The power of “sure”: How one word shapes relationships

handsMy husband is Senegalese. I am not. That means the beginning of our marriage was full of cultural adjustments that were tough but beneficial. Like his incredibly big and open heart. This man will give away our belonging in a minute. He’s also quick to invite people to visit… or live with us. It’s the West African way: teranga, a Wolof word that can be loosely translated as hospitality, but its far more than that. It’s not just about obligatory niceties. It’s about going above and beyond to make a person feel loved, to let them know you truly appreciate their presence. I can’t front; I was annoyed at first. Like, “Who are these people and where is all my stuff?” But my heart softened and I think I’m much kinder and more considerate because of it. Guess I developed a bit of teranga myself.

Another adjustment I had to make was hearing the word “sure” all the time. He used to say it with the cutest little accent, which has since faded. *Insert one lonely tear* Any time I’d ask him a question or to do something, he’d use that word, and I really liked it. Like most people, I was used to “yes” and “ok,” but he said sure for everything. I couldn’t really pinpoint why I liked it so much, but I did! Made me feel good. It took a while for me to realize that embedded in the word sure is the indication that not only is the person willing to meet your request, but they’re actually happy to do. Sure is teranga, hospitality of the highest order.

Think about it. Is it even possible to say sure with malice or annoyance in your voice? It’s the word we use when we’re eager to please, happy to be of service. It lets the person know, “You’re not bothering me. I want to help you.” How good does it feel when someone responds that way?

Business owners (good ones) say sure when customers ask to customize orders. Grandmothers say sure when grandchildren ask for yet another piece of candy. Fathers say sure when weary children ask to be carried. It’s a word of genuine appreciation of presence. That’s why I felt giddy when he said it. It wasn’t the accent; it was the love the word comes wrapped in, the gentle whisper of eager service. Every relationship needs that. To know your life partner wants to serve you, derives joy from serving you, produces a sense of security and respect that only pushes you to want to do the same. And so a cycle of service is created. This is where love lives and grows. The ebb and flow of marriage is still there, but the undercurrent of service always brings it back to balance. So I guess it isn’t really the word that’s magical. It’s the intentions that drive the word, the kindness behind it. So much packed into those four little letters.

It’s not just marriages that can benefit from its use. I try to use it in every relationship of value. I make a point to say sure to my children as frequently as possible. “Say ‘sure,’ mommy,” my son will say. He notices when I don’t. He hasn’t told me as much, but I think he gets the same feeling I got when I first heard his dad say it to me. He’s only five, but he’s astute enough to feel the good in it. I think we all are.

Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Wilson Sanchez

 

The Danger of Comparing Spouses

dont compare spousesI bet my husband is better than yours. No need to get offended. I bet yours is better than mine, too. That’s just how it works. Every husband (and wife) comes with a list of pros and cons. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no getting around it either. It’s the nature of human beings. It also seems to be pretty natural for us to compare our spouses to the spouses of others. Bad idea. More often than not, we only think to compare when we see someone else doing something our mates do not do. If someone else’s husband delivered “just because” flowers to the job, you’re reminded of how you haven’t received flowers in ages. If someone else’s wife hits the gym regularly, you’re reminded of how your wife, well, doesn’t.

Focusing on all the things your spouse doesn’t do can cause you to downplay the many things they do do. Your husband may not be the best at gift giving, but maybe he knows how to make you laugh and  is a great listener. Your wife may not be a size 4, but maybe she is kind, thoughtful, and very supportive. Assuming you didn’t marry  a complete grouch, your spouse should have a substantial “pro” list. Don’t forget that. Getting caught up in what you assume is going on in other people’s relationships will only create problems in yours. If you have a problem with your mate, by all means, address it, but don’t let what you THINK is going on in someone else’s relationship affect how you view your own.

Most of the time, we don’t even know the full details of what is going on in others’ relationships. We get bits and pieces from the source and then let our imaginations fill in the rest. You never know, maybe the frequent “just because” flowers are really “sorry I slapped you last night” flowers. And maybe the  size 4 wife works out so much because it’s her only escape from all the tension in her home. Or maybe they’re really all as happy as the Cosbys. (Now, that’s happy.) Either way, it doesn’t matter. What’s happening with other couples has nothing to do with what’s happening with you. Everyone’s situation is unique, their set of circumstances different. What should matter to you is the fact that you’ve married a good person that you feel safe with and can trust. It’s hard to find the person that is just the right fit for you. If you’ve found that, don’t ruin it by comparing him/her to what may be a skewed perception of someone else.

Also, keep in mind that your “con” list isn’t empty either, bucko. All the time you spend focusing on your spouses flaws could be better spent getting yourself together.  I think a lot of divorces come from a fixation on the other. Before marriage, we’re constantly trying to improve ourselves to make the other happy. After marriage though, we flip the script. We start to focus on what try need to be doing to make us happier. Nothing wrong with expecting your spouse to want you to be happy, but it seems we forget (or perhaps never learned) that the best way to find happiness is to seek it out for yourself rather than expecting others to bring it to you. Have  a talk with your spouse, not about your issues with him, but about your issues with yourself. Tell them what you think you should work on most and how you think working on that problem can positively affect your marriage. Invite your spouse to do the same. They will surely appreciate the change of focus and be inspired by your willingness to be more introspective. If nothing else, they’ll love to hear you admit that you’re not perfect. Spouses need to hear that sometimes. We all do.

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How to be Cool While Married: 5 Steps to Increase Your Marital Satisfaction and Engagement

cool marriage increase satisfaction and engagementSo I decided to take this Thanksgiving to talk about, you guessed it, being cool. I mean, isn’t that what every married person wants, to have swag everlasting? Sure it is because by “cool” and “swag,” I really mean “feeling satiated, excited, and energized about life with your partner.” That’s what married cool is all about.

See, this is what happens:

  •  Get engaged. Cool factor is high.
  • Get married. Cool factor is even higher.
  •  Start life as a couple. Cool factor is off the charts.
  • Get to know each other on a new level. Discover differences and shortcomings… and other things that just get under your skin. Cool factor wanes.
  • Argue over some of those differences and shortcomings. Cool factor gets low.
  • Ego gets the best of you. Stuck in your feelings. Cool factor gets dangerously low. Refill needed.

And if couples don’t get that refill, the cool runs out and divorce begins to look better and better.  Ain’t nobody got time for that, so this is what you do to keep your cool reserves in good shape.

1. Be supportive—wildly, enthusiastically, almost insanely supportive

Your man shouldn’t have a bigger cheerleader than you (and vice versa). It’s your job to sing his praises, particularly when he isn’t able to do it himself.  You know his strengths. You know where he excels and what moves his heart, but he may be scared to engage it. He may doubt himself or think he simply doesn’t have the time. Or maybe he’s pursing his dreams but is stuck and feeling frustrated. You’ve got to help him break through.

Reassure him that he stands much taller than his legs suggest, that his reach is much farther than his arms would have him believe. His real strength does not lie in his physical body. It’s in the seat of his soul, the fire of his mind, the steel of his heart. Don’t even let him forget that. And should he ever report otherwise, change his mind.

Understand though: he may not let on just how much he appreciates your overwhelming positivity. In fact, he might even act a little annoyed. It’s all a front. Why? It’s hard to express such deep gratitude without being reduced to a puddle of tears. It’s easier to play it down, but don’t be fooled.  He lives for the energy you bring. He inhales it and is restored.

2. Reengage constantly

Of course you must engage, but you must also reengage, constantly. In a perfect world, a couple would engage and inertia would take over (objects in motion tend to stay in motion) but, in this world, this thing called gravity interferes. Work, stress, insecurity, misunderstanding, doubt, toxic inner voices, they all create a type of gravity that slowly pulls, slowly separates, slowly destroys. To fight this, we must reengage, reconnect.  Dissolve the corrosion and start fresh.

How do you do that exactly? I thought you’d ask. (I’m a little bit psychic.) Steps 3 and 4 address the “how” or reengaging.

3. Seek out fun as if your life depended on it

First, let’s look at what it means to engage. It literally means “to please or attract, to occupy the attention or efforts of someone.” So, when you seek to reengage your husband, you’re really doing two things: 1.) seeking to attract him by making your presence pleasant; and 2.) seeking to occupy his heart and mind by increasing the emotional connection.

Is there any better way to do that than to have fun together? Creating shared enjoyable experiences strengthens bonds and activates romantic love, you know, that stuff that can go dormant if you don’t stay on top of it. Couples who have fun together like each other more. Couples who like each other more get over disagreements sooner and have an easier time seeing the good in each other.

4. Check in regularly

The second part of reengagement is to check in. The frequency and intensity of the check-ins is up to you, but what’s important is that you both take the time to see that the other is in a good space—physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.

The check-ins don’t always have to be about the relationship. When one of you is off, the relationship takes a hit, so it is necessary to think holistically. It could be that the issue is personal and has nothing to do with the marriage directly, but the affects can still be felt in your home. Make it a point to be present and aware. Know what it looks like when your husband is struggling through something. That makes it easier to support him through it.

5. Push back, lovingly

We all have weakness, and those weaknesses rear their ugly heads in our relationships. When you see a weakness taking hold, address it with love. This isn’t about “putting him in his place” or challenging his manhood. It’s about giving him the push he needs to rise up and out. When couples are able to provide constructive criticism, the relationship is challenged, but it is also strengthened.

Remember, you don’t build new muscle pushing light weights. Trust that applied pressure will only produce a diamond.

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7 Immature Behaviors that Ravage Marriages

immaturity in marriageOne reason young marriage seems so out-of-place in this day and age is the fact that most young people are much less mature than earlier generations were at the same age. Years ago, it was common to get a steady job and start a family right out of high school. That’s practically laughable today. But regardless of the times we live in, maturity is something you must possess to be successful in marriage.

What does that mean? A few things. Mature people approach marriage with a strategy. They know the end goal–to maintain health and happiness–and  don’t allow their emotions to throw monkey wrenches. (Well, not regularly. We all have our off days.) If you display the following behaviors,  your immaturity may be affecting your marriage.

1. Airing your business

Be it online or in person, sharing your personal business with just any ol’ body is never a good idea. In fact, sharing it with friends and family isn’t usually beneficial either. It’s important to have someone you can turn to in times of distress, but I’m talking someone who has proven him or herself as a nonjudgmental listener who can maintain confidentiality. Most people don’t fit that description.  Mature people know their angry words can come back to haunt them, so they are selective when discussing marital issues.

2. Withholding respect when you’re upset

This is something my children do. When they’re getting along, they have nothing but kind words to say to each other, but when they’re mad, I hear things like. “Get off me, you hiney!” and “You’re a bootie!” (I also hear crying, hitting, and tussling.)  They’re still toddlers though, so I let it slide. I understand they’re still developing cognitively and in a state of self-focus, but an adult should be different. You should have evolved beyond that.

Respect is not optional in a marriage. It’s not something you offer whenever you get the feeling. It must be a fixture, a solid unwavering presence. That doesn’t mean you can’t get upset or that you can’t express that anger. It just means you can’t recede back into your 4-year-old self and start name-calling, door-slamming, and tire-slashing. Really, it’s about choices, knowing we have them. When you’re upset, you don’t have to behave childishly. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You can, if you choose, behave differently. You can, if you choose, behave in a way that mends instead of shreds.

3. Being spiteful

Spite is like acid; it erodes love. It can eat a hole through your marriage faster than the most ravenous fire. Why? Because its intentional harm.  It’s one thing to cause harm on accident, but to do it intentionally means your express goal was to hurt the person you love. That never makes sense, and it discourages trust and vulnerability. Who would want to trust you and be unguarded when they know you might hurt them… on purpose.

4. Flirting with other people 

I’m old school. I don’t play that. I know some people say flirting is harmless as long as you don’t act on it, but I just can’t agree. Even if you don’t take it any further, it’s a suggestion that you might be willing. Why put that out there? I look at it like this: If someone were ever to start a rumor about me being unfaithful, would my reputation, my behavior, speak up for me? Would people think, “Nad? Nah, that doesn’t even sound right.” Or would they say, “Yep, I can believe it.”

People will try to infiltrate your marriage on their own. No need to invite them in.

5. Throwing low blows 

Some things are just never ok. Period. Don’t try to justify it. Don’t convince yourself its ok. Just hold yourself to a higher standard. In case you’re wondering what a low blow is, it’s saying or doing something uncalled for that only exacerbates the problem and often has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Examples? Insulting your mate’s family, bringing up past problems that were supposedly resolved, attacking their insecurities, or just saying the meanest, most ratchet thing you can think of. Those are all low blows. Avoid them at all costs.

In the middle of an argument, your goal should be to resolve the problem. You should want to understand and be understood. If that doesn’t seem possible in the moment, take a break. Agree to discuss it again later after things have cooled down. Anything that doesn’t help you reach your goal shouldn’t be said.

6. Not thinking about the future

You have a duty to your spouse to plan. A marriage is about building a life together. That can’t be done haphazardly. You have to brainstorm, draw up drafts, take measurements, create blueprints, and implement. If you’re living strictly in the moment and paying no attention to how you two will grow as a unit, you should reexamine your dedication.  Do you want this marriage to last? Do you want it to grow into something greater than it is? That won’t just happen on its own.

7. Not presenting a united front

You two are a unit. You should know that, and so should everyone else.  If anyone calls into question your spouse’s character outside of his presence, its your job to stand up for him even if it’s your friends or family. In the same way that you maintain a high level of respect for your him, you should encourage others to do the same. Even if you had a huge fight the day before, others should know his name will not be disparaged as long as you are around to stop it. You can’t control what other people say or do, but you can affect how comfortable they are saying disrespectful things in your presence. Maturity involves taking a stand when its necessary regardless of how uncomfortable or upset it may make other people.

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No Filter: 5 Normal Parts of Marriage that Don’t Feel So Normal

Normal marriageThere’s a scene in the 90s film My Girl where Vada, the 11-year-old main character, thinks she’s dying. “I’m hemorrhaging!” she yells, frantically looking for her father. As it turns out, she’s not hemorrhaging at all– it’s just her period–but the discovery of something like that can understandably frightening to a girl who isn’t prepared for it. Marriage is the same way. Many of us expect it to be great (and it is), but we don’t expect the not-so-great parts. So, when they show up, we act just like little Vada, running around in a panic, thinking something horrible has happened.

That’s why it’s so important for young couples to be fully informed of what they’re signing up for. This ain’t no game. It’s real, son! The more realistic your expectations, the happier you’ll be.

1. Feeling bored

After the honeymoon ends and the two of you settle into a routine, you might find yourself feeling bored at times. This is especially true for people with children and/or demanding jobs. This isn’t necessarily a sign that you two aren’t compatible or that the chemistry is gone. More than likely, it’s a sign that you two need to reconnect, re-prioritize. Feelings of boredom can actually be a good thing because they can be the impetus needed to take your marriage off the back burner.

Dating can feel like a constant adventure, but marriage is comfortable–sometimes too comfortable. It’s easy to just settle in and go with the flow, but that’s what you have to fight against. If you really want your marriage to be fulfilling, you have to put into it what you expect to get out. Don’t bother trying to “find” time to spend together. Make time. It’s just as important as that meeting, that appointment, that homework. Who wants to aimlessly drift through a marriage when you can actively carve out a satisfying path? As my mother used to tell me every time I complained of being bored: “Boring people get bored.” So if you’re looking for some action, create it!

2. Disagreeing on things you thought you agreed on

If you’re smart, you probably discussed a bunch of relevant issues before marriage. If you’re human, you probably discovered that everything didn’t pan out as smoothly as you thought it would. For example, maybe its money that’s causing some friction. You discussed it beforehand and you both classified yourselves as savers who are focused on building a nest egg. However, once married, you discovered that your definitions of saving aren’t quite aligned. And now you’re fighting over something that seemed like a no-brainer. What happened?

Girl, life happened. That’s all. No biggie. It just means you two need to adjust your game plan. The original plan was based on speculation, how you thought things would go, but now you’ve got some hands-on experience. Use that to your advantage. You’ve both had some time to see the other in action, so keep those things in mind as you (lovingly) discuss the changes you need to make so the two of you can be on one accord.

3. Finding out you don’t know the person as well as you thought

No matter how long you’ve known a person, there are certain things you won’t know until after marriage. We’re not talking major, life-altering discoveries here. Just things you didn’t know. A lot of times, we discover early in marriage that the latent assumptions we held (and, therefore, didn’t think to bring up) are not universal. So, some of the things you thought would happen naturally aren’t happening and you’re left wondering, “Who is this and what has he done with my man?” Don’t stress. He’s still you’re man. You’re just seeing him in his entirety. You’ve being introduced to sides of him that perhaps weren’t relevant before marriage. Don’t look at it as a bad thing. Instead, think of it as a necessary step, the part of your relationship where you get to know each other on a new and deeper level. It’s like homework for lovers. Cool.

4. Discovering that your spouse has more negative traits than you originally noticed

Now that the rose-colored glasses are gone, you’re noticing all kinds of things that, seemingly, just popped up out of the blue. “When did he develop OCD?” “When did he become so moody?” “Has he always been this cheap?” Though these traits seem new, they’re nothing of the sort. They were there all along, but your love-struck behind didn’t see it! The same goes for him. He’s probably looking at you like, “I don’t like that… or that… or that… and definitely not that.”

Depressing, huh. Not really. You don’t have to like every single thing about your husband to be happily married. You just have to like him more than you dislike him. You just have to choose to love him despite the spots and blemishes. Think of the other people you love (your parents, siblings, friends). Do you love every single thing about them? Probably not, but you’d never let that get in the way of your relationship. Why? Because the good outweighs the bad, because they make you happy more than they do sad, because they make you laugh more than they do cry. In short, there is a reliable benefit in the relationship. Marriage is no different.

5. Second-guessing your decision to get married 

In the words of Chris Rock, “If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I get where he’s coming from. His point? Intimate relationships are hard, so hard that you’d rather not deal with it at times. That doesn’t mean you should divorce. It means you have to know that this, too, shall pass.

No she didn’t hit me with that trite a_ _ cliche, you say to yourself. Oh, yes, I did. So, what, you wanna fight? No, seriously, it really will pass, especially if you know how to handle conflict, especially if you remember that your spouse always deserves respect, especially if you know that the ego must die. The next time you find yourself wondering if you’ve made the right choice, imagine how it would be without your spouse. Think of what it would be like to be alone, without his love, without his touch. If that’s not what you want, there’s your answer.

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5 Ways to Help: How to Support Young Adults Through Marriage

Note: I use the word “child” throughout this piece, but I’m talking about full grown adults here. No child marriage on my watch.)

support young couplesLet’s face it. Young Couples have their work cut out for them. Not only are they young (i.e., inexperienced, possibly naive, possibly uninformed) but they live in a society that says youth is for everything but marriage. Aint nobody supposed to be getting married before the age of 30. You should be out kicking it, dating, experimenting, living it up, painting the town red. That’s what they tell us, isn’t it?

Well, to that, I say… nothing. The newlywed me would have crafted a jazzy little retort, but I’m beyond that now. I couldn’t care less about what society suggests. It’s responsible for the promotion of a bunch of other ideas I choose not to adopt, so I won’t even waste my breath. I will say this though: To each his own. If you don’t like the idea of getting married in your 20’s (or ever), fine by me. Do your thing. But do understand that other people (your children included) will also do their thing, which could involve making decisions you wouldn’t. Don’t fault them. Don’t question them. Don’t attempt to dissuade them.

This is not to say that every starry-eyed young couple who wants to get married immediately should, but it is to say that young marriage can work and can be a very good decision, particularly for people who have a rockin’ support system.

What young couples need is support, someone to help them stay focused and positive. Following are 5 things you can do to show your love and support for them and their decisions.

1. Always see the good, even when they don’t

It can take time to learn how to be calm and how to quiet emotions in times of stress and discord. That means your child may call you in distress, claiming that things are in a horrible state of disrepair. This isn’t the time to say “Told ya so.” This is not the time to agree with them and suggest they come on back home. It’s the time where you calm them down and help them to see things more clearly, without the filter of raging emotion. You don’t have to become Dr. Phil or Iyanla Vanzant. It’s not even that deep. (Well, actually, it is, but you know what I’m saying.) All it takes is a sympathetic ear and the resolve to be positive. Something as simple as, “Calm down. It’s not that bad,” can be a big help. Let them know that marriage has its ups and downs and that you’ll help them get through it. Even if you’ve had a bad experience with marriage, don’t assume your child’s will be the same. Help her to do things differently than you did.

2. Don’t make sarcastic remarks

You say its just a joke, but she knows better. Sarcastic remarks about her decision to marry are not funny, and they do nothing to nurture your relationship with your child. If anything, they drive a wedge between you two make her much less likely to come to you when she really needs you. Take your own advice: if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.

3. Respect the spouse

So the spouse may not be who you would have chosen; he’s still her husband. You have to respect that. When you say mean things about her husband, not only are you disrespecting him but you are disrespecting your child, the one who has made a commitment to this man. If you love her (and I’m certain you do), why would you put her in a position where she feels forced to choose between her parent and her spouse? Surely, you know there’s no outcome in that situation she’d truly be happy with, so its bound to be a stressful experience. Is that what you want for your child? Do you mean to make her so unhappy?

Accept that she has chosen a husband, not a replacement for you. You are still her parent. The parent-child bond is still there, still strong. Her getting married hasn’t changed any of that. Some parents are intimidated by the idea of their child marrying because they feel they’ll be left out, no longer necessary. (This can be especially true for single parents who have poured themselves into their children in the absence of a lasting romantic relationship.) The truth, though,  is that your married child needs you more. Perhaps not on a physical, daily basis, but she needs her parents to help her cope gracefully with the normal stresses of married life. She needs to know that you’ve got her back and that you trust her to pilot her own life.

The point of being a parent is not to control your children. It is to raise them into productive citizens who can conduct themselves with sense and contribute to society. You’ve done that. So, let go of the reigns and allow them to make their own decisions. And should things go terribly wrong, you can be there with open arms, waiting to be a parent in the most meaningful way.

4. Be open to alternative choices that may not seem ideal to you

As times change, so does the appearance and function of marriage. What seems appropriate to you may not work for them, and what works for them may seem wrong and unorthodox to you. For example, if one or both are still in school, they may need to live apart for a short period of time. That’s ok. Or perhaps she’s paying the bills because her husband, who is still in school, is working an unpaid internship and she has a steady job. Or maybe your super independent, career-driven daughter has decided to stay home with her young children. She may have decided this because the cost of day care is too high or because she’s simply had a change of heart. Either way, young couples need the space to construct their marriages in ways that benefit them. Give them that space. It’s fine to voice concerns and offer a different perspective on the possible issues that may arise, but allow her to be an adult and stand on her own two feet. I know it’s hard, but its part of your job.

5. Be on the side of the marriage

As natural as it may feel to automatically take your child’s side, don’t. You’re not doing them a service by always agreeing with them. Don’t simply say what will make them happy. Say what needs to be said to reinstate the peace. Sometimes, a lot of times, you should push back a little, offer a different perspective, perhaps the one their spouse has. Other times, when your child is feeling particularly frustrated and full of negativity, you may need to take the spouse’s side outright. You might have to remind her that her husband always deserves respect and that she should guard his reputation by monitoring how she speaks about him. She may not want to hear that in the moment, but she’ll thank you after it settles in.

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On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 1

This is part 1 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

Face it: We’ve all got stuff– emotional hangups, unresolved traumas, complicated grief. It’s all there. It starts accumulating when we’re young and it builds as we age. Some of us have a lot, others have a little, but we’ve all got it. And if we’re not careful, it will destroy our lives! *Cue thunder and lightening strike and evil diabolical laugh*.  Okay, I admit that was dramatic, but so are you when you let your stuff cloud your thoughts and actions.

Stuff Awareness

We’ve all met people who say things like, “I can’t help it. I’ve got issues, okay?” or, “Sure, I could use a therapist or three.” These comments are usually made in jest, but behind them is an awareness that 1.) they’ve got stuff and 2.) there is enough of it that it causes problems in their everyday lives.  This realization is wonderful if it is followed by action (an attempt to examine and manage the stuff), but it usually isn’t. Most people stop at the realization, assuming that merely knowing somehow makes it okay, or at least less impactful.

Not true. Knowing is just that: knowing. It is the first step in “stuff recovery,” but it is powerless by itself. In fact, when unaided by action, knowing can actually make things worse because it encourages you to feel entitled to and justified in your skewed thoughts and actions.  “Yea, I poured bleach all over his clothes! So what! I got anger issues!”

And that’s one way our stuff takes over our lives. It convinces us that we’re supposed to be thinking and behaving that way. Because we were hurt, shamed, abandoned,  discarded, angered, mistreated, and/or lied to, we now have the irrevocable right to behave this way, and anything less would be uncivilized (said in a most proper British accent).

Well, you got me. You definitely do have the right to your thoughts and behaviors (as long as they don’t break the law), but you also have the right to happiness and healthy relationships. You have the right to break old patterns and to step into a new light. You’re not going to do that if you stay where you are. To experience something different (and better), you must do something different. Take it or leave it. No way around it.

Stuff Unawareness

If you’re the type that’s good (like, really good) at picking up on other people’s issues, but never has a word to say about your own, you’re probably unaware of your stuff. People who are unaware usually have an “other” focus. They see the problems in their lives through a lens of finger pointing and blame.  “He did it.” “It’s his fault.” “He’s the crazy one (not me).”

People who are unaware often think quite highly of themselves but can’t figure out why everyone they get in a relationship with turns out to be so WRONG. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. If I had to choose, I’d say there are far more people in the unaware group than the aware group. Then there are those floaters, the people who are aware of certain issues and unaware of others.  Truth moment? I think I fit in there. I admit that  for two reasons:

1.)I want be real and relatable. (Aint no Photoshopping and airbrushing up in here!) and

2.)It is important to note that there is always work to be done, even if you’ve already done a lot.

Stuff Work

So, how can you go from not knowing to knowing? And if you’ve already done that, how can you move on? First, you’ve got to uncover what your issues are.  Look back over your life (your childhood, relationship with your parents and other important figures, insecurities, romantic involvements etc.) and look for overarching themes. You shouldn’t be too concerned with actual events. It’s more about the themes those events represent. You may have many different themes, but the ones that are most prevalent should be your primary focus. Most likely, these are the ones interfering with your interactions and thinking.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss common themes and what they mean.

~Nadirah Angail

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