The Actions Are His, But The Reaction Is Yours

     I fill myself with love, and I send that love out into the world. How others treat me is their path; how I react is mine. W. Dyer

Over the years I've become a real expert of living with my husband. Dodging his verbal attacks, withstanding silent treatment tactics, adjusting to his mood changes. I became so good at practicing non-reaction, that I stayed alert even when nothing was wrong. You never know when a switch happens, right? You gotta stayed prepared. Until the moment I noticed that I got so good at living with his darker side, that I don't know how to be around him when he is his normal self - kind, humorous, caring - which he is most of the time.

It's certainly a sign of spiritual growth when you learn not to react when provoked by others, not necessarily your spouse. Your parents criticize your way of living, your friends annoy you with their complains, your boss has a resolve to destroy your self-esteem. It's natural to get defensive and all emotional; refraining from reacting requires a higher level of consciousness and practice. But what's the point of withholding reaction, if the negativity and judgment keep boiling inside your head to the point of explosion?
So now I'm learning a new way, a way of love and compassion. If my husband says something mean just to hurt me, not only I don't respond verbally, I actually try to send a blessing his way. I feel truly sorry for him, that life doesn't treat him right bringing out the worst in him, that he is probably stuck living with his demons forever since he is not even aware of them, that his moments of remorse are as powerful as his moments of uncontrolled anger.
So in the moment when we are about to have a confrontation, I don't try to prove him wrong or change his opinion, I work on changing myself instead. I think to myself, "he is trying to shatter my peace because his has been shattered long ago hence all his suffering. The best I can do for him, for both of us is to maintain that inner peace, let its healing power quiet his hurting self". Then I take a really deep breath, then another one, and one more till I have no reaction to his words other than genuine compassion. The results are amazing, if not miraculous. His fire is suddenly put down and he is changing the subject to something more positive. And I respond in the most friendly manner, as if his outburst minutes ago didn't happen. And we are back to being two normal, sensible adults sharing a life together, not two lost immature kids controlled by their emotions and fighting over small things.
Nothing he does or says these days can hurt me because I no longer identify with his feelings or thoughts about me. Especially since they tend to change by the hour. It's almost funny to observe his attempts to pull me into a fight, to get me to react and then stop mid-track because he encounters no resistance. He suddenly doesn't know what to do next and ... just calms down. Don't believe me? Try it yourself. Don't underestimate the power of your love, compassion and peace to override any negativity, to spread and touch another person in a new way. And then just watch your life begin to change.

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Why Did You Choose Your Husband?

You ever thought why of all the candidates we end up marrying this particular person? Is it the law of attraction at work? Or the punishing power of karma? If I look 10 years back, I see what I was when I met my future husband. Scared, insecure, weak, needy and worst of all absolutely  unbearably lonely. It couldn't have gone any other way. He came - strong, manly, fearless - scooped me up, took me under his wing and shielded me from the world. Even with some obvious incompatibilities  and many differences - cultural, behavioral, intellectual - I was willing to move ahead with his strong current, the voice of reasoning too weak against my desperate desire to be protected.
Little did I know that his powerful, dominating personality will imprison me in a narrow cell of his limitations. That before I met him it was me against the world, and now it's me against him AND the world.  That when I was by myself I was surviving, but with him I started disappearing.
So the bitter battle began to preserve my identity and free will. To fight his every "no",  his irrational control and jealousy, his pull-push attitude where one day he would be all loving and needy, and the next - distant and despising. But worst of all was his impact on my emotional state: all the doubts and insecurities that emerged within me due to a randomly thrown comment or a straightforward insult. When I think about our first few years together, I feel utterly sorry for myself: he kept bending me in every way he wished and all I could do was cry helplessly and wait for a change in his mood to give me a break.
But this is not a story about my husband, he is not a bad man and he has to deal with his own demons. This is my story. Without summoning my own inner strength and cultivating self-love and self-respect, I would always be at someone's mercy - striving to please in return for approval, love, protection. If I don't know my worth and who I am, everyone will mold me to their liking. I realized that it was not about changing my husband, or finding ways to peacefully co-exist with him, or proving him the point. It was about instilling into my every cell the notion that I AM ENOUGH, that I'm everything I'm meant to be.
The past few years I worked hard to fix what was broken. But not in our relationship - inside of me. It was a slow process and I would rebound to my old ways of thinking now and then, but I was definitely changing. It started one day when I decided not to be mad at him when he deliberately tried to hurt me. I kept saying, "that's his problems and they have nothing to do with me, I know my worth". Soon enough his words or actions barely bothered me, I was ready to forget and move on within minutes. In the evening he would act all guilty, studying my reaction and then I would remember we had a fight in the morning. But being upset with him seemed too insignificant to concern myself with it.
Today I'm strong enough to say that the only person I will entrust with my happiness is me. I allow him to add to that happiness if he wishes, but not to subtract. Back in my single days there were other men, possibly better men, more compatible with my personality and expectations. But they scared me so much because I thought in panic - how could I ever stand up to their amasingness? I picked who I thought I deserved, who was my match at that point. Today it would have been a different story.
If you are struggling in your relationship, rather than digging up all the things that are wrong with your partner, look for answers within and see what brought this person to your life in the first place. What gaps were you trying to close? What insecurities to cover up? We often think that we need another person to feel whole, to supplement what we are lacking but we forget that we possess everything we need to navigate through life with or without a partner. I stopped asking myself - why him? Through my husband I've learned many lessons about myself and uncovered many of my own limitations.  These days I only allow him to love me. The minute he tries to control, upset or frighten me, I lose interest and retreat into my own happy world. When he opts for his mean ways, he is not compatible with me  so I simply shut him out. These days he has to play by my rules, which is really just one rule called LOVE.

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Is Your Husband an Energy Vampire?

Winter is never a good time for us. Apart from the cold weather, lack of sunshine, and uneventful days we have to deal with a major downer - decline in my husband's business activity and a negative shift in his income. In other words, it's cold, depressing and financially-challenging.
Unlike me, who is trying to find a shade of light and hope in any desperate situation, my husband likes to SUFFER. I mean he just succumbs to his misery and begins to radiate negativity, making the air around him gloomy and toxic. He whines, and complains, and criticizes everyone and everything from the government with their "stupid laws" to the customers who refuse to give him business. And at the end of his daily rant he pretty much declares that life sucks and he'd rather be a shepherd in some remote Montana area than live like that.
On days like these being around him is like going through purgatory. He pulls me into his drama and sucks all life and soul out of me . And the more I try to give him reasons why there's hope, and we'll pull through, and it's temporary, and we should enjoy what we have, the more drained and angry I feel myself. Talking for 10 minutes with him this morning left me shaken, and it took one hour of listening to relaxation music and reading "self-empowerment" book to feel better. But it used to take days for me to overcome this "emotional violence", when I didn't know that I needed to block his energetic vampirism and not let him drag me down.
We all occasionally deal with energy drainers. My best friend is my husband's double: on her good days she is fun to chat with, on bad - I dread picking up the phone. What I didn't know before is that I don't need to absorb their negativity. I can put up the glass wall, acknowledge to myself that someone is trying to raise their level of energy by taking some of mine, and then step away to recharge. These days, when I sense my husband's gloomy mood , I catch on faster to his maneuvers to pull me into an argument and keep my distance. I busy myself with housework when he tries to "talk". I think about something else if listening to him is unavoidable, mostly about what he is trying to do to me and how I should be resisting. I remind myself that the biggest antidote for his unhappiness is my happiness and don't let myself get angry or upset. I rush to recharge immediately after the conversation is over: read some uplifting blog or listen to my favorite music or go for a walk. By raising my awareness I learned to shorten the brooding phase and can go back to my optimistic, content self faster. His bad days are no longer my bad days.
Energy shifts are directly related to our emotions. Positive increase our amount of energy, negative - reduce it. So every time your husband does something that makes you feel bad, you are losing your energy. Every time he evokes anger, resentment, frustration, jealousy or sadness, he dims your light. The question is how much of your happy self you are willing to give away. I'm not saying it's easy to control emotions when they are under attack - I still get provoked and lose control easily. But you choose how long to stay that way. I rush to restore my energy as soon as I acknowledge the damage. I know that I can't just snap out of it or command myself to feel good, I need help. Sometimes reading a spiritual book for 15 minutes is all it takes, other times I need to speak to someone who will help me get out of the darkness, so I call my sister.
I don't know what works for you, but if your husband tends to turn into an energy vampire now and then, make sure to have an action plan that will help you minimize the impact.  Being around an energy drainer even for a shord period of time means giving him a piece of you and in order to fill up the void you need to bring your focus back to yourself as soon as possible and do the much needed healing.

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Happy Love Day to You!

I asked my husband: "Are we going out on Valentine's Day?" He responded abruptly: "no". Honestly, I didn't expect a different answer. His business has been really slow lately and with me still unemployed after being laid off 8 months ago, money is an issue. In fact dinner at the restaurant is a rather terrifying expense right now and it would shadow any joy we would derive from it. I still fear he will get me the flowers because he does so every year no matter what, now THAT would be a total waste of money. But then I start thinking that if he really wanted to do something nice for me, he would find a way. He would borrow the money to take me out. He would buy me a small inexpensive gift to show that he was thinking about me. Even some kind of a sweet gesture, a compliment, extra attention are still better than nothing. Yet it seems like nothing is all I get today.

But I'm not going this route of self-pity. Valentine's Day is when we celebrate love because we feel and want it, not out of obligation. I've seen enough men rushing to buy last minute flowers after work, their faces devoid of any emotion. Obligation, checking it off the list, living up to social expectations - but not exactly the feeling itself.
This is the day to give love and that's what it is going to be for me. Forget the restaurant, I'm going to make a nice dinner to express my love and gratitude to my family, because I'm not alone that day, I have someone to take care of. I will call all my single friends and wish them a Happy Valentine's Day and say something nice, because to them it's the hardest holiday of the year. I will call my mom and dad and wish them many more years of love, because they take so much pride in being together for more than 35 years and still going strong. Last night I helped my son design handmade Valentine cards to give to his classmates - it was a surprisingly enjoyable process! Today I will find more ways to give love by doing small acts of kindness for anyone I can. Writing this post is one of those little things and who knows, maybe someone who's feeling blue this day will read it and feel less alone and more hopeful. Maybe they will look at the "dreadful holiday" from my angle and see that there's place for them too in the pandemic celebration. Because we all can do it: create and expand this presence of love in our life and lives of others.
Valentine's Day divides people into those who feel excited and anticipate great things and those who are bitter-sad and expect nothing. I want to be among the excited folks. I don't want to sit and wait for the "love package" express delivery and brood over not getting one. I have too much love to give and that's what I'm going to busy myself with today. Happy Love Day, people, I'm thinking of you all and wishing you to receive love in many different forms but also find the way to release some of your love into the universe.  

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Does Your Husband Define You?

You ever thought that with a different husband it would be a different YOU? Your true personality would shine brightly and you would be all the things you ever wanted to be? I go as far as visualizing that different me alongside that perfect husband I should have had. I would talk more, especially about the inner struggles that plague me, my doubts and insecurities - because he could help me find the way out of the dark. Even if just by listening. I would take salsa classes because he would be more than willing to be my partner. And then we would dance winter Saturdays away since we now knew how, sweating it out in a tight embrace among other indulging couples. We would fall asleep holding hands (and certainly not in different bedrooms on the opposite ends of the house).  Our relationship would be completely effortless. I would be calmer, more confident, more self-loving and more whole.
But then I also hear and read stories of women who in spite of having amazing supportive husbands, fail to maintain their "center" and tumble down the self-destruction slope. Some of them are unable to withstand another treacherous attack of depression and instead of seeking help, give up trying. Others succumb to the enticement of extramarital flings, and get tangled in the web of infidelities and lies. I know women who neglect their appearance - gain weight, opt for a plain unsuitable haircut just because it's more convenient, never get out of sweatpants and baggie shirts. And then you meet her terrific husband and can't help thinking "he could do better". But maybe he did better, it's just that without the need to win him over and over, she relaxed and lost touch with her better self, allowing the routine get the best of her.
What I'm trying to say is that relationships define who we are but it's up to us to decide which direction this defining process should take. Each one of us is a complex, multi-dimensional being and certain circumsances and people in our life bring to surface this or that side of us. So maybe with a different husband it could be a different YOU, but even with your husband, however imperfect he is, it could still be a different, better you.
My husband is a man of shifting moods. One day he is loving and sweet, the next - he is mean up to the point of cruel. My perception of myself used to shift with his mood switches: on good days I felt loveable and worthy; on bad - I was so disgusted with myself I wanted to disappear. And one day I just got tired of this splitting effect of his splitting personality. My frail emotional system could only deal with one type of me and it was time to decide which one it should be. I visualized that amazing woman I could have become with a different husband, where only the best of my qualities would find way to the surface. And that's the image I've been sticking with ever since.
A few weeks ago, during one of his "nasty days", he said "be damned the day I met you". I should have been hurt to the core but I wasn't. I should have descended to the bottom of the darkest well of self-hatred because my own husband hated me so much but I stayed calm. I knew who I was and no hurtful words of his could shatter that image. I just let him fight his own demons. For the next 2 weeks, consumed by guilt and regrets, he was all over me, showering me with extra attention and love.
When working on this post I initially thought I would write "don't let your partner define you". But this is wrong because in a relationship changes and shifts in your personality are inevitable. Yet you get to control the ways he defines you. I could have become insecure, suppressed and miserable because of my husband. I became strong, resilient and self-loving in spite of him. And when things are good between us, I can sense his gratitude for turning out exactly this way, not the weakling he pressed me to become.
So maybe you weren't destined to shine as a wife of the most amazing man alive. But you can still shine! Define the better you and be it now. Merry Christmas and a Happy Blissful New Year of 2013!

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What To Do When Your Husband Doesn't Want You To Go Out

I've written before about living with a controlling husband, however a recent comment from one of the readers inspired me to look deeper into a specific problem: your husband is against your going out. So I put together sort of a "survival guide" with some steps you should take to mitigate the inevitable conflict.
Mind, I'm not going to address how unjustified his reactions are, we all get it. The way I look at it, living with a control freak is like living with a child with behavioral issues: he can't help it, every time you go out he has to throw a tantrum because he fears he is losing control. No need to get mad, judge or fight him. You can feel sorry for him but you gotta do what you gotta do. Unfortunately, you can't help him deal with his emotions, your main responsibility is to protect yourself, your life and your emotional well-being from the destructive influence of his manipulative ways. So here's what you can do to make it easier for YOURSELF:

Telling him you are going out requires certain wisdom. If you ask for his permission he is likely to say no. If you simply deliver the news as a statement, he will get mad you didn't ask for his permission. So what works for me is a combination of both. "Honey, I made plans to go out with my girlfriends this Saturday night (statement), I hope you don't mind (sort of asking for permission)". It's important to mention that you've already made the arrangements, so it's no longer between you and him (manipulators strive in one-on-one battles), but there are other people involved who already expect you to show up and not doing so will be suspicious or require an explanation.
If he strongly objects to it, you need to give him a valid reason why you are still going. Keep in mind that obvious reasons that work for normal people, won't work for him (you want to have some fun, you miss your family, you don't feel part of the team if you never go to a happy hour with co-workers, etc.) What he needs is a SUPER-reason, the one he won't be able to counter-argue with. For example, when he is against my girls-night-out, I say that I've been so stressed out lately, that if I don't go out and get some distraction, I will have a nervous breakdown and he will have to find me a psychiatrist/shrink/mental institution. Works every time! He doesn't want that kind of responsibility.

If he doesn't want you to go to a family gathering, tell him you already promised your mom and you can't stand to upset her. If it means that much to him, HE should then call your mom and explain why you are not going. The prospect of doing it will terrify him enough to back down. Manipulators prefer to stay on good terms with the rest of the world, it's only with you, desperate for control, they are not afraid to lose face. Besides, they usually use guilt to make you change your mind but in this case you throw the ball in his court and the decision is his to make.

So you are going and he even gave his half-hearted yes to the outing. But now he wants you back home at 10pm even though the party starts at 9.... He will instruct you not to consume any alcohol and will find a million reasons why the outfit you're wearing is inappropriate. In other words agreeing to you going out doesn't mean he won't try to still ruin it for you. Like a kid who throws a tantrum when mom goes to work, even though he promised to be a good boy. So ideally, if you want to have a good time, you need to mentally "divorce" your husband as you close the door behind you, turn off your cell phone and enjoy the night. You will deal with the consequences later.

If you feel like this tough love is too tough for him, leave the phone on, but don't pick it up as he starts to frantically call you. Send him one vague text message "everything is fine, we'll be home soon" somewhere in the middle of the night, then bury the phone deep in your purse and give your full attention to the party.  If you go back and forth texting each other or fighting over the phone you might as well have stayed at home. Remember, you are "divorced" for the night, and don't let your "ex" ruin your evening. He's gonna give you a hard time the next day no matter what, so which one you pick - to enjoy the party and then have a fight or not to enjoy the party and still have a fight?  But to make it easier turning off your phone is highly recommended.

The key is to act as normal as possible, the minute he senses a hint of guilt you are doomed to lose in the upcoming argument. Don't try to be extra nice or appease him with a super-fancy breakfast. Remember, you did nothing wrong and it's him who is having a problem. (Ideally, he should be the one serving you breakfast in bed for making you deal with his problems.) The party was yesterday and you've already moved on to today, so busy yourself with the matters of today. I used to make a mistake of giving him the details of the event: who came, what and how much we drank, what time it ended. It gave him lots of reasons to blame me - for hanging out with the wrong people, drinking too much, staying out too late. Now I stay as evasive as possible, providing minimum information and emphasizing that I don't care about it as much as he does. How was the party? - it was ok. - Who was there? - a few people. - What were you doing? - eating. - How much you drank? - not much. - How late you got home? - not sure. He simply won't be able to build up a conversation based on your 2-word answers and the argument will extinguish itself as it barely starts.

These are some of my strategies, they might not work for you but I hope they will at least inspire you to look for your own solutions. Just remember, the key objective of any manipulator is to make you think about a situation, to put you in a state of introversion until you start feeling guilty however irrational it seems. He will blow it out of proportion and make it difficult for you, so that next time you think twice before going out again. He is trying to make it big - you  should make it smaller. "I went out last night, what's the problem again?" He wants you thinking about it, he wants you mad  because that's how he felt last night when you were gone. Show him you've already moved on and it's him who's still stuck. "I'm sorry I can't talk about it now, I have to do laundry and go food shopping". And most importantly, resist the temptation to think and worry about it before, during and after you went out. It's not him who is ruining your life because he has a control problem, it's you who let's him put you into this thinking mode. So get distracted, command yourself not to think about it, not to feel mad and eventually you will make the problem non-existent, just like it should be.

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Should You Forgive Cheating?

I'm not that into celebrity love scandals but Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart happen to be one of my favorite couples. They just compare too well to shallow, spoiled, materialistic and self-obsessed stars that are not worthy the media attention. Robert is very smart, witty and down to earth and Kristen... she's just so complex and enigmatic ( my opinion people, no need agree).
So when the photos surfaced of them being together again after the cheating scandal I felt strangely relieved. Because in spite of all the things that people wanted and expected them to do, they were able to distance themselves from all the noise and listen to their hearts. Have any of those "well-wishers" that poured dirt on poor Kristen noticed how much weight she'd lost after the scandal? Or how lost Robert looked in his post-breakup interviews? And how they can't keep their hands off each other in the recent photos as if they are afraid to let go?
If it's you who were betrayed, you are standing at the crossroads, and everybody around tells you to condemn the cheater for life - stop listening! People share your sad facts but not your feelings. They have no idea how much it hurts, this pain of not being together anymore, like the big part of you has been torn and you are bleeding. There's no tranquilizer to numb this pain and no revenge will ease your suffering. And deep inside you know that the only way to stop this agony that's eating you alive is to forgive. Oh, people will judge for sure, but sooner or later they will move on. And you will stay with that one person you can't live without. You will put the betrayal behind you until it becomes just a distant memory. But there's one thing you've learned - not to take anything for granted anymore. Because true love turns from a blessing to curse only when it's taken away from you.
I'm not talking about serial cheaters. Nor should you forgive a spouse who is cheating because he no longer loves and respects you. I'm talking about someone who is still in love but they make a mistake just because they are a weak human being and they've succumbed to a temptation that promised heaven but delivered hell. The kind of misstep when you look back and ask yourself what was I thinking?
So Rob and Kristen, and other couples in a similar position, will learn their lesson. They will realize the consequences of jeopardizing their relationship due to a fleeting temptation. But they will also come out stronger, more protective of their feelings, having experienced firsthand how much there is to lose. They will celebrate every precious minute of being together after those tormenting days of being apart. So just like them,  I would choose forgiveness and second chances over living an empty life, full of loneliness, mistrust and bitter regrets.

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Problems exist in every marriage. So do their solutions.