Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Romantic Relationships

Romance is always the topic I am asked about. Inquiring minds want to know each segment. When will he call? When will he say he loves me? When will we marry? There is always a rush to reach each goal.

The majority of my female clients try to rush their relationships once they develop strong feelings. Women have gotten used to being the aggressors. Let the man court you. It’s so important to let the relationship develop. Give the two of you a chance to get to know each other.

Relationship is about two people who come together that relate. It’s not about two people who have a physical attraction and then work to turn each other into the partner they want. That’s an entanglement.

When you find excuses to call or text a man you are dating, you appear needy. The person on the receiving end of that behavior will feel that the way you handle courtship is the way you will handle the relationship. No one wants to feel dominated or controlled. That can mean the end for any relationship in the early stages. To the man, the woman comes across as trying to control them. The way the male handles this is to back away. They usually don’t explain that they are fearful of being smothered.

Women create all kinds of excuses and justifications for this behavior. The way to attract your mate is to be a fun friend. Give him/her a chance to get to know you. Going slow also gives you the freedom of choice. It gives you the clarity to see if the two have you have enough common values and interests to have something long term. Find out what commonalities you share. You have more power when you look at the man you are interested in an take a viewpoint of looking to ‘see’ if he is for you rather than come from ‘does he like me’ or ‘how do I get him to like/want me?’ When you are the interviewer rather than the applicant, you have more freedom to choose. The stronger the foundation you build, the more likely the relationship will be less risky and long lasting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Sky is Falling!! NOT!!!

It’s all over the news. Our economy is going down the tubes. Regardless of what the media and our politicians would have us believe, the sky is not falling. The greedy corporations are feeling the pain. Those of us looking to make a fast buck may have gotten caught in the peak of the real estate surge. So what! When you take a risk – sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.

Isn’t that what Capitalism is all about? We all have opportunities. Are we more concerned about how we look to the rest of the world? Many banks sprung up out of nowhere. Many of those new institutions will be bought up by bigger, more stable institutions.

I am fortunate to live in a home by myself. Many people are forced to have roommates in order to afford housing whether it’s owned or rented. This isn’t the American comfort I remember. The cost of living is out of control.

Once upon a time our society revolved around family and family values. In the dot com era, the employees that were promoted were those who worked beyond five o’clock and on the weekends.

Relationships are harder to sustain when a person is forced to choose between career and relationships. I guess you can say that most of us bought into money, property, and prestige. This is an opportunity for each individual to decide what quality of life they wish to choose.

Isn’t it a paradox that on our American currency are the words, “In God We Trust”? Where is God in this? Out of the seemingly bad comes good. This is an opportunity for every person to focus inside, connect with a Higher Power, and just know we will all emerge better and happier beings! It’s time for our country to become more spiritually minded.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Peace and Serenity,...A Phenomenon????

Like most of the planet, the biggest battle I 've had - is the one with my head. It has as much activity as an airport with thoughts taking off and landing non-stop!
From the time we are in the womb until we are approximately nine years old, our brains are recording the data we use as our way of living. Most of my life I was on autopilot, reacting off of a variety of triggers and not even conscious of it.
Participating in a support group has given me the ability to see how I am programmed. By staying alcohol and drug free, I get to clearly hear my thoughts. If I am willing to admit that something is off in areas of my thinking and then give myself permission to not be 'perfect,' then I can identify my reaction to circumstances. If I look at my responses like a computer program, (an outdated one at that!) I give myself some objectivity. The objectivity makes it easier to identify my glitches in order to make choices rather than be at the effect of my triggers. One of the ways I look at my programming is by identifying an ongoing problem and putting it down on paper. I make a list of events from the past that caused the same feelings. Everything from the present is a trigger for an event from the past – especially if we overreact.
Free time for me can be dangerous. Most of the people I come across are very analytical and will dissect a situation more than a forensic pathologist (especially us females). I try to lead my mind rather than allow it to direct me. If I look at events from my childhood, I usually see where they run things or make my decisions in the present.
Support systems/Twelve-Step meetings have helped me. When I share honestly and with a solution in mind, I can get a reality check. I can hear where my perception of something may be off or learn a new way of dealing with a situation by listening to the experiences of others in the groups. People can walk me through events in my life. I have to be willing to be honest and allow the support.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Why do people hang on to unhealthy relationships? Fear! I watch the back and forth that goes on between couples. They get to a point that they call it quits, but as the anger subsides, they gravitate back to one another. Some of it is fear based, but like any addiction, a large part of it is the comfort of familiar territory. One or both will try to draw the other person back in. What though, is going to be any different? Once you have tried everything (and every combination of trying to make it work) and call it quits, it's not going to be different. The same two people are involved. Some people are like a matchstick and lighter fluid together. You can't erase the negative history you have together. It's better to move on and apply what you learned from this relationship toward the next one. As you grow and evolve, your choices will be healthier anyway.
I hear comments from clients and friends, "But I still love him" or "I still have feelings for him/her." You may always have feelings for them. Bottom line, you have to love yourself first. If the relationship was all bad, you would have left long ago. In fact, if all unhealthy relationships had no redeeming factors, no one would stay in them. Does the bad outweigh the good? Some common concerns (excuses) can be health issues, finances, and fear or guilt that the partner would not be able to make it on their own. It's amazing the justifications the human brain will come up with in order to remain in a dysfunctional relationship.
What does love have to do with it? Look at some extreme cases. People have been beaten and killed by their mates that loved them. If you wait to not love someone, you could stay stuck forever. In fact, people tend to become more and more like the environment they are in. Isn't there a saying, 'take healthy actions and then the feelings will follow?' When you say you want to stop drinking during a moment of clarity, you have to take actions. Just a declaration alone won't suffice. You can't keep hanging out in a bar and expect to stay sober. Couples have learned how to push each others buttons. They know how to manipulate one another.
My marriage had digressed to the point that almost every day I worried about whether or not my husband was going to call it quits. Looking back, whenever I felt secure with myself and my relationship, he would make a comment either directly or covertly that implied he wasn't sure our marriage would work. I would panic and refocus my attention to try to please him, or get angry and rebel. It was always a no-win situation and my body was always in fight or flight mode. I felt like I was constantly on probation. I wanted clarity on what part was my responsibility and what was his. I increased my twelve-step meetings and went into therapy. I began to distinguish the difference between my stuff and his. I didn't want to be at the end of my life looking at the 'would have, could have, should haves.' I wanted my life to change, but I wasn't willing to say good-bye to him in order for that change to occur. It was time to put my belief of a 'higher power' into practice. The next time my husband initiated an argument and took off in his car, I didn't pursue him by calling and taking all the blame. I decided to stop enabling him. There was no communication for ten days. He went to our Palm Desert condo and moved everything out.
He called to set up a meeting with me. I chose to meet in the park because it was a neutral place. He told me to hold off on filing for divorce. What was going to be any different? We both needed individual counseling in order to make this relationship change. He agreed to go to counseling. The short of it is, he never did go and I filed for divorce two months later.
He used the kids as a way to draw me into the game again. When he scheduled visitation and came by to see them, he brought lunch and would try to kiss me 'hello.' That was inappropriate. It gave me and the kids a mixed message. I had made my decision to divorce and had to set strong boundaries to protect myself. I didn't want to waste more time thinking it could be different. At the risk of looking like the bad guy, I left the house before he arrived for visitation and came home after he was gone. He tried other ways of getting my attention. The divorce got nasty because he no longer had control over me. Loving and honoring me became more important than keeping him happy. I no longer needed to keep the peace with him and win his approval. After a couple of months away from him, I realized how much I had compromised my soul. I felt like I was no longer in spiritual confinement.
I did what I now counsel others to do. Work the twelve steps on the relationship. You can apply the steps to any type of relationship. During your moment of clarity, or to get clear, make a list of all the things that don't work and are unhealthy about the relationship. How do you feel physically in it? Are you sad, angry or depressed more than feeling happy and nurtured? Is there always a tug of war going on? Are you both more committed to punishing each other rather than making a contribution to the relationship?
The next step is to have a support system in place. Make sure you have a few friends that you can call on when you begin to have the dialogue in your head that tells you 'it wasn't so bad - there were some good times. Maybe we can still work it out.' Our mind can always make a meal out of a few crumbs! It's the same stuff that comes up when getting away from any addiction. It is so important not to act out on those feelings. Feelings are not facts. Fear is false evidence appearing real. Redirect your mind. Pull out your list. Don't look at old photos or videos of you and your significant other. When people you knew together want to tell you what your ex is doing, tell them you don't want to hear it. It won't support you in moving forward. When you take back your power, it might alienate some people. It's okay to take care of yourself. One common fear is that you will never meet anyone else. Another is that your ex-mate will find someone else immediately and live happily ever after. What if we were the whole problem? All my ex's have stayed the same. The new person gets to deal with their baggage now.
Shortly after removing myself from an unhealthy (dishonoring) relationship, I can be more objective and see why it was time to exit. There are four stages: emotional struggle about ending the relationship, clarity and confidence to end it, fear and second thoughts, and then anger toward oneself at staying in it so long.
Protect yourself. With some people, you can't just set up boundaries. You have to set up barricades. Remember, you won't find comfort from the source that caused you pain. It stopped being there long ago. There is a cliché, "You don't go to the hardware store for flowers." Get back into reality. Make your mantra, "Keep moving forward. Don't look back. Look ahead."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Setting Healthy Boundaries When A Relationship Ends

Recently I have had the opportunity to hear about the ending of ‘love’ relationships and the ability to set boundaries. Sometimes people want to put up a good front for their children by trying to create a friendship with the soon to be ex-spouse or partner. I believe that a maintaining a certain amount of distance is important for several reasons. When a relationship ends, not only do both parties go through an emotional adjustment period, including anger and sadness, but they also have to learn how to function without the other and establish separate lives. Often, there is the assumption that the former partner will have the other partner’s best interests in mind. There are different circumstances that lead to divorce, but if there was a breakdown in communication or trust, your partner isn’t the best one to make your current and future decisions. Advice should be sought out by professionals or friends that can offer some objectivity. Why are you and your partner splitting up to begin with?
A man I was seeing was exchanging information about dating with his soon to be ex. Every time he spent any length of time with her, he’d end our relationship with ‘We aren’t going anywhere’ only to change his mind a few days later. Knowing a little of their dynamic and his desire to prove to her he is honest, compassionate, and trustworthy, he listens to information he probably shouldn’t. Discussing the dating stage or replacement of a lover/companion is something that should not be shared with your former partner. What purpose do those discussions serve? It is painful to the person receiving the information whether they show it or not and doesn’t allow that person to move forward with their life. They wonder what the new mate has that they didn’t and it brings up feelings of inadequacy and financial and emotional insecurity. This is a big issue if one mate doesn’t work and is dependant on the other for financial support. My female clients express concern that the new ‘woman’ will take their ex-husband away from the children and balk about the amount of spousal support being paid out.
Once one of the mates does get emotionally involved, it is appropriate to say I am very interested in someone and wanted you to find out through me first. Don’t share details. If the partner really has your best interests in mind they will congratulate you and wish you the best or tell you that they feel angry or threatened if they are honest communicators. Your partner does not have your best interest in mind if they say something like, “That’s great but don’t you think you haven’t dated enough? Isn’t it too soon to be involved? Shouldn’t you really see what’s out there?” Most women are more comfortable knowing their ex partner is dating rather than involved with some one. If your former partner feels threatened, he/she will try to plant seeds of doubt but act as if they are coming from their love of you. This is death to any new relationship.
The way to set boundaries is to act cordial to your ex-mate when calling to pick up and drop off a child, call regarding mutual business, but stay away from your personal life—if you want one. There are reasons you are getting divorced. Some partners will manipulate and act sweet to get information in order to monitor a situation in order to know what going on so they can stay ahead of you and feel safe. If they were secure with you and themselves, they wouldn’t want to know your personal life, only that they can count on you to keep your financial and custody obligations. Reassure them that no matter who comes into the picture, you will always meet your financial and parental agreements.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Importance Of Creating A Tangible Higher Power

The use of a ‘higher power’ is essential in living a peaceful and meaningful life. Societies’ measure of success is the opposite of what spiritual, religious and self-help groups convey. In our society we measure our success by our possessions rather than our deeds and behavior. We learn early on that ‘things’ will make us feel better. The newness of a relationship, spending money and other stuff, briefly gratify the ego and take away the restlessness. We have become an impatient and cranky society dependant upon external things to keep us distracted from feeling our feelings. The newness has worn off and left us feeling empty. Gratifying the soul lasts longer than feeding the ego. So how do we get off the hamster wheel?

In creating a tangible form of a ‘God,’ I am able to maintain some sort of serenity during emotional and physical turmoil. Someone gave me the bookmark with ‘Footprints in the sand’ while I was going through my divorce. It was a time of uncertainty and chaos. I read that bookmark several times a day to get a reprieve from the horror movie that was running through my head. I had to discipline myself in order to block the fears that crept in. I began to visualize a higher power in human form so I had an actual being carry me and walk with me throughout each day. Slowly I began to have peace for longer periods of time. Eventually I replaced the fearful mental movies with pictures of God beside me. With the dependence of God – I have more freedom.

When I am in a panic, I make choices out of fear. When I am calm I make better choices. My life is so much better because my decisions are about being true to myself rather than keeping the peace by pleasing others.
When I apply a higher power in my decisions, I live a spiritually grounded life.