I Love You Enough

“I love you enough to feed you into the wood chipper head first,” I announced mirthfully to my husband the other night on our way to dinner.

Which got me thinking about all of the ways we express love that are often not interpreted as such.

 

Sometimes love is a sweet hug and a kind word, a welcome home after a long day.

Sometimes love is a playful smack on the butt, an adult version of, “Tag, you’re it!”

Sometimes love is expressed in the little things, the gestures that say, “I see you.”

Sometimes love is found in offering the extra helping and sometimes it’s found by accepting that unwanted offering.

Sometimes love is granting space, giving the gift of time and freedom.

Sometimes love is overwhelming, flooding the senses. And sometimes it’s more like a dull ache fading into the background.

Sometimes love is accepting the onslaught of frustration and unease that often releases once the distressed feel safe.

Sometimes love is a difficult decision that you know will hurt somebody in the moment yet be better for them in long run.

Sometimes love is saying you’re sorry even when you’re still angry and accepting an apology even though you know you’re right. And sometimes it’s admitting you’re wrong.

Sometimes love is enforcing boundaries and learning to say, “No,” as any parent is well aware.

Sometimes love is expressed through frustration, not at the person but the helplessness you feel about their situation.

Sometimes love is letting go and sometimes it’s refusing to release your grip.

Sometimes love is giving in and sometimes it’s about giving someone the confidence to do it on their own.

Love is the action and it’s also the intent.

And learning to see love requires that sometimes you look behind the curtain, that you shelve your initial assumptions and reactions and instead consider that maybe what you’re really seeing is, “I love you.”

And sometimes love is joking that if I ever get angry enough to kill you, I’ll be sure to make it quick 🙂

 

 

 

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Giving Candy to Strangers and Coal to Our Partners

Quick.

Who do you care most about in your life?

Who are you the nicest to in your life?

Be honest, are they the same person?

They’re often not.

You can see this dynamic clearly in teenagers and their parents (especially with mothers and daughters – sorry, mom!), but it happens in romantic partnerships too.

At first glance, it seems counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t love and kindness function in tandem? Ideally, yes. But the reality is often more complex.

I’m not talking about abuse here (here’s a post on that particular dynamic), rather, I’m addressing the more innocuous and unintententional unkindness that can find its way into relationships.

So why do we so often give candy to strangers and coal to our partners?

Safe Harbor

Have you ever had a negative experience during your day that is then transferred to your partner that evening? We can’t say all of what’s on our minds to the boss, to the policeman who issued the ticket or the difficult client. So we unload it later on the one person that feels safe.

After all, they love us. Sometimes that love makes us feel confident that we can treat the poorly and they’ll still be there. And sometimes, we may treat them poorly in order to test to love.

Your partner becomes your safe harbor and that sense of security can lead to an unintended (and often unnoticed) decrease in kindness. It’s easier to always be on your best behavior when you don’t take things for granted. (One of MANY reasons it’s important to not take your partner for granted!)

Stripping Away the Public Self

When we’re out and about in the world, we project our public selves. In many ways, we present how we want to be perceived (after all, strangers only know what we show them). And it can be exhausting. So when we come home, we peel off that mask along with our trousers and slip on the sweats and let the less edited self fly free.

And when we’re relaxed and less restrained, we are more apt to talk before we think. And sometimes the words that come out are far from kind. Not because we aim to wound, but because we fail to check ourselves as carefully when we’re comfortable.

Add to that the history and inner knowledge we share with our closest people and the results can be quite painful.

Apprehension About Vulnerability

Letting it all show can be a scary feeling. And sometimes, we respond to that defenseless feeling by going on the offense. The baring of the underbelly followed by the baring of the teeth as though saying, “I’ll let you see me, but I’ll wound you before you get too close.”

Preservation of Self

Vulnerability isn’t the only fear that can manifest as unkindness; a concern that you’re losing yourself by becoming too attached to another can also result in unintentional hurtful actions. Pushing away instead of taking a step back.

Heightened Importance

And this is really what it’s all about. Our daily interactions with people at the periphery of our lives are fleeting. Hurtful words or actions are more easily sloughed off and forgotten. We don’t bring in the expectations. The fear. The attachment.

When you have two lives intertwined, there will be some frayed edges and some frayed nerves. Things unmeant will be said and actions may not always match the true feelings beneath.

Yes, your partner is your safe space. But that’s no reason to take them for granted and to treat them as such. Be generous in handing out candy to both strangers and your loved ones. Save the coal for those who really deserve it.

 

 

How Not to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

When my writing first left the relative safety of WordPress for the great untamed wilds of The Huffington Post, I was elated. The first post hit big and I eagerly sat down that afternoon to read through the rapidly appearing comments.

And for every comment that made me feel good about myself or sorry for someone else, there were two that seemed to be personal attacks. Soon, the excitement I felt about being published was replaced with a sense of discomfort and malaise.

Yet I kept reading. For months, I dutifully read every comment, every review. I carefully weighed each criticism as though it was coming from a known and trusted source.I tried to answer each barbed question and address each complaint. I grew increasing anxious and melancholy.

And then finally there was one comment that broke me open. A stranger claimed that my ex was right to do what he did because I was always nagging and we never had sex. When he referenced the children (I have none), I finally realized it – he was talking to his ex wife, not to me.

Yeah, I can be a slow learner.

It finally registered that I was the problem. Not these anonymous internet commenters. But me.

I was acting as my own worst enemy.

It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re sabotaging yourself. Quite often, the initial injury does come from some external source. And then we remain focused on that even while we are ones choosing to keep our hands in the fire.

Set Limits For Yourself

Part of my problem with the early comment-reading is that I was allowed myself to become consumed, perspective lost and obsession triggered. In an act of kindness to myself, I limited my exposure to a few times a month and only on days when my confidence was high.

If you have a certain habit or behavior that is causing you distress yet you’re not willing or able to give it up completely, begin by setting boundaries for yourself. Decide how much is too much and stay well within those limits.

Watch Your Internal Narrative

When you’re acting as your worst enemy, you often verbally abuse yourself –  “I’m not good enough to succeed at this.” “I can’t do that.” “They’re so much better than me.”

Would you talk to another loved one this same way? So then why are you using these words against yourself? Here are some tips on how to edit your personal narrative so that you’re treating yourself more kindly.

Be Alert to Your Fears

Self-sabotage is often achored in fear. We would fail because we chose not to try than fail because we tried and discovered that we were not enough.

It’s okay to admit you’re scared. It’s not okay to allow that fear to control your life. Be aware of those areas where fear is dictating your route and work to regain control of the steering wheel.

Accept Your Locus of Control

Always wanting things to be different is exhausting. Strive to classify struggles in your life as inside or outside your locus of control. If it’s something you cannot change, either let it be or work to alter your response to it. Anything else is simply you beating your head against the wall. And we know how that feels.

Have an Awareness of Your Assumptions

When a friend fails to call you at the regular time, are you the type of person who assumes they were busy or do immediately think that something must be wrong – either with them or even more likely, with you?

If you fall into the second camp (which I think we all occupy at times), pay attention to these stories you tell yourself to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Are you allowing yourself to get caught up in the details of stories that may not even be true?

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

What are the situations, people or actions that make you feel good? Which are the ones that make you miserable?

Which do you spend more time with?

Your answer may surprise you. When we’re acting as our own worst enemy, we often sadistically subject ourselves to situations that bring more pain than pleasure. And social media has made this even more commonplace.

Be Careful What You Nurture

Your energy is finite. Spend it wisely. Whatever you nurture, grows.

 

If It Doesn’t Have a Solution, It’s Not a Problem

Do you have somebody in your life that approaches every complaint of yours as a problem to be solved? Who bypasses the details and the nuance in favor of making sweeping diagnoses and proposing a strategy to fix the situation?

I know when that happens to me, I get frustrated. Especially when the suggested “solutions” are far off base or overly simplistic and fail to address the realities contained within.

I get frustrated, but I also understand the motivation. None of us likes to see those we care about struggle and we want to be able to help, to take action.

They want there to be a solution, so they choose to see it as a problem.

Sometimes we grapple with this ourselves. We turn over a situation in our minds like a puzzle box, looking for the entry point that will lead to a resolution. Convinced that if we only searched hard enough or tried enough options, we would be able to solve the dilemma.

We grow frustrated as each attempt falls short. Internalizing the failure. Berating ourselves for failing to change another. Or to alter some external situation.

We want to be able to find a solution, so we choose to view it as a problem.

But if there is no solution,

No answer that we can reach,

No change that we can enforce,

It is not a problem to be solved.

It is a truth to accept.

So before you waste your time trying to find a solution, first make sure that it really is a problem.

 

Top Ten ‘Lessons From the End of a Marriage’ Posts of 2016

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2016 was filled with questions about how to deal with narcissists (and other difficult people), how to create emotional distance from your ex (especially when they have the audacity to remarry) and how to take control of your own life and happiness. All important questions.

Did you miss any of these popular reads?

 7 Reasons Discovering Your Ex is Getting Married is the Worst (and 7 Reasons It’s Not)  Because even though we may not want them anymore, it’s still hard to realize they’re moving on.

Finding Happiness After An Unwanted Divorce It begins with an awful realization – that your marriage is ending and you cannot stop it. Where do you go from there?

How to Accept the Apology You Never Received Often times the people that harm us the worst are the same ones who refuse to apologize for their transgressions. Let that be their problem, not yours.

How to Fall Out of Love Sometimes the relationship ends before your love does. And it’s painful to still love someone who no longer loves you. Here’s how to let go.

Subtle Signs You’re Being Manipulated by a Covert Abuser I felt weird writing this post, expecting people to belittle the signs I saw in my ex. Instead, I was surprised to find that many people experienced similar wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Why “How Could You Do This to Me?” Is the Wrong Question to Ask This piece was inspired by one of The Four Agreements – “never take it personally.” It’s amazing what happens when we can separate someone’s actions from ourselves.

Five Empowering Ways to Recover From Gaslighting Because gaslighting is the worst. Learn how to find your own truth again.

8 Reasons Relationships Move Too Fast (and Why You Should Slow it Down) A lot of people find themselves in a runaway relationship train. This post will help you understand why that happens and give you ideas to regain some control.

Is It Love? The False Dawn of a Rebound Relationship The first relationship after divorce can be powerfully intoxicating. It can also be incredibly damaging. Learn the difference.

Phases of Moving On After Divorce Apparently, I’m not the only one who experiences impatience:) Moving on can’t be rushed and certain things have to happen before other steps can be taken.

 

 

How Being Cheated On Impacts Your Next Relationship

I wish I could say that my first husband’s infidelity has had no impact on my second marriage.

But the unfortunate reality is that, even though my ex has long since been excised from my life, his choices still have an impact. On me and on my marriage.

By understanding how being cheating on impacts your next relationship, you can help to maximize the positive effects and minimize the negative ones. Learn more here.

10 Things Your Decision to Get Remarried Says About You

“A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
 
Samuel Johnson
1 – You’re Optimistic
You’ve been there, done that. And yet you stubbornly believe that it can go better this time. You don’t allow past experience to poison your hope for the future.
2 – You’re Courageous
You’ve made the decision to put your heart on the line again. You know you’re taking a chance and you believe the risk is worth it.
3 – You Trust Yourself
You have faith not only in your choice of mate, but in your ability to navigate through rocky marital waters. Furthermore, you trust that you’ll be okay no matter what happens.
4 – You Don’t Give In To Failure
You got knocked down, but you got up again. You see failure as an opportunity, not a death sentence.
5 – You Know When to Walk Away
You’ve now seen all sides of a marriage and you have a better grasp on when to try harder and when to walk away. You’re more confident in your choices.
6 – You Refuse to Let One Event Define You
You have been though divorce but you don’t see yourself as the divorce. It was simply one chapter of your life’s path. And one chapter doesn’t limit the next one.
7 – You Believe That You Can Have More Than One Love
You’re not limited by the idea of a single “soulmate.” You believe that life can bring with it more than one true love. And that the second one can be even better than the first.
8 – You’ve (Hopefully) Learned From Experience
You have faced the mistakes you made in your first marriage and you have addressed the issues that you struggle with. You’re now applying this wisdom.
9 – You’re Not Afraid of Hard Work
You know that marriages, especially second marriages, require continuous (and often uncomfortable) effort. And that doesn’t scare you. You’re ready to put your gloves on.
10 – You’re Adaptable and Don’t Fear Change
From single to married to single to married, you’ve made many changes. You’re flexible and willing to adapt in order to have the relationship you want.
Be sure to also read 10 Things Your Decision to Stay Single Says About You!

When the Only Way Forward Is to Go Backward

“How are your legs doing?’ another friend asks, knowing that my (knock on wood) final procedures have now been completed.

I find it difficult to answer. The increase in pain and swelling that follows the procedures has now faded, but I am still months away from any improvement.

Because the only way to move the functioning of my legs forward is first to take a step (or several) backward.

The medical term for my diagnosis is venous insufficiency, which basically means that the veins that are responsible for carrying blood back to the heart from my legs aren’t doing their job. Veins rely on a series of valves which close tightly to prevent blood from flowing back down. My valves, instead of being secure doors slamming shut are slack and droopy curtains that do nothing to aid my blood in its battle against gravity to return to the heart. The result? Swollen, painful and tired legs.

The current pathways are faulty and cannot be repaired. There is no amount of exercise or lifestyle change that will provoke my veins to function as they should. The only solution is to remove the malfunctioning vessels and then to allow the body to grow new and healthy routes.

In the short-term, the problem is made worse. After all, minimally functioning veins are better than no veins at all. The swelling is more prominent, the pain and fatigue more pronounced. But in time, improvement is slowly found and optimal functioning is reached.

Backwards to go forwards.


Sometimes relationships develop their own faulty pathways. A suboptimal way of interacting or relating that is laid down out of habit or inattention. As a result, flow is interrupted and there is a backlog of negativity, leading to pain and the swelling of critical feelings.

And sometimes no amount of attention and exercises can modify those malfunctioning patterns. And the best thing to do is to strip them away and to start fresh, relaying new and ideally, healthier, connections.

Backwards to go forwards.

It seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But then again, how much of our suffering in life comes not from our situations, but from our resistance to them? Maybe instead of fighting against an obstacle, we can be better served by finding an alternate course.

Much like a zipper whose teeth are misaligned has to be backed up before it can continue on, a relationship on the wrong path has to be reversed and straightened before continuing. To attempt forward progress without proper alignment only serves to jam the zipper. Perhaps causing irreversible damage.

Instead, a deliberate and careful reversal of course along with careful attention can change the outcome, bringing the two halves together. And in alignment.

Backwards to go forwards.

Going backwards feels unnatural. Often it can be painful. We grow accustomed to the pathways we have developed and even malfunctioning connections feel better than the temporary absence of attachments.

It’s easy to panic, to lose faith in the intention and the process. To think that a step back is permanent and doomed to become an unstoppable landslide.

Which is why is so important to hold a long view. To accept some discomfort today in the belief that it will lead to a better tomorrow. To focus more on the rebuilding than on the dismantling. To trust that new pathways can be forged and with them, more understanding and compassion.

To believe that sometimes the only way forward is to go backward.

And to be grateful for the opportunity to try again.

Fixer-Upper Relationships – What You Need to Know!

What area do you want to live?

How much do you want to spend?

And how much work are you willing to do?

Those are usually the first three questions a real estate agent asks a person in the market for a new house. And perhaps the response to the last is the most telling.

Some people look at house that has some functional deficits or is in need of a complete overhaul as chance to create what they what. A challenge, yes. But also an opportunity.

Others want to move into a ready-made house. Open door, insert family. Perhaps because of limitations of time, money or skill, they are reticent to consider a property in need of renovation to bring it up to their expectations.

Those in the second group usually get their wish at first. They find something brand new and stylish or luck into finding and falling in love with the renovations that previous tenants have undertaken.They quickly add the finishing touches that make the house a home and settle in. And for a time, all is well.

It happens gradually. The AC goes on the fritz. The paint colors no longer inspire. The wood floors start to show some wear and practically beg to be refinished. A passing storm pummels the roof, leaving tears in the once tightly-locked shingles. Or maybe it’s less the structure and more the space. That inconsequential guest bathroom is no longer large enough once the kids arrive. You find yourself cursing that awkward corner in the kitchen.

The house that was once move-in ready has started to demand attention.

To need fixing.

For those that truly fear repair, they may use this as an opportunity to leave the old house and find a new and perfect one.

For those that fear change, they may simply turn a blind eye to the house and ignore its needs (as well as their own).

And the others? They begin to see that at some point and in some ways, every house is a fixer-upper. And that rather than trying to find the perfect house, it’s more about finding the house whose quirks are permissible and putting in some elbow grease to make the rest shine.

Those same contrasting viewpoints follow into the dating world.

—–

Some people are looking for that perfect person with an expectation that if it’s right, it will just work. No effort required. Any sign of cracks or peeling paint is seen as a problem and may result in a new search or a blind eye turned.

I had that view the first time around. And it made any discord or disagreement a very scary thing. A potentially fatal flaw in the foundation. While dating, I first looked for move-in ready men, those that seemed to have all their cobwebs dusted and scuff marks polished.

They never lasted.

What I only realized later is that every single relationship falls into the fixer-upper category.

That’s right. There is no such thing as a move-in ready relationship.

Because even those people that appear perfect on the surface have flaws just below. Every person has areas where you will be easily compatible and those where you will have to figure some things out. Just like how you figured out how to finally utilize that awkward corner in the kitchen. Every person brings their own childhood issues to the table and sometimes they will come to the forefront.

We are all fixer-uppers.

We are always fixer-uppers.

That’s not a flaw; it’s an opportunity.

And the opportunities are multiplied when those two fixer-uppers move in together.

Every relationship will face wear and tear and require some elbow grease. Every partnership will be tested and may require occasional reinforcement. There will be times when you feel hemmed in by the walls and other times when they feel comfortable and cozy and welcoming.

It’s about choosing the one whose flaws you can live with and learning how to make the rest shine. It’s about going in with realistic expectations that everything changes over time. It’s about maintaining perspective during those stints when everything seems to be breaking down and expressing appreciation when it goes well. It’s about learning together, trying and trying something new when that doesn’t work.  It’s about learning to tell the difference between do-it-yourself repairs, those that require a professional and those that signal that it should be condemned.

And it’s about choosing every day to put in the effort. To build. And rebuild.

 

 

Guest Post: Sex, Love and Relationship Advice From a Divorced Dad

I believe the main goal of marriage is to stay happily married.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

If you feel your marriage is having problems, do something to fix it!  Address the problems and don’t just hope those things will just “go away” or “get better” with time.  The fix could be as simple as bringing up whatever problems you’re having with your partner.  Try to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible.  Little problems can fester and turn into big ones mighty quick.  Don’t be afraid to suggest going to a marriage counselor.  This does not mean your marriage is on life support, but you want to fix what might be wrong.  I know most of this is not macho.  But if you take the macho route, you might be macho all by yourself and paying a big price for it.

Show your spouse with actions, not just tell your spouse how much they mean to you.  It’s amazing how good you feel when your partner actually listens to you.  Isn’t it nice when they tell you about their day at work or something that is important to them.  Whatever they are talking about may not be important to you, but if it’s important to your spouse, it should become important to you as well.  Show compassion and empathy when appropriate and it will be reciprocated when the time comes.  You are the person they should be able to lean on.

Hey guys, try surprising your wife with a meal you prepared ready by the time she gets home from work.  Or better yet, take care of the laundry and clean the house before she gets home from work. All this and a nice foot rub are powerful foreplay tools.  You may truly unlock the inner vixen in your mate.

Your wife should be your girlfriend, and your husband should be your boyfriend.  I’m a big advocate of date nights.  You have to have some time with just your spouse alone.  This means getting dressed up a bit and look good for your partner.   That means you gals should get out of your sweats and put as much effort into dressing up, hair and makeup for your husband, as you do for the occasional night out with the girls.  Guys, yes you should take a shower and shave before your night out. Put on something other than your favorite jersey or flannel shirt.  Just think back to when you were working hard to impress each other when you started dating.  You should still be trying to impress and attract your partner.  This also means it is time for the two of you to get out of the house for your dates.

Speaking of trying to attract your mate, I don’t understand why I see so many women in the gym trying to lose weight and look good when they are newly divorced or going through a divorce.  Perhaps this is something you should have been doing all along. The same goes for you guys.  I see guys that I have never seen before in the gym and after talking to them, they tell me they are trying to get “back into shape” because they will soon be or are back on the market.  Sorry guys, but bowling, golf and softball just are not exercise.  They and other “sports” are excuses to drink beer with the guys and be away from home.  I’m a big believer in exercise, and it’s obvious benefits to your mental and physical health.  The two of you don’t have to look like cover models for fashion magazines, but you shouldn’t give up and stop trying to look good for your spouse!  A gym membership is much cheaper than a divorce.

Get yourself a pool of reliable babysitters you trust and use them.  I know it is tough with careers, kids in sports and all their activities.  There could also be special circumstances such as elderly parents or special need children.  You have to make the effort for everybody’s sake.

Let’s talk about sex.  Contrary to some negative perceptions from some organized religion, sex is a good thing.  There’s been an overabundance of studies on the subject and I believe most of the “experts” say it is good for you physically as well as emotionally.   I can’t think of something that connects two married people more than sex.  The act produces all kinds of good chemical reactions and gives you both an incredible feeling of intimacy and closeness that a marriage needs.  If you’re having sex with your spouse on a regular basis, how can you stay mad at him/her for not doing the dishes and other silly arguments that may pop up?   I defy you to even think of the dirty dishes after had a mind-blowing session between the sheets.  Sex is the glue that keeps you together!

I have heard that woman need to feel loved to have sex and men need sex to feel loved.  I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, I think it’s spot on.  So guys and gals do your best to keep those love vibes going and get naked! It’s a win-win situation when you and your spouse are making love on a regular basis.   (To each other of course)

There is a variety of reasons people get divorced.  Many times it’s a combination of things; poor communication, unfaithfulness, tragedy, Illness or accident, or you just plain grow apart.  When you split up with your spouse, this is a good time to reflect on what you think went wrong.  This would be a good time to take an inventory of what you think you may have done to contribute to the ultimate demise of your marriage.  Please don’t wallow in this.  Just try not to make the same mistakes twice.  This would be a good time to work on the things you believe you need to improve on and perhaps time to get rid of the things that may have contributed to the riffs in your relationship.  A good therapist might be a good idea to help you sort all this out.

I’m not talking about abuse.  If you’re in an abusive situation, get the hell out and take your kids with you.  Your safety and your children’s safety is paramount.  This also holds true if your spouse if an addict; drugs or alcohol.

Most folks blame the other person for their marriages going south.  Some of the time the blame rests square on one person’s shoulders, but most of the time it is a team effort.  Remember getting divorced is closing one door and opening another one.  Walk through that open door with your chin up with the confidence that you will try not to make the same mistakes twice.

By L.J. Burke, author of DIVORCED DAD: Kids are Forever, Wives are Not.