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Should There be a Real Life ‘Unfriend’ Button?

Photo courtesy of Silly Lil’ Doe

One summer, while working in a mall boutique to make extra money, I met a girl who I thought might have real potential to become more than just a co-worker. I saw her a few times a week when we shared shifts, but not often enough to really get to know her.

The summer ended, along with my job, but our friendship continued. Soon she was visiting me often and calling me many times a day, leaving multiple voice mails on my phone. When I did spend time with her, the conversations were one-sided and I could never get a word in edge-wise. My frustration with her grew until one day I found myself ducking behind a display when I saw her at the grocery store. I realized I would be happy if I never saw her again.

Some friendships shift, fade, or simply turn out to be something you weren’t expecting. And now that we are all digitally connected via facebook and Twitter, ditching someone can be infinitely more difficult than it used to be.

So, can you get out of a friendship with someone who’s toxic or is just generally driving you crazy? And is it possible that your life would be drama-free if you could?

Actually, it’s quite likely that you’ll create more drama by carrying out some elaborate “break-up” plan with a friend. Unless things are really, dramatically awful (as in, this person is making your life completely, 100% miserable), you probably don’t need to sit them down and give them the ”We’re Not Friends” speech.  Although many of us probably have at least one or two people we fantasize about saying that to - in reality, it’s just not that simple, especially if you share friends who may feel forced to take sides. Also, once you say those words, they can’t be taken back, and you will have drawn a very distinct line in the sand.

That being said, continually exposing yourself to someone who really rubs you the wrong way can create a stumbling block on your path toward acknowledging your self-worth and value. Try to institute what author and psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior calls “The Slow Fade.” In her book “The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends,” Dr. Bonior explains The Slow Fade as only seeing the person when you have to, in groups of friends. Begin to let all other contact with him or her fade into an acquaintance-type of friendship. Often this set-up is much easier to bear, even with the most agonizing of personalities. It can backfire, though, if your withdrawal only fuels your friend to seek you out with more determination. In that case, you may need to make a clean break.

Ultimately, you’ll have to do what feels right, based on the level of stress this petulant person is causing you, the number of friends you have in common, and his or her reaction to the new state of your friendship. While it might be easy to “ignore” someone’s online friendship request or “unfriend” your neighbor’s boyfriend’s cousin because her constant photo posts are clogging up your news feed, breaking up in real life really is hard to do.

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Six Ways to Survive Separation

Photo courtesy of View from 5’2
Today’s contribution comes to us from DailyPath reader Shauna Stebler.

Marital separation is extremely difficult to get through especially if you are receiving mixed messages or are unsure of the direction things are moving.  You don’t want to be spending every day thinking about your spouse, wondering what went wrong, and what’s going to happen now, or the dreaded replaying of every conversation and overanalyzing everything that was said and done.  You will drive yourself mad!  I know this from experience.

Distractions are fundamental during this time.  The more distractions you have, the less time you spend wearing yourself out with the unknown.  Worrying about it isn’t going to change anything.  Let’s talk about focusing on the things you can control, versus the things you can’t.

1.  Career and Finances:  It may be difficult to focus on your job right now, but I encourage you to put everything you have into it.  If you don’t like your job, maybe it’s time to find a new one.  You could go back to school, which would be productive with your time.  It can also give you a sense of accomplishment.  If your finances are out of control, you can always find ways to improve it.  Pick up a book to get you started.

2.  Health and Well Being:  Get adequate sleep, eat right, and start an exercise program.  I took up bellydancing.  Find a fun way to exercise!  Do something with the kids such as bike riding. This will give you a tremendous amount of energy and help to lift the depression.

3.  Friends and Family:  Invite a few friends over to play cards or for makeovers.  Go get mani’s and pedi’s together.  Just spend some time getting to know your friends again or go out and make some new ones.  There’s always something going on with kids, whether it’s baseball games or dance class.  Start spending some real quality time with your kids.

4.  Personal Growth:  Part of our personal growth journey deals with our failures and the areas that we would like to improve on, but the other part to that is being able to let go of the past and choosing to heal.  Self improvement books are wonderful.  Choose to move forward with your life even if it’s without your spouse right now.

5. Fun and Recreation:  Do something fun!  It gets your mind off of your problems.  No chick flicks, enough said.  Spend some time on hobbies.  Learn a language.  Find a sports team to join.  Grab a friend and go shopping.  Get a massage.

6. Physical Environment:  If your house makes you feel dark and depressed, make some changes.  If you walk past something that makes you miss your spouse every time you see it, put it away for now.  Don’t sit in the dark.  Fresh flowers and scents relax the senses.

Schedule things to do.  This will help you to find the motivation you need to not sit at home by yourself.  Surround yourself with positive people, places and things.  With each passing day, you will start to feel more like yourself, and happiness will once again seem attainable.

Shauna Stebler is a 37 year old single mom working on her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She also leads an online support group called Surviving Separation



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Four Easy Ways to Move on After a Divorce

Photo courtesy of Philip Leara

Sometimes what appears to be a devastating life circumstance can actually turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Ending a marriage is one of those life-changing events, and no matter what the particulars, it will be accompanied by a mixed bag of emotions. But there are some effective coping strategies that can help heal your heart and change your entire life for the better.

First, accept the fact that you are going to need time to heal but that you will. You need nurturing, encouragement and support while you restore your well-being, so it is important that you surround yourself with the positive. Seek out your upbeat friends. Listen to the kind of music that makes you want to grab a hairbrush-microphone and sing along. In fact, crank that iPod up during your shower every single morning. And when you go to the movies, see only comedies. Whoever said Laughter is the best medicine was not kidding.

Now, those ideas may seem quaint and obvious. But promising yourself that you will absolutely, consistently treat your own heart with the tenderness you would your best friend’s is necessary. Here is a blueprint for rebuilding, revitalizing, rejuvenating your life after divorce:

Let it out. Talking about your divorce is essential, so find a real support group, preferably with a certified counselor. It’s important to listen to the experiences of others and to share your own. That’s how you learn that things will be all right eventually.

Do something you have always wanted to do but were too afraid to try. Set weekly goals to add something new and exciting to your life. Go skydiving. There are quite inexpensive simulators now, so you don’t even really have to jump out of a plane. Take up belly dancing. Join a book club. Learn to swim. Visit every museum in your area. Almost all museums offer free days each month so that the bounties are available to all. Learn to knit and make scarves for the less fortunate. There are free and low-cost classes at the Y practically everywhere.

Figure out what you truly want in a mate. This may seem strange and frivolous, but fill out a pretend online-dating application. Those things are quite eye-opening. Most dating websites ask dozens of questions that can help you see with clarity exactly what you desire in another person, plus you’ll get a brilliant summary of your own strengths. And you never know: You may even decide to submit the application.

Remember that YOU are the sculptor here. This is very, very important. What if you decide to look at your divorce as a true fresh start? You’ll be well on your way to planning the shape of your future life. There are countless examples of people who’ve been right where you are and who’ve worked through the initial pain and confusion of divorce to discover a brand new career, a stronger relationship with a beloved partner, a simpler existence wrapped in happiness and contentment. I’m one of them. If I hadn’t survived a divorce, I would not have gone back to school for my M.F.A., wouldn’t have become a published writer, would never have found my darling husband. You can fashion your life any way you want. So why not make it better than it has ever been before?

Our guest poster Elane Johnson has had  her non-fiction appear in Brevity, Superstition Review, Sonora Review and The IndianapolisStar among other publications. Her award-winning “Aftermath” is featured in creative writing programs across the country. Elane, an adjunct instructor of writing who holds an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction, is married to the writer Stephen Ulrich. She pens an irreverent blog for pure pleasure.


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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Great Leader?

Photo courtesy of The Eggplant
This morning, my doctor (a specialist, nonetheless) told me, “You know more about this than I do,” and sort of let me lead him through the rest of the appointment, during which I had to correct him several times about well documented medical information.  I left there with only sort of what I needed, but with a new resolve to find a doctor who can lead me, rather than vice versa.

When it comes down to it, what all people really want, in virtually every situation,  is leadership. Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, nanny, auto mechanic or handyman, people want to feel like you know what you’re doing. When we seek out others for their services, we expect them to take a leadership role in the relationship that develops.  We specifically sought them out because we needed guidance, and if they have none to offer, what transpires is just wasted time, energy and money.

In our own lives, we can alleviate this problem by providing leadership in our area of expertise. I feel fairly confident that most people have what it takes to be a leader in some capacity.  Whatever your role is in society, master it.  Along with learning everything you can about your leadership position, work on improving the following general leadership skills:

  1. Confidence – People will feel comfortable taking your advice and turning to you for guidance if you present yourself with a strong demeanor.   Be self-assured, firm, make eye contact, avoid nervous laughter, and speak with certainty.
  2. Acceptance –  A good leader listens well and is able to hear points of view that differ from his or her own.  Be prepared to face conflicting opinions, attitudes, and viewpoints without being condescending or mean. Also – know how to ask appropriate questions when gathering information from others.
  3. Decisiveness – Ultimately, many final decisions will be up to you. Anticipate some people disagreeing with you and perhaps disliking you.  You are there to lead, not to make friends.
  4. Empathy – You’re not out to make friends, but it is important that you care about helping the people that you are leading. A well-respected leader has a heart. Motivate those who look up to you by encouraging them often.
  5. Consistency –  Avoid erratic behaviors and irresponsible decisions. Offer people the stability that comes with knowing what to expect from you. Offer quality, sensible solutions that follow a similar pattern. Avoid being aggressive one day and passive the next. That only confuses people and makes you seem like anything but a leader.

We all provide leadership – whether  in business, parenting, education, love or friendship. Being a quality leader is a desirable trait in many aspects of life. Leaders solve problems and get results. What’s your leadership role?

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Why Lending a Helping Hand Sometimes Really Bites

Photo courtesy of ninasaurusrex
One day last week, while I was taking my lunch break, I looked out my front window to see a gigantic turtle lumbering across the sidewalk in the direction of the road. The amount that I love turtles is akin to the amount that Kristen Bell loves sloths. Yeah, it’s a borderline problem. For me. For Kristen Bell? There’s no borderline about it.

Given my passion for turtles, I made the impromptu decision to cut into my jam packed work schedule in order to protect this beast from himself. Off I ran, hair akimbo and with no concern for my crocs and socks footwear.  “I will save you from death, turtle friend!” I yelled. I pit-stopped at my mom’s house and panted at her that I needed help relocating a reptile. Knowing me as well as she does, she immediately understood that we were on a Turtle Mission and we continued onward toward salvation.

This is what we had to attempt to save.
Photo courtesy of slappytheseal

Admittedly, we were suddenly skeptical, and we wondered if this guy even slightly wanted our services. Happy to see us, he did not look. We vacillated between spending our time as it had previously been judiciously and pragmatically allotted, or attempting to preserve the life of what appeared to be the last living dinosaur who seemed pretty angry that no one told him about extinction. Ultimately, we threw caution to the wind and waved good bye to precious work hours in order to save a turtle.

Anky, as I now refer to him, was not one bit interested in our “help” and he did everything to rally against us at every turn. He thrashed his razor sharp claws and snapped his long fangs at us.  His thorny tail whipped through the air in warning when we approached. If we were there to assist him, he would prefer that we would just drop dead, thank you very much.

That got me thinking about all of the resistent people in our lives who we repeatedly try to help, to no avail. They respond similarly to Anky, except in a more passive aggressive manner. They make it clear that they are “heading toward disaster.” We offer a helping hand, which is forcefully pushed away. This cycle can go on indefinitely, repeating itself ad nauseum, until we finally wake up and make the connection that these people don’t want help; they want attention, and they’ll sabotage our work days, our productivity levels, and our own level of success to get it.

Before you sap precious energy that could be better spent improving your own life, determine whether or not your assistance is needed or even really wanted. You’ll learn to sort out people who really need you from those who only want attention. Trying to help the unhelpable is a waste of time that could be spent increasing your productivity or learning something new. Your time is valuable! Use it wisely.

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Just How Far Will Flattery Get You?

Photo courtesy of lover-of-life
Just when I thought the art of flattery was dead, I got a gushing e-mail from a client complimenting some work I recently completed on a project for him. When I realized that he took actual time out of his work day to deliberately write me an email for the sole reason of giving me a virtual high five, I was so moved that it made me stop and think: did kudos go out of style when Myspace did?

If you think about it, in our daily lives, whether at work or at home, compliments are kind of hard to come by these days. Bosses, clients, coworkers and sometimes even family members are quick to point out our flaws and shortcomings, but seem less likely to let us know when we’re rocking it. According to a recent survey that I just found, one out of eight women said that they had not received a compliment in the past three months. Not one single compliment in ninety days! Things are dire, dear readers.

As human beings, we need to be told that we’re doing a good job. Sure, we get a paycheck every week, but sometimes we aren’t sure if that means we’re a stellar employee or because they HAVE to pay us. We all need to hear that we are appreciated, and that what we do makes someone else’s life easier, right? Hearing that we are appreciated and needed encourages us to perform even better, and gives us the motivation to hone our skills even further.

The problem may be that some adults are uncomfortable with receiving compliments, which tends to give others less inclination to praise them. However, even if someone repeatedly brushes off your flattery, rest assured that they are secretly internalizing those positive comments and their self-esteem is getting a boost. You can make someone’s entire week with just a few small words. Imagine that! You have the power to change someone’s WEEK from bad to good with one sentence and a smile!

Naturally, sometimes in the garden of life we encounter a few thorns that need to be tamed or pruned a bit so that they do more good than harm. But when life gives us roses, be sure to point out how lovely they are, and how sweetly fragrant they smell. You might see them bloom even bigger, right before your eyes.

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Talk Might be Cheap, But it’s Still in Demand

Photo courtesy of LifeSupercharger
“The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation…”
~Deborah Tannen

I’ve been married twice now, and although it is true that it’s markedly easier the second time around, any relationship requires attention and tune-ups in order to thrive.  You know when they show those clips at the end of romantic movies where they ask old couples, “What is the most important part of a happy marriage?”  Nine couples out of ten enthusiastically say, “Good communication!” Sometimes one of the old men will give a sly grin and say something about a good sex life, but we know (and he knows) that without communication, everything else just falls apart.

My husband and I have been married for just under a year now and are refining our relationship brilliantly. We work extremely well as a team, and we continue to grow stronger and happier the more we each listen to each other. What we have realized is that, since we met and married in our 30s, our communication skills have already matured quite a bit, as have we. Since we have both been previously married and engaged in professional careers, we have become quite adept at communicating with a variety of different people in our lives: spouses, children, parents, bosses, coworkers, friends in need, neighbors, in-laws and even people we don’t really like.  We’ve learned how to adjust our interactions with others based on each individual person’s personality.

What my husband and I recently discovered, however, is that some key aspects of communicating are actually quite universal and will be effective whether used with a spouse, a child, a stoic neighbor, or a boss.  In fact, my husband actually inspired me to write this blog post when he found himself in a difficult situation professionally.  He relayed to me that he ended up referring back to something he had learned by communicating with me, applied it to his work situation, and voila! Instant success!

We spend most of our time communicating with our spouses and children because we view them as the most important relationships in our lives. Why not apply bits and pieces of what we learn through making our most meaningful relationships successful to other relationships as well? Newsflash: If your wife likes hearing that you’re sorry, chances are good that your boss does too.

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