I’ve had this pressing thought lately about how lovely this world would be if we all treated each other with respect and kindness. This isn’t a new thought by any means, yet it seems it’s one that keeps resurfacing in my thoughts.
At a national level, and certainly not to get into a political conversation, I think we can agree that no matter which side of the fence you are on, respect and kindness were lacking in our recent election. That’s all I am going to say about that. I think we’ve all had enough!
At a more local level, my son recently broke up with a young woman he had been dating for a few months. He was adamant that he wanted to treat her kindly and respectfully. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I was so proud of how careful and caring he was as he delivered the message, and the young woman was just as kind and respectful in return. No drama. No anger. No disrespect.
I wish I could say the same for another couple who are in the process of breaking up. The difference is that they haven’t dated for just a few months, but rather have been married for over 40 years. You would think (hope!?) that after 40+ years, after building a life and family together, and after both coming to the realization that they are no longer happy together, that they would honor their history and treat each other with kindness and respect. Not happening. They have both played with gasoline and matches and the resulting firestorm is no fun for either party, nor for their extended family and friends. It’s sad to see that kind of history get torched when in reality they could jointly agree to move forward with kindness and respect.
It can be done. I spoke with another couple who is getting divorced this past week. They were married about 19 years ago, and find themselves divorcing as a result of deceit and extramarital affairs. I think we can agree that kind of behavior is neither kind nor respectful, and many would argue that the opposing spouse had every right to be just as unkind and disrespectful in return. I’m not saying that there wasn’t some of that going on because human emotions do come into play, but when it boiled down to the “break-up,” the divorce, this couple is choosing to take the high road. Instead of rehashing the past, they are choosing peace. They are looking forward to what will be, and not dwelling on what was.
My father passed away nearly 20 years ago. I found some old papers last night that he had written to leave for his future grandchildren to read. They were his memories, his stories of growing up, and his reflections. It brought tears to my eyes to read them. He described his parents who were married in 1924, and wrote, ”Mom and Dad taught us manners, values, and consideration for others. I don’t recall them ever using foul language, gossiping or making disparaging comments about others. They were kind and considerate and always willing to help others.” I never knew his parents, my grandparents, but I love the description my dad provided. I wonder, will my kids say the same thing about their parents?
The bottom line is this: it is possible to choose kindness and respect every day. It is possible to get through life’s toughest moments by maintaining your commitment to kindness and respect. And in the end, that is the kind of legacy we all want to leave.
What do you think?
My latest for eHarmony: What is Your “So What Now?”
“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”
~ John Baptiste Moliere
I saw a cartoon the other day that said, “Divorce is like algebra. You look at your X and ask Y.”
When I ask people going through a divorce what they might do differently next time, the first response I normally get is, “Not marry him (or her) in the first place!” Humor is good. Divorce is frequently such a stressful, sad time, that a little laughter goes a long way and is so good for the soul! It reduces anxiety and stress! But, underlying that question is a serious request for which I am seeking an honest answer.
I am a fan of some of the great things that Mahatma Gandhi had to say. For example; he said, ““It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” So often we hear the term “accountable” when it comes to the “other person” in our divorce. We hear, “He must be held accountable for his affair,” or “She needs to be held accountable for drinking too much.” What about our own personal accountability?
It is much easier to place blame on others, and say that all of the accountability lies with them. I get that! Trust me, I do! But, we also owe it to ourselves to turn that mirror around and find out what piece of personal accountability we each own.
I have often said that if you go through a divorce, even if you didn’t “do anything wrong” (that’s loosely defined), you still owe it to yourself to become introspective and ask what you might have done differently. If we don’t ask this question of ourselves, how are we going to become even better as individuals, even better in other personal relationships, and even better in any potential future romantic relationships, marriages or partnerships? What can we learn about what we went through that will make us a better person as we move on in life?
For some people, that introspection will result in a realization that they didn’t give priority to their spouse. It might be a realization that everyone else came first (work, the kids, the parents, the friends, the hobbies … always expecting that the spouse would wait patiently). It might be an awareness that you stopped letting little things that were “cute” when you were first married remain little things, and instead allowed that to become big items which led to rolling of the eyes, incessant nagging, and fights. It might be an understanding that you grew tired of being the one who was “always trying” and that you ultimately just gave up and stopped expending the energy and the oxygen that your marriage needed to survive. It could be that you quit taking care of yourself, that you quit trying to be healthy, that you quit trying to impress your spouse like you did when you were first dating or first married, and just expected them to understand.
My request today is to challenge each of us to question our own actions and find out what we are responsible for and what we can hold ourselves personally accountable for! You don’t have to share this with others; just be sure to be honest with yourself about what you might have done differently or what you will be sure to do differently on a go-forward basis.
I’m not saying this is easy to do. In fact it can be quite difficult to do, especially if you don’t feel you had any “blame” in your divorce. I hear people say, “I wasn’t the one who cheated. I wasn’t the one who squandered all of our money. I wasn’t the one who decided I didn’t want kids. I wasn’t the one who changed.” Then they say … “So I’m not accountable in any way, shape or form for my divorce.” Maybe … and maybe not.
I argue we can all learn a thing or two about who we are, what makes us tick, and what role we might have played in being part of a failing marriage. Accountability isn’t about personal blame and about tearing ourselves apart. It is about taking a life experience and learning from it. If you don’t learn from your own mistakes, you will keep making them. Turning that mirror around and discovering your own personal accountability is only part of it. It answers the who and the what. You still need to ask yourself, “so what?” So what now? So what will I do differently? So what have I learned about myself?
Personal growth comes from turning that mirror around, taking a deep look at yourself, accepting what you see at face value, and then doing something differently with that learning.
“Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You, and only you, are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.”
What do you think? What might you do differently next time? What is your “so what?
Best Friend! – my latest for HuffPost!
My sides still hurt from laughing so hard! I just returned from spending a long weekend with five friends I have known since elementary and middle school. The six of us met between fourth and seventh grades. We’ve known each other over 30 years. It’s been four years since we have all been together. That’s an entire college experience. In spite of it being nearly 1,500 days since we had last seen each other, we picked up right where we left off.
Between us, we have shared marriages and divorces, births and deaths, laughter and grief, celebrations and failures. If we go way back, we’ve shared electric blue eyeliner, curling irons, Sassoon jeans, and lilac taffeta prom dresses. We know each other. We accept each other. We love each other.
Even though we don’t experience the day-to-day with each other, like we do with our friends who are in proximity to us, we seem to have a stronger bond. I sometimes wonder if many friendships aren’t born, and sustained, out of proximity and ease. Those are the friendships that don’t survive change. One person may move away, or the kids no longer play on the same sports teams, or the person switches jobs, and suddenly those people who were our closest friends, the ones we saw weekly, if not daily, who knew what we did day-in and day-out, are no longer a part of our lives. Real friendships endure all of those changes, and more!
The six of us weren’t always BFFs. Back in elementary school, middle school, high school and college, we drifted in and out of each other’s lives, but we were always there for each other. In fact, even today, we don’t all talk regularly. Life gets busy. We are wives. We are mothers. We work. Life happens. We don’t know the daily inner workings of what is going on with each of us, but rather we get together every three or four years, and suddenly time and distance disappear in a nanosecond. We don’t need to know what happens in the day-to-day to understand where the others are coming from in their lives, and that is what truly matters.
Last Saturday night, the firepot was lit, the wine was poured, and as we sat on the back porch talking into the wee hours of the morning, we realized that five of the six of us have already lost our fathers, yet all of our mothers are still alive. The experience we have had with our parents supports the claim that women tend to outlive men. It was a sobering thought.
At this point, we have all known each other longer than we have known our husbands. Heck, these girlfriends outlasted my first husband, saw me through my divorce, were there as I started dating and married my second husband, and are still by my side. There is a good chance that we may outlive our husbands (as our moms have outlived our dads).
My point is this: Our boyfriends and our husbands are important, but so are our girlfriends! They both play a different role (in spite of so many people who say they are married to their “best friend” — I get that, but it’s different! You know it is!). Yes, date, search for the perfect person to partner with in your life, perhaps even find a “best friend” to marry, but don’t lose sight of the importance of your girlfriends in all of this. And men, you want your girlfriend or wife to have a good support team of girlfriends. Trust me! It’s an outlet you want to encourage!
I brought a photo to show the girls last weekend. It was of the six of us sitting on the back porch at my parents’ house. The year was 1984. Yes! 1984! We took another photo last weekend of the six of us sitting on my back porch. Thirty years have passed between when those two photos were taken. Sure, we look a little different… a bit more mature (who knows when those little lines crept onto our faces?) — but we’re still smiling and laughing! And, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if 30 years from now, in 2046, we are taking yet another photo sitting on someone’s back porch. Who knows? Give us a few more years and maybe the photo will capture us sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of a retirement home! I do know this: I love these girls, and I’m thankful to have them in my life. We all need our girlfriends. We need to make the time to maintain and cultivate these relationships in our busy, hectic lives.
What do you think? Life is busy! How do you cultivate and maintain friendships with your girlfriends?
My latest for eHarmony! Change!
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on
fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates
Your life has changed. You are now divorced. Perhaps you wanted this change. Perhaps you didn’t sign up for this change. Perhaps you were blindsided by this change. Regardless, change is happening and it cannot be stopped.
I have a coffee cup in my kitchen cupboard that is imprinted with this saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi made this statement, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about the importance of change as it relates to divorce! But, let’s pretend for a moment that he was. What change would you want to see in your world? What would you do differently? If you could have a “do-over,” what would it look like? This is an opportunity for you to define what would be different in your world. How cool is that?
I’ve always been an optimist, and this is obviously an optimistic perspective. If you are naturally a pessimist, (as in the type of person who would look at my “change” coffee cup and pronounce it half-full at all times!), I ask you to humor me and follow this train of thought.
Say you didn’t sign up for the divorce. You thought you had signed up for “until death do us part.” This “change” isn’t a part of the vision you had created for yourself. This wasn’t supposed to be a part of your story.
Say you don’t like change and don’t want change. You like being married. You like where you live. You like the comfort in your life. You like your routine. You like your children living under the same roof as both of their parents – every day. You like spending every Christmas with your kids (and the thought of “every other” is horrifying). You essentially “like” your life.
But, now it’s changing. Someone or something has caused a change. You can’t control it. You can’t stop it. Perhaps you have tried. Perhaps you have valiantly fought to stop the change, but like the sun setting and the sun rising each day, the change still happened, regardless of what you have tried to do.
I speak with many people who refuse to accept the change that their divorce brings, even though it’s inevitable or even though it has already happened. These people appear stuck. They aren’t moving forward. What happens when you refuse to accept change? It happens anyway, doesn’t it? Then what? We are left watching the world go by, leaving us hoping for how things used to be, but that’s a naïve thought.
Other people I speak with, while unhappy with the prospect of change (and unhappy at the prospect of being divorced), understand the need to ultimately embrace the change. These same people deal with their anger, their grief, and their sadness, and then ultimately say, “OK. This is my new life. Deal with it!” And then, they frequently find that this initial unwanted “change” brings new, unexpected, and even better changes into their lives! New opportunities! New jobs! New friends! New homes! New relationships!
And then, the best part is when they say, “I would never wish what I went through (my divorce) on my worst enemy, but I am soooo much happier now than I ever was before. In retrospect, this has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Trust me when I tell you that I have heard this on many, many occasions.
“One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage
to let go of what you can’t change.”
Don’t fear change. It’s going to happen anyway. Ride the wave of change. You may discover something greater than you ever anticipated!
What about you? How did you successfully navigate through change? What did you do with your “do-over?”
My latest for eHarmony … Thankful …
Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher
It’s Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year when we put a bit more focus and attention on what we are thankful for in our lives. I love the quote above by Swiss philosopher Amiel. He distinguishes between “thankfulness” and “gratefulness.” I love the distinction. Thankfulness is words; gratefulness is acts. Gratefulness is what we do when we are thankful for who and what we have in our lives.
As I reflect at Thanksgiving, here’s my stream of consciousness as to what I am thankful for this year …
I am thankful for my faith and the comfort it brings me, my wonderful husband and all the love, laughter, and adventures he has brought to our lives, my teenage children and the lessons they teach me daily, my amazing mother and the strength and fortitude she has modeled for me, my church and the welcoming environment it provides to our community each week, my extended family and the fact that while we may not see each other frequently we are still always there for each other, our good emotional and physical health which should never be taken for granted, my two rescue dogs and the unconditional love they show us every day, the school my kids attend and the many teachers who have played such an important role in helping me to raise kids with good values, my life-long friends and new friends who remind me daily that no matter how busy life gets, we all need our ‘girlfriend’ time to restore our hearts, minds, and souls.
There’s more … I am thankful for moving this summer and reducing the number of hours I spend sitting in traffic each day, for a positive relationship with my ex, for fall football, for the amazing experiences and life changing awareness I am gaining through participating in my community leadership program, the love of reading, my phenomenal business partners, my iPhone, the ability to give back to others and to role model that for my kids, the impact of “The High Road Has Less Traffic,” traveling to places I’ve never been, looking through photo albums and revisiting happy memories, testing my comfort with being uncomfortable and stretching outside my comfort zone, soft blankets, and hot soup on a cold day, Starbucks, the beach, talks and walks with friends, Lake Oconee, my kids’ baby books, hot summer days, blue skies, big smiles, belly laughs, Survivor, high heels, pedicures, new adventures, comfortable routines, the power of prayer, and the beauty of forgiveness.
What I love about this kind of reflection is that it makes us aware of the big things and the little things for which we are thankful. Yes, of course, I am incredibly thankful for my health and my family. I don’t want to take any of that for granted. But, it also forces me to take time and reflect on the “little” things for which I am thankful like soft blankets and long walks. The list could go and on and on … and reading (and re-reading it) makes me smile.
I demonstrate my gratefulness by waking up each and every day with the intent to treat others with kindness and make a difference in the lives of the people I meet. It becomes a personal challenge each day to impact at least one person. Kindness rocks!
It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.
I encourage you to put your own list together. Stream of consciousness! Where does it take you? What are you thankful for, and more importantly, how are you demonstrating your gratefulness?
My latest for eHarmony! Bon appetit!
“Don’t you hate it when you are hoping for microwave timing and God seems to have your situation in the crock pot?”
This one hits close to home! And goodness, I can certainly relate. It drives me crazy when I’m ready for something to be “over and done” and it’s still simmering away, taking it’s time before it’s completed. We live in a microwave world. We want things fast. We’re in a hurry. We don’t like waiting. Instant gratification is our desire.
We apply this same microwave thinking to our personal lives and our relationships.
I have a friend going through a tough time with her daughter. She just “wants the whole thing to be over with” so they can “move on.” She wants the healing to be complete, not giving full credit to the healing that takes place only through the passage of time. “Why can’t I just snap my fingers and make all of this go away,” she asks rhetorically. She knows that isn’t possible, but recognizes that it sure would be easier.
Another friend is reeling from the sudden loss of her father. It was totally unexpected. She doesn’t want to endure all the “firsts” that are occurring in this year following his death. She simply wants this year to pass by quickly so that all the firsts are avoided. She wants to “microwave” time so what should take a full 365 days feels like it takes less time. Dealing with each special day is just difficult and emotionally taxing.
Then there is my other friend who is in year three post-divorce. She feels like she has given time to her healing. She believes she’s “done her time.” She’s seen her ex-husband move on. He started dating. Then (gasp!) he remarried. The thing is that she also wants to be in a relationship. She wants to fall in love with the right guy. She doesn’t want to have to date. She’s tired of going on bad first dates. She’s tired of not feeling the chemistry. This dating stuff is hard work and, frankly, can be exhausting. Why does it take so much work to weed through the Mr. Not-Rights in search of Mr. Right? She just wants to have Mr. Right presented to her on a microwave-safe plate.
The thing is that anything worth having usually takes time to develop. Healing takes time. Surviving challenging experiences takes time. Building really strong foundational relationships takes time. Most things in life need to simmer. We need to allow the gift of time to be just that – a gift.
I cautioned my friend who has the situation with her daughter to not “wish her time away.” Yes, it would make the “stressful” things disappear faster, but it also means rushing through another year of her daughter’s life (oh by the way, her last one at home before heading to college). Does she really want to do that?
I try to help my friend who doesn’t want to face the firsts after her dad’s death to welcome those firsts by remembering in intricate detail all of those good times because as the years pass those memories dissipate. I know that my memories of my dad have faded as I now find myself reflecting back on our time together, which unbelievably was over 16 years ago.
I try to find humor with my friend who is in the midst of the dating scene. I tell her she has the best stories to share of her dating debacles, and that she, too, will find Mr. Right when the time is right! She needs to understand and accept that while she would like to microwave the near-instantaneous creation of Mr. Right, it might just be that the crock pot is simmering away and that, when done and ready, the final product will be absolutely perfect.
They say, “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know that time can heal all wounds but I do believe that the passage of time serves to make those wounds more manageable and more palatable.
What do you think? Are there situations in your life where you are hoping for microwave-fast results, when you know deep down that this one really requires the long-term simmering of a slow cooking crock pot?
My latest for eHarmony: Rule #7
“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” ~ Babe Ruth
Those of you have been following this series know that it began when I read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!” What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article?
Today we find ourselves at the final rule. Drum roll please …
Rule #7 – Be on the same team. Being on the same team means that we don’t hold grudges against each other. It means that we are working towards the same goal, not pulling in opposite directions! It means that even when we are upset with each other, we are still rowing in the same direction. In my opinion, the cornerstone of being on the same team means you forgive one another.
Forgiveness is a huge point for me. I love to write and speak about forgiveness, and the quote by Gandhi referenced below is one of my favorites. We are going to be wronged by people in our lives. That is inevitable. How we respond to being wronged says a whole lot about our character.
Rule #7 says we always have to be on the same team. It’s all about moving forward. More importantly, it’s about moving forward together. Rule #7 says that even when we get upset with each other, as we inevitably will in our relationships, that we stay on the same team.
Remember, this article series is all about the 7 rules for marriage that will keep you out of a divorce attorney’s office. It seems fitting to end with a rule that brings in forgiveness. Relationships are hard work. Marriage is hard work. Things are going to happen that require us to offer forgiveness. Choosing to offer that forgiveness is huge. Offering forgiveness when we have been wronged doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to hold the person accountable for whatever he or she did. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. It does mean that when we offer forgiveness, that we aren’t going to play the movie reel over and over again in our head of how that person wronged us. It means we are going to release ourselves from that pain. That is exactly why it takes a really strong person to find forgiveness. Anyone can hold a grudge. It takes a strong person to forgive and truly desire to still play on the same team.
Many people who are reading this article series are looking to get back into a relationship. They want to find that person who is destined to be their life partner. For many of those people, they are back in the dating game after a prior failed relationship. Perhaps that prior relationship ended on a bad note – something happened that requires forgiveness – and you aren’t quite ready to forgive yet. Here’s what I will say: Rule #7 says that one of the ways to stay solid in your relationship is to stay on the same team, and practice forgiveness. I will apply this to the world of dating and take it one step further. One way to find a solid new relationship is to make sure that you aren’t carrying any baggage from a prior relationship. No one wants to deal with your ongoing anger and angst over something that happened in your past.
Forgiveness is an amazing thing. I don’t think I would have had a chance at meeting the man who is my husband today if I was still angry and bitter at my ex. I was able to honestly embrace the power of forgiveness, and I wholeheartedly believe that is what opened the path for me to meet the man to whom I am now married.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
What do you think? Is forgiveness an essential part of being on the same team?
My latest for eH! – Rule #6
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ~ Helen Keller
I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!” What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been there; done that. No more, thank you very much!
As I read through their list of the 7 “rules,” I found myself nodding my head up and down. I agreed with the list. I decided that the 7 “rules” would make 7 really great articles and here we are already at #6. If you missed the rest you can find them here: Rule 1, Rule 2, Rule 3, Rule 4, and Rule #5.
Rule #6 – Know that you won’t always be happy. Anyone who enters into a serious relationship thinking that everything will always be sunshine and roses is going to be very disappointed. Life happens. There are highs and there are lows, peaks and valleys, ups and downs! To falsely believe that you will always be happy is to set yourself up for tremendous disappointment, and frankly, an inability to handle the downs of a relationship when they do happen.
Sometimes the happiness disappears in a relationship because of relationship issues themselves. Other times, the happiness can disappear because of issues not in the relationship per se, but because of issues that impact the dynamic of the relationship and the intrinsic happiness of the individuals in the relationship. This could be one person losing his or her job. It could be one person dealing with a serious injury. It could be the stress of dealing with a child who is ill.
Regardless of the source of the stress or the unhappiness, how it is dealt with is of utmost importance. Recognizing and accepting that things will happen in our relationships that bring us sadness, or at least reduce our happiness, means that when these things happen, we are better prepared to skate through that season until we find contentment again.
When unhappiness finds you, do you retreat inside of yourselves and try to survive on your own, or do you lean on each other for support? Do you shut down, or do you open up? Do you batten down the hatches in your own survival mode, or do you recognize that two can be stronger than one?
Many people think that having to deal with unhappiness isn’t good. Most of us try to avoid being unhappy. The reality is that dealing with stressors in our lives, and dealing with periods of unhappiness, can actually serve to bring us closer to those who are important to us. When we are unhappy, we tend to be more vulnerable. That makes us more “human” and people respond to being needed and want to be helpful. When we are unhappy, we rely more on others. No longer are we invincible by ourselves, but rather we find we need to rely on others for support. This can actually serve to make our relationships stronger.
Think about it! Two parents dealing with a troubled teen. They can choose to shut down and fold into their own angst, or they can become partners and talk about how they are going to handle it together. Two lovers dealing with an unexpected bump in their road. They can choose to ignore each other and feign independence, or they can decide together how best to deal with this “issue” as a duo. Two spouses dealing with an unexpected financial crisis. They can process their stress and grief independently, or they can turn to each other for emotional support.
Most people don’t want to be operating in a cloud of unhappiness for extended periods of time. Those couples who recognize that stress is part of the natural cycle of life are going to be the stronger couples who survive that stress, and not the ones who are crushed under it’s weight. Those are the couples who choose to incorporate those moments as part of their story. They focus on what happened, and how they got through it together. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story in between!
“The happiest people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.”
What do you do think? When unhappiness comes along, how do you react? Turn in, or reflect out?
Here’s my latest for eHarmony – Rounding the Corner!
“It will always be okay in the end; if it’s not okay yet, then it’s not the end.”
I had coffee with a friend last week. She told me about her niece who is going through a nasty divorce. Her niece is angry. She’s hurt. She feels as if her life is over and that she will never be happy again. I know that in the moment it definitely does feel that way. It’s easy to think that life is over. It’s easy to wonder if you will ever be happy again. I encouraged my friend to tell her niece that she will “round the corner” and find happiness again in her future. I’ve seen it happen to practically everyone I know who has been through some sort of tumultuous situation. They ultimately “round the corner” and find peace and happiness again.
I love that term. I get a really great visual when I say it. I see someone coming around a very dangerous and scary curve, and then once they round the corner, it’s a straight-away along a beautiful flat paved road heading towards a perfect blue sky. Not sure why, but that’s the visual I see.
I had lunch with two colleagues the other night. As it frequently does when a group of women get together, our conversation turned from simply professional dialogue and friendly niceties, and transitioned to more vulnerable and connecting conversations. One shared how her ex-husband had cheated on her, and now three years later, she was just beginning to re-enter the dating world. She shared how she had been so blind-sided and hurt by his unfaithfulness that it had taken her a while to recover. Then she uttered the words I love to hear. She said, “But … I’ve rounded the corner and I’m so thankful that he did that to me. I am so much happier now than I ever was before.”
The other colleague began to share her story. She had once been engaged. Shortly before the wedding, her fiancé shared that he had cheated on her. They postponed the wedding, and tried to work through it together, but she discovered that he was still cheating on her with the same woman. What?!?! Needless to say, she was devastated, and called off the wedding for good. It took her a while to get her groove back after being hurt so badly. She is now dating again and in a wonderful relationship with a great guy. She said, “I was so angry and ruined emotionally. I never thought I would trust anyone again, but here I am now, happier than ever.” She, too, had “rounded the corner.”
I spent several hours many years ago with a neighbor who had been through a brutal divorce. I ran into her at the grocery story a few weeks ago. We passed each other in one aisle and it was obvious we were both trying to place each other. I love the irony because by the time we literally rounded the corner in the next aisle we both recalled each other. “How are you?” I asked. You guessed it. She said, “I’ve rounded the corner and I’m doing great. Life is really good and I’m so happy being independent.”
Rounding the corner doesn’t just apply to surviving divorce. It applies to any challenge that life presents to us. For many of us, not getting into the college of our dreams, or surviving the loss of a job, or dealing with the death of a parent or a dear friend may throw us for a loop. We may wonder if we are ever going to get our groove back. I read in my devotion this morning that faith is blind trust that everything will be okay again. That’s a great description. We all need to believe that and have faith that we will eventually round the corner, and when that happens, we will look back on whatever lessons life threw at us, and be able to learn from them, grow from them, and move on from them.
For some people, rounding the corner just comes with the passage of time. For others, it comes from talking with a therapist, a minister, or a good friend. For others, it comes through intense self-reflection, and a desire to look towards a new horizon in the future as opposed to being stuck treading water and being sucked backwards.
“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.” ~ Ellen Goodman
What about you? What unwanted and unwelcome lesson did life throw at you? Have you rounded the corner yet?
My latest for eHarmony … Helped Me Grow
“The best lessons are the ones we learned the hard way!”
Yup! My divorce sucked (that’s the best word for it). It was a really, really bad time in my life. If you have ever been through a divorce, or a really bad breakup, you can likely relate. It’s not an experience I would wish on my worst enemy. But, always an optimist, I can say that my divorce helped me grow. Hindsight is 20:20, right?
The period after a divorce, or after a big breakup, can be a time of tremendous personal growth. Some people say, “But I don’t want to grow … I want my relationship back,” but life happens, and many times the breakups and the heartbreaks we endure are handed to us unilaterally. It’s what we do with those lessons that really counts. It’s those lessons that help us to grow, and like it or not, growth is good.
Regardless of whether you wanted (or needed) any more opportunities for personal growth in your life, it pays to reflect on these experiences when they do happen to you (and they will!).
1. What did I learn as a result of that breakup? It’s really tragic when you go through some kind of breakup and fail to learn anything from it. There is always a lesson to be learned. It may be a lesson about what kind of person you dated/married. It may be a lesson about the kind of energy, focus, and priority you expected in the relationship, or the level of energy, focus, and priority you accepted in your relationship. It may be a lesson about what part of your authentic self you were willing to give up in exchange for that relationship.
2. What was my part in the failure of that relationship? If we go through any sort of failure and don’t turn the mirror around and look at what role we played in that failure, we lose out! It’s called personal accountability. It’s recognition that it takes two to tango. I have had people say to me, “I had absolutely no part of my breakup. He cheated on me. He left me.” Yes, I get that, but … don’t you think you can still look in the mirror and come up with some sort of accountability in the failure of that relationship? It may be as simple as “I picked the wrong guy,” and even that is an acceptance of your part of the failure, and taking that as a lesson learned may mean that you avoid picking the wrong guy again and again in the future. We’ve all seen people who date (and break up) with the same clone of a person over and over, right? Ask yourself, and answer yourself honestly, what could I have done differently or better in that relationship? And, will you take that lesson and apply it to your next relationship?
3. What did I rediscover about myself after the breakup? So often we give up a part of ourselves in our relationships … particularly in those relationships that ultimately fail. Don’t you think there may be a correlation between failure in a relationship and those relationships where we aren’t true to ourselves? Can you think of a relationship where you either intentionally or inadvertently gave up things that were important to you? Did you give up on people, or things, or activities that used to be meaningful to you? One way to successfully move forward after a breakup is to rediscover those passions that you may have repressed while in that relationship. It can be very rewarding and fulfilling to rediscover your hobbies, your interests, your talents. Did you stop hanging out with certain friends because your “other” didn’t like them? Did you stop engaging in a certain hobby because it took too much time away from your “other?” Did you give up on fulfilling your own dreams in order to help your “other” pursue his/her dreams? When you are true to yourself, you will naturally become more authentic and more confident. These lessons learned may enable you to not sacrifice yourself in future relationships.
“You cannot erase the past. You must let it go. You cannot change yesterday. You must accept the lessons learned. From lessons learned come better life.”
What about you? How did you grow after your breakup? What lessons did you learn? What did you rediscover about yourself?