Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays… Ugh!!

How do we cope with our strong feelings when we are dealing with someone who is unaware of how their behavior affects others?

Often times we are forced to deal with people… especially in family situations and surrounding holidays events… who are unaware of how their actions appear to others. It is common for us to believe that our intentions are visible, when in fact it is only our actions that can be seen and felt by those around us.

If others are feeling overwhelmed and their actions impact us, what can we do to practice self care? We use our tools… deep breathing… taking a walk… calling a friend… journaling… prayer… letting go. If necessary we give ourselves permission to leave the situation and take a time out until we feel more balanced. We cannot be emotionally present for others if we are not practicing self care. If practical, we can return once we are centered to discuss the situation in an attempt to resolve issues.

Part of self care is effectively managing expectations. If we have a history of unresolved issues involving family, we must learn to expect whatever family dynamics exist to continue. We can choose not to participate in unhealthy situations. We expect many change back messages from those who are uncomfortable with our growth. We can understand their discomfort… empathize… and still maintain our healthy boundaries.

The holidays can be an especially trying time as we interact with our family of origin. Old issues that lie beneath the surface may be triggered by interactions with siblings, parents or extended family. We owe it to ourselves to use our tools, practice self care and manage expectations. In this way we have the ability to spend our time with our families while still maintaining healthy boundaries and working on more positive interactions.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Support - Balcony People

When our relationships hit a rough spot how do we cope? What do we do to garner support?

We reach out to those who have gone before us... counselors... friends... folks we meet in group or at meetings. We read books and articles written by those with wisdom and experience. We search our soul for realization of our part.

Relationships are like a dance... we must see our steps clearly. We must look with eyes unclouded by poor judgement and unresolved issues to see truth. It isn't easy to see our part... especially if we are hurt, sad or angry... but if we are to come through the difficult times back to a state of joy we must accept that we too have contributed to the problems we face... that our partner is not the only one to blame.

As we point our finger at our partner we realize that three fingers point right back at us. We too share in the issues... have perpetrated the hurts... have added to the pain. If we are to clear the air and begin anew we must own our part of the problem.

As we go through the toughest part of the process we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel... and it isn't an oncoming train.

Many have survived the road we are walking. They are all here with hands outstretched... reaching for us... cheering us on as we do the next right thing... as we walk the talk.

Yes, it's humbling... and jumbling too. We feel confused... angry... sad... hurt... devastated... overhwelmed... depressed... and much more. But there are so many watching us take one step at a time... praying for us... pleading with us not to give up.

They are all here along the side of the path... cheering... shouting our name in joy... waiting for us to come far enough along that we too can join on the sidelines and begin to cheer for the next one to walk this long and winding road.

They are shouting... Can you hear us? Can you see us?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking Poison - Resentment & Bitterness

How do we cope with angry feelings in our partnership? What can we do to keep those angry feelings from becoming resentment or bitterness?

After reading a thoughtfully written quote it occurred that resentment and bitterness are one of the most important topics in relationships. The quote basically said, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

What a concept... we want to be compassionate in our relationships. We want to be loving and filled with warmth. But what happens when our trust is violated in some way and we feel the sting of betrayal. How do we cope with our feelings without becoming bitter and resentful?

One of our most basic tools is counseling. We must choose to avail ourselves of assistance when we face a situation that we cannot handle with the tools we currently possess. We may need a safe place to express our anger... to work through our feelings... so that we don't poison our relationship. If our partner has betrayed us in some way we have a choice to make. Is this betrayal a deal breaker? Or do we and our partner want to salvage the relationship?

Contrary to what others in our lives may believe there is no right answer for this question. Each partnership is unique. What works for one may not work for another. Partners must decide how much of a commitment they have made to the relationship and what they are willing to do to work through the issues that present themselves. For some, betrayal of any kind is more than they are willing to forgive. For others there is compassion and forgiveness. Neither are right... just different.

When we arrive at a decision with our partner and the help of a counselor, giving our best efforts to the situation is imperative. Anger is an appropriate emotion following betrayal. It requires a safe environment in which to be expressed. Once the anger has been fully explored and the underlying issues revealed healing can begin.

Avoiding resentment and bitterness may take a great deal of effort, but in the long run it is worth the work... our relationship and our health depend upon it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HELP - My Expectations Are Killing Me!!

How do we manage our expectations in a healthy way? Can our expectations cause us problems in our relationship?

Expectations can be a double edged sword. At times we gain power and insight from the expectations we have of ourselves. But what about the expectations we have of our partner? How do they affect our relationship?

If we expect our partner to fulfill our expectations we may be placing undue pressure on both our partner and our relationship. We hold the responsibility to fulfill our own expectations. When we give that power away, we lose the ability to practice self care. We give control of ourselves and our happiness over to another. When we do that we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment.

As much as our partner may wish to please us and may make every effort to act in our best interest, there will be times when their desires and ours will not overlap. If we have placed our expectations in their hands we will surely be disappointed and possibly hurt. If we have, instead, taken responsibility for our own expectations we will be assured that we remain in balance regardless of what our partner is or is not doing at the moment.

In a healthy relationships partners make every effort to be compassionate, respectful and considerate of one another. We do not feel the need to meet each others expectations as we know that we are responsible for meeting our own. In this way we assure that we remain balanced, emotionally available and connected in our lives and in our relationships.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moving Beyond Betrayal

How do we move past the pain and loss of betrayal? Can we salvage our relationship or is betrayal the kiss of death?

Not all betrayal involves emotional or physical affairs. Some betrayal involves more subtle violations that can occur slowly and painfully over many years. Drug and alcohol abuse can fall into this category, as can gambling or any other addiction.

The first step in determining whether we can move beyond betrayal is to determine why our partner strayed from their promises in the first place. This may be an area requiring the assistance of a counselor. We may be unable to figure out what was lacking either in our partner or in our relationship without help. We must keep in mind that some betrayal occurs because of a issue within our partner... and some occurs because of an issue within the relationship. To avoid a repeat of the problem, discerning the underlying cause is paramount.

Once we have clarified why the betrayal happened we will be able to determine if a repair of the relationship is possible or desirable. At this point we have the information we need to make an informed decision. We must decide if the betrayal is a deal breaker... or just an issue needing work than can be healed by time and effort.

Some relationships rebound from betrayal with increased intimacy and trust... others dissolve. It is our decision based upon the information we have gathered that will determine which outcome is best for our particular situation. All relationships are unique. A counselor can assist in clarifying the issues present and in facilitating communication, but only the partners involved can decide what is best for their situation.

Reaching out for help when relationships falter can save partners from a future of pain or bring one of joy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Do I Move Past the Anger?

How do I move past the anger I feel toward my former abusive partner?

The reason a former partner still acts hostile and nasty toward us is because we escaped their abuse. They feel resentment toward us because they still feel some level of involvement.
They enjoy poking at us and trying to get our goat... it's sadly part of the personality of someone who is abusive... it's their way of trying to control us.

We need to learn how to unplug those buttons that they push. That takes work and help... it's not something we will likely be able to accomplish alone. If we don't have a counselor we need to find someone who specializes in abuse and recovery. That is where we will find the tools we need to move past the anger and bitterness.

As long as we continue to hate the abuser we are tying ourselves to them emotionally. Hate and love are the opposite of the same emotion. When our feelings evolve into indifference we will have moved past our own attachment and their antics will appear humerous to us... much like a cartoon character.

Anger does nothing to help in the process. It eats away at our insides and can turn into resentment and bitterness. Compassion is the answer... feeling empathy for their inability to move past their own dysfunction and disease which locks them in their own cycle of pain.

Luckily for us, we don't have to participate in that cycle any longer... but they still do. It's within them and they have no where to run... changing partners doesn't solve the problem because the problem is within them. Seeing the situation is that light helps. It gives us the ability to see past our own anger and see them for the small person they really are...

Dysfunctional and diseased.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

$9 Million Awarded to Betrayed Partner From Paramour

Is it an effective remedy to award monetary damages from the paramour to the betrayed partner?

People betray others in relationships. This is a fact that is not new to mankind. Betrayal is not limited to adultery... there are plenty of ways to betray one's partner. This particular monetary award is about adultery.

When we seek out counseling we almost never talk about our own involvement in the betrayal. We are obsessed with blame and anguish. It is expected and understandable... we are suffering with extreme levels of pain and loss.

As time passes and the hurt begins to heal, our ability to see our own piece in the puzzle, no matter how tiny, begins to clarify. It is at this point that we start to have the ability to let go of the pain and loss and true healing can begin.

What happens when we never let go of the pain and loss? We stay angry. Over time that anger hardens into bitterness and resentment. Bitter resentful people don't move on from living in the past. We don't enjoy the present because we are too busy embracing our righteous path of constantly remembering how we were wronged.

One who pursues this type of monetary reward is still living with their focus in the past. There may be a real need for funds... that is not the issue. There are many ways to get the funds that have been awarded and not paid via family court routes. This award is about punishment and retribution.

My question is... when this case is over and the betrayed partner has collected whatever they get of the $9 Million...
Will they then live in the present?
Will they then feel happy?
Will they then be a whole person?

I think not... they will still feel the bitterness and resentment that they have chosen to focus on for so long... because money can't fix that.

Money is a tool. It can be used for constructive or destructive purposes.
It has no intrinsic value of it's own.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Kind of Relationship Do I Have?

What kind of relationship do I have? There are different types of attachments that partners tend toward in relationships.

Dependent: partners may become enmeshed within the relationship and with one another, losing their individuality in the process and making their lives smaller. Dependent partners bring little new life to the relationship and may gradually become like a sponge, absorbing energy and vitality from the relationship and giving little in return. Dependent partners may be frightened of individual growth and may try to prevent it within themselves and their partner, thereby suffocating both their partner and the relationship in the process.

Independent: partners may not form attachments properly in independent relationships... they may live separate lives focused mainly on their own pursuits, interests and achievements. The relationship may be for status, financial reasons, or to have the correct partner for social functions. Rarely is there a significant amount of emotional intimacy between the two. The relationship may not foster attachment and may dissolve if one of the partners becomes emotionally involved with another party.

Codependent: the partnership may be unbalanced... with one of the partners needs dominating the relationship and the other partner functioning as one who services the needs of the other. Often times the partner who services feels used and alone, frequently complaining of being ignored, unheard and not validated. The partner being serviced may be completely unaware that there is any problem, as they may tend to be self absorbed. These relationships may eventually become hotbeds of anger and frustration. Partners may burn out due to excessive care taking or a build up of resentment and bitterness.

Interdependent: partners are committed to one another, yet are each others cheerleaders for individual growth and exploration. Individuation is not seen as a threat, but as an expression of growth necessary for both the individuals and the partnership to remain healthy and balanced. Each of the partners brings their individual growth back to the partnership, enriching it in the process. These partnerships may be quite long lasting and healthy, as the partners are encouraged to pursue their own interests and lives adding to the value of the relationship.

What type of relationship do you have?

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Okay for Me to Have Needs Too?

My partner seems to forget special occasions... I feel badly yet I don't say anything about it. Should I mention it... or is it unimportant? I feel appreciated and loved all the rest of the days... am I being petty? What should I do?

We can be applauded for handling forgetfulness in a classy way. We save our partner from feeling shamed by not making a fuss when an occasion is accidentally forgotten. It is all right to forget occasionally. However, if forgetting becomes a pattern in a relationship, there is generally more going on than just an accidental lapse with regard to a date or event.

It is not uncommon to have a partner who forgets occasions. We all get the same excuses... I forgot... I didn't have time... I was busy with xyz... The truth is that we all have the same twenty four hours each day. What we do with that time is a display of what we value.

We may go through many, many occasions with us being the one to let it go until we realize that we also have needs and that it's okay to ask to have those needs met. Yes, our partner is wonderful and shows love every day in many different ways. If this one way is important to us - and it may be - then why should we discount ourselves? Our partner enjoys receiving recognition on important occasions... why not us too?

After a pattern of forgetting develops, we can have a chat with our partner. We can share that we would prefer a blank card with a picture that means something to us both... something from the heart written inside... rather than an elaborate gift. Remembrances don't have to be expensive or complex... they allow us to feel valued on days that are special to us.

Sharing how important this is to us and being vulnerable, we allow our partner to feel safe enough to share whatever the underlying issue may be. After listening and empathizing, we reassure our partner... whatever efforts they can make... whatever is on their heart... they can feel comfortable acknowledging occasions... knowing that their efforts will be appreciated.

It can work out well for both parties. We can learn to communicate our needs and in the process both we and our partner get validated. When a partner is reluctant to do something simple - like acknowledging an occasion - there is usually a deeper issue at the heart of the resistance. Eventually as partners feel safe with one another, they will share their fears and reluctance, thereby overcoming the obstacles keeping them from intimacy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Don't I Feel For My Partner Any Longer?

What happened to the feelings we used to have for one another in our relationship? Where did they go? Can we get back to a place where we can feel that way again?

We must try to understand that our feelings didn't just vanish overnight. They faded away a little at a time over the years as we and our partner built walls not bridges, with the communications we shared. Those walls are made of bricks crafted of disappointment, bitterness, resentments, hurts, loss, pain, rejection and uncertainty.

Since it took years to create those walls we cannot expect them to come down quickly. The mortar that holds those bricks together is formed from defense mechanisms that each of us have learned during our time together to protect ourselves from further pain and loss.

The reason we don't "feel anything" for our partner right now, is because we have experienced so much pain, loss and disappointment... that our defense mechanisms have sprung up to protect us... in this way we don't feel anything at all... we're numb.

It's easier to be numb than to feel pain. But remember, numb means we don't feel joy (or love) either. In order to begin to "feel" for our partner again, we are going to have to experience the backlog of frozen feelings that we have been avoiding through being numb. Once we have cleared through all that frozen pain, loss, disappointment and whatever else is in there... quite a lot of work... we will begin to experience our emotions once again.

This is not a task for the faint hearted. Facing all the "stuff" that we have denied and allowed our defenses to freeze will be a courageous experience like none other we have undertaken in our adult life.

BUT... it is a journey worth every ounce of effort. It will bring us to a place of peace unlike anything we have ever experienced. Good luck to each of us as we embark on our journey... and all our hopes that we find ourselves through this process of recovery.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do Selfish People Ever Feel Remorse?

Do selfish people ever really feel remorse? Do they ever realize all the pain and heartache they have caused with their choices?

By definition of the term... selfish person... no... because truly selfish people only think about themselves and not others. But in real life people aren't dictionary definitions. We aren't black and white, but shades of grey.

The underlying question is... does this person think only about themselves and their needs and wants all the time?

In reality we all may go through a period of selfishness... or a time when our actions appear selfish. If we are making excuses, then we are already feeling remorse, as evidenced by the great amount of energy expended in rationalizing our behaviors. We may or may not be willing to talk about our feelings of remorse, but that doesn't mean we don't have them. We may instead focus on denial (of our remorseful feelings) or blame (it's all your fault that this happened and now we feel badly because of you).

Another way to consider it might be... remorse may not necessarily be a feeling with regard to another person, but a feeling regarding an action performed. We may think about ourselves and our needs and wants, but not think highly of ourselves with regard to the choices we have made.

No matter who we are, eventually we reaches a point where our selfish actions overcome any lack of conscience or rationalization mustered. Something happens that will be the straw... that will hit like a bomb shell... and suddenly we are exposed to the truth. It is a moment of great pain. Some folks retreat into denial and blame at that time... some begin to process their actions and make amends. Each person is unique and their reactions and feelings are unique as well.

Yet it can be the beginning of personal growth. We finally see ourselves as we are, not as we wish to be. The blanket of denial is thrown off and we can no longer pretend. The pain may be acute... but the end result is that we become a more aware, balanced person. Capable of forgiveness, compassion and accountability... and isn't that the most important piece of all?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Can I Forgive Myself?

Why is it so much harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others? That is because we hold ourselves to a much higher standard than we do other people. Take a moment when all is quiet and listen to our self talk... all the shoulds, the nevers and the always... we wouldn't talk like that to our children, our parents or our friends... but we all talk that way to ourselves.

The hardest part about forgiving ourselves is accepting that we are just like everyone else... we make mistakes, we screw up, we do stupid things that we regret. But because we hold ourselves to a higher standard in our minds, we somehow believe that we are capable of more... and we expect more of ourselves. So when we don't perform up to our own expectations we tend to crucify ourselves.

The hardest part about life is accepting reality when we don't like it. This is a part of reality we definately don't like... we aren't perfect, we never will be... we aren't supposed to be... that keeps us humble. When we accept that we are as flawed as others, and we bring that truth into our inner selves as a part of us... then we can begin to forgive ourselves.

Our kids may have been hurt by what they experienced as we made mistakes... mine certainly was... but he learned valuable lessons from me in the process... no one is perfect... not me, not his Dad and not him. He can accept that failure is a part of life and that when we get knocked down we get up and try again. That is an invaluable lesson... painful? Yes. But invaluable.

Our kids will learn that parents are human, they make mistakes and in the process there is pain. But, they will be able to accept that failure is an integral part of life to be expected and overcome with effort. They will see our efforts at rebuilding ourselves and their lives as a positive result.

Making mistakes and learning to forgive ourselves is all a part of being human... and isn't that the whole point?

Thursday, January 21, 2010



1. Drink plenty of clean fresh water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy.
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games
7. Read more books than you did in 2009 .
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day
9. Sleep for at least 7 hours.
10.Take a 10-30 minutes walk daily. And while you walk... smile.

11. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey entails.
12. Don't invest in negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Live in the present moment.
13. Don't over do. Keep within your limits.
14. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you truly need.
18. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner of mistakes.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate.
20. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Smile and laugh more.
23. You don't have to win every argument. Learn to agree to disagree.

24. Call your family often.
25. Be charitable... each day give something to others.
26. Forgive easily and anger slowly.
27. Spend time with people over 70 & under 6 whenever you can.
28. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
29. What other people think of you is less important than what you think of yourself.
30. Your job won't care for you when you are sick or lonely. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Do the right thing!
32. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, meaningful or joyful.
33. Our higher power heals everything.
34. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
35. No matter how you feel, get up, shower, get dressed and show up.
36. The best is yet to come.
37. When you awake alive in the morning, be grateful.
38. Your inner being strives to be happy. So, be happy.
39. Share your vision with others.
40. And finally... Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Challenges are part of the curriculum but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.