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How to Handle Difficult Relationships

Photo by Jimmy Álvarez
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment. ~Eckhart Tolle

A few years ago, after months of turmoil and a constant tug of war spurred by different morals and beliefs, I walked away from a 10-year friendship. Looking back now I am completely at peace with the decision, but at the time, I was hurt, confused and angry at the turn of events that had brought us to that place.

When things had begun their steady downhill tumble, I pulled her aside and voiced my concerns, convinced she would change and I would once again be comfortable participating in the relationship.

In my eyes everything depended on her changing. Instead, the behavior continued and I began slowly backing away, telling everyone around me, “I just don’t understand why she’s doing this to me.”

The more I played into the truth of that one statement, the more I felt betrayed and completely out of control. By that time, the only choice I had was to remove myself from the situation and attempt to return to a place of balance and peace.

While I’ve had few situations since that time that have completely knocked me off balance, I read something the other day that, even now, was able to shed light on what might have been going on in my life at that time to bring such intense conflict into my experience.

5 Tips for Handling Criticism

Photo by Nissor
When you judge another, you do not define them; you define yourself as someone who needs to judge. ~Wayne Dyer

I wish I had read this statement by Wayne Dyer when I was a teenager. In fact, if I had taped it to my bedroom mirror where I would have seen it every day, it might have sunk in. And maybe I would have done some things very differently.

Some of us are just naturally pleasers. As a kid, I really worked hard to get great grades, because I knew my parents would be pleased. I joined a swim team and took on extra practices, so I could win my events and please my coach and my parents. I was devastated if I received criticism from anyone I loved and/or respected — I had failed somehow.

Enter my first really serious relationship after college: I was wonderfully in love, and we moved in together, ready to build a life together. Gradually, it began to creep in. First, it was meals I prepared — something was always not quite right.

Then it was the clothes I chose or my hairstyle. Pretty soon, it was almost everything I did, no matter how inconsequential. There was always a piece of criticism. And my response? It was the same as when I was growing up — I had failed somehow.

My epiphany came when we went to meet his folks. After a weekend in that house, I realized he was certainly his father’s son. Here was an obviously successful businessman who should have been very happy with his life.

4 Ways to Keep the Faith

Photo by Elisabetta Lugari
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. ~Eckhart Tolle

The past few weeks, spurred by anxiety that sits heavy on my chest, I’ve been exerting all of my energy going against the flow of life. I’ve been operating from a mindset that says if I try a little harder, if I take control a little more, than things can be how they are meant to be.

Long distance relationships — i.e. overseas in a combat zone — are nothing new to me. I endured two deployments in the four years I spent as a military girlfriend and another two deployments when my boyfriend went back overseas as a private contractor.

As a veteran returning to a tough job market with skills geared towards operating in a combat zone, the move to overseas contracting was logical, although not much easier.

Two deployments in, he returned home with the goal of finding work that would allow him to stay in the United States. Four months later, any hope we had in that plan dried up. Jobs just weren’t all that easy to come by.

As he broke the news that another deployment might be his only option, my heart buckled. All the faith I had that things would pan out, that we wouldn’t have to go through this again, flew out the window.

6 Tips for Finding Happiness

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Happiness is really a deep harmonious inner satisfaction and approval. ~Francis Wilshire

As humans, interconnected in more ways than we realize, we place a great deal of pressure on each other to act in a certain way. The belief is that if other people act in a way that better suits us and our needs, it’ll be easier to find peace and happiness.

When I was in high school and entirely consumed by my relationships with my peers, any type of conflict — especially the kind that made me believe someone else was in control — shook me to my core.

So when a ten-year friendship hit rocky ground over a difference in opinion about my boyfriend (something I can’t help but laugh about now), I was devastated. I always wanted others to agree with my actions and decisions, and when they didn’t, I searched for ways to convince them that I was right.

I remember brooding over this particular fight for hours, recounting the details to anyone willing to listen, and impatiently waiting for the apology phone call. I thought, If she just calls and admits she was wrong, I can stop thinking about this and move on. But if she doesn’t, our friendship won’t recover.

5 Beliefs that Keep You From Love

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Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. ~Theodore N. Vail

Like most young girls, I dreamed of having a fairytale romance when I grew up. I wanted the declarations of love, flowers and breathtaking kisses in the moonlight. He would be handsome, appear at just the right time and whisk me away to my beautiful new life.

What actually happened in my romantic life turned out to be very different from what I dreamed of as a girl. My journey included many dating mishaps, a few relationships, one marriage and over a decade of single parenthood.

When I look back, I see that much of my heartache stemmed from expectations that were unrealistic. It’s easy to absorb romantic myths and think that they are true, but doing so can hinder your chances at real love.

If you believe any of these myths, your love life won’t be all it can be. Take a look and consider whether any of these beliefs are affecting your expectations in relationships.

4 Ways to Feel More Loved

Photo by Sergio Otero
The most important thing in this world is to learn to give out love and let it come in. ~Morrie Schwartz

Every school day, mere seconds after the lunch bell would ring, my peers and I would pile into long tables in the cafeteria and eagerly examine the contents of our lunch boxes. Aside from the much anticipated fifteen minutes of recess that would follow, most saw it as the most exciting part of the day.

Not for me.

I already knew what was in my bag, seeing as how I was the one who packed it. And, starting from the young age of six, my main goal in packing my lunch had more to do with speed then creating a culinary masterpiece.

My mom wouldn’t spend an extra five minutes cutting off the crusts of my PB&J or writing me a note on a napkin reminding me to have a great day. That just wasn’t her thing.

7 Ways to Support Sensitive Souls

Photo by Matteo Paciotti
Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. ~Anthon St. Maarten

Not everyone is familiar with the term Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), but chances are you probably know someone who fits the definition. To generalize, we can say that HSPs experience life on a larger spectrum than the average person — both highs and lows.

This is neither inherently good nor disadvantageous — it all depends on how well an HSP manages his or her sensitivity. As an HSP myself, I can say one of the greatest challenges is handling big emotions.

And if you’re in a relationship with an HSP, it can also provide a challenge for you! Ultimately, everyone must own their personal responsibility to grow self-awareness and manage their emotions.

But for any of you supporting someone with big, sensitive emotions on their quest to learn and grow, here are some tips from my own experience as an HSP.

5 Tips to Communicate Better

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When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed. ~Chuang Tzu

After muscling through a variety of work-related changes, I began to grow frustrated with the upheaval and lack of respect that I perceived I was getting from my coworkers.

I felt as if I possessed the skills required to do the job I was hired to do, but my ideas weren’t receiving the attention they deserved and often times, my presence went completely unnoticed.

The experience pushed me to grow a thick skin, a kind of “I don’t care what you think” attitude. And I was ready to battle anyone that attempted to question my competence or step on my toes.

So when a new team member asked to meet with me after a few incidences where we passive aggressively tried to redo each other’s work, I spent the night going over my responses to the attacks I was sure he was about to wage.

I was confident that I knew what was coming. And I was ready to fight.

5 Tips to Increase Your Emotional IQ

Photo by Phil King
You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass. ~Timber Hawkeye

Have you ever felt so angry you lashed out and said words you regret? Felt so hurt, you couldn’t talk past the lump in your throat?

So frustrated, you weren’t able to form a coherent sentence? Or tried to communicate something important, and it landed like a dead fish?

I’ve been there. In my teens, I was a tempestuous young woman. Hormones had me flipping from rage to despair in a heartbeat. I sprayed emotions around me like a machine gun sprays bullets.

I couldn’t even talk to my then-boyfriend about anything important without losing control. I frustrated even myself.

So I learned to keep emotions under lock and key. I rarely expressed how I felt, and aimed to just keep the peace and ensure everyone was happy.

Except me.

How to Find Your True Love

Photo by Kris Kesiak
But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that's just fabulous. ~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Dating was never easy for me. In fact, I didn’t have my first date until my senior year of high school and that was because my brother wanted me to meet the person he had found to take me to prom.

Sad beginnings, I know.

And it really didn’t get much better for me until a long time after that “first date.” My attraction blunders were many.

I’ve sent candy and roses to men I’ve been interested in, begged a elementary school crush to consider me as a third girlfriend (yes, he actually had two others), and even chased away would be interested men because I was so happy to be asked out. I took the reins and tried to speed up the process, which ultimately just halted it all together.

I was completely clueless at what it actually took to attract the man of my dreams.

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