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Bad Therapist - December 2021
By: Bad Therapist
Dear Bad Therapist is a monthly column where readers can write in to get tough, but strikingly relevant advice for their everyday problems. Everyone needs a bit of tough love and the Bad Therapist is here to provide it.
I’ve been wracking my brain over the past three months trying to deal with my failing relationship. Our communication is at times non-existent and we haven’t been intimate for what feels like forever. I’ve never been good at confrontation, so I just avoid addressing whatever is happening between us. It seems like he’s doing the same, though I can’t be sure. I’ve started having an affair, but I don’t think he is aware. I don’t believe he’s having an affair of his own, though I can’t be sure either. The whole thing is tearing me apart and I don’t know what to do about it. I know that I’m not in love with him anymore but I can’t stand the thought of hurting him. I’ve thought about breaking up with him and never telling him about my affair. But I’ve also thought about sticking it out and making it work. I think I can fall back in love with him but I’m really not sure. Please, tell me what I can do to save my sanity and our relationship.
Bad Therapist: What are you possibly confused about? You’re not in love with the guy, and you don’t speak nor have sex. What could make this relationship any worse? You having an affair. Oh shit, you’re doing that too! Listen, don’t overcomplicate things. You don’t want to hurt this sad soul, but trust me you already are. Is he inflicting pain on you by not communicating whatever he’s feeling either? Maybe, but you’re the one cheating so there’s definitely an asymmetry here and it doesn’t look good on you. Grow a (metaphorical) pair, break up with the sad sack of shit, and go discover how deeply unhappy you are with this side piece. Here’s a hint: it might not be your partners that are the problem.
I’m a parent of two, and both children are now adults. They’ve long since moved out and been on their own, but with the generous financial support of my wife and I. Each month we send them enough money to cover what we believe is an increasingly lavish lifestyle. They live in separate loft condos in an expensive city and are regularly posting about their extravagant nights out. We feel that we’re supporting a lifestyle that they can’t support on their own. One of my children does not work and the other works part-time as a barista at an organic, new-wave, old-age, hydro-steam-heat, double-triple-pour-over-coffee-bean-stack that I have to admit is actually quite fabulous. When my wife and I raised concerns about the amount of money we send them monthly, both of them pushed back and threatened to never speak to us nor visit us again. We want to establish some boundaries but we’re afraid of alienating them further. What do you suggest we do?
Bad Therapist: So I’m living in an expensive city and have an increasingly lavish lifestyle to maintain myself. Any chance you’re giving out more tickets to this gravy train? But seriously, what the fuck are you thinking? Are you two fucking clueless? You support your two overgrown children (let’s be honest, their behaviour doesn’t resemble that of functioning adults), and when you make the slightest critical remark that they accept some responsibility for their own lives, they hold your emotional well-being hostage? They’re willing to drop an emotional atom bomb on you and your wife’s lives and you’re afraid of pushing them further away?
I mean, I don’t even know where to begin here. I suppose we could start at square one. The reason your children are acting like this is because you’ve enabled this sort of behaviour for so long. No shit, right? Basically, the chickens (your behaviour enabling your dumbass children, in case that wasn’t clear) have come home to roost. You shouldn’t have gotten them that Nintendo game every time they asked when they were young, you shouldn’t have bought them alcohol when they were underaged, and you sure as shit shouldn’t have sent them thousands of dollars each month so they could live like Liberace. What do you suggest I do? Isn’t it obvious? Stop sending them the money ASAP, give them a smack across the head and tell them to get their shit together or they’ll end up in a van down by the river. As for you, do the exact same thing.
I’ve recently lost my father to cancer and I’m drowning in feelings of grief, guilt, and anger. I wake up with immense feelings of loss that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to overcome. I work my eight hour day, come home and practically sit on my couch, numb to my surroundings, unaware of how to change, completely indifferent to whatever pro-social plans are offered to me. Thoughts of regret and “I could have done more” ruminate through my mind and are a huge drag on my well-being right now. I’m also angry at a system that could and should have done more to save my father. I’m pissed as well at other family members who contributed comparatively little to his recovery, and have since moved on very quickly in the aftermath of his passing. I need help to accept that he’s gone and forgive myself and my family for everything that’s happened. Where do I begin?
Bad Therapist: Let me begin by saying that I’m so sorry for your loss. Grief affects everyone differently but it’s important for you to know, to feel, that you’re not alone. Though your grief surrounding your father’s death is unique to you, I can tell you that guilt, anger, and general feelings of loss are among many of the emotions I’ve seen in people experiencing grief. I believe it’s in the uniqueness of your feelings that you’ll be able to emerge a stronger, more well person.
I can’t give you specific steps that will help you get over your father’s passing. Everyone goes through various steps differently. I can’t even tell you how exactly to use your feelings now to get better later. But maybe I can help guide you in how that journey might look.
Right now your pain is still fresh so it might be hard to feel the truth in these words: your profound pain is a result of your profound love for your father. You hurt deeply because you loved deeply. A first step in your recovery might be to see your pain, your sense of grief, as connected to your love like this. And this is part of a much broader step in accepting your feelings and emotions as they are. You might now feel down about what you “should” have done when they were alive, or upset and anxious about how you think you “should” be at a different stage in your grief. Simply accept, with patience and compassion towards yourself, that you feel this way now but that you will not feel this so acutely forever. Sit with your emotions, feel them, be with them, and much of their emotional sting will dissipate. I think that will help.
A next step might be to extend those feelings of patience and compassion to yourself more broadly. Be gentle with yourself, and slowly begin to re-engage with your life and emotions the way they were before your father got sick. Again, go as slow as you need as there’s no race to get out of grief, or a step-by-step guide on how to do so. But I believe if you accept your emotions and treat yourself gently and with compassion, you’ll find that the path out will make itself clear to you over time. Be well, I wish you peace.
Advice written here is not medical advice and if it wasn’t clear already, is intended as humour. If someone’s problem or a piece of feedback from the Bad Therapist offends you, we suggest you explore why you allow it to control your emotional well-being. You might even want to go and talk to a professional about it.