Feeling Lonely and Isolated Because of Trust Issues

By: Sherry Blake, Ph.D.

You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of Care for the Caregiver: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster, help the casts on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the hit show Braxton Family Values manage the stressors of life. Now it’s your turn to engage with her about real life issues. Girl, we’re grown. Let’s talk about it. Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.

Feeling lonely because of trust issues

Q: I’m considering therapy for the first time in my life. I’m 63 years old. I recently retired after more than 35 years working as a family nurse practitioner and nurse. I am a mother and grandmother. I’ve been divorced for many years. I’m now feeling lonely and isolated in retirement, not knowing what the next step is for me.

Trust is a major issue for me, hence my having remained single for over 35 years. Can you share any recommendations for a specific type of therapy? Or am I overthinking this? Please give me recommendations on how and where to start before I chicken out. Thanks in advance.

A: Don’t chicken out! No, you are not overthinking things! I commend you for being smart enough to slow down and take a serious look at yourself. You are entering a great phase of your life! You no longer have to worry about working and raising children or answering to a spouse or anyone else. You are absolutely free to determine what your life is going to look like moving forward.

That may sound scary if you have never stopped to figure out who you are and what you really want at this point in your life. The good news is that you don’t have to process this alone. This is where therapy becomes essential. Individual therapy with a licensed psychologist or therapist should provide a safe confidential setting to process your fears and concerns about issues. This will also provide an opportunity to take a closer look at your issues with trust. Therapy will help you to navigate this phase of your life and let go of unnecessary emotional baggage.

Finding the right psychologist or therapist is like finding any other health care provider. You must do your homework. You may be able to get recommendations from your primary care physician or someone else you trust. If you are using insurance to pay for the service, call your insurance representative or go online to find a qualified provider in your network. If the first person you try is not a good fit, don’t get discouraged. Just try someone else just like you would with a medical doctor.

The time is now to focus on yourself. After years of taking care of others, it is time to take care of you!

Dreading frequent visits from a toxic relative

Q: I have a brother-in-law who’s had a very dark past, and as a result there’s a huge lack of trust between him and his family. Whenever his wife leaves town to visit their children, he’s not welcome to go with her. He’s also not allowed to stay in their home alone. As a result, he ends up on my doorstep because my husband is his “enabling” brother. I’m pretty fed up with his frequent visits. He’s the worst houseguest.

I’ve told my husband to put him up in a hotel instead, but my husband is dismissive of my feelings and I’m sick of him, too. What do you think about this nonsense?

A: If your brother-in-law’s “very dark past” is serious enough for him not to be able to go with his wife to visit their children, or to stay at home alone, there is a major problem. That problem should be between your brother-in-law and his wife. The fact that your husband has taken on “babysitting” duties at your home has made it your problem and added to your marital problems.

It is apparent that your marriage is strained, and your husband didn’t just start being dismissive of your feelings. Your husband is going to support his brother regardless of how you feel. I would recommend that you have a heart-to-heart conversation with your husband and acknowledge his need to help his brother but express how his visits increase your stress level and impact you emotionally.

You can’t control your husband’s decision to allow his brother to visit but you can control how you respond. It is time to stop being host to your brother-in-law and take care of yourself and your needs. Put some boundaries in place for yourself. Start by suggesting that they both stay in a hotel the weekends he comes to your home. Better yet, maybe you should leave the two of them at home and take a self-care weekend! Go visit a loved one or check in at a hotel and pamper yourself. Do something you enjoy doing.

I would also highly recommend that you and your husband participate in marriage therapy. This would provide an opportunity to open lines of communication, express your concerns in the marriage, as well as ensure you are both heard with clear expectations in the end.

Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.