Battered Wife Syndrome Is Not Always Physical

Battered Wife Syndrome Is Not Always Physical.  Domestic Violence comes in many forms.  I see quite a few women in therapy due to tolerating bad behavior.  Statistic show 1:4 women will be a victim at some point. (Family Violence Prevention Fund 2004).  You don’t have to be physically abused to be a Battered Wife.  Males/husbands in relationships can also suffer from batter wife syndrome, however, this article focuses on women.

I’ve been working with a middle aged women who has been married for 10 years. She is an accomplished well educated professional working in the capacity where she takes pride in what she does. She is independent in that she makes her own money. The problem is she tolerates a verbally abusive husband. She understands she possesses some codependent traits. Her rationalization about their relationship and why he is the way he is has made life quite difficult as she has lost her sense of self and is depressed.

Her husband suffers from a psychological disease that is treatable but is in denial about his condition. His highs and lows have created disdain for this client as she is deciding whether she should stay or go. As she makes an informed decision she understands she has three options:

  1. Keep the status quo and do nothing
  2. Require him to manage his mood swings and move forward in marriage counseling
  3. Move on to separation and divorce.


She cares about and loves her husband but cannot remain in a relationship where there is verbal abuse. The high level of anxiety she experiences is making her life a nightmare as she doubts her every move. Because his illness is treatable it is his choice to accept the treatment available. Because you can only control yourself and not another person, it is basically his choice to get better or not. It is up to my client to put boundaries in place and stop enabling his bad behavior so she can live the healthy life she desires and not the codependent life she had been living.

At this point she needs to concentrate on herself and know what she wants so she knows what she wants and deserves in a healthy relationship.

There is good prognosis if her husband decides to move forward receiving the treatment necessary to manage his emotions.

For more information on codependency and getting out of an abusive relationship contact me at (858) 735-1139.




How To Grow Up

How To Grow Up.  While growing up we all have a chronological age.  That age doesn’t necessarily include having emotional maturity.  As a Marriage Counselor, I work with individuals whose chronological age doesn’t necessarily indicate their ability to act like a grown up.  Just because you are chronologically 42 years old doesn’t mean you can’t act like a 6 year old having a tantrum when things don’t go your way.  “Acting Out” behavior is a psychological term where emotions are expressed inappropriately through a loss of self control.

“Grow up!”  Is what people in relationships sometimes say to each other when one is displaying acting out behavior. Or maybe you’ve even said it about yourself in times of frustration. Depending on how you were raised is dependent upon how you mange your emotions.  In our relationships we can easily become unravelled by either feeling like we are losing ourselves or feel discourage about unsuccessful effort to make things right for others.  It’s in our relationships that we can experience the best and worst in ourselves.  Relationships help us increase self-awareness and growing maturity, which often times isn’t comfortable.

Emotional maturity consist of:

  1. Concentrating on what you are doing and not what others are doing. The more we focus on what’s wrong with others, the less aware we are of what others have to deal with in relating to us.
  2. Growing oneself, rather than promoting self. The process of growing ourselves, our task of seeking to understand how we may be contributing to our own dissatisfaction in our interactions, is all about personal responsibility in our relationships and not about self-promotion.
  3. Learning about what you are doing to contribute to or limit yourself in all your relationships. This awareness allows for  the development of insight about where you take responsibility for positive and negative situations.
  4. Understanding the developmental stages everyone goes through in life. The process of differentiation of self, which is the ability to think as an individual while staying meaningfully connected to others, is the basis of maturity.

Characteristics of a mature person include:

  1. Ability to keep emotions in line with their values.
  2. Having good boundaries and ability to set limits.
  3. Stay on task even when experiencing discomfort.
  4. Improves themselves without blaming others.
  5. Stays in contact with those who are upset with them.
  6. Don’t expect to be rescued by others.
  7. Refrains from taking over for others (overfunctioning)
  8. Resist the force to fit in with the group even when it contradicts their values.
  9. Managing their emotions appropriately rather than acting them out.

Relational maturity includes:

  1. Keeping feelings from becoming exaggerated.
  2. Being able to show empathy and validate perspectives.
  3. Working on being more principled by not blaming others.
  4. Becoming more comfortable relating to people who have different perspectives.
  5. Being responsible for oneself without interfering in other’s responsibilities. (Boundaries)
  6. Being able to hold conviction with their values despite push back.
  7. Being able to see past oneself to the bigger picture of reactions and counter-reactions.

With that said, being grown up in relationships is to be able to calmly listen to others but not be swayed by relationship triggers in coming to a personal opinion. People in relationships have their own perspective and a mature person shows  respect to that perspective by showing empathy and validating it.

For more information on becoming a more mature person call me at (858) 735-1139.


Know When To Say “No”

Know When To Say “No.” Saying “no” to people or situations that are not healthy means you are not looking out for your well-being.  In Couples Counseling I work with people who are not able to say what they really want to say to their partners to avoid conflict, hurting the other person’s feelings, repercussions, or whatever fear they may have about their relationship.

If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your partner, you may not be in a healthy relationship.  Being able to initiate conversation, express thoughts and feelings, and ask for what you need and want is what a healthy relationship looks like.

Say goodbye to being a people pleaser and learn how to confidently say no to someone without feeling bad about it.  It has a lot to do with being assertive.

Tips for Saying No Effectively:

Takers – Say “yes” to givers. Be a giver yourself.  “Know the difference between those who stay to feed the soil and those who come to grab the fruit.”—

Say no to takers:

  • Recognize who’s a taker (they always ask or even demand things).
  • Set ground rules and confront them (in a nice way).
  • Stop giving to them until their behavior/mindset changes.
  • Spend more time with givers like yourself.

1. Say it.

Don’t beat around the bush or offer weak excuses or hem and haw. This only provides an opening for the other person. Don’t delay or stall either. Provide a brief explanation if you feel you need to; however, don’t feel compelled. The less said the better.

2. Be assertive and courteous.

You might say, “I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach is polite, and puts you in a position of power by changing the dynamic. You’re taking charge, telling people you’ll let them know when and if you can. Another example, “I appreciate your asking me for help, but I’m stretched too thin right now to devote the time to be of quality help to you.”

3. Understand peoples’ tactics.

Many people and organizations use manipulation techniques, whether knowingly or not. For example, think about when you get a solicitation for a donation to a charity and there are forced options: “Would you like to donate $10, $20, $30, or X amount?” Another tactic: “Most people donate $20–how much would you like to donate?” This relies on social pressure.

4. Set boundaries.

People sometimes have a hard time saying no because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their relationships and understand their role within the relationship. When you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you won’t feel as worried about the consequences of saying no. You’ll realize that your relationship is solid and can withstand your saying no.

5. Put the question back on the person asking.

This is highly effective in a work situation. Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks–more than you can handle. You might say, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”

6. Be firm.

If someone can’t accept your no, then you know the person is probably not a true friend or doesn’t respect you. Stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.

7. Be selfish (in a good way)

Put your needs first. Not those of the person asking you for something. If you prioritize that person’s needs over yours, you’ll find your productivity will suffer and resentment will mount. Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Make time for people that don’t bring you down. Stay away from toxic people.  “It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around when you remove toxic people from your life.” — Robert Tew

How to say no to toxic people:

  • Spend more time with people who share your values.
  • Be truthful and let someone know you’re ready to move on.
  • Find a mentor who’ll help you remove yourself from toxic people.
  • Join online groups of like-minded individuals.

As a young woman, I had a difficult time saying “no.”  I wanted everyone to like me and not to think poorly of me.  In the long run I became a resentful and angry person. This lack of assertiveness and conflict avoidance made my parenting of my older children challenging as I never wanted to disappoint them.  As it turns out they appreciate my forthcoming assertiveness in saying what I need to say.  And that sometimes can be “no.”

To learn how to be more assertive and say “no” without feeling negative thoughts about yourself call me at (858) 735-1139.




I Can’t Adult Today

I Can’t Adult Today.  Do you have days where you just want to concentrate on yourself for a change.  As a mother, wife, doggy mom, therapist and caretaker to extended family, I can become overwhelmed by the minutiae of everyday life.  I wrote an article about self-care and instill some the of the tips to manage my feelings of anxiety and frustration.

As a Marriage Counselor and mental health provider, I listen to problems on a daily basis.  That coupled with my own challenges throughout the week can become very tiresome.  I’m a Type A personality so I like things in order with no loose ends.  And of course, life is full of loose ends.

When I don’t take the time for self-care I am a person who “acts out” all kinds of emotions.  Acting out is an inappropriate way to express thoughts and feelings.  I call them “adult tantrums.”  You should see what I look like when I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety.  My family walks on eggshells when I’m in a mood.  I’m sure you can relate to similar situations.  Behaving like an adult is difficult to do when you’re tired, hungry, resentful, sad, etc.  Not getting my needs and wants met makes me bitter and resentful.

The day-to-day demands of life are put in perspective when I’m able to concentrate on myself for a day or two by asking those who care about me to concentrate on themselves.  I am able to re-frame negative situations and put a positive spin on them to reduce anxiety.

Behaving like an adult during strenuous times takes patience, self-awareness, and effective communication.  It’s also a matter of choice to “act out” or behave appropriately.  Of course, none of us is perfect, however, being able to self-regulate keeps us from having meltdowns and maintaining goodwill in our relationships.

Taking a break from everyday responsibilities isn’t easy.   Don’t beat yourself up by being a “hero.”  Ask for what is needed to help make your day a little more manageable.  You have a right to time to yourself.  Don’t forget that.  Contact me at (858) 735-1139 to talk more about self-care and managing inappropriate behaviors.



Relationship Addiction

Relationship Addiction.  The experience of finding the right partner and falling “in love” is one of life’s true joys. It brings a feeling of euphoria, passion, connection, and hope for a happy future. It can lead to a lifetime of loving contentment. Of course, sometimes it lapses and becomes one of our memories, sometimes pleasant and sometimes not. The “high” that comes from this feeling of loving passion, at least for some people, is so compelling that they use it to fill gaps in their lives, much as they might use a drug. Being in love, for them, can resemble an addiction.

The source of an addiction is found within the person, not in the substance itself. Some people can use a drug, including alcohol, and not become addicted. Similarly, some people can enjoy the high of being in love as a positive life experience without any indication of addiction. Other people, depending on their needs, their abilities, or their backgrounds, use the euphoric feelings that come from an outside source of gratification (drugs, relationships … or gambling, videogames – the list is endless) to create a false sense of fulfillment in their lives. They have difficulty looking within, perhaps due to a lack of sense of self to find a way to achieve contentment, so they look outside of themselves for a way to soothe their internal feelings. Everyone does this to a degree. But when it takes on a compulsive quality that inhibits more positive life experiences and leads to negative consequences, it can be called an addiction.

People who use relationships addictively usually harbor a sense of incompleteness in their lives –  emptiness, despair, feeling lost, or sadness. They may lack a feeling of attachment to love that has roots in their early childhood. They believe their feelings can be remedied through finding that comforting feeling of euphoria that comes through a love relationship.  See relationship symptoms.

An addictive relationship has a compulsive quality about it. While a healthy love relationship implies that both partners freely choose each other, in an addictive relationship there is a compulsive drive that limits this freedom (“I must stay in this relationship even if it’s bad for me.”) There is also an overwhelming feeling of panic over the thought of losing the relationship, even if there are arguments between the two partners and both know the relationship should end. If the relationship actually ends, there are pronounced withdrawal symptoms, much like drug, nicotine, or alcohol addicts experience when they go “cold turkey.”

They may experience weeping, physical pain, sleep disturbance, depression, irritability, and the feeling that they have no place to turn to now. These feelings are so intense that they might drive the person into another addictive relationship immediately. After this period of turmoil ends, however, the addicted person senses a period of triumph or liberation and they don’t typically go through the long, slow experience of acceptance and healing that characterizes the ending of a healthier relationship.

As a Marriage Counselor working with individuals who suffer from these types of unhealthy relationships I help them manage the ups and downs of tolerating bad behavior.  For more information relationship addiction please contact me at (858) 735-1139.