Author: Avery

If you’ve been in any type of abusive relationship and successfully gotten out, at some point in your recovery, you are likely to experience feelings of reticence, caution, cynicism and even paranoia about others. This is particularly the case in regard to romantic partners. Once you’ve been burned, it’s not so easy to risk getting close to fire again, right?

When it comes to abuse, the most important thing we can do to help ourselves and our children is to educate ourselves on the early warning signs of abuse. We need to know what to look for beyond name-calling, lying, and hitting. We also need to know how to spot an aggressive and controlling relationship, because while there are no physical scars, psychologically abusive relationships can slowly strip away a person’s self- esteem, self-worth, and quality of life.

What is reasonable to expect out of a relationship? Love and support? Understanding and encouragement? A sense of safety and belonging? Knowing that your partner really sees you? Knowing that your partner truly values you? Knowing that your feelings and needs matter to your partner? Trusting your partner even when you are not with him or her? Both of you seeking resolution, taking responsibility and attempting to restore closeness after conflict? If these things seem way over the top because you’re used to surviving with far less, they are not.

By Carina Wolff Serotonin has long been credited as our mood regulator. It plays a role in how we feel, and low levels of the neurotransmitter may cause issues with happiness. We've been warned that taking drugs can mess with our serotonin, but there are a number of other unexpected habits that can affect serotonin levels as well. If you're feeling anxious, depressed, or even just experiencing low energy, forgoing these habits can help replenish your serotonin levels, which can improve how you feel overall.

By Carina Wolff It's exciting when you meet someone you want to date, but in order for the relationship to be successful, you want to make sure you've done the proper work on yourself first. There a number of life skills that will let you know if you're ready for a relationship because they will not only make life easier for yourself, but will help strengthen any relationship you may develop. According to experts, having these skills can help increase the chances of a relationship working out long-term. And even if you haven't perfected all of them by the time you commit to someone, it's good to start developing them before you enter a relationship.

Our parents are our first mirrors. As we grow, we look to our primary caregivers to give us feedback and help guide us through a world unknown. What gets reflected back to us is the basis upon which we form our first self-impressions. Based on these reflections, we begin to develop a self-concept as we identify ourselves more with certain attributes, less with others.

Establishing healthy relationships means establishing healthy boundaries and clear and respectful guidelines for how we want to be treated by others. If you’ve ever been to therapy or read self-help books, you are likely to have come across the term, “setting boundaries”. In the past, I would skim over those words or nod my head in agreement with my therapist without giving this idea much thought. It wasn’t until I found myself exhausted from pouring so much of myself into everyone else, and resentful when I felt mistreated, that I realized I needed to perk up and learn what I could do to set my own boundaries.

Like many couples, Megan and Chris love each other, but they each admit to having communication problems. They recently had a second child and although they are overjoyed with their growing family, they are both handling the stress that accompanies it very differently. Megan describes feeling overwhelmed by taking care of two small children and all of the household responsibilities. She finds that she is increasingly irritable, she cries more easily than before, and often feels like she is failing to meet the growing demands of her family. Megan is hurt and angry that Chris is more distant than he used to be, but every time she asks him what’s wrong, he insists that everything is fine.

Inner child work is something that is typically explored in therapy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Some of the most powerful “soul work” comes from looking at our inner child, or ourselves at various stages in childhood. It is particularly profound when we explore ourselves at a time when we may have experienced trauma of some kind. Trauma evokes such a strong, visceral and emotional reaction within, that it often stays with us for years afterwards and perhaps for an entire lifetime. Trauma doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific event. In fact, a chronic low-grade trauma in childhood such as a neglectful, dismissive or critical parent can yield a similar stress response.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I thought it was an appropriate time to address the common question as to where to draw the line between problems in a relationship versus abuse. Most people discount the term “abuse” if they have not been physically assaulted. This is unfortunate because many are threatened and intimidated by their partners, but do not realize that it fits an abusive pattern and therefore, they do not seek help. If it feels more comfortable to replace the word “abuse” with “bullying,” go right ahead. What is important is to understand and to digest the information, not the word you choose to use. In addition, I am referring to the abusive partner as “he” and you, the reader, as “she.” However, many men find themselves in abusive relationships and experience difficulty in standing up to their partners, though the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship often differ between the sexes. The behavioral patterns described here can apply to men or to anyone who finds themselves in an abusive dynamic.