But I want…I need…You should…

Although my first marriage only lasted 4 ½ years due to the untimely death of my husband, it lasted long enough for me to begin to learn some important life lessons.

JG was a good man.  He worked hard, loved his job, turned his pay over to me and never questioned how I spent it, was home every night by 5:30 (unless he had to pick up equipment for repair from Bakersfield or somewhere far away.)  He thought he was getting a sweet, young woman who would complete his life.  I thought I was getting someone who would fill my insatiable need for reassurance, affection and attention. 

We were both wrong.

He worked all day, six days a week and we spent most of the seventh day at church.  Several times every month I would complain, beg, nag and pout about how little attention I was getting from him.  Why couldn’t he take an occasional day off?  Why didn’t he tell me he loved me more often?  The only relief were our occasional vacations where I got to be with him 24/7.  But for 50 weeks out of 52 I was unhappy and made sure he knew it.

I didn’t like the results.  We were both unhappy most of the time.  Not the marriage either of us had envisioned!

I was finally desperate enough to tell God, “I’ll do anything to make this marriage better.  I’m even willing to change if you’ll just tell me how!” (I’m sure God breathed a sigh of relief!)  There were no lightening bolts or voices out of the heavens, but the first little whisper of an idea came shortly after.  “Instead of complaining about how little time you have together, how about being grateful for any time you DO HAVE?”  Hmmm…

So, every evening when his truck pulled into our driveway, I said a prayer of thanks.  “Thank you that he’s home safely.  Thank you that he comes home faithfully.  Thank you for the next few hours that we have together.”  And then greeted him warmly when he came through the door.

A few weeks later, as he was leaving for work one Saturday morning, he said, “I’m planning on coming home at noon today.  Is there anything you’d like to do?”  Shock.  Wow.  I didn’t even know what to say.  If my memory serves, we had lunch, went for a drive, got an ice cream cone…all without any discord…peacefully, lovingly…time that nurtured my need for his attention.

That lesson…being grateful for what is, rather than unhappy about what isn’t…has continued to be a life-lesson theme for me.  This lesson repeatedly calls me back to what Ekhart Tolle calls “the present moment” in his book, The Power of NowIn this moment I am safe.  In this moment the main bills are paid.  In this moment I have food for myself, my chickens and my dogs.  Living in the moment, and being grateful for what is RIGHT NOW, is a powerful spiritual practice that continues to challenge and enrich my life.

Being grateful for what is good NOW seems to go against our natural inclination to worry about the future, fret about how a bill will be paid, focus on our partner’s failings, create imaginary scenarios in which we fail, or are disappointed.

But the payoff for gratitude is a more peaceful life, more peaceful relationships, a quieter mind, an opening that seems to attract more miracles like JG’s offer to come home at noon, or unexpected income, or help such as the woman who offered to help me transfer groceries from my loaded cart into the trunk of my car this week.  Gratitude seems to grow the good in my life.  Will you take the challenge?

What is true about your life NOW for which you can be grateful?  Are you willing to join me in the discipline of pulling our attention back to RIGHT NOW and being grateful for the good that is ours in this moment?  You have my respect and support if you answer “Yes!” and my compassion and understanding if you refuse…  It’s hard.  It’s not a once and it’s done event.  It is a practice, a journey, a calling that must be answered over and over again, moment by moment.  

All I can add is that the practice of gratitude, although certainly not done perfectly, has brought many more blessings and miracles into my life than I couldn’t have gotten by complaining and nagging!

Are You Having a Marriage Groundhog Day?

The movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell has made the term, Groundhog Day, a metaphor for anything that happens over and over again with confusing, agonizing dependability.

Could this be true of your marriage?  Are you having the same argument over and over again?  Feeling the same frustrations with each other? Unable to communicate effectively?  Bored with the same-old, same-old routines?

Having nothing but Marriage Groundhog Days gradually drains the energy out of your love.

Murray’s character was bewildered and frustrated because nothing changed…not the calendar, the activities, the people, until he got the message that he needed to change! He did, and then life began to be fresh and fun again.

To expect things to get better without any positive changes being made by either partner is crazy-making. 

When my marriage to Jim was desperately unhappy I sincerely believed that Jim was the only one who needed to change. But I was finally in enough pain to seek help for me.   I began to see what only I could change…my way of handling anger, for one.

Fortunately, Jim eventually got on board so we could, together, learn better communication and conflict management habits.  We resolved our differences and began enjoying each other again!

Have you been waiting until your partner was willing to seek help with you?  Are you convinced that nothing can get better until he/she changes?

In my twenty-five years of coaching, I’ve noticed that one partner is often the initiator…the one to say, “We need help!” and to look for help even if the spouse isn’t willing to go along with it.  Is that person you?  Are you willing to initiate change?

Schedule a call with me. No charge. No obligation. I’ll help you explore where to start…with or without your partner’s participation.   https:meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Have the courage to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world marriage.” -Mahatma Gandhi

FOUR REASONS Why Being a Step-Mom (or Dad) is Hard!

Reason #1: THE STEP-CHILD

You did not conceive, give birth to or delight in the birth of this child.  You did not nurse him or walk with him when he had colic.  You did not see her first smile or gaze with wonder into her eyes.  You didn’t rejoice when he turned learned to crawl.  You didn’t laugh when she said her first word.

For a birth parent there are a million moments with this child that are like invisible threads winding these two hearts together.

You enter this child’s life after age four, or eight, or twelve years of these moments that you have missed.

You are beginning to build a relationship when this child already is tightly bound to his birth mother and father.  No matter what difficult dynamics may be between them, this child is deeply, genetically and emotionally loyal to the two who gave her life.

Reason #2: THE FATHER

He’s a great guy or you wouldn’t have fallen in love with him.  You believe you can help him heal from the trauma of divorce or the loss of his former wife.

What you don’t immediately see is that he feels sorry that his kids have suffered trauma, too.  He couldn’t protect them from the loss of their mother.  Or he left their mother because he was unhappy or the situation was intolerable.  He believes, whether it’s true or not, that he’s contributed to a deep wound in his kids.  He wants to make all other parts of their lives as easy and conflict free as possible to make up for the pain they have felt or are experiencing.

So, he wears rose colored glasses when it comes to his kids.  He sometimes excuses behavior you think needs correction.  He doesn’t seem to notice when they leave their stuff all over the house, or eat candy before dinner, or are rude to you.

And he resents it when you suggest his kids may need more dependable structure in their lives.  After all, what do you know?  You didn’t live through the events that brought them to this place.  You don’t understand that Susie is especially sensitive and must be treated with kid gloves.  Or that Bobbie is just acting out his confusion and only needs time to adjust.

Reason #3: THE MOTHER

You are, in many ways, acting the role of the mother.  You may fix meals, drive to school, do the laundry, and attend sports events,  ad nauseam.  But you do not enjoy the loyalty or the affection of these children.  That belongs to their real mother.

And she may be jealous of sharing her time and authority with you.  She may still be reacting to the pain of her dream family splitting apart whether or not it was her choice.  She may see you in competition with her for her children’s affection.  She may want to punish the former spouse by changing custody plans at the last minute, or taking him back to court for more money.  She might even tell lies about him…and you… to the children!  She may try to engage you in the drama.

And your beloved may be so sick of dealing with her that he is relieved when you take over the communication with her…meaning you are drawing her fire more than him.

Having an adult, mature relationship with an Ex where the needs of the children are put ahead of the convenience of the parents (and step-parent) is an ideal situation.  It even occasionally happens that way.  And sometimes relationships with an Ex that start out crazy gradually become more sane.  (Watch the videos recommended below to see how one father learned to handle his “crazy Ex.”)

But sanity seems to be the rare exception when it comes to broken marriages and custody of children.

Reason #4: YOU, THE STEP-MOTHER

Yes, you too, may be contributing to the issues.  Often you, the “new wife,” believe you can rescue this wonderful man.  You are the salve that will heal his wounded heart.   You will provide the love and stability that these hurting children need.  You will love them all back to health and happiness.  You will be the catalyst for a more positive future.

And then you begin to resent how unappreciative they all are!  You are being taken advantage of and feel used.  You chafe at the lack of authority you have to make decisions and follow through with needed discipline.  You can’t understand why your beloved doesn’t see that Bobby needs firm boundaries, or that Susie shouldn’t get her own way just because she’s throwing another tantrum.

Can’t he see that he’s ruining his precious children?  Doesn’t he understand that you’re giving advice because you care about what kind of adults they will grow up to be?

THERE IS HOPE FOR STEP-FAMILIES

Unrealistic expectations are at the core of so many step-family choices that add to the chaos and pain rather than relieving it.  You cannot force a new, fragile step-family into the happy, well-adjusted family that most imagine being a part of when they marry.

And yet there are proven guidelines that help the unique dynamics of a step-family work more smoothly.  I said “more smoothly” because step-family life is very rarely smooth.  It is multiple times more difficult to navigate around the issues and personalities in a step-family than to deal with the normal ups and downs in a first marriage with shared birth children.

Visit this page on my website to listen to interviews of several real-life step-couples who have successfully dealt with all of these issues.  Hearing their stories is far more effective and powerful than if I were to give you a list of guidelines in this article. Their experience is inspiring and their solutions are practical and duplicatable! 

  • Hear Jeremy and Lisa’s story and the valuable lessons they’ve learned.
  • Listen to James and Kim share some things they did impressively well.
  • And you must hear how establishing a few house rules made a big difference to Sherman and Alexa.

http://nancylandrum.com/stepping-twogether

Holiday Traditions: A Year-End Gift

There are many post-holiday traditions: the after-Christmas sales, returning items that don’t fit or don’t suit, football games, taking down the tree and house decorations, cleaning up the trash, finding a place for the unusual gift, eating the last of the goodies, moaning over weight gained, enjoying the holiday photos, savoring the memories, or recovering from the unpleasant incident with a relative…

Moving from this year to the beginning of another brings up all kinds of feelings in me.  I sincerely hope that by this time next year my knee injury will be fully healed so I can enjoy walks with my dogs again, and ride on my elliptical without pain.

I’ve been stretched to the max by the course I set out on a year ago to create an online communication skills course.  It is completed, I think.  And ready for students.  But I find I’ve only climbed one mountain to discover another bigger mountain ahead of me…marketing.

However, I have learned a lot this year.  It’s OK to ask for help.  It’s just fine that I can’t do everything myself.  There are people out there who LOVE to do what I don’t want to do, or don’t know how to do.  The building of an online business is a process of ups and downs.  I don’t expect to get it all right the first time.

For the past few months I’ve been longing for someone to take my hand and guide me through steps one through ten, cheering me on all the way.  I don’t remember if my longing ever took the form of a prayer, but an answer has come…I think.  I’ll have to wait and see, but I’m hoping I’ve found the experienced guide for whom I’ve been longing to take me through this marketing, course-building maze.

Whenever I’ve felt discouraged—out of my league—challenged by programs like Camtasia, Kajabi, and GotoWebinar, I’ve taken a deep breath, sometimes just left it alone for a few days, and then cajoling myself like I might a young child learning to ride a bike, promised myself I would go slow, call tech support when I got stuck and conquer this giant!

You may have heard me refer to Helga, the negative voice in my head.  She loves to remind me of my age.  “You’re too old to start doing this!”  But I’ve learned to say back to her, “If I wasn’t doing this, what would I be doing?”  Silence.

My dream for 2018 is two-fold:  To create an online relationship skills course, (or courses) that adequately support me, (yes!) but also to help hundreds (or dare I say thousands!) of couples learn skills and concepts that will enable them to create and enjoy the marriage of their dreams!

For the past twenty-five years I’ve taught classes and privately coached couples, many of whom have transformed their relationships from highly conflicted into consistently loving and respectful.  Every time I see that transformation begin to happen, I feel energized! Joyful! Sure that I am exactly where I’m meant to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to do!

This is my New Year’s Gift to You:  A free coaching appointment either in person (Murrieta, CA) or via Zoom.com.  We can spend some time together, get acquainted, and see what I can do to help further your 2018 dreams for your marriage.  Click on the link below to set up an appointment!

Wishing you the Best Year of your life and your marriage!

Schedule Your Free Appointment!

Nancy