Brave! – Here’s my latest article for eHarmony … April 2014.
I just read a book that I have to write about. In fact, I think every single woman should read it. If you are a widow, it’s for you. If you have been through a divorce, it’s for you. If you have friends who are widowed or divorced, it’s for you. Anyone who has experienced a “loss” will be able to relate to this book and will get lost in the stories. Do I sound cliché if I say, “I laughed, I cried…?”
Written by Sue Mangum, “Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self” is the story of six newly single moms who write about the worst event in their lives. Three of the six women found themselves widowed, and the other three found themselves confronting divorce. None of this was part of anyone’s “plan” for how their lives would play out, but as we all know, our “plan” often fails and we have to come up with contingency plans pretty quickly.
There are several things I loved about this book.
One, it wasn’t just six sad and tragic stories of six different women. The substance of the book comes from a year’s worth of emails that were exchanged amongst the women as they looked to create a safe space in which to grieve. They called themselves, “Single Moms After Loss: Talking Advising Healing Laughing Crying” or SMAL TAHLC (small talk!) for short. Nothing was off limits – which led to many of the tears that I shed, and the laughter that I shared – as I related to things with which they were dealing. The stories are crafted together in a brilliant roller-coaster of a ride.
Two, I loved how I nodded my head in agreement over and over as I read the book. I truly felt like I was a part of the group, or sitting around chatting over coffee with these women. I haven’t been widowed, but I have been divorced. I remember things I felt and thought during my divorce. To read these same issues being addressed by these women provided honor and validity to these emotions. We aren’t alone in going through life’s trials and tribulations. Others have forged a path. We can learn from each other. There’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, and you gain strength from seeing others persevere, survive, and thrive. It gives you hope and faith to see others travel through such dark times and come out alive and vibrant.
Three, I loved how no subject was off limits. These women address the questions that I know went through my mind, and so many other women with whom I speak. Things like: “Will I ever have sex again? (heck, I even have a whole chapter in my first book about this one!), “I thought I was religious, but is there really a God?,” “When should I tell my children that I’m dating?,” and “Wow…I’m happy…is that allowed?”
Aren’t all of our lives a soap opera? It was fascinating to gain an inside perspective in so many areas … often times like slowing down to watch the car wreck on the side of the road! I learned new things too. The divorced women shared “insights” as the widowed women started to date … often times “trusting” men who were still married, but who assured them that it was “just a technicality.” As we learned, that’s not always the case! Then there were the well-meaning friends, who just didn’t get how insensitive they were being! These were the women who were still married (and hadn’t endured the grief of losing a spouse to death or divorce) who said things like, “You are so lucky you get to do what you want when you want and don’t have to report back to anyone,” or “You are so lucky that you get ‘free’ time whenever your ex has the kids … what I wouldn’t give for some time alone!” I know I heard things like that when I got divorced.
If you are looking for a quick read, and an inspiring and relatable story, this book is for you. I bonded with the women in the pages of this book, and loved it when each ultimately accepted her new reality, and in several cases, discovered what Life 2.0 had in store for them. Yes, happiness is allowed, and you will find it again!
My latest for eHarmony:
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” -Albert Schweitzer
If ever I have had my own light go out, it was during my divorce. It was completely snuffed out and I was left in the dark. It was very dark. Lonely. Sad. But certain people entered my life and gave me a spark that served to rekindle my light, and before I knew it, my light was back at full power … and then some.
I love the quote I started with by Albert Schweitzer because it speaks to being grateful to those who have helped to relight our flames. Our own light can go out for so many different reasons. It doesn’t have to be from divorce. It can be through death of a loved one. Dealing with a sick parent or child. Losing a job. Heck, even just getting sucked into the winter doldrums and feeling like we have nothing to look forward to can make our light start to flicker.
Have you ever stopped to think about those people for whom you are grateful because they have helped to rekindle your flame? My list was (and still is) huge! To me, there are three categories of these people!
One, there are the people who were there before, during and after whatever crisis was serving to dim my light. These are the people we typically think of and turn to when life gets tough. My mom. My best friends who I see all the time. My best friends who live across the country and whom I only see every few years. These are the people who have truly “done life” with you! They know all the back-stories; they know all the relationships; they know all the underlying soft spots, pet peeves, and weak points … and they love you unconditionally in spite of it all.
Then there are the people who enter your life at a certain point and intersect with you for a specific period in time and then leave again. Have you ever wondered what purpose they play? Were they only supposed to play a short, but important, role in helping you to rekindle your flame? These people really don’t know much about you. They don’t necessarily know the “real” you or the “whole” you, but they are able to pierce through all that and they seem to know what to say and when to say it! Perhaps they are more bold and honest with us because we don’t have a history, and likely don’t have a future. There is less at risk. We love their honesty and often times they are the ones who are able to get us jump started!
Lastly, there are those people who enter your life at the time of crisis, make such an impact, and rekindle such a huge light for you that you know they will forever remain a fixture in your life. I tend to think that friendships which are forged during times of great change and stress are stronger. I think that’s why I feel like I am able to pick right back up with friends from middle school and high school, often times more quickly than I am with contemporary friends where the friendship was forged as adults. As a teen, you go through so much together. It builds a bond. I think the same goes for contemporary friends who go through a life-changing experience with you. It’s no longer building a friendship over bunco and dinner out with the spouses every other month, but rather building a friendship over an affair which leads to divorce, or over the sudden illness and death of a parent. This is real stuff – this is life done together – not just idle chatter about “The Bachelor” or Justin Bieber’s latest antics.
As I think back over the people who helped me to rekindle my light, I am incredibly grateful. The “old” friend who made sure she was at my side during pivotal points in my separation when she knew the shock of it all would be overwhelming. The “period-in-time” friend who had herself gone through a divorce and who helped me through the process, then left my life. My “new” friend who on the first day we met had me in stitches with her sarcasm and her prediction for what my future would hold, and to this day remains a dear friend. I am grateful for each of them.
It is important to be intentionally grateful for the people in your life who have helped to rekindle your flame.
More important, however, is your intention to be sure that you are lighting other people’s flames yourself. Do you try to be that person who helps to rekindle other’s flames when their brightness and luminosity are starting to fade? Do you lend a listening ear, send the sweet card, offer the joke to make them laugh, buy them a coffee, watch their kids for a few hours, go for a walk with them, or simply find some other way spark their light? Think about it: whose spark have you rekindled lately?
Think of it this way: “When you find yourself in the position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person’s prayer through you. Remember: Our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others, so that they may find way through us.”
My latest for eHarmony:
Phew! It’s over! We enjoyed, survived or merely observed another Valentine’s Day. This isn’t going to be another post about the significance (or the dread!) of the day. We all know that for some people, this day brings chocolate, roses, and sappy cards. For others, this day brings a sense of loss as we watch others celebrate their love when perhaps we don’t currently have our own Valentine with whom to celebrate. For others, it’s just another day with no significant meaning.
I fall into the last category. I’m not a big Valentine’s person. Never have been. When I was married, it was never a big celebration for us. When I divorced, it was certainly never a big deal for me. Now, I’ve remarried, and it still isn’t a big deal. I’ve always said, I would rather feel your love for me every day of the year through your words, your thoughts and your actions, than have you give me chocolate or roses on one particular day of the year because that is what “society” dictates.
LOVE is what I believe Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s about love – not just romantic love, but rather friendship and family love.
Remember when we were kids and we had to make sure that we brought a Valentine’s Day card for every single kid in our class? My kids still had to do that when they were in elementary school. In fact, the teachers would send home a class list so that no one was forgotten. No child was “left behind!” Here’s a thought … if Valentine’s Day is just about romantic love then why would we teach our kids that we are to romantically love more than one person as a time? Why we would labor over those shoeboxes, wrap them in red and pink construction paper, and bring little Valentine’s Day cards and candy to every kid in the class!?! Talk about a mixed message! No, instead, we encourage our kids to show love to everyone in their lives (or at least their classrooms). I love that and wish I had always been that open with my love.
I used to be very protective of my “love.” Telling someone I loved them was reserved for my mom and dad, my nana, my husband, and my kids. I didn’t freely share “I love yous” with others who were important in my life. I’m not sure when that changed … perhaps when I went through my divorce and realized how important love – not just romantic love – but supportive friendship and family love can be. I began sharing “I love yous” more freely, and it feels good. I began telling my friends how much I love them. I began telling my new extended family how much I love them. And, as we learn in the Bible, I do my best to love those who have wronged me.
When was the last time you told a friend that you loved him or her? Try it! You may laugh when you say it! Or you may say it more casually. “Luv ya” says the same thing but conveys a different meaning than “I. Love. You.” It’s like the Bud Light commercial from several years ago … “I love ya man!”
Next time you go to hang up the phone with a friend try this – as you are starting your goodbye, simply say, “love ya, mean it!” See what happens! I’ll be willing to bet you get a “love you” right back! Goodness knows this world needs more love being shared. We shouldn’t be treating love like a precious commodity that needs to be conserved and doled out sparingly. Love feels good! Not just Valentine’s Day love. Not just romantic love. But that all-encompassing feel-good love that comes from people who are important to you in all areas of life.
Did you try it? Did you get the reaction you expected?
Here’s my latest published in LA Family! August 13, 2013 … I Want to Know Why!
“There’s more to getting to where you’re going then just knowing there’s a road.”
~ Joan Lowery Nixon, In the Face of Danger
I met a woman the other day whose husband recently told her that he wants a divorce. She feels as if the carpet has been pulled out from under her, and she’s still trying to keep it all together for the sake of her kids, yet she’s fearful, angry, scared, and lonely. I remember that period and I hated it. My heart breaks for her.
We talked for a couple of hours. As you can imagine, it was a circular discussion — two steps forward, one step backward, as she tried to figure out proactively what she needed to do next, yet simultaneously becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of it all and the realization that her marriage was indeed over.
“I just want to know why.” was the one statement she kept repeating over and over. “I just want to know why he left … I just want to know what happened … I just want to know what went wrong …I just want to know when he made up his mind that he was leaving.”
I remember being in that same place of wanting answer for questions that really didn’t have concrete answers. This isn’t as simple as “Why was the baseball game canceled? Because it was storming outside,” or “Why are we not going on our family vacation? Because we spent our vacation fund putting an addition on the house.” Those questions have answers. You may not like the answers, but they are answers nonetheless.
There isn’t always such a clear answer to the “I just want to know why our marriage is over” question, and I think frequently we focus too much on trying to find that answer. We get sucked into finding an answer to that question. This woman was spending so much time searching for answers to “why” that she wasn’t moving forward with “now what.” She was at an absolute standstill. At the end of the day, the “why” was that her husband was having an affair and wanted to spend the rest of his life with the other woman, but that didn’t satisfy her need to know “why” at deeper levels. Her “whys” focused more on “why did this start, why did he keep seeing her, why did he love her more, why did he lose interest in their marriage …” and on and on.
Would it be great to have answers to all these open questions when we find ourselves faced with a marriage that is ending and a pending divorce? Yes, probably! It’s always nice to be able to tie things up in a neat little bow and have everything accounted for. Is it realistic? Absolutely not! Is it dangerous to focus on getting these answers? Most likely, yes!
I asked this woman whether anything would really change if she knew the answers to her multiple questions of “I just want to know why?” Would anything truly change if her husband were able to answer these questions? Would it make her feel better? Would it soothe the hurt that she was feeling? Or, would it simply exacerbate the situation? Would she become obsessed with finding the antidote to his reasoning? Would she lay awake rehashing what she could have / would have / should have done differently?
Sometimes we really don’t need to have the answers to every question. Sometimes we just need to move forward with faith that things will get better, and we need to spend our energy focusing on moving things forward with positive momentum. Sometimes we need to find peace in our heart to accept that we aren’t always going to understand why things happen.
I pray that this woman finds the peace to let go of her search for answers as to “why” her marriage ended. Note, this is different from asking questions to learn, improve and grow from this experience. This is different from not finding your own accountability in the process of divorce (see my prior HopeAfterDivorce.com post Accountability). This is about not becoming stuck in the search for answers to unanswerable questions to the detriment of moving forward positively. This takes time; trust me, I get that. It’s all part of the healing process. But, at some point we need to stop asking 12 levels of “why,” stop focusing on the “if only” and the “what if’,” and instead begin to focus on our own healing.
What about you? Are you stuck in the “why” zone? Are you asking questions that have no real, tangible answers? Are you at a standstill because you keep telling yourself that once you find these answers then you will be ready to move forward? Do you really believe that?
Here’s my latest post for DivorcedMoms.com … Too Nice?
“Being nice to someone you have an issue with doesn’t mean you are fake … it means someone taught you how to be polite.” ~ author unknown
“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” ~Samuel Johnson
Is anyone dealing with the challenges of co-parenting who is told by their family or friends that they are “too nice” to the other parent/former spouse? Since when was being nice considered a negative trait? And why do people think that being unfriendly is a more productive strategy?
This is interesting to me. Sure there are hurt feelings in a divorce. That’s probably a huge understatement. In many cases, especially those involving adultery, one party typically feels incredibly violated and dishonored. It’s natural to not want to “be nice” to individuals who are disrespectful to us. And therein lies the conundrum. Since we have children together, I am going to be dealing with my ex- for the rest of my life and being mean is not going to accomplish anything positive at all.
Acting the opposite of “nice” means acting “mean.” Why in the world would I want my young kids to see me acting mean to their dad. Kids can be so black and white in their thinking. They quickly categorize things – good/bad, fun/boring, nice/mean. They don’t have the maturity to understand that some people may feel that “mean” is merited. They simply see one parent being mean to the other, and that does nothing but create guilt and confusion.
I don’t want my kids to see “mean,” and frankly “mean” is much less productive than “nice.” What’s the saying? Something like, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Being “mean” has a direct impact on the future ability of my ex- and I to make decisions and communicate about the best interests of our children. If all of our conversations are tainted with hatred, bitterness, and sarcasm, how are we going to effectively communicate about the people who are most important to us, namely, our children? Frankly, it’s stressful to be mean and condescending, and who really has the time for that?
I tell my well-meaning friends who tell me that I’m being “too nice” that being nice doesn’t mean you become a doormat and let people walk all over you. It doesn’t mean that you become a puppet at the whim of the other person. It doesn’t mean they get to take advantage of you. It does mean that regardless of what the other person has said or done, or what he will say or do moving forward, that I am going to respond with respect. If some people define that as being “too nice,” then so-be-it.
At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to picking your battles. There are times when I need to be more assertive, or more emphatic to make a point, and when I do need to go there, it’s received with more acknowledgment because every piece of communication hasn’t been rooted in “meanness.” But I’m a firm believer in the fact that even assertive and emphatic communication can still be delivered respectfully.
I’ll continue to take being “too nice” over being “too mean” as a compliment. More importantly, I’ll role-model an assertive and respectful “too nice” for my kids any day of the week.
What do you think? Have you ever been told you were “too nice?” Do you agree that “too nice” is not equivalent to “door matt?”
Here’s my latest blog post for eHarmony: What Other People Will Think
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” ~ Steve Jobs
In my last post (Should You Follow Your Head or Your Heart), I talked about my friend who was falling in love with a guy she only met three months ago. Things were getting serious pretty quickly, and she felt she was walking a tight rope between following her heart (which was telling her to jump in with both feet and surrender to her emotions) and her head (which was telling her that she hasn’t known him long enough to be feeling this way).
I think my friend knew that following her heart, while not leaving her head behind, was the right answer for her situation. I think she intuitively knew that this was the right decision for her. She should move forward. She knew it was right.
But … what followed was, in my opinion, the real crux of the issue. She asked me, “But what will people think?” My response, “Who cares!?”
She was very worried about what other people might say about how quickly she was moving with this guy. Well-intentioned friends might make assumptions. People who use their head more than their heart might impose a superficial timeline of how long you should date someone before taking it to the next level. Envious friends might not be as supportive or might try to steal her joy. My friend was being cautious about introducing her “boyfriend” to others for fear of the judgments they might make about her. Ridiculous? Yes! But, also more common than we like to believe.
Why do we let what other people might think impact the decisions we make? Why should my friend care what the general masses think? Why should she be worried about what people might be saying behind her back?
I saw this recently with another friend as well. She is dating a guy and is starting to become more interested in him, but she doesn’t like how he dresses. He bought some new shoes, most likely in an attempt to please her as she is pretty fashion conscious, but “he wore them with the wrong pants.” She was really bothered by this. “So what?!,” I asked, “If he’s this great guy who is really kind, and sincere, and treats you well, who cares if he wore the wrong pants with his new shoes?” “Well,” she replied, “What will my friends think?” Again, who cares!?
I think Steve Jobs nailed it in the quote above: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Why do we worry more about what other people will think about us, or the relationships we are in? Why don’t we focus more on what we think about our relationships and how we are being treated? We need to listen to our inner voice more and follow our intuition. We shouldn’t be doing things like entering into relationships for the approval of others. We should be doing things like entering into relationships for our own approval (and love, and joy, and all that good stuff).
What about the flip side? Are you the friend who judges and tries to impose your beliefs and ideals on someone else, or do you support them in following their heart (as long as they are bringing their head along with them)? Do you try to impose your opinion so loudly that you are successful in drowning out their inner voice?
I had to deal with some of this same stuff when I started dating my boyfriend (now husband) several years ago. Some people thought we were moving too quickly. Others thought it was “too good to be true” and cautioned me about pending disaster. Even I had some consternation about telling people how serious our relationship was becoming for fear of what they might think and say.
But, my heart knew it was right. My intuition told me to go for it. My head found nothing to reject. I had to tell certain friends that I appreciated their concern because I knew it came from a place of love, but then I also had to ask them to stop trying to “steal my joy!” That worked!
What about you? Do you worry more about what other people will think, or do you follow your own intuition? Are you a friend who is supportive or who steals others’ joy?
My latest blog post from DivorcedMoms.com … Be Strong!
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Say someone has done something that you don’t like. You get angry. You get mad. You think about it constantly. It keeps you up at night. You can’t seem to let it go. You brood about it. You may turn to vices to help you get through it. You remember every detail of the ‘infraction’ and you relive it and rehash it over and over. All this serves to do is create stress and strife in your life. It affects your health. It affects your emotions. Is it worth it?
Can you think of a similar scenario in your life? I am willing to bet you can and it has something to do with your divorce. Am I right?
You Have the Power to Forgive:
Forgiveness is a selfish act. Think about it. When YOU choose to forgive someone, it’s a decision that YOU make, and then YOU feel better. The other person doesn’t have to give YOU permission to forgive. The other person doesn’t have to accept YOUR forgiveness. YOU alone are in control of having the power to decide to forgive. How awesome is that?
People say to me, “I’m not ready to forgive yet because I don’t want that person to get away with it (whatever ‘it’ might be).” There is a popular misconception that if you forgive someone that it means he isn’t going to be held accountable for his actions. That is actually irrelevant.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hold that person accountable.
It doesn’t mean that you are going to let that person walk all over you.
It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for his actions.
It does mean that you are choosing to not dwell on it every day and let anger consume your every thought.
We all know how difficult it can be to say those three little words, “I am sorry.” Anyone with children knows how difficult it can be to get one sibling to apologize to the other for the normal acts of sibling rivalry.
As parents, we also need to teach our kids a different set of three words: “I forgive you.” Our kids need to learn and understand the power of forgiveness early on so that they learn to not hold anger inside. Teaching your kids about forgiveness is an amazing gift you can role model for them. Teaching them about forgiveness by role-modeling it in the context of your own divorce (and perhaps in the context of co-parenting these same kids for which you are being a role-model).
How to Forgive:
I am repeatedly asked, “Please teach me how to forgive.” I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. I want everyone to feel the liberation and peace that comes with forgiveness. Some people like to “own” their anger. They make it a part of their life story and frankly enjoy carrying the burden. I think that’s a crazy load to carry. I tell people that forgiveness will happen if they are open to dropping some of the anger and looking forward to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.
Arguably the best-known scholar on forgiveness is Lewis Smedes (1921-2002). Smedes was a professor of Theology and a renowned Christian author who wrote the incredibly popular book, “Forgive and Forget.” He said, “Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love’s power to break nature’s rule.”
A more modern-day quote on forgiveness came from Tyler Perry when he 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.”
The power of forgiveness allows you to feel peace. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still going to face noise, trouble or hard work. It does mean you can be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.
Are you ready to forgive and start walking forward? Why not? What is stopping you? Don’t you want to be calm in your hear? It’s life-changing, and you can do it!
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!
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 is my latest article written for Womenetics.com.
Many years ago, I was climbing the corporate ladder – rapidly! I loved my role, loved supporting my client organization, loved the people with whom I worked. I had great responsibilities and teams relying on me to get things done. A normal day at the office was challenging, hectic and invigorating. Then, all hell broke loose at home when I got the news that my dad had cancer and only a few months to live.
Several years ago, I was in the midst of executing on a strategic plan to grow my business. I had just brought on two business partners. We were poised for growth, then we started to feel the rumblings of the economic downturn. We turned up the heat. We maintained our focus on generating new clients and expanding our service offerings with current clients. Then the rumblings turned into a full-scale economic downturn. Still, we pressed on. Then, all hell broke loose at home when my husband announced he was leaving me.
As women, we are used to multi-tasking, taking care of everyone else and keeping it all together professionally. But what happens when all hell is breaking loose at home? What happens in our professional world when our personal world begins to unravel?
It is so easy to lose your footing in that moment of personal crisis. Suddenly, the path on which you felt so firmly and deeply rooted becomes completely unstable. I know I felt as if I was hanging on for dear life to a rope ladder perched between two sides of a raging river. Every cliché seemed to fit. I felt as if the rug had been pulled completely from under me personally, and I felt as if all the balls I was balancing in the air in my professional world were about to come clattering to the ground.
It’s virtually impossible to separate the personal from the professional. And, as women, I think we naturally tend to carry the stress with us. It tends to consume us 24/7 as we figure out how we are going to solve the problem.
The downside is that carrying those emotions to work can interfere with our ability to execute successfully on our professional responsibilities. This can damage what may have taken us years to create. I worked for years to build my reputation and brand inside corporate America. I worked for years to build a successful and growing company. The question becomes, “What can we do to minimize the impact of all hell breaking loose at home when we are at work?”
I found I needed help with my children. When friends would say, “Let me know what I can do to help,” I would say, “It would be great if you could watch my kids for two hours while I get some errands done (or went for a run – see #1 above!). They were only too happy to be able to do something to help!
From personal experience, I can tell you that having a professional outlet can be a saving grace when all hell is breaking loose at home. It gave me something to focus on and become immersed in besides the personal problems at hand. I have witnessed other women, who don’t have this outlet, become all consumed by their chaos at home.
There is something to be said for having a professional life to add balance, add contrast and add perspective. At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping your head in the game and being where you are needed, when you are needed! Isn’t that what we do best – prioritize and juggle our competing priorities?
More from Monique Honaman:
Find out what drives Honaman, what differentiates her company from other leadership consulting firms and the best piece of advice she’s ever been given.
Is no marriage entirely “divorce-proof”? Though she’s happily remarried, Honaman offers her perspective on taking the high road during the trying process of separating from a spouse.
Honaman and her partners are redefining what “coaching” means. With their GUIDE appraoch, they give business leaders the tools to help their employees grow.
Monique Honaman is the founder of ISHR Group which provides leadership assessment, development, and coaching services to Fortune 500 clients globally. This article is based upon the book, Guide Coaching: Building Alignment and Engagement in the Workplace written by Honaman, and her two business partners, Stacy Sollenberger and Ellen Dotts. The book is schedule to be published later this year.