Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016 at 7:41 pm.
It is challenging to create and maintain a home environment that you enjoy and that really works for your style of living. It sounds like you are taking this opportunity to make a fresh start and create the home you really want to have. Moving in with your boyfriend is a great motivator, but it also means more “stuff” and more mess and dirt to manage. Be careful that you are not setting yourself up for failure by expecting perfection when you are actually moving into a more challenging situation.
I’m really not certain what role your “clean but cluttered” childhood home life may have had on your tendencies to be messy and disorganized in your own environment. It’s amazing to see how children from the same home can emerge with utterly different levels of interest in keeping a clean and orderly house. One may be messy and not care at all, another may be disorganized but wish it were different, and yet another might be a “neat freak”, obsessive about housecleaning and having things in their proper place at all times.
It’s really more important to find your own level of housecleaning comfort than it is to analyze why you have been disorganized and messy. There is no need to feel discouraged or self-critical about your past or overly demanding of yourself about your future housekeeping. As I’m sure you know, some of it also depends on your boyfriend and how messy or neat he tends to be, as well as how you distribute the homemaking duties. Do you both see it as mainly your responsibility to keep up the house or do you both expect to pull your weight in the housecleaning-laundry-dishes-lawn-care departments? It would be great if he values a relatively clean and tidy home as well. Otherwise this issue can become a big source of conflict for the two of you.
The task of creating the perfect home is not only daunting—it is impossible. You do not need to attain perfect housekeeping to have a wonderful home. Improving your living style by several degrees of orderliness will probably add a great deal to your contentment and your enjoyment of your house. If you have your boyfriend’s support and willingness to work with you in creating and maintaining the environment you both want, it may even bring you closer together.
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016 at 7:40 pm.
Growing up I lived in a fairly clean but very cluttered home. All my living spaces since the age of 20 have felt unorganized, not laid out the way they should have been or the way I wanted. Now, I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend after living with my parents for the past few years. It is important to me to make the space organized, functional, clean and comfortable — in a word, perfect. But the task feels daunting. I’m afraid I will ruin whatever I create or that it will never meet my standards. Why is this so stressful and why is homemaking (at least for me) so fraught with emotion?
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016 at 7:38 pm.
This is an excellent question. We do live in an incredibly weight and appearance-conscious society and this is especially true for girls and women. Unfortunately, psychological and sociological research also indicates that girls and women who are more attractive and conform more closely to the beauty ideals of the culture tend to get more social and interpersonal positive attention. Nonetheless, it is crucial to realize that girls and women come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes and there are many, many types of beauty.
It sounds like you are most concerned with encouraging fitness, healthy eating and having your daughters maintain healthy weights and lifestyles. The most helpful approach is to encourage and model healthy eating and demonstrate your family’s values in your everyday choices.
For example, families that spend weekend time together riding their bicycles on the wonderful hike and bike trails in this area, or spending time outdoors at one of the many open spaces or state and county parks in the area are more likely to continue these activities into adulthood. When your daughters observe you taking care of your health, whether through walking, working out, taking yoga classes, or even stretching at home in front of the TV, they take in more valuable information than words can possibly convey.
In general, it is best not to put the emphasis on weight per se. It is important not to be rigid about setting goals for girls to achieve a specific weight number, and to discourage them from thinking in these terms as well. It is more helpful to encourage girls to eat a variety of foods, (including lots of healthy food choices!) and engage in activities they truly enjoy. A mixture of healthy and indulgent foods is the norm for most girls and boys in our culture. Deprivation of all treats is not an effective method of influencing your child, unless their personal style is to avoid these kinds of foods anyway. Some kids are naturally drawn to being healthy eaters or honestly don’t care that much for fat, sugary and salty foods. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true!
Participation in team and individual sports at school can also boost your girls’ self-esteem. Be conscious not to put too much emphasis on the competition and winning aspects. Learning to compete is important, but it is more important to achieve one’s personal best and enjoy the activity.
Be careful never to make disparaging comments about your daughters’ weight. These critical messages become deeply internalized and are very hard to overcome, even years later. Also, do your best to avoid comparing one daughter’s weight to another daughter’s weight and be aware not to give preference or more compliments to the daughter who is more conventionally attractive than the others. Society and school peers will do enough to push these messages onto your daughters; it is important that home be a safe and loving place for them to be themselves.
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2016 at 7:35 pm.
I’m a mother of three girls, and I want to know how to talk to my girls about eating healthy and keeping fit but without putting pressure on them to be thin or make them worry about their weight. What is the best way to approach this?
Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 4:37 pm.
There are a number of people that struggle with this exact issue. It is not only a matter of self-esteem, it is clearly also a matter of “body esteem”. Most women and quite a few men struggle with issues of body dissatisfaction and insecurity about their attractiveness and desirability. When this takes an extreme form it is called “Body Dysmorphia”.
Body Dysmorphia is characterized by an extreme dislike or unhappiness with your own body and distortions in body image; for example, thinking your hips, belly or other body parts are bigger than they actually are or exaggerating your less attractive qualities in your mind to an irrational degree. Sometimes personal body shame or dissatisfaction can lead to or increase eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating, which create their own problems. Frequently, these feeling affect sexual interest and feelings of sexual desirability.
There is a wide continuum between normal body concerns and body dysmorphia, but regardless of the degree of personal unhappiness, it can be lessened so that it does not interfere with your intimate relationship with your partner.
There are several resources for improving body esteem, such as books addressing improving body image and body esteem, body esteem groups and workshops. If the primary issue is a discomfort with sex, there are also resources for improving your sexual self-esteem. I highly recommend accessing some of these resources and if they don’t provide enough support, you might look into groups or individual counseling to deal with these issues.
Perhaps it would be helpful to share your concern openly with your partner and see if he or she can help by sharing the ways they find you physically and sexually desirable. It is also helpful for your partner to talk about non-physical traits that relate to your sexual expression, such as your passion, your sensitivity to their needs, or the quality of your touch. Ultimately, though, these are things you also need to believe about yourself. Look into the resources available to help you feel better about your body and what you have to offer as a person and your intimate relationship with your partner can come back to life.
Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 4:34 pm.
Dr. Beth, is there any way to keep my self esteem from sabotaging my relationship? I work very hard to stay in shape and look good, but sometimes I still have a low opinion of my body — and when I don’t feel good about myself, I don’t feel like being intimate with my partner. It’s to the point where physical intimacy is almost completely absent from my relationship for extended periods of time. Is there anything I can do to fix this?
Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 4:31 pm.
It sounds like you are genuinely concerned about the quality of your dating life and whether never being single for very long might mean that you have a personal problem. There are two key things you mentioned that indicate this may be a problem. First, you are wondering if it is healthy to go from being a “couple” to being another “couple” so quickly and so often. Second, you realize that you are sometimes dating people that you don’t even like very much.
Common sense suggests that the whole point of dating is to get to know people you are very interested in, people that you like and to whom you feel attracted. When you find yourself dating just to date or being in a relationship just to be in a relationship, the pleasurable purpose of dating and relationships are basically lost.
In my experience as a therapist, I have found a few common themes in the motivations and psychology of people (women or men) who engage in this pattern. Quite often, this pattern reflects an underlying fear of being alone, a fear of feeling lonely, or not knowing what to do with oneself as a single person. Being liked and being in a relationship is a part of the basis for most people’s self-esteem, but healthy individuals also derive self-esteem from other sources as well. Self-esteem may also come from their own accomplishments, their friends, and their activities and interests apart from a relationship. Deriving all of your self-worth from being part of a couple is based in fear and perhaps not knowing yourself as a person apart from being someone’s girlfriend or significant other.
Another pattern I have noticed is dependency and a lack of confidence in being an independent person. Feeling independent comes fairly naturally to some women, but for many it is an acquired skill. Spending time with women friends that seem to have this quality of independence can help you observe and practice the ways they successfully create an independent self in the world.
Finally, it sounds like your choices have a compulsive quality and that they are often driven by the needs and designs of the person you are dating. If you suddenly find yourself in an unwanted couple relationship, it means you are not steering the relation-“ship”. If you feel that some of these issues apply to you, it would probably be helpful to seek a therapist that can help you sort these things out and develop new more satisfying patterns of dealing with relationships.
Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 4:29 pm.
Hi Dr. Beth, I am a woman in my late 20s, and for as long as I can remember I have been in relationships with men. Every time I break up with a guy, I go on a couple dates and before I know it, I am a “couple” again. I always set out to stay single for awhile and it never lasts. Sometimes I don’t even like the guys I’m dating that much. What’s wrong with me?
Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 4:41 pm.
Your problem is very common. In spite of the images promoted on television advertisements of suave men that women swarm over, this is not really the experience of most men. While some people are shy and others are more extroverted and gregarious, there are many people who feel uncomfortable and confused when trying to make connections with women they might want to befriend or date. This is certainly true of women as well.
Bars and nightclubs are some of the least ideal places to try and strike up new connections. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives. While ridiculed in some circles, online dating services are actually a pretty good option for meeting new women. Initiating contact through written correspondence can be considerably less intimidating for people who feel shy or awkward. When a connection progresses to the decision to meet one another, you already have some idea of what the person is like and how you can communicate with one another. If you go this route, just keep your expectations modest . Know that you are likely to get a lot of non-responses as well as a few people who respond. It is not personal, so please don’t interpret it that way. People fail to respond for a huge variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you.
Another option is to pursue activities with groups who share similar interests. This allows connections to develop in a more natural way. Becoming friends with people in a group and noticing who you click with and who notices you gives you time and a degree of comfort that may allow you to approach a new friend or dating partner with more confidence.
Other ways to meet new people include coffee shops, introductions through mutual friends, taking your dog to the dog park, working out at the gym–almost anything you do with regularity that allows for freedom to make casual conversation are good options for forming new connections.
Regarding the issues you raised about awkwardness and how to begin conversations with new people, there are multiple strategies. Joining a mixed gender discussion group, attending a communication workshop, or even joining a group like Toastmasters will give you opportunities to develop these skills and a degree of confidence.
With respect to specific subjects and approaches to starting conversations, begin with the easiest communication of all—a genuine smile. If you are standing near someone you want to talk to you can always talk about the weather (such a cliché but still useful), things happening in the immediate environment (“I really like this park, especially in the summer”), or small compliments directed to the person you are wanting to connect with (be careful not to go overboard or be too personal). In time, you will develop your own approach and rhythm, and the process will gradually become less awkward. And then just watch the women swarm!
Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 4:39 pm.
Dear Beth, I need help in getting conversations going with women. I am an OK-looking, slightly shy 43 year-old male, and going to bars and stammering to women about their eyes just isn’t cutting it anymore. My problem is that I have trouble firing up conversations when I first meet women. I always feel like I might be an annoyance by even approaching them. As a woman, what advice would you give to me? When and where is it OK to approach women? And what do I say?