My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list

A Strategy for Surviving Emotional Pain

Have you ever felt so shocked, that time stood still? Maybe the phone call was bad news, or the thing you wanted most became impossible, or the rejection you felt was crushing . The emotional pain you feel is overwhelming, and you know you need a strategy to move forward.

You know you have to respond to your situation, but maybe you are unsure of what to do next.

written on it

written on it

Psychologists have found that trouble, trauma and tragedies are not actually the problem. The problem is how we respond to them. We know that trouble, trauma and tragedy cannot always be avoided, and that bad things happen to good people. However, researchers report that those people who can respond to the trouble in healthy ways will be resilient, have shorter recovery times and suffer fewer negative effects.

What to do When You don’t Know what to Do

light unto my path

Some people respond to challenges with emotionally destructive means like blame shifting, addictions, and isolation. It’s tempting to respond to pain by numbing, drinking, self-medicating, inappropriate relationships, or over-shopping. Others respond by taking responsibility, problem solving, and reaching out for support. Those who take the harder, braver path choose to respond to pain by staying alert, present, creative, information seeking, engaged and positive.

How we respond to our troubling event means everything. During seasons of loss and pain, it is important to do two things well:

Do what you can,

Leave the rest.

Do What you Can. Doing what you can does not mean doing everything, or doing what other people should be doing but aren’t. When bad things happen, some may be tempted to “over do it” or “over function” or “take over” but this is not always the best thing to do. Doing what you can means being clear about your role and responsibility and doing that thing the best you can. Don’t do other people’s things, just do your thing. You don’t have to have all the right answers or a plan etched in stone. You only need to exert your power, influence and choice in a way that is beneficial. It is important to decipher what you can control, and what you cannot.

amy's coffee

Doing any helpful thing in the midst of trouble is not only good for you and for other people, it is good for your resiliency too. Trauma research shows that people who find something useful to do during a troubling event, fair better with fewer trauma symptoms. Whether it be encouraging, attending, guarding, problem solving, helping, protecting or directing, exerting some personal power in big or small ways is helpful.

Leave the Rest. Leaving the Rest is an acknowledgement that not everything can be done quickly or by you. Releasing yourself from taking care of others’ responsibilities is brave and necessary. Leaving the rest means engaging in a waiting period with hope. You know how dog trainers will say, “Leave it! Leeeeave it,” to their dogs when tempted or distracted? We may be tempted to argue, convince, lecture, shut down, or bargain our way out of the pain or guilt. But these are not helpful options for the long run. We must let go of the things we can’t control, and do something about the things we can control.

“Leaving the Rest” actually takes more energy than “Doing what you can.” Resisting the temptation to over-function or to be a control freak takes a lot of self-control. When you are actively taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to tell yourself things like, “Don’t take the bate,” and “This ain’t your circus, these ain’t your monkeys,” and “Don’t buy a ticket for that crazy train,” and “You can let it go.”

Letting Go

Waiting can cause a powerless feeling, but waiting with purpose, hope and a plan is very different. “Leaving the Rest” does not mean “Wait and see what happens,” as much as it means, “Wait for the right time to move forward.” For the waiting period to be manageable and positive, there are Waiting Exercises that I will cover in my next blog.

If you are in the middle of a dark season, take the small steps to Do What You Can, and the faith steps to Leave the Rest. Every small step in the right direction counts.

Ready to Start a Support Group?

Hello to all the World Shapers, Dream Makers, and Booty Shakers! Happy Autumn! Lately I have been contacted by people who want to be supportive to women in destructive relationships, but don’t know how. I’ve been stopped in the grocery store parking lot, messaged on Facebook and called from abroad about this issue. Women in exploitative and abusive relationships are waking up to the manipulation they’ve experienced for years and are realizing, “enough is enough.” Someone asked me yesterday if she could start a support group, and I said, “Um Yeah! Lemme get right on that!” And so I did. And I want to make the material available for everyone.

How about you? Are you interested in starting a group to help women in destructive relationships? If you have been moved, like me, to do something, I have some free stuff for you to use, have, copy, give out, spill coffee on, whatever. Living in the Pink Support Groups (LIPS Groups for short) are a way you can support women on the journey of hope and freedom one step at a time. You don’t have to be an expert or professional or married or single or even a cat lady (although, every group needs one crazy cat lady) – you just have to have a heart for women who need support.

Here is a Preview:

LIPS GROUP

Living in the Pink Support Group

Women going through relationship challenges need support. Especially women who are in Loser, User, or Abuser relationships. Typical relationship advice doesn’t work for these women, because they are not in typical relationships. They are in exploitative relationships. They have special circumstances and special considerations that are simply not addressed in typical marriage books, marriage retreats or couples counseling.

What does Living in the Pink Mean?

I discovered the term Living in the Pink when I was looking for a synonym for, Emotionally Healthy. Apparently, health professionals use this term to describe someone who is thriving, living with vitality and vigor.  I now use it to describe women who reclaim their lives by breaking free from toxic relationship patterns. When women Live in the Pink, they know their God-given value and they live according to it. They perform radical self-care, they show love toward others and they stand up for justice- especially in their own homes.

What Do Living in the Pink Support Groups Do?

Women who are trying to break free from exploitative or abusive relationships need a lot of support and care. They need other women who believe them, who stand with them, and who will be their biggest cheerleaders when they accomplish hard things. LIPS Groups are designed to accept each woman without judgment and offer understanding and compassion.

How can you get started?

Once you have 3-5 women who are interested in coming, set the date and time that works best. You can work through the blog posts I’ve selected here as a place to start. Work through one or two blog posts each group meeting, depending how much discussion is produced. I’ve broken them into categories of need. Women will be in different stages of realization and acceptance of their relationship condition. Some will be fully aware of the manipulation and abuse in their marriage, some will still be in some denial about just how bad it is. Some will be divorced and remarried. It’s all ok. Women are ready at different times. The group’s role is to provide a safe space to think and talk about these issues, and to offer resources and support.

If this has piqued your interest, and you can think of a couple women right now that you’d like to invite, then download this Free Facilitator’s Guide.

LIPS Group Guide Picture

LIPS GROUP SET UP PDF

It has everything you need to get started. Once you get started offering a support group to the women you care about, let me know how its going, and if there is anything else that you need. I’m happy to help in any way that I can. I believe that there is power in groups of women meeting together, getting the encouragement to move the mountains in their lives.

Emotional Abuse: 16 Signs that it’s Happening to You

In the past week, I’ve had several conversations with young women wondering if they are experiencing emotional abuse at home. They know there is something wrong in their relationship because of the fighting and the terrible things that are said. But they want to believe the best about their partners. They don’t want to believe that their partner is actually emotionally abusive. How can they know for sure? Emotional Abuse seems so ambiguous, that many victims feel silly even bringing it up. Since emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical wounds or scars, it is sometimes ignored. But did you know that emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse?

37597988 - young couple not talking after fight in living room

Many couples will have infrequent arguments where both say things they regret. Many couples get into dysfunctional habits and cycles that cause problems in the long run. However, emotional abuse is different. Emotional abuse is pervasive, repeated and a perpetual relational style of keeping a one-up/ one-down status in the relationship. The following are signs of Emotional Abuse.

17 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. Blame: They tend to blame you for their own mistakes. Even if you had nothing to do with it or weren’t even around, somehow it becomes your fault.
  2. Fights Are Huge: Every couple has arguments, and may even say hurtful things they regret later. However, emotionally abusive partners escalate arguments into cutting, explosive fights where he emerges from the wreckage without a care.
  3. Name Calling: Cruel put downs like “Stupid Ass, Crazy Bitch, Jesus Freak” and others I won’t even write, are used to make you feel stupid, crazy, and ridiculous. You may be called these names in front of others, your kids or when you are all alone.
  4. Yelling, Cussing, Vulgarity: Using volume, profanity and vulgar slurs takes what could be a normal activity or conflict, and makes it scary, threatening and mean-spirited.
  5. Excessive Teasing: Every relationship can endure, and may even be enhanced by some good natured teasing, especially when both can laugh at themselves easily. However, teasing becomes emotionally abusive when it crosses a line from good natured to cruel and excessive. Teasing can be used to control, threaten and over-power.
  6. Threatening: Feedback, suggestions, and constructive criticism are met quickly with ultimatums, threats and terrorizing antics. Threats are usually carefully crafted weapons aimed right where they will hurt you most.
  7. Badgering: once you’ve expressed your boundaries, your partner aggressively pesters you in order to get you to change your mind. This tactic is used to wear you down until you give in.
  8. Punishing Silence: a partner who habitually withdraws from the relationship in order to prove a point or get back at you is emotionally abusive.
  9. Constant Criticism or Judgment: Emotionally abusive people use criticism and judgment to keep you in “your place” or keep you feeling bad about yourself so you won’t assert your need for better treatment.
  10. Disregard: Emotionally Abusive people will disregard your opinions, needs, or ideas. You may feel like you are not seen as a whole and equal person in the relationship because your partner minimizes you.
  11. Gas-Lighting: Accuse you of being crazy or too sensitive. When you complain about this treatment, you are disregarded. You are lead to believe that you are the problem, not the emotional abuse.
  12. Control of Finances: It’s normal for partners to have different roles in the relationship, like for one to handle the finances and the other to handle house maintenance. But when finances are controlled or kept from the other partner, the imbalance of power is abusive and wrong.
  13. Contempt: Contemptuous body language, facial expression, implying disgust toward you. This may seem very covert, and maybe even small. However, its impact damages self esteem, feelings of safety, and trust.
  14. Ignoring Boundaries: Repeated disregard for your boundaries, limits, space or requests. We only truly know how someone will respect us once we say no. If your partner repeatedly dismisses your expressed needs or requests, this is a violation of your person.
  15. The Pot Calling the Kettle Black: This sneaky tactic is when your partner accuses you of the thing he/she is really guilty of. For example, he/she will give examples of you being emotionally abusive in attempt at convincing you that you are the problem. Psychologists call this projection.
  16. Excessive Anger: Anger may be loud and overt, or silent and seething. Their anger is used to intimidate and control. You may feel yourself avoiding difficult conversations, walking on eggshells, and trying not to upset your partner.

24322548 - lonely girl in the city in danger

If you are finding yourself sadly nodding your head as you read this list, you are not alone. You may be coming to the realization that your relationship is not only unhappy, but down right abusive. Emotional abuse is important to identify and stop. Emotional abuse may seem easier to overlook, than to confront. You probably intuitively know that the abuse may get worse after confronting it. This seems risky and scary. But the abuse doesn’t get better or go away over time. Without intervention, emotional abuse only gets more severe and more frequent. Taking steps to be safe can be a long process, but worth it for you, your children and the people around you. For more information on setting boundaries and staying safe, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of the World Changer: Self-Doubt

“What if I made the wrong decision? What if I am on the wrong path? What if all of this, is just a bad mistake?” Patricia sat on the couch and verbalized what she’d been stewing for weeks. She had just made some giant changes in her career and she worried that somehow she had screwed everything up.

Patricia is not the only one who wonders this. Anyone who takes a risk at any level experiences fears of the unknown and of immobilizing self-doubt. Those of us who challenge the status quo because we believe in something better will ultimately stumble with self-doubt. I primarily work with people during crossroads stages in their lives, and after 18 years in this profession, I have noticed patterns emerge. Those folks who are determined to change their world for the better take extraordinary personal and professional risk to accomplish their goals. They say the hard things, they hear the hard things, and they make necessary sacrifices. They stand up for what is right and what they believe. They listen to the truth, even if it hurts. They resist the path of least resistance.

dream-big-enough

There are many crossroads decisions in our lives, some big and some small. But the self-doubt that plagues World Changers can stop you in your tracks, if you let it. I’ve seen self-doubt immobilize World Changers to the point of bewilderment. Just when they are making great strides, knocking down giants, and conquering goals, a wave of self-doubt hits them and sets them back. These motivated, spirited world changers get sidelined with fears, responsibilities, guilt, and doubt. They struggle to move through it, putting one foot in front of the other.

Fear is at the Root of Self Doubt

the-best-is-yet-to-come

Some of the most resilient and get-er-done people I know get sideline by fear and self-doubt. Here are the things you might be afraid of.

What World Changers are Afraid Of

  • Afraid of your own potential: What if you fulfilled your purpose and potential in this life?
  • Afraid you can’t do it on your own. I know, I’ve been here too. I think things like, “But I don’t know enough to reach that goal,” or “I don’t have enough _____ to make that happen.”
  • Afraid you will be a disappointment. You wonder if you will disappoint others, God and yourself.
  • Afraid that God isn’t as good as He says He is. Another version of this is, Afraid God doesn’t love me as much as I hoped he did.
  • Afraid you’ve made a mistake: You wonder if the mistakes you’ve made are so irreparable that you won’t be able to recover.
  • Afraid of being insignificant: You wonder if your life will add up to a whole lot of nothing, and the things that you put your time and effort into just flop.

These fears are common to those people who put themselves out there, take risks and change the world around them. When World Changers make a change in their life, it comes with risk, sacrifice, and increased vulnerability. When you’re doing something big, something hard, and something good, be prepared for external and internal challenge. It’s normal. Ask yourself…

  • How do I respond to challenge?
  • Where do I give my power away?
  • What is taking more from me, than it’s giving?
  • Where do I need to ask for help?
  • What do I want to grow?

child running

As you ask yourself these questions, keep in mind that anytime you are doing big things, or making big changes, you will be challenged, tempted and delayed. That is just part of the process. How you respond to these challenges, temptations and delays is the key. Here are some ways that World Changers respond.

Things That World Changers Do

  • Align with Reality: You have a solid grasp of what is true and what is not. You are not interested in worst case scenarios, wishful thinking, someone to rescue you, or the fantasy. You do your research and you deal in reality. You’re big enough to handle the truth even if it’s hard to hear. Truth is sacred.
  • Blue Book Buyer: My dad carried around a little blue book that gave the current value of any car, anywhere and anytime. The Blue Book would tell him how much something was worth. You are a World Changer, if you know your value. You don’t sell yourself short, or value others more or less than yourself. You don’t stick around if someone is not valuing you, and you don’t use other people for your own personal gain. People are valuable.
  • Leaving behind what is good, to go after what is best. You are willing to take a risk for yourself. This is very important. You could stay status quo, but you know there is more to life than the easy life. You trust yourself to know that life is about taking risks, making hard decisions, and pushing past fears. There is a better way.
  • Get Out While the Gettin’s Good: If something is harmful, abusive, wicked or wrong, you know to separate yourself from it to protect yourself and the others around you. Even if leaving comes with loss, cutting your losses earlier is better. You know that harmful behavior is not supposed to be ignored or pacified. You know that bullies should have consequences. Even if abuse is what you have known in your past or present, you are not willing to let it be a part of your future. You are worth more.
  • Pick the Right Pain: If you are a World Changer, then you know the difference between the pain of injury, and the pain of growth. World Changers know that injurious pain should be avoided, and growing pain should be embraced. The reality is that you cannot choose a pain free life. However, you can choose the type of pain you experience. World Changers choose the kind of pain that results in strength, growth, wisdom and future goals. Use pain to your advantage.

If you are experiencing a lot of self doubt, chances are that you are about to embark on a sizable change for the good.

 

 

The Next Step to Heal from Relationship Hurts

You didn’t see it coming. You didn’t think something like this would happen to you. But your broken heart tells a different story. You’ve sustained a painful relational injury and you don’t know how to move on. The pit in your stomach, the inability to think clearly, the loss of security and everything you thought you knew. You question your future, your kid’s future, and worry settles in like an uninvited cat. You’re faced with decisions on how you will respond. You didn’t ask for this, but here it is anyway.

moving forward

And how will you respond? With anger? With silence? With vindication? The feelings of betrayal can be so intense that you can feel completely off your game and unlike yourself. I think that is where the phrase, “beside myself” came from- feelings of betrayal give us a sense that we are outside of ourselves powerlessly watching the bad thing happen. Last week, we discussed what true repentance looks like, and without true repentance, reconciliation is not possible. If you missed it, click here to read.

trustworthy again

 

How do you put together the pieces again, and make sure that you move forward instead of get stuck in anger and bitterness?

  1. Determine the state of repentance your partner is experiencing. Repentance means that your partner identifies the gravity of the injury, makes reparations and commitment for change. Last week’s post addressed the steps in true repentance. Click here if you missed it.
  2. List your needs: this may be difficult if you haven’t been in the habit of recognizing your own needs. Often women will try to fulfill everyone else’s needs before their own and are out of practice when it comes to identifying what they need. Take some time to list some things that you’ll need, in order to move forward. Maybe you need him to
  3. Determine if reconciliation is an option. Remember, forgiveness does not mean that you have to trust or reconcile with the other person. You do not. Reconciliation is a much different process than forgiveness. Forgiveness can be done with or without the offending person. If the offending person has proven himself emotionally safe, trustworthy and remorsefully repentant, then reconciliation can be an option. If he only offers lip service, without true behavior change, then reconciliation is not a safe idea. If the offending person offers no admittance of wrongdoing at all, he is showing you that he is not a safe person to trust again.
  4. Recognize your own part, if appropriate, in the breakdown. I’m not saying that the betrayal is your fault. Not at all. However, it is important to identify your contributions to the breakdown of the relationship whatever they may be. Maybe you ignored some warning signs, or neglected to set good boundaries in the beginning. Maybe your people picker was broken and you picked the wrong person. Maybe you had a pattern of trying harder than the other person and you trained him to disrespect you. This is an important step to your recovery because it prepares you for self-forgiveness.
  5. Determine what Forgiveness looks like for you. Forgiveness is choosing to no longer hold the person accountable for that particular transgression. It’s as if the trial is over, the sentence is in place, and you no longer have to be the judge, the jailor, or the enforcer. You may be experiencing fear of getting hurt again, but don’t let that fear determine whether you forgive or not. Forgiveness may mean that you reach out to the person and offer to take steps toward reconciliation. Or, forgiveness for you may mean wishing the person well, loving them from a distance and keeping your distance.
  6. Signs of forgiveness. How do you know if you’ve really forgiven or not? Well, you’ll experience less anger, hurt and fear when you are with or when you think about that person. You feel strong that you can take care of yourself, and wise about decisions you make. You feel compassion for the other person, and truly wish the best for him/her. Whether or not they have changed, you have peace with yourself and extend peace toward him/her.

forgiveness

Forgiveness is the freedom from the power of past pain.

We can’t go through life without hurting others, and getting hurt. Forgiveness is one of those skills that is required in order to live life well. When we extend forgiveness to others, it gives back blessing to us. Again, forgiveness may not look like full reconciliation. The other person may not be safe or ready to be in a close relationship with you and all your new fancy fandangled boundaries. But your heart can choose forgiveness and be free from the pain of the past.

 

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list