Archive | December, 2012

The Maturity Continuum

23 Dec

As time goes by and the break up is further behind me, the lessons are coming into focus and the clarity is mine. After a long term relationship with someone who was so dependent on me, it only seems natural that I found myself in this last relationship with someone who was very independent. I can’t stress the word “very” enough. I remember someone asking me what it was that I gave to him and it took me awhile to come up with an answer and even when I did, I was stretching the truth and feeling pretty lame. It was an odd place for me to be. I’ve been a natural born helper as long as I can remember. It feels good to be able to do for others and it often helps me in some small way. So you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling much like myself in the relationship and often questioned whether or not I was even needed. Yes, I admit, I need to be needed. I don’t admit this with shame because now I know about the Maturity Continuum.
This concept of the Maturity Continuum was offered up by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I hope you find this helpful, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. I always believed that people moved through life from a stage of dependence to independence and that was it. There was nothing to follow. It makes sense that we come into this world one hundred percent reliant on others to care for us and meet our needs. Without them, we would not survive. As the years go by, we begin to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially to a place where we are independent, self-directed and no longer need others to care of us. While independence is a wonderful and necessary achievement, it does not reign supreme.

Here comes the cool part. As we continue to grow and mature, we realize the interdependence that surrounds us in nature and in our society. We come to recognize that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others. Essentially, human life is also interdependent. We can move from “you must do this for me” to “I can do this for myself” to ultimately arrive at “we can do greater things if we do them together.” So maybe the concept is not new. I’ve heard people say “I’m a better person because of him.” Maybe this is what they are talking about. Their interdependence on each other elevates them to higher levels of effectiveness as human beings. I’ve also heard people in the business world say they don’t know everything but they know to surround themselves with smart people. In both of these scenarios, they make a great team and together they conquer the world.

How do you move towards interdependence? Well, I will tell you now that dependent people cannot. As Covey says, “They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.” They have to work towards their own independence first and experience those private victories.
When we do move through the maturity continuum towards interdependence, we are in a place to honor the opportunities that lie before us: to share ourselves deeply, meaningfully, with others, and have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.

My ex, as well as many others, cannot move past their place of independence because they do not have the maturity to see how vastly different it is from interdependence. They often feel they would be retreating to a place of reliance on others. They sense that it requires vulnerability on their part and that is unthinkable for some. We see people leaving marriages, relationships and all kinds of social responsibilities so that they can become liberated and independent. Covey says it best, “Of course we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than to be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living.”

In a nutshell, my ex, like so many people don’t know there is a maturity continuum. They are unaware of the divine beauty of interdependent relationships. They stand proudly in their independence believing whole heartedly they have arrived at their final destination. They see open, vulnerable people who are willing to grow and connect with others as threats to their existence. Their immaturity literally stunts them and their growth towards interdependence. It’s a shame really. As for me, my journey continues. I invite all of you into my life and onto my team, where together we can conquer the world.

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Rights of Kids Who Have Split Homes

19 Dec

As unfortunate as it is, my children have to live in two different homes. They live in mine every day and night except on Thursday nights and every other weekend. And of course there is the occasional schedule change and series of special events that throws off their routines just a bit more. My children have been living this way for 7 years now. Can you imagine wanting to wear your favorite shirt and then remembering it’s in the “other house?” Running upstairs to get your favorite toy only to remember you left it in the “other house?” Imagine adjusting to the different kinds of groceries and snacks depending on which house you’re in at the time, greeting different dogs at the door depending on where you’ll sleep that night. The list goes on and on of the kinds of adjustments our children make on a regular basis. I would absolutely hate to have all my belongings split between two houses and not be able to lay my head down in the same place every night. I watch my children in amazement as they navigate this routine that has become their norm. On the random occasions where they forget a school work assignment at the “other house,” I let it slide. I can barely keep track of all my work piles in one home and I’m an adult. I was always told that children are resilient and I believe it to be true. The more I thought about the ease with which they live this way, I began to realize their success is due in part to their naturally laid back temperaments and innate ability to bounce back. The other key to their success is their dad and I abide by their rights. We didn’t ever sit down, discuss their rights and agree to abide by them, but it simply must have been a value we’ve always had in common to put our children first. We probably parent better together now than we ever have. If you are struggling, and more importantly if you are children are struggling, review their rights and do everything you can to abide by them. They deserve it. It’s the very least we can do as they travel between two homes.

1. Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either parent or other relatives.
2. Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.
3. Be reassured they are safe and their needs will be provided.
4. Have a special place for their own belongings at both parent’s residences.
5. Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.
6. Express anger and sadness in their own way, according to age and personality (not have to give justification for their feelings or have to cope with trying to be talked out of their feelings by adults).
7. Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests between parents.
8. Not make adult decisions, including where they will live, where and when they will be picked up or dropped off, or who is to blame.
9. Love as many people as they choose without being made to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved by many people is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)
10. Continue to be kids. In other words, not take on adult duties and responsibilities or become a parent’s special confidant, companion or comforter (i.e., not to hear repeatedly about financial problems or relationship difficulties).
11. Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.
12. Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.
13. Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.
14. Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.
15. Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and special memories.
16. Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar in a system understandable to the child. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)
17. Participate in sports, special classes or clubs that support their unique interests, and have adults that will get them to these events, on time without guilt or shame.
18. Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping or tape-recording.
19. Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlement’s of anyone.
20. Be exposed to both parents’ religious ideas (without shame), hobbies, interests and tastes in food.
21. Have consistent and predictable boundaries in each home. Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent’s set of rules needs to be predictable within their household.
22. Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.
23. Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.
24. Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent’s home or asked to spy in the other parent’s home.
25. Own pictures of both parents.
26. Choose to talk with a special adult about their concerns and issues (counselor, therapist or special friend).

For more information: http://www.focusas.com/Stepfamily.html (“Rights” taken from this site)

Who ever said life was fair?

12 Dec

photo[1]I don’t often blog about my personal life. I prefer to blog about counseling theories and books I’m reading. I love to blog about hot topics and share relationship advice that will help my readers. My goal is the same here – but these words are coming from experience. I guess nobody said life was fair, but my heart would hurt a little less if it was.
I am newly single. A status that is only a couple of days old. It’s fresh. It still hurts and I imagine it will for awhile. I have figured out by now that I tend to learn things the hard way. Fine, I accept that. What I can’t figure out is… what is the lesson here? What am I supposed to be walking away with? What is the take away message? If I can’t walk away with him, I’m walking away with something. I will tell you how I saw things yesterday and I will tell you how I see them today.

Yesterday through all of my tears, I thought I was leaving with nothing more than a broken heart and a shattered self esteem. Oh, and a real sense that the world was unfair. He’d said to me, “You didn’t do anything wrong, you’re great. You have nothing to apologize for. It’s just something I can’t get over.” The something is my new tattoo. I got it last Thursday. I had thought long and hard about it before I made the appointment. I’d carried the picture around in my planner for close to a year. For the two weeks prior I would look down at my wrist and ask myself how I would feel about it if I had one right then and there. I would check with myself when I went to work, before meetings, before talking to my kids, and so on and so forth. How would I feel if this person sees it, or my children, or anyone else? I was pretending to live with a tattoo on my wrist as much as a could before I really got it. I was sure of my decision by the time I was there sorting out creative differences with the artist. The tattoo is a dragonfly with the meaning of my name just below it. “Beloved.” It has been nothing short of a life long journey to truly spread my wings and believe that I AM beloved. I am beloved because God made me. It’s that simple. It is not about who loves me, it’s not about my weight, the texture of my hair or whether or not I fit in with others. I know this, but even the beloved sometimes allow the negative thoughts to creep in when their relationships end. It takes great courage to fight them off.

So here is the kicker for me. I have this tattoo that reminds me that I am beloved and worthy of love, and that I am good enough. I have it for less than 72 hours before it becomes the reason he gave me up. Our relationship was gone in an instant. He never saw the tattoo. It didn’t matter. It was against everything he believed in. In short, it was a deal breaker. I was not in a good place yesterday. I fought long and hard to make the negative thoughts go away. Today, I am stronger and I understand that I did nothing wrong. It’s important for people to stick to their values. He owned the issue and did not fault me. He simply stated he could no longer be with me. Is it unfair? Maybe. But I’m determined to leave with a lesson learned. For me the lesson is this. Stick to your values and know your deal breakers. A deal breaker for me is someone who cannot accept me for the way that I am and the journey that I am on. Most importantly, I know that even without a relationship and even with a new tattoo I am still beloved. In fact, I always have been.