Being a Woman of Grace

BEING A WOMAN OF GRACE

I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’  It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.

Maturity.  I love this word and it’s meaning.  I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.

Complete in growth.  Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.

When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily.  I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.

While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama.  Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.

A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us.  The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.

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Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded.  It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.

Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.

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Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.

The Ungraceful Woman

To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner.  She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!

Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect.  A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away.  Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself.  She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target.  She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.

The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)

Why do people attack others?  Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move?  Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?

Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common: 

The desire to shame or punish others

When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country.  He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them.  His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society.  This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…

because they “deserve it.”

To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.”  The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.

Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way.  In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,

While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor.  And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified.  They feel sensible.

If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.

Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:

1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right.  Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong

2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.

3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness.  Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.

Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others.  She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change.  She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).

In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity.  Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,

Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.

Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman  – a woman who is mature.

Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings

If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom.  Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.

Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….”  Philippians 1:3-7

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“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  Hold firmly the message of life.”  Philippians 2:13-14

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“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore all who are mature should think this way.  And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also.  In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.”  Philippians 3:12-16

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“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.  Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:12-17

Between Contact and Connection

BETWEEN CONTACT AND CONNECTION

A monk was being interviewed by a journalist from New York.

Journalist: “Sir, in your last lecture, you told us about ‘Contact’ and ‘Connection’. It’s really confusing. Can you explain?”

The monk smiled and, apparently deviating from the question, asked the journalist: “Are you from New York?”

Journalist: “Yeah…”

Monk: “Who are there at home?”

The journalist felt that the monk was trying to avoid answering his question since this was a very personal and unwarranted question. Yet he said: “Mother has expired. Father is there. Three brothers and one sister. All married…”

The monk, with a smile on his face, asked again: “Do you talk to your father?”

The journalist looked visibly annoyed…

The Monk: “When did you talk to him last?”

The journalist, suppressing his annoyance, said: “Maybe a month ago.”

The monk: “Do you and your brothers and sisters meet often? When did you meet last as a family?”

At this point, sweat appeared on the forehead of the journalist. It seemed that the monk was interviewing him.

With a sigh, the journalist said: “We met last at Christmas two years ago.”

The monk: “How many days did you all stay together?”

The journalist, wiping the sweat on his brow, said: “Three days…”

Monk: “How much time did you spend with your father, sitting right beside him?”

The journalist, looking perplexed and embarrassed, started scribbling something on a paper…

Monk: “Did you have breakfast, lunch or dinner together? Did you ask how he was? Did you ask how his days are passing after your mother’s death?”

Drops of tears started to flow from the eyes of the journalist.

The monk held the hand of the journalist and said: “Don’t be embarrassed, upset or sad. I am sorry if I have hurt you unknowingly… But this is basically the answer to your question about “Contact and Connection.” You have ‘Contact’ with your father but you don’t have ‘Connection’ with him. You are not connected to him. Connection is between heart and heart – sitting together, sharing meals and caring for each other, touching, shaking hands, having eye contact, spending some time together… All your brothers and sisters have ‘Contact’ but no ‘Connection’ with one another.”

The journalist wiped his eyes and said: “Thanks for teaching me a fine and unforgettable lesson.”

This is the reality today. Whether at home or in the society everybody has lots of contacts but there is no connection. Everybody is busy in his or her own world. … Let us not just maintain ‘Contact’ but let us remain ‘Connected’ – CARING (FOR), SHARING (WITH) AND SPENDING TIME WITH ALL OUR DEAR ONES, especially our parents, spouses and children, even including siblings.

How Broken Trust Regrows: 10-Stage Progression

HOW BROKEN TRUST REGROWS: 10-STAGE PROGRESSION

Brad Hambrick

How does broken trust in a marriage regrow? Growth in trust will require your spouse personally investing in change and your willingness to take relational risks. Your spouse’s growth alone will not create trust without your willingness to take a relational risk. Your willingness to take a relational risk without your spouse’s growth will not produce lasting trust.

How to Use the Ten-Stage Progression

The ten stage progression below of how broken trust regrows assumes a relationship is at its most trust-broken point. Not all marriages that experience the betrayal of sexual sin will start at stage one.

As you read through this progression, two key questions to ask are,

  1. “Where was I at the darkest point after learning of my spouse’s sin?” and
  2. “Where am I now?”

The ways in which trust has already begun to regrow can be a source of encouragement for the journey ahead.

After asking these two questions, make an observation, “What’s next in the restoration of trust?” Chances are the next stage in trust restoration will not be as close to “complete emotional and logistical reliance” as you fear.

The goal for this post is to help you see that if you are currently thinking, “I could never be at a ‘10’ of trust again,” that trust is not as all-or-nothing as we are prone to think when we are hurt.

Finally, you will notice the stages are more descriptions than action steps. These are not necessarily things for you to do, but ways to identify where your marriage is in the trust restoration process and shrink the change you’re asking God to do next. As we become less overwhelmed with what God is likely to do next, we tend to become more cooperative with His work

Here are the ten stages of how broken trust regrows:

1. Require Third Party Mediation

At this level of trust-brokenness, you do not feel safe (at least emotionally) to be with your spouse without someone else present. The high end of this level might sound like, “You can go to counseling, but I’m not going with you. I’ll go separately and tell the counselor my side of the story.”

At this stage, trust is built as you hear your spouse be honest with another person and receive correction or instruction from that person. You still doubt your spouse is being totally honest or would listen to you, but you begin to see your spouse is not a total liar who is so committed to his/her lies. As your spouse cooperates, you begin to trust your spouse vicariously through the trust you build for the third party (often a counselor).

2. Listen and Require Validation

Now you are willing to talk with your spouse in a one-on-one conversation, but you are skeptical of most everything he/she says. You don’t believe your spouse. You believe facts. If your spouse has facts to back up what he/she says, you will trust that much and little more.

This is a tedious way to communicate, but feels necessary in order to avoid pain greater than the inconvenience. Any statement that is not factual (i.e., future promise, interpretation of event, expression of feeling, etc.) is viewed as deceptive, unsafe, manipulative, or insulting. As a pattern of validated facts emerges, you begin to trust that there is some commitment to live in reality that exceeds your spouse’s desire for personal expediency.

3. Listen and Require Less Validation

Listening to your spouse now feels like less work. The rate at which you are searching for questions and processing information as you listen decreases. Giving the “benefit of the doubt” for things you are uncertain about is still unnatural and feels dangerous.

Any statement that is incomplete or slanted too positively is assumed to be intentional deceit and creates a trust regression. As the majority of your spouse’s statements prove to be accurate, the practical necessities of life create an increasing reliance upon your spouse. Each time you notice this happening, you may still feel highly cautious.

4. Rely on Spouse Functionally

Whether separated or in the same house, you begin to “do life together again.” A process of basic life tasks (i.e., formal or informal budgeting, scheduling, transporting children, etc…) begins to be created or reinstituted.

This level of trust within a marriage feels very much like “living as roommates.” The dissatisfying nature of this arrangement can often discourage continued growth (i.e., “I don’t want to stay married out of a sense of duty”), but this discouragement should be decreased by understanding where it falls in the process of trust restoration.

5. Share Facts

As you functionally “do life” with your spouse, there is the opportunity for you to begin to share more of you again. To this point you have been receiving information much more than giving information.

At the stage you begin the process of “giving yourself” to your spouse again. You allow yourself to be known at a factual level. Questions from your spouse that start with “Why” or “How come” are still met with defensiveness. During this stage, questions that start with “Would you” become more comfortable as you allow your spouse to influence the “facts” (i.e., schedule) of your life again.

6. Share Beliefs

As you become more comfortable sharing facts with your spouse again, that naturally leads to sharing what you think about those facts. Conversations become more meaningful as you share more of what you like, dislike, agree with, disagree with, and want from the events of life.

You can now talk about the way you believe things “should” be without a tone of judgment, sadness, or guilt overpowering the conversation. As you share your beliefs, you feel more understood and appreciated. At this stage, you and your spouse may have to relearn (or learn for the first time) how to have different opinions or perspectives while protecting the unity of the marriage.

7. Share Feelings

Up until this stage, emotions have likely been “thrust at” or “shown to” more than “shared with” your spouse. At this level of trust, you are willing to receive support, encouragement or shared participation in your emotions.

An aspect of the “one flesh” relationship is returning (Gen. 2:24). You are beginning to experience your burden being reduced and your joys multiplied as you share them with your spouse. The marriage is beginning to feel like a blessing again.

8. Rely on Spouse Emotionally

Now you find yourself able to relax when he/she is away. You are able to believe your spouse is transparent and sincere when he/she tells you about their day or shares with you how he/she is feeling. It is now the exception to the rule when suspicions arise within you about your spouse’s motive for saying or doing something.

9. Allow Spouse to Care for You

Allowing your spouse to express affection has lost the sense of “invasion” or being “unclean.” When your spouse wants to serve you, you no longer think he/she is doing an act of penance or cynically question what he/she will want in return later. Your spouse’s efforts to bless you can be received as blessings rather than being treated as riddles to be solved or dangerous weights on the “scales of justice” that will be used to pressure you later. You can savor the sweetness of love without bracing for a bitter aftertaste.

10. Relax and Feel Safer With Spouse than Apart

This is trust restored. Your spouse’s presence has become an anchor of security rather than a pull towards insecurity. Your spouse’s presence reduces stress in troubling circumstances. You find yourself instinctively drawn to your spouse when something is difficult, upsetting, or confusing. Even when he/she doesn’t have the answer, their presence is its own form of relief and comfort.

Ultimatums and Time Tables

There is intentionally no pacing guide for this trust progression. In this regard, growing in trust requires trust. It is an act of faith not to say, “I’ll give it three months and if we’re not at level seven, then I don’t think there’s any hope for us.” That kind of time-pressured environment stifles the growth of trust.

Ultimatums are even more ineffective. When you try to make a deal (i.e., “Unless you stop

[blank]

or tell me [blank], then I am not moving to the next level of trust”) you undermine actual trust being built (i.e., “You only did that because I made you.”).

Your goal in reading this progression is merely to gain an understanding of where you are in the development of trust and what is next. Efforts at artificially accelerating the process will ultimately do more harm than good.

This material is an excerpt from the “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin” seminar. This teaching segment is covered in step seven of those materials. Many of the “but what about…” questions that undoubtedly arose while reading this post, were likely covered in earlier portions of this curriculum.

8 Relationship-Saving Principles You Can Start Using Tonight

8 RELATIONSHIP-SAVING PRINCIPLES YOU CAN START USING TONIGHT

Jay and Lori Pyatt

I’ll be honest with you. I betrayed my wife. 

I lied to her almost every night for four straight years. I did a quick estimate and figured that I lied at least 1,000 times to her face in those four years. I know how to destroy trust in a relationship. 

Thankfully, I learned how to rebuild that trust.

It wasn’t easy.

It was the single hardest, worst, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done–and I have run a marathon.

But, I did it. And here is the really important thing: rebuilding trust is worth it.

While your relationship will never be the same as it was, it could actually be even better.

Here’s why:

  • You will heal the person you betrayed.
  • You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
  • Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying for both of you.

The years of pornography did a lot of damage, but what I found to be even more damaging was the lies I told and the behavior that surrounded my actions.

For quite some time, I didn’t fully understand the damage I had done to my relationship with my spouse.

FoolishlyI thought that just telling the truth would fix things. My thought was, “If I quit lying, everything will be OK. I just have to be honest when she asks me questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.”

This didn’t work. There is little ground for telling the truth when you have already been lying for so long. There isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. Even after I stopped lying, my wife still didn’t feel safe, and she certainly didn’t trust me. Stepping forward with the truth wasn’t enough to turn our relationship around.

I had to become radical in my honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously. I had to grow. I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Like I said, rebuilding trust challenged me more than anything I have ever done.

Can You Rebuild Trust?

My very firm answer on this is, well, “maybe.”

Not everyone chooses a relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed. Sometimes the cost to the betrayed person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.

However, I rebuilt trust, so it can be done. I actually help other guys and they have rebuilt trust in their marriages as well.

There is hope for you, if you are willing to do the work. 

Hard work. 

Scary work.

Are you willing to do it? Because if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.

How to Rebuild Trust

Okay, if you are still with me, then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with lies, deception, or sneakiness.

To rebuild trust, I needed to take a different approach than I had in the past. My normal behaviors and attitudes led me to me where I was, but they would not guide me to where I ultimately wanted to be.

In simple terms, I had to “grow up”; I lived in an immature and uneducated state of mind. Growth is painful – ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new habits takes effort, focus, and a degree of suffering.

Just telling you to “grow up” isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I am okay with the insulting part: if you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through honorable behavior.

Here are seven relationship-saving principles to integrate into every interaction with the person you betrayed. You will need to work on and use each of these principles constantly in the rebuilding process.

1. Humility

This principle is the building block for all of the others that will follow. Repairing your relationship should be a humbling experience. 

In my personal definition, humility is knowing the truth of who you are and accepting it. For me, I frequently chose self-loathing over of humility. Self-loathing causes problems because we want to see ourselves in a better light and might resist accepting the truth of our actions.

Humility also means letting your hurting spouse share their own pain without fear of judgment or being fixed. They need you to feel their pain, because only you can heal it effectively.

2. Consistency

To rebuild trust, I had to be consistent. Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start something good, only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just reminded her of how little she could count on me.

So, if you start something, stick to it.

There are some pitfalls to consistency, but you need to stay consistent or the person you betrayed will see this as playing with their trust (and heart).

Stay consistent, or your efforts are a waste.

3. Proactivity

To be honest, this word annoyed me for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”

I didn’t get it. “I think I know what the word means, but not what it means mechanically. What am I supposed to do proactively?”

The answer is: take action on your own initiative. Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what they need. Go ask them.

Once they tell you what they need, go do it. 

4. Meeting Needs

The person you broke trust with has specific needs. Find out what they are.

Now, go back to step three and start meeting these needs proactively.

This is the growth process I mentioned earlier. You will have to set your own needs aside to meet the needs of the other person. Considering the possible alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

5. Openness

Openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin. Honesty means that if I ask you a question, you tell me the truth. Openness means that you tell me the truth without me having to ask the “right” question, especially in areas where trust is broken.

Rebuilding trust requires a new level of communication with the person you betrayed. 

You must talk to them about what you are doing, plain and simple.

I am not saying, “Hey, this is a good idea!” I am telling you that openness is a requirement. If you aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may never rebuild trust.

Giving full access to the person you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make things right.

So, if you betrayed them through money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media, and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you are up to.

6. Vulnerability

When it comes to the scariest words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top; at least it was for me.

Vulnerability is the very reason I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or anger, all of which were justified from my behavior.

I regularly tell the guys I work with, “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your vulnerability.” 

I really think of vulnerability as taking off the armor that I previously used to protect myself. 

For me, anger was my armor. When my wife would ask uncomfortable questions, I instantly put up a shield of anger. This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up, but it’s far from helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation, or you might run away and shut down. 

The other person really needs you to listen to them, even though it feels purely miserable to discuss the topic they brought up.

They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they are going through, specifically how bad it feels for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.

7. Ownership

Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on the other person. 

Then, keep taking responsibility for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.

I say that because I like to minimize responsibility for my actions. I nearly ended my marriage trying to salvage my image with the very person I lied to. 

So, when my wife would say, “Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I responded with something like, “I didn’t say that. I said I only looked at YouTube videos at work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…”, and the breakdown would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions. 

This kind of behavior makes people crazy.

8. Blind Spots

Believe it or not, I am not clear on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed. This means that I have blind spots – areas of my personality that I am completely unaware of and need help to see.

Ask the person you betrayed for help with this. This requires humility, a teachable spirit, and a willingness to learn.

Once you discover these blind spots, start working on them, or at least own their existence. Because these could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.

Give Them Time

These are the basics, and you need to practice them. While you are doing this, the other person will need time to heal and ultimately decide if it is worth staying.

I lied for four years in the last go-round; I shouldn’t be shocked that it took almost four years to fix things, especially since I dragged my feet on these topics and made them much more difficult than they needed to be.

Get Help

My work with men to rebuild trust in their own relationships has shortened the recovery time to somewhere between four and eighteen months, depending on the breakdown and situation.

Saving your relationship is far from easy, and you will need a network of support.

It also helps to work with someone who went through a similar experience, so use my bio below to contact me for more information.

Because I have done this, I know you probably can as well. Don’t lose hope; just keep practicing these principles every day.

Making Friends With Other Parents Is Like Dating

MAKING FRIENDS WITH OTHER PARENTS IS LIKE DATING

Lyz Lenz

THE GIST

  • Make friends by trying new activities with your child; volunteering at school; joining local mom groups; and signing up for baby yoga, music lessons and story time. 
  • Find like-minded parents in the places you already frequent: parent-child classes at your gym, mom night at a local wine bar or a baby-friendly movie screening. 
  • Be proactive about introducing yourself to other parents in your neighborhood.
  • Initiate conversations without expectations — just because someone doesn’t want to hang out, doesn’t mean they hate your face. 
  • Find your people by searching interest-specific Facebook groups and Reddit forums for parents in your neighborhood.
  • The isolation of the early weeks and months of parenthood is a finite phase, like teething. As your kids age, making friends will become easier, with more opportunities to connect.

The birth of my second child threw my world into chaos. I went from being a working parent of one manageable child to a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and an infant. I felt alone, and my nipples ached while I cleaned poop off the floor. What I needed was a friend. 

I struck up a conversation with a mother at my daughter’s preschool. I thought it went well, so I asked, “Want to go out for coffee sometime?” She shrugged, “You should go out with my sister. You both seem to need friends.”

I never went out with her sister. But by continuing to make my neediness known and asking moms online and offline out for dates, I did find my friends (and I stopped bragging to my toddler about my degrees). Study after study show that people with strong friendships are happier, healthier and more satisfied with their lives. Additionally, friendships are a relief valve for the pressure of other roles in our lives, like parenthood. 

Finding parent friends can be just as fraught and unnerving as dating, so I spoke to two authors who wrote books about parenting and friendship, and to parents from all over the country, about how to find new friends as a parent.

WHAT TO DO

Start close to home.

Melanie Dale, author of “Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends,” offers a practical, step-by-step approach to meeting new parent friends. She advises that parents stick close to home — try meeting local parents at a park or pool, or even a mall playground close to you. Some movie theater chains have mommy-and-me screenings on weekday mornings and afternoons (Google your city and “baby-friendly screenings” to find some). 

It can seem a little awkward to go to your local children’s museum just to “pick up” another mom. But rest assured, you aren’t the only one on the lookout for friends. Michael Auteri, a New Jersey-based father of a toddler, met his best dad friend on the bus commuting into New York City. They saw each other every day, so Auteri struck up a conversation about a book the other dad was reading. One thing led to another: Now, they meet at least once a month at a park with their kids in tow.

Make the first conversational move.

Dale advises starting a conversation with a fellow mom by giving her a compliment, something about her child or clothes or ability to calmly handle a tantrum. But you may be able to bond over negativity, too: I met a mom friend when my son was an infant and I was breastfeeding at a park. She overheard me grumble to myself about boob sweat, and we’ve been friends ever since.    

Dale also encourages parents to initiate contact without expectations. “If another mom tells you she can’t hang out, she may just be busy or maybe she was burned from her last friendship and she’s nervous,” Dale said. “And for those of us who are not initiators, maybe we need to say ‘yes’ next time someone gets up the courage to ask us out on a mom date.”

Rachel Bertsche, author of “MWF Seeks BFF,” encourages new parents stuck at home with a baby to sign up for a music class or baby yoga. These classes are really for the parents, she explained: “No 1-month-old is going to turn into a concert pianist. It’s just a fun way to get out of the house and meet other parents.” 

Find an online parenting group that’s right for you.

Online parenting groups can be miserable, with in-fighting and passive aggressive comments, but they can also be an amazing way to find your tribe. Bertsche recommends trying Facebook Groups, Meetup or apps like Peanut and Bumble’s friend feature to find your perfect parent match. You can search Facebook Groups for parent groups in your neighborhood. Even in my small Iowa town, there are hundreds of groups organized by interests ranging from yoga to a favorite TV show to cloth diapering. Meetup also has meetings organized for parents filtered out by interests. My local baby store has a Facebook group for parents in the area and regularly hosts meetups at the store. Most online groups will come with scheduled events and playdates that make it easier for you to take initiative. 

It’s hard to know what groups suit you until you spend some time in them, learn their rules and see how they handle controversy. Try to find groups that reflect your personality. If you are low-key and jokey, filter through groups for that tone. Bertsche met a mom friend by swiping through Bumble’s friend feature and swiping right on a woman who said she wanted to do things without her kids. “That’s how I knew we’d get along,” she explained.

Let your kids do the talking.

As the wife of a pastor, Lisa Cooper, based in Michigan, has moved quite a bit, so she relies on her children’s friendliness to make friends. “It helps when you have kids who will talk to other kids. My youngest toddled over to another toddler, and they started playing. So I talked to the mom of the other kid. Now we’re best friends!”

Host a playdate outside your house.

When kids are little, before the blessed drop-off playdates begin, Bertsche recommends meeting at a neutral third-party location, where kids can play and parents can talk. Go to a playground and then to coffee. Or the zoo and then lunch. Or pack a picnic and go to a concert in the park.

Bertsche suggests finding a place where you won’t always be chasing your kids and hosting more than one parent at a time. “It takes the pressure off, and there are fewer awkward silences when there are more parents around,” she said. It also makes it easier to leave if the interaction is going south. 

Accept that not every relationship is built to last.

Dale breaks down the stages of parent friendships into “bases.” No, you don’t have to kiss anyone. For Dale, first base is the awkward small talk at the park. Second base is the initial playdate at a neutral location. Third base is a playdate at home. And a home run is when you hit it off and start meeting without children around. “Some friends come into our lives just for a season, sometimes literally a baseball season or a soccer season, and then you change teams, your kid quits the sport, and you never see each other again and that’s O.K. But once in a while, you find a lifelong friend,” Dale said. 

Raquel Reyes lives in Miami and said that every parent she meets seems to cycle in and out of the city, which makes keeping and maintaining friendships hard. She met a group of good parent friends by volunteering at her local Unitarian Universalist church. They keep in touch by scheduling monthly lunches and checking in weekly on a WhatsApp group chat.

The initial desperation to create new parent friendships is just a phase like teething. Give yourself some kindness. Eventually you will find your people. And then, when kids start school, you’ll find a whole new set of parent friends.

Put in the effort to maintain new friendships.

Parents are busy; it’s hard for them to prioritize friendships. And making good friendships takes time. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of time together to go from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend and 200 hours to move from friend to good friend. Bertsche suggests penciling in a regular time to meet up, whether it’s a monthly playdate or a happy hour. “Having that standing date keeps the guess work and effort out of maintaining the relationship,” she advised.

SOURCES

‘Arrogant.’ ‘Ruthless.’ And Unapologetically Themselves

‘ARROGANT.’ ‘RUTHLESS.’ AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY THEMSELVES

Maya Salam

“I feel this team is in the midst of changing the world around us as we live.” — Megan Rapinoe, the United States’ star attacker and the World Cup’s top scorer

When the athletes of the United States women’s soccer team celebrated their 13 unanswered goals against Thailand in the first round, they were called “arrogant.”

When they tore past France in the quarterfinals, they were called “ruthless.”

And when President Trump, responding to a months-old clip of Megan Rapinoe using an expletive to say she wouldn’t visit the White House if the team won the World Cup, told her to win “before she talks,” she and her teammates continued talking.

As the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich famously said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” On Sunday, the American women’s team did just that — securing a record fourth World Cup championship to maintain its reputation as the world’s greatest women’s soccer team (and one of the world’s greatest sports teams, period).

In the process, the Americans did more than shine as symbols of athleticism and teamwork; they affirmed themselves as fighters for equality on multiple fronts.

Here are three ways the team has elevated issues of fairness.

Megan Rapinoe celebrating with teammates after scoring the United States’ first goal against the Netherlands during the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday

The fight for pay equity

After the American women sealed their victory in Lyon, France, chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” began to grow inside the stadium.

The American team will be awarded $4 million for its win, while the winners of the men’s World Cup last year received $38 million. Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, said the organization would double the total women’s prize for the 2023 tournament — but it’s also expected to raise the men’s award in 2022.

In 2015, the United States Soccer Federation awarded the women’s team $2 million for winning the World Cup. In 2014, the men’s team earned $9 million even though it did not advance past the first rounds.

Not surprisingly, the women’s national team is not taking that disparity lying down.

In March, all the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, accusing it of years of “institutionalized gender discrimination.” They also noted that the argument that the men’s team generates more money simply isn’t true.

According to the suit, the federation had expected a combined net loss for the national teams of $429,929 from the 2016 fiscal year, but largely because of the successes of the women’s team’s, it revised its projections to a $17.7 million profit.

Defying the sportsmanship double standard

As the United States team rampaged against Thailand in its first World Cup match last month, the players leapt and celebrated nearly every goal. Clare Rustad, a former player for the Canadian national team, called the celebrations “disgraceful.”

Last week, striker Alex Morgan pretended to sip from a teacup after scoring against England in the semifinal. Lianne Sanderson, her former National Women’s Soccer League teammate, said the celebration was “distasteful.”

“I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports,” Morgan said. “We have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion.”

“You see men celebrating all over the world in big tournaments,” grabbing their crotches and that sort of thing, she said.

And Rapinoe, when asked about the team’s celebrations said: “What do you want us to do? We work hard. We like to play hard.”

The Role of Spouses in Making Decisions

THE ROLE OF SPOUSES IN MAKING DECISIONS

Os Hillman

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

When John Benson decided to make some financial investments in a new business venture, he was very excited about the possibilities for a handsome financial return. His business and financial background had served him well. John felt strongly that his wife Jenny would not understand the complexity of his investment, so he casually mentioned it to her. When she asked a few simple questions, John became defensive and justified his plans for investing in the venture.

A year later, after investing a large sum of money, John received a phone call from the investment company. All the investors who had put money in the company were going to lose their investment with no ability to recoup it.

This story could be retold repeatedly across the world. God’s principles for making decisions require input from both spouses, regardless of their level of expertise. If you are not married, make sure you seek wisdom from a few close associates you know and trust.

God has called married couples to be one. If we seek to make decisions independently, then we benefit from only 50% of the intended resource God has placed within our grasp. In marriage this stewardship of decisions requires two people. God blesses this union by honoring the decisions made with the motive of glorifying God and relying on His Spirit to lead in our decision-making process.

Before you make a major decision, get confirmation for your decision from your spouse.

25 Lessons You Will Appreciate When You’re Ready for a Simpler Life

25 LESSONS YOU WILL APPRECIATE WHEN YOU’RE READY FOR A SIMPLER LIFE

Angel Chernoff

When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated.

It’s time to focus on what matters, and let go of what does not.

For almost a decade now, Marc and I have been learning to do just that—live a simpler life.

Not simpler as in “meager.” Simpler as in “meaningful.”

We’ve been working on eliminating many of life’s complexities so we’re able to spend more time with people we love and do more activities we love. This means we’ve been gradually getting rid of mental and physical clutter, and eliminating all but the essential, so we’re left with only that which gives us value.

Our overarching goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving us with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing and stress, but instead contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects we love.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we have zero clutter and complications. We’re human and living in the real world with everyone else. We have a home, possessions, computers, gadgets, distractions and occasional busyness. But we have reduced it to make space.

Today, after finishing up a call with a new course student who’s working diligently to simplify various aspects of her life and business, I’ve been reflecting on this simpler life Marc and I have created for ourselves, and I thought I’d share some of these reflections with you.

Some lessons I’ve learned about living a simpler life:

  1. A simpler life is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. Thus, you are wealthy in proportion to the number of unnecessary things you can afford to live without.
  2. Simplifying is not merely seeing how little you can get by with, but how efficiently you can put first things first, and use your time accordingly to pursue the things that make a difference and mean the most to you.
  3. Besides the art of getting things done, there is the often-forgotten art of leaving things undone. The simplicity and efficiency of life relies heavily on the elimination of non-essentials.
  4. Overcommitting is the biggest mistake most people make against living a simpler life. It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with to-do list tasks or distractions. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space.
  5. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are so many activities that sound fun and exciting. We check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat and see what others are doing and immediately want to add these things to our lives. But before you let these new ideas get the best of you, remember that by adding too many things to your life, you are subtracting space. And that space is vital to focusing on what matters most.
  6. Distractions are both more tempting and more damaging than we realize. When we fill our lives with distractions, its often because we’re scared of what life might be like without constant social media, TV, video games, snacks, chats, music, etc. Don’t numb yourself with noise. Don’t let distractions hold you back. Control your distractions before your distractions control you.
  7. You can’t live a simpler life if you’re unwilling to change and let go of what you’re used to.
  8. Priorities don’t get done automatically. You have to make time for what’s important to you: time with your significant other, time with your kids, time for creating, time for learning, time for exercise, etc. Push everything else aside to make time. By saying no to more things that sound really exciting, you get to say yes to more of what’s truly important.
  9. Rising earlier helps. A quiet, unrushed morning routine is a gift to treasure. (I awake early so that I have quiet time to read, write, and practice a gratitude meditation.)
  10. Letting go of old routines and habits and building new ones can be hard, but it’s easier if you do a 30-day challenge. Let go of something for 30 days and see how it affects your life. (Letting go of cable TV was one of the best decisions Marc and I made a few years back—no more continuous, distracting noise in our home, and no more advertisements for stuff we don’t need.)
  11. Buying more stuff doesn’t solve our problems. Neither does more snack food or another TV program.
  12. Shopping isn’t a hobby, and it certainly isn’t therapy. It’s a waste of time and money, and inevitably leads to a cluttered life.
  13. When we travel lightly, we’re freer, less burdened, and less stressed. This applies to traveling through life too, not just traveling through an airport.
  14. It’s not how many, or how few, things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count. Thus, it’s better to have three good books on your bookshelf that you’re actually going to read rather than 300 you never get around to.
  15. Decluttering your physical space can lead to a less cluttered mental space. These visual distractions pull on us and distract us in more ways than we often realize. 
  16. Overthinking is one of the most rampant sources of stress and mental clutter. The key is to realize that the problem is not the problem. The problem is the incredible amount of overthinking you’re doing with the problem. Let it go and be free.
  17. Positivity always pays off in simplifying outcomes. So before you waste it on anger, resentment, spite or envy, think of how precious and irreplaceable your time is.
  18. Stay out of other people’s drama. And don’t needlessly create your own.
  19. A simpler, more positive mindset can be created anytime and anyplace with a change in thinking. Because frustration and stress come from the way you react, not the way things are. Adjust your attitude, and the frustration and stress evaporates.
  20. The simplest secret to happiness and peace in the present is letting every circumstance be what it is, instead of what you think it should be, and making the best of it.
  21. Gratitude always makes life easier to deal with. Because happiness comes easier when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.
  22. Make mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and move along. Waste not a minute on outcomes you can’t control.
  23. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. 
  24. The truth—your truth—is always the simplest path forward. If you listen closely to your intuition you will always know what is best for you, because what is best for you is what is true for you.
  25. The feeling you get from doing something important (and true) is far better and less stressful than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were doing it.

Afterthoughts

For the cynics out there who might say the list of lessons above is too long to be “simpler,” there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  • Identify what’s most important to you.
  • Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.

Of course, that advice is not terribly useful unless you understand how to apply it to various areas of your life… which is why I gave you the lessons above.

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.

The Surprising Benefits of Relentlessly Auditing Your Life

THE SURPRISING BENEFITS OF RELENTLESSLY AUDITING YOUR LIFE

Amy Westervelt

We tend to think that good marriages and happy families are born of love and care, not spreadsheets. But what if that’s wrong?

My husband had been trying to sell me on his method for years before I finally relented. An efficiency consultant who had once worked in the car industry in Japan, he wanted to “Toyota Way” our lives. I wanted him to keep his spreadsheets to himself.

But a house, a baby and some career changes later, as I was folding tiny T-shirts while doing an interview and rocking the baby’s chair with my foot, I gave in. I was overwhelmed. Maybe a spreadsheet could help after all.

The method, as my husband would be shouting right now, is of course more than just a spreadsheet. It’s based on the Japanese notion of “kaizen,”or continuous improvement, made famous in 2001 when Toyota singled it out as one of the pillars of the company’s success. You pick a goal, figure out the main components behind it, collect data on those components and work out what you can do to move closer to the goal.

In the case of Toyota, the goal was higher quality and increased profits. When we translated the idea to our home life, the goal was a little simpler but also a lot more complicated — happiness. We weren’t sure what drove it, so we decided to collect data on everything: how many hours we were sleeping a night, how long we spent on housework or child care, the amount of alone time, social time, commuting time, you name it. We assigned a score from one to 10 to each day, and then gave a primary reason for each score: not enough sleep, work sucked and, sometimes, “relationship bad feeling.”

Soon enough, we began to spot patterns: It turns out that the minimum number of hours I can sleep without wanting to run away from my family is five and a half. Less than an hour a week of personal time also sent me to a dark place. My husband found that his happiness rose and fell with hours spent hanging out with friends or sitting in traffic.

And so we started trying to improve our scores. We started small. I tried to shift around my workload to include more time to read and think. My husband began commuting by train so that he could bike from the station to work, incorporating exercise into his day and eliminating time spent in traffic altogether.

The project led to a major life change. Our spreadsheets hammered home that what contributed most to our happiness was time spent together or with friends — while, crucially, not working — and there was no way to get more of that if we continued to live in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive parts of the country. So I proposed an idea that would have seemed radical were there not so much data backing it: “I think you should quit your job, we should sell our house, and we should move somewhere cheaper,” I told my husband matter-of-factly one day. So we did.

Feeling uncomfortable right now? I get it. There’s a lot to feel anxious or eye-rolly about. I fully admit that in the first weeks of the project, I found it preposterous. I groaned about the time required to type in data, assign a score, all of it.

But a funny thing happened as I huffed through weeks of data collection. In addition to leading to a better understanding of what made us happy as a family, I also found the spreadsheet to be an incredibly useful tool for expressing things I might have otherwise avoided. It made the invisible visible. Instead of arguing about housework, for example, both feeling like we were doing more than our fair share, we could talk about it relatively objectively. On a day where I spent 14 hours taking care of the kids and doing house chores while my husband spent three, I was going to be unhappy, obviously. But we could just look at the numbers and then divvy up the chores evenly. Easy. No fight, no resentment. (Others have recently attempted more high-tech versions of a similar approach: One man, for instance, invented a chore-splitting app intended to keep track of who’s doing the bulk of the household work.)

It also enabled us to talk about what the transition to parenthood had meant for both of us — fewer work hours and loss of alone time for me; an intense commute and loss of social time for him — in a way that helped us stay away from competition or blame.

Before the spreadsheet, I had an idea I think many share: Marriage and family should more or less work. If you’re with the “right” person and you’ve made the “right” choices, your family life shouldn’t require a lot of discussion or effort. Your spouse should know that you need alone time and should give it to you. The appointments you keep in your head, the family social schedule you juggle — all of it should be noticed and appreciated. Good marriages and happy families are born of love and care, not spreadsheets and a daily happiness score.

But in the years since, I’ve reconsidered. Far from making our marriage seem cold and robotic, the spreadsheet sparked more honest conversations than we’d had in years. It also reminded us that we had more control over our lives than we had been exerting.

We stopped the project after a year or so, but started again last month. It’s five years since we first tried it, and we’re both feeling overwhelmed again. We’re in a much more precarious place financially now, after a few non-spreadsheet-related surprises, but we’re still determined to make whatever decisions we can to improve our lives.

In the course of researching a book on the history of motherhood in America, it occurred to me that this sort of exercise might be helpful for a lot of families, onerous as it may seem. Because the really intractable problems — like the social expectations placed on mothers, the gendered division of labor in homes, the invisibility of all sorts of care work — are not going to magically disappear. They’re not going to be erased simply by getting the right politicians elected or the right policies enacted (although those things will help).

People’s weird ideas about gender, about mothers and fathers and marriage and nuclear families, about who should do what and how much of it, about what really makes us happy, are deeply entrenched, often in ways we don’t even recognize. And so sometimes, when the baby is crying, when no one has thought about dinner, when bills need paying — when we’re caught, in other words, juggling some of the most fraught areas of our family lives, feeling emotional, ready to lash out — sometimes it really helps to have a set of calm, cool numbers on a spreadsheet.

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