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Archive for June, 2013

 

I met a woman at a bridal shower the other day, that knew of my blog. She said that the one thing she regrets in her life…that she didn’t go back to work after her children were raised. After all, she had a college degree, she said.

I said, “Go back to work now.” She laughed and said that she was in her seventies and it was too late.

She then said that a regret her husband had is that he didn’t go to medical school. He was offered a scholarship but opted to sell suits at a local department store for nine dollars a week.

Another woman said that she regrets not going back to school and finishing her education. When she was in her thirties she regretted this; when she was in her forties she regretted it; and now she is in her mid-sixties and she still regrets it.

Then this woman asked me if I had any regrets. I said that actually I had been thinking about this very thing recently, and one thing I regret is that I have baked about 2000 pies since I’ve been married. Everyone laughed when they heard my regret, but I think of all the cholesterol and sugar I have consumed and all the time I could have spent reading novels and being with my children.

Another regret I have thought of since is that I yelled too much at our first child when he forgot his lunch, which was almost daily.

I’d be driving him and his brother to school when he would inform me that he had forgotten his lunch. Since the school didn’t have a cafeteria, I was always faced with deciding whether to go back home for his lunch and be late for work, or take him to school and hope that a hungry stomach would teach him to be more responsible.

Thinking back, I could have gotten around this whole ugly scene, in which I would lecture, he would feel miserable, and then I’d feel guilty. I could have taken it upon myself to bring his lunch. I could have found other ways to teach responsibility besides insisting that he remember his lunch bag.

My daughter forgot her lunch one morning. I asked her what she was going to do. She assured me that one of her friends would share her lunch. I said that was nice.

I drove away from her school with no regrets.

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Some things we simply never get over, no matter how much we try, no matter how many activities we join, no matter how many aerobics classes we attend, no matter how much we put one foot in front of the other.

Bill is in his mid-sixties. Nine years ago he was a chief executive of a prestigious company. The management team changed and he was asked to resign. He was devastated. He had been with the company for over thirty years, sometimes working sixty to seventy hours a week. When told he was being let go, to his credit, Bill immediately hustled another job.

Today he works for a little less than half the pay, but since his children are through college and his house is paid for, he and his wife manage. It’s just that he has never been able to entirely shake off the bad feelings from being let go. He doesn’t dwell on it. He doesn’t go around and bad mouth the company. He still sees some friends who are with the company. But always he fights twinges of depression.

Five years ago Sally was forced to give up her big old house and move to another state when her husband was transferred. Today she lives in a beautiful new house. Everyone who visits tells her how lovely it is. She has worked hard to make it nice. Yet periodically she still yearns for her old home.

Susan and Jim were married for twenty-six years. They had five children. Jim moved up the corporate ladder.  Susan took care of the children. When it was announced that Jim was to become president of the company and relocate to the company’s headquarters, Jim told Susan that he was not taking her or the family with him. Instead he took his secretary, whom he subsequently has married.

It’s now ten years later. The children are raised. Susan has completed her MBA and has a job she enjoys. She has dated many men and has had two semi-serious relationships. She has good friends and an active social life. Susan has done everything the books tell her to do in order to move on and not look back. Still, she fights a low-level depression and her self-esteem has never quite recovered since Jim left her.

Sometimes people don’t completely get over a loss.

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A sixth grade school teacher confessed that he hadn’t been nice to his students that day. He had been impatient and needlessly sarcastic. All day he had radiated a negative attitude. Usually he would have gone home, mentally chided himself, and felt guilty.

The problem with such a response is that it does no one any good. The students, who are still smarting from the day, as well as the teacher, gain nothing.

“This time I decided that instead of punishing myself by feeling guilty, and then forgiving myself,” said the teacher, “I would change my behavior.”

The following day he went to school armed with resolve to be a good teacher. He marched energetically through his lesson plan. He compli­mented his students’ accomplishments. He tried extra hard to be patient. He worked in a game his students love playing. At the end of the day he felt great.

Often a person is quite aware that he has acted badly – on the job, with his children, with a neighbor. He may even mentally scold himself for his actions. But what is more productive is a change in future behavior.

Guilt is like a flashing yellow light. It is a signal that you’re doing something wrong.

This week resolve that every time you feel guilty over some behavior, you’ll change course. If you’re dilly-dallying over a decision that affects someone else, stop the guilt and make the decision. If you feel guilty because you’ve dropped the ball and haven’t returned a telephone call, turn off the guilt and call the person. If guilt besets you because you’ve been grumpy and out of sorts, adjust your attitude. If you feel guilt because you usually run late, fight too much with your children, don’t see your parents enough, eat too much junk food – pay attention to what guilt is telling you.   Change your behavior.

Guilt is a wake up call to alter actions.

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Connie couldn’t wait to get home and tell her husband Pete that she had gotten a raise. To set the scene, she picked up some steaks, greens for salad, baking potatoes, French bread, a bottle of wine, strawberries for dessert, and a bouquet of tulips for the table.

When Pete walked in, she handed him a glass of wine. Then she said, “Tonight we are having a celebration. I got a raise, a big raise.”

When Pete heard the numbers, he sighed dejectedly and said, “Now you’ll be making more than me.”

At first Connie felt a twinge of pain for Pete, but when she realized a few minutes later that Pete was telling her about a meeting that he had that day, she became angry. She confronted Pete: “You never support me emotionally.”

Another wife told her husband that she was really worried about their money situation. Instead of letting her talk about her worries, the husband immediately assumed that she was accusing him of not making enough money. His assumption switched the focus from his wife and her worries, to him and how much money he made. As a consequence, the wife was not supported emotionally.

The other day I saw a young man in therapy who said his girlfriend is always accusing him of not giving her emotional support.

Just what is this elusive thing that women keep telling men that they want?

Men, here it is!

Emotional support means focusing on her and being empathetic to what she is saying and feeling. It means letting her express her thoughts and feelings and trying to understand. For example, if she is crying, let her cry. Maybe put your arm around her. Don’t try to talk her out of crying. Let her express her feelings. If she is excited about a raise, be happy with her. Don’t get competitive by thinking about your salary.

Another way to give emotional support is to let your mate talk through a problem if this is what she wants to do. Even though you think you see an obvious solution, keep your mouth shut.

Following up and checking back is another way to give emotional support. If she has a doctor’s appointment in the morning that she is concerned about, call and find out how it went. If she is having trouble with a friend, ask if the relationship is going better.

Perhaps one of the most difficult ways of giving emotional support is to listen when your wife or girlfriend is angry or disappointed with you. If you defend yourself and tell her why she shouldn’t be angry or disappointed, you are not hearing the issue from her perspective. Hearing it from her perspective is giving emotional support.

Giving emotional support means listening and responding without passing judgment, or trying to solve the problem, or switching the subject. It means trying to understand and respond to what your wife or girlfriend is feeling and thinking. It means making her the center of your attention.

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