Learning to Speak

Voice-header

When I look back on my first marriage, one of the things that is most disappointing is how blindsided I felt when I found out it was in trouble.  I knew my ex wasn’t really happy, and I even thought I knew the reasons; but I had no idea that one of those reasons might be me (and/or the marriage).

How does that happen?

How does a person (or couple I guess) get into a spot where one person basically wants out and the other person has no idea that is happening?  Was I some cold callous person who ignored her and only cared about myself?  I guess you would need her thoughts on that, but I sure didn’t think so.  For us to have that sort of gap in our understanding of things, the only thing I can definitively say is *something* had clearly fallen apart in communication.

The past is the past and can never be changed.  Which isn’t to say it doesn’t matter, as it absolutely does.  But the only place it really matters is in how you move forward and what you learn from it.

My goal was to learn enough to hopefully never be in that sort of position again.

 

If I never wanted to be in that spot again, it was up to me to try and understand how I got there.  It seemed surprising, because my ex and I never fought.  Like, never.  And in retrospect, maybe that was part of the problem.

Although we never fought, I can guarantee we didn’t always agree on things.  Which is to be expected, as people won’t always agree on things.  But maybe part of the problem was with how we approached those things we didn’t agree on.

I suspect we didn’t ever fight because instead of sharing how we were feeling, facing issues, and trying to work through them; we just ignored them.  Which is a fantastic idea of course, because we all know that if we ignore something for long enough it will go away (note, sarcasm intended).

That’s not to say I never raised issues.  But under the guise of picking my battles, I ignored way too much.  And many times I should have raised something, I didn’t.

 

Why didn’t I raise issues I felt should be raised?

Looking back, as embarrassing to admit as it is, it was fear.

Fear of the discomfort that it would cause.

Fear of the fight that may ensue.

Fear of the damage it could do.

 

It was WAY easier to tell myself something didn’t matter.  And there is some truth there, because often things don’t matter (the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is all about reminding us that some things don’t really matter).  But I think at some level we know when things do matter, and when they do, it’s a mistake to keep silent.

However I often kept silent.

I think part of it was because it’s natural to feel uncomfortable with conflict.  In addition I think it was because I didn’t have the personal “tools” for working on things.

 

I had a pretty good childhood, and to this day I think highly of both of my parents.  It’s not like they were perfect or anything (no one is), but I think they are people who generally did their best.  And to me, at the end of the day I think that’s the most important thing.

One thing that my childhood didn’t prepare me for however, was conflict.

See, my parents didn’t really fight or argue.  I’m sure they didn’t always get along, but either their disagreements were behind closed doors OR because I was a kid I was just oblivious to it.  Talk to anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I can be completely naive and oblivious at times, so there’s actually a good chance it’s the latter.

Beyond parents, one of the main places young people learn is at schools.  And although it may be different now, learning about conflict, our emotions and how to manage them wasn’t exactly one of the topics that was covered when I was going through the school system.  It’s something that’s extremely important, but we all just kind of figure it out on our own, at our own pace.  Whatever that pace may be.

As a result I entered young adult life (and relationships) not knowing what to do with conflict.  Not knowing how to have “difficult conversations”, and often avoiding them.

 

Not knowing what to do with conflict was only part of the problem.  The larger problem was the associations I made about conflict…

The people I knew and loved didn’t seem to argue, so in my head I interpreted that as arguing was *bad*, or a sign of problems.  And I sure didn’t want that.  Eventually I found myself in a relationship (and later marriage) with someone who was just as conflict avoidant as I was.  And without being forced to face conflict together, I didn’t build up skills at dealing with it very well.

 

To be clear, I don’t blame anyone for this.  It was how *I* shaped my beliefs about the world based on my experiences.  And I share this primarily because I suspect the way I grew to view the world is not uncommon.

It took me a long time to learn that conflict isn’t bad.  It’s actually super important, and when done right is very healthy.  Conflict is nothing more than differences plus tension.  And since we are all different, it’s natural.

Sure it can go badly as well, but that’s more around how you handle the conflict.  Conflict itself is neither good nor bad.

And communication at its core is all about how you handle that conflict.

My ex and I didn’t come into our relationship with a very good toolset for allowing us to communicate and handle conflict.  And for whatever reason, we never built those tools up.

Looking back, we both had terrible communication skills – though I doubt either of us realized that at the time.  And that was likely a significant factor in the failure of our marriage.

 

When my fiancé and I met, one of the things I told her was that in our relationship no topic could ever be “off the table”.  And in fact, the harder something was to talk about the more important it probably was.

I understood this at an intellectual level, but practically my skillset was still very rudimentary.  She was (and is) much better in this space than I am, and has a much easier time raising the things that need to be raised.

At first it was very difficult.  She would raise something, and I would feel that discomfort – my chest starting to tighten and the blood rushing to my ears.  Sometimes she would suggest that maybe we shouldn’t talk about things, at least not right now.  And sometimes we drop things for the moment at least to gain some space and clear our heads.  But we both realize the importance of talking things through no matter how uncomfortable they make us.

Over time, it’s gotten easier.  I am able to listen, and push back at that discomfort I feel.  And I also find it much easier to raise things that I feel need to be said.

I firmly believe that when it comes to conflict and communication, there ARE tools that you can build up over time.  They are really skills, and the more you work at them the more you can improve them.

 

As a parent, it’s very important that I try to pass this along to my children.  When I think back on how I grew up believing conflict is bad (and how that shaped me), I don’t want that for them.  I want them to understand that conflict is natural.  That it’s alright to disagree.  To be frustrated or mad at each other sometimes.  And that in those moments it’s important to be able to talk to each other.  To tell each other what we are feeling and try to get at the root of why, in a caring and respectful way.  The feelings are natural, it’s how we manage them that really matters.

 

I went almost 40 years without understanding conflict and without having tools to deal with it.  I realize I still have a long way to go and I expect I will spend the rest of my life trying to improve my skills in this area.  That’s alright though, because although it took a long time I feel like I have found my voice, and learned how to speak.

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Growth

A few months ago I took a trip to Italy.  It’s a stunning country with incredible diversity, and every day was a new (and fantastic) experience.

While in Tuscany my group visited a few wineries, and we learned all about the wine making process.  Tuscany is quite hilly, so the wineries generally grow a few different types of grapes.  They do this because moisture naturally settles to the lower parts areas, and some grape varieties do better with different moisture levels.

We figured that moisture levels would be important, so we asked our guide which types of grapes were “the best” and what the optimal conditions were for growing them.  His response (paraphrasing here) was:

Moisture levels are important, but we don’t want too much.  The best quality grapes are actually those that have had to struggle somewhat.  Grapes are like people in that way.

 

My trip to Italy was life changing for me; not just figuratively but also in a literal sense.  Because on this trip I proposed to my girlfriend (now fiance)!

Since getting engaged a few people have asked me “why”.  I’ve been married before (as has she).  And statistics show that the divorce rates for second marriages are higher than the rates for first marriages.  Statistically at least, the odds are against a second marriage being successful.

So why?  Why get married again?  Why not just date?  Or just move in together and cohabitate?

 

To me it comes down to what marriage means (to me).  What is it we actually want out of life, and out of a relationship?  For both of us, we aren’t looking at our relationship as a temporary thing.  We are looking at achieving that idea of “forever”.  Of sharing our lives, and growing old together.

Do we *need* to get married for that?

Absolutely not.

We could definitely achieve that without the marriage.  However I don’t see marriage as just a legal/contractual entity.  To me it’s more than that – it’s a symbol of the commitment we are making both to each other.  And that commitment is something we want to celebrate publicly, with close friends and family.

 

Will we make it?  Will we succeed?  I believe so.  But there’s actually some beauty in not truly knowing the answer to that.  And it makes me think back to the comment made at the winery.

Grapes are like people, in that the best quality is often shaped through adversity.

Well, we’ve both been through some of the ups and downs of life.  We are old enough now that we not only have a pretty good idea of what we want out of a relationship and out of life; but more importantly we know who WE are.  And we are better able to understand what a lifetime of commitment actually means.

I think one of the challenges in relationships that start when we are younger is, we don’t really know ourselves.  So as we grow and change, that relationship that may have made sense for who we “were” no longer makes sense for who we have become.  In an ideal world a couple is able to grow together.  But that doesn’t always happen, especially when we meet when we are young.

That’s not to say we should ever stop growing and changing, because we should.  However the ways and speed at which we change tends to slow down over time.  And more importantly, we’re now conscious of the fact that we will continue to change over time.  It’s on us to communicate how we are changing over time.  To talk through problems.  To be open and upfront about what we each need from each other.

We realize that communication will be the key to our success or failure; and that is at once liberating and terrifying.

Liberating because our success is totally up to us.  It’s on us to choose each other every single day of our lives from here on out (even on the ones we might not particularly feel like it).

And it’s terrifying because…

well, it’s on us.  And communication may seem simple on the surface.  But sometimes it’s the hardest thing on the planet.

 

With a new phase of my life starting, I also have a lot of thoughts about a new phase to this blog.  I plan on being back at it, and have the next 5-10 posts already loosely planned out.

I’m not sure who (if anyone) is still around. If so, hopefully you’ll continue to stick around for the next part of my journey. And for anyone stumbling across thezombieshuffle.com now, welcome aboard!!!

Remembering Grandma

PlayingCards

At my work, we have a group that has recently started up to get together and play cards at lunch periodically.

Today was my first day playing with the group, and the game we played was Canasta.

From as early as I can remember cards have been a part of my life, and when I think of cards I automatically think of my Grandma.

I had a pretty great childhood, and some of my favorite memories are about Grandma and weekend sleepovers at her house. it’s funny that I thought of it as “her” house. Grandpa was there too – but he was often off doing his own thing, mostly joining us for meals and cards after dinner; so most of my memories revolve around Grandma.

I’m one of 4 siblings, but Grandma would have us over individually so she could focus on us. And when we were there she made us feel like the most special kids in the world.

There were all sorts of great moments.

At the start of every Grandma visit she and I would walk to the grocery store, where she let me pick my own box of cereal. My parents didn’t buy sugary cereal, so I almost always chose Fruit Loops (you can’t get much more sugary than that).

I loved to draw, and Grandma kept a drawing pad waiting for me in a drawer in the guest room. I would spend hours drawing assorted creatures and monsters. Once done I would show them to her and she would tell me how horrible they were. Then she would lovingly hang them on the kitchen wall.

And that kitchen…

Grandma was a great cook. The only times I was ever involved in the cooking was when she let me help roll out her spice donuts. But I can still picture her in a floral shirt and an apron working in the kitchen; tasting, seasoning, and ensuring everything was “just right”.

There are all sorts of memories, but my best ones revolve around cards.

My earliest memories of cards are playing games like Concentration and Crazy 8’s. As my skills grew we moved onto more complex games; and our favorites were Russian Bank (when it was just the two of us) and Canasta (when Grandpa played).

At the start of my visit Grandma would give me a small pile of change, and we played for money (I believe Russian Bank was 10 cents a game for the winner, while Canasta was 25 cents). Not only did she provide my starting money, she also ensured I went home after the weekend with a few dollars in my pocket.

I was always proud of the fact that I did well enough against her to come home with a pocket full of change; and it was years before I realized that she was letting me win.

Grandma always taught, pointing out moves when I missed them to help me learn. Or sometimes just asking “are you sure you want to discard?” to make me look at the table more closely for the move I was clearly missing.

As I learned the games she would start to play harder. And I would like to think we eventually got to a point where we were both playing hard and competing. I suppose I’ll never truly know – maybe I only ever won when she let me. I would like to think I earned at least a few of those wins though.

There were so many lessons I didn’t realize I was learning during those hours spent playing cards. Grandma taught me to be a good sport. Winning was secondary to having fun, and cards were primarily an opportunity for visiting and just being present with each other.

In my teen years and early University years I didn’t see my Grandparents very often (though it was still very special when I did). When my Grandpa died, Grandma went to an independent living apartment and I started seeing her on a more regular basis again.

I was a young man now, early in my career; and just as I had changed so had our relationship. She was still my Grandma, but she was also like a friend. I felt no sense of obligation in seeing her, I went because I enjoyed it. She was this cool friend who I could talk to about anything – she just happened to be a lot older than me.

As the years went by, Grandma remained remarkably lucid. I would start hearing her stories repeat a bit more frequently – which for the most part was fine as she was a fantastic story teller, with fun stories.

Eventually the stories started repeating multiple times in a single game of cards, and we knew her mind was starting to go. She was in her 90’s by then so it wasn’t unexpected, but it still wasn’t easy.

It had always seemed like she would live forever, which was ridiculous in some ways. But as her memory continued to go, realization set in that her time with us was coming to a close.

Eventually she was hospitalized, and at some level my family all knew she was never going home again.

She was only in the hospital for a few months, but I hated seeing her there. She was this fiercely independent woman who had made it to her mid 90’s on her own; yet here she was in a hospital bed day after day.

When I would visit she would always ask me “Andrew, when am I going home?” I knew she never was, but I couldn’t tell her that, so I would just respond “as soon as you are strong enough Grandma”. It broke my heart to lie to her, but I couldn’t tell her the truth.

A few weeks before she died, I went to the hospital and brought two decks of cards. I asked the nurses for a second table for her bed so we would have a space big enough for Russian Bank, and we played.

That day, I had to teach her how to play. She couldn’t remember the rules of the game that she and I had spent the last 20 plus playing, though periodically she would tell me that it seemed like it was a wonderful game. It was. And I will always hold dear my memories of playing it with her through the years.

That day I let her win, one last time.

Grandma has been gone for around 10 years now, but she is still very much alive in how she impacted my life.

I don’t play cards that often anymore, but I still play. I have tried to teach my boys, and pass along some of the lessons that I learned. My boys are a different generation and are more interested in electronics, but they will play cards sometimes. And when we get together with my family, it’s always a highlight when the cards come out.

My girlfriend and I have started playing Canasta with my parents, and although we haven’t played that often when we do it’s great.

The lessons of cards are really lessons of life. You won’t always win, and that shouldn’t be the focus. In all aspects of life you need to learn to enjoy the process, and the journey. Because when you enjoy the process it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is.

All those lessons.

All those memories.

And for me, it all started with Grandma.

Searching for the Truth

Truth.

Truth is something that is seen as an absolute.  Something that either is, or isn’t.

Truth can be differentiated from opinion or supposition, because truth is based on fact.  It is supposed to be objective rather than subjective.

And the search for truth is seen as a positive and perhaps even noble thing.

But truth can also be elusive.

Because it is also based on belief.

When I look at dictionary definitions of truth, I find two categories of definitions that are very distinct in their meanings.

The first category talks about reality.  Things that are factual, verifiable, and indisputable.

The second category talks about that which is accepted as the truth.

And these are two very different things.

Why does this matter?  Think of the following quote:

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Often, that which we think of as truth is simply our perception.

All of our experiences come through our senses.  We see things, hear them, and feel them.  We don’t experience things objectively; instead all of our experiences are filtered through the lens of our own experiences.  You and I may witness the same event, and come away with a completely different understanding of what we experienced.

One person has had different experiences from the other.  The things they notice, things that resonate with them, and the way they interpret an event can be very different from the other person.

And as the quote above says, each of those interpretations may be real.

That’s not to say that no one is every lying – because people definitely do.

People lie for many different reasons.

Sometimes people will lie because they are ashamed or embarrassed.  Maybe they don’t want to admit that they don’t understand something.  Maybe they are trying to deny doing something that makes them embarrassed.  Or maybe they are “exaggerating”, to either make a story more interesting or to cast themselves in a better light.  I think we all do these things to some degree – though hopefully it’s not often, and we feel uncomfortable when we doe it.

Other times people will lie in order to intentionally deceive or manipulate others.  I suppose in some scenarios this may originate from shame/embarrassment as well, but I am talking about a different level of lying here (I know, it’s kind of grey where one type of lying ends and another begins, but hopefully you get what I mean).

With this type of lying, the belief portion of truth is often used as a tool.  Someone is intentionally deceiving other people, and they are using systematic layers of deception to try and convince another person of the truth of what they are selling.

When their lies start to become apparent, they simply change the narrative.  They may try to twist the meaning of words to support what they are saying, or they may simply deny ever saying or doing the things they have done in the past.

Gaslighting is a term that describes a form of “psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group”.  The person who is using gaslighting uses “persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying in attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief”.

See, in some cases the “truth” is what you can make people believe is true.  People who gaslight understand this, and they use this to their advantage.

The foundation of all interpersonal relationships is trust.  We trust people to actually mean what they say.  We trust them to be upfront with us.  We know people make mistakes and we know people will sometimes lie, but we *want* to take people at face value and believe them.

Personally I like to assume the best of people, and I think it would be exhausting to constantly question and doubt the things I hear.

There are times that I’ll be talking with a buddy about something that has happened in the past, and we will have very different takes on the same event.  Sometimes it’s details, sometimes it’s what we took away from the event.

I think this is expected, because memory can be faulty and we also experience things through the filter of our own experiences.  Still, when it happens it often makes me pause for a moment and wonder – am I wrong?  Is he/she wrong?  Are we both wrong and we are just walking away with our own interpretation of events?

Usually, it doesn’t matter.

However if this happens a few times with the same person, I would suggest trusting your feelings and starting to ask yourself “why”.  Is this a matter of perception?  Of memory?  What is it you are questioning if you are wrong about?  Does the other person have anything to gain by you being wrong?  And most importantly are there patterns of behavior that are making you uncomfortable?

Often people who victims of gaslighting realize after the fact that all the pieces were right there – they just couldn’t see them.  And that inability to see them was often because they were being intentionally misdirected and led to question their own thoughts and beliefs.

In addition to people shaping our understanding of the world through lying and gaslighting, we can also do this to ourselves.  Sometimes when we come into something with a preconceived notion of what we want to believe, we end up focussing on the evidence that validates that belief (and ignoring the things that may make us question it).

Let’s say you have an argument with your partner so you tell a friend about it – and that friend doesn’t understand your perspective or “sides” with your partner.  So you tell a different friend, and again they don’t understand your perspective.  So you keep telling other people until you tell someone who finally “gets you”.

I call this “shopping for answers”, and it may make you feel good in the moment but all it does is help solidify a belief that you already had.  To me this is simply a form of lying to yourself.

 

Truth seems like it should be a straightforward thing, but it can be elusive to find.

Between experiencing the world through the lens of our own beliefs and experiences, and having a distorted view of things because we lack information, have been provided the wrong information, or are only seeing the things we want to see; what we consider truth is often really just a matter of belief.

So what can we do?  How do we search for the truth?

I think the best thing we can do is accept that what we believe is simply what we believe right now, and we may be wrong.

This doesn’t mean we need to constantly live in doubt, but maybe we just don’t shop for answers.  Don’t just look for things to prove you are right.  Look for things that challenge you, and accept that you may be wrong.

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A Relationship without Empathy

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I little while back I watched the Netflix series “Mindhunter”. It is about the development of the FBIs behavioral science unit in the 1970s, as they start to study and try to understand the mindset of serial killers.

It’s a cool show. It’s slow moving at times, but starting to get into the psychology of killers (and specifically serial killers) is fascinating in its own way.

The was one scene in the series where the main characters are investigating a murder, and one of them says that he anticipates additional victims. I can’t remember the specifics, but he says something along the lines of how he believes that with serial killers they have probably played out the scenes of killing someone in their heads many times, and with the first victim it is often a case of opportunity. Maybe that first victim fell into their lap, and they got away with it. It gave them a sense of power, and excitement, and they get “a taste for it”. So after that first victim, it’s only a matter of time until they kill again.

It’s a disturbing thought, but also one that makes a lot of sense to me. The realization of fantasy can make it so fantasy isn’t enough anymore, and it starts to spill into reality.

This got me thinking about affairs.

Yes, really.

And if you bear with me a moment hopefully this will make at least *some* sense.

Within law, there are different classifications on the severity of what it means when you kill someone.

  • Manslaughter is a scenario where you killed someone, but it was an accident. There was no intent. Negligence perhaps, but not intent.
  • Second degree murder is intentional, but it happens in the heat of the moment and wasn’t planned in any way.
  • First degree murder is the most serious offence. It is not only intentional, but it is also planned/premeditated.

And then you have serial killers.

Serial killers engage in a series of first degree murders (though going with the idea from Mindhunters, I suppose their first victim *may* have been second degree). In law, they are charged with multiple counts of first degree murder.

But I think most would agree that serial killers are a whole other class of nastiness.

I’ve said before in these pages that I don’t think all affairs are created equal. Don’t get me wrong, they are all bad. They are all destructive, and it’s up to each individual and couple to think about what the affair means for their existing relationship. But that doesn’t mean all affairs are equal.

I have heard people claim their affair was an “accident” and they “never meant for it to happen.”

I don’t buy that excuse at all.

There is no affair equivalent to Manslaughter, because affairs can’t be accidents.

It’s not like someone is walking around one day and they slip, and they accidentally make out with/have sex with someone else while they are falling. I’m *pretty* sure it doesn’t work that way.

However I can buy the notion that affairs can be like second degree murder. They can be something that wasn’t planned and happens in the heat of the moment. THAT I can buy. And when affairs *are* like that I suspect there is a lot of regret and remorse, and “oh my god what have I just done” feeling after.

Affairs are frequently a point of no return for relationships, because trust is at the foundation of any relationship and when an affair is revealed that trust is gone.

That being said, in these scenarios, I do think it’s actually possible for couples to work through rebuilding that trust and continuing the relationship. Both people would need to be willing to face it, work through it, and let it go. But I believe it IS possible.

Calculated affairs (which are more like first degree murder) are different though. These are planned, and the adulterer knows exactly what they are doing and getting into. They are fully aware of the damage they are doing to their relationship, they simply don’t care.

Perhaps they do care at some level, but they have decided that what they are getting out of it (pleasure, a feeling of being desirable, a feeling of power, living out a fantasy, or whatever they are looking for) is worth the risk.

In these scenarios I would caution someone to think long and hard before they give the adulterer a chance.

Healthy relationships require mutual respect and caring. When someone has intentionally gone down the road of an affair, they are showing exactly who and what they value in the relationship.

And what they value is themselves.

In going ahead with this sort of affair, they are showing a complete lack of empathy for their partner.

Perhaps more alarmingly, when someone has been able to detach themselves enough from the relationship to have this sort of calculated affair; it rarely ends after the first time (if they “get away with it”). Rather, they will continue to engage in the affair or perhaps even have a series of affairs with different people.

Take the description of serial killers that I paraphrased from Mindhunter earlier, and replace the words “victim” and “kill” with “affair partner” and “cheat”:

“with the first affair partner it is often a case of opportunity. Maybe that first affair partner fell into their lap, and they got away with it. It gave them a sense of power, and excitement, and they get a taste for it. So after that first affair partner, it’s only a matter of time until they cheat again.”

I truly believe this is what happens here.

In fact a few years ago I interviewed two people (one male and one female) who had gone down the road of affairs and although it’s a small sample size they both furthered this belief.

The guy spoke of the affair becoming an addiction, and how he couldn’t stop thinking about her. He acquired that “taste for it”, and he described it as euphoria when they were together. He eventually ended the affair and to my knowledge has spent the last few years trying to rebuild the relationship with his wife.

The lady was a bit different. From our discussions I believe she once loved her husband, but she loved how the affair made her feel. The excitement, the power, the fantasy world. She continued the affair and I believe had at least a few different partners. She had no intention of stopping, but also had no intention of leaving her husband because she enjoyed the life that he provided.

Take a look at this list of characteristics:

  • Sensation seeking
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Lack of empathy
  • Impulsivity
  • The need for control
  • Shallow emotions
  • Lack of responsibility
  • Cunning and manipulative

This is a list of characteristics exhibited by serial killers, and I believe it can also be used to describe serial adulterers.

To engage in a long term affair or multiple affairs, you can’t really have empathy. You can’t truly care about your partner.

You also can’t really be bothered by guilt.

I’m sure at some level you know what you are doing is wrong, but you’ve found ways to justify your actions to yourself. You’re special. You deserve this. Your relationship isn’t that great to begin with. In fact, it’s probably your partners fault because you wouldn’t be cheating if they were taking care of your needs.

A few years ago a number of my readers were women who had stumbled across my site while trying to understand and deal with the fallout and emotions of discovering an affair.

There was always pain, a sense of loss, but also frequently a sense of guilt (along the lines of maybe it wouldn’t have happened if I had been a better partner) and questions about whether I felt the relationship was still worth working on.

I never really wanted to answer that question because I think each person needs to make whatever decision they feel is right for them. But I do caution anyone to consider the following question:

If you find your partner has been cheating and they have continued it for a long time or had multiple partners, do you think they actually care about you? Is it you they want, or are you simple a means to an end – a way to have a life, a lifestyle and perhaps keep a family together? And if it’s the latter, are you really any more than a tool?

For anyone dealing with the pain of discovering an affair, remember that the affair is not about you, and it is not a reflection on you.

Maybe your relationship isn’t what it could be, and maybe you’ve played a part in that. Own that part of things, and only that part.

Having an affair is always a choice, and there was always a different way.

Navigating Life

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Over the past while I haven’t been very prolific when it comes to blogging.

Its not that I’ve stopped.  In fact I’ve written quite a bit.

Yet for some reason very few things are ever finished and published.  I have this backlog of partially written entries that I don’t know if I’ll ever finish.  Because quite frankly, when I look over them I come to the conclusion that not many of them are very good.

When I write (or do anything in life really), I need to have a spark.  I need to be fully immersed and feel it.  But over the last while I haven’t.  There are a number of reasons, and I think the biggest one is – I’m completely at peace with myself, and fully happy in my life.

It’s kind of funny actually.

When I started writing thezombieshuffle.com, it was because my world had pretty much fallen apart and I was trying to understand and make sense of it.  I really enjoyed writing, but I didn’t just enjoy it…

I needed it.

I needed the outlet that it provided.

And now?  Well, I don’t.  I still really enjoy writing; but haven’t had that same spark in doing so.

A few days ago however I was in a communications course through work, and the facilitator started talking about navigation.  And as he spoke, the words really resonated with me.  I have always loved metaphors, and to me this brief discussion can be applied to all areas of life.

 

He opened with a question.

When you are trying to navigate, what is the most important thing?

My first thought (shared by many in the class) was that you have to know where you want to go.  But no, apparently that’s not the most important thing.

According to him the most important thing is knowing where you are, right now.

After hearing that, it seemed obvious.  I mean, of course you need to know where you are right now.  But the fact that it seemed obvious was kind of the problem.

We think it’s obvious.

We think we know where we are currently.

And because of that we don’t actually take a hard look at where we are, and instead we focus on where we want to go.

Here’s the thing though…

We are generally pretty terrible at knowing where we really are.

It’s very difficult to be honest with yourself.  It’s very difficult to look at a situation, and truly see the part we have played in the situations we are in.

It’s much easier to either be overly optimistic or overly critical of ourselves.  But we need to be honest.  We need to own our part in things.  Because until we do, we can’t ever really learn and grow.

 

Let’s assume we are relatively self-aware and we have spent some time doing some soul searching and we actually do know where we are (ish).  At that point, what is the next most important thing?

 

Again, my immediate thought was knowing where you want to go.

And again, I was wrong (hey, at least I’m consistent!!!).

 

No, once you know where you are the next most important things isn’t where do you want to go.  It’s why do you want to go there?  What are your motivations reasons for wanting to be somewhere other than where you are right now?   And why are you choosing this destination over a different one.

This really makes sense to me.  On its own a destination doesn’t really matter.  What matters is why we want to go there.

I think often in life we want to be somewhere other than where we are simply because we feel stuck.  So we tell ourselves that somewhere, anywhere else would be better than where we currently are.  This is where we get that “my life would be better if only…” idea.  Thing is, it’s usually misguided.  We are looking for answers without asking the right questions.

 

Lets says we know where we are.  We know where we want to go and we also know why we want to get there.

The next important thing is…

figuring out how we want to get there.

I actually got that one right, yay!

The point is, life doesn’t just happen.  It’s pretty rare that people just luck into things.  Generally they have to have some sort of plan on how to get there, or it doesn’t happen.

When we don’t have a plan is when we are liable to wake up one day and come to the realization that  years have gone by and we haven’t actually done anything.

And that is when we start to feel stuck.

So having some sort of ambition or plan for our lives is pretty important.

Now lets say you have a plan…

The instructor told us that the shortest distance between two points in navigation is called the track.  So when people talk about something being “on track” or not, they are essentially asking if it is heading to where it wants to go.

However we were cautioned – almost no journey follows the shortest distance (track).  This is because there are always different forces at play, both externally and internally.

 

External forces are those that are out of our control.

They can be anything.  Thinking of life, stuff happens – both good and bad.  Life is constantly throwing us curveballs, and it’s up to us to determine how we want to deal with them.  Do we let them drive us away from our goals?  Do they make us reexamine our goals and find that maybe they weren’t great goals in the first place?

 

Life is unpredictable.

Lots of things can and will happen.

But it’s still up to us to set goals, be willing to take a hard (yet fair) look at ourselves and be honest about where we are, make plans to achieve our goals, and recognize that we will have to periodically do course corrections.

Because when we do these things we give ourselves the best chance at the life we want.

When a Relationship has ran its Course

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Last night I was at a party, and I overheard two people talking about one persons impending divorce.  They were talking about some of the things that naturally happen at the end of a relationship, and one of them told the other that “the relationship had ran its course”.

Hearing this had me thinking about the saying that some people come into our life only for a season.

People Come Into Your Life For A Reason Quote Quote About People Come Into Your Life For A Reason, A Season, Or

It’s true, people come into our lives for different reasons and for different durations.  And people also impact our lives in different ways.  Some people barely touch our lives, while others change it forever.

So yes, there are definitely times when relationships have ran their course.

Times when peoples time together has passed.

When their “season” is done.

 

Thing is, this was a marriage.  And I think all of us go into marriage with the belief that it will last.

No one goes into it expecting it to just last a season.  No one says in their vows “for better or for worse, and until the relationship has ran its course“.

We all go into marriage with a belief in the permanence of it, or we wouldn’t do it.

Yet divorce rates show us that it often doesn’t work out quite the way we expect.  Maybe people change and grow in different directions.  Maybe they find out that neither of them was quite what the other expected.  Maybe they realize that forever is a lot harder than they ever anticipated.

Ultimately the “reason” doesn’t matter; eventually many couples come to the conclusion that they are better apart than together.  So their time together comes to an end.

 

But if the goal of marriage is “forever”, how can we ever hope to achieve that?  Some relationships do last, so not everything has to run its course.

And if some last, the question becomes why do some relationships last while others don’t?

Is it just dumb luck?

 

I don’t buy either of these notions.

Luck means it’s completely random.  And although a lot of pop culture talks about the idea of finding “the one”, I don’t buy into that concept (in fact, I can’t stand it).

The idea of “the right person” takes responsibility out of your own hands.  Because if things aren’t working out, then hey, obviously you just aren’t with the right person.  So why own anything?  Why work on anything?  Why look at what YOU are bringing to the relationship?

None of that matters if you just need to find the right person.

 

I have a different thought on this.

To me, when it comes to the success of relationships the why, what and how matters more than who.

Why are you in the relationship?

What are you expecting out of your relationship?

How do you treat one another, not on when times are good but also when they aren’t?

I can’t give you the answers to these questions, and I can’t tell you what is right or wrong.

However I CAN tell you that I think the honest answers to these questions plays a much larger role in the success of the relationship than the the question of who the other person is.

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Of course, the other person does matter too.

A relationship requires two people, and one person cannot keep things alive on their own.

Both people need to want to be there.

Both people need to actively choose each other.

And both people need to try to be the right person.

 

That won’t always be enough – nothing in life is ever guaranteed.  People still do grow in different ways.  People still change.  And sometimes relationships will run their course.

However all we can ever control are our own contributions to a relationship.

So owning our part in things, and focusing on being the right person gives us the best chance of building something that will last.

 

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