Twenty Tiny Tweaks to Help You Through Divorce

For those days when the big changes feel overwhelming and yet you’re still wanting to feel better –

Here are twenty small and easy things you can do to help make your life through divorce just a little bit easier.

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4 Budget-Friendly Finds That Help Tame Stress

I’m anxiously watching the weather, hoping my county will call off school for Wednesday. Not because I really care about a day off (especially because we just switch to an online platform for classes), but because we had almost the exact same not-too-threatening forecast two years ago. When I ended up being one of the lucky ones who made it home after “only” a three hour drive capped off with a three mile walk when the roads came to an icy standstill.

Luckily, I’ve stumbled across a few things that have helped me cope with stress this school year. They’re all accessible to small budgets, small spaces and small nibbles of time.

Aromatherapy – Smell Good, Feel Good

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A middle school classroom can develop a certain eau de funk, especially when the kids have PE before my class. And after 14 years of living with it, I decided buy this essential oil diffuser for only $25.99. I did quite a bit of research on the oils. I knew that I wanted lots of variety, which took the more exclusive oils out of my price range. I settled on this set, which has a mix of blends and pure oils.

And I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. In fact, I bought a second diffuser for our bedroom just a couple weeks after the original buy.  I also added a purchase of a Breathe blend from the same company when I felt the first sniffles of the new school year start to move in.

And, I know correlation does not indicate causation, but I have only been sick once this year (and that illness happened when I was out of town and away from the essential oils). I usually play host to at least 3 colds/sinus infections by this point. And even if that’s a happy coincidence, the oils really do help lower my stress (and I even see a difference in my students!).

Coloring Books – Color Me Calm

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Yes, this is a trend. But it’s a trend for a reason. I’ve always used coloring in my classroom to soothe the students when they’re especially stressed (like after a day of standardized testing or when a tragedy strikes close to home). And it works for adults too. When you color, there are no rights or wrongs. Nothing is critical. No decision merits too much thought. It takes you out of your thinky space and into a place of intuition and impulse.

You can find the books almost everywhere now – craft stores, book stores and online. They come in all kinds of designs and most come in at around $10. And trust me, with those intricate designs, that $10 will go a long way!

Do Yoga With Me – Tame the Tension

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I used to subscribe to YogaGlo, which provided amazing quality searchable yoga classes for $18 a month. And then my card expired and with it, my subscription. Instead of updating my card information, I decided to search other options.

And I’m glad I did. DoYogaWithMe is a similar interface as YogaGlo for the low, low price of free! It doesn’t have quite the quality or selection as the other, but it also feels fairly new and seems to be growing. You can choose a class based on style, difficulty and duration. And if you don’t like a class, you don’t have to stick it out or embarrass yourself by walking out early:)  I’d call that low-stress!

Houseplants – Outdoors In

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Kind of like the aromatherapy, I have no idea what took me so long to do this. I had to give up on indoor plants when I got my cat, almost 20 years ago. She’s been gone 10 months now, and I just realized that I could bring back the houseplants.

Finding pots that work for the indoors and are also budget-friendly (cheap) and time-friendly (easy to find) is no easy task. I settled on this line of self-watering (and no leaking!) pots from Fiskars. I found mine at Lowe’s and Home Depot for a lower price than Amazon.

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I’ve kept some this cool blue color and I’ve spray painted others white to serve as herb planters on this plant shelf Brock built for me out of a piece of exterior trim board. It’s too cold to buy the herbs right now, so I’m filling the shelf with blooms from our Camellia bush (yes, in stemless plastic wine glasses because I’m just suave like that!).

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In addition to the plants for the shelf, I scattered them around the house. No pictures yet, because I bought the silliest, smallest plants knowing that they will soon grow into their pots. I love coming in to a home filled with green and growth and life.

So what things do you love that help you relax? Please share!

Ten Easy Communication Hacks For Your Marriage

Scan any list about the most important elements of a happy marriage and effective communication will be somewhere between “shared values” and “physical intimacy.” Its ubiquitous inclusion is not because relationship writers are lazy. It’s because communication truly is key in any relationship. Especially one where you face each other every day prior to morning coffee, tackle everything from kitchen remodels to retirement plans and expose your greatest vulnerabilities and dreams.

The reason that communication can become a point of contention in a relationship is that while talking is easy,

Listening is hard.

And taking responsibility for our own emotions and responses is harder still.

But that doesn’t mean that everything to do with improving your communication has to be hard. Here are ten easy hacks to start improving the communication in your marriage beginning today:

Use Figurative Language

Feeling misunderstood is extremely frustrating. And it’s easy to get caught up in blaming your partner for refusing to listen. But maybe they’re listening and simply not relating. Not because they don’t want to. But because they don’t have anything to latch on to.

So instead of getting irritated, try getting creative. Reach back in your mental archives and pull up those metaphors and similes from your school days. Instead of explaining what it is, try painting a picture of what it’s like. You’re not trying to replicate every detail or match every trait. You’re just working to establish an anchor point for understanding. You can fill in the gaps later.

Follow the Percent Rule

I am a huge fan of the 80/20 rule – do the “right” thing 80% of the time and cut yourself some slack the other 20% of the time. Although this is most often applied to nutrition, it works with communication as well.

Share 80% of the positive thoughts you have about your partner or your relationship. (Yes, it would be nice to aim for 100%, but life, you know? So strive for 80%.) This means every time you admire your partner’s butt as he or she walks away, each time you notice that the garbage has been taken out and whenever you see him or her tackle something with ease, you speak up. Or write a note. Or send a text.

And the 20%? Share only 20% of your negative thoughts. This means you may have to choose them wisely. Don’t waste those words on a gripe about the scattered socks unless that’s really something that you to express and you want addressed. These words should be reserved for problems that can be solved together, not complaints for the sake of grumbling.

Pay Attention to Physical Comfort

One of the worst grades I ever made on a college exam was on a chemistry test that was administered in a frigid room while I sat on a cold, unforgiving metal stool. My body was in such discomfort that my mind wasn’t operating anywhere near its best.

Conversations operate the same way. There’s a hierarchy of needs and a full stomach, a rested body and an acceptable environment come before listening and responding effectively.

So by all means, go to bed angry if you need to. Staying up and staying engaged in the discussion will only backfire.

Ask More Questions

Do you find yourself responding defensively or getting angry after a statement by your partner? The instinct is to respond with a sledgehammer, shutting down that line of discussion completely and utterly.

Instead of smashing the claim (and you partner) into smithereens, try increasing the amount of questions that you’re asking. This strategy has a two-pronged benefit – it helps give you added information to aid in your understanding and it validates to your partner that you’re listening to them.

Use a Candle

Do you or your spouse have trouble initiating difficult or complex conversations? Try this simple idea.

Tell Stories of Your Shared Past

One of the ways that researchers are able to predict divorce in a couple is the relationship origination story that they tell. Happy couple tell happy stories, making light of or brushing over any rough patches on the way to the alter. Do they tell happy stories because they are happy or does the mere retelling of a happy story cultivate additional happiness?

I would wager it goes both ways.

Make a habit of telling favorable tales about your shared relationship history. You’re making deposits in the marital bank and reinforcing your bond.

Write It Out Before Talking It Out

Have you ever uttered, “You make me feel…?” No shame. I’m guilty too. We say that because it’s easy, skimming the surface – you did this, I felt this – instead of digging deeper – you did this, it reminded me of that, and I felt this.

One of the biggest things you owe your spouse is to take responsibility for your own stuff. And that starts by being aware of your stuff. The connections between your present and the luggage you brought with you from your past.

So talk to your journal before you talk to your partner.

Because writing your thoughts is a great way for you to see those connections between what was done and how you feel. Because nobody else can make you feel a certain way.

Engage In a Shared Task

The body tells our minds how to feel. If you clench your fists, you will respond more aggressively in conversation. If you roll your shoulders back, you not only appear more confident, you speak more confidently.

So when you want to communicate to establish a connection, begin with a physical association through a shared activity. This doesn’t need to be complicated – washing the dishes, taking a walk, shopping for groceries all count as joint tasks.

Just another reminder that you’re in this thing together.

Use Texting Wisely

In a marriage, texting should only have two uses: 1) Planning or 2) Play.

Logistics comprise a significant portion of any relationship. And texting is a great way to work out the details of shared lives in real time.

But a marriage that only shares plans isn’t much of a marriage.

And phones are great for sharing more than just reminders and schedules.

Flirt. Seduce. Banter. Joke. Play.

And ban anything negative or complicated from your texting vocabulary. Some things are better addressed in person.

And the number one hack you can utilize to improve your communication?

Release Expectations

So often the reason that a conversation heads south is that we react to what we expect to hear instead of what is said. We construct a response before we even hear our partner out.

In other words, the battle is really within ourselves.

The single most important change you can make in your communication is to approach with curiosity instead of conclusions.

Listen.

And you just might learn something new about your partner.

Or even yourself.

Ten Tips For Dating After Divorce

Dating after divorce tends to be a deliberate action, entered into consciously and tentatively after years or even decades with the same person. This can be an opportunity for you to clarify your needs and the needs of a relationship before you step out on that first date. The following are my suggestions for your ten commandments of dating after divorce. Read the tips on The Good Men Project.

Mythical Thinking About Marriage

One of the more fun aspects of blogging is the record of what you were doing and thinking at various points in your past. Some of my posts can still make me smile or cry. Some are funny to read to see the progress in my writing and my mindset over the years. And some? Well, some are just plain embarrassing:)

I recently unearthed one of my first posts from January 2012. I was so new, I even approved an obvious spam comment on the original post just because I was so excited to have someone, even if it was a bot, comment on my page. Even though I was a neophyte at the time, I still find some good points in this post. See what you think.

Oh, and if you’re a spam bot, don’t waste your time trying to comment. I’m smarter now:)

 

Myths…or Mythical Thinking

The article, 3 Myths About Happy Marriages on PsychCentral introduced myths that are based on the work of John Gottman, Ph.D and his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I think these myths, although possessing some truth, are a bit of a slippery slope.

Myth 1: Better Communication Will Not Save Your Marriage

If the marriage is on rocky footing, talking will not bring in the rescue copters.  And, as the article states, it is difficult to remain calm and rational in the midst of a perceived attack (I know those “I” statements well, after growing up with a counselor for a mom, and even I can’t maintain that poise in a heated discussion).  My concern comes from the implication that communication is not important;  that a marriage can exist in the spaces between withheld information.  I cannot work well with a coworker when there is not adequate communication; I’m not sure how a marriage is supposed to thrive.

Myth 2: Avoiding Conflict Will Kill Your Marraige

Not every need can be expected to be met, and sometimes conflict is just because of a grouchy mood,but there is a danger to not addressing legitimate concerns.  In retrospect, I realize that my marriage was conflict-avoidant; I tended to shy away from problems due to anxiety and my ex-husband refrained from conflict in order to not trigger my anxiety.   As a result, the problems grew too large for anyone to face.

Myth 3: Reciprocity Underlies Happy Marriages

I once knew a couple who kept a scorecard on the fridge to keep track of the “he dids” and “she dids.”  I don’t think they were very happy!  However, I do think reciprocity is essential in a marriage  in terms of mutual respect, and that this respect takes the form of acts of service or kindness for the other person.  Tallies shouldn’t have to be drawn, but each person should be operating with the other in mind.

All marriages are different (my current relationship is quite unlike my marriage in many ways), but I think that each of these myths has a place in a healthy relationship.