3 ways to enjoy the Christmas party season as a single again person

It’s Christmas time. A time of joy and celebration.  A time to be with family, or so the advertisements say. Is that your experience of Christmas?

For many people at the end of a relationship, Christmas is a painful reminder of what has been lost and a time of loneliness.   You have to face going to all the Christmas events alone and unless you’re extroverted, this can be a daunting prospect.

Even now I need to be deliberate in choosing to enjoy this season. It reminds me that my marriage ended and can make me feel alone. I was going to write it reminds me I am alone, but that is a negative thought pattern leading me to dark places, and it is not true. I am not alone. I have friends and family who invite me to participate. I just need to accept and sometimes reach out to them.  I may have times of being alone but I reframe how I experience it and embrace the solitude.

There are the inevitable parties and events.  As an introvert I hate going to these alone and struggle to walk up to groups of people even if I know them. In the early days I remember standing outside in the car park struggling to find the strength to step through the doorway into the light and sounds of people partying inside. Sometimes my courage failed and I went home.

So over time I’ve developed some strategies to not only deal with the Christmas/ New Year party season – but to enjoy it:

  1. Be aware of the emotional impact
  2. Deal with loneliness
  3. Tips for going to parties/events alone
  1. Be aware of the emotional impact

Christmas and New Year with parties and family gatherings and the romantic undertone of kissing under the mistletoe and at midnight on New Years Eve-, can be like a lance to a boil. Buried emotions and difficult thoughts erupt pierced by the reminders of what you have lost.

So you need to recognise this may be a problem for you and have some self-care strategies and ways of dealing with negative emotions that will arise.

  1. Deal with the loneliness

Strategies to deal with the loneliness include:

  • Connecting with communities e.g. volunteer to help out at Christmas events for charities
  • Plan catch up times with good friends who understand that this may be a tricky time for you
  • Use the alone time to your advantage by doing something you enjoy such as reading, massage, spiritual contemplation. This builds you up and refreshes you and helps you reframe it from a painful situation to something you may even look forward to.

  1. Tips on going to parties alone

Some tips to going to parties and events alone include:

  • Try and find someone to travel to the event and enter with.
  • Have something in your hands –it makes you look like you are a part of what is going on. Don’t be like the old me clinging to the wall looking lost and helpless. So grab a drink or a plate of food. Getting the drink or navigating the food table can be a way to meet and chat to people as usually they are by themselves at this time.
  • If you have trouble walking up to a group then find another person who is by themselves and ask them some questions to start a conversation. Most people like to talk about themselves! Prepare some questions beyond ‘what do you do?’ Some examples I use are; What was the best thing that happened to you this week? What is something you are looking forward to next year? These are positive questions that hopefully will elicit a positive response and not a list of what is wrong with the world. On the other hand be a positive person to speak to as this is more attractive.
  • Have an exit strategy.

What are some of your ideas for enjoying this season? Please share them in the comments section so others can benefit

Putting legs on it

Which of the three strategies do you need to focus on? What is one thing you can do?

If this post seemed familiar it was a re-run from November last year.

Resources

If you are a Christian see articles by Kris Swiatocho of The Single Network  about the difference between lonely and alone called Jesus single like me and A Fine Line: Loneliness vs. Alone-ness

References

Photo credit:

Pineapple Party – Pineapple Supply Co unsplash.com

Christmas Lights – Marina Khrapova unsplash.com

 

3 ways to find strength to fly again

I groggily open my eyes with a growing awareness of a voice speaking loudly. As my mind starts to makes sense of patterns of words, I realise the voice is describing the traffic. I focus to my right and decipher the numbers on my alarm clock. Hmm! My radio alarm been going for nearly half an hour and I’ve slept through it. I admit I still use a clock radio that’s older than my young adult children! I try to get out of bed but I can’t summon the muscle energy to coordinate the effort. I know I have to write this blog and my writing time is disappearing with each moment that passes, but I just can’t do it. I’m tired. Tired to my core. A mixture of body fatigue from the excursion of teaching all day on my feet yesterday before heading to a meeting at night, mind tiredness from meeting deadlines and emotional wipe out from unrelenting change and loss. It’s been a long year!

At the end of your relationship you may feel the same. Each day you drag yourself out of bed, often after a poor night’s sleep, desperate for the energy to ‘do’ the day. Bound by the pain of loss and grief your hope is drained, emptying your strength with it. Fear may be grabbing your heals and pinning you to the ground with the exhaustion of mind, body and soul.

It creates an image of being stuck in the mud, movement resisted by fatigue. Weighed down and unable to lift, how do you find the strength to fly again, to experience joy in life and live your purpose healed and whole from the end of your relationship?

The words from Simon and Garfunkle’s song ‘Bridge over troubled water’ which begins with, ‘When you’re weary’ provide a solution.

Click here to listen to the song

The words of the song express the notion of how we need extra from the outside when we have exceeded our limit of strength, when we are done and when we cannot go any further. When stuck in emptiness, we know we need to be supplied with something or someone else, just to take one more step.

At the end of a relationship or in times of crisis in our lives, we can be overwhelmed by grief or the tasks at hand. Here’s 3 ways to find strength to fly again:

  1. Have others to surround and support

To keep going you need to tap into a support network and be filled with their strength. Friends, family, a supportive community can all be wells from which you can draw strength to refresh and keep going. The strength deposits may be in the form of practical help: a cooked meal delivered to the door step, help with packing, doing the groceries when you are too busy to get to the shop. Strength can come from a note of encouragement, a listening ear or a hug. Surround yourself with supportive people who will give you strength when you are weary.

  1. Rest and restore

Take time out; time to re-create. Time to invest in something that fills you.

Often in the mess of the end of a relationship and the demands of single parenting if you have children, you can lose sight of who you are, what you enjoy and what fills you. If this is you, think about your past – what did you do to rest? What did you do for activities that you enjoyed such as hobbies, sport, and leisure. Can you start one of these again? What people did you hang out with who filled you? Can you connect with old friends or go out socially and find new ones?

  1. Free your feet from the yuk that anchors you to the ground.

Learn to manage your grief. Practise forgiveness to help with bitterness click here. Scrape it off your feet so you are not sucked earthwards. Do you need counselling, a support group? Lighten your load with journaling or debriefing with a friend, to travel more lightly.

There’s a fourth way.

The image of being stuck in the mire is a biblical one (Psalm 40:2 and 69:14), as is the image of soaring on wings likes eagle . As a Christian when I reach the end of my strength, I am so glad I have someone else to draw from. My God, who promises strength for the weary.

…those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

 

Putting legs on it

  • Take one step to build your support network. Call a friend. Make an appointment with a counsellor.
  • Put time in your schedule to do one thing that fills you this week.
  • Use the resources in ‘Free your feet from the yuk’ to find one thing you can do to scrape the mud from your feet and do it this week.
  • Repeat until your burdens are lighter and you can fly again!

3 ways to break the grip of chewing gum words

As a single again person it’s most likely you have had negative words said, probably screamed at you. In the heat of an argument the ‘you blames’ and derogatory names erupt, slinging not only mud that dirties but an arrow that pierces.

The ‘you blames’:

  • You never listened to me
  • You were always going out with your friends
  • You’re a bad mother
  • It’s your fault

The ‘you blames and ‘derogatory names’ are a form of domestic violence. The White Ribbon Foundation, an organization working in a primary preventative role to change the ‘attitudes and behaviours that lead to violence against women,’ says:

Verbal abuse includes angry yelling but it also includes cold statements designed to humiliate a person. Verbal abuse includes:

  • name-calling
  • continuous criticism, swearing and humiliation in public or in private
  • attacks on a woman’s intelligence, body or parenting
  • yelling’

The focus of this blog is not to remind you of those words but will label them for what they are  – verbal abuse which is a form of domestic violence. If you need assistance speak to a counsellor/your local doctor or if you are in Australia contact 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732 https://www.1800respect.org.au/

The focus of this blog is to break the grip those words had on you and especially to get you to think about how you speak to yourself now. Have some of those words attached themselves to you, like chewing gum to your shoe as you try to walk into your new life? Are they keeping you anchored to where you’ve been? Do you have to pull hard against their sticky resistance to move forward?

Just like your mum probably had a few tricks for removing chewing gum, there are some tricks to breaking free from the words of your past.

3 ways to break the grip of chewing gum words

The last blog looked at changing your perspective about how you think. This is closely linked to how you speak.

  1. Talk nicely to yourself

The words you say have power.

For Christians, we believe in the power of the spoken word. God spoke and the universe was created. Jesus spoke and people were healed, waves were calmed.

Back to you. Ever heard your mouth say things like ugly, stupid, failure, nobody would want you? But who are you saying them to? You’d never speak to a friend like that! So why do you say horrible things to yourself?

Don’t repeat what was said about you or to you.

Change the way you speak to yourself. You can be very deliberate about doing this. Years ago, my counsellor helped me write a list of affirmations to speak every day. Speaking them to yourself means you wire them into your brain once as you’ve said it and the second time as you hear it.

Create positive affirmations and display them in places you frequently visit (fridge, mirror, back of toilet door) and speak them out.

Click here for Christian affirmations ‘I am loved by God’

  1. Build a new identity that is not based on what was said about you.

You are whole. You are a complete person. You are not missing ‘another half’. You may need to rebuild your self-esteem – click here for 10 steps for rebuilding shattered self-esteem.

I believe as a Christ follower your identity comes from being a much loved child of God. You have immense worth to Him.

  1. Forgiveness

Down the track when you are safe and having some calm return to life, you need to forgive the person who said ‘you blames’ or derogatory names, to free yourself from the power of their words over you. This applies even if you’ve experienced domestic violence, however you DO NOT have to do this in person or even contact the person who spoke the words. Always be safe. You can write a letter that you don’t post or speak your forgiveness to a chair imagining them sitting there. It doesn’t matter whether they hear your words or not. This is about bringing healing to you – I explain more about this in for 7 ways to help you process forgiveness

Putting legs on it

Write yourself a list of affirmations and speak these out every morning.

Display words of affirmation where you can see them frequently.

What’s one step you can take to rebuild your self-esteem?

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire stocksnap.io

3 ways to change your perspective and improve your thought life

Chatting with some single girlfriends, we began by whining about being single and lamenting the problems, but ended up appreciating the many positives of being single. Sometimes the negatives engulf us and fill our view until all we can see is difficulties and pain. Our conversation shifted from woe to laughter as one person pointed out how nice it was to be able to read in bed. This diverted our attention from focusing on what we lack and started us listing the good things.

Think about what you’re thinking about

Your thoughts grow your brain.  Some images to describe this process are: growing branches on trees (which according to neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf is what it looks like), laying strands in a cable or grooves in a record – the more you think the same thoughts the stronger the thought exists in your brain. Thoughts are measurable and ‘influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make’1 and they produce feelings including negative ones like anxiety.

Become aware of the negative, toxic thoughts and conversations you have in your head… then replace them. Here’s 3 ways to change your perspective and improve your thoughts, to change the lens through which you view your situation:

  1. Be grateful

As a single again person it’s easy to slip into a negative focus, lamenting your situation. Your focus on what you don’t have or what is hard in your life, making yourself miserable by expressing your discontent instead of looking at what you have and appreciating your life. 2 This is what I and my girlfriends did at the beginning.

Here is some of our list of good things we appreciate about being single:

  • Having control of the remote
  • Setting our own standards of housework
  • Not having to juggle to fit another adults calendar to attend events
  • Not having to share the block of chocolate (provided it is hidden from the kids if you have them)
  • Sleeping all over the bed with as much of the quilt as you want
  • Only listening to your CD’s
  • The toilet seat is always where you left it (children may affect this)

While the list may seem selfish it also included having time available to help others or serve as a volunteer.

You can take this a step further and start a gratitude journal. Writing down 3 things each day you are thankful for. Sometimes it can simply be that the day is over!

  1. Reframing

Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 3Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

An example from my life as a single parent. When the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by. I am spending part of Christmas alone; this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe that by saying, ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’  See blog How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity‘ for what I did differently

3. Be present

Don’t’ wallow in the past and what cannot be changed or worry about the future. Be present in the moment. It can be hard in the initial mess of the end of a relationship to do this. A practice to help with this is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is focusing your attention in the moment and accepting it without judgement.  Its enemy is multi-tasking. In the busyness of single life where you are juggling everything, focus on the one thing before you.

In any situation where you feel trapped by the negatives, you can change your outlook. You can use techniques like creating the list to be grateful for, reframing and being present to switch your perspective from the negative, what is bad or wrong, to find a positive. Most circumstances in life are a mixture of both and how you feel can be a matter of perspective. When all you see are problems, you feel miserable. When you change your mindset to see advantages you feel better. It can be a choice to change your focus. Your situation may not change but how you feel about it does.

After the discussion with my friends I was still single, but I felt happy in my circumstances, instead of dissatisfied.

Putting legs on it

If you are feeling overwhelmed, trapped in your circumstances, try changing your focus. List an advantage; one good thing about it.

If you are single again, can you add to our list?

 

References

  1. Leaf, C (2009) Who switched off my brain?, Inprov Ltd, USA p13-21
  2. Legge, V (2010) New Life in the Mourning, Sid Harta p106
  3. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=reframing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=ga80WMi9OcqEogO41p_wBw

Photo credits:

Lens: Paul Skorupskas unsplash.com

Frames:Jessica Ruscello unsplash.com

What is new life in the mourning?

Supporting a friend through the end of her marriage, she asked the question, ‘You talk about new life in the mourning a lot – what do you actually mean?

I’ve continued to think about how I would answer that simply without reusing the same words:

New life in the mourning is a positive response to find a fresh way of being and doing amidst the negative experience of the ending of a relationship.

Wow, that was hard to capture what I mean by ‘new life in the mourning’ and not write an essay on it. There’s 3 parts to it:

New Life

In

The Mourning

New Life: positive response to find a fresh way of being and doing

So, what is new life at the end of a marriage?

New life encompasses many things in both the present and the future. It is learning how to be single again and how to do life as a single person, creating a single parent family if you have kids.  It’s finding out who you are and what you want from life, recognising the end of your relationship may have changed you. It’s finding a community so you won’t do life alone. It’s dreaming of the life you want and taking steps to live a life of purpose. It’s looking after yourself, your health and valuing yourself. It is hopeful as you discover and create a good life at the end of your relationship.

In: amidst

This is the recognition that creating the new life occurs whilst you are grieving. You don’t do the grief or wait for it to be over, before you find a new way to live. Part of the healing of the grief is learning to live in the new normal and finding meaning and purpose there.

The Mourning: the negative experience of ending a relationship

Mourning is dealing with the loss of your relationship and navigating the grief it brings. It is healing the hurts so you can love again and develop healthy relationships. It includes dealing with the baggage and happenings in your past that impact both now and potentially the future.

You need to let go, release your old life, even some friends. Forgiveness is a big part of the releasing. Forgiving your former partner, friends and others, and yourself – this is a big one. Let go of blame and guilt to find your freedom so you can  live your future.

It’s normal as you navigate your new life to fall back into the negative thought patterns of ‘life is too hard’ and wishing it was different, being jealous of others who have happy relationships or are financially secure. Learn to accept and manage these times.

If I re-wrote the book would I change anything?

Spending time reflecting on this a decade after writing the book and continuing to support people at the end of their relationships, have I changed what I would write when I do the next edition?

Mostly no. I come back to the same structure I use in my course and on the website (which is slightly different from the book):

  • The end of the relationship: Dealing with the practicalities at the end of a relationship. Dividing up assets, divorcing if you were married, creating parenting plans, selling the house, practical and legal stuff you have to attend to at the end of the relationship. Get good advice throughout this process. The end of the relationship also covers understanding its effect on your health and the process of grief.
  • Healing: How to engage with and process your grief, manage your emotions, rebuild your self-esteem, improve your health, connect with community.
  • Moving forward: Create your new life. Get to know yourself and think about both who you want to be and what you want to do. What dreams do you have? What are your passions? It’s a chance to begin again.
  • Successfully single again: Heal and grow healthy relationships

I would change the following because I have realised how easy it is to create a new life where your identity is doing, not being. I’ve seen how the fear of others and building walls stops support and creates more isolation.

I would strengthen and add more about the importance of community. You are better together as I often talk about now. It’s the importance  of connecting with others, creating a circle of support, growing your friendships, and more information on how to do this using the concept of the circle of support.

I would also stress more on self-compassion and self-care.

But overall, the message of ‘new life in the mourning’ remains the same.

Putting legs on it

I would love to hear your feedback on what else should be covered. What is important to you as you heal and recover at the end of your relationship?

Leave a comment here, post on Facebook or use the contact form

Let yourself off the hook – you can’t have a marriage by yourself

I’ve seen some vigorous ‘Christian’ debate about divorce from Christian’s on social media recently. Upfront I will readily confess my bias here as a divorced Christian. The lens I view theology through is one of grace and all sins can be forgiven including breaking marriage vows. But when are the vows broken? At the end of my marriage, I initiated the divorce discussion but have I committed the unforgivable sin because I said ‘enough’ although the union was long broken?

I shared my story in 10 ways to alienate and drive divorced/single again people away from your church how I reacted with uncontrollable sobs when the minister made a comment, ‘Christians don’t divorce’. But they do!

If you are a divorced Christian, here’s my thoughts and I hope they help you let yourself off the hook and release any judgement and shame you may be feeling.

It only takes one to end the relationship

No matter how much one person desires a relationship and/or is committed to their marriage, if the other person isn’t part of it, there is no relationship. There is no marriage. One person doesn’t make a marriage. It takes two to form a relationship but it only takes one to leave.

Leaving isn’t always physically removing oneself from the relationship. Many people ‘stay’ in the relationship but they have checked out and left by their actions.

There may be abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual. They may be emotionally connected to another person and the love and emotional intimacy that should be shared with their partner is being given to someone else.  This may not be labelled adultery, but it has a similar detrimental effect on the marriage.   One partner could be sleeping with others with an emotional commitment to the new relationship or without a commitment by using prostitutes. Once the companionship is broken there is no marriage from a Biblical point of view. See below.

It takes two people to enter a relationship and be a part of its issues, but it only takes one person to leave.

The Concept of marriage and divorce is shaped by culture and laws

So, let’s talk about the marriage union, and separate Biblical concept from our legal and cultural norms. The way we do marriage is dictated by law and culture.1 In Australia if you meet the criteria to marry you must complete a ‘notice of intended marriage form’ at least one month before the wedding, you must prove your ID and on the day of your wedding you, the celebrant and two witnesses sign certificates and the celebrant has 14 days to register your marriage.

Likewise, there are rules around divorcing. 2 These rules are different in other countries and the way we celebrate marriage looks different in other countries and cultures. Even during my lifetime in Australia, the rules around how to marry and divorce have changed.

Recognise that your view of marriage and divorce is shaped by your culture and the laws of your society.

The Biblical concept of marriage and divorce

Recognise the effect of culture and law in what is written in the Bible. For example, in the Bible, divorce always means the end of the marriage, there is no separation followed by a legal decree. 3 God instituted the Bill of Divorcement to protect women (Genesis 24). Women were seen as a man’s possession and had no means of financing themselves except through marriage, concubinage, prostitution or slavery.4 Divorce, which was available only to men, could be accomplished by sending the wife from the house.5 The Bill of Divorcement was necessary to allow women to remarry.

God invented the union of marriage at the start of the Bible when He created man. One Bible scholar says, ‘[m]arriage was established because Adam was alone, and that was not good. Companionship, therefore, is the essence of marriage’.6 The unification of the marriage is over when one person breaks the bond, when the companionship is broken. This usually occurs before the couple separate and divorce in modern day.

Divorce is referred to five times in the New Testament, four times quoting Jesus and once quoting Paul. These passages appear to contradict themselves. Scholarly books spend chapters explaining how to understand these passages.

Bruce Prewer, a Uniting Church minister, says that Jesus taught on the value of people, that life-long commitment is the goal of marriage and attacked how divorce functioned in his society.7

To explore this in more depth Click here for my book chapter What the church and Bible say about divorce.’

My Summary from my book chapter: God invented the union of marriage and the Bible upholds it as the ideal. The breaking of the marriage union is a sin. It may happen long before separation and divorce occur, and it may be broken by a partner’s abuse or infidelity rather than when one person leaving the marriage. God forgives all sin. Grace is bigger than sin.

Putting legs on it

Recognise that you can’t have a marriage by yourself, and let go of the guilt and shame from the end of your relationship.

If you are curious as to my Biblical understanding of divorce read my chapter ‘What the church and Bible say about divorce.’

Discover your new life in your mourning.

References

  1. Attorney-General’s Department, Getting married’, Australian Government, viewed 13 July 2017, https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Pages/Getting-married.aspx
  2. Attorney-General’s Department, Getting divorced’, Australian Government, viewed 13 July 2017, http://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/family-and-community/relationships/getting-divorced.
  3. K Crispen, Divorce, Hodder and Stoughton, Australia, 1988, p. 12-18 and JE Adams, Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the bible. Zondervan, U.S.A, 1980, p. 32-35
  4. B Prewer, ‘Sex and marriage: Biblical and historical’, Ministering to loss situations including separation, divorce and death – Kit 3, Family Ministries Commission, Australia, 1983
  5. K Crispen, Divorce, Hodder and Stoughton, Australia, 1988, p. 11
  6. JE Adams, Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the bible. Zondervan, U.S.A, 1980, p. 8
  7. B Prewer, ‘Sex and marriage: Biblical and historical’, Ministering to loss situations including separation, divorce and death – Kit 3, Family Ministries Commission, Australia, 1983, p. 3

Photo by Peter Winckler on Unsplash

Why you should celebrate how far you’ve come

Grief is a slow process. When you are in the thick if it and trying to make it through each day, sometimes each hour, it consumes you and your world. There may be moments of relief where you forget and focus on the here and now. However, even if you are engaging with the process as opposed to burying it under workaholism, addiction, drugs, sex and serial relationships so you don’t have to feel –you often don’t see your progress.

Looking for progress in grief is like seeing a picture of your dog as a puppy and realising how much it has changed, or suddenly noticing how the long lawn is, when day by day you were unaware of it growing.

It’s been a year on June 29th that I started blogging fortnightly on this website. Taking this moment to look back, can you see how far you’ve come in the past year?

For me, looking back over the year I can see many situations that could have derailed me, mistakes and times I let myself down, but I celebrate that I made it through to my first anniversary of relaunching ‘New Life in the Mourning’. I’m still here blogging and growing this ministry. I didn’t give up and fade away, though many times I wanted to. It’s been hard work and life has thrown a few curly things at me. But by God’s grace I’m still standing. So, below is list of what we’ve covered in the past year.

The next year will see a change. I have launched my Vicky Legge website and plan to launch Chronic Hope soon, so to make room for these I will blog here monthly on the 3rd Thursday of the month. To make it easier to remember I will, send the blog post directly to your inbox with other bonuses if you are signed up to the mailing list. With the launch of my new website it’s a bit messy in the changeover period but we will find a new rhythm, as you will find with your new life.

You are special and you are loved

Grief

It takes more than a Band-Aid for the wounds of grief 

Why journal at the end of relationship and how to start

How to deal with the emotions of grief

Healing

7 ways to improve your health

Hope springs

10 steps for rebuilding shattered self-esteem

Moving forward

5 steps to adapt to being single again

5 steps to change loneliness from a burden to a bonus

Do one thing every day towards your dream

How to create and protect a work/life balance

How to travel light in the New Year 

How to change the ‘what if’ thoughts using goal setting and an action plan

Successfully single again

3 ways to enjoy the Christmas party season as a single again person

My 7 keys to live a flourishing life at the end of a relationship

Healthy relationships

3 ways to hold your personal boundaries

2 foundations to a healthy network of relationships

Loving again

5 steps to be ready to love again

7 ways to help you process forgiveness

What to do when you are stuck with trusting again

What’s your pattern of relating? Here’s 6 possible drivers.

Looking in the mirror

Waiting to date – here’s how to create a dating checklist

Love me, love my dog – how to improve the chances of a having lasting relationship


Photo credit: Dawid Zawiła stocksnap.io

Love me, love my dog – how to improve the chances of a having lasting relationship

I’m going to introduce you to Hilary and Keith, May and Allan – two couples rocking their second marriages.  As I have shared before, my dating history post-divorce is small and I haven’t experienced a lasting relationship, so this blog will rely on the stories of others. What can we learn from them about how to improve the chances of a lasting relationship?

What are the chances of success for a second relationship?

In drafting this blog, I started with: The statistics aren’t good. You may have heard from American statistics ‘50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.’1 I don’t know what the official stats are for Australia but they are not inspiring. It raises the question: How do you make your new relationship last? (Most of us don’t date just for the fun of it. There is an expectation to explore the relationship to see if it will be a life partnership.)

But then I found an article quoting UK statistics saying ‘45 per cent of first marriages end in divorce, but only 31 percent of second marriages will end in failure. Couples benefit from age and experience, and are more ready to commit.’2 However, they note ‘second marriages can be particularly problematic when there are children from previous marriages.3 See resources.

Some examples of successful second relationships

Hilary and Keith

Hilary and Keith have just celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Both had been married before. One had a short marriage and had been single for many years; the other a long marriage and a shorter time being single. They both had teenage children when they met, so blending a family has been part of their journey. Their marriage has experienced pressures and problems, but they were both determined to make the marriage work. Through love for each other, they were able to overcome the initial problems and now say it was worth going through the tough times.

Their advice:

Take time to get to know each other and your respective families before making a decision to marry (they waited nearly two years). Be honest with each other about what you want for the future. Put time into the relationship, especially during the turbulent early years, and attend marriage-strengthening courses/retreats.

May and Allan

May and Allan married five years ago. May’s journey after divorce included being single again for thirty-five years and needing a long, slow healing process to learn to trust again. She had built up walls to keep men out and avoided contact with any males. Over a ten-year period God put safe people into her life, beginning with children and their families. In stages she learned to let people in and connect with them. Eventually she met Allan, a widower who had been married for forty-two years, and they began to date.

Their advice:

You need to work at helping each other to understand the other person. Because he had been a long time married and she a long-time single, they saw the world differently. Work at seeing life from the other’s point of view.

So how do you improve the chances of having a lasting relationship?

  • Don’t rush. Allow time to get to know the person through different seasons including holidays and times of stress. In times of overload and pain our true character may be revealed.
  • Get to know the person. See them in different situations. Get to know their friends. How do they relate to others? How do they handle their finances? How’s their relationship with God if this is important to you? For me – how do they relate to my dog! Use your checklist from the last blog Waiting to date as a guide.
  • Develop your communication skills. With past hurts that may push your buttons and the complexities of relationship (ex’s, children, family networks) learn how manage conflict and fight fair. Listen without reacting and speak your needs clearly.
  • Guard your boundaries – both personal and sexual
  • Get to know their family of origin and children if they have them. I can laugh as I write this because if someone were to look at my family of origin, they would see some issues there. However, they can also look at me and see that I have dealt with some of the problems from my past – always a work in progress though!
  • Remember that your actions affect others, especially if you have children. I have seen the sadness in my kids when a good male friend moved interstate. How much harder would it be for them to ‘lose’ a male I had spent lots of family time with in dating?
  • Learn about blending a family if this is part of the equation. See resources

According to friends, loving again is worth the risk but you have to do your homework. Prepare for and enjoy the chance to love again if it happens to come your way.

Putting legs on it

If you are dating, reflect on the relationship using the ideas in this blog. Make changes as required.

If it is important to you – do they love your dog?

 

Resources for blending families

Consider this quote: ‘Essentially, the remarried family’s unanticipated and difficult job is to leave behind many of their old assumptions about how a ‘real family’ — i.e., a traditional first-marriage family — is supposed to operate and get to work on self-consciously planning, designing and building an entirely new kind of family structure that will meet their own unique requirements.’4

Blended Not Shaken Ministries: Christian step/single parent and blended family ministries

Resources

Psychology Today: High Failure rate of second and third marriages

References

  1. M Banschick, High Failure rate of second and third marriages, Psychology Today, 2012, viewed 7 June 2017 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201202/the-high-failure-rate-second-and-third-marriages
  2. F Macrae, Couples in second marriages are ‘less likely to get divorced’ because they benefit from experience of the first, Daily Mail UK, 2013, UK, viewed 7 June 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2316323/Couples-second-marriages-likely-divorced-benefit-experience-first.html
  3. F Macrae, Couples in second marriages are ‘less likely to get divorced’ because they benefit from experience of the first, Daily Mail UK, 2013, UK, viewed 7 June 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2316323/Couples-second-marriages-likely-divorced-benefit-experience-first.html
  4. M Scarfe, Why second marriage are more perilous, Time, 2013 viewed 7 June 2017 http://ideas.time.com/2013/10/04/why-second-marriages-are-more-perilous/

Waiting to date – here’s how to create a dating checklist

‘Come back,’ I cried as the echo of thudding hooves and clanging metal faded into the distance, the white of his horse blurring into the horizon. He was gone. The words formed in my mouth. ‘There are no knights on white horses anymore.’

I’ll admit I am waiting, waiting for my knight in shining armour! Sometimes I get tired of waiting.

In the meantime I’m working on what I can control, me!

Whilst waiting you can:

Lastly you can work through what you want from a relationship. (This may seem clinical as you end with a list, but women have expressed that it has helped them to not jump into ultimately unhealthy relationships or settle, and instead hold to a character standard of what is important to them.)

Create a dating checklist

Once you know who you are and what you like, spend time thinking about what you really want in a relationship. My list is now very different from what mattered to me in my early twenties. Some considerations are:

  1. Has the relationship grown from friendship? This one thing may be the best basis for a lasting relationship because you know the person before the ‘love chemicals’ kick in which can blind you to aspects of the person’s character.
  2. Define your own criteria for the kind of person you want to share your life with. This may include their character traits, how they treat others, and their attitudes, beliefs and values. This is your list of what is acceptable to you and what you cannot tolerate. Decide what is negotiable on the list.
  3. Share your dreams with the person you are dating. Are you heading in the same direction?

Create accountability

Create accountability for when you are blinded by ‘love chemicals’. Have some trusted friends who are prepared to speak the truth to you and can help by being your counsel on any future relationship. Give them permission to speak truthfully, even when they know it will hurt you. Tell them of any special areas to look out for. For me it is not conforming to what the person I’m dating wants, forfeiting myself in the process. I had asked a couple of friends to do this and after a first date they went into action. Although I was a bit miffed because I really liked the person, the danger signs were obvious to my friends. Now I am glad I gave them permission to speak.

 Waiting

It is hard once you get to the point of thinking you are healed enough to date, to wait for someone to appear in your life. I found I would check out men’s ring fingers for a tell-tale wedding ring, read the personal ads and generally fantasise about how to meet someone.

Waiting and being prepared to stick to my checklist and criteria I find difficult. Sometimes I feel like dropping my standards because any relationship would be better than having to wait.

This is where knowing you are whole without another person to complete you and living a life of purpose is important.

Putting legs on it

Create a checklist of

  • What you would like in a relationship, your dreams and where you are heading?
  • What characters traits do you want in a person?
  • What are your boundaries?

What things on the list are important and what is not-negotiable? What would you compromise on?

e.g. you might give up your retirement plan to travel Australia in a caravan if the person had the character you wanted but their idea of retirement is volunteering overseas in a third world country.

 

Resources

He said, She said Columns series : He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has travelled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends. SHE is … Kris Swiatocho, the President and Director of TheSinglesNetwork.org Ministries and FromHisHands.com Ministries. Kris has served in ministry in various capacities for the last 25 years. An accomplished trainer and mentor, Kris has a heart to reach and grow leaders so they will in turn reach and grow others. She is also the author of four books.

Pray for a mate – if you live in Adelaide South Australia and are interested in a group please contact me vicky@hisheartministrytraining.com.au

References

Love chemicals BBC:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/love/

Amazing brain:   http://www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/sciencelove.htm

Photo Credit: Matthew Henry unsplash.com

Looking in the mirror

When my marriage ended I believed and I told people, I would never understand what had happened. For years I blamed him and didn’t understand why we broke up. Then doing some reading about relationships, I ended up looking into the mirror.

I found I had some deep, unresolved problems caused by my upbringing and my parents’ divorce. I brought these into our marriage without even knowing they were there. These buried roots influenced the person I was attracted to and the relationship we had. Later they played out in how we related to each other and I unwittingly caused some of the problems that destabilised our marriage. Now I had to aim the arrow of blame at myself.

This process of self-discovery as I looked in the mirror, involved receiving insight into what was buried within me, and exposing my blind spots. These included thoughts and behaviours, patterns of relating, and even who I was attracted to.

In running New Life in the Mourning courses, the thought they contributed to the end of their relationships affronts group participants; they don’t want to discuss it, let alone probe.

It is probably the same for you but to truly heal and move on successfully you will have to look in the mirror sometime. You will have to confront some of the things inside of yourself that played a role in the problems in your relationship.

Steven Arterburn writes in Healing is a Choice about how we need to stop and look at the reasons behind our feeling or actions before we can change and find healing. He quotes the Bible verse ‘Let us examine our ways’(Lamentations 3:40 NIV) as a challenge to seek insight into why we do what we do. We need an awareness of ‘our habits, conflicts, character defects, and the patterns in our relationships’ to heal. 1

Uncovering blind spots

Blind spots are things you don’t see. You can be in denial of them or sometimes not even know they exist. Past hurts impinge on current relationships and you can be totally unaware of it. You don’t know why you act and react the way you do.

As blind spots are unknown to you, you need help to uncover them. You need wisdom and insight from safe people who see what you can’t. Safe people give you truth and love, not just accusation. They support you in your struggle and hold you accountable for any changes in behaviour you wish to make.

Often your blind spots are obvious to other people, but they may be hidden from them too. You may need more than a friend’s reflection; you may require the help of a counsellor to find our problem areas to be able work on them.

Click here to read an article on how to uncover blind spots and becoming self-aware

As a Christ follower I have the ultimate help to discover my blind spots: the supernatural insight of the God who created me to unearth what is hidden. He knows me intimately and sees what is inside me. My process of self-discovery began with the knowledge that I had issues, but I needed help to identify them before I could begin the process of healing from them. So I prayed: ‘Shine your light into my darkness.’ And God did. There have been days when I have regretted saying that prayer, because God brought one thing after another to the surface to be dealt with. I was amazed at how many false beliefs and dysfunctional behaviours one person could have! But it has been worth it. I am now a healthier person in terms of my ability to relate to others.

Even when addiction is the cause of the breakdown of the relationship, both parties need to look in the mirror. When one person has an addiction problem in a relationship the other person is allowing that addiction to be a part of the relationship. This is called ‘co-dependency’.

If you left an abusive relationship I am NOT saying you caused your partner to abuse you. It may be due to unhealthy patterns of behaviour learnt in childhood, or poor personal boundaries you were attracted to the controlling nature of the abuser. (see article in resources)

To move freely into your future, as the new you, able to trust and relate in healthy ways, you will need to look into the mirror and confront any contribution your dysfunction made to the relationship and seek healing for it. You may need professional help for this process.

Putting legs on it

Who could you ask to provide some feedback: safe friends, counsellor. Make an appointment with them

If you are a Christ follower pray David’s pray from Psalm 139:23,24

‘Investigate my life, O God,

find out everything about me;

Cross-examine and test me,

get a clear picture of what I’m about;

See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—

then guide me on the road to eternal life.


Resources

Huffington Post: Facing my blind spot – becoming self-aware

Huffington Post: Why domestic violence occurs and how do I stop it.

Arterburn, S (2005) Healing is a choice, Thomas Nelson, U.S.A

References

Arterburn, S (2005) Healing is a choice, Thomas Nelson, U.S.A, p52

Photo credit:  Paul Skorupskas and Nicole Mason www.unsplash.com