When a marriage breaks up, there is a tremendous amount of focus on what is wrong with the marriage. And often this can turn to what is wrong with you. But I find it extraordinary what good can come from a focus on what is right, beginning with you and then expanding to your ex-partner.
A think a piece, directly from a chapter in my new book, How to Talk to Someone…And Not Die, A Handbook for Superheroes, can be a good place to start.
How to Talk to Someone…And Not Die
Have you looked at how difficult it can be to make it through this world? How many pressures are pushing in on us on a daily basis? From the time we could put our eyes on screens, nearly every advertiser has been telling us how our life is incomplete or filled with problems without their product. How we are not beautiful enough, skinny enough, muscled enough, rich enough, or smart enough.
Our 24-hour news program channels shove constant disaster and fear and hate and impending doom at us from every angle of the world. The talking heads on so many of our talk shows bicker constantly about how our society is wrong, or this celebrity shouldn’t have worn a particular piece of clothing or voiced an opinion, or how the athlete of the day is selfish, or how they shouldn’t have taken that shot or thrown that pass or kicked that ball or, or, or…
If you’re in school, you’ve got to balance all of the rest of your life around studying and giving the instructor the answers they are looking for. If you’re out into the work-a-day world, you’ve got to spend your time making your boss happy in order to keep your job.
If you’re trying to advance yourself, you may even have to be doing both at the same time! And if you’re an entrepreneur, then you are part of the group that is crazy enough to be willing to work and worry 24/7/365 in order to not have to be a “40-hours-a-week slave.”
And what if you’re a mom and have a job or business to run? How many plates do you have to be able to spin to pull that off? Or a dad who is working two or three jobs so that your wife can do the job she loves most in taking care of the kids and providing a loving home for them to be nurtured in?
Meanwhile, regardless of which game you are playing, you’ve definitely got to work out more, make more money, save it better, have better skin, be more positive, eat healthier foods, drive a better car, wear better clothes, be a better person of faith, post it all on social media to prove it, and always, always keep working to be more and be better.
Or is that all just what used to go on in my head???
You’ve noticed it, too?
Okay, good. I get tired of being the only one. Ha!
So, again I say, do you realize that somehow you made it through all of the yesterdays before and the minutes or hours leading up to this moment now, despite all the voices out there and the ones inside your head?
Let’s take a good look at some of your other actions leading up to this moment, other than just arriving to it. You’ve handed out kindnesses to others along the way, haven’t you?
Remember All That You’ve Done
You’ve held open doors for strangers, brought cupcakes or donuts to work or school. You’ve said prayers for others, you posted supportive comments to your friends on social media, visited loved ones in the hospital. You’ve shared funny posts that brightened others’ days. You’ve donated old clothes, cooked warm meals (or at least picked them up through the drive-through). You’ve held others close as they cried over their losses. You’ve raised up their chins and told them things would get better. You’ve carried groceries for a neighbor, given a smile or directions to a complete stranger. You’ve shown someone how something worked to help them be better at an activity. You’ve coached and cheered baseball teams and soccer teams and all kinds of other teams, making those on the field, the mat, the court feel that they matter.
You’ve loved another. You’ve lost love and carried on. You’ve lost loved ones and carried on.
You’ve voted to support causes you believe in. You’ve donated time and money to causes that help this world become a better world.
You’ve painted a wall or a piece of furniture or a picture. You’ve petted a dog, a cat. And you’ve done a million other kindnesses and acts of help that stretch around the world and actually are the things that keep it running. And, believe it or not, at times, maybe just a few times, but at times, you’ve looked in the mirror and thought, “I look goooood, today!”
You’ve started on that diet, again, because you’re worth having good health. You’ve read another self-help book, because you know that better is inside of you, so you’ve reached out to get it. And not because they say you should, not because of the pressures or the push of external forces. No. Not because of any of those. Because you desired to be the truest version of yourself for you. How in the hell did you pull this off?
Well, you must be a superhero. There is much right about you! Your spouse would have never agreed to marry you if they didn’t see that. And, conversely, you would have never married them if you hadn’t seen those things that were right about them!
If that relationship is at the point of divorce, there is no question that the focuses of each have come off of what is right and gone to what is wrong. Usually, it has become a long-standing habit to focus on this, aided and abetted by societal pressures. But habits can be broken and life can start again. And this begins by focusing on what is right, first with you and then with them.
Try it. You might be surprised at how much smoother it can make your divorce. Or the relationship that will follow. Or, if you’re so inclined, it might just help put everything back together the way it was before.
This article has been edited and excerpted from How To Talk To Someone And Not Die: A Handbook for Superheroes (Clear Wind Publishing, 2020) by Lee Burns. He offers playful, insightful and sometimes sobering looks at the power of communication and the potentially devastating effects of the lack of it. www.leeburnsgames.com