Taking Care of Yourself

What My 18-year-old Daughter Taught Me About Relationships

April 18th, 2017 → 6:46 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

 My latest for eHarmony! Enjoy!
relationship advice

My daughter graduated from high school this past May, and is currently on The World Race (a gap year program, #3n9 as they travel to 3 different continents over the course of 9 months). This is not simply traveling around the world with a backpack; rather, they are assigned a host ministry with which to serve in each country. My daughter started with 3 months in Guatemala, then moved to South Africa and Lesotho (I had to look that one up!) for 3 months, and is now finishing up by serving in Cambodia. This isn’t an easy program. Several participants have opted out. Living out of a backpack in some pretty tough conditions (relatively speaking) can be challenging (situations like no running water, sleeping on the floor, lack of fresh food), let alone having to process some pretty rough life realities of our world around poverty, illness, and abuse.

While they may be on this program to help change the lives of others, I can safely say that my daughter and the other participants on this program have had their lives changed even more immensely. The knowledge, maturity, independence, confidence, tenacity, and perseverance they have gained on this trip is incredible.

I sent her a text the other day: “What is one thing you have learned from your experience on the World Race? Don’t think, just answer, then ask your peers the same question! Go!” Their insights are spectacular, and incredibly relevant. I know every one of us can think of a time when a relationship in our lives went wrong as communication broke down, as we assigned blame instead of taking accountability, as we viewed others with skepticism instead of trust, or as we failed to show our appreciation. These are basic tenets of human behavior that frequently occur on the destructive path that leads to failed relationships and divorce.

Here are their answers. I think you will agree with me … out of the mouths of babes (she may be 18, but …) come some pretty amazing insights!

1. “Every day we have choices. We have a choice to dive into relationships with people we meet. We have a choice to make someone smile, to take a risk, and to change a person’s world.”

We own our choices. And, we own how we treat others. We do have that choice, and that ability, to make someone else smile, to take a risk on someone, and to change someone’s world. Whether we choose to do this is in our hands. How many times have you missed out on meeting someone new, or getting to know a new friend even better because you failed to smile, failed to say that first ‘hello,’ or failed to do something nice to rock someone’s world. I’m grateful that 9 years ago my husband made a choice to come up to me at an event and introduce himself with a huge smile. He has changed my world. Proactive choices trump reactive responses.

2. “Life to the fullest does exist, we just have to choose it.”

Many people I speak with seem to relish their own pain and agony. They like to own their story about all the bad things that have happened to them. You’ve heard it … “My life is miserable because he did this … “ or “I have no money because she did that …” You know what? We can all lead full and fulfilling lives if we choose to. One of my favorite mantras that got me through my divorce was, “I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I react to it.” I refuse to be a victim, and let life happen to me. We can choose to be happy and lead a full life in spite of the chaos around us. Personal accountability trumps blaming others.

3. “Don’t have expectations … ever (of other people or of the world).”

Putting our own expectations on other people sets us up for failure and disappointment. The only person we can control is our self. We can and should encourage others, challenge them, and hold them accountable, but at the end of the day, we will frequently be disappointed if we live life expecting things from others. Instead, we need to focus on your own deliverables, our own energy, our own impact on our relationships, and the rest will follow. Delivering to your own expectations trumps holding onto expectations of others.

4. “People are beautiful. It is your responsibility to find it in them, not theirs to show you. Be curious, not judgmental. You can learn a lot more from a stranger than from a friend.”

So many people approach relationships with others with an expectation (there it is again!) that they have to prove how awesome they are. Have you ever been on a date where the entire conversation centers on the other person and at the end of the meal you realize not one question has been asked about you, your life, your passions, or your interests? It’s exhausting! Instead, we are better served by our curiosity and our real desire to learn more about others (especially those not “like” us). Conversational curiosity trumps monologues.

5. “Joy starts with thankfulness.

There is a reason that so much has been written in recent years about keeping a gratitude journal, or dedicating a part of each day to being intentional in thinking about thankfulness. When we realize how much we have to be thankful for, and actively recognize those things, we become more joyful. And, who doesn’t like being around joyful people? Joyfulness trumps grumpiness.

6. “Don’t put a Nalgene® (water bottle) in the freezer. It will explode. Thank goodness for lifetime warranties.”

Yes, there is a relationship lesson in this one too. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we freeze. Sometimes we explode. We often make a mess in our lives and in the lives of others. Fortunately, we can honor our own lifetime warranty. We have an amazing opportunity to build credibility and restore trust when we admit our mistakes, and then work to make things right … at no cost to others. This is the cornerstone of building trust and commitment in relationships. Admitting mistakes trumps denying responsibility.

7. “Trust people.”
Life would be so much nicer if we all started from a place of assuming people are acting with good intentions. When this is the starting premise, suspicion disappears, and the potential for misinterpreting comments and behaviors is minimized. Trust people, until given a reason to not trust. It’s that simple. Trust trumps suspicion.

There you have it. Incredible responses to one simple prompt of, “What have you learned on the World Race?” Incredible relationship advice from a group of young adults who are currently experiencing one big adventure … and learning a tremendous amount from it!

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Blogtalk &Taking Care of Yourself

Taking Care of Yourself

On Hold! Now What?

March 25th, 2017 → 10:01 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

life on hold

Our pastor recently delivered a sermon series talking about what we do when life puts us “on hold.” He used an old-fashioned phone as a prop. Well, it was actually a push-button, corded phone, so really not that old-fashioned (after all, it could have been a rotary dial), but it served it’s purpose for reminding us of those dreaded moments when we are put “on hold.”

Like me, I’m sure many of you have experienced situations in your life where you felt like you were being put “on hold” … much to your dismay. I have a friend right now who feels like her life is on “on hold” while she finishes chemotherapy for an unexpected cancer diagnosis. I have a friend right now who feels like his life is “on hold” while he searches for a new job after being laid off. And, as I can relate to, I have a friend right now who feels like her life is “on hold” while she waits for her divorce to be finalized.

The sermon series talked about how we handle being in these “on hold” moments. The gist of it was that when we are stuck and “on hold,” then focusing on the “when” and the “what” can lead to fear, disappointment and disillusionment. But, if we shift our focus to “who,” and place our hope and our fears with God, then we can find strength and peace, even when we find ourselves in the middle of that awkward spot of being “on hold.”

I see this playing out perfectly with my friend who has cancer. Her life has most certainly been put “on hold,” but she is courageous and bold. She has made it clear that while she doesn’t have the answer to “when” she will be cured, and “what” that will look like for her, she is abundantly clear about the “who” in this equation. She has put her faith in God, and doesn’t question His timing.

I can say the same for my friend who lost his job. He doesn’t know why his life has been put “on hold.” For obvious reasons, he is holding off on making big financial decisions. He is not sure how long he will be unemployed, or how long his savings will last. It’s stressful. He’s not sure “when” he will begin to receive a paycheck again, or “what” that amount will be, but he knows “who” is in control. While he is actively looking for his next position, he is also trusting God to reveal His plan when the timing is right.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. Her “on hold” moment is driving her crazy. She is trying to control the “when” this will be over, and the “what” her life will look like in the future. She theoretically and academically knows that she needs to surrender to “who” is really in control, but she can’t seem to do it. It’s a frustrating cycle to watch as an observer on the outside looking in.

The reality is that life happens. Life doesn’t go according to our plans – ever! None of us is exempt from having “on hold” moments happen to us. They just show up – normally when we least expect them. We can’t control them. What we can control, however, is how we allow these “on hold” moments to impact us and our attitudes. We do have the ability to leverage this time “on hold” in order to learn and to grow.

Our pastor referred to these pauses as our opportunity to have a season of preparation for what is to come. It is in these times that we have to strike a careful balance between wanting to be in control, and demonstrating patience … and then between demonstrating patience, and appearing passive … and then between appearing passive, and moving into being proactive (and taking control) again!

His bottom line was that we do this through a cycle of expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence, and surrendering to God. Over, and over, and over again. I’ve seen my friend with cancer to this. In site of her diagnosis, she is demonstrating gratitude for the blessings in her life, then she’s persistently and adamantly fighting this cancer, all the while recognizing that God is in control and surrendering to His ultimate will. The same with my friend who lost his job. He is grateful that he has savings to rely upon; he is persistently and rigorously attacking his job search, and he’s surrendering to God that He has it under control and that the right opportunity will come along when it’s supposed to.

I wish I could say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. By her own admission, she is finding it incredibly difficult to express gratitude, demonstrate persistence, or surrender to God. I wish my friend could take that first step and find even one or two things about which to be grateful. It’s life-changing when we take the time to demonstrate and reflect on our gratitude each day.

My friend is also struggling with persistence. It’s a hard road to get divorced. Usually our timing isn’t the court’s timing. Things take so much longer than we want them to or expect them to. It’s frustrating. It requires a level of steady persistence to take each day at a time, and not get overwhelmed. I encourage her to focus on her ultimate goal, which is to be divorced, and not to get distracted by all the little bombs going off around her, which are typical of a divorce proceeding.

Lastly, my friend is struggling with this concept of surrendering to God. She tries. She really does. She gives her worries, her fears and her doubts to God. But then she snatches them right back again and tries to regain ownership. Surrendering is a hard thing to do. We like to be in control. And, as I’ve said to my friend, when we finally feel the peace that comes with truly surrendering, you wonder why you held on for so long!

Remember, when life puts us on hold, as it inevitably will, we need to focus less on the “when” and the “what” and more on the “who.” It behooves us to take advantage of that time “on hold” to practice expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence and surrendering to God. Our “on hold” moments pass much more peacefully when we are able to do this.

What about you? Are you “on hold?” Are you expressing gratitude, demonstrating patience, and surrendering to God?

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Taking Care of Yourself

Taking Care of Yourself

Note From My Father

February 13th, 2017 → 1:32 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony:The word kindness against bright blue sky with cloud

I’ve had this pressing thought lately about how lovely this world would be if we all treated each other with respect and kindness. This isn’t a new thought by any means, yet it seems it’s one that keeps resurfacing in my thoughts.

At a national level, and certainly not to get into a political conversation, I think we can agree that no matter which side of the fence you are on, respect and kindness were lacking in our recent election. That’s all I am going to say about that. I think we’ve all had enough!

At a more local level, my son recently broke up with a young woman he had been dating for a few months. He was adamant that he wanted to treat her kindly and respectfully. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I was so proud of how careful and caring he was as he delivered the message, and the young woman was just as kind and respectful in return. No drama. No anger. No disrespect.

I wish I could say the same for another couple who are in the process of breaking up. The difference is that they haven’t dated for just a few months, but rather have been married for over 40 years.  You would think (hope!?) that after 40+ years, after building a life and family together, and after both coming to the realization that they are no longer happy together, that they would honor their history and treat each other with kindness and respect. Not happening. They have both played with gasoline and matches and the resulting firestorm is no fun for either party, nor for their extended family and friends.  It’s sad to see that kind of history get torched when in reality they could jointly agree to move forward with kindness and respect.

It can be done. I spoke with another couple who is getting divorced this past week.  They were married about 19 years ago, and find themselves divorcing as a result of deceit and extramarital affairs.  I think we can agree that kind of behavior is neither kind nor respectful, and many would argue that the opposing spouse had every right to be just as unkind and disrespectful in return. I’m not saying that there wasn’t some of that going on because human emotions do come into play, but when it boiled down to the “break-up,” the divorce, this couple is choosing to take the high road. Instead of rehashing the past, they are choosing peace. They are looking forward to what will be, and not dwelling on what was.

My father passed away nearly 20 years ago. I found some old papers last night that he had written to leave for his future grandchildren to read. They were his memories, his stories of growing up, and his reflections. It brought tears to my eyes to read them. He described his parents who were married in 1924, and wrote, ”Mom and Dad taught us manners, values, and consideration for others. I don’t recall them ever using foul language, gossiping or making disparaging comments about others. They were kind and considerate and always willing to help others.”  I never knew his parents, my grandparents, but I love the description my dad provided. I wonder, will my kids say the same thing about their parents?

The bottom line is this: it is possible to choose kindness and respect every day.  It is possible to get through life’s toughest moments by maintaining your commitment to kindness and respect. And in the end, that is the kind of legacy we all want to leave.

What do you think?

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Taking Care of Yourself

The Lighter SideWomen's Issues

Collecting Memories, Not Things

October 10th, 2016 → 9:55 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

I just returned from a wonderful weekend away. My good friend K’s mom passed away recently after a hard-fought battle against cancer. Another friend, A, and I flew down to Florida to help K clean out her mom’s house and prepare for it to be sold. Now you are likely re-reading my first sentence and wondering what was so “wonderful” about that weekend.

It’s emotional to “clean out” someone’s life and decide what is worth keeping, or not. It’s heart-wrenching to realize that boxes of photos that were someone else’s memories don’t necessarily mean as much to those left behind. It’s difficult to make a determination in a matter of minutes about whether an item is worth donating to the thrift shop when you know the decision to purchase that item was well-thought out back in it’s day.

Thankfully, K’s mom was neat and organized and her house reflected that same semblance of order. There was no clutter. There weren’t stacks of things everywhere, but nonetheless, there was still a tremendous amount of stuff to go through. Every item in each bedroom closet, bathroom cabinet, linen closet, curio cabinet, dining room hutch, and kitchen drawer sat waiting to be reviewed … waiting for it’s future to be decided. Keep. Donate. Toss.

Our friend K handled this like the champ she is. I learned so much from watching her go through this. I am undoubtedly more prepared for the day when I inevitably find myself having to do the same thing after my mom passes away. K showed emotion, and love, and connection and laughter. Lots of laughter! And her mom would have loved that.

I left with several realizations that I wanted to share with you.

Collections: So many of us love to collect things, and it’s fun as you seek, find, and gather, but remember, what you collect is likely only a turn-on to you (unless it’s a collection of very valuable things, like old gold coins, which can ultimately be sold). Collecting chocolate molds was fun and games for years until someone had to figure out what to do with 92 of them. I realized that my collection of elephants serves no meaning. I’ve had fun buying them on various trips, but it’s really the trips that have been so memorable – not having another wood-carved elephant sitting on a display shelf. It’s time to review which ones are meaningful and which ones are simply taking up space.

Obsessions: Different than collections, obsessions are things that we end up having more than an average amount of for some unknown reason. For K’s mom, there appeared to have been an obsession with placemats. I think we stopped counting when we got to 32 sets (a set being 4-8 placemats each). We had a great time laughing and pondering what our kids will name as our obsessions. In full disclosure, I realized that if my kids were to clean out my bedroom right now, they would find about 19 pairs of flannel and fleece pajama bottoms. I’m going to do something about that this weekend. I promise to pare it down to no more than 7 (at least, I will try to).

Valuables: There are items that have a real financial value, and items that have an emotional value. Sometimes, it can be tough to determine what falls into each category. No wonder so many shows on HGTV feature people discovering great finds at thrift shops that are worth lots of money. The man at the thrift shop literally started rolling his eyes at us when we pulled up with yet another truckload of items to be donated, and the odds are in some treasure-seeker’s favor that we donated at least one valuable piece of blue and white willow pottery, depression-era glass or sterling silver. It’s sitting in that thrift shop just waiting to be found. I realized that the things I own that may not look like much, but that do carry some financial value, need to be itemized and noted for those who eventually clean out my house. It will make things so much easier for them.

Friendships: The most important take-away from the weekend was that friendship ranks at the top of the “value” list. True friendships are absolutely priceless. Life is tough. We all endure our fair share of trials and tribulations. Having deep relationships and people by your side to cry with you and celebrate with you (and even to clean out with you and move on with you) is really what is most valuable in life. K’s mom was a role model for how to be a good friend to others as was evident by how many people we ran into who spoke so lovingly about her (neighbors, the postal carrier, people at the grocery store…). I realized, yet again, the importance of making time for and truly investing in friendships.

So, you see, it really was a wonderful weekend. We laughed and cried together. We supported each other. We contemplated our own mortality. We talked about our moms, and we talked about what we are like as moms ourselves. I think K’s mom was there with us in spirit and we hope she was laughing and smiling with us, even when we were making fun of some of her stuff (seriously, who needs 53 cloth napkins, 24 sets of sheets, and 8 sets of measuring cups?). The three of us friends made more memories together, and, in the end, collecting memories means so much more than collecting things.

Things go away. Memories last forever.

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The Lighter Side &Women's Issues

October 10th, 2016 → 8:36 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony:

Sometimes You Have to Say No to Say Yes!

say no and say yes

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or is it?”

Have you ever had to say no to something in order to open the door to saying yes to something else? What happened?

I had a great conversation with a colleague over lunch last week. She’s been dating a guy for the last two years. She seems to describe her relationship with him as somewhere between “things are OK” and “it’s pretty good” whenever we get together and catch up.  I’m not sure we’ve ever connected where she hasn’t shared some level of angst or tension with where things were at with this guy. There certainly has never been an instance of total love, passion, respect, joy, and fulfillment.  The fact is that her boyfriend is a nice guy and she enjoys being with him (most of the time), but their relationship always strikes me as hard and difficult.

After I got divorced and started dating the man I am now married to, the word that kept popping into my head was “easy!” No, I wasn’t easy! Our relationship was easy! That’s about as complex a word as I could use to describe how we got along from day 1, and in fact, how it continues to be 8 years later. It wasn’t complex; it wasn’t challenging. There weren’t more days of strife than days of joy. There wasn’t more anger and angst than there was love and laughter. Simply put, it was easy. That’s not to say we didn’t face obstacles. We did. Any relationship does, especially relationships later in life that have to take into account things like ex-spouses and children, histories and hurts. We called these obstacles our “hurdles” and made sure we talked about them and dealt with them, and we did, and still things were “easy.”

Which means that I’m puzzled by how “hard” my colleague’s relationship seems to be for both of them. I asked her if it’s always been this difficult. It has. I asked her if it was worth it. She didn’t know. I asked her if this relationship was giving her everything she wanted. It isn’t. But still, for two years, she has stayed put.

I wasn’t sure how direct to be with my friend. Yes, she’s a colleague, but she’s also a friend. I asked her to describe what she wanted from her relationship. She wants more than she is getting. She’s getting “OK” or “good,” and she wants “great.” Frankly, there’s nothing wrong at all with any one of us wanting, expecting, or waiting for “great.”

I asked her why she is sticking around. I asked her why she didn’t just cut her losses and move on. If this man isn’t capable of giving her what she really wants, what good is it going to do either of them if she sticks around. He feels the angst too. She isn’t giving him what he truly and deeply wants either. Both are “fine,” but neither is “fantastic.” They are sort of stuck in this icky and complacent place where neither is terribly happy, but their fleeting bright moments make up for the cloudiness that surrounds so much of their relationship.  The truth is that they want very different things for their future. We’re talking some pretty major differences in expectations. Marriage/no marriage.  Kids/no kids. Pretty major stuff, right?

She didn’t really have a clear answer for why she might want to think about moving on until I pointed out what I thought was pretty obvious. Sometimes you have to say no to something, in order to say yes to something else!

Perhaps it was time to say no to this relationship, so that she could say yes to the opportunity of a new relationship. She wasn’t going to build an online dating profile while still in a relationship with this guy. She isn’t going to put herself out there as available when she is in a relationship. She’s too honest for that. As a result, she’s stuck. She’s not saying no to her current situation, which means she isn’t putting herself in any situations to say yes to something better.

I get it. I really do. It is scary and there is a real risk. The risk is that she says no to this relationship and then nothing comes along for which she can say yes. What happens then? Not only has she said no to mediocre, but now she doesn’t even have a relationship at all. We talked about that. Emotionally and intellectually it’s easy to arrive at different answers. The heart and the head can lead us down divergent paths.

You know that old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? That essentially means that it’s better to have a lesser, but certain advantage, than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing (by the way, little history lesson, this statement likely refers back to medieval falconry where a bird in the hand (the falcon) was a valuable asset and certainly worth more than two in the field).

I really like my friend. She has an amazing spirit about her. She’s smart, funny, athletic, gorgeous … truly the whole package. I want to see her truly fulfilled and happy. I don’t want to see her settle.

What do you think? What would you tell my friend? Should she say no in order to have the opportunity to say yes? Have you said no in order to say yes?

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Blogtalk

Dating, Romance, Sex

DATE: What I Learned from an Adorable Couple Who Met Online

July 22nd, 2016 → 9:26 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony: DATE


Couple Holding Hands

I was traveling recently, and met a couple who were clearly dating and seemed very much “in like” and heading towards “in love.” As I so often do, I started asking them all sorts of questions about how they met, and because of what I do, my interest was immediately piqued when they said they met through an online dating site!

My questions began in full force! How long have you been online? How many dates have you had? What’s your strategy for success? How did you know this person was worth a second date? A third date?

It was very interesting as they both had a very different approach and perspective.

He: I’ve been using online dating services for three years. I’ve been on 88 first dates (yes, he said, he’s been counting them).  I’ve been on 24 second dates, and a few third dates. One relationship lasted about 3 months before I realized I didn’t see it going anywhere. I really want someone who shares my interests, and who loves the outdoors.

His approach has been to play the odds. He knows that the more first dates he goes on, the better chance he has to meet the right person. He is also very decisive. He says he doesn’t want to waste his time, or her time, if he knows from the beginning that his date is not going to be the right person for him. He’s respectful and kind, and he doesn’t lead anyone on.

She: “I was online a few years ago for a couple of weeks, but kind of freaked out at some of the responses I was getting, so quickly took down my profile. I’m a really private person (she later told me she doesn’t use any social media tools – no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram). At the urging of some of my friends, I put up a new profile several months ago. I kept it really simple. All I did was write a blurb about what I like to do. I did not include a photo. Too personal!

Her approach was not to play the odds, but rather to be very selective in her approach. She didn’t want to go on a bunch of random dates with strangers. She’s far too private and introverted to find anything fun about that!

He saw her profile. They shared similar interests. She too, loves the outdoors. He reached out to her. They shared a few brief notes back and forth and decided they should meet for coffee. He didn’t ask, but she offered to send a photo.

She: I don’t want to have a long online communication history before meeting for a first date. I’m not interested in pages of emails and hours of phone calls before we meet. I would rather cut to the chase and have a real interaction. People can hide who they are via email and phone much more than they can face-to-face.

He: I agree! I would rather meet sooner rather than later and have a face-to-face conversation. We agreed that meeting for coffee would be an easy and safe way to meet for the first time. It wasn’t the “commitment” of meeting for dinner.

They met for coffee, and within a few minutes of getting their orders and sitting down, she suggested that they take their coffee and head outside to walk through a local park while talking! Perfect! They both love being outside and active. They walked and talked, and walked and talked, until it was time for her to get back to work.  They returned to the coffee house and said their goodbyes.

He: I don’t play games. I couldn’t get her out of my mind and I knew I wanted to learn more! (This is from a guy who hadn’t moved past this first date with 88 other women!). The next morning, I called and asked her out for a second date. We decided to meet up after work the next day and go for another walk. I remembered her special order from when we met for coffee, and I stopped and grabbed coffee for us before we met to walk.

She: He remembered my order. That was a special touch. He paid enough attention to what I ordered, and he remembered. It’s the little things. Our second walk lasted well past dark. There’s something about walking and talking that just feels open and honest. Maybe it’s because you aren’t sitting staring at each other. It feels less vulnerable, or perhaps it allows you to be more vulnerable. I’m not sure which it is, but it works.

This couple was adorable. They clearly cared about each other, shared genuine interests, and seemed committed to trying to figure out how to make things work amidst the normal chaos of life. The reality is that both are divorced, both have children, both work full-time, and both live on opposite sides of a large city. All of this adds complexity to a new and budding relationship, but they were enthusiastic about doing all they can to make it work. I truly wish them the best of luck!

I summarized the key points I learned from this couple into 4 points that I put into a memorable word: DATE.

D: Be Decisive – Do what feels comfortable to you. Know what you want, and what you don’t. There is nothing wrong with being decisive about how you approach online dating.  (e.g., he knew when it wouldn’t go further than a first date; she knew that she didn’t want a photo on her profile).

A: Be Attentive – Pay attention to what the other person is sharing with you, not just via their words, but also via their behaviors. It says a lot, and is a great way to show you are “listening” (e.g., he remembered her special coffee order).

T: Be Talkative – This couple believed that “talking” (actual talking!) is critical, and means so much more than communicating via email, text or telephone. Technology is great (we wouldn’t have online dating without it!), but there is a real need for real conversation if you are truly going to get to know someone.

E: Be Enthusiastic – Recognize that dating and growing a new relationship isn’t always easy, especially as adults with a full plate of life already served up in front of them. A good dose of enthusiasm is necessary to navigate over the inevitable obstacles and challenges that will rise up!

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Blogtalk &Dating, Romance, Sex

Danger Zone!

Appreciation!

May 11th, 2016 → 10:30 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony … Appreciation!

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appreciation

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

There are an overwhelming number of women who feel unappreciated by their husbands. I often hear the following: “I just want to feel appreciated. For years I have been the cook, the cleaner, the chauffeur… I don’t feel like we are a partnership… I’ve asked, demanded, and pleaded that we go to counseling… I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to live the second half of my life feeling like this. I’m done.”

I know this is nothing new. I am sure my mother felt unappreciated by my dad at times during their marriage. I think that’s probably natural in the cycle of marriage and relationships. Life gets busy. We forget to thank those closest to us. But times are changing. I have spoken with more women than I can count over the past couple of years who aren’t just complaining about feeling unappreciated by their husbands. Instead, they are doing something about it.

These women, most of whom are in their mid-40’s, have decided they want out of their marriages. Sure, they are scared for what this means for them. Sure, they are nervous about the new unknowns divorce will bring. Sure, they recognize the impact this will have on their lives. For most of the women I spoke with, leaving their husbands means having to secure full-time employment for the first time in years. It mean moving out of the big brick colonial in the suburbs and moving into something more affordable. It means being alone. And you know what each and every woman I spoke with said? “I am absolutely OK with this.” I heard, “I’m OK being alone and starting over on my own… I feel as if I have been alone for years anyway. I don’t need my big house or my fancy car. I don’t mind having to work. I just know that I don’t want to spend the next half of my life living this way. Why should I?”

Wow! To give it all up and start over at 45? It’s surprising, particularly because to the outside world, these women appear to have it all. Their husbands aren’t “bad” people. We aren’t talking about men who are abusive or alcoholics. We aren’t talking about men who are dragging the family into bankruptcy. We aren’t talking about men who have lived a double life full of affairs.

What these women are expressing is a deep personal sadness at feeling disconnected and unappreciated by their husbands. They tell me they have fought for years to feel more connected and appreciated. This isn’t a whim, they assure me. They have thought long and hard about their decision to get divorced. They aren’t simply giving up. They have tried and fought a long battle. But the thing they each have in common is that they have reached their breaking point. They say, “I’m tired of not feeling appreciated, not feeling like I am part of a partnership. I feel like I am the roommate … not someone who is valued. I’m tired of asking to be appreciated — begging to be valued — pleading to feel as if I am important and not constantly playing second-fiddle to everything else going on in his life. I’m done.”

Divorce has become commonplace. Many women thrive after divorce. They live independent, happy lives. Any taboo or stigma that may have existed during my mother’s generation doesn’t exist any more. I think this gives many women the courage to say, “I can do this.” And, they are.

What do we do about this? Many husbands are left with their jaws hanging open in disbelief when their wives file for divorce. “Why didn’t we talk about this? Why didn’t we go to counseling? Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling this way?” The wives smile sadly and say, “We have, we did, I have… and it’s too late now… I’m done.”

I don’t like these conversations. I believe in the institution of marriage. I don’t like to see people quit. What can we do? I know the following advice is oversimplifying the issue — I really do — but it’s a start:

Men, please take the time to appreciate your wife regularly. Thank her for what she does for you and your family. Validate her. Cover her with words of affirmation. Wrap your appreciation of her deep within her heart. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The women I spoke with are not giving up because they weren’t thanked for emptying the dishwasher once. It’s the net result of decades of feeling taken for granted. When I suggest that perhaps having an open dialogue with their husbands alerting them to just how serious this really is and perhaps giving a final chance to make some changes, they tell me it would be too little, too late. “I’m done,” they say.

Clearly, women, this isn’t a one-way street. Appreciation goes both ways. Are you checking to see just how much appreciation you are showing to your husband as well? Do you thank him for all he does, or do you take him for granted? Really think about it. Perhaps you perceive that you are being more appreciative than you really are. What would he say?

I’m not saying that showing more appreciation will lower the divorce rate in our country, but I do believe that showing more appreciation will improve marital relationships.

Philosopher William James (1842-1910), said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

The women I speak with are craving appreciation.

What do you think?

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Danger Zone!

Dating, Romance, SexTaking Care of Yourself

What is Your “So What Now?”

April 22nd, 2016 → 7:56 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony: What is Your “So What Now?”

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Woman by a mirror

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”

~ John Baptiste Moliere

I saw a cartoon the other day that said, “Divorce is like algebra. You look at your X and ask Y.”

When I ask people going through a divorce what they might do differently next time, the first response I normally get is, “Not marry him (or her) in the first place!” Humor is good. Divorce is frequently such a stressful, sad time, that a little laughter goes a long way and is so good for the soul! It reduces anxiety and stress! But, underlying that question is a serious request for which I am seeking an honest answer.

I am a fan of some of the great things that Mahatma Gandhi had to say. For example; he said, ““It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” So often we hear the term “accountable” when it comes to the “other person” in our divorce. We hear, “He must be held accountable for his affair,” or “She needs to be held accountable for drinking too much.” What about our own personal accountability?

It is much easier to place blame on others, and say that all of the accountability lies with them. I get that! Trust me, I do! But, we also owe it to ourselves to turn that mirror around and find out what piece of personal accountability we each own.

I have often said that if you go through a divorce, even if you didn’t “do anything wrong” (that’s loosely defined), you still owe it to yourself to become introspective and ask what you might have done differently. If we don’t ask this question of ourselves, how are we going to become even better as individuals, even better in other personal relationships, and even better in any potential future romantic relationships, marriages or partnerships? What can we learn about what we went through that will make us a better person as we move on in life?

For some people, that introspection will result in a realization that they didn’t give priority to their spouse. It might be a realization that everyone else came first (work, the kids, the parents, the friends, the hobbies … always expecting that the spouse would wait patiently). It might be an awareness that you stopped letting little things that were “cute” when you were first married remain little things, and instead allowed that to become big items which led to rolling of the eyes, incessant nagging, and fights.  It might be an understanding that you grew tired of being the one who was “always trying” and that you ultimately just gave up and stopped expending the energy and the oxygen that your marriage needed to survive.  It could be that you quit taking care of yourself, that you quit trying to be healthy, that you quit trying to impress your spouse like you did when you were first dating or first married, and just expected them to understand.

My request today is to challenge each of us to question our own actions and find out what we are responsible for and what we can hold ourselves personally accountable for! You don’t have to share this with others; just be sure to be honest with yourself about what you might have done differently or what you will be sure to do differently on a go-forward basis.

I’m not saying this is easy to do. In fact it can be quite difficult to do, especially if you don’t feel you had any “blame” in your divorce. I hear people say, “I wasn’t the one who cheated. I wasn’t the one who squandered all of our money. I wasn’t the one who decided I didn’t want kids. I wasn’t the one who changed.” Then they say … “So I’m not accountable in any way, shape or form for my divorce.” Maybe … and maybe not.

I argue we can all learn a thing or two about who we are, what makes us tick, and what role we might have played in being part of a failing marriage. Accountability isn’t about personal blame and about tearing ourselves apart. It is about taking a life experience and learning from it. If you don’t learn from your own mistakes, you will keep making them.  Turning that mirror around and discovering your own personal accountability is only part of it.  It answers the who and the what. You still need to ask yourself, “so what?”  So what now? So what will I do differently? So what have I learned about myself?

Personal growth comes from turning that mirror around, taking a deep look at yourself, accepting what you see at face value, and then doing something differently with that learning.

“Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You, and only you, are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.”

What do you think? What might you do differently next time? What is your “so what?

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Dating, Romance, Sex &Taking Care of Yourself

The Lighter Side

Having Fun with My EX-

April 11th, 2016 → 6:06 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Huffington Post … Fun with my EX-

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I recall speaking to a divorce support group a few years ago. Whenever someone referenced their EX- (e.g., EX-husband or EX-wife), each person was careful to use the phrase, “my former husband” or “my former wife.” This wasn’t just something that one person used, but rather everyone who spoke used this convention. I thought it was interesting. After all, using the term, “EX-husband” seems pretty common. When I asked what this was all about, I was informed that they believed that “EX-“ implied a negative connotation and they preferred to approach the word a bit more positively. OK! To each his and her own!

But, I would like to stand up for “EX-“ words and suggest that there are a number of EX-traordinary “EX-“ words that should be fully embraced post-divorce. One can wallow in EX-cuses, and get stuck in the EX-crement of what they just went through, or one can focus EX-clusively on moving forward and to the EX-citement and EX-cesses that this new life will bring!

Whether your divorce was your idea, or not, it is now a part of your story, and part of the journey that defines your life. Someone made an EX-it which EX-empted you from EX-tending your commitment to your marriage. I speak with countless people who are stuck in the EX-istence of “what was,” as opposed to eagerly anticipating the EX-pectation “what will be.” One of my favorite quotes that got me through my divorce was, “I can’t control what happens to me, I can only control how I react to it.” I love it when I encounter others who hold a similar attitude. No one is EX-empt from divorce. To those who say, “It will never happen to me” (like I did) you may find yourself in shock one day. Divorce EX-tends to all corners of our society and EX-cludes no one.

To those people who are stuck EX-amining their unplanned lives collapse around them, I say this: No EX-cuses! Inhale, then EX-hale. Now, pick up the pieces and become an EX-ample of how to move forward successfully after hitting a bump in the road. No one can do this EX-cept for you. Let the world EX-plode around you with new opportunities. EX-press your emotions. Don’t let your ability to love or to be loved go EX-tinct.

Having a failed marriage and becoming a divorcee at age 40 was not part of my EX-pectation for my life. That being said, it did become my EX-istence and part of my story. I was one of those people who opted for life to go on positively. I met an EX-traordinary man. I am EX-tremely grateful that he came in to my life and the lives of my kids. It’s nice to be confident in the EX-clusivity of our marriage. We have a common passion and bond around our EX-tra-curricular activities and have EX-plored the world together. We have EX-panded each others horizons. I feel EX-alted and respected by him, and in EX-change try to honor him in the same way. The bottom line is that this relationship and marriage EX-ceeds anything I ever imagined before.

Mae West said, “All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” EX-actly!! My point is this: whether you call someone your EX- or your former -, make peace with that part of your story and move forward. Take advantage of your second chance, and make it EX-traordinary! I think I’ve EX-acerbated my point! There are some fabulous EX- words. Use them! Live them! Celebrate them. Just think: what a great way to celebrate getting rid of one EX- by introducing several new and more powerful ones!

By the way, I also met a woman once who didn’t use the term “EX-husband” or “former husband.” Instead, she had me laughing when she started taking about her “Wasband.” I thought I misunderstood. Then she clarified. She EX-claimed, “The man who was my husband is now lovingly referred to as my “Wasband.’” Love it! I thought that was EX-tremely clever.

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Blogtalk &The Lighter Side

Taking Care of YourselfWomen's Issues

I Didn’t Marry My Best Friend!

April 2nd, 2016 → 11:16 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Best Friend! – my latest for HuffPost!

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“Reminder: your girlfriends will probably outlive your husband. So find good ones.”

My sides still hurt from laughing so hard! I just returned from spending a long weekend with five friends I have known since elementary and middle school. The six of us met between fourth and seventh grades. We’ve known each other over 30 years. It’s been four years since we have all been together. That’s an entire college experience. In spite of it being nearly 1,500 days since we had last seen each other, we picked up right where we left off.

Between us, we have shared marriages and divorces, births and deaths, laughter and grief, celebrations and failures. If we go way back, we’ve shared electric blue eyeliner, curling irons, Sassoon jeans, and lilac taffeta prom dresses. We know each other. We accept each other. We love each other.

Even though we don’t experience the day-to-day with each other, like we do with our friends who are in proximity to us, we seem to have a stronger bond. I sometimes wonder if many friendships aren’t born, and sustained, out of proximity and ease. Those are the friendships that don’t survive change. One person may move away, or the kids no longer play on the same sports teams, or the person switches jobs, and suddenly those people who were our closest friends, the ones we saw weekly, if not daily, who knew what we did day-in and day-out, are no longer a part of our lives. Real friendships endure all of those changes, and more!

The six of us weren’t always BFFs. Back in elementary school, middle school, high school and college, we drifted in and out of each other’s lives, but we were always there for each other. In fact, even today, we don’t all talk regularly. Life gets busy. We are wives. We are mothers. We work. Life happens. We don’t know the daily inner workings of what is going on with each of us, but rather we get together every three or four years, and suddenly time and distance disappear in a nanosecond. We don’t need to know what happens in the day-to-day to understand where the others are coming from in their lives, and that is what truly matters.

Last Saturday night, the firepot was lit, the wine was poured, and as we sat on the back porch talking into the wee hours of the morning, we realized that five of the six of us have already lost our fathers, yet all of our mothers are still alive. The experience we have had with our parents supports the claim that women tend to outlive men. It was a sobering thought.

At this point, we have all known each other longer than we have known our husbands. Heck, these girlfriends outlasted my first husband, saw me through my divorce, were there as I started dating and married my second husband, and are still by my side. There is a good chance that we may outlive our husbands (as our moms have outlived our dads).

My point is this: Our boyfriends and our husbands are important, but so are our girlfriends! They both play a different role (in spite of so many people who say they are married to their “best friend” — I get that, but it’s different! You know it is!). Yes, date, search for the perfect person to partner with in your life, perhaps even find a “best friend” to marry, but don’t lose sight of the importance of your girlfriends in all of this. And men, you want your girlfriend or wife to have a good support team of girlfriends. Trust me! It’s an outlet you want to encourage!

I brought a photo to show the girls last weekend. It was of the six of us sitting on the back porch at my parents’ house. The year was 1984. Yes! 1984! We took another photo last weekend of the six of us sitting on my back porch. Thirty years have passed between when those two photos were taken. Sure, we look a little different… a bit more mature (who knows when those little lines crept onto our faces?) — but we’re still smiling and laughing! And, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if 30 years from now, in 2046, we are taking yet another photo sitting on someone’s back porch. Who knows? Give us a few more years and maybe the photo will capture us sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of a retirement home! I do know this: I love these girls, and I’m thankful to have them in my life. We all need our girlfriends. We need to make the time to maintain and cultivate these relationships in our busy, hectic lives.

What do you think? Life is busy! How do you cultivate and maintain friendships with your girlfriends?

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Blogtalk &Taking Care of Yourself &Women's Issues