"TV Relationship Expert Dr. Michelle is your relationship, career and personal coach for advice and coaching on life, love, and work."
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Dear Friends,

I believe we can learn a lot from each other’s difficulties and accomplishments. I created the Ask Dr. Michelle column to share my advice with many people at the same time, who although they don’t know it, are often facing some of the same challenges. I hope that my comments provide you with some insight into situations that you are facing in your life. If you have a question that you want me to answer, submit it below. I wish you all the best. (I try to answer as many questions as possible, but please understand that due to the number of questions that I receive I am not able to answer every question.)

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How do I become a successful relationship and family counselor?

  • Question: I watch you on TV and I must say that I love what you do. My major is sociology and my minor is psychology. My aspirations are to go to graduate school and get my Master’s in Counseling and become certified in Marriage and Family Therapy. My question is “do you have any advice for someone who is aspiring to become a relationship counselor?” Is there any specific path that I should take in order to become a successful relationship and family counselor?

  • Answer: There are several approaches to a career as a mental health professional who specializes in working with couples.  You could become a clinical psychologist, a counseling psychologist, a clinical social worker, a marriage and family therapist, or a relationship coach.  Each profession differs by its focus on human behavior and its approach to helping the client(s) resolve problems.  In order to know which classes to take and subjects to major in, you really have to do more research to understand which of these jobs (or others) might appeal to you most.  Most of the careers require a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and when you are finished with graduate school you typically have to take an exam and become “licensed” to practice psychotherapy in your state.

    Some great places to look for more information are:
    •    The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org).  Visit http://www.apa.org/students/brochure/index.html for an online brochure about careers in psychology that explains all of the different types of psychology (clinical, developmental, social, etc.), what psychologists do and how to plan your education and career as a psychologist.


    www.apa.org).  Visit http://www.apa.org/students/brochure/index.html for an online brochure about careers in psychology that explains all of the different types of psychology (clinical, developmental, social, etc.), what psychologists do and how to plan your education and career as a psychologist.



Should I give my long-distance relationship a second chance?

  • I’m in a long-distance relationship but I feel bad because I’m not sure the long-distance thing is for me. Should I keep trying?

  • If you decide to recommit to making the relationship work, try lots of different ways to stay in touch and see which ones you really like or that are easiest to do.  Some people love texting, others prefer video chat because you can see the person.  If you aren’t inspired to use any of these ways of communicating, then something else is probably going on.  Long distance relationships aren’t for everyone because some people don’t do well when they are physically apart.  You may not like to talk on the phone or you may not be satisfied by being in touch electronically.  If you want to see and touch there’s nothing wrong with that, unless of course you are trying to make a long-distance relationship work! The best way to know if a long-distance relationship will work for you is to understand your own personality and to give it a try.  In the past you may not have been into communication technology, but the opportunity to keep in touch with someone you love can make texting or email a lot more fun.  However, it may not change the fact that you want to go out on a date, not have a video date and if that’s who you are, you need to be honest with yourself and with your partner.  Don’t feel bad if you aren’t the long-distance type.  Those relationships need time and attention to make up for the physical closeness so if you don’t have the time or won’t invest it, tell your partner and part ways before you really hurt each other.

How do I start dating again or be happy alone?

  • Question: I was in a serious relationship that led to me getting totally ripped off by this female and left me in a destitute situation. After two years of depressed states and trying to find good jobs in today’s market, I am finally getting back on my feet. Financially I am still in the red, but am on my way back to stability. I am gun shy about relationships now as well as I feel kind of inadequate due to the fact of my financial status. My question is, “When would be a good time to get back into the dating scene?” I miss having that closeness of a companion, but I am still kind of untrusting. Should I get back into the dating scene or be content with being alone?

  • Answer: How about a compromise?  You don’t have to jump back into the dating scene, but you don’t have to be alone either.  I don’t know if you have any female friends, but if you enjoy being in the company of a woman and can do so without pushing to make the relationship romantic, then why not spend some time with your female friends?  If you have a female friend, there is less pressure because she should have different expectations about what you do together.  Or, if you feel that hanging out with a woman is just too much like a date anyway, why not go out on a date but move really slowly, and by slowly I mean, at a crawl?  If you haven’t dated in two years I know you have had a lot of time to think about what you could have done differently in that relationship and what you will do differently in your next relationship.  These are important things to keep in mind as you move forward.

    Most people move way too fast in relationships.  If you are concerned about a woman really liking you for you, and her comfort with your financial situation, then you should take your time to just get to know her on a very friendly level, even if you want to reserve the right to make it more like romantic dating if you decide you really like her.  Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to go out and have a good time with someone.  If you don’t know someone who would enjoy spending time doing less expensive things, then they are the wrong one for you anyway.  You shouldn’t bother dating anyone who makes you feel inadequate, especially when you know that you have been through something and that you are working to get back on your feet.    Try lower cost events like things that are free–you don’t have to promote the fact that it is free, but if it is and it’s still something fun to do then so what?  Where you live there may be free concerts, free movie passes, free days at the museum, etc.  You can also find cool places to eat that aren’t expensive but still have good food and atmosphere.  Try taking a walk or jog together, going to the park, renting a movie, playing billiards, or cooking the person dinner at home.

    You have to be creative but you don’t have to suffer alone.  Just move slowly and don’t expect too much.  Some people are not going to understand or appreciate your financial situation or your hesitation to get involved quickly, but don’t worry about that.  Let those people go their own way and don’t take it personally if they don’t see things the way you do.  There are many women out there so don’t commit yourself financially, practically, physically or emotionally until you take the time to get to know if they are even worth your time of day.  Once you meet the woman who you know likes you for you, and not for your money (and you will know because of how you interact and spend your time together) you won’t have to wonder about whether the time is right to start dating again.  You will be able to confidently know that she is the one to let into your life.

How do I listen to my friends’ problems without stressing out?

  • I recently ended an eight year relationship and I am slowly but surely moving on, but my friends won’t let me. They aren’t mentioning him or anything, but they constantly come to me with their problems. I just don’t need to hear that right now because hearing their stories at times, make me feel like I should have stayed with my ex. My friends are going through abusive and cheating situations right now. My ex never did that to me which was the reason why I always stayed with him until I realized how emotional he was. I always told myself if my man didn’t cheat or hit me, those are two good reasons to stay with him. I didn’t think about anything else. My mother, sister and friends all went through that. So having a man without dealing with that just sticks with me and I am “Ms. Rose-Colored Glasses” when it comes to everything else. I am dealing with that, but how can I be there for my friends and not listen to their negative stories about their relationship? I love your book by the way!

  • I think we need to limit how much we go on and on about relationships. Sometimes the more we talk about it, the worse we feel, instead of better. For the person sharing and the person listening, you both need to figure out how long you can discuss dating problems before you start to get stressed out by the conversation, instead of feeling uplifted. If the talking isn’t making you feel better or helping you come up with solutions to your problems, then what’s the point of constantly focusing on what’s wrong?

    As a listener, I know you want to support your friends but there is nothing wrong with deciding that you won’t talk indefinitely. Sometimes you probably stay on the phone or discuss one topic for too long. Pay attention to when you start feeling bad about yourself or your situation and try to end the conversation before it causes you to have a downward spiral. If you are going through a tough time in your own life, you may not be able to take on your friends’ problems along with your own. Sometimes you need some space to get yourself together before you can be a good friend or a good listener. You’re coming out of an eight year relationship–it’s going to take you some time to heal and get your head and heart into a good space. Imagine what kind of advice you might give when you are feeling bad about yourself and your own situation. (Sometimes women are so busy talking, they don’t even think about how what they are saying is affecting the listener.)

    Even if the talks weren’t making you think too much about yourself, sometimes listening to other people’s problems can stress you out or give you a headache if you sit on the phone for hours just rehashing the same problems day in and day out. The same negative effects can be true for your friend who is sharing. Women like to just talk and express their feelings, but at some point, you have to stop complaining and start acting. Sometimes our friends help us stay stuck in a pity-party by constantly listening to our problems without encouraging change. Continue to support your friends, but establish your own boundaries for how often and how long you can discuss problems.

    Good luck!

    Dr. Michelle

My girlfriend moved away, how can I get her back?

  • I have been dating this woman for just about three years. We had a good relationship and I love her a lot. She wanted to marry me and gave me an ultimatum that if I didn’t marry her she was going to the west coast to work for her family. I told her that I loved her but the marriage thing scares me. She has been out there for six months now. I want her back so bad now and told her about a month ago that I want to marry her, but she says that the things she wanted in life have changed and she needs to further her self in life. I told her I made a huge mistake and I will do anything. I have a good job and have been with the same company for 20 years but I don’t know if living out west has made her see bigger and better things. I am not a cheater. I work hard but was just scared to get married again after a failed marriage seven years ago. I have never felt this way before about a woman. I told her how I feel about her and even called her mother. Do I now give her, her space? We use to talk almost every day. I don’t know what I should do. She tells me I’m too late. She struggled here with jobs and maybe I should have helped her with that more. She said to me that everyone thought she would fail out there but she is still there. What can I do? It’s hard not to cry when I talk to her. She said she doesn’t need to start a relationship. I have never seen her act this way before and be so cold.

  • It sounds like your ex-girlfriend is focusing on getting herself together and doesn’t want to rush back into a relationship with you based on the POSSIBILITY that you are ready now.  You said that it was hard for her to find good work back at home and that nobody thought she would make it out west.  Now she has found good work and is making it on her own, you want to come back into the picture. Even though she has moved on with her life, you want her to move back home to be with you because you are NOW ready to get married.  That’s a hard decision for her to make.  There is nothing wrong with being hesitant to remarry after a failed marriage, but from her perspective, you weren’t ready and since nothing great was keeping her at home, she moved away and started a new life.  Now that she is happy and successful where she is, you are asking her to give all of that up on the CHANCE that you are now ready to marry her.  You want her to give up her new life and career and she is thinking that you should have said all of this before she left town.  If she was struggling living at home before, she may fear that she will struggle again if she moves back.

    If you are serious about her being “the one,” maybe you should consider moving out west and joining her.  Can you get a transfer at your job?  Interested in making a change after all these years?  In your mind it makes the most sense for you to stay at your job because you’ve been there for so long and for her to come home because that is where you both started.  But in her mind she may feel that if you want her: 1)you have to prove it; 2) you have to win back her trust and confidence in you and your relationship; and 3) you have to accept her desire to have her own life, goals and aspirations.  You keep asking her to get on YOUR program: to get married when YOU want and to move to where YOU live.  There are no guarantees, but if you want to show her that you are really serious, you may have to make some moves toward getting on HER program.  And I have to be real with you, six months away from you coupled with the fact that she doesn’t act too excited about you anymore could mean that she isn’t just upset about what happened, it could mean that she is in fact over you.  So you have a big risk to take, figuring out how far to go to try to win her back, realizing that she may already be gone and no sacrifice, no matter how big, will change her mind.

    Give it some more time.  She needs time to see that you are serious and that this isn’t just a good mood you are in right now.  And you need time to see if she is interesting in getting back together with you, before you go and do something drastic to prove your love to her.

    I wish you all the best!

    Dr. Michelle

My friend has stopped being there for me, what should I do?

  • I need some advice. I have a friend who when I need someone to talk to seems as if she’s never there. While talking to her on the phone she either talks to others in the background, doesn’t respond back, or says “What did you say again?” I am very hurt by this because recently when I called her to talk, I was very upset about a dying family member and she did the same things. But meanwhile, when she’s having man problems she calls me day or night and I give her my undivided attention. What should I do?

  • I know that it can be difficult confronting someone, but there is only one way around this situation and that is for you to tell your “friend” how her behavior makes you feel.  You don’t want to attack her or jump down her throat–just wait for a calm moment when you can peacefully, yet honestly, tell her how it makes you feel when she doesn’t give you her full attention when the two of you are talking.  The example of needing her attention when you were trying to discuss your feelings about your dying family member is a perfect example to bring up.  It’s okay to tell her that you value her friendship enough to pay close attention when she is talking to you and that you need her to pay attention to you when you need help as well.

    Although we both know how rude she has acted, if this is the first time you have mentioned your feelings to her, you have to understand that she may not have realized how rude she’s been acting, so give her a chance to make some changes.  If she does it again in the future, remind her right then and there that she is doing it again.  If she doesn’t stop, then you need to find someone else to talk to and depend on. What’s the point of talking to her if she isn’t listening anyway?  That is enough to make your mood go from bad to worse and it’s a sign that you need to find another friend to confide in and share your feelings with.  Maybe when she notices that you, the person who always gave her your undivided attention, are now becoming friends with someone who cares about listening to your life, she might wake up and smell the coffee.

    Good luck!

    Dr. Michelle