“In the absence of information, we fill in the blanks with our imagination.” -Dave
Let me tell you the story of my best friend, Dave. I met Dave at a Denny ‘s on Walnut street in Bloomington, Indiana. I was a doe-eyed freshman in college and he was approaching his sophomore year. Winter time had just begun and my gray Crown Victoria was still covered with piles of snow as I drove the large beast into the parking lot. I made my way through the swinging doors of the restaurant and asked for an application. Dave was a server there. It was thanks to Dave that I got that job, secured him as my roommate months later, and made my way towards the cynical adulthood I would come to know in college.
Dave remembered everything by year. He would say, “Back in 1999 when the such and such album came out and the kids were drinking apple pucker and staying out too late.” Dave was in his 30’s but his references solidified the eras. He would reminisce about decades of good tv shows that later generations would never know. At any given time you can find him in a simple white-tee or a thrown-on button up with old jeans; electronic device in one hand, coffee in the other. Dave and I were friends during some of the most influential years of our lives; making the most out of college between small venue concerts and house parties, sliding into classes hung over, and getting food from the dorm cafeterias. We were living a micro-version of what we thought to be an adult life. Dave and I were a staple in what was so cleverly referred to as “The Oregon Trail Generation.” Not only did we grow up playing outside, but we were on the cusp of the end of “the dream.” We remained hopeful through philosophy classes, inspired through businesses classes, and moved by the hustle of the University setting.
Years later, Bachelor Degrees in hand with hopeful smiles and bright-eyed wonder we walked through the doors of corporate America. Corporate America giggled at us as we were escorted to our cubicles under horrible florescent lighting and our dreams of big money and managing were crushed. Welcome to entry-level.
We realized that we’d have student loans we could barely pay in shitty corporate jobs we never really wanted. We’d spend the next three years being cynical and bitter. We would write emails from corporate America and stay friends for what is going on 13 years now. We see the millennials go through the same buzz-kill only they don’t seem to be able to manage not having gotten their way.
To this day we bantered on and he inserts one liners to make sense out of the world. We discussed how graffiti in the bathroom had approached an all time low due to updated Facebook status and Instagram photos.
Dave still discusses life in years and we aren’t as cynical as we once were. We are often searching for meaning in life through banter. Looking back I now understand that the important part was the friendship. The important parts, the really important ones in life are relationships. They always have been and always will be.
This story is about a girl named Mary. Mary is my friend. Mary is currently single, but going on dates. Now Mary and I have known one another for over two decades. She and I have traveled to the depths of the dating world together and been single to sulk our relationship losses. We’ve watched every chic flick on how to be good at being a strong but super cool, chill girl. (Come, on!) Every woman in the world is trying to be a good wife, partner, girlfriend, dating person, or single chic. And being “good” is so subjective.
Then we are given dating advice in Cosmopolitan, or told to be rude by outlandish books; Why Men Love Bitches. All the information becomes conflicting and overwhelming. We are inundated with friends opinions and strangers judgements. We are overthinking, over-trying, and overdoing.
So, lets get back to Mary’s story. She had been single before and in other relationships before. Ones that worked and ones that didn’t. Ones that ended cordially with a hand shake and ones that ended tragically with cheating. She has played the field, given up dating to pursue a career and come back around again. Before she began dating again she saw a counselor. She worked on some fears, then after another year, she got back out there. She was not active in pursuing men, but she was attracting good and decent men who wanted to take her out. She was confident, happy, and fun. She had her contagious energy back that she had before her heartbreak. But it took Mary time to get there. Before that she laid on the couch with me and cried, she asked for hugs and she figured out what she wanted. She rediscovered who she was.
Then something happened. Mary met someone. She met someone she really liked. She was overwhelmed by trying to remember the rules to dating because she actually liked this guy. She thought about texting in 3 days instead of hours; how to keep him interested; when to introduce him to her friends; when he should meet her family; was she actually ready for a real relationship; what if he rejected her; what if she needed to have multiple people to date at the same time while not making him jealous, while keeping him interested, while trying to stand on her head while sitting in a chair and juggling 4 balls in the air while playing guitar and making dinner for 12 people…….. Mary was having overwhelming feelings and emotions of doubt. She just had to remember, it’s going to be ok. She had to remember what she wanted and not digress to the conflicting information. She had to calm her fears, anxieties, and doubt.
She had to go back and remember what she had learned. She learned that just because she grew from an experience that she could not control future situations and that there was no promise she wouldn’t be hurt again. She had to let go of her need to control and she had to be vulnerable. My point is……we ebb and flow in all stages of dating and relationships. Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey.
Why does it all have to be so complicated? We get so much conflicting information from so many avenues and it keeps us from developing our genuine selves. It prolongs the confusion and chaos. Mary has no idea how to be single. She has no idea how to date or how to be in a relationship. Not the “right way”, at least, whatever that means. But who does? We are all sort of the blind leading the blind. This is messy stuff. This is complicated stuff. We have to give ourselves room to breath and grow. We are making it up as we go, learning from the past, and taking notes for the future. There is no right way to date or right way to be single. The best you can hope for is good and supportive friends that hang in there with you along the way. My point is……Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey, single or not.
Even been dating someone and you are not sure if he (or she) is into you?
We begin a relationship where our partner seems like our knight in shining armor; they listen to us about our bad day and they send flowers just to make us smile. You have that goofy smile that you can’t get rid of and you talk about them to all your friends.
Then something changes; your partner doesn’t go out of their way to do the little things they did in the beginning. They lose interest when you discuss something that is bothering you. You may have experienced this before, where the relationship changed. Unfortunately, the relationship was probably always like this. It’s time to stop pulling those petals off the flower with, he loves me, he loves me not…. It’s time to take control of the situation. Trying to understand or fix the current dating situation will likely not work and the red flags will always be present, but here is what you can do:
Self-Care. Get some exercise, good sleep, and eat nutritious meals. The emotional rollercoaster will calm down if you feel physically good.
Positive Affirmations. This experience may have you feeling less than great. Listen to positive affirmations, pick up an inspiring book, or talk to helpful friends. You need to feel good mentally as well.
You Have a Choice. You get to choose who you date. That is the best part. This can also be the hardest part. Our past experiences draw us to certain people, but our future doesn’t have to be the same.
Your Realization. If you are feeling inconsistencies with your dating partner, it is likely that they are feeling the same way. For whatever reason one or both of you are just not into the relationship. You have the realization, then you move on.
I Love Me. If the person you are dating doesn’t show up when you need them emotionally or physically, remember – you love you. Be your biggest fan and surround yourself with friends who love you and remind you how awesome you are.
Don’t Stop Dating. The unrequited love may have left a damper on your ego. However, sitting on your couch in your sweat pants is not going to help that ego dry any quicker. Get back into dating and find someone who is consistent in the way they treat you. You should never have to wonder if someone likes you.
A Message from the Author:
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern located in Huntington Beach, CA. I am supervised by Jeffrey Kullmann (L.C.S.W. LCS 13661).
I believe in helping others to develop happiness and grow emotional strength. I work with individuals and couples to navigate life goals and relationships.
Please visit: www.lauriekcounseling.com to get more information or schedule a counseling appointment.
-Laurie Kjelstrom, M.A.
Breakups are some of the hardest trials in life; they test our ability to cope with loss and stress. They are emotionally difficult. Trying not to sound too objective, I understand from experience what it is like to go through a breakup. It is hard to see any bright side at the time of the loss of a relationship, but this bad experience will lead to better experiences in the future. Until then try these ideas to cope with a breakup:
- Fake letters. Keep a journal or write out letters to your ex. Write as many letters as it takes or type up fake emails. These can release every emotion you have and express exactly what you feel without hurting anyone directly. It also keeps the person from responding because if broke up with the person, it is likely that the person was not responding to your needs in a constructive way. You don’t need a response to get the emotional release.
- Body pillow. If you are used to cuddling or sleeping next to someone, the actual object can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. Tricking your brain with the physical can help with the emotional. Snuggle up to a pillow or two and give your brain those feel good chemicals it is used to.
- Avoid alcohol and mind-altering substances. Having a clear mind is important in getting over difficult emotional struggles. A clear mind can lessen the duration of pain. This is a good time for you to get a clear head and make clear choices.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Your friends and family are great people to reach out to. Familiar and positive people can help you push through a difficult time. Don’t isolate and reach out to your loved ones often.
- Stay occupied. Keep yourself busy. You will have time later to work through all the emotions; sitting and ruminating about a bad situation will not help you start the healing process.
- Mini-Vacation. Take a short trip and go with a friend. Clear your head and break away from the situation before coming back to begin the coping process.
I went for a late night run with my roommate last night. We ran through our town and down pacific coast highway; our usual route when we want to get a couple of miles in after a day’s work. We have taken this route many times before. As we jog down the end of a long stretch before heading back, something happens. And it happens multiple times. From the line of cars slowing to a stop near us…. it begins…. its difficult to make at first but then the roaring becomes clear….. the set up strikes and the men begin making the most annoying and inconsiderate noise out of their silly little mouths… there it was… the Cat Call. Multiple shouts of unknown origin came somewhere from the many vehicles. As my friend and I blast through the sidewalks, we begin rolling our eyes. We image that this sorry excuse for a way to tell a woman she is “hot” is anything but the sort. By the end of hearing three or four repeat attempts to gain our attention, we remain uncomfortable; wanting to give those boys a punch in the face. Yes, boys. We blow it off and go on about our work-out. By the end of our run, I start to wonder…. Where did that cat call come from? And Why do men think that its okay to use?
In the wikipedia, cat calling is described as, “a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by.” The bottom line is that cat calling is inconsiderate.
In an article that Carlos Andres Gomez wrote on the Good Men Project he rallies for men to grow up. He writes about the wrongs of cat calling. He reports that these unsolicited cries for affection go unattended by women, but men still engage in them. I can’t help but wonder why mama didn’t teach you any manners, and that if you have a comment about a woman being beautiful, you need to tell her politely. Respect is a little thing that goes a long way. Cat calling is no better than any form of sexual harassment that takes place in society today.
When I recently went to Las Vegas on a ladies trip, I was completely enamored by the overall lack of respect and consideration for women. I walked to the restroom and a man grabbed my arm in order to spring chatter in my ear about my looks. Let’s just say, it was not well received. Others in small crowds there thought it okay to grab a women’s ass. I don’t care who she is or what she is wearing, sexual harassment is sexual harassment. Just because a woman is wearing something sexy, does not give you a free pass to act like a dick. Cat calls are trashy. Quarters to your cat calls men, it’s time to buy a clue.
To prenup or not to prenup? That is the question. In the local coffee shop, I watch today as an older man discusses this topic with a group of friends. His sober face suggests that this topic is one of emotional passion. The man states that he would not sign a prenup and he “would rather have her take him for a ride.” From what I gather, he believes that if you really love someone, you should not have to sign an agreement of how things will be divided up if you separate. I have heard this reaction from many people; the prenuptial gives us a way out of the marriage. Doors also give us a way out, but we don’t go building houses without them.
So is he right or wrong? Now, I am not in the business of marriage legalities, in fact, as a professor of mine once put it, I am an MFT – Marriage Friendly Therapist. I work together with couples to help them happily stay together. However, that means a lot of surrendering to our faults and giving in to someone else’s needs, i.e. our partner. Most of the time when couples are ready to divorce there has been years of unheard words, unmet expectations, and lack of overall happiness. (Check out this article: When Women Divorce Long Before The Divorce by Quentin Hafner.)
In my life I have had three different views on prenuptials:
The first (early 20’s): That if you truly love someone, you don’t need to sign an “out”contract.
The second (late 20’s): After getting out of a bad business deal with a co-owned restaurant; not having any concrete contracts signed, I felt that you always need a contract no matter what. I got along with my business partner so I always thought a split would be amicable. It is true that in the mist of a fight the claws come out. Marriage is the contract and the prenup is there to protect that asset.
The last (early 30’s): Premarital therapy. By-yearly check-ups with the therapist. I would sign a reverse prenuptial (see below). In the long run I want a partner that is as happy and silly as I am; we will be adults when it comes to decisions, for better or worse.
Obviously, to make a prenup or not to make one, is up to the discretion of the couple. Consider this when thinking about the issues:
1. There is a lot of legal advice on the internet about signing prenuptials. What about other experts on relationships and how they discuss navigating this part of a marriage?
2. Discussion of a prenup needs to be gently entered into. It needs to be a conversation of understanding and compassion. Most prenuptials are entered into for protection of the property or assets that one comes into the marriage with. If you are marrying someone who believes they are owed something you had prior to meeting them, I think a prenuptial is the last of your worries.
3. If you are not willing to share certain things or benefits you accumulated while in the marriage, whatever that looks like, you should not get married. You are a selfish person. Truly selfish people will be unhappy in a marriage. When you force a kid to share and he doesn’t want to, he will likely throw a tantrum after handing over the toy. Marry the man or woman who finds joy in sharing with others. It will make a world of difference in all aspects of the marriage.
4. Over the course of the years of marriage you both make equal sacrifices and you should decide what that is going to look like prior to getting married. You may be the sole source of retirement and insurance, but your partner might bring in more money each year. Or your partner might stay at home to with three kids until school age and take care of house work. At the end of the day it isn’t all about money and assets. We have to take into consideration the acts of service and the sacrifices.
5. If your prenup has to include things like the religion that your children will be raised, well then, stop right there. You aren’t putting exacts in the prenup because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anyways. If your partner becomes Buddhist in ten years and wants to share some of that wisdom with the children, you don’t pull out the prenup and say – Right here, look this is what we agreed. People change and you should marry someone who is open to change and that is willing to meet you where you are and go places you feel a need to explore. You should marry someone who you have similar values with, but nothing in life guarantees that down that road that is going to look the same.
After Much Research on The Topic: Try These
The Reverse Prenuptial
Going back to the analogy of the door. It gives us a way out, but it also keeps us in. It is a fire escape and a barrier to keep unwanted guests out. It serves two purposes. What if our prenuptials started doing the same? Say that one partner comes into the marriage with a boat, the other does not. The prenuptial reads that if divorced in the course of the first 15 years, the boat will be sold and the sale split. However, after 15 years, the asset is given to the rightful owner in full.
Yes, therapy. You are going to be making an appointment with a lawyer to get out of the marriage. The lawyer doesn’t have an understanding of what makes marriages and relationships work. He has a law degree and an objective for divorce. Seek a therapist out to discuss why you are thinking about divorce; gain help from someone who has experience in the area of relationships, not law. Trust people who work within their scope. Your lawyer has little interest in your overall well-being.
Overall the conversation of the prenuptial should be one of grace and compassion. Be comfortable and open to the opinion of your partner.
We are nearly two weeks into the New Year. We have been faithful to our New Year’s resolutions for less than 4 percent of the whole year. How are you feeling about your resolution? Are you hyped up about the recent change? Or are you bummed out? I watch as dieters mope across the work hallways and hang their heads as they crash from lack of sugar and crave salty chips. We torture ourselves with high end goals but have a low end understanding of what it takes to keep them.
You probably have great intentions when it comes to persevering through this first month. The truth is only 8 percent of us keep our resolutions. What can you do to be a part of the winning few? I am eager to help you understand how to stay on track.
Lose the Victim: If you feel like a victim in the race to your resolution, failing is right around the corner. By victim, I mean the ideas and judgment that you have given your resolution; if the goal is good but your reactions to it are negative, it will be hard to keep. I’ve overheard people dieting this week say that they are upset, hangry, and unhappy. The self-talk, emotional responses, or judgments that we give to our goals can be defeating or encouraging, whatever we allow them to be. If we can interpret and evaluate the situation with positive regard, we make it better. Our mindset about our goal is important. Instead of negative statements and defeated talk, try positive reflection about the goal.
Check in with Yourself: Know what goals you can reach and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I need to achieve this goal?” Set realistic goals and challenge yourself to keep those goals by “awarding” yourself something at the end of that goal (such as a massage or an overnight trip you’ve been putting off). An example: You resolve to work out more this New Year. Your goal is 20 workouts a month. Each month you reach that goal you get a massage. We go to work to get money. Money is the “prize”. Work is the “goal”.
Balance: Life is about balance. Too much or too little of anything is bad. Make sure your resolution is a balance of ways you want to better yourself this year.
Temptation: Most New Year’s resolutions include something that is going to link to temptation. So you have a list of foods that you can eat on that diet, but what is your plan for when tempting treats make their way into the office? If you resolve to save money, what is your plan to resist your favorite purchases or to not spend as much time at the restaurant you love? You need to have a plan in place to resist the temptations that are going to come along with that goal.
Remember, an important part of improving any part of our lives is an understanding of ourselves. Don’t be discouraged if your resolution isn’t working the way you planned, just reevaluate it. We get stoked on the social stimulation of the New Year’s resolution, but we can make improvements on ourselves at any time in our lives.