My latest for eHarmony: What is Your “So What Now?”
“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?
Hook, Line and Sinker – my latest for HuffPost!
“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” ~ John Buchan
Back in February, I spoke with a friend who told me that she was struggling with the dating scene. She felt as if she was hanging around the same people over and over again. She wanted to meet someone new. I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for her situation, and merely suggested, “If you are always fishing in the same pond, you are always going to be catching the same fish.” Period. End of story.
She chuckled as she clearly knew what I meant, but I wasn’t sure that she was inspired to go find any new ponds in which to fish. She was very comfortable in her current pond. She knew what to expect out of her current pond. It was predictable and safe. Going to find new ponds would take her outside of her comfort zone. It might induce a bit of anxiety to visit a new pond. For many people, it’s human nature to avoid making ourselves uncomfortable and pushing outside of our comfort zones.
I told this friend that no one said fishing in new ponds was going to be easy. Some ponds may not be stocked with the kind of fish she wants. Others will be full of great fish! The challenge is that she will never know which situation she will encounter if she doesn’t at least try fishing in a new pond. The old adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” makes all the sense in the world.
I was out with a different set of friends a few weeks ago when talk turned to dates – the good, the bad and the ugly, and as the conversation went around it turns out that two of the women had gone out with the same guy. Kind of awkward! Talk about the need to find some new ponds! Nobody wants to catch someone else’s “catch and release!” These friends told me that there weren’t enough ponds in our area. They tell me that I have access to lots of different ponds because I work outside the home, I travel for business, and I am involved in several community associations. They tell me that since they are stay-at-home moms or since they have “jobs” and not “careers” that they don’t have access to the same number of ponds. I call bull on that! We all have multiple ponds within our own little bubbles. We just have to think about it, let go of what’s comfortable, grab our rod and reel, and head out!
Instead of always fishing in the “work” pond, or the “Friday-night bar-scene” pond, switch it up and also fish in the “volunteer at the animal shelter” pond or the “local community college digital photography course” pond every now and then. Ask others what has worked for them. Step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. You have heard this before, but have you done anything about it? Have you really tried it and given it your best effort? Or, did you try one “different” pond outside of your usual routine, have a really bad time, and then decide never to do that again? Intellectually, we all know this makes sense, but putting it into action can often be tougher. Great dates aren’t just going to show up on your front porch. You have to be visible to let people know you are available. You have to be out there meeting people – and meeting new people – to stand a chance of catching new fish.
I also think it helps if you go in with the attitude that you are just fishing for fun, and not with expectations that you are going to catch the biggest fish ever and win the whole fishing tournament! Too much pressure! I think the fish can pick up on that vibe from a mile away. It’s like one of those sparkly, spinning lures that are supposed to attract fish, when really the fish are smart enough to realize what it is! Those fish wait for the natural bait to come along, and then they get hooked!
While I’m using this fishing analogy, here is one other thought: you also have to know when to cut bait and move on! I talk with too many women who continue to date someone even though they know “he isn’t the one” and ‘’there is no future.” How are you going to catch new fish if your line is already in use? Cut bait, rehook your line, and head back to the pond again!
By the way, my friend did visit a new pond. She didn’t jump in the boat and row right into the middle of her pond to drop her line in the water. She merely approached the pond, stood off to the side, and looked around the pond. She didn’t even come prepared with her fishing rod. You know what? She caught a keeper … and that’s no fish-tale!
What’s your fish-tale? Did you have success in a new pond?
My latest for eHarmony … Doubt!
“Doubt is the pinprick in the life raft.”
Library of Souls, Ransom Riggs
When doubt enters into a relationship, it’s like the pinprick in the life raft, and if left unattended, it slowly sucks the air out completely leaving nothing but a saggy, soggy remnant of what once was.
Doubt! I’ve spoken with many people lately who have let doubt creep into their relationships. It’s like smoke. You don’t really see it. You get a sense that it’s there, but it’s hard to capture or define, and then voila, before you know it, it seeps into everything. I had a minor fire in an apartment I lived in while in grad school. Thankfully there wasn’t any significant burn damage, but there was tremendous smoke damage. Everything in my closet, and all of my bedding, had to be repeatedly dry-cleaned or replaced because of the lingering smell from the smoke that had crept in. The damage was done. So it is with doubt.
Recently, I’ve spoken with a woman who is doubting whether her fiancé truly is the man for her, and with a man who has doubts about a new job he just accepted. Two different scenarios to be sure, but in both, that doubt creates little lingering questions that don’t go away. Doubt creates questions that require answers which are hard to find. That doubt creates a nagging sensation that propels you to ‘keep looking’ as opposed to being completely satisfied and fully invested with what you have and where you are. The sad thing is that I know several people who have been married for decades who are, to this day, doubting whether they married the right person. That kind of doubt is dangerous.
Angie, who is doubting her choice in a fiancé, should be celebrating her engagement and planning her future with her husband-to-be. Instead, she is second-guessing herself. Joe, who is doubting whether his new job is the right one for him, should be immersing himself in getting to know his team, and learning the new organization. Instead, he is second-guessing the jobs he turned down and wondering whether he made the right choice. Neither is 100% invested in the decisions they made.
Doubt, like smoke, plays an important role. Often times we don’t see the fire, but we do smell the smoke (or hear the smoke alarms go off) to alert us to a fire, and that propels us to take action. Perhaps the doubt that Angie is feeling is warranted and she should take a second look at whether marriage to her fiancé is the right decision for her right now. Better to realize now that it’s not her best choice rather than after a large wedding celebration, several years of marriage and/or the arrival of kids. Perhaps Joe should take heed of the doubt that he is feeling. Perhaps he is seeing early signs that this new company really is not a culture fit with his style and that he is better off cutting his losses sooner rather than later.
I argue that doubt does play an important role when it enters our thoughts and stimulates us to check, learn, and reaffirm. When doubt enters, it can cause us to question or validate what we believe. It’s like searching for and finding that pinprick in the life raft. We have choices. We can find the pinprick, seal it, and stop the slow-escape of air, or we can decide it’s not worth it and scrap the $.99 life raft! We are able to be decisive and take action.
However, it’s when doubt lingers that it becomes a problem. By the time Angie walks down the aisle in her wedding dress, all doubt should be gone and she should be fully committed to the man she is going to marry. It’s only fair to him and to her. By the time Joe has been in his role for a few weeks (maybe months), all doubt should be over and he should be committed to building, leading, and developing his new team. It’s only fair to him and to his employer.
The bottom line is that doubt can play a very important role in getting us to think realistically about certain situations. Doubt is that inner voice that frequently guides us so well. There is a role for doubt that causes us to reaffirm (or realign) our choices. Ongoing doubt, however, that cannot be extinguished can be dangerous as it creates a sense of unease and dissatisfaction with the choices we have made.
What are you doubting? Are you using your doubt to find, and potentially seal, the leak? Or, is your doubt acting as the pinprick that is slowly sucking the air out of your relationship?
My latest for eHarmony: 5 Steps Marketing
“Bring the best of your authentic self to every opportunity.”
~ John Jantsch, Author of Duct Tape Marketing
An evening meeting with a professional colleague (let’s call her Susan) turned a little punchy last week. We were talking about our business marketing strategy … which led to an economics discussion on supply and demand … which seamlessly (!?!?) segued into a discussion about her dating life … or lack thereof (What can I say? We are two women and that’s where our stream of consciousness took us!). We naturally circled back to where we started with our marketing strategy discussion only this time we focused on her “marketing strategy” as it applied to her “business” of finding a date/relationship.
The ultimate question we tried to answer is this: How can you leverage some very basic marketing principles to improve your chances of reaching your intended audience? (And by “intended audience” I mean the date/relationship of your dreams!).
Here are five “Marketing 101” concepts. How are you applying these? Successfully? Or, are you failing miserably? This might be something to think about …
1. Determine precisely what you have to offer to the marketplace, how your product or service is different from what others are offering, and, most importantly, why anyone should care!
Know yourself. Be confident in what you have to offer. Don’t try to be someone else. Authenticity always wins. Identify what you uniquely can bring to a relationship, and then leverage those things. Susan felt so beaten down and dejected after a series of bad first dates that she needed to stop and really take stock of how wonderful she really is … and comprehend what sets her apart from so many others in the dating scene. She needed to take stock, gain focus, and maintain clarity. Are you comfortable and confident with who you are?
2. Think about what the customer is buying instead of what you are selling, and you can generate very profitable results.
Focus on what a potential date might be looking for, and then authentically leverage this. The key here is “authentically.” In this case, we are assuming that Susan’s dates are “buying” a great conversation, some laughter, a good connection. Focus on achieving those objectives, and less on “selling” yourself. In fact, Susan rolled her eyes as she told me about a date from the previous Friday night where the guy had been trying so hard to tell her on what a great catch he was that she left feeling his desperation. Trying too hard isn’t appealing. Do you know what your ideal date is looking for?
3. The only time the customer is ever interested is when you tell him/her how the product will improve his/her life.
Building on point #2, this is not a “desperate” sell, but rather a “leave your date wanting more” opportunity. As I left my first date with my husband, I knew my life would be improved by having more of the amazing conversations we had, more of the way he made me feel so comfortable, and more of how he made me laugh (he was trying to demonstrate a story and had this great way of using the silverware at the table as his props – I’ve never forgotten it!). How will you improve someone’s life?
4. Specifically identify your key buyer target description and ask yourself whether your promotion strategy is reaching the right market.
Are you putting yourself out there in situations where you might meet the kind of person you actually want to date? There is no use marketing yourself to people who do not fit your target “buyer.” Susan is an incredibly health conscious woman. She met a guy at a bar, and they went on a date the following weekend. She realized that he reeked of smoke – not from the bar scene, but because he was a chain smoker. Total deal breaker for her! She clearly wasn’t reaching her right market at the bar, but we did talk about how she could join the Saturday morning cycling club and that she might meet some new friends who enjoyed a similar passion for cycling. Have you identified your target buyer?
5. Explore whether any research and development investments need to be made.
Perhaps this is investing in an online dating membership or signing up for that gardening class that interests you at the local community college. Perhaps this is buying a bike and joining Susan at the Saturday morning cycling group. Investing in your personal development could be anything from learning a new skill (e.g., taking dance lessons) to taking better care of yourself (investing in a new hair cut or updating your wardrobe!). Where do you need to be making an investment?
Most importantly …
“Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing.” ~ Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Office, Hubspot
If what you have been doing isn’t working, or isn’t working the way you want it to, perhaps it’s time to switch things up!
My latest for eHarmony: 5 Dating Resolutions!
“Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365-page book. Write a good one.”
Happy New Year! You rang in the new year and resolved that this will be the year that your dating life changes … for the better! Now what!? Here are 5 resolutions you may want to consider as you look ahead at the next 365 days.
1. I am going to put myself out there. No potential dates are going to find me sitting at home waiting for the “right” person to come along and wondering why “all the good ones are taken.” This year, I am going to be more proactive and see what happens. I am going to utilize online dating. I am going to become more involved in activities where I could meet others. In other words, I am going to put myself out there. I’m going to volunteer in my community, join a wine tasting club, learn how to cook, join a Saturday morning running group. I am going to put a little more effort into my online profile. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I’m going to accept the idea and take responsibility for the fact that I won’t meet any new people sitting at home.
2. I am going to recognize that I am important too. I speak with countless divorced women who would love to be in a relationship, and who have so much love to give, but they feel guilty about dating while their kids are still at home. I hear, “The kids are my priority. I’ve decided I am going to wait to date until the kids head off to college.” In theory, how unselfish…but their kids are ages 5 and 7! Seriously. Two thoughts. One, you deserve to have a fulfilled life too. Contrary to popular belief, life is not just about catering to your kids, and they need to see that. Two, responsible dating can be a great thing to role model to your children, and it will set them up for success as they mature.
3. I am going to start dating when I “fill in the blank” (e.g., lose 10 pounds, or get a new job, or finish my masters degree). If you reflect back on your life, don’t the great things seem to happen when you don’t feel you are ready for them? We can’t always plan and control our own timing. Waiting for one “event” to happen before we allow ourselves to think about the next thing tends to put us in a perpetual cycle of waiting (and those 10 pounds may not come off as quickly as you would like, which is totally OK but it shouldn’t be the excuse that holds you back from other things). Let life happen.
4. I am going to put out the “available” vibe. I recall several friends telling me that there is an “available” vibe that a person puts out when they are truly ready to start dating. I wasn’t sure what this “beacon” or “signal” looked like, but they were right, and I’ve seen it play out several times over the years. It’s invisible, but there is something different about you when you are truly ready and open to meeting someone new. It’s not a vibe of desperation manifested in heading out to the bars every Saturday night in stilettos and fishnet stockings. Instead, it’s more of a subtle beacon that draws people into conversations with you. I can’t explain it, but it’s worth asking yourself what vibe are you putting out to the universe? Are you displaying negative energy with a chip on your shoulder, or are you a light of positivity open to new people, new ideas, and new situations?
5. I am going to be open to dating a different “type” than I normally do. We all have an idea of what our “perfect” type is, right? It may be a build, an education level, a profession, a personality type, but curtailing our potential dates because someone doesn’t fit our preconceived mold is just plain silly. What’s the worst that can happen if you go out with someone who on first glance isn’t your “type”? One, you may learn otherwise. Two, you may make a new friend. I have seen this one prove out over and over again. Friend A got asked out by a guy who was very short. “Not my type,” she said, “I like tall men.” I encouraged her to go out with him. “It’s just dinner for heaven’s sake. You’re not marrying the guy.” Within a year, they were married! Friend B was asked out by a guy she knew from a distance. She always considered him to be a wallflower with very little personality. As she lamented whether or not she should go out with him, I reminded her that she didn’t have anything else on her calendar for Saturday night. Turns out, he’s just a bit shy, but in fact he is a great guy who knows how to truly carry on a deep and meaningful conversation. Yup, still dating – very seriously!
What else? Any other dating resolutions you would add to this list?
My latest for eHarmony! Bon appetit!
“Don’t you hate it when you are hoping for microwave timing and God seems to have your situation in the crock pot?”
This one hits close to home! And goodness, I can certainly relate. It drives me crazy when I’m ready for something to be “over and done” and it’s still simmering away, taking it’s time before it’s completed. We live in a microwave world. We want things fast. We’re in a hurry. We don’t like waiting. Instant gratification is our desire.
We apply this same microwave thinking to our personal lives and our relationships.
I have a friend going through a tough time with her daughter. She just “wants the whole thing to be over with” so they can “move on.” She wants the healing to be complete, not giving full credit to the healing that takes place only through the passage of time. “Why can’t I just snap my fingers and make all of this go away,” she asks rhetorically. She knows that isn’t possible, but recognizes that it sure would be easier.
Another friend is reeling from the sudden loss of her father. It was totally unexpected. She doesn’t want to endure all the “firsts” that are occurring in this year following his death. She simply wants this year to pass by quickly so that all the firsts are avoided. She wants to “microwave” time so what should take a full 365 days feels like it takes less time. Dealing with each special day is just difficult and emotionally taxing.
Then there is my other friend who is in year three post-divorce. She feels like she has given time to her healing. She believes she’s “done her time.” She’s seen her ex-husband move on. He started dating. Then (gasp!) he remarried. The thing is that she also wants to be in a relationship. She wants to fall in love with the right guy. She doesn’t want to have to date. She’s tired of going on bad first dates. She’s tired of not feeling the chemistry. This dating stuff is hard work and, frankly, can be exhausting. Why does it take so much work to weed through the Mr. Not-Rights in search of Mr. Right? She just wants to have Mr. Right presented to her on a microwave-safe plate.
The thing is that anything worth having usually takes time to develop. Healing takes time. Surviving challenging experiences takes time. Building really strong foundational relationships takes time. Most things in life need to simmer. We need to allow the gift of time to be just that – a gift.
I cautioned my friend who has the situation with her daughter to not “wish her time away.” Yes, it would make the “stressful” things disappear faster, but it also means rushing through another year of her daughter’s life (oh by the way, her last one at home before heading to college). Does she really want to do that?
I try to help my friend who doesn’t want to face the firsts after her dad’s death to welcome those firsts by remembering in intricate detail all of those good times because as the years pass those memories dissipate. I know that my memories of my dad have faded as I now find myself reflecting back on our time together, which unbelievably was over 16 years ago.
I try to find humor with my friend who is in the midst of the dating scene. I tell her she has the best stories to share of her dating debacles, and that she, too, will find Mr. Right when the time is right! She needs to understand and accept that while she would like to microwave the near-instantaneous creation of Mr. Right, it might just be that the crock pot is simmering away and that, when done and ready, the final product will be absolutely perfect.
They say, “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know that time can heal all wounds but I do believe that the passage of time serves to make those wounds more manageable and more palatable.
What do you think? Are there situations in your life where you are hoping for microwave-fast results, when you know deep down that this one really requires the long-term simmering of a slow cooking crock pot?
Here’s my latest for Huffington Post … a bit edgy for me! :) Had fun writing it! Sex?
Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other. Marquis de Sade
I find that I speak with many men and women about the state of their relationships. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people behind me in line at the mall, strangers sitting next to me on airplanes – they are all fair game! Lately, a theme has emerged which is very disturbing to me. At first I thought it could be the age of my subjects, but then I realized I have spoken with a cross-section of people of different ages. Then I thought it might be the stage of life they are in, but then I realized I have spoken with a cross-section of people at various stages in their lives and relationships. I’m puzzled. What is going on? Why are married people, seemingly committed spouses, both men and women, sharing with me that their love lives are nearly non-existent? Why am I hearing things like, “We haven’t been intimate in weeks (months!)”
Here’s what I heard about why this dearth of intimacy is going on in America!
We’re stressed. (Yes, life is hard. That’s a perfect reason for other things to be too!)
We’re tired. (yawn!)
We’re bored. (um, hello. Seriously? Make it fun! Sex isn’t supposed to be boring.)
We’re afraid the kids will hear us. (That’s not the worst thing ever!)
We aren’t feeling the love. (Yes, sometimes people need a reason to get fired up!).
Here’s Rule #3 in the series for eHarmony – enjoy! Rule #3
“Kids. They’re not easy. But there has to be some penalty for sex” — Bill Maher
I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!” What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been that; done that. No more, thank you very much!
I am writing an article about each of the 7 rules and really trying to expand upon what each one means and how we can apply it. If you want to catch up, Rule #1 was Realize You Can Lose Your Partner, and Rule #2 was Bring Back the Little Things. Today, we are on Rule #3 … and it’s a fun one!
3. Have more sex! If only I had a dollar for every person with whom I have spoken who has lamented to me that they are “roommates” with their partner. Think back to the roommates you have had in your life. Perhaps you roomed with a sibling growing up. Perhaps you roomed with dorm-mates in college. Presumably you weren’t having sex with them. To say you are living as a roommate in your marriage means you are not living as lovers and that you aren’t having sex. In the context of a happy, healthy, and committed marriage, not having sex is a real bummer.
Sex (when done right!) is intimate. It creates a connection. It’s an emotional experience. It brings two people closer together. To have those things lacking in a marriage is really sad. Yet, as we celebrate more and more wedding anniversaries, and we have kids, and we get tired, and we get really, really tired, well, sometimes – often times – it’s the sex that starts to dissipate, then disappear. That’s tragic. I don’t care how old you are, or what physical state you are in, there is an emotional connection that happens when you make love to your spouse.
And, while sex is fun and important, let’s not focus just on the ultimate physical act. Many of the same couples who tell me that they are roommates with their partner, are the same ones who tell me that they aren’t just lacking sex, but rather all physical touch with their partner.
There is so much to be said for just touching one another. Holding each other’s hands. Giving each other a really huge bear hug. Giving a gentle kiss on the forehead. Participating in an all-out kiss that reminds you of when you first met!
Any kind of physical touch conveys love. When we were infants, we wanted to be held and touched. That was how we recognized love. Now that we are older, it’s no different. Most of us really like touch, and it’s the primary love language for many of us, and that tank can be filled in so many ways …be it sitting intertwined on the couch while watching a movie, spooning in bed, or holding each other’s hand while walking through the mall.
If you are one of those people who has LOST physical touch in your relationship, it’s not too late to get it back. If you are one of those people who has LOTS of physical touch in your relationship, good for you for keeping it a priority.
“Intimacy is not purely physical. It’s the act of connecting with someone so deeply you feel like you can see into their soul.”
What do you think? Once physical touch starts to disappear completely is the relationship doomed?
Here’s my latest for eHarmony! Rule #2!
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!” What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been that; done that. No more, thank you very much!
I wrote an article about Rule #1 recently – Realize You Can Lose Your Partner - and here is Rule #2. Stay tuned for Rules #3-7!
Rule #2 – Bring back the little things.
To me, Rule #2 is a continuation of Rule #1. Rule #1 said, “Realize you can lose your partner.” I compared the attention that we give to a meaningful piece of jewelry or the care that we give to an important key as we try not to lose either item, and suggested that this is how we should be treating our partners. In an effort not to lose them, we should be showing them the same care and attention that we are giving to our meaningful watch and important key. After all, isn’t your partner just as meaningful and important?
Rule #2 is all about how we show our partner that we find him or her meaningful and important. Time and time again, people tell me how frustrated they are in their relationships because they feel they are no longer appreciated. Those “little things” that are so wonderful and prevalent in the beginning of relationships often begin to disappear. It happens slowly, and then one day, one person realizes, “Hmmm … my husband used to bring me coffee in bed every Sunday morning when we were first married … and now he can’t wait to get out the door to get to the golf course.” Or, he thinks, “My wife used to stay up late when I came in late from work so that we could talk about our day together … and now she’s fast asleep in her sweatpants.”
We are talking about little things … that are really huge, enormous, tremendous things that have the power to change relationships. Think about it. What “little thing” has someone done for you lately? Did it make a big impact on you? Clearly it did because you still remember it. Little things don’t have to be expensive; they don’t have to take a lot of time; they don’t even have to take up a lot of your energy.
Little things are just that – little things, and bringing back little things will do huge things towards bringing back love, energy, and connection in your relationships (and let’s be clear, we are not just talking about your romantic relationships, but rather all of your relationships). When was the last time you…
Did a little thing like send a friend a card to let her know you were thinking about her, or put a little love note in your partner’s suitcase before he left on a business trip?
Did a little thing like buy the person behind you in the drive-thru line at Starbucks a coffee even though you didn’t know them, or brought your partner a coffee (or diet coke or glass of OJ) in bed on a Saturday morning?
Did a little thing like give a fellow mom a huge smile of encouragement and a word of support when you could tell she was having a day where she just lost her bid for “mom of the year,” or gave your partner an unexpected foot massage after she had a long day on her feet (in those favorite heels you bought her)?
Did a little thing like offer to bring your friend’s kids home after soccer practice so that she and her husband could have a quiet dinner alone, or lined up a babysitter (all by yourself) so you could take your wife out for a romantic dinner?
Oh yes, we call those “little things.” A friend will thank us for the card, and we’ll say, “Oh no big deal … it was just a little thing.” Or we’ll thank our partner for the coffee, and she’ll say, “no big deal … only took an extra minute.” They are right. In and of themselves, these little things aren’t a big deal and don’t take a lot of time, money or energy, but the end-result is a tremendous … and a really BIG deal!
“Little things, little things, are much more important than big things. Big things hit you in the face with their bigness and obscure the little, more important things that really define a life and provide it with delicacy.” — Layren Roedy Vaughn
What about you? What “little thing” have you done for someone else lately?
My latest for eHarmony … Introducing the Kids!
“The uncertainty of parenting can bring up feelings in us that range from frustration to terror.” — Brene Brown
I had a great conversation with a friend last week. I’m not sure we ever landed on an answer, but it was a worthwhile discussion that I want to share here. I would love to get your feedback and suggestions.
It’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” scenario! There may not be an answer, and you can circle yourself around and around the question, and still not know the “right” thing to do. Here’s the deal: my friend (never married, no kids) is dating a guy (divorced, two school aged kids). They get along really well … “opposites attract” would be a great way to describe them. By way of background, they have been dating for nearly a year and have a ton of fun together on his “free” weekends (from his kids).
Here’s the thing. He is hesitant to let her get too close to his children until he “knows this is going to work out for the long-term.” She says, “I have a hard time figuring out if this is going to work out for the long term if I don’t have a chance to get to know his kids and see what it’s like to be their stepmom.” She has met his kids, but he has kept her at an arms length. She wants to do more with his kids and really get to know them.
Do you see the conundrum? He doesn’t want her to become a part of his kids’ lives until he knows she is the one, and how can she know if she is the one until she gets to know all of him – which includes his kids?
All of this begs the question, “When is the right time to introduce your date to your kids?” My belief is that it is somewhere in between. I didn’t introduce my now-husband to my kids until I knew that we had something serious going on. I also knew that we wouldn’t be able to advance to the next level of seriousness until my kids had met him, he had met my kids, and I was comfortable with how they all interacted with each other. I was falling in love with this guy, but I also knew that if he and my kids hated each other that I wasn’t prepared to deal with that drama. That would be a deal-breaker. At the same time, he was falling in love with me. And, he knew that I was a package deal. You get me AND you get two bonus kids. He needed to be able to spend time with my kids to get to know them and confirm that he could be and wanted to be their “bonus” dad in the future.
I was so fortunate that my kids fell in love with him, just as much as he fell in love with them. He has never tried to be their dad. In fact, when he asked me to marry him, he also asked my kids for “permission,” and told them that he knew they had a dad, and he would be thrilled to be their stepdad. But, he wouldn’t have been able to do this if he hadn’t already built a relationship with them, and he wouldn’t have been able to build a relationship with them if I hadn’t given him access to them to start developing a relationship in the first place.
I didn’t grant access right away. I didn’t want my kids to ever just see me dating a revolving door of men every Saturday night (not that I ever did that anyway). I knew that introducing my kids to my now-husband was a big deal. This is why I understand where my friend’s boyfriend is coming from. As parents, we want to protect our kids. We want to protect their innocence and shield them from having to understand the complexities of life — lessons like “mom and dad got divorced, and now mommy (or daddy) is spending time with (and falling in love with) someone else.” These can be tough changes for children to understand, but it’s also real life.
Can you understand my friend’s boyfriend not wanting to introduce his kids to her right away? Can you also understand him wanting to wait until he knows they are in a relationship, and not simply casually dating (remember, they have been dating for a year)? Can you understand my friend’s perspective saying she wants to spend more time with his kids getting to know them better because like it or not, he’s a package deal now? She knows if she continues to fall in love with him, that means loving his kids as well, and she wants to love them. Being a stepmother is a tough job. She wants to get to know them and become a part of their lives – all of their lives.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? When do you introduce your relationship to your kids? When do you introduce your kids to your relationship? At the end of this discussion, here’s what I truly believe: it depends! The answers to those questions are going to completely depend on you, your children, and the person whom you want to introduce or don’t want to introduce quite yet. Everyone is at a different place – in their maturity, in their ability to handle change, and in their emotional readiness. As parents, we must best assess when the timing is right for our kids, and go from there. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t!
“I’m not a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not sure that I even believe in the idea of ‘parenting experts.’ I’m an engaged, imperfect parent and a passionate researcher. I’m an experienced mapmaker and a stumbling traveler. Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure.” — Brene Brown
What do you think?