Social Distancing Linked to Increased Separation and Divorce: Three Things to Watch For

Most couples aren’t doing well right now… The numbers are consistent worldwide and are not encouraging for marriages and long-term relationships. The increase in those filing for divorce is exponential (lawyers in China are seeing upwards of 300 new cases a day come across their desks) and it is tragic! Why? Because what we know beyond a shadow of a doubt–and our stats prove it–is that most coupleships are fixable and the impulse to break up a relationship longer than two years is unnecessary 97% of the time when a couple does the work together inside of our unique process. 

Were you aware that according to the latest statistics more than half of people regret divorcing their partner?

“No way, really???” you may be saying. Yep!

While this number has decreased from a few years ago (several studies showed that 80% of divorced people regretted divorcing) what has been divulged to us is that this happens for one person in the relationship at a time. We call this the Key-Dagger: every couple has a key to their partner’s hearts and sadly also has access to the exact dagger to hurt them most. This Control/Abandonment Cycle is easy to see on our Feeling Wheel 5.0 in the three feelings on the top half of its center which are Abandonment, Fear, and Control

What we see in the current climate of isolation is that you are exposed to a mirror of your crappiest behavior and that mirror is the eye-roll-instigating behavior of your partner. You don’t like how they are behaving because it happens to be your ugliest, too. The short version is that your partner not only may be using the dagger instead of the key for your heart, you also have to look at yourself harder in these times of social isolation. This is never easy, as coupleship does not get harder it just feels more dangerous the longer you are together. 

What we know is that when the right tools are used (emotion identification/expression, empathy, and intentional listening) all of the daggers–the ughhhh–can be dealt with and turned into keys–the loveeee.

So, what now? First, watch out for these (totally fixable!) three issues:

Financial insecurity, pornography or other sexually explicit material use, and increased social media use. All three of these are dramatically on the rise right now as couples are sitting on the couch avoiding talking to each other about what really matters all the while seeking comfort elsewhere. Just because it’s easier and feels way better…at least in the moment.

The difficulty is that traditional marriage counseling actually increases the likelihood of divorce. True story. The statistics show that when a couple goes to counseling for their relationship EIGHTY PERCENT end up divorced! We actually have medical doctors that refer their patients to us because the docs have had several marriage counselors recommend divorce to their patients in the first marriage counseling session. This doesn’t have to be what the end looks like for you and your partner!

The financial cost of divorce is higher than can be measured but the average price tag is about $30,000 per couple in just the first months. Often these stats do not include the cost of two separate households. 

The most profound cost that many do not consider is the years invested with the one you fell in love with (note: we are not talking about an abusive relationship–if you are being hurt emotionally and/or physically please seek assistance immediately). The years of life spent with a partner can never be retrieved. This unique person has contributed to your becomingness in signficant ways and it will be difficult to match this with a new partner. This is because of that old key-dagger. It turns out that you chose your love because of the key you hold to unlock your partner’s heart and teach you about yourself. And the painful reality is that if you don’t cherish yourself enough to have a better conversation you will lose that key. This. Is. Important. The cool thing is that here at JamiAndMarla.Love we often see significant results within just two or three sessions! This is because we coach/mentor as a team which is pretty unusual. 

These are unprecedented times. The stress level in coupleships is higher than ever before and you don’t have to let it take your best dreams away from you. We have been helping other couples for over twenty-five years. We have done this by facing our own issues and practicing the tools… vigorously. Even so, we have had a few unusual fights over the last couple of weeks. Luckily, the tools we teach work really well and we are on it and all-in!

What to do right now???

The answer is to cherish yourself enough to have a better conversation. This means doing things that you have not done. It means making better agreements as you grow so that you can grow together instead of apart. It means getting honest (eventually when the right tools and agreements are in place) about your porn use, your busyness, your stubbornness, or who is making you feel good about yourself on social media or whatever other numbing-out technique you’re choosing at the moment. It means letting your feelings about finances and how your partner treats you be felt and known in humility and love. It means doing the hardest thing you’ll ever do and picking up that very heavy phone to call, text, email us right the frick NOW!

We are starting a free online Coupleship Group Friday nights on Zoom.us at 7 p.m. (MST) and would love to have you join us! See you soon.

4 Ways to Stop the Pain During the Holidays

When you think about being with your family for the holidays do you sing quietly to yourself (to the tune of Silver Bells), “Family hell, family hell. It’s Christmas time in the suburbs?”

Yes?

Then have no fear because we have a few tools to help you through the next few weeks of tinsel, turkeys and tension.

We hear about people’s families and the holiday “joy”…often. And we’ve narrowed them down to five main profiles:

1. The single person going home for the holidays and having to report on your dating life. This comes with the third degree about, well, every aspect of your dating life. And God forbid if you have a new-ish relationship and you are forced into the quandary of “Shall I bring them home with me to enter into the rabbit hole, or…”
2. The family (significant other and kids) where you end up feeling like you’re six years old again, and your SO is left wondering who the heck they ended up with.
3. And then there are the issues with the in-laws. Your spouse never feels like part of the family and you feel as if you are constantly putting out fires where none should have ever appeared in the first place.
4. Blended families and the juggling of kids, exes, in-laws, and the list goes on.
5. Oh, and we can’t forget to mention siblings…holy, moly there are So. Many. Issues.

Yowza. Here’s a little comfort for that choked feeling that may have just crept up from your stomach to your throat: we’ve been there. And guess what? So have 99.9% of the U.S. population (not a real statistic, in case you wanted to jump out of that cozy chair you’re sitting in and Google it). I (Marla) read an article a couple of years ago that addressed the embarrassment that so many of us feel when we are asked about our relationships with our siblings, and we have n o t h i n g. And so we fake it, and say, “Oh, she’s doing great. She loves her new job.” And then we mumble a few more meaningless, and untrue, lines about them and slink away. AND we feel guilty that we aren’t like “everybody else” who seem to have fabulous relationships with their siblings. How sad that we feel obligated to good relationships when we simply feel crappy about what is real for us.

Let’s face it. The most amazing relationships are complicated even when things are going well, and of course, everyone has conflict now and again, so why would we expect our families of origin to be any different? And do we expect a little too much from our parents because, well, they’re the “adults” in this scenario? The truth is that parents (and in-laws) often have more influence than we tend to acknowledge in our relationships. Their words tend to “stick” in our memories and can create conflicts with our partners.

Like we mentioned above, we have all returned home as an adult and suddenly felt like a “little kid” in the face of the control or abandonment we feel with our parents. We call this arrested development (yes, just like the TV show—it is funny until it hurts).

S. Rufus of Psychology Today writes, “Some of us look grown-up but aren’t. We walk around with suits and briefcases and car keys and annuities. But inside, we are five. Ten. Twelve. Sixteen. We sit in boardrooms, travel the world, even write books. But we are kids, still playing dress-up, playing house. Our bodies matured but our minds did not. Now – playing catch-up, playing spy – we feel left out of the adult world, certain that our would-be peers are whispering behind our backs, or speaking in a code we do not know.”

And here you are feeling like you’re 6, and now add in the fact that your mother-in-law or father-in-law wants to give you parenting advice (or reprimands/disciplines your child without consulting with you first) and you want to scream at them that you live with their child and know that their method of parenting did not work out so well!

For me (Jami) I was unable to separate from my role as my parent’s co-dependent when I brought my wife and children home. This left Marla feeling excluded from the private little conversations my mom and I would constantly have. And when we went to Marla’s childhood home, I felt obligated to conform to the routine of formal events that used to last for the entire week. Are you kidding me?

Whatever circumstances you are in, there are four things to start doing right now to begin showing your family that you are an adult, and happily making your own life count!

Step One: Forgive them. What does this mean, really? First, it’s a choice way before it’s a feeling. Second, forgiveness releases your heart to be free to love more completely yourself and others. It does not let the person who hurt you off the hook. And it will actually give you the gift of good, healthy boundaries, which are absolutely necessary to pack into your luggage for this holiday journey. And let’s be real, who wants to carry around all that hurt anyway?

And you know what? These family members we’ve been holding on to unforgiveness towards really didn’t intend to hurt us (at least most of them didn’t). Just like you, they were caught up on the old merry-go-round patterns of behavior that they learned from their families of origin. Remember the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” It’s really as simple as that. And it’s incredible that forgiveness will inevitably lead you to a place of compassion for those who have hurt you. Crazy as this sounds right now, it’s a real outcome. Jami and I both know…been there, done that, and have the healed scars to prove it. You can jump off of this crazy-making merry-go-round of pain and hurt; just stop it…be cherished. When you do, guess what happens? Those little comments like, “You look pretty…too bad your butt’s big like your mom’s” or the hostile humor thrown at you like a dagger about your childhood nickname “Hippo” won’t hurt anymore, and you can laugh along with the offending party and consider empathetically how deeply they must be hurting to want to demean you.

The need to forgive generally falls into two categories. Perfect family/parents? Yes, your parents and siblings need your forgiveness, especially if you believe they are perfect. We find it is actually more difficult for those that believe Mom and Dad are perfect than those that have abuse issues, because if your parents were perfect, how are you ever going to measure up? (Marla) I thought my family was perfect. Really, I did. And then I discovered that we were really too enmeshed to see how dysfunctional we really were. My dad was emotionally distant, and my mom was so busy keeping the house perfect and having a meal on the table by 6 pm that I often felt lonely and isolated. To cover this, I strove for perfection in all areas of my life. What a burden. I have forgiven, and I have freedom. It’s a beautiful place to be!

And then there are the parents that have obvious dysfunction that has the very visible pink elephant that no one is willing to talk about. Forgiveness opens the space for your newer relationships to become integrated in a healthier way.

They don’t have to know you have chosen to forgive them, and really it is usually not a good idea to share it with them unless they are on their own journey and let you know it is ok to talk about the hurts. My parents are on this healing journey, and I am forever grateful. Does it make the holidays perfect? No, but definitely better.

Once you have chosen forgiveness, imagine what they would say if they could be able to tell you everything you ever wanted to hear from them. Write it down and read it back to yourself. This opens up the possibility of asking them for what you would like to receive from them and makes it clearer in your mind. You may have to repeat this step often, even if they are no longer with us. It is important not to move to step two until you have completed the forgiveness step. Step One actually opens up creativity that is not all available to us until we have made the choice to forgive, and forgiveness is almost always a choice before we feel like doing it.

Step Two: Talk with someone (your Significant Other can make great ally for the Holiday’s) about the things that are difficult for you when visiting your family or your partner’s family. Get very clear about the things you have forgiven, who is there and why you think it hurts. Start practicing standing up for yourself, your partner and your kids in a kind and respectful way. Some phrases you can practice are:

• “This is not okay with me.”
• “When this happens I feel hurt.”
• “What did you mean by that.”

Step Three: If you find yourself falling back into anger and frustration, take a time out. You can also go for a walk or play a game with the kids. It would also be wise to consistently do check-ins with your partner a couple of times a day to take the pulse on how you are feeling (you can email us for an outline for “Check-In,” or you can purchase our book HERE). Simply expressing feelings will take the sting and hurt out of the situation.

Step Four: Be ready to take action S L O W L Y. It took time to get where you are now, and it will take your family some time and consistency to change their view of you as a child.

Relax and enjoy your hard work of arriving at the holidays as an adult that can act like a kid if you want to. When you take steps to prepare your heart and soul, and those of your family, you are ready to step into the lion’s den, or the crazy house, or whatever chaos may await you under the Christmas tree. You’ve got this holiday thing in the bag. And now you can be singing joyfully along the way, “Silver Bells, Silver Bells. It’s Christmas time in the city.”

Shame: The Insidious Love-Killer

This week we need to start by talking about shame. Yes, this is a really different kind of conversation for some of us. (Jami) Men, we benefit from knowing what shame is so that we are able to deal with it in our hearts and minds and defeat anger which allows us to be open about it with those we love. Sidenote: Anger turned inward is depression and outward is rage. To be clear, rage is NOT a healthy way to express your anger and there is a definite difference in how it’s done. We need to step up and teach our children and our communities to deal with shame in love and kindness. (Don’t worry, men. It’s not all on you but it is so important for you to understand and acknowledge. Marla addresses women below..)

In her book Daring Greatly she goes on to say,

“When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation. When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive—it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real questions for parents should be: ‘Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?’ If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.”

The truth is that I let my shame issues get in the way of my relationship with Marla in the ’90s, and recently I nearly lost it all. I thought I was above it. The truth is without a connected group of accountable and authentic men consistently in my life, I again let fear and isolation take me down an ugly road. It is so easy to believe the lie that if I share with even my best friends that I will lose something. Credibility? My career? My wife (a very real fear)? And maybe even my life? Yes, when we are accountable and connected in honest ways we only lose isolation, depression, fear, and hate. Sadly there is so much fear and hate coming from men these days and we must band together and find better ways! Please do not let the fear of being honest keep you down as I did. I got lucky and didn’t end up losing everything I love, especially the love of my life, Marla. She has stuck with me through thick and thin and I am forever grateful and a much better man because of her. 

(Marla) I am certainly not without my own shame web, and it has been a nasty, sticky web indeed. It was in 1995 that I  began to realize that I had been living a life based on my shame. Everything I said and did I carefully adjusted to make sure that I would not be disapproved of (can you relate, girlfriends?). My core shame created this belief in me that I was not enough, therefore I needed to perform, be perfect in all areas, and do it with such finesse that I would never be “found out” for the fraud I was. This was all very unconscious at the time, but as I began to embark on the journey of healing, I came face to face with my addictions. No, I was not addicted to drugs, alcohol, medications, sex, work or rage. I was addicted to approval. Ughh. I was addicted to perfectionism (creating the façade that everything around me was “perfect”). I was addicted to being right. More ugghhh. And I literally felt unsafe whenever I was wrong. These are the things I did to keep from being vulnerable; to keep from letting anyone know who I really was:

  • I kept my house spotless. You could have eaten off of the floors at any time, even though Kayla and Ariel were just little kiddos. My. House. Was. Perfect. If it wasn’t, I would break into crazy mode, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Following the girls and Jami picking up crumbs, toys, socks…You get the picture (and it’s certainly not a pretty one).
  • I was afraid of what people thought about me.
  • I dissociated. I checked out emotionally, but not as you might think. I checked out by being busy; by constantly thinking about the next thing on my calendar. Not. Even. Close to present.
  • I had a deep need for certainty. Translation: I was a control freak!
  • I constantly compared myself to others, especially my body. I had a love-hate relationship with my body, but mostly it was hate. “Never pretty enough” plagued me. 
  • Exhaustion was my status symbol. I was a fantastic martyr.
  • Productivity made me feel worthy, if but for a moment.
  • Anxiety and chaos were a lifestyle choice for me. Sometimes mine, but mostly everybody else’s anxiety and chaos. I had completely lost myself because my shame kept saying to me that I was unworthy unless I was the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter, the best sister, the best friend, etc., etc.
  • I was constantly “shoulding” on myself. “I should be thinner…I should be a better mom…I should have sex with my husband every day…I should never make a mistake…I should always look just right…I should always be in control…I should be cooler…” And on, and on, and on.

Ladies (and maybe most of you reading this) can you relate to any of these statements? If so, you are also struggling with your core shame. (And for those of you who can’t relate at all, you may need to read the definition of “denial” because, from what Brené Brown’s research says, we ALL have shame at our core. Men, as Jami mentioned above it may look a little differently for you. Something like “I should never be weak…I should always be strong…I should be a good provider…”) The cool, and hopeful, thing is that you can have healing and relief from this dangerous place. I have. I’m certainly not completely rid of my shame, but it continues to get better and better. I am more full of joy and peace today than anything else, but to be honest Jami’s struggle that he gives a nod to above just about killed me and sent me straight back to this core shame for a time. It was horrible, earthshattering, paradigm-shifting, heart-crushing and also allowed me another run at cleaning out this very deeply-seeded shame. For this I am grateful.

(Jami) Marla and I have developed the Feeling Wheel 5.0 to help all of us learn better strategies for relationships. Because…well…shame.

The core of the wheel has three feelings: Shame, Forgiveness, and Love. This is the center of all our conflicts. All our behaviors are related to how we deal with these three feelings. Think of Shame as the giant lie that you are not worthy of love. This is why Marla and I put Shame across from Love. It is because it is the only toxic feeling on the wheel, and it is, in fact, based on a lie; the lie when any person believes that they are a bad person. And because of the nature of Shame, it sticks to other feelings like Fear, Anger, Jealousy and even Peace (worry much?) and Joy (have sexual shame?). All feelings free from shame are healthy feelings. Feelings are raw information. Our brains are highly efficient at making connections with how events in our life make us feel. We then develop strategies and we repeat what gets us what we expect, which is not necessarily the best outcome.

Just outside the core of the wheel are six feelings that we reference as ”modes.” A mode is a pattern of behavior solidified to help us function and communicate. Think of it as an autopilot program that gets activated in certain situations, designed to protect your heart. Most often we don’t think much about doing these things, we just do them often without much conscious thought. These are often packages of behaviors that once served us well and helped us survive, but are now needing to be updated to serve us better.

The question this week is where does your life hurt? What do you avoid? Why? Can you find a pattern of your behavior that is contributing to the pain? Let’s talk about how we can help each other and get better results for our families and communities. Schedule your Free Discovery Session today HERE.