Saturday, 30 May 2020

The 18 Best Things You Can Do For Your Kids After Divorce

Raising your kids after divorce isn’t easy. You constantly worry about how the split will affect them in the long run — and let’s face it, interacting with your ex in the name of co-parenting isn’t always a walk in the park.

Still, if you strive to put your kids first, divorce can absolutely be an opportunity to be a better parent than you were before your marriage ended. Last week, we asked our Twitter and Facebook followers to share with us what they believe is the best thing you can do for your kids after divorce.

See 18 of our favorite responses below.

1. “Don’t talk badly about the other parent. Modeling good behavior by getting along with your ex is really critical to the kids’ stability.

2. “Be consistent in everything you do. Be dependable, reliable and make them laugh. Often.”

3. “Remember this: Genetically, your kids are 50 percent your ex. Every negative thing you say about him or her, you’re saying about the kids, too.”

4. “Be honest with your kids in an age-appropriate way.”

5. “This is a good time to be a smotherer. Smother them with love and support and remind them that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that ultimately, it will be for the best.”

6. “Get a therapist for the kids during the divorce, not after. We did so and my kids really benefitted from having someone removed from the situation to talk to about their feelings. She encouraged them to open up and helped us sidestep a lot of serious issues.”

7. “Act like adults.”

8. “Understand that some situations don’t lend themselves to co-parenting. Consider alternatives like parallel parenting. Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean that your spouse has changed.”

9. “Allow your kids equal time with both parents. They deserve it.”

10. “Don’t blindly follow advice from books on post-divorce parenting. The best way to comfort your kids is to go off what you’re sensing from them, not what some self-help author told you to do.”

11. “Be empathetic about the grief they are experiencing. Encourage them to talk and don’t judge their feelings.”

12. “Put their needs first, even before your own. Everything you do should be done in their best interest and nothing you do should be done without asking how your choices will affect them.”

13. “Try your hardest to co-parent. Be there for your ex so you two can support your kids as a team. It’s no longer about the adults so put any animosity aside and do what is in the best interest of your children.”

14. “Realize how futile it is to trash-talk your ex sooner rather than later. The kids will determine the merits and minuses of each parent on their own.”

15. “If you’re allowing the kids to choose who they live with, don’t make them feel guilty about their choice.”

16. “Keep in mind: They’re the innocent victims in the situation. Treat them accordingly.”

17. “Never use your kids as a weapon, a go-between or a spy against your ex. And never talk negatively about the other parent near them or anywhere they can hear or see it (hint hint: Facebook).”

18. “Love your kids more than you hate your ex.“


Self, Self Reliance and Selfishness

"Self-reliance is the best defence against the pressures of the moment"
-Carl Von Clausewitz

We all bear a right and a responsibility at times to ensure that we put ourselves first; we need to take care of ourselves, serve ourselves and ensure our own needs are met for daily existence and growth if we're going to be able to serve and meet the needs of others.

As we work through times of challenge, it's essential that we ensure that we're being selfish when needed to give ourselves and our lives the oxygen we need both metaphorically and literally. If we can't breathe, we're unable to help others.

Give yourself the support you need, put yourself first occasionally!

Friday, 29 May 2020

How Solo Single Moms Can Raise Confident, Healthy Sons

The notion that any dad is better than no dad is nonsense.

Parenting solo is a tough challenge, no doubt.

However, psychologists agree that boys do not require constant male guidance to grow up confident and healthy. In fact, a dad living at home who is a poor role model typically does more harm than good. If a biological dad is unfailingly neglectful, physically or emotionally abusive or just plain unloving, his son is most likely better off without his dad’s influence.

So what can a single mother raising a boy alone do to ensure her son gets what he needs? For starters, trust that your beliefs and actions will guide you toward success.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

Adjust your attitude, if necessary. Strive to resolve your issues about men and relationships, especially if you became a single mom under excruciating circumstances – like if your son’s father left without warning or explanation. When you look at your son and see his biological dad’s face, it’s OK to get a little emotional. After all, if your ex gave you anything of value, you’re looking at him. Tell your son early and often how much you love him no matter how you feel about his biological dad.

Banish any “man of the house” notions about your son.
Your goal is to guide your son toward manhood. Right now, however, your son cannot assume responsibility for things adult men are supposed to do. Your son is not your confidant, knight in shining armor or rescuer. Correct privately and quickly any adult who asks your son if he’s taking good care of Mommy or wrongly confers “man of the house” responsibilities on him.

Your son’s only job right now is to be a kid.

Set limits early. Sons of single moms are not at greater risk for getting into serious trouble as adults. Don’t believe the dire predictions you may hear. Believe in yourself as a strong and confident parent.

Focus on your son and his needs. As parents, our only realistic option is to control our own behavior.

Boys do act differently than girls.
Dealing effectively with bursts of typical boy behavior, such as pushing and shoving on the playground, are simply a part of your everyday parenting responsibilities.

Teach your son your values. But let him express these values uniquely. Point out positive qualities in men you see on a day-to-day basis. Emphasize the importance of treating others with kindness, as well as being helpful and considerate. Discuss examples of bullying in age-appropriate ways. Point out why such behaviors are contrary to your family values and simply wrong.

Make it clear what’s appropriate behavior in your home. Of course, hitting, punching and kicking are against family rules. Discuss alternatives to unwanted behavior so that your son can make more appropriate choices next time. These will not be one-time conversations.

Spanking may work for the moment, but it sends the powerful message that acting out your feelings is acceptable, if you’re the one in charge.

Stress using words rather than actions to convey feelings. Model this behavior by using words to describe your own feelings, rather than slamming the car door or stomping angrily around the house. Make sure your son understands that it’s not OK to shut people out. Let your son cry openly with no discouragement or judgment.

Keep talking.
As your son grows older, challenges increase because adolescent boys fear revealing their confusion and vulnerability. Our culture still admires “real men” who fear weakness and strive to solve problems on their own. This is why solo single moms – who don’t have another parent to partner with in raising kids – are often advised to leave their sons alone or let them shoot some hoops. We’re assured that he’ll be fine and urged not to hover.

Resist the impulse to shrug your shoulders and walk away. This is exactly the time to let your son know that you’re always available for conversation. Talking openly – sharing kid-friendly details - about what goes on in your own life makes your son more inclined to say what’s on his mind rather than silently sulk.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

What Is Divorce Etiquette And How Can It Help?

You don’t often hear the words ‘divorce’ and ‘etiquette’ used together. When I hear the word ‘etiquette,’ I think manners, politeness, courtesies – again not things we usually associate with ending a marriage. And perhaps that’s exactly why so many people struggle to achieve a good divorce. So what is divorce etiquette and how can it help?

I’m not a fan of rule books but I do think being conscious about how you conduct yourself during divorce could help you better cope with the end of your marriage so you’ll feel less conscious, less awkward and avoid saying or doing things that you’ll regret later. If we did have more generally accepted guidelines on coping with divorce, then the breakups could be less disruptive not just for spouses but also for children, extended families, friends and coworkers. Who wouldn’t want that?

This episode of Conversations About Divorce is all about Divorce Etiquette and joining me for this fabulous conversation are Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell, authors of The Optimist’s Guide To Divorce: How To Get Through Your Breakup and Create A New Life You Love.

What Is Divorce Etiquette?

When someone is going through a hard time, it’s part of our human nature to want to help. We often want to do something to let that person know we care. We want to do something to let that person know we’re sorry they’re in pain. But just like other difficult situations, we don’t want to say anything that will make the person feel worse.

Riss says, “When we are talking about divorce etiquette, we’re talking about making a difficult situation better rather than rubbing salt in the wound.”

It really comes down to acting with kindness and compassion in any situation. Setting that intention at the beginning of the process will guide you through the many points along the way when you have a choice. Riss says, “Make it your personal mission to treat them as you would like to be treated.”

Who Is Divorce Etiquette For?

Divorce etiquette applies to everyone whether that’s friends, family, children and especially your STBX. Both partners set the tone for the divorce and how you divorce, can be quite independent of your marriage. This means that you don’t have to carry over the level of disagreement and arguing from your marriage to your break up.

It’s important to think about this early, preferably before there’s even been a discussion about separating because it’s in that very first conversation that the tone of the break up starts to get set. There’ll be many points along the way where you’ll have the opportunity to reset the tone or reinforce it.

“We believe you can apply some rules for common decency with your partner as you go through the difficult process of separating,” said Riss.

Of course, treating your partner with respect doesn’t mean you’ll get the same back. Rockwell reminds us that you can’t control anyone else. However, “no matter how hard you are trying to be kind, understanding, compassionate, doesn’t mean that on that day, that argument, you’ll be getting that treatment back but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth maintaining that intention.”

You have to switch gears – once the marriage is over, you now have to work to transition your relationship with your STBX from a romantic partner to a business partner. That might be for the short term while you figure out the division of assets or it could be for a much longer period if you have children together.

Meeting Your STBX In Public

Meeting your STBX in public may be awkward, even embarrassing but there’s a high probability it’s going to happen. Knowing that means you can prepare.

“You have a choice at every step,” says Riss. “You can choose positive or negative.”

The example we talked about was what if both you and your STBX turn up at school to pick up your kids. Obviously, there’s been a miscommunication so what should you do?

“It’s best to try to work it out without embarrassing your kids,” says Riss. “If someone needs to be the bigger person, take on that role.” If that means you letting your STBX pick up the kids even though you’re convinced it’s your turn, so be it. Better that than having a brawl in the parking lot.

Another situation is when you arrive at your child’s event, maybe it’s a concert, maybe it’s a baseball game. Your STBX sees you and waves at you indicating they have a seat for you. Sitting next to them isn’t what you had in mind so what should you do?

Sockwell says how you handle this depends on whether your STBX is trying to control you. If it doesn’t feel safe for you to sit next to or near your STBX, then don’t. But otherwise, consider that your STBX maybe doing this with your child’s perspective in mind.

“If I were a child, I can’t think of anything I’d want more than to look out from the swimming pool, the stage or wherever I was performing, and see my parents together because they’re there not because they are in a relationship together but they’re there for me,” says Sockwell.

Friends Take Their Cues From You

Soon after my ex and I split up, one of our couple friends was hosting a cookout at their home. She called me and invited me and told me that they’d also invited my ex. She said that she and her husband liked us both, were friends with both of us and they didn’t want to choose who to invite so they were inviting both of us and leaving it up to us to figure out what we wanted to do.

This is a great model to follow but isn’t what typically happens.

Riss says the key word here is comfort. “People take their cues from you. If you’re comfortable, then the person asking you will feel relieved that you’re OK.”

Letting people know that you’re doing OK will make them feel comfortable inviting you to a social occasion.

There will be friends from whom you don’t hear. Sockwell’s straight-forward advice here is that if you’re missing a friend, then you reach out to them.

“Don’t assume they’re not reaching out to you because of what’s going on with you. They may have their own stressors or own health problems or their own separation. You never know,” says Sockwell.

Divorce is a difficult and uncomfortable topic and your friend not contacting you may be because they don’t know what to say. You taking the lead, can put your friend at ease and breakdown the barrier that threatens your friendship.

On the flip side, Riss recommends that if you know someone who is going through divorce, be proactive and let them know you’re there to support them.

Be Sensitive At Work

The workplace is a different environment. There, if you notice someone is not wearing their wedding ring, it may not be appropriate to comment in an open meeting. Sockwell says, “If they haven’t said anything, I’m not going to say anything because they’re probably doing what they can to hold it together.”

If they bring it up, then feel free to invite them to get together after work. If they don’t bring it up, then perhaps you can approach them in a private space to offer support.

If you’re going to need time off or flexibility for appointments, it’s a good idea to let your supervisor know what’s going on but Riss, recommends doing so once you can do it without breaking down in a flood of tears.

You may also want to consult with your HR department for guidance on how to handle changes to your benefit enrollments and also on company policy around name changes, if that’s going to apply to you.

Beware of Social Media

Both Riss and Sockwell agree that it’s very easy to post something to social media that you may regret later. Riss says, “Don’t react out of anger.” Social media is not the place to air your grievances. If you’re upset about something, call a friend and work through your anger another way.

Similarly, Sockwell recommends against posting updates that are calling for pity. She suggests keeping a journal and using that to work through your emotions.

Even though you may have blocked your STBX from seeing your posts, if you have friends in common then your STBX may still be able to see your posts through their feeds and that could end up hurting you.


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Tricky issues with co-parenting after divorce

Co-parenting — or shared parenting — is usually the best way to deal with custody of your children after divorce, but it isn’t always easy. We spoke with a few moms who are actively co-parenting with their ex-husbands to find out where the trouble lies, and how to best deal with it for the sake of your kids.

Shared parenting requires cooperation

Co-parenting — or shared parenting — is usually the best way to deal with custody of your children after divorce, but it isn’t always easy.

Nobody heads down the aisle with the intention of getting a divorce. Yet we constantly hear that about half of all marriages will eventually end in divorce. When a marriage ends, whatever the reason, there are bound to be hurt feelings and bitterness. If you have children, can you work past these feelings and come together for the sake of the kids? We spoke with a few moms who say you can.

Your feelings? Don’t share

Divorce is intended to sever ties between two people who no longer love each other. “Very rarely is a divorce amicable,” shares Dr. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., who is a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “Each partner in the marriage has their own individual complaints about the other including infidelity, control, lack of communication and so forth.” She says that many couples direct their grievances toward battles regarding money and the children, which benefits no one. “My advice to all parents who are co-parenting with joint custody after divorce is to set aside their anger, disappointment, hurt and rage,” she adds. “Those feelings are for you to deal with in a therapy office and with your supportive friends and family.”

Patsy Shelton is a teacher and mother of two boys. “No marriage ends easily,” she says. “There were tears and anger and blame when my marriage ended, but we were both able to see our roles in its ending.” Both Patsy and her ex-husband shared the desire to protect their boys from the pain they felt. “It's not about our history anymore — that's why we got a divorce! We are free to let all of that go. Now we are friends who look to the future and what it holds, not for us, but for our sons,” she adds.

Joint custody means working together

“We've worked hard to make sure our kids see us together, through occasional meals together, birthday parties, sports and school events,” shares Tracy Jensen, writer and mother of two. “It reassures them that although we don't live together, we're still working together to make sure they're OK — and that it's OK for them to love both of their parents.” Changing your relationship to meet the needs of your kids takes patience and a lot of work, on both sides. “It doesn't mean that anger and hurt don't exist,” adds Jensen. “It means that the needs of our kids are more important.”

While you shouldn’t expect your ex to suddenly become the father he never was, you can appreciate the differences that he brings to your children’s lives and roll with them. “Let your ex develop his own parenting style,” advises Jensen. “He's never going to do it the same way that you do, and that's OK. Kids benefit from a different perspective. Take the opportunity to enjoy what your kids learn from him.”

Make it easier

Many divorced parents wind up trying to make things harder for the other parent, whether subconsciously or on purpose. When you choose a difficult path, it only hurts the kids. “Make it easy for your ex to spend time with your kids,” says Jensen. ”I see a number of friends enveloped in this battle, where time with the kids becomes such a weapon. I have always told the kids' dad if he wants extra time with them, to simply ask.”

By having a regular, consistent routine — that also has room for flexibility — your kids will feel that their lives are more stable. “The boys stay three days with me and then three days with their father,” shares Shelton, “but if I need him to keep the boys, he does! And if he needs me to keep them, I do!” The give-and-take is what makes this feel more like a partnership than a battle. “In the best interests of your children, be friendly, kind and respectful to your ex in front of the kids,” shares Dr. Walfish. “Swallow your pride for your children's sake and never fight in front of the kids. That includes no hostile grimaces or remarks, no sarcasm and no unbearable silences you could cut with a knife,” she adds. “You will make your kids' lives easier and they will be more resilient.”

Tips for successful co-parenting after divorce

Dan Clifford is a partner in the family law practice at the law firm Weber Gallagher. He sees firsthand how struggles with divorce affect the children. He offers us five tips for success with co-parenting.

Parents should always keep the lines of communication open for the benefit of the children. I suggest email as the preferred communication device, but remember to keep all messages short, informational and limited to something pertaining to the children’s medical/educational issues, and/or a detail pertaining to an upcoming custody exchange. Remember, every email could be used as a possible exhibit in a future custody dispute.

Avoid long, accusatory, rambling emails that relive past history, point fingers and force the other party to shut down (and remind them of why you are no longer living under the same roof). If the email is more than two or three lines, it’s too long. If you need to vent, send the longer email you’d really like to send to your best friend, instead.

Consider using one of the custody calendar computer programs available to record special family events, school, extracurricular activities and doctor appointments to eliminate the phrases, “You didn’t tell me,” “You didn’t remind me” and “I didn’t know” from the vocabulary of the parent who fails to show up at an important event.

Always provide a united front to the important people in your child’s life — teachers, tutors, coaches and parents of your child’s close friends. It should never be about you proving to that third party that you are the “better” parent.

Consider providing a gift for the child to present to the other parent for important events like birthdays, Christmas, Father’s/Mother’s Day, etc. While you may no longer like the other parent, it’s a simple gesture of kindness that your child will likely remember forever.

By doing your best to work with your former spouse, you are providing your children with a family safety net — and showing them that they really matter to both of you.


Monday, 25 May 2020

Don't let yourself off, keep on going!

As we work towards a goal or through a period of challenge, and when faced with a difficult task, when we feel tired and in need of a rest, or sometimes just when we're controlled by fear, it can be tempting to take a break, to let ourselves off, to be 'kind' to ourselves.
At times like these, it's all the more important to keep on going, to take the difficult decision, confront the unpleasant task and to have the awkward conversation. 
Through continued action, relentlessly committing to the goal and taking step-by-step eventually we'll achieve our goals and get to where we want and deserve to be.
I wish you a happy, fulfilled and successful 2018 as you work through your divorce and forwards to your new and better life. I'm right there with you, pressing ever forwards and onwards!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Divorce may weaken kids' immunity

More and more children come from 'broken homes', and a divorce can raise a child's risk of catching colds in adulthood.

Even though parents do what they can to shield their children against the trauma of divorce, kids often feel as if their world is falling apart.

According to a Health24 article, marital problems can create serious instability in the family and feelings of insecurity in the child.

Adding to the problem of instability in South Africa, fewer people are getting married than 10 years ago, female divorcées are getting older and men are more likely to remarry multiple times.

An unfriendly divorce can raise a child's risk of catching colds in adulthood, a new study suggests.

Poor health and chronic illness

"Early life stressful experiences do something to our physiology and inflammatory processes that increase risk for poorer health and chronic illness," explained researcher Michael Murphy of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This work is a step forward in our understanding of how family stress during childhood may influence a child's susceptibility to disease 20–40 years later," Murphy said in a university news release. He's a psychology postdoctoral research associate.

Common cold virus

The study found that children whose parents separate and don't speak are at increased risk for colds as adults.

Previous research has shown that adults who experience the split of parents during childhood are at increased risk for poorer health. The authors of this new study believe their work may help explain why that's so.

The study included more than 200 healthy adults exposed to a common cold virus. Those whose parents lived apart and didn't talk to each other during the participant's childhood were more than three times more likely to develop a cold than those whose parents remained together.

No cause-and-effect relationship

While the study only found an association and not a cause-and-effect link, one reason suggested by the researchers for the increased risk of a cold was heightened inflammation in response to viral infection.

Meanwhile, the researchers found that adults whose parents separated during childhood but remained in contact were not at increased risk of catching a cold.

"Our results target the immune system as an important carrier of the long-term negative impact of early family conflict," said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.

"They also suggest that all divorces are not equal," Cohen said.

Continued communication between parents and support system for the children buffers the harmful effects that separation has on the health of the children, he added.


Friday, 22 May 2020

Accepting and Adapting to Obstacles

“The Obstacle is the path” – Zen Proverb

In times of challenge it feels like the world is conspiring against us. Every incident, event and encounter feels like another blow sent to knock us off track. There are the things that need to be resolved with our ex and the inevitable arguments to weather. Simply keeping our day-to-day life on track can feel like more than we can possibly deal with.

It’s tempting to give up. It feels like the world is conspiring against us. We risk becoming defined as a victim of circumstance, constantly dealing with hardship and someone who just can’t get a break.

What may just help if you feel like this, is that I’ve grown to realise is this is simply a reflection of life for EVERYONE. We often choose only to see the positives in the lives of others and compare those to the negatives in our own.

The scale of the challenges and the source of the difficulties may be different, but we all go through times of challenge and hardship. It’s the nature of life.

Whether it’s financial troubles, illness, bereavement, injury, falling victim to crime or facing prejudice, EVERYONE will at times encounter the obstacles that seem to block them on the path they thought was theirs for life.

We can choose to view these disruptions as blockers to our path, and keep fighting to get back on what we believe is the track we should be on, or we can accept them as the prompts for learning and growth, as part of the journey.

Maybe an illness isn’t just our health and vitality letting us down, but instead a timely warning to consider whether our lifestyle, habits, stress-levels and priorities are in balance.

Perhaps financial difficulties aren’t just a hardship to be accepted, but instead a prompt to evaluate our spending and our attitude to money and risk.

A strained friendship may not just be the result of a difference of opinion but instead an indicator that you’ve merely drifted apart, your outlooks and needs have changed and the friendship doesn’t serve either of you anymore.

Things change, life changes, the path changes.

In divorce, disruptions arise which you can view as blockers to your path, or alternatively as opportunities to learn, grow and progress.

The failure of your relationship may be a relief, or it may be devastating. Rather than it being cause for feelings of resentment or yearning, perhaps it’s a chance to evaluate whether your ex truly met your needs, nurtured and loved you as you needed, and whether that relationship was giving you what you wanted and deserved.

If you had become needy and dependent, or controlled and manipulated then maybe this is your prompt to rediscover yourself, prioritise your own needs and recapture independence.

Being separated from your kids, or losing out on custody may feel like the cruellest outcome in the process. You can suffer and protest about this to all who will listen, regretting that you’ll never be able to give your kids a ‘conventional’ upbringing. Alternatively, you can make the choice to consciously and deliberately parent your kids to the best of your ability when you have them. You can choose to be the role-model you want to be and still strive to be a powerful and positive force and influence in their life. You just have to be creative about how you do it.

Everyone experiences hard-times in life. I believe that these events are life teaching us the skills and lessons we need to grow, learn and to live the best life we can possibly live.

While it can be hard to rise-above the immediate obstacle and see them as anything more than problems, I can guarantee that you will look back in years to come and see how much they taught you and how far you’ve come.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health

“Look on the sunny side of life."

“Turn your face toward the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you.”

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

“See the glass as half-full, not half-empty.”

Researchers are finding that thoughts like these, the hallmarks of people sometimes called “cockeyed optimists,” can do far more than raise one’s spirits. They may actually improve health and extend life.

There is no longer any doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. Studies have shown an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.

Even when faced with an incurable illness, positive feelings and thoughts can greatly improve one’s quality of life. Dr. Wendy Schlessel Harpham, a Dallas-based author of several books for people facing cancer, including “Happiness in a Storm,” was a practicing internist when she learned she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, 27 years ago. During the next 15 years of treatments for eight relapses of her cancer, she set the stage for happiness and hope, she says, by such measures as surrounding herself with people who lift her spirits, keeping a daily gratitude journal, doing something good for someone else, and watching funny, uplifting movies. Her cancer has been in remission now for 12 years.

“Fostering positive emotions helped make my life the best it could be,” Dr. Harpham said. “They made the tough times easier, even though they didn’t make any difference in my cancer cells.”

While Dr. Harpham may have a natural disposition to see the hopeful side of life even when the outlook is bleak, new research is demonstrating that people can learn skills that help them experience more positive emotions when faced with the severe stress of a life-threatening illness.

Judith T. Moskowitz, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, developed a set of eight skills to help foster positive emotions. In earlier research at the University of California, San Francisco, she and colleagues found that people with new diagnoses of H.I.V. infection who practiced these skills carried a lower load of the virus, were more likely to take their medication correctly, and were less likely to need antidepressants to help them cope with their illness.

The researchers studied 159 people who had recently learned they had H.I.V. and randomly assigned them to either a five-session positive emotions training course or five sessions of general support. Fifteen months past their H.I.V. diagnosis, those trained in the eight skills maintained higher levels of positive feelings and fewer negative thoughts related to their infection.

An important goal of the training is to help people feel happy, calm and satisfied in the midst of a health crisis. Improvements in their health and longevity are a bonus. Each participant is encouraged to learn at least three of the eight skills and practice one or more each day. The eight skills are:

  • Recognize a positive event each day.
  • Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
  • Start a daily gratitude journal.
  • List a personal strength and note how you used it.
  • Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
  • Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
  • Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
  • Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

Dr. Moskowitz said she was inspired by observations that people with AIDS, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses lived longer if they demonstrated positive emotions. She explained, “The next step was to see if teaching people skills that foster positive emotions can have an impact on how well they cope with stress and their physical health down the line.”

She listed as the goals improving patients’ quality of life, enhancing adherence to medication, fostering healthy behaviors, and building personal resources that result in increased social support and broader attention to the good things in life.

Gregg De Meza, a 56-year-old architect in San Francisco who learned he was infected with H.I.V. four years ago, told me that learning “positivity” skills turned his life around. He said he felt “stupid and careless” about becoming infected and had initially kept his diagnosis a secret.

“When I entered the study, I felt like my entire world was completely unraveling,” he said. “The training reminded me to rely on my social network, and I decided to be honest with my friends. I realized that to show your real strength is to show your weakness. No pun intended, it made me more positive, more compassionate, and I’m now healthier than I’ve ever been.”

In another study among 49 patients with Type 2 diabetes, an online version of the positive emotions skills training course was effective in enhancing positivity and reducing negative emotions and feelings of stress. Prior studies showed that, for people with diabetes, positive feelings were associated with better control of blood sugar, an increase in physical activity and healthy eating, less use of tobacco and a lower risk of dying.

In a pilot st
udy of 39 women with advanced breast cancer, Dr. Moskowitz said an online version of the skills training decreased depression among them. The same was true with caregivers of dementia patients.

“None of this is rocket science,” Dr. Moskowitz said. “I’m just putting these skills together and testing them in a scientific fashion.”

In a related study of more than 4,000 people 50 and older published last year in the Journal of Gerontology, Becca Levy and Avni Bavishi at the Yale School of Public Health demonstrated that having a positive view of aging can have a beneficial influence on health outcomes and longevity. Dr. Levy said two possible mechanisms account for the findings. 

Psychologically, a positive view can enhance belief in one’s abilities, decrease perceived stress and foster healthful behaviors. Physiologically, people with positive views of aging had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of stress-related inflammation associated with heart disease and other illnesses, even after accounting for possible influences like age, health status, sex, race and education than those with a negative outlook. They also lived significantly longer.


Wednesday, 20 May 2020

How To Start Dating After Divorce

Going through a divorce is one of the most painful, stressful experiences that you will ever have. Much like grieving the loss of a loved one, getting a divorce can often feel like a death, as it severs not on a relationship, but family connections and the love that you once thought would last forever. And while the process is stressful (and expensive), once the paperwork is officially signed, you're challenged with the task of building your life again. From figuring out how you'll spend your solo time to making new life goals for yourself, who you become post-divorce is often a better version of who you were in an unhappy marriage.

After some time has passed, you might even start to consider dating again, only to quickly realize that it's not quite how it used to be. "For many, the hardest part of dating post-divorce is understanding the current way of dating. For someone who hasn't dated in over 20 years, the times have changed and so has societal norms. This can be very stressful for someone back on the dating scene. However, it's a good opportunity to have conversations with friends who are also dating and learn new ideas or approaches to dating," sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST says.

If you find yourself interested in getting back into the game and putting yourself out there, let these relationship experts share their helpful insights to give you a fighting chance of moving on and truly finding love again. Perhaps even a love that will really last a lifetime:

How Long Should You Wait?

You probably won't be scheduling a Tinder date for the evening your divorce papers were finalized. And depending on how intense or exhausting, emotionally and physically, your divorce was, it may be several months until you're in the mood to meet a new person. It's OK to give yourself as much time as you need because you not only want to be ready to welcome a new person into your life, but you want to also heal from those deep wounds caused by your divorce.

"There is no specific rule with dating and divorcing. Dating is not only a way to find a partner or future spouse but is also a way for men to connect with women or create a social group. In my practice, I do encourage all clients to take time off from serious dating or jumping into a new relationship immediately after ending a marriage and allow time for them to focus on self-growth including how they want their next relationship to be different than the last or any former relationships," Geter says. "On the other hand, I also encourage men to be social with others, which may include casual dating. I do encourage men to be upfront with dating partners about their relationship status and their intentions for the present moment."

Signs You're Ready

As much as you might be craving affection in the immediate aftermath of the divorce, now's not a great time to start dating. No one wants to go on a date with a guy who spontaneously cries on a first date, one who drinks too much or one that talks endlessly about his ex-wife. When you're finally inching toward being ready to date, you'll start to shift both your mentality and your expectations, paving the way for you to be a good date to a prospective partner. Here, relationship experts share the subtle signs that you're ready to mingle:

You're Actually Interested In Dating

If your relationship ended because she cheated or you slowly started falling out of love with one another, the period after a divorce is often one that's marked with extreme sadness. And when you're feeling down? You probably aren't even thinking about dating and you likely don't notice other attractive women who express an interest in you. But when you've moved on? The world will light up in color again, and it could feel a lot like spring.

"One sign a man is ready for serious dating post divorce is showing interest in women and dating. For some, a divorce can be a loss and trigger grief or short term depression. Part of depression is the loss of interest in pleasurable activities including dating or socializing. Therefore, when the depression or grief subsides, interest in activities or socializing will return. This may be a great opportunity to move from casual dating into more serious dating if that is the man's prerogative," Geter shares.

You Have A Good Attitude

Way back before you were married, can you think of any of the bad dates that you went on? While some were lackluster because you weren't attracted to your date, others were negative experiences because the girl was just no-fun to be around. When you're trying to determine if you're prepared to get back out there, Dr. Dawn Michael, Ph.D., relationship expert and author says to take a look in the mirror and consider what type of date you'd be for a new woman. If you're going to be cranky and upset the whole time, that's no way to begin a new relationship. But if you're curious and light hearted? That's recipe for a great first date. "A man is ready to date again when he has a good attitude about dating. When he's ready to have some fun and get out there and meet new people and be open. Dating with a bad attitude will only result in bad dates," she shares.

You've Processed Your Relationship

There's never just one person to blame for the end of a marriage, and for some, that can be a tough pill to swallow. Since relationship are push-and-pull, ebb-and-flow, yes-and-no, it's important to digest what happened in your previous marriage and truly process every feeling you have. A healthy place to do this is in therapy, where an expert can help you navigate your emotions, overcome anger and let go of resentment and pain.

"A man may be ready for dating when he has gained insight into patterns in previous relationships, and he can talk about these patterns including how they contributed to the dissolution of the relationship. Blaming someone else for negative situations is much easier than taking responsibility for how our actions impacted the situation," Geter explains. "When a male client can discuss how his behaviors impacted the marriage and show empathy toward the ex-spouse and relationship, this is a good sign he can approach new relationships in a different manner and understand reasons the prior relationships ended."

How To Get Started

So now that you've done the tough work to prepare yourself to meet someone new... where do you meet her? Looking out into the vastness of the dating pool, carrying your baggage in tow can be super-daunting. And while it might be difficult at first, remember that you've got this."Getting back in the dating scene can be difficult if the man was in a long-term marriage, because dating has probably changed quite a bit since he was single. It can be intimidating all of the new technology, dating sites and how to ask someone out again," Michael says. "But with time, it'll get easier — and even fun!"

Here's where to begin your search for a new love:

Give Online Dating A Shot

Though you probably don't want to download every online dating appimaginable, signing up for an online dating membership is a low-key way to dip your toe into dating. "Online dating can be tricky but it certainly is an avenue where you can meet people as well as make new friends. Find a dating site that is right for you and try it out one at a time and see how it goes," Michael says. With this type of dating, you don't want to set your expectations too high because you'll likely have to weed out several duds before finding someone who could be your match. You also want to be mindful of not chatting endlessly, but actually going out on dates, too.

AskMen Recommends: If you're not sure where to get started when it comes to online dating (depending on how long your marriage lasted, it might not even have existed last time you were on the market), AskMen's Online Dating Hub is a great place to figure out which sites or apps are most likely to help you find what you're looking for.

If you're just looking for the most popular sites to get the most bang for your buck, consider options like and Zoosk — or XMatch and FriendFinder-X if you're looking for a sexy fling more than a relationship.

Join An Activity Group

If your ex-wife was never into running and wouldn't go out on a Saturday morning with you to exercise, consider this: now you can meet someone who will. Or, if it bothered you that your ex-wife wasn't interested in traveling, you can be rest assured that you can find another woman who will collect passport stamps with you. The only hurdle in your way is getting out there and finding people who share your same interests. "A great way is to join a meetup group and go hiking or an activity he enjoys doing. This will get him out of the house and he can meet new people and that can lead to dating slowly. Join a club or group meeting and get involved in something that moves you inspires you and you have fun doing and meet people that way," Michael says.

Get Help From Friends

Now that you're available, tell people! One of the best ways to meet a partner is through a recommendation. "A way to ease into dating, is to let your friends know you're back on the dating scene and interested in meeting single women. Ask them to introduce you at parties or social gatherings where it may be more comfortable than a blind date. If you and the woman don't hit it off, then there are other people to hang out with instead of having to sit through the rest of an uncomfortable date," Geter says.


Tuesday, 19 May 2020

8 Things You Need To Know About Dating After Divorce

More than 2 million Americans called their marriage quits last year. The bad news? That's a lot of divorce. The good news? If you're newly single, that's a lot of potential people to date. But first things first: Here's what to expect when you're navigating the singles scene once again.

Only you know when you're ready to date again.

"You'll have a chorus of people telling you it's time, but you need to follow your gut feelings," says Alexandra Solomon, PhD, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Northwestern University. Her test: Close your eyes and imagine yourself dating. If you feel curious or excited, then you're probably ready. If you're terrified or sad, you need to give it some more time. Been a few years since the divorce papers were final? "Then you might benefit from some counseling sessions to see what's holding you back—for example, a lot of women feel overly self-conscience about their appearance," she says. (Make this your best year ever! Try the New Year, New You Rodale Challenge today.)

Online dating is the norm now.

Nope, it's not just something that the kids are doing—online dating is particularly common among divorcees. "Online dating used to be a weird thing, but it's standard now. Pretty much everyone who wants to date after divorce does it," says Patrick Markey, PhD, a professor of psychology at Villanova who is recently divorced himself. He suggests figuring out what online dating service you're most comfortable with—Tinder's based largely on first impressions from photos; and generally attract 40+ daters looking for more serious relationships, and is somewhere in between the two.

His profile might not be honest.

"About 20% of the men I've considered dating weren't who they said they were; they lied about their job or even current relationships," says Tiffany Beverlin, a divorcee who founded, a website that helps you sell items from your marriage. She checks the social media profiles (especially LinkedIn) of potential dates, and also does a web search before agreeing to meet. By the same token, make sure your online profile is genuine—and keep it short, using bullet points if possible.

Coffee or cocktails is a better first date than dinner.

"Dinner is too much of a time commitment, because you might not hit it off," says Mary Stuart Deibel, a senior matchmaker at Three Day Rule, a personalized service backed by Another reason drinks are a better bet? Since most men tend to insist on picking up the tab, it's not so expensive that you'll feel guilty letting him pay if you don't want to see him again, says Deibel. (Just don't start binge drinking if it's not going well.)

Have an exit strategy in place before the date begins, knowing if you do feel a spark you can always schedule a second date. "It could be something as mundane as 'I have a car appointment at 10:30 so I need to leave by 10,' " says Stan Tatkin, PsyD, author of Wired for Dating. It's also smart to meet at a public place and let at least one of your friends know where you'll be.

Talk of the ex is off-limits—at least for the first time out.

It's tempting to go there, especially if you're both divorced. But the topic tends to be a downer, so try to find other common ground. "Instead of the usual, 'Tell me about yourself,' which is so broad, come up with some questions in advance to ask on the first date," suggests Washington, DC–based psychologist Venessa Perry. A few ideas: When's the last time you laughed hysterically? What books have you read multiple times? What's on your bucket list? "I try to keep the conversation light-hearted," says Michelle Roberts of Atlanta, who was married for 19 years before she called it quits. "I talk about entertainment, my job, and my kids, because I need to know someone that I'm in a relationship with is OK with the fact that I have three of them."

The kids shouldn't meet most of your dates.

Unless you've been in a committed relationship for 6 months (and these signs point to it lasting), don't introduce your kids to your date because they may get anxious or even attached, says Beverlin. If you have joint custody, schedule dates for times when your kids are with your ex, or find a sitter.

It's OK if sparks don't fly.

"Chemistry doesn't reveal itself for a while," says Solomon. So don't dis a date you enjoy being around because there weren't sparks on the first outing...or even the fourth. "It's hard not being able to know where the relationship will lead, but trust that it's unfolding and give it time."

Be mature about it.

The practice of blowing off texts and calls from people you're not interested in having a relationship with is becoming increasingly common, says Tatkin. While it's absolutely fine not to want a second or third date, be mature enough to say so rather than just disappear.


Monday, 18 May 2020

Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones

Most mornings as I leave the Y after my swim and shower, I cross paths with a coterie of toddlers entering with their caregivers for a kid-oriented activity. I can’t resist saying hello, requesting a high-five, and wishing them a fun time. I leave the Y grinning from ear to ear, uplifted not just by my own workout but even more so by my interaction with these darling representatives of the next generation.

What a great way to start the day!

When I told a fellow swimmer about this experience and mentioned that I was writing a column on the health benefits of positive emotions, she asked, “What do you do about people who are always negative?” She was referring to her parents, whose chronic negativity seems to drag everyone down and make family visits extremely unpleasant.

I lived for half a century with a man who suffered from periodic bouts of depression, so I understand how challenging negativism can be. I wish I had known years ago about the work Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, has done on fostering positive emotions, in particular her theory that accumulating “micro-moments of positivity,” like my daily interaction with children, can, over time, result in greater overall well-being.

The research that Dr. Fredrickson and others have done demonstrates that the extent to which we can generate positive emotions from even everyday activities can determine who flourishes and who doesn’t. More than a sudden bonanza of good fortune, repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression and foster both physical and mental health, their studies show.

This is not to say that one must always be positive to be healthy and happy. Clearly, there are times and situations that naturally result in negative feelings in the most upbeat of individuals. Worry, sadness, anger and other such “downers” have their place in any normal life. But chronically viewing the glass as half-empty is detrimental both mentally and physically and inhibits one’s ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable stresses.

Negative feelings activate a region of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in processing fear and anxiety and other emotions. Dr. Richard J. Davidson, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, has shown that people in whom the amygdala recovers slowly from a threat are at greater risk for a variety of health problems than those in whom it recovers quickly.

Both he and Dr. Fredrickson and their colleagues have demonstrated that the brain is “plastic,” or capable of generating new cells and pathways, and it is possible to train the circuitry in the brain to promote more positive responses. That is, a person can learn to be more positive by practicing certain skills that foster positivity.

For example, Dr. Fredrickson’s team found that six weeks of training in a form of meditation focused on compassion and kindness resulted in an increase in positive emotions and social connectedness and improved function of one of the main nerves that helps to control heart rate. The result is a more variable heart rate that, she said in an interview, is associated with objective health benefits like better control of blood glucose, less inflammation and faster recovery from a heart attack.

Dr. Davidson’s team showed that as little as two weeks’ training in compassion and kindness meditation generated changes in brain circuitry linked to an increase in positive social behaviors like generosity.

“The results suggest that taking time to learn the skills to self-generate positive emotions can help us become healthier, more social, more resilient versions of ourselves,” Dr. Fredrickson reported in the National Institutes of Health monthly newsletter in 2015.

In other words, Dr. Davidson said, “well-being can be considered a life skill. If you practice, you can actually get better at it.” By learning and regularly practicing skills that promote positive emotions, you can become a happier and healthier person. Thus, there is hope for people like my friend’s parents should they choose to take steps to develop and reinforce positivity.

In her newest book, “Love 2.0,” Dr. Fredrickson reports that “shared positivity — having two people caught up in the same emotion — may have even a greater impact on health than something positive experienced by oneself.” Consider watching a funny play or movie or TV show with a friend of similar tastes, or sharing good news, a joke or amusing incidents with others. Dr. Fredrickson also teaches “loving-kindness meditation” focused on directing good-hearted wishes to others. This can result in people “feeling more in tune with other people at the end of the day,” she said.

Activities Dr. Fredrickson and others endorse to foster positive emotions include:
Do good things for other people. In addition to making others happier, this enhances your own positive feelings. It can be something as simple as helping someone carry heavy packages or providing directions for a stranger.

Appreciate the world around you. It could be a bird, a tree, a beautiful sunrise or sunset or even an article of clothing someone is wearing. I met a man recently who was reveling in the architectural details of the 19th-century houses in my neighbourhood.

Develop and bolster relationships. Building strong social connections with friends or family members enhances feelings of self-worth and, long-term studies have shown, is associated with better health and a longer life.

Establish goals that can be accomplished. Perhaps you want to improve your tennis or read more books. But be realistic; a goal that is impractical or too challenging can create unnecessary stress.

Learn something new. It can be a sport, a language, an instrument or a game that instills a sense of achievement, self-confidence and resilience. But here, too, be realistic about how long this may take and be sure you have the time needed.

Choose to accept yourself, flaws and all. Rather than imperfections and failures, focus on your positive attributes and achievements. The loveliest people I know have none of the external features of loveliness but shine with the internal beauty of caring, compassion and consideration of others.

Practice resilience. Rather than let loss, stress, failure or trauma overwhelm you, use them as learning experiences and steppingstones to a better future. Remember the expression: When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

Practice mindfulness. Ruminating on past problems or future difficulties drains mental resources and steals attention from current pleasures. Let go of things you can’t control and focus on the here-and-now. Consider taking a course in insight meditation.


Friday, 15 May 2020

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Tomayto, Tomahto

A person who is able to be accountable can also be held accountable.

On my 30th birthday, I received the gift every girl dreams of. Well, OK, maybe not every girl. Maybe just this girl and a few others I know. It arrived on that unusually sunny February morning in England, gift wrapped in an airmail envelope. I must have sensed at some level that its contents were of a rare and mystical quality because I opened it as if in possession of the holy grail itself.

Inside the envelope, shimmering in all of its golden, legal pad glory, was an agenda-free letter of amends from my ex-boyfriend, containing 2 A4 sides of pure, unadulterated accountability for his part in the demise of our relationship. It was poetry, and it made me feel good for exactly half an hour.

It was no coincidence, in my opinion, that this man subsequently met his soulmate and is now happily married to her. He had done his work and was cleaning house from a place of genuine remorse, free from inappropriate shame but without even a whisper of justification. I could feel his heart on the page and it is for that same reason I believe, that my emotional high that morning lasted for a mere 30 minutes. My house was still cluttered with ungrieved loss, unresolved wounds, and the absence of any real clarity or accountability for my own part in what had happened between us. It took an additional three-and-a-half years for me to return the favour. I’m sure, even then I came nowhere close to doing justice to the letter I’d received.

The sense of liberation that I felt, however, in writing those lines of heartfelt remorse, was a lesson I have subsequently carried with me like a treasure. The lesson that any unresolved pain I carry in my heart can never be liberated by another human being. Even if the scenario in question is a place where my role was entirely that of being a powerless victim. 
Recognition, accountability and even an apology from the so-called offender in question will never set me free. Forgiveness doesn’t come as a result of my offender’s awakening but only as a result of my own.

A couple of years ago, my understanding of why and how forgiveness works in this way deepened when a dear friend turned me on to a life-changing book called Radical Forgiveness. Overnight, my perception of everything transformed from three- to four-dimensional. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone in the clutches of unresolved hurts or a painfully-insistent cycle of being or perceiving themselves as being victimized or persecuted.

The author proposes that everything is happening for us, not to us. The book suggests that our souls have made agreements with one other to act out what we need to experience in order for us to evolve into our whole, actualised selves. So, when your boss routinely passes you over for that promotion, you have, according to Radical Forgiveness, at some level agreed that they would do this for you so that you would learn something about your role in this reoccurring pattern. Maybe you need to learn to value yourself more, to speak up or to risk leaving for a new job elsewhere that is a better match for your skills. Or perhaps you are learning that climbing the career ladder is not a reflection of your worth or a match for the emptiness you feel. Or maybe you have somebody in your life who repeatedly through word or deed implies that you are worthless, of low value, unlovable, not good enough, in some way faulty or wrong etc. Through the lens of this same premise, they are consistently offering you the opportunity to begin, in word and deed, to refute those implications, and to out-grow and heal the origins of those beliefs.

I cannot tell you how many times the following scenario has happened to/for me. I have an unconscious belief that is making my life miserable and blocking me from receiving or feeling joy, abundance, love, or any of the good stuff. And I know that I don’t have the good stuff, but I’m not conscious of the belief that is blocking it or creating the circumstances I’m feeling stuck in. So, as if by magic, a character shows up my life (when the student is ready, the teacher appears), and starts speaking, and or acting out my shadow beliefs, and they do it with complete and utter impunity. Usually, I either fall in love with them or I can’t stand them or a little of both depending on the severity of the belief. But always, at some point, they become intolerable to me, because in truth, what is happening is that they are making my own dysfunctional beliefs conscious, and they are giving me the opportunity to start rejecting them.

This is true of most of us. I reject the person or the situation that is bringing the consciousness alive for me because I don’t want to own that I’m carrying it and that I feel powerless to change. So here’s a better idea: Either they should change, or shut up or go away. But that never works. Because if they do, like clockwork, a new character shows up with the exact same script. Or I keep running the script that the character I amputated was running, round and around in my mind. And on it goes until I, myself, become clear around the beliefs that are no longer serving me.

At the point that I become clear and willing to change, the character who apparently had the contract to do this for me either changes, too or disappears. And it’s isn’t always a case of being shown a shadow belief. Sometimes a situation or person shows up that has something I want, something that I have been denying myself, not allowing myself to want, or not feeling good enough to have. Same principle. They bring to life the pain of the denied desire and all the beliefs that are blocking me from having it. Usually the same process too. 
Immediately I either put the person on a pedestal, ie. deny that they are just showing me an unrealised aspect of myself by making them superior to me. Or I degrade the thing I’m telling myself I don’t want or care about having, or easier still the offending character who has what I want, in an attempt to make it all unconscious again. Until the next time. Because, as we all know, that which we resist, persists!

While in the moment it feels excruciating or even impossible to find the gold in the discomfort—especially whenever a perceived injustice is being enacted in my life—and I want to take the person I see as being the offender and throw them off something very tall with an unforgiving landing ground, I am still almost positive that it is all happening for me, not to me.

Every scenario I believe contains a gift for all parties.

I’ve come to see these interactions less as unwanted confrontation or conflict but as shadow theatre. A performance of characters who appear to be dark but are actually being operated by helping hands with a desire to wake me up somehow. I have my so-called antagonists, the Voldermorts and pretty much anyone with an evil laugh at Disney, who are there to provoke me into growth, and the so called support team, the Sam Wise Ganges, C3POs, and Gandalfs, who are there to inspire and nourish me into growth.

Whichever way you look at it, they’re all on the same side. How or why would Luke ever have discovered his connection to the force and his calling to become a Jedi if it hadn’t been for Darth Vader? Antagonists don’t just make for good stories; they are a necessity of life. I have come to see them as my best friends in disguise. The greater the infraction, the further I will have to travel and expand my capacity for compassion and healing and acceptance. From that perspective, the infraction becomes a gift worthy of gratitude.

Here’s the tricky part: To hold the knowledge of that truth, but to act according to the lessons. In other words, we’re not here to be boundaryless doormats in a state of transcendence around abusive behaviour. Nor should we be renouncing accountability for our own offending behaviour on the premise that we were doing someone a favour in order to help them with their personal growth. Sometimes the lesson is learning to draw the line, say no, or to speak up. Or perhaps it is learning to feel remorse or to be able to process appropriate guilt and shame around our dysfunctional behaviour. This isn’t a perspective designed to transcend accountability or difficult feelings; it is, in fact, the opposite. It is a perspective that takes the cycle of being stuck in shame, blame and waiting in order to get the liberation we need to move on or to grow.

Are apologies really only for the apologiser? I don’t think so. To be on the receiving end of an authentic, heartfelt amends can be a profoundly validating and moving experience. More than that, it seems to me to be the only pathway for deepening intimacy. The expression of authentic accountability and remorse builds trust in a relationship. A person who is able to be accountable can also be held accountable. Often it appears that the stronger and healthier a person’s ego, sense of self-worth, and personal security, the greater their capacity for personal accountability, remorse, and processing appropriate levels of healthy shame, all a necessary part of being available for healthy connection with others.

My closest relationships have all weathered a variety of storms, and been made stronger and more intimate by them. During these times we have earned each other’s trust by taking responsibility for our behaviour, and by demonstrating genuine remorse for the impact of our missteps. The desire to change and do better in the future often makes the parties involved feel valuable and valued. So perhaps this is one of the most powerful ways that intimacy is created. Because while the good times in relationships are wonderful, I wonder if our most intimate bonds are forged during times of difficulty or conflict.

People who have weathered storms together are usually closer than people who have only ever experienced the sunny parts of life together. Most healthy relationships, of course, contain a cocktail of shadow theatre and sunny picnics along with the acceptance that no human being is without dark and light. When I come to view the darkness in myself and others with a grateful and investigative mind, the world and everyone in it becomes more like a friendly school of evolution than a battlefield. While school wasn’t always my favourite place to be, I’d much rather be in class than at war.