Q: I recently got drunk and made a mistake – I slept with my best friend – and now I’m confused. I don’t want to lose them as a friend. What should I do?
A: If you haven’t already, the first thing to do is talk about it with them and get clear about what it means – together. We can all mistake familiarity for attraction, and of course alcohol lowers our inhibitions – and leads us to act on feelings with less thinking.
On the other hand, if you are best friends, are compatible and enjoyed being intimate then perhaps it’s not such bad idea? Has this “mistake” actually revealed something about how you actually feel about the person?
It’s not unusual to be confused by the idea that love has to be rainbows and unicorns – romance and excitement – for it to be “real”. However what makes relationships last beyond the breathless excitement is friendship, mutual respect and being able to communicate openly.
And of course, if it’s not right, having slept together once doesn’t have to end the friendship – if you’re both on the same page.
Q: What is the best way to support someone who is experiencing a flashback from a traumatic childhood memory?
A: Flashbacks – a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD – is when someone relives a past trauma, in the present. For the person the flashback it is very real and very distressing, but it can also be frightening for those close to them.
It’s best to try and stay calm, and do nothing that may frighten them – no sudden movements, don’t yell, or try and grab them and shake them out of it.
What helps is to calmly tell them they’re having a flashback (in the moment they may not know that) and reassure them that you’re there with them.
It also helps to try and get them oriented to the present – what we call “grounding”. The easiest way to do this is to ask them to open their eyes (if closed) and describe what they can see around them. They will also need time to recover afterwards – it can be exhausting.
Q: My partner goes through my phone when they’re feeling upset with me, or worried about what I’m up to. I’m not cheating, and never have. Is it okay for me to ask them to stop?
A: A modern relationship dilemma if ever there was one. It is absolutely okay to have boundaries in relationships – there is a difference between secrets and privacy. But the age-old part of this dilemma is jealousy, and how to deal with it.
Practically, the problem with checking our partners’ phones is that out-of-context conversations with others can easily be taken the wrong way. Also we all have a right to have private conversations with other people.
So yes, you do have a right to ask them to stop – but your partner also has the right to share their feelings when they’re feeling upset, jealous or otherwise unsure of what’s going on. And hopefully, the two of you can work on talking about it instead.
Sometimes jealousy – and the urge to go looking for reasons to feel worried – are a sign the person is feeling distance in the relationship. The solution? More connection and closeness.
Q: Is it possible to be addicted to the news? This year I’ve found I’m watching more news and I think it’s affecting my mood, but I can’t stop.
A: I’ll admit to spending too much time watching CNN late at night during the first lockdown, and when the US election was happening. It wasn’t good for my sleep or my mood. Modern news is an amplification of what news has always been – it appeals to the part of us that can’t look away from a train crash.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be well informed – at the same time, there is no requirement to be up to date with all the horror in the world.
It comes down to being able to assess what works for you – if you find yourself feeling anxious, overwhelmed and unable to look away – then it may time to have a break.
2020 was a tough year for all of us – a little bit of healthy denial from the details of the horror is necessary for all of us at times.
Kyle MacDonald is an experienced psychotherapist and co-host of The Nutters Club on Newstalk ZB, Sundays at 11pm. If you have a question for Kyle, email [email protected]
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