Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz

Monday, January 9, 2017

What is emotional abuse?

Most people know what physical abuse is, but when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to think there’s much more of a ‘grey area’.
They might know it has something to do with treating your partner badly – name calling or making them feel small – but not be clear on what’s actually classed as emotional abuse, or whether it’s really as serious as other types.
But if you’re on the receiving end, it can be just as damaging and upsetting – and this is reflected in the law.

What constitutes emotional abuse?
There are a variety of types of behavior that could be classed as emotional abuse. These include:

Intimidation and threats.
This could be things like shouting, acting, aggressing or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.

This could be things like name calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you're being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel.
Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.

Economic abuse
such as withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.
Telling you what you can and can’t do. As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?

How do I know it's abuse?
Sometimes, people wonder whether ‘abuse’ is the right term to describe any relationship difficulties they’re going through. They may feel like their partner shouts at them a lot or makes them feel bad, but think ‘abuse’ would be too ‘dramatic’ a word to use.
But the point of whether behavior is abusive is how it makes you feel. If your partner’s behavior makes you feel small, controlled or as if you’re unable to talk about what’s wrong, it’s abusive. If you feel like your partner is stopping you from being able to express yourself, it’s abusive. If you feel you have to change your actions to accommodate your partner’s behavior, it’s abusive.
There may be many reasons for partners behaving in this way. They may have grown up in a family environment where there was lots of shouting or sarcasm, or been in relationships in the past that made them feel insecure. Sometimes in couple counseling, we are able to consider those behaviors, and the impact in your relationship. But while this might help us to understand, it can never be used as an excuse – so whether it’s on purpose or not, it isn’t OK. If you feel like you’re being subjected to abusive behavior, remember you deserve to have a voice, and you don’t deserve to be made to feel scared or small.

What now?
One of the most helpful first steps if you feel you’re in an abusive relationship is to speak to someone outside of it.
If you can talk to someone who isn’t involved, they might be able to lend you a little perspective. This can be a particularly useful if you’re not sure where you stand – sometimes, behavior we’ve become used to can seem quite clearly unreasonable to an objective outsider.
This person might be a member of your family or a friend. Or it may be a Relationship Counselor. Counselors are trained to unpick situations like this, helping you and your partner to understand where any abusive behavior might be coming from and how you can work together to move towards a more mutually respectful and healthy relationship.
You may want to come along by yourself at first, especially if you don’t think your partner would react well to the suggestion. We can then help you figure out what’s happening – and whether inviting your partner along so you can work on things together would be a good idea.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Is it love, or is it just attachment?

We all have those friends who jump from relationship to relationship, and each time, they are “totally and completely in love.”
For those of us who have been single longer than two of their relationships combined, we can't help but wonder how someone can possibly be “in love” with all these people.
I mean, come on. It's not love. It's fear of being alone. Right?
Yes. And no. I mean we can't calculate love any more than we can election polls or Miley’s next erotic exorcism. It's just something you get a feeling about.
But what if your feeling is wrong? What if you're just so damn scared of being alone that anyone who comes close to making you feel safe and secure feels like your soulmate?
You know those relationships you got out of, and after a few months, you couldn't believe you ever said those three beautiful words to someone you wouldn't want to be seen with today? How could you love someone so grotesque? Someone so not your type? Someone so shallow?
Well, it's usually because it wasn't love. It was attachment.
I have no real insight in knowing if your love is real or if it's just insecurity masked in AXE body spray, but I can give you some general pointers. They’re the kind of pointers to show your friend because she's becoming way too attached to that douchebag you thought for sure would be a one-night stand.
Because you don't want to attend a wedding where the only thing the bride has to say about the groom is that “he's always there.” And if you're not sure about your own love motives, take a look at the list to decipher if what you're doing is worth all the time invested.

Love is passionate; attachment is apathetic

They say the closest feeling to love is hate, hence why after you break up with someone, all that beautiful, selfless love turns into raging, passionate, inexplicable hate.
When you're just attached to someone, however, you never really get that rage. You get paranoia, anxiety and moments of irritation, but you don't let those anxious feelings confuse you for something as beautiful and important as real hate.

Love is selfless; attachment is self-centered

When you're in love, it's all about the other person. For the first time in your life, you want to put someone else's needs before your own.
When it's just attachment, you just want someone to be there before you. You're not looking out for him or her — you're looking out for you.
The only reason you're buying this person new bedding from Bed Bath & Beyond is so you don't have to sleep alone anymore. Everything you do for your partner is a little bit about you.

Love is hard; attachment is only difficult when you're apart

Real love is never easy. You'd think it would be because it's so pure and beautiful, but anything that intense and life-changing takes work. You must foster it and keep it nourished.
With attachment, there's nothing to grow and feed; it's just about how many times you can see each other in a week.
You need this person the same way you need a fix. It’s not growing, blooming or changing into another dimension. Like any drug, the high is not long-term, and you will come down.

Love is freeing; attachment is possessive

When you're in love, you don't need to see the person to feel safe. You don't need to be with this person to understand how he or she feels. You never wonder about your love's affection and never get jealous.
When it's just attachment, you never have a true hold on your partner's feelings because the only time you feel safe is when you're with him or her. When you’re apart, you can’t help but wonder what, or who, he or she is doing.
If they’re also just attached, doesn’t that mean they need someone to attach to?

Love is empowering; attachment is all about power

There's nothing like real love to make you feel like you can do anything. It gives you a new sense of freedom, a rejuvenated energy. You're alive and ready to take on the world.
When it's just an attachment, it becomes a power struggle. You want to make sure you're the one in the relationship who doesn't get left. You're the one calling the shots, and you're the one with the key to the handcuffs.

Love is timeless; attachment is timed

When you're in love — and I mean really in love — that's it. Whether it works out or not, this person will always be the love of your life.
Attachment doesn't work like that. Attachment is always on a deadline, always on standby. Attachment isn't real — it's like a limbo for real love.
One of these days, one of you is going to find that real love and all that attachment you placed on each other will fall off as quickly as you put it on.
Real love doesn’t fall off; it stays with you forever.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We have different sex drives

Many couples will experience different levels of sex drive at some point in their relationship. For some couples differences in sex drive may have been present from the start of the relationship. This is normal and lots of people find ways of compromising that feel fine to both partners. For some people, their sex drive lessens over time and finding ways to talk about this together may help to prevent a partner feeling unloved and rejected.
If things seem to have changed for you and you’re concerned about it, try to work out what is causing the difference in your sex drives. Here are some of the things that can contribute to changes in sex drive:

Issues within the relationship

If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel OK, then it may be that sex is not something that you want to have with your partner. Many couples work through difficult relationship issues, either together or with the help of a counselor and sex becomes something that feels more possible again and may even be more rewarding than before. But no one should have sex against their will or feel pressurized into activities that don’t feel right or comfortable.


Stress is one of the most common causes for a decrease in sex drive. Equally though, getting close to someone can be a way of managing stress although it’s important that no one feels their partner ‘only wants sex’ and isn’t interested in how stressed they may be feeling.
If you think stress is affecting your sex life, you might want to think about talking with your partner about it and make it clear it’s not a reflection of how you’re feeling about the relationship (unless of course it is, in which case talking about the relationship issues may be helpful).

Mental and physical health issues

Some mental health issues like depression and anxiety can lead to one partner withdrawing from sex or in some cases needing a lot more. Some physical ailments can have similar effects too. If this is a problem for you, it may be helpful to discuss with your doctor. Some medications can also affect sex drive and it may be possible to talk with them about alternatives. The effects of mental and physical problems can come between partners and if this is the case, talking with a counselor may help you both to manage things better.

Becoming parents

Although kids are great, becoming a parent is often exhausting. Sleepless nights, a routine that might feel very different to what you had before and the need to focus on caring for the new addition to the family can all take their toll on feeling like having sex, or even just getting close. Whether you’ve given birth, adopted or started fostering, many people find that the new demands they face can make any sort of sex life feel problematic. Taking time to explore how you feel with a partner, friends or a counselor can help prevent sex becoming taboo and help you establish what you now need from your sex life and how it could be realistically managed.

Issues around body image

Lots of life stages affect our bodies. Illness, aging, pregnancy, weight and surgery can all affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies and how much of our bodies we want to share with ourselves or with a partner. For some people, being sexual plays a part in feeling loved and accepted regardless of anything else that might be going on. For others, sex might be something that now feels out of reach or at the bottom of the priority list. Finding the right words when there may be other serious problems can feel overwhelming and it may be difficult for a partner to understand how you’re feeling. If you recognize any of this, it could useful to talk to a Relationship Counselor or Sex Therapist who can help you to work through your feelings on your own or together.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016


There’s no formula for knowing when you should leave a relationship - it can be really stressful and confusing trying to make a decision.

You may think things haven’t been right for a while but still feel undecided about whether you could work through your issues.

While you might clearly remember how good things used to be you may now be losing faith that you can ever get back to that place.

It’s often hard to know whether you’re going through a bad patch, or if it’s something more serious. You might feel that letting your relationship end would mean you’re a failure. And you could also be thinking about any children involved –  whether separating would mean letting them down.

Taking a step back

The best way to start unpicking all of this is by trying to see things more objectively. It’s hard to make decisions around your relationship when you’re already feeling upset or confused. Without taking a step back you could find yourself doing something you later regret because you didn’t know which way to turn – or, equally, feel paralyzed and unable to make a decision because of all the conflicting emotions you’re experiencing.

It can be very useful to ask yourself a few simple questions about how you got here and what might happen next. For instance: is this a problem that’s developed more recently or has it been going on for a long time? Is it something you’ve tried to fix before, or is it a new problem?

And if you were to stay together, would you be doing so because you want to make the relationship work, or because you’re scared of being alone? Or likewise, if you were to break up, would you be doing so because you genuinely feel you’ve run out of other options, or simply because you’re tired of trying?

After asking yourself these questions, try writing down the answers. Putting words to your feelings can be great way of understanding them better – and figuring out what you need to address if you do want to make things work.

You could also write a list of all the ways in which the relationship feels different to how it used to: this can help you understand what the problem actually is, which in turn may help you understand what has caused it.

Relationships naturally go through lots of changes and transitions such as moving in together, getting married, having a baby, moving house, taking on a new job or losing a job. These changes can create challenges. Sometimes the changes are less momentous but equally difficult. We can all be guilty of putting less energy into our relationships, of nurturing them less, and this can take its toll. Familiarity can, in these circumstances, leave space for less positive behaviors and thoughts to creep in.

Doing it for you

Whatever you do decide, remember that the decision about whether or not to continue with your relationship is one you and your partner should make. You shouldn’t worry about what other people think, or what you think you’re supposed to do. 

Often, couples decide to ‘stay together for the kids’, but research show this isn’t a good reason to continue with a relationship that’s not working. It can be truly harmful to the children who are much better at picking up on tensions than we might think. Look at it this way: your relationship is going to be one of the key models by which they conduct the relationships in their own lives. Seeing that their parents were able to manage their differences and co-operate, even if it didn’t mean staying together, can be so much better for both their well being and development than regularly seeing their parents sticking with their relationship, but being cold, angry and resentful with each other.

Likewise, you may be feeling a lot of pressure to stay together because of family or religious pressure. While this is understandable, it’s also important to remember that this decision is about yours and your partner’s happiness – and isn’t for the benefit of anyone else. You’re the ones who’ll be most directly affected. Doing things because you don’t want to let down other people rarely works out in the long run, and can cause a lot of resentment over time.

And for a lot of people, there’s also a very real worry about feeling like a failure if they don’t stick with their relationship. When you start a relationship, you might have a lot of dreams for where it could go, and these tend to get bigger as time goes by. Letting these go is always sad. However, if, on balance, the relationship has reached a point where it can’t work – then sometimes this pain and sadness is necessary so you can move on and be happy again.

Talking it through

It’s always worth trying to work through any issues in your relationship before making any decisions.

The most obvious place to start is by talking to each other. Having difficult conversations about your relationship can be painful and tense, but communicating openly will be necessary if you’re going to find a way to resolve your differences. If you’d like help, take a look at our three communication tips to try with your partner – these can be particularly helpful for having conversations that you might otherwise find nerve-wracking.

Talking to people outside of the relationship can also be a really useful way of getting a neutral perspective on things. Speak to friends and family – people you can trust and who you know will listen to you. They may want to reassure and agree with you – and you may need to be wary of this - but they might also be able to help you develop a more objective view of what’s going on, which can be really useful when you’re trying to make big decisions.

And talking to a relationship counselor is a very useful way getting to the bottom of relationship issues. Your counselor won’t take sides or tell you what to do: they’ll simply help you to get a hold on what’s happening and think about options. Sometimes people don’t come to COUNSELING because they think we’ll try to simply convince them to stay together, but that’s not the case. We’ll simply help you to decided what’s best for you – even if this does mean you and your partner going separate ways.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

6 Reasons Women Leave Their Marriages, According To Marriage Therapists

Women considering divorce often turn to therapy as a last-ditch effort to save their marriages. Many times, their husbands have remained painfully unaware of the marital problems until that point, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania
“That’s exactly why good communication skills are such a key ingredient in a healthy marriage,” she told The Huffington Post. “So many women don’t feel seen, heard or validated in the relationship.”
Below, Wilke and other marriage therapists share the most common reasons women file for divorce. (We also recently asked them to share the most common issues men bring up before initiating divorce. Read that here.)

1. They feel taken for granted and overly responsible for the relationship.

For a marriage to work, both spouses need to show up. It requires attention, effort, intention and strong communication. At the end of the day, many wives take stock of all they do for their families and wonder where their spouse has been, said Kristin Davin, a psychologist and meditator in New York City.
“These women feel they carry the weight of the relationship, do most of the emotional work and constantly have to find new and novel things to do to keep the relationship alive,” she said. “It gets frustrating when they don’t receive equal (or close to equal) care in return. After a while, they say, ‘why bother’?”

2. They keep having the same argument with their partner. 

Many couples in marriage therapy have had the same argument about the same issues for years. When their needs continue to go unmet, mutual resentment grows ― a factor that is lethal to a relationship, said Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland.
“When women feel like they’re unable impact change, you start hearing statements like ‘You never listen to me’ or ‘your apologies are hollow and mean nothing,’” Bloch said. “This is particularly difficult if there is an addiction involved. Eventually women give up on the relationship and begin to look for a way out because staying no longer is an option.”

3. They’re not satisfied with their sex lives. 

For most couples, sex is a good barometer for the general health of the marriage. When women complain about their sex lives, there’s usually greater problems outside the bedroom, Davin said.
“Wives in sexually frustrating marriages feel exhausted and emotionally starved,” she said. “Or sometimes the issue is: can the couple be affectionate with one another without it always leading to sex? Sexual intimacy can easily become an issue that drives a wedge in a marriage.”

4. They don’t talk and emotionally connect with their husband like they used to.

Many long-married women are driven to divorce because they no longer feel emotionally tied to their partners, Wilke said.
“In fact, I’d say it’s the number one reason women leave their marriages,” she said. “This issue in particular makes an unhappy spouse so much more vulnerable to having an affair and looking for that connection elsewhere.”

5. They’ve outgrown their partners.

It’s inevitable that people will grow as individuals throughout the course of their relationship. It only becomes a real issue when they grow apart and one partner is resistant to reconnecting, said Anne Crowley, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist.
“As a marriage changes and evolves, it’s not uncommon to hear a wife tell her husband ‘I feel like I’ve outgrown you’ ― especially if they’ve had kids,” Crowley said. “Often the wife has invited and encouraged her spouse to go to therapy, to bridge that gap. If he’s resistant, it creates an impasse for the couple: The wife does not want to continue to repeat the same unhealthy patterns and he wants to maintain the status quo.”

6. They get to the point where divorce is the only way to put themselves first again. 

Often, longstanding issues like addiction or uncontrolled anger will simply push women over the edge, said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California.
“What I hear again and again is that they would rather end their marriage than face another day, week or year with their spouse and troubling issues that never get better.”
After enduring the behavior for so long, many wives realize they don’t deserve to live with tension and disappointment day in and day out. 
“Sometimes, despite their love, commitment and best roll-up-their-sleeves efforts to stay married, people just reach a point of no return and choose to split up,” Reilly said.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Relationship challenges can come from all kinds of places. 
You may have to deal with the challenge of feeling your partner has let you down in some way. Or the challenge of resolving a big difference of opinion. Or more practical challenges – like making sure you spend enough time together or learning to budget together effectively.
Being able to traverse these challenges is an essential part of maintaining your partnership and making sure you’re able to deal with all the stuff life throws at you. If you aren’t, you may find your relationship begins to be a challenge in itself – one that can cause anxiety, stress and upset.
Relate has designed a new quiz to help you figure out how well you cope with relationship challenges – and whether there are any things you could be doing differently.
Click below to give it a go!
Take the quiz

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Relationship support and children’s life chances: why parenting isn’t a private matter

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.”

So begins Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This be the Verse. Larkin’s representation of familial inheritance here is clearly overly pessimistic and cold in the extreme, yet it alludes to a kernel of truth now supported by a wealth of evidence from neuroscience: family relationships have a significant impact on children’s outcomes.
This makes relationships a clear social justice issue: the sheer contingency of our birth determines so much of what makes us who we are in a completely arbitrary way, long before we are even able to even know who we wish to be or what we want to do.
Parenting, we have come to realize, cannot therefore be a purely private matter. And parenting support was a key theme in the Prime Minister’s recent speech on life chances, in which he announced a new focus on the ‘Troubled Families’ programme on parenting skills and child development, as well as an expansion of universal parenting support as part of the forthcoming ‘life chances strategy’.
However, what has yet to be grasped fully by policy makers is the enormous influence of inter-parental relationships on children’s outcomes. The evidence is clear that:
  • Children growing up with parents who have good relationships and low parental conflict enjoy better physical and mental health [i], better emotional wellbeing [ii], higher academic attainment [iii] and a lower likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors [iv].
  • Children whose parents have poorer relationship quality exhibit more ‘externalizing’ behavior problems (e.g. hyperactivity, aggression).[v]
  • Inter-parental conflict which is frequent, intense and poorly-resolved is detrimental to children’s development, [vi] and can result in increased anxiety, withdrawal and depression, and behavioral problems including aggression, hostility, antisocial behavior, and even criminality.[vii]
And the evidence also shows that parents’ own relationship quality affects their relationships with their children, and hence parenting:
  • Almost every study examining parental relationships and parenting has found the quality of the relationship between parent and child to be linked to the quality of the relationship between the parents [viii].
  • Parents who report greater intimacy and better communication in their relationship tend to be more attuned to and affectionate toward their children [ix].
  • Parents whose relationship is troubled are less likely to have a more effective, authoritative parenting style with their children [x].
  • Parental conflict can lead to a reduced capacity to parent effectively, which results in impaired parent-child relationships and a higher likelihood of anxiety, behavior problems or withdrawal in children [xi].
And there is also good evidence that parenting support which focuses on the inter-parental relationships rather than simply parents’ skill and behaviors are effective – resulting in parents’ parenting styles being more responsive, appropriately structured, and less harsh; parents enjoying better relationship quality; and their children also showing fewer academic, social and emotional behavior problems over the next 10 years [xii].
What’s more, there is even some evidence from several longitudinal, randomized controlled studies indicating that parenting approaches that incorporate a focus on the quality of the parental couple relationship are more effective than those that maintain an exclusive focus on individual parent-child relationships and behaviors at maintaining couple relationship quality, reducing harsh parenting, reducing academic, social and emotional behavior problems in children, and reducing parenting stress [xiii].
However, parenting support tends to predominantly focus on parental behaviors, skills and techniques, rather than on the quality of parents’ relationships and their effects on children’s wellbeing and outcomes. Yet since evidence indicates that interventions that simultaneously aim to improve parenting skills and relationships within families, rather than focusing on parenting skills alone, are likely to have the most positive impact on families and children [xiv], we need to see a focus on the inter-parental relationships become a central focus of parenting support.
[i] Meltzer , H. Gatward, R., Goodman, R., & Ford, T. (2000) Mental health of children and adolescents in Great Britain. London: TSO
[ii] Harold, G. T., Rice, F., Hay, D. F., Boivin, J., Van Den Bree, M., & Thapar, A. (2011) Familial transmission of depression and antisocial behavior symptoms: disentangling the contribution of inherited and environmental factors and testing the mediating role of parenting. Psychological Medicine, 41(6), 1175-85; Cowan, C. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaption. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20 (3), 275-288
[iii] Harold, G. T., Aitken, J. J. & Shelton, K. H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48
[iv] Coleman, L. & Glenn, F. (2009) When Couples Part: Understanding the consequences for adults and children. London: One Plus One
[v] Garriga, A. & Kiernan, K. (2013) Parents’ relationship quality, mother-child relations and children’s behaviour problems: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Working Paper
[vi] Harold, G.T., Aitken, J.J. & Shelton, K.H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(12), 1223–1232
[vii] Harold, G.T. & Leve, L.D. (2012) Parents and Partners: How the Parental Relationship affects Children’s Psychological Development. In Balfour, A., Morgan, M., & Vincent, C. (Eds.) How Couple Relationships Shape Our World: Clinical Practice, Research and Policy Perspectives. London: Karnac; Grych, J. & Fincham, F. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290
[viii] Lindahl, K.M., Clements, M. & Markman, H. (1997) Predicting marital and parent functioning in dyads and triads: A longitudinal investigation of marital processes. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(2), 139 – 151
[ix] Grych, J. H. (2002) Marital Relationships and Parenting in Handbook of Parenting, Volume 4, Social Conditions and Applied Parenting. Ed. Bornstein. M. H. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
[x] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)
[xi] Grych, J.H. and Fincham, F.D. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290
[xii] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)
[xiii] Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2000) When partners become parents : the big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 20(3)
[xiv] Cowan, P., & Cowan, C.P. (2008) Diverging family policies to promote children’s well-being in the UK and US: Some relevant data from family research and intervention studies. Journal of Children’s Services, 3, 4–16