Brave! – Here’s my latest article for eHarmony … April 2014.
I just read a book that I have to write about. In fact, I think every single woman should read it. If you are a widow, it’s for you. If you have been through a divorce, it’s for you. If you have friends who are widowed or divorced, it’s for you. Anyone who has experienced a “loss” will be able to relate to this book and will get lost in the stories. Do I sound cliché if I say, “I laughed, I cried…?”
Written by Sue Mangum, “Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self” is the story of six newly single moms who write about the worst event in their lives. Three of the six women found themselves widowed, and the other three found themselves confronting divorce. None of this was part of anyone’s “plan” for how their lives would play out, but as we all know, our “plan” often fails and we have to come up with contingency plans pretty quickly.
There are several things I loved about this book.
One, it wasn’t just six sad and tragic stories of six different women. The substance of the book comes from a year’s worth of emails that were exchanged amongst the women as they looked to create a safe space in which to grieve. They called themselves, “Single Moms After Loss: Talking Advising Healing Laughing Crying” or SMAL TAHLC (small talk!) for short. Nothing was off limits – which led to many of the tears that I shed, and the laughter that I shared – as I related to things with which they were dealing. The stories are crafted together in a brilliant roller-coaster of a ride.
Two, I loved how I nodded my head in agreement over and over as I read the book. I truly felt like I was a part of the group, or sitting around chatting over coffee with these women. I haven’t been widowed, but I have been divorced. I remember things I felt and thought during my divorce. To read these same issues being addressed by these women provided honor and validity to these emotions. We aren’t alone in going through life’s trials and tribulations. Others have forged a path. We can learn from each other. There’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, and you gain strength from seeing others persevere, survive, and thrive. It gives you hope and faith to see others travel through such dark times and come out alive and vibrant.
Three, I loved how no subject was off limits. These women address the questions that I know went through my mind, and so many other women with whom I speak. Things like: “Will I ever have sex again? (heck, I even have a whole chapter in my first book about this one!), “I thought I was religious, but is there really a God?,” “When should I tell my children that I’m dating?,” and “Wow…I’m happy…is that allowed?”
Aren’t all of our lives a soap opera? It was fascinating to gain an inside perspective in so many areas … often times like slowing down to watch the car wreck on the side of the road! I learned new things too. The divorced women shared “insights” as the widowed women started to date … often times “trusting” men who were still married, but who assured them that it was “just a technicality.” As we learned, that’s not always the case! Then there were the well-meaning friends, who just didn’t get how insensitive they were being! These were the women who were still married (and hadn’t endured the grief of losing a spouse to death or divorce) who said things like, “You are so lucky you get to do what you want when you want and don’t have to report back to anyone,” or “You are so lucky that you get ‘free’ time whenever your ex has the kids … what I wouldn’t give for some time alone!” I know I heard things like that when I got divorced.
If you are looking for a quick read, and an inspiring and relatable story, this book is for you. I bonded with the women in the pages of this book, and loved it when each ultimately accepted her new reality, and in several cases, discovered what Life 2.0 had in store for them. Yes, happiness is allowed, and you will find it again!
My latest for eHarmony … Think Twice!
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Napoleon Hill
I got a call last week from someone looking for some advice and perspective. She saw a text on her “tween” daughter’s phone from her ex-husband’s wife. It said, “I wish I was your mom.” She asked me what I thought … because her initial reaction was one of extreme annoyance.
I wholeheartedly agreed with her annoyance.
My ex-husband would crack a gasket, flip his lid, and lose his cool if he ever heard my husband say to my son, “I wish I was your dad.” My son has a dad. It’s my ex-husband. He’s a good dad. When I first remarried, my ex made it a point of asking me what our kids would be calling my husband/their step-dad. He wanted us to know that “dad” was taken. Of course it was! I assured him that “dad” was not going to be used, and that the kids would come up with a moniker that would be appropriate (and they have!). Being “mom” or being “dad” is an important title that is not to be thrown about loosely. It’s an honor, and it’s a commitment.
Let’s assume that all parents in this scenario are “good” parents! This young girl who fielded the text from her step-mom is put in a no-win situation. Guilt is never a good emotion, and it’s unfair for her brain to have to process this. “I wish I was your mom” conveys “I wish your mom wasn’t around.” If the girl agrees, “Yes, I wish you were my mom too,” then there’s an inherent feeling of taking sides against her mom. There’s that guilt. Regardless of the angst that many teen girls feel with their moms, there’s still an underlying level of loyalty and love. The other response is, “Not me; I’m glad you aren’t my mom.” That’s kind of mean to think, and it’s rejecting someone who just shared a personal emotion with you. Again, it creates a feeling of guilt against someone who does play a key role in this young girl’s life.
Why would any step-parent think that it’s OK to verbalize “I wish I was your mom/dad?” Whatever good intentions underlie the statement are completely lost in the delivery. While I agreed with the annoyance articulated by the woman who called, I also encouraged her to “take the high road” and give the benefit of the doubt to the step-mom. I’m sure she meant well. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. Nobody can be that clueless, can they?
“I am so glad I am your step-mom/step-dad!” How about rephrasing it this way? It conveys the same intention! It essentially delivers the same message, just in a way that is phrased more openly! It’s declaring something positive, not wishing for something impossible. The insidious negativity goes away. It removes the propensity for feelings of guilt to seep into the conversation.
Communicated this way, it honors both roles – mom and step-mom, dad and step-dad. It says, “I value my role as step-mom/ step-dad.” Phrasing it this way honors all players in the blended family. I get goosebumps when I witness my husband and my son bond over something, laugh, and share a special time together. It warms my heart when I hear him say, “I love being your step-dad.” It honors the special bond they have, yet it takes nothing away from my son and his dad.
What a difference a few words can make!
I wonder how many other things we say – perhaps with good intentions – that get interpreted wrongly or that serve to create guilt? Can you come up with any?
My latest for eHarmony – Proud of Me!
“It is not enough to be well-intentioned: one must strive to put those intentions into action in a capable way. One must consider the effect his actions will have on others. Looked at like this, to persist in ignorance is itself dishonorable.” Andrew Cohen
I’ve started to see a theme amongst the men and women with whom I speak post-divorce. It’s interesting. I’m seeing this more in people who have been divorced for a few years now, rather than those who have recently divorced. Life has started to settle down. Perhaps the drama and the emotion tied to the divorce has quieted. Affairs have ended. People have moved on. Perhaps they have remarried. Addictions are under control. The fuel is off the fire, and the erratic and often selfish behavior has ceased.
It’s at this point that I’m hearing men and women reflect and say, “I just want my kids to be proud of me.” Wow. What a sentiment. I think at our core we all strive to make those we care most about in our lives proud of us. My parents used to encourage me to “make us proud” when I was a teen. I knew what that meant. It meant to make good decisions and wise choices. It meant to be kind to others. It meant to treat people the way I would want to be treated. It meant not cheating, stealing or lying to get ahead. It meant honoring the morals and values on which I was raised. It goes without saying that we want our parents, our spouses, our friends, and of course, our kids, to be proud of us. The opposite of pride is shame. I can’t imagine anyone taking pleasure in being shamed or in feeling that our loved ones are ashamed of us.
Which brings me back to the sentiment I keep hearing: “I just want my kids to be proud of me.” A few years post-divorce, when things have quieted down, there appears to be a growing awareness and more reflection that begins to occur. It’s a rear-view mirror kind of thing – you know, hindsight is 20:20.
I believe that many of these moms and dads are finally able to look past their selfish behavior, some of which may have served as accelerators, if not actual causes, of the demise of their marriage, and view that behavior through a different lens. Suddenly it’s no longer a matter of “I’ll do what I want, with who I want, when I want,” and more a matter of “Oh no, I don’t want my kids to know about that.”
Unfortunately, the behavior that might now produce shame, and certainly not pride, is over and done. It’s a thing in your past. It’s in your rear-view mirror. I’ve spoken with dads who regret engaging in affairs as a way to end their marriages. I’ve spoken with women who regret becoming dating fanatics and having their kids see different men at the breakfast table on Saturday mornings. I’ve spoken with people who realize their addictions have become a part of the “story” that defines the lives of their kids. In talking about these years, kids talk matter-of-factly about having to “get dad off the floor and into his bed when he passed out drunk again,” or talking about how “creepy it was to have a man we didn’t know show up at the breakfast table, or remembering how “dad wasted all of our money and we had to move into an apartment.”
People tell me, “I only look forward; I don’t believe in looking backward,” as a means to justify what may have occurred in the past. You know, “Let bygones be bygones. There’s nothing I can do about it now.” BUT, what if back whenever said behavior was occurring, these same people followed their own mantra of “I only look forward; I don’t believe in looking backward?” Is it possible that in looking forward they would realize that they don’t one day want to be ashamed of their present-day actions? Is it possible that they might think, “I want to make my kids proud … and this isn’t the way to do that?” Is it possible that they might rethink the behavior which was about occur and instead take a higher road?
Mahatma Gandhi summed this up in three simple words: “Action expresses priorities.” If your priorities are your kids, and making them proud, then be sure that your actions are in line with what you deem to be pride-inducing, not shame creating.
My latest for Huffington Post … (March 31, 2014):
“The most comfortable prison is still a lonely place.” Kenneth Kolb
“Should we go out to dinner and go dancing with the gang, or stay in, cook-out and watch a movie together?”
“Should we invite our neighborhood social group to join us on a hike, or should we disappear ourselves to wander in the mountains alone, holding hands, hiking, and sharing our adventure?”
“Should we organize a trip to Cancun for all the couples, or should we plan a romantic get-away for just the two of us?”
When faced with these kinds of questions which do you more often choose? The group activity, or time spent alone with your spouse? One answer is not all right or all wrong, but when your time as a couple is constantly spent with others, warning bells should start to go off.
As I speak with couples, and I ask about how they spend their “free time,” I’m no longer surprised by the number of people who say they have a very active social life together. They get along great! They have a fabulous time. They have tons of friends always ready to go somewhere with them.
But, when we start to peel back the layers of the onion, it’s always interesting to see how frequently this great social life — robust, active, talkative, fun, adventurous — is really hiding that fact that these couples don’t want to spend any time alone together. The conversation ceases, the laughter ceases, the fun ceases and the adventures ceases. Frankly, it becomes very lonely. When forced to be a couple, without any outside interaction, these couples find it difficult. They would rather not confront their loneliness. Two isn’t supposed to be a lonely number.
What’s going on here? I see this in couples who have simply grown apart. It’s not that one or the other is having an affair (yet!) or engaging in some other marriage-destroying behavior, but rather simply that these couples drifted apart in their marriage. In most cases, the intimacy is all but gone. One or the other may simply be satisfied “living as roommates.” Often times divorce isn’t considered a viable option for any one of several reasons. Either they really are completely OK being roommates, and not lovers. They don’t want to suffer the financial hit that a divorce inevitably brings. They want to stay married “for the kids.” And, they do have a great life together … as friends in a larger friend circle.
Ask these same couples what happens when the party is over and they are driving home, and they will tell you that it gets really quiet. The energy that fueled such a fun night has dissipated. Instead of talking all the way home about what they did, and flirting about what’s to come, they instead sit quietly in the car, get home, and climb into their respective sides of the bed, turn over, and go to sleep.
Ultimately, many of these couples do inevitably call it quits and bring in the divorce lawyers. At some point, the idea of living the rest of your life as roommates leaves you wondering if there isn’t something more to life. I hear, “I’m not sure I can do this for the second half of my life.” I hear, “It’s not like I’m going to be lonely by myself … I’m already lonely and by myself in my marriage,” or they say, “I’d rather feel lonely than feel alone when I’m with somebody.”
It’s these same couples, who if they ultimately decide to call it quits on their marriage, are the ones whose friends exclaim in surprise, “But why? You guys get along so well? We have so much fun together!”
If as a couple, you are okay with this “social relationship,” then no one should judge you. If however, you long for a relationship where two isn’t a lonely number, and if you truly do want to stay away from considering divorce as an option, then perhaps you should start to focus on how to rebuild your lives and your schedules such that you are okay being alone with just each other.
In fact, couples in really healthy marriages crave that together time. The idea of spending time “just the two of us” gives them incentive to frequently turn down social invitations. No one says you need to become an asocial hermit, but you do become aware of whether time spent in groups is trumping time spent as a couple.
Is being along the worst thing in life? Or is being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone the worst? What do you think?
Here’s my latest post for Cupid’s Pulse … My Way or the Highway!
“Marriage is about compromise; it’s about doing something for the other person, even when you don’t want to.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding
I had a great conversation with two friends, both widowed, the other day. They’re dating each other, and it’s starting to get serious. While not pointedly addressed quite yet, it’s clear that the “we should spend the rest of our lives together” conversation is not that far off in the future. How wonderful for them! To have found love again — and all the joy, happiness, and elation that comes with new love — after both having lost spouses is wonderful and very sweet to see. Of course, they should spend the rest of their lives together. Thank goodness for second chances and the fact that they met each other.
Once example of a celebrity couple who will be tying the knot soon is Christina Aguilera and Matthew Rutler. This will be Christina’s second marriage; again, thank goodness for second chances! She has a young son, who Matthew will become a stepparent to, yet another transition that will hopefully be smooth for everyone involved.
Deciding they want to spend the rest of their lives together is the “easy” part. The more practical and more difficult part comes when the discussion turns to where to live. His house or hers? Her family room couches or his? His china or hers? His toaster or hers?
It’s crazy, but this is where it can become overwhelming. The reality is that both people own their own beautiful homes, fully stocked with every practical item (the blender, ironing board, and beach towels) and also filled with all sorts of things that are meaningful (grandma’s mirror, great-grandma’s gravy boat, and the painting bought on vacation in Italy many years ago). Their styles may differ: His Victorian period furniture may clash with her Asian influence.
What to do? Of course, it’s essentially no different than when two divorced people choose to marry and frankly no different from when two established single adults (never married, divorced, or widowed) but well on their way to being “real” adults (with more than a studio apartment outfitted with milk crates and a mattress of the floor) enter into marriage.
Often times, both partners come to the relationship with established “goods” as well as established habits, ideals, and traditions. Perhaps one likes to eat dinner by 6 p.m. each night, whereas the other enjoys eating much later. Maybe one likes to be up and out each Saturday morning by sunrise, whereas the other relishes the idea of lounging in bed reading the paper until lunchtime. Perhaps one likes to spend Christmas out of town surrounded by the chaos of dozens of family members, whereas the other likes to make the holiday a more quiet, intimate celebration.
Younger and less-established couples certainly need to compromise as they begin their lives together, but it’s often easier, as they don’t generally have decades worth of “baggage” (both literally and figuratively) that they bring to the marriage. It gets tougher as we get older!
When I remarried several years ago, my husband and I brought together two households. As crazy as it sounds, we literally did have to decide to keep my silverware or his, my dinner plates or his, my toaster or his…and on and on! That was challenging in and of itself (actually, he had a lot of things that were “nicer” than mine, so it made for some easy decision-making). Some people might say that the best solution is to start new with everything, and as fun as that sounds, it’s just not practical. Who has that kind of money to throw around, and why get rid of things that are meaningful to one person or the other?
In addition to compromising on the things, we also had to learn how to merge our family traditions and our expectations for everything from how to save, how to spend a Sunday morning, what temperature to keep the house at, how many blankets to put on the bed, etc. This can be much tougher. After all, we were established in our routines. We had our “normal,” and defining a “new normal” isn’t always easy.
You know what, though? Defining a “new normal” can be fun if approached with the right attitude. If you aren’t open to compromise when dating, how in the heck are you going to compromise if you get married? Open yourself up to learning something new or even just experiencing something with a new lens. You might surprise yourself at how much you enjoy the change. After all, change keeps us vibrant and alive. Don’t become too set in your ways. Be open to new experiences, new traditions…even new toasters and new beach towels!
Does compromise become tougher as we get older? Are we more set in our ways? What do you think?
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?
by: Monique Honaman, JD
Your: [yoor, yawr, yohr; unstressed yer] pronoun 1. one’s (used to indicate that one belonging to oneself or to any person): As you go down the hill, the library is on your left.
Ever notice how when a couple is married they tend to refer to each other as “Mom” or “Dad” with their kids? If Joan asks if she can go out on Friday night, her mom might say, “I’m OK with that, but check with Dad.”
Or as John walks out the door to school, Mom says,“John, don’t forget Dad is going to take you to baseball tonight.”
Ever notice how once a couple is divorced, the pronoun “your” suddenly become so important? We hear things like,“Your dad will come get you at 5:00,” or “You need to ask your mom about that.” Why does that change? Why do we change the way we speak?
I don’t like it. Never have. Never will. I think it’s rude. I’m still Mom. He’s still Dad. When talking, we clearly aren’t referring to other moms or dads where the distinction needs to be clear that we are speaking of your mom or dad. It’s not as if we tell little Johnny, “There will be a dad taking you to baseball tonight … not sure who … it could be any dad … no, actually, it will be YOUR dad.” We don’t do that. We just say, “Dad is taking you to baseball tonight.”
I think putting “your” in front of it makes it less personal to the person doing the speaking. It’s not my mom or dad, it’s yours! Yes, but then again it was never your mom or dad to begin with, but rather it was your spouse, who as time went on and you became parents together, you began to lovingly refer to as Mom or Dad as it related to your kids. Adding “your” creates a wall or a barrier.
My latest for Hope After Divorce:
It’s yours, not mine, not ours. It screams, “I have no part in this.” Now that “Mom” or “Dad” is no longer wife or husband, but rather ex-wife or ex-husband, the “your” gets added, in part, I believe to remove the familiarity and the relationship that you once held.
The impact, however unintended, can be hurtful, I believe. It conveys a sense of “I’m having nothing to do with that woman … she’s YOUR mom.” Or, “I don’t know that man, he’s YOUR dad.” I think it can be odd for kids to hear, especially when they aren’t used to hearing parents speak that way. It creates that distance and re-emphasizes a less than familiar arrangement. It brings walls and structure to what should continue to be an informal Mom and Dad relationship. Yes, the titles of “Husband” and “Wife” changed, but the titles “Mom” and “Dad” didn’t.
Pre-divorce, if I called our home, spoke with my husband, then asked to speak with the kids, I would hear, “Sonso, mom’s on the phone. Pick up the phone in the bedroom!”
Now, post-divorce, if I call my ex-husband, and then ask to speak with my kids, I hear, “Sonso, your mom is on the phone.” Subtle, but it conveys a formality that makes it different in both message and interpretation.I try not to fall into that trap and use “your” when it’s not needed. I prefer my kids to know the familiarity still exists, that while we may not be a united husband and wife anymore, we are still a united dad and mom.
Have you thought about how YOUR speech patterns may have changed? Is it just me that this rankles? Have you ever thought about it? What other things change like this? I would love YOUR insight!
My latest for eHarmony:
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” -Albert Schweitzer
If ever I have had my own light go out, it was during my divorce. It was completely snuffed out and I was left in the dark. It was very dark. Lonely. Sad. But certain people entered my life and gave me a spark that served to rekindle my light, and before I knew it, my light was back at full power … and then some.
I love the quote I started with by Albert Schweitzer because it speaks to being grateful to those who have helped to relight our flames. Our own light can go out for so many different reasons. It doesn’t have to be from divorce. It can be through death of a loved one. Dealing with a sick parent or child. Losing a job. Heck, even just getting sucked into the winter doldrums and feeling like we have nothing to look forward to can make our light start to flicker.
Have you ever stopped to think about those people for whom you are grateful because they have helped to rekindle your flame? My list was (and still is) huge! To me, there are three categories of these people!
One, there are the people who were there before, during and after whatever crisis was serving to dim my light. These are the people we typically think of and turn to when life gets tough. My mom. My best friends who I see all the time. My best friends who live across the country and whom I only see every few years. These are the people who have truly “done life” with you! They know all the back-stories; they know all the relationships; they know all the underlying soft spots, pet peeves, and weak points … and they love you unconditionally in spite of it all.
Then there are the people who enter your life at a certain point and intersect with you for a specific period in time and then leave again. Have you ever wondered what purpose they play? Were they only supposed to play a short, but important, role in helping you to rekindle your flame? These people really don’t know much about you. They don’t necessarily know the “real” you or the “whole” you, but they are able to pierce through all that and they seem to know what to say and when to say it! Perhaps they are more bold and honest with us because we don’t have a history, and likely don’t have a future. There is less at risk. We love their honesty and often times they are the ones who are able to get us jump started!
Lastly, there are those people who enter your life at the time of crisis, make such an impact, and rekindle such a huge light for you that you know they will forever remain a fixture in your life. I tend to think that friendships which are forged during times of great change and stress are stronger. I think that’s why I feel like I am able to pick right back up with friends from middle school and high school, often times more quickly than I am with contemporary friends where the friendship was forged as adults. As a teen, you go through so much together. It builds a bond. I think the same goes for contemporary friends who go through a life-changing experience with you. It’s no longer building a friendship over bunco and dinner out with the spouses every other month, but rather building a friendship over an affair which leads to divorce, or over the sudden illness and death of a parent. This is real stuff – this is life done together – not just idle chatter about “The Bachelor” or Justin Bieber’s latest antics.
As I think back over the people who helped me to rekindle my light, I am incredibly grateful. The “old” friend who made sure she was at my side during pivotal points in my separation when she knew the shock of it all would be overwhelming. The “period-in-time” friend who had herself gone through a divorce and who helped me through the process, then left my life. My “new” friend who on the first day we met had me in stitches with her sarcasm and her prediction for what my future would hold, and to this day remains a dear friend. I am grateful for each of them.
It is important to be intentionally grateful for the people in your life who have helped to rekindle your flame.
More important, however, is your intention to be sure that you are lighting other people’s flames yourself. Do you try to be that person who helps to rekindle other’s flames when their brightness and luminosity are starting to fade? Do you lend a listening ear, send the sweet card, offer the joke to make them laugh, buy them a coffee, watch their kids for a few hours, go for a walk with them, or simply find some other way spark their light? Think about it: whose spark have you rekindled lately?
Think of it this way: “When you find yourself in the position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person’s prayer through you. Remember: Our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others, so that they may find way through us.”
My latest for eHarmony:
Phew! It’s over! We enjoyed, survived or merely observed another Valentine’s Day. This isn’t going to be another post about the significance (or the dread!) of the day. We all know that for some people, this day brings chocolate, roses, and sappy cards. For others, this day brings a sense of loss as we watch others celebrate their love when perhaps we don’t currently have our own Valentine with whom to celebrate. For others, it’s just another day with no significant meaning.
I fall into the last category. I’m not a big Valentine’s person. Never have been. When I was married, it was never a big celebration for us. When I divorced, it was certainly never a big deal for me. Now, I’ve remarried, and it still isn’t a big deal. I’ve always said, I would rather feel your love for me every day of the year through your words, your thoughts and your actions, than have you give me chocolate or roses on one particular day of the year because that is what “society” dictates.
LOVE is what I believe Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s about love – not just romantic love, but rather friendship and family love.
Remember when we were kids and we had to make sure that we brought a Valentine’s Day card for every single kid in our class? My kids still had to do that when they were in elementary school. In fact, the teachers would send home a class list so that no one was forgotten. No child was “left behind!” Here’s a thought … if Valentine’s Day is just about romantic love then why would we teach our kids that we are to romantically love more than one person as a time? Why we would labor over those shoeboxes, wrap them in red and pink construction paper, and bring little Valentine’s Day cards and candy to every kid in the class!?! Talk about a mixed message! No, instead, we encourage our kids to show love to everyone in their lives (or at least their classrooms). I love that and wish I had always been that open with my love.
I used to be very protective of my “love.” Telling someone I loved them was reserved for my mom and dad, my nana, my husband, and my kids. I didn’t freely share “I love yous” with others who were important in my life. I’m not sure when that changed … perhaps when I went through my divorce and realized how important love – not just romantic love – but supportive friendship and family love can be. I began sharing “I love yous” more freely, and it feels good. I began telling my friends how much I love them. I began telling my new extended family how much I love them. And, as we learn in the Bible, I do my best to love those who have wronged me.
When was the last time you told a friend that you loved him or her? Try it! You may laugh when you say it! Or you may say it more casually. “Luv ya” says the same thing but conveys a different meaning than “I. Love. You.” It’s like the Bud Light commercial from several years ago … “I love ya man!”
Next time you go to hang up the phone with a friend try this – as you are starting your goodbye, simply say, “love ya, mean it!” See what happens! I’ll be willing to bet you get a “love you” right back! Goodness knows this world needs more love being shared. We shouldn’t be treating love like a precious commodity that needs to be conserved and doled out sparingly. Love feels good! Not just Valentine’s Day love. Not just romantic love. But that all-encompassing feel-good love that comes from people who are important to you in all areas of life.
Did you try it? Did you get the reaction you expected?
My latest for Huffington Post … February 11, 2014
“Without forgiveness life is governed by … an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” ~ Robert Assagioli
In the agony, angst and anger of divorce, we often retaliate against our former spouses to the detriment of our own children. Makes no sense. Shouldn’t the responsibility and honor of parenting come first and trump all else no matter how difficult the situation? Time and time and time again, I speak with people who are a part of this devastation and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.
A few months ago, I had coffee with a woman who told me that her husband’s ex-wife refused to take her child to the doctor for a renewal of a required prescription. This woman, his step-mom, offered to take him, and the mom refused and cancelled the appointment entirely. Who is this hurting most? The child who needs his medication.
I spoke with a man just before the holidays. He and his wife are divorcing. He has been a stay-at-home dad to their three kids for the past seven years, while she has been the full-time wage earner. She doesn’t want to give him any child support or palimony and says he should get a job. Is this kind of shake-up fair to those kids? Why should it be any different simply because the traditional gender roles are reversed?
I met with a woman last week who was furious (understandably!) because her husband has been having an affair at work. The woman he is in a relationship with is a supplier to the company. Clearly this is in violation of all corporate rules and he would quickly and easily be fired for this major conflict of interest. The woman told me she wants to call the Corporate Integrity Hotline and report this to “get his a$$ fired.” Hmm … so now you are going to be a single stay-at-home mom with no source of income because you got your husband fired, and now your two children (one of whom is about to start college) aren’t going to have any financial support? Does that make any sense?
I get the anger and the urge to be ugly and retaliatory in each of these examples, but seriously people, who are you hurting more? Your ex? Or your kids? Are you prepared to deal with the repercussions for something that might have felt good in the moment?
Perhaps this will resonate! Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face!
How about this? Don’t risk losing the war just to win a battle!
I believe one of my greatest obligations as a parent is to take care of my kids! Not to helicopter them. Not to protect them from learning life lessons. Not to make decisions for them, but to teach them to become responsible adults. Part of that obligation is to ensure that they are adequately cared for, and when possible and realistic, that both parents play a role in parenting to the best of their ability. You’ve heard me say before that, extenuating circumstances aside, kids deserve to have both parents.
Before you act, resist the urge to retaliate out of selfishness and your own anger, and instead ask if the path you are taking is in the best interests of your kids. Are you taking the high road? If the answer is no, you might want to rethink your strategy. Divorce is hard enough on everyone – especially our children. Let’s try to do what we can to not rub salt in that wound and make it even more complicated.
What about you, what do you think?