VSU Counseling Center

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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

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.

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!