Negative Self-Talk: Don’t Let It Overwhelm You

By: Frances Simone

Frances Simone

There are ways to overcome negative thinking.

Most everyone is familiar with AA’s first step. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable”. Alcoholics lose control when they drink; addicts when they abuse drugs.  Not only is control a huge issue for our loved ones, but for us as well.

So what can we do about this? Recently, I read this. “When you can’t control what’s happening challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.”

What is it we need to control?

Not rescuing our loved ones, not reacting with anger and frustration, not succumbing to self-pity, not harboring resentment, and not letting worry and fear dominate our thoughts and lives. A tall order, especially when a loved one is actively abusing substances. It takes a lot of determination (“ I’m willing to learn how to better handle this situation”) and  courage (“I need to own up to my part in this addiction dance”).  None of this is easy. At least that’s been the case for me.

One of my biggest challenges has been how to gain control of negative thoughts.

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 to 60,00 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. What we tell ourselves on an ongoing basis reflects not only the way we think but how we feel and act. In other words, our thoughts influence how we create our reality. For those of us whose family members and friends abuse substances, our reality is more negative than positive. Dr. Rick Hanson, a psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, writes, “We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but underlearn from positive ones.” If negative trumps positive than loved ones can easily spiral into depression or even despair. When my adult son was abusing substances, fear surfaced and wouldn’t let go.

My self-talk went something like this. What if he continues to use? Will he lose his job? If he loses his job, how will he support himself? How will he pay his rent, make his car payments, buy food and other necessities?  Will I have to step in to support him?  I’ve been advised not to do this. But if I don’t step in, he may lose everything. Can I sit by and let that happen? Should I let him hit rock bottom?  What if he becomes homeless? Can I live with that? 

My catastrophizing was all about negative feelings. But feelings aren’t facts. I needed to learn how to distinguish between the two. For example, today my son is in recovery. The fact is he could relapse again. Substance abuse is a disease. Relapse is a reality. But I don’t need to delve into negative “What if this or that happens.” Instead, I acknowledge this fact and monitor my self-talk. I remind myself that the worst liars are our fears.

Letting go of negative self-talk isn’t easy. Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful.

Identify what you can change.  Recognize that you didn’t cause the addiction, you can’t control or cure it, but you can change the way you think about it. When I first attended my loved one’s group, I listened carefully to long time members who shared the ways in which they made positive changes. If they could do it, so could I.

Check yourself and get busy.  I’ve given myself permission to worry for a set amount of time, say 15 minutes. (Sometimes I set a timer.) After that, I might tackle household chores, or take a walk, run an errand, read a book, bake bread, listen to music or call a friend.

Follow a healthy lifestyle. Set a goal to exercise about 30 minutes most days of the week. (Zumba helps me stay centered.) Follow a healthy diet and embrace a few techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga, or time in nature to manage stress.

Be open to humor. Laugh and smile. At my loved one’s group, we often shake our heads and laugh at our obsessions and irrational behavior.

Practice positive self-talk. Don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Emphasize the positive in your life. Writing in my grateful journal helps mitigate negatives rattling around in my brain.

We may be powerless to change our loved ones, but we can change what we tell ourselves.  That’s where the power is.

Dr. Frances Simone is the author DARK WINE WATERS. Available now.

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Practicing Forgiveness at Thanksgiving

By: Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron

We are cooking and cleaning and decorating like mad to get ready for Thanksgiving. It’s an essential part of holiday preparation. But even as we anticipate the warmth of togetherness and family we also need to prepare for Thanksgiving’s dark side. As much as we love the menu and the ease of this no-gift holiday—when families gather conflict is inevitable.

 Along with the platitudes about gratitude we need to be preparing now for the cornucopia of hurts, wounds, and assaults on pride that is sometimes the real centerpiece when relatives gather. This week –and next– you’ll need to forgive siblings, the spouses, the exes, and the in-laws.

It’s going to happen. Somebody is going to say something to make somebody mad. That someone might even be you.

We all know about resentments, and on Thanksgiving we’ll witness some stunning examples: The aunts who don’t speak, the seething sister-in-law, the ex-husband who won’t come into the house, and the silent, long-suffering teenagers.

On Thanksgiving we’ll be humming, “We gather together….”, but mothers will sigh over daughter’s hair, the childless will offer parenting advice, and the uncle who has plenty will tell those who have none how they should invest their money. Old wounds will be given a good jab, intentionally or not.

Resentment comes from the Latin, re-sentire, to re-feel. Someone else might be the one who starts it by saying the wrong thing, but after that we get to decide whether we’ll feel it once, or twice or for the next twenty years. That’s how we end up with those situations where Aunt Mary can’t come to the wedding because she hasn’t spoken to Bob’s wife ever since… Well, no one really remembers how that one started.

Is it any wonder we eat so much? I think many of those second and third helpings are just to keep the peace.

Frederick Luskin, Director of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford says, “Forgiveness consists of taking less personal offense.” By that he means choosing to give up resentment.

So, what can you do? Here is where you have to give yourself a reminder: “I’m the one with the 12-step program.” Luckily, we have these gems to hold onto as we step up to the Thanksgiving buffet:

“Resentment is like allowing someone to live in your head and not charging them rent.” “Resentment is like drinking poison and thinking that the other person will die.”  “Resentment is like setting yourself on fire hoping other people will die of smoke inhalation.”

Just say those to yourself at dinner and everyone will wonder at the mysterious smile on your face.

When the tension rises in the dining room on Thursday just consider it a warm up for the December holidays to come and make another choice. Let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and the people we will dine with.

Diane Cameron’s book, Out of the Woods is a guide for women new to recovery. With time, recovering women face challenges and Cameron shares her experiences in hopes to teach readers how to handle the unexpected trials of double-digit recovery.

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Keeping Dementia Caregivers Connected to Their Community

By: Deborah Shouse

Simple ways to reach out to a caregiver who may be experiencing loneliness

When my mom was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, I didn’t know anyone else who was going through this journey. I felt very alone, even though I had a beautiful network of friends. I turned to writing to help me make sense of the situation. Eventually, I gathered the courage to share my personal essays with others, often through simply reading my stories aloud to friends and family.


Deborah Shouse

Sharing my thoughts and feelings on this deeply meaningful dementia experience was so therapeutic that it inspired me to reach out to other caregivers to see what helped them along their journeys. Through my years as a family caregiver and through interviewing dozens of caregivers and experts in the field of dementia, I learned how to reach out to others and reduce the feelings of loneliness commonly associated with caregiving.

Here are a few ideas on how you can reach out to caregivers you know:

Listening

When my friend Karen asked me to tell her more about my mom’s life, I was thrilled. I had been so immersed in my caregiving responsibilities that I had forgotten Mom’s fascinating adventures as a nurse in WWII, her worldwide travels, and more. Simply asking questions about the person who is living with dementia and listening avidly to stories about them is a gift to the caregiver.

Visiting

“Your mother is so interesting,” my friend Jane said. Jane had offered to simply come to my house and have a short visit with me and Mom. My mother was going through a period of repetition and I had heard her tale of the natural hot springs in Iceland at least 113 times. But watching Jane lean forward, ask cogent questions and smile at Mom allowed me to appreciate Mom’s stories in a new way. These were cornerstones in my mother’s life and Jane’s interest reminded me what treasures they were.

Enriching

Mom had been a vibrant movie-goer, an avid opera lover and an ardent museum enthusiast. When she could no longer go out, I loved it when people offered to bring arts, culture, and the occasional dog, to us. Studies show that even indirect contact with animals reduces stress. Visits from small dogs and cuddly babies boosted both our spirits and helped us feel more connected within our community.

Bringing over an art book and gazing at favorite painters together brought out our creative spirit and served as a catalyst for open-ended conversation. Singing and playing music with others stirred up positive memories and filled us with happiness and joy.

Exercising

Caregivers tend to forget the power of fresh air and exercise. They often forget the joy of sunshine and trees. When they don’t have the steam to set out on their own, offering to take them on a stroll or run, go to a yoga class, or just sit on a bench in a park can offer moments of connection and renewal.

Noticing

“What can I do for you?” my life-partner often asked. Frequently, I was so overwhelmed I had no answer. So he asked me concrete questions. “Do you need any errands run?” “Would you like me to make dinner?” “Are there phone calls I can help you make? Grocery shopping I can do?” Offering to take over menial tasks of my dementia caregiving responsibilities helped me understand I did not have to soldier through this alone. Help was all around me and one of my journeys was learning how to receive it.

Inviting

It’s not always easy to stay connected with friends who are living with dementia and their caregivers but it is so worth it. Even when my mother felt lost at social gatherings, she still enjoyed the energy of being around empathetic friends. Even when she didn’t understand every word of the conversation, she relished being around others and meeting new people. So did my father and so did I. Having friends reach out with invitations reminded us we were still part of our community.

Asking

Sometimes we don’t know what to say to our friends who are caregivers for those living with dementia. We don’t know what to do to help them. This is when it’s time to simply state the truth and tell them, “I want to be there for you and understand what you’re going through. I want to support you and I don’t quite know how to do it. Can you guide me?”

Chances are the answer will be a warm hug and a resounding, “Yes.”

Deborah Shouse is the author of CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA. Available now.

 

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7 Signs You’re Being Gaslighted

By: Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Gaslighting is a term that comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight.

Vicki Tidwell Palmer

It’s a form of mental abuse where the victim is lied to—or the truth is otherwise distorted—for the purpose of causing the victim to doubt her own reality, memory, or perceptions.

Gaslighting creates the fog of addiction, and perfectly describes what happens to betrayed partners when their spouse is being unfaithful and attempting to cover up his behaviors.

There are many ways to gaslight another person, and the person who’s doing the gaslighting may not always be conscious that they’re engaged in the behavior. But that doesn’t mean they’re not gaslighting, or that the behavior doesn’t have a serious adverse impact on the person they’re confusing or deceiving.

Here are 7 signs that you’re being gaslighted, with recommendations about what to do when you suspect it’s happening to you. Knowing these signs will help you develop your own internal Gaslighting Detection System (GDS).

Feeling foggy or confused.

Feeling oddly foggy or confused is one of the most common symptoms of being gaslighted. For example, you’re talking to your spouse and in the middle of the conversation you begin to feel confused or fuzzy. You might even describe the way you feel as “crazy.”

When you notice that conversations aren’t making sense to you, you’re having a hard time following your spouse’s train of thought, or the topics of conversation change at a rapid pace, it can be extremely helpful to take a time-out. You can simply say, “I’m feeling a bit fuzzy at the moment, and I’d like to take a break. I’ll get back to you later to pick up where we left off.”

Once you’ve gotten some distance from the fog, write down exactly what happened—what was said, what you saw, or what you heard. Or, if you prefer processing your thoughts and feelings verbally, call a supportive friend to talk about what happened so that you can better make sense of it.

Doubting your perceptions.

One of the most powerful impacts of gaslighting is that the victim begins to doubt her perceptions. You may find yourself wondering whether you saw what you believe you saw, or heard what you thought—or knew—you heard. Your spouse may say, “I didn’t say that,” when you’re sure he did.

If you experience doubt about your perceptions more often than you think you should, begin documenting important conversations or agreements in writing. For example, if your spouse tells you he will call a therapist in the next week, you can simply send an email and say something to the effect of, “I’m following up about my request and our agreement that you find a therapist to work with. My understanding is that you will call a therapist in the next week. Please let me know if this is not your understanding of our agreement.”

Outsized responses to trivial matters.

Let’s say you bring up a simple issue like your spouse forgetting to pick up something from the grocery store on the way home that he promised he would. You ask him about it, or bring it up and he says, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you always breathing down my neck?”

Of course, all of us over-react from time to time. But if you experience these kinds of over-the-top responses to ordinary events on a regular basis, gaslighting may be the reason.

Conversations go nowhere.

Do you often have the experience of being in a conversation with your spouse and you either can’t follow the meaning of what’s being said, or the conversation seems to have an endless, repeating loop that never reaches a conclusion or resolution?  Gaslighting may be the culprit.

When you find yourself in a conversation loop, tell your spouse that you’re having difficulty following what he’s trying to say and ask if he can sum up his main point in 3 or 4 sentences. If all else fails, take a relational time-out.

Hocus pocus, change the focus.

Hocus pocus, change the focus is when you bring up a topic or something you’d like to discuss with your spouse, and he changes the topic. For example, you say “I’d like to talk about our couples’ recovery check-ins. We agreed to do a check-in once a week but we’ve only done one in the past month.” Your spouse says, “I thought you said you didn’t want all the gory details about my addiction.”

Changing the subject is a common strategy used by most people from time to time in relationships. But when gaslighting is the problem, it happens on a regular and relentless basis. An excellent response when confronted with a sharp pivot in a conversation is a skill I call The Politician, which essentially involves sticking to your talking points. (Read about The Politician here.)

You feel like you’re on a relationship roller-coaster.

You may feel like you’re walking on eggshells or you have difficulty staying up-to-date with your spouse’s frequent highs and lows. One moment he’s planning a lavish, romantic vacation, and the next he’s snapping at you about being 3 minutes late.

Unpredictability is one of the most effective ways to destabilize a relationship and cause another person to be in a constant state of uncertainty, stress, and hyper-vigilance.

Words and actions don’t match.

When a person’s words and actions don’t match, it can be truly crazy-making. If your spouse says he loves you while being  blatantly abusive, cruel, or hurtful—you are being gaslighted. On the other hand, you may experience him as charming, kind, and thoughtful even when you know he’s doing things that harm the relationship. In either case, you will feel uncertain, confused, and even crazy.

When words and actions don’t match, you will save yourself additional pain and disappointment by paying more attention to the person’s actions and behavior, rather than their words.

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

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We Practice these Principles in All Our Affairs

By: Diane Cameron

If you have been around Twelve-step recovery for a while, you have said those words: “We practice these principles in all our affairs.” We say this when we mean that we have to live our recovery outside the meeting rooms. And, more and more, the longer we are in recovery, the bulk of our recovery “practicing” is outside of meeting rooms.

Diane Cameron

We know in a general way what it means when we quote that line from the “Big Book” but it helps me to occasionally pause and ask. “What exactly do we mean when we say that?”

What principles are we talking about? We may mean that we practice the steps in the whole of our lives but it also means the actual principles that the AA founders had in mind.

Here is the short list of principles of recovery:

  • Humility
  • Service
  • Inventory
  • Amends
  • God’s Will
  • Surrender

A great personal exercise for just one week might be posting those principles on your desk top or on your phone, so you see them several times during the day, and ask yourself: “In that last meeting/conversation/interaction, was I practicing the principles in that particular affair?”

I find that to be an eye-opener, and it helps me to very gently face my own patterns of behavior and thinking.

Our reminder is this, from page 19 of Alcoholics Anonymous-“The Big Book”: “Elimination of our drinking is BUT A BEGINNING. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our homes and our occupations.”

Diane Cameron’s book, Out of the Woods is a guide for women new to recovery. With time, recovering women face challenges and Cameron shares her experiences in hopes to teach readers how to handle the unexpected trials of double-digit recovery.

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Dealing with Isolation After You Leave Your Job

By: Louise Nayer

As I walked down the serpentine road of City College of San Francisco, going to class, I always met students and colleagues. Some students would shyly walk past me as I smiled; others would say “Hi Professor Nayer!” and sometimes we would hug each other.

Louise Nayer

Faculty and staff, many whom I had known for over twenty years would stop and we would chat about children, grandchildren, classes, illnesses, deaths, and births. So many little chats over so many years.

When we retire, we lose those voices. Many of those we talked to we will not see again. How do we continue to be engaged with people when we leave our work places? Even though people can never be replaced, how do we create a new community? Many studies point out that human connection is by far the biggest marker of happiness. Older people who have left the workplace can feel isolated without that constant connection to people at work. Some get depressed and feel their life is meaningless. However, there are myriad ways to plan so you can have a retirement connected to others.

Before I left my teaching job, I knew I wanted to write, so I joined the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. I rented an office space two days a week and knew I would have a place to go with a writing community. Was it easy? Not at all. At first when I joined The Grotto, I looked around at all the strange faces. Where were my friends? I felt lonely, disconnected, like walking into a new middle school and wondering if I would be liked or say the wrong thing. But slowly, that changed. Now, years later, I love this new community. I’m excited to wake up on my Grotto days and see my friends. Others, like my husband, go back to their place of work one or two days a week, to volunteer or to work part-time.

It is important to be patient with yourself and realize adjustments take time, as you find a good volunteer opportunity, a class at a nearby community college, a gym with exercise classes, a garden club or a hiking club or whatever you fancy. If you are not a very social person, it’s important to force yourself to have face-face lunches, dinners, and connections to people, along with email and phone calls!

For some, having more time with children and grandchildren gives people that needed engagement to others. My friend Dixie and her husband moved from California to Ashland so they could help their daughter who had twins. Was the move easy? No. Packing up a home full of memories and leaving the state where you have lived most of your adult life can be daunting and terrifying. But over time, they are both thrilled that they moved. They love Ashland for all it has to offer, and they help their daughter with the twins every week.

It can take a few years to settle into “retirement” and figure out ways to surround yourself with people you care about. But there is no void. There are always ways to connect—from tutoring at the local school, to volunteering to helping students write college entrance essays, to hiking clubs or to a sick or disabled neighbor who needs help with groceries. You’ll also have time to call family members or old friends who you haven’t seen for a long time.

Pets can be wonderful, too. My husband and I got a puppy that is now one year old. It has been a very challenging year as we are 68 and 74 and a puppy has endless energy. But now, our dog, Ella, a member of the family, has many moments of sprawling next to us on the couch. Pets can offer great solace, plus in walking dogs you get to meet your neighbors.

Finding a new community or filling your day with connections to others might be challenging at first, but over time and with some effort, everyone can find wonderful ways to reach out and engage with others.

Louise Nayer’s latest book, Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen, part memoir and part-self help, is a guide to emotional planning before and after retirement.

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How a doctor turns life into story

By: Anne McTiernan

After almost fifteen years as a research physician, I grew tired of the relentless cycle of applying for grants, failing to obtain funding, and reapplying with variable success. Conducting clinical trials was rewarding, but the responsibility seemed endless. I began to feel burnt out, scorched. It was time for a change. I needed a hobby.

Around this time, I read Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes.  The author described it as a story about a miserable Irish Catholic childhood. Ah-hah, I thought, I had a miserable Irish-American Catholic childhood; I’ll write a memoir. The old medical student adage fueled my thinking: see one, do one, teach one. I had read several memoirs. I believed I could sit down and pen one of my own. It would become an immediate bestseller, a movie would be made, and I would be rich enough to fund my own research.

I was quickly disavowed of this dream. My first feeble attempt fell flat, as in flat on the office floor of my previous book’s agent.  “Writing that must have been cathartic,” she said. I realized I needed help. Next, I enrolled in a year-long class in memoir writing. The teacher critiqued my work. The other students critiqued my work. They loved this section, didn’t understand that one. They ripped apart my favorite character description, the one about my bald, five foot two-inch tall granduncle, leaning on his shillelagh stick at his brother’s funeral. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the art of writing memoir. During this process, I realized that there are several similarities between becoming a healer and learning to be a communicator.

Just as it takes years of concentrated medical training to make a doctor, the path to authorship is long and arduous. Both require patience, persistence, and practice.

In medicine, without the wisdom, teaching, and support of mentors, fellow doctors, and other health experts, you will fail, and your patients will suffer. The same is true of writing. The teaching, mentoring, and feedback from other writers is critical to producing work that will resonate with readers.  In my case, help came from teachers, editors, writing group members, other students, my agent, and my publisher.

“The patient comes first,” we learn early in medical school. First before meals, first before sleep, and, all too often, first before family. Similarly, when writing, it is critical to think about what the reader will gain from your work. It is not just your story; it is what your story will mean to your readers. You need to entertain, enlighten, encourage, and energize the person who has made the financial and time commitment to read your work.

As a student-writer, I learned that memoir demands a narrative arc. One common model is the heroine’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell and Valerie Frankel. The protagonist has a problem. She needs to search for an answer, but is reluctant to enter the world where she can find the solution. Finally, she is convinced to embark, and several people help her along her journey. Similarly, physicians communicate story as they think about and share information about their patients. This might take the form of student presentations on morning hospital rounds, a consult request to a colleague, or, less commonly now, a chart note.  In the patient narrative, the physician follows the trajectory of a patient’s illness experience. The story begins with the patient’s primary problem. It includes backstory. There is a narrative arc with progressive escalation of the condition, a climax occurs, and, finally, resolution.

Over the centuries, many physicians have contributed to popular literature. Modern examples include novelists (Tess Gerritsen, Robin Cook), essayists (Danielle Ofri, the late Oliver Sacks), nonfiction authors (Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee), and several who write across genres (Perri Klass, Louise Aronson).  These doctors bring the art and science of medicine to a general audience, giving readers insight into the otherwise mysterious world of patients, illness, medical personnel, and treatments. Drs. Gerritsen and Cook frighten us with stories of the dark sides of human nature. Drs. Ofri, Aronson, and Sacks help us recognize the complexities of doctor-patient relationships and the intricate effects of biology on our patients’ lives. Drs. Mukherjee and Gawande enlighten us about modern medicine.

As electronic records replace written medical charts, the improvements in diagnostic documentation will be counterbalanced by the loss of patients’ stories. Hopefully, more physicians will fill the void by writing medical stories, so that this aspect of the art of medicine is not lost.

Anne McTiernan is a cancer prevention researcher and the author of Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey from Empty to Full.

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When an Affair Partner is a Co-Worker

By: Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Discovering that your spouse had an affair is painful enough. But finding out that the affair partner is a co-worker, supervisor, or employee can be doubly devastating.

Imagine your spouse leaving each day to go to work, and the feelings of powerlessness—knowing that he will spend the majority of his day with a former affair partner?

Affairs in the workplace raise many questions for betrayed partners:

  • Can I ask my spouse to leave his job due to a workplace affair?
  • Is my financial security in jeopardy because of my unfaithful spouse’s infidelity?
  • Does my spouse have potential legal issues as a result of a workplace affair? (He/she may be vulnerable to legal action if the affair partner is a subordinate or an employee.)
  • Is it reasonable to expect my spouse to fire an affair partner (if he has the authority to do so)?

The consequences of workplace affairs are profoundly triggering and traumatic to betrayed partners. Because each situation is unique, and the issues can vary widely from situation to situation, there are no black-and-white or cookie cutter answers to these complex and hurtful dilemmas.

However, there are options for coming to a resolution about workplace infidelity.

Here are a few of the many requests a betrayed partner may make in situations of workplace affairs:

  1. Request that your spouse move to a different position, request a change of assignment, or move to another office location if the organization has multiple campuses.
  2. Request proof from the unfaithful partner that he has communicated clearly to the affair partner that their romantic or sexual relationship is over and that he/she wants no further contact.
  3. Request that any communication with the affair partner (if unavoidable in the short-term) be fully transparent. This could include being granted access to email correspondence or phone records, for example.
  4. If a change in position or reassignment is not feasible, the betrayed partner can request that her spouse not be alone with the affair partner at any time, or have contact outside the workplace (lunch, business travel, or happy hour, for example).
  5. Request that if your spouse is a business owner, that he be forthcoming and transparent about his hiring practices, interviewing process, business meetings, and other workplace activities that have been part of his past infidelity.
  6. Request that your spouse leave his job, or even sell a business.

This last option may seem severe or extreme, but sometimes leaving is the only option. If your unfaithful spouse had an affair with the owner of the business where he/she works or had multiple workplace affairs over many years, there may be few options other than to leave the organization or sell a business.

If you’re the unfaithful spouse you will need to make some difficult—yet potentially relationship-saving—choices. You’ll need to decide what is most important to you, and avoid the temptation of thinking of yourself as a victim if you agree to a request made by your partner, or if you decide to make a change in your employment situation to repair or salvage your relationship.

Decisions like these are short-term losses with long-term gains.

They can be a component of the trust rebuilding process, and in the end are a very small price to pay to ultimately salvage your relationship. And even if the relationship doesn’t survive, you will need to address the underlying issues and reasons you are seeking sexual partners in the workplace—a practice that is at best distracting, and at worst a legal matter.

Because workplace affair situations are so complex and impact betrayed partners on several levels, I recommend that betrayed partners have at least one—and preferably several—trusted advisors to help assess any potential risks (financial, reputation, or health), sort through options, and determine any specific requests you’d like to make.

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

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Houston, we survived

By: Vicki Tidwell Palmer

There are truly no words to describe the devastation and heartache we’ve experienced here in Houston (and all over South Texas) in the past few days in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

I am a native Houstonian, and have lived in Houston my whole life. Needless to say—no hurricane or tropical storm ever came close to the ravages of Harvey.

For my family, friends, and clients here in Houston, I hope you and your family have weather

ed this storm safely and with minimal disruption, and I want you to know that you have been in my thoughts and prayers.

Natural disasters like Harvey share many similarities with the discovery of betrayal. You feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under you, and you know that your life won’t be quite the same again. You may lose hope, give up, or feel abandoned by God.

And at the same time, natural disasters—and even betrayal—offer the possibility of seeing your life in a new way, tapping into a strength you didn’t know you had, or discovering an opportunity you may have overlooked—or didn’t allow yourself to see—before.

At times like these we’re invited to find the blessing in the storm.

As I look over the past four days, I find that I have gratitude for many things that before last Friday I simply didn’t think about:

Today, here are just a few things I’m grateful for:

The sky is clear, and life in Houston for many is beginning to return to some semblance of “normal”

  • The countless unseen and unknown good samaritans who have literally risked their lives to save complete strangers all across South Texas
  • Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner—with a long history of public service—is completely prepared to manage this crisis
  • Grocery stores are open, with food and supplies on the shelves
  • Electricity
  • Houston’s new Police Chief Art Acevedo, for his courage to publicly grieve the loss of Officer Steve Perez
  • The street where I live is, once again, passable
  • Family and friends are safe

My wish is that we learn to use crises to expand our capacity for gratitude, compassion, and kindness and to not waste any more time on regret, shame, unworthiness, procrastination, or anything else that holds us back from creating the life we dream of.

May all beings live in safety, peace, and comfort.

I don’t believe we’re only motivated by our own self-interests. Often out of crisis comes this enormous wellspring of generosity and motivation.

—Josh Fox

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

Posted in Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Relationships, Sex & Addiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Weary…and waiting

July 28, 2017

By Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Partners, it is so easy to become weary.

When you’re dealing with betrayal trauma and addiction, progress, recovery, and healing rarely happen as quickly and as smoothly as you’d like.

Waiting for your spouse to establish sobriety, find a therapist, engage in 12-step work, or prepare a formal therapeutic disclosure can feel like it will never end.

And the waiting can severely test your patience.

Waiting for information—or for the trust-building actions that will help you and your relationship heal and move forward—is the most difficult and painful time for partners. But it doesn’t last forever.

If you’re in a waiting pattern, here are 6 ways to make the waiting a little easier:

1
Be Gentle with You

This one may seem obvious, but it’s #1 for a reason. Too many partners berate themselves with negative self-talk like, “How could I not have known?” or “Why am I still with him/her?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, I encourage you to replace these questions with, “No wonder I’m feeling awful. I’ve been deceived and betrayed. What would help me feel better right now, that is in my control?

2
Recovery-Free Time

Partners and addicts alike often get recovery fatigue. Thinking—and talking—about recovery, therapy, sobriety, or the past can consume your life, if you let it.

If you and your spouse have a 24/7 focus on addiction, create space and time to engage in recovery-free activities and conversations. Reflect on how you spent your time and what you enjoyed talking about pre-discovery, and work toward incorporating those back into your present life. Maybe even have some fun!

3
If I Weren’t in This Situation, I Would . . . 

This question will help you identify areas of interest, projects, or goals that you may be able to begin or make progress on, even in your current situation.

For example, you may have been on your way to learning a new skill, changing jobs, or taking up a new hobby pre-discovery but you understandably put it on hold. While you may not yet be ready to charge full steam ahead, what parts can you do?

If you have the energy, do some research, take some baby steps, and dream. All these activities will bring you closer to your original goal.

4
Accepting Waiting and the Unknown as Part of Life

Although you’re in an unusually painful waiting period, the truth is that waiting and being in a place of not-knowing are simply a reality of life.

Life is a never-ending cycle of wanting what we don’t yet have, or getting what we wanted and realizing that reaching a goal—while gratifying—isn’t a final destination or the ultimate fulfillment.

If you’re committed to your own healing and growth, you will have many periods of waiting. Learning to flow with them—rather than being in perpetual, frustrating resistance—is a valuable life skill, regardless of the situation.

5
Make a Procrastination List

Now is a good time to make a list of everything you’ve been procrastinating about. Is there anything you’ve been neglecting or avoiding? Perhaps a new healthy habit, a hobby you were engaged in but dropped, a new business idea, or project that would bring some passion, enthusiasm, or even joy to you.

Taking care of anything you’ve been putting off will give you an instant confidence boost, and momentum for even more progress.

6
Remember, You are Free

As a survivor of betrayal trauma, it’s so easy to think of yourself as trapped and powerlessness.

Unless you’re in a situation of severe domestic abuse* with no access to resources, family, friends, or the independence to go where you want to go and to do what you want to do, you are free to leave your relationship.

For a variety of very good reasons, you probably don’t want to leave. So when you’re feeling discouraged, hopeless, and powerless remind yourself that you have options—including leaving.

Focusing on your freedom to choose nurtures an empowered mindset, so important for your survival, healing, and growth.

*The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-787-3225)

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

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