Q's and A's


Q: Hey, I have a big problem. I’ve been with this girl for three years and she was snooping in my email and found that I told an other girl “luv ya.” But the girl is one of my good friends. Now my girlfriend doesn’t trust me? What should I do??

A: I don’t get the part about your girlfriend not knowing what she wants. Does that mean she’s thinking about breaking it off with you?

What I do know about is trust.

In situations like this, the latest issue (in this case the “luv ya”) isn’t the big problem. The big problem is about trust itself.

So, there are two things to look at (and both of them may be a problem, not just one of the other):

1) Is your girlfriend someone who has trust problems with everyone who is close to her? If so, you need to realize that this is who you picked and that unless she gets enough help to learn how to trust people, she will probably keep mistrusting you. So you have to decide whether to accept her as she is (including this problem).

2) Are you trustable? Do you Keep Your Word about everything, even little things – like when you say you will show up, when you say you will call, whether you like certain things about her that she asks you about, etc. –

Trust is about whether we keep our word. Period. And most people don’t learn this – that they must be almost perfect about this in order to be trusted – until after they’ve experienced some serious relationship problems along the way.

And by the way, just in case it applies here…. If you have an addiction to alcohol or drugs, you will find it almost impossible to keep your word to others – because you have to lie to yourself so often to keep thinking that the addiction is ‘no big problem.’


Q:For a long time, I was having a problem defusing a toxic friendship which kept bothering me. So I went to Google, typed in “boundaries” and went to your site. Your explanations helped me analyze, instead of just feeling bruised.

A: So glad my words helped. (People make such a complicated thing out of “Boundaries” – and out of most psychological topics. Sometimes I think they just want to sound smart and don’t realize that people want information they can quickly and easily understand and apply.)

Q: From there I went on to “getting attention” which was just what I needed to know — that I was not seeking out positive attention from another source and then absorbing it.

A: I hope you’ve now sought that attention and learned to absorb it more deeply. The “absorbing” part means you usually have to fight off a lot of old habits. As long as you find that you are absorbing better and better over time (meaning that you feel more attention/appreciation after each meeting with people), you are on the right track.

Q: I also learned what I could ask for if I ever go for therapy.

A: Good. And if you’d like to correspond with me regularly (through my E-mail Advice service), let me know. It is an inexpensive alternative for therapy, although of course it is a less powerful experience than seeing a therapist in person.

You might also want to look at all the other topics now, and maybe follow the first suggestion in “How To Use These Pages”.


Q: Recently I broke up with my first boyfriend mainly because he’s a clingy depressed alcoholic, partly because my friend told me too. I’m having trouble moving on. He’s a nice guy. I’m tempted to get back together. He seems like the only one interested in me. What’s your opinion?

A: Here are some general beliefs I have that come immediately to mind. See if any of them are helpful (and disregard the rest), OK?

1) Alcoholics only get worse over time until they recognize the problem and get help.

2) We are all tempted to do just about anything to try to stop the pain of losing a partner. It’s called grief, and it hurts terribly. So, of course you are “tempted to get back together” just to stop the sadness and anger you are feeling. But if you do need to leave him some day you would only be postponing and prolonging the pain if you went back to him now.

3) Does your friend know you better than you do? Are you dependent on your friend and, if so, were you also dependent on your boyfriend? If so, therapy for dependency might be a good idea.

4) He might be the only one who’s interested in you now, but once you let go of a relationship you’ll be surprised how many other people are interested in you. You are still holding on to him, so you aren’t sure you are available right now. And we need to know, down deep, that we are available before we can start a new relationship.

5) Most alcoholics are “nice” about half the time. It’s the other half that’s the problem.


Q: I have a horrible time articulating what I am thinking and feeling. It all makes perfect sense in my head, but when it comes out, and my therapist paraphrases, it sounds asinine. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the transfer from brain to mouth?

A: Sounds like either your therapist is paraphrasing poorly or you are calling yourself an ass!

Tell your therapist he or she isn’t hearing you clearly if that’s the problem. Otherwise, I hope you are working on self-acceptance and overcoming the urge to call yourself names!

By the way, at least a couple of times each week one of my clients “quotes” me with a statement like: “You know when you told me to __________.” And I’m always thrilled when they say something I can identify as what I actually said that day! They usually misquote or misunderstand what I’ve said.

I don’t take that as a serious reflection on my ability to communicate and I don’t take it as anything strange going on with my clients… I take it as simply the way communication goes.

When we communicate we:
1) Formulate a thought in our minds.
2) Try to pick words to express it.
3) Say the words to someone else.
4) Find out how they understood it.
5) Restate in order to clarify.
6) Find out how they understood it that time.
7) Keep this up until we feel understood.

Nobody is so good at communication that they usually are well understood on the first try. Communication is a process, not an isolated event that only takes a second.


Q: I’ve been with my girlfriend for a while. When we have sex, she can feel me inside of her, but there’s no pleasurable feeling. The only way she orgasms is if she’s on top and rubs on me. How can we fix this problem?

A:Actually, it’s not necessarily a “problem.” Most women have their orgasms on the outside, often through oral stimulation. She is having hers through manual stimulation on the outside.

On average, men take about five minutes to orgasm. Women take about 20 minutes. And there are wide variations among all of us. So the fact that women usually have their orgasms externally can be a good thing for both partners.

When she says there’s “no pleasurable feeling” on the inside, I assume she means that there’s no building toward orgasm… but that it is pleasurable to have you inside, and she’s glad to feel you inside, right? (If she doesn’t like having you inside, that’s a problem unless you’d prefer not to have intercourse…)

Bottom line: There is no “right” way to have fun with a woman! Have fun however both of you like it! And don’t be measuring yourself in terms of whether you “make” her have an orgasm. Her orgasm is her responsibility, not yours. She can and should teach you what she likes and doesn’t, just as you should teach her. As long as you are a caring lover who is willing to learn what your partner likes, that’s what matters.

By the way, you might enjoy reading “How To Have A Lousy Sex Life” at my site. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it makes some good points.


Q: It seems like my boyfriend is always pulling away, telling me I smother him too much. It is really starting to get to me. He has been giving me a lot of attitude lately, and I don’t blame him. What should I do?

A: Since you say you don’t blame him, I guess that means that you agree with him that you are “smothering” him?

If you agree with him, then you must be feeling kind of desperate – and that would show that you think you Need him (instead of only Wanting him). That can feel like a real burden on our partners, to feel “desperately needed.” And in the long run it can ruin relationships.

If you do feel desperate, talk to a good therapist about it instead of hoping that your boyfriend will help you to get over it. Therapists know what to do about desperation.

Otherwise, if you think he’s just being cold and distant and you don’t know why, it’s time to:

1) Make sure he understands specifically what you want. Tell him what Actions you want him to take (like “be here every day” or “come home always by 7pm” or “sleep with me instead of at your place” or whatever else you want…). Don’t just say things like “I want you to want to be with me and show that you love me.” That’s too general. Be specific. (It’s your job to know what kind of treatment you want, and to tell him. Then it’s his job to say an honest “yes” or “no” or to discuss it with you clearly.)

2) If you are clear with him about what you want and he refuses (which is bad enough) or he promises he’ll do better but doesn’t keep his word (which is worse), then you have to decide if you will stay with him under such circumstances. Remember: “You deserve to be treated well!” (and so does he, of course). When we aren’t treated well, we need to stop taking mistreatment and, if necessary, move on.

Of course seeing a good therapist together would also be a very good idea. And if he refuses to go you can see the therapist yourself.


Q: I had several life changes hit me at once and for reasons I’m not sure about I had an affair. It set me in a tail spin for about a year. Now I see clearer but I hurt deeply. I’m not sure if I should let time heal or seek therapy. I’m bewildered and afraid but I don’t want to go on feeling so down on myself.

A: What would you advise a friend to do if she had “several life changes all at once,” “had an affair but doesn’t know why,” has been feeling bad for about a year, is “hurt deeply,” is bewildered and afraid….?

You’ve already tried to let time heal, for about a year.

What’s so awful about calling a therapist? What’s so awful about letting someone who cares about you give you help?

I don’t believe that there is something wonderful about “doing it on your own.” When we try to deal with life’s complications on our own we only have ourselves to talk to… with the same old questions and the same old answers, going around in the same old circles. (I know. This applies to everyone, therapists included!)

Please let yourself get help. Don’t think you are “crazy” or anything negative. Realize you are one of the smart ones who know you can’t do everything on your own, and one of the self-loving ones who allow others to care about you and help you when things get rough.


Q: I am writing you for help I am in a bad relationship. My children and I are moving at the end of the month. I need help with letting go and no longer caring what happens to him

A: You don’t mention if you are seeing a therapist or a counselor of any kind, but these few words of yours convey a many complications that you are going to need serious help with:

1) Priorities. (Where do the children fit in.?)

2) Safety? (Is there any past/current/potential violence involved?)

3) The practicalities of finances, moving, keeping away from your husband (while either allowing or legally prohibiting him from being with the children)?

4) Your emotional needs (dealing with the grief of the loss of what you dreamed would happen in your marriage).

5) What you refer to as “caring what happens to him.” (This might mean that you are tempted to put him ahead of yourself, or even ahead of the children, for instance).

6) And what about the impact on all others (friends, relatives, your children’s friends, etc.).

I could go on and on, based on your brief description of all you are facing. Please don’t try to do this alone. You need competent help beyond these few words I can say to you today.


Q: I’ve been depressed. While improving a bit on my own, it’s still hard for me to work, sleep, etc. I’m ready to get help, but overwhelmed by all the choices. My doctor prescribed Paxil, but I don’t want to take drugs. Can you help me consider other options?

A: First of all, I’m glad you have improved a bit. But if you are still having trouble with both work and sleep this is a serious matter. Although I am a therapist and I believe strongly in talk therapy, when depression is severe the AMA recommends both medication and talk therapy – not one or the other.

So it’s not so much a matter of finding out what your “other” options are, but about finding out what All of your options are.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I’m not qualified to discuss various medications. But we all know that there are quite a few on the market and that they all have some side-effects. I’d suggest that you consult “WebMD” online to learn about your medication options, then discuss what you’ve learned with an M.D. (A psychiatrist is the best M.D. to talk with about this. They are the only mental health professionals who can discuss medication, and since they specialize in emotional health they have experience with each medication and can discuss them with you fully.)

Regarding your talk therapy options, I’d suggest that you read “Are You Considering Therapy?” at my site to learn about the different professions, etc.

If you are interested in talking with me either by email or by telephone, let me know so we can discuss the way it would work, whether it’s wise for you, etc. (You can click on “Availability” at my site to learn about which services are available, fees, etc.)

You’ve already talked to a therapist today (me!), so it seems you know that’s what you need right now, along with possible medication.

Please keep it up! Talk with me or call a good local therapist you can see face-to-face.


Q: Is it possible to change your personality if you have personality disorder, or is this currently not possible.

A: I love this question because I think it is mostly about the nature of therapy rather than about anything else.

Basically, most people who want therapy are classified as “neurotic”… which just means, in essence, that they are “too tight on themselves.” They feel guilty, pick on themselves for rather minor real or imagined flaws, etc.

Those who are classified as “personality disordered” are considered “too loose on themselves” by contrast. They are thought of as not being “controlled” enough, or not following the “right” values as they live their lives.

Some people who are called personality disordered do such horrible things that anyone would agree that they are disturbed. They might murder or rape or steal as a way of life, for instance. When these people talk about what they have done they sound like they have no conscience.

But, by far, most people who are given this label do not do awful things. They might manipulate emotionally, or even have a lifestyle that many people don’t think is good (such as using a lot of marihuana, or partying every night, or having multiple sex partners who are quite willing to be with them).

When someone who does these not-so-awful things comes to a therapist’s office for help, it’s as if the therapist (who is probably neurotic) thinks that they “should” be living by higher standards. So the therapist sincerely believes the person seeing him or her has a “personality disorder.”

There is a self-fulfilling prophecy involved here. The therapist thinks the person has a “flawed character.” So when the work gets tough, the therapist can always rely on the excuse that the reason he or she can’t help this person is that they were flawed in the first place! Except in the most extreme cases, this is simply bull! (I’ve worked in prisons. And even most of the extreme criminals were able to be helped, if only there were enough therapists who knew it and had the required skills and patience.)

People who are classified as “personality disordered” also feel depressed and anxious and everything else that a neurotic person feels. They don’t feel as much of these things as the typical client, but they do need help with their emotions and their urges just like everyone else. And a good therapist won’t give up on them.

So, basically, if you are stuck with this diagnosis, here are the things to keep in mind:

1) You can be helped.

2) You need to find a therapist who believes she or he can help you.

3) You will need to be willing to look at your “lifestyle,” and you might feel a little insulted sometimes when the neurotic therapist doesn’t fully appreciate what you get out of your not-so-perfect-looking lifestyle. (Like everyone else, you have to take the time to help the therapist understand what you get out of the things you do.)

4) The only bad news is that most people in this group don’t trust “authorities” much – and therapists are often thought of as authorities. Because of this, it may take you a much longer time to learn to trust your therapist enough. This additional time is necessary. And you need to know that you are worth the time, effort, and money just like everyone else is.


Q: In your experience, do marriages have problems if the man is less educated than the woman? I have my Bachelor’s and my parents frown on me for having a boyfriend who hasn’t been to college. Should I be worried or is it discrimination to judge someone based on their education?

A: All relationships and marriages have significant differences to overcome, and this might be one of them. But it is for you to decide, and not for your parents.

How much does it bother you?

Do you and your boyfriend have a lot to talk about?

Are you concerned about the financial implications of his education? (Many people do well financially even without a higher education, although of course the odds are lower.)

Do you treat each other with respect, communicate honestly without many secrets, and keep your word to each other?

Of course the most important thing is whether there are any of the really bad things: physical arguments, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.

I’d suggest that you do the Relationship Analysis at my site. It asks ten questions about the Good things in a relationship, and asks you to rate whether each good thing exists, and how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with each aspect of the relationship, etc. This might help you to decide. And it might be good to discuss this with your boyfriend. (He can do the analysis too, but I’d suggest that you do it separately and then compare your results.)


Q: To release feelings of shame, is it necessary to experience the same patterns that put you there in the first place? I have experienced shame since childhood but have a burning desire to sing and perform. I sang in public last night and felt shame.

A: First of all, there’s the question of whether this is shame or embarrassment.

If it’s embarrassment, the answer is to face it over and over again (practice noticing it and overcoming it), and notice that it gets less severe over time until it is gone. This is also true of stage fright. If you can remember a particular incident in which you were extremely embarrassed or you were very young at the time of the embarrassment, you might speed things along by reminding yourself that what you are feeling is from then and not from now… If you can do this in a self-loving way, it will help.

If it is truly shame, you need to know who taught you to think this way about yourself.

Most parents try to control their children too much (more than is necessary for their physical survival), and they all use “tactics” of one kind or another. Some of them beat their children. Others try to create fear in their kids. And some create shame as a means of control.

To overcome shame, you must mentally hold the person who taught you this horrible way to feel about yourself responsible. You must know that, regardless of their intentions, they hurt you quite seriously – and what they did was wrong! You need to feel strongly that you are “on the other side” of this debate, wisely knowing that shame is only painful – that it harms you and does absolutely no good at all.

Once you are ready to hold your “teachers” responsible for their mistake, every time you feel shame after that you need to mentally hold the shamer responsible and at least know that you wish they never treated you that way. (At most you might even feel strong anger at them for it). If you could possibly catch yourself in every self-shaming thought, you might find that you will stop feeling shame in as little as a couple of months. But most of us aren’t that perfect, and we don’t catch it each time. In that case, stay with it and expect that you might still be feeling smaller amounts of it as long as a year from now, or more. At least it will be less intense, and you will find it easier to perform or do whatever else you may feel shame about.

I’m sorry you were shamed. It’s common in our culture, but it’s a terrible thing to do to a child.


Q: I just got legal papers by my ex wife who is attempting to take a big chunk of visitation. One if the reasons she filed with the court is that “I talk to my self” I did a Google search and got your web page.

Are there any other written documents or books that talk about the benefit of talking to yourself? My ex has been trying very hard to instigate a conflict using the children for almost a year, and that is why I end up having many conversations with my self.

A: You need a psychiatrist’s diagnosis. We all talk to ourselves internally, and most of us do some of it out loud. That’s not what matters here.

Your ex-wife is attempting to say that you are “psychotic” and that for that reason you can’t be trusted with your children. You need a competent psychiatrist’s evaluation to show the court either that you are not psychotic or that even if you have some degree of psychosis it is still not going to hurt your children.

Check with your lawyer. He or she might know a good psychiatrist you can see for this purpose.

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