Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You (March 2013)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

WOW – you’re the mom of four and you teach part-time. You could add six hours to every twenty-four and still not have enough time. Stay alert to the fact that just because you think of yourself as lucky doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Being lucky is a fact – so is being overwhelmed.

Therapy Online: Getting through just one day stress-free is a rare occasion for many. However, by understanding those around you, in the home, the workplace, or even a personal relationship, you can overcome part of what causes that stress in the first place. Catherine Bridwell answers your questions about everyday problems that can easily be solved through communication and the help of Identity, of course.

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QUESTION: I’m constantly stressed and feel overwhelmed.   I teach part time and have four kids.   I know I am lucky to be a teacher half day and all, but still I’m overwhelmed.   I’m fighting for happiness and not sure what steps to take.   I feel like I am not enjoying my life.

ANSWER:   WOW — you’re the mom of four and you teach part-time.   You could add six hours to every twenty-four and still not have enough time.   Stay alert to the fact that just because you think of yourself as lucky doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed.   Being lucky is a fact — so is being overwhelmed.

Take stock of your daily routines with an eye toward efficiency and necessity; then streamline wherever possible.   Any task that can be delegated should be.   Any task that doesn’t have to be done can be back burnered.   Maybe each kid could pitch in at her ability level (a three year old can set the table — not perfectly but applaudably/   older kids can make their beds if that task is a necessity for you/   husbands can do dishes and grocery store runs).   Eat healthy but treat yourself when the budget allows to the shortcuts (many grocery stores now have stations for hot entrees, salads, soups).     Carpool, cook double the amount and serve it twice, make house cleaning a family event, accept all offers of help…. Call a family meeting and have everyone give ideas about who could do what to help mom who is earning money for the family rather than doing all the tasks herself.

Sometimes the challenge is looking at how your circumstances differ from your role models’ and changing the priorities.   Just as important as squeezing out more time for all the necessary tasks is carving some time for yourself (twenty minutes with a good book, a hot bath, date nights).   Remember too that parenting four kids is one phase of a long life:   for now enjoying your family life heads the list of priorities.   Do fun activities — laughing is great medicine.

QUESTION: I realize that as time goes by my friend and I are outgrowing each other.   I believe she’d do anything for me, but she is very selfish and constantly talking about herself and her money.   We don’t live near each other so it makes it easy to keep my distance.   I find myself irritated every time I talk to her.   What can I do?

ANSWER:   Begin by deciding what the value of the relationship is to you and whether you want to keep it in tact for the future or have you become different enough that you prefer the relationship to fade into the past.   If it’s worth salvaging, the irritation you experience needs to be addressed.   Tell your friend that you’re often concerned about the friendship (not “irritated” or “offended”) after a talk with her.   That could open the door for her to ask for more information and then participate in a conversation.   If she doesn’t ask what you mean by “concerned” she probably is already aware that she offends people but she’s not interested in changing.

The old adage about burn-no-bridges needs heeding here: if the relationship is to be concluded let it become more and more distanced rather than making a pronouncement about ending.   That way you can always be cordial if you meet by happenstance.

Along the way, self check too — be sure you’re listening role is not being misinterpreted as interest.   People who wax on about themselves are usually tuned in to who will tolerate it and who won’t.

QUESTION: I’ve been dating a guy for about 6 months and I still don’t know where we stand.   I invited him to a wedding and he asked if my parents were going to be there and I said yes.   He asked, “what are you going to tell them?”   I want him to just tell me what we are.   We are both in our 30’s so we are grown adults.   Not sure how to approach this?

ANSWER:   Are you needing a definition of your relationship:   boyfriend, significant other……?   This is an opportunity to have a discussion with your guy about the relationship’s status.   It sounds like you have taken a passive role waiting for him to announce the label.   A healthy significant relationship is a partnership in which both people share thoughts and arrive at mutual decisions.   How about using the upcoming wedding as a springboard for the discussion the outcome of which you are already eager to learn?


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About the author

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Catherine Bridwell

Catherine D. Bridwell is in private practice in Morristown, NJ. She is a psychotherapist and counselor to families, couples, and individuals. She is a Certified Divorce Mediator and a Parenting Coordinator for divorced couples. In addition she lectures and has authored workshop presentations on family related and emotion management topics.


Feel free to e-mail Catherine at

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