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HELP! I Hate Kissing My Fiance!

Dear Armchair PsychologistI'm engaged to a super-smart, funny guy. Our relationship started off a bit rocky, but we're in a great place now — engaged and living together. The problem I have is that I hate kissing him! His mouth doesn't look hygienic enough, his teeth are yellow and not in order. I've told him how I feel, and he refuses to do anything about it. Instead, he takes it as an affront and gets offended at any suggestions of teeth whitening, etc. I love him and want to be his wife, but can this relationship survive without kisses?- Yuck

Dear Yuck,

I'm sorry to that hear you're repulsed by your fiance's kisses. My opinion is that intimacy, affection, and sexual compatibility are a must for a happy relationship. No one should endure an intimate relationship sans kissing unless one partner is ill of course. I'd advise using a gentler, compassionate tone (in a relaxed environment that isn't so charged) and purchasing some white strips- use them yourself and offer them to him. If this doesn't work, I'd advise you to seek a relationship counselor that can help the two of you work through these differences. It may be wise to hold off on walking down the aisle until you can agree on locking lips!

- The Armchair Psychologist

HELP! Have I stopped growing as a person?

Dear Armchair Psychologist,I was recently stuck in a rut of indecisiveness about my life and relationships. I am coming to the conclusion that this is because my personal growth and evolution have stopped. I'm often feeling mostly empty inside. What are the signs that my personal growth has stopped, is this common, and what to do about it?- Anxious

Dear Anxious,

I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling stuck in rut. It must be frustrating to feel indecisive about the future of your life and your relationships. You say you feel mostly empty inside and that you might not personally be growing or evolving. You also say you have a hard time making decisions which could be a byproduct of the weight of feeling empty inside. Feeling stuck and avoiding responsibilities are good indicators that your personal growth has halted. Perhaps you're suffering from 1) depression and/or 2) an existential crisis. I recommend you see a qualified therapist to explore and treat either. The human condition is a very uncertain and often unbearable thing to ponder and give meaning to, this struggle commonly gives rise to feelings of despair and anxiety. It is extremely common to go through this phenomena in any of life's various stages and especially if you have experienced trauma or a recent major life transition such as being diagnosed with an illness, having children, going through a divorce or separation, a significant job change, etc.

Existentialism means that we as humans have the freedom to make choices in life, but also that the awareness and responsibility of these freedoms lead us to have despair and anxiety because we are certain to die. "Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?" philosopher and author Leo Tolstoy famously asked.

Like many philosophers and famous writers, Tolstoy documented his own struggle with personal growth and the evolution of self. He struggled with depression due to existential anxiety to such extent he sought to kill himself, but not until he had turned all of the major sciences on their heads to find an answer. He finally arrived at the conclusion that life can only be meaningful if there is something worth doing that will make a permanent difference in the world, and that this something can only be accomplished if one has an immortal, spiritual self.

Another philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, (whom I'm currently taking this wonderful Coursera class on), emphasized that life is not something we solve, but a journey we experience, and that this journey requires assigning meaning to one's own life by taking action and responsibility. He acknowledged a fear that prevents us from accomplishing this in defining many levels of despair or "sickness," which he described as a universal problem (whether or not one is aware of one's own despair, is another matter). In the book, The Sickness Unto Death, he writes "Despair is not just an emotion, in a deeper sense it is the loss of self."

Similarly, Paul Sarte, in Transcendence of the Ego along with many eastern belief systems, speaks of authenticity and creating a new consciousness by casting aside the "ego" and focusing on a deeper awareness in order to evolve. There are, of course, countless ideologies and methods on how to evolve and grow as a human being, meditation being an effective one.

Most importantly, what all of these philosophies have in common is that in order to make one's life meaningful, there has to be change and that only personal action can lead to change. In other words, you must somehow move past fear and indecisiveness to change your life for the better and create a meaningful life that can evolve over time. The old saying, "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" comes to mind. Here is a useful step by step by Dr. Jim Taylor, a former top skier turned Psychologist, to overcome some of these challenges. I hope you make at least one decision right now, the decision to act!

- The Armchair Psychologist

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Ubah Bulale