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

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

‘I’m dating my mother,’ ‘He’s just like my ex,’ ‘I married the same person!’ ‘My friends are as dysfunctional as my family.’

If you do not heed the mistakes of the past, you may and probably will repeat them in the future.

As part of preparing to love again this is a difficult step, as the focus shifts from others – forgiving them, learning to trust and finding healing in relationship to you.

What is driving you? The way you relate can develop from childhood and its learned patterns of relating, so now in adult life the dysfunction does the choosing and ordering of your relationships.

How to find your patterns

My journey with this began years after the end of my marriage as I sought to understand some ‘interesting’ family relationships. What I learned forced me to look in the mirror and confronted my part in my relationship with my ex from beginning to end. This process of uncovering blind spots is the next blog. In exploring my relationships, I did 3 things:

  1. I read lots of books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend – Christian psychologists most well-known for their work on boundaries. This was to not only determine my patterns of relating, but what caused them (for my self-understanding) and most importantly how to fix them. See the list of books in resources.
  2. I created an inventory of my dating relationships and friendships, looking at who I was attracted to, who I dated and who I rejected. I’m not going to share the result as that would be an overshare, but Wow! it was interesting, disturbing and enlightening! I found I had a repetitive pattern in my past and was able to draw some conclusions.
  3. I saw a professional counsellor!

Townsend says, ‘If you spend time and energy figuring out what went wrong, you are less likely to make the same mistake again. On a deeper level, you will know yourself and others in a clear and helpful way.’1 His process for understanding your past choices is to look at the character of the person and then look for the benefit of the relationship (which you wanted so much that you were happy to overlook the character).2

Where do we learn patterns of relating?

When looking at patterns of relationship, family is the obvious place to start. Townsend described this as connecting the dots from past to present. He states, ‘We learn about love, intimacy, control and reality from those closest to us. Though we ultimately make our own choices, we are deeply marked, for good or for bad, by those who matter to us.’3 In looking at your family dynamics he counsels that it’s not a ‘blame game’ but a process of understanding ‘what is going on at a deeper level so you can grow, forgive, change and heal.’4

Your learned way of relating plays out in your life as you continue to relate in the same way or act in the opposite direction.  I have prepared a You Tube video exploring these more deeply than below. Click here to watch.

Patterns of relationships

Disconnected

 

People live side by side but absent in each other’s lives. The relationship connection is not made due to past hurts or current problems.

 I’m the boss

One person in the relationship declares ‘I’m the master – you will do what I say,’ and their authority is not to be questioned. Dictating creates inequality and emotional distancing.

 Elevated

One person elevates another, either loving and connecting only when the other person achieves or pleases. Or idolising the person with ‘I love you for who I think you are.’ Weaknesses are judged and expectations created to live up to.

Co-dependant

In a co-dependant relationship people driven by unmet needs become enmeshed in each other’s lives, entwining as they lean into each other. Growth or change in one person is often limited as it affects the other. The mutual dependence destroys self-identity and self-responsibility.

 Controlling

One person in this relationship is in control of others by using either guilt, withdrawal of love, or anger.

 Healthy

 

In a healthy relationship people are connected. They are not enmeshed or driven by unmet emotional needs. The people are whole and complete within themselves and love the other for who they really are. No-one is controlling or dominating. They choose to stay together because of their love for one another

What to do next with this information? Look in the Putting legs on it section – it has ideas on ‘where to from here’ and the next blog ‘Looking in the mirror’ will explore this further. In all of this process, ‘Become curious rather than defensive.’5

Putting legs on it

  • Here’s my simple tool to examine your relationships – dates, crushes and friendships under the following headings and see if there is a pattern.

 

People I’m attracted to People I went out with People I rejected
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Reflect on the 6 different types of relationships and whether your former relationships, family upbringing or even friendships have any of the characteristics of these relationships.
  • Get a perspective from others on how you relate. Who can you ask for gentle but honest feedback on how they see you relating?
  • Consider finding a counsellor to learn but also deal with what you learn.

 Resources

Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A

Cloud, H (1992) Changes that heal, Zondervan, U.S.A

Cloud, H and Townsend, J (2001) Safe People, Strand Publishing, Australia

Townsend, J (2004) Who’s pushing your buttons, Integrity, U.S.A

Cloud, H and Townsend, J (1996) The Mum factor, Strand Publishing, Australia

Cloud, H and Townsend, J (2006) Complete guide to Boundaries, Strand Publishing, Australia

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

Scazzero, P (2006) Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Thomas Nelson, U.S.A

References

  1. Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p67
  2. Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p68
  3. Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p80
  4. Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p83
  5. Townsend, J. (2011) Beyond boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p87

Image designer: Julie Martin

What to do when you are stuck with trusting again

I’m stuck. I’m stuck with trusting again. I’m stuck writing this blog on trusting again. I believe the saying, ‘love is freely given but trust is earned.’ Others disagree. Should trust be earned? How do you trust again when the end of a relationship has broken your heart?

Should trust be earned?

I’ve contemplated changing the schedule for the ‘loving again’ series of blogs because I am struggling to write on this topic. I am stuck writing about trusting again because I can’t. Inspired by a writing blog I read, I exercised my curiosity and googled ‘trusting again’ and was surprised that many articles opposed my belief. One article discussed how people will fail in relationships, no-one is perfect and we will be hurt1. Therefore not trusting makes us isolated and lonely.

Hmm… That is me – isolated, one date in nearly two decades and labelled an ‘ice maiden’. Did I just share that statistic? It demonstrates my ‘stuckness’. This may not be a word but it expresses the feeling that I’m unable to move on this topic.

Others said, ‘I don’t believe that we should expect others to earn our trust. We learn to trust again by trusting again.’2 Is this true? Do I simply put my trust out there and risk being hurt again?

Healing and personal growth to trust again

Others talked about healing and personal growth to enable you to trust again. So what do I think?

I believe love is freely given. We are to love others unconditionally. However, not everyone is trustworthy. Some people are dangerous to us and therefore we don’t give our trust without some signs that they are safe for us to do so. This is where we need to do some work on ourselves. We need to:

  • heal from any grief
  • learn to understand our patterns of relationship
  • learn our drivers and why we are attracted to people who are dangerous to us
  • learn boundaries
  • find healing in healthy relationship

At the end of a relationship trust is broken

At the end of a relationship there has been a breach of trust, and I’m not talking about if one partner was unfaithful. That is an added breach of trust. Trust is broken because in a relationship we make promises to each other. Promises to love the other person. Those of us who got married said, ‘till death us do part’. When we connect with someone to spend our lives together we make a promise and we give the other person our trust that they will uphold their promise.

Healing occurs in relationship

So, at the end of a relationship we are grief stricken and our trust has been breached.  Dr Townsend (co-author of the Boundaries books) refers to this as a ‘soul hole’3, a missing piece. ‘Soul holes’ are healed in relationship not isolation. But it’s not the relationship you think. Many of us are driven by our need to find love again, buying into the Hollywood idea that we need another person to complete us, our other half.  (This is discussed in successfully single chapter – click here for your copy). Townsend says, ‘we seek out people we believe can ‘fix’ what’s wrong with us or help us find  pieces of ourselves’4. This can be driven from childhood and learned patterns of relating which will be delved into in the following two blogs. If we don’t heal these drivers, the dysfunction will do the choosing.

  • Thursday 27th April – Patterns of relating
  • Thursday 11th May – Looking in the Mirror

The answer is to find healing in relationship, just not in a romantic one. It is to express your hurts in a safe environment so they will not fester, practise forgiveness and let the love, care and support of others bring healing and repair to your relationship damage5. Others can support you as you learn about your drivers and find new ways of relating. You can find these relationships in a healthy church, small group, counselling, support group, or with a mentor6. Through the season of leaning into others7you will heal by returning to the give and take of healthy relationships.

Then you can love others freely, and determine who is safe and worthy of your trust before you give it. I guess I do agree that:

‘Love is freely given but trust is earned.’

Putting legs on it

Are you building walls and not trusting anyone, forcing you to live in isolation?

Are you trusting anyone and everyone, being hurt and taken advantage of again and again?

Where can you find safe people to connect with and take time to heal?

Resources

Boundaries: How to risk trusting someone again

References

  1. Bullard S (2013) How to trust (especially when you have been hurt). Mind Body Green posted 4th February 2013
  2. Perkins R (2017) This is how to let go of fear and learn to trust again, Huffington Post 21 February 2017
  3. Townsend, J (2011) Beyond Boundaries, Zondervan, U.S.A, p85
  4. Ibid, p84
  5. Ibid p63
  6. Ibid p85
  7. Ibid p109

7 ways to help you process forgiveness

Imagine this scene. You are fighting with your ex. There’s a crystal vase – a wedding present and reminder of the life and love you shared. In the arm flinging and yelling and trying to get a point across, the vase is swept from its resting place, smashing onto the floor. You pick up a piece of the glass and hold onto it. You yell at your ex, ‘See what you’ve done. It’s ruined. It’s broken like us. I will never forgive you for this.’  Your ex leaves and you sit holding the broken glass in your hands, crying from your loss, angry at the mess of the vase that represents your life together.

Broken glass StockSnap veeterzy

Years later that shattered vase is still on your floor. You run your fingers through the glass on a regular basis rehearsing your pain. You stomp and shout to your ex, (wherever they are), ‘I hate you for what you’ve done. It’s all your fault!’ As you grip the broken glass, empowered by your bitterness, you notice you are bleeding. The glass has cut you.

Forgiveness is letting go of the broken glass.

When you hang onto the broken glass, picking it up, turning it over in your hands, repeating your pain; you are the one who gets cut. Not your ex.

To heal from the wounds of your past, relate in a healthy way and be free to love again, you need to practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a process

Forgiveness is letting go of your urge to retaliate, to exact revenge. Forgiveness is an unnatural act1.

Forgiving others is not about them and what they did. It’s about you and moving on with your life.  It does not excuse or belittle what happened. It does not make the other person right or mean you have to let them have the power to hurt you again. Forgiveness buys your freedom.

Forgiveness is a process not a one off event. It takes time. You forgive little bit by little bit, often repeating the process.  It is not about how you feel or what you emotions say.  It is the act of saying, ‘I forgive.’

Ever had a guest stay with you and you couldn’t wait to put them on the train and wave farewell? As you left the station you invariably felt lighter, less burdened and free to be comfortable in your own home.  Picture forgiveness as a train. You put people on the train speaking your forgiveness to them and some of your emotional baggage goes with them as the train leaves the station. Then you think of someone else you need to forgive or something has triggered a memory so pain bursts into life again. Put these on the next train. Keep repeating the process and you will be the one who benefits.

The benefits of forgiveness

Studies have shown that forgiveness is good for your health, lowering blood pressure and heart rate and reducing pain. It will reduce emotional symptoms such as depression, anger and anxiety. It improves relational and spiritual health.

If you are curious about where God fits in with forgiveness click here.

white flower quino-al-137872

Some ways to help you process

Here’s a list of ways you can try – some I use and some others have used:

  • Write a forgiveness list. Begin with ‘I forgive you for…’ to each person or event on the list You could imagine the person sitting opposite in an empty chair and speak your forgiveness to them
  • You could write a letter that you never post. I wrote letters in a journal so I couldn’t accidently post them
  • Picture sending people and events out of your life as you forgive them. Put people on the train and visualise it pulling away from the station. Occasionally I float off on a leaf down a river people and events I need to release and stop regurgitating in my mind. Did I mention there is a waterfall on the river?
  • Write notes and attach to balloons. Float the balloon away to symbolise the letting go
  • Write notes and throw the paper into a fire
  • You can contact the person and speak your forgiveness to them. It doesn’t matter how they react, it’s about you saying ‘I forgive’.

Whatever you do always be safe. For some people it is never safe physically or emotionally to have contact with an ex or other people who have harmed you, so choose a method where you don’t contact them

Find what works for you.

Don’t forget to forgive yourself.

Putting legs on it

Who do you need to forgive? Write a list.

Try one or more of the ways to process your forgiveness as you work through your list.

Resources

If you would like to know if divorce is the unforgivable sin as some churches have taught click here

Stepping stones to forgiveness

References

  1. Yancey, P. (1997 ) What’s so amazing about grace, Zondervan Publishing House, USA

Photo Credit: Broken Glass Veeterzy stocksnap.io and White Flower Quion Al unsplash.com