I love you! Now, Change…..

Guest Post:

I love you! Now, Change…..

by Darcy Flierl
The question is not what the other person can do differently, but rather, “What can I do differently?”  Once the honeymoon phase ends and we begin to fully be ourselves- because let’s face it, we can’t help it- we begin to notice all the annoying habits of our once beloved partner.  We begin to ask them:  Please don’t do that, please do this, if you don’t mind- when you do this… and do it my way.  Many requests are of reasonable measure and couple’s need to work together to find those little compromises. I will use the dishwasher for example.  My husband and I moved in together in our late 30’s.  When I say late, I mean I was 39 and he was 40.  We both had already spent a decade each living with our former spouses and we had lived in many situations in which we loaded dishwashers.  He insisted the silverware all be faced up in the rack because he believes it will not be thoroughly cleaned if not.  I want to load it all down with handles up, because I don’t want to stab myself while putting everything away.  This power struggle went on for our first few weeks living together until we reached THE compromise: Knives down, the rest will be placed up.  How did we come to that conclusion?  We talked about what we wanted and why it was important and found a solution that honored both partners’ perspectives.  Okay, so many issues effecting relationships aren’t as simple as “how to load the dishwasher” but they all can come down to the same process.

Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who is…. Unreasonable…inflexible……selfish.  It’s no fun to be the individual who is always conceding, compromising, surrendering.  The person whom gives up on everything from how to load the dishwasher, to their friends, careers and for many, even their families, is the person who will do anything to avoid conflict.  This person loses not just the things they value, but in the most extreme cases, they lose themselves.  The Co-Dependent is born.  They no longer exist.  Their purpose moves beyond avoiding conflict, but their purpose becomes the purpose of their partner.  For the person this happens to, they begin to have self-talk that goes like this:  How did this happen?  Things use to be so good.  Isn’t there anything I can do to make them change? Is there anything I can do to make this stop?

As people willing to have relationships, we have an obligation to accept people as they are  OR not.  We do not have the right to love them, welcome them into our lives, build lives with them and then ask them to be different than how they were when we decided to love them.  It is an act of spiritual violence against them and you.  If we cannot accept an individual for all they are, the fair choice is to set them free.  However, most of us lack the courage to be fair.  Instead we say, “I love you, now change”, “become the person I need you to be so I can feel safe, cared for and confident”.  If this injustice has been done to you, you may be faced with a bold decision to take responsibility for you own happiness, stand up to conflict, make choices that will displease your partner, love yourself in the face of adversity.  Love yourself at all costs.  The best case scenario, your partner will see the evil of their ways.  They will ask for patience while they work through their emotions, demands, and fears.  Sometimes, two people stay together yet live separate.  This never seems to allow either individual to find the joy that is available.  In many cases, the partner expected to change, starts to demand the other change too.  And sometimes, the only road to happiness is traveled separate.

“I can’t do this anymore”, “Enough IS Enough”, “I’ve tried and done everything and nothing works”, are things many couples say after the smallest disagreement and to the big stuff, as well.  It’s a natural reaction to have that Fight or Flight reaction when we are in conflict.  Just because one feels that way or says those things from time to time, doesn’t mean it’s time to jump ship.  If your partner wants you to change, maybe accepting their inability to accept you IS the fair and compassionate thing to do.  If you are faced with whether you should stay or whether you should go, here are few questions you might ask yourself to help you make a move in becoming responsible for your own happiness: Are there more bad days than good? Is there emotional, physical or verbal abuse? Is my partners an active addict (the world is full of addicts, the important question is if they using), Are you going to regret leaving?  Will you regret staying? Am I honoring my personal values in the relationship?  You already know, we can only change ourselves.  You can change yourself to save a relationship or you can change the relationship, to be true to yourself.

I wish people were naturally fair.  I wish we always operated with a deep level of self awareness and that we didn’t behave in ways that caused conflict in our relationships.  The sad truth is I’ve made the choice to leave every adult relationship I’ve ever had because either my partner couldn’t accept me or I couldn’t accept them.  Being on our 2nd marriages, My husband and I, operate very different with each other than either of us ever had before.  We love with our hearts, minds and eyes, open.  We love with care, respect, patience, compromise and acceptance.  In just 5 years, some big sacrifices have been made, but they’ve been made by the person making the sacrifice, or compromise, not because it’s been asked of them.   When I think of my husband, I think… I Love You, because I Love YOU and because I’m free to be the totally beautiful, imperfect ME.

Email at darcy.flierl@gmail.com

Darcy Flierl is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addictions Professional, and Certified Yoga Teacher currently offering individual and family psychotherapy in Stuart, Florida.  She also enjoys teaching in the Human Services Department as an Adjunct Instructor for Indian River State College and is Consultant for Non Profits along the Treasure Coast.

She has held board positions on for a variety of local and statewide agencies from the Department of Juvenile Justice’s State Advisory Group to CHARACTER COUNTS! and others.  Darcy has received a variety of awards for her community work such as;  Soroptimist’s Rising Star Award, the Community Champion Award from the United Way and for community advocacy from the Tobacco Free Partnership and was a 2013 Nominee as a Woman of Distinction.

Besides working to make Martin County a healthier place, she donates her time doing River Advocacy for the Indian River Lagoon and raising awareness about many issues effecting young people and families.  She treasures her time with her husband, and children attending local events and enjoying Martin County’s recreational opportunities.

For more information about Darcy you can visit her website at:  http://www.darcyflierl.com

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The Other Mom

Guest Blog

The Other Mom

by Darcy Flierl
I can’t express the strangeness of knowing my daughter calls her step mother “mommy” more than I can express the emotion provoked by this occurrence.  When I’m found in the same vicinity as my daughter and her younger half-brother, she introduces me as her “other mommy”.  The whole experience of my daughter having another mother has been a mood challenging event to say the least and has afforded me the opportunity for reflection and self-growth.  Yay Me! Not!
Self growth isn’t easy and it doesn’t feel real great.  Sometimes I have to grin and bear the emotional pain until I find the right coping skill to get through the uncomfortableness of it all.  You never know what life event can throw you into a tail spin.  The complexities of your daughter having another-other mommy- presents a multitude of issues that extend beyond what this other woman is called.

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When getting a divorce, it is natural to think about what kind of effect your x’s new partner might have on your child. Mostly, you hope the new influence will be a positive one.  In my mind, this woman was going to be a friend to her; an extra loving adult that would listen to her, support her and ultimately step aside and let me and her husband, parent our child in the way we always had, like “business as usual”.  I lacked the foresight to consider the fact this extra parental figure was going to have opinions about my parenting, scheduling needs to be considered, or that financial decisions concerning my daughter would concern her.  My daughter did get the type of step mother I wanted for her.  I, however, was not emotionally prepared for the negotiating, the opposition, and the resistance that would become a common way of “doing business” with the other side.
It’s been a battle of the wills, two families, one common daughter- with both sides willing to fight till the bitter end.  I’ve come to learn that this war creates long term, chronic stress that is detrimental to everyone’s well being.  Yet, the disagreements, lack of commonality and cooperation linger from year to year.  I’ve given up hope that harmony and understanding will ever be cultivated.  I had to come to accept that I wanted my child’s dad and “other mommy” to trust me as a parent, to respect me as her mother, and allow me to parent my only child the way I had always dreamed and the way I had, pre-divorce.  Once I accepted what I was truly fighting for, I then had to let it all go.  I say that like it was easy or as though it’s been accomplished.  In fact, it’s a constant process of letting go.
A few nights ago I watched the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness, in which a psychiatrist goes on an international traveling expedition to understand the meaning of happiness.  One insight Hector achieved was, “Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness”.   I spent a lot of time thinking about this concept.  My most recent co-parenting coping skill has been to avoid contact at all cost.  Of course, avoiding is not a viable option when your daughter spends 10 days a month with her “other family”.  It occurred to me that I’ve been confusing acceptance with avoiding.  I’ve been preaching detachment and acceptance to my clients as well as personally using this framework, long before I became a Mental Health Therapist.   Understanding the philosophy and experiencing it are two distinctly different things.  My emotional reaction to certain stimuli is proof I have not yet mastered this idea called, Acceptance.
All the latest research as to how to manage depression and anxiety is shining the light on something called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.  The theory, developed by Philip Barnard and John Teasdale in 1991, states the mind as two main modes that include a “doing” and “being” mode.  The “Doing” mode drives us towards our goals and is bothered when things go differently than how we believe they should.  The “Being” mode doesn’t care so much about our goals but focuses on accepting and allowing circumstances without the need to change anything.   The level or degree of emotional dis-ease is based on which mode the individual primarily relies.  For good mental fitness, Barnard and Teasdale say that the goal is to achieve something they call Metacognitive Awareness (MA).  MA is the ability to experience negative thoughts and feelings as mental events that pass through the mind, rather than as a part of the self.  This is detachment and acceptance in action! There is finally research behind what Buddhist and Mystics have known for centuries; to separate oneself from one’s own thoughts and opinions in detail is to not be harmed mentally and emotionally by them.  In short, human suffering is a result of our attachments.
The reality of co-parenting post-divorce is not at all what I had envisioned in my divorce fantasy.  It turned out that the things that caused me so much upset are events that I didn’t predict.  There was only so much “prevention” I could have done to decrease my discomfort to the life changes.  Sometimes I’m able to maneuver the conflict was confidence, ease and even a glimmer of grace (The Being Mind).  Other times, I’m defensive, thoughtless and reactionary (The Doing Mind).  I’ve been fairly successful tapping into my Metacognitive Awareness at different times in my life where the discomfort is sudden and quick.    The ongoing conflict of co-parenting with another family in which there is so much discord, is like being exposed to a continuous state of trauma.
I’m mindfully aware of just how much I can’t stand the fact that another woman is indirectly making major decisions effecting my daughter that range from health, religion, and behavior, beliefs and life experiences, based on her value system.  It’s unlikely that one day I will wake up and be happy about the fact I have to battle to parent my own child.    Here lies the opportunity for self growth…..I don’t have to like it, I just have to accept it.  I have to accept that my daughter has an “Other Mom” who has different ideas and will attempt to impose these ideas and at times, she will succeed.    My “being” mind says, “It is, what it is”.  It doesn’t mean I give up being the mom I dreamed of being, rather it means giving up the divorce dream of how I thought it should be.  It means that I acknowledge that the “other mom” has provided a rare opportunity to master becoming a mindful mom.

If you would like to learn more about mastering your mind as part of the divorce recovery process, please contact Darcy to learn about upcoming workshops.  Email at darcy.flierl@gmail.com

Darcy Flierl is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addictions Professional, and Certified Yoga Teacher currently offering individual and family psychotherapy in Stuart, Florida.  She also enjoys teaching in the Human Services Department as an Adjunct Instructor for Indian River State College and is Consultant for Non Profits along the Treasure Coast.

She has held board positions on for a variety of local and statewide agencies from the Department of Juvenile Justice’s State Advisory Group to CHARACTER COUNTS! and others.  Darcy has received a variety of awards for her community work such as;  Soroptimist’s Rising Star Award, the Community Champion Award from the United Way and for community advocacy from the Tobacco Free Partnership and was a 2013 Nominee as a Woman of Distinction.

Besides working to make Martin County a healthier place, she donates her time doing River Advocacy for the Indian River Lagoon and raising awareness about many issues effecting young people and families.  She treasures her time with her husband, and children attending local events and enjoying Martin County’s recreational opportunities.

For more information about Darcy you can visit her website at:  http://www.darcyflierl.com

How to Love an Addict

How to Love an Addict

by Darcy Flierl

Addiction. We’ve made progress over the last decade. The stigma is decreasing and we are openly discussing it. Once upon a time, if your parent, spouse, or child suffered from alcohol or drug abuse, it was the family secret. Now, I talk to people every day who are open about how addiction has afflicted their lives. Perhaps it’s because loved ones are dying due to this disease? Perhaps it’s because as individuals we are becoming more aware of our own dependencies? The fact is, it’s everywhere, and the proof is in the increase in substance abuse providers popping up daily. The proof in in the number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings one can find on any given day. The proof is in our county jails and the proof is in the ache of our own hearts, especially if you’ve ever loved an addict.

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As a an addictions professional and expert in prevention, I’m often asked, “How do I help my child….my friend….myself?”. There is no shortage on research, books and articles on this subject. Resources from support groups and treatment centers are plentiful, yet lovers of addicts are always left feeling hopeless and frustrated. I wish there a was Wiki- How to Love and Addict Guide and one could just follow the prescribed 10 steps on Voilà your loved one is healed and the family is on the road to recovery!

The truth is there is not one thing any one of us can do to help our loved one stop using alcohol and drugs but there are many things we can do to help our loved ones not use alcohol and drugs. Confusing? Contradictive? Yes! Just like addiction.

Here are my- 3 steps to helping your loved one suffering from the Disease of Addiction:

  1. Set up boundaries- this is an individual process and a mental health professional can assist you in establishing these boundaries that are unique to your situation. Boundaries might include limiting assistance: house, food, money, transportation and even termination of the relationship.
  2. Only give what you have to give-Many families will invest countless hours and thousands and thousands of dollars in services for their loved ones. If you have the resources and the individual is open to treatment, than by all means provide the help. If providing these resources is a detriment to your physical or emotional well being, than it’s not a healthy decision. Remember that helping isn’t always helping. Sometimes it’s called “enabling”. Enabling is a term every addict lover needs to understand. In addictions, enabling is the act of making excuses, stopping the bottom of falling out for the addict and leads to an obsession surrounding the addicts behaviors.
  3. Get a therapist- For yourself! Loving an addict is a long, difficult and painful road and sometimes doesn’t have a happy ending. Guilt, shame and desperation are often many of the “rest stops” along this journey. A Therapist can provide ongoing education and empowerment to you as you come to terms with the fact that in the end, everyone makes their own decisions in life and ultimately we are all powerless. If you don’t have the financial resources for a therapist, there are many helpful on line support groups.

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