Two Words That Will Change Your Marriage

My husband’s love languages are words and service. Mine are not. The short story is we’ve had a bit of conflict over how best to love each other in our nearly seven years of marriage.

One of the lessons I learned early on, however, is the power of gratitude for the small things. Once I realized that his acts of love were taking out the trash, doing the dishes or changing a tire, I knew these deserved my heartfelt thanks. Awkwardly at first, I began recognizing the ways he loved me that I hadn’t seen before.

“Thank you for taking out the trash, Babe.”
“Thanks for tucking the kids in to bed.”
“Thank you for paying that bill.”
“Thank you for remembering to set up the kids’ doctor’s appointment.”
“Thank you for arranging a sitter for date night.”

Were any of these actions extraordinary? Any above and beyond? Not really. Except the date night – we all know that’s a small miracle, y’all. But it’s the faithfulness I’m noticing, and I want him to know I see it.

When I’ve talked to friends and patients at work about this generous expression of gratitude, the response is often, “Well, I don’t feel thankful for those things. It doesn’t feel genuine to say that.” Well, that makes the gratitude about you and not your partner. You aren’t saying thanks so you will feel good – you’re saying it for them. So it isn’t necessary for you to feel warm and fuzzy every time.
Their small act of service is their love to you; your thankfulness is your love to them.

Others have responded to my suggestion with, “Well, my spouse should be doing these things anyway. Why should I thank him for it?” That’s true. If marriage is a partnership, both you and your partner should be looking for ways to make the family life run without needing to be asked or thanked. But isn’t it nicer to be acknowledged? 

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The truth is many of us feel lost and unnoticed in our homes, marriages and families. The primary caregiver in most families often lands a surprising amount of the household chores as well, and most of the work goes unacknowledged. At the same time, working partners return daily to jobs they don’t always love because they’ve prioritized their family.

I hear husbands and wives grow weary under the repetitive, thankless burden of the mundane. They know their work is ordinary, but they want someone to notice their contribution. They want to matter. To be appreciated.

And that’s what “Thank you” can do. These two small words spin a world of difference when you use them.

When we express gratitude to our partners for their contributions, however small, we are saying, “I appreciate how you served our family in this way. I see what you are doing, and it matters. Please don’t stop.”

It’s the most basic of psychological laws. Whatever we praise, we reinforce. Whatever we reinforce, we will see more of.

If we ignore the every day acts of service and love that make our little lives go, if we are always waiting for something extraordinary to praise, we will rarely feel grateful.

And here is the biggest thing: as soon as we start telling ourselves we don’t need to thank our spouses for the everyday, we realize we have nothing to thank them for because ordinary everyday living is our life.

These moments of laundry and dishes and errands and school plays and tucking-ins are not the margins. These are all we have together. If we wait until our spouses do something extraordinary in order to express gratitude, we will lose out on the beauty in the every day. And the fact that this person, your best friend, is there to share it with you.

So let’s not miss what’s right in front of us. Look up from this post and around your home. See who’s in the beautiful mess with you, really see the man, the woman across from you, see all they do and all they are and notice the tired but satisfied look on their face. Then say “Thank you”.

Struggling to find your calling or your place in the world? I know the feeling. Take this journey with me, and when you subscribe to the blog, I’ll send you my two eBooks on hope and calling FREE.

What Happens When We Don’t Ask Questions

We assume someone who is overweight should just work out. Or the skinny kid should eat more.

We assume the single 30-something has too high of standards. Or maye there’s something wrong with him.

We assume the childless couple is self-absorbed, preferring wine and cheese parties and late night soirees to slumber parties and the sleepless nights of parenthood.

We assume the frazzled mother could benefit from some parenting classes. Or maybe she failed them.

We assume the failing marriage is his fault. Or hers.

But we don’t know that the girl with extra weight has tried everything. That the skinny high schooler eats 4000 calories and works out every afternoon.

We don’t know that our 30-something neighbor met a few girls online, but nothing panned out yet. He didn’t want to settle for a shallow version of love. And he’s already had his heart broken more than once.

We don’t know that the couple with no kids started fertility treatments last year, to no avail, and they’re trying to decide between IVF and adoption, both of which may break their hearts and their bank accounts.

We don’t know that the strung out mom at the park, the one we can’t believe is yelling at her kids, is about three days from getting evicted and her husband took off again, this time, maybe, for good.

We don’t know that the husband fought on hands and knees for this marriage that “can’t be saved”. He doesn’t want to give up, but he doesn’t know how to take back the years of pain he caused. He can’t heal her. He can’t do all the work.

It’s easier to stand far off, to judge, label and categorize. It doesn’t require my time if I can write someone off as “beyond help”.

My heart never has to break; I never have to open my wallet if it’s her fault she’s getting evicted. I can pass blame. I can cast stones.

But when I judge, I lose touch with myself. I become someone I don’t even like, a hypocrite. A Pharisee, stone in hand. And I forego the thing I will one day need most: mercy.

[Click photo for credit]
Not only that, I miss my role as a human when I judge. I stand on the outside instead of leaping into the jungly mess with the hurting. Maybe I won’t be able to pull them out, but at least they won’t be alone. And when the time comes for me to need the rescue, I will be able to receive what I’ve given.

The measure of mercy I use will be measured back to me. The mercy I dole out is the mercy I’ll receive.

Mercy is required of us, a command. But it’s not just that. The day will come when I need mercy, and if I’ve been stingy with this big-hearted, compassionate forgiveness, I will find that mercy is stingy with me.

Let’s not stand far off, fingers pointed away from ourselves. Let’s not be accusers who steal dignity and humanity from someone with our assumptions. Instead, let’s be controversial. Let’s assume the best, ask questions and let people keep their precious humanity so when the time comes, we may receive that same mercy, free of accusation.

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Love That Doesn’t Need You To Say It Back

[Today, I’m honored to be a guest at the home of the brave and spunky Leanne Penny. I joined up with her Love Showed Up series with a tale very close to my heart: the story of my husband and I. I love to tell this story because it sounds new and different every time. If you’re visiting, from Leanne’s, welcome. It’s great to meet you. If you like what you see, subscribe to the blog right here, and I will send you my inspirational eBook, My Birthright For Soup. It’s that easy. And without further ado, here’s our story.]

“I think we’re going to break up,” I announced to my new boyfriend after everyone else left the church that night. “I break up with all my boyfriends.”

We’d only been dating two days, yet my previous relationships told me everything I needed to know about this one. Relationships with me end badly. I figured it was only fair to let this new guy in on my secret.

Ironically, I started this relationship believing it would end. But on the other side of my inner cynic was a hopeless romantic, one who hoped someday a man and I could love each other with a true and lasting affection. I’d just never seen it done. Not in my life anyway.

I don’t remember how he responded to my anxious forecast, but I have no doubt he calmed the storm with his trademark patience I would come to expect over the years. I do remember we left in the same car that night. And the next day, we were still together.

After barely a month of dating, or in my world, after 30 days of not breaking up, we curled up beside each other on a crusty, aged couch along his living room window. It was already dark, but we wouldn’t say goodbye for hours. I never wanted to leave him, even though he terrified me. No matter how dim my pessimistic predictions, I couldn’t make him go away.

As we lay there talking, he whispered the three scariest words, words I knew meant we were over. “I love you,” he said, his voice tender and sincere. But they sounded like the end to me.

I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t know how I felt. My mind flooded with all the fearful thoughts. It was too soon for the L word. Why was he being so pushy? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait on those words, like a year or something? The men who said “I love you” before wanted me to say it back. And then we broke up. The L word is a break-up precursor. Doesn’t he know the rules? Now we’re doomed.

As the anxiety whirlwind spun a dervish in my mind, I sealed the words inside my mouth. Eventually I mustered, “I can’t say it back yet.” I braced myself for the awkward guilt I knew would follow my confession.

Will he reject her and break her heart? Find out as the story continues at Leanne’s.

This photo may or may not be a spoiler alert. [Click for photo credit]
This photo may or may not be a spoiler alert. [Click for photo credit]
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{There are so many reasons to become a subscriber. When you click here to subscribe, I will send you my free inspirational eBook, My Birthright For Soup, as well as Called To Come Alive as soon as it comes out. Thank you for reading!}

 

 

Don’t Make Me Guess

{Live brave and dream along with me. Click here to subscribe to the blog or stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.}

When I dated guys in my 20s, I did the classic girl thing all guys hate: I made them guess what I wanted.

I wanted to know they loved me and were paying attention to me. So I didn’t give them details about gifts I wanted or what I expected from them. I figured if they knew me and loved me, they should just know.

Wrong.

It turned out all my boyfriends were doing other things with their lives besides guessing what I wanted for Christmas, or if Wednesday or Thursday was a better day to surprise me with flowers. They had jobs and families and friends, bills and cars and in general, a life besides me. And that was a good thing.

Making people guess what you want assumes people aren’t doing anything else besides thinking of you. That’s selfish, isn’t it?

It comes from a genuine human need to be wanted, noticed and appreciated. The need isn’t bad, but it’s how we get our needs met that becomes distasteful and illegitimate. This type of attention-wrangling turns people off at worst, or manipulates them into the role of the magician who can solve our problems when they certainly don’t have these powers. 

In fact, the opposite is true: most people suck at mind-reading.

The tension worsens when the disappointed person responds with anger or frustration to their friends and family who guess their needs wrong, or who refuse to play the games. Typically the silent treatment ensues, or the person withholds affection until the other person coalesces to their silent demands.

You might look like Elizabeth Taylor when you’re giving the silent treatment, but it’s still not pretty. [click photo for credit]

 

Don’t get your needs met that way. Tell people what you want or need from them.

I learned from my dating mistakes, thankfully, and when I started dating Josh, I told him plainly I would not be one of those girls who made him guess. I would tell him what I wanted. And so far, that’s worked pretty well.

It’s not terribly romantic to say, “I like when you bring flowers home, and I wish you would do it more,” but guess what else isn’t romantic or lovely? Getting angry when our partners, friends and family fail to meet our unspoken expectations.

You can’t foster genuine relationships by withholding information, drawing people in with vagueries and then forcing them to ask or wonder aloud what is wrong. It’s a manipulative relationship-killer.

I am not talking to specific people here, but if this speaks to you, then I am talking to you.

Don’t make people guess what you want. Gather your courage, assume the best about the people in your life. And then tell them plainly what you need.

What’s your best advice for being honest about what you need? Tell me in the comments below.

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When It’s Okay To Sin

At work this week, I interviewed a man who was leaving the Army for a disciplinary infraction. I’ve learned the art of asking questions in a flat tone to allow the interviewee to believe I won’t be alarmed by any response. In this manner, I quickly learned the man was being discharged for choking his girlfriend.

He explained the situation, that she had been punching him first. Although this was clearly abuse, I verbally gave him the benefit of the doubt to learn more, knowing some girls can be scrappy and put a hurting on a guy. Perhaps it was self-defense? Hardly, he shook his head and smirked, blowing off the fact that she could’ve hurt him, even if she tried.

But he held his actions were justified. It was okay to choke his girlfriend because of what she did.

I laid it out, the fact that he had the biological advantage over her in strength, and he said he wasn’t concerned for his safety anyway. That choking is used to kill or threaten to kill – it’s a fight-ender. And that no matter what she did, it did not justify choking her.

I told him plainly that whatever he justified now, he would justify in the future. If he was comfortable with choking a girl who was hitting him, he would do nothing to prevent the situation happening in the future. However, if he felt appropriate remorse and owned his bad behavior, he might be able to see similar scenarios coming and avoid them.

Who is in the right? Wrong question. [Click photo for credit.]

He appeased me some by calling his actions “wrong”, but wanted to be sure I recognized her actions as wrong too. And then he returned to calling his choking attempt “justified”.

It didn’t help that, when he explained the situation to his girlfriend’s family, they told her she deserved to be choked for having punched him several times.

Yes, this is the world we live in. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, getting choked for throwing punches.

At some point, we tell ourselves, My sin is justified.

Because he did this, because she said that, because they reacted this way and called me this, I had the right.

We tell ourselves: it was okay for me to lie. It was okay for me to choke my girlfriend or yell at my child or cheat on my husband. I wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t provoked me.

It’s their fault for setting up the situation in which I sinned. It’s justifiable.

I’m here to remind us all: No. No, it’s not. Lying and stealing and cheating and hitting and ignoring and fighting are not justifiable. We do not ever get the right to respond to evil with evil.

Why? Because grace is too powerful. Because the Spirit of God who lived inside Jesus and enabled him to respond to violence and accusation with outrageous grace, compassion and peace also lives inside of us.

The presence of God’s spirit, living on our insides, strips us of excuses.

This pains me to say this as much as it pains you to hear it. But it needs to be said:

No one can make you sin. It will always be a choice. And the choice will always be yours.

Let me give my caveat, since I know you are worried: I am not talking about self-defense, please know that. If someone breaks into my house, I am going to do what I need to do to keep my family safe and get the intruder out. If someone is being hit or abused in a relationship, they have the right to protect and defend themselves and any children involved. And if I had been alive in Nazi Germany, I hope to God I would’ve been willing to protect friends or family who were black or Jewish and lie on their behalf if interrogated. These situations are not someone blaming another person for their wrong behavior – they are self-protective. We know in our hearts what the difference is.

So with that said, are you blaming others for your reactions and behavior? Well, stop it.

You can’t become who you want to be if your every action is determined my someone else. 

Set your own course. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, words and actions. This path takes courage, but it is the only way to take real control of your life.

{Live brave and dream along with me. Click here to subscribe to the blog for free updates and a first copy of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year. And stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.}

How To Get Divorced In One Easy Step

{For those visiting from Start Marriage Right, welcome. I’m talking candidly about preventing divorce today – I know this is a painful and controversial topic, and I’m trying to be delicate here. Please do not hear me being trite or accusing or blaming people who have experienced divorce. I am speaking on the side of prevention for those who are walking the line in their relationships, or who are blissfully unaware of how easily the cracks form in the foundation of a marriage. Thanks for reading and please be sure to be respectful as we discuss this sensitive issue.} 

No one wants a tutorial on divorce. No one walks down the aisle planning for the marriage to end. At least not in a healthy relationship. Yet there is one particular thing any couple can do to significantly increase their chances of divorce. It’s simple: disconnect.

I’m not talking about disconnecting from each other. I think that’s obvious. I’m talking about couples who isolate themselves from community, from family, friends and church involvement. Especially when their marriage is in crisis.

As a pastor of a church alongside my husband, we consistently see marriages in trouble. We offer counsel with a goal of restoration, but always understanding both parties must be engaged in the process. And both partners must want the help.

Sadly, some marriages never make it through the crisis. But these relationships have something in common. A strong marriage depends vitally on the input and support of others, through mentorship and counseling, through transparent relationships where the dark and painful things can be aired out and healed. And the marriages who fail tend to have one or both partners outside of community, unwilling to correct their course and receive guidance.

My husband and I received two years of counseling when our relationship started. And we needed it. I had many misperceptions about men from previous relationships, along with a suitcase full of fear about how our marriage might end up. We were counseled while we dated, during engagement, and for the first year of marriage.

I didn’t know it then, but these mentors assisted us in laying a foundation for healthy communication and conflict we would need the rest of our marriage. Our marriage would be much weaker without their input.

Pastoring in a college town means counseling many young, idealistic couples through their early stages of marriage. There is often a blissful ignorance present during the dating period, a disbelief that their love could fade and problems could set in. As we attempted to challenge this view, we saw a few of them pull away from the very relationships that might provide stability and honest feedback.

Some couples waited until they nearly despised each other before they sought help. Some couples reviled any suggestions that their ways of relating to each other were harmful and pursued counselors who agreed with their unhealthy habits. Others lived under the pretense “nothing is wrong here”, ignoring conflict the best they could until it blew up.

This is always painful to watch because we wanted to help. But we could not get in. There was no door for us. These couples were on the outside by their own choosing. They did not want our help.

And no marriage can survive and thrive without authentic community.

Continue reading at Start Marriage Right.

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Just Apply Compassion {A Guest Post}

{Today we hear from journalist and blogger Tiffany Roney on the topic of forgiveness and a little secret she learned to let go of pain and hurt. When she sent this post to me a few weeks ago, I had no idea it would powerfully work its way into my life with perfect timing. Tomorrow I will talk about the impact of this post and the surprising things I learned, as well as some exciting turnarounds in one of my most estranged relationships. This is great stuff so grab a cup of coffee with me and let’s listen.}

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There are songs about it. The Bible says to do it. In fact, it’s the basis of our faith, but what does it really mean, and how do we really do it?

I interned with a counseling program for about a year – a program that emphasizes forgiveness – but I recently realized I hadn’t really known how to truly forgive.

In a forgiveness struggle this year, my dad gave me a book about forgiveness that suggested giving up your rights to whatever was hurt or stolen. While this method can be very helpful for some people and has helped me in some ways, it didn’t do much for me in this struggle.

Other times I aimed to conquer strife, I followed the technique of saying aloud, “I forgive [name] for [action],” but I was generally just listing through offenses, feeling all the anger and self-pity all over again. When I was “done,” I once again suppressed the issue – only to find it return at a later time.

Friends and family would suggest “just letting it go,” but most of the attempts simply turned into suppression as well. What wasn’t I getting over anything?

On Saturday in California, I found the key: compassion!

How did I miss that?

I was searching on the computer in my aunt’s loft for forgiveness advice and came across this website. What I gleaned from the article: to look at the situation with compassion for the other person.

A couple of tactics I found helpful: think of what the person was going through in that moment, and remember the reality that sin is not abundant life. Thus, that person was not experiencing abundant life during that situation.

This method of looking at “what they were going through” is not equal to trying to “understand” it per se, which can lead to thinking you’re justifying their actions. In my experience, that only causes a person to be more tempted to justify their resentment. Justifying begets justifying. Rather, it’s about caring.

Result: awesome. I feel so free.

As a bonus – or a part of this freedom? – I find myself being more open-minded and creative. If you want a mind and heart at peace, go ahead. It’s available.

Find your freedom.

How do you forgive? What benefits of forgiveness have you received or found in your own life? Let us know in the comments below.
Tiff
Tiffany Roney enjoys beauty, writing, and cycling. She is better at starting projects than finishing them. Her day job and free-time “jobs” are pretty much the same: writing and photography. Tiffany believes stories are more powerful than facts, fiction can ring as true as reality, and mercy triumphs over judgment. Want to hear more from Tiffany? Check out her blog at: http://tiffanyroney.blogspot.com/. 

The Other Side of Commitment

On the other side of commitment is everything you want.

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It’s a cruel irony. Our culture offers millions of options, and for millennials especially, there is this looming, strangling fear of missing out.

We don’t want to miss out. We are terrified of missing out. Of missing the one thing, the right thing.

So we leave our options open. We say “Maybe” to college majors and job opportunities and friendships and relationships and travel and church and volunteering and where we will spend our money.

Maybe. Possibly. I don’t know yet.

That’s our M.O.

The irony is that the very thing we seek, the deep connections, the being known fully and loved anyway, the waking up with the gusto of purpose and meaning, all the good stuff of life, is behind the door of commitment. But in our fear of missing out, we never say “Yes” to anything.

The Maybe is stealing your destiny from you. Maybe is thieving your dreams right from under your nose.

This word is no innocuous thing. It’s a heart position, and you think it’s protecting you from making the wrong choice. Instead, it’s blocking you from everything you want.

Stop saying Maybe. Stop saying I don’t know.

Say Yes to a friend who is reliable. Say Yes to a job that isn’t your dream yet, but it will pay the bills while you figure it out. Say Yes to the relationship that is good, even though you’re scared. So Yes to the church that’s more flawed than you expected.

Nothing is perfect. But many things are good, very good.

But until you walk through the Commitment Door, you will be outside, unknown, undecided, wandering.

Do it. No more excuses. Take Maybe out of your vocabulary. Just Say Yes.

Open the door of Commitment and step through.

What are you most of afraid to commit to? Is it any one thing or just pretty much everything? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Housewife

Hello there. If you’re visiting from Start Marriage Right, welcome. Glad to have you today. This is where I write and laugh about relationships, spirituality, parenthood and leadership. Let’s stay in touch, shall we? Get all the updates to my blog by subscribing here, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Without further ado, here’s the Start Marriage Right article from this week.]

housewife

Life was easier with only 700 square feet. The tiny apartment my new husband and I occupied for our first two years hugged us close with cozy spaces and colorful walls. Hospitality was a pain, but we didn’t care. Because we never had to mow the lawn.

Sure, the neighbor across the hall died, and no one knew about it for four days. And sure, our upstairs neighbor’s pet ferret found his way into Josh’s shoes one morning. And sure, the catty-corner apartment hosted drug dealers and bad parents.

But I miss those days for one big reason: the housework was minimal and clearly defined. Those were the days.

In premarital counseling, we divided the chores to avoid the conflict later. Josh took laundry because the washer and dryer lurked in the dark, cement basement below us. And I was going to wear dirty clothes before I hauled a hamper down those steps. It worked out perfectly though because he hated cleaning the bathroom. And while I could think of a hundred things I liked more, it sure trumped reliving a horror movie every time I ran out of underwear.

And so it was, two simple people, Josh with too many books and me with too many scarves, and only three pieces of furniture, one a freebie that smelled of cigarettes.

When we moved into our first real home three years ago, we sat down in the empty living room and laughed giddy little laughs. With the money we earned from the government home-buyer stimulus, we purchased new furniture and paid off debt. Suddenly we were adults, with squishy leather couches and a baby on the way.

We were big-hearted and a little crazy back then, and we wanted roommates. We figured five bedrooms were too much for the two-plus of us. When John arrived in November that year, two twenty-something boys occupied the basement. They came upstairs for food and conversation, and sometimes the kitchen was messier when they left.

For two and a half years, roommates shared our home. They perfected our hospitality and opened our lives wide. But the season ended in October last year, and we settled into a new routine with just three of us. We never had that before.

Suddenly, the messes we noticed around the home were just ours, but mainly mine. Laundry left unfolded. Unswept floors. A fridge that only got one deep clean in its lifetime.

Keep reading over at Start Marriage Right.  Blog Signature

5 Steps to Moving Off the Island of Self-Pity

One of my favorite things to do is feel sorry for myself. It’s so gratifying. So deliciously satisfying. If someone lets me down, hurts me or disappoints me, or if I’m just in some kind of physical pain, I assume no one can understand what it’s like. That no one cares. And it feels so good to tell myself that.

Poor, poor, little me.

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It takes only minutes for me to call my travel agent and get a one-way ticket to the Island of Self-Pity, but it’s huge pain to get back because I start to act like one of the locals. Shoot, at that point, I am the locals. But only if I stay too long.

This is like the Island of Self-Pity, except not as tropical. So don’t get any ideas about how great it is. It is not great.

Why is Self-Pity an island? Why not a bustling metropolis? Well, you know that old saying “No one wants to come to your pity party”? It’s cause it’s true. No one wants to come.

As soon as we feel bad for ourselves, we build a wall. We end up having so much (false) compassion for ourselves, we use it all up and there’s none left for anyone else to give us. Then, from our lonely campsite, we whip out our binoculars and look across the sea to land, where all our friends and family ignore our “obvious” needs and just move on with their lives. Or if we’ve been on the island long enough, it looks like they’re all having a party without us.

Self-pity is lonely because it can’t invite others in. Or it just won’t. It’s stubborn. It is the opposite of invitational, and it sets itself up for rejection and loneliness, the very thing it’s trying to protect you from.

So let’s get real: self-pity is a back-stabbing friend. It soothes you with its seemingly kind, understanding words. “Oh, your friends just don’t understand you. Your family is always leaving you alone. No one cares about you.” But as soon as you bite that line, you’re hooked. You believe. Your brain begins to atrophy. You lose touch with your human connections. Simply put, when you believe a statement that says “No one cares about you”, you stop engaging with the very people who can help support you in your crisis.

How do we move off the Island of Self-Pity? If you’re there, or if you make frequent visits, move fast. You don’t have much time. This is a seriously nasty, toxic, poisonous, accusing, isolating, liar-liar-pants-on-fire voice in your head. It will put you in survival mode and steal your ability to think creatively and use your imagination. (Don’t believe me? This article about how listening to complaining makes people literally dumber will prove my point.

Don’t give self-pity air time or you will never keep friends. Promise.

Here are 5 Steps to moving off the Island of Self-Pity and getting your real needs met:

1. Tell your friends and/or family how you feel. Tell them about your physical or emotional pain. Tell them if they’ve let you down, or just tell them what is going on in your life that’s so hard for you at that moment. Do the difficult work to be honest and keep the communication door open.

2. Tell your friends and/or family what you really need from them. They are not mind-readers, and they do not exist for your every whim. So don’t hold that against them. Instead, tell them kindly what you need most from them: someone to listen; someone to sit with you and not say anything; someone to give empathy, like, “If I was in your situation, that would be really awful/tragic/heartbreaking/lonely.” I usually need someone who will listen and not try to solve the problem, and then who will empathize by imagining themselves in my shoes. That is serious therapy for me!

3. Forgive the friends/family/co-workers/church people/neighbors who have disappointed you. They’re not God, and even God disappoints us sometimes, doesn’t he? People will let you down, guaranteed. If you want friends, you have to accept that. Make forgiveness a discipline. (NOTE: If you feel the pang of hurt and anger about someone or some thing, that’s a sign you have more forgiving to do. And if you’re a Christian, forgiveness isn’t an opt-in or opt-out thing. It’s really the only caveat God puts on his forgiveness of us, but if we choose not to forgive, we choose not be forgiven. No, thank you.)

4. Remember: being alone is a choice. It’s a state of mind. We can invite people into our lives by giving them the benefit of the doubt, telling them what we need, and then making an effort to move forward. No one wants to be friends with someone who spends most of their time talking about their problems, is super negative or obsesses over a relationship that ended two years ago. If you are stuck, that’s okay, but talk with a professional. Your friends are your any-time support, but they’re not getting paid so don’t abuse them.

5. Figure out how to give back to your friendships. Say thank you, even when they don’t do it perfectly, because good friends will at least try to give you what you need. Ask your friends what they need from you when they’re having a hard time, just in case they forget to ask. And offer empathy as a standard rule. It is almost always what people really want, but are unsure of what to ask for.

And finally, if you are mad at me for saying any of the above things, you live on the Island of Self-Pity. I’m sorry I’m not sorry. Take a step to rejoin us over here by telling us what you need. Cause if you don’t tell us, we won’t be able to help you.

{Got any tricks for getting out of Self-Pity mode? Share them with me below.}

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