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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

Do You Think My Ex Misses Me?

by Rebecca Smith on October 8, 2014 in Anxiety, Break Ups, Grief, Healthy Relationships, Loss, Stress

Do you ever wonder if your ex thinks about you?  If they broke up with you, you might assume that they are moving on pain-free.  If you were dating a heartless and selfish person, this may be true.  You may think they are being heartless and selfish, but most of the time there are good reasons for a break up.  It just can be hard to feel that way.  Trust me, your ex isn’t escaping without any pain.  They are probably still thinking about you more than you realize.

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However, that unfortunately doesn’t mean they want to get back together with you.  So, why are they still thinking about you if they don’t want to be in a relationship any more?  The sad truth is that life is complicated.  In some cases your ex may have broken up with you because they were scared of how close you were becoming.  They weren’t ready for that type of commitment.  In those cases is really is about them and not you.  Fear is a powerful emotion that make people do irrational things.  This will make you want to reason with them, however you can’t reason with their fear or make them ready to face it either.  The more you push, the more they will dig their heels in and resist.  The best thing you can do is try to move on.  If they are running from you, the best thing to do is give them their space.  If they decide to conquer their fear of commitment or intimacy, they’ll come find you.  At that point you can decide if you want to give them another chance.

In other cases, your ex realized that something about the two of you wasn’t adding up.  Something was missing.  It isn’t because you aren’t good enough.  The rejection may make you feel this way, but the reality is that it is hard to find all the right connections in a relationship.  Sometimes you may connect really well emotionally, but be missing that sexual spark.  Other times you may have a really cool intellectual connection, but don’t have any recreational interests in common.  Different things are going to be more important to different people as well.  Some people can live without having a lot of common interests as long as their values are the same and the sexual spark is there.  However, not everyone feels or thinks the same.

Your ex may have needed more from a committed relationship.  There will be moments when they doubt their decision, but at the end of the day they know they need more than you are able to give.  That doesn’t mean they won’t miss the connections you did have whether it be your friendship, the sex or going to the movies with you.  It is just that the piece missing from your relationship was too important for them to give up.  I know this won’t help, but it isn’t your fault.  You have to be you.  Trying to be someone just to make your ex happy won’t work in the long run.  In time you’ll find that it is much better to be with someone you can be yourself around and know that it is enough.

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Another case is your ex realizing you can’t make each other happy.  It is not about asking too much, it is about asking too much of this specific person you are with.   Your relationship may be good overall, but an underlying conflict keeps surfacing.  This can cause your ex to finally decide to move on.  For an example, it can be a problem if you are someone who values consistency, yet your boyfriend or girlfriend is someone who lives in the moment.  You may have a great sexual spark, be able to talk for hours, and enjoy spending time together, but if you make plans that your boyfriend or girlfriend always forgets or cancels the last minute, it can make things hard.  You may feel like they aren’t valuing your time and they feel like you are always lecturing them about it.  At the end of the day, some couples realize they won’t be able to compromise on an issue, and it tends to ruin everything else in the relationship.

Is it too much to ask for someone to be consistent?  No, but it may be too much to ask of your ex.  They may not be able to bend enough to make you happy.  It may bring them to the breaking point and they finally call it quits.  This will be painful for both of you.  Even though they broke up with you, they will still miss you.  They will have doubts.  This type of relationship may actually go through several break ups before it is finally over because there is a lot of good aspects.  Not to mention the relationships they developed with your friend’s and family.  It is usually not easy to follow through with a break up.  This is why your ex may end up texting you after a few weeks or still want to be friends.  It is painful on both sides.  However, one issue can become a major conflict.  If the resentment builds, it can be hard to overcome, and the overall happiness in the relationship dies.

The hardest part is convincing yourself not to beg.  You may want to text them and try to convince them why they were wrong to break up with you.  You may feel if they only knew how much you miss them and wanted them back, it would convince them to give you another chance.  You may want to convince them you can change.  What I know is this…begging and stalking never made anyone look good.  Try to fight your instinct to reach out to them to tell them one last time how much you still love them.  This will not make you more attractive in their eyes.  It may weaken their resolve momentarily.  You may get a conversation, a meeting, or even sex out of your efforts.  Remember, I’m telling you they do still miss you.  However, it won’t last and then you’ll be going through the pain of losing them all over again.

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The point of this post is to remind you that you aren’t a loser.  Your ex didn’t break up with you because there is something wrong with you.  (If you did do something wrong, then work to fix that mistake whether they come back or not.  Some mistakes can’t be fixed within your relationship.  All you can do is hope to correct that mistake with someone else in the future.)  Most of the time there was something wrong BETWEEN the two of you.  That means there are things your ex will miss about you.  You may not be ready to think about finding someone else yet, but don’t bash yourself too hard while you’re grieving this break up.  The reason your ex broke up with you may not be an issue for someone else, so don’t go changing yourself for someone who has already closed the door in your face.  After you feel a little better, you will realize there are a lot of other open doors with people behind them who will be able to love you for you.

In a Relationship with Alcohol

by Rebecca Smith on September 15, 2014 in Alcohol or Substance Abuse, Healthy Relationships, Respect, Stress

Drinking in a relationship isn’t always an issue.  Sometimes both people drink responsibly and there aren’t any problems.  When it does become a problem is when one person drinks a lot more than their partner.  It can be very frustrating when the one you love loves to drink and party with their friends every weekend.

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I’ve worked with several students who started out in a relationship with both of them drinking a lot at first.  Unfortunately, we all know drinking is very common in college.  You may have even met your boyfriend or girlfriend at a party while drinking.  However, as the relationship progresses and you look towards graduation some students start to feel like their relationship is pulling apart.  I’ve had students tell me they feel like they are moving past the party scene in their lives, but don’t think their boyfriend or girlfriend is.  Every weekend is still devoted to going out to a party and drinking until their partner passes out.  Then they have to take care of them and get them home safe.

This can cause a lot of stress on the relationship.  Most people know that you can’t change someone else.  But what if you change and your partner doesn’t?  What do you do?  You love them.  When you spend time together during the week not drinking you are convinced this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.  But when it comes to them being drunk on Friday and Saturday night again, you aren’t so sure.  It also doesn’t help that arguments start a lot more frequently when one or both people have been drinking.  Then Sunday is spent waiting for them to stop feeling hung over so you can talk about what happened over the weekend.

It is the same old discussion over and over.  They either tell you to get over it and you do, or they realize you are about to walk out on them and they apologize.  They may even agree to drink less or spend one night on the weekend with you alone not drinking.  This may happen a couple of times but as soon as their friends call and persuade them to come to the next party, you are pushed to second place again.  Trust me, it isn’t an easy place to be in a relationship.

The choices aren’t easy.  They never are.  I’m not accusing your boyfriend or girlfriend of being an alcoholic.  But anyone who has grown up with an alcoholic knows the excuses and the repeat pattern of behaviors.  It also happens in relationships well before couples get married.  Often in college it is hard to tell who will be the ones who go on to drink heavily for the rest of their lives and who will stop partying once they graduate and get a full time job.  A lot of young couples in college are hoping their boyfriend or girlfriend is going to be in the latter category.

You may be one of those people hoping your partner may change once college is over so you continue to give them a chance when they put alcohol before you now.  It is hard to know what the future will bring.  For some of you, waiting may pay off.  Your partner may grow up, mature and alcohol won’t be an issue.  For some of you, waiting is going to only make things worse.  You will continue to grow more resentful.  Unless you decide to love them as is and accept the drinking.  Just know they won’t be able to stop because you want them to.  They will need some internal motivation to want to stop on their own.  Some people do grow out of the college party mode and others don’t.

Time will tell.   No one knows what’s going to happen in the future.  However, some patterns become very predictable.  If your partner loves to party and has a huge group of friends who condone that lifestyle, it may be harder for them to settle down.  Unfortunately lots of people continue to drink heavily even when they get into a career and have a family.  Especially if they have someone who is always there to help them clean up their messes.

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I know you can love someone so much that you just want to make it work any way you can.  There are truly selfless people out there that handle being second best to alcohol or friends.  Just ask Gene Simmons of the band, KISS.  His wife put up with A LOT for many years.  She finally put her foot down and Gene has changed his ways.  Gene is also in his 60’s and she has been living with him cheating and drinking for almost 30 years.  It can be done, but know that you don’t have to always put someone else first.  There is nothing wrong with admitting that you can’t be with someone who puts alcohol or their friends first.  You do deserve someone who can give you what you need.

It is one of the toughest decisions you will make.  It won’t be easy to know what the best option is.  I know I’ve said this before, but your level of pain tolerance is what is going to ultimately decide for you.  Either your boyfriend or girlfriend does settle down, or they will put you through a lot of pain.  When the pain becomes too much then you’ll know when the relationship has crossed the line of no return.  It really sucks to be put in this position.  You also aren’t stupid for trying to make it work.  The person you love is in there, they just also love alcohol.  Unfortunately things like alcohol and drugs make people blind to priorities.  Only you know whether it is worth it to wait it out or not.  Also know that it isn’t a waste of time to wait.  Whatever happens you will survive it, and this relationship will go on to shape who you become.  Hopefully no matter what, you come out stronger and smarter.

If you need someone to talk to, Mark Williams, in the Alcohol and Other Drug Program can be a great resource if someone you know and love is having difficulties with alcohol.  If you are a VSU student, you can make an appointment to meet with him at any time.  His contact information is 229-259-5111.

International Students and Culture Shock

by Rebecca Smith on September 5, 2014 in International Students, Stress

Leaving home and traveling to study in a new country can be a stressful experience, even though it may be something you have planned and prepared for. Many people are surprised when they experience the impact of culture shock, and it can be helpful to realize your experience is actually quite normal.

What is Cultural Shock?

Culture shock describes the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one that is unfamiliar. It includes the shock of a new environment, meeting lots of new people and learning the ways of a new country. It also includes the shock of being separated from the important people in your life, such as family, friends, colleagues, and teachers: people you would talk to at times of uncertainty, people who give you support and guidance.

Factors that can contribute to culture shock

  • Climate

Many students find the northwest climate can affect them a lot. You may find the grayness and dampness, especially during the winter months, difficult to get used to.

  • Language

Listening and speaking in a new language is tiring. In class, some international students have trouble understanding the lecture and reading materials. People speak quickly and you may feel embarrassed to ask them to repeat what they said. If English is not your first language, you may find you miss your home language.

  • Social roles

Social behaviors may confuse, surprise or offend you. For example you may find people appear cold, distant or always in a hurry. Or you may be surprised to see couples holding hands and kissing in public. You may find the relationships between men and women more formal or less formal than you are used to, as well as differences in same sex social contact and relationships.

  • ‘Rules’ of behavior

As well as the obvious things that hit you immediately when you arrive, such as sights, sounds, smells and tastes, every culture has unspoken rules which affect the way people treat each other. These may be less obvious, but sooner or later you will probably encounter them and once again the effect may be disorientating. For example, there will be differences in the ways people decide what is important, how tasks are allocated and how time is observed. In business and academic life, keeping to a schedule is important. You should always be on time for lectures, classes, and meetings with academic and administrative staff. If you are going to be late for a meeting, do try to give advance notice.

  • Values

Although you may first become aware of cultural differences in your physical environment, (e.g. food, dress, behavior) you may also come to notice that people from other cultures may have very different views of the world from yours. Cultures are built on deeply-embedded sets of values, norms, assumptions and beliefs. It can be surprising and sometimes distressing to find that people do not share some of your most deeply held ideas, as most of us take our core values and beliefs for granted and assume they are universally held. As much as possible, try to suspend judgment until you understand how parts of a culture fit together into a coherent whole. Try to see what people say or do in the context of their own culture’s norms. This will help you to understand how other people see your behavior, as well as how to understand theirs. When you understand both cultures, you will probably find some aspects of each that you like and others that you don’t.

  • Relationship Stress

If your spouse or partner has accompanied you to the U.S., remember that the stress of the transition may cause struggles in your relationship. The transition to a new culture may be very difficult for your partner. Your partner may feel very isolated; he/she has been transplanted from your culture and separated from family and friends. Simple tasks can be stressful due to the language barrier. Often times they do not have opportunities to engage in productive, meaningful activity such as pursuing a degree, and it may be more difficult for them to make new friends.

How to Help Yourself

Though culture shock is normally a temporary phase, it is important to know there are things you can do to help yourself and minimize your distress. Click to learn some tips for easing culture shock.

View original article at the University of Washington Counseling Center Page.

Can Men and Women Be “Just Friends”?

by Rebecca Smith on August 26, 2014 in Friendship, Healthy Relationships, Respect, Single LIfe

This is a hard one for me to answer.  I know what I think, but I’m sure there is someone out there who can prove me wrong.  From my experience as a counselor and working with people for a over a decade, I have come to the conclusion that men and women can be “just friends” IF they have really good boundaries.

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Otherwise, all bets are off.  This post will be about my definition of boundaries.  The first boundary is being able to talk about dating other people.  If you can’t do that, then you will be jealous when they start dating or get into a serious relationship.  If you are truly “just friends” you should be able to become friends with their significant other with no problem.  Their significant other shouldn’t feel threatened by you either.  They shouldn’t have to compete with you for your friend’s attention.  If you are truly a friend you will want to hang out with both of them at times and won’t mind if he/she doesn’t have as much time for you.

The second boundary is not becoming too emotionally attached.  This friend shouldn’t be your best and only friend.  If you become too emotionally close, it can cause problems.  For example, if you talk to your friend at all hours of the night you are going to feel really hurt when they can no longer text you back because they are too busy texting their new boyfriend or girlfriend.  They will now be going to this other person for emotional support.   Their girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t going to be okay with you texting them 24/7.  Your friendship will come in second to the relationship, and this is how it should be.  Not that it is okay for them to ignore you like you don’t exist, but be aware that they won’t have the time or energy to meet all of your emotional needs anymore.  If you can keep this boundary, it will make the adjustment easier when they do end up in a relationship.

The third boundary is not having sex with each other.  “Friends With Benefits” may work when you are both single, but how is it going to work when one of you gets into a relationship?  Most people in a relationship have a hard time when their partner hangs out with someone they’ve had sex with in the past.  If your friend is being honest in their relationship, then their partner will know they’ve had sex with you in the past.  It could make it uncomfortable for them to hang out with you, which means your friend now has to choose between their partner and you.  Guess who they are probably going to pick?  Think long and hard about having sex with a friend because it could screw up your friendship in the future.

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It is good to have friends of the opposite sex, but be aware of the potential complications. You need to be aware of  what your underlying intentions are.  If you really want to date this person and feel a stronger connection to them, be honest with yourself.   They are no longer “just a friend”.  Also, be aware of their intentions or underlying feelings for you.  Do you get the vibe that they are only hanging out with you because they are wanting more?  Do they come to you with all of their problems?  How do they react when you start talking about dating other people?  Sometimes your intentions can be innocent, but it isn’t fair to take advantage of someone’s friendship when you know they really want more from you.  It is good to have a solid boundary with this person because they could make it hard for you when you start to pull away.

If you keep these simple boundaries in mind, it will help keep your friendship solid and intact even when you or them start dating more seriously.  Try not to let just one person become your main confidant.  Don’t spend all your time with this person.  Go out with your other friends and have other people you can count on.  This will help you keep those boundaries and prevent future heartache or drama.  If you can do that, you should be able to be friends with the opposite sex with no problem!

Believe in Yourself

by Rebecca Smith on August 18, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

As you start the semester, you can be so overwhelmed that it can be hard to focus on the positive side of life.  It’s the first day of classes, so here are some inspirations to get you through the first week!  (all images via weheartit)

Welcome Class of 2018!!!

by Rebecca Smith on August 7, 2014 in Anxiety, Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

Another school year is about to begin!  August rolls around so fast every year.  VSU is excited to welcome their incoming freshman, the class of 2018!!

Move in day is coming up fast!  The first weekend away from your parents can bring mixed feelings.  For some it will be exciting to have freedom at last.  For others it will be somewhat anxiety provoking to be so far away from home.  Others will feel dread at classes starting and feel overwhelmed already looking at their syllabus online.  Other new freshman may feel a little lost, a little lonely and wish they had gone to the school where all their friends went.  Others will feel like they’ve walked into their high school class reunion.

There are so many different experiences while starting college.  You’re figuring out a whole new living situation and trying to find your way around campus.  You can’t believe how many new people you’ve met in just a few days.  So many new Twitter followers, yet so little time to actually Tweet.  You realize that 2am is early to get to bed, yet somehow you still signed up for all 8am classes.  You may make a mental note to change that for the spring semester.  It is a crazy time full of adjustment.

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Some adjustments will be easy.  Others will be hard.  Some people are born to party and make new friends easily, yet will find they struggle to make it to class and finish the semester.  Other people will thrive in their classes, but feel anxious every time they have to find someone to eat lunch and dinner with every day.  Just know that everyone goes through some hard times their first semester.  College is a lot of fun, full of great new experiences.  However, it is also stressful and full of moments of doubt.  Each experience is going to shape you and help you become someone you won’t even recognize at the end of your four (or five) years of school.

It is okay to take risks and try new things.  If you make a mistake, do your best to learn from it and move on.  Don’t be too hard on yourself or have too high of expectations.  Especially watch the expectations.  So many new college students have this image of being the perfect student, or getting into the best sorority or fraternity, or finding the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, or going to the best parties every weekend.  You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to be involved in all the right clubs or organizations or be in a relationship to have a great college experience.

Just take this opportunity to explore the opportunities before you and make changes as necessary.  Ask for help when you need it and take responsibility for yourself when you don’t.  Have fun, but not too much fun.  Study hard, but not too hard.  Don’t go to any extremes.  My advice for new college students is to find balance.  All work and no play isn’t good for you, but all play and no work won’t get you very far either.   Make sure you find time to eat, sleep, and exercise.  This will help reduce stress and keep you focused when those really hard weeks during midterms and finals come around.

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One of the top things I talk about in my counseling office, besides relationships, is stress.  Time management is key.  In college you really have to know how to manage your time.  Take the next few weeks and try to find a good routine and schedule for studying, hanging out with friends, and getting involved with other activities on campus.  If you take on too much, try to back off on a few commitments.  If you find you are bored and spending too much time in your room, look for ways to get involved with things that may interest you.  Tweak your schedule as you go through the semester until you find the right balance with your time.  This will be key as you go through your time in college.

Good luck out there!!  I hope you have a great first year!!