Conflict is a normal part of relationships, but so many don't realize the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict resolution. The "four horsemen" is a concept developed by Dr. John Gottman to describe four unhealthy ways that couples argue, which lead to a relationship's demise: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Codependency was a term I remember hearing as a teen but didn’t understand. What is the difference between offering and relying on support from a loved one in times of need and being codependent with that person? I’ve seen people in my life slip into this unhealthy relationship pattern, and I understand now just how mental illness and trauma create the perfect environment for codependency to grow.
Many people are much more open to the idea of mental health counseling nowadays, but I still encounter people who don't understand the point of paying someone to listen to them when they have friends who will do that for free. They might make jokes about their friends giving them "free therapy" or call therapy a pointless waste of money. Not only is that opinion based on misinformation, but using a friend as you would a therapist can put an unfair burden on the relationship.
Apologizing when we wrong someone is an important social skill, but overapologizing, when it isn't necessary, can actually put a strain on our relationships. My anxiety compelled me to say sorry any time I felt insecure, guilty, ashamed, or worried in a social situation, and people would become annoyed and frustrated with me because of it. I would then apologize for annoying them with my apologizing, which continued from there in n cycle that was exhausting for everyone involved.
Feeling shame in a relationship can begin a cycle of shame that's debilitating to mental health. An ex-boyfriend once told me I was a liability. My mental health was a risk against his future, and he didn't want his professional friends to know that he dated me. He made it clear that he was ashamed of me.
My therapist tells me that my experiences with sexual trauma have changed my taste in men. I've been complaining that my boyfriend doesn't give me what I need; he doesn't crave intimate conversation as I do, likes to mostly be on his own, and doesn't think much about sex. In short, he hardly considers most of the aspects that I believe comprise a relationship.
When I first started having sex, I didn't know I was engaging in sexual spectation -- I didn't realize I was analyzing and directing my own behavior in the bedroom as though it was a performance. But at some point, I realized that my one and only focus in the bedroom was to make myself attractive to the man who played my counterpart.
Having a relationship with a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) tends to be thought of as a tumultuous endeavor. In my opinion, there continues to be an immense stigma and misunderstanding around mental illnesses in our society. However, when it comes to personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, this stigma can be much more intense. Sadly, I have seen how the chronicity of personality disorders has led to a resistance to treat, even among mental health professionals. Yet, those diagnosed with personality disorders have the capacity to create a life worth living and are worthy of all available and effective treatment. I currently work with individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and have found therapeutic interventions to be very rewarding, especially when it comes to interpersonal effectiveness and relationships.
The relationships that I form with my personal training and online coaching clients are important, but they're also complicated. As a fitness professional, I fancy myself a peddler of good health. But in truth, the fitness industry is fraught with side effects and unintended consequences. Many of us use social media as a way to advertise our services. But as we label the photos we post of our abs as "fitness inspiration," many of us are willfully ignoring the fact that photos like these often make women feel worse, not better, and are perhaps contributing to body dissatisfaction and diminished self-esteem. Furthermore, in our efforts to help clients reach their fitness goals, we often find ourselves giving nutrition advice, which is outside of our scope of practice. Our clients trust us, and we want to form strong relationships with our clients. At the same time, it's important for us to keep in mind the complicated dynamics that go along with food -- and it's imperative that we don't matriculate our clients and followers into obsessive behaviors and disordered eating.
Years ago, I was the queen of passivity, but the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) FAST skill helped me overcome it. It used to be that I avoided conflict and difficult conversations at all costs and refused to put my needs and desires first. I would come up with scripts in my head of what to say; however, as soon as an intense conversation would begin, I felt my self-respect fade away ("Show Yourself Respect: How to Communicate with Confidence"). I wished that I could trade in my copious amounts of passivity for self-respect, but something always got in the way. Fortunately, in the past year, I have learned how to maintain self-respect during a conflict by following a few simple steps set out by the DBT FAST skill.