What Is The Other Woman’s Perception Of The Wife?

So often I hear scenarios like I keep picking the wrong person over and over again to be in a relationship with. I’m a failure when it comes to relationships. Or, I’ve had four failed marriages and I’m not going for a fifth. Or, I’m a loser when it comes to relationships. So why bother trying again. How can I be so successful at work and be such a loser when it comes to women? Men?

Meetings of adult children from dysfunctional family systems are full of participants that can rattle off and analyze compelling reasons why their numerous relationships don’t work out leaving them feeling not good enough, adequate enough, loveable enough or in some way just not worth it. What this does is heighten the shame each already carries and reinforces being defined as a loser and a failure.

I remember the great cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead when asked why all her marriages failed responded by saying “I beg your pardon I have had three marriages and None of them was a failure”. I don’t think that most couples that marry today are mature enough for marriage. I stand by that. At the same time I don’t consider any person in a relationship, mature or immature, a failure at relationships. I do believe relationships do change form. They all will and sometimes it means it’s time to move on.

Anyone who was ever a success at anything just didn’t get that way overnight. My career was that of a family therapist. I was in private practice. In a joking way and with a lot of honesty, as well, I often asked clients when they were stuck in judging themselves harshly in regard to relationships, why do you think we in private practice call it a practice? It took years of successes with clients and so-called errors in judgment to be considered a success in my field. It takes perseverance and time to succeed at anything, including relationships. The point being, are you willing to learn and grow and let go of the harsh judgment?

Relationships work as long as they work and all relationships change form. Sometimes people stay together as the relationship changes its form and sometimes they part company. When I look back at relationships that I had prior to meeting my husband Tom, I realize that even though when one or the other in the coupleship decided to move on and there was pain, it was the pain or the problem(s) that led up to the pain, that always gave me an opportunity to strengthen my connection for my emotional and spiritual growth. I could have beaten myself up with what a failure I was, as many do, or I could have looked at what my role was and what I could have done better and then decide to change my ways.

In one relationship I rationalized not sweating the little stuff to excess. In other words, I simply let too much go that bothered me and what do you suppose happened. Eventually the negative energy that had been building up inside of me began seeping out and it wasn’t always pretty when it came out. When my inner pressure cooker really exploded he decided I wasn’t for him. That was when I took my first workshop in assertiveness training and learned how to be honest in my relationships so whomever I was with didn’t lose their dignity when I had an irritant. Some future relationships appreciated my honesty; some didn’t and didn’t stay around. That didn’t make me a failure or loser. It just meant the one I wanted hadn’t shown up yet.

I’m a big believer in The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. (other people, places, things)The courage to change the things I can. (me)

And, the wisdom to know the difference.

You see I believe maturing in a relationship is about having the willingness to take a look at your role when things aren’t going well and making the changes you need to make to clean up your side of the street. It’s responsible, it’s also loving and it’s definitely a step forward even if it takes you a lot of tries until you finally get the best outcome.

I didn’t sweat the small stuff with this particular person for more than a year and for more than a year there were several aspects that worked really well. We had fun and for a year we enjoyed each others company. However, the not so healthy thing that worked for a while, while I dated this man, was what led to the problems that required change. I got to have the illusion, like the words in the song by Billy Joel, “I Love You Just The Way You Are”. In the beginning, when we were in the honeymoon stage of our relationship those little irritants seemed like no big deal and I probably swallowed them down with a chocolate chip cookie refusing to be honest even with me. Doing that made me look and feel like such a nice easy-going person that truly led me to believe he was really lucky to have me as his girlfriend. I didn’t have to deal with being told “no”, becoming a nag, or getting rejected. Neither of us had to learn how to deal with conflict. I denied my own needs and desires to look good in his eyes and mine. In those days I would do whatever I had to do to avoid a conflict. Today, I truly believe what makes or breaks a relationship is how well couples deal with conflict.

In today’s world a relationship that starts out fun can change form just because each individual has a different idea on where the relationship is to go. He may want to get his career stabilized and she may be ready to say I do and have a baby. If they part ways does this make them failures? I don’t think so.

A person that stays in a relationship with a blamer, a control freak, a couch potato, an abuser, a bore, or an addict of any kind has their good reason for staying in that relationship too. This is why I say relationships work for as long as they work. Dr. Phil quite often asks his guests when they describe their conflicts in their relationships “how’s that working for you? Inevitably they say “not very well” but the truth is something is working well or they would change the form of the relationship. It may be something as simple as they know how bad, “bad” is in the relationship as it is and don’t know how bad, “bad” might be if they made a change and change may be more frightening so they stay with familiarity. They may believe they don’t deserve better or can’t do better and putting up with the way it is feeds that belief.

The purpose of all relationships is to learn and grow and sometimes mustering up the courage toward changing our ways can take several attempts and sometimes it may take a while to get started. But you are not a loser if at first you don’t see progress. It just means you may have a little more to learn or some belief is in your way that doesn’t serve you. The important thing is to not give power to a harsh judgment that shames you and if what you are doing isn’t working to your liking and you don’t see a way to correct it, you can always find a qualified professional to help you. I’m all for never giving up on loving yourself and asking for help when needed.

Seven Secrets of Happy Commuter Couples

Couple at the restaurant

When I was growing up, I always pictured myself in the “storybook” marriage with my spouse and me coming home from a long day’s work to share stories around the dinner table and relax on the couch. But, like many other American families, our reality turned out very different from this fantasy when I was asked to accept a job promotion which would take me 1,500 miles from my husband.

In 1999, I was working for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as the Executive Director of one of their subsidiary corporations, MMSI (Mayo Management Services, Inc.). I was happy in my role, but had aspired to serve in a more senior position long-term. When I was asked to consider a role in Mayo’s Phoenix, Arizona, location, I was thrilled professionally, but not certain if or how I could take on the new position since my husband was a professor at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota and would not be able to re-locate to Arizona with me.

I went home and discussed the opportunity with my hubby. We talked about the positive aspects of me taking on this new position-how it was a huge step forward for me professionally, how it would position me for bigger and better things and how it would be great to have a place to stay in Phoenix, since it was our ultimate goal to live there in the future. At the same time, neither of us was excited about the prospect of not being together on a daily basis. Uprooting my husband from his career was just not an option. So, we decided we needed to find a way for me to accept the promotion while my husband remained in the job he loved.

Little did we know at the time that this dilemma would be replayed several more times in our married lives as we began our journey as a “commuter couple” – a couple living apart for long periods of time.

After much discussion and soul searching, I did accept the position in Arizona and ended up commuting 1,500 miles in each direction between there and Minnesota for seven years. Plus, we were a commuter couple for two more years when my husband retired to Arizona from his job in Minnesota. This occurred when I could not join him in Arizona because by then, I was the Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the entire Mayo Clinic system-which was a Minnesota based position.

I decided the best way to address the commuter-couple challenge was to use and apply the leadership and management skills I had acquired as a healthcare executive to the situation, creating a list of “Seven Secrets of Happy Commuter Couples” that I learned along the way:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Talk with your spouse, your children, other members of the family, friends, your employer, colleagues and employees. It is vital that you share your goals, strategies and challenges for home and work. From the beginning to the end of our commuter-couple odyssey, I had to negotiate with my family and employer about how best to meet all their needs without totally losing my sanity. Open communications about what was working-as well as what was not working-allowed me to make adjustments along the way.

2. Prioritize – Be clear about what is most important to you personally, to your spouse and other loved ones and to your employer. Understand which events are “command performances” (those that cannot be missed) versus “nice to do”. If my employer needed me to stay in Arizona for a weekend event, it was up to me to juggle my calendar and to find ways to adjust my personal obligations. For instance, when my grandchildren were to receive their First Communions, I considered those to be a command performance and did what was necessary to be sure I could attend. I was generally able to work things out, but did have to negotiate a compromise from time to time.

3. Plan – For the best circumstances, the worst circumstances and everything in between and have a backup plan in place. When things were going smoothly, I was able to work in Arizona Monday through Friday and still be home with my husband in Minnesota for the weekend; however, I had backup plans and people I could call upon when unforeseen events occurred. For instance, I was back in Minnesota for a long weekend when a huge blizzard hit the Midwest. I had left our two dogs with the dog sitter at our house in Arizona, but she could not stay with them for the additional days it would take for the snowstorm to end and me to fly back. I needed to implement Plan B, resulting in the dog sitter taking the dogs to a kennel, and me picking them up after work several days later. Not ideal-but it worked. Another time, I had to ask a friend to deal with repairmen when there was a water leak in the Arizona laundry room and I had to be in Minnesota for meetings.

4. Manage Time – I had always been the keeper of our family calendar. Juggling the family, social and work obligations was a challenge when my husband and I were in the same town, but became much more difficult as I was spending big blocks of time flying across the country. I quickly learned that I had to be even more diligent in how I managed and prioritized my own time and the precious time I had with my husband and family. I developed a rolling twelve-month master calendar, on which I penciled in the top priority family and work events months in advance. As soon as I became aware of a meeting or special occasion, it went on the calendar, to only be removed if a higher priority obligation replaced it.

On a daily basis, I tightly controlled my calendar of work and outside activities so that I could maximize my time in the office and on airplanes, while handling other normal daily activities. I had to compress and accomplish five days’ work in four days, and two days of typical weekend activities in one day, in order to make my journey from Minnesota to Arizona productive.

5. Get Help! – After a few months of commuting to Arizona, it was clear that I could not keep doing all the things I had done in the past. So, I looked around at home and at work with a critical eye to see which things only I could do versus what tasks I could delegate or share with others. This led us to hire someone to clean the house and to handle some of our yard work in Minnesota. It also forced me to delegate more work duties to others. I had always thought I was good at delegation, but I quickly learned how to be crystal clear on what only I could do.

6. Don’t Feel Guilty – Because I am a perfectionist, I had to learn to not feel guilty about almost everything. It bothered me that my house in Arizona or apartment in Minnesota was not spotless; that I wasn’t able to attend a friend’s party; and that I wasn’t always absolutely prepared for every meeting and discussion at work. Invariably, there would be an issue or minor crisis at home when I was in Arizona and at work when I was back in Minnesota. I was driving myself crazy until I finally came to terms with the fact that I did not have to singlehandedly resolve every problem. In fact, by not trying to rescue everyone and everything, it allowed others to grow and learn.

7. Re-evaluate From Time to Time – I was working in Arizona on the fateful Tuesday in September 2001 when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Normal airline service and other forms of transportation were halted. It was clear that I would not be going back to Minnesota for the foreseeable future. This caused my husband and me tremendous anxiety and forced us to take stock of our decision for me to commute. It also led us to be even clearer about our commitment to each other first and foremost, to our famil, and to understand that work is important, but not the only consideration.

I am happy to report that our marriage survived and my husband and I are finally living together. I retired from Mayo Clinic at the end of 2013 and joined my husband in Arizona. The sudden, unexpected deaths of my father and a close friend caused us to re-evaluate our situation once again and to decide that it was time to be together on a full-time basis. We did not want to wake up one day and realize that we had lost precious “together” time, now that we were both in our sixties. What was important to us when we were in our forties and fifties had changed now that we were older.

As I reflect on my commuter-couple experience, I think of some of the positive aspects; such as the ability to clearly focus on work when I was away from home, to enjoy some of the perks of frequent air travel and the satisfaction of being able to accept a promotion that positioned me for my ultimate career goals. I found that my time with my husband, family and friends was even more meaningful and appreciated. Absence did “make the heart grow fonder”.

At the same time, I must admit that there were times when I was very lonely and wished I had a “normal” life. It was difficult to return to an empty house each night with my “to go” order of food from the neighborhood chain restaurant. Even though my husband and I talked several times each day, the phone calls did not begin to replace the free flowing banter that we would enjoy when we were together. We missed the spontaneous hugs and glances across the room that reinforced our love for each other.

I have talked with many other men and women who are living the commuter couple lifestyle. Some are dual career professionals such as myself; others are traveling to pursue job opportunities away from home due to the poor economy; and some have spouses in the military. In all cases, they are working out strategies and solutions to fit their circumstances. It requires a constant “give and take” to find the right balance for all affected by the commute. It is particularly challenging when children are involved.

Relationships: Is This Healthy?

Relationships Is This Healthy

It doesn’t matter whether it is marriage, friendship or casual relationship there are certain things that are important to observe in order to ensure that what you are involved in is healthy. Following are some ways to assess the health how you are doing:

1. Mutual investment – Some people are takers and others are givers. If you are always the giver, you might soon burn out or begin feeling resentful. A healthy relationship is one where both people give and take.

2. Honesty – When people lie to you then you don’t really know who they are and if you aren’t honest then they will soon lose trust. There are ways to speak truth in love.

3. Expectations – It isn’t good if you feel bound by “should”, “must” or “have to”. These can come from another person or actually come from inside you. Healthy relationships are not laced with guilt or based on “people-pleasing” only to avoid upsets.

4. Fun – It is important to laugh and enjoy the company of other people. When it isn’t fun anymore, there is a serious problem.

5. Trust Can you depend on the other person to do what they say they will do? Or do they have a habit or just giving you lip-service?

6. Boundaries – Know where you stop and the other person begins. This requires knowing and showing respect for each other.

7. Encouragement – Do you truly want the best for the other person? A healthy perspective is to be happy when the other person grows and does well.

8. Resolving conflict – People don’t usually break apart because of conflict. They break apart because they don’t know how to deal with conflict. Learn strategies for problem-solving and use them.

9. Communication – When you aren’t talking, there can be misunderstandings, feelings of loneliness and a lack of progress towards goals. Sometimes, however, relationships are so healthy that both individuals involved appreciate less frequent conversations. Know when silence is positive and when it is hurting the relationship.

10. Self-care – If you want to have good friends then you have to be a good friend. This means ensuring that you are healthy and interesting. No one person can meet another person’s needs so it is a good idea to find a number of ways and people to enhance your life.

Sometimes people get caught in an unhealthy relationship with one person and can’t seem to get out of it. They feel annoyed, sad or drained but worry about hurting the feelings of the other one so stay locked in. It is important to think about whether this is helping or harming you.

Perhaps having a conversation with the other person might help to re-establish healthy boundaries, resolve conflict or re-balance the input each of you contributes.

Psychologists are trained to help people deal with difficult situations. Book an appointment today and you will have made the first step towards healthy decision-making.

Resilient Relationships

Resilient Relationships

The key to developing resilient relationships begins with the relationship that you have with your self. Other than the relationship you have with God or your higher power, your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. All your relationships will reflect and be influenced by this relationship. If you are struggling to love and accept yourself, it will be difficult for you to trust or feel the love offered by your partner.

It is the personal insecurities that often erode relationships. A lack of self-love or confidence may manifest as indecision in your relationship. You may fear that your ideas or suggestions may be rejected. It may also keep you in a relationship that is toxic or abusive. You may fear being alone, or feel that you do not deserve better.

A healthy foundation of respect and love for your self will make your relationship more resilient. You will also be able to bounce back quicker, when self-doubt starts to creep in.

Research has shown that some people seem to be naturally resilient. It has also shown that resilient behaviors can be learned. Resilient behaviors include being optimistic, practicing healthy self-care, cultivating spirituality or a sense of purpose, using positive self-talk, reaching out to others, goal setting and creative problem solving. Most importantly, simply practicing these skills will help you be more resilient.

Here are some ideas to help you create a resilient relationship:

  1. Give yourself permission to ask for what you need and want.
  2. Be open to what your partner needs and wants.
  3. Choose to believe that you deserve to be treated respectfully.
  4. Choose to consistently treat your partner with respect and caring.
  5. Choose to believe that you deserve happiness, abundance and joy in your life.
  6. Forgive others and yourself.
  7. Let go of resentment and