We can’t have just one or two; plus, we’re going to the dogs
Dear Dr. Hurd,
Before my partner and I moved here, we consumed about one bottle of wine per week, usually with a special dinner. That was three years ago. It seems now that everything we do and everywhere we go involves some sort of alcohol. We feel uncomfortable being party poopers and saying no, so we try to limit ourselves, but the truth is that neither of us feels good the next day. How can we stay “social” with our friends and still limit what we drink?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Simply plan your drinking ahead of time. Think about your limits and stick to them. Spacing out your drinks also helps. For example, you can have one cocktail to start, switch to diet soda or water, and then back to a drink. Before you know it, a four drink evening ends up being just a one or two drink evening. Some people find this hard because their judgment lapses once alcohol is applied.
It sounds like you have beliefs associated with your drinking. For example, “My friends won’t approve of me if I don’t drink.” How do you know this? Maybe it makes sense to do an experiment first. If they do reject you, then that means what they like most about you is that you drink. Is that a friendship you really want?
Then again, maybe it’s not your friends’ views, but your own that are the issue here. Maybe you think that you’re less enjoyable if you’re not drinking. Once again, how do you know that? Maybe you assume you’re more entertaining when you drink. In fact, people become less intelligent when they’re under the influence. Try not drinking one time and observe those who are drinking a lot. You’ll see what I mean.
I view alcohol like spice. A little bit goes a long way. You might enjoy pepper on your steak, but you wouldn’t pour on the entire bottle. Of course, some people have a real problem and “can’t have just one.” At that point the only option is to stop—not really a catastrophe, and most people dread the prospect more than the reality itself.
Try to figure out what your mistaken beliefs are, and then resolve not to act on them when deciding how much to drink. Hopefully I’ve given you some clues.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My girlfriend and I have talked about adopting a child. About six months ago, we decided to get a couple of puppies as sort of a “dry run” for being responsible. Frankly, we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to make this work. She and I have done just fine. But the dogs have eaten our couch, dug up our irrigation system, chewed through the pool cover, destroyed other furniture, pulled up carpet … the list goes on. We are upset, and I believe neither of us wants to make a big deal about it for fear of making it look like one of us doesn’t want to adopt.
We’re confused, and it’s causing tension between us. Meanwhile, the chewing continues.
Dr. Hurd replies,
The biggest lifestyle change is having a child. Possibly the second biggest is getting a puppy. What I get from your letter is that you and your girlfriend are feeding into one another’s negativity. Though a crisis sometimes brings a couple closer together, it can often have the opposite effect. In a sense, each looks to the other for leadership, which essentially consists of saying, “We can do this. We took this on and we’re going to see it through. It doesn’t have to be all work. Remember what we wanted out of this.”
Leadership isn’t just attitude. It’s also taking real steps to address the doggie behavioral problems. I’m not the Dog Whisperer and I don’t have those solutions for you. But I’m urging you to take the lead with your girlfriend and yourself. You might ask, “Why can’t she take the lead?” I can only ask back, “Why shouldn’t you?” You’re the one writing me. If she had written, I’d be saying the same to her. Somebody’s got to do it.
The other problem, at least on this issue, is that you and your girlfriend are walking on eggshells, relationship-wise. “…neither of us wants to make a big deal about it for fear of making it look like one of us doesn’t want to adopt.” There should be no taboo issues in a relationship! Anything is fair game for discussion. Given your experience with the dogs, if not adopting is something either of you seriously wants to consider, then put it on the table. Clearing the air can solve so many problems. Once you admit that perhaps you might not want to adopt, and you’ve both agreed that that’s a possibility, you’ll no longer be threatened by it. And is not adopting such a catastrophe if you decide you don’t want the ultimate lifestyle change?
No problem was ever solved by avoiding it. Don’t live in fear of your doubts. Get it out in the open and work it out.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.