I was recently interviewed by reporter Elizabeth Bernstein for her column in the Wall Street Journal. Below is the full interview.
LM: People often call, text, or email their ex because they feel lonely, anxious, or in response to replaying happy memories of the relationship over and over in their head. In the aftermath of a break up, people often screen out the bad stuff, and focus on the good parts of the relationship—even if the happy times had disappeared months or years before the break up.
In an unconscious attempt to alleviate loneliness or anxiety, people reach out to their ex to keep the connection alive, since they associate the person or relationship with feeling loved, happy, or safe. Instead of ruminating on the memories that trigger loneliness or anxiety, bring yourself back into the reality of why the relationship didn’t work. Write down what didn’t work or that caused you pain in the relationship. Focus on the reality of today, instead of the story you’re telling yourself about the past.
WSJ: Are there stages of breakup emotions? What are they?
LM: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—apply to all kinds of major loss, including a significant break up. People experience the stages differently, depending on their personality traits and resiliency, past experiences, and overall mental and emotional health. For example, someone who tends to respond to life challenges with anger will have more difficulty feeling the sadness of the depression stage and can remain stuck in the anger stage for months or even years. People more prone to depression may bypass the anger stage and spend more time in the depression stage before moving into acceptance.
If you find yourself stuck in any of the stages, seek professional help. While these stages are normal in a break up, being unable to move through them is a sign that there may be deeper issues at play. Break ups often trigger the pain of childhood trauma and experiences (divorce, death of a parent, abandonment, or physical, verbal, or sexual abuse). Because these wounds are often buried in the subconscious, people think it’s the break up that’s making them feel so bad, when the break up may be the trigger of those feelings, not the root cause.
WSJ: Do men and women handle breakups differently?
LM: Based on my work with clients over the past 20 years, I’d say that the more dependent someone is on a partner for their sense of self-worth, identity, and/or financial security, the more devastated they are by the break up. Although much has changed over the past 40 years—and there are certainly many exceptions—comparatively, more women rely on men for their self-worth, identity, or financial security than the other way around. But there are other forms of dependency, like emotional dependence (needing someone else to make you happy) and domestic dependence (relying on another person for cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.).
Based on what I’ve seen in my practice, I’d say that generally, more men are emotionally and domestically dependent on women than the other way around. But regardless of the form of the dependency, the more one relies on another human being for their emotional, financial, or day-to-day well-being the harder it is when that person goes out of their life. Because men are more conditioned not to express their feelings, women tend to have an easier time talking about the painful feelings of a break up. But men can be just as devastated by a break up as women, even if they have a harder time expressing it.
WSJ: What are bad ways to handle a breakup?
LM: No matter what happened to cause the final break up, every relationship is a co-creation of the couple’s interpersonal dynamics, including those that can lead to an infidelity. While anger is a normal emotion, continuously blaming your partner keeps you stuck in a victim role and unable to move forward. As hard as it can be, exploring your role in the relationship and its demise allows you to move out of the victim role and gain valuable lessons about what to do—or not to do—in a relationship going forward.
Instead of blaming their partner, many people use the break up against themselves—being self-critical, judging what they did or didn’t do, or bombarding themselves with guilt and regret. Understand that you both did the best you could do with the knowledge and skills you had at the time. It’s important to take responsibility for your part in the relationship and break up, but this doesn’t mean berating yourself. Instead, have compassion for yourself because you really did do the best you could at the time.
Another common mistake people make is delving right into another relationship. Recovering from a break up takes time, so getting immediately involved with someone new will only postpone your healing.
WSJ: How can people work through all the feelings of a break-up?
LM: When I’m working with a client, I encourage them to look deeper than the “symptoms” of the situation—who said or did what—to the underlying, repetitive patterns that deteriorated the relationship. Since you can’t change the other person, the work should be focused on you—not on the other person. Explore the patterns and feelings you experienced in the relationship and ask yourself, “Which of these are familiar to me from other times in my life and in other relationships?” These are what I call people’s “core wounds.” Understanding what they are and from where they originate—and then implementing action steps to address and heal them—is a far more effective response to a break up than keeping yourself stuck in blame, anger, or guilt, and repeating the same patterns and outcomes relationship after relationship.
WSJ: How much time does it take to get over someone?
Recovery time varies, depending on the length of the relationship, the availability of a support system, the person’s personality traits and coping skills, the nature of the relationship and break up, whether or not children are involved, and the person’s overall mental and emotional health. The longer and more meaningful the relationship, the greater the loss and the longer it takes to heal. Recovery can take as little as a few months for a shorter-term relationship to several years for a long-term partnership or marriage. However, I’ve known people who never did the work to recover from their break up and spent the rest of their lives angry, bitter, and miserable.
WSJ: How do you help people face their feelings and understand what they did wrong or what to do differently next time to grow and learn from the experience? Can you share an example?
LM: “Bridget” attended my Moving Beyond a Break-Up or Divorce workshop and went on to work with me individually in my Illumineering coaching program. Her husband had left her for another woman and she was alone with 2 small children. When I met her, she felt abandoned, scared, and very bad about herself, believing that her husband had left because she wasn’t attractive, interesting, and intelligent enough.
To uncover the roots of her low self-esteem, we examined the family system she grew up in and her childhood experiences. Growing up with an emotionally aloof, critical father and a passive, self-deprecating mother, Bridget recognized that her feelings of not being good enough had plagued her since she was a little girl. She spent her life seeking others’ approval by saying and doing what others wanted—a pattern she continued in her marriage.
Recognizing how she had unconsciously replicated the dynamics played out in her parents’ relationship in her own marriage dramatically shifted her perspective. She realized that her negative beliefs about herself were ones she had adopted growing up, and how she continually reinforced them by making others’ needs more important than her own and allowing others—including her husband—to treat her like a doormat. This realization helped her move out of the role of the helpless victim and take responsibility for her part in the marriage and its demise.
The next part of the work involved developing an action plan to reclaim what I call her “lost parts”—the parts of her that feel empowered, strong, intelligent, and good about herself. Bridget was a chronic “People Pleaser” who always said what she thought others expected, so she had no idea how to express her real thoughts and feelings to others. We spent 2 sessions on effective communication coaching to help her learn how to communicate in ways that would strengthen versus weaken her relationships with others.
Another way her feelings of unworthiness had affected her throughout her life was that she always felt ashamed of her body and physical appearance. She hid beneath baggy clothes, didn’t wear make up, and tried to diminish her height by slouching her shoulders. We focused on helping her celebrate her physical appearance versus trying to hide it. She bought clothes that no longer hid her body, she began to experiment with make up, and she took a six-week belly dancing class to experience having fun in her body and override old feelings of shame.
Another action step we devised to reclaim her self-worth was to ask her boss for a raise. For a long time, she felt undercompensated and undervalued at work but was too afraid to ask for more money. To prepare for her meeting with her boss, I had Bridget make a list of her contributions, including the revenue she had generated over the past year for the company. When she reviewed her list, she realized how much she had accomplished, strengthening her confidence to ask for—and receive—the raise.
I was interviewed recently by Abigail Hueber on the topic of wellness and the upcoming Be Healthy Boston conference, where I’ll be speaking January 28, 2012.
AB: How do you define “wellness”?
LM: I define it as living in alignment with your authentic self. Living life based on fear, others’ expectations, or pain produces mental and emotional imbalance. Not only does this deplete our precious life energy, but over time it can lead to physical problems and even life-threatening illness…To read the entire interview, click here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the pain of a break-up, I shared some tips with reporter Elizabeth Bernstein, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Lauren Mackler, coach and bestselling author of “Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life,” has advice for people gearing up for returning to school this fall.
“It’s not unusual for people to feel apprehensive, nervous or even fearful about the start of a new school year,” she said. “Returning to school involves meeting new people, gaining new knowledge and skills, and perhaps even a new school and academic environment.” Mackler said students need to exude confidence and feel like they can do it. “If you are walking around fearful, you give off insecure kind of energy that is not compelling to people,” she said…To read the entire article in the Boston Herald, click here.
Facing the great unknown? Here’s some help.
Many of us never leave our comfort zones unless we’re forced to. So when we’re confronted with a major change in life, our routine is broken and we’re plunged into unknown waters. However, such upheavals can result in unexpected positive outcomes. “By going outside your comfort zone, you’re gaining new experiences, meeting new people, gaining new knowledge and skills, and strengthening different parts of yourself,” says Lauren Mackler, life coach and author of Solemate (Hay House)… To read the entire article on Body + Soul, click here.
It’s disheartening to me that so many people fail to view sex addiction as a SYMPTOM of much deeper issues. All addictions are misguided attempts to manage “pain” (self-loathing, anxiety, anger, etc.). Unless you address the roots of people’s pain, treatment won’t be effective. To read my interview with CNN about Anthony Weiner and sex addiction, click here.
Lauren’s Interview with Psychologies Magazine
LM: If you are parents, it’s in your children’s best interest to co-parent in a civil and mutually-respectful manner. Divorce is always painful. When one parent demeans the other in front of the children it creates life-long, emotional and psychological wounds. If need be, seek out a therapist, mediator, or coach to help you devise a co-parenting plan and develop effective communication and conflict management skills. Ask yourself, “What’s more important—my anger and resentment or the health and well-being of my children?”
When one person still has romantic feelings or the desire to get back together as a couple and their ex doesn’t feel the same, friendship doesn’t work. The one longing to be a couple continuously feels rejected, which invokes feelings of guilt, frustration, and/or resentment in the other.
By the end of a relationship, many couples have become ‘intimate enemies’ and don’t even like the other person, let alone love them. There has to be a foundation of mutual respect, shared values, and appreciation of the other person. These are important in any friendship, but especially so when transitioning from a partnership to a friendship.
PM: Is it important to examine your motives for wanting to stay friends; for example, guilt, wanting to get back together, trying to make someone jealous, or the inability to let go? What sort of good motives are there for wanting to stay friends? Is it important that your motives and expectations are the same?
LM: Hidden agendas such as financial or material gain, fear of being alone, appearing desirable to others, or relieving guilt ultimately contaminate the friendship. When someone uses another person for their own gain, sooner or later the person being used becomes resentful and the relationship implodes. There has to be shared mutual benefit. These can include enjoying a close and supportive friendship with someone you care about and who cares about you, maintaining a shared social circle, or for ex’s who work together, being able to have a positive relationship at work.
PM: What should you do if when you’re together, your old feelings are reignited and you begin to want more than friendship? Should you back off and re-evaluate? Does this mean you may not be ready for friendship?
LM: Take the time to examine your feelings and what’s driving them. Are you missing the person or just your life as a couple? If it’s the latter, it’s time to learn how to live life on your own. If you find that you still have romantic feelings or you want to get back together, express how you feel to your ex to see how he or she is feeling. If they don’t feel the same and your feelings are creating more pain than joy in the relationship, let your ex know you need some distance and do the inner work to help you move on.
PM: What about sex? It’s not really an uncommon scenario! One of you is feeling raw, the other one comforts you, and you end up in bed. Is this something to be avoided at all costs in relationships which really are over, where at least from one side, there is no chance of reconciliation? Should there be other rules like no flirting, hand-holding, or spontaneous returns to intimate behavior? Or is it okay to do all this and throw out the rule book?
LM: It depends on the boundaries to which you’ve both agreed. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s what works for both people. The key is to keep the communication alive and keep checking in with your own feelings and to those of your ex. It’s important, however, to understand that once you’re back in bed together, the relationship is again a romantic, sexual relationship and not a platonic friendship. So how you both want to go forward needs to be discussed and negotiated once again.
PM: What about emotional boundaries? How close is too close? Is it important to keep the relationship free from emotional entanglement? Is it advisable not to lean on each other for emotional support, and spare each other the details of new relationships? Should you build another support network rather than with your ex—even if he or she was once the first person you’d turn to when you were down?
LM: In or out of a relationship, it’s important to develop your own self-sufficiency and independence, including having your own friends and support system. Your ex can be part of your support system, but being emotionally dependent on someone else is always a recipe for disaster.
Like with sex, emotional boundaries need to be communicated. Discuss how much contact and support you both want with and from each other. If there’s a disparity, work to find middle ground that will work for both of you. Talk about how you want to handle new people in your life. Some people are comfortable knowing all about their ex’s latest date, while others may not be ready to hear it.
PM: What about new partners? How much should they be expected to take? What if your new partner and ex don’t get along? What if your new partner tells you in plainest terms that he doesn’t like you seeing your ex? Do you think we are sometimes prone to a little game playing with our ex’s, using them to make new partners jealous, or using new partners to make our ex’s jealous?
LM: Introducing a new person into the equation can work if the two ex’s have established and maintained a healthy, platonic friendship over an extended period of time following their romantic break-up. In other words, they are truly just friends, and have had a friends-only relationship for a consistent length of time. If you broke up with your ex a month ago, it’s probably not going to work to bring him into your new relationship because you haven’t had time to solidify a new friendship-only relationship.
If you’ve actively shared a healthy, platonic friendship with your ex for a year or more since the break-up, give the new person in your life the opportunity to meet your ex, so she can be reassured that you’re truly just friends. If you’ve included your new lover in your friendship with your ex and they don’t click, respect their feelings and participate in the friendship with your ex on your own. In this situation, if your lover demands that you cut your ex out of your life, pay attention to this red flag. You may be dealing with someone who is insecure or emotionally immature.
PM: What do you think a healthy relationship with an ex would be?
LM: A mutually respectful and supportive relationship in which both parties genuinely enjoy each other’s company, but have a shared desire to be nothing more than friends.
WANT TO USE THIS INTERVIEW IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement at the end of the article:
Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, host of the LIFE KEYS radio show, and author of the international bestseller, Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. www.laurenmackler.com
“Lauren Mackler, the Boston life and executive coach who worked with the Sayers, gives clients the Myers-Briggs and the Life Styles Inventory. Ms. Mackler uses the tests to help family members see how problems might be driven by personality differences and come up with strategies to adjust…”
To read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.
Interview with Solemate author Lauren Mackler on PreviewYourLife.com
PYL: Do you use visualization, meditation or other techniques in mastering the art of aloneness and if so, please explain?
LM: When I attended my first personal-development workshop in 1982, I was introduced to visualization and affirmations. For years, I tried unsuccessfully to use visualization and affirmations to change myself and my life. What I ultimately figured out is that while these are powerful tools, it’s not enough to simply visualize a future state or say an affirmation to achieve transformation. It was only when I became aware of my self-defeating behaviors and the core limiting beliefs that were driving them—and implemented an action plan to develop new, self-supporting beliefs and behaviors—that I was finally able to achieve and sustain the personal transformation I wanted.
Another technique you mentioned that I have found tremendously valuable is meditation. Not only does it have many health benefits, but it’s great for reducing stress and keeping things in perspective.
PYL: What is your favourite quote and why?
LM: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” by Mahatma Gandhi. I love this quote because it speaks to a profound truth. Can you imagine what our world would be like if everyone adopted this as a way of living? We’re such creative beings that the world would be dramatically improved very quickly!
PYL: How important is knowing where you want to go to achieving it (co-creating), or do you believe in letting life lead you?
LM: I often say that where you focus is where you go. Most people go through their lives on autopilot, acting without thinking about the results of their actions, or the role they play in creating their lives. In Solemate, I have a chapter titled, Living Deliberately. This means living consciously in every moment so you can align your actions and choices with the life and experiences you want to have.
PYL: What is the #1 question people ask you and what is your response?
LM: People always ask me what inspired me to write Solemate. I married at 23 and built my life around my husband. I moved to his country, worked as a therapist in his business, and let him handle all our finances. So when my marriage fell apart, my life, job, and financial security collapsed right along with it. After hitting bottom, I sold everything I owned and returned with my children to the U.S. I was emotionally devastated and terrified, with no means to provide for myself or my children.
I knew I had to find a way out of my emotional and financial abyss. I created a “self-renewal program” for myself, comprised of daily activities and action steps that, over time, not only changed my life, but changed me. When I realized that my program could help others, I turned it into the Mastering the Art of Aloneness workshop, which I’ve been teaching at Kripalu, Omega, and other centers for several years. Eventually, someone suggested turning the workshop into a book, which became Solemate.
PYL: What is the question you wish people would ask you and your response?
LM: I often have clients in my coaching practice who are unhappily single. In the initial session, they typically express how lonely they feel and ask me how they can find a mate. My answer is always that instead of looking to someone else to transform your life—that special person who will make you feel happy and whole—it makes more sense to focus on making yourself whole. The question isn’t, “How do I find my soul mate so I can have the life I want?” The better question is: “What do I need to do to create the life I want for myself?” That way, instead of waiting for someone to make your live happen, you’re busy making your life happen. Not only will it make for a joyful and fulfilling life on your own, but if you do engage in a committed relationship or marriage, you’re coming into it from a place of wholeness, versus from a place of lack.
WANT TO USE THIS INTERVIEW IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE?
You can, as long as you include this complete statement at the end of the article:
Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, host of the Life Keys radio show, and author of the international bestseller Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. Sign up for her free Live Boldly e-newsletter at www.laurenmackler.com.
10 pieces of advice your boss won’t tell you!
By Woman’s Day
Follow her lead.
If you’re not sure whether your boss prefers to communicate in a meeting or via email or phone, ask, suggests career and executive coach Lauren Mackler. Also ask what she wants to be consulted on and what she prefers you handle on your own. And take cues from her personality, says Mackler: If your boss is introverted, don’t keep pushing for face-to-face time.
Toot your own horn.
Your boss can’t possibly keep tabs on what every employee is doing every day—it’s up to you to let him know! “When you wrap up a project, send a congratulatory email to your team and CC your boss,” suggests Mackler. You might also send him a monthly overview of the projects you’ve completed and other accomplishments, and have these month-to-month emails on hand at your annual performance review. And speaking of performance reviews…click here to read the entire article.