When Is Enough, Enough?

When Is Enough, Enough?  I’m working with a couple who has been in affair recovery for over a year.  The husband had been cheating for ten years.  The wife discovered the last infidelity via text messages which pretty much summed up his behavior with her over the course of the year.  No doubt she was devastated to discover this affair.  He also disclosed his other discrepancies during the course of those ten years.  We succinctly talked about how their marriage was derailed and was able to get some traction over the course of therapy for stabilization.

A moving forward plan was developed based on what they wanted from one another to remain in the marriage.  Expectations and boundaries were put in place to ensure appropriate behavior was being exercised.

Throughout the course of counseling, the husband showed insight into his behavior and was committed to the process of being transparent and forthcoming.  As much as the wife understood and appreciated his insights and appropriate moving forward behavior, she continued to bring up events from their past and ruminated over them indicating she was “stuck” in the process.

In the most recent events, the wife discovered her husband had been communicating with his first “affair partner” a few months ago as they were planning on making arrangements to talk to each other.  His reasoning is far less important than the breach of his commitment to exercise transparency and being forthcoming.

As their Marriage Counselor, I have been working with the wife to help manage her anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and co-dependency to get some insight into her continued rationalization of why she tolerates these boundary violations.  At this point, the issue isn’t about why he continues to lie, (lie by omission, etc.), it’s why she continues to tolerate his inappropriate behavior.

As a Marriage Counselor specializing in Affair Recovery, I understand individuals stay in relationships because of the “pay-off” they receive.  Different “pay-offs” for different people.  At this point in Affair Recovery, the wife needs to take a more serious look at herself and what she’s doing to enable bad behavior and live with the “good enough” progress they’ve made, or accept he cannot meet her expectations for moving forward and choose to move on, because when is enough, enough?

For more information about Affair Recovery please contact me at (858) 735-1139.



Developing A Greater Sense of Self

Developing A Greater Sense of Self.  When establishing a romantic relationship looking for a partner should ENHANCE you not COMPLETE you.  I can’t appreciate that statement in the Jerry McGuire movie (“You complete me”) as I believe it set women back years.  No one person completes another who has a sense of self.  Growing up as the eldest child in my family I quickly learned to become a caretaker.  I made it my lifetime ambition to ensure the success and happiness of other household members.  Piggy backing that behavior into adulthood I came to “do” for those who were able to “do” for themselves. Everyone relied on me to take care of things and I felt significant.  In getting everyone else’s needs met over my own I’d often time wonder why I was becoming more and more of an irritatable and angry person.  As a young woman, I thought it was my responsibility to make sure everyone was ok and when they were not, I felt I had disappointed them in some way and often times felt guilty.

As a Marriage Counselor, when someone tells me a similar story I inform them that “guilt” is an irrational feeling.  Guilt according to the Cambridge English Dictionary is a fact or state of having done something wrong or committed a crime.  Or is a feeling of anxiety or unhappiness that you have done something immoral or wrong, such as causing harm to another person.  Making sure everyone is “ok” is not only an unhealthy way to think but feeling disappointed about not making sure everyone feels “ok” and feeling guilty about it is definitely not a healthy perspective.  I didn’t do anything wrong by not getting their needs met.  It’s not my responsibility if what I do or do not do makes them feel a “feeling.”  This is referred to as “Co-dependency” where one takes on the feelings of others when it is not our responsibility to do so.  Everyone needs to function for themselves and have clear boundaries in which to do so.

Developing a Sense of Self is essential to growing up.  The path of this goal is Differentiation.  Differentiation is the ability of a person to maintain one’s own identity, belief, and feelings while others do the same.  Differentiation within a relationship is the process through which you can live in close proximity to a partner and still maintain a separate sense of self.  

Developing a Sense of Self starts with understanding and working with Boundaries.  Personal boundaries are the limits we set in all our relationships.  This allows us to protect ourselves.  Boundaries come from having a good sense of our own Self-Worth.  Boundaries enable us to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do.  As a Marriage Counselor, I emphasize the importance of developing internal and external boundaries to allow us to get close to others when appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close.  Internal boundaries are what prevents us from saying “yes” when we really mean “no” and being able to think and speak for ourselves.  Good boundaries enable us to know where we end and the other begins.

When I was a young woman and before I became a Marriage and Family Therapist I didn’t know what boundaries meant in relationships.  I knew boundary lines kept neighbors from entering your yard but no one taught me personal boundaries.  In my dysfunctional family, and we all come from some kind of dysfunction, having personal boundaries could be misconstrued as disrespect because we were suppose to share EVERYTHING with one another.  You could imagine the problems that stem from that kind of thinking.  Thoughts and especially feelings were sometimes left to be thought and felt by other family members leading to much disharmony and co-dependency.

Learning how to sort these things out leads to respect for the other and equality in a relationship and a mutual flow of feelings between two partners.  This is what makes for mature love.  With a stronger Sense of Self, you’re able to recognize and be more cognitively available to be in a relationship where no one partner is in control and the other is needy and helpless.  This way there is always room for give-and-take.  With a strong sense of self, you can objectively assess whether or not a partner is good for you.  You won’t be deciding solely on emotions.  You won’t need to say that phrase…”you complete me,” you can say with pride “you enhance my already great qualities!”  The lyrics from the song “This Is Me” from the movie The Greatest Showman gives me chills whenever I listen to it because it pretty much wraps up what I’d been feeling for most of my young adult life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV9BmH0tuH4

Developing a greater sense of self enables you to trust your intuition and keep you from making bad decisions and behaving in desperate ways.

Whether you are working on issues in a new relationship or looking to revive the spark in an established one, I can help you and your partner build a relationship that works for both of you.

For more information on developing a greater Sense of Self please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or email me at Sarah@CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com


Are You Codependent?

Are You Codependent?  What is it about you where you continue to stay in a relationship that isn’t working?  Do you tend to feed off the neediness of others and devote all your energy to what they want? Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. Codependency in relationships is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. Where in healthy relationships the two should be interdependent of one another and not dependent.

Initially, codependency was used in the context of substance abuse, where one person is abusing the substance and he or she depends on the other person (enabler) to supply the basic needs of life; food, shelter, and financial resources, as well as emotional well-being.

As a Marriage Counselor, I help individuals understand their mood, happiness, and identity are not to be determined by what other people think or feel about them. The word “codependency” gets thrown around a lot.

Are you in a Codependent relationship?  I have been working with a young woman who has been seeing a married man for ten years.  She is your typical cliche of a mistress who was naive at the beginning and believed most of what was said to her about how he can’t leave and get a divorce just yet because he doesn’t want to hurt his wife or the children.  Years later, nothing changes except everyone is now ten years older and a bit wiser or not.  I have another woman who is involved with a married man whose wife became pregnant during their affair.  As a Marriage Counselor, I bring to their attention that they may be exercising codependent behavior.  Rather than say, “hey, look the writing’s on the wall,” or  “what the f**k are you thinking?”  I share some of the signs they may be codependent or are in a codependent relationship.

Signs include:

  1. Having difficulty making decisions in a relationship.
  2. Having difficulty identifying your feelings.
  3. Having difficulty communicating in a relationship.
  4. Lacking trust in yourself.
  5. Having poor self-esteem and self-worth.
  6. Having fears of abandonment.
  7. Having the obsessive need for approval.
  8. Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for others.
  9. Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships where interdependency is appropriate.
  10. Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself.

Boundaries – Do you have them?  People focus so much on being loving and giving that they forget their own limits and limitations.  Have you ever found yourself wondering can I set limits and still be a loving person? Boundaries are put in place to set healthy limits with your parents, spouses, children, friends, coworkers, and even oneself.  How do I answer someone who wants my time, energy or money?  Why do I feel guilty when I consider setting boundaries?  Being able to set boundaries is an invaluable tool as it helps you gain control of your life.  Without them, people can take advantage of you.

There is an amount of codependency in healthy relationships where there is give and take.  It becomes a problem when you seek out, maintain or feed off relationships that are not satisfying.  A big indicator you may be codependent is realizing and acknowledging most of your relationships are not working for you.  The inability of not being self-aware makes moving forward challenging.  Once identified codependency can be successfully treated.

Treatment includes:

  1. Counseling – work with a counselor for help in developing a sense of self.
  2. Marriage counseling – to understand your individual part in the problems that affect the relationship.
  3. Self-care – return to doing the things you once enjoyed before you became so enmeshed with the other person.
  4. Reconnect with family and friends – being in a codependent relationship created isolation which leads to a loss of sense of self.  Rebuild relationships from whom you’ve distanced yourself.
  5. Get treatment for substance abuse – if substances are being abused the triangulation of them exacerbates the codependency.

If you can relate to anything I just shared please give me a call (858) 735-1139 so you can start feeling better about yourself and all your relationships.


Life Lessons Our Parents Didn’t Teach Us

Life Lessons Our Parents Didn’t Teach Us.  I don’t know about you but as a “baby boomer” and parents of immigrants from a developing Country, there was not much time nor opportunity to learn life lessons outside of what public school taught us and that wasn’t much.  Wisdom lies in acting on the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.  Here are 10 skills that can clarify your visions and bring you closer to your life goals.

  •  Understand not everything that happens to you is about you.
  •  Focus on other people without obsessing on how they view you.
  •  Stay true to your own values despite what others expect of you.
  • Know how to ask for honest feedback.
  • Realize you don’t have to act the way you feel.
  • Be able to manage and reframe disappointment and adversity.
  • Hone in on your significance in a high-tech world.
  • Find motivation from within.
  • Be open to revised thinking.
  • Tolerate ambiguity.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist working with individuals, couples, and families, I stress the importance of developing a greater sense of self so you can decide for yourself what is needed for your happiness.  Listening to your intuition is a guide that should not be ignored as it can lead you to realize what is right and wrong for you.  Everyone is entitled to their thoughts and feelings and more importantly, so do you.  As you trust and come to know yourself better the above 10 skills can help you live the life that is congruent to what you know and feel.

Don’t let others decide what is best for you.  If you have a feeling that doesn’t feel right with their wants don’t give into it.  Do what you believe is in your best interest and don’t feel like you’ve done something wrong.  For more information on obtaining what it is you want for your happiness please call me at (858) 735-1139.


Start Concentrating On Yourself

Start Concentrating On Yourself. As a Marriage and Family Therapist I see individuals with many different types of problems. I recently saw a young woman who came in because she had a panic attack last week and has been experiencing anxiety for the past few months. As she was sharing the events that lead to the panic attack I assessed the problem stemming from her family of origin.  Her parents want $3,000 from her so they can pay their property taxes. They want to purchase a brand new luxury car and thought she should supplement their expenses.  She’s 27 years old and is employed in a job she enjoys. Does that mean she should give them the money? It’s a different situation if her parents needed the money due to an emergency.

Start Concentrating On Yourself

Then there’s “Tom” a high functioning 32 year-old attorney who has been married for 1 year and still has not informed his parents.  He is hesitant to share his good news because his mother has already disapproved of his wife during an introduction visit. Despite his wife’s understanding she feels hurt and not important.

Then there’s “Me” up until a few years ago continuing to enable inappropriate behavior from some of my own extended family members.  Saying “yes” when I want to say “no.” Created a lot of frustration and resentment. In taking better care of myself I started listening to my intuition, mustered up the courage to follow it by feeling emotions that included the uncomfortable ones.Which gave me the insight I needed to backup my want. Putting in some boundaries to get the groundedness I needed to actually make an informed decision of whether it was a yes or a no.

Start Concentrating On Yourself

We all exercise behavior where we’d rather not spare the feelings of those who really need to face reality and feel the discomfort that comes from that reality.  Often times we are so concerned about “caretaking” their feelings, we neglect taking care of our own (codependent).  This can create anxiety, depression, resentment, frustration, anger, etc., affecting our own mental health

Well, I say, “do you want to continue to do that?”  If the answer is “No,” or “I don’t know how to stop” then perhaps it’s time to acquire the skills and “come back” lines needed to protect yourself from not being able to take care of “You.”  In Marriage/Couples Counseling I help my clients understand that they need to teach people how to behave around them.  If they learn “green light” behavior then they can have access to you.  If they continue to exercise  “red light” or bad/inappropriate behavior they have limited access to you.  It’s your choice not theirs.

For more information please contact me at (858) 735-1139 and go to my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com for more information about my services.