Tag Archive | Relationships

Narcissists, Players, Charlatans, Why do we believe them?

Forty years ago, hundreds of people went to their death in a country called Guyana. Back in 1978, I was a teenage girl in high school and two years later wrote my first paper on the topic of “Religious Cults” which would transform my life. On May of 2011, I published “The Child of the Narcissist,” on my blog post and began working with survivors of narcissism in my practice. There are different phases that I see. One is the denial phase which is when the person has not yet let the person go. Second, is the acceptance phase which is when they are in realization stage and feel angry, frustrated, duped, taken, had, and wonder “How could I have been so stupid?” Or the child of a narcissist will say “Can they be helped?,” or “Am I destined to become this way?” Thirdly, I see the healing stage when they begin to set boundaries and take back their power and their life. The third stage is a place that they will be in the rest of their life because you must always be conscious, mindful and awake when you meet someone that seems to have certain qualities.

The people of Jonestown are no different than a woman who meets up with some guy who is playing her. People who fall for a narcissistic type are vulnerable, desperate and yearn to be loved and accepted. These type of people – narcissists/players/charlatans (parents are a different category because you aren’t choosing them, though this could be argued from a metaphysical perspective), are very aware of their power over men and women. They have learned – from the cradle – that they are entitled in some way. This can be from a self-imposed entitlement to protect themselves (by self-soothing) or an entitlement given to them by a parent. I have known and learned of parents who say their child is perfect and will do whatever it takes to protect them. This takes away from a child learning when they make a mistake. It takes away from a child growing and evolving over time. A friend’s father was a criminal attorney in Los Angeles and he once told me that mother’s would take second mortgages out on their homes, sell their cars, jewelry, whatever assets they could give up to pay his fees and get their kids off. My mother told us that if we went to jail we would rot.  When I watched the movie “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” I remember noting that he was engaged in animal cruelty as a boy.

When you read a little of Jim Jones biography online, you learn he was reading about leaders at a very young age such as Hitler and Stalin, all the bad guys who believed in creating what they believed was a utopia and that many people fell prey too. Jim Jones would no doubt have had many more followers today with our liberal movement – in a polarized society – because he was very big on racial equality that was not quite so popular in the 60’s and 70’s.  He adopted kids and called them a “rainbow family,” he hung out in the ghettos of the inner city where he embellished them with empathy and support. He was very much into inclusion vs. segregation. Today’s society would be worshipping a guy like him. Social Media takes advantage of people but it also worships people and generally, it is the one who seems to have the most “likes” for fame or infamy. We don’t care who it is, as long as they seem to “do the right thing.” We are more gullible now than we were then because people were much more suspicious at that time. However, those who were desperate and needy and wanting to be loved and accepted would take what they were offered. They were offered a man calling himself a Reverend. At that time, there were many charlatans on Television, though most preyed on White victims who were gullible. I remember watching a glimpse of these things while flipping channels and thinking to myself how dumb these people were.

Players or Narcissists or Sociopaths that women fall prey to are generally just local yokels that have an allure about them. Most people will think Narcissist and talk about CEO’s or Presidents or World Leaders but the vast majority are just everyday people. Many have no money at all. They just talk a good game. I have seen them on the streets of Oakland and I am not just talking about pimps and drug dealers. I have met a couple in my personal life. Now, I just hear about them in my office. Women give up their money, their families, but most of all; their sense of self. These guys are handsome but not necessarily, the woman feels that there is chemistry, often he “blows up their phone,” which makes the woman think he cares.

First, the guy comes on to them like a shy but clever puppy dog. He seems to lap up their words and embellish them with praises or just appear to be listening. He picks up on certain words or sentences that, at first, seem to show he gets them but later it becomes a weapon. How does this guy have such a great memory? Some of these players will wine and dine at first or at least until the check comes and they realized they have forgotten their wallet and make a feeble attempt for an excuse. A very liberal guy I dated once, waited till the bill came to make me aware he had no chivalry because he believed in women’s liberation. There will be jokey texts that are the beginnings of sarcasm but it seems cute and funny at first “Oh, that is just his personality,” they will tell me. Then the guy begins to push away and this is when the game begins. He is playing this game of cat and mouse, building more and more power with the person. I’ve watched my own cats play with a spider (a hopeless tiny thing) until they finally just kill it and then they walk away – they don’t even eat it.

The woman is really trapped when she tries to play his game. She begins to think she understands him. She spends her waking life thinking about him and wondering how she can get him back. In therapy, I hear long stories about how much she knows him, how two can play that game. It is sad to sit with a victim who is clueless. It is sad to listen to them talk for hours and hours about this person and wonder when they are going to get it (don’t think I just sit there though, it takes time to help a person who is in the throes of a player). I will say to them, “Do you think he is in therapy now talking about you?” or “Do you feel he spends this much time thinking about you all day?”

Stonewalling: when the player has given you way more space than you bargained for and you begin to think you are over him yet you spend every moment wondering. This is the crucial part where I try to talk to women about blocking him and moving forward in their life. It is just a hint to them at first, when they pretend they are ready to move forward. In reality, I know they are not going to block him because every day is a possibility. He knows this too. Especially when the woman needs to share something they found online – just a cute little note “That I know he would like.” This lack of impulse control shows they are now capable of ruining their own lives. They share it; get some snarky comment and the woman takes the bait. Now she is being punished and begins to enjoy it in an unconscious way. She will try harder the next time to say something more meaningful. I wrote email after email trying to profess how liberal I was becoming for a guy once. He continued to tell me I wasn’t liberal enough and wasn’t doing enough.

When you try to hint to a woman that “I hope your spouse doesn’t find these messages, [to the other guy/gal]” and they don’t seem to care this is when it is clear that they are going to get hurt. I had a woman who spent years chasing a guy who spent those same years ganging up on her till she ended up with nothing. She was dumped in another state with no transportation or money to get home, not once but twice. When women are trying to heal or become a survivor the anger is now transferred onto the guy. “How could he do something like that when he knew [x,y or z.” It is not part of a “good person’s” mindset to bring harm to someone. Hence the confusion on the victim’s part.

Jim Jones received accolades before he went to Guyana. In 1960, he was appointed to the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. He was speaking out on radio and Television interviews. By 1977, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award. The NAACP and the Urban League lapped up his praises; especially when he used their own words to play them. At that time, he was a savior to the inner city, just as Hitler had been for the Germans or Stalin and Marx had been for those seeking a philosophy that seemed to indicate a better life than what they had. Still today, people seek out the wisdom of Hitler, Stalin and Marx and many other people.  No matter what travesties these people caused in history there are still some people who continue to argue why they were right. Jim Jones had a collection of people by the time he got them on a plane and shipped them over to a little known county. And this was all before social media. Imagine what he could do now.

Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. There is a difference though between your ego and your instincts. One is a gut feeling and the other is YOU. If it is all happening to soon, too quick, too fast, stall and step away. Don’t think about him, think about your life and what is important to you. If this person’s story doesn’t add up, it won’t – no matter how hard you are trying to make it total. When you are spending too much time trying to protect someone from others, you know they are wrong for you. A person who is right for you will just fit easily into your life. You won’t have to explain anything. No matter how alone you are it is much better to wake up by yourself and know the day is yours than to wake up to a text message that gives you a stomach ache for the rest of the day. Being alone and having a life that is yours is much better than having a life of constant agony. Being able to choose what you will do today is better than having someone choose it for you.

When I wrote my paper on Religious Cults, back in 1980, I was 17 years old. I was about to become pregnant and married to an abusive man. I had lived in a narcissistic household that was both emotionally and physically abusive so, I began as an adult with severe PTSD. I spent years in and out of relationships, some I see were narcissistic, some were good men that I wasn’t ready for and some were just not a good fit. In the meantime, I was in years of therapy. I spent years in college and then university. I went to many self-help teachers and absorbed their lectures. It wasn’t until 2012 when my very good friend and spiritual teacher died that I was forced to grow up and face reality; truly on my own for the first time. I had to be my own teacher with no one to depend on. This is when life took on a new meaning for me. This is when I finally got it. I understood integrity to self; more than ever before. I understood boundaries and my responsibility in making the choices I made. It didn’t mean my life became easy, far from it, but it meant that I no longer settled. It meant that I made choices on my own and didn’t fall prey to others wishes or demands. It means that I am alone and without many friends because integrity can be a lonely life – until you meet people of like minds or those who respect you for who you are. But went I look back at the life I have lived before, I wouldn’t choose that one over this, “a lone” life, for anything in the world. Yes, I wish I had figured this out sooner, so I would have had a different life but I didn’t and I accept that this is where I am meant to be. I accept that the people I am here to teach are those who made choices like me (you can’t con someone who has been conned).

The balance of power weighs heavily on my mind, as it has since I got into the field of psychology. I owe a debt of gratitude to John F. Kennedy University for teaching me about countertransference and transference issues that one would face in the professional world. I also owe a debt of gratitude to all the teachers and therapists who helped guide me along the way. The victims of Jim Jones massacre began an eye-opening experience, to myself as a young girl out on a farm in Ohio, that have continued to remain in the back of my mind as I grow and have evolved into the person I am today.

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Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin: Ritual of Connection

I have always loved Nicole Kidman and her ability to portray so many different types of people. She is a lot like Penelope Cruz, another favorite of mine; in that neither are afraid of experimenting and both have been involved in productions from different countries. This week I was reading an article on the Huffington Post, where she was being interviewed about her marriage which is celebrating its twelth anniversary. She mentioned that she and Keith [Urban] do not text to talk to one another, because of all the misunderstandings that were obvious to them from the onset. As she went on, she noted that they have a phrase “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin,” is their only way of communication with each other. I thought this sounded very sweet and touching and something I wanted to share with the couples that I work with.

I have been taking continuing education with the Gottman couples trainings and use this method when working with my couples. We talk about Turning Towards Each Other, rather than away from one another when communicating is taking place. Voice to voice, you may not look at each other (except as Nicole noted when they do Facetime) but you are clearly hearing and participating in that moment. Of course, it is possible to Stonewall (and be on your computer at the same time) but then your partner would pick up on this very easily. When you are texting to someone it is very anti-social and disrespectful of someone (this is me not the Gottman trainings talking). The person is not there on the other end at the exact moment that you send the text. You can’t feel them, hear them, see them (other than a photo), or even sense them. You can misinterpret them and I have found that it is easy for my client’s to be stalked by their partners in this way. Usually this is noted when they tell me that he “blew up my phone.” When I first heard this, I have to confess, I thought maybe their battery had died from too much usage on the phone. But kidding aside, this is not an intimate form of communication. It is a cop out, when it comes to communication.

If you want your relationship to last, you can’t take it for granted and so you must value this investment and continue to work on it. The most important thing I have found is building an “Emotional Connection,” with your partner because A. Women are turned on by this and aren’t likely to stray, B. You begin to know each other more deeply, which causes you to feel you can trust and depend on the other person, and C. You are developing a “We” instead of an “I.” The last one always gets my goat. If I hear one partner saying “I am going away this weekend for vacation,” I will say “Aren’t you taken your wife/husband?” naturally they will say “Well, yeah,” so I say then I think you meant to say “We are going away…” and talk to them about the importance of respect in a relationship.

Look at the difference between Nicole Kidman’s marriage to Tom and now to Keith. I went through my young adult years with the first two (I don’t know much about Keith Urban) and always remembered how sad and detached Nicole and Tom looked in photos. I don’t think I ever saw them smile – together. Sure, Tom always had that Hollywood smile whenever taking photos and he pushed it out there even when he was next to Nicole on the carpet (though it never seemed quite as authentic as his Risky Business or Top Gun smile). Nicole never once, that I recall, ever really had more then a grin on her face. It was because of this that I was not at all surprised when they got a divorce. Now, I don’t think I have seen one photo of her and Keith, where they don’t look like they’ve just had “Skin to Skin” right before they walked out onto the carpet. I’ve heard Keith Urban interviewed saying that he feels like she is still his girlfriend after twelve years. This tells me that they keep their relationship fresh and are invested in a quality relationship. I once read Nicole stating in an interview that she thought it was romantic to see a cemetery plot with the couple buried next to each other and imagining what a delightful marriage they must have had. It seems morbid in a way but it shows the depth that she was hoping for in a man. Someone she would be with until the end. I don’t think there will be any question whether these two will last forever.

What type of play are your creating in your relationship? How are you keeping the marriage alive or exciting? Maybe you aren’t worth millions and globetrotting around the world (though this makes it way more difficult than balancing a budget and raising a couple of kids), you actually have an easier opportunity to make your relationship last. What can you do for fun? Riding bikes as a family (or couple), hiking together, praying together, cooking together, taking a bath together (as a couple of course), etc… These are what we call Rituals of Connection (or Creating Shared Meaning), one of the “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work,” by Dr. Gottman. Rituals are those sacred moments in your family’s life that are created by the two of you for your relationship and for your kids. Having a motto such as “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin” is a Ritual of Connection. It is an intimate boundary that this couple has created that they won’t steer away from because it has kept them together for twelve years.

Texting is not intimate and it was created for emergencies, not for relationships. There was a time when we did not have cellular technology, and even a time we didn’t have pagers (or telephones). We have taken advantage of texting and it has caused our world to become anti-social. People are out in the real world less and less and when they are there, they are on their phones. Another thing that gets my goat is seeing people at a natural park and they have their heads down, staring at their phones or are taking some darn “selfie” because they are not capable of “stopping to smell the roses.” Life is a challenge which you must undertake and if you make the choice to have someone by your side, respect them, love them, nourish them and for heaven sakes, communicate with them [LIVE]!

 

Stop and smell the roses,
taste the nectar of sweet.
Peel back the petals,
tickle your feet!

Take a walk amongst the flowers,
place blue bonnets in your hair,
Sing songs of he love’s me not,
two step with the air!

Stop and smell the roses,
Spend some time,
Tend to your bushes,
Pay no mind.

As you walk amongst the flowers,
peer down at your feet.
There’s no time to smell the roses
when you’re six feet deep. 

Hershe Moore

 

Support for Partners of Vets, Desperately Needed

The film, “Thank you for Your Service,” is an outstanding movie. It is informative and directed more like a documentary rather than a blockbuster film with special effects and big names. This is essential to make it raw and to create an illusion that you are in the midst of someone’s private life. And you are because even though these are all actors, they are portraying real people and these events did happen.

So I would like to use this film as a spring board into the issue of support for partners of vets, which is not the intention of this film; though it is there begging to be the subtitle. All of this film caused me to be at the edge of my seat because the male soldiers were so emotionally unstable; I felt afraid of what they were going to do next. The ending hit with a bomb as the main soldier told the story of how a woman’s husband was killed. Yet what stuck with me the most was this line, which says so much about women today “Would you like a blow job,” she says thinking this will comfort her husband. He isn’t communicating with her and this is all she can think of. This comment and the woman’s fixation on sex (to get him to talk) during the entire movie is just one of the reasons it is imperative to have support for partners of vets.

Back in the early 80’s, my then husband was a sailor enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was about to be deployed on a West-Pac (aka tour of the Western Pacific) for six months. The families were brought in for a meeting prior to their departure to help couples understand what to expect, or what was normal. They told us about the departure, a little bit about what was going to happen and when we should expect the men to return. They also talked to us about relationships and sending letters, and about the fact that the Captain’s wife would be our ombudsman, available to us while the men were gone. This woman, whose name I cannot recall, met with the ladies during the six months on at least a monthly basis. We got together to chat, have coffee, discuss the letters we were receiving, any news we might need to know and ask questions about our housing, our money or any other issues of concern. It helped to build comradery, alleviate isolation and perhaps depression, but also to develop respect for the military and our spouses.

As I work with the military now, as a contracted civilian psychotherapist, not one single person has understood what an ombudsmen is nor do they recall such intimate gatherings taking place as I assumed was typical. There are yellow ribbon ceremonies that take place months after a return from deployment. At these presentations it is nicknamed “death by power point,” which means there isn’t a lot of concentration on what is being said. The meeting I attended with my ex-husband in the 80’s was approximately 30 people with our Captain speaking to us directly. The ceremonies today can be anywhere from 70-300 and sometimes even more than this. My psychotherapy table is the least visited booth on the breaks. Once the ceremony is over, people race to get out the door first. It is very sad to me because this is too little, too late and I feel as if it is nothing more than a checkbox being ticked; rather than attention to the mental health needs of men and women both soldiers and their partners. When I talk to people about this, the only thing I ever hear is “it would cost too much money.” This essentially means a person’s life is not worth it. What we see in the movie noted above is the main character being told by the VA that he won’t be able to see a mental health person for a number of weeks. He responds that he could be dead [by suicide] by then.

Going back to the issue of partners in the military, the point is that women today have no self-respect (nor do men) and look at themselves as sexual objects rather than partners and team players. What can we expect though when we live in a sexualized society where people are overly focused on what your sex type is and are confused about what gender they want to be? Where women believe that a date means you need to have your breasts hanging out, heavy make-up and six inch heels rather than a time to dress like a woman with the intention of getting to know the man in front of you.

Many children today are raised by single parents and sometimes they don’t even know their father or their paternal family. Often I see that they are pacified by technology. The teen girls and young adult women I talk to don’t use birth control and so many are desperate to trap the guy with a baby. Others use feeble excuses as to why they don’t use protection such as the doctor said they couldn’t get pregnant or it has been so long without a pregnancy they thought they couldn’t. These guys are happy to become “gamers” today and the girls stand idly by wondering why they won’t pay attention to them. They don’t need a war to ignore.

Since everywhere a woman turns she is being portrayed as a sex object, in the media and society, what else is there for her to think? Parents are not educating their children on sexuality nor are they teaching standards (I see this moreso with one parent families because there is no time to have quality time). Parents often race to get home to cook dinner while they check FB or Twitter and start chatting with someone else who is not there. Thus the kids are following their intended role models.

Once women were groomed to be married and the talk of sex was the last thing they would learn (if they had a talk at all). They learned about courting men which meant being a good conversationalist. They learned to dress appropriately so as not to tease. They learned to behave like mature ladies rather than silly girls. They understood that at times men needed their space and to walk away and self-soothe if need be like attending to a personal project or hobby. Women used to be self-sufficient. They were involved in women’s groups, charities/fundraisers, raising their children, running a household. Their days as teens were not spent hoping they would get laid but hoping they would find a suitable match. Their parents didn’t allow them to shop at a store such as “Victoria’s Secret” and purchase thongs or push up bra’s (when I was a teen even, this was a store for adult women not teenagers), it was a time of restraint and modesty.

We have come to a place where we have no standards. There are no rules in society. We are career women yet many go to work thinking about some guy they will see there. We don’t dress like women who want to get ahead because we have lost a sense of dignity and integrity. More and more companies are adopting a work culture with no professional dress policies.

Therefore, how can we expect a young woman whose husband or partner comes home from war to think of nothing more than sex? The soldier is coming home from war without their mental health as a top priority, even though they are a ticking time bomb. The partner has no support, the soldier has no support and so it is the blind leading the blind. I’ve seen so many resources available to give the post-deployment folks free this and free that and incentives for one thing or another. All this money could be utilized more effectively by supporting them with psycho-education and mental health services that are mandatory and respected.

In the movie the soldier is told (by his superior), to not allow his men to see him as a weak person getting services from mental health. This is not an isolated situation as I hear this time and time again from vets and their partners. We are all too aware of the problems with the Veteran’s Administration. What some people don’t realize is there is not enough staff and people are backlogged and no one gets preferential treatment. The staff are not treated fairly or with respect in some cases, no different than corporate America. Essentially, they are government workers no different than at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I learned recently it is not run by the military but by a corporate boss who is assigned to head the VA but this is not necessarily based on merit, experience, or military background.

In Britain, after a woman gives birth, a health worker follows her for a year to teach her how to care for her new child. In Britain, when soldiers return from war, they are held on base for 30 days before reintegration into society (as I’ve been told by an officer) and have a much lower suicide rate than the U.S. When astronauts land back on earth, they too are held before being reintegrated back in society. Why do we choose to ignore the people we have trained to kill, knowing full well that more than 30% will come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Worse than this is that 20 veterans die by suicide daily. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists have been fighting with the military for years to hire us to work with soldiers on base. The jobs currently only recognize social workers.

What I would like to see is an independently licensed clinician, who serves as a family support worker. Someone who is assigned to a household that they follow for a year pre and post-deployment on a monthly basis. Someone who goes to the home weekly post-deployment, and then monthly once services are set up and followed through on. We do this with foster children as this was once my job. While in the home, the worker would be responsible for psycho-education first and foremost, secondly helping the family to fill out forms and explaining the importance of these services. Their job would be to assess and monitor follow-through on mental health support (not to provide it, i.e., not be the actual therapist as you cannot be in a dual role but offer counseling support). This job would then write reports to provide to a supervisor who is monitoring the clinicians in the home. No confidential information need be provided to anyone with exception to that which is a limit to confidentiality (which already exists for clinicians in the military). The records that pertain to mental health would be held by the supervisor. The supervisor could provide demographic information in the way of statistics so that the information gained could be utilized effectively within the military.

You would need a licensed independent clinician handling this assignment in the home as they would be qualified to assess major vs. minor psychological concerns that a simple case worker with only undergraduate knowledge would not have. Obviously, these clinicians would need special training to have more knowledge of military life, family needs as well as advanced training in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) symptoms.
If this type of support were made available to families, I suspect (common sense) that one would see lowered rates of death by suicide, homicide short-term and long-term, military divorce post-deployment, and a better quality of life overall to be had by military families.

We are in a pro-military society now and have gained so much psychological knowledge about the effects of battle since World War I. Why are we wasting this valuable information? Why are we spending so much money on war and then spend money on incentives rather than quality support? Why is a soldier’s life valuable but his/her partner’s is not especially when the family unit is imperative to the success of the soldier’s return? The success rate of person’s who struggle with PTSD is partly dependent on how it is managed within the family (believability, validation) and what support systems they have available to them in the community as well as through mental health and other adjunct resources (i.e., books, workshops, groups).

What we are essentially saying to a soldier and their family is “Thank you for your service and hey, Good Luck to you!” Isn’t this a bit hypocritical? I think they deserve better.

Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

The Girl on the Train or The Wife of the Narcissist

“I am not the girl I used to be,” the beginning and the ending of the movie, somewhat like a poem. In between is the passion, frustration, and anger; all building toward self-awareness.

The Girl on the Train is about the lives of three women who are joined together directly and indirectly through one man. They are all involved with a narcissist. What is clever about this movie is that the director takes you on a long journey; giving you a chance to get to know these women but only their interpretations of what they believe is the truth. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are made to believe that you are the one causing all the problems. The narcissist causes you to feel as if you are walking on eggshells, that you are going crazy. Your reality becomes distorted as a result. In this movie, the woman is an alcoholic so this of course makes it very easy to assume she is the bad person.

Naturally the movie shows us a bad therapist, which is sad, but in this case it is just continuing to lead us down a tunnel of wrong turns. In fact, two of the three men in the movie are false assumptions and the guilty party seems like a good guy at first. That is the makings of a good suspense. In reality though, the narcissistic man often seems like the good guy. He comes across as very appealing, sexy, responsible, a good provider. So in a sense the director was doing his/her job of turning the audience into a victim of the movie. When they finally present the truth, it is done through a scene where the alcoholic has the courage to humble herself in front of another. Meeting up with a woman on the train whose party she had attended, blacked out and created a scene. After making amends, the woman is able to tell her what really happened and suddenly she is able to wake up and trust her instincts (not her perceived reality) for the first time.

Armed with that small dose of reality, she begins to re-build her sense of self. She revisits other scenes from her life and is able to remember what actually happened, not what she was made to believe happened. Stupidly, but then we all are, she confronts her emotional tormentor with the truth. A narcissist confronted is a very dangerous thing to do because they are unable to confront the truth. Naturally, victims often believe that they are doing the right thing by standing up for themselves and trying to make sense of things with the abuser. This is the nice person wanting to give the bad person a chance to apologize, to come clean and admit to the truth. Make sense of your reality on your own, you can’t try to get them to make sense of things because their life is pathological. They get rid of what is in the way; they detach themselves so far from reality that they are incapable of self-awareness. Instead of trying to make sense of why they do the things they do, learn from the experience and become a stronger person. However, The Girl on the Train is a movie, not real life. As it is not a nice new age storyline, with Louise Hay giving us an affirmation at the end and everyone doing yoga, it has to end with something violent and more to the point.

It has to end with women cheering in the audience. The bad guy has been assaulted and we can all go home feeling relieved that justice was served. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen. In real life I doubt that the other woman would have stood up for her either but it is possible. I think what might have really happened is that the wife would have defended her husband. In reality, the alcoholic finally made peace with herself. The other woman was just beginning.

The ending of this film shows the alcoholic probably in recovery; for real this time. She has symbolically moved to the other side of the train because she is ready to move past her trauma and move forward in her life. We look at the ending but don’t realize that the truth is so easy. Taking that step forward by sitting in a different chair, looking out a different window, getting a new job and just letting go, which is what everyone wants us to do. It is simple for someone who is facing a small problem. When the victims psyche has been wounded at a depth such as this, they become glued to the chair and cannot get up. Thus they force themselves to try and make sense of reality because their instincts are telling them there is just something not right about what they assume is the truth. Trusting your instincts can become a task when you have begun to give your power to someone else.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Living in a nice neighborhood and being married to a man with money, does not make it okay to be emotionally abused. Emotional abuse is Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence does not mean you have to ALSO be physically or sexually attacked for it to be named as such. So many women are victims of emotional abuse alone and are surprised to hear they are living in a domestic violence type relationship. They often feel unworthy because they have not been hit. Unfortunately, the physical abuse can happen, the longer you stay and where there is emotional abuse, often there is sexual abuse as well. If you are being pushed into acts of sex that are unwelcome, uncomfortable, unwanted, than this would be sexual abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.