Dear Dr. Julie: I say yes a lot because I always feel guilty when I say no. But it's starting to be a problem. Right now, I need to set a boundary with my sister who wants to throw me a big birthday party at my house. I don't want a big party for my birthday and I don't want a party at my house. How do I set a boundary with her without feeling guilty for saying no?
Dear Feeling Guilty: I'm going to assume that you know how to set boundaries and focus instead on the feeling guilty part of your question.
First, "Should Statements" are playing a role if you are feeling guilty. If you think something like, "I should let my sister throw a birthday party for me" and you are going against that should statement (i.e., saying no), you will feel guilty. That's one source of guilt. Look at how your thoughts and desires are in conflict.
But let's dive a little deeper, why would you feel like you "should" let your sister throw a party for you? Where I typically...
Dear Dr. Julie: How do I inspire my partner to be more affectionate, loving and communicative with me? Also, I would like him to be more adventurous and be willing to do more things with me.
--Not Feeling the Love
Dear Not Feeling the Love: There are a couple of things to consider here. The first is that he doesn't realize how much it means to you to be affectionate and communicative. I always like to start here because it minimizes your interpretation of why he is the way he is. If you talk with him about it, do so at a time when things are good between the two of you and neither of you are stressing about other things.
The second thing to consider is that this "just isn't him." He may not be a person who likes affection or feels the need to be communicative (beyond basic logistics). We might say it isn't his love language or we might guess that his personality just isn't structured that way or we might consider how he was raised and maybe he...
Hello Dr Julie! I have a pattern where I intuitively understand if a person is real or fake. Given today's world, I usually encounter fake people. Because fake people make me uncomfortable, I'm not able to engage in small take or make friends easily. Can you please guide me on how to create friendships?
--Looking for Real People
Dear Looking for Real People: Having a sense of when people are being honest is a good skill. However, I suspect you are relying a bit too much on your intuition. Consider this, all people engage in impression management, which means everyone presents a "front" in social situations because it is important to make a good impression and fit in. Also consider that most people are uncomfortable when they don't know others in the room and will be more likely to put up that front. You may be reading all this as fake. If you give people a chance to warm up to you (and you to them), you may find they are not as fake as you initially thought. You just need to get...
Dear Dr. Julie: My boyfriend and I have been dating for quite a while. He and I have agreed to be exclusive but I can't tell how committed he is to the relationship. Sometimes I don't hear from him for a day and he often makes plans with his friends without checking in with me first. It hurts my feelings and I wonder if he's really committed to us as a couple or if he's just having a good time.
--Together or not?
Together or not?: There is a lot to say about your situation. My first question is whether you have asked him your question about being committed or not. Communication is always the first step.
Secondly, whether you have asked him or not, you seem to be noticing that his words about being exclusive don't match your expectation of commitment. You have some expectation that if the two of you are exclusive, then you are committed. If you are committed, then he should check in with you before he makes plans. These are your "rules" and if you don't...
Dear Dr. Julie, I feel like every time I try to express my feelings to my partner, he becomes defensive or shuts down, which makes me feel unheard and invalidated. I love him and want to build a strong and healthy relationship, but I'm unsure how to approach this situation. Do you have any advice on how to communicate my emotional needs without creating conflict or pushing him away?
—Lost and Confused
Lost and Confused: That's frustrating for sure! One thing to keep in mind is that when we say something to another person, it gets filtered through their experiences and beliefs. What they hear is often not what we said or meant.
Many men have told me that when their wives or girlfriends are anxious or upset, they feel like they have done something wrong. Although I doubt you were trying to tell your partner that he had done something wrong (or is a bad relationship partner), my first question would be to wonder if that is what he heard. Can you ask him? Be sure...
For those of us who make New Year's Resolutions, we are connecting with a sense of hope that things can be different. It's part acknowledgement that things could be better and hope that we can engineer that improvement in our lives. Really, the hopefulness we feel is a love affair with the potential of what could be.
But, if you're more connected with the hopelessness of setting New Year's Resolutions because you haven't realized the potential of past resolutions or have seen too many others fail to realize theirs, it's okay. Being in touch with the problem of your current situation is often troubling and disempowering because you might not know how you got here or how to effectively change it.
Keep in mind though that the idea, "Things could (should) be better" is the first step in making a change. You have to identify a problem before you can fix it.
If you'd like to be in touch with the hopefulness of a better version of you in 2022 (or if you're already hopeful), here are...
Holidays are a magical time of year AND an incredibly stressful time of year. Many of us look forward to our family traditions, holiday parties, decorating, and gift giving. But, in order to do all these things, we feel like we have to squeeze them into our normally hectic, busy schedules AND get it all done with ease and grace. Except, ease and grace are often forgotten in the hustle, leaving us to wonder “Where is all the magic I’m supposed to be feeling?”
This is especially true if you are a people-pleaser and over-giver. You know what I’m talking about. You try so hard to get everything perfect so other people feel at ease and have a good time and you’re left with a few moments of fun and a big mess to clean up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have more ease and grace in your holidays so they feel magical today and in the years to come. It just takes a little planning.
Acknowledge your tendency for high expectations. If you are a...
Connie could tell something was wrong. Her boyfriend of 5 years seemed more distant but denied anything was going on. When she asked what was wrong, he said everything was fine. Then one day she found a stack of papers he had left out on the counter. The papers were a new rental agreement he had just signed for an apartment in another city. He had not mentioned he was planning to move out and he wasn’t moving to their dream city, Chicago. Why would he rent an apartment, especially without telling her?
When Connie confronted him, he said he rented the apartment to be closer to work. But as Connie told me more details of their recent interactions and his behaviors it became clear to both of us that he was leaving the relationship. At one point during my conversation with Connie she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I just wish he’d tell me the truth.”
The truth. What is the truth of the situation? It...
I hear this question a lot from clients and on social media and my answer is not what you’d expect. Here’s how I think about it.
The questioner is in a relationship with someone who repeatedly violates boundaries and treats her in highly disrespectful ways. Treatment could be anything from name-calling to hitting, blaming to criticizing, threatening to trivializing. Whatever the behavior, it is repeated and it hurts the questioner.
Invariably the questioner has told the partner that the behavior is hurtful and not okay.
The question, “Does he know he’s hurting me” is a reasonable question if one assumes that people who love each other don’t intentionally hurt each other.
So, what is going on?
Reasoning through this we will see something like this:
People who love each other don’t intentionally hurt each other.
He tells me he loves me.
I love him.
He’s hurting me.
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