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?
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 eHarmony …
ste·reo·type: transitive verb \?ster-?-?-?t?p, ?stir-\ - a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I have a friend who writes a column for a small local paper in Georgia. As he frequently does, Dr. Stathas absolutely nailed it with a column he wrote last month (here is the link to the full article on his website – Why Men and Women So Often Just Miss Each Other).
In this article, Dr. Stathas outlines what he has seen over the years as a successful family and marriage therapist. He provides “stereotypes” for how couples act and what is going on in their lives during each decade from their 20s through their 60s. I see these same “stereotypes” play out over and over again with couples with whom I speak. It’s uncanny the similarities which exist.
Stereotypes can be both helpful and hurtful. View these through the lens of helpful and see if they can provide some insight and perspective in your relationship. This is how Dt. Stathas describes married men and women in their 40s and 50s (note, I encourage you to click on the link above and read what he says about the other stages of marriage too!):
“Man advances career. He is gone more often for work and socializing with the guys. Woman, with the kids in school or out on their own, goes back to the work place or gets more involved in women endeavors. Further distancing exists of the couple from each other. Sex life diminishes, sometimes drastically. He spends more time with the guys, and maybe the girls, as he seeks a woman connection…”
Oh. My. Gosh. I’m not a marriage therapist, but I, too, see this over and over again. This is such a familiar refrain. And, what happens next is they either divorce or they become roommates.
In the case of divorce, I frequently hear, “We’ve drifted apart … I’m not in love with him/her anymore … Our marriage isn’t big enough for three of us … We have different interests … I’m tired of always giving and getting nothing in return … I would rather be alone than be unappreciated.”
In the case of becoming a roommate marriage I hear, “We like each other just fine (most of the time) … He’s a good guy/dad … She’s a good woman/mom … We haven’t been intimate in months (years?) … We have no interest in getting divorced because of our kids/friends/finances … We’ll just stick to the status quo.”
If you ask me, both scenarios are depressing. Is either “fixable?” Absolutely! Will it take a lot of hard work, honest conversations, mutual vulnerability, and perhaps a good dose of forgiveness? Of course. And, will it be worth it? My guess is that it will.
Where do you start? The first thing is to acknowledge there is an issue, and honestly believe that you can do and want to do something about it. The second thing is to make changes. That’s Change Theory 101. You can’t say you want something to be different, yet continue to do things the same way. Status quo does not equal change. Third, you may want to see a marriage and family therapist to help you understand and deal with the history and the emotions, and can guide you towards a better future.
Look at your relationship. Are you heading for divorce or roommate status? Is that future OK with you? If not, what can you do about it right now?
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!
Here’s my latest post for The Huffington Post, Oh, the Hypocrisy!
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” – Socrates
I spoke with a woman on the phone the other day who confided in me that she is getting a divorce. After years of putting up with her husband’s many affairs, she has had enough. She wants more. She deserves more. She is ready to break the cycle. For years she has discovered his infidelities, only to have him beg for forgiveness, and for her to give it. She realized that he isn’t going to change, and that he doesn’t intend to change. It’s a heart-breaking cycle. Cheat. Get caught. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Be shown grace and forgiveness. Pause and repeat.
Word is starting to get out in her community that they are getting divorced. Of course, people want to know why. Actually, it’s nobody’s business, but it’s also human nature to be curious. Word has started to spread that he had an affair and that she found out about it. She hasn’t put it on social media. She didn’t take an ad out in the paper. She didn’t announce it in the conference room at work. Nonetheless, word has gotten out, and information like this tends to spread like wildfire. This guy is apparently really well-known and well-liked in their community. He coaches lacrosse and soccer. He is an elder in the church. He grew up in the area and has a lot of friends. He’s sociable and good-looking — apparently, quite a charmer. This is like adding fuel to said wildfire!
He’s also mad. When he discovered that word had gotten out about his affair (and pending divorce), he berated his wife for ruining his reputation. “How dare you tell people that I had an affair,” he ranted, “I have a reputation to uphold!” He continued, “I can’t believe you are telling people. This is embarrassing.” Um… yes. Yes it is. The truth hurts!
But, if you are ashamed and embarrassed by this revelation, perhaps you should have thought of these ramifications before you participated in the behavior about which you are now ashamed! The hypocrisy of this can’t be overlooked! How dare SHE ruin HIS reputation? She didn’t ruin it; he had already taken care of that.
Socrates was a wise man. This guy may benefitted from doing some reflecting on Socrates’ quote shown above. If this guy wants to have (and to maintain) a good reputation, then he needs to live, breath and act exactly as he wishes to appear. If he wants to be the Godly man, the great husband, the wonderful father, the community leader, and the sought-after coach, then he needs to endeavor to talk the talk and walk the walk in all of those elements of his life. If he doesn’t want to be “that guy” who had an affair, then don’t have the affair! Am I oversimplifying this?
Socrates was around from 469 BC – 399 BC. That’s a long time ago. Perhaps a more contemporary thinker can help put it into a modern-day perspective. Things have changed a lot in the world since then, right? Not really.
Here’s what Wayne Dyer, world-renowned self-help author and motivational speaker, has to say on the same topic: “Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.”
Hmm… perhaps if this guy focused more on controlling his character (and controlling some other parts of his anatomy as well — sorry, I couldn’t resist) then perhaps he wouldn’t have to worry so much about his reputation.
I’m really not a fan of any man or woman who has an extra-marital affair and cheats on his or her spouse. It’s the ultimate form of betrayal. But, I will say, there are many people who make this mistake, then own it, accept it, and make it a part of their story. They realize it is a part of the character they are creating for themselves, and part of the reputation that will now follow them. I have some level of respect for these people — at least they aren’t blaming someone else for ruining their reputation, but rather are taking accountability for their actions.
What do you think? Should this guy blame his wife for ruining his reputation?
Here’s my latest blog post for eHarmony: Bonus Parents!
I was on a flight a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation going on behind me. Two men were talking and covering all the normal bases … Where are you headed? Where is home? Where do you work? What do you do? … and then the conversation ultimately turned to more personal topics. One guy asked the other, “Do you have kids?” I loved his response. He said, “I have two kids organically and three by merger.”
I love it! How “business appropriate.” They were speaking a language each could understand and relate to. I thought it was cute!
About a week later, I was speaking with a woman at a meeting who mentioned that her son calls her husband his “bonus-dad” as opposed to his “step-dad.” Also cute! What a great concept to refer to someone who technically isn’t his “real” dad as his “bonus” dad! It says so much about the bond they share and the important role he plays in his son’s life.
But, underneath these cute and unusual responses is a very real situation panning out in homes across the country every day. Stepparents play a huge and important role in the lives of the kids they are parenting. Stereotypically, we hear too much about the “evil step mom” or the “absent step dad” when really the women and men who step into these roles are so incredibly important.
Being a “bonus” parent isn’t a part-time job. It requires the ability to step into a routine that is typically already established, into norms that are already ritualized, into expectations that are already set, and blend into those norms without totally disrupting the natural rhythms of how things operate. It requires a sensitive blend of understanding how things work between the “real” parents, and being able to infuse some of his or her own personality into the mix of the parenting equation. Above all else, it requires being able to find comfort and satisfaction in being that “bonus” parent and carving out a unique role that builds a special bond between child, parent, “bonus” child, and spouse!
I have to say that I am so thankful for my husband and the “bonus” dad role he plays to my two teenagers. I will never forget when he told my kids that he had asked me to marry him. He asked their permission to be their step dad, and said, “You have a great dad, and I’m not trying to replace him, but I would certainly love to be your step dad. What do you think?” Five years later, I look at the bond he has created with my two kids, now teenagers, and I am so thankful for the way he has integrated into our lives, while still being respectful of honoring their “real” dad and their “bonus” mom. It takes a special man to be able to embrace all of these “additional” relationships. He thought he was getting a “wife.” Instead, he also got step kids, an ex, a step mom, new family, extended family, ex-family, a history, traditions, baggage, etc.
Being a bonus parent is hard work. I look at my husband, and at so many of my friends, both men and women, who have stepped into “bonus” parent roles. I look at people who have lovingly embraced all of their children, whether they occurred organically or via merger, and I am so grateful for their hearts that are capable of loving their “bonus” kids so fully.
Sometimes this requires an extra dose of “grace” as people unfamiliar with “bonus” parenting, and the extra pressure it frequently brings, ask silly, naïve, and frankly “stupid” questions about how it works. “Does he tuck the kids in at night when they are at your house?” “Does she make them do chores when they visit like she makes her own kids?” “How does it work when his kids come and visit? Do you let her call her ‘real’ mom?” Seriously people?
Bonus parents just make it work! They don’t get caught up in the “us and them,” but rather, they relish the “ours.”
As we take extra time this season to focus on what we are thankful for, I would like to say “thanks” to all the “bonus” parents out there who have stepped into the role and embraced it with all their heart, soul and might. I would like to thank my husband for recognizing that when he pursued me, he was actually pursuing an instant family! Talk about a “bonus!” He got three for the price of one! That beats any Cyber Monday deal out there
Have you thought about step-parenting and do you think you would be up for the challenge?