of the most difficult decisions we ever make is to stay in a relationship,
which has gone downhill. Is it our fault? I can make it better. Can I
fix it? Is my spouse right? These are all examples of self-talk that can
occur as you’re thinking about your situation. Try not to make hasty decisions
until you are calmer and, thus, more logical. Avoid being hard on yourself,
as you did nothing on purpose.
For generations we have watched movies and listened to songs about fantasy.
Many are about very unrealistic relationships that are adolescent at best.
Yet, this is what we learn. This information about being together forever
or always being happy is injected into our brains. The brain does not
know if this is accurate information or not. It simply takes it in. We
use this measuring stick when we find a “significant other”
and begin to bond. Of course, we are on our best behavior for the first
year or two of the relationship and sometimes longer. Well, guess what?
So is the other person. Usually there are roses and movies and dinners
and polite conversations and impressive dreams. All this is fine, exciting
and wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!! However, it doesn’t continue this way. When
the guard is let down and there is security(?) in the relationship, the
real person steps forward. Then you see the disagreements, the temper,
the possessiveness, the jealousy – in general, you see the “warts.”
When there is drinking or drug use this reveals itself because the person’s
guard is down and because, if you are seeing a serious problem, it has
progressed. One of the common responses I get in my office is, “He
didn’t drink much when I met him.” If you are the typical human being
on this planet, you probably didn’t obtain accurate information on alcohol
and/or drug abuse as you grew up. You probably learned inaccurate information.
We are mislead by statements such as; “He’s got a wooden leg and
can really hold his liquor.” Another is “He (or she) drives
home and isn’t affected. They do not have a problem.” Another is;
‘Well, pot is not really addicting. At least we don’t drink like fishes
like our parents or like Bill.” In all of these cases, signals of
chemical abuse or dependence are evident to someone trained in chemical
Most of us have seen unruly drinkers or drug users or abusers or addicts
and haven’t even noticed them. So don’t blame yourself. Simply make a
decision to let a good therapist coach you.
When a “healthy” person dates a problem drinker or drug user
they know what to do instinctively. They know/sense that this problem
is serious and they decide early on in the relationship to challenge the
person. At this point a stable and secure person will set boundaries,
“If you drink like that again, I have to find us a counselor and
we will go.”
However, if you are a needy person for some reason and have unmet needs
for closeness, you may find it difficult to set boundaries because you
may be rejected or you may feel rejected if the person gets angry. Well,
guess what? You can only please yourself. Do this and you’re pleased.
This will raise your self-esteem. However, give it time. More than likely,
you have time. Try to obtain a good counselor who is state licensed in
this area (drug and alcohol abuse, relationships or marriages) and set
an appointment. If your spouse will not go, you go. You deserve an objective
viewpoint, support, encouragement, reality-based feedback, a more effective
belief system and an education on chemical dependence.
You’ve heard the saying; “You can’t love another until you love yourself.”
Well it’s true. You have to have your independence and enjoy life as an
individual, have interests of your own, enjoy others’ company and have
hobbies or job or career that are separate from your partner. Otherwise,
you are dependent on him or her for these things and will eventually feel
unfulfilled and resent the other person for not making you happy – an
impossible task. Again, don’t beat yourself up for not being a relationship
guru. I don’t know any. I think there may be some around but they don’t
talk or preach about it. Love is not being self-absorbed so you can’t
or won’t help. Love is waiting at the Mall when the spouse is shopping
without complaining too much or building resentment. Love is being willing
to circle back to the store and get the bread that you forgot and not
making a decision to lie and say you forgot. Love is being clear-headed
in the morning and being reasonably agreeable. Love is being less judgmental
and not blaming the spouse or family for petty things. Love is negotiating
and agreeing to “win-win” situations and working toward this
without selling out on personal beliefs and building a resentment. Love
is sticking in there when there is a crisis. Love is being able to yield
and not have to always be in control.
Remember that you are loveable mainly because you have love from self.
Don’t play God and hate yourself. Learn to be positive and love yourself
more and more and others will be attracted to you. This takes time so
be very gentle with you.
Peter A. Butkins, LMT
Here are some ways to change your belief system. These are affirmations
that may work for you. You can say them (or one of them) daily.
a. I now believe that I can take care of myself better and better and
let go of fear and anger today.
b. I will use the help available to me to heal.
c. I don’t have to do this alone.