Q&A with Dr. Dorothy: Your tough questions answered
Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist specializing in Cognitive Therapy. Send your ‘Getting Deep’ questions to email@example.com
Once, when we were arguing, my boyfriend pushed me so hard into my locker that it bruised my shoulder. My friends say I should dump him for that but he apologized and said he would never do it again and I believe him. What should I do?
Listen to your gut instincts on this one. This may be an isolated incident, but you still need to address your boyfriend’s behaviour with him. No physical contact of any kind is acceptable when someone is angry. One good indicator of whether this kind of behaviour is likely to happen again is the level of respect that your boyfriend has for you – and for women in general. If he is respectful towards you and others, this may be an isolated incident. However, when we have respect for others, we are conscious of not doing anything that would physically harm them. Let him know how this incident made you feel, (using ‘I’ statements, eg. I felt…when you pushed me), and discuss what both of your needs are. You need him to never be physical in this way with you again, and for him to learn how to be able to recognize when his anger is starting to escalate in order that he may intervene and regain control.
I’m really attracted to fair skin, fair hair kinda guys. In fact, I’ve only dated blondes. Recently someone accused me of being racist because I won’t date ‘coloured’ guys. I have a lot of friends from ethnic backgrounds and feel like they may start thinking that I am. Short of dating a ‘coloured’ guy, I don’t know how I can prove that I’m not. What can I do?
Being racist and having a preference for what you are physically attracted to are two very different things. If you have a lot of friends from various ethnic backgrounds, it would already suggest (to them and to yourself) that you are certainly not racist. Still, the wonderfully interesting thing about life is that we can never predict the future. As you continue to be open to meeting and getting to know people of all ethnic backgrounds, you may one day find that you are attracted to a guy who isn’t your ‘type’ physically. Yet because he is such a wonderful human being, he becomes physically attractive to you as a result of who he is inside.
One of my teachers is very friendly. He often puts his hands on my shoulders, or he’ll push my hair out of my face and once he fixed my top so my bra strap wouldn’t show. He’s never done anything really inappropriate but sometimes I feel things aren’t cool. I definitely don’t want to get him in trouble because he’s a great teacher and a nice guy and I might be just making something out of nothing. What should I do?
Your teacher’s behaviour IS inappropriate. Being a friendly teacher doesn’t constitute the physical contact that you have described. The best, and most effective, way to deal with this is to speak openly about how uncomfortable you feel by his excessive touching. As a ‘great teacher’ and a ‘nice guy’ he should easily respect your personal space and perhaps he just needs to be reminded of this. Saying, ‘I appreciate that you are an affectionate person, but I feel uncomfortable when you…’ is a way of gently, yet firmly letting him know how you feel. For the moment, it is important to give him the benefit of the doubt as to the intentions of his actions, and an opportunity to change his behaviour.
My friend just lost her twin sister in a car accident. They were best friends. I’m scared if I do too much she might think I’m trying to replace her sister but if I don’t do enough I might look inconsiderate and heartless. How should I handle this?
Just be yourself. Do for your friend what you know she would appreciate, and remember that you are her ‘friend’ and not her sister. Let her know that you are there for her but encourage her to tell you if she needs some ‘quiet time’ or ‘space’ so that you can best accommodate her needs. Because you know her well, I am sure that you will help her tremendously through this very difficult time.
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