Category Archives for "Relationships"

The Discomfort Zone … choosing your life path

A few weeks ago, Handsome was talking with a friend about a tough situation they were in, and they said they knew they needed to get out of their “Comfort Zone” and fix it.  Then they took a pause, and said, “But wait, I’m not comfortable at all!” 

We often hear about “Comfort Zones.”  Situations that are easy to stay in, while we know we’d be better off if we made the difficult choice to get out of them.  For me, lots of my learning as a puppy fit this – it might be comfortable to lie on the forbidden couch or pee inside the house, but I was better off improving my behavior!  Humans might find a situation like staying in their parents’ home, staying in a go-nowhere job, or avoiding a difficult conversation to be Comfort Zones.

But what I see so often is what I’ll call DIScomfort Zones!  Situations one stays in that make them actively miserable. 

For example, if you have nice parents who treat you well, and it’s comfortable to live with them although you know you need to move out and start to live your own life, that’s a Comfort Zone.  But if you’re staying with parents who abuse, shame, and harass you… you’re in a Discomfort Zone. 

In dealing with my Pack members, where I see this most often is young relationships.  Whether friendships or romances, people will stay with others they might not think the best of or get the most out of, just because that’s the way things are.  And really, that’s fine, until something changes.  But it breaks my heart to see you guys stay with people who treat you badly.  Who ignore you, who put you down (not in fun ways), who cheat on you, who blame you, who make you feel horrible about yourself.

Either zone requires strength and hope to leave.  But with a Discomfort Zone, I also think it’s really important to look at the question of Why:  What has kept you there?  What do you get from it, and what’s so scary about being out of it that you’ve stayed?

In the relationship question, what is it that keeps you with those friends, or in that romance?  Is it love, or is it maybe a deep-seated fear that you’re not good enough for someone else?  That no one else is going to accept you?  That this crumminess is as good as you’ll ever get?

And if that’s the case, then I want to challenge you to do one thing for me.  I’m not telling you what decisions to make in your life, but I do just want you to look at that question anew.  Really ask yourself – Is This True?

If you’re thinking no one else could love you, ask yourself why you have that belief.  Who told you that?  What about you is so unlovable?

Now I need to take a little pause here:  If this is just that you’re feeling your relationship isn’t good enough because the other person doesn’t have a billion euros or look like Ana De Armas, that’s another story.  You might be correct to think you’re not that very rare individual who’ll land someone with gifts such as those.  But if you’re thinking no one worthy could love you, or even like you, please look over your past.  Have you had other friends?  Has someone else been interested in you?  And if so, doesn’t that prove that you don’t need to stay in your Discomfort?

You see, the superpower of Comfort Zones and Discomfort Zones is in their telling you “Don’t think too much about this!”  If you’re staying out of shape because it’s easier to sit around watching YouTube than to go for a run, that’ll work until the day you start wanting to be stronger and fitter so much you turn that iPad off.  And if you stay sedentary it so much that you start having back problems and can’t stand what you see in the mirror, then it’s even more so: Once you ask yourself about the choice you’re making, you’ll start making a different choice!

Now again, I’m never going to argue anyone out of a true, considered choice to stay in an uncomfortable situation.  The selflessness that leads one to a life of austere help to others, the nobility of defending your homeland against attackers, the deep love of taking care of ailing family members… these are virtues, not flaws.  I bow to you for them.

But even with those, it’s good to step back and look at your choices.  Because maybe doing so will help remind you of just how great you are!  (I’m happy to do it too, but can’t be there with you all the time!)

Life offers joys, comforts, discomforts, and horrors.  Everyone’s.  All I’m pushing on you this month is to do what I do when I’m sleeping somewhere and it gets a little too sunny – so I wake, get up, and move to a shadier spot and go back to sleep.

To get conscious just long enough to do what’s best for you.

And do it Often!

Shirelle

Juicybest asks:

I’ve been single for some months now but there are two guys currently trying to get me to be their partner. I’m confused on who to choose, because frankly speaking I don’t want a boyfriend.  Just one whom I could end up getting married to.  And they are both sweet people. Is there anyway or anything I could do to know who amongst them is the best choice for me?

Hi Juicybest –

Thanks for your question about the two guys.

I’m very glad that both these guys are sweet people, because you deserve to be treated well!  But I’m going to disagree with your question.

You ask me which of them “is the best choice for me.”  But I don’t know if either of them is.  Does one of them make you laugh so hard things come out of your nose?  Does one live a life you find inspiring?  Does one treat someone in his life so well that you know he’d make a good partner for you, or perhaps even a great father to your children?  Does one love (or at least tolerate) the music and movies and books that matter most to you?  Does one of them treat your family members well?  And maybe most important of all, does one make you feel excited at the prospect of seeing him?

If you were stranded on a deserted island, then yes, I’d agree that you’d have to decide between these two guys.  But you’re on a planet with over three billion male humans!  And you’re asking which of these two is the right one for you? 

Maybe one is just that great.  Or maybe both are – I don’t know.  But my advice is to enjoy their attention and see if, at some point, one of them gets you flipped.  Until then, I’d worry that you’d just get involved with this guy and then meet someone else who does knock you out, which would only result in hurting a good guy.

I know you’re tired of being single, but treat yourself with enough love and honor to wait for someone great enough to deserve you!

All my best,

Shirelle

How to get over someone who treats you badly

Blessing special asks:

How do I get over someone I really like?  After we spent time for the first time (cause we have been talking for a while), we finally met through a friend of mine – but even before we met he didn’t want any strings attached even though we liked each other. And then it wasn’t all good because he’s this kind of bossy type that always wants to do all the talking and giving out instructions. I always try not to make mistakes because he doesn’t hesitate to judge my mistake or point it out, but I really liked him because he was cool. As well we had some great moments, but when I got back he no longer talked or called me as before. When I asked, he said I wasn’t the vibe he needed, and it really hurt me so much!  I have been trying to get over it!

Hi Blessing special –

I have seen this same situation so many times.  We dogs tend to fall in love with whoever takes care of us, but you humans have a crazy tendency to fall in love with people who treat you horribly!  I’ve seen it in so many letters, and even at home.  I remember a few years back, Handsome was just nuts about this woman who had many wonderful qualities but treated him horribly (not abusive, just pulling him in, pushing him away, back and forth).  Eventually she broke up with him and he was simply devastated.  A friend of his said the words I couldn’t speak, “I know you’re heartbroken, but I have to say I’m glad she left you.  I couldn’t stand to watch her keep hurting you anymore.” 

So lots of people will tell you their suggestions on how to get over this guy.  “Eat a tub of ice cream.”  “Go out with ten other guys.”  “Dye your hair light green.”  I can’t say which of these will help or won’t, but I do know that the only way you’ll truly get over him is to make a change in your attitude toward yourself, where you say, “It doesn’t matter how great he is in other regards.  I deserve someone who treats me well.” 

And what does “treat well” mean to you?  Does it mean showering you with jewelry and flowers?  Writing you love songs?  Taking you out lots to help you escape from the boredom of your job?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I can tell you what it doesn’t include: “No strings attached,” bossing you around, judging your mistakes, ghosting you, or saying “you’re not the vibe I need!”  In other words, you deserve someone who’s at least better than this guy!

Blessing special, you are a special blessing!  Any guy who can’t see that isn’t worthy of you.  And the only one making you be in relationships that feel bad is you. 

So my answer is to like yourself better, and value yourself more.  You wouldn’t accept a person kicking a dog, so why would you accept a guy who treated anyone that way, especially you?

You deserve better.  If you don’t know it yet, take my word for it.  You do.

And the day you learn that is the day you’ll be over him – and anyone else like him – forever!

Here’s hoping it’s soon!

Shirelle

Sorry Not Sorry … the nature of regret

            Handsome recently told me about a fascinating movie he’d just seen.  Hard to describe, but in many ways, it was fundamentally about the nature of regret. 

            We dogs don’t deal a lot with regret.  Or rather, we don’t deal with it for long.  We’ll regret something we did because of its immediate consequences (whether that’s the punishment sort, like when I steal food off Handsome’s plate and he yells at me and makes me go outside, or the cause-effect sort, like where I stick my nose too far to sniff inside a hot oven and… OW!), but we don’t carry regrets on for days, or months, or years, the way you do.

            So I look on the whole concept in a different way than people would.  And what I see is… mixed.

            Okay, first let’s talk about the good.  A person does something thoughtless or awful, that has terrible consequences.  They drive drunk and cause an accident with permanent injuries, or they say something hurtful that someone never gets over.  And having realized the effects of their actions, they make a change.  They stop driving intoxicated (or maybe stop drinking altogether), and hold back on comments that might be taken in the worst ways. 

            Well that’s great!  They’ve grown, matured, learned… they make themselves into better people, more useful citizens of their community.  Regret has prodded them to self-improvement. Fantastic.

            And then there’s the bad.  A person does something they regret, and it damages them forever.  A breakup goes badly, and the instigator says “I hurt someone I cared about, and feel awful, so I never want to try romance again.  I’m too harmful.”  Or on a more general level, someone does something they regret and never feels good about themselves after that.  “I’m just not a good person.  I make mistakes that go bad.”  You know the type – the person who never stands up straight, only smiles with a nervousness, and can’t accept a compliment.  It’s not their breakup or mistake that’s ruined their life; it’s their regret that’s done it.

            But then there’s another sort.  Let’s call it “Dramatic Regret.”  The person who wears their regret, makes a show of it, lets it define them by choice.  You know them too.  The girl who is always telling her schoolmates she shouldn’t have broken up with that guy, the young man who’s always putting on a show about what a bad person he is for having punched his dad.  The regret might be real, but, again, these folk tend to make their regret into a new set of clothes for themselves! 

            Of course, what’s the very best is when regret leads one to simply act in a way that undoes it.  I know that’s not always possible, but when it can, I’m for it.  When Handsome accidentally steps on my toes, I yelp, and he collapses down, hugging me, apologizing, and kissing the tops of my feet to make them feel better… it works!  Sure I don’t want him stepping there again, but all the pain has gone away, and I’m fine!

            So, about this movie.  It was hard for Handsome to describe to me, and it’ll be even harder for me to relate, but it’s about a good woman with a bland husband, a rebellious daughter, and a distant father, trying to get through her difficult working day, while facing economic difficulties.  But suddenly she’s enabled to see all the different possibilities out there – of her past choices and her present.  It’s confusing, and surprisingly violent, as she confronts all these different realities.  But in doing so, she grows to learn more about who she is. 

            In other words, to grow, she is forced to face countless regrets.  Even for things she didn’t know were choices she’d made.

            If you’re able to see it, I recommend this movie.  It’s called Everything Everywhere All at Once, and while it’s being compared to superhero multiverse stories, it’s really more unique than that.

            But if you miss seeing it, or you think it’s not your type, that’s okay too.  It’s YOUR choice, and you don’t need to walk around in regret about it!

            What I want most is for you to look at yourself, at your own life, right now.  And see what regrets you have.  Are any of them fixable, like Handsome kissing my toes?  Or “growable,” like the driver changing their drinking habits?  Or if not, are any of them unfair, just pulling you down?  Maybe you can let those go.  (Or are any of them ones you choose to indulge, for attention-grabbing reason?  PLEASE let those go!)

            As a human, you have a huge brain that holds incredible amounts of memory and imagination.  You will never be able to live with no regrets.  But if you handle them right, and carry just the ones that you absolutely have to, then maybe, just maybe, you can live as happy and constantly-refreshingly-happy a life as a dog.

            And that’s something you will NEVER regret!

Should one commit to a relationship that’s about to become long-distance?

Goku asks:

My college is almost about to end.  All my life I’ve been into terrible relationships. I have an amazing best friend who supported me throughout and helped me get through. She went through a break up 6 months ago, for a lot of reasons, but main one being she wasn’t that into him, she says she distanced herself from him cause she knew that they don’t have a future since she’ll be soon leaving the country for higher studies.  Let’s name this guy “Y”. During this her ex, let’s name him “X,” who she dated 3 years ago came back. It looked like she had never gotten over him and jumped into a relationship with Y (from what I know, X was into a lot of trouble, trying to figure out things in his life, and since there was no communication, she started seeing Y; when she made out with Y she broke up with X), and till date is guilty of not being there for him.  Now when he came back she went crazy behind Y’s back, and kept drunk calling X. I was being supportive while he randomly ghosted her or avoided her. But a few months ago, when she was getting better with the whole thing, we had a moment and from then on we started making out almost every day and now we are physically involved, I had never known that I have feelings for her, and we decided we’d just have a few months, after which we’ll be in different time zones, different countries, so we’ll go with the flow and not give any tag to our bond since we’re best friends before anything else and we can’t ruin that. But 2 months ago X again texted her saying that he was hurt the first time she left him so that’s why he was pushing her away, and now he wants to give it a try, even though she’s leaving this country. He said he’ll make things better. She said we’ll see, and assured me that right now she’s sure nothing will happen, but in the future if he becomes the person he used to be she might go with him.  Well, that hurts! Now they talk every day for hours on video call or normal call and he hits on her casually, breaking my heart. I’ve told her that it hurts and every time we have this conversation it doesn’t end up well. She’s involved with me emotionally and physically and says doesn’t want to lose me. She can stop talking to him for me but I can’t let that happen no matter how badly I want it, because I don’t want to bind her or stop her, I want her to do what makes her happy. Every time I try to get myself better something happens, either he flirts with her or she casually tells me how in future they could be together, and it breaks my heart every day, I have anxiety and she knows that in my past I’ve been betrayed a lot. I am so scared, I don’t want to lose her, and when I spoke to her about it, she said I overthink a lot and she’d prefer not talking about him with me (while before she would tell me about their conversations). Now I travelled all the way to her place with her, celebrated Valentine’s Day with her, and right after that she said she’ll meet him once and maybe stay at his place for one night.  She said she isn’t sure that something wouldn’t happen between them and she wants to be honest with me so if there’s even a 0.1% chance, she wants me to know it’s possible. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Then, seeing that, she said she won’t meet him, nothing will happen, and she’ll stop talking to him – but in an annoyed tone. I don’t want to stop her from talking, but how is this fair to me, that while she’s with me (even without a tag) she could even think of having a moment with someone else? She says she’s complicated and she knows she’s hurting me, and doesn’t want to lose me ever. I don’t know what to do. I try to communicate with her every day, sometimes the conversation goes well, and sometimes it turns ugly and then I have to set it right. I’ve started hating X and now even if she mentions him it hurts so bad. I want to stop thinking about him or their conversations or what’ll happen when they meet. I told her about this and she said she’ll meet him but she won’t do anything because she doesn’t want to ruin things between us, but that she even had a thought bothers me. I don’t know what to do, it’s so messed up. I feel so overwhelmed and anxious, I just feel like running away. She hates it when I get upset over this, and tries to make me feel better, and even says she’s ready to give it all away, but I don’t want that. I want her to do what she wants.  Please help me, I have 3 months left with her and I want to make the most out of it, and that makes me anxious, that this will come to an end. We’ll be best friends forever but this that we have will end. I don’t know how to stop overthinking (or am I even overthinking?). I love her and that’s all I know.

Hi Goku –

Wow!  That’s a lot you’re going through!  I really have two responses to it, but first I have to say that I absolutely adore the phrase you used, “not give any tag to our bond.”  You see, I literally have tags to my bond with my human friend Handsome, and wear them on my collar!  So yeah, I love that term!

Okay, so first of all, there is no question in my mind that this girl is very afraid of full commitment right now.  The way she’s treated all three of you guys tells me so.  X may have not been the perfect boyfriend, but if she really wanted to be with him she’d never have gotten involved with you; Y really seems to have been left in the dust; and she is playing with you like a yo-yo: pull you in, spin you out, pull you in, spin you out, etc!  Now I’m not judging her; she’s young and there’s no reason why she ought to be committing fully to anyone just yet, but I might be inclined to say that she’s not a good match for you, as you are clearly someone who gets much more attached.

However…!

There’s another side to this.  You say that you and she will be living in different time zones in three months.  You even say, “knowing that I have 3 months makes me anxious, that this will come to an end we’ll be best friends forever but this that we have will end.”  Well, my sense is that you’re right to be anxious!  In fact, I’ll agree with you that what’s going on between the two of you is guaranteed to end in three months!  Or, better put, it will change in three months.

My friend, your job right now is to take care of yourself.  She’s doing just that for herself, and apparently doing a pretty good job of it.  She’s protecting herself from getting too attached to you or X, and only struggling with the fact that she sees she’s hurting you.  You need to do just what she’s doing, but in the way that works for you.

What would that be?  Might the best thing be for you to pull away from her and let her figure out what she wants for her future?  Might the best thing be for you to insist that she spend the next three months with you and stop trying to be so nice by giving her space to make her own decisions?  Might the best thing be for you to kidnap her and X, and put them in separate cells in a dungeon, telling her she can only be freed when she agrees to marry you, and until then you’ll starve him to death? 

Okay, so number three is NOT a good idea; I’ll accept that!

My main point here, Goku, is that she’s not wrong.  She’s acting in a very rational way for someone in her position.  While you, you wonderful romantic, are behaving in a way that would make total sense if no one were about to move, but you’re not facing up to the fact that something is about to change in a big way.

What I think would be especially great, whatever else you do, would be to have a good talk with her about what sort of relationship you two would like to have after college.  Maybe being best friends for a while isn’t a bad idea – you both know how easy it would be to shift that back into a romance if that becomes possible again.  Or maybe you want to try to get her into a committed long-distance relationship, and maybe she’d be up for it (particularly if X hurts her feelings again).  Or maybe you want to take care of yourself by getting space from each other, and not hearing about what she’s doing with other guys so you can move forward in your own life.

But what you need is to decide.  And in that sense, I’m going to disagree with her full-out: you need to think more!  Think hard, and think clearly.  If you can get away and go sit on a hillside or a beach for a few hours, that’d be great.  Really think about what you want to achieve in the next chapter of your life.  And whether you’d like to be free to get involved with other girls, or try to commit to her. 

Truly there’s no wrong choice for you to make (other than that kidnapping thing).  You guys have your whole lives in front of you, and any decisions can be changed over time. 

But you need to pick something now.  Knowing that you love her and she loves you, and that you’ll be far apart, and that she is who she is at this time.  What will be best for you?  Choose that, bring it up to her, and see how she responds.

And as long as you two stay as honest and good as you are now, all will be okay. 

Wishing you all the best,

Shirelle

What to do when someone won’t forgive you for a small mistake

Lilly asks:

I have asked you many questions about my relationship. My problem that I don’t know what is going on.  I can’t get over him; I love him so much and need him back in my life, but he doesn’t want me.  He thinks I am not good enough for him. He thinks I am bad. He still asks why I wasn’t there when he needed me… weeks after the issue happened. Today I asked him to just stay with me and hold my hand; he refused and then blocked me!  What should I do to have conversations with him?  I love him and want him back in my life.

Hi Lilly –

Okay, so he’s making himself clearer and clearer to me.  Here’s the awful fact – he’s simply not good enough for you!

I know it feels like it’s the other way around, and you’re the one who’s not good enough.  But that’s simply not true. 

When I was a puppy, I was very disobedient, and broke all sorts of rules all the time.  Handsome would get annoyed, or even angry, and discipline me.  If you saw us then, you’d say “maybe that puppy’s not good enough for him!” 

But if he were meaner than that – if he would beat me with a belt or a stick, or starve me in the yard for days on end, all in response to exactly the same behavior from me, you’d say “That guy’s awful, and not good enough for that mischievous puppy!”  And you’d be right.

Your ex (yeah I’m calling him that now) is being a JERK!  You’ve tried very hard to make up for what was a pretty minor mistake, and to show that you wouldn’t do it again – and he’s not even willing to listen.  I know he went through a bad time, but he’s putting you through one too!

And here’s my big point – I don’t want you getting used to being treated like that!  I don’t want ANYONE getting used to that sort of abuse (and yes I’m calling it abuse!), any more than you’d want a puppy expecting beatings and starvation.

I know you’re in pain, but I want you to start to realize that this is pain HE IS CAUSING.  And to ask yourself the big question: if he’s causing me this much pain now, for this, how much pain would he cause someone later, who maybe made an even bigger mistake?  Like, oh, scratching his car, or forgetting a date? 

You deserve better, my friend.  And he deserves to face the consequences of his selfish cruelty – by which I mean the consequence of seeing you live the life you deserve.

I’m not pushing you to be selfish, but I am asking you to take care of yourself.  Like the puppy who runs away from the beater, you have a chance for a better rest of your life.


Take it!

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when you find you wanted more commitment than you’d thought

Tuktuk asks:

I met a guy in college, a senior. We talked on insta and snapchat for some time and then we met. I didn’t set any boundaries and it was go with the flow concept. We met and we got intimate. Our relationship was more of a physical one than an emotional one. We used to meet and used to make out. Then I broke my leg and went home. When I was home, we started talking and slowly connecting on emotional level. After I came back, we were still more physically involved. Since he is in his final year he didn’t have time to meet and we used to meet only to get physical. In December, I went back home and we decided we’d spend some more time when I came back. But after few days when I asked him about the plan, he started ignoring me. On my asking what was the matter he told me that he doesn’t have time and he needs to focus on his studies. I understood and gave him his space. And he didn’t contact me after that. Then recently, I came to know from a junior of mine that while he was talking to me and was with me, he was talking to another girl as well. Till this point I was kinda over him and talking to another guy, but then all of this started coming in my mind again and again. It’s been like 3 to 4 days since I came to know. I know that we weren’t committed but still I felt used. I felt that I wasn’t enough. I am so disturbed and disappointed. I feel numb. I can’t focus on anything. Please help me deal with this.

Hi Tuktuk –

I’m not going to disagree with anything you say here, about the guy, about you, about your relationship, or about what you did right or wrong. 

To my mind, you had a perfect experience with him.  Nothing bad happened, no one got a disease or an unwanted pregnancy, no one’s chasing anyone in a jealous fury, it’s all just fine.  To quote that old song, “I used her, she used me, but neither one cared – we were gettin’ our share.” 

However, you do care!  The only thing wrong is that, by pursuing exactly the relationship you knew you were gladly in, you’ve ended up feeling bad, “not enough,” “disturbed and disappointed,” “numb,” and “used!”  Not exactly our romantic ideal!

It reminds me of when someone goes to their first university party, and is thrilled to at last be able to do all the things they can’t do in their parents’ home, and smokes cigarettes and a cigar and drinks six beers and a few vodkas.  And the next morning, wakes up feeling like a truck ran them over and spilled all its exhaust into their mouth – and wonders what they did wrong.  NOTHING!  They got exactly the consequences they ought to, from the actions they embraced, and all rightly so!

Tuktuk you’ve just had a true learning experience.  Some people hate commitment, and would find your situation just perfect.  You had lots of fun with the guy, and now you’re both free – all’s fine.  But I think we’re learning that that’s not you.  You didn’t want full commitment, but you felt more attached to that guy than you’d expected.  My guess is that you’ll find that this is true of you from now on, too.  You care, you get attached, and you’re going to have to take responsibility for yourself in that. 

I don’t mean that you’ve been irresponsible.  But just that you’re learning what you like and what you don’t, and even a good honest guy like this one can’t make you happy unless you clarify what you need in relationships. 

So while you’re feeling all these awful feelings, I’m going to say to you, “Congratulations!”  Because you had a fun exciting experience, and learned some really important things about yourself. 

I couldn’t wish anything better for you!

So feel those bad feelings, but be ready to move forward out of them.  Now that you know what you don’t like, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself next time.

Just like the person who goes to their next university party and says “Oh yes, I’ll have one beer, thank you!”

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when your ex keeps treating you badly for making a mistake

Lilly asks:

The man I made a mistake with months ago continues to treat me badly.  I am feeling too much disturbed feeling alone, the smile on my face has gone too far. He has not even seen my messages in 2 days (or he’s seen but is not reacting to any – maybe he is not paying attention).  I don’t understand why his behaviour would change so much?  Suddenly he’s ignoring me and doesn’t want to meet me or talk to me. Where should I go? He’s the only one I want to talk with, and he’s behaving like this. Maybe now he doesn’t want me in his life anymore. I want him and need him, I can’t give him up. Nothing feels right. I don’t know what to say to him. Help me!

Hi Lilly –

I am so sorry.  I am SO SO SO sorry!  What you’re going through is pure hell, no question.  You’ve made it clear before that you made a mistake, and frankly not that big a one, and told him you see it.  But he’s refusing any contact with you at all.

Sometimes I’ve done some things that made Handsome, my human, really upset, and he’s made me go into the back yard, and left me alone back there.  And since we dogs have no sense of time, I’ve felt just what you’re feeling – that he’s gone forever, that I’m trapped and helpless, that he hates me and always will. 

But I’ve always been wrong.  After some time (and frankly, it’s not all that long), he has always come out and called me to him and cuddled me and kissed me and said he hopes I learned what I needed to because he hated doing that to me and never wants to have to again. 

Okay, it’s like five minutes!  But still, I felt just as bad as you’re feeling now!  Yes our brains are that small!

The difference, of course, is that in your case this has gone on for weeks.  And this guy seems to be insisting that it will be this way forever.  So you’re devastated, as anyone would be.

But I want to suggest you step back.  Way way waaaaay back.  And look at this the way I do.

You made a mistake – you gave him space when he wanted you there (without telling you) – and he’s acting like you poisoned his aunt.  He’s not giving you any chance to talk, and basically is doing what a lot of people call “ghosting” – cutting you off completely.

So I have one question for you:  Is this really the guy you want?

Yes, he has all the qualities you’ve loved in him.  But if he treats you this badly today, what’s he going to do the next time you make a mistake?  Or what he calls a mistake?

A while back, Handsome was dating a lovely woman, who broke up with him because he gave her directions to a place to meet him but forgot to write the actual address on the page.  Yes, I’m saying he gave just the right instructions, but left a NUMERAL off.  Now did she have reason to get annoyed about that?  Sure.  But break up? Come on!

So when she did, he argued for a bit, but then let her go.  Because she was making ridiculous rules.  And he didn’t want to be in a relationship where that kind of power games were going on.

Let’s say this guy let you back in.  Will he do the same thing again?  Will he maybe not speak to you for a month?  Six months?  Is that the way you deserve to be treated?

And another question – has he been perfect?  Has he never made a mistake?  (Maybe he even forgot to write down an address of a place in the list of directions!!)

Lilly, you deserve to be loved and cared for.  Sure, the person you’re with has the right to get hurt and angry, and let you know about it.  But then, you deserve to feel safe in the relationship.  This guy’s actions are abandoning, insulting, and hurtful.

If Handsome had left me in the back yard overnight, that would have been awful (and wouldn’t have done a thing to teach me any lesson, as dogs’ short-term memories aren’t that good).  But if he’d left me there longer – if he’d cut me off, no food or water or attention, I’d have found a way to dig out of there.  I’d have left him and found some other way to live.  I’d have had to!  (In fact, this is just what my friend Aria had to go through, a few times; check out her book https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57588647-a-dog-of-many-names?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=HdaB5AQBkK&rank=1 )!

And I hate to say it, but that’s my suggestion to you.  Get out of the yard this guy has stuck you in.  Go out with friends, watch some favorite movies, eat the yummiest food you can – but get out.  Move on.  There are MUCH better guys out there.  Guys with good qualities as good as his, but without this cruelty and carelessness.

And of course, there are always dogs too – we’re even better!

But first, take care of yourself and move forward from this.  I know it hurts like blazes, but he’s actually giving you a gift – he’s showing you just how bad it is to be in a relationship with him.

If later he comes back and apologizes, and makes you believe that he won’t do it again, then I’ll be all for getting back with him.

But for now, it’s time to move on.  He doesn’t deserve you, and you deserve better.

With all my love,

Shirelle

Why can’t the people who care about us understand what we’re feeling?

Soumyaguna asks:

I want to know why do people tend to show their emotions to us and when we try to say what we have to, we are not understood.

Why do people not care about what the other person might be going through, especially when you are not just anyone….you are someone special.

To be clear, I’m tired of explaining myself every time….I’m tired of making others understand what exactly I feel and how.

But deep inside I’m very sad realizing that I actually don’t have even one person in my life who understands me or with whom I can share things, not even my closest ones.

I ‘m tired of this all happening to me all the time….I’m done with this and cannot take anymore, cause it is causing so much harm to my mental peace where I don’t know how to move forward.

Things have just burdened me a lot, with piles of stress and a lot of complaints with close ones as they are the ones whom I care about and always will. But the ignorant attitude just isn’t going down well with me.

Hi Soumyaguna –

         I know you asked about a lot of things, but fundamentally it seems to me that you’re asking about the problem that people aren’t sensitively picking up on what you’re feeling, or even expressing, and seem to need you to spell everything out for them (if they even care then!).

         Of course I don’t know the people in your life, but I will point out something I’ve noticed about humans, which is that you guys have gigantic brains, and they tend to be filled with gigantic amounts of stuff!

         We dogs are relatively simple.  We feel every bit as deeply as humans do, but our thoughts tend to center on a smaller number of items: our safety, food, play, territory, and giving and receiving love.  That’s largely it.  Even the super-smart dogs you see doing amazing tricks in shows have been trained through love and food.

         Meanwhile, you guys have SO MUCH STUFF on your minds.  The same day your heart is broken by someone dumping you, you might have a big exam in a science class, you’re trying to remember all the lyrics to that new song you like, you’re trying to master how to drive your parents’ car, you’re struggling with conflicting feelings about your dad, you’re wondering if you wore the right outfit, and you’re responsible to remember all the different plays on your basketball team.  That’s SO MUCH!

         And my point is that that goes two ways.  When a dog is upset, we’re clear about it.  Maybe we yelp in pain, maybe we whine and lay our head in your lap, maybe we growl and snarl… whatever it is, it’s clear.  But you guys have so many subtler expressions – sarcasm and silence and distance and begging for attention (okay yeah we do that last one too). 

         But when it comes to understanding what another person is feeling, that gets many times more complex.  A person has to focus on someone else (and not that science exam or their jeans), and then read their feelings correctly, and then respond in a way that lets that person know their feelings have been seen in just the right way…

         It’s hard, Soumyaguna.  It’s hard for everyone.  All the time.

         But I’m going to make one big argument about your concern that no one understands.  With all the complexities of the human mind, the amazing astounding unbelievable fact is that people everywhere are mostly just the same.  There’s a reason certain movies or songs or shows are universally popular – it’s because everyone can relate to those feelings. 

         Now you might have people in your life who don’t understand WHY you feel the way you do.  But I promise, there’s no feeling you’ve had that everyone you know hasn’t also had.  Sadness, heartbreak, ecstasy, hilarity, loneliness, alienation… everyone’s been there. 

         So your job – and I know it’s hard – is to find a way to connect to other people’s feelings, even if your reasons are your own.

         Here’s an example.  A guy falls head over heels in love with a woman who doesn’t love him back.  In fact, they don’t share many interests, and she doesn’t treat him well.  She breaks up with him, and he’s devastated.  He goes to see a friend.  The friend gets annoyed with him for acting so glum.  Now we’re looking at just one of those “no one understands” situations, right?

         So our guy explains he’s just been dumped.  The friend says “Good, she was useless!”

         He explains that he loved her.  “Well that’s just stupid.  She treated you horribly!”

         He explains that that’s true, but he still loved every second with her.  “But that’s silly.  You weren’t doing any of the things you like to do!”

         He explains that that’s true too, but that his love for her was bigger than all that, and her leaving makes him feel hopeless and unlovable.

         OH OKAY!  That friend has felt THAT!  And that’s when that friend, if they’re a good friend, says “Oh man I’ve been there!” and tells them THEIR awful story about when they felt that way.  Maybe they have a couple of beers.  Maybe they talk till they start laughing about their awful relationships.  Whatever it is, a line has been crossed.  And our fellow doesn’t feel alone anymore.

         Sure he still misses her, and his heart still hurts, but connecting with that friend helped him move forward.

         But as you see, the friend didn’t get it at first.  It took some work to get there.

         Now Soumyaguna, you may be right about some of the people in your life, that they’re not interested enough in your feelings to care.  If so, those don’t seem to be the best people for you to put your trust and emotions onto.  Better to find someone who’s better at it.

         And you know where I’m going to go with this – there’s NO ONE better for this than a dog!  We may not understand your reasons or your stories, but we connect to every emotion you have, and WE CARE.  We care as much as we do about ourselves! 

         And unlike your human friends, we’re very happy to lick all the tears off your face!

         So please don’t give up on everyone, and give people the chance and the information they need to connect with you.  But if they can’t… just remember, we’re out here, always eager to give you just what you need.

         All my best,

         Shirelle

What to do when your new spouse rebels against you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I’ve been married for a month now.  My wife is a wonderful person & a very generous human being (at least face to face). However unfortunately, we have had too little time together after marriage (it was an arranged marriage & we did not meet before). I wanted to spend some time with her, but due to her exams and classes, she left for the hostel on the 5th day of our wedding. During the 5 days we spent together, she was very formal and reserved (which happens). I did not mind and took things along. I gave my everything to make the transition phase a comfort for her, via calls, messages, travelling for 84KMs and meeting her up occasionally in her university and things like that.  Things got a bit smoother and I was happy. But suddenly one day when she was with me, she left her phone open and went to the restroom. I checked her phone (casually) and I was surprised with so many things I saw: 

  1. She was a regular smoker. 
  2. Almost 10+ Guys continuously messaging her & she is in chat with all of them (maybe friends or I don’t know). The chat was very informal and frank as it was being done for years. 
  3. Her language with her friends (Girls + Guys) was so abusive and dirty that it shocked me.

Well I did not overreact, and just told her in a calm way that this shall not continue as all this has hurt me and is taken bad in our society. You are a wife now and we both represent our respect. What’s done is done and I have no concern about the past, but from now on I request you to cut off the smoking and bad company, as they are good for neither you nor our relationship. Further, I also clarified that I have no further requirements from you for whole life; I will manage everything. But what’s bad is bad and it’s my right to keep you away from bad. She promised me to stop smoking, quit the bad friends, and not be involved in any bad company in future. 

Things got smooth again for a week, but suddenly one day, intentionally on our phone call, she again mentioned that one of her old friends (male) connected with her and invited her to a dinner party. I asked “Only you?”  She said “Yes – only me and I wanna go.” I said, “OK, but let’s conclude the dinner timely and I will pick you up.”  She said, “No need, he will give pick and drop.”  My mood changed again. Then the dinner happened and I felt bad about it  (I did not react but felt hurt as it started around 7pm and ended at 1am). 

Three days later, I took her to dinner in a restaurant. It was going smooth. But suddenly I realized that she was staring at the guy sitting across our table, and the same guy was looking at her too. This happened for 5 to 6 minutes. I stayed positive but my wife suddenly said “Look how cute this boy is!” Dinner ruined, and we left the place in bad mood. 

While on our way back to home, I expressed, “You disrespected my presence there and I felt insulted. It hurt my self-respect that I was in front of you and you were flirting with someone else and throwing me that sentence.”

She started crying. Later she said that she is like this and I have to compromise, and blah blah blah. The tone made it sound like I hurt her instead, like everything is my mistake and I am disturbing the balance of her life. 

I Said “OK, enjoy and continue. If you feel like problem is at my end, I will be careful next time.”

Shirelle, with all this, I am not settled, and my mind is not relaxed in her presence or absence as well. When we are together, she is always on Insta and Snapchat. She is not willing to go back on one single thing which is bad for her and is not putting a single effort to even address me or give me quality time for a night. She is hurting my self-respect continuously and I am feeling down since the 5th day of our marriage. While she has no change in her life. Yes I accepted her for who she is, but smoking is bad in our Asian culture, sitting with boys alone is taken as bad in our culture, not giving me proper time makes me more insecure, and my unaddressed emotional needs are becoming heavy now. Please advise me here. 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

There are many issues in your letter, too many for me to get to specifically.  About cultural differences, about arranged marriages, about smoking (I am not a fan of it!), about what constitutes loyalty and fidelity, all sorts of stuff.

What I want to talk about instead is marriage.  Marriage in general.

Whether a couple has dated for years before, or meets on their wedding day, marriage is a huge step.  It’s a promise to change oneself and devote yourself to this other person forever.  That’s terrifying!

When Handsome brought me home from the pound, I experienced something like that.  But we dogs are programmed to pack loyalty; while I had to learn some rules (and I was a BRAT as a puppy!), I still adjusted fairly quickly, and Handsome did to me too.

But for you guys, with your larger brains and longer lifespan, it’s much harder.  I don’t know your and your wife’s ages, but I’m assuming you’ve been alive for around twenty years at least, without giving a single thought to this other individual.  Now suddenly everything’s supposed to be about that person. 

Well no matter how willing and eager you two are for marriage and family, parts of your brains are going to rebel against this.  It happens to everyone.  And what I see in your letter is that she’s rebelling by behaving independently, and you’re rebelling by demanding control over her.  And it’s pretty easy to see that the more one of you continues doing what you’re doing, the other one will just do what they’re doing more strongly!  You make her stay home, she starts smoking in your bedroom, and so on!

The fact is that, in the law and in the eyes of whatever deity or deities you believe in, you’re married.  But between you and her and me, you aren’t yet.  Marriage takes work, and your work is just barely beginning.

The main job for you two is to start to talk.  A lot.  About what you want, about what matters to you, about what you believe and fear and hate and… all that.

It sounds to me like she is a good woman.  She didn’t spend the night with that male friend, and she didn’t give the guy at the restaurant her phone number, right?!  She’s just, to use a canine metaphor I relate to a lot, straining at the leash.

And you’re a good guy.  You’re trying not to overreact.  But how can you when she keeps pushing your boundaries?

Again, this isn’t a sign that you two are wrong for each other or that you’re failing at marriage.  It’s a sign that YOU ARE JUST STARTING.

After he brought me home, Handsome had to learn what I wanted and feared and hated and loved.  And I had to learn all the same things about him.  You married this woman without even knowing she smoked, or that she had male friends, or that she uses bad language with her best girlfriends.  It’s time, before you try to make or enforce rules, to find out what else you don’t know.  And what are your faults?  What might she want to change in you? 

And then once those are all out in the open, what are you each willing to live with, and what not?  If she goes out with her girlfriends every few weeks and they talk dirty amongst themselves and have a cigarette or two, but with you she’s ladylike and healthy, is that okay? 

Do you know each other’s political beliefs?  You are part of the same religious community, but do you know what each other believes and doesn’t?  Do you know how each of you feels about children?!  Have you gotten to know each other’s families enough to know which members each of you, perhaps, finds it harder to love or be around?!

The greatest adventure of my life has been my relationship with Handsome.  The greatest adventure of your life is going to be this marriage.  Don’t worry too much yet about rules.  Find out who she is first.  And let her know who you are.

And if things work as I hope they do, what you two will really discover is love.  And then, truly, your whole worlds will change.

Wishing you all the very very best,

Shirelle

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