Preparing My Family for Life Without Me

PREPARING MY FAMILY FOR LIFE WITHOUT ME

Mary Bergstrom

After eight heart attacks, a young wife and mother with an uncommon condition curates her legacy while decorating a new home.

Putting up pictures in our new house last fall, I opted for nails, not tape. My family had just relocated from California to Brooklyn, our fourth move in five years. With so much change, it had been hard to feel settled, but it was my job to try.

I wanted to create a sense of stability while my children, then 8 and 11, were still innocent enough to believe that life could be stable. I wanted to create a sense of hope while my husband, Jonathan, was still young enough to start over.

Although I was only 45, my precarious health had taught me to use time wisely. On the agenda that day was to get settled in our new home, a wide brownstone with big windows, just like I had always wanted. With light reflecting against high ivory walls, the house had a familiar feeling of peace. As Jonathan tended to the unpacking, I charged myself with decorating, a job that sounded frivolous, but I knew better.

With the children at school, I sat at the kitchen table, digging through boxes. Over the years I had taken thousands of photos, wanting to document every moment of our time together, make each one extend as far as possible. I was looking for pictures that had the power to turn bitter memories into sweet. Images that said, “I love you more than anything.” Images that whispered, “I can’t express how sorry I am to leave you.”

I headed upstairs with photos, nails and a hammer. My children had their own bedrooms, each with a window looking into the garden. I would start there and work my way through the house. By the time they got back from school, our new home would be filled with cozy memories. If I couldn’t make my family feel safe, I could at least create some level of comfort.

I flipped through options, looking for shots of us touching skin and smiling wide to convey happy intimacy, of us camping to hint at the natural cycle of life and of them with family and friends to show that love is always available.

Every day, I prepare. I take a slew of medications and supplements. I go to this doctor, that psychic. I pray. I keep nitroglycerin in my car, in my backpack, by my bed. My hospital basics are packed. After eight heart attacks, I have learned to be ready.

Jonathan ducked his head in. “How’s it going in here?”

“You scared me,” I said.

“Join the club.”

Jonathan is seven years older than me. He has a stressful job. He doesn’t take vitamins or exercise regularly. Even so, my health has been the primary focus for our entire marriage. Nothing can compete with spontaneous coronary artery dissection, an uncommon and incurable condition that has taken over my left, right and diagonal arteries. I could have a fatal heart attack tomorrow or I could not. It’s the not knowing that has made me live in the present.

“How does this look?” I said, holding a wooden frame against the wall. In the photo, my daughter is a baby asleep in my arms. I’m kissing her forehead, wrapping my sweater around her tiny body. I remember this moment and, because I have told her about it time and time again, so does she.

“It’s not just good,” he said, “it’s good enough.” Of course, he was right.

Since I had my first heart attack at 32, we have opened up to each other in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible before. We no longer indulge in setting and not meeting expectations. We stay present and keep moving forward. We help each other get on with whatever comes next. With uncertainty, we have become confident partners.

The first time I had a heart attack, no one took me seriously. The emergency room doctors assumed I was having a panic attack. What could be wrong with the newlywed with a Pilates body?

No one paid any attention until the blood test for troponins came back positive. Troponins are proteins that are released when the heart has been damaged. Looking me up and down, they asked if I had taken cocaine.

One by one, the doctors walked away from my case, prescribing medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, problems I didn’t have.

We turned crisis into opportunity. The universe, we reasoned, was inviting us to live our dream life. Jonathan and I moved to China. We adopted two children. I started a business and wrote a book. Life was a glamorous adventure; I got everything I thought I wanted.

Then, eight years into that perfect life, I had another heart attack. My heart stopped for 10 seconds.

When you count them, 10 seconds isn’t long. My children can’t get their shoes on in 10 seconds. Sometimes it takes 10 seconds for me to remember where I parked the car. But 10 seconds is long enough to see what’s on the other side of life — to feel my grandpa again, to see the light, to find peace.

Those 10 seconds changed everything. After my near-death experience, we moved back to the United States. I gave up my business. I never went back to my old life. I never wanted to.

Because of my condition, I feel an urgency to help my family understand who I am and what I believe in. Shedding old ideas about work and success, I have been able to show them what matters most to me, and I have been present as they explore what matters most for themselves.

This way of life is work. It takes double doses of spirituality, optimism and pragmatism. Every day, we practice. We talk about what life would look like without me, we joke that I am the Health Queen, we pray. Their confidence is my greatest achievement. In our bubble, I’m just a mother and a partner, and for that, I’m both grateful and proud.

Over the years, we have shared more about life and what I have experienced in death. We have learned to accept what is and release what isn’t. We have had time to make plans for this life and also talk openly about wanting to be a family again in the next. After this incarnation, we hope to be hawks.

So far, our luck has stood up; I have recovered from every attack. My heart’s ability to pump blood actually increased after the last five heart attacks. Its ejection fraction went from 47 to 36 to 50. A normal range is 55 to 65. With so many unknowns, there is a lot of room for miracles.

Through the window, I saw the neighbor feeding an impressive congregation of squirrels and birds. Our dog raced to the fence. “Stop barking!” I called out. I rapped on the window to get her attention.

When I yell, my chest tightens. I sense heart attacks long before doctors can. I have learned to trust myself and so I do. I put down my tools, sat on the edge of my daughter’s bed. Heart attacks have shaken me while I was working out, house hunting, sleeping, getting ready for yoga and helping with homework. My heart makes no guarantees.

The tightening across my chest stretched like a rubber band. There was a pinching close to the defibrillator that was implanted near my heart. A new discomfort but not an attack. As soon as my heart relaxed, I returned to selecting pictures.

More than decorating, I was curating my legacy. These images would surround my family the next time I went to the hospital, and they would provide comfort if I didn’t come back. These pictures would become priceless.

“I love you from here to Paris to Ubud,” I say to my children when I put them to bed, calling out places we used to go before I anchored us closer to home. My interests don’t extend so far anymore. I stay with my children until they fall asleep, and, in the morning, they crawl into bed with us. We are so lucky. I wouldn’t give up this intimacy for anything.

To stay with my family, I have tethered myself to new ways of doing things. I have stopped eating and sleeping the way I want. I have exercised more, then less, then not at all. I have learned to rely on doctors more, then less, then not at all. I have hunted for possible cures more, then less, then not at all. What matters most is already in front of me.

This heart has provided complete clarity, become a trusted instrument for focus. Fear is a distraction; love and gratitude are my true purpose. That morning, all I could do was stay clear on what matters most. I picked up the hammer and nail. I could see it come together: a house filled with happy memories, a place we could settle.

30 Honest Life Truths You Must Know Before Hitting 30

30 HONEST LIFE TRUTHS YOU MUST KNOW BEFORE HITTING 30

Team Lovepanky

Hitting the big 3-0 is a monumental step for anyone. Are you equipped with the essential life lessons to make it in the next decade of your life?

Let that little factoid sink in for a moment…

The transition from your 20’s to your 30’s will not come in predictable increments. Instead, you’ll wake up one day, look in the mirror, and realize, “I’m in my 30’s.” It will feel as if time flew by in the blink of an eye, and you feel as if you’re in a different path. The lessons you learn won’t suddenly come rushing into your head like a tidal wave of wisdom. Instead, you’ll feel a few slight changes from how you perceived things when you were in your teens and 20’s.

30 life truths you need in your 30’s

If you feel as if your 30’s are drawing near and you haven’t learned enough, here’s a refresher course. Below are 30 life truths everyone should know by the age of 30:

#1 Your body won’t be as fit and strong as you once were. Your metabolism slows down as you age, so you can’t stay as fit as you used to be without a little elbow grease.

#2 Your 20’s will catch up with you, so be prepared. All the cheap booze, cigarettes, bad sleeping habits and even worse eating habits will catch up with you someday. Turn an unhealthy lifestyle around before it causes irreparable damage to your body.

#3 It’s the perfect time to invest in classic pieces in your wardrobe. Your 20’s are the time for fashion exploration or keeping up with the trends. In your 30’s, appropriate work clothes and a respectable wardrobe are more important.

#4 It’s now comfort over fashion when it comes to clothes and shoes. The shoes that pinch your feet or that too-tight shirt can make way for more practical pieces. Sure, some of them may look dowdy, but they’re way more comfortable!

#5 Kids can be your greatest joy and your greatest pain. No matter what your kids do, you will always find it in your heart to love and forgive them.

#6 Everyone needs passion in their lives. Whether it’s geeking out over a video game or harboring an intense love for an author, your passion gives you that added zest for life.

#7 Experiences will make you happier than possessions. The joy of getting new things fades over time. Experiences like an out of town trip or a long meaningful conversation, on the other hand, allow you to cherish those memories time and again.

#8 Staying at a job you hate isn’t worth it. If you’re getting no fulfillment in your job, get out and open yourself up to new employment options. Wasting your time in a job you despise will only wreak havoc on your mind and body.

#9 Your plans won’t always make it to fruition. The plans you had when you were in your 20’s will eventually change according to who you’re turning out to be. Let it happen.

#10 Some good things happen by luck, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve your chances. You’re lucky if you get your big break by chance. But remember, you also need to work on your craft in order to be celebrated in your field.

#11 Learning never stops. Every single day can be a learning experience. You may think you’re learning something irrelevant today, but you never know when you might be able to use this information.

#12 The journey matters as much as, if not more than, the destination. Let’s use an analogy: When you were back in high school, were you more concerned about the lessons you learned and the friends you made or the piece of paper they give you when it’s over?

#13 You’ll change and not everyone will like it. Our younger selves would have been devastated to know that someone doesn’t like us. As you move forward in life, you’ll realize that it’s not your job to please everyone.

#14 Some things are worth waiting for, and it’s up to you to find out what those things are. It can be anything from the man or woman of your dreams to that job vacancy you’ve been waiting for. The thing is, only YOU can determine how much time you’re willing to wait for them.

#15 The past should not dictate your future. You don’t wear your mistakes and your failures on your sleeves. Not everyone will know, and not everyone will care. Don’t let a dark past extend its stain into your future.

#16 It’s okay to switch role models. You may have idolized Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Barney Stinson in your 20’s because they’re who you wanted to be. But when you’re in your 30’s you may be surprised that your role model can be your parent, a historical figure or even a fictional character!

#17 Your debts can haunt your future. Unpaid credit card debts, bank loans and student loans will affect your credit score. This will greatly affect your credibility when you need to borrow money in the future.

#18 Everyone needs simple pleasures. It’s important to have that easy to do pick-me-up habit to get you through a particularly stressful day. Whether it’s cuddling with your pet or having a slice of pie, these little pleasures can give you the added boost you need to keep on going.

#19 You must learn to embrace change to move forward. Things will change around you, whether you notice it or not. Your key to embracing it is your ability to adapt and your willingness to trudge on.

#20 Kindness and compassion mean more than intelligence and riches. People will remember you more for the kindness than for your clever quips or for those times you picked up their tab at the bar.

#21 You will lose friends along the way, and that’s okay! New jobs, spouses, kids and hobbies often cause friends to drift apart. You don’t have to move heaven and earth to remain as close as you once was. Instead, learn to let it go and form new friendships.

#22 You must love your parents while they are still here. They won’t be there to guide you forever. Reconnect with them, get to know them a little deeper, and most of all, learn from the wisdom they can still give.

#23 A sincere apology can mend a huge rift. No matter how late your apology is, the impact can still be big enough to restore your relationship to how it once was.

#24 Nothing feels lighter on the soul than forgiveness. You don’t necessarily have to forget; but once you’ve forgiven someone, you can slowly let go of the weight their wrongdoing has borne upon you.

#25 Bad relationships are there to learn from. Don’t beat yourself up for being in a bad relationship. Learn from the experience and pinpoint the warning signs so they never happen again.

#26 You can’t always keep your promises, but work hard to keep them anyway. In order to avoid the awkward situation of breaking a promise, be careful whom you make promises to.

#27 Love isn’t always enough. In your relationships, you may realize that no matter how much you love a person, there may be other bigger things than can prevent you from having a future together.

#28 Intelligence is contagious. Surround yourself with those who are smarter than you. We learn more from the people surrounding us than we think. Mental stimulation in the form of intelligent conversations can be one of the most fulfilling life experiences.

#29 Kindness can be found in the most unlikely places. Boo Radley and the Good Samaritan are great examples of this. Don’t let someone’s culture or appearance make you think that they’re not capable of kindness.

#30 30 isn’t “old.” There’s that dread many 20-somethings feel when they’re nearing 30. It won’t come as a barrage of stray grey hairs and wrinkles. You can look and feel as fresh and as fit as you were in your 20’s but you’ll be armed with a lot more knowledge! Embrace your 30’s!

Life is all about learning in all its different forms. The things you knew in your teens, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s will change in time. And within these changes are the life truths you will learn at your own pace, in your own way. Embrace your 30’s as it approaches, and don’t forget to take these life lessons with you!

Insecurity Hurts Your Marriage. Here’s What To Do About It

INSECURITY HURTS YOUR MARRIAGE. HERE’S WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Isabella Markert

Close to the end of my college career, I applied to an internship that I had been dreaming about, working toward, and planning on for four years. I knew it was competitive, but everything my professors, peers, and bosses said to me made it clear that I would be getting that internship. “You’re a shoo-in for this job!” they would say to me.

But the rejection email came, and it deflated me. I was depressed. It was clear that I had placed my self-worth on my abilities as a writer and editor. The rejection was a message from certified experts: You are not good enough.

My depression didn’t get to dangerous proportions, but I did struggle with motivation and energy. I would come home, sit on the couch, and do nothing until bed. My husband was a champ through it all, but that summer wasn’t great for our marriage. He did all the giving, and I did all the taking. All because my self-esteem took a major hit.

Insecurity isn’t good for marriage. Whether it’s personal insecurity or insecurity about the relationship, individuals need confidence for their marriages to thrive.

To keep your insecurities from hurting your marriage, recognize the ways insecurities can do damage, meet your spouse halfway, recognize when insecurity is more than just a feeling, and try a couple of practical exercises.

Recognize how your insecurities may be hurting your relationship

When you’re insecure, it can be tempting to think “This just affects me.” But the truth is that how you feel about yourself affects your spouse and your relationship. Here are some signs that your insecurities are hurting your marriage:

  • You struggle to fully trust your spouse. This keeps you from being totally open and honest in your relationship.
  • You believe and act on your negative thoughts about yourself. Let’s say you tell yourself you’re boring often enough that you start to believe it. Next thing you know, you prove yourself right. “It’s not that you are not allowed to judge yourself,” says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics. “Do it, but remember as you do it to be a wise advisor, not a vicious tyrant.”
  • You compare yourself to your spouse’s exes. Never a good idea, especially since none of those relationships worked out.
  • Your spouse constantly has to reassure you. There’s nothing wrong with needing reassurance now and then, but if you constantly need validation, that’s a sign your insecurities are getting the best of you. There’s a feeling of distance in your relationship. If you’re not communicating about your insecurities, your spouse will pick up on that, whether consciously or not.
  • You read too much into what your spouse says. “You begin to read into the words of your partner in a way that reinforces the insecurities you are feeling,” says Dr. Kelsey M. Latimer, PhD, CEDS-S, assistant director of operations for Center for Discovery. “The focus of the relationship becomes about proving the feelings the person has rather than enjoying the time.”

Meet your spouse in the middle

Sometimes insecurities come because you’re afraid your spouse doesn’t appreciate the ways in which you differ. Maybe you’re fun-loving and adventure-seeking, and you worry that your spouse doesn’t think you’re serious enough. This discrepancy requires you to talk with your spouse and determine how you can meet each other halfway.

Maybe “meeting halfway” means the two of you meet weekly to discuss your finances, and then afterward you get to pick a zany restaurant to try out. But in the compromise, realize that being carefree doesn’t make you less desirable—it just makes you you!

Realize when insecurity is more than just a feeling

Let’s say you’ve noticed people aren’t laughing at your jokes as much as they used to. It would be natural to feel a little insecure about your sense of humor. You have the choice to use that feeling of insecurity to do a little self-reflection. “Sometimes, those feelings are guides,” says Gail Grace, LCSW.

Maybe you’re making it up, and your insecurity is telling you that you need to be a little kinder to yourself. Maybe people aren’t laughing at your jokes because your humor has crossed the line from witty to rude, which just isn’t like you. In this case, your insecurity is telling you that you might have some bitterness you need to work through.

The same goes for insecurity about your marriage. Maybe your insecurity is a reflection of something you need to work on personally. Or maybe you and your spouse have an obstacle that’s keeping you from trusting each other. In either case, it’s a good idea to communicate your feelings to your spouse and work through it together.

Try these exercises:

Exercise #1

“It requires more attentional effort to disengage from a negative thought process than a neutral one,” says cognitive therapist Jennice Vilhauer, PhD. So it might take a formal exercise to overcome your insecurities. Here’s the exercise Vilhauer suggests:

  1. Each night right before you go to sleep, write down three things you liked about yourself that day.
  • Read the list before you get out of bed the next morning.
  • Add three items to the list each night.
  • Repeat this sequence every day for 30 days.

“This simple-to-do but nonetheless effortful exercise essentially helps you build the strength to disengage from any negative thought stream,” she explains. “But remember: There is no benefit to your mental health in just understanding how the exercise works, just as there is no benefit to your physical health in knowing how to use a treadmill. The benefit comes from the doing.”

Exercise #2

How do you get to the point where you can feel happy for someone else without comparing their successes to yours (or to your failures)? Charlie Houpert, founder of the YouTube channel Charisma on Command, tells the story of how after he and his girlfriend broke up, he couldn’t help but compare himself to the guys he was sure she was hanging out with. He wasn’t happy she had moved on so fast, and he sure wasn’t happy for the (imagined) guys that got to spend time with her.

He went to see a therapist, and this is the three-step exercise the therapist recommended for when you are feeling jealous or insecure:

  1. Interrupt your thought pattern with an eye scramble. Hum a simple tune like “Happy Birthday to You” and move your eyes back and forth to the rhythm. This will get you to a neutral place.
  • Feed yourself whatever you need. Chances are that, whatever you’re feeling—less-than, abandoned, disrespected—you need to feel loved. Look at yourself in a mirror (or imagine looking at yourself in a mirror) and say, “I love you exactly as you are.” You might feel goofy because you’re talking to yourself, but it will get you in a better mood. And the more you say this to yourself, the more you’ll believe it.
  • Extend that unconditional love to the person you least want to extend it to. In Houpert’s story, he tried to imagine his girlfriend happy with someone else and feel happy for her. Then he imagined the guy she was with and was happy for him because the guy was with someone Houpert knew was so great. After extending that love, come back to the present. Rather than comparing, now you get to “look around you and see all the happiness in the world, and you get to partake in it,” Houpert says.

Becoming secure in yourself and your relationship will heal and strengthen your marriage. To overcome your insecurities, recognize the ways insecurities can do damage, meet your spouse halfway, recognize when insecurity is more than just a feeling, and try practical exercises for overcoming insecurity. Next time you face a difficulty, you and your marriage will be ready for it.

How setting healthy boundaries in dating leads to a healthy relationship

HOW SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES IN DATING LEADS TO A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

Kyle Benson

When it comes to dating, I need you to understand that how you set boundaries and your level of honesty sets the stage for the quality of the relationship.

For example, in one of my unhealthy past relationships I would notice behavior (deleting texts from other males, lying, and more) in my partner that made me very insecure. After numerous failed attempts to increase the security (trust and commitment), I told myself to “ignore her behavior.” 

As Dr. Gottman’s research highlights, “adaptation to negativity [and insecurity] is dysfunctional.” While negativity happens in even stable marriages (remember the 5 positive to 1 negative interaction ratio), in connected couples it gets repaired. When a red flag is shown, it gets addressed, boundaries are put up, and the relationship improves. Dr. Gottman goes on to say that, in marriages that work, partners notice even lower levels of negativity in the relationship and take action on it.

As I highlight in my interview with Madeline Charles in The Irresistible Woman, a FREE Expert Interview Series and Gift Giveaway, honesty and healthy boundaries are vital to finding a healthy relationship.

Honesty means honoring your needs and finding a partner who will work with you to meet those needs as you meet theirs. It also means being realistic and knowing, as Esther Perel often highlights, that your partner cannot accommodate you 100% of the time or fulfill every single one of your needs. The key determining factor of the success of the relationship long-term is your willingness to bring up your needs in a gentle and honest way (Hint: “I” statements + a positive, actionable recipe for success) and your potential partner’s willingness to work with you to find a win-win solution.

This starts by knowing yourself and your needs. Unfortunately, many of us are taught that our needs are “too much” and so our blueprint for love convinces us to seek someone who validates this belief system. Since our self-esteem is low, we often “settle” for bread crumbs of love. I know I did. And with low self-esteem, it makes it difficult to be honest about your needs and put up healthy boundaries. It’s not uncommon for someone to tolerate really unhealthy behavior so they don’t have to be “alone.” Sadly, this mindset doesn’t lead to a healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship where your significant other and you support each other on becoming the best couple and individuals you can be.

How to Reduce Stress Fast

HOW TO REDUCE STRESS FAST

sheqoz

In today’s fast paced world, stress can easily take a toll on you. Situations like being held up in traffic easily raises stress levels. You cannot always avoid stress but there are simple effective exercises to calm you down and reduce stress in just 2 minutes.

Box Breathing:

There’s a well-known stress relief technique called box-breathing which is commonly used by Navy seals or people who work at very stressful environments like first responders. This technique has a direct effect on the functioning of the nervous system. It is a powerful yet simple relaxation technique aimed to return breathing to its normal rhythm.

This breathing is also known as resetting your breath. It helps clear your mind, relax your body and improve your focus. Most meditation classes use this technique to help their students re-centre themselves and improve concentration.

Follow the following simple steps to help you relax.

Breathing techniques to eliminate stress

Breathing Exercises:

  1. With your eyes shut, breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  2. Now hold your breath slowly and count to four. Avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds. (Do not clamp your nose or mouth.)
  3. Exhale slowly for four seconds.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel calm. Normally 4 minutes would work.

You can practice as many times as you want. Breathing deeply for few minutes can tremendously benefit your body and brain at stressful situations. It causes the vagus nerve which runs from the neck down to the diaphragm to send a message to the brain to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and shut down the sympathetic nervous system.

Sympathetic Nervous System:

This is the part of the nervous system responsible for rest, peace, relaxation and digestion. When facing any perceived threat, the body will instinctively either run or fight. Also known as the body’s fight or flight response. Box breathing prevents the adrenal dump and the fight or flight response.

Alpha Wave:

In return, the body makes smart choices based on relaxed concentration, a brain wave state, referred to as Alpha.

Alpha waves brought about by deep breathing patterns Creates a positive feedback loop that brings back harmony between the mind and body.

This brain wave state is Also an indication of the eureka moments of compelling new idea. This enables you to create something out of nothing especially when in a challenging situation.


No matter what obstacles you have to overcome, take care of Yourself first

While the box breathing technique helps calm you down, it’s more important to avoid very stressful situations if you can. Too much stress over extended periods of time can create more complicated health issues. In fact most health related complications are due to stress.

Practice good Habits:

Balance your life with exercise and healthy foods and, when caught up in unavoidable stressful traffic, you can play some calming music while you work on the breathing exercise. This will distract you from the surrounding noise and, before you know it, you will be free from all the hustle and bustle. Stay healthy and stress-free.

What to Expect After the Wedding

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER THE WEDDING

sheqoz

Love in the Air:

Love is beautiful and the best gift anyone can give and receive. When two people decide they are compatible enough to spend the rest of their lives together, they commit as husband and wife. They make wonderful future plans and begin their journey right after the wedding.

The beginning of a happy union

What to Expect:

In this journey, there are things to love and hate about each other, rules to be agreed upon, which will govern the new relationship. Although the good times will always outdo the grays, there will be moments of insecurity. Whereas most people might think infidelity is the only giant to be overcome, there are more frequent hurdles to overcome.

Committing to a marriage is more than just fidelity. It  involves standing together through thick and thin. Accepting each other’s weaknesses that were not noticeable before exchanging the vows, laughing and sometimes crying together.

Reality in Marriage:

Things really change after the honeymoon. In the awakening into reality, many give up thinking there’s someone better out there for them. The fact is, nothing in life grows overnight. Marriage isn’t an exception here. Every good thing under the sky takes time to build.

There will be days your husband/wife will want to be alone. That doesn’t mean she/he has stopped loving you. Everyone needs some alone time to quiet their mind. It is healthy and necessary for a happy relationship. The best you can do is allow them the space.

Simple decisions will become almost difficult. In marriage, they say two become one. Well, this is easier said than done. It is not easy to blend two completely different personalities – not with each partner expecting the other to become more of what they fantasized.

You don’t get to choose your living room color by yourself. If you had a certain pattern on your spending habits, you cannot continue the same. Everything must meet right in the middle of both your choices. You basically do away with the freedom to make major decisions.

Important Considerations:


It is normal to disagree in marriage

This is where balance is very important because if one feels over-powered, they are more than likely to seek other options. You’ve heard people having a big wedding only to divorce a few months or years later. That happens because of unrealistic expectations which couples have when they exchange their vows.

No matter how compatible you are with each other, there will definitely be days when you will experience conflicts. In such situations, you must learn how to maturely deal with disagreements before they get out of hand.

It is unrealistic to expect things to always flow smoothly. You will experience small and, sometimes, huge cracks along the pavement. If you are committed to making your marriage work, forgiveness, patience and apologies are very important.

Avoid Breaking Up:

I believe most divorces are due to arrogance of one or both partners. When nobody is willing to take responsibility for their mistake and work toward being a better person, a marriage union turns into a roller coaster of unsolved issues, leaving both partners wanting out.

To keep and grow a healthy relationship, discuss issues with your partner as they arise and watch very carefully the words coming out of your mouth. Careless use of words can break a relationship to a point of no repair. If you listen more and speak less everything will work out very well because it gives you time to think and choose what to say.

Things can get a little bit rocky during the first years of marriage. Learning to adjust into the commitment and giving away most of the freedom is the biggest culprit. With patience, however, everything starts settling down.

Reaching a Compromise: Part two of the State of the Union Meeting

REACHING A COMPROMISE: PART TWO OF THE STATE OF THE UNION MEETING

Kyle Benson

Only after you and your partner both feel understood during your weekly State of the Union Meeting can you begin to problem solve in order to reach a compromise. Not before.

The first step in problem-solving is to identify your core needs. Problem-solving fails when partners are not open to being influenced or when one partner gives up too much.

Dr. Gottman recommends drawing two ovals on a piece of paper, a small one and a big one around the smaller one. He calls this a compromise bagel.

Compromise


Fill in the smaller oval with the needs you cannot live without. These are your inflexible areas. Try to keep this short by including only the needs that are essential to your happiness and, thus, your relationship’s success.

Next, in the bigger oval, list aspects of your position that are negotiable. These are your flexible areas. This doesn’t mean compromising on the need itself. It means being open to shifting some of the specifics about the need, such as timing, location, or methods to achieve your goal.

For example:

  • “I can live with only going out with my friends every other weekend.”
  • “I’ll switch to a closer yoga studio so I can be home earlier to help out with the kids.”

Your solutions probably won’t be as simple as this. In fact, you can expect a great deal of back-and-forth as you search for ways to weave each other’s needs into something both of you can accept.

Be open to each other’s creative suggestions. Finding a solution may not happen in one meeting. It may take a few meetings and that’s okay and totally normal. I’ve witnessed couples find a win-win even when they appear to be in opposition. For example, Kris and Kurt found a solution that allowed both of their dreams—owning a place in Hawaii while remaining financially secure—to become a reality.

It’s worth mentioning that sometimes compromise isn’t possible in a relationship. This happens when one partner’s dream is the other’s nightmare. For example, if one person’s inflexible need is to have children and their partner is inflexible about not having children, the couple is unlikely to reach a solution. In these cases, couples may need to end their relationship with a clear understanding of their differing values and why they need to move on.

In the majority of relationships, Dr. Gottman’s blueprint does lead to a compromise that works for both partners. After studying thousands of couples, Dr. Gottman discovered that nearly 2/3 of relationship conflict is about perpetual, unsolvable problems. This doesn’t prevent happy relationships—it’s how couples manage perpetual problems that makes the difference.

When dealing with an unsolvable problem in your State of the Union Meeting, it’s important to create a temporary compromise and then revisit it later to see how it is working. This willingness to play with ways of being with each other makes it easy to compromise and truly discover what works and what doesn’t for both partners.

compromise

Part 2: Problem-Solving & Compromise

Below is a continuation of the State of the Union meeting with Kris and Emily. Before talking about ways to problem solve, Kris and Emily drew their two circles and wrote out their flexible and inflexible areas.

Kris: Let’s move on to the finding a solution part. I have my two circles. I’m inflexible about having time together as a couple and as a family. I need at least a few hours once a week where it’s just you and me, and I need you to spend at least one evening at home during the week so we can have family time. I feel Jacob needs and wants to see more of you.

Emily: Okay, and what are you flexible about?

Kris: I am flexible about the days of the week this happens.

Emily: That makes sense. I am inflexible about going to yoga at least three times a week and attending my weekly women’s support group at the church. I really value being there for those women.

Kris: I know how much you enjoy those women and yoga. I get that. What are you flexible about?

Emily: I’m flexible about taking some of the other responsibilities off my plate such as being the PTO president for Jacob’s school and attending the weekly book club.

Kris: It sounds like we are in agreement about you doing less and spending more time with me and Jacob. Am I hearing that correctly?

Emily: Yes, you are.

Kris: That’s wonderful. I’d like to take you out on a date this week to celebrate breaking through this gridlocked conflict that has been pushing us apart.

Emily: We haven’t gone on a date in a while. That sounds nice. I’ll tell the book club I won’t be attending anymore which will free up my Thursday night and I’ll skip Yoga on Tuesday so I can spend time with you and Jacob. How does that sound?

Kris: Amazing!

Emily and Kris were able to reach a compromise fairly easily after they understood each other. Although they worked through a lot of hurt feelings in part one, they were able to hear each other’s core needs and agree to meet them.

You can expect to fall back into a nasty argument on occasion, especially during stressful times. But once you’ve mastered the vital attunement skills, you’ll be able to climb out of the hole before lasting damage is done to your relationship.

As with any new skill, improving attunement and working through conflict in a constructive way will feel uncomfortable and awkward at first. But just like learning to drive, meeting once a week for an hour will eventually cultivate the ability to be able to use your powerful attunement skills the moment there is a misunderstanding.

How to Remain Calm When Others Are Out of Control

HOW TO REMAIN CALM WHEN OTHERS ARE OUT OF CONTROL

Angel Chernoff

Over the past decade, there’s a way of being I’ve gradually been cultivating in myself—I’ve been taming my tendency to get angry and argue with people when their behavior doesn’t match my expectations.

As human beings, we all have an idea in our heads about how things are supposed to be, and sadly this is what often messes our relationships up the most. We all get frustrated when things don’t play out the way we expect them to, and people don’t behave like they’re “supposed” to. We expect our spouses and children to act a certain way, our friends to be kind and agreeable, strangers to be less difficult, and so on and so forth.

And when reality hits us, and everyone seems to be doing the opposite of what we want them to do, we overreact—anger, frustration, stress, arguments, tears, etc.

So what can we do about this?

Breathe… think better… find your inner calm.

You can’t control how other people behave. You can’t control everything that happens to you. What you can control is how you respond to it all. In your response is your power.

When you feel like your lid is about to blow, take a long deep breath. Deep breathing releases tension, calms down our fight or flight reactions, and allows us to quiet our anxious nerves so we choose more considerate and constructive responses, no matter the situation.

So, for example, do your best to inhale and exhale next time another driver cuts you off in traffic. In a poll we conducted with our most recent “Think Better, Live Bette 2019” event attendees, overreacting while fighting traffic was the most commonly cited reason for overreacting on a daily basis. Just imagine if all the drivers on the road took deep breaths before making nasty hand gestures, or screaming obscenities at others.

There’s no doubt that it can drive us crazy when we don’t get what we expect from people, especially when they are being rude and difficult. But trying to change the unchangeable, wanting others to be exactly the way we want them to be, just doesn’t work. The alternative, though, is unthinkable to most of us…

Here’s the way of being that I’ve been cultivating and advocating:

  • To breathe deeply, and often.
  • To remind myself that I can’t control other people.
  • To remind myself that other people can handle their lives however they choose.
  • To not take their behavior personally.
  • To see the good in them.
  • To let go of the ideals and expectations I have about others that causes unnecessary frustration, arguments, and bouts of anger.
  • To remember that when others are being difficult, they are often going through a difficult time I know nothing about. And to give them empathy, love, and space.

“Being” this way—THINKING BETTER—takes practice, but it’s worth it. It makes me less frustrated, it helps me to be more mindful, it improves my relationships, it lowers my stress, and it allows me to make the world a slightly more peaceful place to be.

The Art of Letting Go (to Heal a Broken Heart)

THE ART OF LETTING GO (TO HEAL A BROKEN HEART)

Angel Chernoff

“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.”
― Dorothy Allison

I loved him like a brother, and he treated me as such. He told me I was a genius and that the world needed to hear my music. He was a ball of passion, and when he spoke it always felt like a battle cry to fight for a better life. I was working as a teacher, spending my summers with struggling artists who gave me that energy and community I craved. When I met him in Toronto, I felt like I found new family in my own hometown.

His family wasn’t so abundant—his parents struggled with addiction and were trying to take the earnings he made producing music. It was killing his spirit, and I could sense it. So without consulting my parents, I invited him to live with me. He was the brother I never had.

We got matching tattoos and promised each other that there would always be two of everything. We hustled the music, threw shoes, networked, and talked about what we could do artistically and for the scene in the city. The summer had ended and now I was back to grinding the 8-5 shift. It was killing my soul to be working knowing there was so much to create. Then he came to me with an opportunity that changed my life forever.

It was a songwriting deal, worth $120,000, to write 10 songs for an unknown artist who apparently had major connections. We’d get paid to write the songs, and with that money we could be full-time artists. Without much thought, due diligence or reflection, I took a leave of absence from work, and we moved into a rental property that I purchased as a responsible adult. Then we got straight to creating.

They Never Did

He explained the money would come soon, but weeks went by with no word. Weeks turned to months, and with no income, I was quickly accumulating debt by swiping credit cards, and negotiating a bigger line of credit. I wasn’t worried, when the money came in, it would wipe the debt clean, and we’d have plenty to play with.

He told me about all the friends that owed him money, and how we could start collecting to cover the bills, but he wasn’t finding much luck. As the months went on, I began to ask him more questions, and he became more and more defensive. One day he went out of town to collect some money from a family member. A mutual friend disclosed to me that he had been asking people to lend him money, and that in fact, no one owed him anything. I called him to clarify this, and he immediately hung up, and I never heard from him again.

He literally left his belongings in the apartment and never came back for anything. Clothes, a computer, keepsakes, it was as if he fell off the face of the earth. I was confused, devastated, and heartbroken. I had never had my heart broken by a friend before; it was a foreign kind of betrayal I couldn’t wrap my head around. Beyond the betrayal was the slow sinking reality that I was in deep trouble with my finances. I had accumulated over $80,000 in debt and had no way to pay it off. It turns out the songwriting deal was never real—he had forged documents, changed names, and was planning on borrowing money from others to cover it. When that didn’t work, he ran out of options and ran away.

That was seven years ago. The years that  followed were the hardest years of my life. I fell into deep despair and turned to NyQuil and muscle relaxers to numb the pain. I blamed the world and everyone around me for not warning me of his sleazy ways. I stayed in bed for weeks, and ate very little, hoping the cavalry would come to save the day.

They never did.

A Challenging Time

During the worst moments, I thought the worst thoughts about him. How dare he do this to me, after I let him in my home, and allowed him to live with me for a year rent-free. I was nothing but amazing to him! I treated him like a brother! And this is what I got in return?

But I learned to let it go, gradually.

Of course, I didn’t let it go because I thought what he did was OK. I let it go because I could not afford to carry such a heavy burden of resentment and regret with me. If I was ever going to get myself out of the mess I was in, I needed less baggage…

I needed a different mindset.

He wasn’t evil, he was scared. He bit off more than he could chew, and instead of facing the consequences of his actions, he ran away. All of that was out of my control. And for me to maintain my sanity I had to focus on what was in my control.

What was always in my control was my thinking and expectations. I expected him to be honest with me, because I was honest with him. But that’s not how things work. As I write this story, I am at a friend’s house in Austin, TX. I can hear the neighbour’s dog barking really loud. If I went over and stuck my hand through the fence, that dog would probably bite me. I can’t assume or expect him not to, just because I don’t plan to bite him. Dogs do what dogs do. Scared people do what scared people do.

So I forgave him, little by little, and began taking more responsibility for what happened. It was hard work. But doing so helped me let go of the resentment and regrets that were holding me back

Truth be told, it’s easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves, and cast ourselves as the victims in life. And it’s not only easy, it’s quick and convenient too. It gives us an immediate opportunity to feel connected and significant. We connect with ourselves because we feel like no one else understands what we are going through (as if I was the first guy to ever be betrayed by a friend). It also gives us a subtle high of significance, because we start to convince ourselves that life is conspiring only against us, as we question what we did to deserve its wrath.

This quick fix doesn’t last though, and what accompanies it is a long and drawn out feeling of powerlessness. We have no power because we’ve blamed everyone and everything except ourselves. Thus, for me to find power in my situation, I had to take some of the responsibility, because only in those areas would I find the power to improve my circumstances.

Again, it took plenty of practice, but I gradually became more mindful of my expectations, and instead of kicking myself (with my 20/20 hindsight) for all the danger signs that were right in front of me, I decided to extract the wisdom from my past experience. I promised myself I would use that wisdom until I was glad I went through such a challenging time.

I Am Cavalry

Over time, my broken heart healed, I got stronger, I got back on my feet and spent the next four years getting myself out of the hole. Through selling my possessions, finding odd gigs here and there, touring, and writing my book Unlearn, I finally got to a $0 bank account—no debt.

And gradually, I began to feel sincere gratitude for the journey I was on, and what I went through to get to where I was.

Figuring out how to go from $80,000 in the hole to $0 also helped me grow from $0 to a bank account with decent savings. My struggling days taught me the value of minimalism. I became a dramatically better judge of character, and looking back I realized how resilient I really was.

I no longer hope for a cavalry, I am the cavalry. I am no longer afraid to lose because with loss comes learning. I don’t question whether I need to trust others, because I know I can trust myself. Challenges and resistance make us stronger, so either we make ourselves uncomfortable so we can grow, or life does it for us.

We Can Choose

Although I’ve now completely forgiven my old friend, and even thanked him for the lessons I’ve learned, it all happened internally. I never made any proclamation or tried to contact him. After the passing of a mutual friend, he tried to reach out, but I didn’t need that energy in my life. I had already let it go, and there was no need to re-introduce it back into my life.

We need to let things go and forgive others, not for their sake, but for ours. We need to rid ourselves of the weight we carry around holding grudges, regrets, and the other burdens that try to pile up. We also need to let go so we can create a space where self-love exists, because most likely we’ll need that space to forgive ourselves, too.

I have indeed forgiven. And I am truly grateful.

Had I not gone through such a heartbreaking experience, I would have never dug deep into myself to write Unlearn. I would have never crossed paths with the amazing Marc & Angel, or read their books. And, most importantly, I would not have grown into the person I am today.

We can’t see into the future, but we can choose how much of our past we deliberately carry with us into today.

We can choose to let go and move forward, one day at a time.

Now, it’s YOUR turn…

I would love to hear from YOU in the comments section.

What do you need to let go of (or forgive), to move forward with your life?

Anything else to share?

Please leave me a comment.

Achieving Self-Acceptance: 10 Little Steps for One Big Change

ACHIEVING SELF-ACCEPTANCE: 10 LITTLE STEPS FOR ONE BIG CHANGE

Bella Pope

Accepting yourself for who you are isn’t easy. If you’re struggling to be okay with you, here are the steps you can take to make self-acceptance a reality.

The one thing humans struggle with more than anything else is accepting ourselves for who we are. With the media so focused on who is “perfect” and what qualities make someone “the best,” we tend to pick ourselves apart in deciding if we have those qualities, too, thus shattering our ability to accept ourselves.

I am probably a poster child for needing self-acceptance. When I was younger, I was always told I needed to be better—to be the best. I became self-critical and had SO many insecurity issues *in part, due to a few boyfriends*, despite being a pretty well-rounded person.

Self-acceptance vs self-esteem

A lot of people might think self-acceptance and self-esteem are one in the same, but they’re very different. Although improving your self-acceptance usually increases your self-esteem, they’re not interchangeable. Self-esteem relates more to the qualities other people see in us. Whereas, self-acceptance includes ALL aspects of who we are.

This means someone could be happy with how they’re perceived by other people, but still be miserable on the inside because they don’t accept themselves.

How to be happy with who you are

I got good grades, always worked hard at anything I did, yet I still felt like I wasn’t good enough. I was never happy with who I was. I looked in the mirror daily and picked out my own problems and what I needed to do to fix them.

Little did I know all I needed to fix was how I viewed myself. It won’t be an overnight fix, but if you’re having trouble being happy with who you are and achieving self-acceptance, here are the different steps you can take to get there.

#1 Be positive all the time. You would be thoroughly surprised how changing your overall outlook on the world changes the way you also see yourself. According to Psychology Today, it’s actually possible to rewire your brain to be a more positive person.

Every time you have a negative thought, stop yourself and find something good about the situation. It doesn’t have to even be related to you—just in general.

For example, if you’re stuck in traffic after a long day and get angry because you just want to get home and relax, just think to yourself that you get to sit and do almost nothing while listening to great music on the radio. That sounds pretty relaxing to me!

#2 Whenever you’re being critical of yourself, STOP and say three good things instead. Whenever I mess up on a project, there’s always something negative that comes to mind. I didn’t pay enough attention. I could’ve worked harder. I’m not cut out for this type of work. But there are so many better things to be said, too.

When you start being critical of yourself, stop the negative train of thought and replace it with good things instead. Cutting off that negative criticism of yourself retrains your brain to think positive thoughts about you instead, and it’ll make self-acceptance that much easier.

#3 Determine if there are outside factors. The truth is, a lot of outside influences affect our ability to accept ourselves. A rough upbringing with unsupportive parents, the cruel media expectations, and even an old teacher who told you, you weren’t good enough could all be a factor in your non self-acceptance.

If there is something like that in your life, identify it so you can acknowledge it, forgive whatever it is, and then move on. Realizing that there could be a different reason you are that way will make accepting yourself so much easier.

#4 Make a plan. Honestly, if you’re someone who’s had a problem accepting yourself for a long time, it’s going to be more difficult and take longer for you to start now. Make a plan and stick to it. Make a pact with yourself to wake up every day and be happy with yourself.

This not only gives you a reason to get up and try to accept yourself every day, but it forms in you the habit of doing good things for yourself.

#5 Write down every time you do something great. Either keep a notebook handy or make a section in your notes for all the positive things you do daily. Each time you do something that earns a compliment from someone else or even if you just think, “Wow, I did a good job,” write it down somewhere. Then look at those things every night before bed.

#6 Find support. Chances are, if you don’t accept who you are then you probably don’t have a great support system helping you out. Open up to a few friends and family members and let them know how you’ve been feeling about yourself.

You’ll be surprised how fast they jump on your ship and help you out in any way they can. It’s easier to accept yourself when you know how many other’s around you already accept you.

#7 Get rid of critical people in your life. Negativity and self-criticism are contagious. There are probably people in your life that are critical of others and also critical of themselves—all of which transfers onto you.

If there are people like that in your life, you just need to ditch them. They are in no way adding anything good to your life if they’re inhibiting your ability to accept who you are.

#8 Allow yourself to mess up—then forgive yourself for it. Nobody is perfect. But just because you mess up from time to time doesn’t mean you can’t accept yourself. You won’t be successful with everything you do and that’s okay.

As long as you forgive yourself and move on from the event, self-acceptance will be so much easier. The hardest part of this for someone who has always been self-critical is to actually forgive and forget. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

#9 Stop comparing yourself. You can’t expect to be just like someone else. You are your own person and don’t have the exact same qualities as someone else. Stop comparing who you are to who someone else is, because that only makes it more difficult to accept yourself.

Nobody has all the qualities you possess and you don’t have all the qualities someone else possesses. Even identical twins–who share DNA–aren’t going to be the same on all levels. You have to only compare yourself to YOU.

#10 Seek professional help. If your inability to accept yourself takes over your life to a point where you are becoming depressed or having trouble functioning during the day, you may need help. Sometimes there are underlying reasons to your dislike of yourself, and you need a professional to uncover those reasons before you can begin healing.Self-acceptance is something we all have to strive for every day of our lives. It can be a challenge at times, but it’s the most rewarding feeling of all.

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