A Journey To Truth

connie & mick--cropped One of the first things that Mary told me in 1989…as I began therapy… was that I had to find my truth.  I had no idea what she meant at the time, but I did trust and respect her, thus I wrote      “FIND MY TRUTH” in capital letters on the first page of my brand new notebook so that every time I opened it, I would be reminded of this goal.    And believe me….I opened that notebook a lot.  I was a mess back then.  My husband, Michael, and I had just divorced after seventeen years of marriage.     My life was in shambles and I was scared that I would fail again in any future relationship attempts.   In fact, I knew I would fail because I didn’t have the tools to make a relationship work.  Luckily for me, I found help through New Hope Family Life Center and Mary McRaith—my therapist and friend--who helped me find my truth.  

 It was not an easy find….this search for truth.   It confused me and made me want to throw in the towel…give up…call it quits.  The dictionary told me that truth was “the thing that corresponds to fact or reality”.  In that case, I logically concluded that my truth was failure as I had just failed at my marriage….that was my reality.   When I shared this nugget of knowledge with Mary, she just smiled and said “keep looking”.  Next, I decided that my truth must be what I really want to do with my life…learn all I could about relationships, be a good mom, find a great guy, etc.    So I enthusiastically entered our next therapy session declaring that I had finally found my truth.   Mary quietly chuckled as she told me once again to continue looking….and that I would know without a doubt when I found it.

She was right, of course.  I was in a group therapy session several weeks later with five other people when I had an epiphany….a light bulb went on and how to find  my truth was right there in front of me.  I suddenly felt kind of silly….like the way you feel after someone tells you the answer to a simple riddle.  The answer was there the whole time….I just didn’t see it.    As Gayle, one of the group participants, talked about how the sexual abuse that she suffered as a child affected her adult years, it all clicked for me.  Gayle’s stepfather raped her when she was ten years old and then continued to sexually abuse her for the next several months.  For that period in her life, Gayle was helpless and had no one to protect her.  Even though her mother did learn of the abuse and put a stop to it after six months, Gayle was left with her feelings….that she was a bad person and not worthy of love.  As she got older, those feelings intensified---she felt like a slut…that she was ruined for any decent man.   This is where my shining moment of truth occurred.  I knew Gayle to be a loving, giving woman who cared enough to share her private and hurtful story so that others could learn and grow from it.  From my perspective, that was who she was…that was Gayle’s truth.

Personal truth is not who we are at any given moment nor is it who we want to be.  Truth is who we are at the core of our being…after all the garbage is thrown away, what is left is who we are….our truth.   Of course, knowing how to find my personal truth was only the first step.    Next came all the hard work of taking each issue and working through it, then letting go of it so that slowly…issue by issue, I emptied my garbage can and became my true self.  

 My self-discovery journey started and ended with New Hope Family Life Center where I found hope through despair and the light of God through each person who touched my heart and gave me pieces of wisdom to mend my broken soul. At the end of this journey, Michael and I were able to reconcile and remarry each other.  If you are interested in all the twists and turns that our journey took along the road to reconciliation, I have shared them all in my book “The Amazing Journey of a Relationship” which started with a notebook and can now be found exclusively on Amazon at www.Amazon.com/dp/b00awsmbdo.

 

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Relationships…How Men and Women Problem-Solve

connie & mick--croppedMike and I avoided problems for the first seventeen years of our marriage.  On the surface, things looked great.  We rarely yelled at each other and held all of our accumulated anger inside.  Whenever a problem would occur, we would reach into our bag of learned tricks and pull out tears, stonewalling or controlling and poof…one of us won and the problem went away.  Of course, the problem didn’t really go away.  The fact is that we were stuck in a relationship that couldn’t move forward because of a huge barrier in our path.    It was too painful and we didn’t have the tools to get around that barrier or any of the other barriers we encountered….so we divorced each other in 1989.  

Then we started therapy at New Hope Family Life Center.  Therapy taught us two things about problems.  First, they don’t go away by themselves.  And second, men and women problem-solve in different ways.  When a man has a problem to solve, he uses his past experiences to filter through the possible options and then logically reaches a decision.  He might even use a mental or written list of options.  A man’s decision making looks concise and logical.  A woman also uses her past experiences to problem-solve, however she filters those experiences through her feelings to reach a decision.  No tidy lists used here…in fact, a woman’s decision-making process looks messy and sometimes illogical.  

Not having this information about problem-solving was a huge barrier to our relationship and created a pattern that was repeated over and over….Mike would make a decision quickly and always had a logical reason why he was right.  I was flooded with feelings about the same decision and couldn’t process through those feelings quickly, therefore I seemed unsure of myself and flighty.   Mike became frustrated and angry, then would declare his answer the “right” answer because it was the only answer that made any sense.  I became frustrated and angry because I felt bullied…so I would close down and not talk to him.  Our relationship revolved around unhealthy coping mechanisms because we simply did not know that men and women solve problems in different ways and that both methods work fine, but they must each be considered in a relationship.      

This knowledge, along with eleven other tools that we learned through therapy, allowed us to slowly work our way around each barrier to our relationship so that we remarried each other in 1990.  Hurrah!  That sounds easy….learn new stuff…apply it to relationship and poof…problem solved!  Ha!  On our journey from divorce to remarriage….we almost killed each other….we spent $27,000 to get the divorce….and we hurt other people by pulling them into the mess with us.   Therapy was critical at the end of that very ugly divorce…for Mike and I, for our children and for all the innocent bystanders who got in our way.  Otherwise, we were doomed to continue unhealthy coping strategies in future relationships which would…once again… destroy the relationship and deeply affect our family and friends.  

To learn more about how men and women solve problems in different ways… along with all the other concepts that we used to reconcile and remarry each other, check out my book "The Amazing Journey of a Relationship" which can be found at www.amazon.com/dp/b00awsmbdo and is based on our therapy at New Hope Family Life Center.  

 

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A New Endeavor…Take Two!

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

 Since my last post about this topic, I have surprised myself with accomplishments.   As stated earlier, I am not a programmer and do not have one technical bone in my body.  It took me hours--too numerous to count--to figure out how to place my picture along side each post.....but I did it!  It took me days to figure out how to place social icons below each post for the readers' convenience....but I did it.  And it is taking me weeks to figure out how to provide a form so that readers can be contacted when new posts are published....but hang in there with me....I will figure that one out too...eventually. 

I failed my way to success. Thomas Edison

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A Healthy Relationship Requires Two “Whole” Persons

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

According to www.marriagestatistics.com, 50% of first marriages, 60-67% of second marriages and 70-73% of third marriages in the United States end in divorce.

Those statistics were scary to me in 1989.  My husband Mike and I had just completed a long and messy divorce.   I was finally a free woman, able to make my own decisions and lead my life without a controlling husband telling me what I should be thinking and doing.  The problem was I felt lost—not because of the divorce, but because I felt myself slipping back into the same problems/issues that I had just gotten rid of with the completion of the divorce.  I was dating another man—Sean--who was gently pushing me to marry him—because he needed me—because I was the only woman who really understood him—and because he might do something desperate if I didn’t marry him.   STOP…every fiber of my being was screaming!

Meanwhile--my x-husband, Mike, was in therapy and making extraordinary changes in his life.  Mike was calling and writing me letters explaining in detail everything he was learning at New Hope Family Life Center (New Hope).   He was not asking me to reconcile, but instead to consider therapy for myself so that when and if I did remarry, I wouldn’t take my garbage into a new relationship.  I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but I did need help and I knew it.  That’s how I ended up attending a monthly informational meeting at New Hope Family Life Center.  New Hope was an organization that offered individual and group therapy for folks who were experiencing loss of a partner from death or divorce.  Once a month, the coordinator, Mary McRaith, held an informational meeting for anyone who was thinking about getting into therapy, but hadn’t quite made that final step yet.

Mary could have been talking directly to me—although we had not even met at that point—when she opened the meeting by stating “Statistics indicate that if you are divorced or widowed, it will take you at least five years before you are healthy enough to be involved in another relationship.”

 There were those damn statistics again!  Five years, I thought to myself, that's a long time.  But I continued to listen.....and I was amazed at what I learned. 

Marriages end for lots of reasons, but all of those endings have one thing in common……unresolved issues.   When couples divorce instead of resolving their issues, they are doomed to take those same issues into their next relationship.  Of course no one thinks about this when they remarry because the mess in their first marriage was always the fault of the “other” spouse.  It’s easy—and convenient-- to blame the other person, but the truth is that when a relationship ends, it is never the fault of one person.    In order to have a healthy relationship, each person must work on his/her individual growth, strive to be a whole person and thus accept personal responsibility for his/her own issues.

As children, most of us learn to take on the dominant role of our gender as we are growing up.  Girls learn to nurture and boys…to roughhouse.  If you watch a group of children at play, usually you will see girls practicing their dominant gender role with baby dolls or in playing dress up.  Boys, on the other hand, usually prefer playing with model cars or playing at war.    This is all a normal part of growing up and is good.  Where we get into trouble is when we become young adults and we haven’t developed our less dominant side.   Then, when we get married or enter into a relationship, we rely on our partner to provide for us what we can’t provide for ourselves.  A man needs a beautiful, sexy woman in order to feel good about himself because he has never developed his feminine side.  And a woman needs a man to feel secure and protected because she has never developed her masculine side.  The problem with this scenario is that whenever we look to another person to meet a personal need, it does not work.  When the need doesn’t get met, we then blame that person.   And with the blame game, comes lots of insults and denial of personal responsibility.    It’s your fault that I’m depressed.  It’s your fault that I’m sex-deprived.  It’s your fault…your fault…your fault!

That evening—at New Hope—I learned two things…..that I was not a whole person and that I was definitely not ready to enter into another relationship at this point in my life.  I broke off the relationship with Sean and I began attending individual and group therapy sessions at New Hope.   Mike and I did eventually reconcile and remarry each other, but only after we had learned and put into practice twelve concepts that are critical to the success of every relationship.

If you are interested in learning more details about how to become a whole person and how taking personal responsibility is the foundation of a relationship…along with all the other concepts that we used to reconcile and remarry each other, check out my book "The Amazing Journey of a Relationship" which can be found at www.amazon.com/dp/b00awsmbdo  and is based on our therapy at New Hope Family Life Center.

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A New Endeavor

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

 As I begin this new endeavor of creating and maintaining a website, I am afraid of failure.  I am a therapist and I am a writer, but I am NOT a techie.  I have struggled over the last few days to make sense of widgets and templates and plugins.   And I have absolutely given up on permalinks and know that I will never understand what they are.  However–I know that if I stay with this project, that day by day–little by little–I will accomplish my goal.  My fear of failure has helped me…..I have worked harder and put in longer hours than I anticipated because I do not want to fail! 

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

Theodore Roosevelt

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The Three Stages of Every Relationship

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

Connie Nolan, MSW, LCSW

I tried to kill my husband in 1988---well, not really, but if you listen to his side of the story, that's what he'll tell you.  What really happened was that Mike stood with his hands on the hood of my car as I tried to leave an automobile dealership.  He refused to move, so I revved the car motor a couple of times just so he would know that I was going to leave---either around him or through him--and at that moment, I didn't really care which one he chose.  We glared at each other through the windshield.  I revved the motor harder pressing on the brake at the same time.  The car jerked forward an inch.   He moved.  Would I have really run him down?  I don't think so, but the war was on--we were separated and on our way to divorce.   I was determined to win that battle.  I tell you this story to illustrate the intensity of the "war zone", the second stage of every relationship.   Of course at the time we didn't know there were stages to our relationship.    It was either separate from each other or kill each other…those were the only two choices we had, or so we thought.

Four months after this battle took place (and just a few days after our divorce was final), Mike attended a therapy session where he learned that every relationship goes through three separate stages.  The first stage, feeling good, is at the beginning of a relationship when two people are in love and want to be together all the time.  He learned that unfortunately, this stage never lasts and couples eventually move into the second stage which is called the war zone.  Couples in the war zone blame each other for how they feel and this is where most divorce occurs when the hurtful remarks and actions become severe.   Lastly, he discovered--and shared with me--that it was possible for a relationship to move out of the war zone and into the third stage of a relationship which is called partnership.    Statistics indicate that less than fifty percent of marriages end up in this third and final stage.  According to www.marriagestatistics.org  45-50% of first marriages, 60-67% of second marriages and 70-73% of third marriages end in divorce.

This knowledge was a new beginning for us as a couple…a barrier was knocked down…we had another choice and thus began our journey along a different path…to reconciliation and ultimately remarriage to each other.

In my next article--found right here in a few days--I will tell you how we moved out of the war zone and into the partnership stage of our relationship.  Check back to learn how it takes two whole persons to maintain a healthy relationship and why taking personal responsibility for our own actions instead of  playing the blame game is so important.

If you absolutely cannot wait to learn about that part of our journey, or if you want to read about the whole trip--filled with all of its twists and turns, valleys and peaks--then please go to   www.amazon.com/dp/B00AWSMBDO   where you will be taken to Amazon and can purchase my book "The Amazing Journey of a Relationship" which is found exclusively on Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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