Grateful Heart…

Yep, today is known as a day for food, fat pants, a pre-morning run or a post-afternoon walk, football, celebrating, etc., and for some holidays are extra hard. Last year in 2016, after my divorce, I think Thanksgiving was the most difficult day of the year for me. It was hard to feel happy or peaceful.

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BUT…  I do encourage you to sit in some stillness today by yourself or with loved ones, and think about what you truly are thankful for. That has continuously helped me move forward and smile.

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These are the 8 precious things for which I am so very Thankful:

1) God’s Grace- I have had a lof of ups and downs over the last year and a half and I don’t think I would have been able to get through some of those downs without God’s grace reminding me I am loved, worthy, and strong.

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2) My vocation- I LOVE my Job- which is NEVER boring. I respect and value each one of my clients. I feel so grateful that they are willing to trust me with their pain and the intimate details of their lives, and that “AHA!” moment when they grow, heal, gain confidence, and love themselves just a little more. Pure Gold.

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3. Health and Recovery- As someone who had terrible post concussive syndrome a few years back, it is amazing to feel this good again. Also, when there were 6 months of unknown stomach problems and hospital visits, and after finally going gluten free and feeling 100% better, I can say I am truly thankful for my body’s ability to recover. Mentally I am 9 years recovered(ing) from an ED. I pretty much eat what I want whenever I want (Donuts, salad, tea, chocolate, sushi, pizza, smoothies, french fries- all are okay!). I am active when I want to be. I don’t have any food rules. Life is so free now. and my body feels energized and awesome.

4. Travel- This year alone I have been to Australia, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Boston, Chicago, Colorado, LA, Wisconsin, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Singapore, and The Philippines… and played frisbee in more than half of them. Not bad. Also grateful that gluten free food is so easy to come by in the world now.

5. Teammates- working toward a common goal on the frisbee field, volleyball court, or soccer field. Endorphins and adrenaline flying everywhere! High-fives, hugs, encouragement, community, Competitive fun, and joy emanate from these people in my life.

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6. Family- My parents, brother, sis-in-law, niece and nephew, aunt and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. They have supported me through so much. Especially this past year.

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7. Love- The last 6 months with this new wonderful man has been a true blessing from God in my life. He is such a man of integrity and reminded me coming out of a painful time that God has a plan for me and that Love is Patient and Love is Kind.

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8. Friends- You know who you are. Deep close personal friendships who can laugh with me, remind me who I am and what I value, call me out on my shit, hold me while I weep, and encourage the heck out of me.

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What are you Thankful for?

 

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Teen Group: The Best Version of Me!

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Hey everyone! I am so excited to be announcing a new group that I am starting for teen girls who are at least 14+ years-old (going into High School – getting ready for college).

This group will cost $55 a session (less than 1/2 the price of my normal individual therapy session price and yet a half hour longer!). I will have a package of 5 sessions for $210 if you pay up front ($42 per session) or a package of 10 sessions for $400 ($40 per session).

This group will focus on:

Self-Esteem, Body Image, Body Positivity, Intuitive Eating to Nourish and Fuel us.

Coping with Stress/Sadness/Anxiety within specific family situations, friend groups, relationships, feeling lonely, and more generalized versions of these feelings.

Making Safe and Healthy Choices– eliminating self harm/destructive eating habits,

We will do this by creating a supportive space of safety, trust, acceptance/non-judgment to process life events, explore relationships, We will encourage Vulnerability, Communication, and Honesty.

We will challenge each other to set positive goals for our lives and keep each other accountable.

I will be sending out an email to my clients families today in order to vote on the best day/time for the group.

Here is the link if you are interested:

Group Survey

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Reach out by email or phone if you have questions:

Wendy.LMFT@gmail.com

(512) 649-1049

 

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!

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When the World Seems to Suck: The Importance of Keeping Faith, Hope, and Love.

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In an era where we see so much negative stuff going on: self loathing/hate, bullying, mass shootings, failing morality in the political system, selfishness, broken hearts, broken families, etc., it really is easy to get bogged down with the weight of it all and and wonder how one might be able to slowly crawl forward, inch by inch, every day.

I want to talk about a few key principles that I think can help someone stay strong and resilient through the tough times. But first what does it mean to be resilient?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 1.28.12 PM.pngSo after compression, pain, or difficult conditions, can we spring or bounce back? Can we recover? How do we stay positive when pain and devastation strike our personal lives or someone we deeply care about?

First:

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This isn’t just “Hey, get over it. Everything happens for a reason.” Who likes to hear that when they are crying in a ball on their bathroom floor? It’s not even a biblical quote! So stop saying it! However, faith is this idea in the midst of pain that, “yes, this freakin totally completely sucks, and it will suck for a while, but I need to believe that I will get through it. I will cry. I will be angry. I will need support. and help. and maybe even therapy. BUT- I will also learn from it. I will grow stronger. I will have more empathy and compassion in the end. I will be able to use this lesson in my future.” This is something you believe in when you can’t see any of the light. In Religion and Spirituality, faith is trusting in something bigger than yourself- that some creator/God has a good plan even despite any free will that might change the amount of time it takes to get there. I have had my heart broken a fair amount of times. My grandmother passed away a few years back. Sucky stuff happens in life. Will I have faith in myself to get through it, faith in my community to support me, and God to be my rock when the rest of my life is unstable? Faith says, “I can’t see the light yet, but I will believe it is there, and that I can reach it.”

Next:

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Hope is so tough to have when you are heart broken, or angry, or depressed, or scared. When you don’t know what’s next, or if your past has shown you that things don’t work out the way you want them to, then why hope at all? Are you not just setting yourself up to get crushed next time? All I know is that whether something crappy actually happens, or if you are living in fear of the worst case scenario happening, then either way your life will be more pain and struggle-town, and less fun and joy-filled-city. If you are living in fear of something that hasn’t actually happened, then you are actually living in a way that is less authentic than real life. It’s not real so why live in a negative moment that isn’t truth. Hope, on the other hand, brings excitement, a flutter to your heart, smiles, conversation, and if you are honest about your hopes with someone else, then they can be there to celebrate with you when your dreams become true, or love and support you if it doesn’t work out. Either way, a hope is fulfilled- dreams came true, or connections were made. Call me an enthusiast or optimist, but hope drives out dread, skepticism, anger, and brings in light, connection, motivation.

In short:

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Lastly, LOVE:

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Such a powerful word with a million definitions:

“I love you”, “I’m in love with you”, “Love ya, I love pizza!” Feels good on the ears- great to hear. We are all pretty exceptional creatures at offering love to someone else out there: a significant other, family member, friend, humanity…  and I truly believe that being willing to be honest and vulnerable and ask for help and RECEIVE LOVE FROM OTHERS is imperative to resilience and moving through pain. Some of the most painful memories in my entire life are also some of the moments when I felt the most supported and cared for in all of my life by people who love me.

I also believe that if you can GIVE LOVE TO OTHERS when you are experiencing personal hardship and pain, it is one of the ways to best lead yourself out of the dark. Getting outside of yourself and your own story and being in relationship with other people and offering yourself to other’s needs is a beautiful way to illuminate perspective.

But when it comes to life’s deepest pain:

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LOVING YOURSELF and giving yourself the space to just grieve. Be compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to open the floodgates of emotion, ask for help. Love yourself – if even just for a few days or weeks- completely unconditionally- with no expectations, with grace to just be who you are in your pain.

I wish I had a magic wand to erase the trials in my life, in your life, in the world. As a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and trauma, I talk with people about heartache, hopelessness, and pain every day. It’s tough, but pain and disorder is a part of life. Never the fun part, but a reality none the less. My ability to sit with clients in the mire and muck yet simultaneously help clients turn toward faith, hope, and love, makes me optimistic that I am an effective therapist and hopefully a good fit for many. http://www.WendyLMFT.com . Also, Look out for my next blog post which will be about Keeping the FAITH, HOPE, & LOVE in the midst of eating disorder struggles.

To quote the bible here because no matter what you believe, this is very simple, practical, helpful, and yet, transcendent. Let this speak to your soul in times of pain and my desire for you, for me, is to embody this every day:

“FAITH. HOPE. LOVE. And the greatest of these is LOVE.”

 

 

 

 

On Being an Austin Therapist!

Last Month, a soon to be associate therapist from a Texas Graduate School contacted me regarding some questions she had about life as a real day-to-day therapist in Austin. I had so much fun writing her about what I do, so I thought maybe clients, other therapists and colleagues, or other students might be interested as well. 

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What is the range of salary for Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors in the San Antonio and Austin area?

    I don’t know San Antonio, but I’m pretty sure in Austin area you can make anywhere from 30k-170k just depending on what you do: community health vs private practice, and then if you add in groups, speaking engagements, podcasts, being an author, etc., I am sure the benjamins could really add up!

– Is there a demand for LMFT’s?

I definitely think that while Austin is saturated with therapists (LMFTs, LPCs, LCSWs Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Family counselors, Pastoral Counselors, etc, I do also believe that there is a demand for certain nitches here. When I look around the therapist network and community, EMDR gets requested a lot, DBT groups, LGBTQ therapists, therapiss who specialize in Eating disorders, Couples, Addiction, Christian Counselors, etc. If you have a good specialization here, you are golden.

– What is your perception of availability for job opportunities?

There are good opportunities if you market yourself well. I do know that people who are trying to get into community health gigs rather than starting their own private practice find it hard to find a good paying gig. Also, if you are trying to see how private practice might work out for you but don’t network or market, the chances of building a successful practice are slim to none.

– What and who are some of the resources you refer your clients to for other services?

Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, NAMI, Al-Anon, TimberLine Knolls Residential in Chicago, EMDR and DBT- out of my scope of practice, ERC

Also, Books: “Intuitive Eating”, “The Power of Now”, “How to be an Adult”, “Eating in the Light of the Moon”, “Too Good to Leave/ Too Bad to Stay”, etc.

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– What type of professionals do you refer clients to?

Psychiatrists, Nutritionists, other LMFTS, sometimes LCSWs and LPCs if I have built a relationship with them and trust them.lucy.jpeg

– What do you enjoy most about being a counselor?

Watching people Heal and learn to love their body and accept themselves as a whole package. Decreasing their anxiety and depression. Watching them thrive. After 7 years in community mental health and 55 hour weeks and tons of paperwork, I also love creating my own schedule and being financially fruitful.  

– What does a session typically Cost?

This is a tough question because I do believe that if you are paying something for your therapy you will value coming and getting something out of it much more. However, I do believe there are people who couldn’t otherwise afford coming without a very minimal fee and I want to honor those who are struggling. I truly believe that’s what Jesus would want me to do. So I have a handful of my lowest fee clients that are paying $30-$50, while most are somewhere between $80-$120. My initial intake is a flat rate $150 because it is a full 90 minute assessment (30-40minutes longer) where there is prep paperwork, post paperwork, a full assessment, discussion of a treatment plan, and possible referrals and resources given.

In your opinion, what is the most rewarding and the most difficult part of working in this field.

Two sides of the same coin.

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Clients remind you how important it is to be well balanced and healthy. To take care of yourself and be 100% authentic and honest in your own relationships with people. Helps you remember the own internal healing work you have done to get here.

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At the same time… Self Care is difficult at times when you are caring for everyone else. Also therapy does a good job of stirring up your own sh*t.  When clients bring up your own stuff, your own insecurities/ self criticisms, marital problems, or lack of self care (I think you know this is called “COUNTERTRANSFERENCE”) It can be rough. But clearly you have to hold it together in the room, be authentic in the therapeutic relationship that you are not perfect, and then talk with your own therapist, colleagues, friends, etc. about it so you don’t let it effect your work. Doesn’t mean you are a bad therapist if you have countertransferences. It is natural. Just not one of the easiest parts about therapy.

– Working in a field where your job is about helping others with their problems, how do you deal with the emotional toll it takes on you and practice self-care?

good follow up to my last answer.

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Good Friends, Datenights, alone time, working out, eating balanced (mostly healthy with some small indulgence(s) every day), GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP!!, faith, prayer, a consultation group I built with some other colleagues that are also starting out private practitioners, Every once in a while a good Netflix binge 🙂

– What made you decide to become a Marriage and Family Counselor?

1) I was working at a summer camp and there was a girl with an eating disorder and a messed up home life. I wanted to help, but all I knew to do in that moment as a 21 year old was to hug her, tell her that Jesus loves her and it will all be okay! That’s nice, but not necessarily that helpful practically for her. So I knew I needed to gain more tools. So i did.

2) I was a missionary in El Salvador working at an orphanage with a ton of kids that were there because of broken family situations. I wanted to help more and again just didn’t know really what to do. After grad school and trainings now I do. It’s a cool feeling.

– What licensing and education did you acquire in order to become an LMFT?

Masters in MFT at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena California

Lots of Curriculum Courses, Extra Psychopharmacology Course from an online University, National Exam and Jurisprudence exam for Texas Board of MFT, Seminars/Conferences in both CA and TX

3000 hours of Supervised Therapy

EBP Trainings: MAP, TFCBT, EMDR Basic (not fully certified so, NO, I don’t do EMDR ever in sessions), Seeking Safety

California Written MFT exam and California Vignette MFT Exam

BOTH CA license and TX licenses

– What was it like for you when you first started out as a graduate? 

I was young, 23, and I didn’t really have a major college freedom experience, so at 23, I was going to class and doing my work, but also being very social and mingling with the cohort. I was also healing from my own eating disorder, so I was growing and healing and finding myself during that time. I think I really grew up in the year/years post graduation in 2010- now. I feel in the past 3 years like some how around 27-30 years old I just became a full fledged adult.  The school piece was always pretty easy for me. It was the real world experience where I really grew up and learned to be a great therapist. I had to learn especially about self care, and about not letting every traumatic story sit inside my heart and mind for too long. I grew some healthy armor. I am present completely in the moment with that client. Sometimes I will even cry with them, but at the end of the day, I put all those client stories in a “box” and leave it in my therapy room. It’s too much to take home with you every day.
I am so glad I am still a therapist today. I think it is a perfect job for me and I really feel blessed with the clients that I work with, the company I keep, and the God who has blessed me with the gifts, heart, passion, and talent to be an effective therapist. 

AHHHH!!!! Panic! Crisis! How to deal…

Life is full of unexpected and unfortunate crap.

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A few weeks ago, I was getting my haircut by this sweet, attractive, wonderful, newly engaged, 27 year old fella with a baby on the way, and today I get an email from a mutual friend that said her buddy (my hair stylist) went into the ER a few days ago and after biopsies and tests, found out he had cancer. WTF?!!

Ugh to stress! Relationships are hard, work is hard, friendships can be hard, death is hard, having high self esteem and confidence is hard, etc., so when a crisis happens, it creates an unexpected, overwhelming identity crisis as well as an addition to the normal amount of difficulty and stress that come with these aforementioned topics. Here are a few ideas to help get us through the moment in crisis.

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Know that “We” are stronger than “I” can be alone. Don’t try to handle the crisis alone. We were made for community and for connection. Talk to someone. A friend. Parent. Therapist. The person who cares about your well being more than anyone is a great start.

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Take a step back and see the bigger picture. “Pain and Beauty are entangled in a big knot called HOPE.” Know that there is struggle and stress, but there is also character development, strength, and making yourself better for the long run. There is some brightness out there, go find the light and bathe!

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“The Joy of The Lord will be my strength.” If faith is a resource to you, lean in during crisis. We live in a world that is imperfect and where free will sometimes mean people hurt us. Believing that there is a higher power out there bigger than your pain and your suffering who cares and hurts with you and wants to comfort you can be helpful. Meditation and prayer have scientifically been shown to reduce the release of cortisol (an arousal hormone) in your brain.

4. Have emotions, understand that it is okay to experience the range of emotions, but Don’t emotionally React. Don’t hurt others in your hurt.

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Know that a broken heart is a part of your story that helps you understand and empathize with others’ heartache. It’s also is helps you appreciate when the good love comes around. Never underestimate the power of ruling out 🙂 Stick your heart out there, and although it may get broken, keep glue nearby to mend it. Let it stay warm and not grow cold.

5. Knocked off your pedestal and freaking out at what others might be thinking about you? Take a breath. Think about that middle school dance you went to where you felt so awkward and thought everyone is looking at you.

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Well, guess what? Everyone else is thinking and feeling that about themselves too. They are not worried about your shortcomings because they are so preoccupied with their own. We are all so self critical and want to be seen as perfect, but the sooner we realize that is impossible the better we will be able to handle a crisis. How many perfectionists do you know that are perfect?

Anyway, I hope that:

A) having someone to lean on, B) keeping HOPE, C) having faith D) remembering that a failed Relationship, Job, etc. is just a learning lesson that helps you rule out out what didn’t work and why, and E) not trying to be perfect but just accept that you are doing the best you can,

will help you get through the next crisis that comes your way successfully.

 

 

 

 

Setting 2016 Goals: Body, Mind, Spirit, Social

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Holistic Wellness is my game. Here are my New Years resolutions. I hope that they can motivate you to make a few of your own.

Social Health:

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Goal #1

Meet new people! Being in a new city (even though I went to college here, I moved away for 7 years and moved back), I still feel a little lonely. I have to remember there is an adjustment period, but I also can’t complain about being lonely if I don’t put myself out there to meet new friends.

 

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Goal #2

Cultivate deeper friendships. This takes time. I want to feel connected. I have my husband and he is my best friend. However, I need some ladies in my life to share and connect with as well! It is not a quick fix, but again I have to put the work in.

Physical Health:

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Goal #1:

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I play lots of sports (like soccer, ultimate frisbee, and running) that make me feel powerful! I eat pretty well- with some room for fun yummy indulgences! However, I want to have some more overall wellness, flexibility, and strength. So More Yoga, Swimming, Climbing, etc. (Things that use your whole body but aren’t super hard on your body).

Goal #2:

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Falling asleep on the couch, only to stumble later into bed without taking my makeup off and brushing my teeth, is pretty typical when I’m exhausted (Don’t worry I do it ridden with shame in the morning). I want to take better care of my hygiene.

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Mind Heath:

Goal #1:

Mental Health: I will go to therapy and make it a priority instead of saying every time,”I am a therapist. I can handle it.” I believe in getting and giving counsel. Let me practice what I preach!

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Goal #2

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Brain Oils: I have read a lot that oils are really healthy for your brain, memory, preventing dementia, healing concussions, etc. Coconut, Olive, Avocado, Sunflower, Safflower, Almond, Flaxseed, Grapeseed Oil… May the cooking fun begin!

Spiritual/Soul Giving/Emotional Health:

Goal #1

Find a church that I can invest in the community and find a friend with whom to discuss faith and real life as well as having someone to encourage/pray for/and pray for me. Pray more.

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Goal #2

Be more encouraging and less critical of myself and others.  I am a developer, which means I have high standards and expectations. That can cause me to be critical and direct at times, but that attitude is not always helpful in my personal relationships.

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5 Tips for How to Fight Well

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Stressed and always feeling at odds with your best friend? Your Mother? Your partner? The Cashier at your grocery store? Somethings going on… These things might help. Check out the video.

There’s enough hurt and pain in the world, let’s do our best to take hurt and pain out of our relationships as best as we can. LOVE WINS.

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If the tips didn’t help, maybe you need someone to help facilitate a conversation. Contact me. I hope I can be a resource to you in Austin, TX.

Wendy.LMFT@gmail.com

http://www.WendyLMFT.com

(512) 649 1049

More than just Thankful

One of my favorite skills that I have cultivated in my life is my ability to speak spanish. The original reason I learned it was because when I was in high school, a really cute boys soccer team from Colombia came to play in an international soccer tournament in Dallas, TX.

Attractive Colombian soccer players can do cool stuff like this:

So clearly I need to learn to talk to them more. Haha. Anyway, I started studying in high school, realized I loved the language, studied more in college at UT, and went to study abroad in Granada, Spain. I followed my college years with a missionary year in El Salvador, doing youth ministry at a Spanish speaking church, and going to grad school in California where I received my degree, and kept getting to practice therapy in Spanish.

Now I am a fluent Spanish speaking therapist, and although I am far from perfect, I have an ability for which I am thankful. This week when I think of what I am thankful for, this comes to mind. and I love that in Spanish, Thanksgiving translates to Accion de Gracias. I love the word Accion associated with Thanks! I think we all should show action towards other for what we feel thankful for.

I am thankful for how my husband loves me well, so I “Show” him love in my actions.

I am thankful for friends, so I “show” them they aren’t forgotten.

I am thankful for kindness, so I smile and offer a hand how I can.

I am thankful for my abilities so I “show” up in my life to use them in a meaningful way.

I am thankful for what I have in my life, so I try to remember everyday to “show” mercy and kindness to others who may have less.

Anyway, this ability has pushed me into the realm of my vocation to help many different people from many different countries and cultures, both as a missionary and as a therapist. May my Thankfulness for this skill produce Action this Thanksgiving and always.

May your gratitude and thankfulness for skills you have learned, produce Action this Thanksgiving and always.

Blessings.

When to Let Go

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Upon first meeting a person, there is usually a fun, exciting beginning; you put your best foot forward and they do the same.

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But after some time passes, you can’t put that front up forever, and you may suddenly realize that the relationship no longer brings value to your life and is more exhausting/draining than it is fruitful.

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Before we just write someone out of our lives though, I think it’s important to check in: why do we want to cut them out?

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Another person is a mirror to show us who we are. What we like about the other person are the things we usually like about ourselves, but what we don’t like, are probably the things we don’t like about ourselves. Put another way, we are always just projecting ourselves onto another: do we love their qualities because we are comfortable with within ourselves and areas where before we might not have felt totally comfortable, we have healed? Or Are we wanting to write someone off because there are areas that offend us or draw in negative emotions like fear and anger? Those may be areas where we need healing to occur deep within ourselves anyway. The opportunity arises then for deep self work. The healing is then your job, instead of blaming or becoming offended by others; you dive deeper into the relationship with yourself (not fixing the other person). This gives us a sense of control.

But even knowing that we do have a sense of control of our own self, we cannot control others, and some relationships are still unhealthy because of another person’s unwillingness to do the work on themselves. This is when we may need to let go. 

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It is difficult to let go sometimes. Here are some reasons why people stay in unhealthy relationships. 

“We have so much history”

“I would lose some of my friends”

“I am just accustomed to him or her.”

Fear of being alone.

Fear of hurting them.

Fear of the negative emotions, tension, or them lashing out.

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Any of these sound familiar?

History and being accustomed to someone, is not a good enough reason to stay friends or romantically involved with someone. I am glad you made some memories and passed some time in your life, but if the relationship is not beneficial or worse, detrimental, it’s not healthy to stay.

Also, if your friends won’t be your friend because you are no longer close with that mutual person, were they really your true friend in the first place?

Lastly, Fear is not a good reason to stay with someone especially if it is about an awful response or reaction from him or her. If they are going to lash out, be aggressive, take you for every penny you are worth, or bash your name all over town, I say the sooner you are gone the better. We have to make sure you are safe, though. If you need to seek out a safe plan for that, PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE YOU CAN TRUST. Now if the fear is about hurting them or being alone, and not about their negative action against you, don’t you think they deserve to have someone in their life that is excited to be their friend or partner? It doesn’t do you or them any good to hang on to something when it is not beneficial.

Here are some GOOD REASONS TO LET GO:

  1. You cannot Trust them.Loyalty and Trust are foundational. Without that what do you have, besides insecurity and worry.
  2. You no longer share anything in common.People do grow apart, and it doesn’t mean you are bad people or failures if you can’t make the friendship or relationship work.
  3. The relationship is physically, spiritually, or emotionally damaging to you. Do they hurt you? Are there bruises? Do they mock your faith? Is your positive spirit being chipped away at? Does your soul feel crushed? Your ideas constantly mocked? Why do you stay?
  4. You are the only one fighting to keep the relationship and make it work. You should not always be working harder than the other person. Yes there are seasons where you may need a little more help or love, or vice versa. However, if you are in a completely unreciprocated relationship, don’t be.
  5. You aren’t able to get what you want and need

What is this person bringing to your life? You shouldn’t try to make everyone fit into your cookie cutter version of what you think a friend or significant other should be. You have to let them be who they are, but that doesn’t mean you have to have them as a part of your lifestyle if it is not making you happy or a better person. Do they encourage you and support you in your life journey?

I hope this encourages you to look at who is in your life and the types of relationships that you have.

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