My latest for HuffPost!
“No kids tonight … Is it wrong that we high-fived in the kitchen this morning?” - Facebook post
“Absolutely not,” I wanted to scream at my laptop, “Enjoy your night – just the two of you — alone! No guilt!”
An old friend (one of those people that you knew in high school, haven’t talked to in decades, and reconnected with on Facebook) posted the above status on her Facebook page last week. While we haven’t spoken in decades, it’s clear that we share a similar story. She married, she had children, she divorced, she fell in love again, she remarried, and now she is blissfully happy.
She and her new husband are the modern-day version of the Brady Bunch. They both brought kids to the marriage, and have a full house when they are all together. While they love their kids dearly, we can all relate to the excitement of having a “free” night to just enjoy each other. But, there is a bit of guilt that tends to creep in when we get a smile on our faces at the idea of a kid-free night. Enough of the guilt. No, it absolutely not wrong to high-five in the kitchen at the prospect of a kid-free night.
I love my kids with all my heart, and love being their mom with all the daily responsibilities that come along with being an engaged parent. And, I have learned to appreciate the times when they are at their dad’s house. I found it tough at first. I felt like something was missing. I didn’t appreciate the time away from them. I wasn’t sure what to do with that time. Boy, how things have changed!
I quickly realized that this time was a gift. When I was first married, I often wished for a quiet night (or weekend) to myself to do things that I needed to do, or wanted to do, just for me! Read a book and take a bath with a glass of wine – uninterrupted. Clean out my closet. Learn how to ballroom dance (OK – not really!). Restore old furniture. Go for really long walks. Have a “Breaking Bad” marathon – and watch an entire season in one sitting. Sleep in … ’til after noon. Go on a date … and another one after that. All things I had hoped to do, but never had the time when the kids were around. When they were little, I couldn’t leave them alone uninterrupted. As they got older, I needed to drive them to this or that sporting practice or extracurricular event. Sure, I could hire a babysitter, but that gets expensive.
After I remarried, I learned to relish the quiet time even more. Again, there was some guilt as I wanted to create new experiences as a family every weekend, not just every other weekend. We learned to adjust. We learned to schedule “adults only” social activities on the weekends when we didn’t have the kids, and keep weekends with the kids focused on doing activities as a family. And, we started to look forward to those “every-other-weekend-it’s-like-we-just-got-married-and-have-no-kids” weekends! You know what that means, right? When the cat’s away, the mice will play!
I have often said that I think more first marriages would survive if parents would continue to invest time in “their” relationship so that once the kids are grown and gone, they can enjoy spending time with each other vs. looking for a new partner.
Our lives are hectic and fast-paced – work and social activities overlap with kids’ school activities, community commitments, and more. We often feel pulled in different directions. Isn’t that true for most couples with active families? The nice thing is that we know that every other weekend we will be able to reconnect and focus on each other. We can have a romantic candle-lit dinner at home, we can make love in the middle of the day without worrying about anyone walking in, we can choose to go kayaking or antiquing all day, and not have to worry about getting home to shuttle anyone to an activity or prepare a meal. In fact, if it weren’t for our two dogs, we wouldn’t even need to go home!
To my Facebook friend in Michigan, I say, “Have fun! I hope you high-five your husband again next weekend too, and two weeks after that! Enjoy your time alone just as much as you enjoy your time with your kids. Give your full attention to both situations and learn to value and relish them for what they bring to you.”
What about you? Have you learned to get rid of the guilt and relish your kid-free time?
My latest for eHarmony … Feb 12, 2014
If this was ‘right,’ shouldn’t it be easier?”
I was asked that question the other day by a woman who has been dating a guy for several months now. During that time, they have had numerous “issues” and serious “discussions.”
“Shouldn’t this be easier,” she asked? “Yes, and no,” I replied.
Strong, good, productive, and successful relationships aren’t easy. They are hard work. They require constant nurturing and maintenance. They require a focus and a dedication. In that respect, relationships are not easy … at all! Anyone who thinks relationships are easy is in for a big surprise when life’s challenges appear. We all hit bumps in the road, and a strong foundation is necessary to navigate these potholes.
By the same token, when I first met and started dating the man who is now my husband, I do recall saying, “This is so easy! I feel like I have known him forever.” In retrospect, there were a lot of things that needed to be worked through. We affectionately called these the “hurdles.” Would we have children together? Where were we going to live? Where would we go to church? What baggage were we bringing from our prior marriages? We knew we needed to work on some things – some pretty major things – and we did. Was it easy? Not really, so maybe “easy” isn’t the right word, but it was “smooth” and was defined by mutual respect and collaboration and a willingness by both of us to clear those hurdles successfully.
So, what’s the difference? I strongly believe that all new relationships require that “hurdles” be identified, discussed and cleared. New relationships require that some “hard” discussions take place. By hard, I mean open, honest, and inquisitive. So many new relationships focus more on the new romance and love, and less on the practical elements of life, so that when the romance part wears off a bit, and the practical stuff comes into focus, they find they don’t agree on things like spending vs. saving patterns, having kids or not, disciplining kids, going to church, etc.
And, these “hard” discussions, of which I am such an advocate, don’t have to be “difficult.” My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I enjoyed wrestling these points, and the back and forth dialogue, as we shared our viewpoints on so many important areas in our lives. We would regularly ask, “Where are we at with the hurdles?” We discussed what we were willing to change or flex on, and where we weren’t! Certain things were non-negotiable. Others were open for new learning and new experiences.
Any of those could have been deal-breakers, and might constitute a “hard” discussion to some people. Unfortunately, many people also equate “hard” with “let’s try to avoid it at all costs.” “Hard” can also mean difficult. It can mean embarrassing. It can mean having to show your own cracks. It can mean your aura of perfection might get a little fuzzy. It can mean revisiting your past. It can mean being vulnerable. Skipping “hard” discussions and insisting that things are better when “easy” is an error in judgment!
Wouldn’t you rather know how tough some of this was going to be, and have those “hurdle” discussions when you are dating, rather than after you have walked down the aisle and said “I do”? I certainly would!
My latest from Huffington Post!
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
We are a few weeks past the New Year! How are you doing on your resolutions? C’mon, be honest! We typically vow to “change” something, and have all good intentions, but change is hard, and so by now, we’ve all-too-often gone back to our old habits that we started the year wanting to change. Change requires energy, intention, patience, and we don’t often have the desire or the stamina to put in that effort to see the results we want.
The thing about change is that we can’t want things to be different, yet not do anything differently. Status quo does not equal change. Thinking you would like something to be different means nothing if you aren’t prepared to do something to affect that change.
I had coffee with a woman just a few weeks after the first of year as we entered 2013. I knew she had been struggling in her marriage for a few years. She and her husband were roommates. They hadn’t been intimate in years (yes, years). They had separate interests and led separate lives. She stated, “This is it! This has to change. Mark my words: we will either make this marriage healthy or be divorced by the end of the year. I won’t be sitting here having this same conversation next New Year’s.”
I met up with her again two weeks ago. It has been a year. We just ushered in 2014. Guess what? She is still in that marriage, and nothing has changed. Still no intimacy — yes, another 52 weeks have passed without she and her husband making love — not even once. Another 52 weeks have passed where she goes her way, and he goes his way every weekend. Another 52 weeks have passed where they haven’t had any of those really intimate conversations about their lives, their hopes, their goals and their dreams that so frequently bring couples racing right back to knowing why they married each other to begin with!
She was different this year. Less energetic, more complacent. She sighed and said she had resigned herself to the fact that nothing was going to change. Their marriage hadn’t improved, yet she seemed pleased that it hadn’t gotten “worse” either. She said that she was just going to accept it for what it was. Roommate status was fine. She has a great group of friends to go out with and activities to keep her busy. She has kids to raise. She doesn’t want to endure the financial hit and the lifestyle change that a divorce would bring. She doesn’t have the energy to continue marriage counseling when it hasn’t seem to have helped. “It’s fine, I’m fine,” she said. I reminded her that “fine is a 4-letter word that begins with F.” That’s what I think about “fine.”
I was frustrated for her, but it’s her decision. It’s her life. It’s her marriage. It’s her future. There wasn’t one thing I could do. If she wants change, she has to drive that change. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.
It’s human nature. We might want things to change, but until there is a compelling reason to make a change, it’s easier to let things go on the way they are.
It’s the classic case of the middle-aged person whose doctor tells him/her to exercise more and lose a few pounds before they face a health crisis. Sure, we try to change, but it’s hard, and there really isn’t a compelling reason to change… yet! Then, that compelling reason hits and we land in ER with a heart attack. As our life flashes in front of us, and we get the crap scared out of us, we realize what a compelling reason looks like, and suddenly our vow to get healthy takes on a new and realistic meaning. Change happens.
For the woman I had coffee with, “fine” will be all she needs until some sort of compelling reason makes her realize that “fine” isn’t OK anymore. That compelling reason may be she and/or her husband realizing that they want to reconnect emotionally and physically and proactively work on their marriage (after all, it does take two!). On the other hand, that compelling reason may be she or her husband deciding to find their physical and emotional intimacy outside of their marriage. I’m a fan of option 1; not so much of option 2.
Time will tell. Who knows if 2014 will bring a “plot twist” to her marriage and if that compelling reason will surface, or if 2014 will be the year of “fine” and we’ll be having the same conversation in January 2015.
What about you? What is “fine” in your life? Is there a compelling reason to make a change or are you fine with the status quo?
Here’s my latest post for eHarmony – Right Bait?!
I wrote a post for eHarmony back in August 2013 called How Dating’s Like Fishing: Hook, Line and Sinker. That post focused on the fact that if you always fish in the same pond, you are always going to be catching the same fish. It was about switching up your dating routine and finding new ways to meet new people.
I received a lot of great feedback from that article, and now feel compelled to take it one step further based on a conversation I had with a guy last week. This guy was pretty blunt, as he tends to be, in telling me, “There are no good women to date out there. All the good ones are married. All the single ones have issues, bring baggage, and have poor values.” I had to disagree! I started to tell him that he was wrong as I personally know many single women who I think are absolutely terrific. But then, I stopped myself! If I told him I knew all these great single women (women with great values, great personalities, great jobs, great morals, great energy, great looks) then he would want me to set him up with some of them. And, I had no interest in doing that whatsoever.
I had to think about that one. I love the idea of helping great men and women connect and find great friendship and/or true love! The fact that my first reaction to this guy was to keep my mouth shut about all my great single friends was clearly important. Why didn’t I want him to meet my friends? The truth is that I find him to be a bit smarmy and sleazy. He’s a bit too desperate. He’s a bit too arrogant. He’s a bit too rehearsed.
What does it say about a guy who is only looking for girlfriends at bars? Does he honestly expect to find the woman who meets his high standards hanging out at a bar every single Friday and Saturday night? He may find someone who appears interesting, but after a date or two, he said he would realize that she is not really what he is looking for. She didn’t “meet the spec.”
When he does meet someone he is interested in (he gave an example of a “perfect” woman he met at a work function and who was really centered, active in her church, and had a lot of great stuff going on in her life) he said they would go out on a few dates and then she would tend to back off and disappear. He said he would be brushed off and he wasn’t sure why. I had a few thoughts that I gently suggested. One, perhaps in his haste, eagerness, and delight at finding what he thought might be the “perfect” woman, had he come on too strong and scared her off? Two, perhaps while he was requiring a list of “values, morals, energy, looks” of his dates, they too had a list that he wasn’t measuring up to!?
Here’s the thing: looking for love requires you to know what you are looking for in someone else, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to know what you are projecting to other people! Would you want to date you? Are you the complete package? Would you want to bring you home to meet your friends and family?
That’s where my bait analogy comes in. What kind of bait are you using to attract the kind of dates you want? I’m not a fishing expert, but I do know that certain bait and certain kinds of lures are designed to attract certain kinds of fish. Know what kind of fish you are seeking, and use the right bait. Don’t think you are going to catch the perfect fish with a smelly, old worm! Don’t try to catch a bass with bait designed to catch a catfish. I have no idea if my fishing analogy makes sense to you, but it works for me!
At the end of the day, it’s not fair to make a blanket statement that “there are no good single women (or men) out there.” Perhaps instead of focusing on what we can’t control, we can turn the mirror around and take some personal accountability to look at what we are bringing as a potential date to a potential relationship.
What about you? Would you date you? If you met you, would you be impressed and want to learn more, or would you run for the hills as fast as you could? Would you set you up with your single friends?
Are You Having Big Conversations? – My latest from eHarmony! Enjoy!
“I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
‘Tis the season for holiday parties – which makes many people cringe and roll their eyes. “Ugh, another night of having to make small talk with a bunch of strangers.”
I will give you the same challenge that was laid down to me a few weeks ago. I heard a speaker who challenged all of us in the audience to leave and have “big conversations” with the other people who were at the meeting. “Little conversations,” she said, “are what you typically have at a cocktail party.” Little conversations sound like this: “What about this crazy weather?” “Is all of your holiday shopping done?” “What sports are your kids playing these days?” They are safe, relatively boring, and you don’t really learn a whole lot about the person with whom you are speaking. For a lot of people, that works just fine!
Big conversations, on the other hand, connect you to people, and who doesn’t want to feel connected? Big conversations sound like this: “I am so overwhelmed with all of this holiday stuff. Do you ever feel that way? What do you do to get through it all?” Or, “Tell me about one of your favorite family holiday traditions and why is it meaningful?” Or, “What three things do you really want to do in 2014?” Big conversations are as much about learning about other people in a really meaningful way as they are about us being authentic and vulnerable when we speak with others.
Do you ever talk to people where everything is “fine” in their lives? They have no problems. Actually, that’s not true. We all have problems of one sort or another. But, these people certainly aren’t going to show any vulnerability and share these problems with anyone else. These people put a barrier up for others, and it’s hard to penetrate that wall and get in. It makes it hard to get to know these people. I know I’ve had this experience. It leaves me feeling frustrated. I can leave a restaurant having just had lunch with a “friend” and I feel as if it was a bunch of surface conversation. I may not feel as if I know anything more about her than I did when we started. I know I leave times like this feeling very unfulfilled.
There are two strategies for breaking this cycle. One, try asking some “big” questions and see what happens. Don’t let the conversation drift into the mundane quick sand of boring small talk. Be really interested in what you are asking and what the other person is sharing. Big talk is so much more interesting than small talk. Two, share some “big” talk yourself. When you show your own vulnerability and willingness to share, it’s amazing how much of that comes back to you as well.
Big talk breaks down barriers and gets two people connected so much quicker than a series of ongoing small-talk conversations. I see it all the time. I felt it on my first date with my husband. We skipped the small talk and got right to the big talk. I left that date knowing so much more about him than who his favorite football team was and where he worked. I am constantly meeting with people who are going through their own divorce process. When I share my own vulnerability around my own divorce, share my emotions, share my experience, I find we immediately make a connection that forges a quick bond. They are much more open to answering big questions and finding healing through a cathartic conversation that matters.
I recently had lunch with three business colleagues. This was a professional lunch and was supposed to focus on business. After just a couple minutes of small talk as we got our menus and ordered an appetizer, I intentionally launched a couple of big questions. We had the absolute best lunch. We found we all had a lot in common that forged a “been there/done that” bond. Our dads had all passed away in recent years. We had all been through a divorce. We all had kids starting to drive (and could relate to the worries that brings). We eventually got to the business part of our meeting. Because we had built a trust and a connection that comes from “big” talk, we were able to make great progress and plans to more forward professionally.
This holiday season try “big” talk when you are that boring holiday party, when you are hanging out with your brother-in-law who you really don’t know that well, when you are going on that blind date, or when you are sitting next to someone at Starbucks. People respond to “big” talk … and it is so much more interesting and refreshing.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~ Karl Menninger
What has been your experience been asking “big” questions and then really listening to the answers?
My latest from eHarmony … December 2013 … Awkward Questions!
I am not a sex therapist. That’s my disclaimer.
But, I did have a really interesting conversation with a female friend of mine recently. She’s never been married. She’s in her mid-30s. She’s dating a guy who is divorced and in his early 40s. At this point, they both have a lot of life experience under their belts (and you should read that figuratively as well as literally!).
Things are starting to get serious between the two of them. In other words, she knows that they are getting close to sleeping together (in every meaning of that phrase), and she asked me this: “At what point do you discuss if they have any venereal diseases before you have sex with them?” Again, I’m not a sex therapist. I’m not a marriage therapist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a minister. I sometimes shake my head in wonder at the things people ask me!
At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer her question. My immediate response was to jump to what I tell my kids – God intends sexual intercourse to be between a husband and a wife. It’s an intimate part of a spousal relationship. I quickly realized that, with all judgment cast aside, that line wouldn’t necessarily work. One of them has already been married, and the two of them having been in the dating scene for many years.
My second response (almost as immediate as my first) was to say, “You have that conversation WAY WAY WAY before you sleep with him!” Sexual intercourse is incredibly intimate. Having a conversation prior to that about sexual history and disease should not be more uncomfortable in any way shape or form than taking off your clothes and being naked in front of each other. Think about it! Why do we seem to assume that difficult conversations would be, or should be, more awkward, more intimate, more embarrassing, or more raw than actual nudity and sex!?!? It’s crazy — especially when you consider what is at stake! What is at stake could be a matter of life or death, or could certainly alter the course of your life forever.
I encouraged my friend to think about the fact that if she and her “friend” were comfortable enough with each other to consider having sex, then certainly they could handle (and should be able to handle) what might seem to be a difficult (or perhaps better labeled as an “uncomfortable”) conversation about their health and sexual histories.
I also suggested that if having this conversation were too difficult, then perhaps they weren’t ready to even experience the physical intimacy required when embarking on a sexual relationship. If verbal intimacy can’t be achieved, then I don’t think anything can be gained by jumping straight to physical intimacy.
It was an interesting conversation, but one that really made me stop and think about things from a religious, moral, and practical perspective. I’m glad my friend is thinking about this, and I’m glad she asked the question. I hope she is contemplating our discussion, and taking it to her boyfriend to stimulate an even more robust conversation – about their relationship, about whether they are ready to have sex, about their health, and about their future.
She then asked a second question: “What if he lies?” Oh boy. Sadly, I know people who have lied. After marriage. About what diseases they may carry. That gets at trust … trust from day one. I feel badly for anyone in this situation. To find out years into a marriage that you were lied to about something as important as this certainly serves to impact the entire marital relationship and the sanctity upon which it was built. Like I said, I’m not a marriage therapist, so I’m going to leave that one for the professionals.
My bottom line is this: have the conversation! Ask the questions you need to have answered before the point in which you NEED to know the answers!
My latest for the Divorce Support Center (formerly: Hope After Divorce) — Life 2.0
“A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years.” – Rupert Brooke
I recall saying, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy” as I was going through my divorce. I later added a statement: “… but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Those who know me know that I am a “glass half-full” kind of person. I can find an upside in any situation. Divorce is no different. I wouldn’t have chosen divorce for my path in life. My divorce happened. It sucked (that’s the best word I have for it!). But, I’ve re-discovered myself, I’ve re-juvenated my energy, and I’ve re-married. I’m here to tell you that there IS “hope after divorce.”
I speak with people weekly who are going through divorce. I hate to see them at their lowest point, but I can empathize with them. I remember that despair and darkness. I frequently tell them that it will get better. That this darkness and sadness they are feeling will go away. I tell them that Life 2.0 is waiting for them which will bring new adventures, new hobbies, new routines, new experiences … and which may actually bring new relationships!
They are often cynical of this. They aren’t ready to even think about a future where all of this pain seems like a distant memory, and certainly not one when they are in another relationship. Regardless, I just smile and nod my head!“Whatever,” I think!
When I do stay connected with them, and when I am there when the despair fades away and the hope and happiness return, there is nothing I love better than to say, “I told you so!” I see this when people discover new passions or hobbies which they would never have experienced had they still been married. I see this when people discover new careers and strengths that never would have been uncovered. And, I especially love to see this when people discover new relationships and find that their hearts have healed and that they are indeed ready and capable of falling in love again.
I was having a conversation with a few friends the other day. One has been married for over 20 years. The other went through a divorce a few years ago. She was “never-ever” going to have another relationship. She was quite adamant about this. Guess what? She just recently remarried. We watched her go through the trials, tribulations and transformation. Now, we are seeing her go through that googly-eyed love stage. She and her husband can’t keep their hands off each other. They are constantly talking and texting. They can’t stop smiling. It’s awesome to be around and to see!
My “old married friend” commented that she was “jealous” that this other friend got to experience those feelings again, and that I had too when I remarried several years ago. She meant it in all good spirit. She loves her husband, but after 20-some years of marriage, their ‘”honeymoon” stage is but a distant memory. There was a part of her that wants to experience this stage again as a mature woman. Not that she wants to get divorced, she doesn’t! But she sure would love to have that tingly “I can’t stop thinking about you” feeling that we all have when we are new in a relationship!
Just yesterday, I ran into a colleague at the post office. She had gone through a tumultuous divorce a few years ago, then faced a diagnosis of cancer. Life has been tough for her, yet she always had a positive spirit about her and a radiant smile on her face. It’s been fun watching her over the years. She was absolutely glowing when I saw her, and her grin was a mile-wide as she casually commented, “my fiancé and I love that new Italian restaurant!” Good for her! Life 2.0!
Age has no limit! I was talking with another woman at a meeting the other day. She is once widowed and once divorced, and is currently in a new relationship. Talk about googly-eyed. She’s 75 and is doing all the crazy stuff you expect to see in new love in your 20’s or in your 40’s! Life 2.0 (or maybe even 3.0 in her case!). Rock on Grandma!
My point in this: I don’t believe you need to find love to be happy or complete. But, I do think that remaining open to letting your heart heal and to finding love again is good for the soul! Life 2.0 can bring new experiences which may just bring some googly eyes and a big smile to your face. There is “hope after divorce!
Wrong Pond? Thrilled to be asked by DatingAdvice.com to provide some perspective! Here’s an excerpt from the article I wrote!
I had lunch with a friend last week who was telling me about her latest round of dates. She felt the men she was meeting were all the same. Either they were copies of each other (same background, same look, same personality, even down to driving the same car), or they were literally the same man (different dating site/same man. He’s certainly covering his bases!) She was frustrated and wanted to break this cycle. I suggested to her that if she is always fishing in the same pond, she will always be catching the same fish. …
If you want to read the whole thing, click here … DatingAdvice.com
eHarmony – August 2013
“Love is when you think you can change someone, but they end up changing you.” ~ Jessica Lawis
I spoke with someone the other day who was gushing about how serious she is getting with her boyfriend. She thinks he is “the one!” She pulled out her iPhone to show me a photo of him. Then, instead of showing me a photo of a face, she shoved the phone in front of me and demanded, “Can you believe this?” “Believe what?” I responded. I was confused. All I saw in the photo was a pair of shoes – not the handsome face I expected to see!
“Do you see these shoes? Do you like them? He cannot wear these shoes,” she fired off in rapid succession. “These are shoes you only wear with skinny jeans. He wore them with regular jeans and it’s wrong. He can’t do that again.”
Whoa! Slow down! How did we get from he’s “the one” to “he can’t wear these” in just one brief conversation? For a brief moment, I thought she was joking. But, she was dead serious.
I asked her if he treated her well? Yes! Was he kind? Yes! Was he respectful? Yes! Did he make her laugh? Yes! Was he a gentleman? Yes! Did he treat his family and friends well? Yes! Did he care for his community? Yes! Did he allow her to be herself? Yes! “So,” I asked, “If he is all that (and presumably more), then why in the world does it matter if he wears those shoes?” “It doesn’t matter if he wears those shoes,” she said, exasperated, “It’s just that he can only wear them with skinny jeans.”
Oh boy. She is in for a world of stress (and perhaps even heartbreak) if she is going to let the kind of shoes he wears become such an issue for her. Clearly, she is a bit of a control freak (you think?), and there was an element of, “I can change certain things about him, and then he will be perfect.” Both are dangerous spots to be in!
On the “control freak” side … let it go. Pick your battles. Seriously, if his biggest flaw is that he wears the wrong shoes with the wrong pants, then be happy. Sure, you can gently suggest the “right” style and see if he “gets it.” It might even be fun to take him shopping for the “right” skinny jeans, but don’t let your blood pressure shoot through the roof when he wears the wrong combination. Call him cute, call him goofy, and love him for it! Embrace it; don’t fight it!
On the “I can change him” side … no, you can’t! You may think you can, but ultimately you can’t, and you will hurt yourself (and potentially your relationship) trying. You can make suggestions. You can try to influence. But you can’t change him. Only he can choose to change. Too many people get into relationships and find little things that they would like to change about their partners. They think, “This is cute,” or “This isn’t that big of a deal,” and “I can change this,” and they move forward. But, at some point, cute becomes annoying, and what wasn’t a big deal becomes a monster issue, and nobody has changed, and now refuses to change … and it becomes a deal breaker.
I know it’s easier said than done, but worry about yourself, and what you can control, as opposed to trying to control someone else. Focus on what you would like to change, or should change, about yourself, as opposed to trying to change someone else.
I told this woman: He is who he is and he’s an entire package. You either like him or you don’t. You either accept him as he is, or you don’t. Sure, you might try to tweak a little thing here or there, but be sure those things you “tweak” are relatively inconsequential to you in the big scheme of things. If they make your blood pressure skyrocket, and become monstrous issues in the relationship, it might be time to rethink the urge to control and the desire to change.
What do you think? Did you have a “wrong shoes/wrong jeans” issue in a relationship? What happened? How did you “fix” it?
My latest for eHarmony — August 2013:
Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over.”
I was bumping around Facebook the other night, and I came across a post which one of my friends “Liked.” The title peaked my curiosity and I clicked on the link (My Husband is Not My Soul Mate). I really liked the article and thought the author, a woman named Hannah, did a really great job presenting her perspective (and I love her writing style!).
Her perspective is this: She doesn’t believe that there is any “one person” for you to find and marry. Rather, she believes that you can have a great marriage with any number of people. But, she continues, once you marry that person, then that person does indeed become your “one person.” She dismisses the notion that (as we are often led to believe as a society) there is indeed one special person out there waiting for us to find them (or vice versa), and that it is Divine Intervention that brings us together.
She asks a great question: If we credit Divine Intervention with bringing two people together, then what happens when 50%+ of first marriages end in divorce? Instead, she writes about how her marriage is based on her choice to love her husband daily, not a master plan.
As a divorced woman, many of Hannah’s points resonated with me. If I believe that my first husband was my soul mate (and why marry him if I didn’t), and that Divine Intervention brought us together, then how do you explain our divorce 17 years later? Did Divine Intervention get tired of keeping us together? No, not at all. Rather, choices were made that created an environment where we didn’t continue to intentionally focus on loving each other every day. Not surprisingly, divorce followed.
If I look back at my life, I would say I have been in romantic love three times. Is my current husband my soul mate? According to Hannah, no. According to Hannah, there might have been many men who I could have married, but what is important is that I chose my current husband and he chose me. He is now my “one person” and I am now his “one person.” Now it’s up to me/us to “choose” to make our marriage work each and every day. I am still surprised by our compatibility. We think alike. We talk alike. We have the same energy. That being said, we also have tremendous differences. These could be viewed as irritants or deal breakers, or we can instead choose to embrace those changes and be thankful that we aren’t clones of each other. Those differences allow us each to introduce the other to new things, new experiences, and new ways of thinking.
To me, that’s the important takeaway! Marriage is a choice, and marriage is hard work. Take the time during dating to be sure that you are ready and willing to make that commitment. Make sure you are willing to make the choice that he or she will become your “one person” and that you are willing to put the hard work into making your relationship work.
To Hannah’s point, maybe you should quit feeling the pressure to find your soul mate. Instead, try searching for that person who you are able to intentionally choose to become your “one person” who is right for you. And then, make the choice to love that person each and every day. It takes hard work. There will be ups and downs. There will be similarities that bring you together, and differences that threaten to tear you apart. But, if you focus on recognizing that this was your choice, then you realize that you control the rest of the story!
What do you think? Do soul mates exist? Why do we drive ourselves crazy trying to find our soul mate? Is there more than one great person out there for each of us to find, date and marry?