How Apologizing Can Improve Your Marriage

Recent studies have found that apologizing to your spouse and asking for forgiveness are crucial ingredients in a successful marriage. Apologizing to your partner when appropriate will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on from mistakes.

Rather than pointing fingers in an effort to identify who is at fault, humbling oneself and confessing to the words or behavior that have caused your partner pain, upset, or harm can go a long way toward strengthening your marriage. It’s not about who is right or wrong if it’s a matter of your being “right” at the expense of causing pain to your spouse.

Jake feels resentment and anger towards his wife Erin since he found out that she spent some their savings on a down payment for a vacation with her sister. Over the past month, Jake has shut down emotionally and he’s been giving Erin the silent treatment. After their second couples counseling session, Erin apologized to Jake and his positive feelings and goodwill toward her are slowly being restored.

Jake puts it like this: “Erin says she deserves a nice vacation with her sister Caitlin but I was resentful that she didn’t tell me about it and it drained our savings. But now that she said she was sorry in a sincere way, I’m beginning to see that she made a mistake and is still the love of my life.”

When Erin was able to confess her wrongdoing and ask Jake to forgive her, this had a positive effect on his ability regain trust and had a healing effect on their marriage.

According to experts, the capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love. Forgiving others and yourself is necessary for achieving healthy relationships. It is about being willing to acknowledge that you are capable of making mistakes, of being wounded, and can also risk being vulnerable.

Why are apologies important?

Often people equate apologizing with weakness and it’s widely believed that if you apologize to someone you’re making yourself too vulnerable. However, apologizing can also be seen as a strength because it shows you are able to show goodwill toward your partner and it promotes forgiveness. Studies show that forgiving someone is one way of letting go of your baggage so that you can heal and enjoy a better quality of life.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness is about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve. In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman explains that couples who are emotionally attuned can fully process and move on from negative emotional events, forgive, and ultimately create a stronger relationship. In other words, couples who are able to give sincere apologies to each other can rid themselves of the toxic hurt and shame that holds them back from feeling connected and emotionally attuned with their partner.

You may stubbornly hold onto the belief that you have nothing to apologize for – especially is your hurtful behavior or words were not intentional. However, apologizing to your partner is a key aspect of a successful marriage because it allows you to let go of large and small transgressions.

If you do apologize to your partner, be sure to do it in the right way that does not include excuses for your actions or words. Not all apologies will be the same but most will contain some of the following elements.

  1. Identify two reasons you feel sorry for the hurt that your behavior or words caused your partner. Gaining awareness of the emotions you experience about your own past hurt can help you feel empathy for your partner. Ask yourself: why did I feel the need to behave in a way that caused my partner pain or upset? Was my behavior intentional?
  2. Accept responsibility for your hurtful actions or words. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.” One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. Dr.’s Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.”
  3. Use the words “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” when you apologize. Your apology will more likely be heard and accepted if you use these words. Be specific about exactly what you did to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass your partner.
  4. Explain to your partner how you plan to repair the situation (if this is possible). For example, if you said something to hurt your mother-in-law’s feelings, you might offer to apologize to her over lunch or by writing her a note.
  5. Describe why you said or did what you did without making excuses or blaming your mate or someone else. Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements can help you avoid the blame monster. For instance, you might say “I yelled at you because I had an awful day and need to go back to work. I very am sorry for treating you this way” rather than “You promised to have dinner ready at 6 pm and it aggravated me when you didn’t keep your promise.”
  6. Ask your partner to grant you forgiveness. Be specific about your actions and words that need to be forgiven. Be sure to do so when the setting is conducive to a private conversation and there aren’t any distractions (TV, cell phones, children in the room, etc.).
  7. Don’t let wounds poison your love for your spouse. Be vulnerable and don’t let your pride cause you to hold on to being “right.” Discussing what happened with your spouse and taking responsibility for your actions will allow you to let go of resentment so you can improve the quality of your relationship.

Apologies are an essential ingredient of a strong, healthy marriage. Accepting that you and your mate do the best you can will help you be more understanding. This does not mean you condone his or her hurtful actions. You simply come to a more compassionate and realistic view of your spouse.

When you acknowledge your flaws – the things that make you human – it means that you can be vulnerable with your partner rather than allowing your fear of rejection or failure to overwhelm you.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness are about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve – unhampered by hurt and recycled anger. It is about choosing to live a life wherein others don’t have power over you and you’re not dominated by unresolved anger, bitterness, and resentment.

Follow Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPostDivorce.com



6 Signs Your Partner is Good Marriage Material

Who we choose to marry is one of the most important and costliest decisions a person will make, yet it’s not uncommon for lovers to make errors in judgment. Why does this happen? One reason is that most of us aren’t raised with a healthy template of marriage to follow. We also lack self-awareness and may be afraid of ending up alone.

Another factor is unrealistic expectations of marriage because we grew up in the first generation for whom divorce continues to be accepted and common. According to author Pamela Paul, lots of marriages seem to be trial marriages and people tie the knot with the notion of “If it doesn’t make me happy, I’ll just move on.” Since more and more individuals grow up in divorced homes where they witness divorce being the solution to marital problems, they may not approach marriage with a thoughtful mindset.

Unfortunately, many of us marry without obtaining critical information about our partners. For instance, we may not know that our father-in-law is a substance abuser or that our mother-in-law has a family history of mental illness. Sadly, we may put our faith in someone who we fall in love with blindly and fail to ask some of these crucial questions.

5 questions to ask potential marital partners:

1. Who are their parents? Include questions about marital history, mental illness and substance abuse, etc.. Don’t shy away from asking questions now that may blindside you later. It’s better to be forewarned because some qualities have a genetic component.
2. What is their typical way of dealing with conflict? Don’t assume that your partner has good anger management skills. Does he/she usually take responsibility for his/her actions or blame someone else? Do they tend to stonewall or withdraw from conflict or see it as an opportunity for growth?
3. How does your partner feel about having children? How many children do they consider the best number if they want them? Do they believe that couples should share chores and childcare responsibilities?
4. What are their values and beliefs about infidelity?
5. What is their view of divorce? What would they consider a good solution to a period when your marriage is rocky?

Perhaps the first step in deciding whether a person is a good risk for marriage is to get clarity around “deal breakers” and “deal makers.” It’s crucial to know those things that are important to you from the list above (or other questions) and to not compromise too many of your values and beliefs.

There is no such thing as a perfect partner. You might want to ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way that he/she treats me that makes me a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship?

Looking to the experts can help you gain clarity about marrying the best person for you. In particular, Mira Kirshenbaum’s book “Is He Mr. Right?“ offers a valuable model for looking at compatibility. One of the central premises of her groundbreaking book is that chemistry is the best way to figure out if someone is right for you. Surprisingly, she’s not just talking about sexual chemistry but also the feeling that you enjoy being around your partner and have fun together.

5 Dimensions of Chemistry according to Mira Kirshenbaum:

1. You feel comfortable with each other and it’s easy to get close. In other words, you feel that you can be yourself.
2. You feel safe in the relationship. Your partner can take care of him/herself, and you feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest with your partner.
3. It’s fun to be together. Kirshenbaum writes, “Couples who have this dimension of chemistry going for them have a shortcut to intimacy and a buffer against the stressful times we all face.”
4. You have real affection and passion for each other. This is where sexual chemistry comes in and it should go hand and hand with affection.
5. You feel there’s real mutual respect. You accept, admire and respect each other for who you are. Kirshenbaum posits that if you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.

Are you wondering if you are wasting your time with the wrong person? It’s understandable that you’d have a need for certainty before continuing to pursue the commitment of marriage. However, don’t panic and jump into a commitment because you believe that the clock is ticking or most of your friends are married.

6 signs your partner is good marriage material:

1. You admire your partner for who they are as a person. You like and respect who he/she is and how they carry themselves through the world. If you can’t respect the way a person lives their life, let alone admire them, it’s hard to keep any relationship going.
2. Your partner is trustworthy because they keep agreements. Their actions are consistent with their words. When you share something personal you trust they will keep it to themselves.
3. He/she makes time for you on a regular basis. They make you a priority because they value your relationship. Even when he/she is swamped, they make time to spend with you. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that they’re thinking of you.
4. Your partner is comfortable talking about the things that interest you and asks you questions about your hobbies, friends and family. They appreciate you for who you are right now and aren’t trying to change you.
5. He/she makes you feel good about yourself. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He/she values you and gives you compliments and praise.
6. You share a vision. Sharing a dream for your life together can help you gain a healthy perspective. When couples possess a shared vision, the inevitable ups and downs of marriage are less bothersome. Creating a larger context of meaning in life, can help couples to avoid focusing on the small stuff that happens and to keep their eyes on the big picture.

If you feel that your partner is the right person for you but you still fear commitment, you might want to consider the following: Know that no relationship is conflict free, but you are worthy of having a relationship that makes you happy. If you aren’t there yet, embrace where you are now. What is it that holds you back from achieving a satisfying relationship? And once you have it, what will you do when you get there?

The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. In any relationship, you will face ups and downs and your love will be tested. However, where admiration and respect are found, love will be sustained. But where these things are absent, love will die. Finding a partner who likes and respects you as much as you do him/her will give you the best chance of finding long-lasting love.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Facebook, Twitter and movingpastdivorce.com where you can order her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship

This blog appeared previously on HuffingtonPost.com



Divorce Advice: 3 Tips to Help You Overcome Fear of Loneliness

Of all the anxieties that are regularly induced by an impending divorce, those centered on loneliness are, in my experience, the most profound.

With this in mind, I recently commissioned a survey that saw our company contact more than 2,000 people who had been divorced for at least three years. My intention was to produce a study that would dispel such concerns with cold, hard facts. While the survey did reveal a number of positive statistics, though, it was within a few select pieces of qualitative feedback that I believe the most important, calming and poignant findings lay.

Here are the three best pieces of advice divorcees had for anyone worried about finding themselves isolated as a result of their divorce:

“The best things in life happen when you’re least expecting them”

As simple as this statement is, it resonated with me. Most of the very best things in my life came about not as a result of concerted and consistent efforts but from simple circumstance and coincidence.

Yes, there are things we need to work for: our job, home and most material items, for example, but the beginnings of relationships – whether romantic or otherwise – just seem to happen. They certainly need to be maintained once established, but those with real long-term potential tend to be easy at first.

So, don’t worry about meeting someone new. Go about your life, enjoy yourself and allow things to find you!

“You need more than a partner to be happy”

I know from personal experience that it’s all too easy to become overly-reliant on your spouse – particularly if you have children. What I also know is that this left me feeling dissatisfied – a feeling I know friends who found themselves in similar situations have shared.

Ultimately, we’re social creatures and we need a broad circle of friends to remain happy as a result. Indeed, it’s certainly noteworthy that there’s no reason someone can’t be happy and single – and this is largely because of the presence of effective support networks comprised of friends and family.

“You can view your anxiety as a reason to be fearful or excited”

This particular piece of advice was truly unique and not only made me rethink the negative emotions associated with divorce, but feelings of anxiety in general.

By simply choosing to reframe our emotions, we can turn those that would otherwise be debilitating into something empowering. The anxiety so often brought on by a divorce can, for example, be seen as excitement for our future lives post-divorce rather than something to fear.

This is a piece of advice has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback when I shared it with clients; it’s truly enlightening and it goes to show just how powerful positive thought can be.

Conclusion

While it’s far from unusual for divorcees to worry about meeting new people, such concerns are largely irrational.

If you need more convincing, our survey revealed that:

  • 84% of respondents stated that they were much happier following divorce than prior to it;
  • 73% of respondents were now in long-term relationships; and
  • 23% were now co-habiting with their partners.

So, whether you prefer personable advice or cold, hard data, it’s clear that you needn’t fear post-divorce loneliness either way.

Author bio:

Jay Williams is employed by Quickie Divorce, an online services provider dedicated to improving the divorce process in the UK.

 

 



Post Divorce: 3 Keys to Letting Go and Moving On

By Karen McMahon

The season of divorce often feels like we are living on a battlefield as we avoid explosive mines, shield ourselves from incoming attacks and occasionally toss emotional grenades at the other side.

My divorce lasted 3 ½ years, engaging in the battle became my normal way of being for over 40 months.  When my divorce was final, I had to consciously step into a different way of being in order to let go and move on.  Here are a few things I learned and would like to share with you.

Take Off Your Divorce Armor

It is essential that we ‘armor up’ when entering divorce – most especially when it is a high conflict divorce.  At a minimum, this requires us to raise our boundaries to protect ourselves.

For instance, we reevaluate what a healthy level of trust in our soon-to-be-ex looks like.  Perhaps everything he or she says is not to be blindly believed and agreed upon.  Choosing when and how to engage is part of our armor.  Protecting our privacy, personal activities, finances and strategies may all be part of this divorce armor.

Once the divorce is final, much of our uncertainty melts away and it is time to let go and move on. 

We know the exact figures of our equitable distribution, spousal maintenance and child support.

We know the shared parenting schedule we’ve agreed to and the checks and balances we’ve put into place to handle co parenting difficulties.

We know how our ex behaves, what triggers us and what to expect in our engagement with him/her. If we have done our inner work, we have stepped into acceptance of ourselves, our ex and our circumstances. We are free of our old baggage and ready to move forward.

Disarming ourselves means consciously choosing to ‘stop fighting’ so we can let go and move on.  This is where ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is immensely valuable.  If you are co parenting and your ex is hyper focused on being on time or alternately, often late…expect and accept that this is his/her typical behavior.  Plan for it rather than react to it.  Let go of the ‘it’s not fair’ (it isn’t…but neither is much of life) and engage with what is.  He or she may be telling your mutual friends a story about your divorce that you don’t agree with.  You have no contol over what is said or done, so let it go.

Disarming is noticing the ‘dance’ that the two of you have done for years while married and then through the battle and consciously choosing to step away from it.  It involves creating new healthier responses to your ex and investing your energy away from ‘us’ and into ‘me’.  Which brings me to the 2nd Key:

Shift Your Focus

Your future is an empty canvas ready to express your dreams and desires.  Your past is done, complete and requires none of your attention.

The Windsheild is significantly larger than the rear view mirror –  Likewise your focus should follow a similar ratio – very little on the past and keen attention on the present and future.

Focus is where so many get tripped up.  If you are still watching what your ex is doing, who he/she is dating, how much money is being spent or what time with the kids involves, you are wasting your vital energy which would be better invested in creating your now and future.  If you cannot control it (and you cannot!), let it go.

This is YOUR TIME!  Time to move on! Focus on your new friends, the interests you put aside to attend to your spouse and kids, dust off your dreams of fitness, hobbies, and travel and begin creating your new normal.

If you have kids, use the time they are with their other parent to enjoy resting, socializing, exercising and dating.

If focusing on yourself is difficult, the problem is an internal one.  It is NOT out there, but rather between your ears.  This too is an opportunity.

Begin to explore why it is so difficult to focus on yourself. Perhaps you have been a caretaker all your life and are lost in this new freedom.

What support do you need to begin to strengthen yourself in this area?

If you are hearing excuses in your head such as, “I am too old, too poor, have no friends, just want my old life back, don’t have interests or hobbies…”, it is time to recalibrate!

Which brings me to the 3rd Key

Intentionally Create Your Next Chapter

Begin small and realistic and grow into your greater dreams.  You can and will create the life you desire IF you believe it.  It is that simple.

Have fun with this.  A great exercise is to journal about what you desire and get microscopic in your detail.

What is an ideal day or weekend in your post divorce life?

Want a new job or career?  What does it look like?  Don’t go directly to job searching.  First search your heart and scan your experience.  Once you are crystal clear on what you want to do, you are ready to begin talking to people and searching for it.

If you had no fear and no obstacles, what would you create in your new life?

What does your ideal partner look like?  What do you want and why?  Getting clear on the person you would consider your soul mate is always the first step.  Describe all his/her attributes and describe the flow and essence of the relationship as well.

If your housing is temporary, use the exercise above to find the home of your dreams.

As yu do this exercise, you may watch your mind go to all that you don’t want.  No worries, just start there and then turn every negative into a positive – this in and of itself is a great exercise to begin shifting your mind to a constant positive focus.

Life post divorce is not perfect.  It will be difficult at times yet can be immensely more pleasing than your past.

The beauty is you are free to let go, move on and determine what your new life will look and feel like.

The more you believe in your power to manifest your life’s next chapter through thought and action, the quicker you will move in your desired direction.

We actually never arrive – because life is a journey.  Don’t wait for the destination.  Enjoy the ride.  Learn from it. Get charged by it. Let it blow your skirt up!!

Always pass your wisdom onto your children so they can stand on the shoulders of your struggles and experiences.

Let go.  Move on.  See positives in both the difficult and the delightful.

 Note:  If you feel unprepared for this next leg of the journey, there is no better time than now to begin the work that will free you from past unhealthy behaviors and further upset and set you on a brilliant journey into your new and more pleasing normal!  Get started here

 Karen McMahon is a Certified Life Coach and Founder of Journey Beyond Divorce.  She began divorce coaching in 2010 after recognizing that the agony of her dissolving marriage had led her on a transformational journey into an incredible new life.  Karen and her a team of professional coaches have created a 21st Century Divorce Support Membership Site which has supported scores of men and women to navigate their divorce with greater ease.  Start your trial month here.



After Divorce: Choose Pro-Active vs. Reactive Parenting

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Parenting is never easy. The challenges are enormous. Decisions are rarely black and white. How much should you indulge your children? When do you step in on sibling or friend-related battles? How much can you trust other parents watching your child for sleepovers and play dates? How tolerant should you be regarding food and eating issues? When should you step in with discipline? When are you crossing the line with punishment? The questions and decisions are infinite, emotionally challenging and hard to resolve.

All of this is life as usual for parents in a traditional marriage. When you add the component of divorce to the mix, the waters are considerably more muddied. And many divorced parents find themselves in the position of questioning their true motives when faced with parenting decisions.

What about you? Are your behaviors influenced by your feelings about your former spouse? Are you responding based on your child’s best interest – or reacting based on revenge, spite, anger or other “I’ll show them …” validations for “getting even”?

When your child’s well-being is at stake, these are questions you need to reflect upon. Your answers can have serious consequences.

Pro-Active Parenting means you make decisions based on the circumstances and how they will directly influence your child. Is this a good parenting decision? Is it protecting my child, supporting their growth, allowing them to learn valuable life lessons without endangering them in the process?

Reactive Parenting comes into play when you make decisions based on reacting to your former spouse instead of acting in the best interest of your child. You are playing “tit for tat” rather than being a pro-active parent. A good question to ask yourself before making any parenting decisions is: Would I have made this same decision on behalf of my child if we were still married?

If you would, then chances are good that you are coming from a place of clarity. If you are being influenced by hurting your ex, getting back at them, creating obstacles for them in accessing or influencing their child, you are likely being a Reactive Parent. Your motives come into question because the best interest of your child often is secondary to competing with or getting revenge against your ex. Sadly, your child is the one most harmed in the process.

When faced with making decisions about holiday activities, summer vacation, attending the school concert or neighborhood soccer game, are you thinking first about how your child would like things to be? Are you seeing the world from their perspective for a while? Are you basing your decision on creating a win-win outcome for your “family” – or trying to wield power over your ex to keep them out of the equation? It’s often easy to justify being rude or uncooperative, too tired or too busy to share the kids with their other parent. But are you remembering who is really being hurt by your behavior?

By practicing Pro-Active rather than Reactive Parenting after your divorce, you are giving your children the best hope for a happier and more positive future. It’s worth the time, the consideration and the awareness about choices you make. You’ll be a better parent in the end. And your child will thank you when they are grown!

*     *     *

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right! and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues,  go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

© Rosalind Sedacca   All rights reserved.



Reality Isn’t What You Think! How Cognitive Distortions Harm Us

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

We all see reality through a personal lens shaped by our beliefs, culture, religion, and experiences. The movie Roshomon was a brilliant example of this, where three witnesses to a crime recount different versions of what happened. When couples argue, they usually can’t agree on the facts of what happened. Additionally, our mind tricks us according to what we think, believe, and feel. These are cognitive distortions that cause us unnecessary pain.

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or perfectionism, your thinking can skew your perceptions. Cognitive distortions reflect flawed thinking, often stemming from insecurity and low-self-esteem. Negative filters distort reality and can generate stressful emotions. Thoughts stir up feelings, which in turn trigger more negative thoughts, creating a negative feedback loop. If we act on our distorted perceptions, conflict ensues that can give rise to unintended negative consequences.

Cognitive Distortions

Being able to identify cognitive distortions builds our capacity to be mindful. Some are listed below:

  • Negative filtering
  • Magnification
  • Labeling
  • Personalization
  • Black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking
  • Negative projections
  • Overgeneralizing

Self-Criticism

Self-criticism is the most pernicious aspect of codependency and low self-esteem. It distorts reality and your perception of yourself. It can make you feel guilty, flawed, and inadequate. Negative self-talk robs you of happiness, make you miserable, and can lead to depression and illness. It leads to negative filtering, which itself is considered a cognitive distortion. Self-criticism produces to other distortions, such as magnification and labeling, when you call yourself an idiot, a failure, a jerk, for example. (For 10 specific strategies for working with the critic, see 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism.)

Shame underlies destructive or chronic self-criticism and causes many cognitive distortions. You might find fault with your thoughts, words, deeds, and appearance, and perceive yourself and events in a negative manner that no one else would. Some beautiful and successful people see themselves as unattractive, mediocre, or failures, and cannot be persuaded otherwise. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.)

Magnification

Magnification is when we exaggerate our weaknesses or responsibilities. We can also inflate negative projections and potential risks. It’s also called catastrophizing, because we’re “making mountains out of molehills” or “blowing things out of proportion.” The underlying assumption is we won’t be able to handle what will happen. It’s driven by insecurity and anxiety and escalates them. Another distortion is minimization, when we downplay the importance of our attributes, skills, and positive thoughts, feelings, and events, such as compliments. We might magnify someone else’s looks or skills, while minimizing our own. If you’re in a group sharing, you might think everyone’s pitch was better than your own. Stop comparing. It’s self-shaming.

Personalization

Shame also underlies personalization. It’s when we take personal responsibility for things over which we have no control. We might also blame ourselves when anything bad happens as well as take the blame for things that happen to other people – even when it’s attributable to their own actions! We can end up always feeling guilty or like a victim. If you’re plagued by guilt, it may be a symptom of toxic shame. Take steps to analyze and free yourself of guilt. (See Freedom from Guilt: Finding Self-Forgiveness.)

Black and White Thinking

Do you think in absolutes? Things are all-or-nothing. You’re the best or the worst, right or wrong, good or bad. When you say always or never, it’s a clue that you may be thinking in absolutes. This involves magnification. If one thing goes wrong, we feel defeated. Why bother? “If I can’t do my entire workout, there’s no point to exercise at all.” There’s no gray and no flexibility.

Life is not a dichotomy. There are always extenuating circumstances. Situations are unique. What applies in one instance may not be appropriate in another. An all-or-nothing attitude can cause you to overdo or miss out on opportunities to improve and gradually attain your goals––how the tortoise beat the hare. Exercising for ten minutes or only some muscle groups has big health benefits, compared to doing nothing. There are health risks to overdoing, as well. If you believe you have to do everyone’s job, work overtime, and never ask for help, you will soon been drained, resentful, and eventually, ill.

Projecting the Negative

Self-criticism and shame generate anticipation of failing and rejection. Perfectionists also distort reality by assuming negative events or negative outcomes are more likely to occur than positive ones. This creates tremendous anxiety about failing, making mistakes, and being judged. The future looms as a dangerous threat, rather than a safe arena to explore and enjoy our lives. We may be projecting the unsafe home environment from our childhood and living as if it were happening now. We need to recruit a loving parent within us to shine the light of consciousness on our fears and reassure ourselves that we’re no longer powerless, have choices, and that there’s nothing to fear.

Overgeneralizing

Overgeneralizations are opinions or statements that go beyond the truth or are broader than specific instances. We might form a belief based on little evidence or only one example. We can jump from “Mary doesn’t like me,” to “Nobody likes me,” or “I’m not likable.” When we generalize about a group of people or gender, it’s usually false. For example, to say “Men are better at math than women,” is false because many women are better at math than many men are. When we use the words, “all” or “none,” “always” or “never,” we probably are making an overgeneralization, based on black-and-white thinking. Another overgeneralization is when we project the past onto the future. “I haven’t met anyone dating online,” so, “I won’t ever,” or “You can’t meet anyone through online dating.”

Perfectionists tend to overgeneralize by making global, negative attributions about themselves and about their negative projections. When we don’t measure up to our rigid, unrealistic standards, we not only think the worst of ourselves, we expect the worst will happen. If we spill our water at a dinner party, it’s not just an embarrassing accident; we’re mortified, and certain we made a clumsy fool of ourselves. We go one step further with a negative, projection and overgeneralize to imagine that everyone thinks the same, won’t like us, and won’t invite us again. To overcome perfectionism, see “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism.

©Darlene Lancer, 2018 All rights reserved

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You

Ebooks:

10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

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310.458.0016

 

 



What Your Children Need Most From You After a Divorce

After a divorce, children are prone to confusion, anxiety, sadness, and even anger. At such an early stage of life, it’s hard to process big changes. Something as significant as a divorce is almost certainly going to hit them hard.

They look to you for comfort and guidance, and it’s paramount that you have it ready for them.

No one’s suggesting it’s easy. But it is possible, and well worth the effort.

Here are the things your kids will need most from you after your divorce:

  1. Positivity

Even a mediocre attitude from a parent can become a breeding ground for a child’s doubts. They’ll need support from you–cheerful, optimistic, joyful support.

You probably won’t feel like it very much. In fact, you may not at all. Still, your kids need your smile, even when it’s hard to put on. They need you to give them hope for the future, even when you’d rather brood.

Save your sadness, your stress, and especially your anger for the appropriate audience. Yes, you’ll need to get it out, but your kids shouldn’t have to bear the burden.

For your kids, you must be a beacon of comfort. It isn’t easy, but it is right.

  1. A Stable Life

This is another one that can be tough for you. Keeping your kids out of your divorce means not interrupting their lives. The best way to do that is to provide them with a stable life.

In the wake of a divorce, you may be tempted to reset your whole life and start over. Your kids need the opposite.

A divorce is a major shakeup, especially in a young person’s life. It’s important to minimize any further changes. You want to keep their lives humming along on as smooth a track as possible.

Ideally, that means keeping them in the same home, social circles, and school.

It also means maintaining as much of their old habits as you can. From play dates and sleepovers to sports and more, they need as familiar a schedule as possible.

Help them form new friendships, too. Do whatever you can to encourage healthy social activity.

  1. A Unified Parenting Plan

We understand you probably don’t want to spend too much time with your ex. No one does.

But whether you like it or not, you and your former spouse must give your children balanced parenting. That means coordination–and cooperation.

Your kids will be dealing with enough confusion as it is without having to navigate conflicting parental styles. Work with your ex. Find common ground on how to raise your children.

You may not agree on everything. That’s okay. Take the time and effort to reach a compromise.

Remember: you aren’t doing this for yourself or your ex. You’re doing it for your children, and they’re worth the hassle.

  1. Constant Reassurance

It’s tough to overdo this one.

You know the divorce isn’t your kids fault. You know that it doesn’t affect your love for them. You know it all–but don’t assume your kids do, too. At least, not on their own.

Kids can be masters at hiding their feelings. Don’t wait for them to broach hard subjects. Ask them. Talk to them. Make sure they know they can always come to you and find an open line of communication.

Make sure they believe it.

You want them to bring their troubles to you the moment any pop into their little heads. No hesitation, no worry that they might be bothering you. Straight to mom or dad for answers, comfort, and boundless love.

You might think that’s the situation already. It may be, but it’s worth reinforcing again and again.

It’s not something you can remind them of too much.

  1. A Childhood

Childhood is about more than just being young. It’s playing, laughing, and running around with friends. It’s pizza parties and hide-and-go-seek.

It’s freedom, fun, and all the giggly joy they can stomach.

It’s lots of hard things, too, and it must happen in the right context. Plenty of rules and structure are important. But don’t let a divorce leave only the structure, only the rules, and only the tough love.

More than ever, your kids need to romp and play and have a blast. Divorce changes a lot, but it doesn’t make them something other than children, and every child needs a childhood.

A lot of that happens on its own, but they still need some help from you. That alone will go a long way to soothing any aching little hearts.

Deborah Bankhead is an Attorney at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Deborah believes compassion and patience are required of family law attorneys and she is a relentless advocate for families in crisis. In her spare time, Deborah volunteers to help teens interested in the legal field pursue their dreams and likes to hang out with her cat.



10 Ways to Steer Clear of Partners Who Are Wrong for You

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Many people who are in unhealthy relationships ask themselves “Why do I attract partners who are all wrong for me?” Or, “How can I be sure to recognize destructive patterns in relationships and take steps to change them?”

Claire, a client who sought help with making better choices in romantic partners put it this way: “I have an instinct to “fix” every guy I date. My sister says I’m co-dependent and I say I tend to rescue troubled men. But when I try to turn their lives around it usually backfires — they break up with me. How can I change this dynamic?”

When I met with Claire for our second session I asked her: Ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way your partner treats you that makes you a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship?

Too many of us settle for less than we deserve because we are afraid of being alone. If this is your tendency, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.

In my Huffington Post blog “7 Reasons Why It May Be a Good Idea To Stay Single” I write: “Very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Growing up, most of us weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. Everything we see in the media promotes how to find the right partner and make it work. But being alone can propel us to grow and learn about ourselves.”

The question of what’s more important in a healthy, long-lasting relationship — chemistry or compatibility — is a critical one when selecting a partner. Perhaps the first step in evaluating your past and present choices in partners is examining the difference between compatibility and chemistry.

1. Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and stimulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because without it, you are little more than friends. Author Mira Kirshenbaum writes: “But you can’t say you have good chemistry unless you can say “I feel there’s real affection here.”

2. Compatibility: Is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other: it helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.

If you find yourself attracted to partners that you don’t have chemistry and compatibility with, you may be inclined to have one-sided, unhealthy relationships. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.

According to relationship coach Lindsey Ellison, we are attracted to romantic partners who fill a void from our childhood. Perhaps repeating patterns from the past is our way of gaining mastering over unfinished business or looking for closure with the parent who wounded us.

Truth be told, women are especially prone to become involved in one-sided relationships because we were raised to be “good girls” — people pleasers who consistently put others needs before our own. Girls are often raised to tune out their inner voice and this can set the stage for one-sided relationships because they look for their partner to validate them.

10 ways to avoid relationships that are wrong for you:

1. Work on your fear of being alone. Many people settle for relationships that are wrong for them because they fear being single. Women are especially likely to feel stigma when they are not part of a couple.

2. Give thought to your deal breakers. According to Huffington Post Divorce editor, Brittany Wong, it’s important to ask yourself “What are your deal breakers – the laundry list of things you simply won’t tolerate in someone you’re thinking of getting serious with?” Try making a list of at least ten characteristics that are essential to you in a partner such as being active or affectionate.

3. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. When you compromise too many of the values that are important to you, these relationships usually fail. Focus on your deal breakers and pick a partner who is someone who you can share a life with and deepen your love with over time.

4. Seek a partner who you feel comfortable with and is easy to be vulnerable with. In other words, you can be yourself and don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.

5. Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.

6. Notice if your partner keeps his/her agreements. Are they someone who you can trust because they demonstrate consistency between their words and actions? When someone is interested in you, they’ll keep their agreements.

7. Make sure your love interest carves out time for you on a regular basis – that he/she makes you a priority because they value your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that they’re thinking of you.

8. Pick a partner who makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his/her inner circle. If something special is going on in his/her life, they invite you and encourage you to come.

9. Seek a partner who you have both chemistry and compatibility with. Even if you meet someone who is not a heart-throb, be patient and see if your attraction grows over time. Look for qualities such as compassion, generosity, and consideration because these are characteristics that describe someone who is a dynamite long-term partner.

10. Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he or she says “I’m not ready for a commitment,” take him or her seriously — they’re just not that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.

The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order our new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

This blog originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com

 



3 Things You Must Do After Your Divorce

Divorce is scary, overwhelming, and challenging. People often panic right after their divorce is finalized because they are officially back on the market and back to being a individual instead of part of a couple. I understand that starting a new chapter is highly intimidating and stress inducing. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

The first year after your marriage can be a restorative one. You will be forced to overcome new obstacles, struggles, and emotions. However, these will all be experiences that teach you new lessons, bring you new friends, and open your eyes to new parts of the world. Even though it may seem scary, you will survive it and come out the other side.

If you’re unsure about what you should do after you file your divorce papers, I’ve got you covered. Here are 3 things to get you started.

1: Get Organized

This isn’t the most exciting first step, but it is a necessary one. Now that your divorce is final, it is important that you contact your divorce attorney and get all the paperwork and legal documents involved with it. Properly stow away bank or tax records that you might potentially need later in life.

Aternatively, put all your divorce papers in a place that you can’t see. Don’t put them in a place that you frequent. Looking at the papers could stir up unwanted emotions. You should also put your final divorce decree in a safety deposit box. It is possible that you’ll need these when you apply for health insurance or other benefits. Be sure to keep an electronic copy as well.

2: Find A New Hobby

After your divorce is finalized, it could feel like you suddenly have all the time in the world. Many people feel lonely and restless. Combat this by finding a new hobby to master. Pick something that you’ve been meaning to try and sign up for classes or lessons for it. It can be anything from joining the gym to learning how to crochet a sweater.

Be sure to pick a hobby that you are genuinely interested in. Go in with the intention to learn and do something for yourself. While finding new friends and potentially a new partner is an intriguing thought, this is an activity that should help you flourish and grow as an individual.

3: Travel to See A Friend

We all have friends that we always say we’ll visit but never do. Make the time now to see a good friend and immerse yourself in a new environment. It will be rewarding to spend some time with an old friend. Indulge in good food, fun experiences, and even a nice hotel. Treat yourself!

If you are unable to visit a friend, I highly recommend taking a weekend trip on your own. Traveling offers lessons and experiences that one can’t learn from anything else. You will learn how to love spending time with yourself. You will also get the luxury of eating where you want, doing what you want, and trying what you want. You do not need to take anyone else’s opinions into consideration on this trip.

It is not uncommon to feel unsure of yourself after going through a divorce. However, instead of feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself or your life, try to remember that you’ve gained a new sense of freedom and independence. Get excited about the new opportunities and adventures that you are going to embark on. Don’t concentrate on the losses, concentrate on the wins. Remember, when one door closes, another one opens.

By Amanda Lin

Amanda Lin is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She enjoys writing about personal relationships, music, technology and more. When she isn’t writing, she is exploring the world and finding new restaurants to try.



One Dad’s Remarriage Journey

By Tommy Maloney

In 2008 I found myself getting divorced after a 6 year marriage. I was well aware of the problems my former wife and I were having. Even the couples therapist was shocked that we were ending the marriage. She was “shocked?”

My first priority was to my son and staying connected with him: since now we would not be in the same household. I learned to be a stay at home dad when the only training was “on the job” training. He and I had such a special bond. The divorce ruined me emotionally.

After the divorce the last thing on my mind was dating. All I wanted to do was cry, feel sorry for myself and figure out what red wine goes best with well, red wine. During this period of time my job was as a contracted software trainer. Essentially that meant I was on the road and only came back every other weekend from the road to see my son.

When my mom remarried, I was not expecting that my “bonus” dad would teach me lessons that I would need later in life. Before I go any further you might be asking what a bonus dad is? A bonus dad or mom is the same as a “step” parent but I have never been comfortable with the label of step. The word step in my mind created a negative image. Bonus just sounds friendlier. Don’t you agree?

My bonus dad moved in with us when I was around 17. He did not lay down the “it’s my way or the highway” rule. That was a huge parenting lesson that I would eventually use. He was very respectful and kind. He never raised his voice to me (or my mom). Just more lessons I would need in my own “tool box.”

My second wife (and current, can I say last as well?) and I met at a meeting that I was invited to. The organization was all about how to promote positive fatherhood in our state of Colorado. Many of the people in that room were running non-profit organizations. In my case, I was just trying to build my speaking business and promoting my first book. This was where I met my future wife.  As I stated previously, I was really not looking to date.

My relationship with my son was very important to me. If I was to date then it could mean time being taken away from my son and I did not want that to happen. Let me get very real here about me and dating. I have never been very good at it because of simply being rejected. When I thought of dating I did not want to date anyone who had kids. Plus this might sound a bit of an oxymoron but if I was to get back into the dating pool: I wanted to go younger. Well, there are no such things as coincidences in my opinion.

The future wife and I ended up at the same conference. This was very cool because I was starting to live my dream as a paid speaker. During the time of the conference, I was not what you call a true man of “faith.” The two of us kept bumping into each other and as I joke today; she was “stalking” me (in a fun flirting way, not a creepy way). Maybe God was “pushing” me towards her?

A month after that event she sent me an email asking if I would like to have coffee and talking about divorce and parenting. I was very honored because I knew my presentation at the conference went over like a lead balloon. Our chat lasted for three hours. The time could of gone even longer but she needed to pick up her daughters.

In 2012 we got married and yes to each other. As I have mentioned, I had skills unbeknownst to me that I would end up needing as I became a bonus dad.

  1. I know this is very controversial for many of you but it really helped our family become a successful blended family. My wife and I agreed that if the kids did not get along then we were not going to move on with the relationship. The first time the kids met we did it a neutral location: outdoor ice skating rink. If they did not like each other than no stress. In our case they did very much enjoy their future siblingness ( I know not a real word but go with it).
  2. As my bonus dad did by setting the tone, I did not set the rules my first day of moving in with the ladies. I let it organically grow. My wife has two daughters and as of this writing they are 21 and 16. The older one and I get along (more on that) and the 16 year old and I get along very well. The ladies and I created our own bonds. I was very much aware that I had to earn their respect not demand it. Again I learned from my own personal experiences with my bonus dad.
  3. I very much took an interest in the girls lives. When they were younger they both competed in gymnastics and soccer. I attend as many events I could.
  4. Have “The” talk. Not that “talk” but the one I am telling you is still not going to be comfortable. The older one needed a ride to church one night. She and I are very much a like in the sense of not liking serious conversations. However, I needed to be a big boy and let her know that I had zero intention of replacing her dad. The talk is about more of being a supporter. All I wanted to talk to her about was my commitment to her and her sister as best I can. Ya, that went over as well as, that balloon thing. I do feel that even if she did not straight up tell me, she understood my love for our family.
  5. Create individual moments. My son and I have our own things that we do together but so do the girls and I. One example was when I would pick up the younger one, she and I would stop once a week to get ice cream. The older one well: I asked to get her permission when it came time to ask her mom to marry me. We went for coffee and I showed her the ring. We both cried that day.

Overall is our household perfect because of the things we have done to become a family? Hell no. Heck, hash tag hell no. However, I truly believe that many of the skills I learned from my bonus dad have helped create our blended family. My son has always come first and back in 2012 he was right there next to me at the wedding.

For you and your family my hope is that reading this blog will help you become a successful family. The true bottom line is that it is all about the kids and their needs.

Tommy Maloney

TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/azG2K47iz4Q

Blog: http://blendingthefamily.com/blog/

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