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Ask Julie: Should I Trust My Flirtatious Boyfriend?

Q: I am a 45 year old divorced mom who is currently in a relationship with a 53 year old man who I do not trust. I have only been cheated on once before, that I’m aware of, so I am usually not a very jealous person. But this man is extremely handsome, charming, and flirtatious. I have caught him in several lies, and find him contacting other women frequently. He is always commented on other women’s looks, or telling them directly they are pretty, or hot. Lately, his tactic to deal with my insecurity is to turn it around – he acts jealous of other men, though none are pursuing me. He gets angry when any male (even my nephew) contacts me on line, or by text. He accuses me of wanting other men. It is absurd, and I’m wondering if this is just another sign he is untrustworthy. He has an excuse or story for every seedy, racy thing I discover about him, and he sticks with his lies to the very end. He swears he adores me and he is not cheating, which I actually believe. There is no evidence to the contrary that he’s actually seeing anyone. My fear is that, given the chance, he will. Do I have good reason for this fear?  Or am I getting paranoid in my old age?

A: You may not realize it, but you already answered your own question. You don’t trust him.  And from what you’ve described, I think you’re right on. If he adores you, why is he making comments about other women’s looks, frequently contacting other women online, lying to you, and becoming extremely jealous and angry? These behaviors are all relationship “red flags.” I suggest you focus less on whether he’s technically cheating or not, and focus more on whether or not you want to continue a relationship with someone who appears to be chronically dishonest, insensitive, jealous, and intensely interested in other women.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Stronger Self-esteem When You Don’t Look Your Best: Studio 5

Self-esteem comes from the inside, but sometimes what’s going happening on the outside can shake your self -confidence. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has tips to survive bad hair days and beyond.

1) Bad Hair Day

Sometimes even small appearance flaws can ruin your day! A big blemish on your face, bad hair day, a skin rash can leave you feeling self-conscious.

Tip: “Unlink” self-esteem and appearance

While appearance often impacts how you feel about yourselves, it doesn’t have to define you.

Tip: Remember that you are not your body

“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” C.S. Lewis quotes

2) After Baby Body

With every good change in life there are also accompanying losses. Body changes are the price you agree to pay for carrying and delivering a baby.

Tip: Give yourself permission to grieve the losses

Your hips may never be the same size again, the stretch marks are here to stay. Feel the sadness about the changes and then move forward.

Tip: Buy clothes that fit at current size

Don’t wait until you get your pre-baby body back to present your best self. Treat your self as you would have before baby. Don’t wait until you hit a magic size or number on the scale.

3) Signs Of Aging

As a society, we tend to value youthfulness, especially in women’s appearance. While aging men are often though of as “distinguished”, aging women are regarded as “less attractive”.

Tip: Reframe aging as evidence of experience and learning

Just as a painting’s looks changes depending on the frame around it, you can put a more positive and beautiful frame around how your see your physical appearance.

I wrote a song about my own reframing of the aging experience called “God’s Signature”. Here are a few lines that help me reframe my wrinkles:

These lines are signs of many lessons learned
Carved out through time
Smiles that warm and tears that burn
And unexpected turns
Time has been my friend it seems
So let him write on me

You can call me flawed
You can call it character
But I choose to call these changes God’s signature

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Tip: Focus on multidimensional person

You have many aspect that make you…you! Focus on developing and valuing all of them…mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical.

4) Overweight

One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight and get fit. When you don’t exercise as much as you’d planned or you overeat one day what do you say to yourself? Are you kind and loving, or do you tell yourself things like, “See, another year when you can’t lose weight” and say belittling things to yourself?

Tip: Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance frees us to make changes. Women worry that if they accept where they are they’ll stay the way they are, but the opposite is true.

Tip: Focus on improving health and self-care

No matter what your physical appearance, you can always take small steps to take good care of yourself. I love the phrase “Life rewards action” because it’s true. Even taking one small step to better your health is a good thing.

5) Social mistakes

How we look in the eyes of others in terms of our behavior is another aspect that can impact self-esteem. Saying something dumb, being impatient with your child, or things as simple as realizing you’ve been calling someone by the same name.

Tip: Own it and move on

You’re self-esteem can remain in tact if your mistake, misstep, or error and then quickly moving on instead of worrying about it.
Tip: It’s none of my business what other’s think of me

If you’re worried about what other’s might be thinking about your misstep it’s crucial to remember that it’s not your business what others think about you. You can’t control their thoughts. You’ll never really know what others think about you anyway, unless they are willing to tell you directly.

Ask Julie: How Do I Help My Suicidal Best Friend?

Q: “A few months ago me and my best friends ex boyfriend (who still cares a lot about her) went to our school guidance councilors and told them how my best friend was suicidal. they told her parents and she had to get an evaluation from a therapist. they cleared her and she was allowed back in school. however now school isn’t in session and she’s suicidal again. I know this because she told me that I’m the only thing keeping her alive. a few years ago she was raped by a close friend and then a few days after the rape walked in on him killing himself. she never dealt with this traumatic event and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s suicidal now. we talked a little about it and she told me she feels like she messes everything up and all she does is make things worse. I tried to show her how that’s not true and how a lot of people care about her but she doesn’t believe me. I don’t want to go to her parents again because I dont think they’d believe me a second time. I want her to get help and talk to someone but I don’t know how to do it. please help me.”

A: Thank you for your email. I can feel your concern for your friend through this letter. Even though you might be putting your friendship at risk, I suggest you go talk to her parents. They need to know about the rape and that she walked in on the person who raped her committing suicide. Those are horrific traumas for a teenager to witness and she is in serious danger.  Please watch the video response for more tools to handle this painful situation.

Take good care of yourself
Julie Hanks, LCSW

What A Great Way To Start 2012!

On Dec. 31, 2011, a day I was really struggling emotionally (yes, therapists struggle, too), I received a message on Facebook. This thoughtful expression of gratitude lifted my heavy heart and reassured me that my efforts are in some small way making a difference for good in the world. That’s all I can hope for. Welcome 2012.

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“Dear Julie,  I can’t end this year without sharing my story and thanking you for the role that you played in it. As a child I survived horrible traumas that I suppressed until adulthood. The beginning of this year I knew that I needed help and prayed for guidance on how to get the help that I needed. You have always been one of my favorite LDS artists and in May you posted a song on your Facebook page. I can’t remember who sang it or the name of the song, but it mentioned that sometimes crying can be so healing. That night for the first time since the trauma, I allowed myself to cry and mourn what had happened to me. It felt so healing. It gave me the courage to seek help from Wasatch Family Therapy and I began therapy with Melanie Davis. She is exactly what I needed and is amazing. I am so excited to say that I am doing so well right now and I feel like I have my life back. I can’t even begin to thank you for the difference you have made in my life. I am a survivor and know that I can accomplish anything. I hope that you have a wonderful 2012…I know that I will.”

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The song she’s referring to is “Blessings” by Laura Story -  a song I wish I’d written.

New Year’s Resolutions Without Guilt

Resolution time again. To do lists get pulled out and we add to them our resolutions for the new year. Too frequently though, by February 1, our list of good intentions has been relegated to the junk drawer due to failed attempts. We’re left feeling down or guilty for what we didn’t do. But, what if the answer to avoiding the guilt was to simplify and not make a to do list?

You’re probably asking yourself, “How can I reach a New Year’s resolution if I don’t write it down? Isn’t that the first rule of goal setting?” Don’t panic. Writing down things to do and ways to improve can be a helpful tool in becoming who you want to be. But the trouble with to do lists is not that we use them, it’s how we use them.

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Ask Julie: Will My Therapist Have To Tell My Parents When I Cut Myself?

I am 14 and recently my parents have discovered I struggle with self-injury. After discovering this, they are going to send me to see a therapist to help with the issue. They, of course, know I struggle with self-injury, but I would prefer if they did not hear about it if I tell the therapist when I self-injure. Is this possible, or is it required that they inform my parents when I cut? As a minor, do I have any confidentiality from my parents?

A: First of all, I’m glad that your parents are going to take you to a therapist to address your cutting. Your cutting is a warning sign that something in your emotional life needs to be addressed. While there is confidentiality between client and therapist, there are limits to that confidentiality.  Therapists are required ethically and by law to intervene when a client is threatening serious harm to self.  Since cutting can  range from minor surface scratches to life threatening wounds, and I don’t know how serious your self-injurious behavior is, I am not able to fully answer your question. Your question can be best answered by your specific therapist when you meet with him or her. At your first session, I suggest that you ask your therapist how he or she will handle your disclosure of self-injury.  Because you are a minor, it is likely that your parents will be involved in some way in your treatment. Many therapists will require family therapy  when working with minors because family dynamics often play a part in a child’s distress, and because parents play an important role in the healing process.

My biggest concern regarding your question isn’t whether or not your therapist will tell your parents, but why you don’t want your parents to know the full extent of your self-injury. Is it because you are embarrassed of what they will think? Is it because you don’t want to upset them? Is it because they will be angry with you? Is it because they will overreact? I hope you will address this important question with your therapist.

The fact that your parents are taking you to therapy to get help tells me that they are concerned about you, that they care about you, and that they acknowledge that you are in pain and need professional help. Consider that they may be able to help and support you through this difficult time as you sort through your emotions and resolve the pain underlying your self-harming behavior. You are 14 and it’s their job to make sure you are safe.

Take good care of yourself, and let your parents take good care of you, too.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Do You Suffer From “Christmas Perfectionism”?

If you already struggle with perfectionism, the holiday season can be particularly difficult for stress management. For one thing, there are often higher expectations, more on your to do list, and more people to please. So, whether you struggle with perfectionism when it comes to buying the “perfect” gift, decorating the house “perfectly”, sending out the “perfect” Christmas card with the best family picture (mailed the day after Thanksgiving), or whether your obsessed with what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. Never fear! Here are a few tips to help you take a step back and let go of holiday perfectionism.

1) Says who?

Perfectionists tend to have rules about how things should be.

  • Write down a list of a few of your Christmas “shoulds” that weigh you down.
  • What if you thought about every tradition, decoration, gift as optional, as something you get to choose to do or attend or buy, or not?
  • Add the question “says who” at the end and actually answer the question. For example, if my rule is “I should give a handmade neighbor gift to everyone on my street…says who?” my answer may be “Martha Stewart”
  • Ask yourself if you want to accept that rule or reject that rule. Read more