Q's and A's
HER "BOSS" THREATENS DIVORCE
Q: My husband has not kept up with the property we live
on and won't let me hire someone even though I made $60K last year. I
feel like I have no power in my relationship because he always threatens
to divorce me when we disagree...
A: The most important thing is that he "always threatens to divorce"....
The only reasonable response for you would be to say: "Don't threaten
me. Either do it, or don't do it. But don't threaten me!" You can't
cower every time he threatens you. If he's going to divorce you, you will
be able to build a good life without him after you finish facing your
Another important phrase in your letter is when you say your husband
"won't let me".... Seems you agree with him that he is "the
boss" and he has the final say about this, and probably about many
other things. He's not the boss. And you aren't the boss either. If there's
a divorce, property will be divided equally in most states. You are equals.
If your husband is willing to get into marriage counseling, I'd sure
suggest that. But in situations like this the "boss" is seldom
willing to talk things over rationally with a third party. If he won't
go to therapy, you should be going yourself... to regain your power, to
know you are an equal, and to figure out how you got such a low idea of
yourself that you ended up in this position in this marriage.
WORK ON HER EATING DISORDER ALONE?
Q: How can you treat an eating disorder like binge eating
or overeating - but with self-coaching and without having to go to a nutritional
specialist or a therapist? I could do it. I just need practical steps.
A: There are so many factors to consider, but here are the basics:
If the problem isn't really severe, you can probably take care of things
just by getting the information you need from reputable web sites related
to nutrition, maintaining a balance diet, etc. But if you have already
checked out such information (and I bet you have...), then you do need
to speak to a professional therapist and maybe also a nutritionist.
Most people with a true eating disorder are people who have been overly
controlled (usually by their birth family, but sometimes also by a romantic
partner) some time in the past. The eating disorder seems to them to be
"the only thing I can control" --- so they feel compelled to
continue to prove to themselves, over and over, that they can control
this one aspect of their lives (by overeating or by eating too little,
it doesn't matter which).
I suggest that you see a therapist, and I bet you understand that it's
better to have a real therapist than to try to do it all on your own!
Actually, most things, whether they are therapy related or not, are better
done with someone than alone. (If you also have shame issues that make
you want to not be seen in person, that only complicates matters... but
it doesn't change the fact that you need a professional to help you.)
If you like, I can tell you about a woman I know who works with eating
disorders online. I could ask her if she has any openings and if it's
OK for me to give you her contact information. (I'd still suggest that
you see someone in person, but if you don't want to do that you could
talk to this woman I met along the way. She was very good at helping someone
I was seeing in therapy at the time, and she did offer the practical steps
DOING WELL BUT FEELS GUILTY
Q: I am a girl 22 years old and live in Eastern Europe.
I am very poor and last year I did not have money to eat and I borrowed
from a friend. He forced me into prostitution to give him the money back.
Now I have found a job so that I do not have to do this anymore. Also
I found a friend who loves me and helps me to survive and build a future.
But I am very depressed and feel so guilty for what I have done and sometimes
I want to commit suicide. Also I cannot have sex with my friend because
it reminds me of the prostitution I did.
What can I do to overcome my problem?
A: I wish I knew how things work in your country.
Here in the U.S. I would say that you need to call your local Mental
Health Association or a local Family Service Agency to get the support
and help you need. These places offer free or very inexpensive help for
people who can't afford it. But I don't know what is available like that
in your country.
Please find a professional you can work with there. Know that you are
worth any help you can arrange to get. (You knew that when you wrote to
Also, since the main problem you mention is guilt, is there a priest or
clergy person you trust who you could go to - so you know that you don't
need to feel guilty any more? You could also go back to my site and do
a search for "guilt" --- there are so many topics that relate
to guilt, and some of my words might help.
HOW TO KNOW IF HE'S INTERESTED
Q: I am a 42-year old woman and lately I have been concerned
that I am attracted to a co-worker. Normally I would just ask the person
out but as this man is much younger than me (about 30), I highly doubt
he is interested beyond friendship. Is there a way to determine if someone
is interested in you by their behavior ( like the type or amount of eye
contact, or subjects brought up for discussion, etc.)?
A: Yes there is.
Here's what you can do:
Make statements that are "I - You - Now" statements when you
are talking to him.... You don't have to actually use these three words,
of course, but they each need to be strongly implied in what you say.
"I see you wore your red shirt today." (... while looking at
"You look like you are having a really easy/hard day today."
(... motioning to the paperwork or whatever...)
"Whoa! You look great today!" (This is stronger, of course...)
Such statements are "invitations to intimacy" - and I'm not
referring to sexual/romantic intimacy here, just "emotional closeness"
If he responds with an "I - You - Now" statement of his own,
he wants to get closer to you at the moment, so keep talking.
If he doesn't, he doesn't.... (although it could just be his mood of
the moment. So you can decide whether to do it a few times.)
Thanks for a great question!
Q: Hey, I am really depressed. I hate myself. I hate my
personality and I want to change. Can you help me? I keep thinking of
suicide, but maybe this will work.
A: What will work is going to see a psychiatrist who can do two things
1) Discuss medication possibilities.
2) Arrange for you to see a therapist in person on a regular basis.
Depression is a serious matter. We all get depressed sometimes, I guess,
but there are different degrees. And anyone who "keeps thinking about
suicide" must get the best care available.
Please don't hesitate. Call a psychiatrist or a good local therapist.
SHE'S IN DANGER
Q: All together I've been with my boyfriend for 7 years.
We had a breakup about a year ago. During that break he started experimenting
with cocaine, which turned into a habit. He doesn't use much anymore...
A: But he still uses, so he's still addicted to it. Overcoming addiction
is a notoriously slow process.
Q: And he's really committed to stop completely, but he's doing it all
himself. He believes he can do this alone.
A: Maybe he can do it all on his own, but why in the world would he want
to do it all on his own! Us men often have a false sense of pride in "doing
things on our own." We don't realize that it's usually far better to do
things with others, rather than alone. He should be seeing a good therapist
who has the right training to help him. The relationship with the therapist
is what helps, along with all of the good information about how to interrupt
the addiction cycle.
Q: I seem to be more of a problem than help for him, or at least I feel
this way. He's the first person I ever really loved, and we were planning
our future together. I feel completely helpless
A: That's reasonable. You can't make him stop. It's his responsibility.
No matter how much you want to help, there isn't much you can do.
Q: And at the same time he keeps on telling me how much it's all up to
me to make him feel better.
A: ??? What does he think you've got to do that will help him with his
Q: I live about 100 miles from him. About a month ago, or maybe two, he
started accusing me of cheating on him (I never have, there weren't even
other men I was talking to). He started getting very abusive in a way.
He would call (still does) all through the night telling me how he's gonna
hurt himself because of what I'm doing to him. How he's gonna make me
suffer for the rest of my life etc. I have never seen him this way.
A: YOU ARE IN DANGER! That's the main thing you need to know. Do whatever
it takes to stay safe from him.
Q: This is really very difficult. He thinks I told his mother about him
using drugs (I never did!) and tells me that he's disgusted by me and
that he hates me etc. This would be difficult if I have done the things
he says I did. Then I would understand that he's mad for what I have done.
But I haven't done what he's accusing me of. I know that this is very
wrong, it's really painful for me and him, but at the same time I feel
that if I leave now, it will mean that I left him when he need help the
A: He needs a professional to help him. Your attempts at helping him are
only feeding his addiction, fear, and hostility at this point.
Q: Again, he's NEVER been like this before.
A: It may be that he's become extremely paranoid from the drug use, or
maybe he has emotional issues that are just now showing up. There are
a lot of possibilities, but none of them matter compared to your need
to protect yourself now.
Q: He complains that I don't talk to him enough (that's true), that I
don't show him how much I love him, and when I do it's fake. He's so convinced
that I'm doing something wrong behind his back that he gives me very little
chance (if any at all) to try to explain that he's wrong. He tells me
that I could prove this to him so easily, that it would take so little
for him to believe me that I do care about him and love him, but I have
to figure this out myself. He doesn't act this way when I come to visit
to him, it only happens when we're at my place. I'm looking for a job
right now and we were looking into buying a house together, but then all
this started happening, and it's all within the past six moths. I still
have strong feelings for him, but I don't want to know that he feels and
acts this way because of me. I really just don't know what to do....
A: I'm sorry, but the best thing I can say is that you need to get away
from him because he's dangerous now. You could temporarily end the relationship
while he gets over the addiction through a professional service, but you
definitely shouldn't subject yourself to someone who is becoming more
and more accusatory, threatening violence against himself and you, etc.
Your letter is one of the best examples I've seen of what I like to tell
everyone who wants to work on their relationship: "Remember: you are always
more important than your relationship."
There is something you might try. It's called an intervention. You can
contact a clinic that specializes in treating addictions and talk with
a therapist about it. But once you learn about the intervention, Do Not
try to do anything like this on your own. It would be too dangerous. It
should only be done in a safe, professional way.
Q: I greatly appreciate all your help
A: I just wish I had better news for you.
DEPRESSED AND MISTRUSTFUL
Q: I've been bewildered all my life as to why I find myself
acting as if I am two people in the same body. When I believe that the
people around me are not understanding enough or more importantly not
worth trusting for support, I shut myself away in my own "world". I've
been depressed possibly the majority of my life. I can't seem to get out
of this self-mutiny I keep subjecting myself to.
A: I don't quite understand why you call it "self-mutiny,"
but otherwise your letter is clear. You are depressed, and, worse, you
are used to being depressed.
You didn't say whether you are seeing a therapist or are on medication,
but I certainly would suggest one or both of these for anyone who has
a long history of depression and mistrust. The mistrust might make both
the medication and therapy difficult (because you have to trust the people
who suggest it for you), but remember that you can consider both things
as an "experiment." You can change therapists or medications if you find
you aren't happy with the result. (With therapists - unless they are obviously
awful - I'd suggest that you stay with them for at least four meetings
before you decide to move on. With medication, each medication takes a
different amount of time to kick in, so you'd want to be sure you don't
quit before each has had a chance to work.)
Hope this letter from me helps. ... But my bet is that you already knew
about therapy and medication and you were just hoping that I'd have some
magic answer.... I bet you are hoping to avoid having to have a relationship
in order to get better - due to the trust problem. If so, realize that
we all get better through Safe human contact, and worse by avoiding it.
Please Tell Your Friends About
Enjoy Your Changes!
Everything here is designed to help you do just that!
Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee)