Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

We have received valuable comments on the blog from two other women who are also going through divorces. As they each point out, it is hard to get started and even more difficult to keep the forward momentum going. If you are finding yourself stalled and begin questioning your abilities to cope, refer to these suggestions and see if they resonate for you.

Consider what will help you let go of negative thoughts and preconceived notions of failure. Are you holding on to unrealistic expectations, an unfounded criterion of perfection, or an intolerance of anything less than total success? Allow your ideas to run wild as you open yourself up to new attitudes. Use your power to turn your beliefs, step by step, into positive "what ifs."

Brainstorm with a friend to clarify what kinds of resources you can pursue to help you through this process. Support can come from many directions – personal relationships, coaches or therapists; or from financial assistance, outside validation and endorsement. Use whatever support is available to aid and encourage you.

Let your creativity flourish so that you see yourself from a new perspective. Here, the initial goal is to uncover the courage to begin the process. Once you start, your experience will give you the incentive to continue. Lisa found that "I need much less than I thought to live comfortably. It's amazing how much more we spent before – and we had so little to show for it. I'm now feeling full in a different way. I know what I want and I will work to get it."

When prospects seem bleak, these tips can stimulate you toward achieving your goals. Trust yourself and your own wisdom as you begin to integrate your changes and create a new and positive direction. You will find the inspiration that you need to make this the best time of life.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

We have recently been focusing on improving the relationship with your significant other. But, truth-be-told, sometimes relationships come to an end and divorce is the result. What to do then to pick up the pieces and take the first steps toward living a full life again? How do you turn a crisis into a challenge?

Lisa was divorced when her son was in grade school. Soon after, she lost her job in the wake of massive lay offs. Finding herself at a crossroads, she decided to take a chance and follow the passion she had dreamed about for years - to write a book. "Going forward, I feel empowered and alive. After years of working in the support of others, I am now the artist. It is a truly wondrous experience as I move into the next phase of my life."

You too can respond to a dramatic change by tapping into more optimistic thoughts and seeing the situation as a challenge. Create an opportunity to focus your energies and pursue your own dream. Change the negatives to positives as you choose your path. Here are some steps to help on your journey.

Look back over your life and review how you have dealt with other major changes. What have you learned from your life experiences? As philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Recall what worked and employ the most effective coping strategies again. Discard what didn't.

Assess your strengths and how you have used them in particular situations before. Has your curiosity or love of learning encouraged you to gather information from the Internet, books or seminars in order to facilitate your decision making? Whereas some strengths may come naturally to you, others many have to be developed through hard work. Evaluate how you can build on your assets now.

Next week we will offer some more tips to help you accomplish the goals you set for yourself.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A remark on last week's post was that a good relationship needs to be nurtured. What follows are the final comments from our mens' poll - and they agree.

Change has probably been an integral part of your marriage - in the roles you each play and in the way you relate to each other. Tom has been able to focus on the changing realities of his situation. “It’s a matter of accepting what is, rather than what you would like it to be. It’s not easy and I feel I am always working toward that goal. Our lives have had a series of ups and downs - we both try to be flexible and accept what is. Usually we succeed and are able to move on.”

Steve, retired for several years, summed up his marriage this way: “We began as husband and wife in a more traditional relationship. Overall, I was the noisemaker and she was the nest-maker. Now I’m more involved around the house – I help with laundry, do the dishes. We’re a team and our roles interchange, depending on who is interested or available. I have learned a lot but changed only a little. I try to be less temperamental, more compromising, more giving. When I was working, I used to be more focused on only myself. Now I’m paying attention to me, her and us - and still learning new things about all three.”

What are you and your partner doing to keep the sparks flying?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

One of our readers was motivated to plan a surprise for her husband's birthday after seeing last week's post. With our busy lives it's so easy to just remain on automatic pilot. See if any of the following comments from our recent poll stimulate you to action.

As a single man, Barry had enjoyed an active sex life and finally married later in life. He was determined to make this relationship work. “I recognize that I’m not a young man anymore and factor that into my thinking about sex. Since this is a marriage and not a date, there are other issues that sometimes get in the way of our feeling close, like resentments about how we each spend money. We try to talk it out and not let bad feelings build up."

Husbands in successful long-term marriages believe that mutual acceptance and respect are crucial. Charles and his wife have learned from each other. “I have accepted who she is and I’m not trying to change her anymore. The years together have made both of us more tolerant. And I sometimes think that she understands me better than I understand myself.”

Mike talked about how he was affected by his wife’s attitude. “I feel her love and respect for who I am and what I say, even though we do not always agree. This makes me feel safe. I look forward to our life together even though we have no idea where it will be or what it will bring. But I want to enjoy it in small and big ways, daily, for however long it will be.”

Saturday, March 03, 2007

We always speak from the female voice because that's who we are. However, we've taken a poll and, over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing comments from men about their perspective on long-term relationships.

Often it's a struggle for marital partners to maintain commitment to each other. However, many men recognize that the outcome is worth the effort. Henry talked about his secret to success. "We've never lost our focus – we knew we had to work to stay together. It was the two of us in the beginning and it would be the two of us when the children grew up. We took at least one trip a year by ourselves and tried to go on a date every week or so, to reconnect. I guess it worked – we’re still together after 25 years."

Bill was determined not to make some of the same mistakes with his second wife that he had with his first. "I used to believe that my partner would be like my mother - with the added component of sex. That she would be there to take care of me, no matter how I treated her. I grew up after my first marriage failed. My second wife made it perfectly clear about what she needed and wanted in order to make the relationship work."

Shared interests have made it somewhat easier for Gary and his wife to feel like a team. "We share major goals and support each other in our individual pursuits. We just started taking dance lessons – we both love music and want to stay in shape. Collaborating on creative projects in and out of work is important for us."

Shortly after they were married, Ed and his wife came up with a plan to help them maintain their commitment. "We decided to make Wednesday nights 'divorce night.' We knew that we had that time to talk about whatever was going on between us. That way we never felt trapped – we each knew that we had an out if we wanted one."

The meaning of intimacy can change over time. Rich misses the exciting sexual encounters of their courtship and early marriage. "Sexual intimacy is important – the relationship would have never started unless we were on the same frequency. Now aging and illness have brought problems and we are experimenting with different ways of being sexual." Matt has been married for 32 years. "Our sexual relationship is just as juicy but less frequent. We are more affectionate, but have fewer moments of passion. My current libido feels like I’m 35 but my mature mind overcomes dangerous ideas every time." David feels that, although the sexual relationship with his wife is still important, affection plays a bigger part in their intimacy. “We are very close and physical. We like to touch, hold each other. We are as intimate as ever even though we are not as sexual."

Which statements apply to your relationship? Let us hear your reactions.