Connect with us

Advice

Reckless rebound?

When relationships end, give yourself time and space to heal

Published

on

Creative Alliance, gay news, Washington Blade
Creative Alliance, gay news, Washington Blade

(Blade file photo via Bigstock)

Hi Michael,

In January, Caroline, my girlfriend of four years, broke up with me. She said it wasn’t me; she just didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore. I was stunned.  She moved to the West Coast in February to start a new job and new life.

Before the shock wore off, I met someone new. Right away, Emily told me she was crazy about me.

Going against my better judgment not to rush into anything, I started dating her. It felt really good to have someone care about me again. We got very serious very quickly and pretty much were living together by April. Over Memorial Day weekend Emily dumped me and moved in with a girl she met in a grad school class. Supposedly they are in love now.

I don’t even know that I loved Emily, but I am a mess. It’s like all the pain of losing Caroline has piled onto the pain of being rejected all over again.

Now I’m spending my time stalking Caroline and Emily online. Although Caroline told me she was done with relationships, there she is with a new girlfriend. And Emily and her sweetheart have their hands all over each other in Facebook post after Facebook post.

I try not to look but can’t help myself. And I feel like nobody wants to be with me, that I am unlovable and will always be alone. How can I help myself feel better?

Michael replies:

Let’s start with the masochistic stalking. You say you can’t help yourself, but you can. Telling yourself you “can’t” gives you permission to continue making yourself feel bad.

So quit Facebook for now and block it from your screens. You’ll be giving your brain a break from the self-torture groove and an opportunity to develop some new behaviors that are kinder to yourself. If that’s too much of a shock to your friendship network, at the very least consider blocking your ex’s posts from your daily feed and resist the urge to visit their pages.

Next: When you start twisting the knife into your heart, what can you do that will help you feel better instead of worse? What are your go-to activities when you’re down? Reading? A pet? Being more sociable or less? Exercise improves mood, so you could go to the gym for a vigorous workout. Meditation — which helps our brains let go of intrusive thoughts — would also be helpful. There are meditation classes throughout D.C. as well as apps to teach you how to zen out.

While you have reason to grieve right now, wallowing in thoughts of your supposed unlovability will not help you make sense of your loss or help you heal. So when you are tempted to make yourself miserable, push yourself toward a path that lifts you up instead of pulling you down.

But to successfully change what I suspect are long-standing habits, you need to understand why you keep making yourself so unhappy.

You say you’re unlovable because two gals in a row have dumped you. But maybe you have things backward and you choose gals who are likely to leave you because you think you’re unlovable.

Here’s the evidence: You keep making choices that reinforce your own lack of self-worth, such as leaping into a relationship with Emily against your better judgment and endlessly staring at painful online photos.

If my theory makes sense, ask yourself why you believe you’re only worthy of a lousy life where girlfriend after girlfriend drops you and runs off into the sunset with Ms. Perfect.

I don’t know you, of course, so I can’t speculate as to why you might be making choices that leave you miserable. There could be a hundred contributing factors.

But I want to raise just one possibility: Do you feel OK about being lesbian? I ask this simply because despite decades of forward progress, it is still so easy for a young person to feel she’s not good enough — or worse, that she’s defective — if she isn’t straight. Perhaps this is true for you, perhaps not.

In any case, you are going to have to keep a relentless focus on feeling better and on figuring out why you may be torturing yourself, so that you can make better choices.

So please find a therapist who is skilled at working with self-sabotaging behaviors, who also possesses some LGBT knowledge and skills. You need someone to help you explore and strategize for a better life.

One more thing to explore: What went wrong with Caroline? Did you somehow miss her complaints, her unhappiness, or just a sense of incompatibility? And, how might you have contributed to the breakup?

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to[email protected].

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advice

Working from home is taking over our lives

We need to create boundaries and return to offices

Published

on

working from home, gay news, Washington Blade

Back in the late 1980s when I was a young financial analyst at a New York bank, I’d leave the office at five and go home to my little Upper West Side studio. With no cable, internet, or cellphone, a landline was my only connection to the outside word till I went back to work the next day.

What was it like? Tranquility is the word. Surrounded by Manhattan, I was as isolated as a monk in a cell, with uninterrupted hours to read a book, cook, or listen to an album. And of course I could go out on the town without a work crisis reaching out to ruin my plans.

I’ve been thinking back to those days a lot, lately. Working as a psychologist, I’m hearing more and more clients complain lately about how much time they’re putting into their jobs. Folks have been working from home for a year now, and as the months have gone by, many of us are spending more and more hours on the job.

What’s going on? I hear a few justifications.

First, many people tell me that they don’t feel they have an excuse not to reply when they get a text or email from a boss or colleague after normal work hours. After all, what else would they be doing? This is especially true of my single clients who don’t have children. Even dinnertime isn’t off limits.

Second, as the pandemic drags on and most of us have so few sources of fun and stimulation, people are turning more and more to their jobs for something — anything — to keep them occupied.

And, of course, there’s the reality that we’re working from our homes. There’s no physical boundary keeping work at work.

So while it’s great not to have to commute or wear pants, working from home is making it even easier for our jobs to take over our lives than they already were. Put bluntly, this sucks.

We all need a break from work. Every day. Your job likely isn’t paying you for 16-hour days. Even if it is, you need to have some fun, rest, and recharge your brain.

Of course we can’t shut ourselves off from the world as completely as I did in those pre-internet/cellphone days. But we need to draw a boundary, even if it means disappointing our employers and colleagues by doing so. I’m not talking about not doing your job. I’m just talking about setting a limit on how much of your life you are willing to give to your work.

Standing up for your own well-being can be scary. There may be real risks in terms of job security and compensation. Only you can decide for yourself when it is vital to say “no.” But advocating for yourself is necessary at times. To quote Hillel, an ancient Jewish sage: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

Taking action on your own behalf is also a skill you want to develop, because it will help you in all areas of your life. If you can’t say “no” in order to eat dinner uninterrupted, watch a movie you’d like to see, spend time with someone you love or get a good night’s sleep, you’re going to get chewed up and spit out by others, quite a lot.

Recently, I’ve been reading that D.C.’s downtown is in danger of financial ruin. As many people may not be be returning to the office after the pandemic, some believe that the whole web of service businesses may collapse.

I’m hoping that the doomsdayers floating this theory are wrong, and that as the pandemic ends many of us will head back to the office, at least much of the time. We need to get back to setting a stronger boundary between work and the rest of our lives.

Yes, we’ll be helping our city rebound. And we’ll also be making a big step toward taking care of ourselves, by re-constructing a life that’s about way more than work.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com.

Continue Reading

Advice

ADVICE: Despair vs. resilience in trying times

Coronavirus lockdown has many down but you’re stronger than you think

Published

on

As the COVID-19 crisis goes on without our having any clarity about how or when this crazy situation will improve, most everyone I know is super-anxious about getting sick, fed up with being locked down or both. Is there a way for us to get through this any easier? 

Here’s a start: Acknowledge that there are no guarantees in life.

When we accept that life is going to throw all sorts of challenges at us and that there is sometimes nothing we can do to stop these challenges from coming, that leaves us with one great option: Work on becoming more resilient so we can better deal with the hard stuff, including the very hard stuff.

This is called resilience. Being able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going forward. Cliché, yes, but it’s what we need to do if we don’t want life to beat us down.

Good news: resilience is a trait we are born with. As I’m writing these words, I’m watching my 4-month-old, who recently learned to turn from his back onto his belly, trying to turn from his belly onto his back. He’s been at this for days, and has succeeded just once. He keeps crying and trying. He won’t give up. That’s resilience.

Further good news: If you’re LGBT, you likely have already done some work in this area. All the difficulties that we experience as we grow up — struggling to accept an identity that’s stigmatized, teasing, rejection and worse — and here we are. How? All of us found a way to keep moving forward in our lives rather than letting circumstances defeat us.

Of course, this is pretty much true of anyone who has been through tough times and survived. Many of our elders who experienced the Depression, wartime, or worse tell us that they aren’t fazed by the virus or having to stay at home. Having endured previous struggles, they know they can do their best to endure this one.

That’s what all of us must keep in mind now. Knowing that we have had the resilience to get through past difficulties can support us in getting through this new hard time.

Another important point to keep in mind: When we give our suffering meaning, it helps us endure the suffering. Reminding ourselves that striving to endure this tough period will make us even more resilient can actually help us to more easily endure it.

Other ways we can strengthen our own capacity for resilience: 

Do our best to take care of ourselves, of course. When we eat well, find a way to exercise, get adequate sleep and take breaks from virus-worrying through meditation or just focusing on something pleasant or uplifting, we’re less anxious and better able to keep calm. The ability to soothe ourselves is key to being resilient.

Stay connected to people around us so that we don’t wind up feeling isolated and alone, which can deepen feelings of hopelessness. We all need supportive friends and family whom we can ask for assistance when we really need it to survive. Knowing that they are there is part of feeling resilient. And if we’re able to help others in some way — dropping off groceries for an elderly relative or neighbor, or simply being willing to listen — we’re likely to feel stronger and more able to cope.

Appreciate what we have. This can include a roof over our head, food to eat, people and companion animals we love and simply being alive right now. Doing will serve us much better than lamenting.

While none of us will live forever, we all want to stay in the game as long as we can. Striving to be resilient can help us keep going forward through life with the belief that if it’s possible to survive, we have a good shot at doing so. And that belief can give us hope, determination and a positive outlook.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay individuals and couples in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com

Continue Reading

Advice

ADVICE: Nerves easily fray while social distancing

Look within to avoid unnecessary tension with your significant other

Published

on

social distancing advice, gay news, Washington Blade

For many years, I’ve told couples I work with that being in long-term relationships is like taking a long journey by ship in a very small stateroom. You know, the kind where the couch unfolds to be a bed, you have to step over your partner’s legs to get to the bathroom and there’s no place to stow the suitcases. You have to find a way to stay calm, not drive each other crazy and enjoy the voyage.

I’d never actually traveled by boat, so this was just my theory. So when my husband and I were lucky enough to take a journey by ship up the Norwegian coast a few years back and had a cabin exactly as I’d envisioned (i.e. teeny), I discovered I was right. Despite the unbelievably gorgeous scenery right out our porthole, after a few days we could see how easy it would be to get irritable with each other.

Now here we all are in a much more difficult situation. We’re stuck at home, on top of each other, trying to do our jobs while taking care of companion animals and children, attempting to avoid an invisible enemy that could be anywhere.  We can’t go out on deck to watch Norway float by. Instead, we’ve got the television to look at, keeping us posted about all the bad and scary news.  

So it’s natural that as our nerves fray, we’re going to get irritated by our mates. They’re in the way. We don’t like their tone. They aren’t doing enough or responding when we ask a question. We feel like we’re the one doing everything.  

Sound familiar?

It makes sense that we react like this at such a stressful time, but when we do, it’s all downhill from there. In our current predicament, we don’t have the usual escape outlets that let us take a break and come back to our spouses calmer and with a refreshed attitude.  

What to do? Here are some simple strategies to help you, your significant other and your relationship through this extraordinarily miserable period:

Don’t point fingers: Think about what you can do to make the situation better rather than focusing on what your spouse should be doing. And then do it. This is a great strategy even in normal times. Remember, we have very little power to get another person to do something, but lots of power over our own behavior. So if we want things to change, we should look first to ourselves.

Be generous: Does your spouse feel strongly about something? Now is likely not the time to get into a struggle over whose say goes. Unless you have good reason to go in the other direction, be generous. Again, this is a policy worth adhering to when we get back to normal (soon, I hope!).

Take responsibility for soothing your own anxiety: This is always a great idea, but especially now. Yes, when we’re worried about something it feels great to get a hug and be told everything will be OK. But right now, your partner is just as anxious as you are and likely without the bandwidth to soothe you. Moreover, none of us really know that everything will be OK. 

So the best thing you can do when you’re anxious is look to yourself to find ways to keep as calm as you can, under the current circumstances: Meditation, slow deep breaths, whatever exercise you can find to do, striving to be in the present, working to accept uncertainty — these are all ways you may be able to help yourself feel even a little more calm.

And if you’re able to reach out and offer your spouse some loving reassurance — even if none of us know how this will end — so much the better.  Giving your partner emotional support is always a good move.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular