Dysfunctional Relationships: Emotionally Withholding

iStock_000020769810Small_0In romantic relationships, we would like to think that it’s always going to be filled with passion and romance, but typically relationships go through phases where the passion and romance seems to die off.

Some of this is natural which is why relationships take work and both individuals have to work on keeping the fire going, but other times this can be deliberate.

Sometimes in relationships, one person will decide to emotionally withhold and this can border on the line of emotional abuse.

I’m not talking about when your partner is upset with you so he or she may not talk to you for a few days, may not want to be touched or gives you the cold shoulder until they get over whatever upset them. I’m talking about something that is much more long term and damaging to a relationship.

Thomas G. Fiffer, in his blog post  described emotional withholding as:

Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect.Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we’ve done something wrong or failed or worse, that there’s something wrong with us.”

How Can You Tell If Your Partner is Emotionally Withholding?

If you are in a relationship where you often feel alone, there is a good chance your partner may be emotionally withholding.

There is a difference between someone who is emotionally withholding (a deliberate behavior used to control a person/relationship) and someone who is out of touch with their own feelings due to stress, trauma or other issues.

People who emotionally withhold are purposely withholding love, affection, support and attention in order to control a relationship.

The other person in the relationship may find themselves always pursuing their partner in search of the love, affection and attention that they want. They may find themselves always trying to prove that they deserve love.

People who stay in these types of relationships often do so because it is familiar.

Maybe they grew up in a family where they never felt like they deserved love, were always rejected or felt abandoned. To them, it may feel natural to pursue love and affection, even if it’s painful, because they are not used to it being freely given and without conditions.

Holly Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist suggests:

Ask yourself how generous your partner is. How invested does he/she seem to be in your well-being, in making sure that you feel positively about yourself? Or is it the opposite–that he/she is maintaining the upper hand by ensuring that you continue to seek approval?

The person who is emotionally withholding is always trying to keep the balance of the relationship in their favor. They give you just enough to keep you interested. Just enough to keep you searching for the affection that you want and deserve so that you get stuck in this vicious cycle of searching out for their affection.

Most people are not ALWAYS emotionally satisfied in their relationship 100% of the time, but think about how much you feel emotionally satisfied versus how often you feel emotionally starved.

If you feel like you are continuously starving for love, affection, attention and support, then you may have a partner who is emotionally withholding or at the least, emotionally unavailable.

If your partner is emotionally unavailable, consider if this is because he or she is stressed, depressed, going through their own issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, or if it is more malicious and planned out to achieve a power balance in the relationship that benefits them and not you.

Being in this type of relationship can cause the person who is constantly seeking affection to have multiple issues from low self-esteem to anxiety, depression and even sexual dysfunction.

Outside support from friends, family and even a professional may be needed in order for that person to maintain healthy self-love and self-care. It is crucial that you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who know your worth and value you.

If you are in a relationship where the other person is emotionally withholding then it’s important to remember that you deserve and are worthy of love and it should come freely.

“I Love You” Versus “Love You”… Is There A Difference?

LoveDo you think there is a difference between someone saying “I love you” and just “love you?” I ask this question because personally I think there is a difference. I tend to say “love you too” when I am responding to someone I don’t really love. I usually tend to say “love you” to someone I don’t love in a romantic way, but in a friend or familial way. I prefer to save the “I love you” for someone I am truly in love with or when I am really expressing admiration to someone.

So is there a difference between the two?

I did a quick internet search and came up with some of these responses:

  • I say it more than “I love you”. I also say “loves”. For me, it’s just the way I say it, and the way my whole family tends to say it. We miss out the “I”. When people say “love YA” though, that bothers me. Again, it could just be the way they say things, but to me it seems insincere. It depends entirely on how they say it to others and any underlying issues with intimacy they may have. I have a lot of emotional issues so mine could well speak for that if only it wasn’t just the way we said it in my family. *shrugs* I guess I’m trying to say it’s entirely a “relative to the individual” thing as far as I see it.
  • Nope. “Love you,” is just something we say when hanging up the phone or closing an email. It’s more casual, but the meaning is still the same. It’s like “hello” versus “good morning”. We say, “I love you,” when hugging each other or being sappy during vacation. The phrase just depends on the circumstance
  • I say ” love you” allot to my husband (we tell each other several times a day, at random times) I don’t see a difference from “I love you” vs “love you” just the way I say it
  • I think there is a difference, The ‘love you’ one is more flippant and almost dismissive IMHO I hate “love you” I also hate “love u” and “ilu” all are dismissive hurried and lazy.
  • Defnitely a difference! While I am fine with “love you” it is nice every now and then to get a truly heart felt “I love you”. Just means more…
  • Well I tell my hubby “I love you” but I tell my best friend “love you” so meh I feel there is a difference but it also depends on the person as well. it may mean something different to them than it does to me or you.
  • I also think that HOW it is said makes a difference, I like to say I love you, and I am in love with you to my man and love you to my children as they walk out the door, I love them, but in a different way
  • The last two guys I was involved with both changed from “I love you” to more flippant responses like “love you” or “love ya” and both relationships went south about the same time.
  • I think it all depends on the context and the relationship of the people saying it. I used to get upset with my ex for saying ‘love you’ a lot, but it was usually because I was annoyed with him for other things and that was just an easy target to nag him about.
  • i tend to say love you alot in a kidding sense so i guess there is a difference.
  • I think the words “I love you” are very powerful, and people have dismissed it and reduced it to almost nothing, like the anoying – I whatever-.
  • Absolutely NOT! I think it’s silly to even think there is a difference. The difference is in the tone, not the words! Feelings are displayed in the tone! Simple as that!

So it looks like people have many different views on the subject, probably depending on their personalities, their relationships and their experiences.  I think however if in a relationship one person uses the words “love you” and their partner feels a certain way about it and would prefer to hear the more personal “I love you”, then that should be communicated. Otherwise, the person that prefers to hear “I love you” will most likely always feel a little sting when you lovingly say “love you”.

So what do you think? Is there a difference between “I love you” and “love you”?

 

Parents: Have The “Sex Talk” With Your Teens Or I Will

istock_000016267513small-dad-and-daughter-talking-400wI don’t really like talking to other peoples kids about sex although as a counselor in a high school it’s something that inevitably happens.

I wrote earlier about talking to preteens about sex, but I’m finding that many teens have never  had the “sex talk” with their parents beyond their parents threatening to kick them out or disown them if they ever got pregnant (although I’ve never known a parent to actually follow through with either  threat).

However, because many teens don’t feel like they can talk to their parents about sex, they are getting their information from some very unreliable sources which usually leaves them unprepared mentally and emotionally for the complexities of sexual activity and vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and even abuse.

Last Monday I was counseling a young teenage girl who had just turned 15. She admitted to me nearly a year ago that she not only was having sex, but had been with several partners, most of them not even her boyfriends but guys she was friends with or guys she just liked.

Well now she has a new boyfriend who is a virgin, and although they have been together for a several weeks (which is forever for teenagers), they are thinking about having sex.

Let’s call her Trisha and her boyfriend Zac.

Because Zac is a virgin and apparently has a better relationship with his parents, he told them about him and Trisha’s plans to have sex. Zac’s mom was a little upset, but realistic and instead of scorning her son, she talked to him about sex and protection, a very good call. What she did next however, I’m not so sure how I feel about, but I understand it.

After talking with her son about sex, she then talked to Trisha about sex, assuming that she too was a virgin. She even went as far as to say she would get Trisha birth control, which made Trisha very uncomfortable.

Parents, do you really want someone else talking to your teen about sex and birth control, especially a parent that you do not know?

Well if you don’t talk to your teen about sex, someone else will and they may not have the best information and probably won’t have the same opinions, views or values as you do.

I was concerned because I felt like this was something Trisha should be talking about with her parents, not Zac’s, yet Trisha feels like she can’t talk to her parents about sex because they hold both her and her older sisters to such high standards and even threatened to kick them out if they ever found out they were having sex. By the way, according to Trisha, they are all already having sex.

Because of this fear of not only disappointing her parents, but also of getting kicked out, Trisha doesn’t feel safe talking to her parents about sex at all and has just been getting her information about sex from her friends and sisters, who are all also high school teenagers.

I encouraged Trisha to sit down and talk to her parents, at least her mom about sex.

She wants to get on birth control, but doesn’t think she can talk to her parents about that and definitely doesn’t want to get birth control from Zac’s mom. I even offered to have a family session with her and her mom and/or dad to help facilitate “the talk”, but she’s too scared to even discuss sex with her parents and let them know that she is thinking about sex, let alone already having it.

I know from past experience, because of this fear of talking to her parents about sex, she leaves herself vulnerable.

She’s more likely not to use any protection consistently or properly and to hide everything from her parents, including if she ever feels violated, if she ever thinks she may have a sexually transmitted disease, if she ever gets raped or if she even gets pregnant.

One girl I knew hid her pregnancy from her parents all the way up until she went into labor and had a child at 15. Her parents had never had the “sex talk” with her and it was only then did her parents find out that their daughter was no longer a virgin.

I definitely don’t want that to happen to Trisha and so if she is afraid to have the sex talk with her parents, I feel like it is my responsibility to at least give her valid information about sex, protection and to point her in the right direction for other information and questions she may have.

We talked about condoms, the importance of putting them on correctly and using them each and every time from the beginning to the end. We also talked about birth control for her, but I strongly encouraged her to have the conversation with her parents. I also had the school nurse talk to her and gave her several pamphlets for her and her boyfriend about sex.

She had lots of questions and lots of the information she had was so invalid that she was sure to end up pregnant before graduating from high school, such as standing up right after having sex is a foolproof way to avoid getting pregnant because gravity will prevent the sperm from swimming up.

Another thing I did was encourage her to wait. I talked to her about how sex can change relationships, sometimes for the worst and how there are other things they can do besides having sex, such as holding hands, kissing, hugging,  talking, going for walks, out on dates, etc.

All the while I also kept encouraging her, trying to give her the strength to have this conversation with at least one of her parents. I don’t think a 15 year old should be engaging in intercourse, but she’s already been doing it since she was 14 so we have to be realistic.

Many parents feel like having the “sex talk” will encourage their teens to have sex, but teens are going to be curious about sex and may engage in sex regardless. It’s just a matter of how informed or ill-informed they will be.

Lot’s of parents feel betrayed and hurt when they find out their teenager is having sex, almost as if they just found out their teen was using drugs.

Remember that consensual sex between teenagers is not a crime and your teen is more likely to get pregnant or worse if they feel like they can’t talk to you because you will get mad or upset. It’s important that parents put their emotions aside and consider their teens’ choices and emotions.

I encourage parents to talk to their teens about sex, about being safe and healthy. They can also allow their teen to talk to their doctor about being sexually active and the physical responsibilities that come along with that, if they don’t feel comfortable or knowledgable enough to do it.

It’s important that your teen feels like they can trust you and that you guys have an open relationship where they can talk to you about everything, just remember that even with that, your teen probably won’t tell you every single thing.

The teen years are about trying to discover their own independence and breaking away from their parents some, so accept that there may still be things your teen won’t tell you, but make sure that they know that you will be there for them if they need you.

While I definitely prefer not to be the one having the sex talk with your teen, I’d much rather do that now than to be talking to them about how to get a pregnancy test, being good parents while trying to stay in school or about visiting a free clinic to get tested for a STD,  three conversations I actually have way more often.