Psy­chol­o­gist Jen­nifer Garth an­swers your queries

PSY­CHOL­O­GIST JEN­NIFER GARTH SHARES HOW TO HAVE ‘THE TALK’ WITH TEENS, MAN­AGE DIF­FI­CULT PAR­ENTS AND GAIN CON­FI­DENCE IN RE­LA­TION­SHIPS

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My mother makes me feel guilty for liv­ing my life the way I want to. I’m 38 and tired of feel­ing ma­nip­u­lated. What should I do?

A

An emo­tion­ally ma­nip­u­la­tive par­ent­ing dy­namic can start when you’re as young as five with par­ent­ing com­ments like, “You are my life. I would die with­out you.” You grow up feel­ing re­spon­si­ble for your par­ent’s hap­pi­ness. If you don’t meet her needs, she makes you feel guilty and be­fore you know it, you’re do­ing some­thing you don’t want to do and feel­ing re­sent­ful. To break the pat­tern, re­mind her you are not re­spon­si­ble for her hap­pi­ness. That doesn’t mean you don’t love and care for her. But her hap­pi­ness is her re­spon­si­bil­ity, not yours.

When­ever I ask my part­ner ‘Do you love me?’, he gets frus­trated and tells me to stop an­noy­ing him. Is he re­ally telling me he wants to end the re­la­tion­ship?

No, he isn’t telling you he wants

A

to end the re­la­tion­ship. But he is let­ting you know your in­se­cu­ri­ties are frus­trat­ing him. An ex­ces­sive need for re­as­sur­ance can suf­fo­cate a re­la­tion­ship. When you look to your part­ner to make you feel good about your­self, you put your­self in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion and when you don’t get the re­sponse you want, you be­come anx­ious. So you hold on tighter, and the re­la­tion­ship dy­namic con­tin­ues. In­stead, you need to deal with your in­se­cu­ri­ties and fo­cus on cre­at­ing a healthy re­la­tion­ship. Start by prac­tis­ing un­con­di­tional self-ac­cep­tance – fully ac­cept­ing your­self in spite of your per­ceived un­wor­thi­ness. When you feel com­fort­able with your­self and your life, you won’t be con­stantly look­ing for your part­ner to make you feel com­plete.

‘You are not re­spon­si­ble for her hap­pi­ness’

I know I need to talk to my teen about sex, but I feel un­com­fort­able. What’s the best ap­proach?

Be­ing hon­est and open is your A

best start. At first you will feel awk­ward and un­sure, but you will be­come more con­fi­dent with time and prac­tise. It helps if you’re pre­pared. Start by de­cid­ing on what val­ues and mes­sages you want to com­mu­ni­cate. Be in­formed about cur­rent sex­ual is­sues such as STIS, healthy re­la­tion­ships and sex­ting. And don’t be put off if your teen has dif­fer­ent views to your own. Re­mem­ber the goal is to be able to talk

openly about the topic.

What is emo­tion­ally-fo­cused ther­apy?

Emo­tion­ally-fo­cused ther­apy (EFT) A is an ev­i­dence-based ap­proach that helps you ac­cept, ex­press and trans­form emo­tions that have been feared and avoided – and have been hold­ing you back. In ther­apy, you be­gin to iden­tify and ac­cess healthy emo­tions that can be trusted and use these as a guide to health­ier re­la­tion­ships and re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour. It is a very ef­fec­tive form of ther­apy, es­pe­cially for those who have ex­pe­ri­enced emo­tional and phys­i­cal aban­don­ment and child­hood trauma.

you be­gin to iden­tify and ac­cess healthy emo­tions that can be trusted

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