I remember watching Cinderella as a young girl and dreaming about the day that I would find my own true love. After all, who wouldn’t want a prince to save them from the mundane tasks of everyday life? But it turns out that those Disney movies, and the relationship expectations they created for future relationships, held me back from establishing healthy relationships early on. I expected that relationships would be easy and that they would fulfill me. But to have a healthy relationship takes time and commitment. Below are the most common relationship expectations that hold us back from having a healthy relationship.
Are These Relationship Expectations Holding You Back?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 1, 2023 borderline personality disorder, expectations, fairytale romance, healthy relationships, jealousy, narcissistic personality disorder, sexual chemistry, soulmates0 comments
Love Should Be a Fairy Tale
In the beginning of a relationship, it’s common to mistake the feelings of excitement and attraction for someone as love. But love is not a fairy tale in which things “just work out.” Each relationship has hurdles to overcome which take communication, trust, and vulnerability.
With The Right Person, The Relationship Will Be Easy
All relationships take work! Even with the right partner, relationships can be difficult, and differences of opinion are sure to arise. It is important that we communicate with each other and try to understand each other’s point of view. Even with the right person, it takes communication, commitment, and understanding to make a relationship succeed.
My Partner Should Always Make Me Happy
It’s important to feel happiness in our relationships, however your happiness should not be dependent on your partner. Each person in a relationship is responsible for their own happiness. When we expect that someone else will make us happy, this often leads to disappointment.
Sex Is The Most Important Part of a Relationship
While sex is an important part of intimacy in a relationship, it is not the only part. Emotional intimacy is equally important in a relationship. It is important that we discuss physical and emotional expectations with our partners to ensure satisfaction in our relationship.
If Someone Loves You, They Won’t be Attracted to Anyone Else
Humans are biologically wired to find others attractive. This does not end because we enter a relationship with someone. Even when our partner finds someone else attractive, it does not change the way they feel for us.
Jealousy is a Sign of Love
It is common to feel jealousy in a relationship from time to time. But overwhelming feelings of jealousy and the extreme behaviors that can accompany it (i.e., overwhelming questions, invading privacy, and controlling behavior) are a sign of a partner’s insecurity about themselves.
Please note: Irrational jealousy is either pathological, meaning related to a perceptual, biological, or mental health related diagnosis such as borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. If you suspect that your partner has irrational and pathological jealousy, you should exercise caution as some people have even escalated to highly aggressive and dangerous level of anger over jealousy.
If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, reach out to a therapist near you.
Love Conquers All
Love does not conquer all. There will always be differences of opinion and issues that arise, and assuming that love will fix these problems only leads to disappointment and resentment. To conquer all, a couple must have trust, respect, understanding, and healthy communication with each other.
Written by Rayeann Milne, Counseling Intern. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Rayeann, please call us at 412-322-2129.
LePera, N. (2022, December 24). 7 Expectations that hold you back from a healthy relationship. News
Therapist Recommendations For Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 12, 2022 borderline personality disorder, BPD, BPD Relationships0 comments
There has been a lot of recent media attention surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder—Pete Davidson has been open about his diagnosis and more recently Amber Heard was evaluated to have Borderline Personality Disorder by a forensic psychologist who was hired by Johnny Depp’s legal team. I am hoping that I can show you the positive side of Borderline Personality Disorder and offer recommendations on loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and making your BPD relationships brighter and healthier.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can have features that include fear of abandonment, patterns of unstable relationships, rapid changes in self-image, and risky behavior.
With the pervasive nature of these mental health symptoms, treatment is essential, which includes a solid support network.
If you are a friend, family member, or partner of someone with BPD, you are probably well aware of the relationship challenges. Also, keep in mind those with BPD can (often unbeknownst to themselves) create the issues that cause abandonment, which they may fear the most.
Aside from these challenges, having a loved one with BPD can be enriching and rewarding. I can easily cite the positive aspects. I’ve frequently been motivated by the inspiring love for their passions. Their enthusiasm for life can be very contagious. They can offer dark humor and quick wit when you need to be cheered up from your own negative emotions.
In my experiences with clients and loved ones with BPD, I wanted to share some insight. I’ve learned that patience and empathy are the foundation for mutual growth.
I hope to offer some recommendations that can make BPD relationships brighter and healthier:
- First and most importantly, realize there are limits and boundaries to every relationship. Give and take isn’t always 50/50, but the relationship does not stay healthy if one’s time and energy is on a pattern of depletion.
- Clear communication of wants and needs are essential. Make sure you have your desires established early into the relationship, while also respecting those of your partner.
- Individual treatment. For your loved one, appropriate therapy is ideal. This clinician should be experienced in personality disorders. Even more importantly, this clinician should focus on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a therapy specifically devised for Borderline individuals that focuses on healthier coping and inward reflection. To manage your emotions properly, consider therapy for yourself.
- Research and learning. Receiving this diagnosis can be overwhelming for the patient as well as their support network. Finding out a loved one has a BPD diagnosis can bring up an array of questions. Make sure you educate yourself using reputable resources.
- Self-care. Both you and your loved one need care and balance; it is highly important to carve time for yourself. Your health is just as crucial as those around you.
- Support in any relationship is crucial, but even more so to those living with BPD. Look into joining a “Friends and Family” DBT support group online.
- Be Aware of Love Languages. Part of BPD in relationships is fear of abandonment, and small gestures can go a long way. Find your love languages and keep these in mind when you want to express appreciation.
- Words of Affirmation: Telling the person they are loved or giving sincere compliments even via text.
- Gifts: Thoughtful doesn’t have to mean expensive; think about their special interests or even delivering them a treat.
- Quality Time: One-on-one, no phones/no distractions. Be present with each other.
- Acts of Service: Schedule time to work on tasks they find overwhelming, even if you find it mundane.
- Physical Touch: Even close proximity can express to your BPD loved one that you are near and dear.
The emotional connections we have in life take thoughtful cultivation. There is work required in every relationship, but elevated patience and effort are needed when it comes to those with personality disorders. I encourage you to have open conversations with loved ones with any and all mental health needs so that you can discover more joy.
Written by Rachel Taylor, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NBCC) with Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Pruthi, S. Borderline Personality Disorder. (2022, May) The Mayo Clinic.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Boundaries in Relationships
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 7, 2022 borderline personality disorder, boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, couples communication, educational, emotional intelligence, how to say no, personal growth, relationship, relationship conflict, relationship resolutions, self care, stress management0 comments
You may have heard that boundaries in relationships are good and worthwhile. Understandably you might have some questions about boundaries such as what are they? How do I set a boundary? How do I communicate a boundary? How do I enforce a boundary? Is there any flexibility to boundaries? I will answer all of these questions for you because as a licensed marriage and family therapist I am professionally and personally invested in people having the healthiest relationships they can for as long as it makes sense.
I would like to start with some warnings at the outset: boundaries are difficult, people often react negatively to them, and relationships can get worse before getting better when you challenge a person even if it is for the best. Here’s the thing: despite how it might feel, setting boundaries in a relationship shows that you care deeply about the relationship because it’s a difficult thing to do. People generally don’t expend the energy to do such challenging relationship work with persons they have no intention of maintaining a relationship with. A boundary communicates that you want to keep the person in your life and gives them clear guidance on how that can happen.
Boundaries vs. Rules
First, it is important to specify what a boundary is and what it isn’t. A boundary is about you and what you will/will not or can/can not do. When you try to make a boundary about someone else and what they will/will not or can/cannot do, that is a rule and is actually a disempowering position. You do not have control over others, but you do have control over yourself. For example, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, you can’t say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner” is a rule that is hard to enforce because Uncle so-and-so can choose to ignore that rule and say racist things anyway. Now what? Repeat yourself? Get into a verbal altercation over Thanksgiving dinner? Not ideal, right? However, if instead you say, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, if you continue to say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner I will leave” Uncle so-and-so can choose to violate your request but there are now consequences that you control for that choice.
4 Steps To Set Boundaries in Relationships
- Identify how you want to interact in this relationship and/or how you don’t want to interact in this relationship. This is the boundary you are setting.
- Communicate the boundary to the person the boundary applies to directly. By the way, it’s not enough to simply say it. Effective communication and therefore effective boundary-setting involves confirming that the person received the appropriate message. This is as simple as asking, “What is it you just heard me say?” The person should be able to accurately summarize what your boundary is. If they cannot, either you are not communicating accurately and effectively or they are struggling to hear you. Repeat or re-form what your boundary is until what you’re saying and what they reflect back match.
- Attach a consequence to the violation of this boundary. A boundary with no consequence is toothless. It’s important to emphasize here that this can be read as a threat or ultimatum but it’s not. An ultimatum is a demand followed by retaliation usually of a similar caliber (think “taste of their own medicine”) but a consequence is merely the effect of an action. There are natural consequences to a person’s choices. To refer back to the Uncle so-and-so example, it is a natural consequence for you to remove his access to you if he can’t respect your boundary. This should also be communicated effectively and reflected back to you accurately.
- Build in a warning system. The violation of a boundary isn’t always intentional or malicious. When it is not their own boundary it is easy for a person to forget, especially over time. I think most people and most boundaries deserve at least one warning stated thusly, “Hey, remember when I told you that if you say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner that I will leave? Well, the next time this happens that will be the consequence.” You can absolutely choose not to build in a warning system but I like to work under the assumption that your relationships are valuable enough to you to give them a chance. I reserve two warnings for children and exceptionally difficult boundaries. Three strikes should almost never be considered acceptable. Even with two warnings you run the risk of setting a precedent that a person may violate your boundary only this many times, and they could take advantage of that.
Now for the hardest part: following through. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is extremely important that you do follow through on your boundary and its attached consequences or you run the risk of doing further damage to your relationships by showing you can’t be relied on or your word is meaningless.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, this is all well and good but what if I’m dealing with a hostile person who will take this the wrong way?” Well, that’s not something you can control. That is not where your power lies. Your power lies in the fact that you have the ability to set and enforce a boundary. How they react is in their control. However, you can increase your success in communicating around boundaries by leading with the relationship. Something like, “Hey, I have something I need to talk to you about and I want you to know that I value our relationship. That is the reason I’m bringing this up.” You can even bookend your boundary communication with an echo of this statement just to keep the sentiment fresh in their minds and minimize their reactivity.
Finally, I’d like to address flexibility with boundaries. Boundaries should not necessarily be firm and unwavering. People and circumstances change, and so it stands to reason that boundaries can, too. Again, communication here is key. Perhaps before you are done communicating about your boundary you establish that you’re going to try things this way for a certain period of time after which the intention is to reconvene and have a discussion about how that went and whether or not this boundary needs to change. You could also just check in after a certain period of time in the same way whether you established this in the original boundary communication or not. I do not recommend altering a boundary on a whim. This is a serious matter. You take your relationships and your boundaries seriously. Any changes should be communicated.
I wish you the best of luck in your relationships and boundaries!
Written by Amanda Taylor (they/their), an out and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and licensed marriage and family therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Healthy Alternatives to Self-Harm
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 28, 2022 borderline personality disorder, self harm0 comments
Trigger Warning: Self-Harm
Coping skills are a way to deal with difficult situations, people and emotions. Many people enjoy listening to music, writing, exercising, and painting on days they do not feel the greatest. However, for some people the emotions can feel so overwhelming they turn to self-harm looking to release the emotional pain.
March 1 is Self-Injury Awareness Day— a day that focuses on increasing education and support on a misunderstood problem. According to research from the National Library of Medicine, about 17% of all people will self-harm during their lifetime.
What is Self-Harm or Self-Injury?
Self-harm is any form of hurting oneself on purpose. The pain from self-harming is often a distraction from the mental pain one may experience. Usually, when people self-harm, they do not have the intention to attempt or commit suicide. Although anyone can self-harm, it is more common among people with mental health disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Self-harm looks differently for each person. Below is a list of some of the most common types of self-harm:
- Pulling out hair
- Carving words or symbols into the skin
- Picking at existing wounds
- Piercing the skin with sharp objects
How To Deal with Self-Harm
Painful experiences and emotions can be really hard and overwhelming sometimes. Having the desire to find ways to cope and process the difficult things in your life is totally normal. If you are using self-harm to manage your emotions, we want you to know that you are not alone. Here are some resources and alternative ways to cope with your emotions.
- For emergency care. You can call the Resolve Crisis Hotline at 888-796-8226. Resolve is a 24-hour, 365-day crisis service that is free to all Allegheny County Residents. They provide a 24-hour hotline you can call to speak to a trained clinician. A mobile crisis team that can travel anywhere within Allegheny County to respond to a crisis; they will provide in-person support and will work to arrange further care and stabilization, if needed. Resolve also has a walk-in center, no appointment is needed. The walk-in center is located at 333 North Braddock Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15208. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or Text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
- Get Outside. Changing your environment can offer a distraction and give you time away from the self-harm tool. Being in nature also has a calming effect; walking around your neighborhood or on the trails can help increase your mood. Visiting a nearby park and/or stopping by your favorite place can help you feel calmer and at peace.
- Physical Activity can also be used as a distraction to help increase your mood and relieve some of the overwhelming emotions. Using sports or exercise can help resist the urge. If you do not feel like moving your body too much or feel like you have low energy, try yoga, Zumba, or do some basic stretches. Many videos can be found on YouTube.
- Listen to Music. Make a happy playlist and use the playlist during times you are not feeling well mentally.
- Mindfulness Activities. Using meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help us calm down when we are feeling overwhelmed. You can also take some deep breaths while using an adult coloring book or a color on a blank piece of paper.
- Talk to a Professional. The intention may not be to commit suicide however, self-harm can be dangerous both emotionally and physically. Talking to a therapist can help you process difficult emotions and learn new ways to cope.
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh is here to help you find a healthy alternative to self-harm. Please contact us at 412-322-2129 if you need support.
Written by: Kionna Howell, LPC at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
5 Tips for How to Deal with a Jealous Partner
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 13, 2021 borderline personality disorder, couples communication, couples counseling, couples therapy, dating, jealously, jealousy, marriage counseling, marriage counseling near me0 comments
Jealousy is an important and useful emotion. It can indicate that something is amiss in our relationship. It can help us act in a way that brings greater closeness and security to our connections when we respond to the signals of this emotion in a supportive and relationship-supporting way.
Yet jealousy can also reign down on our relationship, it can pull apart the integrity of a connection and cause a caring partner to turn away from an otherwise healthy union. The difference is often in how the person who exhibits jealousy manifests the emotion into communication and behavior.
We should also differentiate between rational and irrational jealousy, and pathological and non-pathological forms of this emotion. For instance if you are cheating on a partner or behaving in ways that challenge the commitment that you have made, it is obvious that your partner will have a rational response of jealousy. If there has NOT been infidelity in your relationship and your partner is often or sometimes jealous, they may be experiencing irrational jealously.
Irrational jealousy is either pathological, meaning related to a perceptual, biological, or mental health related diagnosis such as borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. Non-pathological, rational, and irrational jealousy can generally be helped by a partner by following some of the below stated ways of helping a jealous partner. As an aside, if you suspect that your partner has irrational and pathological jealousy, meaning not related to a real cause, and in extreme or even dangerous outbursts, you should exercise caution as some people have even escalated to highly aggressive and dangerous level of anger over jealousy.
How to Deal with Your Jealous Partner
It is never your job to fix another person but with all of this in mind, here are ways to interact best with your jealous partner.
- Offer reassurance, if your partner is feeling insecure, let them know that you are committed to them. It might take practice to respond with gentle support in the air of your own irritation but at the root of jealousy is the fear of loosing connection.
- Be consistent. Consistency trumps all and will offer the soothing balm to an uncertain love the salve that they need to feel confident in the love.
- Examine your own behavior.
- Recognize it for what it is
- Have boundaries!
Are you being flirty, are you crossing boundaries or eliciting responses in some people around you? Think about what you are really doing and imagine how your own behavior would make you feel if the tables were turned.
Jealousy is attachment insecurity and fear of disconnection. Label it as it is and help your partner process their concerns honestly and consciously.
Every relationship is about sacrifice and compromise but we also must have self awareness. Don’t give too much, if you think that your partners jealously is irrational, you might want to consider stepping away from the relationship and not end up sacrificing friends, activities, and important others to reduce their jealousy.
Dealing with Jealousy In Your Relationship?
If you’re dealing with jealousy in your relationship and are interested in marriage counseling or couples therapy, you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Or contact us here.
Additional Jealous Partner Resources
Stephanie Wijkstrom, Co-founder of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh was interviewed about How to Deal with a Jealous Girlfriend. Read her tips (cited here) along with those of other relationship experts.Learn More
People with Personality Disorders Do This In Relationships
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 8, 2020 borderline personality disorder, Bowen Systems theory, healthy relationships, narcissistic personality disorder, Personality disorders, Unhealthy relationships0 comments
People with Personality Disorders Do This In Relationships
Differentiation of Self: Learning to balance Self Needs with the Needs of Others
We can all agree that balance is a key component to healthy living. Sometimes it comes naturally, but more often than not, balance is really hard to maintain. One of the most difficult places to find balance is in our relationships. If we want to find balance, it is worth taking some time to think about the things we are trying to balance between. Being in relationships is like walking a tightrope. There are some people who have a pattern of relating where they have not developed coping strategies that help them work through strong emotions. These people, often personality disordered as defined by their rigidness and complex unhealthy ways of understanding themselves and others, cut off anyone who challenges or counters them. We are constantly balancing between our own individuality on one side, and our desire for a sense of togetherness on the other. Whereas emotionally healthy people welcome differences in others, personality disordered people have not moved beyond the immature way of viewing the world that understands not everyone is the same. Entering into relationships fulfills the human desire for a sense of belonging or togetherness. Once we are in a group or relationship, learning how to navigate around individual differences often proves to be quite difficult. It is easy to succumb to charged situations and react based on emotions rather than a thoughtful choice. ‘Differentiation of Self’ is the ability to interact with others while, at the same time, regulating your own emotions. Think of how narrow your world would become if your default was to run away from every person who you cared about who said or did something you didn’t like. This is however the reality that individuals with borderline personality disorder and sometimes narcissistic personality disorder create.
Think about a disagreement that is currently causing you frustration in one of your close relationships. You probably share commonalities with the person you disagree with, but at the same time your individual differences create tension. What do you do? If you are afraid of creating distance in the relationship you might just blindly agree with the person. You wouldn’t lose your closeness, but you would sacrifice some of your individuality. On the other hand, you could cut the person off emotionally, and distance yourself in the relationship. This would allow you to maintain your independence, but you would lose your closeness and possibly the relationship. Both of these responses are irrational and extreme, a product of all or nothing thinking that are often related to several personality disorders. Neither of these options are really healthy. Each is an escape in reaction to the emotional pressure of disagreement.
Differentiation of self is an idea that describes the ability to regulate your own emotional climate rather than getting drawn in or overwhelmed by the emotions of others. It also has to do with a person’s ability to interact with others without losing their sense of self. This is because a well differentiated person is able to hold the tension between their needs and the needs of others without becoming overwhelmed and acting purely on the strongest emotional push. Someone who is “well differentiated” is able to realize the difference between their own emotions, and the emotions of the people around them. Their choices are thoughtful, taking their emotions into account without being ruled by them. They are able to find peace even in difficult situations and respond thoughtfully in moments of pressure.
Think of individuality and togetherness like two sides of a coin that are distinct, but at the same time inseparable. One side has to do with our concept of self. It is the aspects of our personal life and experience that make us unique and different from others. On the other side, we have a desire to share similarities with others, and to be a part of a group. This is the desire for togetherness, or a sense of belonging. When we are differentiated, we have the ability to enter into a relationship and not lose ourselves. We are able to identify our own emotions and thoughts when responding to tension in a relationship, and we do not react to the emotions of others, but rather intentionally respond. We do not give up ourselves to be with someone, but rather we learn how to truly be ourselves with someone. Learning to regulate our emotions in charged situations is the skill that allows us to hold the balance between our needs and the needs of others. It is a necessary to be able to experience tension in order to have difficult conversations. Healthy relationships rely on our ability to express ourselves in a way that is authentic to ourselves, and at the same time sensitive to others. Being well differentiated protects you from getting uncontrollably pulled in by your own emotions or the emotions of other people. Ultimately, it allows you to enter into relationships fully, in a healthy way, without having to sacrifice your sense of self or losing your own identity.
Differentiation of self develops in our family of origin as we learn how to view ourselves as individuals, but also learn to maintain intimate relationships. It was first described by Murray Bowen, one of the pioneers of family therapy and the founder of Family Systems Theory. He discovered that in a healthy family, members develop the ability to have a sense that “I am my own person, but I am also a part of my family.” Ideally, the family is the place that we learn this skill of balance and integration. In learning about the similarities that unite me to my family members, I am able to have a sense of belonging. In learning about my own uniqueness, interests, and beliefs, I learn that I am also my own person. The challenge of the family is to teach this balance to children and cultivate a balance between our head and our heart. When we don’t learn this balance, we learn instead to be emotionally reactive.
Emotional reactivity is the key distinguishing aspect between people who are well differentiated or poorly differentiated. Differentiation of self is an ideal that we aim for and being aware of how we react to others is the first step in becoming more differentiate. Learning to manage our thoughts and our feelings has a direct result on how we are able to authentically enter into and navigate relationship. If we are not able to differentiate our thoughts from our feelings, then we become vulnerable to being overcome by the pressure of other people, or our own impulses in the present moment.
What can we do about it? None of us are as differentiated as we could be. In fact, even Murray Bowen said that he would not consider himself perfectly differentiated! We can all chose to be dedicated to growing in differentiation. It will benefit us, our friends, our families and especially our close relationships. It is easy to get caught up in the past, or the future, but the only thing we can change is right now. Differentiation begins with thoughtfulness and consideration of the present moment. Why don’t you try to do a quick check in with your emotions? Take a few deep breaths. Just notice, what is it you’re feeling right now? Has there been any strong emotions welling up as you read this post? Just try to notice those feelings, the more aware we are of our feelings, the less likely they are to overwhelm us. By simply paying attention to the present moment we give ourselves the chance to be more differentiated. Next time you are in a frustrating situation with someone try to do the same thing, just notice your feelings. Pay attention to what your emotions are telling you and listen to them while taking a few deep breaths. Rather than reacting to the situation, try to respond thoughtfully after checking in with your emotions. If your knee jerk response is to ‘cut and run’ every time you experience an emotional reaction in a relationship, notice this too and try to adopt healthy self soothing techniques instead of running away from inevitable heightened emotions that come from having close relationships. The key to change is always and only in the present moment. By paying attention to the present moment we allow ourselves to truly enter into what is going on around us, without being swept off our feet. Relationships are difficult and require a lot of work. By paying attention to our emotions, we can learn to enter into relationships in a deeper, more meaningful way. Differentiation of self is what allows us to truly be ourselves in an authentic way, and at the same time meaningfully enter into relationships with others.
By: John Paul Dombrowski- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh in Canonsburg.
Foose, K. (2018, February 07). Differentiation of self through the lens of mindfulness. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://ct.counseling.org/2018/02/differentiation-of-self-through-the-lens-of-mindfulness/
Baney, D., 5, J., 3, O., 28, E., & *, N. (2015, September 14). Differentiation of Self. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://drbaney.com/category/differentiation-of-self/
Eight Concepts. (2017, November 22). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://thebowencenter.org/theory/eight-concepts/
Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation: An approach based on Bowen theory. New York: W.W. Norton.
Nichols, M. P., & Davis, S. D. (2019). Family therapy: Concepts and methods. Hoboken: Pearson.Learn More
14 ways to tell if a relationship is toxic.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 28, 2019 abuse, anger, borderline personality disorder, BPD, BPD Relationships, domestic violence, jealousy, narcissistic personality disorder, Personality disorders, relationship conflict, signs of a toxic relationship, toxic relationship signs, Unhealthy relationships0 comments
14 Toxic Relationship Signs
According the great writer Leo Tolstoy “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Our sources say, ‘Not true Tolstoy’, of course when psychologists and social scientists put their noses in the matter we can quantify and define the exact toxic relationship signs to look out for.
A healthy marriage, friendship, or relationship is supportive, stable, and enriching. Use our relationship wellness checklist to learn more! A relationship that makes us feel bad sometimes isn’t enough to reach the criteria of toxic, it literally must ooze with the stuff, consistently embodying certain patterns of relating. Unfortunately, there are some people due to their own emotional traumas or psychological profile that do have a proverbial sign on their back for attracting toxic people as they really are more easily victimized by a toxic persons strategies. This article is for you, the people that dig in and remain a part of the toxic dance which twirls them way past their comfort zone, for the quick to forgive, and the long winded in making excuses for their beloved others. Let us look at what the cherished whispers of your intuition might be trying to convey to you as you wonder if its you, or is it them? Read on for 14 Toxic Relationship Signs.
- Invalidate. There is a lot of research on the effects of the invalidating environment, if you wonder what that means. Think about this, when you try to share your feelings or thoughts with this person, do they become defensive and tell you that you’re completely wrong? Do you have to continually work to get them to see your side of things or do they never see your perspective at all? While two people in a healthy relationship will sometimes not see things the same way, that is different from trying to convince a person that their perception is inaccurate and the only way to see things is theirs. One of the things that many couple’s therapists coach couples on is that, “there are two valid perspectives in the room.” People in healthy relationships set out understand each other’s feelings, that means that your partner tries to see your side even when you’re in the throes of a disagreement.
- Uses Guilt. Are you walking around like a stick in the mud feeling like you’re always regretting something in the relationship? Maybe you’re being victimized by endless attempts at guilt. Try to tell them that you can’t make it to the holiday dinner this year and she says, “Well shows how much you care about this family!” We need to have the freedom to pursue what is right for us and the encouragement to express it without buttressing up against endless guilt trips
- Uses Manipulation or Gaslighting. Do you try to talk to a partner about feeling hurt or anxious over their drooling at the handsome guy at the cocktail party last night and they call you clingy and crazy? Does your loved one say things to you that are outright not true and sometimes you end up wondering if you are going crazy because their perception is so entirely different from yours? Does your friend or partner outright lie when you catch them doing something inappropriate? It is common for Narcissists and Sociopaths to use Gaslighting. Gaslighting is defined as purposely telling someone things that are totally untrue, this is even more sinister than lying, it is a form of brainwashing. It is intended to throw off your intuition and make you doubt your reality and the validity of your feelings. The sad truth is that those who are most vulnerable to gaslighting are those people who value others feedback more than they trust their own intuition, those who have grown up on high doses of manipulation, and especially the ‘people pleaser’ dependent personality type.
- Not Reciprocal. Are you always putting in work for the relationship and the other person simply isn’t? Whether friend, relative, or partner, healthy relationships are mutual, meaning both people put in the work to make each other a priority. If you have talked about this with them before or maybe are too afraid to talk about it because your intuition fears what you might learn, a good test is to stop putting in the effort and see what happens, do they reach out at all
- Minimizes your needs. ‘They might be toxic if.’ Do you have to work really hard to make yourself understood? Have you stopped trying out of hopelessness? Tell your friend that you have a lot going on and need to make it home right after your dinner out and they say, “You can stay out for a while longer, you will be fine.’
- Feel afraid to talk to the person. If any or all of the above has been happening for a while now, you may become consciously or unconsciously afraid to talk with this person. Maybe you start to turn toward others to talk out your thoughts. Perhaps you shut down and repress your authentic self completely because you fear that nothing will happen or that you will upset them if you try to talk about anything that they may not want.
- Hold the relationship hostage. Does your partner or friend threaten to break up, leave, never talk to you again as though it is a script in their relationship? Sometimes this is a symptom of a person who doesn’t know how to manage their emotions well or is poor at resolving conflict. Other times, this is a big fat red flag marking the territory of a toxic relationship. Healthy connection is grounded in trust and commitment that you will be there for each other even when times get hard. Of course, at other times there is a breaking point when it becomes so hard for so long that one of the people in the relationship wants out, ending a relationship is not toxic, that is just done.
- Uses the silent treatment.When something happens that is upsetting to them, they refuse to communicate for days, weeks, or even months? A person who uses the silent treatment is often trying to gain control over the situation or even more insidiously, they may be trying to hurt you by shutting you out. The antidote for the silent treatment is to develop a self-soothing strategy that creates enough calm so that life’s invariable relationship challenges can be overcome.
- Makes you feel that you’re never enough. You will know when you experience it, if you tell them that you got an A or promotion, they say get the “A plus next time” or “bet the promotion wont last long”. We must champion each other in relationships and encourage each others success and find pathways to overcome problems, that is one of the reasons people enter relationships, to give and receive support.
- Doesn’t apologize. When you have any relationship that’s more than a flip in the sheets or handshake, you’re going to mess up. Healthy people apologize when that happens and it takes a strong person to offer an apology when they are wrong. Toxic people will criticize, blame shift, deny and become defensive if you attempt to extract an apology from them.
- Doesn’t forgive. When the apology happens, loving people do their best to forgive. Forgiving can be hard, depending on what happened you might now be able to forgive, for instance if there was an infidelity in the relationship or some other betrayal, you may forgive or you may find the need to end the relationship. The choice is always yours, however, if you decide to remain in the relationship then you also are committing to forgive and not use the mistake as a launching point for endless criticism, guilting, and shaming. At other times, if the same apology has been happening for a long time, it can become meaningless and you may start to realize that the perpetual issue is a deal breaker, in that instance, working toward honoring your boundaries should be the goal.
- Uses name calling or makes you feel diminished. While we do end up feeling irritated with our partners behavior sometimes, healthy interactions focus on the behavior not the person. It is the difference between saying that you notice someone’s bedroom is messy and calling them a slob. Name calling can be outright abusive and is a sigh of a toxic person.
- Goes into rages or uses anger to control. Does this person have a quick temper and use it to wield their power, saying and doing things that leave a lasting scar. Of course if we are talking about physical abuse or safety concerns, that is more than a sign of someone who is toxic, that is violence. Same with pushing, chocking, pinching, blocking someone’s exit to safety, breaking their items to name a few. Having a temper is never an excuse to make someone feel unsafe or do any of the things above.
- Zaps your energy. Do you leave their company and feel depleted and out of energy? Is this the friend that always monopolizes the conversation, do you know so much about them but they know not so much about you because they barely ask? Or, does this person have more heads than the fabled medusa, constantly talking poorly about other people especially talking critically about others who they are supposed to be their friends or former partners? Do they constantly play the victim and come to you for rescuing? Chances are they are toxic!
The take home point is that toxicity is among us, others take on these characteristics out of necessity in their lives and they fail to integrate healthier strategies for relating to others. If we want a healthy relationship, we wont find it by accepting the above behaviors and dismissing our fears and intuition. Toxic behavior doesn’t change on its own, it does require professional intervention to support relationship health.
Written by Marriage Counselor and Founder of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Stephanie Wijkstrom.
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