Brief Synopsis: Tyrone and Sarah have been together for years, but they are no longer seeing eye-to-eye. Sarah is struggling with poor body image and she believes Tyrone’s cutting comments are part of the problem. Meanwhile he accuses her of being too needy and insecure.
Couple: Tyrone and Sarah
Challenge: Sarah is riddled with insecurity and struggles to maintain a positive self-image. She blames Tyrone because she says he tears her down and makes hurtful compliments. Not only does he interrupt her and dismiss her feelings, but he also makes harsh comments about her appearance. For example, when they first started dating, he told her that she needed to be more glamorous because he was used to dating a certain type of women.
How they cope: Sarah has tried to become the type of woman Tyrone wants. She began wearing makeup and high heels and relinquished her usual ponytails and her causal style. However, even with these changes, she still feels unattractive and unloved by Tyrone.
Where they’re stuck: Sarah’s low self-esteem is exacerbated by Tyrone’s comments, but Dr. Berman encourages Sarah to look inward and examine the roots of her poor body image. She also asks her why she would choose to stay with a partner who puts her down and makes her feel badly about herself.
Dr. Berman’s homework:
Beware of codependent behavior: Codependent behavior can be highly destructive to your self-worth, and at the end of the day, you can only make yourself happy. Your partner is in charge of his on mood and his own thoughts, and those are his issues and do not reflect your own shortcomings. Be a kind, loving, and giving partner, but don’t forget to give some of that love and kindness to yourself. If you practice good self-care and take care of your own needs, you will be a happier, more positive partner, and that will do much for your partner’s mood than any excessive caretaking will.
Know when it’s abuse: Although your partner isn’t in charge of your mood or your self-esteem, he should still be a positive supporting force in your life. If he is negative, insulting, sarcastic or otherwise critical, it can do a number on your self-esteem and that isn’t okay. Everyone should be with a partner who loves them and respects them, and if your partner doesn’t, it’s something you should closely examine.
Don’t beat up on yourself: It’s easy to get stuck in a negative thought pattern, but you have the power to change your frame of mind and instill positivity back in your life. For example, always follow up a negative thought (“I totally embarrassed myself at that exercise class”) with a positive one (“But the point is I tried my best, and I am going to get stronger and stronger each time I go.”) Remember, you are in charge of your own self-esteem and only you can improve your state of mind.