This was first published on KSL.com
I recently went through a divorce and it was really hard on my kids and myself. To make matters worse, the people, especially neighbors, who I thought were our friends have really disappeared and let us down. They act like divorce is a disease and they are staying away so they don’t catch it. My kids are finding fewer people who want to play with them, and invites to or neighbors houses aren’t coming our way anymore. What is going on with that? These people I thought were my friends, apparently are fair-weather friends and they are nowhere to be found, even though we need friends more than ever. I had heard of this happening to other people but somehow thought my neighbors were different. What can I do, besides moving, to get our friends back in our lives, especially for my kids? How do I handle this?
“Mr. Rogers did not adequately prepare you for the people in your neighborhood, did he?”
Though it’s funny, the truth is real people and their behavior are a lot more complicated than we think. People are complicated because we are all wracked with fears about making mistakes, causing trouble, losing things, losing reputation, being uncomfortable, and being seen in a bad light; these fears produce behavior that is selfish and unloving.
Humans are typically not capable of loving behavior when they are in fear and scared about their own well-being. Love and fear are like light and darkness: they can’t both exist at the same time, in the same place. People who are scared for their own safety may have nothing to give anyone else.
It is important you understand this about human behavior because it will help you to see their pulling back from you as their issue, not yours. It is coming from their fears about themselves.
Here are some common fear issues that friends and neighbors might feel when someone they know gets divorced:
They are afraid they will say the wrong thing.
They may be uncomfortable with your situation, because they don’t and can’t know what was really happening behind your closed doors. This leaves them terribly afraid they will say the wrong thing, and unfortunately it feels safer to them to avoid conversation at all.
Their loyalty feels split because they probably like both of you.
Because they don’t really know what was happening in your marriage, they aren’t sure who the bad guy was, or if there was one. They don’t know whose side they should take (it would be nice if they didn’t take sides at all, but they often feel they should). This again leaves them feeling safer and more comfortable staying away from the whole thing.
They are afraid the same thing could happen to them.
Have you noticed if someone close to you has child or spouse die, you suddenly realize that type of tragedy really happens, and could happen to you? People are afraid the same is true with divorce. If it happened to you, it could happen to them. That reminder is scary, so again, it feels safer to stay away from it.
They might be afraid your values have changed.
Often divorce happens because someone made some mistakes, and your neighbors don’t know if something like that happened, or may wonder who was at fault. Since they don’t have that information, they aren’t sure who changed. So, it might feel safer to stay away from both of you. This is terrible to treat people like this, but most of the time it isn’t a conscious decision. They are likely just reacting this way and pulling back subconsciously.
They might think they don’t know you as well as they thought they did.
Most of the time you were pretending you were all right, and no one knew what was really going on in your home. This makes them feel they didn’t really know you, and they are suddenly not sure if the friendship was real either.
I tell you about these fears not to excuse their behavior, but because I want you to see it isn’t about you. They are uncomfortable and scared, and that is their issue not yours. Work to forgive them for being scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, who have much more to learn. Forgive them for being here, because you are also a work in progress.
Here are a few more ideas:
You can do this.
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coach Kim Giles explains the fear-trigger cycle that could wreak havoc in your relationship.
My marriage is strained right now due to the fact that my husband has started snoring and I can’t sleep. My husband is currently still sleeping on a blowup mattress in another room (his choice because I’ve told him I’m not sleeping with his snoring). I’m struggling to work out my part in this and my guilt around it and I don’t know what to do. I feel guilty, yet I also feel like I need to take care of myself, too. I know you aren’t an expert on snoring, but I hoped you could give us some ways to protect and improve our relationship and stop feeling bothered with each other, while we sort this out?
First, I recommend you have your husband see a doctor and check him out for sleep apnea or other physiological problems in play.
Remember snoring is a medical condition, not a personal failing. It can be easy for someone who snores to feel broken or flawed, and they might feel guilt and shame, too. The partner who can’t sleep can also feel guilty for being bothered with the snoring. These emotions can drive a wedge in your relationship.
It would also help for you to understand what I call the fear-trigger cycle. It helps you to see how you and your spouse trigger each other and getting this is the first step to changing things.
Here are a few ideas which make the fear-trigger cycle easy to understand.
1: My observation, as a life coach for the last 15 years, has been that love and fear cannot exist at the same time in the same person. If you are in fear, your focus is mostly on yourself and what you need to feel safe. In a fear state, you are more selfish and not capable of love.
2: I have found my clients have two core fears which create most of their bad human behavior. They are the fear of failure (the fear you aren’t good enough) and the fear of loss (the fear your quality of life won’t be good enough).
3. I have noticed when my clients fears get triggered, they usually react by either running away, pulling back, putting walls up or going quiet to protect themselves or they attack back, fault find, get defensive, or angry at the other person. These are the most common fear reactions we have observed, and none of them produce good results in relationships.
Now you understand these basics, this is how the fear-trigger-cycle (that we have discovered) works:
1. First, one of you does something that triggers a core fear in your spouse, and that spouse reacts with a fear-motivated action. This action is usually driven by the need to protect yourself from the other person.
In your case, your husband's snoring triggered fear of loss in you, because it is taking from your quality of life. This fear made you react to protect yourself. You might have reacted by complaining, blaming or being bothered.
2. The other person sees this fear-driven action and it triggers a fear in them. Then, they react from their fear to protect themselves.
In your case, I believe your husband's fear of failure was triggered when his snoring bothered you. Your feeling of loss about sleeping near him made him feel inadequate. He would hate feeling this way, so he might react by pulling away from you to protect himself from further feelings of failure.
His fear-reaction might have been to say, "Fine, I will sleep away from you so you can sleep." But if this was done as a protection from failure, not as an act of love toward you, it could further drive a wedge into the relationship.
3. When the first person feels the other person reacting in fear, pulling away or acting to protect themselves, they will be even more triggered by fear. They will often have more fear-driven behavior show up, to protect themselves and the wedge will become even bigger
In your case, you probably felt your husband pulling away to protect himself from failure, and it either triggered more fear of loss in you, or it might have triggered fear of failure in you because you feel guilty for not being able to sleep with him.
This wouldn’t feel good, so you might have reacted in anger at his defensiveness and acting like a martyr. This might make you behave more defensively too, and pull back even further from him.
I have seen this cycle play out in hundreds of relationships over the last 15 years. People get stuck in this fear-trigger cycle going around and around, triggering each other's fear-motivated bad behavior and in this state, no one is giving love, because you are both focused on protecting yourselves.
The good news is this problem is not hard to fix.
The first step lies in recognizing you are having a fear-trigger problem. I believe your protective, defensive behavior is happening because you and your spouse are both scared of failure and loss and you both need some reassurance and validation.
He needs to know that his snoring doesn’t change his value to you. You need to know that he cares about your quality of sleep and wants to do whatever it takes to make sure you have what you need. When you give each other this reassurance, it will quiet the fears in play.
Then make sure you approach solving this issue as a team, working together against a problem — not as two people against each other.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I wondered if you had any suggestions for making Valentine’s Day less painful, after just going through a divorce. I’m sure there are lots of singles out there who find this holiday a painful reminder about the fact they are alone. Maybe you could give us all some ways to make this week easier.
For many people this holiday is a Single Awareness Day, not a celebration of love. The important thing to remember is that your experience or the way you think and feel about this week is completely dependent on your perspective, and you can choose your perspective. A date of the calendar cannot make you feel alone or unwanted. It is your thoughts about the date that create your feelings and your thoughts are in your control.
The problem is that most of us are quite used to letting our subconscious programming (that comes from our past experiences) drive our perspective and how we feel. We think we can’t help feeling or thinking how we do, so we just accept whatever ideas or feelings show up.
The first step in changing how you feel about this week, is owning responsibility for your feelings and accepting that if you feel upset or sad, you are choosing to feel upset or sad. If you own the power to choose your thoughts, you have the power to change them.
But understand, there is nothing wrong with feeling upset or sad, lonely or discouraged. These feelings are part of the human experience and you may need to let yourself feel them and work through them. Just own that you don’t have to live there. You have the power to change your story around this day, anytime you want to.
There will be a subconscious story that shows up in your head automatically about Valentine’s Day. This subconscious story might be a fear-based victim story or one of self-pity or sadness. You can take some time to experience the story that shows up, but then ask yourself if this story is doing you or anyone else any good?
If it isn’t serving you, creating growth or joy, then you may want to create a better, more positive story. You have the power to do that. This day will be whatever you decide to make it according to the story you tell yourself. Here are some ideas that might help you create a more positive story:
1. Valentine’s Day is mostly a commercial occasion driven by stores that want sales. Keep that in mind.
2. Not having someone in your life right now does not affect your value as a person. At all. People in a relationship are not better than those without one.
3. Decide to see all human beings as having the same exact value, no matter what they do or what their relationship status is. Make this a principle of truth about all people, across the board, and you will feel it is the truth about yourself too.
4. Understand that nothing means anything until you apply meaning to it. The date on the calendar doesn’t mean anything. The fact you are single doesn’t mean anything. Choose not to apply meaning to meaningless things. If you choose to apply meaning that makes you more depressed and sad, that is your choice, but own the choice and be responsible for it.
5. You will create a story around the day, one way or another. If you don’t create a story consciously, you might create a fear-based one subconsciously. I recommend you choose to create one consciously and choose a story that serves you and makes you feel strong, loving, valuable and worthy.
6. Remember it’s not being single that is the problem, it’s what you tell yourself it means that you’re single on Valentine’s Day. Tell yourself it just means there is still something you are meant to learn right now that requires singleness to learn it. It’s not because you aren’t good looking or a catch, it’s not that no one likes you, it’s just not the right lesson for you right now.
7. Take some time to account for all the benefits of being single. Remind yourself why relationships are difficult and can be a struggle. It will help you stay grateful for the blessings about where you are. Gratitude for everything that is good in your life really helps.
8. Plan something fun to do on Valentine's. Get together with friends and create a positive experience.
9. Make the day about pampering yourself. The great part about being single is all the time you can devote to taking care of yourself. What do you need to do for you, to be your own Valentine? Treat yourself great.
10. Make the day about service. There are always people in need, who have it worse than you. When you focus your energy on serving others, you take the focus off you and you will feel terrific about yourself.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com. She is a relationship expert and a popular life coach and speaker.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I am about to get married for the second time and my fiancé and I both have children from our first marriages. I heard the odds of these second marriages are dismal and I’m wondering what advice you have for us, that might make it more likely to work out.
You are right, the odds are against you. The divorce rate for remarriage is 40 percent.
We believe in first marriages children are a more stabilizing factor, which can actually bind the couple together, where in second or third marriages, they can destabilize the relationship and in some cases purposefully undermine it. If the family has no education about the challenges of blending and enters these marriages unprepared for the difficulties, it is even more likely that children can disrupt the couple’s relationship.
Most people think they will automatically be more successful the second time around, because of what they learned from the failure of their previous marriages. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be true. Most people make the same mistakes again and again, especially if they don’t get some coaching, training, education, skills or tools that they didn’t have before to help them do their new relationships differently.
Diane Sollee, a family therapist and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education says, "It seems that people would be older and wiser, or learn from the mistakes of a failed first marriage. … But that's like saying if you lose a football game, you'll win the next one. You might, but only if you learn some new plays before you go back on the field."
Experts agree the one way to beat the odds is to get educated about step-parenting and blending families. Studies have shown that premarital education of some kind can substantially reduce divorce rates. Couples who seek out professional help and education about creating healthy relationships are more satisfied with their relationships and stay together longer.
Unfortunately, most couples don't seek help. So, we are glad you are seeking out information — that is increasing your odds of success already.
Here are our top tips for making blended families work:
1. Set realistic expectations.
A second or third marriage is much more complicated than a first, especially when children are involved. Everyone is coming into this new family with war wounds, baggage and issues from what went wrong the first time, so you are going to have to be even more patient, understanding and prepared for bumps and difficulties.
You must be realistic about the time it takes for children to bond with step-parents and step-siblings. Don’t expect them to feel like family right away. It takes a long time, and each person will get there at their own time. The older the child, the longer this takes, so don’t be surprised if older children take years or even a decade to get used to this new family arrangement.
2. Learn what the most common challenges are ahead of time, and make a plan to deal with them.
Here are some of the most common difficulties:
As a stepparent, you will never be the same as a natural parent. You must respect the natural parent’s role and adjust to a new kind of role yourself. Your stepparent role is more like that of a caring uncle or aunt who can be there to provide support, encouragement and even guidance, but always honor the natural parent's right to be the decision maker and the one to discipline their children.
4. Don’t expect or demand anyone to bond, but expect and demand everyone be respected.
It is not realistic to expect everyone in a blended family to like each other, but you should expect mutual respect. If your stepfamily is going to work, children and parents must respect everyone else in the home. This means listening to their thoughts and feelings and respecting their right to feel the way they do. Respect must happen in every interaction.
5. Understand blending takes time.
It will take longer than you think, probably years longer, and this blending process cannot be rushed. Everyone involved needs time to process their pain, guilt and confusion around this divorce and remarriage. Couples will often pressure children to love their new stepparent right away. This kind of pressure will hinder the process. Give each child the time and space to accept their new stepparent and adjust to the new arrangement on their own time. If you let them set the pace, they will have a more positive experience.
6. Work on yourself.
Don’t focus on finding a better spouse the second time; focus on being a better spouse this time, and things will go better. Work on being less selfish and more giving than you used to be. Get some personal coaching or counseling and work to repair self-esteem issues, trust issues or emotional issues you are still carrying from your first relationship. Because conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, better communication skills are critical. Learn how to set your opinions aside up front and ask about how the other person feels first. Listen and validate his or her feelings by honoring their right to think and feel the way they do, even when you don’t agree. Then ask if they would be open to hearing your thoughts, and speak your truth with love while looking for ways to create win-wins.
7. Face all problems as a team.
Try to step back from every conflict and look at it from a united perspective as a couple against a problem or challenge, not against each other. Even if a conflict is about one partner’s behavior, still work it through together as a team trying to make your marriage better. If you commit now to not let any challenge come between you, and communicate with love, you can work through anything.
8. Give your spouse room to learn and grow.
Your spouse has never been a stepparent before, or at least not with your kids. You both need some time to figure the whole thing out. Love is about letting someone be imperfect and in process. It’s about being patient and not expecting them to do everything right and right away.
You can expect children to try to sabotage the relationship, ex-spouses to be difficult and stepsiblings to not get along. These are all par for course, but committed couples can make it work. Just seek out professional help before and throughout the relationship to increase your odds of success.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master coaches and relationship experts who founded www.claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com. They are the hosts of Relationship Radio on Voice America.
This was first published on KSL.com
I am going through a divorce and it’s really depressing to be here over Christmas. I haven’t even had it in me to put up the tree. It’s the worst time of year to feel alone. Do you have any advice for how to make this a Merry Holiday when I’m lonely?
That is a hard situation to be in, but you must decide now if you are going to give into the sadness story or reject that thinking and choose to focus on the positive. You may have to make this choice every five minutes, as the sadness might creep back in, but you can do it and it gets easier with practice. Here are fourteen ways you can make your holiday season easier to get through.
1. Focus on what you do have — not what you don’t have.
How you feel is directly tied to how you're thinking about your situation. Focus on gratitude for everything you have every day. Take some time and write them in a journal each day if necessary.
2. Focus on self-care.
All that time and energy you would be spending on someone else, you can now spend on loving and caring for yourself. Take advantage of this and treat yourself extra good. Take bubble baths, get massages, buy great lotions and some fresh clothes (use the money you would have spent on presents for a significant other).
3. Don’t create a story around loss or victimhood.
And don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t have anyone to kiss under the mistletoe. That depressing storyline is an attitude option, but it’s not your only choice. You could choose to feel whole, happy and fulfilled. You really can. The one thing you always have power over is your thoughts. Think happy, whole, fulfilled thoughts about how great your life is. If negative story comes in, thank it for showing up with an opinion, but no, thank you.
4. Plan activities with family and friends.
Don’t sit home. Plan things you want to do and invite people to join you. Schedule in all your down time with activities you enjoy.
5. Do service.
When you focus on others, you forget about your problems. There are lots of wonderful places to volunteer and donate time around the holidays or you might pick a cause to work or gather donations or gifts for them.
6. Make sure you get lots of exercise, eat well and sleep.
These three things help all of us have more balanced mental and emotional health. If you feel down, go for a walk, get outside and move, or make yourself a healthy meal. These are important areas of self-care that make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself and life.
7. Get a great book to read over the holidays.
Getting lost in a wonderful adventure or interesting storyline, keeps you from dwelling on your own life too much.
8. If family gatherings help you, then go.
But if they make you feel worse, don’t go. Don’t attend anything from obligation.
Instead, go out with upbeat friends or plan a party and invite everyone (who has nowhere to go or feels awkward) to join you. Some people call these “A Misfit Toys party”, but we would rather think of them as “Celebrate your perfect classroom even if it’s nonconventional parties”.
9. Create brand new traditions.
If the old ones don’t work right now, don’t create a sad story around that. Decide to create new interesting traditions and decide they will be just as good, just different.
10. Limit the alcohol.
Even though it can numb sad feelings, in the end it will leave you feeling more depressed. Eating healthy and working out would serve you more. Plan fun activities and get high on life, being with friends or having adventures.
11. When the inevitable questions begin about what you’re doing and are you dating, have a response ready that is positive and happy.
You might say you have decided to focus on loving yourself right now and it’s been really good for you. Or have a joke planned and then quickly start asking questions about them and keep them talking as long as possible. If you keep the focus off your life completely by asking questions about everyone else, the parties will be easier.
12. Buy yourself some awesome presents that are just what you wanted.
Get out of town. Sometimes the best way to handle the holidays is to plan a trip and skip the whole thing all together. Go on a fun adventure, a cruise or trip and focus on pampering yourself while you’re there.
13. If tears come, let yourself have a limited amount of time to cry it out.
Cry really good and loud and let all the pain out. You will be amazed at how much better you feel.
14. Watch funny movies, comedians or YouTube videos.
Laugh as much as possible! This really helps you stay upbeat, especially after that good cry.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are relationship and human behavior experts, authors and speakers. They host Relationship Radio every Thursday on VoiceAmerica.com Empowerment Channel.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I was recently blindsided finding out that my spouse has cheated on me, something I never saw coming. This is the last straw though, in a long line of other problems with him and so I have decided on divorce, which I know is the right path for me. But I’m seriously heartbroken, angry and really devastated that he was unfaithful while I loved him so much. The pain of this betrayal is intense and I would love some advice for moving on and recovering from this kind of heartbreak.
The pain from betrayal is one of the roughest life experiences there is, and recovery is going to be a process and take some time. The most important thing is to be patient and kind to yourself and allow whatever emotions come up to be there. You will experience shock, anger, self-pity, shame, despair, sadness, and devastation, and these emotions will ebb and flow, coming in and out for a while.
There is no normal in trauma recovery, and the processing is different for everyone. Just don’t add any additional guilt or shame to it, by thinking you should be doing better at any point in time.
Here are some things you can do that will help you move forward:
1. Get the information and answers you need, because you do need to know what happened, how and when. Then, after you have these answers, cut off all contact, of any kind, with the other person.
Continuing contact, even through text or following them on social media, will add to the pain and can lengthen the recovery process. It is better to cut off all contact (as much as possible) and start getting used to not having them in your life. What they do now is none of your business and what you do isn’t theirs. Every time you open that door you are taking a step backward in moving on.
2. Don’t seek revenge.
It might seem like a good idea at first, but in the long run, you will be happier if you take the high road and be a person you are proud of.
3. Understand what is normal in dealing with betrayal and loss.
Searing emotional pain, exhaustion, sleeping too much, not being able to sleep, loss of appetite, comfort eating, anxiety attacks, brain fog, and even dizziness are all normal. Don’t worry this will pass (it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.) You will survive this and the pain won’t last.
4. Make your home or space fresh, new, more organized, or different or consider moving.
You need to reclaim your space as your own and remove anything that reminds you of your ex. You might repaint, rearrange furniture, clean out closets, sell your old stuff and buy new used stuff, anything to create a fresh, new feel and to move towards your new life.
5. Focus on self-care.
Put all the energy you used to put into loving them, into loving you. During this time, you need to give yourself permission to pamper yourself. Do things that fill you up and make you feel good and cared for. Plan time with friends, take bubble baths, get massages, take a vacation, exercise, eat healthy food, anything that is caring and compassionate towards yourself.
6. Make time for emotion processing journaling.
This can be the best therapy and it’s free. Spend time writing all your feelings and thoughts. There is a free worksheet of journaling topics at this link.
7. Make time to relax.
Your stress level is high at this time and meditation, yoga, listening to music, deep breathing, feeling the sun on your face, or enjoying nature will help.
8. If you must go back to work right away, create an imaginary room in your head.
All day when the sad, angry, grieving feelings show up, put them in the room and lock the door. Don’t deal with them now. Then each night, give yourself a specific amount of time to go into that room and feel them all. This might be a good time to journal too.
9. Start a long bucket list.
We recommend one that has at least 150 things on it. List out everywhere you would like to travel, everything you want to learn, every adventure, activity and person you would like to meet.
10. Take a break from your normal routine.
If you were ill or had a death in the family you would take some time off, but with emotional trauma, we don’t allow ourselves to have that. You are going through trauma and you may really need some time out of the rat race to recover.
Cut back to the bare essentials and don’t expect yourself to perform at normal standards. Your thinking will also be slower and you may have less bandwidth to deal with your life. That is normal and won’t last forever. Be patient with it.
11. When you are ready, create a new social life and get out there, have fun, go on adventures and create a life that is joyful and fun.
Find some new friends, look for meetup groups around things you are interested in, find fun things going on in your community and get out there.
12. Don’t jump back into dating too soon.
You are recovering from a major loss and will have some trust issues for a while. Give yourself time to get your balance, confidence and strength back before you’re ready to take on new relationships.
13. Find a support system of people who can help you process loss in a healthy way.
Beware of friends whose comments pull you further into despair or self-pity. Look for friends who validate you, but also help you to feel optimistic about the future.
14. Don’t use substances or food to deal with the pain.
Pain like this has to be processed and felt. If you numb out now, you are only delaying it. At some point, you will have to go through. It’s better to feel it now and move forward sooner.
15. Consider talking to a coach or counselor.
If the pain or despair gets too much reach out to a mental health professional or a coach who can give you skills and tools to process your way through.
There is no easy way through this, unfortunately, but doing these things will help. Know in the end nothing that happens can change your value. You have the same value as everyone else, no matter what.
Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you either — this experience doesn’t define you or mean you are broken or not enough. It’s just a lesson and can end up serving you in some way if you choose to look for the positive.
Hang in there — you can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master life coaches with 30 combined years experience in helping individuals and families create healthy relationships and learn the skills and tools to get through life.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I read your articles every week and I love the advice, but here goes my question? I've been with my husband for 10 years and we have one child together. I also have three from a previous marriage and he has four. My problem would be that all our fighting is about each other's kids. We don’t agree with the way the other one handles their children. He doesn’t discipline his well and I resent him for that. I’m practically raising our youngest alone, too, while he is overly focused on his daughter. We are always defending our kids and this is pulling us apart. If you could offer help on this, that would be great.
I would love to give some advice on blending families, especially because 46 percent of marriages today create a step-family and these second or third marriages are much more challenging than we think.
The divorce rate for second marriages, when both partners have children, is over 70 percent. These statistics are especially disturbing because most of these couples are unaware of the difficult challenge facing them when they wed. Studies have shown that 80 percent of couples entering a second marriage do nothing up front to prepare themselves for the complexities of the challenge. They think their love should be enough to get them through. But it isn’t.
You must get educated about step-families if you are going to make it. I highly recommend getting some books about step-families, attending seminars and classes, or getting some professional help from a coach or counsellor. Things go much smoother when you know what you are doing and have a plan to deal with the inevitable challenges. I also recommend getting professional help at the first sign of trouble, don’t wait until everyone is deeply hurt.
Here are some important realities regarding step-families and some tips for making yours work:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker.
I loved your article on self-sacrifice and I’m trying to take care of myself, but my boyfriend doesn't want me to stand up for myself. When I do, he says I don't really want him in my life anymore. He thinks I’m a mean, selfish person if I get bothered with how I’m treated. Do you have any advice on how to actually transform this relationship?
Your boyfriend is using guilt to manipulate you. So, I’d like to explain how you recognize manipulation and give you some ideas for getting out of or dealing with this person.
Here are some common signs you might be in a manipulative relationship (either with a parent, child or significant other):
Do you have self-esteem issues? Are you a kind person but also a little bit naïve? Manipulators are subconsciously drawn to people pleasers with low self-esteem because they are easily pushed around.
Does this person use guilt to make you do things you don't want to do?
Does it seem like every argument ends with you being at fault?
Does this person trigger your emotions and then get mad at you for being emotional?
Manipulators often figure out what character traits are important to you and then use them to push your buttons and control you. It sounds like your boyfriend knows you are afraid of being seen as selfish or mean, so he is using your desire to be a good person to manipulate you.
Does this person do nice things for you and then make you feel obligated and/or guilty because of them?
Do you have to keep some things secret and even occasionally lie to this person to protect yourself?
Does this person get offended easily? Are you often walking on egg shells worried about doing or saying the wrong thing?
Does this person discourage your friendships with other people?
Does this person call you repeatedly to find out where you are or what you are doing? Often manipulators are controlling.
Does this person criticize your plans or goals and squash your dreams?
Are they loving one day and cold the next ?
Do they often blame you for how they feel?
Are you frustrated and sad more than you're happy in this relationship? Have you tried to break it off numerous times?
If these questions are striking a cord, it’s safe to say you are in a manipulative relationship (also remember that manipulation can happen with a parent, a sibling or friend, too.)
Here are some suggestions for dealing with this person:
1) If this is a friend or romantic interest, you might want to at least consider ending this relationship post haste. It is highly unlikely that this person is going to change (unless this person agrees to some serious professional help, which most manipulators don’t think they need). It is best to deliver this news quickly and leave the premises so you cannot be manipulated and pulled back in. Sometimes it is best to break these relationships off by email or text to avoid further manipulation.
2) If you decide to end this relationship, you are going to need a good support system to stand by you, and in some cases protect you from conversations with this person. You have the right to refuse to talk about it.
3) You must recognize that your low self-esteem is partly responsible for this situation. You may want to get some professional help from a counselor or coach to work on your self-image. You must learn to see yourself as bulletproof and refuse to let other people determine your value. You are a one-of-a-kind, amazing, irreplaceable being and nothing anyone says or does can diminish you.
4) If this person gets angry and tries to retaliate in any way, do not react or even respond. Let it go and move forward with your life (or in some cases you may need a restraining order).
5) You are also going to need to grow a back bone and establish some boundaries. If this person is a parent or sibling, you can’t break up with them. So, you must have clearly defined boundaries and a strategy for enforcing them. Then you calmly repeat these boundaries over and over until they get it. You won’t be pushed around anymore.
6) You must stop caring what other people think of you (even your relatives). What they think is irrelevant and cannot affect, change or diminish you. They cannot hurt you without your permission.
Make it your official policy that it doesn’t matter what this person thinks of you.
Harriet Braiker wrote a book called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” In it she said, “If you are an approval addict, your behavior is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.”
You have got to quit playing this game with this person. You must figure out who you are and not let other people tell you different. When you let go of your need for approval and claim the power to determine your value and character, you will be free and invincible.
If this is proving difficult, I highly recommend some professional help.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
My husband and I both have kids from previous marriages, and blending our families has been hard. We fight all the time, usually about his kids not getting along with my kids, his kids wrecking things, me not treating his kids good enough, or him spending too much time with his ex and her family. (I think he spends an abnormal amount of time with them.) I don’t know how to handle any of these issues, and they are tearing us apart. Can you offer some advice?
Blending families is a really difficult endeavor and not for the faint of heart. I know — I am in a second marriage situation with kids myself, so I speak from experience.
There is a reason that 70 percent of second marriages fail, and the odds are even worse when children are involved. Making a step-family work is a huge challenge, but you can significantly improve your odds of making it if you get some help, plan ahead, and get educated so your expectations are realistic.
Studies have shown that 80 percent of couples entering a second marriage do nothing up front to prepare themselves for the complexities of the challenge. They think their love should be enough to get them through the difficulties.
Let me set the record straight right now: It isn’t.
You must get educated about step-families if you are going to make it. I highly recommend getting some books about step-families, attending seminars and classes, or getting some professional help to work through the challenging issues. Things will go much smoother when you know what you are doing and have a plan to deal with the challenges.
Here are some other tips that may help:
Improve your communication skills. This is the most important thing you must do.You must learn to have mutually validating conversations with your spouse and have them often. Couples who know how to communicate with respect, in a loving way, can solve almost any problem. There is an article I wrote for KSL.com that will help you understand what that looks like. Click on the link to read it.
If you are unhappy with how much time your husband spends with his ex and her family, you need to talk about it and figure out what amount of time you would feel comfortable with. If you still can’t reach a compromise on this issue (and the many other issues that cause the fighting), you may need some professional help with your relationship skills.
Make the house rules, as a couple, ahead of time. You must be a united front and decide on rules, consequences, job sharing, conflict resolution and responsibilities ahead of time. Successful step-parents are always united on decisions and discuss their disagreements in private. They are a cohesive team in front of the children, so it is clear they cannot be played off each other.
Couples should decide on the rules together, but the natural parent should be the one to dish out the discipline to their child. If the natural parent isn’t present, the step-parent can remind the child of the house rules and the consequences in a very loving and calm manner. If you can't speak to your step-children with kindness and respect, you need to get some help to change this.
Children deserve respect, understanding and kindness even when they mis-behave. If you treat children this way, they will respect you back. If you behave immaturely, lose control, yell and berate children, they will lose respect for you.
Give everyone some time to learn how to handle this complex situation. Your spouse has never been a step-parent before and neither have you, so you both need some time to figure this out. You must be patient and not expect your spouse to have all the answers and do everything right, right away.
Don’t rush the process of blending. Everyone needs time to get used to this new way of life. You must let each child set the pace for how close they want to be to the new step-parent and when. Don’t worry if they pull back at times; they are fighting a battle of loyalties that often confuses them. Don’t take their moving slow personally. It takes years to build strong relationships of trust.
Make sure you treat all the children the same. Feeling cheated, short-changed or left out is a common problem in step-families. Make things fair and the same, as much as possible.
Insist on mutual respect for everyone. Not everyone has to like each other, but they do have to respect each other. If you are going to make your step-family work, children must respect the adults in the home, and the adults must respect the children. This means listening to their thoughts and feelings and respecting their right to feel the way they do. Respect must happen in every interaction.
This will not be an easy road. It will test your love and patience on a daily basis, but you can do it, if you are both committed and open to getting some help.
There are many other great articles about step-family dynamics on KSL.com. Check some of them out:
Step-families: The odds are against us
Committed couples can make step-families work
Tips for making a blended family work
Many families underestimate the difficulty of remarriage
LIFEadvice: Dealing with a difficult ex-spouse
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
How do you deal with exes who try to ruin your new marriage? How do you set boundaries with an ex who uses children as a manipulation tool? How do you deal with an ex-spouse who personally attacks you all the time? I guess that’s three questions, but any help would be appreciated. My ex is really difficult to deal with.
Research shows that kids do best when their divorced parents get along, though divorce rarely makes that easy to do. Here are a couple of suggestions that may make the road a little easier:
Principle: Children need to be protected from conflict.
Your children have the right to love both their parents, so never bad-mouth your ex in front of your children. If your ex is saying negative things about you, there isn’t much you can do about it except live so that your children see the truth for themselves.
If your ex is hostile or insulting, whenever possible use e-mail or text messages for communication. The children can’t overhear those and won’t think the problems are their fault.
Principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Treat your ex the way you wish to be treated, even if they don’t deserve it.
Behaving in a calm, rational, respectful way (even if your ex doesn’t) is the first step to a more civil relationship — and, your kids are watching your behavior and learning from your example. If they witness mature behavior from you, they will learn how to deal with problems appropriately.
Principle: Focus on what is your responsiblity.
You must take responsibility for your actions and behavior, but do not waste energy on things you have no control over and things that are not your responsibility. Make sure you don’t have a tendency to “own other people’s problems” and feel guilty if you can’t fix them.
Get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Write what’s in your control on one side, and what’s not your responsibility or in your control on the other. Get really clear about what belongs to you and let the universe handle everything else.
Principle: Setting clear boundaries is crucial.
You will teach people how to treat you by the kind of behavior you tolerate. You know what your boundaries need to be. Set them and start enforcing them in a strong but respectful way.
Make it clear that all communication must be about the children. You have no other reason to communicate. Rude or disrespectful text messages will be deleted without response. You will not respond unless treated respectfully.
Principle: Strong and respectful communication makes a difference.
There is a right way to have a conversation with a difficult person. This involves asking questions and listening to your ex’s point of view first, then asking permission to explain your point of view.
Asking questions and listening does not mean putting up with abuse. It is about honoring and respecting the other person’s right to their opinions so they will be more likely to respect yours.
If rational, respectful conversations are not possible, stick to text messages only.
Principle: The universe gave your child this parent (your ex) for a reason.
Your ex may not be a perfect parent, but apparently they are the perfect parent for your child. If your ex causes problems or even damage your child (and you are unable to protect them from this) there is a divine reason that experience was meant to happen.
Trust the universe. It knows what it is doing. Your child will survive this and may become stronger for it.
This is tough to live with when your ex is hurting your children, but you really only have two choices. You can live in anguish while you try to help your child through it, or you can live in trust while you help your child through it. Trust creates more peace.
Principle: You can choose peace regardless how your ex behaves.
You cannot escape this difficult situation, but you can choose how you want to experience the situation. Pain and suffering are optional.
You can choose to ignore the attacks. You can choose to see that attacks aren’t really about you. You can choose to see your ex as the scared, struggling human being they are. You can choose to trust life. You can choose a state of inner peace.
People only have as much power over you as you give them.
Peaceful does not equal passive, however. You must still set limits, enforce your boundaries and protect yourself and your children.
Get some professional help
Less than 25 percent of remarried (step-family) couples seek out professional help, education or counseling in spite of the fact that it usually makes the difference between success and failure. Less than half of all step-families even read a book about step-family dynamics. I strongly urge you to seek out some professional help and read some books.
If your ex has anger issues or behavior that seems ridiculously inappropriate, they may suffer from borderline personality disorder. Research and learn more about the condition to find out what you can do.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker. Follow her blog on the KSLAM page http://www.ksl.com/?sid=&nid=315
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.