Tag: divorce

When It’s Over: How to Let Go of a Relationship

couple in fightIn the post, Evaluating Your Relationships, I shared how to determine if a relationship is not working for you. Sometimes, even when we come to the realization a relationship is over, it can be hard to heal and move forward. When we end a relationship, it can be helpful to remember the positive aspects we enjoyed about the relationship. Since Adrenaline and Cortisol are released whenever we are upset, we usually remember the unpleasant incidents more readily. So the unpleasant ones are probably fresher in your mind’s eye. Here are some ways to help you let go of a relationship that has ended, so you may move on in a way that is loving for you.

Think of what you gained from the relationship. Did it teach you something? Did you learn something valuable about yourself or experience personal growth because of your interactions? If you are looking for the meaning and purposes of why the two of you came together, do you now have a better sense of it? Discovering the lessons and positive effects of the relationship can provide a path to growth and successful closure.

Remember the good times. Recall some good moments you shared with that person. Even if the relationship has ended badly, there were times that you were both in harmony and enjoyed each other’s company. Try not to go past the recollection into judgment (for example, I had a good time but if I had known what kind of person s/he was…). Remembering what you liked about the person can help facilitate forgiveness.

Allow forgiveness. This one can be very difficult but most important in letting go and moving on. Here is a blog post that focuses solely on the topic of forgiveness, The Freedom of Forgiveness.

Find closure. Determine what resolution you need in order to move on permanently. When we do not, or cannot, receive closure through the other person, we can come to it on our own. Some ideas on how to do so:

  • Write down any strong feelings, memories, or thoughts about the other person, each entry on a separate notecard or piece of paper. Nothing is too insignificant…if it causes any sort of upset, it is important enough to write down. When you are finished, read each note aloud—allowing its full effect on you—and then destroy the note by using a shredder, scissor, or by simply ripping it up. Take a deep cleansing breath and imagine the weight of that thought leaving you. Continue this process with the remaining notecards or pieces of paper.
  • Write a letter to the person, detailing exactly how you feel. Let out all your lingering frustrations, hurts, betrayals, resentments, etc. You can feel safe in not holding back because you will not mail this letter to them. This letter is a chance for you to acknowledge all of your feelings and allow their release harmlessly. Once you have completed your letter, seal it in an envelope, address it, and “send” it on its way…in the same manner as the notecards and pieces of paper.

Make a supportive choice with mementos and reminders. There most likely will be many reminders of your past relationship, such as a song, favorite dining spot, or item you bought together. Some of these can be painful or not supportive of your desire to move on. You have the choice to either let go of painful reminders—discarding, selling, giving away physical items—or to assign new memories to them. For example, something like a song or location is difficult to remove from your life, but you can choose to replace your associations with positive ones. Perhaps you can think of an important person in your life who ALSO loves that song, so that you will guide your thoughts to them each time you hear that melody. Likewise, take a friend you have fun with to that favorite dining spot and make new memories you can go to from now on.

Honor your process. The way someone else has moved on from a relationship, or how you think you will move on, may end up looking very different from what actually happens. Allow the process of letting go and moving on to unfold in its own way. You are unique and therefore, your journey will also be unique. Be kind to yourself, practice awareness, self-love, and do your best.


The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


Showing Compassion in Times of Conflict

_528A relationship breakup, workplace conflict, a feud with a family member or friend…these experiences can be difficult and may involve tense communications and stress. Most of us can recall a time when we felt that someone was causing us suffering, either intentionally or unintentionally. It can be challenging to see past the situation and the other person’s actions, which can color your view of them. It is easy to blame others for our feelings.

While some of us are content with being swept up in a drama, others would rather apply a higher-self perspective to conflict. For those of us who desire the latter, how can we show compassion to people we perceive as causing us suffering?

Try a perspective shift. Keep in mind that people who are hurting tend to hurt other people. However, it is up to us how we perceive our reality. We create our own hurt by what we say to ourselves about the other person. If we change our thoughts, our feelings will change.

Be aware of what you’re feeling about the situation with this person. When you feel anger, anxiety, fear, or any kind of stress, mentally say, “Stop!” and then visualize a stop sign. This will halt the body and mind from continuing to circulate non-constructive thoughts and feelings. Take a few deep breaths while you ask your body to release any tension. Then ask yourself:

  • What are the facts about this situation? We usually have a story attached to what the other person is doing or not doing. We guess what they are thinking and what their intentions are. Think of how a lawyer might present the facts of a case in court. Hearsay, inner dialogue, feelings, and predictions aren’t useful there, and neither are they to you. Separating fact from story is helpful in avoiding emotionally charged thinking.
  • How significant is this problem in the grand scheme of my life? How significant is this in relation to the timeline of the universe?While you may not prefer that someone is talking about you, being antagonistic, giving you the cold shoulder, etc., what are they really doing to you in this moment? Recognize that your thoughts about the other person are what are causing the feelings you don’t like. Shrinking the perceived enormity of your situation can allow you to regain perspective.

Focus in on the present. Usually, nothing “bad” is happening to us in the moment. We are thinking about the past or the future, which is causing us discomfort. Take a deep breath, let it out, and tell yourself, “All is well. Right here, right now.”

Show yourself love. In times of stress, it is even more important to practice self-love. Whether it’s walking in nature, getting a massage, losing yourself in a great book, taking a yoga class…Take time for yourself doing things that are enjoyable and nurturing. Here are some of my videos explaining how to use meditation, breathing techniques, and laughter yoga to de-stress and re-center.

Although you can’t control what someone else does, you can control how you process the experience and interact. I hope these points help you to release unsupportive feelings, as well a see the conflict from a more neutral standpoint. It is much easier to deal with these types of challenges when you are coming from a calm, clear place.

 


How to Resolve Conflict Through Communication

_807Disagreement is a natural occurrence in life—we all have different opinions, ways of doing things, personalities, and communication styles. However, if one or more of the persons involved don’t communicate openly, or let emotions take over, a disagreement can easily turn into conflict.

Here are some suggestions for resolving conflicts in a respectful and productive way:

  1. Acknowledge the points the other person has made with which you agree; if you don’t agree, acknowledge you’ve heard their point of view. Simply knowing their viewpoint has been heard can go a long way in diffusing conflict. It is also helpful to reiterate in your own words what they said, which not only gives them an opportunity to elaborate on a point, but also to correct any misinterpretations.
  1. When you speak, it is best to keep what you say to your own point of view rather than telling someone how they feel, think, or act. Those are your interpretations of what you experience. Frame your point in a way that lets them know you are only speaking from what you see and feel, which allows them the opportunity to clarify the same situation from their point of view. It is also a chance for them to clear up any misunderstanding.

Look at the subtle but meaningful differences in these examples:

Example 1

“You make me feel unappreciated all the time.” vs. “I feel unappreciated when I hear you say _____.”

Example 2

“Can’t you see I was trying to help you?!” vs. “My intention was to help you. I understand now that is not how you experienced it.”

In both examples, the first response places blame on the other person, whereas the second response communicates your experience in the situation. Which would you rather hear said to you? Blame puts the other person immediately on the defensive and they will in turn block out anything you say, or worse, interpret any further messages as attacks.

  1. Be aware of extreme or emotion-full words (also known as nominalizations). Using words like “every time,” “never,” and “always” may result in the other person going on the offensive to prove you incorrect, thereby allowing them to ignore the point of your message. Also, take care that any emotion-full or more vivid forms of a word are true (e.g., sad versus devastated); if you’re exaggerating for emphasis, your message may lose credibility. Emotional language may trigger the other person to react on your emotion rather than on your message.
  1. Allow the possibility that people can surprise you. We all have the ability to learn, grow, evolve, and change. The longer or more closely you know someone, the harder it is not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The moment you put a mental label on another human being, you can no longer truly relate to that person.” Although you can take note of someone’s patterns, try not to let your awareness keep you from having an open mind.

A Holistic Approach to Grieving

NPR ran a story about Veterans with PTSD. A client sent me this line from it, “ … all people have the ability to reason, unless they’re grieving. So oftentimes I ask the veterans, “If you can’t reason, what is it you’re grieving?”

We often believe that relationships are to be permanent, yet loss and grieving is a theme in our lives. Somewhere along our path someone dies or will be left behind. Loss of a relationship plays a significant part in all of our lives. As many of us define ourselves by our relationships, we may believe something is wrong with us if we do not keep our friends for life.

What I have learned is that relationships come and go from our lives. When someone dies, leaves us, moves away or becomes estranged, it may be a double loss: the loss of the relationship itself, and the loss of the relationship as a source of our identity, of who we think we are.

If you have been the dependent partner in a relationship you will find yourself after the loss of a relationship, through divorce or death, forced to undertake tasks that you never dreamed of. It is through these tasks that a new sense of self will evolve. You may have a new career or the education you always wanted but did not have time for.

Whenever we are forced to let go of something or someone a psychological death occurs and we need to grieve for our loss. Death comes in many forms; it may be an aspect of ourselves, our youthful qualities, our health, or a dream that is no more. Or it may be a relationship that is ended.

With every death or mini-death a rebirth occurs; something of value is growing inside us. Through acceptance and allowing ourselves to grieve the loss, we can grow and develop wisdom. How we react to the constant changes that occur in our lives is probably the only aspect of any relationship that we have choice over.

Allowing ourselves time to grieve without justifying or judging our reason for grieving is vital for healing our wounds. Recognizing that you may experience grief very differently than other people is often key to allowing ourselves to grieve. When we try to grieve the way we ‘think we are supposed to’ or ‘the way we have seen others grieve’, we are in judgment of ourselves and this will stop us from grieving and healing.

Elizabeth Kübler Ross lists 5 stages of grieving Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Whether we like it or not, we humans will go through each of these stages in our healing process. To stop them is to stop ourselves from healing.

An exercise I often recommend for grieving is the following:

  • Once a day for 21 minutes, sit quietly. Light a candle that you have purchased for this exercise. During the 21 minutes watch the candle and allow your thoughts to focus on what you are grieving.
  • Do this everyday for 21 days, and then discard what remains of the candle.

Emotional Infidelity – What is it? Is it in YOUR Life?

Many people think that infidelity is only sexual. The #1 form of infidelity is Emotional Infidelity. It usually stems out of feeling that something is missing in your relationship. You may feel disconnected from your partner. What is best is to talk to your partner about feeling disconnected. If you cannot talk to your partner than seek the help of a couples/marriage counselor.

How do you know if you are emotionally cheating?

  • Ask yourself: If my partner were sitting next to me would I be uncomfortable doing this? If your answer is yes, it is a clue for you.
  • You flirt with him/her.
  • Perhaps you dress in a way that might attract the person’s attention.
  • When something happens in your life you share it with her/him rather than your partner.
  • You feel excited when you see the person and look forward to seeing them more than you do your partner.
  • You have relationship fantasies about that person.
  • You find yourself sharing problems you are having at home with that person, rather than your partner.

I recall a man I worked with who was so proud that he had not had sex with his female work friend until after he and his wife had separated. He had been receiving emotional support from his work friend for over 1 year and this is what led to his wife leaving him. He had no idea that he had been emotionally unfaithful in his marriage. Nor did he get that he was cheating on his wife.

Emotional Infidelity is quite common and very difficult for couples to fully address on their own as often the partner that is cheating does not know he/she is cheating.


Marriage the Internet and Cheating?

  • Any similarity to you or someone you know is just that a similarity. So many people have similar stories

Sara awoke in the middle of the night wondering where Paul, her husband of 7 years was, as he was not in their bed. She thought he might be sick so she went downstairs looking for him and to her dismay found him chatting to another woman on an internet chat website. This was the low point of their marriage. Until this point she thought that they had a fulfilling, spiritually connected marriage and were honest with each other. Sara felt so betrayed, hurt and humiliated that she did not think she could ever trust him again. Paul reported that he felt confused and misunderstood. He did not understand why Sara was hurt, as he had not ‘cheated’ on her, he was just chatting. This is how they began couples counseling with me.

They both loved each other and wanted to regain the trust that for the moment was lost in their marriage. When a couple loves each other, and is willing to commit to working though their hurt feelings, they will heal, and can rekindle what they had before.

Sara and Paul needed to learn how to communicate what they wanted from each other more clearly, as well as heal this particular wound. Through our work together, they also learned what specific behaviors they were using to avoid each other, (we will call these behaviors Exits), and how to make and keep agreements. Once Paul learned how to close this particular Exit, i.e., chatting with other women on the Internet, Sara was able to notice how she watched T.V. at night as an Exit, i.e. a way of avoiding closeness with Paul.

Ultimately, Sara was able to forgive Paul and he was able to feel understood.

It is always nice to be able to watch and assist as a couple regains, trust and heals individual and relationship wounds as they rekindle their commitment to each other.


One Story of Infidelity

  • Any similarity to you or someone you know is just that a similarity. So many people have similar stories.

About two years ago I began working with a couple that began marriage counseling, believing that they would get a divorce. At the point they came to me, their relationship seemed to be based upon a bond of hostility. They consistently argued angrily as their main form of communication. Both said that they loved each other very much after 19 year of marriage; which let me know that there was hope for this couple.

What led them to reach out for my assistance was that the husband (we will call him Peter), confessed to his wife, (we will call her Robin), that he had been having an affair for over 16 months. At first Peter was only aware of feeling shame and Robin was only aware of feeling hurt and anger. Robin, as you can imagine, felt a gamut of emotions, rage, anger, hurt, shame, and confusion to name just a few. Peter, as we became more involved in the work, also began to feel a whirlwind of emotions, anger, confusion, resentment, hurt and shame.

As time passed and we worked on their communication, forgiveness and reconnecting, Peter began to feel quite resentful and impatient that Robin seemed unable to forgive him faster. Both Robin and Peter had the tendency to blame the other for the affair as well as anything that they did not like in the relationship. It took much hard work for them to reach the place where they could truly hear each other without wanting to prove that their version of the truth was correct for all. Once this occurred the couple began to move towards re-connecting and the work of regaining trust within their relationship.

As they moved forward, Robin and Peter began to laugh with each other in my presence as well as report back to me that they were having fun together again and having “hot” sex.

They both shared in a session that they now believed they could and would reach their goal of rebuilding their relationship. It took several more months of intensive marriage counseling for Peter and Robin to reach the place they are now. Robin no longer blames Peter for ‘the affair’. She understands her part in the weakening of the marriage and is willing to forgive Peter. She has also regained a high level of trust in him and for their marriage’s continued growth. Peter no longer feels shame and understands his motivations, actions and the consequences of them. They have come a long way from the couple that came to me thinking that they would get a divorce.

 


Couple vs. Individual Therapy for a Couple

Here is a link to a video that will answer a question that couples calling me often ask: Is it better to be in individual therapy or couples therapy in order to save my relationship?

I hope you find this helpful:


Divorce ?

When we marry most of us believe it really is for the rest of our lives. We often create a combined life as well as individual life. It is the combined life however that usually has the priority in marriage. Separating from our life partner is painful; feelings of anger, abandonment and yes relief may also be present. There is no escaping your feelings, whatever they are.

I have seen some people avoid their feelings by dating constantly or drinking or drugging. I have seen others plummet into despair for periods of time. It is natural to miss the warmth, friendship, financial security, and sex you had or hoped you would have.

If you have children parenting becomes much more challenging as your role does change and the frequency that you will spend time with your children will change as well. Questions like when do I introduce my children to the person I am dating will arise and possibly cause you anxiety, as there is no ‘right’ answer, only better ones.

Divorce is often one of life’s most stressful experiences. I refer to divorce as a mini-death. In some ways it is more challenging than a ‘real’ death in that the person you have separated from, possibly feel abandoned by, is alive. If you have had children together you will be seeing your X for the rest of your life. This for many is re-wounding, especially if you are unable to forgive yourself and you’re X for the divorce. It is common for both parties to have feelings of failure regardless of who initiated the divorce.

On the positvite side, a divorce can be a time of discoving yourself again, creating new relationships, learning and growing. In order to move forward taking responsibility for your part in the divorce rather than blaming your X for it is paramount. As well as, allowing yourself to grieve your loss and honor your feelings. Then you will be in a space to grow into your new life, the one you will create out of joy. The life you used to dream about having when you were married and unhappy but always thought you could not create it.