Tag Archives: break-ups

Taking the High Road

It seems there are a lot of people in my life lately (both personally and professionally) who are processing through a divorce. None of them, unfortunately, are currently in that friendly divorce stage we all fantasize about. You know that fantasy stage, right? The one you talk about when you are still happily married and joke how , if you ever get divorced, you would keep it super friendly and civil and would ALWAYS put the kids first before any hurt feelings. I love that fantasy stage, but I can say I have rarely, if ever, actually seen it. The closest I have ever come has been several years post-divorce, when all the garbage has already been resolved.

OK, as I was saying, I have experienced a lot of divorces in my life lately. People who are getting divorced are inundated with advice from anyone and everyone at all times. Everyone feels entitled to give insight based on their own experiences. They are told not to be the “nice guy”; to fight for themselves; to lead by example and take the high road; to love the kids more than they hate each other. So much conflicting information!

I am here to advocate for the high road. You are not doing this for them, but for yourself. You can get consumed by anger and hurt and rage and not be able to recognize yourself in the mirror. Your Ex may not deserve the high road you are taking. They may deserve all of your revenge fantasies (and worse). But, and here’s the big but, you don’t deserve what that negativity will do to you and your life. You are not letting them off the hook by taking the high road, you are letting yourself off.

You are free to think they suck, to be disappointed they were not who you thought they were, and to generally not like them as a human being. But, I want you to focus on you. Focus on finding happiness in your own life. Choose positivity instead of negativity. If you have to see your Ex because you share children, be civil – you don’t have to ever be friends, but make it easier on yourself (and your children) and be civil.

I am a firm believer that people ultimately get what is coming to them in life. You don’t have to be the harbinger of their doom. Live your life. Focus on positive things for you and yours. The high road is all about you.

Relationship Reincarnation

Have you ever noticed some people keep going back to the same jerk over and over again? The jerk can be the same jerk even if he (or she) is in a different body. You’ve seen this, right? Maybe your friend consistently dates guys who cheat on her. Maybe you are only attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable or are total commitment phobes. Maybe your brother is only into people who are emotionally needy and cause him to run in the other direction. They are consistently unsatisfied in these relationships, but keep getting drawn back into them again and again.

This reminds me of part of the theory of reincarnation. The idea is people keep getting reborn to the same life until they resolve whatever problem/issue is keeping them from moving on. There are a number of religious and/or philosophical doctrines which follow these tenets. Basically, people are faced with a life challenge and, if they do not overcome it, then they will be reincarnated as a human to face the same challenge again. This happens until they finally overcome it and are able to move on.

I see relationship repeaters the same way. They don’t need to die and be reincarnated per se, but, instead, the relationship is reincarnated – over and over and over again. These individuals are doomed to repeat their relationship until they are able to identify their specific challenge and conquer it. This will enable them to move on and find a healthier relationship in the future. In my teen years and early twenties, I repeatedly dated “the player”. (I blame this on “Daddy issues” – mine is a bit of a man-whore and so were the guys I was dating.) Maybe I was trying to fix my dad through my relationships. Somehow I needed to “fix” him and turn him into a relationship-valueing guy. Huh? Gross. It finally came down to recognizing I didn’t need to find a guy to change, but rather a guy who was already relationship-quality.

What I want for you is to recognize when you are in a repetitive cycle – are your relationships on a self-destructive loop? If yes, take a moment to work on why you are being drawn back to this same type of person. What is the challenge they are representing to you? Do you need to learn how to accept healthy love? Do you need to learn “drama” isn’t necessary to feel excited about someone else? Are you learning you don’t have to “make” someone love you to have worth? Whatever it is – work on sorting it out. Hopefully you can break the cycle before you are too many incarnations into it.

You CAN and WILL survive the end of your relationship.

I hope this doesn’t sound heartless… I really do hope it doesn’t, but you need to know you will survive whether or not your relationship does. I say this coming from a place of a happy marriage of almost 16 years. I think it would monumentally suck if he was to leave me, but way down deep, I know I would survive it. Why? Well, I’d survive it because I would have to. I have a child. I have a job. I have friends. I have family. All of these things are things that would help me to get through and also would be reasons to make myself get through it.

You might be asking why it is important to know this about yourself. Well, if you feel the loss of a relationship would be something you couldn’t bear, it might cause you to act in a certain way. When you feel something HAS to work, you probably start to feel a bit desperate. This changes the way you behave.  You will do or say anything to maintain the relationship even if it is not in your best interest. Think of all the horrible things people have put up with in relationships: infidelity, abuse, neglect, substance abuse issues, criminal activities, I could keep going, but now I am just depressing myself. You need to know there is a line that if crossed, means you are out. You need to know that, though it may suck (big time), you could get out if you needed to. You would also survive if they used the escape hatch on your relationship.

This doesn’t mean, by any means, you are less committed to your relationship – I have no plans on going anywhere – just that you will not stay “no matter what.”  You can and will leave if the relationship becomes unhealthy and/or dangerous. If they leave you, you will find a way to move forward and rebuild your life. You can and will survive this.

Maybe it is a Little Bit You…

We’ve all heard those break-up stories – the couple sit there while one looks into the other’s eyes and explains they want to end the relationship. They try to let the other down easily and say those five little words, “It’s not you, it’s me.” What is this supposed to mean? It means the person ending the relationship is saying they aren’t able to be in the relationship despite the fact the person being dumped is fabulous and wonderful and a perfect person/partner. Do they actually mean this? Well, maybe/maybe not.

Look, harsh reality here – sometimes it really is you. Hearing this can spare you from having to hear these words again and again. I want you to pay attention to patterns even when they aren’t totally obvious. Do your relationships with boyfriends seem to end when you try to get too close too fast? This could be important information! Do you keep getting laid off from jobs as soon as they have an opportunity to downsize? Take notice! Are you struggling to connect in friendships and end up excluded with little to no explanation? Consider the role you may be playing in these relationships!

If you don’t notice these patterns, you are doomed to repeat them. Ooooh! Another saying is especially meaningful here – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). If someone tells you “It’s not you, it’s me” take a moment and think it through. Maybe, just maybe, it is a little bit you. This doesn’t have to be a painful reality – it is information you can build on to make your life even more amazing. Use it. Learn from it. Make changes as necessary and leave your ex in your dust.

You Teach People How to Treat You

You teach people how to treat you. This is important enough that I am going to say it again – you teach people how to treat you. If you are frustrated because you feel like the people in your life treat you poorly, maybe it is time to consider why this happening. You are an active partner in their dynamic – what are you doing to perpetuate this relationship? It is critical you figure this out if you want the situation to change because you cannot change something you aren’t aware of.

You can (and should) set limits and boundaries with others. If you have a friend who cancels on you often or blows you off, it is perfectly reasonable to tell them this isn’t OK. Explain how this makes you feel like you aren’t important to them and your friendship doesn’t matter. You friend is given fair warning their behavior is not OK, if they do not change you have a choice. Accept the relationship as it is or leave it. This is 100% your choice and you are responsible for what happens after that. You can’t continue to complain if she bails on you, you’ve accepted her as is.

If you allow your boss to call you at all hours regarding work or to demand long hours of overtime or to belittle you at work or to overwhelm you with unrealistic workloads, you are indicating (even silently) this is acceptable to you. This is a tricky situation. You and your boss are not equals. It is more difficult to set limits with her since she can fire you. If her behavior violates the law your situation might be clearer, but this is often not the case. You can attempt to discuss with her what you are willing and not willing to do, but she may tell you to go pound sand. You then have a choice – accept it or leave. If you choose to accept it, stop complaining or get out. (Reference previous blog on this topic: https://psychobabblechat.com/2014/12/11/you-have-no-right-to-complain/ )

You teach your mother whether or not it is OK to show up unexpectedly at your house. You teach your loved one if it is OK to be out of contact for a few days. You teach your friends if it is OK to make “jokes” at your expense. You teach your boss if it is OK to publicly chastise you for your mistakes. You teach your roommate if it is OK to have regular parties at your apartment. How do you teach them this? By allowing the behaviors to occur (often). Notice a pattern here? When faced with a situation where you are not happy with how someone is treating you (no matter the situation), you only have two choices. Accept it or leave it. If you accept it you are telling the other person it is OK to continue treating you the way they are. You are teaching them how to deal with you.

Introduction to Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl

Final Cover

In my professional life, I’m a psychologist and frequently get the privilege of working with teenage girls like you. I’m constantly amazed by the strength you show in overcoming life’s difficulties. Sometimes, though, you get just a bit lost. I know you’re not stupid. You’re far from stupid as a matter of fact. You’re so much savvier than I was at your age (eons and eons ago, but, despite what my daughter thinks, there were no dinosaurs). Despite your obviously superior smarts, many of the challenges I faced during my teen years continue to frustrate you and your friends today. A primary struggle may be knowing which people you can believe in and trust. Who can you look to for advice when you’re struggling? Often you may not want to discuss your problems with your parents—it’s OK; that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re learning how to find your own way and can’t do that if you’re looking to your mom and dad for everything.

I frequently hear that parents can’t relate any longer and are too old to understand. Unfortunately, your parents do sometimes know what they’re talking about, and you may miss out on that guidance. It may be incredibly hard to believe, but your parents were actually teenagers once dealing with love and friendships, parents, and problems much the same as you are now. Your mom may be able to understand what it’s like to get your heart broken and tell you how she got through it when it happened to her. You dad might have had a jerk teacher who treated him like crap and may be able to talk with you about how he handled it.

So, if not your parents, where else can you turn? Can you look to your friends? Well, they can be a source of phenomenal support and may be insightful in many ways—they’re in the trenches with you and can relate in ways others may not be able to. The trouble is that they don’t necessarily have any more life experience than you do. There’s something that can be gained from learning from those who have gone before you. So…where do you go?

Frequently, this insight may come from celebrities. These can be people older than you who have had more life experiences than you—all good, right? Well, maybe. The problem is that articles about them rarely contain any real advice. In interviews they are asked about fashion, how they stay thin, and the details of their love lives. These topics may make you feel worse rather than better. All too often the details of the celebrities’ lives are glamorized, which may cause you to feel as though your own life is insignificant. Articles discuss the exciting places where they travel or the other celebrities they date. Some will discuss the fitness regimens the celebrities use to stay in shape, but it will fail to acknowledge their personal trainers or chefs who prepare their meals.

How are you supposed to feel like you can compete? Celebrities are also rarely asked real questions in their interviews that real people can relate to. Maybe they’ll be asked what guidance they might give someone who is trying to break into their industry. Helpful to some, but most of you are not planning a career in the entertainment industry. It also fails to account for women who have achieved success in other industries (for example, business, politics, and sports).

That is where I got the idea for this book. I wanted to ask these successful women what advice shaped them during their teen years or for a piece of advice they wish they’d received when they were teenagers. I left the topic wide open for these women—they were free to write about whatever they wanted. I wanted this book to include women from a variety of industries as well as backgrounds. I wanted to include women whose names might be immediately recognizable to you because they’re actresses (like Kat Graham) or musicians (like Elie Golding), but I also wanted to include women you may have never heard of but definitely should, including politicians (like Janet Nguyen or Mimi Walters) and businesswomen (like Becky Quick).

You may be wondering how I picked these specific women in the first place and how they went from my dream list to actual participants in the book. This was trickier than you might think—it definitely was harder than I thought it would be. Initially, I brainstormed a list of women who I thought would have something useful to contribute. I searched the Internet and picked the brains of my friends and family. I made a list of their agents, business managers, public relations team, attorneys, personal assistants, and corporate contacts.

I then did something somewhat boneheaded. I mailed these contact people a letter explaining the project and why their person should participate. Interestingly, I learned almost no one reads letters anymore—especially unsolicited letters from a complete stranger (me). When I received little feedback from the letters, I realized email would be simpler. I again scoured the Internet to get contact information for those same agents, managers, and publicists, etc., and emailed a similar letter explaining the project. A few more responses began trickling in. Then I remembered the joy that is Twitter. I began tweeting like an idiot, trying to explain the project in 140 characters or less to women who have thousands of followers. This was key. Responses began flooding in.

So why would these amazingly successful women take time out of their busy schedules to participate in this project? Well, it definitely wasn’t for the money. There was none. They didn’t get a dime for their time and efforts. They did it for two reasons: First, they care about you. These women wanted to offer guidance to you as you navigate the difficult teen years. They also wanted you to know that you are not alone in your struggles; they’ve been there too and made it through to the other side. You can survive it too. The second reason was these wonderful women care about charity. I’m donating 50 percent of any royalties received to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

CHLA is a nonprofit hospital that depends on generous donations to help heal children in an environment that lets them thrive. Each year, more than 96,000 sick children come to the hospital for care. I worked at CHLA for a number of years and was consistently awestruck at the quality of care they were able to provide, and I wanted to find a way to contribute to that care. These women saw contributing to this book as a way to also contribute to CHLA. Follow the examples of these amazing women and find ways to give back. You can volunteer your time (or money) to a good cause (anyone you like) and Pay It Forward. You too can positively impact the lives of others.

All of the direct quotes that appear in this book appear entirely as I received them. They weren’t edited for content.

How to Divorce without Destroying your Kid

 I was talking to my 9-year-old, Charlie, about my blog – we were brainstorming ideas for my next few posts and she piped up with “When you get divorced from your parents.” I knew what she meant – I think. We’ve noticed more and more over the last few years how many of her friends from school and dance are being raised by divorced parents. I’ve observed divorced parents of all shapes and sizes with as many types of dynamics as you can imagine. They range from so incredibly close that they still spend holidays together (and you almost wonder why they broke up in the first place) to hate-filled and incapable of being in the same room together. My daughter’s focus for this blog was on how kids can handle these situations, but I don’t think a lot of kids read this blog, so I am focusing on you adults, especially those of you who might be parents.

  1. You’ve heard this before – always remember to love your kid more than you hate each other. As much as you are able to keep your co-parenting relationship a positive one, your child’s life will be easier. (They will also be less likely to be able to use the divide and conquer strategies children of divorce have been using for decades). This will make your life easier, too.
  2. Coordinate with your ex as much as possible so there is consistency across households with regard to rules and expectations, as well as rewards and consequences. Kids like it when things are predictable and they know what to expect – make it easier on them and have it be stable no matter who they are with.
  3. Keep your negative thoughts about your ex to yourself. Your child is half that parent and you don’t want them to think “I am half asshole”. Talk with a friend, a family member or (surprise, surprise) your therapist about your complaints about your ex. Your child is not, and should not be, your confidante.
  4. Do not introduce your child to the new man or woman in your life for a while. I’m talking at least a year. Give your child a chance to adjust to having two households before complicating things with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Only introduce them to someone who you think will be a permanent fixture in your life – like marriage. Your child does not need to get used to a steady stream of men and/or women rotating through their parents’ bedrooms.
  5. Outlaw the Disneyland parent. This was really common when I was a kid. The norm used to be that moms had primary custody and dads would have visitation every other weekend. Well, dad had a limited time with his kids and wanted to make the most of it. Therefore, they didn’t work on homework or clean bedrooms or do chores – instead they went bowling and out to eat and to the movies. All fun, all of the time. This created the idea that mom was boring and made them work and dad was a party and non-stop fun. Ban this in your relationship with your ex. You can both be a little fun and a little boring – it is more accurate and realistic.
  6. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions – “Why aren’t you and Dad together anymore?” and “Can’t you and mom move back in together?” You will likely be asked them repeatedly. Your child will be making sense of a new situation. Try to be consistent in your responses and keep your tone light and positive. Focus on how much you and your ex both love your child and how that will never change.
  7. Do not bring up finances with your child ever. Your child does not need to know their father is not paying enough in child support or their mother is not covering child care costs. These are conversations for you and your ex (lawyers, too, maybe), but never for your child. If your child ever asks, your response should be along the lines that this is not something they ever need to worry about and you and the other parent have it covered.

I may have forgotten a few things – any suggestions? The basics are try to be a kind person. There was something about your ex that you loved enough to have children with them and marry them. Remember that. I don’t care if they lied and cheated – if they are a loving parent and will treat your child well (well, well enough, no one is perfect) then get out of the way and be the bigger person. It may feel like you are letting them off of the hook, but really you are only letting your child off of the hook.

The Danger of Relationship Overconfidence

Lately on TV, I have been noting a number of shows are dealing with individuals in couples who are taking their relationships for granted and suffer as a consequence of this overconfidence in their partner’s affections. In discussing this I am going to have to acknowledge I watch a lot of ”chick TV”, but be nice – it is entertaining.

On Grey’s Anatomy – the couple in question are Drs. Arizona Robbins and Callie Torres. They have been a couple for a number of years and have experienced a number of struggles (Google the show if you need specifics – or just trust me), but throughout it all it has been Callie who has been fighting to keep this relationship afloat. Recently, Arizona asked for a “break” to figure things out and the ladies took 30 days apart. Imagine Arizona’s surprise at returning to the relationship ready to re-commit only to find Callie’s discovery she was happier apart and ready to move on.

On Parenthood – the couple in question are Joel and Julia Braverman. Again, this couple had been through their share of trials and tribulations (again Google it) culminating in Joel leaving and refusing to “work on it” despite Julia’s pleas. What happens? Julia moves on and finds new happiness, which rocks Joel’s world and now he is begging for her back.

There is an inherent danger in being overly confident your partner will always want you. It can cause you to behave recklessly and to jeopardize that love. I’ve obviously seen it on TV, but I have also observed it professionally. Too many of my clients (after the break-up) acknowledge there were things they could have (relatively) easily done to please their partner and only refused to do so out of laziness and/or spite. Our relationships (not just our intimate ones) require love, care and tending much like a garden. When you become complacent in a garden, it becomes overrun with weeds and your fruit, vegetables, flowers, whatever you are growing get choked off and begin to die. Relationships are much the same way. Do not assume everything will always be OK just because it is now. Don’t assume your partner will always love you, just because they do now. Work at your relationships much in the ways you did early on – dress with care, woo each other, make your partner a priority, listen when he/she speaks, hold hands, snuggle – the list could go on forever. You worked to get together, now you must work to stay together.

“It’s not you, it’s me… wait, maybe it is you.”

“It’s not you, it’s me.” Oftentimes at the end of a relationship, we try to avoid conflict or spare the other person’s feelings by offering this platitude. We might actually believe it at the time ourselves, but here is the harsh reality, sometimes it is you. If you find yourself experiencing the same types of interactions over and over again, you are definitely contributing to these dynamics.

Let me give you an example. I had a friend (who shall remain nameless) who really wanted to be in a relationship. She was frustrated that all of us were married except her despite the fact she was pretty, fun, smart and an overall amazing person. The downside? She was attracted to total douche bags (pardon my French). The more of a commitment-phobe he was – the more she was into him. If he was likely to lie and cheat, it was love. The strange thing was, each time, the guy would tell her at the end of the relationship it wasn’t her fault. He would take the blame for being unable to commit or for lying or for cheating. She kept being told it wasn’t her fault. BUT IT WAS! Not that they cheated and lied, but because she kept picking the exact same guy, just in a different body. Do you see why it was her fault?

Here is another way to look at it. I know this woman who struggles in her interactions with others. She is quick to be offended, has strong opinions and does not allow much room for the different opinions of others. She repeatedly experienced friendships ending, but was always told it was not her fault – they were too busy or too far away or a bad friend. “It’s not you, it’s me.” But in this case, it was (at least partially) her fault. She drove people away with her stridence, with her judgment and with her intolerance. These “friends” were not doing her any favors by taking all of the responsibility, rather they allowed her to continue with the same behaviors that had driven them out of her life, not knowing she was likely to keep doing so to others.

So… the moral of this story is this – you are not doing anyone any favors by taking all of the blame when there is plenty to go around. The conversation might be uncomfortable, but people are unable to change without being aware that there needs to be a change at all. If you keep hearing, “It’s not you, it’s me” in your own life, take a moment and look for patterns. Are you having similar experiences over and over again? If so, maybe it is (just a little bit) you.

How not to be broken by your break-up

A client recently asked me about the best way to handle a break-up. I don’t think there is a best way, rather ways that are healthier for you and those that are not. Many of you may have heard of the Kubler-Ross model of grief. It is typically taught as applied to terminally ill patients and their loved ones, but it applies to the end of relationships as well. The stages of grief associated with this model are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages can be applied to the world in general or directed toward the one who broke your heart. How you handle the break-up will likely change depending on which stage of grief you are in at the time.

Denial: You try to shut out the reality of the break-up and develop a false, preferred reality.

“It’s not really over – we are just on a break.”

Anger: angry at yourself, others, the one who broke up with you, a higher power, and all of the above.

“It’s all my fault!” or “It’s all your fault!” or “It’s all his fault!”

Bargaining: negotiating with yourself or others to get the relationship back.

“I’ll be nicer if we get back together.” or “Can we, at least, be friends?”

Depression: sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty. May become silent, isolated and spend much of time crying or sullen.

“I have nothing to live for.” or “I’ll never meet anyone else” or “I will die alone.”

Acceptance: coming to terms with the end of the relationship.

“This is hard, but I will be OK.”

Healthy things you can do when a relationship ends:

  • Spend time with family or friends (pretty much anyone who thinks you are awesome)
  • Allowing yourself time to “just be sad”
  • Acknowledging both the good and the bad about the relationship. Try not to create some fantasy where it was the best thing ever if it was not
  • Keep busy with hobbies or other interests to keep your mind distracted

Unhealthy (please don’t do these) things people do when a relationship ends:

  • Drugs and/or alcohol so they don’t have to think
  • Sleeping around to numb themselves
  • Stalking or any other obsessive behavior – please don’t monitor their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (you really don’t want to know)
  • Agreeing to “unagreeable” things to get their ex back (i.e., give up friends or family, accept drug abuse or criminal activity, etc)
  • Any form of self-injurious behaviors (cutting, burning, suicide)
  • Begging or other forms of self-degradation (maintain your dignity, if possible)

The most important thing you can do is find ways to take care of yourself.