How to Recognize Good Emotional Boundaries

How to Recognize a Good Boundary When You See It Maintaining good personal emotional boundaries is a very important element of positive mental health. Emotional boundaries protect us from manipulation and from being taken advantage of. They help minimize hurt and frustration. They build our self-confidence and even help improve our relationships. But what are they, and why are they so tricky? In my experience, most patients believe they have better personal boundaries than they do. They say, “I’d never tolerate [x]” or “I’ll never put up with [y] again.” But when it comes time to exercise those boundaries, they don’t. They loan them money or swallow the insults or ignore the behavior they swore they’d never overlook again. And the cycle continues to repeats itself. Since this is such a common cycle, I’d like to examine the basic elements of healthy emotional boundaries. To illustrate, let me tell you about the story of my patient, Gary. Gary couldn’t say no. Gary was a successful real estate broker who couldn’t say no to his adult daughter. Every time she needed money — whether two hundred dollars or two thousand dollars — he gave it to her. Then when she spent it on expensive clothes or indulgent nights out, he’d despair that she’d essentially thrown his money away. He made comments about her being irresponsible. He told her he wasn’t going to give her any money unless he knew precisely how she was going to spend it. Then they’d argue, and she’d cry, and he’d feel terrible and he’d end up writing his daughter a check. I asked him why he couldn’t say no to his daughter’s requests. He explained that he and his wife divorced when his daughter was young. “It was so hard on her,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt her any more than I already have.” Then he added, “Plus, I have the money. I’ve done well for myself. Why wouldn’t I share it with my daughter?” The answer to that question is where Gary and I began our work together. Emotional Boundaries are rarely black and white Gary had a partial understanding of personal boundaries. He saw them as absolutes, as lines in the sand. “I would never give her money for drugs,” for example. Boundaries, however, are rarely so black and white. Instead, they’re more effectively viewed as limits, as the threshold between when …

The Top 4 Red Flags in a Relationship

4 Red Flags in a Relationship to be Aware of A disheartening number of my male patients have either gotten divorced or suffered through long and painful relationships because of a single, core issue: They failed to act on Red Flags in a relationship before it was too late. A red flag is an issue that causes significant disruption to a relationship; they are serious problems that require professional help. The mistake I’ve seen hundreds of men make is that they believe, without foundation, that they have either the skills or the commitment to help a woman overcome her serious challenges. He thinks he can be her savior, her knight in shining armor, that he can love her enough to overcome anything. There is a much more bitter truth: When you spot a red flag, it’s best to get out. The most serious red flags in a relationship fall into 4 main categories: 1. Lack of empathy 2. Boundary crossing 3. Addiction or severe psychological issues 4. Legal or financial trouble Let’s take a look at why each one is so damaging. Lack of Empathy This flag is so red it ought to be on fire. I can’t tell you how many men tell me stories about women who expect emotional and financial and practical support from them, but who offer virtually nothing in return. Happy, lasting relationships are built on a foundation of intimacy, and that requires an ongoing give and take by both individuals. Relationships that are built on anything less are headed for heartache. Don’t settle for anyone who gives less to the emotional health of the relationship than you. You deserve to be fully supported and cared for. If you experience anything less, let her go without further ado. Boundary crossing As a society, we don’t pay much attention to men who suffer physically or emotionally at the hands of their wives or girlfriends, but it is more prevalent than you may imagine. I have worked with men who tell me they were raised to “never strike a woman,” but who have been slapped, bitten, hit with heavy objects, and generally attacked by their significant other. Being attacked is much different than being the attacker, but those differences are not assigned by gender. Abuse can be verbal, as easily as it can be physical. Verbal abuse is characterized by any attempt to make another person feel weak or …

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3 Porn Myths You’ll be Glad Aren’t True

3 Porn Myths that Aren’t True- From A Doctors Perspective (Pssst: The Doctor Says it Can Actually be Good For You) If only I had a dollar for every time I got to tell someone that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing—or wanted to do—in the bedroom. Most common worry: porn. I’ve chosen to bust 5 of the most common myths about porn and why it’s anything but bad for you. I’ll bust three porn myths now, and two later; stay tuned! Porn Myth #1: Porn is bad for you. Not so fast. Historically, anti-porn arguments have primarily been moral in nature and have little basis in medical science. While porn can lead to addiction (like hundreds of other behaviors), it more often supports and reinforces acceptable sexual behavior. In a healthy, adult relationship, porn can be wonderfully useful. Not only do many couples find it fun, but they often use it to spice up or reignite their sex lives. Many watch it together for new ideas, and some occasionally watch it to help get themselves in the mood when necessary. Like many other things in life, the secret to porn use is moderation, and it is not damaging to a relationship unless one partner regularly chooses it instead of sex with their “real” partner. Porn Myth #2: Porn is a sign that something is “wrong” with you. Let’s be clear: porn doesn’t make you a pervert. It can, however, be a sign that you’re avoiding dealing with uncomfortable feelings or experiences. If you find yourself turning to porn instead of your real partner, or if you find it interfering in your ability to function in daily life or fulfill your responsibilities, please seek professional help to deal with your compulsive behaviors. If you use it in moderation, however—enjoy. Porn Myth #3: Porn is the same as cheating. Many women feel betrayed when faced with the realization that a husband or boyfriend is looking at porn—some as profoundly betrayed as if they’d been cheated on. Often, their immediate reaction is, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not enough?” Some relationships even end over porn. When my patients face this issue, I help them understand that porn and cheating are not the same things. What is the same, however, is the feeling of betrayal. It’s legitimate for a woman to feel betrayed by a man who secretly goes …

Life After Divorce: Are you ready to date?

Life After Divorce-5 Signs You’re Probably Not Ready to Date By Dr. Laura Dabney, the Intimacy MD I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping men find their way into happy, long-term relationships. And after all these years, I’m amazed by the amount of misinformation that exists about what it takes to build and maintain a relationship. Most people assume we’re more prepared to pick the right mate the second or third time around, but the data tells a much different story. 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.   We don’t get better at picking our partners—we actually get worse. Unless we invest the time to learn from the past, if you’re reading this, you may be thinking it’s time to re-enter the dating scene. Here are five revealing signs that you’re vulnerable to repeat the mistakes of the past and why you’re probably not ready yet:   1) You believe you need a partner who’s the exact opposite of your ex. You’re not ready to date again if your mind is still jumping to extremes: My ex was exactly wrong for me, so I’ll look for her exact opposite. When you swing from one extreme to another, however, you risk picking someone who eventually makes you as miserable as your ex, but for different reasons. Dating after divorce is not as easy as picking someone the complete opposite of your ex. Choose your partner because of who she is, not because of who she’s not. 2) You don’t like being single for very long. There’s nothing wrong with dating a lot, as long as you’re honest about your intentions. In fact, I teach a method called Precision Dating, in which I recommend men take their time before committing. Most men rush too quickly into commitment, then spend the next several years trying to make the relationship work. If you don’t like being single, recognize that you’re at serious risk of committing too early to the wrong woman. You’re far better off to play the field and date lots of women than you are to commit to the wrong relationship.   3) Dating takes your mind off your troubles. Life after divorce can be tricky. Life happens within and without our relationships, and often because of them. Losing yourself in a relationship can feel like a relief, but it’s nothing more than a …

Straightforward Relationship Advice for Men: Getting the Love You Want

Getting the Love You Want Without Being Inconsiderate With any luck and no small amount of perseverance, we’ve all achieved important things in life: completed our educational goals, built successful careers, and maybe even raised children. Every one of us can claim at least one major success in life. When we want something badly enough, we’ll work until we get it. And yet, why does getting the love you want, feel so incredibly difficult? I get some version of this question almost every week. My response: Yes! Getting the love you want is tough. But the skills you need for intimacy aren’t much different than the skills you’ve already developed for life. You need to learn why and how to apply them. Believe it or not, success in any aspect of your life, including love; requires aggression. Sounds contradictory, I know. We think of our ideal love as gentle and forgiving, while aggression is best saved for the board room and rush hour traffic. But those are just two examples of aggression. What I teach in both love and life is the concept of constructive aggression, the ability to assert one’s self for self-preservation. In other words, it’s a fancy way of describing the act of sticking up for yourself. In a relationship, you may notice that a feeling is nearing a tipping point. Something about your partner, something they do or don’t do. Your partner doesn’t pay attention when you want it, doesn’t offer help when you need it, or they talk when you’d prefer they listen —is wearing you down. Maybe it’s on your mind all the time or causing symptoms such as excessive alcohol use or destructive fantasies. This is the perfect time to call on your constructive aggression to resolve the feeling. Believe it or not, success in any aspect of your life, including love, requires aggression. Here’s how. You have to either present your need to your partner or deal with your anger. For example, you could say, “I need you to please talk to your mom less during our evenings together,” or “I’m upset that you interrupted me when I was talking.” I admit that this can be tough. We tend to fear that using our constructive aggression will come off as mean or selfish. The problem though is that focusing on other people’s feelings more than our own is a recipe for disaster. …