Check out my advice for people who can’t let go of their ex’s stuff…

I was interviewed for a great article about the psychology behind difficulties associated with letting go of an ex’s belongings.

Check it out here: https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/blog/14770-letting-go-of-ex-cess-baggage-how-to-get-rid-of-your-exs-things-and-move-on/

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Why Won’t He Commit?

Dear Laura,

I met this wonderful guy in October. We actually were at a bonfire and ended up talking all night. We began hanging out and talking every day. He told me from the start that he was not the relationship type and that commitment scared him. I told him that was okay because I was still healing from my breakup from 8 months prior. There was definitely a lot of chemistry between us and he began to do things that made me think he wanted more, even though he never said anything.

I was constantly googling ‘How to tell if as guy wants to be more than friends but is scared to make it official’ I must have read at least 100 articles, and he did all of the things those articles described. He got protective/jealous when he saw other guys hitting on me, he would call/text me every day, he would initiate contact, he never initiated/asked for sexual stuff, he introduced me to all his friends, etc. He told me that he liked me, he just didn’t want a relationship.

He went home for Christmas break and around New Year’s Eve, he started acting different. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he didn’t have feelings for me and that I deserved someone that wanted to be with me. I was hurt, but I told him thanks for being a gentleman about it and we parted on good terms.

Fast forward a month later, he texts me one night and said he did have feelings for me, he just got very scared and freaked out and that it has been killing him not talking to me. We talked things out and two weeks later, he made us official. I made sure I never pushed the relationship/commitment stuff.

Like before, he started to do things that showed me he really wanted to commit to me like spending time with me every day, canceling his plans with other people to spend time with me, telling me how special I was and how he had never felt this way about anyone. His biggest sign was when he took me home to meet his family and lifelong friends (many of them girls who are like sisters to him). They all approved of me and even invited me to come down and stay with them! His mom even told me he must be serious about me because he never brings girls home-not even in high school. One of his good friends told me that he always talks about me and even said “He loves you; he is just too scared to tell you. All he ever does is talk about you, almost to the point it is annoying”.

Last Friday, I told him I loved him. He told me he was not 100% ready to say that yet. He seemed fine over the weekend but Monday, he texts me and says “I’m sorry to do this but we just are not going to work. We are two different people who want two different things. I can’t give you what you want and need and it’s not fair to you. I never meant to hurt you. I’m going home for the summer (3 hours away) and I’ll be 21 going to bars next year and you won’t be old enough to go. I don’t want a girlfriend in college because that’s the time to have no regrets and I lost sight of that this semester with you. I just do not feel the same way towards you as you do me. I hope we can be friends. I’m so sorry.”

I was shocked and devastated. He texted me the next day and asked me if I was okay and told me he cared about me and is always here for me. He told me he was hurt too and that I was special to him. I am so confused and heartbroken. Please tell me what you think is running through his mind and why he suddenly cut things off.

Heartbroken and Confused

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Dear Heartbroken and Confused,

According to you, this person said that he was not the relationship type and that commitment scared him, he told you that he liked you, but didn’t want a relationship, he told you that he was not 100% ready to say that he loved you, and he told you that he couldn’t give you what you want and that he didn’t want a girlfriend in college. You claim that you are wondering what is running through his mind, but it actually sounds like you’re just having a hard time accepting the reality of this situation.

I hear you saying that his friends told you that he loved you, but the fact is that he never said that. What he did say was that he didn’t feel the same way towards you as you did towards him. It seems like you’ve fallen for an old story that we tell women in our culture: if you keep being patient and showing men that you are worthy and lovable, eventually they will come around and make a commitment to you.

I think this quote from Maya Angelou might be helpful to you. “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them”. Maybe his friends like you, maybe he really likes spending time with you, maybe he talks about you all the time, maybe he even loves you, but he doesn’t want to have a committed relationship with you and he has been perfectly clear about that, so the other details become irrelevant.

Instead of wondering what is going through his mind, it might be more useful to ask yourself why are you pursuing a person who has made it very clear that he does not want a relationship with you. You said that you made sure that you never pushed the relationship and commitment stuff and this is confusing to me because it’s clear that this is what you really want.

My hope for you is that you will start believing in your own value as a person and stop ignoring your needs so that some guy will want to hang out with you. You want a commitment and a relationship, plain and simple, and I hope that you will have the courage to ask for that from the next guy that you date.

Stay strong.

Sincerely,

Laura

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How Do I Get My Kids To Put Down Their Phones?

Dear Laura,

My children (ages 10 and 13) have their faces constantly buried in an electronic device. Sometimes it’s a laptop, more often a tablet or smartphone. They ignore everything and everyone around them and seem to only want to interact with other people via these devices with social media or messaging.

Recently, it has become more and more of a problem and has begun interfering with family interactions and activities. I have decided to start setting some guidelines but am not sure where to start or how to begin implementing them.

Sincerely,

Frustrated with Screens

 

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Dear Frustrated with Screens,

Unfortunately, you are experiencing something that is becoming a common problem with people of every age in our modern world. We have all become obsessed with our devices. If you stop and look around at people in public, everyone is staring at their palm instead of interacting with each other; this problem is becoming especially prevalent with kids. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8-18 year olds are devoting an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes each day to entertainment media (more than 53 hours a week).

In kids, overuse of devices can result in social problems and childhood obesity, so I’m glad that you want to do something about this problem for your family. When it comes to parenting, the best thing that you can do is set a good example for your kids. Are you constantly tethered to your device? Are you limiting your social interactions to texting and social media? As with all things, your children model your behaviors. If your face is always buried in an electronic device, they are paying attention to that and following suit.

You need to decide how much screen time is healthy for your family and begin by setting reasonable limits on your own use. It might also be a good idea to have a family meeting and all mutually decide what is a sensible amount of time to spend on devices, get your kids to “buy in” to the idea and make the commitment to each other to set these limits. There are also lots of apps out there that you can use to help enforce time limits on devices. Here are a few of them: http://ourpact.com/  http://www.time-away.com/ http://screentimelabs.com

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be the parent. Your job is to make sure that your kids become happy, healthy, productive members of society and if you see their choices impacting their ability to thrive, you have to step in and make the decision to parent appropriately. They may not be happy with the new rules, but being a parent doesn’t always mean that your kids agree with your opinion. Children don’t have the developmental sophistication and life experiences to make the best choices all the time, that’s why they have you to guide and teach them.

Good Luck!

Sincerely,

Laura

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I can’t get let go of the past

Dear Laura,

 It’s been seven years since the end of my last serious relationship; we dated for five years and also lived together. I still harbor a lot of resentment and anger towards my ex-girlfriend.  I’ve had friends express concern that I’m still dwelling on this breakup and harboring bad feelings.

I sometimes repeat the same stories about bad memories I have from our time together, but I felt very attacked and scapegoated at the time and haven’t had another serious relationship since.  I resent being told that I’m “holding on” to bad feelings because that implies that I’m to blame for what happened.  I don’t want to feel this way, but she did so many terrible things that I’m having a hard time letting it go.

Signed,
Ruined for Love

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Dear Ruined for Love,

Your story reminds me of the Buddhist saying “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Your ex-girlfriend may have been a terrible person, but she does not suffer when you have angry thoughts and negative feelings; she might even be having the best relationship of her life while you wallow in self-pity. When you repeat these stories to yourself and others, you reinforce the negative feelings and continue the cycle of depression and anger.

You are not to blame for what happened while the two of you were together, but you ARE to blame for everything that has happened since the breakup. The Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu says, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” You’ve chosen to focus on these negative aspects of your past and that prevents you from having a fulfilling and productive life in the present.

It’s important to realize that letting go of your resentments does not mean that you are saying that your ex-girlfriend’s choices were acceptable, it simply means that you want a more positive and satisfying life experience. I would strongly suggest that you find a licensed therapist in your area and begin to address these issues so that you can truly heal and move on to a healthy relationship.

Good Luck, I wish you the best.

Laura

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My Boyfriend is AWOL

Hi Laura,
I would love to get your sage advice as I am unsure how to handle this situation. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 7 months. We spend most weekends together and occasionally get together on weekdays. He is wonderful: trustworthy, honest, down to earth, affectionate, generous, and committed. The problem is that when we are not together he goes radio silent. On a regular basis I won’t hear from him for 3-5 days and he usually contacts me just to make plans and exchange a few pleasantries.

I have tried to encourage more communication. At first, I reached out to him more often sending jokes, notes etc., but he would answer once or twice, then not respond, or he would forget entirely to respond. A few times, I have told him that it would be nice to stay in touch more often. I’ve also told him that it was really hard for me to go for 3-5 days without hearing from him.

He said the he doesn’t have anything interesting to tell me, but I said that he doesn’t have to always share his work day, instead he could check in to say hi, send an article…anything. My attempts to get through to him have been unsuccessful. Recently, he’s been taking 3-4 days to respond to a message or voicemail.

Talking on the phone and chatting all the time are not for everyone, but I’m getting fed up at how tough it is for him to show that he cares when we are not together. He doesn’t check in when I am sick and often forgets to ask about important things. I could wind up in the hospital for a week and he would have no idea.

During his down time, he is watching TV and playing online backgammon, and he’s in his late 30’s.

What should I do?

My Boyfriend is AWOL

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Dear My Boyfriend is AWOL,

When you are together it seems like you get along well, but when you are apart he neglects you and fails to meet your expectations of maintaining connection and closeness in the relationship. I think you are struggling because your boyfriend has an avoidant attachment style. This may have developed for a number of reasons, but one of the characteristics of this attachment style is pulling away when things are going well.

He is not calling for 3-5 days after you spend time together because too much intimacy makes people with an avoidant attachment style feel uncomfortable. Doing solo activities and not keeping in touch with you is perfectly acceptable and normal to him because he wants to create distance between you and have more autonomy in the relationship.

You like that he is trustworthy and generous, but you will also have to understand that he is always going to want less closeness than you want. You have to decide if his good qualities are enough to outweigh the fact that he can’t tolerate the level of attachment that you want. I would suggest that you read “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller to give you some insight into this problem. You can learn more about your attachment style and make a clear decision about your relationship.

Good luck and thanks for writing.

Sincerely,

Laura

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How Do I Navigate My Partner’s Male To Female Transition?

Dear Laura,

I have been in a romantic partnership for five years, we live together but we are not married. My boyfriend struggled with depression and anxiety throughout our relationship and six months ago, he came out to me as Trans and has started dressing and identifying as a woman. I have been 100% supportive in her new journey and I can see how much happier and more relaxed she is. She identifies as lesbian and is still attracted to me, but I am not attracted to her.

I have always identified as straight. I love and care for her deeply, but now I feel more like sisters or roommates than romantic partners. I feel like her “training wheels” are off and I want to break up with her and pursue relationships with men.

She is furious and has accused me of abandoning her. She says that if I really loved her as a man, I should still love her because she is the same person inside. Am I being shallow? Cis-normative? Trans-phobic? A lot of these words are being hurled at me and I’m not sure how to respond. I would never want her to go back to being someone she was unhappy with, but that was the person I was attracted to.

Regards,

Not Sure What’s Next

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Dear Not Sure What’s Next,

This is a truly challenging and complex situation. You want to be sensitive to your partner, so I think the best way to help her to understand your point of view is to explain to her that, just as she has always identified as a woman who feels an attraction to women, you have always identified as a woman who is attracted to men.

I don’t think that you are being shallow. The problem as I see it is that your partner did not make you privy to important information before you entered into this relationship with her and now she expects that you will stay in a sexual relationship with her even though she has changed this fundamental part of her identity with you.

It would be unfair for you to deny your sexual identity in order to keep her happy. I think that this would be equivalent to asking your partner to deny her true gender identity to keep you satisfied in a romantic relationship. Sexuality is an ingrained part of every person and although there may be some flexibility or fluidity there, it sounds like on the spectrum of who we are attracted to, your sexuality lies firmly in the heterosexual sphere. In the same way that you would not want your partner to live a lie, you yourself want to live in your truth and the truth for you is that you are attracted to people who identify as male.

I understand your partner’s sentiment that loving her as a man and as a woman should be the same, but love and sexual attraction are two separate things and she needs to accept that although you have strong feelings of love and kinship for her, you no longer feel that you are sexually compatible with her. Your job right now is to continue to love and support her through her transition and to also encourage her to move on when it comes to finding the right people to date.

Ultimately, your partner is requesting that you change this fundamental part of yourself in order to make her happy. I understand that you want to be sensitive to her, but you also need to be true to yourself. Her request is not fair to you and she needs to respect your needs and find a partner who is offering the whole package of both loving support and sexual compatibility.

Good luck with everything,

Sincerely,

Laura

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