how to heal from divorce

Regardless of the quality of your marriage or its duration, going through a divorce can be one of the most trying and difficult transitions of your life. Being able to heal and move on does not happen overnight. Acknowledging and processing your feelings in a healthy and productive way is crucial in order to heal from divorce and move forward.

I have wanted to discuss the topic of divorce for some time; however, I felt it was best to be written about by someone that experienced it firsthand. My husband was married once before, and he knows all too well about the pain of divorce. He is sharing in his own words about his divorce, as well as strategies to aid in healing.

Guest Post: MY DIVORCE STORY

I went to college at Ohio State. I had a very good time there, partying and enjoying my late teens and early 20s. In 2002, after Ohio State beat Michigan to go to the national championship game, my fraternity had a huge party. That night I started talking to this girl that I thought was cute. Perhaps it wasn’t the best way to start a relationship, as I don’t remember a lot of that night due to taking a lot of different substances. I started to date her right before winter break, and it continued once we got back to school after the holidays.

We dated for our last two years of school, and we continued our relationship after I moved back home to start working. I asked her to marry me when she came to visit me a month after I graduated from college. She said yes. We were engaged for almost two years because she wanted to get her masters and I wanted to get my career started.

I was always nervous about being in a long-distance relationship, and my fears came true.

Those two years were awful. The time apart started off fine, but as the months passed things got more difficult. We saw each other once a month, but when we weren’t together she would rarely call or return any of my calls. We would go longer and longer periods of time without speaking to each other. When I asked what was going on, I was told that she was busy and that everything was okay.

About two months before our wedding, she called me and told me that she wanted our engagement to be over. She said that she had kissed another guy and she didn’t feel comfortable moving forward with the marriage. My heart sank into my stomach. I talked with her and asked her to stay with me. I told her that I loved her and wanted to be with her in the worst way.  At the end of the day, we both decided that we would get married and that our long-distance had taken a toll on the relationship.

This is one of my few regrets in life. I was a very young 23 year old who was terrified to be alone. Being single and starting over was not appealing to me. I should have known that if someone didn’t love me for who I was and wanted to be with me, then I should have let her go. At that time I didn’t know my own self worth. I identified who I was through her and by being with her, which was not a healthy way to live. The relationship should have ended and I could have started working on finding who I was as a person, which would have been a much healthier life choice.

I told myself that once we got married and started living together, things would get better.

After our honeymoon we moved into our apartment in New Jersey. She got a job and started working. However, things never did get better. She would make calls with the door shut in our second bedroom or go outside. We would get into arguments or simply not speak to each other because we had the same personality type and didn’t know how to effectively communicate with each other.

We flew back to Ohio in December to spend time with her family. One Sunday I went with her brother to a bar to watch football. She didn’t want to go; she said she was tired. Her brother and I went and had a good time, but when I got back, I knew something was wrong. She was in her bedroom, under the covers, trying to sleep. I didn’t push the issue until we got back to New Jersey. A few days before New Year’s Eve I demanded to know what was going on. Eventually she told me that she cheated on me with a guy that lived in Ohio, and that it had been going on for several months. She told me she wanted a divorce. My marriage at that point was over, after only 6 months.

MY WAY OF EMOTIONAL HEALING WAS BY NOT FACING MY FEELINGS

We didn’t have any children together, so our divorce was straightforward and uncontested. Even though the process was very fast, it didn’t make how I felt any easier. I still loved her, even though what she did hurt me. I was alone and in a lot of pain. 

People need to process their feelings in order to heal from divorce. However, I decided that I did not want to feel the sadness coursing through my body. I spent as much time as I could drinking and partying. I’d go out most nights during the week after work, drink, and meet as many girls as I could. I dealt with my pain by not dealing with my pain at all. That course of action set off a chain of events that I would not realize for many years down the road.

I was planting the seeds to my alcohol and pill addiction by not processing my pain

It doesn’t matter if you are going through a simple divorce, or one where there are children involved. Going through that process is incredibly difficult and sad. Each person has an outlook on change. Some people handle change very well, accepting the changes and moving forward as best they can. Other people are resistant to change. If you are resistant to change, acceptance can be extremely difficult. Like any loss, admitting to yourself that your marriage is over can be incredibly painful. However, it is a necessary step to move forward with your life.

Emotional wellness and healing are of the utmost importance when you are going through a divorce, as well as after. There are many things that I wished I had done differently when I was going through my divorce. 

TIPS AND STRATEGIES TO HELP HEAL FROM DIVORCE

Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. It can turn your world upside down and make it hard to get through the work day and stay productive. Here are some things I wish I had done to get through this difficult adjustment:

(1) When you’re at your limit, stop 

Everyone has a threshold of what they are able to accomplish in a day. You have to learn that when you hit that emotional threshold, you need to stop doing whatever you were doing. Continuing to work when you are physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted will make things worse. It will wear you down and make you less productive. Stopping, taking a break, and coming back to your task will increase productivity. (com, 2021)

(2) It’s ok to not be ok 

During a divorce or separation it’s normal to feel sad, angry, depressed, frustrated and confused. Divorce is a form of loss, and that means it is necessary to grieve. These feelings can be very intense. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. Processing your feelings while you are going through them is a lot healthier to heal from divorce than suppressing them and having them resurface later in an unhealthy way. I learned the hard way that using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope will only lead to more problems.

(3) Get sleep 

It’s completely normal to have trouble sleeping when you are going through a separation or divorce. However, sleep deprivation alters your ability to think, concentrate and remember things. If you are going through long periods of time not being able to sleep, it might be time to think about seeing your doctor or a psychologist to help process your emotions and feelings (org, 2021)

(4) Learn to say “no” 

Going through a divorce will take a physical and emotional toll on your mind and body. Outside of work and spending time with your kids, there might be other commitments that you are unable to do.  It’s okay to say no to them and take the time for yourself. 

(5) Exercise 

Self-care goes a long way to helping yourself heal your mind and body. Regular exercise will boost your energy, help improve your mood and will also help you sleep better. It is a phenomenal way to relieve stress and help work your emotions out of your body.

(6) Set and Respect your Boundaries 

Once you start the process of separation or divorce, it is extremely important to set new boundaries that you would like to have in your life. Your ex may have to stay a part of your life if there are kids. It is crucial to implement and set boundaries to find a way to co-exist. It is also important to set boundaries with family and friends about what you need during this time. Doing so might feel awkward at first, but the more you state your needs, the more you will be able to free yourself mentally and emotionally . This will help in  your healing from the divorce. (com, 2021)

(7) Take time to explore your interests 

When you were married, you had to compromise with your spouse and didn’t always get to do what you wanted. Now that you are single, use this time to explore new things that might be of interest to you. It will not only give yourself enjoyment, but also let you find your new self and help to make you grow through this difficult time.

(8) Don’t involve your children in the conflict 

If you have children in your marriage than this one is for you. Avoid arguing with your ex in front of your children or talking negatively about your ex in front of or to your children. Don’t use them as spies or messengers or make them take sides. Try to keep them out of it as much as you can.

(9) Don’t go through this alone 

Being able to share your feelings with family and friends is invaluable. They can be there to help support you during this difficult time. Also consider joining a support group where you can talk with others going through similar situations. Isolating yourself can cause you more stress and amplify your negative feelings and emotions. (org, 2021)

(10) Learn to let go 

Divorce is full of things that you will not be able to control. Instead of being angry about how the process goes, or how your former spouse acts, consciously decide to not focus your energy on things you can’t control.

 

 

Everybody has gone through something that changed them in a way where they could never go back to the person they once were. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The transformation that you go through during your healing journey from divorce is one of self-discovery and personal transformation. Anyone who gets divorced goes through pain, but you come out of it.  When I was going through my divorce, I was crushed. I spent a lot of the time either crying or numbing myself to keep myself from crying. I buried my feelings so far inside of me under lock and key so it would never come to the surface. 

In retrospect, I wish I had used the strategies that I wrote in this post. They would have helped me to grow into a better person than what I became out of that dark period in my life. It took me a very long time to become a better person, a person who can at least try to face my feelings and heal the scars and wounds that I have from that time. Grieving is such an important thing to do, because it helps you to move on from despair into hope. Hope that things will get better and that good can come from the pain and trying times that you had to endure. 

Divorce is not easy for anyone to go through. There is no right or only way to heal from divorce. What I do know is that things will get better. Live your life to the fullest.  Life will get back to normal, it will just be a new normal. I don’t regret my past marriage, because it led me to my wife and the life that I have with her today. I will always be grateful for the path that I had to travel because it led me to her. It was necessary to go through the darkest time of my life in order to receive the love from a woman who truly loves every part of me. Divorce is terrible, but you will get through it.

 

how do i stop being codependent

If you missed my story of how I learned to break codependency and stop being codependent, you can read about it here. I also suggest reading the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Codependency is not your fault. The good news is that the things we learned as children do not have to be repeated in adulthood. We can break being codependent and practice a healthier way of having relationships.

The first step is to take a step back from anything that is out of your control. Whether it is your mom, your sibling, your friend, your spouse, or even your child, there are certain things that are simply not within our power (or are right) to fix. This is difficult, but crucial.

Stop codependency by creating healthy boundaries 

Establish clear boundaries so that you can be supportive, loving, and encouraging, but not at the expense of your well-being or happiness. Others are entitled to make their own choices, regardless of whether you agree with those choices are not. Likewise, you get to take control of your happiness and make your own choices. 

Getting your power back and claiming responsibility for your well-being is not an easy task. It is something that is very much ingrained in our way of thinking and acting. I have to remind myself often that my husband’s sobriety is his responsibility. I am grateful that he has been sober for the last four years, but his sobriety is a choice that he has to make each day.

Healthy relationships require boundaries, which is foreign to many of us. Boundaries are essential so that you can stay in your lane, while clearly expressing what you need for your relationship. You are the only one that can determine which boundaries are needed for your well-being.

Make a list of boundaries, and decide which ones are requests and which ones are non-negotiable. Have an open and honest conversation about your boundaries and allow others to do the same. After all, boundaries are a two-way street.

If a boundary is crossed, then it’s your decision whether to discuss and reinstate the boundary, or if you need to walk away. You cannot force others to respect and provide what you need in a relationship, but you can respect yourself. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot save others, but you can save yourself. This is how you break being codependent.

practice self-care and focus on your needs

 

Next, stop codependency by focusing on what you want and need to feel good about yourself, completely separate from anyone else. What brings YOU joy? What are YOUR hobbies? Who are YOU as a person? For me, starting this blog has been incredibly healing because it is something that I do that is separate from being a wife and a mom. It is something I am passionate about, and I feel good knowing that I am trying to help others and give support, without trying to change or fix anyone.

It’s a good idea to take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to focus on your feelings and brainstorm ideas. Speak to a therapist and read books about codependency to help you on your healing journey. Discover your own identity.

journal prompts

I cannot stress enough that Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior. It is important to show yourself love and compassion as you navigate the foreign territory of breaking codependent behavior.

Just as codependency is not healthy, the polar opposite isn’t either. Being completely independent doesn’t translate into having genuine relationships. If you aren’t allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then your relationships will lack true intimacy. It is important to have your own identity separate from the ones you love; however, putting up walls and not letting anyone in is the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Love is about sharing the deepest parts of yourself with another, but not expecting someone to save you.

create interdependence and stop being codependent in your relationships

Interdependence is the goal of any healthy relationship. It allows us to love and support each other, while not expecting the other one to make us feel whole or to change who they are.

My husband and I are each whole on our own, and we have the choice to grow individually and as a couple. That means that if I am feeling sad and hurt, I first try to comfort myself and give myself what I need before I share my feelings with him. I give him the space to try to understand my perspective without forcing him to say or do anything.

Stop codependency by remembering that your happiness is up to you. Just as you can’t save or change anyone, it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to save or fix you. Work on yourself and allow others the opportunity to do the same. Remember to establish clear boundaries to break being codependent. This allows others to choose their own path and make their own choices, but you control what you do with that choice. You also get to choose your own path and healing journey.

Show love and kindness to yourself and your feelings. Your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are important and have value because they are yours. Respect and honor them even if others do not.

Interdependence is a foreign concept for many, but a way of living that is possible for all of us. Change can be scary, and there will be many hiccups along the way. The good news? You can learn to stop being codependent and get to be the hero of your own story.

favorite memories of my husband and daughter

This past week was a very special week for me. My husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage on August 2nd, and my daughter’s 9th (!) birthday was on August 3rd. In honor of these events, I’d like to take a stroll down memory lane. These are a few of my favorite memories with my husband and daughter.

Favorite Memories with my Husband

Our first date, our engagement, and our wedding are definitely on the top of the list. However, I’ve already discussed those in length in a prior post, so I won’t list them again. Here are some other favorite memories that always put a smile on my face:

(1) The first time we exchanged “I love you”

We went to a club with some friends, and I took Matt’s advice to take a shot after having a Long Island Iced Tea. For those of you that don’t drink much, do NOT combine different types of alcohol. Also, a Long Island Iced Tea is very strong, especially for someone who up until then only drank a few sips of wine/fruity drinks socially. I remember dancing quite enthusiastically on the dance floor, and repeatedly saying, “I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk.” I remember everything that happened and didn’t vomit or get a hangover, so perhaps I wasn’t drunk? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, folks.

After being a dancing queen late into the night, we took a cab back to Matt’s apartment in Manhattan.

I was feeling very dizzy, so he carried me to the bed so I could get some sleep. After he gently placed me on the bed, I looked at him and said, “It’s okay, Matt. You don’t have to say it. I know that you love me.” Did I mention we were only dating for three weeks at this point? Liquid courage/a very limited filter is a powerful thing.

To my surprise, he seemed taken a back for only a few seconds and responded, “You’re right. I do love you.” Well, that made my highly tipsy/perhaps drunk self very happy. I told him I loved him as well, and I went to bed with a very big smile on my face.

Like everything else in our relationship, we had our own unique set of circumstances that prompted a faster than normal progression. I knew I was going to marry him after our first date, so isn’t it possible to know 21 days after meeting someone that you love them? I’d like to think that with love, anything is possible. It may not have been the most romantic way of exchanging those magical three words, but I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I never took drinking advice from him again. 😉

(2) Living in Manhattan

Some of my favorite memories with my husband took place while we were in Manhattan. Matt lived in a studio apartment on West 97th Street and Central Park West. It was a nice sized apartment given that it was a studio and its location. When I officially moved in, figuring out where to put my clothes resembled a game of Tetris. There were only two closets, one for coats and one for clothing. He had a dresser that I took over, but until this day, I have no idea how I even managed to get a shirt into his already cramped closet space. Where did we keep our towels? Where did I keep my shoes? Somehow, we made it work.

I actually loved the times I had with him in that apartment. It was small, but it was where we merged our lives together. The entire experience of living in Manhattan with him was wonderful. We had many picnics in Central Park, had an array of restaurant options in different neighborhoods, and the sweet doorman would greet me each time I entered. I remember making many a terrible meal as I tried to learn how to cook.  I had no cooking experience as I knew it was time for dinner growing up when the smoke alarms went off. No joke. I remember Matt putting a smile on his face and eating/choking down the food I prepared. Most of all, I remember feeling like I was home.

(3) The trips we took before we had Brielle

These are some of my favorite memories. It wasn’t about where we went; it was about going somewhere new and relaxing with my favorite person. We wore ridiculous hats in the Dominican Republic, we ran away from drug dealers in Jamaica (they were persistent!), and I gasped at chocolate fountains in San Francisco. We would sit on the balcony and hold hands in silence. No words were said, because everything that needed to be said was done so in those moments.

(4) Our apartment in Kings Highway

From 2008-2010 we lived in an apartment in Kings Highway (in Brooklyn). It had a flat roof with a staircase that led to it. We would often climb up the stairs and sit on the rooftop. One of my favorite memories with my husband was on July 4th. We went to the roof and sat there while watching the fireworks. For some reason nobody else ever ventured there, so it was very romantic and our own private viewing party.

(5) Our overnight getaways

Once we had Brielle, it was very difficult to have extended periods of time that were just the two of us. One of my favorite memories with my husband was the first time we went away for the night. We went to Manhattan where we ate at a beautiful restaurant and then went to a place that had AMAZING desserts. Afterwards, we walked around before heading back to the hotel. We have only gotten the night to ourselves two other times, and each time I missed Brielle, but enjoyed every second of our time together.

(6) Our day trip to Athens 

In September, we drove to Athens while my dad was visiting from NY. We had the whole day to ourselves. We went to the University of Georgia and walked around the campus. It was a beautiful day, and we explored the area. We took pictures, tried some local coffee (it was good!), and just enjoyed each other’s company.

I could give dozens of my favorite memories with my husband, but these are a mere glimpse of some of them. Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye, I still light up every time I have the chance to spend quality time with him. He still will put on music and ask me to slow dance, and he still looks down at me with the biggest smile (he’s 10 inches taller than me so there’s a lot of me looking up and him looking down).  I’m often sad on our anniversary knowing that our daughter is getting one year older the next day, but I appreciate and cherish all of the wonderful times we’ve shared together.

Some of my Favorite Memories with My Daughter

As a mom, all my memories with my daughter are bittersweet. They are reminders of things that touched my heart deeply, but also reminders of things that have passed. I can close my eyes and play them in my mind like it was yesterday. I have more favorite memories of my daughter than I can count. It has been a privilege watching my daughter grow into the amazing girl she is today, but each of these memories make me both smile and cry:

(1) Brielle’s first word

Brielle was nine months old, and I handed her to Matt so I could make dinner. I was cutting at the kitchen counter when Brielle leaned towards me, arms outstretched and said, “Mama!” I basically leaped through the air, grabbed her, and hugged her with all my might as tears streamed down my face. The look she gave me and the magic of her first word being my name is something that I will never, ever forget. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite memories with my daughter.

memories with my daughter

(2) You missed it!

Determined to record the first time Brielle sat up, I followed Brielle around with a video camera basically attached to me.  I would hold out the video camera, ready to press the record button each time it looked like she was about to sit up.

One afternoon I lay Brielle down right next to me in the hallway. I had to take clothes out of the washing machine and put them into the drier (the washing machine and drier were in a hallway closet). I looked away for no more than thirty seconds. She was lying down when I reached into the washing machine. When I looked back at her she was sitting up at me with an innocent expression on her face. I couldn’t believe I missed this milestone the one time I wasn’t watching her. At the time I was so disappointed and frustrated, but now I find it funny (while still crying that she’s no longer a baby). In true Brielle fashion, she did things her own way in her own time.

(3) Brielle started twerking before it was a thing

She was about 18 months old and loved this song called, “The Ice Cream Song.” The first time I played it, she danced by sticking out her rear and moving it up and down. I thought it was hilarious and called them “tushie shakes.” This soon became her go-to way of dancing when she wasn’t shifting her weight from one foot to the other (my husband’s signature/only dance move). I have a video of my daughter dancing this way while visiting my in-laws.

(4) My daughter’s ten minutes of fame

Brielle took ballet lessons when she was three. I volunteered at the recital, waiting with her class and trying to keep them occupied until it was their turn. There was a very large audience, and it was her first time performing. When it was her group’s turn, I told Brielle that she may not see me sitting there, but I would be watching her and was super proud of her. She did a great job, as did all the other girls.

When it was over, the audience clapped loudly. Brielle smiled along with the other kids. However, when it was time for the kids to exit the stage, my daughter remained, still smiling, and still soaking up the applause. The audience began to laugh, which only encouraged her to continue to bow and smile. Matt and I had to rush to the stage and basically force her off of it. A star was born.

favorite memories with my husband

(5) Is she giving us the finger?

Brielle will shake off falling from her scooter or getting major scrapes when she is enjoying an activity, but a paper cut is a different story. When she was four years old she got a papercut while reading. It didn’t bleed, and I reassured her that she’d be fine. We had to go in the car, and I strapped her into her car seat. She continued to complain about her papercut, and held it up to demonstrate the injury. Did I mention the papercut was on her middle finger?

She held her finger up the entire car ride. I thought ignoring it might make her stop, but she’d only stick it in my face even more. She spent forty-five minutes flipping the bird. For some odd reason, her papercuts are often on her middle finger. Until this day, she will give me the finger when it happens. Perhaps it’s time to tell her what that means?

(6) It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Peeawaka

Brielle went through a phase where she was obsessed with Play-Doh. However, what she particularly loved was a girl on iPad who played with Play-Doh. I have always limited her screen time, but when she was allowed to watch, she was fascinated with “Peeawaka.” I have no idea if that was her actual name or if Brielle made it up. She would watch these videos and then sit down with her Play-Doh and want to “play Peeawaka.”

Brielle would reenact the entire video, word for word. She would take out the same Play-Doh set as the girl, get comfortable, and say, “Hey guys, it’s me Peeawaka and today we are going to play with…” I would often watch her with fascination as she would replicate every enunciation, every movement, every syllable of this girl’s video. She watched other videos prior and after, but this was the only one she reenacted. When she stopped watching Peeawaka, sadly her love for Play-Doh faded along with it. However, I will always remember her Peeawaka renditions, and I miss them greatly.

 

 

As a mom to a now 9-year-old daughter, I cannot fathom where the time went.

The saying that the days are long, but the years are short is so very true. I remember every laugh, every tear, every time her hand reached out for mine. I have 9 years of favorite memories with my daughter that all are etched into my mind and my soul. It was nearly impossible to narrow down my favorite memories with my daughter to six. I cannot turn back the hands of time, but I find comfort in knowing that these memories will always live on in my mind and in my heart.

 

 

cycle of codependency

Codependency is a huge buzzword nowadays. Everywhere you turn there are people preaching about how to break the cycle of codependency.

I agree that codependency isn’t healthy. That said, it is so easy to fall into that cycle, and it is difficult to overcome.

For many, codependency was normal for us growing up. If you had a parent that you took care of (as opposed to the other way around), you learned that your happiness and safety were dependent on the other person’s happiness. There were no boundaries, and your feelings were ignored or minimized. You were made to feel guilty for trying to prioritize your well-being. Furthermore, you learned that your well-being and sense of self were completely contingent on the well-being of someone else. When that person was happy, you felt loved and needed. By default, if the adult was upset or unavailable (emotionally or physically) to you, you felt worthless and unloved.

caught in a cycle of codependency

cycle of codependency

I grew up having the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I listened to her marital and life problems, tried to cheer her up, and felt good about myself when I felt she needed me. When she had nothing to do with me, I felt like a complete failure as a daughter and as a person. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

She relied on me to comfort her and be there for her, and I relied on her positive opinion of me to feel valued and loved. We were the definition of codependency.

Based on a belief system that was engrained into many of us, we believe as adults that our partner’s well-being and happiness is our responsibility. After all, that is all we know and were taught from a young age. As a result, it was only natural that my cycle of codependency with my mother translated into a codependent relationship with my spouse.

MY SPOUSE AND I WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER

 

When my husband started heavily drinking and then taking pills, I felt like it was my job to make him sober. I believed that it was up to me to figure out how to make him stop. When my efforts failed, I felt like a complete failure. Taking care of my husband and making him get clean was my responsibility. I believed I was a terrible wife unless he stopped using.

My value as a person was completely defined by the well-being of those I loved. I thought it was my role as a wife and mother to completely devote myself and my happiness to them. This way of thinking made it so that other people were responsible for my own feelings of security and safety. This helped to perpetuate my cycle of codependency in my relationships. When the roller coaster of my husband’s addiction took me for a ride, my feelings of self-worth plummeted or soared with it. It became my obsession to save my husband.

At a certain point I reached my own rock bottom. I saw how vicious the emotional cycle was of trying to make him better/save him. I realized that focusing all my efforts on him was a distraction so that I didn’t have to heal my own wounds and trauma. If I was focusing on someone/something that was out of my control, I didn’t have to fix what I had control over- myself.

how to break the cycle of codependency

I finally realized that my happiness was my responsibility, and I learned a lot about the codependency cycle. It was both terrifying and empowering to know that my happiness was my job, just as others are responsible for their own well-being and happiness. The book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was extremely helpful and enlightening. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it on your path to ending codependency.

It was up to my husband to get clean, and I couldn’t make him do that. I could support him and love him, but I could not fix him. Accepting that and focusing on myself was how I would break the cycle of codependency.  

I also established clear boundaries with my daughter. I’ve instilled in her that her job is to learn from her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. I do not want her to feel responsible for others. My daughter knows that the decisions my husband and I make are our responsibility. It is our job to take care of our child, not the other way around.

Another thing I reinforced is that it is imperative and healthy to feel and share your feelings with those you love and trust.

I remind her that I can offer support or advice, but I cannot make her feel better. I don’t discuss my adult problems with her, but I am open about my feelings and model tools that I use to feel better. 

When my daughter tries to get involved and tell me and my husband what to do, I remind her that she has control over her actions and not others. I explain that she should focus on being the best version of herself, as it is also each of our individual responsibility to do so.

being interdependent instead of codependent

interdependent instead of codependent What I now strive for is interdependency. It is empowering to not allow others to make me feel whole and valued. I can be vulnerable and supportive with my husband, but ultimately, I control and am responsible for how I feel. My relationships are still valued, but I also value myself separately from my role as a wife and a mother.

The biggest hurdle for me was giving myself the space I needed to feel whatever I was feeling. I felt that I had to justify my feelings to my husband in order for my feelings to be valid. It is a work-in-progress to accept that my feelings are valid regardless of what he or anyone else thinks.

It took a lot of trial and error for me to apply my interdependence into all aspects of my marriage. Breaking the codependency cycle means reminding myself everyday to focus on myself and to give myself the love and care that I craved so desperately from others.

self-growth and mutual support is the key to happiness

I learned the importance of each of us being responsible for our own growth, while supporting and encouraging each other. Sure, there are things that I wish my husband would do differently. It is not my job to change him or to fix him. He is not a project or a little boy. He deserves to be treated as a man who can make his own choices. I have set clear boundaries of what I cannot except. My husband is aware of my boundaries. My choices are to accept and love him as he is or walk away if any issue is a deal breaker.

I am the happiest I have been in a long time because I am now the source of my well-being. I am not a princess waiting to be rescued, nor am I a martyr trying to save everyone to the detriment of myself. Instead, I am focused on working on myself, and looking inward for love and compassion. That, in turn, allows me to be the best wife, mother, and person I can be.

how i met my husband

This upcoming August, my husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.  We have been together for almost 14 years. I’ve shared many personal posts before, but this one is different. I’d like to tell you a love story about how I met my husband…..

I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I MET MY HUSBAND 

I was single for about two years prior to meeting Matt and using a Jewish dating service called Jdate to meet men. In my master’s degree program, there were only women. I went on online dates, LOTS of them. I basically dated everyone in the tri-state area. Sometimes I went on one or two dates with some of the men before deciding we weren’t a good match, and others I dated for about a month. None of them amounted to anything substantial. After I reached my quota of bad dates, I would go off Jdate for months at a time.

I was once again contemplating going off Jdate when a man sent me a message. His profile picture was in poor lighting, and he was wearing a multicolored striped shirt with a very loud tie. I had dated online long enough to know that if a guy is hiding in his picture, it’s never a good sign. On top of that, he kept bragging about how wonderful he was and how he was waiting for the perfect woman. Bad profile picture + arrogant= loud warning bells.

I had a rule that I would only meet men on my turf (Brooklyn) for the first date. I once had a guy drive for two hours to meet me. This guy told me he worked in Manhattan, and if I wanted to meet, I’d have to travel to him.

I don’t know how this conversation turned into me consenting to take the bus and train to Manhattan to meet him. It is one of the great mysteries in my life. Was it divine intervention or did I have temporary insanity? One will never know for sure.

my love story: how i met my husband

All I know is that on October 25, 2007 at approximately 6pm, I stood in front of an H&M waiting to meet this guy. I remember cursing myself out in my head for agreeing to this until I saw a man walking towards me smiling. With that one look, my love story began.

The best way to explain it is that I felt like time stopped at that moment. It was a feeling I had never experienced. I think I stopped breathing as I looked at this guy and knew instantly that my life was about to change forever.

He gave me a hug, and we went to a restaurant to eat. The food was terrible, but the conversation more than made up for it. He was extremely attractive, but more importantly, he was smart, funny, witty, and down to earth; nothing like how he came across in his messages.

i knew i WOULD MARRY HIM

I excused myself, and I joked with him that if I didn’t come back in ten minutes, that I had probably climbed out the bathroom window. Then I walked to the bathroom, took out my phone, and told my mom that I had met my husband. I was going to marry this man I had just met named Matthew.

He suggested that we go bowling, but the bowling alley was only taking reservations. We decided to go to Central Park instead, and we walked over to the Belvedere Castle. It was where we had our first kiss. Afterwards we sat on a park bench and talked for hours.

It was getting late, so he hailed me a cab. He told me to text him when I got home to ensure I arrived safely. I was in a haze the entire ride home.

We were pretty much inseparable after our first date, and it was only three weeks later that he told me he loved me.  As silly as it might seem, I felt that way too. 

OUR FIRST VACATION WAS FILLED WITH MONO

Within a few months we planned a weekend getaway upstate.  The evening that we arrived at the hotel, Matt started feeling unwell. By the next morning he had a high fever, and we immediately returned home. Bloodwork was drawn, and the tests revealed that he had mono.  We were told that adults who get mono can get very severe symptoms, and Matt proved to be no exception.

The poor guy was so weak that he could barely move.  He was unable to work and had to go on short term disability. Subsequent symptoms included a severe case of strep throat, fatigue, and nausea. I remember one day when we had to rush him to the emergency room because he broke out in hives all over his legs. They informed him it that he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was taking.

When we got back to his apartment, I put calamine lotion on his legs to help with the itchiness. He then stood up and asked me to dance. He put on David Gray’s “This Year’s “Love”, which became our song. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, we were together, so we were happy.

Although I technically lived in Brooklyn, I was constantly taking the train back to Manhattan to take care of Matt. He couldn’t take care of himself and lived alone, and so I became his caregiver. I cooked, cleaned, and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I did all this while going to graduate school in Brooklyn, and I hadn’t known him for very long, but there was never an option in my head to not be there for him.

After a month of taking care of him (and only a few months into our relationship), we decided that it made sense for me to officially live with him since I was there all the time anyway. I think it was the first time that mono resulted in speeding up a relationship.

fate brought us together and love has kept us together

After a year of dating, Matt took me to our favorite Italian restaurant and ordered some wine. I am not a big drinker, so I was tipsy by the second glass. It was a beautiful night, so I suggested going to Central Park which was nearby. He then took me to the spot at the castle where we had our first kiss. He took out his iPod, played our song, and asked me to dance. Suddenly, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was magical. It was so magical that we almost forgot that I spent the entire walk there talking about the high divorce rate. I don’t know how that topic even came up, and I blame it all on the alcohol.

We were married on August 2, 2012. We had planned an outdoor wedding, but to my horror the skies opened up that morning and didn’t stop. Although the wedding didn’t go as I planned, the sun did come out during the reception, and we were able to go outside. Despite the anger I felt about the rain, our wedding was magical.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our love story.

Our wedding was very symbolic of marriage. Whatever your dreams of marriage might be, life will inevitably get in the way. I learned that although our love story is beautiful, what makes our love memorable is that we navigate life’s roadblocks together

It still amazes me that somehow, against all odds, a guy I never would have met under any normal circumstances became the man I now call my husband.  That’s the beauty of life. It may throw curveballs (as well as mono and rainstorms) at you, but sometimes it also throws you a home run.

five love languages
Do you remember how it feels when you first fall in love? That feeling is one of pure euphoria. It gives you more spring in your step, it always feels like the sun is shining, and you walk around with a ridiculous grin everywhere you go. The “newlywed” phase of any relationship is one of obsession. You are smitten with each other. You wake up and fall asleep thinking about that person, and you are positive nothing can ever tear the two of you apart…
 
Eventually that phase ends and reality takes its place. The blinders are off, and you do not like what you see. What was once endearing to you is now annoying beyond belief. The person who made you feel happy and loved is now the person who makes you feel unappreciated and angry.
 
Love used to be enough, until it isn’t.

how understanding your love language can help improve your relationship

love languages can improve relationships

The idea of love languages was invented by a therapist named Gary Chapman. His book, The 5 love Languages- The Secret to Love That Lasts, explains that all of us have a love language. Just as a relationship won’t work if you can’t communicate because of a language barrier, how can a relationship work if each of you speak a different love language?

Now I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes. We’ve already read enough about men being from Mars and women from Venus, so now we’re being told that we don’t know how to love properly? Don’t we do enough?! I know I’ve bent myself in so many directions that I feel like a human pretzel.
 
The truth is that your efforts are unrecognized because you aren’t speaking your partner’s love language. If you are going to put effort into a relationship, don’t you want to do it in a way that matters to the other person? If not, what is the point of trying?

my husband and i were speaking different love languages in our relationship

I know I was a skeptic when I first heard about love languages. I tried so hard, but my husband and I were still bickering all the time. No matter what I said or did, I felt like he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated at all.
 

Change came from ending our codependent behavior, but a huge part of the problem was that both of us felt like we weren’t respected or valued by our partner. There was a huge disconnect, and that was because we were speaking completely different love languages.

Just as you need to focus on your own well-being so you can take care of others, you need to make sure your “love tank” is full. What often happens is that your partner thinks that what is being done or said is filling your love tank. Unfortunately, your love tank is still empty because you speak a different love language. Likewise, you believe you are showing your love for your partner, but they don’t feel loved or appreciated at all.
 

Children also need to have a full love tank, and it is important that we speak their love language as well. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. There is a quiz in the book to discover your child’s primary love language.

For purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on the understanding and importance of the love languages in romantic relationships.

these are dr. chapman’s five love languages

(This is a brief overview of the five love languages. In the book, each love language has a chapter explaining it in depth, and Chapman also gives specific suggestions on how to implement and understand each love language.)

words of affirmation

  • You feel loved and valued when your partner tells you those words.
  • You like to hear kind words and compliments from your partner to feel that your love tank is full.
  • It is crucial for partners to recognize that people who need words of affirmation are extra sensitive when a partner verbalizes displeasure.
  • Partners should be mindful that you should try to recognize and compliment the other’s efforts and speak encouraging words as much as possible. This keeps your partner’s love tank full.
  • According to Chapman, “Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”

quality time

  • For some people, what matters most is getting their partner’s undivided attention. They feel prioritized and valued when they are spending quality time with their loved one.
  • Quality time is not watching TV together. It is time where you both put away distractions and focus on one another.
  • Time together can be conversing after the kids are asleep, eating a meal together, taking a hike, doing an activity together, or playing a game together.
  • Unlike words of affirmation, which focuses on what the person is saying, quality time is about what the person is hearing.
  • Asking questions, showing empathy, and being genuinely interested in what the other one is saying is how you speak the love language of quality time.

receiving gifts

  • “Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others”- Gary Chapman
  • These gifts do not have to be costly. It is the thought that counts. Some examples include giving a card (or making one), bringing flowers, or giving a small memento.
  • Having something tangible makes the person feel loved. It can be found, made, or bought.
  • Don’t wait for special occasions to give to the person whose primary love language is receiving gifts. Anything you give will be considered tokens of love.

acts of service

  • If this is your primary love language, you feel actions speak louder than words.
  • Having your partner do things makes you feel loved.
  • The amount of time is not what matters, it involves actions that you know your partner wants you to do.
  • Showing thoughtfulness through actions and doing these actions without complaining is speaking the love language of acts of service.

physical touch

  • Being held, holding hands, or getting a massage are all examples of physical touch.
  • Every person has different areas that are felt as pleasurable, so the preferable areas of touch will vary.
  • A man might assume that physical touch is his primary love language for sexual reasons, but if he is having sex regularly and still feels unloved, then it is probably not his primary love language.
  • Biological needs should not be confused for love languages.

what is your love language and the love language of your partner?

At the end of his book there are two quizzes (one for each of you) to understand and find out your primary love language. The test consists of 30 paired statements. You select the statement that is the most truthful for you.  Then you tally your results and see your primary love language.
 
People often have more than one love language, but usually there is one that is the highest. That is your primary love language.
 
My primary language is acts of service, and my husband’s primary language is physical touch. Previously, instead of speaking the love language that the other one needed, we were giving each other the type of love we wanted. We felt unappreciated because we weren’t giving the other person the love language necessary to fill our love tank.
 
I now will take my husband’s hand or rub his shoulders to fill his love tank, and he does things around the house without bickering (most of the time 😉).
 
Just as it is important to respect someone’s feelings even if they are different from yours, there is no right or wrong love language. It is important to give your partner the type of love they need. When people feel appreciated and loved, it is much easier to work through obstacles and work together as a team.
 
Do I miss the days when I heard the birds singing and I felt like I was floating on a cloud? Sure. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is fleeting. Understanding and speaking each other’s love language is a love that lasts a lifetime. I choose that kind of love any day.

how to shift your mindset

Our mindset determines how we view the world. It is through this lens that our thoughts, behaviors, careers, ambitions, and relationships with others are shaped. Our mindset will ultimately determine our life choices. Our mindsets are either known as fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets and growth mindsets will be explained in this article, as well as strategies to shift to a growth mindset in both adults and children.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

The concept of fixed mindset and growth mindset was first researched by psychologist Carol Dweck in 2006. She determined that these mindsets are formed very early in life.

Those with fixed mindset believe that intelligence and abilities are static. They feel that effort will not improve their mental skills or any other types of skills. They therefore don’t exert extra effort. The focus of those with this mindset is result oriented as opposed to progress oriented. If there is a skill that is lacking, they will avoid that skill and often feel ashamed about it. They try to always appear intelligent because they see failure as a lack of intelligence. They are not receptive to constructive criticism because of a belief that no good can come from it. They are also threatened by others’ success.

When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your traits cannot be modified. Therefore, it is pointless to take any risks or try new things. People with this mindset often find themselves “stuck” because they do not believe they are able to improve their life circumstances. As a result, they do not reach their full potential. They are unwilling to put in the work to improve their quality of life and their relationship with others because they don’t see the purpose in doing so.

Those with a growth mindset view the world in a completely different way.

They believe that intelligence is something that can grow with effort, learning, and perseverance. Those with this mindset believe that your traits and behaviors can change. They embrace learning a new skill, trying a new thing, or taking a chance because they believe in personal and professional growth. They focus more on effort as opposed to results because results aren’t permanent. They are also more receptive to constructive criticism because it is an opportunity to learn more about themselves and gain additional insight.

People with growth mindset believe their potential is endless because they continue to work on themselves. They will find inspiration and encouragement from the success of others. They will continue to work towards goals, while valuing hard work and progress. People with this mindset are more likely to challenge themselves in every aspect of their lives because they feel that growth is possible.

fixed mindset and growth mindset

It is important to note that children with fixed mindsets prefer to do the things they already know how to do. They don’t want to put in the effort to learn new things because they feel their challenges indicate a lack of intelligence.  They are also more likely to lie about their performance because they measure intelligence in the form of results.

Children with growth mindsets are open to challenges because they see them as opportunities to learn new things and increase their intelligence. They will continue to put in the effort and learn things that are difficult for them. Children with growth mindsets believe success is possible with continued effort. They may be disappointed if they get a bad grade, but they will bounce back and keep working at it.

STRATEGIES TO SHIFT YOUR MINDSET IN ADULTS AND CHILDREN

strategies for nurturing a growth mindset

The above information has demonstrated the advantages of a growth mindset. The good news is that someone with a fixed mindset can change their mindset to a growth mindset.  If you or your child have a fixed mindset, use the following strategies:

(1) Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses

It is important to recognize that none of us are great at everything. We are not perfect, and each of us have areas of weakness (developgoodhabits.com, 2020).

(A) Discuss or list your weaknesses and strengths. Then pick one weakness that you or your child would like to work on. Look at those weaknesses with curiosity as opposed to judgment. For example, if you are always late, figure out what is the cause. Are you not giving yourself enough time to get ready or are you getting distracted and doing something else that prevents you from staying on course?  Brainstorm on ways to grow in this area. 

(B) Remember that weaknesses are opportunities for improvement. Setting goals should be about embracing growth rather than results. There are times that as hard as we try, we are just not going to be great at something. It is okay and inevitable. Remember that the effort is what matters. Try to learn from your weaknesses as opposed to seeing it as a waste of time. For example, I am not a great drawer. With practice I have gone from awful to mediocre.  Despite my best efforts, I am never going to be Thomas Kinkaid. However, I will still draw with my daughter, and I enjoy it tremendously. I have learned that doing things from the heart is what makes my drawing beautiful. 

(C) Flaws should be seen as part of what makes us human – just as freckles or a mole are not indications of failure, neither are our flaws. Flaws are not to be seen as ugly or feared.

(2) Remember that our brains have the capacity to learn new things

(A)Tell yourself or your child repeatedly that our brains can get stronger, just like a muscle. Whenever you or your child feels discouraged about something that is difficult, remember that our brains have the capacity to learn, and we can form and strengthen neural connections which make us smarter (mindsethealth.com, 2020). Learning throughout life allows your brain to form new connections throughout life.

(B) For a child, give the analogy of how our brain is full of lightbulbs and every time we try something new, a new lightbulb gets turned on. The more we work at a particular skill, regardless of outcome, the brighter the lightbulb will shine. This makes your brain stronger. If you don’t try new things, the lightbulb for that skill will never turn on (mother.ly, 2020).

(3) Lean into challenges and risks instead of avoiding them

(A)When you or your child continue to work on a difficult task, acknowledge it. Give yourself a pat on the back for trying something challenging, and tell your child that you notice that they are working hard.

(B) When something challenging presents itself, view it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

(C) It is okay to feel fear about a new situation or challenge, but remember that trying new things and taking risks allows us to learn new things about ourselves.  

(D) Teach your child what “grit” means and remember the importance of grit when facing challenges. Growth requires perseverance, resilience, and determination (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(4) Be mindful of praise

(A) Praise should be given for a specific action, not given as a generalization. For example, praise your child for how clever it was to try different ways to solve a puzzle rather than saying your child is clever.

(B) Whatever the outcome might be, make sure to focus on the effort rather than the outcome. If your child studies really hard for a test, whatever the grade may be, make sure to give praise for the amount of hard work as opposed to the result. Perfection is not the goal. For example, if your child studies really hard, but never does well in chemistry, praise him for how hard he tried. Likewise, if you try a new skill and it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, focus on how hard you worked at this new skill (psychologytoday.com, 2020)

(C) Praise yourself and your child for using this new mindset. Remember to cheer yourself and others on when they grow.

(5) When you or your child catch yourself thinking in a fixed mindset, reframe it into a growth mindset

(A) Remember that learning new things and facing challenges won’t result in immediate outcomes. It takes time to learn and improve ourselves.

(B) When you feel discouraged or find yourself falling back into your old way of thinking, take the time to acknowledge that this is your fixed mindset. Then challenge that way of thinking using a growth perspective (For example, This is hard, but I am going to give it a try, trying new things helps me grow, practicing helps me get better at something). (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(C) Replace judgment with compassion and acceptance– instead of seeing your lack of success as a failure, remember that you are learning.

(D) “Yet” is a powerful word, and helps us shift our mindset. If you or your child have not accomplished something, remember to include the word “yet”. This allows room for growth.  For example, “You haven’t figured out how to build the tower yet.”

reframe your thoughts into a growth mindset

(6) Learning should always be the priority

(A) Figure out what you/your child’s learning style is (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, combination) and use that style to learn new things. However, be open to learning in new and different ways, as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to learning (developgoodhabits.com, 2020).

(B) View constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn, and be receptive to what others are saying.

(C) Remember that areas that need improvement simply means you are still learning them.

(D) Take time everyday to think over the things you have learned and the opportunities you took or can take in the future. 

(E) When others succeed, see their success as an indication of the ability to learn. When others make mistakes, see it as a reminder that we are all imperfect and forever learning. In both instances, reflect on what they did or could have done differently, and use it as motivation for your own learning journey.

(F) View learning as a continuous way of training your brain. When we have nothing to learn, our minds cannot grow.

(G) Each time you or your child accomplishes a goal, seek out a new one. This allows continuous learning.

(H) It takes time to learn, and you and your child must be mindful of that to prevent falling back into a fixed mindset. As a result, give kids space to figure things out for themselves. Part of the learning process is to make mistakes and be unsuccessful. Those with a growth mindset understand that trial and error allows us to learn.

(7) Speed is not important

Remember that it is the journey that matters as opposed to the destination. It is okay if it takes longer to develop a new skill, but the important thing is to try our best as opposed to accomplishing something as quickly as possible (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(8) Model your own growth mindset in order to help your child work on theirs

It is important that you develop a growth mindset if you don’t already have one. This is necessary to set the right example for your children. It is okay if you have setbacks. Use them as opportunities to catch yourself and point out to your child how you reframe your thinking. Using and modeling these strategies helps your child to do the same (mother.ly, 2020).

growth

 

 

A growth mindset isn’t born overnight, and it won’t happen overnight. However, with time and practice you can change your mindset into one of growth. Learning and growing as a person and in all aspects of your life allows endless opportunities. The sky is the limit for you and for your child when you view life through a growth mindset.

living life like a child

 

Being a parent has been an eye opener for me in so many ways. I have had the privilege of watching my daughter grow. It is amazing to see how my child views the world. Whether you are a parent or not, I believe we should all try to use a child’s lens more when living our lives.  This article illustrates the power and freedom of living life like a child.

WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE LIFE LIKE A CHILD

 

(1) Kids don’t judge

They look at everything with an open mind and heart. They do not have any preconceived notions or opinions. As adults, life has jaded us in many ways. It is understandable that our prior experiences have shaped our views. However, if we try to not judge a book from its cover, perhaps we can embrace new experiences and people rather than judge them.

(2) Kids are curious

Kids want to learn and understand everything around them. They ask questions because of a genuine interest in everything. Although trying at times, it is wonderous to see how much they want to learn. As adults, we often assume we have all the answers or don’t have the time or energy to seek out information. What if we took the time to discover why the sky is blue? There is so much each of us don’t know and imagine how much there is to discover.

(3) Kids have endless enthusiasm

I laugh as I write this one, because this is something that every teacher has said about Brielle. My daughter is excited about the simplest of things. A balloon! A box! Having a playdate (since COVID I think anyone would be excited about socializing, but I am referring to once upon a time when we could socialize without fear of a deadly virus)! Living life like a child means being excited about all that life has to offer. The little and simple stuff in life is not so little and simple to a child. I think we all could learn a thing or two about that.

(4) They are innocent and without prejudice

Innocence is a difficult subject for me. Some children have no choice but to lose their innocence at a young age for reasons beyond their control. I grew up in a toxic environment, and therefore didn’t get to stay innocent for very long. I am referring to children that grow up in loving, stable, healthy environments. Living life like a child means hatred and prejudice simply don’t exist to them.

I remember the first time my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair. She asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.

I realized that if I shied away from her questions or told her not to ask them, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray that differences are something to be disliked or feared.

I learned that people are happy to answer your questions if they are coming from a place of innocence. Brielle learned that some people aren’t able to use their legs the way that we do. She has since asked and learned about hearing aids, skin tags, Tourette’s Syndrome, muscular sclerosis, and autism.

I recall the first time my daughter met a person of color. She was very young and a man came to our house to do some construction. She said hello and immediately asked him why he was dark. He got down to her level, smiled at her, and told her that not everyone has the same skin color. He then told her that all those differences are what makes the world special. My daughter, wide eyed, nodded and took in every word. She then gave him a hug. I have never forgotten that moment.

My initial embarrassment that she asked that question turned into gratefulness. I was grateful that her innocence allowed her to learn something that I wish everyone knew and understood. I once again realized that my discomfort could have prevented her from such a profound experience.  The prevention of asking and understanding differences is what brews ignorance, and ignorance is what breeds hate. Living life like a child means embracing differences and not avoiding them.

(5) Kids find humor and joy everywhere

Living life like a child means laughing all the time. My daughter finds humor in pretty much everything. Her laugh is contagious, and I find myself laughing. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t burst into giggles or hysterical laughter. She finds joy and humor in the simplest of things.

My silly faces make her laugh, a chapter from a book makes her laugh, pumping her legs on the swings makes her laugh, and rolling down a hill makes her laugh. She sometimes laughs at her laughs. It isn’t a teasing laughter; rather, it is a laughter that comes from the heart. What a wonderful world this would be if adults laughed more at ourselves and found more humor and joy in life.

(6) Kids don’t care what others think

I am often self-conscious. On the contrary, Brielle laughs, shouts, giggles, dances, sings, and is herself without constraints. She lives her life like nobody is watching, and more importantly, she wouldn’t care if they were. Some kids are shyer than others. However, living life like a child means that when they are doing something, they aren’t worrying about what other people think. Imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we all lived like that.

(7) Kids love to play

Adults are consumed with responsibilities. Kids, however, play. They focus on having fun and enjoying themselves. Living life like a child means connecting with others and learning through contentment.

Understandably, kids are able to enjoy themselves more because of their lack of obligations. However, kids don’t feel guilty for doing things that make them happy. They don’t feel selfish because they take the time to do things that bring them joy. Adults (myself included) should take a page from the kid handbook and incorporate hobbies and other forms of self-care into our lives without guilt.

(8) Kids feel their feelings without reservations

When a kid is happy, it is obvious. Likewise, when a child is feeling frustrated, mad, or sad, their emotions come pouring out of them. Meltdowns and temper tantrums are common among young children because of their frustrations at being unable to properly communicate or express their emotions. Children want to share how they are feeling.

Adults, however, feel the need to often hold back our feelings. Many of us were taught at a young age that it is important to “be strong” or “not cry like a baby.” Those words shaped our perceptions and in turn, many of us grew up burying our feelings. Living life like a kid means that it is okay to not be okay. Kids will freely express their emotions without reservation. It is only when adults try to constrict those emotions that kids do otherwise.

I am certainly not saying that parents shouldn’t try to calm a child down when they are having a temper tantrum. However, if we take the time to understand why a kid is behaving a certain way or struggling, it will help them to be better equipped to deal with those emotions. Most importantly, teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to handle their feelings rather than sweep them under a rug encourages kids to continue to embrace their feelings.

Kids are authentic with their feelings and emotions. We should try to live life like a child and allow ourselves to feel more and restrict ourselves less. Life would be more authentic, genuine, and real if we all freely expressed ourselves.

 

 

Kids are an example of all the things we once embodied. Their innocence, curiosity, excitement, and pleasure in the simplest of things are a reminder of how much beauty there is in this world. If each of us made a vow to try to live life like a child, we would be opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities.

There is a lot of pain and cruelty in this world, and I am not suggesting that all bells can be unrung. However, there are things right in front of us that can bring us joy, if we allow ourselves to see it. We are no longer children, but we can try to view life through a different perspective.

Lay in the grass or jump in a puddle (it really is fun!). Sing your favorite song on top of your lungs. Learn something new. Take a moment to appreciate something simple, but that brings you joy. Try to be open to something without judging it first. Living life like a child will make us better adults and better people.

fighting in a healthy relationship

Fights. Conflict. Arguing. Words that make most of us incredibly uncomfortable. However, fighting is inevitable in all relationships. The key is to figure out how to have a healthy fight instead of an unhealthy fight. For purposes of this article, healthy fighting is synonymous with constructive fighting and healthy conflict.  If conflict is part of any relationship, it is crucial to learn how to have a healthy fight.

Ways To Have Constructive Conflicts In A Healthy Relationship

 

(1) Mindfulness and taking a pause

Healthy fighting is about addressing a problem together. Even when two people have strong opinions, the key is learning to respond instead of react. This is a crucial way to fight productively.

I will admit that my husband and I are both hotheads. As a result, what may initially be a simple discussion turns into a trigger-fest, with each one of us reacting to what the other one is saying. Instead of addressing the problem, it turns into a bigger argument.

I know we are not the only ones who often react first and then think later. Luckily, there is a solution that enables healthy fighting between couples. It involves mindfulness. This means paying attention to the physiological reactions going on in your body (blood pressure rising, heart racing, surge of adrenaline) that take place when you start to feel emotionally charged. If you learn to notice those reactions once they start, you can prevent them from going any further.

Practicing pausing before reacting is how couples have a healthy fight.  Once you recognize that you are starting to react, STOP. Take a breath. Don’t say a word. Instead, put a hand up to indicate you need a break or determine in advance a signal you will use when you need to stop. Walk away if needed. If you stop as soon as you feel a reaction, it will prevent you from verbally reacting. It will also take less time to calm down. Once you react and fall down the rabbit hole, it is much harder to get out of it.

Mindfulness and pausing is not something that you can learn to do overnight. If you typically react rather than respond, work on listening to your body’s signals and get better equipped at noticing them. Over time, you will be able to take that much needed pause.

(2) Showing empathy and give validation

constructive fighting

When you are fighting, are you trying to understand the feelings of your partner? You do not have to have the same opinion as your partner to show empathy. Validating someone’s feelings is a huge part of healthy fighting. Ultimately, each person in a relationship wants to feel heard.

You don’t need to agree with what someone is saying, as long as you can recognize that their way of experiencing things doesn’t have to be the same as yours to make it valid. Ways of validation can be non-verbal, such as leaning forward when the person is speaking, making eye contact, and nodding.

We can each have our own unique feelings. No matter how we feel, those feelings deserve acknowledgment, respect, and validation. When there is a desire to understand your partner’s way of thinking and feeling, this is healthy fighting in a relationship.

(3) Focus on the issue at hand

It is easy to turn one argument into a rehashing of all of your issues in the relationship or with that person. That will only make the argument turn into a blame game. Instead, have healthy conflict by sticking to the particular topic.

(4) Know when to hold them and when to fold them

Sometimes there is not an easy resolution to a problem. If you feel like you are going in circles with no end in sight, put a pin in it. That will give both of you time to think over what the other one was saying, and to try to gain some clarity and additional perspective. Decide in advance when you will revisit this topic so it doesn’t get swept under the rug. Constructive fighting means knowing when to stop before it turns into destructive fighting.

(5) A mutual desire to reach a resolution

Healthy fighting between couples means that both people approach the conflict wanting to repair a problem. Figuring out a solution isn’t as important as each person having a genuine desire to resolve the issue. You may not be able to reach a resolution, but it is a constructive fight if both are approaching it from a healthy mindset.

(6) How you express your feelings

If you talk about your feelings in terms of how YOU are affected by a situation or the other person, that is a much healthier way of fighting. Try to use “I feel” rather than “You did” when fighting. Make it about yourself instead of speaking for the other person or criticizing them.

(7) Wanting to communicate

Healthy relationships understand that fighting is par for the course. It is better to get your feelings out in the open and address your concerns rather than bury your feelings or pretend that everything is okay. Communication is key in every relationship, and it is necessary to communicate even if it will cause a fight. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader, so you need to be upfront and honest about what is on your mind.

Be as specific as you can about your concerns and when brainstorming solutions. Sometimes, there is a pattern to your conflicts. By being as specific as you can about your feelings, you may discover what is the true root of the problem. Open and honest communication in every aspect of the conflict enables constructive and healthy fighting. 

(8) Be a team

Conflict between couples is healthy when both people understand that the ultimate goal is to work together. Remember that if one loses, the both of you lose. It is necessary to be a team rather than keep a running tally of who is right and who is wrong.

healthy fighting

(9) Give each person time to talk

There are two people in a relationship, and each one is entitled to have a voice when there is a fight. Give each person a chance to speak, and try your best not to interrupt. When one person is finished, then the other person should get the same opportunity to talk. If one person tends to monopolize the conversation, you can determine in advance how much time you each will get and take equal turns speaking. Just as it is important to be a good listener, it is important that you each speak your mind and voice your feelings.

(10) Make Requests

Fighting in a healthy relationship means asking your partner to contribute to a solution or a situation. If you make a request rather than demand or complain, you are approaching the conversation in a productive way.

(11) Ask questions from a curious perspective

When in doubt, ask your partner what they need. If you have any confusion, ask! Ask what will make your partner happy. Ask what they need to feel safe and loved. Lack of proper communication and misunderstanding will cause a conflict to turn into an unhealthy one.

(12) Respect your partner’s boundaries and stick to your own boundaries

When fighting, it is important to stay respectful and honor each other’s boundaries. This could mean setting an alarm because your partner doesn’t want to discuss heated topics after a certain time, or it could means taking a time out for a designated amount of time. Whatever the boundaries may be, discuss these boundaries in advance to ensure that they are implemented on both ends.

Things to Avoid That Can Lead To Destructive  Fighting

destructive fighting

  • Ignoring your partner- checking your phone, looking around or any avoidant behavior are all signs of unhealthy conflict.
  • Criticizing, shaming and demeaning behavior- eye rolling, sighing, or verbally belittling your partner.
  • Jumping to conclusions- give your partner an opportunity to explain their behavior or circumstances by asking questions rather than throwing accusations.
  • Beginning a conversation already triggered. Take time to calm down before you discuss anything.
  • Asking questions to prove the other person is wrong.  Only ask questions when wanting to genuinely understand the other one and to work together.
  • Keeping track of all the things you disagree with while the the other person is speaking.
  • Walking away in the middle of a conflict with the intention of not addressing the topic again.
  • Dismissing your partner’s feelings or refusing to acknowledge the validity of your partner’s feelings because you don’t agree with them.
  • Bringing up topics that cannot be resolved (e.g., took place in the past) or that detracts from the topic at hand.
  • Abusive behavior, whether physically violent or verbal. 
  • Playing the blame game. Nobody wins.
  • Bringing up your partner’s deepest secrets and vulnerabilities in the middle of a fight.
  • Getting increasingly triggered and continuing the conversation.
  • Avoiding a topic altogether because a resolution wasn’t reached.

We are all unique, with our own set of desires, emotions, and opinions. Two different people and perspectives will eventually result in conflict. If people are open to understanding those differences, arguing can be a source of deeper understanding of one another. Learning to fight in a healthy way will allow for a relationship filled with love, no matter the argument.

implement healthy boundaries

Boundaries. A word that holds so much importance, but is so often misunderstood. The reality is that implementing healthy boundaries is crucial for your mental health. Additionally, they allow you to have healthy relationships and protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Importance of Implementing Healthy Boundaries for Your Mental Health

Boundaries have a bad rap. People feel uncomfortable with the idea of setting boundaries. Additionally, they feel boundaries are giving ultimatums or telling people what to do. The truth is, without boundaries there is likely to be burnout, anger, and resentment. You cannot have a healthy relationship without implementing healthy boundaries. Period.

Boundaries allow for healthy relationships because you are deciding what is best for yourself. In other words, you are focusing on your identity and not holding yourself accountable for others. Equally, others are not responsible for you. This prevents codependency and other unhealthy or toxic behaviors.

Setting healthy boundaries allows you to prioritize your non-negotiables. This in turn promotes putting your mental health and wellness first. Boundaries are a necessary form of self-care. In order to love yourself, healthy boundaries are needed.

Recognizing Healthy Versus Unhealthy Boundaries

As explained above, implementing healthy boundaries allows for improved mental wellness and promotes healthy relationships. That said, not all boundaries are healthy. A boundary is unhealthy if you keep a distance from others to protect yourself from getting hurt, are afraid to say no, and/or accept disrespectful behavior or comments that don’t honor your core-values and needs. Unhealthy boundaries also take place when too much personal/private information is shared, you rely on others’ approval before making decisions or stating an opinion, and/or your sense of self is based on how others treat you. “In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship” (positivepsychology.com, 2020).

HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

setting healthy boundaries

Now that you have a better understanding of why healthy boundaries are crucial, the next question is how to set boundaries.

Here are things to keep in mind to implement healthy boundaries (psychcentral.com, 2016):

(1) Tune into your feelings and ask yourself what you want and need from your various relationships.

This includes romantic relationships, friendships, children, family members, and co-workers. What goes on in these relationships that makes you feel resentful or uncomfortable? Those are likely the things that require boundaries.

(2) Figure out what your core values are.

In other words, what matters to you most? What are your non-negotiables/limits?

(3) Examine your current boundaries (if any), if they need to be applied to other relationships, or if they don’t accurately reflect what you need.
(4) Start small.

Pick something that isn’t as stressful for you to set, and then work your way up to more difficult boundaries.

(5) Make sure to clearly communicate your expectations.

You want to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.

(6) Do not apologize for your boundaries and try to be as concise as possible.

It is not necessary to go into great detail and justify yourself. You can state why the boundary is important to you. However, boundaries are not asking for permission. People don’t have to agree with your boundaries, but they do need to respect them.

(7) Remember to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable or to prevent a violation of your limits.

Alternately, be respectful of other people’s needs and if they say “no” to you, as long as they are not violating your boundary in the process.

(8) Try to keep the focus on yourself and your needs rather than focusing on what someone else’s actions.

For example, “I will not pick up the phone after 10pm” rather than saying, “Stop calling me so late.”

(9) Consistency is everything.

Don’t set a boundary unless you are going to follow through with it.

(10) Remember that setting healthy boundaries may be uncomfortable to you at first.

You might feel guilty about setting boundaries. You may feel that you are hurting someone’s feelings or are being disrespectful. Change is hard, and your hesitancy is understandable, especially in environments that don’t embrace boundaries. For some, lack of boundaries is all that is known.  It might be an adjustment, but with time, it will get easier.

(11) Prioritize yourself.

Remember to put yourself first. Additionally, be mindful of your well-being to set and maintain boundaries. Remember that implementing healthy boundaries is for your mental health and will improve the quality of your relationships.

Types of Healthy Boundaries

healthy boundaries for your mental health

Setting boundaries will vary based on various relationships (coworker versus spouse), but all relationships need each of these boundary types (mindbodygreen.com, 2019).

Physical Boundaries

This incorporates your need for personal space, whether or not you want to be touched, and your privacy.

Examples of physical boundaries are:

“I need 30 minutes to myself after I get home from work.”

“I don’t like kissing in public.”

“This room is off-limits for other people.”

“I don’t tell my daughter to hug people. That is her choice.”

Intellectual Boundaries

This refers to your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is making sure that you are heard and that your ideas are respected, even if they vary from others. It also means stating when you feel comfortable or uncomfortable discussing something.

Examples of intellectual boundaries are:

“I don’t like discussing politics.”

“I think it is better to discuss this when the kids are asleep.”

“We have different opinions, and I’d like to be able to state mine as well.”

“I won’t continue this conversation if I am talked over.”

Emotional Boundaries

This is respecting your feelings, what you are willing to share, and when you are willing to share personal information.

Examples of this are:

“Are you able to talk? I am struggling right now.”

“You seem upset, but I am upset too. I need a few minutes to calm down before we sit down and talk about this.”

“I don’t need you to agree with my feelings, but I do need them to be listened to with empathy.”

Sexual Boundaries 

This encompasses all aspects of sexuality, including consent, respecting different preferences, and limitations.

Examples of this include:

“I will only have sex with a condom.”

“No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that with you.”

“Please keep your hands to yourself.”

“I am not in the mood for that tonight.”

 “I really like __________. Is this something you’d feel comfortable doing with me?”

Material/Financial Boundaries

This refers to money and materialistic objects. Setting expectations for what is yours financially, what you feel comfortable sharing, and how your items should be treated all encompass this boundary type.

Examples include:

“I am not able to loan you money.”

“If you borrow my car, I want it returned in the same condition in which I loaned it to you.”

“I lent you my dress, and it was returned with a stain. I will not loan it to you again until it is taken to the dry cleaners.”

Time Boundaries

This includes how you use your time and how much time you spend with others or doing things. You need to prioritize your time and who you spend it with.  This is necessary in order to set and maintain healthy boundaries for mental wellness. Failure to do so will result in overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed.

Examples of this type of boundary are:

“I can only stay for 20 minutes.”

“I have other obligations, so I can’t volunteer for this event.”

“In order to spend uninterrupted time with my wife, I do not talk on the phone after 8pm.”

 

 

Implementing healthy boundaries for your mental health is not optional. It is crucial for your mental, physical, and emotional wellness, and for any type of relationship. This should be considered a part of your self-love and self-care practice. Just as you cannot pour from an empty cup, you cannot prioritize your needs and limits without setting boundaries. 

Only you can determine what boundaries to set, and what happens if those boundaries are not respected. Depending on severity, it may vary from reinstating your boundaries more assertively to ending a relationship. Show compassion for yourself as you learn to implement boundaries, and remember that it is necessary to respect the boundaries of others as much as others should respect yours.