Engagement Anxiety

How You Really Feel After a Proposal

Has nervousness and anxiety crept up on you after a recent engagement? Whether you were recently proposed to or hoping to take your relationship to the next level, here’s some ways to manage the anxiety that often follows…

There are a lot of big moments in your life, and getting proposed to is arguably in the top 5. The society we live in has created a billion dollar business off of couples committing themselves to one another. You may be knees deep in bridal magazines, color swatches, Instagram feeds of brides and grooms and venues…oh my! And although everyone may ask you, “How did they propose??”, very few may ask, “How are you feeling about getting married?”

Cue the engagement anxiety.

Everyone expects you to be smiling from ear to ear for the next year or two as you plan the “biggest day of your life”, but you may feel as if nothing but stress and worry and doubt are flooding over you. Some brides-to-be (or Grooms-to-be) may start finding small things to nit-pick about their partner…”His teeth aren’t white enough.”, “Her toes are strange”, “They don’t understand me!” Things you didn’t even notice before become these huge question marks looming over your relationship.

Where does this anxiety come from? Is it normal? And what do you do about it?? Here’s 5 steps to resolving your engagement anxiety…

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 1. Be Aware That You Are Not Alone

Engaged women all over the world are panicking at this very moment about whether they should get married or not…they just aren’t telling anyone (other than their therapist). So you are not alone. You are allowed to have some anxiety about a new life transition and how your role in your relationship might change as a fiancé or spouse. There is no other time in life when you make a commitment to stay with one thing/person, literally forever…even kids leave the nest after 18 years. If there was a list of “legitimate reasons to be anxious”, this would definitely be on that list.

2. Recognize What Role Anxiety has Played in Your Life

Step 2 is to realize that anxiousness is present for different people at different times. Some people have dealt with crippling anxiety their entire lives, and are not surprised when this anxiety shows up in the middle of the proposal. Others have never felt anxious at all, so anxiety about their engagement feels extremely scary and completely new. Recognizing other times you have felt anxious allows you to recognize what skills you used to calm yourself down, and also allows you to recognize what may have been a trigger for this bout of anxiety. These questions you ask yourself may very likely be questions you also hear in a therapy session with your counselor.

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3. Do Some #SimpleSelfCare

When people hear “Self Care” they often think of a day at the spa or a vacation, but the key to good self care is consistency and small doses. Doing something as simple as buying your favorite coffee creamer to put in your instant coffee in the morning, or setting your alarm 10 minutes early so you can cuddle with your partner in the morning before you start your busy days. Those are the most effective ways to take care of yourself…what I call #SimpleSelfCare. Doing these little things will help reduce your level of anxiety and remind you that you are in control of how you feel. Being mindful of your breathing is another small adjustment that can have a big impact.

Some practice…breathe in (hold it)…1…2…3…4…5…breathe out. *Repeat until anxiety has subsided*

4. Communicate with Your Fiancé

Let’s be honest all this engagement anxiety is your partner’s fault. They just had to divulge their undying love for you in the form of a proposal. But really, if your anxiety is truly wrapped up in the engagement it is very important to talk with your partner about how you are feeling. Chances are they may already have noticed a shift in your demeanor or behaviors due to the anxiety. Discuss with them what is triggering to your anxiety and give suggestions on how they can help make you feel more comfortable. Whether that means them rubbing your back if you have a small panic attack or them chiming in when another person asks, “Have you set a date??” (*Side Note* that is honestly the most annoying question). Cluing your partner in to how you are feeling is a skill that is important now, and will be important for the rest of your relationship, so might as well get in some practice.

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5. Go to Premarital Counseling

Last, but definitely not least…go to premarital counseling! I know that I am biased because as a therapist I recommend therapy for any and all things, BUT this is one of the most ideal times in a relationship to go through couples therapy (it’s also one of therapists’ favorite stages to see a couple in). Premarital counseling is ideal because (hopefully) there aren’t any real problems in the relationship yet. This is the stage that you can really take a look at your partner and say I want to love this person unconditionally, and I’ll take whatever tools necessary to make that happen. When couples come into therapy 4, 7, or 10+ years into a marriage with a laundry list of reasons they want out, therapists often spend most of their time trying to get couples back to this place of wanting to try their hardest. Go now, so you can talk about all those little concerns and start building your tool box of skills that help you communicate with and love on your partner in all the best ways!

peace, love, happiness, Lee
5 ways to handle engagement anxiety with wedding rings in background

Cheaters: Why They Do It & How to Prevent It

So you are in a “committed” relationship (or so you thought), but you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Something is wrong. You start to dig for clues as to what is possibly going on, and slowly (but surely) drive yourself crazy wondering, “are they cheating??” Well I bet there is another question you haven’t asked yourself…”have I been meeting my partner’s needs?” Yep. I bet you haven’t taken a second to think “why would my partner cheat?”

I wonder why you haven’t asked this question because there is only one reason why people cheat. Yes, one. Here’s the big, top secret reason…their needs are not being met.

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That’s it. Every person needs certain things to be fulfilled. These things could be love, sex, passion, compassion, security, generosity, time, affection, and an assortment of other things. More often than not people wind up in a relationship where their partner cannot satisfy ALL of their needs. Now this is the point where you are probably thinking, “well if your needs aren’t being met, just break up with the person!” Relationships aren’t that simple. Imagine this…

If our emotional needs looked more like our physical needs such as food, water, & shelter, how would things pan out? Imagine you were in a relationship where your partner is providing 2 out of 3 (water & shelter), but they were starving you. No food. You have dropped hints that you are hungry, maybe even straight up asked for food, but were denied 90% of the time. Then you come across someone who is offering up a feast on a silver platter. What are you going to do?

A. Go home to your water & shelter and continue starving?

B. Leave your whole life behind with only a guarantee of food (none of the water or shelter)?

C. Or are you going to try and sneak enough food to meet your needs, then go home to a reliable source of water and shelter?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, the last choice makes the most sense. Now putting this back into the emotional sense…when you partner with someone because they meet most of your needs, there is a risk that the needs that aren’t being met will be met somewhere else. The other option is to learn to live without that additional need, but that is often easier said than done.

Now, you may be wondering “how do I prevent cheating from happening in my relationship?” Great question. Before I answer, I must remind you that relationships are SELFLESS acts. That means at any given point in a relationship you should be trying to meet the needs of your partner, while effectively communicating your needs as well.

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The best way to prevent cheating is by utilizing the time you spend as a single person figuring out how you can meet your own needs. This allows you the time and energy when you enter a relationship to focus on how you can meet your partners needs. Because again, relationships are not about you! They are about having a mutual understanding that you will support one another. If you can figure out your own needs, then you will want to be with someone who has done the same, and neither of you will be looking for a partner to complete them. Because you are a WHOLE person. No one can “complete” you.

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Here’s the trickier part. If you are already in a relationship and feel your needs aren’t being met, then you have to learn what it is you need, and teach yourself/partner how to meet that need. You cannot just say “I need your attention more.” You have to educate your partner on how they can give you more attention. Give them the who/what/when/where/why/how you learned in grade school. For example, if your need is sexual intimacy:

Who needs to be meeting this need? Obviously it takes two to tango, so your partner needs to be involved in meeting this need.

What is the need EXACTLY? Be clear. Is this need about actual sex, or is this need about general physical touch? Does foreplay meet this need? Would you like to kiss & hug more often? This is not just a single sentence answer. Go into detail.

When is the appropriate time to meet this need? Everyone has a preference, but also when is it feasible to meet this need? Maybe kids are in the house so babysitters have to be arranged. Or maybe this is a need that needs to be met more than just once a month. When would you ideally like to meet this need? Be open to some compromise in the process.

Where is the appropriate place to meet this need? The bedroom, a hotel, the shower? Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Why is this need important to you? This may be the most important question. This is where you help your partner and teach your partner the reason behind the need. Maybe you feel like there is a general lack of intimacy, or maybe you feel insecure about how you look and want to feel desired by your partner. Again, not a place for a one sentence answer. Be descriptive.

How can your partner support this need? Explain what role you would like them to play in supporting this need. If they can initiate sex more often or if they can provide compliments that make you feel sexy. Whatever it is, help your partner figure out how they can be supportive.

No matter what your need is, utilize these questions to effectively communicate to your partner how you two can work as a team to meet each others’ needs. A relationship is about support and giving. Taking preventative steps to care for your partner can help reduce the likelihood of having to take drastic measures to put a relationship back together. And at the end of the day if you are finding it difficult to have these conversations, make a therapy appointment! Therapy is a great place to learn how to communicate effectively and efficiently.

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“Situationships”: 5 Ways to have Healthy Relationships in College

With the so called “cuffing season” upon us, what are your #RelationshipGoals for the season? Are you looking for something physical and nothing more? Are you looking for someone to bring home to family events, so you stop getting asked why you’re single? Or are you looking for someone to call “bae” through Valentine’s Day, but say “bye” by summer?

Whatever you are looking for, there are healthy and not so healthy ways of interacting with potential partners. Let’s go over some of those crucial skills with 5 ways to have healthy relationships in college…

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Be Real with Yourself

The first step to any relationship is being real with yourself. What do you really want to get out of this interaction? Why are you looking for what you’re looking for? Be real…

Is it because your friends are saying you need to get out there? Is it because your hormones are raging? Is it because you are stressed and see a relationship as a way of seeking support? Is it because you can’t stand being single? What about being single do you hate so much? Is it society’s rules and expectations about partnering up? There are about a dozen more questions I could ask, but you get the idea. Ask yourself the hard questions, and recognize your intentions with seeking a new partner.

Be Open & Honest about What You Want

Once you look at yourself and decide why you are getting suited up for “cuffing season”, the next step is deciding what you actually want. No judgment, some people don’t want to be in a serious, committed relationship. That’s okay. As long as you KNOW that for sure, and don’t decide 3 months into a “situationship” that you want something more. Sorry to inform you, but you will be disappointed.

If you know WHY you want a certain type of relationship, this may be helpful information to share with a potential partner, so as they do not expect you to change your mind down the road. And on the other side of things…when someone tells you exactly what they want do not expect anything more or less of EXACTLY what they said! Do not project your dreams and desires onto a person that does not hold the same values.

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Set Up Boundaries

When deciding what type of relationship you want with whomever, make sure there are boundaries that you are both aware of before getting involved. If you want something casual, but don’t want to share this casual relationship with anyone else that is something to express. If you want to be free to explore all your options, that should be clear as well. It only makes things awkward when you go out and see your “situationship” having a situation with someone else. So be upfront, and don’t get involved with someone who doesn’t match your idea of a successful relationship.

Be Respectful of Others’ Mind, Body, and Soul

When you involve yourself with somebody else, you are involving yourself with ALL PARTS of that body. Whether you want something physical, emotional, or spiritual, you will get all 3 in any relationship. Everyone has their baggage and although they may not intend to unload it on you, it can be laid out on the table verbally and/or non-verbally. Be respectful of what someone is bringing to the table and be sure to discuss whether you are willing to take it all or none. There is no in between.

Reminder as well…being a part of someone’s body means being a part of EVERY body they have come in contact with…if you get my drift. This is a risk that you must come to terms with before choosing to expose yourself figuratively and literally. Wrap it up!

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Lesson of the day is…communicate! If you listen to your own needs, and communicate those desires to the person you choose to have relations with, you will have a much easier time navigating your relationships. Practicing your communication skills (negotiating boundaries, expressing likes & dislikes, asking questions, etc.) will help you in all aspects of your life. College is a time to gain knowledge. Use this time to learn about yourself and you won’t regret that degree!

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P.S. If you are interested in individual therapy during those college years, request an appointment at a reduced fee, here!

 

The Strong Ones: 5 Myths about Black Women in Therapy

Hello beautiful, black Queen! Thank you for doing all that you do. You deserve the recognition that you so rarely get, and you deserve to have a space where you can pause to adjust your crown every now and again. Wearing that crown can be tiring to say the least. It puts you in charge of your family, your kingdom, your life, and your melanin. It brings along with it responsibilities that can be strenuous and rewarding in the same breath. It is what makes you a the pillar of a community and the backbone to a culture. That crown you wear is what makes you magical.

The truth is we all have some magic in us. Taking the time to recognize that magic within us however can be difficult. That’s where therapy comes in. Therapy helps us distinguish what our “magic power” is and how we can use it to better our life and ultimately change our story. Participating in therapy allows us to learn about our magic and understand ourselves from every aspect of our being.

As a narrative therapist I recognize that every black woman (and person in general) has a unique story to share with the world. One thread that ties all of those stories together though is the picture that society has painted of our melanin. Society tells us certain things about how we look, how we dress, how we act, and so much more. My job is to dispel these rumors and shine light on the truth in your particular story, which is why I present to you the top 5 myths black women tell themselves to avoid therapy…

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Myth: Therapy is a white people thing.

Fact: Therapy is an everybody thing.

Whether you are black, white, purple, or green, you can benefit from going to therapy. Therapy became known as “a white people thing” because it use to be considered a luxury. Unfortunately, for a long time only the wealthy could afford to pay someone to listen to them, while everyone else went to their family, friends, or pastor for advice. But now that mental health is starting to be recognized as an essential part to everyone’s overall health, it is becoming more accessible to everyone willing to make a change in the way they think about their mind, body, and soul connecting. Between insurance, employee assistance programs, and not-for-profit counseling organizations, therapy is in reach for just about every person from any walk of life.


Quick Tips on Finding Cheap Therapy

  • Check what your insurance or EAP will cover! If someone else is willing to foot the bill, use that to your advantage! And if not, ask therapists if they offer a “sliding fee scale”, which adjusts the price of therapy based on your income.
  • Find an “Associate” or pre-licensed therapist. These therapists have completed Masters degrees, but are working towards licensure, so they often offer cheaper rates per session (as much as 50% less than licensed professionals). Studies also show that these therapists provide some of the most beneficial therapy due to their up to date knowledge of the field and best practice.
  • Check local universities as they often have student run clinics that provide very cheap therapy services! These clinics often have graduate students providing the service, while being supervised by licensed therapists. For San Diego residents, check out The Center for Community Counseling & Engagement for therapy as low as $12 per session!

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Myth: Black women don’t need therapy because they are strong.

Fact: Black women need therapy because they are strong.

Being physically strong doesn’t stop body builders from going to the gym. Why let being mentally strong keep you from checking in with yourself and managing your mental health? The strong are most often carrying so many other’s problems that they don’t have the strength left to deal with their own. In therapy sessions, I often see clients unpacking other people’s baggage as if it is their own. These individuals are often the strongest in their social networks, which is why they are able to take on so much from others. What they often seek in therapy though is having a space where they can discover and discuss their own concerns. Finding a therapist that makes you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and let down any guards allows you to take care of yourself in a more intentional way, so that you can continue being a strong individual in other areas of your life.

Myth: Going to therapy makes you look crazy.

Fact: Going to therapy is what keeps you sane in a crazy world.

First off, who gives a *bleep* what anyone else thinks!? Excuse my French. As the strong, black woman you are you have to deal with so much more than the average person. Black women deal with what we call “intersectionality”, which is basically the crossroads where various forms of social categorizations and discrimination meet. Black women have to face being black, being a woman, and being the center of the black community, while also managing possible financial hardships and the disadvantages that come along with that in this country. Now this is not to say we are victims in any way, but instead to show just how resilient we are. Overcoming these challenges on a daily basis means we often find ourselves drained and feeling unmotivated to keep going. Deciding to create a space with a professional where you can discuss the microaggressions, stress, and any other people/places/things that drive you crazy is a healthy way to keep yourself sane and happy in this crazy world.

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Myth: Church and praying will solve all your problems.

Fact: Church, praying, and talking to a trained professional will help solve a lot of your problems.

You can’t pray away a broken leg, and you can’t pray away a severe mental illness. Faith is something that becomes a very useful tool in many people’s lives to cope with hard times. Some hard times require more assistance however. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes, the key to dealing with it however is recognizing it. Stress, sadness, anger, and any other emotion is normal and needed. However when your mental state is beginning to be the source of distress in your job/marriage/life then it is time to get extra help. Managing bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia on your own can be scary, but when met with the proper support from a therapist, psychiatrist, and/or your primary care physician you can live life to the fullest despite this disorder.

Myth: I can’t change how society views me.

Fact: I can change how I view myself and how I let people treat me.

“I don’t want to be seen as __________.” This is one of the top phrases I hear from clients. One of my top responses…you can only control yourself and how you absorb these ideas from others. People will always have opinions, but only you get to dictate who you are. Society has no control over who you decide to be. Recognizing the power that comes with this realization changes everything. You go from questioning everyone to being un-bothered. The take away is if you change your view of yourself and channel that person who you want to be, society will follow. Using therapy as a place to build your confidence, your ability to cope, and your positive self image will change how you interact with everyone around you.

We all have concerns, questions, and relationships that have made us think at one point or another, “should I go to therapy?” If this question has ever crossed your mind, make an appointment! Taking care of yourself is the first step to taking care of those around you. By checking in with yourself and talking to a professional about life, you gain better knowledge on how to use your “magic”.

A great resource for finding a therapist in your area is “Therapy for Black Girls“. Check out the directory and the podcast for a fun dose of mental health information!

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