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Healthy Self-Love: The Foundation of Good Relationships

January 4, 2010 32 comments

You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself. . .” Everyone knows this platitude. Self-help “gurus” and therapists regurgitate it as a mindless mantra ad nauseum.

I don’t know its exact origin, but whoever first uttered the phrase confused things terribly. Accepting and loving yourself is a precondition to being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. However, the oft-recited advice has it backwards: Before you can LET YOURSELF BE LOVED by another, you must first accept and love yourself. If you’re not capable of receiving love, you will attract and be attracted to others who will give you anything but love.

There are men and women who have no trouble chasing after quarry; “loving” them without rhyme or reason, only to have their feelings rejected. These are usually the same people who run in the opposite direction when they’re offered real affection by another person. When they have a chance at a real relationship and love, they’re uninterested for a variety of reasons.

If you believe the cliché, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself,” then there should be no pursuit of a love interest until you learn to love yourself. If you’re attracted to others who can’t love you in return, you’ll begin a futile cycle of pursuit and distancing behaviors. Think of it as “mutually assured unhappiness.”

This pattern of behavior typically reinforces your inner and oftentimes unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. In other words, you seek intimacy and love from others who either can’t tolerate or aren’t capable of intimacy and love, which confirms your faulty beliefs about being undeserving or having to work for love.

The end result: When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who sees your positive qualities (that you can’t or won’t see in yourself) and who offers you affection and acceptance; you push her or him away. You devise many reasons and excuses why the other person isn’t “the one.” Typical excuses include:

  • The other person is nice, funny and smart, but there’s some missing ephemeral quality you can’t quite articulate. (Like a proclivity to be rejecting and/or abusive, perhaps?)
  • You’re just not feeling “it.”
  • You only date a specific “type.” (e.g., abusive).
  • He or she is “too nice.” (Isn’t that what we all claim to be looking for?)
  • He or she is “boring.” (This is usually because the thrill of having a corrective emotional experience with an abusive personality who reminds you of mom, dad or some other early formative relationship is missing and you don’t have to work for or prove yourself worthy of love).
  • There’s no “chemistry.” (Mind you, the only “chemistry” you’re likely to feel is with someone who isn’t interested in you, has their own intimacy issues and keeps you at arm’s length and/or an abusive personality).

Buying into the above excuses are how many men and women end up in relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other abusive personality types. These excuses enable you to reject people who are capable of love and who would accept you as you are.

“Loving” someone else is easy enough, especially since people who languish in this position tend to idealize those whom they “love”—at first. If you’re caught in this pattern, you may tend to have an unrealistic, highly selective vision of the other person—until one of their flaws are exposed and then your “love” disappears as soon as you realize the other person isn’t “perfect.” Alternatively, if you’re attracted to abusive personalities, you probably minimize, rationalize or ignore their hurtful and abusive behaviors and tell yourself you need to “work harder” to win their love.

How do you begin to love and accept yourself?

First, you must acknowledge and wrestle with your inner daemons. Explore your faulty relationship beliefs, for example, the belief that you’re unworthy or undeserving of love. Figure out where these beliefs come from, challenge them, lay them to rest and adopt healthier beliefs.

Second, you must accept that you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, but that doesn’t make you unlovable and unworthy. “Perfection,” if there is such a thing, has nothing to do with peace and wholeness. If you can’t tolerate your own imperfections, you won’t be able to tolerate them in another person. Others will always fall short and you will reject them. Alternatively, you will accept hurtful behavior from others because you’re not “perfect” and on some level believe you deserve to be treated badly

Third, you must develop the ability to hold and sit with the discomfort and strangeness of the new and unfamiliar, such as being with a kind, loving person who accepts you warts and all. Being with a woman or man who is capable of returning love and values you—including your imperfect parts—will initially feel really strange and uncomfortable. At first, you might feel the urge to flee or push away. You need to ride out any feelings of discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal and feeling bad feels strange and uncomfortable. It will be a big change from your previous relationships. Remember, if change felt the same as what you’re accustomed to, it wouldn’t be change. (Repeat the last sentence to yourself a few times.)

Fourth, you need to be able to tell the difference between forgivable imperfections and abuse in all its forms: covert, overt, emotional, physical, psychological and financial. For example, leaving the toilet seat up, talking too much or difficulty expressing emotions are forgivable “imperfections.” Abuse is unforgivable—at least while it’s active and ongoing. Loving yourself also means creating boundaries and not accepting bad, hurtful, crazy and abusive treatment from others.

The fear of being loved is related to the fear of being “discovered;” of having your vulnerabilities and those aspects you don’t like about yourself exposed to another. This is fundamentally silly because we all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. It’s the fear that he or she won’t love you if they find out how “horrible” you think you are. At heart, this is what causes narcissists, borderlines, bullies and other abusive personalities to lash out and try to control others and it’s what causes you to be the target of these emotional predators.

Having a healthy and happy relationship begins with you loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Once you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself and let go of old, counterproductive relationship beliefs, you’ll be surprised how good being in a relationship can be.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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Self-love by fernando’s_graphicos on flickr.

3 Dating Tips for Having a Healthy and Successful Relationship

February 27, 2009 16 comments

When Children Start Dating

Why does this always happen to me? Why can’t I find someone? Why are all the women I meet only interested in money? Why are the guys I meet such jerks? Why can’t I meet “the one?” Why are relationships so hard? Why can’t I just be happy with someone?

The list of why questions people torture themselves with is endless. Some might say these questions are unanswerable. I disagree. There’s usually a universal and simple answer to most of life’s relationship why questions.

The answer is: personal choice.

Relationships are choices. They’re personal and/or professional choices we make and enter into, most times, of our own volition. If you’ve had a string of unsuccessful relationships and don’t know why, instead of placing blame on other people and external factors, consider your role in it first. It takes two to make or break a relationship—even abusive relationships. *If you’re the target of abuse, of course you’re not to blame for being abused. However, once you recognize your partner’s behavior as abusive, you’re complicit for remaining in the relationship and tolerating the abuse.

1) Healthy relationships require self-awareness, self-understanding and the capacity to accept responsibility for one’s choices and actions. Many people haven’t a clue about what kind of man or woman they’d like to meet and, incredibly, don’t understand why they haven’t met him or her yet. It’s the equivalent of saying you want to take a vacation and then aimlessly wandering around the airport terminal trying to decide upon a destination.

2) Know who you are and what you want. If you don’t already have a good sense of yourself; take some time to figure it out and then begin dating again. It’s unwise to try finding yourself or living through another person. The best and healthiest relationships are between two whole people.

3) Understand past relationships before beginning new ones. Some people have no trouble finding and beginning relationships, but these relationships never seem to work. Why? Because they’re more than likely making the same relationship choices over and over again, but with boyfriend or girlfriend du jour. It’s tempting to believe, different person-fresh start; but many people carry the same relationship baggage in different packages.

Some people blindly people choose relationships that recreate unresolved early childhood ones or unrequited adolescent crushes. It’s difficult to move forward in the present if you’re allowing your present life and relationships to be defined and dictated by events in the past. Being a grown-up and having grown-up relationships means letting go of what happened there and then and accepting responsibility for your choices in the here and now.

If you want healthier, long lasting relationships, explore what led you to choose past relationships, what needs or roles they may have successfully and/or unsuccessfully met and what you can do differently in the future. Maybe you’re focusing on the wrong qualities and attributes. Move past the flash—those qualities you find irresistible, but lead nowhere—and get down to the essentials. If you don’t like where you are in your life and the quality of your relationships, it’s up to you to do something about it.

Creating change is like a mathematical equation: if you want a different outcome, you’ve got to change at least one variable. We gravitate toward the familiar, even if it’s unbearable and no longer viable, which is why we make the same relationship choices over and over.

Before you jump into dating after your most recent break-up, reflect on your past relationships and choices. Ask yourself, “What have I learned and what can I do differently?” rather than “Why can’t I just meet someone and be happy?”

Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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When children start dating by wardomatic on flickr.
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Ending a Painful Relationship and Starting Over

February 19, 2009 35 comments

99% dissolvedMy marriage is falling apart. How will it affect my children? I’ve worked so hard at this relationship, maybe if I just work a little harder. My best friend slept with my wife. I can’t make the mortgage payment. My business is failing. Nothing I’m doing is working.

This is “life.” It’s happening around us and to us at all times. Things change, people change, circumstances change and then our lives change.

These experiences are often incredibly painful, but they don’t need to signify the end of your world. Life and relationships are about beginnings, endings and renewals.

We’re odd creatures. We remember the few positives of an otherwise painful relationship and disregard the overwhelming evidence that it’s time to cut the tie because we’re afraid of letting go. We fight against it, bide our time and make bargains with ourselves and others to try to find new ways to hang on.

We have a tendency to get caught in untenable situations in which we keep trying and trying to make something work, only to feel more frustrated and hurt when the inevitable occurs. We don’t think to ask ourselves, “Why am I holding on so tightly to something that generally makes me feel so bad?”

sinking_shipThis calls to mind the image of a sinking ship. If you were a passenger on the S.S. Slow Boat to Nowhere, would you cling onto the deck of the ship yelling, “No! No! We can make this work!” as it begins its descent to the ocean floor? Or would you be doggie paddling like crazy to one of the life boats? As for me, “woof woof.”

There’s a freedom in finality. It gives you permission to start over. Take what you learned from the old relationship and your experiences and try something else. Who you are today is the sum total of all of your past experiences. You carry these lessons with you not as reminders of what didn’t work, but as primers of how to better succeed in future relationships.

Letting go is not synonymous with failure, although a lot of people think so. Some people going through a break-up or divorce believe they can only be happy or “win” if they make their ex miserable. That’s not true happiness. Happiness comes from acceptance and embracing your passions, whatever they may be. If you’re carrying your old baggage in both hands, how are you going to catch new opportunities when they come flying past you? Let it go.

Every ending is an opportunity for something new. Let it inform your future choices, not poison them. These experiences are often very painful at first, but this is where, when and how real growth can occur, if you let it. Just remember, it’s not the end of the world, but the beginning. Okay, then keep telling yourself that until you believe it.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Related material:

The Secret to Happy, Long Lasting Relationships

Photo credits:

99% Dissolved by Donna62 on flickr.

Sinking ship on unsong.

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The Abusive Woman: You Can’t Reason with a Crazy Person

February 18, 2009 82 comments

banging my head against a wallWhy does she act this way? Why does she treat me like this? Why did she say that? Why can’t she be nice? Why? Why? Why?

The short answer is: Because she’s crazy. You’ll make yourself crazy if you try to find meaning in her meaningless and casually cruel behaviors. Most of us try to understand the world in which we live to varying degrees. It’s human nature to search for meaning, particularly when there’s no ready explanation for certain phenomena.

We go to therapy, we pray, we meditate and we conduct scientific research to try to understand why. I believe a life without meaning isn’t worth living but, sometimes, in certain situations and with certain people, there is no greater meaning to be found other than they just. . . suck.

When your wife or girlfriend treats you badly, you want to understand why. You ask yourself:

  • Is she having a bad day?
  • Did you do something wrong?
  • What can you do differently?
  • Maybe she doesn’t realize the way she’s treating you is hurtful and if you tell her she’ll stop?

These are good questions to ask if you’re involved with an emotionally healthy and grounded woman. However, if you’re involved with an emotionally abusive bully/professional victim, a Narcissist a Borderline or another abuse prone personality type, asking the above questions will get you nowhere. In fact, if you try to discuss these matters with her, she’ll probably blame you and become more abusive, which will make you feel more confused and a little nuts.

The bottom line is YOU CAN’T REASON WITH A CRAZY PERSON. Emotionally abusive women want to control you and they do it by making you feel bad. That’s all the “meaning” there is to be found.

Psychology has created diagnostic labels to identify and make sense of the full spectrum of crazy behaviors of emotionally abusive people. Some explanations for their behavior include biological bases, early childhood trauma/abuse or that their behavior is learned.

At best, these explanations are inadequate. At their worst, these explanations give bullies and emotional predators a free pass to treat others like crap, usually without any consequences. She had a tough childhood, so you have to be patient with her. She was abused by a family member, so you have to forgive, tolerate and learn how NOT to trigger her crazy and hurtful side. Give me a break.

I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for children who are actively being abused. However, I’ve zero sympathy for adults with abuse histories who have grown up to abuse other adults, their children and won’t take responsibility for their behaviors because “they have problems.” That “why” just doesn’t fly.

There are lots of men who had troubled childhoods and don’t believe the rules of society apply to them. Many of them end up in jail. Women with similarly bad childhoods and equally bad adult behaviors are generally protected, enabled, and occasionally rewarded by Psychology and the legal system. It’s a double standard.

For example, your wife goes off on a tear, screaming obscenities at you and your children. Instead of saying, “that’s not ok,” you and your kids feel bad about upsetting her and try to figure out how to make her happy—often with the help of a therapist. * This is a separate topic, but if there are child(ren) involved, what are you teaching them about adult relationships? That it’s ok to abuse others to get your rocks off, because you’re upset or to get what you want?

Instead of protecting yourself from the crazy person, the emotional predator, and the bully; you protect her and serve yourself up on a platter. You can try to understand this. You can try to make meaning out of it, but what does it solve? She’s still crazy and hurtful. Do the reasons “why” really matter?

Instead, ask yourself WHY you’re compelled to understand this woman and her crazy behavior. Why are you compelled to stay in this relationship? What does it mean about you if you can’t get this woman to be kind to you? Understand your own reasons for being in this relationship and then decide if this is how you want to spend the rest of your life.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Banging my head against a wall by brownhorse on flickr.

Why Men Are Attracted to Crazy, Emotionally Abusive Women

February 17, 2009 97 comments

louise-bourgeois-maman1Are you a crazy chick magnet? Have you had one turbulent relationship after another with women? Do you attract volatile, demanding, needy, emotionally unbalanced women? Have you ever wondered, “Why?”

Adult relationships are choices and you choose to become involved with these women. Even if your relationship makes you miserable, you’re getting something out of it. You attract these women because you’re telegraphing the signal, “Hey you, I’m into crazy ladies. Come torture me,” whether you’re aware of it or not.

There are a few possible reasons why you repeatedly get involved with crazy women in all their forms. If “crazy” gets you hot, it’s in your best interest to figure out why and break the pattern.

When you feel an overpowering, immediate chemistry toward a new woman, like you’ve always known her, without rhyme or reason, be wary. You probably already do know her. She’s most likely a new embodiment of unresolved relationship issues from childhood and adolescence—same issues, different packaging.

1) Yo’ Momma.

  • Was your mom hypercritical and intrusive? Was your dad passive and henpecked?
  • Was your dad around or did your mom drive him away?
  • Did your mom, dad or siblings make you feel inadequate? Did they pick on you?
  • Were you made to feel that nothing you did was ever good enough?
  • Did you feel like you had to defend yourself from the people who loved you?

We create relationship templates when we’re kids based on our parents’ relationship and the way our parents, siblings, grandparents, or anyone we sought affection and approval from treated us. If we’re lucky, we have healthy relationship role models to emulate as adults.

If you’re not one of the lucky ones, you’re probably re-enacting childhood relationships in an effort to negate your original feelings of hurt and loss by trying to have an emotionally corrective experience. “If only I can get this person to love me the way I want to be loved then it will mean I’m good enough and everything is okay.” This is usually totally unconscious.

You’re trying to “get it right” as an adult, but with the wrong person. The women you’re attracted to aren’t anymore capable of giving you what you need and want than your parent(s), sibling(s), or whomever caused your original emotional injury. You end up repeating the same doomed relationship pattern with the same type of person. This pattern will keep repeating itself until you become aware of it and begin to make different relationship choices.

2) Knight in shining armor.

  • Did one or both of your parents have substance abuse or addiction problems?
  • Did your caregiver(s) suffer from depression, anxiety or extreme mood swings?
  • Did you feel like you had to protect your mom or dad from being hurt or upset?
  • Did you act as a referee or peacemaker because your parents had constant conflict?
  • Did your mom and/or dad make you their confidante when they divorced or during their marriage?
  • Did you feel like you had to protect your family from each other and outsiders?

If so, you were probably a parentified child—having to take care of the grown-ups who were supposed to be taking care of you. Parentified sons often grow up to have adult relationships with women who need to be “rescued,” when in reality, it’s the men who need to be rescued from these women who appear to be fragile waifs, but quickly turn into abusive aggressors when you disappoint them or fail to meet her expectations, which are often unrealistic.

Emotionally abusive women often present themselves as “helpless victims,” which makes the men who are attracted to them feel needed, strong, and powerful—at first. These women are usually bottomless pits of never-ending, un-meetable needs. They’ll make you suffer for not meeting their unrealistic expectations or for hurting one of their many ultra-sensitive feelings, which may or may not have a basis in reality.

This type of woman doesn’t need rescuing; she needs a mood stabilizer and a warning label. You can’t save another person. You have to start taking care of yourself and that means protecting yourself from professional victims who prey upon kind hearted rescuer types.

3) The first cut is the deepest.

  • Was your family healthy, loving and supportive for the most part?
  • Are you attracted to women who take you on an emotional roller coaster ride and aren’t able to reciprocate your affection?
  • Was your first girlfriend or crush exciting? Did you experience extreme highs and lows with her?
  • Does your family worry about your relationship choices?

Some men recreate their first painful romantic relationship from adolescence over and over again, even though they had healthy relationship models as children. You may be so scarred by your first love that you fall for the same type of woman as an adult, trying to  finally “win” her love.

Having your first love crush you is a shock to the system. It didn’t compute and you have probably spent a lot of time and energy trying to make the same relationship work with different women. My advice: Give it up and follow the path of least resistance.

Additionally, because this was your first relationship experience, you may mistakenly believe that it’s what relationships are supposed to be like and have patterned subsequent relationships on it. Perhaps you believe that romantic relationships are supposed to hurt and make you suffer and, therefore, are attracted to women who guarantee that outcome.

In all three cases, men choose the same kind of women repeatedly with the same results—painful and futile relationships. You’re compelled to make these women love you and treat you well, with the childish insistence that it turn out differently this time. Why?

  • It feels familiar.
  • It reconfirms what you believe/feel about yourself and relationships. This includes feelings of not being good enough, being unlovable, that there’s something wrong with you, that love is supposed to hurt or make you feel bad, or that you have to “win” love through meeting unreasonable conditions.
  • To finally gain the approval/acceptance you didn’t receive as a child.
  • To try to “save” the parent you couldn’t help way back when.
  • To win over your first love.

Explore what needs you’re trying to fulfill and what the old, no longer applicable rules of relationships to which you’re still abiding. Understand that these women are highly unlikely to ever meet these needs, which are typically for approval, acceptance, and unconditional love. Acknowledge how you were hurt in the past AND THEN MAKE DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIP CHOICES.

This won’t be easy. Initially, being loved and accepted for who you are will feel unnatural and uncomfortable. Ride out the discomfort until feeling good in a relationship feels normal. You couldn’t choose your first familial love relationships as a child, but you can choose the kind of woman you want to be with now that you’re an adult.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Maman by Louise Bourgeois on The Guardian.

Emotional Abuse and Bullies: If You Don’t Like What You See When You Look in the Mirror, Don’t Blame the Mirror

February 12, 2009 15 comments

93435443_a7db1dfa6e_oDo you like what you see when you look in the mirror? If you don’t, do you confront it and change if necessary? Or do you get mad at the mirror, threaten to destroy it or drape a cloth over it, and deny what you see?

Since beginning this blog a month ago, I’ve received both positive and negative feedback via comments. Many of my posts describe emotional abuse and bullying behaviors, which are typical of those who have Borderline, Narcissistic, and/or Antisocial personality traits.

People who abuse others maintain their power by keeping the truth of what they do secret. When you speak the truth, they begin to lose power and control. That’s what abusive personality types are after–power and control over you. When you speak the truth you also tick them off big time and there are usually negative repercussions–for you, not for them.

A friend described my blog as “waving a red cape in front of a raging bull” and asked why I’d deliberately try to antagonize people who are like this. The friend also pointed out this is a pattern for me.

This was hard feedback to receive. It felt a little bit like blaming the victim. Instead of becoming defensive and lashing out, I held the mirror up to myself and saw this to be accurate. I’ve provoked bullies in my personal and professional life in the past to expose them for who and what they are and made myself a target by doing so.

Even though I didn’t like having this reflected back to me, I didn’t get mad at the mirror. I didn’t denounce the mirror as irresponsible, tasteless, or cruel. I didn’t break the mirror or cover it up to deny what I saw. I looked into it and said, “Yep, that’s right.”

There’s something that compels me to say, “This is wrong. The emperor’s naked. We’re not the crazy ones. You are. Stop it.” I had a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder traits who bullied us. Having a bully in the family meant you couldn’t speak the truth for fear of setting them off. Confronting a bully, especially if they’re not afraid of you, is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

And what am I doing exactly to provoke them? I’m not naming specific bullies I’ve encountered in my life. I’m not outing anyone’s identity. I’m describing what emotional abuse and bullying are in general terms, the etiologies of these behaviors, and the effects and damage to those on the receiving end.

I’m telling men who have been abused and bullied they’re not alone, that the way they’re being treated is wrong, and they don’t have to accept it. You can find this information on other websites, psychology and self-help books, and professional psychiatry and psychology journals. The only difference is I’m tailoring this information for men who are emotionally abused instead of portraying women as the only victims of abuse.

And that’s why the emotionally abusive, professional victims/bullies don’t like what I write. It’s not their highly controlled and distorted spin on the truth. It’s the truth as I see it and as many people who have been bullied and hurt by these people see it.

The worst thing you can do when you’re involved with an abusive person, at work or at home, is to speak the truth. You get brutalized for it and they gun for you all the harder. It’s like the schoolyard bully who takes your milk money and then threatens to beat you up if you tell anyone.

In order to keep the peace and get along, should the rest of us surrender our “milk money,” our truth or our well being, so we don’t trigger the bully and get beaten up? I don’t know. Maybe.

When you’re bullied as a kid you go to your teacher, a parent, or some adult who’s in a position of authority to make the bully stop. But what do you do now as an adult when the person bullying you is your boss, co-worker, wife, girlfriend, or ex? Who is there to step in and say, “Enough?”

1350759978_82f0ebc145Since bullies won’t take responsibility for their actions and won’t stop until someone with authority makes them stop, the rest of us have to take responsibility for ourselves. Why did we become involved with them? Why do we stay with them? Why do we allow them to get away with their bad behaviors? Why is it so hard to speak the truth? (Actually, I know the answer to the last one. It’s because they get even nastier).

I used to try to get along with the bullies in my life by not having the “audacity” to disagree with them, have a better idea than them, or point out that they were being hurtful and unfair. “Just trying to get along” made me physically ill and depressed after a while.

I encourage those of us who just smile and swallow it, to collectively stand up for each other and say, “This is wrong. The emperor’s naked. We’re not the crazy ones. You are. Stop it.”

It’s scary to do this, but it can and must be done. When enough people take a stand and say “we’re not going to tolerate and excuse these behaviors anymore” the bullies lose their power and their control, which means they can’t hurt you anymore–well, they can try to, but it’s a little harder to do once you’ve de-fanged them.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credits:

Woman in a mirror by alex itin on flickr.

Man by Matthew Ahern on flickr.

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10 Gifts NOT to Give on Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2009 3 comments

Vending machineBecause some things are just bad ideas…

1) A pig’s heart with a nail through it. This actually happened to Neil Forrester on MTV’s The Real World: London in 1995. It was so disturbing 14 years ago, that I haven’t forgotten it. General rule of thumb for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, baptism, or anniversary gifts: No barnyard animal sacrifices.

2) Anything that can be purchased at a gas station or a men’s room. Nothing quite says, “I love you and think about you constantly” then a pack of Dentyne, Trojans, and a gallon of windshield wiper fluid. If you care enough to make an effort, the least you can do is get yourself to a Walgreen’s before closing. Even low-maintenance women don’t go this low.

3) Office supplies. Unless, of course, it’s a full-service photocopying machine. That would actually be handy to have at home. Throw in a year’s supply of toner and you have a winning combo.

4) His and hers adjoining burial plots. Because I love you so much that I want to spend eternity lying next to you. While this may seem romantic in theory, trust me, in reality it’s not a good idea, especially if you just started dating (stalker alert). An exception might be if you and your beloved are past retirement age. But even then, there’s probably a better time than Valentine’s Day to give this gift.

5) A mix tape. Or, if you’re a geek, a hard drive with 10,000 hours of mp3s. Although, a boyfriend once gave me a hard drive as a gift and I liked it. I realized it’s the techie’s version of a mix tape and found him all the more adorable, but I’m an odd duck. Many women would look at the hard drive and USB cables with a, “What do you expect me to do with this thing?” expression. It’s a judgment call.

6) Anything that requires assembly. It’s not a present if you have to break a sweat or use tools in order to enjoy it.

7) A membership to Jenny Craig or NutriSystem. Even if she or he needs it, you’re basically saying, “I won’t love you if you’re fat.” There are better days and gentler ways to discuss your sweetheart’s weight problem.

8) Randomly purchased scented lotions and shower gels. No one needs more Vanilla Amber Freesia Mist bath products. No one.

9) Body fluids or clippings. Before Brangelina, Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie wore vials filled with each other’s blood. Unless the object of your affection is a Goth, Vampire, or medical student, it’s probably best to skip gifts you harvest from your own body.

10) Feminine hygiene products. This is no joke. I found this image on flickr today. Eeeew. I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw it. I considered posting the image here, but I just can’t do it. Check out the link.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Private Consultation and Coaching

I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.

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Photo credits:

Vending machine by Nuevo Anden on flickr.

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