Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What are the warning signs of an abuser?

The warning signs listed below should make you wary but rather than focusing on single acts, look for patterns of behaviour that show control, restriction and disrespect. No-one should be frightened of their partner or prevented from making choices about their life.
Remember also that abusers are often very charming and convincing to everyone - including their partners, until the abuse starts - and then they often continue to be very charming to everyone else except their partner.
This often has the effect of making their partner think 'oh it must be me, it must be my fault', especially since the abuser is usually telling them it is. It can also make them feel awkward about telling other people because they won't seem plausible because they only know their 'nice' side.

The single biggest warning sign is:

  • If they've been in a violent relationship before. Abusive people rarely change.

  • Don't make the mistake of thinking 'it will be different with me - they didn't treat them right'. It's also worth remembering that almost without exception, every abuser claims that they were really the victim.

Other possible warning signs are:

  • They put your friends down and / or make it difficult for you to see them.

  • They lose their temper over trivial things.

  • They have very rigid ideas about the roles of men and women and can't / won't discuss it reasonably.

  • Their mood swings are so erratic that you find yourself constantly trying to assess their mood and only think in terms of their needs. A healthy relationship has give and take.

  • It's difficult for you to get emotional or physical space away from them - even if you directly ask for it. And if you do get it, they 'grill' you about where you've been and who you were with.

  • They criticise you all the time - about your weight, your hair, your clothes, etc.

  • They make all the decisions in your relationship and ignore your needs or dismisses them as unimportant.
If after reading this you think that you are, or might be, in an abusive relationship, this is a number and organisation to call:-
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Questions to ask before Marriage

Getting married is a huge step, so it's worth making sure you and your partner are thinking along the same lines before you tie the knot.

1. Do we love, trust and respect each other?
2. Do we share the same expectations of marriage?
3. Do we share things in common that make us shout, cry and laugh?
4. Do we agree on major life issues, such as children, family and friends, where we'll liveand style of living?
5. Do we have a way of managing conflict?
6. Do we share the same views on infidelity and commitment to avoiding temptation?
7. Do we love each other just the way we are today, without any hidden agenda to try to change the other?
You don't have to agree on everything. The important thing is that you and your partner have talked through these questions and both feel confident you can live and work together, knowing what the other believes. 

Why marry?

Although living together is now acceptable, 60 per cent of cohabiting couples still get married after a few years.

Good reasons to marry

Because you're in love. Although love shouldn't be the only reason to marry, it's an important ingredient in the most successful relationships.
To make a commitment. You've decided that you want to be together forever, knowing each other's faults and failings.
It's part of your culture. The ceremony of marriage is an integral part of your cultural or religious beliefs and an essential part of your core value system.
To start a family. You've both enjoyed a secure and committed relationship for some time and feel marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children.
To celebrate. Because you want your family and friends to share with you in your happiness and commitment as a couple.
It's the right time. You have a solid and secure relationship and it feels like the logical next step.

To make your relationship secure. If your relationship isn't secure before you marry, there's no reason to think it will be afterwards. It may be harder for you to separate after marriage, but that doesn't mean you'll be happy.
Fear of being alone. Some people marry because they're scared that no one else will have them. Remember, it's better to be left on the shelf than spend your whole life in the wrong cupboard.
For the children. It's true that, on the whole, children benefit from living with two parents, but marrying purely for your child is unlikely to create a happy home environment.
You want a big wedding. The big white wedding may seem like a fairy tale come true, but it only lasts a day. Marriage is (supposed to be) for life.
To recover from divorce. Some people want a second marriage to help them to get over the first - to prove that they're OK. But those feelings must come from within.
You may have many more reasons why you want to marry. The most important thing is that you and your partner have fully discussed your reasons and that you're both confident you share the same motivation and intentions.

Fears and expectations

As well as looking at your reasons for getting married it's important to look at what you expect from married life. Some people blame current divorce rates on the fact that people expect too much from marriage, but this isn't necessarily the case.
As long as you both share the same expectations, you can work together to achieve them. But if you both expect different things, one of you will always be disappointed. 
Your expectations and fears may be influenced by many things, including experiences of friends, previous relationships and media images. But one of the most powerful influences will be your family.
As small children we learn about relationships by watching our parents. These messages often sink deep into our unconscious mind, waiting to pop up when we become wives or husbands ourselves.
It's perfectly natural to have doubts and fears about getting married - it's one of the biggest decisions we make in our lives. But as long as you and your partner can openly share your feelings, support and reassure each other, chances are you're on the right track.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dear Trina....

If you have a relationship problem, question or something you would like me to answer, comment on or share.....please leave your dilemmas or questions below, and I will respond.

Long-distance relationships

Absence makes the heart grow fonder - or so the saying goes. But what if the time away is prolonged, or one partner is more relaxed about the situation?

Different views of distance

How couples cope with being apart largely depends on how they feel about the separation. Here are some common interpretations:
What's the big deal? - if you were brought up in a family where absence was the norm, it may be that periods apart are no problem.
It's the thin end of the wedge - perhaps in your past someone left saying it was temporary, but didn't come back. You may see a period of separation as the beginning of the end.
If you loved me, you'd stay - love is linked to being physically near and any threat to that is also a threat to your emotional security.
But it's not for long - it might be your nature to look at life in the long term and see a bigger picture and, therefore, you may find it easier than your partner to see this as a temporary phase of your relationship.
It's just not right - if your parents were together nearly all the time, then absence may simply be beyond your experience. Being a couple means being together.
On top of your personal interpretations of the absence, each of you will have a different perspective depending on whether you're the one leaving or staying.

Away from home

If you're the one who's going away, you have the advantage of experiencing new scenery, a new job and new people, perhaps. The disadvantages, of course, are missing your home and the company of friends and family. And although there may be many new experiences, you'll have to deal with the loneliness of having no partner with you to share them. People away from home often find their emotions swing between heights of excitement and depths of longing.

Left at home

If you're the partner who's staying at home, you have the advantage of familiar surroundings and, hopefully, the support of friends and family. The downside of this is that you may feel abandoned and trapped. There are also few new experiences for you, just the humdrum of daily life and the loneliness of having to get on with it on your own.

Making it work

The key to making long-distance relationships work is to talk honestly and openly about how you feel. Couples often fall into one of the following traps:
Let's pretend it's OK - if asked how you are, you both say "I'm OK, everything's fine." Underneath you're both lonely, but are too scared to say in case the other person doesn't understand.
It's all right for you - you try to be nice when you talk, but the resentment slips out. You're both convinced your partner's having an easier time of it than you. Underneath you both want reassurance, but fear you'll be rejected.

Be honest

Share your feelings about the separation - both the positives and the negatives. This will give you the opportunity to really understand each other and give the support and reassurance you both need.
Talk about your resentment at the situation rather than at each other and look forward to the time when you're next together.

Keep communicating

Staying in touch regularly is the key to surviving a long-distance relationship.
  • Use a variety of ways of communicating - email, telephone, text message, letter, etc.
  • Send little gifts - to show how often you think of each other.
  • Make some surprise calls - make the odd call just to say "I love you."
  • Send regular pictures - this will help your partner keep a visual record of what you're up to.
  • Keep a diary - then share it with your partner each time you meet.

Beware the reunion anticlimax

When you get to see each other again, chances are both of you will have built up great expectations of how fantastic your reunion is going to be. However, the reality often doesn't match up to the fantasy.
Many couples feel disappointed and frustrated when things aren't as they'd hoped. You may also find that rather than making love all day there are awkward silences or even arguments.
You can prevent this by making sure you've talked about how you want the reunion to be and recognising that the anticipation is often better than the consummation! And remember, it may take time to get used to being around each other again.
Absence can make the heart grow fonder when you use the time to show your partner how much they mean to you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The internet and your relationship

The internet and your relationship
Increasingly couples are citing the internet as a problem in their relationship.
Some signs that a partner may be in a relationship over the internet:
  • They are spending more and more time on the internet particularly in chat rooms and those to do with sex and sexuality
  • They try to hide information from you
  • They have difficulty in not logging on
  • They become distant, secretive or even critical of you
  • Some warning signs that you may be at risk of having an internet affair:

  • You find yourself thinking about using the internet for purposes of making sexual contact
  • You find yourself talking with one or more individuals on a regular, or pre-arranged, basis
  • You make attempts to contact these individuals by other means
  • You become aroused by the contact you have on line - more than with your partner
  • You feel guilty about your online activities

Even though the relationship is termed "virtual", the sense that a partner is cheating on you is real and what's worse it can feel as if the 'other person' is under your roof - even if they are miles away.
The time spent on the internet is time spent away from the primary relationship, the intimacies that are shared with a virtual person don't get shared with a real partner and this leads to feelings of betrayal, rejection and worthlessness. It's not just partners that are neglected; children and friends also suffer to.
The person going online can feel they're escaping from real life problems but retreating into cyberspace only exacerbates what's happening in real life. Online relationships carry the danger of detaching you from reality - the virtual partner can become idealised, by comparison the real partner can look inferior. Unfortunately internet relationships can lead to break-ups and whilst some of these may've happened anyway, some are mistakes - leaving real partners for virtual partners whose online personas bear little relation to what they're really like.
It's not the internet that's to blame for the rise in break-ups and relationship problems caused by online affairs. As human beings we have choices - to engage in what technology has to offer, or not. Just because technology is offering you access that is affordable and provides you with anonymity, it will not reduce the trauma of a partner discovering what they are likely to feel is as much a betrayal as a real life affair.
Tips to try if you find yourself becoming involved online or suspect a partner is:
  • Consider what is going on in your primary relationship that is creating a need for cybersex
  • Talk to your partner about your concerns and feelings, the areas of your relationship that are no longer working for you
  • If you can't talk together then seek the assistance of a counsellor
  • The internet can be addictive, try taking a moratorium from the computer or internet

It isn't all doom and gloom though, the internet can provide an invaluable way for couples to stay in touch. Some couples who are separated through work, those in the forces for example, find the emails a great a way of maintaining their relationship. It also helps children to keep in touch with an absent parent. The bottom line is personal responsibility.

Understanding Jealousy

Understanding jealousy

Occasional jealousy is natural and can help keep a relationship alive, but if it becomes intense and irrational it can very destructive. 

What is jealousy?

We've all experienced jealousy at some time in our lives, although the reasons why each of us gets jealous and the emotions we feel may differ.
According to clinical psychologist Ayala Malach Pines, "jealousy is a complex reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship or to its quality". Unlike envy, it always involves a fear of loss and three people.
Jealousy is a "complex reaction" because it involves such a wide range of emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
  • Emotions - pain, anger, rage, sadness, envy, fear, grief, humiliation.
  • Thoughts - resentment, blame, comparison with the rival, worry about image, self-pity.
  • Behaviours - feeling faint, trembling and sweating, constant questioning and seeking reassurance, aggressive actions, even violence.

How jealousy protects love

In relationships where feelings of jealousy are mild and occasional, it reminds the couple not to take each other for granted. It can encourage couples to appreciate each other and make a conscious effort to make sure the other person feels valued.
Jealousy heightens emotions, making love feel stronger and sex more passionate. In small, manageable doses, jealousy can be a positive force in a relationship. But when it's intense or irrational, the story is very different.

How jealousy damages love

Sometimes jealous feelings can get out of proportion. For example, when a man makes an embarrassing scene at a party because his wife accepts an invitation to dance with an old friend, or when a woman is overwhelmed with jealousy because her husband's company appoints a female boss.
These kinds of reaction can put a huge strain on a relationship, leaving the other partner feeling as though they're constantly walking on eggshells to avoid a jealous reaction. The jealous partner, often aware of their problem, swings between self-blame and justification.

If you're the jealous one

Overcoming jealousy takes patience and hard work. If you feel your jealousy stems from issues in childhood, you may find counselling useful. If you're recovering from an affair, you'll need to deal with those issues first.
Here are some things you can do for yourself:
Give yourself a reality check - take a good look at those things that trigger your jealousy and ask yourself how realistic the threat is. What evidence do you have that your relationship is in danger? And is your behaviour actually making the situation worse?
Use positive self-talk - when you start feeling the twinges of jealousy, remind yourself that your partner loves you, is committed to you and respects you. Tell yourself you're a loveable person and that nothing's going on.
Seek reassurance - one of the best ways to beat jealousy is to ask your partner for reassurance. Make sure you don't nag or bully, but rather share your insecurities and ask them to help you overcome the problem.

Living with a jealous partner

Having a jealous partner can be exhausting. Here are some ideas that may help ease their jealousy:
Think of the problem in a different way - remember that jealousy is a sign of love. If your partner didn't value your relationship, you wouldn't be having this problem. Rather than becoming defensive, try to be understanding and supportive.
Check your behaviour - if you know that certain behaviours trigger your partner's jealousy, change them if you can if only until the problem has been overcome. Be sure to stick to any agreements you've made, too, but avoid making promises you'll find difficult to keep, such as always being contactable.
Build your partner's confidence - be sure to take every opportunity to tell your partner how much you love them and why you wouldn't want to be with anyone else. Give lots of compliments and talk about the wonderful future you're looking forward to spending with them.

Further help

Occasional jealousy is natural and can keep a relationship alive, but when it becomes intense or irrational it can seriously damage a relationship.
If you have concerns, try talking it through with your partner or a trusted friend. Or, you might want to consider seeing a counsellor.

Ways to make peace

The next time you find yourself in an argument with your partner, keep in mind the following tips....

Abnormal behaviour

It's important to accept that arguments are a normal part of relationships. We're all different and where there's difference, there will be disagreement. But when arguing seems to be a way of life and leaves you feeling exhausted, hurt or wondering if you want to stay in the relationship, it's time to call a truce and sort things out.
The first step towards doing this is to understand what you're really arguing about and get an insight into your conflict style. After you've looked at both these areas, you can use some of the techniques below to help you sort things out. Some can be done alone; others need your partner's cooperation.

If there's violence

Violence or threats of violence are never acceptable in a relationship. If arguments are always aggressive, or you avoid conflict because you're scared things may get out of control, you need support. 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Be self-aware

Self-awareness and self-responsibility are the first steps in sorting out and avoiding conflict. It's impossible to make your partner change, but if you change your behaviour they'll almost certainly react differently.
Assume the best - unless you have evidence to the contrary, always give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
Check your conscience - are you arguing because there's something you're avoiding, such as apologising, compromising or forgiving? Make sure you're not fighting to protect your pride.
Think about whether you're being affected by something else - don't underestimate the power of external circumstances. Are you stressed, tired, hormonal or angry about something else?
Be adult - do you tend to slip into behaving like a child, sulking, blaming or being obstinate? Or do you become like a critical parent, condescending, criticising or punishing? An adult is calm and focused, and listens and negotiates.
Own your feelings - your partner can't make you feel something. Your feelings are under your own control. If you're angry, say "I'm angry because...", not "You made me angry."

Improve communication

Good communication is vital to making peace. Often arguments go on and on, just because one or both parties feel they haven't been heard.
The tips below will improve your chances of being heard and help you show your partner that you're listening to them.
Listen - this is the most important part of good communication. Listen to your partner, without judging or making assumptions. 
Explore - ask questions to make sure you really understand what your partner is saying. Be willing to look at every angle.
Explain - this is the other side of exploring. Be ready to give as much information as your partner needs to understand your point of view. Don't expect them to read your mind.
Empathise - put yourself in your partner's shoes. Feel what they're feeling and let them know you've taken notice, eg "I understand that you're feeling upset."
Express - say what you mean and mean what you say. Be clear and to the point.
Laugh - this may seem a strange thing to put in an argument, but sensitive use of humour can be a powerful way to diffuse an argument. If there's a lighter side, use it.

Manage your anger

This is vital: anger can be a positive emotion that helps us get our needs met, but if anger gets out of control it blocks any chances of reaching an agreement. It's impossible to have a proper discussion with someone who has lost their temper. If either of you feels very angry, stop your discussion or the row will almost certainly get worse.

Joint techniques

The best peacemaking tactics are ones you've agreed on beforehand.
Big Brother - pretend your argument is being observed by someone who's opinion you value. You'll be amazed at how polite and reasonable you'll both become.
Use code words - agree a word to use when either of you feels it's getting too emotional or you're just going round in circles. Then take some time out before you start again.
Agree to disagree - sometimes it's simpler. Not all battles need a winner and a loser.
Argue productively - print out the productive arguing guidelines. Put them somewhere you can see them and both try to stick to them.
Take turns - if you don't feel you're getting equal air-time, agree to take turns. Use a watch to time alternate five to ten minute slots until your communication has improved.

Further help

If you have concerns about your relationship, try talking it through with your partner or a trusted friend, or you might want to consider seeing a relationships counsellor.

What you Learn about Relationships during Childhood

The first significant relationships we have are usually within our families. By seeing how people relate to you and to each other, you begin to piece together a story of what relationships are all about.
As a child, you receive a variety of unconscious messages which you carry with you into later life. Broadly speaking, these messages fall into the following key areas.

Messages about trust

Are you the jealous type? Do you feel easily rejected? Do you struggle to make a commitment? Many such issues can be traced back to childhood.
If you came from a family in which you felt safe and secure, you'll probably find it easy to trust people as an adult. However, if you felt rejected, or lost someone close to you, you may find it harder to believe that others will love you and treat you well.
The ability to trust is very important in adult relationships. If things have happened in your past that have damaged your trust, you may find you need the understanding support of your partner to rebuild your faith in others.

Messages about communicating

If you find it easy to show your emotions, chances are you were brought up in a home where you were encouraged to be open about how you felt. You probably saw other people arguing - and saw them make up, too.
This taught you that conflict isn't the end of the world and communicating is a way of making life better.
The healthiest relationships are those where individuals can express themselves honestly and appropriately. It can be just as damaging to grow up in a family where disputes are ignored as it is to grow up in an angry hot-house.

Messages about authority and control

When adults grow up finding it difficult to cope with sharing or competition, often the root of the problem is a family where authority and control were badly managed.
If you learnt as a child that sharing was fun, you'll become an adult who enjoys sharing. If you grew up understanding that certain rules were in your best interests, you're less likely to have problems with authority.
We all need to feel we have control over our lives, and a child who's given responsibility from an early age is more likely to grow up feeling self-confident about the decisions they make - and the mistakes.

Learning throughout life

As well as these key relationship areas, we learn what being a couple is about from watching our parents. Even if you were raised in a single-parent family, you'll have learnt from the relationships your parent was in, or developed expectations about what being alone is like.
Whatever your situation, you'll have picked up important messages about:
  • How much time couples should spend together and what they do together
  • How couples sort out disagreements and what sort of things they disagree about
  • How much affection they show each other and when and where can this be done
  • Things which men are better at than women and vice versa
  • Who's in charge of earning the money and who's in charge of spending it
  • Who has the final word when making decisions
  • Who's in charge of the house and home and who does what chores
  • What sex is all about
  • What men and women do when they're not with each other
  • How men and women behave differently when they're angry or sad
  • Who does what when something sad happens
  • How to celebrate special occasions
  • What men and women do that makes each other sad and happy
  • Whether it's better to be in a couple than to be single

Remember, it's never too late to learn. Whatever messages you may have picked up, it's up to you to decide if you agree with them or not. And if you don't agree, you can develop new messages over time.