Category Archives: Relationships

The importance of a good support system for your mental health


Click here to purchase Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t
I am currently reading this book, and while I haven’t finished yet, (and I still want to review the book when I get done,) I specifically wanted to share an interesting section I read last night. In chapter five, the authors discuss the relation between certain medical issues that often relate to stress in one’s life. This includes: chronic headaches, stomach problems, poor immunity and weight issues. I am familiar with a lot of information and studies related to this issue, but the authors shared an fascinating example that stood out to me.

There is a town in Pennsylvania called Roseto that was known for people having especially high life expectancy for many years. Research showed that they ate and exercised like the rest of the United States, but the reason for their long lives was their strong relationships. The town was originally built by immigrants who were very close-knit and interconnected. According to the book, “friendships lasted through generations” because the families were so close and their connections and loyalty were so strong. Very impressive!

The town was re-studied in the 1990s, and things had changed. The close relationships had drifted apart as new people moved in and old families moved away. Neighbors didn’t all know each other like they had in the past. Now their life expectancies are no different from the rest of the country.

I think this is an excellent example of how important a good support system and connections with positive people are. We need loving, caring, listening people in our lives to help us cope and thrive with others around us. This inspires me to get out and work on my good friendships!

Here are some more research articles about Roseto:
This article shows that heart attack rates were low, but then rose as relationships fell apart. It compares Roseto with another town called Bangor.

Here is an outline tracing Roseto’s history for a college class.

This article includes other studies that show that people who are alone tend to have shorter life spans.

Dating Mr Darcy–The Smart Girl’s Guide to Sensible Romance by Sarah Arthur

Click here to purchase Dating Mr. Darcy

This book offers some really good, sensible advice for choosing a spouse–based on examples from the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice. I’m a big fan of both Austen and that book so I thought this sounded like a fun and interesting book to read. While it does offer good ideas for encouraging a compatible, mature relationship, I found it to be a bit simplified and really religious. That doesn’t mean there is nothing of value in it, but you have to pick and choose which parts can help you and which ones can’t. I would not recommend this book to someone who is an atheist or who doesn’t have at least some Christian beliefs, because religious growth is central to the book and it ends with a strong emphasis on building your relationship with God so that you can better relate to others.

The reason I say the book is simplified is because the author gives tips on making the most of your relationship with family members that may be annoying and dysfunctional. She doesn’t explore the reality that some families are *too* broken to fit with her advice. Her point of view is very much that of a woman who grew up in an idyllic home. (I did not, so it’s hard for me to relate and I will be skipping her much of her advice related to family.) But of course, many people do grow up in happy homes, so those sections will be more helpful for them. She focuses on the idea that our families set the tone for how we will relate to a future lover, which is often true, but doesn’t leave room for other circumstances, (say, a parent who is an addict or dangerous for some reason.)

Now, done complaining and moving on to the good! This is indeed a very sensible book. I have a theory that we have so many failed marriages today because of popular movies and music tricking us into thinking love is always romantic and easy. Well, it’s not. And the dashing romantic date is not necessarily the one that will make a good partner. In this book of dating advice, Sarah Arthur focuses on emotional intelligence and qualities that will last once the initial sex-appeal wears off. People who follow her advice probably are very level-headed people who make wise marriage decisions. For example, she says we need to examine our romance and ask ourselves “are you personally maintaining a healthy sense of your own identity, particularly when it comes to your family, friends, and faith?…Do you have a clear understanding of who this guy really is when it comes to his family, friends, and faith?” (p. xvii.) And this is really the main idea of the book. We need to nurture our relationships with our family, friends and God and watch those same relationships with the men we are interested in.

Overall, this is a thoughtful and introspective book, but it’s fun and light-hearted with lots of references to and examples from Pride and Prejudice.

The section titles are:

Part One: Pressure and Promiscuity

Part Two: Family–Respect, Communication, Integrity

Part Three: Friends–Communication, Respect, Loyalty

Part Four: Faith–Righteousness, Grace

Part Five: The Art of Reflection–Solitude, Self-Analysis, Confession, Moving Forward

Poor Boundaries in Fifty Shades of Grey


Click here to purchase Fifty Shades of Grey

So, like many other women, (and probably men too!) I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I can absolutely see why it might seem sexy and romantic. Who doesn’t want a hot billionaire? But, I was reading it from the point of view of someone who wants to build boundaries for successful, equal relationships, so I found Anastasia Steele’s poor boundaries very frustrating! For those who aren’t familiar, Ana and Christian are the female and male leads. She’s a naive virgin, (well, that is she *was* a virgin,) and he’s a sexy, controlling billionaire. She wants a relationship with him, but he wants to dominate her entire life and practice BDSM without a standard relationship. A lot of people think the situation is abusive–not because of the BDSM, but because of many other issues which include his stalking her, getting jealous of her male friends and invading her space when she tries to take a break to think things over.

What struck me is that throughout this entire book Ana wants Christian to be a different man for her, but because he cannot and will not change, she accepts a lot of things she doesn’t like just to be with him in hopes that he will become the romantic man she really wants and give her a real relationship. How many of us have done that? Stuck with someone that can’t give us what we want because they are so attractive or sexy that we hope they will come around to our points of view? Frankly, that’s a waste of time. It isn’t fair to try to change someone and it’s not fair to ourselves to give up what we want and need for all the wrong reasons. You just can’t love someone enough to turn them into a different person!

Over and over, Ana thinks to herself that Christian is arrogant, controlling, crazy, freaky, abusive, psycho and more. She says he scares her, that she should run from him, and she admits that he is not good for her…but then says she is going to go along with his demands anyway because she’s in love with him. Argghhhh!!! Ladies, if you have been this woman…don’t! Don’t do a bunch of things you don’t want to do with someone you think is crazy just because there’s sexual chemistry. And honestly, that’s about all they have in common in the book. That’s just not enough for a relationship. And who wants a confusing relationship where you are always on the verge of leaving anyway? If you are spending most of your time worrying that your “boyfriend” is a weirdo who doesn’t even want to be your boyfriend, it might be time to find a real boyfriend!

Several times in the book, Ana feels sorry for Christian and feels angry that he was introduced to sex and BDSM as a teenager with an older woman. Ana sees him as a sad, broken victim. Yet another red flag. Relationships shouldn’t be about pitying the other person, trying to fix them or trying to love their inner demons away. That’s more like codependency.

I’ve hung on to people who didn’t want the same things I wanted or who made me miserable with hopes that I could change them or get them to see the light. It doesn’t happen. It’s just wasting your time when you could move along to find the person who does want what you want. (And doesn’t stalk you or sell your car against your wishes!)

All through the book, (even the steamy sex scenes,) I kept wanting to yell “Ana, go find a guy who isn’t broken and wants what you want instead of giving up your emotional needs to fix someone!” Helping people is fine, but relationships should not be fixer-upper situations.

Learning about resilience, class and determination from…Legally Blonde


Click here to purchase Legally Blonde

This one is another non-book review. I am in the middle of reading a bunch of interesting books right now, so I’ve been slacking on the reviews; however, it hit me today that I wanted to blog about the merits of this movie!

I discovered this movie on accident a few years ago when it was on TV and I was flipping through the channels. It starts out so silly that I sat there mesmerized and wondering what the heck this was! It is true that on the surface, this initially appears to be a very silly movie about a silly rich girl. I think that’s why I had never bothered to pay attention to it when it was new. But for whatever reason, I caught it on TV one day and kept watching it.

This is actually a really good movie! It’s not a classic or anything, but as I watched it, I was very impressed with the character of Elle Woods. Yes, she seems to be a shallow girl with shallow interests, but if you keep watching, you see that she is loving and loyal and she cares about the people around her. She’s cheerful and upbeat and, she just happens to be blessed with good looks and a great figure, too. But it’s her character qualities that stood out to me. She is the kind of person that we should aim to be more like.

Why? Well, I already mentioned she is loyal and caring, but she’s also determined. She comes up with a goal and she works and works until she succeeds. She doesn’t give up despite the roadblocks. This is a great quality to have! Imagine how much we could all achieve if we pushed and didn’t give up? Good for her!

Next, not only is she cheerful, but she remains even-mannered and polite to the people who hurt her. In the first movie, there is a group of girls that has decided she is just too stupid and blonde to be part of their circle. They treat her poorly and make sure to exclude her and embarrass her. What does she do? She doesn’t sink to their level. She feels hurt, but she puts on her smile and carries on. Again, a great attitude! By refusing to be mean back and by maintaining her thoughtful behavior, she wins their friendship, but more importantly, she shows that she is the bigger person.

Throughout both movies, she continues as a cheerful, determined woman who hits setbacks, but doesn’t let them drag her down, who meets enemies but doesn’t retaliate against them, who refuses to expose her friends’ secrets, and who remembers who her friends are. Hiding underneath this chick flick are some really good life lessons.
I enjoy watching this movie, because I think in many ways Elle Woods is a great role model. (Yes, I did say that!) I always come away smiling, and feeling good and empowered about my future. While I wouldn’t want to be exactly like her, I think we can learn something from her character’s kindness and her determination to succeed–not just how to act, but how to treat others.


Also, I didn’t know this, but there are books too! I found it while I was getting a link for the movie. I have no idea if they are good or not, but they sound fun! I even found a Barbie! Too cute 🙂

Dating realities part two: You don’t have to fall in love with everyone you date

 

laymicat1

You don’t have to fall in love with everyone you date….

Perhaps this seems like common sense to some people, but some of us have trouble with it. Sometimes we feel like if initially like someone, we have to keep making it work. Or we feel if we’ve invested some time, we should keep trying. Or, some of us might be so desperate for a date, that we’ll take anything that comes along–even if it’s not what we really want!

It can be tempting to hang on to a dead-end relationship, or even keep trying to create a relationship when it’s obviously not happening, just because being single isn’t always so great. Or you remember the early spark and keep trying to recreate it when it’s clear the situation is hopeless. I once read an article about the ways men and women approach relationships. It said that women are more likely to keep trying once they’ve invested some time while men are more likely to cut their losses and get out once it’s clear that things aren’t really going to work out. We all need to be brave enough to do that!

Some people might be perfectly nice and still not be the one for us. It might be hard to break up with them for that reason. But the reality is: you don’t have to fall in love with everyone you date. Don’t be afraid to let go of the wrong relationships or potential relationships, and don’t feel obliged to continue them. They just distract you from where you really need to be.

 

Prioritize your time to care for the people who matter most–New Years Resolution #1

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This year I’m going to stop caring too much for people who don’t care about me and start caring more about the people who do care about me.

I think we’ve all done it. We’ve all learned to care more about or like another person more than they like us back. Not that there’s anything wrong with caring about or liking people, but sometimes we spend so much time being there for others who can’t reciprocate, that we neglect the people who do care about us. I’m a codependent type. If I see someone who doesn’t have much family, who seems to be bullied, who seems sad, who seems to be struggling, sometimes I will become very invested in helping that person. I will spend time thinking about them and ways to help then…while they are out having fun with their friends and ignoring me! On the other hand, I have friends who spend time caring about me and I don’t always reciprocate well because I’m caught up with someone else who doesn’t really care a whole lot about me. This year I would like to change that and show more appreciation for the people who care about me while spending less of my precious time pursuing those who can’t or don’t want to.

I think life will be better for me, and would be better for everyone if we prioritized our relationships to focus on those who want to be in our lives and let the people who don’t want to be in our lives us go their own way to spend time with the people who are better suited for them. No more trying to chase friendships or relationships with people who aren’t as dedicated!

Backsliding while learning to have boundaries

Dating checklist: 1. Don't be desperate 2. Don't settle 3. Don't hang on too long to something that's pointless

Dating checklist:
1. Don’t be desperate
2. Don’t settle
3. Don’t hang on too long to something that’s pointless

Boy have I done some dumb things lately, but I learned a lot too. I like that I was able to at least realize I was making bad decisions, even though I don’t have willpower to avoid them yet. Knowing and backing out are good first steps! And I’m moving forward. So here’s what I did:

First of all. I’m single. I have been in relationships most of my life since I was 19, so I’m not a fan of being single. I have been alone for two years since I kicked an abuser out of my life and I’m ready to not be alone. I want cuddles and friendship and later more, but I’m also very busy and don’t get out much. So when someone shows interest, I respond. I’ve met a couple people I was very interested in this year, but things just fizzled out. Most recently, someone I would not normally be interested in contacted me online and we started sending long messages. That was fun! I love being able to have long conversations and get really excited about them and I haven’t had that in too long. (In fact, I very much regret losing someone really wonderful, with whom I could talk until dawn and still be energized, due to bad timing a few years ago.) The person I was e-mailing with expressed gladness about our messages and what began as my only replying to be nice led to my being interested…because the other person expressed interest first. FIRST mistake! I should be interested in people because I am interested–not because I’m desperate for anyone to notice me!

It turned out that the person and I had some differences that should have been deal breakers, and I could tell he realized that and started backing off. But, I was so happy to have someone to talk with again, that I insisted the differences didn’t need to be a problem, even though if I were honest with myself, they were. SECOND mistake! I kind of convinced this person that we should continue pursuing whatever possibility there might be, but things never were the same. We went from fun long messages to small talk and finally flirting. I went from being the educated woman with all kinds of intellectual interests to the ditz who threw out some sexy talk to keep someone pseudo-interested. And I knew it! THIRD mistake!

I could tell this person wasn’t really engaging in conversation and I wasn’t really setting myself up as a valuable lady anymore. I’d start stupid little chats when I was bored and sometimes realized that he was barely answering. So I kept trying. FOURTH mistake! Oh, but he sure noticed during late nights when the chats got a bit steamy. Then he paid attention. And even though that is totally not who I am with virtual strangers, I had fun with it. FIFTH mistake!

This person was totally nice but he’s still a male and even though I knew in my head that he wasn’t really into me, I was bored/lonely/whatever enough to keep flirting and being my normally optimistic self. And of course that will keep a man “interested” on a superficial level. SIXTH mistake!

I told this person if we were going to pursue things, I’d like to move to phone calls and meet soon, but I had to nag him for a call. SEVENTH mistake! And there wasn’t much chemistry during the call, (although I’m shy, so that might be understandable.) When I hung up, I thought “ughh!” that was NOT what I want. (And it wasn’t like the guy I missed out on some years ago.) And I still kept trying! EIGHTH mistake! Guess what? Just because there is some interest at first, doesn’t mean you have to pathetically chase it when it’s clearly dissolving! And yet I did.

As things got out of hand, I realized this was not the real me, or how I wanted to be seen or what I really wanted. I realized I was making myself the easy go-to girl while this person was clearly dating people he respected more because they weren’t making fools of themselves. What was I thinking?! I know better than this! I prod my girlfriends when they do dumb things like this…and yet I did it. The authors of The Rules would be shaking their heads at me. The authors of He’s Just Not That Into You would write a chapter about me. And I know these books to be fully accurate and I usually trust them. But I was silly this time despite knowing the truth.

And you know what else I did? I passed up two dates with men who would be good choices for me…because I was talking to this guy. One of the guys I turned down was a great match and very enthusiastic about meeting me and THAT is what I really want. I’ve lost count of how many mistakes I made!

While I was going through this dumb phase, I knew I was doing everything all wrong. Quite frankly, I once broke up with an ex-boyfriend who was short, overweight and balding because I couldn’t feel attraction, and yet this person had the same qualities, (although to be fair, this guy wears it well.) So I made a list of what I really want and tried to remind myself that this person was not going to turn into what I really wanted, and even though I’m very broad-minded, he clearly was not that into me.

And, as soon as I pulled back from getting steamy in chat and said I couldn’t sleep with him…guess who lost ALL interest and got a bit mad at me? Yep. I had a feeling that was all he wanted–especially since our chats were mostly at night and he always turned them that direction. GAZZIOLLIONTH mistake!

So what have I learned? (Or re-learned?) Oh so much! But here are a few things:

First of all, I will always be open-minded to imperfection, but the spark has to be there–as well as genuine, enthusiastic interest on both sides that doesn’t require me to dumb myself down or do some chasing. Don’t be desperate. Don’t settle. Don’t hang on too long to something that’s pointless. I’ve been in good relationships and the real thing doesn’t leave you constantly wondering if the other person is interested–this whatever-it-was left me in that state, and try as I might, I wasn’t fooling myself. (But I did make a fool out of myself!)

So, I realize I have so much more to learn about respecting myself, valuing myself and letting others value the real me, expecting and getting respect, maintaining boundaries and more. But, I’m open to that and I’m refreshed in my desire to constantly improve!

Always be true to yourself because back-stabbing yourself hurts worse than when others do it

Always be true to yourself and your values

Always be true to yourself and your values

I literally feel sick to my stomach right now, because I realize I have completely disrespected myself, my boundaries, what I feel is right, and my integrity. I put a low value on myself and behaved in a manner that is not in keeping with what I really feel or want in the long term, and I betrayed myself for the thrill of short term fun. Fortunately, no real damage was done, but I realized in my desire to find a relationship, I rushed ahead too much instead of respecting myself and showing the other person how to respect me as well. (In case this is cryptic, I’ll avoid gossip by stating that no one-night-stands were involved. That’s really, really not for me!) I acted like a real ditz and a bimbo, and didn’t really show the real me or the way I want people to see me. I think I basically set myself up to be someone’s fling by being too “easy” instead of looking for a guy who wants more than flirting. There’s every chance that said guy might want a relationship, but I have acted like a plaything instead of a respectable woman, which destroys any opportunity for the kind of relationship I want. What the heck was I thinking? I am experiencing dissonance between my actions and the real me, and it feels terrible.

The playfulness and flirtiness are definitely part of my nature, but I usually reserve them for relationships–not as ways to get someone who probably isn’t truly interested in ME to be a bit interested for a while. I feel like I acted like a peacock to get temporary attention when I really want a dedicated partner.

So what have I learned? Be true to yourself. If you are a smart girl, don’t try to be flirty for fear that a male will lose attention if you aren’t! He might find you amusing for a while, but you know who he’s going to keep seeing? The woman who respected herself all along, the woman who expected typical dating courtesy, the woman who wasn’t desperate. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve documented a lot of it in this blog, but clearly I have more to learn.

Value yourself because people often treat you the way you show them to treat you

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

Humility and selflessness are good qualities! Greed and materialism are bad qualities! Right? Yes…sort of. I want to blog about something I’ve noticed a few times now, and a lesson I learned from it.

As a codependent, I’ve always put my needs and myself last in relationships. I asked my then husband-to-be to buy me a cheap ring because I didn’t want to be selfish. After we married he was the breadwinner, so I lived cheaply and encouraged him to splurge on himself. I kept the house immaculate and catered to him because I felt like I owed him and didn’t have much value since I was “just” a housewife. Guess how he treated me? Like a maid.

On the other hand, my husband was head over heels in love with his ex-girlfriend. (Yes, that made for an awkward marriage!) She had demanded the best of everything…and she got it. She was no better than me, but she asked to be treated like a queen and she was. I quietly pushed attention and gifts away from myself and taught him that I was not as valuable as she was. He never felt like I was a prize like she was, because he had to work for her and compete for her attention, whereas I was the sure bet that he settled for.

I also had a long-term ex-boyfriend that was a financial drain on me. I kept bailing him out of his money troubles and he used MY money to buy me gifts. He would have fun hiking outside all day while I went to work. I got tired of that eventually and left. He soon fell in love with another girl…who made him work for her. Eight years later he’s still chasing that impossible dream. He waits on her hand and foot and spends huge amounts of money trying to win her affections. She isn’t a mean girl, but she wants a man to treat her well and as such, even though we are very similar for looks, intelligence and education, she’s a prize and I’m a shrinking violet.

Both of those men treated me completely differently than they treated the women who valued themselves and asked to be valued. It made me realize that hey, maybe I should expect a little dazzle too! What a conflict with my nature–which is to be shy and introverted and to feel guilty asking for things. Maybe there is something to the traditional courtship gifts of jewelry and roses? Maybe men need to see women as a prize to win over rather than the humble little mouse who doesn’t ask for anything? I think some of these traits are hard-wired into our biology. Maybe someone isn’t going to treat you like a valuable prize unless you let them know that you are worth having.

Now I’m never going to be a material girl, but I’m certainly not going to put myself last anymore. I’m a prize myself and how I view my value determines how others will as well. Lesson learned!

 

Dealing with Crazy People!

People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give Them the Keys by Mike Bechtle

Click here to purchase People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys

This is a good book filled with lots of useful tips and information for those of us who have to deal with “crazy” people. It is from a Christian point of view and has some religious quotes and influence, although I didn’t think it was too preachy. There were long sections with no religious commentary at all. Most of it is good common sense; however, if you were raised in an abusive home, you might not have learned to have the kind of boundaries and self-respect you need to deal with dysfunctional people. That has been a big problem for me, so the title of this book caught my attention at the book store!

I think the information in this book is essential and very, very helpful. I underlined so many good ideas and realities that I wish I’d known sooner. Such as “The key to controlling our emotions is to manage our thoughts” (page 84.) Bechtle points out that we cannot change crazy people, but we could make ourselves miserable trying to do it. Instead, he points out that we have to change our reactions to crazy people so they no longer have the power to control our emotions. I have a problem with a sociopathic ex-spouse with whom I have not spoken in two years. He still manages to attempt to harass me in any way he possibly can…that doesn’t breach the protective order I have against him. For two years, I have lived with daily harassment or reminders of it as he has tried to destroy all of my friendships and has spread lies about me. I finally said “enough is enough” and decided to completely shut off all information about his wacky behavior. He’s still out there being crazy, but I am not paying attention to it anymore. I am so much happier and my friends tell me they see the difference now that I have peace in my life again. It has allowed me to be far more productive. The author doesn’t specifically address dealing with personality-disordered people, but many of the ideas still apply.

The author recommends tips such as backing away from your emotional response to a crazy person, and instead looking at the situation realistically. Crazy people often manipulate or lie to us in such a convincing manner that we believe them and lose track of reality. It allows them to control us and our emotions. Instead, we need to replace our incorrect thoughts with truth and enforce strong boundaries. This book includes these important ideas and more.

One thing I will say is, even though this book has many level-headed, sensible and helpful ideas, it was not an easy read for me. The text is simple and easy to understand, but it’s not written in an engaging way that made me want to read it straight through. It’s not a fun book to read, but it is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of dealing with crazy people and protecting yourself. I really think he makes excellent and useful points. Another thing I’ll point out is, this author doesn’t focus much on cutting contact with crazy people. He mostly describes ways to live with that person without letting them control your life, so this book will be helpful for those who can’t get the crazy person out of their lives.

The chapter titles are:

Part 1–Stuck in a Crazy World
1. I’m Okay, You’re Crazy
2. The Problem with Believing We’re Right
3. How Relationships Work

Part 2–Changing Someone Else
4. Stop Yelling at the Toaster Oven
5. The impact of Influence
6. Can I Fire My Family?

Part 3–Changing Yourself
7. Why Can’t Everyone Be Like Me
8. The Energy of Emotions
9. Seven Keys to Unlocking Healthy Relationships
10. Key #1–See Yourself Realistically
11. Key #2–Take Yourself Lightly
12. Key #3–Don’t Sweat the Wrong Stuff
13. Key #4–Don’t Rush Growth
14. Key #5–Live Through the Lens of Kindness
15. Key #6–Base Your Choices on Integrity, Not Convenience
16. Key #7–Go the Distance in Relationships

Part 4–Changing Your Environment
17. Prioritize Your Relationships
18. No Guarantees
19. When to Leave

Part 5–Putting It into Practice
20. Giving Up on Getting Straight A’s
21. You Can’t Steer a Parked Car
22. Your Relationship Survival Kit
23. It’s Worth the Effort

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