A Relationship Does Not Define You

A Relationship Does Not Define You

“You Complete Me”
Many people are familiar with this line from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate that empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, developing an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com.   

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Fair Fighting for Families

Fair Fighting for Families

As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers and their parents and couples, on of the most difficult issues that people encounter is clear communication. Based on how we are raised in our society, most of us do not receive education on communicating with each other. As a result of this, miscommunication is very common between people and this typically results in relationship difficulties and hurt feelings.
Another common issue regarding communication is fighting or disagreements. Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

Parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules.

                 Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience. He specializes in treating teenagers and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Drrubino3. 

Stress Teens Face at The End of the School Year

Stress Teens Face at The End of the School Year

The end of the school year is around the corner and it is that time of year again – it’s Finals time. Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot of things going on right now, Junior Prom, Senior Ball and other end of the year activities. 
As I stated besides finals, there are the Prom and Ball to worry about. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, what to wear and how much will it cost? Also then there are the after parties. They worry about which one to go to and there is the issue of drinking that night, using drugs and having sex that night. Parents remember when you were in high school and all the issues associated with the Prom or Ball.

If that was not enough, there are final projects due, research papers and many high schools require community service hours too. In addition to this there is the normal homework and then time to study for finals.

In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges they can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. For seniors some colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA.

As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships have increased so has the stress on high school students.

Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis and even death.

Most teens want to do things on there on so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future.

If your teenager is getting anger very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign.

What do you do if you notice anything that is making you worry, you sit down and talk to them. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad or they are in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.

Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Good luck.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teens and has over 20 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com

Parents Are Role Models

Parents Are Role Models

High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for many teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with our dependence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat), smart phones and computer technology. In addition to computers, drugs are more prevalent too. Besides the fact it is easier for teens to get drugs, there are more drugs for them to use. Teens are now using Heroin more, they are also using designer drugs such as ecstasy, spice and mollies. Emergency Room doctors often don’t know what is in these designer drugs so they often cannot save a teenagers life when they are brought to the ER after taking a designer drug. Besides designer drugs teens are now using prescription drugs on a regular basis such as Vicodin, Percocet or Ritalin.
Things are advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. Not to mention society in general. One thing that has not changed, is that parents are the primary role models for children and teens. However, with the rapid changes in our society, a lot of parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary role model.

Since your child was born, s/he have been watching you and studying you so they know how to act and what actions are appropriate. They have been listening to what you have been saying to them about how to act as a responsible, decent member of society. I know many parents feel that once their child starts middle school that their child stops listening to them, but this is not true. They may act like they are not listening or that they don’t care about your opinion but they do.

I have teens come into the office all the time and complain that they feel like their parents do not care about what they do. Often teens make this assumption because they say their parents set no boundaries for them or they feel that their parents care more about their careers than their children. At times parents do focus more on careers or stop setting limits because they feel that their child doesn’t listen to them. Parents often feel this way because their teen will say, “I don’t care what you think or I don’t care what you do”. However, they do care and often they say these things or act this way because they feel hurt. Therefore, we have a circle where teens assume parents don’t care and parents assume teens don’t care. The reality is that both teens and parents care and both feel hurt.

Every child, no matter what they say, wants to know that they are important to you, that you care about what they say and you care about what they do. One major problem that I encounter with parents is that many parents do not practice what they preach. Yes you are an adult and you have a right to drink alcohol or engage in other adult behaviors, but you need to do so responsibly. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Yes you are an adult but driving drunk is illegal no matter how old you are. Also watch how you speak to your teen and others. Do you do so in a respectful manner or are you rude to people? I have heard many teens decide that their parents don’t care and they are not important to their parents because the parents don’t seem to care about the example they are setting for their children.

A lot of parents will come in and tell me that their behavior doesn’t matter and that their child has no idea what they do so they can do what they want. The truth is, your behavior does matter and your children know what you are doing even if you think they do not know.

I have had eight year old children complain that “my mommy drinks too much wine”, or “my daddy smokes pot in the garage” or “my daddy talks mean to people”, or “my parents fight too much.”. When I try to talk to a teen about their behavior after they have said something like this, the teen responds if my parents can do it, why can’t I? This is difficult to argue with if the parents are using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, how do you tell a teenager no. Teens also notice how often their parents are on Facebook or on their smartphone texting. If a teen is trying to talk to their parent and the parents is texting while the teen is talking it sends a message to the teen that they are not important and it is okay to text while someone is talking. Also I have seen adults texting while driving or out at dinner. They then complain that teenagers text to much. However, they are following your example.

Another place this is an issue is the car. Parents think about how many times you are talking on you cellphone or texting while driving. If you tell your teenager not to text and drive, they are likely to ignore you because you text and drive.

Remember, teenagers brains are still developing so they tend to have black and white reasoning. What this means is they see things as either right or wrong. Therefore, if you can talk on your cellphone and drive so can they. If you tell them they can’t, they decide you are a hypocrite and a poor role model. This is disappointing to your teenager and they tend to stop listening to you because if you cared you would pay attention to the example you are setting.

The bottom line is that as a parent you have the most significant role in your child’s life. If you want your child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult, then you have to act like a mature, responsible adult and you need to do so from the day they are born.

In this world where things are changing over night, children need to know they can rely on their parents to protect them and guide them. Again given how fast society is changing, this is not an easy job for a parent. The easiest way to sum it up is to remember to practice what you preach.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teens and parents. For more information about his work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.