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Look Out for Yourself

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Redefine Relationships, Rediscover Yourself

As a trusted therapist in Washington, D.C., Evans Counseling & Consultation, PLLC writes blog posts about anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, and other related topics to expand your knowledge regarding mental health. Learn how therapy sessions can help you overcome struggles by reading my entries below.

How would you define your relationship? (Updated December 2020)

Janis Leslie Evans: Posted on Saturday, July 11, 2015 11:20 PM

When do we use the terms "boyfriend and/or girlfriend?" What do they mean anyway? How long do we date before we call what we're doing a relationship? It's difficult to know when we've reached the next level of a dating courtship when the terms we use to define it are not clear. Different terms mean different things to each person in a dating situation. The way we use dating terms changes with each generation and within different cultures and subcultures in our society.

Defining a relationship in terms of how many months have passed might not fall within the same parameters for each person. Defining a relationship based on duration or the number of dates can sometimes create anxiety due to fears having to commit to or uphold certain expectations of a chosen partner. 

Questions daters may ask themselves include:

  • So does this mean we're exclusive?
  • Can I no longer date other people?
  • Does texting count as a relationship?
  • Is he/she expecting me to sleep with them?
  • When do we shut down our dating sites and apps?
  • How many virtual dates are enough before we meet in person?
  • Now that we're having sex, does this mean we're committed?
  • Is it time to consider a long term commitment?

These questions loom in the minds of those who are currently dating and those who want to date. How do we address these concerns without raising our anxieties? The answer is we have to know what it is we want at a particular time in our lives. Ask yourself, "what am I looking for" and "what do I want."

No matter how much information is placed in the online dating profile, conversations about what you want in a relationship must happen in order to clarify expectations. Communication is key, upfront, face-to-face (but socially distant), and personal. Don't be afraid to ask enough questions and share enough about yourself to determine whether you and your potential partner are on the same page. Defining your expectations of a dating relationship, a committed relationship, or casual relationship will make it a lot easier to know early on what being in a relationship means to you, by your definition. Once you've made the decision to be in a serious relationship or are currently committed, consider this article to refresh your communication skills. Use it as a guide for asking the right questions.

Breaking Up is Hard (Updated December 2020)

Janis Evans: Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 10:24 AM

Breaking up is a hard and very painful event to go through. The following poem speaks to the emotional impact on the body and soul.

Anticipated Break-up by Janis Leslie 1989

I’m haunted by uncertainty,

feeling empty as a hollow shell.

Except for the pit in my stomach,

filled with mixed emotions on the verge of explosion . . . in the form of tears.

Severance grips my soul, cut off from the one I love.

Nervous energy permeates my body,

To the point of uncontrollable trembling, as I lay awake at night.

A tug of war inhabits my frame, concentrated in my heart that bleeds sorrow.

The constant push and pull tires me.

My spirit and gleeful nature are drained, supplying that energy to my pain.

Our unknown, yet anticipated fate,

Ignites spells of turmoil that come and go, proving to be more painful than the loss of love itself.

Confusion rules at this time.

The poem focuses on the many emotions that ending a relationship can elicit, including the feeling of falling apart. Relationships that are based on intensity, deep connections, and emotional dependency are often the most difficult to end. Long-term unions, shared children, property, financial investments, and family ties can complicate the situation even more. The term "traumatic bonding" is sometimes at the core of an unhealthy relationship that causes one or both involved to question whether it's time to end it. A traumatic bond in human relationships includes an imbalanced mixed of the good and bad aspects of relating. For example, intense love and quality time spent together as a couple having a great night out can end with a huge conflict that escalates into an ugly verbal altercation, leaving one or both feeling abused. This dynamic creates a cycle of good times and bad times causing confusion as the traumatic bond strengthens. And thus, the painful difficulty in making a decision about how unhealthy it really is ensues, as depicted in the poem. It's important to step back far enough to get a new perspective on what's going on and whether or not it's time to stay or go. Getting a new perspective may mean:

  • identifying what may be unhealthy for you and your partner.
  • listening to family and friends who care about you.
  • learning about the dynamics of your relationship through self-help resources.
  • seeing clearly with a neutral perspective to help you facilitate the best decision for you.

Poetry can magically and unexpectedly put into words what you've been feeling and needing to say, but couldn't. If you are in the midst of or have not yet healed from a break-up, you are encouraged to read "Anticipated Break-Up" again. Meditate on it and explore what it means to you. For more on this topic, visit: When Trust is Broken  When Marriages End  When It Can Be Saved

Is Counseling For You? (Updated December 2020)

Janis Leslie Evans: Posted on Monday, June 4, 2012 12:43 PM

Counseling is an option for individuals and couples who may benefit from assistance with exploring personal difficulties that consistently interfere with problem-solving, decision-making, and relating. These difficulties are often a result of:

  • unresolved issues from past events;
  • previous hurtful or abusive experiences creating resentments;
  • and wounds that have not yet healed or haven't been addressed.

A supportive and neutral environment may be just what the doctor ordered to give you a comfortable place to address these issues in an atmosphere free of judgement and bias. Counseling and therapy are often looked upon with mystery and apprehension accompanied by fears of being analyzed, labeled, harshly confronted, shamed, and exposed. These stereotypes of the counseling process may be preventing you from getting the assistance from which you can benefit that could indeed change your life for the better.

Counseling can be a rewarding opportunity for you to engage in self-discovery and personal growth. The therapeutic alliance established over time and the guidance offered by a counselor can result in:

  • increased self-introspection;
  • improved self-image;
  • increased confidence;
  • enhanced relationships;
  • and overall better functioning.

Sometimes it can help to have a neutral person look into your world of emotions and behaviors and see the things you cannot see yourself. Through counseling, you are presented with a clearer picture and more accurate perceptions of yourself and your situation. A counselor can help you explore other approaches to handling what you have been unable to address alone.  You will learn techniques and new frames of reference that may help you work through life's challenges better in the future.

So, what do you think? Is counseling for you? Let me know. Check out this poem that addresses counseling anxieties

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