Baggage Check Live: That's no apology ... it's a nopology!

Aug 13, 2019

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior will be 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.

She’ll discuss her recent columns and answer any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more.

Waiting for the chat to go live? Read Baggage Check columns.

Follow Dr. Andrea on Facebook here.

Good afternoon, everyone! It's so good to see you here.

What is on your mind this week?

In today's column, we've got a LW whose husband keeps putting off moving, even though he claims he's on board. And in L2, LW's longtime buddy is newly single after a divorce. Is pursuing a romance worth the risk?

Let's begin!

I think Andrea’s on the money about your husband not really wanting to move. It sounds like he keeps coming up with new excuses not to. Could you talk to him and ask why he won’t move? Perhaps he’s overwhelmed at the thought of selling and buying (with reason, it’s so stressful!), maybe he can’t be bothered, maybe he’s actually happy where you are and likes long commutes. You won’t know until you dig a bit deeper.

Bingo! Thanks.

Hi! Long-time lurker here ... My boyfriend of two years just told me he cheated on me. With an old acquaintance he’d never even been interested in, after a “Oh you’re in town let’s catch up” happy hour. We’ve been (slowly) moving towards an engagement for the past couple months ... obviously that’s not going to happen anytime soon now. Is it stupid to try to make it work? Does that ever happen? Part of me feels like he seems completely repentant and honest and torn up over it. But part of me wonders if that’s the kind of boundary that can never be rebuilt. Is “once a cheater, always a cheater” an eternal truth? If not, where do you even start to build a new relationship with someone who’s done that?

This is tough, there's no doubt about it.

I don't believe in sweeping generalities about people — "Once a cheater, always a cheater" is pretty pessimistic about an individual's ability to change. And thank goodness for those abilities to change, or no person with addiction would ever get sober, no person released from prison would ever be able to turn things around, and no Andrea would ever learn to finally keep her junk drawer's contents from avalanching out onto the floor every time it is opened. (We've got progress!)

Not to mention, what would ever be the use of therapy?

The thing is, though ... there are certain factors that need to exist for change to happen — and additional factors for it to stick. And therein lies the big question mark with your boyfriend. He's got to understand why it happened, be truly affected by it, be motivated to work on it (not just making sure it doesn't happen again, but repairing the damage he did) and truly address the reasons it happened in the first place. That is hard for many people, and that — combined with the fact that once you cross a psychological threshold like infidelity, it's a wee bit mentally easier to justify it again, since the line has already been crossed — is why, I'm betting, some portion of cheaters do fall into the "always" category. When inertia sets in, the pattern sticks.

So, is he willing to take a hard look at what happened? It goes beyond being repentant and honest. WHAT. HAPPENED? Is alcohol a factor? Sexually compulsive behavior? A fear of settling down? Incompatibility in your sex drives? Wanting to act out to sabotage himself? Or you? Or the relationship? A lack of emotional intimacy? Ingrained behavior from what he witnessed growing up? I could go on and on.

But could he?

That's how you start to build a relationship — and you both do the work to understand, make adjustments, and heal.

Is he willing?

The company my husband works for is going through a rough transition. I know my husband needs to offload his stress, but I'm not exaggerating when I say he would talk about work for 4-5 hours a night if I let him. I don't have the bandwidth for this level of processing, and I've told him that. He'll apologize, and then start talking about work again within five minutes. Literally, the only way he stops is if I physically leave the room or get angry at him — and both options make me feel terrible, when he's obviously so overwhelmed and in need of help. I've suggested he seek out a therapist to use as a trained sounding-board, but he won't. If this were a casual acquaintance, I'd be ducking phone calls, but it's my husband and I live with him. How can I be there for him while setting boundaries for my own mental health?

I am glad you wrote in, because this is one of those things that can eat away at a marriage over time. It's just not sustainable for you to use the "get angry and/or flee" technique as the only way to set limits that he will actually adhere to.

First, I've got to say it — his refusal to seek therapy is human and understandable (though you didn't give reasons), but let's not pretend that it doesn't affect you negatively. He is choosing to burden you instead of overcome whatever barrier he needs to seek out his own help — and he needs to own that choice. Therapy here is not just an idle idea in this situation, but a lifeline — he is in so desperate need of some additional support, and is asking you to give it beyond your capabilities and comfort level.

Not great.

It's time to get real.

"I love you and I know how rough this is for you. But you are putting me in an impossible position, and it is hurting our marriage. I'm not sure you realize it. I want to help you as best I can, but past a certain point I can't handle it mentally or emotionally. Offloading your stress is one thing, but it's excessive to the point where I worry about you. If you were bleeding and I couldn't stop it, you wouldn't expect me to be the one who gave you stitches. You need extra support. And not getting it is certainly your choice, but it's also my choice to protect myself and take care of my own stress level as well — if I don't do that, we both are harmed."

Brainstorm with him additional coping mechanisms that can help. Social time (with or without you), activities, creative endeavors, hobbies, exercise. Perhaps you could create a tangible space for work talk and a space where it's verboten — like you guys take a half-hour walk together each night where he gets to process, but after that, work talk doesn't come into the house. Or work talk doesn't happen at dinner or past X time of night, etc.

Please keep us posted.

Chatters, anyone been there?

A few months ago, I suggested posting links to resources and FAQs in every chat. Andrea thought it was a good idea, and another chatter had the sensible suggestion to create a separate resource page which could appear as a single link on every chat and column. I know you've been busy with the Detox book — and it's summer after all — so not so much a nudge as a request for a status update. Thanks for considering the idea!

Yes, yes, yes.

Ball totally dropped by me. Mental ball still hung on to —  this has in fact been gnawing at me, but you are absolutely right in that it got shifted to the bottom of the priority list when things got hairy (though it still is leading above "Google around to see how to pronounce "Ralph Fiennes" once and for all," I promise.)

My sincerest apologies.

Clearly, I need a deadline. September 10th?

Thanks for the nudge.

[In response to the July 30 chat] Sorry to just be sending this in now. I have been catching up on your chats! One option too is hearing loss. I'm hearing impaired and am very guilty of interrupting, only because I think a break in the conversation is the end to the conversation because I haven't heard what went on beforehand. So when I "interrupt" it's actually me just thinking the previous conversation has ended.

I know it's a couple of weeks old by now, but this is definitely an added angle to the Chronic Interrupter that is worth considering. Thanks for bringing it up.

[In response to the August 5 column] Please don't go off your meds on your own. I tried doing this (after being on them a much shorter time than you). I ended up coming to work one day & sobbing in my boss' office, trying to resign because "everybody hates me." Thankfully she sent me to my psychiatrist instead of letting me quit. The doctor was able to help me lower the dose in increments that worked for me & I'm now off all meds for almost 2 years.

Thanks. I am sorry for your experience, but so glad that your boss handled it with empathy and insight.

It's definitely best to have supervision and support in the weaning process!

I have mild depression and anxiety, controlled well by meds. Have been in therapy, which was helpful. My situation is that as the weekend approaches, I feel the cloud descending. My weekends are relaxing and filled with stuff I enjoy and that fulfills me. Ditto for my workday work. I know to avoid triggers, but how can I avoid an entire day of the week? And why does the approaching weekend trigger the cloud, anyway?

This is really interesting, and though I've seen it a bit, it's not typical. Is it the weekend itself? Or the fact that the weekend will be ending? (Some people who have particular work anxiety, for instance, start dreading the weekend because they know that Sunday their work anxiety will crop up. So they're not actually dreading the weekend, but rather the return to work that will eventually RUIN their weekend.) I know that you aren't saying that you don't enjoy work either, but I'm just putting that out there.

Is there loneliness? A sense that you should be more "productive?" A sense of comparing yourself to others who are having more fun? A discomfort with the lack of structure relative to the workday? A change in sleep or exercise patterns?

I think learning more about the "why" will also help you do something about it. Can you start charting your specific thoughts as the cloud sets in? Can you identify some of the underlying beliefs that accompany it? This might take some digging.

It's been eight years since my mom died, and five years since my dad died. (Mom was sick, and Dad had a sudden accident.) They both died in the summer, and I still get so down. It doesn't help that I often feel overwhelmed taking care of family (kids, husband, and various other family members that I'm not responsible for, but that I worry about a lot). Part of it is I feel like I'm the person a lot of them come to to vent or relieve stress, but I don't have anyone to talk me off the ledge when I get down. On the one hand, I love this! It makes me feel confident to know that I can manage my emotions and life, and occasionally help other people manage theirs. I like feeling needed. Nothing makes me feel better than when my kids/husband/friends/family confide in me when they're down. But I also sometimes feel really lonely. I think therapy would help, but I'm in a small town and pretty much know all the therapists, so it gets weird. So 1. Are there any phone/face time therapists you would recommend? 2. Any tips on getting past my grief? I don't cry every day or anything, it's not keeping me from accomplishing things, but sometimes I cry at night in my bed and I just feel so very lonely. My parents were the only people who put me first (not always, just when I asked/needed them) and I want just a little of that, sometimes. I want what my parents gave me and what I try to give to people around me.

I am so sorry. I know that you probably realize that we never really 'get over' the death of people close to us — especially our parents — but ideally we learn to incorporate the loss into us in different ways, and grow around it. And in this case, some of the reason why your hurt is still so palpable is that you yourself still feel so lonely and even un-cared for ... so it makes the idea of the ever-nurturing, constant, prioritizing-you parent so missed. So your grief will continue to be gaping in those particular ways, as it highlights more and more what you don't actually feel you have now.

And on top of that, you sound like someone who already doesn't get enough of that from others, because you are doing your own preemptive strike with caring for others first before letting yourself be cared for. It's like a game of chicken of being someone else's emotional rock before they can be yours!

It's unclear how much people in your life are willing to give, how much you are asking for what you need, and how much they are even aware of what you need. (I'm struck by the fact that your husband is on the list of people you care for/worry about, but no mention of where he is on the other side of the equation, in caring for you.)

Are you willing to embrace the discomfort and vulnerability that comes with breaking out of this pattern, and asking for what you need (and giving others the chance to give it — or not?) It will take work and risk. But it's the only chance you have of truly letting someone in to care for you in the way that you deserve, and healing from your hurt.

I would recommend going on Psychology Today's therapist finder or GoodTherapy and looking specifically for people who do Skype or video conferencing or telehealth. You can search by that as a key term, in addition to the issues specifically you are facing. New options for that are opening up every day.

You, too, deserve to be cared for.

Please keep us posted.

I wrote a couple of months ago that my sister is trying to reconnect after many years of estrangement. Although people superficially think she's a really nice person, she is quite adept at exploiting me, and I put my foot down. There is a long family history where she is Good and I am Bad and I just don't want to be part of it anymore. Now she's going through some kind of mid life crisis, and she is desperate to resume our relationship. She finally sent me a long apology, but the problem is, I just don't have any reason to believe she will change. She said I'm one of the most important people in her life, and honestly, I just don't believe it. So I told her that this is a longstanding pattern grounded in the view that I'm a bad person, and I just don't want to deal with it anymore. She wants my forgiveness and I've given it to her. But I don't really want anything else to do with her other than emails at the holidays. I know it's killing her, and I feel guilty, but I also just don't want to start this all over again. How do I let myself off the hook? I have 50 years under my belt of having to be responsible for everyone else's feelings, and I don't want to live like that anymore.

I can certainly understand your not wanting to deal with this anymore, which in my recollection was a big part of my answer before.

That said, there's one little thing that make me want to ask if things could be different here-- the long apology. Is that particularly part of her cycle? If it's not, might there be the small possibility that this time is different?

I certainly am not suggesting you force yourself to take another go on this merry-go-round if this has always been her MO. But I also wouldn't argue for shutting the door if there's a part of you that agrees in giving her this one more chance.

If you don't want to, though, that's totally your prerogative. And you let yourself off the hook with time and practice, by reminding yourself that we are all on our own paths, that she has chosen a path that has treated you poorly and harmed you for decades, and that protecting yourself from that is the kind thing to do-- kind to yourself (which is totally valid and matters just as much as kindness toward others), kind to the universe by not buying into an emotionally screwed-up and toxic system, and kind to your sister by not reinforcing a situation that can't possibly be helping her grow as a person.

Please do keep us posted.

My sympathy to the chatter from last week who had a miscarriage in the 7th week. I also had a miscarriage in the 7th/8th week (18 years ago). I have no advice about telling others — I had trouble with that also. And I was nervous about getting pregnant again (and in fact, wasn't able to get pregnant again — I was almost 40). I cried a lot in the early days and weeks. It helped me to tell myself that the tears would be very, very many, but not infinite. I also found it helpful to develop my own rituals: I sometimes wore black on the anniversary of the miscarriage or the estimated date of delivery. Other years I wore bright colours as a symbol of hope. And for a while I packed a shoebox for "Operation Christmas Child" (I think that's the name) for a child in the age that mine would have been.

I am so sorry for your loss. And for the fact that you weren't able to get pregnant again.

But it is so kind of you to write in and share these thoughts. I think the idea of rituals can be so helpful for so many people; it's something I've seen be healing with all kinds of loss. It gives you a tangible way of remembering the loss and keeping it with you, not being forced to be "over it." And in your case, it gave you a way to put some goodness back out into the world as well.

Thank you for writing. I have no doubt OP appreciates this as well! 

I always read these chats after the fact because I've been at work. I just wanted to send the biggest virtual hug to this OP from last week. Miscarriage is hard when you imagine it and empathize with other people; when you actually experience it you realize you never truly understood. It destroys an element of innocence you had before and leaves you with the inability to experience pregnancy without intense worry. You can't just be happy to be pregnant again because in the back of your mind you wonder if you're happy about something you will lose again. Mostly I want to say, I'm here with you OP. I had a missed miscarriage (my body didn't recognize that the baby was not growing) at the end of June. I'm struggling with hoping for another pregnancy and fearing it at the same time. Ultimately, the desire for our baby has to be greater than the fear. We can do this <3

I'm so, so sorry.

But you've done something so kind here by reaching out to OP (I hope she sees it!) Everything you said is something that I know hits home for many people in your shoes, and it's a particularly complex loss in that it often goes unsupported, and as you mentioned, can lead to specific anxieties in a future pregnancy. But the fact that it is more common than people realize also lends the ray of hope that there are so many people who have gotten through it and been able to have happy, healthy pregnancies later on. All fingers and toes crossed for you and OP on that front.

Thank you again for the compassion!

[In response to last week's chat] My miscarriage was the worst grief I have ever felt in my whole life. One of the main things that helped was when I (and other people) gave it the legitimacy of any other bereavement. I was so incredibly blessed by friends and family who sent flowers with warm sentiments. And no one, including myself, expected me to bounce right back after a few days. My husband and I also decided to have our own little memorial for the two of us. We each wrote a letter to the baby and read our letters out loud before burying them in a special place. I'm so sorry for your loss. It takes time, but it does get better.

This is so sad and beautiful at the same time. Thanks so much for it — and I'm truly sorry for what you went through.

I wish more people knew how much it could mean to be there in this way for the person who has suffered the miscarriage ... but I know it's also part of the larger cultural problem of the fact that we don't talk about them (and in fact many people maybe hadn't even told anyone they were pregnant in the first place.) Bottom line is for more people to reach out and connect when they need it.

Thanks again for this.

My parents live in one of the town's where there was recently a mass shooting. Understandably, they've been anxious going about their daily lives since then. This manifests by looking for exits and being suspicious of strangers. They've also repeatedly asked me about security at my workplace (a public building), if the guards have guns, and if we run active shooter drills. I'd like to calm their fears without confirming that they have reason to be anxious. In the past, trying to relieve their anxiety by giving in to what they ask for has just lead to more anxiety on their part. They've attended therapy in the past but the therapist wasn't able to help, partly because my parents don't realize their anxiety is a problem.

This is tricky, because in a typical person, you'll see this heightened anxiety if they were closely affected, but it will gradually dissipate on its own as they adjust. So part of it is just time, as their central nervous system gets back to its prior level, which for most of us, happens naturally if there's no new trigger.

But since your parents already have a baseline of anxiety that is significant, this is more concerning. It could become a new way of life for them (and I know some of you will write in to me that that is just a fact of life even for those of us without significant anxiety-- that we have to live this way — I hear you on that too.) But we don't want things to keep escalating and spiraling beyond their control, with each new thing bringing them to new heights of anxiety.

So to me it all boils down to how you can convince them that this is something that could use some support or some work. Can you get specific? How does the anxiety get in their way? Exactly what does it do on a day to day basis to impede their lives or diminish their functioning? Or decrease their fulfillment or happiness? Or take up their time? Does it hurt their sleep? It arguably already hurts their relationship with others (you) — but I think the best path to helping them here is to have a kind, nonjudgmental conversation about the toll their anxiety takes, that will help them see it more objectively.

That still may be an uphill battle, but it's a start.

Okay, I need to get this book. When's it coming out? (I tried to sign up for the newsletter several times, but it never went through.)

Ugh, the newsletter! I am sorry. It is supposed to still be fully operational, but being that Buzzfeed's offices are — ahem — a little worse for the wear given some layoffs, it's possible that something isn't working right. It may actually be that a fiddlehead fern is now running the newsletter department. (For what it's worth, I've sometimes heard that trying with a different browser can help.)

But the book is due out in the Spring! Potentially March I believe — but I don't have a specific pub date yet. When I do, you all will the first to know. And I'm pushing to get some pre-order incentives that are just for chatters. We'll see if I can succeed with that.

[In response to last week's chat] If appropriate, try to think of it as a good marriage that tad run its course and unfortunately ended poorly. Try to remember the good, even to cherish it. not to put rose-tinted glasses on it but to reflect what (if true) was the reality. We often flagellate ourselves with the recent bad and forget the largely good that went before it. Do this for yourself — not for your partner.

I really like this perspective, and hope it can come with time for OP. Thanks.

Does the OP's husband have access to an EAP through his company? If so, he ought to be able to get lined up with a few therapy sessions through that. And, he may be able to get help a bit faster than by getting a referral.

Great question. It could help if part of the boundary to therapy was a logistical one.

That said, I've heard plenty of people who are terrified of going to an EAP precisely because they feel like they can't talk about their workplace in there — even given the confidentiality laws.

Do you — yourself — have authority to prescribe medication? (Some D.C. non-medical shrinks do.) If you do, how do you decide what to use and whether it's working? If not, do you work with physicians to prescribe psychiatric medication? Do you ever have differences of opinion with them about what to use and how to monitor it, and how do you resolve them?

So, I can't prescribe medication, and don't have any interest in acquiring the added training credentials to do that, because I don't ever want to be responsible for, say, someone's spleen function. And in DC, psychologists still can't get prescription privileges (though I know that if they are working for certain systems like the U.S. military, they can.)

When a client comes to me already on medication, I will work in tandem with their psychiatrist (or other prescriber, but ideally it's a psychiatrist rather than a GP) if that's what the client needs and consents to. if I think that they would benefit from a medication consideration or consult, I will help them find someone to do just that.

I can't recall a difference of opinion that stands out. I think the collaborations I've had tend to go pretty well, especially because I want the client so heavily involved and proactive. If anything, the "differences" look like me helping the client advocate for themselves for a different dosage or to try a different medication or to try to gradually go off if that is what makes sense for the situation.

Hi! Love your column and chats. Some background: I was raised in a fairly restrictive, honor type culture with parents on the slightly more liberal side of it. I had a lot of family turmoil growing up and I managed by being "good" and doing what I thought I was supposed to, not really making waves. Unsurprisingly I spent some of my adult life being treated for generalized anxiety through talk therapy. Several years ago, I went through a personal crisis and I was pleasantly surprised to find my parents rallied behind me to get through it, as well as the help of a therapist. I have since gotten through that and grown and developed in many positive ways. My issues is that I have made a decision about my future that I would feel weird not telling my parents about. However I am overcome with extreme anxiety because while I feel it is a positive step for me, I feel like it isn't something they would approve of and I feel so grateful for their help in the past (a little all over the place with this). Unfortunately I have changed insurance since I was seeing my therapist last and don't know how soon I could find a new one. Do you have any advice for me? I can't figure out what parts of not wanting to tell them are just fear and doubt and which are legitimate. Thank you!

Here's the thing — your fear and doubt may also be legitimate.

But that doesn't mean that you should listen to it.

Ultimately, you can't predict with 100 percent certainty what your parents' reaction will be. Their past support of you, and their growth in their ability to rally behind you, may have stuck, and they might be your best advocates for this new decision in ways that you would have never dreamed of. Or, it could all come crashing down and they disappoint you because when it comes to this particular decision, all their past behavior and understanding is out the window. 

You can't know for sure. Which is scary. And legitimate.

BUT. You know that ultimately, this is the path you want to take. The risks of keeping it from them, and living in shadow, are more troubling than the risks of potentially being disappointed by them, no?

So there is no way forward but through.

Think of the ways that you want to tell them (a preparatory letter? A pre- arranged conversation? A phone call? A visit?) and how you want to perhaps couch it with the fact that you appreciate how much they advocated for you before, but how scary this is ... giving them that context and the emotional lay of the land can help them be more understanding of you.

You don't want to over-rehearse this, of course, but in general, the more control you can have over the little aspects of it, the less scary the big uncertainty.

And yes, even if you could just have one or two sessions with your therapist (maybe an adjusted, temporary rate for you paying out of pocket?) could be helpful.

Please update us. You've got this!

Talk to your husband about what he hopes to get out of talking with you about his work woes. Maybe all he needs is someone to listen, which might give you permission to tune out the details and you can agree that he gets 30 min to rant.

Some potential there for sure. Thanks.

I mean does he literally just want a pair of ears in the room? Then are you allowed to read a novel while you provide those?

I am somewhat kidding ... I think.

As someone who was cheated on in my marriage, my initial reaction was to try to work it out. Went to some therapy (single & couples) and I reached a point where I was like — WAIT ... *HE* cheated, BUT ... *I'm* the one who has to "forgive"...*I'm* the one who can't creep in his phone ...*I'm* the one who has to trust him. I realized I couldn't spend my life doing the majority of the repair work for something he did. I knew I couldn't live my life CONSTANTLY wondering if he was really at happy hour with his guy friends when he was using happy hours as an excuse to get in his coworkers pants while we were married. The anxiety and insecurity that plagued me for the few weeks we tried to work it out weren't something I wanted to live with. I obviously decided to move on and I've never been happier. These are questions you have to answer for yourself. I just know *I* would never be able to get my brain to function in a way where I would never be paranoid or insecure or anxious. But there are plenty of people who have found a way to make it work. You will figure it out ... I'm sorry and good luck, you can do this! :)

Thank you. This is such a great illustration of how there is definitely no one-size-fits-all. And even if the partner is totally committed and motivated to making amends and changing and making the relationship work better than ever before, that doesn't mean that it's enough.

I've seen the same pattern with partners of people who have struggled with addiction. There sometimes comes a point where the past history makes it too hard to let go of the doubt and suspicion and hypervigilance.

People have to be realistic about what works for them and what doesn't. I am so glad you figured that out for yourself!

... It's me again. I started "digging," as you advised, and realized that it's the same thing I felt as a kid whenever I'd sleep over at a friend's. As a kid, I called it "feeling homesick," even though I never cried or asked to go home, because I didn't have the language to realize it might've been depression. The only words that come to mind are "guilt" and "regret." I'll keep on digging.

Please do.

It sounds like there's something missing in these weekends — or at least something that the weekend makes you NOTICE is missing. Maybe these activities aren't quite as deeply fulfilling as you really long for?

My boyfriend is digging through my Facebook, going back at least 7 years before I even met him. He is getting angry about likes and comments made by past boyfriends who have been blocked so obviously I cannot see these comments. He sought out an ex and went to talk to him about me. He saw another ex in the little town we live in, that I grew up in. He gets angry whenever I'm on Facebook and makes comments even when he thinks I'm on Facebook. His ex-wife used FB as a cheating tool (they were married 25 years) and I would not do that. I am a GS leader and am on there for entertainment as well as 2 groups my leaders and families are on. He threatens to leave, and has packed his bag and left for the weekend. We have a 6-month-old and I just don't know how to get this to stop. He says I get his anxiety going and blames me for everything. We are both way too old for this.

I don't hear one drop here of him recognizing that his behavior is a problem.

And that is a HUGE problem. Frankly, there is no "getting him to stop" if that is not there.

And honestly, even if it IS there, it is an uphill battle. I am unclear if he has always been this controlling and jealous or if this is a direct result of his past marriage. In the latter case, there would be hope if he was ABSOLUTELY MOTIVATED AND ENERGIZED TO CHANGE. But if he's always been this way, or if it's a result of his past marriage but he isn't willing to step outside of himself and empathize with you and care enough about you to understand that this is an emotionally toxic thing that he is doing, then I'm afraid I have no idea how things will ever be different.

You have to decide whether this is the life you want for yourself — and whether you want to see your child raised within a relationship where this is considered normal.

I am sorry.

Thank you so much. Her apology was for something narrow — not discussing a decision that affected me in advance of making it — and ignores the much deeper systemic issue. I pointed out to her, politely but candidly, that this is about the deeper systemic issue that I have raised with her many times over the past 25 years. In response, she simply did not acknowledge that part of what I said. I think it's comfortable for her to decide that any time I raise this issue, it's because *I* am a wounded puppy, not because she has any work to do. It's really condescending. It's actually because of that response that this is resolved for me, and I don't feel guilty. She's just not willing to do any of the real work that needs to be done.

Gotcha!

Yeah, that's no apology. Hey, it's... a nopology!

So I think your hesitance to give the merry-go-round one more spin is completely justified.

I am glad that that clarity helps you let yourself off the hook!

 

I note that you have your own website. That might also be a place to post a page of links to resources, and it might be especially useful to people who encounter you through your books or in other newspapers where your columns appear.

Thanks. Yeah, I used to do that, and then I would get 100 emails a day (okay, it only felt like that) from semi-shady, not-acting-out-of-benevolence people wanting me to list their own group/org/business on my resources page. And I also noticed from my stats that virtually no one was looking at that resource page anyway compared to the other pages of my site ... except presumably the people wanting to actually get ON it! So it bit the big one.

But I do think that putting one here is worthwhile.

I am weeping at my desk over the question from the person whose parents have passed and who is the one people vent to but has no one to do the same for her. That's me. I've been trying to articulate this question to submit for some time now and I want to thank the OP for asking it and you for posting it.

I am sorry! I hope you have the good tissues, not the crappy ones.

But I am also very hopeful for you — because seeing it spelled out in black and white may very well be the thing you need to convince yourself to seek support. To acknowledge that you deserve it, that caring for yourself (and being cared for by others) is a crucial part of growth and even BENEFITS others ultimately, that depleting yourself for the sake of the rest of the world doesn't do anyone any favors because it creates a depleted person within the world. And loneliness — well, it's corrosive. And can even diminish your lifespan (which takes away time you can be helping others! I mention that with a wink, of course.)

Seriously. Your own oxygen mask ... you know what I'm driving at here.

Please consider this. Seriously.

My husband is very similar. I have written out two paragraphs trying to give advice, but kept getting angry over the subject. I didn't realize how much resentment I have been harboring over his procrastinating over projects. Ugh! Right now I am simmering with anger. So here is my advice. Sit down with him and talk. Ask him why he isn't doing the projects. Would he do the projects if you were staying in the house? Does he feel like he is fixing up a house for someone else to enjoy? If this is the reason he is feeling this way, contact a realtor and ask them to tell you what projects are worth doing for the sake of selling at a higher price. Just get those done. Don't do projects that will have zero impact on the price. BTW, A new roof does matter. I was the one who contacted roofers and collected quotes. I dealt with the paperwork and the payments. Think about hiring handymen to get the projects completed that need to be completed. Do what you can without him.

I am so sorry for your frustration, but this is good stuff for LW to think about (are you out there?)

And I was struck by the fact that in their case, it didn't seem to be "We need a new roof, it will help with resale, let's do it."

It seemed to be "Here's Reason Number 47 to put off a move.... we'll need a new roof IN A WHILE so we should wait until then."

Which seems to point even more deeply to the idea that it's not just procrastinating on projects, but it's choosing red herring projects to not even consider moving in the first place.

Regarding the first letter, if the wife wants to move and hubby doesn't, who should prevail? If they both work downtown (here or in almost any other urban area), moving closer to work will almost certainly mean a more expensive property and higher taxes, probably a smaller yard, more congestion, etc. Maybe she's thinking about the convenience of a shorter commute, and he's willing to trade travel time for other considerations. I don't think it's necessarily fair to say he's supposed to get on board for HER plan.

Oh, for sure.

But he claims to already be on board ... so if that is total BS, it needs to be sorted out first in order to then have the real conversation about what to weigh in making the choice, right?

Hi — regarding your suggestion to use Psychology Today to find a therapist, I would just add that we should all do our due diligence. I was looking for a therapist for my daughter last year (in my area) and someone popped up that I knew, and much of whose personal life I knew. Despite knowing the person to be intelligent, etc., my knee-jerk reaction was, "Oh, HEXX No!" I realize that having serious personal demons and trials can qualify therapists expertly in some cases, but no way would I have let my daughter be treated by this therapist. Be careful out there.

Okay, this made me laugh, though the issue is a very serious one!

Yeah, it's true, there are some bad (or at least mealy, not-quite-crunchy-and-sweet) apples in the therapy field as there are with any job.

Though I also feel the need to acknowledge what you kind of allude to — which is that therapists are human, too. They don't need to be totally personally perfect in order to be good at their job. God forbid my closest friends ever have a conversation with my clients about my own foibles. (And I guess that's sort of the point of never, ever seeing a therapist where you KNOW all those personal details!)

I fell in love with a really lovely guy who not only says but also shows that he likes me too, we both think we have good chances to lead a good relationship together ... but he also feels like he need to have more (sexual) experiences and asked me to have an "open relationship." I declined and he proposed that I should look for a solution to "our" problem. Please help!

Well, I think (and I am guessing you do too) that him putting this all on you is a problem in and of itself.

If HE needs to have more sexual experiences whereas your needs would be met by monogamy, why isn't he the one doing the heavy lifting and mental math of figuring out a way to get HIS needs met?

I am sorry that I don't think this bodes well.

I was a venter ... my poor husband just listened and listened. However, since then, I have learned that one way to help someone reduce this need to talk on and on is to write down the main points they say. Keep writing them down, every night. After a day or so you can say, Is what you are saying the same as the other day when you said ... it will remind them that they have already covered this. The better way is to have the venter do it himself, but if he can't, you doing it can help. Another way to approach is to ask what is the worst thing that can happen if your worry comes to pass. It is a way to get to reality.

Thank you for this! I think if either or both of these are done with love, I could see it helping OP.

For the person last chat who mentioned having a gut-level belief that men won't be romantically interested in her now that she's in her 50s: she said she knows intellectually that it's not true, but maybe it will help (slightly?) for me as a man in his late 40s to say that I find women in their 50s attractive, and surely I'm not the only one. Recently I developed quite a crush on a specific 53-year-old woman I interacted with regularly in a social situation (to maintain anonymity just picture something similar to a social softball league; I learned the woman's age after a birthday celebration). Unfortunately it turned out I'd gotten her marital status wrong - I misheard something soon after meeting her that made me believe she was divorced, but actually she was married all along. Oops. But I don't think that outcome invalidates my point.

As much as I don't want this to sound pitying and do more harm than good (See, OP? There's a dude here who would actually find you attractive!) I think it's a sweet sentiment that is worth sharing. You are far from the only one, much as it may seem to OP, and maybe just hearing a personal anecdote from a real live human could bring a ray of sunshine.

So thanks!

What I wonder is why he told the OP. Maybe he relieved himself of some burden, but how could he not have realized that telling would be hurtful?

True. I've seen this run the gamut.

On one side is "Well, now I feel better and have absolved myself, so my work here is done."

On the other side is "This is the first step with me really reckoning with what I've done, and if I am going to do the work to try to repair and rebuild this relationship, it has to start this way."

They have clearly very different outcomes!

Yes, you are too old (and I hope wise) to put up with a verbal abuser. I hope you have the resources (mental, emotional, financial, social) to kick him to the curb. Let me ask you this: do you want your baby to grow up in a toxic household?

This is maybe a little edgier than I usually put things, but a reality check. Thanks!

Isn't that a classic example of gaslighting?

Well, technically that would be more a "your" rather than "our."

But I think no matter what we call it, the fact that he is viewing it as a problem for her to fix — even if he acknowledges that he is part of the problem itself — is just not a good sign.

I recently signed up for Detox Your Thoughts, because I suggested it to a friend when it first came out, and then when I found out that she hadn't I thought I'd see how it worked before suggesting it again. I've found that in Gmail, it kind up jumps around between the different tabs, and comes at different times, but I have received each day's newsletter. And they make great points!

Ooh, this is helpful. Thanks — I am so glad to hear it!

Sure, but practicing therapy isn't like painting a house or preparing a tax return or even diagnosing a physical disease? A shrink's world view and life experiences shape their interactions with others. Can someone who has been through a bitter divorce help someone else keep their marriage together? Can someone without kids help a client with troubled teens? Can somebody who has always been comfortable truly understand what it means to be poor? What the therapist sees as the problem that needs to be fixed is at the core of the process.

Oh, for sure. 

I didn't know what level of detail we were talking about with the OP, though. I mean, knowing someone closely, you see them at their very worst — that is what emotional intimacy is. And presumably, that "very worst" would never make its way into the therapy room.

I also think it's tricky to totally assume that a client and therapist must share similar life experiences. But I know it's a balance. Does it help my clients with children if I seem to nod in a been-there, done-that way about certain aspects of child-rearing that are leading to their stress that week? Definitely. But would that preclude them from being helped by a therapist without kids? I think that's a jump.

I lost a baby at 22 weeks due to severe birth defects almost 15 years ago. We were blessed to have 2 healthy children after our loss. But the loss never completely goes away. She will always be a part of our lives. I talk to her siblings about her occasionally, and they know mom and dad had another baby who couldn't live. You do heal, in that life goes on. But life is not the same as before and that's okay. I am kinder, more sensitive to other's pain, and appreciative of what we do have. Our sweet little soul gave us a lot of gifts amid our pain. I am so sorry for all the pain you feel.

This is such a heartbreaking but lovely way of putting it. I am so sorry that you went through that devastation. But also so glad that you have found a way for your family to incorporate that loss into your story, and to find meaning in it.

Ultimately, that's what we all want out of life, isn't it. To see it for the whole that it is, finding beauty in the big picture as it is — not as we hoped it would be.

Thank you.

"But he claims to already be on board ... "

I just note that there are some marriages where if one spouse flatly rejects the other's plan, there is hell to pay. "Yes, but" might be hubby's survival strategy.

It's true, and it's a great point. There could be a bigger pattern of steamrolling on OP's part that made the husband feel like he HAD to say he's on board.

The hour is up — boo! Thank you so much for being here, as always!

I already look forward to next week — see you back here, same time. In the meantime, I'll see you in the comments and on social media.

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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