Category Archives: Crisis guide

Questioning Your Relationship? Red Flags

(Note: Published originally on by Noreen Wedman 2008, published now with updates)

Do you find yourself questioning your relationship? Counseling can help resolve relationship issues or help you sort out whether it is better for you to leave the relationship. Although the list is written using the word partner, many of the problems signal serious problems in any significant relationship.
1. There is a pattern of sexual, emotional, physical, or financial abuse. Any sexual or physical abuse in a relationship is a signal that counseling is urgently needed.
2. Your self-esteem has deteriorated as a result of being in this relationship.
3. Your relationship feels like a contest, battlefield, or some other interminable game.
4. Nothing you do seems to please your partner.
5. You don’t have fun together.
6. You don’t feel respected or don’t respect your partner.
7. Issues don’t get resolved in a way that brings you closer together.
8. S/he maintains that the problems in the relationship are mainly your fault, yet you are usually the one on the receiving end of the abuse or both of you are abusive.
9. Your partner refuses go to counseling or work on his/her issues.
10. You don’t enjoy talking with your partner.
11. Your children are traumatized by your relationship.
12. Infidelity is not a deathblow to a relationship, but it is important to resolve it. It may indicate some problem with the relationship, a sexual addiction, or a childhood trauma/abandonment issue.
13. Sexless relationship. Physical intimacy is important to a healthy partner relationship.
14. Major problems like addiction and personality disorders will destroy a relationship without major intervention. If you have spent years with a person who is chemically dependent or very difficult, and s/he still hasn’t changed, it may be time to consider how much more you are willing to invest.
15. Your child is being abused by your partner.
16. You fantasize about injuring or murdering your partner or wish your partner were dead. You fantasize about Divorce or your spouse threatens you with divorce (whether they seem serious or not).
17. Some life events often require counseling for successful negotiation of the life passage in a way that keeps the relationship intact. Examples include death of a child, serious illness, or loss of a job.Sometimes these issues get resolved. Sometimes, the issues become destroy the relationship. If your relationship has even one of the above issues, you have probably done some serious procrastination. It is time to resolve the issues or move on in as honorable a way as possible (or, in the case of leaving some abusers, with as little damage as possible).
You may wish to see an Individual Counselor to sort out if it is even safe for you to try couples counseling if there is significant abuse in the relationship. Either Individual or Couples Counseling can help you sort out whether the relationship is salvageable, although resolving Couples Issues best benefit by a combination of Couples and Individual Counseling. Resolving problems of interrelating requires couples counseling. Sometimes the problem is that one or both parties have a significant mental health issue, which requires Individual counseling to manage. Couples or Family counseling can help relatives manage and cope with the process of healing to increase the likelihood of success. If there is physical or sexual violence, or a pattern of emotional abuse in the relationship, it is safer and sometimes more effective for both parties to get Individual Counseling until a pattern of safety has been established in the relationship. One big cue that Individual Counseling is warranted is if you answer, “Yes,” to the question, “Are you afraid of your partner or spouse?”

Devastation at Newtown: Change Begins with Grieving

The loss of a young life is so devastating. We pour such work and love into parenting. Then, to have the gifts that that child held for the future vanish is heart wrenching. The only word I can think of to describe the death of a child by a senseless act of violence is “obscene” – something that should not be seen.

And yet it happened. It is in our awareness. While avoiding excessive trauma exposure regarding the murder of the children and adults at Newtown, it is also important to acknowledge the grief, pain & horror. It is a national tragedy that we live in a culture where we have both inadequate gun control & mental health care delivery that results in daily loss of life and frequent mass murders. As a culture, we have an opportunity to truly grieve the obscene loss of life at Newtown, & through grieving begin to transform. For, without doing the work of grieving the losses, without doing the work of resolving the trauma, Healing & Transformation cannot happen.

I am concerned that we are so focused on problem solving in response to the murder of the children that we don’t do the grieving. Resolutions to do something can trick the brain in thinking the problem is solved. The preoccupation with the horror can result in emotional numbing or be a distraction from deeper reflection. And the intent to change can serve the process of denial, averting attention from the distress caused by the losses. Focusing on resolution at the end of the grieving process is more likely to result in the kind of behaviors that result in real and lasting changes.

In other words, we may inadvertently undermine the intentions we have of effecting change. As difficult as it is to honestly acknowledge the pain, horror, anxiety, and sadness – without the awareness of the emotional distress, the psyche is not sufficiently informed to effect meaningful behavioral change. Without deep soul searching, this terrible event will fade into history with other terrible events, another media event until the next terrible, and often preventable, event happens. Moreover, we “forget” these events happen daily. The number of homicides in 2009 in the U.S. by firearms was 11,493. The number of suicides by firearms totaled 18,735. Countries with stricter gun laws have a fraction of the deaths by firearms. In half of all domestic violence cases, the abuser was depressed.

We can do better. And paradoxically, it starts with grieving.

Losing Your Cool with Your Teenager Too Often

This post is in response to Worthless Teenagers and the Parents Who Make Them

Parents who Emotionally Abuse to the extent described by the teenager in “Worthless” have severe psychological problems like personality disorders and/or chemical dependency. Sometimes the style of emotional abuse is more subtle, but every bit as relentless. Inside, many of these parents are terrified hurt children who cope with their own fears of powerlessness, helplessness, and lack of self-worth by projecting onto others and by trying to have control and power over others instead of themselves. They can’t parent effectively because they haven’t grown up yet themselves and haven’t taken responsibility for their own healing.

Instead of taking a position against abuse, like many survivors of childhood abuse do, some may have subconsciously aligned with their abuser. Most abusive people have their own histories of childhood abuse and/or abandonment. They often do not remember their own abuse due to the age at which they were abused and/or to the psychological phenomenon of dissociation, by which the brain blanks out upsetting memories.

In addition, the age at which they were abused affected the development of their brain. Due to new imaging technology, we now know that the brains of people with borderline personality disorder have different sized amygdalae, which probably contributes to intensity and frequency of triggering that they experience.

All of the above factors contribute to the development of personality disorders.

My heart really goes out to the teenagers like the one in “Worthless.” She is in the worst position because both parents are abusive. It is going to take a lot of effort for her to recover. Having one loving, relatively emotionally stable parent who is loving and supportive can counteract a lot of the damage done by the out-of-control abusing parent. This is also true for involved grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends. Even teachers can have a significant impact through words of encouragement and being supportive of a troubled teen’s talents.

ARE YOU A TEENAGER WITH A PARENT WHO YELLS AT YOU or CONSTANTLY PUTS YOU DOWN or CALLS YOU NAMES? It you are an adult or a teenager that has experienced this level of emotional violence, please know that it is not your fault. Also, please contact a counselor or other trustworthy adult. There are a number of books written on the subject of Verbal Abuse and Bullying. I have written a workbook on Healing from Verbal Abuse for Adults and older teens who have had Emotionally Abusive childhoods:

IF YOU ARE A PARENT who recognized your behavior, there is help available. While you may be overcome with feelings of shame or guilt or be tempted to deny your reality, DON’T. There are reasons for why you have these issues and there is help available. It will take a lot of courage and a good dose of humility.

 If you are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, seek treatment: SAMHSA; AA; NA, MA; or SOS. But don’t stop there. If you are emotionally abusive, get a good assessment. Then find a counselor who specializes in working with your issues.

If you have a personality disorder (which I prefer to conceptualize as complex PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) find a counselor who specializes in working with personality disorders. Sometimes there are other psychological issues involved like bipolar disorder or cognitive processing disorders. Sometimes a combination of Aspergers and narcissistic traits looks like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but isn’t and the therapy is different. Other resources include National Alliance on Mental Illness; Support for family members and partners of people with Borderline Personality Disorder; and NPD Family.

I know that it is scary to consider, but You and your family will all benefit if you seek help.

©Noreen Wedman 2011

Take Stalking Seriously

The shooting death of Jennifer Paulson, a 30 year old teacher of special education students, by a man who had stalked her for years was the first thing I heard when I turned the radio on the morning of Friday, February 26, 2010. I was concerned whether anyone I knew was close to her. I thought of the loss, shock and horror of her family, friends, and students. I wondered if the man had ever had a psychological evaluation or counseling. Continue reading

Surviving and even Thriving Through the Holidays

Happy Holidays!

I think it is possible to enjoy the holidays – One Day At A Time – or at least make them meaningful. Continue reading