Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

I walk with my neighbors. Our morning ritual visiting while our dogs visit.

I tell my neighbor how much motherhood suits her daughter. How the light in her smile reflects the ease with which mothering comes to her.

I tell them about the joy I felt after my first son was born just two years after losing both of my parents. How I reveled in having that mother-child relationship back in my life, even though it was the reciprocal of it. I would drive around in the car with my Tommy in the backseat and wonder what brought me joy before his arrival.

Even I didn’t grasp just how much motherhood lit up my world. Until one day…
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My two-year-old Tommy came bouncing into my bedroom a smile spread wide across his face.

“Wake up Mommy! It’s a beautiful day outside!” he announced.

He had just gotten his big boy bed and though I heard him up, I still rested in my own bed vying for a bit more sleep.

In that moment, I realized that I had walked into his room every morning since he was born saying those exact words.

“Wake up Tommy! It’s a beautiful day outside!”

I initiated this divorce for many reasons.

One of them that I wanted my children to know the mother and the person that I had been my whole life. Not the sad, stressed, frustrated, and unhappy version staying in a marriage too long had created.

I wanted them to remember the mother who sat in the car singing every rainy day song she could think of on gloomy, rainy days. The mother who made ordinary days seem extraordinary by silly little celebrations. The mother who left them notes all over the house. The mother who let them skip dinner in favor of junk for family night movies. The mother who gave them ice cream for breakfast on their birthdays (my sister’s joyful influence) and hid their presents all over the house. The mother who woke them up before school to go on a donut field trip. The mother who rode bikes with them. And more, so much more.

I wanted them to continue to know the mother that was full of joie de vivre.

I remember one day during this divorce, my sweet youngest son Danny saying, “You’re not the same anymore.”

I don’t often choose to ignore something but the truth is I didn’t want to know exactly what he meant. I just wanted to strive to get back to the mother he knew his whole life. I wanted to get back to the three of my boys snuggly sitting in the back seat, while my impish, happy middle son, Billy simply delighted in the adventure and not even our destination.

I’m not completely there yet. I’m getting closer.
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I know that I am happy that I left a bad relationship. My children deserve no less than the very best of me and only I could make that happen. This divorce has been rockier than my marriage. It has shown a less than favorable side of me to my children. A reaction to the games and stress and worry that I have for them.

I am getting closer.

To reintroducing my children to the mother who knew immediately just how much motherhood suited her.

And that every day with them is a beautiful day!

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One of the most troubling aspects of being involved with a narcissist is their lack of traditional or so-called normal reactions to life.

Thus, those who have been in a relationship a with a narcissist often describe a sense of non-reality or feeling crazy when interacting with them. This stems from the fact narcissists tend to live in their own perception of reality since they lack empathy. Therefore, their partner’s version of reality (true reality) does not exist to them.
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Narcissists live in an amped up version of a world of simply ‘one.’

It is their world and no one else matters.

Therefore, their reactions or lack of reaction to typical emotional and societal norms can appear bizarre. It is even more confusing to an individual involved with a narcissist because at other times the narcissist can appear to actually ‘care.’

Do not mistake that for true ‘caring.’ The moments when a narcissist seemingly ‘cares’ is because they are relating to their own life in some way, shape or manner. Or you are simply fitting into their life and the contentment they have will somehow imply they are capable of true emotion for others.

5 things that mean nothing to a narcissist:

1. Tears: A narcissist can watch someone they love cry as if they are watching a comedy. Though crying can be considered a submissive act of a person in pain, a narcissist can watch without blinking an eye. It will not move them, they will not feel bad, and it will not make them back down. Tears mean nothing to a narcissist because they only understand their own tears and their own pain. Instead of being frustrated by the apparent lack of human condition, accept the fact that you may as well be speaking another language. Tears are not a language the narcissist understands.

2. Your feelings: A narcissist is incapable of understanding another individual’s emotions. In fact, they have zero desire of understanding another person’s feelings. They want to maneuver a relationship with only their own feelings in mind. Therefore, their partner’s feelings are a nuisance. The common theme of narcissism is that they lack empathy and live in their own world. Why would anyone else’s emotions be worthy of listening to? They are the wrong emotions to the narcissist because the narcissist does not understand them.
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3. What others think: A narcissist cares little to nothing of what others think. Therefore, the typical boundaries that exist in other relationships do not exist with a narcissist. An average person may not care if they upset their spouse, but they do care if their in-laws and family members are privy to their behavior and will resolve it so that it does not live outside of the household. The narcissist does not care. They will mistreat their spouse and show up at a family get together as if it is normal behavior and they have done nothing wrong.

4. Normal societal boundaries: A narcissist does not live within normal societal boundaries. They make their own rules. The types of family, societal, legal, ethical boundaries that keep most individuals from bad behavior are non-existent in their world. Or, they exist until the narcissist feels unhappy, angry, etc. and decides their own pain means they no longer have to follow any rules. This makes it even more challenging to deal with a narcissist. It’s difficult to manage a relationship with a person who does not care about anything or anyone except their ends justifying their means.

5. The ones they love: A narcissist only loves a person as much as they are capable of loving anyone. It is not true love nor is it a healthy love. A narcissist may appear to love someone at the start of a relationship. In addition, when a narcissist is happy, they can often fool the person they are with into making it appear to be real love. However, make no mistake about it. Their lack of empathy makes it impossible for a narcissist to form a deep attachment of healthy love. Instead, what appears to be love is simply the narcissist happy with the individuals he or she has collected to make their world work. A narcissist does not need people. A narcissist needs only themselves.

In counseling, you learn that there is absolutely no excuse for bad behavior.

Well, let me clarify. There is zero excuse for repeated bad behavior.

Something I wrote in my last column gave me pause.

The fact that I ended my marriage to take my children out of a position of conflict, yet divorce put them in an even stronger position of conflict.
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Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I do not advocate staying in a bad marriage.

I actually believe it can be far worse for children. I am simply stating there is something wrong with a process that is comprised of two opposing messages. Namely counseling and the legal system.

The oxymoron of divorce?

The counselors tell us there is no excuse for repeated bad behavior. They tell us this is unacceptable. A form of enabling to allow an individual to hurt you in the same manner over and over again. They tell us we should self-protect, set boundaries and move on from this unhealthy relationship.

The courts, the judges and the lawyers tell us to expect bad behavior in divorce. They tell us it’s the norm. They tell us even though this is an extremely bad divorce that shockingly, they have seen worse. They tell us there’s not much they can do. That spouses get away with bad behavior in divorce every day. After all, there’s only so much that can be done when a spouse is determined to be a bully, use children, use money and whatever power and control they have to punish their spouse.

I met a former judge recently. He shook his head in frustration as he told me of being on both sides of the bench. He spoke of handling many divorces in his career and the lengths individuals would go – how they would fight to the bitter end over seemingly nothing. He told me of his own divorce. He acknowledged it is a frustrating and disillusioning. Predominantly because there is little in place to stop a parent determined to behave badly from hurting their very own children.

Because let’s not kid ourselves…
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As I have written recently, any grown adult behaving badly in divorce arrogantly pretends it’s the spouse they are going after. They tell people their spouse isn’t going to get one over on them. They aren’t going to get ‘their’ money. They aren’t going to get away with a divorce. Instead, they will ‘control’ how the divorce plays out.

Control is in fact, the bad behavior or should I say one of the bad behaviors, the other spouse is trying to get away from to begin with.

It is unacceptable divorce may thrust children into an atmosphere more damaging because the world accepts it as the norm. Thus, allowing divorcing spouses to exercise their anger and retribution throughout the divorce process.

Children won’t be sufficiently protected in divorce until the oxymoron is dispelled.

Until the healthy message of counseling matches the currently unhealthy message of the legal system.

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It’s not complex arthrometric, positive emotions add to our lives while negative emotions subtract from them.

When it’s stated this simply, it’s amazing that anyone loses sight of this uncomplicated metric.

But people do stay in bad relationships and jobs they hate. They remain, volunteers or caregivers even long after they have burned out and should ask for help. They tolerate unhealthy family or friend relationships. All in the name of being strong, of sticking it out.

All in the name of being ’emotionally generous.’

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When they finally take the time to subtract the negative from the positive it equals zero.

It’s a given that most individuals can identify the changes that accompany stress, frustration, and unhappiness. The problem is it’s usually quantified by the end result. The after effect of putting up with too much for too long. At the point when a person has finally lost all interest in hobbies or exercise. When they have not slept for months or conversely are sleeping too much.

However, if individuals prioritize this uncomplicated math formula, perhaps more would catch themselves before they get to advanced emotional distress. A far greater challenge to overcome when your personal equation has a negative balance.

Instead, look to the following warnings as an emotional wake-up call or preventative care – as the symptoms that open your eyes before the end diagnosis.

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YOUR INNATE DISPOSITION IS CHANGING: There has been a significant or severe shift in your personality. Perhaps you have always been laid back and now you’re stressed. Maybe you were a great communicator and now you yell.

YOU CHANGE YOUR DAILY HABITS: You have become disinterested in either little or big things that used to be a part of your daily, weekly, such as Entertaining, reading, hobbies, crafts, exercising, etc. Do not confuse this with simply being unhappy. Letting go of things that are innately a part of who you are is a sign that you are functioning only could still be depressed.

YOUR SLEEP PATTERNS ARE CHANGING: You are either struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, having a hard time waking up or sleeping too much.

YOUR EATING HABITS CHANGE: You are either eating less or eating more. The problem is often when this happens instead of catching it within the first five to ten pounds as a wake-up call it is ignored and turns into bigger weight gain or weight loss.

YOU CAN’T STOP TALKING: Over-talking about a frustration is an enabling trait. It’s indicative of staying in a bad situation too long and putting up with too much. Therefore, just like enablers need to walk away from relationships where bad behavior is recurring more than once or twice. The same should hold true for over-talking. If the same conversation of frustration is happening more than several weeks or months. It’s time to see that repetition as a wake-up call.

We know what signals stress and sadness once we have held onto it for too long. However, we accept these common traits of sadness and depression as normal under the stress and unhappiness or circumstances.

These traits should not simply be attributed to unhappiness or depression, but rather like a sore throat that leads to the cold. When we get a sore throat, we think to ourselves that we do not want to get physically sick. The same remains true for emotional well-being. The absolute first sign of any of the above should lead to a complete review and diagnosis of your emotional life.

Stop looking at these as ‘symptoms’ as we have been thought to do in the past. Do start looking towards ‘preventative’ emotional health care.

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My son says something that stops me in my tracks.

“Mom, is dad a good person?”

I stop what I am doing. I realize that my sons are becoming young men and no longer the children of yesterday. Hence, the ability to actually verbalize this question rather than silently wonder.

“Of course,” I say. “I wouldn’t have married someone who is not a good person.”

As a child of divorce myself, I understand why he wants this to be true. I take a moment to think before I continue. I realize that he needs reassurance.

“Listen,” I say “My dad was a wonderful person and we had a lot of great years with him, but alcohol eventually took over his life. We all have free will. My dad came to a fork in the road. A moment in time where he could have chosen to get help but he did not. At that point, the illness took over and we lost the best part of him.”
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I see my son digesting what I have said and I continue.

“Your father is a wonderful person and we had a lot of great years with him but when he encountered certain things in life, he had a choice to make. He came to his own personal fork in the road. It was up to him to choose what he would do with his free will. Unfortunately, the choices he made is what now leaves you questioning whether he is a good person.”

My son nods his head as if to signal that he is finding some comfort in my words.

“When he made those choices we lost the best parts of him,” I say.

My son gets up and walks out of the room.

I think back to a conversation that I once had with my own father. My parents had been separated for years before they finally got the divorce. Part love and part old school Catholic. My dad ultimately decided to marry a few years before he died.

“Colleen,” he said. “I am getting married because I am lonely but I will never love anyone the way I loved your mother. We just couldn’t get along.”
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This was a gift that my father gave me. To be told that regardless of the imperfections of two people, that I came from a place of love – even if it no longer existed. Of course, I was wise enough to know the second part of his sentence was the alcoholism speaking. In his mind, they couldn’t get along. When in fact, it was the alcohol that came between them.

I’ve written this many times, my mom said things she shouldn’t have said, she yelled and got mad at my dad. However,when the dust settled, she spoke gently of the man who had stolen her heart and never returned it.

In the midst of our worst problems, I reinforced that my husband was a good person in a bad place. In other words, I gave my children a sense of peace and did not put them in a position of conflict. No, I’m not a saint or a martyr. Adults make choices that put their children first.

Or at least they should! A parent’s primary instinct should be to protect their children.

Children want, need and deserve to know that their parents are innately good people who perhaps made bad choices.

Children want, need and deserve to know that they came from a wonderful love between two people, regardless of the relationship ending.

Children want, need and deserve to know that it’s their right to love each parent and to be loved by both their parents.

Children want, need and deserve to know that divorce is an attempt to take them out of a position of conflict RATHER than putting them in a stronger position of conflict by behaving badly with divorce games, bullying, abuse and tactics.

Ultimately, children want, need and deserve to know that both of their parents are good people who just couldn’t make the marriage work.

Sadly, the emotional and financial divorce bullying leaves children confused. They initially believe the marriage is ending because their mother and father no longer get along. After a year or year’s of extended divorce bullying, they begin to wonder if a parent is a good person. They begin to wonder if that parent truly loves them.

After all, wasn’t the parent just leaving the other parent?

Why would they leave them too? Why would they not look for them on regular weekends? Why would a car ride here and there be enough? Why would they stop paying bills that keep their home and their world safe until the divorce is final?

The outside world can believe the divorce bully.

The inside world is at the doctor’s office when a nurse tells their mother they are uninsured.

The inside world is answering the front door to a sheriff’s deputy serving a warrant in debt for unpaid bills.

The inside world is watching a car pull in the driveway from a mortgage company to make sure people still live there.

The inside world is answering the phone to debt collectors.

The inside world is sitting on the side of a road at night with a broken down car that should have been repaired.

The inside world is in the grocery store with their mother when her debit card won’t work.

The inside world knows they never lived like this until their mother retained an attorney.

The inside world asks questions, “Is their parent a good person?”

Divorcing individuals need to remind themselves – they are not, in fact, getting back at their spouse.

They are getting back at their children in the process.

And sadly, making divorce, not about two otherwise good people who no longer love one another. They are making their children wonder if that parent is a good person because good people don’t behave this way.

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It’s a challenge to have the proper level of respect in a relationship. Two different individuals from separate backgrounds and families are blending a lifetime of unique history. Therefore, it’s human nature to want to duplicate our own individual worlds.

However, relationships demand that we adjust two worlds and combine them into a best possible ‘one.’

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It must be a compromise of allowing your significant other what is most important to them and perhaps less important to you and vice versa. It is essentially conceding that though you both may have grown up differently that neither should control the union.

Respect does not mean giving into every single thing, but rather understanding and respecting the most important values, concerns, beliefs, worries, joys, etc. of your significant other. Every single person has pressure points that are significant in their own world. The things that cause them the most stress or happiness.

Therefore, respect is allowing a person to be exactly who they are regardless of differences.

Respect could be called the best relationship elixir.

It can solve numerous relationship issues:

No Yelling: When an individual is willing to respect their partner’s wants and needs it reduces the type of frustration and hopelessness that induces yelling. There is no need to escalate when one feels treated with respect.

Reinforces Better Communication: Respect reinforces better communication within a relationship. The act of showing respect means one is listening to another’s concerns. Therefore, it produces more of a conversational flow rather than an argumentative flow of communication.

Conflict Resolution: Respect allows for the type of individual tolerance and give and take that keeps a relationship balanced. When one feels as though they are being respected and heard there is little reason for the conflict to continue. The lack of fighting someone on issues that are important to them provides the opportunity to resolve the conflict more easily.

Lowers Relationship Resentments: When an individual is in a relationship that lacks respect, feelings of resentment fester over time. There is a sense of dismissal that makes an individual feel irrelevant.
Long-term resentments can eat away at a relationship and be brought up to one another for years to come Respect lowers relationship resentment because one person is not disregarded as being wrong for what is important to them.

Increases Feelings of Value: A respected individual has a great sense of personal value. They are not fighting to be heard or understood, they are being accepted and treasured for their individual sacredness.

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What happens when respect exists between two people? Not just a romantic couple but friends, acquaintances or even a professional relationship?

Respect could also be explained as mutual admiration.

It is the lack of judging one another but rather accepting, acknowledging and celebrating another individual for exactly who God made them be.

That’s an interesting way to phrase it, isn’t it?

Most people believe they deserve to be right. That they are entitled to their opinion. That this other person has to be wrong. Why can’t they see the world as they see it? They shouldn’t have those emotions or those reactions. Why do they believe differently than we believe?

Because God made them differently.

We are all shaped for a different purpose in life.

Every single person is a unique part of God’s puzzle.

When you think of it that way, how is it any person’s right to tell another how they should feel, worry, believe or act?

Allowing others to be who they are – this means everyone in one’s life. That is with the caveat of people who are severely mistreating another, under the spell of addiction, etc.
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Means acknowledging that respect is a God given right.

It means celebrating who God meant us to be while realizing the world would be a boring place lacking many of the miraculous results of God’s work if we were all the same.

The next time you are frustrated by someone not sharing your opinions, step back and think…

How miraculous it is that God made us so individually unique.

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It’s somewhat of a given that most people do not have the ability to see their own faults. This, of course, makes relationships and conflict resolution even more difficult.

Let’s call this ‘the cake.’

What complicates this even further is that most relationships lack truly great communication.

Let’s call this the ‘icing on the cake.’

This actually produces a conundrum. If individuals could learn to communicate better, they would actually be able to recognize some of their own faults. Therefore, the key is in mastering the art of good communication.

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Why? Because great communication lacks ‘ego.’

Think of ego as the sweet tooth hog. Ego wants its cake and to eat it too. Ego wants to win. Ego wants to be right. Ego is threatened by individual differences. Ego wants to be in control.

Here’s the funny thing…

1. Ask someone if they are respectful and most will answer yes.
2. Ask someone if they are confident and most will answer yes.
3. Ask someone if they are ‘ego-less’ and most will answer yes.

The truth?

Most individuals did not learn respect and great ‘ego-less’ communication in their homes while growing up.

This means seemingly otherwise confident people lack the fully graduated confidence that accompanies an absence of ego. Once ego is eradicated an individual feels no threat by being wrong or acknowledging a behavior. They feel no need to be in control. There is no personal threat.

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They understand that conflict is not another person ‘attacking’ them but the logical result of close personal relationships.

It’s not the conflict that is worrisome. It’s how that conflict is resolved.

Thus, the 3 Mandatory Elements of Great Communication:

1. Respect – Respect equals allowing others to be who they are and have their own opinions even if they are different than your own. Respect allows others to be the individuals that they are with their own beliefs, passions and boundaries.

2. Confidence – Confidence is extremely misunderstood. The average person believes they are confident. However, one is not fully confident if they do not have enough respect to allow others their own opinions, beliefs, boundaries, passions and concerns. There are many seemingly confident individuals who disregard people’s emotions, concerns, worries, priorities, opinions and who need to be in control. True confidence is devoid of ego.

3. Ego-Less – Good communication is at its core the result of zero ego. Ego is the culprit that must be erased before true respect and graduated confidence can be present. Letting go of ego means acknowledging that there is no true threat in being wrong or not being in control. It is only a perceived threat. Once an individual is willing to do the scary work of letting go of ego they are able to listen and hear the people in their lives. They are able to sit and have a ‘conversation’ and not an angry exchange or ‘argument.’ There will be no need for name calling because it never escalates to this disrespectful ego-filled type of interaction. It will be a means for talking and conflict resolution.

The fact remains that great communication is not innate for most people. Great communication is the result of learning about how to be a good communicator. There are opportunities to read books, take classes, etc. It is important to take advantage of these resources not only for one’s relationship but because when ego is dismissed an elevated level of confidence makes way to not only better relationships but to greater individual happiness.

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In general, when life throws adversity our way, we attack it and solve it as an individual.

Somehow in marital problems, we embark on a never-ending quest to solve a problem that involves not one individual but two.

It’s a tremendous and detrimental mistake.

No one can force another person to grow and evolve in a relationship. From a practical perspective, we know this – from an emotional perspective we disregard it.

If your spouse either:

Does not care enough to solve the problem
OR
Go to counseling and remain there until there is healing, resolution and forward movement
OR
Your marriage suffers from addiction, narcissism, abuse or another type of relationship killer

Then this marriage crisis involves only one individual that cares enough to prioritize the one they love and salvage the union.

Therefore, avoid these 3 mistakes during a marriage crisis:

Do Not Lose Your Foundational Footing:

Do not invest so much effort into fixing the marriage that you walk away from yourself. Once you lose your foundational footing things will not improve. You will become depleted while the relationship continues to flounder. It’s a lose – lose.

Do not abandon things that you love (daily rituals, hobbies, etc.) that define who you are as a person. Making your relationships a priority and fixing the problems does not mean you cease to exist. Do not chose escapes such as food or wine to comfort you. This is walking away from yourself and towards something to temporarily replace the lost joy.

Keep your individual purpose and foundation strong. A marriage worth saving would never involve a spouse that would allow you to sacrifice yourself to retain their love.

Do Self-Focus and Self-Protect:

A floundering marriage is a crisis of identity. Our family life is what all else stems from. Therefore, this creates an imbalance in our lives which leaves us questioning our self-esteem, our choices, and our future. It also speaks to our greatest fears of relationship failure and a temporary loneliness.

Accept this as a part of the journey. Do not give your power away to others. Do not care so much that you allow your inner critic to judge you even more harshly than the world at large. The world is already full of people and/or situations that can beat you up. Do not take the bat and do it for them.

This is a challenge when you feel as though you are not living an authentic life that you are proud of. Remember that some of the most judgemental people are living their own problems. After a certain age, most humble and confident people realize that no one is in a position to judge – that “there but by the grace of God go I.”

Do not let this temporarily vulnerability allow you to absorb the judgement of others.

Do Not Seek Love in the Wrong Places:

Do not seek out people to help you save the one you love from themselves or to save your marriage. Instead, turn to the family and friends who are knocking at your door or ringing your phone. The people that are participators in your life and not observers.

No one can save a marriage except for the two individuals in the relationship. However, there are circumstances where family and friends do initially step forward in concern. These would be in situations of abuse, addiction, narcissism, the well-being of the children, etc. In addition, perhaps an otherwise good marriage where one person is experiencing a crisis and a loving conversation may support the marriage.

It is tempting to reach out to the family and friends of a spouse who is struggling with addiction or illness. However, if they cared enough or chose belief instead of denial they would already love that person enough to have crossed your threshold. An absence of individuals who care deeply when your spouse is struggling is either evidence of denial, avoidance, or that they lack the deep relationships necessary to command this type of presence in their lives. It can also mean that the family already struggles with the same issues and therefore, has no ability to see it as a problem.

In most healthy situations, someone from that person’s world would show up long enough to determine what is truly happening in the marital crisis.

They would also care enough about the children to seek and determine the truth.

Do not turn to family and friends that you have to call and ask for help. The sideline observers. If they cared enough to listen or get involved you would be hearing from them not calling them.

A struggling marriage can render unbearable pain. It can make us abandon our own heart for the one who once stole it.

If you make these mistakes you will ultimately lose much more than your relationship. You will lose yourself.

And thus, when it’s time to rebuild and pick up the pieces there won’t be enough of you left to meet the challenge.

Do not lose yourself for someone who was willing to lose you all along.

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Follow me on Facebook @Colleen Orme National Columnist
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