Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You (March 2014)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

Do you know any signs that my partner is lying to me? I catch him lying all the time to others. Little things and holding back information. I feel as if I can trust him, but what if I am being lied to?

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: If you know somebody is taking advantage of you at work, what is the best approach to stand up for yourself?

ANSWER: The answer depends on whether this is a problem only at work or if you are taken advantage of in other relationships as well. In the first case, try to define the issue: for ex — you’re new to the job and the person with more knowledge is introducing a power play…. Or you are young and an older person is introducing an authority play. Speak to the co-worker directly — not about a “power play” but about clarifying the job. Something like “I want to be clear about whose job is what “ or “is this work to be shared in half?” You will have given notice of your observation without being rude or confrontational. But if you are also taken advantage of outside the workplace, the problem may lie with you and the solutions will come from learning the skills of assertiveness. There are scads of books on the subject; there are adult education courses; you could talk to friends about it.

QUESTION: My husband and I constantly argue over money. We are very good at budgeting and we have a fantastic savings. My husband seems to be able to go out to eat here and there, but when I grab a coffee or a shirt, I have to explain myself. I know he manages the money, but I contribute to our household, too. How can we move through this?

ANSWER: Constant arguing about a subject ($ in this case) that in reality is in fine order (“good at budgeting and fantastic savings”) is really arguing about something else. Is it about power? Has it become an assurance that the status quo will be maintained? i.e. If you didn’t argue one or the other would spend unreasonably? To address the issue have a discussion with your husband about changing how money is accounted for. Share with him that explaining yourself about minor purchases when both spouses did not agree to that is the role a parent takes with a teen. Talk about sharing the management of the money if you want to be more involved. For one spouse to have full control of any aspect of the partnership needs to be agreed to by both partners. Remember that when one spouse is not content with any marital matter, it’s time to find a new way of handling that matter.

QUESTION: At my current job, everybody complains about our boss. He doesn’t do anything, or at least in our eyes he seems to not do much. Is this something we have to suck up, or as a team, can we approach him or somebody else? HR?

ANSWER: If your boss is not answering to his boss (i.e. he’s not being responsible because he doesn’t have to be) there is indeed a problem in the workplace and HR is a good resource to pursue. Approaching as a group precludes any single person from being labeled a complainer. Next, avoid addressing your concern to be about the boss, if possible. Instead speak about the work itself, or about the workplace environment or about efficiency. Leave leeway for the possibility that the explanation is reasonable but is not known to you — perhaps the problem is the boss does do his job but doesn’t give feedback or in a new company structuring his/her responsibilities are not yet defined. Whatever the explanation is, HR should appreciate the heads up.

QUESTION: Do you have any resource suggestions that can help with depression?

ANSWER: Depression is common and its spectrum of severity is long.   There are scads of information about it.   Depending on the circumstances your first resource may be the internet for therapy online or the self-help section of a bookstore. If the situation indicates your first resource should be seeking help, talk to your primary care physician, call a counseling service, ask a hotline.

In a simplistic nutshell:   depression is either situational or genetic/physiological.   The first is caused by a series of stressful events in close succession or an accumulation of unresolved matters over time.   The second is part of one’s biological makeup and cannot be explained by current circumstances.

A layman’s definition and an easy way to think about the cause of a slump is:   depression is anger turned inward.     If your request for a resource is about current depression, your first resource should be in accord with the severity currently experienced.


HAVE A QUESTION FOR CATHY and would like to receive some therapy online? Please feel free to email with your question. It will be answered in the order it’s received. Please continue to check back for your question to be answered. Note: we do not use last names


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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