Relationships and Mental Illness, Week 1: Anxiety


As I talked about last time, I’m devoting November and December to mental illness and psychopathology and the impact they have on dating and relationships. Today, we’ll talk about the most common (and perhaps most misunderstood) of the mental illness options:


Google defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” They also give a psychiatric definition: “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”

read more…

Dating, Relationships, and Mental Health


The Bible of mental disorders

Happy November, peeps. Over the last few months, we’ve focused monthly themes. We’ve talked about getting your personal shit together... the stuff that makes you a better dating prospect and a better partner. We’ve talked about communication, and how easily relationships can go awry if communication channels aren’t working properly. Now, I want to devote November and December to a new topic:

Mental health and relationships.

One thing I’ve noticed with dating and relationship advice is that the advice-givers tend to tackle a problem as is (i.e. without context). The guy you’re dating is really moody? He’s got issues. The woman you love gets stressed out about every tiny thing? She’s got issues. What they might not see is that moody guy probably suffers from depression and that stressed-out woman may have anxiety issues. When you begin to look at relationships in the context of mental health, your entire approach changes. And trying to solve relationship problems that involve mental health won’t work without addressing the mental health issue itself. read more…

Communication in Relationships: What is Gaslighting?


Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film Gaslight

By now, you’ve probably heard of gaslighting. It’s a hot term these days, mentioned and discussed in blog articles and on internet forums like sociopathy was two years ago, and narcissism two years before that. It describes a set of disturbing behaviors and a way of communicating with loved ones that’s extremely damaging and troublesome. And since October is communication month, it made sense to talk about it here.

So, what is gaslighting anyway?

Google offers up this definition:

“To manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”

Here’s a more complete definition from Wikipedia:

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to a 1938 play Gas Light and its 1944 film adaptation. The term has been used in clinical and research literature, as well as in political commentary. read more…

Marriage, Communication, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse


So October is communication month. In Dr. Christie’s world, that is, not anywhere else. Communication in dating and relationships is important, even crucial, if you want to succeed at them. And I know you do, because successful relationships make life WAY better.

Today, I’m going to introduce to you a fellow author, psychologist, and academic who studies relationships… using actual scientific methods. Yes, for real. This guy knows his shit. His name is Dr. John Gottman. You’d think I’d know about him from my training, my work as a scientist, or even my years dispensing advice. But that’s not the case. I actually learned of him at a marital seminar I attended. With my ex. Just before we divorced. Yeah, long story. Although the marriage didn’t work out, boy did I learn a lot at this seminar about what marriage is and what makes it work (and fail).

Anyway, Dr. Gottman has, through observation and research, discovered how to predict with pretty decent accuracy whether a couple will make it or not. One way he does this is by watching them communicate. There are many predictors of problems, but one that’s always stuck with me is what he calls the Four Horsemen of the (Marital) Apocalypse. Any one of these things are, according to Gottman, lethal to a relationship. Recognize any of them?? read more…

Learning to Ask Questions, Part 2


Last week, I talked about conflict and how asking questions, rather than making assumptions, can make communication easier and prevent problems. This week, I want to delve a little more into this topic and then offer up some tips on the right way to ask questions.

In conversation with anyone, including those we’re closest to, it’s extremely easy to make assumptions about how that person feels, what they think, and why they do the things they do. We make these assumptions based on our own beliefs and our own issues, and if we don’t ask questions, we never really know where that person is coming from. And if you don’t know where that person is coming from, good luck succeeding with them.

Here are a couple of examples:


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Learning to Ask Questions (Instead of Making Assumptions)


See? The Fonz knows…

Happy October, everyone.

September was devoted to Getting Our Personal Shit Together. We covered fundamentals like taking responsibility for our life, learning to live by our values, and getting rid of self-entitlement. These create an important foundation for our relationships, whether casual, professional, or romantic.

October will be about communication. What we say and how we say it can make the difference between getting dates and scaring dates away, and it can make the difference between a successful marriage and one that goes down the stink hole.

The topic I wanted to address today is one that I’ve given a lot of thought to for a long time, and something I’ve learned from experience. And that topic is learning to ask questions. This is useful in any kind of communication, but can be crucial in relationships. Take this example: read more…

Christie Hartman, PhD

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