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Falling In Love? Don’t Ignore These 6 Red Flags

The first weeks of any new relationship are jam-packed with visceral and practical information about the person we’re considering getting involved with. Problem is, many of us plow through these early tidbits without giving them the credence they’re due. They may be vague doubts or huge, waving red flags. But because falling in love feels so damn good, we keep on.

A friend of mine — I’ll call her Lisa — recently reconnected with a high school boyfriend, Logan, at a mutual friend’s wedding — and the sparks between them reignited. Quickly, they pledged their commitment to one another, and started planning their new life together. They made a boatload of big promises in a matter of weeks.

But Logan had a pretty major tidbit: Though they had been separated for several years, he wasn’t divorced from his first wife. When Lisa pressed Logan on this, he assured her it would happen soon — explaining that his new relationship with her was the catalyst he finally needed to pull the trigger. But as weeks turned into months, Logan made many excuses as to why his divorce wasn’t moving forward.

Lisa was initially willing to ignore this very significant warning sign. As time went by, however,  Lisa grew increasingly frustrated by Logan’s inaction. During one argument about it, Logan dropped the mother of all excuses: “I’m afraid my wife will commit suicide if I push this divorce. I need more time.” Shocked by this revelation, Lisa decided to back off. After all, she didn’t want this woman’s blood on her hands.

Lisa spent many months waiting for Logan to divorce before she realized it was never going to happen. Their relationship ended when Logan decided to give his marriage a second chance. By ignoring this red flag, Lisa had bought herself a whole lot of heartache and disillusionment — and time she couldn’t get back.

Sadly, many warning signs may not be as obvious as Logan’s. That’s why it’s important we dig deeper. Here are five red flags to look for in the first weeks of a potentially serious relationship:

1. Baggage. Logan’s baggage was a complex, unresolved marital situation that prohibited him from moving forward with Lisa in a meaningful way.

If someone has significant baggage or strings attached elsewhere, it’s imperative you determine how significantly these issues will affect you and the relationship.

We all have baggage and we’re wise to accept that’s true for others, too. But be discerning. If that baggage is going to spell big trouble for your relationship, think twice.

2. Comfort. Nothing wrong with seeking comfort in a romantic relationship. But there’s a certain type of comfort — I call it dysfunctional comfort — we’re better off avoiding. Here’s how it works: You’re viscerally (and unconsciously) drawn to someone because they remind you of some dysfunction — or someone dysfunctional — in your family of origin. An obvious example is the daughter of an alcoholic who partners with an alcoholic. But, in many cases, it’s more complex than that. Did you feel unseen as a child and now you’re partnering with someone who doesn’t seem all that interested in what makes you tick? Was your childhood home chaotic and your new partner gamely brings chaos to your door? Ask yourself why this person feels like a perfect fit. It may not be for the right reasons.

3. Boundaries. My parents have friends who met and got married two weeks later. Sixty years later, they’re still together. This is a wonderful love story but, in general, marrying someone you just met isn’t highly recommended. It’s more important to really know this person before you integrate them into your life whole hog. If it seems your new partner is trying to monopolize your time and insert him/herself into every aspect of your life within a short time span, you may want to back up the truck. Love at first sight does exist, but that doesn’t always signal a healthy start or guarantee longevity. If your gut is telling you this person’s lack of personal boundaries feels intrusive, don’t ignore it.

4. Acceptance. Does your new, dreamy partner tell you how great you are, but has more than a few suggestions as to how you can improve your career, hairstyle, clothing choices, or weight? In fact, it may start to feel like he wants someone else entirely. Conversely, be aware if you’re doing the same. Do you want to change him/her to fit your ideal? A determination to change a person — along with specific ideas as to how they should go about it — is never the fairy tale ending to any relationship.

5. Requirements. Any hard and fast requirement in a relationship isn’t optimal. “I won’t get married anywhere but my parents’ church,” or “I’ll never move out of the neighborhood I grew up in,” or, “If we couldn’t have kids, I wouldn’t stay in the marriage,” are all examples of rigid requirements and/or ways of thinking. You’ll know one of these beauts when you hear it because the way it’s presented negates any possibility of negotiation. At first, you may not object to some of them — they may feel harmless enough. But someone who isn’t willing to negotiate or bend, promises to be a difficult partner.

6. What Others Say. Are your friends/family/coworkers as excited about your new relationship, or do they seem concerned? Have they noticed changes in your energy level, availability to them, or your mood? Certainly, we can’t let others determine what makes us happy. But if the people who care about you seem worried this new relationship may be taking a toll, you might want to consider why.

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Are You Invisibly Divorced? *PODCAST*

 

 

Do you feel your marriage is coming undone? Are you still living with your spouse but the relationship is unhappy at best? Perhaps you’ve joined the ranks of the invisibly divorced.  Psychotherapist Abby Rodman clarifies what invisible divorce is — and how to know if you’re in one. Invisible divorce isn’t victimless — and it may have dire effects on your health and well-being. Listen in!

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Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet: Dreading The Holidays?

New England winters provide the backdrop for what the quintessential holiday season should look like: the colorful majesty of turning leaves, the beauty of the first snow, and crackling fires on chilly nights. Cue the pine trees with snow-dusted branches, apple-picking, and skating on ponds — and you’ve got the whole shebang.

It all seems so idyllic when you envision it, but for many it’s a challenging time of year. Think about it: When someone tells you to smile, it’s really the last thing you want to do. The holidays “tell” us to be joyful, but sometimes that’s the last thing we’re feeling. Even those who go through the motions — putting up the tree, cooking for multitudes — may be filled with a generalized dread that starts at the beginning of November. It’s what I call the Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet.

The Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet sneaks up on you. You’re still flying high on warm memories of summer, while enjoying the relief of cooler temps. Then, without warning, a heaviness takes root in your chest. The holidays are around the corner. You may feel overwhelmed — there’s so much to do! — or inexplicably sad. While others seem excited for the next couple of months, you’d rather pull up the covers and set your alarm for January 2nd.

Are you experiencing the Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet? Here are some of the reasons why, and what you can do about it:

1. Grief. Nothing spells holiday like family and friends. If you’ve lost someone close to you since last holiday season, enjoying this year’s may prove challenging.

What to do: Honor your sadness and your loved one. It’s okay to say, “You know, I’m just not ‘feeling’ the holidays this year. I really miss Mom…” Come up with ways to remember the person who’s passed. Light a candle for them or ask those at your table to share a positive memory of that person. Just because they’re gone, doesn’t mean you can’t include them.

2.  Alcohol. Sorry, folks. Alcohol is a depressant. Unfortunately, it tends to flow quite freely around the holidays. If you’re already feeling down, adding booze to the mix is not going to help.

What to do: If cutting out liquid cheer for the whole season feels unrealistic, decide instead to limit your intake. Choose the way you enjoy alcohol the most, and let that be your bye. Perhaps you like a nice red with dinner, or you can’t pass on Grandma’s eggnog. Choose one and stick to it. And don’t go to holiday events thirsty. Hydration is your friend.

3. Loneliness. Loads of family gathered around the tree? Huge crowd around your Thanksgiving table? For many, that’s just a fantasy. If you’re lonely this holiday season, you’re not alone on that front. Simply being around other people is not the answer. Sometimes we’re loneliest in a crowd. The only real cure for loneliness is connection.

What to do: Do good. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Deliver a meal to an infirm person. Hand out gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get any. When we do good for others, we feel connected to them and something much bigger than ourselves. Bonus: You’ll be connecting to your best self as well.

4. Relationship woes. If your primary relationship isn’t good, nothing’s good. That’s a fact. And it’s especially true around the holidays. Not only is the season touted as the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also sold (by endless advertising) as the most romantic time of the year. If your relationship is suffering, so are you — and there’s nothing merry about that.

What to do: If your relationship is stormy and volatile, agree with your partner to put your differences on ice for a few weeks. You may not be smooching under the mistletoe, but at least you won’t be throwing daggers. If your relationship is quietly miserable, find ways to celebrate that don’t include your partner. Whatever the case, ask yourself how many more unhappy holidays you’re willing to spend with this person. 

5. Sun and Exercise. Lots of us get plenty of both in the summer months. But now daylight hours are waning. We wake up in the dark and spend our days indoors. As the weather grows frightful, we’re also not so eager to go for that early morning walk or jog.

What to do: If lack of daylight is getting to you, a therapy light box may help. If less exercise is making you sluggish, work in some time at the gym or take up that new winter sport you’ve always wanted to try. And keep reminding yourself: Summer’s coming.

6. Stop Doing the Thing. Whether it’s putting up outdoor lights, making Christmas cookies for your neighbors, or throwing the New Year’s Eve party everyone counts on — and you dread it with all of your being — give yourself the gift of not doing it. The world isn’t going to stop if you don’t bring homemade latkes into your office, or you don’t send handmade Christmas cards.

What to do: Stop. Just stop.

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Dear Sexual Assault Guy: I Want To Be You

Dear Sexual Assault Guy:

Just for today, I want to be you. Come on, don’t by shy. You know who you are — you’re the guy who violates women’s bodies. Why do I want to be you today? Because I’m a woman and a therapist and there are things I need to know. And, because you’re not exactly known for owning your actions, I need an answer to a seriously burning question.

Millions of women have come forward this week — on Kelly Oxford’s #NotOkay Twitter feed, on their Facebook pages, in private conversations — to bravely reveal their experiences with sexual assault of all stripes.

Some of their perpetrators were strangers, some friends, some relatives. Many women described violations beginning in their early childhoods. Some were heinously violent, some subtly deplorable. I doubt I have to do the math for you, but if millions of women are coming forward, that means nearly just as many men are violating them.

So, here’s my burning question for you:

WTF?

I’m pretty sure you won’t give me a satisfactory answer and that’s why, just for today, I want to be you. So I can know, truly know, what makes you tick. What thoughts you have before you touch a woman who doesn’t want to be touched by you. What faulty wiring prevents you from making a better decision. And what, exactly, you tell yourself after your dirty deed.

Am I overthinking this? I imagine you fight the urge to be sexually aggressive and exploitative. Am I wrong? I assume you’re consumed with self-loathing and guilt. Aren’t you?

What goes through your mind in the moments before you grab a stranger’s breast on the street? Or while you rub your crotch against a woman in a crowded subway train? How do you rationalize “grabbing the pussy” of a pre-adolescent girl in a dark hallway, while her parents sit ten feet away in the kitchen?

I want to be you so I can explain to society who I am and why. So I can ask for help. So I can warn women to stay away from me at block parties, on buses, at corporate retreats. So I can feel what it feels like to be an ultimate piece of human garbage, while going on with my day — and my life — peacefully. (Only after I’ve robbed the peace of those I’ve violated, of course.)

I do so want to be you. So I can talk to other men like me and tell them what they’re doing is so wrong it defies comprehension. So I can realize the damage I’ve done and live my life out trying to correct for it.

There are so many, many good men. Men who don’t grab the privates of women who don’t consent to it, who don’t whisper crudities into the ears of prepubescent girls, who don’t inappropriately comment on the body parts of their own daughters.

But to you, I must ask again, WTF?

The accepted definition of rape — that it’s an act of violence, not sex — has long angered me. Stabbing someone is an act of violence. Forcing your penis into someone’s vagina against her will is a depraved sexual act. When you stab someone, you’re hoping to wound or kill them. When you rape someone, your goal is to demean them while getting off in the process. When you touch a woman’s body without her consent, you’re doing the same.

What talent or success do you use to hide your true persona — that of a sexual deviant? Are you the music teacher, the bar manager, the real estate tycoon, who feels it’s your right to grope any girl or woman who crosses your path? (And, just between you and me, do you ever privately suspect you’re a monster inhabiting the form of a human being?)

Years ago, I worked as a social worker in a hospital. One day, I was showing a male family member of a patient something I had written in the patient’s chart. He was standing next to me as I pointed to the note I wanted him to see. “Oh, that note there?” he asked, as he raised his hand to point at the chart, deliberately brushing my breast with the back of his hand in the process. It was so unexpected, it took me a couple of hours to realize what he’d done.

When I told my supervisor, he said, “Find me that guy so I can knock his lights out.” My supervisor was a good, decent man — an actual human being — who couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting away with that behavior. Because — newsflash! — good men don’t tolerate that shit.

And just so there’s no confusion, you’re not one of the good guys. I don’t want to hear about your selfless deeds, your charitable givings, your churchgoing ways. I don’t care about your rescued dog, your recycling, your sobriety. Because none of those things matter when you walk this earth as a sexual predator.

On second thought, I don’t want to be you — not for a day, not for a minute. And you shouldn’t want to be you, either. Because you’re depraved, your behavior is criminal — and you need help. You need a support group, or medication, or a shack in the woods far from female humans.

If you don’t stop or get help, know you’re ruining lives. (Say it: “I’m ruining lives.”) While you’re giving in to your basest instincts, you’re stealing part of a woman’s soul. While you’re eyeing your next victim, you’re potentially destroying her ability to ever trust men. While you’re touching a child in the way only consenting adults should touch, you’re compromising her chance of ever having healthy relationships. So, seriously, WTF?

I know you won’t answer, so, instead, I’m giving you permission to make my burning question your own. Please, next time you’re tempted to sexually assault, stop and ask yourself: WTF?

And then, for the love of God, do something about it.

 

 

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Dear Sons: Please Don’t Vote For Donald Trump

Dear Sons,

Please don’t vote for Donald Trump.

Now that all five of you are of age, you have the beautiful right to vote in this beautiful country. If it’s true that every vote counts, please don’t squander yours.

Donald Trump is the face of everything I’ve taught you not to be: a hater and a blamer. Not convinced? Need I remind you about his revolting suggestions which include: 1) building a wall dividing us from our old friend, Mexico, 2) prosecuting and punishing women who have abortions, and 3) deporting millions who’ve lived peaceably and industriously in the US for years?

Should I also mention his newly-revealed defenseless comments about assaulting women, and the narcissistic non-apology that followed? His unforgivable imitation of a disabled reporter? His deplorable critique of the parents of a Muslim soldier who lost his life in defense of this country? His well-documented, never-ending misogynistic commentary?

What’s that? Don’t like your other choice?

Hillary Clinton is a liar, you say? Great. Find me a politician who isn’t. When you locate that needle, I’ll be all ears. For whatever secrets she’s kept, for whatever untruths she’s told, there’s nothing truer now than Clinton has become the new whipping girl of an old guard. Steeped to their own politically padded knees in lies and duplicity, her finger-pointing detractors and colleagues are hardly beating their own paths to the pearly gates of truth and transparency.

And Benghazi? Please, let it rest. For God’s sakes, if Ambassador Stevens’s family doesn’t blame Hillary, what’s your skin in the game? Think you know more about what happened there than they do? You don’t.

Save your breath arguing that Lester Holt was biased during the debate. I watched it, and I agree. And good on him for being that brave. Maybe things would’ve turned out differently for Germany in the 1930s if more journalists had been free to speak and write about the disastrous turn their country was poised to take. So, let’s take pause and be doubly thankful for our First Amendment. Because every day it protects the dozens of well-respected news outlets dismissing Trump as a viable, sane choice for the presidency.

In a few short weeks, this will be over and done and the people will have chosen their next president. But, in the end, what will we have learned? As the rest of the world watches this election slack-jawed with disbelief, we’ve pulled back the curtain on a not-so-pretty revelation: We’re a nation of angry folks.

Several weeks ago, talk show host John Oliver made a brilliant suggestion. He proposed Donald Trump step down and admit he’d entered the race simply to expose the flaws in the political system…and in us. Oliver would have Trump say, “I openly ran on a platform of impossibly ignorant proposals steeped in racial bigotry and nobody stopped me. In fact, you embraced me for it. What the f*ck was that about?”

Ah, now wouldn’t that be great?

If the voters in this country are so disgruntled that they’ll support a politically inexperienced megalomaniac in his bid for the presidency, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why? There are clearly things that need fixing. But I’m guessing The Donald isn’t the one for that job seeing that the ideology he’s selling depends more on fanning flames than addressing the cause of the fire.

Boys, you and your generation are our future. With the right outcome in this election, we’ll resume our imperfect quest to make good on the freedoms and rights promised to all Americans. Are we there yet? No. But what good can come of time-traveling back to shameful eras in American history marked by hate, fear, and prejudice? And that’s exactly where Trump would have us go.

We don’t need Trump to make America great again. It’s already great. Do your part to keep it that way.

I have faith you will do the right thing on November 8th. That the values and ideals you’ve grown up with will prevail. That the acceptance of those who look, or sound, or dress differently than you will triumph in your hearts and in the voting booth. That you’ll recognize a dangerous choice when you see it. That you will not confuse true patriotism — now or ever — with exclusion or xenophobia.

And that you’ll seek to uphold all that is good and right with these United States of America — one vote at a time.

 

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Are You Ready For A Kid Because You Have A Dog?

I’m crazy about my dog. So much so that it embarrasses my kids. “Please don’t talk to the dog in that voice while our friends are here,” they plead. That voice is the reserved-only-for-him, baby talk-ish language I’ve (purportedly) annoyingly developed when talking to Spike.

My husband ranks himself #3 on my list of importance. My kids, he claims, own the #1 spot and Spike captures #2. He may or may not be right. I’m not at liberty to say.

But as much as this dog owns a huge piece of my heart, I’m also a mother to human children. If you have a dog — but don’t have kids — I’m gently suggesting that as much as you may love or dote on him, having a dog is not like having a child. Your dog is a wonderful, beloved addition to your family but, again, not a child or even like a child. If you have a dog and you’re thinking about having a child, please don’t delude yourself that raising a human baby will be anything remotely like life with your pup.

Here’s why:

1) Ownership. Brace yourself for this one: You don’t own your children. Your dog, however, is your property. Your children are simply loaned to you on a temporary (but sometimes seemingly endless) basis. Your children belong to themselves. You may be their instructor or role model, but you will never be their master.

2) Sacrifice. Yes, taking care of a dog requires some sacrifice. You may lose a few nights’ sleep when he’s a puppy or when she’s sick. But the sacrifices you make for your children, although done willingly, are countless. You may sacrifice your career goals or hobbies. You will, inarguably, sacrifice the overall freedom to live and do as you please. You may sacrifice the bloom of youthful escapades. But your dog will never require you take a huge chunk of your pay and stash it in a college fund. Your dog will never necessitate a move to a bigger home or safer neighborhood with a better school system.

3) Care. Before you walked out the door this morning, you gave your dog a pat on the head or a quick hug. Then, seamlessly, you walked out the door. Perhaps you went to work for the next ten hours or just ran out to do a few errands. With kids, there’s at least a decade before you can do anything like that. Small children (and some teens) require constant supervision. All eyes on deck all the time. Reflect for a moment on how this would or will change your life.

4) Unconditional love. Your dog gives it to you. Your kids can’t and won’t and shouldn’t. I’ve never walked in the door when Spike hasn’t been ecstatic to see me whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five hours. Your dog thinks you’re your best self every minute of every day. Your kids will never see you that way no matter how many brownies you bake or how much spending money you provide.

5) Communication. I know when Spike is hungry or needs to go out. I know when he’s tired or when he wants to play. I know because we’ve developed our own way of communicating. But Spike will never tell me hates me because I won’t let him stay out past midnight. He’ll never get in trouble at school or fight with his siblings. He’ll never throw a tantrum in Target. He’ll never petulantly inform me that he didn’t ask to be born. Conversely, he’ll also never tell me he loves me (aloud) or acknowledge the sacrifices (see above) I’ve made for him. He’ll also never make me as proud, delighted, and humbled as I am watching my sons grow into young adulthood. #schleppingnachas

6) Legalities. You can leave your dog for a few minutes alone in a cool car with the windows open. You can put your dog behind a gate when company’s over. You can send him out to the yard unsupervised while you vacuum. I do not condone doing any of these things with young kids. The law doesn’t either.

7) Training. Kids can be taught and guided. Dogs can be trained. And never the twain shall meet.

8) Grief preparation. Spike will be 13 years old in the spring. If life continues in a normal trajectory, I will lose him in the next couple of years and I have to prepare for that. Yes, parents lose children. That’s unquestionably the worst thing that can happen in this life. But although we worry about our kids’ safety, we don’t anticipate that kind of loss and we pray fervently we never have to. Just getting a dog is brave because, when you do, you’re knowingly signing up for losing him. But every joyful day with your dog is well worth the journey to whatever sadness or challenge awaits you. And, as it turns out, that also holds true for having kids.

 

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5 Ways To Stop Fighting About The Same Old Thing *PODCAST*

5 Ways To Stop Fighting About The Same Old Thing

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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?

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Secrets and Lies: How They’re Toxic To Your Relationship *PODCAST*

 

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Secrets? We’ve all kept them. Lies? We’ve all told them. But what are the consequences of keeping secrets from — or lying to — your partner?

Join psychotherapist and relationship strategist Abby Rodman as she discusses how secrets and lies affect us in more ways than we think.

If you’re convinced that keeping the truth from your partner is better than coming clean, you may not be considering the cost of what that could be doing to the well-being of your partner and relationship…and, yes, even your health.

Ready to tell the truth? Committed to keeping that secret or perpetuating that lie? Join Abby as she explores what both options really mean for you, your partner, and the future of your relationship.

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Everything I Write, I Write It For You

It’s possible I’m mildly obsessed with Facebook. Scrolling through my feed, I am often — in equal parts — admiring, envious, and glad. I truly enjoy the “last-one-I-promise!” shots of vacation sunsets, successful kids, and sparkly cocktails — of folks I care about. But I do know — as I desperately hope you do as well — that Facebook hasn’t earned the nickname Fakebook for nothing.

Where are the pictures of us watching eight hours straight of Hannibal on Netflix? (This may or may not have been how I spent the holiday weekend). We don’t boast about our shrinking bank balance or that day we stayed in bed because depression got the best of us. When our Facebook friends do share their shadow-lives, it takes us aback. It’s like, “Don’t you know Facebook is reserved for our TV-ready selves? Get with the program, people!”

In the past few years, I’ve blogged a ton and written three books. I’m currently working on a novel which may or may not become a bestseller. (Who’s to say? Could happen.) When I tell people I’m a writer (which took a long time for me to say aloud, btw), they have some combination of these responses:

  1. That’s cool. I really admire you for doing that.
  2. I wish I could write, but I can’t because (fill in the excuse here)…
  3. Do you make any money at it?
  4. I would never put myself out there like that. Why would you do that?

Question #4 is a really good one. Why in the heck would I put myself out there for all the world to read? The plain answer is: I don’t write for me, I write for you. Before you fake gag, hear me out. I write for you because I hope one turn of phrase, one personal story, one emotion I invoke in you, will set you on the path to positive life changes.

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Great advice but…what other choice do we have? I’ve strolled through those flames more times than I’d like — the mega-bonfire of my divorce, for one. Divorce, if you don’t know, is one of hell’s guests of honor. Heck, it has its own presidential suite. Divorcing was one of the toughest experiences of my life, but honestly…so what? That doesn’t make me any different from you or your neighbor.

But here’s what happened: In the ashes of my post-divorce life, the lessons left behind kind of started following me around. And they were kind of yelling, “Share us! People need to hear this stuff!” So, I started writing those lessons down — sharing what I wish I’d known sooner. That, and I wanted those lessons to shut up and leave me alone. Turns out, they’re still hanging around and new ones are popping up all the time. Because of their tenaciousness, many of those lessons about divorce are in my books, Without This Ring and From Bitter To Better.

If I could have a few superpowers, one of them would certainly be preventing folks from marrying the wrong people for the wrong reasons. How great would it be to be able to swoop in and save people from years of marital misery? Answer: Pretty, pretty great.

But, without that particular superpower, my choices are limited. I knew I could help people one-on-one in my psychotherapy practice. But I realized, by writing, I could also get my message out to thousands of people at a time. That’s one reason I wrote Should You Marry Him? — to share lessons about what to look (out) for when you’re choosing your Mr. Right.

Writing isn’t a superpower, but sometimes its the next best thing.

Any blogger will tell you there’s little money in it. A couple of viral articles won’t make you famous or land you a book deal with an elite publishing house. I can’t tell you why others write, but I can tell you that whatever the topic, my message is always the same: Please learn from my very real mistakes, professional expertise, and life experience. Please.

But I’m also guilty of perpetuating the Fakebook persona which doesn’t feel very real at all.  I have a sparkly website. I display professional photos of myself wearing things I never would in my everyday life. And — surprise! — many of them have been retouched.

I love Gary Vaynerchuk. I love his blunt messaging. I’m pretty sure he rolls out of bed, brushes his hair (or not), and jumps in front of the camera. Vaynerchuk is the anti-Fakebook and I’m jealous of the freedoms that allows him. But although his love-me-or-leave-me approach works for him, it probably wouldn’t stand a chance for most of us trying to catch the public’s eye.

I want you to read my work. I want you to be touched by it, moved to action by it, comforted by it. And if a glam, Fakebook shot of me makes you click the link, then I’m all for it. Go ahead, perk me up and slim me down. If that gets your attention, good on me. Because it ain’t about me. It’s about your journey through hell — and my commitment to helping you to keep going.

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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.