Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You (March 2015)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a few years now. I’m in my thirties and ready for kids. We have had multiple conversations on getting married and he says yes, but now I am waiting for the ring.

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.

catherine-bridwellQUESTION: I find myself “nagging” my husband. I am 100% positive that I am always polite and say my “please can you do this”, “please can you help with more with this”, etc. He really tries, but is so distracted and doesn’t pay attention to the little things that he doesn’t stick to it and help me out. I know I can’t change him, but can we work on this or do I need to let go. Example: He is constantly leaving his clothes and shoes in the bathroom and I trip over them all the time. He never cleans the bathroom sink after himself and it’s always disgusting unless I stay on top of the cleaning.

Marriage is a working partnership that involves finding solutions to any concern that is bothersome to either partner. Since you are conscientiously polite and since your husband really tries but gets distracted, the next step could be a discussion about his distraction. The bottom line is: he is not motivated enough to tackle breaking an old habit (clothes on the floor/dirty sink). Ask what would help him remember to be more considerate about your shared space. A written reminder taped to the light switch or you saying some agreed upon code word (to which he should respond “thanks”). Do it light heartedly. It shouldn’t take long. Remember that any behavior that “disgusts” either partner merits finding a solution; otherwise potentially destructive resentment enters the relationship. You’re on the right track — talk about any subject that can benefit your marriage.

QUESTION: How can I approach my friend who is in an apparently unhealthy relationship? Or is it none of my business?

A quick way to learn if your perception of your friend’s relationship is your business is to ask yourself: “If the roles were reversed would you want him/her to share her/his thoughts”? If your answer is “yes” the next step is to say just that to you friend: “If our roles were reversed I would want . . . .” and ask if she is open to the same. A “no” or its equivalent (rejecting body language, sighing, no eye contact) means no further conversation about her relationship and your friendship remains solid. A “yes” but without sincerity could mean: proceed with caution and generalities at least initially: (“I wonder if you’re aware that . . . .” “It strikes me that . . . .”). A genuine :”yes” means proceed with due respect. The umbrella statement is that you care about your friend and you value her friendship.

QUESTION: My boss seems to never listen to my suggestions/facts/findings when it comes to our company’s marketing strategy. Then she’ll send me an email with an article suggesting I should read it. I’ll read it and find that it mentions exactly what I told her, but she didn’t say that. It’s as if she “found” the tip and wants me to be aware. How do I address this “I told you this already” in a professional manner?

It seems your boss has low self-esteem or a need to feel superior or powerful and therefore wants full credit for new information. (Knowledge is power to many people). Not a good management style if teamwork is a goal. She does have power by virtue of being the boss; your approach to establishing respect for your contributions requires tact. Something like “Yes, do you think this article expands on the information I gave you last week? Should we pursue it further?” You don’t want to offend but you do want to assert that you are on top in your work and are willing to field her information that may benefit her and the company. Plus you are indirectly saying you are not passive and will address inequities.

QUESTION: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a few years now. I’m in my thirties and ready for kids. We have had multiple conversations on getting married and he says yes, but now I am waiting for the ring. I’m so anxious and want this to happen, but what if another year goes by and it doesn’t? Do I continue to bring it up, and give him a deadline, or give myself a deadline and end the relationship if my “internal” deadline has not been met?

Your problem solving approach is excellent. A deadline of some sort is an answer in order to lower your anxiety about marriage and a family with your boyfriend. You could be the one to pop the question. If tradition reigns (the man is given the initial move), in fairness you need to share that your time line has a fairly close end. A timeframe mutually agreed to, could solve the issue. If your boyfriend cannot or will not be more concrete in a committing to a timeframe (assuming there is not a reasonable explanation) you learn more about the man you are ready to commit to as a life partner. You are ready. He says he is, too. Something (it needs a label) is in the way and you deserve to know what that is in order to make decisions about what can be the most important relationship in life. Or maybe just a simple nudge.

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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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