Tag Archives: Guest Post

7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship After Betrayal and Lies

interlocked fingers - rebuilding trust in relationship

(Image/Life Supports Counselling)

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post written by my friend Jay Pyatt, who mentors men struggling with various addictions, including sexual ones which have resulted in relationship betrayal. Jay has a proven track record of helping men conquer inner demons, reconnect with their spouses, and restore broken trust at home. How does he know what to do? Because he’s been there. He fought back and won. And you can, too.

I’ll be honest with you: I lied to my wife almost every night for four straight years.

I did a quick estimate and figure I lied about a thousand times to her face in those four years.

I know how to destroy trust in a relationship. Thankfully, I learned how to rebuild trust, too.

It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t even difficult.

It was the single hardest, awful-est, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done—and I have jumped out of airplanes.

But, I did it. And here is the really important thing: Rebuilding trust is worth it.

Here why:

  • You heal the person you betrayed.
  • You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
  • Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying to both of you.

What I lied about doesn’t matter—at least not as much as the impact of the lies and the other behavior around the lies. (If you are interested in the whole story, you can read it here.)

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust, and when I undermined the foundation a thousand times, I didn’t expect the relationship to survive.

Yet, my relationship survived.

My wife and I did all of the normal things couples do during times like this. We went to counseling, we read more books, and we talked about it. And got nowhere.

Not because those things aren’t helpful or important, but because of my attitude and my skill set. Specifically, my attitude hovered around the “is this really worth it?” idea, and I possessed no skill set for rebuilding trust.

Additionally, I thought just not lying would fix things.

My thinking was: If I quit lying, everything will be okay. I just have to be honest when she asks me questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.

This didn’t work.

Not lying is really hard to distinguish from lying when there isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. My wife still didn’t feel safe and certainly didn’t trust me. Simply not lying isn’t enough to get the relationship turned around.

I had to get radical in my honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously. I had to grow.

I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Again, rebuilding trust challenged me more than anything I have ever done.

Can You Rebuild Trust?

My very firm answer on this is: Maybe.

Not everyone chooses the relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed.

Sometimes the cost to the betrayed person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.

However, I rebuilt trust. So it can be done. And now, I actually help other guys fighting those same battles, and many have rebuilt trust in their marriages.

There is hope if you are willing to do the work.

Hard work.

Scary work.

Are you willing to do it? Because if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.

Okay, if you are still with me, then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with lies, deception, or sneakiness.

7 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship

To rebuild trust, I needed to take a different approach than I had in the past. What got me where I was wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be.

I needed to “grow up.”

I lived from an immature place, or maybe an uneducated one.

Growth is painful—ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new habits takes effort and focus, and a degree of suffering.

But simply telling you to “grow up” isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I’m okay with the insulting part. If you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through honorable behavior.

Anyway, I am about to break it down into six things you can do to begin rebuilding trust. Plus, a bonus option you need to consider seriously.

All of these steps are written with the assumption you betrayed your spouse or significant other. If it was someone else, you may be able to adapt the steps to fit your situation.

Step 1: Consistency

To rebuild trust, I had to be consistent.

Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start something only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just reminded her of how little she could count on me.

So, if you start something, stick to it. “Every Damn Day” as I read on a Nike shirt.

There are some pitfalls to consistency, but you must stay consistent or the person you betrayed will see this as playing with their trust (or heart).

Stay consistent, or you waste your efforts.

Step 2: Proactivity

I’ll be honest; this word pissed me off for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”

I didn’t get it. I think I know what the word means, but not what it means, mechanically. What am I supposed to do proactively?

The answer is: Take action on your own initiative.

Step 3: Meeting Needs

The person you broke trust with has specific needs. Find out what they are.

Now, go back to step two, and start meeting these needs proactively.

Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what they need. Go ask them.

Once they tell you what they need, go do it.

This is the growth process I mentioned earlier. You will have to set aside your own needs to meet the needs of the other person. Considering some possible alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

Step 4: Openness

Openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin.

Honesty means if I ask you a question, you tell me the truth. Openness means you tell me the truth without me having to ask the ‘right’ question, especially in areas where trust has been broken.

Rebuilding trust requires a new level of communication with the person whom you betrayed.

You must talk to them about what you are doing, plain and simple. Open and direct.

I am not saying, “Hey, this is a good idea!”

I am telling you: Openness is a requirement.

If you aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may never rebuild trust.

Giving full access to the person you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make things right.

So, if you betrayed them through money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media, and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you are up to.

Step 5: Vulnerability

When it comes to the scariest words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top—at least it was for me.

Vulnerability is the very reason I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or anger; all of which were justified from my behavior.

I tell the guys I work with: “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your vulnerability.”

I really think of vulnerability as taking off the armor that I used to protect myself.

For me, that was my anger when she would ask uncomfortable questions. When she did—Boom!—I got angry.

This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up. Effective, but not helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation. Or you might run away or shut down.

The other person really needs you to listen even though it feels awful to discuss the topic they brought up.

They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they’re going through. They need you to know how bad it feels for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.

Step 6: Ownership

Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on the other person.

Then keep taking responsibility for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.

I say that because I am a minimizer. I nearly ended my marriage trying to salvage my image with the very person I lied to.

So when she would say, “Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I would respond with something like, “I didn’t say that, I said I only looked at YouTube videos at work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…” and the breakdown would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions.

This type of behavior makes people crazy. 

Bonus – Step 7: Blind Spots

Believe it or not, I am not clear on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed.

This means I have blind spots—areas of my personality that I’m completely unaware of and need help to see.

Ask the person you betrayed for help with this. This requires humility (or acknowledging that I don’t know everything) and a willingness to learn.

Once you discover these blind spots, start working on them, or at the very least, own them. Because these could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.

Give Them Time

These are the basics, and they’ll require practice. While you are doing this, the other person will need time to heal and decide whether they believe it’s worth it to stay.

I lied for four years in the last go-round; so I shouldn’t be shocked it took almost four years to fix things. Although I drug my feet on these topics and made them much more difficult than they needed to be.

Get Help

My work with men trying to rebuild trust in their relationship shortened the recovery time to somewhere between four and 18 months, depending on the breakdown.

So, if you feel stuck and don’t know what to do next, you might want to contact me for assistance.

Also, if you sign up on my mailing list, I will let you know when our upcoming video series on this topic goes live.

From here, you may want to read about:

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About the Author

Jay Pyatt is a certified BraveHearts Mentor and founder of Porn Is Killing Me where he mentors men through weekly video or phone meetings. The meetings help them to establish healthy disciplines and work through a proven curriculum guiding them to a path of long-term freedom.

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Guest Post: The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

woman being oogled and cat called

(Image/Odyssey)

Editor’s Note:

I’m not going to hold men’s feet to the fire for finding women attractive, and acting like it. We’ve been pummeled with pretty faces and/or sexually suggestive marketing messages since having the awareness to notice TV ads, magazine covers and highway billboards. Even if those didn’t exist, I think men would still feel physically attracted to women. (Because that’s the signal the storks need to deliver the babies, of course.) And that’s okay. It’s not wrong.

But treating people as “things” is. If the Universe saw fit to magically transport a starving child to a place just outside the front door of everyone with middle-class-and-up income levels, there wouldn’t be any more starving children. We’re all so good at Out of Sight, Out of Mind. I’m a freaking master.

Men sometimes treat women (who aren’t their daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, etc.) like things. Their very own animated masturbation devices to do with as they please. Not unlike Shitty Husbandry, I perceive this to be more the symptom of thoughtless action than calculated abuse.

My blog-friend Gretchen Kelly is an excellent writer, and last year she published the following post on her blog. It profoundly affected my understanding of the everyday female experience.

I forwarded it to a few of my female friends, asking: “Is it like this for you, too?”

They all said yes.

By Gretchen Kelly

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.

It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

So maybe they don’t know.

Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing.

Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

“It’s the reality of being a woman in our world. It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.”

We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.

We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell our friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.

But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.

“Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.”

It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.

The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on a regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to, that guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman.

We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.

So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.

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About the Author

Gretchen Kelly writes at Drifting Through My Open Mind. You can also see her work in The Huffington Post. Connect with Gretchen on Twitter.

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Check Out This Other Thing

boy-covering-mouth

A very funny person named Mandi Castle, author of the recently released “Dear Stephanie,” and self-proclaimed “worst sisterwife,” invited me to participate in her monthly feature at the SisterWives blog called The Man(di) Cave where she gets guys to open up on subjects they might not want to talk about.

I accepted her invitation and was flattered for receiving it.

She asked me and a couple of other guys to answer questions about sex. I managed to do so without wanting to set myself on fire afterward. Small wins.

Please check it out and say hi over there. You can see the feature here:

http://sisterwivesspeak.com/2015/06/25/the-mandi-cave-gets-intimate-kind-of/

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Guest Post: The Pigs Were Important

Important.

Important.

NOTE: This is the second in a series of guest posts scheduled to run while I’m away from real life. Ironically, in today’s post, David mentions Milan, Ill. And as long as I’m not dead, that’s exactly where I am right now, immersed in the warmth of friends and family I don’t see often enough. I asked David (the blogger behind both The Marmot in My Head and Sounds like Orange) to write because I believe we’re kindred spirits. Because I believe we both find unique beauty in the mundane. Because David is just very real, very… human. And that’s something that means a lot to me. Because that’s exactly what I want to be. Thank you, David.

Have a seat everyone. Get comfortable. We’re going to talk about livestock, pigs, uncles and chess.

Grab a beer or pop from the fridge. Yes, that’s “pop” because, today, location matters. You see, my roots overlap with Matt’s, barely I suppose, but closer than you’d imagine. They overlap in a place where “soda” is for baking and “pop” is for fizzy-drinking. Where? Milan. Matt’s dad ended up in Milan, Ill. My aunt and uncle live just outside of Milan on a farm.

I can assure you that the Milan in Italy and the Milan in Illinois differ. In two hours in Milan, Italy, I did two things: change trains and find an internet cafe. Neither are possible in the Illinois version. True, my actual roots are from a little farther west along the Iowa-Nebraska border, but culturally, they are almost identical.

We’ll start in Elk Horn, Iowa, a town 10 miles off the interstate halfway between Des Moines and Omaha that billed itself as the Danish capital of America. Yup. They have a windmill and a museum to prove it. I don’t remember exactly, but I think I was five years old when my family and I visited, staying at my grandparent’s house on a farm just outside of town. It was a typical farmhouse, seemingly both spacious and cramped all at once. There were toys, too, including that electric train track that always smelled like it was smoldering.

I was bored.

I could go outside, I suppose, but as a “city kid” (anyone living in a place with more than 5,000 people), I wasn’t allowed to go near the farm equipment, the road, the barns, the pastures, the animals. Really, I was allowed on the porch and the driveway. Boring, yes, but the noisy tractors were scary and the weirdly massive pigs were scarier yet.

Oddly, at the other grandparent’s house, where several barns were partly fallen down, a windmill that had stolen part of my dad’s finger when he was a child, “filled in” outhouse pits and tractors that were older than my parents, I was given free reign. Not in Iowa, though.

For whatever reason, my uncle found me, not my brother or sister, but me and invited me along to do chores. He was the tallest in a family where, at 6’4″, I would be the shortest adult male in two generations. First (and last), we went to the pig barn where there were creatures that looked like the Jolly Green Giant’s hot dogs, with surprisingly agile flat pink noises and almost as much hair as in my grandparent’s ears.

A quiet sleeping pig is not that scary, but when food is coming or the mud is just right, they turn into terrifying steam engines randomly bouncing off one another. Worse yet, I’m told, is their behavior around threatened piglets. My uncle, one of the calmest, gentlest people in the world, opened the door to the pen, lured me in and told me to stand quietly just over there near the edge. He poured feed into the trough and the pigs (were they hogs?) surged. They bumped into my uncle. He shoved them back. Then, from off to the side, a piercing squealing noise. One of the piglets had gotten a foot caught in the wire fencing. Sure my uncle could handle that all by himself, but he called me over anyway.

So, I delicately stepped past mud and pig poops, worrying about a pig tsunami, to join him by the fence. While he held the 40 pound piglet in his arms, I worked the wire out from around the pig’s hind leg. Then, once free, my uncle set him down, shutting down the pig air raid siren and letting the piglet scurry beetle-like over to the trough with the rest. I’d still be afraid to step into a pig pen, but I learned that calmness in the face of fear is often all that’s needed for things to work out.

But wait, there’s more. Later that week, my uncle got married. I remember that day because he was getting married on my birthday. At the time, I thought he chose that date just for me. After all, he gave me a spectacular watercolor paint set and unlike my infinitely cuter (and younger) brother and sister, gave me nothing to do at his wedding. I got to just sit and enjoy it. Obviously, it wasn’t for me, but, when you’re six years old, who can tell?

My uncle had a way to be an adult, a real adult, and be with children, treating them not as pests or annoyances, but as real people who, for the moment, are smaller than the rest of the world. Among my favorite memories was him lying down on the floor to teach me how to play chess. I was and still am horrible at it, but there he was at my level, in my world, showing me how my world worked.

I don’t see him much, but that doesn’t keep me from being impressed by him. Later, I don’t know when, I remember him being the one person who could give real advice to my sister. Later still, when my life was a mess, he was the only person I knew who could accept me as an expert at digging holes in life and still offer constructive advice for living better. Most recently, he finished grad school again (a veterinarian in the past and now a public health degree) and takes periodic trips volunteering for agricultural education in Tanzania. He’s not perfect by any means, but he accepts life as it is, lives it as best he can, and leaves the best bits of himself lying around for the benefit of others.

I’m not like him, but I want to be.

Maybe I am and I just can’t tell.

I’ve left bits of me lying around, but sometimes I needed those bits myself.

I’ve botched a marriage, but then again, so has he.

I never did get as tall as he is… but that’s okay, I guess.

I’m tall enough.

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Guest Post: How to Adapt to Dating After Divorce

The key to dating after divorce? Adaptation.

The key to dating after divorce? Adaptation.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of guest posts scheduled to run while I’m out of town getting a little R&R with friends and family. This post is from Lisa Arends, author of the book and blog “Lessons From the End of a Marriage.” I asked Lisa to guest post because divorce recovery is a central theme of MBTTTR, and I don’t believe anyone can bring more to the discussion than she. I can’t impress upon you just how important I think her story is for people dealing with divorce or the end of a meaningful relationship. And if you’re one of those people, I hope you’ll visit Lisa’s blog and immerse yourself in those stories. Healing and enlightenment live there. Thank you, Lisa, for your generous contribution.

When change happens,

You can complain.

Or you can adapt.

Guess which one the dinosaurs chose?

One of the trademarks of marriage, especially long ones, is that we become comfortable. We know our environment and we know how to survive within it.

And then divorce changes that environment as surely as an asteroid stripping the earth bare. The behaviors and habits that once served us well become vestigial or even maladaptive.

It makes me think of Darwin’s finches, stranded on islands with plentiful food and yet no way to access the sustenance as their beaks had evolved for other food sources. Some of the birds never changed and they failed to thrive, bloodlines becoming extinct. While others, slowly and over time, adapted to their new environments, their beaks changing to reach the available nutrition. And those are the finches that have thrived, their offspring populating the islands to this day.

Divorce treats us like one of those birds, suddenly abandoned on an island that may possess the resources we need to survive, yet we are unsure how to access them. Our metaphorical beaks developed for the married life, with its unique demands and challenges, not for the suddenly single world that we now find ourselves in.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

Adaptation occurs when you use your experiences and environment to create change and continually modify your approach based upon your circumstances. Adaptation is a process, not a state. It is ongoing, responsive. It is imperfect; using trial and error to make the tiniest steps forward. It challenges us, requiring growth outside our comfort zone. It forces us to continually reevaluate our self-image and assumptions.

Change is hard.

But it’s reality.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

I first became acutely aware of the need for adaptation not too long after my husband left. I started dating relatively quickly, probably from a combination of wanting to be more healed than I was and wanting distraction from the hell that was the legal system.

I didn’t have a problem finding men or attracting them. But I had a major problem with dating them. You see, I was adapted for marriage, with its intimacies and vulnerabilities. I knew how to be married, but I had no idea how to date. Those first few men (apologies, guys!) found me, almost upon introduction, acting as a wife.

It wasn’t intentional. I certainly wasn’t looking for a husband. But I was maladapted to the dating world, so I reverted to what I knew. And what I knew included being way too open too soon. Looking to my date to fill the role of life partner before I even knew his life story. And making plans for the next step before the first one was even taken.

Needless to say, that behavior didn’t work out very well.

So I adapted.

I learned to recognize my wife-like behavior and stop myself before I asked a man after a first date if he needed anything from the grocery store. I committed not to a single man but to practicing dating until I could get it right. I looked for clues to determine if my approach was appropriate or not. I looked to others who were more adept than I at dating and I used them as mentors, imitating what I observed.

I erred too far on the other side at first, going from wife-like to almost clinical detachment, keeping dates at a pro basketball player’s arm’s length. I would initiate a date with the proclamation that I was moving out of town within a few months and that I was doing just fine on my own.

Needless to say, that didn’t work out too well either.

So I continued to adapt, eventually finding a balance that led to a new marriage.

Where I then had to adapt again. Because one relationship isn’t like another. I may have known how to be married to my ex but that’s different than being married to my new husband.

Change is a certainty.

And we have two choices.

We can either complain.

Or we can adapt.

You are more malleable than you realize. You can adapt to conditions that, at first glance, seem unable to support life. You can adjust and readjust until you have developed strategies that allow you to conquer your circumstances. You can use change, even unwanted change, as an opportunity for growth.

And it begins by truly seeing your environment. Look with your eyes, not your assumptions, at what is around you. It’s scary to face change. We often want to put our heads down and run through it as if it’s not there.

But it is.

See your new world. Feel it. Accept it.

And then try something new.

You may fail. That’s okay. Remember that adaptation is a process. And failures help us learn what works and what doesn’t.

Keep trying. It took Darwin’s finches generations to adapt. You can be patient with yourself.

Use imitation. Mimic the success of others, modifying it to fit your needs.

Slowly, ever so slowly, you’ll learn what works. And you’ll begin to adapt to your present reality.

And that island that once felt so barren and inhospitable will be teeming with possibility.

Control is an illusion.

Choice is a certainty.

And you can choose to complain.

Or you can choose to adapt.

Lisa Arends works as a math teacher and a wellness coach. After using her own sudden divorce four years ago as a catalyst for positive change, she now helps people navigate their own divorces and transform stress into wellness. She loves to lift heavy weights and run long distances, and she is still learning how to meditate. She can be found at her blog, Lessons From the End of a Marriage and on The Huffington Post.
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