some names have been changed or omitted in this post
It was a question I didn't expect to be asked.
And in the last place I ever expected to be asked the question.
Seriously? I thought to myself noting the irony... how and why do these types of things happen to me? Was I on "Punked" or something and just hadn't gotten the memo? It was rather amusing the way life happened sometimes, I thought to myself.
As we both sat there at the tiny table for two enconsed in a back corner of Starbucks... connected ironically to a place... building... offices I once knew like the back of my hand where I'd once worked many moons ago as a receptionist... where I had met Jeremy a lifetime ago, I watched as couples hand in hand sidled up to the counter to order coffees and hot chocolates that chilly December morning laced with sugar and peaks of whipped cream. Couples in late morning post workout clothes outnumbered the folks in office attire. I sat across from my friend dressed in black leggings and an oversized faded turquoise sweatshirt.
"An old flame? Yeah, that's definitely a tough one." I affirmed to her, tossing my leopard spotted wallet back into my oversized bag by my feet.
She stared at me blankly with surprise, then shrugged with frustration and looked down at the smooth table "Yeah... ugh..." She told me with a sigh resignedly. "I don't know what to do... I'm so conflicted about this. I mean, the couple friends I've opened up to I regretted it. They were so harsh with me. They told me to not contact him at all… they told me to just stay as far away as possible. But I really do value our past and wish on some level we could keep in touch. Is that wrong?"
Years ago my mind would have screamed Get. Me. Out. Of. Here. and my eyes would have darted toward the exit as if I could just magically propel myself toward it like a comet and disappear. But where I'd once been weak I was now strong. I knew letting her see my own past angst and pain from it would make her not feel so alone… on what she likely felt to be a desolate island.
I tugged at my leather bracelet hugging my right wrist
stamped with the word LOVE and began…
"I've been there. I personally know what you are going through."I admitted to her... "God, do I know." I added dryly. "I've been in the depths of this myself… not sure what to do… really hurting, incredibly confused and overwhelmed. I've experienced the conflicting within… the struggle. And it is the hardest thing." I added and then with thought continued… " I'm not surprised by their response in what they told you. And they have every good intention, really they do… please don't be mad at them." I stressed to her… "They just don't want to see you do something you'll regret, to hurt yourself or him. Nearly the majority of those you talk to about this situation will have that response…." I trailed off, collecting my thoughts. I paused… "This is what I would consider and then you will have to take some time to mull it all over and make a decision. " I told her.
She sipped her coffee…
"Okay," she nodded leaning forward.
I dabbed at the whipped cream atop my hot chocolate with a stirrer as I began...
"If someone hasn't been through this it's often hard for them to see the mixed feelings and emotions. They may not realize the enormous guilt you feel and the struggle with the idea of reaching out, re-connecting with them. For people outside of it, who have never experienced it, it's easy for them... it can be very black and white thinking. It's a big blinking sign to them of 'DO NOT ENTER' and 'no, no, no!' Which... honestly… depending on where you are at emotionally, is right, wise, and sound advice. Here's the thing... to keep in mind when considering reconnecting with someone you cared for and or loved in your past... what are your intentions? You may first be curious. Or you may be missing them, yearning for what could or should have been. You may be wondering if they feel the same way. They may be happily married, they may be miserably married or they may be single and fancy free. You just don't know. But regardless if they are miserable, regardless if they are regretting losing you, regardless if they would want a re-do... if they are married, they are married. Period. Marriage is to be respected. Marriage is hard enough without adding a re-connection to the mix for goodness sakes. If they are married and you are married, that's a real reality.... of course, in your case, you aren't married." I added. She grinned and I continued...
"But hypothetically if he's married and all you can have is a friendship... will you accept that?"
I asked her pointedly.
She looked troubled, angst showing on her pretty face.
I knew that look.
"Okay... let's look at it this way then..." I proposed. "Let's say he's married with the picket fence and the two point five kids, whatever. You have choices… you can choose to not reach out or to reach out. If you reach out it has to be as friends only. Those are the two choices... it's not the choice of instantly living out a fantasy of married life to him if that's where you're at. I'd say no contact if you are not in a good place and expect something of him. In that case, heed the advice of your other friends… keep the door shut. God doesn't wish for us to cause strife, turmoil and pain for others. Love is supposed to be selfless, not selfish. Love is also peace-seeking.Look to Corinthians regarding love. If you believe you are in a place of peace, drawing wisdom and strength from God, proceed with friendship. Take your mental picture of what 'it should have been' in your mind out... remove it just momentarily and instead look at what remains. Realistically the two choices are... would you rather have zero contact or at least be able to be friends? And the next question is, will you choose to do that?" I asked her.
GOD NEVER APPROVES OF US BEING WITH SOMEONE WHO IS MARRIED
She traced the top of her cup with her long French manicured index finger and pondered what I was saying. "When put like that, yes. I mean, I'd rather have him in my life as a friend than not at all." She admitted.
I nodded "Because you care about him that much." I affirmed as a statement instead of a question.
She nodded "Yeah... I do care about him. And I'd never want to do anything to cause him hurt." She shot me a look of relief. "You've really made it easier to look at this." She told me and looked grateful. "I value what I had with him even if it wasn't long term. I value him. I would rather have a friendship than nothing." She nodded "I mean... I wish we had ended up together but we didn't... and the truth is...." She trailed off, focusing on a frayed corner of her napkin in her hands.
"You still care for him." I winced for her struggle.
She nodded with no words.
My heart ached for her like the earth did on a cloudy day for the sun. Cast in the shadows of the corner table her face just barely revealed tears forming in her hazel eyes that matched her drapey sweater and offset her black jeans and boots. Her dark blonde hair in a messy bun resembled a halo around her head as she picked up the frayed napkin from the table to daintily wipe at the corners of her wet eyes.
"I'm sorry it's been so hard...." I told her softly… we sat in quiet comforting silence together… then I spoke, "This isn't easy... trust me, I know... But like I said... you have to be honest with yourself and ask yourself the tough questions. There are those who will tell you to stay far away and don't go there. And if you have expectations of him you should listen to them. Only you know. If you are secretly looking for reconciliation from him don't go there. If he was to seek something from you while married then you know it's a no go and you need to run and not look back. If you look at the situation from a peaceful, mature, holy perspective… if you look at your two choices…. keeping the door shut or choosing friendship... and keep it as only friendship if you are both or one of you married… then choose friendship. Choose love. And I obviously don't mean a romantic love. I mean an agape love. You deeply cared for this man at one time and clearly still do on some level... what a great opportunity to share Christ-like love toward him in friendship. There's no regret there... how beautiful to be able to include him in your life and share the beauty, the highs and lows, the person you've become... with authenticity and warmth, with no expectations, no pressure, no awkwardness…. We can love as one caring Christian to another, keeping with God's standards, not our own, not the world's... what a beautiful testament of life... our feelings may try to imprison us… the devil will use our weaknesses to destroy us but what ultimately wins? What ultimately covers all hurt, pain and loss? Not more pain, not more hurt, illusions or grief. Not shutting the door. Not stuffing our feelings and acting like it didn't happen. Not denying your feelings. But love. Love heals all." I told her boldly….
"Love always makes everything better, because when it's peace seeking it becomes healing and it's glorious." I told her with joy in my eyes and smiled at her. "It's maybe not about reconciliation at all... when we remove that out of the equation, we realize maybe it's about growth and becoming more of who you are meant to be. Maybe it's about loving someone without expectation. Maybe it's loving more like Jesus." I spoke.
"And who knows... " I trailed off... "Maybe he will become available one day and you can give it a second shot. The statistics show that happens more frequently than we may realize*. And statistics also show those relationships have a high chance at success. But if it doesn't happen? Or if he does become available and he's simply not interested? It's comparable to sitting and watching a pot boil... you have to live your life. You can't sit and wait. Maybe his part in your story is over but if it is... someone better suited is coming. Because God has a plan... He's not making this up as He goes along. He has someone in mind for you. We cause ourselves stress trying to figure out everything in life. Just trust God's plan for you. Pray for the man God has in mind for you. You can never go wrong there." I smiled at her.
She sniffed and wiped at her nose with her napkin... and took a deep breathe, then exhaling. "Thank you " She smiled. "Bless you... thanks for listening and helping me wade through this... you've given me the most help... just trying to look at this... it's tough when you're in it, you know?" She asked and I nodded understandingly.
Man, did I ever.
I had waded through those rough waters years ago myself and knew them firsthand... I was incredibly blessed to have swam to the other side... to shore and to be at a place of peace and love... we may flail about in life but God won't let us drown... He reaches in and guides us to a place of where the waters sweep the sand... where the seashells glimmer like midnight moonbeams and you wash up on shore... your cheeks flushed from exertion, your tears mixed with the salty drops of ocean water... and you lay there in sweet limp surrender to Him and say "I just want peace. I just want light. I just want to be free."
...and He infuses you with peace... your body transforming from heavy and burdened to lithe and free... and with peace comes love... with free comes the ability to now share that love... unchained from the past, no expectations... to walk, skip and run with joyful abandon because where we were once weak we become strong... it's not the strongest who survive and inspire... it's those who have been weak, surrender and then thrive.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
* Dr. Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. has been doing research on reunited couples since 1993 and is recognized as an international expert on rekindled love. Check out her book Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances. You can check out her website: www.lostlovers.com
You've probably heard by now at least if you are a Bachelor fan or tabloid reader Sean Lowe is to marry Catherine Giudici on Sunday, January 26th, 2014 on live television. You can read the article here posted by the Huffington Post:
It has become public knowledge that Sean and Catherine are waiting until their wedding night to consummate their relationship. There are those in society who want to point fingers at couples whom they deem odd or strange because they choose to wait to consummate their relationship until after they've exchanged "I do's". Yet the story can be viewed as a beacon of light in a world often obsessed with lust and instant gratification, that there are still couples who put importance... valueon waiting. Sean and Catherine may be in the minority by the world's standards but not by God's.
I love this story.
I love that someone out there stands behind what they believe in and isn't caving due to worldly pressure and influence.
I love that Sean is being a man and looking out for her.
I love that he is not going to be selfish and look inward to his own needs.
I love that Catherine supports him too and they stand united together.
THEY ARE BOTH SO INCREDIBLY BRAVE.
They are brave because so few will stand up today for what's right. Has it been an easy path for them? Only they know the answer to that question yet we can assume it hasn't been easy… due to what we all know about human nature. Yet they have held steadfast to their values and what God deems suitable. Because when they stand up and say:
"This is what we believe.
This is what we are doing.
We are honoring each other and God."
It enables others to do the same.
So many of us wish we had that time back… that time to have a do-over and not engage in pre-marital sex. We can't have a do-over but we can begin anew any day from here out. Maybe you've already done something you regret and wish you could take it back.
I know I do… if I could have a re-do I'd take it in a nano second... I know I was wrong having pre-marital sex and when we admit we were wrong... that our behavior was sinful... that is BRAVE too. It's not something I can do-over but I can start new. Abstaining from sex outside marriage, caring about someone deeply, I'm going to hold off because I wouldn't want to do anything that could cause either of us potential regret, harm or hurt later. That holds true for the man in my future.
I want the next man I'm with to be the last.
And that includes doing what I know to be right.
Maybe you have a similar past story that includes regret and wish you could have back that one night or those many nights… that moment(s) of weakness filled with self and lack of discipline... maybe rebellion. When we care and purposefully love someone we put what God desires first, as well as the well-being of the one we love ahead of our own fleshly desires.
You may think "It's too late for me… I've already messed up." But we don't have to subscribe to sin, lust and the ways of the world on a continual basis just because we already did once, twice, ten times or more. We don't have to say "Ugh, I've already messed it up, there's no point in starting fresh." We can say no to throwing in the towel.
Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last?
Then You look at this prisoner
and say to me, son
Stop fighting a fight
It's already been won.
And I am redeemed
Big Daddy Weave - Redeemed Lyrics | MetroLyrics
We can pick ourselves up and say:
"Today is a new beginning. Today I'm walking with God and remaining untouched until my wedding night with the man I marry."
Just because we have made less than stellar choices in the beginning does not mean we are destined to continue on that way and those choices also be our ending. We can decide any day, any hour, any minute:
"My story is going to end differently"
And then see it through.
Some may laugh and think "that's extreme", or "that's taking it too seriously"... but God isn't laughing... He delights in us taking Him seriously and even more, obeying Him. God desires us to use discipline and honor our body, not dabble in passionate lust, as sexual immorality is a work of the flesh.
ADMITTING A STRUGGLE = BRAVE
This week someone in the news admitted her struggle behind closed doors… Elizabeth Vargas, the 20/20 news anchor sat down with 'Good Morning America' to open up about her past struggle with alcoholism…
you can watch the video here:
In the interview she relayed the details of her journey and how it brought her to a final place of triumph. Think of how many people watching that interview could relate… nodding their heads and silently affirming they too were struggling while ensconced in their dens or kitchens holding a cup of coffee to wake up from the previous night's headache-inducing-wine-binge. Elizabeth Vargas has undoubtedly inspired countless people to be brave enough to finally dodge denial and admit they too have a problem with alcohol, with addiction. It takes guts to stand up and admit publicly or merely to our family and friends that we have an issue we are struggling with… whether it be porn, cheating, alcohol, excessive spending, gambling, etc… when we are brave and stand up, when we admit our moments of defeat that have remained hidden… behind the bathroom door in a puddle of tears or in front of the mirror where only God can see, when we admit we've felt convicted about our behavior and yet desperately need help because we are too weak on our own to help ourselves… we are doing something wonderful… we may not know it at the time but we are modeling for others their first step toward victory too… a single act of bravery that will have widespread wondrous results.
You set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
and wipe away every stain
'cause I'm not who I used to be
Oh, God, I'm not who I used to be
Jesus, I'm not who I used to be
'cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed
Big Daddy Weave - Redeemed Lyrics | MetroLyrics
In life we may start with a few strikes, a few falls, a few boo's from the stands... but the truth is... it's the progress, the last bit that counts... the past is not an excuse to say "to heck with it, I'll get by on grace doing what I want"... it's commiting our life to God and declaring that we will finish our race in victory, that our game will bring an epic win, that our story will conclude with tears of joy and cheers of glory...
because we were brave…
we grew and evolved
into what God desires.
And I can't think of anything greater than pleasing Him.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
"Life is so incredibly strange… "
I surmised aloud as we sat together on the park bench. Lost in thought, I gazed off into the winter scenery ahead, the tall trees bare from fall's dismantling of their leaves. "It's funny how things turn out the way they do… relationship-wise… it's too bad we don't get a crystal ball in life.
But I've learned after being married I'd rather be alone the rest of my life than be utterly miserable with someone…. that's the worst thing ever." I told her.
"Having a crystal ball would sure make it easier…" she affirmed. " I do believe life is much too short to be miserable and stay in a marriage that is… everybody has some problems… but if it's a marriage with abuse it's time to move on. Maybe eventually you'll find someone who will appreciate you."
"Maybe…" I trailed off. "It's much too soon to even consider someone else." I replied. "Part of me can't help but want to be selfish for awhile anyway… do my own thing… a career, pursue some goals and dreams, travel some. It would have to be someone who took things slow, valued friendship first and God first and foremost. If it happens, it happens but I'm not going to go looking for it, forcing something. If it's meant to be the right guy will show up… I saw something online the other day, a girl was really wanting her boyfriend to buy her the little blue box with an engagement ring… at that moment I was thinking to myself… all I want is a large box with a pizza inside… that sounded pretty perfect." I grinned at her.
She laughed in response and shook her head, "I don't know why things turn out the way they do…" she replied. "I think it's often that people are undoubtedly right for each other and make a good match but for whatever reasons they don't end up together… timing has a lot to do with it I think… it seems so many people talk about someone from their past they realize later on in life they were really suited for… they just didn't realize it at the time or take a chance on them. Other times two people weren't necessarily right for each other but their reason for crossing paths had some specific reason known by God however brief. I also think some people… the one they believe they were suited for… that the person was actually a missed bullet, a close call, what have you… what they believed could have been the best thing to happen to them in reality would have been a nightmare… "she grimaced "I guess you call those unanswered prayers."
"True, " I said… "I just wish we got a memo ahead of time telling us which one is which!"
The Missed Bullet: Discerning Good From Evil
In life we don't want to be with someone we later wish had been a bullet missed, sleeping with a close call we actually caught, or living in a nightmare with someone who once tried to sell us a dream. In life there will be men who will try to sell you a fairytale and have the intentions of an evil stepmother. These are the con men, the sociopaths, the narcissists, the alcoholics, the drug and porn addicts, the users and abusers. Everywhere we hear the words "Don't judge" and we do need to realize that everyone is at a different place in their journey of progress yet often in life we absolutely do need to discern good from evil… Godly from the UnGodly and that pertains to dating especially.
What Happens When We Don't Marry A Godly Man: Broken Hearts
Recently my children and I were reading Tony Evan's book Kingdom Man Devotional before bed. Curled up in pajamas on the couch in our den I sat between them nestled under a blanket and read as they looked on following the words. In Evans book he talks about how so many men today are not being Kingdom men… and as a result women and children are suffering… our communities are suffering… our nation is suffering. During the pause in our reading we discussed what makes up a Godly man. As my children began sharing… " a man who follows God"… "a man who reads his bible with his children"… " a man who leads and sets a good example" … "a man who obeys God, who doesn't lie or cheat and loves his wife only"… "a man who puts God first, then his wife"
After they excitedly each shared everything they had been learning, there was a brief lull and my daughter spoke:
"I don't know a man like that."
My heart hurt for them and for what should have been; a Godly man in her life… and yet on some level I felt guilty that I didn't get them that, like a one time missed opportunity of fetching milk at the store that had repercussions years down the road… they, my children didn't get that, what they needed… and they realized it. My son didn't say a word but his facial expression by my quick glance affirmed what his sister had spoken.
I picked up where I had been reading and continued without comment because it was up to them to form their own discernment through learning. Inside I grieved for what I had wanted for them, reminding myself to later that night to pray for their dad, that he would give them what they need. Then I continued… after coming to the end of another short paragraph, I spoke...
"So… what do you think happens when we don't marry a Godly man?" I asked my daughter curious to see what her answer would be.
"It makes people's hearts break.
It breaks their heart in half…
it breaks families
then you have to live in two places."
she told me.
She was so little and yet so incredibly skilled in explaining something like the loss of divorce many adults can't explain much less wrap their heads around. I pulled her close and gave her a hug…
"You're right." I told her.
"We want you to marry somebody…" my son told me and my daughter spoke up in agreement "Yeah! I want you to find somebody and get married! I want a sister! I always wanted a sister! Can you find somebody with girls?" she asked as if I was ordering a pizza with breadsticks on the side.
Men Can Be Fooled Too:
Certainly there are men who are tricked by a wolf in sheep's clothing… tricked by the woman they date and led to believe she is a follower of God, that she will walk the path he walks, the essence of a Proverbs 31 woman, only to later regrettably discover that she bears rotting fruit, ruthless and conniving as a schemer, playing catch me if you can with his heart and life… using manipulative tactics to get what she desires, cheating and squandering her days with idle waste while their home falls into disrepair.
Turn From Sin & Progress Forward:
No man or woman is sinless… but when we are convicted of our sin and repent we are to turn away from it and press forward… There will be times we fall but we must ask God for help, get right back up and press on again. We are here to grow, to change and progress.
No one wants to feel conned, to be tricked or led to believe the path they are on is one paved with love when in reality it's crumbling ahead with cracks and pits that cause one to stumble and fall into hurt, puddles of tears and suffering due to someone we trusted, we had faith in and we gave our heart to. When dating someone we must use discernment in who we choose because no other relationship will positively or adversely affect our life (or our children) more than who we marry… because when two become one we are then joined together in each other's decisions, temperaments, vices, addictions, sins, etc.
4 Signs He's Marriage Material:
1. He's a Godly man. He doesn't just talk the talk but he walks it with God. He obeys God's commands and is slow to anger. There is nothing more stressful than living with someone who is quick to blow up, who is always simmering just below the surface and then sets this example for your children. When choosing someone it's important to find someone who is even kneeled, calm and knows when he's becoming frustrated he needs to take a break, step away and refocus. He should be a man who values his relationship with God, who reads the bible, who attends church and believes it's essential to teach his children God's word.
2. A man who values you. He sees you as an individual, a person with thoughts and ideas, ever evolving, changing and growing and delights in it as he's doing the same… he will see you as beautiful inside and out. With him you can be your authentic self and never worry you aren't enough. He will protect you at all costs and will never harm you or use his strength for intimidation. Any man can desire you… any man on the street can look at you with lust. But the right man will see the beauty that emanates from within. He's a man who will not try to change you but instead knows your past, knows your flaws and loves you as you are.
3. Your values are the same. If your core values are the same, it will certainly be much easier to raise children. If you don't agree on the same things as being important… there will undoubtedly be arguments regarding money, child rearing, sex, etc. It's important to ask him… what do you value? When it comes to children, what does he believe to be wise discipline? What are his beliefs regarding freedom, chores, structure and rules for children? It's also important that he knows he is to cleave to you… If his mother doesn't like you while dating you likely aren't going to become her favorite person marrying her son… this is the time to decide what are deal breakers and what aren't.
4. Men want respect more than just about anything… and so do women. It's so often thought by society that women first and foremost want to be provided for but really at the end of the day… both men and women just want their basic human needs to be met… to feel like they are heard, understood and loved. That includes respect. If a man doesn't cheer you on, if he doesn't support you in your goals and dreams, if he doesn't appreciate what you do but instead expects it… if he doesn't value what you believe to be important and instead just does what he wants even after you voice concerns… that's a battle that you don't want to enter. Pack it up and consider it over. He has a lot of growing up to do and you don't need to sign up to suffer for a lifetime while he attempts to grow up at your expense.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
My son's kindergarten teacher said something one day that really stuck with me. It was field day at his school and the class was hot and sweaty after an afternoon of relay runs, sack races and tug o' war. She was passing out icy popsicles in a rainbow of colors when one child exclaimed
"Hey! I didn't want this flavor!"
I watched as her eyes narrowed and she turned to speak to him:
"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."
I loved that.
How often do children need to hear that sentence spoken to them?
Honestly, my own two children seem to need to hear it quite a bit. On some days it feels like it should be on a recorded loop in their head when their vocal chorus threatens to take over:
"I didn't get the one I wanted."
"I don't like it."
"It's not quite right."
"I want that!"
"But I want it!!!"
We need morals and good examples set for our children more than ever. Today children are being raised to be narcissists. And it takes a lot of dedication, consistency and persistence to raise them unlike the world, unlike the flesh, unlike the sin surrounding us, threatening to engulf us all like a tsunami.
All children are susceptible to becoming mini narcissists or "narc's" for short. As parents we are in a constant battle against media, against the pressures of other parents condoning their children getting too much too soon and so many reality shows showing excess in homes, cars and disposable income for entertainment that it often seems as if everyone wants to jump on the band wagon with them.
When Divorce Ups The Chances Of A Narc Child:
It's not just the coveted iPhone that a parent buys his six year old, or the new teddy bear from Build A Bear he buys her every month or the showering of excessive clothes that creates an issue and possibly a narcissistic child. It's allowing a child to have too many experiences too soon. They can begin to feel entitled to have more and more experiences before they are truly ready for them.
A parent may unwittingly give into their child's every whim due to their guilt over the divorce… yet this isn't in the best interests of the child long term. It's actually quite detrimental and continually sets the bar higher and higher each time. Selfish behavior exhibited by children can be learned by a parent who is selfish himself. This is why each generation keeps producing more narcissists… because the children (genetics may have created a baseline for it, and we know all children are ego-centric to some extent but eventually change) … learn from a narcissistic parent to subscribe to "Me! Me! Me!" and emulate them.
Examples Of Narcissistic Thinking:
"You owe me!"
"It's not fair!"
"Pay attention to me!"
"If you don't, I'll blow up!"
"Give it to me!"
"Buy it for me!"
I remember one day right after my divorce was finalized… my children and I had had a wonderful afternoon at the park… kicking the soccer ball around, walking the trails and them on the swings as they laughed with glee… afterward we piled into the SUV and headed for ice cream. Pulling into a McDonald's parking lot was met with disappointed grunts from the backseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror and spoke "Is there a problem?"
There came a flood of vocal protests of why couldn't we go to Marble Slab or Cold Stone Creamery? Why couldn't we get waffle cones with sprinkles and a wide array of flavors to choose from? Inward I sighed and bristled but held steadfast to calm and pulled the car into a parking space to turn around and address them.
"Look, guys… here's the thing. When I was little there wasn't Marble Slab in hot pink neon lights… there wasn't Cold Stone Creamery and tons of flavors. When I was little we had McDonald's… and you know what? That's good enough. Not everything in life comes with banners, confetti and trumpets. Sometimes the little things are the best things. You know… simple is okay… not something to be sneered at or thought of as less than. Maybe there needs to be a bit more gratitude and less griping."
We don't have to give in to every whim
our child cries out for.
We can stand firm and say "No."
That's good parenting.
What they failed to understand is that their level of living with me differed currently from when I was married. And honestly... that was a good thing in my book in regards to them. Sure, their higher level of living remained relatively the same at their father's… but that didn't make it right. That didn't make it healthy. What they failed to understand is that they were spoiled and didn't know it. No one "owes" them Marble Slab.
No one "owes" them anything.
All children require is shelter, a bed, food and healthcare. Children need to be reminded occasionally that their parents home, their cars, their level of living is not theirs. Their parents money, and lifestyle is not theirs nor their success… they are merely temporary recipients of it on some level… while living with them. Children today often erroneously believe they will graduate from college living the same level of income and enjoying the same economic security as their parents… only to be devastatingly brought down a few notches by the reality of student loans, mounting debt and job interview after job interview.
Divorce & Children:
Often children feel as though they are entitled, or owed something due to life being glaringly unfair. He or she can't seem to wheedle the item they so desperately covet from one parent so they begin an unmerciful agenda on the other one (sometimes at the other parents egging). This sets up the parents in a battle of their own… because if one parent gives in to blatantly aggravate the other estranged parent and overindulge the child, they are potentially creating a little monster. Likewise, if the doting parent is merely choosing to subscribe to more for their child due to their own insecurities and wanting the child to like them (let me be your friend over parent) rather than setting healthy boundaries it creates all sorts of unnecessary chaos and strife.
When The Child Emulates Their Abusive Parent:
The child who feels a lack of structure and healthy boundaries in his or her environment or sees one parent (or both) behaving narcissistic, even dominant or downright abusive… is at a higher risk of becoming a narcissist himself. Divorce upheaves a child's entire world and if they were already exposed to a home environment that was less than healthy due to one parent's domineering ways toward their spouse… the child's social skills and healthy expression may be lacking, anger taking the place of a healthy dialogue and expression of self. When anger takes over it may become a way of living… of coping however ineffective in interacting with others and often through trial and error of tantrums the child will learn how to manipulate those around them… not much differently than an explosive abusive adult. The child learns how to manipulate by time and time again trying different behaviors on for size and gauging his or her parents reactions. If they get what they desire through coercion of acting out they learn by cause and effect that throwing a fit gets them what they covet… again and again. They switch between moods like channel surfing or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…. sweet as pie one moment when they are receiving what they want and the next… lashing out in a rage for not getting the attention, materialism etc they wanted.
Narcissism Or Aspergers? Maybe Both
This behavior, this switching back and forth between being cool and collected, even loving and alternately throwing fits can hauntingly resemble Aspergers and the fits that sometimes go with it. It is possible for adults with Aspergers to be confused as Narcissists… personally curious about this, I've scoured message board after message board online and found many others to be puzzled about this too. Aspergers naturally has a seed within that causes one to appear a bit more egocentric. As parents it's important to discourage egotistical tendencies and encourage healthy expression of feelings, empathy and giving in our children and why children with Aspergers need all the early behavior intervention that they can obtain to function as well as possible in society as adults. Often we hear Asperger's groups online rally solely for acceptance... acceptance is of course needed. However let's also try to keep in mind that denying the fact a child could benefit from help is to be of disservice to them. Today it may be a question for some people to ponder… could someone with Aspergers also be a sociopath? Anything is possible… as genetics drawn from two people can produce a child that may exhibit characteristics of several different diagnoses. If someone who is a narcissist or on the extreme a sociopath marries someone with Aspergers traits (preys on them, uses them) is it possible for them to then produce a child who later grows up to be a sociopath with Aspergers-like traits? Possibly, yes.
Minimize The Buying & Say No To Fear:
One of the best things all parents can do is minimize the buying, minimize the indulging and don't give in to a child out of fear of their fits. It takes guts (and tough love) to stand your ground especially if you have other parents giving you the evil eye in public or feel at your wits end behind closed doors. But don't give in with excuses or special privileges… like "Okay, just this once…" as it makes the child feel superior. This subliminally tells the child they are in control, that they are running the show and it instills a lack of empathy for anyone else's needs or feelings. It becomes all about them and what they need right then instead of being sensitive to the fact others around them also have a need for time, attention, love, space and to voice their own thoughts.
Teach About Coping By Pointing Out Others Behaviors & By Example:
To help minimize lashing out in their child a parent can teach their child (at an early age is best but better late than never) how to respond in times of stress, anger and frustration by pointing out how others are coping or their lack of. When we see someone lashing out in traffic and engaging in road rage, that is not the time to ignore it. That is the time to engage our children and have a conversation with them… pointing out the wrong behavior and ask them what they think about it… then ask them how they think the people could have handled it differently if they had a chance at a do over. It will open the lines of communication and help your children see that there is a better, more mature and healthy way to handle anger… that it's not the anger that's bad but what we do with it. If we witness someone, maybe a sales clerk having a difficult time with a customer in public yet see them handle it with dignity, empathy and grace… we can use that scenario to have an honest conversation with our kids… pointing out how well that the situation was handled despite how undoubtedly difficult it was. When we are setting a stellar example ourselves in how we treat others, when we use our manners and smile, when we say "please" and "thank you"… when we ask someone how they are doing at the register, at the drive thru window or the bank… our children notice and over time will follow what we lead by example no matter what we say.
Help For The Narcissistic Child:
1. Don't engage in power struggles with your child.
2. Use positive reinforcement (praise) when they vocalize their feelings in a healthy manner, help others or make good choices.
3. Teach them (role play if necessary) that when setting boundaries with people they can practice saying "It bothers me when…" or "I become frustrated when…" instead of lashing out.
4. Encourage and set an example of giving so they don't grow up to believe only taking is acceptable. Get them involved with volunteering through a local charity or church.
5. Get them to thinking and having an open dialogue… is this issue going to matter tomorrow? Or in an hour? On a scale of one to five how big a deal is this? That you aren't getting your way? That you can't get the toy you want? That you can't go on the play date? Can we find a solution? Is there a cheaper alternative? Maybe some manual labor like raking leaves or washing the car could help you earn the money needed for that new toy. Can we check the calendar and see when another play date is available? Focus on problem solving, hard work and being content with what we have versus being stuck in negative emotions, a "give me" attitude and focusing on what we don't have.
6. Anger usually always follows hurt. Let's discuss what's really going on here… what are you hurting from? Did someone hurt your feelings? Are you disappointed by something?
Victory Is Possible:
When we discover positive ways to help our children and battle any narcissistic tendencies they lean toward we can find victory… in our parenting and our children's lives. Reading the word of God… our bibles regularly with our children and having an open dialogue with them about what is selfless and Christ like versus flesh and world like keeps their eyes open to what is good and pure versus selfish and sinful. We can read all the parenting books in the world looking, searching for an answer regarding our children's behavior… but we really don't have to search any further than our bible… the answers we are often searching for are right there within it's pages… just waiting to be read.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
names have been omitted in this post
Parked in my driveway I sat behind the wheel in the driver's seat of my car… and waited… watching in the rear view mirror I saw the black four door sedan continue sitting, parked on the street in front of my house. With it's windows completely blackened out and not able to see whom was in it… my heart sank… I was pretty certain I knew what this was about… and thought back to the incident a few weeks before…
We had just had Christmas… it was only days past the twenty fifth of December…not yet the new year... when upon checking the mail I discovered a thick white envelope and seeing the return address was from the IRS my stomach turned like it was suddenly sour… instinctively I knew something wasn't right and with quick hands tore open the top of the envelope. Inside I was filled with dread as I began reading… numbers jumped at me… how much we owed… how unbeknownst to me he hadn't paid the taxes… in years… I saw double digit numbers adorned with zeros jump at me… in shock, all the penalties that were adding up day by day, hour by hour, minute by passing minute.
How would we ever pay this much money back?
Why did he let this happen?
How could he?!
What was he thinking?!
Why didn't he say something?
Would we lose our house?
I waited and the sedan wouldn't budge… finally I sighed with resignation, putting the clutch in reverse, slowly backing down the driveway and passing the black sedan… only to spot it, sure enough, with sharp eyes focused on it in my mirror, the sedan pulling away from the curb as soon as I passed... it tailing me down the street. Making the turn out of our community and onto the main thoroughfare, I headed toward the grocery store weaving my way through foggy morning traffic. Upon pulling into the grocery store parking lot and into a parking space, I watched as the sedan pulled in two spaces down facing me on the opposite row. The man in the sedan sat, waiting me out, with dark sunglasses on. It happened in a flash, me exiting the vehicle in my coat wearing the collar popped up and him springing out to photograph me as I quickly tried to turn my head and the wind whipped, partially hiding my face as I strode away from the car toward the store.
We sold our house and lost money on it… the anger, the hurt, the betrayal felt toward him in my marriage was there as well as embarassment. I crossed the yard for the last time and watched the moving truck pull away… headed toward the dismal rental we would call home for a few years. I had naively believed: "he screwed up… we just have to make it past this hurdle… this one hurdle… and then it will be okay again… we will be paying this off for a few years and get back on our feet… but he will learn his lesson"…
In a few short years with plenty of sacrifice we would get back on our feet financially… far better than before… but "lessons learned" and "no more hurdles" were just lies whispered in the wind.
THE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES
I had no idea how many more "screw ups" there would be to come over the years…
Marriage brings two imperfect people into a union… two imperfect people who undoubtedly also contribute challenges to the mix... of sharing a bathroom, paying off a mortgage, raising kids and meddling in-laws. There are the dirty clothes left on the floor, the whiskers in the sink that make you want to gag, the cookie crumbs on the counter alongside empty wrappers. If those were the worst challenges to cope with, to give grace and attempt to find solutions to… maybe it wouldn't be so "challenging".
But when a spouse continually shows you signs of what resembles teenage irresponsibility, downright criminal behavior joined with lies… when the "screw up's" just continue and never seem to stop… to just crop up again and again each time after the dust has just settled from the last incident…
You may begin to feel like you're riding a roller coaster of emotional havoc and unpredictability. It's bad enough to have your spouse feeding you lies and excuses on a silver spoon with a smile… but what's worse? The lies (excuses) you begin telling yourself. You may tell yourself…
He's really sorry, he has apologized. I have to believe that he's truly sorry... afterall, he's my husband.
(Only problem is... this keeps happening. If he's a sociopath he's likely not done using you/gaining narcissistic supply, which would be the only reason he would ever apologize, due to needing more time to fulfill his goals, because sociopath's don't ever say "I'm sorry").
He really screwed up, but he's also going to learn his lesson… this won't happen again...
Were just going through a tough time right now… but it will pass and get better.
(I mean, everyone has problems now and then, right?)
No, no, no…. this isn't about how he's typically late or how he can't stand a certain food you love, or gee, why can he not seem to remember where you keep the spatulas in the kitchen. This is about behavior that involves hiding information, withholding, lying, editing, or whatever you will call it… this is big stuff, this is behavior that puts your finances at risk, your family at risk, your future at risk, this is behavior that also leads to the same destructive path as cheating, to affairs, to a secret life behind closed doors you know nothing about… this is about an individual who lives with an indifferent chip on his shoulder toward others in society, who idolizes ego, status and image, who does what he wants, who does not care for his fellow man, who owes no one the truth and eventually has a chip on his shoulder toward you.. and who lives in a world that in his mind you will never be a party to because he doesn't share any more inner thoughts with you than his favorite cheese, his most admired mentor or his dvd collection. Getting in his mind and knowing what he's thinking is comparable to pulling nails from a stud only to find it's not possible. Figuring out why he continues to pull these inconceivable stunts and "screw ups" escapes you and leaves you scratching your head as they stack up one after another like wrecked cars on a dusty road.
As each incident piles up in your rearview mirror you think each time:
"This is ridiculous!… again? He screwed up AGAIN?!"
he's. that. good.
He manages to wiggle his way back into your heart and you see all the good things he is doing and it's so much easier to just paint a pretty picture, tell yourself a lie, swallow the ones he feeds you… a picture of lovely fantasy that he is more than willing to help construct… where everything is fuzzy, rosy wonderfulness and combined with his way of explaining it all away… as if it's perfectly normal for everyone to have these life altering incidents continually pop up in life like an ugly jack in the box… he snows you and you buy the ticket to another subscription… another chapter, another year, another five years and however many "incidents" and "screw ups" along the broken way... like a busted street hitting the potholes that he promised would be fixed… or maybe they are fixed, just enough…. just a few feet ahead… like a mirage it glimmers ahead all shiny and new… only much to your dismay for you to get a little further up the street to see the gaping potholes once again.
It's time to put on the brakes, remove our sunglasses and take a good look at the street were on.
Signs Of A Marriage In Need Of Help Despite The Lies We Tell Ourselves:
1. You both no longer share the same concerns. If you have an issue with something, let's say your finances, taxes, budget, etc and how their spent or handled... or perhaps your health has taken a recent nose dive and you're seeing doctor after doctor trying to get a diagnosis. If he's not concerned about the finances or for you and your well being... those are both big issues that need to be addressed. If he's acting like your valid concerns over the finances or your health are anything but valid but more like just your problem... then yeah, you have a huge problem. With him. As a couple, you should both be invested in issues that crop up as partners; together, ready to take on anything as a team and see the other spouses concerns as a concern for you both. If you feel alone in your marriage, it's time for a good hard look at the big picture. It's often so easy for us to get caught up in the day to day activities of life, especially as women multitasking.... caring for our children, homemaking, cooking, errands, work, that often conquering merely another week at most is preferable over seeing what lies ahead further down the road.
2. He's pulling away and his behavior is distant... unlike how he used to be. He could be emotionally and physically distancing himself because he's cheating... if he's mentally caught up in another relationship much of his energy will be dedicated to that and he may seem not as involved, as immersed in family life and connected to you. If he's suddenly seeing friends for lunch or going to the movies alone or traveling more for work... even working overtime these are red flags that something may not be right.
3. If you aren't both working toward a common goal; a healthy marriage and open communication. Then your marriage is on rocky terrain. It's time to get back to basics in communicating and problem solving. It might be a good idea to make a list of things you can talk to your spouse about… positive topics. Then make a list of topics you have difficulty sharing with him or that seem to be a continual source of friction. Mentally rate your marriage on a scale of one to ten… one being the lowest score and ten being the (best) highest score. Do you think your spouse would agree with you or would his score be lower or higher? Set some time aside for you to both discuss how you feel and share your lists... it may confirm that marital counseling is needed.
4. A lack of intimacy in the relationship. This is always a red flag and if one spouse is pulling away it could indicate a lack of trust in the other person on their part. If he's consistently not home when he says he will be, if he is continually pulling irresponsible stunts that jeopardize the family, if he's condescending toward his wife, abusive, even neglectful… it will show up in the bedroom. If he's checking out the single women in the waiting room of his pregnant wife's ob/gyn doctor's office or anywhere else… there's a problem and disrespect is just one of them. If a man is treating his wife right outside the bedroom it will be reflected behind the bedroom door.
5. If your spouse has become the enemy. If your spouse has become someone you now view as on the "other side"… as an individual to do battle with, to "deal with", endure, tolerate, etc… this is not what the picture of a marital relationship should be. If you believe you are no longer working as a team, a united partnership… then that deters communication and intimacy. It's time to reflect on what brought you to this place and what resentments have been allowed to set in. If incidents of irresponsibility continue to crop up by one spouse it's not the job of the other spouse to play parent and continue to "fix" it, come to the rescue or slap a bandaid on the situation... it's time to seek help from a trusted Pastor or therapist.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014