Good Relationships Lead to Personal Growth

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Good Relationships Lead to Personal Growth

Positive relationships are good for our health. That’s no surprise. We’ve been hearing that for a long time. Happily married people live longer, are healthier and wealthier. In fact, a person’s relationship is the single most important factor in determining mortality. Two researchers, Brooke C. Feeney of Carnegie Mellon University and Nancy L. Collins of the University of California, have discovered some ways that good relationships can also lead to personal growth. The two most important factors are helping use to cope with adversity and helping us to pursue our goals, and other opportunities that cause growth. Good, healthy, strong relationships help those that inhabit them reach their objectives and pursue their dreams. The first person we usually turn to for comfort, and perhaps seek advice from would be our spouse, or significant other. Feeney and Collins liken this process to a home knocked over by a violent storm. The next house erected in its place should be far sturdier. If one person is having a problem establishing themselves for instance their partner may help them to feel more confident. This confidence will help them interact with others, their social networks will become more vibrant and more opportunities will arrive.

Our partner can help us to see what our strengths are. They can help us relieve stress and put things in perspective. Our partner can also help us learn new skills that can help you survive and even thrive at work, school or one’s life passion. Those who are supportive can become a “launching function.” They help their partner pursue their goals. They show them the positive aspects, help them to see opportunities, prepare them to face new challenges, and help them to celebrate victory or to cope with defeat. Feeney and Collins found eight specific ways in which a supportive relationship helps.  Our emotional state improves. Acceptance of one’s self increases and resilience expands. We are better able to perceive and interpret events. Our supportive partners help motivate us toward goals, help us to cope, adapt to new situations and improve our psychological and immune functioning. Positive relationships steer us away from unhealthy lifestyles that may sap our strength, hurt our bodies or minds, not to mention our reputation and mood. Lastly, supportive relationships help people to learn how to trust, feel close to someone and feel loved, positive vibes that carry over in other types of relationships.

So how can you make your relationship more supportive? The best way to do that is to become more supportive yourself. Learn how to listen carefully, be able to accept and understand your partner’s perspective, control your emotions and provide the type of support that will help your partner, and make them feel good. Use your resources. These can be tangible resources like money to say buy your lover a new outfit for an interview. Or they can be intangible ones like compassion, patience and understanding, providing emotional support. Being able to understand your lover’s needs and meet them will motivate them to do the same for you. At the same time, you will want to make sure that you will be able to make your own needs known. Clear communication is pivotal. Reciprocate to show you support them and appreciate the support they give. Then a virtuous cycle can commence, where you both constantly initiate and receive support. Don’t overtax your lover however. If they have many demands at this time, you could be a catalyst in them spreading themselves too thin. You need someone you can rely on. But a strong social network to draw from is important too. To build a supportive relationship, you must first know how to effectively communicate. This is in many cases the hardest skill for couples to develop. If you and your partner need to work on this, pick up a copy of the book, Communication in a Relationship: Top tips on how to improve your communication skills to build a long lasting, loving relationship by Lyn Hunt.

Getting Over someone You Adored

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Getting Over someone You Adored

Sometimes you just can’t wait to get rid of someone and move on with your life. Then there are those relationships you regret ever getting into. There are the ones who sting and the ones that cut deep. But the worst of all is getting over someone you adored, someone you feel that you just can’t live without. You’d rather go without limbs, eyes and vital organs than your lover and can’t believe they’d even think of leaving you. Perhaps it’s just a passing phase, or they’ve suddenly become mentally ill. How will you go on living? The end of a relationship can consume your entire life. Some have even contemplated suicide. Whether it’s feelings of abandonment, inadequacy, guilt, misplaced anger or rejection just know that you are going to be okay. You’ll get through this. Someday you’ll wonder what is was that you saw in this person. First, it may be cliché but with time it will hurt less and less until one day you’ll be free and feeling great. Allow yourself the proper time to get over it. Don’t obsess over your ex. Instead, focus on you, how you are feeling and your healing. When you’re ready get back into the swing of things. Even if you don’t feel like it, fake it until you make it. Be social and engage with others. Start to reconnect with your own past. Find out what you want to do with your life. When you get to make decisions like that, single life can start to feel quite liberating.

Try different projects, volunteer, reconnect with your faith or explore a path you’ve always wanted to try. Lots of people find comfort in writing. Why not start a journal or even a blog? If you are into the arts take a local class. Spend some time thinking about improving yourself. What patterns do you see creeping up in your own life that are destructive? What can you do that’s a healthy alternative? Go on a road trip with a friend, visit a country you’ve always wanted to see, volunteer at your local homeless or animal shelter, tutor a child and feel what it’s like from other people’s point of view, in order to gain some perspective. Take up some new activities. Visit new places. Explore your interests, yourself and your world. When you are ready consider dating again. What would you be looking for? What did you learn works for you in past relationships and what hasn’t worked? Why not reconnect with past loves and see what they think of you and your relationship now in hindsight? What were the lessons that they learned? What did they learn about you? What really happens when you lose a major love is you find yourself, the love of your life. Once you reemerge a stronger person you will seek and find the person you’re meant to be with. So enjoy the journey inward that will lead to a quest to find love in the time to come. To explore this topic further pick up a copy of, Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott.

Finding Happiness Post-Divorce

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Finding Happiness Post-Divorce

After a divorce, your life will change forever. It’s a monumental pivot. But just like any other metamorphosis in your life, how you choose to see it is really up to you. It can be devastating and leave you a husk of your former self, bitter, depressed and alone. Or you could see it as a brand new start and springboard yourself into the life you’ve always dreamed of. The choice, as with any other choice when it comes to perspective, is up to you. Lots of people experience a divorce as a positive chance in one’s life. Lots of people in a recent Reddit thread talked about how divorce had had positive aspects in their life. Some were even happier years after the divorce took place. Some people talked about higher self-confidence, a sense of inner peace, the ability to pursue their dreams unencumbered. Sure sadness would creep in now and again, just like for anyone else. But the good days outweighed the bad. It seems tough to look at the positive aspects of a divorce while you’re going through it, especially if it’s a long drawn-out process with lots of painful things brought up, revenge tactics or a tit-for-tat mentality. But there is light on the other side of the courtroom door.

There are lots of couples who stay together for the kids. They think the children don’t know that they fight. But it turns out the kids always know somehow all along. A high conflict relationship is definitely not good for the kids. Studies have shown that having children of divorce fare much better than those living in a high conflict household. Even in a low conflict household, children can also sense when the parents aren’t happy. Pursuing happiness isn’t only important for you, it’s also a great lesson to teach your children. Would you want them to wallow in an unhappy marriage in order to make you happy? So don’t put this undue burden on them. In fact, you may have a better relationship with your ex and your children’s parent than you would when you two lived together. There are some couples that are great but just can’t live together. It has something to do with their personalities. The fighting over little things goes away once you are divorced and you can begin to focus on what’s important for the children and on what other decisions you have to make together. Remember to take it day to day. You choose how much you can handle each day. Go through your own healing process but make sure you come out stronger, happier and better adjusted at the other end. For more advice read, Growing Through Divorce by Jim Smoke.

The Best Support to Offer a Child when telling them About the Divorce

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The Best Support to Offer a Child when telling them About the Divorce

Parents often see divorce coming down the pike from a long way off. But to children, the news can seem sudden and can rock their very foundation. It’s important for children and parents to talk openly at this time. You should be supportive, loving, honest and approachable not just on the day you tell them, but every day afterward. Otherwise, the impact on the children can be serious and long-lasting. Talking to the children and letting them know about the divorce is one of the hardest things you can do as a parent. Co-parenting from this point on is one of the best things you can do, to counteract problems. It depends on how well you get along with your ex. But telling the children about the divorce together, establishing the same rules and consequences at both houses, and making sure schedules like school, sports and extra-curricular activities carry on can help iron out problems and send the message that just because a divorce is occurring, doesn’t mean life ends. Though there will be some changes, many things will stay the same and that should be of great comfort to them.

Plan out how you will tell the children and keep their feelings in mind. There are parents who pull nightmare scenarios on kids. For instance, when a child finds out about the divorce after one of the parents has already moved out, or when a child is told without anyone available to console them. How the divorce is presented to the child often sets the tone for how present and available the parent will be as the divorce unfolds. Although a divorce is hard on everyone, being there for the child, responding to their needs and giving them love, support and perspective can help them cope and come through healthy and well-adjusted. The one silver lining in a divorce may be that it can deepen your relationship with your children. It’s important to let the child know that it isn’t there fault. Lots of children at any age blame themselves for the breakup of their parent’s marriage. Moreover, this message may need to be reinforced from time to time.

Another significant message to send is that just because you and your ex’s marriage didn’t work out doesn’t mean the child’s future relationships are doomed. Show them through love, support, nurturing and caring how loved they are. Build a supportive home life and your child’s future love life won’t be tainted by the breakup of their parents. Some parents take particular care breaking the news. But then they think that once the child is informed that they can move on. In fact, children do better when parents have follow up conversations with them about the divorce and how they are doing. Sometimes the parent’s own guilt, confusion, anger, pain and loss can preoccupy them.  Children’s pain mainly comes from feeling abandoned and having their emotions minimized.

Parents can counteract this by being there for them, being open, asking the child how they are feeling and working through those feelings with them. Each child will respond to the trauma of a divorce in their own unique way. Parents have to learn how to support the children in their response. Certainly not all of the problems with the marriage or the impending divorce should be shared with the child. But neither should they be cast aside, as if the divorce has nothing to do with them. It affects their lives. So they must be let in, in an appropriate manner. Listen to your children. Let them know that you understand and that you care. One of the best things you can do is let them know that you get them. You understand how they are feeling and empathize. You understand why they reacted how they did and why they are acting the way they are. You “get them.” There is nothing more comforting than to be fully understood. Then let them know that you will always be there for them and will always love them. Nothing is going to change that. To learn more read the book, Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect…What You Can Do by Marsha Temlock.

What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

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What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

Some states now require divorcing couples with children to take classes online in co-parenting. Experts believe that these classes are beneficial as they teach parents how to position themselves in order to take care of the child’s needs given the new family dynamic. The trouble is that each divorce and family situation is unique. Since divorces aren’t uniform, what content should these classes have? Experts say it should have many different tracks. One section should be for parents to mitigate their own emotions. A parent’s emotional state will inevitably affect the children and the divorce process, which affects them as well. The better a parent can cope, the better the child will do as well. University of Illinois researcher Jill Bowers who specializes in human and community development says there should also be sections for specific problems such as alcoholism and violence.  “There is no cookie-cutter divorcing couple, and with online programming, educators are able to supply content that applies to diverse family situations,” said Bowers. She began evaluating online courses in divorce education in 2011. Bowers continued saying, “Program developers could create a two-hour core component that would apply to many divorcing or separating couples with children; then parents could have the option of choosing other topics based on their interests, or results of a pre-test could direct parents to further hours of programming based on their unique needs.”

Bowers authored a recent study evaluating such a program. 1,543 participants took part in these online courses. The creator of the program asked the researcher to provide feedback. 46 states now require parents to take online co-parenting classes when divorcing. The length of time varies depending upon the state. From two to six hours of programming is generally required before a divorce can be granted. Bowers said, “Divorcing parents must pay for these classes, which used to involve classroom instruction. In the past decade, however, course selection has expanded to include many online offerings, and that’s created a market for online program developers and educators.” Bowers checks to see whether or not programs are based on actual research. She says, “An online search for parenting after divorce generates millions of results, but that doesn’t mean the answers you’ll find are from credible or reliable sources. I believe it’s important for online educators to cite their courses and explicitly talk about their conceptual foundations so audiences can distinguish credible sources from self-proclaimed experts. Then judges and parents should look for programs that are scientifically grounded in divorce, child development, relationships, and communication literature.”

Most programs focus on child-parent communication and interaction. Bowers says they do a good job in helping parents communicate what is happening in the divorce to children at different ages and stages. There are lots of strategies to help children deal with their new family dynamic and for handling a situation where one parent is bad-mouthing the other. “But adult-focused content could be enhanced. For example, research shows that parents who have not had time to grieve the loss of the relationship may experience emotional issues, and because of their grief or anger, they may be unable to help their children cope. Programs could be improved by adding content that helps parents address their emotional needs so they would be better equipped to help their children through the transition period. We’d also like to see strategies that parents can use when conflict is escalating,” Bowers said. Some adult lessons would include topics such as sex, cohabitation, introducing a child to a new partner and blended families. What’s more, the legal system parents enter into is complex and confusing according to Bower. Online programs could enlighten parents on items including mediation, legal terms and processes, financial obligations—including child support and more. Bowers said, “The companies that have developed these programs appear to be very committed to helping families. The ones we have worked with have been especially responsive to our evaluations. We know that divorce is a really tough time for families, and we hope that these suggestions for adapting course content and design of mandated co-parenting classes can not only make a difficult and often traumatic experience easier but that it can also optimize outcomes for parents and children going through this process.” To learn more about divorce as a process and how to come out of it in a good position read, The Divorce Survival Guide: The Roadmap for Everything from Divorce Finance to Child Custody by Calistoga Press.