How Perfectionism Hurts Your Relationships

mom on phone and computer with baby

Often, people think of perfectionism as positive. After all, who doesn’t want to be perfect? Perfection isn’t attainable, though. The search for it can ruin relationships and contribute to extreme levels of anxiety and rigidity. Let’s examine an example of how perfectionism can sabotage an intimate relationship for a mother of two.

Anna (not her real name, a composite based off of several clients I have had in my practice) is a 35-year-old mom of two kids, ages three and five. She has always been a high achiever and currently is a high-performing real estate agent as well as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, homeowner, and pet owner. Anna has prided herself on her appearance, and she likes to keep her house tidy and neat. She also wants to be perceived as thin and fit, which she insists helps her make sales on the job. Continue reading How Perfectionism Hurts Your Relationships

How to Manage Social Anxiety When Meeting Your SO’s Friends

man with girlfriend her friends in living room

My first experience meeting a significant other’s close friends was like being thrown into the lion’s den. I’m from a small rural town and had recently moved to a city. The group I was diving into was a suburban clique that had known each other since childhood.

I was in an unfamiliar place. People asked me lots of questions. I drank to relax. Long story short, it was awful.

Just getting out and dating with social anxiety comes with its own set of pitfalls and requires both courage and commitment. Now that you’ve jumped that hurdle, getting serious means meeting friends and family. This step of relationship growth can be a big social anxiety trigger.

Over the years, I searched for ways to make the best of meeting my partner’s friends, much to the benefit of the authors of the books I bought and therapist I paid. The following tips are what I learned and will help you have the best experience possible when meeting your significant other’s close friends or family. Before we dive in, my tips assume your partner knows about your social anxiety, your symptoms, and is committed to supporting you. If that’s not the case, that should be your first step. Continue reading How to Manage Social Anxiety When Meeting Your SO’s Friends

Ask Anna: How Can I Pry My Husband Away from Social Media?

husband at table looking at smartphone ignoring wife

Talkspace is pleased to continue Ask Anna, a Question & Answer column featuring Anna Akbari, sociologist and author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness.” Send your mental health questions for Anna to [email protected].

Dear Anna,

Before I start, I’d like to share that overall I am happy with my life. I love my husband and our two beautiful children. We have a wonderful life together, which makes this all the more confusing and difficult.

I feel like my marriage is strong for the most part. We love each other very much and respect one another. But there is a small problem (or at least what I perceive to be a problem). My husband spends most of his time on his phone. He’s constantly flipping through social media. I know he’s not doing anything wrong or dishonest on it; he will often sit right next to me and show me what he’s doing and who he’s speaking with! Continue reading Ask Anna: How Can I Pry My Husband Away from Social Media?

What Is Gaslighting?

man holding gaslight dark background

The details are still a little hazy. A girl was staying at my apartment for two weeks. I had initially met her online, and we talked everyday for months before I agreed to let her stay with me while she was visiting my city. I volunteered to be her tour guide. This turned out to be a mistake.

The visit got off to a rocky start when she constantly told me I was too quiet and I needed to talk more. She started blaming me for other things too. Her allergy to my cats. That she couldn’t find the apartment keys I had left with her. That I wasn’t taking her to see enough of the sites. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think all of this was my fault, but I kept apologizing and trying my hardest to accommodate anyway. I wanted her to like me.

Waking up one day, I’d definitely had too much to drink the night before. But not so much I couldn’t remember what happened. Right? This is when the girl told me I had supposedly locked her in the bathroom the night before, not letting her out and terrorizing her. What? Continue reading What Is Gaslighting?

Are You in a Codependent Relationship?

couple man giving sick woman pill glass of water

There is a phenomenon therapists often see in couples counseling when one partner gets “better” in some way, but then, paradoxically, the relationship actually deteriorates rather than improving. This can happen when a partner recovers from depression or learns to manage their anxiety more effectively.
Often when there is one partner with obvious “issues” such as addiction, the other partner falls into an enabler role, and a codependent relationship can result. When one partner is no longer struggling with this issue, the relationship structure must change entirely. Sometimes, the relationship does not survive this shift.

Some couples, however, are able to navigate this change and develop a healthier and more interdependent — rather than codependent — relationship.

In my practice I find it useful to recommend books and movies to help clients learn more about relationship dynamics and psychological issues. To understand the dynamics of codependency and how relationships change when one partner is in recovery, my favorite movie to recommend to clients is When a Man Loves a Woman with Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia.

Note: This post will contain movie spoilers. You can also choose to watch the film first and then return to this article. Continue reading Are You in a Codependent Relationship?

7 Signs Your Partner Is A Narcissist

woman with narcissist man partner smug expression

Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, has hit the mainstream. Although narcissism was always prevalent in about the same percentages of the population, the disorder is more widely discussed now than ever before. Because of the prevalence of discussions about narcissism in the political sphere — and its appearance in books and articles shared on social media — many clients wonder if their partner meets a criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Nobody can be diagnosed without being evaluated by a licensed therapist, but there are some clues in your everyday life that your partner may, in fact, be a narcissist. I will use the male pronoun here, but narcissists can be any gender. Continue reading 7 Signs Your Partner Is A Narcissist

How To Get Over A Breakup

woman crying in bed arms folded smartphone

Breakups suck, whether you’re the one who’s dumped or the one doing the dumping. When overcome with such intense emotions, it can be difficult to keep your mental health in check and figure out how to get over a breakup. Already plagued with depression, breakups are particularly difficult for me, often leaving me bedridden and writing bad poetry.

My first serious boyfriend made my biggest fear come true when he broke up with me because he could no longer handle my mood swings and depressive episodes that were “bringing him down.” I thought he was the man I’d marry…and then that was shattered. My next boyfriend broke up with me for strange reasons I can’t begin to get into, and then drove across the country to move to California. This split left me unable to be awake for more than a couple hours at once, let alone eat.

I’ve experienced some pretty serious heartbreak that really messed with my mental health, but I at least learned how to get over a breakup. Here are my pointers to stay well during a turbulent time. Continue reading How To Get Over A Breakup

Ask Anna: Should I Ditch My Disappearing Husband?

woman up in bed with husband sleeping

Talkspace is pleased to introduce Ask Anna, a new Question & Answer column featuring Anna Akbari, sociologist and author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness.” Send your mental health questions for Anna to [email protected].

Hi Anna,

I’m not sure how this is going to work or if you are legit or not.

I would like to start off by saying that I have always been ambitious, always looking to conquer the world. However, I haven’t finished college yet due to some body and health issues. As of now, I’m not working because I recently gave birth to my son. But let’s get to the point.

My husband works overnight at a parking lot Tuesday through Sunday. He has his days off on Mondays and every Monday he goes out without telling me where he is and gets home the next day. He has been doing this ever since the baby was born seven months ago.

He claims that he isn’t doing anything wrong, but that’s just it. I feel strongly that not being home at night and coming home still drunk the next day is definitely not right. I don’t know what to do any more. I just want to end the marriage because of how unimportant and neglected I feel. Continue reading Ask Anna: Should I Ditch My Disappearing Husband?

How Divorce Impacts Men’s Mental Health

sad wedding cake toppers

Men are statistically less likely than women to seek help for mental health. To celebrate Men’s Health Week, we highlighted issues specifically related to men and their mental health.  

When Zak married his ex-wife, he wasn’t sure they were compatible. At the time it didn’t deter him, however. He was in love, and that seemed like enough.

“I think that’s normal,” Zak said.

Rather than spending time as a married couple without children, Zak and his wife started a family immediately after the honeymoon. After their first child was born, and somewhere between multiple moves, career shifts, and learning to be parents, their relationship became strained.

The changes were stressful, Zak said, and they exposed a preexisting lack of communication.

“We didn’t proactively do any work on the marriage,” Zak admitted. “Nobody said, ‘Hey, we need to go to therapy’ or ‘We need to work on this.’” Continue reading How Divorce Impacts Men’s Mental Health

How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

gay man in corner abused

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m lying awake listening to the sound of my boyfriend’s light snoring. The box fan is humming softly in the corner. Cool night air blows through the window.

Although I’m happy, I’m also torn. In the dark I debate whether the fan is making enough noise to keep him asleep if I get up to go put away the clean dishes. Half of me is kicking myself for forgetting to do so. The other half is wondering if it’s a good opportunity to also clean the bathroom overnight as a surprise.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have found a good guy. I wonder whether this is business as usual for domestic violence survivors everywhere. I tell myself I’m most likely not as alone and abnormal as I feel. I force myself to fall asleep.

This all sounds weird, but these little debates play out in my head all day, every day. When I shop, I try to find little gifts for him to keep him happy, like a new pair of shoes. Every time I make it home before he does, I try to use those spare moments to clean something. Getting into his car also means clearing out a few bits of trash as I exit. I always make sure he has everything he needs before he leaves for work and his alarm is set before we go to bed.

Sometimes scars make you sweet. Continue reading How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist