Dealing with the loss of a spouse can be one of the most traumatic and stressful events in a person’s life. This loss often occurs during a stage when many other changes are occurring. Children are grown and have moved away, the couple has retired and has experienced a significant change in routine, financial status may be up or down, contacts with friends and acquaintances may have been curtailed and the widow or widower’s own health may be declining.
During this time of dramatic upheaval where physical, psychological and spiritual boundaries are challenged, accepting that the grieving process will not be brief makes the whole process even more difficult. In going through this mourning period with many individuals, I have found that a period of one to two years is often necessary. The grieving process, given its length is not too extreme, is one of the most essential elements in the healing process.
Reconstructing a daily pattern of life, during the early months of grieving, can be very difficult. Many individuals find themselves alone for the first time since early adulthood. Loneliness seems intolerable and it may feel as if your only confidants are those who have experienced type of loss. Women who have lost their mates are often overwhelmed by activities they were not responsible for in the past, such as mechanical repairs and financial details.
Following are some suggestions that those suffering from the loss of a spouse might find helpful:
- Let family provide nurturance and support. Additionally, professionals such as mental health specialists, clergy and doctors can be of assistance.
- Grief and loss support groups are also extremely helpful. The opportunity to process and share feelings with others experiencing similar difficulties can be invaluable in the healing process.
- Don’t rely on your children to pave the way for you during this transition. Most children will be supportive, but will be proud and be grateful if you allow them to lead their lives while you begin to reconstruct yours.
Through pain, time and love, healing and adjustment can occur allowing the survivor to move on and into the future.
It’s not long ago that men were expected to do all the chasing and make all the decisions when it comes to dating. But how much has this changed in the 21st century?
A survey by DatingDirect.com suggests a new trend — women are becoming sassy and assertive, while men are remaining more traditional in their approach to courtship.
In the survey of over 2,000 people, women reported being less shy on dates than men (29 per cent versus 44 per cent), and making more effort with their appearance — half choose smart, sexy clothes on a first date, whereas 78 per cent of men go for the casual and relaxed look. Women also like to keep the finances on an equal footing. Seventy per cent prefer to split the expense of a date, or pay for themselves. However, 52 per cent of men believe it’s their time honoured duty to pay.
Darren Richards of DatingDirect.com concludes: “The rules of dating may be changing for some, but the concept is still as popular as ever.”
But what might be stopping you from taking the first step? Sometimes even very intelligent, funny, confident women don’t ask guys out because they believe that “it’s the man’s role”, or they fear rejection, scaring men off, or appearing too keen. But there is a whole generation of men who want women to make the first move, and feel that women should embrace the power and independence they now have. And in fact, some guys are just too shy, or don’t know what to say, or think that you won’t be interested.
But perhaps your lifestyle doesn’t bring you into contact with potential new partners. So consider widening your social circle — take up a new class, try out new clubs, get involved in political or volunteer activities. Also, don’t discount your current social network, because often friends, family and work colleagues are more than willing to help and will set up introductions if asked.
Other possible avenues include personal ads in newspapers and more specialized dating services to cater for your specific hobbies or preferences, guaranteeing that you share at least one common interest.
These days, the internet is increasingly used by modern singles to search for a compatible date. So join in discussion groups, forums and chat groups and put your dating skills into action. And in the arena of internet dating, women can be as forward as they like and either side can make the first move. Men report that they are perfectly happy to be approached by women and their supposed “male pride” isn’t hurt at all — quite the contrary!
In many ways, online dating is the ideal way to meet someone suitable, as you can quickly get to know a great deal about a person at no risk to yourself. It’s no small thing to be aware of the other person’s outlook on life, religion, sense of humor etc. before meeting up in person. Chatting in a safe environment encourages honesty and therefore compatibility, so may prevent a wide range of problems occurring further down the line.
Internet dating also avoids the potential problems of dating work colleagues or other people you will inevitable continue to see socially, and it puts you in control of your future without even leaving your front door!
Experts recommend getting to know the other person well via email or over the phone before actually going on a date. The more you know about each other, the easier the conversation will flow. They also suggest remaining anonymous until you feel confident enough to share your contact details (the dating service will have its own internal messaging system). And don’t cast your net too wide geographically or you’ll run up against practical difficulties later.
When setting up a first date, choose a public place such as a restaurant, cinema or museum. If you’re concerned about seeming too ‘forward’, you could invite the guy to something you are going to anyway, like a concert, so it’s like you are asking them to come along.
Tell a trusted friend your plans and arrange your own transport. Then it’s a case of picking up on the cues to your compatibility, so trust your instincts and don’t drink too much. Remember there will always be other dates so there’s no need to settle for second best.
Even in the strongest of relationships, there will be times when small irritations can cause mountains to grow out of molehills, so it’s important to keep striving for better communication.
As the essence of relationships, communication has a great impact on every aspect of life. Yet the channels of communication can sometimes become blocked, even among people who care deeply for each other. It’s often difficult to put our feelings into words or concentrate fully when our partner speaks. Unhelpful silences or verbal attacks can arise and drive us further apart.
Common barriers to communication include: threatening or unpleasant behavior such as criticism and bossiness; only hearing what we want to hear; getting bored or distracted; and not expressing our point clearly. Fortunately, working on our communication skills helps us to break through this sort of impasse. So follow these tried and tested tips to stop you reaching for the expletives and reach an understanding instead.
No matter what else is going on, try to make time for your partner on a day-to-day basis. Good communication is about deepening your understanding of each other, not simply avoiding arguments. Easier said than done, of course, but making time to talk is worth the effort. All being well, these occasions will be enjoyable and bring great rewards, so make a dinner date, share a bath or go for a walk together and let the conversation flow.
Secondly, remember the importance of intimate, non-sexual contact. Hugs and kisses are the glue which holds a relationship together, and consider activities such as sport to reconnect non-verbally. Psychologists believe the vast majority of communication takes place without words through body language.
Do you believe you know everything there is to know about your partner? It may be worth checking this out by asking them questions to reveal more about themselves. To deepen the communication and understanding between you, try talking about the times when you feel happiest or your hopes and dreams for the future. Don’t assume that your partner feels the same way you do.
This could bring up relationship ‘hot spots’ – work, money, childcare – which can then be dealt with openly. Experts suggest setting up reciprocal arrangements in which you both agree to take on an equal number of tasks and chores.
If you find yourself slipping into an argument, there are many ways to keep the row healthy. Most importantly, own your emotions by using “I” statements. For example, rather than “You make me angry,” or “This is all your fault,” try saying, “I feel concerned/upset…”. This keeps things calmer and makes it easier to compromise, as your partner will not become so defensive. Then keep to the point rather than slipping into attack and counter-attack, or emotional withdrawal.
But talking this way is only possible if you are aware of your own feelings. For this, you must recognize them, be accepting of them, and able to express them. We each have our own way of dealing with conflicts – your style may be to avoid the issue, give in, or blame the other person. Being aware of your style and that of your partner will help you resolve the situation.
In the heat of the moment, try to stay calm and accentuate the positive. See the other’s point of view while showing respect, and then look for a compromise that you can both accept. Listen carefully, give empathy and positive responses, and overlook the insults. Respond to criticism as useful information, if at all possible! Remember, the objective is not to stop every argument but to stop the escalating bitterness.
If either partner gets beyond the point of being civil and rational, ask for a “time-out” to calm down. But be sure to agree on continuing the discussion when you have had time to think about it.
Bear in mind that one of the secrets of happy couples is learning to tolerate or accept the other person’s faults. So-called “perfect relationships” do not exist, therefore small faults need to be accepted. Couples counseling encourages reaching an acceptance of one another through compassion and empathy, so you both come to truly understand the other person and become able to share your own feelings in depth. Then you can see the underlying reasons for their criticism or silence, perhaps they are really feeling unloved, rejected or hurt.
Having awareness of these techniques and skills is only half the battle – you need to develop them through practice until they become second nature. It will be an effort to change long-standing habits, but improving communication in your relationship is worth doing, as poor communication is one of the top causes of unhappy relationships
She deserves love and respect, but not at your expense.
As the mother of four sons, I can proudly testify that I am raising mama’s boys. They are cuddly and affectionate. They tell me about their day and they cry to me about their problems.
I love it! I feel acknowledged and needed, and my inner demand for worthiness is deeply satisfied.
But at the same time, whenever my husband picks up the phone to call his mother, I take it as the ultimate act of betrayal. Suddenly, I need him in the kitchen, or the garage must be cleaned. Right now!
Now, I have to say that after twenty-eight years of marriage I’m able to handle these calls and visits to his mama way better, but I still get butt-hurt and jealous. I want to be the only one, the center of his attention.
I remember when we were dating and getting serious and my future husband brought me home to meet his parents.
That’s when his mother pulled me aside and said proudly:
“My son was raised so that he didn’t know where the refrigerator was in the kitchen. I always took care of him. Now, let’s see if you can carry on.”
“Sweetie, honey (addressing her then 24-year-old son). Your favorite TV show is about to start! Let’s go watch it while Katya cleans up the kitchen.”
She thrust her cheek next to his face — a mandate for a kiss — then officially released him. And off went her ‘sweetie-honey,’ leaving me all by myself in the midst of a messy, foreign kitchen. Looking guilty, his dad, who’d been nodding quietly to everything she said, followed them out of the room.
Being only 18, and raised in a household where the young must respect their elders, I bit my tongue and turned on the faucet. When I was done, I quietly snuck out of the apartment with tears of humiliation and betrayal running down my face (I really liked this guy). I ran to my grandma’s house (she lived close by), fell into her arms, and burst into tears. Between hiccupping and nose-blowing, I filled her in on what had happened.
And here’s what my wise grandma said:
“You need to understand, Katya, that his mother has been his only true love from the day he was born. What he did by listening to her is natural to him, not an act of betrayal toward you. He’s only known you for a few months. If you decide to stay together, you won’t have to compete with this woman — she will never be superior to you. Each of you will play different roles in his life, but what you can give him — intimacy, romance, children — she can never do.”
“But Grandma,” I said as I raised my puffy face to hers, “I want him to choose me over his mommy, I want to be his priority.”
To which my grandma smiled and responded: “And you will. Gradually, in time. As you get closer as a couple it will happen naturally.”
Now, years later, I see that what she said was essentially true. However, it took some effort on my part to get there. So here is what I realized …
But wait. First, let me tell you how that horrific night ended.
By the time I arrived home, he was already there, waiting for me. My parents had let him in. With wide, innocent eyes, he rushed toward me:
“Katya, why did you leave? What happened? What did I do wrong?”
Still influenced by my grandma’s wisdom, I explained without judgment, cursing, or blaming, just how bad what had happened made me feel, letting him know that I didn’t want to feel like that ever again. And at that moment, it didn’t matter to me if he got it or not, because I got it — and that’s what was most important.
What has worked for me since then is understanding why he ran to his mommy that night. I now see that he was satisfying some deep emotional need for the familiar. Just like you, your guy needs to feel safe, comfortable and loved — that’s what he really craves from his mom. After all, she was the first person who provided these things for him (or at least she tried, based on her personal level of awareness).
Once he begins getting these needs met by you, Mom transforms into the woman he adores and respects, rather than his primary source of emotional fulfillment. And so, in time, I began providing the things my husband had been getting from his mom, beginning with the basics.
The greatest power in the world is the power of love. When you consciously bring love into any situation, you will transform it.
But the word love is like the word “God”. It can’t be defined in a way that everyone can agree upon. You can only know love in your own way. It’s a feeling more than a thought. But since all our feelings start with a thought, love is first a thought.
You can choose what you want to think. In any situation, you can choose to think love, and you will feel it. Sounds easy, but it’s not.
I remember having an argument with my husband a few years back. I don’t remember what it was about but we were standing in the kitchen facing off with each other.
Fighting for us is rare and when it happens, I begin to panic. I’m not used to having him angry at me or raising his voice at me, it sends me back to being 5 years old.
I actually start to feel abandoned, like the panic I felt as a child when I got separated from my mom in a department store.
So there we were, having this argument and I started to feel really scared. My fear made me shut down and I stood there unable to think clearly or express myself. My whole being was high-jacked by my body’s “fight or flight” response, the “flight” being the overwhelming favorite.
Then an idea popped into my mind from a book I had been reading on The Course in Miracles: whatever is missing in any situation is what you’re not bringing to it.
It was obvious I was not feeling the love in this argument with my husband, I was only feeling really scared.
So at that moment I decided to bring the power of love into the mix.
I brought the idea of love to mind. I thought of how much I loved the man who was standing in front of me, so totally upset. As soon as I had that thought, I had an overwhelming feeling of love in my heart.
I was taken completely by surprise. It was like magic, all my fear and upset-ness drained out of me and I could breathe again. I could find the words I needed to express myself.
Immediately, the feeling in the kitchen changed, we both calmed down and began to smile and laugh at ourselves. The tension was gone and we hugged each other and said we were sorry for getting so angry.
This was a huge lesson for me, the power of love was no longer just a theory. I used it and had an amazing result.
I knew that remembering to bring love into difficult situations would not be easy. Love is illusive and hard to call upon when you’re caught in the middle of feeling lots of other emotions like resentment, fear, guilt, anger, or blame.
The last thing you think to feel at those times is love, but it’s the power that can transform any negative situation.
So here’s what you can do next time you get upset with someone: try to think, rather than feel, love. Bring the power of love into the situation and see how it changes the feeling in the room, and more importantly, in you.