“Perfect?” or “Fake?”: 8 Myths about Perfectionism & 8 Truths to Cure It

"Perfect?" or "Fake?': 8 Myths about Perfectionism, & 8 Truths to Cure It; www.DrChristinaHibbert.comAre you a perfectionist? Not sure? Well, do you…

  • Set unrealistically high goals/standards for yourself and/or others?
  • Judge yourself based on what you do/don’t accomplish?
  • Have a hard time stopping a project until it’s exactly how you want it?
  • Have trouble relaxing in even a small mess at home?
  • Feel like a “failure” if you can’t do things just right?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, you probably struggle with perfectionism.

 

“Perfect?” or “Fake?”: The Problem of Perfectionism

As a women’s mental health expert, I’ve helped my fair share of perfectionists. They don’t usually come in for help with perfectionism, though—more like help with underlying depression, anxiety, relationship issues, or overwhelming stress. Yes, these are all consequences of perfectionism, along with other things like poorer health, mental well-being, and overall life satisfaction.

That’s the problem with perfectionism–it isn’t what it appears to be at all. Perfectionism is a false exterior that covers up other, deeper issues. It’s a mask.

 

8 Myths about Perfectionism & 8 Truths to Cure It

Only once we identify perfectionistic behaviors and personality traits can we begin to do something about it. Let’s look at some of the myths of perfectionism, therefore, and some of the truths. Hopefully, these will open our eyes, educate us, and begin the perfectionism recovery process:

 

1) Myth: “Perfect” means “without faults;” with hard work and dedication, it’s possible to achieve this state of being.

Truth: “The Greek translation of the word ‘perfect’ actually means, ‘complete,’ ‘so good that nothing of the kind could be better,’ and ‘that which has attained its purpose.’” (This is How We Grow, p. 270) This is a much different ideal than striving to be “without faults.” Perfection isn’t possible; it isn’t real, and this makes perfectionism a real problem for many people, especially women. None of us is or ever will be “perfect,” or “without faults.” “Seeking to do right, to be complete, to live authentically, is the opposite of perfection.” (Ibid, p. 271) And doesn’t that sound so much better, anyway?

 

2) Myth: Perfectionists simply strive to be their very best."Perfect?" or "Fake?": 8 Myths of Perfectionism, & 8 Truths to Cure It; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

Truth: Perfectionism is actually the opposite of healthy striving. We tell ourselves it’s good to be a perfectionist; “I just like things to be the best they can be,” we say. But this isn’t true. In fact, research shows there’s a distinct difference between perfectionism and healthy striving:

  • Perfectionism is trying to reach an unrealistically high goal or standard—one that can never be reached.
  • Healthy striving is setting high but achievable goals/standards.
  • Perfectionism is seeing mistakes as evidence of unworthiness.
  • Healthy striving is understanding mistakes are part of the process, and being able to more easily get back up after setbacks/mistakes.

 

3) Myth: Perfectionism leads to success.

Truth: Research tells us perfectionism actually “hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis.”[1]

 

4) Myth: It’s good to desire positive outcomes, and that’s what perfectionists do.

Truth: Perfectionism focuses only on the outcome, and it leaves no room to feel “positive” about it. Life isn’t about achieving a perfect outcome—whether it’s a dinner you’re making, keeping your house spotless, or the vision you have for how your life will turn out. It won’t turn out perfectly. Trust me. Life is about curves and twists and surprises. If we want to be healthy and happy, we must learn to recognize the beauty in the process of life, not the outcome.

 

5) Myth: Perfectionists are just natural leaders, and that’s why they like to be in “control” of things and people.

Truth: Perfectionists actually feel out of control. That’s why they so desperately need to control everything around them. Deep down, perfectionists are terrified of being seen as they really are—as a real individual with strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, much of life is out of our control, and no matter how hard you try to control life, it’s never going to work. That’s why perfectionism leads to stress and unhealthy habits/conditions: it’s a never-ending pursuit of a false ideal.

 

6) Myth: Perfectionists are confident and secure, that’s why they work so hard and always look and act “perfectly.”"Perfect?" or "Fake?": 8 Myths about Perfectionism & 8 Truths to Cure It; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

Truth: Perfectionism, at its core, is all about insecurity. When working with perfectionists, I always end up working on self-esteem and self-worth. That’s the true cure for perfectionism—discovering your true, innate worth, getting in touch with and learning to love the real you.

 

7) Myth: Perfectionism is a strength.

Truth: Perfectionism is a weakness, and at its worst, an illness. That’s why I used the word, ‘cure,’ above. Though there are certainly some benefits to perfectionism–like the motivation and drive to, say, stick with an exercise plan or achieve a big goal–perfectionism is all about working to achieve an unrealistic standard. It usually involves holding others to that same standard, driving everyone crazy (yourself included) in the process. Perfectionism is a mask for the underlying problem—not feeling like “enough.” Those who struggle with perfectionism feel unworthy of love and attention, so they seek it through what they do. But this is a recipe for overwhelm, stress, poor health, and yes, failure. Thus, in the end, perfectionism acts more as a weakness than a strength.

 

8) Myth: If you’re a “perfectionist,” you’ll always be that way.

Truth: Perfectionism is a choice, and with education, hard work, and dedication, you can choose to cure your perfectionistic side. You can choose to let things go. You can choose to see beauty in the process. You can choose love—love of your life, your family, and yourself.

 

The Good News About Perfectionism

If you see yourself in any of these myths, please take heart in the truths. Let them open your eyes to another way of living–let them inspire you to begin today to kick the perfectionism habit. Take a searching look at how perfectionism treats you. Like a bad boyfriend, it tells you you’re never good enough, makes you work to receive love, and never lets you quit. “He’s no good for you,” I say. No darn good. Time to let him (or rather, it–perfectionism) go.

 

Check out my series on “How to Feel Self-Worth.” It’s a great place to begin to dump perfectionism and learn to love the real, beautiful, imperfect you.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you see yourself in any of these myths or facts? What stands out for you after reading this? Leave a question/comment, below, and let us know what you think!

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

 

"Perfect?" or "Fake?': 8 Myths about Perfectionism, & 8 Truths to Cure It; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

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References:
Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, p.56.

How to Get Your Needs Met: 4 Tips on Asking & Receiving

Some time back in graduate school I realized that if I don’t ask for help when I need it, it might never come. Like so many women, I’d spent the first several years of my marriage expecting my husband, OJ (no, not Simpson), to just “see” what I needed, wanting him to “notice on his own,” feeling that if I had to actually tell him what was wrong then he obviously didn’t love me well enough. Sound familiar?

 

We’ve all seen this before, whether in a friend, on TV or in our own relationships. But friends, I hate to break it to you—if you don’t ask for what you need you can’t expect to receive it. It’s a lesson old as scripture, “Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24). Yet how often do we forget to ask, standing like fools waiting endlessly for a thing that will never come. Instead, try letting go of your expectations and pride and asking. Asking is, after all, the key to receiving.

 

How to Get Your Needs Met: 4 Tips

1) Before you can ask for what you need, you have to know what you need.

Often we don’t ask because we simply don’t know. Taking stock of our needs on a regular basis is a good idea for overall well-being in all realms: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. The sooner we recognize a need and fill it, the easier life becomes; we end up preventing the bigger problems that arise when needs pile up over  time. Thus, examining your needs is an important tool, and the first step of asking for them to be met.

 

2) Once you know what you need to ask for, state it clearly.

Too often we know what we need but fail in our attempt to communicate it. We beat around the bush, mince words, or hint at what we need, again hoping the other person will just “get it” and take care of things. But people are not mind readers, and most of the time others just aren’t good at filling in the blanks. Stating clearly what you need is crucial to actually getting it. The more specific you are, the better. Don’t just say, “Honey, I need a nap sometime, maybe.” Say, “Honey, I need a nap, so if I go in my room now for an hour would you please watch the kids and actually play with them and guard the door so they won’t wake me up?” with a smile of course. (Obviously I have personal experience with this one). Be clear. Be direct. Be willing to ask for exactly what you need.

 

3) Ask the right person.

Not everyone is equipped to give you exactly what you need. If you need help with childcare, ask someone who loves your child; if you need help with housework, ask someone who knows how to make a bed. If you need someone to just listen, ask someone who can let you be the focus of the conversation for a while. Just because one person isn’t able to provide what you need doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be asking. Keep asking until you find the one willing and able to serve you best. Also, don’t be afraid of “putting them out” or “burdening them”. Just as it is your responsibility to take care of what you need, they are responsible for their needs and can say no if they choose. As one of my favorite wise men once said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”[1] Allowing others to meet our needs blesses them with the opportunity to serve and grow too. It’s a win-win situation.

 

4) And finally: Don’t forget to ask your Higher Power.

Connecting to the Source that knows and understands your needs better than anyone is the surest way to receive what you need. Sometimes it comes as a change in how you feel or in a whisper that lets you know you’re not alone and that you are loved. Sometimes it’s a sudden knowing–that light-bulb moment of what you must do, or the motivation, perhaps, to actually do it. It may come in the form of a dream, a song, or a piece of art that speaks to your soul. Or it may be a feeling of peace that sweeps over you, a quiet sense that everything will be ok. The act of asking is an act of faith, and, faith is the beginning of all things that come into being.

 

Ask and Receive

You’ll be amazed how easily your needs can be met if you simply ask. Get clear on what you need. Seek out the person to best help you fill that need. Seek the Divine. And ask. Then, stand, ready to receive.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She’s worked very hard over the years to ask for what she needs, and is finally feeling like she’s actually pretty good at it. And that, she sees, is good for everyone.[/author_info] [/author]

 

How to Get Your Needs Met-4 Tips on Asking & Receiving, www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 
 

Have you ever struggled to identify and get your needs met? Do you ever feel like you don’t know how to do it, or like you might not even deserve it? Leave a comment, below, and let us know your thoughts and tips on asking and receiving.

 
 

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[1] Hinkley, G. (1979). The Abundant Life. Tambuli, June, vol. 3.

“Mommy Fails” & Mother’s Day: 3 Messages Every Mom Needs to Hear

Why does Mother’s Day always make me think of all I’m not doing right as a Mother? Every year I try to avoid it, but I can’t escape. The images of crafty, fulfilled, do-it-all moms who are (seemingly) perfect, fill the world, and at first, I love it. I love glorying in this role that I truly find life-altering, holy, and divine–being “Mom.”

But at some point I start comparing to those images. I see what I want (or wanted) to do and be, and feel I’m missing the mark. This week, for example, I had just returned from a days-long stay alone to work on my book and try to catch up on sleep. (It sounds heavenly, and it was–if you like writing for hours and hours). But one long drive, two kid-interrupted sleepless nights, four sick kids, and less than two days later, I was already burned out, and on the verge of losing it! “Really?” I chastised myself. “You can’t even handle your life after a major break? Weak.” Sometimes I’m not very nice.

 

The Irony of Mother’s Day

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the very images and words meant to lift mothers up this time of year can have the opposite effect? The worst, for me, was about 8 years ago, when I had 3 kids. Caught in a contract with a group psychology practice, I was working far more hours than I’d planned. Add in work for my newly-founded Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and I felt like I was “doing it all.” That is, until Mother’s Day.

Sitting in church, listening to a lovely man speak of his angelic mother moved me. It inspired me to be like that. Then, it moved me to tears. Because I wasn’t like that. It hit me–wham!–like a wrecking ball, “You’re not being the mom you wanted to be.” I was truly wrecked. I cried for literally 8 hours strait! I couldn’t stop, so I shut myself away in my room all day, humiliated, defeated. I was only saved through a “Say-Anything”-esque rescue by my dear husband, OJ–standing on the stairs playing Coldplay’s “Fix You,” in the dark until I finally let him show me the love I felt I did not deserve.

 

Mommy “Fails”

And I’m not the only one. In the past few weeks alone I’ve heard stories from numbers of friends who fear they may be “failing” at motherhood. I asked, on my Facebook Page, if anyone was willing to share some of their “mommy fails,” and got some pretty honest responses:

  • “All 3 of my babies rolling off the bed onto wood floors. You’d think I’d learn the first time!”
  • “Calling my kids by the wrong name. I hated when my mom did that to me.”
  • “Letting my mood swings get in the way. I wish I could have been more ‘stable’.”
  • “My kids are little, but I’ve already cut nails so short they bleed, and both my girls have pulled chairs on themselves in the kitchen, leaving bruises. But the worst is when my daughter screamed and cried when her Grandma gave her a dress because she didn’t think the dress was pretty enough. Spoiled, much?”
  • “I could write a whole chapter on my mommy fails!”
  • “I was shopping with my 3 kids and it was great. Until the checkout. My 4 year-old started screaming for candy, but I was taking a stand. And I did it. We got all the way to the car, him screaming the whole way. As I was putting them in, an older woman came up and said, ‘I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job at being a mom. My daughter only has 2 kids and she is a mess, so keep up the good work.’ I said, ‘Thanks.’ Then I got in the car, and yelled to my son, ‘Shut up! Not another word ’til we get home!’ It could’ve been such a good ‘mom moment, and I had to go and ruin it.”
  • “Growing up, I was pretty afraid of my mom, so I try to make sure my kids don’t feel that from me. One day, a few years back, I’d gone off my medication (I suffer from anxiety) to try and get pregnant. My kids were not cleaning their playroom like I asked and I lost it. The angry voice came out. I was throwing things and saying who knows what, and my 3 year old daughter is crying by now and she says to me, ‘mommy stop it you are scaring me.’  I had to walk out of the room. It didn’t matter anymore if it got cleaned. I felt horrible. But I know I’m not the only mom who feels like this. I’m just grateful my daughter called me out on how I was making her feel.”[1]

 

3 Things Every Mother Needs to Know This Mother’s Day

1) You’re Not Alone. She’s right. She’s not the only mom who feels this way. In fact, we can relate, can’t we, to at least one of the scenarios above? We all have “mommy fails.” We all feel less than adequate from time to time. I see it with every mother I meet, "Mommy Fails" & Mother's Day-3 Messages All Moms Need to Hear; www.DrChristinaHibbert.comwhether they openly acknowledge their “failures” or try to hide them. It’s no secret we all make mistakes. It’s part of being a mother, and it’s ok.

2) You’re better than you realize. You’re not a failure. We see what’s wrong because we care. If we didn’t care it wouldn’t bother us if we yell or if our kids get hurt. The fact that it bothers us proves we love our kids. And when we can see this and then choose to learn from our “fails,” it proves we’re actually better at this mom thing than we may have thought. In fact, one of my Facebook friends decided to ask her daughter  what her “mommy fails” were. She says, “I expected a heart wrenching conversation. I have at times completely lost it with my kids. Yelling, tears, the works. But her response was, ‘Oh that’s easy. When I was sick and made toast I asked you to watch it and you burned it black!’ I asked her, ‘That’s it? What about me yelling you and making you cry a few weeks ago?’ ‘Mom,’ she said, ‘that is just real stuff. It doesn’t make you a ‘fail.’ I have done that to you too, and I kinda like knowing your not some super hero and that you cry too. Besides everyone’s mom freaks out on them sometimes.”[1] See, chances are, you’re doing better in your kids’ eyes than you realize.

3) You are enough. This one is important, so I’m going to say it again, “You are enough.” Being Mom is a daunting task, but you have what you need to do the job only you can do. You have enough love. You have enough wisdom. You have enough of what it takes. You are enough. Happy Mother’s Day, Moms.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Despite her many “fails” as a mom, Dr. Hibbert keeps loving. Isn’t that what really matters anyway?[/author_info] [/author]

"Mommy Fails" & Mother's Day-3 Messages Every Mom Needs to Hear; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com .

 
 

How do you handle your “mommy fails?” Feel brave enough to share one with us? Leave a comment, below. I did.

 
 

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[1] Huge thank you to Elizabeth, Diann, Jesica, Jana, and Holly, for sharing your “Mommy Fails” with us! You just proved how incredible you are as moms, owning up to your mistakes like that. Big hugs to you! 

5 Reasons “Self-Esteem” is a Myth

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth, www.drchristinahibbert.comFor years, I have noticed that almost everyone who walks through my private practice door is really dealing with the same core issue: poor “self-esteem”. Whether struggling through depression, anxiety, addiction, relationship issues, parenting challenges, or even life stress, when we get to the core of the issue, it almost always has to do with some false feeling or belief about oneself.

 

This has had me wondering: “Why is it so hard to feel “self-esteem?” After all, it’s a hot topic; a Google search will return 76, 200,000 results! There is plenty of advice out there on how to “understand” self-esteem, “evaluate” self-esteem, and “improve” self-esteem, on teaching self-esteem to kids, teens, women, couples, grandparents! (OK, I didn’t see any on grandparents, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere). As one major psychology site said, “Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories.”[1] And I agree.

 

Self-Esteem is a Myth

So, if we know “self-esteem” is a problem and we know there’s plenty out there to teach us how to overcome the “problem,” then, why does the problem so strongly persist? I see people all the time who have read these books and articles and have really tried; yet they still don’t feel self-esteem. They don’t believe they’re of worth.

 

Could the fact that so many people are struggling to feel “self-esteem” be a clue that something is not right? Because I can tell you, something isn’t right. In fact, I’ve come to see that the entire concept of “self-esteem” is not right. And that is the real problem: The very thing we are trying to pursue is a myth.

 

Allow Me to Explain

You may be thinking, “But wait?! Aren’t we supposed to pursue self-esteem? Aren’t we supposed to teach it to our kids and make sure we help others pursue it too? Isn’t it the way we learn to love ourselves?” Certainly, that’s what we’ve been taught. But what we’ve been taught is wrong. Allow me to explain.

 

First, let’s define “self-esteem”. According to dictionaries and even psychologists, Self-Esteem means:

1)   Belief in oneself; self-respect; undue pride or conceit[2]

2)   One’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth

3)   A judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self

4)   Encompasses beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and power of conviction about oneself[3]

5)   “Self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it.”[4]

 

Reading these definitions, it’s easy to see that “self-esteem,” while it sounds like a valuable and worthy goal, is based on one’s own thinking, perceptions, and emotions related to one’s own performance and behavior. And that’s where the problem lies.

 

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

We can never build a permanent sense of our own worth if we base our worth on things that are bound to change. This is why Self-Esteem is a myth:

 

1)   Self-esteem is based on what we do and how we behave.

If our worth is based on our performance or behavior, then we are bound to feel poorly about ourselves when our performance or behavior drops; and it will drop—it’s human nature. We are more than what we do and how we behave.

 

2)   Self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves.

Basing our worth on our emotions can never succeed, because emotions are fickle. Like clouds in the sky, they come and go according to the pressure in the air. Our emotions can also be false. We can feel like a “bad” person when that’s absolutely not the case. We are more than how we feel about ourselves.

 

3)   Self-esteem is based on what we think about ourselves.

While I believe self-evaluation is a positive tool for personal growth, we mustn’t base our worth on our thoughts and evaluations. Most of us have flawed thoughts running through our minds all day long, and many times we don’t even know they’re there! We are definitely more than what we think about ourselves.

 

4)   Self-esteem is based on how we’re doing compared to others.

We don’t just evaluate ourselves on how well we’re doing compared to our own potential (which is healthy); with self-esteem, we compare ourselves to others. It’s fine to compare to others at times if it helps us see something to work on or inspires us to grow, but usually comparing to others just makes us feel worse about ourselves. The truth is, no matter how great we are at any given thing, there will always be somebody smarter, faster, skinnier, braver, kinder, and more “talented”. That’s when the identity crisis hits. “I thought I was good at that, but now I’m not so sure.” We absolutely cannot base our own worth on what others do or don’t do.

 

5)   Self-esteem is based entirely on judgments, whether from others or from ourselves.

And nothing good can come of that. We are certainly more than we or anyone else judges us to be.

 

 

If Not Self-Esteem, Then What?

I hope it’s easy to understand, now, why self-esteem is so hard to obtain, why, like a sand castle, it’s so hard to maintain and so easy to 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth, www.drchristinahibbert.comdestroy. It looks beautiful and sturdy, but one shift of the wind or tide and down it crashes.

 

Yes, we need to feel good about ourselves. Yes, we need to love ourselves. Yes, we deserve both of these. But the answer is not to be found in what we do, what we say, how we look, how we perform, what others or we believe, or how we feel. For, when we base our worth and love for ourselves on anything external, we will always fail. It may not happen right away, but it will.

 

Yes, “self-esteem” is a myth. What we really need to work for is discovering what is already within, discovering our self-worth.

 

 

Be sure to Check Out Part 2: “If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth?”: Understanding Self-Worth

And:

Self-Esteem & Self-Worth

Discovering Self-Worth: Why is it so hard to Love Ourselves?

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth: Q&A w/Dr. Christina Hibbert [plus video]

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

 

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth, www.drchristinahibbert.comFor more on self-esteem & self-worth, join my  This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group!

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[2] Webster’s Dictionary

[4] E. R. Smith/D. M. Mackie, Social Psychology (2007), p. 107.

 

 

17 Secrets for Making Marriage Work (In Honor of our 17th Wedding Anniversary)

17 Secrets for Making Marriage Work

(In Honor of our 17th Wedding Anniversary)

I am honored today to host my very first guest collaborator—my husband, OJ. OJ and I met in college and just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on October 19th. We’ve been through some huge challenges over the years (here’s an example) and we’ve seen some great successes (here’s an example). But the biggest success, in my mind, is not that we’re still married or that we still love each other; it’s that we genuinely like each other very much—and our “like” keeps on growing.

 

But that in no way means we find marriage “easy”. Ha! No! Not at all. We have our disagreements, struggles, insecurities, and yes, even, our all-out fights. As I tell OJ all the time, “You are the one person in the whole world who drives me the most crazy! In both the good and the non-good way!” And he always laughs and says, “Of course I am! We’re married!” Yes, no matter how “good” a marriage is, it requires work, hard work, and, very often, simply “making it work” (as Tim Gunn would say).

 

17 Secrets for Making Marriage Work

So, in honor of our 17 years, OJ and I would like to share our “17 secrets for making marriage work.” Some we learned years ago, and others we’re still working out, but we hope that one, two, or all of our secrets will help your marriage work too! (Though we agree on all of these, OJ’s tips are preceded by his name and written in his own words!)

 

1)   (OJ) Make sure your core values are in harmony, even if they’re not at the same “burning” levels. When it comes to whether to have kids or not, religion, politics, financial principles, and basic life values, it’s very tough to make a great marriage with glaring differences. Make sure you look closely at this before you tie the knot—it can make or break you!

 

2)   Accept responsibility for your mistakes. A while back I realized (and explained to OJ) that too many of our arguments grew out of each of us being too defensive. Since then, I try to make myself admit my mistakes and apologize as soon as I see them. And OJ is constantly saying, “My bad…” when he says or does something wrong. It’s hard to be upset when your spouse admits their mistakes.

 

3)   (OJ) Be on each other’s side when it comes to the kids. Don’t let the kids pit you against each other. Back each other up. If you disagree with your spouse, back her up in front of the kids and then discuss it in private. The kids need to know you’re a united team, and your wife needs to know it too.

 

4)   Learn & speak each other’s “love languages”. If he loves physical touch and you love verbal affirmations, it can feel like you’re literally speaking a foreign language to each other. Learn to speak the “love language” that your spouse speaks. For instance, if I offer up a little “physical touch,” OJ’s so much more likely to help with the kids, give me “free time,” and talk about my day. (Watch my  30SecondMom tip on Love Languages).

 

[one_third][box] “…Let there be spaces in your togetherness. …Stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet[/box][/one_third]

5)  (OJ) Space is a good thing in a marriage. Having your own hobbies, friends, vacations, and sometimes even sleeping quarters can help each of you feel like your individual needs are met, and this helps you come back even healthier and happier to your relationship. As long as it doesn’t become an “all the time” kind of thing, having time apart works wonders!

 

6) Build the “like” as well as the “love”. It’s great to build the romance, but it’s perhaps even more important to become great friends. Get to know each other. Talk and share your lives with one another. Have fun together. Play together. It’s just as important to build the “like” as it is to build the “love”.

 

7) (OJ) Say “No” to the kids and “Yes” to time alone. It’s so easy to get overscheduled when you have kids. And that not only takes time away from your relationship, it can place a strain on it. You just have to say “no” to too many activities, traveling sports that keep you apart all the time, etc., and say “yes” to time together without the kids.

 

8) Never discuss important matters when it’s late and you’re tired. In fact, we have a rule: “No serious discussions after 10 pm.” Having heated discussions when you’re tired is a recipe for disaster! Just say no.

 

9) (OJ) Be polite. Talk nicely and respectfully to each other. It goes a long way.

 

10) It’s OK to go to bed angry sometimes. In fact, it’s often the only way to stop the crazy arguments that come from exhaustion (when rules 8 & 9 are not followed). I always feel like I can see things more clearly with time and sleep. It gives both of us distance and helps us calm down, so we’re much more likely to resolve things the next day.

 

11) (OJ) Take vacations without the kids. You need time completely alone to remember why you fell in love in the first place, to experience new things together, and to just be you, as a couple.

 

12) Jump off “cliffs” together! OJ likes to jump off literal cliffs (like this huge one in Costa Rica), and I like to jump off symbolic “cliffs” (like writing my first book). And sometimes life pushes us both off “cliffs” we aren’t sure we’ll even survive. Marriage is an adventure, so encourage each other to come along for the thrill; then make sure you’re always waiting, smiling, & cheering for each other at the bottom!

 

13) (OJ) Indulge in each others’ dreams and fantasies. I went with Christi to Europe not because I wanted to go to Europe, but because she did, and we had a fabulous time (see us at the top of the Eiffel Tower, photo top left). Likewise, she indulges in my dreams too, like “hook-ups” in odd locations (the Huey Lewis concert; the mountaintop…).  (Me: Ok, dear, we get it).

 

14) Practice thinking fondly of each other when you’re not together. Building the positives up in your mind is so helpful. Think of what you love about him/her; remember to send a kind little text; or just sit and think of one thing you appreciate, and smile.

 

15) Support each other’s hobbies and interests. OJ loves to golf—I mean he LOVES it. In fact, he’s trying to golf so often I call golf his “mistress”. But I see how happy it makes him, and I want him to be happy. And he wants me to be happy too. We used to do “time for time”—where however long he was gone, I’d get the same time to do what I wanted. But now, when we each have something we want to do, we simply try to make it work. Because a happy spouse is a good thing.

 

16) (OJ) Grow together. So many couples who’ve been married a long time and get divorced say, “We just grew apart.” To that, we say, “Grow together.” Keep tabs on your friendship, your goals, and your values. Keep the conversation open. Make sure you grow together.

 

17) Laugh often. Research shows that couples who laugh together have stronger relationships. And couples who can laugh and tease even in the midst of tense discussions are even stronger. Laugh at yourselves. Laugh at the silly things the kids do. Laugh at each other (kindly), especially in those moments when you can see how ridiculous you’re both acting. Keep the fun, lightness, “like,” and love in your relationship by laughing together as often as you can.

 

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]

 

 

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Whether you’ve been married 1 year or 40 years, I’d love to hear your secrets for making marriage work. Leave us a comment and share below. We couples need all the “secrets” we can learn!

 

 

Understanding & Coping with Loss and Trauma

Like the changing seasons, loss comes to all, whether through death, illness, children leaving home, loss of career or money, divorce, miscarriage, infertility, trauma, or even the symbolic losses of identity, innocence, or security. Each primary loss carries secondary losses, such as the loss of relationships, roles, responsibilities, and can leave families struggling under the weight of multiple afflictions.

 

Understanding Trauma

Trauma refers to any deeply disturbing experience, and automatically includes loss in some form. It doesn’t have to involve immediate threat or physical harm to be traumatic, and it doesn’t even have to happen directly to you or your family. Sudden or unexpected death or divorce can be traumatic. Losing a pregnancy can too. Seeing something horrible happen to someone you care about, or even to a complete stranger, can cause trauma. So can watching devastating events on the news. The same event that causes softer feelings of loss and sadness in one person can be traumatic for someone else; it all depends on the person experiencing it. Trauma creates emotional shock and distress which can be hard to understand and deal with, especially since trauma comes with so many unanswered questions, especially, “Why? Why?

 

Understanding Loss

As mentioned, trauma includes loss, yet not all losses are experienced as traumatic. Traumatic or not, however, every loss carries an emotional burden that must be attended to. The seemingly “bigger” losses, like death and divorce, may be easier to recognize, but all forms of loss take an emotional toll. We may think, “It’s just my job, I can get another one,” or “It’s just an illness and I’ll get better.” While these may be true, it’s also true that we feel something about that loss. Loss can be scary, and we may not always want to know what emotions are lurking inside. We fear pain, knowing that where loss is found grief is not far behind. But stuffing our feelings inside or telling ourselves why we should not feel bad, sad, or mad doesn’t help.

 

How to Cope With Loss & Trauma

Instead, we must identify and grieve our losses. These suggestions are a great place to start.Understanding & Coping with Loss and Trauma, www.drchristinahibbert.com

1) Taking a sincere look at life’s losses is an important first step in untangling the complex web that loss can leave behindInstead of ignoring loss and trauma, or moving quickly past them, we can choose to slow down, sit with each loss, examine it, and grieve it. This allows us to avoid the snare of feeling overburdened by an indistinguishable pile of loss. Examining personal losses can also help us appreciate  how one loss can send ripples not only through all areas of our life, but also through all areas of our family.

2) Families who acknowledge and work through trauma and losses together will find healing not only for individual members but for relationships and the family as a whole. Parents can help children identify losses and begin to grieve. Partners can support one another in examining loss and trying to make sense of it. Families can complete a timeline of loss throughout the individual’s or family’s lifeThis is a powerful way to see the impact loss has had over time.

3) For those who’ve experienced trauma, it’s especially important to have a safe place in which to process the events and grieve them. A close friend, partner, or family member may be able to help. But you will probably find that professional help, like a counselor or therapist, will be very important in having someone who can be with you through the painful emotions of trauma and loss and help you navigate the grief process. (See the “Dealing with Grief” series for more on how to grieve). 

4) Examining loss is hard, and we may yearn to take “a vacation from our problems,” as Bob would say (“What About Bob?”).  Taking a break can be helpful, especially with multiple losses, but be careful your “break” doesn’t become a lifelong retirementThe emotions of loss don’t just go away.  It is better to sink in and examine them now than to find yourself drowning years later in past losses that had no voice.

 

Break Yourself Open & Heal

As poet Kalil Gibran wrote, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” (The Prophet).  Take a breath and break yourself open, for it is only in examining loss that individuals and families can begin to understand it. And it is only in understanding loss that individuals and families can begin to heal.

Excerpt from Dr. Hibbert’s Upcoming book, This Is How We Grow

 

For more resources on how to cope with trauma and loss, see my “Dealing with Grief” series.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]

 

Understanding & Coping with Loss & Trauma, www.drchristinahibbert.com

 

 

How has loss affected you or your family? What has helped you better understand and grieve your losses? Leave a comment below.

 

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Related Articles/Posts:

Dealing with Grief

The 5 Stages of Grief

Children & Grief: What You Need to Know

Children & Grief: What You Can Do

The Do’s & Don’ts of Helping Others Through Grief

Grief & The Family

How do I Grieve?: Grief Work & TEARS

Weather the Storms Together: 5 Ways to Strengthen Families Through Stress

In Memory of My Sister, on the 5th Anniversary of Her Death

 

The Do’s & Don’ts of Helping Others Through Grief

The Do’s & Don’ts of Helping Others Through Grief

Yesterday was my sister, Shannon’s, birthday. She would have been 36 years old. She died in 2007.

I’ve faced many birthdays and anniversaries, having lost two of my sisters, my brother-in-law, my beloved father-in-law, two dear grandfathers, and an incredible aunt. These “dates” are not as hard as they used to be; yesterday I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t reach out for support. I really didn’t feel I needed it this time. I’ve learned, over the years, how to get through, reminding myself, “It’s just a day like any other. You choose its meaning.” And through time and a lot of hard work I am now at the point where I can choose to fondly remember and honor Shannon on her birthday.

Handling Grief is Hard for Most of Us

But how do we help those who just aren’t there yet? How can we be there for those in grief? The truth is that most of us have no idea how to handle grief, so most of us do not handle it well. We try our best to be there for the bereaved, but all too often our well-meaning gestures end up putting a wedge between us, our greif-stricken loved ones feeling isolated, judged, misunderstood, and alone. And though grief is deep and personal, it is not meant to be experienced all alone. In fact, families and friends who are able to share their grief find they have gained a depth to their relationship that would never otherwise have been found.

 

What NOT to Do: Common Grief Misperceptions & Barriers

So, what are some of the common misperceptions of grief that get in our way, and what can we do about them?

  • First we don’t always need to say “something”.  The truth is, when someone has just experienced a major loss, there is usually nothing that can or needs to be said. Just being with them is good enough.
  • Second, trite reassurances do not usually help. “They’re in a better place,” “At least they’re no longer suffering,” or “Time heals all wounds,” though well-meant, are better left unsaid.
  • Third, talking about our own loss experiences is not a good option. Sharing our experiences with loss–saying “I know exactly how you feel,” or “I understand completely”–usually makes the griever feel as if you are minimizing their experience or pain.

Because of these misconceptions and others, many bereaved find it difficult to feel supported. In fact, research shows that often the bereaved’s circle of friends significantly changes through their grief process(1). We tend to filter out friends or family members who were emotionally insensitive, who seemed to lack depth or perspective or who were simply absent in our time of need. Sadly, I fell away from a couple of my closest friends through my years of grief. One in particular, who was one of the first people I called after I learned Shannon had died, I never heard from again until two years later. Though I still loved her for the friendship of our past, I realized as I spoke to her that too much had happened in those two years, the years that changed me and my family.

For all of these reasons, seeking support through grief can be a challenge. Family members may not be available, due to their own grief, or they may expect the bereaved to continue to perform her “role” in the family system. Friends may or may not be capable of pushing aside their own fears about death and grief to be there for the bereaved. Community and church support can help if the bereaved feels comfortable reaching out and trusts those who are there to help. Sometimes professional counseling is the only place to turn, but it is important the person you turn to is familiar with grief work, allowing you to simply be in the emotions of grief without trying to turn the grief into something more “familiar” to them, like depression or relationship issues. The point is to keep trying until you find the support that is right for you.

 

What TO Do

Then, what is the best way to support someone through grief? It’s simpler than you’d think.

  • Just be there. Listen. Let them talk and cry and talk and cry without putting a time limit on it and without judging.
  • Don’t get tired of hearing them tell their “story”. Encourage expression of the facts, details and emotions related to the loss; it is a simple but profound method of healing.
  • Check in on them. Say, “I’m just calling to see how you’re doing today.”  No pressure or expectations, simply a friend checking in.
  • And hold your tongue. When you feel the urge to say something trite, like, “This too shall pass,” don’t. Instead, just say, “I’m so sorry,” let them cry, and cry with them.

 

The Do's & Don'ts of Helping Others Through Grief, www.drchristinahibbert.comJust Be There

We can all use a hand to hold in the dark. Be with those you love through their darkest times. Then, perhaps someday they will be able to say, like I said yesterday, “Today, I choose to remember fondly and honor the one that I love.” And they might not be referring to just the one they’ve lost; they might also be referring to you.

 

How have you helped others through grief and loss? How have others helped you? Have you experienced misconceptions that get in the way? What is your advice for those seeking to help the bereaved? Please leave a comment!

 

 

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Related Articles/Posts:
(1)Bernstein, J.R.  (1997).  When the Bough Breaks:  Forever after the death of a son or daughter.  Kansas City, MO:  Andrews McMeel Publishing.
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