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7 Ways To Fight Your Way To Deeper Intimacy

 

7 Ways To Fight Your Way To Deeper Intimacy

 

You’re too sensitive.

You’re jumping to conclusions.

You can’t take a joke.

You blow everything out of proportion.

You’re making a big deal out of nothing.

You don’t have a sense of humor.

You see everything in the worst possible light.

You take things too seriously.

You feel too much.

Your imagination is working overtime.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

You think you know it all.

You always have to have something to complain about.

You’re trying to start something.

You’re not happy unless you’re complaining.

You take everything wrong.

You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

You read things into my words.

You twist everything around.

You’re looking for a fight.

By saying any of these things to you, your partner is telling you that your feelings and perceptions are wrong. In order to have a healthy relationship, you must have intimacy. Intimacy requires empathy. To hear and understand another’s feelings and experiences is empathetic comprehension. The intimacy of a relationship cannot be achieved if one person is unwilling to share himself and is unable to support his partner in an empathetic way. Not only does it create distance in the relationship, it is utterly destructive to the self-esteem and well-being of the victim.

So, what do you do when you have come to the realization that your partner is emotionally and/or verbally abusive? Be prepared that this epiphany will be extremely painful. It will leave you second-guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself, the world, and your SO. Once you have processed the initial shock, here are the steps that you need to take:

  1. Get professional counseling support. Find a counselor who is experienced with verbal and emotional abuse. It’s important for you to identify in yourself the false beliefs you have that made it easy for you to fall victim to this type of abuse. You may be a people-pleaser. You may have low self-esteem. You may have past childhood trauma. A therapist will help you address these issues.
  2. Ask your mate to go to this counselor with you. Firmly and clearly tell him you want to create a healthier relationship and invite them to go with you. If he is unwilling, then go yourself. You cannot control what anyone else does. He will have to choose to recognize that there is a problem and be willing to fix it.
  3. Start setting limits. State clearly what you will and will not tolerate. Bringing his attention to the abuse may help him begin to see when he is being abusive. However, it is possible he will continue to refuse to hear anything you have to say. To help you set limits, use this sentence stem: If you ___________ . I’ll ____________. The important part of setting limits is that you enforce them. If your SO learns that you won’t follow your own rules, then he won’t either.
  4. Stay in the present. Let the past go. The goal is to call your SO on every abuse moving forward to help them identify and correct the pattern. Enforce your limits.
  5. You can leave an abusive situation at any time. In some cases, verbal abuse is followed by physical abuse. If you are fearful that you are in danger, leave.
  6. Ask for changes you want in your relationship. Now is the time to be assertive. Be explicit in your requests for change in your relationship. Your partner cannot read your mind. Invite them to help you build a new pattern that will take you into the future in a healthy, fulfilled way.

If you would like more information about this topic, I highly recommend Patricia Evan’s The Verbally Abusive Relationship. It is easy to read, informative and motivational book that can help you take control of your relationship. In it, she shares this list of Relationship Rights. These are great concepts to judge any relationship by.

 

Basic Rights in a Relationship:

The right to goodwill from others.

The right to emotional support.

The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.

The right to have your own view, even if your SO has a different view.

The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.

The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive.

The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.

The right to live free from accusation and blame.

The right to live free from criticism and judgment.

The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect.

The right to encouragement.

The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.

The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.

The right to be called by no name that devalues you.

The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

If you are in a healthy, fulfilling relationship then continue to nurture the intimacy between you. Cherish your partner. Nurture them. Love them. Never leave the boyfriend/girlfriend stage. If you have discovered that abuse is an issue, promise yourself to take action. No one deserves to be ignored, belittled, or taken for granted.

 

If you or someone you know is being verbally or emotionally abused or in a domestic violence suitation please reach out to someone you trust. Violence never is ok under any circumstance! It should not be taken lightly. Please seek help from a trusted trained professional or contact the proper authorities.

 

Additional Resources: 

 

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15 Types Of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

 

15 Types Of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

Have you ever heard any of the following from your SO?

  • “You’re trying to start a fight.”
  • “You just want to be right.”
  • You don’t feel that way.”
  • You’re too sensitive.”
  • You’re making it a bigger deal than it is.”

Someone who is verbally or emotionally abusive will often use statements like these in a conscious or subconscious attempt to control their partner. They make these statements definitively as if they lived within their partner’s body/mind/soul and actually knew these things to be true!

Verbal and emotional abuse is a kind of battering which doesn’t leave evidence comparable to physical abuse, and so many do not see it as abuse at all. In fact, many see it as just a difference of opinions or personalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. This subtle abuse can be just as painful and the recovery from it can be longer than for victims of physical abuse. The victim of abuse lives in a gradually more confusing realm. In public, she/he is with one person, but in private it’s a different story. Diminishing or angry outbursts, cool indifference or one-upmanship, witty sarcasm or silent withholding, manipulative coercion or unreasonable demands are common occurrences. They all have one thing in common: the “what’s wrong with you?” attitude. Victims of this abuse often start to feel crazy. No one usually sees the abuse, and so the victim is left doubting it is even real.

If you have been verbally abused, you have been told in subtle and explicit ways that your perception of reality is wrong and that your feelings are wrong. As a result, you may doubt your own experiences and very gradually start to lose your voice and yourself. The most shocking part about verbal and emotional abuse is so few people realize it when it’s happening to them. Most people just have a feeling that something is wrong in their relationship. They figure it is something they are doing or not doing, but they truly don’t know how to fix it. They may read books, blogs, or seek out counseling, but until they recognize the signs for what they are, nothing constructive can happen.

The following evaluation comes from the book

The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans (3rd Edition). 

 

Take a few moments to reflect on your relationship and see if any of these ring true for you.

  1. He seems to be irritated or angry with you several times a week or more although you hadn’t meant to upset him. You are surprised each time. (He says he’s not mad when you ask him what he’s mad about, or he tells you in some way that it’s your fault.)

  2. When you feel hurt and try to discuss your upset feelings with her, you don’t feel as if the issue has been fully resolved, so you don’t feel happy and relieved, nor do you have a feeling that you’ve “kissed and made up.”

  3. You frequently feel perplexed and frustrated by his responses because you can’t get him to understand your intentions.

  4. You are upset not so much about concrete issues—how much time to spend with each other, where to go on vacation, etc.—as about the communication in the relationship: what she thinks you said and what you heard her say.

  5. You sometimes wonder, “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel so bad.”

  6. He rarely, if ever, seems to want to share his thoughts or plans with you.

  7. She seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything you mention, and her view is not qualified by “I think” or “I believe” or “I feel”—as if your view were wrong and hers was right.

  8. You sometimes wonder if he perceives you as a separate person.

  9. You can’t recall saying to her, “Cut it out!” or, “Stop it!”

  10. He is either angry or “has no idea what you’re talking about” when you try to discuss an issue with him.

  11. She often denies certain conversations even happened. When you attempt to summarize the conversation in an attempt to remind her, she becomes even more enraged.

  12. He often threatens you when he’s angry. (“Pack your crap and leave.” Or, “I’ll file divorce papers tomorrow.”)

  13. She gives you the silent treatment when she is angry and refuses to work through an issue. While it is often healthy to take a break and let emotions settle during an argument, a prolonged silent treatment is an emotional abuse.

  14. He withholds affection from you as a form of punishment (intentionally or unintentionally.)

  15. You feel like if you could only find the “right” way to speak, act, or be then things would get better.

If you have agreed with two or more of these statements, there is a very good chance that your SO is verbally and emotionally abusive. It’s important to remember, that the vast majority of individuals who abuse their loved one verbally or emotionally are completely unaware they are doing it. They may have learned these destructive patterns in their childhood. The good news is that a person can learn to recognize these destructive behaviors within themselves and change them.

Victims of verbal and emotional abuse live in different realities than their partners. In healthy relationships, when a person expresses their feelings, their partner listens carefully and then validates them. In an abusive relationship, the person dismisses or diminishes their partner’s feelings. The general guideline is if the words or attitude displayed by your partner disempower, disrespect, or devalue you, then they are abusive.

So, what should you do if you identify yourself in any of this? First, if you have discovered that you are the abuser—congratulations! Now you can seek out professional help and learn healthy ways to foster a relationship. You CAN overcome this. Second, if you are the victim you need to be proactive about stopping the abuse. Seeking out a trained professional would be helpful for you as well. In part two of this article, I will share with you some ideas of what you can begin to do today to start taking control of your life back. But know this—you must do something to change the pattern! Hoping that if you are nice enough and given enough they will change is not the right strategy. They won’t! You need to use this information to empower yourself to demand the respect you deserve from your relationship.

 

 

 

 

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8 Tips For Surviving Divorce

 

8 Tips For Surviving Divorce

 

The ‘D’ Word – Divorce

Twenty-five years is a long time. In my life, it encapsulated three college degrees, three houses, two beautiful daughters, dozens of camping trips, 20 years of teaching, and 20 years of living the Thin Blue Line life, which meant carrying the responsibilities of a single mom most of the time. There were years of happiness but also many years of loneliness. When my marriage of almost 25 years ended, my world ended. I was out in the ocean of anger and sadness hit by wave after wave of loss. At night, my mind would dwell on the list of things I was losing:

My home.

My name.

My identity.

My companion.

My sense of stability.

My belief in love’s power to conquer.

My in-laws.

Half my friends.

My neighborhood.

My self-respect.

My dreams and visions for the future.

My belief in happily-ever-after.

My time with my daughters.

My belief in miracles.

My faith in forgiveness.

My innocence.

As the depths of depression crept into the nethermost regions of my heart and soul, my mind wandered to death. At times, I would pray that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. That God would take me in my sleep. I had always been a happy and optimistic person, but when the divorce came knocking at my door wielding its sword of destruction, I was completely and unequivocally unprepared to duel with it.

I had no other choice but to surrender. I had to swallow my pride and reach out for help. I could barely force myself out of my bed, and that wasn’t sufficient. I had daughters who needed me. I had a job that expected me to show up and teach energetic teenagers. I had bills to pay and a new future to wrap my head around. And, although I knew some of what I had to do, I felt powerless to do it.

So, where do you start? What can help you when you find yourself face-to-face with divorce? I can only share what has begun to help me. I am still very early on in the process, but here are a few suggestions and tips:

  1. Get counseling. Specifically, find someone trained in EMDR. It is a psychotherapy treatment designed to treat PTSD and anyone who has experienced trauma. Divorce is traumatic. At one of my darkest moments, when suicide felt like the best option, my therapist helped me regain control and peace through EMDR. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps you get on top of the waves of emotion that hit you relentlessly.
  2. Be kind to yourself. If you need to, take sick days off from work. It’s ok if the laundry isn’t folded. Have your kids cook dinner. Allow your family or friends to clean your home. Accept any and all help offered. You may feel like you should still be able to handle it all, but trust me—you can’t! The more you try to push yourself, the more damage you will do. Your body will physically begin to revolt. You may have already noticed your hair falling out, zits popping up on your face, weight gain/loss, insomnia, anxiety, constipation or diarrhea. Your body is under extreme stress, and you need to allow people to help you.
  3. Do one thing every day that makes you happy. For me, this took many forms. Some days I painted my nails. Sometimes it was grabbing my favorite donut. Occasionally, it was a drive up the canyon or a walk in the park. Binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix or buying that shirt you’ve been wanting is perfectly fine. Even on the days when the tears flow heavy down your cheeks, find one thing that can make you smile. Snuggle your kids. Plant some flowers. Nurture yourself.
  4. Make a plan. There are many things that have to happen during a divorce, so write things down in your planner. Make a checklist of what needs to be done legally. There are many online sources that can help. Here is just one: https://divorceandyourmoney.com/blogs/divorce-checklist/. Also, as key days become apparent such as the day your divorce will be final, plan activities that will help you emotionally on those days or immediately after. The grief from your divorce will come in waves. It can last for months or years to come depending on how tumultuous the process was for you. Some people feel tremendous relief while others grieve deeply. Look at the calendar and be proactive about those dates in the future that will be triggering for you.
  5. Assemble your tribe carefully. Surround yourself with good family, friends, and support groups. Let them carry you when you’re too weak to stand. There are FB groups or local groups that you can join to find others who are struggling with the same issues you are.
  6. Make a plan to heal. It doesn’t just take time; it also takes work. You do not need to endlessly dissect the relationship, but you should examine it so that you can learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes. Do not beat yourself up over all of yours. When a relationship ends, its demise belongs to two people, not just one. Own your part and then move on.
  7. Live in the present. There is a surge of anxiety that comes with divorce. The future you thought you were going to have is now gone. In its place are a lot of unknowns. You will literally drive yourself crazy agonizing over those. Take one day at a time. One decision at a time.
  8. It will get better . . . or at least that’s what they tell me. I have chosen a few key people who have walked this same path to be my mentors. They are several years down the road and many of them have new relationships. They assure me that the pain will not last forever. That the nights will stop being so dark, the days will become brighter, and eventually, I will stop praying for death to find me. Even more so, they promise me that there is life after divorce. And for now, their word is all I can go on.

 

In the weeks and months to come, I hope to continue to process this tremendous loss. I will grieve it like death because it is. But, I refuse to let it rob me of life. I may be down, but I am not out. I will re-emerge like the mythical phoenix. I will reinvent myself, find my joy, and live again. If you are confronting divorce, I invite you to join me.

 

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So Sorry

 

So Sorry

Crash! My head jerked around at the sound of breaking glass. In horror, I saw my son pull the table cloth off the table, and with it my cherished heirloom candy dish from my great-grandmother. A gasp escaped my lips and my son looked, wide-eyed into my face. A look of terror twisted his beautiful features and tears sprang to his eyes. “Mommy, oh no! Mommy! I’m so sorry. You can fix it, right?” he stammered as I knelt beside him, gently picking the broken fragments off the floor and piling them into the garbage can. I did my best to keep my anger at bay as he climbed into my lap and smothered my face with kisses. He knew what he had just done was wrong, but there was no way his four-year-old brain could possibly fathom the depth of sadness and loss I felt at that moment as I scooped the pieces of this treasure off the floor. After I was done, I held him in my arms as he continued to frantically apologize.  I must admit, it was hard for me to forgive my son for what he had done. What he did was something that could not be fixed or replaced. But, he was quick to identify that he had done something wrong and offer a heart-felt apology. For the sake of our relationship, I knew I needed to work through my feelings of loss and learn to forgive him.

Whether it is a child, a best friend, or your sweetheart, there will come a time when you will do something that will hurt them. It might be something small like eating the last piece of chocolate cake that they had been eyeing all day in the fridge or something really big that cut them to their core. We will all have cause to apologize. However, not all apologies are the same. The only thing worse than no apology at all is an apology that is a non-apology; one that places the blame for the action back on the person who was hurt. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’m sorry that I yelled, but you make me so crazy!” That is a non-apology. It excuses your poor behavior and puts the blame on the person you hurt. It takes courage to admit you were wrong and that you hurt someone you care about. It takes even more courage to stand in front of them and express your apology to their face and wait patiently for their reaction. If you find yourself expressing too many non-apologies, trying using the Why-Because formula. Explain what went wrong and then acknowledge your fault. Then follow it up with AND  . . . This is the part where you propose a solution. That is the real sweet spot of an apology. This is where you show the other person you how you plan to stop that same mistake from ever happening again.

This is what it looks like. Jessica got so busy talking with her best friend Mary at lunch that she missed her boyfriend’s backyard party he threw for his new boss. Jessica knew this hurt him deeply. Instead of excusing her poor choice, she owned it outright. After the party, she sat next to Mark and said, “Mark, I am so very sorry that I missed your party. I know that you were very anxious about putting on a fun get together for your boss and coworkers and you needed me here to help you. It was selfish of me not to pay closer attention to the time. In the future, I will set alarms on my phone to make sure I’m home one time. In fact, I will make sure to schedule my lunches with Mary at a different time so there is no conflict with your important plans.” After Jessica apologizes, she needs to give Mark time to process the apology. She cannot expect him to forgive her immediately. He may need some time to let the sting of disappointment and hurt die down. What matters most is that Jessica takes full responsibility for her mistake and that she pays close attention to her words and tone while she expresses that to Mark. If she had said, “Mark, I’m sorry I missed your party, but you know how I am around Mary. Besides, I really wasn’t that interested in meeting your boss anyway. Just get over it.” That would hurt the relationship more than if she hadn’t apologized at all.

The last rule of an effective apology is to stop repeating the behavior. If you apologize to someone and then continue the behavior that hurt them, you cannot expect them to keep forgiving you.  One of the best apologies is changed behavior.

Apologizing will never be easy. It requires humility, vulnerability, integrity. But it is absolutely vital for the health of all relationships. If you find that you are not apologizing on a somewhat routine basis, you may want to check and see how in-tune you are with your relationships. We are all human and as such we will be routinely stepping on someone’s toes. Apologizing isn’t something you do only when you feel you did something wrong. It is also something you do when someone feels wounded by your words or actions. Apologies are excellent tools for showing someone that you value them and the relationship more than you value your ego or being right.

 

 

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How To Spot Red Flags… 20 Signs To Look For

How To Spot Red Flags…

20 Signs To Look For

Recovering from a devastating break up is similar to a community recovering from a natural disaster. You do a lot of looking back and analyzing—trying to understand how you missed the signs and how you allowed yourself to be so unprepared for the imminent destruction that was headed your way. You are paralyzed with guilt for being so stupid and gullible. If only I had seen the red flags you yell at yourself! But upon further reflection, you are forced to acknowledge that you did see them. You saw ALL of them, but in the bliss and excitement, the lust and yearning for love your radar detector dims and you dismiss the signs. You are eager to forgive “little” mistakes because you want your partner to forgive you your foibles as well. However, over time the little mistakes begin to form a pattern of behavior and if you aren’t purposeful in how you approach a relationship, one of two things will happen: a catastrophic break up after you have lost your sense of self and any self-esteem you had OR you marry your partner and have a nightmare of a marriage that leads to a toxic divorce that leaves you breathless and quivering without a shred of dignity or self-respect.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, how can you avoid this disaster? You have to be purposeful. You have to make a commitment to step out of the fantasy, momentarily, and record your thoughts and impressions and identify red flags while your relationship develops. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if you take some time to journal your relationship and track what is happening, you can see a pattern as it develops. Then you can use this information to create boundaries, make decisions, and end relationships if necessary.

The Gottman Institute recommends that you record each time your partner displays a red flag. You can draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Get out your red crayons and color in the boxes. Then, as you date, if your partner displays one of the red flags below, record the date and the details in one of the red flags on your sheet. Over time, you will be able to tell if there is a pattern or if they are just mistakes, which we all make. This is a powerful visual that can help you more clearly see what is happening in your relationship.

 

          Red Flags         

  1. Lack of communication skills.

  2. Irresponsible, immature, unpredictable behavior.

  3. Lack of trust.

  4. Your significant family and friends don’t like him/her.

  5. Controlling behaviors.

  6. You feel insecure in the relationship.

  7. They have a dark or secretive past.

  8. They have a history of not resolving past relationships.

  9. Abusive behavior of any kind.

  10. They push your physical boundaries.

  11. They tell you you’re perfect all of the time.

  12. The roll their eyes at you.

  13. They call all their exes crazy.

  14. They call you names during arguments.

  15. They have no work ethic.

  16. They are cruel or disrespectful to their parents.

  17. Their attitude or moods shift swiftly.

  18. They guilt trip you for everything.

  19. They make you feel stupid.

  20. The relationships is built on the need to feel needed.

 

Obviously, some of these are more severe than others, but they are ALL red flags. They ALL lead to toxic relationships. If you have a hard time being objective while you are being swept off your feet at the beginning of a relationship, consider using this visual activity to help you track your partner’s red flags. Use the information from the visual and trust your gut! Once you are sure there is a pattern, end the relationship immediately. April Mae Monterrosa said, “The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart.” This strategy is one way to help you do that. Set yourself up for success in love and you will find it!

 

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An Open Letter to the Future Man Dating My Wife:

datingmywife

The day I died was the most devastating day my wife has ever experienced. The pain of my loss took her on a journey that tore her apart and left her gasping for air. Like the mythical phoenix, she emerged a stronger version of herself. She is now more beautiful, compassionate, and resilient.

It is likely that you feel strong pangs of jealousy over me. You might feel like you are in competition with me in many ways, but you are not. You need to remember that just because her love for me will never dim doesn’t mean her capacity to love you is limited. She has an infinite capacity to love you with her whole heart and soul the way she loved me. I can promise you that to be loved by her in that way is heaven. However, you have to allow her to do that by allowing her to continue to love me.

You may wonder how it is possible for her to love me with her whole heart and soul and to still have room to love you with her whole heart and soul. Well, let me tell you how. Remember when you had your first child? You held that sweet baby in your arms. You breathed in his sweet scent as you kissed his soft little forehead. Your heart was filled to overflowing as you stared into his eyes, and you thought: how could I ever love another human being as much as I love this little boy? Fast forward three years later and your daughter is born. You hold that sweet little bundle in your arms. She wraps her tiny little fingers around your thumb and a tear trickles down your cheek. You notice your heart swells with even more love. You know that you do not love your son less now that your daughter has been born. Your heart has grown to love both equally and uniquely.

That is the magic of the capacity of the human heart. It has an infinite capacity to love. So, as you date my wife please remember that she will need to be true to her feelings for me even as she develops a relationship with you. We are not in competition. I was her yesterday. You are her today and tomorrow.

Here are some things that will help her honor me and love you even more.

  1. Allow her to keep some of my things in a special place. Allow her to take those things out on birthdays, anniversaries, and other special times to honor the place I held in her life.
  2. Don’t force her to get rid of things I bought for her. Let her decide what to do with the wedding ring, special jewelry, and other items of importance. Remember that just because she holds onto these items doesn’t diminish the importance of the gifts you give her. She will cherish those because of the unique and loving relationship you will have with her.
  3. Give her space to grieve. Grieving is a process. She may need to be completely alone on the day anniversary of the day I died or the day of my funeral. She may need to celebrate my birthday with the children we had together. Don’t try to erase the memories we shared or the significant role I played in her life. Give her the time to remember me.
  4. Remember that dating a widow is different than dating someone with an ex-. We had a loving relationship that neither of us decided to end. You are dating the woman of my dreams, the love of my life. We had our good times and we had our bad times too. You do not need to feel like you are competing with a ghost. I cannot come back.
  5. Always share how you are feeling. Allow her to share how she is feeling. Make sure you make time for each other. Your relationship with her will be different than the relationship I had with her. That is the way it should be.

 

I know that at times it will be extremely challenging to love my wife. It is hard for anyone who is dating or married to a widow or widower. It comes with its own unique challenges. However, you also get the benefits of a spouse who knows how to love someone, how to build a life together, and how to endure unimaginable pain and come through it a new and stronger human being.

So, please be careful with my wife’s heart. It has already been through so much. She truly is an amazing woman. Any man who has the opportunity to love her is a truly blessed man.

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Are You on Your Christmas List?

SelfCareHolidays

 

You sit on the sofa next to the warm, crackling fire. The lights on the Christmas tree are beautiful. The ornaments you made as a young child still hang on several limbs. You smile as you watch your nieces and nephews play noisily on the floor. Your sister is snuggled up in her husband’s arms. Your parents are working together in the kitchen preparing dinner. You can smell the aroma of honey-baked ham and apple pie. As you glance around your childhood home, you reminisce about the hopes and dreams you had as a youngster. The tears catch you by surprise and you try to wipe them away before anyone notices. This warm, inviting environment quickly turns to ice as you become painfully aware of the depth of loss and disappointment you are feeling. Suddenly, you feel the desire to run.

 

The holidays can be a time of fun and joy, but it can also be a time of intense pain. Being together with family can remind you of what you want or what you had and lost. While it’s important to treasure your time with your family at this time of year, it is also important to acknowledge that it can be very painful. Practicing self-care becomes essential to not just surviving but truly enjoying the beauty of this holiday season.

Self-Care Check List:

  1. Take time for yourself. Between shopping and parties and work and last minute crisis, this time of year stretches you to your max. You need to schedule time for yourself. This is especially true if you are traveling to visit friends or family. Protect “me time”. You need at least 30 minutes every day.
  2.  Make room for grief. If you are missing a loved one who has passed or a loved one who is no longer part of your life, allow yourself time to sit with your grief. Share memories. Plan something special to remember them. Joy and grief can exist in the same space. Don’t try to hide or ignore the grief or pretend the person didn’t exist. Invite them into your celebration.
  3.  Manage difficult interactions with family members by having a check-in buddy. Try to minimize your interactions with family members who are toxic or who are difficult to get along with. Set up check-in meetings with a close friend so you can vent through a phone call or text throughout the event. This can help alleviate the stress you feel during the interaction.
  4.  Enjoy the amazing food and festivities, but be mindful of how you indulge. Don’t overdo it. Often when we feel sad, depressed, or frustrated we give ourselves permission to self-medicate with too much sugar, alcohol, or drugs. Stay in control and you will not have regrets once the celebrations are over.
  5.  If you have children, spend time with them. See the magic of the season through their eyes. Get lost in the wonder and amazement of seeing the lights on houses, visiting Santa at the mall, going caroling, building gingerbread houses, and snuggling by the fire.
  6.   Practice gratitude. Research shows that simply asking yourself: what am I grateful for? increases dopamine and serotonin levels. If you can’t find an answer to that question, don’t worry. Simply pondering it is enough to begin to build stronger positive emotional pathways in your brain.
  7. Let go of the ideal. Stop comparing your reality with everyone else’s and feeling like a failure for it. Embrace your situation with all its quirks, benefits, and drawbacks. It is uniquely yours.  Stay off of social media during the holidays if the temptation to compare yourself to others is too great.
  8. Get grounded. Every day, spend at least five minutes grounding yourself. Use all five of your senses. In the shower, feel the water as it runs down your back. Put on your favorite music. Inhale the smell of your favorite soap or body wash. Take a sip of your morning tea or coffee. Be in the moment. Quiet. Focused. You can do this any time during your day. Grounding helps you manage your stress. It can stop a panic attack. It can help you with depression.
  9. Create new, self-supportive traditions. If doing things the way they’ve always been done causes you more stress and harm than joy and peace–change it! If making your Christmas dinner from scratch makes life too hard, figure out something else. If traditions started with your ex-husband are too painful, start a new tradition. Make sure everything you choose to participate in meets your needs. Traditions are only useful and good if they bring happy memories and experiences. If they don’t, change them.
  10. Listen to your body. If you are exhausted and empty, you will not be able to give anything to anyone else. You will also not be able to enjoy the moment. It is ok to skip a party (or two). It is ok to give a gift card instead of running yourself ragged trying to find that “perfect” gift. Put yourself first. You need sleep, exercise, healthy food, and time to yourself to tend to your emotional needs. If you have children, this is even more important because they will need you to be at your best.

 

While self-care is important all year round, it is essential during the holiday season when you have additional stress on your shoulders. For those who are single, the holidays are a reminder that you don’t quite fit into “family” celebrations and this can be quite painful. In order to enjoy these moments to their fullest, make time to care for yourself. Give yourself permission to feel sadness amidst the joy. Treasure the moments life gives you and enjoy this holiday season!

 

 

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Should Love Hurt This Much?

shouldlovehurtthismuchflatimageSarah was a beautiful, vivacious 25-year-old attorney. She had just landed her dream job at a competitive firm in New York. Her family and friends were wildly excited for her. Finally, it seemed that Sarah was reaping the rewards of all of her hard work. Law school had been tremendously hard, and Sarah had struggled getting through it while juggling several dysfunctional relationships with men. Finally, it seemed she could leave the struggle behind.

Although starting this new job meant flying across the country and leaving behind her support system, Sarah didn’t mind. She knew the long hours she would have to put in at the firm meant she would have little time for a social life any way. She said a tearful goodbye to her family and friends, boarded the plane with an optimistic smile, and flew towards her dreams.

Sarah really thrived in New York. McFarland & Sons was a multi-billion dollar law practice that rarely hired anyone straight out of law school. She always arrived an hour before the other attorneys, and she stayed long past the time they all left. She often took work home with her too. To say that she loved her job would be an understatement.

One day, a handsome delivery boy brought in a delivery for Sarah. Her friends back home had sent her flowers. How thoughtful she thought. I wonder if they picked out the hot delivery boy too. She giggled at her own joke. “Are you Sarah Jenkins?” he asked in a deep, baritone voice that sounded like it belonged on Broadway instead of coming out of the mouth of a delivery boy. “Yes, I’m Sarah,” she stammered. “Here’s a delivery for you,” he smiled. “Please sign here.”

Sarah was caught off guard by his handsome face and melodic voice that when she grabbed for the pen she fumbled it, and it flipped out of her hand and hit him in the nose. “Oh no!” Sarah cried out. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually that clumsy,” she apologized. There was a streak of blue pen on his nose. Sarah was unsure if she should try to wipe it away or if that was too weird. After a long awkward moment, he bent down to pick up the pen and handed it back to Sarah.

“No worries, Sarah. Please sign here, and then I’ll be out of your hair.” Sarah carefully reached for the pen this time, signed her name, and then grabbed the box. “Thank you um …” she paused waiting for him to fill in the answer. “Jeff, my name’s Jeff,” he replied. “Thanks Jeff. I’m sorry. I got pen on your nose. You’ll probably want to wipe that off before you do any more deliveries.” Jeff reached up and rubbed his nose. “Oh boy! I guess I will go take care of that. Thanks for the heads-up. Have a great day, Sarah.” He winked at her and then walked out the door. Sarah couldn’t help but watch him walk away until he was completely out of sight. She noticed butterflies thrashing around inside her stomach. Oh no! This was not happening. She was not going to get involved with any men. She was much too busy, and she was always unlucky in love.

However, life had a different plan for Sarah. The following morning Jeff went back to McFarland & Sons and asked Sarah if she would like to go to dinner. Sarah was hesitant. She had a bad track record with men. Her past relationships had always started off well, but then the Prince Charmings morphed into beasts after a few months’ time.

But, Jeff was so charming and handsome that Sarah could not refuse. During the first few months of their relationship, Jeff was warm, thoughtful, and exciting. She learned that Jeff was an aspiring singer and actor. He was in New York chasing his dream to become a singer and actor. He was working odd jobs to pay the bills, but most of the time he had to crash at his friend’s apartments because he did not make enough to pay his rent. Jeff told Sarah about how hard it was to catch a break in acting and how expensive it was. Sarah enjoyed being with Jeff. She was flattered that someone like him would even be interested in her. She was sympathetic with his struggles, so she paid for all their dates. She knew Jeff felt bad that he could not pay right now, but that would change once he got his first big break. Besides, she had a great job, and she was happy to help.

After a few months, Sarah began to become obsessed with Jeff. She was determined to help him be successful. When she was not at work, she would spend time researching agents for Jeff to interview or looking for auditions for him. She knew Jeff could not afford an agent, so she offered to pay for one. Jeff was grateful, of course, and then he said that if he had an agent he would also need acting lessons, singing, lessons, and a photography shoot. All of these were costly, but Sarah happily gave the money to Jeff. She was invested in him and his future.

As the months passed, Jeff’s behavior began to change. He became moody and entitled. He demanded that Sarah let him move in with her so that he could have a stable roof over his head. He blamed his failing his recent auditions on not having a stable place to live. When she told him she wasn’t sure about living together, he became enraged. He yelled and cursed at her. For the first time, Sarah was frightened of Jeff. She asked him to leave. He kicked the door on the way out and left a hole in it.

The following day Jeff apologized and blamed his poor behavior on his dysfunctional childhood. He spent the next few hours confessing to Sarah that his mother had abused him as a child and that is why he had yelled at her the previous night. Sarah was really touched by this confession. She felt honored that Jeff trusted her enough to confide in her. She vowed to help him heal his emotional wounds and become a successful adult.

But, as the days went by, Jeff’s behavior became more chaotic. The smallest thing would set him off. He would yell and kick the wall. Often he would call Sarah demeaning names. And sometimes he would disappear for days at a time with no explanation. When he returned, Sarah noticed he had lipstick on his collar but never dared ask him about where it came from. Ironically, as the relationship deteriorated and Sarah’s heart felt the mounting pain from Jeff’s actions, the more she felt committed to “saving” him. She knew if she could only love him enough then he would change.

One night after a particularly bad screaming match with Jeff, Sarah locked herself in her room. She called her best friend, Julie, and confided in her about her new relationship. As carefully and lovingly as Julie could, she said, “Sarah, I hate to tell you this, but your old pattern is back. Jeff sounds just like Tim and Steve. Sure, the details are different, but the pattern is the same. You’re trying to rescue another lost puppy and now it’s gone rabid and it’s attacking you.” Sarah sobbed. “Why does this keep happening? You would think I could spot a loser a mile away! I’m a lost cause.”

***

Are you like Sarah? Do you have a pattern of forming relationships with men where you sacrifice your own needs for safety, love, and comfort for someone else? How would you answer the following questions?

  1. Are most of your conversations with friends (or family) about him, his problems, his thoughts, and his feelings?
  2. Do you excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, put-downs as problems because he had a bad childhood, a stressful job, a tough life?
  3. Do you read self-help books and underline things you think will help him?
  4. Do you dislike many of his basic characteristics, values, behaviors but put up with them because you think you can change him?
  5. Does your relationship with him jeopardize your emotional well-being or physical safety?

 

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a woman who loves too much. In our culture, women have been conditioned through music that love should be painful. Rarely do love songs become number one hits if they talk about two people who have a mature, balanced, respectful relationship. Songs only become a hit if someone is willing to die for love, sacrifice everything for love, bleed for love, or cut out their heart for love. It is no wonder that around 30% of all women find themselves in relationships that are extremely dysfunctional and that this pattern repeats itself until one of three things happen: (1) she gives up on relationships, (2) love does kill her, or (3) she identifies the pattern and gets help.

Women who love too much have several common characteristics. Do any of these describe you?

  • They come from dysfunctional homes where their emotional needs were not met.
  • They try to fill their emotional needs vicariously by becoming a caregiver to men who appear needy.
  • They are terrified of abandonment.
  • They will do anything to save a relationship.
  • They will sacrifice anything to help the man they’re with.
  • They’re accustomed to a lack of love in a relationship, and so they’re willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please their man.
  • They’re willing to take far more than 50% of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in a relationship.
  • They have critically low levels of self-esteem.
  • They have a desperate need to control their man because they had little security in childhood.
  • They are more in touch with the dream of their relationship than with the reality of it.
  • They are addicted to men and emotional pain.
  • They may be predisposed to chemical/food addictions.
  • They have a tendency towards depression.
  • They use sex as a tool to manipulate their man.
  • They are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, or who are interested in them. They find them boring.

 

So, what do you do if you see yourself in any of these descriptions?

First, do not despair. There is something you can do. Make your recovery a priority. You cannot break this pattern on your own. Find a therapist who can help you work through the issues that are keeping you locked in this pattern. Most of the research I’ve read strongly suggests that women see women therapists. If possible, find a female therapist near you and tell her you think you are a woman who loves too much. Second, find a support group. Your therapist can recommend one for you. Third, develop your spiritual side. Set aside some time daily to get in touch with your higher power. Invite him or her into your life. Ask for help and guidance as you tackle this problem. Meditate. Fourth, stop managing and controlling others. This will be a hard one. This has become a skill you have used to “love” others, but it is self-serving. You need to find more genuine ways to connect with people. Fifth, make a commitment to cultivate what needs to be developed in you. Make a list of talents, skills, or abilities that you would like to work on. Set short-term and long-term goals to help you develop yourself in these areas. These will help you fill the void that you have been trying to fill by your dysfunctional relationships with men. Instead of “mothering” needy men, spend time mothering yourself.

Loving too much is just like any other addiction–it is a dysfunctional coping strategy that must be treated with a professional’s help. The good news is women who have loved too much can have healthy, successful relationships in their future! So, take advantage of the help that is available for you and set yourself up for success when you are on datingsafe.com. Love does not have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t. Period.

Information for this article was adapted from Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. I also recommend the book Healing Your Emotional Self by Beverly Engel