Don’t Ever Lose Your Sense Of Self

Don’t Ever Lose Your Sense Of Self.  Growing up as a female Baby Boomer, many of us were given unsolicited advice about how to be a good wife.  In being accommodating one must sacrifice their needs and wants and defer to the man in their life.  As much as that may sound like a plan doing so could result in a life of unhappiness, regrets, and discontentment.

As a Marriage Counselor, I work with women who have done just that.  Most of their decisions in their primary relationship consisted of ensuring the happiness and well-being of their husbands.  Believing men bring in the primary source of income for the family women tend to think less of themselves and secondary in the hierarchy of a patriarchy society where a woman can become a prisoner of an unbalanced and overpowering marriage or relationship.  Some cultures say they have a matriarchy society, however, I believe that is code for, “placate the female as the male actually has the final say.”

Because there is no guarantee relationships remain intact, it is imperative for women not to lose and render themselves completely dependent.  A woman I am seeing is about to become separated from her husband as he is no longer happy in their marriage.  She is so disappointed as she states she sacrificed plenty to be able to move forward with him.  She gave up studying at UCLA to attend a college her husband could only get into.  Does she have regrets?  A resounding yes.  Another woman gave up the opportunity to work for Cosmopolitan magazine which she stated was a dream job to follow her husband’s path.  And yet another deferred her practicing law to go into a business her husband was not successful in maintaining.

As a Marriage Counselor, one of the most important aspects in working with women is helping them develop and maintain a healthy sense of self.  In healthy relationships the individual is of primary importance, where the individual in the relationship is of secondary priority, and the relationship itself being third in line.  Again, Baby Boomers, not so much Millennials, tend to believe this hierarchy of order is the reverse.  In taking care of others’ needs first is a deterrent for remaining independent in an interdependent relationship/marriage.

As a young woman I bought into that concept and while married to my high school sweetheart and first husband, I concentrated on his well-being and professional career.  He went on to become a Certified Public Accountant, Real Estate Broker and had a law degree.  Despite our wonderful lifestyle I wasn’t happy.  I realized I fulfilled my mother’s dreams, not mine.  I realized I wanted something to call my own.  So after a divorce, single parenthood, and during my differentiation process at 32 years old, I worked on “ME.”

As a licensed Marriage Counselor, I can relate to many of the issues women and couples want to work on and adjust.  Everyone wants to feel significant in their relationships and proud.  Developing and maintaining a healthy sense of self is the first step in that process.

For more information on developing and maintaining a sense of self 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 [email protected]

 

Turning 60…..Shut Up!!

Turning 60…..Shut Up!!  In honor of my 60th birthday (9/23) I am reposting a Blog I feel strongly about:  

https://couplescounselorsandiego.com/?p=5742&preview=true

First of all, I thank my parents for having me and putting up with the good, the bad and the ugly.   They are loving patient people and I appreciate our better understanding of each other as we grow old together.

I was ok with turning 50.  I’ve gone through the developmental stages without too much trauma.  I’ve had my ups and downs. I didn’t let the downs define me and allowed the ups to guide me in my life’s purpose.

Now that I am 60 I realize time is limited and ever so precious.  I’ve stopped bitching about what could have been and appreciate what is happening in the moment.  I’ve stopped with the “what if’s” and stick to the “what is.”

It’s true those that age say nothing really matters anymore except being true to yourself.  If you aren’t happy you evidently missed opportunities to figure out what makes you happy. As a Baby Boomer, I tend to feel obsolete in the 21st Century.  My children know so much more than me.  We are products of our upbringing where our parents had limited parenting skills as we do in raising our own children.  What I learned and want my daughters to know is developing a sense of self is key to being happy. If you don’t know who you are and what you want life can be challenging. 

I plan on being more mindful in the next few decades so I can realize the gains of growing old.  I understand everyone has their own perspective in seeing things.  I want to receive the same courtesy so my list of friends and family don’t dwindle down to a handful of people (LOL).

My one regret of youth was thinking I would find myself in others when I always knew I wanted something else.  As a mental health practitioner, I find great satisfaction in helping those who want to live the life they envision not what others want of them.

If you were born on this day, Happy Birthday and many happy returns.

For more information on developing your sense of self please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Women Maintain Your Sense Of Self

Women Maintain Your Sense Of Self.  As little girls, we are socialized to be the “good little girl” in that we’re supposed to follow what our parents and this Patriarchy society tell us to do. This is what I heard while growing up in my family.  “You could be anything you want to be when you grow up,” “You are just as good as anyone else.”  As a licensed Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist, I know we have our own stories that we take with us into adulthood.  I help individuals understand their stories about their upbringing and how it affects their relationships.  Women, in particular, come in with symptoms of depression and anxiety as they seem to have happy lives, yet are not happy.  Some of these stories include what was once The American Dream where women are “stay at home moms” (SAHM) working in the home while husbands work outside the home bringing in the main source of income. While this may appear ideal the majority of women I treat state it really is not.

Women taking of their sense of self

I work with many women who come into counseling losing their Sense of Self because they live that same dream.  I’m not judging or criticizing “stay at home moms.”  They are great at what they do.  I just don’t think it pays off that well financially, emotionally or psychologically.  I don’t think it ever did.  When push comes to shove having your own financial resources is empowering.  I have come to the conclusion that women who go to college should utilize what they studied and make some kind of financial contribution to the household. Especially those who have received higher education and post-graduate degrees.  Why in heavens name invest time and money in becoming a doctor, lawyer, scientist, etc., only to become financially dependent on your husband?  Under ideal circumstances, we trust our husbands will always be there for us and never betray us with any kind of infidelity, including financial infidelity.  But life isn’t ideal now, is it?!

As a Marriage Counselor, I have seen too many women dependent on their husbands and have regretted it in looking at the big picture.  As the Honeymoon Stage ends we all continue to survive the Conflict Resolution Stage, where life gets challenging and isn’t always nice.  Having your own financial resources keeps things in perspective.  If you are in an abusive relationship having the resources needed to leave can be freeing.  Being Co-dependent in a relationship where you don’t have access to your own money can be scary and gives you a feeling of helplessness.

Money isn’t the only thing that is important.  Having a support system where you have friends and people you trust keeps you more objective to know what kind of reality you are living. Hobbies and your own personal activities keep you differentiated from your partner and the rest of the family so you foster the “Individual” within the wife, mother, sister, professional, caretaker, etc. and keeps you interesting.  When you have a Sense of Self you not only have your husband’s respect you have yours.

As a Couples Counselor, I work with women who have Ph.Ds, Law Degrees, and Medical Degrees. I see entrepreneurs making over a million dollars a year and tolerate infidelity, verbal abuse, and even domestic violence. Why do these women stay in these relationships?

 I help these women understand they have lost their sense of self by allowing their partners to “disempower” them.  I also help them understand they have come to “disempower themselves” by their tolerance of the maltreatment.  “You teach people how to behave around you.”  When you continue to sit there and take verbal abuse, you allow your perpetrator to talk to you like that.  He, in turn, learns he can continue to yell obscenities at you as you continue to take it.  I have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a perpetrator of verbal abuse to a partner who possessed a law degree, was a CPA, Real Estate Broker, and entrepreneur.  My first husband tolerated years of verbal abuse from me as I was an angry person.  By his lack of assertiveness, he reinforced my bad behavior toward him until he finally left me one day.  I believe an angry abusive person can change if they choose to change.  I also know if they choose not to change they will not change.  You, however, have to decide what kind of life you want to live.

Whatever your payoff is in staying in a bad situation I hope it makes sense to you.  If not please contact me to get some perspective 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.

young woman concentrating on herself

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.

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.