"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 "...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

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The Love Dare-Unconditional Love Couples Counseling Confident Counseling Couples Counseling Northborough MA

Love Dare-Unconditional Love

Do we really know how to love unconditionally? As a couples counselor, I see many couples come in expressing disillusionment with their partner’s inability to meet their needs. As a result many of them stop trying meet their partner’s needs and it becomes this hostage situation around who will give in first. What happened to loving your partner unconditionally?

Is this even possible for us to do? The best example of this I can think of is between parents and their children. When asked why we love our parents or children it usually doesn’t go beyond “Well because they are my mom, or my dad, or my kid.” I don’t typically hear this when it comes to couples. Usually when you ask why they love their partner, the answer is followed with, “They listen to me, they care, they take care of me…” but aren’t all of these things that they do for you? What about loving them just because?

There is a book that has challenged me to love my husband unconditionally and it is called The Love Dare by Kendrick. It asks me to complete one new dare each and every day around learning what love means and how to apply it in my marriage. It is a Christian book and if you’re open to it, I highly encourage you to the challenge. Many people will be turned off by this but yet many wedding vows take from the bible specifically Corinthians “Love is patient, Love is kind…”. I’m curious if attempted, will you regret it?

One woman I dared to apply this dare influenced her marriage so much that after a couple of months they were no longer contemplating divorce. I’m not suggesting that this dare will change your imperfect partner into a perfect one. I am suggesting that by doing this challenge you will change to be a better partner to your imperfect one.

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Dating Red Flags-Confident Counseling Northborough MA

Dating Red Flags

Relationships bring companionship and love into people’s lives. However, not all relationships are healthy and there are quite a few red flags you should keep an eye out for when dating. It is important to know the boundaries between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Here are common dating red flags you should be aware of:

  1. Listen to how they speak about past relationships.

If your partner speaks very highly of their ex or if they constantly talk poorly about them, It can be a sign that they are still invested in their past relationship or that they are a bitter person.

  1. Is your partner proud of you?

If they never bring you around their friends or their friends still don’t know who you are, it could be they are ashamed of you or the relationship. Either way don’t ignore your instict on this one.

  1. Keeping score constantly.

Someone who constantly keeps score of who did what in a relationship is probably someone who often tries to guilt trip others. Keeping score will quickly build anger and resent in a relationship.

  1. Your partner uses sex for gain.

Someone who uses sex as a reward or withholds it as a punishment is manipulative. This is manipulation and over steps all boundaries a relationship should follow.

  1. They never put effort into the relationship.

It is obvious whether someone wants to be with another person. If you are feeling pretty one-side in a relationship, it won’t be healthy for you to stick around with someone who will leave once something “better” comes along.

  1. Your partner cannot apologize.

Everyone makes a mistake now and again, but the mature thing to do is accept your faults, apologize, and move on. If your partner can neither apologize or accept you’ve made a mistake, run.

  1. If you argue, they get hurtful.

People tend to disagree, that’s normal. What is NOT normal is when someone who says they love you brings up hurtful comments if you get into a disagreement. Red flags like this one can signal abuse.

  1. They are violent.

If you are disagreeing or just going about your business and your partner is verbally, emotionally, or physically violent, no matter what you did, you did not deserve it. It is difficult to get out of a situation like this but you will be much safer once you are free.

  1. They always attempt to change who you are.

Constantly overstepping boundaries by trying to change the person you are is not okay. The person you are with should be with you because they like the person you are, not to mold you into someone else.

  1. They don’t listen to you.

Whether you are trying to tell them you like your food cooked a different way or something else entirely, your partner should listen and take the feedback well. If your partner gets mad that you are trying to tell them something, that’s a bad sign.

  1. Listen to the way they speak.

If you are always hearing them using “My/Me/I” statements and never using “We/US”, they probably don’t see a future with you; on the other hand, they could just be nervous you don’t feel the same way.

  1. They always guilt you into doing things.

Whether they try to guilt you into having sex or spending time with them, you need to set boundaries up really quickly.

  1. They attempt to control every aspect of your life.

It is one thing to help someone when asked but it is an entirely other thing when a significant other tries to tell you exactly what to do.

  1. They are always flaking out on you.

This stands true especially when you first start dating. If you make plans and they are always cancelling last minute, you probably are not high on their priority list.

  1. Your loved ones don’t like them.

Your loved ones look out for you and they know you well. If these people who get along with you and are close to you don’t like the person you are with, they may not be the right one for you.

Chances are, if you searched for this article, you could be in an unhealthy relationship. Your subconscious picks up on signals you might not even notice and can lead you to find out more. If you are in an unsafe or doomed relationship, it is okay to get out. You deserve dating someone who will put effort into being with you and that actually enjoys spending time with you as much as you enjoy spending time with them. Love doesn’t have to hurt.

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Signs your partner is a narcissist-Couples Counseling Confident Counseling Northborough MA

Signs Your Partner Is a Narcissist

The term narcissism has to do with a belief that oneself is more important than others. It comes from the story of Narcissus, who, in Greek mythology, was a handsome young man who was so proud of his good looks that he ignored the people who admired him.  One day, he saw his reflection in a pool of water, and he was so impressed with his beauty that he could not stop looking at himself, until he eventually died.

In Psychology, narcissism does not specifically refer to people who are excessively proud of their physical appearance or their abilities. The identifying characteristics of narcissism are people who focus more on their own feelings than the feelings of others.

There is such a thing as a healthy level of narcissism which is healthy self-esteem.  It is normal for young children to “act as though the world revolves around them”, but as they grow up, their self-concept develops with others by empathy.  They value themselves neither too little nor too much.

As for unhealthy narcissism, its most extreme form is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which affects about 1% of the total population.  It can affect people of both sexes, but is diagnosed more often in men.  People with pathological narcissism think that the rules of society do not apply to them, and they behave as such.  While many of them come across as arrogant and cruel, most of them have low self-esteem and are insecure.

Sandy Hotchkiss has described seven “deadly sins” of narcissism:

  • Shamelessness – Narcissistic people behave the way they do to cover feelings of shame.
  • Magical thinking – Narcissistic people attribute causal relationships to unrelated events, which can include blaming people for things they did not do or events they could not control.
  • Arrogance – Narcissistic people cover up their insecurity by acting as though they are perfect and can do no wrong.
  • Envy – Narcissistic people often compare themselves to other people and belittle other people’s accomplishments.
  • Entitlement – Narcissistic people take offense when people fail to recognize them as superior or to let them have their way. They get very angry when criticized.
  • Exploitation- Narcissistic people take advantage of other people without remorse.
  • Lack of boundaries – Narcissistic people do not empathize or see things from other people’s point of view.

In a relationship, here are the most common symptoms that you should watch out for:

  1. They have no respect for your space. Asking for space might be a little difficult for people with partners that have narcissistic behavior. They feel like they have power over you, and they always have a say with your decisions in life.
  2. Their reputation is very important. People with narcissism do not mingle with those people who will taint their reputation. They are also very protective and concerned about what other people might think about them.
  3. They are naturally bossy because they believe they know best.
  4. They are insensitive towards your feelings. They don’t purposely do it. It just comes out naturally. They won’t be able to care about your feelings, simply because they are too caught up in their own drama in life, and they only care about themselves.
  5. They have a sense of superiority towards everything. They believe they are above boundaries and so you will notice they violate boundaries you create.
  6. They naturally dominate spaces, especially conversation. They like to be the center of attention and feed their ego. If they are talking about you with their friends they like to boost their own ego by talking about what a wonderful trophy you are.
  7. They are very interested in your relationship in the beginning but, with time they seem disinterested.
  8. They think that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness. They also make you feel worse about yourself to make them feel superior and feed their ego.
  9. For people with narcissistic disorder, they always believe that those around them either love and idolize them or are jealous of them.

It goes without saying that it is very difficult to sustain a relationship with a narcissistic person or to live with a narcissistic spouse or family member.  Because narcissistic people lack insight they are unlikely to seek counseling or otherwise attempt to change their behavior.  Instead, they blame their problems with interpersonal relationships on others.

Living with a narcissistic partner can be a huge challenge.  It can erode your self-esteem, and you can start to blame yourself for all the problems in your relationship. Even if your partner refuses to go to counseling, you should consider seeking individual counseling to prevent further damage to your sense of self. It is impossible to change people who do not want to change, and you may have to accept that you cannot change your narcissistic partner.

Through counseling, you can learn ways to maintain your well-being in spite of your narcissistic partner’s poor treatment. Putting your life back together after years of narcissistic trauma is not easy, but you will be glad to have your life back.

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The Love Dare-Unconditional Love Couples Counseling Confident Counseling Couples Counseling Northborough MA

When an Introvert and an Extrovert Date

They say opposites attract. But do they stay together and how do they make it work? According to one study, introverts make up about 30-50 percent of the population. The odds of an introvert and an extrovert dating is pretty high. Click here to learn more about what the differences between an extrovert and an introvert are. An extrovert regains energy from social interaction while an introvert recharges by being alone in their own heads. You can imagine that this poses several challenges for relationships where both partners have a differing need for social engagement. Here are few tips for couples struggling with these differences.

Understand your differences

The first important step for any partner in this type of relationship is to learn as much about their significant other’s personality. The more you understand how their personality trait impacts your relationship the greater the chance that you will be understanding and less likely to take their differences personally. For an extrovert, it is easy to think their introverted partner is “strange” or antisocial living in a world that idolizes extraversion. For an introvert, having a partner who wants the company of others can feel overwhelming and like rejection. As Francis Bacon said, “knowledge is power” and in this case it will give your relationship the power to reduce conflict.

Compromise and Balance

Ok so now both you and your partner understand each other better, but now what? You both still need a different amount of social interaction and alone time. The next step is to learn how to compromise so that both your needs are met. It is helpful for an introvert to have as much notice as possible about upcoming social events. For the last-minute plans, an introvert will appreciate having a predetermined time that the outing will end. For extroverts, it will be helpful for introverts to welcome extended outings without time limits. For this to work the introvert will benefit from staying home as the extroverts spends extended periods with others. The importance is about having balance to decrease resentment.

Acceptance

The most important step is learning how to accept your partner for who they are. It doesn’t help thinking of your partner as abnormal when introversion/extraversion is a personality trait that can’t be unlearned or changed. Instead harness the strengths you both bring to the table. Introverts are natural listeners and excel at deep one on one conversations. They are usually highly creative and are thorough in making decisions. Extroverts are excellent speakers and have a tendency to take risks. They are socially engaged and oftentimes the life of the party. Understanding these differences will allow you to use them at the best opportunities for optimal success.

After following these steps, you should have a greater sense of compassion and love for your partner. If the conflict is too great, please reach out to a professional who can assess and create a plan for addressing your concerns.

 

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Reasons you are still in an unhealthy relationship-Confident Counseling Northborough MA 01532

Reasons you are still in an unhealthy relationship

Over the years I have worked with several people who struggle to find healthy relationships or leave unhealthy ones. After a while I began to notice constant patterns/themes to why people don’t leave their unhealthy relationships. Here the most common reasons you are still in an unhealthy relationship that may apply to you.

Change is hard

Of course it is. It’s easy to become content in our routine even if it is making us miserable. The problem with letting the challenge of it and fear of the unknown stop us from making better choices for you is that you are allowing fear to dictate your life. Let me tell you that it never ends well.

You’re afraid to be alone

Who doesn’t enjoy companionship, most of us do. The problem as mentioned before is that fear is not your best friend here. Yes, fear helps keep you alive in life or death situations but it isn’t helping you now by keeping you paralyzed in an unhealthy relationship.

Would you really be alone if you left? What about your friends and family, do they not count? I understand that those relationships are not exactly the same as an intimate one.

The question really comes down to why do you believe you would never find another person you would be interested in or who would be interested in you. How realistic is that really? I’m not saying the minute you leave your relationship, you’ll be in a new one, nor am I encouraging that anyway.

You’ll want some time to grief the loss and focus on rebuilding yourself during your single time. However the odds that you’ll be single forever just seems so unrealistic given that you’ve clearly found people who show interest in you otherwise you wouldn’t be in a relationship to begin with.

You doubt you can do better

Why? Who told you that this? Usually if you do enough self-exploration and introspection you will find an automatic belief about yourself which has built over the years usually stemming from childhood and early life experiences. Examples include: “I’m stupid,” “I’m not lovable”, “I’m not worthy”, “I can never do anything right”, and the list goes on.

Figure out what your automatic belief is that you’re carrying around. You can usually find it during difficult times in your life or when you make mistakes which then reaffirm your automatic thought about yourself such as “You see I knew I couldn’t do it right, I never do anything right.”

It won’t help if your partner encourages these negative thoughts about yourself. Ever wonder why they verbally abuse you? Most likely it’s because of their own low self-esteem and their fear of losing you if you realize how negative they are and what you’re true value is. Either way those aren’t the qualities of a happy person so you can definitely do better.

It’s too late

Says who? The only time it’s too late is when you’re dead and if you’re reading this now then the odds are very likely that you are still alive. Many people find new love in their golden years and you can anytime you want to be open to it.

But they have so much potential

If I had a quarter for every time I heard this. “I know he’ll be nicer once he goes to counseling, if only I was more patient, if only I loved them more, if only they loved me more”, and so on. Do you plan other aspects of your life on this idea? Would you move in to an apartment infested with cockroaches and lead paint on the notion that “well once the landlord decides to fix the problem it will be wonderful.” I didn’t think so.

You need to remember that “What you see is what you get”. If you aren’t comfortable with dating someone who smokes don’t date them thinking well I know he’ll quit one day. The only person in charge of making change is yourself. Why waste time waiting for the other person to make changes they may or may not stick. Do yourself a favor and find someone who already has the qualities you want today.

You’ve invested too much already

I understand that this one is difficult to let go of. You’ve spent years if not decades building a life together, investing time, emotions, and finances that you find it difficult to let go and walk away. Chances are that most of your memories together include pain and resentment. What will you have to show for that? You won’t get a medal for sticking it out, just more damage to your self-esteem.

You believe “true love” bears all

Yes the best kind of love is unconditional and like the relationship with our children or our parents we love them no matter what. Does that mean you have to tolerate everything they do? No! You can love someone and still chose how much you want them around.

True love does not mean sacrificing yourself in an unhealthy or abusive relationship because at the end of the day you should also love yourself. How else can you expect healthy relationships if you mistreat yourself by tolerating abuse? You can set limits like leaving and considering a future relationship only once they’ve gone to counseling and stopped the behaviors that pushed you away to begin with.

We have children together

More reason why you should leave. By you staying in this type of relationship you are teaching your children to tolerate the behaviors that are unhealthy to begin with. What message do you want to leave your children? Most likely not that one.

You’re children will be grateful to see you caring for yourself and wanting to teach them healthy examples of adult relationships for them to model once they grow up.

Did any of these reasons resonate with you? So now what? Remember that you only get one chance at life and will you look back and regret having stayed in an unhealthy relationship more than leaving it. If you know you want to leave but feel stuck then it’s time to see a counselor who can help you gain the strength to move forward in whatever direction that is. They won’t be able to make the choice for you but they can prepare you for the challenge and support you while you make difficult decisions.

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5 Ways To Tell You Are In An Unhealthy Relationship-Northborough counseling MA

5 Ways To Tell You Are In An Unhealthy Relationship

There are several ways that relationships are unhealthy, “toxic”, or extremely abusive. Sometimes it’s difficult to notice the signs before it escalates and gets worse.  Here are 5 ways to tell you are in an unhealthy relationship that I have come across in my practice in working with couples and individuals.

You feel confused after every argument

  • You are most likely being manipulated. Healthy disagreements should leave you feeling heard, understood, and there should be a mutual plan to move forward.

You feel controlled

  • You have to ask “permission” to do things without your partner or even to have access to your own things. There is a fine line between making decisions together and needing their approval.

You feel worse about yourself or are physically threatened or abused

  • It is usually harder to recognize emotional abuse because physical wounds aren’t left behind. If you notice that you are starting to feel incapable without that other person, then you might be getting emotionally abused.

You walk on eggshells

  • You should feel like you are free to speak your mind or make mistakes in a healthy relationship.

Your intuition tells you something is wrong

  • It’s common for our “gut” to pick up on feelings that we often ignore. With practice, you can learn to listen to your intuition and recognize unhealthy patterns sooner than later.

It’s common for our “gut” to pick up on feelings that we often ignore. With practice, you can learn to listen to your intuition and recognize unhealthy patterns sooner than later.

If you want to learn more Contact Us

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What can I expect from counseling?

What Can I Expect From Counseling?

If you are in counseling or are thinking of starting, you may have asked yourself “What can I expect from Counseling?” With how the media portrays counseling, it isn’t surprising to have questions or even concerns about what counseling will be like for you.

Of course it is important to understand that counseling is only as effective as you make it. What I mean is that most of the work done in counseling actually comes from you, the client. Imagine the counselor as a guide showing you alternative ways of approaching situations or handling your problems. You as the client have to choose one and carry it out. If you aren’t following through or actively participating, then counseling will be ineffective.

Here are expectations to have for counseling

  • You should expect to increase your awareness of what is causing your struggles and what the roadblocks are.
  • You will be taught new skills and tools to manage your struggles in the present and for the future.
  • Understanding the limits of confidentiality, you can expect a safe place to talk about anything and everything that is on your mind. The limits being that the counselor has a legal obligation to report risk of suicide, homicide or current child or elder abuse. Privacy can also be compromised depending also on whether you have an active court case or if you use your health insurance.
  • You shouldn’t feel judged or worry about scaring the counselor with what you have to share.
  • You should expect to work with a trained professional or have them refer you to someone who will be able to better serve you should they not have the right training or skills to help with your issues.
  • You should feel hope and relief after your sessions.
  • You may feel discomfort and emotional pain depending on what and how severe your struggles are.
  • You should expect to feel “contained” by the end of your counseling sessions and not left unstable or vulnerable.
    • This is important for clients with trauma. As a result, your counselor may wait to discuss a difficult subject at the start of a future session and not at the middle or end.
  • You should expect an environment where are you free to express positive and negative feedback about your counselor’s style or direction of treatment without worrying that they will get upset or offended.

Effective counseling promotes your growth as a person and healing from pain.

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What Will My First Counseling Session Be Like?

I’ve been asked this question from prospective clients and I have asked this question myself before. It can be scary to admit that you aren’t able to solve everything on your own which is why it makes sense that you want to know “What will my first counseling session be like?” Even though the counselor you contact is an identified professional, they are still a complete stranger.

If you are curious about what the first counseling session will be like for yourself or for someone else, I hope this information will encourage you to try counseling or recommend it to someone you know.

First Session:

  • Plan to spend 60-90 minutes with a counselor during the first session (intake).
  • You’ll fill out forms that ask about your contact information, possible screens to check for symptoms and flag follow-up questions.
  • The counselor will discuss your privacy rights, limits to confidentiality, cancellation policies and any other administrative policies.
  • You will answer questions about your day-to-day activities, what concerns you have, medical conditions, medications, family relationships & history, your experience with past counseling if applicable.
  • The counselor will share their specialties, professional training, and clinical style (short-term or long-term, homework vs. no homework).
  • The counselor will make recommendations for treatment options and frequency of sessions that you can either agree or disagree with.

Now underneath all the formal details, you should feel safe to open up without judgment, feel comfortable being in the counselor’s presence and in their office space, and you should leave the first session with a sense of hope that therapy will help you reach your goals. Good counselors will tell you right away if they are not qualified to work with your particular issues and will make recommendations for someone more qualified.

If you feel judged, dislike the counselor’s personality, or realize the counselor doesn’t have the qualifications to work well with you, please find another counselor. There is no point in staying with a counselor if you don’t feel comfortable or trust them enough to open up about difficult topics.

I hope you found this information helpful. Stay tuned for next time as I discuss what you can expect from counseling beyond the first session. Feel free to leave questions or comments below.

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