What is a Relationship?

Dear Friends,

Over the last few months, I’ve received a number of questions about relationships, all of which shared a common theme:  one person appears to be 100% invested, while the other is not.  I’ve heard from a number of women who are upset and confused, because while their partner is professing his love, he is also questioning the relationship.  I’ve heard, “he needs to treat me better” and “we love each other, but we’ve started to fight Continue reading

When a Relationship Begins with Lies

Dear Liz,

I recently (in the past month and a half) started a “relationship” with a boy older than me. We weren’t official, but we were intimate and he acted like he cared about me. Today I found out he had lied to me about so much. From having a girlfriend, kids, to his race. I told his girlfriend and she was so grateful for me being honest with her. I messaged him after to ask him some questions I had. He’s talking about how he feels about himself and I can’t help but care. Should I just drop him and run because of all the lies? Or should I try and be friends? It hurts me to not try and help someone who is in pain. Continue reading

A Compromising Photo, Betrayal, and Humiliation

Dear Liz,

A few months back a (male) friend obtained a compromising photo of me. He sent it to a friend because he was promised to be paid for it. He swore up and down that he deleted the picture and I would be given the money for it. I never expected to be paid for this, but he was a friend I trusted at the time and chose to believe the picture was deleted. Fast forward a few months. I’m at a party talking to a different friend who blurts out, “he didn’t delete the picture.” I learned he’d saved it and been showing people and bragging. When I confronted him he of course denied it. I told him how angry and embarrassed I was and have since cut off all ties to him.

My question for you is how do I cope with this embarrassing event? I realize there is not much to be done in terms of erasing all that has happened, but how can I get past it and trust people who claim to be friends? What can I do to heal the wounds this has given me? Continue reading

Boyfriend’s Past Trauma Hurting Current Relationship

Dear Liz,

I am at a crossroads because I am about to graduate, I have job interviews lined up, I have one more month living so close to all my best friends, and my boyfriend and I are super committed. Everything on that list is so exciting- except my boyfriend. I would say a vast majority of the time we’re together he is AMAZING. Friends and family adore him, he respects me and he’s sensitive toward my emotions. But, he has had awful trauma in his life that he has not sorted through. So this results in attachment issues and violence. He is hesitant to support anything that I plan for post-grad because he is scared I will move too far away from him, he’ll lose me, etc. It’s frustrating- but we have had very open communication about it and I do not see it as a deal breaker…on its own. As for violence, he is not violent toward me. However, when he gets near alcohol he becomes very aggressive toward other men- especially when he sees them as a threat to our relationship. This came to an “all time high” when I had to bail him out of jail for fighting recently. Violence is a HUGE deal breaker for me- we’ve talked about it, it continues. However, he was in a very dark place when he met me, and he has come out of it, but I feel if I leave him he will slip back to drinking, drug abuse, and failing school a month before grad. I am so conflicted. Help me? Continue reading

Afraid for Roommate who is Pregnant and Being Abused

Dear Liz,

My roommate is dating a guy my other roommate and I can’t stand. He’s rude, immature and treats her like crap! Not only that, he verbally abuses her, and she has told me that he has hit her before. When I asked her about it she pushed it aside and told me that it has only happened once while he was drunk. He’s high on numerous occasions when he sees her.  He is controlling and bosses her around; she does everything for him and he cannot seem to do anything on his own.  He’s 25 and acts like child. He is rude and degrading to both me and my other roommate. He has made sexual comments towards us and about us…in front of her! and she says nothing. She has had a hard year—her mother recently passed and she is dealing with the stress of school and graduating and above all, her boyfriend. I want to convince her into leaving him, but she does not see how bad he is for her like I do. She is now pregnant with his child and leaving him is not an option in her mind. I am scared he is going to hurt her or the baby as time goes on. What do I do? I want to help her, but if I say anything I risk our friendship—she’s stubborn and does not want to hear what I have to say. If I try to say anything she gets mad at me and ignores everything I try to tell her. Help Liz, I am scared for my best friend. Continue reading

My Friend Was Raped:  Should She Press Charges?

Dear Liz,

I’ve been friends with a girl for four or five years and we are very close. She’s the type who has always been a bit anxious and nervous, which leads to serious insecurity. Around senior year of high school we became distant and only this past year did we rekindle our friendship. This month I learned that she was ‘date raped’ in high school. She was at a party with a lot of people from our school, and she got so drunk that she blacked out. Someone said they saw this boy drag her up the stairs, because she couldn’t walk, and nobody stopped them, and he took her outside and had sex with her. The only reason my friend found out was because he took a video and posted it on his snapchat story. She has no recollection of this event. I don’t know how many people she told at this time. But now, probably about three years later, she is still coming to terms with it. This month she broke down crying to me, my roommate, and her sister about it. We were all furious at how something like this could have happened. She wonders if she should press charges, but worries that if she does she will have to see the video. I know that you have a background in law so I am wondering if you know anything about the statute of limitations with rape.  What do you think a young lady should do in this situation? Continue reading

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wallets: Why Patriarchy Relies on Taking From Both

In mid-December, a student wrote in seeking advice on how to convince her boyfriend that the wage gap and rape culture were real (How Do I Convince My Boyfriend that the Wage Gap and Rape Culture are Real?  December 2016). I passed along the challenge (re: the wage gap issue) to my students, and as expected, they did a wonderful job.  With their permission, I’ve taken from their responses and incorporated them within.  I have also contributed my own understanding of patriarchy and rape culture.  To all of my students who help me and their classmates learn each day, thank you, and well done! Continue reading

How Do I Convince My Boyfriend that the Wage Gap and Rape Culture are Real?

Dear Liz,

I was showing my boyfriend the article and essay I am writing for your Women and Gender Studies class. We got into an argument because he said that the wage gap between men and women isn’t real, and that rape culture doesn’t exist in the United States. How do I convince him he’s wrong? Thanks. Continue reading

This Holiday Season, Don’t Forget Your Inner Gingerbread Person

Our holiday celebrations form around stories that remind us of the invisible, the unexplainable, the liberating, the joyful, and the miraculous. Whether we realize it or not, our holiday stories are there to remind us of all that is within us, waiting to be touched, to be illuminated, and to be shared.  The oil that kept the lamp burning, the star that led to the humble manger, the baby who grew to be a man of wisdom and miracles…This holiday season, as the material world beckons your attention, Continue reading

Boyfriend Wants a Backwards Relationship…

Dear Liz,

One of my best friends is in a relationship that is not normal. The boyfriend does not want to talk through the troubles that both of them go through. He puts her down sometimes and ignores her when she brings up things that they need to talk together about. She has to do the driving all the time, plan all the dates, because the boy wants to have a “backwards relationship” and I want to help, it’s just I don’t really know how besides possibly giving some advice. Please let me know how I can help. Continue reading

Fear of Relapsing Into Isolation and Pain

Dear Liz,

Recently, I have been internally going in a downward spiral. I have been waiting for, and dreading this moment to come, as I have been in this state before. The world seems to keep turning while I am invisible and stationary– stuck in one moment in time. No one can see it because it doesn’t seem like I am in as bad of a place as I was, but what they can’t see is that I am. No one has ever been able to really see me. Even I have trouble seeing me. I’ll have to have a few more sit-downs with my gingerbread person before I’ll be able to see myself and the good that I carry. I’m not sure if there is a question to pull from this. Maybe since I am more aware of my symptoms I can ask, how do you stop a relapse from ruining a portion of life? How do I get myself up and going every day, if only mechanical body? At the end of the day, I am the only one who will have my back. I have no one to take the pain away or to walk and talk with me every day. The only person who can do that is myself. What are some ways to get to the point of holding enough self-love so that I am able to walk with myself every day? 

I realize there are no right or wrong answers to my questions. I know whatever you have to say will be helpful. Thank you, Liz. Continue reading

My Best Friend’s Boyfriend Treats Her Horribly…What Can I Do?

Dear Liz,

My best friend is dating a boy who doesn’t treat her right. He has cheated on her multiple times, and recently she even walked in on him cheating.  From the start, I have warned her multiple times that he is not a nice guy and that I do not like him and that he is not good for her. He’s also extremely mean to me and her other friends and has no respect for anyone.  He is always getting “belligerent drunk” and is very disrespectful and hurtful to many people. She continues to stay with him even when I am constantly warning her about him. She says ‘you just don’t know him like I do’ and she also says that the awful things a person does, does not define them. It is becoming an issue in our friendship in the way that I am the “bad guy” because I will not accept  him. What do you think I should do? What do you think she should do? Continue reading

Mental Illness and Medication: Will Drugs Change Who a Person Really Is?

Dearest Liz,

Being natural has been a priority in my life for quite some time. Call me an earthy, crunchy granola, hippy if you will. This sparks a question that runs through my mind now and then. I understand that medications for various mental illnesses replaces chemicals in which the brain lacks. However, does this change who a person truly is? I am currently studying psychology and can understand most of the science behind it, but there is something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s almost like a spiritual point of view. I hope this makes sense! Sincerely, Wanderer Continue reading

Finding the Courage to Say I Love You

Dear Liz,

For the past 5 or so years I have been on and off with this boy. We have never officially been boyfriend and girlfriend though. We would talk like we were, text constantly, and went on dates. The first time this ended he ended up dating someone else so I moved on. Once we were both single again, years later, we ended up right back where we were. That lasted for about 8 or 9 months. During that time period he went to school in another country for 6 months. When he came back things were great, we went on a date, and then after a month things slowly faded away. We didn’t talk like we used to, we were just friends. It has been at least 2 years since we were more than friends. Neither of us dated much. In the back of my head I always thought that the two of us would end up together. These feelings stopped me from being in a relationship with someone I really liked. Now he is in a serious relationship and I don’t know how to move on. For the past 5 years he has also been one of my best friends. Do I have to stop talking to him completely to move on? How can I start this process? Continue reading

Blending Families: Dating as a Single Parent

Dear Liz,

For several years I have been madly in love with a wonderful man. When I found him, I was a mess and needed to work on myself, which I did, wholeheartedly. (Antidepressants, therapy, and reading). He stuck by me, the whole time, offering support. I gained a lot of strength and confidence. He’s inspired me in lots of ways to be the best version of myself. We both have children from previous relationships. His children lead a different life then mine do. I won’t get into specifics, but basically, his children need his attention constantly in ways mine don’t need me. I think his commitment to his family is wonderful, and part of the reason I respect and admire him so much. But because he is so focused on them, he has little time for me. (At this time, the idea of blending our families has not come up in conversation). I’m at a point in my life where I don’t “need” anyone. But I do want him very much. I want him to be my life partner. He’s focused on other things though. How can I show him my love and support without sacrificing myself here? He was able to show me love and patience and kindness… I want to do the same….but I also don’t want to pine away for him while he tends to his family. Continue reading

Am I too Broken to be Fixed?

Dear Liz,

I am lost. I decided to start counseling because I was afraid I was getting depressed again. I was depressed back in high school and while my anxiety affects me every day, I thought that depression was in the past until about two months ago. I’ve only gone to two appointments so far. At the second one she asked me about my history of depression, and I told her about it and said that now I have little bouts, like 2 or 3 days a month. That day was a good one. Today is not. Do you think it’s possible to be depressed sometimes, or is it my own anxious self over thinking? And more importantly, how do I avoid letting these feelings affect my life too much? Tonight I have put off doing an assignment I know I can do well and even enjoy and even now at 3 am, I feel so distant from it while also feeling guilty for putting it off. I feel as though I am like a bent tool never to be fixed. I could work properly if someone took the time to straighten me out, but that’s too hard. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and think that this was melodramatic… In fact I feel melodramatic just rereading what I’ve wrote. Basically, I’d like your advice on how not to dwell on the bad times, and how to own up to the mistakes you make during them. I don’t want to let down my friends or teachers, but when I feel depressed, it is so hard to do anything.

Sincerely, Hopeful

Continue reading

When Your Partner Cheats

Dear Liz,

Hi, I’m 19. My first relationship lasted one year and he cheated on me every so often and I kept taking him back. We broke up and three years later I haven’t had a relationship since and I’m honestly not attracted to anyone anymore. I am, but I’m not if they actually want to date me. What’s the reasoning behind this? Continue reading

Privacy and Boundaries in Intimate Relationships

Dear Liz,

A couple of middle aged, two-time divorcees meet and start dating. First two months are great, third is trying, fourth and fifth nonexistent. He has a privacy issue, in that he doesn’t want people knowing our problems, so he has pulled away, but still continues to maintain daily contact—just no dates until he works his way through getting over my mistakes of confiding in other people. The last event that I spoke about us was two weeks ago, and he’s still mad because it came up at a family dinner. Tried breaking up and he keeps holding on. Is there any way to get him to move forward with me or move on without me? I’m not sure I can handle a breakup myself, but I am feeling resentful and angry. Continue reading

Getting Back With an Ex

Dear Liz,

I dated a boy in high school for 3 years, he studied abroad in Italy for 4 months, and we broke up while he was there. Our relationship wasn’t the best, but we were in love, and we both knew that for sure. It was a controlling relationship, on both ends. This past summer I began to date a new boy, it was very different -less controlling-but I still thought about my ex ALL THE TIME and because of this, I broke up with the new guy.  Why am I still thinking about my ex all the time? Does this mean I should try and pursue him again? I’ve always heard “if you can’t go a day without thinking about the person, it’s worth it”…. HELP!!!!!!   Continue reading

Coping With an Uncertain Future after College

Dear Liz,

I am really concerned with where I am going from here.  While I have a year left of undergrad, I don’t know what I want to do. I have thought about joining AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, but there’s something that tells me that no matter where I go, I will not be doing the right thing, which makes me feel so incredibly lost and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what path to pursue and I don’t know where to go.  Continue reading

Moving Beyond Loneliness and Despair: Death is not Real

Dear Liz,

Recently, I am struggling with the fact that I don’t feel as though I belong, not only among my peers, but in all aspects of my life. Along with this, I am afraid that I am battling severe depression, but I don’t know where in myself I can find the courage to get help. I have a hard time getting out of bed every morning, because I know that when I do, I am just going to be dealing with the same demons that create my life and make it hard for me to go to class, or to go home, or to work. I have no idea how to find what I need to feel better, because no matter what I do I am so unhappy. I want to go home and want to take a leave of absence from school, but I don’t want to be with my abusive mother and I don’t want to fall behind in school because I only have the next year to finish.  I use that goal to get myself through because for some reason when I think about finishing school, I think that all of these problems and feelings will go away. But at the end of the day, I’m up all night dreading all of these things. What do I do to make it through this?  Continue reading

A College Student Wonders Why His Suite-Mate Is Such a Jerk

A student came into my office to talk about life with a particular suite-mate in his dorm, someone he was not getting along with at all.  His question:  what makes someone an a–hole?  I told him I’d need a few details, a few examples, of this person’s “a–hole” like behavior, and he offered this for starters:  “I have a friend, a young woman, who is very overweight, and anytime she comes around, he makes whale noises, refers to her as a whale, etc.”  I stopped him right there, and suggested that “a–hole” was far too gracious a description—there are a–holes (they grab your parking space when you’ve been patiently waiting with your blinker on, they act rude to servers at dining establishments, they gossip behind your back…) and then there are cruel and abusive individuals who have deep and profound emotional/psychological challenges.  Continue reading

Desperate to Help Friend Being Abused By Boyfriend

 

One of my closest friends has been in an incredibly emotionally and mentally abusive relationship for over three years. This person essentially controls every single aspect of her life–from how she spends her time, to who her friends are, to the way in which she views her own self-worth.

It’s heartbreaking to see someone I care about go through this, and I feel as though our other friends and I have done everything we can to help her, but nothing is working. I know that the want to leave has to come from her, but my greatest fear at this point is that before she finds the strength to leave, they’ll move in together and eventually get married. I can see her hurting and suffering, but I just don’t know what to do. How can I help her???  Continue reading

What is a home and how do I find one?

Dear Liz,

They say home is where the heart is. But I don’t know where my heart is…

My life has been one of inconsistency. I am 21 years old and already I have lived in 15 different “homes” (houses). That number doesn’t include the two separate places where both of my parents currently reside while I attend school (also not counted) on the opposite side of the country. I see them for a few weeks every 6 months, the case for the last 3 years. If I define a place I’ve lived as a place where I have a permanent bed I can call my own, the number is nearly 20. Almost one for every year that I have walked this earth. This doesn’t bother me, except the inconvenience of travel (I’ve had to drive cross-country about 4 times now, once by myself which was fun). I like to be independent.  Soon I will be faced with a strange predicament where I could choose Oregon, Nevada or New Hampshire as my state of residence. This is not where my struggle lies, though.

Small talk with peers always includes my least favorite question: So where are you from? Sometimes I say California, sometimes New Hampshire, other times I just say it’s complicated and that I’m from nowhere and everywhere. I have discovered a very interesting form of homelessness. While I am not living on the streets, I feel as though I have no real home. There is Continue reading

Sexual Abuse

Dear Readers:  The person who submitted this question is a young woman—as such, I’ve decided to engage the topic of sexual abuse as it pertains to girls/women.  I am very aware that boys/young men are also victims, and I in no way intend to marginalize their experience by speaking solely about girls/women—I am simply tailoring my response to the circumstances presented to me by this questioner.  

Dear Liz,

I had a horrible relationship with my mother in high school because she was dealing with her newly diagnosed bi-polar disorder.  We would always clash because I didn’t know what she was going through, but now I fear I am turning into her. I see myself lashing out sometimes and getting upset over things that seem to have no substance, and when I do calm down I realize that I shouldn’t have gotten angry. Most of the time I take it out on my boyfriend, and that’s what I fear the most.  I don’t want to upset him over tiny fights and push him away. It’s like I have in my head this “self-fulfilling prophecy” that of course I’m going to turn into my mother—I feel like I’m making that fear come true.  My boyfriend is very supportive of me trying to deal with this situation. He never gets mad at me in return—when I am angry he tries to solve where it is coming from and why.  My worst fear is pushing him away while trying to figure this out. 

I don’t know if this aggression I have is stemming from me thinking I am turning into my mother, or from the sexual abuse I suffered in high school from my first boyfriend at the age of 14. My boyfriend would hit me, cheat on me, and sexually assault me—this was all very frequent for 9 months.  I was so young and sensitive and he was 17 and I didn’t know what to do, so I put up with it.  When I’d tell him I wanted to end it, he would threaten to kill himself.  He finally hit me in public once, and my best friend and her boyfriend saw, which gave me a way out because he got scared that I wasn’t the only one to know anymore. 

While all this was going on with my boyfriend, my mother was dealing with her anger over being raped by her cousin.  When she returned home for a wedding, she saw him and he hugged her as if nothing happened.  It brought up so many emotions for her and she ended up taking it out on me—she would lash out and hit me—it got so bad that my dad and I had to move out for a few months.  I went to a therapist for a while and I thought I had dealt with my pain, but with all these emotions now I’m not sure what to think. I get so angry at little things, like my personal short comings and when things don’t go as planned—it’s starting to affect my life.  I just want to get my anger or whatever seems to be happening to me under control before I turn into my ex or my mom.  I’m lashing out like I did before I went to my counselor in high school.  I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t know if you have any insight for me, but I’ll wait to hear back.         Continue reading