One Habit That Will Damage Your Relationship

There is one habit that will damage your relationship. Do you know it? Let me tell you my story:

It was a sunny day in April, eight years ago. I was about to go to our hotel with my colleagues. We have worked all day at the fair, talking to the many visitors at our booth and explaining them our products. I felt drained and was happy to feel the sun on my face and to leave the noise of the exhibition hall behind me.

My phone was ringing. It was my partner. I hadn’t seen him before I left because he had gone for the weekend. Excited to hear from him, I picked up the phone. “You left a rotten mango in the kitchen,” He yelled at me. I felt irritated. It wasn’t the warm welcome I had expected. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I had left the mango in the kitchen because I had thought he might have liked it. I hadn’t noticed that it was rotten. I took a deep breath and said, I am not sure what happened. It seemed ok when I left. It didn’t stop him. He continued yelling. “And you didn’t clean up the apartment. It’s full of cat’s hair.” His voice was full of contempt. He was right. I had to leave on Sunday morning and didn’t have the time to clean it. I didn’t know what to say, but I felt angry and exhausted. I had tried to do my best to leave the apartment in order before I left. I had a sense that this wouldn’t matter to him what I said. I just stayed silent. He continued yelling. Both of my colleagues looked at me astonished. I felt humiliated and angry. How long will he continue to blame me for everything? I asked myself silently. This game was now going on since a couple of years. It had left me feeling powerless. Three months ago, I had asked him to go to couple’s therapy and he had refused it vehemently. After a while, I just said, I talk to you later. We have to catch the bus now. After I hang up, my colleague asked me, “Does he always talk to you like this? I didn’t know what to say. I felt hopeless and helpless.

That night in the hotel room, I was cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t take the blame anymore. I had taken it long enough. That night, I decided to leave him despite the pain and heartbreak the separation would cause.

One major learning in this relationship was that blame is toxic for a relationship and constant blame damages a relationship. When he blamed me, I felt disconnected from him and I only understood everything I did wrong but I never got a sense what I could do better. My partner never directly communicated his emotions although I could sense his anger and resentment. When I left him, I had a strong sense that I just messed up his life. After our break-up, I started to look for healthy ways to communicate.

Nowadays, I have a no-blame policy for my relationships. And this is mutual. I don’t blame others, but I take care of my emotions and communicate them assertively. I am also curious about what they want me to tell. What are my unmet needs and desires that are hidden in these emotions? This helps me to communicate properly and keep my boundaries intact. If somebody blames me, I ask them to stop, give them empathy and inquire about their feelings and what they really want. This helps me to understand them better. It also gives me a choice – I can decide whether I can give them what they want. In the end, I don’t want to mess up other people’s lives but create something with them that makes their life more beautiful. For me, that’s what relationships are all about.

What is your experience with blame?

 

Copyright © 2017, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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For the brokenhearted…

Then, this poem is for you. I hope that it softly guides you during this challenging time.

To the woman within me

I’ve beaten you up.
I’ve dragged you down.
You did the best you could.

You grew your hair,
Just like you were supposed to be,
And it didn’t work.

You dressed nicely,
Just like you were supposed to be,
And it didn’t work.

You were nice,
Just like you were supposed to be,
And it didn’t work.

You seduced,
Because you didn’t know it better,
And it didn’t work.

You opened your heart and loved,
And it didn’t work.

You were destroyed.
Nothing ever worked.
You were defeated.
You were thrown to the ground.

And then something happened.
In the middle of dying,
You chose to get up again.
Full of dirt and wounded.
You faced the world,
And shared the story of your many defeats.
To give others hope,
To let them know that they are not alone.

And there you stood,
With your knees shaking.

And then she became alive.
The peaceful warrior within me,
Who lives her life with the heart wide open,
Who will never grow her hair again,
Who will never wear high heels again.
Who is loving and nurturing,
Who takes care of herself,
Who shows the world who she truly is.

Now you are a woman,
Not unscarred, but brilliant.

I love you, from the depth of my heart,
I love you more than words can ever express.

You are more than I ever dared to hope for.
You are more than I ever dreamed of.

From now on, we will walk together.
And our future gets bright and brighter.
Thank you for being the woman you are.
You are making a difference.

 

Do you want to read more? Check out my memoir A Brave, True Story.

Copyright © 2016, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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Nobody Is Guilty For A Separation

When I left my ex-partner after we have lived together for six years, our separation was unpleasant. I experienced deep guilt together with my pain about the broken dream. My partner was deeply hurt and reluctant in accepting our separation. In his eyes, I had made it wrong. In the following months, I had painful self-talks and re-visited again and again the stories when I had done something wrong.

But was I really guilty for the separation?

The question of being guilty of a separation has played an important role in my family’s story. My mother left my father when I was one. He refused to agree to a divorce until the day when the German government decided to abolish the label guilty party in a divorce. My mother became one of the last persons who got divorced with this label. I couldn’t see that this label decreased their pain or resentment. They became stuck in blaming each other for the rest of their life; each one of them insisted that the other one was guilty. Can you imagine which price they paid for this? Hatred and bitterness blocked their hearts. I don’t know much about their relationship, I just think that both of them carried their share of responsibility for the divorce and that the relationship ended when it was supposed to end. From my perspective, it was the best that could have happened to them. Why should two people stay together and suffer until the end of their lives?

Is there really anybody guilty for the end of a relationship?

I can’t see it. For me, there are only responsibility and growth. Two people start a relationship with their hopes and dreams. There are struggles, and there are mistakes by both of them. Each partner is responsible for what they do and what they don’t do. It’s easy to fall into the blame trap and look at a relationship one-sided. You can blame your partner for his mistakes, and you can feel guilty for what you did wrong. But does it serve anybody? The past is past. You can’t change it. In my relationship, I made my share of mistakes, and my ex-partner made his. We didn’t do them because we had bad intentions; we just didn’t know how to deal better with it. Guilt and blame doesn’t help in this situation. It makes you stuck in the past and doesn’t allow you to find solutions. A relationship ends because it was supposed to end. Feeling guilty about your mistakes doesn’t help you, your ex-partner or anybody else in this world. Let go of blame and guilt and take responsibility for your share of the problems and the next time you will make it better. Blame and guilt limit your ability to grow and to live life fully. And that’s not how life is supposed to be. You are responsible for your life, your growth and your happiness. You are responsible for walking on your path. Your partner is responsible for his life, his growth and his happiness. He is responsible for walking on his path. You both are adults. You don’t dependent on each other. You have just chosen new paths in different directions. It’s not a question of guilt; it’s a question of acknowledging the reality, taking responsibility for oneself and growing as a person.

Your relationship is over, so what can you do?

  • Treat yourself with self-compassion.
    Allow your pain to heal. Avoid re-telling yourself painful stories about what you did wrong. Repeat the mantra that you did the best you could. And now, you will find ways how to make it better in the future.
  • Take responsibility for your mistakes.
    Reflect about the situations you feel guilty for, take responsibility for your behavior and make it better in the future. How did you behave? How can you make it better in the future? You may not see now, but there are always solutions. Grow as a person and become whole.
  • Forgive yourself and your partner.
    There are anger and pain. You may have experienced injustice. Your heart is broken. These are good reasons to close your heart forever and withdraw in bitterness and resentment. But does this serve you well? The only person who will suffer from this is you. Work through your emotions and when it feels right for you, practice forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what your ex-partner did was right. It just means that you let go of bitterness and resentment. It has nothing to do with your partner. You practice it for your well-being and happiness.
  • See your ex-partner as a complete person.
    Don’t idealize him. He is as human as you are. If your ex-partner blames you for the separation or if he meets you with silent reproach, cut contact with him. Being friends is nice, but it requires two people who want to grow and who can forgive. If you keep contact with an ex-partner who blames you or looks at you with silent reproach, it’s extremely difficult to let go of guilt. Don’t take on the responsibility for your ex-partner’s life. That’s not your business. Make yourself responsible for your life and your happiness. You are the most important person in your life. This way you can serve this world in a better way.

What are your experience with separations and guilt? I’d love to read your comments below.

Do you want to read more? Check the article What if a separation is not the end…?

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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What If A Separation Is Not The End…?

Are you currently struggling with a separation? 

We as human beings have a need for love and most of us dream of a loving and intimate relationship. At least, I always did. However, my relationships ended with break-ups. In the beginning, I considered them as a sign of failure and blamed myself. Now I know that I needed these relationships and their endings. They motivated me to heal and change myself so that I was prepared for the relationship I want. Why did I need this preparation? I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and I only knew manipulative relationship patterns. Furthermore, I had learned misleading concepts about love, e.g. I considered pleasing my partner while neglecting my needs as loving behavior. The negative patterns of my childhood were deeply anchored in my subconscious, and I repeated them in my romantic relationships. With each break-up, I became aware of some of these patterns until they were finally healed. If your dream of a healthy relationship has not yet become true, it does not mean that it is not meant for you. It is only a sign that you should do some healing work before it can become true. If you don’t change anything, it is likely that you have the same outcome as before. Here are three easy changes that served me well:

Focus on what you want

I am sure that you have learned a lot about all the things that you don’t want to have in your relationship. At least, I had a long list in my mind. However, I didn’t define what I really wanted, and I attracted all that I did not want because I focused on it. Change your focus today and stop thinking about what you do not want. Instead, focus your thoughts on what you want and describe the relationship of your dreams. To prepare this, you may take a paper and draw two columns. On one side, write down all things you don’t want in your relationship, on the other side, turn it around into something you want. Allow yourself to dream big!

Commit to what you want

If you have defined what you want, you now have to take the next step: look at your description and define all the points that are show-stopper. Show-stoppers are these topics that are so important to you that you can’t live without them. Just to give you a personal example: I love cats – I have three of them – and I need a partner who also loves animals and appreciates living together with them. A partner who is allergic to cats is simply not possible. If you are clear about your show-stoppers, use them to make a conscious choice whether you want a relationship with a person. The clue is that you have to have the courage to say “no” to somebody who does not meet your show-stopper criteria.

Improve your self-compassion and self-esteem

You are the most important person in your life, independent from your (ex-)partner, your family or your friends. The relationship with yourself is the longest and most important relationship you will ever have in your life. The more you respect and value yourself, the more you will attract respectful and loving relationships into your life. A good level of self-esteem is the basis for a healthy relationship because it allows you to be honest and authentic. In a relationship, you should love your partner while you love yourself. This will also support you in setting healthy boundaries and in respecting your needs.

To increase your self-esteem, stop judging yourself and stop comparing yourself with others. You are unique and special. Instead, be aware of the qualities you have. What is making you special? Explore your strengths and be aware of them. Don’t criticize yourself, instead look at yourself through the eyes of loving grandparents who loves you and wants the best for you, What would they say about you? What advice would they give you? What would they wish you?
Failures are part of your growth process, and I am sure that you can make a valuable learning out of them. If there are parts of you that you do not appreciate, think about how you can change them so that you like them more. Explore them, they are there for a reason, and they want to tell you something. Ask yourself, What is the kindest thing I can do for myself in this situation?, and then act accordingly. Always keep in mind that you can’t change the past, but you can grow and become the person you want to be.

Which action do you want to take today?

I look forward to reading your comments below!

Do you want to read more? Check the post The greatest secret for a fulfilling relationship.

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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A Wolf’s Separation

Once upon a time, there was a majestic wolf who lived happily and content with his female companion and their offspring in a green forest out of fir trees. The wolf was a loyal companion and a loving father. He took care of his pack so that they had a good meal and a safe home. He anticipated every wish of his pack.

One day, there was a terrible thunderstorm and nothing was as it had been before. The wolf and the she-wolf decided to go their own ways, separated from each other. For the wolf, his pack was his all in the world and he lost everything he ever had. He felt torn into pieces and his heart was broken. He felt guilty for not having it done better. His eyes lost the radiance and his coat the brilliance.

In a deeply black, rainy night the wolf ran into the woods. He did not know which direction to take. He just ran, ran and ran until he collapsed exhausted. Lying on the ground, he suddenly felt a gentle touch on his wet coat. Painfully, he raised his head and saw a tall bear. He thought, A bear, my God, a bear. He saw the imminent death in front of him and did not know whether he should greet him or be frightened. He was too weak to run away.

The gray bear lifted up the wolf lovingly and gently and carried him into a warm cave with an infinite amount of mirrors. The wolf stood up carefully and asked the bear, What is it?

The bear replied, That is you. Each mirror is a part of you and you’re more than all the mirrors.

The wolf looked at the overwhelming amount of mirrors and saw that in one, he was played with his children and in the other he hunted prey. Then he saw his beloved she-wolf in a mirror that was no longer his companion. When he saw her tears came up into his eyes and panic overwhelmed him. What would he do without her?

The bear touched softly his shoulder and said, She will always be in your heart. She has given you your pack. The wound is now so deep that words cannot describe it. And, one day this pain will pass by, too. If you do not see it now, you will then know that it is good as it is.

The wolf bowed his head slightly disbelieving and the bear said: Look over your left shoulder. The wolf turned around and saw a brown saddlebag on his back that was very heavy. What is it? he asked. The bear answered, These are your negative experiences. Now look at your right shoulder. The wolf turned around and saw a saddlebag that was made out of colorful and bright cloth. The bear continued, …and that is all that you have learned from it. At that moment, the wolf felt how the load on his back became balanced and lighter.

Then he saw a new mirror in which he saw another wolf, this one had a wonderful gray mane, a kind smile and a special sparkle in his eyes. This wolf looked calm and peaceful in the world, as if nothing could shock him. Astonished he asked the bear, Who is he? The bear smiled softly and said, He is you. You have all the power and strength to overcome this crisis. You’re more than just a companion and you are more than the people who surround you. Even if it’s painful, sometimes a part of us has to die so that we find ourselves. Never forget how many stars you have inside yourself. Never forget how valuable you are as an individual. I give you this stone as a reminder.

He gave the wolf a beautiful, gleaming green stone and the wolf put the stone into his heart and bowed in gratitude.

He left the cave and his head was now upright and his step powerful. When he entered in the forest again, he felt how the stone completed his heart. The rain was now over, and he looked up at the sky and saw the moon and the stars. That moment he knew that he would find his way.

I look forward to reading your comments below!

Are you interested in reading more about this theme? Check the article What if a Separation is not the end…?

Copyright © 2013, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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