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My Run-In With A Rogue Cop: A White Woman’s Tale

Here’s how it went down:

It was July 4th weekend and we were vacationing in a New England town I know quite well. My husband and I were taking another couple on a driving tour around the beautiful, coastal area. Darkness settled and we found ourselves on a long, unlit two-lane straightaway. The car ahead of us was going under ten miles per hour. I assumed they were pulling off to the side of the road or into a driveway, so I cautiously went around them.

Suddenly, the crawling car picked up speed, high beams blazing, and began dangerously tailgating us. Clearly, I had somehow offended the driver. We’ve all heard the most upsetting of road rage stories so I got scared — especially when I realized the car was following me no matter which way I turned. Inches from my back bumper, the driver followed us several miles into the parking lot of the restaurant where we were having dinner.

While my girlfriend and I made for the restaurant door, the two men in our party stayed back to find out what the heck was going on with this driver. Before we even got to the entrance, she pulled up, rolled down her window, and yelled, “My dad’s a cop and he’s coming to get you!” before she roared off. Yeah. Whatever, crazy chick.

I was still shaken as we were seated at a table in front of a large picture window in the packed restaurant. Almost immediately, we watched incredulously as a police cruiser entered the parking lot. Seriously? This is nuts. They can’t possibly be looking for me. My sister, who had met us at the restaurant, had the best angle and gave us the blow-by-blow of what was happening: He’s driving around, he’s stopped at your car and, yes, now he’s coming in.

Moments later, the very harried and sweating owner/chef was rushing from table to table, reading from a scrap of paper and yelling, “Anyone have a white _____ with a _____ plate?”

“That’s my car,” I offered, as he passed our group.

“Well,” the frazzled chef said, “there’s a cop at the front door who wants to talk to you.”

I asked the men at the table to remain seated. This was not the moment to invite a testosterone-fueled face-off. My sister and I decided we’d be the ones to speak with him. As we made our way to the front of the crowded restaurant, hearts pounding, the white, middle-aged cop sized us up as we approached him. The first words out of his mouth: “You two?”

In other words, you two middle-aged, relatively well-dressed, sober ladies are the ones my nutty-assed daughter called me about? As dozens of diners and waitstaff watched — ears perked up and mouths agape — the officer began his lie-laden spiel:

“Another driver called 911 after they saw you weaving all over the road, speeding, and throwing trash out of your windows.”

We calmly assured him this simply wasn’t the case. I offered to take any sobriety test he’d like to administer. My goal, plainly, was to make this ugly incident go away quietly.

As we feigned our surprise that another driver would make a false report like this, he quickly changed his story:

“Well, actually, another cop called this in when he saw you on the road,” he claimed.

Really? So another cop sees me speeding and weaving all over the road and decides not to pull me over but, instead, asks you to come into a restaurant and harass me while I’m having dinner with friends and family? That’s your story, officer? Because it simply doesn’t fly. Because it simply wasn’t true.

It’s hard to say what this small-town cop was after. Some good, old-fashioned hassling of the drunken teenage boys he thought he’d find at the other end of his delirious darling’s report? A little fun-in-the-sun intimidation of out-of-staters who converge on his town with abandon three months out of the year?

The cop didn’t handcuff me or pat me down. He certainly didn’t pull his gun on me. But, in that moment, I felt true powerlessness. I was being accused of something I didn’t do and my only defense was my word. Truth is, without my age and whiteness to shield me, the whole incident could’ve gone quickly sideways.

I’m no expert in police protocol but I do know this cop reacted to a call he got on his personal cell phone from a young woman with many bones to pick with the world. I’m a big fan of law enforcement and the good they do, but when they act without grounds or procedural etiquette, it bodes poorly for all of us. This, all too sadly, we already know.

We trust those in blue to get the bad guys and we’re grateful when they do. But, seems to me, correctly identifying who’s truly a threat to our society and safety is a good place to start.

The ACLU recommends that when questioned by law enforcement, you should never lie. Now more than ever, that seems like sound advice for those on both sides of the badge.

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When It’s Rape: What Moms Must Teach Their Sons About Sex

A male friend tells a story about an incident he witnessed at a frat house party. He and two of his fraternity brothers found themselves in a bedroom with an inebriated, negligibly conscious young woman who was lying on the bed. One of his friends, he recounts, said, “Hey, let’s stick our d*cks in her mouth!”

My friend and the third friend looked at him incredulously. “Are you effing nuts? What the eff is wrong with you?” they responded. They quickly left the room, found the young woman’s friends, and encouraged them to take their drunk friend home right away.

This happened in 1982. Guess not much has changed.

This year, a client shared she saw some NSFW pics of a female classmate on her teenage son’s phone.

“So,” she asked me, “Should I talk to him about it?”

“I’m sorry…WHAAAAT?!” I replied. Okay, that’s not what I said, but it certainly was how I felt. Of course she needed to talk with her son about the pictures; and what it meant to have them, share them, and look at them.

Moms, boys need your input so they can also understand the world from a female perspective. You can’t leave these conversations solely to the men in their lives. They must hear your anger, see your disappointment and concern, and observe your pain. You must teach them how women should be treated. Your voice is a crucial one, even when you think they’re not listening. Because they are. Because you’re their mom.

My now 20-something sons heard a lot from me in their growing up years about sex and conduct — much more than they would have preferred, I’m sure. Oftentimes, the topics were cringe-worthy for all of us. But the recent Brock Turner case makes me wonder if he — and other young men who rape — get these crystal clear messages from their moms.

A starter list of what boys need to hear from their mothers:

1. It’s rape.

How to talk about it: “If a woman says no and you go ahead anyway, it’s rape. If a woman can’t give obvious consent, it’s rape. If a woman is inebriated to the point of incoherence and you have sex with her, it’s rape. No means no. An inkling of no means no. Sketchiness means no. I promise you, no blow job or intercourse with a semi-conscious woman is worth ruining both your lives.”

Brock Turner’s rape victim’s letter was so eloquent and powerful it should be required reading for all incoming college freshmen. I’ve borrowed from her words to drive these points home:

If you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. If a girl falls down, help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress, don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts.

2. Zip up. Sexual assault needs to be talked about, especially before they head off to college or wherever life is taking them.

How to talk about it: “Be alert to these situations. Often, they involve heavy partying and a mob mentality. Step in or go get help. Inaction makes you responsible, too.”

3. Protection.

How to talk about it: “Condoms, condoms, condoms. An unwanted pregnancy has lifelong implications, no matter what you choose to do about it. It doesn’t just affect the woman. You’ll also be affected in ways you can’t imagine.” Same goes for STDs.

4. Porn.

How to talk about it: “Like most things in life, it’s okay in moderation. Know that the porn industry is built on fantasy — so don’t expect the women in your life to look and behave sexually like the women you see on the screen. Don’t let porn interfere with building real-life relationships.”

5. First Time.

How to talk about it: “I hope your first sexual experience will be with someone you care about. It will be more meaningful that way.”

6. Racy pics.

How to talk about it: “Don’t share compromising pictures of yourself or your classmates. Once they’re out there, you can’t take them back and you leave everyone involved vulnerable. Never share pictures of people clearly disrespecting themselves, or ones that were shared privately with someone else. This could be a prosecutable crime. Want that on your record?”

7. Be aware of the female experience.

How to talk about it: “Make sure women know they’re safe with you. If you’re rushing up behind a woman on a dark street or in a parking garage, say something to assure her like, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you, I’m just in a hurry.’”

8. Learn how to please a woman.

How to talk about it: “Sex isn’t all about you. Learn what your partner wants and do it. If you’re not interested in pleasing her, maybe you should rethink your choices.”

9. Don’t make false promises to get someone to have sex with you.

How to talk about it: “That’s just plain disgusting, and I raised you better than that.”

And…

10. The all-important Mirror Test. “Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you like the person you see. If not, do something about it. Remember, whatever you do, you have to like yourself in the morning.”

Pretty simple, huh?  Now it’s your turn, moms. You’ve got this.

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Want Happiness? Do This One Thing

I often hear this from clients: “Well, I shouldn’t complain. There are people who have it a lot worse.” And, yes, that’s inarguably true. Just take a peek at the front page of today’s paper for confirmation.

But here’s what I say to them: You’re right. But that doesn’t negate your pain, your heartbreak, your grief. And it doesn’t make you wrong or selfish to focus on navigating your own issues. In fact, not to do so is personally irresponsible.

We all seek happiness. When asked what we want for our kids, we say we just want them to be happy. Happiness is something we universally chase — but I’m not sure we always know when we catch up with it.

I’m not the first to suggest that happiness comes in moments. Those seeking permanent euphoria will always be the most disappointed amongst us. Those who expect a mix of sadness, complacency, and happiness will most surely experience their happiness most acutely. And, perhaps, their sadness and complacency as well.

It’s taken me a lot of years — both in my personal life and in working with clients — to define what keeps us from the elusive happiness we so desire. Yes, there are always extenuating circumstances which create unhappiness; we lose people we love, we’re betrayed, we’re disappointed in who we’ve become or not.

But there’s one trait unhappy people share and that’s their inability or reluctance to make the hard decisions. Simple, right? But so painfully true. When you ignore or run from hard decisions, you freeze yourself into a icy block of unhappiness.

What are hard decisions? They’re crossroads. They’re the times in life when your gut asks you to reevaluate your options, to truly challenge yourself and your awareness by accepting some really difficult shite.

But hard decisions really aren’t all that hard when you think about it. They seem hard because the right choice for you may not be the popular one. The right choice may be one that hurts others, or creates chaos.

So, a hard decision is not really a presentation of two equally attractive (or unattractive) options from which you must choose. A hard decision is one for which you already — on some cellular level — have the answer. The question is, are you willing to heed that answer, or at least acknowledge its veracity?

A friend of mine is contemplating leaving her dreadfully unhappy marriage. “But I don’t want to make the wrong decision,” she says, “What if I regret it?” My answer to her is, “What proof  is there in your marriage to make you think that’s even a possibility?”

My friend knows her right answer. The marriage is beyond broken and there’s no evidence to the contrary. But, in her mind, she’s facing a hard decision. She doesn’t want to hurt her husband. She doesn’t want to move out of their home. But she knows she can’t stay a nanosecond longer and have any chance at what’s so painfully eluding her: a happier life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the concept of the hard decision. You can hem and haw until you unlock life’s mysteries. God knows, I made every excuse not to leave my marriage. And some of them were really good. But all along, I knew the answer: My only shot at happiness was to get out of my own way, and to simply stop making what I deemed a hard decision easier by trusting my gut.

Hard decisions present themselves when you go against your grain or take on something you perhaps shouldn’t. Should I stay in this relationship? Should I have this abortion? Should I let my son have an after-prom rager in my home? Should I buy that bigger, more expensive house? If you’re asking yourself the question — be it big or small — you’re already more than halfway to the right answer for you.

I’m not suggesting you walk through life like a callous boor, crushing the souls of others in the wake of your hard choices. One way to experience happiness in this life is to be at peace with those we love. Self-sacrifice is at the core of many of the relationships we hold dear. But when you so stridently ignore your internal barometer that you’re locked into an emotional version of the Chinese finger trap toy, it’s time to take a listen.

Next time you’re faced with a hard decision, ask yourself: Is it really that hard? Or do I already know the answer? Accepting the true answer — your North Star — whether you act on it or not, will free you from the unhappiness of indecision, and move you toward the moments of happiness that surely await you.

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Is Oversharing The New Black? How Adult Truths Impact Kids

I like to think I’m aging well, but what it means to age well has been dramatically redefined. It used to mean eating healthfully and staying in reasonable shape. Now, it means one thing: looking young. By 31, I was done having kids. For years, I’d bask in the surprise of others when they’d hear I had three sons. Once, when I told a new coworker, she responded, “You must mean you married someone who already had three kids!” Ah, the warm sun of vanity — and how quickly it was eclipsed by the cold cloud of reality.

I’m old. And if you’re post-50, so are you. Pick up an Us Weekly. Go ahead, flip through it. Chances are you won’t recognize half the “celebrities” featured. Who wore it best? Who cares? I don’t know who they are, anyway. And, likely, neither do you.

But I digress.

Maturity, especially of late, seems to come with the irrepressible urge for many to take to the internet roofs and scream their truths. I was one of the stampede and I’ve been blogging a long while now. I loved it at first. My voice, having wandered off in an unhappy marriage, was re-found. I wrote about parenting and relationships, sharing lightly on the personal to keep it real, and more heavily on the professional to keep it informative. But now, the landscape of blogging is changing. And the read-this-and-you’ll-learn-something model has been replaced with the read-this-and-you’ll-know-my-deepest-secrets model. And I’m concerned that oversharing has become the new black.

The voyeur in all of us enjoys reading about your extramarital affairs, relationship and/or substance abuse history, and the wild sexual escapades of your youth. I also know firsthand how cathartic writing can be. But I’m not sure how the younger generations will react when they Google (or whatever it is they’ll be doing) their parents one day to find that Daddy cheated on Mommy with Auntie, and then Mommy drank so much she had to go to rehab.

Should kids really sit in a pile of their parents’ dirty laundry? I say nay and I’m sticking to it.

I knew things about my parents’ marriage I never, ever should have. And that information made it very difficult for me to figure out my own relationships in ways too many to count. For one, I still grapple with trust, and probably always will. And that’s no small thing.

In the tsunami of accolades for Beyoncé’s new album, Lemonade, I can’t help but think about her daughter, Blue Ivy. Beyoncé’s pained response to her husband’s alleged infidelity is now public record. That she was able to turn her heartbreak into art is a testament to her talent. I’m not arguing that. She’s become an infidelity warrior, sage, and survivor. But what happens when her now 4-year-old daughter understands these songs, and the intention in their words? She’s got a good 30 years ahead of her before she can even begin to conceptualize the nuances of marriage and infidelity. In the meantime, she’ll be navigating her own relationships with her dad’s less-than-stellar behaviors as her backdrop.

I’m not suggesting parents attempt Stepford-like perfection. We’d wither trying. And I’m not recommending militaristic secret-keeping as the way to go either. But there’s a healthy balance in there somewhere. And you don’t have to be a published writer or worldwide superstar to find it, you just need to parent thoughtfully. Your kids should be culling wisdom from your fading scars, not from the actual bloody wounds.

The gift of aging is in the knowing. No longer fueled by untethered hormones, our impulses are weighed heavily against consequences. And, even so, we continue to make unhealthy choices, sin mightily, and regret last night. We know better, and we do it anyway. But sharing your missteps with your kids won’t make them smarter, or savvier, or happier. What it will do is require their young brains to process situations they can’t yet begin to understand. What it will also do is create destructive imprints for them that will last a lifetime.

There’s value to maturity, and it needs embracing. The more we deny growing old, the more we feed the collective obsession with youth. The more energy we spend fighting aging, the less time we spend imparting appropriate wisdom to our kids. And that wisdom should include knowing who’s an appropriate audience for our tawdry tales, and who, most certainly, is not.

For writers, our desire to be embraced by the public at large, to be published in well-respected periodicals, to use the written word as self-directed therapy, have blurred our optic. Of course, we should reference our hard-earned lessons to help guide our children toward better decisions and healthier outcomes. Isn’t that, above all, what we want for them? And isn’t imbuing our kids with the ability to love without sentry — and trust without fear —  the only proof we need that we have, in fact, aged well?

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Midlife Wedding Do’s and Don’ts: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known

A few short months ago, I got married for the second time. Planning a midlife wedding wasn’t so different from the one I planned in my early twenties if you take into account that, well, my mother planned my first wedding, and I didn’t have to pay the tab for that one.

Having planned two weddings certainly doesn’t make me a expert. But it gave me perspective on the experience of getting married in two decidedly different phases of life. So, whether you’re 52 or 72 and planning another (or first) trip down the aisle, here’s a list of things I highly recommend:

1) Pre-wedding photo shoot. Ask someone close to you to take no fewer than a gazillion pictures of you in your chosen dress (or attire) from every angle. Have them capture you sitting, standing, walking, and dancing. Believe me, Midlife Brides, this is a non-negotiable. Standing in front of a mirror squinting and sucking in your pooch is not a good barometer for how you will actually look in your wedding day photos.

2) Plan a wedding reception, not a party. My first wedding was a walk-down-the-aisle-with-a-veil, cut-the-cake, champagne-toast affair. And it just felt silly to imagine doing those same things at this stage of life. My husband and I wanted a party, a celebration with family and friends. And we got that. It was truly wonderful. But without some of the traditional wedding staples, the evening lost some momentum. You don’t need to dance the Macarena. But the more people are engaged in the event, the more cohesive and fun it will feel.

3) Share some shots. If you’ve hired someone to snap pics at your wedding, the likelihood is he (or she) is a pretty much a stranger to you. Because of that, he doesn’t know the difference between what you look like when you’re hungover and how you look when you’re runway-ready. To remedy this, give him some sample photos of yourself that you love. That way, he’ll have a reference point for how you’d like your wedding — and you — to be captured. There are no do-overs, so please trust me on this one.

4) Practice mindfulness. A wedding it would typically take a year to plan, I planned in the span of just over two months. By the actual day, my head was spinning with all the logistics. Because of that, I remember very little about it. We wrote and read our own vows (also recommended!) and, luckily, I do remember the ceremony. After that, not so much. I wish I had meditated first. Or found a quiet place to gather my thoughts. The evening was a lovely blur, but I wish I been in a better mind frame so I could have stored more memories of it.

5) Invite them. My vision of a small, intimate gathering (well-laid plans and all that) was quickly eclipsed as our guest list grew to first wedding proportions. As the expenses mounted, I trimmed the number of invitees. I wish I hadn’t. I could have done without those extra floral arrangements and had some people there I truly missed.

6) Stick together. My husband and I grew up together so there were many old, mutual friends in attendance. In our excitement to greet everyone, we didn’t spend enough time together at the reception. Big mistake. I was feeling untethered as it was (see #4), and having him by my side would have helped. Plus, it would be nice to have more shared memories from that day.

7) Include your kids. If you have kids from a prior relationship, find a way to include them in the ceremony. No matter their ages, this day is a big event for them as well. We had our five grown sons flank us during the ceremony and it was powerfully meaningful for all of us.

8) Choose your own officiant. If you’re forgoing a religious wedding, some states will allow you to choose your officiant by granting that person a one-day license. This entails an application process, so plan ahead if this is the route you’d like to take. My sister did the honors at our wedding and wrote a deeply personal and unforgettable service.

9) Video. Who needs it? I didn’t think I did. Giant regret. Not so much for the reception, but it would have been special to have had our vows captured on video. This is an easy one even if you don’t want to go to the expense of hiring a professional. Anyone with a steady hand and a smartphone can get the job done.

10) Enjoy. Soak in the happiness of all of those celebrating with you. Let the love in your partner’s eyes fill your heart. And don’t sweat the small stuff. The grace and gift of midlife is finally knowing what really matters — and accepting and appreciating the journey that led you to this amazing day.

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Can Your Midlife Marriage Go The Distance? And What To Do If You Think It Can’t! *PODCAST*

Marriage — especially in midlife — is often more complicated than we anticipate. And making the decision to stay in or leave your marriage can be difficult and crazy-making at best.

Do you spend a lot of time wondering where your marriage is going? Do you want to improve your relationship but not sure if it’s possible?

Are you feeling alone in figuring out what’s next?  Psychotherapist and bestselling author Abby Rodman will answer these questions and guide you to a better understanding of your midlife marriage — and where you can take it from here.

 

 

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Do This One Thing To Heal Your Marriage After An Affair *PODCAST*

Abby Rodman Podcast

As a psychotherapist and couples counselor, I’ve been asked countless times whether it’s really and truly possible to move beyond the betrayal of an affair. And there’s no definitive answer. Do couples do it? Absolutely. Is it straightforward and simple? Absolutely not. And sometimes people who really, really want to move forward find they can’t — and other times, people who swear they can’t stay in a relationship after an affair find a way to do so. 

Once you realize you can’t change or reverse this event, you must figure out a way to move beyond it in a healthy, self-loving way. This doesn’t negate any anger or bitterness you may be feeling — but you accept, that in order to move on, you cannot give in to those feelings and allow them to become your emotional baseline.

Here’s the reality: You have work to do. This podcast will help you make your best and wisest decisions, as you focus on and learn what you need as you embark on the journey of moving beyond your partner’s affair. 

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Review of Abby Rodman Course | 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

My divorce was like a tornado that ripped through my life, literally shredding everything in its path.   Not one area of my life was left untouched.  As I fell into a bottomless pit of despair, I wondered how I would ever be able to put myself back together again.

The level of pain I felt was truly beyond comprehension.  A very close friend who wanted to help me cope suggested that I take an online course called, “From Survivor to Thriver: 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce”.  She advised me that another one of her friends had taken it and found it eye-opening and helpful in getting through a very tough time in her life.

First off I want to say if you’re lucky you will never need to take this course, but if you are like me and find yourself going through a devastating divorce, I recommend it.

Review of Abby Rodman Course | 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

What I learned through this course is that when your relationship ends there is no easy way around the pain, as much as you want to run away or fast forward your life to two years in the future, you must work your way through the healing and recovery process—and that is not an easy process.  This course is about recovering, growing through it, and making yourself healthier.

Review of Abby Rodman Course | 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

Review of Abby Rodman Course | 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

I was surprised when the journaling that this course requires made me aware of some unresolved feelings from my own past relationships that I thought were no longer an issue for me.  After working through this course I feel the need to focus on myself and give myself time to heal, time to grow and time to figure out my next steps.

This is a course for people who need help recovering from a devastating break-up, be it a divorce or the end of a relationship.  Everybody can learn something from this course.  It’s honest, straight-forward, and full of practical advice to help you move on and create a meaningful and satisfying post-divorce life.

 

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Relationship Rx: 5 Ways To Stop Fighting

Not again! Having the same argument you’ve had with your partner a dozen times before? You’re not alone. Relationship researcher John Gottman reports 69 percent of marital conflicts are never resolved. That adds up to a whole lot of repeat disagreements.

You know better than anyone the hot topics in your relationship. Many couples argue about extended family (in-laws, usually), money, and parenting styles. Common issues may also include jealousy, substance use, and negotiating the right amount of time to spend together.

You may be sick of hearing your partner’s same list of complaints and you may even be tired of your own. You both realize there’s got to be a better way, but how do you go about it?

Try these suggestions before that same disagreement rears its head again:

1) Identify the core feeling issue. If you’re fighting about the same topic, that could mean the core feeling issue hasn’t been adequately identified. Fights usually start when your partner is making you feel a way you don’t want to feel. Perhaps you feel disrespected, unheard, or marginalized. Generally, we don’t pinpoint these feelings in the midst of an argument. If you’re continually fighting over how his mom speaks to you — and he just doesn’t see it — you’re left feeling invalidated. So, the fight escalates (and never resolves) because it’s not actually about what his mom said, it’s about your core feeling issue —invalidation — remaining unsoothed and unaddressed by your partner.

2) Talk about the core feeling issue in a peaceful moment. Think about where your upset is actually coming from. Is it that she doesn’t want sex again? Or is it that when she turns you down, you feel rejected? If you can identify the feeling behind the issue, bring it up at a time you’re not fighting about it.  Open up dialogue after you’ve done your homework about your underlying feelings.

Script suggestion: “I don’t want to argue about this, but I need to tell you that I feel really crappy when you turn me down for sex. It makes me feel like you don’t find me attractive anymore.”

3) Be vulnerable. The idea of being vulnerable fills many of us with trepidation, but it’s not about being a defenseless puppy who is open to attack. It is about letting your partner see what’s really going on for you. Many of the things couples fight about are leftover wounds from childhood. Maybe you’re upset your partner overspent on those hockey tickets, but what you’re really afraid of is having him turn into your irresponsible dad who drove your family into financial ruin. If that’s the case, say it.

Script suggestion: “It freaks me out when we spend a lot on things we don’t really need. It reminds me of what my dad did and it upsets me.”

4) Make a priority pact. This is an important one many couples miss, especially when they’re having repeated arguments caused by external circumstances. Decide together that you have one another’s back. That’s your baseline. It doesn’t mean you’ll always agree with her position, but it’s a place to start. You’re not married to your rude neighbor, so why waste an ounce of energy siding with him? It costs you nothing to agree your neighbor is a jerk, and it makes your partner feel supported. You may care deeply for that friend, relative, or coworker your partner is critical of, but you haven’t committed your life to those people. Put your emotional investment where you’ll get the highest return.

5) Agree to disagree. If all else fails, acknowledge to yourself and each other that you’ll probably never see eye to eye on the issue. No amount of yelling, scolding, or shaming is going to change your partner’s mind or have him see it your way. Accept that and agree to stop fighting about it. You can validate your partner’s position without having the conversation devolve into another ugly encounter.

Script suggestion: “I know it bothers you when my brother drinks too much at Christmas. It bugs me, too. But our fighting about it isn’t going to change anything.”

All couples argue. Arguments have their place in relationships because they can help couples define their needs and expectations. But too much arguing about the same topics can be corrosive to any union. Start by rejecting old patterns and choosing new, better ones.

Script Suggestion: “Fighting over the same things isn’t good for us. Let’s try something different. Read this article and tell me what you think.”

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Are You Invisibly Divorced? 7 Ways To Know

You can hold out as long as you’d like but, when you decide to divorce, it’s inevitable you’ll have to let others in on your plans. The logistics of divorce — divvying up assets, selling the family home, moving into separate residences — are pretty tough to keep under wraps.

But what happens when you’re in a failing marriage and you don’t make moves typically associated with divorce? Or when you decide (or think) staying is a helluva lot easier than slicing up the pie and moving on?

Roughly half of marriages end in divorce, but we know that doesn’t mean the other 50 percent are blissful. So, if we assume about 25 percent of marriages are good or good enough, that leaves the remaining 25 percent in unhappy or dysfunctional unions — and not doing anything about it. These folks are the invisibly divorced.

Even good marriages ride the tides of bliss and crap. And that’s why analyzing the state of your marriage can be downright confusing. But when you’re unhappy in your marriage, you know it. I was in an unhappy marriage — and I knew it — but, perhaps like you, I allowed daily life to distract me from making a hugely disruptive decision for a lot of years.

But, eventually, your gut will win out. And that’s its job. Your gut is your life’s barometer. Whether it’s warning you away from that dark alley or encouraging you to end a toxic friendship, it’s always on the lookout for things in your life that just don’t feel right.

And, sometimes, that thing is your marriage. While you resist the idea of an actual divorce, you and your spouse may collude to have an invisible one. But how do you know when you’ve made the shift from functional marriage to invisible divorce?

1) There’s no intimacy. And I don’t mean wild passion. I’m simply referring to the closeness those in good marriages enjoy. Warm conversation, loving glances, shared laughs, and physical touch are all examples of marital intimacy. If those things — and, yes, sex — are conspicuously missing from your marriage, you may have joined the ranks of the invisibly divorced.

2) You’re not friends. Your spouse doesn’t need to be your best friend, but you should be able to count him/her among your closest confidantes. He/she shouldn’t be the last person you turn to with life’s challenges and joys.

3) You don’t talk about it. Presumably, there was a time when the two of you put some energy into trying to improve your union. If you’ve stopped discussing the relationship altogether, you’ve basically agreed to stop working on it. Where you’re not invested, you’re indifferent. And indifference has no place in a healthy marriage.

4) You keep it on the down low. Things are so skewed at home, there’s really no way to explain the circumstances without revealing to others what you already know: The marriage is in trouble. You keep your invisible divorce to yourself because you’re reluctant to face friends and family who may challenge you to go rogue.

5) It’s what you’re not saying. “She’s a great mom,” or, “He’s good about helping around the house,” are fine ways to describe your spouse, but they’re not qualities that directly feed the heart and soul of the marriage. Defining the value your spouse brings to your union shouldn’t leave you at a loss for words.

6) You have secrets. And you suspect your spouse does, too. When did you start keeping things from each other? At some point, you made the conscious decision to keep him/her in the dark on certain issues. Where secrets exist, good marriages don’t.

7) No respect. Perhaps more important than love in marriage, is respect. It’s paramount that you’re able to muster admiration for your spouse and the way he/she moves through life. As well, marriage to someone you hold in low regard will ultimately diminish any respect you have for yourself.

Invisible divorce isn’t victimless. And, often, it’s not as hidden as you’d like to believe. By choosing invisible divorce, you’re choosing a life of loneliness, disillusionment, hopelessness, and, quite possibly, clinical depression. When you settle for invisible divorce, you’re settling for an inauthentic life. Why on earth would you — a person of worth, of greatness, of endless possibility — ever, ever make that choice?