Four Steps To Good Change


This is La Maison Rose, a restaurant in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, more fondly referred to as Montmartre. It is, or rather was, a lovely little place immortalized by one of the great impressionists. I forget now just who.

They closed the doors sometime recently, and I am feeling ever so nostalgic about it. It holds memories for me I don't want to relinquish My sister and I made a  pilgrimage to Paris after our mom died in 2008 and stayed in an apartment just up the street from here. Being only a block from our apartment, we literally tripped over it walking down the hill of Montmartre. And as a result, ate there several times. We didn't even learn of its history or popularity until we returned home. It was just this quaint little place we frequented. I will miss it.

But things change. Time moves on. We change. We see physical changes easily, a pound here, a wrinkle, a gray hair or two maybe. Our children grow up despite our efforts to keep them small where we can protect them from the world. We can't seem to stop it.

Inside however, we often fail to see the changes, the subtle way we let go of our dreams, a canceled lunch with a girlfriend, a class we wanted to take, an art project, a trip, even exercise seems to go to the side in favor of grocery store trips or our children's activities.

10, 15, 20 years into our adult married life we suddenly, or so it seems, wake up to discover we are miserable. The kids now have lives and friends of their own. Our husbands still play golf or hunt or tinker with cars or go out with friends. Only now they have become so accustomed to us putting everything else aside for family, they too let things slide.

They don't think about it consciously, but if we have created a warm home environment with a pattern of cooking, cleaning and caretaking, they aren't going to complain. They just enjoy the perks and think we are doing it because we want to.

And then we wonder why they take us for granted, why they don't take some of the responsibility of the home or kids off our plate. Why don't they pay attention to us anymore, show us the affection and tenderness they did before we married.

So, what do we do? We do what comes naturally to us. We try to talk to them about it.

Cause after all, as women we are the glue, the thread that weaves all of our lives together. AND THAT IS WHAT WE DO AND HOW WE DO IT. WE COMMUNICATE. We especially communicate our feelings.

Uh oh.

The problem with this is that:
1. typically our feelings are negative and
2. they require some form of change from our husbands.

Guess what girls, as hard as this is to hear, almost no man walking- outside perhaps of the beginning of our relationships when all they could think about was how to win us over (and let's be honest, we were sizing them up to determine if that was going to happen) - wants to hear that he has failed us.

And yes, that is what he hears when we are sad and tell him (we just can't do it anymore - whatever "it" is; we want more time with him or he needs to _______fill in the blank here_______) all which comes across as us saying it is his fault. It isn't fair I know, but that is what they hear. So they become more distant, defensive, inconsiderate and basically decide they can't make us happy so why bother trying.

Now, before you get angry, defensive or sad, let me tell you there is hope. Here are four things you can start doing right now to begin to change that tide:

  1. Take care of yourself first (just like they tell us on an airplane - put your own oxygen mask on FIRST). We will suffocate before we can help another living soul if we don't have our own oxygen. You have nothing to give your husband, marriage, children or career if you are suffocating. And even if you want to divorce him, especially if you want to divorce him, this first step is critical to your survival. Period.
  2. Say no. This isn't just for your husband or kids, (although they should hear it first) This is for anything that makes you hold your breath when asked, (no I cannot make a casserole for X, Y, Z. No, I cannot keep your dog this weekend. No, I can't buy girlscout cookies, etc.). 
    No, just No is a complete sentence. You don't even have to give a reason. But if guilt overwhelms you, try these - I don't want to. I don't have time. I can't afford to.
  3. Let go of all guilt, anxiety, fear and worry about saying NO.
  4. Reduce mental clutter. When we eliminate the people and things that drain us, or annoy us, or try to create any of the feelings above, we free ourselves from an enormous energy drain.

These four simple, yes perhaps hard, but still simple, steps are a tiny turn in the direction of our joy.

If you are in an abusive relationship, none of this applies. There can be no tolerance for abuse and I urge you to seek help. If however, your relationship is not abusive, try the four things above.

CAUTION: none of these steps should be used as any form of manipulation, which would be preceded with something along the lines of "I deserve it that's why." or "Because it's only fair." or "Because it's my turn to have (fun/time/money/excitement) you do all the time."

Taking care of yourself has nothing, NOTHING WHATSOEVER, to do with what HE does, or they do.

Taking care of yourself requires compassion, tenderness, connection to what you want or need. It isn't about getting even, or showing him whats what. It about letting go of the need or desire to have him do something to create your happiness.

Even if your greatest heart's desire is to have a closer relationship, letting go of him and expectations of him will come much closer to making that happen than anything else you can do.

Bring your focus back to you.

We are going to create small rituals in our Writing Challenge beginning next week that will help you.

But you can begin these things now, even before the challenge starts.

Have you signed up for our Writing Challenge yet?  It’s not too late! Sign up here.