Using Adversity To Strengthen Relationships – With Charlie and Linda Bloom

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Marriage counselors and best-selling authors, Charlie and Linda Bloom recently joined me on Uplift Your Life: Nourishment of the Spirit to talk about their new book, That Which Doesn’t Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. This was Linda’s second visit and what a delight to now know Charlie, too. They are in a unique position to help couples heal in a profound way because they understand the challenges in a relationship from the perspective of counselors as well as from the perspective of a couple who had to face the pain in their own relationship. They shared much hard-earned wisdom with us. At base, their story is one of two people finding the courage to be vulnerable, to look deeply at their own behavior, and to truly change within themselves to become whole and a worthy partner while also healing their life as a couple. It is much easier to point a finger and assess blame than it is to acknowledge our own role in the conflict and grow where we need to. They say it isn’t about finding the perfect, right person. It’s about working through the differences and accepting who the other person is, especially in the ways they are not like us. Healing takes skills, courage, time, patience, forgiveness, non-attachment, empathy, compassion, and commitment. For more helpful information, listen to this show by clicking here.

Dr. Paula’s Tip of the Week

My Tip from my e-book, 33 Tips for Self-Empowerment is: Walk the Labyrinth. Find a Labyrinth in your area, indoors or out, and walk it. Before you enter it, say a prayer asking for what you want to release and receive. As you walk into the center, you will release what you no longer need. In the center, you will hear answers from your Higher Self, from God, from the spiritual realm. As you walk out, you will be lighter and move more into your true self. The Labyrinth is created through sacred geometry and as such, it holds energy of a very high and positive spiritual nature. No negative energies are allowed to enter. You can get answers to questions and solutions to problems that are causing you pain—emotionally, mentally or physically. When you walk the Labyrinth with others, the sacred space helps you heal relationships, find mutually acceptable solutions, and create closer bonds. Couples, families, friends, or any team or group can choose to walk the Labyrinth together with a specific purpose in mind. When I was with a group of life coaches who were trying to build a business together, I led our group on a Labyrinth walk to help create a team. Although the business partnership didn’t work out for several practical reasons, the friendships we developed did. Twenty years later, I can still call any of them, and I’ll get a call back within the day.

Dr. Paula’s Silver Lining Story

My silver lining story for today is about a small writing group I was in a number of years ago. One member left the group to move to a new city. When she moved back several months later, the relationships within the group had changed. She, however, was expecting to assume her old role. She was very angry when her expectations weren’t met and started disrupting the meetings. We walked the Labyrinth in an attempt to solve the problem and redevelop the group closeness. We then wrote about our experience in the Labyrinth, which was followed by an open group discussion. Not all problems can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, and she chose to leave the group permanently. My silver lining was allowing myself to let go of my fear of speaking my truth in what had become an extremely tense and unpleasant relationship.

This is what I wrote after walking the Labyrinth:

What’s the boundary between the self and the group? Does responsibility for individual growth have to be subsumed into the will of the group? What does it mean to be part of a group and still an individual? Do I not speak because it might hurt someone else? What about survival of the self? And what about projection? What is reality and what is in my head or a dragon from the past breathing revenge, competition or hurt? Learnings and re-entry are painful. Everything changes. So the cards are thrown up in the air and they land in some new configuration. Are we not all entitled to continued growth and development? How do we work it out? It’s rarely pretty and easy and harmonious. All groups go through discord to reach true intimacy. Are we willing to risk that? Am I willing to risk that? Life is too precious. Learning is too sweet to do it any other way. So the words must be spoken and hurt gone through to reach the other side. 

Marian Stephens’ Story

I was so moved by what Linda and Charlie Bloom offered that I immediately read their book. They give guidance on how to prevent having a breakdown or a breakup in a relationship, and instead, having a breakthrough. I just got married six months ago, and we are nowhere near having a breakup. I have been struggling, however, with how to handle conflict and the overwhelming emotional response I am experiencing with working on healing my mind, body, and spirit. After listening, I realize that if I cannot change some of my behaviors, I will cause more and more damage to the relationship with my husband that I cherish with all my heart.

Linda Bloom found herself feeling that she was the victim of her relationship and circumstances, and I find myself identifying with her in so many ways. I truly was never in the wrong in my last relationship with an abusive man – he instigated fight after fight that ended in physical and verbal violence until I walked away. The problem is that I have been unknowingly positioning myself as the victim every time I have conflict with my husband; using words such as “you should, could, always, never, only…” It’s true that I very rarely start an argument, but I find myself quick to anger and unwilling to take a moment to walk away, catch my breath, and look at my own behavior when an argument arises. It is so much easier to blame and seek an apology from my husband, which he is all too willing to give me because he does not want to hurt me. If I feel vindicated, I never have to deal with the pain of looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for my actions. But, I know in my heart this is untenable and unfair to both of us. Part of my work in healing must be meditation to learn to quiet the storm of anger that rages in my mind when conflict arises–actual conflict with others and the conflict I feel internally when reconciling and working through the past.

In this episode, Dr. Paula asks what relationship you want to heal. I want to repair my relationship with my oldest son. Our entire family is giving so much effort to facilitating this, and he is not responding. We were on vacation at the beach this week, and he got so angry with me that he exploded and told me he will not come back to live with me until I choose between him and my husband. So, this is my new relationship challenge, and I am somewhat at a loss. I am going to continue to learn and grow and apply all of that to my parenting challenges, and, impart what I am learning to my children so they can navigate the hurt and anger they are feeling, too.

Dr. Paula’s Coaching Response

I recognize how much you want to heal your relationship with your son. You must remember, however, that there are two people in this relationship and both people must want to have a healthy relationship for that to happen. No one can create a healthy relationship with another person by themselves. That your 18-year-old son wants you to choose between him and your husband is not an appropriate request, or in this case, ultimatum. Some things you can fix and some you can’t. This is very hard for a mother to acknowledge, but as you noted in the last blog, you have to be selfish and take care of yourself first. Your son should not be allowed to destroy your relationship with your husband or your other children. He needs to learn his place in the family and you need to have the strength to let him know he is not in charge. We all have challenges and disappointments in life. Learning what we can and cannot change is part of being human. Your challenge here is to keep strong boundaries with your son, recognize the legacy of abuse that he learned from his father, and heal the emotional pain that this relationship is causing you. You may not have control over creating a healthy relationship with your son, but you do have control over your response to him and his demands. That’s how you take back your power, heal and create a healthy relationship with yourself.

For more shows on Healthy Relationships:

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Dr. Paula, The Life Doctor, has helped thousands of people improve their health, wealth and relationships through writing, coaching and speaking. Contact her today to get started on your personal journey. Recently Dr. Paula Joyce, PhD was honored as one of the 16 Best Life Coaches in Dallas.

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