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The Kind Of People Who Divorce *PODCAST*

 

Are you wondering if you’re the “kind of person” who gets a divorce? You’re not alone.

Psychotherapist and best-selling author, Abby Rodman, explores why we don’t think we’re that “kind of person” until we do.

Join Abby Rodman as she talks about the negative effects of labels and self-judgment when you’re contemplating divorce or going through it — and how to be kinder to yourself in the process.

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The Kind Of People Who Divorce

I spent what felt like a hundred years wondering if I should divorce. I had a lot of questions and no answers. I knew I wasn’t happy but, really, wasn’t happiness overrated? I wondered: Were other married couples happy? Was that a thing? Maybe we’re all in silent cahoots slogging through the misery.

Truth is, people in good marriages begin their days making the unconscious, weightless decision to remain married. People in bad marriages begin and end their days in a conscious state of relentless tension and confusion. I know firsthand what it is to have your brain held captive by a never-abating drumbeat of sadness, anxiety, and unrest. Truly, I thought I’d go mad.

Should I stay? (No.)

Will things get better? (Definitely not.)

What are my options? (Few.)

Am I happy? (Hell no.)

Can he be happy? (No way.)

Is this normal? (Really?)

What should I do? (Get a divorce, dummy!)

I knew the answers but I ignored them. Instead, I’d say, “I’m not the kind of person who gets divorced.” And I believed that. So, for a long time, I didn’t. Instead, I prayed like hell.

Of course — how silly — there is no “kind of person” who divorces. I know that. You know that. But maybe I thought I was different somehow. I was a serious person. I wasn’t frivolous. I was a doer and a fighter. I would fight.

What I didn’t understand is that in order to fight for a marriage, there needs to be a marriage. When you fight for a marriage, you’re fighting for the glue — the connection, the intimacy, the love — of it. Or you’re fighting for the memory of that glue — if you’re lucky enough to remember where you put it.

But what if you simply can’t find it because you never had it in the first place? Or it left the building too long ago? Then, you must ask yourself— as I did, perhaps as you do — just what you’re fighting for exactly. The yearly Christmas card photo? That summer vacation on the Cape?  Of course, the kids. Always the kids. The very same offspring living and breathing their parents’ misery. (Because, you know, that kind of day-in-day-out toxicity is always optimal for their growth and development.)

Quick, think of an unhappily married couple you know. See how easy that was? And you don’t even need that couple to confess to their marital farce. You can smell the stench of their discontent a mile away. It’s hard to miss their edgy tones, their lack of playfulness, the conversational distance they keep. And the eye-rolling. Always the eye-rolling.

“No one will believe it when I tell them we’re divorcing,” a client said to me recently, explaining his hesitancy to make the announcement. To which I say, “I wouldn’t bet the house on that.”

My client thinks people will be surprised — as I did, perhaps as you do— because he’s such a family man. You know, the kind of person who doesn’t divorce.

Whatever my client thinks he’s hiding, I can almost guarantee he’s not doing it nearly as well as he thinks. He claims he’s holding back from divorcing to spare others the shock of it. But what he’s really avoiding is the shock of admitting to himself he’s the kind of person who gets divorced.

It is true, divorce forces you to look at the whole of your existence through a lens you thought you’d never need. And, as things come into focus, “I’m not that kind of person,  becomes, “Who knew? I just may be.”

But divorce? Really? You’re not lazy, uncaring, or irresponsible! So, how can it be you who is considering divorce? Of course that couple down the street is divorced because, well, they’re them. But you? You’re you. And last time you checked, you’re not that kind of people.

Years ago, a therapist asked me point-blank, “What the f*ck are you doing in this marriage, Abby?”

I didn’t have a good answer. I assume it was because I thought I wasn’t the kind of person not to be. I wasn’t the kind of person who would dismantle her life brick by brick. I wasn’t the kind of person who would saddle her kids with divorced parents.

But then, as it turned out, I was and I am. I am that kind of person because I knew I couldn’t be happy where I was. I am that kind of person because I wanted to show my kids it’s okay to want more. I am that kind of person because I chose health over heartache, strength over fear.

I am the kind of person who gets divorced (and did!) because I get to choose what kind of person I am — free of labels and judgment. And I’m proud to be that kind of person because I know the fortitude it takes to make such a monumental change.

Are you the kind of person who divorces? Perhaps you need look no further than your bathroom mirror. And maybe there, staring back at you, you’ll see that kind of person. The kind of person who deserves something better and damn well knows it: You.

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I Got Blamed But I Didn’t Do It!

Ever been blamed for something you didn’t do or say? Discredited by someone you thought would never question your character? If so, you know how icky and awful it feels. It’s like everything you believe about yourself — and what you hope others believe about you — gets erased in the madness. What follows is my version of that madness: 

Some years back, I had the most wonderful aesthetician. I’ll call her Kat. She gave a mean facial and, afterwards, my skin would glow for a week. But I didn’t continue to see her strictly for her skin expertise. I went back for her. Over time, we developed a close friendship. I was surprised at the things I shared with her — things I hadn’t shared openly with anyone else, including my closest friends. And she did the same.

Even more years back, I stayed one night a week with a friend’s lovely family. I lived in a rural area where driver’s ed classes weren’t readily offered. My friend, who lived closer to civilization, suggested I stay with her and we’d take the class together. The bonus was that my boyfriend lived quite nearby, and, if her parents allowed it, I would be able to catch a couple of additional precious hours with him on those nights.

Both of those two memories, as written, are sweet and comforting. But both of them went haywire when I was blamed by those very people for things I didn’t do. I don’t have a great memory, so the fact that these two events have stuck with me says something. There’s something so disturbing, so discomfiting, about telling the truth, defending your good character — and still not being believed.

Here’s how the first scenario went down:

Clients would enter Kat’s treatment room alone. There, they’d undress, don a comfy robe, and drop any jewelry they were wearing into a glass dish on a small table. Nothing unusual there.

One day, after I’d left her office, Kat called to ask if I had seen a “very expensive” ring in the glass dish when I had gone into the room to disrobe. I hadn’t. I had placed my own jewelry in the dish and it was empty when I did. Apparently, the client before me believed she had left her ring in the dish. Kat was very upset but I assured her the ring wasn’t there.

It was clear almost immediately that Kat wasn’t convinced. She made comments like, “But you were the only person to go into that room after her!” I realized she was probably worried the other client would hold her responsible. But, point is, I didn’t see the ring, I didn’t take the ring, and I certainly didn’t lie about any of it.

Being accused of stealing by Kat was indescribably hurtful. I didn’t have any hard evidence to the contrary, but I did have my word. Not being believed by someone who knew me and knew my character, was the worst of it. Suddenly, all the goodwill and trust we had established was demolished by some woman who was obviously less than careful about where she left her diamonds.

Here’s the second:

One night, my friend’s parents gave me permission to see my boyfriend after class. The requirement was I be home by 9pm and not a moment later. They were on the stricter side (compared to my parents) but, hey, their house, their rules.

That night, my boyfriend and I spent those hours doing what teens did in those days: We went parking. I made it back by nine bells and was surprised to find the house very dark and quiet.

Since I was a guest, I didn’t want to disturb the rest of the family by traipsing through the house, so I decided to sleep on the living room couch. Before dropping off, someone came into the room and turned off the small lamp on the table behind me.

The next morning at breakfast (this family sat down for every meal together except lunch), my friend’s father was irate. As my friend and her mother sat by silently, her father loudly berated me for disrespecting their home and betraying their trust. He let me have it in a way I guarantee parents no longer discipline kids who don’t belong to them.

Near tears, I choked out my version: “I was home, I swear. I was on the sofa. Someone shut off the light. They must not have seen me, but I was here!

But Daddy-O wouldn’t even entertain that perhaps there was another story to be told about the previous evening. He threatened to call my parents which wasn’t much of a threat. I knew my parents would believe me.

There’s no happy or pithy ending to either of these vignettes. I stopped seeing Kat after unsuccessfully trying to contact her a handful of times (apparently her other client’s accusation held more sway than my truth). And I don’t remember if it was made clear I was no longer welcome to stay in my friend’s home, or I was too humiliated to go back. In any case, I didn’t.

Has anything like this happened to you? Have you been blamed or doubted when telling nothing but the truth? What did you do about it, if anything? I’m all ears.

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It’s Not Always About You (and 4 More Revelations to Embrace for a Happier Life)

We were enjoying a gorgeous, New England day at the beach recently when the wind suddenly picked up. In the blink of an eye, our umbrella decided to have its own fun and unleashed itself from its sandy hold.

The beach was not overly crowded so the closest people to us were about 15 feet away.  There were about eight or so in our group and while two of us jumped up and ran for the errant umbrella, the other six unleashed a deafening chorus of, “Watch out!” and “Heads up!”

The woman in the group next to us was already standing when she saw the umbrella catapulting in her direction. Instead of reaching out to stop it or, perhaps, getting out of its way, she stood frozen — hands on hips — glaring angrily at our group as if to say, “How could you have let this happen, you idiots?” I don’t completely disagree with the sentiment, but her reaction was odd considering there was a 5-foot metal spike headed right for her.

Her skewed reaction reminded me that the way we choose to respond to things makes all the difference in the creation and sustainability of our own peace and well-being. Instead of grasping the potential danger or figuring out how to protect herself, this woman chose to be enraged. At her own peril, I might add. Perhaps this woman — like many of us — needs a reminder that sometimes life throws us lemons. And we can choose to be sour about it or we can squeeze them, add some sugar and enjoy.

It may be unfair to extrapolate based on this one, small incident, but something tells me this is how this unhappy beachgoer moves through life. She’s miffed. And we’re all guilty of that sometimes (road rage, anyone?). But people do dumb things. We hurt each other knowingly and unknowingly. Accidents happen. Beach umbrellas sometimes have minds of their own. That’s life, lady.

Here are 5 ways you absolutely have control over your reaction to the lemons. This is important because knowing you have choices can help you live healthier and breathe easier.

1)  Most of life happens in the gray. Embrace this and you’re halfway there. Anyone out there who hasn’t subscribed to this? You’ve got a long, frustrating life ahead of you. If you expect to have a perfectly loving spouse, perfectly behaved children, and perfectly perfect everything else, it’s time to reevaluate. Why? Because if this is your starting point, you’re living life on the unhappy tightrope between bliss and disaster. If you can be comfortable with the ups and downs and nuances of relationships, you’re in for a way smoother ride.

2)   You’re going to get hurt. Yep, you. We humans are pretty much imperfect and the more we entangle ourselves with one another, the higher the likelihood we will be wounded by another imperfect human. When you can, take each slight on its merit. Sure, there are some things you might not choose to forgive, but many things are forgivable. When someone hurts you, that doesn’t make them an awful person. It just means what they did was awful. Separate a hurtful word or deed from the entirety of the person and you will find more peace in relationships than you ever dreamed possible.

3)  It’s not always about you. The woman on the beach took the flying umbrella as a personal affront. And guess what? It had nothing to do with her. The wind velocity and direction, the consistency of the sand, our perhaps less-than-perfect implantation of the umbrella into the sand — all of these factors contributed to the outcome. Fact is, we’re all stars of our own show and we make choices based on the plot direction of our doing. We make many of our decisions based on our own needs and desires. Because someone’s decision hurts you, it doesn’t mean that was their intention — or that you were even on their radar.

4)  Forgiveness is a choice. Always. If you’re wondering if you can forgive, it’s because you care enough to try. You care so much about the relationship that you’re pondering the option of forgiveness. If that’s the case, know you still have skin in the game. Let’s face it, if you were done with this person, you’d be done. Wondering if you can or want to forgive someone is, in its own way, a serendipitous opportunity. If you’re entertaining it, there’s probably some really good reasons why. Go ahead. Forgive when you can.

5)  Life can be short. And sometimes a whole lot shorter than we’d like. I have two close friends who died way too early, leaving loved ones devastated and bereft. My guess is you’ve lost someone or know of someone who was robbed of a long, healthy life. Next time you feel you’ve been insulted or hurt or given the short shrift, think of those who didn’t have the opportunity to make positive changes and choices. It’s a wake up call like none other.