Shadow Of My Life
You are viewing the most recent 25 entries.
1st April 2015
Quote of the Day
31st March 2015
Changing the Dynamics
It is easy to get stuck in a relationship rut. We human beings are creatures of habit. Often we don’t like change much, especially if keeping things the same helps us feel safe or at least in familiar territory. Many of us will choose safe-but-boring over new-and-possibly-better any time we have the ability to make the choice.
On the other hand, human beings also have an instinctive desire to change and grow. When something is hurting us, or we find ourselves feeling stifled or deadened, we experience something inside of us that cries out, “There is more to life than this!” We find ourselves considering the need for change, even if we also are anxious about it.
It is easy to confuse “difficult relationship” and “wrong partner” sometimes. Pinning blame for your unhappiness on your boyfriend or partner seems to let you off the hook. If you find yourself playing the same record over and over again, finding the same shortcomings in partner after partner, it’s time to take a look at the common denominator in all those relationships: You. (Hint: if you ever find yourself saying something like, “All gay men [insert your complaint about men here]….,” it is almost certainly you.)
So the first step in creating something new is to take responsibility for your portion of creating the situation that needs changing. This is different from self-blaming. Understand that we generally do the best we can in life. As we grow and develop more life skills, we can learn to do even better.
For instance, the first priority for many of us as gay men was to keep ourselves emotionally safe and protected. If you think back to your first heartbreak, you may even remember vowing never to feel that hurt again. The problem is you can’t have true intimacy in life if your first priority remains to defend yourself at all costs. You need to learn when it is safe to begin lowering your guard and opening your heart.
If your typical pattern that you are the romantic who can never seem to find true love and who has sometimes been manipulative in relationships (what I called the Pursuer in another article), consider stopping your efforts to control the outcome and learn to let go. If you find feelings of fear coming up for you, you are probably doing this right. Not returning to old patterns will be a challenge, but you are on the right track.
Similarly, if you have always been a Distancer and kept a good bit of detachment from those who have sought to get closer to you, your task is to open your heart and to learn to express your desire for your partner. This opens you up to the possibility of rejection. That’s frightening for those who have learned to be more comfortable doing the rejection! Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. Again, the presence of uncomfortable feelings likely means you are doing this right.
In both cases, the basic fear is that we are not lovable. It is understandable that many of us will do anything possible to avoid facing that fear. For many of us, this fear is too much to overcome on our own. When that’s the case, individual or relationship counseling can be helpful support and guidance in not staying stuck.
When we learn to overcome our fears and to allow ourselves to be who we truly are, relationships offer us great potential for healing and growing, learning new skills and finding that we love and respect ourselves.
30th March 2015
Quote of the Day
The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."
- John Powell
29th March 2015
28th March 2015
Boundaries For You & Your Guy - Part Two
Boundary Violations In Gay Relationships - We’ve talked about self-oriented boundary violations like straying from your diet or cheating on a test. Violations in your relationship with your partner can be particularly damaging, however, as they can diminish your trust in each other and cause significant conflicts and emotional distance that can tear down the foundation of commitment you’ve built.
Again, it’s human to stray from our boundaries at times, but when it becomes pervasive and isn’t talked about with your partner to try and remedy it, serious consequences can arise.
Here are some examples of common boundary violations in relationships to give you a better idea of what we’re talking about:
You drink too much at the bar with your friends and flirt with all the men near you while your partner is away on business
Your partner pressures you to experiment with sexual practices you’re not comfortable with
You don’t stick up for your partner when your family badmouths him
Your partner makes other things, like work or his hobbies, more of a priority than spending quality time with you
You don’t voice your opinions about the way you would like things to function in your relationship and then harbor feelings of resentment toward your partner when he makes all the decisions
Your partner strays from your monogamous relationship by cheating with someone he met on the Internet
Negativity, jealousy, passive-aggressiveness, lying, withdrawal, blaming…these are also “red flags”
And the list goes on and on! It is only a violation if either of you behave in a way that contradicts the relationship vision or mission that the two of you should have and should continue to be co-creating from the inception of your partnership.
Tips For Boundary-Setting Success
As an individual, determine whether you struggle with maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationships and life in general. Difficulties with boundaries can come from many sources, including: being raised in a dysfunctional family where unhealthy boundaries were modeled, low self-esteem, lack of individual identity and codependency, poor assertiveness and social skills, being in an abusive or toxic relationship, being easily guilt-prone, having addictions of any kind, having power/control issues, getting a sense of validation for catering to a relationship partner, etc. Try to identify where your struggles with boundaries originate and keep track of what triggers your self-sabotaging behavior. Work aggressively at overcoming these personal hurdles to promote a more solid and confident sense of self.
As a couple, plot out a relationship mission statement that specifies your values and expectations for behavioral conduct as individuals and as a couple. This becomes your “relationship contract” that will give you a structure by which to live your life with integrity and stability. Introduce spontaneity and novelty into your relationship from time to time so you don’t feel like you’re living according to a policies and procedures manual and to keep the spark alive.
Make sure that you both define your particular boundaries around money, household management and domestics/division of labor, sex, monogamy vs. non-monogamy, parenting roles (if applicable), work, friends, family, health, spirituality, the way anger is dealt with, how you spend your time, etc. It may seem like a lot of material to cover, but the more that’s communicated will lessen the opportunity for surprise violations to occur in the future. It’s a great way to learn more about each other too and create further growth as a couple.
Boundaries protect your relationship from outside forces as well. Should family or friends try to come between you, even if well-intentioned, always stand by your man and reinforce your commitment to each other. Don’t enable other peoples’ efforts to force their viewpoints and projections onto your relationship.
Conclusion - So whether you’re single and looking for Mr. Right or you’ve already found him, recognize the profound importance boundaries have on your well-being and quality of life. Without them, you’re left in a vulnerable position and can make poor choices that could adversely affect the course of your life. Knowing yourself and standing up for what you believe in can empower you to enjoy life to the fullest and accomplish great things in your relationships.
27th March 2015
Boundaries For You & Your Guy - Part One
Have you ever skipped going to the health club one day because you just absolutely had no motivation to get all sweaty and tired? Or what about gorging on a half-gallon of ice cream to cope with your stress? Ever leave the mall wondering what the heck you were thinking maxing out your credit card? Do you work more hours at your job than need be? These are situations where a boundary violation of the self has occurred and we’ve all been there.
Boundaries are the limits we set around ourselves to keep safe, centered, and accountable. They are usually drawn from our values and they define who we are and what we will and won’t accept in our lives to keep our integrity and well-being intact. The more aligned our behavior is with our defined boundaries, the more balance and harmony we tend to experience in our lives.
When we act outside the confines of our boundaries, our self-esteem can take a hit and we actually can create a whole host of other stressors that will disrupt us and leave us feeling badly and out-of-integrity. It is human nature to stumble outside our boundaries from time to time, but when it becomes a way of life, underlying issues may be at play that will require some attention and intervention to avoid ongoing conflicts in one’s life.
Not only do we have self-imposed boundaries, but boundaries also pertain to our relationships. A healthy relationship is comprised of two men with a solid sense of self and identity. Boundaries help protect the partners of a couple from abuse or outside influences of others. They help create a sense of security in the partnership, allowing safe communication of needs and feelings between the partners that helps to solidify a positive connection and intimacy. Boundaries help cement what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate conduct both within and outside the context of being a couple and help to define who you are and what you stand for as life partners.
Boundaries & Relationship Types - Here’s an illustration as to why boundaries are important to your relationship. Take out a piece of paper. At the top of the page, draw two circles on opposite sides of the page. This represents the type of relationship where the couple identifies themselves as a pair, however they have little connection with each other and live parallel lives with minimal contact, sharing, or interaction that would support an intimate commitment. This relationship exhibits boundaries that are too strong to allow closeness and which there’s too much separateness and division between the two men. Little will grow from this except more of a “roommate feeling” and dissension. This style has too much individual identity.
In the middle of the page, draw two circles with one on top of the other. This relationship type is called enmeshed, where the couple is practically one whole. You are your partner; you live and breathe your partner with very little independence and individuality. You are merged together so completely that you lose your sense of self because you’re so fused and any perceived threat that exists to your relationship is thought of as devastating. The problem with this relationship style is that partners can feel suffocated and overly-dependent on each other; controlling behaviors are not uncommon and you can feel restricted and trapped. This style has too much couple identity.
At the bottom of the page, draw two circles that are mildly intertwined at the sides. This is a healthy relationship where the partners are slightly merged. There is a healthy balance of separateness and togetherness. The couple is flexible, honoring their uniqueness as individuals and their shared connection as partners. Because of this balance, “fresh air” is constantly being breathed into the relationship, revitalizing it and making it exciting, unlike the staleness of the former relationship type where everything is about the other person. This style works because the boundaries aren’t too rigid or loose and they take into account that healthy relationships have both individual and couple identities. This is what you want to shoot for!
(Part Two - Tomorrow)
26th March 2015
25th March 2015
Quote of the Day
24th March 2015
What's for Dinner?
Steak and Chicken Fajitas
Quote of the Day
So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."
- Morrie Schwartz, in "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom
23rd March 2015
I Found Out My Boyfriend is Actually Married! - Part Two
........."It appears that you are now at a crossroads where you must decide whether to stay in or leave your relationship in the wake of this discovery."
It would also be important for you to examine your personal values and personal requirements for a partner and relationship and use that as a gauge for assessing whether those criteria match what your boyfriend brings to your life. I would also recommend that you seek out the services of a trained therapist or coach to help you clarify your needs and feelings and assist you with your problem-solving before making any decisions since the choice you make will certainly impact your future.
Nobody can tell you what to do as other people are not really privy to the ins and outs of your relationship and you have to live out your own truth. However, please do not discount the fact that respect, honesty, integrity, and love are all important ingredients for the success of a relationship and there is a concern that these have all been violated.
If you decide to stay, it will be important to see if your boyfriend takes responsibility for his behavior over the long-term and makes definitive, concrete steps toward honoring you and the relationship (be careful though! If he could treat his wife this way, this could say a lot about his character that could be repeated in an involvement with you). Pace things slowly and avoid committing yourself more deeply to him until he’s proven himself trustworthy.
It would also be important for you to examine the reasons behind your ability to forgive someone for mistreating you because you deserve to be with someone who values you for who you are and can offer you an equal partnership. Make sure your own motives for staying are pure and not based out of fear or guilt, as this will likely come back to bite you later if that’s the case.
Be strong, stand up for yourself, and refuse to tolerate being mistreated!
You deserve a great guy! And if it’s him you choose, he’s got a lot of work to do to prove himself worthy by taking responsibility, communicating openly and honestly, and doing whatever it takes to heal this relationship and repair the damage that’s been done.
My fingers are crossed for you! Be true to yourself!
Quote of the Day
22nd March 2015
I Found Out My Boyfriend is Actually Married! - Part One
I met my boyfriend 4 years ago and he has 2 children. About a year into the relationship, I knew there was something not adding up. Well, I found out the hard way that he is still married to his wife! I tried many times to talk to him about this, and get different answers each time.
He’s been living with me and pays very little since he has kids and college expenses for them; but I have to say, it does bother me sometimes and it leaves me wondering where my future will be heading in this situation. Please help!
I’m concerned about your predicament and can appreciate how betrayed and upset you must feel. Having invested your life and heart with your boyfriend after being with him as long as you have, to discover at this stage of your relationship development that he is actually married can be a pretty devastating thing to learn and I’d imagine has turned things upside down with disillusionment.
I am concerned because a healthy relationship is built upon a strong foundation of trust and respect, and these essential characteristics do not appear to currently exist in your relationship. Throughout the entire course of your being together as a couple, your boyfriend has been deceptive and lied to you. Perhaps he was afraid you would leave him if you knew the truth about his marital status, but his motives are really not that important. The fact is that he didn’t respect you enough to give you the opportunity to make your own choice about what you wanted to do. That is selfish and not something one does to someone they care about.
The fact that he continues to be evasive about his life and dodges your questions is another “red flag” that is a major concern, as is the fact that you’ve taken him into your home and are financially supporting him. I’m concerned about the possibility that you may be being taken of advantage of by someone who is not considerate of your feelings and seems driven by his own needs. There also appears to be an imbalance at play here where you tend to be giving more and doing more of “the work” in the relationship which will likely lead to burnout and resentment as time goes on due to the lack of reciprocation.
It appears that you are now at a crossroads where you must decide whether to stay in or leave your relationship in the wake of this discovery. What a horrible position to be put in!
The important thing is to breathe and make sure you make your decisions from your logical mind. I would encourage you to take out a piece of paper and make a cost/benefits analysis of your situation, detailing all the advantages and disadvantages of staying together versus terminating the relationship.
21st March 2015