My latest for eHarmony on Cultivating the Art of Gratitude … Gratitude!
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I attended a fabulous seminar in Atlanta two weeks ago. It was about Transcendental Meditation and the health benefits of allowing your mind, body and spirit to slow down for at least twenty minutes twice a day. The audience was a room of Type-A work-hard/play-hard women who were striving to have it “all.” The message was intense and, as an audience, we listened intently.
One of the things the speaker stated was that she starts every morning, not with a focused meditation per se, but rather with a conscious mental conversation reviewing the things for which she is grateful in her life. She does this before she even gets out of bed. She said that some people may call this a prayer. Others may make a more formal attempt at recording this mental conversation and keep a gratitude journal. She chooses to simply review in her mind the things in her life that make her happy, that bring a smile to her face, and that she believes she needs to give thanks for.
I was intrigued by this because I do the same thing. Most mornings, I spend a “snooze” worth of time mentally reviewing the things for which I am grateful, those things which I need to work on, my plans for the day, my worries, my concerns, my goals. This sounds like it might take a while, but in reality, it takes less than the 9 minutes before my alarm sounds again. Given that I have a strong faith, this turns out to be part prayer, part reflection, part mental to-do list.
I find those mornings where I am rushing out of bed and don’t take those extra few minutes to reflect are the days when something seems a bit out of sync in my life. I need that time to pause … to be still … and to be thoughtful and thankful. And, when the Medical Doctor who was speaking shared all the health benefits of taking those few extra moments to reflect, I was even more grateful that I have developed this habit in my life.
Too many people focus on the negative things going on in their lives, to the detriment of recognizing all the positive things for which they should be grateful. It’s the proverbial half-glass-full vs. glass-half-empty perspective. Why focus on the negative side of something when you can focus on the positive side … simply by just shifting your perspective slightly?
Going through a divorce is one of those times when many people have a hard time focusing on the positive. The anger, fear, and loneliness can at times present a situation where even the most optimistic of individuals has a hard time seeing those things for which he or she can be grateful. I suggest that there are always things to focus on, and I’m a big proponent of using humor when all else fails.
One woman I spoke with recently was really down in the dumps about her pending divorce. Like many women, she was scared, unsure of what the future would bring, and her self-esteem and self-image had been knocked pretty hard. She was having a hard time being optimistic about anything, and was pretty blunt about letting me know that she wasn’t an optimistic person in a good year, let alone in a year like the one she was living through at that moment. I smiled, and told her that no matter how small, we would be able to find something about her pending divorce for which she could be grateful. I encouraged her to come up with something … anything!
I got her to crack a smile. She told me she was grateful that she was no longer sharing a bed with a man who farted in his sleep! Perfect! Score 1 for the optimistic and grateful side; 0 for the negative side! She smiled again and told me she was grateful that she would no longer be finding his toe-nail clippings on the floor next to the toilet! Score 2 to 0! You can see where we were headed! She was able to find something positive to occupy her thoughts for a moment. Granted, these weren’t earth-shattering positive thoughts, but they were thoughts, they were things for which she was grateful, and they did bring a smile to her face! Success!
What about you? Do you take time each day to pause, reflect and be grateful? If not, why? Start small, and go from there!
Here’s my latest post for eHarmony.com … “Dating to Fall in Mutual Weirdness” … what do you think?? Weird Dating
“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss
I love Dr. Seuss. Always have. Always will! And, I love this quote about finding someone whose weirdness is compatible with our own level of weirdness. I don’t claim to be a dating expert. After all, I married the first guy I dated after my divorce, but I do think there is something to being compatible with the person you fall in love with.
There are two sides to that equation and they can be counter-intuitive and confusing. What are we to believe? Is it “opposites attract” or “two peas in a pod?”
Let’s start with personality traits. Many times, successful relationships are found where the couple balances each other out. One is a planner; the other a bit more spontaneous. One likes to save; the other encourages a bit of spending now and them. One is a neat-freak; the other brings a bit of organized chaos. How boring would it be if both people were stringent savers? You might never go out to eat, or go on vacation. How boring would it be if both people were neat-freaks? You might spend all of your free time cleaning up and organizing to the detriment of enjoying a beautiful day outside. How boring would it be if both people are planners? You might find yourself so overly planned that all joy is lost in experiencing the moment.
Some couples find these differences cute and appealing when they first meet. They are willing to overlook these potential “irritating” behaviors, and instead find them cute or acceptable – or part of dating and relationships. Perhaps they foolishly believe, “I can change this person” and then they get frustrated when they are not able to do so. Suddenly the “cute” trait becomes a monster issue within their marriage! As one friend recently said to me, “I heard all about how important it was to share common values, a religious faith, and a solid foundation of love when I first started getting serious with my girlfiend – now wife – but no one told me how many fights we would have over the fact that she doesn’t understand what silverware caddies are for (all the silverware goes in any slot!), or that she doesn’t believe in using hangers (because all of her clothes are on the floor).”
I’ve seen successful couples understand these differences and embrace them. “Sure, it’s annoying that he is as thrifty as he is and we haven’t gone out to dinner in five years, but I’m also thankful that he is such a good saver and we have college tuition and our retirement well-planned.” These couples recognize that their personality traits or style differences have the potential to build a wedge between them, and instead choose to embrace those differences and value them.
What about compatibility around hobbies or activities? Does the saying, “the couple who plays together, stays together” hold true? Yes! I truly believe that it does. I believe that in the short-term, couples can survive despite not having any mutual interests but longer-term, this can lead to problems. If both people are gone every night of the week and every weekend pursuing their own interests, they begin to drift apart. That’s a dangerous place to be. Before you know it, they are vacationing on their own (he’s golfing at Hilton Head, while she is at the Bead Show in Asheville).
I’m not saying that every couple needs to share the exact same hobbies. I am saying that having mutual interests, activities and/or hobbies is important. That’s what being a part of a relationship is all about – spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and enjoying doing things together.
There does need to be that level of mutual weirdness that drives compatibility. Maybe your significant other thinks your passion for rustic backpacking through the Grand Canyon is crazy. After all, to him, roughing it is staying at the Holiday Inn. And, the idea of you spending six hours on a Saturday walking slowly across an overly manicured lawn hitting small balls with a skinny stick is enough to make you want to pull your fingernails out. Go your own way – absolutely! Have at it. But, also focus on what you enjoy doing together. Are you foodies? Try that newest Thai restaurant – together. Do you like to garden? Plant all the stuff you need to make that great salsa – together. Do you like to exercise? Train for that 10k – together.
I spoke with a woman last week who has been married for 42 years … to the same man! To say they each lead busy, active lives would be an understatement. They both have a lot going on and differing interests. More importantly, they come together over a couple of shared hobbies about which they are both really passionate (some might say fanatical!). She said, “We love our busy lives, we love our friends, but really, at the end of the day, he is my best friend and we are most comfortable hanging out with each other.” Major compatibility!
Returning to Dr. Seuss, what are you doing to find someone whose weirdness is compatible with yours? Are you willing to try something new in order to spend time with someone? Are you passionate about sharing your hobbies with someone else in hopes that he or she will eventually share your enthusiasm? Are you open to learning and embracing new things?
I am thrilled to be writing for eHarmony.com. Here is my first post for them talking about dating risks! What is your dating risk??
“I’m not cynical about marriage or romance. I enjoyed being married. And although being single was fun for a while, there was always the risk of dating someone who’d owned a lunch box with my picture on it.” Shaun Cassidy
I saw this quote, and I laughed out loud. I think it hit too close to home. While I never owned a Shaun Cassidy lunch box (my mom made me carry my lunch in those little brown bags!), I did have posters of him hanging all over my room. His album was the first one I ever bought! The year was 1977. I paid $4.97, and I thought “Da Doo Ron Ron” was the best song ever! What was I thinking?
Dating someone who used to own a lunch box with your picture on it is something that most of us can’t relate to. That’s a 1970’s Shaun Cassidy, BeeGees, or Osmond brother kind of problem. The rest of us never have to worry about dating someone who carried their PB&J’s and Hostess Twinkies to school each day in a metal box bearing our likeness. But, that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have other risks associated with dating!
As I was flying back from Miami a few weeks ago, I got into a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. As the conversation progressed, I mentioned that I had been divorced, and was now remarried. That opened the floodgates of conversation. She immediately opened up and started talking a mile a minute. Like me, she was also divorced (and had been for nearly 5 years). She was in her mid-40’s, and she was incredibly frustrated with the dating scene and never finding “Mr. Right.”
As she and I began to talk, I got an earful of not only how bad so many of her previous dates had been, but also how horrible her ex-husband was. I got a play-by-play of negativity and sarcasm. It seemed nobody could do anything right, and yet she seemed genuinely surprised when she told me that she wasn’t frequently asked to go out on a second date or third date. Seriously?
This presented a dilemma for me. Did I call her out and suggest that perhaps she wasn’t asked out again because it wasn’t fun to be surrounded by all that negativity on a first date (or a second or third)? Or, was this an instance where I should keep my mouth shut? Aw heck … I was never going to see her again, and perhaps it was destiny that we had come to sit next to each other on this flight. I broached the subject … very carefully!
I asked her how long ago it had been since her divorce. She reminded me that it had been nearly five years. I knew that … I just wanted her to hear it again. Five years! Half a decade! And yet, she was still angry at her ex-husband and still full of negativity. When she spoke about him, you could feel the hatred radiate from her.
If I was feeling this much negativity in just our short conversation on our flight, I wondered how much her dates were picking up from her when they went out. I asked her what she found most attractive in a man, and she provided me with a litany of great traits – funny, kind, good to his mom, had to make her laugh, healthy (she said good looking was a bonus!). Never once did she say negative, sarcastic, or pessimistic. I asked her why, and she seemed surprised. “Why would I want to date someone who was negative?” she asked.
I carefully suggested that perhaps it was time to lose her own anger and the negativity over her ex-husband, and time to make a commitment that he would not be mentioned on future dates, no matter how interested or willing the other person was to discuss what had happened. It really can’t be any fun to date someone who is continuing to bash her ex. It also would make me wonder if there is still too much emotion tied up there, leaving her less emotionally available for someone else. It also comes off as pretty ugly behavior to not be able to let go of the past – especially on a date.
Once I got home, I asked one of my good friends for his take on this subject. He’s in the dating pool, and he said if anyone he dates dominates the conversation bad-mouthing an ex, he tends to end the date relatively quickly, and there is no second date to be had. His rule was this: First dates should be for getting to know each other. Sure, maybe a history of a past relationship will come out later (and if it was negative and hurtful, that is part of the story, and may/should come out), but save that for after the first date, and even then, discuss it, then move on. Don’t harp on it. I thought that was pretty good advice. He added this point: “Even the most attractive woman – in both looks and personality — can turn ugly if all she does is use our date to complain about other men.”
It became clear to me. This negativity was her “risk,” or rather, this was the “risk” that men were taking when asking her out on a date. Shaun Cassidy risked dating women who had his photo on their lunchbox. My flight-mate risked turning off the very men she wanted to get to know better by focusing too much on negativity in relationships from her past. I think she intellectually understood this paradox when we spoke, and she agreed to try to work on it.
What about you? What are your dating risks? Do you exude positive energy towards others, or do you sap their energy with your complaints?
Here is my latest post for HopeAfterDivorce.com (April 20, 2013) …
Moving forward is often easier said than done! Finding forgiveness is often easier said than done! Focusing on the future is often easier said than done!
And, all three are imperative if you are going to get out from behind the wall of emotions that divorce brings, and move on towards whatever awaits you in your life story!
I found when I was going through my own divorce I started using the F-word. A lot. That wasn’t my natural style. But, the range of negative emotions that I found myself sorting through left me with a mouth. I was angry, hurt, sad, and back to angry again. The F-word seemed fitting.
However, I soon discovered lots of other really good F-words that were a whole lot more productive. I stopped dropping the F-bomb, and began focusing on new F-words like forgiveness and future.
I think I innately knew that getting stuck in that world of negativity and F-bombs was only hurting me, and while I fully believe in dealing with those emotions head on, I also knew that there was a time to move forward. I had a few people in my life who had gotten stuck, and decades later, it seemed as if they were still treading in that tailspin of anger and hurt. I wondered what made the difference between those who got out of the muck, and those who got stuck in it.
When I was stuck in my negativity, I had two different friends send me cards in the same week. In both cards, each friend referenced the Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11. I wasn’t familiar with the verse, but found it resonated with me tremendously. It has become my go-to verse and says, ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I realized that God did indeed have a plan for me – for my future – and that my getting stuck in my present tense of negativity and swirl was going to prevent that plan from unfolding. I needed to turn my eyes to the future to embrace whatever plan lay ahead of me, and stop looking backwards. That was pivotal for me.
The other thing I realized was that finding forgiveness was absolutely necessary to moving forward and focusing on the future. Finding forgiveness was the key to getting rid of the anger and the resentment that kept me treading in one place, and allowed me to look forward and move forward with positive momentum. Forgiveness is an amazing thing. Tyler Perry said, “It’s simple: when you haven’t forgiven those who’ve hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.” Those are some powerful words, and so incredibly true!
If you find yourself in a situation where you are dropping the F-bomb, where you are stuck in a swirl of negativity, and where you are looking backwards more than you are focusing forward, I encourage you to find new F-words. Start to move forward, find forgiveness in your heart, and focus on the plans for your future. Trust me, it’s a whole lot more invigorating to do all of that than to continue to drop the F-bombs of negativity. Who knows what your future will bring you? It could be a plan much better than one you could ever think of on your own!
I have had a number of people reach out and ask me about my experience on the Today Show on NBC. Well … what an experience it was! Here goes:
It was just a regular Wednesday morning, when an email popped up from someone saying she was a Producer with The Today Show. She wrote that they were doing a segment on relationships and divorce, and asked if I was interested in potentially being on the show! If I was, then could I please reach back out and let her know if I could talk that afternoon. Uh … yes!
She and I spoke for about 30 minutes that afternoon and had a wonderful time talking. She asked all sorts of great questions about my book, my experience, and my philosophy on divorce. As we wrapped our conversation, she invited me to come on the show two weeks later. NBC took care of making my transportation, flight and hotel reservations which was awesome!
I didn’t hear anything else until the afternoon before the show when I was in NYC. The Producer and I had another great conversation about what to expect, then she added that Kathie Lee and Hoda would likely ask whatever questions they wanted so to be prepared to just go with the flow!
The famous “how did you know what to wear” question is one I have been asked frequently! I didn’t “know” … except I knew it should be a solid color and simple – not a lot of jewelry or anything going on. I brought two different dresses with me. An orange one, and the blue one. If you had asked me the night before which one I was going to wear, I would have said orange, but when I woke up on Thursday morning, and tried them both on, I felt much more comfortable and confident in the blue one. Good thing I had brought both options!
I had been told to arrive at the studios at 10:00AM with my hair and make-up as I would normally dress, and that I would then be “bumped up for TV.” My husband and I left the hotel a few minutes early and tracked down a Starbucks, then headed over to the studios. When we arrived, I was whisked right into the hair chair where I proceeded to get “bumped” up for TV, then I was moved to the make-up chair. Ah … if only I could make my hair and make-up look the way they did with such minimal effort.
Everybody was incredibly friendly. I met the other guest on my segment, Rachel Sussman, while we were in the make-up chairs and we had a fun couple of minutes introducing ourselves and sharing our perspectives. Rachel has a successful therapy practice in NYC and has also written a book called, “The Break-up Bible.”
We were done with hair and make-up in less than 20 minutes and knew the clock was ticking towards our on-air time of 10:41 (you can see the big red numbers on the clock … it was 10:27). We spent a few more minutes in the green room with the Producer who was incredibly gracious explaining the process, and then we walked upstairs to the studio. When we entered and as we were being “mic’ed,” Hugh Dancy (star of the new TV show Hannibal) was wrapping up an interview.
As he walked off the set, we were ushered on! Two seats were added to the set, I recall someone taking a lint roller to my dress (thank you someone!), and then in a wave of laughter and energy, Kathie Lee and Hoda walked in, saying something to the effect of, “Alright ladies, let’s talk about divorce, this is gonna be fun!” I also recall them referring to both Rachel and me as “Today Show virgins” since this was our first time on the show!
We had less than 30 seconds until we went on-air live and in those seconds the four of us chatted away … but I know all four of us were conscious of the voice behind the camera counting down the seconds. With about 2 seconds to go, Kathie Lee looked at me, and said, “Honaman, right?” as she clarified how to pronounce my last name. I said, “Yes,” and then we were live.
What seemed like 20 seconds later we were done. In reality, it was only a couple of minutes. When we wrapped up, we had 5 seconds to pose for a quick photo, then KL & Hoda were racing back downstairs for a cooking segment.
The Producer led Rachel and I back to the green room to grab our bags, and then we were done! Next thing I knew, I was back outside on the vibrant streets of NYC wondering and articulating for the second time that day, “What in the he!! Just happened to me?”
What an experience! Everyone was friendly and outgoing and made the entire experience easy and comfortable. When you think of how many guests they usher through the Today Show studios on a daily or weekly basis, it’s pretty incredible that they continue to make each guest feel so special! Thank you, NBC!
My latest from The Huffington Post …
A reader recently commented on one my blog posts something to the effect of, “This author believes that having great sex makes for a great marriage.” I think he intended for this to be a critical comment, but actually, I do believe that — with some caveats, of course!
Let me explain.
I do believe that intimacy is critical to a great and lasting marriage. I have yet to meet a couple who was having marriage problems and thinking about divorce who told me that they still had phenomenal intimacy. Instead, what I often hear is this: “Somewhere along the line we drifted apart… we stopped talking, we stopped kissing, we stopped hugging, we stopped making love. We became roommates, not lovers.”
And by intimacy, I mean physical intimacy and also verbal intimacy.
Physical intimacy is sex, but it also includes hugging, holding hands, walking through the room and running your fingers through his or her hair, and kissing (really kissing!). Remember the scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts, as a prostitute, is asked by Richard Gere’s character, “What do you do?” Her answer: “Everything. But I don’t kiss on the mouth.” That’s exactly right — sometimes it’s not the sex that is intimate, it’s the kissing on the mouth.
So many of the people I speak with tell me that all of this intimacy stopped. I often hear, “I get more physical touch from my friends than I do from my husband (or wife).” It’s hard to regain that physical touch once it’s gone; it’s awkward to get it back, and frequently easier to initiate with a complete stranger than with the person you married. And yet, physical intimacy is critically important to a strong marriage.
But verbal intimacy is also critical. Verbal intimacy is talking — not about the kids or your schedules for the week — but about your hopes and goals, your dreams and your fears. It’s being comfortable going out to dinner, just the two of you, and not worrying about what you will talk about. I’ve seen couples whose social lives and vacation planning always had to include others because they didn’t have enough to talk about with each other.
You may have heard the saying that, “couples who pray together, stay together.” That’s verbal intimacy. I heard from a man recently who told me, “I’m not sure when we stopped talking. I wonder when our communication stopped. I gradually allowed my emotions and ego to become anesthetized… then she left.” As with physical intimacy, it’s hard to regain verbal intimacy once it’s lost.
Both physical and verbal intimacy require a dedicated focus. They require time. They require intention. We lead busy lives. As a nation, we’re chronically tired. We have competing demands of work, children, extended family and volunteering. Because of these commitments, physical and verbal intimacy often fall by the wayside. No one wants to wake up one day and wonder, “I’m not sure when it all stopped. I feel like we are roommates.”
The bottom line? Great intimacy is the key to a great marriage.
I have yet to see a husband and a wife who share great physical and verbal intimacy struggling in their marriage. I’ve never heard, “She is always touching me,” or, “He always wants to open a bottle of wine and talk on the back porch,” from anyone in marriage counseling. I haven’t heard, “I love the way he kisses me when he comes home from work every day,” and “She always asks me how I am doing and really listens,” from anyone who is on the brink of divorce.
I’m curious. Do you know anyone in a strong marriage who doesn’t share great physical and verbal intimacy with his or her spouse? Is it possible?
My lastest post from The Huffington Post … Nag! Nag! Nag!
While on vacation last year, I saw a nightshirt at one of those cute little gift boutiques found in so many resort towns. It was hot pink and on the front was a caricature of an old horse. Underneath the horse were three words: “Nag. Nag. Nag.” (No, I didn’t buy it.)
In my last blog post, I wrote about women who are leaving their marriages because they feel unappreciated by their husbands. The post garnered quite a few comments, many of which focused on the fact that I wrote the piece from a woman’s perspective. I did that for two reasons: One, I am a woman, and two, the people whom I had spoken with who raised the appreciation issue were women. In the piece, I clearly acknowledged that appreciation has to be a two-way street. Women must appreciate their husbands just as much as they expect to be appreciated. But I’m going to amend that just a bit.
Sigmund Freud once said, “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’” Well, Freud, here’s my take: as I sifted through the comments, I realized that yes, women do want appreciation, and so do men.
And here is my “aha” moment — based on the comments I read on the blog post, I observed that men, like women, want more appreciation and less nagging.
This makes total sense to me. In fact, the same women who were asking for more appreciation also said to me, “I am so sick of having to nag to get things done. I hate hearing myself nag. I hate who I am becoming.”
So if men want the nagging to stop and women want to stop nagging, fixing the problem should be easy, right? Aren’t we talking the basics of communication?
In the comments section of my last post, one woman wrote: “Men and women view appreciation quite differently. Men feel appreciated when we thank them, tell them that we are grateful for everything they do for us, be it small or big. But I think, for me, the best way we can show them that they are being truly appreciated is when we don’t give them a hard time when things are going bad. It’s such a ball-buster to men when we nag and blame and complain.”
And one man wrote, “It is the woman that chooses to do everything because she feels her husband couldn’t do it right or to meet her expectations. So, after being nagged, harassed and left feeling unappreciated, the husband left it all up to her. Now many years later, the wife is tired of doing it all. It has always been this audacity of not doing it exactly her way that has left her feeling alone.”
As I look back on all of this dialogue, one thing is clear to me: A big part of a successful relationship is ensuring that you are meeting the communicated needs, or at least the communicated expectations, of your partner. If women’s needs aren’t being met because they aren’t feeling appreciated, issues will surface. If men’s needs aren’t being met because they feel they are constantly being nagged, issues will surface.
And the cycle of bad communication (and nagging) can go from bad to worse. Though the spouses may not be communicating positively, at least they are communicating in some fashion. Is it when communication stops altogether that things take a turn for the worse, from salvageable to beyond repair, from marriage to divorce?
Do I think that simply showing more appreciation and doing less nagging will save marriages? I think it takes more than that, but I do think it’s a good start.
Here’s my latest blog post for HopeAfterDivorce.com … I’m Sorry
Here’s my question: Why is it so difficult to say something, anything, even just an, “I’m sorry” not when we personally did anything wrong to someone else, but when that someone else is going through something difficult?
Why do some people hear of someone else going through a rough patch and decide to disappear for a while. Suddenly, they are too busy for a phone call, too busy to stop by, too busy to write a quick email!What’s going on here?
Does this look familiar? My friend, Lisa, was recently told by her company that her job was being eliminated. She has four weeks to wrap-up what she is working and transition out of her role. She understands. She’s not bitter. In fact, she has an incredibly positive attitude about the whole thing.What she is devastated by, however, are the number of “friends” she has at work who have stopped communicating with her.People whom she used to speak with daily (in person, via phone, or email) have suddenly disappeared. She hasn’t heard from them … at all. She asked me why I thought this was. All I could come up with is a comparison to my own experience when I was going through my divorce.
I found when word got out that I was going through my divorce that some people rallied around me in full force, while other friends seemed to pull back. I don’t think that old adage of “ you find out who your friends are” holds true necessarily.I don’t think that some people intentionally decide, “You don’t have a job (or a husband) anymore, and I’m not going to be your friend.” Rather, I think that some people have what I’ll call “survivor guilt.” Perhaps they wonder why you lost your job, or lost your marriage, and not them. They feel guilty talking with you and worry about complaining about how much work they have to do, or how frustrated they became with their husband last night.This seems cruel, they think, when you don’t even have a job or a husband.
I also think this group lacks a certain amount of social etiquette or emotional intelligence.They can’t quite comprehend that “ignoring” a situation doesn’t make it go away.In the case of my divorce, it wasn’t going to go away no matter how many friends chose to ignore it or ignore me. Furthermore, ignoring me in my time of “need” doesn’t make me feel any better. “Bad” things happen to people every day. We can’t ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.
I have heard people rationalize their behavior by saying, “I know I wouldn’t want to talk about it over and over again, so I’m not going to bring it up … at all!”I’ll concede that is a valid point … except there is a difference between bringing it up, acknowledging it, and moving the conversation forward to a different place, and bringing it up, belaboring it, and leading the person to a place of negativity.
What’s a person to do? What’s the right answer? Here’s my advice. When you have a friend going through a tough time, address it head-on, let them know you are here for them, then move on. Be mindful to the clues the person gives off. Do they want to talk about it, or would they rather not, and be open to either.
If a friend or co-worker has a parent who passes away, just say, “I’m sorry to hear about your mom,” and move on. If a friend or co-worker loses her job, just say, “I’m sorry to hear about your job … and I’m happy to refer you to a recruiter I know if you want an introduction,” and move on. If a friend or co-worker is going through a divorce, just say, “I’m sorry you are going through that. Please let me know if I can help you with your schedule (or something like that),” and move on.
The point is this: address it; don’t ignore it. As human beings, we want to feel connected to others. We want to feel recognized and understood. For our friends or colleagues to suddenly ignore us because of what we are going through becomes the tremendous “elephant in the room.”The consequences persist.It can become difficult to re-establish a friendship and the former level of communication without an obvious awkwardness over the gap that existed.
I think Mahatma Gandhi had some incredible things to say. This is one of them: “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” Don’t be a coward. Be brave. Just say those two little words, “I’m sorry,” and be a good friend, colleague and co-worker. Be capable of showing love. Let people know you are aware of what they are going through. Acknowledge it. Support them through their valley. Letting them know you are thinking of them is so much more powerful than ignoring them and the situation at hand.
What do you think? What is your experience with saying, “I’m sorry” when you have done nothing wrong?
Here’s my latest article for HopeAfterDivorce.com … Communicate!
“We just don’t seem to be communicating” is often the first hint or sign that a relationship is in trouble. Suddenly, that “connection” you once had feels lost. You don’t share the things you used to share so openly. You can sit in a car for hours together and not have a single thing to say to one another. Frequently, the perception is, “why bother … he (or she) doesn’t listen to me anyways.”
I speak with men and women all the time who tell me that after the communication stopped, then the intimacy stopped, then it all went down-hill … UNTIL … one of them decided it was time to open the lines of communication again and it began with a conversation-starter like this, “I want a divorce.”
It’s too bad that many couples are forced to try and revive communication only when divorce becomes the subject of that communication. If only communication within the marriage had never ceased, then perhaps more couples would have time to stave off the unhappiness they were feeling, maintain more connectedness, and avoid throwing in the towel for fear that their relationship is too far gone.
Assuming you are now in the “let’s get divorced” conversation, now, more than ever before, your communications had better become crystal clear, authentic, and honest, as the path you are about to head down is pretty grueling.
Three steps to open the lines of communication during a divorce.
1. Listen. Really listen! Half the battle in suffering from a lack of communication skills doesn’t come from not being able to speak your thoughts properly, but rather from not being able to listen effectively. Listen to your partner. What is he trying to say? Why is she feeling that the marriage is falling apart? What is he blaming for the loss of love? We frequently assume we know the answer to these questions (or fill in the blanks based on our own experience and feelings). If we stop and really listen, without interrupting, without making assumptions, without debating, we might be surprised at what we really hear.
2. Understand. Try to comprehend what is being said! Naturally, we tend to react incredibly emotionally when we hear from our spouse that he or she wants a divorce. Try to understand where they are coming from. Instead of reacting, and flying off the handle, assigning blame, screaming, or crying, try to understand why this conversation is happening and what has led up to it. I have seen many people respond calmly and rationally, which only enables them to be able to truly understand, and then be able to address, the perceived situation successfully. Trying to understand a message shows how important the communication is to you. At their core, people naturally want to be understood. Try it!
3. Continue. Recognize that communication is on-going and will continue through the process of divorce, and even post-divorce (essentially for those with children together). Take notes on what works best for you in creating productive conversations (the key word there is “productive”). You better figure out now what works best for the two of you in terms of how to communicate. This will set the precedent for communicating moving forward. Many couples find that it only gets tougher as the divorce unfolds! Figure out your optimal communication style.
For some people, face-to-face conversations are too difficult initially given the raw emotions or the difficulty of not getting sucked into anger. Perhaps it is easier to communicate via email at first (no interruptions, keeps the emotional response out of the way…). Perhaps later phone calls work better. Figure out what works best for you. Ultimately, your goal should be authentic two-way communications that are heard and understood.
Uh oh … seems to have struck a chord. Here’s my latest from The Huffington Post … Appreciation
Philosopher William James (1842-1910), said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
There is an overwhelming number of women who feel unappreciated by their husbands. I often hear the following refrain: “I just want to feel appreciated. For years I have been the cook, the cleaner, the chauffeur… I don’t feel like we are a partnership… I’ve asked, demanded and pleaded that we go to counseling… I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to live the second half of my life feeling like this. I’m done.”
I’m sure this is nothing new. I am sure my mother felt unappreciated by my dad at times during their marriage. I think that’s probably natural in the cycle of marriage and relationships. Life gets busy. We forget to thank those closest to us.
But times are changing. I have spoken with more women than I can count over the past couple of years who aren’t just complaining about feeling unappreciated by their husbands. Instead, they are doing something about it.
These women, most of whom are in their mid-40′s, have decided they want out of their marriages. Sure, they are scared for what this means for them. Sure, they are nervous about the new unknowns divorce will bring. Sure, they recognize the impact this will have on their lives. For most of the women I spoke with, leaving their husbands means having to secure full-time employment for the first time in years. It mean moving out of the big brick colonial in the suburbs and moving into something more affordable. It means being alone. And you know what each and every woman I spoke with said? “I am absolutely OK with this.” I heard, “I’m OK being alone and starting over on my own… I feel as if I have been alone for years anyway. I don’t need my big house or my fancy car. I don’t mind having to work. I just know that I don’t want to spend the next half of my life living this way. Why should I?”
Wow! To give it all up and start over at 45? It’s surprising, particularly because to the outside world, these women appear to have it all. Their husbands aren’t “bad” people. We aren’t talking about men who are abusive or alcoholics. We aren’t talking about men who are dragging the family into bankruptcy. We aren’t talking about men who have lived a double life full of affairs.
What these women are expressing is a deep personal sadness at feeling disconnected and unappreciated by their husbands. They tell me they have fought for years to feel more connected and appreciated. This isn’t a whim, they assure me. They have thought long and hard about their decision to get divorced. They aren’t simply giving up. They have tried and fought a long battle. But the thing they each have in common is that they have reached their breaking point. They say, “I’m tired of not feeling appreciated, not feeling like I am part of a partnership. I feel like I am the roommate, the bill payer, the cook, the cleaner, the chauffeur… but not someone who is valued and appreciated. I’m tired of asking to be appreciated — begging to be valued — pleading to feel I as if I am important and not constantly playing second-fiddle to everything else going on in his life. I’m done.”
Divorce has become commonplace. Many women thrive after divorce. They live independent, happy lives. Any taboo or stigma that may have existed during my mother’s generation doesn’t exist any more. I think this gives many women the courage to say, “I can do this.” And, they are.
What do we do about this? Many husbands are left with their jaws hanging open in disbelief when their wives file for divorce. “Why didn’t we talk about this? Why didn’t we go to counseling? Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling this way?” The wives smile sadly and say, “We have, we did, I have… and it’s too late now… I’m done.”
I don’t like these conversations. I believe in the institution of marriage. I don’t like to see people quit. What can we do? I know the following advice is oversimplifying the issue — I really do — but it’s a start:
Men, please take the time to appreciate your wife regularly. Thank her for what she does for you and your family. Validate her. Cover her with words of affirmation. Wrap your appreciation of her deep within her heart. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The women I spoke with are not giving up because they weren’t thanked for emptying the dishwasher once. It’s the net result of decades of feeling taken for granted. When I suggest that perhaps having an open dialogue with their husbands alerting them to just how serious this really is and perhaps giving a final chance to make some changes, they tell me it would be too little, too late. “I’m done,” they say.
Clearly, women, this isn’t a one-way street. Appreciation goes both ways. Are you checking to see just how much appreciation you are showing to your husband as well? Do you thank him for all he does, or do you take him for granted? Really think about it. Perhaps you perceive that you are being more appreciative than you really are. What would he say?
I’m not saying that showing more appreciation will lower the divorce rate in our country, but I do believe that showing more appreciation will improve marital relationships. After all, it’s like basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, “If not shown appreciation, it gets to you.” And it seems that “it gets to you” is leading more and more towards, “I’m done.”
What do you think?