Relationships can bring great job and fulfillment to our lives. However, at some point we all find ourselves in uncomfortable scenarios where it may be difficult to find the right words to communicate to a family member or close friend. The following are reader-submitted questions about common relationship problems, along with tactful strategies to handle them.
1) My younger sister has been giving me the silent treatment for over a year. Apparently, she is holding a grudge, although I have no idea what it’s about. She told me once that our mom told her not to talk to me about it. What should I do?
The first thing to know is that the involvement of a third party (your mother, in this case) rarely if ever does any good and only serves to unnecessarily complicate things. Don’t be afraid to politely insist that the matter stay between you and your sister.
This is a particularly difficult relationship problem, as you have to be the one to make the first move even though she is the individual who has felt wronged. You must now embrace that things are going to be uncomfortable and “go toward the awkward.” Go directly to your sister and begin the conversation with a phrase like “Obviously, I have done something to hurt you.” You don’t need to be overly defensive, but if you honestly have no inclination of why she is upset, you need to first try to understand where she is coming from.
Hopefully, your sister reciprocates the honesty and informs you of what is going on. From there, you can take steps to repair the relationship. Know that it is possible that you are partially responsible for the rift. However, she might be unwilling to talk about it or work toward constructive solutions. In this case, you have done all you could and need to let it be. Relationships are always a two-way street; you do the best you can to communicate, but the other person needs to take responsibility as well.
2) My Friend’s Husband is Emotionally Abusive. Should I talk to her about it, and if so, how?
“Emotional abuse” is a term we use a lot. There are of course legitimate instances of a person being abusive emotionally, but there may be times when we perceive something as worse than it is because our own emotional history and experiences causes us to be hypersensitive to certain behaviors or words.
That being said, never discount your feelings of concern for a friend who may be experiencing this type of abuse at the hands of a spouse. The best thing (really the only thing) to do at this point is to go to your friend and talk about it! Be sure to stay on your side of the court by expressing how you see things from your perspective Phrase your language by saying things like, “from what I have observed,” there could be a problem or “I love you and have concerns about some of the things I have seen and heard.” It’s important that you don’t vilify the husband. Make sure to acknowledge that you know he loves her and means well. This will assure your friend that you aren’t insulting or attacking him.
You need to be ready for the possibility that your friend will not like what she is hearing. If she’s unwilling or not (yet) wanting to deal with what’s happening, she very well may pull back from the relationship. But if you truly care about your friend, you will value her well-being more than your comfort level, or even more than the friendship you two share. But your insight into how her husband treats her may be just what she needs to see things more clearly.
3) My sister-in-law continually insults me. I know she probably doesn’t mean it, but it’s very hurtful. I try to avoid her, but I can’t stop going to family events completely. What should I do?
In situations like this, the person who is the scariest emotionally (in your case, your sister-in-law) has the most power. She is insulting and insensitive, while you are the one tiptoeing around and having to go out of your way to avoid her. But you must reclaim your power in order to effectively deal with what’s going on.
When you have the uncomfortable interactions with this woman, you need to “go toward the awkward” and not run away. For example, if she insults your outfit or your parenting style, say something like, “I’m not sure how to take that; what do you mean?” Understand that by asking such a direct question, silence may linger, and that’s ok. But by using this technique, you are essentially holding up a mirror to the person who is being rude and insensitive and requiring her to clarify. It may sound daunting, but being open and honest can tremendously improve the relationship.
Unfortunately, sometimes people are intentionally mean or manipulative. But other times, someone may just be clumsy with words or oblivious to the message he/she is sending. You are good to give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming that your sister-in-law doesn’t mean to be hurtful. Many people who make rude and insensitive comments are speaking from a place of unresolved issues, insecurities, and pain. However, resist the temptation to ignore the situation, as it is clearly (and understandably!) bothering you. Being clear and communicative is how to effectively handle this type of relationship problem.
Have a relationship question? Contact Julie here, and be sure to include “Studio 5 Ask Julie” in the subject line.
WFT and Mad Science are teaming up for an exciting Kids Group. Designed for school-aged children, this group will provide opportunities to learn how to navigate of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Through exciting science activities and skill building, group members will practice building healthy relationships. Registration is open for our next group starting June 9th.
Though it’s only been two years since actually embarking on the actual writing of this book, the ideas, concepts, surveys, and discussions and my desire to write this book started over a decade ago. It’s hard to believe that in a few weeks, I’ll be able to hold an actual book in my hand! I can’t wait to share it with you.
About the book:
If the demands of the day-to-day leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted, you may be suffering from an all-too-common malady prevalent among Mormon women: emotional burnout. From work in and out of the home to service in wards and communities, the variety of worthy undertakings can seem endless. With such perceived cultural pressure to “do it all,” how can a woman balance the desire to serve others with caring for her own personal needs?
As a wife, mother, clinical counselor, and musician, author Julie de Azevedo Hanks understands better than most the demands placed on women in the Church, and she has spent years providing clinical counseling to LDS women and families. The Burnout Cure dispels common cultural myths that often leave women feeling “never good enough.” Through scriptural quotes, personal stories, and clinical examples, Hanks offers a bevy of tools designed to help sisters identify and meet their emotional needs, to accept their limitations, to let go of the guilt and perfectionism, and to lean on the Lord.
I know there have been several questions on this site regarding preferences for solitude, but most of these questions have come from people with diagnosed disorders such as depression, social phobias, PTSD, etc., and the answers provided have been framed in the context of the relevant disorder. My concern is that, despite being depression and anxiety-free, I am becoming increasingly rigid in terms of my willingness to spend time with others, and it is affecting my relationships negatively. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and required a certain amount of time alone, but I’ve also always had plenty of friends and a pretty normal dating/relationship history. However, over the course of the past year or so I have started to really prioritize solitude over spending time with friends, family, and romantic partners to the point of avoidance. It’s not that I’ve become apathetic towards these people or that I’ve stopped liking them. In fact, I still have a strong desire for affection, friendship, and intimacy, but only in VERY limited quantities, and anything beyond that feels like an obligation. To give you an example of what I’m talking about, my girlfriend lives about 100 miles away, so spending a whole lot of time together during the week is not really feasible. Because of this she would really like to drive to my place after work on Friday, spend the weekend with me, and leave Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately I can’t even begin to fathom spending that much time with someone -even someone I love- and so I always have to come up with an excuse for why she would need to leave Saturday morning or afternoon. And to be honest, by Saturday I’m literally counting the minutes until she leaves so I can be alone. I don’t want to be this way. It’s not fair to the people in my life, and I feel like I shouldn’t be in a relationship, even though I am very much in love. Any insight into my problem would be greatly appreciated!
My therapist has told me in 4 sessions I will be passed to someone else. I trusted him and we are in the middle of EMDR. I feel so abandoned and let down. I feel stupid for trusting him. Since I got this information I have hit self-destruct. How can he do this? I don’t feel like I could even try to trust anyone again! I don’t know what to do. I can’t get any answers off anyone including him, I thought they were meant to help not do this? I just don’t know anymore. Any ideas?
A: Thank you for writing in. I can tell that this is a very painful situation for you to have to switch therapists after opening up and trusting your current therapist. It’s uncommon for a therapist not to give any explanation for transferring a client. Watch the rest of my answer in the video below…
What does it mean when my best friend tells me he has hallucinations, when he hangs out with his ex girlfriend, where she literally turns into me for a few minutes, and then turns back into herself? I’m starting to worry about his sanity. And at the same time, am curious as to why it’s ME his brain turns her into. Another friend of mine who doesn’t even know my best friend, is trying to convince me that this is happening because my BFF is “in love with me”. If it were this simple I wouldn’t be so concerned. I know for a fact that this is not the case. Have you ever heard of this happening before? And if so, what are some reasons for WHY it happens? Also, could something be triggering these hallucinations?
A: Encourage your friend to get a mental health evaluation to rule out any mental illness. Since I have very little information as to what your friend is labeling a hallucination, it’s difficult to tell what it means. I have some questions for your friend. Does he use any substances? Are other triggers or situations that accompany his ex-girlfriend “turning” into you? Watch the video below for my full response…
I get depressed sporadically and it interferes with my life and I want to fix it. I’ve always had emotional problems my whole life. Anxiety, depression, difficulty coping with life, codependency, low self-esteem; and I have been trying SO HARD to “just be happy” like everyone tells me to do, but I just can’t do it. I TRY. And I don’t want to take meds, and I don’t know how much a therapist is but I don’t have a lot of money.
All this interferes with my enjoyment in life, I just cant seem to enjoy it and am constantly telling myself negative things and worrying about everything. I am also having relationship problems and I am just feeling so nuts all the time that I know I’m not in the right mind to try to fix that either.
HELP What do I do?? I know this isn’t a therapeutic thing, but I just need to know where to look for a therapist, or if there are any books or good self help things I can find on the internet (I’ve tried that though, I dunno maybe I have never found the right thing) please tell me.
A: Reaching out in this forum is a good first step for getting help. It sounds like you’ve been trying very hard to feel different than you feel and it’s not enough. It’s a good time to seek professional help. There are no-cost or low-cost therapy options available in many communities. Watch my video response for additional resources and more detailed answer to your question…
I have suffered with severe depression for about 25 years now. At last someone has listened to me and I have been referred to see a psychiatrist as i feel that maybe there is more going on than just depression. I feel very suicidal, I self harm, I hear voices that no one else can here and I’m also seeing things. I am a bit worried about seeing the psychiatrist as I don’t know what to expect. I was told that they would assess me, what does this involve and will they be able to tell on the first visit what is going on.
A: I’m so glad that you’re going to meet with a psychiatrist for an evaluation. You’re describing serious symptoms that need to be addressed immediately. Watch the video below for my complete answer…
I just recently graduated high school and I currently don’t have a job. I spend both day and night inside the house either babysitting, watching TV, or writing on my novel. I don’t really have anyone to talk to besides my family because all of my friends have left for college. I’m beginning to feel pretty alone. Starting last month I have been having indigestion, trouble swallowing, a little bit of nausea, and my thoughts race out of control. Do the symptoms that I feel have anything to do with anxiety or is my boredom causing my mind to create symptoms? The symptoms are starting to happen when I get into a car to the point where I flat out refuse to even get into one. I’m afraid that I have the beginnings of panic disorder. Is this all in my
A: Thanks for writing in. The concerns you’re describing do sound concerning enough to warrant a mental health evaluation. Watch the video below for my complete answer…
As a minor, how much of what I tell a therapist will my parents hear? Recently my parents have discovered I struggle with self-injury. After discovering this, they are going to send me to see a therapist to help with the issue. They, of course, know I struggle with self-injury, but I would prefer if they did not hear about it if I tell the therapist when I self-injure. Is this possible, or is it required that they inform my parents when I cut? As a minor, do I have any confidentiality from my parents?
A: Excellent question and an important concern to bring up in your first session with your therapist. Watch the full answer below.