How to Be a Supportive Partner During Pregnancy (and Beyond)

HOW TO BE A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER DURING PREGNANCY (AND BEYOND)

David Howard

THE GIST

  • Numerous studies have shown the benefits of having a partner who is supportive or perceived to be supportive. Conversely, having a partner who is perceived to be unsupportive is a predictor of depression and anxiety both before and after a child’s birth.
  • Start early. Being a supportive partner begins in the months before delivery, when an expectant mother’s anxiety levels may be rising about giving birth and the changes a baby brings.
  • Make a plan for your supportive role both during and after the baby’s arrival, but be flexible. There’s no script for how things are going to go.
  • New research indicates that supporters may need support of their own: They can feel isolated or rejected but question the legitimacy of their experiences.

If you’ve watched any movies with birth scenes, you may have noticed that the partner’s role often fits into one of two categories: He — and it’s always a he — is a comically inept second fiddle, fainting just when he’s needed most, or else absent entirely, inhaling a cigar in a nearby pub. 

These dated archetypes exist for a reason. What actually comprises a supportive partner has only come into focus in recent years, as fathers and same-sex partners have become more central to the birth and all that comes after. But the research is resoundingly clear: A strong mate makes a difference. Having a supportive partner is good for everyone involved, including the baby.

The scientific literature is less clear on what specific strategies best support pregnant women — it’s tough in a clinical setting to isolate the benefits of, say, a well-timed hug or a promise to handle 3 a.m. feedings. But the three researchers I spoke to distilled their studies into some real-world advice.

WHAT TO DO

  • Connect with each other well before the due date.

This should be even more of a priority than buying the right stroller. “The focus is so much on practical needs,” said Dr. Pam Pilkington, Ph.D., a perinatal psychologist who practices at the Centre for Perinatal Psychology in Melbourne, Australia, and founder of Partners to Parents, a resource site developed by a team of researchers and psychologists at Australian Catholic University to provide guidance for partners. “During pregnancy, people perhaps don’t focus on the couple relationship, or supporting each other emotionally as much as they could.”

In practical terms, this means talking often and openly about how you’re both feeling — anxious, excited, uncertain, whatever it is, Dr. Pilkington said — then validating each other, making sure you both feel heard and accepted. An example: After a month at home, a new mother might say, “I feel trapped here all day while you’re at work.” The supportive answer here is not, “I need to work so we can pay the bills. Why don’t you get your mother to come help?” Rather, a validating answer would be: “I’m sorry that you’re feeling pinned in place. It sounds like you’re missing seeing your friends at the office.” 

Trying to build mirroring-and-validating skills during the relative calm before your child’s arrival will help cement your bond for the challenges to come, Dr. Pilkington said.

  • Make your good intentions known.

Making yourself of service to another is what’s known in scientific vernacular as “offering social support.” Researchers call it a mysterious force that has tangible benefits. “There’s a magic about social support,” said Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA who has studied its effect on stressful situations, including pregnancies. “And the magic is that when it’s really working in these kinds of situations, it’s about things that take place between two people. And it’s about what one person says to the other, or does, that makes them feel better.”

Part of the magic of social support?Even when an expectant mother merely perceives that she has a supportive partner, she’s more likely to come through pregnancy happy and healthy, research shows. Studies have variously found that partner support is associated with better birth outcomes and lower levels of distress and depression among both mothers and infants.

But follow-up is key, too, said Dr. Dunkel Schetter. If you don’t actually come through on a promise to assume half of the diaper-changing duties, the benefits of perceived support quickly trail off.

Sometimes, supportive partners will learn that the best kinds of support are nonverbal — offering a hug during a low emotional ebb. And the support should be offered unconditionally. “The person giving it can’t say, ‘Now you owe me, you’re obligated, I’ve done so much for you,’ ” said Dr. Dunkel Schetter.

CenteringPregnancy, a program developed by the Yale School of Nursing, provides social support instruction, among other services, in a group setting for women and their partners; it’s now available in health-care facilities around the United States. (You can find a nearby location on the website.)

  • Take a birthing class — but be open-minded when the day arrives.

Classes like the Bradley Method, which teaches that childbirth can be managed through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach, can be helpful in making you feel more prepared, and offering a sense of what to expect. But Dr. Pilkington pointed out that birth is not the same as being a cast member in a play. The baby sometimes rewrites the script. Things take unexpected turns, or the mother’s preferences before going into labor might change 12 hours in. The partner should avoid rigid thinking about how it was supposed to go, and instead help the mother roll with whatever’s happening and support her choices along the way, Dr. Pilkington said.

  • Have a plan for the weeks after the baby arrives…

Specifically, the partner can draw up an action plan in which he or she commits to executing certain helpful tasks. Maybe it’s late-night feedings if the mother is going to pump breast milk or your baby is on formula. Maybe it’s a daily break that the mom can count on, like taking the baby out for a walk so she can nap or take a bath, said Dr. Pilkington.

  • … But be flexible.

Planning to do those 3 a.m. feedings is one thing. The searing exhaustion that kicks in after four weeks of doing that is another. During your child’s early life, it’s best to expect some meltdowns. (The baby will cry sometimes, too.) Revisit the plan anytime based on whatever challenges you might face at each stage of your baby’s life. It’s O.K. to ask for extra support from friends and family, Dr. Pilkington said. Both parents can use a break in the first couple of months of their baby’s life.  

  • Know your role with feeding.

One task the mother generally handles alone is breastfeeding. But a 2015 studyled by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology suggested that a partner’s active involvement —learning how breastfeeding works and providing encouragement — leads to “significant improvements” in breastfeeding duration. Then think of simple, commonsense ways to step up: Helping the mother stay hydrated by offering a glass of water, bringing healthy snacks and providing a comfortable environment, Dr. Pilkington said.

For parents who can’t breastfeed or choose not to, Dr. Pilkington says it’s important to remember they haven’t failed. “How parents feed their infant is a personal choice that should be based on their specific situation,” she said. If the mother is pumping, you can help maintain the equipment and offer to bottle-feed using the milk. Parents feeding their baby with a bottle — whether it’s formula or breast milk — can split overnight duties, one taking the 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, the other holding down the 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. slot, for example. Partners using formula can make sure there are adequate supplies on hand at all times and know how to mix it. Some formulas can be premixed and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours, which could save an exhausted mom from having to drowsily scoop powder in the small hours of the night.

  • Expect that your sex life will change — for a while, at least.

This is a biological imperative, so expect the temperature to be dialed down in the marital bed post-birth (for a duration that depends on the circumstances of the delivery; consult a professional). And even after you’re medically cleared, that doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same or have much energy for sex early on. Make a point to seek out alternate forms of intimacy, like hand-holding and cuddling, Dr. Pilkington said. The key, again, is to maintain an emotional connection and strong lines of communication.

  • Look for signs of your own stress, and act on them.

The psychological effect on partners after a baby’s arrival is mostly a black hole in the scientific realm. Dr. Pilkington noted that only 19 of the 120 recent studies around pregnancy touched on outcomes for fathers or partners, and researchers openly acknowledge the need for more research. But the few studies that have been done show that fathers can struggle to navigate this interlude. Dr. Zoe Darwin, Ph.D., a lecturer in maternal health at the University of Leeds in the U.K. who has conducted some early inquiries in this area, found that men often feel stressed and detached but want to keep the spotlight on the mother and child. “The research that we’ve done,” she said, “found that although some of the men we spoke with felt excluded by maternity services, and had experienced significant stress in this period, they often questioned the legitimacy of their experiences and their entitlement to support.” If you feel yourself struggling, let your partner know, and consult a caregiver.


WHEN TO WORRY

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, you may need more than a hug or the sage words of a parenting class. Seek professional help from a counselor.

SOURCES

Dr. Pam Pilkington, Ph.D., perinatal psychologist who practices at the Centre for Perinatal Psychology in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, expert on stress processes in pregnancy

Dr. Zoe Darwin, Ph.D., lecturer in maternal health at the University of Leeds in the U.K. who specializes in mental health and wellbeing during and after pregnancy.

A Better Me Makes A Better We: An Interview with Ellyn Bader, Ph.D.

A BETTER ME MAKES A BETTER WE: AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLYN BADER, Ph.D.

Kyle Benson

Interview Guest: Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is a co-founder of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, which integrates attachment theory and differentiation. Through her work at The Couples Institute, she has specialized in helping couples transform their relationships since 1984.

The idealized relationship where partners are fused at the hip is not a healthy relationship, as it doesn’t allow for the unique differences of each partner. Bader highlights this fusion as a conflict avoidant stance that happens when one partner feels anxious or uncomfortable and attempts to merge with their spouse.

One way of doing this is becoming more like your partner in hopes of being loved. There’s a deep fear that says, “If I express my needs and have different needs than my partner, I’m going to be abandoned.”

The other conflict avoidant stance is loving your partner at arm’s length. The fear in this stance says, “If I become more open and vulnerable, I’m going to get swallowed up and lose my sense of self.”

As Dr. David Schnarch states in his book entitled Passionate Marriage, “Giving up your individuality to be together is as defeating in the long run as giving up your relationship to maintain your individuality. Either way, you end up being less of a person with less of a relationship.”

Fusion happens when a person is fearful of encountering differences. These can be minor differences including how one spends their time or their hobbies, or major differences such as conflict style and desire for togetherness. The opposite of fusion is differentiation.

The Risk of Growth

Bader describes differentiation as an active process “in which partners define themselves to each other.” Differentiation requires the risk of being open to growth and being honest not only with your partner, but also with yourself.

  • If you’re anxious, it could mean realizing that you lean on partner so much that if they become unstable, you both fall down. Your demands on your partner and the way you discuss conflict may be pushing your partner away, which is the very thing you fear.
  • If you’re avoidant, it could mean noticing that you neglect your partner’s needs and prioritize yourself over your relationship. As a result, you perpetuate the loneliness you feel.
    To grow in your relationship requires a willingness to stand on what Bader calls your “developmental edge” and differentiate yourself as an individual. To risk getting closer to your partner without pushing them away.

What Differentiation Looks Like

In conflict, a differentiated lover can give space to their partner who is emotionally overwhelmed while also remaining close enough to be caring and supportive, but not so close that they lose themselves emotionally. Instead of reacting with overwhelming emotion, a differentiated partner, according to Bader, expresses curiosity about their partner’s emotional state:

“Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”
“Can you tell me about these feelings?”

The more differentiated you are, the less likely you are to take things as personally. As a result, you can soothe yourself or reach out to be soothed by your partner in a helpful way. Instead of saying, “You’re such a jerk. You never care for me,” a differentiated partner would say, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed and lonely. Could you give me a hug?”

To differentiate is to develop a secure way of relating to your partner. This earned security, as highlighted by Bader, is created both internally and developed within the context of a relationship. This requires being authentic with your feelings and needs.

You can cultivate a secure and functioning relationship by recognizing and taking responsibility for your part in creating unhealthy dynamics in your relationship. When you do this, you can then express your needs, desires, and wishes in a way that allows you and your partner to work together to meet each other’s needs.

When both partners are whole, not only is there more flexibility in the marriage, but there is also more intimacy.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Without Drugs

GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP WITHOUT DRUGS

Jane E. Brody

Alternatives to prescription drugs for insomnia offer better, safer and more long-lasting solutions, experts say.

Shakespeare wisely recognized that sleep “knits up the ravell’d sleave of care” and relieves life’s physical and emotional pains. Alas, this “chief nourisher in life’s feast,” as he called it, often eludes millions of people who suffer from insomnia. Desperate to fall asleep or fall back to sleep, many resort to Ambien or another of the so-called “Z drugs” to get elusive shut-eye.

But except for people with short-term sleep-disrupting issues, like post-surgical pain or bereavement, these sedative-hypnotics have a time-limited benefit and can sometimes cause more serious problems than they might prevent. They should not be used for more than four or five weeks.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration added a boxed warning to the prescription insomnia drugs zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), zaleplon (Sonata) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) following reports of injury and death from sleepwalking, sleep-driving and engaging in other hazardous activities while not fully awake.

Last July, a Georgia woman was arrested when she drove the wrong way on a highway the day after using Ambien, as prescribed, to help her sleep. Although she had consumed no alcohol, she flunked a standard sobriety test and told police she was unaware of how she ended up going the wrong way.

Although extreme reactions to these sleep drugs are thought to be uncommon, they are unpredictable and can be disastrous when they occur. Some have resulted in vehicular fatalities.

As many as 20 percent to 30 percent of people in the general population sleep poorly. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, some awaken much too early, while others do not feel rested despite spending a full night seemingly asleep in bed. For one person in 10, insomnia is a chronic problem that repeats itself night after night. Little wonder that so many resort to sleeping pills to cope with it.

“Short sleep is not just an irritant. It has real consequences beyond just feeling crummy the next day,” Adam P. Spira, a sleep researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me.

However, Dr. Spira and other experts report that there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. The alternatives are especially valuable for older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes of their insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications.

“Insomnia is typically undertreated, and nonpharmacologic interventions are underused by health care practitioners,” Dr. Nabil S. Kamel, a geriatrician now at Cox Health in Springfield, Mo., and Dr. Julie K. Gammack, a geriatrician at the St. Louis University Health Sciences Center, wrote in The American Journal of Medicine.

In other words, when persistent insomnia is a problem, before your doctor writes a prescription for a sleeping pill, ask whether there are other remedies that may be safer, more effective and longer lasting.

For example, if pain or other symptoms of a medical disorder are keeping you awake, the first step should be treatment of the underlying ailment to minimize its sleep-disrupting effects. I once spent three sleepless nights tortured by intense itchiness until a dermatologist prescribed medication for what turned out to be an invasion of bird mites. More recently, my middle-of-the-night leg cramps have been nearly entirely eliminated by consuming eight ounces of quinine-containing tonic water (actually, diet tonic) every night before bed. If you can’t handle that amount of liquid close to bedtime, drink it earlier in the evening or perhaps try a herbal remedy that I use when traveling: Hyland’s Leg Cramps, which contains quinine as one of its active ingredients.

Sometimes, the medication given to treat a chronic ailment interferes with the ability to get a good night’s sleep. In that case, the doctor may be able to prescribe a lower dose, substitute a different drug or adjust the timing. But when the symptoms of a chronic ailment itself disrupts sleep, treatment by a specialist, including perhaps an expert in pain management, may be needed to improve your ability to sleep. If persistent emotional problems are what keep you awake, consider consulting a psychologist, psychiatric social worker or psychiatrist before reaching for a sleeping pill.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is now considered the best treatment for insomnia, especially for older adults. It teaches people to challenge disruptive negative thinking and replace it with positive thoughts that counter arousal and induce relaxation. Before going to bed, try using soothing imagery or meditation to reduce cognitive arousal.

The American College of Physicians recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as “the first-line treatment for adults with chronic insomnia.”

It is much safer than drugs and, unlike sleeping pills that work only when taken and shouldn’t be used long-term, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, teaches effective strategies that continue to work long after the therapy ends.

The physicians’ college suggests that if needed, sleep medication should be used only short-term while learning the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Also helpful is what sleep experts call stimulus-control therapy — limiting bedroom time to sleeping and sex. You learn to associate the bedroom with sleep by avoiding activities incompatible with it. If you spend too much time lying sleepless in bed, your brain starts to link the bedroom with not sleeping. Also avoid going to bed when you’re not sleepy.

If you don’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes in bed, Dr. Kamel and Dr. Gammack recommend getting up, perhaps taking a bath or reading, then returning to bed when you feel sleepy.

If all else fails, sleep-restriction therapy can be effective even after a week or two, especially at eliminating prolonged wakefulness in the middle of the night. It doesn’t restrict sleep itself but limits the time spent not sleeping by restricting time in bed to how long you currently sleep. Go to bed at about the same time every night, set an alarm to get up, and maintain that waking time every day for at least two weeks no matter how much you slept the night before. Finally, gradually extend your time in bed by 15 to 30 minutes, allowing a week between each extension, until you are able to get the amount of restful sleep you need with little or no wakefulness in the middle of the night.

12 Insightful Lessons to Help You Have a Better Life

12 INSIGHTFUL LESSONS TO HELP YOU HAVE A BETTER LIFE

Team Lovepanky

Can you change your life for the better by changing the way you think? Here are 12 insightful lessons that can lead you to a happier, better life.

There are many things that people must learn to accept about life in order to be truly happy, and lead a better life.

While it is difficult for most of us to admit many uncomfortable truths, once we do, we are able to lead a much more fulfilling life.

Accepting many of these things takes time, and often doesn’t happen until we feel unsatisfied in our current situation.

Take, for example, my own experience with learning to accept a few particular things about life.

My personal confusion and life wanderings

After finishing my undergrad, I landed a decent job as an assistant project manager at a university office for sustainability. In terms of entry-level positions it was a good one, and of course, it would look great on my resume.

I was where I was supposed to be. In a relevant job position, gaining valuable career experience, working to save money for those looming student loans, in a relationship, meeting up with friends after work, buying various consumer products, visiting my family at least once a month, and generally meeting most of society’s other expectations.

The problem was I would sit at my desk from 8am until 5:30pm staring at my computer screen. While I knew the projects I was working on were important for improving sustainability on campus, I found it difficult to connect with what I was doing.

Most of my friends seemed to be focusing on buying the latest fashion trends, and drinking away most of their income. While I also participated in these entertaining behaviors, I continued to feel disconnected from the people surrounding me.

My relationship was only average. At first I thought it was true love, and then over time, I realized it was a safe situation for both of us. We were just sitting on the truth that neither of us was getting what we needed or wanted.

Nevertheless, I was an example of a successfully functioning individual. Yet I felt unsatisfied with my life, even though according to most people it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

While my experience might start to sound cliché, what happened next led to an important learning curve in my life, and to something completely different and absolutely satisfying.

I left my assistant project manager position and headed off to travel Southeast Asia. Over three months I visited amazing places, met very interesting people, ate partially developed duck eggs, drank local alcohol, volunteered with rescued elephants, and did some other typical travelers things.

Insightful life lessons that can lead you to a better life

Where I went and whom I met wasn’t all that different to what many people experience while traveling. But what was really vital was the time away from my “supposed to”life.

I had some serious time to reflect on where exactly I was in my life, and where I was headed. I noticed that many things I was doing didn’t actually make me happy.

This learning curve and time for reflection led me to 12 absolutely crucial things to learn and accept about life. They can lead you to a happier and much more satisfying life.

#1 You will never be able to please everyone

It is absolutely impossible to satisfy everyone else’s expectations and demands. You will drive yourself mental if you don’t accept the fact that you cannot live your life tailoring every move to please other people.

This goes for family, friends, and even bosses. Of course, you need to perform certain tasks and fulfill expectations of your role in an organization, or even relationship.

But, for example, that does not mean living up to your manager’s belief that you should be available seven days a week to answer various emails, or your mother’s perspective that you will only be happy once you own a white picket fence on your well-manicured lawn.

You must let go of the idea that you can please everyone around you. You will ultimately end up sacrificing something that is essential to your own happiness.

#2 There are many definitions of success, find your own

Each of us is responsible for defining what represents success for ourselves. To some people success is a six-figure paycheck, mortgage on a two-story home, and new car, while to others it can be something completely different.

You need to map out and understand what you personally need to achieve in your life to be considered successful by your own standards. If that is a nonprofit job that doesn’t rake in the big bucks, but allows you to follow your passion and purpose, then so be it.

#3 You friends will most definitely change over time

Not many of us keep the exact same friends into adulthood. Of course, you may find a soul mate in one or two of your friends. But you are also bound to lose friends, and gain new ones.

We change friendships over time because we are constantly changing and growing. Interests evolve, and people transform into very different individuals. Changing friends usually isn’t a negative thing, and instead, is a reflection of your personal growth.

#4 Despite what you’ve always been told, you can choose your family

I often read that you cannot change you family so you should figure out how to deal with them now, or you’ll lose your mind trying later in life. Yet, I don’t fully believe this. You are absolutely stuck with some people who you are related to by blood. But that doesn’t mean you have to consider them important people in your life.

There are some family members that we absolutely can choose. What about our life partners? We are fully able to choose the person we want to spend the rest of our life with. We get to hand select that person, and assure that they hold most of the qualities we desire, and meet our fundamental needs and wants.

So, in fact we can choose our family. While some relations might be set in blood, others are up to us.

#5 Relationships take a lot of hard work

Building off on #4, relationships take a lot of work in order to be happy and healthy. Whether this is a relationship with a friend, family member, professional, or life partner, you are going to need to work at it.

Working at a relationship means taking the time to understand the other person and their goals, finding out how to be a positive presence in their lives, and vice versa – and how to compromise.

Human relationships are absolutely necessary to feel connected to your world, and to feel happiness. But you need to make the effort in these relationships in order to reap the benefits.

#6 If you want to see change, you need to make it happen

Don’t sit around waiting for great things to happen in your life. If you want and need something to change, you need to be actively involved in pursuing results.

This can be in terms of relationships, jobs, personal well-being, and a lot of other things. You must be proactive in doing. Simply thinking about change is not enough. You need to take the steps involved with altering your current situation.

#7 You need to get healthy

Your body is your own personal sanctuary. If you treat it like it’s not important and fill it with toxins and chemicals, it will start to resist you. You need to find a balance that works for you and your lifestyle. Not all of us want to be at the gym five days a week, but that doesn’t mean you should never lift a finger.

Whether it is a walk down your street, or a full on cross-fit workout. You need to move, and after you move, you need to fill yourself with fresh food meant for human consumption. Not the boxes of human manipulated ingredients. Feel good about your body. It will change over time, but it’s what you’ve got.

#8 You should care about things happening around you

There are buckets of social, political, economic and environmental problems facing our generation, and many future generations to come. You need to stop living in your comfortable bubble and start becoming educated on important matters around you. War and conflict continues to plague countries around the world, resource exploitation and climate change are real issues happening now.

You cannot avoid these things any longer, and you need to take some form of responsibility in making our world a better place. That doesn’t mean starting a multi-million dollar charity, or donating 40 hours of your time a week. But it does mean you need to take small steps towards becoming a knowledgeable and more sustainable human being.

#9 If you want something, take it

If there is something that you want, you know you deserve, and you will take full responsibility for, then you need to take it. Stop worrying if you are going to offend someone, and go for it.

If this is a promotion you know you deserve, or a relationship you know is bound for greatness, take the risk and make it happen.

#10 You need to find a purpose

Having a passion is half the battle, but what allows your passion to translate into effective action is purpose. You must define your purpose in order to pursue meaningful life goals. That can be career related, or just in general what you strive to achieve in your lifetime.

#11 You define your own happiness

Well, I am not a huge Kanye West fan but he makes a valid point, “I refuse to accept other people’s ideas of happiness for me. As if there’s a ‘one size fits all’ standard for happiness.”

If you can clearly outline what allows you to be happy, then you’ve accomplished what some people strive towards, for their entire lives. Know what makes you happy, because if you try to live someone else’s life, you are bound to be unsatisfied.

#12 Take the more difficult route and be yourself

Defining purpose, finding passion, knowing what makes you happy and defining your personal vision of success are extremely difficult to comprehend and achieve.

But if you can organize just exactly how you want to live your own life, and truly be yourself, regardless of other’s expectations and judgments, you are going to find fulfillment and happiness. It’s your life, and we really only do have one chance, so it’s better to be yourself.

My epiphany

So after having time away from my “supposed to” life I came home thinking about what changes I needed to make, and what exactly I needed to accept.

I ended up saving money working at a retail job, that for two months was actually quite rewarding, and moving back to Southeast Asia to find my own success and happiness.

It wasn’t exactly what people in my life were anticipating from me, although my ex-boyfriend wasn’t all that surprised. I did lose quite a few friendships because of their unwillingness to make the effort over such physical distance. My family however, has been extremely supportive for the most part.

Overall, I am extremely happy and successful. I feel like I am growing into an individual that I can be proud of. Although I am in my late twenties and I still don’t have a mortgage or a car, and rent a small studio and ride a bicycle, I feel liberated from what I was supposed to do, because now I am doing what makes me happy.

Well, it can be easier said than done, but if you are willing to learn to accept a few lessons about life, then you will set yourself up for a completely personalized journey, one that you’ll be proud of.

Humility in Relationships

HUMILITY IN RELATIONSHIPS

Os Hillman

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” – 1 Peter 5:5b

I’ll never forget the first time I discovered what a feeling was. It was in my early forties. “Surely not!” you may be thinking. Yes, it is true. Since then, I have discovered many men still live in this condition. It took an older mentor to help me understand the difference between information and a feeling.

Wives are frustrated because their husbands share information, but not their feelings. They want to know what is going on inside their man. The fact is, most men have not been taught to identify feelings, much less how to share them. It is something that men must learn to do because it is not a natural trait. If they do share their feelings, society often portrays them as weak. No man willingly wants to be portrayed as weak.

In order to become an effective friend and leader, one must learn to be vulnerable with others and develop an ability to share feelings. It is a vital step to becoming a real person with whom others can connect emotionally. This is not easy to do if your parents did not teach you to share your emotional life with others. Emotional vulnerability is especially hard for men. Author Dr. Larry Crabb states,

Men who as boys felt neglected by their dads often remain distant from their own children. The sins of fathers are passed on to children, often through the dynamic of self-protection. It hurts to be neglected, and it creates questions about our value to others. So to avoid feeling the sting of further rejection, we refuse to give that part of ourselves we fear might once again be received with indifference. When our approach to life revolves around discipline, commitment, and knowledge [which the Greek influence teaches us] but runs from feeling the hurt of unmet longings that come from a lack of deeper relationships, then our efforts to love will be marked more by required action than by liberating passion. We will be known as reliable, but not involved. Honest friends will report that they enjoy being with us, but have trouble feeling close. Even our best friends (including spouses) will feel guarded around us, a little tense and vaguely distant. It’s not uncommon for Christian leaders to have no real friends. [Larry Crabb, Inside Out (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, n.d.), 98-99.]

If this describes you, why not begin on a new journey of opening up your life to others in a way that others can see who you really are? It might be scary at first, but as you grow in this area, you will find new freedom in your life. Then, others will more readily connect with you.

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.

The Best Way to Get Revenge

THE BEST WAY TO GET REVENGE

Steven Berglas

Most people mollify psychic pain by attacking back; we yearn for revenge. But achievement striving is better. It opens the mind to the possible, instead of hitching it to the horrible.

In 2015, Dee Carroll was billing $17 million a year in her Washington, D.C.-based organizational development firm, heading a team of 18 in two locations, including a recently added IT arm, when her board suggested bringing on a chief financial officer. She found a candidate, and the board approved of her hire. Carroll, with a Ph.D. in business administration and 28 years at the helm, turned her attention back to growing the company.

“We were doing well,” she recalls. Every once in a while, she checked the books. The numbers added up, but she couldn’t figure out why the borrowing wasn’t decreasing on her line of credit. “We’re self-financing,” the CFO assured her. Then a day came when some documents needed reviewing and she called the bank. Its numbers and her numbers didn’t align. Carroll summoned outside auditors to search for a discrepant half million. The day she confronted the CFO, he admitted to running two sets of books. It took forensic accountants months to figure out how the guy had walked off with more than $2 million.  

Carroll cashed in her 401k and filed for reorganization to keep the company afloat—while she spent a year in and out of hospitals with stress-induced illnesses. Then the bank froze her assets, and it was all over. “I was so angry, all I wanted was to get my hands on that CFO and punch him out,” says Carroll. Miraculously, a few months later, the day came when she could. They found themselves side-by-side in the parking lot of a giant Walgreens—she in her old Land Cruiser, he in a new Audi. Ever the planner, she pulled out her phone and called her attorney: “Get down here—and prepare to get me out of jail.”

Carroll chased the CFO through the superstore. He outpaced her. So she shifted strategies: I’ll just ram his car. Behind the wheel, it hit her. “If he had me going like that, he was in control of my life. I drove off—and I felt good.”

The desire for revenge, she felt, “had stripped my courage, my convictions, my confidence. It had me beating myself up for my failures: ‘I should have known.’ ‘I should have checked more often.'” Crumbling was not an option. “I decided I’m not going to give him the pleasure. He’ll only see me flying high.”

And maybe he does—literally. Carroll has not only successfully launched a new company, she spends much of her time traveling the globe, promoting “emotional emancipation.” She focuses on persuading women that no one controls what they can accomplish. “I needed to embrace the possible,” she explains. “Now I can grow.”

What Carroll apprehended, sitting in that parking lot, was that nothing she could do to punish the CFO could harm him as badly as her desire for revenge was harming her.

Rerouting the Amygdala

Revenge-seeking has deep, seemingly instinctual roots in the human behavioral repertoire. Since the dawn of civilization, the highest authorities have sanctioned harming someone in the same manner as he or she has harmed you. From the 1754 B.C. Code of Hammurabi, the sixth Babylonian king, to the Bible—Exodus chapter 21: “You shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”—the ancients specified how the impulse for revenge was to be carried out.

From the time we are barely able to put together full sentences, we yearn for revenge, screaming, “That’s not fair” in response to a perceived injustice (a sibling getting dessert that we don’t, because we are being punished) and following that outcry with the vow, “I’ll get you!” targeted at Mom, Dad, or the babysitter for giving preferential treatment to the kid who shares our bath.

As adults we’re only slightly more sophisticated in response to abuses by others. A small insult—getting cut off by a driver—can launch a highway chase for miles, either to cut that motorist off in the same way or to deliver the hand gesture known as “flipping the bird.”

Most people seek to mollify psychic pain by attacking back. But there is a better, far more adaptive way—showing ’em, by achieving something personally and socially significant related to the offense. To first turn the other cheek and then build something meaningful, to oneself and to others, out of the abandoned anger requires a psychological shift—within just about anyone’s reach—that harnesses the brain’s amygdala, its processing center of danger, and redirects its impulses.

When you cope with psychic pain via achievement striving, your mindset is on the possible. Revenge-seeking hitches it to the horrible.

“A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well,” wrote English philosopher, statesman, and scientist Francis Bacon. He captured the core problem with revenge: It demands ruminating about wrongs, which amplifies their significance, aggravates what sparked anger, and makes it impossible to let go.

Freud was the first to dissect the amplification of suffering brought on by anger born of distressing events. Paradoxically, despite the pain that such recollections cause, the events are “reviewed, repeated, or rehearsed”—through dreams or obsessional ruminations.

The continual mental replaying of an event, however humiliating, is a primordial propensity to revisit hurtful interactions in an attempt to master through imagery what could not be mastered behaviorally. As the initial injury is relived, negative alterations in cognition and mood grow progressively worse—negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world, exaggerated blame of oneself or others for causing the trauma, feelings of isolation, and difficulty experiencing positive affect. The original insult remains a focus of cognitive imagery.

Failing to consummate revenge fantasies turns them into obsessions. American literature offers the definitive example of obsessional revenge seeking in Herman Melville’s MobyDick; or, The Whale. After losing a leg to a white whale, Captain Ahab embarks on a hunt to destroy that whale, a quest that ends in his demise. To this day, “white whale” is another term for an obsessional pursuit.

Photo by Reinhard Hunger

Cultivating Congruence

My own clinical experience corroborates what decades of medical evidence demonstrates: People who harbor thoughts of exacting revenge exhibit systemic turmoil, courtesy of an activated amygdala preparing against the threat of attack. They experience sleeplessness, owing to nonstop rumination; irritability; hyperarousal; and distractibility that often impedes their ability to function. As Confucius said: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Orthopedist Richard “Rock” Barnes, 46,* walked into my office because I had written a book about burnout. Trained as a psychiatrist, he had worked at a prestigious mental hospital before feeling burned out. His remedy—changing medical specialties by retraining and moving across the country—wasn’t working.

In our initial session, Barnes didn’t seem burned out so much as burned up—consumed with rage from an incident early in his career. A patient under his care had been sexually exploited by a senior psychiatrist. Barnes had sought to avenge the wrong by exposing the abuser, but learned that filing a claim would harm the fragile patient and would be refuted by the VIP doctor as a tale told by a mentally ill woman.

In my office, Barnes raged at himself, but especially at the abuser. And he railed at the vestiges of a medical hierarchy that had made him feel so impotent as a young physician. How, I asked, could he “right the wrong in an ego-syntonic manner?”—that is, in a way congruent with his values, his personality, his self-concept, and his future. Certainly not by killing the doctor.

A decade and a half later, Barnes is still mending bones but he is also helping physicians everywhere to articulate perceived problems at their institutions without fear of rebuke or retaliation. Through an organization he started, first at his own hospital, he speaks at hospitals around the country, reducing the likelihood of abuse like that his patient suffered.

Fast Forward

My work with Barnes led me to recognize that it’s possible to say “Screw you!” to harm-doers in indirect but active ways that are not only personally gratifying but also socially constructive. Revenge is so tightly bound to pain because the eye-for-an-eye mindset is backward-looking, focused on the original insult—but also because it is irreconcilable with most people’s goalsfor themselves.

“Showing ’em,” not “socking ’em,”—taking a behavioral step beyond the amygdala’s bidding—brings relief not least because it jump-starts growth. It renders people no longer vulnerable to the forces that originally harmed them. For that reason, it directly enhances feelings of self-efficacy and power.

For sure, psychotherapy has value. It is especially useful for exploring conflicted feelings. But dealing with revenge through psychotherapy may bring slow healing. En route to relief, the victim must relive the original injustice. Mind and body return to the scene of the crime, again and again. Achievement striving, on the other hand, need never recall the actual insult.

The Power of Striving

Some Turn Away from avenging a wrong as if they had an innate understanding of the Buddha’s observation: “Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.” But for most, this is near impossible.

Revenge is rooted in a brain network involving the amygdala and temporal areas that are fired up very specifically by acts of perceived unfairness perpetrated by another human being, University of Geneva researchers recently found. The greater the neural activation, the greater the inner push for punishment. It’s common for people to yield to the urge.

But rage for revenge is thoroughly alterable. If the dorsolateral area of the prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a key area for emotion regulation, is activated during the provocation stage, the amygdala is muted, inhibiting the desire for later punishment, neuroscientist Olga Klimecki and colleagues observe in Scientific Reports. “The DLPFC is coordinated with the motor cortex that directs the hand that makes the choice of vengeful behavior or not. There is a direct correlation between brain activity in the DLPFC and behavioral choices.”

Striving toward positive goals, research has long shown, naturally subdues the amygdala. In my own clinical experience, the majority of patients experiencing profound trauma are able to flourish afterwards by channeling their anger into a meaningful endeavor, typically one that focuses on others. They do well by doing good. Revenge becomes an opportunity for exercising values mobilized by the insult.

Not all wrongs to be avenged are born of injury inflicted by individuals. Social injustice is a prime motivator, too, and the one that impelled lawyer Barry Scheck to create the Innocence Project, a consortium of attorneys that, since 1992, has been devoted to overturning wrongful convictions of (mostly) indigent people.

While in elementary school, a fire destroyed Scheck’s family home, injuring his parents and killing his beloved sister. At first debilitated, by high school he was academically motivated enough to gain entry to Yale, where he protested the Vietnam War on the grounds that the deferments granted to students discriminated against poor teenagers. He used his law degree to become a public defender in New York’s then-distressed South Bronx and a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

After co-founding a law firm specializing in civil rights litigation, he joined the “Dream Team” that got O.J. Simpson acquitted of double murder charges in 1994. By then, the Innocence Project was already deploying its legal skills to show the world that those who suffered injustice had an ally to undo what was done to them.

Beyond Herself

If ever a deed could conceivably justify the wish to exact lex talionis, the death of a child by murder might top the list. Yet that is not what happened in May 1980, when 13-year-old Cari Lightner was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The driver, who had been convicted of drunk driving offenses three times in four years, never even stopped his car. And when he struck the girl, he was out on bail for a hit-and-run arrest two days earlier.

Candy Lightner’s pain at her daughter’s death was amplified when the responding police officer told her, “Lady, you’ll be lucky if this guy gets any jail time, much less prison.” As she later told People magazine, “This was not an ‘unfortunate accident.’ Cari was the victim of a violent crime. Death caused by drunk drivers is the only socially acceptable form of homicide.”

The societal pass that drunk drivers received at the time served, Lightner recalled, to “double my anger.” And she immediately vowed to make people horrified by the consequences of drunk driving. Four days after Cari’s death, she quit her job and organized Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (later, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD).

Indefatigable in her quest to save others from a similar tragedy, Lightner was named to the National Commission on Drunk Driving in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. MADD has sparked new penalties for drunk driving and changed the legal drinking age in many states.

Significant as the achievements are, they pale in comparison to what Lightner got from harnessing her anger and taking up a cause instead of seeking revenge. She not only gained kudos from around the world, she also gave meaning to her daughter’s life.

Getting out of oneself and giving back constitute a sure antidote to the emotional cancer of rumination. An added advantage of working for a cause is that you don’t act in a vacuum. On the contrary, such endeavors demand contact with like-minded people. Social support is the best-documented balm for almost every ill of mind and body.

Photo by Reinhard Hunger

Photo by Reinhard Hunger

Beating ‘Em at Their Own Game

Doing well by doing good could have been the epitaph for Benjamin Franklin, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and one of the richest men in American history, certainly its ultimate Renaissance man. Writer, philosopher, scientist, diplomat, musician, and oenophile, he spoke five languages—exclusively self-taught; he also invented bifocals, the urinary catheter, and swim fins! You probably recall schoolbook illustrations of Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm to study electricity—a daredevil venture that led to his invention of the lightning rod (which has saved countless lives and millions of dollars).

What’s missing from textbook accounts of Franklin is the truth about his early life. Because his father could not afford to send Benjamin to school, he arranged for his older son James (then in the process of establishing a printing business) to employ Benjamin, at age 11, as an indentured apprentice. Almost immediately, James became so jealous of Ben’s precocity that he demeaned and beat his younger brother regularly.

Things only got worse as Benjamin mastered the basics of printing and learned to read and write better than most adults in Colonial New England. He asked his brother if he could write for his newspaper and was denied. But instead of getting angry, he turned to writing articles under the pen name Silence Dogood. Slipped under the door of James’s shop, they quickly became the most popular part of the paper. When James learned who wrote them, all hell broke loose. Benjamin fled to Philadelphia, arriving with three shillings in his pocket and rags on his back.

Although wronged, Franklin never once sought to exact revenge directly or engage in displays of dominance. Instead, he found a psychologically satisfying way to “show” his brother—and thrive: by behaving better than him. He was driven to become the best printer in the 13 colonies. Starting as a journeyman in Philadelphia, Franklin soon established his own shop, leapfrogging from printing mundane legal forms to culturally significant pamphlets, newspapers, and books, including his own. As the leading printer in Colonial America, he ultimately printed its currency.

In 1748, after amassing the equivalent of more than $10 billion in today’s money, Franklin retired at age 42. It was time, he said, “to do something useful.” His next 42 years (40 beyond the life expectancy of males at the time) were a case study in generativity—not simply a Founding Father of the country and its first foreign diplomat, he also founded the American Philosophical Society, America’s first scientific society, its first science library and museum, and the nation’s first modern liberal arts college, later renamed the University of Pennsylvania.     

Franklin stands as the quintessential example of coping with the pain of trauma in an entrepreneurial, ego-enhancing way—by building something that not only helps the world but brings authentic personal rewards, from praise and respect to a host of new and exciting experiences.

*name has been changed

This Simple Communication Rule Can Rescue Your Marriage

THIS SIMPLE COMMUNICATION RULE CAN RESCUE YOUR MARRIAGE

Harriet Lerner

The columnist Ellen Goodman once quoted a friend who gave her daughters terrific advice:

“Speak up, Speak up, speak up!” this mother said. “The only person you’ll scare off is your future ex-husband!” What an improvement over the pre-feminist advice I was raised on:  “Listen wide-eyed to his ideas and gracefully add your footnotes from time to time.”

All ways of speaking up, however, are not equal. One of the challenges in marriage is to make authentic “I” statements that express our beliefs and feelings without judging or attacking your partner.  This may be easy enough if your partner is nodding vigorously in agreement (“I thought you were brilliant tonight”) or if the subject matter is a neutral one (“I know you like vanilla but I prefer chocolate”).  But when you’re dealing with a defensive partner or a high-twitch subject, nothing is simple or easy.

“I” statements, however, can keep a difficult conversation from exploding into an all-out fight. An “I” statement starts with “I think…” I feel…”  “I fear…”  “I want…”  Practice making these kind of statements.

Most importantly, remember that a true “I” statement:

* has a light touch

* is nonjudgmental and non-blaming

* does not imply that the other person is responsible for your feelings or reactions

* is only about you—not about your partner.

Every “you” statement (“You’re being controlling!”) can be turned into an “ I” statement. (“I need to make my own decision here”). Keep in mind, however, that changing the grammatical structure of your sentences is only part of the challenge.  You also need to get the edge out of your voice. An intense, reactive tone will “undo” even the most carefully constructed  “I”-statement” and may come across as blaming.  So hold off until you can state your “I” position without the edge.

A note of caution:   Beware of Pseudo “I” Language!

We may think we’re talking in “I” language when we stick “I think” or “I feel” in front of a sentence, but that doesn’t do the trick.   Sometimes it’s easy to detect a pseudo “I” statement  (“I think you have a narcissistic personality disorder”) that judges or diagnoses the other person.  

In many cases, however, the difference between a true “I” statement and a pseudo  “I” statement can be subtle.  My friend tells this story about his wife Jill.  It’s a good example of his wife making an “I” statement that was really a “you” statement dressed up in “I” statement clothing.

My friend writes:  My home office has been a mess lately and Jill, who shares the space, is a much more organized person than I am.  After glancing at the stacks of papers everywhere on my desk and floor, she said to me:

 “When I walk into this room, I feel like our household is totally falling apart.”

Totally falling apart! Our household?  I’m her hardworking faithful partner of 14 years and because my half of the office is a mess she feels like everything is crumbling around her? And yet when I said, “That’s a pretty extreme statement, she simply responded, “Well, it’s how I feel.”

How can I possibly respond to that?

A partner is unlikely to have the space to consider his behavior, much less apologize for it, if he feels he’s putting his head on the chopping block and taking responsibility not only for his behavior but for your unhappiness, as well. 

Remember this:  An “I” statement should serve to clarify our position, not act as a Trojan horse for smuggling in judgments and accusations.

5 Things Every Wife should Know About Her Husband

5 THINGS EVERY WIFE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HER HUSBAND

Sheqoz

Become a better wife

Men Don’t Always Get Emotional:

After years of marriage, I’ve come to learn a lot about men and their triggers. Personally I’m overly emotional which has made me fall as well as progress in life. Evidently, men have difficulty communicating their emotions. This has been misinterpreted by women.

When a woman opens up emotionally, she can speak nonstop, cry and laugh at the same time. She can juggle her emotions and thoughts with ease. Men on the other hand think more than they feel; they do either one of them but never both at the same time.

For example, once a man confesses his love to a woman and things fall in place, he thinks that the only reason to have a real conversation is money or breaking up. So when you walk up to your husband each time you get emotional and tell him the dreaded words “We need to talk,” he quickly realizes that he has to think and feel at the same time. That’s something that is a real challenge to men which may feel like life is being sucked out of them.

Men Use Less Words:

When you want to start a discussion, it might seem like he’s not engaging enough. This may make you feel unappreciated. Due to the fact that women talk faster when excited, it interrupts your husband who is already struggling to find the right words.

When this happens, he may lose track or shut down because he feels cut off and is unable to express his feelings. At this point he becomes what we interpret as cold, a state which makes any woman race her mind into conclusions.

Imagine changing from the kind, friendly wife your husband knows to a resentful, nagging stranger all because of conclusive imaginations which women are good at! In the circumstance even the strongest, most patient man will become withdrawn.

This is why women should take time to understand how they differ from men when it comes to talking. It would give everyone a little more empathy when it comes to discussing emotional issues. Understanding one another is a big step towards creating and maintaining an emotionally fit and loving relationship.

Most Women Are Guilty:

A perfect example would be my own experience. When l want my husband and l to discuss something, l walk up to him while he’s watching his game and tell him that we need to talk. He gives me that look of “Oh my goodness, what have l done now?” He then has to pause his game and wait for my million words – which he can summarize in one sentence. Once I’m done talking, his response is usually calm and in very few words. This doesn’t mean he’s not excited; it’s just the way men respond.

Before l took time to understand him, l would get all upset and emotional and race my mind into conclusions. “He acts like I’m bugging him,” l would think to myself. Once l conclude that something is not right, and commit to finding out what it is… You do not want to know the extent of my amateur investigations.

In addition, l acted differently and stayed on negative vibrations which the whole family picked up on. All of that was just because my husband’s reaction was not in conformity with my expectations. I can only imagine what was taking place in his mind as he tried to figure me out.

Stay on the Reality Lane:

A perfect husband only exists in fairy tales but your marriage is in real life. Stop focusing on your husband’s mistakes and start recognizing the wonderful things he does. By doing so, you will encourage him to do even more to become the man of your dreams.

It is human nature to focus more on the wrong than the right. As the saying goes, thoughts are things. You will attract more of what you invest your energy in. Things are prone to happen, If he wrongs you, don’t announce him to the whole neighborhood and on social media.

Get down on your knees and allow the One who controls all things to make the necessary adjustments. A praying woman is a powerful woman! Take this from me.

Men Are Not Mind Readers:

Women often feel overwhelmed with stuff, wishing that their husbands would help. I’ve been there too. The only way you can get anyone to help is by communicating. How many times have you heard women complain about their husbands not helping with house chores?

I remember when we both worked all week from morning till late. We would catch up with everything on Saturdays. First thing l wanted to do after breakfast was shopping, then cooking and cleaning at the same time.

My husband would want to just relax and enjoy a beautiful day with his family. That means he would call the kids and choose a nice family movie. Any woman reading this can already see the look on my face, when l walked into the family room and found them watching a movie.

Instead of asking for help, l would go shop, come back and start cleaning and cooking. By the time “the movie” was over, I’d have completed everything and showered. What would have taken less than two hours with help took a maximum of four hours. It would then be a resentment-filled, stressed-out weekend – because no one helped me.

Once again, my husband would spend the day trying to cheer me up. He remained clueless about all this, until l decided to verbally complain. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Men are strong, aren’t they? I know I’m spoilt rotten but l thank God for His grace has changed me.

As wives, we shoulder a lot of responsibilities and go through a lot of hardship. However, we should never allow life and its challenges to break the person God created us to be. We don’t have to camouflage our identity to blend with circumstances.

Why am l saying this? l have spoken to many hurting women who confess to changing their personalities in retaliation for bad experiences. If you were created a humble, kind and loving person, continue being you and find the grounds which allow you to do that. Each creation thrives in its own unique habitat. Find yours and bloom as you.

If by any chance there are existing issues with your marriage, look at the person in the mirror first before blaming anybody. More often than we realize, we create marital problems from very small issues. With our thoughts being too noisy, we miss out on the facts which steered things to the wrong direction. We live in a very stressful world, and everyone is seeking peace, acceptance and love.

If this life’s essentials are missing in our own homes, our families are more likely to be scattered in search of them. For this reason, make your family miss home whenever they are out there. All women have the ability to do this, not just for your husband but for your sons and daughters too. Build a solid foundation for your family, will you?

All the best, I love you all.

Thought For the Soul:

“The world never fails us; our inability to learn and change is the culprit.”

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