Q: I’m a 37-year-old woman who still doesn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. I don’t feel grown-up yet, and I keep wondering when it will happen. I think being single doesn’t help. But I feel like I treat myself like a child, always listening to other people’s rules and worrying about what other people think. I’ve never done anything bold without caring about appearances. It makes me feel so phony.
You recognize that you feel this way and that there could be a better way to live. That’s a grown-up start!
Having flashes of what you’re describing is not uncommon. (I still have trouble believing anyone granted me a mortgage.) But it seems to permeate your life. I think you could benefit from therapy. I know, I know, everyone assumes I push that on days I can’t come up with better advice. But you’ve got some insight, and what you need is someone to help you understand why you are this way and hold you accountable to make some changes. A good therapist can put you on a path toward overcoming these feelings and help you learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Divorcing from emotion
Q: My husband’s parents are getting a divorce after 40 years of marriage. Everyone is sad about it, including me. I think my husband is taking it really, really hard, but he refuses to talk much about it. He’s just much more stressed and irritable and cynical. I tell him I’m here to listen, and he just says that they’re adults and can do what they want. How can I get him to open up?
You can’t truly force him to open up – says the woman whose job would be oh-so-much easier if you could. And what he says is true: They have the right to do what they want.
But it sounds like he’s conflating feeling sad about his parents’ divorce with being angry at them for doing something wrong. Lots of people make this mistake and don’t allow themselves to have negative feelings if there isn’t someone they can blame. Pain can exist without blame, just as someone stepping on your toe by accident can still make you scream like a banshee.
You need to make it clear that you’re not asking him to be angry at his parents but that you notice his mood has been off lately and you want to help him feel better.
Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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