you fear an outburst or hurt feelings?

Great points. (I am an inserting a "to" instead of "from" in your last line, in my head at least-- we want to END UP with it being a nonissue, right?)

I have a feeling that it becoming a non-issue may be a non-starter-- seems like a closed door there--  but maybe OP can fill us in for sure?

Yay indeed. I'm the oldest of five sisters and I was the first to get married. My best friend was my MoH. Next best friend was bridesmaid, as was fiance's only sister, and I picked one of my sisters to represent all of them. My sisters all did pretty much the same -- picked one to represent all, then included other friends. And, yes, no one NEEDS to have bridesmaids, ushers, etc. All you NEED is a witness.

Yay all of you indeed!

My goodness, with five sisters it certainly seems good that you set that precedent early on! The dress purchases alone.....

Hi Andrea, I get sick now and again, and I've had a few medical issues that have required procedures, etc. Nothing too serious, luckily. I love my husband dearly, but I cannot remember even once in the past 6-7 years when I had some illness or needed a procedure when he didn't also feel ill and needed me to take care of him while dealing with my own issue. What is going on here? For example, I've been prepping for two procedures for a few days and hubby was just fine. Then yesterday I went to have the procedures, and needed to be anesthetized for them. He woke up that morning feeling blah, but managed to get me there and back, after I took care of the kids and pets. We get home and I'm sore, exhausted and just wanted to rest. He promptly fell asleep at 3pm, leaving me to deal with kids and pets and dinner, only waking up an hour after dinner and dog walk were done. It's now the next day and he's just fine. I'm still sore, but functioning. It is ALWAYS like this. Normally he's a good helper before and after work; it just feels like whenever I'm sick, he has to retreat to his fainting couch. It's not that I even want him to take care of me. But geez, sometimes it'd be nice to not have to think about anything but my own recovery for 1 day. Any advice?

This has got to be pretty frustrating!

So does he seem overly sensitized to the idea of being sick at other times? Or is it only when you are sick?

My guess is that he veers this way in general (prone toward Illness Anxiety), and then when he gets triggered by seeing a concern about you, it sends him off to the races. But the fact that he DOESN'T veer this way in other settings-- watching movies or news stories about illness, other acquaintance's illness-- either means there's a specific dynamic between the two of you (on the pessimistic side) or-- on the optimistic side-- that his illness anxiety in general is pretty mild and should be surmountable.

So, I'd start by getting specific. Don't ambush him, but say that you have noticed XYZ and it makes it hard for you in ABC way. Illustrate the exact example of how his "feeling blah" was kind of murky and left you a bit without support. Then point to the fact that the pattern has happened before. Try not to make it seem like he's faking or shirking, but rather that you think he may have a hard time dealing with the stress of your having medical issues going on, so you want to both try to figure out how to help him motor through a bit better so that you can feel more like a team.

Anyone else lived this? I've definitely heard of it before!

I wrote about the 13-year-old boy with a sick friend. Turns out we had something we "needed" to deliver to the family anyway, and that was enough to get the ball rolling. The kids still haven't spent time with each other, but everyone is communicating more and checking in, and hopefully the sick friend (who now has a maybe-diagnosis) will soon feel well enough to do some shared gaming or short visits. I so appreciated the wisdom of the herd-- I printed it all out (can you tell I'm an older parent?) to remind myself that 13 year olds are (1) not adults and (2) different than I was at 13.

Yay!

Bravo. So glad to hear of the maybe diagnosis.

There is nothing better than hearing that the ball is rolling in this situation.

Except perhaps the wisdom of the herd that got it there.

Thanks so much for updating us!

...but isn't a good therapist someone that sees religion as important TO YOU, and responds accordingly? If an open marriage isn't right for you, then why is it on the counselor to be against it?

You know, this is truly a cosmic irony, as I just attended a seminar about faith and spirituality in psychotherapy, and how the field in general is good about getting educated about most kinds of diversity out there, but not so much about different faiths and beliefs. And-- ahem-- we don't tend to be the most believing bunch ourselves, as it were.

I do think it is very important to a lot of people to have a therapist who really gets their worldview, just as it would be important to be understood from any number of other perspectives-- culturally, with sexuality, with age or past history or whatever. I don't think a therapist has to totally share those views, but you are right-- a good therapist can and should do their best to try to get into the mindset and understand it enough to help bring about an outcome about what is best for the client, no matter what.

Dying to know, in this digital age, why it matters where you're located. I'm a freelancer, and I could do what I do where I live or in Outer Mongolia, as long as I have internet. Trying to figure out what kind of freelancing is locale based.

Good point.... but I imagine it could be something like massage? (And no, not that type of massage.)

OP?

A friend posted this article about "The New Midlife Crisis for Women" and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it... So many of the quotes sounded just like stuff I say with my friends!

So I read this soon after it first came out, but definitely need to reread. I want to put it out here before I am necessarily able to do so, though, so that people can also have time to catch up and respond.

I think there are so many fundamental factors that are increasing the sense of stress in that demographic. And speaking about one specific subset of that demographic—mothers, and perhaps working mothers in particular—I think some of the stressors are definitely unique to this era. The data show that somehow working mothers spend more time with their children (and thus this becomes the expected norm) than stay-at-home mothers did a couple of generations ago. Imagine that! You are expected to work as if you don’t have children, and parent as if you don’t have a job. And being a stay-at-home parent has its own brand of stress and loneliness and ennui as well.

And I think so much of it is the cultural piece about the standards we hold women to in terms of the mental load. Like those little plaques “Don’t mind the mess—my children are busy making memories” (or my personal favorite “Don’t mind the mess—my children are busy making memories of me yelling at them about the mess”)—well, within that little wink-wink-nod-nod is a tacit acceptance of the fact that it is the MOM that is apologizing for the mess, or needs to. You don’t tend to see these little memes in fonts that are masculine (or said by Dads, for that matter.) And if there aren’t kids, you don’t have to look too hard to see the same dynamic still play out in male-female couples in general. As long as there is a cultural expectation that the mental load of keeping a house a home should fall on to the woman, for better or for worse, all while also setting the standards that she should be going out and kicking butt and taking names in all other aspects of life, as well…. Well, that’s a recipe for mental health disaster.

I also recall a point in there about when self-care becomes just another assignment, another thing you’re not doing enough of. We’ve talked about that some in this chat as well. Taking care of yourself can be yet another demand. (Oh, you’re not doing it right!)

So… a lot of thoughts here! I’m sure we’ll hear some others. The one final thing that sticks out to me (as if I haven’t been longwinded enough) is that we are more socially isolated than we were before. Social media may very well not only increase the demands of being perceived as “perfect,” but also—along with the self-perpetuating cycle of always being “busy”-- take away time when we could actually be laughing, hugging, and crying together, feeling part of something that wasn’t our battle alone (and perhaps sharing some good chocolate while doing so.)

Thoughts?  

 

Hello, I've been watching the relationshop with my friend very closely recently and it has led me to think that maybe something's wrong. We have been best friends for years, starting from elementary school all the up to highschool where everything started to change, he wasn't sharing secrets with me anymore and would rather share them behind my back with other friends that suddenly became better than me for no reason, I would see a change in behavior whenever I'm around him, he would get a lot more enclosed in himself and would pretend that business as usual. He would keep me away from knowing updates about his life even though we have always been sharing things that were happening to us in our day-to-day lives. It became harder to communicate with each other and I just don't feel that chemistry we had anymore...; the most annoying part of it is the fact that he's letting romantic relationships more important than our friendship, I'm not saying that he should spend all day with me, but not saying a word for 3 days straight whilst sitting only a few feet away from me in class? Is this a completely dead friendship or is there still something I can do in order to change the order of things from how they currently stand?

Umm... I can't say that I agree that his putting romantic relationships first is the most annoying thing here.

The other stuff before that.... well, he's letting the friendship die himself, already.

You could try to talk to him about this, to outlay your hurt about what you've described here, and hear how he reacts.

But he seems to be choosing for things to be this way.

I am sorry.

I am in the process of getting tested but all 3 of my siblings have stage 3 kidney disease. I am imagining the worst and can't get a grip on rational thinking. Neither of my parents have had any issues with kidneys.

I am sorry. I know this is really stressful on a number of levels-- not just worrying about your siblings, but worrying about the implications for yourself.

To try to start your grip on rational thinking, try to label that anxious voice. Give it a name. Describe it. Draw it. Talk to it. Identify it as something that is not part of you, and not an arbiter of what is true or what is not. Then identify the ways that it affects you physically. When you feel the thoughts start to cycle, you then acknowledge them, visualize them, and watch them pass. All while targeting the specific areas of your body that are most affected (slowing down your breathing, relaxing your muscles, rolling your head from side to side, etc.)

And it could be really helpful to try to rely on someone outside of your family to help talk it over with.

How soon is the test?

I'm inspired by all the cat-related discussion to write in about something that may be silly but is really bothering me... My fiance and I recently broke up. He moved out with the dog; I kept the cat, who we got as a kitten two years ago. My cat's environment has suddenly changed from constant companionship (the dog, plus my ex had flexible hours) to being home alone while I'm at work. He's suddenly become much more social and even clingy -- he follows me around when I get home from work, meows frequently for attention, and generally seems bored and lonely. I play with him as much as possible, but I can't change the reality that I work long hours. I'd like to get out of the house more in the evenings and on weekend (post-breakup socialization!) but I feel guilty leaving my cat alone more than necessary. I end up thinking, "I could go do this thing and it would be really fun, but my cat would be sad and lonely." I don't want to give him away -- he's family. I don't want to get a second cat because I'm active duty military and have a complicated move and deployment planned for next year, during which my cat is going to go live with my mother. Honestly, this situation is why I didn't get a cat years ago, but when I got engaged I thought I'd reached the life stage where I could properly take care of a pet. That didn't work out. Does anyone have ideas for how I can make life better for my cat and/or feel less guilty about leaving him home alone?

I am sorry about the breakup!

I am thinking that your cat is still adjusting, and that it will take time. And that in turn, as your cat adjusts, that will help you feel less guilty as well. (And then you can do some reality-checks for yourself, cognitively, about how you rationally do NOT have anything to feel guilty about, and figure out small ways to "make it up" to your cat when you are home.)

But I'm a little out of my element here for the actual cat relation part. Any cat whisperers out there? We seem to have had a fair amount in the past!

"kicking butt and taking names" - another autocorrect crime?

Hmm. No, if anything that was an Andrea brain crime. Though it still looks good to me (albeit a censored version of the real thing.)

Perhaps this phrase is not as common as I thought.

I'm 70 and two years into retirement. I hate it. I'm bored and depressed. My husband loves his life, prefers to seldom leave home, and has a hobby that takes up a lot of his time At my age the chances of getting any kind of job are beyond remote and even volunteer opportunities shunt people my age into certain categories. We live where there's little to do, not much culture, hard to make friends, but my husband loves it here and would not leave. What am I going to do with the rest of my life.

"My husband loves it here and will not leave."

Hmm. Even if it is absolutely the wrong fit for his wife?

It sounds like this is objectively just not the right place for you to spend your retirement. It seems pretty unequivocal ("hate" is a pretty strong word, and you are depressed.)

What I would hope you are "going to do" with the rest of your life is give yourself permission for your feelings to be just as important as your husband's, and to express them and see-- even if it tests your marriage-- whether he views himself as part of the team that helps find a solution, or the person who is going to keep you mired in the problem.

There is hope here for sure. Please don't sell your own contentedness short as being important!

We made our dresses. This was a long time ago, obviously!

Woohoo!

Hey, even here in 2019 I am a proud sewer. Which looks like yet another autocorrect error (no, I don't have rainwater flowing down me, at least not always) until you realize I am talking about sewing. (Sewist?)

A lot of free-lance jobs require actual physical presence with the client. Don't confuse the two terms.

Right. I think they were just sort of assuming it was the type of white-collar job that could be done by computer.

While I hope the OP does not have kidney disease…might it actually be productive to imagine it (in advance of the test results)? To reflect on, "This is what I want to do with any remaining time I have left?" 'Cause you can still do these things even if the results say you're healthy!

I do think that could be a possibility, depending on how long they have to wait until the test. More than a couple of days, for sure. Thanks.

Seamstress. Masculine form, sempster.

Oh my goodness-- is sempster really a thing?

My crossword puzzle mojo just improved!

The open marriage question and the Christian counselor reqiurement were posted by two different people.

That is true.

I wonder if this person was conflating the questions. Thanks.

Don't forget that your cat spends most of the day sleeping. That being said, there are cat toys with lasers & motors that can be programmed to come on at random hours.

Ooh-- good info here. Thanks!

Hire someone to come in and play with your cat for 45 minutes each day while you are at work.

Potentially a pretty big commitment (and expense).... but maybe it's in the cards as a temporary thing to help OP feel better?

Can your cat transition to your mothers now? Can you get puzzle feeders and cat games? Check out OSU’s “Indoor Pet Initiative”

Thank you!

Is there anyway you could give him to your mother now, to see if he behaves any differently with her? And if so, would she be open to having him live with her until you get back from your deployment? Also, it might be worth having him checked out with the vet to rule out anything else that might be bothering him.

Thanks!

Wouldn't it be possible to commute to LA for a few days a week to pick up some work? Or use your LA base to network more freelancing in SF? It seems that anything is possible, but not knowing exactly what your area of work might be, it makes it kind of hard to completely understand the issue.

Good point.

Lots of folks do some hybrid types of commuting/relocating these days.

One usually sees "tailor" now for men, but the two actually describe different aspects of making clothing.

They do, don't they!

Once upon a time, about all that the MOH had to do was be the bridesmaid who stood nearest the bride and held the bride's bouquet during the ceremony. It's all that other stuff that's been added that makes it such a turn-off.

You mean there was a period of time where the MOH didn't have to coordinate a nine-page Excel spreadsheet about bachelorette weekend responsibilities?

Don't know how your relationship with your ex-fiance is but maybe it's worth it to do shared custody, like you would with kids?

I do wonder if this is a possibility!

Visitation with the pup, at the very least (for OP and for her cat), seems like a nice idea.

(In response to the Feb. 5 chat.)

Maybe I need to try to find a therapist - like you suggested -"need the kind of help that directly targets this in a quantifiable, accountable way-- not the "Tell me about your mother" variety." Because even though I did not have perfect mother, she did her best, I have found therapist ask about my mother too much. Do the chatters have suggestions for books that have been helpful? As we all know finding a good therapist is so hard. Thank you for the encouraging answer!

Thanks for this update, though I am sorry the therapist may not be the best fit. Have you mentioned to them that you need something more behavioral and concrete in terms of tools?

I will toss the book suggestion out to chatters although I apologize that at the late hour we may need to regroup about that next week.

Hang in there!

Why didn't you wake him up and tell him the kids and pets and dinner needed to be dealt with?

Now that would be a very in-the-moment way of dealing with this!

if sister has multiple sisters (as it seems to be?) wouldn't a cousin be a good idea because then you aren't 'choosing' between sisters? MOM NEEDS TO STAY OUT OF IT. I have two sisters, husband has two sisters, I just chose four of them, then husband wanted none of it. So we had four bridesmaids. Nothing else.

Yes, I am really curious why Mom is so bent out of shape about this.

Thanks!

Cats rely heavily on smell for comfort and famliarity, so if you're in a new home, try taking items that smell like you and/or the cat and rubbing down baseboards and new furniture so that things smell more like home. Also if you have a large window/sliding door, put out a bird feeder of some sort, that entertains mine for hours.

Many thanks! I knew you all would come through for me.

It's that time again, unfortunately. Thank you so much for being here! Truly a highlight of my week.

I'll look forward to seeing you next week, and in the comments and on Facebook in the meantime. In the meantime, stay warm, and be well!

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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